New Skyrim Trailer: DLC “Dawnguard”

Big ups to my buddy Mr. Killmon who does the trailers over at Bethesda; this looks like an amazing expansion to the already popular Skyrim title. The trailer is a nice display of what to expect (is that a vampire-bat-demon transmorphing ability I see in there?), and it appears as if you can choose between the Dawnguard and whatever other faction that is narrating the video. I can’t wait to see what new weapons and armor they add, as well as locations and enemies. Hands down, this looks awesome.


From the Forums: An Open Letter to Blizzard Regarding Diablo III

For those of you playing Diablo III (and there are many) there has been an open letter to the developers regarding the new systems and the promised game designs that are apparently lacking. I would never normally post a complaint from a forum, but this one is so well researched and on point that I’m surprised this wasn’t published elsewhere. The following is a post on the Diablo III forums from a user known as “Wreck.” (the videos he linked in the forums have been embedded for your viewing ease)

“Well I have to applaud Blizzard in all reality. From a business stand point it would seem like you’re on the perfect track to make the shareholders at Activision very, very pleased.

You’ve taken a game with so much hype built around it, a game with a rabid and wildly large fan base, a game vaulting off of the massive success of the previous generation – and you’ve turned it into your sacrificial lamb.

I understand that WoW is dying. The cash cow that you have been able to depend on to fill your coffers is finally drying up. It had a great run. MoP is not likely to defibrillate the failing heart of what was once the WoW empire, and you know this. Starcraft 2, while an amazing game, cannot replace this cash cow – then again it wasn’t meant to. How could it? Your business foresight is very, very attuned. Because of this you carefully planned your next chess move: Diablo 3.

What better way to birth another golden goose than to bank an entire game off of the most addictive part of what Diablo 2 was: the item grind. Pure brilliance. And so, from the ground up, you formed this game to be solely about item exchange – this would be the titan built to replace WoW’s subscription based bankroll in the form of micro transactions.

Except one thing: you’re boring.

On May 15th 2012, after nearly a decade of anticipation, we were given Diablo 3! Except, it’s not quite Diablo 3. It’s a slimmed down, cut up version of the Diablo 3 everyone was taught to expect. Except, it wasn’t given to us, we still had to pay you full price for it: $60.

My how the mighty hath fallen. Why is it not Diablo 3, you say? Well let’s see. Anyone remember all those teaser videos spoon fed to the community over the past 3 years? Videos slowly leaking to us glimpses of the content we could expect to experience? I do.

From nearly FOUR years ago:

@2:10 “These current weapons just won’t do!”:

I guess scrapping this idea all together was more developmentally cost effective.

@6:30 “Let’s see what a real fight looks like.”

Indeed, lets. I’m still waiting, actually. Is it just me or does that environment look entirely more engaging than the atmosphere we’ve purchased at release?

@2:00 Did he say randomized, dungeons, quests and encounters?

If their idea of newly generated fights, quests and environments is a continuous cycle of the same things from a pre-conceived list, he’s spot on!

So where’s the beef? – some might say. The beef is that this is not Diablo 3, this is an imposter. A hologram. An artificial replacement. A lame duck substitute for what hype built it up to be. A cut up and slimmed down version of what should have been. In essence: a slaughtered, sacrificial lamb.

That leaves myself and thousands of others saying indeed, where is the beef? Blizzard’s answer: there is no cow level. But hey, we got rainbows and unicorns!

Is anyone still in complete denial about how truly boring this game is or have people started to shake off the honey moon dust?

You eliminated enchanting, PvP, pet companions and other things from the release version so that you could market it as part of a later expansion for more money. (This is a trend in gaming that several developers have been following; withhold content you’ve been advertising for the past two years and charge a premium for it at a later date. I shouldn’t have expected Activision-Blizzard to be any different, and that is my fault. I wrongly assumed this group was made of trend setters and leaders, not followers – so shame on me.)

You didn’t include a single player mode because you can’t make money off of people if they aren’t using the AH in a multiplayer format. Less work for you in the development stages, and forces people to engage in the micro-economy that your bankroll is based on. Again, brilliance. Which leads me to my final point:

There is so LITTLE dynamic to this game I cannot believe it took this many years to create it. In fact, I don’t. So why the long wait? I’ll tell you: economic law.

More specifically, the legality and complications that stemmed from the idea of a multinational game built around a Real Money Auction House. This process, I imagine, took years to iron out – while the game itself probably took no more than a few actual working years to complete (and it truly shows).

It doesn’t take an overly intelligent mind to figure WHY they would want to use a RMAH and get a cut of (a lot of) the transactions. That’s fine. Here’s the problem: you built the entire game around a pure gear grind, and then force that gear grind to revolve around the AH, specifically the RMAH. There is literally no other dynamic. When you build a game from a purely business stand point, you’re not building a great game – and a great game this is not.

In conclusion, gamers, do you really want to spend your time on yet another slave-like gear grind? If so, eat your heart out. You’ll find no better place to do it! If not, there are a plethora of other games out there much more deserving of your $60, I promise.

Diablo 3 was built around Activision’s greed. Participate at your own will.

Gamers hold grudges and people aren’t going to forget this disaster. If you obliterate your true fan base, the pillars of your success come falling soon after.

I give this post less than a few hours before it is deleted by Blizzard moderators. Can’t have that bad flavor out there, can we? Truth hurts.

Regards, a long time fan.”


Among the Sleep, Could be a Nightmare

A nightmare in the fun sense, that is. Perhaps along the lines of Alan Wake, where simple yet effective methods of fear are implemented into the gameplay and style decisions. I think this game either has the opportunity to be a HUGE flop, or one of the most creative game developments we’ve seen in the past decade. Check it out for yourself below. Did I mention your protagonist is a 2 year old in a haunted house?

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Review

Many games have tried to implement a strong sense of cooperative play within the structure of their game design, with very few successes. Perhaps the greatest I’ve ever played to this day was the original Left 4 Dead. This was a game that was impossible to “lone-wolf” through. This made for a fun team dynamic, but also never allowed for any kind of stealth play, which is my personal favorite style of playing ANY game. Enter Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. This latest installment of the Tom Clancy franchise certainly suffers from its shortcomings, but it ends up being one of the more fun games I’ve had the pleasure of playing lately.

If there is one thing the Tom Clancy games do well it is coordination. Running and gunning your way through a mission is never an option, and Future Solider is no different. The integrated “sync shot” system that allows you and even your AI controlled teammates to mark and kill targets at the same time is wonderful. Your teammate’s advice and reading of the environment around you is helpful and not too “Navi-ish.” I can’t even count the number of times I would be focusing forward and hear “3 o’clock,” and turn to see two enemies whose line of sight I was about to walk right into.

The enemy AI is challenging. However, I want to be clear that it is only challenging in the campaign mode. “Guerilla” mode, which is the now popular survival wave mode found in so many other shooters, is horribly lacking. The map starts off fun enough, with an objective to capture (silently if possible) the area that you will be defending from with the rest of your teammates. So far, so fun. Once the round gets started things tend to break apart. Enemies will spawn from no where, and teleport out from and back behind walls as if they were Nightcrawler assaulting the White House. Also, the lack of customization for your weapons here is highly disappointing. There would be nothing more fun than to take your hard earned weapons and abilities from the regular multiplayer and have the option to use those when fighting with your buddies against waves of oncoming enemies. Sadly, this is not the case.

Even in the campaign mode, enemies seemingly appear out of thin air. Often times not even seemingly. One mission in particular stands out as I watched a soldier with an RPG just appear in the back of a pickup truck that was empty only moments earlier. The story is cliche, with a stand-alone Russian faction attempting a coup of the current administration blah blah (seriously, Russians again?). Regardless of this, the missions are fun and require a degree of care to your gameplay in order to sneak through certain areas without detection. What makes this even more fun is the cooperative play, where you and three of your buddies can group up and complete the campaign mode. There is something to be said for having three other human teammates in these well paced missions. A system of leadership and roles has to be immediately created, and it’s fun to watch which of your friends takes on what role. This is something that Future Soldier does VERY well.

The multiplayer is also well done; I cannot speak highly enough of the fun and rushes of excitement I’ve had playing the various modes of team battles that populate the servers at the moment. That being said, I also feel that there is a shortage of maps and game types that can be properly played at this point of time. I’m sure this will be corrected and expanded upon in future DLC (in fact it’s already been announced), but having such a limited amount at this juncture is a bit disappointing. I also with they would fix the melee system to be a bit more responsive. And as always, having to migrate hosts in mid-match (especially after your poorly performing team has finally managed to capture an objective for the first time all game) and having to start back from the beginning with the gamble of a laggy host is beyond frustrating.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable game, especially if you have a group of friends to play with.

Indie Game : The Movie

Posted below is the trailer for what I’m hoping is going to be a very insightful and fascinating documentary into the flourishing world of indie game design. One of the things that struck me the most about this trailer is the level of cinematography that is being added to this informative topic. Obviously, the director and camera operators are handling this topic with a great deal of care; care that is greatly deserved in my opinion. Enjoy!

Max Payne 3 — As Tough As He Ever Was

It has been almost ten years since the last chapter in the Max Payne series was released. Once again, Max had to watch as a woman he’d fallen for was killed because of the mess he’d gotten himself into. This theme of protecting women is referenced a lot in the new game, as are a few other familiar ingredients, all to make this once of the more entertaining games of 2012 so far.

The game follows Max into South America where he’s been hired as a bodyguard for a prominent family with ties in charities, businesses, nightclubs, and politics. If you can’t see the equation for disaster lining up already, then you probably haven’t played a Max Payne game before. The story here is good, well paced, and full of action. The authors of this script did a great job of capturing the same tone of the other MP games, which incorporating his age and experience into the words as well. A lot of this is helped by the fact that Sam Lake has retained his writing credits (who also did the phenomenally written Alan Wake games), but especially from voice actor Timothy Gibbs.

MP3 never seems to take itself too seriously, despite the amount of physical harm and violence that comes with the territory. Painkillers are picked up with an often witty or humerus remark about drug addiction and abuse, while Max himself is exceedingly aware of the ridiculousness of his surroundings. However, the story falls a little short towards the end where I began to wonder why certain major events in the beginning — ones that were used to spur Max along his path — were even taken to begin with. Some things are completely ignored in the resolution of this game, but perhaps things were meant to be that way. A lot of this game has to do with a veil of ignorance and alcohol being over Max’s eyes, so that could be why certain elements or explanation were left out. Perhaps they just weren’t that important to Max, or something he didn’t feel he had to resolve.

The action more than makes up for any lag in narrative. Computer-controlled bad guys use cover wisely, and attempt to flank and rush you at a moment’s notice. This is a refreshing feel to the shooter genre, as opposed to other games where villains will simply run at you with the trigger on full blast. That being said, the game is difficult where it needs to be difficult. I’m not talking about a Dark Souls level of difficulty, but there certainly won’t be anyone complaining about the ease of their first play-through (for those of us that start on “normal” and not “easy”).

The controls here are fluid and responsive, really giving a different “feel” to the whole 3rd person aspect of the game. One thing that I don’t want to overlook is the ability to change which shoulder your camera hovers over. This is such an overlooked issue with a lot of games that give a player a 3rd person perspective, and being able to change this at a moment’s notice shows how much care Rockstar has put into this game.

The multiplayer is simple — kill everyone else, or everyone that isn’t on your team. “Payne Killer” is essentially a king of the mountain type scenario, where you play as a badguy trying to kill Max or Passos (his partner). Whoever kills these health and gun-improved heroes becomes the new Max/Passos, and the cycle continues until the match ends. Gang Wars makes an attempt to put a story into a set of capture and deathmatch modes, but doesn’t really capture any sort of narrative into it. Classics like deathmatch and team deathmatch make their debut to a MP game, all without missing a hitch. These modes are very, very fun.

All in all this game is great. It starts off a bit slow and has a few too many cutscenes in-between the action sequences at the beginning, but it more than makes up for that by the end of the game. With the fantastic additions of multiplayer and Arcade Mode, this game will not disappoint. All-in-all, an 8.5 out of 10.