Shootin’ the Shit: March 8, 2013 — Angry Mobs

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Hey! Been a while, how have you been? After weeks off, I’m finally getting around to posting again, and with that comes a new addition of Shootin’ the Shit. On the site itself, I posted two features, The Return of the Old School RPG parts 2 and 3, both of them follow up to my original from a few months ago. But that’s not all that happened this week.

News

So much has happened these past 5 days. It seems like almost every day this week has had a big story. With those stories, came droves angry internet mobs, so lets cover the big ones.

SimCity Launches… err, sorta

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So this week, the new SimCity was released. Despite relatively high initial critical praise, the always-online city building sim quickly came under fire once the the servers went public. EA’s Origin servers were bogged down by the thousands of players, rendering most unable to even access the game due to it’s persistent online nature — if you can’t get online, you can’t play. Moreover, many players found their save data lost, setting progress for some back hours. To combat these issues, Maxis (the makers of SimCity) removed a few features from the game to reduce server strain. However, anecdotal evidence seems to conclude that many players find the current state of the game unplayable in spite of these changes. Many, still, cannot access the game itself. EA has even ended marketing campaigns, and has asked affiliates to cease promoting the game.

The current state of the game led to some outlets amending their review scores to account for these issues. Some that were not privy to early review code have offered scathing reviews due to SimCity’s current state. This had led to major backlash; both against EA and SimCity, but also against the outlets themselves for amending scores. My opinion? I don’t think games — especially games that require a 3rd party in order to work — should be held to their scores. If the game is reviewed prior to release, but the retail version of the game is markedly different, reviews should reflect that. I don’t know what that means for reviews, nor how gaming publications should fix it, but I feel those that reduced their scores for SimCity had the right to do so.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Announced

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After being leaked earlier last week, the veil was finally lifted on the new Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. We learned the new game will feature Edward Kenway, grandfather of ACIII’s Connor Kenway, and will be a more open-world focused game. Set in the Carribean in the early 1700’s, ACIV seems to be a pirate game first, and assassin game second. Certain key Assassin’s Creed features, such at the notoriety system, have been removed in favor of more expanded nautical gameplay from ACIII, and numerous pirating activities to indulge in, including treasure hunting, naval battles, exploring ruins, under water sections, shark fighting, and whale hunting, not to mention non-linear assassination missions. However, these promises have been met with some skepticism, especially after the tepid critical response to ACIII.

Personally, I feel both Assassin’s Creed II and III had their issues. Despite this, I still feel both are great games, though I would never have expected to be excited about the franchise again. Despite all this, here I am eagerly awaiting Black flag. I’m a sucker for nautical themes and open-world games, and the fact that Black Flag seems to be focusing on pirates more than the assassins is a plus for me. However, it does make me wonder if this wasn’t an entirely different, non-Assassin’s Creed game before at some point. Still, I’m up for a good pirate game, Assassin’s Creed or otherwise, so count me in.

Big news for RPG fans

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I’ve already covered the week’s big RPG news in my Return of the Old School RPG parts 2 and 3  this week, but just for reference:

  • Richard Garriott has announced a new medieval RPG project, Shroud of the Avatar. The game has a new Kickstarter page as well.
  • inXile, the dev studio behind Wasteland 2, launched a kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera, a spitirual seuql to Planescae: Torment. It surpassed it’s funding goal in a matter of hours, and broke $1.5 million in less than 12 hours.
  • A brandnew video showing off Shadowrun Return‘s Alpha gameplay and combat has surface and it looks awesome.

My response to all this?

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Videos

  • Not a whole lot was watched this week. However, Anita Sarkeesian released her first episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games. It’s received quite a mixed bag of responses  some of which make me feel a little ashamed I consider myself part of gamer culture. Anita is a hardcore gamer, and very obviously cares about this medium, but her criticisms are sharp, sobering, and valid. While the video doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the conversation, it does articulate many of the issues of women in gaming very well:
  • If you still haven’t watched the new gameplay video for Shadowrun Returns, you should hurry up and get on that:

Words

  • Penny Arcade Report’s Ben Kuchera wrote an interesting piece regarding videogame difficulty and aging. I might only be in my early twenties, but I found parts of his editorial to be universal, as many of the thought’s he’s had (“what will be my last videogame”) have been thoughts I’ve legitimately had in the few few months, especially in moments where the industry seems to crumbling.
  • The review that started it all: Polygon’s SimCity review and subsequent score amendments. This has been the epicenter for much of the story, garnering both criticism and praise from fans and other writers, and even understanding on behalf of EA. While the entire thing is tragic, it serve as an example of why ubiquitous always-online gaming isn’t yet a feasible option.

Misc.

That’s really all I have to offer this week. It’s certainly been an interesting one — one that’s certain to define the tone for the entirety of 2013. I always figured it’d be a big year, but I didn’t realize just how many things we’d be talking about.

A short word about Power Cords: some may be wondering why we’re not using The Cascadian Crew or why we resumed posting here. Primarily, it’s because we wanted a more focused outlet to talk about games and media in a tone that we feel clashes with the concept behind The Cascadian Crew. While it offers us a broader range of topics, we felt fully articulate our thoughts on gaming and film in exactly the ways we wanted warranted resuming posting here. Personally, for a few months I questioned my investment in gaming, and was struggling to find the motivation to cover stories or even play many games. Fortunately, between the announcements of the PS4 and plenty of exciting new games, as well as the success story of several indie project and crowd funding campaigns, I’ve once again found myself compelled to write about not just the industry, but games themselves. I aim to continue this new-found motivation.

While it’s mostly been just me these past few weeks, I’m working hard to get other projects rolling with other memebers across the entire Cascadian Crew. I have some new ideas, some of which my result in changes. However: Power Cords will not be chaging. Other than some possible changes to the layout, and perhaps even some new writers and the return of others, Power Cords will remain. We realize we have to work to get back the readership we had at our peak last year, but I feel we can get there in no time. Thanks to all of you who still read, like, and comment — we promise we’ll have more content for you in the future.

Anyway, that’s it for me this week. Keep an eye out for a new Gaming Journal post this weekend. Otherwise, we’ll see you next week!

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E3 2012: the Bad, and the Ugly

So, now we’ve got the good things from E3 2012 out of the way, it’s time to talk about those moments that were bad, and just downright ugly.

And there were certainly a few worth talking about. First off,

The Bad

Sony’s press conference had a conspicuous lack of Vita chat, even with the announcemnet of an Assassin’s Creed 3 spin off and new Black Ops title coming to the system. In fact, besides a few games shown on the floor — mostly by other publishers — it almost came off as a silent acceptance of the Vita’s poor performance in worldwide sales, even a quiet confirmation the company will support the handheld, but only as far as its current legs can carry itself. It was disappointing, but in some respects not very surprising and certainly not something you can blame Sony for all that much at this point (besides the high price, lack of support, strange marketing decisions, etc.)

Then there was Nintendo. Oh Nintendo… it was their E3 to lose — with high expectations for a new console, Nintendo bungled their conference with an underwhelming and flaccid display, devoid of any surprising and absolutely no guarantees on what to expect post-launch window. Hell, no guarantees on when to expect the console launch itself, nor any price. Sure, it was confirmed there would be no price or release date, but I thought for sure we’d get an idea, maybe even a general time of when to expect the announcement of the release date even… But no, nothing.

On top of that, the games shown during the press conference were either unsurprising (Pikmin 3, Super Mario Bros U) or just down right boring (Nintendoland). Thankfully, Ubisoft was there the provide a glimmer of hope with their new ZombiU franchise. But instead of showing off the game and the cool features it is implementing, Nintendo instead opted to spend 10 minutes showing off Batman: Arkham City — a game that will be over a year old by the time the Wii U Launches. Coupled with Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3, and confirmation that Alien: Colonial Marines will ship on the Wii U after the PC, 360 and PS3 versions, you had a rather sad and sorry display for third party Wii U support. The show closed with fireworks, and no big announcements. The future of the system was left entirely untouched: what’s Retro bringing? What kind of third party support can we expect? What studios are working on future software for the system we can expect months or years after the Wii U launches? These questions remain unanswered.

Wii U’s biggest hope.

Even worse, the separate 3DS press conference they held the day after showed off essentially the exact same products teased at the Wii U conference the day before, and the more impressive Wii U and 3DS announcements weren’t even made until AFTER the press conferences. It was a mes, and an altogether disappointing E3 for Nintendo.

The Ugly

This year was hard for me. Even though I can point to at least a dozen games I was impressed by and am excited to see in the next near (or more), it seemed like every game was toting a “3” suffix — Assassin’s Creed 3, Dead Space 3, Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, Pikmin 3 (all of which ended up impressing me this year). We also saw the fourth entry in the Gears of War franchise, Halo 4 (technically a “reboot” of sorts, but still the sixth entry in  the series), ANOTHER Assassin’s Creed (the eighth or ninth in the series), and a new God of War (the fourth home console title, and sixth overall game in the franchise). Plus the next Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games as well.

It was fatiguing. And, to be honest, in a lot of ways I almost felt ashamed for getting excited about some of these games. Do we really need another God of War, Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty? I know these look great, and will be highly successful, but ever since this generation sparked the trend of yearly franchises, I find myself getting more and more cynical and worn out on these characters and scenarios. They’ll be great games, absolutely. But I would really like to see this generation wind down and make way for new ideas.

And it’s not just because I’d like to see new IP.

These yearly franchises have brought in a new type of gamer. Something like the “hardcore casual gamer”, aka, bro-shooter fans. They usually just buy 1-2 games a year (almost undoubtedly Call of Duty and Madden) and not much else. There’s millions of these guys — chances are you know one. By no means are they bad for games sales, but marketers and PR departments seem to think they’re the audience they need to be selling their games to, and E3 was proof of that. The biggest example is Dead Space 3. Behind closed doors, convention-goers were shown tense, suspenseful moments, broken up by tussles with gore-hungry necromorphs. It looked and played like Dead Space, albeit with some changes, and a few steps further down the path of action sequences started by Dead Space 2.

But by no means was it it a third person shooter.

But if all you had seen or heard on the new game was the 30 second trailer at EA’s press conference. you’d probably have thought they were showing off Gears of War, complete with duck-and-cover shooting, meat-headed co-op partners spouting off testosterone fuled “Shits” and “Fuck Yeah’s” and balsting gun-toting space marines — the opposite of why people play Dead Space. Thankfully, we were assured the single player is devoid of AI companions (for the large majority at least), the cover stuff is not the main focus, and the humans actually mutate and morph in The Thing-like fashion once you’ve damaged them.

Blaahhhh.

I could go on and on, the point it, games seem to be marketed towards a certain type of gamer these days, and that bad for two reasons. 1) when those bro-shooter fan pick up the game and realize it’s not Gears of War or Call of Duty, they’ll be frustrated, confused and disappointed. And 2) when core-fans of series like Dead Space and Mass Effect see their games marketed as CoD or GoW, they become frustrated, confused and disappointed. No one wins.

It’s part of a larger problem with the videogame industry as a whole, and highlights the issue of how to market games to the right people. Games (and the gamers who play them) are becoming just as diverse as movies, television, and music. Not every movie-goer sees all the big movies, and no core-gamer plays all the big games. I think it’s probably a time for more niche marketing and press in the industry itself.

But like I’ve said, I could go on and on. The the industry is changing, and despite how great the majority of games were, this year’s E3 is proof of that. If nothing else, the biggest thing I came away with from E3 2012 was my excitement for E3 2013, and its potential to bring us new experiences and innovations.

E3: The Good

E3’s now a week behind us, and big reveals and press conferences even further back than that. E3 2012 was a strange year — a year of transitions and wheel spinning, and estrangement. That’s not to say it was a bad show this year, or that there were no great games. On the contrary, there were some great presences from several titles, and numerous developers and publishers wowing us enthusiast crowds with some damn good looking games.

There were certainly missteps, I won’t shy away from that fact. But overall I was satisfied with what I saw. So let’s get into some of the things that grabbed my attention from this year’s E3. Continue reading “E3: The Good”

E3 Day 1 Wrap Up: Games and Press Conferences

It’s heeere! The most exciting week in gaming, where some of the biggest announcement are made and the newest games shown off. Kick starting the week were 4 pressers from Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony. Here’s our thoughts on the big moments (and upsets) of E3 2012: Continue reading “E3 Day 1 Wrap Up: Games and Press Conferences”

Crysis 3?

So you’ve probably heard  about Crysis 3 listings being leaked on Origin, and rumors that CVG and Swedish gaming mag Games Reactor will soon be unveiling big news on the Crysis franchise, so it’s only safe to assume it means Crysis 3.

For those who don’t know, Crysis is a FPS series made by Crytek, the same studio who made the original Far Cry (one of my personal favorites).

The leaked box art certainly looks Crysis-y:  the nano suit, what looks like a city in the back ground…

… AND A  BOW!?

HOLD THE PHONE. The game has a bow? Forget what we’d like to see in Crysis 3, somebody get a Kickstarter going for a new Turok game! GO! GO! GO! But in all seriousness, I’m excited to see more from Crysis 3. But I really hope they go back to the jungle (though the box art seems to depecit yet another city, rumored to be london). I just prefered the jungle setting, I mean think about it:

Stalking dinosaurs the enemy faction in dense, beautiful Crytek Engine jungles. Sneaking behind a patrol unawares, drawing back your bow and landing a perfectly shot arrow into a raptor your target, you turn on stealth and super speed and book it out.

How could that not but awesome? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But as far as the gameplay goes, I’m sure the upgrades to the formula and gameplay mechanics of Crysis 2 will show up in 3 (if not expanded upon), and they’v probably figured out yet another way to get better graphics out of lower requirements — good news for everyone.

Bring this back!

I just worry that the series has gone permanently urban. Makes sense from a marketing perspective, but I’d be disappointed. Crysis 2 had strong gunplay and great set pieces, but I miss the openness of the jungle, and the odd juxtaposition of death and war against the picturesque paradise. As much as I hate to pidgeon hole Crytek, they’re good at jungles, open environments, and stealth gameplay — I’d love to see more of that!

But why am I worrying? The game has a bow! Bows make everything better…

… I miss Turok.

How about you guys? Stoked for Crysis 3? What’d you like to see in the rumored sequel? Cool with the urban setting, or do you want a return to the jungle –or something else entirely? And while we’re at it, who else totally wants to see a new Turok game??

Mass Effect 3: Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the game.

This post was inspired by an article I read on Lasertimepodcast.com entitle “Why Mass Effect 3 scares me”, which can be found here. This is not a direct response, so much as giving my two cents on the issue.

As we creep nearer and nearer to the release date for the final chapter of the Mass Effect series, I get the impression that an increasing number of gamers are expecting to have a poor experience with the game. All over the internet, in forums, comments, and blog posts, people are expressing their distaste for the changes in directions they feel the series is taking with the final installment.

Shots have been taken at EA, day-one DLC, the inclusion of multiplayer, the demo, and the supposed de-emphasis on story. These have led to everything from debates on the game’s outcome, to sexists death threats against a Bioware employee who is not even involved with Mass Effect 3.

I’m sorry, what? Continue reading “Mass Effect 3: Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the game.”

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo impressions


EA’s loading it’s guns with triple A RPG-ammunition; Mass Effect 3 and SWTOR are the two titles most poised to make big impacts this year, but there’s another slightly lesser known game that may prove to be a shot in the dark.

The upcoming Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning recently launched a demo on Steam, PSN and XBLA. Mixing God of War combat with the medieval fantasy world of games like Dragon Age and The Elder Scrolls. After playing through as much of the game as we can in the demo, here are our thoughts on the soon-to-be released RPG. Continue reading “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo impressions”