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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The return of the Old School RPG part 2 — Torment: Tides of Numenera

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Perhaps one of the single most exciting videogame announcements of the past several years occurred a few weeks ago. A spiritual sequel to one of the greatest games ever made, Planescape: Torment, will be appearing in the form of a new, isometric CRPG called Torment: Tides of Numenera.

Today, inXile — the development team behind Torment, as well as the upcoming Wasteland 2 — launched their Kickstarter campaign, aiming to fund $900,000 over the next 30 days, surpassed its goal in under six hours, and at this time has raised over $1.5 million from 28,173 backers, myself included. Obviously, as an RPG fan I am ecstatic; as a Planescape: Torment fan, I am thrilled. To hear that the development team features many of those who worked on the original game, and that they are working hard to create and world and story full of depth, drama and truly mature philosophical questions is not only reassuring, it’s exciting. It’s even been endorsed by Chris Avellone, director of Planescape: Torment, himself.

Here’s a brief excerpt of the game’s story from the Kickstarter page:

You are the Last Castoff, the final link in the chain of the lives of the being they call the Changing God. He once was a man who discovered a way to use the relics of the ancients to cheat death and skip across the face of centuries in a succession of bodies. But he never knew that his bodies lived on as his consciousness fled, a new consciousness arising in each. Now he has awakened an age-old enemy, the Angel of Entropy, and his days of change are gone as the Angel hunts him and all his works. That includes… you.

That sounds awesome.

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I’ve written in the past about my love for various RPGs, as well as my excitement that the genre is making a comeback in a big way. By that I don’t mean in terms of games like Mass Effect or Skyrim selling extremely well and being fantastic games, but also in the fact that classic styles of role playing games are making a comeback thanks to the like of Kickstarter. Obsidian’s Project Eternity, and inXile’s Wasteland 2 and now Torment: Tides of Numenera are exactly the kinds of games I want to be playing. Sure, I’m excited for the PS4; I’m happy the Thief series is returning; and yes I love the idea of Assassin Creed IV’s open-world pirate adventure; but Torment: Tides of Numenera is bar-none the single most exciting game-related announcement this year (now, if Dark Soul II had been announced this year instead of last year, it might have been a closer call).

Thanks to these successful Kickstarter projects, I’m getting the opportunity to play (and by extension, help create) exactly the kinds of videogames that I want to exist. Of course, this is taking it on faith that these games will be good, or even come out in the first place. But even if they fail to live up to our expectations, the fact is that these projects give me hope that videogames aren’t on the verge of some sort of massive collapse — or worse,  water-down homogenization — and are instead evolving and splintering into sub-communities much like other artistic and entertainment mediums. That’s a future I can get excited for.

Check out inXile’s Kickstarter page for the game here. And while you’re at it, you might as well go buy the original Planescape: Torment for cheap on gog.com because it’s a great game.