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

simcity2013

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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Return of the Old School RPG Part THREE!? — Richard Garriott and Shadowrun Returns

Shroud of the Avatar

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There is probably one name more synonymous with old school role playing games than any other: Richard Garriott. He pioneered the idea of games as worlds, crafted the earliest CRPGs with the Ultima series, and sparked the MMO genre with Ultima Online. Hell, he even was the first guy to sell a game in a box. He’s a pretty important dude, in RPGs or just gaming in general.

Admittedly, I haven’t played nearly as much Ultima as I probably should have. In fact, other than a few brief hours with a couple of the games, the series is pretty foreign to me. For me, names like Chris Avellone, Feargus Urquhart, or even Todd Howard carry more weight when attached to an RPG project.

Nonetheless, in the world of RPGs, when Richard Garriott speaks, people listen. Today, he called down from the mountain tops, announcing his own crowd funding campaign for a new multiplayer RPG, Shroud of the Avatar. The game seems to be a split online/offline game, and promises classes character creation, meaningful narrative choices, a fully interactive world, innovative PVP, and player-run homesteads and real estate. It sounds quite ambitious, and I hope the final product encapsulates all of Sir British’s ideas. You can check out more about the game on the Kickstarter here. While I may not be quite as excited by this news as many others are sure to be, it does drive home this idea that RPGs are really coming back; if Richard Garriott is making a medieval role playing game, then the future must be bright.

Check out the Kickstarer here.

 Shadowrun Returns

While Garriot’s Shroud of the Avatar and inXile’s Torment: Tides of Numenera are in the early stages of development, some of these Kickstarter role playing games are finally beginning to show some real progress.

One game in particular is Harebrained Scheme’s Shadowrun Returns. Shadowrun is another series I have little experience with — I never played the original RPG, nor the online FPS that was released a few years ago. However, Shadowrun Returns looks to be a promising game. The developers have released a new gameplay video showing off some alpha footage of the new game along with some commentary. The art style looks great, and the tactical combat seems fun — very reminiscent of the original Fallout games. Plus the setting is awesome (cyberpunk elves? Street samurai? Sold). Peep the video below. I highly recommend it; I’m not sure how this game has flown under my radar for so long, but it is now among a growing list of exciting RPG projects coming in the next few months/years.

You can check out more Shadowrun Returns here.

RPGs seems to be a growing topic of conversation here on Power Cords. While I’m really excited about that, I’m also going to try to get some other topics/voices going again too. At any rate, you can be sure that if anything important occurs in the world of RPGs, I’ll have something to say about it.

The return of the old-school RPG

Oh hey look — Brendan’s talking about RPG’s again. I can’t help it, there’s just too much to be excited about these day. Thanks to things like free 2 play, indie development, and Kickstarter, the gaming industry has seen an influx of fresh, creative minds as well as the return of legendary game creators, able to finally create the worlds they’ve been wanting to for years, but that have been pushed aside in favor of the cash-cow, AAA first person shooters and action games we’ve been buried under for the past couple console generations.

Look I know: RPG’s have been around for ages and have evolved with the times to remain relevant while still providing the types of experiences people have come to expect from the genre…

…err, sort of. I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect series — arguably the biggest RPG franchise of the current console generation — but it’s not really an RPG. It’s a great, great series — truly — but compared to even some of its contemporaries it’s not much of an RPG. It’s also not the only series shifting away from role playing game’s origins.

While I’m not a big fan of JRPG’s, I can’t deny that the Final Fantasy XIII series (that sounds weird) has been a major departure not only from the roots of past FF games, but from JRPGs in general. And I recently vented my frustration with Blizzard, but it’s worth noting that Diablo III, despite remaining true to much of what’s great about the Diablo series, is missing that “RPG” quality. When I say “RPG’s are coming back,” I mean the old-school, hardcore RPG’s of yore.

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To be fair, there’s still a fair amount of Old-School RPG DNA in some of the biggest games today. Besides the few games still adhering to the old school formulas (Dungeons of Dredmor, The Dark Spire, Etrian Odyssey series), there are several titles that appeal to those who were gaming in the 80’s/90’s, or appreciate their legacy. The Witcher 2 is a great example of a game that balances the cinematic, character-based story of games like Mass Effect, with deep combat, skill systems, and character building of true old-school RPGs; Bethesda’s games offer massive worlds filled with quests, dungeons, and NPCs to create your own story — not to mention games like Fallout 3 and Skyrim prove you can evolve character building without sacrificing depth. And, of course, it wouldn’t be an article about RPGs if I didn’t mention Dark Souls, and it’s predecessor Demon’s Souls: truly hardcore RPGs of the modern era.

But when it comes to real old-school RPGs utilizing the same design of classic titles like Wizardry and Ultima, the industry has been in a bit of a drought. There’s always been a small, cult following around a few underground niche titles, but now there are a few projects brewing that will hopefully usher in a new surge of old-school RPGs.

Legend of Grimrock
Developer: Almost Human
Released: April 11, 2012
Website

We reviewed this game back when it was released earlier this year. It remains one of my favorite indie games of the year. Despite middling reviews from some critics, for many gamers like myself Legend of Grimrock was a great throwback to the dungeon crawlers of the 19980’s/90’s, tweaked and modernized for more accessibility. More importantly, it set the ground work for future sequels, and opened the door for new games in the genre to flourish.

Shaker
Developer: Loot Drop
Estimated Release: January 2014
Kickstarter Page

Being developed by Tom Hall (co-founder of id Software), and Brendan Brathwaite (Wizardry, Train, Dungeons & Dragons), Shaker is currently being funded on Kickstarter. The duo started the studio Loot Drop Games, and together with a highly qualified team, are looking to create a game in the same vein as the classic CRPGs of yore a la Wizardry, Lands of Lore, Ishar, etc.. Personally speaking, this is probably one of the few currently funding Kickstarter projects I’m really, really excited about. Check out their Kickstarter page and please back it! We need more games like this.

Project Eternity
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Estimated Release Date: April 2014
Website

Obsidian games are a studio well known to any RPG fan. Recently, the company was able to fully fund a brand new party-based RPG in the vein of Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate. This is another project I’m super excited for, and I’m really happy to see that they exceeded their goal and will be making this game. There is quite an impressive pedigree here, and some of the ideas being talked about remind me a lot of Planescape: Torment, one of my personal favorite games of all time. The success of this project gives me high hopes for the future of the genre.

Wasteland 2
Developer: InXile Entertainment

Estimated Release Date: Oct. 2013
Website

Before there was Fallout, there was Wasteland. In the wake of the massive success of Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter, Brian Fargo decided to reboot his post-apocalyptic RPG Wasteland, and launched the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter. The project has been fully funded, and work is underway. Check out the video above for a small glimpse of what we can expect from this project. I never got a chance to play the original Wasteland, but as a huge fan of Fallout and Fallout 2 (games directly inspired by Wasteland) the footage has me jonesin for some top-down, post-apocalyptic roleplaying insanity.

Ultima Forever
Developer: Bioware,
Estimated Release Date: Winter 2012
Website

Speaking of well known developers, Bioware is resurrecting one of the oldest and most influencial Role Playing series with Ultima Forever. Essentially a remake of Ultima IV, this new title is going to be entirely free to play (or, as Bioware calls it “Play4Free”) and will be playable on PC, as well as iPad. According to Bioware, the game will feature many of the old mechanics of the Ultima series, while combat will be positional and action-oriented, comparing it to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Definitely on my list of need-to-play games —  I mean c’mon, free Ultima!

That list almost sounds too good to be true. So many great names and developers are behind these projects, and my hopes are high. And these are just classic RPG’s; we’re also seeing the return of point and click adventure games (thanks to Tim Schaefer and Double Fine’s highly successful Kickstarter campaign), mech games (MechWarrior Online, Hawken), turn-based strategy (The Banner Saga, XCOM: Enemy Unknown), and of course Chris Robert’s return to gaming and the long-forgotten space-combat sim with Squardron 42. It’s almost too much to handle! With such bright prospects like these, it’s hard to argue we’re not in a new golden-age of videogames. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a basement to return to.

5 Great Games of 2012 Still to Come

Sure, 2012 is nearly two-thirds of the way over, but that doesn’t mean game releases are. We’re nearing the busiest time of the year in terms of new titles coming out. Fall/Holiday 2012 will see a slew of awesome new games being released, and there are a few in particular that are on my radar — an should be on yours too. So without further ado, here are the 5 games I’m stoked to play later this year.

5. Mechwarrior Online

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve have been enamored with the idea of mechs and giant robots. Being a life-long gamer, I’ve always wanted a really good mech combat game. MechWarrior was that series for me. I have fond memories of Mechwarrior 2 and Mechwarrior 3: Mercenaries, but it’s been years since we’ve had a new game in the series. But all that’s about to change; MechWarrior Online, a brand new, free 2 play installment of the mech combat sim, will soon be here. And I am super stoked. MechWarrior represents the slower, more methodical and strategic side of my love of giant robots, and the interesting squad dynamics Piranha Games have in store for the different mech types have me on pins and needles imagining the type of gameplay experiences they will bring.

4. Ultima Forever

Earlier this year, my old-school RPG love was rekindled by Legend of Grimrock, but I’ve been craving a new classic roleplaying experience to absorb all my time. Well, as it turns out, the much-beloved Ultima Forever is getting a brand new, free-to-play version (noticing a pattern), complete with new graphics and features, including the ability to play on you PC, and move over to your iPad seamlessly for adventuring on the go. Ultima is a series I have little history with, yet immense respect for. This new version, which is being developed by Bioware, looks pretty neat. The game features micro-transactions for access to vanity items like skins and armor, as well as unlocking some abilities earlier, but otherwise the entire adventure is open to you, and gameplay is unrestricted. With an art style that seems reminiscent of Bastion, and the gameplay being equated to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, not to mention the fact it’s free Ultima Forever sounds like a pretty good deal.

3. Darksiders 2

Okay, technically not a Fall or Holiday release, but it’s close. Darksiders 2 is just around the corner, and I could not be more excited. I am a huge fan of the first game in the series, and the fact that this second installment is adding Diablo-style loot to its unabashed Zelda ripoff gameplay (that’s a compliment) sounds awesome. Darksiders established the series as a fun, mature, and highly stylized action/adventure series, and I really hope Darksiders 2 not only continues that, but also does well enough that we see further games in the series.

2. Halo 4

I’ve only recently become a fan of this well-known scifi FPS series, but like they say, converts are the most zealous. My time with Halo in the past month (as you might already know) has been an absolute joy. I have yet to play through Halo: Reach or experience much of the mulitplayer (two things I will be correcting in the near-future) but Halo 4 is going to be special in that it will be the first Halo title I play on launch day, and get to experience from the beginning with the rest of the Halo fanbase. Even if most of them are racists 13 year-olds. I also have immense faith in 343 Industries, and feel that while Bungie’s run with Halo is the classic story, that this new trilogy will (hopefully) take the series to new territory, and new heights.

1. Hawken

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Hawken is the one game I look forward to playing most this year; it’s also the furthest away in terms of release date. It may seem redundant to have two free-to-play mech combat games bookending this list, but that just goes to show how much of a giant robot nut I can be. Adhesive Game’s Hawken is both my most anticipated mech game of 2012, AND my most anticipated game of the year, period. The fast-paced nature of Hawken’s combat looks as if it perfectly captures the intensity and power of huge walking tanks doing battle, yet still features the speed and finesse of arena shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake, not to mention it’s absolutely gorgeous. A game that includes the mech customization and management of something like Mechwarrior, as well as the high speed adrenaline rush of Unreal Tournament is, in many ways, the game I’ve always wanted. Plus, it’s free to play, will be featured on the OUYA, and will even feature comics, and internet video series, and a feature length film. But while all that sounds cool, it’s Hawken the GAME I’m most excited for.

And those are the 5 games I’m most excited to play this Fall/Holiday season. Quite a few free-to-play titles, huh? There are certainly a few more titles on my radar (Assassin’s Creed III, Far Cry 3, Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition), not to mention the OUYA console. And beyond 2012, there’s already a small handful of games garning some hype here in the Power Cords camp. But what about you guys? What games are you most looking forward to playing in the latter part of 2012? Before the world ends, of course.