2011 June

June 30, 2011

Thought of the Week – Personal gaming space…

I am changing my blurb to Thought of the Week since we have changed the format a bit, but same deal and conversation starter. I apologize for not responding to last week’s that was posted on Saturday I will get to that, this past week has been scary and I am going personal with this week’s topic. On Sunday night I had to take my girlfriend, Holly, to the ER because of food poisoning (stay away from the country fried steak at Bob Evans) and because she is a diabetic, her blood sugar rose immensely. She had early signs of DKA which leads to a diabetic coma, but because we got her there early enough and through (surprisingly) speedy hospital service she was feeling better and was released from the hospital Tuesday morning. Monday night, when I was at home playing some Battlefield: Bad Company 2 online to get back in a normal state of mind it dawned on me, my couch was empty and I felt out of place. I have become so accustomed to having her sit next to me and either read, watch, or play the DS that in her absence, I missed sharing my experience and including her  in my passion. It just didn’t feel right, sure I was having fun gunning people down and blowing buildings and tanks up, but there was this void; I missed her. Normally, I am a very solitary person. I relish in my alone time but have always enjoyed her in my gaming space; she has become a staple for my enjoyment of games. Holly has become as important as a controller, a console, and even the software it’s self for me to thoroughly enjoy a game. I know we all have our great gaming setups whether it is a giant LCD TV, a cutting edge PC, a surround sound that will shake the neighbor’s house and cause panic, a comfortable chair or couch, an elaborate headset that broke the bank, a favorite worn down controller that you always have to use, or some sort of gaming memorabilia that fills the room with gaming goodness; mine is having her beside me. She is my muse, my enjoyment, and fills my gaming space with gamer goodness. I have book shelves full of collectible action figures, game related books, plushies, and a gigantic back catalog of games, but nothing can replace her. Now on to the comments, is there something that you like having to enjoy your games, be it something I mentioned above or something completely off the wall?

June 28, 2011

Crysis 2 DX11 Patch Released and Comparison

Today Crytec released it’s long awaited DX11 patch for Crysis II.  The DX11 content, high res textures, and updated visuals have been a source of much debate within the PC and even console communities.  PC gamers argue that the content should of been released with the game instead of waiting several months after it’s release to be put out.  Many PC gamers claim that the DX11 patch is to little to late and that by “alienating” their core audience, the PC community, that they have lost the following that they might of otherwise had. 

Regardless of where you stand on the matter the DX11 patch is available for you to download here and it is a free download to those who have purchased the game.  There are several different content packs that you can download depending on what you want.  Each one has different system requirements so be sure to check them before you download them. 

What do you guys think to little to late?  Or just a great addition to a good game?  Let us know! We want to know!

The patch features are listed below:

Crysis 2 Patch 1.9

• Added Contact Shadows
• Added DX11 support for Crysis 2 (the following features only work when downloading the optional DX11 package here):
• – Tessellation + Displacement Mapping
• – High Quality HDR Motion Blur
• – Realistic Shadows with Variable Penumbra
• – Sprite Based Bokeh Depth of Field
• – Parallax Occlusion Mapping
• – Particles Motion Blur, Shadows and Art Updates
• – Water Rendering improvements and using Tessellation + Displacement Mapping
• Added Realtime Local Reflections
• Added support for Higher Res Textures Package
• Added various new console variables to whitelist
• Fixed bullet penetration, which had been broken by a bug introduced with the DLC 2 patch
• Fixed issue in MP where player stats weren’t always saved at the end of a game
• Fixed issue in MP where player stats would sometimes randomly reset
• Fixed issue with MP time played statistic, which would sometimes be too low on leaderboards and in stats
• Fixed issue with JAW rocket not firing through window’s containing broken glass
• Fixed rare issue where a user could not access MP with a valid CD key if they had previously used an invalid CD key
• Improved advanced graphics options menu
• Improved anti-cheat measurements: fixed exploit which could prevent vote kicking working against a user
• Improved multi-GPU support
• Improved Tone Mapping
• Re-added possibility to enable r_StereoSupportAMD via config file (unsupported)

I’ve also snagged some side by side comparisons of DX9 vs DX11:

June 27, 2011

Sound The Alarm

Hey guys I have a friend who also has a nerd site. His name is Adam and he does up the geekness over at http://stashow.net/. Sound The Alarm brings you news in gaming and other fun things as well. They also do weekly podcasts chatting about anything going on in gaming, sports, or random stuff around the house. They just hit the 25th episode mark so gratz to them. So give them a checking out and tell them AceOfNades sent ya. Oh and be nice.

June 27, 2011

In Response to the Supreme Court Ruling: A Plea to Big Brother

Today, thsoundman brought us the news that the Supreme Court has ruled that video games are protected by the First Amendment. While I personally feel that this is a landmark achievement for the credibility of video games as an adult hobby, as well as a turn for the positive in the decisions of the United States government, it will put a bit of pressure on the parents to more closely monitor their children’s video game playing. This got me to thinking about the usage of online multiplayer and other social media by those same children, and I came to a conclusion: Social media and mainstream online gaming are such new things that few parents know enough about them to be able to accurately monitor their child’s usage of them. However, in many households across America, there is one key member of the family that knows more about these two things than the rest of the family combined: The older brother.

My parents are fairly young, and in-the-know enough to realize the inherent dangers of unregulated internet usage. Still, with enough pleading and promising to be responsible, at age 12 I was able to get my own email address, begin playing some popular free MMO’s of the time, and have my first taste of online shooters with Halo PC (a game which changed my life, definitely for the better). Fortunately for me, this was before Myspace existed, so I had plenty of time to be introduced to a method of communication known as the online bulletin board, or “forums” as most of you probably know them. Over the years, I became an Internet animal, but in a surprisingly good way; my “friends” (who I only knew by screennames) taught me the value of not giving out crucial pieces of information, and I witnessed firsthand what happened to those who gave out the wrong information and angered the wrong people. Hiding behind a number of different “1337” monikers and a .gif avatar of a recolored Final Fantasy sprite, I had an absolute adventure across the Internet which still continues to this day. I know there are thousands of you out there, about my age, who share a similar story to mine. This is my plea to you.

Many of you have a little brother, little sister, or little cousin. Chances are this child, however young he or she is, has a cell phone, a Facebook page, a gaming console which he or she uses online, or any combination of the three. I charge you with making sure that this child grows up right with games and social media. That child’s parents probably have no idea that your character is able to have sex in the Fable and Mass Effect series. That child’s parents have no idea that with a Facebook album of a preteen pool party and a little Photoshop, people on the internet can and will do horrible things. That child’s parents might not know what “eRP” means, what happens when you delete System32, and that online multiplayer has a tendency to generate cursing. But you do. I leave it to you.

On the other hand, there are some parents (possibly the ones behind the Violent Video Games case in the first place) who believe that every video game is a blood, gore, and sex spree. These are the parents that are convinced that everyone on the internet other than their child is a pedophile. These are the people that actually took Duke Nukem seriously. These parents might not have any idea that there are plenty of other kids that play games online all around the world, and how much cultural value there is in befriending them. These parents might not have any idea how easy it is to learn a foreign language while interacting and playing games with foreigners online. These parents might not even stop to think that the skills their children are learning online whilst playing video games, both soft (teamwork, communication) and hard (server management, scripting), can give them a technological edge in a world where almost every career is increasingly reliant on the Internet. But you know. I leave it to you.

Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, Neighborhood Friends, all of you who are in your teens or early twenties and know one child who is in that awkward phase, hear me. Their parents might be completely ignorant to the dangers or benefits of gaming and the Internet. You are the one who knows. You’re still in your “cool phase.” That kid will drink up everything you say. Talk to them. You damn sure know what you’re talking about.

June 27, 2011

Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Video Game Industry

In a milestone event today, the Supreme Court ruled today against the Violent Video Game law presented by California law makers.

“Like protected books, plays, and movies, communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And ‘the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary’ with a new and different communication medium,” said the court.

“This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that ‘interactive’ video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its out- come, is unpersuasive.”

This is landmark event in that it sets a precedent for any future entertainment industry laws.  This ruling protects video games under first amendment rights thus extending them the protecting that the Literature, Music and Video industry already have.

“Esthetic and moral judgments about art  and literature… are for the individual to make, not for the government to decree even with mandate or approval of majority”

While it may be true that children should not be playing Violent or sexually explicit games it is most definately not the responsibility of the courts to decide this.  The responsibility of protecting children falls on the hands of their parents.  Parents and lawmakers that are angry with what children are viewing should not be targeting the industry but perhaps targeting themselves or parents of these children who are failing to protect the children from such content?

What does TGB think?  Do think the court made the correct decision?  Does anyone here think it should of gone the other way?  Should the government regulate the video game industry?

June 26, 2011

Subscriptions VS Microtransactions

 

With advancements in gaming come new ways for the industry to get our money. However with EA giving way to the “online pass” codes trend we see gaming heading in a new direction. Now we see free to play, pay to play, and all thats in between popping up all over.

Subscriptions – Ahh the familiar feelings. Pay for a month? Three months? A year? Two years? Hopefully this game lasts that long. Subscription based games rode the MMO wagon to become a standard for a lot of games and gaming services. I am sure the first guy to see a pay to play game said, “Ha! That will never work.” Now that same guy does his best to scrape together enough money to get another month of WoW access like a crackhead getting his fix. Success in the MMO world led Micrsoft to charge a subscription for its Xbox Live content. Even Playstation Network finally  jumped on the bus when they saw how successful it was. More and more we are starting to see new games released with pass codes or codes for add-ons. Now whispers are being heard of possibly charging a flat subscription fee and getting access to all the new content as it comes. Will you want to pay for Xbox Live, a new game, and a subscription for playing that game? Seems a bit much to me.

Microtransactions – The other side of the coin. Microtransactions are the newest fad in the gaming world but they actually aren’t as new as you think. Xbox Live charges microtransactions everytime a user buys Microsoft points. What is newer is the way these transactions are presented. They are wrapped secretly in a “free to play” game. A perfect example is League of Legends, a top down action real time strategy tower defense game. It is absolutely free to download and play. Everything can be unlocked in game by simply putting in time to the game. However for a few dollars here and there you can speed up the process to get ahead. The success this in PC games like League of Legends has gotten Steams attention. Steam announced a new direction of free to play games using the microtransaction method. Even Xbox is rumored to be getting new games as well.

As with everything it all has to do with money. How much can they get from us and how much are we willing to pay? Some like the idea some don’t. Prices will be the biggest issue. If I have to pay for a game, pay for a service to play it, or pay for in game content to be able to contend in game, what will that cost me?

June 25, 2011

Weekend Thought of the Day: Mirrors Edge and E3 lacking originality…

This year’s E3 has come and gone and was very mundane. It was full of “eh” moments and yet again, it had a very bad case of sequelidous. We had all of the big names there but one was yet again left out and it makes me sad, Mirror’s Edge. Released in 2008, it was an experiment from the makers of Battlefield, DICE, that was well received but was lost in the holiday rush because it was something different and not a well established franchise (suffered from the Beyond Good & Evil syndrome). DICE and EA have been hinting at a sequel for a couple of years now and have said it is an “important” franchise, there where is my sequel? Rumors swirled at E3 this year of a sequel being built on DICE’s in-house engine, Frostbite 2.0. The original game was built on Unreal 3 and textures popped in (something that appears in every Unreal 3 game, you would think Epic would address this issue already), but ran smoothly and had a gorgeous, realized world. Faith, the main protagonist, was a breath of fresh air to female video game characters. Faith was smart, athletic, tattooed, and not an over glorified sex symbol (*cough, Lara Croft, *cough). For being a quasi-FPS, there was no brown to be seen. The game was rich with color; the white city back drop, vibrant interior colors, and red to show your path. The city felt sterile, devoid of life, robotic. You were the streak of color running from roof top to roof top, passing along the information that was considered contraband in this dystopia. The game did have its share of problems, way finding was tricky at times, there was a lot of trial and error, and the combat could use an overhaul. The game was a breath of fresh air in the stagnant sequels we see year in and year out. I play the game here and there and at least one full play through once a year. It reminds me that there still is creativity in this industry and that it can come from unexpected places. There were some surprises this year that came in the form of downloads, From Dust and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Even Rayman Origins shows much promise. I understand this is an industry and it comes down to making money, but to have growth there needs to be original IP’s that is just as successful as stable franchises. So now you know my go to original game that suffered the fate of most Tim Schaffer games are doomed to(Tim’s games are great, yet never see the sales they deserve). So what is your and would you like to see more original games or are you fine plucking away at the same sequels every year?

June 24, 2011

Star Wars Galaxies Is Coming Down…

It’s been a long time coming but it was just announced that Star Wars Galaxies will finally be coming down.  This isn’t terribly suprising news considering the game has been loosing popularity over the last few years in addition to the upcoming release of  “The Old Republic”.  The date for the shut down is December 15th.  Star Wars: Galaxies was one of the most anticipated MMO’s of all time back when it was released and it saw several expasnsions and updates over the course of it’s life.  Updates, however,  are probably the reason why “the magic is gone” in Star Wars Galaxies.  Star Wars galaxies maintained a fairly high player base until it’s content update that drastically changed the way character classes were handled, in particular the Jedi class.  When I played Star Wars Galaxies becoming a Jedi was hard/rare the content update changed it to where almost everyone could become a Jedi very easily just by choosing the class.  It’s sad to see something such as Star Wars fail but none the less Star Wars Galaxies will be imploding December 15.

June 20, 2011

Charcoal’s Late Review of the 3DS: Part 1- The Console

What’s up, everyone? It’s super great captain Charcoal (bonus points if you get that 78% obscure reference), who is super late on his DS review. But you know by now that this is how I operate. This review isn’t for the Nintendo total fanboys. This is for the skeptics, the doubters, and most importantly, the poor people who can’t just immediately drop $250 on something. So, here comes my review of the 3DS!

^You totally trust this guy with your reviews, right?

So, for those of you who don’t like reading because big words hurt your internet-pwned brain, I’ll give you the tl;dr / thesis:

  • The 3DS is very, very good.
  • There are very few good games currently available for the 3DS (specifically).
  • If you don’t have any other DS, go ahead and get a 3DS.
  • If you have plenty of money and you like Nintendo, go ahead and get a 3DS.
  • If you don’t have much money and you like Nintendo, wait until the new Smash Bros. comes out, there may be a bundle deal.
  • If you’re indifferent to Nintendo and have a lot of money, wait for the aforementioned Smash Bros.
  • If you don’t like Nintendo, or don’t like them enough to spend a lot of money on their products, skip the 3DS.
  • If you like “Apps”, and you like random cool stuff, you will have way more fun with a 3DS than an iPod Touch.

There. Eight bullet points. If you can’t handle eight bullet points, I highly suggest watching anime in Japanese with English subtitles as remedial reading training.

Now, on to the actual review. Brace yourself, this one’s gonna be huge.

I am totally in love with the 3DS’s hardware. Its design is sleek enough to fit into the pockets of American Eagle jeans (which, if you don’t know, have a tough time holding a golf ball), yet it feels sturdy and I don’t feel bad about keeping it in my pocket when working (unless I’m doing some crazy stuff). Convenient sliders for the volume, wireless, and 3d level are present, the buttons are nice and solid, the slidey thumbstick (of which I wasn’t a huge fan when they were first used on the PSP) doesn’t suck, the d-pad is a d-pad,  and there’s even a convenient “home” key. You’ve also got an SD card port for a number of functions, and three cameras: One on the front of the opened DS to see your face for face-related features, and two on the back to take 3D pictures. The quality is built-in grainy webcam level, but the cameras are more game-oriented. If you want to take quality pictures in 3D, I’m sure there’s a camera for that. The screens are ginormous. The 3DS is as solid as anyone could ask for. Even the stylus is the best yet; it fits snugly in its little stylushole, and it telescopes out.

^It looks small at first, but then it doubles in size. Reference previous picture.

The3 DS doesn’t choke on any of its software. For the built-in stuff, the 3D is spectacular. There are a lot of cool things that are available right from the get-go, including some Augmented Reality games (which can be somewhat dumb, but it shows a LOT of potential for things to get REALLY cool if a serious developer takes this ball and runs with it. Miis are present. I’m not really pro-Mii, but it is a nice touch for kids, and it introduces a cool way to meet people who also have 3DS’s via StreetPass. Streetpass works in the background of the 3DS, scanning for other 3DSes whilst you have it in your pocket in sleep mode or out playing a game. When it finds one, you’ll swap Miis, as well as other ingame content. I’m not totally sure if you can friend-add someone this way (I’ve yet to pass someone in my little hick town), but Nintendo’s good at updating and implementing new stuff. There’s also SpotPass, where the 3DS will automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks and download free stuff for you (you can set it to download magazine articles and whatnot, but sometimes it will just surprise you with a gift). If you think this sounds dangerous, don’t worry. Both of these are opt-outable. Wireless connectivity is way better than the original DS, and updates download decently fast.

^Rush Limbaugh is radically pro-Mii. I’m more of a Miiderate.

The 3DS, like the DSi, has an “App store” of sorts. There are all sorts of applications, and free games and paid games. This is Nintendo’s bid in the whole “tiny thing that fits in your pocket with a touch screen and cheap games” business. However, instead of SQUIRREL INTRUDER LITE or some bullcrap, you can currently get Excitebike for free. And yes, it’s in 3D. And it is AWESOME. Other games are classics that you have to pay for, but they’re cheap, and they’re classics. One of them is The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, which I reviewed in a previous “Games for Gameless Situations” article, and is one of my favorite games ever. Super Mario Land is also available. Nintendo is set to wreak havoc in the handheld market again, just as it has always done. What do you know, we might even get Angry Birds and Doodlejump here. Oh wait.

Angry Birds

Doodlejump?

Hey, uh, anyone wanna buy an iPod Touch? I no longer have any reason to own one.

^I mean, just look at this ancient thing.

I’ve done nothing but brag on the 3DS so far. I only really have two problems, one minor and one major (and one pentatonic). Lots of games for the 3DS have buttons on the touchscreen that you touch with your grubby, greasy thumbs, rather than a stylus, and this smudges it up real good. That’s fairly minor. The clear problem here with the 3DS is the total absence of games. Pretty much everything out now is either too cartoony and gimmicky, or a remake. The only ones I can really say are worth owning are Ocarina of Time (Might not be the greatest game ever, but it’s in the top 3.), and Super Street Fighter IV 3D (Enjoy getting pwned online but too on-the-go for Starcraft? Try this on for size.) However, I’m sure Nintendo will have this worked out by Christmas.

^Nintendo: Santa Claus’s best bros since the 1980’s.

So, what you may be thinking is “Should I get a 3DS?” Consult my little bulleted section above. If you have any questions about specifics, or any comments to make about the 3DS, or you think I look really good in a cow suit, drop a comment below!

Part 2 of this review will be out sometime soon. I’ll review a 3DS game that made me incredibly happy, and another that pissed me off quite a bit.

June 17, 2011

Indie Games: Charcoal’s Take

A long time ago, May 24th to be specific, Dr. Pixel won a QWOP competition in which the somewhat-grand prize was an article about any topic. He chose “indie games in general”. This is a fairly broad topic, so that means I get to ramble, which is fairly characteristic of me if you know me or my writing. So, here we go.

First off, I have a problem with the term “Indie Games” on the grounds of poor definition. Technically (according to Wikipedia, which has never ever been wrong about anything, ever), an indie game is “created by individuals or small teams without video game publisher financial support” (From “Indie Game” on Wikipedia. Hooray for nonplagarism!). However, many “indie games” that become popular quickly gain the attention of said publishers, and financial support becomes available. Does this mean that said creators are no longer capable of producing any “indie games” ever again? Or do the games just lose all their indie cred, as hipsters scoff and reminisce to a time before Hot Topic started selling Angry Birds T-Shirts.

^Warning: Clothing from Hot Topic may cause a hipster to become angry and lecture you for thirty minutes. For use at home or when trolling at Starbucks only.

I sort of understand where Indie game fans are coming from. Even fairly large companies (Red Octane, Bungie) have had their flagship product maimed by corporate giants (Activision, Microsoft). The problem is that once something is considered good by a populace, every other entity judged by said populace begins trying WAY too hard to emulate the successful entity. For example, you remember that shooter? The one on Xbox? The one with the campaign that you just blew right through and then started playing the multiplayer? You remember that multiplayer, you know, the one where you gain experience and level up and you get better equipment and/or guns because of it? And you held down Left Trigger to aim down your sights? If you’ve had a 360 since its release or shortly thereafter, I dare you to find every shooter you own that that description applies to. If you get less than five, you just didn’t own that many shooters. This is just one of many things that is being copied everywhere. That persistent metagame leveling up for the sake of leveling up is in almost every match-based multiplayer game on the market right now. /rage.

^Metagame leveling is now as overused as this rage face, as well as any other “meme face”.

Indie games are a lot more free to experiment, because oftentimes they’re done merely for fun. Nobody’s job is riding on the success or failure of this pilot title. This can be good or bad. Sometimes, experiments fail, and they fail hard. For every epic return to the 16-bit RPG (which there are not nearly enough of, especially those without the anime graphics), there are fifteen hipsterific satirical nightmares that don’t even classify as a “game” in any sense of the word.

^ “It’s situational irony. You paid for a game and expected one, but instead you got a shirt. It represents my feelings about conservatism.”

All in all, I can’t really claim to be “for” or “against” indie games. They’re just games. If I judged games based on what they’re made from and who they’re made by, rather than on the quality of the game, that’d make me a… hrm… someone throw me a term in the comment section?

I can’t really close up an article on indie games without any good recommendations, so I’ll throw some out for you. Most of my favorite “indie games” are flash games that are playable for free online. Make no mistake, the ones I’m recommending are still high quality.

Protector is a free flash game series, based (and best played) on a website called Kongregate. It’s an amazingly balanced series of Tower Defense games that involves elemental mages, which are capable of inducing different effects on the enemy. You know all of the enemy waves in advance, and its up to you to determine the best way to build your forces and handle each one. It’s a simple game on the surface, but a lot more strategy goes into it than you might think. There isn’t too much of significance in the way of plot, but there are a few nods to some former internet fame.

Warlords: A Call To Arms is another free flash game that I first experienced on Kongregate. Again, it’s deceptively simple on the surface, but winning some of the later battles in the campaign involves some heavy strategy. Units spawn on a timer and move and attack independently. You determine what units spawn, and where. Some units, like spearmen and archers, come out relatively quickly. Stronger units, namely mounted ones, take longer to spawn. This game also has two-people-at-one-computer multiplayer, which can get addicting very quickly. It’s also worth noting that this game has been released on the iPod/iPhone App Store.

Braid… It’s just Braid. It’s technically a platformer, but it’s like nothing you’ll have ever played before. Buy it. Now. It’s on Steam and Xbox Live Arcade. There may also be a version for you PS3 homies out there (I don’t own a PS3 so I’m out of the loop.). Srsly. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

It’s good to be back on the article writing train again! Leave me some comments below! I will be upset if you fail to comment.

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