We’re not extra surly this weekend; we’re just continuing the violence discussion from this week’s show! (At least, that’s our story.)
Another E3 has come and gone. Were you left feeling underwhelmed, as seems to be the concensus this year, or were there enough announcements to keep you excited for the next year’s worth of games? We’ve collected some of our thoughts below.
This week on the show, we discussed Blizzard’s always-online requirement for Diablo III and measures other publishers are taking to ostensibly protect their games from pirates. These practices can have the side-effect of making gamers’ lives miserable, though, so we want to know: Have you found yourself caught up in DRM Hell?
Q: Have you ever had to buy an online pass for a game?
Matt: I’ve never had to myself, but I feel really sorry for the average game-buying consumer who has to deal with this crap. I have the benefit of following the industry closely enough that I am far better equipped to navigate the waters of DRM, online passes, and packed-in DLC. It’s enough to make the average Joe’s head spin, if you ask me. I did recently buy a used copy of Homefront that was missing the online pass, but I paid so little for the game that it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Plus, Homefront handles the online pass issue pretty elegantly – you can play online up to a certain rank, as a test drive of sorts, before the online pass is required. You could even keep playing it indefinitely, if you don’t mind the pretty low level cap.
Q: Would you buy a next-gen console if you couldn’t play used games on it?
Paul: Absolutely not! I would refuse to support any console manufacturer that would do this. I understand that developers want to protect their IPs, but preventing consumers from playing legally purchased copies of used games would be going way too far. If the rumours surround the next Xbox are true, I’d probably just boycott any Microsoft products from this day forward.
Matt: I think this will become an irrelevant question in one or two console generations, with the move to all-digital distribution. So, in that sense, yes. However, if the Xbox 720 and PS4 come out and one makes playing used games more difficult than the other, then I’d lean toward purchasing the more lenient one.
Randy (@randy_wrecked): I don’t have a problem with that. I seldom buy used now because I believe so strongly that used games are a detriment to the industry. Eliminating the market for them would change gaming substantially—no more online passes, no more on-disc DLC, and no more wildly divergent retailer pre-order exclusives. I think Steam is a perfect example of how an all-digital game delivery system can operate and, as long as console developers can learn from Valve’s model to create comparable experiences, I would happily give up on used games and get on board.
Q: Is there a game you can’t play anymore because the servers are down, or for some other reason? (Maybe no one plays it online anymore?)
Matt: Usually when I read about servers being shut down, it’s a list of games I’ve either never played or haven’t played in quite some time. However, the recent announcement that the online features of EA Sports Active 2 were being turned off did ruffle my feathers a bit. But let’s face it, I haven’t worked out with that thing in months anyway.
D.J. (@metaly): OK, I’m cheating a little because this isn’t completely unplayable online yet, but I’m going to say Battlefield 3! With DICE allowing PC players to run their own servers, it’s become extremely difficult to find a one to play on with settings resembling the “vanilla” ruleset—that is, one without astronomically high tickets, a single map in the rotation, tweaked respawn times, or the server owner’s extensive list of banned weapons. This has happened to a degree with Battlefield 2 and 2142 in the past—as the games age, the variety of servers dwindles—but it’s frustrating to see it already happen to a game that’s less than a year old!
Now that you’ve heard from us, it’s your turn! Tell us your DRM woes or your online gaming horror stories in the comments below.
Welcome to your first VGHomework assignment! VGHomework is your chance to get in on the discussion from the latest episode of VGHangover. We’ll be adding our own thoughts as well, and will feature your best comments on a future show.
This week, we talked about the recently announced Call of Duty: Black Ops II and how Treyarch is trying to take the series in a new direction. As always, Call of Duty didn’t fail to bring the controversy. Here are some questions that arose:
Q: Are you looking forward to Black Ops II?
D.J. Ross (@metaly): I didn’t love the original Black Ops, but the sequel’s near-future setting has me interested for sure. It seems unlikely that we’ll see soldiers sporting laser guns and active camo, but I can’t wait to see what kind of futuristic gadgets, perks and killstreaks Treyarch will add to the game. Unleash the robo-dogs!
Q: Is “modern warfare” played out? What time period should Call of Duty invade next?
Randy Dickinson (@randy_wrecked): While trying to occupy a genuine historical period is certainly “on brand” for Call of Duty, I think it lends a stuffiness to the series that keeps me from appreciating it. I think they should go completely off the reservation and invent their own time period: muskets and jetpacks, rocket launchers on horseback, and giant steam-powered robots that shoot water balloons. Take the insanity and unpredictability of games like TimeSplitters, Ratchet and Clank and Armed and Dangerous and dump them in to a competitive online FPS and I’ll happily pony up my $60.
Q: Do you want a game’s story to change depending on how well you play?
Paul Sandhu (@spaulsandhu): I’d definitely be more interested in a game if it had a branching story that changed depending on what or how I did during certain segments of a game. But the devs would have to strike a very delicate balance and make sure each outcome would be equally “fair” and interesting for the player. Otherwise people will just try to get the “ideal” outcome during the branching segments. My advice, do what CD Projekt did with The Witcher 2. Make the branching paths and decision points quick, and subtle and have them play out hours later so the player is surprised by what actually happens!
Now that you’ve heard from us, it’s your turn! Comment below with an answer to one of these questions, or just tell us what you think about Black Ops II!
Earlier this month, the infamous Minecraft finally arrived on the Xbox 360. In case you’re not one of the millions of people who have experienced it on the PC (or one of the million who helped it shatter sales records on Xbox Live), we want to let you have the chance by giving you a download code for the brand new Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. We’ve only got one copy to give away, though, so pay attention if you want to be punching trees and interfering with sheep from the comfort of your sofa.
Fez is out this week! For reals! First announced all the way back in July of 2007 (the PS3 and Wii weren’t even a year old), you’ve probably heard of it since then if you follow the indie scene, or at least seen screenshots of its distinctive pixel graphics. I got to play it for a while at PAX last August, and it felt like a solid platformer. The Escher-like core mechanic—rotating the 2D world 90 degrees at a time to reveal new paths—took some time to get used to, but it was a nice twist (excuse me) on the genre.
What stuck out the most in my mind, though, is how one of the PAX presenters mentioned that part of the game’s ambition is to be something you can sit back and take your time with, which the player character’s leisurely movement encourages‐he’s definitely no Mario. That’s really cool, I thought, instantly imagining myself lazily rotating Fez‘s world around as I searched for the key to the next area. Will that fly with gamers accustomed to slurping up the newest releases and plowing through them so they can trade them in towards whatever’s out the next week? I’m a little skeptical, but considering how long the game has been in development, hopefully people can come to terms. I’d hate for everyone to rush through it too quickly.
This might go without saying at this point, but if you stop by your local games retailer this week to check out the new releases, expect to see familiar franchises from wall to wall. I know that the games industry loves to stick to their tried and true series—this generation more than ever—but even I’m a little surprised at the extent to which they’ve done it this week.
Shhh… Is everyone who picked up a Vita happily distracted playing their shiny, new handheld? Good, let’s talk about some of the non-Vita games coming out this week, including something that could shake up the whole industry.
*which are not named Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
The fancy, new PlayStation Vita might be launching this week, but we’re still looking back at a few of our favorite PlayStation Portable games, as we got into in Episode 41. Here’s my list!
With Soulcalibur V now unleashed upon the fighting game community, it’s time for BGM Mode to take a look back at the series’s epic soundtracks. And that’s not “epic” in the Internet forum sense–the Soul series has always done things on a grand scale, whether it’s the flashy action, the panoramic stage vistas, or even the ultra corny announcer. It follows that the music would be appropriately grandiose, usually sticking to a rich, orchestral sound but occasionally throwing in the odd electric guitar just because.
Let’s start off with Soulcalibur II‘s opening movie for good measure:
It’s the end of January and that refreshing winter lull is finally coming to an end—hope you carved a decent chunk out of your backlog! Triple-A titles are officially back in season with this week’s two big releases, and boy, are they big.
Despite the generally disappointed reactions to its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2 remains the most anticipated game out this week. Following the precedent they set nearly a decade ago with Final Fantasy X-2, Yoshinori Kitase and his team have dreamed up another direct Final Fantasy sequel, which is unusual for a series known for introducing a completely new setting and storyline with each game. You’ll play as Serah, sister of XIII‘s heroine, and encounter familiar faces and locations along your adventure, which is shorter than a typical Final Fantasy but does attempt to address some of people’s complaints about the original, like its infamous linearity.
We’re in a bit of a winter release lull, but that’s OK with all of us at VGH since it gives us time to catch up on all those amazing games from 2011. (Or, more realistically, we’re doing a few more tours of duty in Battlefield 3.) With that said, there are some new games out this week, so we’re teaming up here to give you the lowdown.
#5: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
Although this actually came out towards the end of 2010, 999 struck such a chord with me that I’m happy to feature it alongside the best games I played this year. I haven’t played many visual novels (the closest maybe being Hotel Dusk: Room 215), but I loved that the game took its time building up an elaborate mystery which, despite the many unexpected twists, all seemed to make sense in the end. The ways the creator managed to incorporate genre tropes and even the DS format into the story and gameplay were nothing short of genius and had me scrambling to play the game over so I could experience it again from a new perspective. It’s like The Prestige of video games—the deception is right under your nose the entire time, but you’d never in a million years suspect it.
Did you know Square Enix actually put out a Christmas album last year? It’s mostly (actually, entirely) the Square side of S-E (no holiday Dragon Quest arrangements in sight), but it’s still worth a listen just to experience some unusual and very jingly versions of a few classic Square tunes. Here are some of the more notable ones in case you’re tired of playing the same old Christmas Eve background music.
HO HO HO, I’m here to “WRAP UP” our gamer gift lists for this year. Some of these are things I mentioned when we all discussed our lists in Episode 33, but there’s some new stuff as well, so read on!
Games for Non-Gamers
Trying to get someone into gaming? Valve’s Portal 2 might be the key. It introduces a lengthy co-op mode with hours of the series’s trademark puzzles and wry humor. For new gamers, the first-person controls might be a bit of a shock, but reassure your non-gamer recipient that they can ease into them at their own pace, since there won’t be mobs of angry teenage boys shooting at them over Xbox Live.
When Q-Games announced in 2009 that their new PixelJunk title would be called PixelJunk Shooter, despite it playing more like Solar Jetman than Gradius, the 2D shooter fan in me cringed a little. Fast forward a couple years and Q-Games has spun elements from that game into a new title that plays more like a traditional shooter but, in a small twist of irony, is called PixelJunk SideScroller to set it apart from its less shootery siblings.
(Don’t worry. There will be time for questions at the end.)
It’s Mario Kart 7 week! The last big release of the year (provided you’re not devoting your life to Star Wars: The Old Republic in a couple weeks) zoomed onto shelves this Sunday, and I’ve been playing it a ton since then. You won’t find any odd mechanics like doubled-up drivers or motorcycles in this edition of Nintendo’s classic kart racer–they’ve opted to play it safe and give the 3DS a more traditional Kart. I’m totally fine with that.
The end of the year is rapidly approaching and we’re preparing a special episode to wrap up the first season of Video Game Hangover, but we want your help! We love hearing your responses to our weekly topics, and for this episode we’ll be reading and responding to listener questions and comments throughout the show. If you have a question or topic you want discussed on the air, now’s your chance to send it in. Want to know who’s Paul’s second-favorite Canadian game developer? Is all that metal in Randy’s face for real? We’ll be answering anything (within reason), so feel free to get creative.
There are a few ways to submit your question or comment. If you want to actually be played on the air, you can leave us a Google Voice message by calling 682-999-VGH1 (682-999-8441). (Long distance charges may apply.) If you don’t need to be heard or just don’t feel like calling, you can always message us on Twitter (@vghangover), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just leave your questions in the comments below.
Whatever method you choose, make sure to send your message by the morning of this Saturday, December 10th to ensure we’ll receive it in time.
Thanks to all our listeners for all your support this year, and we can’t wait to hear from you!
Is the brunt of the Fall releases over? (I secretly hope not, because if I can’t complain about all the games coming out I’ll have to figure out some other way to introduce these posts.) Anyway, it’s definitely waning but we still have a few more big releases left in the year. So what are they?
The biggest this week is undoubtedly The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for (what else?) the Wii. If you already listened to Episode 30, you know it’s a bit controversial among the VGH crew for its decision to use only motion controls, but I’m optimistic. Nintendo says they’ve prepared a cool, 1:1 swordfighting experience, and I want to see how well that works. I found the waggle-laden sword action in 2006’s Zelda: Twilight Princess to be pretty pointless, so at the very least this should be more engaging.
It was inevitable that I’d eventually have to feature Namco’s Ace Combat here in BGM Mode, since Ace Combat 5‘s soundtrack was directly responsible for piqing my interest in the series. Actually, Soulcalibur–another Namco game–also deserves some credit; after countless hours spent playing SC2 and 3 and enjoying the catchy and bombastic soundtracks, I started looking for more work from the series’ main composers, Junichi Nakatsuru and Keiki Kobayashi. As it turned out, they both worked together on the Ace Combat series, along with Tetsukazu Nakanishi. Somehow I settled on Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, picked up the soundtrack, and–after being totally blown away–finally played the game.
Eventually I made my way through each of the PlayStation 2 installments, and while their quality went up and down, the soundtracks were consistently excellent. Here are a few of the most memorable tracks, starting with Ace Combat 04, from all the way back in 2001, and wrapping up with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, which just came out last month.