Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Nerd Rage: Ubisoft DRM lifted back in June

What an appropriate topic to follow up my last post about Yves Guillemot's comment about Ubisoft's PC piracy rate. In an interview today with Rock Paper Shotgun, Ubisoft actually confirmed that their 'always-on' DRM that I hated on in that last post was quietly changed back in June. It wasn't until today at their interview that they made an official announcement about it. While this is a fortunate step in the right direction, I will remind readers that their DRM had been like this for years, at least as far back as the release of the first Assassin's Creed on PC which was in April of 2008.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nerd Rage: 93-95% of PC games are pirated

I'm going to start out by linking my source for this article. Yves Guillemot is the CEO of Ubisoft and in a recent interview talking about Ubisoft's increased amount of free-to-play games, he throws out that statistic: 93-95% of all PC games are pirated. Without a source or anything, just states it as a fact.  If they're pirated, it wouldn't be as if that number is being reported by their servers or by those pirating the software to begin with. I'd love to know how he came up with the number. I think that he probably looked at an expected sales for one of Ubisoft's games on the PC, like say, Assassin's Creed Revelations, and say that they only made 5-7% of what they expected. "Huh, where did those sales go? They must be pirating!" he says to himself. "I guess we better make our DRM even tougher to crack.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Darksiders 2

I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death.
I'd originally planned for this review to go out the week of Darksiders 2's release but I found myself too engrossed in the game to do more than take a couple notes on the game. I guess that says a lot about what I think about the game, in and of itself. I went into the game with high expectations after the first game wowed me with a unique take on a fairly familiar theme: angels, demons, Armageddon, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first game was a comfortable mix of Legend of Zelda and God of War with a dash of Prince of Persia and Darksiders 2 is a terrific continuation and evolution of it. Spoiler free details after the page break:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why I Love and Hate DayZ

That little clip is from a little adventure my buddy, Wamdoodle, and I had this past Saturday. It was an exciting time, we were on top of the world. Then our world came crashing down around us. But our story starts a little bit earlier, it's one of luck, chance, and a lot of schadenfreude (look it  up!). So much of DayZ relies on a lucky event, a singular moment where the winds of fate shift in your favor. All this is a nice pretty way to say; DayZ is awesome for a minute then grinds you underfoot the next.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Future of Console Gaming

I had hoped to get this post out the same week as the one for PC gaming, but some things got in the way of that. One of those things was the Oculus Rift. Check it out its Kickstarter page, it looks to be virtual reality that the average gamer should be able to afford and there are a number of developers who are backing it. The other thing is the Ouya. A hackable (they encourage it) home console designed to be approachable by indie companies and hobbyists. I'll be doing a write up on Kickstarter programs in the near future as a result of these two products, not to mention the slew of games that have been funded because of it. But this article is about console gaming in general and the potential it has and the changes I foresee in my magic crystal ball (which may or may not be a Magic 8 Ball).

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Future of PC Gaming

With Windows 8 announced to release on October 26th, PC gaming is about to get a bit of a shake up. I won't say that the changes coming in Windows 8 are going to be terrible for PC gaming, but the idea of Valve reaching out to Linux is giving me hope for the growth of PC 'platforms'. Heck, even Apple is looking at letting other companies connect video game controllers to iOS devices. With these developments and changes I thought it might be the right time to talk about where I see PC gaming going and where I hope it might go. Sadly, these things don't always match up.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I will start off by saying that the events in Aurora, Colorado were terrible and my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected, but that's the end of my discussion on that. So, for the review itself: The Dark Knight Rises did not disappoint and is an even tie with the Avengers for my favorite movie this year so far, The Hobbit is still waiting in the wings. By far my favorite of the Batman trilogy, it gives me hope that the upcoming Man of Steel movie won't be as much of a letdown as Superman Returns was. So, read on for more details, with a few spoilers at the end (plenty of warning, don't worry).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

WoW: Mists of Pandaria BETA- Part 2

Dive Bombing Moths!
So with the latest expansion, Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft is adding pet battles. So exciting! Doesn't it look it? Okay, so the pet battles aren't the most action packed addition to the game but they provide a new distraction for high-level players that has been missing for a while. This isn't to say that the pet battles aren't for new players, but the 100 gold price tag to get started is intentional to ensure that new players don't get sucked into what equates to be a mini-game. So, here's some details of how pet battles work and why they're a feature that WoW has needed for sometime.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

WoW: Mists of Pandaria BETA- Part 1

I started playing World of Warcraft back in the summer of 2006 after graduating from high school and starting a minimum wage job, so I could afford the subscription. Believe it or not it was my wife (at that time, my girlfriend) who got me hooked on it, not the other way around. I had played in the beta for it but when it released, I never picked it up. Fast forward 6 years, I've been WoW-free for about a year, and a beta code lands in my lap. Of course, I had to start it up. I had the intention of reminding myself of why I'd stopped playing, laughing at the new Pandaran race. 'Lo and behold, I think I might be hooked again. Here's a couple changes in mechanics and systems that have me interested in the new expansion.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Deep Thoughts: Ideal Beta

A continuation of my post from last time, I give you my ideal beta test. Much like communism, this will look great on paper but not come close to working properly in reality. Just for sake of argument, we'll assume the game that is being tested is an MMO as those tend to be the games which provide beta tests the most often and with a full scope of the game, while most other games are beta tests of multiplayer material. To start, you have to have the right balance of players, ranging from casual players to hardcore 'raiders' and ranging from PvP fiends to PvE carebears, but that's only the start.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deep Thoughts: I Got a Beta Key!

Getting a beta key used to be one of the coolest things a gamer could get. You were not supposed to tell your friends that you were in the beta, show them all the cool stuff, and definitely not post screenshots and videos online. How much you broke the rules was up to you and how terrified of the NDA you were. (As a note, seriously, they can sue you for breaking the NDA, watch it.) But over the past couple years, beta keys have become more common, being given out in contests, as preorder bonuses, or for just sending a tweet to the company's twitter account. I'll be honest, I go back and forth on whether this change has been for the better or not.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Deep Thoughts: Game Development by Gamers

Perhaps I've been unaware of unique phenomena among the gaming community or perhaps it's just something that's started to show up in the past half decade: Games being developed alongside the people who are going to play them. You can take DayZ for an example. Though it is currently just a mod in alpha testing, Dean 'rocket' Hall, the game's developer, has said that he's interested in turning it into a stand-alone game, not directly tied to ARMA or anything other game as it is currently (source). A game that is not being tested behind closed doors but  is open and available to the public, with an active community testing, commenting, blogging, and making videos about it. Other indie games have done similar, with Minecraft being a very well known example. The most interesting fact of this, at least in my opinion, is  that even already released titles like World of Warcraft are getting  into the idea.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Today I'm talking about (as the title and video would suggest) The Amazing Spider-Man! As I'm not a huge film buff, other than the fact that I like to watch them, I won't be commenting much on individual shots or cinematography but more on the movie as a whole. To start, I was not looking forward to this movie with any great anticipation like I am with The Dark Knight Rises or The Hobbit, but I was interested in it. That said, this movie exceeded my expectations but there were a couple snags that keeps it out of the running of movies I will buy in the future. It should go without saying that there will be  spoilers after the break, so read at your own risk if you haven't seen it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Deep Thoughts: Going Completely Digital

Welcome to the 21st century where every bit of media has gone digital. Newspapers are dying off unless they go online, nobody buys the newest CD when you can buy the couple songs that you really like, and digitally distributed video games are becoming more and more common. PC gamers have been aware of this for a long time and it's worked out really well on most occasions, but DRM restrictions on their software have been a thorn in their side. That's not to say there's no upside to it, Steam has led the charge for video game downloads for nearly a decade. This is due, at least in part, to their awesome sales. Many a wallet has been hammered by the Steam Summer Sale, and for good reason. With no physical copies to house and ship, Steam has a much smaller fixed cost on each sale, so even selling products at anywhere from 25% to  75% off can still net them a profit. But with streaming systems, like OnLive and Gaikai, that have no physical media whatsoever and EA, one of the industry's biggest publishers, talking about going 100% digital, this could pose a problem.

Monday, July 2, 2012

D&D: A Learning Experience

So I was talking to my mother, a 5th grade teacher, and prepping for one of the regular D&D games that I play in, when suddenly an old thought hit me. It was something I'd read before in one of the Dragon Magazine (published by Wizards of the Coast, the guys who make D&D): playing D&D with school age kids as a creative and imaginative learning experience. This will be one of my odder posts and I'm curious what you have to say about it but stick to the end before you throw one of the "D&D is the Devil's plaything" tracts at me.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Deep Thoughts: Peaks and Valleys

Thursday is the night scheduled for Amanda's D&D sessions and she even lets me play. It's a night I look forward to every week because not only is it fun to play with my friends but I get to see the creative geek side of my wife. Far from romantic, as the Dungeon Master (should it be Mistress?), Amanda's goal is to almost-kill the party of heroes made up by our friends and myself. It's this 'almost-kill' that always seems to be the high point of our adventures and, in my humble opinion, the high point of any video game or movie.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

DayZ: The Tension Builds

In a bit of a continuation from my last post on the paranoia over other players in the ARMA2 mod, DayZ, I'm going to talk some more about those jerks. Specifically, being one. My two buddies, Schwartz and Wamdoodle, and I were moving through the forests of Chernarus, going to  investigate some gunshots near a large factory building. While not necessary for survival in DayZ, the factory areas contain things like toolboxes, razor-wire kits, and car parts, which can be used to defend areas  and repair vehicles, which in turn, makes life a little bit easier. We take our time to get there, keeping on the other side of  a hill, hiding in the shadows of trees, and generally doing our best to be stealthy survivors. Laying out on a hill, we spy down on the factory, with two unmoving bodies of survivors on the uncovered upper level.

"Let's watch for a bit, see if anybody else is there."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ME3 DLC Impressions

Well, though the reviews are mixed, I must admit that I truly enjoyed the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3.

Several questions were answered (like HOW ON EARTH did my ground crew get back to my ship!?), some loose ends were tied up, and at the end of it, I could sit back and simply enjoy a fabulous end to a much-loved video game icon.

Some people disagree. They enjoyed the mystery and ambiguity of the original ending because it allowed them to create their own without having an ending that they didn’t necessary want shoved down their throat. I would dare to say that they are, by far, in the minority. The collective outcry for such a downright disappointing ending was staggering, and I don’t believe that Bioware could risk alienating such a large portion of their fan base. Do I think they were happy to have to back-peddle and say “Oh! Just kidding, guys. Here are the real endings!”? No. Not even a little bit. Even when their fans rallied together to send multi-colored cupcakes to Bioware’s office in protest of the endings, Bioware pulled one of the nicest jerk moves I’ve ever seen and donated every single one  to charity instead.

But I digress. Let’s get back to what Bioware has done right, shall we? Let me just start by saying that I didn’t want a “happy ending” for this series. I wanted one that gave me answers and closure for Shepard. And the DLC delivered. I chose the destruction ending because I wanted to leave my galaxy with a clean slate without the imminent threat of reapers. Sure, they would probably reach conflict with synthetics in the future, but they were given the choice. That’s what I feel that my Shepard would want to give to people. You see civilizations cheer as the reapers are shut down. There is even a touching scene where your squad places Shepard’s name on Normandy’s ever-growing board of casualties. This is what I wanted the first time around.

Hats off to you, Bioware. I’m going to go make googly eyes over baby Krogan. Seriously…. Tons of baby Krogan.


DayZ: People are jerks

The internet is full of trolls. If you're reading this, you know this is just a fact of life. It applies to many video games as well, with players attacking teammates that get vehicles they wanted or the amazing con-jobs done on EVE Online. In general, with anonymity and the sheer masses on the internet, many people let the manners and etiquette they were taught (hopefully) and games can turn into bloody free-for-alls. DayZ is no exception, but rather than attempting to try and keep these trolls and jerks under control, DayZ feeds the trolls.

Because DayZ forces you to eat and drink, you have two options: scavenge or steal. Though stealing usually results in dead bodies. You could ask somebody for food and water, but there's nothing that will ensure they won't just shoot you as soon as your back is turned and vice versa. There's no police, there's no laws, it's the zombie apocalypse. Occasionally you might find people who are friendly, but this is a rare event and tenuous at best. Let me give you an example:

Monday, June 25, 2012

DayZ: Nights of Terror

Continuing my discussion on the DayZ mod of ARMA2 and its survival horror aspects, we're going to talk about things getting dark, but first I need to say this: ARMA2 is rather pretty all things considered. Released in 2009, with Operation Arrowhead (the expansion required for DayZ) released in 2010, it's had two to three years to fall behind in the graphics department but it still looks amazing. See for yourself:

He wears his sunglasses at night.

That's my teammate and gamer buddy, Wamdoodle. He's helping show how good this game looks. The models are a little dated and I've turned off some of the post-processing and shadows to help improve how smoothly the game plays but as you can see, it's a long way from DOOM or the original Resident Evil. As Wamdoodle is nice enough to point out in the photo, it's 6:50 server time, so there's a good bit of daylight left.

Will Bioware's Mass Effect 3 DLC Be Enough to Satisfy? We Hope So.

So, tomorrow is the day! Are you prepped for Bioware’s DLC for Mass Effect 3?

You know, just two years ago if you had asked me what my favorite video game series was, I would have been able to tell you, hands down, Mass Effect. It offered a world where the plot felt tailored to your character and sported a supporting cast that was, let’s be honest, pretty amazing. But since Mass Effect 3’s release, the choice isn’t as clear.

I’ve wracked my brain since the game’s release trying to figure out why on earth they would take this series and offer such a lackluster ending. Why couldn’t they offer truly diverse endings? Why didn’t they really make our choices have a true and lasting impact other than, “Oh, you saved this particular group of people? Well, here. Have some more points on your score.”

Well, we’ve already be clued in that there will, in fact, be other games set in the Mass Effect universe. Considering this, it makes sense that the endings would be rather static and I know this, so why do I still feel so cheated? I think I attribute this to the fact that while I enjoyed the Mass Effect universe, I was far more attached to the growth of the characters that I encountered than the planets I visited. The cultures of the Asari and Salarians were undoubtedly interesting, but I would much rather see an ending that honors these past six years of gaming than get another, mediocre addition in two years.

Well, here’s to hoping that the DLC offers us a bit of what we’re longing for: Closure for one of today’s most iconic figures in gaming. Keep trucking, Shep.

DayZ: Survival Horror Done Right

Creepy ambient sounds, darkness, a flashlight, and zombies. The mainstays of a survival horror game but so many of the mainstream games are moving away from that creeping terror to have a more action-oriented and 'engaging' game. Enter DayZ, a mod from the combat simulator ARMA2.

I say combat simulator because ARMA emphasizes realistic combat and tactics. One or two bullets and you're dead. Groups organize realistic scenarios with actual objectives rather than a flag to capture or bomb the objective situations. I've not played it personally though, I bought the game and it's expansion (together called Combined Arms) just to play the DayZ mod. I suggest you check out DayZ Mod for more information on the alpha of this fantastic total-conversion mod.

DayZ discourages you from running because the Zed spot you easier the faster you move and the taller you're standing. And hear. See zombies only look forward in about a 60° arc, but they can hear in all directions. So this emphasizes your desire to move stealthily and not attract zombies. Gunfire attracts nearby zombies, and the bigger the gun, the louder, the farther they can hear you. Also, these aren't Romero zombies, they know how to run. In fact, they run at a full sprint, the same as if you were standing up and sprinting. Of course, they aren't worried about alerting nearby zombies, but you are. So if you alert a zombie, they come at you SCREAMING, they don't always run in a straight line (some of that may be pathing issues, but I like it) so you can't always line up an easy shot before they get to you. So you have a focus on avoiding zombies and to not just pop a cap in each one of the undead that you see. And that's if you have a gun.

See, when you start up in DayZ, you spawn on the shore of a 250 square-kilometer zone with a backpack, a bandage, painkillers, and a flashlight (We'll talk about that little bit of terror in the next post!) and anything you need or want beyond that, you'll have to scavenge. Sneak through towns and check inside sheds, some homes, even outhouses. Of course, all these places have zombies nearby. In fact, any place that spawns items also spawns zombies, the system is tied together that way. And this isn't to say every place has worthwhile loot. Often you'll find empty cans or whiskey bottles and some road flares. They have a use, but you can't eat or drink them and they sure won't let you kill any zombies or other players.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about the nighttime and flashlights!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Oh dear...

So no, it looks like I wasn't able to keep a running blog going, was I? School, work, family, the whole thing just getting all up in my business, the nerve of them. Anyhow, I'm back, sort of. Unemployed, looking for a job, with a loving wife working full time. Figure I can throw myself back into the blogging, see if I can make any progress. Going to try and talk about gaming news, the three running D&D campaigns I'm in (playing in 2, running the third). Love to hear your comments and such. Gonna see about posting on Screwattack (a fave gaming community site, lots of love for those guys) that links back here or something. Also, the possibility of video blogs and gaming streams are possible, we'll see. Just a new experiment.