Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FFXIV Open Beta Closed For The Day


Since we're less then a month away from the game's release and the closed beta is now, well closed, I can say that yes, I was in the closed FFXIV beta. And it was fun while it lasted.

Last night, the open beta was set to go live. And after a giant ass 1 gig patch from the closed beta, users are running into a fun message on the website:

FINAL FANTASY XIV Open Beta Test Postponed

FINAL FANTASY XIV Open Beta Test, which is scheduled to begin at 19:00 (PDT) on Aug. 31, 2010, will be postponed due to a confirmation of critical bugs. New schedule will be released at a later date.

Along with the postponement of FINAL FANTASY XIV Open Beta Test, the issuing of registration code for FINAL FANTASY XIV Open Beta Test will be postponed as well. With the download of client software's installer, it will be suspended at 19:00 (PDT) on Aug. 31, 2010.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


Whoops!

But I saw this coming from a mile away.

For all of those people wondering why, here's what's up. The evening that the open beta was suppose to go live, SquareEnix was doing maintenance on both FFXI and their Account Management system. It was a lot of maintenance in a very short amount of time. Needless to say, things were going to end up breaking. So we can sit here and argue about how SE is going downhill with the open beta, but really, we should be grateful they even considered an open beta. AND that they're providing discounts for both 11 and 14 players, AND name transfers from 11, AND keeping your name in the open beta to the final release, AND loads of bonus goodies for pre-orders and 11 customers. It was just too much maintenance at one time. Things will be back to normal in a few days.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Musing - Going to Court

So it looks like the case in California is officially going to the Supreme Court on November 2nd.

You might remember my rambling about this issue back in April. While it was initially rejected, it has returned to the court and will be reviewed. In essence, the law would fine retailers that sold M rated video games to minors. The law was refuted by the ESA as a violation of the First Amendment as it singled out specific titles and curbed freedom of creativity. A local court, in California, sided with the ESA and the California legislature has been attempting to overturn the ruling. Now, it's the Supreme Court's turn and the ECA (Entertainment Consumers Association) has stepped in. They will be submitting a brief on behalf of consumers and a petition under belief that the law is vaguely worded and a threat to free speech within the gaming industry.

If you have read my post, you should already know that I don't agree with the law. Why? Because the ESRB and retailers that sell video games already have rules in place to help prevent the sales of M rated games to minors. I also don't agree with the law singling out video games. Somehow the state of California doesn't believe that movies, television, music, etc are not as violent as video games. It singles out this particular form of entertainment. Sounds like discrimination to me!

We could go into the irony of the governor of California Mr. Schwarzenegger being an action star that promoted violence in movies now wants them removed from games (where his likeness has been used before), but that's not the point of this discussion.

Is this law constitutional? What will be the implications if this law were to be applied to other states, should the Supreme Court support it?

The issue at hand is the future of M rated games. Depending upon how the law is interpreted, some retailers may refuse to sell M rated games due to the harsh penalties. Which in turn will cause developers to remove themselves from mature content, causing those products to be "blacklisted" and killing another faction of creativity in the market. It sounds extreme, but its happened before under the Motion Picture Production Code, aka the Hays Code. It was a censorship guideline that limited an immense amount of what could be viewed by the public. If you have seen any movie or television show where a married couple had to have two separate beds, women and men being fully dressed and you were lucky to get a couple to kiss, it's because of the Hays Code. Because of this, many films were trashed, destroyed, and were prevented from being made. All of that creativity lost. It can happen again.

It is my hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the ruling of the lower courts to keep this law out of the system. It discriminates against a particular group without probably cause under a vague language with a ridiculous penalty to retailers.

I feel that the ESRB and retailers are doing a fine job at keeping M rated games out of minor's hands. The ESRB created their ratings system to help legal guardians make decisions on what content is appropriate for their children. Retailers that are exclusive to selling video games card everyone purchasing an M rated game. Everyone. Including those who are over the age of 50. I know for a fact that GameStop makes it a rule in their stores to card every individual, including fellow employees, purchasing an M rated game. They also have the right to refuse sale of an M rated game if they find that an adult or a relative is going to give that game to someone under the age of 17. There are several retailers, including big chains such as Wal-Mart, Target, BestBuy, etc., whom follow the same practices. Retailers are able to police themselves. It's up to the legal guardians, relatives, parents of the children to decide if the item is appropriate. Stop blaming everyone and everything else for not being a parent. Do your job, stop allowing the world to teach your child, and be responsible. Once you brought that child into your life, you have to start being an adult. I'm not saying limit your child from everything, but set boundaries. An 8 year old does not need to be playing M rated materials. Not even T rated games. Be a parent. Research. Learn. Putting your job into the government's hands is going to make the world a shittier place to live in.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Starcraft 2 Already Patching!

It didn't take them long. I typically give a game about 3 months before a patch is released.

Among the patch notes are small bug fixes, working with Nvidia 3D, etc. Probably nothing that will help me play the game, so I'm not holding my breath.

Here's the thing that I want to talk about. All of the people whining about the changes being made to keep the game more balanced. "Zomg! Nerf gun attack!" Seriously people. It's a game. Developers are always looking for ways to keep it fair and fun. You all whine and moan for the week prior to the patch and the week of the patch release. After that, what happens? You shut up. You realize that all of your whining was for not. The developers are not going to scrap their months of hard work for a handful of people complaining, you learn to accept the update and find that it's really not bad.

And then the cycle repeats itself when they announce the next patch.

Can all of you complainers do us a favor? Shut up. Don't provide your "opinion," if that's what you want to call it, until the patch has released and you have actually had a chance to PLAY the game. Whining before the patch is useless. It's not going to stop Blizzard from releasing it. It's still going to happen and, guess what? You're still going to play the game. You always do, no matter how much you bitch about it. So just be quiet.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Testing the Kinect? Be Prepared for Silence

Posted by Kotaku late yesterday, Microsoft has added to the rules for beta testing the Kinect that voice chat will be restricted during testing. I.E. you can only talk in party chat with other individuals that are testing the Kinect. Here's the official wording:


While we strive to provide full compatibility with others outside of the pre-release program, there is one audio change planned that will prevent you from performing party or individual chat with people not included in the pre-release program. Note - this will be addressed when we officially release Kinect to the world. Game chat is expected to function as usual and should not be impacted by this change.



I think it's their way of trying to keep the bad press to a minimum amongst the hard core gamers after the abysmal showing at recent game shows and their Macy's press tour. It won't stop the rants and raves through forums, but at least keep people quiet while testing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

10,000!

Glory hog, but I have just reached 10,000 views for the month!

How the hell did that happen and why are none of you commenting? >.> Clearly you all are trolling. And that's fine. Just a small comment once in a while would be nice.

In celebration, we must have a dance.

No Trophies on the PSP

People are crazy over Trophies and Achievements. You hear that bleep bloop sound on your 360 and you feel like you have accomplished something great, even if it was shooting at 100 pigeons in Grand Theft Auto.

Recently an image circulated the net that had the PSP with trophies. Good idea to help spur some more interest in current PSP owners. Mine has been sitting dormant for about 2 months now (DQ9...what can I say?) but having trophies might give me enough of a boost to go back and play Patapon or something to boost my trophy collection.

But it turns out that the image was the PSP pulling remotely from a PS3 to show an update to the remote play system. I don't consider that a big lost. The PSP is still a fun system with the right game. But man, the number of people outraged. >.> There are great games out there that do fine without the trophies. Go play those.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Anything But The Future

Kotaku, we may have our differences sometimes, but you got a laugh out of me today.

The long and short of it, it's about GameStop Store of the Future, that's about 2+ years old now so it's really more of a store of the present. Still a failure as far as I'm concerned, but whatever helps them sleep at night.

Plunkett has a pretty accurate reading on the market. The future of games will be digital and GameStop is no where near prepared for it, no matter how much they want to believe they are. You don't need to be a genius to figure it out that they don't have their sh*t together. Hell, you don't need to be employed to know that. But they are the biggest market share on gaming because that is their main focus, unlike Walmart or Blockbuster. They'll get pushed out eventually either due to lack of keeping up with technology (laughs) or horrible business decisions (super laugh). It's all just a matter of time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kinect Bubble!

Remember when I tried out the Kinect and complained about it's suckiness?

Well Microsoft may have found a way to get it to work. Stick everyone in a bubble!

Genius!

As silly as that may seem, it's actually not a bad idea considering the scanning interface is uneven if you don't have a blank background to work with. It's also fantastic at picking up non-player's movements and other electronic equipment, as both myself and the guys at Kotaku have experienced. In all honesty, more and more people are seeing this as an expensive version of the Xbox Live Camera. There's really no difference in the interface. With the product releasing in under 3 months, they need to get their acts together and start working out the bugs. Not everyone with a 360 can afford a life-size bubble to play in. Though that does give them a chance to package that in a bundle. For $1599.99 you can own an Xbox 360 Slim Elite with the Kinect built in AND your own bubble dome!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fox Wants to Ban Medal of Honor

Liam Fox, defense secretary in the U.K. (not Fox the U.S. network, though how funny would that be?) wants to ban the new Medal of Honor game for the Taliban portions. If you don't know about it, here's my rant about the game.

"It's shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban. At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands.

"I am disgusted and angry. It's hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game. I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product."

A representative from EA responded that the game is merely proposing a viewpoint of two sides, similar to a cops and robbers game. It's just that in this case, one side happens to be the Taliban.

Now here's the real question, because this is a very prominent issue in today's war environment. Is this game really going to be banned? And I don't mean in the obvious countries. I could see this being a potential hot button for big chain family stores such as Walmart and Target to not allow sales of the title due to it's content.

Of course, we need to keep in mind that this is a game. It's not reality. If people are taking this as "our kids are going to become terrorists if they play this game!" just do the world a favor and send yourself to a psychiatrist right now. EA does bring up a valid point that what they're doing is nothing new to the industry. Loads of games, especially first person shooters, provide the good guys and the bad guys point of view. They are merely following the expected pattern.

What's going to happen? Who knows. But I wouldn't be surprised to see a list of countries lining up to ban the game.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sims Medieval Closeup

I'm not a fan of EA. They have horrible customer service, technical support, and I'm sick of them taking over the smaller companies. Look what they did to Realtime Worlds.

However, I am a fan of Will Wright and if EA did not have exclusivity to his works, I wouldn't purchase another item from them. In fact, I still don't unless it's a Wright game.

So we have the next Sims rendition, Sims Medieval. Which is becoming a mockery of the Sims franchise at this point. If anything has had a strong hand by EA, this is it. It's basically taking The Sims formula and plopping into a different era. This one is more of a focus on making a hero, doing quests, and saving the medieval world. So it's like Baldur's Gate without the action.

You don't even have the opportunity to make your character from scratch. You need to use a pre-generated character first to unlock that tool. How lame.

Really, I don't know what to make of this game. It sounds like it's trying to be like The Sims with a bit of Spore and Sim City thrown in. You have to manage your empire (Sim City) while doing quests to earn points and grow (Spore) with a Sim (simlish in old English form).

I understand that The Sims is a tried-and-true formula. Adjustments between the games is mostly graphical (not so much from 2 to 3 if you ask me) but adds new character development, personality traits, building design, etc. Sims Medieval strips all of that away into it's most basic form. So really, it's a bastardized version of Wright's games meshed into one. Guess it's another game I won't be buying from EA. *adds to the list* I'd rather go into Sims 2/3 and make my own castle and my own clothes and oh look! My Sims now look medieval! Job done!

Friday, August 20, 2010

King of the Fail

When you re-release a movie, you do it for an anniversary, such as Star Wars 20th year.

Well guess what? Avatar is going to be re-released not even a year after it first appeared in theaters (December 2009). The one that James Cameron made. Why? Because there are 8 more minutes of footage cut from the original film. Oh my god! We can't put that on a DVD or Blu-ray. We totally HAVE to re-release the movie. -_-

Needless to say, I'm disappointed in the world. We need to stop idolizing big shiny objects and focus on movies that have a story. Rather, new stories from new talent that's just waiting to be picked. But no. We gotta focus on the big blue smurf people and the pretty colors of the forest.

And then Cameron wants to re-release Titanic in 3D (which will probably be amusing for the last 20 minutes of the film when the ship is sinking) and a sequel to Avatar.  Oh, and he's directing the Aquaman movie. >.> I'm just going to go slit my wrists now and save myself the horror. You can view his interview at MovieWeb, but why bother. It's going to be the end of the world in 2012, all thanks to James Cameron. I guess the Mayan's were right.

BTW, he makes a remark about the Avatar haters out there.

"You know what, they secretly like the movie."

No. No we don't.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Microsoft Busted for PS3 Footage

I won't lie. I laughed.

The Advertising Standards Authority found that commercials for the XBox 360 version of Final Fantasy XIII were using footage from the PS3 version, resulting in misleading sales. Who's to blame? Hard to say. The article is pointing the finger at Square-Enix, as the main distributor for the product. But as someone who has worked in gaming retail from a corporate level, I know that Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have to give final approval and do their own editing on commercials before allowing them to be aired. So I'm pretty sure someone at Microsoft said "hey, this game looks like crap, can't we use the PS3 footage?"

Square-Enix told the ASA that they 'did not believe any average viewer, or indeed avid gamer, would perceive any difference in the output unless reviewing the materially forensically'. 

Which is true. Unless you were really adamant about nit-picking the situation, a general glace shows there really isn't a difference in cut scenes between the two games. SE used the same footage for both PS3 and Xbox 360 commercials, and unless you have an uber-crazy High Def tv, you won't see anything stick out in a 30 second ad. SE was honest and said yes, we used a playback of the PS3 version because it's on one disc and made things easier. It doesn't appear that SE or Microsoft will be fined, but the commercial has been pulled from U.K. airways. Not that it really matters. The game came out months ago. But more proof that the PS3 version is superior!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Musing ~ I feel old

Mario before his makeover.
Found this game on Kotaku. Geek Mind takes screen captures of a multitude of random games and gives you 60 seconds to name as many as you can. It gives you a mix of both newer titles and old school games. Like old school in the 80's games. Go ahead and give it a try. Keep in mind that you need to type out your answer so spelling and spacing DO count. AND you have to guess the correct version. So if you see a Mario game, you need to give the correct number (1, 2, 3, etc.) that corresponds to the picture.

It made me wonder, how many of those individuals who read Kotaku are able to guess the games that pre-date 1995, if at all. Unfortunately, if you're over 22 (but under 30), you're part of the old school gaming crowd. You come from a time when the Super Nintendo was the coolest thing on the block and the Sega was super expensive, but if you had one, you were a bad ass. Mortal Kombat was the epitome of violent video gaming, and we were all in shock when 3d rendering began to happen. Some of us have played with an NES, maybe even an Atari. We knew well of our forefathers such as PacMan and Frogger. We use to play in arcades and had these things called cartridges that contained our gaming data. >.> Ok those are still around, but I don't think people understand the technology behind those DS blocks of plastic.

And after reading Kotaku, it was easy to figure out that most of the audience is probably under the after of 18, unable to name the images in the above flash game from Super Mario Bros, Kid Icarus. Even the original Metal Gear Solid. But they could name the Call of Duty Modern Warfare with ease.

If you don't know what this is, you are too young.
Kids, it's time you went through a class on video game history. You all have it way too easy these days with your fancy 3d and bloom. We had 8-bit Link and the jump to 32 bit was astounding. Games back then were about two things: story and fun. If you didn't incorporate both, you failed at making a game. Now, it's about the fancy graphics. I'm not paying $59.99 for a game just for the pretty pictures. Which is probably why so many bad games do so well. We need to rebuild the foundation of gaming for today's youth. They need to understand where gaming began and why it has developed into the industry that exists now.

Maybe it's an elitist perspective. But it feels that the history is being buried amongst the here and now. The past has a way of repeating itself, and I fear that we may end up with another blowup. Such as what happened in the 80's. If you're old enough to remember that is. At one point, the gaming market got so big, that the bubble burst, so to speak. You know the joke of companies dumping unsold games in a desert? That really did happen. The market on gaming tanked and no one thought that the industry would survive. But out of that failure, a resurgence of games with story, games with heart emerged. That's what we need to teach children. The importance of a story. Otherwise, we're going to run into the same mess again.

So for those who don't know what a CalicoVision, a VirtuaBoy, or Ralph Baer, or Kings Quest, I'd recommend reviewing the following:

Wikipedia's History of Video Games. Best summary of the industry's existence.
GameSpot complete history. This one gives a more in-depth timeline of how video games began.
PBS: The Video Game Revolution. PBS has done a series of documentaries about the subject. Crazy, right? But it gives a different, and more academic, perspective to the gaming world.
Google Timeline. A simple overview of some of the main points of gaming history.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Girls and Comics

Every geek man's heaven, no? Probably not the version I'm about to tell.

I was reading an article in the NY Times today and found this gem. Specifically it deals with marketing groups attempting to reach a young girl audience at Comic Con as more children are attending the convention these days. What items are they marketing? Things like Strawberry Shortcake, Monster High via Matel, Polly Pocket dressed up in attachable superhero costumes, and My Little Pony.

Yeah. Not really geeky, is it?

But if you think about it, Comic Con has become a different entity unto itself. It's not just about comics. Studios premier new movies and television shows at the convention. LucasArts tends to unveil new Star Wars games here over E3 and TGS. Even SquareEnix was there to unveil new action figures from non-comic areas.

The fact of the matter is there have been 41 Comic Cons. I know. I can't believe that myself. A lot of those people who went to the earlier conventions have grown up, had kids, and now their children are in tow. It's a perfect place to get one-on-one attention with a child, in the marketing mind. They'll soak up what's around them and spread the glory of the product with their friends back home. So you'll see Spiderman next to My Little Pony at the booths.

Here is my deal. Products are still being targeted towards young girls and expect all ages 3 to 21 are going to want the same things: pink, frilly, cute, glam dolls. I had Barbies when I was young, but I never liked dressing them up in the pink stuff. I would find ways to cut and make my own clothes for them that reflected more of my style. To me, it feels that the marketing teams are not hitting the right areas of interest. They need to bring in a more mature aspect to this group of con-goers. Because if you're a girl and you read comics, you're probably not going to buy into the Monster High stuff.

The collaborations with DC and Marvel are a bit more interesting. DC will be working with MAC cosmetics for a line of make-up featuring the Amazon Princess. That's a little more for my demographic, and considering MAC's reputation, that's not a bad idea. Marvel comics is planning on a releasing a series specifically titled "Girl Comics" (lame) as part of a year-long campaign to celebrate the women of the Marvel universe. I support the latter, not the former. More female super heroes that don't weak a bikini would be awesome please! But I'll take the collaborations over the My Little Pony booth. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lumbering Into Limbo

Finally had a chance to sit down and play Limbo, recently released on Xbox Live Arcarde. It's one of those games that isn't quite fitting into mainstream, but can easily grab people's attention. One thing I have to say about Sony and Microsoft, they are giving the little game designers a chance. Granted EA will probably buy them out in the next 3-5 years, but it's nice to know that there are other options.

Positives:

Black and white and grey all over. For a lack of color, this game has a vibrant personality. The landscape is very distinct, and the simplistic nature of the color works well for the game. There are moments where the only specks of light are the white of your character's eyes. It helps to stir feelings within the gamer that best project the character on the screen, which is only enhanced by the limited color. It's a psychological, mind bending experience.

Simple puzzle platforming. For simple colors you need a simple game. And that's what Limbo does well. If it were too complex, it wouldn't be as enjoyable. The concept is quite simple. You are a boy who wakes up in a forest with no clue how you arrived at your location. All you know is that you need to figure out who you are, why you're there, and how to get out. Even the control scheme is quite simple. Joystick to move, A to jump, B for action. You don't need to do anything else.

Sound is epically absent. And that's a good thing. If the game were littered with music, the visual and psychological warfare on the user wouldn't be as powerful. Sound effects and music are only used to heighten certain moments in the game. It provides a more sensory experience.

Negatives:

Easy to get stuck. Like a puzzle game, you need to drag items with you and connect the dots, etc. But sometimes you don't know what you need until you get to that puzzle point. And then you try to go back and pick up the piece and find that your boat doesn't go back. There isn't a checkpoint to reset from. Nope. You have to start the level all over again. Which is a giant pain in the butt if you've spent a lot of time working through the maze. As the user, you lose that feeling of being in the game when you're stuck with no way out, and you find yourself not wanting to replay the level all over again.

Overall, this is a fantastic independent game. Strongly recommend this as a buy for everyone.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

More Old Republic Goodness

Neglect? Maybe. It hasn't been an issue of forgetting about the blog, rather been so consumed by reality that I have put it aside for a few days. Whoops. >.> If this were a pet it would either be dead or insanely pissed off. *pets the blog* sorry about that.

As much as Bioware has been pissing me off lately, they're still making an expectedly awesome MMO. Damn them. They have announced additional character races that are unique to certain classes. Such as Zabrak for Sith Inquisitor, which is Darth Maul's race. Or how about a Mirialan Jedi Consular?

Right now the information is limited. We still don't know what races will be available to all jobs, except for humans. >.> We know about additional characters (NPCS) to the game, but they're not characters you can play. So, um, yea. I can play a pointed, red-headed, tatooed sith. Yippie? How about something less obvious.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday Musing

I'm borrowing today's musing from Jonathan Ross of Destructoid's community. But it's a good one. It's about reviewers and those who comment being biased against certain gaming subjects. Typically it's due to an opinion that one would favor a subject over another. It goes along the lines of the 100% Object review, which is impossible.

Jonathan asks readers to explore their own biases and how it affects their experiences. It's a good topic.

I won't lie. I'm not a fully objective reviewer, because it doesn't exist. If you're reading a review, you're getting an opinion. I tend to favor RPG's and strategy games over FPS. I tend to dislike games such as Call of Duty because of their subject matter. I'm not saying that I hate FPS. Love Resident Evil to pieces. But something about being a war simulation doesn't appeal to me. Especially knowing people in my life who have been to war. There's no comparison. I like for games to be a fantasy that takes me away from my reality. Call of Duty does the exact opposite.

As much as I dislike those types of games, I do my best to give an honest review. I try not to bash unless it's absolutely necessary (Superman 64 anyone?) I like to see the good in everything. Even though I may not agree with war games, I know there is something positive in there that will appeal to me in some fashion or another. So, what are your biases? What games will you always shoot down and never give a chance? Why do you steer clear of those titles?