Olympus Has Fallen - Film Review
- Apr 17, 2013 3:08 pm GMT
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Modern cinema revels so frequently in destruction and chaos that it is extraordinary that a film as unambitious and appalling as Olympus Has Fallen can surprise you in the way that it fetishises big guns, explosions, high body counts and the demolition of various American monuments. Mindless blockbusters like this sell to teenage boys on the promise of more explosions and less brains. This is more disturbing considering how long the film lingers over people blown to bits and buildings destroyed. Derivative and poorly scripted, Olympus Has Fallen will put you to sleep with its sluggish pacing and relentlessly dull action scenes, or make your skin crawl with its chest-beating and laughable celebration of all things born in good old USA.
The director was Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter), who has a long history as a music video artist. He directed the music video for the song Gangsta's Paradise by rapper Coolio and worked with Prince and Stevie Wonder too. Here he has paired with novice screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikit to make a rip-off of the popular Clint Eastwood vehicle In the Line of Fire. Eastwood played an ageing secret service agent, whose inner demon was that he failed to save John F. Kennedy, and a lunatic stalking him was going to murder the new President. The film excelled because of the limited physicality of its central character and the suggestion of murder instead of outright gunfire. Where's the tension in Olympus when the main character is bulletproof, fall proof and endlessly resourceful, able to pummel goons with a statue of Honest Abe?
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a Secret Service guard of the American President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), who is devastated when he fails to save the President's wife in a car accident. Eighteen months later, Mike is now working in the Treasury Department near the White House. Asher is holding a meeting with the President of South Korea, but they are ambushed by Korean soldiers and a traitorous secret service officer and taken hostage in the underground bunker of the White House. North Korean terrorist Kang (Rick Yune) demands that the President's staff (including Melissa Leo) handover the three codes to the USA's nuclear weapons and withdraw their soldiers from the DMZ area. Mike tries to infiltrate the building, rescue Asher's son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) and then the President. He conferences with acting President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), and assures his partner Leah (Radha Mitchell) of his wellbeing.
A potentially chilling and timely premise of the threat of North Korea is handled amateurishly by Fuqua. The opening scenes between Asher and his son in Camp David substitute characterisation for cheery mawkishness, and the bombastic, over the top attack on the White House lacks important narrative details. Who knew that it was so comfortable to enter US airspace with fighter-bombers? I found the fear mongering and jingoism in this overlong sequence as repelling as the body count. Asian terrorists pop out of nowhere, either wearing suicide bombs or firing rocket launchers. Few films in recent memory have been as profoundly racist and geocentric as this.
The action sequences that follow hinge on cheap patriotic sentiment, including an unintentionally comical image of an American flag falling in slow motion, but without any deeper themes or meaning, they become boring and repetitive. The violence is incredibly sadistic, including one unwatchable beating, or blurred because of the incoherence of Fuqua's overwrought handheld cameras and dim lighting. One interesting technical feat was that the film was shot in Louisiana not Washington and 1300 special effects shots, along with sets, were used to recreate the White House and other stunts.
However, it is still disturbing that the people involved with this dreck view it seriously and as ideologically significant. In an interview Gerard Butler, who also produced the film, endorsed its overt patriotism: "You come out of there with so much patriotism and you feel inspired because really at the end of the day the essence of the story, it's a hero's journey." Patriotism is not an appropriate excuse for demonising other cultures and working as hard as possible to inflate people's fears through post-9/11 jingoism. Films are often divorced from responsibility because they are fictional but where do we draw the line? You can only hope that the people watching this mindless bloodbath will see it for how ridiculous and infantile it is.
The Lost Spark of the Pokemon Series
- Apr 16, 2013 11:25 pm GMT
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Like so many Pokemon fans out there, I am one of the many who watched the anime when it first came to the US.I remember it clearly since it came out before Digimon and what got me hooked was the voices of the characters. Sure the pokemon were different and colorful, but the voice actors they chose really fit the characters right. Even though most of the episodes had an after achool feel to some of them, it was written well for a cartoon.
The saturday mornings I got up early to watch the new episodes even though my eyes burned after staying up. I did get into the card game and video games, but the series drew you in as you love the characters to death. Veronica Taylor as Ash Ketchum, Eric Stuart as Brock and James and Rachael Lillis as Misty were the gold standard. One moment that really got to me was the episode where they split apart and it still gets to me to this day.
I watched every episode and special from the first season to season eight where I believe the spark was lost. See during a podcast interview, Eric Stuart revealed that when Season 8 was done, new voice actors were already hired. The company figured they were saving thousands of dollars by hirng new voice actors instead of keeping the originals. See that greedy move right there is what made me stop watching the series, but I played the games though.
See I grew up with Veronica, Eric and Rachael as Ash, Brck and Misty in Pokemon and I hoped it would stay that way. When I watched the new episode of Season 9, I was heart broken when I heard them speak and that killed it for me. I know people get hired and fired, but the first eight seasons are the golden years of the tv series which is still going. It just doesn't feel the same and I can't bring myself to watch whatever or whereever Pokemon is now.
I know you're thinking I'm dumb for caring about this, but Pokemon can't recatch the spark it had when it started. Even though the tv series will keep going as long as people still watch it, FOR SHAME ON THOSE FOOLS!!!!!!!! For the podcast I mentioned, it is episode two of the AllTasteExplosion on Itunes, it's really good to listen to. No matter what the first eight seasons of the series are the best of Pokemon and nothing can change that!!!!
5 Reasons Not To Zerg Rush EA
- Apr 16, 2013 3:38 pm GMT
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Gamers seem to love to hate EA. The behemoth publisher behind The Sims, Dead Space and Madden franchises, to name a few, takes a lot of heat and has won The Consumerist's Worst American company for the second year in a row. Yet, with all EA seems to do wrong, there are reasons to not totally annihilate them.
FUSE- Celebrated developer Insomniac Games' first foray into multi-platform gaming with their class based third person co-optastic shooter looks to break some of the publishers standards. Sure, the multi-player aspect is there, but with the announcement of no online season passes or microtransactions, this could be the new leaf many were waiting for from EA and publishers in general. The game also has two strong female characters that shoot stuff, break necks and blow shit up good. That's always a plus.
Acknowledgment of their Mistakes- It's no secret that Sim City's launch was a failure for the video game history books. EA and Maxis released the game half assed. Yet, instead of just saying oh well, EA offered a compensation, in the form of a free game, to those who registered the game by the end of March. They've listened to people wanting a single player element to the upcoming free-to-play Command & Conquer and decided to add it. Oh and the COO outright said they're not perfect.
EA Supports Gay Rights- In April, 2012, EA announced that they were against the Defense of Marriage Act. They're also longtime supporters of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Games they've published developed by company owned BioWare also have the options for the main character, male or female, to be gay.
Frostbite Engine- Let's face it, this bit of game design tech is damn nifty. Sure, what they've done with it so far is mostly more of the same tired corridor shooter/ MP frag-fest type stuff, but the shit does look awesome. With Frostbite 2, and Battlefield 3, bringing consoles and even mid-grade gaming PC's to their knees, the graphical potential of the engine in its current format makes it all the more impressive.
Big Name Franchises (The Legacy)- Mass Effect, Dead Space, The Sims, it's hard to not spit in a game store and not hit something with the EA logo on it. Ranging from racing games and RPG's to sports simulators and action titles, EA has a long line of franchises, many of which are highly regarded. There's a reason why EA remains one of the largest video game publishers for 20-plus years.
Any massive enterprise is bound to go astray in one area or another. Granted, EA has been bad to their employees in the past, they've lied to their loyal fans and haven't made the best game-requirement decisions. Yet, they make up for that by standing up for their employees, making up for their bad decisions to us gamers and continue to give us some of the best gaming franchises out there.
Why I'm Excited About Injustice: Gods Among Us
- Apr 15, 2013 12:21 pm GMT
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I've always enjoyed fighting games. There's something about experimenting with a large roster of characters and learning all their moves, strengths and weaknesses that appeals to me. Some of my favorite memories of visiting arcades as a boy involve finding a new fighting game and spending all of my spare change testing it out.
My problem with fighting games is that while I enjoy them enough to have a good time with them for a little while, I don't enjoy them so much that I want to put in the time and effort that it takes to be a high level fighting game player. This isn't a problem if I'm playing a game right when it comes out, as I'm usually able to find players online that match my skill level. But if I try and go online with a fighting game that's been out for more than a couple of months I find that the only players that are still playing are the kind of high level players that easy beat anyone of moderate or below skill level. Going online with no chance of finding someone that you can compete against just isn't fun. And going online is really all you can do in most current generation fighting games. The feature list for just about every fighter in my collection contains three items: an "arcade" mode that you can blow through in about 10 minutes, a tutorial that isn't very good at teaching even the basics, and an online mode. This sparse feature set would be deemed unacceptable in any other genre, but because of their arcade roots fighting games have been given a pass by both reviewers and gamers. Arcade machines could get away with it because of the low cost of playing them, but I expect more content from a full priced console game.
After trying many well made fighters that I quickly grew tired of playing online, I was starting to think the genre was no longer for me. Then NetherRealm released their last Mortal Kombat game. Not only was the fighting lots of fun, but there was a ton of stuff to do in the game outside of the online mode. It featured a great campaign that was longer than most first person shooter campaigns these days, a challenge tower where you could hone certain skills with each fighter, a "krypt" that let you unlock bonuses like character art and extra finishing moves, a mode that changed the game in fun ways like making you play upside down, and more. It was the first home fighting game I played that I felt had enough content to justify being priced as a full retail game.
Everything I've read about Injustice: Gods Among Us says that it will include a similar amount of content. It's a rare game that I'm going to buy at full price, just so that I can support NeatherRealm for giving us so much more than other fighting games have. I hope the makers of future fighters learn from their example.
UPDATE: It looks like Capcom is paying attention.
Year of the 3DS
- Apr 10, 2013 9:22 am GMT
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I lifted that title from...well, everywhere on the Internet pretty much. But yeah, that seems to be the consensus around various gaming camps. For full disclosure, I was an "early adopter" of the system. I was really excited about it when it was announced, but at the same time, I didn't really feel I needed one right out of the gate. But my wife was feeling generous, and it ended up being my birthday present that year. I didn't complain.
But the system did get off to a slow and rocky start, at least that's the way I saw it at the time. There seemed to be some confusion on the part of consumers (parents mostly). I don't think a lot of folks got the differences between the 3DS and regular DS/DSi. There was also the initial price. I believe we paid something like $270 (USD) at launch. And of course, Japan suffered a great natural disaster shortly after the release of the system, which only further crippled an already delicate world economy.
Okay, enough of the negative...
We had a pretty dang good year last year in terms of 3DS content. Sure, there were slow spells, but we still got some pretty good stuff. But this year -- fa'getta'bout'it! I'm waiting on SMT: DS Soul Hackers next week and then SMTIV this summer. Animal Crossing finally coming out here this June. My wife and I will be pre-ordering his and hers like we did with the DS games. And I'm ready for some Animal Crossing again. I kinda needed a break after the Wii game, but I'm ready again now. Project vs. Zone also looks pretty dang cool, even if it's merely a trimmed-down version of the Super Robot Taisen OG Saga game we got for DS. Lots of other great stuff coming and announced for this year. It really is gonna be one of those years (finally) where I simply cannot afford all the games I want for this system. Fire Emblem Awakening brought me back after a long hiatus, Luigi's Mansion 2 kept me around, and it looks like my handheld is once again gonna be my favorite gaming system.
Like I said, year of the 3DS...
Cry-ing For Help
- Apr 9, 2013 12:51 pm GMT
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I didn't think I'd be writing a lot about Crysis 2 as after a couple of hours I was so bored of it I was ready to give up on it. It was really boring and seemed like another generic warfare shooter which I've now played a million times over. I went and read a couple of reviews and they seemed to suggest the game got better a few hours in. I decided to stick with it and it definitely rewarded me for my patience. By the time I hit the last third of the game I couldn't wait to play the next level and then the one after that.
The main difference between the early part of the game and later on is the introduction of the aliens as an enemy. Too much of the early game is spent shooting soldiers which are incredibly dull and very similar to COD which I'm also bored playing. Luckily once the aliens make an appearance and require different tactics to dispatch them the game takes a turn for the better. By this point I'd gotten used to the shooting mechanics and it was getting easier to kill enemies and a lot more satisfying. The aliens also died a lot more interestingly and seeing them fall was a lot more rewarding than the soldiers.
The guns in the game had some variety although as with all army type shooters there are only so many conventional weapon types to play with. There are a couple of alternatives to the mainstream weapons which I didn't have much hands on time with but they offered a decent break from the norm. Whilst the game did a good job of chaperoning your weapon choices, it left you to your own devices to take on enemies however you pleased.
The story started like the rest of the game by not drawing me in but over time I learned what the story was trying to portray and what the game was leading towards and I took a liking to it. I did think that early on there were a few cut-scenes that went on way too long without telling you any interesting but I just kept myself busy during those moments.
The graphics, whilst impressive, have definitely been outdone in the years since this game came out. I understand it's a beast of a game on PC but has clearly been pared down for console. Whilst looking great it didn't particularly blow me away like Rage did. I'd be interested to see how Crysis 3 looks on console but I haven't had the chance to check it out yet.
The last thing worth mentioning is the main break away feature that sets it apart from other military shooters and that the nano suit powers. I'll admit it wasn't until late in the game that I realised the true potential that the powers had to offer. I definitely prefer a sprint ability where I can visibly see how much I have 'left' as I often get annoyed that I run out of sprint in say the middle of a battlefield. The armour ability was my least used feature but it definitely came in handy when I was low on health. It came in very handy for staying alive in the heat of battle! Last and definitely not the least is the cloak ability which got me through the end of the game very nicely. The sheer amount of enemies pacing around would've taken a long time to get through all of them!
I would've given the first few hours of the game a 6.5 but the second half saved it so much I gave it an 8.0. Thankfully it ended on a high rather than a negative otherwise I might've forgotten how good the game was at its peak.
My other game since my last blog was F.E.A.R 2 which was in no way as scary as I was expecting it to be. It's scary how incredibly generic a shooter it is and I think it could win an award for being the most average shooter on 360. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it though. The one thing that saved this game was pretty decent shooting mechanics. Shots felt fairly satisfying and it took the right amount of bullets to take down an enemy which some games always seem to get wrong.
From what I understand from what I've read and comments other people have made, the original F.E.A.R was far superior to this sequel. The Alma story didn't really seem to be that interesting and it was the type of game where I just enjoyed it for the actual gameplay. Cut scenes were pretty much non-existent which was a saving grace as I was just able to blitz through it.
The graphics are very under par for even a game made 4 years ago. I'm not overly fussed about cutting edge graphics so this didn't bother me. Enemies were easy to make out which is all you really need for a shooter. I think that the game did a good job of mixing up the environments although none were particularly inventive and have all been done better in other games.
There's not a lot else to say about this game. It didn't blow me away but served a purpose and not once was I frustrated by the gameplay or annoyed about getting stuck. For me that's more of a benefit to a game than looking good or having an interesting story. I often play great games that I get so angry with for getting stuck for no apparent reason so I'd definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a shooter to play with ease. It's like the gaming equivalent of watching a soap or sitcom in that they don't require any taxing brain activities but they can easily get you hooked and enjoying for hours. I gave the game a 7.5 which is an average score for an average game.
I couldn't decide what to play next so I took the easy option and opted for F.E.A.R 3.
To The Moon and Interactive Narratives
- Apr 8, 2013 7:20 pm GMT
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To The Moon is the most powerful game I have ever played. As I went through this incredibly affecting and stunningly powerful tale of love, loss, and redemption I found myself near to tears several times. That beats the previous record held by Mass Effect 2 of me being momentarily sad when Tali's father dies. To The Moon features outstanding writing and one of the greatest musical scores I have ever heard in any medium. To The Moon also was made in RPG Maker. It's simplisitic and often poorly drawn sprite graphics might turn away more visually minded gamers, but To The Moon is an incredible example of a game whose graphics don't make or break the experience. Unfortunately, the gameplay also is largely inessential to the experience. And herein lies my problem with To The Moon. The "game" part of To The Moon borders between boring and downright bad. The only real gameplay present outside of walking around the environment to progress the story, is a simple flip puzzle where you have to flip squares on a grid to create a picture. It's incredibly simple, easy, and boring. By the third or fourth puzzle I just wanted to finish the damn thing and get back to the story. And I began to question how big of a problem this was.
To The Moon doesn't even have the excuse of games like The Walking Dead that the interactivity comes from making story choices. To The Moon has a linear narrative. The question is, really, would To The Moon work better as a visual novel? If the gameplay does nothing to enhance the experience, and, in fact, hinders it in several situations, why have gameplay at all? It's an interesting question and one that many people will argue over. For my money, a good game narrative is one that works best as a game. It's the type of narrative that is either enhanced through gameplay, or makes some sort of commentary on the game you are playing. A great recent example is Spec Ops: The Line. The story in Spec Ops was linear, but it forced the player to question the nature of modern military shooters and their sense of bravado. It is a story that would be an average movie, but because it is a game it works incredibly well. To The Moon gains nothing from being a game.
All that said, I have to return to my original statement that To The Moon is the most powerful game I have ever played. It is something that makes me pause. The recently deceased Roger Ebert said that games couldn't be art because of their interactivity. He said that the author of a piece needs to be able to direct the experience of the person entirely for the piece of art to have its intended effect. Looking at many of the non-linear narratives in gaming, I can't say that the story itself has been enhanced by non-linearity. It gives the player greater agency, and a sense that he or she is truly having an effect on the world. But as far as telling a compelling story goes, most of these stories would be as good or better without the interactive element. At the end of To The Moon a character makes a choice. It was a choice that could have been left to the player. But in doing so, the developers would have had to forsake the powerful ending that was the perfect conclusion to this tale. In letting the character make their choice without player input, the game was able to keep their motivations hidden, and the result is something that makes this story as amazing as it is.
So I guess the question on my mind is, is it possible to create an interactive story that has the same effect on the player as a linear story does? Or, is the addition of player agency a compelling enough reason to ignore the lower quality narrative? It's a question I am curious to explore and I'm curious to hear what all of you think about this. Regardless of my feelings that this "game" is much less a game and more of a visual novel, I would highly recommend it to anyone who values story in their games. This is the most powerful story ever told in a game. It combines a great premise with realistic dialogue and a musical score that is worth listening to over and over long after the game has finished. In fact I am listening to it as I write this blog. If you need action, excitement, or challenge in your games then stay away. This game isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you are willing to put aside the weak gameplay to experience this incredible story then please do so. It is worth your time and your money and will affect you like few other games you have played.
I'm Halfway There Adam
- Apr 8, 2013 4:06 am GMT
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Do you remember when there was all that fuss about always-online DRM? Companies like Ubisoft pushed it with their PC ports of Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed but nobody was worried. No big exclusives would bother with it surely? Then Diablo 3 was released and furious gamers reacted in force. The massive boycott that followed saw Blizzard taking a massive hit, having to can a World of Warcraft expansion that allegedly had cute kung fu pandas. As if that would have worked! Six months later they patched the game so that Diablo fans could finally purchase the game without having to worry about a constant internet connection and always-online DRM became a footnote in history next to 3D or virtual reality. Now if you don't mind I am off to play the excellent Sim City, have you seen it? Its enormous!
Wait, that's not how it happened.
A few days ago a Microsoft exec went on Twitter and made some insensitive comments surrounding the idea of always-online DRM and how we should all just deal with it. Personal reservations about how throwaway, brain-dead Twitter comments are given far more attention that they deserve aside (I am looking at you Joey Barton), this sort of press couldn't come at a worse time for Microsoft as Sony has been winning the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere by abandoning the always-online model, not blocking second hand games and embracing the indie market. However, the most frustrating part of Adam Orth's banal comments was that they represented, to some extent, the truth.
The fact is that most people ARE online all the time. What's the first thing you do when starting your new console for the first time? It's not playing a game, it's setting up a PSN or Xbox Live account. My consoles are online all the time and Microsoft know it. They know my gaming habits, they know what I buy, when I play, what I play, how long for and who with. In fact this month's Xbox Live Reward is for playing and buying Live Arcade titles. We are not just already dealing with it but actively embracing it! Games companies want us online all the time and will sneak it in the back door whenever they can. Surely though, this brazen move by MS is one step too far and as consumers we will exert the power of veto.
Well the track record says otherwise. When Diablo 3 came out we did just #dealwithit, we made sure that we would #dealwithit when EA insisted on Origin or when Blizzard pushed Battlenet and although we hated the idea that we needed to #dealwithit with Sim City we did that too. How is it that we are all happy to take to Facebook or Twitter or Gamespot or whatever digital mouthpiece to legitimately moan about all the unpleasant business practices that big companies engage in, but when it comes to the real opportunity to exert some power, the boycott, we don't. Despite all the big-boy claims that Blizzard or EA or whoever can go and do one, we still give them our cash. Its a model that not only works but one whose success we are all complicit in.
Microsoft have distanced themselves from, but not denied Adam Orth's comments and they now face an uphill PR battle. Although nothing has been confirmed, if they do announce that they are putting out an always-online console then there will be a lot of frustration but when it comes down to it are they really just using the stick when Sony are using the carrot? If you want to play Halo you have to get a Microsoft product. Want the full Journey experience? Then get a PS3 and then get online. In principle I hate the idea of always-online DRM but now I realise it is harder than ever to distance myself from it as I am already a part of it.
Always online..... or nothing at all
- Apr 7, 2013 10:13 pm GMT
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Both the PS4 and the XBOX 720 aren't even released yet and already they're getting a lot of buzz for things outside of what is typically expected. Thus, anticipation is heavily overshadowed by an enamored sense of worry over how these consoles are putting measures in place that might stop them from even playing games at all. The PS4 has had to deal with rumors regarding pre-owned games not running on the unit, and although Sony assured consumers that used games can be played on a PS4, it is far too early to tell at this point. Today, the rumor mill is churning over Microsoft's upcoming new console, and the issue stems with the concept of "always-online", requiring a game or a machine to be fully connected to the internet to function. A notable Microsoft employee took to his Twitter account to call into question gamer's concerns about 'always online', concluding with a rather snarky hashtag "#dealwithit". Granted, the tweet wasn't specifically aimed at the new XBox in particular, but his comments prompted an immediate pouring of outrage from both gamers and developers like Bioware, citing the launch disasters of both Diablo 3 and Sim City; two high-profile PC games associated with DRM (digital-rights management), which is the defacto technical term for "always-online". It also raised questions over whether or not the XBox 720 will fully adopt the feature, and that's not including the other possible fact that it, too, may not play used games. The Microsoft employee in question later apologized for his comments before changing his Twitter profile from public to private to avoid further scorn. So far, Microsoft hasn't publicly commented on the rumors and speculation. The so-called XBOX 720 is due to be revealed in a few short months, leaving many to wonder if Microsoft is purposely waiting until then to either confirm or dispel the rumors.
The industry never duly intended for "always-online" to be an affront to honest gamers, though it is certainly understandable why gamers may feel that way given the circumstances. It may have been designed as a countermeasure against potential hackers, pirates and opportunistic cheaters. These unsavory elements have been a collective thorn in the backside for both companies and their consumers, costing the industry millions---if not billions---every year. It may be that the industry is pushing for more social aspects to their games. They might have this assumption that gamers who play with others have more fun than people who game by themselves. Whether you like it or not, we're living in an era of Facebook and Twitter, where more and more people are glued to their smartphones and tablets, wirelessly keeping in touch with friends and strangers from every corner of the world. In a gaming sense, the industry probably wanted to force the idea of social networking in single-player games because they viewed solitary experiences as no longer being relevant or profitable in this day and age. Companies have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to adopt any newfound idea if it has the potential to generate a foreseeable profit margin, and you can only guess that they're also crossing their fingers hoping gamers will not cause too much of a fuss over it. Looking back, most ideas and proposals forced by the industry have been met with fierce resistance and criticism for fixing what was never broken, only to end up breaking it.
If every internet connection worked perfectly 100% of the time and every household on the face of the planet had access to the internet, always-online DRM would have been a fine idea. The reality is not every person can use the internet in their home, and it doesn't always work as intended; even for those who have top-of-the-line connections like DSL and FIOs. Another thing to consider is that not everybody wants to embrace the social aspects of gaming right away---if at all. That doesn't necessarily make them anti-social; it is merely their preference. When you think about these things, you come to understand why DRM and always-online is problematic in its current stages. Even more troubling is the possibility of games refusing to work at all if the internet decides to have a bad day. Case in point games like Diablo 3 and Sim City, and consoles like the XBOX 720.
When Diablo 3 first launched with the DRM component firmly intact, the high volume of people who purchased the game on day one lead to its in-game servers suffering from immense overcrowding, ultimately shutting down in various portions and preventing the entire game (even the single player modes) from running for a good several hours. Disgruntled consumers took to the message boards to vent their frustrations before Blizzard finally addressed the issue, but the damage had already been done. The same goes for the recently released Sim City reboot. The game launched with an impressive out-of-the-gate sales record, and that also lead to a debilitating server flood that crippled the single-player portion of the game almost entirely. Maxis argued that they could have deemphasized the digital-rights management, but they ultimately chose not to because it didn't fit with their vision. Angry gamers took to task those comments, claiming that their so-called "vision" of Sim City didn't correlate well with their own experience because disparaged servers stopped them from even accessing the game in the first place.
It's often said that the video game industry is slow to learn from their mistakes. In theory, there's some truth to that claim. The industry is aware of the problems associated with DRM and "always-online" components for single player games. Yet, I tend to think that they're more insistent and stubborn in their own beliefs than they are dumb or uneducated. They insist the idea can work, because they likely poured a lot of money into the idea, and their reputation in on an invisible thread. And, by God, they'll see to it that it's either their way or no way at all. So it's really not so much the industry turning an intentional blind eye to the concerns of gamers but, rather, the industry giving you a plate of lima beans and doing everything they can to convince you to eat them so that, maybe, you'd one day grow to like them. Otherwise, you won't be getting dessert.
However, it needs to be clearly understood by both game companies and gamers that, as it stands now, DRM and "always-online" is fundamentally and technically flawed. It becomes an even greater issue if an internet connection is required to even play games at all, and this is a concern that I have for Microsoft's upcoming console. If the rumors prove to be true, then Microsoft will need to answer to an influx of angry gamers who have thrown their lima beans to their puppies begging for scraps underneath the kitchen table. There's nothing inherently wrong with playing games with an internet connection so long as it fulfills its intended purpose well and doesn't serve as a distraction to the experience. But an internet connection shouldn't be a requirement to even run a game at all, because if it only takes a modem to ruin the fun for every single gamer on the planet, regardless of your preference, then we as consumers face a very bleak outcome. As I alluded to before with the industry in general, I don't believe Microsoft is stupid. I think it's very likely that they're perhaps stubborn and insistent. If all the speculation and rumors are to be believed, and should they be confirmed, then they're going to sell you the notion that DRM and always-online is the "way of the gaming future"---an appropriate and necessary measure that protects consumers and the industry at large. And they're hoping against hope that gamers will see it their way.
I can tell you right now that is far from being the case.
Stupid people saying stupid things.
- Apr 6, 2013 12:06 pm GMT
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So yesterday the internet exploded when MS Rocket Scientist Adam Orth decided to tweet his feelings about fans reservations about the next Xbox requiring an online connection at all times. Now after the disaster that was SimCity 4 (as I stated in a previous blog of mine) you'd think MS would see that mess and say "maybe forcing people to be online all the time to play non online stuff isn't a good idea."
So by now we all know about Mr. Orth's rather insenstive comments most notably critizing people who lived in smaller rural towns who don't always have the best internet service saying "why would you live there?" In the linked article MS came out and made an apology but didn't dispell the rumors of an "always online system" but most people agree the damage is done. Going on various sites and reading user comments, alot of long time Xbox fans responded to his "deal with it" comments by saying "I'll deal with it, I won't buy the next Xbox." or something along those lines to which I say "more power to you." Companies exisit to make money but if consumers aren't happy with your product and you don't acknowledge their concerns and act all flippant and arrogant, they'll move on to something else. This is how the free market works.
I've never been a big fan of the Xbox or Microsoft's business practices when it comes to gaming. I don't like that they charge for something everyone else can do for free. (My PC and PS3 online gaming work just fine, thanks) My husband and I had 3 Xbox 360's die on us. 2 got red rings and the third glitched out and erased our entire hardrive to which after that we said "screw it" got a PS3 and never looked back. Their Points system that makes no sense. I hate that on top of that monthly fee you get a dashboard cluttered with ads (don't have that with my PS3, Wii or 3DS) and their most grievous crime watching: Rare's slow crippling death under their mismanagment killing all hopes of ever seeing a true Banjo or Conker sequel. Also I don't like FPSes meaning the 360 had little that interested me in terms of exclusives. So yeah if the next Xbox goes the way of the Dreamcast, I won't be crying.
But seriously to flat out insult consumers and their genuine concerns with such a flippant attitude is inexcusable for any company. It would be like Ciggarette companies responding to all the health problems smoking causes by saying "well something's gonna kill you." I get that companies are worried about piracy but forcing everyone to be online and DRM do nothing but punish those who did nothing wrong.
More and more I watch video blogs and read articles and the tone of gamers in general is the thought that the industry is going to crush itself under the weight of it's own bloated greed and that it doesn't seem to care. The industry has this mindset of "hey if we're going down, get all the money we can then!" As opposed to trying to asses the needs and concerns of its consumer base.
But I honestly didn't want to get into this. I had plenty of more lighthearted topics I could be writing about. So here's my favorite internet cat right now, Grumpy Cat who celebrated her 1st birthday on April 4. Let her adorably grumpy face cheer you up.
Happy Birthday Grumpy Cat. Your face expresses how a lot of us feel about Adam Orth's comments.
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