14/08-21/08/11

 

Truly great game worlds are like great holidays and I’m not talking about your lads on tour trip to Crete where you were bummed by an Australian transexual named Barry while sprawled paralytic in a gutter facedown in a pool of your own blood, shit and vomit. A good wholesome holiday, one you enjoy while you’re there but a whole lot more when you’re back home or, in the case of videogames, back playing the many turds released each year. It’s the old want what you can’t have syndrome. Sure, you couldhead back into the Great West but discovering Red Dead’s miscreant infested world or knife-fighting a grizzly bear under a full moon is never going to be the same a second time over, is it?

Game worlds with that kind of nostalgic draw are rare and there’s yet to be be one this year I’d feel comfortable adding to the generation’s short list of: Fallout 3, Limbo, Red Dead and Bioshock. Deus Ex and Skyrim might be two of the best bets but, with both E3 and Gamescom lingering in the past, I’d be playing loose with the truth if I didn’t admit that this year’s events had left me cold at the prospect of another game of that special ilk.

Luckily there’s been more than just Gamescom happening these past seven days with some of the industry’s biggest publishers seemingly hell bent on pissing themselves in front of a live audience, which suits this feature just fine.

 

Ubisoft’s DRM

At the back end of July Ubisoft made the suspect claim that their tinpot approach to DRM had been a huge success. Speaking with PC Gamer an anonymous company representative said that Ubisoft had seen:

 “a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection, and from that point of view the requirement is a success”.

But at what cost to the paying gamer? The company’s ‘successful’ DRM requires the legitimate customer to maintain an active internet connection at all times while playing. Lose connection to the net and you lose your right to play. Unsurprisingly the word ‘draconian’ has been bandied around a fair amount as well as some less savoury comments regarding Ubisoft’s mother. And guess what? Pirate the game and you don’t need to be connected to the internet to play the game you didn’t pay for. So, er, I’d love to see the figures Ubisoft have been eyeing to deem this a success story considering they’ve pretty much concocted a damn decent reason to pirate games.

Anyway rather good game From Dust made its way onto the Spreadsheet Machines this week and came bundled with everyone’s favourite form of punishment, despite Ubisoft going on record to cajole gamers by claiming From Dust wouldn’t require the paying gamer to be plugged into the Matrix at all times. Giantbomb said this:

“”I can confirm that From Dust will not require online connection to play the single player campaign and challenges,” said company spokesperson Alex Monney.”

Ah. Well apparently the controls are also shit, the graphical options are shit and some other PC gaming lingo shit that’s the subject of another story (and another writer), well whatever, it’s all shit. Anyway, as far as DRM goes – and this topic – From Dust is the real deal with Facebook users crying foul on the game’s page, demanding refunds and blowjobs from Eric Chahi himself to make amends for the spectacular mess. I like PC gamers.

(As an aside, my favourite comment:

“do you lose the hat if you refund it?”

Marvellous. Apparently you get a free Team Fortress 2 hat because, well I don’t know why. PC gamers. But this guy (who’s asked for 90% off Assassin’s Creed Revelations in addition to his hat) is worrying about whether or not his headwear is going to be impounded should he get a refund. PC gamers.)

To avoid regurgitating old news here’s my short opinion:

Ubisoft are certifiably mental; Mr Caffeine; Rainbow Six Vegas 2; Splinter Cell Conviction; hell, who’s played the new Driver demo? Fuck. So it’s not beyond rational belief that they’d conjure up a DRM scheme that not only maltreats the paying fanbases of their products but also gives pirates a decent excuse to set sail for the high seas of villainy and avoid handing over money for products. I’d love to hear how a developer from Ubisoft Montpellier feels about the DRM.

But what I find hard to believe is that despite stentorian complaints from the PC community, Ubisoft would come out and claim it was all going dandily. Clearly it’s not. Show me the figures.

I have no qualms with companies combatting piracy, that’s perfectly reasonable. But Ubisoft’s method of doing so is illogical. It’s like, everyone is fucking too much and not working enough and the government wants people to do less fucking and more working. So they round up all the people who are working and cut their dicks off.

 

Bethesda’s Scrolls

Far from the “lawyers being lawyers” thing it turns out Bethesda are genuine about the “Scrolls” infringement stuff that emerged earlier in the month. For those uninitiated: that Minecraft guy Marcus Persson filed a trademark claim for his upcoming title “Scrolls”. Bethesda didn’t much like that Persson was about to use one of THEIR WORDS and initiated a law suit, requesting Minecraft Man cease using THEIR WORD and find himself a new title. Maybe Parchment of Paper, or Rolled Up Ragtag Old Vellum.

So the internet hur-hurs, Persson puts it down to lawyers being lawyers and most expect Bethesda to back away. Well guess what? They don’t. Bethesda believe that by using “Scrolls”, THEIR WORD, simpleminded gamers would inevitably confuse Persson’s game with Bethesda’s upcoming fledgling indie RPG The Older Scrolls: Skyrimmed. As Persson quite rightly points out, no one refers to any of The Older Scrolls games as The Older Scrolls and by fuck do any of them have much to do with actual scrolls. With a genetic make up of 62% loading screens, 18% selling jewellery and 20% battling giant crabs, scrolls aren’t something the series is renowned for. I think, anyway, it’s so indie and obscure I confused it for The Beatles Rock Band at first, what with them both having the word “The” in their titles.

I don’t really care that Bethesda are chasing Persson over “Scrolls”. Type “Scrolls game” into Google and Persson’s is the first to show up, with the following links mostly devoted to Bethesda’s games. So maybe they have a case, however asinine the idea that you can trademark individual words. Persson was attempting to trademark “Scrolls” anyway so no marks for him. My problem lies with Bethesda’s assumption that anyone is going to confuse the two games.

Scrolls is a collectible card game, not dissimilar to Chess – apparently – that has players throwing scrolls at each other and playing footsie under the table. Or something. Whatever it is, it’s not exactly Skyrimmed incarnate. The Older Scrolls are games about swords and fair ladies and lizard men and loading screens and ungainly swordplay and third person animations forged in the fiery pits of hell and stupid AI and big, stupid, sprawling fantasy Tolkien worlds. Jokes aside it’s also been blessed with a pretty little marketing budget and Scrolls isn’t exactly enticing gamers over from Skyrimmed with the promise of daily handjobs and semi-decent lockpicking minigames.

Whatever. That’s kind of old news. This week’s continuation of the story saw Persson attempt to throw water on the whole fiasco by challenging Bethesda to a game of Quake 3. Which would have kind of made Bethesda look good. As detailed on his blog; should Persson win Mojang keeps the Scrolls name. Should Bethesda win Persson changes it. (And don’t get any ideas about Rolled Up Ragtag Old Vellum, buddy.)

“I challenge Bethesda to a game of Quake 3. Three of our best warriors against three of your best warriors. We select one level, you select the other, we randomize the order. 20 minute matches, highest total frag count per team across both levels wins.”

How romantic. A few days later Persson admitted that Quake 3 might not have been the smartest choice, given that Bethesda owns the IP.

And that’s where the story lingers, for now.

 

EA’s Trashtalking

I work with kids. I used to like it. Now I don’t. Not because much has changed but because if 80% of the kids were the result of my sperm breaching the fortress walls of an egg I’d be [omitted until fired] about it. It takes a while for that feeling to seep in though. Well shit. I’ve seen kids vomit into their own cupped hands who looked better than EA do right now.

Speaking at Gamescom, Activision person Eric Hirshberg finally broke the silence on EA’s fatuous mocking of the yet to be released Modern Warfare 3. His words:

“Recently a competitor of ours”, he surreptitiously began, WHO COULD IT BE? “was quoted as saying that he wants to see Call of Duty rot from the core. I’ve been asked countless times to respond to this comment and I’ve generally chosen not to. My job is to help our incredibly talented, passionate teams to make the best games they can, not to throw insults around at others. But I actually feel this kind of rhetoric is bad for our industry.

“Can you imagine the head of Dreamworks animation coming out with a new movie and going to the press and saying that he wants Toy Story to ‘rot from the core?”

You have to really give it your all to make Activision look gallant. Having bled dry Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk, axed the likes of Bizarre and condemned Raven to map-pack purgatory, this is not a company with a face you’d want to kiss under a setting sun. But these are choice words and words that should ring true to those with an IQ resting on the right side of eleven.

Not EA’s corporate communications chump Jeff Brown though, who punched back with the following:

“Welcome to the big leagues Eric – I know you’re new in the job but someone should have told you this is a competitive industry.

“You’ve got every reason to be nervous. Last year Activision had a 90 share in the shooter category. This year, Battlefield 3 is going to take you down to 60 or 70. At that rate, you’ll be out of the category in two to three years.

“If you don’t believe me, go to the store and try to buy a copy of Guitar Hero or Tony Hawk.”

Now, man’s got a point at the end there. But the rest? Mindless. We’ll ignore the first part because Hirshberg covered that with his Dreamwork’s analogy so let’s study the second paragraph. Again, ignoring the made up maths and the romanticized guess-work future figures, the idea that one of the biggest selling and most successful videogame franchises of all time is just going to limp off within the next 730 days because EA have spent the company’s entire retirement fund on marketing Battlefield 3 is a touch drastic.

Not that it’s science but here’s why.

Call of Duty has found itself etched into popular culture in a way few other videogames are. It has the sales figures to prove it. Its success has been born from the wallets of both gamers and non-gamers. Activision themselves have spoken about “coffee-table buyers” in the past – those who purchase the game and play it a month or two later. That’s a powerful audience – one ignorant enough to the wider cultural ballpit that it’s managed to thrust the likes of Coldplay up into the stratosphere (speculation).

More importantly it is an audience EA are going to have to work tirelessly to wrestle from Activision. Call of Duty is a household name, one that isn’t going to fall out of the public conscience anytime soon. As a brand name it’s acutely powerful. Battlefield isn’t yet.

I feel for DICE. While they toil away over Battlefield 3 – which looks a metric lightyear better than Modern Warfare 3 – this asshat is making everyone involved look like cretins.

 

DLC Vital to Xbox 360

DLC is vital to the success of the Xbox 360, claims Microsoft man Chris Lewis. Speaking to Eurogamer he said:

“DLC windows of exclusivity are critical for us for differentiation. We’ll continue to bring those exclusives through our own studio work, Gears and Forza and other titles.”

I’m not sure that’s a positive stance. As the 360 has chugged away over time, Microsoft’s list of IP has failed to evolve with the company continuing to peddle Gears, Fable, Forza and Halo as its core IP. Having access to the Call of Duty map packs a few weeks earlier than PS3 gamers is not something that attracts me to the console. Being able to play The Last Guardian or Uncharted 3 certainly is. It’s a fine line but for me exclusive IP acts to strengthen a platform, timed DLC to weaken another.

 

Team Ninja’s Weird-Ass Comment of the Month

Seemingly intent on sullying the magnificence of Ninja Gaiden, Team Ninja have shot out yet another suspect comment regarding the upcoming Ninja Gaiden 3. Let’s recap:

  • it’s set in London
  • Ryu is battling terrorists
And, lest it be forgotten, Team Ninja want to bring out the emotional side of Ryu Hayabusa because there’s nothing more soul-destroying than purging an army of sexually oppressed wolf-pigs with a giant fucking samurai sword. Oh the horror. (This also the company that want you to know what it feels like to murder a man with a twelve foot sword made entirely from dragon scrotum.)
Because it’s been a few weeks since the latest silly comment, Team Ninja have gone and launched their latest salvo by announcing that Ninja Gaiden 3 won’t feature the series’ hallmark decapitations and dismemberments because: “We don’t think people want to see that anymore. They’ve already seen it.” Well, that’s some solid evidence backing up that one guys. Next up: Upcoming Splinter Cell won’t feature stealth because gamers have already seen it. HAHA, oh… wait.
Because it’s been a few weeks since the latest silly comment, Team Ninja have gone and launched their latest salvo by announcing that Ninja Gaiden 3 won’t feature the series’ hallmark decapitations and dismemberments because: “We don’t think people want to see that anymore. They’ve already seen it.” Well, that’s some solid evidence backing up that one guys. Next up:
Upcoming Splinter Cell won’t feature stealth because gamers have already seen it. HAHA, oh… wait.
Tuning out the fact that the continued prosperity of games like Call of Duty and Mario are largely a result of smartly recycling similar mechanics and similar stories (and, you know, ignoring the reasons behind the continued success of turds like Eastenders and CSI), lopping the arms off your enemy and playing volleyball with a loose head is very much a part of Ninja Gaiden, much the same way as EMOTION isn’t. So speak for yourself.
I’m not really sure what’s going on over at Team Ninja, it makes for amusing reading until you realise that they’re deadly serious and in their hands rests one hell of a franchise.

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