March 20th, 2010

Good show. Third party DRM in Steam games makes no sense.

I could follow my instinct to disbelieve Ubisoft, but I think if Valve were taking a moral stance against DRM by removing games from Steam, they’d do it in all territories.

I clicked this headline in my Google Reader expecting to be taken to an article at The Onion.

$5 per new map? Who else is glad they didn’t buy Modern Warfare 2? Phew.

Good one here; I’ve been enjoying the mini-series. I hope it’s in for as good a run as the Knights of The Old Republic comic was.

Perhaps Microsoft and EA weren’t the villains we thought? Ah, probably they were.

I’m more excited for Skate 3 than ever. Graded challenges, landing feedback, and hardcore mode are longstanding features of the Tony Hawk games. Jason Lee was in the last good one (Project 8), too. They should fit well.

March 6th, 2010

I’ve already written about Portal 2 and the build-up to this formal announcement, but there’s one thing I didn’t know then: Portal 2 has co-op. Besides that, I’m considering the creative marketing campaign as the PC version announcement; this press release and Game Informer cover are for Xbox 360 players.

Hopes fulfilled.

Bad Company producer Patrick Bach talks about what makes Battlefield Battlefield, and the differences between designing for console players and PC players.

Despite reports to the contrary, yes, Silent Hunter 5 is cracked.

Probably the worst thing Activision did this week.

They also did this. I’m less interested in what’s happening now, though, than I am in what’s happening in a year or two when West and Zampella have a new game.

This is several weeks old, but I’ve only just seen it this week. And it’s relevant again. It’s educational and entertaining, even though it’s from the Xbox 360 perspective.

March 5th, 2010

Valve by Flickr user Tim DorrI’ve been trying to write some thoughts about Infinity Ward’s decapitation, but the sensationalist tone of the enthusiast press has distracted me. West and Zampella were kidnapped? Snuffed out? Those are the logical conclusions to why two people were escorted from their workplace? Activision may have released 9 Hero games last year, and Bobby Kotick probably wears socks weaved from baby hair, but they aren’t an organized crime syndicate. Is the extra traffic really worth exploiting a developing story?

My apathy may be due to my preoccupation with Valve this week. I usually think about Valve and Steam a lot anyway, and not always good thoughts. Sometimes I envision a future where Valve goes public and starts making Actiavellian decisions, such as developing Counter-Strike 2 as an Xbox 360 lead, charging $10 for the Engineer update, or releasing Half-Life 2: Episode 3 as three separate games. All of these belong to a future I don’t want to live in.
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February 27th, 2010

My words about it are over here.

Does game design work best when it’s analogous to film making, or to music composition? Neither, and I don’t think it’s important to make the distinction. Games shouldn’t imitate a specific art form, they should express the qualities of them all. Because they can. Video games are the culmination of art as technology, and technology as art. They’re amazing. We shouldn’t limit such a medium by trying to make sense of it in the context of less capable mediums.

Games as we know them today owe a lot to Carmack’s work. I can’t think of a person more deserving of this award.

This week also marks the first year anniversary of Quake Live, as well as the 14th year anniversary of QTest. In celebration, Quake Live received an update and event, and id employees past and present have reflected on QTest on the Bethesda blog.

Of course it is.

EA/DICE restricting dedicated server files to certain “partners” is leaving me conflicted about wanting Bad Company 2. They’re keeping dedicated servers on a leash, just out of reach of total freedom. But whether I like it or not, the market is changing, and we players seem incapable of shifting it in our favor. If EA’s restriction really is just to maintain statistic and rank integrity, and to sell maps (which seems benign in comparison to Activision’s or Ubisoft’s), I can be okay with it. Or I could, if it weren’t for EA’s history of shutting down online games.

But I’m probably overreacting. EA appears to deactivate games based on how many people still play. There’d be greater cause for concern if Battlefield 1942, despite its persisting popularity, had its master servers taken offline in light of a sequel being released. Besides, the Bad Company 2 beta was a heck of a lot of fun, and we haven’t had a successful non-Call of Duty, non-Valve shooter on PC in a long time. I’ll probably give in to temptation and buy it.

This is an hour-long “Quick Look” where every cut scene from Amped 3 is shown. I had no idea the game was so surreal.

February 20th, 2010

This is the worst that PC game DRM has ever been. I shouldn’t be as jarred as I am, considering Ubisoft’s history with StarForce. At the same time, I’d also think they’d have learned from how customers responded to those practices and not gone on to worse ones. Read as they try to justify it, and give major respect to PC Gamer for grilling them. They expect me to pay $60 for a game that was released on consoles 5 months ago in addition to being treated like a criminal? No. Fuck that.

These are better reasons (half-truths, as opposed to total lies), but it’s probably best for everyone if Remedy and Microsoft just stopped talking about the PC version of Alan Wake until they’re ready to announce it.

This is just wonderful. I’ve been worried that the console, hand-held, mobile, and social versions of Civilization were indicative of the future of the franchise. Civ IV has aged so extraordinarily well that it almost made sense. But Firaxis is simply colonizing every platform; I’ll consider all of those as practice games for this, a new, proper Civilization game. With hexagons.

This is Stardock using known gaming personalities to show games to customers. I love the concept, but I’d prefer if they did second takes (Bob Came In Pieces) and sound checks (Sins of a Solar Empire) for some of the videos.

An indie contest sponsored by Activision? Ah, I see Master Kotick has developed an appetite for the young and uncorrupted.

Yep, yep. Yep.


January 30th, 2010

I wish Ubisoft would just use Steam or Impulse for authentication, though there’s many reasons for them not to. Chief among them, I think, is that using their own log-in system sets the basis for their own distribution platform — if not for full games, then for DLC, and they wouldn’t be forced to share revenue with anyone else. But besides syncing some data (which Steam does already), almost nothing about this looks as though it will benefit consumers.

What’s worse is Ubisoft charging $60 for the PC version of Assassin’s Creed II. But we can’t blame Ubisoft alone; they’re only following the precedent set by Activison. Instead, we can thank everyone who bought Modern Warfare 2 for $60.

Still, this could backfire. Assassin’s Creed is popular, but not like Call of Duty, especially among PC players. Plus it’s a singleplayer game — many people view that alone as a license to pirate.

While I’m on the subject of games without multiplayer: Bioshock 2 probably should be one.

Noble, but I’m concerned the group is unintentionally implying that Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source aren’t still immensely popular. A lot of people won’t know better.

It’s not Lost Odyssey 2, but that’s all right. I’m one of the four people who liked Blue Dragon, so Mistwalker is 2-2 by my count. I only hope they’re using discretion in designing controls, as it’s a Wii game. I’ve been playing Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, and I think it’s a good example of how to use motion controls in an RPG (not for combat).

Also, is the title “The Last Story” a wry parody of the title “Final Fantasy” (they’re both Hironobu Sakaguchi games)?

Terry Cavanagh is asked about his origins and his influences. He’s also asked about Vx6′s $15 price. It felt high to me at first, but that was a habitual response. I know $15 isn’t too much for a good game of decent length. But I still haven’t bought it; I’ve been waiting to see about a Steamworks edition. And I’ve only just finished Braid — I need a respite before I tax myself with another such platformer.

January 10th, 2010

Most player-owned servers aren’t hosted from their homes, they’re rented from third-party hosting companies. As long as EA and DICE don’t keep dedicated servers first-party, all should be well. EA could still charge an exorbitant licensing fee thereby forcing hosts to raise rental fees, but that’s assuming too much. What’s disturbing is that there won’t be mod tools. These decisions together probably mean that EA plans to sell maps. The situation isn’t ideal, but it’s preferable to the precedent Activision and Infinity Ward have set with Modern Warfare 2.

There have been motion controllers for PCs in the past (Wii remotes can even be made to work), but this one shows promise. A video in the post shows the controller being used to play Left 4 Dead 2 on a mirror.

It’s noteworthy because it’s a good Jim Sterling post.

Although I’ve never had a problem using third-party memory units with my consoles, third party controllers have never felt right. This Razer gamepad, however, may be worth a go, especially if the D-pad feels as good as it looks. I use my Xbox 360 controller on my PC as well, so I welcome more buttons. Engadget has a video.

The most impressive statistic? 45% of Steam users have Direct X 10 cards.

A good, hearty article about making games more intuitive and enjoyable, without designing them for children. My favorite is the bit about “Positive Permanence.”

I’m glad that Ben wants to improve Steam, but his suggestions feel misdirected. Few of the problems he discusses are problems that Valve is in a position to solve.

Third-party DRM is redundant, but licensers, such as Sony with SecuROM, may not allow DRM to be patched out of games at the publisher’s discretion. Steam’s multiplayer API is good, and Valve makes the Steamworks middleware available, but it’s up to publishers and developers to power their multiplayer with it. Even then, do we want all games to require Steam?

I don’t like slow downloads and instability — he’s got me there — but that may be more of a problem with ISPs and the Internet in general than with Valve’s planning. Finally, I don’t know how I feel about selling games. I’m sure it could be structured so both Steam and publishers still profit, but I think it would also put stricter usage rights on games so that trading credentials couldn’t be exploited. It could be the end of Offline Mode.

At any rate, Valve’s listening.