Game Producer Quest, Part 15

Just an update on the whole Ni No Kuni fiasco I blogged about a couple of weeks back, I received the free guide late last week, so Namco Bandai made good on their promise.  It’s a nice gesture for their Collector’s Edition screw-up, though as I said in a previous post, I sincerely hope they do not make any Collector’s Edition of Dark Souls 2 exclusive to their online store, as long as they continue to use Digital River e-commerce “solution” (I use the term loosely.)

I was wondering if there’d be any news this week about the upcoming Xbox, (aka Durango), in response to Sony’s PS4 reveal last week, but Microsoft continues to play things close to the vest, which I’m actually fine with.  Maybe some of my predictions will actually be more accurate about the upcoming next-gen consoles.

Lately, I’ve been playing Fire Emblem: Awakening on my 3DS.  It’s a terrific game, well worth playing if you like or appreciate strategy games.  Of the top of my head, it’s the 13th game in the franchise, which is rather impressive.  Not all of them have been localized in North America, but enough of them have been to develop a fan following of sorts.

We're falling!

We’re falling!

There are some things about it that stick out for me, not the least of which is the experience of actually playing a Nintendo 3DS.  The battery life is, in a word, awful for a mobile device.  Especially with the 3D on, wireless on, brightness fairly high, etc.  Even if you turn all those things off, it’s still nothing worth bragging about.  I actually researched this, and the 3DS XL apparently boasts better battery life, but still not enough to warrant a $200+ purchase / upgrade, in my opinion.

Speaking of 3D, there are times when playing Super Mario 3D Land where it’s better to turn the 3D on, and other moments when it’s better off.  However, Fire Emblem: Awakening is the first game I’ve played on the system where I prefer the 3D on at all times.  From the seriously stunning anime cut sequences to the terrain maps that make up the bulk of your gameplay, the 3D actually enhances the experience.  With that said, due to the poor battery life, I actually turn it off.  It’s not my preference, but it’s a trade-off between a better experience vs. being able to play the game for longer periods of time before needing to recharge, which is much more often than I’d like.

As far as traditional Fire Emblem gameplay goes, one thing the franchise has done since its inception (I believe) is for units (the characters your control) to die permanently.  In other words, if they die in battle, they won’t return for the rest of the game.  However, for Fire Emblem: Awakening, they introduce two optional game modes: Classic, which sticks to the permadeath I described, and Casual, where if units due in battle, it won’t be permanent.  It can be argued that the game was meant to be played in Classic mode.  It’s an argument that I actually personally agree with.

With that said, I play in Casual mode.  Why?  It comes done to time investment for me.  With limited time to play games (work, family, friends, etc.), casual mode allows me to enjoy the game, forgive the mistakes I make, and allow me to continue with all my units in tow.  I can appreciate the challenge of classic mode, where you try to find the best way to keep your units alive, but it often involves replaying the same map numerous times, which eats up time like you wouldn’t believe.  Just one mistake, and you either find yourself needing to accept the death of so-and-so, or hitting home and starting over.  Depending in how much time you take building a unit up, or if you find yourself attached to a particular character, and this decision can be rather agonizing.  Also of note that there are two units in particular that, if killed, results in game over.  Additionally, It’s true you can save during battle, but battle saves are deleted when you resume them, so you can’t start over from a certain point in battle repeatedly.

For the record, I do have a second save (three saves in total are allowed) devoted to classic mode.  However, progress in that save is far less than my casual mode game, which I believe is close to…around the ballpark of 80% done.  Once I’ve finished the game story-wise, I’ll probably start devoting more time to class mode, frustration and all.

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Game Producer Quest, Part 14

Sony finally made their official Playstation 4 reveal yesterday, which means I can stop calling the formerly-rumored-but-now-official console Orbis.  A couple of posts ago, I thought it’d be fun to make some predictions.  Time to see how I fared, which I’m guessing was rather poorly.

I predicted the following incorrectly:

  • That the PS4 would be officially revealed in full at E3 2013.  Obviously, Sony did their reveal this past Wednesday, so zero points for me here.
  • That the PS4 would be released in Fall of 2014.  Wrong again, as it’s releasing  in the Fall of this year.  Zero points scored.   This surprised me a bit, as I look at the Nintendo Wii U availability.  This isn’t like the original Wii, where it was difficult to find one online or in stores for two plus years.  Right now, I can go to Amazon or Gamestop or Best Buy and buy one.  What this says to me is that consumers are not clamoring for a next-generation console.  Given the state of the economy and unemployment rate, it makes perfect sense in my brain.  Sony (and Microsoft by extension, though the latter has revealed nothing official) could push their next-gen console release with likely little to no loss of potential sales, and do a slow build in terms of interest and hype.  To me, that’s the smartest play one could make.  I should mention though that I am unsure of the gaming scene in Japan or the rest of the world compared to North America.  Perhaps in the East, or other parts of the world, the public is clamoring for a new console?  That’s something else to keep in mind.
  • That the PS4 would be fully backwards compatible.  I had to hunt for this one, and finally found some information on Kotaku.  Apparently, the system will not be backwards compatible, but instead be able to play older games by streaming them from the cloud.  There have been zero details given about playing previously owned games.  Again, zero points for me.  Held scoreless by my own stupidity…D’OH!  On a serious note, the cloud streaming of games is both intriguing and scary.  As a business entity, I have very little doubt in my mind that Sony would love for their consumers to re-buy their old games (i.e. buy it twice).  But this type of behavior does very little to build consumer confidence and loyalty in my opinion.  In one of the Kotaku comments, someone posted  his idea of inserting your old game disk (let’s say Uncharted), where it’ll read and verify, then stream from the cloud.  Basically a disk check system.  It’s an interesting proposition if true, but there are other concerns.  Not everyone has lightning fast internet, and we’re talking many-gigabyte-sized games here.  Furthermore, there are such things as monthly data caps, depending on where you live; I personally am lucky to have never experienced such, but there are people that have very little choice but to live with data caps.  Forcing these users to use up precious data on streaming games can be a potentially bad situation for many.  Perhaps the PS4 is partly funded by Comcast?

The pricing of the PS4 wasn’t revealed, so I can’t comment on that particular prediction, yet.  Still I’m 0 for 3 on the Playstation side of things.  I am tempted to add some new predictions and change some of my old ones.  Oh heck, here’s a changed prediction:

  • Microsoft’s new Xbox will be released in the Fall of this year.  I previously said (along with the PS4) it would be released Fall of 2014, but now that Sony announced their intentions, I think Microsoft will follow suit.  I’ll stick with them announcing at E3 though, and give myself a half point if I end up being correct, however unlikely.

I did find it funny that Soy dedicated a press conference to revealing the console, without showing the actual console.  Apparently, the appearance hasn’t even been finalized yet, which I think can be a cause for concern about making their Fall release date.

In the end, until I know more about pricing, I’ll refrain from deciding on whether to be an early adopter or not.  However, even if the price point is super-friendly, and the exclusive launch game line-up looks amazing, I’m inclined to believe that I won’t be an early adopter, simply because my Playstation 3 is still serving me well, and I’m simply not interested in streaming a game like Grand Theft Auto 5 on my currently semi-slow home network when I can pop in a disk into my PS3 or XBox 360.  Unless GTA5 is coming out on PS3 and PS4, in which case…I’d predict it’ll be better on PS3. But I digress, and besides saving money is a smart play for me to make nowadays.

Game Producer Quest, Part 13

There was an article on Kotaku yesterday regarding the next-generation Xbox.  Since my original prediction post a couple of weeks both regarding Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen offerings, there have been quite a number of posts regarding both consoles.  As of right now, it would probably be wise to take everything one reads on these subjects with a grain of salt…actually, come to think of it, anything and everything on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt.

But I digress; I thought it might be fun to comment on Kotaku’s story about Durango, pretending for a moment that all the information contained therein is 100% accurate and factual.  The first item is that a mandatory, upgraded Kinect ships with every console.  It’s upgraded in that it can now track six individual “skeletons” in the same room, capable of automatic player identification.  Furthermore, it can track more joints and features upgraded camera resolutions.

Personally, as someone who just exercised with Kinect about an hour ago (in case you’re wondering, a good cardio workout can be had with Kinect if you push yourself, but don’t expect to build too much muscle with it the device), I’m all for an upgraded sensor, especially if it can get closer to the ever elusive 1:1 motion tracking.  The Kinect as it is now can come close, though from personally experience, how quickly you move is a key factor in this.  That is, the Kinect has problems tracking faster movements and keeping up as were, so I’m hoping the upgraded Kinect will be capable of faster, more accurate motion tracking.  I’m not expecting perfect 1:1 on the fastest movements, but the closer it can get to that goal, the better.

Getting back to Durango, apparently all consoles ship with a hefty HDD, and taking a page from Sony’s old-school PS3 playbook, games are now installed when first inserted into the console.  One neat thing is that it can apparently install in the background while you play the game simultaneously, a neat feature if it works well.  However, mandatory game installs may not make everyone happy.  In fact, making game installation mandatory is somewhat confusing, and I wonder if this is incorrect, and one will be given a choice.  I for one, actually prefer to install my games on the hard drive, but I can understand if others wish not to do this, so a choice here makes sense as to appease a wider consumer base.

Taking a page from smartphones and computers, Durango can apparently run more than one game (or app) at once, which would be really neat if true.  Imagine wanting to take a break from the game, one could potentially suspend the game without losing one’s place, go make a cup of tea, watch Parks & Recreation on Netflix, and the resume playing.  I personally love this, as it fits in perfectly into my multi-tasking lifestyle, and most of the time, play games in spurts as opposed to marathon sessions.

The new controller will apparently be a “natural evolution” of the current 360’s gamepad.  I have no idea what that means, except apparently it uses new wireless technology that will make backwards compatibility impossible.  I actually don’t mind this, nor do I think this to be a form of price gouging.  It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that every new console will have peripherals that work only with that device.  Nintendo tends to buck the trend there (Gamecube controllers work with older versions of the Wii, for example), but I’m fine with a new controller.  I only hope that it’s as comfortable as the current 360 controller, and that the battery life is improved.  Assuming it runs on two AA batteries, like the current wireless controllers, I hope that it’s more efficient in its battery usage so that they last longer.  That would be nice.

There is mention of the Xbox Companion App, which I must admit I know virtually nothing about.  Maybe I should look for it the next time I power up my 360 and see what it’s about…then again, it makes perfect sense why I’d know little.  It apparently has to do with interactivity with one’s smartphone / tablet.  I currently have neither; I’m waiting out on Razer’s offerings for their Edge tablet, as well as Microsoft’s rumored Xbox Surface tablet before making that particular purchase.  However, I’ll be getting a smartphone soon; probably early next month.  Since I intend for it to be a Windows 8 phone, maybe I’ll look for the Xbox Companion App to see what that’s all about.

I won’t go into specs with regards to processing power and what not, though I will mention that the 8GB of DDR3 memory seems…small to me.  I think 16GB would be the sweet spot with regards to future-proofing the console (i.e. it’s a 6-10 year lifecycle) vs. 8GB of memory.  That’s just my opinion though.

If any or all the rumors that have appeared about Durango or Orbis are true, much of the predictions I made a couple of weeks back would be wrong.  Oh well, I’ve been wrong before, so that’s nothing new.  C’est la vie.  In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate that particular day.

Game Producer Quest, Part 12

In an update to the whole Ni no Kuni Wizard Edition fiasco, I finally received an email today assuring me that the guide (which I already own) will be mailed to me soon, and that there are no additional steps I need to undergo on my end.  I remain somewhat skeptical, but it was nice to finally hear something.  Up to this point, there had been zero communication from Namco Bandai.

So in Connecticut, Republican DebraLee Hovey is proposing a 10% “sin” tax with regards to “violent” video games, with the money from said tax going towards the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.  The details can be found in this article.

There are some things that I take issue with.  In the article I linked, Hovey is quoted as saying:

“In my mind, we do not need to be glorifying violence,…What about murder and mayhem have become entertainment in our society? I think that putting a sin tax — and in my mind this is a sin tax — on the M-rated video games … will cause people to think about what they are actually purchasing.”

Whatever violence is found in the entertainment we consume, whether it be video games, television, movies, etc., I don’t think glorification is necessarily involved.  There may be glorification certainly, but the idea that all entertainment that has violence equals glorification of violence is a notion I don’t agree with.

Let me say that I am awful when it comes to history.  Everything historical I have ever read or learned in school, I have likely forgotten.  So I may be incorrect in what I am about to say, but the idea of murder and mayhem being entertainment in human society is not something exclusive to the past few decades.  The gladiatorial games were certainly a form of entertainment, and in those days people were trying to kill each other for our entertainment.  Public executions were yet another form of entertainment for people.  If anything, we’re probably doing a far better job nowadays condemning gratuitous violence, thanks in no small part to the interconnected world we now live in, then in centuries past.  In my opinion, Hovey, on some level, should be aware of this, and certainly before proposing a tax of this nature.

By and large, violent entertainment has been around for awhile now.  When Indiana Jones shoots at people in Raiders of the Lost Ark, how is that different from when one shoots someone with a gun in Halo?  One is more interactive than the other, but beyond that, what is the difference?  Where is the “sin tax” on other violent media?  Why are video games suddenly the scapegoat and root cause (in Hovey’s mind) of violent behavior among people?  I simply don’t see the connections she see’s, and perhaps she could further clarify her statements to help a fool like me understand her position.

Honestly, I feel like I’m babbling at this point as I need to keep my anger in check, but I cannot imagine that Hovey’s proposed “Sin” tax would go anywhere.