Archive for the ‘EA’ Tag
* Despite the push behind The Old Republic, a Janco Partners analyst has proposed that the Mass Effect would make a more profitable MMO for EA.
* Bethesda have revealed that Brink will contain 102 quadrillion unique characters appearances, as well as over 26,000 lines of dialogue (a refreshing high number for the company behind Oblivion).
* Crytek reported around 50 lay-offs, a large hit for the company behind Crysis.
* Sadly, we’re told not to expect a Super Meat Boy 2. After the trials of making the first, Team Meat wants to wash its hands and move on.
* On the plus side, though, there is finally a level editor for the great indie hit.
* Deep Silver, it has been reported, needed Square-Enix to distribute Dead Island.
* Ubisoft have released details about the new Assassin’s Creed game, Revelations.
* The Ages of Empires Online beta is available for download, but best hurry or you will miss the boat.
* Increased game sales of its video games division have partly offset the decline of media giant, Warner Bros.
* EA have reported stated that it expects Star Wars: The Old Republic to be ready and released before March 2012.
* Mass Effect 3 will expand its target market and increase its commercial appeal to a wider audience.
Developed by: Valve Corporation
Published by: Electronic Arts
Reviewed on: 5th May, 2011.
Presentation: Graphically, it’s been fairly polished since the days of the original Portal, but the visual style remains true to what the first game gave us.
Atmosphere: Again, as with Portal, the atmosphere follows its predecessor and remains true to its spirit. This isn’t, in the least, a bad thing as it allows the game to take the thematic content of the original and expand on the storyline and puzzles.
Control and Mechanics: Compared to Portal, the controls aren’t much different and the mechanics are pretty much what you’d expect from the original. In an age of overly complex controls for FPS games, it is refreshing to see something more basic.
Who should buy this: Those who are fans of innovative physics-based puzzle games, those who really loved the original, those who don’t mind a lack of replay value.
Who should avoid it: Those who expect it to be a better experience than Portal, those who can wait for a drop from the somewhat steep release price, those who don’t like the fact that Valve seem to want to milk whatever extra cash they can.
If I have to give a score: The first Portal was a 4 and while this is a great game, and a worthy successor with new content and tasty future DLC, the game isn’t a Portal beater, but it never needs to be and it is a great game 3/4.
Portal 2 is a great game with which I can only find two faults. One of those is relatively minor and the other is something beyond the gaming experience itself. First, as with Team Fortress 2, there is a system of microtransactions (for the co-op game) that one normally finds in F2P games. Secondly, while this should in no way detract from the fact that Portal 2 is a great game, it really doesn’t compare to the effect the original had upon its release and bears the burden of comparison.
Let me expand on one of these points first before I write about what makes the game worth playing. The microtransaction system here is fairly trivial compared to TF2. Team Fortress 2 has in-game chests you can open with real money to get, potentially, items that have in-game effects like a gun that fires faster (albeit normally with a trade-off). This means that not only are people with cash to burn getting edges via paying extra cash, but that the game has microtransaction elements within the game itself that make themselves overt when I’m just trying to play the game.
Portal 2 avoids this extreme by making the available items aesthetic-only, there are no super-powered portal guns or extra-high jump boots, just things like hats, extra gestures, and so on. What it also does is restrict the acquisition and advertisement of these items to the item shop. There are no in-game chests that you’ll come across or anything like that, though it should be noted that there were not in Team Fortress 2 originally.
Call me cynical, but this effort to keep a paying customer paying also finds its way into design changes in elements returning from the first game: logos, cubes, the beloved companion cube and even the two main characters themselves undergo design changes that will no doubt trickle their way into merchandise. It’s an unhealthy obsession Valve have there and I really wish they would seek professional help, it’s not as if they need the extra cash all that much.
But that brief rant aside, the game is great. First of all, it takes the tried and tested formula of the first game and builds upon that solid foundation. A lot of the same old tricks are there at first, but the game blossoms with new features like liquefied moon rock that allows you to make a portal on an otherwise unusable surface or a bridges made of hard light that can travel through portals. These features are really what expands and adds depth to the game, making it move beyond the first game.
Besides that, there is the expanded plot and that takes a more prominent role here. One of the original game’s endearing features was the vast amounts of discussion about what the game’s plot hinted at, whether Chell was a clone, what of the things GlaDOS said were true or false, whether the companion cube was sentient or not. This game expands that effect by allowing a much greater access to information about the origins and nature of GlaDOS or Aperture Science and its insane founder. Like the first game though, it leaves enough gaps for player speculation to fill.
With a nicely expanded setting and interesting new quirks to the puzzles, the single-player does a good service to the original, but the game also sports the co-op mode. This involves a sort of story-mode progression that takes place after the single-player playthrough (though can be accessed from the start, albeit with potential spoilers). Two bots are each equipped with a portal gun and forced to work out a variety of puzzles together.
This is where a lot of the fun of the game lies, but the very nature of the game means that the puzzles aren’t going to repeatedly offer you a challenge, once you’ve worked them out you can’t just run through them again for the same challenge. What this also means is you cannot really play this through with someone who has already beaten the game entirely as you won’t be able to work out the game by yourself, just watch as they direct you in what to do.
Which leads me to my last point of criticism, one thing that added replay value to the first game was the challenge mode. This curiously missing from the second game and it would be interesting to see how the game would implement a two-player challenge mode. Further, it would be great to see expanded multiplayer games with the portal concept, like a team-based game perhaps based on getting and taking the companion cube to a certain spot or setting up traps for enemy team members. The first (free) DLC for this game promises new replay value and a return of the challenge maps (and, hopefully, advanced maps). This is something the first game had and is noticeably lacking from the second game.
All-in-all, it depends what expectations you take to the game. It’s great, there’s no denying that though I could easily see a few people thinking the price tag is a bit steep and the item shop is a bit of a silly move that strikes me as pointless. Making me pay extra for minor content in a game whose price tag is already a little on the high side isn’t going to work, Valve. If you are not an early adopter type and can hold off for a better price, do so and this game will not disappoint you. It’s just that it always ends up compared to its predecessor, which came out of nowhere and hit like a thunderbolt. It isn’t going to wow most of you like Portal did, but do not let that spoil a great game.
Portal 2 is out now and available via Steam or boxed retail. Price is £29.99 on Steam.
Before, I linked the Jedi progression trailer and now I present the overview of the Sith progression. Apparently, the Sith like to look like Slipknot rejects. Enjoy.
I’m abandoning main news in order to push for more separate news articles, leaving more room for quick-cap news here.
* Opposable Thumbs talked about the story and aftermath of the controversial Potato Sack promotion for Portal 2.
* One of the iconic Abe games (Oddysee or Exoddus) is getting a new HD remake sometime in the future, it has been confirmed. We can hope this’ll find its way to the PC.
* THQ’s Red Faction: Armageddon has been delayed by a week, no explanation has been given but last minute bug fixing is suspected.
* After disaster after disaster, F.E.A.R. 3 has been pushed back again from its already amended release date to later in June.
* EA’s latest Need for Speed entry, The Run, has been detailed and dated for a November release.
* Players will be able to download the Brink server software via Steam before the game’s release. Bethesda have also offered an FAQ about the configuration of the server.
* With their recent woes, JoWood have received a helping hand from GoG.com who are selling JoWood titles with up to 75% off this weekend. With a little luck, this’ll help keep the wolf from JoWood’s doors.
* John Romero has started work on a new Facebook game. The game, Cloudforest Expedition, will be the second game that Romero makes on Facebook and is expected this Summer.
* Lord of the Rings Online creators Turbine are merging their US and EU LOTRO servers, relieving Codemasters Online of their duties maintaining the EU servers on the 1st June.
* After a bumpy ride with Alpha Protocol, but success with Fallout: New Vegas and preparations to ship the new Dungeon Siege game, Obsidian Entertainment have apparently gone through a round of layoffs.
* Mojang have released details about the modding plans to be implemented in Minecraft Beta 1.6.
* Bethesda have released details of the changes from Oblivion to Skyrim. Looking at some of the changes (especially to attributes), I don’t think this’ll be the breaker in my downward preference for Elder Scrolls games (from Daggerfall onwards, anyway).
That’s all for this week. See you after the weekend.
* Epic Games will host a two day set of tutorials on the Unreal Development Kit at the East Coast Game Conference.
* Dungeon Siege III has been delayed, now releasing in late June.
* Hi-Rez has switched Global Agenda to a F2P model with those of us already having paid getting “elite agent” status.
* Funcom’s Call of Cthulhu-esque MMO The Secret World, announced four years ago, is officially on the back burner.
* Myst Online is now released as open source, fulfilling promises made as far back as 2008.
* The Call of Duty versus Battlefield 3 marketing war is estimated to end up costing US$200m. This truly is the war to end all wars.
* GameStop are opening a Facebook store. The new system allows sales and pre-orders done via the Facebook interface.
* It’s been reported that Apple has rejected PopCap’s experimental label, Unpleasant Horse, from the App Store on grounds of “maturity” issues.
* Multiplayer has, sadly, been ruled out of Mass Effect 3, but the details are looking good.
* Wrestling star The Rock wants to star in a Black Ops film adaptation. Given his last foray into game-based films, I hold little hope for great artistry.
Minecraft is leaving beta this year, with plans to release the final version on 11th November. This coincides with the release of Skyrim by Bethesda. Many may be disappointed by the fact that the final release won’t look much different from the beta (which itself is not a whole deal different from the alpha), but assurances are that development will continue. Other reports are that beta 1.5 will add weather effects.
Busy week this week, see you after the weekend.
Video games in the early nineties rarely portrayed sexuality. Early examples such as 1973′s Gotcha by Atari or 1982′s Custer’s Revenge are crude and often marked by immaturity or worse, but it has acquired an increasing presence in the medium since the mid- to late-nineties. The usual cries sexism, pornography or objectification has come from the usual conservative or identity politics groups, and arguments that have been dead since the days of the Meese Report continue to snap at the heels of game in a largely ineffectual way.
Video and computer gaming continued to explore these concepts and eventually explored more varied themes as well as darker ones. Sometimes, it went into the utterly tasteless but, I would argue, not as frequently as did cinema; most of the time, it was a tasteful affair, even when the media portrayed it otherwise (Mass Effect is a famous example of this).
A different response gained the attention of games journalists recently. A certain gamer, Bastal, posted on the BioWare forum, claiming to represent “straight male gamers” and wrote about his problem with the fact that several male characters were flirting with him.
His complaint was shot down very quickly by David Gaider, a writer who worked on Dragon Age II. Gaider argued that the romance options were designed with as wide a group in mind and there are still options available to everyone, regardless of gender/sexuality combinations. This is all well and true, but I think a lot of Bastal’s critics ignored a fundamental flaw in Bastal’s argument that renders a lot of the debate moot.
Bastal speaks of the minority groups he claims are being excessively catered for as acting as if they have a right to such. He wrote:
The idea of privilege is ridiculous. The “privilege” always lies with the majority because if your goal is to make a game that will be liked by as many fans possible, then it makes sense to focus on that largest group. Why should one fan’s enjoyment be more important than five others? It’d more accurate to call “privilege” the idea that some minority group gets special preference for political points. If you really want to be all-inclusive, then I don’t see why homosexuals should get special preference while leaving other minority groups out.
The fact of it is that there is no should here. It’s BioWare’s game and they are under no obligation to make the game appeal to any individual or sets of individuals. They should try to make the game to their own design ethic and, ideally, should make it profitable. Metacritic user scores indicate they have have failed to impress people, but that is simply over the thought that the sequel was dumbed down.
They are, ultimately, a private company with with privately owned intellectual property. The privilege lies with whoever Bioware chooses to privilege in their games. For all this, though, I think the other reason that Bastal’s argument falls flat is there was probably no thought in the mind of the writers of really catering for gays per se. A long time before this, Fallout 2 allowed for homosexual and bisexual characters and suffered no such complaints largely because people will play different characters from themselves more often than they would try to create characters who are simply themselves projected into the game. If Bastal thinks these sexuality options were implemented to draw in homosexual gamers, I doubt he is entirely correct.
I take Mass Effect as my example here. I really don’t think that the inclusion of Liara was aimed at being inclusive and more at the idea that a fair number of people like seeing members of the sexually-preferred gender getting on with each other. If nothing was wrong with this then the idea that idea that there should be a wider palette in Dragon Age II definitely qualifies as acceptable.
On the other hand, some might complain that the prevalence of non-heterosexuals seems a little too high. Certainly, this criticism might appeal to me if every other character were throwing themselves at my feet (a criticism I do have for the staunchly heterosexual game The Witcher, which does get a little tasteless), but this is not what is happening. While the presence of such a high number of non-heterosexuals would seem unusual, it hardly breaks suspension of disbelief. There are a lot of background assumptions that can be made as to why this presence is there. They could be biologically geared more towards bisexuality in a way species not too distant from our own are in real life (I am speaking of our fellow hominidae, the bonobos) or cultural factors could come into play. It can be explained within the game world more easily that the fact that women in their sixties still have the body of an 18-year old.
The newest trailer from the upcoming Star Wars MMO that shows an overview of Jedi progression.
Quick cap news
* League of Legends developers, Riot Games, announced that 100% of sales on the Akali character would go towards relief in Japan. Also, a rare copy of Final Fantasy Tactics is being auctioned by Play for Japan.
* Value have upgraded Steam’s VoIP system by using the SILK codec most commonly found in Skype, increasing bandwidth but allowing much greater quality.
* Crytek are still pretending that they think DRM is at best “a minor inconvenience” and about trying to stop piracy, using simple arguments that have already been knocked out.
* Darkspore gets delayed for another month, but news of an open beta should keep the waiting bearable. New date is 26th April.
* Bioware have warned that SWTOR beta scams have been appearing on the net. Watch out any would-be beta testers that you aren’t getting a raw deal.
* Battlestar Galactica Online was BigPoint’s biggest game launch so far and success was attributed to strong community involvement.
* UKIE welcomed the new budget benefits being offered to UK developers. The benefits are designed to increase investment and encourage smaller developers to grow.
* EA are getting rid of physical copies of manuals in favour of electronic-only copies.
* Deep Shiver has given a very convincing reason why the child violence in the trailer of Dead Island is acceptable. However, there were assurances that there would be no children in the game.
* Finally, the Torchlight MMO will not be charging a monthly subscription, with developers Runic Games arguing that model is no longer viable.
In a twist of fate, Gearbox announced that Duke Nukem Forever will be delayed a little longer. This means everyone can stop the “it’s finally going to be released” and switch to the “it’s fated not to be released” jokes. Randy Pitchford later explained the delay as trying to bring the game more up to scratch. There was a reveal of a tongue-in-cheek game which lead to the usual sort of responses that most of us are tired of, and once again, Penny Arcade states the obvious and wins my heart.
Also, Peter Molyneux has once again followed his old tactic of slamming his last game to make his next look better. This after Molyneux had already apologised for leading game journalists on a merry chase half the time. Game journalists themselves were unsurprised by his interview. Molyneux also, strangely, claimed that Minecraft was the best game he played in the past ten years, giving rather unusual reasoning, which implies a distinct lack of gaming on his part (not that Minecraft is actually bad, I can just think of a lot better). This shows that Molyneux can occasionally ramble on semi-coherently about games that are not his.