All About chakkerz
So, Mirror's Edge Demo is out. And I suck at it. I today cancelled my pre-order (i really really suck at it). Also, EB Games is not offering anything that justifies buying it there on pre-order when i know other stores will be cheaper. My partner recons i will still get the game. She's right:
Last year we had Portal, it was fresh and new. True it was a fusion of many things. Glados is Shodan. The level design is Half Life, or any 3D jump and run. The mechanics is Narbacular Drop. One might claim there is geneology back to Lemmings ... This does not change that the way it was put together is just great, and Penny Arcade supports what i'm saying. This year, what have we had?
* GTAIV ... note the IV ... it's been done before
* Fallout 3 ... yeah, it is a sequel but it is done by a different company and it is awesome, but it is not innovative.
* Fable II ... again a sequel, same with Gears of War 2 (though CliffyB sure is changing my opinion of him for the worse, but hey, he's rich, i'm not and he's famous while i'm not ... why should he care ... and he does do good work)
So, i could go over all the other huge titles, which primarily are sequels, or re-implementation of existing genres. And don't get me wrong: I've had a lot of fun playing games this year. Dead Space while not unique sure was fun. GTA IV was enjoyable, I'm loving Fallout 3 and Stalker: Clear Sky (which i'm now waiting to cease releasing patches all the time, that break my save games, or for me not to be using Linux). Sins of a Solar Empire (i think was this year) is fun, and of course there is Spore (which actually i'm really not being too attracted to but i have it on my Mac and that in itself means it will get played when Stalker won't.
The other group of games that have been out that are new are mostly for the Wii, but break down to being about new controllers... which i'm discounting. It's not the game that is new or unique, it's that it's a game. Allow me to distinguish. Wii Fit is not offering anything new that you couldn't do with a personal trainer or in a gym. Rock Band and Guitar Hero instruments don't offer things you couldn't do before, It is neat, but it not like Portal which offered something clever about how the game worked.
So that brings me to Mirror's Edge again. It is no Portal, it's a well made Enter the Matrix. It's like ... Windows Vista with all the features, where Vista Home Basic is EtM and ME is Vista as promised... Honestly, i don't have a beef with Vista, i don't use it much, but when i game on my desktop, that's what i use... Heck i'm a Linux Systems Administrator and i bought a copy of Vista (OEM ... less than a month later i got a copy of Ultimate free ... go figure).
But i digress, ME ... this is it, there is nothing that compares. Force Unleashed was probably an early contender, though it's shoddy controls and short length and George Lucas , together with family friendliness; which i'm generally in favour off, but lightsabers being more like the illuminated bats used by Futurama cops is just wrong seeing as Episode 1 (Darth Maul), 2 (Anakin Skywalker), 3(Anakin again), 4(at least some bar patron), 5(Luke Skywalker) and 6(Anakin Skywalker ... again) all featured it. But then force powers weren't that new, having been in various Jedi Knight games, Half Life 2 and various others, so really it had potential to be fresh.
Fresh here is more in line with the controllers, or HD, than a new gaming mechanic... which once again brings us back to ME (the package delivery one, not the SciFi RPG [which also wasn't fresh, despite what they say about dialogue trees]), you get to do fast reaction stuff that will drive the uncos (like myself) to despair, and will no doubt make a lot of people very happy. But is that it? a stack of sequels and nothing that stands out?
Nothing? sure seems sad, with MS, Apple and various software developers telling us how innovative they are. Looks like it's a face off between Fable 2 (which tried hard to break from the status quo) and Mirror's Edge which has the main claim to fame of being ... difficult ... but really is just another platformer like Mario 64. And Spore, which really does not offer anything beyond designing your own creature ... um ... Sims 2 did that too, Creatures involved evolution, and each phase isn't that unique... or memorable, though it is fun.
So what will 2009 bring that's unique? that will make me proud to play games. At this rate it looks like i'll just play Fallout 3 a few times and maybe finish Oblivion... that should surely kill a few hundred hours...
19Sep 08First up there is the Spore DRM, and despite my very negative reaction, I did decide on the day it was supposed to be released, to give it a go anyway. I now am pleasantly surprised. No DVD in the drive means i don't have to lug said DVD around. Registering online worked ... which was nice. It is possible to play offline, and the game isn't too bad, albeit simple.
Secondly, Stalker - Clear Sky is great. Shame it crashes as much as it does, and i have yet to work out how to do the moves the AI can, but on the whole i'm having a blast.
Fallout3 recently got reported to be the "Australian Version" worldwide. People online have taken the stance that this is censorship. It is, if you ignore that the message is not actually getting censored. Alternatively, it is not, because the message is not that taking real world drugs makes you impervious to pain. Of course there was the issue of "art" raised, which is having the artists vision corrupted. Yeah ... no. Art is not something that is being made so it get's sold to the masses. Hold on, it can be, however here it is not. FO3 was never meant to be art (think painting), however it does involve artists, and is art (as in what an artist creates), however that artist did not have a pure vision, which was uncorrupted or whatever. Bethesda did not come up with the Fallout Universe, they bought a license. They did not have the realization that this game would be more powerful, beautiful or relevant based on the pictures and names of the drugs, and if they were, they certainly weren't married to it, seeing as they did not even try to get it rated in the US without modification. Bethesda made a business decision. Sure, there were artists, but these artists are not creating the game for the expression of their soul, they are making it because the boss said "this is the premise, earn me some cash". Alternatively, the message may have been "make me some cash". I agree that my argument is painfully simplistic, but you can not corrupt something that never was pure. And the notion that FO3 would be art is ludicrous. Nine Inch Nails creates music, it is arguably art. I like some of it, but most of it does not affect me. Van Gough created art, I would probably not be able to pick too much by him, but there is a level of skill, mastery and uniqueness that make it art. Not that he was an artist. Games are not art. Most movies are not art. An aweful lot of music and books are not art. They contain elements of art. They may even aspire to be art, but they are not art in the sense that Bach created. In fact, i semi disagree with myself on this. Define art... why is a photograph art? why is anything classed as art, or why am i so confident in saying FO3 or any other game is not art. Some i would argue are. I can't think of any that i would class as such, but arguments could well be made for Doom, Quake, Super Mario, Sim City and even FO3. I guess what offends me about the corruption of the artistic endeavor, is that there was no one artist. And not everyone driving the project is an artist, or in it for the art. Bottom line is, they are in it for the bottom line.
Maybe that is unfair, ignorant (it is, i don't know near enough about art) and just plain stupid of me. (heh maybe??) Maybe the decision to make the game with these "changes" is what makes it art. The game now reflects a set of values, which today we deem as being "acceptable", with its blood and gore, but non-real named drugs.
Maybe all this argument means we are missing the point. FO3 is about a world where nuclear war resulted in a wasteland. Humans adapted to some extend, as it did life in general.
It is no secret that Consoles have been cutting into the PC Gaming market. At least that is what every gamer knows. There are few things that a PC can do which a console can not bar maybe FPS (and the console's are not doing too badly) and strategy. RPG's have long had a very strong presence on the console (Final Fantasy and Oblivion come to mind), though one may argue that Final Fantasy is very simplistic, and Oblivion has been dumbed down. Flight simulation is mostly dead, and Racing Simulation or Racing Arcade are well at home on the console. Beat 'em Up games have never been strong on the PC, and platform games like the 2D Super Mario or 3D (Super Mario?) Prince of Persia are more at home on the console with their mostly more suited hardware and controllers.
The primary reason why FPS and RTS / TBS are not big on the consoles is the controller. Supreme Commander and Civilization Revolutions have attempted to break the mold, and while one is unplayable according to reviews, and the other dumbed down (yet receiving great reviews) they exist. The Playstation had a mouse one could buy, and while not great it did help with games like Aliens (FPS) and Dune 2000 (RTS).
Some console's like the Phantom, though never manifested, had the right idea, mouse and keyboard and controller. Epic and ID have both caught on, and games like BioShock and Halo 3 are excellent examples of FPS on consoles. They are not as great as the PC, but given time can be.
So regardless of your opinions regarding game playability on the Console that can not be done on there as well as on the PC, people are buying consoles. Think of the benefits:
- Stable hardware specifications - Games should play well (that said this still occasionally fails ... Ninja Gaiden 2 for instance throws so many enemies at you the Xbox can not keep up)
- Dedicated controllers - although control schemes vary, the controller stays the same and for the most part are comfortable and ergonomic, unlike the mouse and keyboard which are available in many shapes and sizes, but are fundamentally meant for an alternate purpose.
- No need for copy protection scheme's - for the most part i would expect console users buy their games rather than risking their precious hardware to mod chips and the like. I may be wrong on this, but the platform does not lend itself to piracy the way PC does. I realise people pirate console games, but I fail to imagine that they do so in the same volume as people on the PC do.
I'm sure there are more, those three strike me as the main point. I'm not generally prone to conspiracy theories, but could MS have done anything better than the high failure rate of their Xbox 360 to ensure people don't modchip? (You want to go really nuts add in all the people that claim their hardware has failed). Whilst i do not believe this to be the case, overall the notion of a widespread likelihood that you need to return your hardware to the vendor for any reason should disuade people from doing odd things to said hardware...
So getting to the point: BioShock PC had massive issues with their copy protection. Halflife2 before it even worse, and Halflife (original) had a patch out before i ever saw copy in the shops to remove part of the protection. Now EA has decided games will need to call in, and has removed this need from at least Spore.
I would argue that a 3 install limit is ... nuts. Actually, no, a 3 install limit with no free tech support line that is nuts. If like MS you could just call and get them to give you a code, do whatever, to get you on your way i would have no issue, but pay per minute to access something you paid for? I was going to get the game for Mac because i seldom boot to Vista, as i do most of my work on Linux (for one thing i don't trust Vista, for another I take the Mac with me everywhere for work). So re-installing the game seems unlikely (i reformat Windows, though not as much as i used to, i reformat Linux, though really only the data partitions, and i've reformatted a mac once in 2.5 years out of the 4 i now look after around the place). So it seems unlikely that i would ever need more than 2 installations (the current Mac and the one i upgrade to in 2-3 years time). But then what if i don't like the game? I can give it to my partner, who doesn't really play a lot of games or i could trade it in. But with a scheme like they are suggesting trading it does not sound viable. I doubt EB Games will honour their one week return period if they can not give it to another customer, and EA ... well why would they do anything.
Maxis has state that Spore is coming to Xbox, PS3 and Wii (though maybe Wii got rejected later, i forget, so why would i risk it? If I buy a game i don't like (despite hype and reviews) exchanging it is fair. If i get over a game, trading it seems fair. Not to the publisher, but some developers / publishers are nice about it. Sins of a Solar Empire can not be traded, but why would i want to? the game is great, and even if it was not, it was possible to try before registering it, so i could have taken it back. Lastly even if that had not been the case, at AU$69.95 it is AU$20 cheaper than most games, and $30 cheaper than Spore (the standard one, that doesn't include a proper manual).
Or are they planning to invade the consoles with this sort of authoritarian crap as well? Maybe. But I don't see Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo going along with it (seeing as the consoles access the web via their services, they might just have a say in this). Also, retailers are profitting from Console second hand games more than from original sales. PC Games are seldomly traded second hand in Australia, with the major stores refusing (Game Traders does, but not every title). So it would not be in their interest, as it cuts into their funds.
Maybe i'm deluded and buying a game will require you to send a DNA sample to the publisher, regardless of platform in 3 years time, but for the time being, it seems to only be the PC, or rather the PC gamer, that is distrusted at this level.
EA, if you are listening: I'm never buying another EA game for PC, which I was not in the market for anymore, and having dealt with your customer support I don't think i can be blamed. But i seriously doubt i will invest in many of your games (regardless of the marketshare you now have). I still am intrigued by Spore for Xbox 360, but ... Since i didn't like the Sims 2, I am having some doubts.
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