Archive for March, 2012

May 15th and Threes

Posted: March 19, 2012 by Tim Utley in News and Updates
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If you haven’t heard already, May 15th is shaping up to be a pretty happening day for video games, but in particular third entries.  Max Payne 3 was pushed back from its original release date of March 6th to May 15th and some semi popular Blizzard PC game called Diablo 3 was announced to be released the same day.  Both games are very different, but lets hope one doesn’t derail the other.

Don't do me dirty Diablo 3

While both games are sure to crush it at retail I can only hope that because of Diablo 3’s newly announced release date Max Payne 3 does not get pushed back again.  I know Rockstar pushed back Max Payne 3 to polish it further, but its previous release date coincided with the release of Mass Effect 3, which wasn’t an opponent you wanted to battle at the checkout counter.  Mass Effect 3 is an RPG by genre, but I think its action mechanics made it too close of a contender with Max Payne 3 for Rockstar to roll the dice.  Diablo 3 however is a RPG with action elements, but I think there is ample separation between the two titles to make them both appealing day one purchases.

Fingers have been crossed, deep breath has been taken

Diablo 3 is only being released on PC currently so I don’t think it will affect the console sales of Max Payne 3, but let’s hope Rockstar feels the same way or we might not see Max Payne 3 for another couple of months.  For those who have been waiting for this game as long as I have would be devastated by another delay so I hope Rockstar remains confident in their product and gets it on store shelves May 15th.  Stay tuned for any changes to these release schedules and as always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.


I want to start by asking a question to all of you and think about it because it is important.  Should a game developer receive a bonus for how well a game performs commercially or how well it performed critically or maybe even both?  Both are important, but to different degrees.  My personal belief is that performance based incentives need to be based purely on sales and not how a game scores on Metacritic.

I guess one point makes all the difference

The staff of Obsidian Entertainment is being denied a bonus because Fallout: New Vegas missed the Metacritic target set forth by Bethesda by one point.  The lead creative designer of Fallout: New Vegas Chris Avellone, tweeted about this on his account.

Fallout: New Vegas was a straight payment, no royalties, only a bonus if we got an 85+ on Metacritic, which we didn’t.”

Fallout: New Vegas has an 84 on Metacritic and the goal was an 85.  One measly point of a score derived from people who had zero involvement in the creative process of this game decided the fate of many peoples’ paychecks.  A contract is a contract, but a stipulation like a Metacritic score target is for lack of a better term, unfair.

According to the same report on Gamasutra, Fallout: New Vegas sold 5 Million units and generated $300 million in revenue for Bethesda and even with such huge retail success Bethesda is denying the staff of Obsidian the benefits of a bonus.  This has been done before by publishers and is labeled as “quality ratings” during contract negotiations.  This is a huge issue for game developers, but the problem also disseminates down to an editorial level.

One point > $300 million in sales

With information like this readily available to the general public and video game pundits alike we need to think how this can potentially affect things.  The opinions of reputable (and smaller) video game sites can either create a great demand for a title or adversely affect the sales based on their reviews.  Each site out there has a particular brand of subjectivity and that is what makes each site’s editors unique.  People search the internet for that information to make purchase decisions based on those unique perspectives and if we know that our decisions are going affect not only the sales of a game, but the people making it, it makes writing negative reviews more difficult.  I am not saying that negative criticism should not exist because it needs to exist, it just shouldn’t alter a person’s paycheck.  If a publisher like Bethesda would implement such puerile stipulation into a contract I think developers working under that umbrella should find different shade.

What will they do moving forward?

You need not worry because TGA is not recognized on Metacritic yet, but if we were we would not let this troublesome ordeal affect our opinions.  We have a duty to you the reader/consumer to deliver honest content devoid of extreme personal bias and how it could affect others.  Negative criticism to a game should be used in a constructive manner by publishers to improve on further projects and not deprive or punish those who made said title.  Moving forward it will be interesting to see how things of this nature are handled and how we can keep developers accountable and also employed.

This is an important topic in both the industry and the outlets that cover the industry so please sound off in the comments about how you feel about this.  Do you think what Bethesda did was fair or justified?  Or do you fall into the second camp that believes bonuses of any kind should be based on sales not scores?  Let us know and as always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

Halo 4 Trailer

Posted: March 16, 2012 by Tim Utley in Game Trailer
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This trailer isn’t brand new, but it is something I have been meaning to get up on TGA for a little while now.  It is a good mix of developer commentary and gameplay footage and it looks like it is shaping up really well.  So without further adieu here is the official Halo 4 trailer.  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

Ridge Racer Unbounded is approaching its March 30th release date and Namco has released a new trailer showcasing the game’s environmental effects including destruction.  Bugbear Entertainment of Flatout fame is at the helm of this latest Ridge game and their flair for destruction is clearly portrayed throughout the trailer.  Unbounded is shaping up to look more like a Burnout and Split/Second hybrid rather than a Ridge Racer title, but both of those games are really good so this new direction doesn’t really bother me that much.  Enjoy the trailer and be sure to let us know what you think of this new move for Ridge Racer in the comments section.  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content. [thanks to VISO Games for the trailer]

Do you have extra Gamecube games, systems or accessories laying around that you want to get rid of?  Well if you do you might want to boogie on down to your local GameStop and dispose of them sooner than later.  Starting April 2nd GameStop will be adding the Nintendo Gamecube to the long list of systems they will not be accepting trades for.  Just like other systems before the Gamecube this is done to free up inventory space for newer merchandise which is understandable.  Also when a system is proverbially black listed GameStop has been known to run a sale on the platform’s games, accessories and hardware.  So there might be some good to come of this, but until then I can only speculate.  So like I said earlier, sell them while you can and as always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

The IGN START channel has been in swing for almost two months now.  One of the shows that debuted was The Next Game Boss, hosted by Daemon Hatfield and Naomi Kyle.  It is a competition show that introduced six indie gaming developers battling for indie gaming supremacy with the winner receiving a myriad of prizes.  It was one of my favorite programs and I wanted to share it all with you.  I am a huge indie game supporter and if you are (or not) this show offers great perspective on the process involved even though it is slightly expedited.  I have posted the entire season and I hope you enjoy it.  If you do like it subscribe to START and reach out to the great folks over at IGN.

I hope you have enjoyed the show and as always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

There has been a huge buzz surrounding Quantic Dream’s latest tech demo entitled KARA.  The video which is posted in this article is a true sight to behold.  Quantic Dream once again proves what can be done with graphics in a video game and more importantly shows that the Playstation 3 still has some serious potential in that department.  Graphics aside Quantic Dream also manages to pull some emotional heart strings in the 7 something minute video (like the original Heavy Rain demo).  I applaud Quantic Dream for their achievement with KARA and also congratulate them on the immense reception it is receiving, but the minute I saw this video I immediately thought of a super obscure Japanese Xbox game called N.U.D.E. @ (Natural Ultimate Digital Experiment).  I have never played N.U.D.E.@ because it was a japan-only Xbox title, but it looks like KARA and this share some similar attributes from the outside looking in.


Meet whatever her name is

I am unsure if Quantic Dream drew inspiration from N.U.D.E.@, but the similarities in the character design are far too coincidental to be ignored.  This similarity does not discount what KARA is or could be, but I do think this comparison is worth noting and is why I am doing it.  Watch the KARA tech demo and I am going to keep my eyes peeled for this comparison to surface somewhere else.  Let us know what you think about the video by sounding off in the comments section and as always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

The wait is finally over for Ubisoft’s I Am Alive.  Six long years and many changes later it is finally available on the Xbox Live Arcade and I wish I could say that I was more enthusiastic about it.  I love post-apocalyptic games like Disaster Report and Raw Danger and I Am Alive is in the vein of those titles, but doesn’t resonate with me the same way and let me tell you why.

I Am Alive places you in the fictional semi-metropolis of Haventon.  You are on a quest to find your wife Julie and your daughter Mary.  An “Event” has rocked the country and even more so in Haventon.  Earthquakes have ravaged Haventon and plumes of killer dust encapsulate the city and while it creates great atmosphere, everything looks overly drab.  The utilization of the Unreal Engine generates some great effects for lighting and shadows, but the environments and character models lack the detail of other Unreal powered games.  The collision detection needed some more polish and that lack of polish really diminished what little visual quality the game had to its credit.  The main character’s animations are stiff which is more troublesome in a game like this where navigation and exploration are integral game components.

Navigating and exploring areas falls short in comparison to the game’s scale.  The areas in the game present multiple potential avenues for moving forward, but the game dictates one single linear path for you to pursue.  The climbing mechanics were supposed to be a staple in this game and prove to be generic and frustrating.  A stamina gauge is placed on the main character in order to create tension for climbing and if your stamina runs down you are going to fall, presumably to your death.  This would have been an awesome mechanic, but it will never happen unless you let it happen.  Stamina reserves in conjunction with a stamina “boost” feature will guarantee success in all your climbing endeavors.  In addition to visual indicators really intense music kicks in when your stamina is low and it gets very annoying very quickly.  This music continued to play after my stamina gauge was low until I used a recovery item to replenish it.  With the world in shambles you might also assume that searching for resources would be important.  I wasn’t looking for a fallout loot fest, but it would have been nice to search containers or abandoned vehicles for supplies.  The environment is littered with both and nothing can be searched which I found it to be particularly aggravating.

The scale is there, just not the depth

The lack of exploration is also met with lack of story development and character interaction.  I understand that the “event” wiped out a large portion of the population, but the encounters with NPCs, showcased some missed opportunities for dialogue, bartering and story progression.  This first NPC interaction involves some old sewer hobo pulling a gun on you and yelling nonsensical banter at you.  “Get away from me” and “Don’t come back ya’hear” could have been replaced with more engaging dialogue options where the main character could have probed for information about what lies ahead or possibly traded goods with the poor sewer dweller.  The only occurrence of such dialogue was when I helped a victim that had been stabbed by curing them with a health pack.  Other than that random stragglers just yell at you.  The options could have been limited and still would have created another layer of immersion that the game is lacking.

The combat in I Am Alive never seemed like a focal point in the design and it shows.  You start with a pistol with no ammo and your enemies are none the wiser.  The aiming of ranged weapons such as the pistol is done in first person and while it doesn’t look bad I think it narrows your focus too much especially when dealing with multiple combatants.  Like I said your enemies are oblivious as to whether your pistol is loaded or not so pointing it at them will intimidate them pending they don’t have a fire arm of their own; in which case they will shoot and kill you.  Assuming you are intimidating an enemy with only a melee weapon you will yell at them to back up and if you are lucky they will back up to an edge where the game will prompt you to send them plunging to their death.  I derived much satisfaction the first time I did this, but can see the process becoming very repetitive.  One caveat about intimidating with your ranged weapon; enemies do not remember that you are packing, so the minute you holster your weapon they will charge you almost immediately.  This is a major design flaw that almost renders the intimidation function useless.  The machete melee combat had promise, but the surprise and struggle kills are slow and boring.  Another hiccup with collision detection is also present and your machete passes through enemies as if they were vapor.

Not as fun as it looks

If I Am Alive didn’t take so long to develop and hit the market it would have been a much more impressive title.  Other disaster games like Raw Danger and Disaster Report may not have been gems, but they had personality and worked better within the context of the genre.  Games like Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia offered great exploration and navigational controls and games like Alan Wake created a more aesthetically dynamic atmosphere.   I Am Alive is unfortunately overshadowed by all of them.  The game proposes some great ideas, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.  I had huge expectations for this game and was let down.  Let us know about your experiences with I Am Alive by sounding off in the comments section.  If you saw something differently than us be sure to tell us, it might get us to view it from a different perspective.  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

*Disclaimer* I have only played the trial version of this game.  It is available on XBLA for 1200 MSP ($15).  The trial version was approximately 40 minutes in length and I played it to completion.  My comments are based on this experience and this experience alone.  If you wish to see further criticism check full reviews.

In 2009 a movie by the name of Daybreakers hit theaters and offered up a unique twist to the modern vampire tale.  A virus had spread through the world reducing the human population to almost extinct levels and vampires were the preeminent species on Earth.  While it was a tale of survival for the human race an underlying theme of commerce resonated throughout the film.  The main protagonist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) was tasked with creating a blood substitute that would help sustain the vampire population in light of the dwindling human source.  Various scenes throughout the movie showcased the immense need for such a breakthrough and that this “blood substitute” would be the solution all vampires were looking for.  So you might be wondering what in the hell does this have to do with video games or digital media?  I assure you some clarity is approaching.  Nearing the film’s conclusion the main antagonist Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) said something very profound along the lines of “even though we will have a working blood substitute, there will still be customers who are willing to pay for the real thing”.  While the quote isn’t exact it is essentially implying that even though a blood substitute would be a solution for all, there would still be those not satisfied and would pay more for human blood (also implying that humans would still be hunted and farmed).  This statement is in regards to something that hopefully never happens, but runs parallel with the debate between digital and physical media and the gaming landscape at large.

Would you pay more for the real thing?

Video game companies are not that much different from the fictitious Bromley Marks corporation (albeit they don’t hunt humans, yet).  The actual form of the video game has changed drastically in recent times and with that change raises the question of how will games be delivered and consumed in the future.  They are looking at current retail establishments and seeing how they can sustain with the giant obstacle, that is used games, standing in their path.  With used games continuing to be a huge part of video game sales for retailers, publishers are scrambling to reduce and eventually eliminate that market entirely.  Online passes and day one DLC has given incentive to some, but there are still plenty who wait for a cheap used copy to surface at GameStop.  We all know video games are a business like any other form of media, but eliminating physical media entirely would ostracize from what I can only assume is still a large part of the gaming community.  As crazy as it might sound there are still people who don’t have high speed internet or live in areas where the service simply isn’t available, so an entirely digital platform would cripple their ability to purchase and enjoy new titles.

The digital option, stressing the option part

Both digital and physical media offer great benefits and drawbacks and those still warrant choice from the consumer.  This dichotomy amongst consumers usually boils down to pricing and how that pricing is structured.  The costs associated with both forms of media are apparent and consumers of each already accept these terms (knowingly or not).  If I want to pay an extra $20 for a game with a case, box art, jacket and physical disc with that new game smell I should be able to.  Conversely if someone wants to pay $20 less and get the same game, but in digital form they too are free to do such.  Choice is paramount and is something that must always exist.  If one form were to monopolize the market a great disservice would beset the gaming community.

Physical games, will they remain an option?

As a consumer driven society it is one of our many duties to keep choice alive.  Choice keeps competition healthy and also keeps companies accountable for their products’ quality (well at least some of the time).  Digital media is a solution that would satisfy some, but for those of us that prefer the real thing we understand that we will have to pay more.  I am not looking for price equality and for those who want to go digital and pay less are entitled to that discount, but for the people like me, physical media should still be an option.  I hope that the events of Daybreakers never come true, but I do hope that video game publishers understand that two communities of consumers will always exist and moving forward they need not marginalize either of them.

If any portion of this article moved you, please sound off in the comments section and let me know how you feel about this debate.  It is an important topic and it will affect all of us in one way or another.  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

Soon after Assassin’s Creed 3 was announced earlier this week, details about the narrative, release date and the game’s box art were also revealed.  The game looks to take place during the American Revolution and our character may or may not be of Native American descent (leaning towards is).  This is a welcomed departure from the previous settings of past titles and it will be interesting to see how this new assassin is integrated into the overall narrative of the AC franchise (and his connection to Desmond).  Also depending on what locales are featured in the game could potentially alter the verticality gameplay the series is so well known for, but I have faith in Ubisoft to dazzle us with something amazing.

The game has a release date of October 30th for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.  Also Ubisoft has a major announcement regarding the game coming up in a few days and will more than likely offer more information in addition to what everyone knows and has speculated about (AC3 site).  If you want more information regarding the historical implications of AC3 ride this link to an awesome video done by Colin Moriarty and Andrew Goldfarb over at IGN.  They break down the box art and Game Informer’s latest cover featuring art from AC3 (lots of interesting info).  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.  Happy Friday everyone and have an awesome weekend.