Fighting off the pirates – DRM points to deeper problems

With Spore’s flagrant copy protection causing a stir, DRM is once again the hot item of debate in the gaming world. I welcome any rigorous discussion of the topic, because while most of us will agree that DRM should not be used, it most certainly will be. The more we discuss it, the louder we sound to publishers, and the better the chances that we create fair solutions.

Yet rigorous discussion is something we still seem to be waiting for. Some of the best “independent” voices in the press see fit to bring up the same pedestrian talking points that we have heard constantly, while others that try to play devil’s advocate will be scorned by gamers. I think we need to look at the issues of DRM and piracy from the proper angles, which in turn will help us determine what can and cannot be changed. →  SNK Article Classics Vol. 1

Review – Etrian Odyssey 2

Etrian Odyssey (the first one) was an interesting RPG by independent developer Atlus. Rather than focus on traditional RPG elements such as story save X kingdom from Y evil wizard, Etrian was explicitly a dungeon crawler. A giant dungeon has appeared near a city, adventurers flock by the dozen to be plumb the depths looking for treasure while mostly being savagely killed.

And that’s about all the plot you get. Instead of a standard plot driven party, you had an entire guild you could fill with various classed adventurers, and off they went into the meat grinder. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was an interesting concept, particularly on a portable device where entertaining time killing is the primary motivator for many people. And one could plausibly assume, if one were naïve and trusting, that the franchise would be built upon and gameplay refined in future installments. →  Your right post comes off?

Review – Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

There are quite a few game series with planned trilogies in the works, but the modern Prince of Persia games are one of the first successful trilogies to wrap itself up in a few years time. Its successes and failures highlight several important points that these future sagas must address if they wish to avoid some of the pitfalls that keep the PoP trilogy from sheer greatness.

First off, a good trilogy needs to stay consistent. We all know about the hiccups that occurred in Warrior Within, though I found them far less offensive than most. Their true damage can be seen in the final chapter of the series, Two Thrones. Ubisoft felt that the angsty, goth direction of Warrior went too far. One over steer leads to another, and suddenly the angry, darker prince is replaced with his old voice actor and personality, and even new clothes. →  Shadow of the Article

Thoughts on filler

While playing Professor Layton last Spring, I remember Jay asking me (before he had purchased the game himself) if it were true that the game was bad because 80% of the puzzles were simple, the kind of thing that you could solve in 30 seconds and with little thought. The answer was a yes and a no. Yes, a large percentage of the puzzles were essentially filler puzzles put in to extend the length of the game. No, I didn’t think this made it a bad game.

This lead me to think about the nature of filler in games and how we approach and accept it in different genres. For some reason, the idea of filler puzzles seemed to bother a lot of people in the online community. In some ways, I can understand this. →  What is a post? A miserable little pile of secrets.

Review – Haze

If you still view Free Radical Design as “the guys who once did Perfect Dark and Goldeneye”, then their game catalogue might seem fairly weak. Second Sight was a successful experiment, and with the Timesplitters games they carved themselves a nice niche in the shooter market with their blend of Goldeneye inspired design and offbeat humor. To be frank, this is a very good situation to be in.

For those that would assume that Free Radical’s output is a failure should it fail to match Rare’s classic shooters, I would remind them that having David Doak and some friends start up their own studio does not automatically mean that the entire Goldeneye team was ready to rock. Goldeneye and PD were lightning in a bottle, something that can’t be easily replicated. →  Drakenread 2

Review – Rock Band 2

Rock Band 2 came out this past weekend, with an odd Sunday launch to be precise. You’d have been hard pressed to learn this from Harmonix’s site, which was oddly devoid of fanfare about the release. Fortunately, the local Gamestop was plastered with signs indicating that Rock Band 2 was in fact available, and they didn’t even give me much shit when I told them I hadn’t reserved a copy. A moderate line of 7 people made me feel like less of a loser, particularly when most of the people in the line were young, hip, and attractive. Truly times are changing when the person behind me was a cute girl in her twenties (with her boyfriend) demanding Rock Band 2.

What you weren’t able to get was the full bundle: new guitar, new drums, new mic and game. →  All the lonely gamers, where do they all belong?

Confusion, Bewilderment, or Why I Bought A Playstation 3 and Need Help

For reasons and in ways I need not delve into here, I made the sky open up and rain money down upon me. Lots and lots of money. Enough money to get me out of debt and leave me with almost a grand to disperse however I saw fit. I could have done many things with this leftover cash: I could have bought new tires for my car that desperately needs new tires, I could have paid off all of this upcoming semester of school, but instead, I bought a Playstation 3. I am Yoda wise.

I didn’t just go out and get any old PS3 either, I had to get one that was backwards compatible with PS2 games and so my only option was the $500, 80gig Metal Gear Solid bundle. →  I regret learning to read.

Clueless Gaijin – Phantasy Star Portable

Sony’s PSP has proven that if there’s one thing that the Japanese love, its Monster Hunter Portable. Seeking to capitalize on the success of this absolute sensation, Sega’s finally ported a version of Phantasy Star over to the device. It’s funny, back when the PSP was announced; I felt that Phantasy Star Online, a game that at the time was dominating my free time without a shred of mercy, would have been a perfect fit for the newly conceived handheld.

Years later I get a mildly skewed version of my wish in the form of what amounts to Phantasy Star Universe on a handheld. For those keeping score, Phantasy Star Universe was a largely uninspired sequel to PSO featuring a forgettable story mode, needlessly complicated coop play, cumbersome equipment creation system, and a criminally bad theme song. →  Readlevania

Review – Spore

I am not sure how to introduce this review so I am going to start gently. If I were the kind of guy that was into fellating people to get what I want, there would be a short list of people that I would be willing to drop to my knees for. Right off the top of my head, I can only actually think of two men, the first being Trent Reznor if he promised to give me another album equal to or greater than The Downward Spiral; the second guy is Will Wright.

I can’t think of what I would ask Will Wright for in exchange for orally pleasing him but if he were into bartering, I am sure I could come up with something. I have always liked Will Wright because, thankfully for my succulent lips, he gives me what I want without forcing me to choose to spit or swallow. →  50 Cent: Readproof

Gaming Community Rant

My last few weeks of gaming have been dominated by two downloadable games, Braid and Bionic Commando. While both playing each game and reading the discussions surrounding them, I came to a great personal revelation. Whenever I get into a state of severe crankiness, it isn’t because of the games I am playing. In fact, I like playing them quite a lot. My bouts of frustration and anger stem almost entirely from the gaming community.

Folks, games really are still good, even if there is a lot of crap to tread through. But the “industry” as a whole, from the companies to the press to the fans, is in a miserable state. Here are a few observations as to why this may be the case.

For one, we can argue all we want about whether games are art, or whether they are the pinnacle of entertainment. →  Readius III and IV

id Super Pack

This weekend, Steam is having a half off sale on all id Software games. That means you can get classics like the Commander Keen series for less than the price of a Starbucks latte. If you really want to be thorough, the id Super Pack is also part of the sale, meaning for 35 bucks you can get every Doom, Quake 1-3, Wolfenstein, Heretic and Hexen. Its a ton of games for a sweet price, and no matter how little or lot I have played some of these games, I realized I haven’t paid much for the id games I have played. It was time to salute this fine company, as well as get a huge chunk of FPS history in one convenient location.

In this day and age, where piracy is almost the norm for PC games and hardly an afterthought for old games, paying for anything pre-Quake might seem like an outrage. →  Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.

Clueless Gaijin – Kenzan

So there I was, in Japan, wandering about in the gamer’s wonderland that is Akihabara. I had purchased a PS3 shortly before my trip, planning to make use of the device’s lack of region coding to return triumphantly with all manner of bizarre import games and blu-ray anime.

Things did not go as planned.

It seems that anime on blu-ray will set you back well over $80 per disk and the PS3 has yet to receive the influx of “oh, that shit is so crazy that it’s NEVER coming out in the US” titles.

But they did have Kenzan.

Kenzan is a pseudo-sequel (maybe prequel?) to Sega’s critically acclaimed, albeit not tremendously successful Yakuza series. This time taking place in the 1600s and putting you in the shoes of an identical-looking ancestor (Sega laughs in the face of basic genetics!) →  [left click on your mouse to open the remainder of this post in your web browser on your digital computing device]

Review – Silent Hill Origins

Over the years Silent Hill has gone from being a cult classic that all the cool kids preferred, to a media darling that the cool kids still preferred, to a struggling franchise that no one seems happy with. This is because no one can agree on what Silent Hill is all about. The basic idea has been that it offers a deeper, “psychological” style of horror that the proles playing Resident Evil may not understand.

As the series has gotten older, the people making it seem to believe the games are defined by increasing amounts of gooey penis and vagina monsters. Diehard fans often pin the spirit of the series to the original Team Silent. If you ask me, the meaning of Silent Hill is apparent. The problem is that no one really wants to use it. →  I am become game, destroyer of words.