Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Late to the Party

So, because Plants vs. Zombies is the free Vita game in this week's Plus update, I decided to grab it and try it out.  As possibly the last person alive who has -not- played any iteration of the game by this point in time, I am hilariously late to the point where it's almost irrelevant, but I wanted to speak on it anyway because that is sort of what I do, as you might have noticed by now.  Previously, my only exposure to the game was watching my rather young nephews play the game on a Kindle Fire, passing it back and forth between levels and/or failures.  Without an actual induction to the mechanics and such, I just sort of had to infer what was actually going on, but the relative ease of expressing how to play to the player that the game possesses made it a pretty simple task.  Now, playing it for myself, it turns out that exactly everything I suspected whilst watching it played is, in fact, correct.

To say that it's got an easy-to-use interface is to say that water is wet and other such overused sayings.  Do I even need to explain this?  No, but I'm going to anyway.  The goal is to keep zombies from knocking on your front door, which you accomplish this task by planting various plants that impede their progress.  The currency through which you buy these plants are 'suns' which appear on the screen via two methods - at timed intervals, a sun just sort of pops down, and you can plant the aptly-named Sunflowers which will generate them as well.  Every level just revolves around keeping Zombies from knocking down your door, which is not a difficult task to do, at least not at the start.  At its core, Plants vs. Zombies is simply a Tower Defense game, which is a genre I've expressed something related to displeasure with in the past.

This is not a game that has changed my opinion, unfortunately.  Plants vs. Zombies really doesn't do anything that other Tower Defense games don't do, so, to me, it doesn't really stand out all that much.  It falls into the same pitfall as other TD games so often do, where it becomes less and less about 'strategy' and reaction, and more and more about implementing the same exact spread when you can since, in 99% of the cases, it will keep you safely in the unchallenged position.  The image I've used above, taken from one of my own plays, is basically my spread.  Really, the only problem is keeping zombies away at the start, and then by the end, my offense is so ridiculously overpowered, plus a double-wall, that I could put my Vita down and go grab a drink, only to come back to my success.  At best, it's amateur strategy hour, and at worst, it's dreadfully boring.  Well, at least for now.

The game will, I'm sure, ramp up the 'difficulty' in later levels, which basically means that the hordes will appear faster and in greater numbers which isn't so much a challenge so much as it's pitting you against something that strains at the very foundation on which the game was built.  It's a difficulty spike in the same way that turning Enemy Health to 300% and Player Damage to 50% is difficult in that it's bullshit and doesn't make clever use of anything at all.  It's difficult in the same way walking in snow with weights attached to your feet is really hard to do.  What I'm saying is that I'm honestly not a fan of the way most games handle difficulty and Tower Defense genres tend to be among the worst offenders in this regard, since it is apparently an impossible task to design something of the sort with balance in mind.  Instead, it becomes Starship Troopers, in that you're kind of always going to die against an endless onslaught that you're in no way prepared for.

Regardless, the game is rather charming and, as I said, insanely easy to play.  While I can't say that I don't enjoy the game, because I certainly do in a sense, Tower Defense is still just not my bag.  The game itself has rather lovely visuals, a certain amount of charm around it and it's addicting if nothing else.  That may be in part due to how it seamlessly throws you from victory screen to set-up screen for the next level, preying on your impulse to say "one more level, just one more" until you've been playing for four hours and realize as much.  As something I got for free, it's fantastic and I can see myself throwing a good bit of time into it whilst I wait on other things, but it's not something I would have actively sought out, and especially after playing it, I'm glad that I didn't.  A little fun is still fun, of course.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Music! Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE (Kind Of)

So, this is going to be a slightly different type of Music! post in that I'm not going to solely gush over three particular pieces of music from the mentioned Metal Gear Rising:  REVENGEANCE.  What I am going to do is express my appreciation for -one- song and then point out my annoyance with the way the whole OST has been wobbled.  Because, in all honesty, it has kind of been wobbled in one of the honestly weirdest ways I've ever seen something as simple as a soundtrack done.  I suppose that's....impressive in a sense, but really, I would've preferred things been easier since REVENGEANCE honestly has a really good soundtrack and this all is only going to detract from opinions of it.

The song I really want to focus on here tonight is possibly my favorite song off the entire soundtrack, which is Mistral's Theme - "A Stranger I Remain".  Mistral is the first real boss fight that you experience in the game as REVENGEANCE Raiden, so perhaps there is something of a different connection there, but really, I do rather enjoy the song that accompanies the fight.  Or...rather, I like -a- version of the song that accompanies it.  This statement requires a two-fold explanation of just what I mean - the first being the easiest.  One of the cooler things that REVENGEANCE (yes, all caps all the time, deal with it) does with the soundtrack is that there is an Instrumental version and a Vocal version of every song.  If you enter a fight with a full Blade Mode gauge (possibly even accrue a full gauge during the fight), you will be treated with the Vocal version, otherwise you just get the Instrumental.  That's pretty cool.

The other facet to the explanation is that there really seems to be no 'official' version of any particular song beyond what are on the actual, printed Soundtrack CDs out there.  The issue with this is that there are two Soundtracks - the Instrumental Soundtrack that came with the Limited Edition, and the Vocal Soundtrack that is available in stores and such.  Except, the Vocal Soundtrack is a little mis-named because it is actually the Remix Soundtrack since every song on it (bar one) is either a Platinum Remix, a Maniac Agenda Remix or a "Low Key" version.  There are also 12 Instrumental tracks that are, of course, the remixed versions of said tracks, so they're not Vocals at all.  Which means that there is no -Official- Soundtrack with the original versions of the songs available anywhere.  This is bad.  This is a Bad Thing™.

I think the easiest way to show off this disparity is by just getting right to it.  First up is the version of the song that's actually on the soundtracks and actually in the game, which is the Maniac Agenda Mix.

So, it's pretty simple, really.  A short tune meant for looping because Boss Fights will either take a little bit or less than a little bit and you're probably not really paying attention to the music.  Being that it's slightly more electric and metal than the original version (which is next) it makes for a little higher energy for the fight which is most welcome.  Unfortunately with being such a short remix, there's quite a bit of the song that is cut out which is a bit of a shame because it's a good song all told.  Well, kind of.  Again, it's all a bit of a complicated situation which I will further expound on now.

So, now that you've had the Remix, it's time for what is -possibly- the original version of the song.  I say possibly because, in truth, I have no damn clue if there's an easily accessible version of the originals of -any- of the songs, much less A Stranger I Remain.  Still the uploader is "MetalGearRisingOST", so I would assume this is kind of the only thing they are doing and thus I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt in this.  As said, this is (kind of, possibly) the 'Original' version of the song.

I would like to point out a couple things with this song.  First off the two minute rock interlude is a little self-indulgent and I always dislike this in songs.  It just irks me unless it's like a really mega-kickin' riff.  Secondly, you get to hear the parts of the song that -aren't- in the remix version, which I actually really like these parts.  Those parts are what got me to like the song overall, honestly, though it wasn't that version of the song that I listened to to hear them.  That is, in fact, the third part that I wanted to mention which is the most hilarious of them at all.  In that entire song, the whole five minutes and twenty-one seconds, compared to the two minutes twenty-six seconds of the remix, it actually leaves the entire first verse of the remix version out.  I don't know if that is exclusive to the remix or what, which seems silly if so, but it adds to the confusion.  The lyrics that are missing, by the by:

I've come here from nowhere
'cross the unforgiving sea
drifting further and further
it's all becoming clear to me
that violent winds are upon us and I can't speak
internal temperatures rising
and all the voices won't recede

I cannot imagine how this is a thing that has happened.  The only thing I can figure on, like I said, is that that verse was recorded solely for the remix version of the song, but that's rather silly and I don't know if I want to believe that.  It's something that, as said, further complicates what is already something of a complicated thing.

And just to add another layer of confusion to the whole basket, neither of those is the version of the song that I've been listening to.  Because there's yet -another- version that has -all- the lyrics that I stumbled across first, and, as such, it's the version I'm used to.

I'm honestly not sure if that's a fan-made version, but I can't tell of any obvious splicing and the background to the missing verse in this version doesn't sound like the background to the same verse in the remix.  Where it actually shows up.  So, in all honesty, I have not a damn clue what version of the song is the actual version of it.  Because I have a version with all the lyrics in said song that I've heard in other versions combined, and then I have a version from what seems like the closest to an 'official' uploader that is missing an entire verse while also including a mentioned over-indulgent two-minute guitar solo.  I personally like the last version I embedded, but that might also be because I am used to listening to it and such.  Still, the verses are all in it and they're all fairly nice.

It's a rather unfortunate situation that mars an otherwise really good soundtrack.  In that you have no idea what's -actually- there to give props to the artists, and what is possibly the work of someone else who took a song (possibly multiple versions of it) and played around for a few hours in a music program.  I'm holding out hope that they're going to do a digital release of the original tracks which will kind of cement just -what- is real, but I don't know why they didn't just do that when they released the game and the Vocal Remix album, if they were actually going to release the originals.  Still, there's a monetary gain to be had in doing so, so there might yet be a chance that it'll come out in the following weeks.  In the meantime, we do always have youtube, I suppose.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Friend Network is Heading to NA Vitas

(Note:  The trailer is from last month at least and is for the Japanese Release)

Remember when I said that people amaze me in that they can make a game out of literally anything?  Like waking up?  Well, that trend continues with the announcement of the latest couple of apps heading to (non-Japan) Vitas, of which I'm specifically talking about Toro's Friend Network tonight.  Now, the premise of Toro's Friend Network is just as simple as Wake-Up Club - the 'game' is about making friends.  As in, sending off friend requests to other people.  That is the game.  It is not the only facet of the game, but it is the main component of it, as the 'goal' is to try and get 100 friends on your friend list so that Toro possibly could achieve his goal of becoming a human. kind of Toro's thing.  Trying to be a human, I mean.  Oftentimes through crazy schemes.

As I said, on a basic level, it's a fairly simple premise - Toro wants you to make friends and you're given a venue in which you can easily do so, with lobbies that sort of combs what you play and tries to match you up with others that play similar things.  You can exchange 'business cards' which is the actual friend request, and upon doing so, you are then friends!  As I said, it is literally the friend request process turned into a little game.  It's strange, but oddly, it works quite easily and adds a whole new layer to the process beyond the clinical checking of a profile, compiling a message and sending it off.  It manages to make it all quite charming which is something to be touted, I'd say.

Of course, there's more to it than that, thankfully.  The video shows off your personal living space, which I assume is just sort of your friend hub so you have somewhere to be other than the friend lobbies and social networking lobbies.  But it's not just a hub, so much as it is something that you can customize more and more as your friend list grows and grows.  You get increasingly extravagant locations that I presume has progressively more and more area to work with to customize it.  The video shows that you can put your friends to work improving the appearance of the space which I presume does more than just make it more aesthetically pleasing, though what actual statistical value it might have is a bit lost on me without knowing more of the mechanics.

On top of that, there's something referred to as the "Friend Dungeon" which we'll simply ignore so we can peacefully move along without gigglefits.  With this dungeon, you can apparently select two of your friends to explore said dungeon.  From the video, it appears to have an RPG-lite approach to it, in that you and your friends do battle with somebody else who you can, upon defeating, attempt to befriend as well.  I don't know if there's an actual exploration/dungeon-crawling part to it as well, which would certainly be neat, but I'm not going to get -too- hopeful because, well, who knows how big or small this app is actually going to be.  It certainly looks impressively deep from the presentation, and I would hope that it is, so that it can be a proper time-sink.  Since, well, it looks pretty fun.

The post says that it will be out sometime this spring, which is something that you can choose to believe or not.  The last time we were promised apps, the actual timing of them was quite a bit.  Three apps were supposed to release consecutively - Paint Park, Treasure Park and Wake-Up Club - yet Paint Park preceded the two by more than a couple weeks (months, actually), and then I believe there was a gap between Treasure Park and Wake-Up Club as well.  Whenever it hits the store, however, it's assuredly going to be a freemium title as the rest of the apps have been.  I would imagine there will be exclusive items and decorations that you can only obtain via purchase with real money, as well as being able to buy 'points packs' to give yourself a little bank to spend without doing too much work.  Yet, you'll still be able to get a good experience without spending a dime.  And that's what this looks like - a good experience.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

One PS4 Worry

Let's face a few facts here.  If there's absolutely -anything- that the Playstation brand has definitively got going on these days, it's absolutely Playstation Plus.  It's undeniable at this point - for $50 a year, you get access to a constantly expanding library of games for both the PS3 and the Vita, Cloud Saves for both devices and a suite of other niceties.  Almost instantly after you subscribe, the inherent value to the service is made apparent and even if you don't take full advantage of -everything- it has to offer, you're still getting a great deal.  In short, it's a hell of a bargain.  Almost too much of a bargain, though, which is where the issue settles in.

Playstation Plus is built around two basic principles at the moment:  Cross-Support on both PS3 and Vita and catering to the inherent free nature of a Playstation Network account.  You don't have to pay to play online, you don't have to pay to get access to demos earlier (besides Plus-exclusive demos/betas which happen once in a blue moon) and you don't have to pay to get a 'full' experience.  It's -built- on the base experience that the PS3 provided, but the landscape is changing at the end of this year when the PS4 will join the PS3 and the Vita as supported platforms.  With what we've seen so far of the PS4's updated online interactivity, it's going to change drastically.

That drastic change doesn't come cheap, and with the go-to pay service -being- Playstation Plus, it's safe to say they'd want to use that as a way to recoup some costs and keep folks around.  What's worrisome is just what extent they're going to do so and how much of what Plus already is that they're going to have to take away to make that.  There's even a chance that the service could start to cost more once it's pulled over the PS4 as well, a really big chance, even.  Maybe even the dreaded one-two punch of announcing a price increase as well as pulling off features to make way for what has been presented in the basic PS4 service - the sharing, streaming and such.  It's a scary proposition after what has been an absolutely rock-solid program.

The best possible scenario, I'd say, would be that there's a minimal increase to match what XBox currently charges for Gold while adding features to the PS4 and keeping Plus the blanket service that it is.  Definitely not an Instant Game Collection for PS4 at the start, especially since the library will be a bit thin, but an 'introduction', so to speak, to some of the more advanced features, or at least better usage of said features.  I'm not encouraging arbitrary content locks that end up against a paywall, but it's a lot better than firmly inserting features -behind- the paywall entirely.  This is certainly not what I'm expecting, but it would be the move everyone would appreciate the most.  Everyone's happy, Sony locks in people almost from the get-go, since this helps folks not only picking up a PS4, but may also have a PS3 already, or look to get/have a Vita because of the ways the handheld will interact with the console.

Worst case?  Well, there's....quite a lot of ways that can happen.  Any combination of a higher price raise than a modest one, taking away features from the PS3/Vita's existing Plus (Let's face it - Instant Game Collection is the first thing on the chopping block) and locking down a lot of what they've shown on the PS4, or even online multiplayer, behind a paywall will certainly present a bleak outlook.  Imagine a scenario where that shiny Share button on your DualShock 4 serves absolutely no purpose because you're not paying Sony $50+ a year.  A scenario where you don't have Instant Game Collection anymore, you can't play those PS3 games in your library on the PS4 and are only able to play Killzone:  Shadow Fall with your friends because you're paying $50+ to Sony per year.  These are all possible, unfortunately, and grimly so.

Perhaps I just need to have a little more faith in people seeing a good thing going.  Yet, we've all seen good things come and go in dramatic and off-putting ways, so it's only natural to assume as much will continue happening.  The scariest proposition of all is that Playstation Plus will become something that you're not even using because the usefulness for you has gone, yet you have to keep it going for vital things like access to the games on your PS3 and Vita that you have, or one of the mentioned things for a PS4 that you might not even have.  Because they can't offer a service for the PS4 only - such a thing would prove exorbitant, especially if it's leveraged right next to Plus as a companion program.  But they can't also release the PS4 and just -not- bring Plus (or a rebranding of it) onto the system, either.  I can't help but wonder just how it's going to turn out, and clearly, I'm not expecting good things unfortunately.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mew-Genics Sounds Insane, I Want It

In what is apparently becoming a week wherein I allow myself to be more open to things I normally wouldn't care about, the latest announcement by Team Meat has me seriously considering giving their newest game, Mew-Genics, a good look once it comes out.  For weeks, they've been sort of teasing the project, handing out tidbits of information that more or less did not really equate what the game was about, and it was only today that they finally revealed that, putting all the pieces together.  Of course, just because we see the puzzle completed doesn't mean that it's something we can honestly understand just by looking and hearing about it.  I don't normally do this, but allow me to quote the story told by Edmund McMillen about a recent play session he posted in the linked announcement on the Team Meat blog.
Last week I was playing a game with Puddle, a fat female cat I had been working on earlier that day, I thawed her out of her Cryo-cube and placed her in my current single story house along with her newly generated companion Champ. I had been focusing my time on Puddle due to the fact that she seemed to have a very unique tail that I believe had helped her place 2nd in a cat pageant in a previous and I needed to breed her so I could continue her bloodline before she got too old. Sadly Champ wasn't up to snuff and Puddle made this obvious by repeatedly kicking him in the face, I separated them quickly by putting champ in the attic but when I tried to feed him.. something odd happened. See, Champ was a dullard and when Puddle kicked him he just happened to also be eating and now associated the trauma with food instead of Puddle herself, he was scared of all food.. and sadly died in the attic shortly after.

It wasn't long after though that I caught sight of a solid black stray cat named Goon, before he had a chance to run I grabbed him and pulled him inside. Goon was a much better fit for Puddle and before I knew it the humping started and puddle was pregnant! I put her in the attic with plenty of food and a bed, but quickly noticed that something was up with Goon, he seemed to be constantly falling asleep. As it turned out Goon was a narcoleptic and as you might have guessed Puddle gave birth to 2 sleeping kittens, one of them fat like his mother and black like his dad and the other small but with his mom's markings and that amazing forked tail that helped in the last pageant, but sadly both kittens were narcoleptic like their father...

Goon acted aggressively towards the kittens so I let him back out into the yard and he eventually ran away. As the kittens grew up I did enter the small one (his name was Dot) into a pageant but sadly he just fell asleep on the stage and didn't win anything. To add insult to injury Puddle also acquired feline aids from Goon and I couldn't afford any of the expensive treatments Dr. Beanies was offering so I put her back in the Cryo-cube in hopes that in the future I might have a cure for her disease once I finish a few more of the Doctor's missions.

I wasn't able to save Dot because I was arrested by the local animal control shortly after I put Puddle in the cube, probably because of letting Goon run away.. and the whole giving my other cat aids thing... or maybe it was the dead cat in the attic.
If you can read that without cocking your brow in confusion while also chuckling or at least cracking a smile, then congratulations...for something, I suppose.  That whole thing more or less shows off the gameplay aspects that are described as "a cross between The Sims and Pokemon with a sprinkling of Animal Crossing and a dash of Tamagotchi" which sounds like something that is all at once amazing and exactly what I've been gnashing my teeth for, in terms of taking Animal Crossing/Pokemon and -expanding- upon the ideas present.  Granted, it was...not in this way at all that I was hoping for, but still.  Progress.  Those are not the only elements, of course, nor does that little story even show a smidgen of what truly appears to be a completely random existence meant to give every play a 'story' for it, as was put well on display.

You would think my attention would be fine-tuned to Team Meat already, given that they're porting The Binding of Isaac to PS3 and Vita at....some point, but that 'some point' is entire the issue.  Being a small studio, working fast is not exactly their forte, nor is that of publisher Nicalis who is apparently doing the brunt of the work for the ports that we know about (PS3/Vita/PC) while also talking to Microsoft, Nintendo and seeing if mobile is a possibility without taking too much away from the game.  As in it'll only show up on mobiles "if it's not garbage" as Edmund put it.  Yet, the Binding of Isaac is a kind of game I've heard about from here and there and it seems like something you're not really supposed to hear about second-hand, but kind of figure it out for yourself and then contribute to the collective, as it were, so I'm doing just that by waiting.  If past experience is anything to go by, I will be waiting for quite a while, but that's fine.

Mew-Genics, though?  Yeah.  I am -all about- that, so I'm really excited to see how it's received when it releases.  With any luck, after Nicalis gets their wings, so to speak, porting to PS3/Vita they can extend that expertise towards bringing Mew-Genics to other platforms as well.  Again, if they can or will, it'll take a while, but I can wait.  There's plenty of things I can do in the meantime, like cut mans and raid tombs.  Probably shoot plant zombies.  And consider buying a PS4.

Seriously, what I'm saying is it's going to be a while.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Look Ahead - Tomb Raider

While it might not be that far ahead, tonight marks the first appreciable time that I've actually sat down to try and absorb the new look and the new direction of the Tomb Raider reboot.  I've read a little bit about it, I've seen bits and pieces here, but I've not really invested much into it - until this week, I was prepared to let it skip over me as I do with so many other games.  Yet, I've had this kind of nagging feeling for a while now, telling me "Hey, look into Tomb Raider"  "C'mon, it might be good", and finally when I was at GameStop to pick up REVENGEANCE with a list of other things to pre-order, I saw something that made me give in.  It's a silly thing, or rather, beyond a silly thing, but it was enough to let me give into that persistent nagging that I might give it a shot and see what Tomb Raider offers.

That little thing that pushed me into telling the clerk "Yeah, I'll put $5 down on Tomb Raider" is the fact that it releases on March 5th - my birthday.

It's silly at best, self-important at worst, and given that I haven't really taken the time to absorb that which is the reboot, it could have very well been a poor choice on my part.  Yet, I like to think that I'm not the only person who at least -tries- to do something to make their own birthday stand out from the other days of a given week, since any cause to celebrate is a good one.  After all, we're given plenty enough reasons to get upset or be angry or whatever about things without even looking for them - why not try to combat that scale a little bit?  A fun story like "I just got this game on a whim because it was my birthday, and it turned out to be really great" is just that - a fun story and something I'd like to think we all sort of shoot for.  Perhaps not this specific example, but you know what I'm getting at.

So as I've said, I've heard the outskirts of conversations, of discussion about the game, and I've read a little here or there, but nothing committed.  I've seen how one simple thing such as a picture of a female protagonist can reveal the worst about some of the folks out there that claim to share our hobby, people who we want to dissociate ourselves from.  Hell, I've heard the grumblings of folks who say the game is a little too over-the-top gruesome in terms of the inherent danger to Lara Croft as if this is some brand-new thing.  I guess it's just because Lara's a girl or something?  Real progressive thinking, folks.  Doing a service to us all, truly.

Regardless of all the negativity surrounding it, one thing that I've gleaned from everything is some things that aren't that bad and are in fact, good.  Tonight I spent about an hour looking at trailers, developer diary type things and the like and what I saw was a rather gorgeous game that looks like Uncharted and Far Cry 3 had a glorious baby.  I'm obviously not the first person to make that comparison, nor will I likely be the last, but it is honestly one of the highest forms of praise that I can give it.  In many ways, it's a return to form for the series since, well, it came -before- Uncharted and Uncharted was clearly at least a little inspired by it.  You know, just a tiny bit.  With Tomb Raider's popularity having waned in previous years due in no small part to a series of lack-luster titles (or ones that were perceived as much, at least) wherein Uncharted became a mega-hit, it's easy to say that the game that took the root formula from what Tomb Raider was and grew it is the one to take notes on, which they obviously did.  And from what gameplay I've seen, it shines all the brighter for it.

Even though I have investigated a lot, I still don't know quite a bit about this reboot, but you know what?  I'm fine with that.  I've reassured myself enough that it will be a game that I enjoy, and I know the basics of it - a formative story from which they likely hope to build a new iteration of the franchise off of.  That is most likely something that I would be a fan of seeing, from what little of the game that I've experienced.  With any luck, Lara's will be a tale that I look on with the same fondness as Nathan Drake's many stories, or, depending on the narrative, the same appreciation that I held towards the first half of Far Cry 3.  There's a lot there and it all promises to be very powerful, so when March is upon us, we'll just see what it delivers on.  I know I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

So, Okay, PS4 is a Thing

At the Playstation Meeting yesterday, the Playstation 4 was announced as expected and quite a bit about the system was shown off and explained.  Not enough for most people, but, well, most people wouldn't be happy if you sat them down with a console, pointed out every part, explained it and then gave it to them for free.  So you know, internet, opinions, you know the score by now.  Still, overall there was quite a bit of information that was detailed and as such, it's taken me a little while to digest it all.  Even now, I haven't really comprised the bulk of it in my head and that stuff will likely just require a little further clarification.  I don't even really have a 'flow' for the information and will just kind of cover it as it comes since I can't really think of any grouping to put everything in with.  Pretty much everything here is just how I understand things, so it's quite possible I might be incorrect here or there.  That happens.  Every now and then.  Sometimes.

I guess the first thing, naturally, to bring up is that the whole PS3 Streamed BC thing is a thing that will happen, but not necessarily -only- with PS3 games.  The presenter said they would like to get it working with 'everything ever', meaning PS1 and PS2 as well, but it was heavily implied that the PS3 Streaming might not even be in the device right out of the gate, so maybe don't hold out hope that you'll be able to play Grand Theft Auto:  San Andreas on your PS4 the night you un-box it and such.  You probably weren't anyway, but I'm just saying.  It is probably a thing that won't happen.  Also unclear is, well, just how you're expected to -use- this streaming since they didn't really do a whole lot of elaboration on that.  So it really is just the exact same issue prior to announcing it in that we don't know -what- facets it'll cover in regards to digital purchases only, can you use it as just a basic, non-Plus member, who gets access to what and when, etc. etc.  Not too surprising, but I'm just as unenthusiastic about it now as I was.

Gaikai's streaming isn't going to be solely for use in PS4 Backwards compatibility, however, which is the real surprise here.  In a move that is not unlike the whole off-screen play that the Wii U does, Sony is actively trying to make it possible to stream PS4 games to your Vita which is really kind of neat.  My understanding is, however, it's going to use a method much like the current remote play option, meaning it'll be internet dependent which also means that you'll be able to utilize it from greater distances than the Wii U's tablet.  Of course, being internet dependent, it might be kind of laggy, and I don't quite know if it's -solely- for PS4 games, or for anything you're playing on your PS4.  As in, could you theoretically stream a PS2/3 game to your PS4 and -then- stream -that- to your Vita?  The logical brain inside of me says no, but the hopeful part of me inside says "man, that would be so cool".  It'll be a hard thing to do, and I'm not sure if it'll be completely feasible, but the prospect of being able to play inFamous:  Second Son on my Vita whilst not at home is tantalizing and one that I shan't give up without a fight.

As for the PS4 itself, it seems like a powerhorse of a machine, just as early leaks stated.  There's a spec sheet floating around out there, but the main thing to pull away from it is just this:
Main Processor
Single-chip custom processor
CPU : x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
GPU : 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon™ based graphics engine
I've made my disinclination towards technical aspects of machines well-known by this point so, much like in the past, this is all just numbers and letters to me.  Words without form or function, though I can gleam from the collective that it is fairly impressive.  The RAM especially, because it's quite high-quality RAM and there's quite a lot of it by normal standards, and by console standards, it's a ridiculous amount, basically.  The parts are all pretty much taken straight from PC development as well, meaning there's not really any Sony-branding on anything like there has been with past machines.  What that means, however, is that it's going to be a -lot- easier to develop for, since the only thing to contend with will basically be the PS4's OS and how it actually -uses- those parts.  That it is a lot more PC-Friendly than most means that perhaps some of the more out-of-reach PC exclusives might actually head to the console since it should, in theory, be a very easy port.  More games is only a good thing even if they are filthy PC-exclusives.  (I keed, I keed)

Something that a lot of people have made a big to-do about, and probably rightly so, is that they didn't really show off a box that was, in fact, the PS4.  Given that there's still about 7 months or so before this thing will actually come out, that's not horrible, and I personally wasn't bothered by it.  But at the same time, I probably gave Nintendo shit about it when they showed off just the Wii U Pad and not the console either.  Even though that was different circumstances (Wii U doesn't distinguish it enough if you just show the GamePad since Nintendo has always been accessory-heavy, etc.) Sony could have at least put a box down and said "So, hey, this is a prototype look that we're trying out, might look different when it comes out, but we're pretty happy with this so far." and it probably would have deflected a lot of needless grief away from that particular issue.  Since really, it's less about what it looks like on the outside and more about what it's comprised of on the inside and if that's set, it's fairly simple to gussy it up.

Another thing that people made an issue with is that there was no firm price announced and this one I cannot disagree with vehemently enough.  Sony had -nothing- to gain by announcing a price at this thing unless it was $300 (which isn't fucking happening, let's be honest) and even then, people would bitch.  Or Nintendo would suddenly drop the price of the Wii U $80 so people could go "Damn, $300 is expensive now" and the whole thing becomes another boon for Nintendo.  While I am drawing from the past for humor's sake, that's a very, very real possibility.  Make no mistake about it - the Wii U is struggling for now and even though it's going to hit and hit -hard- when it gets going (because it's a damn Nintendo product, what the hell people calm down about doom), Nintendo is likely in panic mode.  Well, actually, we -know- they're in panic mode.

Doing a sudden price drop would be precisely a move Nintendo would implement since it's a perfect shot.  Sony announces the price for this in February even though it's not coming out til what, October at the earliest? and that gives Nintendo all those months to make the PS4 look that much more expensive compared to their machine.  Sony can't exactly come out at E3 and go, "Hey, you know that price we gave at the Playstation Meeting?  Well, knock $100 off of it, yeah!" since that would have them crucified in the media for not having confidence, etc. etc.  Announcing a price is something you can't take back, so doing it now would just have left them open to give everyone else a shot.  Nintendo gets a lot of free positive buzz, PS4 is kneecapped right out of the gate.  This is to say nothing of Microsoft who has their own console coming out, which is poised to be announced at E3 if not before.

The games are certainly games, that is something to be sure of.  I guess.  I only watched the trailer for inFamous:  Second Son, because it's really the only game announced that I was immediately interested in.  I've never been much of a Killzone fan, unfortunately, beyond the voicework, so the announcement of another game in the series is a bit lost on me for now.  Knack sounds interesting, but I've yet to watch that.  Jonathan Blow and The Witness just makes me laugh because of how much of an anti-console blow-hard he's been and while it's good that they're courting Indie PC Developers, he's probably about the last person I'd honestly care is developing for the thing.  (Phil Fish being the absolute last.)  The rest, I don't quite know about, and I'm more awaiting the next few conventions to find some more announcements that I really care about given that the PS4 (for me) will only be a PS4 machine.

All in all, the PS4 was pretty much what we were told ahead of time that it would be, for better or worse.  Games are going to look pretty on it and that's great, the share stuff (which I didn't talk about, but it looks cool.  Video capture is a godsend) looks really neat and could be great.  But it didn't grab me, it didn't drag me in and worst of all, it didn't really excite me.  That is, admittedly, a harder task these days, but I figured if anyone or anything could do it, it would've been this.  There's still plenty of time, and there were a lot of punches pulled, clearly.  GDC might be a rather fun event this year, and E3 will definitely be a knock-down drag-out, so to speak, which will be quite entertaining to watch.  And this?  The Playstation Meeting?  Well, it wasn't really meant to be a megaton thing.  It's pretty much impossible to make the levels of excitement that people expect with announcing a new console because we work more in the tangible and the expected.  You show them pretty videos and they complain that it's not gameplay.  You show them gameplay and they complain that it's not actually running on the console.  There's absolutely no winning, so that this was what it was was astounding enough.  It's the stuff that comes now that'll be what really means to grab folks, so that's what we're going to need to strap in for.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

inFamous: Second Son, You Say?

So, there was that whole PS4 thing tonight, which was -actually- the announcement of the PS4 as we all thought it would be, but I'm not going to talk about it tonight.  I need time to reflect on it, to digest it, before I actually figure out what I think about it, now that some of the things are more or less set in stone for it.  In the meantime, however, instead of gushing on and on about REVENGEANCE some more (which I could totally do), I am instead going to talk about this one thing that I've picked out from the entire PS4 thing.  The reason for this one is pretty obvious, as I am a man who loves some inFamous, so a new game announced in the series is cause for celebration.  This is the point where I would usually, you know, go "But" or "Except" because I have built it up and then you know, blam, gotta break it down a little.

I'm not going to do that however.  Because I am legitimately happy that another inFamous game is going to come out and, while I might have some reservations about the trailer, it is definitively another inFamous game nonetheless. Sucker Punch's forays into the genre have been fruitful in the past and with the evolution the series took between inFamous and inFamous 2, I can't -not- let my hopes get up, even if just a little bit.  I -know- there's quality here already, since their hands are the ones molding whatever this ends up being, and they've not disappointed in the past, even when, by all means they could have.  So for that, I have my hopes, I have my excitement, and I can grin and enjoy myself knowing that inFamous as a series is going to be something that continues.

My reservations come into play with a few things, however.  First up is with the new character, Delsin Rowe.  The name, of course, means absolutely nothing, not being something of import from the previous games, and there's very little about him to tell beyond what's in the trailer and the little excerpt from the description, which I will share.
Surrounded by a society that fears them, superhumans are ruthlessly hunted down and caged by the Department of Unified Protection. When Delsin Rowe discovers his powers he's forced to run, searching for other superhumans in order to save those he loves from the oppressive D.U.P. now hot on his tail. The choices he makes along the way change the future of everyone around him.
The one thing that is known about him is that he seems to be a Fire-themed Conduit.  Whether that's just one facet of his powers (could be), I have always associated inFamous as a concept with electricity.  Even before I picked up the first game and loved it, let that ingrain into my mind, it was electricity.  Hell, that's part of the reason I was drawn to it - I just like the concept of that as a super-power to be honest, and the myriad of ways inFamous and its sequel used that did nothing but astound me and grow on the affinity that was already there.  While I know on several levels that Fire can be utilized in similarly wonderful ways (as inFamous 2 showed us) it's...well, it's not Electricity.  It's not a deal-breaker for me, but it's something I'm not super-duper excited for either.

The other thing, obviously, is that Delsin is not Cole who was a pretty badass character all-told.  Ever since inFamous 2, it's been weird to consider a third in the series considering the way 2 ended (both endings, no I'm not spoiling anything) because both gave a sort of completeness to Cole's story, even if both also left ways to further expand it.  There was also the wondering of just which ending would be the 'canon' ending, since they were...quite different as opposed to the original.  Even still, with a new character and a new suite of powers, we still have to wonder which ending they'll pick for this continuation...if it's a continuation at all.

I'm not saying the word 'reboot' or 'reimaging', but it's possible that this is just a different world, a different set of circumstances and that Cole MacGrath is a character that never existed in this one.  I...wouldn't actually mind that, actually, if this is just a new tale told on much the same roots, as it were.  Besides, it -does- lend itself to some other shenanigans as well, using a different storyline entirely if they wanted to ramp things up into -real- comic book super-hero territory.  I don't want to say what's going on in my head at the moment, but it's definitely got me going 'hmmmmm' and in a good way.  Still, same universe or new, it's a new inFamous game, one with Sucker Punch at the helm and I have no doubt that it's going to be pretty damn amazing.  I'm curious and excited, if nothing else, which is hard to do these days, despite how it may seem.

Bonus Post - A Couple of REVENGEANCE LE Pictures

Look at that.  I couldn't get the entire box in the picture which is telling unto itself, but there is a friggin' handle on top of that box because it's so big.  Because the bulk of it is, in fact, the box that the Sword-Lamp comes in.  Apologies for the crappy camera quality, but these still turned out better than the pictures I took with my Vita and I cannot be assed to try even more shots.

The three main components of the LE are pictured, anyway.  The game (which includes the game disk and soundtrack disk), the Steelbook case for it (which surprised me - I just thought the game/soundtrack would be in that, but no, I get both) and the Sword-Lamp.  Now, what I'm going to mostly talk about here, is just how awesome this Sword-Lamp is.  And by awesome, I mean big, because it is McLargeHuge.  It may be hard to judge by that, so I have a follow-up picture to make it a little more clear.

You see this?  That is the Cole statue from the inFamous 2 Limited Edition.  Those of you who -have- this Limited Edition are well aware of the fact that it is not a small statue.  Yet, the Sword-Lamp?  Yeah.  It's bigger.  By a very large margin.  The actual height of the Lamp (counting the little bit of extra leverage it has because of the 'legs' on it) is around 14 and a half inches tall.  That is not, by any means, a small number in terms of Game Swag, which is precisely what this is.

But perhaps you don't have a Cole MacGrath statue to compare the Sword-Lamp too.  So, here are a few other reference points for good measure.  An original, 'Fat' PS3, standing up-right is only 12 3/4 inches tall.  The Sword-Lamp is taller than a PS3.  A Playstation Vita is 7 1/2 inches wide, so it is just short of the length of -two- Vitas tall.  The Sword-Lamp is as tall as Twenty-Five PS3 game cases stacked on top of one another.

What I'm saying here is that this LE was friggin' worth it.  No contest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


If you will allow me one thing before I get started...




So, obviously, I picked up my Limited Edition copy of Metal Gear Rising:  REVENGEANCE (I will be doing a Bonus Post to go over the box, the contents and offering pictures.  Also bragging.) today and brought it home after a few detours that cut into my playing time drastically.  That was not so great, but it's a thing that happens sometimes.  When I did manage to get home and unbox the thing finally, the first thing I did was pull out the Soundtrack and pop that into the ol' PS3 to import it, taking a look at what we were talking about in terms of Video Game OST here.  Since a lot of "included" OSTs tend to be like, 10 tracks when the -actual- OST has like 40.  I figured that would be the case here since, really, how many tracks could the game have, and how many were they just going to 'give away' like that?  So, imagine my surprise when I popped up the little disk icon on the XMB, hit Triangle and hit Import and was first introduced to the 32-Track, 630 (ish) MB, Hour and change long OST.  I will assist you in this venture:  my surprise was vast and all encompassing.  I haven't -actually- listened to it yet, just imported it, but I will because I've already heard some pretty great things in the game itself.

That was not the first, nor the last surprise that I was visited by this game and specifically this Limited Edition.  No, the first surprise was when I walked into GameStop, informed the clerk of my reason for being there, and he reached down and pulled out this massively tall box (comparatively speaking) by a handle on the top of it and placed it on the counter.  "Holy crap", I said, unable to stop myself.  "That is huge."  "Yeah, I was really surprised with just how big they were.", said the clerk with a little grin that I myself shared.  Right then and there, I knew my purchase was 100% justified, yet it would astound me hours later when I didn't even know the half of it then.  "It's blue."  someone chipped in from behind me.  Both myself and I looked back to another customer in line directly behind me, as he was pointing at my box.  "The sword lamp.  The electricity is blue, it's awesome looking.  My friend sent me a picture of it earlier because he knew I had to wait until later to get mine."  He then produced his smartphone, brought up the picture of the arcing blue electricity contained within another sword lamp to which myself and the clerk "Oooo"d and "Ahhh"d over for a moment.  Good times were had by all, I concluded my purchase (After also pre-ordering Tearaway, Soul Sacrifice, Deadly Premonition:  Director's Cut, Tomb Raider and The Last of Us Suvivalist LE since the Post-Apocalypse is all sold out whyyyy) and left, eager to get my foray into REVENGEANCE started.

Hours later, when I got home after the annoying sidethings I had to do, I went through the process described above, popped in the disk and allowed its Day One patch (presumably for the DLC, both pre-order and non) before it then had to install as well.  These times, when these things are downloading and installing, these are the hardest times ever, and it's only when a game like Binary Domain and Metal Gear Solid 4 comes along and -does- something with Install screens that you truly appreciate them for doing that.  Because the install wasn't that big, nor did it take too long, but the minutes stretched into hours and I only steadied myself with a quick couple rounds of Jetpack Joyride on my Vita - the last mission eludes me yet, but I will accomplish it one day.  Eventually, the download, the install were all done and I could finally, finally begin seeking revenge with a vengeance.

Like with the just mentioned Binary Domain, I didn't know quite what to expect, walking into REVENGEANCE, but I did expect something good.  Something fun.  And much the same as with that situation, I got a -lot- more than I expected, finding that at no point in my four hours of playing did I stop grinning, did I stop chuckling and getting excited by all of the wonderfully awesome things on the screen.  The game is beyond fun, it's beyond good - it is exquisite, and it's a whole different beast than I was expecting, but a beast that I've been wanting without knowing it.  I'm only a couple boss fights into the game as it stands, but it has already been a goddamn experience and my mind has gone wild with the possibilities and the realities of just what this is.  And what REVENGEANCE, so far, is, is a game where you do so much cool shit, so much fun shit, that it makes your head spin.  I jumped on a string of missiles to cut a Metal Gear RAY in half.  I remote controlled a Dwarf (those things with the arms) to zap a bunch of guards into unconsciousness where I then went around, cutting them up and absorbing their sweet, sweet electrolytes.  I cut a Gekko into 100+ pieces while wearing a Sombrero.

Cut all the things indeed.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Destiny is a Thing, Not Sure If I Care

For like two years now, we've been hearing about Destiny, the newest(? does that even count if we've literally been hearing about it for all this ti-oh, nevermind) thing from Bungie after their business relationship with Microsoft ended and they went independent.  Kind of.  Sort of.  Well, okay, they're just working for Activision now which basically just means that they can release games for non-360 platforms now, which they are taking full advantage of with Destiny by releasing it for....360 and PS3.  Maybe.  There are so many damn things making this story far more convoluted than it needs to be and it just makes it incredibly frustrating for someone who doesn't naturally come to this developer, this type of game, to actually find out information -about- this game that isn't mired in rumor and speculation.

To give you an idea - the rumors and stuff start on just what consoles this game will even be released on.  Nobody really knows at this point, because even though they said "PS3 and 360", since both the PS4 and the NeXtBox (I really like that name) are thought to be announced this year, with at least the former supposedly being released this year as well.  Depending on where you look, Destiny the first will release either this year or next, further obfuscating what should, in fact, be the easiest goddamn detail about the title.  Of course, it's not just as simple as two conflicting reports, because why would it be, since it's even more mucked up thanks to a mixing of rampant speculation and what amounts to common sense in the face of this sort of thing.

As I said, it's kind of common sense that they would want to get in on the next console generation on the start because, well, that means they'll be able to support the entire series on said console instead of really doing a whole lot of splitting beyond what's necessary.  The theory that says it's releasing this year still stays sound because, yes, even if it releases for PS3/360, it will also release for PS4/NeXtBox eventually in some updated fashion.  Mostly because, with a little luck, they could still release it on the latter two this year as launch titles, presuming both consoles do launch this year as predicted.  You'll notice I'm using a lot of 'maybe' and 'presuming' and 'if/then' and there's a very real reason for that which I will get into in a moment, though it's kind of obvious already.

What else isn't clear is just what in the hell the game is going to be, really.  Between concept art, about ten seconds of actual footage (?) and about fifteen minutes of pretentiousness, we really, honestly have not a single clue what the hell is going on here.  Destiny is aiming to be an FPSMMO Open, persistent-world first-person shooter that requires an internet connection to play, even single-player, because of the whole persistent-world thing.  Also I guess when you're playing single-player, you'll be paired up with co-op buddies who are also playing the game single-player.  But it's still totally single-player, you guys, and there's a single-player story and stuff.  Because it's not an MMO, you see, which doesn't have a single-player story so much as it has questlines that revolve solely around your character for your instance of playing it.  As you play, you presumably shoot things, pick up loot and, uhhhhhh.....shoot more things, which continues to mark the difference between it and an MMO, if you can't tell.

Without being cheeky any longer, I'm going to say that you might be wondering "Mogs," you wonder, "Mogs, you clearly don't have an interest in the game, so why are you talking about it?".  And it's a fair thing to wonder.  It's something that I wondered about for about four hours, staring at this window after committing myself to writing -about- it.  Because it is news, big news at that, so I felt like I should have some sort of an opinion on it.  At first, I didn't think I did.  I shrugged my shoulders and made a little hand gesture and looked around for something else.  "It's another Bungie game where you shoot things", I said.  "I didn't like it the first six times, and I hardly doubt playing in a different area that actually isn't a corridor stage will make a difference."  Then, though, then I came back to it.  I went, "Why -do- people care?"  And it's pretty obvious that the reason is that it's Bungie.

I surmised this after thinking it over for a long while.  I realized that, were this -not- a Bungie game, absolutely nobody would care.  Why would they?  This is nothing new, at all.  The concept isn't new, as there have been FPSMMO's already, some that have done it rather well, I would assume.  The scope of the game isn't really new since, aside from Co-Op being a thing, I didn't really see any real numbers being tossed about.  Yet, I'm just going out on a limb and assume the game is -not- going to have 256 players on the same wide map working towards similar or conflicting goals against one another like a certain other game already has done.  So what, really, does it have?  It has a pedigree of Bungie's name behind it whose big claim to fame is the FPS that would be King for a while, Halo, which was often praised for its mechanics and art direction.  Aside from that, there's really no reason to give it a second glance at this point.

Part of that is Bungie's fault.  A large part of it.  The real, really real, reason why I wanted to talk about 'Destiny' is so that I could go on record stating just how badly Bungie ballsed this up.  Flubbed it.  Fumbled.  Looked silly for.  Screwed the pooch.  Et cetera.

No matter how you look at it, Bungie's little press conference to announce Destiny formally was premature.  There is a such thing as timing, it is in fact something that exists, even though it is apparently something that Bungie does not understand.  Let's go by the things that -we-, the ignorant masses in the long run, know by this point.  We know that both Sony and Microsoft have made heavy allusions to big announcements which, we can infer, are new console announcements.  We've known this for a little while.  At least a month, I would say.  Time enough that, should we with our limited knowledge needed to -adjust- for said consoles, it would be possible.  We've known about Destiny, on the other hand, being a thing that exists for just under two years.  So, what I'm saying is that both of these things have been known quantities for a while even for we who don't really know a -lot- of the inner workings of the industry.

Now let us realize that whatever time we've had access to all these bits of information, Bungie has had more.  Bungie probably knew before any of us just about what to expect of the new consoles because they probably have had hands on dev kits for both.  None of this stuff was surprising, is my point.  So why, then, was it necessary to have a goddamn press conference two days before one of the consoles was announced?  In what galaxy does this make sense?  That's one of the key items into the smoky mass of 'what the fuck' in this whole mess of details and misinformation since it's just more wood, more fire to add to the pile to make it burn hotter and char longer.  Even if it's about staying 'independent' of either system in terms of exclusivity or extra support (which it's not), meaning they didn't want to piggy-back on someone else's announcement (Wednesday at the Playstation Meeting or Microsoft's E3), there was a better time for this.  Things could have been rescheduled.  And likely should since, well, maybe the game isn't even far enough along to show off.

What do I mean by that?  I mean people like Adam Sessler, who went to the Bungie Press Conference thing, saw about as much of it as we did, and you all know what we saw - jack shit.  He was instead told things with nice, cheap words, and then informed that he could not reveal said words until the embargo lifts.  So this jumped up, self-important Press Conference was for what exactly?  Nobody walked away from it feeling much the wiser about this game that has only existed in the 'someday' portion of our minds for under two years.  There has, in fact, been nothing to really -move- Destiny from this 'someday' portion of our minds because this concept art leaked like two months ago or something, we've known the preliminary contract dealings (which could have been altered) for a while now and we were shown and told nothing important pertaining to the actual game itself.  That, folks, is how you absolutely wobble something this big.

Nice, cheap words.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tonight is Writing Night

Which probably means I should be writing here, right?  Sorry, but I'm being a bit selfish tonight.  I've been working on a short story lately and I really want to get it written.

To that end, I've spent the bulk of the night reading and doing a bit of writing.  For the rest of the night, I hope to skew that figure towards the latter rather than the former.  In lieu of actually giving something here in written form, I do what I always do:  I give you K-Pop.

G.NA is one of the few K-Pop artists I was introduced to through Music Unlimited, which is funny when I mention that the K-Pop selection is limited on the service.  Which, to be fair, it is - G.NA, NS Yoon-G, T-ara (no longer on the service), Girls Generation (one album, basically), BoA, 4Minute and Gangnam Style.  That is....literally pretty much it.  Then again, the service -did- just introduce a Video Game Music Channel (with an absurdly small and strange selection.  Hilariously, there are Halo soundtracks but not, say, Uncharted soundtracks, or inFamous know, Sony properties) so maybe it -will- actually grow.  Maybe.  Probably.  Probably not.  Right.

Anyway, 'Supa Solo' is a pretty neat track and I've been listening to it fairly often the last couple nights.  Hence why I am sharing it.

That said, time to get back to the grindstone, as they say.

Friday, February 15, 2013

And Now the Wall Street Journal Says PS3 Streaming

One of the more persistent rumors about the PS4 is that, due to the drastically different architecture of the device, it won't be able to do native PS3 Backwards Compatibility due to leaving out 'The Cell" processor that the PS3 wholly relied on.  That is a definite possibility at this point, hell, I might as well say it's a probability, which is a Bad Thing™ since not only does it mean you can't pop in a PS3 game and play it on your shiny new PS4, but it will be difficult, if not impossible to bring over your PSN games as well, what with them being, you know, built on the PS3's architecture and all.  If anything, that latter point will be the one that stings the most since, well, digital games are a whole other beast from physical ones and if anything, -those- are the ones that are supposed to move with you.  Not allowing that library to shift onto newer platforms just seems like a move that will give more ammunition to everybody else.  If it goes down like that, that is, though I don't see how it's anything but an All-or-Nothing deal.

However, plenty of people have been suggesting that Sony's acquisition of the Game Streaming Service Gaikai, done sometime last June, will be implemented as a bandage for that wound.  It's all been speculation at this point, though Joystiq says that the Wall Street Journal is saying it's a definite thing.  Normally, I wouldn't give this any water to hold, and I'm still not saying I do, but the Wall Street Journal -is- the ones who said the PS4 is getting announced the 20th and released sometime this year, with much of the same certainty.  Who's to say that either report is correct, of course, though this streaming rumor has been circulating around long enough that I actually wanted to bring it up (again) in a more directed manner since I've only really touched on it in the past.  This pretty much just gave me the perfect excuse to do just that, so I decided to run with it.

The few times I have spoken about Streaming as a BC solution, I have been wholly negative and against the idea and that has not changed whatsoever.  First off, nobody, least of all me, knows just how in the hell Sony would actually plan to implement such an idea and each method carries caveats, some exclusive to that method, some not.  The general basis theory is that there will be this library of PS3 games, both retail and PSN-only that may or may not be the current digital library that will be available for streaming.  Things like Journey, KOEI games (goddamn you KOEI), and whatnot will all hopefully be present, meaning the libraries will match and you will theoretically have the same access to the same digital pool.  Except, let's face it, the library that you can buy on the PS3 and the Library of PS3 that you can stream will 100% not be a 1:1 match because problems with certain games handle data and loading, problems with licensing and just general problems.  So there's our first fault.

The next question is:  Who gets to access what in this digital pool?  Do you, by virtue of having a Playstation Network account get to stream Warriors Orochi 3 on the PS4 because you bought a PS4?  Probably not.  Do you, by virtue of having a Playstation Network account get to stream Warriors Orochi 3 on the PS4 because you bought it on the PS3?  That....would seem like it's the right idea, but it's hard to say.  It's hard to not picture that the streaming service will not, in some way, be a part of Playstation Plus, which just adds a whole new level of confusion to the mix.  Do you only get to stream if you have PS+, then?  Is that copy of Journey you purchased stuck on your PS3 unless you then also subscribe to PS+?  Do you only get access to games that you 'own' for streaming even with PS+?  (Though, provided the IGC continues, PS+ will gradually expand your library anyway)  It's convoluted, too much so, and though we might understand it, eventually, who else is?  Nobody.  How would you even market it if it was the highest case of the 'If's?  If you have a PS4, If you bought this game on your PS3 and If you have PS+, then you can totally stream it on the PS4, provided it's actually in the library of titles that can be streamed?  Who's buying that?

This is all, of course, ignoring the simple execution of such a thing.  Sony's servers for downloading PS3/PSN/PSP/Vita games have not been hailed as, well, the fastest, or even fast enough and while I'm assuming Gaikai's servers would be the ones being used instead, there's still quite a lot of things there if, in fact, the entire current digital library would be available for streaming.  Which, again, it won't be, and there won't be -more- options than the current library unless there are some massive shenanigans that make it possible.  So from server-side, it's hard to imagine that it's going to be fantastic and that is not even considering user-side whatsoever.  Personally?  My internet is shit, I've told everyone who will listen to this.  I can stream music with Music Unlimited and I can watch SD Netflix without a buffer.  I cannot do -more- than one of these things with the internet at a time.  I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that I cannot stream DmC:  Devil May Cry, Vanquish, Bayonetta, Dead Space of any variety and so on and so forth.  Hell, I probably couldn't stream Final Fantasy VII.  I am nowhere -near- the minority in this.  And even folks that -can- stream these games feasibly have to contend with internet companies far more prone to gnashing their teeth whenever you get close to a certain amount of internet usage per month, which, this sort of thing will eat away at like crazy.

At this point, I have no doubt in my mind that PS3 BC will be done through streaming rather than Hardware.  I can do nothing but sigh and make a little hand gesture at that.  It's a bad idea with bad precedent, bad repercussions and it's going to be the center of more than a few vitriolic rants from people around the internet, some influential, some not.  I'm still holding out hope that at least the smaller games, things like the mentioned Journey, like Retro City Rampage, like the upcoming Urban Trials Freestyle will be able to be downloaded, installed and played on a PS4, but I have no idea how that will be possible without a Cell.  Or how it will be possible to do PSN games, but not PS3 games.  So my hope is obviously waning a bit on that front.  Hopefully the Playstation Meeting will give me something to assuage my fears and doubts, but I really do not see how it could.  Still, the 20th cannot come fast enough so this unpleasantness is out in the light, rather than left in the wondering areas of our brains where things will almost always be -worse- somehow.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

People Seem to Think This Might Be the DualShock 4

Or at least something like this.  This is an early prototype of the eventual DualShock 4 (I mean, I assume that's what the name will be) that has been used for dev kits and such, according to some sources after Destructoid posted up the article with said image.  So, being that it's a dev kit version, and an early one at that, the probability of the final controller looking like this (though admittedly shinier) is quite low.  Yet, I'm certainly more willing to put this as the potential next controller for the PS4 over some other rumors that are floating around out there, directly conflicting with this one.  As I've said before, we are into that phase of things wherein people just really want to have those delicious, delicious page-hits, so some folks out there just sort of make things up.  Now I'm not saying anyone made anything up here, but with something as absurd as a controller with no analog sticks, well, I am in fact heavily implying it.

There are a few oddities with this prototype, however, which point to it being an early design even before it was labeled as such.  The first and most egregious, I think, is the complete lack of Start and Select buttons, or at least the lack of them in a sensible place.  It's hard to make out in this shot, but if you -can- make it out, there are two buttons on either side of the big touchpad that closely resemble that of the start and select buttons.  One can only assume these are placeholder positions, so to speak, because that....that would be a bad place for them.  Also suspiciously missing is the "Share" button that so many rumors have agreed upon the device having, being the thing that allows you to take images/video capture of a game and share it with your friends, further integrating the social media aspects of the console.  Of course, it's -probably- missing because, well, they don't want developers sharing things, obviously, but I would assume they would, again, want a placeholder position for that.  Since it's going to be a big deal about the PS4, apparently.

Moving on from what's missing on the controller, it's best that we instead focus on what is present on it.  It has pretty much all the standards:  A D-Pad (said to be similar, if not the same, as the Vita's D-Pad which is quite good), two analog sticks (that have a weird look about them, but are probably comfortable), the traditional face buttons, L1/2, R1/2 and the PS button ala DualShock 3.  The rather obvious new addition to the controller, however, is the comparatively massive touchpad (that is pad, as in a thing that is not a screen) emblazoned across the front of it and, if you'll notice, a little bit around the outer edge.  Why is that, you might ask?  Well, the touchpad is apparently clickable and features two-point touch (meaning it will recognize two different fingers or points of contact) so it's like a brand-new button unto itself beyond the actual touch-sensitive uses it'll have.  I'm not entirely sure what purpose it will serve, being clickable, but hey, more pushing things is always good.  I could surmise that the 'clicking' is only used in place of the mentioned-missing Select and Start buttons (depending on which side of the pad your finger is on) where the touch part will be available for games to make use of.  I sort of hope that isn't the case for the obvious reasons, but also because, well, I just kind of want that to be a new button.  New buttons are fun.

The other blatantly obvious piece on the controller itself is the big old sensor on the top that is lit up with a nice little blue.  Cloudy white plastic with an LED beneath on a Playstation Controller?  Well, it doesn't take a big leap to think of Move in that case, especially with so many reports using Move -in- possible controller designs (to the point where I got really excited for one such really excited).  However, I have to question just -how- Move will be implemented if this is how it's integrated into the controller proper.  On the Move Wand, the sensor (the ball) is on the end with you holding it and actively controlling where it points and, more importantly, -how- it points.  It is a thing that was designed with depth, is my point, and depth, this controller does not have.  If that little sensor is how the camera will register the move bit, that means you are holding your controller in both hands to point the sensor at the camera.  It is not, in that case, a pointer by any means and in fact becomes quite concerning if you even contemplate trying to -use- it like Move in existing games that support it.  For instance, hold a DualShock 3 and tell me just how in the hell I'm to expect the top half of it to be able to be flicked as a wand in Sorcery or swung as a sword in Sports Champions.

There is also what appears to be a speaker underneath the touchpad.  I'm just throwing that out, as I really have nothing to say about that except "yay, directional sound".

It is comforting to know that this isn't the final design of the controller if it is, in fact, an official design at all, even a prototype one.  Which it's....more or less more of what we've grown to love with the DualShock 3 with some improvements, it has some oddities about it that I would like to see corrected or, at least, explained.  If they are, in fact, moving forward with Move and keeping it integrated into the PS4, I do hope that we'll be able to use existing Move equipment for that, as I doubt there could be -much- changes made on that that would warrant a revision.  Or...again, at least as long as Move is -feasible- next generation, then I would be fine with that as well.  I am just going to need a lot of convincing if the sensor stays where it is, as it is, for basic implementation because that is the default.  And the default looks weird and unwieldy as hell, but of course, maybe it's just a thing you'll grow into.  All I know is that I'm sick of saying "We only have to wait a few more days, possibly" because the 20th is rapidly approaching and cannot, in fact, come soon enough.

Update!:  Or perhaps the new controller is this!

I could dig this one.  Certainly looks a little newer and more refined, and there's apparently a headphone jack in it for...some reason.  Perhaps to divert whatever sounds will be coming out of the speaker to your ears directly.  Still, the same problems I mentioned for the other prototype still exist for this and I'm still not completely happy.  Though it does look much more palatable.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It Is Nier Time

Which is to say that it's always Nier Time, but now specifically it is since I restarted it earlier today for the simple fact that, you know what?  I just wanted to play it.  It's been far too long since I last played it, having only lived it vicariously through other sources up to and including Helloween's recently started LP of the game.  The fact of it is that, however way you look at it, Nier is a pretty personal game, so watching it, reading it, living it without playing it is doing yourself and the game some degree of disservice, since it really shines brightest as you are playing it.  So, in an effort to do myself a favor and to respect the greatness of Nier and Cavia's best project, I figured that it was the best idea to forgo my backlog and play through Nier since, hey, next week is REVENGEANCE week anyway and I totally didn't realize it until earlier today which was like someone telling me it was my birthday, giving me a present and then also telling me I was the best at something.  It was a good feeling.

Getting back into Nier, well, it feels right.  Because I've only actually played through the game once personally (getting the endings beyond the first doesn't make you play the game from start all over again), I'm noticing all sorts of things I didn't really pay attention to the first go-around.  Mostly because I didn't consider it necessary to pay attention to them.  Which is, of course a mistake, and one that I will relay to you, anyone who might be eager to play through Nier which should be everybody.  Everything is important.  You might not think so.  You might think "Oh, they can't possibly make everything in the game relevant" and you would be wrong because that is exactly what happens.  It is a thing that happens.

Something that I was reminded of with my playthrough was just how early you run into Kainé.  For some reason, I didn't remember that it was, indeed, early on that you run into her and that was a welcome surprise.  A very very welcome surprise.  Kainé is, of course, the woman whose dulcet tones accompany the above teaser trailer that is, in my opinion, the absolute best teaser trailer for anything ever.  I am actually being pretty honest with that as, for some reason, I cannot help but enjoy everything that comes out of Kainé's mouth, and it's not just because of Laura Bailey's absolutely wonderful voice-acting for the character.  She's just a very excellently realized character and the VA-work is icing on top of that delicious cake.  Even with the supplemental information.

More or less, I really just wanted to get on here and post the above teaser while also gushing about Nier a bit.  Since that is kind of my bag.  Expect a lot of that until Tuesday since until then, I will be playing Nier and possibly afterwards which is strange to consider since, on Tuesday, I should likely have my Sword Lamp copy of REVENGEANCE.  Which means I should be playing REVENGEANCE.  And I will want to be playing that, but I will happily forgo the game, any game, to play Nier until I have completed it once more.  Because I just want to, and it's odd that I find a game that I want to do that with, especially in these days of trophies and such where I simply focus on getting those and then being satisfied with my conquest.  But, well, that's just part of the magic that is Nier.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Making a Better Clone - Harvest Moon

In realizing that I am actually going to pick up a 3DS XL this year thanks to Rune Factory 4 finally getting a localization window of 'this summer', I started thinking about the reasons why I want a 3DS in the first place.  Obviously Rune Factory 4 is the tipping point, but really, all things Harvest Moon and even tertiary to what Harvest Moon is about is pretty much what's drawing me to the system.  The other Harvest Moon game that came out towards the start of the 3DS' life, Animal Crossing, Project Wonderful, all just games that have the same little charm to them while being relatively similar in that you're just making a little life for a little avatar and working to better it in some way.  Of course, such a realization paints a pretty big light on the fact that such games are few and far in-between and while I get the why of that, it still bugs me a little.  Since these kinds of games are -fun- and I would happily buy more of them.

So, what is it, precisely, that makes Harvest Moon and its related games tick?  More or less, it seems to be the sort of free-form style of gameplay that generally allows you to do what you want.  In proper Harvest Moon, it's all in what you decide to grow, what you decide to raise animal-wise, who you decide to date, etc.  In the Rune Factory games, you have that still as well as fighting styles and skill development to consider.  In Animal Crossing (since it's honestly in the same thing), it's maintaining a day-to-day ritual and getting acquainted with the various townsfolk that breeze in and out of your lovely town.  It's all simple stuff and because of that simplicity, it's charming.  Even though things don't -stay- simple in a sense, it never becomes over-complicated and thus that charm only ever gets away from it because you simply get used to it as you're going to get used to -anything- with enough exposure.

Were I to make another iteration into this type of series, a little blend of everything that was mentioned previous is honestly the way to go, I think.  Harvest Moon's structure, Rune Factory's flexibility and Animal Crossing's importance on your avatar and its impact, as well as the transient nature of the town/city/what-have-you will all blend together to make for something rather wonderful, I should think.  A New Beginning's penchant for customization is well appreciated however, though perhaps not quite as ambitious as it could be.  Though what Harvest Moon does and does solidly is establish an area, a town, a valley or a city, what have you, and subtly guide you towards everything you'll ever need.  Rune Factory adds a lot of variety and longevity with skills and crafting, giving you tangible goals to work towards that aren't House Addition related.  And Animal Crossing makes sure you have something to do every time you play it.

Something that all three series suffer from, however, is the lack of real surprises after a while.  Eventually, you sort of get -everything- the game has to offer, in terms of understanding the characters, of figuring out the mechanics, and of really understanding just what you're going to do.  There's no real element of surprise or randomness and they could really do with that - the only example of that, really, in Animal Crossing is when folks breeze out and new ones come in to replace them.  Of course that gets stale when you realize that there's about twenty personalities for 50 or so characters, but it's a sound concept.  Something that I would honestly encourage in a proper 'clone' game and with things that we have now, namely internet connections, this type of thing would be -really- easy.

Have it so that the game can 'push' in new content at will without having to rely on DLC, since it's all...I don't want to say server-side, but something along those lines.  Take Spore, for example.  When you're playing around in Spore on, like, the Tribal stage, I think, you start running into other creatures and -some- of these creatures are actually created by people who have played the games themselves.  You are fighting or allying with the creatures of people who you don't know, who have simply played the same game.  You didn't download some DLC pack that put their creatures into your game, it was just 'pushed' in and that is what I'm getting at.  In much the same way as Animal Crossing denizens come and go, you could just as easily have randomly created people come in and leave your city/village/etc. unless you manage to convince them to stay permanently one way or another.

This all just gives you another level of control over the game and the environment while also giving you a long-term goal.  There's always the chance of that 'perfect' villager showing up, and, depending on how the game is set-up, you could do other things with that same set-up.  Perhaps have people come into town bearing exotic animals or things to grow.  With careful patching, you could coordinate new content with this type of thing as well, making everything new and exciting and surprising if only for the simple fact that that's fun to do.  Hell, you could even do events from that front, having Holiday-themed visitors coming in around whatever Holidays they're celebrating and sticking around for a few days for shenanigans before heading out.  There's honestly a lot of really neat little things you can do with something that simple.

Really, my 'big plan' would just be mixing three popular series and adding a new level of longevity through randomness and support, but, well, it's an idea.  Certainly Natsume, nor Nintendo, have really gotten that yet or just haven't implemented it in a proper enough way.  I very much hope that Animal Crossing:  Jumpin' Out (I think that's the name) will at -least- make somewhat nice use of the 3DS' online capabilities.  I'm not exactly expecting a full-blown version of what I suggested here, but adding a couple new animal villager types.....couple new outfits, things like that, it would be really nice.  I'm not expecting it in the slightest, as I haven't heard anything like that for the Japanese version, but a man can hope.  I seem to be doing a whole lot of that lately.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Far Cry 3: Beaten

By which I mean the main story is beaten.  Yes, I have...a lot of the side-content tied up as well, all the radio towers sorted, all the outposts liberated, most of the hunts completed, etc. etc. but the crowning achievement is, clearly, finishing the story to the game.  The rest is just the gravy to that meat, if you will.  Continuing the metaphor, I will say that I do believe I preferred the gravy to the meat by the time the last portions were scattered about my plate which is rather unfortunate.  To the point where I can comfortably say that I'm glad that I'm -done- with that because now I can just focus on flying around the island (sometimes literally thanks to the wingsuit) and picking up things, doing things for the last few bits of single-player trophies so that I can move on to the next game.

I could review Far Cry 3.  I kind of wanted to review it.  But we'd all be better served if I simply deferred you all towards Chance's review of the game which was the sole galvanizing factor that inspired my own purchase and playthrough.  I agree with his review 95% where my only take-aways are perhaps more my own grievances than actual issues with the game.

Which is exactly why I'm going to spend the rest of this post pointing them out.

I'm going to one-up Chance here for my first point.  To his statement that Hoyt is a little disappointing and boring after Vaas, I will see that and raise it with the statement that the entirety of the game after Vaas is just a mess.  A lot of Far Cry 3's personality, a lot of its build and its structure was made on the back of Vaas.  Not only just his character, his performance and what he stood for, but his counter-point to Jason Brody.  The imagery is plentiful in the game and the marketing - Vaas and Jason are one in the same, cut from the same cloth so to speak - it's just that Vaas has fully given in to himself, his whims and his psychoses whereas Jason still has that shred of humanity still.  They're perfectly played off of one another and the foundation of the entire game is built on top of their rivalry.

When Vaas is out of the picture, he takes part of that foundation away.  That looming threat of his way of thinking finally perveying its way into Jason's head, that idea that, perhaps, Jason could aspire to something more than the pissant with a knife stumbling through the jungle, even if it's not something tasteful.  Though, that's not entirely fair as Jason does eventually find his footing, he grows and becomes a warrior in his own right, but with Vaas around, being what inspired that change mostly out of fear, there was always a chance of regression.  Vaas was Jason's fear and without Vaas, Jason is simply the flaming sword of retribution, poised to cut a charring swath through the rest of the organization Vaas was a part of.

Which sounds really cool, right?  You would think that would be awesome.

But it's....just not.

After all that build with Vaas, Hoyt might as well have been some hobo they dragged in off of the street.  And in execution, that's....basically what he was.  You go from this story where the protagonist and antagonist are just five paces removed from one another to a story where the protagonist sees the antagonist as a target and the antagonist sees the protagonist as a rat.  It's bland and uninspired .  To their credit, the actors involved (Hoyt and Jason's VAs, I mean) try and they do nicely in their jobs, but you're only as good as what you have to work with and what they had to work with just wasn't good.  Hoyt -could- have been made interesting, even in the wake of Vaas, but it simply wasn't in the cards (ha!) for him and that is really unfortunate.

Similarly disjointed was the change in pace from the game's wonderfully crafted and personal ideas in the jungle, in the Vaas sections, to the areas in Hoyt's section that involve you shooting about twenty privateers per mission while also blowing up at least two things with not much else to it.  It's a delicious display of destruction to be sure, but it's all style and no substance.  Where I was having fun with the story missions beforehand, I simply saw the latter group as chores to be worked through.  Inevitably, each mission, I just ended up being forced to run from cover to cover, plinking away with my Bushman Assault Rifle all the while, looking wistfully off to the side where variety sat, waiting to be utilized again in the form of sections where I could actually pull off stealth (the missions allowed for very few places to hide and stalk from, forcing you into the open, and whenever a body was found, no matter the circumstances, everybody knew it was -you- that put it there); areas where sniper rifles where the weapon of the day, where I could take my time and remember what it was like, being able to savor the moment when Jason inhales, lines up a perfect shot and pulls the trigger, exhaling as a spray of red bursts into the air like fireworks on a summer's eve.

While "the last third of the story pretty much sucks" might be a damning statement to most games (and likely should be one here), I can't help but state that, you know what?  It's all just water under the bridge.  When you're playing Far Cry 3, enjoying all of the nuances you find yourself getting more and more comfortable with, there's almost nothing to compare it to.  It's breath-takingly gorgeous, the jungle feels alive and the games many, many reasons to explore only reinforce that again and again.  Most of all, getting around, carving out your own story in the backyards of the Rook Islands is just fun - no bones about it.  I can't even begin to regale the stories that I have about each and every outpost that I liberated today - because there is a story for each one - which is an amazing thing in itself.  It manages to strike a perfect balance for any type of playthrough that you might be doing, which is something we clamor for and laud when we find the scant few examples of such a thing that we have.

It's for that reason that my big long angry rant about the Hoyt section and all that's involved is just my 5% of straying out of complete agreement with Chance's glowing review.  And in a sense, it's not even much of disagreeing, I'm just hammering on something far more than he did.  The capacity for sheer fun that Far Cry 3 has within its confines is staggering, and that makes it a truly great game.  Definitely one of 2012's best, which is something I certainly never would have expected before I played it.