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Every Sega Game Ever Made On Sale (On XBLA)

No High Scores

If you like Sega games on Xbox Live Arcade, but loooove money, do I have some news for you. Every Sega game on XBLA is currently on sale until April 25th. Prices range from 33% to 50% off and you can get some games as low as $2.50. Less than three bucks for Streets of Rage? That’s cheap enough to have an entire city block of rage! Crazy Sonic, his prices are insane!

From the Sega Europe blog.

Portal 2 Impressions: These Points of Data Make a Beautiful Line

No High Scores

I’m not a Portal fanatic. It took a $5 Steam sale to get me to try it in the first place, but when I did I have to confess I knocked it out in two sittings. So, yeah, I certainly enjoyed it. I also, however, recognize it for what it is: A novel premise, with some creative gameplay, a killer antagonist (still takes a back seat to SHODAN), and a kick ass closing sequence and song. Ultimately, that’s all I’m looking for out of Portal 2, which I’ve now put about two hours into…

I’ve been a bit worried in the run-up to its release that Portal 2 would stray too far from the formula that made the first one work. Unlike a Dragon Age game, I don’t want epic here. I don’t want to turn into a regular shooter with guns and such. I want a narrow, focused, short(ish) experience. I want wit. I want creativity. I want puzzles to solve that make me feel like a genius, but don’t push into sadistic land where I end up walking away from the PC in frustration when I realize I’m actually not nearly as bright as I want the game to make me think I am. (That sentence makes sense if you read it twice.) Mostly, a whole lot of the latter. I was worried, a I read about lasers and goo and such being added to the experience, that the puzzles would become a nightmare fit only for people who had a lot of success at high school geometry. I was worried GladOS would become a caricature of herself or that she’d be replaced with something not nearly as devilishly charming.

I worry too much.

I’ve got a ways to go yet, and I haven’t touched co-op, but so far this is exactly the kind of sequel I was hoping for, with the same gradual learning curve that lets you ease your way into the puzzles without throwing you into the deep end of the pool. Just as skillfully as the first game, it trains you from puzzle to puzzle to think the way you need to in order to overcome each subsequent obstacle.

One of the many things John Walker absolutely nails in his RPS review of the game is that to talk about anything beyond the first hour of gameplay is to spoil things. So I won’t. I’ll just note a couple further items and tell you to make sure this game ends up on your pile of stuff to play before the year is out.

1. GladOS is brilliantly bitter. This isn’t the celebratory-in-spite-of-defeat GladOS we get hints of in the Still Alive song that plays during the first game’s epilogue. GladOS is not happy and she will let you know it in the most insulting and petty ways she can. I love her so much.

2. There’s a new traveling companion (he comes in, in the games opening minutes), Wheatley (pictured), voiced by the co-creator of the original (British) version of The Office, Stephen Merchant. I don’t know if he wrote his own lines, and some of it is just that British accents are inherently awesome, but goddam he’s funny. This intro to this game does not work without him narrating your way forward.

3. I haven’t gotten to the goo yet, but manipulating lasers to solve problems has resulted in a couple of great puzzles to solve.

4. You don’t have to have played Portal to enjoy this, but you are so much better off if you did. It’s about four hours of play. If you missed it then do that first.

Anything more risks revealing stuff you should discover on your own. Personally, I don’t intend to rush my way through the game. I like that the spaces between puzzles are natural break points, so I can just play an hour or two at a time and come back later without feeling a loss of momentum. I’m savoring this one as I “waddle” from test to test.

Magicka Facebok Poll to Determine Free Map

I’m a fan of Magicka. I’m particularly a fan of Magicka when playing with friends. I need to try the new Vietnam thing which just looks like pure insanity, but in the meantime there is a poll at the Magicka Facebook page which fans can use to determine which of the two upcoming Challenge Maps will be given away for free, either the Caverns or Marshlands, both spotlighted in the above video.

A snip from the PR: Wizards can try to survive the Caverns, inhabited by more trolls than this website, or try something refreshing and new in the Marshlands: Zombies, the monster that fills a completely untapped niche.

The poll is here and right now Caverns is taking it.

No Foolin'- iPad Arcade Cabinet Now Preorderable

No High Scores

Last year Think Geek took part in the annual, annoying as hell buffet of April Fool’s jokes with a listing for an iPad Arcade cabinet, built to look like the cabinets we all grew up with. Well, all of us codgers any way. Apparently consumer demand was so high for the joke device that Think Geek went ahead and made them a real thing. It won’t ship unitl late May but you can now place your preorder for the iCade. The iCade connects to your iPad via Bluetooth and will play any game that supports Bluetooth controllers, such as the Atari’s Greatest Hits app. Convenient that is. Along with the cabinet, an API will be offered to developers to make their games iCade friendly as well. Nothing like playing Infinity Blade on something that looks like it belongs in the back room of a Chuck E Cheese.

Lord of Ages Launches Today

I know nothing about this game but it sounds interesting and is free. This is a weirdly worded PR as you’ll see and I have no idea how you attack a swamp or a wilderness but I’d like to find out. Why does it start a numbered list at 2? Again, I’m at a loss. On the other hand, there isn’t anything here to strikethrough so it’s perhaps the craziest press release I’ve read in quite some time. But I’ll be damned if the game doesn’t sound fun.

You can play the game at http://www.lordofages.com

PR ahead:

Lord of Ages is a free-to-play, real-time construction and military simulation strategy browser based game, middle age warfare theme.

There are various buildings, units, heroes and hundreds of items to play with. Build your own buildings, recruit your loyal units, join an alliance, perform joint operation with allies, expand your city and discover new equipment. With more power, you are able to rule an empire. Even while you are away, your buildings under construction still continue building, resources will still continue producing, and population will still grow.

Experience combat, where you decide how many units will go, which hero will lead, what equipment to bring and what kind of this battle is.* Choose from many different nations and locations.

*(No idea what that means either I just post the stuff, folks.)

In Town, you will see different building sites and in the City, resources fields. To build on these fields, all you need is to click on it, then hit the construct button….

2. To upgrade a building or use such building’s features as recruiting troops, researching and making outfits, simply click the building or click those easy access buttons at the bottom of screen.

3. To recruit troops you need to enter the Barracks. More advanced troops require technology research from your academies, more resources and an upgraded Barracks. Also, it takes longer times to recruit higher level soldiers.

4. To gain trophies like resources, coins, gems and heroes, you can attack wildernesses on the Map. There are Swamp, Hill, Cave, Forest and Valley available for you to attack.

5. To increase your attack or defense ability, you can recruit more soldiers, conduct related researches, join an alliance, increase your own attack and defense on the Lord interface with items, or appoint a hero to lead the troops when go out for military operation.

You are recommended to… Construct basic buildings!

By constructing Farm, Sawmill, Iron Mine, Quarry, you can produce necessary resources to build other buildings, recruit troops and so on. By constructing Town Hall, Cottage and Warehouse you can administrate your city development, have peasants to build your city, and store your resources.

Join or create an alliance!

Alliance is the community where players gather to help each other. You can choose to join an alliance created by others, or create one on your own, or even go it alone. If you join an alliance, you can probably increase your attack or defense ability as long as the alliance you join is equal to or higher than level 1. Also, when you are under attack, your sisters or brothers may help you out.

Attack wildernesses on the Map!

There are swamp, cave, hill, forest and valley on the Map awaiting you to conquer. As long as you attack one successfully, you can definitely win the trophies which can be seen before you start the battle and later in the War report inside the Mail. They could be Coins, Items, Resources and Gems.

Heroes can be also captured through attacking wildernesses!

If you ever feel confused or overwhelmed with what to do, please follow the Quests. It will help you grow in the beginning by rewarding your efforts with various resources, Coins and Items in Lord of Ages world.

Lord of Ages, like all of Dragonsmeet’s games, will not require players to download – all play data is saved online. It is also free to play, but special items can be purchased via the game’s online item mall.

The First Templar Goes Gold; May 10 Release Set

Before I start the morning’s news run (damn..it’s 12:15?) I’m going to plead to your better sense of understanding that if I’m lacking my normal razor sharp wit and impish grin it’s because I’m sick today. Fever, aches. The works. But I’m also restless and can’t sleep so I figured I’d post some news. Dedication, people. That’s what it’s all about. So off we go.

Kalypso Media USA, Inc is pleased to announce that The First Templar, its action/adventure game for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC has gone gold. The First Templar follows the story of the brave Knights Templar as they search for the Holy Grail, and defend themselves from their enemies. The game features co-operative combat and puzzle solving in both single- and multiplayer modes, and allows for split-screen play on the Xbox 360. Kalypso will release The First Templar on both platforms on May 10 in North America. For more information, please visit www.thefirsttemplar-game.com

The First Templar is a co-operative action adventure game, set in a dark and gritty portrayal of the late 13th Century during the Crusade where old friends become enemies, corruption spreads throughout the Church and once noble knights oppress the weak and renounce their oaths.

Follow the path of two unlikely heroes on their search for the Holy Grail. The young french Templar Celian teams up with the noble lady and proclaimed heretic Marie to unveil a grand conspiracy within the Order of the Knights Templar. The heroes face opponents at every turn including the Saracen, King Philip of France and the Holy Inquisition.

The First Templar offers a captivating campaign that can be enjoyed alone or cooperatively with a friend. When playing solo, the player can switch freely between the two characters, leaving the control of the second hero to the game’s AI. At any time, a second player may join in and take control of the second hero.

PSPgo Has Got Up and Went

No High Scores

Rumors have been swirling for a couple of weeks now, but Sony finally made it official. The PSPgo has left the building with development resources now focused on the upcoming NGP. Remaining stock will still be sold and Sony will still support the device, but no new units will be produced. I always felt bad for the PSPgo as it never seemed like Sony knew what to do with it, which is why it was consistently outsold by the PSP proper. The success of the iPad and iPhone shows that digital only games can succeed, however I still think there has to be some sort of price reduction. If I can get God of War: Ghost of Sparta for 40 bucks as a digital download, or spend the same amount of money on a disc that I can either loan to a friend or sell for a small return, why would I pay for the digital only version? Personally, I wouldn’t and it looks like a lot of other people wouldn’t either.

A View From the Other Side

There is always another viewpoint. Tom Ohle, one of those “PR” people I deal with on a regular basis, wrote an interesting op-ed today that you should read as a counterpoint to my ramblings about storms or whatever the hell that was.

Tom’s one of the good guys.

In this piece, which he calls The Case of the Great Game Nobody Saw, Tom talks about working as a PR rep for smaller companies, trying desperately to get games that they think are worthy some attention from large game sites.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation Multiplayer Trailer

In this new trailer, Treyarch discusses the multiplayer map design in Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation.

The due date is May 3rd for the Xbox 360.

The Storm?

One of my daily stops when I’m making news rounds or when I just want to read about an old man living in Austin, Texas is Bill Harris’ Dubious Quality blog. I’ve known Bill for a long, long time. I only “met” him once at a drive-by “hello!” at E3 one year but we have been talking games for over a decade.

Fun fact: Bill Harris is responsible for me hiring Brandon to write at GameShark and thus why Brandon is co-hosting the podcast and why he writes here for your reading pleasure on a daily basis.

Yes…yes…you have Bill Harris to “thank” for that.

Today I came across an interesting story at DQ. It’s about how mega publishers are starting to limit access to the media in terms of review copies, overall access, as well as in potential ad money.

Bill calls it a storm.

I’m not so sure…

There are a lot of great things about working in the games industry.

You know what the best thing is?

I work in the games industry.

Every day I get to play, talk, and write about games. I get to talk to people who make games. I get to share my opinions with other people who play games and they get to tell me how brilliant or how stupid I am when it comes to games. When people in the sleepy Ohio town in which I live ask me what I do and I tell them they stare at me with both amazement and sometimes derision.

“Yes, Marge, I’m a 39 year old child. Just give me my mail already.”

You know what I don’t like? The other stuff.

Fighting with PR over review copies. Being told that we can’t post a review of game X before the embargo “unless the grade is at least an 85 on Metacritic.” The sites to DO score that high get all the pre-release traffic so we’re forced to ether inflate a grade or lose the hits.

Being told that sites which use letter grades do not get advanced copies. (Because of the way those scores are translated on Metacritic.) Knowing this is untrue because 1Up sure does. Then realizing we aren’t 1Up.

Defending my writers’ competence when they “score” a game lower than the average for a game.

Defending Tom Chick. (Which I will do until they kick me out of the business.)

Being told that we can’t get review code (at all) for a game because we didn’t post positive previews and/or screenshots every time new ones were released.

Having to worry about how many hits we’re going to lose because we don’t have a day one review of the hot new title because we tend to get review copies later than everyone else (don’t get me started on this one) and the fact that I let the staff take their time when evaluating games.

Add those together and you usually get reviews that are several days late. It is what it is.

So when I read something like the post at DQ the only thing that pops in my head is, “It was a matter of time.”

This is the truth: Publishers have every right to give out review copies and offer access to whomever they wish. It’s their dime. Just because we claim to be “media” doesn’t give us the right to complain about not having said access. They hold every card when it comes to that side of the relationship.

The gaming industry, the media part, has always struck me as a very odd entity. 15 years later — it still does. We are in an extremely unique situation in that our livelihood, well, to an extent, is reliant on complete cooperation from the people we are trying to objectively cover. I don’t mean to be a pain in the ass, but if a publisher thinks I am, why bother dealing with me? Kindness? Do you know how many websites are out there that cover games? All a game publisher has to do is cut off access and poof. You’re done.

But would that really be a bad thing?

“Day one” reviews have been a problem in the industry for YEARS. It used to be, back in the old PC magazine days, that reviewing “late betas” allowed you to get your review in a magazine a month early. There was a magazine that was notorious for this and everyone had to follow suit. So what if the code wasn’t final? Close enough! We have a deadline here people!

Today, the idea of reviewing betas isn’t as prevalent but instead reviewers review special builds that will only run on special units. When you review games on these machines you (normally) get the full experience, unless a day one patch is issued which can then make you look like a dope. (NCAA 11…) It’s also really hard to test multiplayer — especially in games with a high use rate. So in a perfect world reviewers shouldn’t have to worry about day one reviews as much as they should worry about writing good reviews. Even if it takes longer.

Speed.

We’re so concerned with speed in this industry. First to review, first to post news, first to post a rumor. It’s everywhere. Games are hyped to no end and after they are released they’re usually ditched to the side of the road and the next big thing starts to make the rounds. You see huge displays at conventions, all hyping the next great game from Publisher X and after it’s released you don’t hear from it — until the sequel/DLC/expansion is announced. Reviewers are pressed by their editors to get a review done by an embargo date at all costs even at the expense of actually finishing it. Miss the review window and the freelancer doesn’t get called again.

Fact is, the game media needs desperately to cut the cord from publishers and if you believe what the DQ piece says, it sounds like the publishers are going to do the cutting for them. I haven’t seen any evidence of this yet, (well, maybe some but it’s hard to say) but that’s not to say it isn’t happening. Regardless, we honestly need the media to be more Consumer Reports and less Entertainment Tonight and definitely less Fan Club. (Stop cheering at a press events.)

Now, it’s important to note that I abhor generalizations and there are many examples of media outlets, and many individuals, that don’t fall into that category. And I would be equally wrong to insinuate that every publisher and PR person is an “only numbers matter” monolith of impenetrability. There are a lot of good people in this business. But it’s such a slippery slope.

What does all of this mean to you?

Let’s say this comes to pass and that publishers will only play ball with “the top two game outlets” then the question flips around back to you.

Just how gullible are you? Would you notice? Would it matter? If publishers try to control the message to that degree, wouldn’t you be able to tell? I think you would.

In another perfect world the game media would be no different than the average gamer. Sure, we’d have access to trade shows, talk to people, do interviews, maybe a preview if a game truly interests us, but in the review circles the fact that the media and the publishers have been working so close to one another for so many years simply isn’t good — for the consumer.

The other part of the article — the ad part? Maybe it’s not the best idea for media who cover the industry to have ads plastered all over the place to begin with? I have never been told to write a good review because company X advertises with whoever I was writing the review for, but it just looks bad. If your website has a lot of traffic there are many ways to advertise other products. Trust me — if you have the numbers ad agencies will line up.

In the end it’s a losing proposition for publishers because they can’t completely control the message. They’re trying, though. Why do you think we’re seeing so many internal interviews and developer diaries? It’s all message control. It’s just business. Why HOPE an editor or some jaded writer will say what you want when you can do it yourself? Self Press. It’s the future.

That said, that only goes so far. People talk. A bad game will still be a bad game regardless of when the reviews go live and if we only see two or three sites with day one reviews, you’ll notice it. And if this happens game websites will once again have to reinvent themselves, which may not be a bad thing.

But people will always want that fast review. It’s like I said Sunday.

The Whales need feeding.