Metro: Last Light E3 Gameplay Trailer – Part 1


Get on the Barnes and Abner train and get excited about Metro: Last Light. This is part 1 of the demo we saw at E3 in June.

Ain’t it purty?

We’ll post part 2, where things get, um, hectic…when it’s available.

Dungeons of Dredmor Released on Steam


Much buzz about this one. I’ve been reading the Gaslamp website for a while now and its first project, the roguelike Dungeons of Dredmor, is now available on Steam for the exceedingly friendly price of five bucks.

Grab it here (http://store.steampowered.com/app/98800) and we’ll put the game through its paces shortly.

Netflix Hits the 3DS Today

No High Scores

Netflix continues its plans to have every single consumer electronic device streaming movies right to your eyeballs by bringing Netflix to the 3DS today. Soon, nothing that plugs into the wall will be free from Netflix’s video delivery service. Coffee makers, toasters, electric toothbrush rechargers, they’ll all be able to let you watch Dexter as you go about your day. The Netflix update won’t cost you a dime, so fire up that 3DS and get the update. Granted, if you don’t pay for Netflix’s digital delivery service, it won’t do anything but at least you have one more filled in tile on your 3DS dashboard, making you feel like you can do something with the damn thing.

NCAA 12: Well, looks like you can close the book on Kellner.


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I think I need to watch Major League again.

Anyway, I’m almost ready to close the book, not on NCAA 12, but on NCAA 12′s Dynasty Mode.

Yesterday I wrote about the really slick gameplay changes for NCAA this year; in fact I think NCAA 12 plays a pretty good game of football and is clearly the best the series has ever been on the field.

OFF the field…well…guys look. There are a lot of people out there (just read the forums at EA.com, Operation Sports and any number of other popular sports game forums) that want Dynasty Mode to play as close to the real thing as possible. I know the guys who work on NCAA are college football fans. I know they know that this isn’t right. They have to know. So why are things so screwy every year?

So, what’s wrong with Dynasty Mode?

Let’s walk into the future — to the fall of the year 2013…

In 2013 we see…

42 quarterbacks rated 90 or higher

41 running backs rated 90 or higher

The country is filled with B+ to A+ rated teams, as progression has simply gone insane. You can make the case that the overall score for these players doesn’t matter, that it is the individual ratings that carry more weight and this argument would hold more water if EA shipped rosters that reflected this. They didn’t. This CLEARLY can’t be how it’s meant to work. EA can’t possibly mean for Ohio U (not Ohio State, but the Bobcats of Athens) to finish 12-0 in 2013 and have an 81 rated HB win the Heisman. That can’t be right.

What this does is effectively make your NCAA Dynasty a crap shoot when games are simmed as truly great programs are likely to go 6-6 because everyone is rated so closely together (unless you are truly a bottom feeder team.) A team might go 11-1 one year, still have a great team the next and lose 5 or 6 games due to randomness.

This isn’t 2018 we’re talking about, which is time enough for a smaller school to turn into a great program. Boise St. and TCU didn’t turn into great teams in one year. By 2013 we see a lot of small schools simply “get good” because of player progression. I have seen teams go from a C- offense into a B+ in one year — and not due to freshmen, but due to huge leaps in player progression.

By the end of 2013 we’re looking at a top 15 that includes Ohio U, Indiana, Utah, and Houston. Florida? They have fallen off the map by the end of 2013. Texas? Ditto. Auburn remained a powerhouse. Ole Miss is now a 11 win juggernaut. Wisconsin and Iowa are now the cream of the B10 crop as OSU, Penn State and Nebraska have fallen into the ranks of mediocre teams.

We see the preseason poll with Alabama, Florida State, and Ohio State all graded out as either an A- or an A. Their preseason ranking? #50, #53, and #71, respectively. FSU is graded a solid “A” and is ranked *71st* in the nation. That is …just plain weird.

Some of this stuff will likely not bother many NCAA players, and that’s fine. But for those of us who want our Dynasty mode to resemble what real college football is like, it’s terribly frustrating that EA can’t — or won’t — fix this.

I realize that with a 70 player roster limit that you are changing the entire landscape of the sport because if that were a real rule you’d see a lot of changes in the world of big time college football, but player progression is a seperate issue and one that EA needs to take the time to fix. Please. I beg you.

The Widening Gap

The above video is a video on how to raise horses on Howrse.com. Howrse.com is a freemium game developed by Owlient, a free-to-play company that was just purchased by Ubisoft, ostensibly to cash in on the whole free to play model. While this is an interesting video, the one I really wanted to show you can’t be embedded, but it is no less fascinating as it chronicles the death of a horse. The fascinating thing, at least to me, isn’t so much the video, as I don’t understand any of it, but the comments…

Reading through the comments brings to mind all manner of questions. For one, what is this philosopher’s stone the commenters mention? What is the black orchid? What are these items that they hold sway over the Grim Reaper in the land of Howrse.com? What are the skills that these commenters mention? The dying horse in question apparently had very high skills, skills which further warranted the use of a Philosopher’s Stone. Better yet, there’s a mention of divines. Are they celestial ponies set high atop a pedestal, their station far above that of mortal ponies? Finally, the commenters accuse the video’s creator of “aging” the horse, causing it to die as a result. Is this a thing in Howrse.com? Can you, through repeated clickings of the mouse, cause time to move past the horse, taking all of its years, its future, the very possibilities for its soul, away in the process? How messed up is that?

When I see things like this, I can’t help but be drawn to them, not because I have an interest of raising virtual ponies, although I do love myself some horses. No, I’m interested because I’ve always been interested in the fictions that support this and other games. I can assure you that there is an extensive Wiki for Howrse.com that answers all of my questions but if I go there, I’ll only find more questions. Worse, the time I would spend doing other things would get sucked away and hours will have passed before I knew they were gone. I speak from experience having lost countless hours to similar information gathering expeditions.

Once, Bill mentioned Warhammer and I spend two hours reading about Space Marines, going so far into the fiction that I was mentioning things to him that even he didn’t know about. It’s true. Ask him about the acid producing salivary glands. When Tycho and Gabe talk about whatever miniatures they use in their board gaming evenings, there’s an hour gone. Gone. God help me if someone makes an obscure reference to something in comic book lore, of if Hodge and I get in a discussion over some minutiae from Green Lantern because it means a complete and total halt to any and all productivity as I follow rabbit hole after rabbit hole, my Chrome window buckling under the strain of dozens of open tabs.

So when I read things like this, and fail to understand them, despite being an avid player of games, I wonder if this strange, obscure talk of magical items meant to restore vitality to aging cyber-ponies is what older people like Donnie Deutsch hear when they hear people talking about any kind of video game. Maybe it’s just too strange for them to understand, because they’re not immersed in it, and instead of having the curiosity to seek out what it all means, they dismiss it. As much as I like to think that growing up in one of the steepest periods of technological evolution will prepare me for whatever devil box is lurking in the shadows waiting to ensnare my children, maybe it’s not a measure of your current experience, but a measure of how willing you are to put all of that aside and figure out just what the hell it all means.

2K President Christoph Hartmann Throws Firaxis (and Ray Charles) Under the Bus


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What is it about people in charge of gaming studios and their penchant for saying incredibly silly things?

Christoph Hartmann, in an interview with MCV calls out strategy games, Ray Charles, and takes irony to a whole new level.

Before we get into his game speak, did you know that if Ray Charles were alive today he’d sound like Kanye West? It’s true. I mean Ray was a black man who grew up in the segregated south and was raised on the blues so of COURSE he’d be rapping today about “being a motherfucking monster” because that’s simply what modern black guys do. Keyboards? Come on, who does that?

Here’s the quote:

The ‘90s generation of gamers all love Xcom and we own the IP, so we thought OK, what do we do with it? Every studio we had wanted to do it and each one had its own spin on it. But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary.

Oh, wait this is the other stupid thing…

Strategy games aren’t contemporary? And shooters are?

This is going to be absolutely devastating news to Blizzard, who more or less prints a lot of contemporary money with StarCraft II. I’m sure this news will also be taken with a heavy heart to the people at The Creative Assembly as Shogun 2, while becoming a huge hit for Sega, fails the contemporary test. Relic has to be wondering how all the money they made for THQ with the Dawn of War series will look now that Christoph Hartmann called them out for working in a less than modern field.

How does Paradox even stay in business as that company more or less lives off of making strategy games on the PC. I should call them and tell them they’re all in serious trouble over there. They’re Swedish though, so I’m sure they’ll take it in stride. They’re very nice people, you know.

Hey, wait, doesn’t 2K own the Civ license? Didn’t they publish Civilization V and also make some coin off of that game? I wonder what the folks working at Firaxis think about this. When the president of the company comes out as says in no uncertain terms that the genre you work in is for old people who remember when music was on cassette tapes, what does that say? Sure would make me feel great about my future at that company, unless I just wanted to make more abortive Civ games on Facebook.

Facebook — now THAT is contemporary.

Anyway, there is nothing wrong at all with taking a popular license in a new direction. That happens all the time and if your vision for XCOM isn’t a remake of the original game, fine, but generically calling what is still a VERY viable genre in this industry a waste of time is incredibly stupid — especially when you have one of the top strategy developers UNDER YOUR UMBRELLA.

And based on what I have seen of XCOM…”contemporary” is most assuredly not the term that springs to mind.

Ah, yes, the Ray Charles bit. Almost forgot:

I use the example of music artists. Look at someone old school like Ray Charles, if he would make music today it would still be Ray Charles but he would probably do it more in the style of Kanye West. Bringing Ray Charles back is all fine and good, but it just needs to move on, although the core essence will still be the same. That’s what we are trying to do. To renew Xcom but in line with what this generation of gamers want. The team behind it is asking themselves every day: ‘Is it true to the values of the franchise?’ It’s not a case of cashing in on the name. We just need to renew it because times are changing.

Nice analogy. It’s obvious what he means when he says this, and really it doesn’t offend me as being as racist thing to say, although you could certainly take it that way. It offends me as a student of music, and especially as a Ray Charles fan. Why not use John Legend as an example? Hell that guy sounds like Ray Charles! Kanye West? What the hell? What would Frank Sinatra sound like today? I’m gonna go with…Kid Rock. I think Lenny Kravitz would still sound like Lenny Kravitz, for what that’s worth. Although he should seriously consider getting into rap. That’s a pretty hot genre.

Still, saying “To renew Xcom but in line with what this generation of gamers want” makes very little sense to me. People who love X-COM want what they want — who exactly does Hartmann feel gives a damn about the X-COM license other than those who remember when microwave ovens were introduced? Does he seriously think the kid who plays Call of Duty and Halo even know what the hell X-COM is let alone cares that 2K is trying to modernize it into a shooter?

I’m going to leave his 2K Sports quotes alone because I don’t want to pile on…even though 2K Sports is a shell of what it used to be. There was a time when 2K had the best football game, basketball game (pro and college), hockey game and baseball game. Today? Not so much. (Aside from basketball.) Say what you will about EA Sports but EA took 2K to the woodshed, and you can’t blame everything on the licensing stuff either. Whoever was responsible for Kush Games taking over so much of the development of 2K’s sports games should be fired. Period.

Anyway, the point of all of this is to remember that 2K is trying to be contemporary, hip, with it, and always moving forward.

Any company that publishes Duke Nukem Forever is down with what the kids want.

Because nothing says “the now” like Duke…Friggin’… Nukem.

The other side of the Team Bondi story

No High Scores

No doubt you’re familiar with the scandal surrounding Team Bondi (the team behind LA Noire), and the accusations leveled against studio head Brendan McNamara – insane crunch hours, near-bullying behavior on the part of management, and other workplace woes. Brandon covered that earlier in the month right here.

Recently, however, Gamasutra published a letter that Team Bondi Lead Gameplay Programmer Dave Heironymus sent to the IGDA, giving another perspective (you might say, his side of the story) on the studio’s inner workings. After first expressing some concern that he would be labeled “Brendan McNamara’s sock puppet”, and agreeing that he would like to see improvements to scheduling, he’s a big believer in the team and in McNamara.

It’s a balanced letter, but it does contain the following slippery slope argument:

“I never (and in my experience, neither did any of the other managers) expected anything from my team that I didn’t expect of myself. The management team at Team Bondi was not ensconced in an Ivory Tower working normal hours while everyone else crunched. Brendan himself worked very long hours and few of us here in the studio are aware of how grueling the DA and motion capture shoot in LA was.”

In any workplace, in any industry, you are expected to work hard – but the idea that management is totally ok in asking employees to work crazy hours (because they expect that of themselves) can get into unhealthy territory. Best practices and limits do exist for a reason, even in the murk of crunch time.

In any event, it’s very clear that Heironymus loves his team, and loves the game they made:

“I’m proud that we managed to pull L.A. Noire away from the brink and get it shipped, because it’s a great game and it’s a rare new IP in a sea of sequels. For those of us that made it to the end, L.A. Noire is a huge source of pride.

Please think about that when you talk about boycotting L.A. Noire or about how heinous Team Bondi is. There is a team of dedicated game developers here in Sydney that look forward to learning from their mistakes, improving on their successes and taking on the world again next time around.”

The Art of the Pitch

The above video, of Double Fine’s Tim Schafer pitching Once Upon A Monster to Cookie Monster is the perfect example of how to roll with the changes and adjust your pitch ideas on the fly. It also shows that Cookie Monster keeps his cookies in a humidor which may be one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.

Achievement Hunters Take Note: EA Dropping Some Online Services

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If you were thinking of picking up some older EA games like Army of Two or NCAA Football 10 for the express purpose of achievement hunting, well, you better get going. Soon EA will shut off the multiplayer services for those games and a bunch of other . No multiplayer services means no multiplayer, and no multiplayer means no multiplayer achievements. EA does this frequently which is why it’s important for you to do your research before going about getting those points. After the break are the games and systems that are going to be shut off…

August 11, 2011 Online Service Shutdown
Army of Two – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Army of Two Demo – Xbox 360
Battlefield 2142 Demo for PC
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat – Xbox 360
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat Demo – Xbox 360
Medal of Honor Airborne – PlayStation Portable
Medal of Honor Heroes 2 – PlayStation Portable and Wii
NASCAR 09 – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
NCAA Basketball 10 – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
NCAA Football 10 – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Need for Speed Most Wanted – PC and Xbox 360
Need for Speed Undercover – PlayStation Portable
Skate – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 – PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 Demo – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

October 1, 2011 Online Service Shutdown
Madden NFL 10 – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
NHL 10 – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

Hold on to your drawers, Catherine demo out now


So yeah, two of the weirdest games of 2011- El Shaddai and Catherine- are coming out on the same day and guess who gets the Gameshark reviews? Yep, me. I’m downloading the Catherine demo as we speak to prepare my self for the madness (or idiocy) that this game promises. I have to say that I really don’t know what to expect out of it other than bizarre puzzle-platforming and weird sexed-up anime freakout sequences that almost surely display the always progressive and insightful Japanese attitudes toward women, gender, and relationships. I do love a properly weird Japanese game and I’m still reeling in the dual disappointment that Mikami and Suda left me with after Shadows of the Damned, so I’m actually looking forward to it. And at least it’s a Japanese sex game about actual adults this time, for a change. Anyway, Atlus sent us a press release, you wanna hear it? Here it goes…

ATLUS today released the official demo for Catherine, the upcoming action-adventure/puzzle game for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system (PS3™) and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. The demo, available now via Xbox®LIVE (initially only to Gold members) and PlayStation®Network, offers players a tantalizing glimpse into the game’s breathtaking amalgam of themes and genres.

The demo, which takes players on a relatively brief tour of Catherine’s introductory sequence, touches on almost all these facets. The story, a crucial part of the game experience, is told via both stunning anime by Studio 4°C and beautifully rendered in-engine cutscenes. The game reaches its first emotional climax just at the conclusion of the demo, establishing the game’s narrative impetus and leaving players yearning for more. With an equal sampling of story, gameplay, and exceptional visual appeal, the Catherine demo promises to give curious fans answers to their lingering questions and plenty of reasons to purchase a the full game upon its release later this month.

Catherine is currently scheduled to release on July 26, 2011 for PlayStation 3 system and Xbox 360 system with an MSRP of $59.99 for the standard edition and $79.99 for the limited-run “Love Is Over” Deluxe Edition (available at participating retailers, while supplies last). Fans are encouraged to pre-order at participating retailers to receive the Catherine Sound Disc & Art Book, a free extra available to customers who reserve either the standard or deluxe edition of the game for either platform. For more information, please visit www.catherinethegame.com.