Jumping the Shark Podcast #78


No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week on Jumping the Shark the whole gang is back in action as we wax patriotic about American game design versus that of the rest of the world. In the what we’re playing part of the show Danielle talks Ocarina of Time 3DS and Trenched, Brandon picks over Hunted and talks about his experiences with the iPad version of the indy RPG Avadon: The Black Fortress, and I talk about Ticket to Ride for the iPad and a little more Dungeon Siege III. Enjoy and we hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July!

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Lord of the Rings: War in the North Quiver Edition


I enjoy taking the time to tell you how much I dislike these deals every time I see them and here’s another chance to do just that. Before getting into the specific store pre-order deals, the deluxe big daddy edition of the game comes delivered inside a quiver and will run you a smooth $130. From what I can tell even if you buy the $130 edition with the leather quiver case you still don’t get all of the store pre-order items…

Amazon.com

Exclusive to Amazon.com, pre-order the game and get early access to part two of the War in the North Digital Comic written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Simon Coleby and produced by DC Entertainment. The comic book reveals the back story leading up to The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Players will also receive the Orc Champion sword for in-game use.

Best Buy

Embark on an Elven adventure with the Elf Theme Pack, equipped with a mystical Elven sword, armor and helmet, and get access to the Lothlórien Challenge map.

GameStop

Visit the Citadel of the Stars and the Tower of Stone with the Human Theme Pack equipped with an exclusive human sword, armor and battle attire of the Human Ranger, and get access to the Osgiliath Challenge map.

Target

Immerse yourself in the sounds of Middle-earth with three exclusive tracks from the War in the North soundtrack.

Toys ‘R’ Us

Receive a limited edition, signed War in the North poster by Jim Lee, and access to download parts one and two of the War in the North Digital Comic at launch.

Wal-Mart

A Dwarven quest lies ahead for everyone who chooses to pre-order at Wal-Mart; the Dwarf Theme Pack includes an exclusive dwarf sword, armor and helmet.

Slow News Day


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It’s July 5th so for us Yanks it means “The day we go back to work after a long holiday weekend spent eating carcinogenic food, watching fireworks and trying not to blow our face off as we celebrate the day two great founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, ironically died. And the day we flipped England the bird.”

It’s also a somewhat slow news day so when I saw this on the feed I just had to share. All I will say is this: if you spend $280 to buy these glasses simply keep it to yourself, for we can no longer be friends.

The Steam Top 10


A few of things about this list, which details the top selling games on Steam last week. First off, boy the lack of DRM is just killing sales for Witcher 2. Way to go CDProjekt.

That THQ Hit Collection deal is CRAZY. CRAZY.

$50 sale for a ton of great THQ games from Dawn of War II to Metro 2033, Saints Row 2, Darksiders and more.

Finally, the game Terraria is the above video. Anyone played that?

1. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Digital Premium Edition
2. Portal 2
3. Valve Complete Pack
4. Borderlands: Game of the Year
5. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition Deluxe
6. Terraria
7. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Pack
8. Might & Magic Heroes VI
9. THQ Hit Collection
10. Fable III

UFO Online: Turn Based Online X-Com?


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Apparently I have been asleep at the switch because I had no idea this game was even in development. UFO Online is one of gamigo’s (small g) free to play online games that is currently still in development. It’s a turn based strategy game played in your browser where you can battle against the AI or other players. That’s all I know. You can know what I know (and pre-register for the game) by going here: http://ufo-online.gamigo.com/

I found out about this today when this PR arrived:

Anyone who has ever wanted to see their words immortalized in a game’s loading screen should jump on this opportunity. The developers behind UFO Online – Fight for Earth, gamigo’s turn-based online strategy game, are looking for the best anti-alien slogans to entertain players during short loading periods.

The rules are simple:
- Anyone who wants to participate can send their sayings to ufo@gamigo-gm.de
- A week later, the best sayings will be posted on the UFO Online Facebook page to be voted on.
- Only sayings that make sense will be considered. (I thought this was an awesome thing to add)

As a special thank you to those who submit the winning phrases, not only will their sayings be used for the loading screens, their names will also be added to the game’s credits.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – 2027 World Trailer


I missed this on Friday but it’s one of those brief behind the scenes trailers with developer commentary. As is the case with a lot of you — I’m really looking forward to this one.

Rockstar and Team Bondi No Longer BFF's

No High Scores

Reports are all over the internet this morning that Rockstar and Team Bondi did not play nice over the development of LA Noire and Rockstar will most likely be turning down further opportunities to publish games from the Australian development house. An article at gamesindustry.biz details how Rockstar wasn’t happy with the creative direction, or lack thereof, on display at Team Bondi and Team Bondi wasn’t too happy at Rockstar coming in and taking creative control away. The article paints a picture of a game and studio that would have gone under before the game’s release had Rockstar not poured money and resources into it. In a relationship like that, it’s understandable that both parties would be less than thrilled with the other. You can definitely see Rockstar’s influence all over LA Noire, and the game certainly benefited by having the Rockstar name on it, both in the marketing department and the reviews department, so it’s hard to see what Team Bondi is pissed about. Interesting enough, there’s no mention of any tension caused by Team Bondi’s penchant for taking the corpses of worked to death programmers and boiling them down into a nutrient rich sludge to feed the next batch of programmers. Given that Rockstar did pretty much the same thing in their San Diego studio during the production of Red Dead Redemption, I can see them looking the other way.

Gameindustry.biz also has a nice selection of emails from Team Bondi insiders that lay out that yeah, working for Team Bondi pretty much sucked and studio head Brendan McNamara is a giant, talentless bully. At this point, shitty people management and project management skills aside, I’m not sure what publishers are going to be lining up to work with a studio that takes seven years to put out a game, especially when it’s so clear how much of a Rockstar bump the finished property got in terms of critical response.

Calendar Man – Week of 7/4

No High Scores

Today is the 4th of July here in the States and as such, is a day off, so I’m going to keep this one brief. Well, that and there’s only one game of note being released this week and the deals aren’t anything to write home about. That game is the bug-busting, budget extravaganza that is Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, available for both the 360 and the PS3. The official street date is the 5th in North America, however some GameStops have been selling the game, so if there are any open in your area and you can drag yourself away from the revelry, maybe pick up a copy.

As for deals, they pretty much suck except for Best Buy which has a ton of games on sale. For example you can get Fallout: New Vegas for ten bucks. The list of deals varies by store, which makes this a clearance event more than a sale, but check your local store and see what games you can get. Steam has a ton of stuff on sale for the 4th, and Impulse appears to have gone puzzle and adventure game crazy with their sale, so between the two outlets, I’m sure you’ll find something.

Me, I plan on doing some yard work and then kicking back with a beer, some macaroni salad and a grilled meat that has yet to be determined. Not a bad way to spend the 4th. Here’s hoping your day is safe and happy as well.

Sunday Time Waster: The Irony of This Column


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I should spend the time it takes to write these Sunday Time Waster columns playing games because I don’t have much time to play them. Sure, as a group we in the media play most, if not all, of the games as they come out, plowing through them like we’re watching an entire season of Mad Men in one sitting via Netflix. When you do that, sure, you technically see all of the shows and can discuss plot points with other fans, but your experience is going to be a little different from the person who watched it during the regular season, eagerly awaiting each week’s episode just to see how Christina Hendricks can fit into that dress….

For a lot of game writers, the products we review are disposable. Sometimes, they have to be simply because the product isn’t very good but other times it’s impossible to really dig inside a game, to get to know it inside and out. You can make the case that you don’t need to do that in order to do the job, but the number of games I feel I know on that level truthfully is limited – even after “completing” a game it’s not the same as the person who pays $60 and spends weeks or even months with it.

When you write about games either as a full time freelancer or (I’d argue especially as) an editor you get a very limited amount of time with a game before you have to write an evaluation of it. For most websites that’s roughly a week. Seven days to play a game, think about what you played, and then whip up some magical words of wisdom on whether or not you should buy it. Seven days for a game that could have taken years to develop. Of course, as I have said many times, I try not to look at reviews in that light. Who am I to tell you to buy a game or not? All I can do is relay my experience with something and you can judge for yourself if my criticisms matter to you. I’m no mind reader.

It’s why review scores are totally useless.

In truth, I miss print writing. Well, print writing as it was in the “old days” of the late 90s. Longer lead times—sometimes more than two weeks to review a game. It’s one of the reasons I run later reviews on GameShark. Ask the people who write there; I rarely even hand out hard deadlines. Our reviews are later than most sites as a result but I like giving writers a chance to let a game breathe. I hate power game reviews. Gamers know their games better than the critics do. That’s not a jab at the people who work in this field but it’s also impossible to deny. My friend who has played Halo 3 since release knows that game far, far better than anyone who played it for 7-10 days and wrote a review.

When you find a game that you like, how much do you play it before succumbing to the lure of GameStop or Amazon for your next fix? I find myself struggling with this a great deal and it’s one of the downsides of doing this job. We are constantly putting our heads down and acting like a fullback on 4th and 1 and running straight ahead through these games – even games that are not meant to be plowed through. Sure, your typical action game might contain an eight to ten hour campaign with typical multiplayer modes thrown in but what about other types of games?

I reviewed Shogun 2, loved it, and played it for as long as I could before being forced to move on to other projects. I literally don’t have the time to play games post review for any serious length of time – Out of the Park Baseball being an exception because of our online league which I fiddle with for about 30 minutes a day. Perhaps people with different life styles can do that, but I have a wife, a ten year old daughter who wants to spend time with me doing things that don’t involve videogames. I love to read, I play basketball three times a week, I’m a music junkie, I play boardgames with family and friends when I can – I like to think I have a life outside of videogames so sitting down and playing another long campaign in Shogun 2 simply isn’t possible.

Last night I sat down and played the brilliant PC game Hannibal: Rome and Carthage for about an hour. It was great. Smashing Romans with my elephants, not caring that it was historically inaccurate. I didn’t finish the game and I doubt I will. It was an hour of gaming for no other reason than to simply ‘play a game’. That’s rare. Ironically enough I am playing FEAR 3 at the moment for no other reason than to play FEAR 3. As a gamer at heart, I miss that – a lot. Of course NCAA 12 will show up Tuesday and I’ll get to work on that review and Out of the Park 12 is out now and I need to get cracking on that too. Panzer Corps drops July 11th. Warhammer 40K Kill Team is right around the corner. So is Madden. And I have other articles to edit for GameShark. Then there’s are work here at NHS. The cycle continues.

Every job, almost no matter what that job is, can turn into…a job. I’m not naive about this sort of thing though; my father worked 30 years in a steel mill, and I worked summer jobs there so I know how cool this job is compared to “real work”. In fact it’s a big reason I vowed …not to do that. That said, Shogun 2, even with all of its great post release patch support will have to wait.

I might as well uninstall it.

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Just a heads up — we’re running a new contest this week. Make sure to stop by, I’m thinking Wednesday. Maybe Thursday.

Batman: Arkham City 12 Minute Gameplay Video


Sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy.