Hearts of Iron III: For the Motherland Released

Paradox sends word this morning (along with this new trailer) that they’ve released the latest Hearts of Iron III expansion: For the Motherland ($20). This game has always intimidated the hell out of me and nothing’s changing here. Here’s the press release:

Set between the years 1936 and 1948 Hearts of Iron III: For The Motherland lets you take charge, or delegate, at any level, from a single military division up to an entire nation across a wide variety of scenarios. Wage war on the battlefields of Europe, in the factories of the industrial superpowers, as well as at the negotiating table, in the deepest of all World War II strategy games.

The brand new release trailer can be viewed here.

Hearts of Iron III: For The Motherland is a digital download only release and requires both Hearts of Iron III and the first expansion Semper Fi to play.

- War Goals and enforced peace – each member of a faction can demand their own slice and claim it when it is taken
- New Partisan system – build Partisan undergrounds to organize your resistance movements and battle not just the occupier but also other ideologies for control of the country
- Seize strategic resources to fuel your war machine
- New Theatre Interface giving greater strategic information
- Improved internal politics and a new coup system
- The return of the battle scenario system to offer new mini-campaigns

Shadows of the Damned in Review- "Flaccid."

Look folks, I wanted the game to be awesome as much as you did. But there’s hardly anything interesting, groundbreaking, surprising, or even all that weird about Shadows of the Damned. Its biggest disappointment is in how shockingly mediocre and safe it all is. There’s nothing the game offers as viscerally thrilling as Vanquish, as subversive and postmodern as No More Heroes, or as balls-out weird as Killer 7. And there’s definitely nothing as floor-to-ceiling awesome as Resident Evil 4. Strip away the default positive reviews that some critics will give it just because it isn’t yet another space marine epic or a military shooter and you’re left with a crude, workmanlike third person shooter with a Halloween color pallette and set decoration culled from a mix of sources including Castlevania and Cannibal Corpse record covers. I guess things like baby head door knockers are really weird for people that aren’t into horror or surrealism. The monsters aren’t even interesting- most are flat out boring save for a couple of bosses. This is Grasshopper Manufacture’s most commercial and most compromised game to date. Maybe Electronic Arts is to blame, who knows.

Anyway, I gave Shadows of the Damned a very, very charitable C at Gameshark.com mostly due to its phenomenal Akira Yamaoka score and some very good, spooktacular art direction. Everything else I pretty much hated. The humor is squarely aimed at preteen boys who still laugh when they see the word “penis” in print. That was a test, If you just laughed, this game might be for you.

Funny that critics lambasted Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever for the dick jokes- where they were more appropriate given the ultra-macho genres those games were sending up- but in this game they’re given a pass along with the uninspired shooter mechanics. The pee-pee/poo-poo level of comedy imparts a juvenile tone that really isn’t anything like the horror and exploitation movies it’s supposed to be influenced by. Worse, it undermines some genuinely funny scenarios and a surprisingly fun concept of Hell. And there isn’t anything “punk” about the game barring a probable Joy Division shout-out in the “Dead Souls” slogans written on the sleeves of Garcia Hotspur’s purple jacket. I’m completely disappointed in what should have been one of the best games of the year.

Gods and Heroes Amazon exclusive- a f$#king helmet.

And you thought Team Fortress 2 was about the hats.

Gods & Heroes is an upcoming MMORPG that I doubt there’s all that much demand for, in fact I had no idea what it was until Bill Abner sent this press release to my desk with the comment “LOL”. But I so know he’d totally wear this. Now, I know that the game is an MMORPG that is offering a $219.95 exclusive helmet through Amazon.com, limited to 200 pieces. According to the Amazon page, this helmet is for PC (Windows Vista / 7 / XP).

As you can see, it’s not even a replica like you’d get from Museum Replicas or a historical costume specialist. It has a big plate on the front with the game’s logo so that you’ll look extra ridiculous at your SCA or LARPing event. I did a little research just so I could run this ridiculousness into the ground and there are a number of costumers and armorers where you can get this kind of helmet- minus the Gods & Heroes branding- for as little as sixty bucks. So unless you’re the world’s biggest Gods & Heroes fan, avoid this nonsense if you’re in the market for a Roman helmet. Press follows…not much fun here except a typo that makes the game about Romanmythology, which made me laugh. Probably out of desperation.

Heatwave Interactive, Inc., the global publisher and developer of Roman mythology MMOG (massively multiplayer online game), Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, has named Amazon the exclusive retailer for its limited edition Gods & Heroes helmet.

An authentic replica of a Roman Centurion headpiece made of heavy gauge high carbon steel, the Gods & Heroes helmet features a pronounced red plume complete with brass accents and fittings. The 27 inch circumference and six pound weight ensure that the fully wearable helmet provides a genuine experience for any would-be warrior. The helmet will be available for purchase on July 21, 2011 for $219.00, however, consumers are encouraged to pre-order now, as supply is limited to just 200 pieces!

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is a full-scale action-adventure MMOG that plunges its audience into the rich history of Romanmythology. Players must regain their honor and rebuild their Ancestral Estate while defending Rome from an evil cult. To defeat the enemies of Rome, these heroes must recruit and command more than 130 unique minions against an ancient enemy, the Telchine gods, who have unleashed a horde of cultists to topple the realm and take vengeance against the Olympian gods.

For more information on the game, please visit http://www.godsandheroes.com, become a fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/godsheroesromerising or follow the game on Twitter @GodsAndHeroes.

New Update for Hunters: Episode One

No High Scores

A few months ago I mentioned my obsession with Hunters: Episode One, a slick iOS-based squad-based turn-based strategy game. It’s been awhile since I last fired it up, but I may have to dig back in once the new 1.1 update (seen at appshopper.com) makes its way to my iPad. Included in the update list are Game Center support (with Achievements), “full game re-balancing,” and a new skyscraper environment (sounds cool!). Here’s the full list:

- Game Center and OpenFeint support
- Unlock 39 challenging Achievements
- Compete with other Bounty Hunters on Leaderboards
- Full game re-balancing
- New Skyscraper Environments
- More daily contracts
- New in-game user interface
- Improved Free Gifts

Z-Man Games purchased by Filosofia Editions

(UPDATED- see below)
Huge news coming out of the Origins gaming convention, which took place over the weekend. New York-based Z-Man Games, who I think is currently the best publisher in the business with a stable of innovative, unique, and diverse titles, has been bought by the French firm Filosofia Editions. Details are sketchy with no official word from either Zev Shlasinger or the Filosofia camp at this point, but apparently the deal involves Zev staying on as a sort of brand manager for three years. So Z-Man Games will continue as the strong, vital brand it is but under the aegis of a much larger European company. There is understandable concern that Z-Man will lose their independent ability to produce the kinds of risky, quirky titles they’ve become known for while answering to an owning entity, but for right now it appears that on the consumer end it will be business as usual.

Speculation is still kind of running wild right now. A couple of weeks ago, Z-Man’s US edition of the very excellent Earth Reborn appeared on deal-a-day site Tanga which usually means a game has underperformed- particularly when it’s barely six months old. Some are wondering if Zev took a bath on it and are assuming that this is some kind of bailout move. I think that’s hyperbolic, and the more likely reason is that Filosofia (who had already been working with Z-Man) offered a good buy-out price. Given the strength of the brand and its ambitious schedule, it would certainly make an attractive property.

I’m sure we’ll hear more in the next couple of days about it. I’ve met and gamed with Zev and he’s an incredible guy, I hope he made a nice profit on his sale. If anybody in the tabletop games business deserves the Lamborghini and gold-plated toilet, it’s him. He built Z-Man up from simply republishing the old Shadowfist CCG on through successful B-Movie card games to huge international success publishing titles like Pandemic, Agricola, and Merchants and Marauders.

Update- Zev posted this over at FortressAT.com- congratulations are in order- now go buy Earth Reborn!
Just got back from Origins. I posted something on BGG about it. In a nutshell it is a good thing for me. I got a good price and get to continue doing what I like without the administrative/business side of things which I don’t like.

As for Earth Reborn. Yes it did not sell as well as I wanted but I have not given up on it. I put it up on Tanga to get more exposure for it and sold a lot of it. Then I got some restocks for it form distributors. So perhaps the marketing push was a success (at least for the time being).

I did print a lot of it because I took a chance – and sometimes it works out and sometimes not. But because I printed a lot of it I was able to keep it at a decent price. It just hurt me that the game missed 3 conventions and therefore did not get buzz. When it finally did come out it was less than 2 weeks from Xmas: so I was able to ship initial sales but you know nothing else was going to happen for weeks after that.

Anyway, I do hope ER grows some legs and starts moving better. But if not, I got a slew of games that are doing very well, so I’m not complaining at all.


Jumping the Shark Podcast #77

No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

EDIT: If your download ends at the 1:03 (hour:minutes) mark, we had another errant upload this week. It’s now fixed and can be re-downloaded. The full podcast is about 1:12.

It’s a big week for Jumping the Shark as a perfect storm of shiftless layabouting on the parts of Bill, Danielle, and Brandon -who seem to think their vacations and road trips should trump podcasting- leave me in charge of the show for a week. I do my best to persevere and not lose the entire audience in the span of 60 minutes. Helping to further that goal we have two returning guests this week: senior editor for The Escapist, Susan Arendt, and No High Scores’ very own Michael Barnes. This week’s topic is all about the mainstreaming of video games, how games going from a niche hobby to what Al Gore referred to as “the new normal” at Games for Change this week has changed the nature of gaming itself. On the way Michael backhands Shadows of the Damned and gives us his take on L.A. Noire, Susan and I talk about our love/hate relationship with Dungeon Siege 3, and I talk about my new addiction to Carcassonne on the iPad.

Direct Download
iTunes Link
RSS Feed
Past Episodes
(Thoughts on hosting the show and the embedded feed are included after the break.)

So I did my best to this week to do a capable job of hosting. Don’t let anyone fool you. Hosting a podcast is not the same as being on a podcast. I’m sure when you’ve done it more than say, once, you get used to the responsibility of trying to make sure everything flows and that everyone’s involved and you can just let fly. After all, for me, editing the show, a task anyone else would find a real chore, is mostly an afterthought at this point. It’s mindnumbingly time-consuming, sure, but not difficult. But after a year of just being one of four voices on the show, really only worrying about keeping myself from sounding like too much of an ass, feeling responsible for everyone on the recording I found to be an entirely different experience, like flexing a muscle you’re not used to using. Who’s hasn’t had something to say for a while and how do you bring them back in? At what point do you cut Barnes off, ’cause damn, bro can do some serious talking? (Fortunately, he’s awesome at it.) How long did Susan and I just spend talking about Dungeon Siege and is it time to hit the break? Oh, and what was the f**king topic again? And in the midst of all that, somewhere you’ve still got to pull your weight, actually contributing to the topic at hand. Give Brandon and Danielle props for the job they’ve done week in and week out; this shit ain’t easy and I’ll be glad to get back to my usual supporting role next week.

Supreme Court Strikes Down California's Violent Video Game Ban

No High Scores

The Supreme Court has weighed in on California’s law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors and in doing so, has afforded video games the same First Amendment protections as afforded other forms of entertainment. Seems like a no brainer to me, but hey, it wouldn’t be America if basic, common sense decisions didn’t require gobs of taxpayer money to be legitimized. The opinion, written by Justice Scalia, calls out the law for singling out violence in video games as being detrimental towards children without calling out violence in other media. The fact that this law was championed by Governor Schwarzenegger, the man responsible for some of the best violent moments of my childhood, was particularly galling. To be clear, I’m talking about the fact that I watched the man’s movies as a teenager, not that I grew up being beaten up by the guy.

While I doubt it will, hopefully this will prevent states from bringing about more failed lawsuits in the future, wasting even more tax payer dollars in the process. Between stores enforcing their own internal policies towards the sale of M rated games to youngsters and an informed and educated buying public, we can rest easy knowing that children will have their violence delivered to them the way the good Lord intended, via Tom and Jerry cartoons.

The Core Gamer

No High Scores

I spotted this article at Eurogamer this morning that reports that the NPD has defined “Core Gamers” as those people who game for an average of 18 hours a week. And here I thought that if you’re going to subdivide gamers into groups, a notion which doesn’t bother me in the least, that surely a guy who’s been gaming for over 30 years and has a dedicated gaming website of at least marginal popularity would fit the Core category. Apparently my measly 7-12 hours a week disqualifies me…

Per our podcast topic this week on the mainstreaming of games, I think gaming is widespread enough that having different classifications for different gamers makes sense. It’s not about one group being better than another anymore than having different words for snow (flurries, showers, blizzards) implies judgment about snow. It’s about describing how you game. Richie, who plays PopCap games like there’s no tomorrow, has no dedicated game console and never will. Lucy plays a torrent of fighting games and the occasional shooter on her 360, but has no interest in branching out further. Chris plays everything under the sun, but his time is limited to an hour a two a night during the week and few more on the weekends. Joel dedicates 20+ hours a week to World of Warcraft and that’s it. Different types of gamers, each of them, but all gamers.

The problem I have with what the NPD is doing isn’t that they’re trying to classify gamers, it’s that they’re doing it so stupidly. According to Eurogamer they can’t be bothered to define what a core gamer is beyond a basic time commitment and number of games purchased over a three month span (as if that can’t vary based on what time of year it is). Basing their classification on such illusory criteria as how much time per week someone plays isn’t helpful to anyone, be it players or those who try to make money on them. Pretend you’re a high-ranking suit at EA and you want to market a game to my friend, who I tell you plays games for at least four hours a day and buys no less than one game a month, you still know absolutely nothing about that person that will help you sell them something. The other classifications the article references are no more helpful: “Family and kid gamers, “avid PC gamers,” “light PC gamers,” and so on. How is an Avid PC Gamer not also a Core Gamer? Surely the the former is capable of putting in upwards of two dozen hours a week into their hobby? What does someone being a Kid Gamer tell me? My kids, 6 and 7, are playing a metric ton of the Lego games on our 360 the past couple months, but is that what they’ll be playing when they’re 12?

Part of the problem, to be sure, is there’s no agreed upon language for what kind of gamer you are. It’s also tricky because you can’t just lump people into platforms or genres. For every person that only plays RTS games on the PC, there’s five more that play in multiple genres on multiple platforms. Hell, most games you can’t really pin to a specific genre or platform. Basing it on time played per week, though, is too easy a way out. Even if it weren’t, somehow I don’t think we’ll be deigning to allow NPD to define us, nor do I think publishers and retailers will find their definitions particularly useful.

Yes, it’s Monday and I’m grumpy.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D Demands Monogamy

No High Scores

It would appear that playing Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D ties you to the game for life in that there’s no way to delete your save games or start a new game from scratch. The only reason I can think of doing this is to prevent people from selling the game used. Either that or Capcom is a huge proponent of monogamy and they feel that once you play a game, you and that game should remain together forever. If it’s that first one, well, that’s Capcom’s prerogative, if it’s the second one, that’s just creepy. I can only hope that if there is no way to start a used game from scratch that the various used game retailers either stop taking the game in as trades or they inform the consumer what they’re getting into. While we’re on the subject of things that aren’t going to happen, I’d also really like a pony.

Seen at lots of places.

Calendar Man – Week of 6/27

No High Scores

Usually I bemoan the lack of new releases over the summer, but this week I’m not complaining at all as my brain is still on vacation and I don’t feel like doing any work. Not that this is work, mind you, far from it. I live for new releases! They are the wind beneath my wings! Or, in this week’s case, the feeble gasp of a dying pigeon.

For the record, the deals also suck pigeon breath this week too.

New Releases
I saw Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident at E3 and looked like a pretty enjoyable hidden object game. Nothing says “party” like inviting three other people over and hunting for a microscope for four hours.

Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition is supposed to be the definitive edition of this game, so if you played the non-Arcade version, well, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but you suck. Luckily you can get the Arcade edition as a free update. The rest of us losers have to buy it, so that should make you feel better.

I have a theory that when the sun burns itself into a cinder and our planet is but a lifeless husk orbiting the remains of a dead star, somehow, some way, KOEI will still be making Dynasty Warriors games.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries brings some zombie love to the 3DS with the third person horde mode thing-a-ma-bob from RE4 and RE5. The extra “d” in 3d stands for “dismemberment”.

If your workout plan isn’t getting you in the best shape needed to beat the ever-livin’ piss out of another human being, maybe give UFC Personal Trainer a try. A word of warning though, if this game is the only UFC training you undertake, I’d hold off on picking any bar fights.

Toys R Us – Get selects 3DS games for $15.99. Check store for full selection, but the ad shows Madden, Rayman 3D, Asphalt 3D, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D and Sims 3.

Target – Free $10 gift card with purchase of any Cars 2 game.

Best Buy – Buy UFC Personal Trainer for the 360 and get UFC Undisputed 2010 free.

Steam – Steam has Divinity II and Homefront for half off. They have other specials too, in the usual place.

Impulse – Impulse has Magicka and NFS Shift 2 Unleashed for half off. Their specials are also in the usual place.