Psychonauts in the news

File this under “hope for the eternally hopeful” – yesterday, the flames that keep Psychonauts fans alive were stoked by a very optimistic Gamasutra post that stated that the full publishing rights to 2005 psychedelic adventure/platformer Psychonauts now belong to the developer, meaning that any and all purchases of the game (on Steam, Xbox Live, etc) will now benefit Double Fine, not Majesco.

The few, proud believers in a Psychonauts sequel were pumped – and some fans were ready to go buy a second (or even third) copy of the game, now that the money would be going to the developer itself.

Sadly, the cold, sober reality of morning hit, and DF main man Tim Schafer clarified a few points:

Double Fine head Tim Schafer has clarified this new arrangement to Gamasutra, saying that while rights have reverted, the company is not yet going to receive all the money for the game. Kipnis’ Twitter post was the result of “an excited team member jumping the gun a little bit.” Schafer told us this in an email:

“It’s true the publishing rights have reverted to Double Fine, but there are some more deals that need to be worked out and contracts that need signing before that actually means anything, financially. After that’s all squared away, we will have some fun stuff to announce! (And no, it’s not Psychonauts 2.)”]

Sad trumpet?

Psychonauts is one of my favorite games of all time, and yes, I proudly wear my Double Fine fandom on my sleeve. But I’m totally ok with the game not getting a sequel – I think it stands alone just fine as a unique experience. Hell, I’ll be happy either way, as long as the team keeps making fun, creative, out-there games for me to gush about.

I do want to know more about this “fun stuff to announce” though.

A Guide To Using Twitter

No High Scores

Our audience here at No High Scores is, by all accounts, extremely intelligent, devastatingly gorgeous and, among many other things, harbingers of excellent taste. I mean, that last one is obvious. Why else would they be here?

That being said, I’m going to pull a mother-in-law on you in which I say that you probably already know something, but then proceed to tell you any way. Ready? Here goes. Twitter is public. And by that, I mean that anything you say on Twitter is our there for everyone to see. Can you limit who sees it? Sure, but that’s not the default. The default is for all of your writings to go out into the ether where they can be consumed by anyone with an internet connection and a link to Twitter.com.

So, if you’re, oh, I don’t know, a PR firm representing Duke Nukem Forever, and you think that you’re going to evaluate who gets future review copies based on what you consider venomous reviews, you probably don’t want to Tweet that because if you do, everyone can read it….

I have worked with Jim Redner on a bunch of releases in the past and he has always been 100% professional. I worked with him on all of the Borderlands content, some of which I gave good reviews, some of which I gave bad reviews and every time a new piece of content was released, the download code arrived in my mailbox. Based on Jim’s follow up statement and apologies, the Tweets were clearly written out of anger and frustration and he promptly apologized for it. Do I think that Jim and 2K are now going to go on an aggressive campaign to blacklist outlets over Duke Nukem Forever reviews? No, I don’t. In fact, it’s probably going to be easier than ever before to get review copies out of the Redner Group as they may do a little overcompensating to appear that they’re being as above board as possible. Note to self, see what games Redner Group is handling and ask for a copy.

I have a different perspective on this whole thing as I have been on the other end of such a thing and outside of a few people at GameShark, no one knows about it because it’s incredibly embarrassing, but I think, in this case, it’s worth telling the story to better explain where I’m coming from. At last years’ E3, we had a booth appointment with a company that will remain nameless for reasons you’ll see soon enough. Danielle and I had a great tour, everything was fabulous and we went on our merry way. A month or so later, I asked the company for a review copy of one of their games. Now, a booth appointment isn’t like a golden ticket or anything, but at the same time, one would hope that if you’re substantial enough of a site to get a booth appointment, you would be substantial enough to get review copies. Not so in this case. The fact that I didn’t get a copy of the game wasn’t a big deal, however instead of telling me “no” outright, and allowing me time to come to other arrangements, I was strung along for a couple of weeks and then told “no”. I’m a big boy. I can handle a negative response, I just prefer to be told up front.

Fast forward a month or so later and Danielle had asked me who my PR contact was at the company as she was reviewing another one of their games and needed a contact to see about a review copy. When I responded to her, I used GMail’s nifty way of auto-filling the To: field to get my contact’s email address, however I neglected to then delete said address from the To: field before sending the email. This would be the email in which I said that a colleague of my contact strung me along before telling me to go fuck myself. Now, is that what happened? Essentially, yes. Did I want to express that to PR. Oh God no. I promptly realized what I had done and apologized up and down, but never received acknowledgement from my contact one way or another. Maybe they never got the email, maybe they did and didn’t care, maybe there were offended all up and down and we’re forever blacklisted. I have no idea, but every time we don’t get a game from them to review, I think this is my fault. It very well might be. Should they continue to punish us for something that was obviously a mistake? No, and we shouldn’t all get on the Punish Wagon for Jim either.

So yes, I completely understand what Jim is probably feeling right now, and because of that, I tend to give him a pass on his behavior. He got angry, said something he was feeling but shouldn’t have been expressed publicly, and he has since apologized for it. It’s not like he tweeted that he hates Asian people or something horribly racist and it makes you question his character. What he said is that they’re reevaluating who gets review copies based on venomous reviews. I’m sure this isn’t going to be a very popular opinion, but so what?

Whenever I give a game a bad review, I always try to make it clear that I’m not insulting the developers personally. Do I always succeed? Probably not. With a game like DNF, which sounds like it’s not only poorly designed and executed, but also features some pretty offensive material, that task would be even harder. I mean, whoever decided to publish a game that features women being raped by aliens in a jokey manner as opposed to a serious “oh shit these aliens are despicable” manner, probably should have their motivations questioned. The line between bad review and venomous review then becomes even fuzzier and I can understand being protective of your clients if you feel that the reviews of their work attacks them personally. I probably would think twice about sending product to outlets that personally attacked my clients as well.

All that aside, the bottom line is this: PR outlets control who gets review copies, and they can decide to exercise that control in whatever manner they see fit. Their job is controlling the message, and deciding who gets copies, or who can post scores in relation to the embargo are all tools they use to accomplish that task. If you don’t like PR controlling the message, then don’t play their game. It is just that simple.

My Twitter feed was all abuzz about Redner’s comments and the threat of blacklisting and other terms thrown about to make this sound more serious then it actually is, but here is it is, in a nutshell: a PR firm may make it harder for sites to get early, and free, something that is publicly available for, at most, 60 dollars. They are not keeping the game from getting into everyone’s hands. They’re keeping the game from getting into a small group of hands early and for nothing. If you don’t want them keeping it out of your hands, buy it yourself. Buy it yourself! Jim Redner or Randy Pitchford or Jesus H. Christ Himself can not keep you from writing or saying anything about a game you bought yourself with your money. If you don’t like the way PR plays the game, then don’t play it. PR can’t push you around if you don’t let them decide what you write about.

We are enthusiast press and as such, we are beholden to PR to do our jobs, but we don’t have to be. Over the years we have dug ourselves into a pit with every early review and day one launch event we post and PR stands at the edge of this pit, throwing down games as they see fit. When they don’t throw down the games we whine and complain, ignoring the conveniently placed ladder that’s right next to us. Maybe if we all used it to climb out, bought our own games and stopped feeding into this notion that a review is only worthwhile if it posts before people can actually buy the game, we wouldn’t give a shit who Jim Redner wants to send review copies to.

I have worked with some seriously wonderful PR people in this business and some complete tools, just as I have worked with some seriously wonderful developers, designers, writers, artists, you name it and some complete tools in all of those departments. At the end of the day you come across all types, and how much you decide to let them influence your job, or your opinion, is your decision, not theirs. I think we would all serve our readers a lot better if we kept that in mind.

Spelunky Trailer

Two things I know about this game:

1.) This is directly in Danielle’s wheelhouse.

2.) Todd will never play this game. Unlike the EDF trailer below this is not due to his irrational fear of bugs, but due to his bad platform thumbs.

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Trailer

This new trailer for EDF Insect Armageddon is much like the E3 trailer, only showing off a few more battle scenes.

Two things I know about this game:

1.) Brandon will most certainly play it co-op with his co-op cohorts.

2.) Todd will not play this under any circumstances.

Brandon’s E3 write up: http://www.gameshark.com/e3-2011/11/e.htm#earth

New Xbox to Debut at E3 2012?


That’s the word from Videogamer.com as Crytek is apparently on board for another Timesplitters game on the new console. Some interesting details:

The Crysis 2 developer says that Microsoft will announce the existence of a new Xbox within the next 12 months, hinting that an E3 2012 reveal is likely. Crytek believes that Microsoft will announce and launch its new machine ahead of rival Sony, though the developer is also investing resources into next-generation PlayStation development. The information was detailed to VideoGamer.com by a high-ranking industry source at Crytek, who stated that TimeSplitters 4 is currently being demonstrated internally, is being built with CryEngine 3, and was being shown privately in video form at E3 2011.

Details are few but DirectX 11 support is supposedly a focal point. Interesting. In this same news story Crytek also talks Wii U. A Crytek engine on a Wii…what is the world coming to?

Read the whole story here.

X-Men Destiny Trailer Looks Old School

And by “old school” I mean last generation. Seriously, it looks like Silicon Knights is using the same engine they used for the GameCube version of Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. I’m going to assume this is super-mega-pre-alpha or something.

Atari to bring Gamma World to XBLA/PSN/PC


Here’s one from E3 that didn’t get much attention. As in, almost none. Atari, having recently screwed the Displacer Beast with their atrocious Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale game for the download services, is taking a rare dip out of one of Wizards of the Coast’s othernon-D&D properties. The result? Gamma World: Alpha Mutation, coming soon for XBLA, PSN, and PC. Gamma World is a long-running, sort of cult-classic science fiction RPG that just recently saw a major 7th edition renovation that introduced a somewhat ridiculous collectible card game element. Now, before I share with you the press release, which makes this sound like a very promising and potentially awesome game, let’s put it right out on the table. This is being handled by Bedlam Games. Yes, the same people that crapped out Daggerdale. Proceed with caution and set expectations to “zero”.

In the fall of 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, embarked on a new series of high-energy experiments. No one knows exactly what they were attempting to do, but a little after 3pm on a Thursday afternoon came The Big Mistake. Something unexpected happened, and in the blink of an eye, a multiplicity of possible universes condensed into a single reality. Welcome to Gamma Terra.

Gamma World: Alpha Mutation sends you to Gamma Terra, a savage land of adventure, where the survivors of “The Big Mistake” must contend with radioactive wastes, rampant lawlessness, and monstrous predators. Against a nuclear backdrop, heroic scavengers search crumbled ruins for lost artifacts while battling mutants and other perils.

Create your Gamma World hero from a variety of primary and secondary origins. Radiation-triggered Alpha Mutations change the players abilities in unpredictable ways throughout their adventure, and powerful Omega Technology will allow players to bend the laws of reality itself in their quest for survival.

Explore Gamma Terra: Take on a variety of perilous missions through a variety of regions of gamma terra, from ruined cities to barren wastelands and beyond, the collision of multiple realities has created a world as exotic as it is deadly.

The Quick and the Dead: Gamma world delivers the depth of an RPG and the action of third person shooter. Quick reflexes and split second decisions are just as important as effective character design.

Lone Wolf or Death Squad: Take on missions solo or join up with friends to tackle the challenges of the Gamma Terra. Play with two players locally or up to four players online.

Evolve Your Character with Alpha Mutations: Gamma World’s character customization system allows players to actively develop their character in almost unlimited ways.

Discover Omega Technology: Powerful technology from other dimensions can turn the tides and preserve your hero’s life… for now.

Conduct Weapons R&D: Scavenge the environment for parts to create new weapons, armor, tools and more. Your ingenuity is your edge in this fight for survival.

NPD: May Sales Hit Record Low


The sky is falling. Ok, not really.

Game Politics has write up about how May 2011 is one of the lowest sales months on record according to NPD with the following, somewhat important, caveat:

“Keeping in mind that these sales figures represent just the new physical portion of the market for video game hardware, software, and accessories and not the growing portion of the industry that is comprised of digital format content distribution, May 2011 was the lowest month of sales for the industry since October 2006,” said Frazier. “A light slate of new releases is at the heart of this month’s performance.”

So….in other words your data doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. Until we can get a look at the whole picture, I don’t know what purpose NPD serves anymore. Brink was the #2 seller for May behind LA Noire — not bad considering the early press and that doesn’t even count PC download sales.

EA Taking Dragon Age II Criticism to Heart?


First off, Eurogamer is bringing it. Lots of good stuff over there today.

Like this little number with EA’s Frank Gibeau regarding the reaction to Dragon Age II from a good chunk of the fanbase. Going so far as to admit “we lost some fans” with the release of the DA sequel.

“We’re very proud of the game. We tried to innovate and do some different things with the combat system and some of the way we told story. For some fans it worked well. In fact, we brought a lot of new fans into the Dragon Age franchise. But to be honest, we lost some fans as well. They were not pleased with some of the innovations and things we’d done. We understand that and we’re listening.”

It’s a good read and I like that the company is listening to feedback. Then multiplayer is mentioned and I start to get worried.

Are Sequels Unfairly Criticized?


First off, that is one of the greatest images I have ever seen. Ah, Conan the Destroyer.

Anyway.

id CEO Todd Hollenshead discusses the bad rap sequels get in the game industry. I guess he means from the press? Gamers can’t get enough of sequels, just look at the sales figures. It’s the new brands that struggle.

It’s a tricky thing, really. You can’t blame companies for playing things safe — look at Red Faction Armageddon, a game that shuns the old design and opts for something totally different, people hate the switch, and the series could be in trouble because of it. People wanted for RF:G, didn’t get it, and are not pleased. Now look at Prey 2 which is doing the opposite– going from a traditional shooter to an open world sci-fi game that has nothing really to do with the original game, at least gameplay wise. Then again look at Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, etc. These games are playing it safer than a politician — 10000% playing to its base. It’s a delicate dance. Do you just pump out more of the same or radically change direction? I guess it depends on the franchise.

Hollenshead makes some fair points until he uses a film analogy. Of all of the movie franchises to link to his argument he chooses…Road House? Really Todd? Road House?