Transformers: Dark of the Moon Trailer

Even more trailers today — this one for Transformers: Dark of the Moon

PR smackdown:

The Transformers: Dark of the Moon game allows players to fight through the epic battles on Earth that will shape the events of the upcoming film. Armed with a brand-new gameplay mechanic, fans will harness the power of (use) Stealth Force to instantly convert to a third, hybrid state that combines the weapons and firepower of robot mode with the agility and maneuverability of vehicle mode. Set in environments around the world such as the Jungles of South America, Siberian military facilities, Detroit Cityscapes and more, the game lets players assume the roles of a diverse roster of everyone’s favorite TRANSFORMERS from the movie through a heart-pounding campaign to save mankind. Additionally, fans can play the game with or against their friends through intense, online multiplayer game modes as their favorite iconic characters.

This one drops in May.

Funcom Unveils The Secret World MMO

Funcom and EA have unveiled a new website for its upcoming modern day MMO: The Secret World. PR below.

Funcom, a world-leading game developer and publisher of online games, is excited to unveil a brand new trailer video as well as a new website for the upcoming, modern-day massively multiplayer online game ‘The Secret World’. The new video offers gamers a unique glimpse into the world, the monsters, the myths, and the gameplay of the much anticipated online game. In ‘The Secret World’ players get to play the character they want to play without being limited to classes or levels, as they adventure through modern-day, real-world locations.

“It is truly exciting for us to show gamers just how much freedom they will be able to enjoy in ‘The Secret World’,” says Director and Producer Ragnar Tørnquist. “The video perfectly encompasses the four important pillars of ‘The Secret World’: the modern-day setting, the freeform character progression, the dramatic storyline, and the unique secret society conflict. It feels great to reveal new details on the ‘The Secret World’ as we continue to make strides in the development of the game.”

Funcom today also launched a brand new website at www.thesecretworld.com which offers both newcomers and veteran community members new and exciting material. Funcom will continue to update the site with news, information and media as the development of the game progress.

“We are very pleased with the current state of the game,” says CEO Trond Arne Aas. “We had the opportunity to show the game live to the press at last week’s Game Developers Conference, and we look forward to start testing the game with an external audience in the next couple of months.”

‘The Secret World’ is Funcom’s third massively multiplayer game, having previously developed ‘Anarchy Online’ and ‘Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures’. No release date has been announced. The game is being co-published together with EA Partners, a division of Electronic Arts Inc.

Table Flippers of the World, Unite and Take Over- Risk: Factions on Steam

No High Scores
The one thing missing from Risk: Factions is that there’s not some guy that gets pissed off and flips the table. But other than that, it’s a pretty darn good implementation of the classic game of Australian world domination that includes some more recent revisions and some all-new concepts that might surprise those of you who haven’t played it since the 2008 reboot. It also adds a very Cartoon Network-style tone with some surprisingly funny characters and writing. I reviewed the XBLA version last year and gave it a B+

Steampowered.com is reporting that it’s now available for your downloading pleasure via Steam so PC gamers can get in on the dice-rolling, territory-grabbing fun. I really do wish there was a button that you could click that would filp the table just for verisimulitude’s sake. Or at least some way to angrily sweep the board when your rotten die-rolling strategy doesn’t pan out.

Not Gonna Happen – Willful Disobedience in RPG's

No High Scores

One of the shrewdest marketing decisions Nintendo ever made was creating multiple Pokemon games within a generation that each had unique creatures only obtained by either buying all of the versions, or trading with friends. You can dress it up in gameplay all you like, but it’s pretty clear that the reasoning behind it was to drive sales of either games or link cables (Edit – I was wrong! Wireless trading was available in the GBC. Thanks James!). However, once the notion of obtaining Pokemon from other people entered the game, Game Freak had to temper it somehow to ensure that low level players didn’t take a high level monster and rampage through the game with it.

Enter the concept of disobedience.

Simply put, if you obtain a Pokemon that’s too high a level for where you are in the game, you can order it around all you want, but it won’t listen. Maybe it will perform a different move, maybe it will just stand there or maybe it will take a nap. As you progress through the game and obtain badges the level cap for Pokemon obedience rises. Once you’ve obtained the last badge and are ready to take on the Elite Four, all Pokemon at any level are powerless to your commands. As a mechanic for establishing game balance, it’s nothing too exciting but it got me thinking about how much I would love to see the notion of disobedience in RPG’s that have more of a social interaction between party members.

Most Western RPG’s these days have some sort of “like” meter for the people in your party that show off how happy they are with the direction you’re taking your merry band of monster slaughterers. Sometimes this meter drives battlefield effectiveness, or what powers they have or whether or not they make it out of the final confrontation alive. What it never does, though, is determine how much they’re going to listen to you and I wish it would.

Oh sure, you’ll have situations where you can push your extreme goody-goody or evil party members past their breaking point and they’ll flip out, usually requiring you to kill them. Maybe it’s not that extreme and they’ll just leave or maybe they simply won’t join you in the first place based on how much of a bastard you are, but we never see folks that take a step back and simply don’t listen to your orders. I remember in Mass Effect, when you were fighting the big, plant monster and you had the option of either gassing the drugged colonists and sparing them, or wiping them off the map. When choosing to kill them, Garrus would offer a token “I wish there were another way” but eventually would just acquiesce and slaughter everyone. Granted, it was part of Garrus’ character arc for you to mold him into either a stone cold killer or a kinder, gentler alien dismemberer, but still, it would have been nice for someone in your party to say “Hey, there is another way and if you want to kill these people, I’m not doing it.”

In fact, taking this a step farther, what I would love to see is disobedience as a function of personality, not just morality. Imagine a character that is either flighty or self-absorbed as a person, that may or may not listen to you when you click the button to perform the uber-move. Maybe they don’t listen to you half of the time, but when they do, they’re far more powerful than your more obedient party members. How would you balance the character so that the player doesn’t give up on them entirely for a safer bet? Similarly, how do you convey to the player that the character didn’t perform because they don’t want to, rather than due to a technical problem with the game? Aside from bringing some randomness into the battlefield, this could also open up more aspects of party social dynamics whereby the way to get this person to perform more dependably is to cater more to their needs but if you do that, it pisses the other party members off so that they become less effective. Do you take the approach of a general leading troops to battle and it’s your way or nothing or do you take on a more touchy-feely leadership role and try to address the needs of the people fighting with you? I have no idea if this is possible, or how you’d design something that would work effectively and not just look like window dressing over what we already have, but I’d love for someone to try. It’s also entirely possible that someone already has and I just don’t know about it.

In fact, taking this a step farther, imagine a turn based RPG where your party is comprised of celebrity archetypes. You have the aged rock star, the neurotic comic, the young pop diva, the narcissistic actor, etc. Part of the game is balancing the needs of the individual party members so that they perform as well as they can but don’t screw up the dynamics of the party to the point where one person’s happiness is bringing down the total effectiveness of the group. Would the social interactions become too much of a chore, the friendship system in GTA IV comes to mind, or would they add a strategic layer to gaming where tweaking party member happiness in battle would allow for the use of different powers and abilities?

Again, I have no idea how you would design a system like this to be effective but I think the whole notion of a party of disparate individuals all falling into line under one person is getting somewhat tiresome. Any time you get a bunch of people working together, personalities clash and keeping everyone happy can become impossible and sometimes work against what you’re trying to accomplish. Adding the notion of disobedience could go a long way towards making party members seem less like AI controlled avatars and more like people.

MLB 11 The Show: The Franchise Woes

The plan was to post this long and drawn out examination of The Show’s franchise mode.

But I am not going to do that. Instead I’m going to tell you why I have finally raised the white flag…

There was a time, let’s call it from 1992 to 2009 that I railed, some would say endlessly, about franchise modes in sports games.

No mas. I’m done. You developers win. White flag of surrender.

Every year all of the major sports franchises which include a type of franchise mode has an AI that struggles to play its own game in one form or another. It’s sort of like Civ V but with home runs. The developers have limited time/resources to focus on certain areas of its game and while a very vocal part of the sports gaming community plays franchise mode because really — that’s the meat of a game’s longevity for many of us, money/time is usually spent in other areas.

Let’s take The Show 11 as an example.

Baseball, off the field, is an incredibly complicated animal.

So many rules: Rule 5 draft, arbitration, option years, budgets, 40-man rosters, minor leagues, waivers, free agency, and on and on. It’s a lot to ask for a videogame where the majority of the resources are put into on the field execution.

When you combine ALL that goes into playing a great baseball game franchise mode, you really can’t DO that on a console because the interface makes it a PAIN IN THE ASS. Managing minor leagues, contracts, etc. etc. — it’s just not worth the effort to do it. At least not for me. Not anymore. I am tired of fighting that fight.

The Show has all sorts of weird franchise issues that are easily spotted after playing around with it for 30 minutes. Player progression, budget oddities, great players rotting in the FA pool, great players under team control not being tendered offers and becoming free agents, and so on. “Arcade” sports games do this sort of thing all the time. And make no mistake, as realistic as The Show is, it’s an arcade sports game. Arcade isn’t a dirty word but when YOU tell Pujols when to swing — you’re playing an arcade game, almost by definition.

Anyway, for a franchise mode to really work it needs to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s and The Show 11 doesn’t do that. If you read forums you’ll see highly dedicated users offering suggestions on how to “fix” some of these issues — like “users controlling all 30 teams” and things that no sane person should have to do to enjoy a game’s designed feature.

I’m not doing that. I am not fighting a console UI just so I can see a star player go unsigned in the FA pool for three seasons. I turned 39 last month; I graduated from that school of nuttiness — with honors.

For these games to accomplish something with its franchise mode I’d like to see ALL of the money stuff removed. Gone. Get rid of it. Trash canned.

Think of it this way — why do we PLAY a game’s franchise mode?

I play them because I enjoy creating my own sense of history — building a team over the years, watching my league ebb and flow and evolve over time. Watching a player who used to be a star, now an aged vet well past his prime and a young rookie offering a glimpse to the future of the franchise.

It’s NOT whether or not the Reds should take a ******* bus or fly to their game in Cleveland. Or whether a vendor has enough team jackets to sell.

I like seeing league evolution but I also like to do this with as little busy time as humanly possible. Scouting, training, week to week “recruiting” in a college game — no more. Done.

As for the finances, I am sick of worrying about player salary in games of this nature. If a game is not going to be able to HANDLE finances — remove them. Go back to Reserve Clause baseball when free agency was a unicorn and teams owned players and you had to build your club via trades and the draft. Wouldn’t that be easier on the developer and also provide gamers with what they want? Some roster turnover and the ability to play a game that actually…worked?

As for me, my franchise fix is covered by Out of the Park Baseball, as our online league kicks off its 6th year of existence, I am getting that ebb and flow and watching players come and go and loving it. I’m not fighting with The Show to get what that game already provides — in spades.

Busting out the “H” Word – Hate Speech in Game Communities


One only needs to load up a quick game of Halo or… well, anything really, to get a fine taste of anonymous Internet hate speech. Homophobic twelve-year-olds. Muslim-hating mini-fascists. Racists of every imaginable stripe. Women-hating, boob-shooting misogynists. They’re all there, spewing whatever sort of throwaway caustic crap they can get away with.

How you feel about this probably depends strongly on who you are. Some folks laugh it off, while others (usually those targeted by the aforementioned groups), understandably, get pissed off about it.

I’m a strong believer in freedom of speech, and an even stronger believer in the general “don’t be a jackass, respect other human beings” rule, so I read this post from MIT’s Gambit GameLab with great interest. As part of the university’s presence at PAX, there will be an exhibit highlighting the pervasiveness of full-on hate speech in game communities.

From the post:

“At PAX East this weekend, we will be introducing an art project led by some of our staff and students regarding their observations of hate speech in online game communities. We have put together a video that examines forum posts and in game chats that marginalize different groups: Muslims, African Americans, gays, and women.

Some of the interactions we noted were outright hateful and confrontational, some were much more subtle and insidious, and some were positive. Our aim is not to demonize the individuals spouting examples of hate speech; none of the content reveals any personal information. Our goal is to show how commonplace it is.”

I applaud the effort, and fear that the folks who need to see/hear this the most will be the ones who ignore it entirely.

The post does mention the “Dickwolves” controversy, which I’ll not go into, save for this simple statement: you are 100% free to say anything on earth that you want to, but the flip side of that is that you are also 100% responsible for everything you say.

Dungeon Hunter: Alliance Trailer

So, Diablo 3 isn’t here. Torchlight is the rage and you don’t play PC games and despise the thought of getting an Xbox 360. Well, there’s always Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, a game that looks to borrow all sorts of gameplay ideas and slap ‘em on the PSN this April.

This from Jen Kye, Social Media Editor of Gameloft as seen on the PlayStation Blog:

Our dev team is quite focused on making sure the gameplay is engaging enough for the hardcore audience, while still accessible to newcomers. What does that entail? Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is focused on providing a real quest to complete either solo or with others. This unique campaign experience spans over 30 levels with a immense world of dungeons, villages and forests to explore, including areas that are randomly generated.

Check out the PS blog link for more, mostly PR speak, but it does look colorful, doesn’t it?

UbiSoft Chooses Truth

This story is silly. OK a quick recap:

UbiSoft releases a trailer for its Wii party game called We Dare. The game portrays four adults basically playing this game in what appears to be a prelude to a full on sex orgy. Even the cartoon characters above look like they are five minutes from pulling out the camcorder. Internet eyebrows raise, pulses quicken, public outcry begins, “What about the CHILDREN!?”

The trailer is pulled in North America because UbiSoft doesn’t think we Yanks can handle it. It’s true; we Americans don’t know anything about Internet sex. But Brits? Brits are famous for their wild, free wheeling ways and everything was a go to release the game in Europe, the U.K. and basically anywhere except in Ohio.

So, then PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rates the game a 12+ and people in the U.K. collectively flip their lids (by people I mean like six guys) and cry out that in no way should 12 year olds be allowed to have full on sex orgies while playing their Wii. This is the machine that Mario built, after all. So now the game is banned in the United Kingdom, too. Well, not “banned” as much as Ubisoft has decided not to release it there.

Europe is standing firm, though! We all know that Europeans are completely in favo(u)r of Wii sex orgies.

That is, unless this is all wildly blown out of proportion and people are jumping to conclusions based on a marketing ad trailer and that the game really isn’t anything like that. But come on…that’s crazy talk.

“Conclusions by press and commenters have been based exclusively on the online commercial, whereas the conclusions of PEGI were based on the game experience. It was correct to give the game a 12 rating. The content of the game and the interaction that the game itself implies do not warrant a higher rating. Marketing may have implied something else, but PEGI does not rate advertising, it rates game content.”

Yeah…this was such a better story before PEGI screwed it all up.

iPad 2 Review Round-up

No High Scores

The review embargoes for the soon to be released iPad 2 expired last night, so there’s a slew of hardware reviews out there for Apple’s latest ploy in personal computing dominance. Who has the time to read through all of these reviews? I do! Well, I don’t, but I do it any way because I care.

I really, really care…

So, the good things about the iPad 2 are that the battery life is still stellar, it’s quite thin, the processor is snappy and GarageBand appears to be better than hot, buttered sex. On the negative side, the cameras suck ass, the display is unchanged and some of these new, sexy apps have some significant bugs that have yet to be worked out.

The bottom line appears to be that Apple has once again made the iPad the definitive tablet experience, however the changes brought to the iPad 2 probably aren’t enough to make you upgrade from the initial iPad unless you’re the kind of person that has WWSJD tattooed on your forearm. Me, I really like the idea of an iPad but 500 bucks is too much to spend on an idea even if it’s less than Android tablet ideas. Granted, I’d happily take one as a gift should any of our readers be a multimillionaire with nothing else to do with their money, but I can’t see what hole it would fill in my computing life to justify the cost. Still, it’s a gadget and I looooooove gadgets. This is one of the rare cases where I’m glad that Apple doesn’t lower the prices on their items or have sales because as long as the iPad starts at 500 bucks, I can safely stay away. Until the iPad 3, that is.

Here are some quotes from the various reviews:

Engadget:

For owners of the previous generation, we don’t think Apple’s put a fire under you to upgrade. Unless you absolutely need cameras on your tablet, you’ve still got a solid piece of gear that reaps plenty of the benefits of the latest OS and apps. For those of you who haven’t yet made the leap, feel free to take a deep breath and dive in — the iPad 2 is as good as it gets right now. And it’s really quite good.

TechCrunch:

For existing iPad owners, things are a bit murkier. If you have the disposable income, it’s a no-brainer to upgrade. Again, this is everything you like about the iPad 1, but better.

But if you just bought an iPad 1, or you don’t want to drop another several hundred dollars, it’s not like the iPad 1 will be out of date anytime soon. Sure, it may feel like older technology to the touch, but again, it largely looks and acts the same. My advice is just don’t visit an Apple Store or play with a friend’s iPad 2, or you’ll be tempted.

NY Times:

But you know what? The iPad will still dominate the market, because it dominates in all the most important criteria: thinness, weight, integration, beauty — and apps.

Macworld (How hilarious would it have been if Macworld hated it? So hilarious!):

Though the iPad 2 is an improvement on the original iPad in numerous ways, it’s still an evolutionary product, not a revolutionary one. If you’re happy with your current iPad, there’s no reason to dump it just because there’s a shinier, newer one. (This is not to say that millions of people won’t do just that. I mean: shiny!) If you’ve invested in iPad accessories such as a dock or case, keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to use them with the new iPad.

Of course, if there’s someone in your family who has been clamoring for an iPad, now might be the time to buy an iPad 2 and hand down the old model to them—or, if you’re really nice, give them the new iPad while you soldier on with the classic model.

PC Mag (this review is worth reading in full as it’s the only one that gives serious comparisons between the iPad and the Android tablets):

Overall, the Apple iPad 2 is the best tablet you can buy right now, so it’s our Editors’ Choice. Currently, the Motorola Xoom shows tremendous promise and even edges past the iPad in a few areas (cameras and multitasking to name a couple). But even without the advantage of far more apps, the iPad 2 simply provides a better user experience and operates more gracefully and seamlessly with your media than Android devices. If you live happily outside the iTunes ecosystem, an Android tablet like the Xoom is certainly worth considering. But if you’re in the market for a new device now, and have no loyalty to a specific manufacturer or operating system, the iPad 2 is the tablet to get.

SlashGear:

For everyone else, though, Apple has put together a superbly capable, class-shaping tablet, which can now legitimately take on not only other slates but lighter ereaders such as Amazon’s Kindle. The iPad 2 benefits from Apple’s cohesive hardware and software development together with the vast third-party developer support of the App Store, consistent and simple to use in equal measure. Apple’s vision of the post-PC world isn’t quite here yet – the iPad 2 still works best with, and at times demands, integration with a “proper” computer – but when it comes to tablets the iPad 2 maintains its position at the vanguard of the market.

Wall Street Journal:

As new contenders move into the field, Apple isn’t likely to keep its 90% share of the booming tablet market. But the iPad 2 moves the goal posts, by being slimmer and lighter, boosting speed and power, and holding its price advantages, available apps and battery life. As of now, I can comfortably recommend it as the best tablet for average consumers.

Red Faction: Armageddon Presents Ruin Mode

Today THQ sent out a press release touting its new Ruin mode for RF:A. For those heading out to PAX East this mode will be playable at the show.

THQ and Volition are thrilled to announce a exhilarating new gameplay mode to be featured in Red Faction: Armageddon, called Ruin.
Red Faction: Armageddon’s Ruin mode will be playable in THQ’s booth (#956) during PAX East this weekend, where attendees can compete for prizes and bragging rights at the top of the leader boards. If you’re in Boston for the big event, be sure to stop by!

The terraformer has been destroyed, and the once peaceful surface of Mars lays in Ruin. It’s about to get a whole lot worse. Introducing Ruin, Red Faction: Armageddon’s mode dedicated to pure destructive mayhem. Choose your weapons, enter the arena, and unleash hell (shoot at buildings.) Chain together explosive combinations for bonus points, and compete with your friends’ high scores on the online leader boards in Challenge Mode. Or engage in untimed Free Play rounds in which you explore the surface and seek out its most destructive secrets. As you destroy all that you see around you, your creativity will be rewarded. (Before anyone asks, no, I have no clue what that means.)

**

Now, understand, I loved — loved — Red Faction: Guerrilla. Brandon, too. I think Barnes, too. (Todd not so much because it lacked a good “story”…man’s such a literate snob, isn’t he?) I’ve seen this game at trade shows, read articles, etc. — I STILL don’t know what to think/expect from it.