Archive for June 2013

Microsoft Takes It All Back. Guess I’m Getting An XBone.

June 19, 2013

If there is one thing that has been dominating the gaming news this past month, it would be the colossal screw up that is the XBox One. Microsoft’s $500 always online gaming system with intrusive DRM. Literally everything they say is bad news.

With Sony absolutely curbstomping them at E3 despite showing fewer exclusives purely by announcing that their system would not do what Microsoft’s is. Then you factor in Don Mattrick’s egotistical gaffe at E3 where he told everyone without an internet connection to “just buy a 360”. Microsoft has since been in full damage control trying to remove all traces of that interview from the internet while paying people to stake out WiiU events and hiring folks to promote them on Reddit. Then they got the army pissed off and started promising “deactivation codes” to allow them to play offline as well as codes for less connected countries…

Eventually you have to realize that the damage control is actually costing more than it would to re-write the OS, something they already had to do in order to cater to the rest of the world anyway. Eventually you have to realize you made some bad decisions. Eventually, Don Mattrick had to realize he’d need to fire himself.

Which is probably why, today, Don Mattrick announced that they’re taking it all back.

All of it.

XBox One will not require an internet connection outside of the initial setup (possibly to download the update that removes these “features”) and will be region free. Used games are allowed, sharing games is allowed, it’ll work just like the XBox 360.

Let’s be honest here, Sony probably helped. The standing ovation they recieved at E3 sent shockwaves through the industry. Not to mention there were those early rumors about Ubisoft and EA strong arming Microsoft into their new DRM setup. However after the PS4 announcement, Ubisoft and EA went on record to claim that used games were a good thing and that they had no problems with them.

Now I don’t want to incriminate anyone, but after saying that I could imagine Microsoft going up to them and saying “So…does that mean we can remove that DRM because it is really pissing people off”.

I mean seriously though, when every single gaming website on the planet is utterly bashing you for months over this boneheaded decision, you do have to take note. They brought up a plethora of situations where the XBox One would be a bad purchase decision and while each situation only represents a minority, you add them all up and you get a majority.

Also, as I was saying mere moments before hearing this announcement, if those deactivation codes were real, what happens when they get out? What happens when I get my hands on a deactivation code on a system where all games require an installation? Things could go bad really fast.

Having said that I am a bit sad. Why? Well because this was Japan’s chance to take back the industry. I am starving for some Japanese made games aimed at a Japanese audience in Japan. If you’ll notice, those kinds of games made up the majority of what I was raving about at E3 this year. To me personally, this E3 belonged to the PS3, not the PS4. So I was kind of hoping this would put Japanese companies back on top. Microsoft is not an easy company to work with for foreigners that don’t have clout behind them. The XBox One’s initial plan proves that without a doubt! That system was made exclusively for a U.S. market and did not give a crap about any other country at all. That mindset is still dangerous and Microsoft tends to lapse into it frequently.

That’s not to applaud Sony just for being Japanese. They do the same damn thing but for Japan sometimes, but since America is where the money is right now they have to market to us as well. Microsoft, being an American company in the middle of America only has to focus on America…until we bash them upside the head and remind them that America does not want purely Western made games! Variety is the spice of life and we need games from all over the world to prevent us from getting bored with endless rehashes! (Honestly I want more South Korean games! Magna Carta 2 was awesome!)

Microsoft does still have a bit of an uphill battle though, dealing with having a weaker system at a higher price because of their foolish decision to require a Kinect. Could they back down on that too? Could we see the announcement of a $400 Kinect-less XBox One? Similarly, could they put in 360 backwards compatibility through an emulator?

Still, they picked the best possible day to announce this as right now Sony is accidentally bricking consoles with a firmware update. Professional!

 

EDIT:

Forgot to mention the real upside to this. See, people are stupid. Microsoft was banking on this. There was a chance, however slim, that a bunch of idiots would buy and support the console in spite of screamingly anti-consumer practices and thus they could catch on. Now we don’t have to worry about that.

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GameBabble – E3 2013

June 17, 2013

By popular demand (of one person) I put the HYPE in Hyperbole as I rave about one of the best E3s in years!

Fun sidenote: This video was hit with three copyright claims on YouTube from THQ, SquareEnix, and Nintendo respectively. Currently disputing it.

Goodbye Dungeon Fighter: The Best MMO Ever Shuts Down

June 14, 2013

At 4:21 AM PST today, my copy of Dungeon Fighter Online spontaneously closed, never to open again. There was no fanfare, no final event, no goodbye message or even a “We are closing the servers now”. It just closed, four hours and 21 minutes late, as always.

Of course MMOs close every day so why does this one matter? Well, for me personally it was the best damn MMO ever made and three dreams come true in one game.

You see, Dungeon Fighter Online was originally released in Korea in 2005 as Dungeon & Fighter, an awkward portmanteau of Dungeons & Dragons and Street Fighter. It was created by a small company called Neople as sort of a more serious alternative to the then new and hot Maple Story. The original plan was just to throw together a game, run it for a year or two, and then let it fizzle out. It was meant to be a quick throw away MMO.

Instead it became an overnight success. Jam packed with players during the open beta, they delayed the full release to retool the game. They added more classes and greatly expanded the game to accommodate the newfound popularity.

The reason for it’s success was probably the brilliance of its concept: Dungeon & Fighter was an MMO beat ’em up. Using 2D graphics it was able to run on even the most low-end machines. The gameplay was fast-paced and fun and the combat surprisingly skill based. No other game like it existed at the time.

You see, unlike many entries in the beat ’em up genre, Dungeon & Fighter featured a massive movelist and a proper combo system. There are a few brawlers that have these features, but never to the same degree as Dungeon & Fighter. Couple that with the RPG elements inherent in an MMO and an ever expanding number of quests to undertake and you’ve got yourself a winner!

You see, this is how the game is three dreams come true for me as there were three separate things I really wanted that Dungeon & Fighter delivered on:

#1) An MMO With Action Combat

I hate the “click on enemy, wait until it falls over”-style of combat seen in 99% of the MMO genre. It’s abysmal. There is no interactivity! No game! Screw that! Give me action! Give me skill! Back in 2005 only PSO delivered on this and…well…it was basically closed then.

#2) A Beat ‘Em Up with a Move Set and Combos

Ever notice that a beat ’em up is basically a fighting game you play co-operatively instead of competitively? So why haven’t they evolved like fighters have? Why are so many just mindless button mashers? Where are the moves and the combo! Yes some games have a few of these, but they are ridiculously hard to find.

#3) A Beat ‘Em Up with Custom Characters

Even now that we can do good 3D beat ’em ups, they never have custom characters. Ever. For some stupid reason no one puts brawlers and customization together. Heck, even DFO’s own clones don’t manage to get this right! Every other beat ’em up MMO that has tried to follow in it’s footsteps features named characters with little to no customization! What the crap!

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game. Unfortunately, I had to wait five years.

You see, Neople was a small company that could barely keep up with the updates to the Korean version of the game. They had no global presence. As such we wouldn’t see Dungeon & Fighter until Neople merged with Nexon. Now that they have Nexon’s money and resources, the game could come to America! Now I could play Dungeon & Fighter, now renamed Dungeon Fighter Online.

However, a lot of things happened in those five years.

Around the same time as Dungeon Fighter’s launch, a similar game called Rusty Hearts also launched with cel-shaded 3D graphics. The charming 2D sprites of Dungeon Fighter were looking rather dated and other action MMOs were just starting to pop up. How is it that for the previous four years when I was starving for an action MMO, they didn’t exist! Then just as we get Dungeon Fighter, a bunch of them show up to steal DFO’s spotlight!

Not to mention many people were suffering from MMO fatigue. Many of my friends I wanted to get into the game instead curled up into a ball and began screaming “NO! NOT AGAIN! NOT AGAAAAAAIN!!!!!” as they had just gotten off World of Warcraft.

That is not an exaggeration eithter.

Also, Nexon did not handle the launch well. The US release was years behind the Korean one and in their infinite wisdom they decided to double the amount of EXP required to level-up in the U.S. release. The cash shop was near non-existant and when implemented they went with the idiotic “gacha system” of random avatar item acquisition instead of just letting us buy the clothes we wanted. These issues would later be fixed, but it was too little too late.

Especially because Nexon decided to cannibalize the game.

Dungeon Fighter Online did not see much promotion or advertisement as it was. However, just as the game was getting good, Nexon released Vindictus. Vindictus is a gorgeous looking 3D action MMO that quickly stole DFO’s thunder. Being a more in-house production, they promoted the crap out of it.

Still, Nexon did updated DFO frequently and we soon were only a year behind Korea. However, just as we were about to get the big “Season 3” update, they stopped. We went from monthly updates to nothing for months on end until finally Nexon revealed they were shutting the game down.

The theory is that the new update was just too expensive. It would have added anime cutscenes, full voice acting, a new class, and more. These things would cost more money than was worth it for what DFO was bringing in. The playerbase had stagnated without proper promotion and advertising. The fact of the matter was that Dungeon Fighter was not suited for a PC audience. Had it been a console game, it may have succeeded, but it wasn’t.

You see as much as I hate to divide people up into classes, PC Gamers and Console Gamers really do have different tastes. Console Gamers prefer something fast paced and visceral. Something that involves timing and reflexes. PC Gamers would prefer something slower, deeper, more complex and strategic. This has led to continual aggravation throughout the years. Every time I see what I precieve to be an awesome action game flop on PC, it’s usually because it is more console-centric in its design. Meanwhile whenever I see a deep simulation or strategy game flop on console, I know it would do better on PC.

Of course that isn’t even getting into the beast that is the hardcore MMO gamer. A depressing number of MMORPG fanatics really do want the game to play itself. They want to punch their timecards, click on the right things, and be the best player in the game. I have often seen these people act with disgust and disdain for MMOs that actually require players to actively attack enemies. The action MMO is, strangely, a niche genre and there’s really only room for one or two entries in it.

Oh DFO tried to go to consoles. Dungeon Fighter Live was released for XBox Live Arcade, but it was a joke. With only 3 classes, no customization, and no second class (meaning almost no skills), the game was utterly devoid of everything that made Dungeon Fighter so good. It was a hollow shell of the real deal and the fact that they charged $10 for less than what you could get for free is an outrage. Yet, more people were actively interested in it than the real thing.

So with that, Dungeon Fighter Online was to close at midnight on June 13th, 2013. I decided to log on one last time to watch them turn off the servers. Seems I wasn’t the only one as there was a huge crowd of players in the middle of town, all decked out in their best avatar gear. You could tell these were hardcore fans. At the stroke of midnight, they tried to all shout “I LOVE YOU DFO!” in unison. It…went about as well as you would expect.

ByeByeDFO_1

Of course, leave it to Nexon to screw even that up. It took them four hours and 21 minutes to actually close the servers. In the meantime, the players began to dwindle, all scratching their heads as to what was taking so long.

ByeByeDFO_2

Then, at 4:21 AM the game closed. No warning, no “we’re closing the servers now” message. The game just closed. In fact, looking at another player’s video, I think they actually had to manually boot every player. Ha!

Meanwhile Dungeon Fighter Online never even got out of Beta in Europe. The region locked nature of the game prevented many people from playing it at all. However, it is still going strong in Korea 8 years after it’s initial release. However, the creation of a new game from the same company (called Cyphers) may indicate the once mighty game’s popularity is dwindling.

This, my friends, is the real shame of an all-digital world. Dungeon Fighter was a revolutionary MMO unlike anything else on the market. While other action MMOs have appeared as have some great beat ’em ups, none have put the two together as well as DFO and with as much customization as this game had. It is a milestone in gaming and one we won’t be able to share with future generations.

The worst part of it all, however, is that Nexon owns Dungeon Fighter now. That means that unlike many MMOs that come back, like Audition Online or Grando Espada, chances are we’ll never see Dungeon Fighter in America again. The very thing that brought it here in the first place is its downfall.

Nintendo E3 at BestBuy Report: Mario Kart 8

June 13, 2013

So the other day Nintendo did their “E3 at Best Buy” event, where in they took a handful of their first party E3 demos and put them in Best Buys for people to try. Quite a brilliant way to build up hype, I must say!

The event itself was a mixed bag. The staff members were enthusiastic and awesome and we got free stuff (I got a foam Luigi hat!). However they only had one WiiU unit: the store’s demo unit. Needless to say the line filled up fast. I was there an hour early and didn’t get my chance until an hour and a half later. Having said that, the event did go on schedule and even a little faster so that was good.

The games on display were Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and Zelda Wind Waker HD. Needless to say no one picked Wind Waker. Most people picked Mario Kart, as did I. I wanted to see if Nintendo really stepped their game up to compete with SEGA’s recent bucket of brilliance: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

The verdict? I think SEGA wins this round.

Let me start by saying that Mario Kart 8 looks absolutely amazing. 1080p 60fps Nintendo looks better than anything else in the industry, mostly because they know how colors work! Everything was bright, vibrant, and smooth. I can also safely say that there is a noticeably added amount of detail to everything, even character models and the racing suits. Smooth and colorful really described the whole thing. I…just can’t praise it enough. The game looks great.

The demo was, oddly, only 2-player split-screen but this is probably because we did a grand prix. I do hope Nintendo steps it up with 5-player grand prix support in the full release.

The best way to describe the game is Mario Kart 7 meets Mario Kart Wii. It certainly looks as though we’ll have custom karts (vehicles were locked for the demo), coins once again return, we do have gliding, and we have bikes and stunts.

However, the anti-gravity wheels add absolutely nothing to the game. In fact, I usually didn’t even notice that I was racing on walls and ceilings. There were no standout items, positive or negative, and nothing really…well stood out at all. It was the same hyper polished racing experience we’ve come to expect from Mario Kart. Absolutely nothing about it really grabbed me or bothered me.

 

While I was there though I did watch the other two non-Wind Waker games. Donkey Kong Country looks amazing with the best real-time fur shading I have ever seen in my life and some incredible dynamic camera work.

However, Mario 3D World is what really impressed. Yes, characters are selectable at all times so you can do a just-Peach run of the game. The wide open 3D areas seemed to lend themselves better to 4-player simultaneous co-op than the side scrolling areas of New Super Mario Bros. U. I often noticed all the players running in different directions to fight different enemies and bash different blocks.

It is also worth noting that when Peach gets a fire flower, she gets a ponytail. Effectively she gets her Mario Sunshine outfit. I’m sorry but that is awesome. Yes, there is also a small Peach with short hair for when she takes a hit.

 

So all in all, plenty of worthy purchases. However, Nintendo is gonna need to step their gamen up to really impress me when it comes to kart racing now.

Nintendo’s (In)Direct E3

June 11, 2013

Okay so it was a little weird that instead of doing a proper E3 conference, Nintendo decided to do it as a Nintendo Direct. As such it was short, sweet, and to the point. Heck they didn’t even show everything!

There is some disappointment as “nothing really new was shown” as well as the fact that there are still very few games coming to WiiU in the near future.

However, in other respects it was very refreshing. Nintendo had the most Japanese E3 presentation of anyone and it was a nice change of pace. Even Sony focused mostly on Western made games. Seeing brightly colored cartoony stuff from Japan was just wonderful and reminded me of why I love videogames in the first place.

You’ll have to excuse me but my personal motto is: FUCK REALISM!

While Nintendo didn’t show too much, I did basically want everything they showed. But pairing it down to the most surprising and awesome I’m gonna have to start with Super Mario 3D World.

They’re expanding upon the concepts of Super Mario 3D Land, a game which I did not enjoy. This, however, looks significantly better. The big news to me: Multiple Playable Characters! That means Peach! With unique attributes like in Mario 2! This is something I have been demanding for years and am glad that Nintendo finally realized what a good idea it is!

Do not bring up Sonic. The characters were never the problem. It was the alternative gameplay styles attached to the characters. If all the characters can play in the same stage without tweaks, then there shouldn’t be an issue.

Amazingly this isn’t the only awesome looking platformer to feature multiple characters. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze also features multiple playables with the addition of Dixie Kong!

The more I look at it, the more Nintendo had too much awesome stuff. Mario Kart 8 features rotating tires and wall riding, making it the first interesting looking Mario Kart since Double Dash. Bayonetta 2 impressed with a new hairstyle. However, the show stealer for me was Monolith’s new RPG:

Alright, the WiiU is basically a current gen console, right? About on par with 360 and PS3 if not slightly weaker in some areas? If so…why did no one else make a game like this! Egad people, do you see this?! This is what a modern JRPG is supposed to look like! SquareEnix? Take notes!

I mean yes the trailer is a bunch of wandering around to pretty music but I squealed the hardest at this trailer of all the ones at E3.

Then, you know, Smash Bros. happened. Guess who our special guest is this time?

Yeah, I am pumped for everything. It’s always nice to be reminded why I have a Nintendo console: Nintendo games. Sometimes it really is worth it.

 

Also, don’t forget that Nintendo is bringing some E3 games to Best Buy tommorrow! Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country, and Wind Waker HD will all be there. A little disappointed in the lack of Sonic but I am still excited to try these out.

XBox Go Home: Sony Wins E3

June 11, 2013

Opening with a very slow start, yammering on about the Vita and PS3 in a mindblowingly boring way; Sony later went on to win E3. How?

Yeah. That’s the mic drop. I want you to look at the number of likes on that video. It hit 10,000 within minutes of being uploaded and is currently going viral.

Of course there is a bit of bad news hidden in that footage. Namely online play will require PS Plus. However that is a relatively minor thing as PS Plus is actually a service. You see when XBox Live first hit, voice chat was a rare function and their integrated online functionality was unlike anything else. It was worth the price. Since then they have added very little in the way of new features and even actively screwed their customers (Joy Ride changing from a Free for Gold game to a full Kinect game). Not to mention Microsoft has added more and more ads to their service, bogging down the interface and irritating paying customers. Sony, on the other hand, is catching up to Microsoft and giving away free games and all sorts of other crap. They seem to actively be aiming to make it a real service.

Also I do like that PS Plus membership applies to all Sony devices. Do remember that the Vita and the PS3 share their shops. Presumably this means that, unlike Microsoft, Sony’s network is fully integrated between all devices and thus should remain up for a good long while.

Also, the PS3 is decently durable, saves patches to the harddrive instead of a cache, and the PS3 doesn’t have the same overbearing DRM that the 360 has. So it is less of an issue. Still, an integrated network like that is important.

It is a darn shame that what should be the status quo received a standing ovation. However, at the same time, Sony could have gotten away with screwing over their customers. If both companies had done this, we wouldn’t have much recourse. PC? WiiU? There would still be many worthwhile console exclusives and we could be strongarmed into going along with this scheme. Instead, however, rather than being the same as the XBox One, Sony chose to be better and win over the hearts of gamers.

Better still, perhaps this will allow the Japanese game industry to recover.

Either way, XBox?

Go home.

Microsoft E3 Conference: Fuck Kinect Owners!

June 10, 2013

So Microsoft’s E3 press conference just finished and on the surface it was very good. Nothing but wall to wall game trailers for some very interesting new games.

I, however, noticed something odd. Namely everything you bought your Kinect for is being moved to XBox One.

The first of these was Ryse. You know the cool looking first person sword fighting game for Kinect shown at E3 2011?

Well now it’s coming exclusively to XBox One, minus the Kinect. Instead it looks slow, generic, and caked with QTEs.

Exciting. I never thought I would say a game looked better on Kinect but…Ryse looked better on Kinect. Now it just looks generic.

 

But the real “Fuck You” comes in the form of Crimson Dragon. If you are unfamiliar, Crimson Dragon is the spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon featuring dragon raising and 3-player online co-op. The game was supposed to be released as an XBox Live Arcade game on 360 a year ago.

The game was completely finished and ready to go and even the demo was leaked!

Well, now Microsoft has announced it as an XBox One exclusive…and not a single thing was changed! The game looks identical to it’s original XBox 360 version!

…which is to say it looks absolutely amazing and is easily the best looking game on XBox One despite being a port of a year old 360 game!

Still, the fact that what should have been a $15 XBLA game is now a full priced XBox One game is aggravating. Made even worse when you remember that in 10-15 years no one will ever be able to play the game ever again because Microsoft is a bunch of assholes.

…and no I wouldn’t count on a re-release considering MS didn’t even have the courtesy to make sure the damn sound worked when they presented it! Way to respect the best fucking game on your damn console you ass wipes!

Yeah, fuck faux-professionalism, I am made of nothing but pure rage at the moment. Because I am not paying $560 to play a damn $15 XBLA game!

…$300? Sure. Crimson Dragon looks $300 worth if I could keep the damn thing.

 

But yes. Fascinatingly, Microsoft avoided mentioning the Kinect at all even when presenting Kinect games (assuming Crimson Dragon still uses Kinect).

Also, before you say “at least it will play better because of the Kinect 2.0”, no. The Kinect is a bad idea and even if it worked perfectly it would still be a piece of crap.