Life Cycles of Consoles

John Koller speculated that the PlayStation 3 will be supported for up to four more years. Is this true? Do video game companies continue to support previous generation consoles? This article looks at past trends to see if that is the case. Continue reading

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Dragon Age: Inquisition – What is known

There’s a lot of hype surrounding Dragon Age: Inquisition right now. And I mean, a lot. For those of you who are fans, you’re probably thinking ‘duh.’ It’s the final instillation of the trilogy. So, independent of the hype, what do we know? As it turns out, quite a bit.

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Character Races, Male and Female Available

  • Human
  • Elf
  • Dwarf
  • Qunari

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Confirmed Past Characters Returning

  • Varric Tethras
  • Morrigan
  • Cassandra Pentaghast
  • Flemeth

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Development Information

  • Frostbite 3 Engine
  • Speedtree Software Toolkit
  • Will be released on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and the PC
  • Environments will be reused less than in Dragon Age 2.
  • BioWare has worked on the game since March 2011, two months after the release of Dragon Age 2
  • Release date pushed back from late 2013 to 3rd quarter 2014
  • Development team focused on creating an open world, using Skyrim for inspiration. Mike Laidlaw, the creative director of Dragon Age: Inquisition, said that the game will not be a true open world but rather have a linear story.
  • Further refined combat system, focusing on preparation rather than button mashing.
  • Further refined romance system, moving away from gifts and focusing more on decisions and events.
  • Developers claim decisions from previous two games will have a great impact on the world of Dragon Age: Inquisition. They developed a program, Dragon Age Keep (soon to go into Beta Testing) to allow players to make the decisions without needing to replay the two games.
  • David Gaider, lead writer for the entire Dragon Age series, confirmed there would be a multiplayer aspect to the game.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition seems to have promise, taking to heart many of the issues fans had with the previous game. One thing that I found curious was the inclusion of female Qunari. On one hand, I think that gender/sex diversity will only add to greater options for the players. Though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a female Qunari before. How does BioWare justify their absence until the third game? I am afraid that they might just throw them in there and act like they were always around.

The one thing BioWare does better than anyone else, in my opinion, is improving gameplay from game to game. While I may dislike story decisions they made (see Dragon Age 2: how not to make a sequel for example), I have never criticized how the gameplay progressed. And since the release date was pushed back almost an entire year, it’s obvious that this game is not being rushed.

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I want to believe in BioWare, they they would make the same old high quality story-driven games like they used to. But I was let down with the past two ones. Way, way, way too dark. I like my stories to be a little bit optimistic. Not… so deathy, you know?

If you’ll notice, I didn’t bother saying anything about the story… I guess that’s why I don’t think I have a good sense of it. Sure, there’s a civil war… but who are the good and bad guys? Can you take a side? What will the Inquisition do exactly? How does the tear in the Veil play a factor? Morrigan’s reappearance… is this a good thing or did she cause the tear? And what about Flemeth? What is her role in all of this chaos? There are enough unknowns to where I don’t feel confident about anything about it.

Though I’ll say this. Whatever the result, BioWare is trying their best. Gotta admire that, right?

Unintended Consequence of the Next Generation

A recent report from the security firm Kaspersky Labs said there was an increase in hacking attempts against the Xbox One and the Playstation 4.  Coupled with every other game system and devices used for gaming, the report claims that approximately 34,000 attacks occur per day worldwide. The claim that I want to focus on is that the increase in hacking is concurrent with the release of the Xbox One and PS4.

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Video game consoles having online play was experimented on as early as the Fourth Generation with adapters for the Super Nintendo. We saw an expansion of that in the Sixth Generation with the Playstation 2  and Xbox having an internet connection. The Seventh Generation further expanded on it, making DLCs easily available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It was in the Seventh Generation that we saw a hint of the dangers when Sony was hacked and millions of customer’s personal information was stolen.

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We’re now on the cusp of the Eighth Generation of video game consoles. We’re seeing a further expansion of their online capabilities. We’re seeing a lot more options for online play (co-op and pvp)… to the point where the games that tended to not have online play suddenly will have some sort of online option. Microsoft wanted the Xbox One to always be online, a policy they thankfully reversed (though it is not clear how often it has to be online). Sony has the PS4 offer interesting online features like streaming  and/or sharing gameplay.

There is an implicit danger with greater online options. And we are seeing that with the increasing attempts to hack into these newer consoles. To be honest, I was taken off guard when I found out about it. Sure, it makes sense on one hand. The danger of being hacked, dealing with worms and viruses, or whatever else have you is a part of daily life with the internet. That’s why we all purchase software to help minimize the risk.

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If we are forced to have our video game consoles be “always connected” or “always on” like what is being pushed.. let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time… then we have to expect our console to be someday hacked. Having a system be always on and connected has to be an inviting target for any criminal out there.

Video Game News: 12/15/2013

Video-Game-News

This is your Press Start to Begin news brief for December 15th, 2013

  1. A case study in the Journal of Medical Case Reports showed that a man developed deep vein thrombosis and had multiple blood clots throughout his legs. He developed this from playing video games for eight hours a day, four days straight. Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a person is sedentary (does not move at all) for extended periods of time. If this is not treated, it is fatal 30% of the time.
  2. Associate Professor Mark McMahon of Edith Cowan University (ECU)  argued that research showed video games offers a range of social and educational benefits for gamers. He urges caution to parents, however, with free-to-play games as there are a lot of hidden costs to go along with it.
  3. YouTube recently removed a large number of video game play throughs due to a copyright ID infringement detection system. Many video game developers and distributors encourages gamers, if their video was flagged and removed, to contact them so they can help get their video back up.
  4. In the month of November, the Playstation 4 sold 2.1 million units in North America and Europe. The Wii U sold 1.6 million units in North America and Japan. The Xbox One sold over 2 million units.
  5. Replay CEO Paul Trowe faced legal trouble for showing a sex tape to a 16 year old girl. He plead guilty and is now on a two-year probation. It it believed that this is part of the reason why Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe left Replay earlier this week.
  6. Capcom shut down the Ghouls & Ghost: Demon World kickstarter campaign. Capcom claimed this was an infringement of their intellectual property rights. Phantasm Studios, the company behind the campaign, was aware they did not have permission from Capcom to create the game. They did plan on changing the character’s name and some of the graphics if they did not get permission. As of yet, Phantasm Studios did not release a statement to do with this development.

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record

So close to a great game. So close. This should have been one of the better games made by Capcom. This is the game the fans DEMANDED! They wanted to see Frank West, undisputed hero of the first Dead Rising, as the protagonist in Dead Rising 2. The game is fan service in the best possible way! Everyone wins with this. This doesn’t mean that Chuck Greene wasn’t loved (that guy ROCKED!)… but this was something that every fanboy and fangirl wanted to know. Could Frank West make it through?

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The game did so many things right that it’s scary!

  • Capcom changed the story just enough for the game to feel fresh. They moved the survivors around, changed some key NPCs, and created new scenes to reveal new parts of the story.
  • More weapons to build!
  • New, fun area to explore.
  • Great new costumes.
  • Frank West has his usual flippant comments.
  • Yes, he’s covered wars you know!
  • New survivors and boss fights.
  • Co-op play
  • Awesome soundtrack.
  • The overtime mode was freaking cool
  • Chuck Greene is one of the psychopaths!!!!

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Capcom did one better than they did with the original Dead Rising 2. They knew people love to just wander and explore, so they added in a sandbox mode. The player can wander, kill zombies, do little contests to earn money, kill psychopaths, kill survivors, cross dress, run over everything with cars or SUVs, gamble, make new weapons… whatever they want! This is simply one of the most fun and rewarding modes for any Dead Rising fan.

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But what they did wrong… they got really, really, really wrong. I mean, frustratingly… the game quickly become no-fun type wrong.

They screwed up the direction arrow.

You see, you can go on missions in the game. These missions tend to take you to a lot of different parts of the map. And it is easy to get lost. I mean, really, really easy. When you have hundreds of zombies going at you, that arrow is a life-saver. It tells you the direction to go because there’s just not enough time to think about it.

The arrow points in the god damn wrong direction about a quarter of the time.

It’s like it is trying to orient itself or something. I don’t freaking know. But when I’m getting swarmed and then look to see I’ve been going the wrong direction, the game no longer feels fun.

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And the final boss battle. How the hell did they screw this one up? In the original Dead Rising 2, it was already a difficult fight. The big boss has this charge attack that’s next to impossible to dodge. All you can do is survive the quick time event to take minimum damage and heal up when he withdraws. They made a difficult battle into a battle that’s next to f*cking impossible. Before fighting him, Frank West has to fight through a meat-grinder. Dozens upon dozens of super-zombies and normal zombies coming at him arena-style. There’s not enough time to do healing and the weapons suck. So a lot of it is running and trying to use the environment to survive. But this isn’t skill.. it’s luck. If one of those super-zombies does their mist attack that causes Frank to cough, he’s caught and will take damage. So, this part all depends on how nice the computer is feeling.

maxresdefaultThen on top of that, you have TK.. who is just as dominant as ever. His charge attack is freaking insane. If you’re anywhere near him when he does it, you’re caught! I was jumping clear out of the way.. so I shouldn’t have been touched by him. I mean it! I was out of his f*cking way, but he still nailed me. When you put the meat grinder that weakens the hell out of you on top of the impossible TK fight… it’s just way too much.

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Dead Rising 2: Off The Record is a good game, don’t get me wrong. But it should have been a great game. I should be praising it as the greatest Dead Rising of them all. But the screwed up direction arrow and an impossibly difficult final boss fight just ruins a lot of the game for me.

I think you should pick it up, now that it’ll be getting cheaper like all the other games from the previous generation. Just expect some frustrations along the way.

Nintendo Might Be In Trouble

I have to take back something that I put in an earlier post. Before, I argued that Nintendo’s history of greatness was a very strong indicator for their future success. While it cannot be a completely accurate way to estimate future success, it showed that Nintendo understood how the video game console market operated and understood what it took to be successful.

That was until this….

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New Super Mario Brothers bombed in Japan. Reports vary with how many copies it sold. The source I trust has it at 101,798 copies sold on the opening week. Worse, the release of the big name game failed to motivate the fan base to run to the stores to purchase a Wii U. Only 20,524 consoles sold in the same week.

In comparison, when the New Super Mario Brothers for the Wii was released, it sold 943,582 copies. 104,193 Wii consoles were sold the same week. If we just focus on the numbers (rather than the ratios), we can see there’s just not as much interest in the Wii U or the new Super Mario Brothers game. And that could be a pretty big problem for Nintendo.

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A Mario Brothers game is supposed to be a big deal, especially in Japan. This is Nintendo’s home base. Nintendo really needed a huge shot in the arm to get the buzz going again. The Playstation 4 and Xbox One are already dominating the market. One of the reasons why the Wii U sold poorly was the lack of quality games… and well… this was Nintendo’s chance to regain some lost ground.

And they fell flat.

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Maybe it’s too soon to judge the success or failure of New Super Mario Brothers. The sales figures for the opening week was lackluster, but maybe Nintendo can still turn it around. My fingers are crossed. I want to see New Super Mario Brothers create more interest in the Wii U so more competition can be around. Competition brings out the best in all companies, which can only be good for gamers!

Come on Nintendo… do something! If this keeps up, you’ll be left behind like Sega was. Don’t let that happen… please… do something!

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The Perils of Purchasing New Consoles

There are strange well known facts among the marketing circles that never seems to get out into the general public. I learned about these when I took a few marketing classes at College of Lake County that was taught by a former marketing professional. Did you know that in a blind taste test that RC has consistently been chosen as the best tasting pop (cola/soda) out there? That’s crazy. Billions of dollars were spent over the decades convincing us that the best tasting was either Coke or Pepsi. But the marketing people knew that was a lie.

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Also, did you know that it’s a bad idea to purchase brand new technology. New tech is filled with glitches and design flaws. The developers release it in order to make up the costs for research and development. If they can recoup the costs, then they can move forward with the product and fix the bugs for newer versions of the tech.

This is especially true with video games.

What? You don’t remember the PS1? That sucker had a huge overheating problem. The PS2’s and Xbox’s laser kept on being knocked out of alignment somehow and had to be manually adjusted. The Xbox’s original controller was too damn large to be usable as a video game controller! Or heck, the first generation of PS2 consoles cannot read a dual laser disc. Or…. the red ring of death with the Xbox 360’s original console release.

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We can look farther back to the NES with the screen blinking when it couldn’t read a cartridge. Or the Sega Saturn’s hardware being too complex. That design flaw led to a lot of third-party developers to abandon the system.. now THAT’S a huge flaw. Speaking of flaws and controllers, you can’t get any worse that the controller for the Atari Jaguar. Look at it for yourself! For whatever reason, Atari thought people wanted to go back to the Intellivision style of controllers with having a calculator pad along with their controller.

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The Jaguar Controller

That’s just a short list. I’m positive you read through that and said “you idiot, you missed xxxxxxxx!” I think every system had something wrong with it at launch.  And that’s the point.

Yes, it sucks when a console doesn’t work perfectly. Yes, it sucks when you purchase that console and find out that there’s something wrong with it. But, this is what happens with new technology. It’s a risk when you purchase it. Chances are, it’ll work very well, as advertised. But all the same, you have to accept the possibility that it won’t.

It’s weird for me to say that, since I’m all about consumer rights. Heck, I often argued that when a person purchases a product, they have a right to that product and expect that product to deliver what is promised. But in this case, it’s difficult for me to understand why anyone would purchase a brand new console on the day of its release and be surprised if it isn’t working. There’s a pretty well established pattern of bugs, glitches, and flat out bad designs.

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I want to conclude with a simple observation.

We should expect there to be bugs and glitches with releases. There’s no point to the focus of the ‘blue light of death.’ The damn light’s nothing more than a diagnostic tool. Sony sold over a million console systems within 24 hours.  I think that’s pretty impressive.

Dead Rising 2

With Dead Rising 3 on the verge of coming out, I think it would be good to stop and take a look back at the sequel to one of my all time favorite games: Dead Rising 2.

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Dead Rising 2 was a financial success, selling over 2.5 million copies between the Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 3, It was so successful, Capcom made a reimagined version of the game staring the protagonist of the first game: Frank West (he covered wars, you know). I guess there was a fan outcry for the return of Frank West.

Anyways…

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The man in the yellow is the protagonist of Dead Rising 2. His name is Chuck Greene. And yes, he is a father. His daughter, Katey, was bit by her mother when she turned into a zombie. Chuck’s a motorcross racer by trade. The game opens up with Chuck participating in a gameshow called Terror Is Reality, killing zombies for the entertainment of America. He does this to win money to buy zombrex for Katey. The zombrex has to be taken every 24 hours to prevent zombification.

After the show.. all hell breaks loose. No wait.. something happens first!

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Chuck sees these two in the hallway, who proceed to insult his masculinity while having a pseudo-incestual hug. I wanted to point them out because they really set the tone for this game. There’s a lot of sexual themes in this game, ranging from the twins there acting very seductive through rescuing half-naked women. Sexuality was always present in the Dead Rising series, but this game takes it into high gear! Take a look at some screen caps for yourself!

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Anyways, as I said.. all hell breaks loose. Someone set the zombies loose into the community and Chuck grabbed Katey and ran for the safe house. Turns out, he was framed… accused of setting the zombies free. So now, Chuck has to clear his name and keep his daughter alive. And man… the story has a number of pretty fun twists and turns.

Yes, I liked this game. It was fun.

The gameplay on Dead Rising focuses on fun rather than on horror. It is combat intensive, just like the first game. The player fights zombies, mutated zombies, insane survivors, and the evil humans part of the overarching conspiracy. Dear Rising 2 does something the first game doesn’t do… allowing the players to customize their own weapons.

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Maybe beating an insane guy to death with a park bench isn’t your style. Blowing them up with dynamite arrows very well could be. Yes, I did this. And yes, it is as much fun as it looks. There are so many fun weapons to create that, well, I spent hours upon hours just sitting back and finding new and creative ways to kill me some zombies! Electrocuting them. Making flame throwers out of water guns. Oh! And the beer hat. No, I’m not kidding. A freaking beer hat. I can’t wait to cosplay Chuck so I can wear it.. just like this awesome guy!

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The game has two endings, which I find sort of neat. There’s ending A, which you get at the end of normal story mode if you did everything. This ending is incomplete, as it shows Chuck almost getting bit by zombies as he is mauled in an elevator. It sets up Case West, where Chuck is saved by Frank West. The other ending, ending S, completes the story within the game and has a fairly satisfying conclusion (saved the damsel in distress and Katey from one of the biggest jerks in the game).

You can find this game for next to nothing at any game store or online. Heck, they were giving it away through the Xbox Marketplace just a month ago. It’s a fun game that’ll give you hours of enjoyment.

The only thing I cannot recommend with the game is the multiplayer. Yes, you can play Terror Is Reality for yourself. The reason why I can’t recommend it is because the people who are still playing the game have been playing it for over a year. They are like super-experts at it. And the learning curve for the games is pretty steep. So you can either lose a lot to other players or just have fun killing zombies… yeah. That’s an easy one!

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Enjoy the game! You’ll thank me later!