A few words regarding the IGN layoffs

I know these things happen for a reason, and it’s sad for everyone and nobody enjoys laying off employees, losing friends, and obviously being the ones laid off. I’m still not entirely sure who is left after these layoffs – since I hear they run down to UGO and 1UP as well, I can only hope for the best for my friends who are still there and that everyone lands on their feet.

However, on the IGN side, the loss of Dana Jongewaard and Nicole Tanner really hits me hard. Girlfight was one of the first IGN Podcast I started to follow next to Game Scoop, and Nicole and Dana were my favorites. I never wrote into an IGN Podcast thinking even if my email were ever read aloud, it would be taken as a joke – which is fine, sometimes, but Girlfight always gave an honest answer. They were the only podcast I wrote into, and hearing my question being read aloud by the ladies is one of my favorite IGN memories.

These women were amazing inspiration for not just girl gamers, but for any female trying to take a crack at the industry. Nicole and Dana are smart, put-together, women and I’m extremely heart broken to see them go. They probably won’t see this blog, since I’m just one of their thousands of fans, but I would like there to be some sort of record on myIGN of how loved they were – and still are! – by their viewers.

I can only hope for the best, but I’m sure they’ll fine greater endeavors elsewhere, inspiring more people where ever they end up.

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One Week Later: An E3 2011 Retrospect

One Week Later: An E3 2011 Retrospect

This time last week, Sony was wrapping up their press conference after Microsoft’s earlier showing and the internet buzzed over the rumor’s surrounding Nintendo’s newest console. Now that the dust has settled, and the hype machines have whined down, this is the time when I like to give my opinion of the show as a whole.

Sony:

As a whole, Sony’s press conference was a smart one. Starting off addressing the big pink elephant in the room by means of public apology was the only fair way to start their conference. It was a nice way to show that they understood just how badly they messed up and wanted to move towards the future, and it looks bright.

My personal favorite being Uncharted 3, which looks and plays better than I could have imagined. After revisiting the second game last week, I was in complete bewilderment as I watched the quality of those cut scenes and in game footage.

Dammnnn, girl!

Dammnnn, girl! Is this even the same game?! Insane!

I already have a BETA Code from Infamous 2 just waiting to be used, so I’m very excited to jump into that!

Not to mention the Vita, which looks pretty sleek and while the $299 AT&T service version is a bit of an eye-roll, a $250 price point for the Wifi version totally hits that sweet spot price point. It seems Sony learned a hard lesson about out-pricing themselves, but it’s nice to see that they’re listening.

Microsoft:

I almost felt sorry for Microsoft who (whether it be an act of stupidity or publicity) leaked their major press conference announcements on their website hours before. And really, none of the headlines made me excited, except for possibility Halo 4 (which I hope is only a working title).

Huh...well these look familiar!

Huh...well these look familiar!

I don’t know what is it about Microsoft’s last few press conferences that are so “meh” inducing. It could be the fact that I couldn’t care less about Kinect, or the fact that War games are as overdone as Cat Memes on Tumblr. It seems they’re still trying to sell the hardcore on the Kinect, but really voice recognition in Mass Effect isn’t doing it for me. It’s cool on a show-floor, but I still like my controllers.

Nintendo:

The newest titles for Nintendo’s 3DS were a solid opening for the conference. The announcement of Luigi’s Mansion 2 could be the game that makes me go out and actually buy the system instead of borrowing the office’s system whenever needed. Not to mention Super Mario 3DS seems promising.

Again, Nintendo runs into the issue of porting old franchises such as Mario Kart and Smash Bros. to the system, but at this point players are so desperate for anything on the system, they’ll take what they can get.

Not let’s get to the Wii U – or is it WiiU? Regardless of its goofy, extensional crisis inducing name, it seems that the system was released before it was ready.

Wii Who?

Wii Who?

Recently, Nintendo stock has fallen to the lowest point in 5 years after the Wii U reveal and the launch of the new system left everyone scratching their heads. The masses were not entirely sure if the Wii U was a new console, or just a controller. Forcing Nintendo to publicly explain that the Wii U is indeed an entire console…awkward.

The game lineup revealed was mostly ports of games that will appear on PS3 and 360 and worst, Satoru Iwata stated in an interview with the London Evening Standard that the new console “is not going to be cheap.” Which was a great selling point to the original Wii, the inexpensive point of entry.

While the controller appears gimmicky, and the technology of transferring my game from my TV to a handheld seems interesting, I’m not a gamer who’s bought by shiny things. I need games, which I wasn’t impressed by.

Also, with reports coming in that Wii U’s controller can only be used within a certain distance of the console, it makes me wonder where I would even use this tech. If I wanted to play a game on the go, it’s when I would be going somewhere not sitting in the same room.

Most families have more than one TV and the days of having to stop playing games to watch TV are numbered. Especially now that many people watch shows on their computer via services such as Hulu or even Netflix.

Like most early announcements, gamers are going to have to be on standby with a “Wait and see” mentality, but I can’t help but be a little worried about Nintendo’s future. Could it be that they’ve lost their Midas Touch?

COMICS! *shakes fist at sky*

I kind of called this but now it’s official that DC has decided that after Flashpoint, it is going to start the whole universe all over again. That means that 52 books will be starting with #1’s. With that comes tweaked and new costumes, younger heros, and a freshen up to the universe itself.

Oh look! Everyone has a turtle neck...except Wonder Woman.

Also, we’re finally getting day-and-day with digital distribution. And while I love my comic shops, this is something that had to happen. To the deny that the future of comics is a digital landscape is simply ignorant. In the future, my kids will read comics via projectors and I’ll snort and say, “When I was your age, we had books!” and they’ll go, “Books?”

Anyway, I’m mixed about this entire overhaul. I mean, it’s about damn time they did day-and-date with their digital store, but am I the only one tired of revamps though? When first hearing this I couldn’t help but think, “Again? Really? AGAIN? What was the purpose of ’52’ again?”

I mean, is Damian Wayne gone now? Was Batman Inc. just for giggles? Did Brightest Day need to happen? Are we at least going to have Ted Kord back? What is happening?!

We all know the reason this is happening is because DC needs higher sales, but I’m so sick of reboots, revamps and redesigns. The reason why these titles weren’t doing well was not because readers were scared of three-digit numbers and V-necks! What happened with these titles is that everything got so freaking convoluted that nobody knew what the hell was going on.

It seems to me that DC still hasn’t learned their lesson from the 70s and 80s. Crisis was supposed to undo all these kinds of issues and then they went and messed with that, and then Zero Hour came and went with the same idea. They keep doing these big EVENTS and NEW CONTINUITY every year or two to screw the pooch even further.

My Prediction for this entire situation: High sales at launch of the revamp will eventually die out to the books’ usual numbers.

If I’m right, I win a hat. A hat I hope reads, “Caroline Was Right and Won This Hat.”

Limited Lives is a Killjoy for Today’s Games

Ah, the old arcade. Remember those places? Countless machines lined along the walls, a ski-ball set in one corner, a pinball machine in the other and adjacent the games was a stand where you could trade in tickets for cheap plastic prizes.

At each of these arcades was the player that could get to the “kill screen” of Donkey Kong, or Pac-man. These gamers became legends. Their hard-earned allowances to buy quarters for these machines are the same quarters that could buy them extra lives and save them from the dreaded Game Over screen.

From KillScreen with Love

From KillScreen with Love

Tapping into the “just one more” addict behavior, these companies made gangbusters. That’s what lives were for in games, to keep the quarters coming.

Now it’s 2011, and the era of the Arcade has been replaced with the era of the home console. Game companies no longer make profit off quarters, but off actual games. The industry has shifted, but still the linger use of the “lives” system is still in place, and it’s frustrating as hell.

Nintendo is the developer that’s most guilty of this crime. Being one of the grandfathers of video games, most of their titles got their first launch in the old arcades. With such titles as Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong, which had the life system as a core gameplay mechanic, it seems almost nostalgic to have a life system. However, the feeling is short lived after constantly receiving a “Game Over” screen, and having to try the level again.

Seen in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns, Nintendo has implemented a feature called the “Super Guide,” which becomes available after dying a certain number of times. In this mode, the character falls under the control of the computer, allowing the computer to finish the level. However, there is an option for the player to tap back in any time.

It's Bizaro-DK!

It's Bizaro-DK!

In my opinion, this only adds to the frustration. While playing the Co-Op mode of Donkey Kong Country Returns this break, there were many times when we ran out of lives and needed to start the level over. The option for Super Guide appeared and after using it once, we decided that it wasn’t fun watching a computer play the level for us; we wanted to do it ourselves. We played the rest of the game and all its levels without the handicap, and eventually completed it.

At their very core, games are meant to be fun. If you’re playing a game and not having fun, you’re more than likely to not finish it. There is nothing fun about dying in games, and there’s even less fun in having to start over due to the archaic life system.

More modern adventure games such as Infamous, God of War and the Uncharted series do not use the life system. Granted, you can still die in these games, but you’re simply respawned to the nearest checkpoint. This system still pushes the gamer to improve, but not punish them for trying new methods of doing so.

Infinite lives give gamers the ability to explore, and not be penalized. By having the freedom to try different solutions to figure out puzzles leads to more immersive and satisfying gameplay. Having a certain number of tries only boxes the player in, trapping them into playing the game a particular way.

It Only Does Nothing

It’s a regular apocalypse for PlayStation 3 owners (or should I say, ApocalyPS3?) as the console has been brought to its knees once again. Last year it was an internal clock error, brought upon by the console not recognizing that 2010 was not a leap year, and now it seems the menace may be more serious than our wacky calendar system.

For those of you unaware, it’s been a dark time for Playstation players as users have been unable to sign onto Sony’s internal network, PlayStation Network (PSN), due to internal system errors which PlayStation is reporting is due to “external intrusion” – which leads everyone to think of one possible suspect: Hackers.

It’s been rather well-known that PlayStation has been working overtime to gain back control of their console from the tech-savvy hands of hackers such as George Hotz or the now infamous Hactvist group “Anonymous”, but now there seem to be a new causality: the players.

First and foremost, I should make my view on these hackers clear. I cannot side with these apparent “Robin Hood” like characters, who claim they’re sticking it to the man when in reality they’re just sticking it to the players. In my opinion, the PlayStation company still has its money, but the players don’t have their games.

Hackers = Boo!

Booooo!

If the reason behind the PlayStation Network blackout is due to the outside forces of hackers, then this is just another reason why I cannot bring myself to side with their cause.

Not only that, but if the fear that security of personal account information has been compromised due to this external intrusion, then these so-called “righteous” hackers have now crossed the line into the territory of Identity Theft.

The PlayStation Network connects more than 70 million users, meaning they have the personal information of all those players. Credit Card information, mailing address – everything could now be at the fingertips to whomever has taken control of network.

It Only Does Identity Theft

It Only Does Identity Theft

It would be nice if PlayStation would give an update regarding this fear, but too bad they don’t comment on rumors or speculation.

While the Senior Director of Corporate Communications for PlayStation, Patrick Seybold, is updating the PlayStation Blog with new breakthroughs regarding the network’s reconstruction, it seems that he’s saying a lot of nothing. The only news players have gotten from these posts can be simplified to, “We’re working on it.”

When dealing with a situation that could compromise user’s personal finances, I think we deserve more than a “Hold tight” from the company.

I can understand why PlayStation does not wish to be a transparent company at this time, because if we knew the extent of the situation gamers would pretty much freak out. However, we’re already freaking out – our games don’t run, our service is cut and we have no idea what’s going on with our account information.

No news is not always good news, and ignorance is not always bliss.

The least Sony can do is provide us with a timetable for when PSN will be up and running again, or a status on our personal account information.

Another side to this coin could very well be that Sony knows just as little as we do, and if that’s the case then this is a far more serious situation than anyone is reporting.

EDIT: And now we’re all totally fucked.

Gameplay or Story?

When gamers first heard about a Mickey Mouse title coming to the Wii, no one was excited. It sounded like another kiddie game that revolved around Disney’s mascot running around and teaching the world about the power of friendship.

Later, there were talks of the gameplay and Mickey going through Disney history with a paintbrush, which was still nothing mind blowing. Then it was announced that it was Warren Spector’s brainchild, the man behind the superlative Deus Ex series and the original System Shock, and everyone’s jaws hit the floor and they started paying a little more attention.

Let's Be Friends! Ha ha!

Let's Be Friends! Ha ha!

During an interview with Game Informer Magazine, Spector shared that the game was titled Epic Mickey, and would focus on the lovable mouse being trapped in a post apocalyptic world of forgotten Disney characters, armed with only the abilities of saving it with paint or destroying it with thinner. The idea of Mickey Mouse handling such dark and difficult situations seemed to be a healthy risk for a Wii game, giving the system more diversity.

However, after the game’s release last November, on top of the interesting story was the glaring blemish of extremely weak gameplay.

The game itself was a strange hybrid between an old school platformer and modern adventure title, with a less than accurate control scheme. The wonky camera didn’t help either, often getting lost behind walls or underneath Mickey during important fights.

Spector went public about the gameplay and lack of camera controls, saying, “Third-person camera is way harder than I even imagined it could be. It is the hardest problem in video game development. Everybody gets it wrong. It’s just a question of how close to right do you get it.” He went on to claim that the issue stems from the fact that the game was not a pure platformer, and that the game was being “misunderstood.”

While not the first of its kind, Epic Mickey has been the recent victim of the age-old debate of Gameplay versus Story.

Years ago, the only story needed was a basic one that gave directions. Pacman had to eat up all the dots and not the ghosts, Mario had to save the Princess and the Space Invaders had to be stopped by the tiny pixelized ship. These were not deep ideas; one easily got the point across to the players playing.

Regardless of all the bells and whistles that Epic Mickey was laced with, it was still a video game, and games are meant to be played. Great stories are fine, but that’s what movies are for, and if a game isn’t fun, it’s not going to be played. I’m sure the ending to Epic Mickey is complex, deep and remarkable, but I may never get to see it if I’m constantly dying due to Mickey’s excessively floaty jumps or the camera’s short attention span.

Technology Going the Wrong Way

Now that Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have released their new hardware, it’s hard to look away from the issues that are beginning to plague the gaming industry.  Like red flags, the 3DS, Kinect and Move are signs that the games industry is beginning to put technology before creativity.

Let’s begin with from the newly launched 3DS, the handheld with the capability to play games in 3D without the use of 3D glasses. When this system was first publically announced at E3, it was the most talked about hand ware from the show. In effect, it blew both Sony’s PlayStation Move and Microsoft’s Kinect motion controllers out of the water. The Gaming Media was particular impressed, thinking ahead regarding what potential this handheld could have on games to come. However, from that moment to its launch, many people have done an about-face towards the system, seeing how the 3D of the handheld is more of a gimmick than an innovative gameplay direction.

When the Wii was first released, there really was something interesting about the use of motion control on a home console. It had never been done before, and it was done by a rather trustworthy company in the industry. It brought something new to the table, urging developers to think outside the box and think of new ways to create fun games using a motion controller.

That didn’t happen, instead the console with polluted with a billion exercise and dance titles as well as family friendly titles. We lost those Nintendo titles that we treasured for being unique and interesting experiences, and were instead given games that focused on waggling the controller as if that’s fun enough.

Look at all the fun Reggie's Having!

Look at all the fun Reggie's Having!

It’s not.

Nursing their wounds, gamers moved onto the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 for more mature gaming experience. However, these companies saw the absurd amount of money Nintendo was making and brought out their own renditions of motion control.  Lamely trying to cover-up their obvious heist, the companies clung to the idea that their controllers were somehow different.

“Look,” Sony claimed, wagging a black controller with a stupid looking light on top. “It’s much more precise and has fun colored lights on top!”

“No, look at us,” Microsoft begged, flailing in front of a television as all its possessions are thrown onto the front lawn. “No controller needed! Just make sure you have some free space so it can read you.”

The technology in itself is impressive, there’s no arguing that, but I think the technology for these consoles are being made separate than the games they’re supposed to play.  Which would explain why obvious titles such as dance and fitness games keep being pumped out for these systems, and that isn’t the way to go.

I’m starting to think that the creativity in this industry isn’t made for these superficial advancements in tech.  The games released for the 3DS are not using the 3D in innovative ways, which is the case such titles as The Sims 3 and Madden 2011, which are just popular EA games you can play in 3D. Street Fighter as well is just more Street Fighter with nice graphics and 3D capabilities. The same goes for the Kinect and Move which, besides from Dance Central, don’t have any titles that use motion control creatively.  This tech wasn’t asked for, as no players claimed that Mario jumping over a Goomba needed waggle control or 3D.

This hasn’t happened in any other forms of media, as the way you listen to music hasn’t changed as it’s still through a speaker or an instrument, or how someone reads a book, whether on a tablet or paper, you’re still reading words. I don’t understand why games need to be changed how they’re played.

Can the 3DS hold its own?

Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld features graphical improvements, as well as the ability to produce 3D effects without the need for any special glasses.

It seems that Nintendo has found itself the Midas Touch, as the sales of both the Wii and Nintendo DS broke records across the board. And now, with reports of Amazon pre-orders for the system breaking records in the UK, it seems that Nintendo will have another successful life cycle ahead of it – or will it?

While it’s easy to spot the high numbers during the system’s launch window, at its core the 3DS is not anything more revolutionary than “Oh, it’s a DS that play games in 3D!.”

Of course the 3DS will probably sell bucket loads, but what kind of lifespan will it have when its greatest innovative component is 3D graphics? With consoles lasting past the typical 5-year lifecycle, it’s difficult to believe that 3D is going to be as revolutionary then as it is now.

We now live in a world where everything needs  to  be  in a form of multi-media.

A cellphone doesn’t just make calls; it can update your Facebook status, check your email and in some cases, program your DVR. While Nintendo tries to add all the bells and whistles of the glorified pedometer and messaging services, it’s major competition is still mobile games.

The launch titles of the 3DS are weak, and while there are promises for better games in the future, it seems that Nintendo is playing the “Trust Us, We Have Mario” card. However, gamers have seen in this trick before with the Wii (How’s Skyward Sword coming, Miyamoto-San?), and have been burned one too many times before, and the hardcore Nintendo fateful are still nursing those old Wii Wounds.

You've broken his heart, Nintendo!

Hardcore gamers may be put off by the new handle, finding it not “new “enough to be excited for, and still a bit sore from being cast aside for the younger, casual game market. These gamers may have turned to their phones to replace their handhelds, playing in short spurts during commutes to work or waiting for the latest PS3 firmware update to install.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, casual gamers may not be entirely sold on the idea of throwing down $300 on a handheld gaming console that appears to be exactly like its successor.

And again, sure the 3D is cool, but is that a strong enough selling point? The proof is in the pudding as they say, and while the launch of the 3DS is most likely going to be a success, I’m curious to see where the handheld stands after the novelty wears off.

While those buying the system on launch date will be pacified with playing Nintendogs + Cats and Pilot Wings Resort, other fans will be waiting it out.