A game blog for grown ups (sorta).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another Reason Apple sucks and yay Owlchemy

I wrote a few weeks ago about how awesome I thought Boston Indie Developer Owlchemy Labs was for having balls. The same kind of cahones that make Trey Parker and Matt Stone the brilliant, boundary pushing artists they are.

They made a game called Smuggle Truck about illegal immigration. It is a light hearted, cartooney game that brings perspective and absurdity to what is a hot and controversial topic. Despite it's childish nature, I would say this is a monumental step forward for "mature" games because they aren't afraid of "mature" topics.

So why did Apple reject it from the iStore? Because they are afraid and weak.

Yes I think Apple sucks. This is another nail in the coffin. To get approved Owlchemy had to change the name of the game to "Snuggle Truck" ( 3P1C LAWLZ) and make it revolve getting wild animals to a nurturing zoo. You can still get the original Smuggle Truck for PC on their website (going to purchase when I get home today. Out of principle).

I don't blame Owlchemy for giving in at all. They are in a tough business and this is a first release of an Indie studio. Their future probably depends on this game being profitable so yes... they are at the mercy of the Apple store. This that sucks is it will probably take a Playstation style hack to force Apple to not hold the same monopoly on their hardware that Sony does.

Long story short give Owlchemy your money because they represent the next step in bringing video games to the next level of artistic expression. Snuggle Truck may not be the King's Speech, but it is a step in that direction!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Sony and PSN Silver lining

So yesterday the universe exploded with the news that not only had the PSN been compromised, but it would seem that hackers have stolen the private information of the users. All of them. Including credit card information. I think I am safe to assume that everyone can agree this is pretty bad. Was it Anonymous? Who knows and it really doesn't matter. What does matter is that PSN users are going to be getting a lot of mail with fantastic male enhancement offers.

Despite Sony being the mega-huge giant faceless corporation (sort of), I really don't blame Sony for the attack directly. I believe that everything revolving Sony lately is indicative of the monopoly of digital distribution for the console market. I think this is the blow that will bring competition; which will be awesome for us consumers.

Steam coming to the PSN is a huge win for consumers because it presents options. Options are about the best thing for us as gamers because it not only lets us choose how we spend our time and money based on our tastes, but it forces the providers of said options to make theirs the best in order to earn our choice (and hence our money). Right now if you own a Playstation your only option for online functionality is the PSN. If Sony allowed other networks onto their platform, like say Steam, this wouldn't be as much an issue. Sony could focus more on the basic framework of online functionality with the PSN and let other companies be, say, responsible for a lot more content.

Why on earth would Sony do this? Wouldn't this be giving away a lot of revenue streams from PSN sales? Well of course it would be but which is worse; losing as many accounts as they are over the whole hacking thing or keeping people on their console by saying they have the choice. It would give them a fantastic selling point over the XBLA or whatever crap network Nintendo has set up.

It would be easy! Kevin Butler could say "nervous about giving your billing information to Sony? Don't be because you don't have to! You have options. Keep your business here." (By the way if you haven't seen this Penny Arcade, well, look at it!) Sony doesn't have a good track record working with other companies and other technology so hopefully a new attitude will be born of this disaster.

Always a silver lining!

Off topic: After more playing of Portal 2 it is quickly cementing itself as one of my favorite's of all time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Age of Empires Online First Impressions

Thanks to GamePro I was fortunate enough to acquire a beta key to AOEO (heh). I spent about an hour with the game so far since and I have to say color me optomistic.

The game is a MMO RTS. To be honest I'm not to sure how it works yet either. I do have to say the tutorial is kind of mediocre so far, but that's okay because there are a lot of exciting ways this game could go. You start off with a capital city and get quests which are like missions in any other RTS. So far the only real interaction I've notice that would let you know there are other people playing is a chat window. Aside from that I haven't yet been introduced to the MMO part.

I'll hold off talking about the game play until I spend a little more time and really get the chance to wrap my head around it, but so far I really like the direction Gas Powered Games has taken it. I will say I absolutely love the cartoon like graphic style. Not only is it fun and unique, but it will help the game scale to many budget PC's and laptops, which will be very good for the game's appeal.

I will always have a spot in my heart for GPG. They are most memorable to me for their cult classic RTS Supreme Commander, which is hands down the best non-Blizzard RTS in my not so humble opinion. The game was very macro oriented and focused on amassing huge robot armies and smashing them against each other. It was really about who could get their resource generation going faster and who could keep their supply lines going rather then micro/expansion. They did release a sequel, Supreme Commander 2, a couple years ago but it definitely fell flat and lost a lot of what made the original so incredible. As big of a Starcraft 2 fan as I am I can say it's a shame that the original Supreme Commander couldn't "command" (heh see what I did there) as much of an e-sports following as Brood War and now SC2 control. Still great game if you ever feel like going back into it.

Anyways back to the OT I am super excited for this game because it is already doing something different with the MMO genre. Unlike the WoW clone Rift (IT IS GET OVER IT) this game tries some actual new game play mechanics! It is clearly not trying to be a WoW killer because, despite what Trion seems to think the only person who can kill WoW is Blizzard.

So far the only glaring fault with this game is that you need Games for Windows Live to run it, which I have avoided like the plague so far because I have Steam which works about as good as anything right now. Plus I fear this dystopian future....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Epic boss says indie games are ruining everything

Which of course isn't true, but what they are doing is creating fantastic competition in the marketplace for our industry. It's funny how also Nintendo is crying that "mobile" games are ruining everything. Here is what I have to say to the Epic's and Nintendo's out there....

Stop Crying and Step Up Your Game!!!!!!

Before you ask I do believe all of the exclamation marks are necessary. Fact is that AAA games still sell and very well, but consumers, when presented with options, will be more judicious with their leisure dollars. We have options now guys and it will take more than generic shooters and Mario tennis to earn our money in this world economy.

Minecraft has sold almos
t 2 million copies. Is that because it is inexpensive or because it is really high quality? Steam just released a statement that the original Portal sold 4 million copies not counting Steam sales. Is that a coincidence?

That leads me to the easy Valve method (yes I am praising Valve in a post again. I've been doing it for weeks, why stop now?) of prototyping. I would imagine that the first Portal game cost very little to develop. They took a low risk experiment and packaged it in the Orange Box. When everyone was talking about "The Cake is a Lie" they said DAMN! We need to now invest the millions of dollars it takes to create a AAA title and it has been selling incredibly well! I can't wait to see the numbers when they come out.

It paints an awful
picture that big game companies feel this entitled. It also speaks volumes to hear such a big part of our AAA industry like Epic say things like we are only motivated by price and not quality. I will be a full price buyer of a AAA game if I think the quality is there. I buy a lot of games for full price, regardless of length and mostly based on quality.

As a consumer I am not concerned about the future of the game industry at all! I fully believe we are heading towards a Renaissance where it will take less resources to create, market, and sell a brilliant game (once again see Minecraft). Yes this is scary for the people like Mike Capps who think they deserve our money just by existing, or from Nintendo who know that the Mario, Zelda, etc flock of geese will inevitably stop laying golden eggs. The industry will soon force the Epic's and the Nintendo's to evolve and let's face it; we all fear change.

Bottom line is of course we aren't going to just buy any ol' $60 title because the industry expects it. You have to work for my money and give me a good product. Quit yer bitchin' Mike Capps!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Portal 2 Sorta Review Part 1

There is so much to discuss. From the Potato Sack to the ARG to the actual game, we have a lot of ground to cover that will come in a few posts. I took yesterday (Tuesday) off from work with the express purpose of being able to finish Portal 2 this morning. I am happy to report that after 6.9 hours of some of the most amazing game play and storytelling I have finished my first run through and it is the only one of three brandy new games I have purchased this year that I have actually finished.

Now in the almost 3 months I have been doing this blog I have never really write a "review" and I really don't intend on talking just about the game and assigning it a numerical value. There are a lot of other avenues to go for reviews and I am under no delusion that I can compete with professional game critics. What I am going to do is hit you with a wall of text containing my thoughts about the game and what it represents. I am going to go in to this assuming that you are familiar with the first Portal and that you have little to no knowledge beyond the marketing of the second. If you aren't sure if you should buy the game do it and thank me later. Anyways here we go!

Portal 2 is exactly what we would expect from a developer that so clearly understands what makes video games different and special as a medium. While it certainly acknowledges what people liked and what made the first Portal as brilliant as it was, Portal 2 is certainly a sequel in every sense of the word. It effectively expands on the mythology, takes the game in exciting new directions, and takes the high's higher and the lows, well, there really aren't many.

My biggest beef with this game is probably the source engine. While the game looks on par with current gen graphics, there are loading screens about every 5 minutes. The loading goes by pretty quick, but then again I played on a reasonably beefy gaming PC. There is nothing more immersion breaking than "please hold while we load the next smidge of game play." Seriously though, at least give us a little more variety with the loading screens. There are 4 based on where you are in the progression of the game and none are all that different. Come on Valve! You polish every other corner of this game to a mirror shine! At least remind me that the space bar is to jump, or that Aperture science says something silly.

With that said this game is as close to perfection as our medium sits right now. In the just under 7 hours it took me to play through the single player campaign it never once felt like there was any padding, or that an area or sequence was added to pad out the game play length. Every single second, every texture, and every corner of the level design is so meticulously well planned out and perfectly timed that it should set a new standard for production values in AAA studios. Valve hasn't been above said padding in the past, but every single second of the game is chock full of the amazing dialogue we have grown to expect from the budding franchise.

I would definitely compare the single player campaign a lot to the single player campaign of the first CODMW. It is incredibly well polished and thought out and the apex of what linear FP gameplay should be. It is atmospheric, the voice acting is really top notch, and it takes the quality over quantity approach.

I absolutely loved the puzzles. This time around there is little emphasis on twitch, timing based execution and a lot more focus on thinking your way through almost every situation. The puzzles are just hard enough to give one pause for thought, but not too hard where it will make you rage quit. It is always satisfying to finally find the solution, even though there is generally one right way to solve a problem.

I made the mistake at glancing at the Metacritic user review scores after about an hour in and there were three main complaints I read that I would like to address.

First: The game is an expansion pack. This is plain ol' silly. Yes it is still in the source engine, but there is no doubt in my mind that this game is a sequel. We are not looking at Left 4 Dead to Left 4 Dead 2 here, we are looking at a brilliant script, an amazing arc, a new feel and tone, and a greatly expanded universe. This isn't a map pack.

Second: *SPOILER WARNING SORT OF BUT NOT REALLY* it had a stupid cliffhanger ending that clearly just paves the way for another sequel. Without wanting to talk about the ending I really have to disagree with this statement completely. While we weren't exactly treated to a crazy plot twist, it really wasn't much of a cliffhanger. What the ending did do to perfection is achieve that artistic expression that I find so appealing; once again I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.Thirdly there is the DLC issue. Valve, at least on the PC version, has implemented an in game store where you can purchase new gestures and visual mod's for your robot avatars for the cooperative campaign (I will hopefully be tackling that with a friend this weekend). Every "mod" is approximately $2.49 for simply a small visual update to the game. This is absolutely ridiculous and a little offensive. In Valve's Team Fortress 2 the whole hat thing doesn't bother me because the game itself, despite being essentially being priced incredibly reasonably has seen years of continued expansions, free maps, game play upgrades, and support. The way I see the hats and DLC in TF2 is that it is asking for optional donations for the continued support and development. Nothing wrong with that. For day one with a game that is AAA with AAA pricing; it is a little insulting.

Bottom line what Portal 2 achieves is absolutely amazing. It is an extremely polished AAA puzzle game that is not focused on violence in any meaningful way. While there are turrets that shoot bullets at you, the shooting is an obstacle ad not a core mechanic. If Portal 2 can prove to other major publishers that you can take a risk and a new subject matter and build a successful AAA franchise around NOT killing people it is an absolute win.

For science.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Battlefeild 3's existence

So I watched the 12 minute game play video for EA's COD killer and you can color me impressed. I have said before in this blog that soldiers shooting soldiers, being in space, or in a real life situation is a bit played out for me, but the 12 minutes of game play we saw had some of the best current gen graphics we have seen, had realistic and beautifully rendered and designed environments, had some incredible voice acting (and not just for a video game), and in general was incredibly well produced. It looks like what a Call of Duty killer should like and Activision should be quaking in their boots.

With that said I'm not impressed because, despite looking amazing, it still looks like soldiers shooting soldiers.

Of course it will sell well. It will get glowing reviews. I will get $15 map packs for the multiplayer. It will be a fiscal success for EA in the same vein as Madden. My issue is that it does nothing to take risks or move our industry forward.

Now, any number of people I know would call me a hypocrite citing that the game already clearly tackles a real world current event issue. We have young men and women from the US and many other countries all over the world fighting together against insurgency in the Middle East. We have makeshift revolutions going on in the Ivory Coast, Libya, sort of Egypt, and many other North African and Middle Eastern countries. What is going on right now is complex and mature and video games have not been afraid to tackle "modern warfare as a subject matter and setting.

Beef is that it's been done to death. It may look beautiful and may be expertly written and produced, but is it different enough to really resonate?

I actually played the original Modern Warfare about a year ago (I know, pretty late to the party but hello?! PC Master race here) on XBOX 360 and I was legitimately impressed then too. The game felt real and was brilliantly produced. It wasn't perfect, but then again what game is? I feel it was different enough that it resonated, but when I went online to play some of the acclaimed multiplayer there wasn't a match to be found.

War FPS's are the new Madden except we get 2 every year. They are more expensive roster updates and for every one that sells well it holds back innovation and our industry from real growth as an artistic medium.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is Valve the new Activision??

Well of course not, but I have had a very interesting argument this morning about Valve's role as a developer with my friend equating them more to a publisher with evil corporation like tendencies.

It could be argued that the only original IP ever actually created by Valve is the Half Life franchise. Everything else they have ever put out have pretty much been mod's on their source engine, or of the original Half Life (which as I recall was developed on Quake 3 technology but I really don't feel like doing the research this morning). Team Fortress, Day of Defeat, Left 4 Dead, my beloved Portal, all started as mod's or indy project's before getting "swallowed" up by the evil, rich, corporate entity that is Valve. One could (and has) argued that this is akin to a large corporation buying up a lot of small business to merge them into the corporate bureaucratic fold. Has Valve evolved into a publisher/distributor rather than a developer?

Well of course not. They are a beautiful and effective amalgamation of every entity in our little world.

Valve have an uncanny knack for spotting and snatching up epic level talent. They see really brilliant developers and give them jobs and resources based on their idea's more than a resume. Valve has about every luxury in the development world and isn't constrained by a third party publisher demanding results and immediate profitability; setting deadlines and awarding bonuses on Metacritic scores. What Valve seems to do is give smart people access to more talent, better technology, and lots of money to create the greatest experiences available. I don't see that as being evil at all; I see it as fantastic practices for both us, the consumers, as well as any investors for Valve as a developer of software.

Why isn't every company in the video games industry like this? Well it's not easy to pull of and maintain. It's not "standard" play (for all my like minded SC2 fans out there). The only other company who was sort of running on this business model was Stardock, and well they made some decisions that brought them away from the whole publisher/developer/middleware thing.

Long story short Valve is great for our industry, is always thinking forward, and has created a great counter-business model to the Activisions and EA's of the world.

Now is Portal 2 available early?! If it is working today is gonna suck!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Portal 2 Lab Rat is brilliant art, Valve is amazing at marketing and Here's Why

Spoiler warning! Another games are art rant incoming! Well that's not entirely true; in this case it's marketing is art. Hear me out on this one!

For me it is easy to gauge what I perceive to be good art because I have a very easy litmus test; did it place me in an uncomfortable emotional state? Whether it is the one rom com I can actually tolerate (Love Actually), a stupid movie like Dumb and Dumber or Jackass, or something truly brilliant like Gataca the common theme throughout all of the movies is that they push your emotions around like a pinball. When I play or watch a Starcraft 2 match I always feel my heart rate rise, I feel warmer, and I can feel the adrenaline start to pump. All signs of brilliant art.

I adore the contrast in tone between the Aperture Science investment ad's and the recently released Lab Rat comic. Both marketing vehicles are incredibly entertaining separately, but when taken together as a mass of propaganda for Valve's imminently released opus it could be the most effective communication of tone and theme I have ever been witness too. They are also damn well made. It is the tonal shift between comical and dark as hell; but still a little of each emotion in the other (much like a yin yang) that is really amazing. You have the uncomfortable humor of the investment videos and the dark experience of the comic.

It really seems to me that Valve is not afraid to market a new idea to the masses. It is really exciting they are not only putting out an FPS that isn't about soldiers shooting soldiers, and really isn't about shooting anyone at all, but that they are marketing it to the Madden and CODBLOPS masses (whom many of us PC Master Race look down upon and rightly so =P).

How is it that Valve, a company without a marketing department or firm, can come up with arguably the greatest campaign video game kind has ever seen and the best EA and Visceral can do is this?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Israeli Propoganda Games: Why they should be awesome

*Disclaimer* this blog is not about politics per-say and I don't want to go on a rant about the Middle East or pretend to know what I'm talking about over there. What I will do is condemn a really stupid advocacy group for hurting it's cause, bringing even more negative press and hate to Israeli's, and completely misinterpreting what makes video games special as an artistic medium.

I first read the story on Kotaku yesterday about who a ultra-right wing group of Jewish settlers created and released some really crappy FPS's about pieces of Jewish history. When you release games that are minimally functional in an attempt to blatantly indoctrinate youth it is just a pure epic fail for the Israeli people and for your cause. Now if the games had some actual historical educational quotient, or actually played like they would encourage children to want to learn more about their heritage that would be pretty awesome. That, unfortunately, isn't the case.

I will say it would be irresponsible to condemn Israel as a country for these games for the same reason you can't condemn America as a country because of the crazy southern pastor who burnt the Koran (not very nice of him).

Whew! With that said.....

I love the subject matter of these games. There is so much history around Israel and the Jewish people that you just can't make up. The struggle of the Macabee's, a Jewish Sect during the Roman occupation that rebelled against the foreign rule and are actually the origin of the holiday Hanuka. They were known for using giant hammers in battle. That's bad ass, historical, and there could be a lot of great gray area and drama.

Making a well thought out game about the struggles between Palestine and Israel would be what I would like to see the most, but would never happen for obvious reasons. Being able to interact with a actual mature, diverse, complicated issue in an immersive medium and be able to really understand the struggle's of both sides; it is what I dream of (well that and Skyrim). It would be thought provocative, original, and relevant. It would also be near impossible to pull off, no publisher would fund it or pick it up, and it would befall the same fate as 6 Days in Felujah, but that is what I personally would consider a mature game.

Bottom line is that the games are stupid, but I would love for someone to have the balls to do it right.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Market more to me dammit!

In this blog I talk a lot about core video game demographics. To bring it up again the largest group of consumers of "video games" is men aged 25 to 40. The next largest group of consumers is women of the same age range. Teenagers and children are not the largest consumer base. This being the case then why aren't more games marketed to the most people (especially seeing as though my disposable income is probably a lot higher than those of 12 year old's).

I've bitched plenty about the marketing I hate, but let me talk about the marketing I love. Valve (spoiler warning: fanboy praise incoming) has done such an amazing job marketing Portal 2. Portal already has a huge installed fan base of core nerds, but Valve is clearly trying to expand their audience without alienating said core (ie me, the male aged 25 to 40). I see the TV spot all the time, the youtube investment opportunity video's are hilarious, the robots are cute, and all of the market accurately represents the pitch black humor of Portal.

Throughout the entire campaign Valve isn't insulting my family, bringing in aging rock stars, or resorting to breaking the 4th wall of their universe. They are just accurately representing their game and it's refreshing.

Bottom line is I think Valve has successfully executed a campaign that appeals to me, would appeal to younger children, and parents who are looking for a game for said children that doesn't involved soldiers shooting stuff.

PS. One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......
One more turn......

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good Mechanics Sell Games Regardless

Let me know if this situation has ever happened to you... This morning I am ready for work around 8am but I don't need to leave until about 10 past 9, so I figure hey; why don't I play a little Civilization 5. Now, being the elite member of the PC master race that I am it is no suprise that I have Civ's 3 through 5 installed on my computer at all time and am never afraid to revisit any of them when I'm sick of the current games I'm playing, but more on that later. All of a sudden I look up and somehow I have managed to advance time an hour in the span of about 5 minutes. "One more turn" I thought to myself as I ended up having to run to catch my train in the nick of time.

The Civilization series have always sold incredibly because they have been made incredibly well. Despite being PC exclusive turned based strategy titles (how quaint) they have always garnered commercial success for developer Firaxis and publisher 2K Games. Anyone who says PC gaming is dead just take a look.

My brother's roommate is someone that "core" gamers aren't a fan of. He owns a PS3 and an Xbox pretty much so he can play Madden. He isn't a nerd, and doesn't really care about video games as an artistic medium or as a sub-culture. I have seen him play one other game on his laptop and can you guess what it is? Why would a jock type Madden person be so into a PC exclusive turn based strategy title?

Because good mechanics and excellent execution sells games.

You can have a lot invested in story, or spend a lot of money getting top notch voice talent (Ghostbusters comes to mind), but in the end if your game is fun it will sell whether it is Angry Birds on the iPhone or Civilization on the PC.

I have been talking about it a lot lately, but let's look at World of Warcraft. WoW has an approximate active subscription base of about 12 million people worldwide. That is more than the entire population of New York city. Many of those people are poor sods who never cared about video games, who cared even less about online and multiplayer, and who got sucked in by about as solid of mechanics as we will ever see in a traditional MMO (grrr Rift). Despite being about as nerdy a PC exclusive title as you can get the game grosses more than the GDP of some developing nations. When you have perfect execution it doesn't matter what genre your game is or the appeal of the venue; it will make you money and make you loved worldwide.

By the way if my boss is reading this I don't think I can come in to work today as I'm not feeling well.....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Portal 2 is Coming in 2 weeks!

In 2 weeks we will finally receive the highly anticipated sequel to the most important game to come out in the last 4 years. That game of course is Portal 2. I don't think a single, rational person had a bad thing to say about Portal. It was to the point, it was brilliantly written, and, in my opinion, is the first video game in history to reach that artistic emotional impact where I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the end. Any video game (or any artistic meidum) that can be that emotionally confusing and impactful is absolutely brilliant. Portal is the shinning epitome of how to take a cool, unique concept and make it so god damned effective that years later we are all still running around proclaiming that the cake is a lie and humming still alive.

Being the internet troll that I am I feel obligated to mention that there is certainly a lot that could go wrong with Portal 2. One of the most important elements of the first was its brevity; the game never felt padded or wore out it's welcome. Because of it's short length every single inch of every level was perfect, every line of, well, monologue was so meticulously well written, and the ebb and flow of the game was so well paced and thought out that there was never a single point that felt like filler (for instance Highway 17). With Portal 2 there is now 2 full length campains (8 hours each) and the biggest question I have is can they fill 16 hours with as much brilliant writing, pacing, and mechanics as they could just 3?

There have been a lot of game play demo videos, ads, and other media released for Portal 2 and from it all the game looks absolutely spectacular. It really goes to show what Valve does better than anyone; use the meidum of video games to tell stories that would not work as movies, books, musical theater, etc.

I love BioWare, and as I have ranted about frequently in this blog, I am even loving the clearly rushed and half-assed Dragon Age 2. They are a great developer, but they are not the best because their games would work almost as well as movies. Dialogue is a big mechanic and common theme throughout BioWare games and, while immensly fun to watch and navigate the conversation pie, we are not as immersed as we are in, say, Left 4 Dead. In Left 4 Dead there is very little "dialogue" and the story is told soley through brilliant level design. It is why Left 4 Dead would be a lousy movie, but works VERY well as a video game.

I'm getting a little rambly here, but bottom line is Valve is really the only AAA company that is really pushing the boundaries of the FPS. Crysis 2 may look brilliant, but it is still soldiers running around shooting soldiers. Homefront may have sold very well, but it is still soldiers running around shooting soldiers. Halo, CODBLOPS, etc.... Soldiers running around shooting other soldiers. Same base mechanics. Only Valve really shows that fantastic (and profitable) AAA games can be made if you take risks and push the boundries of the genre.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Gamestop buys Impulse from Stardock!

The big news over the weekend is that retail giant Gamestop has purchased digital retail venue Impulse from Stardock for an undisclosed sum. Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock has released a statement, but this FAQ sums in up pretty well. I think this is an absolutely fantastic move for consumers, for Brad's company, and for Gamestop. Take the long journey through the wall of text with me if you please!

Quick side note: I'm not sure if this post is interesting or not so please let me know what you think in the comments if you could! Thanks!

Let's face it; digital distribution is the future of PC games. You don't need a fancy advanced economics degree to see that the retail video game market will start rapidly declining in the near future. It will never go away as long as there are grandma's with christmas and birthday gifts to purchase, but us "savy" consumers have already pretty much completely switched to digital for our PC purchases and many have even started with digital for their consoles.

Console digital distribution is another whole can of worms, but let's focus on why Stardock selling and Gamestop buying is a good thing.

One of the many amazing things our 26th president Teddy Roosevelt was very well known for was introducing the very first anti-trust laws into American culture. It is a pretty widely held opinion that monopolies are good for no one (except those who hold them) and that having no competition in a marketplace is scary for a few reasons. First there is no reason to be better or advance. If you have no fear of losing your grip on the market why try and waste money on new features or advancing your market? You are getting the income anyways because hey! Where else they gonna go? It is also bad because the monopoly can dictate price. If you want the product you will pay because hey? Where else ya gonna go? These kind of tactics certainly explain why diamonds are so expensive.

Valve are currently dominating the marketplace with Steam and for now it is a great thing. Steam has manageable DRM and low costs for developers, and it brings us consumers so much convieniance it is crazy to think we ever purchased games another way. Sure it certainly isn't perfect, but it is really damn close. It will always be this way as long as Valve has the threat of a usurper; ie another distributor like Impulse. So far Valve does nothing but right by it's customers and fear of losing them will keep them in line.

Stardock kind of started Impulse by accident. The have been using their own methods for digital distribution for years and it made sense from a business standpoint to make some extra cash over it. The important part of this sale though is that Stardock as a company decided it wanted to define it's identity as a developer of software and games, and not a retailer. When a company has one sector that represents the bulk of it's income then of course that department is going to get the most focus. That is why we never saw Starcraft Ghost from Blizzard (RIP Nova).

Stardock want's to focus on what they are really passionate about; making REALLY nerdy PC exclusive strategy games that are so complex and with such a hgh bar of entry that no one but the best of the best PC master race will dare to venture in (ie me). Their last game Elemental: War of Magic was kid of a disaster to say the least. I did purchase and play it about 5 months after release and a few patches and while functional, it wasn't that fun. It certainly had a lot of potentail, but the bulk of the mechanics and game play elements were clearly rushed and not well planned out or executed. It clearly wasn't the company's main focus and it showed. I have a feeling that Wardell and crew were not happy about that and didn't like the way they were going, so they changed things. They wanted to release "Starcraft Ghost" and not focus on "WoW" (yeah that analogy is a bit of a stretch but I think it works).

Gamestop is a retialer. They know retail. They also know that physical stores are on the decline (see above). They will be much more passionate about really expanding impulse and becoming viable competition for Steam because they need to to survive. They have no choice but to take a piece of the digital marketplace because I am assuming that they enjoy making money and feeding their families.

I think we will see a lot of changes to Impulse in the coming year. First, and certainly least I definitely a level of DRM implemented that doesn't exist with Impulse right now. From a publishers standpoint this may be a sticking point for more AAA titles being put up for sale on Impulse (not that there aren't plenty). What else will we see? I certainly have no idea but we do know that Gamestop is coming for Valve and for all of us PC peeps that is certainly a good thing.

Valve will continue to make Steam the best, and I think they will work harder because now they have a real retailer who will be clawing at their throats. Gamestop know's that their future really depends on this purchase and I really believe they will be hungrier for our PC dollars. I certainly don't plan as of now to switch to impulse, but I am excited that they will certainly keep Valve on their toes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Hawken Nerdgasm

As I mentioned in my last post I am a huge fan of the PC Mechwarrior games. I picked it up at MW2:Mercs and have played every game and it's expansion on to MW4:Mercs which is easily one of the best arguments for the PC master race. It is just inherently fun to be the pilot of a tweaked out mech you personalized wreaking havoc on a battlefield chock full of giant, mechanical monstrosities with missles, lasers, and projectile fire everywhere. It is the best PC exclusive shooter's get and I hope that Smith and Tinker can get a reboot a: released and b: as epic as it can and should be.

Meanwhile I have been watching the progress from afar of indie developer Adhesive making a game called Hawken. Watch the trailer below:

If that took 9 guys less than a year and the game play is half as awesome as that I may have to buy 2 copies. I usually try to have something intelligent and well-thought out to say but I have to just have a nerd spasm over this and really just revel in the fact is that this is what dreams are made of.

I hope this releases and sells like Minecraft. If 9 guys can make a game that runs this smooth and looks this good, well hopefully more talented individuals with vision and purpose will band together to really bring us what this medium has to offer. Bravo gentlepeople..... bravo.

Now hopefully the game is as amazing as the gameplay trailer.....

P.S. Hey Crabcat! Got an awesome cosplay idea for ya!!!