Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve - A Year In Review

On Wednesday, January 5th, I posted my first post of this blog which more or less presented the mission statement to any who decided to read this as well as to myself to have something that I really wanted to accomplish.  I also sort of have one on the sidebar to the right, but the first post basically says "I want to write, and I want to write consistently, so I'm going to make it a 'thing'" and I would say that Kupowered is officially 'a thing'.  Though not without its hiccups in activity thanks to poor weather and computer issues, I have pretty much stuck to that goal of consistency to the best of my ability and for that I'm pretty proud of myself.  I really wrestled with whether or not I'd be able to do it, more because I worried it would become a 'chore' over time, but (mostly to my surprise) every day has been as exciting as the last, if not more, when I sit down here and actually really get into hammering out one of these posts.

I love doing this blog, doing this writing, and that's why it's going to be so easy to continue doing it into the new year.  While I don't always know what I'm going to write about until I actually start doing it (sometimes halfway through a post, I'll notice it's dramatically shifted gears and make a few changes to the title or the earlier body of it to reflect that) I always -want- to write which is likely the most important point.  That want, the desire, is more or less why this has kept going and why it's improved over time (at least, I like to think it has) as I've more or less fallen into a way about things or a style even.  With any luck, my ability will eventually match my ambition for it and I'll be able to make this a lot better than it is currently; if just by delivering on  few promises I've made throughout the year.  (Like actually explaining the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period in my own way and getting an actual logo going.)  But even if I don't, I bet if I keep at what I've been doing, it'll work out all the same.

Since this is a year in review and I really like statistics, let's have a go at the blog by the numbers.  Not including this post, I made 348 posts this year - 17 posts fewer than a full year's worth (365).  Since the stated goal was 'every other day', which would have been 183 posts (rounded up), I beat my goal by 165 posts which is quite a wide margin.  My most viewed post (according to my stats page) was my "Really Tired" post in which I was silly and decided to talk about Dragons in a fairly casual way (even by my standards) as an attempt to make myself (and hopefully others) laugh with the way it went.  At 4,069 pageviews, I'd almost wager it did....if I weren't convinced that 89% or so of those pageviews are actually links to one of the dragon pictures used in the post.  My search keyword section constantly has about four or five different entries for 'dragons' or 'cool black dragons' which more or less leads me to believe this which is a little disappointing, but hey, views are views.  This is all reinforced by the second most viewed post, "Guilty Pleasures - Yakuza 4's Hostess Maker", which came in at only 290 views All Time.

I'm almost loathe to actually use Blogger's All Time graph for pageviews per month since it's not actually by month (seems to skip every other month and some months have two entires when hovered over), but it's kind of all I can think of to use right now.  January 2011 is listed as 538 pageviews between that point (wherever it was in January, perhaps at the end?) and December of 2009 (which, of course, the blog did not exist then).  After a little dip in March('s second entry) of 338 pageviews, there was steady growth from that point on to December('s first entry) of 2,297 pageviews which is my all-time high.  The second entry for December, which I imagine isn't the solid end-point of it, is currently at 2,217.  I honestly don't know how I'm getting all these pageviews, but hell, I'll take 'em.  As long as people are reading it's all good, I guess.  The part next to the graph that says "Pageviews all time history" has a total of 16,829 currently, which is a number that I can't even figure on.  (This is all with the 'Don't track own pageviews' unticked, however I doubt my own views are skewing things that dramatically and considering I've typed all this up, I'm not going to chance turning it off and making myself look silly.)

Moving on to the Audience tab, my top-most country of viewership is, possibly unsurprisingly, the United States with 7,987 pageviews.  I don't really link-whore my blog around (which, honestly, I probably should?), but if I do, the majority of the people I link to are in the US.  Up next is Canada (thank you Chance!) with 1,123 posts.  Australia brings up fourth with 881 views (that are likely not all made by Haplo, but I'm just guessing) and the country with the least pageviews is Denmark with 113.  Beats me how Denmark is even on the list, but hey whatevs.  (For those interested, the full list is such (Country - Pageviews):  United States - 7,987, Canada - 1,123, United Kingdom - 892, Australia - 881, Russia - 485, Germany - 464, Indonesia - 139, Brazil - 136, Ukraine - 134, and Denmark - 113.  Which only adds up to 12,354 so I guess the other views are a mish-mash of a smattering of views here and there.)  The bulk of these viewings was on Firefox apparently, as it accounts for 7,461 (or 45%) of my views.  Next is Internet Explorer with 4,081 (or 24%) and coming in third is Chrome with 3,461 (or 21%).  And of those total views, 84% (14,071 views) were done on computers running Windows OS, with the remaining 16% comprising of a mishmash of different OS's.  Linux and Mac get 5 and 4 percent respectively (901 and 826, again respectively) and Playstation 3 and PSP are both in the <1% category with 165 and 123 respectively.  Something completely surprising to me was that my site was apparently viewed on iPads 124 times, iPhones 111 times and iPods 61 times.

That all might not be interesting to you and I apologize if it's not, but it's absolutely fascinating to me even though with most cases it's just "Hey, these are big numbers that involve your blog".  I just think it's a neat little look into the back-end of things, into the mechanics of it rather, and that there might be a few people out there as interested in it as I am.  And what better time to cement these numbers than tonight, the end of the year?  Though I have to admit those are probably a little dry, so I do have a few more fun numbers to go over.

Since starting this blog, I've made about 26 different 'types' of posts, including "A Look Back", "Giant Robot On", "Weekly Wrap-up in Gaming", "Why Won't They Make These", "LittleBigThings", and "Misadventures in Bargain-Shopping".  I quantify these as 'types' in that they're...well, titles for very specialized types of posts.  While most of the time my posts have been bringing up something news-worthy and offering my opinion and thoughts on it, these posts are more or less based on my personal experiences and opinions on things, like presenting a specific game or type of game, describing it, and wondering aloud about how difficult it would be to make more of them, wherein the answer is usually 'Not very, but it won't sell well either'.  (Why Won't They Make These)  Or like talking about anything and everything involving LittleBigPlanet regarding news, my own personal excitement, or my adventures in the wonderful world of LittleBigPlanet.  (LittleBigThings)  There might be a few others I could include and likewise a few included that might not need to be in there, which is why I said 'about', since it's just a rough gauging.

One of those types of posts was the 'Review', which my first one was made on Monday, July 25th for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.  The game was so galvanizing that I couldn't help but be inspired to do with it what I hadn't done before and what I indeed told myself I wouldn't do in actually presenting something that was not just my opinions, but my overall judgment of the game (which are two very slightly different things).  Since then, I've only reviewed two other games (Yakuza 4 and Star Ocean: First Departure) because they've both struck similar chords as Ghost Trick, albeit in widely different ways.  It's probably a safe bet to make that I'll review more games in 2012, but that my focus will remain on relating my opinions on the games I play rather than rendering my judgments.  Again, they are different things, albeit barely, and I think they're both important enough to have a place here.

While I don't think I could ever pick 'favorite' posts of the year, I will point out a couple of my more memorable ones.  In recent memory, my series of two (spoiler warning!) Character Spotlight posts about Caim from the Drakengard series (again, spoilers up ins them) were probably a couple of the posts that I've got most excited about doing.  I've said it many times before, but Drakengard is a series close to my heart and Caim and his presentation are a couple of the bigger reasons as to why that is.  So getting to really elaborate on that is something that I really wanted to do and that I'm glad I got to do it.  Also memorable was (again, spoiler warning!) my two-part What Went Wrong - Chrono Trigger DS series in which I got to elaborate on how bothered I was that Squeenix took one of my favorite games (if not my absolute favorite) from my childhood and, well, really did all they could to try and screw it up.  Because they honestly did and thank god there likely won't be a third Chrono game (well, fourth) since all attempts aside from the first have been pretty abysmal.

That's about it, really.  It's been a great year and I wanted to be able to really express my achievements with this blog in both personal reasonings and raw numbers and I believe I've adequately done that.  I'm sure there's quite a few other things I could've elaborated on and pointed out here, but I covered the major points, I think.  I hope everyone who's read this far has enjoyed it and will continue to do so well into the new year while this just grows and grows.  Here's hoping for great things in 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Actually Pretty Cool - Swapnote

As with many things that are on the 3DS, I have been completely oblivious to the existence of a things called Swapnote until today when I found out something pretty neat about it.  From what I can tell, Swapnote is basically PictoChat from the original DS (basically a service that allows you to implement something of a chatroom setup with friends, using text either written or typed and drawings to talk) but does what I wanted PictoChat to do:  be viable as a thing to use when not surrounded by friends.  Basically, try as I might, I couldn't figure out a way to connect with anyone on PictoChat without being right near them and, well, if you're that close, why not just talk to them?  There are reasons, of course, but I found more that I hoped to be able to open my DS, find one of my online friends and draw little pictures back and forth at them.

Swapnote proves to be able to do this with the added security of knowing that any Note you get through this is from someone you've already friended on your system through the 3DS' Friend Code.  As such, should you find a picture of a wang sticking out at you (literally), well, that's your friend doing that, so you either find it funny or you need new friends.  Where it really starts getting impressive is when you get into it a bit more and realize that it's more than just "Here's a picture" "Here's a picture in response to a picture" in that you can apparently bundle four screens-worth of notes together to send as one to be scrolled through.  This is handy, of course, as I'm sure we've all often found that limits actually do get in the way of some things (character limits on Twitter, space limits on pictures, etc.) so something much looser, as four screens is, can only help.  If you need more than four screens then, well, you're being a bit ambitious but perhaps not overly so.

I don't think I will ever not be amazed at what some people can create with the simplest of tools.  Nor do I think I'll ever be able to have the kind of intuitive creativity some people display with this sort of thing.  How do you get from "This thing that sends four screens of info" to "Let's play some gatdamn D&D on it"?  Apparently the sight of what looks like a graph paper background, which, admittedly might have sparked it for me as well.  (As a young'n, I once attempted to make D&D maps using Excel after changing the visible cells to little squares.  It actually worked in theory as I never got to use the maps, but they looked pretty cool.)  After figuring out he could make maps on it easily, the next step was trying to figure out how to build an actual game around that which I think was handled fairly brilliantly.

It seems like, after watching the above video, that it might not be that intuitive to use/work with, and someone would likely say "there are probably better methods of doing this" and you'd certainly be right; being that you have to at least somewhat know the person enough to get their friend code, it's entirely possible you're already in contact in another fashion where doing this would be a little easier.  Message boards and Chat setups (IRC and IMs) can likely be setup to be at least a little more elegant than the Swapnote solution, though they don't allow for as much freedom with pictures (aside from linking).  But the point of it all is that this is honestly so impressive on merit alone that it seems at least worth a shot.  By the same virtue of pointing out that Chat/IM could be offer better implementation than Swapnote, you could make an argument that Real Life is better than Chat/IM which might not be open to you.  Use what you've got, is the basic message here and if you use it well (Like this usage of Swapnote) then it will at least be fun for everyone involved.  Provided you can wrap your head around the execution and work out mechanics with the buddies you want to play this with (which could honestly be fairly easy to handle with Swapnote itself), it could be one of the more memorable uses of a Free App that you could get from a handheld.

I will say also that the 'turn-based, person-to-DM' system this presents might actually help games get played in all honesty, which has been a problem in my endeavors into D&D and the like.  It's too easy to get distracted with shooting the breeze and before you know it, you've realized that you've talked about the virtues of a certain class over another for half an hour while your buddies have talked about how awesome this other campaign they've been in was, and you're all thinking about how awesome it was when you actually played the game.  With only four screens to respond back and forth with, the DMs is the easiest four to fill which means the responses back and forth between player and DM should be easy enough to handle.  Just another thing to look forward to for when I ultimately pick up a 3DS sometime down the road.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thoughts and Predictions on 2012's Year in Gaming

I don't generally like to, essentially, copy/paste myself from other places, but a thread over at Penny Arcade got me really thinking about the way next year could possibly unfold so I did just as the OP suggested and got out my Crystal Ball, pictured above.  (Note:  Not actually my Crystal Ball, nor did it have any bearing on my predictions; it was all metaphorical)  So I really sort of sat down and reasoned everything out in my head and started typing.  And kept typing.  And kept typing.  About half-way through it, I said to myself, "Geez, why didn't I just write this as a post on my Blog?", which at that point, I countered myself with saying, "Well, no reason I can't do it there too, really, so long as I introduce it properly and such".  So with that in mind, I more or less started writing it more like a post on here than a post on a message board, be it Penny Arcade or anything else.  That would likely be why it's uh....long-winded as hell.  Also likely badly predicted as I am well-documented as being bad at predictions.

Essentially, the questions posed were directed at basically getting out what you expect next year (or even the year to follow) insomuch as the Big Three and their next consoles as well as the 3DS and Vita's growth.  So, that's more or less how I answered, minus talking anything about the 3DS as I don't rightly know what the hell's going to happen with it besides SELLING A TON because it's a Nintendo Handheld.  What follows is the post I made plus some formatting and pictures thrown in for fun.  (Well, labeling, at least.)


Vita: It's been almost a foreign concept to me to consider that the Vita's Launch Line-up isn't that great (since I've only been looking at the NA launch list of 25 games with 10 more in the window), but I'd be willing to be that the fairly weak-ish (not as many games as we're going to get and the highest profile one is certainly more Western focused in Uncharted) launch line-up combined with the fact that the 3DS exists and is being sold next to it is the reason for the slow start. (where the 3DS didn't have that by comparison) I'm not going to get into the tactics or anything involved with that, just suggesting it's a reason that's contributing to the launch as it is.

I'd expect at least a noticeable bump in February when Gravity Daze/Rush comes out over there with a fairly steady growth before and after that. Aside from that, February should probably be a good month for the Vita all-around, considering that's the NA launch which should do fairly well. People griped about the 3DS' $250 pricepoint, but many, many people happily paid it, as many will for the Vita as well. Likely not the same people but people nonetheless.

I'm going to go a little further out than I need to and bring up the games, specifically concrete word on some of the things that have been teased. I don't know when I expect Bioshock for the Vita to get officially announced (as in with footage and such), but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens at E3. I imagine that's going to be Sony's main focus there, which isn't honestly going too much out of the box. For that reason, I don't figure on word of a PS4 until 2013, maybe as early as the start of 2013 like the Vita was (Here's this thing, no name even though it's going to be called the Playstation 4, check out all the shit it does, peace out) but I haven't a damn clue on release date.

Absolutely no way will there -not- be a Monster Hunter game on the Vita in short-order. MH4 is likely a timed exclusive or a version of MH4 will quickly (sometime around release maybe) be announced for the Vita. Even if it's just like "Monster Hunter 4: Special" with an extra couple of levels or something.

Resistance, Killzone and LittleBigPlanet for the Vita should probably pop up (not necessarily in that order) towards the middle of the year leading into the holiday season, where KojiPro will probably dump the Vita version of MGS HD Collection in there as well. Depending on when Zone of the Enders Collection comes out for consoles, it's entirely possible it'll drop at the same time on the Vita, but I'm not sure how good an idea that'd be unless there's some sort of deal with getting both versions to take advantage of Transfarring (and, well, having Zone of the Enders 2 on your PS3 and Vita). Sega's likely going to put something Yakuza (Whether it's a new Black Panther, a port of one of the main games, or an update of the existing Black Panther games) on the Vita in 2012 but if we get it before the end of the year, I'll be surprised. Likewise with a new Phantasy Star Portable (likely called Phantasy Star Victory or something similar to take advantage of PSV) There'll be plenty of other game announcements, some for things that'll come out before the end of the year, some mid-way through 2013, but what I mentioned is more or less what I'm concerned with (read: Thought about for more than five minutes).

Just going to be using current logos for '720' and 'PS4'.

720: I don't know if I expect MS to announce the 720 in 2012 or not really, but when they do, I really expect Kinect integration right out of the box. Not the same Kinect, obviously, but one that fills in a lot of the technical gaps people have complained about - Namely the space required and the not-quite-there-yet level of detection. For the former, there's already a third-party accessory that does a lot to reduce the space needed for the Kinect, I believe it's called the Nyko Zoom or something. I don't know if there's a loss involved with that in terms of how it works or anything, but I figure it'll get ironed out. For the latter, I'm hoping for finger recognition at least with the next Kinect, but I'm not sure if it'll be touted and not deliver well enough or actually work well. Mostly because I don't know how difficult it is to actually do.

As far as SKUs go, I could definitely see them throwing out two at launch, but I'm not going to go so far as to suggest the rumors have been accurate and we'll see a streambox and a 'hardcores with disc drive' box. Perhaps a few less features on one to make it seem more affordable (as MS has done a lot this generation) like a smaller HDD, maybe the PS3 route where it'll look less attractive or something of that sort, but I don't see them jumping out of the gate with something as divisive as rumors are suggesting. With the Kinect+ right out of the box, I don't know what to suggest people will do with their old Kinects, but I don't expect them to acknowledge it beyond saying "You need this new Kinect which we are including with every console".

Wii U: I'm kind of in RainbowDespair's (Note for the blog:  BAsically this post) camp here re: the Wii-U in that I wouldn't be surprised if it comes out and doesn't set the world on fire like Nintendo expects. I'm not sure I'm willing to place bets on Sony-levels of expectations vs. reality to mirror this generation, but I can't imagine the device costing what people expect a Nintendo product to cost (much like the 3DS didn't) and I can imagine Nintendo eating a bit more humble pie for it. I wouldn't be willing to suggest a quickie price cut for the Wii U though, unless Microsoft announces the 720 really competitively and Nintendo needs to garner a little support (like the 3DS vs. Vita situation).

And really, with the Wii U, I'm not sure just -what- to expect from that controller they've shown off and what the alternative is. I'm sure you're not expected to just buy more Wiimotes/Chucks and/or just use the ones from your Wii, but I don't know if that means Nintendo is going to go all out and make something different but the same for the official 'secondary' controllers (since, as far as we know, you'll only be able to use one tablet controller per Console and I can't see Nintendo actively giving up on the couch co-op friendly style they've built up this gen. It's just kind of a schizophrenic message at this point: The tablet for the Wii U has fantastic possibilities for Single-player games (and there are certainly ways to extend this to multi-player, though it sort of shoehorns one person into being 'the guy' which might be a little off-putting), but the Wii was rarely seen as a single-player system from what I can tell (despite all the good single-player games that came out for it) so, again, to just sort of throw away the MP base they've built up would just be baffling. I guess I just need to see how they go about that when there's more information out.

I'm not sure what 'megaton' first-party game they'll drop at E3 for the Wii U (Top runners obviously being Smash Bros., a Mario Game, or a Zelda game, but pretty much any first-party title would likely get as much hype), but I'm definitely expecting that, because showing off games that are going to be well-out and over with by the time it comes out (Darksiders 2, Arkham City, etc.) isn't going to cut it next year. On top of that, some more concrete details about the system itself would be great. Probably not a release date, but maybe a vague "2013" suggestion or announced window. If I had to guess, probably a mid-year launch for it to build up some steam before the Holiday season.

PS4: This one's kind of the hardest here since I honestly have no idea what the hell to think. I've heard rumors that there's already PS4 hardware out there being worked with by 'big' developers, but with the Vita going to be Sony's 'big thing' next year, I can't see them focusing on anything but the Vita and the PS3 (which means the PSP is likely going to be 'officially' dead next year outside of talking about the PS Store, since the Vita's launch and BC will likely spur more developers to put up games they've been holding back Squeenix. Unfortunately, some PSP games just -can't- be handled via passport or DD unless developers really kick their legal divisions into gear to make it happen.) So like I said earlier with the Vita section, I imagine the earliest we'll officially hear about the PS4 will be at the Playstation Meeting in 2013 (end of January if they do it like they did the NGP/Vita) if even then.

As far as what they're going to do with it, I don't see them eschewing Move for something more Kinect-like, but I wouldn't put it past them to try and have something that incorporates both in it as a new thing. (Go with Move+ like Kinect+ above) I'd like to say that a bigger focus on using two wands will be implemented, seeing as that does quite a bit to enhance the games it's used in, but unless they redesign the Navigation controller to A) Be more of a Move Wand (with, y'know, motion sensors and stuff) and B) still have it function as, well, a Navigation controller (so you can move your character without physically walking in place or something equally grumble-worthy coming out of controller-less Kinect), the games will never really get beyond where 'olol motion games' are seen as being currently. The billing will be 'the most immersive experience available' if they can pull it off somehow, since the 3D push will likely still be going strong on top of it. Whether it works or not will have to be seen, but I have a lot (perhaps too much) faith in the steps any of the three companies could take with Motion gaming and picture Sony and Microsoft to focus on it more than Nintendo (as it's been their second push where Nintendo seems like they're gearing up to move their 'innovation factor' to the tablet)

tl;dr: Vita's going to be a slow-grower that'll hit its stride early next year with new announcements peppering the entirety of 2012. E3 for Sony is going to be Vita Vita Vita PS3 Vita Move(barely) Vita Vita. First-party and big-names to get released mid-to-holiday season. 720 might be the second console to come out, (racing the Wii U) going to have Kinect+ right out of the box, but not really divisive SKUs. Wii U needs more information and E3 will be the best outlet for that. Really need to find out what's going on with the Tablet controller and the 'other' controllers (because there has to be 'others'). I'm expecting a 2013 release based on absolutely nothing. PS4's going to release last, possibly even announce last, -might- focus on making Motion Gaming more 'immersive' through an improved Move setup (possibly two wands at all times, hopefully with a navigation stick on something, likely Kinect-style camera on top of it to track your body while you play. 3D is obvious.) or might just be like "Hey, meet the new thing, same as the old thing but better". Dunno yet.

I might be (probably am) talking out of my ass for a lot of this stuff as I am super-terrible with predictions, but hey, I wanted to give it a shot. Worst thing that can happen is I'm wrong and look like a dumb goose, yeah? (A civil dumb goose though!)


If nothing else, this is something I can save for posterity to point out when I am proven correct or incorrect on any of these predictions.  (Likely more of the latter, though we'll see!) This should be fun to see how it works out!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Giant Robot On: Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3

I decided to put my pursuit of a Platinum Trophy in Dynasty Warriors 7 Xtreme Legends on hold in the name of a little variety in my gaming so have instead decided to start playing......Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 instead.  Yes, I understand the thought process is a little wonked on principle, but they are in all honesty different games insomuch as two FPS games are different games:  One can argue that all you're doing is running around and shooting things in the first-person perspective, but there are fundamental differences regardless.  I'd argue the Dynasty Warriors Gundam games are as different than other Warriors games than they could be and have in fact made that argument, but I'm sure that falls on a lot of deaf ears.  And in fact, DWG3 might actually be a little closer to the other Warriors games than the previous two incarnations have been, which I'm not sure how I feel about yet.

The previous two DWG games have been all about utilizing Dash properly; and by properly I mean dash all of the times.  Said wackily to accentuate just how many times you want to dash, because the correct answer is a lot.  This was a vital tool in DWG1 since it was the great equalizer with the characters and Gundams present, though this was a little downplayed in DWG2 with the change to the dash attack system but it was still fairly viable and it remains viable in DWG3....In theory at least.  I'm not sure what the difference is between DWG2 and 3, but the fodder seems to be more resistant to mass dash slashing which is...quite unfortunate as you can imagine.  This might be early-game-only as well, considering the way they've handled Gundams is a bit different so everyone starts off quite a bit weaker than I imagine they did in DWG2, but my initial impressions were put a bit off by this.

Before moving on, I should explain how they're handling Gundams Mobile Suits this time around to instantly clear up how they could be a bit weaker.  You see, before the Gundams Mobile Suits and the Pilots both were more or less constants that you improved on which worked and made sense, whereas this time around the Mobile Suits are....almost disposable, really.  Getting a hold of the Plans for one (previously Parts) is no longer a momentous occasion, but a possibility of a future annoyance because every set of Plans is for a whole version of that Mobile Suit that you have to pay to build.  Doing this, you can have up to four different versions of a single Mobile Suit before you have to sell one to clear up space.  Doing this makes them feel a bit interchangeable and cheap which I'm not a fan of; they seem treated more like actual weapons to be judged and placed rather than vehicles to be improved upon and fine-tuned.  This is pretty much counter to what is established everywhere and feels like they were looking for a better system, couldn't figure out one and just threw in something else so as to not be called out as a rehash of DWG2.

Several times while playing now, I've asked myself whether or not if I would prefer that DWG3 is more of a rehash of 2 than it is - specifically because both games are very easily different in important ways and I'm not sure that 3 carried over enough of the important things.  For one:  Map design.  If you'll refer to the picture above, you'll see the mini-map in the upper right corner of the screen and see that the map literally consists of giant boxes with little pathways between them.  If you judge that against this image from Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2, you'll see a mini-map of a map that is far more organic and if you trust my word, you'll know that DWG2's maps are far more varied than the fare offered with DWG3.  It's really unfortunate that the map design is so simple, purely because I honestly cannot figure as to why it -is- as simple as it is.  Yet every new map I've encountered is a bunch of boxes inter-connected with little pathways and is inexplicably terrible.  If anything, I guess this is to accentuate the greater focus on Fields, but I don't think you have to make the entire map consist of boxes for that and would in fact argue against it in any case presentable.

Another strike against it in the department of map design is the simple fact that I have not found one map that takes place in outer space.  As in, open space like DWG1 and 2 feature quite frequently.  Mobile suits fly, sometimes through space.  This is simply a fact that DWG3, I think, wants us to forget in favor of....I don't know what, really.  And while outer space levels didn't fundamentally change -anything- in DWG1 or 2 (other than looking neat) since the vertical space was not utilized in any fashion other than flavor, it still carried flavor and that is sorely lacking in DWG3 in...most every form.  Of course, this is all opinion derived from playing the game for only a handful of hours, having only dipped in, really, to two of the many, many pilots and just a handful of the many, many Gundams, so it's entirely possible that there is quite more variety to be found in the departments I've been complaining about elsewhere.

What Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 does do and do quite effectively is to better integrate Mission Mode than DWG2 did, so that you feel like it is an actual mode with depth at start-up rather than when you've bothered to give it a try after exploring the stories available.  Of course, the way this is done completely cancels out the praise it's earned because in doing what they've done, they more or less eschewed the Stories with prejudice.  There are still missions that deal with stories not only from the original series (As in, missions that put you in the shoes of Amuro Ray while he takes on Ramba Ral and the like of that nature) but the actual story of DWG3, but with the cut-and-dry mission-based style they've taken, everything with anything resembling impact has more or less been stripped away, leaving us to feast on the scraps told through messages in the Terminal.

From what I can tell, there are a few different arching stories for DWG3 that tells the overall story from different viewpoints.  Which means that certain characters are just in a group and they get -that story- which is -the story- they can play through.  This open-ended application is more or less why anything personalized has been stripped from the missions themselves so that every mission becomes "Capture fields, reduce enemy efficiency to zero, kill boss" with absolutely nothing beyond vapid chatter in between.  No story has really been conveyed during a mission and if it has, I've completely missed out on it.  I think I've seen maybe two cutscenes as well which look -wonderful- thanks to the new art style but are ultimately as pointless as you might have been alluded to think they are. 

As I said before, all the 'Story' is told through messages in the terminal where you get all your information in an e-mail like way.  Messages such as "Heero Yuy is now available as an Operator." and random messages from some of the various characters that serve only as vessels to explain that you are now able to form friendships with these characters are the bulk of the purpose here, as it was in Mission Mode from DWG2 itself, but now anything story-centric has an "!" at the start of it letting you know that it is, indeed, important.  Opening those will bring up talking heads (well, portraits) and dialogue that is neither helpful nor entertaining, nor voiced and generally end with you being able to play more story missions.  It is unsatisfying, completely and utterly, and kills any and all desire I have to try and understand the piecemeal story they've tried throwing together as an excuse to have all these robots and pilots in the same vicinity.

Regardless, I'm really really enjoying the game, and I'm sure with the way it's going to open up (as I've only been dealing with one story currently, first as Amuro then as Heero by my own choice) that I'll get used to the way it's presented, but I'm not sure I'll ever really want it the way it is.  Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 was fantastic and set the bar really high, and I suspect the idea with 3 was more to test out the new art style (which probably required a new graphics engine or something) and the online features so that with 4, they'll be able to bring it back up to that standard in a newer, better way.  At least that's what I'm being optimistic about, since I can't imagine there's a way for them to go a step -backwards- from DWG3 unless they strip any semblance of a story from it or disclude some of the Pilots or Mobile Suits they've put in so far.  I guess my big thing that's been bouncing around in my head is that with most games you can generally eschew the game that came before it for the new model (though you can still go back to it fondly), but with DWG2 and 3, I'd suggest you play them side-by-side for the best experience which is something that isn't said a lot.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We Want The Kid's Gloves Off, Right?

We've all had the moment described above, whether or not it stems from the same issue or the same game or not.  (It's a Penny Arcade comic, btw, which might not show up since the site is getting absolutely slammed for some reason.)  Basically the issue comes about when we start getting tutorials for things that honestly need no tutorials for us, since by far the most annoying ones are the ones in shooters telling us how to take cover, how to shoot a guy and how to run of all things and those things are, by and large, similar from one game to another.  Usually not the exact same of course but close enough that a few moments fiddling about with the conroller leaves us fairly assured that we know what the hell is going on.  So we complain, we bitch and we moan about how these forced tutorials are still around in the day and age where they are clearly not needed because we don't need hand-holding, essentially.

That's what we tell ourselves, of course, but is it the truth?  Are we, as gamers in general, well-enough on our own to really get by without these things, this perceived hand-holding in all forms?  After seeing a few games I enjoyed quite a lot panned for what were thrown about as 'plots holes' and 'poor writing'....I'm not too sure.  Obviously, there's a difference between being told "Press X to Jump" and throwing out a heavy-handed explanation for every little thing that isn't necessary.  Few games are accused of over-writing, though there are certainly some games that this is leveled at and rightly so, but it really stems from us being spoon-fed narrative and complaining when even one tiny bridge isn't made for us which I think is basically the same issue at heart here.

While I'm not suggesting that actual plot holes are perfectly fine if someone can hand-wave them away with a line of reasoning only derived from someone with a burning passion for whatever it is he's trying to defend, I'm saying that a leap of logic that most people could make off-handedly is, in fact, not a plot hole and shouldn't be spoken of as one.  There is a difference of course, and it'll be hard to really explain the difference without spoilers so I'm going to have to actually spoil a few things, but I'm going to be trying a new method here to discuss them to keep the pure pure and allow the rest of us to figure it out.  I can't have fancy spoiler tags that I know of in here and I can't eloquently black bar/hover for text like on SomethingAwful, but that principle is more or less the driving one here.

As you may or may not know, I really really liked Heavy Rain and as such my opinion of its writing and narrative is probably a little skewed, but I believe I can talk about it at least a little bit objectively.  Disregarding the line where I say "While I may hand-wave away the plot-holes I don't like" and then focusing more on the part directly after it stating, "as most of them can be rationally explained away in a way that isn't giving too much credit" you can see this is sort of a philosophy that I've been cooking up for quite a while and it's really just taken me this much time and evidence to really put it down in a way that makes sense.  Of course, the unfortunate bit here is that I haven't been able to play Heavy Rain again since that post because of the Move Patch that I cannot be arsed to download for being something between one or two gigs.  My internet is nowhere near capable of pulling that down, so even though I have a Move Wand and have wanted to experience the game with it...well, there's just that little step in-between.  I'll get it sorted some day after I clear my incredible backlog of games.

The above was said for a reason, as the unfortunate bit about it means that the narrative and story is nowhere near as fresh in my mind as I feel it should be to talk on it, but I'm going to attempt to anyways as there's always the one 'plot hole' that sticks out in my head as well as the one that I can't explain without giving the game too much credit to show the contrast here of my ideas.  Of course, this goes without saying but I'm going to be spoiling the game (and one other one, see the tags) pretty heavily, so I'm inserting a page break.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Look Ahead - ForgeQuest

I guess I've become more entranced with this whole Indie Games thing than I'd ever anticipated since I tend to really not pay attention to such things (as a lot of 'Indie' things at this point are Straight iOS/Cellphone projects which hold no interest with me) yet it seems every few months I'm here talking about another one.  Minecraft, Project Zomboid, the Zeboyd games, etc.  I'm running with the theme that this is, well, a good thing of course, as the Indie philosophy (when unspoiled) is that someone has a creative idea and the drive to see it brought to life which is something to be respected.  All the better when their project actually looks like something that is pretty neat which is what ForgeCraft does; precisely why I felt a bit compelled to write about it after checking it out some.

It's all thanks to Siliconera that I have something to talk about in this project since "A 2D Zelda-Like Project in an Open World" is honestly one of the more eye-catching titles one could hope for, though at first I was a little skeptical that it was truly 'Zelda-like' aside from the isometric scope.  Comparisons could more than suitably be drawn to 3D Dot Game Heroes based on the voxel work the game comprises of, though after thinking about it for a moment, 3D Dot Game Heroes was clearly based on Zelda (and some complained that it was almost -too much- like Zelda) so the comparison became that much easier to reason out and, indeed, accept.  Regardless, it's a very cool look though I'd still have to give it to 3D Dot for being shinier (both literally and figuratively) and would definitely help it to stand out with the other games of its type that have come out.

I say the above because of, well, what the name would imply:  -Forge-Quest does indeed imply forging things, as in forging things together like crafting, much as MineCraft implies that one will, in that game, mine things and craft things, thus drawing a comparison to one another.  Even in a couple of their videos, the style of 'forging' is done in a 3x3 grid which will be instantly recognized from any Minecraft rookie, though to suggest it's unique to Minecraft would be a little short-sighted.  Nonetheless, I expect a lot of that to be thrown around when the game comes out sometime in 2012 which is a shame, but provided the game provides enough different for the players, it likely won't be something harped on.  And from what I've seen, I would certainly suggest that it would provide quite enough, though all things will be known when it actually comes out (or at least goes into Beta).

The other videos on their youtube channel show quite a bit of progression, and welcome progression at that as the combat (and movement for that matter) seemed to be more Diablo-like which is something I don't care for in all honesty.  There's absolutely no reason to require someone to click around ten times just to traverse an expanse of land that covers three screens and clicking on an enemy to enter pre-scripted attack animations that trade off at predetermined speeds is....less than exciting of course.  Many would disagree with me on that, of course, considering how popular Diablo is but, eh, opinions and all.  Still the above shows, besides progression, some pretty solid concepts that are fairly tried-and-true but with a new spin on them which is inspiring at the very least.

There's only two real 'environments' shown in the video; the default nature one and the cave/dungeon area but both look fairly visually interesting enough to offer incentive to explore which is one of the goals of course.  The game is designed to randomly generate (like Minecraft and I believe Terraria does the same as well?) terrain that you traverse that is interesting enough for you to want to traverse more which is a cycle that will give you a gigantic living, breathing world...provided that you breathe a little life into it along the way of course.  And to that credit, I would certainly hope that other types of trerrain will be available in the Beta build at least; desert and snow lands are almost a requirement to give the full range of 'types', though a little pedanticism with terrain (biomes, there I said it.  Biomes are not -just- for Minecraft as well, but the fewer things I say to allude it to something else, the better) would be nice.  Flatlands, hilly regions, valleys, marshlands, etc., there's plenty of ways you can design an area and the more you include, the better for the people playing since it just might spark something.

It is a little hard to gauge just how big, in a vertical sense, the world will be, considering the way you're expected to navigate it in the isometric view, which is something else that is a matter of concern for the growing project.  Since you apparently plop down full buildings rather than designing your own (though there is a door spot and it's open, so I hope that means interiors and, by extension, interior design) would is a bit telling that this might take place on 'layers' in the Diablo sense; you have the overworld that leads down into the cave/dungeon layer which leads into lower layer, but that's mostly conjecture on my part.  As a lot of things I've said here are, but based on what exists (four videos and a few paragraphs on their KickStarter) I'm just doing what I can here.  If nothing else, it can help explain what caught my eye and interest about the game in the first place.

I guess the fact that I've looked into all four of their videos, checked out their KickStarter (linked just above) in-depth, and devoted a post to talking about what is right there and what I'm imagining up means that they're clearly doing something right:  The game, like any game where you can actually model the world to your whims, is clearly designed to inspire creativity and it's done that to me.  If they throw enough toys in the toybox to really let players effectively express their creativity in design (something Terraria has been doing quite well, leaving Minecraft to shame in that department) then they'll really have something here.  So here's hoping they meet their goal on KickStarter!  (Goal is set for January 13th and they're not there quite yet, hint hint.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! - The Haul

Now, we all like Christmas for various reasons, whether it's for the time with family, the great meals, simply getting a day off of work (In most cases), or a combination of all those reasons or something else.  But we all enjoy presents, all of us, and almost better than getting the presents is being able to talk about just what you got.  Not to gloat, of course, but just to show off the excitement we feel in getting something we wanted without parting with sweet sweet cash to do so.  It is a time-honored tradition after all, of talking about presents that you get, whether it be for your birthday, holiday or some other occasion; mostly because it's in answer to someone inquiring about your gains.

So to answer the question that wasn't asked here, I got quite a nice haul between my parents and siblings and couldn't be happier.  Honestly, I probably got a little too much, but I certainly can't complain nor do I intend to.  Nor will I suggest that I deserve it all, but it has been a fairly rough year so getting what I got was quite nice, not to mention that my actual Christmas day went quite a lot better than I had expected.  Without saying too much on it, my family hasn't all been in the best state this year (Which is part of why it's been a rough year, but not near the full reason) but we managed to get together today and really mend fences and be...well, a family for once and it was nice.  I was quite surprised by that really, and while the cynic in me is being cynical, I'm just going to roll with it.

I got a few games this year which were the main highlight obviously, but the above-pictured Sonic Generations was the real surprise here.  Three of the games I got, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, Fist of the North Star:  Ken's Rage (Two more Warriors-esque games?  I'm obviously a madman) and Shadows of the Damned (in preparation for Lollipop Chainsaw of course), I knew about before Christmas unfortunately as I had to take part in ordering them since folks in my family aren't too well-versed in computer things and the first two games are fairly difficult to find in store.  Ken's Rage and Shadows were both used (only option, unfortunately) so they didn't cost a lot thankfully and I'm just glad to have them, but as I said the element of surprise had been lost on them.

When I went to GameStop with my dad to fix a screw-up with a present for my nephews (more online ordering, got a pretty bad case/game, managed to swap the game) and he not-so-subtly sent me back to the car while remaining, it was fairly obvious that there was at least something else in store.  Being an over-analytical ass, I saw some white in the bag that he carried out and (correctly) deduced that it was Assassin's Creed:  Brotherhood as it had been on my list, which again ruined a bit of the surprise.  But I couldn't tell if there was anything in that bag which sparked the fire of wonderment; really I think that's half the fun of Christmas presents, wondering just what they are.  At the top of my list of possible suspects were Alpha Protocol or Mass Effect 2 for PS3 which are both, thankfully, a mere $20 a piece and just one of them would have been more than enough. 

So as you can see, Sonic Generations completely and happily took me by surprise and I found myself in the delightful quandary of trying to decide between playing DWG3, Sonic Generations or AssBro.  It's a lucky dilemma to be in, let me tell you, and one I don't take lightly.  DWG3 won out, as I loved DWG2 dearly despite not playing enough of it, and as such I've been excited for DWG3 for quite a while.  At face value from a few hours of playing it I am a bit...conflicted, actually.  But that's exactly how I felt between the original and the sequel, so I figure it just takes a little bit of time to get used to how this one works.  If nothing else, I'm sure the new mobile suits and pilots will be enough to make me love the game (especially since I believe Duo Maxwell and Deathscythe made the cut) and can't wait to really get into it.

The other big thing would be the dearth of Gift Cards to GameStop that I received from just about all sides, meaning that my expectations for February's finances just got a whole lot easier.  To say that I got more than I expected is quite the understatement as I saw a figure on a list that was obviously for me because my dad is....not very good at being sneaky with such things.  This completely neglected to factor in my siblings adding to that total (as I didn't figure they would) or the idea that my dad could, er....forget that he bought the amount he was supposed to get for me and buy it again.  The first, I could probably think on, but the latter, well....that was just one of those happy accidents that never ever happen, I'd say.  And I am quite happy with the fact that it did of course.

It was really a very Merry Christmas over here as you can tell, and I hope you all have had equally wonderful Holidays.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve!

It's really hard for me to think of anything real poignant to say tonight as it's quite possibly my favorite night of any given year.  Despite the fact that it might not always be great, nor even something to celebrate depending on the circumstances of the year and its end, I can't help but feel that same sense of excitement build.  And that's a good thing; it's always good to feel that sort of happiness for just any sort of reason because I'm sure we all know that sometime life isn't too keen on giving you a bounty of reasons.  In saying that, I don't think there's a whole lot I have to say tonight, even though I like going on and on obviously, as sometimes the simplest things are the best.

Find someone you love and tell them that.

Merry Christmas, all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tokyo Jungle......What?

As gamers, we sometimes take a look at something completely different and unique (which aren't mutually inclusive) and generally those things are looked upon favorably if just for not being 'yet another (genre) game', as we often express disinterest in.    Just one of those things we (we as a broad, general term, obviously not indicative of us all) think we know better about and may or may not be correct about.  (Specifically 'trends'.)  Sometimes deservedly so, sometimes not, but that's a whole other conversation all together.  And I'm going to admit that this isn't the first time I've heard of Tokyo Jungle, but it's the first time I've taken a look at it, at least in a trailer and I'm going to be completely honest with you here:  I don't even know what the fuck.

I mean, its concept is pretty obvious from everything it's shown so far:  Civilization as we know it is gone and nature is taking over in our stead.  Nary a human in sight means the animals roam free and take to the natural order in unfamiliar environs to just try and get by.  Which is, by all means, a pretty neat concept for a video game and is genuinely interesting; so much so that if/when Tokyo Jungle comes out over here I would be willing to take a look at it, much as I have said I would be interested in getting my hands on Afrika at some point.  Of course, the games are worlds apart, but are generally 'different' games with a main cast starring completely of animals, hence the loose comparison.  Since I'm not really all that sure what else it -could- be compared to without knowing more.

However, for as cool as the concept is, I don't know just what to think of this trailer.  For one the graphics, and this is coming from someone who doesn't really care a lot about graphics, are horrible.  I mean, even in 720p, the textures and models range from only 'decent' to 'what the -hell-', which is really unfortunate.  I mean, I guess I should understand given that this is a niche game even by niche standards, but at the same time it just looks poor and doesn't give a good opinion of the game, given that we only have looks to judge by.  I can't even suggest that the game is still in an alpha build since, until just recently, it was slated for release in 2011.  I mean, even in that trailer right there it says '2011'.  Of course the official site has since changed the date to '2012' because, and I'm just guessing on this, the game hasn't gone gold yet which means releasing in the next, uh, week is not going to happen.

Of course, that's not the only thing that's a bit wonked in the trailer, which I'm sure you noticed well enough on your own.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe, just maybe, the tone of the game isn't going to be as entirely serious as you might think on premise alone.  Throughout the entirety of the gameplay trailer you see:  a dog dressed in....uhh....I don't know what that is, specifically, something with a giant rope and robes, a hyena wearing a hardhat, PANDA COMBAT, a dog mounting another dog, a kangaroo punching a tiger, and dogs(again, this game must really like dogs) fighting a hippo (and winning).  Which for some reason, for me, doesn't really tickle my "so absurd it's awesome" senses so much as it just bewilders me.  If I didn't know better, I'd swear the folks behind the Disaster Report games were behind this as their not-always-spectacular graphics, yet insanely-attractive ideas (with equally insane execution) is a very particular brand of crazy that seems to intersect with this game based on what I have before me.

Regardless, this is a thing that obviously exists, though in what fashion is quite unsure for now.  Being that it was announced in 2010 and looks like this in the year it was supposed to release doesn't instill one with a lot of confidence.  However, as we all know, games should not be judged by graphics alone and this has the potential for being something special if only on merit of being so out there.  Animals in a large, broken-down version of our world is a sight worth it to see as is, and if things get silly on top of that, then perhaps it's all the better.  Hopefully they tighten it up a bit before they announce an actual release date, though, as I'm looking forward to this, albeit a little reluctantly.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bonus Post - Playstation Vita Official NA Pricing!

The image above was the lovely one greeting those who happened across the Playstation Blog today, or specifically this article which puts an end to the speculation and whatnot about what Vita things are going to cost.  As with anything and everything anywhere ever, they're bound to make some people happy and some people less so, but that's just how it is.  You will be pleased to know that the Memory sticks and indeed, some of the other accessories are priced much less than previously rumored (even after the update of lesser prices being possible), though some will still argue that they're too high-priced yet.  Regardless, it's a rather moot point on anyone's concept of why the Vita should support other memory formats and comparing prices because, well, it doesn't.  Kind of sucks for some people, but that's just how it is, so either deal with it or move on.  Sony aren't the first ones to charge more for proprietary things, nor will they be the last.

Anyways, the blog post also lists the Twenty-Five(?!) Vita games that will be available on the North American Launch on February 22nd as well as ten other launch window titles from First and Third party developers.  Here's the bad(?) news, however, in that the price range of Vita games has officially been confirmed as $9.99-49.99, which may or may not be a surprise to you depending on your position.  I was under the impression that the highest end Vita games would be $39.99, but I guess it's just ten bucks and I doubt a lot of games will be at the highest pri-.....Well, I can hope that a lot of devs with put out their games at $30 or $40, but we'll see.  Though, enough prattling, here's the lists as a direct copy/paste from the Blog post linked above.

SCEA Launch Day Titles
Escape Plan (PSN Only)
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
Hustle Kings (PSN Only)
Little Deviants
ModNation Racers: Road Trip
Super StarDust Delta (PSN only)
UNCHARTED: Golden Abyss
wipEout 2048

Launch Window Titles
Gravity Rush
MLB 12 The Show
Reality Fighters
Unit 13

Third Party Publisher Launch Day Titles
Army Corps of Hell Square Enix, Inc.
Asphalt Injection Ubisoft, Inc.
BEN10 GALACTIC RACING D3 Publisher of America
Blazblue: Continuum Shift EXTEND Aksys Games Localization, Inc.
Dungeon Hunter Alliance Ubisoft, Inc.
Dynasty Warriors Next Tecmo Koei America Corporation
F1 2011 Codemasters
EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer Electronic Arts, Inc.
Lumines Electronic Symphony Ubisoft, Inc.
Michael Jackson The Experience Ubisoft, Inc.
Plants vs. Zombies (PSN Only) Sony Online Entertainment LLC
Rayman Origins Ubisoft, Inc.
Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Tales of Space: Mutant Blobs (PSN Only) Drinkbox Studios
Touch My Katamari Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 Capcom Entertainment, Inc.
Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition Sega of America

Launch Window Titles
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Warner Bros. Interactive Ent. Inc.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention NIS America, Inc.
NINJA GAIDEN ∑ PLUS Tecmo Koei America Corporation
Ridge Racer Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Silent Hill Book of Memories Konami Digital Ent. America, Inc.
Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted 505 Games

Worth mentioning are...quite a few things, really.  Dynasty Warriors NEXT, Disgaea 3:  Absence of Detention among a couple others can be considered officially announced for the West with this, I imagine, as I hadn't heard of any previous announcements saying as much.  Also with this, Escape Plan has officially been outed as a PSN only title which shouldn't surprise me in the least, but it does a bit.  I hope this has a positive effect on its length and overall quality, as it's generally the retail puzzle games that fall into the normal pitfalls I described the other day when I featured Escape Plan as one of the trailers that interested me and was on the official Playstation Youtube channel and was easy to get to.  Not that PSN-Exclusive is an indicator of anything, but it could suggest a smaller, more focused experience is what I was getting at.

Something else that's a bit surprising is the fact that Reality Fighters isn't actually making the launch but rather the launch window, meaning a month or two post-launch, meaning March or April.  This is only surprising because, well.....seeing Reality Fighters doesn't instill me with the feeling that it is a quality game that requires extra months of polish.  Not only that, but with AR and the Cameras being a thing for the Vita, you'd think they'd want that out right off as an example for people.  Regardless, that's a thing, I suppose, and perhaps it's not as bad as I anticipate, but we won't know til it's out.  Still, I'm sure there's other somewhat surprising things there, of which the fact that 35 games are going to be available for the system likely by the end of March if not more is one of them.

Anyways, I promised Accessory Prices, so here they are.

4 GB Memory Card February 15, 2012 $19.99
8 GB Memory Card February 15, 2012 $29.99
16 GB Memory Card February 15, 2012 $59.99
32 GB Memory Card February 15, 2012 $99.99
Starter Kit with Memory Card February 15, 2012 $39.99
In-Ear Headset February 15, 2012 $19.99
Carrying Case February 15, 2012 $19.99
Travel Pouch February 15, 2012 $19.99
Protective Film (2 pack) February 15, 2012 $9.99
Card Case February 15, 2012 $5.99
Cradle February 15, 2012 $19.99
Portable Charger Spring 2012 $49.99
AC Adaptor February 15, 2012 $14.99
Car Adaptor Spring 2012 $14.99
USB Cable February 15, 2012 $14.99

I don't know why/how that transfered as a table but screw it, I'll take it.  Like I said, some of the accessories (at least the ones that are on both lists) have been priced less (unfortunately the Portable Charger is the same price; I wouldn't have minded a Ten-spot less on that) with the most notable examples being the Memory sticks, with all of them a good $10-20 less than we have been previously led to believe.  As such, the 8 Gig stick or even the 16 Gig stick are much more palatable price-wise which means you're in luck if you're worrying about having a lot of space for your games (and don't want to re-download things a lot).  All in all, I don't see anything too bad outside of maybe the USB Cable, but that's an extra one anyway, and what -doesn't- come with a USB cable anymore?  Lots of things, but you know what I was getting at.

February can't come fast enough still.

As if Millions of Gamers Suddenly Cried Out In Terror, etc. etc.

Hands clutched to hearts and eyes moistened earlier today when it was reported that The Last Guardian disappeared from GameStop's system, rendering all ability to pre-order it null and, even more worryingly, suggesting that the game was not going to come out.  Okay, it possibly wasn't all that dramatic, but the very idea that the latest game from Fumito Ueda, who has recently left Sony but is working on TLG as a freelancer, would not see an actual release is a realistic one in a lot of minds and that alone makes it a possibility to be feared.  Just the fact that Ueda left under the circumstances he did suggests that there has been some sort of strife internally, which only leads credence to the idea that the game has been scrapped.  And from what I've seen, it was a few long, miserable hours at least before any real clarification against the gigantic rumor mill that is the internet and games journalism came out to relax and assuage our fears.

First came a statement from Patrick Seybold, SCEA's Senior Director of Corporate Communications stating simply that the rumors of The Last Guardian's cancellation were, simply, "not true".  Mind that this is different if only because he didn't spout the normal company line of "Sony doesn't comment on rumors or speculations", which....sort of implies that they do.  Sometimes.  When an issue is clearly pants-on-head stupid to consider, as the cancellation of The Last Guardian is.  Still, that wasn't enough for some people and it certainly didn't help that the only people who picked it up at first seemed to be Kotaku and IGN (withholding links; IGN gets enough from me using their Screenshots and Kotaku.....urgh.), but eventually a statement from GameStop itself (yes, apparently Joystiq thinks it was a GameStop store or the entity of GameStop that issued a statement, since they couldn't list whoever issued the statement) that really sorts everything up.

"The Last Guardian has not been cancelled by Sony as we incorrectly stated in an automated call to reservation customers. Because the game did not have a specific release date, GameStop made the decision to remove the game from our system. The Last Guardian will be reinstated for pre-order when a firm launch date is known."

So, basically, GameStop unlisted the game because it hasn't had a firm release date in the entirety of its stay within their database which isn't entirely unreasonable at face value.  Of course, again this is The Last Guardian and it's going to come out, but it's also going to take a hell of a long time.  That's just how it is, and you gotta be ready to ride that out.  Common logic dictates that if the game had been in the system for as long as it's been, the best thing would be to just....y'know, put it back in now, rather than waiting for a release date, but I guess it's not an issue.  I just don't think it's likely taking up that much space.  But at the very least, GameStop did come out and say "our bad" since it was, indeed, their bad.

Perhaps I'm able to be passive about the entire situation since it had clarified by itself by the time I came around to find out about it, but I imagine I would've been highly speculative of it anyway.  After all, GameStop's system hasn't been all that accurate on Pricing and Release Dates in the past, and there are numerous examples of that.  Still, I'm sure there were plenty out there that believed this at face value, either by seeing the different outcroppings of 'news' stating that it was 'definitely' cancelled, or by speaking to people who had seen things and made it all seem worse than it was.  Any other company, and I'd almost expect them to capitalize on this to send out a new trailer or something but with Ueda/Team Ico....

Well, they'll just keep on truckin'.  And you can't help but like them for that at least, if not for the feelings you'll have when you finally play The Last Guardian.  Because trust me, there will be feelings.  Plenty of them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quick Note: So This is What Happened

So, the entirety of yesterday, for folks who weren't following my Twitter either on there or using the handy side-bar thing (provided it worked), I actually didn't have a phone.  This was after my internet just more or less kept resetting itself over very extended periods of time for the whole night Monday.  Like literally, I'd be sitting here or just walking by and see the DSL light and the Internet light go out, then very slowly come back on.  Minutes later, out again, etc. etc.  Obviously this is not the prime occasion to attempt using the internet.  And as such I didn't after it started, though luckily, I had managed to do a post before it did all that, which I was very happy with.

In these brief windows when the Internet light came back on on the modem, there was about 4 or 5 minutes at most when I could use the internet, though it was entirely slower than normal and posting from the PSP on Twitter was a pain because of that.  Also because of the PSP keyboard but mostly because of the whole internet would eventually die thing.  I almost managed two tweets in a row to explain this Purgatorial state of the internet, but the second would've posted in the window directly after both lights went out and after waiting about ten minutes to see if it'd come back, I just gave up.  So now I got to explain it, more or less.  And I did, so there's that.

Anyways, they fixed the issue, more or less, by coming out and disconnecting -something- that was apparently a phone line we didn't need that was possibly getting wet from all the rain we've had lately.  Apparently that'll kill your phone and internet, which is something I can only go "Who knew?!" to and shrug in a comedic manner before moving on to bigger and better things.  That's not to say I did that, as I mostly played FFT, Dynasty Warriors 7:  Xtreme Legends and watched TV with my non-internet, but, well, you know what I mean.  It's an expression and such.  And other sorts of words.

I feel bad for having missed so many posts this month without really pushing out Bonus posts to get up to quota, but you can't force yourself to write.  At least, I don't like to 'force' myself since I'm usually not happy with what I write as a result.  Still, there are a couple things that are post-worthy enough, so I might do those up tonight, or definitely tomorrow, if all goes well and my internet stays with us.  As it stands, at least I got to explain just what was up which is something I wanted to do for the whole of yesterday.  I'm sure you all understand how it can be.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vita Trailers On - Let's Do This

I don't think I've ever just had a post with trailers in it for the games coming out for the Vita when it hits its February 22nd release date in America.  This is mostly because the trailers have only recently started to come out in English (that I know of) and also because I haven't really wanted to consolidate all the Vita games I want since that is all sorts of money that I don't have.  If I have, I'm pretty sure it was with Japanese trailers and was a few months back so for all we know, it's new to us now.  Regardless, that's what I'm doing because it's what I want to do and with the frequent internet outs, I can't keep calm long enough to write something nice out because the internet cutting out whenever it seems like it won't/shouldn't fills me with so much rage.  So much.  Because it's bottom-of-the-barrel DSL and has been terrible for the years we've had it, but at least it was fairly, uh....reliable?  Non-reliable -and- shitty is not something I'm going to tolerate.

Anyways, the first trailer I'm queuing up is for the only game I have pre-ordered on the Vita which will not be a surprise to you because most every other person interested in a Vita knows of this game as 'the game' to get when you pick up your shiny new handheld.  Uncharted:  Golden Abyss likely won't be as great as the two that came before it, Uncharted 2:  Among Thieves and Uncharted 3:  Drake's Deception (which stand on equal ground as far as I'm concerned), but I at least expect it to be the same quality as Uncharted:  Drake's Fortune in that it'll be the first outing on the system, before they've mastered the wizardry necessary to make it mind-blowing.  Remains to be seen if it will be, but I have some faith in Sony Bend and I imagine they've worked closely with Naughty Dog and Sony's First/Second Party coordinators, so I think my faith is well-placed.

As you can see, it's not quite as bright, vibrant, nor quite as crisp as we could hope, but that could be the difference between watching it on youtube (in 360p in my case) and playing it in person.  And I'm not exactly sold on all the optional control methods, but I will grant that they are that indeed - optional - and that's the important part that should be at least touted.  I'll try them and if I don't like them or they actively impede my progress, I'll switch them off, but at least I'll give it the old attempt.  The game deserves at least that much, I think.  In the end, I expect another Uncharted adventure which is a prospect enough to get me excited for it, which is why there is $5 credit residing in the GameStop database implicitly stating I will own it.

Up next is the game that, if Uncharted:  Golden Abyss didn't exist, would be -the game- that I would have to have.  As it stands, I still have to have it, but I'm not sure what the fundage is going to look like come February, as I have to consider how much GameStop credit I have in card form, how much I am probably getting for Christmas, and what the difference is between that and the pricetag for the system, a memory stick (which we still don't officially know, price-wise) and Uncharted.  Basically, Gravity Rush will be the second game I own for the Vita, but the time between its purchasing and Uncharted's purchasing might be extended or it might not.

If you could sell a game on style alone, that game would be Gravity Rush assuredly because the look of it is so gorgeous that it practically sold me alone.  Then the actual concept of the game sank in, and that's what cemented it.  I've gone over Gravit y Rush before, but it remains to be said that the game looks like something you'd expect from further down in the Vita's lifetime, not right at the start.  It's possible that the gameplay might be a little more basic (minus the fairly original concept of using gravity as it does) which would point to 'launch title' but that still remains to be seen.  And it will be seen with great anxiousness and curiosity at some point.

Next up is the other "No surprise" game that I'm looking forward to for the Vita.  LittleBigPlanet (for the Vita) has been the subject of quite a few excited fanboy moments for me, especially with all the different showings it's had and will continue to do so.  It's one of many games announced/shown off for the system that doesn't quite have a release date yet, but that's only because "Not soon enough" isn't a valid date for some reason.  And if nothing else, the people at the helm of this one know how to make quite an enjoyable trailer.

From the looks of it, it's looking like it's trying to be LittleBigPlanet 2, but in your pocket, which is tantalizing for me.  I think the problem with LittleBigPlanet 2 for me is, quite simply, that it's on the PS3 and number one, I have far too many games for that already, and two, I don't play the PS3 near enough to even get through that gaming library as is.  I'm not expecting LittleBigPlanet Vita to have the same level of inter-connectivity with LBP or LBP 2 as LBP 2 has with the first game, but it would be nice.  They have said in the past that your entire costume gallery from the PS3 installments will be available to you on your Vita game, but we'll just have to see on that, since I've yet to see it trumpeted off again.  You know that I love me some costumes, but this likely won't be a deal-breaker for me.  Maybe.

And finally (as I decided not to get any trailer not from the Playstation Channel and barely looked as it stood) we have one of the more intriguing games for the system that I'm not yet sold on.  Escape Plan has charm and character and a style all its own as does Gravity Rush, so I have to compliment it on that much at the very least.  However, I'm just not too sure on the game for various reasons.

The goal is, obviously, to make you think "Oh, a good puzzle game" when you watch that trailer because of the neat and innovative uses of all the different things the Vita can do.  Of course, the goal of every trailer for every puzzle game is to make it look good and clever, when very seldom are truly both of those things.  Where some stumble by 'overthinking itself' and making it too easy or 'overestimating itself' by making it too hard ('How the fuck was I supposed to know I had to hit that first to get this thing to happen?!'), very few manage to find that precarious balance upon which a puzzle game is claimed "just hard enough" to make you consider it, but never enough to toss your controller/handheld away in frustration. 

Yet another pitfall puzzle games hit is basing puzzles not only on figuring them out, but giving ridiculous restrictions on how it's accomplished ("Flip a lever to drop a ball on the other side of a wall that you could only find by running around like an idiot.  The ball is used to weigh down a platform that is only accessible for the brief window in which the lever stays flipped, giving you a 0.7 second margin of error.  GOOD LUCK!") which is far and beyond the reason I've quit a number of puzzle games.  Yelling "I KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, WHY WON'T IT WORK" does nothing, nor does it make any fun occur.  I see every puzzle game as a game that can have any of these issues which is why I approach them all with caution.  That is mostly my hesitation for Escape Plan, so we'll see how that weathers when more on it comes out.

There are plentiful other titles for the Vita that I could probably find trailers for (Sumioni, Samurais and Dragons, etc.) and throw them here to show you that, yes, I do want quite a few Vita games, but I won't do that right now.  Assuredly when the Vita gets closer to launch on our fair shores, I'll have more trailers than I'll know what to do with besides post them up here.  And that is a day I almost cannot wait for.