Thursday, June 28, 2012

There is Literally Nothing to Talk About So Here's a Rant

So this is one of those nights where there is just jack-all to talk about, honestly.  There's some depressing news out there about Sega shutting down a lot of European and Australian offices, as well as the news about Radical Entertainment basically getting shuttered, but I don't really like talking about stories like that because I can never usually offer much beyond "well, that sucks".  And it does suck.  And.....that's about all I can say on it.  Hopefully Sega can turn themselves around with Phantasy Star Online 2 with the monetization they're doing on it (Which I take absolutely no issue with so long as you'll be able to have a character and a room without paying.  Or you can pay once for something and have it indefinitely.  None of this stuff that amounts to 'renting'.) and hopefully the people let loose from Radical can find employment in companies that aren't absolutely terrible and suffer no repercussions from what they do.  Actually, if you'll allow me a little tangent on that note...

The thing that bothers me when stories like the Radical thing come out is that a lot of people's reaction is to go "Well, I'm going to vote with my wallet and not buy anymore Activision games" (or whichever parent company it is doing the trouble, usually Activision or EA) and get all self-important about it.  Same thing happens on a broader scale with Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony whenever news comes out for them that people don't really agree with.  Region-locking with the 3DS, pick something from a hat with Sony, etc.  People like to think that if they just don't buy a product that comes out from this group, -everyone at the top- suffers.  Imagining that not buying the next Call of Duty game suddenly means Bobby Kotick has to visit the poor-house.  Or that it affects Iwata whatsoever when you refuse to buy a 3DS because you can't import games from Japan to play on it without a lot of hassle, if at all.

This is not how things work.  Kotick already has his money.  Not buying Prototype 2, not buying the next Call of Duty, not buying anything that has the Activision branding doesn't do a damn thing to his earnings or his bank account.  The only people that are affected are the developers, the guys at the bottom of the totem pole, since as we have learned quite often over the last year or so, they are quite 'expendable' in the eyes of the people running companies.  Refusing to buy a game because Kotick runs a company is only punishing the guys who spent 60 hours a week away from their families and everything else to put together something they believed in, that they thought would be a viable, entertaining product.  Because if the game they spent all that time on doesn't sell 'well enough', they get the axe and it's that simple.  Hell, Kotick and the like probably make more money, if anything, when this sort of thing happens.  So if you really want to be someone who is 'voting with your wallet', how about you just buy the games you want to buy, since that's...pretty much all that matters, yeah?  Buying a game tells a company "I want this", and not buying it tells them "I don't want this", because nobody gives a shit if you're not buying something on faux-righteous principles; the simple matter is that you didn't buy it.

And before you drop into that "But Mogs, the Nintendo executives took that big paycut, that's a real classy move, isn't it?" because that comes up all the time, let me just ask you something.  Do I think it's classy that Nintendo Executives who have had more or less the most successful years we've known in a few generations with both the Wii and the DS (in all its incarnations) selling like crazy are willing to accept a little less money in the face of the 3DS only selling like three millions units worldwide at the time?  No.  Not really.  It was associated with a price drop that came into play only because they admittedly over-priced the 3DS because they thought it would sell regardless (which would get anyone else constantly crucified since the literal reason for the $250 pricetag was premium pricing because the demand was so high) and was only done because Sony threw out a pricetag for the Vita that nobody thought they would put down, which actually made things competitive.  Or it -would've-, had Nintendo kept the price the same until after the Vita had launched, but who needs to actually give anyone else a chance, right?  So, no, it wasn't really a classy move because, again like Kotick, they've got their money and the fact that they're taking less out of trucktons of money doesn't impress me a lot, especially when it was a purely PR-grabbing move.

Well, I didn't really expect this post to take a turn like that, but hey, gotta roll with it when it comes like that.  That's been something that's been bugging me for a while and it was sorta kinda tied to another rant that's been brewing lately as well, but I didn't actually think I'd be able to, uh, put it into words.  Regardless, I think I came out making my points pretty clearly.  Or at least partially.  Maybe.  Anyways, at least I did get to write up something in the wake of there being not a whole lot else to talk about.  Nothing to be excited (positively) about, anyway.  Hopefully Friday bears news that will be worth bringing up and speaking of at length.  Or maybe I'll actually do something game-wise that merits talking about.  That's....probably doubtful, but hey, anything could happen, apparently!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vita's Youtube App and My Thoughts

Just because I didn't want to use a stock.  You can screencap the App, if that wasn't obvious.  Also to prove my K-Pop obsession.  Okay that song is actually English but -details-.

So, I've been clamoring for it ever since it was announced officially (and probably before), but yesterday the Youtube App for the Vita was finally released to not really a whole lot of fanfare.  Which I suppose is fair, as it's just an application that lets you view videos that you should, by all rights, already be able to view if the whole Mobile Flash thing had been sorted or, better yet, Flash was already a thing of the past and something else for viewing videos was standard but that's another point entirely.  Regardless, as an app built from the ground-up for the sole purpose of viewing videos, one has to wonder whether or not it is capable of providing this sufficiently in both quality and ease of use.  The former is definitely assured, surprisingly, whereas the latter is a little iffy for now.

Let me talk about the positives first, however, since there actually are positives to be had here.  Despite my ever-long crusade against Youtube for generally being terrible in doing solely what they seek to do in providing a hub for people to load videos to be watched by other people, the App doesn't seem to suffer much in the delivery aspect.  I search for what I want (this is something to pick about later on actually) when I find it, I touch it, it opens and I can let it load up to however much I desire.  Seeing as my internet is no less shoddy over wireless, I like to let a video load up to at least halfway before I start it, and guess what, the App lets me do this.  This is extremely convenient.  Also convenient is that, if you merely have a Wi-Fi model like myself, you can load up a full video (especially a particularly long one) and watch it over the course of a car (or bus) trip.  You'll lose internet connection, of course, but the video is still there for you to watch, provided you don't close the App or something beforehand.  Hitting home to back out and check on something doesn't clear this, from my experience, but, much like a game, you're limited in what you can open whilst having the Youtube App open.

The quality of the videos is nothing to sniff at as well.  While there's not the extensive list of 240, 360, 480, etc for resolutions, there is an HD toggle for videos that offer 720p.  Otherwise, I believe the video simply plays at the highest resolution available (either 360 or 480) which offers quality that is serviceable, if not quite good, for whatever you could hope to watch.  Be it Let's Play Videos or Music videos of Korean girls dancing around and singing in languages you can't understand (or sometimes you can), I can't really fault what I get, even on the Full-screen mode.  Which, I will say that Full-screen is pretty much the only way to watch something.  I feel like the windowed mode with the extra information is useful for the information as well as getting to the next video you might want to watch, but for actually watching a video, it's entirely too little.  Still, it's clearly not the intended usage for the mode, so that's pretty much all that needs to be said about that.  It's there to look at the info box, like a video perhaps, and, as I said already, to aid you in selecting a video to watch next.  That's all well and good, and it's what we'll have to make do with for the moment as, and here is where the negative part starts.

One of the things that the Youtube App does not add is subscription support.  As in, even though you can attach your account to the app for the purposes of accessing your favorite videos as well as the ability to like/dislike, that's about all the functionality offered.  I imagine this is a result of the rampant troubles Youtube as a whole has with the whole subscription thing, where videos simply won't show up in subscription lists (which is, of course, definitely not a result of the several revisions the entire service has received, no siree) and is just generally not helpful for its one and only purpose.  It tries to make up for this by marking some videos new and throwing them in your Recommended list, which is what the Star icon is for, but if you want something approaching precision in knowing just when your favorite youtuber has uploaded their latest video, this is not something that will facilitate that with ease.  A combination of checking when that person tweets that they have uploaded a video (through LiveTweet) as well as the search function in the youtube app will function, but it's not ideal.  And I doubt there will really be a fix for this in the future, as the subscription thing is just generally not something that works all-around.

In reality, that's kind of the big downfall of the app and it's a pretty big one if you intended to use the Vita as your Youtube 'station' as it were, since you just don't know if you're up-to-date on stuff.  When you have several people you're subscribed to who release several videos daily, this quickly becomes an issue.  But regardless, with the history tab, you can generally keep tabs on what you've seen and use that as a gauge and try to work it that way, but it's really not ideal.  Still, the point is having this way to watch videos and as I said, it does that fantastically.  I think it and Netflix are about on par in terms of visuals (of course, there's a margin for error or what have you with youtube since they have some 240p videos kicking around) and that's really no small claim.  It's a nice world in which we can pretend that the app will get any post-release support at all, but actually believing it is another matter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ragequit - Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 (henceforth referred to as 4 Resident Evil because that's what the logo says and typing it that way infers Capcom doesn't know what the hell) is one of those games that, while I hated it, I was sorely alone in that and it became more and more painfully obvious that I was going to remain that way.  4 Resident Evil has transcended that status from "good game" to "great classic" or however you want to phrase it, so with that status, it will never really get panned aside from the outliers like me who just seem bitter about its success or whatever.  And maybe I am just bitter, but I'll tell you one thing I am, and that one thing is "Not Wrong".  I firmly believe that I am not wrong in hating the game and thinking it's a fairly poor game because it has all the -things- that we point at in other games and say "This?  This right here?  THIS IS BAD." and the only reason I think that 4 Resident Evil got away with it is because it was another installment of a beloved franchise that had a very obvious leap in a few areas and had a lot of potential, even if the lot of it was completely undermined and/or unrealized.

So, the premise of 4 Resident Evil (seriously, gonna keep on doin' that) is pretty simple, even though it's really quite far removed from your 'normal' Resident Evil title.  (Re-reading the Let's Play series of 0-4 with Code Veronica in there as well leads me to say that there's no 'normal' Resident Evil game)  Whereas most of the Resident Evil games have you going into a situation caused one way or another by Umbrella with their wacky viruses and the like, 4 Resident Evil sees you doing something quite different in heading what is basically a search and rescue mission directly from the top brass of the United States of America.  The President's daughter (who might actually just be the incumbent President's daughter, since Capcom can't be arsed to really think out dates for this type of thing) has been kidnapped by a crazy cult.  'Are you a bad enough dude to save her?!'  This is basically the entire premise of the game at the start.  Of course, it gets a little, er, 'deeper', but at the start of the game, it's billed as just a simple in-and-out job.

A simple in-and-out job for none other than Leon Scott Kennedy (I don't know why his middle name is important enough to get mentioned, just roll with it) who was last seen in a terrible GameBoy Color game Resident Evil 2 which is still, among certain groups, regarded as the best game in the entire series despite its many many flaws.  Certainly is my favorite of the group, but I'll get into that at another time.  Tonight is negative night.  Now, Leon's been hired by the Secret Service and is then dropped into a location that is definitely not Spain to single-handedly find out where the Incumbent President's daughter is, since I'm sure this is exactly how that type of thing works.  And, of course, since gameplay is -much- more important than story, Leon is handed little more than a handgun and given a pat on the head before sent along his merry way.  Because, you know, a standard-issue assault rifle is too much to ask for or a more convenient drop or anything that somewhat makes sense.

It's worth mentioning that this is a cap of the PS3 remaster.  Thus it's shiny.

So, as soon as Leon gets split up with the guys who are presumably going to drive him to the place he ends up walking to minutes after their death (by the way, if you haven't noticed by now, I'm going to be spoiling the story for the whole game, so if you're not into that, maybe head off now) he encounters villagers who are a little more than hostile towards the American.  In fact, they're downright rude, what with trying to bite him and such and oh, yeah, they're actually just trying to kill him.  Because they are all 'zombies', or at least what 4 Resident Evil calls zombies, which are really just people with parasites in their bodies.  This is sort of important.  I will touch on it more in a couple paragraphs.  Suffice to say, there's at least a reason why getting bitten by these guys doesn't offer an infection chance in theory (since the games prior kind of did and it was never really mentioned outside of something really silly in 3) and it's mostly because to be infected like these guys, you kind of need a giant alien parasite in your body. know, a virus or something manageable.

In the village that he walks to (which is, as I assume, the destination goal or at least a stop) he runs into more of these as well as, potentially, one of these 'zombies' who can wield a chainsaw because fuck you.  This whole section is pretty infamous in its own right and it more or less sets the bar for "Will I like 4 Resident Evil?".  It's one of the highest-tension moments in the game, it uses a randomization feature depending on your actions (which isn't used anywhere else in the game) and there is generally just a shit-load of 'zombies' for you to get used to the experimental control scheme that other games have since adopted and made much much better.  Thereafter, the game -really- starts to get weird because it chiefly features Leon just sort of wandering around until he stumbles onto parts of the cult and destroys them and such.  Also a Merchant who is a gigantic asshole because he charges the one guy going around and killing zombies for supplies with which to kill zombies.

Something heavily featured in the gameplay is QTEs which are almost universally reviled by gaming people as a whole unless they're in a game that you like which means they're okay in that game only.  (Notable examples include God of War series, 4 Resident Evil, Shenmue, etc.  Because it's just silly to acknowledge that maybe QTEs aren't the problem, just poor implementation is.)  Said QTEs are, of course, of the "Get it right or die" variety, which is sort of the worst kind, but let's ignore that I suppose.  Adds to the 'horror' and 'survival' elements in the whole 'survival horror' theme that 4 Resident Evil clearly carries.  It also features the QTEs less offensive (Perception-wise) cousin:  Context-sensitive actions, to the tune of "Press button to jump out a window" and the like.  Both are generally not seen as positive additions to any games (with the latter being pretty much overlooked anymore), yet they don't seem to drag 4RE down in opinion like they do in other games.

Also featured is the staple tank controls (admittedly of a different design) and limited inventory space (again, different design) that have been decried in previous titles (while not being enough to outwardly despise them enough to say they're bad games).  Of the former, the most note-worthy thing is the inclusion of the whole "cannot walk and aim" thing that has been series standard since the first game (and is, in fact, only being dropped in favor of good third-person controls in Resident Evil 6, as in they were still present in 5) but generally it's just awkward to get around and, at least personally, I feel the camera is usually a little too tight to accommodate the desired play-style anyways.  With the latter, there's at least a 'neat' idea behind it, in pretending that Leon is carrying around a giant metal suitcase that he is never seen with that has enough space for generally more than the usual inventory, provided you're willing to organize things to eek out those extra spaces.  It is, much to everyone's benefit, also upgradeable through the game, adding more and more space with which to work.

Now, the main thing I take issue with, the main problem I have with 4 Resident Evil, is far and beyond the plot of the game.  What I've already said is relatively tame compared to what the rest of the game has to offer, and I can't even cover the full breadth of -dumb- that the game carries, story-wise.  Not that the other Resident Evil games offer 'smart' plots or anything resembling them, but I daresay that 4 Resident Evil carries one of the dumbest stories of the entire series, just below Resident Evil Zero, which manages to retcon retcons and have the dumbest antagonist ever.  I haven't played, nor experienced Resident Evil 5, so I can't comment on that, but of 0, 1 (remake included), 2, 3, 4, Code Veronica, Survivor and Dead Aim, 4 Resident Evil takes second place handily.  While I'm overstating it quite a bit, also potentially setting it up to be a little less dumb than you might be anticipating, I do have to make it pretty obvious on where I stand on this, because it makes it that much easier for you to get it while I then describe the why.

I would like you to take a look at the above cutscene from 4RE.  I'll offer no real input at this point beyond simply asking you to watch it so that what follows makes a little sense.  And waiting....waiting....Okay, I'm going to assume at this point that you have watched it.  Now I would like to make three points very very clear about what is wrong with that video and, in fact, the entire plot of the game because of it.  First off, Saddler sees fit to just sort of explain the whole plan to both Leon (whom is completely unnecessary to the entire plan, more on that in a minute) and Ashley (whom the entire plot hinges on in -several- ways).  That's probably in the great big list of cliches somewhere, also on the evil overlord lists and such.  It's dumb.  Don't do that.  Because it is dumb.  Under most circumstances, it is only mostly dumb, but in 4 Resident Evil's scenario, it's obscenely dumb, so much so that I had to stress it this much.

Now, the second point hinges on the first because it more or less explains why it is obscenely dumb to do the first point in the first place.  The entire plan is to kidnap Ashley and inject her with a Plagas and then send her back to America so that the Plagas can incubate and hatch so that Saddler can assume control of her to wreck up America from the inside.  Ignoring the glaring ways in which that could go wrong (up to and including the fact that a giant fucking tentacle thing (or an egg of a giant fucking tentacle thing) is likely to show up on an X-Ray which is probably part of the litany of tests she'd be put under upon returning to the States to ensuring her well-being) the problem is that they fucked up halfway through the plan.  The entire game hinges on Leon showing up to rescue Ashely which suggests that she has been held for long enough to warrant Armed Response (barely) which means they got to the part of the plan in which they kidnap and inject her and then stopped.

The half-assed explanation is that they need to ransom Ashley off to the States before returning her so they can wait for her Plagas to hatch and then take control of the States which I'm sure you can read into why that's a half-assed explanation.  That's....whatever.  In that sort of scenario, I can sort of see Leon being just an interloper, even though he's trying to perform the ultimate shared goal of getting Ashley back home, which I would just sort of roll with.  You don't get money immediately, of course (not like you're going to anyway because of the whole "America doesn't negotiate with terrorists" thing, the fact that they clearly know where the cult is operating from, the fact that they actually send an attack chopper to said location and the fact that they kidnapped the daughter of the man who is not President yet) but you get Ashley into the States where, presumably, nothing happens until she hatches the Plagas and shit goes golden for Saddler and his homies.  Since that's part of the original plan.  If you want to really play Devil's Advocate, I guess you could say that they needed to take her back so she could go through channels that would keep her sheltered from American doctors and such until the Plagas was ready, but this is the same cult that is run by a giant, the above Saddler who is loving this shit and is also into the Evil Overlord thing to the degree that it ruins his plans, and a crazy midget.

The third issue, which is kind of the biggest issue is that, directly after explaining his big smart plan to the guy who could safely be shot in the head at any point and disposed of and the girl who needs to not know any of the plan because assuming she gets back to the States, it would be best if she didn't know so that she can't say "THERE'S AN ALIEN IN MY BODY", he tries to kill both of them.  I say 'he' tries to kill both of them because two dudes with Plagas in them (I'm not saying Ganados because those are the villagers, literally 'cattle' and I'm not saying Cultists because that doesn't convey the fact that they have the brain-controlling parasite from somebody's fucking basement inside of them) pop out and he can apparently control people with Plagas, which would suggest that he made them pop out with flaming crossbows and take aim at not only Leon but Ashley, upon whom their entire fucking "Get Rich and Destroy America" plan hinges on not killing.  The worst part is that this is -not- an isolated incident as, in any scenario wherein Ashley is with you (and there are a lot), the Plagas dudes either attempt to re-kidnap her (which as I said is barely acceptable) or just straight-up murder her (like by burying a fucking axe in her head) through these beings that Saddler can apparently control.

The fact is that 4 Resident Evil's entire plot is pretty much made superfluous because the people actively ruining the Antagonist's plans is the Antagonists themselves.  Leon running around and shooting things until they die doesn't help matters, certainly, but the plan is actively circumvented by the ones who came up with it for little reason beyond "Shit, we can't redo the entire story -again-, oh well, ship it".  Being that 4 Resident Evil in its current state was like the fourth or fifth incarnation of the game itself (one of which ended up apparently being Devil May Cry, completely serious) I imagine there was something of a time crunch, especially considering two or three of the builds had been shown off as if they were going to be the game that ended up being released, which they certainly were not.  So suddenly changing it around so that Leon was yet again doing something other than originally broadcast (perhaps something that actually made more sense than single-handedly rescuing the daughter of the incumbent president from a cult that was too stupid to achieve their own goals) would have probably done more harm than good to the thing overall.

Ultimately, what turned me off to the game was simply the controls as they were just too bad for them to actually be usable for me.  I didn't get far enough into the game for it to reveal its stupidity to me (however, I did have a friend over who managed it, so I almost experienced it first-hand) but that's really something that it no more or less egregious depending on the way you're informed (unless, of course, you're simply being misinformed which I do not think I've done) which means I think it's pretty open for ridicule whether or not I beat the game myself.  And while I don't think the game is a good one myself, I certainly don't begrudge anyone who managed to enjoy it because I certainly would have liked to.  When it comes down to it, more people enjoyed the game despite its many many flaws than not, and that's why it gets its spot in success history and whether I like it or not doesn't matter.  Doesn't mean I can't angrily write about it to the internet, though!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Santa Seaman Signifies Sega Secret?

So, fairly recently, there was a tweet from the creator of Seaman, Yoot Saito, which contained one strange thing.  The tweet, as reported by Joystiq, contained an image of a Santa-themed Seaman, as well as a statement that basically says "Time to start thinking of the end of the year".  For as subtle as it is, it is -not-, but that's kind of the point and for that alone, well the fact that there was a Santa Seaman alone, is pretty amazing, I should say.  I mean, as you know, I am kind of a Christmas fiend, as well as a Sega fiend, so seeing the both of them together like that.....yeah, that'll get the ol' mind going into overdrive at the possibilities.  Of course, in this scenario, as it's been presented, there's really only three real possibilities that could come from this.  Okay, maybe four.

The first possibility is, of course, the one I prefer the most.  As Sega is wont to do, they seem to release a group of four of their classics through the digital services with remastering work done and updates where appropriate.  With Sonic Adventure, Space Channel, Crazy Taxi and Sega Bass Fishing being last year's offerings (Which was then bundled together in a collection for PC and 360 users only; damnit Sega), this year's group seems to have already been started with the upcoming Jet Set Radio HD for....well, everything but the 3DS it seems.  With reports that state Shenmue 1 & 2 are up next in the remaster list, as well as rumors associated with those saying Skies of Arcadia is a possibility too, we might just have our full Dreamcast volume for this year, if we figure that Seaman HD would be the last one, as it would come out during the holidays.  Assuming they either do five games this year or only do the first Shenmue, leaving Sonic Adventure 2 and Shenmue 2 both for next year, which is precisely the kind of dickery Sega would pull.

Obviously, this is tantalizing to me because not only would I love to just throw money at Sega through remasters for PS3/PSN (as well as collection disks if you would let me, Sega!), but with Jet Set Radio's position on the Vita, it would suggest that the rest of this year's catalog might make it to it as well.  As in, portable Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, Skies of Arcadia and Seaman (which would totally work, what with the built-in microphone).  Are you drooling yet at the very thought of this?  I AM.  I'm sure you know this already, but I did really want to lay it out like that.  Because it is very delicious looking laid out like that, and if I could dedicate an entire Vita page to a straight-up Sega  Now I want this very badly.  Like....-so very badly- you don't even know.  I didn't even play Seaman on the Dreamcast (mostly because I didn't even know what the hell), but I would throw down $10 for the ability to do so nowadays, especially if I could take the experience anywhere.

The second option, which may or may not be more likely all things considered, is that this is merely a teaser for a possible 3DS release of the game that has apparently been rumored of for two years.  As in a release around the holidays, or an announcement that will come around the holidays to say that Seaman will come out....sometime after the holidays.  I'm sure you can figure out where I was going with that.  You're smart people.  While still delicious as a prospect, since it is still portable Seaman which has been updated (and will be able to use a mic, ala 3DS mic) I'm sure you all know that I more prefer the Vita, despite my acquiescence to the fact that I will have to get a 3DS at some point to get my Harvest Moon fix.  (I may go with the XL if they release a Circle Pad Pro for it.  By my estimations, if they do that, the thing will be the same width as a Wii U pad.  Wonder if that will be a coincidence?)  So regardless of what portable the theoretical Seaman HD comes out on, I'll be able to buy it, and you can bet that I will.

The third and fourth options are, then, fairly simple.  Being that Nintendo is in the midst of a bigger digital push, a combination of these two previous options could be possible.  As in, Seaman HD swims to the well as everything else.  Kinect (and headsets), Playstation Eye (and headsets), Built-in Mics, PC Headsets, every platform has an option, granted not a 'guaranteed' one but a likely one, that the game will be playable, so Sega could simply decide, as they need to do, that the most money possible is the best option.  Let everyone buy it and, guess what?  Some people totally will!  Amazing!  Conversely, on the flip side for the fourth option, this could all just be an elaborate ruse and the end-result will be something Japan specific involving Seaman that nobody cares about.  Like.....a urinal game featuring Seama-oh god nevermind.

...Anyways.  With Sega, all things are possible, I suppose.  How many of them are positive is always up in the air and questionable, but any of the above are viable options for this bit of news.  Of course, we just won't be able to know what will come of it for a long while and by then, who knows if we'll remember this.  I...probably will.  Since I'll be able to link this post and say "Hey, this happened" when I talk about just what was announced.  Everyone else?  Might not score too high on the old "things I need to remember" scale.  Still, it will probably be neat, whatever happens!  Because Dreamcast revivals are what we need to thrive - for we lost it too soon.  Too soon.  Sadface.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Oh Boy, 3DS XL

Well.  Where do I start with this one?  I have pretty much spent the entirety of the time betwixt hearing about this last night in the wee hours of the morning and now either rubbing my head in frustration, covering my eyes with a sigh and a shake of my head, and sleeping because of this announcement.  Well....not the sleeping part.  The other two things have occurred fairly frequently, however.  Because I mean, come on.  I know I'm kind of a fanboy, but I am calling this the hell -out- because this is -dumb- and I think we all kind of know that already, but it's Nintendo so how could we ever say that they've done something even remotely resembling 'wrong'.  There's just so much that I could say and have already said that it's hard to kind of bring everything back together to form something coherent, especially since my sinus infection is not going down without a fight.

I guess the first point is simple enough.  Why the hell does it need a revision -now-, and why is said revision the Power Rangers Villain Special?  (You get that.  I'm sure you do.)  The 3DS has only been out for about a year.  Compared to the DS and the DS Lite, there was just over a two year gap between the release of the two.  By the time the 3DS XL (LL in Japan which apparently means larger than large) comes out in August, it will be just around a year and a half. gap between the two.  Which is two months from now and they're obviously not going to just -make these things appear- to ship to everywhere (since it's apparently a worldwide launch except for Europe which gets it in -one- month) meaning this thing has been in development for a while, certainly pre-E3, and could have been announced at any of the, what, three events Nintendo had?  Or, better yet, -next- E3.  As in, maybe they could've given this one a little more time to cook.  Unless that would conflict with the 'actual' revision that is going to come out that Nintendo totally said they weren't going to do.

I will say now, in stark contrast with likely the rest of the post, the 3DS XL won't be a bad thing on its own.  The timing and other factors make it a pretty poor idea which I have started to explain and will continue to do so, but it's going to be a thing all its own.  Of note is that the thing is going to be 90% bigger than the 3DS apparently, which means the screens are going to be quite a bit larger as well.  They'll still display at the same resolution, so don't expect anything to really look better beyond you being able to make out more detail because bigger screen.  DS games might be a little more visually pleasing, however, since they apparently won't be scaled weirdly as they are on the current 3DS.  I've misplaced the information, so consider that one a maybe for now, but I'm pretty sure it's right. On top of that, the battery has been slightly improved, to the tune of, conservatively, 1.5x power, meaning your gaming can go a little bit longer.  Not DS Lite levels, of course, but nothing will every have DS Lite levels again as a base standard.  Of course, that's the positive notes.  Now is where it starts to get positively hairy.

I'm sure we all remember the Circle Pad Pro, whose origins are as convoluted and derptastic as the rest of the 3DS' antics have been, but if you need a little refresher, here goes.  Nintendo (this is key) released this thing, the add-on which gives the 3DS more shoulder buttons and, more importantly, a second circle pad in what appeared to be an attempt to court Capcom's favor, if not straight-up as a request -from- Capcom.  I say this, of course, because the CPP was announced in conjunction with Monster Hunter Tri G, a portable version of the game that had been released on the Wii that met with some success.  I don't have numbers, but it seemed to kinda fall off after a little bit.  It was, in fact, a pack-in -with- Monster Hunter Tri G in Japan (whereas in Europe it was packaged with Resident Evil:  Revelations, another Capcom game, but to my knowledge, no such pack-in in America) and I think it's no coincidence that, somewhat later on in the year, Monster Hunter 4 was announced for the 3DS as well in a somewhat seemingly exclusive manner.  (Of course, this is Capcom.  Monster Hunter 3 has been ported no less than three times itself)

Now, I bring up the Circle Pad Pro because the 3DS XL has a little bit more of a profound effect on things by simply being a 90% larger 3DS rather than a 3DS that has the CPP built-in to it.  I know the argument is that adding something like a second stick/pad to a system is a bad idea and this and that because it'll split the user base.  I know this argument well, because it was made for the PSP a lot whenever a new version of that was announced without another stick.  Of course, it's a -bit- different here, because nobody, much less Sony, released an add-on that supported a second stick, thus introducing that control scheme to the mix.  Nintendo has, and -they- did it, not Capcom or any other Developers/Publishers, not Nyko or any other third-party peripheral makers, Nintendo made and released it.  They then proceeded to not support it so as to not make it mandatory (The only first-party support available is Kid Icarus, in which the stick is basically used for left-handed folks) whereas other developers made proper use of it.

Those developers being Squeenix, Konami and Capcom to put Kingdom Hearts 3D:  Dream Drop Distance, Metal Gear Solid 3:  Snake Eater 3D and Monster Hunter 3 Tri/4 on the 3DS respectively.  The Circle Pad Pro is not -mandatory-, but, well, just go ahead and play Kingdom Hearts 1/2, Metal Gear Solid 3 or any Monster Hunter game without using the second stick on whatever is provided.  The much-decried "Claw method" was used for Monster Hunter fans with the PSP versions, but it was ridiculed as much as the game itself was praised and only sold well because it was literally the only real option.  So when you consider that the Circle Pad Pro added enough length to make the 3DS longer than the Vita, and the fact that the 3DS XL is 90% larger than the 3DS as a base, do you -really- think there is a Circle Pad Pro XL in production?  Even if there is, is it going to be a viable addition, considering the fact that it will make the thing about as big as a Notebook?

What I'm trying to hammer in is that Nintendo is -really- jerking developers around here.  Nintendo themselves have, essentially, enacted the horrible userbase-split that comes from drastically altering the control method of a device through an add-on, and are now furthering that split because the 3DS XL is going to sell a lot, if just because of the bigger screens and better battery alone.  Nevermind that it's assuming (unless you live in America) that you have bought a 3DS already or at least a DSi to use the AC Adapter from that (One will not be in the box for Europe and Japan launches); it's back to square one in terms of controls until/unless a CPPXL is announced and released in all territories and not just Japan.  So you have this one way of controlling a game (likely the camera) which is probably terrible, as it either uses the touch screen or the D-Pad, and you have this other way which is much better and time-tested through a second stick, but now you have a very, -very- small group of people who will, in reality, be able/want to use it.  Developers -like- the latter option and will always use it unless you very basically slap them around for even thinking of using it, which is -kind of- what's going on here.

I'm going to say it now:  I really think Nintendo should've just bit the bullet and included the second pad.  I only say this because Nintendo themselves apparently though the addition was necessary enough to actually develop, manufacture, release and promote (In places that aren't America) a method to enable this.  This is Nintendo's bed, and they really should lie in it because it would make things so much easier for everybody.  Instead, they're just once again proving to be as unfriendly as they've been in the past, since all this is doing is making it even less desirable for developers to attempt to support this add-on that would make their games control better (which honestly is a valid concern, given how many developers were forced to resort to/thought it was a good idea to use the touch screen for getting around which was almost universally a bad idea) which in turn affects the overall quality of what comes out.  And, as always, it simply does not matter to Nintendo since Nintendo prevails on the premise of simply making things that they can release Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokemon games on.  So whatever they do that makes it harder for developers and, in turn consumers, to enjoy the devices simply doesn't matter since their things sell anyway, thus people try to make things for them despite it being a bad idea.  (See: Samurai Warriors 3 on the Wii.)

And the general consensus of the places I frequent doesn't really see a problem with this, which is the real issue here.  Any mention of a second stick is instantly disregarded in a manner bordering between flippant and insulting without the consideration of it.  And just the whole disjointed message (which has been a constant theme for the 3DS since its release) just doesn't seem to be understood here, or at least acknowledged.  Nobody is really looking beyond "I have this thing and sometime before the year ends I'll get to play Mario and Animal Crossing on it and next year I get Fire Emblem", which, again, speaks volumes for the whole 'this is what happens to Third Parties on Nintendo things' mindset.  It's admittedly not at all grave on the DS, as I own mostly third party games for mine with at least some of them having seen at base mild success on the device.  And to be fair, Third Party support has been kind of a thing for the 3DS in this first year, but at this point it seems like it's in spite of Nintendo, rather than with the help of them, and that's a trend that keeps continuing from my viewpoint.  I guess we'll just have to see how it pans out for the 3DS though.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Final Fantasy VII Getting a Re-Release Kind Of

So, hey remember when Final Fantasy VII was released for PC?  You don't? happened.  It was a thing that existed.  I should know, because I own it....somewhere.  And never got it to work past a certain boss or random encounter that I don't remember because, as we all know, Final Fantasy VII wasn't really, uh, good on PC.  It's a common complaint from that era and continues even now because nobody has realized that you actually have to work on a port to make sure it works on the systems that you obviously didn't really want it to be on, but yet still wanted the money from it.  I'm not grouchy or bitter at all at that whole thing, what are you talking about?  Regardless, Final Fantasy VII, by all accounts (that I've heard of, as well as experienced) was a pretty egregious case on the PC even for the time and the standard.

Obviously, the best idea is to re-release that version with a few tweaks on PC.  Wait, what?  When I say tweaks, I mean added Cloud Saving functionality (hurr hurr), Achievements (Nobody cares about them on PC games!) and a Thing where you can just kind of click to get free HP, MP and money called the "Character Booster".  No, I am not exaggerating.  Yes, it is kind of defeating the purpose of an RPG.  No, I don't expect it to be criticized.  No, it doesn't make any goddamn sense.  Considering all we have to go on is a cached webpage, I'm not saying that's -all- the information we have about it in regards to the tweaks, nor do I expect "Hey, we made it so you can actually play the game now" would be a bullet point, but I -am- saying that I expect it as much as I don't expect it.  Because I anticipate Squeenix doing dumb things, you realize, because they do that a lot.  I mean, I think re-releasing Final Fantasy VII on PC for '£7.99 / €9.99' (no $ listed, but it translates to about $12.50, so expect $9.99-14.99) with -even less work necessary- than most re-releases nowadays is as brilliant as it is terrible, so you kind of see where I'm coming from.

Well, one thing that the site doesn't clear up is just how they plan on distributing the game, which I imagine is likely because it's not really fully in the works yet, what with the no $ thing.  Regardless, if this is even real (which, let's face it, it's like 98% possible) the likely thing would be to suggest integrating the game into Steam for the copy-protection, actually using the Achievements, and having a realistic expectation of the game to actually sell to people who play PC games.  There are other avenues, of course, but considering Squeenix's PC ventures are already on Steam (At least FFXI and XIV which, despite whatever flak you might give them, are legitimate installments for Squeenix and Steam's partnership), I'm not going to suggest them, nor am I going to suggest that Squeenix is dumb enough to attempt their own service, ala Origin.  I mean, they are, but it's not going to happen, thankfully, because I think they're starting to realize that they kind of need to start -making- money soon.  (Which would be a lot easier if you would localize fucking games like Final Fantasy Type-0 you fucks.  I don't even care on what, re-format it for the Vita and localize it for $40, I'll fucking buy it.)

As an idea, this is all pretty inoffensive aside from the Character Booster which I will have to see in action before I acknowledge it as anything but dumb and I would probably buy it if I was into PC gaming and such.  Since Steam Money cards are officially a thing, I could even buy it as more than a theoretical.  It's totally possible now.  But I already have a digital PSOne version of the game bought, and I'm just waiting for the day that it's playable on the Vita (Or I happen across a really cheap PSPGo) to give it another good once through.  It won't have trophies because why would this quick cash-grab extend to anywhere but PC, but it'll be fine enough.  Really, I think this all just came around because, during a meeting, some higher-ups were talking about some quick cash ideas.  Since the next port up is Final Fantasy VI, they were talking about that and the different versions of it out there to see if there was anything else.  And then someone says "Hey, did you guys know we released FFVII on PC?" and everyone looks at each other in wonderment as he says "It was 1998, though.  Also barely playable.  I guess we should just ign-" and then he was promptly assaulted by someone else who said "GET SOME PEOPLE ON IT RIGHT NOW.  FIX IT, ADD A COUPLE THINGS AND CHARGE CHARGE CHARGE!".  It was likely very entertaining and oh god, I really shouldn't be doing things when I'm sick like this.

Still, it's pretty neat that other people will be able to play the game in a way that they likely have not done so before.  At least not legally.  And likely not the PC version because seriously, who else knew it existed?  If you're holding your hand up, first off, stop that because I can't see you and second off, you're lying.  Who knows, if it goes well, maybe we'll see something similar with Final Fantasy VIII because it -also- had a PC release that you didn't know about either.  And it is likely just as ripe for re-jiggering with achievements and other silly things as VII was which was, uh, not all that ripe at all.  I mean, come on, VIII was released on PC 12 years ago likely as an after-thought of gigantic proportions.  At least VIII has Triple Triad, though.  Mmm....maybe they'll add online multi-player with Triple Triad.  They won't, but it's fun to dream.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sick Still, More Game Talk

So, it seems like I might be a bit on the decline rather than getting less sick but I guess it always gets worse before it gets better or somesuch other rhetoric.  Bottom line is, I'm still sick, there's still no news, I still haven't made enough progress in games to speak of (though this is mostly because my cooling ideas are falling through, meaning little to no real PS3 time) so why don't I just ramble about my card game some more.  I have a whole other facet at least somewhat realized in my head that I haven't brought up in the slightest and while it highlights one of my short-comings (the inability to draw people, hence not having concept pictures of them to share) it also gives a pretty good idea of what all I'm going for with the game itself, even if it might seem a bit scattered and/or more realized in my head at this point yet.

The entire facet that I haven't really gone into on here about is the actual 'Factions' of the game, of which I have sort of realized in my head, but I haven't put them to paper whatsoever for the reasons I've elucidated already.  They are a very rough realization of what I've envisioned so far, obviously, and I haven't worked out mechanics enough to know if they're viable/balanced with the 'perks' I've kind of figured on them having, but it's better than just not having anything at all.  Of course, considering the 'world' I've realized the game in bears an apparent resemblance to Mirror's Edge (that I am trying to figure -against- being since I'd rather try and stay away from 'rip off' comments if possible), I should preface things with a few facts here.  First off, I haven't actually played Mirror's Edge yet, but I've watched an LP of the game that I don't remember too much of despite it being highly entertaining.  (Both because of the game and the LPer)  Secondly, I know one of the factions is pretty much like Mirror's Edge, but I like it so whatever.

I'll go ahead and elaborate on that faction now, as it was the first, will likely be the 'hero' faction of the game (or protagonist faction or similar) and it's the one I've put the most thought into.  Of the four realized, this faction is classified as the "Runner" faction which does exactly what the name implies.  I don't have an official name for any of them as they're just concepts yet, but they all have a sort of descriptive title like that.  The Freerunners do pretty much exactly what you think; some of them actually try to do right by the city the game takes place in by delivering communiques and the like, where the others pretty much are just in it to run from the special army.  Adrenaline junkies, the lot of them, they still can offer a nice distraction for other runners who might be a little more 'professional' or righteous or what have you.  Their strength will be getting from Point A to Point B the fastest out of the groups, which will either be done through adding +1 base move to all their movements or those taken with Faction-specific cards, I haven't decided just yet.  With two movements possible in a turn, 2 extra squares will go quite a long way in the long run.

The second faction is decidedly the 'antagonist' faction, as they are the Special Forces militia put in place by the current head honcho.  I should've elaborated a bit earlier, but this sort of plays into the "I haven't played Mirror's Edge so I don't know if I'm ripping it off" thing.  Quite simply, after being elected into office (of some sort, dunno if he's actually the President or what) this high-up guy starts very slowly sinking his domain into a rigid, fear-based society, turning it from normal every day life to something more like V for Vendetta, what with the curfews, the possibility for random kidnapping, and other such things 'for your protection'.  Official crime is down by a bit (aside from those caused by the Runners and other factions), but at the cost of the bad dudes having free reign to cause problems themselves.  When playing as this Special Forces Militia or 'Gunners', you have the strength in numbers, since you'll be able to field 3 or 4 members of the faction (though they're individually the least impressive of all the factions because of this) at the start, and you -might- be able to call in reinforcements, I haven't decided.

The third is the first of the 'second-tier' factions, so said because I imagine if this were a game proper, this one and the next one would be dropped in favor of simply having the 'heroes' and the 'villains', but I don't operate as such.  The 'Modders' as I have dubbed them is a mainly co-op faction, since they get their strength from pairs.  As in, you field two at a time and one can augment the other, even from a distance, as they are kind of cyborgs.  The idea I'm running with is sort of Borg-ish experimental beings have been made by the head bad guy except two of them escaped with the technology used to make them and are now obsessed with bringing people into their 'order' to try and perfect their own design.  So their cards and the like will probably focus on equippable items mostly and either they can equip to their partner should they choose or they -share- equip slots, I'm not quite sure which.  Again, still not sure on the whole balance of things here.

The last faction is the faction that I'm sure none of you are surprised that I'm including and/or that I made an effort to actually fit this in.  The 'Brawlers' do just what you expect, and are basically just a group of streetfighters who cause problems among themselves and others for all sorts of reasons.  Some are trying to shake 'society' up with their fists to make everyone see that something is wrong, and some just want to punch people.  Regardless of the reason, they are very good at it and as you might expect, their cards/battle style is all about getting up-close and personal.  Because of that, however, in a world where guns exist, it's a dangerous venture, so I've had to think of how to make them equally dangerous.  My idea is, basically, either allowing them to equip up to three attacks (as opposed to two) -or- allowing them to chain attack cards.  Like, using an attack card and chaining that to an equipped attack card to decidedly increase their damage output.  Again, balance is probably going to step in here, but I like it as a base.

I like to think that I have, at least, a very definite cast of characters in the factions themselves, but I've also been thinking about individuals to fill those out.  Specifically, I've got about four people in mind for the Runners, five for the Gunners (which is easy, since you basically just have to pick names for the same base type, though there needs to be -some- variation of course), four Modders (two pairs) and three Brawlers, and while I'm sure it would be terribly interesting to describe designs, I'll save that for another time.  Or for a time when I can show you rather than describe them out.  Much as with the card concepts, at least I can put down something that shows I -have- put a lot of thought into this thing, even if it might not seem it.  With any luck, I'll be able to have more tangible proof sometime soon-ish.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sick Post Because I'm Sick

Sometimes, Google.  Sometimes you do good.
So, as I have kind of alluded to in recent posts when I have actually posted, I have been fairly sick lately.  Thankfully not in the 'serious' sense, but enough so that I am in something of a haze for the better part of a day, or at least more of a haze than normal, what with it being Summer Spring (for a day yet) and all.  Which pretty much means I'm really in no condition to be writing even though I would love to.  I mean, I have tried the last couple nights, but I've had nothing really to work with and I feel like even if I had a giant two page -thing- about something really interesting, I wouldn't be able to do anything with it because I have just been 'derrrr' for the entirety of my down-time.  I also haven't been gaming all that much despite my recent acquisitions of Lollipop Chainsaw and Gravity Rush which burns me tremendously.  The brief bits of the former that I have played have been brilliant, but you'll hear about that soon enough in a format you might not expect.

I do have two bits of news here that I can talk about to try and get myself out of this little funk I'm in, since I feel like I am possibly on my way out of illness.  With any luck, I'll be back to throwing down posts that veer more verbose than a valiant victor verily vexing villains for a vendetta.  Said time is not tonight, however, so don't be surprised if I can only muster a couple paragraphs here for both bits of information.  Though, to be fair, there's not a whole lot to be said about either, one is pretty uniformly positive, and the other is Sega being Sega which means it is not positive whatsoever except maybe kind of a tiny little bit, but not really.  I should probably save that for the actual talking about it portion instead of here, but eh, I'm feeling all crazy wacky so who cares.

Why don't I just throw down the Goddamnit, Sega so we can have that done and move along, yeah?  Yeah, let's just go ahead and do that.  So, do you guys remember Valkyria Chronicles?  Well it's back!  In pog card form!  Kind of.  Valkyria Duel is a free-to-play, PC Browser-based card game that is, obviously, only available in Japan because shut up.  There's a planned Smartphone version of it as well, but that's not in the cards on the table just yet, though I imagine it will likely be fundamentally the same since it's likely not a very taxing game.  It will be, as some/most Free-to-play games are, supported by micro-transactions that I have no idea how they will play out.  I imagine you can either buy 'boosters' of people, or they'll have a special grouping of cards that are special enough to be paid-only.  I mean, it's a card game, there are not really all that many options here.

I.....well, I really don't know where to start here.  I'm sure you can imagine where I'm coming from before I even say it, but suffice it to be said that there is not enough "Goddamnit Sega" that I can say here.  I could say it til my already raw throat dries up and cracks and it'd still not be enough for everything that is wrong with this picture.  Now, do I personally care that this is a quick cash-grab for a franchise that I happen to enjoy despite every instance of Sega trying to prevent that?  Of course not.  In fact, I encourage it - who knows, if they rake in enough profit from this, maybe they'll feel confident enough in a PSN-only, no-dub version of Valkyria Chronicles 3 for us since, hey, they'd still be making money off of the whole thing from micro-transactions of the card game.  And maybe if they did that, they could release -this- game over here for smartphones/browsers in an attempt at the same, but expanded, cash-grab.  I imagine it kind of hinges on at least having the ability to play all three games, however, since all three games rosters are involved, as you might be able to tell.

The thing that bugs me is that this is Valkyria Chronicles, and it's a card game at the same time.  I kind of have a thing for card games as you have no doubt realized, and I would probably buy into one based on several franchises I love.  I bought into Metal Gear Ac!d -happily- and would buy it all over again if I could play it on my Vita, which I keep mentioning.  It bugs me because it's pretty much a non-zero chance at being able to play this despite what I said above making something resembling sense.  Sega doesn't do sense, apparently, and said lack of sense still gives me reason to wonder at what's going to happen with further instances of series that I enjoy from them, namely Yakuza.  I have said it before, but I will straight up cut a bitch if my only option for Yakuza 5 is downloading it.  Regardless, that's not Valkyria Chronicles, nor Valkyria Duel related (Note:  Would totally buy a Yakuza card game, totally serious), but there's not much else to say.  It's free, it's Japan-only, it's a friggin' Valkyria Card Game and it taunts me something fierce.

Less vexing is the existence of Okami HD as a real thing, which is something I'm sure will make you all happy.  Should make Chance happy at least, so there's something.  As for myself, I am also happy, but in a less-so, I-may-not-buy-this-game-right-off way because it's DD-only which, you know what, I'm not even going to say it again, you know why that takes it off my radar.  Still, I hope it's only my radar that it takes it off of, because I really, really want this game to sell.  If I could buy and play it, I totally would, and if it catches a good Playstation Plus sale, I might even go against common sense and buy it to download it at some unforeseen time in the future when I have non-shit internet and a PS3 that won't explode or at least convinces me that it will not, should I choose to download something more than, oh say, 300 MB in size for the sheer amount of time it will have to remain on in which to do so.

I don't have much of a story with Okami, but I do have -something- of one with it, so I may as well tell it.  Back in the days of GameCrazy, you see, when I was but a teenager, I walked into the store with a desire to buy and the dosh to back it up.  I didn't know what I was looking for, and honestly could've been sold just about anything because I just needed something to play, since the games at home obviously weren't enough.  Being a dumb kid and all.  So, with just me and the cashier girl in the store, I walked right up to her as she asked me "Hey, anything I can help you find today?" and said "Well, I dunno.  I'm just looking for a new game."  Giving me something of a weird look before going into contemplation, she asked me what system I preferred and as she moved out from behind the counter, I said "PS2", prompting her to head that way.  She obviously had something in mind when she grabbed a case as soon as she went to it.

Going back to the counter, she placed Okami down, a game that I had not heard of at that point, and proceeded to extol unto me the virtues of the wonderful art style and direction, as well as the quirky, brush-and-platforming based gameplay.  Sufficiently curious, I informed her I'd take it, she rang my up and the transaction was complete, just that simple.  I took it home, played it and had to admit that the game was absolutely wonderful, while also wondering just how I had not heard of it, or at least not remembered it had I read about it.  I did beat it and had quite a bit of fun with it, and suffice to say that the next time I saw her, I informed her about her good taste.  And it's kind of for that reason that I hope the game does well since it is very underknown, underrated, despite a good portion of the internet not likely giving you that impression, especially now with this news.  So I suppose that means that maybe you should believe the hype.  Or at least buy it to give yourself an excuse to look at some gorgeous visuals, maybe use that Move Wand you bought (though it's not mandatory) and/or just to get some trophies.  Because you can never have enough trophies.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Game - A Thing Called Progress

You will never know the difficulty uploading this took.

So, I did say long ago that I had not only intended on having a slightly working prototype of a game made by the end of the year, but that I had an idea in mind.  And since then, it's more or less been complete silence on it as I took it behind-the-scenes as it were, and simply started working on it mostly in my own time.  And mostly in my own mind with tonight being not the first, but one of the few times I sat down and tried to concept something out for it.  Obviously tonight was the card design and layout (click Here for slightly bigger version) and with very general and broad strokes, since the mechanics are more or less still up in the air.  There are definitely two systems in place at the moment and they both offer their own strengths and weaknesses, so I have to pin down just which is the best of the two.

The two systems, which I imagine explaining prior to describing the cards above and the thought behind them is a good idea, are pretty simple and tried-and-true ones.  The first, which was more or less what the cards above were designed in mind with at the moment, is a cost system as most card-based games have.  All cards feature an Equip cost and a Use Cost (Why all?  You'll see.) which is admittedly partially taken from Metal Gear Ac!d as an idea, but it's not like it'd be the first nor last.  Ideas come from everywhere, etc. etc.  The gist of Use and Equip costs is that they make you think a bit more 'tactically' since you can keep a card to use if you think it will be useful or it might just be worth preparing by equipping it so you can chain it with something else.  Of course, not everything can be chained, but blah blah, details.  And the second idea is to simply have a number of actions a turn (2, for instance) wherein you can play a card however you want, but you only get two.  You can equip two cards, equip one and use one, move with both, etc.  The advantage here is the easier nature of it, since you don't have to track numbers and costs, but game balance is a concern, since with no cost or anything, some cards could easily become OP, all things considered.

That in mind, let's get a little bit into the cards and start peeling back what is simply visible to explain what it means.  Start with the left-most card that is, unfortunately, a little washed out because it's lightly sketched and glare happens, but I figure you can see it well enough.  It offers pretty much the simplest design that sort of looks like what most other cards design themselves after.  The Use cost in the upper right corner with the name of the card being up there as well, under that is the illustration, and under that is the description.  I have part of the description box taken up by a little space for an emblem that shows what affiliation the card is for (of the four 'Factions' as well as unaligned) for flavor and under that is the Equip Cost which is possibly a bit out-of-place.  But that is the point of doing roughs, of course, to figure this sort of stuff out and place things in a better place.

I know we're not supposed to play favorites, but I do think the middle card is the one I like the most in this group of three.  It's a fairly different spin on the classic design since it compartmentalizes the upper square usually dominated by the illustration for the card.  Since I want Affiliation to play a part in the game (I'm thinking bonuses for using cards affiliated with the faction you're playing, which is the simplest), it features that pretty chiefly and allows for flavor text and/or a reminder as to what bonus it might innately offer if I go that route.  (I'm thinking the Movement-based Faction gets an additional 1 to move for such cards and the like)  Then the Description is afforded a reasonable amount of space above the bottom bar which has a spot for Equip Cost, Movement Value, and Use Cost respectively, keeping everything fairly neatly in its own place.  The main problem is that it does cramp the illustration a bit and vertical space is generally trickier to work with than horizontal.

The last card, which kind of seems like a variation of the first is also a pretty strong contender.  Use and Equip Costs are featured at the top of the card on opposite sides, flanking the illustration and name, forcing it to the center rather than left to right.  The illustration still has plenty of room even with the triangles cutting into the space, the description has ample room, and the Affiliation Emblem watermark offers that distinction that I want to be very apparent.  The only issue with it is that it's a fairly basic design, and I honestly don't know where to put Movement Value, so I sort of just tossed it in the center at the bottom.  It has the benefit of keeping the 'triangle' theme, not only making a triangle with the other numbers, as well as them being cased in triangles themselves.  So it does have a bit of flow, which I like, but it still seems a bit lacking and/or thrown-together.

I just wanted to show that off to show that there was, indeed, work and/or thought being put into the project.  While I'm sort of doubting it being even a little bit workable by the end of the year, it's nice to have something a little tangible made up.  And writing this out has made it a lot more focused in my head as to how to rethink and/or refine certain aspects of the game as a whole, as well as the designs I thought up.  Of course, this is just one aspect of it that I have to cover, the other two being the characters/factions (which I have in mind, just haven't concepted them out because I am terrible with forms, as is obvious) and the ideals in place for making some maps to actually play the game out with and help me keep it balanced.  Everything sort of has its own facets which I'm realizing very slowly, and thinking out those facets will likely be the biggest challenge of the process on the whole.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Earth Defense Force 3 Portable is a Thing...for Vita

So, while not quite being a hidden gem of E3, it is, nonetheless, something from around E3-time that you might not have heard of, which is unfortunate, since the news of this seemed to make a lot of folks happy.  I'm happy because people are happy, as I don't have any experience with the Earth Defense Force series whatsoever, but that happiness signifies a reason for it, and upon watching the video, I think I can sort of glean just what that is.  It is, also, quite possibly the only thing I can think of to write about right now since I am still fighting off some sort of cold or bad allergies or something.  So if this is not as involved or wordy or informative a post as you might be used to, I apologize, but it's about all I can put out at the moment.  But I -want- to write something at least, and pointing out a game that might've been overlooked seems a good a cause as any.

Now, the first thing you might notice about the trailer is that it is in Japanese.  This is mostly because it is, at this moment, just a Japanese game.  That is worth mentioning since it didn't even get the "will it, won't it" treatment at E3 like the Hatsune Miku Vita game as far as I know, so the chances of it getting localized are completely up in the air.  From what I can tell, only two installments of the series have been released in North America, so perhaps have a little bit of caution until we hear some official word.  Still, that attempt at buzz-killing aside, localization could probably be done pretty cheaply I would imagine, and despite all the doom-saying of the Vita despite it not even being out for half a year which is a thing I have brought up about two dozen times, it's still early enough where something like this is definitely worth the investment since there are still people out there with a Vita that is shiny-new and looking for more and more things to play on it, which means they might connect to an audience outside of the niche they've carved.  I, for one, am interested despite having never playing (and barely hearing of) the series, and I imagine my case would not be an unheard of one.

Immediately apparent is that they game is certainly not one you're going to turn to for a deep, involved storyline with plenty of twists, turns and surprises.  Even in Japanese, the gist of "It's 2017, we're being invaded" is clear, and that is where the titular organization comes into play.  The Earth Defense Force, the nameless, faceless men and women in a giant army are the people you take control of to try and drive off the alien and/or giant bug and/or giant robot menace.  I say nameless, faceless men and women (maybe even just men?  I dunno) because that's kind of part of the 'thing' of the game, after I've looked into it.  The point is that you play as part of the 'fodder', so you're not a super soldier, nor are you technically 'supposed' to win, or are even expected to, and certainly not by yourself.  While I don't know quite how that mechanic works, it's reflected in the fact that the game's other draw is the Online Co-Op between up to four people which is touted in the trailer.  Along those same lines, but possibly not mentioned, is that the game will be sold in single and double-packs, with the latter meaning, quite literally, buying two copies of the game so that you can 'enlist' a friend into playing it with you.  Which I think is neat.

Something else that's neat about it is the nice little touch part-way through the video.  Take a good look at the...well, it's not a 'logo', but it's a name or whatever for the news station.  If you read it and don't get it right off, when I guess you haven't followed the Vita very long and/or simply forgot.  Or perhaps my ignorance of the series is shining through, but I think "NGP News" is a little bit too much of a coincidence.  NGP obviously coming from the 'codename' for the Vita as it was shorthand for Next Generation Portable is a pretty nice call-back/touch, so I sure hope it was intentional.  If not, then I suppose it's simply a little bit of 'fate' that the series finally made its way to the handheld if it has commonly featured "NGP News" in the cutscenes and/or as a plot point.  Regardless, that's sort of a little thing to go on about for a paragraph and I feel sort of silly about that.

What I should be talking about is the gameplay itself and how it looks in the trailer provided since it is literally my only resource here without looking elsewhere which I don't plan on doing.  The whole 'sick' thing and all.  Basically the game looks like a free-roam Third Person Shooter affair which is plenty nice, especially with the twin sticks of the Vita.  Of course, it's not your standard TPS game, considering there are all varieties of big and, by that metric, gigantic enemies to be found and destroyed while running for your life, so it does set itself apart in that.  The sheer scale of that alone is pretty impressive, moreso when you consider that four different Vitas can run such a scenario concurrently, and when you add in vehicles (or at least Helicopters as shown in the trailer), the game expands that much more in quite a pleasant way.  Of course, even with all that, I'm sure it's not just a matter of run around and shoot, and will require some actual tactics considering it's dependent on you playing as a redshirt essentially.

That's about all I know and can tell about the game, of course, what with the whole 'not speaking japanese' thing, which is something I should look into at some point apparently.  (Goddamnit, Sega)  The trailer puts a release somewhere within the remainder of 2012 but again, that's simply for the Japan release of the game since there could only -be- a Japan release of the game.  I'm somewhat hoping and betting against it, but it's a very real possibility considering the series seems to have 'low-budget' written all over it.  (Though, impressively, it's not -incredibly- apparent in the visuals)  Hopefully we'll get a yay or a nay soon, rather than have to think/worry/wonder about it for a while, but there are all sorts of hopefuls out there regardless.  We'll just have to see.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Very Nintendo News Dump

So, there've been a few Nintendo-centric things thrown out in the last couple days, and while they're not noteworthy enough to warrant a full big post, all three things are kind of enough of a deal that they warrant mentioning.  I kind of have a thing just for this type of occasion as we know, so I won't be very coy about it here.  I'm just going to bring up all three points, have my little opinion on them as I do, and just sort of put that out there as a thing.  I say that, because I know my ideas and opinions are very, er, counter to the general ideas and such I see on the places in the internet that I frequent.  What with being slightly critical and whatnot - apparently that's not a popular thing.  Who knew?

Anyways, the first bit of news is that that little thing Nintendo mentioned about being able to use two of the Wii U Gamepads, pictured above, was....well, it's -true-, but not so much immediately so.  In layman's terms, the Wii U games will only support one Gamepad at launch, which I think is different than saying the Wii U -itself- won't support two at launch.  Because I think it -is- expected to support two in itself, just that any of the shiny games you'll want to pick up alongside the console won't.  Which won't lead to any confusion in the household at all, no siree.  Actually, I suppose it won't if Nintendo has the foresight to -not- print that on the launch-shipping boxes so that anyone who would want to buy more than one Gamepad will either A.) Be in-the-know enough to know they can't effectively use it yet or B.) Someone who completely has no idea and decides to buy multiple Gamepads and will, again hopefully, be instructed that such a thing is unnecessary.  But I think something like "Supports Two Gamepads" will make it on the box regardless because who really cares right?

What the problem here is that this smacks of something that people would (and likely have) mocked Sony quite openly for in the past, yet there doesn't seem to be quite so much of that going around.  As usual with what could be said as a 'negative' story for Nintendo, the bulk of the opinion out there seems to be a lot of hand-waving and "bah, who needs it at launch anyways?"  While that mindset isn't wrong at all, even though there could be the argument that "Since they announced it, it needs to be usable in -some- fashion at start (which could still be possible with Nintendoland), I have to wonder where this popular opinion is when the company involved is -not- Nintendo.  This kind of level-headed thing is not exclusive to dealings with just one company, you realize, because we could honestly just take a look at everything like that and everything would be so much nicer.  Radical thinking, I know, but there it is.

Regardless of the fact that it's not going to happen, it's pretty -obvious- as to why it's not.  A lot of these games have been in development alongside the final tweaks of the system itself, meaning that they've worked the games from bottom to top to work with just what they were given - one Gamepad.  I would suggest that sending as much information as is needed to the Gamepad is not a simple process, so suggesting that it's possible for -two- seems to border on madness, and I can only see the games itself suffering for the attempt.  This may be unfounded, but I have heard that using two Gamepads caused a drastic FPS loss when shown off at E3, likely on the floor.  Granted, it's new, it's not anywhere near done and it's not going to be fine-tuned for a while post-launch (The Gamepad and its usage, I mean) but if that's true then it's...well, it's not a very positive suggestion for the future.  Certainly something to worry about regardless of something that I cannot found with proof at this time, since that screen is meant to hold a -lot- of data.

Something else that seems to have been said before...well, thought went into it is the idea that the Wii U will be designed to support free-to-play games, which is kind of a thing that has been happening.  FarmVille is only pictured because I imagine that's what comes to a lot of minds when the term 'free-to-play' is thrown out.  Personally, I think of Phantasy Star Online 2 because of recent conditioning but just that right there, I think, is something that shows the absolute scale of the term.  Of course, neither type of game is instantly what is going to be on the console, if anything, because it was just mentioned as a statement of the Wii U's infrastructure.  Notably, it mentions the 3DS' recent ability to add updates, patches and DLC as a contributing factor, since the whole layout is probably similar on the console being that the 3DS can (now) apparently do the same thing, should any developer decide the 3DS is -just- the place for their new game that they don't want to charge for anything beyond cosmetic items and such.

It's worth mentioning, in my opinion, because it's actually not worth mentioning.  It's such a non-issue that I have to wonder exactly why it was mentioned in the first place and why it was important in any facet.  I mean, maybe I'm a little under-excited because I've been exposed to this sort of thing for, uh....years with my time years ago with Maple Story, and then my time in Playstation Home as well as watching FreeRealms from afar, but I just thought it was sort of a given that that type of thing was going to happen henceforth.  I didn't realize that 'infrastructure' and 'online architecture' had to be put in place specifically to allow free-to-play and/or micro-transaction games.  But it is apparently a thing there, and it was a big enough deal that it had to be mentioned by Joystiq, so there it is.

I don't see how this is going to be used whatsoever.  One of the comments suggests Maple Story and/or Nexon's other properties which is quite possible, but there isn't a whole lot of other ground out there.  I don't see Nintendo rolling out their own version of Home (despite really wanting to so I could see the massive amount of hand-waving) nor do I see many MMOs jumping on the Wii U just because they -can- for the whole free-to-play thing.  The only 'child-friendly' ones out there that I know about are FreeRealms (which is understandably not going anywhere near it, being a Sony property) and Wizard 101 which I literally know nothing else about than the name and that I see commercials for it all the time and doubt it's free-to-play.  Given how Iwata has somewhat of a distaste for the model, I doubt anything wholly Nintendo will come out of it, so this one is a little unnecessary.  Which is totally why it was necessary to mention.

The last piece of information is possibly the biggest, hence why I held it for last.  On the subject of the Legend of Zelda, there are quite obviously many potentials including a game for the upcoming Wii U as well as the 'next' game for it on the 3DS.  Of course what that 'next' game could be is up in the air, considering the last one was a remake of the Nintendo 64's Ocarina of Time.  The logical progression would state that, given there were two Zelda games on the N64, Nintendo and ports/remakes go together like that, and the fact that it would make more than a little bit of money would point to Majora's Mask seeing a 3DS remake.  And that is certainly an option that's up in the air, apparently, however it's being contested with two other ideas.  It basically boils down to whether or not Nintendo wants to remake MM or A Link to the Past first.  That is most certainly a thing, but I can't claim that it's wholly positive.

Now, I'm not going to pretend you're dumb or anything and just state the simple conclusion one could draw from Occam's Razor is that, with the resources used to port Ocarina of Time still kicking around, and Majora's Mask mostly using the same resources as Ocarina of Time, it would be rather simple to make Majora's Mask for 3DS.  That is why I believe this is the course they're going to take since it is simply easy money in various quantities.  Despite what and how we like to romanticize it, Nintendo is a company that wants as much of your money as possible.  That's why the 3DS launched at $250 - because they knew people would buy it at that price despite everything else.  And for as much as people like to say that it kicked off with slow sales, they were certainly -sales- and I have to suggest that had the Vita not been launched at $250, the price would have stayed constant for a while longer.  That they launched it 'at a premium' (using other companies talk) and essentially bragged about it is something that would incriminate most other companies, but again, it's Nintendo and everyone can afford to be level-headed with them, whatever.

What bothers me about the whole situation when I initially skimmed it is that Nintendo is basically saying "Hey, we don't know which game to put minimal effort into and sell for max profits, but one of them is gonna happen soonish" which is something that would get Sony and/or Microsoft verbally reamed all over the internet.  It's rather annoying that Nintendo gets away with it simply because we're all supposed to really like everything Nintendo and first party there.  After reading about the same situation elsewhere, however, I do have to admit that a third option is present:  something new-ish involving LttP, as in something (most likely a sequel) that involves A Link to the Past, but isn't simply a copy and paste 3DS playable version with bells and whistles.  With these three options on the table, I can forgive two of them being remakes for the simple fact that the third is -not-, even if it is the least-likely outcome, with Majora's Mask 3D being the most likely.  Were I a betting man, I would bet on it, but I am simply a person who is bad at predictions, so there's that.

I sort of wish something a little more news-worthy had been out there, but, well, them's the breaks.  The Wii U is still big news since everything at E3 more or less fell flat (including the Wii U stuff at E3) and Nintendo always gets mentions for the tiniest things, so given that I don't have anything else I -can- talk about at the moment (for a reason), that's what I could figure on eeking out a post about.  I'd say I did what I set out to do, of course, and if nothing else, I have something to point out when I'm proven right or wrong about the whole Zelda 3DS thing.  As well as getting to be a little bitter about Nintendo since I simply don't see enough people applying realistic talk to them out there.  Not saying it doesn't get done, simply that I don't see it at the places that I frequent.  Still, these are some things that could amount to something in the future, so I figured it was worth bringing up and discussing now, if just to see how different or similar it all ends up to how I thought it might.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


After just finishing a rather good Screenshot Let's Play of Skies of Arcadia (The GameCube Port, since it simply had more things) I can't help but remember why Sega was always my favorite company, and why it's just so painful that they've collapsed in on themselves as they did.  Sega just had a -knack- for making these really fantastic games (or at least publishing them through developers that -got it-) and that's....well, that's a rarity nowadays.  It wasn't even that they're fantastic in all regards, as many of them simply weren't, but they were fantastic because they were so focused on one aspect and made sure that shone like....something really shiny.  My analogy machine is broken tonight, sue me.  My point is fairly obvious if you have even a cursory knowledge of a good amount of Sega games out there, but even if you haven't and are confused, you know I'll be able to straighten it out.

Taking Skies of Arcadia as an example, it's obvious that the game was meant to be a light-hearted tale about pirates.  It does this.  It does it well, and it does it reliably throughout the entire game that I can't help but see it as perfect for just that.  Of course, it does well with the other facets of the game that -involve- the pirate part, such as the Ships (and the battling thereof which was absolutely -wonderful-) and the Crew (it might not be the most involved method, but it's certainly not overly simple) which is what really makes it shine since, at the end of the day, you play a game for many reasons, but good gameplay is definitely a plus, if not mandatory.  (As I've said before, I will tolerate poor gameplay for a fantastic story.)  Reading through that LP made me yearn, as I haven't done so in a long while, for an HD version of Skies of Arcadia and/or a friggin' -sequel-.  The latter might be rather impossible now given Sega's poor state, but the former is not only incredibly possible, but is rumored to be a thing following at least Shenmue I HD's release on the normal rounds, which will hopefully include Vita.  Sega is getting my money for Jet Set Radio Vita, so that's hopefully going to send a message.

Speaking of Shenmue, there is certainly a -reason- why a third installment of the game is so heavily clamored for; the game, despite it's flaws which are more or less negligible depending on your perspective, manages to blend story and action in a rather compelling way.  In a sense, I think that's why Yakuza as a whole has always been considered a spiritual successor to Shenmue (I'm sure you know I love the Yakuza series, so I don't even feel the need to throw that one down), since it does that very well too, despite going a little more over-the-top than Shenmue at times.  Though....Shenmue did get a little crazy itself sometimes as well, but for the most part, it at least tried to steep itself in reality and/or present the facade of something rather low-key, so that when it ramped up, it ramped way up.  The same game that features forklift operation and purchasing little toys from gachapon machines also features a 100-man battle royale and a motorcycle chase.  And it manages to do this in a way that doesn't seem from one extreme to the other, but rather that it simply makes sense in the moment.

Of course, their fantastic series isn't all a thing of the past, as they've managed to keep the old thunder crashing and the lightning striking even in this current generation.  Not only with the continued success of the Yakuza series, but with a little cult classic known as Valkyria Chronicles.  It was anime as all get-out (the sequel even moreso), but it wasn't actually bad and was, in fact, compelling for the most part.  Of course, what the game focused on was the semi-turn-based warfare which worked in a way that it honestly probably shouldn't have.  It manages to be tactical despite being rather simplistic, since that simplicity is in itself a double-edged sword, since while it's simple for you, so is it simply to make the Computer follow.  Rushing in your best troops might just backfire because your troops have to stand there and use interception fire where the enemy could come up and, as you had last turn, unload rapid-fire head-on.  Of course, it goes deeper than that, but the point of these little descriptions is to make you go check out the games yourself and/or reminisce properly.  So, seriously, go buy everything Valkyria Chronicles please if you haven't done so because Sega really needs the money.

Of course, these are just a few of the old and new Sega classics that have made them a company worth liking, if not more, despite the constant, never-ending, ever-present, seemingly-endless amount of poor choices they make as a company that ends up getting them in places they don't rightly deserve to be in.  Crazy Taxi, Seaman, Phantasy Star (both numbers and Online), I guess Sonic the Hedgehog, Toejam and Earl (Remember those guys?  Those guys -ruled-), Streets of Rage, Shinobi, I'm sure you're already listing off series in your head as well, because it was just like that.  I always hope, as a 'Sega kid' I suppose, that they'll manage to get themselves out of this new fine mess they've made, and I'll be doing what I can do to help out, certainly.  With any luck, enough people will -also- do that so that they won't sink completely, though if they do, there is a chance that their delicious, wonderful IPs will go to homes that can treat them a little better under a more stable roof.  Regardless, it's always worth a minute to think of how it used to be, if nothing else.