Trouble in the Secret World

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Secret World Cover

It’s no secret that (via GI.biz) Funcom is disappointed with the sales their new MMO The Secret World has drawn in. Only 200,000 copies since the game debuted at the end of June. They recently opened up the world to everyone for a weekend in hopes that people would come back, but it doesn’t seem like it paid off as much as they would have hoped.

In an e-mail sent out to players who signed up for the free weekend but didn’t decide to purchase the game after Funcom asks:

What would make YOU buy The Secret World? Let us know!

With a link to a survey to take about the game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does sort of seem like begging. I understand that after a weekend of more intense server activity than the game typically sees you would want to retrieve all the data possible from anyone who was on the service, what worked, what didn’t and so forth.

But it just seems odd to me that they would phrase it in such a way that they are asking you what you want to buy. It’s like a prostitute propositioning you on the street corner while walking back from the food store. Ok maybe not, but it’s still awkward to be incredible upfront and desperate for people to buy your game. I understand that they want to make a game that people will talk about and play persistently, and of course make some of the money back from what was no doubt a long and costly dev cycle, but just a questionnaire saying something like, “How did you like your experience!” would be sufficient.

And all of this close to the news that (via GI.biz) BioWare GM Matt Bromberg doesn’t know if switching to Free to Play will save Star Wars: The Old Republic…

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Square-Enix Debuts Sort Of Free Streaming Service CoreOnline

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core online logo

Fresh off of the near demise of OnLive, Square-Enix has launched their new browser-based, pseudo free Streaming Service CoreOnline. Pseudo because you have the option to play the games for free but you will have to watch some ads before you can play. Roughly every minute of time you spend watching an ad you will accrue 20 minutes of game time. In an effort to stop people from just letting ads run on their computer while they walk away you are limited to 60 minutes of game play accrued at any given time. You will also see ads during loading screens that Square-Enix says,

…load time is not artificially increased by this (the ad), and ads viewed in this way will earn you additional game time

So at least we’ve got that going for us.

Square-Enix has also given people the option to pay for the games as well, or so they say but so far I cannot find anything on the site about the pricing structure. They only briefly make mention of it in the help section and say to contact customer support.

Is this the worst thing in the world or a great innovation? I haven’t decided yet but I also haven’t been able to put in any time (other than signing up) and am unable to tell you how annoying it is until I really spend time with it. 20 minutes of game time for every 1 minute spent watching an ad doesn’t seem terrible, but it also doesn’t seem like the optimal solution. When you run out of time will the game just die out immediately? Luckily the entire service is cloud based and *should* save your state incase of a sudden drop in connection, computer crash, alien invasion and so forth. The idea of having to spend a few minutes watching ads is actually kind of repulsive. Especially after the most recent Olympics, it seemed that every 5 minutes there were 5 minutes of commercials, if not more and more frequent.

This boils down to the ultimate question: Is your time worth more to you than your money?

If it works and the ads aren’t intrusive then this could be great, but what if they just start throwing ads in whenever they feel like it? What if they modify the game to actually have ads in it, but you don’t accrue any game time for seeing those and they are almost subliminal. This is just the conspiracy theorist in me speaking though. Don’t even get me started on flu shots.

At the very least I’m willing to give this a shot. Currently the only two titles available are Mini Ninjas and Hitman: Blood Money, with the former being compatible with Mac and PC, while the latter is not Mac friendly. Neither game supports a game pad, which is a pretty big knock against the service in my mind. These are console games and the support for a controller would already be built-in but there must be something with the way the drivers interact with web browsers, maybe some kind of lag or maybe it makes the entire system unstable. Whatever the reason they have removed controller support for now. In the future Square-Enix promises to release Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light in October sometime and Gyromancer to be released at some later point.

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(Some) PSone Games on the Vita Today!

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psone classics finally on the vita

Sony has increased the number of games on their most recently released platform, the PS Vita, by 9, or by 81, depending on how you count.

With the release of the most recent firmware patch for the Vita, version 1.8, Sony has released an official statement (via the Playstation Blog) detailing the new (old) feature and listing out the 9 new games available for download on your Vita today:

  • Arc the Lad
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • FINAL FANTASY VII
  • Hot Shots Golf 2
  • Jet Moto
  • Syphon Filter
  • Tomb Raider
  • Twisted Metal 2
  • Wild Arms

Those are the only ones that will show up on the PSN store when accessing it through the Vita. However, Joystiq discovered that there are more PSone classics available to download and play on your Vita if you bought them on another platform and check your history. Not every game will work this way, but there are more than the initial 9.

But wait! Say you downloaded a PSone game onto your PS3 and didn’t install it. It’s just sitting there…waiting. Well are even more games that aren’t on the Vita store, or available for download in the history section, that you can transfer it over to your Vita by this means. Not all of them will work, but thanks to ShackNews we have a list of ones that will:

  • 2 Xtreme
  • Alundra
  • Arc the Lad
  • Arc the Lad II
  • Arcade Hits: Shienryu
  • Arcade Hits: Sonic Wings Special
  • Bowling
  • Breath of Fire IV
  • Castlevania Chronicles
  • Castlevania: SotN
  • Cho Aniki
  • Cool Boarders
  • Coolboarders 2
  • Coolboarders 3
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness
  • Destruction Derby
  • Dino Crisis
  • Dino Crisis 2
  • Final Fantasy Origins
  • Final Fantasy IV
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Final Fantasy VIII
  • Final Fantasy IX
  • Front Mission 3
  • Gex
  • Gex 3
  • GaiaSeed
  • Hot Shots Golf 2
  • International Track and Field
  • Jet Moto
  • Jet Moto 2
  • Jumping Flash!
  • Jumping Flash! 2
  • The King of Fighters ’99
  • Klonoa
  • Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
  • Legend of Dragoon
  • MediEval
  • Mega Man
  • Mega Man 2
  • Mega Man 3
  • Mega Man 4
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Money Idol Exchanger
  • Pandemonium
  • Parasite Eve
  • Parasite Eve 2
  • Rally Cross
  • Rapid Angel
  • Rayman
  • Rayman 2: The Great Escape
  • Resident Evil: DC
  • Resident Evil 2
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
  • Ridge Racer 4
  • Saiyuki: Journey West
  • Silent Hill
  • Street Fighter Alpha 1
  • Street Fighter Alpha 3
  • Suikoden
  • Syphon Filter
  • Syphon Filter 2
  • Syphon Filter 3
  • Tekken 2
  • Threads of Fate
  • Tomb Raider
  • Tomb Raider 2
  • Tomb Raider 3
  • Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
  • Toy Story 2
  • Toy Story Racer
  • Twisted Metal 2
  • Unjammer Lammy
  • Vagrant Story
  • Warhawk
  • Wild Arms
  • Wild Arms 2
  • Wipeout
  • Xenogears

Which is a much more impressive and robust list than the one Sony provided. The Vita has had kind of a rough time so far, and mostly it’s in the lack of games available so this should help out a bit but the fact that there are over 70 games that Sony isn’t talking about that are available to play on the Vita is weird. Why would the be holding them back? I know that the Vita hasn’t had the best time emulating PSP games, which is why you won’t be able to download all the latest PSP games on release date from your Vita (I was looking for Growlancer on release date but it was unavailable on the Vita, perfectly purchasable on the PSP) and, from what Joystiq is saying, the PSone classics are the originals in a PSP wrapper, the same fallibility any PSP game would have a PSone classic will as well.

Hey, at least there’s something to play on your Vita now!

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Yet Another Reason to Tell Activision to Go Fuck Themselves

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colmics.com angry birds strip
drawn by our good friend Colm at www.colmics.com

Angry Birds has become one of the biggest bite sized/casual games in history, due in part to the minimal entry fee of somewhere between $0 and $1, not to mention continuous updates the game and additions to levels.

So, naturally, Activation is putting this on a disc, as Angry Birds Trilogy, for PS3 and Xbox 360 and selling it for $40 ($30 for the 3DS version) and plans on releasing pay-for DLC updates (via shacknews.com). Alright, paid for DLC is not something that’s going to go away and even the Android and iOS versions of Angry Birds, so I’m not angry about that although at the steep price tag set you would expect everything included.

$40 ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Why (here is the official word from kotaku.com)? Because they can, that’s the only reason I can see. They shoe horned in 3D support, but that’s a bonus (in this one man’s mind) and not a selling point, something that they give you to try out because not everyone will be able to take advantage of said 3D support. Forcing people who cannot use a piece of your game to pay for it anyway, go fuck yourselves Activision. The addition of motion controls… is not worth that amount of money. Wreckateer cost $10 and was a recent release during the Xbox Summer of Arcade with basically the same drag, aim, shoot style of gameplay. There is also surround sound, go fuck yourself, Activision, no one I know even plays Angry Birds with the sound on. It has 19 new levels even though it’s missing over 100 levels from the original games, so go fuck yourself, Activision. Now there are cinematics so you can watch…the birds… and the pigs…in full motion…just go fuck yourself, Activision. It’s in 1080p, well that’s cool but not worth the money, so still go fuck yourself, Activision. There are unlockables like concept art and achievements which are NOT special features and therefore CANNOT justify a higher price tag, again, go fuck yourself, Activision.

Obviously this game isn’t for me, but I’m sure it will sell. I think it would have done better, and been better justified, as a downloadable game on either PSN or Xbox Games Marketplace, but this is for the hardest of the hardcore Angry Birds fans. People who want to have the physical media as a skull of honor, I can understand and respect that. Activision will take advantage of these people because they can, and the fans will pay for it. At least some of them will. And hey, if it doesn’t sell all that well, you’ll probably have a collector’s item that might be worth as much as double what you paid!

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Friday Forecast: August 24th, 2012

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The weekend is upon us and that means oodles of time for gaming. Yeah I said oodles. So what’s on tap for this weekend? I’ll tell you!

sleeping dogs logo

First up is once pronounced dead by Activision when it was titled True Crime: Hong Kong, but then brought back to life, like the phoenix rising, by the powers of Square-Enix as Sleeping Dogs; an open world, crime drama taking place in Hong Kong. You play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop, infiltrating a gang. The combat is similar to that of Arkham Asylum/City but not quite as finely tuned. The finishing moves where you drag enemies into objects in the world is a very nice and satisfying addition, though. The world is huge, and it looks gorgeous. I will definitely be putting in some quality time in here.

new super mario bros 2 logo

The latest in the New Super Mario Bros. series, and there for the Mario series, is the aptly named New Super Mario Bros. 2 released last week for the 3DS. This was the first of Nintendo’s 3DS titles that they released simultaneously in retail stores and on their download service the Nintendo 3DS e-Shop. I applaud this effort to further the digital distribution of major releases and picked it up from the e-Shop. The game is a coin collecting mayhem, along with some classically designed and feeling Mario levels. This one seems a little flat, even after coming off last years of Super Mario 3D Land (which was good but not great), but none the less it’s a new Mario title so I’ll eat it up.
What about you Alex? Anything on tap?

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RIP: Nintendo Power

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Nintendo Power Issue 1 Cover

Nintendo Power is closing its doors after 24 years, and even though Nintendo themselves have not been publishing the magazine for the last 5 years, they licensed it out to Future Publishing back in September 2007, this still comes as sad news. Not surprising news, but sad. After GamePro fell last year it seemed like only a matter of time before more gaming magazines followed, and with the internet being abundant with video game sites that can update on a moments notice it just seemed like print was going to fade.

Of course Nintendo Power, EGM and GamePro were the three staple magazines I would pick up every time I went to Encore Books, B. Dalton, Borders, or Barnes and Noble, and with the trouble those names have seen recently it’s no wonder that print media is having a tough time staying a float. EGM is still going strong, as are the official Xbox and Playstation magazines (also published by Future Publishing) so how come Nintendo, who for better or worse have always been concurrently a step ahead and behind the rest of the industry. Most of their game innovation, game play mechanics, tech and ideas have paved the way for the future but they have notoriously been lacking in online support, and even when they do try to catch up with the times they do something asinine like making you use friend codes that are impossible to remember in order to see your friends online.

They have been talking more about the internet and interaction with it in tandem with their current and future consoles. The 3DS has a video channel where the Nintendo people can keep everyone current of the most important games coming out, along with other original and shared content. They recently released New Super Mario Bro’s 2 on the 3DS e-shop and in stores at the same time. They are able to keep their users abreast of new important information, and even some sales gimmicks, through the 3DS home menu. Maybe it all makes sense that they would obliterate this piece of physical media, a mascot of the past.

Then there is the other question of, “When was the last time you picked up a Nintendo Power?” It’s been years, honestly. This could all be my fault, if only I was a better fan. I just never had the need to buy an issue. Bringing up the website was just as easy, if not easier than heading out to the store, and if Nintendo Power didn’t have the review or feature I wanted then fuck it, I wouldn’t have bought it anyway. But no matter how overly dickish my attitude was that day Nintendo Power was always there. That’s the killer. It was a monument, a corner-stone of games journalism.  A giant in its own right, accompanied by the towering company behind it. Not so much because of the quality, but because of what it stood for.

What does a giant stand for after it’s been vanquished? A rotting carcass in the sun for all the world to see is a much more powerful statement these days than the same corpse in a throne pretending it was alive.

Good on you Nintendo for really committing to forward thinking and the internet, finally. You’re casting off the shackles of the past and always have a trick or two up your sleeves. Whatever is next will surely have people talking, after that who knows. One giant step at a time.

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Total Crash: Sony Closes Wipeout Creators Studio Liverpool

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screen shot form wipeout HD

It is a sad day for games, indeed. Sony has closed Studio Liverpool, developers of the futuristic racing series Wipeout, after purchasing them 19 years ago (via gamesindustry.biz). The studio, originally named Psygnosis, has been around for almost 30 years.

If you’re not familiar with the Wipeout series it’s very similar is style and feel to F-Zero, hover cars racing around futuristic cities and tracks, and it always has an incredible soundtrack. Wipeout XL is heralded as one of the best titles for the original PSX and the company has been steadily putting out new titles over the years. The studio may, in recent years, be best known for Wipeout but they have a long list of incredible games including Lemmings and Destruction Derby.

From a Sony issues statment:

…it was felt that by focusing our investment plans on other Studios that are currently working on exciting new projects, we would be in a stronger position to offer the best possible content for our consumers. Our Liverpool Facility will continue to operate, housing a number of other vital WWS!E and SCEE Departments.

This closing has also brought news that the studio was working on a new Wipeout title that would have been released on the next-gen Sony console and the future of the game is currently unknown. It was said to be very far along in development which begs to ask why would you shut down this studio now, Sony? Did you not learn enough from your Vita launch that you need to have an abundance of games to choose from at start of a consoles lifespan or risk it being passed over. The promise of a new console just isn’t enough anymore to keep people coming back, and just because it’s a new Sony console doesn’t mean people are going to rush out to buy it without content. Wipeout has long been one of the staples of Sony console hardware, so I have to believe that they will release the game but why close to studio at a point when the game is as far along as Wipeout is reported to be? Why take the original developers who have probably been working on this title for over a year and bring in someone else? Truthfully Wipeout 2048, the most recent release by the Studio Liverpool and a launch title for the Vita, hasn’t been doing gangbusters as far as sales go having sold just over .16 million copies (according to http://www.vgchartz.com/).

Maybe Sony doesn’t think that the futuristic racing genre is viable anymore, but whatever the reason I’m heartbroken. I own a copy of every Wipeout game released to date and always anxiously awaited a new one. Not any more I suppose. So while I cry myself to sleep another night, I’ll keep my Vita close by my side to race through a number of pristine futuristic cities at break neck speeds just to remember the good old days.

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Over Preparedness OR: A Not As Brief As It Should Be Word About This Whole OnLive Debacle

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onlive logo

It was some kind of crazy dream when you first heard about the service OnLive. People had been talking about “the cloud” for years but only a few attempted to venture into that unknown, and even fewer survived. The problem with most of the services before is that they’re basic level of virtualization made it impossible for a truly flowing game experience. You could always tell you were using that service instead of just sitting down to play a new game. The OnLive demos were fantastic, the talks were enthralling, the people were enamoring, most everyone in the industry saw this as a step towards the future, the whole world watching every move, it seems like it was doomed to fail from the start.

They prepared fully, with enough servers for tens of thousands of people. After a rocky start, trying to be a subscription based business to people who have absolutely no interest in paying a subscription and trying to force people who were already swimming in peripherals to buy their console, it seemed like OnLive was moving forward at a good pace. They added support for computers making the cost of entry for most gamers minimal, and in most cases nothing at all. Perfect, what more could they ask for?

Via Joystiq: “If you’ve got 8,000 servers and 1,600 users, how could we ever get to cash flow positive, right?” CEO Steve Perlman told his staff. Apparently all of that preparedness came around to bite them. All of the servers also have a service contract tied to them, eating up more of the revenue and leaving little for the company. However according to Michael Pactor via Twitter they were financially sound. It is true they were constantly receiving funding, but it just seems to all be going out the window before it even hits the offices.

They cut everything because they had too (or so it would seem) and because they had too much. Too many servers for not enough people, too many workers for an underwhelming number of users, to many external costs that would add up to more trouble than it’s worth. An anonymous investor came in and snatched (read: saved) the company from the brink of armageddon, right after the collapse. Many of the workers are being rehired, most of the others are being given consulting positions. Good on them for trying to make right by the the people who made the service run so smooth.

And good on them for keeping the service alive through the whole ordeal. The much easier route would have been to just drop the service and wait for someone to pick up the slack, but instead they kept everything going so that to the normal consumer using OnLive wouldn’t know anything was wrong. Is that sneaky? Would that be considered a false front to give to your users? Not if you have some kind of plan, which Steve Perlman seems to have had and has executed on now.

My time with OnLive was brief but valued. I purchased Space Marine the week it came out because signing up for the service and buying the game on there was so much easier than anything else. It rain perfectly, other than a few noticeable issues with lag causing the textures to be very blurred. There was never an issue with the controls, it all seemed somewhat magical.

OnLive proved that there was another viable way to sell and play games. There were many who came before and after who shared a similar fate but were not able to land with both feet on the ground. They didn’t seem to have any shady business practices and were open as they could be with the public and with their employees. When the shit hit the fan they didn’t bail, it only seemed like they did. In reality they were forming new plans to try and regain the employees they had to let go and do right by the ones they weren’t able to hire back. They never forgot about the consumer and didn’t use this opportunity to cry and scream fowl to gain attention and compassion. That alone is worth celebrating.

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The World Ends with Two

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That title SORT of works. If you have a DS, 3DS, DSlite, DSxL, or whatever other flavor of duel screen hand held Nintendo has put out over the years, and you haven’t played the incredible Action RPG/Fashion Sim The World Ends with You yet… well you should really get on that. Developed by one of the Kingdom Hearts teams TWEWY is one of the most unique, fun and frustrating experiences you will have on the DS.

neku from the world ends with you
Padmé…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

This article has to be building to something, right? It appears that a website, with font oddly similar to that of the one used in TWEWY, that has a count down timer, which strangely resembles the one from TWEWY, has recently been posted by Square-Enix, who published TWEWY. What does this mean? Well, at the time of writing, it means that in 6 Days, 11 Hours, 49 Minutes, and 08 seconds we will find out what it means. Maybe a proper sequel, as it has been over 4 years since the game was released. Maybe, much like Atlus has done with Devil Survivor, it is just a 3DS port of the original. Whatever it is, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the reveal Sunday at Midnight.

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Griefed! Podcast #27: Blunders

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kriss kross for sega cd

We’re baaaaaacccckk. After a week off for moving and stuff we are ready to go, full throttle and stuff like that. Or whatever, I don’t know! This may be our last Skype cast because Alex and I are close enough to record in the same room now! Stupid weather! Join Alex and myself as we discuss some of the biggest blunders in video game history, Darksiders 2, Papo y Yo, Counter Strike GO, Sound Shapes, Dust: Elysian Tail, Hybrid, Persona 4 Arena, and more on this episode of Griefed! Recorded on August 15th 2012.

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