Saturday, December 21, 2013

So long 2013, and Thanks For All the Games

As I have vowed to do periodically, today I provide a short update on the status of this blog and where I see it going in the future. The end of the year seems to be a particularly good time to do this as we all make resolutions for the months ahead (most of which we will break). So what's coming up? Well you'll have to read the rest of this post for the details but, in short, it's going to be a busy 2014!

Hearthstone: Closed Beta Impressions

Recently, Blizzard admitted a swathe of new players to the Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft closed beta and I was fortunate enough to get an access code! Rather than keep everything to myself, I figured I would give some of my impressions of the game before it gets opened to everyone early next year. Two caveats to keep in mind as you read: First, the game is still in beta phases so any design feature I mention are subject to change and second, I have only had a few days with the game so my impressions are not complete and don’t necessarily represent a high level mastery.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Playlist - December 10-16, 2013

I managed to get a few things sorted out this past week and to met all of my deadlines to boot! Gaming wise, my playtime was dominated by the Hearthstone closed beta (which I played on stream last Saturday). I think it's a highly polished game if not the most complex. Also, I started up a new game of Chrono Trigger. I haven't made much progress but will hopefully get some extra time over the upcoming holidays.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Weekly Roundup: December 8-14, 2013

Holidays are around the corner and the award season is in full swing. When will the games industry get an awards ceremony akin to the Oscars? If last week's VGX show is any indication, not soon. Also this week, the NSA inspects our raid gear, YouTube cracks down on streamers, the Elder Scrolls online gets a release date, and society continues to reward idiocy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sofa Story: Raids are Sick

I'm just going to go on record with my assumption that, at some point or another, most people have called in sick even though they weren't. I'm not judging, I have certainly had my share of faux-stuffy phone calls to the boss treading the fine line of sounding sick enough to avoid work but not so sick to prompt a request for a doctor's note (What's the point of playing hooky if you end up wasting half of your glorious day trying to avoid actually getting sick while waiting in a doctor's office?). Today I recount one such sick-day taken to participate in a World of Warcraft raid (ugh, I feel dirty just writing that).

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Playlist - December 3-9, 2013

It has been a grind of a week at real work but I have managed to get a few things up on the various sites I write for. I have been a bit frustrated with my editors who seem to have all disappeared on me which means I am the only oversight on what I have written (ohhh the possibilities!). In any case, I have contributed to a few podcasts and am having fun exploring the medium. Games wise, I got to test out Galactic Starfighter (it's pretty good) and the new Five Towers expansion for Duel of Champions (it's mediocre). Also, I played a ton of fighting games as I prep for a special Twitch stream.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Weekly Roundup - December 1-7, 2013

With the holiday season in full swing, gamers are seeing a ton of new releases as publishers cash in on the consumer frenzy. Trying not to get lost in the shuffle, this week the Galactic Starfighter add-on for The Old Republic went live. It's pretty fun but probably not enough to woo players back. Also this week, Ultra Street Fighter 4 gets a release date, Battlefield 4 is broken, the VGX awards are broadcast, and Steam hit 7 million concurrent players.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Playlist - November 27 - December 2, 2013

Unfortunately, poor decision making on Friday night led to a completely unproductive Saturday (typically one of my more writing intensive days). In short, I didn't catch up as much as I was hoping to last week and am unlikely to do much better this week due to a busy real-work schedule. In any case, I hit most of my usual targets so quite a bit of stuff went up. Gaming wise, I only played two games this week as I worked on getting my yearly MMO fix out of my system.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 24-30, 2013

For most places around the world, Friday 29 November was just another Friday, in the USA it was the epic consumerism frenzy of Black Friday; a magical day where credit card companies celebrate with only the finest champagne distilled from unicorn blood as the average consumer racks up crushing debt that they will take at least a year to repay. Also this week, Steam improves its service, Shenmue 3 isn't in the pipe, Twitch bans the PlayStation Playroom, and the Warcraft movie gets scared of Star Wars.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Playlist - November 19-25, 2013

This week saw only a few pieces of mine published as the sites I write for are spacing out content. There is a lot of stuff in the pipe so expect a flurry soon. Gaming-wise, I fell in love with Duel of Champions. While my review does the best to remove my clear bias, I heartily recommend giving this game a try! Also, I played some Skyrim on stream and fired up a lightsaber in The Old Republic in anticipation of the space battles patch launching in a few weeks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 17-23, 2013

This week was capped by the north-American launch of the Xbox One with global distribution scheduled for next week. By all accounts, Sony and Microsoft's respective launches have been massive successes with both companies moving over a million units in the first 24 hours. Also this week, some reports of next-gen hardware failures surfaced, Ryse falls short of expectations, Team Fortress 2 gets another free update, and Reaper of Souls makes it to beta stages.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Moonwalker Mirrors Michael's Mythos

At the height of his popularity, Michael Jackson was arguably the most recognizable person in the world. A polarizing figure, I wonder how history will remember him. Will future generations see the King of Pop as a sublime performer tantamount to genius, a troubled man tarnished by overwhelming celebrity or an eccentric whose behaviour baffled explanation? I also wonder how they will look back on his Sega Genesis title, Moonwalker; a game that ironically mirrors the different sides of Jackson. This is a flawed game that ingeniously makes use of a celebrity tie-in and eventually throws in a bunch of nonsense.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Playlist - November 12-18, 2013

As always, I have a few things going up everywhere and have been trying my best to squeeze in some gaming time. I managed to complete Batman: Arkham City and showed it off a bit on my Twitch stream. Also, I got hooked on Might & Magic: Duel of Champions and played a bit of the Mortal Kombat Kollection which totally hasn't withstood the test of time.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 10-16, 2013

Even non-gamers couldn't help being inundated by this week's biggest news story: The PlayStation 4 has officially launched. I am excited for the next generation but less so for the current titles on offer. Also this week, the Burial at Sea DLC for Bioshock: Infinite was released, an auction date for 38 Studio's assets was announced, Blockbuster is closing its doors, and Black Friday deals were leaked.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Best Batman: Comparing Arkham Asylum and Arkham City

If you actively read the stuff I produce for various sites, you will probably have noticed a theme with my recent writings. I have been gushing over the latest Humble Bundle and using it has a platform to branch into a discussion about the Batman games developed by Rocksteady. I won’t pound this issue any more past saying that if you haven’t played these games yet, support charity and pick them up through Humble Bundle… Now! Okay, with that out of the way, and Batman still on the brain, I figured today would be as good a day as any to compare and discuss Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Playlist - November 5-11, 2013

Last week was quite busy with a ton of stuff going up on every site I contribute for. No doubt, the majority of my time was spent playing Batman: Arkham Asylum after I picked it up in the latest Humble Bundle. Also this week, I dusted off C&C Generals for the stream and stomped the computer a few times. Rounding things out, I made a start into Arkham City, fed my Street Fighter 4 fix some more, and spent about 30 minutes with Fez before getting dizzy.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 3-9, 2013

This week's news was topped by Blizzcon and the announcement of the next expansion for World of Warcraft. Only time will tell if it is enough to lure back subscribers. Also this week, Call of Duty moves the goalposts on reporting sales, Square projects a profit, Xbox One's are already in some homes, and the latest Humble Bundle is pretty awesome.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Playlist - October 29 - November 4, 2013

This past week finally felt like I was back up to speed after my holidays. The majority of my gaming time was split between Street Fighter 4 and The Stanley Parable. I played some FTL on the stream and can firmly say that it is now in my permanent rotation of games that keep on giving. Rounding things out, I played some Team Fortress 2 and wrapped up my current obsession with Path of Exile.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Weekly Roundup - October 27 - November 2, 2013

With the launch of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 just around the corner, I was surprised to not see any major news coming from Microsoft or Sony this week. Instead, this week was topped by the cancellation of Command & Conquer and the closing of Victory Games citing poor feedback during alpha tests. Also this week, Ubisoft scrapped it's online passes, the WiiU isn't turning a profit (shock!), Steam crossed 65 million users, and apparently Star Trek Online still exists.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sofa Story: Honda Slaps the World

Many of my fondest gaming memories are of playing Super Nintendo with friends. There is something to be said about sitting right next to person you are playing with and feeding off each others interactions with the game. Simply put, this is an element modern multiplayer games are missing. Sure you have voice chat, but you lose out on the intangibles of being able to physically distract your opponent when you are badly losing or slapping a high five when your teamwork pays off. Today, I recant a tale of badly played but thoroughly enjoyed Street Fighter 2 on the SNES with one of my best childhood friends.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Playlist - October 22-28, 2013

This past week was spent easing myself back into the flow after a short vacation as well as starting to get familiar with the new sites I will be contributing for. I downloaded the release version of Path of Exile and have mostly been playing it with the intention of producing a full review. For the stream, I made some decent progress into Super Mario World and, based on some feedback, played a bit of Eternal Champions to see if it will work for a future broadcast. Rounding things out, I scratched my Civilization itch and whiled away a bit of time with QWOP.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekly Roundup - October 20-26, 2013

This week featured quite a diverse selection of interesting news. No single story stood over another but I was particularly interested in Grand Theft Auto 5 snatching Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards. Also, we were treated to some new details for Ultra Street Fighter 4, production for the Wii was officially halted, Blizzard won a major legal victory against bot manufacturers, and Beyond: Two Souls received some unwanted attention for digitally rendering Ellen Page naked.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sofa Story: Burton's Miracle

Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour may not have been the most balanced real-time strategy game ever released but the theme of near future technology mixed with the trademark C&C hammy style ensured that every match was fun. One of the most unfortunate issues with Zero Hour was its horrendous net code which could lead to incredibly buggy gameplay even when playing over LAN. Today, I elaborate one multiplayer match where a bug lead to the most comically improbable dismantling of an enemy base by Colonel Burton.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Back to the Future: Where The Sofa is Waiting is headed

Back from a week long vacation, today I am going to break a bit from my normal routine and posting style. The reasoning for this is twofold. First, it is a way to easy myself back into the rhythm of posting after taking a bit of time off. Second, and most importantly, I want to talk a bit about some of the changes that will be happening with the blog itself (all good in my opinion) both immediately and over the next few months.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Sofa is on Vacation: 10-18 October 2103

Hello everybody! This is just a heads up / reminder that I will be on vacation for the next week. While I initially toyed with the idea of maintaining the blog, a particularly stressful September has compounded the fatigue after over two years without a holiday. As such, I have opted to give myself a proper rest instead of pushing myself to keep the content rolling. I have a few big announcements in the pipe and will hopefully have everything in place so I can share them when I get back. You can expect to next see me on my Twitch stream Saturday 19 October at 18:00 London time. Until then, I will be sporadically checking my email so feel free to send me a message.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sofa Story: The battle of Lando and the Stormtrooper

One of the best parts of gaming is being able to control the main character in your own personal narrative. Whether it is a multi-player battle or a quirky and imaginative way to tackle a single-player challenge, every gamer has a story or few about an epic moment. Today, in my first ever 'Sofa Story', I relate a vivid memory from an intense multi-player session of Jedi Knight.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rogue Starship: Faster Than Light (review)

The roguelike subgenre has experienced a tremendous surge in popularity over the last few years. Blending heavy RPG elements with the constant threat of permanent death and success often at the mercy of a random number generator, the appeal of roguelikes rests in fast gameplay and the player accepting that victory is anything but assured. While I have not personally explored the roguelike genre heavily, the space opera setting of FTL, developed by Subset Games, was enough to finally bring me over. Today I provide my (belated) review for FTL.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Playlist - October 1-7, 2013

Today, in my first ever 'The Playlist', I highlight the games I have been playing last week and give an idea of what to expect coming up in the blog in the next while. Most of my time was, surprisingly, eaten up by Marvel Heroes but I also gave a couple games from the recent Humble (Indie) Bundle a whirl to mixed results. Rounding it out I dusted off some Borderlands 2 for my twitch stream on Saturday. Blog wise, I am tweaking the weekly format a bit and am prepping for a much needed vacation.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weekly Roundup - September 29 - October 5, 2013

This week's news was sadly topped by the death of Tom Clancy (aged 66). Other news included a bevy of server woes with the launch of GTA5 multiplayer, the trademarking of Half-Life 3, an official date for the Warcraft movie, and word that Maxis is currently working on an offline mode for Sim City. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

What to See: Great gaming sites and shows

Following up on yesterday's post (Where to Go), as promised, today I elaborate some of my favourite non-news focused gaming sites and shows. As with yesterday, this list is presented in no particular order and is not intended to be a 'top 5 countdown' or similar type list. Instead, it can be considered a representation of some of my frequent haunts for quality content. Many of these are extremely well known to gamers but hopefully most will find at least one that they aren't aware of.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Where to Go: Great spots to get your gaming news

One of the questions that I am frequently asked by non-gamers is where I get all of my gaming information. Obviously, it isn't picked up by internet osmosis, and, like mainstream news and other forms of entertainment, there are a multitude of sources. I don't think that the people asking me this question are unaware that these sources exist but rather are trying to find out what they are called on how to access them. In today's post I cover some of the main places I trawl for my dose of gaming news. Tomorrow, in the same vein, I will highlight some of my favourite non-news gaming sites/shows. As always, this is a list of my preferences presented in no particular order, it is not a 'best of' or 'most popular' listing; feel free to disagree.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Casually Excluded: Are casual games really video games?

Explaining video games to non-gamers can, at times, be a difficult task. While the notion of escapism is present in many other forms of entertainment, I think that games are less relatable than other mediums in that many people have had only minimum exposure to them. Unlike, for example, reading, which many people engage in on a daily basis even if not for pleasure, games generally only serve as entertainment and are only accessed as such. Exacerbating this is that, for many non-gamers, the limited contact they do have with video games is limited to so-called 'casual games'. A common utterance in gaming circles is that 'casual games aren't games' and today I aim to unpack this statement.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fabulously Free: Some of the best free to play games available

Following on yesterday's post (Payment Plans) where I outlined some of the different pricing models that have been implemented in gaming, today I thought I would highlight some of the best free to play games available on the market. As always, this list is in no particular order and is far from exhaustive but should give an idea of the sheer variety free gaming out there.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Payment Plans: A brief overview of some of the pricing models used in gaming

The increasing number of free-to-play games being released in recent years is good news for those with big gaming appetites and little disposable cash. While some games are happy to give pretty much everything away for free, others offer a taste before asking you to pay for the best content. As such, the free-to-play pricing model, can vary quite a bit in terms of exactly what you can get for nothing. Today I briefly examine some of the different pricing models employed in gaming to extract cash consumers.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekly Roundup - September 22-28, 2013

Overshadowing all other news this week was Valve's announcement of it's new home console, the 'Steam Machine'. Other news included China officially lifting it's ban on the sale of home consoles, some legal wranglings between EA and the NCAA as well as Activision-Blizzard and Vivendi, and the reveal of Grand Theft Auto 5's online micro-transaction model.

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Review Philosophy

Since I have started posting more reviews, I have had a few people ask for clarification on how I can to my conclusions. While I feel that my reviews are pretty straightforward in that they follow the structure used by many mainstream gaming sites, I think an explanation of my methodology can be a helpful supplement to the reviews themselves. As such, below you will find an outline of some of the criteria I consider and how everything fits together to get to a final score. Of course, I reserve the right to change my opinion and criteria at any time, but I think this should represent a pretty good idea of my general review philosophy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

High Puzzling: Eets Munchies Beta (review)

The latest Humble (Indie) Bundle came with beta access to upcoming title in the Eets series (Eets Munchies) being developed by Klei Entertainment. Klei has been on a tear lately producing some fairly successful titles including Mark of the Ninja and Shank and it is nice to see them revisiting one of their older titles. Today I give my (p)review of the beta for Eets Munchies; please bear in mind that my impressions here are not for the final version of the game although I feel that enough content is present that a review is possible.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Devised Differences: A brief exploration of gender inequality in games

In the past few weeks, the gaming world has seen its fair share of stories related to sexuality and gender inequality. From the controversy surrounding the reveal of the new 'erotic' female characters in the next Metal Gear game (sporting armor that wouldn't be sufficient for the beach let alone the battlefield) to the outrage towards Gamespot's Carolyn Petit for docking Grand Theft Auto 5 a point in her review because of it's misogynistic treatment of women, the topic has been fairly active. With this in mind, today I thought I would weigh in with my views on gender inequality in relation to gaming.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All About the Polygons: Some points on graphics in gaming

Video games are a unique medium in that they produce visual feedback as a response to user input. In the past 30 years games have gone from simple lines and dots to near photo-realism. While this advancement is impressive, I think it is important to be wary of better graphics coming at the cost of gameplay. Today I briefly explore these points and a few others in the realm of video game graphics.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Negating Nostalgia: Is Final Fantasy 7 actually a good game?

In 1997, Square released one of best known games of all time for the original Playstation, Final Fantasy 7.  At the time, it was praised as an instant classic and was instrumental in solidifying the Playstation as the champion of its generation. In the sixteen years since its release, a growing contingent of vocal gamers have been making the case that Final Fantasy 7 isn't all its cracked up to be and that the continued fondness for the game is mostly based in nostalgia rather than actual merit. Today I will explore the then and now considerations of Final Fantasy 7 in an effort to determine if it really is worth modern attention or if should stay a part of history.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekly Roundup - September 15-21, 2013

This week was dominated by the release of Grand Theft Auto 5 and its meteoric sales. Also, Blizzard announced the removal of the auction house from Diablo 3, a remake of Ghost N' Goblins briefly popped up on Steam, Nintendo is treading the waters of new pricing models, and Chris G continues to dominate the fighting game circuit.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Browse This - A collection of some of the best browser based games available

Browser-based games, games that are played entirely within a web browser, are a strange breed. Lacking the resources of a dedicated gaming console it would seem that, at first glance, they would be mostly throwaway fare. While many of the earliest browser games were garbage when compared to any of the full-fledged gaming experiences available, recent years have seen a bevy of high quality titles from mainstream and independent developers alike. Today I cover a few of the best browser games available.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What's What 2 - A primer to the wide world of gaming

In What's What, I described some of the biggest genres in gaming through elaborating their associated acronyms. At the time, I acknowledged that I was only scratching the surface of the plethora of types of games out there and, after receiving quite a bit of positive feedback from gamers and non-gamers alike, I thought it would be a good idea to try and outline some of the less acronym heavy genres out there. Today's post is primarily aimed at the non-gamer but should hopefully inspire gamers to try out something new if they usually stick to a favourite type of game.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Going, Going, Gone: Ramifications of the removal of the auction house from Diablo 3

Yesterday, John Hight and Josh Mosqueira, the current brain trust of the Diablo franchise, announced that they would be removing the gold and real money auction houses entirely from Diablo 3. This represents a massive shift in design philosophy from Jay Wilson who has since migrated to a different title within Blizzard. Today I aim to elaborate just how radical this change is, why I think a change of this magnitude was needed (although not necessarily this change), and what repercussions it will hold for to future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Head Games: Mental health and gaming

In a recent post I covered some of the Facts and Figures of the gaming world in an effort to debunk the image of the stereotypical gamer. My post was obviously pro-gaming but one comment I received asked about the link between addiction and gaming. While I provided a brief response at the time, I feel that the topic warrants a more in depth exploration. Today I discuss the relationship between mental health and gaming with a focus on the issues of addiction and depression.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Heroically Free - Marvel Heroes after patch 1.2 (review)

I was really excited for the launch of Gazillion Entertainment's Marvel Heroes. Helmed by David Brevik, one of the chief architects of Diablo, and promising to allow the player to control iconic superheroes in a modern ARPG seemed like a couldn't miss combination. Unfortunately, the June 4, 2013 release of Marvel Heroes was an unrefined product that was marred by server instabilities. After a few extra months to bake, the game is substantially better but still exhibits some rough edges. Today I provide my review of Marvel Heroes as currently patched (1.2).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekly Roundup - September 8-14, 2013

This week was capped by an out of the blue announcement from Sony that they are launching a home console version of the Vita. Also, Valve announced a new family sharing feature for Steam, the Grand Theft Auto 5 world map was possibly "leaked", and the Starcraft Universe mod hit it's Kickstarter goal. All in all, a fairly exciting week.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why Innovataion is Important: Lessons from the rhythm genre

Until a few years ago, the rhythm game genre, exemplified by the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series, was one of the hottest selling genres around. Personally, I remember driving in the rain to pick up my full boxed set of Rock Band on launch day giddy with excitement. Then, almost with the abruptness that propelled the genre into the mainstream, the games disappeared. Earlier this year, Rock Band officially stopped releasing new weekly tracks and the genre appears all but dead with no new titles on the horizon. In today's post I examine why most of us have retired our plastic instruments and postulate the lesson other genres should learn from it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What's What: A primer of some common gaming acronyms

Continuing from yesterday's post (Who's Who), today I aim to elaborate some of the different genres in gaming and explain some of the acronyms that are routinely tossed about. For the uninitiated, this should be a good start to understanding concepts which are often taken for granted in the gaming world. This list is far from exhaustive but covers what I feel to be the most prevalent terms.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Who's Who: A primer of some of the most recognizable gaming mascots

Building on the positive responses to yesterday's post (Facts and Figures), I thought I might provide a bit of a primer of some of the key mascots in games. This list represents some of the most iconic characters and should be handy for those unfamiliar with gaming and curious as to some of the images they routinely see on box art or in commercials. Obviously, this list if far from extensive and I am sure that I have left a bunch of popular characters off. I have tried to incorporate characters from a variety of companies and genres and am not making any claims along the lines that 'these are the best' or even that 'these are my favourite'. As such, don't take it personally if your favourite didn't make the cut.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Facts and Figures: Debunking the stereotypical gamer

In recent days I have found myself explaining my blog and gaming in general to a lot of non-gamers. While some people seem to have a pretty good grasp of the industry, I sometimes find myself becoming defensive in these conversations and feeling the need to justify my passion. While I don't feel that ignorance of the industry is born out of malice, I have come to the realization that there are a great many people who are simply unplugged from something I take for granted. With this in mind, I thought I would provide a few facts and figures that I feel could enhance the non-gamers understanding of gaming and are hopefully interesting for gamers as well.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Don't Cross the Streams: Explaining the rising popularity of live streaming games

On Saturday, I hosted my first ever Twitch stream and played a few rounds of Team Fortress 2. Although I kept it relatively short, I felt that, all in all, it was a success. Naturally, I have areas which could be improved and would like to thank everyone for the high quality and constructive feedback they have provided. If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing through my Twitch channel or catch the condensed highlight real on YouTube. With this in mind, I thought I would discuss the phenomenon of live gaming streams, why I think it is becoming more popular, and where I think it is headed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Weekly Roundup - September 1-7, 2013

Today, in my first ever 'Weekly Roundup', I cover the top news of the last week from the gaming world and give a bit of my own insight. The presentation is in no particular order.

This week was a pretty mixed bag with the biggest news coming from Microsoft who announced the official launch date for the Xbox One. Beyond this, we started to see a bit of the fallout from A Realm Reborn's shaky start, found out that Gearbox has two new IPs coming up, and learned that Jack Black will lend his voice to Broken Age. Finally, rounding it all out was a story about a mis-translation that totally missed the opportunity to engage in a serious discussion about sexism.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A New Grind: Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn (review)

A few weeks ago I gave my early impressions of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn (Respectable Remix). After getting my hands on the release copy and dabbling a bit in the end-game I feel I am ready to give my say. While a lot of my initial impressions have been upheld, some have not. Also, please bear in mind that this is an MMO, the game now might be completely different in a few months and, as always, I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fighting Words: Explaining the resurgence of the fighting game

In the past few years, fighting games have experienced a resurgence in popularity and are once again routinely topping sales charts. This year's Evolution fighting championship drew over 1.7 million viewers and, by all accounts, was the biggest fighting game tournament ever held. While the uptick in the popularity of fighting games is largely due to higher quality titles being released, I think that there is a bit more at play here. Today I aim to elaborate some of the reasons why fighting games are back on the shelves and heading gamer playlists.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cheatin' Varmint - The nuanced ethics of breaking the rules

No matter the game, players have always sought out ways to obtain an advantage. Whether the end of this was to have the top spot on the high score board, to brutally crush enemies, or to explore the breaking points of a system, various methods have been employed ranging from simplistic physical techniques to subtle manipulation of game code. Often, as one player discovers a method for performing better in a game they are accused of cheating. Today I will delve into the nebulous concept of cheating and provide some examples to highlight were I think the line is drawn between cheating and legitimate play.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Strange Brew - The niche market for the OUYA

The OUYA console is one of Kickstarter’s greatest success stories. After raising almost 9 times their initial goal, the OUYA had more than enough backing to ensure that it would see launch even when factoring in unexpected costs. Despite its massive initial push, the OUYA has met with fairly lukewarm reception since its official launch on June 25, 2013. Below I discuss the OUYA and the niche market it is serving.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fall Feedbag - Gauging excitement for some upcoming games

Pre-release hype can be a factor of many things. Sometimes it is legitimate fan anticipation, other times it is the fabrication of the publisher and, often, it is a mix of the two. With school back in session and the summer release lull drawing to a close, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at some titles expected to be released in the next few months and provide my take on the public hype for each of them.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Showtime! - Ideas to improve the presentation of e-sports

One of the interesting things that has happened in gaming over the past decade is the rise of the professional circuit. For evidence of this, consider that Starcraft is practically the national sport of South Korea and has dedicated television stations covering matches and analysis. On a whole, I feel the emergence of a professional circuit is a boon to the industry even if it does carry a big of baggage. Today I will outline a bit of the overall impact of professional gaming on the industry and then transition into a few ways I think that the industry can take queues from more established sports.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quality Controls - The criteria for good controls across genres

Controls are a critical element to a successful game. Bad controls can ruin otherwise good design but the reverse is seldom true. Today I am going to cover some of the major genres in gaming and try to describe some of the elements that are important to get controls right for each of them. I will also talk a bit about the preferred input devices used for these genres and why I think they have become the standard.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Super Then and Now: Perspectives on SNES games as a child and adult

In my post ‘Then and Now’, I listed some NES titles and gave my perspectives from childhood and adult life. After receiving quite a bit of positive feedback, I figured why not do a follow-up covering the SNES. As with my NES post, this list is not a “top SNES games” or anything like that and the presentation is in no particular order.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Big Talk - Types of bold speech made by industry representatives

A few days ago, Electronic Art's Sports executive, Peter Moore, made a rather bold statement that EA "no longer makes 'offline' games". Naturally, things ran out of control and everyone assumed that EA would be implementing some sort of always-on DLC in every future title. As it turns out, Moore was making a generalized statement that the core design decisions of EA games are now made with online/multiplayer superseding single player consideration. I think this is still quite a bold statement although it is much less likely to draw the universal ire of gamers. From this, I started to think about how brash statements have become fairly common-place in the gaming industry and have singled out three types of statements (bullshit, bilious, and bravado). Below I outline these three statement types and describe the reaction they generate.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Then and Now: Perspectives on NES games as a child and adult

For the first time last week, Mike Tyson played Mike Tyson’s Punchout!! for the NES and the brilliant results were captured on film. The video shows Tyson trash talking through his fight with Glass Joe and, as many comments point out, I think we finally know where Glass Joe’s lone victory came from (Tyson himself!). The whole video treads a surreal line and seeing Tyson’s clearly having a good time while playing got me thinking of some of the classic NES games that I remember. Below I give a few of the games I remember from my childhood and express my then and now reactions to them. This list is by no means a “best Nintendo games” ranking and is presented in no particular order.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Game On: The pros and cons of playing an MMO at launch

Yesterday, I covered some of the rage that has followed in the rocky launch of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn. Today I thought I might branch out a bit and talk about some of the pros and cons of playing an MMO at launch as opposed to picking it up a few months into the cycle.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Final Flames: Dismantling the rants against 'A Realm Reborn'

Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn opened its doors to pre-purchasers last weekend to a myriad of server woes. Predictably, the internet is on fire with a rage factor exponential to the amount of downtime. Today I aim to address some of the common rants popping up against Square and preach a bit of calmness.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Profit Raider: How the Tomb Raider reboot was unprofitable

Through the blogosphere last week, it came to light that the Tomb Raider reboot has sold over 4 million copies to date. While this information isn't so surprising as most analysts had projected sales around this number, what is shocking is that Square has claimed that Tomb Raider has been unprofitable. Today I try to wrap my head around this seeming incongruity and attempt to provide some justification for how it might be possible that Tomb Raider has sold so many units but failed to turn a profit.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Exciting Expansions (part 2) - XCOM: Enemy Within

This past week, two expansion packs were announced for the recent iterations of Diablo and XCOM. I felt that both of these games fell a bit short of their potential and I believe that an expansion may be able to rectify this. In this post I cover XCOM: Enemy Within.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Exciting Expansions (Part 1) - Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

This past week, two expansion packs were announced for the recent iterations of Diablo and XCOM. I felt that both of these games fell a bit short of their potential. Over the next two posts I will talk about where these games went off track and my thoughts on how an expansion might benefit them. So, without further ado, lets dive into Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thou Art Awesome - The failings of 'RPG-dialect'

In my post covering my impressions of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn, one of the points I had scrawled in my notes that didn’t make it into the final text was that most of the plot is presented in faux-Elizabethan English. That is to say, the game makes liberal use of ‘thous’, ‘thees’, and ‘mi’lords’. Although I find this approach grating, I begrudgingly accept that it is more or less ubiquitous in role-playing realms (especially in the high fantasy setting). In this post I discuss some of the reasons why this 'rpg-dialect' has become pervasive and some of the failings of its use.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hard and Fast: Discussion on some of latest PS4 and XB1 news

After news on the next generation Playstation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One (XB) releases started to slow following the onslaught of the respective launch events and E3, this past week saw a flurry of relatively exciting news surrounding Gamescom (at least for those who don't find excitement in the profound technical differences between DDR3 and DDR5 ram; we get it - bigger numbers are better). In the space of a few days, the public has been privy to some interesting launch bundles for the XB, enticing PS3 to PS4 software upgrade pricing, the official release date for the PS4, and, biggest of all, the launch lineups for both systems. Today I will tackle each of these stories and provide my personal take on how I think they mix things up a bit in the months leading to launch.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Silver Lining - Exploring the positive impact of the 'worst' parts of gaming

One of my main gaming philosophies is if you are having fun, so long as it is not coming to someone else's detriment, then you can't be doing it wrong. Games are an escape and however you use them to do so is really your own business. In this post, I address three areas that are often cited as examples of 'bad' gaming and try to present my take on how, beyond just providing entertainment, they are overall beneficial to the community.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Music Mashup - Ways that music can enhance gaming

The other night, while I was waiting for a sizable download to finish, I figured I would pass the time with a bit of Peggle. After booting the game and hearing the familiar 'Morning Mood', I thought it might be a good idea to turn the sound effects to low and fire up some Debussy in the background. The experience was immensely satisfying mixing the stunning overtones of classical music with the decidedly laid back gameplay of Peggle. All together, it had me thinking about some of the ways music can influence our experience of a game. Below are my thoughts on three general ways I think music is implemented in games (static, epic, and dynamic) and some examples of each.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Respectable Remix - Impressions of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn

The release of Final Fantasy XIV, the second MMORPG of the venerable series, was marred by harsh criticism and lack-luster sales. Whether it was the interface, the combat, or the economy, it seemed that nothing was right. In the end, Square took the dramatic decision to completely overhaul the game and relaunch it as 'A Realm Reborn'. In this post I cover my impressions of the final open beta phase of this relaunched title.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Making Mods: The pros and cons of fan created content

The recently announced Kickstarter for the Starcraft Universe mod has drawn a lot of attention. At the time of writing, with over twenty days to go, the Kickstarter has raised nearly half of its $80,000 goal and appears incredibly likely to be successfully funded. What is especially interesting, is that the project has been sanctioned by Blizzard (although they will give no direct support). In this post, I discuss some of the likely reasons for allowing this project to proceed instead of slapping it with a cease and desist order.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reviewing Reviewers - Explaining wide discrepancies in review scores

This week’s release of Duck Tales: Remastered has been met with polarizing reviews. On one end, some sites, such as ScrewAttack.com, are gushing about pretty much every aspect of the game and offering up near perfect scores. On the other end, some sites, such as Gamespot.com, are panning the game. I think that both of these reviews are valid and make solid case for their respective scores. The question is thus raised, what is causing such a rift in the reviews?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cheesy Tactics - How AI is critical to single-player gaming

One of the areas of gaming that has always fascinated me is artificial intelligence. Whether the goal is to produce a perfect player, accurately mimic humans, or providing an escalating training aid, solid AI is integral to a satisfying offline experience. In this post, I briefly outline what makes for a successful AI and provide some examples of both good and bad implementation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Same World - Thoughts on the latest Civilization expansion

The second Civilization 5 expansion, Brave New World, competently expands the game and manages to add more without breaking anything that wasn't already broken. That said, nothing here fixes some of the issues that have persisted since the core release and the price tag is a bit steep for what you get. Most of the features are solid refinements but nothing feels terribly innovative. In the end, if you haven't put the game down since release or you feel the hankering to shape the globe a few more times, Brave New World is worth picking up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beyond Blood - Maturing Mature Gaming

Recently, Saints Row 4 was denied classification (and thus could not be sold) in Australia. Reportedly, the offending content was a sexually themed melee weapon. After removing the item and some other drug related content, the game was awarded an MA15+ classification. Over the past few years Australia’s classification board has become infamous for its stringent standards and consistently refusing classification to games for sexual and drug based content. Below I consider the implications of these standards and move to a general discussion of ‘mature’ content in games.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Re-rollin' rollin' rollin' - The Desire to Start from Scratch

Re-rolling is the term used when someone scraps all the progress they have made in a game and starts from the beginning. The term holds its roots in pen and paper RPGs where you literally roll dice when you are making a character to determine starting attributes. While re-rolling is still commonly associated with RPGs, the advent of persistent progression in a multitude of genres has started to see its use applied much more broadly.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pew Pew - World of Warplanes Beta Impressions

After spending a couple days with the open beta of World of Warplanes (http://worldofwarplanes.com/) below are my impressions of the game so far.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quitting the Internet – Why Phil Fish had to cancel Fez 2

One of the recent stories that has been circulating the gaming world is that Phil Fish, creator of the insanely successful indie game ‘Fez’, has stopped work on Fez 2 and, for all intents and purposes, has ceased to maintain a public internet presence. While Fish's decision was probably the culmination of many factors, one of his stated reasons for quitting was the negativity/hate he experiences when publicly engaging on the internet. Fish is not the first person to make similarly bold decisions but some have raised the point that work on Fez 2 is independent of his public profile and ought not to be cancelled. While I find the logic of this argument to be initially compelling, I think it ignores how Fish will conduct himself privately after he has cut himself off publicly.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Party with Pirates (and ironically steal their booze)

Piracy has been a hot topic issue in gaming since the dawn of rock paper scissors. Spanning such nebulous issues as consumer rights, copyright, fair use, and ethics, it is not difficult to understand why the issue of piracy is continuously raised. Recently, the conversation has steered towards the notion that piracy may be undercutting profits sufficiently that harsh measures ought to be implemented. I feel these methods are ineffective while also harming the consumer. On the flip side, no anti-piracy measures or Digital Rights Management (DRM) at all could lead to an industry-wide downturn which is also bad for the consumer.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Value for Money: Games that just keep delivering

When tightening the monthly budget, entertainment is often one of the first things to be cut. After all, how can you have fun when they can’t afford to eat? In the lean months, gamers are at an advantage because, I contend, a lot more entertainment can be squeezed from a game than most other mediums. Certainly, when one considers a straight cost per entertainment hour, games blow other popular mediums (like movies) out of the water. Further, like a good book, some games just don’t grow old and can be replayed time and time again. Below I consider some of the games I have managed to milk an absurd amount of playing time out of and some thoughts on why I think I keep coming back to them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Betamaxed - Paying for early access is a bad for everyone

As I have touched on in previous posts, in recent years, consumers have had increasing options for obtaining games and the pre-order system seems to exist in its present form only to line the pockets of the publisher. In an effort to incentivize pre-ordering, publishers/developers have taken to offering beta access in exchange for pre-ordering. While I feel that, in general, providing beta access to the broader community could lead to a better overall product, I suspect that the scheme will ultimately be a losing deal for all parties.