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. 

Tom Clancy Dies at Age 66
On 1 October, Tom Clancy passed away after a brief, but unannounced, illness. Clancy is most well known for his books and adapted movies, including The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears, but is also famous in the gaming industry for co-founding Red Storm Entertainment. Under Clancy's guidance, Red Storm virtually invented the stealth shooter genre and showed the gaming world that a FPS didn't need to be all about unloading endless clips from giant guns. In gaming, the Tom Clancy moniker has become synonymous with high quality titles with an attention to detail and realism unmatched elsewhere. While the future of Tom Clancy game titles is uncertain, his legacy is secure. Deepest condolences to the Clancy family, the world has lost a true media pioneer.

Grand Theft Auto 5 Server Woes
The much hyped GTA5 multiplayer mode launched as a spectacular mess. Reports indicated that the opening tutorial mission featured game-breaking bugs that would prevent it from being completed. For those who managed to push through the tutorial, the full experience has been marred by server issues ranging from horrendous latency to spontaneous disconnects. In fairness to Rockstar, they stated before the patch went live that they hadn't anticipated such explosive sales and that the first weeks would be rough while new servers were installed. To help keep things under control, Rockstar has disabled the real-money shop attached to the multiplayer mode until it is felt that everything has stabilized. I suppose it is unfair to criticize a free add-on like this, but it makes you wonder if it should have been delayed a week or two instead of being a massive headache to players.

Half-Life 3 Trademarked
A European trademark application for Half-Life 3 by Valve surfaced last week renewing rumours that the game is in development. While numerous people close to Valve instantly denied that the game was in the pipe, Valve themselves have remained silent. The Half-Life series is one of the most venerated in all of gaming and is praised for evolving the FPS genre. While, no doubt, the release of Half-Life 3 would be a temporary license to print money, Valve has been coy on providing any details. I think it is a safe assumption that at least a small team is working on Half-Life 3 but no news on this will be released until development has sufficiently progressed. Some people are speculating a release coinciding with the new Steam boxes next year but I think this is a fantasy.

Warcraft Movie Release Date
December 18, 2015 was announced through the official Warcraft twitter feed as the release date for the Warcraft movie. The movie has had a tumultuous production history with numerous directors and actors being attached and apparently several script re-writes. While no one ever believed that the movie wouldn't be made, this is one of the first official announcements that tangibly indicates that the wheels are in motion. I honestly don't know what to expect from a Warcraft movie, I think the lore works fine for a video game but is pretty corn-ball when compared to most film plots. Of course, orcs and humans engaging on the battle-field should make for some action packed scenes that should translate well to the silver screen.

Sim City Offline Mode In the Works
When the online only Sim City launched earlier this year, consumers were rightfully upset. The game was virtually unplayable with ridiculous queue times and random crashes that would force players to wait in line again. The problem here is that the Sim City franchise is known for being a single-player experience and players were incensed that they were being forced to connect to EA servers. At the time, Maxis indicated that the game would be impossible to play offline as much of the background computation was being handled server side. This statement turned out to be a complete fabrication as many hacked versions of the game surfaced showing that offline play was, at least in principle, possible. Last week, Maxis indicated that they were, in fact, working on an offline patch to be likely rolled out later this year. While I think it is commendable that Maxis is finally giving players and option to not have to be always connected, the shenanigans surrounding this game have left a bad taste in my mouth. Sim City is a shining example of how not to treat your customers.