As you may or may not have noticed, I have not been updating much. But I can’t resist this one:
Too many went too far with their reviews…we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom
Let me translate from tweet to mostly English, I don’t like what you said about the game you reviewed, so next time, we won’t be sending you a game to review.
Now, some might claim otherwise, but that actually happens a fair amount. It’s bad for business in the long run, or so I’d like to believe. At the very least, it’s really low and should be shameful…except we are talking about PR guys. It’s their job to lie with an honest smile on their face.
2k Games was not happy with truth telling from a PR firm, the guys they hire to lie, so they let the Redner group go.
“2K Games does not endorse the comments made by Jim Redner and we can confirm that The Redner Group no longer represents our products. We have always maintained a mutually-respectful working relationship with the press and do not condone his actions in any way.”
Know what’s best about that? Eurogamer following up with this tweet:
Just so we are clear. It’s fine to blacklist review sites we don’t like, but it is not fine to say we do that. Sneaky, 2k, right up until your PR firm drunkely posts, eh?
Why, you ask? Well, it is good you ask that question. Otherwise this would be a very short post. And trust me, it won’t be.
I would recommend Dragon Age 1.
The answer is to why I will most likely wait is…a lot of things. But first, a quick history. Remember Dragon Age 1? Yeah, me too. LOVED that game. Flaws and all. And it does have them. But overall, I would recommend it to anyone that likes RPGs and/or tactical combat, with very few, small caveats.
Problems you say?
It did have a few problems though.
Inventory was a pain. If you played it, you know. If you did not, suffice it say there was a LOT of junk and very little space to put anything. 99% of loot was random, and in this case, random meant mostly useless. And it was everything. In corpses, flowers, boxes, bags, stashes, book, etc, etc, etc, etc. It was not great, lets leave it at that.
The AI was not great. It was not horrid out of the box, like NWN2 or anything, but your characters were pretty limited in what they could do automatically. Which meant if you were not directly controlling them, they often did the dumbest thing they could. After a bit, I heard about a mod called Advanced Tactics. That gave you a whole host of new options in the tactics menus, so you could intelligently program your guys so they did not act like idiots when you were not holding their hands.
The party influence system was an actual joke (at least, they must have meant it that way). Sure, you could get your peoples to like or hate you based on how conversations/actions went, but you know what really influenced them? Gifts. That’s right, you could end around everything and just give them things they liked until they liked you again. That was pretty weak.
L worded it.
Beyond that, there were nits and picks, but I really loved that game, flaws and all. I did love it, right after some people I know told me what it was really about. I am a Bioware fan and followed Dragon Age notes here and there…and I watched the same trailers you did most likely. After that, I was pretty sure I would not get it. But friends that know RPGs played it and said:
“Do not listen to the marketing, Dragon Age:Origins is a Bioware game through and through and it awesome.”- knowledgeable RPG friends
Concerned a bit.
But I was little worried. You see, not long before Dragon Age 1 was released, EA, that huge conglomerate I have complained about in the past, bought Bioware. Yep, bought them out right. Kept on the staff (even the doctors), and things seemed to go well…well, except for that awful marketing campaign. Those videos I linked above are not the only ones. Let me translate them for you: “Play this game, destroy things, while Zombie thumps in your head! It will melt your braaaaain!” I was understandably put off by those, but the friends I talked about (yeah, I have them) above convinced me to ignore and the game was a blast and nothing like the marketing. Well, except for blood coating you from head to toe after each battle. But that was an option you could turn off and I did as soon as I found it. All was well.
Then, after awhile, but not that long (about a year), I started to hear about and see stuff from Dragon Age 2. I got somewhat excited. I mean, this is Bioware. They have created some of the best games to ever be released. Things like Baldur’s Gate and Mass Effect just to name a couple. It was also EA, so I was cautiously excited. This would be the first RPG released by Bioware that was fully developed under EA.
Whatever though, still had the doctors there, still had a long history of being awesome, even with Mass Effect 2 not really being as good as one, I was very hopeful.
Then I played the demo. I could not believe my eyes. They got rid of being able to zoom out, they got rid of flat chested women (I kid you not, they are all porn star proportions), the UI seemed to be developed with a love of empty space and combat…oh combat. Sure, it was only the demo, but damn if combat was not all fucked up. Where your characters faced did not matter as much, you had a bunch of WoW like skills, and no longer had to plan anything out. Just go attack and press buttons as fast as you are able. Weeeeeee! (that was sarcasm)
The friends and the reviews.
Those same friends disagree on Dragon Age this time around. Some of them says the combat is dopey or different, but it is still fun. Others suggest it is pretty much crap now. And the reviews. They seemed to disagree with themselves.
While Dragon Age 2 got decent scores, the words of the reviews have convinced me the demo was not wrong. Some choice cuts are below:
- In gameplay terms, much has changed from Origins. Everything from skill trees to quest notifications have been redesigned and made easier to use. “Dumbing down!” goes the cry from the pessimistic faithful, and those coming to the game with that mantra in mind will find that confirmation bias supports their prejudice.
- Companion armour is now completely off-limits while upgrade trees are inflexible and closed off to any new specialisms you might want to give them.
- I still found that my inventory quickly filled up with fantastic weaponry that nobody could use. All unusable items, from diamonds to torn trousers, are now automatically stored in the junk tab of your inventory. They can be flogged to a merchant in one job lot, with a single button press.
- Crafting is a hands-off affair, too. No longer do you merrily pick herbs and flowers on your travels. You simply find hidden pockets of infinite crafting resources which merchants can then use to deliver potions direct to your inventory. It’s strangely soulless, as if Tesco Direct has inserted itself into this fantasy realm.
- The modular nature of the story is also reflected in the missions, which are sort of annoyingly compartmentalized. There are a couple of longer journeys, but far too many boil down to hopping to the map, talking to someone, killing them (or not) and going back to the quest giver. You will spend far more time than you’re comfortable with running back and forth between exits.
- The lack of forward momentum is exacerbated by the fact that you’ll see almost all of the game’s environments in its first third. Sure, there are different things to kill, but haven’t you seen this cave once or twice or eight times before? BioWare tries to make the journey seem more sweeping by having it span a decade, but when towns look the same and characters don’t appear to age or even change clothes, it feels artificial.
- I’m assuming the slightly stunted world is a result of the accelerated development schedule, which I also imagine is the culprit behind the lackluster gear system.
- The other half of Dragon Age 2, however, adheres to the painfully familiar definition of ‘mature’ – featuring blood, sex and not much else. The game frequently attempts to clumsily shoehorn crude innuendo into a conversation, provide a flash of flesh or show some hilariously over-done violence. The free city of Kirkwall is apparently populated with an abundance of haemophiliacs with high blood pressure, who explode into arterial clouds as soon as somebody draws their sword, spattering players in gore and hiding the UI behind a red haze.
- The result of mixing these two halves is a game which feels at odds with itself a lot of the time. Dragon Age 2 tries to tell the epic tale of Hawke, a refugee who fled the tiny town of Lothering to escape the Blight, then spent the next ten years rising to the role of Champion in Kirkwall. The structure of the quests, however, just makes it clear how little intrigue Kirkwall has to offer, with the entire city apparently waiting years at a time for Hawke and Co to romp through the streets killing indiscriminately. There’s a lot more to be gleaned from the side-quests offered by your companions than from the main plot.
- The contradictions extend all the way down to the technical level too. In the opening hour of Dragon Age 2 you arrive at Kirkwall to find the city sealed. The refugees talk about how they’re being turned away in their hundreds, while the guard captain loudly insists that the city has been overfull for months. There’s no possible way anyone else can be admitted, he says, while standing in a huge, empty town square with no more than ten protesters in front of him.
Convinced to wait.
After all of that, and the talk in the forums and everything else, I am convinced to wait. Even though I know it might be fun for a bit, it does not sound like a $60 game to me. The streamlined (I still say dumbed down), as EAWare (clever aren’t I) calls it, just sounds like they removed systems they did not like. I can not do inventory management? Party influence now works if they hate me or like me? Crafting is a joke (it was not much better in the first really)? And the game recycles the same art assets over and over. Maybe they did not have enough time to do the full development. Or maybe it was EA’s influence, as I suspect the marketing of the first one was. Maybe is just what happens when EA has time to enforce their marketing is reflected in the game. I do not know. But I am disappointed.
So yeah, I will wait. I will play the many other great games out there, I will watch and see what happens with Dungeon Siege 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Skyrim, and still try to convince my wife to switch from WoW to Rifts. And in a few months, I will pay $20 or so for the game, it will be fully patched, and I will get my monies worth out of it.
Of course, if they come out with a toolset so other people could fix a fair amount of these problems, I will probably buy it right up.
If this report of sneaky DRM is true, it looks like we have yet another reason not buy DA2. You know, beyond the original designer having left because of the direction of Dragon Age 2. Forgot to mention that in the first rundown…
Do you remember Uber Entertainment? They are the dudes, and dudettes (that’s right, I said it), that created Monday Night Combat. A very interesting take on the Demigod/DOTA/DTD type game. A really cool game that needed a patch more than a month ago. And why didn’t it get that patch until now? Because Microsoft’s XBox Live Arcade division is required to test everything that goes on the system. And they didn’t get it done for an entire month. Uber delivered the patch to them for QA more than a month ago. And they just recently got it done.
If I did that in my industry, I’d be fired.
That is all.
Just a quick note on Supreme Commander 2. If you skipped it or aren’t still playing it, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Not only was it pretty damn fun at release, since release of the game they’ve added new maps, better AI, a DLC (a pretty good one) and best of all, they added in queuing of unit orders. That’s right, you heard me. You can now queue units and building again. It’s not the same as the first, but better. You tell your engies or Commander what to do and he…get this part…waits for available funds. That’s right, you can’t sink your economy anymore. You may need to pause your automatic building of units if you want to build something bigger, but overall, the system works great.
I’d say it’s the best of both worlds, SupCom1 and 2 added together. Easier to manage economy and still the ability to set guys up on long queued orders.
And the improved AI? Very cool. Still a bit iffy in parts, but gives a convincing game of awesome whenever you want one. You can also create a custom AI and tell it to go all air or to turtle up, whatever kind of game you’re thinking of.
Happy days are here again.
P.S. – All of these updates are PC only. You should only be playing RTS games on the PC anyway, but I thought I’d mention it.
Update: Man, that was fast. As a friend suggested, maybe this was a PR move. “Now that we aren’t going to do obviously outrageous thing, here’s what we’ll do instead…” We shall see.
If you are any sort of MMO player or you know one, you probably have already heard about Blizzard’s plans to use what they call RealID. The basics are this:
- If you use the system and friend anyone else, they can see your real name. It’s not based on character or server, it’s your unique ID with your real name tied to it. No more anonymity in Blizzard games, basically.
- It will also allow you to do as Steam does now, track people across games. It’s an external friending service, rather than a friend system in a specific game.
- Some other stuff Blizzard totes as really helpful.
The reality and the why
Here’s the part they don’t mention on that link above…yes, it’s completely optional, but if you want to post on any Blizzard forum, you will have to use your RealID, and hence, your real name. Not to mention once the system gets started and guilds start to require it, as we all know they will, you’ll be giving it up to people you often only known in an online capacity. Why play with someone anonymously, when you can play with them where they have some accountability. It’ll sweep the entire game like wildfire. There will be holdouts of course, but for any serious (read catass) WoW players, they are basically seeing the writing on the wall of having to now be out, so to speak.
Why is Blizzard doing this? Well, if you don’t know, public forums are really hard to control (great, long article). And Blizzard has one of the largest, if not the largest, gaming forum online because of how popular WoW is (most popular MMO of all time still). As you can see from this very scientific documentation, people online aren’t always 1) aware they aren’t anonymous and 2) able to control themselves when anonymous. It’s hilarious and sadly true.
Internet Assholery (or IA) been a big problem for online forums of all types pretty much since the beginning of the internet. There is some disconnect with many people when they think there are no repercussions for their actions. This guy can probably explain it better, and even offers up how he’d like to track the changes.
The reasons no one has done this before
Well, let’s start with some simple examples. Since Blizzard announced this, a few people defending it have offered up their real names. This guy and this guy have both probably thought better of it now. You see, you aren’t actually anonymous anywhere. You aren’t in real life obviously, but you aren’t on the internet either (well, 99.9% of us aren’t). Everything you do online can be tied back to you in one way or another. Even without your real name being given out; that just makes it easier. Look at both of the examples above. The people tracking down these guys used their real names to get started tracking them down, but if they had any other piece of information, or postings where you shared pretty much anything, or posted anything, you can be tracked. Just because you use a fake name on a forum, don’t think that means that people can’t find you. There are a thousand stories of people online being tracked down, well before Blizzard ever even thought of this idea or even running an MMO. It’s a fact of internet life most people don’t realize.
Ok, so we aren’t really anonymous. Well, we aren’t really anonymous once we start engaging. If we post on any forum, any page comments, facebook, etc, not only is that all trying to be tracked by your ISP, it starts to link information to your fake online identity. Which has an IP address, which has a real name attached, etc, etc, etc. So what’s the problem then? Well, because people feel they are anonymous, they act as stated above AND because they aren’t particularly well informed, they believe other people are anonymous. So things like this don’t happen as often as they could.
For others, the big concerns are what are going to happen to the groups of people that really needed the anonymity. For instance, women and/or minorities. No longer can they go online in WoW and join up to a guild or post in forums without people knowing their ethnicity (many names alone suggest this, sometimes as wrong as not) or their sex. Why is this a problem? Well, as you might guess, many gamers are socially retarded. I don’t say that without some self reflection, as a gamer, but I also say it as someone who thinks that invading people’s personal lives is well beyond something I’d condone or do. For many others, it’s just a matter of access to the information. Without the it-takes-more-work-than-its-often-worth-to-figure-out-someones-real name barrier, this sort of thing may happen more. If you’ve ever gone on XBox Live, you’re probably aware of how idiotic people can be online.
To boot, who would be responsible for all of this in a court of law? Some might argue that it’s the company that requires people to give up their anonymity to post on their forum or to be in any of the more serious guilds (I state this as fact, but it could turn out otherwise). Blizzard may very well see lawsuits based on their plan.
Why it’s a potential good thing in the long run
Didn’t expect that title, did you? Well, just think about it for a second. If people have to start thinking when they post online, this could be tied back to me, maybe, just maybe, they will stop acting like assholes. Maybe it will sink in that they aren’t anonymous and that they should have the social grace to handle themselves like they were talking with actual people. Hey, it could happen. As a matter of fact, I think it will happen in the long term. And if this social experiment works for Blizzard, expect more and more companies to do it. The internet isn’t going to directly expose you in the future, you are. You will have to sign up for and validate your identity at every site you want to post on. And you will be banned based on your real identity. No more just signing up another account. And once multiple sites start requiring real names, they will all start using the same service and to post, you’ll have to give up a link that shows your entire internet posting history. For some, this going to be a HUGE change. For others like myself, that have been posting under their real names for a long time, it won’t be such a huge thing. But notice I don’t directly state my full name anywhere on this site, though any enterprising person could easily track me down. I like that layer of separation for my personal site. Heck, many people that read here do so because they know me in RL, so it’s not that big of a deal, but that layer of obfuscation, that bit of work required to track me down, gives me at least a bit more of a wall between the world and my personal life. That I’m sharing for anyone in the world to read… Ya, dumb, I know. But that’s the whole point. Many people aren’t even aware that the anonymity is a lie.
What Would Matt Do: I’d wish Blizzard all of the best. I like the concept and I eagerly await details of how it goes. I’d love to see the things that Jamie mentions on his site above (povg) so we can get real metrics on how this social experiment on a grand scale goes down. Here’s hoping Blizzard not only shares that information at some future date, but that they realize they may be setting a trend for the much of the future of the internet and go…wisely into that great beyond.
Update: Jay and Silent Bob thought about this a long time ago.
Update II: Lots of people are angry. I’m not sure I disagree with them even. It’s a very tough issue.
[edited for grammer. probably more than once.]