All posts by arocketninja

Phantom Dust Gets A Second Chance

In March 2005, a mere eight months before the release of the console’s successor, the XBox received a title that received critical acclaim and not much else. This could describe several games that came out on the XBox that aren’t Halo, but, unlike Psychonauts or Barbie Horse Adventures, Phantom Dust was never released on another platform.

Until today of course.

Phantom Dust was born out of Microsoft tapping a huge amount of Sega’s talent. Panzer Dragoon Orta, Toe Jam & Earl III: Mission To Earth, Jet Set Radio Future, and GunValkyrie were released directly by Sega. Phantom Dust itself was directed by Yukio Futatsugi who previously worked on the original Saturn iterations of Panzer Dragoon. Microsoft needed to court the Japanese market; they still have a hard time selling today, and the PlayStation 2 days coupled with a new brand didn’t help. Ambitious titles like Project BC and True Fantasy Live would be cancelled, and other titles like Fable and Brute Force would under-deliver. Phantom Dust was a risk, and it wasn’t one Microsoft wanted to take.

An English version of the game was canned by Microsoft before it saw release; the game would receive a deal between Majesco and Microsoft to see the light of day here. It was exactly the game the XBox could’ve used years earlier. Yet it came out to little fanfare as hype for the XBox 360 built.

Now it’s seeing the light of day again. A release on the XBox One seems like a bit of waste, but at least now we can hope that Microsoft will release the title to PC in a few years. Here’s both a Let’s Play of the original title from a fan site, and the newly released teaser that shows no gameplay of the remake.

Real Journalism’s Take On Gaming

The most interesting take on E3 lies not in IGN, Kotaku, Polygon, etc. but on business channels and newspapers. We know how the hype train goes in the former; the latter reports on E3 with a sense of bewilderment and detached sensibility that’s incredibly intriguing after more than a decade of the expo.

I’ll be using two examples: one from CNBC (which was hilarious, and I’m sure someone will save the clip), and one from the Wall Street Journal. Both from today. Both are directed towards businessmen. Stockholders. People betting on whether or not it’s a good idea to invest in any of the companies we’re concerned about producing games. The misinformation, confused statements, or lack of mentioning certain companies was more amusing than seeing heavy British accents in revolution-period France.

CNBC: the main discussion amongst their contributors was how well Microsoft would benefit from exclusive DLC and Gamestop. The DLC in question? Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It’s hard to tell outside of our bubble of gaming news if that would effect sales; really, it shouldn’t and it instead creates a stronger sentiment against Activision-Blizzard and their yearly releases. The stock jumped up slightly from the news. If there was a mention on it being a timed exclusive I didn’t hear it. More hilarious was the Gamestop name drop; a contributor that had no idea what digital distribution was thought it was a great, underpriced investment due to used game sales and thought their focus was still on games (they’re switching their business platform to include cell phones).

The other more credible news source setting up articles for later in the week was the Wall Street Journal. Hyping up a console war, with no mention of PC gaming or sales, they had a good twenty paragraphs of the Xbox One versus the PS4 and lingering Wii U sales. Canned statements from Take Two Interactive, Nintendo, Sony, and Kotaku littered the article. They pointed out some of the concerns around the Xbox One since release: the pointlessness of the Kinect, the threat of taking away used games, and price. There was no mention that the majority of games for the Xbox One are available on other platforms, especially PC, and they play better elsewhere.

The writers, Ben Fritz and Nathan Olivarez-Giles, also defined the Wii U Gamepad as just being a tablet, “instead of the usual mix of thumb sticks and buttons…” They did get the information of sales being up since the release of Mario Kart 8, but the article is missing key information that could be useful to their target audience: investors. And unless a company is private like Valve we definitely need to keep an eye on that also. Super Smash Brothers will move the most units later in the year; something that we’d all want to take advantage of if our goal was to pump-and-dump money into a company. Yet there’s no mention of it. Instead, there’s the statement from Take Two that they’re committed to the Xbox One and PS4; an entirely fruitless statement since it’s stating the obvious and merely that they’re sticking to the status quo.

News will be flooding out on E3 continuously. I’ll be keeping my eye on news not for me but for the monied elite instead through out.

The next Assassin’s Creed game now has a teaser.

Unity, the code-name of the next title of the Assassin’s Creed series, has just received a sneak peek video. It’s supposedly alpha footage (which it very well may be), but it seems too good to be true given the graphics of Assassin’s Creed IV. Then again, this title will not be hindered by the XBox 360 or PS3. Ubisoft has so far been planning to release two titles holiday 2015; one for last-gen consoles and this one for next-gen.

The series itself is getting a bit stagnant. The weakest part of Assassin’s Creed IV is the actual assassin bits; I really just wanted to play a pirate game with decent graphics, and, if the meta-commentary of the game is to be believed, the developers just wanted to develop a pirate game too. The French Revolution setting should be interesting, but the gameplay needs to advance a bit. A difference in the parkour, better swordfighting, or at least more assassination options (poisoning food?) would help.

We’ll know by this Christmas how the game fairs. In the meantime, I can only hope Ubisoft doesn’t screw up Watch Dogs.

Is Diablo 3 fixed?

With the closure of the Real Money Auction House (alongside the in-game gold auction house), there has been talk on whether or not the issues with Diablo 3 have been fixed. They haven’t been. At least not completely, and I don’t think they ever can be truly wiped from the game without making another title.

The flaws themselves differ from player to player, and like anything referring to games it’s debatable. The disconnects, faulty server connection, loot that would pale in comparison to the auction house, and sub-par writing plagued the launch. Most of that has been fixed, and if you’re a fan of Chris Metzen that last bit has never been an issue. What hasn’t been fixed is what can’t be fixed.

The skill runes over a traditional or intricate RPG set up to make an unique character is the biggest issue. Diablo 2 punished you for not allocating your skills correctly; a simple respec via quest or vendor would’ve answered this. Instead we get a decent handful of skills/spells, along with runes, to cater to specific play styles when combined. This is either an advancement or a disgrace; there is Path of Exile, Torchlight 2, or even Borderlands 2 for us that dissent.

The other major issue is lack of LAN play combined with always having to be online. It’s in part to hurt pirates and spoofing items, but it mainly affects those of us who don’t always have a stable connection. It also makes hardcore characters extremely painful when you’re dealing with a faulty modem or router. The answer is simple: include off-line play (and please LAN play), but disable achievements when a connection to the server is not available.

The last bit is the story. The voice acting, characters, and the multiple settings don’t quite capture the eerie Diablo feel of previous games. Everything reminds me of World of Warcraft. Gameplay is always more important than story (we’re not playing a visual novel or adventure game), but here Blizzard dropped the ball. The Butcher is re-hashed for no other reason but nostalgia. Belial and Azmodan just sit back like cartoon villains. The writing is grandiose, epic, without any sense of gravitas.

Yet, I can’t stop my self from putting in 10-15 minutes a day while deciding what multiplayer game to play with 2-5 friends. I’ve spent enough of the day browsing the internet, and I want something I can quit. And, just like World of Warcraft, it gives me that hollow dopamine fix. Plus, it let’s a certain family member know that their gift wasn’t completely in vain. Otherwise, it’s not worth your $20.

John Carmack’s Quakecon 2013 Keynote

John Carmack talks for two plus hours in this keynote from the recent Quakecon. Everything from the console market, game publishing, and the advent of motion controllers are covered. Be prepared to actually listen to a programmer discuss gaming and not a CEO or marketing representative.

There are some gem comments throughout the keynote; “I used to give Apple a lot of grief about the one button mouse when anybody working with a mouse really wants- more buttons are helpful there. And Kinect is sort of like a zero button mouse with a lot of latency on it.”

Carmack himself is one of the co-founders of id Software, known for developing graphics engines and technology, and a rocket scientist in his spare time.

Microsoft Has No Idea What They’re Doing

This is supposed to be a commercial for the Microsoft Surface Pro. If you’ve been to a movie theater in the past few months, chances are you’ve seen this dance routine accompanied by a short detailing how the commercial was made. I still have no idea what the tablet can do.

Compare this to their direct competitors in this area: Apple.

Apple details exactly what their devices capabilities are. The strengths of the iPad 4 are clearly stated, and the commercial reads more like a press release straight to their customers. Even their 30-60 second commercials are more direct and straight to the point. Microsoft just misses the point.

It’s no different in the console realm at the moment. Iwata and Reggie point out everything about the WiiU and 3DS through Nintendo Direct. It may as well be a press conference, but every one is receiving the same data at the same time.

Although Nintendo isn’t Microsoft’s main competitor; Sony is. The confusion over how shared games would work is a huge point. The XBox One was going to have the future of sharing entire game libraries with up to ten people; the confusion was whether or not this would be an hour demo or the complete game. Sony released a commercial overnight mocking this:

Microsoft has no clear idea what they’re doing any more. They backtracked on a good portion of the XBox One’s “features” due to bad press, but the public didn’t even know what those features fully entailed. There was no option to opt out of them either to limit accessibility.

For example: when you use an iOS device the terms and conditions state that you should be syncing to a computer to receive full functionality (as far as backing up your information goes). All Microsoft needed was a console that’d let you play offline for longer than 24 hours; maybe, as a repercussion, achievements wouldn’t work or you’d be unable to share games to your ten people. Instead, consumers initially received: “If you don’t have an always online connection, there’s still XBox 360.” Then there was the full backpedal of all of the restrictions.

It doesn’t help that the backpedal was after E3. Microsoft really needs to come together with a unifying vision for their company and actually sell their products.

DuckTales: Remastered adds PC to it’s list of platforms

A Capcom-Unity post has confirmed PC for receiving the DuckTales HD remake. The release post details the $14.99 price, and the game’s release to almost all digital platforms (that double as slight DRM): Steam, Origin, Impulse, GamersGate, and Green Man Gaming. Good Old Games is noticeably vacant. The game will still be cracked in a few days, if not hours, upon release.

DuckTales: Remastered is set to be released by Q3 2013 on PS3, XBox 360, WiiU, and now PC.