Posts bySteven Hansen
Microsoft’s got a new toy, the Xbox One. I was pretty confident in that whole “Xbox Infinity” idea, but whatever, Microsoft. I give you gold and this is how you repay me? With a console that will be awkward to talk about orally. “Hey, which ‘next gen’ systems is Watch Dogs coming out for?” “PC, PS4, and One.” Ugh. Fine.
Read on for a lovely summation of Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal and be sure to leave plenty of snark in the comments. Lord knows there’s enough material.
The widely acclaimed indie studio Vlambeer (Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing) is facing a tough decision today after Rubiq Lab released a trailer [the trailer is now private and unavailable] for SkyFar, an iOS game that looks incriminatingly like Vlambeer’s upcoming 2D dog fighter Luftrausers.
This isn’t the first time the small studio has faced such a predicament. Its most recent success, Ridiculous Fishing, is a fleshed out version of a Flash game the team made several years ago, Radical Fishing. With plans to create a marketable iOS game, Vlambeer saw studio Gamenauts beat them to the punch. Gamenauts released Ninja Fishing on the Apple marketplace, where it currently sits at a five star rating, before Vlambeer had finished Ridiculous Fishing, putting undue strain on the two man indie team. Despite this blatant plagiarism, there is little legal precedent regarding patent game design, so Vlambeer’s hands were tied. Worse, they had to release onto the marketplace a game that could have been taken as a ripoff of a popular game when in fact that game that had ripped them off.
If I thought I wasn’t going to be impressed by a Kickstarter reaching its goal post Double Fine’s, I may have spoke too soon. Torment: Tides of Numenera’s campaign opened with a modest goal of $900,000 and rocketed past a million before the day was through. Money is still undoubtedly going to trickle in in the remaining 29 campaign days and it’ll be exciting to see at what rate it does so. Even more exciting is what inXile will be able to do with all that extra cash.
inXile, of course, made waves almost a year ago with a Kickstarter for Wasteland 2, which exceeded its similar $900,00 goal, coming in at just under $3 million. Torment is almost halfway there in a day. Of course, that does raise the question: why now, and what about Wasteland 2? The team recently revealed a lengthy gameplay video for Wasteland 2 to address that concern. Designer Kevin Saunders, speaking with Destructoid, had this to say:
“”For a small developer, having multiple projects is very important. During different stages of production or game development, you need different people and a different-sized team. Right now, being in pre-production for Torment, we are able to have the design all established and the writing complete by the time Wasteland 2 ships in October. Then the production team can take a well-deserved break, and come back and they know what they are making. If we were to wait until later, either those people are idle or not being used as efficiently … or the design of the game gets off track because it’s being worked on by people who have less of an understanding of what the game is.”
When Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch first hit my radar, it quickly became the most important game that could exist. It’s a project from the venerable Level-5 (Professor Layton, Dragon Quest VIII) in collaboration with famed Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke). The result of this pairing is essentially the Übermensch of Japanese RPGs, for better or worse, though those weary or wary of the genre have a great chance of being won over by its charm and artistry in spite of this.
Ni no Kuni is the delightful tale of Oliver and company. Young Oliver, by a particular turn of circumstances, winds up in another world – one in strife, no less, but it just so happens that Oliver can get to doing a little wizarding and help the people out. Lucky, ennit?
The game takes a while to get going – the first of many familiar feelings and genre staples. In doing so, however, you’re both introduced to Oliver’s home town of Motorville at a relaxing pace and offered a well thought out tutorial. As I started wading into the game proper, certain tutorial elements felt overdone, yet the dialogue is so well written and the gameplay elements so holistically contextualized within the confines of the narrative that I felt obliged to read on anyway. Some of that so called “hand holding” is quite welcome later, too, as things steadily become more complex.
Ubisoft announced today that Rayman Legends, previously slated to come to the Wii U exclusively this spring, will be coming to both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The Wii U version is also being held back for a simultaneous release on all three consoles in September, presumably to reduce the game’s marketing to one campaign versus paying for two. This news follows a recent report that the enhanced Wii U port Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, which Nintendo itself published, will be coming to PS3 and 360 this spring.
While I feel smugly satisfied in holding off on picking up a Wii U — Rayman Legends was my system seller and it being pushed from launch guaranteed I would bide my time – I’m left with concern over the console’s future. Not sensationalist concerns, either. Nintendo isn’t doomed, but this is as problematic and occurrence as it is interesting. It seems if Nintendo will have to respond to this aggressively, as it did with waning 3DS sales (which turned around spectacularly), but how?
“Almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades,” my mother used to say. In retrospect, this was one of many arbitrary English idioms she would recycle ad nauseam when I was growing up, in the way immigrants do, presumably as quick cultural in. “Hay is for horses,” is it? It’s also a popular contemporary greeting. Deal with it, lady. Unfortunately, I still occasionally summon the colloquial “nuke it” when I mean for something to be thrown in the microwave.
But, as it were, “mother knows best” is as fallible as any axiom. “Almost” can count in video games, too.
It should be simple, but what is? A video game that threatens to be interesting and fails is better than one that never threatens. Yet, time and time again tired, spiritually bankrupt franchises are trotted out to generally warm reception — sometimes lukewarm — while games that try to be different are panned.
The Wii U is the new hotness, recently reinvigorated after a direct address from the wizards on Mount Tendo with promises of a few more 2013 releases beyond the known and waited upon Rayman Legends and Pikmin 3 (and Monster Hunter, for many poor, damned souls.) While some continue to see the console as a gimmick until proven otherwise, what is the other way forward in the dedicated home console market but incremental hardware improvement seeking parity with the PC?
There is still something of a dearth of 2013 releases — “What, just a Legend of Zelda remake?” some scoff while spitting chewing tobacco into an abandoned water bottle — admittedly, but Nintendo has always played the long game. Case in point: look at the 3DS’s doomed first year (what were you playing? I was busy not owning one until all the releases rolled in) and subsequent success. It and its software are selling like dual screen flapjacks and syrup or hydrofluoric acid and plastic tubs.
But is the Wii U really that novel? From where I stand (precariously balanced on an outstretched birch branch while juggling) it’s a step backwards. It’s like I’m the only one who has played the Gamecube’s second best game.
We’ve reached a point where we can all agree the video game industry could use more strong female characters, right? Well, naturally not all of us, but enough, right? I mean, it’s not enough — it should be all of us — but enough to start getting something done, right? Okay. Let’s begin.
I’ve read the phrase “strong female character” enough in game journalism over the last year or two that the term itself has become tacit; rendered inert, perhaps, by the banality of activism. #kony2012. The sentiment is as welcome as ever, but reading Victoria Hiley’s “A strong female character.” just last night has snapped me back to a very muddled, complex reality (it’s important to this piece, so read it; it’s much shorter than my dribble which will essentially slavishly regurgitate a point made much more succinctly and stylishly). We’ve hardly begun to take the collective steps in addressing the issue so much as finally gotten enough people to admit that there is one, and that’s always the easiest part of what is a Herculean task.
Just getting people to admit we need more women characters in games is just the beginning. Things can only get more complicated. That’s a good thing, mind, because it is where the real, important discussions are going to come from. It’s like finally deciding that you and your mates should order a pizza as sustenance and then hashing out what you want on it, because “a pizza” can conjure up a lot of different things for a lot of different people. I might think pancetta, Calabrian peppers and arugula; maybe a simple topping of fresh mozzarella finished with some basil; you might think of pepperoni, sausage and olive. There’s definitely still going to be the issue of invalid or otherwise problematic choices — if you slather ranch dressing in your pizza I will end you, you monster — too.
Once upon a time, I was planning to review Final Fantasy XIII-2: Excess Assets and We Need Money While We Find a Decent Direction to take XV for this website. For a while, I didn’t exactly have the time to even unwrap my shiny, $80 collector’s edition — it’s really nice packaging — let alone drop 80 hours into it. Eventually, I did start playing. We here at A/10 don’t mind a little belatedness. There are always — hopefully – things to say about games and those things don’t stop being useful or worthwhile just because a game has been out a few months and kicked to the curb by the collective enthusiast subconscious because a smattering of other loudly hyped titles have been released.
Yet, here I sit, nearing the one year anniversary commemorating XIII-2’s release with the hilariously named Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII on the horizon. Actually, the title is boring, not funny. I just can’t disassociate it with Lightning “coolly” putting sunglasses on like she’s straight from the 90’s. I guess I’ll deal with it. The point is, the review isn’t happening. Partially because I didn’t finish the game, even more because I kind of don’t want to. Maybe I will one day and post a long, late look on what’s so problematic about the game, as I did with Final Fantasy XIII, but for now I want to talk about one moment that wrecked Final Fantasy XIII-2 for me.