Thursday, October 19, 2017

Malicious monetization, a short story by Activision and Bungie...

I was literally going to start this with a rant that went something like: "These motherfuckers right here..."

I've opted instead to intelligently express the same sentiment using my brain instead of my anger.

Activision has already started to get a reputation as a terrible game developer. Equal to or worse than EA, depending on who you ask and what day of the week it is. I already didn't like them for their business practices and their decisions to try to milk every dime out of their customers, all the while deceiving their customers and basically telling them that they would never engage in those practices, ever. Of course not...


That is a link to a report about their patent for creating hate and breaking friendships. It doesn't read that way? I'll explain.

A few years ago some friends convinced me to purchase a game called Destiny. I say convinced, because in this case I'd literally never heard of it before they said anything. I had no intention to buy it whatsoever. They convinced me it was worth my time and my money and we were all going to play together, so I played the beta, and believing it was going to be much bigger than what I had already seen, I bought the game. We had some fun, for a while.

It didn't take long for us to notice something. I got EVERYTHING. If there was a drop in the game, it dropped for me. So much so that it became a habit for my friends to see me get another extremely rare drop and simply reply, "fuck you, man." You see, in Destiny, others can see a scroll on the screen that displays when someone gets one of those rare drops. I always wondered why before. I don't anymore. Because that was the experiment. What they were trying to do was make my friends want to be like me. They wanted them to want those same drops. Nevermind that they played as much as I did, or in some cases payed WAY more for the game because they bought the collector's edition. When I say I got everything, what I mean is that by the end of the first week, I had a Gjallarhorn. That rocket launcher was so rare that a lot of people never got one. At all. I lost count of how many of them I deleted. Now, if you don't know Destiny, right about here is where you ask, "but why didn't you just trade the extras to your friends?" An excellent question. You see that was also part of the experiment, the fact that trading was never allowed in Destiny, in spite of Bungie's initial insistence (that later just disappeared) that it would be implemented later. It never was in the first game and it's now not a part of the second game.

So, how did this create hate? Well, when you're the only player on your team that's getting every single epic drop there is, it builds resentment pretty damn fast. I had one friend quit playing Destiny altogether and another that wouldn't play on the console I was on because they only got somewhat better drops on a different console. I literally had friends quit playing because of this mechanic.  But hey, what we found out with the DESTINY 2 release, is that you don't have to worry about that... Because with micro transactions, you can get some of the very best weapons in the game, if not all of them. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Now, what makes this worse, what makes it a betrayal, is how we were all deceived, by Bungie, and Activision. They straight out lied when we asked about this when the game started. We were told several lies, but the one that was most repeated in the early days, was that it was a problem with their RNG (random number generator) and that they were working to fix it. That was bullshit. There was no glitch, there was no error, in the proper parlance, it was working as intended.

The truly sinister part, is that they lied again and again, knowing full well that they were subjecting their paying customers to this; their players. And they didn't give a damn, because I guarantee you they never expected us to find out.

I will not, in any future purchases, support Activision, and I'm adding Bungie to that list as well. I can't make anyone choose to do the same, but I would invite anyone that feels betrayed by them, to join me in doing so.

Game on.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Life is Strange...

It certainly can be.  Lord knows I've experienced that firsthand in my 43 years.

Seriously though, this game seems to have a lot of potential.  It's like "Prince of Persia" met "Veronica Mars" and made an episodic adventure game.

It really is a pretty interesting concept, and I like the game that I've played so far.  Even in a high school setting, the characters are still interesting at my age, and that tells me a lot.  It really makes me think that they took a lot of time to develop the characters and that's always a good thing when it comes to a game that is trying to make you care about the people in the story. is where you can check out the game itself.  It's good stuff.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A new year, perhaps a year for change.

I didn't really know how to start this post.  Honestly, I wasn't sure what direction would best serve the most people and still openly express my opinion.

Then I realized that it's 2015.  Damn it, it's far past time that people heard this and hopefully things will change.

I play a lot of games, and I have got a long time now.  I played the original pong, when that was the only game on the console.  Likewise, the Atari iterations, and Intellivision.  The point is, I've been at this a while.  Online gaming is relatively new, when compared to gaming as a whole and in that short time it's already gained a culture all its own.

For the most part, it's pretty good stuff.  Gamers aren't naturally hateful towards one another and generally prefer to cooperate and/or help one another.  But as with any culture, there are a few bad apples, and unfortunately they drag the rest of us down with them.

"That's so gay!" Has become my least favorite phrase of all time, and is this generation's "that sucks!"  I'm not sure why it even exists, but it really makes me angry to hear it and WHEN (not if) I hear it, I call people on it immediately.  I let people know it's not okay to say, and that I won't play with people that do say it.  My own son said it one day, and his mother and I both immediately let him know that it was unacceptable.

Here's the thing: why is there an existing negative connotation with being gay?  There's nothing wrong with being gay and there's no reason to associate being gay with anything bad.  I've noticed some progress, in that I see advertisements now dissuading people from using words like "fag" to mean something bad, and frankly it's about time.  This is not only unacceptable in the gaming community, it's socially unacceptable period.  It gives me a little hope to see things going that way in mainstream media.

Maybe someday soon, people won't be persecuted for how they live.  I can hope.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How do you ruin a good time? Just ask Bungie.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let's be completely frank here.  Destiny's loot cave needed to die.  It was nothing more than a way for players to abuse a system set up to provide enemies for the game on a timed basis.  It was NEVER intended to be used the way players were using it, and certainly not to be abused so overtly and so blatantly.  Bungie recognized it incredibly quickly and did the right thing, though I'm sure I'm one of the few players to think so.

Raging began almost immediately once the people using this method of farming for loot lost their precious little toy, and has gone on since.  I've seen everything from people claiming that they're quitting their high level character, to people claiming that this was Bungie's plan all along, just to lure people to play...  ?  Wait, what?   How does that even work?


The mistake that Bungie made, however was in regards to 'nerfing' (weakening to the point of being useless in gamer parlance) the Queen's Wrath gear that you get from doing her missions.  Up until the fix they provided for this, this legendary level equipment would give you materials necessary to upgrade your other armor or weapons, and for anyone that already HAD gear that was higher or maxed out, at least getting the material made it worthwhile for the purposes of upgrading.  Without that as an incentive, there is literally no reason to play these missions, other than curiosity.  Yeah, I'm not that curious.  I was playing them, and I trying to raise my reputation with the Queen, and I may continue to do so, if for no other reason than in the future it's probably going to be favorable for me to do so, with the coming expansion packs.

That's not a good reason to do it though.  It just isn't.  As it stands, there really is no reason for me to do it.  That's just poor planning Bungie.  I expect better from someone with so much experience in online multiplayer games.

I'm still enjoying Destiny, just less so now.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It is... Our Destiny... Or whatever

Okay, so first impression, non spoilery stuff:

Visuals - Pretty damned impressive.  Skyrim has been the measuring stick for me on the 360 for how beautiful a game can be, and this is either as good, or slightly better.  Bear in mind, I'm on the 360, and playing on a 40" plasma at 720p, so in all fairness it'll probably look better on current gen stuff at 1080p and who knows what 4k would look like.  That all said, there's something goofy about certain parts.  For some reason certain areas look very cartoony to me.  I haven't figured out why, unless it has to do with moving from a wide open space where everything is given such an eye for detail to a fairly small area that looks like 'videogame spaceport 1.111'.  It's actually a little jarring, to be honest.  Overall, the game is gorgeous but anyone following this release probably already knew that.

Sound- In all honesty, sound doesn't equate to much in games for me these days, unless it makes me notice it, and this one does.  I can't tell you how many times I was playing and immediately whipped around, looking in every direction to ascertain what the hell I just heard.  That is something I haven't seen so prevalent in a long time.  I don't know the specific mechanics used, but they did it right. 

Presentation- You won't find a lot of innovation here, but the formula being used is not a bad one.  The HUD, the screen prompts and the like are all pretty standard stuff.  If you've played FPS games in the last 10 years you'll be comfortable with what they have here.  Where you'll notice a change is the Menu, and I really like what they've done with that.  It's difficult to describe, but I guess if pressed I'd say that it is an 'aim' and click interface.  It's very intuitive, very easy to use, and you can get around quickly which is important since if you 'pause' in the worlds where enemies exist, they can still shoot you.  That's certainly not pausing in the traditional sense.  That said, I was still able to use it, and I didn't die once while paused.

Okay – spoilery stuff potentially follows, continue at your own risk and so on and so forth:

Setting – The world (even for the beta) is fucking huge.  No joke.  There is a just a vast area to explore, and I’m relatively certain that we still didn’t get everywhere even after hours of exploration.  We looked everywhere we could, found some enemies that couldn’t even be harmed by our weapons, and we got to a LOT of places – but it still felt like we didn’t get even close to exploring everything.  Time will tell if we did or not, and I’ll comment more later on the size, but this being only the beta, I would imagine that it’s only going to get bigger with the final release. The only thing that was weird for me was the ‘TOWER’ which is basically just ‘RPG spaceport/village’ 1.111.  What I mean is that you’ve seen all this before, even if the presentation is a little different and possibly slightly better (depends on what you like).  This is the only part of the game that bothers me and it has everything to do with how it looks compared to the open world feel of the other areas.  After being out in the open, where everything feels very realistic, this place feels patently false.  I could actually feel a difference in how I perceived this area from the others, and that, to me, is not a good thing for a game meant to be so immersive.

Gameplay - At its heart, this thing is an RPG and a pretty good one at that.  Now obviously this is the beta, and I have no idea if the same pacing or leveling will apply with the final release, but I hope so.  I made level 8 after about half a day of playing and that was the cap for the beta, so I could just kind of run around and explore the open area, or get into the ‘Crucible’ (PVP) area for team deathmatches if I wanted to.  I did a little of that, but if you read my Titanfall review, you know it’s not really my forte.  I leave that to others for the most part, but I will say this.  It was fun.  I got frustrated with people killing me as usual so I didn’t stick around very long, but I enjoyed the time I was there for the most part.  What that tells me is that at least the game is balanced.  I didn’t feel like anyone was overpowered or had a weapon that broke the game.  It’s very well done, and it shows in the execution (small pun intended).
What they have accomplished by capping the levels at 8 is encouraged me to try the other classes, and I certainly will.  I want to know what it’s like to play all of them.  At this time I played a female “AWOKEN (RACE) HUNTER (CLASS), and man, is that woman deadly.  Hunters are basically the snipers, but I felt comfortable with every gun I got, including shotgunning enemies in the face at close range.  Not very sniperish, but fun nonetheless.  What they also accomplished was frustrating the shit out of me, because even though the level is capped at 8, I actually got some drops that were only available at level 10, and were substantially better than my best gear.  I felt as though the carrot was being dangled in front of me – but to be honest, I have no idea if they even intend to let people keep the characters from the beta, so not even sure if that’s the case, just how it felt.

Overall (and only so far) I think this is a really good game.  I hesitate at great, because it could certainly get repetitive if not done correctly.  It’s too early to say at this point.  I initially started the game by myself, and my friends later joined in, so we had our 3 man fireteam for the remainder of the evening.  Once the three of us got together, we were pretty much unstoppable.  If that’s what they were going for, I’d say they nailed it, and damn did we have fun once we all got together.

The game also has a ton of stars doing the voice work, and that is immediately evident so with the already impressive graphics it SHOULD be an amazing game at least story/presentation wise, but it lacks something and I can’t put my finger on what.  It might be because it’s the beta and things will be improved with the final release, it might not.  I’m honestly not sure yet on that one.

Someone else already mentioned HALO and the comparison is a fair one.  This game is very HALOesque, in visual, gameplay and style.  But it’s also distinctly not HALO in some ways as well; the biggest point of comparison being that I actually enjoy playing Destiny.  I never really liked HALO.  I just never got into it the way some people did (some very good friends included) and I really like what I’m playing with Destiny so far.   Destiny is also not HALO in that it doesn’t ever feel restrictive to me.  HALO always felt like I was being funneled towards the point they wanted me to reach to (obviously) finish the story.  If Skyrim taught us anything, it was that a story doesn’t have to be constricting or so linear that you can’t have exploration.  This game has exploration in spades, and I’m a sucker for that, so take it for what it’s worth.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

When did we get so cynical?

Maybe a better title would have included something about online trolls, but I think that would have come across as too negative.  Trolls aren't that bad... online trolls are a fucking epidemic.

There's this whole new generation of people that live to argue, and in doing so, they discover the internet and something (wholly predictable) happens to their brains.  They LOSE THEIR FUCKING MINDS with the power of being able to infinitely argue (even if they don't actually have an opinion on a subject) and to remain anonymous to the world at large.

I watch a lot of forums and the fans therein, and without fail, every few months or so, there is at least one new fan that signs up, and immediately wants to tell everyone there why they are wrong for what they think.  Not that they're wrong because they've misinterpreted something, or taken something out of context, or because they have created a set of events in their mind that never happened.  No, they're wrong because they have an opinion that doesn't agree with whatever this Argument Person thinks.  And of course, THEY could NEVER be wrong for what they think...  That's just unfathomable.

I've watched everything from people trying to say that the way we played games in the past was wrong because it was more difficult (I'd absolutely LOVE to know their opinions on Zombiiu and its controls that actually take your eyes off the screen in an attempt to create false difficulty) right on up to someone saying that genres don't actually exist because people have differing opinions as to what makes up said genre...  because that's logic.  [/sarcasm]

It's something of a pet peeve of mine to dismiss the opinions of others.  Their opinions are valuable to them, and when you dismiss and demean them, you are often dismissing and demeaning the person that believes them.  It's rude, childish, and immature to say the very least.  It's completely assholish (not really a word, I know, but you get what I'm saying) at its worst, and it needs to go away.  Unfortunately, the only way to do it is to ignore them.  It truly is a case of the only way to win is to not play the game, because these people don't need a reason to argue or even an actual point.  All they require is a response.

I saw an interesting graphic recently:

This perfectly describes the situation that these people create.  You can't beat them, you can't win, you can only leave them to their game and go play something else, preferably with a new chessboard, because who wants a playing field covered in shit?

Friday, June 6, 2014

What happened to zombie games?

I grew up loving zombies.  They were the perfect movie villains.  They were the enemies that you could kill without feeling bad about it -and one of my favorite games was Resident Evil - very zombiecentric.

But something has happened in the last 10-20 years in regards to zombies...  Something I'm none too comfortable with.

So, I've been at the research again.  Some of you that know me will likely roll your eyes, and think, "oh no, not again..."  and I totally understand that.  When I get on a tangent, I'm like a puppy with a sock, and tend not to let go until I'm missing a tooth...

Well, maybe not that bad.

At any rate, I've been working on zombies, and the idea that something that was once scary and unknown is now cannon fodder and mundane.  How did we get to the point that we are no longer afraid of zombies?  Well, I would argue that the introduction of zombies was likely something to create fear in people and that everything since then, in some way or another was to fight that fear, and get past it.

First, let’s look at what made us afraid of zombies in the first place.  I'm talking about the original concept of the 'zombie' and not the popular shuffling construct that we are seeing in mainstream media today, of course - the idea that a man was killed by a Bokor, then revived, enslaved and used primarily for manual labor.  This goes back to Haiti, and roots there in voodoo and other (I hesitate at 'mythology') religions and was a way to take away free will.  Notice that there is no mention of cannibalism, or trying to eat brains.  It was as simple as removing your ability to resist.  The idea that your corpse could get up and work without your consent WAS terrifying to people.  I suspect it is less so today, but it's still a disturbing concept, to say the least.  Something that actually led to me starting this research was from the book, "This Book is Full of Spiders (seriously dude, don't touch it), and I'll quote the excerpt here:

 “The zombie looks like a man, walks like a man, eats and otherwise functions fully, yet is devoid of the spark. It represents the nagging doubt that lays deep in the heart of even the most zealous believer: behind all of your pretty songs and stained glass, this is what you really are. Shambling meat. Our true fear of the zombie was never that its bite would turn us into one of them. Our fear is that we are already zombies.” 
David Wong

Now, that's obviously taking from the modern zombies, that the idea that the bite could spread the infection, or disease, and change YOU to a zombie as well, and I think that deviation was only because the original idea wasn't frightening enough.  If you think about it, someone had to be willing to commit murder to create a zombie.  They had to kill you, then bring you back to life, then maintain you in some way, even if it was just standing you in the closet at night.  The point is, there are only so many people that another person can kill and bring back to life, even if they worked at it every day and night for as long as they lived.  But MASS zombification, now that's terrifying...  at least, it was.  The idea that an infection or disease could cause dead flesh to rise is relatively new, and it has a purpose as well, to insulate us to the fear of the world around us.  We do this often, by the way.  When everyone was scared to death of nuclear power, there were movies and books and comic books about people getting radioactive powers (Spiderman, anyone?)  I'd be willing to bet that if a poll was taken today, most people are not all that worried about radiation, or nuclear power - and that's AFTER Chernobyl happened.

In the earliest of zombie movies, it was the Bokor, and it was limited to a small amount of people.  In the next phase, we had George Romero, and the idea that it could be spread - but in his case, and I believe he did this consciously, there was no explanation for what caused spread.  Not knowing, after all, definitely makes something more frightening.  It's only in the later years that we've sought a REASON for the start of the 'end of the world'.  That's part of the process as well, trying to explain what caused the problem.  It's part of solving the riddle, and if we can just figure out what happened, we can save everyone - in some cases, even the infected themselves.  At one point, there was no cure for zombiism, you were DEAD.  Now, we've gone to the idea that you are not only still alive somehow, but that you can be saved.  Never mind that physically, this would be all but impossible.  It's that spark of hope, that the process can be reversed.

At one point, not only could the spread not be determined to have a starting point, but it had no weaknesses either.  It was unstoppable, and for all practical reasons, it was unavoidable.  In the scenarios presented, you were almost certainly going to die horribly, and then come back and likely kill someone else - in all likelihood, someone you loved.  If that doesn't frighten you, you might be a sociopath.  NOW, we have zombie love stories, and after a little while (and eating the right brains to spark memories apparently) you can become human again.  While I liked the movie - it was entertaining - I just sit and sigh when I see it because it is such a disconnect from reality.    Then again, zombies are disconnects from reality as well, so far...

Back to the point - we've made zombies less frightening, and it was done by my generation most likely.  We grew up watching Romero zombies, and conversations with my friends about the zombies was generally centered around how WE would handle it - that WE wouldn't be so afraid, and that the idiots in the movies had to be the dumbest people on the earth to lose to ZOMBIES of all things.  They're slow, they're stupid, and they're weak.  That's the trifecta of losers in the horror universe.  To lose to zombies would be embarrassingly ridiculous.  And then we grew up.  Some of us became writers...  And now we have lovable zombies that only eat brains because they want to still feel human.  And they feel bad about killing people.  And they can be cured. And get girlfriends.

Zombies were once terrifying.  They were an idea that was the reminder that death was inescapable, but that what came after could be worse.  Zombies now are no longer frightening, they're victims.  We treat victims differently in our minds than we treat villains.  We feel sorry for victims.  We empathize.  It's difficult to be afraid of something like that.  It's easier to feel pity for them.

So in answer to my own question - Yes, zombies used to be more frightening, and it's by design that they are not now.