You know, Activison CEO Bobby Kotick, maybe we were wrong about you. You've said some pretty ridiculous things in the past, but now you've gone and mentioned a StarCraft movie. Perhaps its time we learn to forgive and forge... wait. What did you just say? Sorry, what?!
"If we were to take that hour, or hour and a half [of StarCraft II cut-scenes], take it out of the game, and we were to go to our audiences for whom we have their credit card information as well as a direct relationship and ask, 'Would you like to have the StarCraft movie?', my guess is that ... you'd have the biggest opening weekend of any film ever," he said during Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference (via Gamasutra).
"Within the next five years, you are likely to see us do that. That may be in partnership with somebody, it may be alone," he added.
Oh, but that's not all. Instead of hitting the big screen, Kotick plans to put these suckers online, where he hopes the other kind of sucker – you know, the kind far richer in wallet than common sense – will spend up to $20 or $30 to watch them. So basically, he wants to charge more for less.
We could fill an entire book with ways this idea could go horribly wrong, but instead, we'll sum it up with one word: Youtube.
Seems like only yesterday that All Points Bulletin hit the mean, crime infested streets. Oh yeah, that's because it basically was. The cops 'n' robbers MMO launched on June 29 of this year, and, well, it had some issues. Not nearly as many issues, however, as its developer Realtime Worlds, who recently put an entire development team on the chopping block and declared bankruptcy.
And now, after failing to attract a buyer, it looks as though All Points Bulletin's gone straight from the cradle into the grave.
“APB has been a fantastic journey, but unfortunately that journey has come to a premature end. Today we are sad to announce that despite everyone’s best efforts to keep the service running; APB is coming to a close. It’s been a pleasure working on APB and with all its players. Together we were building an absolutely amazing game, and for that, we thank you. You guys are awesome!” wrote Realtime Worlds community manager Ben Bateman.
According to anonymous sources, APB's servers will be going dark tomorrow, never to see the light of day again. Which is a real shame, seeing as Realtime Worlds had a pretty solid roadmap in place for how to fix the game. Unfortunately, life's great Game Over screen appeared, and they didn't have enough coins to continue.
Those of you with virtual homes, possessions, and families, let this serve as a cautionary tale for you. They could all be snatched away – just like that! Now shower them with affection. Show them just how much you love them. Huh? You have to go tell your kids a bedtime story? The nerve! Can't they wait? You're in the middle of something important, after all.
We're pretty sure Dawn of War II is the only RTS in existence that requires more micromanagement before you're able to play the game than while you're clickity-clicking through the thick of battle. See, in order to even view the sci-fi strategy title's start screen, you have to first negotiate your way past two login menus – one for Steam and one for Games For Windows Live. In addition to that relatively minor annoyance, most of you probably know GFWL by its true acronym: SATAN.
Fortunately, THQ's decided that it's high-time Microsoft's online games “service”/dark lord of the underworld be kicked to the curb. From here on out, it's full Steam ahead.
"The move to Steamworks will also allow us to provide features like guest passes, free multiplayer weekends, pre-loading and the ability to provide fast turn-around on future patches and updates,” said THQ in a statement.
"This new back end will allow players to invite friends into matches from their Steam friends lists and take advantage of the full set of Steam community features including groups, achievements, and Steam overlay chat channels.”
Dawn of War II: Retribution, which is scheduled to launch in March 2011, will be among THQ's first to finally tell GFWL that “no means 'no'” and declare that its one true love has always been Steam. Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, to continue the metaphor, will be singing its best rendition of 'N Sync's “Bye, Bye, Bye” to GFWL as well. Good riddance, eh? This makes us almost as happy as when we heard 'N Sync broke up.
Sorry, folks. If you're at a loss about what your college major should be, how best to finally approach that cute girl who works over in human resources, or which Star Wars prequel is the absolute worst, playing a couple rounds of TF2 probably won't bequeath unto you some sort of life-altering revelation. But we make hundreds of tiny decisions – usually based on visual or aural cues – each day, and according to a study from the University of Rochester, fast-paced first-person shooters can rewire our brains to get the lead out before we, among other things, die horrifically gruesome deaths.
"Decisions are never black and white," said researcher Daphne Bavelier. "The brain is always computing probabilities. As you drive, for instance, you may see a movement on your right, estimate whether you are on a collision course, and based on that probability make a binary decision: brake or don't brake."
In a test of 18-to-25-year-olds who didn't typically play videogames, Bavelier and co. found that those in their Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty 2 group made such split-second decisions up to 25 percent faster than those in their Sims 2 group. Too much speed, though, makes us sloppy, right? Wrong, surprisingly enough.
"It's not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster," Bavelier said. "Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference."
So then, surgeons, soldiers, and race car drivers of the world, look out, because gamers are gunning for your jobs. And here's the kicker: they're probably better at them than you.
You've probably heard the little devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear on at least a couple occasions: “It's easy. You'll finally get to taste victory against those jerks with no lives who make your life miserable. And besides, you don't even know them. Who cares if they're not having fun?” Now though, there's one pretty major argument against all those tiny temptations: If you get caught cheating in StarCraft II, Blizzard's gonna huff, puff, and blow your StarCraft II account down.
“If a StarCraft II player is found to be cheating or using hacks or modifications in any form, then as outlined in our end user license agreement, that player can be permanently banned from the game. This means that the player will be permanently unable to log in to Battle.net to play StarCraft II with his or her account,” Blizzard said in a recent statement.
“If a Battle.net account is banned, a player will no longer have access to the single and multiplayer content,” the developer later clarified to PC Gamer.
So basically, Blizzard has your hard-earned cash hostage, dangling over a pit of flames. You cheat, and snap! That thin cord holding it aloft tears in two, and you lose every last dime you spent on your copy of StarCraft II. Not to mention, of course, your progress, achievements, win-loss record, etc. Everything goes down the drain. Which, honestly, still doesn't sound quite as good as our preferred cheat deterrent of allowing us to personally punch each and every cheater in the face, but until we can work out the logistical kinks in that plan, this will have to do.
What do we mean when we say “big-budget” videogame? This. Put simply, if EA’s latest revival of its long-running military shooter franchise doesn’t move at least three million copies from shelves, Medal of Honor’s getting shelved again.
“I’m not going to be able to do another one,” executive producer Greg Goodrich told the New York Times in reference to the three million sales figure.
For obvious reasons, then, game publishers have begun to seek out supplementary revenue streams in order to make up for the fact that major titles cost so many arms and legs to develop that the end result is an entire nation of stump people. DLC’s an especially popular example, although subscription fees, in-game ads, and tons of tiny microtransactions also help to level the playing field.
Medal of Honor’s success notwithstanding, however, the question arises: Is this business model sustainable? Games aren’t getting any cheaper to create, and as technology improves, even deeper pockets will be needed to fund top-of-the-line videogames. In the words of one of the brightest minds of our time: “Ruh-roh, Raggy!”
From the folder titled “Wait, what?” comes word that Valve’s initial concept for Portal 2 was a bit avant garde – even for Valve, the studio that brought us such hits as “MIT Scientist Fights Aliens,” “Cartoon Mercenaries Kill Each Other for Hats,” and “MIT Scientist Fights Aliens Again.” See, Portal 2 was going to give the portal gun the weighted companion cube treatment. That’s right: no more portals.
“One of the ideas was: what if the Portal franchise is, instead of always being about Portals – which’d be tough because it’s called Portal – but what if it was always about introducing a new puzzle element that you’re going through? it’s about Aperture Science, and now you’re going through this new testing track with this new element,” writer Erik Wolpaw told PC Gamer.
You can probably already see, however, where this is going. Wolpaw continued:
“We pretty quickly found that, even though we had a couple of pretty interesting mechanics, that people would always, to a person, every play tester we had would say, ‘Yeah this is alright, but where’s my portal gun?’”
As a result, gameplay mechanics like puddles of goo paint with different, gameplay altering properties switched from being central mechanics to a secondary ones, and thus, the Portal 2 we all know and love was born.
So hooray for that. Sure, we love a good brain teaser and all – so we can understand where Valve was coming from -- but it doesn’t take too much gray matter to figure out that maybe removing the feature that made your game so popular in the first place isn’t the best idea -- especially when you're dealing with a horde of easily outraged gamers.
Two Assassin's Creed games. Two years. Two delays on PC.
This time around, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's had the poisonous delay dagger slipped between its ribs, and won't come out of its feverish coma until Q1 of 2011. The game's console versions, meanwhile, are parkouring like it's 1499 en route to a November 2010 release.
Ubisoft didn't offer any reason for the delay, instead opting to bury the news at the bottom of a press release about its upcoming console multiplayer beta. When Assassin's Creed II took its tumble, though, the publisher cited technical issues. We're guessing something similar's at play here as well.
Here's hoping we'll at least get a little time shaved off our sentence to Ubisoft's DRM hell out of all this. Happily, the publisher actually opted to use Steam DRM for its recent RTS, R.U.S.E. However, just as we began to plan a giant parade/party – complete with a 12-foot-tall “All is Forgiven” cake that, mostly jokingly, we were going to hurl off a cliff the second Ubisoft's Internet connection dipped – Ubisoft declared that its DRM would still be the rule for most of its games. R.U.S.E., unfortunately, was just an exception.
No one likes loose ends. They’re messy, inconclusive, and – in some cases – can potentially lead to the birth of morally questionable god babies. Fortunately, BioWare’s latest double-helping of downloadable content takes some major loose ends and ties them tight in both Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2.
First up, Dragon Age is going on a Witch Hunt, which also happens to be the last we’ll see of Ferelden until Dragon Age 2 comes out. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that a certain witchy woman’s back in the picture, and she’s up to no good. Remember that thing at the end of Origins? This might just have something to do with that.
Meanwhile, over in Mass Effect land, the Shadow Broker – who’s been a professional jerkwad and certified pain in Shepard’s ass since Mass Effect 1 – is finally (hopefully) going down in Lair of the Shadow Broker. If nothing else, though, you’ll definitely get to trash his house and continue your relationship with Liara, so we’re definitely not complaining.
Witch Hunt will run you $7.00, while Lair of the Shadow Broker comes in a bit heavier at $10.00. Both are out now, so what are you waiting for? Outer Space and Fantasy Land need saving from [SPOILERS] and [SPOILERS]! Now go [SPOILERS]!
These days, it’s rare for a game to drop out of nowhere and turn us into sweaty, drooling masses capable only of slobbering out the words “Woah,” “Dude,” and “[Speechless],” but to say Firefall pulled it off would be a serious understatement. See, the game heralds from Red 5 Studios, a startup founded by World of Warcraft’s former team lead and Tribes’ lead designer, and it basically woah, dude, woah, [speechless], woah, dude. Sorry about that. See what we mean, though?
The game’s described as a "a team-based action shooter that thrusts hundreds of players together into a lush, dynamic open world combining intense competitive multiplayer and large-scale cooperative gameplay," but that really doesn’t do it justice. The first in-game trailer – which you can see on Firefall’s official site – makes up for that in spades, however, and we highly, highly recommend you take a break from our halfway-incoherent ramblings to give it a look-see.
However, for those unable to view the trailer for whatever incredibly unfortunate reason, here’s the gist: it’s like they’ve taken the best bits of WoW, Tribes, and Borderlands, baked them all into a casserole, and then served them up on a tray garnished with all our hopes and dreams. In other words: Jetpacks! Loot! Bug monsters! Jetpacks again!
If you hadn’t guessed already, this is one to watch. It’s currently slated to launch at the end of next year, but you can sign up for the beta test right now. So go! Make haste! If it helps, take this paddle and canoe down our giant river of drool! You (probably) won’t be sorry!