The guys at Rockstar promised some new Valentine’s Day themed gear so you can rampage with your significant other online, but is it enough to keep people interested?

With the terrible failure that was the GTA: O launch still fresh in the minds on users, Rockstar have tried to make it up to players with improved servers, the $500,000 stimulus package and free stuff packs for faithful players, it doesn’t seem enough to keep people interested. There is still no word on when the most anticipated aspect; heists, will be introduced into the online experience.

Heists were talked up by Rockstar as one of the most exciting parts on Grand Theft Auto: Online with apartments having heist planning rooms and being able to plan robberies with your friends. Just like the story mode, but instead of AI characters and hoping they don’t fall off their bike; you can chew out your friends when they screw up! (Seems like a good idea to me!)

The last few times I’ve played GTA:O, the servers have been half-full or below and I can’t get my friends to play. “Why? There’s nothing to do!” They lament. Which is true. The first week or so, we had so much fun taking selfies in the bathroom or trying to find the most outrageous spots to take photos. (Playboy mansion part, anyone?) but the novelty have worn off and it’s just not as fun anymore and I’m not sure that even when heists eventually make their debut, that it’ll be worth investing the 50+ hours that my clan and I played when the game first went live. (And we could all get online.)

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The argument that video games are forms of art has been made several times. An important part of art is the ability to criticise the artist, the art and the art form as a whole. It’s worked that way for centuries with other forms of tradition art.

However, with this new art form come new critics and new artists who aren’t used to taking such “harsh” criticism, even when it’s warranted.

TotalBiscuit on the Cynical Brit YouTube channel is well-known in the gaming industry for his fair, but often highly critical analysis of video games. Last year, after a scathing review of a video game called “Day One Garry’s Incident”, the game’s developer Wild Games filed a copyright claim against the “WTF is…” video in which the review appeared. (It should be noted that TotalBiscuit wasn’t the only critic who slammed the game. His review was just the most prolific.)

After some intense back and forth between the YouTube channel, it was revealed that Wild Games had filed the claim under a false pretence and were forced to apologise to TotalBiscuit for having the video taken down.

The incident revealed some pretty gaping flaws in YouTube’s copyright system.

It seems like history is repeating itself.

After the “WTF Is…  Guise of the Wolf?” appeared on Youtube being highly critical of the game’s mechanics, voice acting and how many bugs were in the game. TB told his audience that this game wasn’t worth the money that it was asking for.

This is where the fun begins. The creators of the game FUN Creators filed a false copyright claim against the video (all videos use Fair Use). TotalBiscuit’s reps sent the developers an email asking why copyright claim was filed and that it’s illegal to file a claim as the video is a critique. The reply email from FUN Creators implied that the review was a paid review by someone else to criticise the game and that they would get their lawyers involved to find out who was behind the review.

TotalBiscuit announced the issue and FUN Creators hit back saying that any emails that were release were faked and not from their studio. Both claims are incredibly serious but only one person was correct. TB again provided proof that Fun Creators were making serious threats against him and his channel.

Finally, at the end of all this, FUN Creators want TB to take down his channel, tweets and pretty much anything related to the incident or they’ll sic their lawyers on the channel and everyone involved.

I try to present these facts without too much bias to allow you to make up your own mind.

Personally, without my journalist or reviewer side kicking in, I’m sick of developers trying to manipulate the system for their advantage and try to remove any critical analysis of their work. Like I said at the beginning of… whatever this is, art is presented without comment and readily for critique. Without it, art has no meaning. Games can present a story and a purpose, but without critique, there can’t be any discussion of the deeper meaning of what the story means for the player or the world.

When more information comes to light, I’ll update this post.

TotalBiscuit logo by Jamspencer on DeviantART.

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Talking about new DLC and upcoming patches for Batman: Arkham Origins, Warner Brothers came out last week and said “The issues that are not progression blockers will unfortunately no longer be addressed.” Essentially, unless it’s a game breaking bug, you’re shit out of luck.

While talking to a friend about the amazing performance Troy Baker gives in Origins, my friend mentioned that he was pissed off that Warner Brothers had said more-or-less “fuck you” to their entire fan base. He put it down to the last generation (Xbox 360/PS3) coming out and developers/publishers trying to push more content out quicker, then patching it later. I have a few friends who also share this thought.

Unfortunately, there are a few development houses guilty of this style of publishing. With most households that have consoles/gaming PCs being connected to the Internet, why publish something correct the first time when you can slip a quick patch in every week or so? It’s disheartening to think that this could be the future of modern gaming.

Although, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With some developers willing to patch games day after day, there are still plenty of quality game makers who put games through their paces with vigorous game testing. Customers obviously play the biggest part in making changes to the industry and if people let it be known that they aren’t willing to buy broken game, perhaps the developers will start making finished games, instead of buggy ones.

(Quote from Warner Bros originally found here)

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In the month since I started the Steam Challenge, I’ve felt quite overwhelmed. Realising how much time and effort this will require, the size of my list, what I can finish and what I can’t; it’s all a lot to think about!

Some of the pressure has been relieved, thankfully, when this week I finished two games. I know it’s only two games, but it’s a start and sometimes that’s all you need.

This week I finished Mass Effect 2 (no plans to finish Mass Effect 3 since it isn’t in my Steam list, but I’ll probably import my character and actually finish Mass Effect 3… eventually) and a texty-point-and-clicky RPG called Monsters Love You.

My Mum asked me about this challenge recently. I explained to her the basic rules and regulations I’ve imposed on myself and what I’ll be doing. Her second question was “How many games do you need to play?”

“Well, I’ve got 100 games in my list and I’ve figured that I can play at least half of them before I have to start looking at games that I can’t actually finish.”

While my Mum doesn’t necessarily understand my work, her interest in it (or feigning of) is nice, too. Hopefully with the coming months and more games being completed, she’ll be my own personal cheer-squad.

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I actually think the Internet is working against me this year. When I decided to start the Steam Challenge, the first thing people said was “What about Humble Bundles!?” Ah, Humble Bundles…

If you’re not a gamer and don’t know what a Humble Bundle is, they’re a group of games that you purchase for whatever price you think they’re worth. The money you spend goes to charity. It’s a pretty cool idea. Some people just pay over the recommended price to get the extra goodies, but I’ve seen donations for games upwards of thousands of dollars.

So while I’ve been doing the Steam Challenge, I’ve pretty much ignored the Humble Bundle stuff on social media and such so that I won’t be tempted to buy anything. And then this happened:

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A text message from Tyr (the boyfriend) telling me about the new bundle and its games.  Apparently, the boyfriend has joined the evil forces of the Internet in trying to tempt me with new games. I went to look at what games the Codemasters Bundle included because apparently I’m a giant idiot who likes to tempt myself. Thankfully, the only games that really appealed were games I already had (thankfully!)

Humble Bundle: 0. Rade: 1.

In other news…

I’ve started Mass Effect 2, Peggle Deluxe, Plants vs. Zombies and Half-Life 2. I think that with two story-heavy games, Peggle and PvZ break up the long hours of game play. The list of games I’m playing is available here if you’ve got suggestions on what I should play!

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Steam Challenge: Week 1

Half a week in to the Steam Challenge and I haven’t completely lost my mind. After the initial freak out and planning stage (which didn’t go well, to be honest), I started playing games from the beginning and making some simple rules for my challenge to follow.

For the challenge to be a little easier to manage, I decided to go through the games I can play. I’ll go through all my games and make sure that I haven’t missed anything, but the list so far contains 52 games which is just over half of my Steam list.

Secondly, I realised that this challenge might interfere with the whole “review” part of my job description. So I add this clause, any game that I have to review doesn’t count towards this challenge. Although, all the games that I review, I buy for myself so that would go against the rules of the challenge.

Lastly, any game that I can’t finish (online games, multiplayer-only games), I will spend at LEAST half an hour playing and I’ll document it with a Let’s Play, to show that I’ve done it. At the end of the challenge (or when I break), I’ll put together a thing and write up what I discovered about gaming. Or something. Maybe I’ll just wax lyrical about crap like I normally do.

Like always, if you’ve got suggestions for what games to play, the list is linked above. Should I play them alphabetically? Short to long?

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Video games have a wonderful way to make people go on great adventures and have new experiences. Often, people use video games to escape something going on in their life. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I use video games as a way to vent my feelings in a safe way that doesn’t cause anyone any harm.

Statistics from Headspace (an organisation in Australia) say that 1 in 5 adolescence will suffer some form of diagnosable depression in their life and that depression also accompanies other mental illnesses like anxiety disorders or substance use disorders.

Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schakler’s game “Depression Quest” has just been greenlit for sale on Steam and  if you know someone who has depression, but doesn’t understand their way of thinking, or how to interact with them, I highly recommend this game.

From the very beginning, this text “adventure” game warns you that the experience you’re about to have is in no-way light hearted or fun. It’s meant to help people better understand the things that people with depression go through: social stigma, isolation.

The background is grey snow, like you’d see on televisions. While it doesn’t move, it gives off the bleakness that people with mental illness often see in going about their day-to-day lives. Background music plays to add depth; piano notes, I would assume. Mostly in the lower end of the scale which you’d think well suit a rainy day.

When you hit the “begin” button, you’re told information about the character you’re playing. You have a significant other named Alex and a job that you find somewhat boring, but it pays the rent. You and your parents both think you could be doing more with your life, but trying to figure out what that means is difficult.

Depression Quest then starts discussing some feelings that your character is feeling; Guilt, anger and exhaustion from the lack of sleep.

During the day to day events of your character (who doesn’t have a specific sex or name, as it is meant to be you in these shoes), you’re given choices to select from once you’ve read the text. Sometimes the “normal” options will be crossed out and you’ll be forced to choose something that you don’t feel like you would do.

At the end of the page, you’re given a summary of your mental and social situation. Depending on what interactions you choose, your quest will go a different way.

No matter what I say about this short, heart-felt game, I’m torn. On the one hand, I love the simplicity of it. It’s straight to the point and really, that’s what it needs to be. But, it breaks my heart. These “fictional” choices that I’m making are choices that I’ve made in real life myself. Avoiding socialisation with people because I either feel awkward around them or in my own skin, lying to myself about doing work due to a lack of motivation or lack of faith in myself.

In the end, this game will attract two kinds of people: People who already have depression or people who are curious about depression. It’s a heart-breaking and enlightening tale that could help open the eyes of people who think that depression is just something people can shake off and will perhaps, make them take it seriously.

 

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I often feel this pang of guilt when I look over my Steam list and see games that I’ve bought and never played. My number (101 games) isn’t much by any means (my friend Lasers has 247) but, I’m somewhat ashamed that I’ve probably only really finished maybe a quarter of the games on my list.

Then this appeared on my Facebook newsfeed.

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“Beat every game in my library? Can I do it?” I pondered to myself, forgetting that I’d only been awake for an hour and thus am probably too tired to actually realize what the fuck I’m taking on.

Looking over my games list, I do notice some games that I can’t really “finish”; MMOs, only multiplayer FPS games. So, with that in mind, I add only one caveat: games I start MUST have a definite ending. I see Skyrim being a massive problem for me. While I’ve finished the main storyline before, there are a butt-ton of side quests to do. What counts as beating a game? Do I have to 100% it? Get all the achievements? Jesus Christ, what did I just sign up for!?

I plan on logging some Let’s Plays while doing this so you can see my progress while also updating you on the blog and Facebook page. If I can get Twitch to work, I might even do some live streaming. Obviously, this is a massive task and it’s probably going to take me all year to do it so I’m wondering who thinks I can do it, who thinks I can’t and do you think we can get Waterhouse to take bets?

Now, what game to start with?

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Kingdom_Hearts_Crash_Course_part_1

I have a friend who is obsessed with Kingdom Hearts. I think the only thing he’s more obsessed with is Lady Gaga. So, with his obsession in mind and the gift cards I received at Christmas in hand, I thought I’d dive into the world of the Disney-RPG and bought Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix. This review will be about the first Kingdom Hearts games and if that ends positively, I’ll play through the other games and write about them too.

I should probably note that I never really played the PS2 version of Kingdom Hearts. I mean, I played bits and pieces with my friend, but I never sat down and invested hundreds of hours into it, so this won’t be a comparison of the old and the new. This review is more of a review of the game and not the updated game and ways that the developers have improved graphics, gameplay, controls, etc.

The lynching may now proceed…

Sora, Riku and Kairi live on a tropical island in some non-descript ocean with dreams of sailing away on a home-made raft and visiting other worlds. The plan is suddenly ruined when dark creatures known as The Heartless appear on the island and separate the three friends across the Disney universe. Sora eventually teams up with Goofy and Donald Duck who are trying to find King Mickey, who has suddenly vanished from his castle. The three try to find their friends by visiting the previously unconnected Disney worlds; visiting places like Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland), Halloween Town (The Nightmare before Christmas) and Hundred Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh). There’s a nice mix of places to visit for every Disney fan.

The first thing you notice about Kingdom Hearts is the musical score since it’s the first thing you hear when you start the game. Composed by Yoko Shimomura, the game features melodies from the Disney movies each world is based on and some wonderful original content. Hikaru Utada lends her voice to “Simple and Clean”. The original compositions for Kingdom Hearts are beautiful and soothing while the recomposed melodies from the Disney movies for the relevant worlds are a nice touch. I found myself singing “Under the Sea” while swimming around the oceans with Ariel.

The animation style and art suits the style of game well. It’s still “gravity-defying hair” enough for Final Fantasy fans to keep them satisfied but the cartoonish art style will keep Disney fans feeling nostalgic. All the different Disney worlds are created to pack the essence of whatever movie they’re inspired by into a few different levels. While the individual worlds themselves are huge, the universe is pretty massive. There are 8 Disney inspired worlds plus the rest of the universe which includes Traverse Town (your “base” for the game), Destiny Islands (where Sora, Riku and Kairi are from) and the two last worlds. With enough gameplay to keep fans of both series’ entertained, the game is incredibly long with just story missions alone. Side quests involving missing 99 Dalmatian puppies, lost pages for Merlin and finding every trinity mark keeps the game going for hours.

Villains come in two flavours: Heartless and classic Disney villains. Maleficent is the brains behind the operation, manipulating the rest of the villains like Jafar, Oogey Boogey, Ursula and the gang. And, of course, she plays the part perfectly.

The creatures you’ll encounter during the levels are The Heartless. Devoid of a heart (no, really!?), they’re drawn to Sora, his Keyblade and his pure heart. They range from small shadows to giant monsters and all want to steal the hearts of those around them and their difficulty varies along with them. Since you can’t change the difficulty setting during the game (something that I’m actually pretty happy about), it’s good to see that the enemies grow stronger when you do. Boss battles are challenging, sometimes infuriatingly so. There’s never a dull moment with The Heartless.

Travelling between the worlds becomes a lot easier once you’ve finished the first few worlds with the addition of a warp gummi to your gummi ship! To travel to new worlds, you still need to blast your way through space-bound enemies, but once you’ve arrived at the new world, you can travel to and from previously seen worlds with ease.

My main issue with the game is the camera. In automatic mode, it’ll do its own thing which can work against you in a battle. I’ve died several times because I haven’t seen an attack coming because the camera is looking at something else. In manual mode, the camera doesn’t feel responsive to the player’s input. It’s easier to use than automatic mode, but that isn’t saying much. From people I’ve asked, the camera has improved since the PS2 version but I’ve really got nothing to compare it too. With the battles being intense and generally involving multiple enemies, a dodgy camera can be the undoing of a good game.

I never really saw the appeal of Kingdom Hearts when it first came out. Mostly because it came out after my PS2 died and I’d bought an Xbox so I didn’t really have a way to play it on my own but with the wonders of technology, I’m able to play, and enjoy this gem of a game. Camera problems aside, being able to fly around the universe with Goofy and Donald and team up with some of my favourite Disney characters is a lot of fun. With some Final Fantasy characters making appearances too, it’s a good introduction to the Final Fantasy world. Once I’ve finished with Kingdom Hearts, I might make a run for some of those games too. What number are they up to these days?

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A lot of YouTubers are reporting wide-spread copyright infringements on videos that include video game material, according to several news outlets including Polygon.

To some, this comes as little surprise after the TotalBiscuit saga where John Bain (better known as the Cynical Brit) had a video removed by WildGameStudios who are responsible for Day One: Garry’s Incident. (They have since apologized and removed their claim.) However, this practice of using the copyright system against YouTubers to remove videos is becoming worrying more prevalent.

It appears that in the last week, YouTube has started scanning Let’s Play and Review channels for so-called “copyright” material and issuing warnings or infringements on accounts. Channels as large as TheRadBrad and Machinima are having their inboxes flooded with warning notices.

My YouTube channel is incredibly small (24 subscribes, heeeeeeeyoooooo!) and I’ve had copyright notices sent to my account, but not since August when my last Let’s Play went live. As a small channel and an unknown reviewer, the complex copyright laws which exist in the US (where YouTube and company owner Google operate) scare the Hell out of me. Even the laws here in Australia tend to work against anyone wanting to use material under “Fair Use”.

Some publishers are notorious for issuing warnings against YouTubers for even mentioning their material in games, but others like Blizzard and Capcom are telling users to challenge any infringement notices.

The issue is sticky. Copyright laws vary from country to country and no-one understands why YouTube are suddenly on the warpath for potentially infringing material. YouTubers are responding appropriately, though:

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