Friday, June 28, 2013

Hotline Miami and a few words on Used Games  


Games: Thanks so much to everyone for the strong interest in the letters series on Alpha Protocol.  It was really heartening to see how many fans the game has out there, and how many of you were expressing interest in checking it out.  Sparky and I are both currently playing the second sections of the game, so look for the next installment of our discussion sometime this weekend.


In other games news, I finally got around to playing Hotline Miami yesterday.  I’ve had my eye on it for a while, but I knew it was coming to the Vita, so I held out.  I'm glad I waited, but to be honest, it’s been a very hot/cold experience. 

When things are going well, it really pops.  The feeling of sneaking around a corner and taking out guards is great, and walking out of a building after a “job well done” is quite satisfying.  However, things only go well a small fraction of the time, and only after many, many retries.

I don’t know how it handles on PC, but on the Vita it controls like a greased-up squirrel tweaking on meth. The unit’s sticks have never been my favorite, and those combined with the general control layout, the super sensitive/specific shooting mechanics and the lightning-fast reaction of the enemies make for a fairly high level of frustration.  It’s great that the developers allow retries almost instantaneously, but I’d rather see some polish applied to making it handle just a little more calmly.

The AI can also be fairly maddening – the game randomizes certain things including weapon drops and enemy behavior, so just when you start to get into a good pattern for clearing out the floor, things change up and your best-laid plans go out the window.  I guess it makes sense in a way since it can be seen as a vaguely equivalent to the random behavior of the people that would ostensibly be hunted, but it drives me crazy to see stuff like an enemy acting totally oblivious in one run, only to have super-sharp hearing in the next.

I have to say that I really didn’t care for the game very much in the first few levels, but I’ve heard so many people praise it that I was compelled to push on.  Now that I’m much further in, I can see the appeal – there’s definitely something about the way the various elements of the experience come together and like I said earlier, when things come together it really pops.  A slightly lower level of aggravation would be appreciated, but I’m hanging in there.


Just a random tidbit here, but I’ve heard a few developers lately talking about why they are in favor of DRM and getting rid of used games.  I know this is a huge discussion and I don’t really want to get into every aspect of it right here, but there are few things I need to get off my chest:

1> If there are no used games, then sales of new games are going to go down, period. 

I don’t have hard numbers, but my gut feeling is that the very large percentage of the game-playing audience won’t be able to drop $60 as often as the industry thinks they will, and when they do, it will likely only be for titles that they see as “can’t miss” projects.  For those developers who are taking risks or who are an unknown quantity, don’t expect to sell a million at full price.

2> If there are no ways to buy and sell used games, developers are going to go out of business even faster than they are now. 

Why do I say this?  It’s simple – if I buy Gears of War digitally, then Epic made their money.  Hurray for them.  The buck stops there. 

However, if I had bought it on a disk (or resellable digital) then I could trade that in and kick in a few bucks to buy Batman.  I wouldn’t have been able to buy it outright, but with my used game defraying the cost, I can.  Oh look, Rocksteady just got paid.  And if I can trade that in after I’m done, I can knock down the price of my next new game, and pick up The Last of Us.  Hey, check it out… Naughty Dog just got paid. 

By my count, that’s three developers who got paid with a consumer like me taking part in a used game ecosystem. 

In a scenario where used games don’t exist and all sales are final, Epic would’ve been the only one to make a buck and those other two studios would be left with a big fat zero.

3> I’ve heard some developers say that used games need to go away so that the increasingly-large budgets needed to create games can be sustained.

As we are currently seeing (and have been seeing for a while now) there are very few blockbuster-sized games that are able to make a return on the investment needed to craft them.  I’m not sure what kind of business thinking has led to this “go big or go home” mentality, but it’s incredibly poor business practice to put so many eggs into so few baskets and then hope and pray that an unreal number of copies will be sold in order to turn a profit.

I’m not a developer but I do know about business, and the way I see it, if there’s no realistic way to make a profit on a huge game, then you need to make a smaller game. Additionally, I eagerly look forward to the day when this fallacious stigma about releasing games for less than $60 at retail will go away.  

I don’t know about you, but I’m way more inclined to pick up three games for $20 or two games for $30 than I am to pick up just one for $60.  And I’m not sure where this idea that anything less than full price is guaranteed to be a crappy game, but it’s ridiculous and I believe there are lessons to be learned from other media – in most other businesses, lower price leads to selling higher volumes, and when managed properly, higher volumes equal higher profits.

I’ve got a lot more to say on these topics, but that’ll do me for now.


The Guacamelee! Costume Pack is available now in North America for $1.99 and will be available in Europe and the rest of the world tomorrow for €1.59/£1.25.

Character skins:

POLLO LUCHADOR: Players will love the soothing caress of an always-regenerating health meter just as much as the soothing caress of their full-body chicken suit. Is that velvet? Just try to ignore the fact that stamina doesn’t regenerate as quickly.
SKELETON: Undead luchador not undead enough for combatants? Become even MORE undead! Gamers can tear through enemies with the implacable stamina of an angry, brittle bone-person, but don’t expect much help from health pickups.
IDENTITY SWAP: Cats are barking and dogs meowing! Tostada is dressed as a brawny wrestler! Juan is spooky and bandage-wrapped! These alternate forms of the main characters have tougher punches, but can’t throw for beans.


The Costume Pack offers luchadores new challenges and trophies that make getting platinum look like child’s play. Put on the Skeleton-suit in the terrifying Caverna del Pollo, explore the countryside looking for the Chicken brothers or showdown against Calaca while wearing only bandages to earn even more trophies.


Hotline Miami, the award winning, brutal, top down indie action game from Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital is available today on the PlayStation®3 (PS3®) computer entertainment system and the PlayStation®Vita (PS Vita) portable entertainment system for $9.99.

Hotline Miami is a high-octane action game demanding sharp reactions and a creative approach to navigate a gauntlet of 20 multi-screen missions. Players can wield any of the 35 different weapons or slip on one of the dozens of unlockable animal masks to conceal their identity and tweak the gameplay in their favor. A punishing—yet addictive—experience, the game features a gritty, retro visual style, a driving soundtrack, and a surreal chain of events that will have players questioning their thirst for blood.

Hotline Miami for PS3 and PS Vita introduces trophies and leaderboards for each level, ranking friends and players worldwide based on score, with a note on which mask was used to achieve it. Exclusive to PS3 and PS Vita, the new Russell Mask gives the game a whole new flavor as it changes the visuals to black and white with only the red from the blood and the neon from the UI coloring the screen. The PlayStation Vita version also features touch lock-on aiming; players can tap the screen to lock-on to a target as they stalk enemies from room to room.

Hotline Miami is available today on PS3 and PS Vita, and now available on PC, Mac, and Linux from Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital for $9.99. Hotline Miami is rated M for Mature. Please visit the ESRB website for more information about ratings: For more information, please visit or follow @HotlineMiami on Twitter.


Following on from the recent release of Remember Me, Capcom has teamed up with British author Scott Harrison and Orb Entertainment to bring a brand new eBook adventure to market. Remember Me: The Pandora Archive is available to purchase across a range of vendors, including Kindle, Kobo and Google Play.

Set several months before the events of the game, this eBook story takes readers on an action packed adventure with Nilin, a former elite memory hunter who has the unique ability to break into people’s minds and memories.

The Remember Me: The Pandora Archive eBook is available to download now across Europe and North America. Remember Me is available to purchase now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. For more information on the game please visit the Capcom Press Siteand for additional information on the eBook contact


Esteemed indie developer NeocoreGames today announced that The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing’s second DLC, Blue Blood, is now available worldwide for $1.99 on Windows® PC via Steam

Blue Blood enables players to turn their female ghost companion Lady Katarina into a more efficient monster hunter by introducing a new accessory that opens up a new skill tree. Eight brand new skills are now available to Katarina including Wraith Frenzy that boosts her attack rate and Chillwave, which creates an aura that will decrease enemy movement, attack, and casting speeds. She also has new abilities such as summoning two ghost mirages of herself to fight alongside Van Helsing and the chance for Katarina to earn hit points for each Rage point spent. Please note that Blue Blood requires a Steam version of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing.

In the meantime, the development team rolled out new expansions to Scenario Mode as well, including a new system of rewards for killing monsters and two new scenarios within the Croakwood and The Rookery. The new reward system allows players to gain Glory points for killing monsters, which then can be spent on bonuses in several areas among all in-game characters a player has created.


The revolution has begun! Sanctum 2: Road to Elysion, the first of four DLC expansion packs for the tower-defense/FPS hybrid Sanctum 2, launches today on Steam. From Swedish indie developers Coffee Stain Studios, Road to Elysion is centered around a new shadowy playable character, TSYGAN, as she reveals the sinister origins of the conflict on LOEK III.  Delivering intricate maps, advanced new weapons, uniquely cool perks and sadistically enhanced enemies, Road To Elysion delivers a thrilling, intense chapter to theSanctum universe.

Watch the new live-action launch trailer HERE 

Sanctum 2: Road To Elysion Expansion Pack Key Features:
• New Playable Character - TSYGAN, the “Rogue Insurgent”, reveals the sinister origins to the colonization of LOEK III.
• Diverse Maps – Four new maps with exciting gameplay elements adding refreshing new tactics and replayability.
• Two Mega Powered Weapons – Take hold of the Rapid-firing Gatling Laser & TSYGAN’s own handheld Ballista!
• Two Distinct Towers – The Range Spire dramatically increases the reach of nearby offensive towers and the Slow Field Dispenser dramatically hinders the speed of enemies to make choke points more effective.
• Enhanced Enemies - With new support monsters that heal and mutate the attacking horde and a vicious new aerial enemy boss, players must be prepared for this heightened challenge.
• Additional Perks – Customize your character even more with six new perks, including a perk that gives you an in-game pet robot that will fight for you.

Combining key gameplay elements of both tower-defense and first-person shooter genres, Sanctum 2 players take on the role of an elite soldier whose mission is to protect the oxygen-producing Cores from hordes of deadly aliens who are threatened by their very existence.  The new Road to Elysion expansion pack delves deeper into the main storyline revealing a sinister secret behind the colonization of Loek III.  Players set up defensive towers to take out the waves of attacking enemies and then jump head-on into the fray, either alone or as part of a squad in four-player co-op multiplayer.

Sanctum 2: Road To Elysion DLC expansion pack is now available on Steam for $3.99.  With more massive DLC updates coming in the near future, fans should take advantage of the Sanctum 2 Season Pass which includes all four planned expansion packs for $11.99.

Sanctum 2 is now available for $14.99 on PC and the suggested price point of 1200 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live. For the latest news and updates on Sanctum 2, please visit, ‘Like’ the game on Facebook and follow the development team @Coffee_Stain.

The AbleGamers Charity is thrilled to announce the Summer of Fun program, which includes the latest round of grants now open for submissions. All gamers with disabilities who are in need of assistive technology to aid gaming are eligible to receive equipment regardless of age.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic over our Summer of Fun initiative,” said Mark Barlet, President and Founder of the AbleGamers Charity. “These grants are the main reason we do our Pachinko for Charity and other fundraising events. We expect to receive thousands of requests and we will fill as many of them as funding allows.”

“It’s an honor to be able to give back,” said John Warren, Founder of Minicore Studios. “Minicore is a huge supporter of the AbleGamers Charity. We love what they do for the gaming community and those with disabilities. This was a perfect opportunity to get involved and help gamers with disabilities play.”

“Giving these grants is the most wonderful part of what we do,” said Steve Spohn, Editor-In-Chief and Outreach Chair for AbleGamers. “With over 60 million gamers with disabilities, we have a lot of giving to do. And this year we’re going to give more equipment than ever before thanks to our industry partners.”

Minicore Studios provided additional funding to support the initiative. The Summer of Fun grant program will be accepting requests for equipment until July 31, 2013. Grant applications will then be reviewed by the AbleGamers board and given out to those who need the equipment the most until funding for the program is depleted. To submit a request for equipment, please visit the grant application, here.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Letters on: Alpha Protocol  

Games: Way, way, waaaay back in... 2010, both @SparkyClarkson and I reviewed Obsidian's espionage-based action RPG, Alpha Protocol

(For reference, this is what he said, and this is what I said.)

Despite getting a fairly savage reception at the time (and that's putting it mildly) it's gone on to become something of a cult favorite to those willing to look past its many mechanical failings thanks to some brilliant things going on in its conceptual side. 

Sparky was kind enough to invite me to participate in a letters series focusing on this under-appreciated title, and here's our opening salvo.

Hey Brad,
Glad you decided to join me for a playthrough of Alpha Protocol - the game where your weapon is choice, so long as that choice doesn't involve your gender, race, sexual orientation, or actual weapons.

That came out a little harsher than I intended. But it’s confusing to be handed a game that advertises choice and then mandates that you wake up as Grumpy McWhitebro, the hero of a thousand more or less identical faces. You never know where these choices come from, though. Did Sega’s reps thump the desk and insist we get Mr. McWhitebro, or did Obsidian positively make that choice to cut down on the magnitude of their task?

They’ve set themselves a pretty stiff challenge, after all. Come into a world of tactical espionage and play as the kind of spy you want to be. The touchstones here are the James Bond suave type, hyper-competent Jason Bourne professional, and the Jack Bauer mad dog. And, with some limited exceptions, the conversation system seems to be very well realized. I got a few unpleasant surprises in Mike Thorton’s dialogues, but nothing so awful as to stand out.

Of course, the game was also supposed to offer some variety when it came to tactical approach, but that didn’t really work out. The stealth tree skills are so useful that it’s madness to focus on anything else, and the only weapon that really works with stealth is the pistols, not to mention that the chain-shot is the best attack ability in the game. So really, you’re stuck with only one build.

Similarly, there aren’t actually a lot of different paths through the encounters, at least not yet. I mean, the graybox is just a tutorial level, but most of the Saudi areas admit of only one route through major areas. And that path is enforced in aggressively silly ways, blocked off by low boxes Thorton should easily be able to clamber over, “rough” terrain that wouldn’t stop me, and the total absence of a disguise system (C’mon Mike, these guys are all wearing balaclavas! Take the hint!). The choice to rely on action-button athleticism rather than a truly traversable world is the one that sits worst with me, and dealing with these low barriers that you just can’t vault over because nobody planned it is a constant frustration for my stealth-oriented play.

But, it’s incredibly difficult to design levels that are rewarding for many different playstyles, which is part of why the Deus Ex lineage is so revered. Perhaps less well-recognized is that it’s incredibly difficult to create a story that fits all playstyles. The three touchstone spies I discussed may all have the initials J.B., but that’s about where the similarity between the worlds they inhabit and the dangers they confront ends. A confrontation between, say, Bauer and Auric Goldfinger would be a dramatic disaster (also a bloodbath). Bond would be totally nonplussed by Bourne’s CIA - a whole agency full of people he can’t have sex with. Bourne might get on reasonably well in Bauer’s world, except that he appears to be pathologically incapable of working in a team.

Stories have to fit their central characters, and when a player gets to choose what kind of character the protagonist is, the whole constellation of secondary characters and plots has to go along and somehow fit in.
The advantage that the Bond-style character (for certain values of “James Bond”) has is that he can grease the wheels by playing off ill-fitting parts of the story as a laugh. That’s important, because spy-operative fiction is, for the most part, completely ridiculous. Consider the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me, a fusion of downhill skiing and a gunfight that ends with a fantastic BASE jump. The action is exhilarating; it’s still the best pre-credits teaser in the series, and possibly ever. It’s also totally goofy and absurd, and for proof of this one need look no further than later in the movie where merely describing what went down completely detonates a should-be-serious scene where Bond justifies killing the lover of Russian agent Triple-X (groan).

But Bond movies, at least until they reached Daniel Craig’s amoral psychopath Bond, have tended to understand and accept their absurdity in a way that the po-faced Bourne and Bauer adventures never do. The squinty-eyed masculinity of those characters would fall apart in the face of a Bond-style semi-farce.
So, it’s interesting how buttoned-down this introductory segment is. Nasri's a bit crazy-looking, and there's a little bit of weird humor courtesy of Darcy, but for the most part the plot and characters all feel like they belong in a serious-minded spy story of the Bourne-Bauer ilk. There's no hint at this point of how wacky things are going to get.

The storytelling here feels fairly by-the-numbers, too. The act of betrayal that ends the chapter felt kind of tired and expected, even on my first time through. There's just not enough of a relationship between Mike and the Alpha Protocol team to make that twist really sting. It was a pretty brave choice to lay out all these characters and then chop them out of the story, but ultimately it took so much time to introduce everyone that I didn't really get attached to anyone.

Still, clearing the slate this way makes the rest of the game feel more like an undiscovered country. By the time you reach your next destination, the major tropes (the double-cross, the femme fatale) have all been put into play, with only about a fifth of the game done. That gives Obsidian a lot of elbow room.
Speaking of the next destination, the heat in Saudi Arabia has gotten to me, so I'm sending Mike off to chill in Moscow.

P.S. A warning for readers who are now interested in giving Alpha Protocol a whirl: It is super-janky. Textures poptart (that is, they pop in after two minutes), the AI is stupid and also possesses pinpoint aim with grenades, and action points sometimes fail to show up, so you have to reload a checkpoint (or even soft-boot). Make peace with that before you begin, and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy the experience.


Hey Sparky,

Thanks much for inviting me on this return journey into the life and times of Mike Thorton.

Between my work at Gamecritics and the stuff I play for fun, there’s no end of things to keep up with, and I’m not sure I would have ever given AP another spin. There’s just so little free time. Your request gave me a good reason to replay it, though, and I’m glad for that. While I originally reviewed Alpha Protocol back in 2010 and largely enjoyed it, my appreciation for the game has only grown since then.

Since we’re starting this dialogue at the beginning (and really, what better place to start?) you’re entirely right about the player not having much choice in crafting their very own Thorton.

Other games manage to tell a specific story while leaving things a little more open for protagonists of varying sorts, but in this specific case, I don’t mind too much. Although the dialogue and writing are well in hand, it’s clear that the dev team had certain… challenges with the action side. I mean, huge red flags are raised when you first see Thorton’s corncob-hiding crouch-walk, and it only gets sketchier from there, amirite?

It’s just a fact that AP’s action barely hangs together when played with the optimal stealth & pistols build (AKA the only serviceable build?) so I’m not going to be too bothered that they didn’t rewrite and re-record as much of the game as they would have had to in order to allow for something as divergent as a female lead – although I would have been thrilled with a FemThorton, trying to cover all those bases probably would have taken away so many resources that the action side would have received even less attention than it did.

Apart from Thorton himself, it would have been nice to see combat be more flexible to at least allow for a more rewarding tactical experience, as you suggested. It’s certainly tough to feel like an international superagent when Mike can’t drop down a small ledge or hop over a cinderblock. However, there are so many games that do deliver solid action and little else that in light of what AP does get right, I can let it go. Granted, the pistols’ ability to deliver multiple headshots in slow-mo bullet time goes a long way towards making that allowance possible, but still. 

In any event, within the first hour of play it’s quite clear that Obsidian is crafting an espionage experience unlike any other I’ve played – rather than giving the concept lip service with some kill-heavy stuff like laser-watches and cars hiding missiles behind their headlights, AP carves its own territory by frequently giving the player lengthy discussion scenes and quite a bit of info to read. I’m not ordinarily keen on such stuff since it’s often misused as a poor substitute for actual development (hello, Skyrim!) but given that the game wants you to truly be a spy, it makes a lot of sense to do some actual intelligence work before hitting the field. Reading dossiers, figuring out how to get desired responses out of people based on their personalities, and gathering intel before each mission here feels appropriate and engaging.

I was especially pleased to find multiple levels of complexity happening in nearly every scene of the game, including the tutorial. AP wastes no time in embracing the espionage motif, since great performances in the Gadgets, Combat and Stealth trainings right at the beginning each lead to optional events… what better way to illustrate that there’s more underneath the surface than to have your instructor pull you aside after your evaluation and ask you to retrieve some files, hush-hush and off-the-record?

(BTW, trust no one.)

Unfortunately, AP puts its worst foot forward by starting with the Saudi Arabia missions. 

Although I didn’t find them too bad this second time around (probably because I now know how the game works and also because I know what’s coming) I’ve spoken to plenty of people who quit AP before getting through this section. It’s a shame, because things genuinely do get better afterwards, but you’re right --  this opening misses obvious things like the lack of disguise options, the artificiality of traversing the areas, and an obvious linearity that undercuts the sort of choices that are the focus of the game’s larger premise. It’s strange to see that there’s so much going on at a higher level, only to have these base issues ignored right out of the gate – if players use Saudi Arabia to gauge how the rest of the game will play out, I can hardly blame them for bailing.

While that section is probably the worst of the entire adventure in terms of level design and combat, now that we’ve both wrapped it up, there’s loads of interesting situations, double-crossing and intrigue to come. It only gets better from here.

You go ahead and check out Moscow. I think I’m going to head to Rome… I remember the safehouse there being pretty posh, and I’m thinking Mike’s in the mood for some Mediterranean food.


Look for the next installment of this series coming soon. And by the way, if you'd like to play along with us through this second look, copies are averaging about $4 the last time I checked... That's a pretty superb value for an interesting, informative experience, if you ask me! Hop aboard and share your comments with us!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Xbone Debacle, Defiance, MH3U, State of Decay, and New Leaf  


Games: It's been a while since my last post, and holy cow, I can't believe how much has happened since then. In fact, I'm trying to remember the last time we had this much large-scale drama, and I honestly can't recall anything that was as major as the arc we just had. I mean, just look at this brief recap starting with...

>The announcement of the Xbone and all of its DRM restrictions

which then triggered

>Massive, intense waves of hate from the gamer community

followed by

>Sony dropping a nuke with the announcement that they would not be instituting similar DRM

which led to

>PS4 preorders selling out at Amazon and taking a massive, early lead

and this picture of things to come encouraged

>Microsoft pulling a complete 180 and declaring that the ‘Bone will no longer require all of the DRM systems the box was allegedly built on

This has been an incredibly wild roller coaster ride so far, and who knows what's ahead? I don't think anyone could have predicted this sequence of events, and I bet there are a lot of people in expensive suits trying to make some really good guesses in a hurry.

As I've been following events, there have been a number of issues raised and things to think about. I could probably spend days just exploring the bare minimum of what's going on, but instead I'm going to throw out a quick couple of things and ramble on for a bit here....

I guess to start with, do I think that resistance to the ‘Bone based strictly on the fact that used games as we knew them were largely going away?

Although I’m a huge fan of physical media and used games, I really don't think so. I think it's pretty clear that the future of gaming is going to be digital and that's fine. I mean, I'd still love to have a collection of discs on my wall to look at, but that's not the sticking point. No, for me the biggest issue was that I don't want the rules and precedents of a digital future to be established by Microsoft, or any other corporation.

It's a lot harder to change things once they’re entrenched than it is to push back before they become established, and I am a firm believer that a digital future does not need to equate to consumers being put in a position of powerlessness. These companies need us and our money to survive, and structuring the relationship in a mutually beneficial way is a win-win all around.

I have to say, I'm honestly shocked at how many people seemed to have no problem whatsoever with Microsoft's plan; how many didn't even question it. I heard so many people say "that's just the way things are going to be" or "it's the future, there's no point in fighting it". I mean, really? You honestly think that this giant corporation’s power grab was somehow designed with your best interests factored in at any level? I suppose those people were in the minority, though... the sizable outcry from people who did not agree was impossible to ignore, and I'm quite glad for that.

Again, to be clear, I'm not taking a stand against digital media, but I am against the idea that consumers should be happy to forfeit fairness in favor of corporate profit, and that the idea of paying for "a license" fully under the control of corporate whim is the best way to move forward. Everyone seems in such a rush to stand up for protections and controls and restrictions, and anything that's healthy for the consumer isn't on very many radars. Well, I'm sorry, but I don't want to be looked at as a dumb source of income without a voice existing simply to feed the growth of those companies who can take advantage of it.

I also heard several people telling me that these new restrictions were actually a boon for developers, and I really have to call bullshit on that. To start with, I haven't seen any hard numbers but I doubt that all of these controls were designed solely to put more money in the pocket of the people who are actually creating these games. I mean, I've heard all of the same talk about piracy and used games killing profits a million times, and I just don't believe it. If this system had rolled out as planned, I don't doubt for a moment that Microsoft would be taking the biggest cut of the pie, followed by the publishers who would be in support of this DRM, and the situation would probably be status quo for everyone else down the line from there.

I mean, I'm going off on a tangent here, but speaking from personal experience, the used games market is a healthy thing that helps fund new sales, in addition to helping get people interested in certain franchises or developers that they would not have gotten into otherwise. It's pure idiocy to think that every used sale automatically equates to a lost new sale -- I mean, there have been dozens and dozens of games that I would drop $20-$30 on, but that I would not buy for full price under any circumstances. However, after trying some of these games, I've become interested in other works and would be more likely to purchase something for full price in the future.

Take Monster Hunter as a perfect example. The first copy I ever bought was used, and I was also gifted Tri from a friend. I would have never paid full price for one of these games before having played them, but after dipping my toes in, I currently have two WiiUs and four copies of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate in my house. On top of that, how many times have I recommended it to a friend, tweeted about it, wrote about it, or otherwise promoted it in some way to other people? I know for fact some of those instances led to sales, and if you trace all of these things back to the source, it's very possible that none of this would've ever happened if I hadn't had access to a used copy to begin with.

Going off on another tangent, I clearly remember people in the industry saying that the price of games would drop when things went digital thanks to lower overhead, eliminating production and distribution costs, so forth and so on. I definitely think digital is a healthy environment for the indie scene (which I genuinely love and am happy to see flourishing) but what's happened in general is that development budgets keep ballooning, publishers keep betting the farm on mega-hit blockbusters instead of games with more reasonable sales goals, and hard-working people in the industry keep getting laid off and shuffled around -- oh, and did I mention that games are still routinely coming out at $60 a pop? I've seen no reason to convince me that anything Microsoft would've done with the ‘Bone would have changed any of this.

There’s still a hell of a lot to talk about and I've already rambled incoherently for long enough, but I will say that despite Microsoft going back on their original plans for DRM, I still have no plans to purchase the console or support it in any way until I see how things play out with my own eyes over time. They showed their hand and revealed what their goals were, so just because they patch a few things out for a while doesn't mean that these same problems won’t return later on once the system is in everyone's house and we've all forgotten how outraged we felt about the original announcement. The digital future is certainly coming, but just because it's coming doesn't mean that it needs to arrive without balance, without respect for the consumer, and without common sense.


Games: Alright, enough ranting for one night... what have I actually been playing? Well, not a lot. really, but here it goes.

First, still working my way through the campaign in Defiance

Although the formula is little more than third-person open-world shooting with some crazy ATV driving thrown in, it's a hell of a lot of fun thanks to the wide variety of weapons and the commitment-free nature of the online multiplayer. It's incredibly enjoyable to be in the middle of a tough mission and have a random stranger appear out of nowhere to lend assistance. I wouldn't have guessed it before I tried it, but I keep coming back to this one whenever I can.

Secondly (and no surprise to @Nightdreamer) I'm still making progress through MH3U with the family. Since my oldest son is with us for the summer, he's been enjoying the available multiplayer -- he doesn't often get a chance to play, so having the ability to go on three-person quests on a daily basis has been a real highlight for him, and for us. 

Working together, he hit G-Rank (HR7) pretty quickly and we tried taking on the Alatreon a few times. We didn't take him down, but we didn't do too badly, either. With some slightly better gear, I imagine we will get the job done pretty soon.

Besides those two things, I spent a fairly sizable amount of time with State of Decay and turned my full review into Gamecritics a couple of nights ago. I absolutely love the game, but it's been suffering from a few problems and I put it on hold to give the developers some time to get things ironed out.

The biggest issue is that certain houses can become "infested" and if the player doesn't clear them out, then it causes panic in survivors back at home base. They then either run away or become otherwise incapacitated. This in itself is a fine mechanic, but the problem is that infestations that are nowhere near home base still cause this disruption. It sucks to leave things in great shape and come back the next day, only to find that a third of my survivors are gone because some random house on the complete opposite side of the map wasn't cleared out, even though it was absolutely no threat.

I don't mean to scare people away from this game because it is genuinely fantastic, but this is one aspect that has really gotten under my skin lately and I'm hoping that it's remedied soon.

Finally, I broke down and downloaded Animal Crossing: New Leaf on 3DS… I haven't played an AC since the original eleven or twelve years ago, and between nearly everyone in my twitter feed popping for it and hearing that there were substantial additions to the formula, I felt like it was worth a shot.

I've been putting a fair amount of time into it when I can, but because my work schedule and home life are pretty busy at the moment, it's tough to play within the confines of the game’s clock. I often found myself collecting bugs and fishing after all the shops had closed, and progress was quite slow. I mean, I think it's pretty slow in general, but it felt excruciatingly so.

My wife keeps asking if she should download it so we could play together, but I keep telling her that I'm honestly not sure if I'm enjoying it or not. There are moments when I think it's great, and there are also plenty of moments when it's absolutely maddening, boring, and tedious.

On the plus side, I like the sense of ownership and of interacting with this small, discrete town under my care. It's almost like a virtual pet of sorts. It's also cute as all hell, which is great. On the other hand, the amount of filler text that's impossible to skip through drives me absolutely insane, and there are many things that I feel could be sped up or optimized. For example, sometimes I don't feel like listening to the captain's song as I'm getting ferried to the island, and the item-carrying limit/item transferring system is often a pain in the neck.

I suppose I should just have my wife and kids get into it so that we can all work together on it, but I'm still honestly torn as to whether I'm enjoying it more often than I’m frustrated.


Capcom, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games is pleased to announce that Dungeons & Dragons®: Chronicles of Mystara™ is available today as a digital download from the North American PlayStation®Network and globally via Steam® and coming to Xbox LIVE® Arcade for Xbox 360®video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and the European PlayStation®Network from tomorrow,June 19. The title will be available for the Nintendo eShop on Wii U™ soon after.


Mars War Logs was released in late April and, if most players who bought the Spiders Studio title liked the game itself, they were disappointed with the narrative element because the English version strayed too far from the original French. The general feeling was that the translation didn’t stick closely enough to the original French story and dialog.

Luc Heninger, Director of Production at Focus Home Interactive, explains:

"Mars contains a vast amount of dialog, even by RPG standards. The plot has numerous strands and the dialog often has many variants to mirror the hero’s changes in reputation. The tight deadlines between the game release dates meant that the initial English translation lacked depth and contained a number of errors; it was then sent to the recording studio, making the job of the actors extremely difficult. The actual game was thoroughly tested and released with very few bugs on PC, but unfortunately the procedures for the audio and text QA failed and allowed many English localization issues to slip through. We realized the extent of the problem after seeing the first feedback from the press and gamers. The result was so far removed from what we usually produce that we took the decision to halt the submission process for the console version, which was due for release only weeks after the PC title. We have re-written the game text and dialog and, of course, recorded the actors again, replacing the sections that weren’t true to the characters in Mars. All these problems will therefore be fixed in the console version. An update is now available for players with the PC game, and we have also incorporated the new audio in the PC versions on the various download sites."
We are pleased to share with you a video showing the first 7 minutes of the game, featuring the new localization and the new English voices present in all versions of the game.

Mars War Logs is currently available on PC and will be today's Daily Deal on Steam, at -33%. The game is scheduled for release on Xbox LIVE® and the PlayStation®Network in September 2013.


A new challenge for the map-making, labyrinth-crawling fans of the first-person Etrian Odyssey RPG series will be available from ATLUS this fall. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (EOU) offers two full length experiences: The expanded story mode takes players on a journey to unravel the mystery of the Yggdrasil Tree's origins, and the classic mode updates the original Etrian Odyssey. Both versions feature the same gameplay conveniences, updated 3D graphics, and StreetPass™ abilities as in Etrian Odyssey IV.  Exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS™ system, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl will be released in stores and in the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS simultaneously. More details can be found on the game's official website.

The biggest addition to Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl is the story mode - a first for the series. The story mode gives players five pre-made characters, each with their own personalities and dialogue to explore a side of Etria not seen in the first game. Adventurers must brave new dungeon layouts, floors and enemies to find out the truth behind the Yggdrasil Tree, and the mysterious girl, Frederica.

Also new to the series is the Grimoire Stone system, available in both modes. In previous Etrian Odyssey games, skills were set to specific classes, but by collecting, synthesizing, and equipping Grimoire Stones, players can hybridize their party to excel in combat. With the right Grimoire Stones, combatants can even learn powerful enemy skills.

To take full advantage of the Nintendo 3DS system's power, EOU features animated opening and story cutscenes by MADHOUSE Inc., renowned for its extensive background in animation, including other ATLUS games Persona 4 Golden and Persona 4 Arena. There will also be voiceovers for the story and battle scenes and the option for orchestrated background music.

The game goes beyond story mode with the inclusion of classic mode, a full-length experience in itself, for players to create their own classes and explore the world of Etria. The same chart-making mechanic is back, along with first-person dungeon exploring and intense turn-based combat in new dungeon layouts. EOU also brings new difficulty modes, which can be changed at any time: "Picnic" and "Standard" mode are for players new to RPGs or the Etrian Odyssey series, while "Expert" adds new challenges for veteran adventurers.

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl releases this summer exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS™ system and will be available simultaneously in retail stores and in the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS. The game is not yet rated by the ESRB.

For more information, including updates on the game, please visit the official website at:


Meteor Entertainment™, publishers of HAWKEN, the free-to-play mech first-person shooter, have announced the Combat Mech Challenge art contest, which will allow artistically-inclined fans of the highly-anticipated shooter to earn prizes, including gaming accessories and HAWKEN merchandise. As judged by Khang Le, the CEO of Adhesive Games, the winning entrant will win a NVIDIA Shield portable gaming device. Submissions can be entered at the official contest landing page:
The contest ends November 5th, 2013 at 1:00 AM PST.

Founded by Weta Digital’s lead 3D modeler, Pascal Raimbault, CGFeedback is a community-driven forum for professional artists to trade feedback on their digital artwork. Entrants in the Combat Mech Challenge can submit their 2D or 3D artwork to be evaluated by a panel of judges from Adhesive Games and Meteor Entertainment. Three winners will be chosen, with the following prizing:
·         Grand Prize Winner – NVIDIA Shield: an open platform gaming portable designed for gamers who yearn to play when, where and how they want
·         2nd place Winner – Logitech G-Series gaming Bundle: A bundle consisting of a gaming keyboard, headset and mouse valued at $200
·         3rd place Winner – We Love Fine HAWKEN t-shirt valued at $25, and a copy of Hawken: Genesis graphic novel

Artists interested in participating in the CGFeedback Combat Mech Challenge can fill out the submission form and register at the following URL:
Entrants must create a WIP (Work in Progress) thread on the CGFeedback forum, and are encouraged to post regular updates to help exchange artistic feedback and tips with the community. Final entries must be submitted by 11/5/2013 @ 1:00 AM PST.

Join the battle today at To learn more about CGFeedback, visit


Independent game developer Black Forest Games announces that their twisted platformer, GIANA SISTERS: TWISTED DREAMS has been released in the US and EU Regions (APAC scheduled for August) through PlayStation network for PS3. The game is available for $14.99 (14.99€ in Europe).
After a hugely successful campaign on Kickstarter and successful releases for Windows-PC and Xbox360, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams – grandchild of the 80s classic game “The Great Giana Sisters” – is now finally available in the US and Europe on Sony’s PlayStation 3. 


Trion Worlds has announced the winner of the first-ever transmedia contest for Defiance™, the groundbreaking online open world shooter and hit television series on Syfy. The ‘Most Wanted’ in-game contest pitted players against both the game’s environment and each other to see who would rise to the top and become the ultimate Ark Hunter. The Ark Hunter earning the most ark salvage (the in game currency system) per hour*during their time played over the course of the contest, which spanned from April 30 to May 12, was chosen to be the winner. During this span, Zachary Prast showcased his undeniable Ark Hunter skills by earning almost 3 times the average ark salvage per hour! 

Zachary will leave the in-game world and be seen in an upcoming episode of Defiance on Syfy. Zachary demonstrated truly exceptional skills as an Ark Hunter in the game, beating out thousands of other players for a chance to have the show’s character artists render his likeness into a special place in the Season 1 finale, making him the first-ever gamer to crossover into the television property. 

Defiance is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. For more information on Defiance, please visit

*excluding ark salvage earned from the Salvage Matrix


MIAMI – You’re a murderer. You murder people. Again. And again. How certain you are of your actions and what is, and what is not, real is what you must determine in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, due out later this year from developer Dennaton Games and publisher Devolver Digital. The epic finale to 2012’s blood-soaked hit follows an escalating level of violence through multiple factions born from the events of the original game -- all within the confines of blistering combat, the unmistakable visual style, and another powerful and intense soundtrack that pushes you to the limit and forces you to question your own thirst for blood.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number commands you to step into the murderous minds of several distinct characters - each with their own motivations and methods of execution – as storylines intersect and reality slips away into a haze of neon and carnage. Witness hundreds of new sprites and animations in lush new areas to clear floor-by-floor, and harness a variety of savage new weapons to satisfy your murder lust.
Due out in 2013 for PC, Mac, and Linux from Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital.
For more information, please visit or follow @HotlineMiami on Twitter.


Leading publisher of digital entertainment Telltale Games and Robert Kirkman, the Eisner Award-winning creator and writer of The Walking Dead for his Skybound imprint at Image Comics, announced today that the 2012 Game of the Year winning series The Walking Dead: Season One is set to receive an all-new installment as downloadable content. Available this summer, The Walking Dead: 400 Days will be available for purchase on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Xbox®360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®Network, as an in-app purchase for compatible iOS devices, and on PC and Mac from the Telltale Online Store and other digital outlets.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days chronicles the horrific aftermath of the undead outbreak through the eyes of five new characters as they struggle to survive the first 400 days of the apocalypse. Playable in any order, the five connected short stories are centered in and around a Georgia truck stop, where players will be thrust into horrifying situations that will test their morals and control the flow of the story through their decisions and actions.

The Walking Dead: Season One is coming to the PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system and will include The Walking Dead: 400 Days. Featuring hybrid touch controls unique to PS®Vita, fans can now take the apocalypse on the road and enjoy the entirety of Season One in one package.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days will be available for US$4.99 or equivalent as downloadable content for The Walking Dead: Season One.  The Walking Dead: 400 Days will require at least Episode One of Season One to be installed on a user's game system in order to play.

For more information on the game, visit the official websiteFacebook, and followTelltale Games on Twitter . For more information on The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, and all of his titles, visit


It’s time to return to Ian Livingstone’s Forest of Doom!
Tin Man Games’ third Fighting Fantasy digital gamebook app, The Forest of Doom, arrives on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad today, following a recent Android release on Google Play and the Amazon Appstore for Android.

Smart phone and tablet users can now take part in one of the classic gamebook experiences that introduced a whole generation to fantasy role-playing games back in 1983! Proudly displaying an animated version of Iain McCaig’s iconic cover of the Shape Changer, the app allows readers to risk the unknown perils of Darkwood Forest with a desperate quest against time to find the missing pieces of the legendary Hammer of Stonebridge.

Ian Livingstone, co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series and author of The Forest of Doom, said: “For those people coming back to Darkwood Forest after a 30 year absence, I hope the experience is as enjoyable as it was the first time around. The forest has certainly been brought to life in this brilliantly executed digital version by Tin Man Games.”

Fans will also be able to read Ian’s historical notes on the thinking behind the concept of The Forest of Doom and the naming of its principal character, the grand wizard Yaztromo. He continues: “For those of you entering Darkwood Forest for the first time – good luck! Might I suggest you are nice to Yaztromo. He’s my friend.”

Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom  is now available to download from the iOS App Store, Google Play and Amazon Appstore for Android. It costs $5.99 USD/£3.99/ 5,49 €.

Tin Man Games maintain a site dedicated to their Fighting Fantasy apps at  The Official Fighting Fantasy site can be found at Tin Man Games also runs a developer blog at