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FEATURED VOXPOP danielrbischoff
Peace in the Era of Call of Duty
By danielrbischoff
Posted on 04/15/14
In a world dominated by violent media, Americans are no more eager to go to war than they were in the 1980s or the 1960s or the 1940s. Hasn't it always been someone else's problem? The overwhelming majority would rather go on thinking it had nothing to do with them and there...


maca2kx maca2kx's Blog
GTA: Online? No... not yet...
Posted on Monday, October 7 2013 @ 10:49:06 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

I’m back and I’m ready to rant oh so much!!
Of course I’m going to talk about the game of the moment: GTA V.
The good stuff first: it’s such a ****ing good game. Rockstar truly have excelled with this game. It’s vast, varied, and a wild ride. The single-player story is fun and engaging, the graphics are great (for a GTA game), the world is packed with little touches and easter eggs. And of the previous sentence the most relevant three words are the first three...
The Single Player.
Where Single Player works like a dream, multiplayer works like a turbo-charged Entity trying to make a high-speed corner. I’ve been trying to get online since the first day it was available. I was fully expecting to not be able to get on there on day one and I was not disappointed. I set up my character using the neat concept of inheriting your grandparents’ genes and then tried to jump in. I didn’t get very far before I fell through the floor, hit the same floor I fell through because games, and was forced to wait until I was presented with the screen that has been bounced around the internet.

That’s fine, I knew success wouldn’t be within reach so early after launch because, let’s face it, it never is. It is hilarious that no publisher ever plans for the launch rush, though. Well, it’s either that we buy games from a bunch of chronic underestimaters or that they don’t want to invest in extra support for the launch period because the demand will soon settle down to something more manageable.

So I waited for day two to roll by and gave it another try. My character hadn’t saved (or the second one that I tried on day one) so I quickly remade him with minimal effort and dived right back in… with an even longer wait and exactly the same outcome. So I went to bed.

Day three was much the same except I was greeted by a different waiting screen and waited so long that my controller turned itself off twice before congratulating my patience with a timeout screen.
It’s day four now and I’ve acknowledged I’ve probably picked up a glitch. Incidentally, that solution doesn’t seem to have worked for me, but it did stop me from getting to the waiting for players screen.
So what does this mean on a wider scale? It’s a bit worrying, really; Rockstar is a huge publisher and they still didn’t manage to release their billion-dollar game without server issues and bugs, and some people were looking forward to Xbox One games forcing 24-hour check-ins!

From the very small portion of online I’ve seen (which basically amounts to the load screens), it seems that Rockstar is gradually adding improvements to the online gameplay. The very fact that the load screen shows information about online modes is evidence of that. I just hope that these improvements actually encompass the first ****ing mission soon too.
But the thing that’s really rubbed me the wrong way?

The iFruit app. Oh yes, the bugbear that has dominated comment sections since the game launched has not been lost on me but not because I really can’t wait to train my virtual dog; this has ground my gears because my £40 is effectively worth less than my friend’s £40 because he has an iPhone and I don’t. It’s not about the app; it’s about a huge market being neglected. iFruit might not offer hugely important features but they are features that could have been included in the game, but instead Rockstar chose to make a free app for an external product and then did it badly.

The thing that makes it worse is Rockstar’s frustrating lack of communication. In the comments section on the Rockstar website they almost exclusively respond only when the poster implies that they have accepted money from Apple to make the app exclusive. Besides that, Android users have been given no release date, estimate or otherwise, and not much of an explanation beyond “it’s taking longer than we thought it would," which isn’t particularly convincing seeing as they’ve had five years, so they’re either capable of programming a masterpiece but not an Android app or they didn’t bother with it until it was too late and now they’re focusing on fixing online. And it’s not just the iFruit app; it’s the manual, too. Android users don’t have a manual (unless they get the non-resizable PC version which sometimes doesn’t fit on users’ screens).
Rockstar are still awesome, GTA V is still amazing, but if I was forced to say three bad things about them I would have to limit it to two REALLY big ones.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted originally on October 4, 2013 at 4:21 PST, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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Let's Celebrate The Backpedal! (The Mistake Microsoft Avoided)
Posted on Friday, July 12 2013 @ 12:07:30 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

The internet has spoken once more and said that we’re not interested in always on games consoles.
Wait… did I write that right? Not only has the Microsoft behemoth caved to public opinion but that opinion is that online is bad… expressed almost exclusively online. Hmm, awesome.

So why is it such a big deal that the next generation of consoles not require a constant, or regular, internet connection? After all, who on this planet can’t connect their console to the internet at least once a day? Well, people living in rural areas, people on military bases, people living in many university dorms, people in less developed nations, and of course people who do have decent internet connections that tend to fail at least a few times a year.

The most reliable connection will have periods of downtime; that’s a guarantee. So what does any normal person do when their online source of entertainment goes down for an undisclosed period of time? If you answered anything involving leaving the building and letting the sun’s naked rays hit your exposed skin, then your answer is incomplete. The correct answer is to turn to offline entertainment like books, films, possibly outdoor pursuits, but more likely, single-player games.

But sure, let’s say the people who don’t have a persistent connection can correct that apparently gaping flaw in their otherwise civilised existence. Connections don’t fail every day so for the most part we’ll be able to get on with our single-player entertainment without a problem… maybe. It’s really not just about our personal ability to connect to the internet but also about the physical lines. The internet isn’t an ethereal manifestation with no physical form; it lives thanks to the wires and pipes snaking across the planet and 3% of the internet using population found out how easily their internet lives can be reduced to a crawl in 2008 when a ship’s anchor sliced through a cable off the coast of Egypt. On a less sensational scale we have to worry about rats chewing through cables, lightning striking exchanges, and power cuts at any of the many links in the chain between us and the self-appointed entertainment demigods.

But now the cables are made of Kevlar and they’re lightning-proof and will never be physically damaged. Has there been a game launch in the history of the industry that, despite a need for internet connectivity, went smoothly? I genuinely can’t think of one. The most recent disaster is SimCity which took downtime to a farcical extreme, because EA didn’t think to put some extra servers on to cope with the release of a popular game. This is the scenario that could have awaited not just the launch of every game, but the start of every day when millions of Xbox users have to revalidate their system in case their games had become illegal overnight.

But all of this would have been fine because, according to Don Mattrick, if you don’t have the internet you can use the pioneering offline device: the Xbox 360.

At least their backpedalling didn’t include the spy-in-the-home Kinect. We need something to complain about, after all.

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Digital Downloads: Worth It?
Posted on Thursday, January 24 2013 @ 12:28:47 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

The internet’s amazing. Ever since speeds moved into the Mbps range, our interconnectedness has given birth to the digital marketplace. Not everyone has access to the sorts of speeds, bandwidth caps, and storage space for switching to digital, but the amount of people who do is increasing all the time and businesses are eager to make their games available through digital: It’s more convenient for the consumer, more profitable for the developer, and less wasteful for the environment. What’s not to like?!
Actually, there’s quite a bit not to like. The most obvious thing is the lack of a physical product which is important to a lot of people. Those who don’t care if they have a game manual can still run into problems stemming from the same root. Personally I love opening a case and seeing a decent game manual. It’s not the playing of the game I want to learn; it’s the background, the characters, and the story. The GTA manuals do a fantastic job of using the style of the game to inform the player, but in the age of digital content the closest we’ll get to that is a .pdf file on the computer next to the TV. Perhaps it’s the new ‘old fashioned’ to harken back for the days where our game manuals were the only analogue factor in an otherwise digital medium but, damn it, I want my paper manuals!
I can live without physical mementos of the games I buy, however grudgingly, but there are still elements of the online movement we need to overcome before it can become the dominant way of buying games. A while ago sliverstorm discussed the pre-owned market and highlighted pretty effectively why publishers aren’t, to put it lightly, the biggest fans of consumers trading and buying secondhand items. It’s no surprise that having profits taken away within weeks of launch is going to grind with developers and publishers, but since sliverstorm has already covered their point of view, let’s take a look from the consumer’s perspective.

Games are expensive. Americans can expect to pay around $59.99 and I, as a Brit, usually see games around the £40-45 mark. If the customer doesn’t mind waiting for a while, then they can get almost the same game (thanks to the introduction of the online pass since publishers have cottoned on to the profit-draining potential of the secondhand market) for a hell of a lot less: In the case of many games, a secondhand copy of the title and an online pass is still cheaper than a new game.

When we look at both sides of the pre-owned game market we see that it actually provides two advantages to the gamer and can even help publishers. Because games are pricey, it’s difficult to buy them all at full price so what is an eclectic gamer to do? They’re to buy and play a game to death and then trade it in towards another brand new title, of course! They get a new game at a discounted price, their old game is no longer gathering dust on their shelves and the store gets another pre-owned item to flog at a cheaper rate (but higher profit) later on. On top of all that, most video game retailers survive thanks to secondhand profits and every day they continue to trade is another day new games are sold to the public as well.

Which brings us rather tidily back to online markets since pre-owned doesn’t exist in the digital realm, at least not on the scale it does in retail. So we see another reason why online is so appealing to the publisher: They pay fewer distribution costs, don’t need to worry about profits being sapped by second-handers, and don’t need to share profits with retailers; if they self-distribute as with Origin, they don’t even need to share with digital powerhouses like Steam and Microsoft.

While online is a huge plus for the publisher, the lack of a secondhand market is a massive downer for the consumer. We’re still paying high prices, but we’re getting less and we can’t trade it in later so we can pay a little less for the next release. We can’t even take it back for a refund if it was an unwanted gift or whatever other reason. It’s clear that the digital market hopes you will pay for short-sighted convenience and not worry about what happens to the 0s and 1s later on.

Publishers may not like secondhand games, but they’re a fact of the market. They, and console manufacturers, may want to make second hand games impossible to play on future consoles but with the advent of the Ouya, nVidia Shield, and Valve’s Steam Box as well as the constantly strengthening PC market, consumers have more options than ever to get their ‘proper’ gaming fix and have even more choices with internet browsers, smartphones, and tablets for casual games. Now that the next generation of consoles are right around the corner our buying power is at the highest it has been since 2004-5 when the X360 was announced and released.

Rumours recently flew that Microsoft was researching the viability of a download-only next-gen console. As soon as the news broke, X360 fans took to the Microsoft forums in droves and Microsoft quickly backed down. News is now indicating that Sony is filing patents to stop secondhand game use, though competing with these rumours are the ones that say they’re planning nothing of the sort. It’s hard to say which rumour is right since Sony has already dipped their toes into these waters with the Vita which restricts memory cards to one user ID and appears to have gotten away with it. Hopefully they saw the backlash on Microsoft and get why it happened. Either way, these incidents give a worrying insight of how these gaming titans want their business to go—all they have to do is remove the physical product.
Let’s backtrack a bit, though. I kind of assumed that games are priced high online, didn’t I? Unfortunately, not really. Prices are always changing but at the time of writing the X360 marketplace is listing FIFA 13 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown at a wallet shrivelling £49.99 while the British Amazon website is selling the boxed products at a much more reasonable £28.99 and £24.99 respectively. But wait! That’s Amazon, home to online bargains. It’s unfair to compare an instant download service with an online mail-order one. In a way it is, fair reader, and that is why I’ve looked into store prices too. Aside from a couple of identically priced games (FIFA 13 at £49.99 and Skyrim at £29.99), even the store price is cheaper than the direct marketplace price.

Two caveats are required before I go on:
The store I used for my prices was going through a sale so games were cheaper than normal. Out of the top 20 list I used, there were only six games available for download on Xbox Live.

And now to continue: The store had a sale, but if a brick and mortar store with all its overheads can afford to sell Resident Evil 6 for £28, why can’t an online store do it for £25 when it only has to worry about the bandwidth charge? Instead digital users find themselves paying £49.99 for a cloud of 1s and 0s—I’m struggling to find the appeal.

The next point, that only six out of twenty games sample were available digitally, says a lot. Typically the games ready for download are the older games. FIFA 13 and Borderlands 2 are the most recent releases but much newer games like CoD Black Ops 2 and Far Cry 3 are nowhere to be seen.

Amazon is the clear leader in terms of prices, but there’s a lot more hassle and time involved with trading, returning, and even receiving goods, so really the price could be better in a store which lets you trade your old games straight away. The average price for the downloadable games sampled is £37.49; at Amazon it’s £25.12; at the store it’s £31.45.
The cynic in me says the higher price for downloads is due to the complete lack of competition; if an Xbox gamer wants to download a copy of FIFA 13, then he’s got one choice: £49.99 or bust. If the same gamer wants to buy a physical copy of FIFA 13, then he can choose from several mainstream retail stores, so many more websites including peer-fueled sites like eBay, plus independent retailers which do still exist in some places. And that’s another aspect of downloading that terrifies me: Will next-gen systems be the closed ecosystems they are now or will they open up to introduce the competition which drives innovation while keeping down costs as we see on PC? Tight control may be good for profits, but it’s only ever a bad thing for the consumer and now is the perfect time to make manufactures know what won’t be tolerated. After all, they need us to buy their machines before they can make us buy their games.
So is digital worth it? Despite everything I said above, I’d still say that it is. But not for games you’d expect to see in boxes. I’ve had some fantastic experiences thanks to  games that are only available via download: I’ve made sprawling landscapes in Minecraft; puzzled through Braid; fought the shadows in Limbo; nearly broke my controller thanks to Trials HD; and crafted my own story in The Walking Dead. These games are what make digital content what it should be and, for the bargain-basement prices each developer asked for, I’m happy to pay and not be able to trade later. You know my concerns now and none apply in quite the same way to titles like these, I only hope the content creators can see that.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly Vox Pop competition. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick

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Why 'Game Companions' Would Be Totally Bitchin' And Way Better Than Strategy Guides
Posted on Wednesday, December 12 2012 @ 12:57:18 Eastern

A lot of games have strategy guides, usually priced around £10-£20 apiece. These guides are usually A4-sized with a couple of hundred pages detailing advice and step-by-step walkthroughs for the single-player and mult...   read more...

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Kickstarter: Revolutionising Game Design?
Posted on Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 12:06:21 Eastern

Kickstarter was launched back in 2009 but has recently hit the spotlight with projects like Ouya—the Android-powered home console—reaching way beyond their requested amount. The idea behind the website is to offer people a wa...   read more...

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Special Editions
Posted on Tuesday, September 11 2012 @ 15:10:15 Eastern

There are some *****in’ special editions floating around. Sure, there are some whose only claim to fame is a tin case or an extra code or two, but there are some developers who love their creations enough to extend them into the ph...   read more...

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Is Gaming At A Milestone?
Posted on Tuesday, August 21 2012 @ 12:46:43 Eastern

Gaming is the new kid on the block: Films have been around since the 1890s and were based on the long established theatre scene; books are as old as the written word; and music is so ingrained that it is thought that early humans communi...   read more...

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Patches, DLC and Downloadable Fixing
Posted on Wednesday, June 27 2012 @ 14:44:57 Eastern

Today marks a fairly monumental occasion in the videogame world. Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut has gone live. Ever since consoles were able to go online, patches have been commonplace, and before that, PC gamers have been enjoying bug fixes...   read more...

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Mass Effect Shall Continue!
Posted on Friday, April 27 2012 @ 14:17:16 Eastern

As I said before, Mass Effect is an incredible universe. ME1, 2 and 3 focused on Shepard’s tale but set the scene for books and graphic novels to complement that story arc and chronicle the stories of other characters such as Anderson, and the ...   read more...

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ME3: A Simpler Ending
Posted on Friday, April 6 2012 @ 09:33:50 Eastern

Mass Effect is an incredible universe. From the asari to the batarians each species has a compelling backstory: the hanar have a close relationship with the drell; the turians and volus are dependent on each other’s expertise. The complexity of...   read more...

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