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shandog137 shandog137's Blog
The perils of the Hype Train…
Posted on Thursday, February 26 2015 @ 17:00:32 Eastern

The recent release of Evolve and the Order 1886 really got me to thinking about the disparity between the perspective of sales driven publishers and the quality driven purchases of consumers. The “Hype Train” is nothing new but the way it is utilized has been creating far more controversy in recent years. The costs allocated to development and marketing of AAA titles has steadily increased as profits continue to rise from the more successful franchises and IPs. As this still relatively young market enters its adolescence the growing pains are felt around the gaming community as a whole.
Prior to the release of Evolve, a controversy stemmed from the numerous suites of DLC being offered a la carte prior to the game even releasing. Some of the gaming community perceived it as a bit of a rip-off in that it was essentially piece-mealing a full title in order to maximize profit. This isn’t new…The interesting part was that in this case the Take-Two Interactive, CEO Strauss Zelnick was cited in the media as stating:
“Yeah. You’re right, Mike. There was some controversy start-up by an online post,” … “And I guess, controversy, generally speaking, is a good thing. People can argue about the business model. I think we’re delivering a fantastic title that’s well versed with consumers who will pay for it. And all signs are extraordinarily positive.”
I see absolutely nothing wrong with his statement but one could perceive it as him saying, “money talks”. You have this loud communal voice with no teeth behind it. It’s the equivalent of threatening to beat a grown man with a spaghetti noodle – no matter how assertive you are, chance are the guy is going to look at you like an idiot.
The base game sans DLC received pretty good scores upon release with a primary issue of contention being a bit of repetitiveness. Lots of hype, a dash of controversy, and a pretty solid game lead to a quick shift in the community’s ire from Evolve to our next example, The Order 1886. Note: feel free to checkout PSN or Xbox Live to see exactly how much DLC was removed based on the controversy. I can currently pay $59.99 for the PS4 base game but I could also purchase 11 different skin packs between $4.99 -$6.99, a season pass for $24.99, and let’s not forget what has yet to be released. Mr. Zelnick I think you were right.
The Order 1886 had a different issue in the weeks leading up to release, “short and pretty syndrome”. In this case we had a game hyped as a 2014 PS4 Christmas blockbuster. They even delayed the game to 2015 with the following quote cited from Eurogamer:
“Speaking at a pre-E3 Sony event in Santa Monica, Ready at Dawn chief Ru Weerasuriya tells Eurogamer the decision was made so the developer could try to make sure the entire game was at a high quality level, rather than just certain sections.”
The Order 1886 released to very mixed reviews, with GR giving it a 2 of 5 stars. But it should be noted across the board that most review sites including GR commended The Order 1886 for it’s graphics…it was just the rest of it. The GR review had a very long comment section but a comment that stuck out to me came from the commenter “Nicholas Thompson”:
“This review is WAY to harsh and I'd even go as far as to say inaccurate. I'd give it a 3.5 or a 4. I understand that the cinematic and QTE approach over gameplay is a huge flaw but that shouldn't make it a bad game because the production value is amazing, I personally think the shooting mechanics look fun, and above all else it's playable.
I mean if the graphics and cinematic were not good then what would you give it? A 1? So a boring game with bland presentation is the worst kind of game despite it being playable? This is probably the worst review I've seen on the website.”
What struck me in this commenter’s post was, “and above all else it's playable”. Have we really set the bar that low? Consumers pre-order games, season passes, DLC, special editions, etc…but do you really think the expectations of gamers is that at a minimum I am paying $59.99 in advance for a game that is at least “playable”…WTF? I can understand the statement based on recent releases like AC Unity but it is still disheartening to think a reviewer should give points/credit for a game being "functional". I don't shop for food with the expectation that this restaurant should get a better rating because the food is "edible". You are a restaurant...your food should be a baseline.  
Even with the mixed reviews, GR later in the week posted the UK sales chart lineup and the game appeared to be well received coming in at #1 last week. Was this due to hype or quality? I think we will find out in the coming weeks as we see how long it stays on the list.
So what does this say about hype, ire, and change? Regardless of community ire, hype alone can drive initial sales. If the quality of the product stands up to the community upon release then the ire subsides and sales increase. If the quality (this includes duration as a metric) is inconsistent with the community expectation upon release, it is reasonable to assume that the train that brought you to the top of the charts will be departing shortly.
Hypothetically, as a publisher/developer it would behoove me to get that hype train rolling full steam ahead for the mere fact that at a minimum I will recoup some costs and at best I would have exceeded both consumer expectation and sales projections. As a consumer, it seems to me if you don’t want to end up seeing the “short & pretties” and the a la carte DLC model which provides DLC in an aggregate cost that not only exceeds the base price of the game but is released in tandem more frequently, then you may want to take a step back from the hype train. The pre-order bonuses are often times an exclusive skin, mission, weapon, etc…but is that “digital” item really worth the actual currency you pay for it? Particularly if the game ends up woefully underperforming based on your individual opinion once it is actually released.
It’s would be nice to get an extra gun but if the damn game is only 4 hours long how much use am I going to get out of it? I like additional skins but how does changing the skin on my monster offset the perceived repetitiveness of the core gaming mechanics? These questions don’t become relevant until you actual have a chance to play the game.
 If I pay $60 for DLC at release do I still have to buy the base game at full price? What if I spent a $100 on DLC alone then do I still have to buy the base game? As consumers we can incentivize changes in the business structure but as a whole we have to stop positively rewarding companies for **** we don’t like. Just saying. 

Edit: 2/27/15. Incorporated above

"I can understand the statement based on recent releases like AC Unity but it is still disheartening to think a reviewer should give points/credit for a game being "functional". I don't shop for food with the expectation that this restaurant should get a better rating because the food is "edible". You are a restaurant...your food should be a baseline."

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You are not the character. A look at This War of Mine.
Posted on Monday, December 1 2014 @ 16:47:16 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

I have been very excited in anticipation of the release of This War of Mine since the GR preview in June of 2014. The idea of being a regular person trying to survive in a war torn place and a focus on the “experience” vs “action” had me just about sold. Gil followed up with the review of the game in November…5-star rating. I knew at this point I would purchase the game but the question now was when? Is it worth a full price purchase or a steam sale?
To answer my final question, I had to watch some “Let’s Play” and after watching the first 12 days over about 1.5hrs no sale was necessary…yet Steam was having the “Exploration Sale” so I still got my first Steam game at a discount (note: this is also my first PC game purchase since like 2004). After watching an hour and half of gameplay, it still truly did not do justice to what I was about to experience.
This write-up is based on about 15 hours of gameplay and 32 days in (game days). The first thing that should be noted is that I don’t think I actually killed anyone for what seemed like the first 10 hours but that was a really good thing. I didn’t feel the need to kill anyone as the locations available to scavenge on this playthrough had relatively low danger levels if any. What grabbed my attention was the fact that regardless of how insignificant I deemed my actions during the night to be, it still had an impact on the group of survivors I was to manage. In that sense it didn’t feel like anything was missing for having not had to kill an NPC for that long of a time.
The impact of “stealing” was the primary concern in the early hours. You didn’t have to kill someone directly to have a negative impact on the psyche of your group. On one instance I went to a location with a father and son, but so as not to spoil anything I won’t say the in game location. One of them was ill and the other was trading and providing guard during the night. I traded with the individual and then began to search the area for supplies the “first” night. I found some supplies that I didn’t have to “steal” and made my way back home without incident.
Upon my return, the group commented on how it was a “shame” I didn’t have medical supplies to trade in order to help the sick person last night. I spent the day prepping my base to revisit the location the next night. This time I needed food… I approached the individual and traded some medicine for some food, but this time I also brought a crowbar to explore a bit more of this not so hostile spot. I found that I could go around to the back of the location, break into a door and steal a ton of food and supplies right from under these two…so I did…no one dead no harm?
As I ran away from the location alerting the two that someone had just robbed them but not quick enough for them to see it was me. I thought sweet, I got a bunch of needed supplies and still didn’t have to resort to violence. I got back to base and everyone was talking about how I left a sick person and another individuals who were not violent with very little if enough for them to survive. This led to everyone being “sad” the earliest tier before leading to “depression”.
All I could think of was that in Elder Scrolls when I steal and don’t get caught the loot is mine with very little negative impact if any…until I am caught. This was very different…being caught wasn’t the point. You knew what you were doing was wrong and accordingly it had an impact on your mental state. The emphasis on the ramification of your actions even when they are deemed as innocuous by most gaming tropes was quite refreshing. I had to remind myself that you are not the character…don’t play the game like a “game”. Just because you “can” do something and get away with it doesn’t mean that an individual in this real world situation would act accordingly.
It should be noted before I move on to discuss my set of murders in the game that I focused on the impact of “theft” for the first half of my playtime and “theft” can also indirectly lead to death thereby leading to depression. Needless to say, the theft that led to the death of a couple of NPCs and thereby the depression of one of my best scavenging character was a key factor in my experience with “killing”.
When I started to explore the option to kill in order to scavenge more… things became a bit more complicated. The first location I visited where I needed to resort to “extreme” measures with my knife was in a hotel with ruthless thugs. If I am going to kill an NPC it might as well be some bad guys….amiright? I hid in the shadows and took down the first guy…that was a pretty cool knifing animation I though and ran away before the guy with the shotgun could get to the site of the crime. Whoo.
Some of my group wasn’t really impacted by the act so the next few nights I took it upon myself to pick off the remaining thugs to secure the supplies in the area. After the second or third night my guy was “depressed”. Once again I am tasked with the question of how the "character" would deal with killing bad guys not ME. Alright…we have gotten through depression before…a little music, some rest, a few days good deal. I just needed to not do anything too egregious for the next few days while scavenging and I should be set…
When selecting a location to raid at night you are given a brief description as to whether there are armed forces and they may or may not tell you whether the inhabitants are hostile. I went to another location while depressed and was able to steal some much needed supplies without any violence (I knew my depression would not be reduced the next day due to the theft) but I had to steal the supplies or one of my group was going to bleed to death from wounds incurred guarding our base. I also noticed a whole section of the location that I couldn’t access because an NPC had taken an overwatch position and wasn’t moving (at least for the amount of time I was willing to wait). I left without incident with a few more supplies but the other section looked like a gold mine. Going to have to get my hands dirty, I thought...
The next night I returned. My character was still depressed so I didn’t want to kill anyone, instead I was going to make a run for the other side of the building. I ran, the NPC took a shot but missed and I made it to the other side. I thought everything was okay and began scavenging.  After a little while, the crazy NPC ran over and tried to attack me at which point I stabbed the **** out of her. Now in my experience with games, when you are attacked while not being hostile the response is usually well, “they were asking for it” so you are not penalized.  To be honest I thought that was the case as nothing changed immediately after the event. I continued to load up on supplies and when the other 2 NPCs saw me they ran so I avoided them and headed back to base.
Wouldn’t you know, as soon as I walked in the the door my character was mentally “broken” (I think this is the tier just before suicide) from the act. I had to really stop and collect myself because I thought I just lost one of my best characters for defending himself. I was literally pissed and thinking, “WTF, I ran to get access to stuff I didn’t have to steal and only killed the NPC when no options seemed to remain” now I am going to lose my best character. I didn’t want to kill anymore NPCs…This experience has just been so damn different. I found out later that the NPC that I killed was protecting 2 other non-violent NPCs but I didn’t realize that as I didn’t eavesdrop on their conversation long enough to learn this (listening is another important action in this game).
Time and time again, This War of Mine asked me to not focus on what I was doing as much as the long term implications of my actions. We often times compare games to “art” and I believe this title truly captures that. While writing about just the two incidents above I marveled at the stories the game itself provides the user. The randomness of the supplies and locations available at any given time leads the player to respond uniquely based on the needs of the group.
In similar games it is not uncommon for me to play for a few hours and then restart…this is not that type of game. You will lose characters…you should lose characters - this is War. I was reminded of the Walking Dead when I lost my first character. It occurred to one of my characters over the course of like a week in game due to my inability to secure bandages for his wounds, Pavle you will be missed. I have played The Sims and created sims without any home just to see how they end up dying from lack of resources but that is nothing like going out for 7 consecutive nights in hopes of finding bandages only to simply not be able to acquire them and then watch a character deteriorate from slightly wounded to bleeding to death regardless of your efforts.
When I started to decide whether to restart, what made me think of The Walking Dead was the idea that you will lose people but trying to rebuild the resources currently available to the group is much worse than letting a single character go even if their loss is surprisingly palpable for a game. Few games have had such little action and yet engaged me to this end. If you are getting a bit desensitized to digital war from the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield then you should really give this little gem a spin. I read several comparisons to Spec Ops: The Line but would argue that after having played both you have more control over exactly how dark war can get in this War of Mine. Spec Ops has great set pieces to make you question on a deeper level certain aspects of war but whether you choose to let an NPC drag a woman away after eluding to rape, attacking and killing the hostile character, or simply running in and punching and running from the better armed character to possibly give the girl a chance to run is all left in the players hands in This War of Mine.

[The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted on December 1st, has been lightly edited for grammar and style. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~ Ed. Nick Tan]

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How do you know when to switch? Last-Current-Next Gen
Posted on Monday, November 10 2014 @ 12:59:20 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.
I have been playing Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag and cannot emphasize enough how fun that game is. In discussions with my friends, I called it the “San Andreas” of the series and vehemently hope that they make another entry off this branch for PS4. I just wholeheartedly like the “pirate” style and I am just so over the beef with Assassins and Templars that I can only say thank you, Ubisoft, for introducing a main character who also did not give a **** about their endless war (note: I am only 56% through and have been enjoying it so much that I have been literally going island by island clearing them so only 56% complete but almost 30 hrs in and I am on Sequence 7). In my joy for playing this exceptionally solid game I couldn’t help but wonder if it would look or feel that much better on a PS4. If so, how much better…buy a redundant PS4 version, better (If I had a PS4, we’ll get back to this) or simply an aesthetic improvement more than anything else, better.
As opposed to going down the road of resolution and graphic fidelity I need to explain that what spurred me to write this piece wasn’t a need for better resolution but rather, after mulling over the merits of a new console I had to resort back to my “Video Game Purchase List”. Similar to many other gamers I have a physical backlog of games to play for my PS3 that has gotten larger as years roll on and great games continue to be released. As a somewhat cheap bastard, the majority of my backlog is of great games I got on sale ($10-$15 AAA titles) and have either yet to complete or not yet started. To slow down my backlog buildup I created a list a few years back that keeps track of games I would like to purchase. I included columns for approximate aggregate review scores, release date, comments, price/purchase threshold, and most recently I added a column for “delay to PS4” for cross gen games like Far Cry 4, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Mortal Kombat X, etc…
My list has been split between perspective PS3 purchases and PS4 purchases for when I eventually make the switch and to be honest the ratio was very different last year. I think this may be in part due to the PS3 coming into it’s final years and Sony’s shift in focus to games built for PS4 and not cross-gen ports. I was recently having a discussion about what PS3 games I am excited for this holiday season and all I could think was, “meh”. I want Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition next month, but not so much so that I would purchase a PS3 version and a PS4 version in the event I purchase a PS4 in the near future.

See, my dilemma stems from two things:
1. I don’t want to buy a lesser quality game at the same price if I know I may do the next gen switch soon.

2. I don’t know if I am ready to switch yet as I have a huge PS3 backlog and I only currently want       about 6 games out of the total PS4 games library. (FYI: Those 6 are The Evil Within, Alien       Isolation, Watch Dogs, Middle Earth, Diablo 3, & Infamous.)
A six-game library plus all of the free games I have downloading for PS4 via Playstation+ still really isn’t the tipping point for me to switch this holiday season…but what is, is the cross-gen games that I am delaying purchasing in order to reduce redundancy and not spend friggin $120+ for two copies of games like Middle Earth & Far Cry. That is the crux of my issue.
My list of perspective purchase games for the PS3 has whittled down to about 7 with the likes of Killer is Dead, Heavy Rain, and Lollipop Chainsaw, etc… while my perspective PS4 list is at about 16 with the previously mentioned 6 titles already out and another 4 desired titles coming out in November 2014 (Assassin’s Creed: Unity (sad it’s not pirates, but I want to see where the series goes when given the opportunity to build a game purely for Nex-Gen), FC4, DA:I, and GTA V (yes, I may be burned twice by ****ing Rockstar and it’s multiplayer but the single player was that good).
I currently feel like based on these factors it may personally be time for a switch. I can continue to delve deep into my backlog but for the first time during my PS3 ownership, as my list dwindles the entries are no longer being replaced with awesome new perspective titles.
My PS3 has served me well over the years and with regards to multiplayer, most of my friends are still rocking the 360 and PS3 (another determining factor in why I have delayed purchase…not as significant as the overall lack of games due to the novelty of the PS4 and Xbox1…but still a big factor). As I enter the closing years on this great system I look forward to what the second year since release will bring to the PS4 (Metal Gear Solid V). I will miss playing my PS3 and will probably not purchase a PS4 until next year but as Sam Cooke would say, “A change gone come." Not planning to trade in my PS3 but once I acquire a new system the ratio of time spent between the new and old shifts drastically... so it is more of a soft death for my PS3.
Aside from getting the money to buy a new console, how do you determine when to switch?

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted on October 29, has been lightly edited for grammar. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~ Ed. Nick Tan

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Ninja Storm Revolution: Initial Thoughts (Not a Review)
Posted on Friday, September 19 2014 @ 17:37:24 Eastern

Background: I own and have completed every entry in the Ninja Storm series, so there is inherent bias but luckily this isn’t a review. These are just my thoughts on a fun series I chose to pick up after my Dragon Ball Z Budokai ...   read more...

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A Letter to the Big “N"
Posted on Friday, September 12 2014 @ 12:02:24 Eastern

I have and will continue to have a place in my heart for Nintendo. In fact, my first console was a Super Nintendo. The video game market has changed drastically since the early '90s and it seems like what once was platinum is more...   read more...

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The Microsoft 180: Business as Usual
Posted on Tuesday, July 1 2014 @ 11:58:22 Eastern

When Microsoft announced its new “Kinect-less” Xbox One offering, the debate over the “Microsoft 180” was reignited. As I read the comments for and against this business move, I couldn’t help but feel that a grea...   read more...

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So much more than war...
Posted on Friday, April 18 2014 @ 16:56:36 Eastern

The recent blog, Peace in the Era of Call of Duty really made me think about war games that dig deeper than simply a kill streak reward. The first game that came to mind was Spec-Ops: The Line and although I haven’t played ...   read more...

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A Day Without Booth Babes! But why?
Posted on Wednesday, March 19 2014 @ 11:31:18 Eastern

I felt compelled to write this one up after reading a recent write-up by Daniel Bischoff requesting the support of the GR community in banning booth babes. Before I begin to address some of the points made by Daniel, I think it worthwhile to expound ...   read more...

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The Great Compromise: Final Fantasy VII
Posted on Friday, March 7 2014 @ 08:42:06 Eastern

[Yep, I flipped the image... see what I did there? Ed. Nick]
I was not originally a fan of FFVII; in fact, I remember looking at the commercials in the '90s and finally purchasing the game only to realize the commercials only show...   read more...

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Playing to achieve, complete, or enjoy?
Posted on Tuesday, March 4 2014 @ 16:38:29 Eastern

I read the article, “Gamer Earns 500 Platinum Trophies, Makes a Real-life Platinum Trophy” and it reminded me of Ryan Bates piece, an “Irrational Divide” and a piece by Daniel Bischoff called, “I Got a Top Score in Call of Duty”. What the...   read more...

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