Updates from April, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Thais 8:25 pm on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ending, interactivity, Mass Effect 3, ownership   

    Player Empowerment over the Game 

    There are eight million blogs about Mass Effect’s ending, but is not one of them. Well, not entirely.

    Last month, most of us watched, without dissimulating the awe, the rise of the discontent horde profoundly enraged. “What could possibly infurieted some many good people?” your mom might have asked, “Hunger? Social inequality? The public health system? Politics?” to which you probably would have answer “They didn’t liked a videogame ending”. This is a suitable answer, but we both know that it does not translate exactly into what happened, does it? What I do recall was angered petitions, money gathering [which, fortunately, end up going to charity] and enraged forums posts. Oh, my Thor, how many posts. It has even became its own meme. Despite all possible pesky atmosphere all these claims had, it’s clear that ME3 fans organized themselves in order to make their point.

    Jane McGonigal links this organization abilities encouraged by games as a dormant potential to change the word. She believes that all those fans, highly capable and organized, are only waiting a chance to use their powers to change the world. Unfortunately, future does not seems so bright at least to me. People not always like the same stuff and specially, people not always like the same kinds of cultural productions. The different spectrum of options is also a part of what makes us humans, after all. And respecting there differences is also a great deal of living in society. However, when a large group of people start believing that their point of view is more important or, even more dangerous, more truthful and do whatever is in their power to prove to every single soul in the world that they are right, then we have what we call radicals or extremists. And that’s pretty similar to what happen to Mass Effect 3.

    Erik Kain make some good points on how changing ME3 ending is not a bad choice. He points out, for instance, that corporate decisions already deeply influence artistic direction or that videogames are interactive medium and, as so, players are also creative involved on the game. This last claim, however, is quite a tricky one. Sure, no one that has ever played a game doubts that playing the result of the game itself with player’s choices and inputs, and, as so, most events on any game rely on player’s own abilities and judgement. However, players only can play or  interact within option already given to them by developers. Games are a cooperative experience constructed both by players and developers as an experience, but bottom-line, players can only experience what was chosen to be presented to them. Even though there is such a clear distinction, do players in some way own part of the creative content on a game since they have interacted to it?

    • CmdrEdem 9:16 pm on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I don`t think players own the right to demand something from developers. They have the right to suggest changes and developers may hear the complains or not. If developers do not hear and address the complaints there may be retaliation business side (ex.: next game from that developer will sell less, a flood of used copies on the marked since people want to get rid of that piece of junk).

      • Thais 7:18 am on April 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        I personally agree with you, however complain in one thing while demanding is another, completely different. ME3 fans were demanding a different ending, as if they possessed the rightful call about it since they “had been there” during the events of ME and ME2 as though they, too, own part of the unfolding of the events. Really an weird situation.

  • Lex 4:51 pm on September 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Seeing Red 

    It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” -John Wooden

    Patience and perseverance may win many battles; but even the steadiest marksman or quickest tactician will find him or herself tempering surges of anger. Such overwhelming fury can lead a player to violently snap the ethernet cord out of their router in a frenzied fit of profanity and name calling. It is this gaming era’s equivalent to flipping over the card table. Rage quitting is a display of poor sportsmanship almost as old as the idea of games itself.

    In my time with multiplayer gaming I have seen many examples of people throwing hissy fits and dropping out of games with a neck and neck score thus costing our team the victory. To circumvent the ramifications of a single user’s disconnect impeding a team’s fair chance at triumph, many developers are employing AI controlled bots to take over for players who drop out either from frustration, bad connections or simply because of adult obligations to the real world. While artificial intelligence technologies have made several leaps in the last decade, their adeptness at intervening remains second to human players with whom others can coordinate and organize strategies conducive to competitive play.

  • Lex 2:10 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Age of Empires Online, Diablo 2, Diablo III, Dungeons and Dragons Online, League of Legends, Spiral Knights, Team Fortress 2,   

    The Devil’s Wealth 

    Large corporations are managed with a great deal of forethought. The strategies which the highest echelons of management set into motion are considered and mulled over for long stretches of time and over many meetings. This is how businesses succeed and grow. The oft overzealous knee-jerky conservative reaction from a passionate fan base to an unprecedented announcement usually comes from people not willing to understand why something has been added to or omitted from the latest version of a given product.

    Blizzard didn’t become Blizzard by making mistakes with its beloved franchises. Many are regarding the addition of real-money auction houses to Diablo III as a miscalculated move on the celebrated developer’s part. The biggest fear the most vocal critics share is the affect such exchanges would have on the value of loot players acquire from drops. The most die hard players spend tens or hundreds of hours griding the same dungeons to obtain top tier weapons, armor and trinkets. From the outside micro-transactions may seem damaging to the gameplay of an multi-player online battle arena (MOBA) or any other online experience focused on competitive play. While this once held true for shooters such as the Modern Warfare series, these practices are most beneficial to games being developed on the industry fringe.

    DDO was one of the first Massively-Multiplayer Online RPGs to embrace the free-to-play model which supports micro-transactions.

    Free-to-play games like the dungeon crawler Spiral Knights and the MMORPG Dungeons and Dragons Online need such micro transaction systems in place to assure survival in a crowded, competitive market. Their business models are based on small dollar purchases made by the community of players surrounding them. Developers such as Spiral Knights’ Three Rings Design take huge risks releasing their games to the public with an entry-level cost of nil on the part of the consumer. All they ask of the player is the occasionally micropayments toward the purchase of in-game items. Such items provide character buffs or serve as simple aesthetic diversions from what is typically found in the game world.

    Multi-player centric indie titles for which micropayment auction houses are advantageous include the much lauded MMO Mythos, the DOTA inspired League of Legends and the MMO-RTS hybrid Age of Empires Online. All of these are games from the outlying sectors of the videogame industry. All were made by indie developers who ask little or no upfront monetary investment from new players. They need the capital provided by free-to-play revenue streams to sustain operations and keep the game alive.

    MANN Co.’s Aussie CEO Saxton Hale is the cartoonishly musclebound mascot of TF2’s in game store.

    Of all the games applying the micro transaction business model the majority are MMOs, MOBAs and an abundance of Diablo 2 derivatives. However, full-sized tent pole shooters have adopted the real-money transactions paradigm. Valve’s Team Fortress 2 integrated real money transactions for weapons and hats which has not been detrimental to the game. Quite the opposite effect has transpired as the TF2 community has grown steadily since the introduction of the trade and craft systems. With the recent free-to-play changeover the player population for the objective-based first-person shooter has exploded. Team Fortress 2 even dethroned Valve’s own Counter-Strike as the most played game on Steam.

    To bring this discourse back to Diablo III, specifically its auction houses, the idea that a game which recoups its production costs upfront from software sales and then asks its user base to fork over more money is a rather shifty proposition. Especially given that D3’s price point will probably be in the sixty dollar range for the standard edition. However, given World of Warcraft’s problems with gold farmers depreciating the in-game currency, one can easily recognize why Blizzard would seek to minimize any damage done to their new game by using what they’ve learned about player-run economies in conjunction with what they know about gold farming processes.

    Even with dominant artistic and technical prowess, Blizzard Entertainment is still a business.

    What do we know about Diablo III’s real-money auction houses?

    • Players will be able to trade money for in-game items via a player-to-player transaction system.
    • Blizzard gets a set cut from every trade.
    • A third-party provider will also receive a cut of the sale from any player who chooses to cash out.
    • Blizzard will receive yet another cut from a player who cashes out on their sale.
    • Anonymous transactions both ways. Neither player is aware of the other player’s identity.
    • Upon death, hardcore branded characters become barred from real-money exchanges.
    Why is Blizzard implementing real-money auction houses?
    • The alternative to micro transactions is a subscription based model ala WoW. In order to fund the maintenance and further development of Diablo III multiplayer servers Blizzard necessitates some sort of financial influx.
    • Cut into the revenue stream of gold farmers

    It’s easy to allow our grievances to cloud better judgement when the things we love dearly change. Stopping to consider the reasons for an amendment goes against our nature to preserve the things we love and the memories we have of them; especially when that change is unexpected. Servers, server maintenance and security overhead are costly even for a company as financially fortified as Blizzard. In the end we should all rejoice and celebrate the arrival of a new Diablo game. Blizzard has carefully cultivated its franchises over the years and it would behoove them to continue in their game design tradition. This tradition of meticulous testing and iteration, along with the mantra “It’s ready when it’s ready” has garnered them endless praise and an ever expanding fan base.

    Perhaps this aggravated fellow can best summarize the well-meaning but over-zealous fervor felt by the hardcore.

    • CmdrEdem 4:54 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think the problem is really the AH itself. The problem is: because of security concerns regarding item duplication and other cheating related to powerful item aquisition the game will have to be played online at all times. People that is afraid of the AH for any reason besides that one is a fool. Like Blizzard said: RMTs exist in D2 and it’s not like it destroyed the game. More people will use RMTs now that there’s a safe way to do it? Sure as hell they will. But I don’t think this will break the game and Blizzard will watch very closelly so it’s new gem is not shattered by this hammer.

    • JenicEm 10:30 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Good Point, Lex!
      It is so amazing how this game isn’t even out yet and these ‘fanboys’ are already thinking it is ruined!! Thought he video at the end is a fake reaction (over exaggerated) it illustrates exactly some of the off handle emotions brewing out there.

  • Lex 4:09 pm on August 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Game Studies, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, , Unreal Tournament 2004   

    Generations of Bloodletting 

    Humans have a deep seeded attachment to violence. We also have a tendency to easily anger each other. Road Rage is common on most highways and city streets. Were it not for laws and the unappealing idea of serving time in prison, the wild west’s everyone-for-themselves code would have permeated into our modern world. As our society flourished over the centuries, we have appropriated shades of said bond into our artistic endeavors. Video games’ graphic depictions of violence has provided players with a means to release tension. The biggest selling titles of the current generation of platforms has us decimating opponents from a first-person perspective using any number of variants on that most famous implement of death, the gun. The massive popularity of first-person shooters is a sure sign that people are an aggressive species in spite our continued push for self-preservation.

    What happens when mario falls down a random environmental gap? Artist Ryan Coleman shows us with The Pit

    My own relationship with that base urge to kill, maim and destroy was, as with most people of my generation, quelled with video game violence. My introduction to virtual carnage came from the seemingly benign, fever-dream abstractions found in colorful 2D platformers. Squashing Goombas and watching Mario after Mario fall to their dooms in some off screen abyss were common sights to which I gave little consideration. The deaths my favorite heroes were fated to relive over and over were little more than contrived obstacles for me, as the player, to surmount. The violence I inflicted upon my squat, pixelated enemies evoked a satisfying visceral charge that would prove addicting.

    Many demons have been mowed down by chaingun totting teenagers during the 90's.

    My exposure to cartoonish, over-the-top violence continued with likes of the infamous PC classic Doom. A title that was met with strong enmity from religious and political groups warning parents of the corrupting dangers virtual violence posed the mental health of young people. Even after the 1999 school shootings in Columbine Colorado, Doom had remained the poster child for the anti-game legislation movement long after it’s first release in the early 1990’s.

    Mortal Kombat introduced my arcade dwelling cohorts and I to photorealistic, albeit still clearly digital, portrayals of stylish decapitations, incinerations and impalements. In spite growing concerns from our respective families, we kids knew better than to try to punch through our friends’ ribcages and yank out their still-beating hearts. What’s more, even as we wallowed in the arrogance of our adolescent years, we were well aware of the ridiculous and improbable nature of digitized violence. Once the initial oomph of watching a lifelike person being torn apart wore off, the farcical stamp of MK‘s extreme violence shone through. The maniacal medley of metal-inspired imagery and unfettered displays of martial arts gore immediately sunk its hooks into my teenage cognizance. Needless to say, I got good at the first MK, and this frightened my family.

    The Pit: My favorite MKI stage.
    Gore, gibs and splatter patterns, oh my!

    It was not until Unreal Tournament 2004 that I was acquainted to the virtual bloodsport known as the death match. Frags, gibs and flak cannons assimilated into my daily ritual. Aggression and the temperaments of day-to-day stressors are eased with the tension releasing act of stacking frags on multiple opponents on your favorite map.

     In the wake of Mortal Kombat II‘s 1994 release on home consoles, the video game industry was in the early stages of adopting a self-governing body that would rate games in accordance with the content that had the potential to be deemed objectionable by parents; thereby making these games inappropriate for players under a certain age group. Thus, the ESRB was born. Rather than applying a black-and-white scale to game ratings, the ESRB used a clear, well-defined letter system (E = Everyone, T = Teen, etcetera) coupled with explicit descriptors that itemized any objectionable content in a given release. To this day, the implications are still being felt as recently as this past June when the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of video games deeming them to be free artistic speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution.
    Where all dead, dirty, sinful pixels go…

    Human beings are perplexed, conflicted creatures when it comes to the bedlam of slaughtering one another. At once we are both fascinated and repulsed by the transient carnage that ensues from a full head-on collision or random inner-city shootout. Flirting with our own mortality is a part of our natural curiosity. Thus does our attraction to homicidal behaviors draw many of us to game violence. Real violence, the likes of which is committed everyday all around the world, has deep ramifications; made all the more real when all of our senses, not just sight and to a lesser extent touch, are engaged in absorbing the event. Computer-created simulator in which user agency plays a part in creating subdues the vehement urge to commit murder for petty reasons.

  • Thais 9:13 am on December 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: hacked, hacked kinect, , kinect hack, , night goggles   

    Kinect shows its potential [through hacks] 

    photo by Atsushi Tadokoro

    If you haven’t been living in a cave or exclusively in Cataclysm, you have already heard of Microsoft’s controller-free accessory for Xbox360 Kinect. Kinect is out for sales since November [4th in USA] and 2.5 million units of it have been sold as of November 29. Microsoft expects to sell 2.5 million more until the end of the year, which is a great revenue on a product that is being sold for $150 [almost as expensive as a whole console] and seems to have a bill-of-materials (BOM) of roughly $56.

    In spite of the price, Kinect users are finding new and interesting was of using it. As soon as the first units were sold, some had already find out about the beautiful show of lights provided by Kinect through night goggles.

    But not much later a way to pull raw data out of the system was found, allowing all kinds of hacks and new uses to Kinect. Here are some cool examples:

    As you can see, it was possible to program Kinect to control simple computer functions, but more complex tasks as playing Quake or controlling a whole computer are still proving to be difficult to achieve.

    • Giseli 9:22 am on December 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hm, I will ask to Santa Claus to give a Kinect to me to hack too :D And beautiful this snowing on your blog, but it could cool my LCD :P

  • Thais 2:31 pm on December 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Meat Boy, Peta, Peta Games, , tofu boy, troll, twitter troll   

    Super Meat Boy vs. PETA 

    Trolls are to internet as a mustache is to Mario. Mario still would still exist without it, but we all know it wound’t be the same thing. Therefor, trolling is also one of the most effective ways of drawing attention online or even making something viral. Some organization have already realized that, as PETA and Norton, but most of them fail to use all the potetion that trolling was.

    Recently, Peta seemed outraged by the indie game Super Meat Boy. According to the organization, the game was somewhat insensitive and cruel in such a level that they made a parode game, Super Tofu Boy. I think it’s important to highlight two main points here: Meat Boy, the protagonist, is a boy without skin, so I really don’t see why PETA cares since there is no “animal cruelty” involved; also, PETA is trying to defame a indie game, made with a really tiny budget. So, PETA decided to troll the game and released Super Tofu Boy.

    Apparently, Bandage Girl broke up with Meat Boy and start dating Tofu Boy. Also, PETA’s Meat Boy is

    Meat Boy is a vengeful, bloody cube of rotting animal flesh. And he smells. After a short-lived fling with Bandage Girl (sympathy dates, really), he became enraged when he was dumped for the tasty and satisfying Tofu Boy. Once Bandage Girl slept with Tofu Boy and saw all that he had to offer, it was bye-bye beef, hello bean curd. Enraged by his loss and lack of ability to compete with the badass that is Tofu Boy, Meat Boy snapped and kidnapped Bandage Girl—because if he can’t have her, no one will.

    So, a kid without skin is “bloody cube of rotting animal flesh” for PETA. Nice touch! Also, why to research the game background before making a parody if you can just rage attack, right?

    Anyway, PETA’s trolling wasn’t well seen by most of gamers, who quickly answer. Meat Boy devs, otherwise, claim to have enjoyed the visibility that PETA’s game gave to their game, but that haven’t stop the trolling back. First, they used Twitter; here is a log of the twitter messages and its responses.

    Then, they created a playable character of Tofu Boy in Super Meat Boy; to play with it one have to type “petaphyle” in the character select screen after downloading the last upgrade.

    My guess: leave the trolling to professionals.

    If you have the time to see other PETA game parodies, I say do it! They are to kill for. I personally recommend Cooking Mama, in which the player progression is  not defined by his performance whatsoever [are you kidding me?] and also taught me how to make a Thanksgiving turkey, a lesson that will be put in practice really soon! Thanks, PETA!

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