Microtransactions: The Future of Console Gaming?

Games that base their revenue off microtransactions utilize a very profitable business model. 93% of the profits made off mobile phone market are free to play. Anyone who’s watched the January 31st Game Scoop would’ve picked up that tidbit information. They would have also heard one of IGN’s editors, Justin Davis, claim that this type of model is on its way to consoles. Those words tend scare us gamers, “microtransaction” is synonymous with “pay to win” or “always online” or “subscriptions”.  It seems that as technology evolves the doors are opening for companies to utilize this type of model.

Take for example a game I don’t think a lot of people have talked about for a variety of reasons, NBA 2K14. People aren’t talking about this because of much of a better quality game 2K14 is compared to NBA Live. It destroyed Live to put it bluntly. It’s been put on a pedestal somewhat because of this, and it’s also marketed towards a more casual consumer base. Before we all hop on the hate train, I’ll admit that 2K14 is a fun game and the multi-player is great. Yet people don’t seem to be talking about the in-game microtransactions. I’ve played that game upward of 50 hours so far and I am not even close to unlocking all the features that were standard in the older games. In order to unlock these features you have to spend gold coins that you earn from playing games or buying them. Usually the idea of grinding to unlock features or items is analogous with MMO’s or mobile games. I can honestly say I had to grind in 2K14 in order to unlock in game items. Tired of playing single player games but needing to unlock more core gameplay, I bit down and continued to grind to unlock features. I can’t even bear to play association mode because of how many features I still have to unlock. I used to almost exclusively play association with friends and compete to see who the better GM was. On top of all this you can’t even play multi-player association on the same system like every other past NBA 2K, you’re forced to play online. One of my friends that I played the association mode with often told me that it was a deal breaker for him and he wouldn’t get the game because of it. To be clear though, I wouldn’t be mentioning the game if this was the worst part.

A humorous but exaggerated look at NBA 2K14’s microtransaction system

Most people saw the gamers’ victory in Microsoft’s reversal of its always-online DRM policy as the end of that B.S., at least for now. You may want to reconsider. Let’s take a step back for a moment and assume Microsoft wasn’t the bad guy, or at least not as bad of a guy. What if Microsoft was doing this to offer you the most content possible and to make the Xbox One have higher quality games? What if this wasn’t purely about monetizing your living room with ads?

To see what I mean let’s go back to NBA 2K14. The microtransactions weren’t the worst part about the game, nor was it the lack of multi-player association mode. It was the always online aspect of the game. A few weeks into playing 2K14 my account couldn’t connect to the servers so almost none of the core features worked besides exhibition games. All I wanted to do at the time was to continue with my character in the My Career mode and I couldn’t even do that. It was awful, I sent an email to 2K and I didn’t hear from them for a month. It took over two weeks for my account to be able to connect to the servers again. My brothers account on the same PS4 wasn’t affected, only mine for some reason.

Now were going to go back to Microsoft. What if this DRM nonsense wasn’t Microsoft’s idea? Rather, it was the big game companies that came to Microsoft. The promise to optimize their games for the Xbox One then port to the PS4 and offer more exclusives is nice bargaining chip. It would have been in back to back generations that Microsoft beat Sony in game content. Sony’s supposed advantage in specs would have been all hype because games would have been optimized for the Xbox One. Microsoft would have had far superior exclusives and a much fuller library. It would have seemed like Microsoft cared more about getting content to its customers. In reality, the required online and no used game policy meant that the big publishers microtransaction-based model of games would have been implemented easier and have reached a much wider audience (everyone with an Xbox One). This may be why it was so easy for Microsoft to reverse their policy once they heard all the uproar. It was a tacked-on feature rather than built into the foundation of the system.

“Okay, but what’s the big deal about what-ifs? I mean, it’s all hypothetical. We were able to stop Microsoft from doing this by making our voices heard.”

That’s true; we were able to stop something from being implemented that wasn’t the norm. It’s a lot harder to do once it does become the norm. This is why it’s significant that more games like NBA 2K14 are using microtransaction or always online based models. It will become the norm and there will be no reason to speak up. I’m not saying this because I believe that all of us should grab our pitch forks and torches. The reality of it there’s nothing we can do about it. It may sound pessimistic, but we simply can’t stop it. We’re gamers and we love to game. We’ll buy the new titles, and those that are disciplined enough to avoid these types of games are too few in number.

I’m not claiming this to be some incredible insight into the industry. Many assumed Microsoft wasn’t alone in proposing this new structure for console gaming. But the question isn’t if micro transactions are the future of console gaming; because they’re not. They’re a fundamental part of gaming right now, and they’re here to stay.

The NEW Generation

Is it fair to stop calling it the “Next Generation”? The PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One have been out for over two months and the WiiU (if you want to include it in this generation) has been out over a year. It deserves to be called “Current Generation” but to be fair to those people that haven’t gone out and gotten a PS4 or XboxO, we’ll call the “New Generation”.

One thing that has been on a lot of gamers’ minds has been what about this console lineup makes it Next Gen? So far all we’ve really seen is a slight improvement in graphics, nothing about the environments has done a whole lot of wooing and the size of games aren’t considerably larger either. Last generation had interactive sidelines (I’m looking at you Madden) and the end of last generation had 30-40 Gigabyte downloadable games (to be fair this generation does include a few 50 Gigabyte games thus far). So what about all this makes it Next Gen? Is it the home entertainment system aspects? improved camera features? more dynamic online interactivity?

Well, so far it is all of that. But there’s not much more you can say about this generation, SO FAR. The things that make it Next Gen won’t be seen for about a year, maybe more. Developers need time to learn how to optimize their content on the new systems. Compare GTA:  V or The Last of Us to launch games from the PS4 or Xbox 360 like Resistance: Fall of Man. The differences are drastic. And I don’t use this example arbitrarily.

Resistance: Fall of Man gameplay

Last of Us gameplay

Back in ’06 I was at a friend’s house that just got his hands on Resistance: Fall of Man and we proceeded to beat the campaign on co-op mode (which by the way needs to be re-introduced games). During this marathon gaming session, at one point after we killed an enemy chimera my friend proceeded to unload his magazine into our fallen foe, like any good teenage gamer. He apparently hit one of the tubes on the dead chimera and it reacted to the bullet, proceeding to break and gush air. He turned to me in astonishment, “Look how detailed this dead one looks, I don’t know how much more realistic games can get.” And I agreed with him. There was little room to improve graphics in my mind. I was young at the time but no gamer, regardless of age, can say there wasn’t a point at which they looked at a game’s graphics in complete disbelief, only to have that bar shattered in two months.

The point of that tangent was that the Next Gen-y aspects of the New Generation are coming, just give it some time. Resistance: Fall of Man (Killzone: Shadow Fall/Ryse: Son of Rome) will eventually become The Last of Us or GTA: V (???), patience my friends.

Wild, crazy, fun!

Borderlands 2 is one of the most anticipated games coming out this fall. The first installment in the series was known for its wild antics, crazy humor, and all-around fun action. The question is can Borderlands 2 live up to this and exceed it?

So far indications are yes it will live up to the title and will most definitely exceed the wild, crazy, fun of Borderlands. The success of the previous games allowed the makers to go after ambitious goals and have a larger budget. The game is still a first person shooter but now has more RPG elements weaved into the game. There are far more side-quests, more enemies, and more ways to customize your appearance and guns. The game still takes place on the desolate wasteland of Pandora and many of the same enemies reappear in the sequel.

For those of you who have not played the first game of the series, Borderlands was a first-person shooter with a few RPG elements. The graphics are more cartoon-ish than most games and the story isn’t terribly deep. Yet the humor, great action, and all-around bad-ass feeling of the game made it one of the most surprising titles a few years back. It is extremely well made and anyone who plays it will have a ton of fun.

This game will no doubt be a best-seller this year. The first game was so good I will undoubtedly be buying the second.

How about you, will you buying Borderlands 2? What’d you think of Borderlands?

NCAA Football 13

Another year another set of EA sports games.  There are many reasons to hate this company for how they handle the games and many reasons to love them. Every year they come out with the same game as the previous with a few tweaks. Yet the familiarity and simple controls keep us buying it year after year. People are frustrated when companies don’t change-up what they come out with yet get angry with companies who change and don’t stick to “what works” (see Bioware and Dragon Age). It’s a tough situation to be in as a company.

So how did EA do with NCAA Football 13? Surprisingly very well. NCAA Football has been year in and year out a well-presented and interesting video game with all the different game modes like dynasty and road to glory. Yet this year they added to it with the Heisman Challenge mode. In this mode you get to play as one of ten selected previous Heisman winners on any team the player wishes for one season. The mode has its flaws such as the announcers don’t acknowledge their names but overall its pretty fun and interesting. Definitely a welcome addition to the game

The game play also got a little more intriguing with Reaction Time. Reaction Time enables a player to slow the game down during a play to avoid defenders or to make a tackle. The player only has a limited amount depending on how good they are and their experience. It adds a little flavor to the game play which resembles every other football game out there.

There were a lot of issues not fixed in this years game though. You’ll probably here most of everything the announcers will say with in two games, the Road to Glory mode is far too easy, and recruiting in dynasty mode is still an annoying, time-consuming, pain in the ass. Players still put their arms and shoulder through the ball or another persons body and tight-end streaks are nearly unguard-able. One of thing I am very happy with though that they did fix is that you can’t run twenty feet backwards, throw off your back foot and throw a perfect ball to a receiver fifty yards down field. A very welcomed change.

Overall the game is a better improvement than you will get with most sport video games. I don’t advise getting the same sports video game two years in a row but if you’re going to get NCAA Football any year, it’s this one.

If any of you have already played the game, what do you think? If not, will you be buying this? What have your previous experiences with NCAA Football been like?

A New Concern in Gaming?

It has recently been reported that the database from the free-to-play online gaming site Gamigo had been hacked. Approximately eight million email addresses and encrypted passwords have been taken and posted publicly online. News of the hack had actually been reported back in early March, but it was online recently on July 6th that the information had been posted online on Insider Pro.

The information was taken down and hashed to be made difficult to decipher, yet anyone with experience in hacking would have no problem obtaining the information. It is advised that any who had information on the site change their passwords for their accounts and anything else they use the same password for.

It was only slightly over a year ago that the Playstation Network had been hacked, compromising millions of users credit card accounts, passwords, and email addresses. Fortunately there weren’t many complaints about the personal information being used or credit card numbers being stolen. The concerns though continue to grow as online gaming grows, and in a broader sense as more information continues to be shared over the world-wide web.

How afraid are you of a possible hack into you’re accounts? Do you see it becoming a problem in the future? What steps, if any, would you suggest to other viewers in keeping their information safe?

An End Once And For All

Now this is old news and if you do not like discussing the ending of Mass Effect, please do us all a favor and do not continue reading then complain that the subject has been beaten to death.

Mass Effect is the greatest story the media of video games has to offer. The amount of information presented to the player that provides the lore to the game is unparalleled. The amount of time put into the personality, background, and overall like-ability of every character in the series makes even the most hardened of men care about their fate. The story consumes the player and makes it feel as though they are truly apart of the narrative. The tale of Commander Shepard is an epic one, used in both the current meaning of amazing and the Greek form of a tale. Unfortunately in a sense, the latter can be said about the series as a whole as well.

Mass Effect 3, the last installment of the Mass Effect series, concluded one of the greatest stories of all time. Unfortunately it didn’t end like the one of the most incredible stories ever told. The ending was surrounded in so much controversy that even the Penn State athletic department would feel sorry for Bioware.

For any of you who have not played the series, the best comparison I’ve ever heard to this ending was: Imagine in Harry Potter that the real enemy wasn’t Voldemort, the true mastermind behind all that evil was Dudley. But that’s not all, the only way to stop Dudley is for Harry to destroy the magical world. And to top icing on the cake, every character you’ve come to know is probably dead (Ron, Hermione, George, Fred, etc..).

Yeah, it was that bad. The things that I explained earlier that made Mass Effect great were completely abandoned in the final moments of the game, the most important moment in the series. They lost narrative coherence, continuity, and the main character lost the things that made him great. Everything you know about the Reapers seemed to be uprooted in the final moments of the game with the introduction of the “AI Star-Child”. The continuity of the story seemed to be lost when some characters magically appeared on the Normandy or the Citadel. Shepard also seemingly loses the ability to gather information to make an informed decision. Much of the controversy that surrounded it had to do with players making the most important decision of the series near-blind.  They completely destroyed the lore of the series in the final moments of the game as well with the destruction of the Mass Relays.

All of this could have been forgiven if Bioware did what they said they were going to do from the beginning, allow decisions that were made through out the series change the outcome of the ending, an interactive ending that told YOUR story. They always talked about how Commander Shepard’s story is the player’s story. Hell they even said it wouldn’t even be a simple A, B, C choice. (Actually you’re right it was Red, Blue, Green). Part of the problem had to do with the great expectations Bioware fed their audience.

It was bad, but that’s not what this post is about.

Bioware heard our complaints and acted, something people do not give them enough credit for. They accepted that the ending wasn’t satisfactory and tried to fix it. They didn’t owe the fans anything, they could have left the game as is. Yet they manned up and took responsibility. Hell, who really knows if it was even their fault? One only has to look at the destruction EA causes wherever they go to see that there may have been a bigger bully rushing/changing the project. In any case though they changed the ending with the extended cut DLC.

The extended cut fixed many of the things previously stated – narrative coherence, plot holes, destruction of lore, too many questions, not enough closure, and so on. They fixed it, and while some may argue that the concept of the ending wasn’t well thought out (I would be one), one can at least accept the new ending presented. If this had been the ending they had originally presented to us many would have not have been mad and the public outrage would have never of happened. In fact most would have been content with the ending and it probably would have been acclaimed to be one of the greatest finishes in gaming history.

There was too much right in this series for it to go that horribly wrong in the end. I’m glad they came out with the extended cut DLC, and although the bitter taste from the original ending still lingers, I can truly be happy with the ending and can move on with gaming.

What do you guys think? Did you like the series? What about the endings-original/extended? What were your favorite moments of the series?

Side Note: the music to the ending was spectacular in both endings. Original= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5JvbD2Zc9I Extended = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLxv_g_zQkY

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

Big in news lately has been a new Super-Smash Brothers-esque game set to release on the Playstation 3 on October 23 called Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Left with speculating based on only a few films online it seems to have an eerily similar design and gameplay to that of the Super Smash Bros series (2D levels, interactive background, outrageous animation to simple moves, and cool special moves available to each characters).

The current characters have been plucked from different series for this game and include: Big Daddies from the Bioshock series, Colonel Mael Radec from the Killzone series, Fat Princess from Fat Princess, Kratos from the God of War series, Heihachi Mishima from Tekken, Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, PaRappa from the PaRappa the Rapper series, Sly Cooper from the Sly Cooper series, Sweet Tooth from the Twisted Metal series, and Toro (Japanese mascot for Playstation). Two characters unconfirmed but highly likely to be playable characters: Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series, and Cole MacGrath from the Infamous series. There is also other rumors include: Ezio from Assassins Creed, Ratchet from Ratchet and Clank, Sackboy from Little Big Planet, and James Bond.

This is a wide range of characters and touches base with a wide range of gamers. It’s great in getting everyone involved with this game, along with the homey feeling of the eerily similar game play to Super Smash Brothers this game is bound to be a huge success. There are some characters I do and don’t like in the game.

Big Daddies- Love it. Each characters abilities are tailored to what they’re like in their own games. Having a big bruiser our there in a Big Daddy is sure to please anyone who wants to lay down powerful blows. It adds diversity to the game seeing as he seems to be alone in the “Big Bruiser” type role.

Fat Princess- Eh. It helps expand the game to wider range of players so that’s a positive. Her moves seem artificial. Like in the way in Super Smash Bros when DK plays the bongos it does damage. Doesn’t really make sense. I probably won’t be using her much but I’m not against having her included.

Colonel Mael Radec- Not a fan. He doesn’t really add much to the game other than the sniper rifle he seems to be carrying around everywhere. His moves seem unimaginative and his suit of armor isn’t even cool compared to some of the other characters.

Kratos- Love it. The fighting mechanics in the God of War series are so good its hard to imagine that fans of the series won’t be a little of upset with the downgrade but I’m excited they added him. He has such a combination of strength and speed it seems like he probably should be unfair to play with. Yet remember that God of War was almost strictly a brawler so he may have a disadvantage from range.

Sly Cooper- Like it. Bringing back a fan favorite. He could be cool to play with, using some type of stealth in the game. Yet he seems to be at such a disadvantage it may make me question how a Big Daddy just got K.O.ed by a punch from Sly.

PaRappa- Hate it. Who even played those games honestly? I never even heard of them before I looked it up when I first saw the previews. He’ll use weird moves like rapping and skateboarding which I hate. He doesn’t offer much either. No, just no. Wasting space for another cooler, character to use.

Heihachi Mashimi- No. If I wanted to play Tekken, I’d play Tekken. He doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Classical fighter, uses a combination of strength and speed. Space waster. Old character used in similar game. Yawn…

Sweet Tooth- I never played the Twisted Metal series but I’m going to have to say yes. His crazy personality combined with that creepy clown face add some to the series. His obsession with fire seems like it could be cool and I want to see this ice cream truck used some how.

Nathan Drake- Eh. I really like the Uncharted series but Nathan just doesn’t really add much. No special powers, no insane abilities. Unfortunately he probably is a space waster.

Toro- I personally am opposed, but that’s probably not the case if you went to Japan. He could be kind of cool but I’d definitely rather have a similar character to him that I know, like Sackboy.

Snake- For all intents and purposes he’s in the game. Like it. Personally never played Metal Gear Solid series. But it is considered to be one of the best game series of all time. If it’s that good he’ll definitely have some cool moves so Snake gets the thumbs up.

Cole MacGrath- Love it. I only played the first inFAMOUS but I’m already pumped for his electrical moves. Brings something new to the table. To me Cole personally is a little bit of a flat character but his moves make up for it.

Ezio- Please be in the game, please be in the game. This guy would be so hype jumping from platforms stabbing people. He might not bring something insanely new to the table but he seems to be on a completely different level then all the previous characters for agility so that could be cool.

Sackboy- As much as I’ve been hating on the younger audience characters i love Sackboy. He never really brawls or fights anything in Little Big Planet, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does. It will also be awesome to see that little creepy stitched in smile after he K.O.’s someone.

James Bond- No. He’s not really a game character. Doesn’t bring much new to the table. Would be space waster.

Ratchet- Never played Ratchet and Clank so undecided here.

Players I would like to see

Commander Shepard- Biotics could a nice addition to the game. Along with help from some of his squad in his power moves. He makes for an interesting character. Also the reapers shooting a giant laser into the game would be a nice interactive background.

Chimeran Hybrid- His moves probably wouldn’t bring much new to the table but his look will help create diversity. Plus Resistance is a Playstation exclusive so give the nod to those guys.

Deathclaw- This would be interesting. Give something to rival Kratos’ brawling ability. No special powers, just strength and speed.

The Dohvakiin- Thu’ums would be awesome to use in gameplay. Very unlikely though because each character in Skyrim is unique to the player. An interactive background with dragons would be a nice touch as well.

Player I DO NOT want to see

Isaac Clarke- Hated Dead Space series. No attachment to what’s going on, just run around and do this type of thing. Anyway, doesn’t bring anything unique to table. Rumored to be in it, will be disappointed if he is.

Anyone from COD, Battlefield, or Medal of Honor- No explanation needed

So what do you guys think? Will you be getting the game? What do you think of the current and rumored characters? Also let me know what characters you guys want and why.