Weekly News Round-Up 8/3/10

The ApocalyPS3

This week much raging did take place, because for an entire day, the Playstation Network became unavailable to users of any PS3 that was not a slim version, due to an internal clock error, aptly dubbed the “apocalyPS3”. Apparently these consoles registered 2010 as a leap year and thus rage quitted on themselves, rendering many PSN trophy-enabled games unplayable. The issue apparently resolved itself, according to the official Playstation blog, without an update needed and it has been reported that some users lost trophies and even saved game files – we feel for you folks! Many cynics and conspiracy theorists were quick to rise up and claim it was a secret plan by Sony, initiated in order to force people to buy the new slim version of the PS3. While this is clearly crazy talk, from malleable metal headwear enthusiasts, there are increasing doubts as to whether Sony can continue to compete with other online gaming services/marketplaces. Either way, Hitler isn’t a fan.

Insanity Ward

On March 1st, after a slew of rumours and reports of security turning up at Infinity Ward and other such things, it was discovered, first via a Facebook update reading “Jason West is drinking. Also, no longer employed.” That the aforementioned co-founder of Infinity Ward was let go by Activision, the parent company, and shortly after Vince Zampella, the CEO suffered the same fate. Activision announced that it was taking the franchise in a new direction. Apparently the two heads were talking to other companies, looking to take their own direction with Call of Duty, as the contract between the two companies is due to expire this autumn. Naturally Activision, and it’s head Bobby Kotick didn’t want them messing around with their gold mine and promptly fired them on grounds of breach of contract due to insurbordination– at least that’s the reason they give. The craziness didn’t stop there however, Zampella and West bit back, filing a lawsuit claiming Activision simply did it in order to avoid paying them the (what clearly must be) substantial royalties from MW2. Since then, it has been reported that Activision are now frantically searching for documents linking the two with EA.

Activision are clearly looking to go the mile with CoD, having already announced a non-FPS version to be released by newly founded Sledgehammer games, the next instalment to be developed by Treyarch and another “unkown” developer to make yet another. Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith wrote in an internal memo, which was leaked, that Infinity Ward was still essential to the franchise, so we’re just gonna have to wait and see how this whole thing plays out. Personally I find it hard to believe that the heads of Infinity Ward deserved such a fate; the landscape could have been a whole lot different if they had smoothly transitioned to a company they felt more comfortable with. Unfortunately, it looks as though Activision are going to drive a once great franchise into the ground by overselling and bastardizing it.

Portal 2

Thank the lord, more and more Portal 2 news has been leaked recently; Yes, the eagerly awaited sequel to the genius little 2007 game, is in full swing for a reported Christmas release this year. Amongst a whole host of other tid-bits, it’s been discovered the unique puzzle game will have multiplayer coop which could make for some very complicated and intricate sections, and looks to be a standalone title, meaning an even more fleshed out game hopefully – awesomeness. If you want to read the rest of the spoiler-filled details, look here.

Recently Valve updated the original game, with some audio files, some encoded, some are morse code, which players could listen to via the radios in certain sections through a mini game. These files sent many fans on a treasure hunt ending in a series of images. Along with other confusing information, Valve also updated the ending sequence, you can see that here. Personally, I cannot wait – I’ve found Valve rarely disappoint and you’ve got to give it to them for constructing such complex little games for its hardcore fans. And oh yes, in other Valve news, Steam is officially coming to the Mac, presumably along with TF2, Half Life 2 etc so rejoice!

Tax Breaks

Last week Shadow Arts minister Ed Vaizey MP, restated that the Tories, if elected would seriously look at fiscal support for the UK games industry, stressing the importance of the industry in the current business landscape. He explained that the industry needs the help that any other industry does, and that’s tax and regulation reduction. He went on to say that other countries do indeed receive active support from their governments so much of the UK’s talent is being bled to other countries and thus it’s his “absolutely number one priority” to “level the playing field”. This comes shortly after Brown, the Prime Minister promised to look help support the industry in much the same way, after praising its importance in terms of the global industry. Although this appears to be a case of everyone jumping on the bandwagon prior to an election, it’s still nice to see that this is something they reckon it’s worth lying about; at least it’s a little more of the recognition the industry deserves.

And Finally…

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was released this week, and being a fan of the franchise since Battlefield 2, I’m loving the hell out it – it’s a whole lot more strategic and the environments are beautiful and literally, explosive. Anywho, if you want to pick it up, but are stuck in your stubborn noob-tubing Modern Warfare 2 ways, take a look at this video and get yourself in the right mindset! Oh, and Not-so-weekly picks on Tuesday!

March 7th, 2010
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News 28/01/10

This week: Your console is your childrens’ portal to hell, yet more of that beautiful downloadable content and glorious game releases and the Southern Americans’ iPod.

Governments Flaming Consoles

The latest news brought to you by a stream of somewhat subjective and uniformed thought has seen not only the socialist president of Venezuela condemn video games, but also the UK Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith. Two weeks ago Chavez declared on his weekly TV Show “Alo Presidente” that “Those games they call ‘PlayStation’ are poison, some games teach you to kill. They once put my face on a game, ‘you’ve got to find Chavez to kill him.’” (butthurt much?) and that games “promote the need for cigarettes, drugs and alcohol so they can sell them. That’s capitalism, the road to hell”.

Hugo Chavez

Aside from the fact that we can clearly deduce old Hugo is raging Xbox fanboy, I can’t help but think condemning violence in video games is a little hypocritical considering he himself has attempted military coups. What’s more distressing is the attacks on games much closer to home from Duncan Smith. Speaking to The Times, the UK MP claimed “We are driving children to lose their childhood, and some video games are incredibly violent, like Grand Theft Auto. They are meant to be 18 but nobody cares what it says on the label.” Now I certainly advocate improving the ratings system, but this statement is clearly subjective and grossly misinformed – I suppose blaming video games is an easy way to account for the UK’s crime and anti-social behaviour problems, but one must consider that the real problem lies in those vandalising public property and hanging around, sniffing glue in the park, not indoors indulging in some good old GTA. I could go on on for a few more pages discussing my stance on video games being a cause of violence but I’ll simply remind myself that this is a man talking about loss of innocence, who voted for the Iraq war in which many soldiers were actually killed and countless civilians.

Wii, Xbox Live & PSN

It was recently announced, to the relief of many Nintendo fanboys, that Netflix would indeed be coming to the Wii sometime in the Spring, with the usual subscription of $9 a month – however, it will not offer HD videos because of course, the Wii is not capable…let the flame wars commence.

SCEA director of hardware marketing, John Koller, recently stated that expansion of the PSN is “critical” in 2010, and this comes as no surprise given the tight competition between the  next gen console publisher to expand their products into more than just devices to play games on. He promised more original titles and a resurgence of PS1 games, but had nothing to add when asked if Sony planned anything similar to a Games on Demand service like Xbox Live’s – C’mon Sony, keep up now.

And finally Ben Jones of Zipper Interactive claims Xbox Live is more juvenile than PSN. Nonsense! I was discussing how mature Xbox Live was with a gentleman I met on CoD last night, and by guy I mean 10 year old…and by discussing I mean struggling to translate the high pitched screams and racial slurs. Anywho, he went on to say, that as a result the PSN is a better fit for the 256 player MAG. Probably so, but a game of that magnitude needs teamwork, so we’ll have to wait and see whether the game produces the sort of cooperation necessary.

Japan Isn’t Over

Despite Keiji Inafune’s comments at last December’s Tokyo Game Show, according to Aaron Greenberg, director of product management at Xbox, “the future is bright” for Japan, as he believes Natal will help leverage and inspire creativity. He emphasised that it’s important that the Japanese developers should seek to be original and not attempt to create the next Call of Duty or Halo (we’ve nothing to worry about on that front, as they’ll be a constant stream shoved down our throats – I’m not complaining). The Japanese games market generated ¥542,640 million in 2009, down 6.9 per cent year-over-year, so one can understand the negativity; but even Inafune, on the Project Natal panel, said “I strongly feel that Project Natal will expand the possibilities of gaming”. So, whether you like it or not, Natal is coming and Microsoft are placing a lot behind it, claiming that 80% of 3rd party developers have Natal titles in development currently.

iPod iPad iPuddy cat

Yesterday, Steve Jobs, with the whole of the hip, polo-neck-weaking Apple corporation behind him, announced and showed off the iPad, Apple’s offering to the Tablet computer market. And thus the usual hype, fanboyism and anti-Appleism swept its way over the internet with claims from ‘revolutionary’ to ‘really big iPhone’. You can get the full details virtually everywhere and here, but the point is it will be able to run iPhone games and apps and EA have gotten in with the cool crowd to cash in.

He looks so proud

Apparently at least 150 titles are in due to be released  for the iPad, and although the titles shown off at the press event, NOVA and Need for Speed: Shift were simply scaled up versions of the iPhone games, they had very little time to produce the titles to demonstrate. Hopefully game developers with a little more time on there hands might be able to offer up something more substantial for the iPad, which clearly has better gaming prospects given its size and power, as Apple would want you to know.

Game & DLC Releases

Mass Effect 2 is out in the US and arrives tomorrow for the UK with all its galactic shenanigans and I hope to have a review up soonish, depending on how long it takes me to savour its’ delights. You can check out the orgasmic, I mean fantastic, trailer here and if that isn’t enough, Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of Bioware has stated that although this Mass Effect series is limited to a trilogy, other incarnations and forms are possible and definitely on the table – lovely jubbly. In slightly smaller, but equally awesome news, Jack Wall, I hear, is returning or rather, has returned as composer for the soundtrack of Mass Effect 2 – happy face.

Assassin’s Creed II: Battle of Forli DLC is out today for just 320MS points – so get stabbing and leaping through it and enjoy the fact that it will be followed up by Bonfire of the Vanities next month! We’re clearly spoiled. Go and check out the trailer here if you should need convincing.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 developer DICE has dropped a whole bunch of crap on the PC community recently, announcing the sequel would neither have a dev console nor private dedicated server support, only officially rented – meaning no mods or custom maps, which is a real shame; Infinity Ward might have suffered a great many less illegal downloads of MW2 had this been announced earlier. Nevertheless, the game looks promising and there’s a new multiplayer mode trailer out, so check it out.

Dragon Age: Origins is receiving yet more DLC next week called Return to Ostagar and Bioware have also announced the expansion, Awakening, will be hitting March 16th, so no shortage of pointy ears and potions. Finally, I’ll leave you with a refreshingly depressing thought – a Tony Hawk’s Ride sequel is already in development. God help us all; see this for reference.

January 28th, 2010
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