Archive for the ‘Games and Marketing’ Category

[Real] Caution!  This is an image of a real onion and should under no circumstances be confused with The Onion.  Trigger Alert!  Users who have experienced traumatic encounters, resulting in uncontrollable weeping, with onions in the past may find this image disturbing

[Real] Caution! This is an image of a real onion and should under no circumstances be confused with The Onion. Trigger Alert! Users who have experienced traumatic encounters, resulting in uncontrollable weeping, with onions in the past may find this image disturbing

I have been pretty critical of Facebook(tm) in the past but It now appears that I owe Big Friend an apology.  Because it has become clear recently that the folks at CareShare Central have been working diligently behind the scenes to protect us.  Not to protect us from the predatory wiles of advertisers or the social media giant’s own datamining practices.  Nor have they been working to protect us from pages devoted to sexual violence against women, or the avalanche of everyday idiocy represented by the YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! clickbaiters.

No, apparently they have been grappling with a much more weighty problem, one that clearly threatens to bring social media crashing to its knees.

Satire.

Well, not satire itself, exactly, but apparently the inability of some people to differentiate satire from the real thing.

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This post continues the discussion I began in “Chillin’ at the OK Corral;” In that post I re-evaluated both Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic based on their pre-launch claims concerning the revolutionary transformation they were about to unleash upon a helpless planet earth.  Since their release, the Massively Multiplayer Game environment has seen some interesting changes over the last year or so.  What might these changes indicate about the fate of existing MMORPGs and ones still in development?

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Looking back over some of the posts on the blog I see that I wrote several anticipating the releases of The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2, including one called “Everything we know about MMORPGs is about to change. . .or is it?” which looked at the way both games were claiming to bring revolutionary innovations to the genre. Given that both games have now been out for a while and I’ve played both of them it seems only appropriate to ask: how well are we coping with the Revolution?

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fail-poster-3xt27q0x2m-SIMCITY

 

Oh, DRM…Why has God forsaken you?  DRM has been a woeful failure for years now.  It has inconvenienced far more players than pirates it has stopped.  Now, of course, I’m not advocating piracy and all of this has been said before and all of it will be said again.  However, I am dismayed because I thought we had seen all of the worst DRM possible.  I never wanted to believe that a worse DRM could even exist and yet here we are with captain of industry, EA Games, bringing us a DRM that makes no sense and makes a beloved franchise brought back from the dead unplayable.

At midnight on Tuesday, March 5, EA Games released via their Origin digital distribution service a new incarnation of SimCity.  There has not been a new version of SimCity since SimCity 4 in 2003 (plus or minus 2007′s SimCity: Societies), but regardless the Origin download unlocks at midnight and almost immediately problems started.  So what could cause such problems so fast?  Three little words: Always Online DRM.   You see EA in all their infinite wisdom decided that “Always Online DRM” was the smartest and most effective DRM method.  Always on DRM means exactly what it sounds like: You must be online to play their game even if you are building a private city.  They did attempt to make it worthwhile for you to be online by allowing you to view other player cities and create regional economies where your city is affected by cities around it, but still at its core each player is building an individual city so why is there no Singleplayer mode?  There is private mode, but those players have been suffering the same issues as public players so let’s examine that now.

Always Online DRM should have been an annoyance or an inconvenience not unlike Diablo III’s Always Online DRM so Where did EA fail?  EA launched with only 5 Servers for THE ENTIRE WORLD.  There were two US servers (US East and US West) as well as two European servers and an Oceania server.  The US servers were constantly full giving players messages that they should try again in 20-30 minutes.  The servers were not even equipped to run a server queue.  They expected you to manually keep trying until you get in.  The European servers were region locked, but experiencing similar issues.  These issues have been occurring for almost 48 hours now to the chagrin of numerous players and ultimately requiring EA to shut down the servers and update them while bringing new ones online.

Hopefully this colossal failure will cause EA and other Always Online DRM minded companies to rethink the launch requirements that entails.  Polygon initially rated SimCity at 9.5, but actually downgraded to an 8.0 as a result of the rocky launch and connectivity issues.  In closing I would like to point to two salient thoughts on the subject.  Chris Kluwe tweeted “As a publisher/developer, if you’re going to push “always on” onto the consumer, then it’s YOUR responsibility to make sure it always works”.  It is EA’s responsibility to handle this kind of thing and it is mind boggling that they could have been unprepared for the server traffic.  Lastly I’d like to point Tycho of Penny Arcade who wrote:

Gabriel wasn’t able to get into SimCity last night to play, because the server wasn’t working and single player games don’t exist anymore, even if you are playing a private city and nobody can come in anyway.  So I would remember it, because it was important, I said here in the post a long time ago that “EA games come with free misery.”  This is why I stopped being an annual purchaser of Tiger Woods games: because this company has a serious, serious problem with execution at launch.  You would only fix it if it meant more sales.  But it doesn’t, because everybody already bought it.  Well, except me.

EA will only see a desire to fix their launch failures if they see more sales in it, but because we buy things so instantaneously all the more so now with digital downloads they only fix things after the fact.  So I guess the moral of the story is know what you need for launch, but for us players: be careful what games you choose to buy on launch day because buying a game on launch day is an implicit acceptance of whatever insane DRM you have to deal with.

The Origin of it All

It was the fall of `92.  We had just arrived in the country and needed to buy a PC for my grad school work.  We opted for a mighty 386 computer (and sprang for the 40Mhz rather than the 33) and after considerable soul-searching had a ridiculously excessive 1Mb video card installed (how good was this machine?  When I discovered Doom a couple of years later, much of the game played as a blinking, growling, slideshow accompanied by the occasional delayed weapon blast).  I don’t even remember how we found the particular machine, probably through the newspaper (we were young and stupid).  At any rate, it began having some issues pretty quickly.  So I took it back to the rent-a-box place where we’d bought it, somewhere in the anonymous light industrial depths of the city of Orange.  The sales person wasn’t at all happy to see me but quickly established, as I’d suspected, that the motherboard was defective and offered to replace it for me while I waited.  Then he sat me down in front of another PC with an attached joystick and started up a game called Wing Commander.

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A short time ago I wrote about the avalanche of internet douchebaggery that descended on Jennifer Hepler, a writer for Bioware who had the temerity to. . .well, open her mouth and offer an opinion about games.  Then Reddit got hold of it, and the next thing you she is being subjected to a torrent of misogynist abuse.  The level of pure hate directed at her was as revealing of a new, desperation on the part of hardcore gamers concerning the changing trajectory of game development as it was entirely typical of the neanderthal attitudes toward women held by many players and assiduously cultivated by game designers.

Well, it seems the bottom feeders are at it again.  Recently, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian put up a proposal on Kickstarter.  Sarkeesian runs the videoblog Feminist Frequency, where she offers thoughtful analysis of specific pop culture artifacts (like the Hunger Games series) or more general media phenomena relevant to gender issues.  One series of videos, Tropes vs Women, looked at a some of the most common stereotypes governing depictions of women in popular culture.  For her Kickstarter project she proposed an ambitious series of videos that would apply the Tropes vs Women concept to the world of videogames.  Given the shockingly retrograde depictions of women in most videogames (if they make an appearance at all) there is obviously enough material for an extensive series.  Sarkeesian is seeking funding to undertake a lot of background research for the videos, since her intent is for the videos to be freely available and supplemented with materials that would allow them to be used as teaching resources (the original Tropes vs Women videos are being used in this capacity).  The problem was, Sarkeesian made the same mistake as Jennifer Hepler.

She opened her mouth.

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Game Developers and Game Reviewers in Ancient India. Not much has changed. Creative Commons copyright by Nagarjun.

If you take a casual glance around the media landscape you would be quite justified in thinking that the world of game reviewing is thriving.  There are lots of videogame publications in print, online and (tenuously) on TV, with lots of opinionating being directed at a lot of pixels across a wide variety of platforms.

In reality, video game reviewing is a disaster zone that is helping to ensure a steady supply of mediocre games that are enthusiastically embraced by a player population with frighteningly low expectations and a shallow fixation on gaming technology.

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