Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wii U titles that might surprise you

Illustration of the console prototype

Illustration of the console prototype (from wikipedia.org)

Illustration of the Wii U controller (from Wikipedia)

Illustration of the Wii U controller (from Wikipedia)

Many gamers (and exasperated parents) are aware that the Wii U is slated to launch in the 2012 holiday season.

Many gamers know some of these quick and dirty facts about the system:

  • The controller has a built in touchscreen
  • All older Wii controllers will be compatible with the system
  • The system is HD
  • The CPU is an all new microprocessor designed by IBM
  • The system is toted to be up to 6 times more powerful than that of Xbox 360 or Playstation 3

What many gamers aren’t aware of are some of the great titles that are scheduled to come out for the Wii U. Some of the titles are surprises to me. Here is a list of some of the series already either confirmed or heavily rumored to be coming to the Wii U.

(Title information comes from ign.com Italics denote that this is the first time that the series has appeared on a Nintendo system. Bold means that the title is rated mature.)

  • Super Mario
  • Tekken
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Mario Cart
  • Battlefield
  • Madden NFL
  • Dirt
  • Rayman Raving Rabbids
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Super Smash Bros. Next
  • The Legend of Zelda HD title
  • Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge
  • Pikmin 3
  • New Super Mario Bros. Mii
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • Darksiders II
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online
  • Dragon Quest X: The Five Awakening Races Online
  • LEGO City Stories
  • uDraw
  • Pictionary
  • Marvel Pinball
  • Metro: Last Light
  • Killer Freaks from Outer Space
  • U-Sing
  • NewU Fitness First Personal Trainer
For more more information check out ign.com’s list of Wii U titles

In addition to some awesome sounding Nintendo staples’ sequels, there are 12 series that are totally new to Nintendo. Many of the titles are also slated to a hardcore crowd. At least 6 will probably be rated Mature.

Naturally there will be a small army of motion sensor themed casual games that I did not include in this list.

Nintendo is trying in a hard way to win back developers and gamers of hardcore games by providing the hardware to play such games.

So long as these title sell well, we can only guess that even more developers of famously Mature titles and hardcore titles will begin developing games for Wii U as well.

Heck, look at this screenshot of Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge.

I don't think that's Kool Aide coming out of that ninja...

I know that this list is pretty persuasive to me to pay more attention to Nintendo as more than just a company for casual gamers and little kids.

How do you feel about the system and these new titles? Share your rants with the world in the comments section!

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Purdue students hope to build a gaming center

This is RUaGamer in Cary, NC. Imagine if a place like this was within walking distance from you.

Two Purdue students were finalists earlier this week in an entrepreneurship competition for their idea to build a large video gaming center at Purdue.

Jason TenBarge and Ah Young Park hope to create a gaming center that would be called Gamers’ Esc. The gaming center would host 30 computers and 30 consoles. All major consoles would be found at the center. Gamers would pay by the hour to play at Gamers’ Esc.

The idea was a finalist in the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition. If enough interest for the idea is shown then TenBarge and Park may be able to raise enough capital to start the business.

You can fill out the interest survey for Gamers’ Esc. here.

Personally, I think that a gaming center like Gamers’ Esc. could be an awesome hang out at Purdue.

Do you think it would be fun? Would you go there? Do you think it is a good or bad business plan to charge gamers by the hour to play there? Ring off your comments below!

Become a video game webseries star

Auditions are being held this weekend for a new web series drama about a group of friends trying to run a video game development company. The webseries, called Developement Hell, is written and produced by a group of Purdue students.

The project is currently looking for acting tallent and will be accepting open auditions in Stewart Center G84 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Don’t panic if you don’t have all of the Stewart Center room numbers memorized. The group has promised to put up signs to lead auditioners correctly to the basement location.

The episodes of the series are expected to each run 10 to 12 minutes in length, according to Will Kioultzopoulos the project lead. Production will start in either late March or early April.

If you have any questions contact developmenthellshow@gmail.com

I hope to make it to the auditions on Sunday myself! I hope I see everyone there. Let me know if you got sent that way by my blog. But DON’T you dare steal my spot in the cast!

Just kidding. May the best geek win.

McLovin's got nothing on us.

I iz n ur moniter shohing u lolcatz kilin ur tyme.

All good cat owners hold a camera while ironing their clothes.

Before you roll your eyes at another lolcatz post on an internet that is becoming so plagued with lolcatz that the government considered SOPA to monitor the proper usage of them hear me out. I don’t particularly like lolcatz.

Lolcatz can be funny. Lolcatz are especially funny to the cat owners around the world that follow around their cat with a camera and a tripod 16 hours a day. I admit that I love cats. Of my family’s eight pets, my favorite is a fat orange cat. I just don’t have the time or energy to make him a meme star.

My cat's like this but fatter.

Why would I have a blog post on Lolcatz if I’m not one off their biggest Lolfanz? Because, dear reader, it’s important to realize that for better or worse (worse) it was we gamers that inspired a large portion of these kitty cat memes.

Sometimes the gamer origins are obvious.

Don't tell me that even your cold heart isn't moved by this.

What you probably didn’t know is that one of the very mainstay phrases of Lolcatz is based off of a direct quote from an online round of Starcraft.

Say wha?!?

It’s true. “According to the Internet Timeline on Dipity, this meme is believed to have originated on the SomethingAwful forums in 2003 when a screenshot of a game of Starcraft was posted on the Games forum by usrer 1337h4x.” (http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/in-ur-base)

The screen shot was supposedly of a 1 v. 1 battle.net match was fought between a player using Terran forces (human-like army) and a player using Zerg forces (bug-like army). The Terran player had built a massive army of very powerful but slow battle cruisers.

The map was meant for 8 players which left the Terran player without a clue as to where the Zerg player was. The Terran player methodically patrolled each corner of the map but could not find his insect adversary. Frustrated, the Terran player typed “dude, where are you?”  To which the Zerg player responded “im in ur base, killing ur d00ds”, for he had snuck into the Terran base while the Terran forces where looking for him.

The famous photo in question

This spawned the famous lolcatz formula “im in ur X (verb)ing (ur/my) Y”.

Some examples:

Before you judge the individual that tattooed lolcatz on themselves, remember, it’s not their creepy super addiction to cats’ fault; it’s Starcraft’s fault.

I started playing Starcraft and just blacked out. When I came to I had this.

Do we really own our Steam games?

It may surprise you, as it surprised me, but we don’t really own our Steam games in the way that we think that we do.

When we purchase games from Steam we don’t buy the games, but rather we buy a license to play the games. This license means that we are theoretically renting a game forever but it can be revoked at any time.

We can lose all of our games if:

1. Valve goes under

If Valve, the company that runs the Steam servers, were to go out of business, then they would stop hosting our games on a cloud server. This means that we won’t be able to access the games or play them.

This is similar to what happens if a Mass Multiplayer Online (MMO) game company goes out of business.  MMOs only work only through servers hosted by the company. If they go under and no one takes over the game, then tough luck, you can’t play what you bought.

What will happen to our games if Valve goes under has been brought up before in the steam forums. The “off the record” promise from a few years ago is that Steam will release a patch that allows games purchased from Steam to be played without the Steam server.

Although this rumor is comforting, the fact remains that Valve has no obligation whatsoever to make this patch. If it is easier not to, then they might not do so. Then how will we play “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader”?!?

Specifically designed to torment 4th Graders

2. If we move to  a different country

There have been numerous examples of people moving from one country to another and having their Steam account or games banned. This is supposed to be a feature where Steam prevents your account from being hacked. Apparently, many others have had good luck if they tell Steam in advance that they are moving to another country. 

Steam also frowns on you getting games for a different exchange rate than the norm of your country. The image below is from a Rock, Paper, Shotgun comment section

3. We make Valve mad for any reason

Clarification – After writing such an inflammatory section title, I think that this is a good time to clarify a few points. I think Valve is an excellent company and I’ve never had any issues with them or Steam. I’m trying to even provide links to ways that Valve have dealt with most of these issues. Despite Steam’s fairly good track record, it is very important that we understand what we are potentially getting ourselves into when we spend hundreds of dollars on a service like Steam.

Example – In the case of a Russian steam user named gimperial $1,500 and 250 games were on the line. At the end of last year gimperial was banned from Steam and unable to access his games. gimperial openly traded copies of games on Steam for favors in real life. He even said there were instances where he would gift a game on Steam for a beer.

gimperial assumed that his ban was because of his gifting (which he admitted to). However, Steam told him that the reason his account was specifically being revoked was not because of his gifting. Valve said that he breached on some other agreement of the EULA but would not tell him what it was. When gimperial repeatedly asked Steam and Valve help forms and execs why he was banned and unable to access the 250 games that he had legally purchased, he received no answers

At this point Rock, Paper, Shotgun probed the company and wrote a largely distributed article about the incident. Whether this is related to what happened next is not known.

gimperial was given access to his 250 games and told that he could use Steam again, but told that he could not gift games for ten years.

Everyone knows that Jan 30, 2022 is the real end of the world according the the Mayan Calendar. Sucker.


This story ends in a happy ending. gimperial is given back his games and told that he can’t use a service that he was misusing. That’s very fair. It’s very concerning, however, that Steam just took away his games and account without warning and without telling him why.

I can understand if some people are afraid of online big brother coming to get them after reading articles like this. For those of you that would like to have virtual bomb shelters in your back yard check out this way to run Steam games online.

Personally, I’ll take my chances with Steam. At least now we’ve all been warned that we might not receive a warning from Valve before we lose all of the games that we “licensed”.

Black Characters in Video Games

Merry Black History Month!  Black people from Africa or otherwise (not everyone fits the description of African American) are getting some of the respect that they deserve in February here in America. The only question is: Are they getting the respect they deserve in the video game industry?

I don’t think it will come as a surprise when I say, no.

African Americans are starting to appear much more commonly in video games than they previously did, and that’s awesome and shows signs of progress. However, black characters are rarely ever the main character of a game. Check out this article claiming that by of 2006 only 11 video games had a black protagonist that you played as.

I think the list may be a little negligent, but it does raise an important point: black characters are not who you play as. Black characters are generally your headstrong, violent, lower than average intelligence, oftentimes criminal companions.

Let’s just look at a few popular black video game characters.

Barrett Wallace – Final Fantasy VII (1997)

File:Ff7-barret.png

I pity the fool

Pros:

  • The first Black playable character in a Final Fantasy game.
  • Appears in one of my favorite video games.

Cons:

  • A terrorist
  • Speaks in broken slang
  • Violent (He has a gun arm. I have to assume it’s for shaking hands.)
  • Parody of Mr. T

Augustus “Cole Train” Cole – Gears of War (2006)

Obviously I'm role model like a scientist or doctor... of pain.

Pros:

  • A nice guy liked by all
  • Never been a criminal
  • Too be fair, no one in this series has a personality

Cons:

  • Violent
  • Brash, curses, speaks in Ebonics
  • Stereotypical black athlete
  • Only character in series that raps
  • Little personality beyond being a violent sports star

Balrog – Street Fighter II (1991)

Give me back my tiger!

Pros:

  • Sweet name
  • Cons:
  • Violent
  • Doesn’t look or act very intelligent
  • A parody of Mike Tyson

Challenge – I challenge you to find a black character in a puzzle game or any game without much violence. Now I challenge you to find a recent fighting game that doesn’t have a black character. I think that stereotypes are a little at play here.

Luckily, there are some positive examples of black characters in video games that ALMOST make up for the awful representations in most games.

Admiral David Anderson – Mass Effect (2007)

Anderson Character Box.png

Shown here constipated

A decorated war hero that now spends his time as an eloquent politician. Anderson is a tough character but he is slow to anger. The admiral is wise, selfless, and serves as the mentor of the hero of the series. He is also voiced superbly by the awesome Keith David.

Alex Vance – Half-Life 2 (2004)

File:Alyx Vance.png

Gotta love a woman in clothes that actually keep her warm.

Technically Alex is half Asian, her mother was an Asian woman, but she is a great example of a strong female minority character. Alex is actually one of my favorite video game characters ever because she manages to be hot through being charming and smart while wearing clothes that aren’t revealing at all. Alex is the very intelligent computer hacker and programmer daughter of a black scientist. She can kick some serious alien butt with her mind and built a giant robot dog. I think I’m in love.

Redguards – The Elder Scrolls Series (1994-2011)

What a racist background

Redguards are the depiction of black people in the Elder Scrolls series. Sure, black people are a different race than white people, but so are blonde and brown haired people. I will also concede that Redguards are generally more athletic than some other races. These things could be seen as racist; they are the defining features of a race in a video game, after all.

But what impresses me most about the depiction of black characters is that they never have speak in slang, they aren’t less intelligent than other races, they hold their own kingdom that is equally powerful as any other races kingdom.

What is best about this depiction of black characters is that they have never been the victims of widespread racism in the game series. The elder scrolls always tackles racism, but it is almost never turned towards the Redguards. To force gamers to face racism, but not marginalize one of the races that are so often marginalized in video games is brilliant.

Conclusion – It’s no coincidence that my examples of positive examples of black characters in video games are from more recent years. Gaming will hopefully become less and less stereotypical and racist in their presentation of black people. We can only hope for more Admiral Andersons and less Sazh Katzroy from Final Fantasy 13 (2010). (Sazh is the only other black playable character from a Final Fantasy game. He is unfortunately shown below.)

Less of this please.

Live Tweeting Changes

In an earlier post I said that I was going to be live tweeting from a video game programming class hosted by Allegro Dynamics. Unfortunately, I can’t attend because the event sold out early. I apologize to everyone that I can’t live tweet the event. I’m really bummed that I can’t be there, but I’m glad that the program was so well received.

Because this blog is currently being used as a class blog as well a ranty personal blog, I have to live tweet this week. In light of this, I will be live tweeting tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. about the Black History Month speech delivered at Purdue by Dr.Bettye Collier-Thomas.

She could be a very talented Halo player for all we know.

“Dr. Bettye Collier-Thomas is a historian of African American history with particular expertise in the areas of civil rights, politics, religion and women’s history. She has established the only repository in the country solely devoted to the collection and preservation of materials relating to African American women in America.” – Purdue Agriculture Multicultural Events page 

What does this have to do with video games? Nothing yet, but in the next couple of days, I will relate her speech to the video game industry with some facts about African Americans and gaming. How are they portrayed? How do they contribute to the creation of video games? Is Hideo Kojima secretly an African American? All of these questions will be answered soon!

In the meantime, follow my live tweets about Dr. Bettye Collier-Thomas’ speech tonight at @LoganLampton !

Happy Mass Effect 3 Demo Day!

Stop treating your loved ones with unbrideled affection for one day of the year, will ya?!? You can get your better half chocolates and flowers any day. Today is the first day of the the Mass Effect 3 Demo. If they really love you they will understand that you must play it. If you are truely compatible, you will play it together.

Worry not, if you must acknowledge your loved ones on Valentine’s Day, you still can as the demo only clocks in around an hour.

SPOILERS: The demo is split in two parts.

  • The first part is of the very beginning of the game when the Reapers attack the Earth.
  •  The second part of the demo is when you are about level 13 and trying to rescue a Krogan female from Cerberus.
  • You also get to sample the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3 early. If you are an Xbox Live Silver player, you will by upgraded to gold for a short time. This means you can play other games online as well. Thanks, Mass Effect!

What are you waiting for?!? Put a rose stem in your mouth, dim the lights, light a candle, and play this demo! NOW!

Your alien girlfriend will love it.

Blockbuster games have bigger opening weeks than blockbuster films

Woo! My post yesterday was a doozy! Let’s both take a break from ‘words’ and let a picture (with words) do the talking for once.

Blockbuster video games make a lot of money in their opening weeks: sometimes even more money than the biggest films of the year. Pray your browser loads this interesting infographic or this post is about to get a lot more boring!

Retrieved from visual information.info (who retrieved it from gplus.com)

2011 3 opening week sales update to this infographic:

The Games:

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 – $738 million

Battlefield 3 – $300 million

The Movies

Transformers Dark Side of the Moon – $149.2 million

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – $226.1 million

Unfortunately, Twilight Saga (really saga?!?) Breaking Dawn Part I came in second place overall for the year with – $179.1 million

Results: Harry Potter had the second best opening weekend in Hollywood history (Dark Knight #1 at $238.6 million), while COD 3 had the best video game opening week of all time.

COD 3 makes about 325% more money in its opening week.

Why getting rid of used games might be good for us

Last week when I mentioned that it is rumored that the Xbox 720 might not play used games there was some reasonable backlash. I was pretty surprised and angry myself when I first heard the rumor. I think it is pretty obvious why it might be a bad thing for us gamers if we can’t by cheaper used games. That means we can’t own as many games!

Their are plenty of angry articles about the issue. Just check out the comments section on the ign announcement of the rumor. Or read this optimistic article of the situation. (I was being sarcastic.)

We can return to the natural negative backlash right after this article. For now let’s focus on how it might be a good thing if we couldn’t buy used games.

1. We might be able to bring it to our friends house.

One of the (rightfully) big points of anger about the potential of having a code that locks a game to one consumer is the belief that we won’t be able to play the game on another Xbox 720. This means we can’t lend games or even play them on a different Xbox in our house. However, what if we don’t lock games to an Xbox, but instead a gamer profile?

(This is an idea proposed by Saints Row Developer Jameson Durall. He loves the idea of Xbox getting rid of used games. We’ll talk more about him later.)

The Monster

Locking a game to a profile instead of the console  might not seem like much of a difference, but profiles can be downloaded to different Xboxes. Yes, a profile can only be in use on one Xbox at a time currently, but that means that as long as your friend or enemy’s Xbox is connected to the internet, you can play your game on it with them.

At least one classic element of gaming need not be dead.

2. We might be able to play more games

Jameson “Let’s Kill Video Games” Durall also proposed the idea that Microsoft could share games similar to how Amazon Kindle users can share titles between each other. Kindle titles can be shared with friends for free for up to 14 days. “Cool!” said the Kindle owner who didn’t expect book tips from a video game blog.

Personally I find it unlikely that Microsoft will let us play an entire game for free for 30 seconds. But I do think that Durall’s second idea could be very likely and very cool.

Jameson thinks that Microsoft could implement a rental program where gamers can download a code that activates a game for a certain amount of days for a set few per download. He proposes that it could be used for physical  discs loaned from friends (yeah we would have to pay) as well as digital downloads of the entire title straight onto the Xbox 720.

This sounds pretty awesome to me. If you are anything like my broke self, you can only afford to buy a measly amount of titles each year that you know will be great. Just imagine if the price tag for a rental game  was $20 for a couple of weeks. (The $20 price is totally made up. If we’re really lucky they’ll match something at least as cheap as the Red Box price of $2 a day.)

You'll never need to play this again with all the games you can afford via renting.

Before we get up in arms about only having games for a couple of weeks, when was the last time you played a game that you didn’t absolutely love for more than maybe a month? We trade them in unless we love them. The games that you love you can still buy for $60 and have forever.

Back to the $20 price tag. Imagine getting to try out three titles for the price of one. You never play racing games because you’re not sure how you’d like the series and $60 is a big risk. For $20 maybe you would decide to give the genre a try. We could play out of our comfort zone and try so many different titles. Sounds great to me. The titles could stream instantly to your Xbox so you don’t have to wait in line for popular games for months like Game Fly.

Hey, look! It's that game I wanted 3 years ago!

Best of all, by renting from Microsoft as opposed to Red Box or buying used games at GameStop more of money should go to developers. Which brings me to my next point…

3. More Games that are More Original

Many gamers expect that the people who make a game get most of the profits. It makes sense, after all. The unfortunate truth is that developers usually only get 15% of the profits of each game sold.

A picture is worth the last 17 words that I typed

Developers are only making around 15% of the profits of original sales of games. They make no profits off of used games.

Top off the low percentage of profits that developers make with the  fact that “only 4 percent of games that go into production will turn a profit. Only twenty percent of released games make money.” So sayth Forbes.

Essentially, if you sampled all video game developers, only 4% will turn a profit on whatever they are working on right now. That’s not exactly a good situation to take risks in game development during. That’s why we have so many Call of Duty games and clones.  That’s why we have series that never seem to try to innovate much; it just isn’t worth the risk.

GameStop alone made nearly $2 billion off of used games in 2010.  Imagine if at least 15% of these profits went toward the developers. The profits would likely be even higher since the games were already reduced in price.

Shut up, Logan!

That’s just the tip of the developer money making iceberg. If games could be rented like Durall suggests, then the 20% of the profits that normally go to a retailer could be divided among the publisher, marketing, developer, etc. It would be my hope that the developers would make at least a little more off of these savings.

The real beauty of the situation is that digital game rentals, as opposed to used games, could help foster middle production value video games and companies

What heck you mean?

Blockbusters – Right now it is pretty easy to turn a profit if you make a Halo. Makes sense, blockbuster titles should be a sure shot at making money. I think Halo is rad, but I haven’t bought the last couple of Halo games. I’ve already played lots of Halo. I wish the efforts poured into the next Halo could be spent on something new and original. Synopsis: Blockbusters sell.

Downloadable titles – Right now it is fairly easy to turn a profit with a hot indie title like Braid. These games are much cheaper to make and can be purchased for much, much less than a game that requires more development. They’re quality titles, but they don’t have the same production value or length generally. I love ’em, but they are in a totally different business model. Synopsis: Downloadable titles sell

Middle production value titles – These are the games that have high production value and are a labor of love by many developers, but they aren’t destined to probably be the next blockbuster. Some great examples are from publisher THQ who’s library includes Darksiders, Warhammer, Saints Row the Third, and Homeland. These titles might not all be your cup of tea, but they do dare to be different from blockbuster clone knock-offs. They know that they can’t actually go toe to toe with the next Grand Theft Auto but they still cost a great deal and have a lot of money riding on them.

That seemed like a promising first entry into a series. War right in America? A more story driven shooter? Neat. Too bad the developer is already dead.

Because of the recession and the high cost of games, gamers are buying less games per person than ever before. Since gamers feel like they can only afford the best titles or the titles that everyone will be playing, they usually only buy the blockbusters. Synopsis: Middle production value titles don’t sell. This is evidenced by THQ’s steady decline and possible liquidation after 22 years of being in business.

If we could try out more games through renting them straight to our Xbox (or other system) for as cheap or cheaper than a used game, then the profits of used games will go to all kinds of publishers and developers, not just those that can make a downloadable title for dirt cheap or afford to take the money risk with a sure to sell Call of Duty 14.

A future we can save ourselves from - the climate change is trickier.

If a larger percentage of our money goes out to publishers and developers and to developers that normally wouldn’t see our dollars, then we can definitely expect to see more interesting games from more developers. Currently the video game industry is headed for a situation where only big sequels and the very rare new title sell.

If we want innovation, getting rid of used games could be the way to go.

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