Month: June 2013

Microsoft Reverses Course, Scraped Iceberg will Sue

I have, in the past, vehemently advocated for Microsoft’s right to take the Xbox and it’s brand into whatever vision of the future they wanted. I may not have agreed with the specifics of that future, but my singular voice is small and insignificant in the face of Microsoft’s vision.

Apparently, a bunch of little insignificant consumer voices added all together is enough to cause even a tech dinosaur to pause. Today, Don Mattrick had this to say.

Last week at E3, the excitement, creativity and future of our industry was on display for a global audience.For us, the future comes in the form of Xbox One, a system designed to be the best place to play games this year and for many years to come. As is our heritage with Xbox, we designed a system that could take full advantage of advances in technology in order to deliver a breakthrough in game play and entertainment. We imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future. Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One. You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

  • An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
  • Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.

We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.

Thank you again for your candid feedback. Our team remains committed to listening, taking feedback and delivering a great product for you later this year.

Congratulations to Microsoft. Earlier today I was trying to explain to my 6 year old son how important it is that we admit our mistakes and there are no better examples than this. Does this mean that all is forgiven? That remains to be seen… this does not give Mattrick carte blache to do whatever he likes now. What this does do is make the next generation an actual race now.

I’m betting on Sony this time around.

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Blog keeping post: Podcasts on the blog

Hey guys, this is a blogkeeping/blog upkeep post. YAY.

 

Okay, so here’s the deal with getting the podcasts up on the site.  Right now we’re using soundcloud to get the podcasts uploaded onto the site.  This site, this one right here… yea.

 

BUT! It has space limitations and we keep bumping up against that when uploading and posting the new ones.  This is why the casts older than a week are un-viewable.  We’ve experimented with uploading them onto youtube, which doesn’t have the space limitations.  That’s nice, but we can’t get up on Itunes and other podcast sharing sites with youtube casts.

We’re currently looking at hosting them directly on the site, but for now you’ll have to bare with us while we find the best option.

As always, if you want to listen or watch older casts, they are saved at the CAG twitch page.

Video Link for CAG twitch page

For even older videos, Check out James’ twitch page:

Link for James’ Twitch page

An Interview with Michael Townsend, creator of “A Dark Room”.

After playing through ‘A Dark Room‘ twice a handful of days ago, I decided to contact the creator, Michael Townsend, and ask him a few questions about the development of the game and his personal background. His answers and our questions contain FAIRLY LARGE SPOILERS for A Dark Room, so if you care at all about that then please direct your mouse pointer to the above link.

Certain Age Gamer: First off, tell me a bit about yourself. Just a bit about who you are beyond what we already know.

         Michael Townsend: Mild-mannered software consultant by day, masked champion of minimalist web gaming by night! Really, though, I’m just your typical 29-year-old keyboard jockey. I work a 9-5 to pay the bills, and write/play games in my spare time. I hail from Ottawa, Canada (where it is currently pouring rain) and I’m probably a bit too obsessive about coffee.
 
CAG: How long did you work on creating A Dark Room?
             Michael Townsend: I started work on A Dark Room in early May, and finished it in early June. It ate up most of my free time during that period. I’m still working on it on and off, though, so it’s hard to say that it only took a month.
 
CAG: What kind of games have you been playing recently?
            Michael Townsend: Recently? Not much, to be honest. I tend to swing between playing games and writing games, and I’ve (obviously) been on the writing side recently. I have put some time into Gunpoint, though, and I always have time to run around in World of Warcraft. I actually got this email while deep into The Last Of Us…
 
CAG: You make it clear that Candy Box was an inspiration for this game, any others?
             Michael Townsend: The Settlers and the Anno games made up the framework for resource and production management. I’ve always loved “supply chain” games. I have no idea why. Rogue likes also influenced the design, both graphically and philosophically. When death has consequences, some really fun risk/reward decisions tend to emerge.
 
CAG: Did the storyline come first or the game mechanics?
            Michael Townsend: I’d say it was probably theme, then mechanics, then storyline.  I knew I wanted to use the general feel of idle games like Candy Box, but I wondered if I could use that framework to deliver narrative with a consistent theme. Bleak post-apocalyptic landscapes felt like an easy match to the minimalist interface, so I ran with that. The details of the narrative just sort of came out during development.
 
CAG: Will you be revisiting this world or are you interested in new, different experiences?
            Michael Townsend: I won’t say that I’m totally done with A Dark Room, but I wouldn’t expect any major additions at this point. I’ve been tweaking it pretty constantly over the last week, based on feedback I’ve read on forums and social media. My next project, if I ever get around to it, will likely not be related to ADR (Editor: A Dark Room). I have some other interesting ideas already, and it’d be a shame to ignore them.
 
CAG: How long have you been a gamer?
            Michael Townsend: As far back as I can remember, man. My first memory of gaming is when dad brought home an Apple II from work. Dark Castle and Winter Games. My parents flat-out refused to buy me a console, though, so gaming throughout my childhood was all done on the family 386. Good times.
 
CAG: Are you surprised by the attention “A Dark Room” has been getting?
            Michael Townsend: Yes and no. I mean, I was definitely hoping that it would catch the interest of the Internet. That said, I am constantly amazed checking my Google Analytics and seeing visitors from all over the world playing. It’s honestly a huge relief to see that I can make games that I like, and that other people will like them too.
 
CAG: Do the charms have only one function or are they used for more than one thing?
            Michael Townsend: Just the one. I actually added the charm at the very beginning of development with no use in mind at all. I just figured that I should have some sort of super-rare item come from the traps. It was only at the very end of development that I found a use for it. That’s not saying that I won’t add more uses later, though…
 
CAG: Is the assumption that the main character is an alien correct?
            Michael Townsend: Hey, I’m glad you caught that! That story point was significantly more subtle back in development, but none of my play testers figured it out. I actually went through three iterations on how to do that reveal, but I was still worried that it wasn’t obvious enough.

CAG: Have you worked on any other games?
            Michael Townsend: Oh, so many. This is probably the first one I’ve finished, though. I love to program, and the stuff I do for my day job just isn’t fulfilling on a personal level. Games are the result. Usually, I’m too ambitious in my scope, and lose interest when it takes too long for things to come together. ADR was my first attempt at trying to break that cycle.

Thank you for your time Michael! If you guys want any additional information, feel free to leave some questions in the comments section and we’ll see what we can do to get those questions answered.  No promises.

Rome:Total War in review

For the glory of mighty mother ROMA!

I recently saw Rome: Total War on steam for a dollar.  Being the poor gamer I am I decided to grab it and see why people hail it as the greatest RTS of all time.

After putting some time into it, I don’t know if I can give it that title.  It’s good don’t get me wrong here, but the best is a stretch.  One thing I do heavily appreciate about the game is the sheer size of combat.  When there is upwards of 5,000 units all running around the screen following orders gives such a sense of power… in addition to the sense of the scope of Roman combat.  But after you get past and actually start trying to get your units to follow your commands it becomes a minor disaster.  Many times I had spent a solid ten minutes before combat getting my units into formations and squads designed to crush my enemies and after the actual battle began and I tried moving them they would ignore the setup that I had created and make formations of their own. [Editor’s note: You can’t expect proud Romans to follow a pleb.]

Beautiful formations. Almost like gardening.

 

Worse than moving units around though, is the camera.

Dear lord, why can’t I find a game that utilizes scrolling that has good camera work?

Unlike in other RTS games where moving the mouse to the left or right of the screen pans left or right Rome instead rotates the camera.  I spent 25 minutes looking through settings trying to find an option to change this around and either I am blind or it just doesn’t exist.

This is a misstep that eventually I could not look past.  The amount of times that I just wanted to see what was happening slightly to the right or left and instead ended up spinning off to god knows where were innumerable.  It hurts even more because of how much is going on in combat.  If you look away at the wrong moment an enemy cavalry charge mows down your archers.

Elephants too! Did I not mention elephants? You may have missed them by spinning the camera at the wrong time.

 

Barring the RTS side of it, there is a turn based campaign similar to the Civilization games which I jumped into head first.  This side of the game is masterfully done.  There are senate missions to appease the ruling Roman body and how much they respect you can affect how much power your bloodline has in government affairs.

The senate is not the only group you have to appease though, the common people also have to love you.  Each individual city must be managed so the plebeians don’t revolt and burn your capital to the ground.  All of this is mixed with trying to conquer or outmaneuver the other great Roman families and other nations.  Everyone else is trying to halt your grand schemes, and move forward with their own goals.

I can honestly say that if the battles controls were better designed I could easily put 70 or 80 hours into this game but as it stands, I just can’t do it.  It is a good RTS game, but the best is a long way off from what Rome gives.

Certain Age Gaming Podcast for June 9th, 2013

It’s the super special E3 Predictions Podcast! It was the night before the Press Conferences and Justin refuses to make any prophesy. It’s okay, I make enough for everyone! James also played a bunch of Little Inferno.

SPOILER WARNING: We talk quite a bit about Bioshock Infinite and it’s ending. Please Understand.

Certain Age Gaming for June 9th 2013

CA Gaming final

A dark room, a story to unravel.

Twice I’ve played a browser game I’m having trouble describing.

From this point on there will be spoilers.  Mild ones.  I’ll let you know when it’s safe to read again.

Here how it starts, nice and simple.

Here’s how it starts, nice and simple.

A dark room” is like dwarf fortress meets asteroid meets…time managment…meets text adventure.  The game evolves as you play, it’s certainly not one thing or another.  It starts with just a room but before you know it:  People arrive.  Things happen and choices appear.  What happened to this world?  Who are you?  Why are you here?  Okay, one of these questions isn’t answered.

I’ll give you pro-tip:  Make fur, you need it.

Spoilers completed, continue reading.

It’s a thoroughly thought provoking game, beautiful in its simplicity.  Uncommon in its mechanics.  It’s like Candy Box, but not like Candy Box.  I have no idea who made it, part of me believes it sprung fully formed onto the internet. [Turns out it was Michael Townsend and was Inspired by Candy Box. Had to look in the page source to find this info.]

Usually when I think browser game I think Kongregate. Mecca of independent game developers and corporate cash cow of Gamestop alike.  Micro transactions add up.

But…

A dark room, it’s everything a browser game can be in a simple addictive package.  Keep coming back and clicking those buttons.  Figure out the mystery, or at least as much of it as there is to be solved.

Sacrifice your time on this altar of simplicity, and gain some reflection, some amusement, and a healthy dose of sadness that there aren’t more games like this out there.

Pro-tip:  This game saves your progress, so don’t feel like you can’t close the tab if you need to.

Certain Age Gaming Podcast for June 2nd, 2013

Podcast for Sunday June 2nd, 2013. It’s a week before E3 but somehow we have two weeks of Podcasts left. Rachel guest stars in this one where we mainly talk about Don’t Starve and Forza Horizons and how much we miss Burnout. Oh and James is consternated, cranky, even cross with Angry Birds Space.  Also check out some behind the scenes banter after the end.

Check out www.boilr.org for the Binding of Isaac races we talk about hosted by Crumps.

Certain Age Gaming for June 2nd 2013

CA Gaming final