Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Threatening Journalists Who Write Negative Reviews Is The Way To Go

Duke Nukem Forever is an average game, at best.

Phew.  Just wanted to get that off my chest.

I'd better be careful, though.  The publisher's former PR company, The Redner Group, tweeted that journalists posting particularly negative reviews of DNF may be denied future 2K titles for review.  In fact, to quote them directly:

"Too many went too far with their reviews...we (are) reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom."

That tweet has since been deleted from The Redner Group's feed, and their CEO Jim Redner put out an apology today by email, stating that he made an error in judgement and asking for forgiveness.

To their credit, 2K immediately disowned Redner's comments and tweeted that The Redner Group would no longer represent 2K's PR interests, essentially kicking them to the curb.

It's always chilling when you are told to shoot the messenger rather than the message.  I suspect that Gearbox and 2K knew they had a stinker on their hands with DNF and wanted to simply get it released and then buried as soon as possible.  Reading other reviews it seems that the game itself is riddled with bugs and is very out of date with contemporary times, no doubt stemming from its mammoth development period, by which I mean mammoths were still around when work on DNF first began.  All of this negative publicity about the negative publicity put 2K in a bind though, and forced them to choose the wiser path which was firing The Redner Group.

As apologetic as Jim Redner was today, it doesn't excuse what he said yesterday.  Games journalists are still journalists and must be free to publish full and frank opinions about games and the games industry at all times without other considerations getting in the way.  If you want a great review, make a great game.  Don't try to intimidate journalists into giving you a better review than you deserve.

So say we all.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Post-E3 Wrap-Up

Another E3 has come and gone, and with it some of my hopes and dreams, forever torn asunder.

The Bad News

PlanetSide 2

So there was nothing about PlanetSide 2 at E3.  Not even a bite; not even a nibble.  I've got to say I'm getting quite pissed off by the stringing-along that SOE are doing with this game.  We were originally meant to get some information in March, which came and went with a big, fat nothing.  John Smedley assured us it was still coming but had been slightly delayed.  Well, now the biggest gaming show in the world has just finished without anything being mentioned about PS2 at all.

At this point I'm not even sure whether the game will be out this year.  We're almost half-way through the year and there is no release date or anything else, in fact nothing to suggest the game even exists except for a half-dozen screens floating around the Internets.  No site, no real screenshots, no videos.  I'm beginning to wonder whether this is some epic troll on SOE's part, to boost the subscriber numbers for PlanetSide at least for a while (since Sony have promised beta spots for PS2 to all current PlanetSide subscribers - a game that still weighs in at $15 a month I might add).

Perhaps they are holding off the "big reveal" for SOE's annual Fan Faire event (think Blizzcon but less successful) which this year takes place between 7th - 9th July in Las Vegas.  Maybe they are even waiting until GamesCom (aka Europe's E3) which runs 17th - 21st August in Cologne, Germany.  When there is actual news to report about this game then I will report it, but until them I am done playing the SOE guessing game.  All I will say is that there is a limit to my patience, SOE, and as of now you are right up against it.

The Secret World

Further to having no PlanetSide news, Funcom were also not showing at E3 this year so that meant not much information about The Secret World was available.  To be fair though, they did update the official site with information about a new area, Atlantic Park, so it wasn't a complete bust.  TSW still seems on-track for a late 2011 / early 2012 release, although Funcom and EA are still keeping details locked down.

Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online

Also on the negative side, there was next-to-nothing shown at E3 regarding Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online.  There was a new trailer released just for E3, but...well watch it below and you will see the obvious issue:

So yeah...not much content there, unless big, flashy graphics with little-to-no gameplay is your thing, in which case you really lucked out.  It's not exactly a surprise, since the game is likely at least a year away and probably closer to two.  It would have been nice to see just a little more than what we actually got, though.

The Good News

Fortunately for us there is a lot more good news than bad.

Mass Effect 3

Starting off with what will likely be one of the big games of 2012, Mass Effect 3 was demo'd extensively at E3 by BioWare, and had a new, shiny trailer to boot.  Shepard now sports an insta-kill melee move that should seem very familiar to Gears of War fans.  BioWare's new ME3 E3 trailer is embedded below:

As trailers go, this one presses all the buttons.  The key element here is plenty of gameplay (you listening Vigil?).  Insert whatever fancy graphics you paid all those tens of thousands of dollars to the post-production house for, but give us a lot of gameplay on top so we can actually see the game.

ME3 remains approximately 9 months away, and I would expect the information coming out of EA and BioWare about the game to be stepped-up dramatically over the next few months.

BioShock Infinite

Curiously, the game that seems to be getting the most attention (as well as several selections as "Best in Show at E3") is BioShock Infinite.  In development by Ken Levin and Irrational Games (who made the original BioShock - but not BioShock 2) it has been known for a while that this game won't be seeing the light of day until 2012 for some time, but based on the videos they have put out so far it looks good:

If you haven't already seen it you should absolutely check out the extended 10 minute gameplay video of BI that Irrational released last year; it's well worth it.

Irrational absolutely nailed the period atmosphere and immersive nature of the original BioShock and from these two videos it looks like they have done the same all over again with BioShock Infinite.  The rumour mill says that Irrational are shooting for a Q2 / Q3 2012 release so we've likely got at least a year to go, but BI is receiving a lot of attention based on this most recent showing at E3 and rightly so.  Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Next up there is the sleeper RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.  The first project by rookie developer 38 Studios (founded by former baseball player Curt Schilling) and Big Huge Games (acquired by 38 Studios in 2009), it seems to be your typical high-fantasy RPG, with a couple of notable exceptions.  First, noted fantasy author R.A. Salvatore is creating the game's world and lore, and comic book artist and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane is contributing to the artwork and design style.

This is the most recent trailer, made especially for E3:

Another interesting footnote is that 38 Studios are simultaneously at work on an MMORPG set in the same universe as Reckoning.  Known only by its codename, Copernicus, it is shrouded in almost as much mystery as PlanetSide 2.  Reckoning seems like it could be a welcome addition to the strong staple of RPGs hitting the market recently.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Due in November of this year, Skyrim seems to be your typical swords-and-sorcery fair that the Elder Scrolls series has become noted for.  Personally I have never really cared for the series myself and it has not grabbed me in any meaningful way, but maybe Skyrim will be the exception.  As part of their E3 coverage, G4 received an exclusive behind-the-scenes gameplay walkthrough from Bethesda's Todd Howard and it's embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

If you need to change your underwear after viewing I will find this completely understandable as the game looks amazing.  Ok, so the demo was running on an X-Box 360 but you can guarantee that the PC version will look at least as good if not better.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Although we got no firm release date (other than tacit confirmation to various outlets that we would be seeing TOR sometime this year), BioWare chose to release the introductory cinematic to the game at this year's E3:

BioWare also put up several other videos on their site, detailing the Eternity Vault raid instance (in TOR raids are known as "operations"), a scenario (quest) on Tatooine and a general video about various gameplay features.

After watching all of these videos I think my interest in TOR increased by about 10,000%.  Confirmation that space battles will be in from launch was a nice little addition as well, as this is something that Star Wars Galaxies took a lot of heat for not having off the bat (although it was later patched in post-launch).

EA and BioWare certainly seem to be in information dissemination mode, and that generally means that release is right around the corner.  I'm expecting to hear news of a release date for The Old Republic very shortly, possibly at GamesCom or PAX Prime which are both in August.  My gut instinct says November.

Battlefield 3

Running on DICE's new Frostbyte2 engine and with a slated release date of 25th October in North America (28th in the EU) Battlefield 3 seems set to continue the rivalry that EA have seemingly picked against Activision and the Modern Warfare series.  EA and DICE released the Thunder Run tank trailer at E3, which is embedded below:

Frankly, the new Frostbyte2 engine looks ridiculously good.  There were several parts of the video that were so photo-realistic that I would have had difficulty discerning whether it was real life or a game, if I didn't already know that it was a game.

DICE tend to cater a little better to the PC than Activision do, so dedicated servers for multiplayer are already a certainty.  If the game plays anywhere near as good as it looks then expect BF3 to be an extraordinarily good title.

And there you have it.  Of course there were dozens of other games detailed at E3, some of which may still be embargoed and so we haven't heard about them yet.  This is just my personal pick of what looked particularly good for us PC gamers over the next 12 months or so.

I guess it's time to upgrade my PC again.

I've given NewEgg so much money I should just buy shares in them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

E3 - Battle For LA

Tomorrow is the first day of E3 2011, the gaming industry's flagship event.  From Tuesday to Thursday gaming journalists from all over the world will descend on the Los Angeles Convention Centre in California to be spoon-fed details, screenshots and perhaps even some hands-on demos about the latest and greatest games that we will be seeing over the next 12 months.

This is my personal top 5 games that I want to see details of (and preferably beta invites as well - thanks!). Some of them might be close to release, others at least a few months off.  Either way, speculation away!

PlanetSide 2

Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Expected: ??

Yes, you knew it was coming and would be right at the top.

Sony's true sequel to arguably the first genuine MMOFPS, 2003's PlanetSide, still leads a somewhat shadow existence in the gaming world.  Most of the information we know about the game has been tweeted by SOE President John Smedley, and there is very little to go on other than that.  We were originally meant to know more around March time, but that month came and went with little fanfare.  According to Smedley the game has been delayed a little for additional work and polish, but is still not far from release.  What this means exactly is anyone's guess, but I am hoping that E3 will finally pull back the covers on this highly-anticipated title and gives us some solid details, screens, and may even be playable there.  A release date and beta information would be nice as well.

I've talked previously about PlanetSide Next, and the news that it would officially be titled PlanetSide 2 is about the only thing we've heard in the past couple of months.

I hope you're listening, Sony.  If this E3 comes and goes without my PlanetSide 2 fix then you and I are through. No spooning, no friends-with-benefits...nothing.

Mass Effect 3

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Expected: 6th March 2012

The sequel to arguably many people's choice for Game of the Year 2010, the final part of the Mass Effect trilogy was originally slated for this year's holiday season but was recently pushed back three months to March 2012.  No doubt a company like BioWare with EA's resources available to them could have knocked it out in time for Christmas, but the lukewarm reaction to Dragon Age II might have made them think twice and decide that some additional polish would be good all round.

BioWare have stated that ME3 will be an extensive part of EA's showcase for this year's E3, so I'd expect to see screenshots, videos and probably a demo or two, since the game is apparently in quite an advanced state already.

Mass Effect remains one of my favourite gaming series to date.  The mix of RPG and FPS in a futuristic setting hits many of my gaming food groups all at once.  I very much look forward to seeing how BioWare will finish off the trilogy and shall continue my candlelit vigil for Mass Effect Online.

Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online

Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ
Expected: 2H 2012 - 1H 2013

The latest Warhammer to get an MMO version, this futuristic 40k adaptation has been in the planning stages for some time and has only recently began to release tidbits of information here and there.  Given that it's highly unlikely that we would see this game before E3 2012 then I wouldn't expect a myriad of information to come out from this year's event, but hope springs eternal.

Maybe we will get the scoop on additional playable races (so far only the Imperium of Man and the Eldar Exiles have been confirmed) or maybe even some gameplay details.  Though still a way off, DMO is right up there as one of the games I am most interested in.  It can only be hoped that it fares better than the critical hit but commercial flop that was Mythic's Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, released in 2008.

Vigil Games have a good pedigree, as last year's Darksiders was generally well-received and work on its sequel is well underway.  An MMO is a different kettle of fish to a traditional game though, and it remains to be seen whether they have what it takes to deliver in this most vicious of gaming arenas.

The Secret World

Developer: Funcom
Publisher: Funcom / Electronic Arts
Expected: 2H 2011 - 1H 2012

Funcom's interesting new take on the MMORPG genre, moving the setting to contemporary Earth but where all those conspiracy theories you have heard are actually true, is still chugging along.  There are no classes and no levelling; instead the game is 100% skill-based, whereby the skills you acquire and use define your character.

There has been no talk of a release date, although a closed beta is expected to begin shortly after E3.  Since EA are co-publishing the title alongside Funcom themselves, I am guessing they will not want to launch this and Star Wars: The Old Republic close to each other so as to not cannibalise the potential market of the other.  My gut instinct says that ToR will be released before TSW, but that's pure conjecture on my part.

Hopefully we'll get further information from E3 as to when exactly we can expect to see this potentially genre-busting MMO.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Expected: 2H 2011

Also known as BioWare's other major project alongside ME3, ToR is inching closer to its projected release date of "sometime later this year".

BioWare have been subtly hinting that there will be some major ToR news coming out of this year's E3, making me think that an official release date and / or beta news could well be in the offing.  Following the pitiful yet inexplicably-still-in-existence Star Wars Galaxies, ToR is the big Star Wars MMO that many fans are hoping will be The One.

BioWare rarely (never?) make bad games, although the reaction to this year's Dragon Age II was decidedly more mixed than their usual acclaim.  I can only hope that they are not losing their touch and that DA2 was just a blip.

And there we have it.  In addition to these games I will also be looking for information on titles such as Guild Wars 2, BioShock Infinite, Battlefield 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Tera Online and Darksiders 2; all of theses games look promising but have yet to hit my pleasure centre in that special way in order to get into my top 5.  Perhaps this will be their summer.