Archives for May 2009

First Impressions (Riddick and Sacred 2)

I’ve had a chance to spend a little time with two recent releases on the 360. Here are a few initial impressions. Two Minute Reviews to follow shortly.

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

RiddickI usually enjoy a good stealth game. I loved the early Splinter Cell games and am always up for a bit of sneaking around. That being said, Chronicles isn’t doing it for me. At least not yet. So far, I’ve only played the remake of Escape from Butcher Bay, but I’m not feeling it. At times, the sneaking around can be exhilarating. Other times I want to hurl the controller. I’m willing to give it some time, maybe I need a little practice. If it gets too frustrating, I’ll be moving on to Assault on Dark Athena.

Outlook: Shadowy

Sacred 2: Dark Angel

Sacred 2Sacred 2, on the other hand, is an unqualified success for me so far. I compared it to Diablo 2 in the preview, and that’s exactly what has me enthralled. The process is simple: press the lever (mash the button) and receive a tasty treat (loot). Rinse, repeat, and then repeat again.

It’s a little unpolished and the map is pretty poor, but that hardly detracts from the experience. So far, I’ve whiled away six or seven hours. That may not sound like a lot, but each time I’ve had to force myself to turn off the 360. As I’m typing this, I wish I was home so I could fire it up right now.

Outlook: Quickly leveling up

That’s a short round up. I could go on, but perhaps this would put it more succintly — given the choice, I find myself wanting to play Sacred 2.

In My (Electrified) Hands

infamous-box-art

I sank about 3 hours or so into this last night and I didn’t want to stop. We’re doing something a little different around here though. Nat is going to be a goodie-two-shoes and I’m going to go full bore EVIL. Await our stories of fame and infamy in the coming weeks.

Preview – Sacred 2: Fallen Angel [Xbox 360/PS3/PC]

sacred_2_ba1Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

Genre: RPG
Website: Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Developer: Ascaron Entertainment
ESRB Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Violence
Release Date: May 12, 2009
Buy it from Amazon

(As we have been doing recently, we are posting previews of games we have been provided a review copies of)

Here’s the deal: Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is an action-RPG. The press release will tell you it’s, “unlike anything you’ve ever played!” Not true. As much as it pains me to compare it to Diablo 2 (which I think is a cop-out comparison, but I’m making it), Sacred 2 has a strong Diablo 2 vibe. This is not a bad thing AT ALL. Diablo 2 is probably my favorite all-time PC game ever. If a game can emulate Diablo 2 while bringing something new to the game, I’m all for it. Sacred 2 has a lot to offer and does just that. Hundreds of monsters, two campaigns and six unique character classes. Sacred 2 combines hack ‘n slash gaming, roleplaying and story in a magical world.

That’s pretty much all I need.

(From the press release) Key Features:

  • An epic adventure in a massive game world that guarantees countless hours of enjoyment across two amazing campaigns
  • Six unique characters that you can customize with new skills, spells, equipment and loot
  • Join your friends through seamless drop in cooperative and competitive play on the same console or online for up to four players
  • Hundreds of monster types to challenge your character’s magical powers and fighting prowess
  • Stunning graphics in true HD-quality
  • A powerful soundtrack featuring music from renowned Heavy Metal act Blind Guardian

Ehergheiz will have a crack at Sacred 2 and will be reviewing it shortly. If you’d like to check out character models or screenshots, have a looksie at our Sacred 2 Flickr set.

King of Kong – The Rematch

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a documentary about video game records. It’s an amazing documentary. Period. Maybe one of the best I’ve seen.

In it, the challenger Steve Wiebe squares off against Billy Mitchell for the Donkey Kong world record. Actually, Steve does a lot of playing and Mitchell does a lot of – talking?

What’s the big deal now? Steve is going to try and break the record at E3 on June 2nd. A bigger deal? Twin Galaxies (how far can you throw them?) will be there to verify it as well as G4TV. I think G4 will be there to verify Twin Galaxies.

Anyway, if you’ve not seen the documentary, you should. I felt for Steve. Teared up with him as well.

Here’s hoping Steve and Billy get their dues. My guess is Billy won’t even be there, but he’ll make a statement.

Preview – The Chronicles of Riddick: Assualt on Dark Athena [Xbox 360/PS3]

Riddick
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

Genre: First Person Action
Website: The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena
Developer: Starbreeze
Release Date: April 7, 2009
Buy it from Amazon

Here’s the deal: You’re a prisoner. There’s a wallet in your back pocket that would make Jules Winnfield proud. You sneak around a prison, stab and punch your way out while shooting any number of guns at numerous bad guys. You break out. (In fact, you broke out a few years ago. Now the break-out is in HD.) All in a sneaky, shadowy way. Then you eschew the shadows for blazing guns during an the Assault on Dark Athena.

The game has been out for a little while now and has been mostly well received. Yahtzee didn’t hate it, so that’s got to count for something. We’ll have a review coming soon.

You can see a trailer video at the jump. We’ve also posted a set of screen shots over at Flickr.
[Read more…]

A Demigod’s Transparency, the Sad Truth

Optimized.sad

Lost potential?

Ironically, and not entirely by design, we’ve chatted up a couple of items regarding lost potential in the recent months. It appears with all the online problems and piracy that Demigod might be turning out to be one of those titles.

Stardock’s CEO, Brad Wardell, doesn’t seem to think so. In a post on his blog (ImpulseDriven no less) he gives a state of the union address a month in to the game’s release. In talking about Gamestop breaking the street date:

This wouldn’t normally have been that big of a deal except this happened to be over Easter weekend and the release servers for the game weren’t yet up. Moreover, it also caused the “warez” version (i.e. there’s no copy protection on the game so the warez version meant someone bravely zipping it up and putting it up on a torrent) resulting in over 100,000 people using it – at once – before we were even back from Easter break. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Online play for your online game? Nope. Pirates are causing the problem. It seems as if Brad is putting a little bit of blame on Gamestop and the pirates. They were not ready to handle the load. 100,000 people had the game illegally and 18,000 legitimate users were left out in the cold because the pirates (surprise!) were trying to play online games.

For the first few days, we struggled to migrate people to a different set of servers that only legitimate users had access to.

Ah, the sad truth. Now, who’s fault is it really? If you have a backdoor DRM check (Irony for Stardock. They are Digitally Managing their Rights) wouldn’t it have been wise to have a honeypot for all the retched hive of scum and villainy.

But our woes weren’t over yet. It became pretty clear that the NAT servers (the servers that negotiate the connection between player A and player B couldn’t handle the # of users on the game resulting in a horrible online experience. 

Moving on.

Demigod’s connectivity problems have basically boiled down to 1 bad design decision and 1 architectural limitation.  The bad design decision was made in December of 2008 when it was decided to have the network library hand off sockets to Demigod proper.  In most games, the connection between players is handled purely by one source. For instance, in Supreme Commander, GPGNet handled the entire connection.

Ah, the sad truth. Stardock and Gas Powered Games decided to use a peer to peer type of technology instead of a technology what as Brad calls “most games” use.

It took us a solid week to realize that this was the problem because we assumed the issue was compatibility with routers or ISPs.

Ah, the sad truth. When in doubt, it’s the customer’s or the ISP’s fault. All of them? Actually, it took them close to three weeks to fix it by contacting the developer of the network library and even pulling in the Impulse team on it. Essentially, they’ve had to re-write the network code and/or the way all the connections happen on the fly. Updates to the game have been numerous.

A couple of other items are mentioned in the post.

Q: What is publisher Stardock planning to do for Demigod players?

A: The plan is to send out an email this week to users who purchased Demigod prior to today with a coupon for 50% off of Demigod that they can give to their friends.   In addition, next week we will begin sending coupons for other things on Impulse to active Demigod players to help ensure a vibrant multiplayer community. We plan to keep doing that periodically.

Awesome. I already know who I am giving mine to. Some people have stated that this is a sign that Stardock has not sold as many as they would have liked. The piracy has cut in to the sales.

Ah, the sad truth. They’re wrong. According to NPD, even with the crazy launch Demigod came in third its week of release. It’s still currently in the top ten a month later. The coupon will only increase their sales.

Q: What about a demo?

A: We’d probably already have a demo out if we hadn’t been messing with this.  But yes, there will be a demo.  In all likelyhood, it will probably be a multiplayer only demo since we want to reassure people when the demo comes out that connectivity is totally nailed and bullet proof.  This is different than our original plan which would have been a single player only demo with 2 demigods and 1 map. So we’re still thinking about how to do this in a way that has the most benefit to us and potential customers.

Ah, the sad truth. It makes me really wonder why there wasn’t one to begin with. I think they may have suspected something was up. However, pre-release demo’s are not usually Stardock’s thing.

There are a couple more common questions that Brad answers including more demigod types, his response to sales and reviews (a little under pace to Sins of a Solar Empire, and it’s their fault initial review scores are low), and his outlook (it will surpass any game they’ve done so far).

Even though we’ve focused on some sad truths, the transparency of this company has been nothing but stellar. Almost daily Brad has informed the gaming masses what they are doing and continue to do with this game. Could we imagine some other big name developers (and Stardock is not, really) doing the same thing?

I think not, and that’s a sad truth.

Find a friend with a coupon and get this game. The single-player tournament is still fun, and multi-player games are getting better.

In my hands

sacred_2_post

Yeah, there’s lots of games being played around here finally.

This seems like a bad idea

wii_darts

Hopefully no explanation is needed, but here it is anyway: Wii Darts.

Brings real feelings and great fun when playing dart games on Wii, such as “PDC World Championship Darts 2008”

Are there other dart games?!

Yeah, that’s not going to go over well.

Week(end) of Gaming

I was on a long, two-week business trip that pretty much took me out of the gaming game. But the upside of the long business trip was that I get a week of free time afterward. So I’ve had a chance this week to get in a little gaming.

But now that the weekend is here, I hope to get in a little more. I’ve got the games I just mentioned to play, plus some Fallout 3 and some GTA mixed in there for good measure. Oh, and there looks to be some really good weather, so I’ll be spending some time outdoors as well.

What’s on your plate for this weekend of gaming?

In my (overflowing) hands

riddick_aoda

I also picked up Ninja Gaiden Dragon Swordand Tecmo Bowl: Kickofffor my DS at the recent Best Buy sale. So my hands are definitely full.