Last week I didn't
do too much in the way of posts. I did have things to discuss or
complain about, but I just had a full plate of things to do and I
was on vacation. Those two things together equaled one solo post.
Also, before I go
any farther, I just want to say that my usual Monday subject is not
at hand this week. In other words, with it being a bye week for
Seattle, I don't have anything to say about the Seahawks. Well, I
don't have anything to say besides the fact that I really hope that
this two week stretch of recovery time will be enough for Branch,
Hackett, and Alexander to all get back into their normal healthy
I spent a good
amount of time last week with the newest Tony Hawk (TH Proving
Grounds) on the 360. I felt the need to play a good nostalgic
skating game, and THPG looked like a good option. At least it looked
that way before I got into the game and realized that the goals and
objectives were so not interesting to play through.
On the bright
side, there are hidden arcade machines on THPG that allow you to
play some of the areas of the game as if they were from THPS1-3. In
other words, you have the two minute timer, the letters to spell out
SKATE and COMBO, special requirements (anger 5 construction workers,
etc), and the three tiered scoring goal (low score for armature,
medium for pro, and high for sick).
In the end,
however, I'd have to call THPG a solid rental. Unlike some games
that are good rentals but also not a poor purchase, I think THPG is
a bad purchase. This game is meant to be enjoyed for only about
three days and then it's old news. At least those three days are a
lot of fun...but after that, the game easily will over stay it's
welcome with poor objectives, a very tacked on plot, and too much
forced hip urban culture.
Most of all, the
average objective in the game will always feel like a training
mission. By the time you've gone through all of the training, you'll
actually be done with the actual game. There is nothing more to the
game, at least in one player, than an overly glorified tutorial.
I did also get
another Neversoft title this weekend. You should be able to guess
which one since Neversoft has a whole two new games right now.
Anyway, I have
been enjoying Guitar Hero 3. In terms of the contents of the game,
there is a lot to digest. I know that Rock Band will probably make
me forget all about the GH family of games, but I still think the
next month will be awesome because of GH3.
included in the game are amazing. It looks like more work was put
into this track list than any previous GH game. You have music
ranging from the 1960's up through the last year or two. You have
genres from classic rock up to the speed metal that can only be
Dragonforce. Even the tiers will usually have a bit of a theme
to them (like one being mainly British inspired when you play in
London, and when you get sent to play in hell you have Iron Maiden,
Metallica, Slayer, and the duel of Devil Went Down to Georgia).
However, I cannot
say the game is without it's faults. For one thing, the game has a
co-op career mode. That's not a problem. In fact, that's an awesome
thing. The problem is that certain encore songs cannot be
played/unlocked outside of co-op career. This means that, even after
I have laid medium (I'm not good with the orange button) to rest, I
still don't have access to Sabotage, or a few other songs. Also,
there is a song that I cannot find on co-op free play that is on the
solo career mode. This breaking up of what songs can be played by
how many people only drops the joy that is GH3.
The other problem
is something I've bitched and moaned about since the news of GH3 was
first starting to trickle into the media; battle mode. I will never
play this mode on my own accord, but you have to face three battles
in order to clear the single player career mode. These are simply
not fun and they take away from enjoying the game on a single
adrenaline pumping play through.
The worst part of
the battles is that they will only end if you finish the "song"
(more of a jam session) by making the computer controlled player
lose. If you get to the end of the song, you automatically lose, and
if you fail...well, then you obviously fail. The only way to make
the AI mess up on a song is if you through attack power ups at them.
The bad part is that they can throw them back at you as they earn
the power ups through star passages.
The other lame
part is that, at least from my one day of playing and what I've seen
thus far, that you cannot play Devil Went Down to Georgia outside of
the duel with Lou (the devil's name in GH3). I really just want to
go into a guitar groove by laying down this song on my own. I don't
want to have to leave some material behind to be a part of only the
battle game. I don't know how this song, or other duels for that
matter, play out in co-op career, but I'll start to find out soon as
I struggle to get Velveta to play a song or two with me each several
Also, the new
controller packed in with the GH3 bundle is nice. There are some
problems with bad contacts, since the neck is able to be removed.
However, if the contacts are all set, then the action on this newest
guitar control is awesome. It's fast on the fingers, the whammy bar
works (unlike the GH2 360 controller), and the tilt sensor is the
best I've seen on a GH controller. Plus, since it's wireless, I feel
a lot more ready to get into the action and not to worry about
rocking too hard and yanking out and cables.
Also, the face
plate removes easily enough. I'm not the type of person who uses the
words "mod" and "console" together except when speaking of
chips...so this doesn't mean much to me. But the artistic people out
there can enjoy redesigning the face plate without ever worrying
about taking apart the guitar controller. At least it shows that Red
Octane does understand who their audience is.
The only complaint
I've had with this controller is that it uses a different shaped
battery compartment than the 360 wireless controller from Microsoft.
This means that you can only use a rechargeable battery pack if you
buy the special Red Octane one. Still, it's only a minor loss when
you consider the cheapness of rechargeable AA batteries at a store
I still need to
work my skill up to take on hard, and GH3 does encourage this in the
forced career battles (since one power-up that can hit you is to
bump the difficulty up one notch). Considering I've gotten five
stars on most medium songs (Raining Blood and the Muse song are both
kicking my ass and I can only score a low 4 or a high 3 star
ranking), hard seems like a good way to go. Either that or I should
try to master medium as much as possible by trying to beat
Dragonforce's Through the Fire and Flames on medium. It really feels
like a song on hard on medium, it looks like expert on hard, and it
will make a grown man cry on expert...cry before you're head
Also, for those
looking for this song, you have to beat the game's career mode, then
you will get the end credits. During the credits, you'll play TTFAF
without any score keeping (think practice mode, but without speed
controls). If you play through to the end of the song, you can then
buy it in the shop in the game and rock it out. I think this is the
first goal of any GH fanatic...to find TTFAF. The second goal is to
beat the song on any difficulty without your eyes or head exploding.
Microsoft, IPTV will not be included in
the next 360 firmware update. More than that, the technology
will not be available until a service provider, instead of the
console developer, says it's ready to install it. That's all well
and good, but I would like for Microsoft to focus on some more
important aspects of the 360, and to aim them towards the fall
In particular, I
want my 360 to not tell me shit when I'm playing a game. At least
I'd like the ability to turn off all notifications of any sort.
Nothing can ruin a nice combo in Guitar Hero 3 like getting a damned
pop up telling me one of my friends is online...or that I just
unlocked an achievement...or that a friend is no longer
online...or...it doesn't even matter how many "or" situations I can
come up with. I just want my 360 to shut the hell up already. If I'm
in the dashboard, then it can do whatever it damned well pleases.
However, if I'm playing a game, the dashboard should be entirely out
of the equation unless I tell it otherwise.
Also, why not
throw in an update of some sort to clean up the mess that is the
Marketplace? The layout was changed before when it became to
cluttered to stand, but another round of cleaning is in order. Maybe
something help sort by first letter or even the first five letters
of the product you want. Maybe something to let you search for a
keyword. Maybe something that will properly place items in the
Marketplace into their appropriate categories. More than anything, a
new organization system that keeps all themes and gamer pics out of
the game download section. I have no intention of dropping any money
on a new dashboard theme (as I hinted at above, the dashboard does
not matter to me one damned bit outside of navigating to the games I
want...and maybe cleaning up some HDD space) or some gamer pic that
means nothing to me.
What? Is it so
wrong that I don't want to spend any money at all on buying the
latest pack of Madden gamer pics and having my screen name
represented by an NFL team logo? I don't think so. I couldn't care
less about achievements. If I did, then I'd play GH3 without a
guitar controller in the system to get that stupid "Get a Guitar
Already" achievement (or whatever it's called). I have not gotten
this and I don't aim to.
I want my 360 to
play games and to allow me access to important downloads related to
real gaming. Game trailers and interviews with developers on new
titles? That's cool. Demos and updates? Once again, that is cool.
Additional content (preferably free)? Definitely cool as long as
it's not the expensive GH2 song packs or the horse armor from
Also, since I've
had some good relations and all of that, let's throw out a mention
to our friends across the pond. Maybe Microsoft needs to finally
give Europe some Marketplace love from the next update. In fact,
maybe it's time for all Marketplaces to be made equal. Instead of
asking for people to get the free downloads by being sneaky (making
a fake foreign screen name), we could all have some equal access to
the free and universal items. What I mean by this is the game demos
and videos from other regions. Movie and TV content may be tricky,
but I'm sure, as the owner of the console being developed for,
Microsoft could pull a little sway in asking for region universal
demos and trailers for games.
applies for free content to unlock material locked on the game disk,
like how hard, impossible, and new game+ modes were locked on Blue
Dragon when it launched in the US...but it was on the Hong Kong
Marketplace. Blue Dragon was unbearably easy on the standard game,
and unless someone was wanting to make a Hong Kong screen name, they
were forced to skip these more suitable modes...despite them being
on the game disk.
Now to go on a
complete rant that breaks topic, I'll just say one more thing.
Microsoft, as the owner of the console being developed for, needs to
start demanding that all downloads for games (game content) are real
content. No more of the bull shit that we've seen with games like
Blue Dragon Katamari. I'm talking about how the other modes (of Blue
Dragon) and the extra levels (of Katamari) are all on the game disks
already. They were ready to go from days one. However, we not only
had to wait for the content to be released (usually, in the case of
BD in particular, when they are no longer relevant), but we had to
pay for some of these and wait aimlessly for the others. Microsoft
should demand that for a game to be licensed for their console that
the developer and publisher have to furnish the entire game at the
start. No more half assed and half finished games waiting for
endless patches to make them run. Definitely no more "bonus content"
that's already on the game disk. Full finished games from day one.
I am in a hell of
a bitchy mood today. Actually, I'm continuing a bitchy mood that
started yesterday. Between some news regarding my future employment
and when my next job will start, I am not too happy. When you throw
in the fact that I-5 had a minor accident blocking one lane (out of
about 5 or so) this morning which made me about 45 minutes behind
schedule, the bad mood continues.
Why do I mention
stuff like that? Because I am just clarifying that what I say is now
beyond my control and is more a function of my annoyances and my
pissed off mind set. Also, this (especially the being late to work
today) will keep me from posting anything overly long.
I have now played
some of the co-op career mode on Guitar Hero 3. I do like that co-op
is now a career option, since it felt lacking from the previous GH
games. However, it only makes me more annoyed as I unlock new songs
that are only found in co-op career. I don't mean some minor songs
that don't mean crap to the game. For example, the first co-op
encore song, and this would be the first one lacking from the single
player career mode, is nothing short of Sabotage (Beastie Boys).
This is too damned fun of a song to play to have it forced out of a
player's hands until they find someone to co-op with at home.
cannot be performed via XBox Live. Co-op career is also a sad thing
to attempt without having two guitar controllers (luckily I have
two). It is just not that obtainable to the average gamer who just
wants to rock out each and every song in the game. These co-op
exclusive encores don't stop at tier one or even shortly after.
Supposedly they run until the sixth tier, which means there are six
songs that a single player would not be able to reach on their
own...or without cheat codes...unless you want to play them in a
battle or whatever over XBox Live (since all songs are unlocked over
The least that
Neversoft could have done is to either allow these songs to be
accessed in a single player game or to have co-op career be an
option over Live. To keep co-op career limited is a shame when good
songs would be placed on this mood exclusively.
In my case, I have
been playing with Velveta, but with limited time. She works a lot
and works a job that is not wrist friendly. Sadly GH games are also
not wrist friendly. So, while I got to play every single player
career song (not too mention Through the Fire and Flame and a few of
the other unlockable "purchasable" songs) in one day on single
player modes, I only faced the first two tiers (and only the minimum
number of songs to force an encore) in two days of playing with
Velveta. This means that I will not see the remaining bonus songs
for another few days...maybe a week since the harder songs are more
stressful on the worker who has an uncaring job that causes wrist
At least I'm still
having a good time on single player. I've put hard mode on hold, for
now. I'm trying to get some more feel of these new songs before I go
full on with hard mode career. I was actually able to get through
almost two tiers of hard mode (three staring each song and playing
through each one only once), but I think the best chance for me to
improve right now is to learn the feel of the songs before I have to
face one of the damned pointless boss battles...and get my ass
handed to me when a difficulty up attack is thrown my way (bumping
me into a temporary state of that dreaded "expert" mode).
In fact, I might
even think about hard mode on a more forgiving GH2 before I try to
get the GH3 action rolling. At least GH2 doesn't hit you with boss
battles. I also wish that the GH games would have had a fifth
difficulty. I feel like the scale between the levels is a bit
broken, and that's why I've never felt motivated to move on to hard.
The difference between medium and easy was mainly an additional
finger, that is conveniently on most hands. There were more notes,
but they were an easy to understand increase.
The change between
hard and medium is not so slight and easy to get accustomed to. You
have another note, without any real chance to get used to either
stretching a finger or sliding your hand as you play. Then,
especially on GH3, you have a hell of a lot more notes. It seems
that GH3 has done the worst job of jumping the challenge between
these two modes out of all three and a half GH games. If there was a
more subtle shift in difficulty, I would probably be rocking out a
hard career (at least until the first boss), but that just isn't the
case. You need to pick up too many new ideas...shifting hands or
stretching fingers, a shit ton more notes, and how alternate
strumming (up and down) and hammer ons/pull offs are mandatory.
At least I can
still go back to medium and enjoy rocking out on a challenging song
(for me tiers 7 and 8 are nothing short of fun and challenge, but
without frustration, on medium), sounding good, and feeling good.
I was unsure of
what to think of John Riccitiello, the current CEO of EA. Afterall,
he was supposed to help in bringing a new age to EA. Creativity was
supposed to be brought back into the picture, and with the
acquisition of Bioware and Pandemic, I was still unsure of what all
is in store for EA.
I still don't know
what to think of Riccitiello in that regard. What the future will
hold for EA, under his reigns, is still to be determined.
However, I do like
his forward thinking in terms of game prices. I don't know where
his comments are coming from, since game pricing seems to be a
debate that he is, as of now, only having with himself. However,
thinking that $60 games does not work for consumers is a good idea.
The price of games
are higher now, not counting inflation (since inflation seems less
important in some prices to consumers), than last generation. Also,
the amount of money that is in an average consumers entertainment
budget is going down as consumers feel job income remaining stagnant
for the last half decade (over 5 years, in fact), but inflation has
pushed up prices of everything else...be it food, gas, shelter, and
other parts of basic needs, as well as other entertainment
expenditures (movie tickets, in particular).
Of course, at the
same time, the price of games have been higher in the past. I'm not
talking of the digital disc age of gaming, but the cartridge days of
the NES, Master System, SNES, and Genesis. I still remember Phantasy
Star IV being released to a $100 price tag so many years ago. So, in
reality, prices could be worse. Of course, many gamers were
introduced to games during the PSX days and after. These were days
that rarely saw a game retail for over $50, and that only makes the
modern $60 look worse.
My one question is
how Riccitiello aims to attack the issue of price. There are a few
simple ideas that may work, but a lot of ideas that would be
detrimental to the gaming world.
A good option
would be to either look at lowering the price of games by $10 and
bringing back PSX-PS2 era prices. This would mean, however, that
only games with potential for higher sales would be considered
important by publishers and developers, which could leave us with
less creativity and more cases of a franchise or license being
milked for all it's worth. Afterall, to make up for those $10 would
require about 20% more sales of a game.
option would be to look at where games could be streamlined to be
less costly to develop. The obvious option in this is to cut some
budget for visuals, which have been a high impact on modern game
developmental costs. I honestly would not mind too much. Some games
have used less impressive (on paper) of visuals to create some
amazing environments and moods. Katamari is an excellent example of
"poor" graphics making an awesome experience. Unfortunately, this
could turn off some of the gamers who are more inclined to eye candy
than to content.
options, there are a lot of potentially bad ideas. The big one I can
think of off the top of my head is that more games could be treated
to downloadable and premium content. The base game would cost less,
but the real game, in it's entirety, would cost upwards of $30 more
(in theory you could tack on another $15 per month with online
enabled games). This actually seems like the likely product of
trying to "reduce" game prices.
It's been seen
that players will usually shell out more money for extra content,
even if it means paying for what's lacking in the original game, not
what's additional and a bonus to the original content. For example,
the way Hellgate: London is setup. You buy the game once, but if you
want the real experience, then you pay for a premium service with a
monthly cost. Everyone can play the game, but only those who pay
more will get the full game as the developers intended. There's also
Beautiful Katamari, which has a few levels on the game disk, but
they can only be unlocked via a premium download. The original BK is
shorter than it feels like it should be, but the content you pay for
later will even that out...and bring the price from a budget $40 to
whatever the final price will be when Namco-Bandai finally does
release the content in the US.
There are even
more options...you could have more free PC games (free to download)
that required monthly costs. Afterall, this method of monthly
charges is a great tool for successful MMOs to make most of their
profits. Do you think WoW made most of it's money from the original
game and expansion pack purchases? No...the real money comes from
the monthly charges of millions of people. Once monthly charges are
involved, all that is honestly required is server maintenance.
Blizzard does give more than just maintenance (patches, updates,
etc), but a greedy or money hungry company could just supply the
servers and let it ride out at that.
Of course there is
a problem with this model. Not too many people will keep a
subscription around if they are subscribed to something new. The
average gamer will only have premium content and subscriptions to a
limited number of games at a time, and a company like EA, which
releases a large number of games per year, could end up
cannibalizing an older game for their latest game.
I would love to
see where Riccitiello actually is taking EA. I honestly don't get
the point of his little blurb and why it was reported. It's not
news...rather it's a external thought that doesn't bring any
resolution or clarity to an issue and it's an issue that is not on
the minds of most people. I would be like me randomly stating "I
think scientific research needs to be handled in a new way" (that's
a relevant comparison since I am a scientist). I didn't give any new
ideas, and I didn't clarify what I thought...only that I am
Let's hope that
Riccitiello is thinking and is planning to either do nothing ($60
games have worked for the last two years...and yes, I'd like them
cheaper, but not at the cost of sanity or those damned
micro-transactions) or at least nothing that actually costs more.
I'd hate to see EA, once again, showing how cheap and greedy they
can be. It's bad enough that is all that Madden serves to remind us
of each year, as features are cut and sales go up.
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