Preorders, a one-way advantage.

Not very long ago, EA was the foe that gamers from all sides united against. After the, and let’s be honest here, complete joke of a launch that was Origin, and the continual fumbling launches of Battlefield 4 and SimCity, EA took flak from both gamers and the press for utter mishandling of EA’s own products.

 

Pictured: Lies.

 

 

SimCity is a prime example. For the first few days of launching, there were no servers that were playable to any degree. Gameplay itself was bugged, with the Sim AI completely failing to work out traffic pathing. Other measures, designed around the ‘always online’ mantra, greatly changed the formula of the SimCity series. For example, leaving the game to run at full speed  for long periods of time, (useful for generating a lot of funds) was actively prohibited by the engine, which scaled back the speed of the game to the slowest speed without player input. This was, according to EA, to prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage in the global online rankings.

 

The online aspect of the game was easily the most controversial, EA’s claim that the game was unable to be taken offline was soon refuted by modders. Nevertheless, it took more than a year for EA to drop the claim that an offline version of the game was impossible and release an offline patch, as well as releasing a slew of patches which rectified many of the launch bugs. If the behaviour exhibited by EA had occurred in any other industry, there would have been a massive public backlash, product recalls, public apologies and refunds on a mass scale, these are all thing that happen with other, smaller companies and across a wide spectrum of industries. Gaming however, gets a free pass to pump out substandard dreck, time and again.

 

However, gaming has a newly crowned potentate of poor products, a new tsar of substandard software, Ubisoft.

 

 

I’ve been watching them for a while now, ever since Assassins Creed 2 had three semi-sequels. This wasn’t a concern until the launch of Assassins Creed 3.

 

 

The bits ringed in red? This should never happen if your game budget is 7 digits long and climbing. I’ve used this image from the Ubisoft forums themselves, and who knows what other people have screenshot. My lingering memory of AC3 will be complete white screens, bugged textures, boring gameplay (seriously, make with the assassinating already) and a thorough disappointment after the great miniseries that was Assassins Creed 2. Not content with ruining a successful franchise, Ubisoft set about becoming the new EA.

 

The most glaring example of why pre-ordering is a bad idea, why bloated game budgets are bad for all involved, and why everyone with a spark of creativity stays the hell away from Ubisoft was their open world hacking game, Watch_Dogs. Hyped for years, promising an amazing experience, the game was the crown jewel of Ubisoft’s marketing department. At launch the game was found to be buggy, have the same gameplay style as basically all Ubisoft open world games to date with (once again) a middling storyline. Gaming companies are still able, for some reason, to promise features, take money from orders based on these features, and then cancel the features. Why? Because we let them get away with it. Preorder culture, despite the many disappointments from various companies, is still rampant. It’s beyond me why this is still a thing. Preorders deliver nothing of value to gamers, and allow publishers to fire out unfinished, unpolished, unprofessional products. By removing incentives for publishers to actually release great products by giving them more money before the game is launched, people who pre order games are selling short the entire medium.

Ubisoft never shutting up about how “nobody cares about 1080p” is like a morbidly obese person going on and on about how healthy they are. If it isn’t an issue, you wouldn’t still be talking about it.

Civ Beyond Earth: Why it’s going to be amazing.

I have always enjoyed Sid Meier’s Civilization. I remember it way back when Civ I was released, I’d spend ages trying to work out what the hell was going on in game, and invariably getting wiped out by the AI. However, I can live with myself being horrible at strategy games at that point, because I’m pretty sure I was in early primary school. However the charm and guaranteed replayability of the series was present even in the early days. The sheer level of customisation of your game-play style to meet the opponents was, even back then, mind boggling. This led to the AI using every trick in the book to counteract your strategy, (and on the harder difficult levels, flat out cheating), which led to some civilisation leaders to stray slightly from their historical counterparts.

“Speak softly and threaten everybody” – M. Gandhi.

One of the strengths of the game, where it really shone was it’s multiple victory situations. You could win the game by wiping out everyone else and becoming the only Civ left, however, aside from that fairly predictable scenario, there was one other way of winning the game that is still my favourite way to play. The Space Victory. The premise is simple. You have expanded far beyond your means on Earth, the next step of development for humanity is to colonise the nearby star system of Alpha Centauri. This involves building a spacecraft in multiple parts, then launching to Alpha Centauri, thus ensuring your civilisation’s immortality.

My favourite game in the franchise is still Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, this spiritual, but unofficial sequel to Civ 2. In it, your victorious starship has reached the planet, and in a nationalistic display of unity and strength, immediately splits off into seven competing factions all vying for control of the planet under their banner through a variety of means. Which, if you have been paying attention so far, was precisely the same deal as the previous game. However, Firaxis have stated on multiple occasions that Alpha Centauri was never intended to be a sequel to Civ 2, and that all Civ franchise games are standalone in their own right. What sets Alpha Centauri apart however, and where it really captures your imagination, is through it’s storyline and setting. Fail to react in a measured way to either of these two things, and your colony will be overrun by the native ecosystem of the planet. Master the ecosystem of the planet, and win the game.

There is a certain charm from traditional Civ games that is lost when you remove the setting of Earth. No longer can you visualise what would have happened if Genghis Khan was around to fight Catherine the Great, or how exactly a war between the Aztecs and Bismark  would look. What you gain though, is the limitations that these scenarios have. Alpha Centauri brought new ideas for in-game technologies and gameplay concepts. The “Barbarians” of Alpha Centauri can be tamed, domesticated, and then sent into battle for you. Terraforming is not just an option to make your life easier, you can use ‘formers as weapons of war. Change weather patterns, destroy enemy improvements, all of these are options to you.

Jumping rapidly from the old to the cutting edge, Civilization 5 once again provided a new take on gameplay that was growing slightly stagnant from Civs 2, 3 and 4. The square grid was replaced with a hex grid, the unit stacks were removed, and several game concepts were retired. Corporations? No more! Spies? Not for a long time (and available with DLC only). These key elements of change, along with a whole host more, have allowed the series to stay fresh over 20 years. Time and time again, Firaxis have proven that they are able to build on an existing concept, and take the series to the next level of gameplay.

Gandhi, Gandhi never changes.

 

So that’s why I think Civ:BE will be amazing. It promises to bring fresh ideas back to a new setting. This was of course written before the game launched and before I was able to experience it, but I fully expect nothing but brilliance from the team at Firaxis.

Oh, and  you can play as Australia. #winning.

Pick up Beyond Earth here

E3? Yeah right.

Don’t get excited about stuff at E3 till you see gameplay footage on the gaming console of your choice.

 

Don’t get excited about pre rendered cinematics,

 

Don’t get excited by the presenters telling us “what they’re going to do”

 

Don’t buy the hype.

 

 

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AEL Summer Cup 2014 Liveblog! | Gaming Daily

11:13

JIZZ AND RUN WIN THE AEL SUMMER CUP 2014!

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Winning in 2 matches, JnR completely dominated their opponents in the final match  of the day with a Free Farm Morphling behaving like a wrecking ball throughout the mid game.

10:22

Second Finals Match

Picks

DDD: Sand King, Weaver, Crystal Maiden, Doom, Templar Assassin

JnR: Invoker, Lion, Timbersaw,  Mirana, Morphling

Bans

DDD: Nyx Assassin, Enchantress, Chen, Earth Shaker, Dragon Knight

JnR: Tinker, Visage, Outword Devourer, Naga Siren, Storm Spirit

10:15

Jizz n Run take out the first match! They’re one match away from winning the AEL Summer Cup!

9:37

Finals Match 1

Picks

DDD: Sand King, Venomancer Ember Spirit, Outworld Devourer, Windranger

Jizz N Run: Crystal Maiden, Storm Spirit Dragon Knight,, Timbersaw, Enchantress

Bans,

DDD: Nyx Assassin, Doom, Earthshaker, Mirana, Lion

Jizz N Run: Invoker, Visage, Tinker, Slark, Nature’s Prophet

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Banished – Why I should never be in charge of people. | Gaming Daily

I’ve recently picked up Banished on Steam, and I have to say, I like it. I like it a lot.

The game has a simple enough premise. You are the leader of a small group of colonists. Make a new settlement and a new town. In doing so, you have to provide shelter for your colonists, feed them, clothe them, provide enough firewood for them to last through winter and keep them healthy. The game has been compared to Dwarf Fortress, and whilst it does have similarly challenging elements (the dwarf depression spiral notwithstanding), after playing Banished with it’s gorgeous visuals, I could never go back to playing DF after seeing screens like this.

We who are about to die salute you.

The starting screen of an “easy” settlement.

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