Wednesday, August 26, 2009

News Roundup, August 27th: Adult subject matter, childishly snickered at

Fairytale Fights The Xbox360 version of forthcoming game Fairytale Fights is reported to have an Achievement for killing 1,000 children. Now, granted, they’re cartoony children in an intentionally silly and over-the-top fantasy kingdom, but this still seems tantamount to pinning a giant “I Want to be Subpoenaed by a Senate Subcommittee” sign on your own back. There’s a good chance the achievement will be removed from the release version, though the epic juvenile-dismembering action itself is expected to remain unchanged.

I’m a bit worried due to the fact that the media has the habit of exaggerating the content in games. The best-known recent example of this is probably the Mass Effect/Live Desk With Martha MacCallum debacle, when a few seconds of shadowy bare ass was inflated into a Caligulaesque hardcore porn extravaganza by commentator Cooper Lawrence, who had never actually seen the game. (The scene with the shadowy bare ass was inflated, I mean; not the bare ass itself. Though there are websites for the latter, if that’s your thing.) If this game catches the media’s interest, by the time the report on it makes it to air the story will have grown from “game where you kill cartoon children” to “game where you kill every child in the Western Hemisphere and sell their organs to the yakuza.” This could be the gaming industry’s biggest public relations disaster since the media firestorm that accompanied the ill-fated release of Will Wright’s SimKlan in 2002.

(A side note: You have no idea how desperately this new story made me want to somehow work in a reference to Karsa Orlong from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, but that’s a bit arcane even for me. However, the first person to successfully explain in the comments section what the relevance of such a reference would have been will win a valuable prize. Please note that I reserve the right to make the prize turn out to be something intangible, like my respect and good will, and thus valuable only in some abstract spiritual sense that doesn’t cost me anything or do you any actual good.)

Speaking of Achievements, forthcoming spy RPG Alpha Protocol has previously been said by its developers to contain a veritable horde of female NPCs that the secret agent main character can potentially get intimate with. Apparently, for those of you who choose not to descend into a 1080p pit of vice and depravity, the game will also have an Achievement in the Xbox360 version (and presumably a trophy on PS3) for completing the game while remaining celibate.

WW II PosterI'm not aware of any previous video game that has had a feature like this, but I’ve encountered the idea of a celibacy recognition award before. Well, technically it’s a novelty mug I won in a Star Trek trivia contest during the mid-90s, but the underlying concept is pretty much the same. (I actually still remember the tie-breaking question for first place. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that being able to remember the name of Lieutenant Worf’s adoptive human brother Nikolai Rozhenko won’t get you anywhere in life.) This comes after previous reports announcing that Xbox360 players who hook up with all of the potentially available NPCs would be likewise recognized, earning the 50-point “Painful Burning Mystery Discharge” achievement.

Speaking of recreational activities that can lead to internal organ damage and unwholesome bodily discharges when enjoyed irresponsibly, somebody is selling a device known as the “Arkeg Drink n’ Game,” which despite sounding like the name of a store that would appear in a throwaway background gag on The Simpsons is apparently an actual product. It’s an arcade cabinet with 69 classic arcade games preloaded and a built-in keg, CO2 draft system, and tap to dispense alcoholic beverages while you play.

I see two potential stumbling blocks for this thing. First of all, it costs $3,999, and I’m not sure how big the Wealthy Alcoholic Nerd Age 25-45 consumer demographic really is. Second, there are less expensive alternatives available that offer essentially the same functionality, such as my own patented “Bottle of Wild Turkey 101 Sitting On the Table Next to Me While I Play Disgaea 3” system.

Nevertheless, I admire the underlying vision, and the union of gaming and drinking has great promise. Think of the potential a well-chosen tie-in beverage has to add atmosphere to a game. The developers could provide a jug of moonshine with the next Harvest Moon game to evoke the feel of rural life. You could give everyone who buys the next installment of Metal Gear Solid a bottle of absinthe so that the player’s mind-bending wormwood-induced hallucinations will make the game itself seem almost rational and comprehensible by comparison. Every copy of the recently released GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra could come with a liter of pure grain alcohol so that the player can drink himself into merciful unconsciousness to escape the horrible dawning realization that he has just paid actual money for a game based on GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The possibilities are endless.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seduction of the innocent

You may know that when Electronic Gaming Monthly went out of business, people with existing subscriptions were given Maxim as a substitute, which some parents were not happy about. Meanwhile, it has been reported that several British game magazines contain ads for pornography and phone sex lines. I sympathize with a parent who doesn’t want their child exposed to that sort of thing, though when the largest newspaper in your country has a regular daily feature revolving around pictures of nude women it may be a forlorn hope. That said, I wouldn’t worry too much. Whenever I watched television late at night as a kid half the ads were for phone sex lines, and aside from an unfortunate incident that led to me being banned for life from the phone section of my local Best Buy it didn’t do me any harm.

The other half of the ads, incidentally, were hilariously amateurish pitches for local car dealerships and insurance companies. If you don’t live in the Chicago area and have never known the simple pleasures of staring at the TV at 2:00 AM watching a man in an eagle costume squat on top of a woman’s car and squeeze out an insurance policy from between his legs, and then spending the next half hour wondering if what you just saw was an actual commercial or some sort of fatigue-induced hallucination, you need be deprived no longer:

Try not to spend too much time thinking about why Eagle Man is able to lay an egg. That way lies madness.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

A chilling vision of things to come

In my intro post to this blog, I promised/threatened that I would occasionally include some actual serious commentary on video games to balance out the pointlessly obscure references, sniggering 3rd-grade humor, cruel mockery, and outright lying that usually fill this space.

To that end, I’ll be doing a series of occasional posts on games I’ve recently completed. I don’t expect them to be systematic or objective enough to be considered “reviews” in any proper sense; it’ll just be whatever thoughts about the game come to mind. So, when I do a post on Battlefield: Bad Company and interrupt my discussion of the various multiplayer modes to go on an 8,000 word rant about how the four soldiers who serve as the protagonists in the single player campaign are consistently referred to as a “squad” even though in the U.S. Army the four-man unit portrayed in the game is more properly called a “fireteam” and a squad is actually comprised of two such fireteams and seeing the terminology wrong just makes me SO INCREDIBLY ANGRY, don’t say you weren’t warned..

I have a bit of a backlog of older games I still want to play, and I’m generally not in a huge hurry to get games as soon as they come out unless there’s some sort of really cool preorder incentive (e.g. many of Atlus’ games) or I’m worried about having trouble finding a copy later (again, Atlus). So, when I start talking about this cool game I just beat called Keith Courage in Alpha Zones and post my treatise on what it might mean for the future of the Turbografx-16… Well, again, you knew what you were getting into.

My first post in this vein will be about Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 from Atlus. Gird your loins while you still can.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

News Roundup, August 10 2009

German company Crytek, developer of the Farcry and Crysis series’, says it may have to move its operations out of the country due to efforts by German politicians to ban the production and sale of violent video games. The company has a second office in Budapest, and Crytek president Cevat Yerli has previously raised the possibility of relocating all of their operations there if German censorship of violent games becomes too restrictive. As a precaution, Crytek has reportedly already shifted the development of their forthcoming Far Cry 2: Mutilated Chunks of Innocent People You’ve Brutally Killed for Absolutely No Reason Splattering Everywhere Special Collector’s Edition to their Budapest office. Crytek is a fine developer, and the Crysis series has received well-earned acclaim from gamers despite the handicap of requiring the National Nuclear Security Administration’s supercomputer at Los Alamos to run at full settings, so I wish them the best.

Blizzard has announced that the long-awaited Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty will be released in the first half of 2010. Blizzard says that they need the time in order to get their online service upgraded. While they’re at it, perhaps they could also take a few moments to give the game a better subtitle. Wings of Liberty isn’t a name that says “thrilling saga of epic battles across space for the future of the galaxy,” it’s a name that says “feminine hygiene product for the busy modern woman on the go.”

It’s since been taken down for reasons unknown, but someone on Ebay was trying to sell an Xbox 360 that was supposedly signed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for the low, low price of 1.1 million dollars. Can someone explain to me what the point of having something like this could possibly be? If you like a politician enough to want their autograph, you would think you’d want it on election campaign materials, or something related to their political philosophy, or perhaps, you know, some other object that is at least in some vague way actually connected to them. Consumer electronics don’t really fit the bill. On the other hand, my copy of Frank Sinatra: Live at the Meadowlands signed by Jimmy Carter and the late Ayatollah Khomeini is one of my most prized possessions, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Final Fantasy spinoff hits Japan in October

Square Enix will be releasing a game called The Four Warriors of Light: A Final Fantasy Anecdote in Japan on October 29 for the Nintendo DS.

I don’t know Japanese, so the game’s official site is impenetrable to me. However, inside sources report that The Four Warriors of Light: A Final Fantasy Anecdote explores a heretofore neglected aspect of Final Fantasy, telling the epic saga of how the heroes of Final Fantasy VII became increasingly desperate for ways to kill time on their many long, tedious airship journeys across the world as they fought to save the planet from Sephiroth. As our heroes struggle to come up with some topic of discussion that hasn’t already been beaten to death in order to ward off boredom during yet another interminable 13-hour flight from the Chocobo Farm to the Gold Saucer, each of them tells the tale of some minor and usually pointless incident from their past.

Players will thrill to Cid Highwind’s seemingly endless stories of times he was an asshole for no reason, hear Tifa’s tragic tale of being bullied in 2nd grade because of her overbite-correcting orthodontic headgear, and get another chilling look into Cloud Strife’s troubled past as he reveals the time the ball return machine got jammed during league play while he was working at his part-time summer job at Nibelheim Lanes Bowling Alley and Children’s Fun Zone. In the stunning climax, Barrett shows everyone his old vacation slides of his trip to Costa del Sol and spends the entire length of an epic 20-minute cut scene ranting about his hotel’s shoddy room service and unreasonably expensive mini-bar.

Admittedly, it’s also possible that “anecdote” is just an awkward translation of “gaiden.” I still think this idea is better.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

In Which I Pick on Dante's Inferno Again

Electronic Arts canceled a promotion at Comic Con for its forthcoming game Dante’s Inferno in which convention goers were called on to “commit an act of lust” with one of the EA booth babes and post a photo on Twitter. EA apologized after news of the promotion sparked protests, saying that all members of their marketing department will henceforth be required to watch a special educational film, the award-winning Short, High-Voiced Animate Objects: A Human Gender or Some Sort of Fancy Mobile Furniture?

As a replacement, EA attempted a new promotion based on Dante’s vision of sin and damnation in which fans were encouraged to “commit an act of usury” at the convention, with prizes for whoever was most successful in convincing the EA booth babes to take out interest-bearing loans. Participation was later reported to be disappointing, though EA says it is still considering a “commit an act of betrayal against a master or benefactor” promotion for Dante’s Inferno II.

(Found via: Game Politics)

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