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Progress report: Governor’s Ball 2013, Sunday June 10, 2013

Posted by Giovanni in News.
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Last year, New York’s young Governor’s Ball made a big splash. The simple, 2-stage festival drew a concise list of indie heavy hitters including Beck, Modest Mouse, and Fiona Apple. Now, with the public’s eye on the little fest, Gov Ball decided to up the ante this year, doubling its size. Taking over twice as much land on Randall’s Island and adding two stages, the festival has grown to full size. And with that larger scale comes a need to sell more tickets. That became immediately evident with the line-up this year, tapping bands like Guns N’ Roses and The Lumineers to expand the audience from Brooklyn hipsters to Manhattan bros. At the last minute, I decided to grab a Sunday ticket and get a piece of the action this year. And I’m happy to say that despite the larger size, Governor’s Ball still mostly retains the same charm that made its smaller incarnation so fun.

12:00 – 2:15: A Whole Lot of Mediocrity

While Sunday’s top billed line-up was impressive, Governor’s Ball had a problem finding great small bands to fill in the early hours. Taking the start of the day easy, I sat off to the side and casually listened to a few of the acts. Nothing stood out, as all of the bands felt like ‘lite’ versions of their genre. The Revivalists played an admittedly spirited set that felt too clichéd to be impressive—safe bait to draw in the DMB crowd. Things weren’t much better on the indie side with the long-haired men of Roadkill Ghost Choir playing a sleepy set of bland rock songs. The only minor highlight of the early hours came from Haim, a California quartet consisting of three badass frontwomen (3 of the 4 women I saw on stage over the course of the entire day). Their sound wasn’t anything special, as they dipped into relatively standard rock and roll fare, but they kicked things into gear effectively pumping the crowd up for the long day ahead.

2:15: Freddie Gibbs

I head over to the Skyy Vodka tent around 2 to catch the only real diverse act of the day, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs. Regardless of how vastly different the set was in genre, the crowd was still predominately white. It’s probably a good time to note that Governor’s Ball may just be the whitest festival on the planet, despite taking place in the Mecca of diversity. Regardless, Gibbs takes the stage with a commanding presence. He steps out leading the crowd in multiple “Fuck Po-lice!” chants, and taunting the audience to put their money where their mouths are by lighting up some weed in defiance (What he doesn’t realize is that most of the crowd has been smoking the entire set). His flow is flawless. He bounces between songs and freestyles effortlessly to the point where you can’t tell when he’s just kicking rhymes off the top of his head. At one point, his DJ drops the beat so Gibbs can truly show off his freestyling abilities. What follows is Sunday’s biggest display of raw talent, as Gibbs drops a truly astonishing rap for minutes on end. The crowd goes crazies as each minute passes. The DJ tries to bring the beat back in and start the next proper song, but Gibbs waves him off and keeps flowing. It’s a moment of raw skill that solidifies Gibbs as one of the best rappers currently out.

3:00: Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The Man end up on the absurdly massive main stage, leaving them with the task of entertaining a very large crowd. Of course, they don’t have much of a problem with this. Not only is half of the audience already drunk and/or high at this point, but the Portland rockers play pretty fun music. They play through a competent set of danceable pop jams, including highlights from their latest record, Evil Friends. The band does have some trouble, however, filling the stage. They seem noticeably stiff, not knowing what to do with the space. Their sound isn’t quite big enough to reach the arena-sized anthems that a stage like this calls for. As a result, they come off just a little flat, rarely reaching greats heights. Portugal are the type of band you want to see in a sweaty, mid-sized club. The songs and sweat are there, but the energy is a mismatch.

3:45: Deerhunter

Bradford Cox may just be the whitest person at Governor’s Ball. The Deerhunter frontman walks out on stage dressed like he’s on his way to audition for a Gilligan’s Island remake. On paper, Deerhunter doesn’t sound like a great festival fit. Their noisey, often washed out songs seem like they’re better fitted for a more ambient setting. In practice, however, the band ends up pulling off the finest rock set of the show. Mostly performing songs from their garage-rockier new album, Monomania, Cox and company tear through a tremendous set of songs. From the epic opening chords of Agorophobia to the blistering jam of Monomania’s title track, the band commanded the crowd’s attention just by sheer force of sound. One woman near me covered her ears in pain most of the set, even during the silence between songs. “This is some great American music!” shouted Cox after a particularly noisey jam. I couldn’t agree more.

4:45: Foals

Throughout the day, you could hear the name “Foals” on the breath of most passerbys. Seemingly everyone spent the day recommending the band to everyone around them (myself included). Their set had a massive amount of hype going in, and the crowd to match it. The English group are an arena rock band in training, busting out a set of massive anthems that got people clapping along at all the right moments. Audience freak-outs to jams like My Number and Inhaler ensued as expected. What I didn’t predict, however, was how moody the band comes off as live. Most of their set actually consisted of more slow-burn ballads. They retained that same anthemic bigness, but something about their set felt just a little too gloomy. Whether or not they lived up to the hype didn’t seem to matter, as the audience used the slower moments as a chance to pour beer over everyone around them and take obligatory selfies. In that regard, Foals were a perfect midday intermission for festival goers ready to take a break from intently listening to bands and just do whatever the hell they wanted while music played in the background.

5:45: Beirut/Intermission

I arrived to the other side of Randall’s Island just in time to catch Beirut. I’d seen the band once before, and their set was nothing short of astounding. Their sound is incredibly full with an onslaught of brass taking each song to soaring heights. But you wouldn’t have been able to tell that from Sunday’s set. Due to technical problems, the sound was off leaving the band lost in empty space. That, combined with a surprisingly large crowd for a band that hit its popularity peak 5 years ago, made for the first sacrifice of the day. While watching bands all day is great, certain human needs take precedence. So instead of strain to hear, I grabbed my second bacon-wrapped Crif Dog of the day and listened to a few Yeasayer tunes from afar (which were perfectly audible from across the field, by contrast). [NOTE: apparently Beirut’s sound was fixed about 4 songs in, just in time for Elephant Gun, so I’m sure they were just as big and brassy as usual].

6:45: Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear rounded out a line-up consisting of 2009’s most exciting indie bands. I’ve seen the group twice before, both in incorrect settings. The first time was opening for a Radiohead before Veckatimest came out. They sounded tiny on a massive arena stage, with their airy harmonies sounding floating around with nowhere to go. Two records later, Grizzly Bear have become an incredibly competent rock outfit. Shields cuts like Yet Again and Sleeping Ute sounded massive with pounding drums and stunning harmonies. Many of those just there waiting patiently for Kanye were none too thrilled, though. Once the band went into an admittedly slower mid-set, they turned to their phones to pass the time. It was their loss, as they missed a rock-solid, satisfying set. But can you blame them for getting restless? I mean, it’s Kanye West.

9:30: Kanye West

Saturday was Kanye West’s 36th birthday, and he Yeezy couldn’t give a fuck. Opening his set with “Black Skinhead,” the intense new song from his new album Yeezus that took Saturday night Live by storm last month, Kanye launched into an incredibly dark, powerhouse set filled with some of his most sinister songs. Of course, I have to take a moment to discuss the new songs. The Yeezus cuts sound like the kind of music you’d imagine a mad scientist would produce. They’re laced with the dirtiest synths you’ve ever heard and primal screaming. This isn’t radio-friendly single Kanye. “Honestly, when I listen to radio, that ain’t where I wanna be no more,” West confessed during a minor rant at the end of “Clique.” It quickly became clear that Kanye wasn’t there to get press. The rapper banished press photographers and strategically placed lights in front of Governor’s Ball’s cameras to block his face. Instead, he spent most of his set out in the middle of the audience on a platform, perfectly positioned ten feet from my awe-struck face. You can call him a douchebag or an asshole (in fact, he agrees), but you can’t deny that he’s an astounding performer. West tore through a greatest hits set that drove the crowd into a frenzy from start to finish. Spectacle isn’t a big enough word to describe a Kanye show. It’s a genuinely larger than life experience that you can’t take your eyes off of. I spent my entire, long commute back home with my jaw welded open processing what I just saw.

I wasn’t the only one. And in the end, Kanye’s set made me realize something fundamental and obvious about music festivals that I hadn’t fully considered before. These aren’t really about the music. Think about it. Why would you want to spend an absurd amount of money to trek through mud and stench only to barely see a bunch of bands from afar while your legs break under you? Doesn’t that sound terrible? But people are what make it worth it all. I spent Kanye’s set surrounded by the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered at a show. We chatted, looked at each other with ‘HOLY SHIT’ glee, and shared a moment we’ll never forget together. During the ever-so-glorious “Runaway,” Kanye told the audience to hold on to their loved ones. A guy behind me (who kept trying to offer me a hit of his weed before the set) threw his arm around me and another fan to my right. We all swayed together and sang together in utter glee. For now, it appears that Governor’s Ball is here to stay, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ll be telling the tale of Kanye at Gov Ball 2013 to my disinterested grandkids for decades to come.  


[Movie Review] The Thing prequel… remake… whatever this is October 16, 2011

Posted by Colin in Humor, Opinion, Review.
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Here it is: the thing we’ve all been waiting for. They’re finally getting the band back together. That’s right, it’s… The Thing we’ve all… The Prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing!

Coming next year: The Squeakuel

Now, I thought it was a little odd when they announced that not only would they be telling the story of the Norwegian outpost that dug up the alien specimen, but they would be hiring back the entire cast of the first movie.

You see, through the miracle of digital reverse aging (ala Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy) the original actors from John Carpenter’s The Thing have reprised their roles as grizzled Antarctic scientists engaged in a deadly ‘whodunit’ with an alien-murder-beast.

Suddenly, 'The Thing' isn't so cool anymore...

“But Colin,” you say, “they can’t bring back the WHOLE cast. Isn’t Wilford Brimley dead? And also, weren’t you supposed to do something with Sid Meier’s Civ World like two months ag-” “WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THAT,” I scream, eyes wild and mouth frothy, quickly changing the subject back to dead celebrities.

Pictured: crack cocaine for civilization fans

While no, Wilford Brimley may not be technically dead, but for the purposes of this review, let’s pretend he is (besides, when has Hollywood ever let a little thing like an actor’s death stop them from making a movie?) For this production, Brimley’s character has been re-imagined as a kind-of-cute twenty-something scientist modeled after Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

The designers on this project clearly cared for her the most: she has, by far, the most expressive face of the motley crew, showing a diverse range of emotion from ‘mild fright’ to ‘terror,’ and all the confusing feelings between.

However, her uncannily human features only serve as a reminder that this film’s special effects budget was slashed mid-production, forcing the designers and editors to frantically  cut anything they could. Their answer, as you can already guess, was to give each character increasingly grandiose beards. Yes, I know, eyebrows and eyes can be the most expressive parts of the human body, but covering for your lack of lip-syncing with man-fur is an animation trick students use to finish projects in a crunch. Most of the time these digitized Norwegians don’t even open their mouths when they speak.

Actually, keep your mouth closed. I'm sure it smells like pancakes and Zach Galifianakis.

The film opens as a Norwegian researcher goes to recruit the Wilford Brimley stand-in (honestly, I can’t remember her name so we’ll just call her Wilma Brimley) to come to an Antarctic research base and help get the alien specimen out of the ice. Thirty seconds later, Wilma and her awkward-yet-undeveloped-love-interest are on their way, escorted by a helicopter pilot and his black friend, who we’ll name Kurt Russell Jr. and Keith David II.

Wait, which movie came first?

Pretty soon all hell soon breaks loose. People die, The Thing replicates, and parts of the base catch fire. Wilma quickly discovers the alien can’t recreate inorganic material (fillings, etc.) which recreates the blood-test scene from Carpenter’s film, but minus the tension and dramatic payoff. But Five minutes later, this fact is neatly forgotten in favor of a pop-out-and-yell-BOO type scare. Yes, this movie uses the same scare-tactics as Scary Maze.

There is never any dramatic tension. It might be because I knew everyone on the base was just a computerized semi-human, or because the monster itself is also completely digital so it looks less like a creepy insect-puppet and more like the boss monsters in Resident Evil 4, but I just didn’t get a sense that these people were in danger.

Or rather, I knew they were in danger, but I didn’t care – that is the biggest flaw with this movie and it isn’t one that anyone could avoid. This movie is trapped in the series canon. It’s a prequel to a remakebased on a short story, and even though it’s four degrees away from the source material, it is stuck a circle of continuity that doesn’t let the filmmakers expand their universe in any significant way.  If you watched John Carpenter’s The Thing, you already know how this story ends: everyone dies. Everyone. There is no ambiguous ending; the monster wins this round. It’s just a matter of piecing together who died in what way.

And speaking of John Carpenter, a number of scenes from that movie are recreated shot-for-shot in this one. It’s a nice homage, but it fails to recreate the sense of isolation and danger that Carpenter’s film had. Couple this with the utter failure of the computerized actors to distinguish themselves with anything resembling personality, and you have a movie that’s literally forgettable. When it was over, I walked out of the theater and couldn’t remember a single character’s name, or even how many people died on the base. And what happened to Wilma Brimley? She just kind of disappears towards the end. Is that supposed to be ambiguous?

As far as I can tell, this movie is about a group of computerized Norwegian Troll-Hunters who dig up the parasites from Resident Evil and receive a visit from a digitally-remastered and gender-swapped Wilford Brimley and… actually, yes, I would see that movie, even if it sounds like obscene fan-fiction.

Pictured: everything I know about Norway

Even taking into account the potential geek-sci-fi appeal, I can’t get over how indistinguishable the characters are in this movie. It’s like the writers put the traits of the original cast up on a wall and threw darts at it to develop their personalities, but all they could hit was the word “Beard.”

It just goes to show that a computer still can’t display true emotion the way humans can. Or maybe they weren’t computers. Maybe they were some creature trying to trick us into believing it’s human, studying its prey, waiting for the perfect moment to… wait a second.

The CivWorld Experiment: A Preface July 29, 2011

Posted by Colin in Humor, Opinion, Personal.
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Starting on Monday we’re going to engage in a little experiment here in the Pixelation Room. If you’re not aware, Kotaku’s Civilized Game Club will be looking at Sid Meier’s CivWorld – the persistent, free-to-play (yes, that again) Facebook iteration of Sid Meier’s Civilization. I’ll be participating in the discussion about this game and posting a review here on Pixelation Room. That being said, I want to lay out some points I’ll be exploring as this experiment goes on. First and foremost,  gamers can’t really ignore mobile and browser games anymore. Zynga, the company behind Farmville and other games your mom plays on Facebook, has the potential to make over a billion dollars in the next year: Face it, mobile games are a real thing. They’re addicting time sinks that expertly play on the psychological reward system built into the brains of human beings, and they’re one of the big reasons people use facebook. As late as last year, sixty percent of Facebook’s traffic came from people playing online games. Mark Zuckerberg should probably thank Zynga for all the traffic, but his future looks grim right now:

Read more at The Oatmeal

Lastly, I want to address this game not just as a social game but as part of the Civilization pantheon. I’ve been a huge geek for the Civ series ever since my house was gifted with a computer fast enough to run Civ III, and I can already see some similarities in mechanics between Civ V and this Facebook-based social game. It’s going to be an interesting experience, and I hope we learn something.

Nintendo Slashes 3DS Price, has their Sony moment. July 28, 2011

Posted by eboku in News.
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Nintendo set the internet on fire this morning when the company decided to slash the price of the Nintendo 3DS from it’s $249.99 launch price to $169.99, effectively cutting $80 dollars off the original asking price and also making it the same price of the Nintendo DSi XL model. For a system that has been out for less then five months, the move is striking to say the least.

Knowing that there would most likely be some sort of backlash from customers that adopted the system already. Nintendo is offering free games off their 3DS eShop store, which will include a handful of first-party offerings including GameBoy Advance games, including Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ and Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Other titles will be offered and it will be up to 20 free downloads.

As someone that purchased the system day 1, I can’t help but feel disappointed with how Nintendo handled the launch. The 3DS came with a barebones library of ports from third parties and small time Nintendo efforts that there was nothing new that would grab a potential buyer outside of the Glasses Free 3D Screen. While that technology is cool, “Glasses Free 3D” isn’t exactly a game.

I’m not saying the 3DS is doomed forever, it can easily pick up steam once this holiday and next year hits when games are actually ready for release. Nintendo has an uphill battle between the Playstation Vita and of course, iOS and Android devices that currently offer the cheapest, most accessible casual gaming.

Free downloadable games is a pretty nice gesture but if they really want to satisfy their core crowd, they should have a conversation with Capcom about Mega Man Legends 3…

[Guest Review] Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon July 10, 2011

Posted by baconsamurai in Review.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Earth Defense Force: 2017 is one of my favorite games. As such, a review for the sequel, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon was not only inevitable, but an absolute necessity. Unable to write it myself, our fantastic guest contributor, Ivory Harris, has stepped up to the plate to bring you a review for the next chapter in the EDF saga.

Float like a jet-powered butterfly, kill giant bees.

Alongside a number of cult followers, I was worried when I initially discovered that Earth Defense Force 2017, an under the radar budget shooter with an emphasis on wanton destruction, was getting a sequel. Based on a series of titles by Japanese developers D3 Publisher and Sandlot studios, this new title would be handled by American studio Vicious Cycle Software. How did they manage one of the most entertaining pick-up-and-play titles in years?

Well, in a word: Awesome. The series revival runs with the original concept that made EDF such an appealing adventure, scaling back on some aspects while raising the bar on others. There are bugs to blast and giant robots to bring down in satisfying city rocking explosions as Earth Defense Force returns to its ambiguous bargain-bin glory.


Dead Island Trailer Wins Award, Is Kind of a Big Deal June 30, 2011

Posted by Giovanni in News.
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Start the waterworks, kids.

I’m going to ask you to time travel with me for a moment here, dear readers. I need you to remember back to February. Unearth your deepest, saddest memories. You’re hearing that Lost-esque piano score now, aren’t you? Your eyes are starting to well up with tears. Yes, we’re talking about that slow-motion, non-linear, gut-wrenching trailer for Dead Island that turned grown men into weeping children.

Well, I’m sure you, like most gamers, have all but forgotten about it by now, but here’s a reason to remember; that trailer just won a prize at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (No, not THAT Cannes) in the category of Internet film.

This is just another defense for the ‘video games are art’ debate. If a game can produce such an emotional experience just on its trailer alone, then surely they should be considered a serious art form. ….Oh what’s that? Dead Island actually looks like a pretty standard zombie first-person-shooter that features weapons like electrified machetes? Yep, Dead Island’s really looking like the Pere Goriot of video games here.

Behold, the digital Mona Lisa.

Dead Island is set to be released on September 6th for the X-Box 360, Playstation 3, and PC. No word on the film adaptation that was optioned days after the trailer’s release, but I imagine the studio is at the “Well that was a bad idea” stage right about now.

Fans Vs. Nintendo: Also, Hey PXR! June 30, 2011

Posted by eboku in News, Opinion.
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Being a Nintendo fan is like having a divorced Dad. He takes you out on weekends but never came to your Pinewood Derby race.


Operation RainFail


I get why people love Nintendo, I love Nintendo. For a lot of us they introduced us to gaming, defined gaming for most of the late 80’s and 90’s and always deliver quality software and interesting hardware. That kind of impact doesn’t just leave you, which is why it’s so frustrating when you see a company you love make so many backwards decisions. The 3DS is a quality machine but the initial launch window has been a complete joke – 3 1/2 months for Zelda? Incredible title but come on! Where was all the win that was announced for the system when it was announced at last year’s E3? Oh, coming later. Gotcha.

The Wii was definitely the underdog this generation. It is constantly spit on by ‘hard core’ gamers for not having HD graphics, online and basically every feature that the PS3/360 does not have. I supported the Wii, still do to an extent. It had some of my favorite games this generation. Super Paper Mario, Mario Galaxies 1/2, Twilight Princess, Sakura Wars.. I could go on all day. It had some real gems that most people gloss over. However its hard to deny the aging hardware compared to what we get on rival consoles and PC – and third parties have essentially given up on the platform. It’s hard for the system to compete where HD and online are key components and the “Wii Sports” fad has worn off – You would think its time for Nintendo to leave the Wii behind because we got everything it has to offer right?


[News] [Analysis] The F2P Storm: Blizzard, Valve and the sudden rise of microtransaction games June 29, 2011

Posted by Colin in News.
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Says everything you need to know right?

Blizzard seems to be doing its best to enable former (and soon-to-be) World of Warcraft addicts. Starting today, WoW is free to play up to level twenty. The new “World of Warcraft Starter Edition” lets anyone with an internet connection and a Battle.net account log onto the 7-year-old MMORPG, but with a few restrictions. Starter accounts are limited to ten gold, cannot trade in auction houses or join guilds, and take lower priority in login queues than full accounts (full FAQ here).

But Blizzard has not been alone in announcing free-to-play updates for their games. Valve announced last Thursday that their class-based slaughterfest Team Fortress 2 would now be completely free to play. Obviously this move puts more emphasis on Valve’s Steam Wallet, a handy little feature that shipped with last September’s Mann-conomy update that allows players to create a steam-exclusive paypal account. Players can use these funds to purchase games through Steam or, more importantly, for microtransactions.

A trend has developed in which companies are trying the free-to-play and microtransaction business models. Many gamers remember the period following WoW’s initial release, when the MMORPG market opened up and imitators flooded in, trying to cash in on Blizzard’s now-billion dollar model which includes the monthly subscription pay structure. City of Heroes did it, and as of June 20 announced they would be implementing the City of Heroes: Freedom subscription model sometime in 2011. Dungeons and Dragons Online originally charged a monthly subscription, but switched to its unlimited “freemium” version in 2009.

Seven years after WoW’s release and Blizzard is still on top of the market, while the imitators have had to switch. But the funny thing about microtransaction in video games, especially MMOs, is that it’s profitable. No, it’s not as profitable as Blizzard’s addictive cash cow, but it’s enough for studios to stay afloat and offer WoW alternatives. And it’s clear that over the past seven years, companies have learned that as long as WoW still holds millions of subscribers (and growing,) a “WoW alternative” is all they can offer. There are no “WoW Killers” – not even Warhammer Online, which has allowed unlimited free play (until level ten) since 2009.

At the moment, World of Warcraft boasts twelve million subscribers, each paying $11-$15 per month. For that kind of money, Blizzard has been smart enough to deliver the complete MMORPG experience – the type that people lose their free time and spare change to enjoy. Simply put, WoW is an investment in both time and money, an investment that millions of people enjoy on a regular basis. Of course sometimes players burn out and get sick of the grind.

Sometimes they even switch to another game, but most of them end up coming back – if not for the game, then for the community the game has created. And while this community may be laden with spammers and jerks, the guild and party loyalty within the game is so strong that players who leave end up feeling guilty about the people they’re letting down. Check out this old Joystiq article (and the links therein) for examples of players feeling bad for not helping their guilds.

A gaming experience as pervasive as WoW does not leave room for seconds, especially not when a monthly fee is involved. Thus, microtransacions have become more popular and it is here that Valve has really stepped up its game. The week before Team Fortress 2 went free, Valve offered up a hardy selection of five Free-to-Play games on their Steam client. Here is a brief rundown of each:

Spiral Knights – an adorable top-down dungeon crawler from Three Rings and Sega that takes art cues from Ian McConville, whose artwork you might recognize from the webcomic Three Panel Soul.

Forsaken World – A World of Warcraft clone with generic fantasy characters in a generic fantasy setting. However, publisher Perfect World demonstrates some considerable influence from Eastern MMOs in character designs:

This is a Dwarf. Could you tell?

Champions Online: Free for All – The revamped, microtransaction based version of Cryptic Studios’ Champions Online. Cryptic is the same studio that brought us City of Heroes and City of Villains, which was dropped by Atari and more recently acquired by Perfect World. The game itself has added a lot of content since its release in 2009, and offers a large number of options for character and nemesis creation.

Global Agenda: Free Agent – the free-to-play version of the class-based sci-fi third-person shooter that quietly debuted in February of 2010. Like all these titles (except Spiral Knights) it wasn’t free to play at release. The class system in the game pulls heavily from the Team Fortress model of class balance, minus five classes. A full breakdown is available here.

Alliance of Valliant Arms – Another class-based shooter but set in more modern times. A.V.A uses the Unreal Engine 3 and rekindles the East vs. West tensions of the cold war, but with the European Union v. the Neo-Russian Federation. Unlike other class-based shooters, A.V.A. sports only three playable classes, forcing players to think more strategically about class choice in the heat of the moment.

Altogether, these games represent a wide spectrum of play styles (okay, maybe only RPG and Shooter) that have embraced the F2P model for online gaming. Valve has opened the door for its 30 million steam subscribers to browse cheap, free-to-play games and Blizzad has responded in kind. It seems that a bidding war has begun, and as companies continue to lower the pay wall, more people will get online – Just look at Team Fortress 2, which just supplanted Counterstrike as the most played game on Steam.

Of course none of these are “WoW Killers,” although the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Old Republic may loosen Blizzard’s grasp on MMORPGs. But as time goes on it seems more likely the great WoW behemoth will simply die of old age.

[News] [Analysis] Supreme Court knocks out California video game law June 27, 2011

Posted by Colin in News.
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In a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court upheld an appeal to California Civil Code sections 1746-1746.5, which banned the sale of violent video games to minors (read the technical version here). The case (now known as Brown v. EMA) has been awaiting resolution since last November, when the State of California and the Entertainment Merchant’s Association presented their arguments.

The discussion, which you can listen to or read here, came down to an argument of definitions: are violent video games obscene? Or, more astutely, does violence qualify as obscenity?

Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the court’s opinion, stating:

“Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of ’sexual conduct.” Under Miller v. California (1973) the Supreme Court ruled that ‘obscenity’ (a particular type of unprotected speech) refers to specifically sexual content – not violent content, as the California law proposed.

This is the seventh such law banning violent video games to be struck down in the United States, but the first to make it all the way to the Supreme Court. The full text of the Supreme Court decision is available here (.pdf)

The decision seems to extend (or at least solidify) First Amendment protection for video games. 2011 has been a banner year for video games: in May, the National Endowment for the Arts rewrote its guidelines for the Arts in Media category, allowing video games to qualify for grants.

Roger Ebert is not pleased

Could it be that video games are gaining ground as a “serious” medium? With increasing publicity and legislation, it is easy to hope so. Plus, consider the facts: Americans spent over 25 billion dollars on video games in 2010. The average age of a gamer is now 37. This could be the start of a bright new future for the medium…

*Sigh* ... Just... NEVER MIND

[Review] Shadows of the Damned June 23, 2011

Posted by baconsamurai in Review.
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It’s impossible to look at Shadows of the Damned and ignore its pedigree, and when you have a game made by a dream-team of Japanese developers like Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer7), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Vanquish), and music by Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill), why would you?

You play as a demon hunter, Garcia Hotspur. When Fleming, the lord of the dead, becomes fed up with you killing his minions, he personally whisks your girlfriend Paula away to Hell. Accompanied by a shapeshifting magical skull named Johnson, you head into the underworld to save your damsel and put a bullet between each of Fleming’s six eyes.

More after the jump.