Wednesday, 21 March 2012

To Mass Effect 3 players, from Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare (en Español)

I am both very bored and very scared that my years of dedicated Spanish study will go to waste. So to practise, I translated Dr Muzyka's press release statement on the furore surrounding Mass Effect 3! It's not going to be perfect, I'm a little rusty, but it was just a bit of fun anyway. (Prepare yourself for awkward Spanish...)


Como co-fundador y GM de Bioware, estoy muy orgulloso del equipo de ME3. Yo personalmente creo que ME3 es la obra mejor que hemos creado. Así que es muy doloroso recibir realimentación de nuestras hinchas de verdad, que las terminaciones del juego no fueron lo que les habían esperado. Nuestro instinto primero es defender nuestro trabajo y señalar a los altos tasaciones que los críticos han ofrecido – pero, por respeto a nuestras hinchas, necesitamos aceptar la crítica y realimentación con humildad.

Yo creo pasionalmente que los juegos son una forma de arte, y que el poder de nuestro medio fluye de nuestra audiencia, que están involucrados profundamente en cómo se desarrolla la historia, y que tienen el derecho indiscutible de proporcionar una critica constructiva. Al mismo tiempo, también creo en, y apoyo las decisiones artísticas realizadas por el equipo de desarrollo (?). El equipo y yo hemos estado pensando mucho en la mejor forma de abordar los comentos de los jugadores sobre la terminación de ME3, mientras se mantiene la integridad artística del juego.

Mass Effect 3 concluye una trilogía con tanto control y propiedad de la historia en cuanto a las jugadores, que fue muy difícil para nosotros a predecir el alcance de emociones que sientan los jugadores cuando terminen. El viaje que emprendas en ME3 provoca una gama intensa de emociones muy personales en el jugador. Aun así, la reacción apasionante de algunos de nuestros jugadores leales a las terminaciones actuales en ME3, es algo que realmente nos ha sorprendido. Esto es un asunto que nos importa profundamente, y vamos a responder de una manera justa y oportuna. Ya estamos trabajando duro para hacer eso.

Con ese motivo, desde que el juego lanzó, el equipo ha estado enfrascando en todo que pueden encontrar sobre los reacciones del juego – la prensa de industria, los foros, Facebook y twitter, para nombrar sólo unos pocos. El equipo de Mass Effect, al igual que otros equipos a través de la etiqueta de Bioware dentro de EA, está formado por gente apasionada que trabaja duro por el amor de la creación de experiencias que excitan y deleite nuestras hinchas. Estoy honorado a trabajar con ellos porque tienen el coraje y fuerza a responder a la realimentación constructiva.

Construyendo en sus investigaciones, productor ejecutivo Casey Hudson y el equipo están trabajando duro en una serie de iniciativas de contenido del juego que ayudará a responder a las preguntas, proporcionar mas claridad por aquellos que están buscando el cierre adicional para su viaje. Vas a oír más sobre eso en abril. Estamos trabajando duro para mantener el equilibro correcto entre la integridad artística y la historia original, mientras que abordando la realimentación de las hinchas que hemos recibido. Esto es además de nuestros planes existentes para continuar ofreciendo contenido nuevo  para Mass Effect y nuevos juegos completos, así que ten por seguro que su viaje en el universo de Mass Effect puede, y podrá, continuar.

La reacción del estreno de ME3 ha sido sin precedentes.  Por un lado, algunos de nuestras hinchas fieles están expresando con pasión su descontento sobre la manera en que el juego concluye; nos preocupamos por estos comentarios; y estamos planeando a abordarle directamente. Sin embargo, la mayoría de la gente parece estar de acuerdo de que el juego como un todo es excepcional, con más de 75 críticos le dando una calificación perfecta y un promedio de calificación en los 90s. Así que en general, estoy orgulloso del equipo, pero podemos y siempre debemos tratar de hacerlo mejor.

Algunas de las críticas que han sido entregados en el calor de la pasión por nuestros hinchas mas ardientes, a pesar de hecho que esta basado en principales validas, tal como la búsqueda de una mayor claridad a las preguntas o buscando mas el cierre, por ejemplo – desafortunadamente se ha convertido en destructiva, no constructiva. Escuchamos y responderemos a la crítica constructiva, pero por más que no vamos a tolerar ataques individuales contra miembros de nuestro equipo, no vamos a apoyar o responder a los comentarios destructivos.

Si estas una hincha de Mass Effect y tienes la entrada para el equipo – respetamos tu opinión y queremos oírlo. Estamos comprometidos hacer frente a tu retroalimentación constructiva, lo mejor que podamos.  En cambio, pediría que nos ayudan a hacer eso por apoyando lo que realmente creo que es el mejor juego que ha creado BioWare. Le insto a que hagas tu propia investigación; jugar el juego, completarle y dinos lo que piensas. Dile a tus amigos si sientes que es un juego bueno en total. Confiar que estamos intentando nuestro más duro, como siempre, para abordar tu realimentación. Como artistas, nos preocupamos por nuestras hinchas profundamente y apreciamos su apoyo.

Gracias para tu retroalimentación – estamos escuchando.

Ray


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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Gaming Symmetry





I should have done this a long while ago but not only am I very slack, I'm playing Bioshock too. I'm going through a lot of small child related trauma and it's affecting my writing capability. I have to spend a good ten minutes a day just sobbing quietly to myself and rocking back and forth in a dark corner.

But I just thought I'd take a little time to explain to you what my new site Gaming Symmetry is about because even though it's only very new (We went live on the 18th July 2011), I'm very proud of it and confident that it's going to be awesome!    

Gaming Symmetry is fundamentally about art. We believe that games can be seen and should be treated as an art form just like any other medium. If you've read my critical analysis of Cole Phelps (and if you haven't, I'll have you know, I'm very offended) then you know just the sort of angle we like to take with games! We want to pull them apart, analyse them from every angle and afford them the respect they deserve as a mature rising star in the frenetic world of entertainment.

The writers are as follows: Alice Kojiro, Ali Nazifpour, David 'BGH' Kempe, David DDJ Jerebko, and little 'ol me! We're a motley crew of all ages, nationalities, professions and likes but we're joined together by our love of games and our desire to analyse them intelligently and with a little flair. Each of us has a weekly feature dealing with a wide variety of topics, resulting in what we hope is an interesting and thought provoking range of articles about the best medium in the world!

On a Monday we have 'Oases of Beauty' by Alice Kojiro, a really unique feature written from the perspective of a veteran explorer as he recounts to us the incredible areas he has seen within video games; the beautiful landscapes and the breathtaking detail. Alice has a particular interest in the visual aspect of video  games so these articles describe and explore some of the truly wonderful graphics and visual styles that combine to form some of the most beautiful digital vistas. Take a look at the introduction here: Oases of Beauty 

On Tuesday we have 'The Controller and The Lamp' by Ali Nazifpour, an English Literature student who takes on games from a literary critical perspective, analysing them in the same way and with the same care he would a book or a film. Everything comes into play in his articles, from philosophy to politics to psychology, resulting in a very focused and detailed set of articles. My favourite article so far has been his analysis of video games in contrast to films and his explanation of how games and films are fundamentally different and to compare them is fruitless. Check out part 1 here: Movies vs The Video Games Part 1 (Part 2 is also up now)

On Wednesday we have 'Gaming on the House' by David 'BGH' Kempe where he fully reviews all aspects of the best game he's found that's completely free to play, whether it be a browser based game or one from an emerging independent developer. It's a great chance to find a quality game you may not know about and also a chance to support some newer developers. Check out his review of a very innovative game Flow, developed as part of an academic thesis. 

On Thursday we have 'The Future of Gaming' by David 'DDJ' Jerebko, which seeks to discuss the contentious but exciting issue of where the video game industry is headed, including exploring issues such as the prevalence and rise in popularity of the iPhone as a game playing medium and the challenge it is presenting to the console industry. Check out the introduction here: Introduction to the Future of Gaming

And finally, me! I do a feature every Friday entitled 'Girl Gamer' where I write about the issues of women in the industry in all their manifestations, from developers to characters to the community. It's a really broad issue with a lot to talk about and I'm having a lot of fun writing about it! Here's my first article in the feature, all about how women have been portrayed in video games and how the male gaming community has outgrown gratuitous sexuality; it's time for a change, as important socially as it is economically. Check it out: Objectification of Women in Video Games

So that's about it! I hope you understand a little more about what me and all my collaborators are up to and I do hope you enjoy our features; please feel free to offer up any criticisms, comments or ideas you may have! You can find us on twitter @GamingSymmetry and as always, I'm @minnieliddell.



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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Gaming Equality

Following my rant on DLC, I thought I’d continue this trend of fury and write about another gaming phenomenon that really gets my dander up. I’ve never used that phrase before but it seemed better than, ‘gets all up in my shit’ which I’m pretty sure isn’t even relevant, but whatever.
As you may have gathered by now, I’m an Xbox owner, and apart from the tendency of the originals to internally combust because the design was utterly shite compounded by the soldering being performed by functionally inept monkeys, I’m incredibly happy with my purchase and have always considered it to be a fantastic piece of kit. You can divide real gamers into either PS3 owners or Xbox owners (the Wii doesn’t count. Neither do people who have both. You can just shove off) and for the most part, we’re all pretty happy because we can all get the same games and the same services. Of course, there’s always the inevitable and almost compulsory flame war that occurs between each group over which is the best console but it’s just become more of a light hearted community in-joke because we all know that the Xbox is better. Uhh, I mean, we all know that they’re both the same. Yes. Right.
I feel you man, I feel you.

But gamers are brought together in mutual irritation at the current state of the most horrible gaming industry decision ever:  Console exclusives. Now really, what the frickity frick is that all about? I struggle to understand why we as consumers are held to ransom over which console we’ve chosen to buy just because of what appears to me as an uninformed peon, to be an arbitrary decision made by a developer.  It seems the most ridiculous economic decision ever made since I bought a pair of hair curlers (I’d forgotten that I wasn’t a real girl). How does it make sense to cut out a huge section of your market? Games like Drake Unchartered and Heavy Rain come to mind, which, had they been on the Xbox also, I would have certainly bought, especially Unchartered which is just up my street. However, they weren’t available to me so the industry missed out on a nice wad of my cash. Serves them bloody right.
I do realise that certain exclusives can sway people one way or another if they’re deciding which console to buy, thereby giving Microsoft or Sony that midyear boost in consoles sales but after that initial potential spike, the losses must be greater when such a huge percentage of those consoles owners are unable to buy games they would otherwise normally buy. The console owners are caught in the crossfire of big company competition and I don’t think it’s fair. I freaking want to play Unchartered 
"Fuck you Microsoft/Naught Dog/Sony/Whoever
can be held responsible for the fact Minnie can't have me."
Also, it’s not just console exclusivity that I think is completely crap, for want of a more eloquent statement, but also agreements between developers and companies such as Microsoft and Activision, who bought the rights to release any Call of Duty DLC a month earlier on Xbox 360 than on the PS3. This isn’t fair, not when the game is released on both consoles anyway because it serves no purpose other than to infuriate an important section of the fan base. I very much doubt if being able to get the DLC early leads you to consider one console better than the other, so it really serves no major economic purpose, it just seems a selfish and unfair lesson in how to alienate your consumers. I don’t know how much Microsoft paid Activision for the privelage but I think it was an incredibly dick move by both parties.
It seems that I’m just one big gaming hippie. I just wanna be free!


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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

DLC Should Burn in Hell

It has long been a source of contention amongst gamers that we have to fork out just over £40 to enjoy a game on the day of its release, but we do so willingly for the most part because we know we have many hours of enjoyment ahead and because it’s a hobby we love and budget for. What we do not budget for however is the veritable tidal wave of DLC that the developers splurge forth when they plumb the depths of the cutting room floor.
DLC has long been criticized for merely being content that was cut from the original game, then released later in order to boost the bank balance at the expense of the lowly gamer. These aren’t unfounded accusations and this is frequently the case, like the DLC from Assassin's Creed II. Developers are working to rigorous deadlines and it’s not surprising that many ideas or missions have to get shelved in order for the story to flow and the game to get shipped on time. What’s not so understandable is then making us fork out for content that actually already exists, but just didn’t make it into the final cut. It’s like making someone a sandwich and missing out the butter, only to make them pay for it once they’ve already eaten half the sandwich. It’s stupid. Just like that analogy.
What’s more, the ridiculous currencies proffered by Microsoft and Nintendo for their respective consoles, means we often don’t realise the true cost of this DLC and are forced to buy more of these ‘points’ than is necessary to purchase the content. Such as Microsoft Points which I could rage about all day, every day until my teeth fall out and I grow a beard. For example, the DLC for Call of Duty Black Ops is 1200 Microsoft points, equating to about £10, yet the only denomination you could buy would be 2000 points, worth £17. This leaves you with an 800 point or £7 deficit that festers in your account until you get pissed off with it and buy some stupid freaking object that pointlessly floats around your disturbing little blank-faced avatar. It’s underhand and it’s unfair. The currency difference means depending on where you are in the world, you might be charged more and the injustice is compounded by the fact that the points/currency differences means not all of us know what we’re spending because the points make things seem cheaper than they really are. We become dissociated from the true cost because we’re lead astray with these pansy virtual points that lack the tangibility of a crispy ten pound note. I disagree with the points system on its most fundamental level.
I wholeheartedly believe that DLC should be free. I hate to bring it back to Black Ops as it most certainly isn’t the only offender but it has the highest profile DLC. When we all first bought the game, we paid £40. Nearly a year on and 3 map packs have been released, costing the equivalent of £30 (but of course with Microsoft points, the cost actually ends up being higher because you’re forced to purchase a greater amount than the 1200 points you need). When the fourth rumoured map pack is released, we’ll have paid as much for DLC as we paid for the original game and that just isn’t on. I am fully aware that this is all down to supply and demand. There will always be a percentage of gamers willing to pay extra for new content and so the developers certainly won’t give it away for free; it doesn’t make economical sense. But this idea of making gamers pay extra for content when they’ve already paid a veritable fortune for the main game seems unfair. It should be a case of “you scratch our back and we’ll scratch yours”. Instead, it’s us giving the developers a full on Thai massage, complete with a soothing foot rub and a piña colada while they pat us on the head and make us pay for our own lunch. It’s giving us nothing in return for our fealty and does nothing to promote goodwill between developer and gamer.
Just have a guess which one represents the gamer...

However, to blame the developers the whole time would be to do them a disservice. There have been cases that have cropped up where the developers intended the content to be free, but were shot down in flames by Microsoft who don’t like giving things away as it has the unfortunate side effect of not actually making them any money. Such as the case of an Xbox Live arcade game entitled Marble Blast Ultra back in 2007. Its developer, Pat Wilson of GarageGames, announced on his blog that they’d just finished an extensive new map pack with loads of new game types and bug fixes that had just been passed on to Microsoft for certification. They fully intended to give it away for free. He then announced weeks later that the free content would never be available, with the announcement from GarageGames being “we are unable to come to an agreement with our publisher for the Marble Blast Ultra update”. Tellingly, GarageGames is both the developer and the publisher for this game so it becomes evident they are referring to the literal publisher of their content, Microsoft. Although this wasn’t a majour game, there were rumours abound that the same was true for Gears of War which had far reaching implications for many fans. This was actually confirmed as true by the Epic President Tim Sweeny in the 1UP Yours Podcast on 4/6/2007. (Information from here: NeoGaf)
Although these have been the only publicised occasions, what’s to stop us from inferring that Microsoft do this across the board? If the developer intends for their content to be accessible to anyone who purchased their game, it is incredibly unfair and wrong for Microsoft to then force us to pay for it. Many developers, especially ones like Epic with such popular and high profile games, don’t want to divide their online community and they enjoy the close and trusting relationship that they have with their fan base, as well as it being a successful business model, as it extends the life of their multiplayer. Paid extra content goes against what companies like Epic stand for and it’s not up to Microsoft to interfere with those ideals.    
Another majour gripe I have with DLC is the inability to have control over it, even once you’ve bought it. Back when I didn’t have my own Xbox live account or console, I used to play on my brothers and the all consuming nature of my love for Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood meant that I really really wanted the Da Vinci Disappearance DLC. So I gave in and bought in on my brother’s account. I played it, had fun and then bought my own Xbox not too long ago. Can I have my DLC on my new account? No, of course I can’t, that would be far too generous. Same situation when the First Strike DLC came out for Black Ops. My brother and I decided to split the cost and buy it on his account, but of course, when I got my own account, I couldn’t benefit at all from my purchase and was left out of pocket and map pack-less while my brother just manically laughed in my face. And I was sad. This isn’t fair. You can move your game between consoles but not being able to take any of the other integral content is a kick in the face, considering you’ve paid for it. Even though it is quite obviously open to abuse, I think there should be some sort of personal code system, one per person that allows for a single transfer from one account to another. And to ensure people don’t just pass it between friends, perhaps a sort of verification system, similar to the one used by Microsoft to ensure your Xbox hasn’t been hacked. It sounds very wishy washy because it is; I quite obviously haven’t thought it through. This is my indignation at not being able to play content I legitimately purchased talking.
Sadly, DLC won’t ever be free because there’s no incentive to give something away when there are people willing to pay for it. But I believe any money that exchanges hands should be more of a token gesture, perhaps a few quid for any new map packs or missions, not £10 because that's a heck of a lot of expense on top of an already expensive past time.
/rant over

Please leave a comment and follow me on twitter @minnieliddell, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Online Gaming

The online multiplayer aspect is just one of the many things that makes gaming a thoroughly accessible and enjoyable medium for me. It's a real enhancement to the single player campaign of the game and certainly makes you feel as if you’ve got your money’s worth out of it! I’ve only just finished my exams so I didn’t have time to expand my multiplayer experience beyond Black Ops and the odd round of Halo Reach with my brother. I’m pretty good at the former and rage quittingly bad at the latter (Not that I’d ever rage quit, of course!) Being able to play with friends is a really great way to catch up and have a lot of fun at the same time, unless you’re like me and can’t properly multitask. If a string a sentence together it is to the detriment of my score.

However, no online aspect can be talked about without mentioning the almost mind boggling array of total and utter douche bags who seem to exist on a planet all of their own. To be honest, it’s these people that make my experience even more fun. Some of the classics my friend (who happens to be Scottish; the American 14 year olds just love that!) and I have been party to are things such as, “Fuck you, you British fags, I fucked your queen and Kate Middleton!” It’s good to know that he was interested in our current affairs.
Back when I first started playing online, I was on my brothers Xbox live account and never spoke because I had no friends (boo hoo) so no one knew I was a girl; I was free to kick ass incognito. But when I first played with friends on my new Xbox with my own gamertag (and without party chat on because I was an Xbox live n00b and failed to set it up in time) the speed with which messages started pouring in to my inbox was whiplash inducing. And also hilarious. Hastily button mashed messages that some of these guys had evidently just sent while we were all still in the middle of a game. The desperation was incredible. Gems such as: ‘u sound cute’, ‘how old u mini?’ and ‘were u from’. (The last two guys had no chance; I’m a grammar and spelling fascist. And one of them spelt my name wrong! I understand he was trying to write it as fast as humanly possible, in the hope that I would fall head over heels for the first guy to send me a message, but spelling a girl's name wrong isn’t a good start; that’s just a little advice I’ll give you all for free.)

I don’t mind this; tragic Xbox live flirting isn’t going to hurt anyone and these guys are harmless. Desperate, yet harmless. But my only thought is what exactly did they think they were going to achieve? I mean really…what exactly was I going to do? Did they expect me to consider their words to be deep, meaningful and heartfelt? Was I supposed to fall madly in love with one of them there and then? I’m not quite sure but good on him for trying I suppose…

My only concern is that it may put off some shyer female gamers out there. But my message to you would be.... fuck 'em! The guys who try and bother you and ask your age and where you live or add you as a friend...fuck 'em! They are harmless but I can understand that people don't want to be bothered while they're just trying to enjoy themselves. Remember that you're under no obligation to add them or reply to any of their messages. In fact, it's better if you don't. That way they'll start to realise that they're not going to win themselves any favours by just bothering anyone who sounds female. Don't ever let the potential for this kind of attention put you off; you should be able to enjoy the benefits of online gaming regardless. Also, you may never actually experience it; I think it was probably just my luck to happen upon a massive clan of female starved, girl botherers.

Although it doesn’t bother me, I do find all the defamatory and explicit insults that fly around to be outrageous. Just because there is anonymity doesn’t mean that common decency should fly out the window. But hey, what the heck, at least it’s a chance for us decent folk to unabashedly feel much better than the pond scum on the other end of the microphone. That, however, is almost an insult to pond scum.
Everyone knows that the best way to make friends anywhere, including on Xbox live, is to just get into a random conversation. It’s happened many times to me and I can categorically say that not a single one of them started off their conversation with ‘u sound cute’. Compliment though it is, you’ll find that it doesn’t enamour any girl to you. Remember, we're gamers first and girls second.

Please leave a comment and follow me on twitter @minnieliddell, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


 
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