Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Used Games - Frugal Spending Or Development Theft?

My exposure to this controversy started with this Penny Arcade comic. That led to further reading. And it looks like the dust-up was triggered by this article.

The ramblings that follow are just my opinion, not those of anyone like my employer (who I tend to leave out of my blogging.)

First, I'll admit that I had never given this issue much thought, and even thinking about it there are still two sides and I'm not 100% behind either.

On the developers' side, I can see their point. They invest money in developing a game, not a cheap endeavor, on the hopes of selling enough copies to make a profit. Used game retail undercuts that model. And while the buyers of used games may use "being on a budget" to justify buying used instead of new, if they are that hard up maybe they shouldn't be spending money on a video game. The same justification is leading to the death of brick-and-mortar specialty retailers in favor of mass online retailers.

There are a couple of ways to end a large chunk of used game retail. An online verification model or digital distribution model would eliminate the ability to use used games. The people that will howl the loudest are the ones that, as THQ put it, aren't their customers anyways. Of course the latter model will kick the legs out from under video game retail as a whole, a very big Eff You to the retailers who have been peddling these companies wares over the years.

If you know me, you'd think that this would be the end of it. I'm all about being willing to pay and extra buck to make sure the right people get the money. I buy my comics from the same comic book store for years even though it would be cheaper to get them online.

Here's the dilemma. If we endorse this sort of restrictions on this type of media, how long until it spreads like wildfire to other media formats? Will I no longer be able to take a blu-ray I bought to a friend's house? Will someone not be able to take music from home to work? While these may seem like a stretch, it's a slippery slope.

Regardless, developers are already introducing disincentives to buying used games and it's not like second-hand shoppers can vote with their dollars. Actually, their refusal to buy the games used would help the publishers' cause. If you have Gamestop stock, you might want to reconsider.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Scott Pilgrim - Movie Review

I've been slacking on movie reviews this summer. It's not that I haven't seen any, I just suck at not getting distracted. But I had to break out of my rut to speak up for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. In one word... awesome.

I've seen the movie twice. It's like someone took classic video games, a boy meets girl story, a dash of pop culture, then hit frappe on the blender and poured it over my dreamscape. From the Nintendo-esque take on the Universal Studios opening, you know this movie is aimed at nerds like us.

I haven't read the graphic novels, which I think is a good thing. People have complained how this or that got left out, and by not going in with a set idea of how the movie *should* be, I didn't have the baggage dragging down my geektastic enjoyment.

And I was a little bit wary of seeing Michael Cera play yet another iteration of the slightly fuddled slacker. But it totally works in this story. Plus I like that the main characters are flawed. Scott isn't the totally nice guy, and Ramona, as she put it, "dabbled in being a bitch." I think that this humanity in the middle of the surreal events keeps us engaged.

I'm sad that this movie didn't get the box office returns I think it deserves. Hopefully it will have better legs when it comes out on disc. I know I'll be buying a copy, I just need to come up with a drinking game that won't put my liver into "game over".

My rating: 5 of 5 8-bit bass-playing flying moneys.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

MMO Junkies Sues Game Company

Exhibit 2,762 on what's wrong with society, we have another example of a bullshit lawsuit. In this one, the plaintiff, a gamer who supposedly racked up 20,000 hours playing the MMO Lineage 2, is suing the game producer, NCSoft, for making the game "too addictive".

Not only should the lawyer who filed the suit be disbarred and required to pay NCSoft's legal fees, this guy should be banned from ever touching a computer again.

Check out the story on Wired.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

TIE Interceptor At Celebrations V

This goes on the list of things I'd want if I hit the Powerball. It could be parked next to the life-sized mock-up of the Serenity that I'd live in.


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GenCon 2010 Recap - Part III

I've already talked about gaming and the Exhibit Hall, but there's a lot more to the GenCon experience, and even more that I didn't partake of this year.

Attending the Costume Contest is a tradition of mine. Saturday days my friends usually split up to go do their own thing, and my thing is watching the contest. This means getting in line up to 2 hours early. I hope the Indianapolis Convention Center expansion will mean a bigger venue for the contest, hopefully one with a higher stage or tiered seating.

An important part of the Costume Contest for me is the entertainment, namely the Different Drummers Belly Dancers pre-show and Luke Ski's intermission performance. Unfortunately the contest ran long this year, so I had to take off before they got to the winners.

KNH and I took our traditional mini painting workshop, this year with the talented Marike Reimer. Every year we learn something new, and this year was no exception, though looking at Marike's minis made me feel like a neanderthal with a mastodon tail dipped in tar.

Saturday night is usually the double feature of the GenCon Dance and the White Wolf Party. KNH's costume was a huge hit. I ended up popping my fangs after an hour of fiddling with a loose one (try talking while holding in a fake tooth with your tongue). Fortunately WW went back to the original venue, as opposed to last year's oven of a venue ironically named The Ice Lounge.

Dining was 3 nights at Scotty's Brewhouse and 1 night at the Ram. I was advocating Scotty's a lot because IndyDav (the manager) is a gamer and went to lengths to make GenCon welcome, bringing over many traditions he had started at the Ram. That and their GenCon beer was a Scottish ale. The 501st Stormtrooper Legion was there, dice was given away, sci-fi/fantasy movies were playing, and there was lots of atmosphere. Unfortunately, I think the staff was overwhelmed. Two of three nights my order was wrong, two of three nights I didn't get my dice, beer service was slow, and the night they had a live "geek" act, the group was so loud you couldn't hear. Add to that the longish walk, it may be a hard sell for next year.

The Ram seemed to just phone it in. They had t-shirts and some signage, but I noticed the movies were gone. They know they will be at capacity without trying, so they don't really have to try.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

GenCon 2010 Part II - Gaming

What is GenCon without gaming? An expensive shopping trip with costumes. Fortunately I was able to get in some gaming this year, largely thanks to friends who signed me up while I was stuck working in the field.

Thursday was an Old School 2nd Edition D&D game where we played the minions of Sauron invading a dwarven hold in the Greenwood (which became Mirkwood). There were some great nostalgic moments as well as reminders of things we're better off without in modern gaming. In the first encounter we lost a party member to a failed save versus poison. Towards the climax of the session there was a demon (actually an ice devil) summoned, and the DM asked who wanted to play it. My friends looked at me because I put the ham in Hamlet. One of the joys of playing con games is that you can go over the top and try things you'd never do in an ongoing campaign.

(Picture by KNH)

Friday was Wild West Cthulhu, ran by friends of mine, Tim and Pat of Gamerz. I had encouraged several friends to play and was tickled to find out that I would get to play the leader of a Wild West gang that were also werewolves. It looked like the theme thus far, to quote Jayne was "let's be bad guys."

Needless to say, it was a hoot. My gang were among the few survivors, having immediately set up camp in the silver mine to keep anyone from making silver bullets, and delivered the best death the GM had seen in a long time. We suspected another character of being treasonous, pulled guns on him, and I said "either you're in cahoots with the other side or you're an idiot."
His answer was, "I'm not an idiot," which was immediately followed by my "bang!." Tim was so amused he had us re-enact the scene at recap.

My last game was a Courting Murder LARP. The world reminded me of the Dresen Files set in the 30's, and I am a sucker for any vintage atmosphere stuff. Last year several players had dressed up for the part, so I donned a shirt and tie to reprise my role of Charlie MacGregor, the "accountant". Sadly, almost no one else dressed for the part, several regulars from previous years didn't make it, and not only didn't anyone play my allies, no one played my rivals. This was the last year for this LARP, so Charlie's story ended with a fizzle.

I tried to avoid my default quasi-gaelic brogue that all of my accents seem to devolve into, but instead of sounding Canadian Charlie ended up sounding more like a New Yorker that said "aboot" and "eh?"

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Monday, August 09, 2010

GenCon 2010 - Part I

In years past I broke down my GenCon recaps day by day. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and my EVO is was able to comment live this year. So instead of going day by day I'll just write about the Con by subject.

The Exhibition Hall (XHall)

The XHall is (to me) the heart of the Con. When it closes, that marks the end of GenCon. I spend many a hour here and this year was no exception. In addition to all of the cool stuff it is the best place for people, both of the watching variety and those people you bump into once a year in a crowd of 30,000.

One of the great things is the passion that exhibitors have for their wares. I don't mean in just selling goods, in many cases what the exhibitors are showing you is their creative baby, whether it's an artist, a games designer, a film maker or a performer. People don't vend at GenCon, or even get into the various business aspects of our game-geekdom to get rich. They do it because they love it, and that shows when you talk to them.

The coolest product I saw was the new Hoplite table prototype at Geek Chic with a touch-sensitive computer screen in the bottom of the table. Actual production was at least 6 months away. I think the most dangerous thing about the (non-computerized) Hoplite was that I looked at it and thought "that's the same size as my coffee table... and I could afford it."

The White Wolf booth had no games this year. It was all about advertising their upcoming convention in New Orleans, made to look like a New Orleans bar complete with booze(!). Of course they had the prerequisite fanged booth babes. Some game-bloggers have dissed them for this, but they paid for the space and really for the companies, GenCon is more about exposure and advertising than actually moving product. If they move enough the pay for coming, that's good. I guess WW and CCP (the company that puts out Eve Online) decided to dispense with dealing with shipping, merching, selling and return shipping books. One of the rumblings I've heard is that the New Orleans event will also be where they announce the World of Darkness MMO. But that's rumor.

The art show was about the same size as usual. While I wanted to buy some art I promised myself I wouldn't buy anymore until I put up the pieces I've already acquired and are accumulating dust. Also the Authors' Row was adjacent, so I stopped over there daily to say hello to Jonathan Rudder and his brother. Jonathan also happens to be a developer with Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online and probably knows more about LotR than anyone living.

I think this was the first year I didn't visit the Wizards of the Coast booth. I think the lack of compelling releases, the demise of the Star Wars line, and burn-out on the 4e drama left me with a healthy disinterest. It never seemed really busy and I have to wonder how bad the fallout from 4e and Essentials has discouraged their customer base.

I had an opportunity to talk to author Michael Stackpole while he was manning the Origins Game Fair booth. I've attended several of his seminars over the years and have read several of his books. What I didn't know about was his involvement in Origins and gaming. I had written off Origins, but after talking to him I may give it another try.

A huge difference this year was the return of the Media Guests. A as opposed to Actor-Who-Played-Bit-Character, GenCon lined up some truly geek-worthy guests this year, namely Felicia Day of the Guild (as well as Sandeep Parikh, Jeff Lewis, and Robin Thorsen) and Wil Wheaton.. I found it amusing that an article about GenCon noted that he played "Evil Wil Wheaton" on Big Bang Theory and didn't mention Wesley Crusher. I thought about going through the line just to meet Felicia but it would have been "Hi I'm Fan #5256 you've talked to today and I love your hair... I mean the air." Then she would have sprayed me with mace.

Speaking of Big Bang Theory, the big thing in t-shirts this year was Sheldon shirts. The funniest was for the ladies and simply said "Stop staring at my bazingas".

Another difference was the lack of computer game companies. The past few years a corner of the XHall was darkened so companies could demo their upcoming games. This year, nada. I expected Turbine to be there with Dungeons and Dragons Online and soon to release Free-to-Play Lord of the Rings Online, and SOE with DC Universe Online, but nada.

This is getting longish and it is getting late-ish. Tune in later for Part II.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Star Wars - The Phantom Menace Final Fight Sans Crap