Publishers, Developers, and Consumers–Don’t Be a Tool

It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many areas, and there are many more serious places where I’ve seen this. The most serious one I’ve seen in recent years was in regard to NSA spying, where a horrifying 50% of Americans supported the NSA. They don’t realize, it seems, that in life it is a matter of us versus the government, and that they have clearly not sided with “us.” Which is particularly odd, because they are a member of “us.” It doesn’t really matter if one personally approves of the NSA or not–that doesn’t change the fact that you’re not part of the government; you’re part of the people, and you should side with the people. It’s really that simple.

In regard to video games, I’ve noticed an alarming tendency of gamers to take the side of developers and publishers. This comes in many forms. The one I’m dealing with now is that I am being blamed for what is clearly a glitch in Final Fantasy VI on PC: http://plays.tv/s/Kbq334Jv4lmP

Let’s just think for a moment. After I made a post in the Steam forums discussing how much I love Final Fantasy VI and how easy it would have been for Square-Enix to make me give it a 10, and pointed out that I simply can’t do that now, the responses I got met one of a few clear types:

  • It’s your hardware/drivers.
  • You don’t meet the system requirements.
  • Don’t go looking for glitches and bugs, and this won’t happen.
  • Why would you give this version a 10 anyway?
  • Go away.

It’s primarily the first that I want to focus on, because that is the go-to response we get from developers and publishers any time there is an issue with their game. Nevermind that this is almost completely irrelevant to a game that doesn’t use 3D Hardware Acceleration because it’s a 2D sprite game with everything pre-rendered. The System requirements for the PC version of Final Fantasy VI are laughable:

  • OS: Windows Vista / 7 / 8 / 8.1 
  • Processor: Pentium 4 2.4 GHz 
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM 
  • Storage: 950 MB available space

Does anyone out there truly believe that I’m not sporting something superior to a Pentium fucking 4 and 2 GB of RAM? As it happens, I’m running on an AMD six-core at 4.2 GHz. For that matter, I’m in the town of Zozo. Do people seriously believe that I made it 4 hours into the game with invisible sprites, CTDs, and other major issues, and just suddenly decided I couldn’t handle it anymore? Did it seriously occur to no one that this is an issue that just appeared, and that drivers and hardware therefore cannot be the issue in this pre-rendered sprite-based game?

They’re parroting that response at me because that is what they’ve been trained to say–and they don’t realize it, because humans are very easy to train, especially when they don’t realize that it’s happening.

A few years ago, I watched a friend be trained by his Ford vehicle to use his seatbelt. It used an irritating sound that went off any time the vehicle was cranked and the seatbelt wasn’t clicked, until he finally got to the point where he fastened his seatbelt first thing upon entering any vehicle. He had been trained. Thankfully, he did realize that he had been trained, but we aren’t usually aware of how we’re being trained.

When you contact a developer or publisher to tell them you have a problem, their response will always be a request for you DXDiag, a reinstallation of Runtimes and other packages, as they do everything possible not to fix the issue but to make you into the source of the problem.

This is, with almost 100% frequency, what I’m running into in regard to this glitch in Final Fantasy VI. It’s my fault; I did something wrong. I, the owner of an I.T. consultant firm, a VB.Net, Java, Python, Ruby, and C++ programmer, did something wrong. I, the person who once wrote his own drivers for the HD4350, did something wrong. It can’t possibly be that Square-Enix was just being Square-Enix and released a glitchy, buggy game prone to CTDs and game-breaking bugs.

I don’t blame them for this, to be clear. They aren’t bad people, and they aren’t really wrong; just misguided. They don’t see things for how they really are. In reality, there are two sides here: the consumers, and the suppliers. Know which side you’re on. Because even if you disagree with the other consumers, they are doing things that will benefit you.

Emulation rights is a great example. I know tons of people who are against emulation and blatantly conflate it with piracy, shown here:

This is what a modern day Uncle Tom looks like.

This is what a modern day Uncle Tom looks like.

Consumers have already fought this battle–we fought it in the 80s when VHS gave us the right to record broadcasts and view them at a later time of our own choosing. The courts basically decreed that publishing meant “to make public,” and that, by publishing, the publisher relinquishes most of their rights over it. This makes… total fucking sense, and that it makes sense is the reason I continue to be surprised the judges made that ruling.

It’s like if I wanted to stand on a street corner performing with my acoustic and singing–if someone wanted to record it to watch later, what the fuck right would I have to stop them? None at all. If I’m doing something publicly then it’s largely up to the public what they do with it.

No emulation is not closely associated with piracy–it’s only so associated by fuckwits like you, Fish-E, who can’t think without the publisher’s permission to have a given thought. You have the legal right to modify your games in whatever way you want in order to make them playable in a way that is convenient for you. We fought for and kept that right in the 80s. Try to keep up. Ripping a game to your computer to play it with an emulator is absolutely no different from recording a broadcast through VHS. What you’re saying is, “Because some people use VHS tapes to make illegal copies of movies, VHS itself is associated with that, and deserving of a ban for discussing.”

No, you fucking moron, and you don’t get to conflate two disparate concepts like that. We have different words for them for a reason. “Emulation” and “piracy” are different things. That’s why we have two different words–to describe these two different things.

As it happens, I’m in favor of both, and fuck the publishers and developers. I’m not here to make EA, Square-Enix, Ubisoft, and WB money. I’m here to enjoy my life.

I will not:

  • pay full price for an incomplete game. See Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim GOTY Edition.
  • pay for a game that I don’t know works correctly. See Civilization 5, Final Fantasy VI.
  • pay more for a game than I think it is worth.

I happen to use piracy largely to try out games, as glorified demos. I never felt that Skyrim was worth $60, plus the price of all that DLC. It had too many problems: it was shallow–oh, so shallow–glitched, bugged, and barely working. I paid $40 for the GOTY Edition not too long ago, and I feel it was worth that.

Last year, I paid $60 for Dragon Age: Inquisition on launchday, even though it cost $10 more than it had any right to cost, in what was clearly a bald cashgrab by EA. It almost the last on-or-near-launch-day purchase I’ve made. Since, I’ve bought a few other games on or near launch day, but, curiously, they are all Nintendo products. Nintendo, I have not and will not pirate your games until you give me a reason to, and I say with a sincere clap and genuine approval that you have never given me a reason to.

I’ll get into the problems with Dragon Age: Inquisition–like the fact that Bioware evidently doesn’t know what an “inquisition” is–one day. For now, let’s just say that purchase bit me in the ass, and that I did not get $60 of entertainment out of that World of Warcraft Wannabe. Prior to that, Bioware was one of the few companies whose games I wouldn’t pirate, because I knew that I was going to get a high-quality product. Dragon Age: Inquisition destroyed that faith.

So if developers want people to stop pirating their games and to stop waiting for GOTY Editions to purchase them, then all they need to do is release working, complete products. Sectioning off parts of the game to sell later as DLC? Nope. Not gonna pay for something that should have been included in the game already. Nintendo has started doing that, with Mewtwo being locked behind a paywall. The really messed up part of this is that you already have the characters and stages if your game is updated–you’re just not allowed to use them until you pay Nintendo an extortion fee. That’s my issue with DLC and multiplayer: if something is on my system, you can’t fucking tell me that I can’t use it. Because at that point you did give it to me, whether you want to admit it or not, and I don’t give a fuck what legal shenanigans and word games you can play to convince another lawyer that you’re correct. I’m talking basic right and wrong here and simple ownership rights, and the fact is that you gave me that DLC in the last update.

The entire gaming industry is a FUBAR mess, and it’s not helping that a large portion of consumers have no idea that they’re being Uncle Toms for developers and publishers. With indie developers, I get it. They’re small studios, and they don’t have the cash flow to keep their studio going. But then you have them saying things like:

“Just pirate it,” Notch said in response to a fan who couldn’t afford Minecraft.

Team Meat actually presented the argument, as I am, that piracy is good for example–the indie studio behind Super Meat Boy. I’ve actually had multiple people bitch at me for using pirated versions of Minecraft and Super Meat Boy. That’s right–these people are such Uncle Toms that they’ll be an Uncle Tom even when the developer itself doesn’t give a shit. People bitch about me pirating Minecraft and hurting Mojang when, prior to being purchased by Microsoft, Mojang themselves didn’t give a shit.

lolwut

lolwut

These Uncle Toms remind me of this dumbass image. It is “extremely offensive”? To who? No one fucking worships Isis. And if they do, they’re retarded, so fuck them anyway. I laughed hard the first time I saw this image floating around Facebook as people expressed how “offended” they were on behalf of this non-existent deity that no significant portion of the population believes in.

Since we're getting offended on behalf of fictional characters now...

Since we’re getting offended on behalf of fictional characters now…

Yes, if you believe that Isis is a real goddess with an actual existence, you’re retarded, and fuck you. Of course, I’m an atheist and think this about most religious beliefs, but the pagan ones that dust off old, defunct gods and believe in them anew are definitely a bit more retarded than others.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a lot, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 is finished downloading. lol–I already had a pirated version. And I just bought it on Steam. Half of my purchases on Steam have been for games that I’ve already pirated. It’s just different to play a game legitimately. I don’t know why it is, but it is. Team Meat is correct; I am correct.

So know whose side your own. Are you an Uncle Tom? Or are you a consumer?

Long live the Pirate Bay.

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Gaming Came Too Early

This is going to be a bit more vulgar than my usual stuff. I don’t apologize for that, because if you have a problem with vulgarity, then you’re probably not on this fucking site managed by a transgender lesbian any-fucking-way. But take this as a warning, because we’re going to take the sex metaphor and run with it.

Apparently, Gaming came during the SNES-PSX era, and we didn’t realize it. While we thought Gaming was just pulling out some really awesome moves and that Gaming really knew what it was doing, it turns out that Gaming was reaching what we might call “premature ejaculation.” When I look back on the past decade of gaming, it becomes clearer and clearer that the last several years of video games have basically been Gaming trying to continue thrusting as it becomes floppier and floppier–as things are prone to doing when they blow their loads a tad early.

It’s actually quite alarming how many reboots, remakes, re-releases, HD remasters, and ports we’ve seen. They have been so prolific that the 360/PS3 generation should go down in history as being the Reboot Generation, or the “Shit, We Fucked Up Everything and Need to Start Over” Generation. “Our Stories got too convoluted and haphazard, our gameplay mechanics got lost, our franchises lost their souls… We need to just wipe the slate clean and start over.”

Movies, of course, are really bad about this, too, and so is television. Though there are some obvious differences, The Big Bang Theory is easily identifiable as a clone of Friends, for example. Supernatural is a clear clone of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Doctor Who is a clear clone of… Doctor Who. Wait, what?

The only form of entertainment that we don’t see doing this is literature, and that makes me even happier to be a writer. If literature went through such a period of rewriting, then that period is already behind us, and it can be forgotten like a bad memory.

But evidently Gaming has already done the best it can do, has already shown us its best moves–Gaming has already came. And the best it can do now is try to seduce and say, “Hey, we can do it again. Trust me, babe… I got it this time. That can’t possibly happen again…”

Just off the top of my head, I’m gonna rattle off some remakes, re-releases, reboots, and ports–all of which were given to us in place of actually new content. Some of these are simply “new games” that drop the subtitles and number, which is a reboot whether it’s billed as one or not, especially if, as is the case with Super Smash Bros., the release has noticeably less content than previous installments:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
  • Tomb Raider
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Final Fantasy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 on mobile, then on PC
  • Final Fantasy 7 in progress
  • Super Smash Bros.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii-U, the 4th in the series. I shouldn’t have to point out how this reeks of creative bankruptcy.
  • Resident Evil. I think they called it Resident Evil Zero. I’m not sure.
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection. It’s on PC, which is great, and it’s not expensive, but it is inferior to Mega Man Anniversary Collection, where Capcom already re-released the classic Mega Man games. The Legacy Collection excludes the ones that didn’t actually have a legacy: the tournament fighters, Mega Man 7, and Mega Man 8.

And I’m sure that I could come up with a dozen more if I thought about it long enough, but I don’t really care to, because we all know how ubiquitous this has been lately. Let’s also get one thing out of the way right now: everything we’ve heard about Zelda Wii-U screams reboot. It may not be billed as one, but everything we’ve been shown makes it look, sound, and act like a reboot. Considering this is coming from the company that used the word “New” in four different game titles, and the same company who did an HD remaster of a game that still looks fine, it’s not exactly rocket science to smell the distinct aroma of a reboot brewing in the cauldron.

Between all the ports, remasters, remakes, and reboots, it’s a fucking miracle we’re still getting new content at all. It’s just a matter of time before Bethesda releases The Elder Scrolls, before Bioware releases Dragon Age, and before Microsoft releases Halo. Because we didn’t make sure that this shit died with the last generation, did we? No, we’re letting it carry on into the new generation.

Consoles are dumb.

They are, and you’re dumb if you own a console. With the Steam Link device now available, allowing players to connect their computer and play their Steam games on any television for a mere $50 per television, there’s simply no excuse for continuing to buy consoles. Plus, they’re just dumbed down, non-customizable, inferior PCs with monopolized Operating Systems and distribution platforms, absolutely absurd ToUs and license agreements, requirements to pay for online multiplayer (something we PC gamers would revolt against, if Valve tried charging $5 a month for us to play our games online. Not to mention Fraps and other simple recording tools, Raptr, simple sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube. While consoles are struggling to get 60 frames per second at 1080p, PCs are pushing 4k resolutions and multiple-screen configurations.

It’s absolutely absurd how behind consoles are. Consoles are officially holding back Gaming, because games are being designed primarily for inferior hardware. And did I mention that we have Steam? While I do have issues with Steam, that doesn’t change the fact that I picked up every Tomb Raider game ever and all DLC for $20, and that I can sit here and buy as many games as I can afford, with discounts ranging from 10% to 90% off. Consoles are dumb, and there’s literally no reason to get one.

They’re also not cheaper. Just stop buying laptops. Instead of replacing your laptop with a laptop–especially since, be real, you don’t ever actually need your computer when you’re away from your desk anyway… I own an I.T. tech consultant firm, and the majority of people I know who have a laptop have absolutely no need for one, and they could have gotten a superior system for several hundred dollars less if they weren’t in love with the idea of sitting it in their lap for some fucking reason. At least 90% of the laptops I see on a weekly basis could be replaced with a desktop, with absolutely no inconvenience to the user. So get a desktop instead, since you need a computer anyway, and take the $400 you were going to spend on a console and instead buy a bad ass graphics card. Bam, done.

Use the HDMI port on the graphics card–or DVI, if you’re interested in > 1080 resolutions–to connect it to your television, throw a $50 Steam Link device with every other television in your home (a device that can be navigated entirely with a controller, by the way), and buy a $30 Afterglow 360 controller. They’re not the best in the world, but they’re more than sufficient, even for games like Super Meat Boy.

I’ve gotten really off topic, so I’m going to wrap this up now. Stop letting developers get away with remakes, reboots, and re-releases–Yes, this from someone who is still trying to argue for giving the PC port of Final Fantasy VI a 10. Because Final Fantasy VI has never been on PC except through emulation, and that’s not an entirely legitimate avenue for playing it.

“But… But Everything Has Already Been Done…”

No it hasn’t, you stupid jackass.

Look. In the grand scheme of things, our species is barely out of its diapers. Do you really mean to tell me that in just a few thousand years, our species has already reached its creative potential and tapped out every possible idea? Do you really mean to tell me that in less than 40 years, video games used every conceivable good idea, and that all we’re left with for the remainder of our species’ existence over the next ten million years will be a bunch of re-releases, ports, remakes, reboots, and remasters?

No. People just throw out that bullshit as an excuse for laziness. If our species only had enough good ideas to fill a few thousand years with fresh entertainment, then our species doesn’t deserve to survive the cosmic eons. Stop being a tool.

Fuck Caitlyn Jenner (Not Related To Video Games)

I promise to try to keep these sort of things from winding up here at DiMezzo Gaming, since it has nothing to do with gaming, but I just saw the ignorance being spouted by Caitlyn Jenner, and I just have to rant about it in every possible form.

For one, I make no secret of the fact that I’m transgender. I don’t see that it’s anything to hide; in fact, it’s good for people around me to know, because it changes things regarding relationships. I’m a non-op transgender lesbian, in fact, which is something you’d know better as a shemale. And I’ve pretty much kept my mouth closed about Caitlyn Jenner, because I generally don’t care what she does, but she has a few problems that it’s time to bring to light.

First of all, she’s among the most manly-looking women I’ve ever seen. Before I even knew she’d undergone SRS, a co-worker sent me a picture of her, and I replied, “Is that a man in drag?” Because she undeniably looks like a man. And I’m positive that she has the speech mannerisms, vocal oscillations, body language, and movements of a man, because she seems to be under the impression that she can just throw a bunch of money at doctors and come out a woman. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

There are millions of tiny little details that a transgender person needs to be aware of. Everything from facial expressions to blinking to sitting to standing to walking to nodding to fucking everything. There are countless tiny, almost unquantifiable differences between men and women, and we use these subtle little clues as signposts to tell the person’s gender.

If you take one million dollars and spend it all on Sexual Reassignment Surgery, it will be for nothing as soon as you encounter other people, because you’ll know nothing about these millions of little details that give it away. No matter how much money you spend, you will be given away by the tiniest and subtlest of details–maybe you don’t hit your consonants hard enough, maybe your word choices aren’t quite right, maybe your body positioning isn’t angled correctly. There’s no telling, but one thing is certain: money is not what makes a woman identifiable as a woman.

And when I saw Caitlyn’s picture, I instantly identified her as a man. It may be true that my heightened senses in regard to gender are responsible for that, but I don’t think that’s the case; I suspect anyone looking will immediately see an unusually mannish woman.

And now she has the audacity to strongly imply that transgender people should do as she did: spend a bunch of money, rather than going through the arduous process of learning these subtle tells. She also has no fucking idea what she’s talking about.

I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role.

See, there’s the disconnect between Caitlyn and most transgender people. It’s not about playing a role, Caitlyn. It’s about CEASING to play a role. My entire life, I had to play the role of a man; dropping that facade to be true to myself is not jumping into a role. It’s abandoning the roles, abandoning the masks, and abandoning the pretense. That’s the difference between you and us, Jenner. You’re playing a role. We’re being true to ourselves. So no, you wouldn’t possibly understand what I mean when I speak of these subtle details, these unquantifiable differences. Because you’re playing a role.

So from the bottom of my heart, fuck you, Caitlyn Jenner. Do not speak out on behalf of the transgender community again. You’re ignorant, and the one thread that runs through the transgender community is that we’re all transgender because we had to stop playing roles, because the roles were killing us. You evidently wouldn’t know anything about that, because there is not a force on this Earth that could ever make me play a role again. So fuck you, you ignorant bitch. You may be playing a role. We are not. We are being who we are.

The audacity that you would think yourself a symbol of the trans community when you don’t understand the very basis of why is beyond fucked up. Time should immediately issue a retraction; you are not a person of the year. You’re ignorant, and you know nothing about the struggles of being transgender. You’re just the media darling; you’ve never had to deal with the actual bullshit the rest of us have to deal with. And we deal with enough bullshit without idiots like you trying to talk like they know what the fuck they’re talking about.

Why Can’t Games Work?

I hate Apple products. I hate everything about Apple. But I’ve gotten a new appreciation for their old tagline of “It just works,” because… PC games don’t. It’s gotten to the point where I prefer reviewing Indie and low budget games for Cubed3, because they are so much more likely to work correctly than AAA games. It’s completely unacceptable. I’ve been saying for years that console gaming is fucking retarded because they’re nothing more than gimped, uncustomizable, unupgradeable PCs, but developers’ total inability to release working games on PC is really making me do a double-take at console gaming. Their games can be pretty fucked up, too, but it seems like PC has a higher “this game doesn’t work” rate.

I’m currently reviewing Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition for Cubed3, and I’ve gotten about 2 hours into the game. This isn’t the first time I’ve played Darksiders 2, but it is the first time I had to play it, to review it, and I’m not particularly excited about that because the non-definitive, and therefore inferior version that was sold for years, bored the fucking hell out of me. I never even got past the first world.

Detour: Definitive and Complete Editions

I recently purchased Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition on Steam for like $5. By all rights, this game shouldn’t exist. I remember when DLC was first discussed by PC gamers a decade ago, and we expressed the worry that they would release games as incomplete, and would then sell us DLC that completed them. Now they’re doing exactly that, and they’re not even trying to hide it. Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition means literally that everyone who purchased the game had to buy all the DLC to have a complete experience, and that’s not okay. DLC should complement the experience, not complete it.

We’re not arguing semantics here, because look at Batman: Arkham City and how the Catwoman sections were treated. Parts of the main story, critical to completion of the main story, were sectioned off and sold to players. We’ll come back to this topic one day, about why in the world developers think they’re entitled to be paid twice for one copy of a product, but for now let’s just bask in the glory that is the fact that we were sold an incomplete game for full price, and then had to buy shit on top of that if we wanted to complete it.

Complete Editions are tacit admissions that we’re getting fucked over, robbed, and cheated by games that are being sold to us incomplete. Definitive Editions are bald-faced admissions that we were, until this version, being sold an inferior product. None of this is okay. I don’t care how developers and publishers–and confused gamers who don’t understand whose side they’re on–think that this is okay. It’s not. Back to the main point.

Ah, That New Game Smell

A few weeks ago, I was looking into starting my YouTube channel for DiMezzo Gaming–and I’m still going to do that, but it’s going to be a little while. I don’t want to launch too many things at once. The first video will be me standing there. Something shorts out off-camera, electricity buzzes are heard, and then grey-black smoke wafts upward. I wave the smoke into my face with a gesture, close my eyes, and euphorically say, “Ah… That new game smell…” I’m still going to make this video, but it’s going to be a few weeks. Between house shopping, car shopping, reviewing for Cubed3, talking with literary agents, launching this site, and running my I.T. firm, I’m a tad busy right now and can’t devote the time to YouTube that would be warranted by opening a channel.

It was Tomb Raider that spurred this idea, though I don’t recall now what issues I was having with it. Oh, yeah, I do. It wouldn’t run for more than ten minutes. The framerate steadily dropped until it was running at 10 frames per second. Despite my joking about framerate, I actually do care a bit about it. But it’s consistency that I care about, and it doesn’t really matter to me if a game runs at 30 or 60 frames per second–as long as it is stable at that rate. Tomb Raider (I’ll update this post when my Cubed3 review is posted; it’s with the editors right now, and they’ve got quite a backlog of reviews from me) is not stable.

Mega Man Legacy Collection was completely unplayable, showing me only a black screen and what might have been a Wingdings font in white. Research indicated that installing a particular Windows 7 update would resolve the problem–and it did, but it should never have been necessary. I intentionally refrain from updating my Operating System; I own a tech firm, after all, and no one has seen more damage caused by Windows updates than I. Even with this update, it still crashes a lot.

Then there are games like They Bleed Pixels, which work flawlessly. And who could forget the legendarily awesome Super Meat Boy, which also works flawlessly? Even this stupid piece of shit works. There is also the glorious Orcs Must Die! 2, so incredible that it has spurred me to take part in my first-ever preview series. All of these games work.

Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition doesn’t, and it doesn’t seem that I’m the only person with this problem. I have no idea what’s causing it; it did work just fine. But now it doesn’t. So you can imagine what kind of review the game is going to get. I show no mercy to games that don’t work, and Darksiders 2 was never particularly good in the first place. I held nothing back on SDK Paint, and I’ll hold nothing back on Darksiders II. Because the asinine argument about hardware and software types making compatibility a problem is not valid and has not been valid since 1999.

We have two types of CPU, two types of graphics card, 3 types of RAM (that matter: ddr2, ddr3, and ddr5), and one type of sound device. Everyone is sporting AMD/AMD or Intel/Nvidia. I’m in the former group; I love me some AMD. But hardware is no longer an issue, and it hasn’t been in a very long time.

Resolution Woes

I played some piece of junk game earlier that–you’re not going to believe this–was only 256×240 resolution. I know! Ew, right? It’s not even 720p! It’s disgusting and ugly. God only knows what they were thinking to release a game in such an awful state. It’s unplayable. Just look at those numbers–can you even imagine how bad that resolution truly is? It’s gross. It makes me vomit in my mouth just thinking about it.

And you might want to sit down, because it actually gets worse. The game couldn’t show more than 54 colors simultaneously! I’ll wait while you throw up.

So this disgusting, blocky, unplayable mess of 256×240 resolution graphics could only show 54 colors simultaneously. I can’t imagine what they were thinking to release it in such a state. It’s atrociously bad, and totally unplayable. It does, thankfully, run at a brisk 60 frames per second, but that hardly matters when we’re dealing with such despicable resolutions.

The game was some crap piece of shovelware called Super Mary Brothers 3 or some shit. I don’t know. It didn’t look very good. I guess if you could make yourself deal with the atrocious resolution and lack of anti-aliasing, you might be able to squeak out some kind of not-so-horrible-you-want-to-kill-yourself experience, but that’s way too much work to be worth it for a game the developers thought was okay to be released at such a terrible resolution.

And I hope you’re not a sound buff! Because the audio is mono! I’ll pause again while you go vomit.

That’s right–mono audio. One channel. They couldn’t even do stereo, much less 5.1. That’s disgusting. And the sound quality is just atrocious. You can tell it’s just these horrible blips and bloops that you could get if you programmed a game on a TI-85 calculator.

There are only two things players can do, too, so there’s no variety to the game. Players run and they jump. That’s it. The developers tried to add in a little variety, at least, because players can get fireballs and a thing that lets them fly, but they don’t really add anything to the gameplay. It’s still just running and jumping. At 256×240 resolution and less than 54 simultaneous, six of which have to be a shade of grey.

It’s fucking atrocious, and someone needs to hold the developers’ feet to the fire over it, because this isn’t acceptable. They should be ashamed of themselves for not releasing a game that runs at least at 1080p, because anything less than that is totally unplayable. And would it have killed them to add a little anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering? Jesus Christ, look at this mess:

Totally unacceptable.

Totally unacceptable.

What were they thinking? This isn’t okay. This is terrible! Unplayable! Hideous, disgusting!

/end Satire

Crowdfunding & Psychonauts 2

It has been announced that Psychonauts 2 is in the works, and that it is being crowdfunded. Wait. Did I miss something? Although I never played the first Psychonauts, plenty of people did. According to Wikipedia:

Although the game was first cited as the primary contributing factor to a strong quarter immediately following its launch,[51] a month later Majesco revised their fiscal year projections from a net profit of $18 million to a net loss of $18 million,[52] and at the same time its CEO, Carl Yankowski, announced his immediate resignation.[53] By the end of the year, the title had shipped fewer than 100,000 copies in North America, and Majesco announced its plans to withdraw from the “big budget console game marketplace”.[54] Schafer stated that by March 2012 the retail version Psychonauts had sold 400,000 copies.[55]

So the game initially caused a very strong quarter, but going into the second quarter the figures were revised from a net profit of $18 million to a net loss of $18 million. The game sold so poorly that the CEO of the company resigned? That’s fine; I accept that, and way to take responsibility, but that raises the question: What makes them think it will be a good idea to make another one?

No sequel should ever be crowdfunded. The argument about Psychonauts not being successful financially just goes to show how bloated video game development budgets have become. Final Fantasy XIII, of course, sold millions of copies and was considered a failure by Square-Enix, as was Tomb Raider. As Jim Sterling routinely points out, publishers would rather have no money if they can’t have all the money, “some of the money” is not enough. If they make a game that is only profitable by $1m, they consider it a failure.

Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic remains the most expensive game ever made; it was so expensive to make that there was never any chance that Bioware would recoup the cost. I don’t remember the details now, but in order for The Old Republic to be successful, they needed a ridiculous number of paying accounts over the course of two years. Actually, that only caused them to break even. The Old Republic should go down in history as the biggest fuckup in gaming, beating out Atari’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial by a wide margin.

Atari spent an obscene amount of money making E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, of course, and a sizable chunk of the millions of dollars went to George Lucas simply for the license. Much more was spent on advertising and publishing; millions of copies were made. The game itself was rushed out in something like 5 weeks. And Atari has never recovered from that enormous fuck-up that caused the scales to fall from the eyes of the gaming public, making us realize, “Shit. These games actually kind of suck.”

And while the gaming industry is thankfully putting the money into game development itself (except in the case of Square-Enix, since all their money goes to making pretty movies), the fact remains that they haven’t learned from Atari’s or Bioware’s fuck-ups. Just think about what it must mean that they incurred an $18m loss on a game that was already on sale.

Maybe Psychonauts was pretty good. But if they can crowdfund its sequel to the point where they can make a suitable game, it really will go to show how bloated the first game’s budget was. While I applaud Double Fine Productions for at least offering stake in the profits to investors, the bottom line is that it shouldn’t be necessary; no sequel should ever be crowd-funded. If it wasn’t successful enough for a sequel to be made without resorting to crowd-funding, then there is no reason to think the sequel will do any better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like really talking about it, because the idea is abhorrent. Crowdfunding exists for people to get their first creation made. Under no circumstances should it be used to make sequels and follow-ups; this undermines the entire point. And with fucking pre-orders and season passes already blurring the lines and making AAA publishers basically ask for crowd-funding, this “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” bullshit the gaming industry is obsessed with needs to stop.

Market forces dictate that if you make a product and sell it, and you don’t sell enough copies of that product to cover the costs of making a follow-up, then you fucked up. The market has brought you before the courts, you have been tried, and you have been found wanting. Bow out and come back when you’ve got a new idea. Tim Schafer is just using crowdfunding as a “Get out of fucking up free card,” and he shouldn’t be rewarded for that. If you liked Psychonauts and want to see more, great, but don’t give your money to Double Fine Productions. They’ve already demonstrated that they lack the financial sense and appeal to truly survive in the industry. They’ll be back in two years asking for more crowdfunding to make Psychonauts 3.

It’s not strictly necessary that Double Fine Productions make a game that would be Psychonauts 2. Look at Mighty Number 9 and how it comes from the creator of Mega Man. It is undeniably the spiritual successor to Mega Man. They didn’t come before the gaming community and say, “Look, people, we know we screwed that last one up. But if you’ll donate a bunch of money to us, we promise we won’t do it again. So if you’ll pay us today, we’ll sell you a hamburger Tuesday.”

Because that’s what it really is. It’s not “We’ll give you a hamburger Tuesday if you pay us today.” It’s “We’ll sell you a hamburger Tuesday if you pay us today.” Fuck that, people. don’t let them get away with it. They fucked up. They did that all by themselves. They’ll have to come up with something else to fix their fuck up. They can’t just come before the gaming community and start begging for money, not after fucking up so badly that their previous game recorded millions of dollars in losses.

You dun goof’d, Tim.

And then there’s this:

tim schafer

Fuck Off, Square-Enix

On November 22, I purchased Tomb Raider from Steam for $19.99. On November 25, Square-Enix released a bundle on Steam, and the bundle contained every single Tomb Raider PC game and all the DLC available for the price of $19.99. The version of Tomb Raider that I bought, of course, contained no DLC. If there were pre-sale announcements, I might have known that the game I was about to buy would shortly be sold with ten other full games and all DLC for the same price, but no such thing exists regarding Steam.

After researching the issue about, three things struck me as obvious. First, this would not have happened if there was a pre-sale catalog that allows players to peruse upcoming sales and, perhaps, wait to purchase a game if it’s going to be available cheaper. I understand why publishers wouldn’t want to do this–why tell players that they’re about to knock 75% off a game, when they can sell it today for full price and you’re generally left with no recourse? But this is incredibly anti-consumer, and that isn’t a mentality we should allow developers and publishers to put into action.

Secondly, there should already be an official system in place for dealing with this, because this is not the first time this has happened to me. When I bought the Legendary Edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it went on sale less than two weeks later for 75% off–a difference of $30. I was not anxious to replay Skyrim, and I certainly would have waited. When I bought the Game of the Year version of Batman: Arkham City, it went on sale that very weekend for $5, causing me to lose out on $15 because I didn’t know. I bought Portal for $2.99 and Portal 2 for $4.99, and days later they were bundled together for $2.99. In the short span of about two months, I could have saved between 50% and 75% and still had the same gaming library I have today–with a bank account some $120-150 heavier. When you’re purchasing your own games to review because you refuse to take part in the behind-the-scenes back-scratching, these numbers matter.

The long-term effects of this behavior have been obvious: users across Reddit report that they won’t even purchase a game on Steam unless it’s 50% off or more, because the odds that it is about to go on sale are extremely high. Players are left guessing entirely in order to prevent paying double what they have to in order to get the game, and they solve this problem by refusing to ever pay full price; they’ve been burned too many times and have burned away too much money because sales are not announced priorily. If, on the other hand, players knew, beyond any doubt, that Fallout 3 is not going to drop 50% in the next two weeks, they will be more likely to go ahead and buy it, because 2+ weeks starts getting into the timeframes where many players would rather go ahead and enjoy the game now and pay a bit more. But buying a game on Steam at full price has become a gamble, because consumers have no assurance that it won’t go on sale the moment after they click “buy.”

Thirdly, this is not actually the responsibility of the distributor to handle, because this is not retail. If this was the world of retail and Wal-Mart was putting games on sale in order to get rid of some of its stock, I would fully agree that any issue with price drops and bundles needs to be taken to Wal-Mart. That is not, however, the way Steam works; Valve doesn’t have a stock of game keys, and they don’t arbitrarily decide to lower the price of games. In fact, Valve has no control over what bundles and prices are listed on the Steam Store. Steam is merely the distribution channel. Publishers are the ones who create the bundles, who set the MSRPs, and who initiate the sales.

When this happened, I did research into the matter, and the general consensus appeared to be that most people “knew of” someone experiencing this, contacting Valve, and having the issue handled satisfactorily, but there were not very many forthcoming firsthand accounts of this happening. Seeing as I thought the matter through and realized that the interaction took place almost entirely between myself and Square-Enix and that Valve/Steam was simply the vehicle through which that interaction occurred, I opted to contact Square-Enix and Valve, but I admit I only contacted Valve because the Reddit users suggested it had been successful.

Within 48 hours, Valve responded to my support request by issuing a refund on Tomb Raider. Because the sale was Limited Time Only, Valve bypassed the otherwise-mandatory 4-7 day waiting period to receive funds acquired through refund, and I was immediately able to turn around and purchase the Tomb Raider bundle. So basically, they “took back” the initial purchase, gave me back my money, and sold me the bundle. Except… they didn’t really, did they? No, they just cleaned up Square-Enix’s mess. And kudos to Valve for that–I have a great deal of respect and love for Valve overall. I greatly appreciate their willingness to fix something that was, by all rights, Square-Enix’s responsibility, and Valve earned +1 Respect that day.

Yesterday, December 2 (the day after the bundle sale ended, it’s worth mentioning), Square-Enix replied to my support request, saying:

We apologize for the trouble. We would like to clarify that unfortunately we cannot offer you a refund for this game under any circumstances. We do recommend approaching the place of purchase for a refund. We understand that you are not happy with the Steam’s lack of notice of pre-sale advertising and this feedback will be forwarded to my superiors.

This is in flagrant disregard of the fact that I told them I did not want a refund, and that what I wanted was for them to address the issue by giving me keys for the other items included in the bundle–which they most certainly could do. They’re the fucking publishers, mate. They’re the ones with the product keys. They’re the ones who own the right to distribute the product. That’s what a publisher is. And let’s be absolutely clear here: they received the money for the purchase. There might be some sort of delay between when Valve takes my money and when it gets to the publisher, but make absolutely no mistake: this is not retail. Steam is not being reimbursed for copies of the game they purchased from Square-Enix, as would be the case, usually, in the retail world. Steam is merely acting as the agent through which Square-Enix sells its games almost directly to consumers.

Seeing as Valve and their excellent customer service and general customer-oriented mindset had already satisfactorily handled the issue, I replied back to Square-Enix:

I see. Well, that’s okay. I mean, I’m working on the review of Final Fantasy V on PC for a gaming site aggregated by OpenCritic, MetaCritic, and Gamefaqs, so I’ll just “let slip” of your anti-consumer practices during the review. Have a good day.

And while that’s certainly a bluff on my end, it serves a few purposes. First, I want to see how it affects Square-Enix’s treatment of me. I have routinely see developers and publishers change their attitudes fast when they learn that I’m actually a reviewer for an actually aggregated gaming site, that they’re not just fucking over “any old customer” but one with a voice that actually gets heard by lots and lots of people. You have my word that I have NEVER allowed a publisher or developer to actually give me special treatment for this; when they have attempted to, I have spit in their face for being the wretched pigs they are.

For example, Nintendo and I had an issue over a piece of shit shovelware “game” called SDK Paint on the Nintendo Pee-U. I contacted them as a concerned consumer, suggesting that they pull the title from the eShop because it didn’t fucking work. Like it literally didn’t fucking work, and I was the only reviewer to catch that because I was the only reviewer who covered it with the fucking integrity to do more than pop it open for thirty seconds, verify that it functioned, and bang out a quickie. Instead, I actually spent nine hours with that abomination, and it honestly crashed like clockwork every ten minutes. This means (because the issue is a known bug, and it was then ubiquitous) that none of the other 3 “professional” reviewers even spent ten continuous minutes with this software they scored as average.

Nintendo replied with a lot of bullshit, suggesting that I power down and reboot the Pee-U, and unplug it for 30 seconds, trying a different user profile, and all of that asinine stuff that I don’t have to try because I own an I.T. consultant firm and I’ve got a pretty good handle on this whole “technology thing.” And, as I told them in the initial message, I had already tried the standard troubleshooting steps; it was a software issue. I can identify a software issue a mile off; anyone who has been in the field for seven years can. Around the time I replied “Nevermind,” I’d updated my email signature to include a reference to the review site, and the tonal shift in Nintendo’s message was immediate. While their first message had taken more than a day to arrive, every message they sent after that came within minutes, and they were far more cordial, up to and including offering for me to ship my Pee-U to them at their expense so that they could verify there was nothing wrong with my console. They jumped through a lot of hoops to keep me from writing a review that said “Nintendo allowed this non-working shit software to be sold in their eShop.”

But that’s exactly what I wrote, because that’s exactly what they did, and the average consumer who bought SDK Paint wouldn’t have gotten the offer from Nintendo to diagnose their console at no cost; the average consumer would have been told to ship it in and pay a $75 diagnostic fee, and then it wouldn’t have done any good because the simple fact was that SDK Paint didn’t work.

Endemic to the Industry

I mentioned earlier that I have a habit of rejecting review codes when they are available. This is particularly true with free-to-play games. I admit that I don’t always reject review codes; it really depends on the status of DiMezzo Gaming’s finances, to be honest, how expensive the game is, and what the review code entails. I don’t like reviewing Free to Play games, because they present a bit of a problem for anyone with integrity.

When I reviewed Magicka: Wizard Wars with two other reviewers, we used review codes that gave us something called “Press Kit”. After getting into the game, it almost immediately became obvious that this Press Kit gave us a shitload of overpowered weapons, armor, and enough gold to buy literally everything in the store. After a bit of arithmetic, I learned that the review codes we were given equated to about $120 of free shit per player. That meant that we weren’t getting the experience someone playing it for free would get; someone could only get an experience on par with ours if they were willing to shell out enough money to otherwise purchase two full-release console games. I was appalled.

So I created a new account, a free account, and poured no money into the game. The findings were staggering. While my Press character routinely racked up 20+ kills with less than 5 deaths per match, my free character was almost exactly the opposite, averaging 6 kills per match and 17 deaths per match. The difference was overwhelming. I was no longer steamrolling people and earning more points than the rest of my team combined. I was still leading my teams, but the margins were extremely narrow, and it was nowhere near as enjoyable.

For all intents and purposes, we had been bribed.

I am going to be brutally honest in every direction; it’s kinda my thing. So when a developer goes for broke by giving the press a special package of candy valued at more than $100 that drastically alters the gameplay experience, I am going to take that bitter taste left in my mouth from the candy and remove it by forcing myself to get rid of all of it, and to instead play the game as the average player would. And when idiotic consumers pre-ordered Arkham Knight and a Season Pass despite knowing damned well how WB handled Arkham Origins, I’m not going to feel any pity or sympathy for them, and I’m going to say that consumer responsibility must enter into the equation at some point. I am on consumers’ sides, because I am a consumer, but I will gladly choose honesty over loyalty–because sometimes, in order to be truly loyal to people, you have to tell them what they don’t want to hear: what they need to hear. Yes, if you got burned on Arkham Knight and its Season Pass and you had experience with the PC version of Arkham Origins, it is your own fault.

Back to Square-Enix

While I won’t actually mention the anti-consumer shifting of responsibility that Square-Enix has displayed over the Tomb Raider matter in my review of the PC version of Final Fantasy V, that’s partially because it isn’t necessary. Final Fantasy V shows Square-Enix’s disdain for consumers directly; I don’t need to go into long diatribes about Steam and consumer rights. The PC port of Final Fantasy V is INFERIOR to the mobile version. That tells you everything you need to know. Don’t give it a free pass to be a shitty port because “hur hur hur its final fantasy v tho so u cant give it a 3.”

Bullshit. I just gave it a 3. Because the PC port has no reason to exist. And if it absolutely must exist, then gamers deserve more effort than that. So look out, Square-Enix. You have riled Aria DiMezzo, and she’s going to systematically take you to task for it. You better mind your Ps and Qs, because I’m looking for you to fuck up. I won’t fabricate shit, obviously, but I will use every single one of your mistakes against you. I will highlight every mistake, every failing, every screw-up, and I will broadcast them to anyone who will listen. When you slip and fall, I will be there–laughing and pointing. Every time you do something stupid, every time you show your outright contempt for gamers, every time you spit in our faces, I will be there, keeping notes, because you may be a AAA publisher right now, Square-Enix, but things change. Look at Atari. Look at John Romero. Look at Nintendo. Look at Microsoft. You, EA, Ubisoft, and WB are on borrowed time, and the rise of the indie scene is going to overthrow you. Watch your back, Square-Enix, because consumers won’t blind themselves to your behavior forever.