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Televisions? Assault rifles? Corporations? Cars? Trains? Helicopters? Submarines? A space rocket?! Woah, Shinra is like something out of Star Trek!

Oh, wait. We have all those things. We’ve had all those things for quite a while. It’s almost as if FFVII isn’t really futuristic at all. It’s almost as if it was based on present day technology. If that!

I mean, seriously, they have one rocket that only gets into space once and that’s mid-game. They haven’t been to the moon and the rocket doesn’t even look as good as our rockets!

The only really futuristic thing in the game is the automatic slidey-open doors that are straight from Star Trek. But guess what? Metal Gear Solid 3 had those too. That was set in 1964. I don’t see you calling that cyberpunk.

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It’s a shame that a lot of people seem to have missed out on the Grand Theft Auto IV downloadable content – The Lost and Damned (or TLAD) and The Ballad Of Gay Tony (or TBOGT).

This is despite the cheap retail package Episodes from Liberty City containing both on disc, without the need for the original game. The lack of popularity was probably down to the exaggerated backlash against GTAIV. (Planes in the city would be stupid. Get over it.)

It’s really quite a shame. Not only do the add-ons provide more great content, they share a fantastically rich interwoven storyline and are packed with brilliant little details.

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Picture the barren wastelands of post-apocalyptia. The remains of mankind have pieced together a few settlements out of the rubble, but most of the irradiated landscape is lawless nothingness filled with scavengers fighting to survive.

There’s probably a fair few games that spring to mind, eh?

It looks like games aren’t leaving this kind of setting behind any time soon. But we’re yet to see a single game that’s really captured what I’d like to see out of this idea.

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To explain the motivation behind last week’s post – I recently bought a second-hand copy of Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30 from a charity shop.

My worries about running a six year old PC game on a modern machine were compounded when I saw the Ubisoft logo on the box. Previous experience tells us they are not good with this.

But to my surprise, there was no hard drive formatting or any death lasers. The game ran just fine. Unpatched, no less. So maybe I was a little unfair on Ubisoft for that one – but I just couldn’t let the image of copy protection taken to the maxtreme go.

Anyway, the purchase did remind me of the problem with the short-sighted nature of gaming lately. With things like EA’s multiplayer activation codes or the Cerberus Network codes for Mass Effect 2 – all designed to fight second hand trade-ins.

But if you think about people in countries that are a little less privileged and are away from the cutting edge of gaming that we reside on. Folks who might be finding an old sports game that will be the only thing for them to play on an ancient Xbox 360 they’re lucky enough to have.

Or years down the road, maybe Microsoft or Sony go the way of Sega and die out. Think of those that will be stumped by the in-game DLC advertisements in Dragon Age if Xbox Live is gone or totally different.
They could be playing these games on a relic of a console, through some kind of crazy backwards compatibility or even an emulator. Think of all the pre-order bonuses lost in time.

I’m all for stopping the kind of people that trade in games seemingly hours after their release. I understand trying to fight piracy or the questionable second-hand business of game shops. But there will be a shelf life on these games and a point at which companies will have made all the money they’re going to make off a title.

We ought to preserve the games of the present for the gamers of the future. Companies should consider what it will be like looking back on these games in fifteen years time.

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Ubisoft announced plans for their new DRM (Digital Rights Management) this week, ready for Assassin’s Creed 3.

“We realised there were flaws with our previous piracy protection measures.” Max BĂ©land, creative director of Splinter Cell: Conviction, explained.

He referred to the 256 character CD keys, install limits, frequent online activation and their most recent DRM attempt that formatted the entire hard drives of suspected pirates.

Although not explicitly mentioned, this new change was likely prompted by the waves of complaints and lawsuits over the loss of irreplaceable family photos, important work data and ‘that novel you’ve been working on for years’.

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I wouldn’t usually write about music. Tastes of that nature are far more subjective than with video games or movies. I can’t explain why a song with a repetitive chord structure and nonsensical lyrics like Lucky Man by The Verve is a favourite of mine.

But I wanted to make this recommendation to anyone who likes a good voice and some nice acoustic guitar. This might be your cup of tea – YouTube musician Mackenzie Johnston (or threexcaravans).

(Next week – back to games, I promise!)

Dashboard Confessional – ‘Where There’s Gold’ cover

Three more tunes below.

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…Are starting to get a little overused, no? Even Obsidian has tried copying them in Alpha Protocol.

This way of handling conversation trees was perfect for the cinematic style of the Mass Effect series. They still do a great job of making the player feel like the hero, but the game does give the protagonist a voice, fewer options and a level of canonical personality.

Compared to traditional dialogue selection, it disassociates the player character from the actual player, which can hurt the level of immersion. Rather than putting you in the shoes of a space badass, it puts you in the very specific shoes of this particular space badass.

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There was a point when the immersive strangeness of this game dawned on me.

When a fatally wounded, dying woman rose up from the ground. To suddenly prance around, casually describing the eroticism of a nearby sculpture as if giving a guided tour of the art gallery. She mumbles the words due to her tongue having been bitten off. While coughing up blood and red seeds.

I remembered that I didn’t find this particularly odd at the time. Didn’t bat an eye. Why? Because I was playing Deadly Premonition.

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[The following is an incomplete transcript from a Sega meeting in late 1999. The producer went on to work on several other projects.]

18:00 – The meeting begins

Good evening, gentlemen. I’m just a humble PR guy with a producer credit, and I’ve been asked to sit in on this mandatory game design meeting by the folks upstairs. We were happy with your success on Sonic Adventure last year and are interested in what you’re bringing to the table for the sequel:

I might contribute an idea or two, but for the most part, just pretend I’m not here!

…Sorry to interrupt you, I just want to start by saying we’ve looked through this first “level” you’ve designed. With our classic mascot Sonic The Hedgehog jumping out of a helicopter, zooming through a city fighting new robots, skidding down San Francisco inspired streets on a sort of impromptu metal snowboard and running away from a giant truck.

Yeah, that’s all fine. I get that you’re trying to make it faster and more action oriented than the first Sonic Adventure. But all that variance and fun is probably going to stretch the budget a little bit. We need to dial it back a bit.

I mean we certainly aren’t paying for you to program a working camera system!

18:31 – The hook

Look, this is all well and good but we need a hook for this game. To really make people buy the marketing and the game. Hold on! I’ve had an idea! The world is a dark and gritty place filled with children who buy dark and gritty revamps of crap! Let’s make Sonic dark and gritty!

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Contents:

  • How do you play PC games?
  • Gaming confession: Downloadable games and content
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Intentionally up this week! These were drafted a long time ago and have now been condensed into the third entry in the Topical Multitude trilogy for your reading pleasure.

How do you play PC games?

How I played PC games.

I started this a long time ago. Grim Fandango on PC operated on the movement keys, and with Half-Life and onwards it just became a thing for me. Eventually I was changing the set up for every PC shooter I played.

Playing Portal for the first time and going on to play ArmA 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, I forced myself to use the standard WASD controls. Maybe I’ll get used to them one day.

What’s your keyboard layout for gaming?

Gaming confession: Downloadable games and content

I missed all of these.

Time to lose some credibility – I don’t buy game content online. I don’t get paid downloadable games or content. I only buy physical media.

I can’t be bothered with the hassle of the transaction and I don’t have the gigabytes to spare on my console hard drives. I certainly don’t want to deal with Steam, never mind XBL or PSN.

Which means I missed out on games like Braid and Flower. I will probably miss out on Journey and most importantly – won’t get to fill that final character slot or clash with the Shadow Broker in Mass Effect 2 .

What’s your take on the downloadable game front? Have you traded money for digital copies of gaming goodness? Had any good or bad experiences?

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

This should be required playing for every gamer.

I replayed Uncharted 2 again recently. It was even greater than I remembered. This is despite my being one of the few people that didn’t like the first Uncharted at all.

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