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    • EuphioEich does the Ben Singer Sonic CD Challenge!

      4 years ago

      Connections

      Tune in here to watch: http://www.twitch.tv/euphioeich

      Sonic CD FTW!

    • Review - Diablo 3

      4 years ago

      Connections

      Unless you’re a person who considers gaming for all the other people on the planet then you’ve probably heard of the Diablo series from Blizzard Entertainment. Diablo was solely responsible for destroying thousands of computer mice with its heavy demand on repetitive mouse clicking. Despite this, Diablo rapidly became one of Blizzards strongest brands to date.

      Diablo 3 (D3) is, obviously, the third game in the series, four if you include the Lord of Destruction expansion for Diablo 2. The game continues 20 years after these events of you killing Baal and the Angel Tyreal destroying the corrupted world soul stone. A mysterious object has fallen from the skies near Old Tristram bringing with it destruction in the form of zombies and demons. The game follows your character, as well as the protagonist Leah as you battle the other prime evils Belial and Azmodan.

      For the most part D3 does a much better job at guiding the story than previous titles, giving purpose and meaning to each quest. In the past there were many quests and missions that simply felt like filler, put there to purely extend the duration of the single player mode. Thankfully Blizzard have taken the route of less is more providing a shorter experience, but with higher quality. The voice acting is flawless and deserves a big mention. The dialogue and its presentation helps create a genuine feel and brings life to each character and the environment that surrounds them. The only criticism here is that the pivotal moments lack tension and are somewhat predictable, specifically the ending which proved to be rather dull.

      Visually D3 is nothing special. That isn’t to say it looks outdated, but it’s quite clear that the focus wasn’t on bringing a state of the art graphical master piece to your computer screens, instead focussing on gameplay that was designed to be fun, balanced and addictive.

      You’ll have your choice of five different character classes, a Monk, Wizard, Demon Hunter, Barbarian and Witch Doctor. All of which have their own pros and cons. Veterans of the series will find that a lot has changed here. Gone are the number crunching stat builds and skill trees. In their place are abilities that are unlocked per level and each has an interchangeable rune which alter the ability allowing you to have a more personalised build.

      This was initially taken, at first, as Blizzard bending to the will of the casual gamers who don’t take the time to meticulously and intricately build their characters. However this was probably one of the better improvements to the game. To quote one of the developers, in previous titles many gamers would either spend hours building a character only to find out later that their stats were incorrect and would then have to go back to the very beginning and re-roll one from scratch. Or they would simply go on the internet and find the best build and simply follow someone else’s guide.

      The new method of character and skill progression allows, at any time, the player to completely reconfigure their abilities, all limited of course to the character class they’ve initially chosen.

      Unless you’re a rock dweller then you probably know that D3 requires a constant internet connection. Blizzard has stated, many times, that this is so players can both use their characters for both single player and multiplayer without both being separated from each other in previous titles.

      The constant connection is supposedly there to make sure that your character and the items they’re carrying aren’t a result of hacking the game. Of course this is also a convenient way of ensuring that everyone buys the game and aren’t using an illegal copy. It’s for this reason that many have stipulated that Blizzard is using this as a form of DRM, not too dissimilar to Ubisofts infamous online DRM.

      And here’s where the cracks begin to form. If your internet connection is dodgy or Blizzards servers unable to handle the high volume of traffic, then your gaming experience is going to be about as fun as going to church on a Friday night.

      During the course of this review there were countless times where lag was so terrible that D3 became literally unplayable. As much as we’d like to think that these errors will be smoothed out over the course of time we can only go off what we have now. And sadly, at times, it’s woeful. What’s worse for Australian gamers is that Blizzard have, yet again, given us the big middle finger and set their server maintenance windows to Tuesday, so you’ll be up the creek without a paddle if you intend on playing during this time frame.

      The biggest issue we have is the games reliance on decent items and its relationship with the auction house. In the more difficult modes (Hell / Inferno) you need to have decent items. You can get these in one of two ways. The first is farming the same quests time and time again until you randomly get an item drop that is superior to what you’re currently using, or you can spend a few minutes in the auction house, selectively picking out an item that suits your needs. This is a no brainer for most and many players will always recommend using the auction house and save you hours of monotonous gaming. Them we are reminded that as of couple of weeks ago the real money auction house went live and the final piece of the Blizzard money making machine falls into place.

      Players still have the option of using in game gold or their own money to do trades, but if you were selling a rare item would you rather sell it for $200 or 200 million fake gold pieces? For every trade Blizzard will take in a minimum of $1 and it grows in there depending on how much an item is sold for.

      Keep in mind that Blizzard has complete control over this economy. How often good items drop and they can directly monitor what items are selling for what cost. There is no doubt this is the primary focus for Blizzard and will provide them with a healthy income stream.

      If you can ignore this aspect you’re left with gameplay that is actually quite fun and very addictive. There’s enough diversity in the characters that you feel compelled to do a run through with other classes just for a new experience and having enemies explode when you kill them never grows old. Co-coping with friends is a mixed bag but ultimately comes down who your friends are and how you’re playing with one another. Allowing a drop in / drop out system makes it very convenient and is a welcomed addition.

      If you can handle its flaws, Diablo 3 will keep you hooked for many hours and still drag you back for more, it’s just a shame that the flaws themselves are so easily avoidable and stop this from being an exceptional addition to Diablo franchise.

      - 8/10
       

    • Review - Trials Evolution - XBOX Arcade

      4 years ago

      Connections

      Review can be read here:

      http://www.atomicmpc.com.au/Review/301239,trials-evolution---fiendishly-challenging-fun.aspx

      Sorry if this is considered spam (if so I'll remove) I'm not making a cent from doing this review or linking it here.

    • What's next for Nintendo?

      4 years ago

      Connections

      There probably isn’t a person on Earth who doesn't know who Nintendo are. And if these people exist they've clearly taken the term 'living under a rock' literally. Nintendo are known as the giants of the gaming industry. Established in Kyoto Japan 1889 their original business venture was producing playing cards. It wasn't until about 90 years later (and various other business ventures) that Nintendo moved into the industry that would make them known throughout the world, Video Games.

      Just about any video gamer will have happy childhood memories of playing NES / SNES games with their friends or on their own. During this time Nintendo built a strong foundation of memorable gaming icons which has proven to be extremely valuable and a key component to Nintendo’s success.

      Fast forward to today however and for the first time in what seems like forever, Nintendo are claiming huge losses. With a current system that has lost momentum since its initial release and a general lack of approval from gamers around the world in regards to their new Wii U unveiling, this journalist will take a general look at Nintendo's past / present and possible future to see where Nintendo are, where they're heading and where they seem to be going wrong.

       

       

       

      Past

      For all us 'westerners' the first iconic Nintendo device would probably be the NES which was released in 1985. For Japan this was the Famicon (Family Computer) and was released in 1983. Many of the games we look forward to today on current Nintendo systems debuted on this system. Mentions of Metroid / Super Mario / Donkey Kong will bring instant nostalgia to gamers around the world.

      Needless to say the NES was fantastic and was quite ahead of its time. In terms of technology, the NES was considered to be the superior console on the market surpassing the Master System / Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 to name a few other big name consoles around at the time. With an extremely vast library of games, many of which are even re-playable today, the NES easily solidified itself in history as an iconic gaming system.

      During this time Nintendo also updated its game and watch line of handhelds into a single unit with multiple carts called the Game Boy. A console that was popular enough to spawn its own TV Series (no we're not kidding). The Game Boy line evolved slightly throughout the years with a slimmer version (Game Boy Pocket) and then Game Boy Color[sic]. Some game close to out doing Nintendo, such as the Neo Geo Pocket, Sega Game Gear (this journalist’s personal favourite) and Atari Lynx. But none seemed to loosen Nintendo's stranglehold on this market.


      With technology increasing and other company’s trying to work their way into the market, Nintendo released their next juggernaut, the Super Nintendo (SNES) or Super Famicon for those in Japan. Moving from the 8bit era into the 16bit, Nintendo's ace in the technology hole was its use of Mode 7 which allowed for moving backgrounds. It was around the same time that brought forth the infamous Sega vs Nintendo war, with Sega's Mega Drive console offering near identical specs and its own line of good exclusive titles.

      Many would argue who came out on top here, in our eyes both were winners with Nintendo probably taking a split decision victory. Sega tried to go further by increasing their Mega Drive line with the Mega Drive 2 and add-on devices, the 32x and Mega-CD. Both were considered failures due to a lack of games and thus had little interest and a short life.

      Nintendo on the other hand just stuck with their base console and thanks to grade A titles like 'Donkey Kong Country' they extended the life of their console.

      Other companies tried to jump in the ring with their own consoles but fell apart very early on due to shoddy hardware, poor marketing or in most cases a lack of quality game titles. Victims of this include the CD-i, Jaguar and 3DO to name a few. All of these actually surpassed the SNES in terms of specifications but in the end people didn’t pay for a console without good games to play on. Oddly enough though many of these are highly sort after by collectors and can fetch a high price due to their limited numbers.


      What followed next showed that this was no longer a two sided war, with Nintendo and Sega both releasing their new addition to the console market (The Saturn and Nintendo 64). A new player was on the scene, Sony and its PSX (Playstation). And boy did Sony hit it out of the park! Nintendo and Sega were left gob smacked. Whilst Nintendo also had a lot of success with the N64 it didn’t compare to Sony’s success. Some may call it luck but thanks to an extremely high catalogue of games and its appeal to the adult gamers they out sold both Nintendo and Sega by a large margin and left Nintendo with the perception that their console and games were aimed at the ‘kiddie’ market.

      If there was a key moment where Nintendo started to fall it was clearly this moment here.

      Sony went from strength to strength with their next addition the Playstation 2 (PS2). Offering DVD playback which at the time was new technology and despite its initial high cost (AU$700+) the PS2 did extremely well. Many buyers justifying the purchase of a unit with the line "well we wanted to get a DVD player anyway".
      Nintendo fell even lower with their GameCube doing quite poorly in sales. The unit itself was fine with some great titles like Super Smash Bros Melee, Super Mario Sunshine. With what seemed like even less titles to choose from than the N64, Nintendo seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

      It was at this point that Sega burnt out, with a terrible marketing of their Dreamcast System. The unit itself got the drop on Sony and Nintendo by about a year, it had wonderful games and was a sturdy unit, but Sega’s inability to market it correctly meant it was doomed from the beginning. Sega then made the most obvious choice decided to purely be a game developing company and produce / distribute their IP to other consoles on the market.

      A late comer to the party of this generation of consoles spelt even more doom for Nintendo, Microsoft and the XBOX. Microsoft with their vast billions of dollars in petty cash produced the XBOX and spammed every news crew / channel and celebrity within reach. Despite its huge controllers and the unit itself weighing 9 metric tons the XBOX proved to be a contender in the console wars despite its shaky start.

      With Nintendo scratching their heads about what to do next, one thing was abundantly clear. They were the underdogs in the console industry and had a big fight on their hands.

       

       


      Present


      With the release of the XBOX 360 and PS3, Nintendo decided to gamble and try a different take. They released the Wii, a console that would separate them from the PS3 and 360 and put them in a league of their own.

      The Nintendo Wii boasted something that either the PS3 or 360 could offer, motion controls and a new immersive gaming experience that you couldn't get from a mere gamepad! Gamers around the world were extremely excited. Imaginations ran wild with fantasies of holding up the Wii Mote like a gun, moving it around like a sword and having that duplicated on screen and the immersion we would feel when we finally got to experience this.

      Needless to say, the console initially sold extremely outselling the PS3 and 360 with ease. Everyone wanted a piece of this action the marketing from Nintendo was perfect, I'm sure we all remember the videos of Red Steel and the gentleman darting around his lounge room blocking sword strikes, aiming his gun and taking out a horde of enemies. The potential was there for things like lightsaber battles and FPS aiming that would trump the Keyboard / Mouse combo, indeed this made many gamers excited!

      Alas it was not meant to be, it was as they say, too good to be true. The Wii didn't even come close to how it was advertised to be. With a slight lag in motion from hand to screen, the vast majority of games used simplistic motions to replace a button with a simple 'up / down' or 'waggle' movement. Immersion in the game that many fantasised about was left in the dark.

      Nintendo’s online setup wasn’t even close to what Microsoft and Sony were offering. Online play, the store overpriced and limited, to compare it to what else was on offer, other companies were simply doing a better job.
      As the months progressed it was clear many game developers felt the same way and decided to produce for the PS3 / 360. The consoles weren't as limited and the motion controls seemed like more like a dwindling gimmick. Because of this the 360 and PS3 got progressively stronger over time, all while Nintendo's Wii lost more and more momentum with poor titles like 'All Star Karate’ being released.

      The old outdated hardware (which many suggested was merely an over clocked GameCube) couldn't even come close to the visuals and raw power that were being provided by Sony and Microsoft.

      Things only got worse for the gaming giant, Apple released a phone. Not just any phone, but what is commonly known to many as smart phones. Suddenly portable gaming everywhere now had competition from an area they never expected. Gaming apps would sell for $1 - $2 and give the user many hours of enjoyment.
      Suddenly $60+ for a handheld game seemed like quite an excessive amount of money to pay with questions and correlations being made to games that took years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce would be selling for $80 brand new on day one.
      In conjunction with this people seemed to find that the spot in their pocket which was once reserved for a gaming device, is now taken up by their smart phone.

      Realising the deep shit Nintendo were in they made a few moves in the right direction. For a start then got other gaming developers to create games based off their IP. This is why we saw new big titles like: Goldeneye: Reloaded, Metroid: Other M and Donkey Kong Country Returns. All of which are very good games. In addition Nintendo release the Wii Motion Plus, which basically turned the Wii mote into the unit it was advertised to be years before.

      Sadly this all appeared to be too little and way too late, Goldeneye: Reloaded was re-released and re-done on the XBOX 360, with better visuals and better online play, and developers had already jumped ship and not bothered to work games around the new device.

      Long story short, other companies were just doing a better job than Nintendo were. Nintendo still had its popular IP but that's all it has. They have hardware specs that are vastly out of date, a poor gaming list to choose from, a dismal online system and clearly aren't listening to what gamers want from a gaming console. Nintendo seemed to be making the mistakes that so many companies have made previously, what's the point of a gaming system that doesn't have many games to play?

       

      Future?

      Last year at E3 Nintendo unveiled its Wii U. And what a poor reception this got. Apart from the terrible name many people thought it was just a Wii with a tablet device. Whilst this wasn't the case, Nintendo didn't have a whole lot to show for it, and like the Wii with its motion controls, it yet again seemed like a gimmick that probably won't catch up with gaming developers.

      With so much myth and conjecture surrounding this Nintendo seeming to go into recovery mode and tried to release assurances to gamers that the system would have high specs, a totally new console and many other features. There's talk about this in the lead up to this years E3 but it remains to be seen if Nintendo will even be able to compete with the current 360 and PS3. Largely because the world hasn't seen any proof of this, it's simply all talk.

      So what could happen? Well the Wii U could fail miserably and probably harder and more louder than the failure of Sega’s Dreamcast. There's a lot riding on this and if it were to turn out as a dud there could be a good chance Nintendo will take the Sega way out and simply be a game developer. As stated before, their IP is still to this day extremely popular and powerful. There's no doubt that they could release these games on better systems and be pushed to their full potential with stable / good online game play and up to date graphics. This wouldn't even be a bad thing. When you think about it, people have fond memories of the games themselves, not the consoles, the consoles are merely the bridge that delivers the experience too you. And if it's a crap bridge, the game might not get there.

      Another thought of course is that the Wii U will blow everyone away, with amazing specs, evolved online systems and a massive game library of tiple A titles. Plus Nintendo will have quite a big lead on Sony and Microsoft who aren't even releasing info on their next console this year.

      Sadly if Ninty’s trend is anything to go by, the Wii U could spell the end for Nintendo's stakes in the console hardware department. This journalist hopes that if that is indeed the case, then it doesn't mean the end of Nintendo as a whole.

       

      Fin
       

    • Second Look - Mirrors Edge

      4 years ago

      Connections

       

      If there was ever a game that fell short of the mark, it was Mirrors Edge. Before its release, trailers teased us with a beautiful sequence where the protagonist, Faith, would showcase a short sequence boasting immersive free running with eye capturing visuals.

      The demo was then released to the public and gave gamers even more to look forward too. It was short, sweet and a lot of fun. Yes Mirrors Edge initial impressions had everyone quite excited, sadly though no one could predict what would happen next, something terrible … they released the full version.

      The question on most peoples’ minds was how did they go wrong? The answer is relatively simple it’s that Mirrors Edge tried to be a game that it was never designed for. Boring level design that had more filler than a Michael Bay film, a story line that was both stale and unimaginative and a combat system that had us wondering why combat was ever part of the game in the first place.

      So why would the developers add all this crap if it didn’t fit the game? One assumption would be that the game started out at about 20% of what we’ve come to accept as its full version. With this working concept they went looking for some financial backing and the only way the people with money would agree to give the developers funds is if they agreed to include other cliché gameplay so that it would appeal to a wider audience. I imagine being confronted with this conundrum the creators were thinking:

      “No we can’t, we have a vision for this game and a goal, we can’t deviate from it, we must strive for what we see as perfection, we must … ONE MILLION DOLLARS!? SURE!”

      So the game was built, released and the rest, sadly, is history. But was it really that bad? Mirrors Edge had many legitimate critiques that any reviewer would go to town on, but in the mess of discussing these issues what good parts were either glossed over or overshadowed and not mentioned?

      Firstly not all the levels were terrible. In many areas the free running sections were executed well with clever design. Highlighting which areas could be strategically attacked worked very well in the first person view and would keep the free running flow to its maximum. This was apparent even more so in the time trial section.

      Another aspect was the sense of urgency and suspense that was triggered during various missions. Being out numbered, out gunned and chased over roof tops immersed the gamer well. Although there weren’t a lot of these moments, the potential was there and the moments that included this should count for something.

      Mirrors Edge wasn’t known for its memorable moments but there were a few here that seemed to really stick. This would’ve been after a length chase seen only to end it with an epic leap of faith (no pun intended). Sadly there weren’t anywhere near enough of these as the developers opted for more clunky combat sections that weren’t exciting or executed well.

      So now Mirrors Edge 2 has been announced and I’m sure many gamers were left scratching their heads with the first one being one huge epic fail. Sadly the original was plagued with the issues highlighted above, adding to these it had the problem of being a victim of its own hype, so naturally anything it did do right was easily overshadowed by the things it did wrong.

      Mirrors Edge 2 has a lot of potential to be a great game although it won’t be an easy road it’s at least foreseeable. If you’ve held off playing this game then perhaps the next time you’re in a game store and you see this in a bargain bin, its current price tag could easily be worth the experience you get from it.

      Fin.

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