Tag: Rebecca Veverka

Playing Catch Up – GTA with a B, AC:L in HD, and Steam in the Living Room

Welcome once again to Playing Catch Up, a look back at this week in gaming!

GTA 5 Artwork, featuring scenes and characters from the game.

So I don’t know if you heard, but a little indie game came out this week and is just selling like gangbusters. It’s called Gita Vee, and-… oh, those are initials and a Roman numeral. I’m sorry, it’s actually called Grand Theft Auto 5, and the latest installment in the Rockstar franchise has sold 1 BILLION units in three days.

Billion. With a B. First day sales are estimated to be $800 million. There are major movie releases that don’t make $800 million on opening day. There is no question that video games are a huge part of modern media.

The game has had its share of controversy, but overall the reviews have been glowing.

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While Rockstar takes flack for the lack of a female protagonist, Ubisoft announced last week that Aveline, the lady assassin from Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, will be making the leap from PS Vita to  Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in 2014. According to the trailer description, the game won’t be a simple port:

With all new missions, upgraded levels & environments, refined gameplay, and a true HD experience, play a pivotal role in the turbulent birth of a new nation as you fight for freedom, not only for yourself, but for your fellow citizens in Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD!

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steam-logoa2So Steam has been pretty cool lately. Last week they announced the ability to share your games with friends and family.

Share your computer? Now share your games too. Steam Family Sharing allows close friends and family members to play one another’s games while earning their own Steam achievements and saving their own game progress to the Steam cloud. It’s all enabled by authorizing a shared computer.

This week the service teased at moving your games library into your living room.

Last year, we shipped a software feature called Big Picture, a user-interface tailored for televisions and gamepads. This year we’ve been working on even more ways to connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room. Soon, we’ll be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam.

What does it mean? Will the long rumored Steam Box finally be a reality?! As usuall, Steam is being very coy, releasing small nuggets of information over the next few days. Keep your eyes on the Steam Universe page for the latest clues.

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An image of Cordana from HaloSo Apple has Siri, a virtual personal assistant on iOS products. In the latest Microsoft ads for the company’s new tablet, Siri has been shocked and dismayed at the variety of features the Windows 8 tablet PC has that the Apple iPad does not.

But will Microsoft have their own version of Siri? Why not Halo’s Cortana?

In June, leaked photos of the upcoming Windows phone included a program called “zCortana,” and according to ZDnet:

Cortana will be more than just an app that lets users interact with their phones more naturally using voice commands. Cortana is core to the makeover of the entire “shell” — the core services and experience — of the future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox One operating systems, from what I’ve heard from my contacts.

ZDnet also points to a quote from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as another hint about Cortana:

“Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.”

The Windows Phone is expected to be released Q1 2014.

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Sad news this week: Hiroshi Yamauchi, former president of Nintendo, passed away September 19 at the age of 85.

Yamauchi ran the company from 1949 to 2002, and is credited with turning Nintendo from a playing card company into the video game juggernaut it is today. From his obituary:

Mr Yamauchi took over at Nintendo after his grandfather suffered a stroke. After several years developing the firm’s existing trading card business, Mr Yamauchi turned to electronic entertainment.

Under Mr Yamauchi’s stewardship, Super Mario entered millions of homes

He utilised the work of legendary games designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who had made Donkey Kong, as a way of breaking into the US arcade game market.

Mr Miyamoto’s later work was pivotal in the success of Nintendo’s home entertainment systems – titles such as Super Mario, Legend of Zelda and Starfox became commercial smashes and household names.

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And finally this week, here’s some GTA V fan art by Patrick Brown.

GTAV's 3 protagonists... and Nico.

Playing Catch Up: Gamescon News from Sony, Microsoft, Blizzard, and More!

Photo of the Playstation 4

Welcome to Playing Catch Up, a look back at gaming news, tidbits, and general cool stuff that happened this past week. Let’s go!

This week was Gamescon, and a number of gaming companies took the opportunity to drop some big news.

Sony’s big announcement was the release date for the Playstation 4: November 15, 2013 in the US, and November 29 in Europe.

Sony also went on to brag during the livestream that they’ve already received more than one million pre-orders for the new $399 console. The streaming service Twitch will also be available, as well as discounts for digital upgrades of past-gen games.

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In lieu of a release date, Microsoft revealed 23 launch titles for the new $499 Xbox One.

  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)
  • Battlefield 4 (Electronic Arts)
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts (Activision)
  • Crimson Dragon (Microsoft Studios)
  • Dead Rising 3 (Capcom)
  • FIFA 14 (Electronic Arts)
  • Fighter Within (Ubisoft)
  • Forza Motorsport 5 (Microsoft Studios)
  • Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft)
  • Killer Instinct (Microsoft Studios)
  • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (Warner Bros. Interactive)
  • Lococycle (Microsoft Studios)
  • Madden NFL 25 (Electronic Arts)
  • NBA 2K14 (2K Sports)
  • NBA LIVE 14 (Electronic Arts)
  • Need for Speed: Rivals (Electronic Arts)
  • Peggle 2 (Electronic Arts)
  • Powerstar Golf (Microsoft Studios)
  • Ryse: Son of Rome (Microsoft Studios)
  • Skylanders: Swap Force (Activision)
  • Watch Dogs (Ubisoft)
  • Zoo Tycoon (Microsoft Studios)
  • Zumba Fitness: World Party (Majesco)

Photo of the Xbox One

Microsoft has been experiencing some trouble with the new console launch. In June, the company reconsidered and eventually dropped several features that were considered by many to be an invasion of privacy at worse, and at best, an out-of-touch inconvenience. It should also be noted that the Kinect is no longer a required element for the Xbox One to function. We suspect that in order to compete with the PS4, Microsoft will soon announce a release date on or before November 15.

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ea-origin-logo

Speaking of competing, the online games retail battle between Steam and Origin now has one more point in Origin’s favor: EA’s service will now allow for a 24 hour return policy

The new Origin Great Game Guarantee works like this: You may return EA full game downloads (PC or Mac) purchased on Origin for a full refund–within 24 hours after you first launch the game, within seven days from when you purchased it, or within the first seven days after the game’s release date if you pre-ordered it (whichever of these conditions happens first).

You’ll note the Great Game Guarantee is currently only available on EA game downloads, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Will the ability to sell used digital content to other gamers be very far behind? Yeeeeah, that’s probably never going to happen… but we PC gamers can dream, can’t we?

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Also at Gamecon, Blizzard took the stage to reveal a new expansion for Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.

Reaper of Souls will add more story content, along with a new character Crusader class to help you battle the fallen angel Malthael. The official announcement on Battle.net adds:

Advance through additional levels of supremacy, mastering bold new powers of raw, demon-slaying potential along the way. Customize your strengths with an improved Paragon system. Battle your way through newly randomized 3D maps and epic new quests in Act V. And test your mettle in all-new game modes—including Loot Runs and Nephalem Trials—designed to provide players with a highly replayable (and highly rewarding) end-game experience.

The expansion is due out some time next year. Click here for the official site with more videos, details, and art.

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In indie gaming news, Minecraft creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson revealed this week that he has decided to abandon his sci-fi gaming project 0x10c. 0x10c once promised to be a hard sci-fi game with an open sandbox setting that would have an advanced economy system, engineering, space battles, mining and trading, laser guns, and an open universe for both single-player and multi-player combat. Sadly, the scope and scale of the project overwhelmed Notch, and he has decided to focus on smaller projects. But all is not lost. According to Notch:

Some people in the 0x10c community decided to work together to make their own version of their game, called Project Trillek. I find this absolutely amazing. I want to play this game so much, but I am not the right person to make it. Not any more. I’m convinced a new team with less public interest can make a vastly superior game than what I would make.

Click here to stay updated on Project Trillek, or volunteer to get involved yourself!

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And finally this week, enjoy some adorable Team Fortress 2 art from SIIINS. Click here for Siins’ Tumblr. A cartoony version of TF2's scout, holding milk and a fish weapon. Have a great weekend, gamers!

Playing Catch Up: A Big Bad Spy Party with Lady Soldiers and Lolitas

playcatchupWelcome to Playing Catch Up, the look back at gaming news, tidbits, and general cool stuff that happened this week. Let’s go!

Telltale’s next big project was announced not too long ago, but this week the first trailer was revealed. The Wolf Among Us is based on another popular comic book, Vertigo’s Fables by  Bill Willingham.

The Wolf Among Us puts players in the furry role of Bigby, better known as the Big Bad Wolf. He is a fairy tale character who has been trapped in the real world, along with other famous characters like Snow White, Prince Charming, and the Three Little Pigs. Think Once Upon a Time with more adult themes and less amnesia.

The game takes place before the events of the first comic, and promises to be far less linear and more action packed than 2012′s The Walking Dead. In this interview with Game Informer:

To further drive replayability, The Wolf Among Us gives you the choice of when you go to certain locations in the story, which allows players the chance to see the story unfold in completely different ways. Two events will happen at the same time, and the timeline of the other event continues no matter what you choose to experience. Once you show up to the event you put off, it’s happening under a different set of circumstances. “To experience [the story] from a lot of different perspectives [and] to see what’s happening everywhere, all the time, you’re going to have to play the game multiple times, which is something we didn’t do in The Walking Dead,” [Telltale's President and CTO Kevin] Bruner says.

Look for Episode One of The Wolf Among Us later this summer on all platforms… except the Wii U.

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A collection of characters from the game: a chubby mustached man with light skin, a light skinned pretty woman with a brunette beehive, a tall handsome gentleman with fair skin and pencil mustache, an older pale-skinned woman with silver hair, and a middle-aged dark-skinned man with a cane.

The indie game SpyParty has generated some quiet buzz for a long time now. The game describes itself as “an asymmetric multiplayer espionage game, dealing with the subtlety of human behavior, character, personality, and social mores, instead of the usual spy game explosions and car chases.” Basically, one person is the Spy and another person is the Sniper. The Spy’s job is to blend in at a party and complete objectives. The Sniper must kill the Spy from outside the party. Basically, it’s a reverse Turing Test, as the Spy tries his best to appear like the rest of the AI in the game.

Production on the game has been painfully slow, but hey. It’s an incredibly small team of 2 talented people working on an entirely new concept.

But I’ll tell you what… the latest images to come out of this tiny, unique project are pretty cool. Check out the new in-game graphics and animations that were revealed this week! The newest animations are also shown side by side with previous versions.

There is no release date for SpyParty. It’ll be done when it’s done. No word on the Wii U, but probably not.

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Hey. Hey guys, did you know that women are in the military now? On the front lines and everything! Of course, looking at popular video games that depict modern warfare, you’d never know it.

Thankfully, Call of Duty: Ghosts has officially announced the ability to play as a female soldier in multiplayer! Sexism is over!

A light-skinned female soldier holding a machine gun.The female avatar will have exactly the same hit areas on their bodies as the male avatars, so there is no advantage to picking the gender that in real life might be smaller and leaner on the battlefield.

Now before you say, “Seriously, game devs, was that so hard?”, there was a reason. In an interview with Kotaku, CoD: Ghosts executive producer Mark Rubin said:

A lot of it was the engine. Our previous engine would not handle that. The way memory worked in the previous engine, it never would have been able to do [custom looks.] When we got a chance to re-tool the engine completely, that gave us the opportunity to make the change that we could have character customization. That then gave us the opportunity to do female characters.

Call of Duty: Ghosts will be available on all major platforms (including the Wii U!!) on November 5, 2013.

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Y’know what I hate? Video game trailers that don’t show a spit of video game footage. Here’s another for the upcoming Witcher 3: Wild Hunt!

The latest trailer is a mix of cool and cliché, and it comes with the news that Game of Throne‘s star Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) will voice the Emperor of Nilfgaard in CD Projekt RED’s next installment in the Witcher franchise. His character will probably make me feel like a worthless pile of dung and I will love every minute of it.

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Come out from under that rock so I can tell you all about the newest Humble Origin Bundle! Yep, right now you can pay what you want for 6 EA titles: Dead Space, Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box, Crysis 2 Maximum Edition, Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space 3, and Medal of Honor. Pay more than the average to unlock Battlefield 3 and The Sims 3 + Starter Pack. The games are unlockable on EA’s Origin system or Steam.

Now here’s what is especially notable: Most Humble Bundles allow the buyer to choose how much goes to the developers, how much goes to charity, and how much goes to Humble Bundle themselves. EA is not taking a cut. At all. EA is donating all their profits from the Humble Origin Bundle sale to 5 different charities.

Pretty awesome, and maybe worth putting up with the Origin DRM system.

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Finally this week, we here at Playing Catch Up like to feature some talented nerd’s hard work, be it cosplay, fanart, what have you. Today we bring you cosplay AND fan art of the cosplay. Behold!

A dark skinned woman with short black hair, wearing a frilly black Lolita dress with N7 markings and a pistol.

RogueMumei put together this adorable and impressive Lolita Shepard Mass Effect ensemble for Otakon. This, in turn, inspired Tumblr artist Missus-Ruin to render her in adorable chibi form.

Drawing of a dark skinned woman in a frilly black Lolita N7 dress, holding a pistol.

Have a great weekend, all!

Playing Catch Up: DC Dame DLC, Wii U Fail, & Games with Colons!

playcatchupWelcome to Playing Catch Up, the look back at gaming news, tidbits, and general cool stuff that happened this week. Let’s go!

So last week we bemoaned the lack of Batgirl in the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins game. However, another favorite DC lady is joining another game entirely! Thanks for the bone, we’ll take it!

We are pleased to inform you that Raven will no longer be the only token magic chick in Injustice: Gods Among Us (Thank Grodd).

Yes, Zatanna has been confirmed to join Injustice: Gods Among Us as a DLC character. The magical heroine is available for 400 MS Points on the Xbox and $5 on the PlayStation 3. Siht si annog eb teews.

And once again, the extra awesome content doesn’t appear to be available for the Wii U.

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Photo of the Wii U

Nobody likes U.

Speaking of the Wii U, Nintendo has posted a quarterly profit of ¥8.62 billion (approximately $88.2 million/£58 million) from April to June. This is… reeeeally low for a company like Nintendo. The company has been selling the Wii U at a loss. For that three month period, only 160,000 Wii U units were sold internationally. It should also be noted that almost nine times as many Nintendo 3DS units were sold in those same three months: 1.4 million worldwide. Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the most popular game for the 3DS currently, has sold 1.54 million copies during the quarter.

Look, Nintendo. The Wii U’s inability to play nice with cross-platform developers is hurting you. Your system isn’t providing nearly as much content for the same exact games, and even Bethesda said recently that the Wii U is “not on our radar” due to hardware limitations.

Nintendo hopes the upcoming HD re-release of Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker will stimulate profits. We think Nintendo needs to ditch the gimmicks, stop relying on nostalgia, and take some risks with some new IP’s. What do you think Nintendo needs to do to get those Wii U’s selling?

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Gentle readers, this reporter knows not to buy into the hype. She knows to keep her expectations in check. But OMIGAWD, YOU GUYS, DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION.

Cover of Game Informer depicting Cassandra and Varric standing before a dragon.

Aw yiss.

You’d think it was enough for the September issue of Game Informer to give us a glimpse of Cassandra, a dragon, and Varric, a.k.a. the greatest dwarf ever to walk the lands of Thedas. But wait there’s more! The magazine also dropped huge steaming loads of knowledge about the upcoming BioWare sequel. Here’s the skinny:

  • Multiple Races Return! Hated the limitation of playing a human with one backstory in Dragon Age 2? Great news! Dragon Age: Inquisition allows you to play as a human, an elf, or a dwarf for your fully voiced protagonist.
  • Mounts! Footage of alpha gameplay reveals that you will be able to ride a horse for the very first time.
  • Almost Open World! Okay, so we’re not talking Skyrim here, but BioWare promises that there will be huge areas to explore.
  • Tactical Action Combat! Some players loved the tactical combat of Origins, while others embraced the action-based combat of Dragon Age 2. Dragon Age: Inquisition promises a balance of the two. Fast, exciting combat with strong strategic elements.
  • The Inquisition is Yours! The third game promises a large focus on choices. The Inquisition that you lead is not part of the Chantry, the government, or any existing faction. It’s entirely yours to build and shape as you like, choosing the allies you want to have at your side, and attacking the fortresses of those who would cross you.

Watch for Dragon Age: Inquisition in Fall of 2014.

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Civilization Online is a real thing, it’s actually happening, aaaand you’re probably not going to be able to play it. But here’s the trailer.

Earlier this week, XL CEO Jake Song was interviewed by Joystiq about Civilization Online.

 A unique take on MMOs, this expansive seamless game world is comprised of a number of different civilizations — starting with four at launch, adding more as needed — and players will create a custom avatar to help to advance their chosen one in order through the following six eras: Ancient, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Industrial, and Modern. Each world is considered a session, and play in that session continues until the victory conditions are met and one civilization wins. Victory conditions include either one civilization conquering most of the world, or one reaching the pinnacle of the Modern age and creating space travel.

Sounds cool, right? Yeah, about that. Unless you’re reading this from South Korea, you’re not going to get a chance to play. There are no plans to release the game in North America, and it’s safe to assume there will be no release in Europe, either. Sorry to get you all excited for nothing.

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And finally this week, let’s plug my new favorite Kickstarter: Men vs Cosplay: 2014 Gaming Calendar Project.

Cap Santiago, a cosplayer, dressed as Dovakhiin from Skyrim

Cap Santiago – Mr. January

We’re celebrating the talented male costumers of the cosplay community with a video game-themed calendar for 2014!

Our group, Men vs Cosplay, is launching it’s first calendar and highlighting some of the very best the male costuming community has to offer in gaming!

Our team reached out to gamers, convention goers and cosplayers, and we’re putting together a roster that brings our favorite characters to life – plucked from the realms ofSkyrimMetal Gear Solid, Dragon AgeAssassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, Warhammer 40k, Fallout, and more!

Have a great weekend of gaming everyone!

Playing Catch Up: Batgirl-less Multiplayer, Star Wars: Battlefront, and more!

playcatchupWelcome to Playing Catch Up, the look back at gaming news, tidbits, and general cool stuff that happened this week. Let’s go!

It was announced this week that the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins will include a multiplayer mode. Sort of. Not available on the Wii U.

The multiplayer mode will pit Batman and Robin against two teams of three henchmen, led by Joker and Bane.

These aren’t just any ordinary henchmen, though – Joker and Bane have enlisted their Gang Elite to take down the Dynamic Duo, outfitting them with special gadgets like Enhanced Vision, which works like Batman’s Detective Vision to see other players through walls and objects but with limited battery power, and deadly themed weapons like the Joker gang’s “Surprise, You’re Dead!” proximity mine gift box or the Bane crew’s ultrasonic pulse that can zap enemies even through walls.

Batgirl stands before Arkham Asylum on a dark, rainy night.

Batgirl by Arch-Vile81

This reporter can’t help but notice the absence of Batgirl, especially when the gameplay mechanics are 2 versus 3 versus 3. Why not 3 vs. 3 vs. 3 and include everyone’s favorite redhead in a batsuit? Splash Damage creative director Alastair Cornish told Kotaku:

“I know guys on the team are very keen to have female representation in games generally, and that goes for me as well, but I think this is about what resonates most with fans. You work out what resonates best.” PR then weighed in to say that they also just wanted to put Batman and Robin together. “Batman and Robin are the classic duo, and also Robin, I guess, more readily comes to mind when you think of Arkham. So that’s really the reason why,” Cornish said. “They are the dynamic duo, they hunt together. If you were to ask a typical fan on the street, not necessarily ‘who would you rather play as’ but ‘what do you think of when you think of Batman?’ Robin would generally come mind sooner than Batgirl.”

Siiiiigh…

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Star Wars: Battlefront‘s release date has been announced! After a tease at E3, EA Games and DICE have been mum on details. Eurogamer says to look for the new, rebooted game in Summer 2015, about the same time the first J.J. Abrams’ film in the new Star Wars series is due in theaters.

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Some of the biggest news to break this week was the announcement of two DLC’s for BioShock Infinite. The first, Clash in the Clouds, is a combat based battle arena. The second, however, places Booker and Elizabeth in Rapture, the underwater setting of the first game. Fittingly called Burial at Sea, this story-based DLC takes place shortly before Rapture’s downfall, and will allow players to play in the shoes of both Booker AND Elizabeth. Check out the trailer below:

PS: Commentors, be sure to label any spoilers you leave in the comment section below!

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A Tomb Raider sequel has been confirmed by Square Enix! The Lara Croft reboot that came out earlier this year already has a sequel “well into development” for next-gen systems. The sequel was hinted at a few weeks ago when it was revealed that Gail Simone is working with publisher Dark Horse on an official Tomb Raider comic to take place immediately after the first game and lead into the second.

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And finally, we wrap up with some rockin’ Last of Us fan art by Mike Dimayuga. Click for full size and check out his other art. Have a great weekend everybody!

Ellie and Joel from Last of Us jam on a guitar and keytar, respectively.

 

A Summation of the EA Presentation at E3

Everyone has been talking about the big battle between Microsoft and Sony, the XBox One versus the Playstation 4. While the world seems to be in agreement that the PS4 is the winner ($100 cheaper, no online connection required, the PS4 won’t watch you while you sleep, etc.), there was another presentation at E3, via the worst company in America, EA Games.

Let’s see what EA brought to the party, shall we?

EA began with the strange but fun reveal of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare.

That’s right, PopCap’s classic tower defense game is now a third person shooter, allowing gamers to take on the role of a Cactus, Peashooter, Chomper, or Sunflower as players team up to kill an invading zombie hoard.

Also announced by PopCap? PEGGLE 2!!

Man jumping in the air in joy for Peggle 2.

MUST EMOTE EXCITEMENT!

Viewers were then teased with the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront from Dice…

… aaaand then we were immediately hit with a Need for Speed movie commercial- eeer I mean game preview. THEN came the movie ad. Yes. Right in the middle of E3. Anyhow, in the upcoming Need for Speed Rivals, we get to drive around in a car. Wheeee. Okay, racing games are not the cream in my coffee, but the open world concept of NFS looks pretty cool, and those weather effects were pretty impressive.

Anyhow, bla bla bla cars- OMIGOD DRAGON AGE INQUISITION.

OMIGOD MORRIGAN. VARRIC, HELL YES. HOLY HELL THE VEIL TORE OPEN, YOU GUYS. OMIGOD- wait. Fall 2014?! Okay. Okay, for all the haters who accused Dragon Age 2 of being rushed, it looks like the upcoming Dragon Age Inquisition (Note that they are not calling it Dragon Age 3) is going to take its sweet time crafting what I hope will be an amazing game. The models, for instance, look a little uncanny valley, and the animation could use some tweaking, but the Frostbite engine is doing beautiful things to the textures and lighting.

Once I finished hyperventilating, it was EA Sportsball time.

Screenshot of a soccer player from EA's FIFA

A #10 Sportsball Man

I tried to be interested in the slam poetry and all the corpse-faced athletes running around on my screen, but to be honest, I went and watched the Dragon Age trailer about ten more times.

Luckily, the EA conference wrapped up with one more surprise announcement… a sequel many fans have been begging for and the first female protagonist of E3. Ladies and gentlemen, Faith is back for Mirror’s Edge 2.

Of course, there was no release date announced for the parkour game, and just like Star Wars and Dragon Age, it was another little tease to get us excited while the presentation was padded out with racing games and sports games.

As far as 2013, there isn’t much that EA revealed that got me excited. 2014 and beyond, however? I can’t wait.

The Future of Star Wars Gaming Shows Promise

Star Wars Lense Flares

When Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise, nerds everywhere became giddy at the idea of a new series of films in the hands of the same company that revived the superhero genre with titles like Iron Man and the Avengers.

Video game fans, however, were a bit more cautious. Disney Interactive’s video games catalog is spotty at best. What would the future hold for Star Wars video games? Nerdy fears were apparently realized when Disney shut down Lucasarts and abandoned all future titles the studio was working on. That studio was our last hope!

No. There is another.

Electronic Arts announced today that they have entered a multi-year, multi-title exclusive licensing agreement with  Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney Interactive. According to the press release:

Industry leaders and creators of best-in-class blockbuster games, the development and publishing teams at EA will collaborate with the creative teams at Lucasfilm to provide audiences with all-new gaming experiences set in the ever-expanding Star Wars galaxy. As part of the agreement, EA studio teams DICE (Battlefield series) and Visceral (Dead Space series) will join BioWare (Mass Effect series, Star Wars: The Old Republic) in the development of new Star Wars games.

“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”

Personally, I’ve never had a beef with EA. The MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic was underwhelming, but I’m going to blame the stale MMORPG genre for that. If EA allows their teams to focus on their individual strengths in single-player or multi-player games, this can only mean good things.

Imagine: DICE releasing a multi-player FPS that allows you to play as an Alliance grunt or Storm Trooper in a tough ground fight. Visceral puts you in the midst of the Sith, allowing you to see just how terrible the Dark Side can be. BioWare could bring us back to the classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and allow you to go even farther embracing either the Dark Side or the path of the Jedi.

The press release went on to state that Disney Interactive will focus on delivering new Star Wars games for casual audiences on mobile, social, tablet, and online gaming platforms.

 

Pizza Hut Announces New Xbox App

A screenshot of the Xbox Pizza Hut app

As a gamer, I will admit to falling into a few stereotypes. I can be awkward in social situations, I avoid the sun at all costs, and an ideal Friday night includes a flickering screen, a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew, and a hot pizza delivered to my doorstep.

Fortunately for Xbox gamers, that hot pizza is even easier to get, with zero human interaction required! That’s right, Pizza Hut has announced a pizza app for the Xbox. Using the controller, voice commands, or even gesturing wildly at the Kinect, gamers are able to customize a pizza and have it delivered from a local Pizza Hut.

Ordering a pizza over the internet is nothing new, but this new app streamlines the process for Xbox users. We can all agree it’s far more convenient than plodding over to the computer and loading PizzaHut.com, or pulling out a smartphone to make use of the Pizza Hut ordering app (or, heaven forbid, calling the local pizza parlor and speaking to a person).

Of course, there will also be integration to a gamer’s Facebook, allowing him or her to announce to all their friends that the pizza is on the way.

The Pizza Hut for Xbox app is also the first of its kind that allows physical goods to be purchased via a gaming console. I’m trying to think of another physical product that would be a good fit for the gamer crowd, but I’m coming up empty. What do you think?

Pizza Hut for Xbox is available for Xbox Live users today. If you order through the Pizza Hut app before May 6, you’ll enjoy 15% off your first purchase. Don’t forget the Mountain Dew.

Telltale Drops Details on Upcoming Fables Game

wolf

After the smash success that was 2012′s The Walking Dead, Telltale’s next gaming venture has a lot to live up to. Fortunately for the fans, Telltale Games has been planning a video game based around the Fables comic series since 2011. But now we have a title: The Wolf Among Us.

The Vertigo comic series has won fourteen Eisner Awards, and follows the lives of fairy tale characters stranded in the “real world.” The game will focus on the character of Bigby Wolf, better known as the Big Bad Wolf. In the Fables universe, he works as a detective, and the game will follow him as he attempts to keep fairy tale characters such as the Three Little Pigs in hiding.

According to Telltale CEO Dan Connors:

Developing The Wolf Among Us based on the Fables universe has allowed our studio to build upon all of the hallmarks of what makes our episodic series so engaging for players. Through an evolution of our approach to choice and consequence, we can further explore the complexity of each and every iconic character in a universe rich with untold history from the darkest sides of the storybooks.

Judging by the art released, it appears that The Wolf Among Us will follow in the same cell-shaded and inked comic look of The Walking Dead. The dark themes in the previous game are certain to make a return as well, if the source graphic novel is any indication.

Look for The Wolf Among Us on all platforms in Fall of 2013.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review

Mass Effect 3: Citadel LogoYou know how when your boyfriend screws up,  he goes out of his way to make it up to you? He gets you chocolate, flowers, a romantic dinner for two, jewelry, a basket of kittens, a handful of winning lottery tickets, and your own personal jet-pack? Then you say, “Honey, it’s okay, you just forgot to pick up my parents at the airport, I’m not even mad anymore,” and he says, “No. I love you, and I want to do this for you.” Boyfriends do that, right? Anyhow, getting back to the point…

The Citadel DLC is like that. It’s pure, unapologetic fan-service, and I loved every minute.

Light spoilers ahead!

The very last single player DLC to be released for the Mass Effect Trilogy, Citadel is divided into two parts: story and exploration. In the story section, Commander Shepard is enjoying a new apartment and some shore leave when, of course, trouble comes to call. Shepard is attacked by new henchmen calling themselves CAT6, led by a mysterious figure intent on ruining Shepard’s life.

The storyline begins with some solo combat, then some fun infiltration in casino, followed by more combat with your whole squad in tow.

The combat is a delight. Your new weapons are terrific, from the high powered pistol to the throwback M7 Lancer. Miss the fun times in ME1 when your guns overheated and needed a cooldown time rather than a new thermal clip? You will love the Lancer. I am never putting that gun down.

The new enemies are standard fare with a few twists. I recommend taking some engineers with you to take down the shields and armors. The CAT6 Heavies are especially tough to take down. The final boss is a rough battle. I beat it on Normal without dying, so I can only imagine what the fight is like on Insanity.

Of course, the best parts of the story section are your companions. They are who the DLC is really all about, and I would recommend cranking down the sound effects and music and turning up the dialogue volume so you don’t miss a line. The dialogue is hilarious, incredibly well written, and even in this area of the DLC, everyone gets a moment or two to shine, including Joker, Steve Cortez, Samantha Traynor, Liara’s VI Glyph, and WREX.

Liara, Shepard, Kaidan, Wrex, Miranda, and Garrus looking badass in front of the Normandy.

Shepard. I should go.

To sum up, the story side is a lot of fun to play, and worth replaying with different companions at your side, just to hear what they have to say.

But the plot isn’t why you should buy this DLC. The party is why you should buy this DLC.

After saving the day, you’ll get a chance to explore the Silversun Strip, play in the casino, arcade, and battle arena, hang out with your companions one-on-one, enjoy some alone time with your love interest, and throw a party to end all parties with every single surviving squadmate. I was laughing so hard at some lines I had tears in my eyes.

I played the DLC for almost six hours last night, and there is STILL content I haven’t gotten to, so I have no complaints about the $15 price tag.

Citadel is a light-hearted romp. Some might complain that it doesn’t fit into the rest of the dark, serious story, but that’s okay. Citadel was touted as a “love letter to the fans,” and it delivers that love in spades. Loaded with Easter eggs, references to other areas of nerd culture (your apartment is in a building called Tiberius Towers, for one), as well as poking fun at itself, Citadel is hands down the best DLC BioWare has ever produced. Better than Lair of the Shadow Broker.

If you’re a fan of the series and you want one last chance to spend some time with all the characters you have come to love over the past five years, get this DLC right now. You will not be able to stop grinning, even through the tears at the sad but sweet conclusion.

Gamer’s Word: Episode 11

Sean returns and is instantly distract by robo-dogs in this episode of the Gamer’s Word! How did our predictions of the PS4 match up with reality? What’s Matt up to at CinciCon? Do we really want to spend all of Assassin’s Creed 4 on a pirate ship? Will Destiny live up to the hype? Is [...]

Video Game Mystery Dates!

Because we are such a loving community of video game bloggers, we here at Word of the Nerd Video Game Division decided to set one another up with blind dates with various video game characters.

Things did not go well.

Ed. Note: Natasha was unable to complete her date with Kratos of God of War, as he slaughtered everyone in the Chili’s parking lot and was last seen fleeing from the police.


Rebecca‘s Date with Tychus Findlay of Starcraft

TychusFindlayI arranged to meet Tychus Findlay at a swanky bar. I’ve never played the Starcraft series of games, so only Natasha knew what I was in for.

He arrived late and smelled like he’d bathed in whiskey and Axe body spray, then rolled around in cigar butts for good measure. He was a good two feet taller than me and at least three times as wide, all muscle behind massive Marine armor. I’ve done worse. I waved him over with a grin, and assumed that it wasn’t disappointment I saw in his gaze. My first mistake of the evening.

“You’re Becky?” he grunted.

“Yes! And you must be Tychus!” I extended my hand, which he took as an invitation to stare down my shirt.  I forged ahead with polite conversation, “I have to confess, I never played Starcraft-“

His steely gaze snapped back up to my face and his eyes narrowed. “You never played my game?”

“Well, no, but-“

“What kinda games you play? Happy Lady Princess Ponies?”

I blinked at him, “No. No, I’m actually a big fan of Mass Effect, so-“

“Ain’t that the game that lets you screw aliens?” His face hardened even more, lips turned up in a sneer.

“You… certainly have the option to develop a romance with an alien, yeah, but-“

“Did YOU screw an alien?”

I sucked my lips into my mouth and stared up at him wide eyed. “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question.”

Findlay snorted and waved to the bartender. “Your tits are smaller than I thought they’d be. You’re payin’ for this, right?”

I sat back down again slowly. “I… thought we’d go dutch.”

“Is that what you thought? That’s cute.” The bartender poured Findlay five fingers of whiskey, and he downed them in quick succession. I, meanwhile, planned my escape. Of course, I still attempted conversation. I asked him what kind of music or art he enjoyed, and his answer was that he liked using skulls and his boot to make “Horshack” ink blots out of brain matter.

Finally, he stood up and shifted from foot to foot, “I’m gonna hit the head. You stay put, sweetheart.”

I gave him a mock salute as he wove his way through the bar and out of sight. Okay. I was sticking this asshole with the bill, that was for damn sure. I slipped my coat on and fumbled for my purse where it had been hooked on the back of my chair.

Where was my purse?

It was gone. So was my wallet, my car keys, and, as I soon discovered, my car. The walk home was spent planning my revenge on Natasha. I wonder what Leisure Suit Larry’s plans are for next Valentine’s Day?


Scott‘s Date with Harley Quinn of Arkham City

Harley_Quinn_AC_Portrait

She looks nice…

I like to think I’m an open-minded kind of guy.  A keen judge of character, a good listener, able to see the best and the worst in people.  There are, I’m sure, plenty of people like me, and though we might be a little more accepting than the average schmuck walking down the streets of Gotham, we have our limits.  Mine turned out to be a girl in clown makeup.

Trust me when I say this, I’m not pulling out the old “she put on a bit of eye-shadow, clearly she’s a hooker” trope.  This was actual, bona fide, P.T. Freaking Barnum clown makeup.  Or juggalo makeup, I wasn’t quite sure.  That said, I didn’t have a whole lot to complain about past the clown business.  I won’t go into detail, but not all of the stares she drew were directed at her face.

So rather than turn and high-tail it, as the vast majority of my brain was frantically yelling at me to do, I decided to stick around.  I figured there was a chance it could actually end well, and if not, at least I’ll have a good story to tell.  One of those proved to be true.

We sat down at a little diner nearby, one of those places where you know all the people working there, and they’re usually happy to see you.  I figured I might want to be on home turf with this one.  We ordered, got to the “getting-to-know-you”s and “what do you do”s.  Till now she hadn’t spoke much, and when she did…phew.  It sounded like the collective spirits of Fran Drescher and Marisa Tomei got in a shouting match inside her vocal cords.  She kept going on and on about a “Mr. J,” and every time it came out “Mistah Jay.”  I assumed it was the name of her cat, although I secretly hoped it wasn’t… because if it’s a cat, then she really likes that cat.  Always “doing jobs” for him (sorry, “jahbs”), making sure he’s safe even though he ignores her.  From what I could gather he’s either a psychopath or a cat.  Probably both.

Harley_Qunn_with_Bat_iphone_wallpaper_batman_arkham_city

She REALLY didn’t like that salad.

The girl ate like a possessed five-year old.  She looked at the side salad as if it actually offended her, threatened the waiter with a friggin’ baseball bat until he replaced it with an ice cream sundae (the perfect accoutrement for a 20 oz. Porterhouse, of course).  It felt like I was in Hell’s own personal little league, and I was the one who had to play catcher.

After the she-beast decided she was satisfied, we took off to her “secret” meeting place near the docks.  Normally this would set off a red flag as big as China’s with me, but she made the excellent point that we’d be dealing with the cops very soon if we didn’t split.  She didn’t seem too bothered by the prospect, though…in her words she’d “killed plenty’o cops this month, and I don’t feel like washing the blood outta my stockings again.”  Cue roughly Gibraltar-sized rock in my throat.

I’d recount the rest of the night for you if I could remember it.  All I remember is walking into an industrial complex and a large *thud*.  I’m typing this into my phone right now, which Harley was nice enough to let me hold onto.  It’s a bit tough with my hands tied to this furnace, but luckily the throbbing headache I’m dealing with is taking my mind off the ropes.  Now, what’s the Batman’s number again?


Sean‘s Date with Instructor Mooselini of PaRappa the Rapper

451349-mooseliniBeing set up on a blind date by Scott had me worried. My worst fears came true when I discovered that he set me up with a moose. A rapping, police moose.

Keeping an open mind (against my better judgement), I decided to take her somewhere she would be more comfortable, since blind dates can be scary or awkward . So we went to a karaoke bar. It was fun. We had some drinks, I offered to share my burger and fries with her, but she was content to gnaw on the table (literally).

After a few more drinks we were confident enough to get up on stage and have an epic karaoke rap battle. She kept rapping about driving and every day tasks. I, however, opted for more sensational songs like: Hypnotize by Notorious BIG, Changes by Tupac and for some Canadian Flare, Crew Love by Drake ft. The Weekend. The crowd went wild for my performance and, of course, my swag. But my date took offense for not having the high score in the end. She wanted to leave, which in all honesty was a relief since I was not feeling any sort of connection, at all. But seeing as it was very early, and I am nothing if not a gentleman, I tried to convince her to stick around for a while, maybe catch a movie.  But she was not interested (from the beginning I could tell she was bull headed). So we parted ways.

In the end I was happy. Just meant I could get back home to see if my online girlfriend Cortana wanted to have a Skype Date.


Jack‘s Date with Little Sister of Bioshock

Little Sister

This is my first time in Rapture and I’m impressed so far. All the glitz and glamour of the surface world but with none of the hassle.
I take a seat at the bar, Bill McDonagh greets me warmly. I think he’s just pleased to meet a fellow Englishman for the first time in a while. I take a swig of some 123 Beer, trying to ease my nerves. I’m nervous but when Atlas asked if I would kindly take his little sister on a date, I couldn’t say no.

That’s when I saw her come around the corner. But it’s not his little sister. Oh no. She’s a Little Sister. She’s tiny, cute and with bright eyes you can’t say no to. She asks for a lolly as I pull out a stool for her. I turn and ask Bill if he has any lollipops.

“I’ll see what I can get ya, Jack!” he chuckles as he goes in to the store room, momentarily. I take another swig of my drink and look around to see some leadhead trying to get the vending machine to work.

The Little Sister stares up at me and grabs my attention, snapping me away from the trouble maker in the corner.

“So…” I say awkwardly, trying to break the ice and kill the time until Bill gets back. “What do you do for a living?”

“Gathering the ADAM, the ADAM, the ADAM…” she sings back at me.

I laugh, she’s surprisingly in tune.

“What do you do Mister -”

“Two lollipops coming right at ya!” The owner’s Cockney drawl interrupts her. She doesn’t even notice his being rude, her eyes were instantly transfixed on the sweets.

“One for you little miss and one for your teddy, of course!” Bill was always better with kids than I was. I’m disappointed I didn’t get a lolly though.

“Yummy in my tummy!” she squeaks as she unwraps the sweet and pops it in her mouth. “Are you proud of me Mr B?” she asks turning her attention back to me.

That’s not my name but it all feels very natural for some reason. “I sure am, honey.” I reply without thinking.

“Can we go to see the Angels now, Mr Bubbles?” Once again, I don’t react to this strange nickname. I don’t know why. I nod silently.

As I stand and turn to leave, she leaps from her stool to my shoulder. It all just feels right.

“Would you kindly finish your drink before you leave?” Bill chirps in, breaking my daze.

I shake my head, finish my 123 and rest the glass on the table.

“Don’t be a slow poke Mr B. Angels don’t wait for slow pokes!” a small voice on my left shoulder hurries me on to leave The Fighting McDonagh’s Tavern.

As we leave, I don’t think of her as my date. She’s my Little Sister and I’m her Big Daddy.

 

 

Film Fans: Episode 9

In this episode of Film Fans, Sean is joined by Proffitt, Dieter, Rebecca, and Sam and things quickly turn to chaos. Its a no holds bar match up between Dieter, Sam and Les Mis. Watch out Russel Crowe, these two are not too pleased with you. The group also discusses Django Unchained, and the Hobbit,

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The Myth of Girl Gamer Special Privileges

In my internet travels, I have lots of conversations with lots of cool different people. Recently on a lady gamer forum, many women were expressing that they’d never experienced harassment or sexist insults in online games. I said that while I wasn’t in that camp, they were very fortunate, and perhaps it was a sign that gaming culture was changing for the better!

A terrific gentleman agreed, and joined in the positivity by saying, “Yeah, it’s not so bad! And think about all those special privileges girl gamers get!”

The conversation came to a screeching halt.

Now I wasn’t being sarcastic earlier. The guy who said this was a great person, and honestly thought what he said was true. It’s something I’d heard before, so I asked him to clarify.

From his perspective, gamers who identify as female in the game get treated as special unicorns, as well as getting free loot from other players, all from their virtue of being a woman (or appearing to be a woman online, let’s be honest here).

Let’s tackle this in two parts: first, address what privilege really is, and second, dispel the myth that women get free loot for being women.

So what is privilege? It’s not simply a few perks we get for being what we are, it’s a bit bigger than that. It’s the expectation of being treated a certain way, without hurdles, because of what we are.

Let’s paint a word picture about white privilege. A white person can grab a reusable shopping bag, drive to the grocery store, shop, and return home with very few problems.

For a black shopper without white privilege, it’s a very different story. First, he has to chose his route. The store he wants to go to is in a predominately white neighborhood, and he knows that if he takes Wonder Bread Street, the cops that always park by the school will probably pull him over and hassle him. So he can’t go that way. Next, should he take his reusable shopping bag? Of course, he’s very environmentally conscious, but he knows that if he walks in with a bag, someone will want to search it, and the store manager will probably want to follow him through the whole store to make sure he doesn’t slip anything into his bag.

Black Shopper has to take into consideration things that White Shopper doesn’t, change his actions accordingly, and face a whole mess of crap that White Shopper probably won’t ever have to deal with, simply because he is white.

Alternatively, let’s remove race and consider able-bodied privilege. An able-bodied person can go just about anywhere and do just about anything without much thought. A person in a wheelchair, however, needs to be very aware of where she can and cannot go. Which places have ramps and elevators? Which places have automatic doors? Does that movie theater have a decent wheelchair spot or should she just stay home with a DVD?

The fact that the world is already catered to us able-bodied people means that we have privilege.

Now how does this translate into gaming? Well, telling a girl she has privilege in a game because all the guys want to talk to her and help her is like telling Black Shopper, “You’re so lucky! I wish I had the store manager following me around, I can never find anything in that damn place!” It’s telling the woman in the wheelchair, “You’re so fortunate to have people hold that door open for you and help pull you up those stairs. I wish people were that nice to me!”

Black Shopper would prefer to shop in peace. Wheelchair Woman would prefer a ramp so she could do it herself. Female gamers would prefer to be treated the same as everyone else and not be considered a novelty. Be nice to everyone, not just women.

Remember that women change their behavior in games because they don’t have privilege. Many don’t use voice chat. Others purposefully use gender neutral names to hide their gender and avoid harassment. We have to take steps and precautions because we’re entering a predominately “male” space, and these are steps and precautions that most male gamers never have to think about.

But like I said earlier, there seems to be some anecdotal evidence that this might be changing! So yay!

“Okay,” you say, “so privilege was the wrong word. But don’t pretend that girl gamers don’t enjoy certain perks just for being a girl, like free loot!”

I won’t deny that some gamers out there give loot and gear to female players. But let’s not pretend this is just out of the kindness of their hearts. They want something in return. It might just be because they want female attention, or it might be because they want to cyber. It’s not free when you want something back. That, my friends, is a transaction, not a perk or privilege.

This sets up a system that turns female attention into a commodity. A female player who accepts gifts might have no idea that she now owes the person who gave them to her some sort of sexual favor. That is unfair to that female player. It also perpetuates the irritating “friend zone” BS that a guy who is nice to women deserves a sexual reward.

Women gamers are not an achievement. You don’t unlock sex with us by investing a certain amount of leet gear.

Are there women (and “women”) who trade sex for in-game loot? Sure. I certainly don’t condone it, but it’s important to remember that women are not a collective unit or a hive mind. Just because that girl strips on webcam in exchange for purple gear doesn’t mean that every girl will. She doesn’t represent every female gamer any more than that dude throwing out homophobic/racist/sexist slurs is representative of all male gamers. We are all individuals.

And as for you, those few female gamers?  Do not go into games expecting free loot/special treatment. You need to stop that as much as those guys who give out free loot expect cybersex. We all need to stop having certain exploitative expectations of certain genders in our games, and just treat people like people.

Be excellent to one another, whoever and whatever you are.

Farewell PS2, Hello Steam Box

Pictured, left to right: Old n’ Busted, New Hotness

The day is fast approaching where all media will be available predominately in digital form. Paper books are already being replaced by ebooks, newspapers are going out of print in favor of news media online, digital downloads of movies will overtake DVDs and Blu-ray, and systems like the PlayStation 2 will be replaced by the rumored Steam Box.

Oh wait, that already happened.

After 13 years, 150 million units sold, and over 10,000 games, Sony has announced that they are ceasing production of the PlayStation 2. When it first launched in 2000, its amazing technology left its rival systems Nintendo GameCube and Sega Dreamcast in the dust. It was backwards compatible, included a DVD player, as well as online multiplayer content. The PlayStation 2 was a huge leap forward in gaming technology, and its success has never been duplicated. It’s successor, the PlayStation 3, came nowhere close to repeating the PS2′s sales, and production on the PS2 continued until now.

While the PlayStation 3 (and it’s rival, the Xbox 360) made tremendous leaps forward in gaming technology, one of the biggest innovations was the PlayStation Store. It wasn’t just online multiplayer anymore, now gamers had full access to the internet to download games, movies, TV shows, and music. Hell, you can pre-order an upcoming release, and have it automatically download to your console on release day. It’s like something out of science fiction!

It’s also one of the many recent blows against physical media, the most recent of which is the newly confirmed Steam Box.

True, Valve’s gaming platform unveiled the Big Picture a few months ago, an interface catered to those who have their PCs hooked up to their televisions. But now all your Steam purchases can be enjoyed on its very own console, freeing up some of that hard drive space. Now you’ll have piece of Linux run hardware dedicated solely to playing your Steam library in your living room.

In an interview with Verge, Valve CEO Gabe Newell gave a few details.

What we see is you’ve got this sort of struggle going on between closed proprietary systems and open systems. We think that there are pluses and minuses to open systems that could make things a little messier, it’s much more like herding cats, so we try to take the pieces where we’re going to add the best value and then encourage other people to do it. So it tends to mean that a lot of people get involved. We’re not imposing a lot of restrictions on people on how they’re getting involved.

So are most of these going to be Linux-based Steam Boxes?

We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination. We also think that a controller that has higher precision and lower latency is another interesting thing to have.

So what does this mean to the console industry? It would seem the only thing they’ve got going for them now is exclusive content. The openness promised with the Steam Box, the extensive game library and irresistible sales, the factthey are embracing the modding and indie game development community… it hardly seems like a fair fight. If the hardware capability is comparable to the current consoles, Sony and Microsoft need to step up their game with their next generation of consoles, or the PS3 and PS4 will have a much shorter lifespan than the stalwart PS2

An Open Letter to McDonald’s Regarding Gendered Happy Meal Toys

Dear McDonald’s,

I’m sure the last thing you want to hear is some random person complaining about you. From your food to the way you treat your employees, everyone has an axe to grind on the Golden Arches.

Me, I have a request.

No less than ten minutes ago, I walked into your recently renovated restaurant on the far West Side of Cleveland. I found the establishment clean, the staff friendly, and the service prompt. I was over the moon to discover that the McRib had returned, placed my order, and stepped back to wait.

The door opened, and in walked a mother and her young son. He was probably about 8 or 9 years of age, wearing an Angry Birds cap and carrying a Nintendo DS, . They stopped in the walkway to study the Happy Meal Toy Display.

At the moment, you’re offering two options to customers, what’s commonly known as the Boy Toy and the Girl Toy. The two choices now are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Moshi Monsters, colorful characters from an online game for kids.

mcdonalds

Mom asked her son if he wanted a Ninja Turtle and, being an obvious Gamer Boy, he immediately showed enthusiasm for the second choice on the bottom shelf (“girl” toys are always on the bottom shelf for some damn reason), and told her he wanted a Moshi Monster.

I was delighted. Gamer Boy rejected the “boy” toy and picked the option that best suited his tastes. You go, boy.

So Mom and Son approached the counter and placed their order. Mom specified that she wanted a Moshi Happy Meal.

The cashier was confused. “You want the boy toy?”

“We want those, the Moshi Pets.”

“Oh. You want the girl toy.”

That’s when I died a little.

McDonald’s, your employee had a little boy standing right in front of her. It was obvious the Happy Meal was for him. Yet she said in front of him that the toy he wanted was for girls.

To his credit, he didn’t seem ruffled by this, and I struck up a conversation with them about his Nintendo DS. My food arrived and I left, still irked over what the cashier had said.

Look, guys, I have zero problem with your offering two options to kids when it comes to Happy Meal Toys. In fact, I encourage it. But here’s my suggestion: train your employees not to call them “girls toys” and “boy toys.” Tell them to be aware of what the choices are, and call them what they are, in this case a “Turtle toy” or a “Moshi toy.”

Don’t subtly tell a young boy his choice is wrong, that option B is “for girls,” and that his preferences should always match his sex. Because it’s not just about the toy. It’s what all these gendered toys say. It’s about telling boys to solve problems through aggression, and telling girls to be passive. It’s about boys not getting into teaching and nursing, it’s about girls not getting into science and engineering. It’s reinforcing the gender roles and stereotypes that we really should be past at this point.

Come on, McDonald’s. You’re pretty huge and influential. You can really have an impact on our culture, just by including a new page in your company policy.

Thanks,

Rebecca Veverka
Word of the Nerd

This post first appeared on the Feminine Miss Geek.

Gamer’s Word: Episode 9

In this episode of the Gamer’s Word, Sean and Rebecca are joined by their foreign correspondent Jack for their usual discussion on gaming and the news of the week. Rebecca goes over the new Mass Effect 3 Omega DLC and lists her pro’s and con’s. They then go on to discuss the Museum of Modern

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Mass Effect: Omega DLC Review

This is the DLC we’ve been waiting for. Ever since Aria appeared in the Citadel in Mass Effect 3, fans have been itching to return to Omega and take it back from Cerberus. Our dream list was ticked off with every new nugget of information these past few months. Yes, we’re going back to Omega. Yes, pirate queen Aria T’Loak will be a squad mate. Yes, there will be new enemies to face. Yes, we will finally meet a female turian.

With a DLC packed with this much fan-pleasing content, is it worth the $15 USD price tag? Short answer? No. While Omega is packed with action and is a ton of fun for 2-4 hours with lots of replay value, it is very overpriced, and leaves me worried about the future of the DLC market.

From here on out, there be SPOILERS.

The New Baddies!

I’m just here to talk about Rampart. That is, the Rampart mechs, one of the two new baddies in the Omega DLC. Similar to the Dragoons found in multiplayer, the Ramparts are tough and fast. These heavily armored mechs close in on you very quickly, can throw up a shield against your long range attack, strike hard at close range, and can explode once they’re defeated. These were the biggest new challenge.

The second baddie was the Adjutant, who I was a bit disappointed in after Nyreen’s horrific description. With a full bar of biotic barrier and another of armor, these husk-like creatures should be a lot tougher than they are. But playing as a Sentinel with Nyreen on the squad, I was able to dispatch them pretty quickly with Warp before they got in too close.

The Combat!

Maybe I’ve just gotten better at this game due to my hours logged in multiplayer, but with the exception of the final battle, the combat wasn’t all that challenging. In fact, there was a point where I paused the game to check the settings and make sure I wasn’t on easy mode. The level designs weren’t all that innovative, and if you’re a fan of kiting, boy are you in for a treat.

Twice we’re encouraged to run wildly about the map and tap on hotspots. Sure, the first time could be considered an introduction to the concept, and it is certainly a challenge in that final encounter. But you’re still tasked with running away from the enemy and avoiding them at all costs until you finish pushing all the buttons.

Return to Omega!

Yes. We get to return to Omega, and see a few familiar faces.

REPENT!

There are also a few vaguely familiar places, as well as a lot of new ones. I loved seeing Omega’s skyline, and the eezo mines were gorgeous. The spookier areas of Omega set my hair on end: the flashlight beam was just short enough to terrify the crap out of me. As I said before, the level designs were standard fare, with room to duck and maneuver, helpful against the various enemies that force you to keep moving.

But there is a glaring problem with Omega that leads to one of a few gripes about the $15 price tag: Omega is not a hub. Once Omega is taken back, you’re not able to return, explore, drink, or shop. Even Aria slinks back to the Citadel, despite her earlier comments on about how much she hates it.

Remember, in Lair of the Shadow Broker (arguably the best Mass Effect DLC), we’re able to return to the Shadow Broker’s ship to read files, watch videos, check in on Liara, shop, and make some deals. Omega has none of this. Once Cerberus is kicked out, Omega is gone. It’s as if it never happened, aside from a few war assets and a one-time comment from Aria on the Citadel. Again, by itself, the lack of an Omega hub and little extras should be a non-issue, but in light of the price and compared to past DLC, their absence is irritating.

Come on, Nyreen!

Of all the goodies promised in the Omega DLC, I was most excited about Nyreen Kandros. The turians are easily my favorite alien race in the series, and to finally see and interact with a female turian was everything I could hope for.

Yes, Nyreen was a cool character. Tough, capable, honorable, and very turian. She had an interesting history with Aria, and she looked amazing. I spent most of my time in elevators spinning the camera around her to take in every detail.

The nature of the battles meant I didn’t get to use her biotic shield all too often, but she was a terrific Sentinel with some very useful abilities.

I wish we could have had more Nyreen. Her history had some interesting potential, and it would have been nice if her personality had time to develop. But, alas, at the last moment, Nyreen sacrificed herself to kill some Adjutants. At first blush, it would appear that Nyreen had fallen into the “women in fridges” trope, where a female character is killed off to further develop her boyfriend (or in this case, girlfriend). This initially irked me, as Aria didn’t need any further motivation to stop the General. She was already very eager to kill him, and while Nyreen’s death might have changed her a little, in the end it means nothing, as Aria appears to return to the way she was.

But thinking about it further, that isn’t what happened with Nyreen. She isn’t a woman in a fridge, she’s a paragon. She had agency in her death, and chose to die to protect the innocents. Her death was not about Aria, her death was about her honor and her desire to help the citizens of Omega.

Cool. I get it. However, here comes overpriced gripe number two. For $15, we should have gotten a permanent squadmate. Aria would have been useful, but she isn’t much of a team player. My turian bias wants to see Nyreen on board the Normandy. Her death, while tragic, also feels incredibly wasteful. Ah well. This might just be pure complaining on my part rather than a valid criticism. Moving on.

The Roundup!

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy this DLC. I did, it was a ton of fun and kept me entertained for almost four hours. Which might be a little too long: Towards the end of those four hours I abandoned my usual exploration of every inch in order to just finish.

Omega has a lot of replay value, with different outcomes depending on whether you are Paragon or Renegade. It should be noted that the DLC seem to push you to play Renegade, as evidenced by the number of red interrupts, but the idea of being able to make Aria into a more diplomatic person through the strength of your Paragon-y character is pretty cool.

If you hadn’t noticed already, my main complaint with the DLC is the price. You simply don’t get enough bang for your buck. There’s a new weapon, new powers, some mods, and a combat heavy/story light adventure. It’s a one off. Omega is its own encapsulated diversion that has nothing to do with anything else in the game, and has no impact on the story at large or input from your favorite companions. More than once I wished I could have brought Archangel along just to hear his thoughts.

Yes, being its own separate bonus adventure is par for the course with DLC. We’ve just come to expect more from BioWare, especially with previous content like Lair of the Shadow Broker.

Mass Effect 3: Omega is like a slice of pumpkin pie. It’s delicious pie, no question. But the last time we ordered it, we got whipped cream, a plate, a fork, a doily, and a tall glass of ice cold milk, all for half the price. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed, no matter how tasty that pie is.

My honest recommendation, much as it pains me to make it, is to hold off on buying this DLC. Wait to see if it goes on sale. It’s worth playing, but not for this price. It’s glitchy and disconnected from the story, and you just don’t get your money’s worth.

Gamers Word – Episode 7

In this episode of Gamers Word, Sean is joined by Rebecca and one of Word of the Nerds British Correspondents, Jack. This week the gang discusses all of the great content that has come out over the past few weeks, including: Dishonored, Resident Evil, and Assassins Creed 3. After going through a very detailed discussion

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Mass Effect Film Now in the Hands of a Fan

As a massive fan of the Mass Effect series, the entire idea of a film based on the video game franchise has me torn. On one hand, I’d love to see a big budget blockbuster in the Mass Effect universe. On the other hand, part of my enjoyment of the games is how personal they can be. There is no canon Commander Shepard, there is only Your Shepard. A film that tells fans who the “correct” Shepard is will be… polarizing.

And the worst but most likely possibility of all… what if they get it wrong?

Today, Variety brings us news about the upcoming film that has me conflicted again. Morgan Davis Foehl has been tapped to rewrite Mark Protosevich’s (Thor, I am Legend, The Cell) script. Who the heck is Foehl, you ask? Yeah. Exactly.

Foehl’s credits include assistant editor on the TV Show Rescue Me, and the films I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Click. Before you get sick to your stomach, let me add that his script Whatever Gets You Through the Night won a spot on Hollywood’s prestigious Black List, which showcases incredible yet unproduced scripts. His script is described like this: “After ten years on the run from the mob, the son of a mob lawyer must choose between prison and helping the man who murdered his mother.”

Foehl is an unknown, and while I won’t say it’s a bad thing, I will say it makes me nervous. Foehl is a huge fan of the BioWare game, and his passionate take on the series is said to have won the producers over and won him the gig. His past scripts focused heavily on espionage, so that might also be a factor in Foehl’s treatment.

Will the upcoming film center around Shepard? I hope not, but Hollywood wants a Mass Effect movie, and Mass Effect is all about Shepard. So we are left to wonder what kind of Shepard movie executives would play.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’ll be a white male Paragon.

Here’s hoping a fan of the series will give us the kind of movie our favorite game deserves. And here’s hoping even harder that the suits don’t screw it up.

Science and Psychology Battle Toxic Behavior in League of Legends

Online harassment and nasty behavior in video games has been a hot button issue of late, and now it looks as though League of Legends developer Riot Games is stepping up to the plate. By using a mix of science and psychology, Riot Games is addressing the problem of toxic online environments and appears to be getting results.

Six months ago, Riot Games founded Team Player Behavior, a new division that was designed to tackle the issues of negative online chat, verbal abuse, and offensive language. The approach was unique in that the Team isn’t interested so much in punishing offensive players as much as they want to focus on a fun and positive gaming environment for everyone.

The new initiatives began a few weeks ago with the introduction of the Honor system. Here, developers have put the power in the hands of the community, allowing them to reward positive players with points.

Players are given a generous but limited amount of Honor to distribute to others, based on how Helpful, Friendly, Honorable, or how much of a Team Player they are. These points in turn raise their overall score, as well as possible future rewards.

LoL‘s Honor system relies on the psychology of behavior modification, specifically operant conditioning. Pioneered by B.F. Skinner, operant conditioning is an arm of behavior modification that deals with voluntary behavior, such as calling someone a butt licker in a video game.

In operant conditioning, there are three types of response to voluntary behavior: reinforcement, punishment, and extinction. A reinforcement response to a behavior causes it to occur more frequently, punishment less frequently, and extinction is no response to the behavior at all.

The Honor system brings us into the Skinner box. We, as gamers, are already very conditioned to the Skinner box. If we pull the level of “being helpful,” we’re rewarded with positive reinforcement in the form of points. In the future, Riot Games may yet create in-game rewards for players with a high Honor score.

In combating negative voluntary behavior, LoL has a Tribunal system, which uses the punishment response. Here, negative behavior is met with bans and warnings, while simultaneously rewarding the positive behavior in the Honor system. According to Riot Games, “Getting punished by the Tribunal will knock your Honor back down to zero. However you can still accrue new Honor once your punishment has expired.”

It’s very important to have responses for both positive and negative behaviors, and this is known as the law of effect. Simply put by Wikipedia, “responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation, and responses that produce a discomforting effect become less likely to occur again in that situation.”

What’s really cool about operant conditioning is what it does to our brains. Not only do reinforcement and punishment release dopamine and a stress relieving neurotransmitter, but these, in turn, benefit our brains’ plasticity in the cerebral cortex. That’s the part of the brain that controls memory, attention, thought, and language.

So while League of Legends is encouraging us to use better language, the psychology involved is also tricking our brains into improving our ability to both receive and use it. Mind blown.

Gaming News Trio: Angry Birds, Mass Effect, & WoW

There has been a lot going on in gaming over the weekend, so here are three little bite sized news nuggets to get you through the day.

First, your appetizer. Love them or hate them, the Angry Birds have left a huge impact on the gaming world. The game series has shown that independent game developers like Rovio can hit the big time, and mobile games are something that larger game companies should be taking very seriously.

While the Angry Birds series have been very popular, and recently had a big Hollywood tie-in with the recent film Rio, today the feathered fiends have truly arrived. Angry Birds Star Wars is slated for release next month. And it’s not just another avian flinging mobile game, either. Rovio, along with Lucas Arts, is preparing to unleash action figures, Halloween costumes, and apparel on October 28th.

Moving next to our gaming entree, yet another Mass Effect 3 multiplayer DLC will be released tomorrow in North America. In Retaliation, the newest and largest multiplayer DLC yet, fans of the BioWare series will see the return of the Collectors, last seen in Mass Effect 2.

Not only will there be new enemies, we FINALLY get to play a volus Adept. Retaliation also will contain new unlockable weapons, classes, maps with hazards and traps, as well as a “Challenges” board, where players can complete assignments to unlock titles and banners to display in game.

Look for Mass Effect 3: Retaliation October 9th.

And finally, our somewhat sour tasting dessert. Over the weekend, hackers unleashed an exploit in World of Warcraft that killed hundreds of player-characters across multiple servers.

Characters who stepped into the cities of Orgrimmar and Stormwind on various servers (Draenor, Ragnaros, Tarren Mill, Twisting Nether, and others) found themselves very very dead. The event is being compared to the Corrupted Blood incident, where an in-game plague spread across the Azeroth to become an epidemic.

Fortunately, the exploit has already been hotfixed by Blizzard, and players’ adventures can continue.

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