It's been a while since my last post, and holy cow, I can't believe how much has happened since then. In fact, I'm trying to remember the last time we had this much large-scale drama, and I honestly can't recall anything that was as major as the arc we just had. I mean, just look at this brief recap starting with…
- The announcement of the Xbone and all of its DRM restrictions
which then triggered
- Massive, intense waves of hate from the gamer community
- Sony dropping a nuke with the announcement that they would not be instituting similar DRM
which led to
- PS4 preorders selling out at Amazon and taking a massive, early lead
and this picture of things to come encouraged
- Microsoft pulling a complete 180 and declaring that the 'Bone will no longer require all of the DRM systems the box was allegedly built on.
This has been an incredibly wild roller coaster ride so far, and who knows what's ahead? I don't think anyone could have predicted this sequence of events, and I bet there are a lot of people in expensive suits trying to make some really good guesses in a hurry.
As I've been following events, there have been a number of issues raised and things to think about. I could probably spend days just exploring the bare minimum of what's going on, but instead I'm going to throw out a quick couple of things and ramble on for a bit here….
I guess to start with, do I think that resistance to the 'Bone based strictly on the fact that used games as we knew them were largely going away?
Although I'm a huge fan of physical media and used games, I really don't think so. I think it's pretty clear that the future of gaming is going to be digital and that's fine. I mean, I'd still love to have a collection of discs on my wall to look at, but that's not the sticking point. No, for me the biggest issue was that I don't want the rules and precedents of a digital future to be established by Microsoft, or any other corporation.
It's a lot harder to change things once they're entrenched than it is to push back before they become established, and I am a firm believer that a digital future does not need to equate to consumers being put in a position of powerlessness. These companies need us and our money to survive, and structuring the relationship in a mutually beneficial way is a win-win all around.
I have to say, I'm honestly shocked at how many people seemed to have no problem whatsoever with Microsoft's plan; how many didn't even question it. I heard so many people say "that's just the way things are going to be" or "it's the future, there's no point in fighting it". I mean, really? You honestly think that this giant corporation's power grab was somehow designed with your best interests factored in at any level? I suppose those people were in the minority, though… the sizable outcry from people who did not agree was impossible to ignore, and I'm quite glad for that.
Again, to be clear, I'm not taking a stand against digital media, but I am against the idea that consumers should be happy to forfeit fairness in favor of corporate profit, and that the idea of paying for "a license" fully under the control of corporate whim is the best way to move forward. Everyone seems in such a rush to stand up for protections and controls and restrictions, and anything that's healthy for the consumer isn't on very many radars. Well, I'm sorry, but I don't want to be looked at as a dumb source of income without a voice existing simply to feed the growth of those companies who can take advantage of it.
I also heard several people telling me that these new restrictions were actually a boon for developers, and I really have to call bullshit on that. To start with, I haven't seen any hard numbers but I doubt that all of these controls were designed solely to put more money in the pocket of the people who are actually creating these games. I mean, I've heard all of the same talk about piracy and used games killing profits a million times, and I just don't believe it. If this system had rolled out as planned, I don't doubt for a moment that Microsoft would be taking the biggest cut of the pie, followed by the publishers who would be in support of this DRM, and the situation would probably be status quo for everyone else down the line from there.
I mean, I'm going off on a tangent here, but speaking from personal experience, the used games market is a healthy thing that helps fund new sales, in addition to helping get people interested in certain franchises or developers that they would not have gotten into otherwise. It's pure idiocy to think that every used sale automatically equates to a lost new sale—I mean, there have been dozens and dozens of games that I would drop $20-$30 on, but that I would not buy for full price under any circumstances. However, after trying some of these games, I've become interested in other works and would be more likely to purchase something for full price in the future.
Take Monster Hunter as a perfect example. The first copy I ever bought was used, and I was also gifted Tri from a friend. I would have never paid full price for one of these games before having played them, but after dipping my toes in, I currently have two Wii Us and four copies of Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate in my house. On top of that, how many times have I recommended it to a friend, tweeted about it, wrote about it, or otherwise promoted it in some way to other people? I know for fact some of those instances led to sales, and if you trace all of these things back to the source, it's very possible that none of this would've ever happened if I hadn't had access to a used copy to begin with.
Going off on another tangent, I clearly remember people in the industry saying that the price of games would drop when things went digital thanks to lower overhead, eliminating production and distribution costs, so forth and so on. I definitely think digital is a healthy environment for the indie scene (which I genuinely love and am happy to see flourishing) but what's happened in general is that development budgets keep ballooning, publishers keep betting the farm on mega-hit blockbusters instead of games with more reasonable sales goals, and hard-working people in the industry keep getting laid off and shuffled around—oh, and did I mention that games are still routinely coming out at $60 a pop? I've seen no reason to convince me that anything Microsoft would've done with the 'Bone would have changed any of this.
There's still a hell of a lot to talk about and I've already rambled incoherently for long enough, but I will say that despite Microsoft going back on their original plans for DRM, I still have no plans to purchase the console or support it in any way until I see how things play out with my own eyes over time. They showed their hand and revealed what their goals were, so just because they patch a few things out for a while doesn't mean that these same problems won't return later on once the system is in everyone's house and we've all forgotten how outraged we felt about the original announcement. The digital future is certainly coming, but just because it's coming doesn't mean that it needs to arrive without balance, without respect for the consumer, and without common sense.
Alright, enough ranting for one night… what have I actually been playing? Well, not a lot. really, but here it goes.
First, still working my way through the campaign in Defiance.
Although the formula is little more than third-person open-world shooting with some crazy ATV driving thrown in, it's a hell of a lot of fun thanks to the wide variety of weapons and the commitment-free nature of the online multiplayer. It's incredibly enjoyable to be in the middle of a tough mission and have a random stranger appear out of nowhere to lend assistance. I wouldn't have guessed it before I tried it, but I keep coming back to this one whenever I can.
Secondly (and no surprise to @Nightdreamer) I'm still making progress through Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate with the family. Since my oldest son is with us for the summer, he's been enjoying the available multiplayer—he doesn't often get a chance to play, so having the ability to go on three-person quests on a daily basis has been a real highlight for him, and for us.
Working together, he hit G-Rank (HR7) pretty quickly and we tried taking on the Alatreon a few times. We didn't take him down, but we didn't do too badly, either. With some slightly better gear, I imagine we will get the job done pretty soon.
Besides those two things, I spent a fairly sizable amount of time with State of Decay and turned my full review in. I absolutely love the game, but it's been suffering from a few problems and I put it on hold to give the developers some time to get things ironed out.
The biggest issue is that certain houses can become "infested" and if the player doesn't clear them out, then it causes panic in survivors back at home base. They then either run away or become otherwise incapacitated. This in itself is a fine mechanic, but the problem is that infestations that are nowhere near home base still cause this disruption. It sucks to leave things in great shape and come back the next day, only to find that a third of my survivors are gone because some random house on the complete opposite side of the map wasn't cleared out, even though it was absolutely no threat.
I don't mean to scare people away from this game because it is genuinely fantastic, but this is one aspect that has really gotten under my skin lately and I'm hoping that it's remedied soon.
Finally, I broke down and downloaded Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS… I haven't played an AC since the original eleven or twelve years ago, and between nearly everyone in my twitter feed popping for it and hearing that there were substantial additions to the formula, I felt like it was worth a shot.
I've been putting a fair amount of time into it when I can, but because my work schedule and home life are pretty busy at the moment, it's tough to play within the confines of the game's clock. I often found myself collecting bugs and fishing after all the shops had closed, and progress was quite slow. I mean, I think it's pretty slow in general, but it felt excruciatingly so.
My wife keeps asking if she should download it so we could play together, but I keep telling her that I'm honestly not sure if I'm enjoying it or not. There are moments when I think it's great, and there are also plenty of moments when it's absolutely maddening, boring, and tedious.
On the plus side, I like the sense of ownership and of interacting with this small, discrete town under my care. It's almost like a virtual pet of sorts. It's also cute as all hell, which is great. On the other hand, the amount of filler text that's impossible to skip through drives me absolutely insane, and there are many things that I feel could be sped up or optimized. For example, sometimes I don't feel like listening to the captain's song as I'm getting ferried to the island, and the item-carrying limit/item transferring system is often a pain in the neck.
I suppose I should just have my wife and kids get into it so that we can all work together on it, but I'm still honestly torn as to whether I'm enjoying it more often than I'm frustrated.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
bradgallaway a t gmail dot com