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by Ethos

Lazy Saturdays #04

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Christ. What another lazy goddamned Saturday.

It’s probably just because I’m unemployed, but this whole Lazy Saturdays thing has become sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ever since I started it as a feature, every Saturday has been a dull, droll, and mindless affair. Usually involving me sitting at my apartment. By myself. Such is life, though; or, at least, such is the life of Oliver “Riddles” Motok.

I saw Iron Man 2 a few days ago. I don’t actually, uh… remember much about it, but I seem to remember liking it. Not as much as the original, perhaps, but it was an enjoyable experience. Definitely check it out if you’re an Iron Man fan.

Oh yeah, and I watched Aladdin yesterday! In HD! For the first time in years! God, that movie is timeless. It’s also one of the few good things Robin Williams has ever done with his life.

Ubisoft Bitches About an 81% Metacritic Ranking for Red Steel 2 – Sometimes, I really hate numerical review scores, and this is one of the reasons why. Gamers, media outlets, and publishers alike have all gotten spoiled. Really fucking spoiled, in fact, as evidenced by this statement from Ubisoft’s Jason Vandenberghe:

Let’s start here: if you clicked that Metacritic link back there, you know that (as of this writing) our average rating is hanging out at a solid 81%. Anyone in the industry will tell you: that doesn’t suck, but it ain’t the bestest ever. It’s the kind of number you need to be in the running for serious sales, and given the nature of the market we are releasing into, etc, blah blah blah, it’s pretty darn acceptable, but of course you always hope for more. It’s what Metacritic calls “generally favorable reviews”, but it’s closer to “mixed” than we’d prefer.

Ingrates. They’re all ingrates. Why is it that these days, a game has to score a 90% percent or higher to be considered worthy of a shit? I feel like it’s a trend that’s come along with the current console generation. 81%, for all intents and purposes, is an excellent aggregate ranking, especially when you consider the fact that the original Red Steel was flat-out panned by the gaming press. Grow the fuck up, Ubisoft. And everyone else.

Are You an Apple Fanboy? Well, You Can At Last Have True Love - I’m gonna go ahead and chalk this up as a solid 8.1 on my weird-shit-o-meter. (Cookies for whoever catches the reference.) This summer will see the launch of a dating site called Cupidtino. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “Cupidtino?” Latina women, of course. Or men, I suppose. But no. Cupidtino is a dating site designed for Apple fanatics. Here’s the site in a nutshell, according to “Mel,” one of its co-founders:

Essentially we’re hoping to do to dating sites what the iPhone did for smartphones. We want to create a simple, clean, uncluttered and Apple-esque experience. The profile page will not only show your typical “dating” features, but also highlight your Apple-ness – things like “when did you become a Mac?” and icons for the Apple products you own. We’re also thinking about an AppStore like “approval process” for profiles, which will require that your main photo must be posed with an Apple product or in an Apple retail store.

Sound… creepy to you? Yeah, me too.

Check Out this Trailer for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – It’s no secret that I’ve been intrigued by this game. And I gotta say, this first trailer doesn’t disappoint. Lots of gameplay, showing off combat, platforming, and Ico-esque partner mechanics. Really neat stuff.

Wow, sorry, this is much later than I anticipated. I got, uh, distracted for a while. My lazy Saturday is suddenly not so lazy. Unfortunately, though, I’m exhausted. Because… in the last 60 hours or so, I’ve slept for 8.

Signing off,

-Riddles

Hey! Look! Listen! #51

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Well! Things may have began somewhat awkwardly this week, but we’re certainly on track now. Or, at least I am. No idea where that bumbling fool Ethos is hiding out. Hopefully you’ll see something from him today.

As you’ve already been informed, Hey! Look! Listen! is now a once-weekly affair. Ethos will be providing Friday news in the form of his deranged Tingle-themed column. I think the arrangement is mutually beneficial, and should keep things varied around here. And, maybe in the future, Ethos will find the time to include more than one news story.

Heh heh. Anyway. On to the topics of interest!

Apple’s iPhone 4.0 Lost, Recovered by Gizmodo


That’s right. An Apple employee managed to lose an iPhone 4.0 in a bar, and Gizmodo ended up swiping it for $500.

Gary Powell is a software engineer for Apple. About a month ago he was celebrating his 27th birthday at a bar in Redwood City, California. He had with  him a next-generation iPhone, cleverly disguised as a normal 3GS. Unfortunately for him, when he left the bar, he left the phone behind. The phone ended up in the hands of some unnamed guy who eventually sold it to Gizmodo for $500.

Gizmodo, of course, proceeded to blow the lid off of Apple’s next-generation iPhone. They were unable to turn on the device, but they managed to glean plenty of information nonetheless. Check it out at Gizmodo.com.

I personally think it looks pretty damn sweet. The flatter, sharp-edged new design is a huge draw to me, I think it looks far better than the curved models. The increased screen resolution is a huge plus, and even the new frontal camera could be neat. (Video chat calls, anyone?)

Ugh. My internal smartphone conflict remains unresolved. Apparently, Apple was pretty eager to get their prototype back, and it’s been returned to them. Hopefully they won’t go too hard on the poor schmuck who lost it in the first place. (Gizmodo)

Ubisoft Getting Rid of Paper Game Manuals

Yep, that’s right! In the interest of being eco-friendly, Ubisoft is doing away with paper manuals for their games. Instead, you’ll access an in-game digital menu. From their official statement on the matter:

Ubisoft internal data shows that producing one ton of paper used in Ubisoft’s game manuals consumes an average of two tons of wood from 13 trees, with a net energy of 28 million BTU’s (equivalent to average heating and energy for one home/year), greenhouse gases equivalent of over 6,000 lbs of CO2, and wastewater of almost 15,000 gallons.

Shrug. Hard to find fault with this, I suppose. But, at the same time, I kinda hope this doesn’t catch on. It reminds me of when DVDs stopped coming with paper inserts. Sure, they were fairly useless, but they made it feel like you were getting more for your money. DVD’s felt much… chintzier when they stopped coming with them. (VG247)

Three New Villains Revealed for Arkham Asylum 2

Hell yes. I can’t wait for Arkham Asylum 2, and it’s great to finally get some new info on it.

First, actress Stana Katic, who stars on ABC’s Castle tweeted that she was voicing Talia al Ghul, the daughter to classic Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul.

“I’m voicing Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra al Ghul (played by Liam Neeson in ‘Batman Begins’)”

She took the tweets down quickly, but plenty of people saw them thanks to Google’s cache.

Second, we have Maurice LaMarche who’s probably best known for voicing Kif Kroker in Futurama. He spilled the beans while speaking on the Geekcastradio podcast:

I’m about to go in and do Mr. Freeze for Arkham Asylum 2 … He’s out for blood right now because, err… I can’t tell you the situation, but he’s actually somewhat a sympathetic character within the framework of the game.

And finally, we have the voice of Batman himself, Kevin Conroy, speaking during a panel at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo. According to Mr. Conroy, Arkham Asylum 2 will be “really, really dark.” He went on to compare Arkham Asylum 2’s “tone” to Batman: Return of the Joker. A bit strange, seeing that it’s Sega Genesis title from 1991.

In addition to all that, however, Mr. Conroy managed to reveal that Two-Face will be a villain in Arkham Asylum 2. So, there you have it. Three new baddies that will grace our presence in Batman’s next adventure. Let’s hope to see more at E3 2010. (VG247, Kotaku)

Rumor: Nintendo 3Ds Coming This October?

Previously, Nintendo’s only given a window of “before March 2011″ for the release of their 3DS. But now, CVG is very confidently reporting that the handheld will be released a full two months before Christmas – October of 2010, to be specific.

According to “a very senior publishing source:

It’s a surprise – we were expecting it much closer to Christmas. But I suppose it gives Nintendo the opportunity to get it front and centre in people’s minds nice and early.

In my experience, you don’t launch a product that early to Christmas unless you’re confident in it – and going to spend a lot of money on it. We’re reassured that Nintendo is going to give it some decent backing in Q4.

Nintendo’s dismissed the story as “rumor and speculation,” but CVG seems resolute. I suppose I wouldn’t be too surprised, frankly; I mean, why wouldn’t they attempt to take advantage of the Christmas season? At any rate, we’ll probably know for sure when Nintendo’s E3 Press Conference rolls around. Until then, this is technically just a rumor. (CVG via Gizmodo)

QUICKIE: Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 Announced – That’s right. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Spring 2011. Full title is Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds.

Well, that was enjoyable. Hope you’re all having a delightful evening! Look for the kick-off of our stupid theme week-inspired lists soon.

Sunday Soapbox: DRM and Public Relations

Monday, March 8th, 2010

drmAs you may have gathered “This Week is Copy Protected” was more of a gimmick than an actual “theme week” – regardless, I hope it made some sort of statement to… someone. And if it didn’t, maybe a little soapboxing will.

Ubisoft’s anti-piracy measures for the PC version of Assassins’ Creed II have been widely publicized, widely discussed, and widely lambasted. For good reason, too – People don’t like that they have to be connected to the internet to play. People don’t like the idea of losing progress due to an internet crash. And, more than anything, people don’t like the idea of a multi-million dollar corporation penalizing their consumers needlessly, in a desperate scramble to protect their aforementioned millions of dollars.

We’ve seen stupid gimmicks like this before. Remember back in the day when record labels like Sony BMG would release CDs replete with software that was required to play the disc on a PC?

Remember how well that worked?

If you had to choose between paying your hard-earned dollars for a CD that you couldn’t even use properly on your own PC, or downloading that same CD for free, sans limitations, what would you choose?

Using that rhetorical question as a springboard, I’ll go out on a limb here and claim that, if anything, Ubisoft’s new DRM method has made people want to pirate Assassin’s Creed II even more. Hence why it has – supposedly – already been cracked. Ubisoft is denying it, but there are plenty of people on the internet claiming that they’re playing Assassin’s Creed II, in its entirety, on the PC, without being connected to the internet. And the game just came out three days ago.

drm2People like to rebel against authority, particularly when they feel the “authority” in question is being tyrannical. To date, Ubisoft has sold over six million copies of the original Assassin’s Creed. When the console versions of Assassin’s Creed II were released back in November, it sold almost two million copies in a single week. So, when they roll out an intrusive new DRM measure, do they expect to look like anything less than a bunch of rich, paranoid asshats desperate to protect their millions?

You have to understand, this is how pirates justify their piracy. Pirates are convinced that the big rich game companies are only getting richer, and because of that, they’re perfectly justified in downloading games for free. Subconsciously, they view game companies as “enemies” – enemies that have more money than them, and charge too much for their games.

And, frankly, a lot of companies do a good job of fitting that bill. Take a look at, say, Activision. Easy to pick on, yes – but legitimately so.  When their CEO, the infamous Bobby Kotick, admits outright that he’s only interested in games that can be “exploited every year on every platform” and have the potential to become “$100 million dollar franchises” that makes him look like a cash hungry douche. That makes him and his entire company appear to be out-of-touch with everything other than the bottom line. That makes Activision look like the stereotypical big, rich corporation that’s after a gamers’ wallet, and nothing else. Subsequently, that makes people not give a shit when they illegally download Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

And they give even less of a shit when they find out that the game generated over a billion dollars in sales anyway.

DRM3Activision’s one of the more obnoxious examples, but they aren’t the only one. One of my personal pet peeves happens to be everyone’s favorite Nintendo, and I’ll tell you why: they’ve abandoned every customer who made them what they are today. They promise “hardcore,” and they give us Wii Music. They built a gimmick that resonated with non-gamers, (or “suckers” as I like to call them) found out that there’s a virtually limitless supply of these suckers, and left the rest of us to rot. And they don’t give a shit, because god knows they don’t need to. I don’t like giving Nintendo my hard-earned dollars anymore, because a) they don’t care about me, and b) they don’t need it anyway.

At this point, you might be asking: “What, then, Riddles? Should rich companies become less rich?” No, of course not. The issue I’m alluding to here is simply that of public relations. If game companies want people to stop downloading their games, a good first step is to make gamers like them. Instead, like the music industry before them, the game industry seems convinced that the best way to combat piracy is to do the exact opposite: antagonize, inconvenience, and in some cases, criminalize the consumer.

James Burt is an Australian man who uploaded a copy of New Super Mario Bros. Wii to the internet. It was downloaded over 50,000 times. So, Nintendo sued him for $1.5 million dollars. Reportedly, an agreement was reached in which Burt will pay a lesser amount, but the actual amount was not disclosed. And one has to wonder how much “lesser” than $1.5 million they would agree on.

Back in 2008, five different U.K.-based videogame companies announced their intentions to slap lawsuits on 25,000 people. One of these people was a woman named Isabela Barwinska. A company named Topware dragged her to court and forced her to pay them $30,000 for illegally downloading a game called Dream Pinball 3D.

Remember back when Napster was a big deal? Like, such a big deal that everyone’s favorite group of thrashers, Metallica, filed a big stupid lawsuit against them? Remember how bad that entire ordeal made them look? Remember how much respect they lost amongst their fanbase?

Remember when Blender magazine ranked them #17 on their “biggest wussies in rock” list? I actually don’t remember that part; I just read it while doing research for this article and thought it was funny.

drm-is-badThese are mistakes that the game industry must learn from. What do you think Topware gained from their lawsuit? In all likelihood, they did nothing more than bankrupt a hapless pinball fanatic. And, in the process, they made themselves look like assholes. The same can be said for Nintendo and their crucifixion of Mr. Burt. Granted, Ubisoft’s DRM method for Assassin’s Creed II isn’t nearly as cruel or offensive as these lawsuits, but unfortunately, it has the same negative effect on the all-important relationship between game companies and the consumer.

The disturbing thing is that these draconian methods seem to be on the verge of becoming a trend. Take Sony and their ridiculous “entitlement” system for the recently-released SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3 for the PSP. In order to play the game online, you’re required to register your copy online, which requires a special code. Thinking about picking it up used? Well guess what: a new registration code will run you an extra $20. But hey, at least those nasty pirates won’t be able to play online, right?

Again: won’t this only encourage piracy? Imagine yourself as Average Joe Gamer. You don’t have a whole lot of extra cash on hand, so you decide to wait a few months and pick up a used copy of SOCOM 3 when the price drops. You visit your local GameStop and walk up to the desk with a copy of the game, only to be informed by the kind and knowledgeable clerk that, in order to play the game online, you’ll be forced to shell out twenty more dollars.

If I was Average Joe Gamer, I’d probably walk out the store, direct a silent “fuck you” towards Sony, go home, and download a cracked copy. For free. And the same goes for Assassin’s Creed II. I’ll take my copy sans internet-requirement, please. I mean, come on… aren’t games one of the first things we gamers reach for when the internet goes out?

And what about when Ubisoft’s servers go kablooey?

There’s no easy answer to the issue of piracy. I recognize that. And by all means, the game industry should continue to take measures to discourage illegal downloading. But it can’t be at the cost of sacrificing good relations with gamers. Intrusive measures such as those employed by Ubisoft and Sony will, inevitably, accomplish the opposite of their intended effect. People will rebel because of the inconvenience, and people will rebel because they feel like the companies deserve it. And, given the way they’re all acting about it, who knows – maybe they do.

Welcome to… This Week!

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
Special thanks to whoever made this.

Special thanks to whoever made this.

We’re such oddballs here at Riddlethos.com.

This week, (March 5 to be precise) Ubisoft will finally release Assassin’s Creed II for the PC. Good news for the twelve people who will buy it, right? Wrong. With Assassin’s Creed II, Ubisoft is rolling out a brand-spankin-new DRM (Digital Rights Management) safety measure.

In order to play Assassin’s Creed II on the PC, you’ll need an internet connection. Furthermore, you’ll have to be connected to Ubisoft’s servers at all times while playing the game. Creepy, eh?

Oh, and if you’re disconnected from the internet for any reason, at any time, you’ll be thrown back to the menu screen.

To say the least, it seems like this new DRM may be a deterrent to people who live in countries with large expanses devoid of internet. Like, say, North America. Also, Ubisoft is not my big brother, so they don’t always need to be watching.

In honor of Ubisoft’s stellar efforts to further the cause of big, money-grubbing companies that criminalize their customers, and of draconian DRM measures that will serve only to increase piracy, This Week is Copy Protected.