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Thought Prompting 2: Electric Boogaloo

Posted on April 3, 2013 at 4:50 AM

Pretty heavy on the videogames this time around, but I drop in a movie bit as well.


Let's get this blog started.




Wada is a Gona…

Get it...it...kinda rhymes...


 

Ok, I tried to make a funny title, at least.

 

Yoichi Wada, the head fella at onetime relevant Japanese videogame company SquareEnix, is stepping down. The announcement was made at a recent investor meeting rather uneventfully and only noting that profits have been dwindling - as in no profits being made because the money being spent was considerably more than the money coming in (having games in development hell for years probably contributed to that).


The fact is that the games they were making weren't meeting their sales expectations. Note this, though: the sales of the games weren't horrible, but SquareEnix is being so mismanaged that even decent sales numbers isn't enough to sustain them. In other words, they're not only spending more than what they're making…they're spending A LOT more than what they're making (Tomb Raider sold over three million copies which is pretty damn good for a tired old franchise but they're spending so much money elsewhere it didn't matter).

 

Ok, so he's stepping down, and for all the right reasons because it's time for new management at SquareEnix. Good. Long time coming.




They spelled "Prease" wrong.

 

But here's something that is even stranger. Those sales numbers? Apparently it's only physical copies shipped to stores. Not any digital downloads, such as off steam where a good chunk of players will buy games. In fact, I've gathered that the game Sleeping Dogs has found way more popularity with PC gamers thanks to good deals online than console gamers…so one has to wonder, what are the EXACT sales numbers for the titles. Not just physical copies. Not copies of games shipped to retailers. But what is actually sold and the net profit for each?

 

SquareEnix, strangely, didn't have those numbers. So while I'm glad Wada is out, he needed to be outed probably five years ago, I almost feel it's bittersweet. In other words, and this would never happen because it's Japanese culture and they do business much differently, but flat out saying "bad management" would feel a little better than trying to fumble around numbers that don't make any sense. True, it's unsaid that bad management is the reason, but I'd love to actually hear that from the horses mouth with a nod to the fact that Square Enix is trying to correct serious internal problems. Maybe it's just self-satisfaction I'm seeking because Wada is one of the main reasons why my once-favorite company has fallen so low (now let's start axing some of those other higher-ups?) but I'd love to have just read "he was taking us in the wrong direction and we're moving to correct our business practices, for our sakes and for the dedicated fans of SquareEnix."

 

That would make me happy.

 

But in the meantime, you can read the official statement here…it's pretty boring. I do wonder what'll happen to all his shares or what other position he might have at the company. Note, his "new title" section is noticeably blank.

 

By the way, it's kind of the same wheelhouse as the CEO of EA stepping down a few weeks back: he's not being "reposition" but absolutely let go.


I'll save an entry for the state of the gaming business to just a few sentences: it's not doing well in Japan and hasn't for years. Rest of the world can sustain it but who knows for how long? If the new generation consoles is unable get some new energy in the market, and it all dwindles like the WiiU, then we're going to be seeing a major drop in the business. It won/t be a "crash" - these companies are a million times bigger than what the gaming companies were in the 80s - but it'll stagnate and slow.

 

But I think the new consoles and new excitement by developers is going to prevent that.

 

 

 

What I'm Playing Now:

Speaking of gaming, per my last entry I completed Sleeping Dogs and was making way through Tomb Raider (both Square Enix published games, I might add). Sleeping Dogs, as I noted, was great. Tomb Raider, as I noted, "was good so far."


Well the "so far" kind of ended. Tomb Raider starts amazingly well, but about half-way through you just kind of want to get to the finish line. It becomes repetitive, the writing just gets worse and worse (though Croft, for the most part, is pretty consistent and I never doubt she's a "hero" and "doing the right thing.") and gameplay elements you think are going to go somewhere, hunting for example, pretty much dissapte in to an "oh yeah...you can do that stuff too."  You just kind of hit a wall and want to get to the end, which itself is pretty underwhelming and boring. Plus, the game is easy. Way too easy.



Easier than some things.

 

Which leads me to:


Far Cry 3 - which isn't all that easy. Oh, it's lenient like a lot games these days are (respawnas and try-again methods of hand-holding) but it's challenging at least. It makes you think. Basically, it's an open world and you're in it, and how you progress or approach various tasks and missions is entirely up to you.


For me, I'm a sniper man. I love sniper rifles in open world games like this, and Far Cry hits that sweet spot. I love finding a base, scouting it for minutes, and planning a precise course of action. Who can I shoot first and not get noticed? Who can I shoot from a distance or kill up close? Who is armored and who  has what weapons? If I take out the snipers first, the rockets next, the machine guns next then the heavies, will that give me enough time? Should I take out the alarms first or should I try and pick off as many as I can and hope nobody sees the bodies?


There's so much to do. What I just described is just one, ONE, aspect - which is liberating bases that are scattered across the island(s). Then you have the main quest, then you have the side quests, then you have the treasure hunting and animal hunting to make better equipment.


 

Now the story, I couldn't care less about. Truth is, it's not amazing so far. The characters are all kind of dumb and strangely detached from the crazy violence that's happening all around them, but it's paced well. It progresses incredibly well, something that Tomb Raider failed miserably at and dangit, it's just a lot of fun. It makes up for the rather clunky Far Cry 2, which I stopped playing rather quickly and overall the game shows what an open-world FPS could really be.




Also, great voice acting and animation of the characters. Especially this loon. Truly one of the most memorable characters I've come across in a while.



 

Ok, Pain and Gain Might Just Be Awesome

Like a good pop song, there's always room for a really well-done, stupid movie. Instead of trying to be something (i.e. Transformers), Michael Bay is just cutting loose with his latest flick, and it might just be pretty fucking sweet.

 

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It's like a big bowl of ice cream with all the toppings, then another more steroid-laded bowl on top of that with even more toppings also laced with steroids.

 

And I'm perfectly fine with that. I don't try and sell myself as some film snob, there's a place for movies like this as well - and by God…Michael Bay might have just hit the sweet spot. This is unabashed silliness with Bay's schtick all over it (ewww) and not only will I say I wouldn't have it any other way, watching this trailer makes it all the more obvious that only Michael Bay could make this movie. It's trendy to hate on the guy, but when he's with stuff that works, he does a damn good job with it. If everyone on this flick is in on the joke, then it might just end up being amazing. Sometimes a movie is bad but is able to turn that corner in to being awesome (see Point Break, any old Segal movie, The Running Man, Road House, or Bay's own Armageddon and The Rock - let's hope it's more those and not The Island or Transformers).


 

 

Things That Are Annoying in The Simpsons Tapped Out

After a rough start, and a few glitches, The Simpsons Tapped Out is a damn fun little game for your mobile devices. As I've mentioned before, it's basically a mix of Citiville (a simplified Sim City) with something like The Sims. You build your Springfield, you send the characters that you gradually unlock on to tasks and collect money and XP as the days go buy to get better stuff and unlock more buildings and characters.


But here's some things that I can't believe they have yet to address. Reading This Simpsons Tapped Out Blog, which is ran by a fan, this isn't just me talking here.




1) You can't re-click on a character right away. Let's say your character is done with a task. You click the little thumbs up icon above their head and out spews a plethora of money and experience. Problem is, you can't click on that character right after to send them on the next task. No, you have to wait until you've gathered up all the money and XP first, which is insanely tedious, so you can either tap, tap, tap, tap, tap etc…the screen and gather it all up or you can wait until the game automatically gets it for you. So…if we're going to get it automatically, then just let me click the character again right away. I'll leave that money and XP there, you get it for me when you're ready, but I'm ready to move on and want to send that character off on a new mission, not keep tapping to collect shit I'm going to collect anyways in waiting to finally be able to bring up the character task menu again.

 

2) Here's something even more annoying: accidentally clicking the Donut button to speed things up. When you click on a house, person or something being built, you have the option to also click a donut button to expedite whatever it is that object or person is doing. Click on a house that's waiting to be built, it'll be built right away instead of you having to wait 10 hours. On a person, whatever task they're on will be done right away and you'll get all the money and XP (and tediously gather it up) instead of waiting 8 hours and so on.


But as I said, you sometimes get stuck in that tedious money/XP gathering and you're tap, tap, tapping along. As you do that, you'll be tapping the same house or person, which brings up that donut button and then accidentally tap that as well. You're just tapping, the menu option for that button comes up in a flash then WHAM you've just spent four donuts to speed up collecting something that you didn't need sped up. Who the hell designed that? 


Donuts are a commodity in this game. You use them to buy cool stuff because they're so rare, not to speed up tax collecting on Burns Manor. Who gives a shit about collecting stuff quicker? Or getting tasks done quicker?



Quiet, I'm typing here!


EA, I think, tried to get around this and put in a "cancel" option. They know you're just tapping, you accidentally hit that donut button, and it will turn in to "cancel" if you don't want to use donuts. But it goes so damn quick and you're trying to move past all the tedium that you probably won't even notice. I've probably lost a good ten donuts due to this, and that ten donuts would have been nice to retain and save for a nifty premium item. Putting a "yes/no" confirm box that will pop up won't fix this. The issue is the ease of hitting that donut button in the first place which slows everything down and how it works against your human instincts in terms of playing a game. We want ease of use and convenience in mobile games, not "oh shit, what did I just push?" that halts everything.


3) Speaking of tasks and whatnot, why isn't there a "find character" feature? It's easy: put a little menu button somewhere on the screen and when you tap it, it brings up a full-screen menu of all the characters. It can be their faces and under them their status in regards to the task they are or are not currently doing. More importantly, this makes it so much easier to find them. I spend more time looking for goddamn Lisa or Bart, any of the shorter characters that can get lost behind objects, than anything in the game.


4) The last and final thing that annoys me, and I know it's pretty much impossible for the developers to predict this, but all the characters should have more tasks that take place outside. I'm fine sending Lovejoy to do a 12 hour stint inside the Church, but can he also have a 12 hour stint outside somewhere? I want to see all my people around and doing stuff, not holed up somewhere. I try and send everyone on outdoor tasks as much as I can, it makes the town seem lively and everyone interacting with each other. It's a minor issue, but when the longest task that someone like Lovejoy has outside is 6 hours, and a good chuck of everyone else is 8 or 12, it gets annoying that the time of check in is thrown off for me. Same for someone like Lisa or Flanders, who have only 4 hour tasks outside. Give them more to do outside, guys.


Ok, enough Tapped Out stuff.

Ok, done, thanks for indulging.



Bioshock Infinite Should Be Whatever The Hell It Wants To Be 

Wrapping up this week of gaming with a little big of Bioshock Infinite. I've only played a little, I'll dive in further probably next week, but there's been conversations online about how Bioshock Infinite would play better as a puzzle/adventure game and not as a shooter. It's a very visual game, lots of little details and "things to look at" as though you're on some sort of ride.


Gamers and the gaming press love to speculate in these "what if" scenarios. Truthfully, unless you're a game designer and could actually disect the elements of putting a game together, to note what would be gained and lost if you hypothetically changed tthis or that, then the conversation really isn't going anywhere. Hell, I read on a message board, neogaf and all its egotastical glory no less, that it should have been "Mirrors Edge + ICO" - ok..HOW? Why not just say it should be tangerines and a corgi while you're at it? Context. Say something. Spewing out random words and comparisons doesn't achieve anything if you don't put some thought in to it.


You could sit there all day and draw comparisons and speculate to your heart's content on various ways to redesign any game, but in the end what we have is Bioshock Infinite as first person shooter...and it's damn awesome. It gets the job done. More than done. So...




What's with the "well what if it was this type of game?" conversation even doing only a day after its release in the first place? Can gamers just not be content? For once? Why does the gaming community have to over-analyzie and disect every single thing? Hell, why are they never satisfied? Why can't gamers just play a game and enjoy it for what it is rather than try to sit like some armchair quarterback and say "Well I would have done this and that and changed this" as though they ahve any idea what they're even talking about?



And one little movie bit:



I Don't Think It's Hit Us Just Yet

Guys, I know in this era of over-blogging and constant information of an extarodinary scale thanks to the internet, but really:


We're getting new Star Wars movies.


Wait for it...


Thanks, Loki.


I really don't think it's hit us just yet. Maybe it's still the bad taste the prequels left in our collective mouths, or maybe because it's still a few years off, but we're getting new Star Wars movies. Like, in our lieftimes. We're going to see Han and Leia and Luke again. On screen. We're getting new movies controlled by people not George Lucas and who understand where the franchise is and where they need to take it.


But think about it. You're going to go to the movie theater. You're going to pay for the ticket. Get your popcorn and sit down and see that credits scroll in the beginning with the classic score. Then you're going to see the Millenium Falcon. Chewie. Han. Luke. Leia. The droids. Even the classy golden gay one. You'll probably see a Yoda ghost. We're catching up with old friends, folks - friends we never thought we'd see on the big screen again played by the original actors. Not someone recast, ala Star Trek, but the origianl folks that made our childhoods.


Maybe it just hit me. I don't know, but either way I suddenlty found myself excited at the thought of seing all these characters we grew up with again. I think that was one of the things that hurt the Prequels, we know Star Wars with these folks and it wanted to reinvent itself and with every reference to the old movies, we couldn't help but draw comparisons and end up enjoying the Prequels even less.



All I know is they better also have some Lando in it.

 


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