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Apologies for the complete and deadening silence around here lately.  Since QuakeCon we’ve been spending quite a lot of time gearing up for another year of college, which is a multi-layered and frightening process for yours truly.

QuakeCon was…well, like I said, fun, but with some painful bits.  It had its fair share of good times, but there was also more than enough hooting, drunkeness, and a surprising number of “bros”.  It didn’t help much that our group had little or no preparation beforehand, and the facilities made operating Steam a pain.  The worlds biggest lan-party: great.  Being stuck there without a bed to sleep in at will, a place to hide when it all becomes too much, and not being entirely sure when or where from your next meal will come.  Maybe not as much fun.

Also, read an awesome article about sex in video games, or more specifically how most games rely on what is already a shitty, outdated, and soul-crushing system of sexuality in real life: Women aren’t Vending Machines.

Or basically: instead of being the result of a good relationship and something that happens between two equally interested partners,  sex in games is really fairly often presented as “push button receive bacon”; basically something you trade and barter for one way or another.  Which is, again, shitty in real life and equally shitty in games.  In a lot of instances, I suppose this is a combination of a byproduct of societal “that’s just the way it is” statements combined with the fundamentals of give-and-take game design.  But the funny, and extreme, example in question is the upcoming Alpha Protocol.  Which apparently features a James Bond type main character that can reportedly have sex with every woman in the game.  Which is dodgy in the first place.  There’s no married women?  No lesbians?  No women who just, I don’t know, are full-fledged human beings with feelings and preferences that might, say, exclude Mr. psuedo-Bond from their list?  Nope.  In Alpha Protocol, women exist to have sex with.  That’s just great.

Oh, wait!  I forgot to mention that there’s an achievement for sleeping with every lady in the game.
And I really don’t know what else to say about that.  The level of shit therein is practically self explanatory.

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It’s been sort of a hard journey (though not as hard as some), but here we are at QuakeCon.  Hell, all of our writers are!

First con ever of any sort for me.  Though this is debatably more a huge LAN party than a con, but hey!  It’s equal parts wondrous and terribly frightening, to be honest.

Carried a bunch of stuff?  Check.  Stood in a line?  Check.  Stood in a line again because I’m an idiot? Cheeeck.

Well, so far really I’d classify it as the gathering and personafication of all the best and worst of our community.  There’s a lot of goodwill here and really an interesting sense of…community.  But at the same time, it’s hard to deny the presence of all your typical internet vices and psuedo-masculine nerdisms.  I hope I can take in s’more of the crowd, maybe even do some…networking?  And give more of an impression here!

Note:  I hit Save Draft instead of Publish before walking around the show floor like a zombie, so here’s a two-day-late post about QuakeCon!

Not like there aren’t enough reasons as is: Plants Vs. Zombies is a PopCap title wherein you defend your lawn from cartoon zombies with a bevy of particularly aggressive plant life.  The game is massively fun and beyond charming with a cute sense of humor.  We’re talking pole vaulting zombies, crazy neighbors, zombie dolphins, adorable kitty-faced waterside cat-tails, and even “zomboni” drivers.

The comedy doesn’t seem to stop there, though.

See, it’s not unusual to see terrible ads for browser games on gaming sites.  Usually, of course, they’re along the lines of vague features that may (possibly!) be something resembling elements of a game.  PVP!  Space Combat!  Panda Breeding!  Well, whatever.  These guys have nothing on Evony‘s advertising might:

So is it about strategy or heavy petting?  I'm confused.

So is it about strategy or heavy petting? I'm confused.

This is not Photoshopped, people.  This is on the internet.

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Transformations

Transformations

To the blog-mobile!


Racing down the grapevine!  Nippon Ichi, (cult-favorite strategy RPG developers behind the Disgaea series and more) recently released a teaser flyer for what looks to be a new PSP Strategy RPG supposedly under work by their Disgaea team.

Official reactions have been, thus far, as follows:

“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY”, Me.

In all seriousness, NIS has always had something of a flirting relationship with sentai heroes and masked heroes in general.  If the focus herein is on said goofy heroes entirely, I’m expecting a wholly good time.  It’s also nice to see an expansion on a transformation mechanic.  They’ve tried things like this in the past, I just always felt like they never quite panned out.

But with the news that Fat Princess is also hitting this week coming to me today, I’m sure as hell having a good day!

I picked up this story from the awesome GameSetWatch, who previously heard it from PSPHyper.  Spread the love!

Alright, 2D fighting games?  Pretty cool.  They’re also seeing something of a comeback recently, with Street Fighter IV actually doing some pretty good numbers, and lots of folks being psyched for BlazBlue and King of Fighters XII.  But it’s seemed to me for a while that fighting games as a whole have been…well, not aging so well as a genre.

Sure, the visuals keep getting pumped, the soundtracks keep getting grander, and now we can fight people anywhere on the globe at the drop of a hat, but what about the rest of the game?  What about the gameplay, the accessibility of it, and how we learn it?  What about story, our favorite characters, and synergizing all that with the actual game we’re playing?

Of course, it seems the guiding mantra of developers when it comes to the core of fighting games is largely “If it ain’t broke,” and that’s worked well enough up until now.  And while this is a logical thing to think, and hardly a bad attitude to have with game design, the fact remains that it could be done a lot better.  In its current state, most core fighting gameplay is catered to one demographic; fighting game fans.  Which is, again, a business strategy that surely “ain’t broke”, but why should developers settle there?

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Information on SquareEnix’s next big MMORPG is scarce: even after looking forward to the big reveal for years, the most fans ended up with post-E3 was a cinematic trailer and some generalized interview answers.

Love it or loathe it, this means one thing and one thing alone for the fan community at large:

Loads and loads of speculation.

We already know Final Fantasy XIV has races returning from XI, and it’s fair to assume those won’t be the only similarities; the development team behind the new game is the same one from XI, and even in the brief trailer we have in our hands it’s clear things are already looking rather similar.  To this effect, discussions on what will and won’t be returning are seemingly highly relevant.

Of Manthras and Girlkas

One of the hot topics burning up message boards is on playable races new and old.  The old, in particular, being Mithra and Galka in this case:  It’s already been revealed that races from Final Fantasy XI will be returning, just for familiarity’s sake, but there’s some rumbling from players that these races should be due for a change.

The reason being that in Final Fantasy XI these races were gender limited: the path of the graceful cat was reserved for women, and the way of the bulky, bull-like Galka was solely for the men in the crowd.  While this provided personality for the game, many players also felt like they’d been robbed of choices.  Where were the man-cats?  Where were the strong women?

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This is hardly new news for those most devoted of internet scourers, but as far as I’m concerned the more people know about this the better!  Your faithful poster first heard about this on GameSetWatch, but a number of folks have posted about it since.

Intrepid chip-tuners Pterodactyl Squad describes their tribute album thusly:

“‘The 8-bit Album’ is a collection of Weezer tracks as interpreted by some of the brightest stars of the 8-bit music scene.”

As I’m too much of a noob to chiptunery to really say much about the artists, I’ll just say that, well, I love me some Weezer, and I love me some chiptunes.  And I’ll just let their teaser song for the upcoming album speak for itself.

I’ve listened to that damn thing at least 50 times by now.  Can’t wait to have it in WinAmp, as my clicking finger is getting tired of hitting play on the vid.  In any case, I just know I’m looking forward to Buddy Holly and Island in the Sun like a kid on Christmas.

Read all about the upcoming album, including a tracklist, at the “Weezer 8-bit Tribute” blog, and watch Pterodactyl Squad’s website for the actual release and more from the group!

One of the things I was most looking forward to at E3 was SquareEnix’s new MMO baby (as seen in a previous post about wishes that now, in retrospect, leaves me crying into my ice cream).  They dropped the initial bombshell at Sony’s press conference, and it looked … okay, but it reminded me an awful lot of an existing game.

The trailer was mostly pre-rendered bits with a sprinkle of in-game footage, and though it looked awfully good, it can’t be denied it seemed awfully familiar.  One of my largest preexisting fears was that the game, sharing a large amount of it’s development team with Final Fantasy XI, would be too similar to Square’s original MMORPG.  Unfortunately, the only news to come out of E3 about the game after that was a lackluster Q&A session and an interview on IGN that only added one or two new pieces to the puzzle.

So far we know that the game takes place in a brand new world, with similar races to FFXI to keep fans of that game comfortable.  Here’s hoping there’s new choices, as well.  The game will have a larger focus on pleasing a large variety of players, whether you prefer to solo, party, play for 30 minutes, or play all day.  There will be a number of “new systems” in place to make the game more accessible, and the job system will supposedly work very differently, to boot.  IGN’s interview also revealed that weapons will play a much larger part in the game, and that advancement will not be handled via experience.

What I’m keeping my fingers crossed for is that at least a few things on my beautiful wishlist for the game will be addressed:

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Ding ding ding!  The curtains have now gone done on all three major console developer conferences.  Did you get your fill of motion controllers?  This article is rife with links to videos of games, so if you’re catching up, hopefully this’ll make it a little easier, too!

First up: Nintendo

Nintendo was ready to go, showing off new games from the get-go and keeping the sales talk low.  The first out was New Super Mario Bros. Wii with Little Big Planet-style 4-player coop, not revolutionary but it certainly looked like a lot of fun.  There was talk of number of already acknowledged but nonetheless cool games, including WarioWare DIY (as in Do It Yourself), Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (effectively Mario & Luigi RPG 3), and Kingdom Hearts 358/3 Days.  It’s also apparent that they’ve put more time in Wii Sports Resort, and it really shows.  While the game did look fun last year, this year’s showing really dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, with a polished intro sequence and what seemed like a more approachable and fun game overall.  There was also an appreciable little remark from the presenter during the archery demo about the skill and challenge behind the activity.  You’ve got to appreciate the guy trying to tell traditionally core gamers “Hey, you can enjoy this too!”

Of course, the bigger announcements from the conference were Super Mario Galaxy 2, which might not be a wholly new game but certainly looks like more of what we already love, and the big shocker: a Team Ninja/Nintendo co-developed handling of a big Nintendo IP in the form of Metroid: Other M.  You ask me?  The trailer looks fantastic, aside from the slightly frightening doll-people in the cutscenes (What’s with Japanese developers and these creepy mannequin people!?).  The action seems frenetic, and there’s something truly fan-servicey about seeing Samus doing bitchin’ ninja moves one after another.

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For the unaware, Microsoft’s 2009 E3 conference ended not half an hour ago.  Major announcements included more sequels, such as: Left 4 Dead 2, Crackdown 2, and a new Halo…thing called Halo: Reach.  Of course, the show-stealer was a confirmation of Microsoft’s working with the “zcam” technology in the form of “Project Natal.”

Basically a camera that can read full body movements and also read on the Z-axis (meaning it detects movements in 3D space,) it was shown being used for a full-body Breakout-style game, and a painting program.  Most curious was a tech-demo video from Lionhead Studios, featuring a Seaman-like idea wherein the demonstrator interacted with a virtual boy by talking and showing him…stuff.

It looks really interesting, to be honest.  It’s obviously a more complex device, but the comparisons with the Playstation EyeToy and the Wii are inevitable.  My own thoughts, hopes, and grievances?

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The Other Castle is a blog by video games, for video games. Wait, let me try that again. The Other Castle is a blog by a few nerd friends, about video games. As long as we're entertaining ourselves, there's a good chance somewhere out there, you might be getting a little kick out of reading this, too!

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