Metal Assault | 2-D MMO Gun-n-Run

•January 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Metal Slug fans will like this game.  It’s supposedly a Korean game localized for the west under a classic but familiar guise of running, gunning, and vehicle driving mayhem on a 2-dimensional battlefield.  While the naming of this MMO leaves much to be desired (most Asian-made MMOs do), it provides both familiar 2-D free scrolling elements mixed with massive pvp and cooperative mechanics that are sure to keep a lot of core and casual players busy.  If you’re not so much a hardcore mmorpg player, but prefer the sporadic spontaneity of browser games as well as some other gaming on the side, Metal Assault might be for you.

Metal Assault Poster

Closed Beta at Aeria begins in the Spring this year.

This will be a client based game (not a browser game), but it looks light enough to allow you to flip back and forth between your desktop and the game without killing your ‘puter.  Maybe that’s what the publisher had in mind as it’s other games like Caesary, Lords Online and Ministry of War require you to wait a lot — in between buildings and troop recruitments, you could easily play a few rounds of Meta Assault.

Sign up today if you like.

I don’t know many other 2-D games like this (or ones that look this good), but if you have other suggestions, please reply with a short list of the best in your opinion.

Oregon Trail | Ah Memories! ♫

•January 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Remember that good old game called “Oregon Trail” you got to play during free time in “computer class” back in the 3rd grade?  I certainly do.  It’s scary how much games have evolved since then, but what if some smart-ass back in the 80’s tried to score a quick million from applying micropayments to this classic title?

Oh no, Mary is injured.  Assuming you want her healthy again, you’ll need to spend virtual currency or “coins”.  If you run out of coins, you gotta buy.  So you’d press the tab key or use the keyboard arrows to select the “Buy Coins” button, press “Return” (the ancient word for “Enter”) and…

But of course, the Internet/WWW was nothing what it is today and your purchase of coins must be done via snail mail ordering.

I’m sure that game makers were waiting and wishing for a way to make money like today but the technology just wasn’t there.  Now, everything is allegedly free-to-play but there is always an easy and quick way to give yourself a boost thanks to Paypal to recharge  your virtual coffers.

What will be the next cash-generating machine the gaming industry cooks up?

Been hiding underground

•January 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Happy freakin’ New Year I guess is the appropriate thing to say.  That, and sorry for being such a lazy ass these past few months.  Some personal troubles and a long story that you don’t need to know, but the point is, I’ve let all my readers down (all 3 of them).

I’d like to begin this new continuation of Spud blog posts with a few pieces of news that you probably already know but were news to me until about 3 minutes ago.  Champions Online will be going live on January 25.  LOTRO is actually earning revenue even after going FTP (these two have been posted everywhere).  Aeria is slated to release two mmo games by Q2, Lime Odyssey (or “Ragnarok Online 2-2”) and Realm of the Titans.

Thoughts on these.  None, really.  I just wanted to remember how it feels to talk about game stuff again after so long. Until next time (soon hopefully), toodle-oo!

Raw Fish in my Mouth — Sushi Blog

•November 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This really made me wanna go to Japan – I love the Sushi!

I was in Japan a few months ago, but I didn’t eat sushi, blast me!  I took in all the sights, the girls, the night life, all the stuff you saw in Lost in Translation, but of all the things I could have missed — real sushi — just crucify me now.

And you know what? In Akihabara and the next-door town of Ueno, there were TONS of sushi shops: sushi trains, raw fish for sale under the sun  (for god know how much per pound), and other opportunities to eat. Then, I was referred this blog from an old mate of mine, its an extension of Metropolitan Sushi.com what looks to be a casual blog about sushi in Japan meant for foreigners (westerners, I guess).

Heres another Starcraft short-story

•September 1, 2010 • 2 Comments

Not written as well as the first one, but hey, if you gotta write something, better let people read it.  Thanks ‘themaxxilor’

“Another Day”

“Another day, another 50 zergling hides to haul off to the Pits” thinks Barney Rhodes as he initializes the morning startup sequence for his SCV.  The Pits are what Barney Rhodes and the rest of the Terran Dominion’s SCV Corps call the facilities where slaughtered zerg are brought for disposal.  True to their name, the Pits are more or less craters made from Battlecruiser or Siege Tank bombardment, once filled with zerg can be incinerated by a demo team.  Earlier that week, an aggressive Terran push into the creep-soaked canyons of the Thralian Moon left over 3,000 charred, nuked and utterly mutilated zerg carcasses for Barney’s outfit to clean up.  Barney will be making his 32nd trip to the Pits this week and can only look forward to more as his outfit penetrates deeper into zerg territory.  Barney’s job was to make the Pits full the only way possible: pick up, carry, dump, return, repeat.  The monotony of the job paired with the indescribably disgusting, rancid and vile decaying of zerg bodies sent 3 of his fellow SCV pilots assigned to the Pits straight to the infirmary from trauma induced vomiting and nervous breakdowns.

Barney Rhodes, Class-B certified SCV pilot, has been in the employ of the Terran Dominion military since he was pulled off of his family’s civilian prospector business during the so-called Brood War.  Just out of high school, Barney and the rest of his peers in his native Planera would be sent far from home with no idea when or if he would return.  Initially assigned to crystal harvesting, then construction, and after that vehicle repair and chop-shop duty, Barney eventually became a permanent addition to the 101st Marauder Battalion, Fido Company’s designated Pits Duty SCV jockey.  He was a garbage man for a battalion whose resume includes tours on 10 zerg infested systems, 35 glow zones and only required Battlecruiser support twice.  The battalion was also known for intentionally endangering the lives of its SCV pilots and Barney brushed with death more times that he would like to have chanced to.

In spite of the undesirable aspects of Pits Duty, or PD, for Barney Rhodes, it actually has made his life with the 101st relatively relaxing as it is probably the safest job of any SCV jockey in this part of space.  After a position has been cleared and secured, the PDs clear the way for new structures and material to be brought up to supply the advance of the frontline forces – in a sense, his work is key to the logistical health of the battalion – and for this he was proud of, at least as proud as he could be cleaning up someone else’s mess.

As the Thralian sunrise bathed the Pits in red light, Barney’s SCV’s cockpit com speaker sizzled to life, “Testin’! Testin’! One, two, four!  PD Alpha-One to PD Alpha-Two, read me if you see me!  This sure beats the helloutta crystal pickin’ under fire don’t it?!”  “PD Alpha-Two, reads you Five-by-Five!  And right you are, Gums!” returned Barney in acknowledgment.  Gums Manson was the only other SCV jockey that understood the importance and pride of being assigned to PD, and survived just as long as Barney despite the battalion’s antics.  Also, because like Barney Gums wasn’t one of the 3 recruits to be taken off active duty due to “PD Syndrome” and also because both Barney’s and Gums’ parents were prospectors, they had a lot in common and they quickly became friends.

It was the seventh and final PD haul of the day that changed all that forever.

“…(crack)…(shhh)…(zap)…wirrrr…” Barney’s com receiver whined.  “Gums! We got any newbies joinin’ us today?”  Gums replied, “Not on the roster — why ya askin’?”

“Seems we got someone out here b’sides us! An’ they got no clue how’s to work the com!” replied Barney.  “I’m gon’ git to higher ground t’see if someone’s wandering where they ain’t suppose to.  Will you be a’right here by yer’ lonesome?”

Gums’ reply, littered with static cracked out “Ro(shh)ger that!…(crackle)…don’t take too long now, ya hear?  We still gotta slice up that Ultralisk’er ‘fore we head back!”

“Alpha-2 copies!  Be back ‘fore you can say Mengsk’s momma wears army boots!  O’er n’ out!” reassured Barney.  Gums’ chuckle echoed on the speaker as Barney punched in the coordinates of a summit 1.5 klicks just outside of the canyons.

Half-way to his destination, Barney’s cockpit was again filled with static sizzling over the com.  “There definitely be somethin’ out ‘ere b‘sides us,” thought Barney as his proximity-destination HUD approached 1.2 km.

Five minutes later Barney Rhodes, pilot of PD SCV Alpha-two reached the summit.  Clouds of Tharlian moondust, charred earth and zergling scales blew all around him in great gusts as the summit ended in a steep drop-off overlooking the PD zone installation.  The blasts from the 101st Marauder Battalion’s tactical nukes signaling new pushes into the local zerg hive cluster can be seen in the distance, with murshrooming clouds still thick as Cirian plankton plumes in its biannual summer.    Barney flipped every switch he could recognize and soon every piece of surveillance equipment his SCV had – acoustic detectors, CT analyzers and a few others he had no clue as to what they were meant for – all sprang to life with startling activity.  There were so many instruments flickering with screen after screen of frequencies and dynamic real-time graphs that the inside of his SCV was not unlike a Tarsonian Night Club on the Emperor’s birthday.

The beauty of the SCV was its cheap cost but extreme versatility.  It was design to withstand the worst terrain known to humanity and needn’t anything more than a Vulture license to operate, which led to its appeal among private prospectors, mass-miner guilds and even the most powerful of Terran military factions throughout the Koprulu sector.  In Barney’s SCV he included a state-of-the-art suite of finely tuned instruments that would get him the most work done in the least amount of discomfort.  Each instrument’s display showed data about the immediate five kilometer area of the SCV, which included substance identification, topical elevation mapping, radar and subterranean footprints, air density and radiation samplers.  From what Barney could tell, everything was peachy – no anomalies detected and definitely no one else out there.

Barney caught himself in thought at that instance.  “No one else?”

“Alpha-Two to Alpha-One, I’ve reached my coordinates.  I’ve completed my prelim’nary contact scan and soon about to be goin’ blind.”  Expecting to hear Gums’ chuckle over the com, there was only silence.  Barney went to full strength active search-and-receive.  Nothing.

“Gums! You copy?!” Barney repeated.  Still nothing.  Not so much as a squeak on the come, and nothing new detected upon reaching the summit.

“Dammit, now I’ve lost contact with Gums” thought Barney, but he continued following standard SCV scouting protocol and speaking to no one in particular, “Alpha-Two here.  I think my instruments ‘r broke! Switchin’ to visual confirmation!” Barney nervously waited for some acknowledgment from Gums, but when none came, he proceeded to power down his SCV’s surveillance suite.  The HUDs and viewers blinked off one by one and once again Barney came to recognize the scorched terrain of the once peach colored soil of the Thralian Moon.

The summit where Barney’s SCV now stood upon overlooked a ten kilometers-wide ravine which was designated the perfect venue for Pits Duty.  Barney started to pivot his SCV 180-degrees in order to get an eyeful of the ravine where he and Gums were working, as well as position him on a return vector.

Barney’s SCV about-faced and was met by a whirlwind of local moondust, blanketing his canopy and blinding him for a half-second.  Another half-second later, Barney’s SCV about-faced again, but this time a blood-curdling scream echoed from the cockpit and tumbled into the ravine below.

Rolling slowly and stopping at the summit’s lethal edge, Gums Manson’s SCV moaned and idled.  Its canopy drenching with condensation and steam sprung open and the atmosphere of the Thralian Moon flowed in.

“The Queen commanded it,” gurgled from Gums’ slashed and irrelevant jugular, past his newly split and agape mandible with a sound that would make any grown Terran man vomit.  A pair of spindly limbs freshly burst from his inflated and hollowed rib cage assisted his exit from the SCV cockpit onto the moon’s surface.

Now standing where his “partner” once did, Gums gazes beyond the ravine towards what used to be the front lines of the 101st Maruaders, now in full and futile retreat from their sporadic advance into the heart of zerg territory just hours prior.  Once billowing clouds of the detonated Terran nuclear munitions seemed to dissipate and dissolve into millions of airborne zerg of all types and strains.  Gums thought, grinning as only an infested Terran zerg could possibly grin having no longer any lips, “From the Swarm, there will be no escape by land or by sky, lest one finds salvation in the half-filled Pits of my own handiwork.”

So ended the Terran advance on the Thralian Moon and so ended another day in the life of the infested-Terran Gums Manson as he disposed of a disposer-of-zerg.  The one thread of human curiosity left inside him ponders what the next day will bring.

-End-

Lineage II addict sues game maker (LoL)

•August 27, 2010 • 8 Comments

Original article on wired.com:  http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/08/lineage11-addiction/

Some people have too much fun. But for some people, too much fun disrupts their lifestyle and for one Lineage II player, all that fun has led to a lawsuit against the popular mmorpg‘s creators.

Give me a friggin’ break.  You are to blame for your own addiction

Remember those messages on arcade machines back in the old days that flashed, “Play Responsibly” and “Real Players Don’t Use Drugs”?  Well, it looks like some players (not some, a lot) have tossed responsibility out the window because games have become their new drug!

Just like in any situation where an individual or group tries to place the source of video gaming evils solely on the game providers without considering themselves as a possible cause and solution, this signifies just how dumb some people can be when they try to get political about games.

A couple examples:

  1. Violent games, sexy games, potty-mouth games and others have angered parents for corrupting their kids.
  2. Games reduce academic and professional productivity, decrease attention spans, thwart creativity and turn players into zombies

For both examples 1 and 2, the cause and solution lies in the hands of the parents of players or players themselves.  The have tried to fight it, causing BS interest groups like the ESRB to impose age-specific ratings on games, and other futile measures.  But how can you implement a safeguard against gaming addiction?  This is not like the war on drugs where you educate young people about the dangers of drug use/abuse and simultaneous stab at the heart of drug trafficking in society.  Video games have become too much of a part of culture, having grown beyond the subculture they once were associated with in the days of Pac-Man and Frogger, to be affected by a bunch of soccer moms and unoriginal lawmakers.

What are you going to do? Sit a bunch of former gaming addicts in front of assemblies of junior high students nationwide and have them pour out their hearts about how gaming ruined their lives?

Of course, there have been some unspeakable tragedies related to gaming that have come to light in recent years that have garnered attention — players committing suicide or homicide over in-game spats, players neglecting their children to raise virtual pets, etc.

But this latest lawsuit by a guy who could have easily saved himself thousands if not more in fees for bringing such a trivial issue before a judge baffles the mind and only adds fuel to the fire that will soon spread to hundreds of households with parents too blindsided by the fact that game makers do not make games addictive any more than hip-hop rappers make suburban daddy’s girls into skanky holla-back girls.

How do you hurt a Frankenstein?  Attack his wallet.

But if games, like any popcultural Frankenstein, are so woven into our minds, then can you stop them at any social or political level?  Bringing them to light only feeds publicity and exposure to future potential addicts, and trying to fight them with policy only makes gamers more daring to play them (not to mention that industry elites will find loop holes and detours around regulations).

What about economics?

Video game hardware and software prices have risen and fallen over the decades, and have settled into a position of being more affordable (accessible) than ever, especially to young people.  Social games, console, PC, and God forbid free mmorpg and online games are not that expensive.  You’ll probably spend more on 4 years worth of university library late-fees than 4 years of WOW subscriptions.

*”Accessible” written in parentheses because what some gamers won’t buy, they’ll get from alternate sources (emulators, pirate copies, etc.)

Perhaps the fault of today’s current cheap gaming prices lies with the guys who started it all.  Gaming industry leaders had no way of knowing games would go so big in such a short amount of time (vs. other industries).  So, they might have inaccurately valued the inputs affecting pricing — investment and development of hardware/software, console manufacturing and shipping, marketing, repair, customer service, Brand value, God this list is long — and guesstimated the final selling price which was and perhaps still is grossly undervalued.  Granted, gaming technology (especially consoles) may have been overvalued in the past (ahem, Sega Saturn launch price…), but today, games and related technology are selling at prices that no longer (if ever) represent an overwhelming impact on a family or individual’s livelihood. Buying a game today doesn’t necessarily take food off the table, but now that we have a much stronger purchasing power of non-adults thanks to increases in standards of living, decreases in the cost of living in gaming affluent countries, combined with the surge in f2p games on the Internet, the gaming industry really has turned the world in which we live into a gamer’s paradise.

Out with it! How do you make gamers stop playing?

What might shut the gates to this paradise is a re-evaluation of game pricing once a reconsideration of the value of inputs used in generating gaming goods undergoes an overhaul.  Making games too expensive to consume could kill the addiction before it manifests.  Parents can easily justify not buying a game due to a household budget, rather than ludicrously say, “because video games make you stupid and are of the devil.” Yeah, that’ll really discourage kids when all their classmates get the latest HALO for Christmas.

One last money related solution would be to return to the 1-coin, 1-play system as was the norm in video arcades.  This has come back in a way, via PC bangs (PC gaming cafes) charging by the hour, or in the home under the guise of “free mmorpg” and “free 2 play” with optional micropayment virtual item malls, etc.  Take this a step further and implement on all games (all genres) a $1.00 per play, 75 cents to continue after 10 minutes or so, in addition to optional virtual items, and ascending subscription grades.  If the average price of a game is $60 and you enjoy that game about 13-18 hours until you beat it or grow tired of it, then the resulting amount paid would be about $59.50 – $82.00.  For games that end after a certain number of levels are cleared, or the story is finished, this isn’t too unreasonable if pricing is optimized to allow rebates, bonus items, cheap-play campaigns, etc.  For the games that go on (virtually) forever like mmos, this may be enough to weed out the addicts without the disposable income to play for long periods and force them to be more “productive” and aspire to reach a level in real life where they can enjoy longer play with more money.

Will a prolonged global recession help curtail gaming addiction?

Having suggested that economics might discourage gamers, we are currently living in a time of recession, which would then suggest that game addiction can be stymied.  No way.  Have game addiction lawsuits come up during economic booms? Not to my memory.  The article about the game addiction suit on wired.com was release only recently and also “only recently”, headlines across news sites released not-so-optimistic forecasts of economic recovery.

What about other forms of addiction?

In Japan, over the past couple years there have been talk referring to a price increase on tobacco.  Japan, in addition to its gigantic games industry, has one of the heaviest smoking populations of developed countries (just wiki this and look for the infographic on smoking).  The price I was told today is about 320 JPY per pack of cigarettes.  I was also told today that a new price to take effect later this year will increase the price almost 40%, bringing some brands to 420-440 JPY per pack.  Will this stop smoking? God no.  The new price peaks are still not enough to impact a smoker’s wallet enough to warrant a rapid halt to cigarette consumption and the fact that cigarettes are both mentally and physically addiction, I doubt that such a modest price increase would result in any robust evidence of (cigarette) quitting rates.

Back to the subject matter

Okay, so the wire.com article was about a grown man plagued by gaming.  Since when did this turn into a diatribe about parents, smokes and economics?  I still think the issues of legal actions against gaming addiction, etc. to be ridiculous, but at the same time, they really do tell us about what kind of video gaming society we are becoming.  Spotting the signs early, and generating discussion on such issues can lead to hopefully a better future for both the gaming industry and the consumer.  But let’s face it, the gaming industry is the winner in any situation: raising prices result in higher revenue per unit sold, lawsuits create free marketing for defendants, parents bitching about gaming feeds the desire to play, educating people about game addiction woes get them interested in playing.

I’d like to hear a plan for a solid solution to all of this.  I don’t want to see ever again an article about a lazy doofus with no self control over a game.  I don’t want to meet another pre-teen who’s mother won’t allow him/her to play games because God says so.

That’s enough for today.

Sexually Explicit Games: we need a bigger target

•August 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Spud was prancing around the web today and came across the Fox News video that labeled Mass Effect 1 practically pronographic.  Well, how explicit does a sci-fi rpg have to be to get air time on Fox?

Mass Effect 1 love scene

Image from Google Images when searching for “Mass Effect Sex”

Everyone knows that mature themes like sex, language, tragedy and loss, and massive destructive carnage are the candy that laces otherwise dull and unoriginal video games.  If you didn’t know that, then you know now.  First it was violence, then it was the idea of playing too many video games, now its things like half-naked advertising (ahem, evony…), alien sideboobs, and other below-the-belt (or below the neck) red flags some people just can’t resist complaining about.

(Sexuality-changing games might also become a talked-about issue as well — my last post was a diatribe about Pikachu trying to turn you into Freddy Mercury and if you missed it, here’s the link)

Probably the first time Spud encountered a ‘love scene’ in a video game was back in the day on the PS1 with the Squaresoft rpg Xenogears (cripes I almost wrote mmorpg by axdent).  No spoiler intended, but there is a scene where your main character Fei gets lucky.  There was even a rendered (pixelated) naked Fei ass that raise all but 3 hairs on the back of my neck.  There wasn’t anything graphic but the entire scene was suggestive enough for any preteen to guess, “I think they’re doing sex! Oh boy, that sex ed class taught me good!” (stupid anecdote yes) But did it become a controversy?  No. At least none that caught as much attention as Mass Effect a few years back from Kevin McCullough and Martha MacCallum.

Honestly, Spud has not played Mass Effect for even a second, but after seeing the damaging and grossly misinformed blog and news vid, Spud hit wikipedia and got a better summary of the events.

Really, one sexually permeated scene out of 30 or more hours of play is not that much and pales in comparison to the less aesthetically pleasing but all the more suggestive GTA San Andreas sex scene.  Also, people might want to pay attention to all the great pieces of ace that adorn web advertising for free mmorpg games from Korea, China and good ol sunny Japan.

How many times is this issue going to blown out so out of proportion that a major television network like Fox News gets to dedicate precious minutes to a bunch of interviewees using their few minutes of fame to spout near-groundless comments about a game they never even played?

Well, there’s no such thing as bad publicity and this probably got more people interested in buying the game than it tried to warn – those that give a damn anyways.

Make a bigger Target to punch while the real game makers continue to crank out quality games.  Someone should just make a mainstream game that is all about the sexy and let that take the heat for a while — a game so offensive and graphic that it puts minuscule scenes of passion like the one in Mass Effect to shame.

Props to the creators of Mass Effect. Hope ME2 is just as successful!  I’ll get around to playing them sometime.