Live in North America? Just got paid? Have a Vita? Come have a look…

This week to celebrate the two year anniversary of the launch of the Playstation Vita, Sony is having a fairly large sale.  Considering that I own every single game on it (except for one, which I rented) I figured why not do some quick analysis of the games and the price what’s worth it and what isn’t.

Castlestorm ($4.83 PS+/6.99 –  usually $9.99) –  Castlestorm is a very fun defense game with a few RTS wrinkles and even some side scrolling combat.  Flipping back and forth between firing your ballista at the opposing forts, sending out troops, and taking control of your hero can be hectic but very satisfying.  I personally would recommend getting the complete edition for $6.99 as the two DLC packs are pretty lengthy and mix up the formula further.  The game is crossbuy with the ps3 version.

Escape Plan ($7.34 PS+/10.49 – usually $15) – When it was just a Vita game the price was actually lower during certain sales but now that the game is Cross-buy with the PS4 version the sale price isn’t as impressive.  Furthermore I found the game to be an inferior experience on the PS4 despite the increased screen size and fidelity.  All in all it’s a clunky puzzler with amazing art and a good amount of charm.  The latter can carry the game… but, still, this sale price isn’t mindblowing.

Flow ($2.79 PS+/$3.99 – usually $5.99) – I find it hard to believe that anyone doesn’t own flow at this point.  The game is crossbuy for the PS3/PS4/Vita.  The controls are motion based which in my opinion makes the Vita version the worst platform for it because you moving the screen around which is far from ideal.  But at $2.79, it’s worth a look, definitely if you own a ps3 or ps4 to get the superior experience.  This is the first game ThatGameCompany released on a Sony console so it’s interesting to see the voyage from here to Flower to Journey.

Flower ($3.49 PS+/$4.99 – usually $5.99) – You can basically cut and paste what I said about Flow to here.  The game suffers because it’s tilt controls so on the vita that means you are tilting the screen as well.  The game is wonderful though and is crossbuy with the ps3/ps4 as well, so if you haven’t played it yet it’s easy to recommend.

Hotline Miami ($2.50 PS+/$4.99 – usually $9.99) – Everyone should own this game, except for my podcast co-host Rich Grisham. The music is amazing. The gameplay is kinetic and violent.  The story is confusing and intriguing in a very David Lynch type of way.  Unless you abhor violence this is a no brainer if you don’t already own it.  $2.50?  What is this, Steam? Also, it is a crossbuy with the PS3 version.  The Vita version is better though in my opinion as it just fits the platform and being able to use the touch screen to aim (if you want) is a welcome addition.

Killzone Mercenary  ($17.49 PS+/$24.99 – usually $35.99) – Killzone Mercenary not only has the best single player campaign in the series… it’s also the best Killzone game to come out last year.  The online is serviceable though a bit underwhelming.  Personally, however, I don’t really look to handheld games for online play unless it’s asynchronous.  The visuals in the game will make you wonder what kind of sorcery is happening at Guerrilla Caimbridge because a system that is noticeably less powerful than the PS3 shouldn’t be putting out a game that looks this good that holds a fairly steady framerate to boot.  Highly recommended unless you just hate first person shooters.

Machinarium ($1.75 PS+/$3.49 – usually $6.99) – Machinarium is a beautifully drawn puzzle adventure (think point and click-ish).  The puzzles are over my head and I derive no enjoyment out of the game, but I know many people who loved it.  If this is the type of game you can get into I don’t know how you can ignore the $1.75 price.  Hell, even as much as I suck at it I would buy it for $1.75 just to see some of the gorgeous art.

Malicious Rebirth ($7.34 PS+/$10.49 – usually $14.99) – As a somewhat recent release I believe this is the first time the game has gone on sale so it only being 50% off is reasonable. The question is whether the game is worth your $7.34? The answer is maybe.  If you like over the top japanese action games and can deal with some slowdown from time to time you’ll find a fun arena-based boss-fight-athon.  The movement and action is fluid.  If you want to do things like explore, or have a story that makes any sense, look elsewhere.  This game is about getting in and fighting 1000 grunts and different bosses.

Open Me! ($4.89 PS+/$6.99 – usually $9.99) – Like most AR games Open Me! makes a solid first impression but after the wonder of seeing a game play out on your carpet wears off what you’re left with is a pretty mediocre puzzler.  Not worth it IMO, though I do think there is a demo if AR games interest you more than they do me.

Orgarhythm ($4.89 PS+/$6.99 – usually $9.99) – I bought this game at launch last year for $19.99 and haven’t regretted it.  The game is definitely an extremely niche title. The basics are that you are a giant god walking around and you need to tap to the beat of the song.  Along the way you pick up followers of different colors/classes and you need to send them out to defeat enemies, all while staying in rhythm with the music.  So, yeah, it’s basically a rhythm-strategy game.  Probably the only one that will ever exist.  If the concept sounds interesting to you give it a go.  I’m glad I did.

Proteus ($4.19 PS+/$6.99 – usually $13.99) –  Another extremely niche title.  The type of game that people argue whether it’s a game or not.  I find the exploring to be relaxing but I’m not even going to attempt to sell anyone on this game.  The price is right if the concept interests you.

Ragnarok Odyssey  ($14.69 PS+/$20.90 – usually $29.99) – One of a million Monster Hunter clones. The combat in it is among my favorite in the genre.  The loot and crafting and missions are fun as well.  It’s a slightly high price considering the pseudo-sequel is coming soon (which should drop the normal price of this down, making future sale prices even lower).  If you get sucked into the game it will be the best $15 you’ve ever spent as you can drop hundreds of hours into it.  If Monster Hunter type games don’t do it for you this game likely won’t change that.

Stick it to the Man ($6.29 PS+/8.99 – usually $12.99) – A very charming and sometime funny puzzle platformer.  The game came out recently and as such the sale price isn’t mindblowing.  The game is worth every penny, however, if you have even a remote interest in the genre.  I suck at the puzzle part of puzzle platformers but the graphical style keeps me coming back (though, I do feel the need to say I don’t like the character designs… the world itself makes up for them).  If you’ve been eying this, now is the time.  If not I’m sure the price will dip lower at a later sale.

Sumioni: Demon Arts ($4.89 PS+/$6.99 – usually $9.99) – I bought this game at $19.99 which was a ripoff.  The game is very much a one trick pony.  Each stage consists of you moving left to right, killing a few guys, drawing platforms with your fingers (think: Max and the Magic marker) and then at the end you fight a building.  Getting to each building is actually more fun than these “boss” battles.  Unfortunately the trips are short and the fights with the buildings are a slog.  I did have fun with the game and $5 seems reasonable… but even if you enjoy it and get your money’s worth out of it I think you will agree that the game could have been so much more if they gave the concept a bit more time to simmer.

Valhalla Knights 3 ($14.69 PS+/$20.99 – usually $29.99) – One of the bigger releases of the fall in the B-tier (aka not Killzone or Tearaway) VK3 is an interesting game and well worth your time if you can put up with the repetition.  The game is basically setup like an MMO that you play single player.  You have your main town, you go out and do quests, you level up, you get better stats, you get loot drops, etc.  You know the drill.  It’s pretty much by the numbers except for this weird and somewhat uncomfortable mechanic in town where certain shopkeepers are also hookers (I think?) and the more attention you give them the better prices you get.  Luckily this entire section of the game can be avoided as there are normal merchants on the lower floor that don’t want to have sex with you.  VK3 doesn’t reinvent the wheel but sometimes it’s fun to turn on your vita, bang out a few quests, get a new sword, and then turn off your vita.  If that’s an itch you want to scratch, this game will do it for you.

Velocity Ultra ($2.09 PS+/$3.49 – usually $7.49) – One of the best exclusive indies on the platform.  It’s a horizontal shootem-up with a twist.  You can warp to different parts of the screen, and there are many humans to save.  So while you are fighting off enemy hordes figuring out where everyone is to save while constantly moving forward becomes frantic mayhem.  I love it.  For $2 you should have to sell your vita if you skip this game.

Also of note, Ubisoft is having a sale this week.  So here’s my take on their Vita offerings…

Rayman Origins ($6.49) – If you even slightly like 2d platformers and you don’t own this yet, you need to.  The art is amazing, the controls are tight, there’s a ton of content.  This is an absolute steal for those who somehow haven’t played it yet.  It’s even worth the double dip for those who did play it on another platform.

Asphalt: Injection ($6.49) – When the Vita launched this port of an iOS game priced at $40 was an insult. The driving model is decent and there is a lengthy career. The game is actually pretty decent.  It was just the price that was offensive.  $6.50 isn’t offensive.  Download the demo just to see if you like the driving model (it’s a bit like a simple Burnout).

Dungeon Hunter Alliance ($6.49) – Just like Asphalt, this was another launch port of an iOS game that they charged $40 for.  At $6.50, though, you are left with a by the numbers but fun action rpg.  I actually put more time into this game than I did Diablo 3.

Lumines Electronic Symphony  ($6.49) – Also overpriced at launch, this seminal music puzzler is an easy buy at this price.  I just wish the ramp up to when the game gets hectic didn’t take 30+ minutes each time.

If you have a Vita there are some can’t miss deals in there.

Also, if you have any money left over, why not check out the Dodd Scientifics indiegogo?

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Doddcast 229 – They just aren’t that into you

dyer

 

Resolution (again…), the utter contempt the gaming press feels towards gamers, and millions of awesome listener tweets discussed and debated.

Music:  Ill with Want by The Avett Brothers, Soldier Side by System of a Down

Here is where you can stream it.

You can also grab it off of iTunes.

Reach me at:  petedodd@gmail.com

Double K.O.

Player One Podcast

Check Platform Nation

Pete’s Twitter

Rich’s Twitter

The Titanfall Q+A that has nothing to do with gameplay

After a long morning of trying to explain the complicated nature of the Titanfall deal I decided I would just try to condense it all to one spot where I can hopefully flesh it out better.  This isn’t conjecture on my part (unless specifically noted) , this is info conveyed to me from a number of sources that I trust.  Whether you believe it or not is up to you.  Also, I’m typing this on a phone so please bear with me.

 

Q.  Why is Titanfall 1 exclusive to Microsoft on consoles?

A.  Respawn was formed after Zampella and West left Infinity Ward/Activision because of “creative differences.”  There’s a long and amazing story here that I hope I get to share one day but the main point for Respawn was to be small and independent.  They want to make amazing games, of course, but they already knew the downside of being a cog in a AAA machine.

 

They signed with EA Partners which gave them complete ownership of the IP.  Being a small studio they decided to focus on one next gen console and the PC.   At the time they decided this they instructed EA to sign an one year exclusivity offer with Microsoft. Microsoft was behind the scenes selling publishers on their vision of the Xbox One.  I’m talking about 2011/12. Sony was gathering info from third parties as to what they would want but they weren’t sharing their vision yet.

At this point in time the majority of the videogame industry thought the XB1 was going to dominate the next generation. The 360 was already widely popular in North America and Western Europe which is also where the FPS genre is the most successful.  Signing a year exclusivity deal was a no brainer at the time.

EA hired Bluepoint to do the xbox 360 port.  EA was also in charge of ports to other platforms when the time came. Respawn wanted to focus solely on the xbox one and pc and let EA worry about the ports.

 

Q.  So why did EA sell lifetime exclusivity of Titanfall 1 to Microsoft?

A.  Several reasons. First off it’s money made now and EA’s stock needs a boost.  Secondly there is no guarantee a year old port would sell well on the ps4. By that point a new cod and bf will be out and may have surpassed Titanfall.

Q.  Can a game of the year version of Titanfall come out on the ps4?

A. Conjecture here but I can’t imagine Microsoft paying for exclusivity that is so easily bypassed.  No one has ever hinted to me that this would be a possibility either.

Q.  What’s to stop Microsoft from buying exclusivity again?

A.   Respawn.  It is entirely up to them. They own the IP and as far as I understand it there is no deal in place with anyone, be it EA, MS, or any other publisher for Titanfall 2.  If they want to go exclusive they can choose to. My conjecture is that signing a deal like that with Activision(with call of duty) would make them shy away from it now. I believe that Respawn values their independence.   And now that they almost have their first hit out the door they are looking to widen the scope and sales, not contain them.

 

Q.  What if Microsoft throws a completely insane amount of money at them?

A.  Only Vince Zampella can answer that question. I would point out that he is already pretty damn rich though. Money *may not* have the sway on him that it would on other studio heads.

 

Q.  What do you think is going to happen?

A.  I think the game will sell well.  I think Respawn will sign with EA to publish Titanfall 2 and I think in that deal Respawn will be in charge of the ports, not EA.   I expect it on the PC, xb1, and ps4.

Q.  Why sign with EA again when it was pretty clear that Vince Zampella was upset that EA sold their port rights for Microsoft exclusivity?

A.  Familiarity.  They obviously wouldn’t sign with Activision.  So that leaves 2k or Ubisoft if they want to stay third party.  Starting over and learning how a new publisher works, getting to know all their people, etc, takes a lot of time. If they can get the deal they want from EA I believe they will take it.  EA has absolutely zero reason to not offer them that deal as well. Respawn is in the driver’s seat here.

 

Q.  Could you be wrong? 

A.  Wouldn’t be the first time. But I dont believe so, no.

NTKRNLxNOROVIRUSxNPDs

On January 15th about 98% of our belongings got a truck headed to Utah.  My wife and I are moving there from the east coast (we lived in NYC and on the shoreline in CT about 50/50 thus far).  Before we were to leave, however, my father had set up a family cruise that included my mother and father, my sister and her husband, and me and my beautiful wife. The cruise was set to go to Haiti, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.  As some of you may already have guessed this cruise was the now infamous “Norovirus” cruise.  My wife got it.  My brother in law got it.  My mom may have gotten it… or may have just had a migraine mixed with motion sickness.  My father, sister, and myself, all said “fuck all that” and felt fine.  In fact the following day when it was just the three of us at dinner we ordered a nice bottle of wine to celebrate our awesome immune systems.

The virus was awful.  I assume most people have experienced it at some point in their life, possibly confusing it with food sickness.  For my wife it was a night of throwing up a few times an hour and other bathroom-type things I don’t want to go into detail about.  We went to the infirmary as soon as it opened at 8am and there were a handful of people down there all with the same symptoms.  After about 5 minutes the waiting room was packed and they sent all of the not-ill people out of there.  My wife came back to the room about 30 minutes later saying she got a shot and a handful of pill packets and directions on when to take them.  The shot effectively ended the stomach sickness but she continued to feel wiped out and had intense abdominal pain.

The rest of the trip after everyone recovered was wonderful.  We spent time with my family.  People who enjoy the sun (everyone except me) spent time at the pool.  I actually won $60 gambling!  Made some friends along the way.  It was a great cruise.  The ship staff was over the top in wiping everything down.  They also canceled 2 stops and cut the cruise short. The cruise company was being very, very, conservative about the whole situation.  This didn’t make us happy as everyone was finally having fun.  They offered fairly substantial compensation.

I wondered why they were being so conservative about this as it happened so early in the cruise we could have all but forgotten about it by the time it ended but the answer was sleeping in the bed next to me each night.  My wife, like several people on the ship, became cable news stars just by racking up roaming charges on their phones and talking to CNN, ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS, and MSNBC.  Literally.  My wife (or I, mostly her) talked to all of those outlets.  We got CNN on the boat TV.  They were discussing it like it was giant shit filled germ factory.  Being inside it and seeing how the news portrayed it was interesting.  Seeing how they dissected my wife’s quotes was also.  We all know the news blows shit out of proportion (literally, this time) but seeing it happen first hand was very interesting.  We all felt great, had an amazing day in St. Thomas and CNN on that night was talking about the ship like it was the floating plague.  It was around that time that my father noticed the boat took an unexpected turn to the north.  About 20 minutes later the captain told us that we skipping St. Maarten and heading home early.

The first thing I thought was “PR.”  This wasn’t about the illness anymore.  Every day that this boat was at sea was another day every news station was talking about it.  I’m sure every cable news company had planes chartered to St. Maarten to interview all of us.  Royal Caribbean made it seem like they cared about us and were taking us home to be safe (4 days since anyone in my family had seen a sick person).  They didn’t care about us, they cared about their brand.  As they should.  Our happiness doesn’t mean a thing compared to their profits.  This doesn’t mean they didn’t try to smooth us over though.

Flash forward to the night we returned to my parents house and I hop on the internet with just my phone and see this dude named NTKRNL on GAF giving away a substantial portion of Microsoft’s Xbox One plans for the next few years.  The things I had already heard from my own Microsoft sources all lined up with what he was saying so I made the leap that the rest was true… except for one part.  He mentioned a Titanfall Xbox One coming.  I knew one was prototyped but was dropped due to it costing too much too early in the console’s lifecycle.  So was this Titanfall box back on? I was using my fat, fat, thumbs like a madman talking to everyone I knew.  Finally I heard from someone that it was back on.  This was after a mod had closed the thread on GAF so I mentioned it on Twitter.

But why was this guy doing all of this?  The first thing that stood out to me is that he had zero bad news.  I’ve been accused 1000s of times of having a Sony bias (I do) and I think I’ve even reached double digits in accusations of having a Xbox bias (I don’t)…  but even I have broken news like Driveclub’s delay.  I was the only leaker (blogger? that sounds less evil) on GAF saying the PS4 wasn’t coming in October.  I also broke the news that the camera wasn’t gonna be in the box (which is good or bad news, depending on your preference).  So it struck me as weird that this guy was like “everything is awesome.”  I have talked about many things over the years and, obviously, the people telling me this stuff worked at the companies that they were giving me info about most of the time.  These people also have positive and negative things to say about their own companies. So putting all of that together I decided, with 99.99% certainty (as I said in my tweet ><) that this guy was a controlled leaker.  In my opinion… Microsoft had planned this to get the core excited while most of the world stayed in the dark (like most things that happen on GAF or gaming-reddit).

Flashback to earlier that day when I was still on the ship pulling into port.  I got a call in my room from the front desk saying that the vice president of the company had flown on board and would like to talk to me. We setup it up to meet at 12:45.  I knew it was because I had tweeted about the cruise and have a fairly decent online presence.  When I got there they asked where my wife was.  Oh yeah, she’s famous now also.  I forgot.  So I got her right before she was about to have dessert (lunch gets desserts on cruises, don’t judge!) and we went back upstairs.  The vice president of whatever office she was from tried to schmooze us hard.  Oh Arnee, I hope you feel better.  We care about you.  Oh Pete, we hope you still had fun.  We did everything we could to make this trip enjoyable under the circumstances.

It was complete bullshit.  As we walked back downstairs my wife said “I walked away from dessert for that?”

The thing that was striking to me about that was I knew exactly why she wanted to talk to us – we both have a social media presence and Arnee’s soundbites were making their way around the world.  She didn’t give a flying fuck how we felt.  All she wanted was us to now have a part of narrative include that the vice president talked to us personally because Royal Caribbean cares!  THEY REALLY CARE, GUYS!  The irony being that I thought the cruise was great and the staff was great and it was only her, trying to convince me it was great, that I found totally fucking awful.

Sometimes companies try too hard.

After I had posted my “99.99% sure he is a controlled leaker” tweet I got an urgent message from someone who is very respected in the videogame community.  Part of the deal was that I wouldn’t give his/her name (which I wouldn’t do anyway) and I’m not trying to pseudo-namedrop right now but I do want to make the point that this person is trustworthy and known and it would be counter-intuitive for her/him to ever lie to me.  He/she asked me if a person from Microsoft could contact me.  He/she vouched that this person was “very high up” and that he/she has known this person for a long time.  I said sure and about 20 minutes later I got an email from someone at Microsoft.

The email was written expressly for me.  I mean, obviously all emails you get are written for you, but this person wasn’t just putting together a mass email and trying to hit industry personalities with info. He was responding directly to my tweets saying that NTKRNL was not a part of Microsoft marketing and that Microsoft was trying to track him down with all available resources and that not only was he going to be fired but they were also going to press charges about releasing trade secrets.  I read the email about five times.  It made zero sense to me.  Actually, let me clarify that, it made zero sense that they would spend the time writing this email *TO* me. Yeah, #PS4NoDRM was a big deal, I’m also not oblivious to the fact that I am much more visible in the community now than I was several years ago…  but I’m not a bigtime player.  I’m barely a bit player.  Why spend that time communicating with me?  This person didn’t care what I thought. They just knew that I had some sort of reach and were trying to spin it.  Big or small.  IGN or YouTube personality. They know they need to get the message out through everyone.  At least Royal Caribbean sent a vice president…

I then got on twitter and said he wasn’t a controlled leaker.  He was a renegade employee that was being hunted down by Microsoft. Even with the questions I had about the email they sent (especially since it just told me info and asked me nothing) I believed it because I trusted (and still do) the person who hooked us up to talk in the first place.  It was weird but it had to be the truth.  So my 99.99% tweet hit the .01% jackpot at that point.  I said as much on twitter.  I know a lot of people think I’m in this for the attention (I like attention but it’s not the only thing that drives me) or think I want to destroy companies (I have preferences but I’m not fucking insane).  The truth of the matter is that I always say what I’ve been told if I trust the source.  I make no money from this (yet, hopefully someday, we’ll talk when I get to Utah).  Having 3000 twitter followers is cool but it’s not like it makes you get out of bed and high five yourself.  I just know that for years I wanted info I couldn’t get and now I try to get people info they want to know.  That’s it.  That’s my fucking mission statement.  You can troll me, you can say my wife looks like a tranny (ok maybe that one stung, she is fucking beautiful and like most husbands I don’t want anyone talking shit about my wife).  But you can say whatever.  I deliver news as I hear it.  Sometimes it’s wrong.  It’s not biased though.  I am.  Pete Dodd has a personal preference for Sony games.  But I report what I hear.  Many people thought I was trying to take Microsoft down by myself because of the leaks I had.  As if I was the one that coded Call of Duty to be 720p just so I could report it.  It’s absurd.  I’m way off the point now but I had to get that off my chest.  If you want to see me talk shit about Sony ask me about how SCEA has handled the Vita.  I won’t hold back because I think Uncharted is a more fun game than Halo.

Now a few days have passed.  Some AM radio show in LA called my wife and she did an interview this morning.  Fox business wanted her on in the afternoon but she was going to see her mother and we are leaving for Utah in a few days.  Right now I’m on a couch in my parents living room, I dug a 7 year old laptop out of a box in my trunk and decided to start writing (Arnee is out at a wine tasting because she knows humans).  The cruise was fun.  I hated when my wife was sick but it was 2 days and the rest was great, other than the moves made for PR’s sake.  Also, as you guys know, I love the shit out of my Xbox One.  I miss it, actually.  It’s in the truck to Utah (purely because a ps4 is more portable so that’s with us).  I thought the cruise was great and I would go on another cruise next week…  but Royal Caribbean as a company annoyed the shit out of me.  I like the Xbox One much more than I ever imagined and I don’t see that stopping soon (PvZ:GW!!!!!) but I’m now back on my original tweet.  NTKRNL is controlled marketing.  Why?

January NPDs. Also, no Titanfall Xbox. Don’t try to spin me, motherfuckers.