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So, I need to get this off my chest. I am sure most of you are at least vaguely aware of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) which is the organization responsible for E/T/M labels on your games. While I do not support censorship, I understand the need for people (Parents) to know what they are getting themselves or their kids into. So, I understand why there are movie ratings, I understand why there are Explicit Lyric warnings on music, and I understand why there are ratings on games.

That being said, this absurd phrase “Online Interactions not rated by the ESRB” that seems to show up whenever I power up any game these days needs to go away. I suspect this is basically some sort of marketing ploy by the ESRB to make everyone think they are important or something.

There’s a couple of things at work here which proves how meaningless this phrase is.

1. Dealing with other people is not considered part of the product itself.  When you watch a movie trailer, there is no disclaimer saying “Interactions with assholes or annoying crying children not rated by the MPAA” When you buy a CD, there is no added sticker, “Interactions with frat boys or other drunk party/concertgoers not rated by the RIAA” When you go to Disneyland, there is no sign saying that your kid friendly experience may get interrupted by an irate or exhausted parent. You get the point.

People are an X factor that can change your experience. They can be jerks, they can swear, they could try to have some sort of naughty content spray or whatever. This should be COMMON KNOWLEDGE. I don’t need a message to pop up every time I play Space Invaders Extreme telling me that playing online might be a different experience. This wastes my time and is not needed.

2. Nine out of ten times, online play involves playing more or less the same game you are playing single player, so playing online only changes the experience in that the human element is involved (see point 1). However, some exceptions may include games that are online only, such as Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2 – But even if that’s the case, the rating should take this into account in the first place. If you feel that there is a high probability of someone doing something “adult” while playing a game, just treat the game like you would treat GTA or any other adult title at that point.

So can we stop wasting everyone’s time with this needless and meaningless phrase? People change the experience. Got it. Let’s all move on.

-LAG

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I am not, nor have I ever been, a game developer. I am not a programmer, a marketer, or a business manager. I am still pretty sure that when you release a game touted as an online multiplayer experience, one of the top priorities should be making sure the game’s multiplayer actually works.

borderlands1

This robot is the best part of the game so far.

Gearbox, the makers of Borderlands, apparently disagree.

The game has been hyped for a bit, and I bought in. I was looking for a Left4Dead like experience to play with a few of my closer friends, but something that offered some depth. Borderlands seemed perfect. It was released for the consoles last week, and came out this past Monday for the PC, and the game has had a PILE of technical problems and bugs ranging from the minor to the catastrophic.

http://gbxforums.gearboxsoftware.com/showthread.php?t=77748

will get you to the official Gearbox forum “Known Issues/Workarounds” thread. But if you’re already playing this game, you’ve probably experienced it.

PC Gamers especially have gotten used to buggy launches, but having major components of your game bug out or simply not work is inexcusable. You need port forwarding to play an online game? Team Fortress 2 doesn’t. Left 4 Dead doesn’t. World of Warcraft doesn’t. Didn’t someone from Gearbox call someone outside of their building to test this feature? Similarly, why the hell is Gamespy tapped for this service anyway? Boy, so glad I have my Steam friends set up… and now I need a Gamespy account… And now I need to add my friends as friends… again. With probably different names, since it is two different services. Efficient.

And while I appreciate the multiplayer workaround, it is only a partial fix. Sure, you can port forward to make public room play an option, but the private rooms still don’t work, so it makes creating a game for you and your friends even more problematic.

To have this caliber of problem at launch is a disgrace. I was yay close to figuring out how to get a refund when we miraculously got the game going and were able to play.

borderlands2

Nice... tats.

On that note, the game is decent – fairly standard FPS controls, with a cool environment and some interesting characters. While some are against it, I like the stylized graphics. No trade system is a major hassle (a system for teammates to compare weapons would be nice as well), but the menu system for the PC is pretty piss poor also. I would never play this game with people I didn’t know, as the potential for griefing is way too high. But if you have a group of buddies you can get together, there’s definitely some fun to be had. We’re still early in the process, but we had a good time and are looking forward to our next play session once we finally were able to play. It’s far from perfect, but it has potential – and I like to see more co-op games of different genres and styles. While I am annoyed at gearbox, I like the IDEA – But in order for it (and games like it) to succeed and therefore create other profitable multiplayer games, these companies and the gaming community at large should do whatever they can to avoid these sorts of bad press launches.

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I was one of those fortunate video game kids, growing up with both popular consoles (Atari, Coleco, Nintendo) and computer systems of the era (Commodore 64, Amiga, even some early PC). One of the obvious benefits to playing games on the computer was the ability to basically save whenever you wanted – this reduced the danger of trying something radical, or figuring out what “that big glowing thing that looks suspiciously like a fireball” really is. On console games, you rarely had that luxury – You saved at specific save points or used a password system of some sort to continue a game at the beginning of a level.

When I first became aware of emulators around a dozen years ago, (mostly MAME at the time) I loved the idea of the save state. It made going through and beating games viable, as when we get older, sitting around and playing the same title until we learn all the “insta kill” locations that Arcade games were known for becomes much less of an option. In my younger days, I prided myself on being able to beat games without continuing or stopping – Of course, HUGE Nintendo titles still only took several hours to defeat. You could go through Zelda and Mario 3 in one setting. Now we have these 40 hour behemoths, so that isn’t an option.

I felt a slight amount of guilt using the save state feature – And now that I have emulators available for my Wii and DS (I am going through and playing some classic Gameboy and Gameboy Color titles) I am making liberal use of them – as I don’t want to have to keep playing the same level of Mega Man or Contra repeatedly.

My question is to you, other gamers – What do you feel about save states? Is it akin to cheating, or a necessity to the aging gamer who has more choices and less time to spare? Tell me your thoughts.

-LAG

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It sounds counter-intuitive, and I am not advocating game makers try to push out terrible games (though those can be fun for different reasons), but there’s something that has happened in the world of gaming. That something is equating “Good” with “Fun”, and that’s not always the case. There are many very well crafted games that would count as “Good” games – but maybe there’s something a bit too familiar, or the game is technically sound, but simply isn’t enjoyable. A popular recent example might be Halo 3, a game that was quality, but I found to be not a lot of fun.

However, my point here isn’t even to talk about “Good” games that aren’t fun, but more to talk about mediocre or even poor games that ARE fun. My friend Brian and I are always looking for good Co-Op games, which sounds simple enough, but is quite frustrating. Most “Co-Op” games are games that don’t offer a full story mode, or maybe even just have two versions of the main character running through the same game. Call of Duty: World at War boasted Co-Op, but literally it was on a mission by mission basis, so if you stopped at any point while playing, you had to start at mission 1 (Unless you had already gone through in single player). This is absurd.

I found a list someone had posted on Amazon listing the “Best Co-Op Xbox 360 games”, and we had gone through most of them. A couple we hadn’t gotten to yet were Perfect Dark Zero and Earth Defense Force 2017, both of which were early release titles of the 360. PDZ was rated higher, and by all admissions (even my own) would be classified as a “better” game. EDF2017 received mediocre reviews, due to its relatively poor graphics, slightly repetitive gameplay, and terrible translations. But two years after release, the game was able to be purchased for around $15, so we figured we’d give it a shot.

edf2017

As you’ve already guessed, EDF2017 is a very fun game, and exactly what I am trying to point out here. The plot is rehashed “aliens show up and monsters attack”, the voice acting is god awful, and the graphics are mediocre at best. However, it boasts relatively simple gameplay (Most of the buttons on the 360 controller aren’t even USED!) plenty of weapons, vehicles, and buildings that fall down if you so much as look at them funny. It also boasts simple shooting and fighting mechanics, and TONS of mayhem. It’s also great to play Co-Op because of the silliness and ease of play, and you actually benefit from working together.

And really, isn’t that what a “Good” game should be? Fun, easy to get into and play, and enjoyable? I’ve played an awful lot of quality high rated titles that are tedious and repetitive. I’d like to see the industry get back to some fun.

(To see 1up.com’s review of EDF2017, check this link!)

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