Saints & Sinners (Mar. 16)
In the video game industry, the fans are bombarded by two separate yet equally important groups: Saints, who bring with them only the purest form of joy, and Sinners, beings dedicated solely to evoking misery. These are their stories.
Friends, colleagues, and non-associated third parties, I’m proud to declare myself mad on a day in which being mad is the appropriate disposition. It is, after all, the season known as March Madness, a time in which logic subsides in favor of uncontrollable chaos on the basketball courts. There will be no basketball stories in this edition, nor will there be an implementation of brackets; I just felt like sharing a factoid that excused my perpetual status of anger and frustration.
Anyways, video games. How about those video games?
Blizzard: Blizzard is the witchy, hormonal cheerleader of the video game industry. She is always there flaunting herself about, but when push comes to shove it’s all an elaborate tease designed to keep you on the hook for an even longer allotment of time. Diablo III is one of the best examples of Blizzard’s delight, tease, and repeat philosophy in action. I feel like the game, a long-awaited third entry into the mouse-clicking juggernaut of a franchise, has been in development since the days when Nomadic tribes ruled the North American roost; Squanto himself was probably waiting eagerly for his chance to virtually coexist with Deckard Cain one more time.
Even worse, though, is the fact that Blizzard would regularly clarify Diablo III as a product “near completion.” I remember hearing rumors that 2010 would play host to its launch, and then only a year later the same speculation popped up for a suspected release in 2011. Early Thursday morning, Blizzard put an end to all of the rumors and speculation by giving Diablo III the release date of May 15. By the way, that’s May 15, 2012 (if they hadn’t included the specific year, then I would have rightfully assumed the game’s inception to take place in the year 2025).
There are weeks when it doesn’t take a lot to be considered a Saint; this is one of those weeks. Blizzard has, in confirming an official date for Diablo III’s launch, loosened the vice-grip they have long held over their fan’s emotions. They will now be moving their vice-grip to such vital areas as your heart, brain, and wallet. Enjoy.
Sega: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is, in a series fraught with atrocities, the black sheep of the Sonic franchise. It isn’t the worst game (Sonic 2006, you may now take the floor), but it might well be the most forgettable of them to ever grace a home console. Last year’s Sonic Generations followed it in the release calendar and seemingly wiped it from the map. There was a slight problem with its pseudo non-existence, though: the title of Episode 1 denoted at least a semblance of continuity that would carry on to at least one sequel.
Time passed and with that passage came news of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2. That’s not why Sega is a Saint; I, as could have been derived from my labeling of the game as a black sheep, didn’t think much of the first episodic game to bear the legendary Sonic namesake. Sega has achieved Sainthood this week for acknowledging a fact that many other companies would simply sleep under the rug and ignore until it came up and bit them in the posterior (Valve, you may now take the floor): there will be no Episode 3. The buck stops at Episode 2, and Sega pro-actively acknowledged that in a statement to Digital Spy.
Valve, still to this day, refuses to confirm any solid details on the future of Half-Life 2’s episodic content. Even Penny Arcade took far longer than necessary amount of time to address On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, their own episodic series of games that was discontinued but will be returning in the near future under a new developer. The fact of the matter is that Sega did what few publishers have the moxie to do: own up to the truth in a public setting instead of poaching on the emotions of a devoted fan base. In my eyes, that is more than enough to earn honorary Sainthood for the week.
EA and the EA Defense Force: I’m not entirely sure what has gotten into EA. For a while there it seemed like they were on the right track to becoming a company whose output I respected with few, if any, objections. In the past year, though, they have undergone what some scientific minds and the writers of television show How I Met Your Mother would call revertigo. They’re back.
Mass Effect 3 launched last week and instantly earned the affection of the gaming community (with the exception of a vocal subset of the population), but in just a week’s time they have done everything in their power to burn the bridge long established between the developers of the popular franchise and the fans who have helped to keep it alive. It was confirmed by hackers and later EA themselves that the day one downloadable content available for Mass Effect 3 was already located on the game disc. This is pure, unfiltered bull.
I’m not saying that the appropriation of any given amount of DLC to any given product is a purely bad thing, but as it’s used in this case it is ludicrously terrible. Bioware, in coordination with EA, developed an entire game and deliberately removed parts of it to pad the bottom line of a game that was already set to make more money than any of us will see in a lifetime. Such a betrayal of consumer trust and disregard for established customs should not be overlooked or excused, but, in a bizarre twist of fate, it is.
People across the globe and located primarily on online editorials have spoken out in defense of EA and this practice by calling the offended parties entitled. Entitled is a buzz word most often thrown out in regards to politics when a group of individuals seek change and those in power need a stern phrase to put them down. I can’t even believe the outpouring of support that EA has received and I won’t stand privy to it. Allowing this now sets a dangerous precedent that will carry forward into the years and lead to a future in which ownership of a game is no longer within the realm of reason.
I can think of no better word than Sinners to describe this, and I won’t think of one; it wouldn’t be nearly as symmetrical of a column any other way.
Bethesda: In an ideal world, the palms of fate would have handed me a much softer story to follow that last one, but there is no such luck for this opinionated columnist; I wanted lighthearted musings about Fable: Journey’s fascination with animals of the equine variety or even a nice little anecdote about Capcom being up to their typical brand of antics, but it is not so today. Instead, I have been dealt with a fate not quite as bad as death but up there in notoriety: layoffs.
Obsidian is the developer of such beloved western role-playing games as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New Vegas. Recently, they have been working on an adaption of the animated series South Park that has the famous foursome doing battle in a style similar to that of Paper Mario. They aren’t known to blow away critics, but they are certainly known to delight to a slightly lesser extent than the triple-A games that so encapsulate the upper echelon of the sales charts. It is because of this minor shortcoming that 20 to 30 Obsidian employees were sent packing in a recent scourge of layoffs.
Fallout: New Vegas currently sits at an 84 rating on Metacritic, an aggregate site that compiles all of a product’s reviews into a unified percentage. According to a report today, that number fell just short of the expectations laid out by Bethesda in their contractual agreement with Obsidian. 85 was the goal, but, whether because of glitches or having to follow up the outstanding Fallout 3, New Vegas fell one short of that goal and paid the ultimate price. What was the price, exactly? Royalties, and a lot of them. Actually, all of them.
Obsidian lost the right to any royalties garnered by New Vegas and in doing so signed away the jobs of as many as 30 employees. It doesn’t speak well of Bethesda that they cut short Obsidian’s funding when the hard-working developer barely fell short of expectations. It especially doesn’t speak well of Bethesda when you consider the amount of capital that likely came of New Vegas. The game certainly wasn’t a commercial bomb, but it was in the critical realm that judgement was passed.
Judgement was passed? Hey, that’s my job! Bethesda, you’re this week’s Sinners. Next time, don’t steal my shtick!
Judgement has been passed