Friday, February 28, 2014

Battlefield 4 player apology...err... appreciation month

Article originally published on Kupeesh!

EA's had a rough couple of months since the launch of their flagship FPS, Battlefield 4.  The game's rocky  launch left millions of angry fans staring at empty screens for days.  Add to that numerous denial of service attacks on game servers, slipping DLC schedules and a lawsuit brought by EA shareholders.  It was starting to look like Battlefield 4 was destined to be another Medal of Honor:Warfighter.
Fast forward 4 months and it seems the dust may finally be settling on Battlefield 4's troubled past.  EA's PR department is in full swing with a series of special events and giveaways culminating in "Player Appreciation Month"
During the month of February players can take advantage of free game add-ons called Battle Packs containing items such as weapon upgrades and customizations and timed experience boosters.  EA's also giving away shortcut kits which allow players the use of weapons and equipment that would normally only be available after many hours of play.  Drops are available for all players but Premium subscription holders enjoy additional bonus content and events.

The currently scheduled Shortcut Kit drops include:

February 18 to February 24
Shortcut Kit: Hand Guns
Battlefield 4 Premium Shortcut Kit: DMR’s

February 25 to March 4
Shortcut Kit: Grenades
Battlefield 4 Premium Shortcut Kit: Shotguns

Whether it's truly "Player appreciation" or just a PR exercise you can't argue with free. 

In related news, the second DLC pack for the game, "Second Assault" has begun rolling out to Premium subscription members as of February 18th.  Regular players will be able to access the content on March 4th.  The new DLC is primarily composed of popular maps from Battlefield 3 including Caspian Border and Gulf of Oman.  Other additions include the use of a dune buggy, a new game mode (capture the flag) and 5 new weapons.

GOP to violent video game soup for you!

Article originally published on Kupeesh!

Research and Development, the simple fact of the matter is that business doesn't happen without it.  Whether you're creating the next "Flappy bird" or tending crops in the breadbasket of America  you get more done because of it.

So when the new GOP tax plan came out of the House this week there should have been a collective cheer.  After all, they're proposing a permanent R&D tax credit that finally lets business rest a little easier when they open those purse strings.

Here's where it gets stupid...

Is it something in the air?  It seems like this is the month for legislation coming out of far right field.  This time we're not "protecting" religious freedom, however.  No, instead we're talking about R&D tax credits for everyone except companies that make of all things, violent video games.

Under the new Republican tax plan, you can make bombs, guns and weaponized Swine Flu all while safely expecting a kickback from the government.  Make a game any more violent than Tetris, however, and you're out of luck.

What constitutes a violent game anyway?  The presence of a gun?  Well that lets out Asteroids.  War? Then I'm thinking Angry Birds may be out too.  They're trying to slaughter pigs for god's sake!  Some nutcase will probably  take out the country's bacon supply!

 Better forget about any of those "God" games too.  They're just breeding grounds for homicidal megalomaniacs.  You know who they are, building cities and then laughing as they set them ablaze.  Why they might as well be terrorists!

My old high school social studies teacher told us all about fallacies.  It seems Republicans have bought into a couple of them this time. 

I'm thinking we've got the fallacy of the Straw Man as we try to misdirect attention away from the real problem and find an easy scapegoat.   Hot on its heels is the Slippery slope where we're asked to believe that because teenage males may enjoy violent video games that another massacre is inevitable.

Remember when Dick Cheney shot his friend on a hunting trip?  He didn't play video games but still managed to rearrange the poor guy's face with the business end of his rifle.  Maybe if he played Duck Hunt he would've learned the difference.

It's an election year so I'm going to chock this one up to politics.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Doing articles on Kupeesh

If you enjoy what I do here, check out my articles on Kupeesh.  It's a new news site with a bit of an edge which suits me nicely.

The latest article I've done for them can be found here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Getting beaten up by The Stick of Truth

Before I go on, let me start off by saying this....

Respect My Authoritah!

Or at least respect the audacity of Trey Parker and Matt Stone to try to cash in on South Park with yet another game based on the series.

 Since 1997, viewers have been treated (or in some cases assaulted) by a weekly dose of satire and dark humor that could range from clever to just plain gross.  Being in the same age group as the creators I can identify with the sometimes vague pop-culture references and irreverence about topics others may hold dear.  It's what keeps me watching even if I don't always appreciate the humor.  Nothing's sacred and if you watch long enough you're bound to find at least one episode that pushes your buttons.

That's what's great about South Park and perhaps in spite of its creator's intentions, the series has continually functioned as a cultural reality check since its debut.

There's no doubt that South Park's animated nature affords it the freedom to mercilessly take on popular culture, politics and social taboos.  The content can be sometimes raw, visceral and shocking which is why fans keep coming back for more.  Until the rise of the Internet or to be more direct, YouTube, there was nothing of its kind on any medium that had such a devoted following and nothing in popular culture so willing to, "Go There"

So after 17 years rabid fans will finally get the chance to save the world...

....of South Park (not Warcraft..)

On March 4th the hotly anticipated (really?) Role Playing Game, South Park,The Stick of Truth, will find its way on to store shelves both online and virtual.  While there's been at least 3 other South Park themed games of varying quality this latest installment appears to be the most faithful to the franchise.  It's premise loosely based on recent South Park storylines allowing fans a kind of enhanced second screen experience.  

There's no doubt that after its release will see an uptick in visitors not to mention YouTube versions of the game's commercials from players looking for clues and Easter eggs.

The game is one of the higher profile survivors of the now defunct THQ with publishing rights purchased by Ubisoft finally bringing an end to a 2 year wait that started at its announcement at E3 2012.

Early reviews have been good and pre-orders are open now through all the popular online outlets including Steam, GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon.


There's a problem...

As much as I'm a potential customer of this game I think I'll take a pass, at least until a Steam sale that is.
You see, they're asking $60 for what is in reality nothing more than another pop-culture game tie-in.  Very few games based on television or popular movies are worth the purchase price.  Remember Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit?  How about The Sopranos: Road to Respect?  Who could forget the classic ET: The Extra Terrestrial that became infamous for how bad it was.  Games based on popular media are always a roll of the dice.

Undaunted, apparently Ubisoft believes that The Stick of Truth has risen to the level of the latest Battlefield or Call of Duty franchise.  Which if you read my stuff with any regularity you know how I feel about $60 pre-orders.  If not know this, no game is worth that much no matter what it is...

It seems we're about to be treated to another case of Overpriced pre-orders with a side of DLC disease.  You see, $60 is bad enough but if you're truly deranged you can pay $80 and get more characters (DLC)  and a Cartman doll.

This feels a bit too much like Diablo 3.  I wonder if there'll be a marketplace.  It is an RPG after all.  Perhaps in a year or so there'll be an MMO!  That way we can open our hearts (and our wallets) and show the love over and over again.

There's not much more to say.  If you think it's worth $60-$80 for the Stick of Truth then by all means lighten your wallet.  I'm guessing at some point you're going to feel buyer's remorse though.  As for me, I think I'll wait for the next Steam Holiday sale.  I'm guessing it will drop to around $19.99 by then.

Friday, February 7, 2014

AMD's flawed drivers, little things mean a lot

AMD's been batting 1000 for the past year.  First PCPer uncovers a driver bug that effectively makes Crossfire useless, then they ship R9 based cards to reviewers that somehow don't act like the shipping retail units. 

Top that off with the release of a Mantle driver that's only available as a Beta release and really doesn't seem to do much for performance (at least in Battlefield 4.)

But my irritation has nothing to do with 4 figure graphics cards or 4K resolutions.  My problem is one that has been around since AMD started sticking HDMI ports on their graphics cards.  It's a small annoyance but perhaps the most telling of all.

It's simply the fact that every AMD driver I've used for the past 4 years has consistently, without fail, hijacked the sound on my gaming PC's.  It seems that just because HDMI can support audio AMD somehow believes that this is where sound should come from.

The only fix is a workaround.  A disgusting throwback to the days of Windows 95 whereby the fix was to disable a driver or a service.

So it is with HDMI ports on AMD GPU's.

It's not so much that the problem is minor; it's that it exists at all!

Yes, this may indeed be more of a Windows issue but it only happens with the installation of a new AMD driver and it keeps happening!  If AMD can't get something as simple as this corrected with years of driver releases behind them then how can they be trusted to fix the big issues?

It suggests a flawed process that permeates every level of AMD's development methodology. 

Think about it this way.  Would you trust a mechanic to rebuild the engine in your car if he didn't know how to change a flat tire? 

The simple stuff can reveal a lot of truths. 

 Watch the video below to see my "Fix."