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inFAMOUS: First Light Release Date June 26, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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First announced at E3 2014, inFAMOUS: First Light is a standalone downloadable game where you take control of Abagail “Fetch” Walker in a prequel story to inFAMOUS: Second Son.

Those who fondly remember using Fetch’s neon powers will get the chance to use them once again in this game. Developer Sucker Punch Studios has promised that Fetch had a few neon powers she did not give Delsin in the original game, and players will get the chance to use then in First Light.

Sony currently has the game available for preorder on the Playstation Store. Anyone with a PS4 can purchase it right now for a price of $14.99 US. They are offering free exclusive DLC to anyone who preorders the game.

inFAMOUS: First Light is coming August 26th, 2014 exclusively to the Playstation 4.

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PS4 Firmware 1.72 Released June 24, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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If you noticed your PS4 would not connect to the Playstation Network this afternoon, relax, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Sony has released a required firmware update for the Playstation 4 this afternoon and because it is a required update, you’re not allowed to mess around with the system’s Playstation Network features as the update downloads in the background as you would typically be allowed to.

Version 1.72 addresses some PS4 system stability issues but the release notes for the firmware do not specifically state what stability issues were fixed.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain E3 2014 Demo June 24, 2014

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If you’re like me and were blown away by Konami’s E3 2014 trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and had to see more, you are in luck.  The guys over at Konami have posted up the gameplay footage from their E3 2014 demonstration.

Make no mistake this is over thirty minutes of Metal Gear Solid V gameplay.  The game takes place in an open world environment over two hundred times bigger than the environment in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.  The developers have also mentioned the game is currently running in 1080p at 60hz on a Playstation 4.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is coming to Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

 

Anachronox: Fan Favorite, Commercial Flop June 21, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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In 2002 I had the pleasure to start my career writing about video games by writing for a website operating under the now defunct GameSpy Network.  While the main website hasn’t been updated in several years and the online game server toolsets were shut down just a few days ago, in 2002, GameSpy OWNED PC gaming.  They had a series of successful websites for every game franchise you could imagine, software to help developers provide the best multiplayer gaming experience on the web, and practically ruled every E3 with their intense coverage of the event.  As someone who had, up until that point, spent their life simply an observer of the gaming industry, I knew I wanted the chance to actively participate with it.  In 2002, I got my first chance when I was asked by the website’s founder to submit an editorial as to why Anachronox, a game which had mostly received praise from the players who played it, had flopped.  Twelve years later, I want to give it another look.

I’m sure that many people out there are familiar with the trials and tribulations of a studio called Ion Storm.  It was founded by three industry greats just around the turn of the millennium, John Romero, Tom Hall and Warren Specter, and was funded by Eidos Interactive, who was reigning high on the success of the Tomb Raider franchise.  Two branches of the studio were established in Texas, one in Dallas and one in Austin.  The first game that the studio released which had been developed completely in house was John Romero’s Daikatana, which is considered by many to be one of the worst games ever made.  The second game the studio released was Warren Spector’s Deus Ex, considered by many to be one of the best games ever made.  Few people remember that Ion Storm Dallas released one more game before Eidos Interactive closed them down and kept Ion Storm’s game development from then on exclusively in Austin.  That game was Tom Hall’s futuristic PC RPG, Anachronox.

I first became familiar with Anachronox after stumbling upon the website Planet Anachronox, GameSpy’s Anachronox Site, some time around the year 1999.  As someone who up until that point was purely a PC gamer, I was immediately interested in the game’s premise.  A PC-exclusive science-fiction RPG was a pretty unique concept before the era of the PS2, Xbox and GameCube.  Most turn based RPGs up to that point, like Earthbound or Chrono Trigger, would find themselves exclusively on consoles.  Never having owned a console since the original NES, all of my experience with Console RPGs came second hand by spending hours watching friends play them.  Now, this game gave me the opportunity to experience this play style on my own.

In the summer of 2001, the prayers of many militant gamers who were waiting for Anachronox to be released were finally answered when the game finally went gold.  It received pretty decent reviews from many of the major gaming sites, averaging scores around the mid to high 80s, and was very well received by all the gamers who purchased it.  Whether they got it because they had been anticipating it for years or picked it up on a whim based on initial curiosity, gamers found a lot to like with this game.  Tom Hall successfully took every cliché from the book of RPGs and was able to create a game that worked perfectly on the PC, while still being true to the gameplay design of classic console RPGs.  The game had a great story, an incredible interplanetary scope with each world possessing its own unique design, music, and flavor.  Oh, and did I mention it was just hilarious?

So why was the game, if it was so good, flop so badly?  I think that after the insanely high reviews from Deus Ex, for Ion Storm to come back and release a game that was simply good was just not good enough.  Anachronox used id Software’s Quake II graphics engine, which was a pretty dated graphics engine by the day’s standards, and its art design alone wasn’t able to wow gamers looking for the next big game to show off their high powered rigs.  On top of that, Eidos wasn’t doing too much to promote the game’s release when it launched.  It also had unremarkable previews, Anachronox was named one of PC Gamer Magazine’s Top 10 Games of 1999 back in 1998.  Great way to start off a publicity campaign for a game that wasn’t released until 2001 don’t you think?  In fact, I can’t recall any TV commercials airing or any billboard advertisements posted for this game.  This was in a pretty stark contrast to the never ending wave of commercials that would find themselves on air every time a new Tomb Raider game came out.  I think that Eidos knew that with the Daikatana curse looming over its shoulder and the drudgery of almost four years in development, Anachronox had the worry of a commercial flop even before the game came out.

During the three month lead up to Anachronox’s release, about the only advertising I can remember that was actually done for the game were a few one page ads placed in magazines like PC Gamer.  The ads mirrored the game’s box art, but didn’t really give you much information about the game.  It just had the simple tagline, “All of us have scars, some are bigger than others.”  By choosing to advertise the game in PC enthusiast magazines, about the only people that were being advertised to were the hardcore PC gamers.  Since that point it had to deal with a long journey of mediocre publicity and Quake II engine hate.  Anachronox was an American developed game that took the entire book from Japanese console RPGs.  With that design in mind, it was obvious the majority of the people meant to play the game were gamers who fondly remembered playing classic RPGs on consoles, yet Anachronox was a PC game..  The game that needed to be the product that saved Ion Storm Dallas was simply unable to recuperate the cost of development, and this could be chocked up to a complete failure of marketing.  Shortly after the release of the game, Ion Storm Dallas was shut down.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a PC gamer through and through, and I know there was just no way at the time to get a game as good looking as Anachronox on the consoles of the day.  I’ve been that way all my life and I am more then happy when a great game is released for the PC, but there was a lot working against the game even on a PC end.  When you got mainstream critics unable to wrap their heads around the fact that the graphics engine for a game isn’t top of the line, you get gems like this:  “The maps looked great but could they have done anything with those character models?  I mean c’mon look at how blocky their fists looked.”  Would the writer have said the same thing for Commander Keen, even if it had been re-released with its original graphics?  I believe good gameplay can trump graphics, provided the game is fun, and I believed Anachronox was a lot of fun.  So what if the game didn’t have multiplayer, the game had so much content and was totally replayable,  It’s been over ten years later and even I’ll admit I haven’t found every single nook, cranny, and easter egg the designers left in the game.  Could these mainstream critics honestly tell me that they were not satisfied with the game’s story, gameplay, or humor?

Then there were the tales of huge bugs.  The most famous I’ve heard is a bug I never encountered.  It involved having to follow someone then suddenly when there was a level transition their entire party died mysteriously.   The reviewers might have received the game before the day one 1.01 patch came out.  I know Day One patches are considered the norm nowadays, but typically it would take weeks before a new PC game release would get patched, regardless of the game’s stability.  That first patch fixed a lot of stability issues with the game, but even I would admit I had bug problems too.  Sometimes a few animations were choppy and after a long stretch of gameplay the game would crash while changing maps.  These issues continued to be a problem until one of the game’s former developers released the game’s unofficial 1.02 patch, but it wouldn’t get released until years after the game had left store shelves.  If Ion Storm Dallas hadn’t been shut down as Eidos Interactive thought it was imperative to do immediately, these problems would’ve been addressed and corrected much sooner.  I have to give a lot of credit to Joey, Lucas, Travis, and everyone else that were still working on the game’s issues even though it technically wasn’t their problem anymore.

But there was one thing this game had going for it,  this game has some true fans.  I mean Anachronox is not a casual game to play through.  Anachronox is a sixty-hour game (well, 25 for me).  There is a ton of story, gameplay, puzzles,  cinematics (which don’t have black bars), bosses, and side quests to go through in order to emerge from this game victorious.  Back in the days even before social media, people were really passionate about this game.  It has a near universal appeal.  I remember several years ago an international member of the gaming press flat out told Tom Hall, “We want Anachronox 2” during a major press interview.  This game has fans that have stuck it out through years of development, turmoil, Daikatana, and went to their local game store to pick up a copy of the last game to ever come out of Ion Storm Dallas.   In the days before Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or even Miiverse, game publishers just had no way to gauge how well received a game is by the game’s players.  Eidos couldn’t read that on some pie chart.

Now, Anachronox is available again online through services like Good old Games.  If you haven’t picked up this great game, I suggest you look into doing so.  If you’re a fan of humor, classic RPGs, or love a good Sci-Fi story, you won’t be disappointed.  And as for Tom Hall, bring us Anachronox 2!

We Have a Twitch Channel June 20, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Site News.
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Since we upgraded to the Playstation 4, Maniac has been experimenting with doing live game streams on Twitch.TV with full picture in picture commentary for the website and has been quite pleased with the response.

So for anyone who visits the site on a regular basis, we would like to announce that we have established our own live game stream panel on Twitch.TV.  The link can permanently be found under the Blogroll menu in the site’s lower right hand column.

If you’re a Twitch.TV member, be sure to subscribe to the channel to get the most up to date notifications on when we go live.

Princess Angel Reviews The Art of Watch Dogs June 19, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Princess Angel Reviews, Site Videos.
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Our resident Graphic Artist, Princess Angel, takes a look at yet another video game art book.  This time she tackles the newly released hardcover book, The Art of Watch Dogs.

Does the book’s content match up with the game, and is it worth the money?  Let’s find out.

 

Watch Dogs Patch to Fix Loading Error Launching Soon June 18, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Since shortly after the game’s release, a lot of gamers who have been playing UbiSoft’s Watch_Dogs have been experiencing issues loading their save games. In particular, their games would get stuck loading the game at around 90%.

Ubisoft announced shortly after people started having the issue that they knew what was causing the problem and were working on a fix. Today, Ubisoft has announced they believe they have fixed the problem and will be releasing a patch on all platforms for the game very soon that will fix this issue as well as some other issues specific to the PC version.

The patch will launch on the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game later today. PC owners will get the patch later in the next few days. Xbox One and Xbox 360 players should find their patches in the next week.

Here’s a full list of all the patch notes.

GAMEPLAY FIXES
• Fixed several mission-breaking bugs.
• Fixed minor mission and item-related issues.
• Fixed the issue that caused the empty weapon-wheel.

MULTIPLAYER FIXES
• Fixed several minor respawn issues.
• Fixed some connection and session joining issues.

PC SPECIFIC FIXES
• Fixed graphical glitches on Low & Medium settings.
• Fixed some crashes on SLI configurations.
• Implemented several performance improvements.
• Implemented a few control improvements.
• Fixed issues causing infinite messaging and timing-out when trying to access the Online Shop from the Extras Menu while Uplay is set to Offline mode.
• Fixed issues connecting to a Multiplayer game.
• Implemented several mouse modifications.
• Fixed “Drinking Game” control issue where wrong information was displayed when played with a gamepad.
• Fixed “Chess Game” control issue.
• Fixed bug where the invasion setting was never saved.
• Fixed graphical issues during cut scenes and cinematics.
• Fixed several graphical and texture bugs.
• Removed Vista OS check to prevent false positives.
• Added game version in main menu.

UPDATE: The patch has been released on the PS4.

UPDATE 2: The patch should be out on PC now.

UPDATE 3: The patch should be out on Xbox 360 now.

Science Check – Watch Dogs June 16, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Science Check.
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Last month, UbiSoft released a game which took the concept of an open world sandbox video game and completely turned it on its head by giving players the ability not only to explore their environment, but control it. That’s the concept behind UbiSoft’s latest multiplatform title, Watch_Dogs.

What is Watch_Dogs? Allow me to introduce it to you the same way it was introduced to me, UbiSoft’s E3 2012 Press Conference.

Sometimes, you’re forced to make some severe leaps of logic as to just how plausible a video game’s grounded reality can be. Some things we’re willing to take for granted, like enemies will simply just carry health and ammunition supplies with them at all times, and you will be immediately able to make use of them.

But then sometimes there will be moments in gaming which skirt the bounds of reality and you are forced to ask yourself…COULD THAT REALLY HAPPEN? Fortunately for me, I happen to have a bunch of friends on speed dial with science backgrounds and when I ask them questions, they have no problem filling me in on just what reality would do in these situations.

So this is Science Check, where I take a look at the leaps and bounds of scientific logic that games have made over the years and check if it would indeed work, or if you tried doing it in the real world, you’d be totally screwed.

It’s all very plausible for a service like CtOS to be installed. Complete integration to improve automation is a huge part of the growth of new tech companies right now. Smart grids, smart streets, smart buildings, and more are all being discussed right now and its quite a fascinating subject.

On face value, you would think being able to interface with this system (if it is implemented) and control it wirelessly via a cell phone is pretty implausible, but there are workarounds. In the game, the player needs to physically access the CtOS control system directly in several points through Chicago in order to install a backdoor Trojan to compromise each area and bring it under control of the player. Once that happens, a player’s abilities in each zone increase and they have full access to not only the CtOS but every mobile device connected to it. In reality, once you have a computer virus installed on a system, controlling the infected system via a mobile device is entirely possible!

Once you have control of the CtOS, there is plenty that the player can do with it.  All of Chicago’s traffic control systems are managed by the CtOS, so the player can in effect control things like the traffic lights, deploy hidden spike strips, and raise traffic barricades.  The game never outright says what the hardware limitations are of these features, so I really will only be able to talk about them briefly.  The city’s traffic control system can be accessed and subverted even in areas that the player hasn’t physically compromised, so it is likely that traffic control in Chicago is a low security subroutine.  Typically the player can only alter these systems when they come within range, but it’s unclear if that is a physical limitation of the player’s abilities or simply a convenience that the game’s developers gave you.  In theory this could work in one of two ways.  The first possibility is that the CtOS’s traffic control system was completely compromised by the player at the start of the game, and this would allow the player complete control over every street light, barricade and spike strip in Chicago from anywhere in range of the CtOS, but for convenience to the player, the game will only give you the option to control systems in your immediate range.  The other option is Chicago’s traffic control system runs independent of the CtOS but the player’s phone has a subroutine programmed into it that can control the traffic systems wirelessly once they come within range of the phone.  This is probably the more likely scenario, although it requires a bit more of a leap of faith to accept, given the fact that traffic control systems are traditionally hard programmed with their timing instructions when they are first installed, and require a direct line connection to be altered or manually overwritten by any authority figures.  These control systems are typically locked up pretty tightly and can only be accessed by emergency personnel.  As far as I know, they can’t be wirelessly accessed, although I could imagine that police would want to be able to control traffic systems within a certain range of them, so they wouldn’t need to continue going back and forth between the control box and the road when directing traffic.  Of course, you know once you give someone an opening to control something that they shouldn’t, someone nefarious will take advantage of it as the player will in the game.

So how do you get around Chicago? The player has the ability to commandeer any car in the city. At first you’ll be breaking into these cars the hard way.  Early in the game, when you select a car you want to steal, the player will smash the car’s window, unlock the door and quickly hot wire it.  This will typically cause a pretty good ruckus and possibly set off the car’s alarm, but it is a pretty plausible way for a thief to get into a car.  Anyone who plays Grand Theft Auto would assume all the car doors in the world are just simply left unlocked, but that’s not the way the world actually works.  As you progress through the game, it does get a lot more convenient to get into cars.  Once you get the ability to add skill points, you can upgrade your cell phone to hack any car’s security system and grant you control of the car as if it’s yours.  No need to smash windows, subvert alarms, or hot wire anything.  Just take the car as if its always been yours.

The security on today’s cars are so convenient, a car’s owner can enter and operate their vehicle entirely without the need of a physical key. Typically an owner can keep some kind of physical device on them, usually an encrypted key fob, which will create a short range Personal Area Network (PAN). However, you don’t always need to have a key fob. Your SmartPhone has the capability of transmitting a PAN that your car can accept as well. In fact, one of the first things car manufacturers did once devices like the iPhone became commonly adopted was create an app for phones that could control the security features of their newest cars. I remembered seeing James Bond control his car like this when the movie Tomorrow Never Dies came out in theaters and thinking it was the coolest thing I had ever seen, but it was probably never going to be something normal people would be able to do in my lifetime. I was wrong. With what our SmartPhones can do today, James Bond never had it so good.

The problem is what happens if you try to get control of a car that predates an electronic security system? Electronic systems, while very common in new cars, haven’t been around for very long. There are plenty of cars still on the road that can only be entered by a physical key, and no amount of electronic hacking can grant you wireless access to it.  Either Chicago reclaimed all the old cars running in the city and either gave its inhabitants brand new ones or upgraded current cars with modern systems themselves as a way to bribe voters to approve CtOS being implemented, or Chicago mandated that everyone needed to upgrade their cars with modern computer security systems on their own dime.  I highly doubt either of these events could have happened as the former would have been very expensive, and the citizens of Chicago would have likely been completely against a law mandating the latter, and that would have turned public opinion against CtOS.  I think I prefer Grand Theft Auto’s world where all the cars are simply left unlocked.

Another feature you have is the ability to eavesdrop on any video camera within range of you and view what the camera is transmitting.  You could witness anything from a man confessing love to a girl who doesn’t feel the same way about him to Aisha Tyler talking to one of her girlfriends on the phone.  This may sound like a trivial ability but in reality it is very important to gameplay.  In the game, you can gain access to areas that are locked off by taking control of local security cameras. Once you have control of a camera, you can move your control from that camera to any other cameras or computer systems within a line of sight of that camera. This works out pretty well because it helps you gain access to new areas which may hold important information without needing to even be in the room.  It can also lower risk to the player by allowing them to intrude on heavily guarded areas where they would be shot on sight without provoking a firefight.

So how realistic is this?  You would think once you’re able to gain access to a closed network you would be able to take control of any camera connected to the system.  However, a lot of the time, security cameras are part of a completely closed system and don’t allow outside wireless access.  However, if we are to assume that the player’s control over a system relies strictly on line of sight, there is another option and that is infrared.  That’s right, the same kind of technology you would find in a TV remote, it can also be used for a wide range of other purposes including data transmission.  Anyone remember the old Palm Pilot?  Before they were equipped with modems, two Palm users could swap data by simply using the infrared ports on the device.  Most laptops in the 90s came equipped with them too, but they weren’t as convenient as they were for personal digital devices.  Infrared isn’t the world’s fastest way of transmission, but since it relies completely on line of sight to transmit data, anything typically transmitted by infrared isn’t encrypted because it doesn’t need to be.  Security cameras would not be able to transmit user control from point to point unless they were equipped with both an infrared receiver and transmitter, but since the cameras do seem to be able to identify citizens (with the exception of the player) so easily, it is highly likely that the city’s security cameras could be using infrared.  Technology that is currently available, specifically the Xbox One’s Kinect, has a powerful infrared transmitter and receiver and is able to identify players using a very similar process.  In theory the player could gain control of security cameras remotely just by using the cameras’ infrared transmitters against them, so long as he was in range of them and already compromised the system they were connected to.

Once you have control of the CtOS in each area, you can briefly read the profiles of everyone in the game that you pass by.  The information you get typically ranges from their profession, yearly income, and any important information the CtOS deemed pertinent or nefarious, no matter how trivial.  The sickest thing is, it is reasonable to assume a security state would keep detailed records on all its citizens.  There’s a line in the game early on that one of the selling points of CtOS when Chicago was trying to get it installed was that they would offer free wireless internet access to everyone in the city.  I don’t know if the founders told everyone the reason they were willing to offer free wireless internet service is because they wanted everyone to connect to the system so they could monitor all of their citizens’ electronic communications without the need of a warrant.  Since everyone in modern day will typically keep some kind of personal electronic device on them at any time, everyone in the game also has their own personal electronic device, and all these devices are connected to the CtOS.  Since the player has the CtOS compromised, in theory the player would be able to intercept any kind of communication the people around them was currently transmitting, and abilities like being able to listen into active phone calls or read instant messages are trivially easy to do.  Extra abilities like being able to copy data on their phone, like their car’s security key, music, or transfer bank account information is a little tougher to do remotely, but there is precedence for it.  I remember back in 2007 it was fairly common for teenagers to share ringtones with friends using their cell phone’s Bluetooth modem, and it is reasonable to assume that the player’s phone could transmit some kind of local signal to covertly copy data on another person’s digital device.  Also, due to the extreme convenience, people do perform bank transactions on their personal electronic devices.  It is very easy to look up your bank balance, recent transactions, and transfer money from your SmartPhone or Tablet, and while total control of your bank account isn’t possible on your cell phone, it does leave a backdoor for someone who intends to compromise your phone the ability to take money out of your account.   Fortunately, a transaction like this would be very easy for a bank to record and refund in the real world, but if the person took precautions, it would be very difficult for the bank to catch the person responsible for it.  Call me paranoid, but to this day I actually keep my phone’s Bluetooth hardware completely disabled.

After all this, I must say the premise for their game is surprisingly well rooted in plausibility. Thankfully, street-level hackers having the resources to pull off that complex of a job, the complete subversion of an entire city’s security network,  is much less likely. You’re basically talking about needing the resources and backing of a world power to be able to implement those attacks in a meaningful way. And let’s face it, giving yourself green lights isn’t worth that kind of investment.

So there you have it, Watch_Dogs has been officially Science Checked. Special thanks to K.M. for their assistance writing this.  Enjoy the game guys, but never forget the moral I believe these game developers are trying to convey with this game.  NEVER implement a system like CtOS.

Watch_Dogs is out now on multiple platforms.

Destiny Alpha Test Gameplay Video June 15, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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After creating a character in the Destiny Alpha Test and selecting your character class, you immediately get dropped into the game with a mission to complete.

Anyone who remembers how they felt the first moment they landed on Halo may feel something very familiar when watching this video.  All footage was captured using the PS4’s DVR.

Destiny is coming September 9th, 2014 to the PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Destiny Alpha Test Initial Setup and Character Creation Video June 15, 2014

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The creators of Halo are hard at work creating their next major franchise, and many gamers out there believe that their next game, Destiny, could be the biggest multiplatform hit of the year.  This weekend, Sony and Bungie have teamed up to host an exclusive Alpha Test for the Playstation 4 version of the game, and we got a good look at it.

The Alpha Test starts off with an initial setup screen, character and class creation, and a love letter from Bungie themselves.  If you’re not in the Destiny Alpha, this could be your first actual peek at the game.  All footage was captured from the Playstation 4’s internal DVR.

Not enough for you?  Don’t worry!  More footage from the Destiny Alpha is on the way.

Destiny is coming to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One September 9th, 2014.