Pirates quizzed with Deus Ex

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Here’s an interesting note on piracy. Eurogamer reports that James Grimshaw, founder of Vigilant Defender, leaked a modified version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s preview to torrent sites.

The preview had already been leaked all the way back in May, but James made his version kick players out after a certain point in the game to an online questionnaire asking why they did what they did. In essence, he’s turned the preview into a unofficial demo.

Vigilant Defender, based out of Ireland, purportedly works to offer anti-piracy strategies to publishers and this experiment is but one way that they are trying to prove that pirates can be customers.

It’s an interesting use of torrents which, by themselves, aren’t illegal though the same cannot be said as to what is actually being torrented. Disguising the preview as the work of other piracy groups is also something that skirts several issues, not the least of which is that distributing the preview likely isn’t condoned by Square Enix despite having been leaked awhile back.

That said, it’s an interesting if not very grey method in being able to tap pirates on the shoulder and ask for their opinion. For instance, the article mentions that of the 26,000 that declared their interest to pay for the game in the questionnaire, Grimshaw discovered that the average price that seemed fair to them was around 14.49 euros.

It’s an incredibly low price for what is considered a AAA title, yet it also begs the question of whether low prices would actually move more product to recoup costs versus the present $60 USD model typically used for big console releases. It’s no secret that when Steam launches one of their special seasonal specials, downloaded product flies through the door, so to speak, thanks largely to the temporary fire sale.

Software piracy has been around since the first games had been copied to floppies and despite many efforts to curb it, it’s still an unfortunate reality to publishers and developers. There are many reasons as to why pirates do what they do, but Grimshaw and his company seem determined to shed some light on why – and in the long run, how to better deal with it.

Report: Goldeneye remake to charge for paintball mode

If one article can summarize everything that’s wrong about the modern state of gaming, this one from Giant Bomb should do the trick.

The website is reporting that paintball mode in Goldeneye: Reloaded will be exclusive DLC for people who buy the game at GameStop. Seriously.

As Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek reports:

I realize moaning about a simple paintball variant is a weird thing
to get hung up on, but hell, paintball was one of my favorite modes from
GoldenEye 007
Unlocking paintball wasn’t easy, either; it required beating the Dam
stage on Secret Agent in two minutes and 40 seconds. This was a
satisfying achievement before Microsoft
attached scores to such things. My friend group would sit around the TV
for hours, playing each level over and over again, in hopes of shaving a
few seconds off our time.

We never did unlock Invincibility.

But when we finally unlocked paintball, we’d earned the right to play paintball–and damn
it felt good. So while anyone who picked up GoldenEye 007: Reloaded
through GameStop could optionally unlock the mode early, everyone else
would still have the ability to flip on paintball the old fashioned way:
earning it.

Maybe Activision, the company publishing the Goldeneye remake, will be gracious enough to let customers eventually pay for paintball mode, which was indeed a fan favorite. But the nickel-and-dime approach to DLC is one of the most annoying trends within gaming, since it’s getting harder and harder to escape the conclusion that players are being charged for incomplete products when they buy new games.

In this writer’s opinion, there’s nothing wrong with companies charging for substantial DLC, the kind that’s like an expansion pack gives real value for somebody who has already paid $60 for a retail game. Bethesda and Electronic Arts, for example, have done well in offering quality DLC for games like “Broken Steel” for “Fallout 3″ and “Lair of the Shadow Broker” for “Mass Effect 2.”

But DLC that doesn’t actually expand upon a player’s initial purchase is ridiculous. As much as I would praise Lair of the Shadow Broker, I have no interest in paying for Mass Effect 2′s alternate costumes. That’s the kind of thing that gamers used to unlock by actually playing the game, when paying for a new game once was considered to be enough.

Mass Effect 3 will have multiplayer

Mass Effect 3 will indeed have multiplayer, a major change for BioWare’s space epic that will no doubt spawn countless Internet arguments over whether multiplayer makes sense for the popular series or whether the developers still make the kind of RPGs that made them famous.

I, for one, don’t care whether a game meets genre expectations as much as whether its fun. I can understand why the serious RPG fans among Mass Effect’s players did not care for the (choose your own bias) simplifications/streamlining/dumbing down that BioWare employed in making the game’s sequel, but I personally enjoyed both games and didn’t miss the lack of extensive inventory management while playing the sequel.

That said, the addition of multiplayer, called Galaxy of War, strikes me as a strange choice for ME3. As anyone who has played the games knows, Mass Effect puts players in the role of one Commander Shephard who fights to save the galaxy as he or she sees fit. The games’ appeal stems significantly from its dramatization of space exploration and the moral choices that players must make as they go about their mission.

The kind of multiplayer gameplay that BioWare and game publishers Electronic Arts confirmed today takes some of the focus off Shepard. As announced, multiplayer mode will let players join four-person teams to achieve a military objective that will be relevant to the players’ single-player mission. Shephard is still the star, but Mass Effect 3 will let players join something like a galactic special operations squad if they want to try another type of gameplay.

I can see a number of pros and cons here. On the pro side, I’m happy to see a developer attempt a variation on multiplayer different from the deathmatch modes we’ve seen so many times before in Goldeneye, Medal of Honor, Counterstrike, Halo, Call of Duty, Resistance, etc …

I also like that the idea that multiplayer will let players try different character types, e,g, solider, sentinel, adept, without having to start a new playthrough,

Now for the cons. Adding an entire new mode to what players expect to be the final chapter of an epic trilogy doesn’t make much sense to me. I doubt EA is going to induce new legions of fans to buy the game just because it has multiplayer. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone say they would buy Mass Effect if it had multiplayer.

I’m also not crazy about multiplayer affecting the single-player campaign. Although the idea of soldiers fighting across the galaxy makes sense, those soldiers are not the focus of the story. The multiplayer press release says Galaxy at War is an alternative method of achieving single-player campaign objectives, but the idea of breaking from the game’s narrative to take on the role of a minor character seems like it might be kind of a chore.

If it was up to me, I would have produced Mass Effect 3 as a single-player game and developed the multiplayer as a separate budget title or DLC for fans who want more Mass Effect after completing the trilogy. But then again, I don’t run BioWare nor EA.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled to come out in March.

Trailer: The Avengers

Here’s the trailer for Marvel Comics’ and Paramount Pictures’ film version of the Avengers, which is scheduled to be released in May:

The Tech-Out critique: Movie trailer editors really need to figure out a way to build the audience’s interest without relying on the same old tricks. The first few seconds of this trailer seems to be the same as the trailer for every other action movie in the last five years. Start out slow and scary, give the impression of some kind of sinister threat and have a loud sound effect on each cut.

On the positive side, Robert Downey Jr. is playing Tony Stark again. Downey’s portrayal of Stark as a fast-talking narcissist with a reluctant conscience in the first “Iron Movie” is probably the best acting in any superhero flick.

Apple’s best commercial was actually a 1998 iMac ad

As popular as Apple’s “1984” commercial is, I don’t think it’s their best one. I prefer this commercial for the iMac, in which a revitalized Apple promotes how easy its iMac is to use compared to the competition.

Keep in mind that Apple practically disappeared from the public consciousness in the early 1990s, after Steve Jobs was ousted from the company. Computing in the mid-1990s, for most households, meant buying a big desktop with a separate monitor and possibly, an external modem. Anyone with a new PC had to connect several components to each other, and then connect power cords and a phone line their wall. Everything would usually work, but not until people ended up with a tangled mess of cords behind their wall.

The brilliance of this ad is that, unlike Apple’s modern current commercials, the company doesn’t tell the viewer that buying Apple will make them cool. It simply tells the viewer that their product is easy to use, and I like the straightforward approach.

RIP Steve Jobs

Apple announced this meeting that its chairman and co-founder, Steve Jobs, died today at the age of 56.

Jobs, one of the computing industry’s pioneers, was one of the most important American business figures of the last half century. As the founders of Apple, Jobs and business partner Steve Wozniak, were instrumental in bringing the computer to the household and the classroom.


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BF3 Beta impressions (Xbox 360)

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Playing the BF3 beta was a little confusing. The game is due out in a few weeks, so putting it into beta this close to release seemed bizarre.

It covers only one multiplayer map, Metro, which takes place in a subway tunnel in France along with a little above-ground action for plenty of close quarters shooting. It’s also objective based meaning players will be switching roles between defense and offense. It also means that it’s a map with no vehicles which can be a bit disappointing to some.

Technically, beta tests are handled a few months in advance of finalizing the code for release so that if anything critical crops up, it can be fixed before hitting retail. At least that’s how it’s ideally supposed to go. Though in today’s world of “0-day” patches and broadband speeds, that probably doesn’t mean a hell of a lot.

Likely, the “beta” for BF3 was to test multiplayer stress on the network to better prepare for when it goes prime time on October 25th. On that count, it seems to be doing okay even with the occasional  128-player hack floating around in PC Land.

I also hope that some of the other issues won’t show up in the final game such as prone clipping, or falling through the map and getting stuck leaving suicide the only escape. I was killed on one map by someone trapped this way because they were able to shoot me from below the objective I was attacking.

One thing that stuck with me was how familiar it felt. Coming off of Bad Company 2, BF3′s beta felt like I was heading back for more of the same with a new set of maps. That’s not entirely a bad thing, especially if you couldn’t get enough of the game. And I’ll admit that I had some fun while shooting through Metro’s wrecked venue.

The demo also cuts loose with a large number of unlocks and, from what I could see, no level ceiling, so if anything, it’s a nice, free multiplayer shooter. Some players have also really taken to it – I’ve seen a few leveled into their twenties and thirties already though I doubt any of that will carry over into the full game.

If I weren’t a fan of the series before I doubt this would have convinced me as much as the trailers had worked so well to, but I’m sure that the full game – with actual vehicles – will be a lot more exciting when everything comes together near the end of this month.