Semi-actual competition in sports gaming: Dueling trailers for MLB 12: The Show and MLB 2K12

There was a time, known as the 1990s and early 2000s, when actual competition existed between the producers of sports games.

Players who wanted a football game could choose between the Madden, NFL 2K and NFL Quarterback Club. Players who had a Sony console could choose NFL Gameday, at least until that series vanished from gaming in 2005.

Of course, NFL 2K and NFL Quarterback Club series are also relics of an earlier time. EA Sports enjoys an exclusive NFL license, and thus are the only publisher to make an NFL video game.

It’s a similar story for basketball and hockey. 2K Sports’ outstanding NBA 2K series has emerged as the (for now) unchallenged king of NBA simulations, and EA Sports is the only publisher making an NHL game.

Baseball is a little bit different. Sony Computer Entertainment’s MLB: The Show franchise enjoys wide acclaim, but is exclusive to Sony consoles. 2K Sports gets to publish their MLB 2K series for all consoles, but their game has yet to earn the same kind of admiration as The Show.

 Personally, I consider MLB 2K11 to be a “B+” game. I’ve actually been playing it quite a bit lately and have been having fun, but every now and then I will see a player animation that just does not make sense. It’s not a bad game by any means, but my heart will always belong to MVP Baseball 2005.

That said, it’s almost time for new baseball titles, and here are the trailers for MLB 12: The Show and MLB 2K12. If you have a PlayStation 3 and want to play video baseball, you actually have a choice between the two titles.

MLB 12: The Show

 

MLB 2K12

Review, Part Two: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” is a game that, despite some frustrating moments, is a title that features some of the greatest experiences in any recent game or the venerable Zelda franchise.

This is the second part of a review I wrote based upon my first impressions of Skyward Sword. After completing the main quest, and then spending considerable time trying to decide what, exactly, I should write about the game, I find that many of more initial impressions remain unchanged.

In short, that means Skyward Sword is an excellent, if imperfect, game that should entertain any Zelda fan. Its successes, however, are largely built upon a foundation of previous Zelda titles. Although Nintendo’s promotion of the Wii’s motion controls can be considered a bold attempt to change the way players approach games, I can’t help but feel the Zelda series is needs a major shake-up when its time for the next chapter.

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Fan remake of Star Wars is made of fun

What did technologist, Casey Pugh, get when he asked fans to recreate fifteen second slices of Star Wars and then stitched them all together into a director’s cut? You get Star Wars Uncut: Director’s Cut, two hours worth of awesome, collaborative creativity.

So if you have the time to spare, kick back and relax as you see a galaxy far, far away unfold in bizarre, and hilarious, ways. Now what would the Godfather be like…

Hitting the pause button on SOPA and PIPA

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Thousands of sites on Wednesday went dark in protest over the controversial and broad nature of SOPA and PIPA, the anti-piracy bills that are being considered in Congress, bringing awareness to millions of web surfers. Just take a look at this Twitter account scanning through the complaints about Wikipedia’s blackout to get a general idea of how many homework assignments went unfinished (there’s some frank language in there, so tread carefully).

Both bills have been critically debated by many within the tech industry over the dangers that the incredibly broad nature of the powers they propose to use against illegal sites hosting pirated material inherently have.

Imagine shutting down a street because someone decided to paint their house with something obscene, and you’ll get the gist of just how broad those powers could be. Never mind that you buy your groceries at a corner store on the same street. That’s just too bad.

Now it looks like the doubts that many have had over both has finally earned some action on Capitol Hill. Or rather, inaction.

According to Reuters, both the Senate and the House of Representatives had decided to delay a critical vote on the bills scheduled for the 24th for the foreseeable future. SOPA and PIPA aren’t dead, but it’s clear that Wednesday had been a wake up call for many of the bill’s supporters…some of whom have withdrawn their support.

And according to ProPublica’s Nerd Blog, opposition in Congress surged following Wednesday’s blackout as you can see in the image above. That number includes a few of the co-sponsors for bills.

Everyone sees eye to eye that there’s clearly a need to deal with piracy. But it’s just as clear that passing legislation with deep, and potentially devastating, flaws is not the way to do it.

Impressions of the PlayStation Vita

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Fifa 12 Vita, looking good in Santa Monica.

The PlayStation Vita certainly gives a good first impression.

Sony’s newest handheld, set for a Feb. 22 release here in the States, is capable of producing crisp and vibrant graphics. The portable is also comfortable to the touch, and playing a shooter with its dual thumb sticks has essentially the same feel as using a PlayStation console’s Dual Shock controller.

The Vita also boasts a touchscreen, because that’s pretty much a requirement for any new handheld device.

Based on my first impression, I like the Vita. Does that mean consumers should buy the Vita.

I don’t know.

As impressive as the Vita’s capabilities are, I don’t know yet if it’s worth $250 or $300 for the average gamer who likely already has a PlayStation 3 or XBox 360 at home. While attending a Sony open house in Santa Monica, I had a chance to sample Fifa 12 Vita, the Vita version of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Resistance: Burning Skies, a forthcoming sequel to the PlayStation 3 FPS series.

More thoughts follow the jump:

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SOPA/PIPA Blackout Day

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Today is marked with a number of protests across the ‘net in opposition to two bills: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) which is being considered in the House and PIPA (Protect IP Act) which is in the Senate. Over the last few months, there has been a groundswell of opposition from many notable tech giants such as Google and Facebook aided in no small part by a large number of independent individuals concerned over both.

I’m no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, though the good news is that there is quite a bit of information out there talking points on why both of these are simply bad approaches to the same problem.

On the surface, both bills propose to do the same thing – fight copyright infringement, such as piracy. The problem is that the language in both is so broadly written creating a legitimate concern for potential abuse.

No one is arguing that protecting copyrights is a bad thing. What many are more concerned about is that both of these bills define their powers in such general terms that they can actually stifle open access to information through the collateral damage caused by censorship.

For example. Tech Out like many others has a number of articles focusing on games. If any of the rights holders decides that we’re infringing on their copyrights simply because we have a screenshot of one of their titles, sites like this could be blocked on the internet and starved of hits from search engines which will be required to scrub their results.

Or worse, the San Bernardino Sun’s website could be blocked simply because it hosts Tech Out. Wikipedia, for example, could be attacked in the same way over its entries on musical artists and film despite having so many other articles on different topics. The bills are attacking the same mosquito in a china shop with tanks.

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Granted, these are extreme examples, but they fall right under what SOPA and PIPA in their current forms will allow. The White House has also sounded off in its concerns over both bills, tacitly disapproving of their approach while not dismissing their intentions.

This debate has also demonstrated how technology has reshaped dialogue in today’s world by uniting so many groups in the fight ahead across the ‘net. Sites such as “Good Old Games” which specializes in selling classic PC titles has joined in the fight from overseas. Groups of individuals that might never have gotten to know each other have pitched in by gathering online to share their ideas on what to do to help educate and simply spread the word on why this matters to a worldwide audience.

It’s a series of small steps, but ones that have sparked plenty of new debate as politicans and individuals of every stripe have voiced their opposition to what both bills fail to effectively and convincingly address making it a fight against censorship that few can afford to lose.

Review: Pushmo

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Pushmo, the downloadable puzzle title for the Nintendo 3DS, is a clever game that should appeal to most players looking for a little brain exercise.

Like any good puzzle game, Pushmo is challenging enough to allow players feel smart without being hard enough to make them feel dumb. For the most part, at least. I have to admit that I got stuck in a few parts, but for most of the early puzzles can be solved in a minute or less and the game does a good job of teaching the core mechanics before real difficulty starts to set in.

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Doctor Who is looking for volunteers

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BBC’s time traveling Doctor has his own, free-to-play browser MMO that’s undergoing a bit of a preview. It’s certainly different from any other traditional MMO and it’s not because of the quirky Doctor.

The 2D art style and the puzzle-based gameplay set it apart from some of the more combat hungry F2P titles out there making it something of a mental game than a twitch based one. Though when you’re trying to solve things while on the clock, you might be twitching anyway from trying to beat it.

Right now, the only thing you need to sign up for it is an email address. Once that’s punched in, you’re briefed by Doctor in the TARDIS on what has to be done to keep space-time from unraveling, all presumably leading up to a spectacular climax.

I made it to the second mission where I was promptly mauled by living mannequins when my AI controlled teammates couldn’t unlock a door in time. One can always team up with other living people, though, for a better chance at survival.

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And everything is puzzle based from rewiring cables, unlocking doors, to combat which is handled through a Tetris-like mechanic. There are also levels earned to grow your character and even a bit of crafting to build new toys. It also looks like the game will use micro-transactions to purchase special “Chronos” points for in-game goodies like clothing or upgrades.

The points slowly generate themselves over time – think glacially slowly – making it tempting to splurge a few bucks to get a slight boost providing a look at how the game may finance itself in the long run. Or you can just stick to what it gives you for free and earn things the old fashioned way as you save the universe.

Reports: Iran sentences American games developer to death for alleged espionage

This is a rare serious post on Tech-Out, but the most important story in gaming this week is not about the experience of playing games, but the Iranian government sentencing American game designer Amir Mizraei Hekmati to death for espionage.

From GamaSutra, via GiantBomb:

After the former U.S. Marine was detained while visiting Iran in August
(supposedly to visit family), local daily newspaper Tehran Times published excerpts from a purported confession
in which Hekmati admitted to helping create games designed to
“manipulate public opinion in the Middle East” at New York City-based
developer Kuma Reality Games, under the CIA’s direction and payroll.

Hekmati allegedly said, “[Kuma] was receiving money from the CIA to
(produce) and design and distribute for free special movies and games
with the aim of manipulating public opinion in the Middle East. The goal
of the company in question was to convince the people of Iran and the
people of the entire world that whatever the U.S. does in other
countries is a good measure.”

The U.S. government denies Hekmati worked for the CIA and condemned the Iranian government’s actions. From the Associated Press.

The State Department called them a “complete fabrication,” and White
House spokesman Tommy Vietor added that “allegations that Mr. Hekmati
either worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false.”

“The
Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies,
of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for
political reasons,” Vietor said in a statement.

Kuma Reality Games has published its Kuma War series of war-themed games since February 2004. The free-to-download games are presented as episodes, most frequently from real conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The series debuted with a two-part episode intended to recreate the death of Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, in the early aftermath of the American-led invasion of Iraq.

The series’ most recent episodes feature the deaths of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and al Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Most of the playable missions listed on Kuma’s website are based on actual U.S. engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Mission 58, “Assault on Iran” is an attempt to create what Kuma describes as a plausible scenario for a Special Forces strike aimed at neutralizing Iran’s nuclear capability.

Kuma’s mission descriptions are undeniably pro-American, but that of course is no evidence that Hekmati committed espionage or that Kuma Reality Games is a CIA front. Kuma head Keith Halper did, however, tell Kotaku.com that the company has produced training software for the military.

I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if the CIA tried to use games to influence popular opinion, but it seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars when the makers of the Call of Duty and Battlefield series are spending millions on games that show the U.S. military in a positive light. That bit of semi-paranoia out of the way, I have a harder time believing the Iranian government and Hekmati’s purported “confession.”

My guess is that the Iranian government won’t really execute Hekmati, and that his trial and imprisonment is just one big show amidst the current diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States. That prediction, of course, depends on whether or not the U.S. and Iranian navies end up shooting at each other in the Straits of Hormuz.