Friday, April 12, 2013

Injustice official lunch trailer released

The official launch trailer for the upcoming DC super hero fighting game, Injustice: Gods Among Us has been released today.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is scheduled to release one week from today and features fighting action with DC Comics most popular heroes and villains including Batman, Superman, The Joker and Wonder Woman.

The new trailer reveals some of the game’s original storyline, gameplay footage and characters.

The campaign plot, where the lines between good and evil have been blurred, is collaboration between developers NetherRealm Studios and DC Comics writers. After a feud between Superman and Batman ignites, heroes and villains must choose sides and fight for the future.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is going to be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the Wii U. For more information visit the game's website.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review the Reviews: You missed the point!

Review the Reviews is an ongoing column about the problems with mainstream professional video game reviews.

Lots of people read and watch video game reviews. IGN receives millions of hits every month, Game Informer has millions of subscribers, YouTube is crammed full of game reviews from countless professional and amateur critics. But there is something wrong with so many of these reviews, and Review the Reviewers will point out the problems for the sake of ethical journalism.

For this first entry of Review the Reviews, I want to discuss a couple of examples where the critics have completely missed the point. They have missed the point of retro remakes and the point of a review in the first place.

The first example, and a blaringly obvious one, is Mitch Dyer’s review of Double Dragon: Neon. Not to go into too much detail, but the game is a modern update of the original Double Dragon game. This game was created specifically for the sake of nostalgia, it’s obvious. What else is the point of remaking a classic game, if not to appeal to the nostalgia of the older gamer generation who enjoyed the original?

Dyer said in his review, “This dedication to bygone design philosophies wounds Double Dragon: Neon because it compromises quality for the sake of nostalgia.”

He was complaining about the difficulty level of the game and what he calls “finicky combat” and “slow, cumbersome characters.” While I haven’t played this particular remake, I have played multiple entries in the Double Dragon franchise. They are old, but great. The combat was difficult back then; that’s what made it fun. The original games were short so that arcade players could defeat the difficult games in one sitting (standing?) at the arcade. The remake’s combat was built from the ground up to feel like playing these older games. This reviewer -- this professional and paid reviewer -- missed the point completely.

You can read in the amusing comment thread following Dyer’s piece for many good points, but my point, and the fact of the matter, is that it was his job to play it and grade it based on its merits. What he did wrong was missing the point of the game. He obviously does not enjoy classic gaming. When he thinks of a beat-‘em-up or a brawler game, he probably imagines smooth combat in modern games like God of War or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The problem is this game is not one of those games! This is a remake! Grade it accordingly!

My next example is far more atrocious: The IGN review for the remake of Turtles in Time. The review suffers from the same problems as the Double Dragon review and a few even worse ones.

While he gave “Re-Shelled” a higher score (Double Dragon received a 3), reviewer Daemon Hatfield, still complained about “cheap bosses” and game mechanics. This game is a direct remake of a 1991arcade game, of course the controls will feel dated and the difficulty will be high!

Hatfield makes two grievous errors in his shining example of unethical criticism. He discusses the price of the game and he compares it to unrelated games.

A reviewer is not supposed to talk about whether people should buy the game; that is for a consumer to decide. It doesn’t matter how the game is priced, what matters is if the reader might enjoy the game. Cost and benefit are subjective and unique to everyone; the price of the game should have no effect on the review.

The most offensive thing about Hatfield’s review is his comparison to different games. Early in the article he talks about Castle Crashers. Castle Crashers is a great game, but is not the game he is reviewing; there was no reason to bring it up. He then has the audacity to imply that the readers purchase the less expensive game, Shatter, instead. Shatter is a shooting game; it’s not even in the same genre.

Remakes are there to fulfill nostalgia. They sell for that reason. Look at the numbers for the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time. The same website published a shining review for that game, because the reviewer knew what he was getting into when he started the review.

It’s not hard to write a review, and it’s a dream job for so many gamers. These critics should respect their audience and give fair reviews. They should know what they’re talking about, they should never compare a game to another game and they should never imply that the readers should or should not buy the game or another one.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tech Support: A Review

There is something that gets little attention in the mainstream video game discussion: customer and technical support. I've recently had to contact both Microsoft and Sony, and I can easily compare the services of the two.

A few weeks ago, I moved into a new house with an existing network owned by my roommate. My PS3 initially connected flawlessly, my 360 refused to connect to Xbox Live.

After about an hour of struggling on my own to connect to Live to no avail, I decided to contact tech support. I called a number and requested a call back. I put my phone down and played a demo on my 3DS while I waited on my call from support.

Roughly 20 minutes later, Don from Microsoft Tech Support called me and we got started working on getting my Xbox online. It took more than two hours. During that time, Don had me going through settings on my Xbox, on my router, and he even used Remote Assistance to connect to my Windows 7 PC to configure my firewall to allow connection to Live.

While we waited on things to reboot, Don would ask me about the games I’m looking forward to and told me about what he had been playing; I felt like I was talking to another human being, a gamer no less. After all the hard work, we found a setting combination that worked. A few minutes later and I was happily connected to Live and killing zombies on Banoi with a friend.

Exactly one week later, my PlayStation stopped connecting to PSN. I couldn't watch Netflix or play any of my PlayStation Plus games.

I reset the network configuration, power cycled my network hardware, spent a half an hour Googling the problem, and nothing worked. I called Sony tech support; a big mistake and bigger waste of time.

I sat on hold, listening to the same ads over and over for 30 long minutes. Eventually a gentleman with a name I couldn't pronounce, who obviously speaks English as a second language, answered my call. He spent maybe 15 minutes with me while I reset my modem, router and PlayStation  He had me clear my network configuration (I had already done this, and told him so) and I could still not connect to the PlayStation Network. He told me that I would need to contact my Internet Service Provider and have them assist me.

He asked if there was anything else he could help me with. and then tried to sell me an extended warranty for my console before I hung up on him. What an infuriating waste of my time.

Then I remembered a few of the things Don from Microsoft had me to do get my Xbox online. The first few things didn't work, but when I set up a DMZ (de-militarized zone) for my PlayStation MAC address, it happily connected within seconds. Thanks for the tip, Don, you fixed my PlayStation as well!

Later that day I received a check-up call from Don. He wanted to make sure that my Xbox was still able to connect and if I had encountered any other problems. I hadn't… Not with my Xbox, at least.

Let's examine the differences between the two experiences:

A Comparison of My Tech Support Experience
Microsoft Tech SupportSony Tech Support
Spent more than 2 hours with me until the issue was resolved.Spent less than half an hour, didn’t even resolve the problem.
Call back feature allowed me to do what I wanted while I waited on an available agent.Sat on hold listening to advertisements for the duration of the wait.
Called back a week later to see if there were any additional problems.Tried to sell me a service over the phone.
Well-spoken and friendly.I had to ask representative to repeat things because I couldn’t understand him through his thick accent.

I would have to say that Microsoft really knows how to treat their customers. If I could have left Don a tip, I would have.

What do you expect from customer and technical support? What do you like and what do you hate about your experiences with support? Does the quality of support affect your attitude toward a company? Please let me know in the comments.