eShop slips again

If like me you were looking forward to downloading a copy of ExciteBike 3D when the 3DS online store is launched, you’re going to have to wait a little longer. Nintendo released their new handheld without the inclusion of an online store and after a considerable to-ing and fro-ing of rumours, it was confirmed that it was to be bundled with an update scheduled for later this month. But Nintendo has decided to again delay the launch (via Kotaku) though only until June 7th, so a mere week or so.

The news isn’t great nor was the omittance of an online store in the first place but really, is it that detrimental? I get that the system feels a bit lacking in places without a digital downloadable area, particularly when devices it’s competing with come with them as standard but I’m personally not that bothered with the wait. True, I would like to do a bit more with my 3DS at the moment and not go over the same few decent launch games but I’d rather Nintendo get the service right since their current online services rank pretty poorly not to mention the debacle with Sony’s PSN at the moment. And playing retro games in 3D or just some classic GameBoy titles would be pretty cool though it wasn’t the sole reason I picked up a system. I don’t know, maybe I’m too lenient on the matter…

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Randy’s solo campaign

Publishers are forcing developers to waste time on multiplayer modes just to plump up a game’s feature set believes Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford, who criticised the practise to Edge yesterday. He states how there’s an obsession within the industry to keep up with the blockbuster releases like Call of Duty instead of treating each game differently depending on their content.

“Let’s forget about what the actual promise of a game is and whether it’s suited to a narrative or competitive experience,” he said. “Take that off the table for a minute and just think about the concept-free feature list: campaign, co-op, how many players? How many guns? How long is the campaign? When you boil it down to that, you take the ability to make good decisions out of the picture. And the reason they do it is because they notice that the biggest blockbusters offer a little bit for every kind of consumer. You have people that want co-op and competitive, and players who want to immerse themselves in deep fiction. But the concept has to speak to that automatically; it can’t be forced. That’s the problem.”

Call of Duty, particularly Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, may well be the driving force behind a lot of eager publishers nowadays but a forced multiplayer mode is something that’s affected game’s throughout this generation. In the early days of the Xbox 360, The Darkness was an FPS that featured a beloved single player campaign and awkward multiplayer due to this need for online action. Some critics even verbally shook their fists at BioShock because it neglected multiplayer functionality which no doubt brought about the inclusion of one to the second game.

But Pitchford does understand why publishers decide to learn on developers for multiplayer content, casting aside the artistic integrity. It’s because games are a business. Research data suggests adding more features to your game will boost sales and unfortunately review scores. I say unfortunately because to me, if you have a great single player campaign then anything in addition to that is a bonus not a necessity to get say a nine instead of an eight out of ten. A good example that Pitchford uses is the Dead Space series whose first game was purely a solo affair yet the sequel was not: ”It’s ceiling-limited; it’ll never do 20 million units. The best imaginable is a peak of four or five million units if everything works perfectly in your favour. So the bean counters go: ‘How do I get a higher ceiling?’ And they look at games that have multiplayer. They’re wrong, of course. What they should do instead is say that they’re comfortable with the ceiling, and get as close to the ceiling as possible. Put in whatever investment’s required to focus it on what the promise is all about.”

It’s interesting that Pitchford used EA’s Dead Space as it was the same title website Develop used when speaking to EA Games label president Frank Gibeau. He said the company are working towards making their game ‘better connected’ with things like co-op or multiplayer modes. Develop proposed that Dead Space had neither and worked fine with Gibeau and the PR manager clarifying how their studios won’t be forced to include these features but instead educated on how to do so. Like the possibility of Facebook or Twitter interactivity. However even those seemingly harmless additions would take up developers’ time and resources. It’s a debate which will continue for a while yet I’d imagine.

Gotta click em all

For some odd reason, I became obsessed with Pokemon a number of years ago. Not the collectable creature games, throwing virtual pokeballs onto weakened sprites of pocket monsters but the trading card game or rather its GameBoy Colour version. After realising that a man of my age would never really have suitably aged opponents for the physical card battler, the GBC became a perfect – and less questionable – substitute. But the cards have evolved considerably over the years so my little 10 year old cart is a tad out of date. Rejoice then for gamers like me (who should know better…) and players of any age when The Pokemon Company International launch the online card battler, Pokemon Trainer Challenge in April (via Kotaku). The game allows players to square up against 14 AI opponents using one of three pre-made decks with Pokemon Black and White versions becoming available shortly after (April 6th).

Finally, a modern outlet for the older gamer to enjoy Pokemon with all its whimsy and none of the criminal records. Yeah I probably should be playing something a little more mature shall we say but what other game has a Psyduck? None, case closed!

She’s as cold as ice

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Here’s the first look at Anarchy Reigns, PlatinumGames’ next Xbox 360 and PS3 title in partnership with Sega. The early screenshots showed not only Jack from MadWorld but a shapely lass all in white kicking butt. Her name is Sasha and continues to firmly place her boot into the posterior of, well, anyone standing near her. When the game was first announced, all the talk was about it being a multiple-genre crossover; a massively multiplayer melee action game and how such a mash up has not really been done before. The makers of Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand for the Dreamcast would probably argue such a claim but despite my nostalgic fond memories of that game, I doubt anyone else would agree. So for many gamers this would be the first of its kind and the trailer looks as if Anarchy Reigns will be full of all the best bits from Platinum’s titles. Fast action, crazy combos and a smattering or eccentricity. Sasha is an ice queen or maybe the ice queen, who knows, just don’t annoy her or you’ll get a hefty icicle to the face. Combat-wise, there’s a distinct Bayonetta flair about it which does leave me wondering how this would translate for a multiplayer game. I would presume there would have to be counters or reversibles otherwise players could get caught in a 36-hit combo or worse, juggled in the air by a superior gamer. But on the other hand, imagine the carnage in multiplayer matches, how awesome would that look!?

Max Anarchy reigns in the UK

Yesterday’s outing of Max Anarchy by Platinum Games has been made official by publisher Sega who are calling the game Anarchy Reigns in the West with an Autumn 2011 launch. Details are still few and far between but three screenshots were released showing the multiplayer brawler in action with a colourful Jack from MadWorld and the backside of a curvaceous lass. Sega’s press release states that Anarchy Reigns will “challenge the boundaries of the conventional brawler genre by allowing multiple players to get involved in heavy-hitting action simultaneously.” Early descriptions reminded me of a Royal Rumble made famous by the pantomime of WWE and further wrestling analogies come from the multiplayer modes of Anarchy Reigns being Tag Team skirmishes and a Battle Royal. The screens look a lot like a typical Platinum Games title which is a good because as well as crazy combat situations and crazier characters, their art-style is something refreshingly personal.

Not so little ad campaign

Media Molecule’s craft-em-up treat, LittleBigPlanet 2 is currently on top of the UK charts and Sony intend to keep it that way with a huge marketing campaign reports MCV. Running for two weeks, channel Five and its subsidiaries will continue showing ads for the game with a two month sponsorship deal alongside. This is certainly a different approach from the first game. Not only were the ads fairly confusing to consumers but they started well after LittleBigPlanet came out. Having some guy explain a level he created in quite a random fashion did little to explain the brilliance of LBP, leaving out a robust single player mode. The new ads are not only better constructed but began before LittleBigPlanet 2 was released, while the hype remained high and plentiful.

Add to this a LittleBigPlanet online hub that Sony are launching giving every level its own web page and allowing users to queue up worlds for download. Every level gets its own page? Damn, that’s a lot of pages considering there’s about 3 million or so! The European PlayStation Blog and YouTube will host upcoming competitions, making sure LittleBigPlanet 2 stays in the limelight virally and competitively. Sony’s Marlene Fitzsimmons said LittleBigPlanet was and continues to be a massive success with the community consuming paid-for and free downloadable content. We anticipate the sequel to build on this past success and be bigger than ever.” With a superior marketing strategy, advanced level creation and improved story mode, I’m betting it will be.

I wanna be anarchy

The next release from Platinum Games’ recently extended partnership with Sega is, drumroll please… Max Anarchy! Wait, what? Or rather who? Andriasang stumbled upon leaked scans of the latest Famitsu magazine containing sparse details about the new Xbox 360 and PS3 game. The lack of information was due to its discovery being part of an interview and not an official reveal. Sega or Platinum are yet to formally unveil the game. A game that enters new territory for the studio as it will be an online action combat multiplayer (what a mouthful), the first online game from Platinum. Instantly the mind begins to wonder well they’ll do since tackling a highly competitive genre is difficult even for veterans but Producer Atsushi Inaba feels they have something special; a massively multiplayer melee fighting action game. The word massively doesn’t necessarily mean MMO size either. Inaba said they’ll be a large number of players, not endless.

It’s unclear as to who or what Max Anarchy is but Inaba did say that MadWorld star Jack will be a playable character and that the game consists of a full offline story mode as well as the online shenanigans. Unlike MadWorld, Max Anarchy will be in colour not black, white and red but similar to the ultra violent Wii game, the core mechanic is fighting. Free-for-alls, group fights and cooperative combat were all mentioned by Inaba who believes that a massively multiplayer melee fighting action game doesn’t exist due to complications with online play but is approaching it as a challenge. Again the producer stressed how Max Anarchy will be a fighting game when asked to describe it so expect combos and multipliers aplenty.

Interesting that Inaba said the genre doesn’t exist yet. In 2005 Epic Games released Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict which merged melee combat with first person shooting with varying success. Some critics loved it whereas others found the fighting overpowered and underdeveloped but from Inaba’s cryptic comments, Max Anarchy sounds to be more like a multiplayer Streets of Rage or Yakuza as he didn’t mention anything about projectiles, only fighting. There’s something intriguing about a new genre like this and even more so if the combat is comparable to competitive fighters like Street Fighter or Tekken. I’m a little bummed at how the next Platinum game isn’t another Bayonetta but since the hirsute honey was rather nifty with her fists, maybe she’ll be joining Jack as a playable character… Maybe? Platinum Games are aiming for a end of 2011 release for Max Anarchy on Xbox 360 and PS3.