Saturday, 19 December 2009

Starting Christmas with a bang

Where as a lot of gaming sites may start to be writing about the best of 2009, Christmas and all that jazz, I intend to talk about the next most popular category that has been impacting my life a lot as of late. Grenades being mapped to stupid buttons on controllers.

It has happened to all of us, fully immersed in your mission you move in looking suave and sophisticated, a man on a mission. You get to your objective, something you have been working towards for hours now, and just at the critical moment, you take the opportunity to pull a pin on a grenade and drop it to your feet. Crap…

It has happened to the best of us. “That hostage needs rescuing!”

“Never fear ma’am let me just get up close and, oh God, run!” You manage to get just far enough back to avoid any shrapnel in your fine appendages only to turn around and find that your important VIPs are now decorating the walls.

There’s also the classic wall cover cock up. With cover being mapped to L2 and grenades being mapped to R2, the countless times as I have been learning a game that I have thrown a grenade against the wall instead of leant against it is a bit silly. No matter how much I try, I still manage to play the squash equivalent of Russian roulette with myself in most game sessions.

The thing that I am finding particularly irresponsible and frustrating at the moment lies with the PS3. Developers seem to have a fetish for swapping around the grenade and firing functions on the R1 and R2 buttons between different games. I don’t have a particular preference to which button should be used (surely the trigger one makes sense though) but if it could just be universally accepted that one is shoot and the other is throw, I will not be blowing off my pixelated limbs as much.

Again, I suppose this is another blog to file under ‘rant’, especially after playing The Saboteur and instead of walking in disguise, I threw a grenade and blew up my cover along with a few conveniently placed barrels of petrol.

I’m sure I am not in the minority when it comes to accidentally blowing up the people/things you intend to save/not blow up but is the compromise of risking accidental, hilarious death worth the trade off of an instantly accessible grenade? To be honest I’d probably say yes, as digging through inventories can be frustrating in a gun fight especially if you could have learned to use one button correctly and tossed a potential explosion to the feet of those trying to harm you.

Anyway, to be slightly more topical, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and if I don’t speak on here before then, I hope the inevitable family feuds are at least tolerable this year.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Why Xbox Live doesn't work

I appreciate that arguing how much value for money Xbox Live is can be a very similar experience to convincing dogs that the postman’s arse doesn’t taste nice, but it is starting to get to a point where the matter of money is getting a bit silly.

I know, I know, the likelihood of me changing anyone’s views on Xbox Live is like trying to reason with chickens that cock fighting isn’t such a bad sport, but please hear me out.

Those who pay for their gold subscription status happily do so for all the benefits that come with it, early access to demos, TrueSkill matchmaking and being able to play online with your buddies. Whether you think it is right to pay for something that games on every other gaming platform offer for free is a different argument to this entirely.

The problems that are starting to crop up are subscription services for other games. You know, like MMORPGs that attach direct debit leaches to your bank account that get thirsty every month. Paying one subscription fee to play games online, that’s just about stomach-able. Asking gamers to pay for two though? On your bike, your having a laugh, die in a fire, and so on and so forth.

Playing a subscription based game on a subscription based service is going to cause more than just hiccups when it comes to striking it right with your audience. Okay, some people might be able to afford it, but others might find it almost offensive being asked to pay for two separate services to play just one game.

I can see this hurdle really putting off MMO developers trying to release pay to play games on the Xbox 360 as not all fans will want to pay for the two services. It will make the target demographic for that game even smaller than it has to be and so might not be worth the risk for the developer, who may happily take it to the PS3 and reap the benefits of a little more freedom.

Microsoft are getting really good at squabbling over money and upsetting people as of late, which is a real shame because the Xbox Live service really isn’t too shabby.

A couple of examples that spring to mind include Valve’s L4D Crash Course DLC. PC users got it for free because Valve are lovely people who do not tend to charge for add-on content. Unfortunately Xbox users had to pay because Microsoft didn’t like giving something away for free through their system and so made Valve slap a price tag on it.

The other example happened just this week when the possibility of getting the BBC iPlayer on Xbox Live was suspended “indefinitely”. The upset here was that Microsoft want to restrict the iPlayer to gold only members, where as the it (and everything BBC) is already paid for by everyone in the UK through the license fee, therefore the BBC aren’t allowed to charge anyone for access to it.

As much as I would love it to happen, I can not see Microsoft stopping it’s subscription service for Live. It would cause too many problems, such as upsetting those people who paid for a 12 month contract for the service the day before the announcement it was turning free.

Microsoft just needs to be a bit more reasonable when it comes to other people, who either want to charge through their own subscription model, or even not charge anything at all. It just becomes a real problem, especially when you think that there is no alternative to Xbox Live. It’s their way or the highway (and taking any other route will probably get you banned).