Republique Kickstarter – When the Industry Decides You Need to Pitch In

Update: With a furious last push, Republique was successfully funded. Congratulations to Camouflaj and Logan Games. Now, make us a game worthy of all the attention the project has been receiving.

Republique is a game being developed by Camouflaj and Logan Games for iOS, PC, and Mac. It aims to be a higher quality gaming experience on the mobile scene. I’m a backer, but I have to admit that I’m not terribly excited by the project as it looks a bit hokey to me. I’m just supporting the project because I like to see developers try something a little different, and for me, $10 is a pretty small price to pay to support new ideas. I am getting a little bothered, however, by the constant evangelizing of the project from the gaming press.

Ryan Payton is the founder of Camouflaj studios. For those unfamiliar with Ryan’s background, he’s gone from games journalist to working in the game industry as a developer. After his time with 1up and Famitsu, Ryan had the chance to work on some high profile projects, including Metal Gear Solid 3 & 4 and Halo 4. Last year Ryan left 343 Industries to found Camouflaj, where he could start up mobile game development on iOS. Due to his roots as a journalist, Ryan has a lot of friends spread around the games journalism scene, and the overwhelming support from the press for his Kickstarter is a direct result of those relationships.

I don’t have a problem with anybody giving a quick shout out to a friend’s project or even a little encouragement to check out what a colleague is doing. But this whole Republique banner waving is getting a little gross. I feel as if we, the readers of these video game sites and blogs, are being held captive to their evangelizing. We don’t even know if the game is going to be any good, and every time you turn around, another major media outlet is reiterating how you should be donating or increasing your current donation to the Republique Kickstarter fund. Shacknews, Giant Bomb, Joystiq, etc. are all over this pitch, and barely a day goes by without a mention hitting the podcast or news feeds.

I don’t think that reporters are totally conscious of how heavy handed they’re being. I don’t think they realize how biased they appear. Many of the people constantly reminding us about Camouflaj through their stories, Twitter updates, Facebook statuses, and podcast mentions are some of my favorite journalists and editors in the industry. I just think that the nepotism that we show for fellow games journalist brothers (or former members of the media) is getting to the point where lines are being crossed.

I think an editor, podcast host, or reporter should be able to give a mention to the stuff that they love, but I don’t think they should act as bannermen, pledging loyalty to a product. If Camouflaj wants the exposure, they should buy it through marketing efforts. Not everybody with a good idea is lucky enough to have come from the ranks of games journalism, and it’s unfair to them (and to readers of the site) that certain projects get constant attention ahead of their own for no significant reason.

There are only three days left on the Republique Kickstarter, and it’s pretty obvious that the project won’t be funded. Everybody who pitched in will get their money back, but the profile on the project has been raised so much that when the game eventually makes its way to release via alternative funding, most of its marketing push will already have been established and “paid for” through free mentions and articles on many of gaming’s largest news and opinion outlets.

I hope Camouflaj puts out a good game. I hope that they find themselves successful as a studio, but I don’t think it’s our burden to ensure that they are.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm screenshots emerge

A Dutch website, www.insidegamer.nl has posted a big batch of screenshots for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, which is part 2 of 3 of the StarCraft 2 story arc. All of the screens come from the single player portion of the game and they contain heavy spoilers in them for the Wings of Liberty campaign. If you haven’t finished Wings of Liberty, it would be a good idea to hold off checking out these screens. If you have finished the Wings of Liberty campaign, the spoilers in the screens are very minor. Check ‘em out in the gallery below. (Click on individual images to enlarge.)

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The original image post on Inside Gamer is found here: http://www.insidegamer.nl/pc/starcraftiiheartoftheswarm/screenshots

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm teaser trailer

Update 2: The trailer is back up. It’s different than the last one, but still good. When the dust settles and the embargo ninjas get scarce, I’ll post the original trailer once more as I have a copy of it. The description below the video describes the original trailer that leaked.

Update: The video was taken down. I’ve embedded a YouTube video for now, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Earlier this week select journalists and StarCraft community members were shown Heart of the Swarm and today a teaser trailer was released. I’ve embedded the trailer below. For those that haven’t finished Wings of Liberty, there are some big time spoilers in the video and in my reaction below the video.

In the trailer we see Nova leading a team of Ghosts against Raynor in an attempt to either capture or kill Kerrigan. Kerrigan appears to be back in her old Ghost duds and possibly preparing to do battle alongside Raynor or possibly she’s just finished a battle of her own as Raynor finds her standing alone in a room that’s just taken significant damage.

Thinking about what’s in the trailer, it seems that Raynor is back on the run with Nova coming after him and Kerrigan. It’s possible that the Dominion has deemed Kerrigan too dangerous to leave alive, or that they want her for testing and intelligence purposes. Either way, Raynor and his team are back on the run and I would guess they’ll be looking for help either from the Protoss or other rogue Terran groups. It remains to be seen if we’ll be doing missions that involve Raynor at all in Heart of the Swarm, but at least we can see that their stories will advance significantly.

We do know that Heart of the Swarm will focus much more heavily on the Zerg, as their campaign will play out here. I was pretty surprised the trailer was devoid of Zerg. Blizzard still hasn’t committed to a release date for Heart of the Swarm, but I’m eager to find out those details.

Best Game Ever: Star Wars: TIE Fighter

Note: Best Game Ever is a series of posts I’ll be doing dedicated to the best games ever made. Each game I profile will be a game I’d accept as someone’s answer to the question, “what do you think the best game ever is?” So please, do not email me and tell me I’m stupid for posting about game X when game Y is clearly superior. And you never know, game Y might be the next game profiled. For more in the series, check out the “best game ever” category in the side bar.

The Force is strong with this one.

There used to be a time when having a PC for games meant that you played with more than just a mouse/keyboard or joystick. Back in the ’90s, it was almost a necessity to own some sort of flight stick. While it didn’t require a flight stick, Star Wars: TIE Fighter was easily the best reason to own one. I personally had the Flightstick Pro, and I probably logged enough hours on TIE Fighter to become a certified pilot.

Released in the summer of 1994, Star Wars: TIE Fighter was the much anticipated sequel to Star Wars: X-Wing. Bringing to the table a better flight engine, improved graphics, and better effects, TIE Fighter provided the ultimate flight combat experience in its time. The missions were laid out with both primary and secondary objectives, the story was interesting, and the game really forced you to use strategy and well timed attack runs in order to be successful.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter and its expansion Defender of the Empire are easily one of the best PC gaming experiences ever created. For all the Star Wars games that have been released, none have done so great of a job of bringing such a strong sense of immersion. If you’ve never played TIE Fighter and you can drum up the means to do so, definitely get right on it ASAP. Also make sure to check out Star Wars: X-Wing (and its expansions) and X-Wing vs TIE Fighter as well.

For these reasons and more not stated, Star Wars: TIE Fighter is the best game ever.

Bulletstorm Video Review

Here’s our full review for Bulletstorm. Overall it is a great shooter with some intense action, an interesting combat system, and memorable moments throughout the campaign. The pacing is a little uneven, but the second half of the game more than compensates for the game’s slow start. Take a look at the review below.

Final Score: 4 out of 5


What happened to StarCraft Arena?

What happened to StarCraft Arena?

I’ve had a few emails from people asking me if I know what happened with StarCraft Arena, formerly hosted at www.starcraftarena.net. The truth is, very people know for certain what happened, but I’ve picked up on some rumblings and rumors that paint a pretty reliable picture.

StarCraft Arena was basically a portal for HD StarCraft and Husky to post their StarCraft 2 commentary videos and replays. The site also had forums where fans of the game and both HD and Husky could talk about StarCraft 2 strategies, events, and news. At times the site would go down, and it would stay down until the fans of HD and Husky made enough of a fuss to get the issue addressed.

When the site went down this last time, many people figured it was another blip and that it would be back when Husky or HD got around to addressing the issue. Unfortunately, this time it seems that site is gone for good. Reports are floating around that HD and Husky have had a falling out of sorts and they’ve decided it’s just best to go their separate ways and leave the domain to die. Nobody seems to know what triggered the squabble, but it appears to have been the final nail in the coffin for a site that already had issues from time to time. Additionally, both HD and Husky are contributing replays to the incredible sc2casts.com website and mobile application. With this new place to share their casts, there’s really no reason to attempt to patch things up and revive the StarCraft Arena site.

If you’re looking for an easy place to catch replays, I highly suggest checking out www.sc2replays.com. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet, definitely download the free app, as it’s even better than the website.

2010 Game Awards and Overall Game of the Year

My list comes out a little later than others, mostly because I had some catching up to do on a few 2010 titles before I made my picks. A few games didn’t end up getting enough play for serious consideration, but I guess that’s just due to other games being engaging enough to keep me glued to them. I hesitated as to whether or not to do a top 10, and I’m still deciding, so for now enjoy the category-based awards. 2010 was a fantastic year for gaming, this wasn’t easy to put together!

Best Graphics of 2010

Winner – God of War III

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain

This was a tough pick, because one could argue that God of War III is just a really shiny and higher poly God of War II, but that would be ignoring the massive scale of the game and the rock solid framerate and overall fluidity of the visuals. Simply put, few games really have pushed a console so hard this generation as God of War III.

Best Audio of 2010

Winner – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption

Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption challenged for the title based on the strength of their soundtracks, but it would be really hard to deny Bad Company 2 this year. The gunshots are incredible in this game, as are the booming explosions and crunchy sounds of vehicles rolling over debris and vegetation. Whether the sounds are close up or the muted sounds of a distant skirmish, Bad Company 2 really showed how a battle should sound.

Best Story of 2010

Winner – Red Dead Redemption

Runners Up – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Mass Effect 2

Both the method of delivering the story and the progression of the storyline were bright spots in the overall experience Red Dead Redemption offered. When you reach the end of the game (the true ending, not the first one), it’s a powerful moment and one that will pry a fist pump out of even the most unemotional gamer. Red Dead Redemption isn’t just a great story for a video game, it’s just great for any medium.

Best New Character of 2010

Winner – Bayonetta

Runners Up – John Marston, Legion

It was hard not to give this to John Marston, but as great as he was he sort of fell into the typical Rockstar main character trappings of being made to serve fate. Bayonetta was just something so insane and crazy that I had to give her the nod when she managed to pull it off. The hyper-sexualized heroine was something that is sure to spawn horrific fan art and cosplay costumes, but hopefully great sequels as well. In the end, Bayonetta will have the longer impact on the gaming industry than any other new characters of 2010.

Best Online Multiplayer of 2010

Winner – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Runners Up: StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call me crazy, but Bad Company 2 easily provided the best online multiplayer for me this year. The way that the game rewards team play but also allows for lone wolves to do their thing is truly admirable. With the different classes, gamers can play how they want and still contribute to the team’s success. While it lacks the audience and stat tracking of Halo: Reach, Bad Company 2 is more accessible to newcomers and fosters a greater importance of teamwork. StarCraft 2 could have taken this award if it was more friendly to new players, but the game can be quite daunting even for those that put many hours into the campaign.

Best Sequel of 2010

Winner – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Runners Up – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Mass Effect 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Not an easy award to settle on with such a big year for sequels, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 took the award because Nintendo basically perfected the 3D platformer genre with this year’s effort. Galaxy 2 doesn’t just give us more of what we liked in Galaxy 1, but it does so with so much more imagination and polish than we could have expected. Mass Effect 2 could have taken this award if the game didn’t wrap up so quickly after assembling the team. It seems like as soon as you have everybody on board, it’s time to go up against that final boss, who was a pretty ridiculous boss if you really think about it.

Best New Franchise

Winner – Bayonetta

Runners Up: Angry Birds, Vanquish

Platinum Games had a great year. They gave us two franchises that I think have some solid staying power. Bayonetta, in its first effort, put Capcom and Team Ninja on notice. There have been some great action games this generation, but I feel that Bayonetta stands above them all; and that’s quite impressive for a first effort.

Best Xbox 360 Exclusive of 2010

Winner – Halo: Reach

Runner Up: Alan Wake

Halo: Reach was a fitting curtain call for Bungie under Microsoft care. While it might be feeling a bit familiar at this point, the game still stood out above all other exclusive releases on the Xbox 360. Alan Wake could have made a more serious threat to win the award, but the repetition and ho-hum combat held it back.

Best PlayStation 3 Exclusive of 2010

Winner – God of War III

Runner Up – Heavy Rain

This was an easy pick for me. God of War III is a fantastic first entry for the franchise and it offered up strong action, amazing graphics, and a varied experience that keeps you engaged from start to finish. Heavy Rain, while really disappointing from a story resolution standpoint, needs to be commended for its bold approach to both storytelling and gameplay techniques. The impact Heavy Rain will have going forward will be noticeable, but I can’t shake how unsatisfying the reveal of the villain ended up being.

Best Wii Exclusive of 2010

Winner – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Runner Up – Kirby’s Epic Yarn

It’s hard to top Mario when he’s on his game, and he really was in 2010. Kirby’s Epic Yarn might be the most imaginative effort from Nintendo for a while, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is no slouch in that regard and the gameplay is unmatched on the Wii for 2010. It remains to be seen if there will be a Galaxy 3 or if Mario will change up his formula once more, but I’d be happy for more spherical planetoids and funky gravity at some point.

Best PC Exclusive of 2010

Winner – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Runner Up – Civilization V

I probably spent more time on Civ V than any other game this year, but it didn’t quite provide the same balanced experience as StarCraft 2 did. Besides, how many other games foster such a large e-sports scene that is as much fun to watch as it is to take part in? Especially in the past few months, if I’m not playing StarCraft 2 at my PC, I’m probably watching match replays or reading up on emerging strategies. Few games were as exciting in 2010 as StarCraft 2 on a global level, and even fewer will remain as exciting going forward.

Best Multiplatform Game of 2010

Winner – Red Dead Redemption

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

For its incredible story, delivery of plot, and cohesive and immersive world, it’s tough to deny Red Dead Redemption the top spot here. I’m a documented critic of Rockstar, and the Grand Theft Auto franchise in general, but I was blown away by their effort with Red Dead Redemption. My favorite story moment of 2010 was when the Red Dead Redemption title card flashed up as the game’s true ending took place. It was satisfying and true to the Western genre. Mass Effect 2 was no slouch, but the recycled plot, only with a less cool enemy force than ME1, was just enough to drop it down to runner up status.

Best Game of 2010

Winner – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Galaxy 2

Honorable Mentions – Civilization V, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

This was one of the most hotly contested years in gaming history. 1998 is often pointed to as the best year in gaming, but 2010 wasn’t too far behind. In fact, 2010 might have provided a higher volume of quality titles, though it wasn’t as top heavy. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty leads the 2010 pack because of its strong showing on both the single player and multiplayer sides of things. The single player is fantastic for gamers of any skill, and multiplayer offers an amount strategic depth and balance of depth that’s nearly unmatched. Furthermore, the StarCraft 2 community is among the most healthy that any game in history has ever enjoyed, with heavy competition taking place around the world. If you haven’t looked into the emergence of e-sports, take a look at the competitive StarCraft 2 scene for an eye-opening look into the future of competitive gaming. For its overall impact on the industry, quality of experience, and longevity, StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty wins 2010’s award for best game of the year.

Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization V

Note: This review will also appear on Gamer Theory when it launches later this year.

When intsalling a game like Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Civ V) to your PC, you better know what you’re getting yourself into. There are games that come by once in a while that will grab you, fascinate you, and then refuse to let you go. After days worth of game time logged, I can safely say that Civ V is definitely one of those games. Firaxis Games has enjoyed a loyal following and huge success with the Civilization series, but they’ve never been averse to allowing the series to evolve with each release. Civ V makes some rather significant leaps forward in regards to presentation, pacing, and unit management among others. The result is a game that’s more approachable yet more challenging and nuanced at the same time.

For newcomers to the series, Civ V is easily the best place to get started. While there is a massive amount od depth to the strategy in the game, Firaxis Games has done a very effective job at implementing a great tutorial and a very helpful tips system to keep players from feeling overwhelmed. Also, at the easier levels the AI aggressiveness is toned down to the point where novice mistakes aren’t punished too harshly. While earlier Civilization titles are available on the cheap these days, Civ V really is the best place for a newcomer to get into the series.

For the experts out there, Civ V introduces a few new features that will make the game feel familiar, yet fresh at the same time. One of the biggest changes made to the game include the transition from square to hex tiles for the world map. This change seems minor at first thought, but it really makes movement around the world a more fluid and natural undetraking for units. Cities also expand in a much more organic way as well with the hexes breaking up the tiles in a more complex pattern. You can see clearly how the hexes work below.

Another big change is that units are no longer able to stack up on tiles with the exception of a single military unit sharing space with a worker. In the past players could stack multiple military units on a single tile, which often lead to nasty bottlenecks where a player or AI had decided to stack units for defensive purposes. This change is a welcome one as it forces you to manage your military units more carefully and always be concious of where you’ve left each unit.

All the changes made make Civ V a more tactical experience in all aspects of the game. Winning via science, military, diplomatic, or culture will take a very deliberate approach that demands that the player adapts to ever changing conditions. Quite often I would start the game with the idea to win under one condition, only to have to aim for a different one due to the AI’s agenda not jiving well with my own. This makes the game very replayable, even if multiplayer isn’t something that interests you.

The game isn’t without its flaws, but Firaxis Games and 2K has been working to improve the game via updates and patches. As of now, however, the AI could use some additional tweaking and improvement. The AI is tuned to constantly exploit advantages, but often times it flies in the face of logical behavior. If you get too powerful or too large, at times the AI will just flat out refuse to cooperate with you, even if it would benefit their civilization greatly. At other times the AI will engage in trade agreements that are quite obviously skewed in your favor. These inconsistencies should be addressed over time, but as of the time I wrote tihs review it was an issue.

AI oddness aside, Civ V is a fantastic PC gaming experience that is engrossing, addictive, and different each time you approach it. Between this, StarCraft 2, and the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, it has been a strong year for PC releases.

5 Stars out of 5

Gaming 9 to 5 and still working full time

Uh oh…I have a serious problem. It seems that I have two nine to five occupations. I work at a web design firm, called i4 Solutions where I do search engine optimization and manage pay per click marketing campaigns for a variety of clients. I’m happy there and I put in my 40 hours a week. Well, I guess one occupation wasn’t enough, because I’ve taken up a second nine to five activity.

I installed Civilization V over the weekend, and I “one more turn” extended my play sessions Friday and Saturday night from 9:00 pm to past 5:00 am. Yes, I put in over 8 hours a night on this game. The game is just addictive, and I’ve got no power over myself to quit at a decent hour once I start my quest at world domination. Aside from Civilization Revolution on the DS, I hadn’t really played a proper Civ game since Civ II. I always wanted to give Civ III and Civ IV some attention, but I never found the time to do so. To be honest, I really don’t have the time for Civ V, but the allure was too strong this time around and I found myself on Friday evening downloading the game via Steam.

So what now? I guess I’m going to have to go part time on one of these occupations, because my body isn’t going to handle it. Unfortunately for me, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to cut my world domination hours down to part time status with the occasional overtime hours.

For those that haven’t really played any of the Civ games, Civ V is an excellent starting point. For you veterans of the series, I’m sure picking up Civ V is already in your plans if you don’t have it already. Just know that few games will sap away your time like Civ V will.

Check back soon for the full review.

StarCraft Arena is worth checking out

StarCraft Arena is a community-driven site dedicated to StarCraft 2 news, tournaments, discussion, and strategy sharing. The site has numerous videos that cover some really intense matches between some of the best players in the world, all commentated by either HD or Husky; a couple of great players and notable figures in the StarCraft community. Just by watching the videos you can get some  great insight on how to start your StarCraft 2 multiplayer matches, how to respond to moves made by your opponents, and how to judge when it’s a proper time to attack or counterattack. The videos are very entertaining even if you just want to be the casual observer and don’t care much for competing yourself.

Aside from the videos, StarCraft Arena has organized tournaments where they invite the world’s top players to join in. These tournaments are pretty intense and they draw huge attention from the vibrant community that calls StarCraft Arena home.

Even if you’re not much of a StarCraft 2 fan, it’s worth dropping in and checking out a few commentated videos. I have to wonder if these sort of communities are the early beginnings of competitive gaming making its way into a bit of a spectator sport in the United States. It sure would beat the WNBA, huh?