The Stupid Gamer

Video Games, Opinions, Thoughts, & Tomfoolery

The Stupid Gamer - Video Games, Opinions, Thoughts, & Tomfoolery

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

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.

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

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?

AMD retires the ATI brand name

In a decision based on market research and in an effort to strengthen the overall AMD brand, AMD has decided to do away with the ATi branding. The branding shift doesn’t just affect the ATi name, it’s a sweeping change across AMD’s products, but gamers are really only going to notice the ATi decision. AMD purchased ATi four years ago and has struggled to justify the cost of the investment ever since. AMD claims that their own brand is a more healthy and recognizable name than the ATi brand, so they hope that consolidating the names under a single umbrella will help grow the ATi technology going forward. The new logos that will be found on computer cases, laptops, and other packaging will look like this:

I don’t think that ATi has struggled against the competition due to branding. If anything AMD failed to properly use the ATi brand after acquiring it. Compare the marketing and partnership efforts of NVIDIA with ATi and immediately it becomes apparent that AMD was simply not aggressive enough in securing partnerships or creating a proper buzz within their target demographic’s community. AMD did a great job of making their CPUs “cool” in comparison to Intel, but it seems that they always struggled to do the same with ATi against NVIDIA.

I still run an ATi card and I love it. I don’t think this spells doom for the ATi tech or anything, it simply just feels like the end of an era seeing such a household name in PC gaming fade away.

Yep, PC gaming is still pretty awful

Man, what a letdown today has been in regards to gaming. StarCraft 2 showed up in all of it’s collector’s edition glory today and I couldn’t have possibly been more excited to play. As it turns out, this game is still a PC game. Right from the get go I had issues. While installing the game I got an error at 94%, and I had to restart the installation process. After getting the game installed, I was informed that I needed to update my video card drivers to avoid less than perfect performance. I download the drivers, install them, restart my computer, and fire up the game once more. I decide to start a new campaign. As soon as that new campaign is nearly loaded, the game crashes and I’m asked to submit a bug report to Blizzard. After doing that I go and finally get into the single player campaign and play the first mission. I check my options, and the game recommends I run everything at Ultra settings (so it’s DEFINITELY not an issue of my computer being underpowered). After finishing the mission I click continue to move onto the second, when the game crashes again and once more I’m filling out a bug repair to send to Blizzard. Lovely. After that I try to restart the game, and I’m told that my installation is corrupt and that I need to run the repair utility.

Awesome.

I saw more of the image below and the install screen than I did anything else on day 1. PC gamers love to talk about the superiority of the platform, but holy jeez I won’t ever fault anybody who refuses to play on anything but a console when there are issues all over the place. It’s not like Blizzard didn’t have the last decade to get this thing right…

So yeah, PC gaming is a terrible thing. It’s too bad, because there’s a lot of awesome stuff on the PC, but once you venture beyond the friendly confines of Steam, it gets real sketchy real fast.

StarCraft 2 is out tomorrow

Yeah, it’s not like I have to report this to remind anybody, but it would just be plain wrong if I didn’t have a StarCraft 2 related post this week. Tomorrow is the official launch for StarCraft 2 and I’m hoping that everybody out there has their copy on preorder, their PC upgraded to run the game smoothly, and lots of free time. Today would be a good day to get some extra chores done around the house, love up the wife real good, and take your kid to the park for some daddy time, because all your extra time belongs to Blizzard starting tomorrow.

For those that didn’t play StarCraft between now and its release back in 1999, I do feel comfortable saying that you’ve missed out on one of the ten best released games during that time period. Even by today’s standards StarCraft and its expansions are still good RTS games, so if you have a chance to pick it up (you do, it’s cheap), it might not be a bad idea to play through the original before getting StarCraft 2. And yes, you should all be planning on getting StarCraft 2.