The TBoD Podcast – 103 – Infinity Wars

Hello everyone,

A selection stills from the upcoming COD Infinite Warefare

Apologies for our recent absence but we have risen from the flames like a Phoenix and aim to get back to a rigid structured release schedule much like our first topic of dicussion today, that’s right we’re talking;

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Nintendo NX

and

Suda 51’s latest wacky creation ‘Let it Die’ and what place Microtransactions might hold in this AAA FTP TPS Action Adventure title from the mind that brought us Lollypop Chainsaw.

As always thanks for listening and hit us up in the comments or on twitter if you love us/hate us/are completely indifferent in your feelings about us.

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The PlayStation 4 – Part 2 – Free Games.

ps4 meme 2

In last weeks post I discussed my feelings toward the hardware and UI of Sony’s PlayStation 4, on the menu this week are the games that are available to play for nothing. Admittedly I haven’t played them all but I have sampled a good selection of the launch day titles and one or two in the launch window, this list will include the titles that come with PS Plus since that service is required to play online now.

Resogun

The saying usually goes that you save the best until last, however at TBoD we aren’t really one for convention so we are putting the cream of the crop up at the top where is belongs. Resogun, developed exclusively for the PS4 by resogunHousemarque, is a side-scrolling sci-fi shoot em up very much in the vein of old school games like R-Type and is meant to be the spiritual successor to Super Stardust Delta/Super Stardust HD. The aim of the game, as muttered out of the DS4 controller, is to “save the humans” from the insane amount of ships flying around each level. The graphics are beautiful in 1080p and this shooter runs smooth like butter at 60fps.

The control scheme utilises both sticks of the DS4, one for movement the other for shooting your main weapon and as you progress during the arcade mode this weapon gets increasingly more powerful, receiving much-needed upgrades as the enemy soon fill your screen and threaten to overwhelm you. Of course you have a couple of tricks up your sleeve when it gets all too much, your boost will get you out of a tight spot by ramming you through oncoming foes and the overdrive your ship is equipped with is the equivalent of a beam from The Death Star slicing through swathes of bad guys. Of course in a pinch you can use one of your limited number of bombs to nuke the whole screen causing an incredible explosion of voxels covering the level.

Of course the game has numerous trophies, but the real fun, just like in the old school arcades this title emulates, is trying to beat your own and your friend’s high score. It’s frenetic game crack that you just keeps you coming back when you fancy a break from the regular triple A titles. I think the fact that this game is completely free to PS Plus members shows just how good the value of the service is.

Contrast

Another title that’s included in your PS Plus subscription Contrast is a cross generational title so don’t expect any super shiny visuals, not to say it is a bad-looking game but this is very much a port which has not received that much of a re-working. This puzzle platformer is centered around a young girl names Didi and hercontrast imaginary friend Dawn, the story is basically about Didi trying to see her Dad again and Dawn is there to help her.

The story itself I didn’t find incredibly compelling, though the main game mechanic is certainly an intriguing one. In order to traverse the world Dawn is able to shift between the real world and the shadows to clamber to each goal. Moving lights and projectors and so on helps reposition shadows to reach otherwise inaccessible points adds an extra element to the puzzle. The problem for me is that the story is just mildly engaging and the puzzles aren’t incredibly challenging to drive me to play this religiously. That’s not to say I won’t go back to it as the main game mechanic is a good concept, it just lacks in execution.

Warframe

Originally a PC game, Warframe has been developed and ported over as a console exclusive for the PS4. A free to play over the shoulder third person shooter which puts you in the exo-armored shoes of the Tenno, an ancient warrior race awoken from cryogenic slumber. Your task is simple, work co-operatively or alone through this hard sci-fi universe taking out enemies in order to reclaim it from evil doers, all Warframethe while earning credits to spend new on your battle suit. Of course, as with nearly all F2P games, if you don’t fancy grinding and are feeling flush then these credits are available for purchase to speed things up.

The art design of this game, for me at least, is pretty unique. Based in the far future it has hints of Dead Space tech, Guillermo Del Toro style enemies and a Cortana A.I. which I thought mixed rather well. During the mission’s themselves the lighting is pretty dim, meaning during lulls in the action its pretty tough appreciate the aesthetics of any of the levels. Also level design is almost labyrinthine in places, now admittedly I wasn’t paying attention to my teammates but for me to not get clear waypoints is a no-no, I found myself lost a couple of times.

With regards to the shooting mechanics Warframe is fairly solid and my recommendation would be stick to your guns, Why? Because the melee combat is nothing short of diabolical. The strength of your sword attack is fine but the combo of a rigid and awkward camera and pretty poor control of movement makes the whole process an ordeal. Every single time I ran at a target I would overshoot them or if they moved behind me I would have to maneuver the unwieldy camera to face my enemy, it exhibited all the finesse of getting a sofa through an attic window. This really let the game down for me, what do you have left when a space ninja cannot ninja? A waste of space. I am being overly harsh just for the play on words there, it does have some good qualities but it didn’t grab as great to play right off the bat.

DC Universe Online

Another Free 2 Play that’s made its way from PC (and PS3) and this one shows alot more promise, if you hadn’t guessed it is a superhero MMO and, apart from Resogun, the most fun to be had for free on the PS. After an epic CG cutscene you are invited to create your superhero (or supervillain) and the options go pretty deep, choosing everything from your suit and optional cape, to your movement powers, from flight to super speed and your combat skills from ice, fire, sorcery,DC Universe Online martial arts – the list is quite extensive. You then specify your mentor and this will determine where your starting area is, in my case Gotham City.

The whole game feels very World of Warcraft, which to be honest is no bad thing as WoW is to still in many people’s minds the benchmark MMO and as a result does so many things right. It’s relatively easy to party up albeit a little harder to share quests in the early stages. The quest chain’s follow a usual formula, blast your way through henchman, complete missions and finally reach a boss fight. As you go you level up your character and earn experience points to spend on unlocking more spectacular powers and skills.

Sounds pretty standard so far, and to be honest from what I have experienced it is. Despite lacking any unique take on the MMO the gameplay is solid, the environments are straight from the pages of a comic and I found it pretty joyful to explore the moody nighttime streets of Gotham, flying over buildings and under bridges. The attacks obviously get more grandiose with each unlock and although you begin by merely button bashing, after a while you want to learn the combos of your new moves because they are pretty pleasing on the eye.

All in all DC Universe Online may not stray too far from well trodden path of an MMO but it plays well and makes you feel like you did as a kid when you tied a jumper around your neck. It actually makes me want to invest some change in a couple of items on the marketplace or maybe even buy some new storylines, I think for me that shows this off as a successful F2P. Great Stuff.

All in all it is a pretty strong line up, some of the games had their disappointing factors to them, on the whole I think there is definitely enough to keep you entertained if you make the leap to next-gen. The fact all of these games can be played either for no outlay or are complimentary with PS Plus means you wallet can breathe after taking a battering buying this cutting edge console.

Free 2 Play: – Good idea…if respectfully executed

In recent times a trend is forming in the gaming industry, a trend that, if implemented as it should be, I think is really beneficial to the consumer. That trend is to implement a free to play – or freemium – business model.

The concept, for those of you unfamiliar, is that a developer makes a game available to download for free and the gamer/consumer can spend money purchasing in-game content. As I say if this is done correctly then both sides of the table are rewarded, the consumer gets said game for nothing and, if they like it, they can show the dev some love by giving some money via a micro-transaction. This way the dev gets some appreciation as well as that all important injection of cash to pour into their next project, as far as we the humble gamer are concerned we get a game gratis and technically ‘donate’ what we want to the dev. A feeling of joy toward the developer should usually ensue and thus make us more likely to get other games from them.

I am not just talking theoretically here either, a few games I have played using this model have done it pretty damn well. As mentioned on our inaugural podcast Lord of the Rings Online uses this model in a nice way, giving the frugal player access to a fair amount of content for free whilst letting them purchase extra story-lines if so desired, but if not then the tight stringed gamer can progress to the end-game content without loosening the old coin-purse.

Similarly Valve’s Team Fortress 2 on the PC is also free to play and applies the model with style, offering a bona-fide multiplayer, in fact in their words “the entire game can be played without making a purchase. All game modes, classes, and maps are available. Nearly every weapon is available through achievements, drops, or crafting.” If you, like millions of others, have a penchant for hats (yes hats are big business in TF2) then you can buy as many as you like on the Mann Co. Store.

The PS3’s Dust 514 is another example of a game that is free to play. You can play this game perfectly fine without spending a penny, earning credits the hard way by shooting clones and buying your upgrades that way, or if you fancy parting with your hard-earned IRL moon bucks then you can buy items and boosters in-store no problem.

These games, in my opinion, are all good specimens of the free to play paradigm in the fact that they let you play unhindered and purchases are purely optional. Of course as with every idea there are those who look to exploit and pervert the whole concept. Case in point is Dead Space 3….Whats that? Yes I do know this is a triple A title and not F2P at all, and that’s my point, micro transactions, in my opinion, really should be the reserve of games that need to make money in this manner and this manner alone. The element of micro-transactions should not really be part of a game that the average Jo-Schmo has already paid out a chunk money for. Sure , the nature of these micro-transactions do not prohibit the player from progressing through the title, but it’s more the shady nature of the system to which I object. Like a man with a large overcoat approaching you to reveal shiny knock-off watches attached to the lining, even though you have a perfectly good watch already, the temptation is there to pick up a ‘bargain’.

Now I am not saying the gaming public are powerless to the whispers of in-game micro-transactions, quite the opposite in fact. Take Star Wars – The Old Republic, the most expensive game ever made which became the fastest growing MMO ever, it promised so much but ultimately shed subscribers due to a massive deficit in servers during and after launch and invalid preorder codes for a fair share of disgruntled customers. So given its rocky start, in their wisdom Bioware decided that just under a year after release they would move from the classic subscription based model and make SWTOR free to play in order to garner more players. Well, this went down about as well as a dog shit martini, the move left those faithful players who had shelled out a ruck of cash on subscriptions and the purchase of the game prior to the switch shaken (not stirred) and ultimately alienated them. Then Bioware who seemed so intent on trying to kick themselves really bloody hard in the testicles totally cocked up the whole idea of free to play by making the game pretty much unplayable. Sure you can explore the Star Wars universe, except if you wanted to use a mount, chat to other players, have a hotbar for your skills, have any type of customer support or merely sprint etc, all of these features were only available on subscription (full list of subscription only features can be found in this article on forbes.com – it is ridiculously long). Really though, pay to sprint? To Sprint!?

My point being that, just like that martini I mentioned earlier, the concept no matter how pure can be leave a really bad taste in your mouth if you get the formula wrong. But when the model is applied correctly and does not restrict game play then the benefits for us as a consumer are evident and, as I have heard from a couple of readers, as long as we don’t give our kids our iPad to play on then can be a pretty inexpensive way to game.

I have been chewing this one over for a couple of weeks and the whole idea of free to play games has captured my imagination for some, I would love to here your thoughts on the subject matter, do you like the model or do you think that its merely a way fleecing the gamer. Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments. Oh and dont forget to check out the podcast! If you have an iPhone search “Teabag or Die” on iTunes, if you are a Droid user then download OneCast and get us that way, or just listen directly from the site. Thanks.

-The Quim Ninja