'tis the Season

Feb 15
Posted by Mark at 19:11

I bloody love Game of Thrones. It's the best thing.

Every week when the series is running I like nothing more than sitting down in front of the TV to watch these brilliant, well-formed characters played by the best actors working in television absolutely at the top of their game as the deep and engaging story twists and turns, aided by the some of the best production money can buy from their location filming to the CGI special effects.

And the thing is, you don't get that sort of thing anywhere else. I tried watching that Jersey Shore when it was on MTV and it's just not for me. If you've not seen it, it's a reality show about people getting drunk in nightclubs then going home and having sex and/or a blazing row. Okay, GoT has more than its fair share of drinking and shagging but it all serves part of a wider narrative in a way that it doesn't in this.

Either way, Jersey Shore isn't for me. It doesn't offer me what GoT does. Similarly a lot of what makes Jersey Shore what it is is absent from Thrones, and that's what I appreciate about it, and I'm sure the reverse is true.

And you know? That's fine. I don't think they're making Jersey Shore any more, but I'm sure MTV're making something in a similar vein, and if they want to run nothing but Jersey Shorealikes, that's equally fine. I don't blame them- it's cheap to make, and MTV get a hell of a return on their investment. MTV are a business, and Shore is good business.

So they want to fill MTV 2 with it, that's equally OK, and if they want to launch MTV 3, 4, 5, all the way up to MTV 100 and show nothing but wall-to-wall Jersey Shore on all of it that's absolutely A-OK, so long as I've got my HBO and my Game of Thrones. You all do you, I'll be over here.


So it turns out that HBO have announced that the next series of Game of Thrones is taking a bit of a turn. It's not going to be set in the fantasy land of Westeros at some undefined point in what we'd call "The Past" any more, it's going to be set in the modern-day, real world. And instead of being a scripted drama, it's going to be a reality show. About people getting drunk in a nightclub.

And they're also turning Westworld into a shitty mobile Gacha game.

Nintendo's recent announcement that Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to have a Season Pass has been met with widespread disappointment, from myself as much as anybody else. The reason it's been met with such, is because they've done exactly the above.

As with most criticism that comes from within gaming, there's been an equally loud- if not louder- attempt at shutting the criticism out, mostly by accusing the people of complaining of all sorts of things simply for the act of criticising, but occasionally by coming out with counterpoints that are not incorrect, but also not particularly relevant.

"But business!" cries the journalist. "All the other games companies have been doing it for ages!" exclaims the random on social media. "It's not even the first Nintendo game with DLC!", follows up the smartarse who thinks they've pre-empted the counterargument. "There is such a thing as good DLC!" says someone who's missed the point spectacularly.

Yes, Nintendo are a business and they've have had a hard time of it in the last few years, and the Season Pass model is proven to work as a moneymaker. Equally, the notion that Season Passes are widespread is unequivocally true- a cursory search of XBox One suggests there's 64 of them already, for games as recent as Sniper Elite 4 and For Honor, which only came out this week. Nintendo games have had DLC, even Zelda spinoff Hyrule Warriors (which itself had a Season Pass) and Mario Kart 8's DLC is often cited as a good example of DLC being done right.

All of these points are very true, and nobody is saying otherwise.

But we can make similar points of reality TV, it's good business, it's not a new format (Big Brother started nearly seventeen years ago) HBO- or at least its parent company Warner Brothers- is responsible for The Bachelor, amongst other shows and the first series of The Genius is probably one of my favourite shows of the last few years.

What makes HBO great is the quality of its programming. What makes HBO amazing is that in a sea of trashy reality shows, lazy sitcoms and by-the-numbers police procedurals they stand out for their dedication to not doing that. For them to throw it away on making yet another show in the style of Jersey Shore, even if it was the best possible example of such, would be a crushing disappointment.

Likewise, what makes Nintendo great is the quality of its games. What makes Nintendo amazing is that in a sea of tacked-on multiplayer modes, scummy microtransactions and games being cut into piecemeal DLC chunks so you have to spend 80 to get the same game you used to pay 40 for, they stand out for not doing that, for still making these finely-crafted single-player experiences that the Zelda series in particular is known for being.

Even if Breath of the Wild is still incredible (which I think we all know it's probably going to be) and everybody complaining still goes out and buys both game and Pass on day one to throw that away by sticking a Season Pass on what is really the last bastion of AAA headliners without upsells is equally crushing- and everybody who is disappointed about it is absolutely right to be.
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Not So Special

Posted by Mark at 18:00

Controversial statement time: I don't think Special Editions are all that bad.

Alright, they're a bit of a waste of space/money/whatever, but if people like them then that's fine. So when today's welcome announcement that the new Project Zero game is coming to Europe came with news of a Special Edition wasn't that surprising. What was surprising was the lack of Standard edition.

We're looking at the usual bonus fare- steelbook case, artbook and cards, poster, and- unless you're buying digitally- that's your option. There's no solus game.

This makes it notably different to other Special Editions. Xenoblade Chronicles X is also getting a similar release, but Nintendo have been careful with their language, using the word 'only' in both their tweet and press release, in reference to Fatal Frame, but not in reference to Xenoblade- something mirrored in their tweet on the matter.

It also puts it in a different bracket to the Special Editions we see with other games. A plastic toy that costs 10, yet increases the retail price of the product by 30, is simply chasing whales (the merits of which is an argument for another day) and a slightly higher-priced version of a game which has the Season Pass bundled is a legitimate offer of choice. More importantly, both of these are available alongside the 'normal' version.

The Special-Edition-Only release of Fatal Frame means that Nintendo are adopting the tactics of Nippon Ichi, Atlus, and other publishers peddling otakubait JRPGs who, as a function of the games retail market, have to bribe people into buying their niche titles with assorted trinkets under the guise of a 'Limited Edition'.

This shows either a lack of confidence in the game- which is not entirely unreasonable, considering that previous entries in the series have hardly set the charts alight- or that Nintendo, having an utter nightmare at retail in the UK, has found itself backed into a corner and needs to hit safer, smaller bets in order to remain relevant.

It's an interesting change of course, considering the Wii was all but built on slow-burning titles like Wii Fit and New Super Mario Bros.- and considering the use of Free-To-Start, one which could tell us a lot about where they plan to take their future titles.
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Posted by Mark at 15:57

I don't strictly see totally eye-to-eye with Ben on the matter of the games press and its relationship with the industry it covers, but another Ben- this time Parfitt, from MCV- brings up an interesting point about the relative free ride that Peter Molyneux is getting over Curiosity and its recent woes.

Curiosity, which we've quite comprehensively not covered here on Bitparade, has captured the imagination of many- from commercial games sites liveblogging the cube's progression to the inevitable humourous-screenshot Tumblr, and the "bloody-hell-what's-going-on" factor has allowed a little more about where the game is faltering to come to the fore.

Over the last few days, not only has the game been beset by problems with players unable to access the servers altogether, but also players on different devices seeing very different cubes and more recently, Peter himself soliciting donations to keep the game's servers up and running.

Mr Parfitt points out that this isn't the first time we've been let down by Peter's overenthusiasm, yet people are still affording him much more leeway than other people get in a similar position- we saw Blizzard get much more stick when Diablo 3 wouldn't work because there wasn't enough servers to handle load, for instance.

Peter has earned himself a lot of goodwill over his many years in the games biz- with good reason- and as one commenter on MCV points out, if this wasn't his game, it probably wouldn't be getting the coverage, positive or negative.

However, rather than parrot MCV's call to start bearing down on Molyneux, we should instead re-assess what we expect of the man.

Specifically, while Ben (ours) and other critics have given Uwe Boll a fairly rough ride over the course of his career, nobody is expecting proper films out of him, and rather than ignore him in favour of 'better' film directors, or take him to task for not making better films they're reviewed as the laughable nonsense that they are, separate from the more 'serious' attempts that Resi has been subjected to.

Or, to bring us to this column's title, to criticise Jedward for not being much to write home about musically is to miss their point entirely. While they're not even making good pop music, their antics on various panel and reality shows- not to mention their appearing on The X Factor in the first place- is entertaining enough in its own right means that it doesn't really matter what their music sounds like or how it stacks up to other music.

And so it is with Molyneux. Has his mouth written another cheque his design team can't cash? Eh- that's Peter. His servers for his crazy iPhone box experiment not up to snuff? It's what we know and love him for.

Just as long as he doesn't appear on Celebrity Juice in a nappy. Nobody needs to see that.
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Posted by Mark at 17:14
Writing to ITV isn't going to change matters, it doesn't want to know- and this is why we'll never see the end of ill-informed violent videogames "debates" like that on Friday's episode of The Alan Titchmarsh Show.

I'll not waste your time taking you through the offending discussion again, the rest of the internet has pretty much handled that one for me. However, what I am going to bring up is the follow-up to the programme, and this is the way ITV have chosen to deal with the multitude of complaints.

Naturally, a programme this contentious is going to result in the broadcaster recieve a lot of complaints, and so far, the responses have left a lot to be desired.

Industry blog GameSetWatch sent an email of complaint, and this was the response they recieved:

We, at Channel Television, ensure that the show complies with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, and on this occasion were satisfied that although strong opinions were expressed it was a balanced debate overall. In addition to adhering to the standards set in the Code we have a responsibility to observe freedom of expression, as laid out in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We cannot, therefore, censor contributor's opinions, but can take steps to ensure that other contributors are present to challenge and debate the issues in question.

Another, recieved by a member of pressure group Gamers' Voice, said the same thing, word for word, and other responses I've seen dotted around the web are no better.

ITV, so far, have shown no interest in acknowledging the views of those contacting to complain about the programme, preferring to stick their heads in the sand and say "We've done nothing wrong. Shut up and go away."

Now, there are a million things that could have made the debate this way- it could have been perfectly reasoned as a debate at the record, but been innocently hacked to pieces at the editing stage. It's unlikely, I admit, but I don't know that's not what happened. However, ITV have made no attempt to tell anyone that that is what happened, nor have they made any attempt to justify any specifics of the debate, or counter any accusations made against them.

There is a reason why younger generations, those who have grown up with games, are watching less and less TV- and it's nothing to do with how great games are, or on-demand content, or YouTube and Facebook or any of that. It's nonsense like this debate. This isn't some war in some far away foreign country I can't know anything about. This is something I have the facts to know it's nonsense, the evidence to know it's nonsense, and most importantly the first-hand experience to know it's nonsense.

I'm not having my time wasted by it, and so long as ITV is going to act like this, spouting ill-researched nonsense and constantly attacking games and the people who play them, then refusing to take on board any of the criticism levelled at them, people are going to continue to desert them.
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