Articles tagged with kotaku

Money For
Posted by Ben at 15:47

For most of us the news that Steam had changed their refund policy from "no" to "yes" is welcome news. Granted living in the EU as we do, until a combination of the Conservatives, UKIP, and the Daily Mail ruin it for all of us, we should in theory have had some protection anyway. Anyone who's ever tried getting a refund from Steam will tell you that despite that, it was like pulling teeth. So it was a pleasant surprise that Valve have provided a fairly no-quibble policy, although not everyone is pleased.

Essentially Steam's refund policy is this; if you bought a game and want a refund within 2 weeks, so long as you've played it for less than 2 hours, you're almost certainly going to get it. In fact even if you don't meet those requirements you can still ask and Valve will have a look at it. If you're a developer that isn't quite such good news. It's one thing for the likes of Activision, Warner Brothers, or Ubisoft who will sell tens of thousands of games on Steam, it's another for smaller developers who might just sell tens. That's not to say they should get a free pass, only that you can see why just handing the money back no matter the reason might feel a little unjust.

There's also the issue of game length. An increasing number of games on Steam that could be completed in the 2 hour refund window, theoretically turning Steam in to a deposit down gaming library. It's a concern shared by a number of developers including David Szymanski. It's worth noting at this point that Valve have stated that if they think you're gaming the system then they will stop giving you refunds.

Again another important point of clarification, the developers in the Twitter reactions don't seem to be against refunds in principle, no doubt they're also customers and gamers themselves,only the way it's been implemented. One suggestion was to cut the gameplay time allowed to 15 minutes. While I sympathise, 15 minutes is far too short a window. I've talked before about my issues with Rage, a game I really enjoyed, but had huge troubles getting to run. Starting the game, struggling with it, editing ini files, booting it again to test it. I quite quickly got to 2 hours before I'd got close to getting it running correctly.

As another example, think of your typical AAA game. From the moment you boot the game how long does it take to actually start the game properly. You've got the developer logo, probably a couple of them, the publisher logo, the video codec logo, Speedtree, then the start screen, then the menu screen. Great, now you've got a load, then a cut scene. Now you're in to the game, but it's the tutorial so it's hard to judge, and after that you've got another cutscene and a load. Now you're in to the game and you've been playing 30 minutes. You need time with the game.

That's not to say there isn't issues with the system. put it to the test by purchasing the soundtrack to The Moon Sliver, then simply requesting a refund. Soundtracks from Steam are drm free, so he made a copy and requested, and was given a refund. This is where the warning that Valve give regarding abusing the system should come in, but how many times could you get away with before Valve call foul.

Again the counter for this is that, would you really go to that trouble for a soundtrack you could just Google and find. Same with the games, why risk the wrath of Valve on your Steam account when you could just search the net for a pirate version of the game. I'd also argue that we're at the point where people kind of know what they're getting on Steam. Dear Esther might have been in trouble, as might Gone Home, but now 'walking simulators' are a known concept, same with visual novels and any number of indie genres. They cater to a subset of gamers, the kind who probably don't begrudge handing over money for an experience, and aren't likely to claim an unjust refund.

Of course that's all speculation, and it seems that the refund system might have had the unexpected result of encouraging sales now there's less risk. And I'm not about to start lecturing developers, I've never made a game but I do know from experience that customers are arseholes. It also seems to be the case that there's a huge surge of people taking Valve up on their offer of refunds. Hopefully this is something that will die down, and judging from forum chatter there's a lot of people claiming legacy refunds

Still, I do think it's right that Valve have addressed this, and I'm pleased it's erred more to the consumer side than not, hopefully that sets a precedent.
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Posted by Duane at 16:44

Ha! I return, and what have decided to discuss on my return? Erm, this article by Tim Rogers on the website Kotaku.

First off, I used to kind of enjoy Tim Rogers when back in the first few years at GamesTM, I quickly developed the feeling that he was a little too self absorbed for my liking. Now I understand as a columnist/videogames blogger, you kind of have to be, but I get the impression that Rogers enjoys writing in such a manner a little too much. I'll admit its tongue in cheek, but does such an article need to reference himself and his supposed connection to the games industry quite so much?

By doing so, he begins to lose the reader not to mention losing sight of his point, which appears to be that Square-Enix (formerly Squaresoft) have lost sight of whats made them succesful and also refuse to listen to their fanbase. So what does he believe made them succesful? "accidents", or as the case actually is, taking a risk. Thats the basis of all initial success, no one got initial success by being safe, but you can't take risks all the time, you have to realise your strengths and play to that. Something that Square-Enix have tried to do, although for such an extended period of time with very little experimentation and risk taking that its begun to grate.

Let's not forget, the game he's slating the most in the linked article, Final Fantasy XIII, managed to achieve "XBox Classics" status, at least it did in the European PAL territory anyway, the brand still sells. I own a copy, as I do most Final Fantasy games, I own at least one version of each of the main instalments in the series aside from III (I did own the DS remake, it got stolen) and V, oh and XI but I don't really count that as a main game, it carries the roman numeral because at the time Square-Enix weren't really experimenting with different idea's carrying the Final Fantasy suffix really.

Final Fantasy XIII is really, the first time the fans have turned on the company for not trying something different. Lets not forget that the core gameplay of the series remained unchanged for a long long time, the battle system was essentially the same until XII, with a few tweaks here and there to make the game force you into a different tactical approach in order to make another 80 hour epic actually playable, thus we got different idea's such as the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII and the Junctioning system in VIII. They then experimented with different story telling methods, such as IX's Active Time Events which took you to little side stories that helped flesh out the bigger story or provided short moments of amusement. XII shook things up completely. But the thing that made these games enjoyable was their want for you to explore, for you to be immersed in the Fantasy.

In my opinion, the change to acted cut-scenes in X was the beginning of the end in this respect, by removing the simple action of press X in order to advance conversation and removing the voice from the players mind (and Tidus' voice still makes me shudder) that element of immersion was removed, it was only a small thing, some might say insignificant, but by telling me that the characters acted and sounded like this, the element of this being my Fantasy tale was taken away from me. XII rectified this a little, it was still cut-scene and voice acter heavy, but the world was so hugely populated that it was somehow more immersive.

XIII however, with its linear and overtly long introductory sequence with its insistant need to hold your hand and stop the action to tell you whats happening every few moments makes the game more of a viewing experience rather than an interactive. I've honestly not gotten very far into it, certainly not through this section, I'm on disc 2 and about 16 hours in but it takes alot of wanting for me to even try and progress through it, counter that with my Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection save file, 18 hours in (in a much shorter period of time, and on a handheld where I'm also juggling Tactics Ogre: Lets Us Cling Together;22 hours in) where I usually have the battery begin to run out on me before I stop playing and you can probably guess how much I'm enjoying the overall experience.

Which is a shame, as I think the battle system is probably the most tactical and impressive yet, it feels like Atlus' Persona battle system, only a little more advance and more reliant on pre-planning rather and having various back up plans rather than just reacting to any given situation by immediately contacting your external support to find out the enemies weakness (and thats not a criticsm of Persona in anyway, long time readers of anything I've written or whatever will know I adore Persona 3).

I think this is beginning to get a little long now, its certainly beginning to head away from my original feelings that whilst I agree that Square-Enix have lost sight of what initially made them succesful, I do think that a return to that kind of business is nigh on impossible for a company of their size. They need to find a balance between releasing safe games, of which I think Final Fantasy XIII is one regardless of the ridiculous amounts of assetts that were created during its development period, and taking risks with other titles (Dissidia perhaps) and then somehow combining the two to make their safer titles that little bit more interesting for the player so that we all keep investing in their products to see just what they are going to do next, we can all say we want Final Fantasy VII remade all we want, and it'll probably happen eventually, but as soon as it does, people will bitch that all it is is a remake of a game originally released in the mid-90s thats not actually aged all that well.
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It will make (your system) weep if you play it in 3D, full screen, full resolution. It's gorgeous.

Mike Capps explains how your computer will react to Bulletstorm. Probably because it knows what's in store for it, if certain Fox News pundits are to be believed. [Kotaku]
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We are discussing the issue with Sony but have no announcements to make today,

EA mouthpiece Wendy Spander, on the firm's conspicuous absence from today's PSP2 reveal [Kotaku]
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Peter is a remarkable asset to the games industry, and truly embodies everything that the Lifetime Achievement Award represents

Meggan Scavio, on the Lifetime Achievement Award Peter Molyneux is getting t GDC this year. [Kotaku]
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Let's just say there's an Xbox made of gold involved. GOLD.

Mayor of Behemothtown Kelly Revak on Castle Crashers reaching two million players. [Kotaku]
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Kim Jong-chol is 'more interested in videogames' than governing

I knew the Wikileaks thing would hit gaming at some point. Thanks, Kotaku!
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There's nowhere higher for me to go.

I'm leaving Capcom with the intention of starting my life over

Keiji Inafune has left the building. [Keiji Inafune's blog, via Kotaku]
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We just chose Xbox really because it's the platform that, to be straight, has more online users than the PS3.

Fanboy fight! Bizarre Creations lead designer Gareth Wilson tells Kotaku why the Blur beta isn't coming to PS3. Seriously, Gareth, This Is A Low.
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We never chose Afghanistan, Afghanistan sort of chose us. We had a story we wanted to tell and it was about a certain group of individuals. And that's where they happened to be. And so we ended up there.

Oh Christ, batten down the hatches- executive producer on the new Medal Of Honor title, Greg Goodrich has doomed us all to even more tabloid headlines, while announcing the game's setting. [Kotaku]
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