Project Icebreaker

Patrick Klepek at Giant Bomb:

Thomas Fenady was director of IT at Activision. He left in December 2009, and now works at Warner Bros. Fenady testified that in the summer of 2009, then Activision chief legal officer (now chief public policy officer) George Rose instructed him to “dig up dirt on Jason and Vince” because “we just want to get rid of them.” Rose said the decision came from Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.

Fenady claims Rose asked him to gain access to West and Zampella’s email, voicemail and computer, and “don’t get caught doing it.” Whatever happened in the course of seeking out this information: “Bobby will take care of you. … Don’t worry about repercussions.” Rose denied he asked Fenady to specifically “dig up dirt” in his deposition with Activision, though he did discuss Project Icebreaker’s existence and instructing Fenady to find information.

This is going to be a very interesting legal battle.

It’s also good to know that Activision appears to be just as detestable internally as many think from the outside.

Gorilla Warfare

Rockstar Blog:

For everyone picking up the game and swinging into Max Payne 3 Multiplayer this week, we’ve got a FREE bonus downloadable Pack available to everyone on PSN and Xbox LIVE (also coming on launch day for the PC version as well) to kick off Multiplayer and help you go ape on the competition – the Gorilla Warfare Pack.

The Gorilla Warfare Pack includes three items that can be added to customize your Multiplayer Loadout in Max Payne 3 — the Gorilla Mask Item gives you extra adrenaline for melee kills from behind, the Lucky Coin Item gives you extra cash when looting bodies, and the Booby Trap item makes your corpse booby trapped so that it explodes when looted by another player.

I totally blogged this just so I could post that screenshot.

I haven’t yet dipped into the multiplayer in Max Payne 3. I ripped through the first four chapters of the story last night and so far I am impressed.

The Halo 4 Limited Edition Reveal

The Halo Bulletin:

“If all those things come with the Limited Edition, what are they going to put in the Legendary Edition?” Here is the answer to that question: There will be two options available at retail for Halo 4 – the regular version of the game and the aforementioned Limited Edition. We decided to focus our efforts on a single special edition instead of numerous ones so you wouldn’t have to pick and choose between what ancillary items you want. Now your primary choice is whether or not you just want the game, or the game along with all the goodies. And we’re hoping we made that decision an easy one for you…

Yup. Sold.

And the list of things you get (including, it appears, all map DLC for the game in the future) is perhaps the best Limited Edition I’ve seen for a game in a while.

Let’s Get Over Ourselves, Please

I’m all for a good game. I’m all for a good discussion. I’m all for good discussions about games, as I’m sure you know by now.

You may or may not have heard, but a little game called Mass Effect 3 came out a couple of weeks ago. It has an ending that has proven to be quite the topic of conversation. I should know this because I posted a few thousand words on that ending myself.

But the conversation surrounding it has just become ridiculous and it’s getting harder to discover the signal amidst the noise. It’s become a conversation of extremes. And I think that calmer and saner discussion regarding the merits of such an impactful and significant series is being overshadowed by sniping and overreaction.

To Forum Posters, Bloggers, and Petition Signers:

Please stop with all this nonsense about asking (in your words, “demanding”) a new ending to the game, either though a change or a tack-on DLC. What you have is—for better or worse—the experience that Bioware crafted over a very long time and with years of hard work. It’s how they chose to end things. Like it or don’t, say that it was a good ending or don’t, but don’t get all crazy and start expecting that a developer is going to make a huge change just because you got angry.

What you are doing is limiting Bioware’s options for the future of the franchise, not creating more of them.

(Aside: whoever decided to turn everyone’s internet-rage into a force for good by raising money for Child’s Play, good for you. Well done.)

Stop accusing reviewers and the enthusiast press of being bribed or otherwise coerced into defending Bioware’s decision or giving the game a good review. These people are professionals (most of them, anyway) and they played the same game you did. Maybe they came to different conclusions. Maybe they are defending Bioware’s right to having ultimate authority over the creative process of the game. It’s ludicrous to think that they are just a loyal dog being walked by EA PR.

If you don’t like what’s being written about the game, write about it yourself. A good blogging service is free. Words are free. Sit down and write about it in an intelligent fashion. Encourage discussion without being a jackass.

To the Enthusiast Press/Game Journalists:

Please stop sniping at people who are getting upset about the ending and say something about it. Your intense defense of the situation is only perpetuating the poor discussion and contributing to the zeal of those who are trying to demand an ending. Write about the situation without descending into telling people that they are being dumb for speaking their minds. Rise above the trolling.

Did you like the ending and think that it has merit? Write about that. Write about your reaction to the ending and why you think it was fitting as closure for a series that’s been around for nearly an entire console generation. Do it without assuming that people who are railing about the ending and requesting a new one are idiots.

Do you think this is a question of creative license and about how a developer or studio should not be afraid of fan reaction when crafting the end to the story that they created? Write about that.

There are deeper and more interesting stories at play here. Find them.

Other Thoughts

I should probably sit down and write my thoughts on Mass Effect 3 at some point as I view it as one of the high points of the console generation and think it’s a great game despite my misgivings about the ending and how it was handled. I have sympathy both for people who found the ending ultimately unsatisfying and the people who invested large amounts of time and sweat into creating such an experience.

But such a thing deserves better discussion than what is currently dominant.

For my entire playthrough of Mass Effect 3, I witnessed something that was crafted with a great deal of love by people who knew that the series had engendered a great deal of love from its fans.

I’m interested in seeing where they go from here, and you should be, too.

The Doctors on Mass Effect 3 (and a potential MMO)

Ben Kuchera interviewing the “doctors” at Bioware for the PA Report:

“I just finished an end to end playthrough, for me the ending was the most satisfying of any game I’ve ever played… the decisions you make in this game are epic,” Dr. Muzyka promised. “The team has been planning for this for years, since the beginning of the Mass Effect franchise. Largely the same team, most of the same leads have worked on this for years and years. They’ve thought about [the ending] for years and years. It’s not something they’ve had to solve in a week or a month even, but over the course of five or ten years.”

The time investment in playing the game series hasn’t been as long for me as some as I did not run through the first game until around the launch of the second (after a couple of false starts), but I understand this feeling from the other side. I have been waiting a long time for this story to conclude and I’m happy to read that many of the people making it have been on the same team for even longer.

I asked about the popular fan rumor of a Mass Effect MMO. “Now that we’ve learned MMOs are really easy to make, and simple to run after the fact, we’re on it!”

“When you deliver a game, and you deliver it for a player, you have to capture what they think is the possibility space. You need to let them do everything they think they should do, and you can’t block them from doing anything they think they should be able to do. You have to nail all the features and content that should be in that possibility space.“ He paused for a moment.

Mass Effect is a big possibility space.”

As interesting as a Mass Effect-based MMO might be, I’m not so sure I want to see it happen. It’s a fascinating universe that I would very much like to continue playing in, but a huge part of the appeal of the series has been the huge amount of player agency afforded by the narrative. Granted, it’s still within the rails of a branching story, but actions that you take as Shepard create pretty big swings in the events that play out, moreso as you get closer to the conclusion.

Part of the structure of an MMO is necessarily that player actions can’t create large changes in the universe (unless you do some sharding of the experiences maybe). Without that kind of agency I’m not sure such a game would really be a Mass Effect.

Quarrel and Xbox Live’s Word Filter

Patrick Klepek for Giant Bomb:

Quarrel is a word game (imagine a mix of Risk and Boggle) with a massive problem: an inconsistent, utterly mystifying word filter.

Try typing in “help,” “start,” “hung,” or a variety of so-far unpublished words during an online game on Xbox Live Arcade and prepare to be told, without explanation, the word can’t be used.

You can see why this might be a problem for a word game.

I haven’t had the chance to play Quarrel online yet, but the fact that there’s a word filter at all on a game like Quarrel that depends on playing words in order to win is ridiculous, let alone the fact that the words that are being caught are seemingly completely innocuous.

I also have the Scrabble implementation that is part of Hasbro Family Game Night and have played it a couple of times, but I can’t recall running into a word filter this strict before.

“Microsoft clearly has reasons for censoring the words they do but we haven’t discussed that with them,” said Taylor. “What we’re focused on at the moment is working with Microsoft to provide a suitable solution.”

The “suitable solution” will come in the form of a patch in the near future. Taylor did not have a timetable for this patch, nor would he elaborate on the details of any proposed solution.

“Suffice to say that it will fix the current word filter issue,” he said.

The only acceptable fix in this case would be to remove the word filter entirely so long as the parental controls on the 360 are set to permit non-family friendly content.

I’m not quite sure what the concern is here. Quarrel is rated E, but every game that has an online component has to carry an ESRB notice that states “Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB.” There is a reason for this in that a rating system—however it reviews the content of a game—cannot actively anticipate all actions of a human player.

As an example of how misplaced this word filter is in a game of this type, I can attempt to play the word “start” in a game, and when that fails and I lose the battle (really, you should check out Quarrel, warts and all), I can let fly with an unrestricted string of profanities over the voice chat and there is nothing to stop me.

Super Mass Effect Black Hole

…that sucks all the money out of my wallet, that is.

Maybe this guy is in charge of the Mass Effect 3 marketing plan.

Here’s a trio of stories from Joystiq today:

The Mass Effect series is hitting iOS devices with Mass Effect Infiltrator, coming to iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch soon, EA announced. Infiltrator is a third-person shooter featuring weapons and powers from the Mass Effect franchise, where players attempt to free prisoners from a hostile Cerberus base.

Players will receive awards for collecting evidence of Cerberus crimes in their mission, with each discovery and rescue increasing their Mass Effect 3 Galaxy at War Galactic Readiness rating. Actions in Infiltrator can affect the larger Mass Effect 3 storyline, and weapons unlocked in the mobile version can be used in Mass Effect 3.

Sold as long as it’s better and more meaningful than Mass Effect Galaxy (not hard to accomplish). IF it’s anything like the superb iOS versions of Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space that came out of EA I’m sure it will be great.

At an EA event in New York, the publisher revealed another iOS Mass Effect 3 tie-in, joining Infiltrator. “Mass Effect Datapad” is an iPad app that works with the console/PC game somehow. Details are currently slim on this one; we’ll get you more info as we learn it.

I’m buying this even if especially if it is an iPad-browsable version of the in-game Codex, which can trap me for hours if I’m not careful.

Reader Craig sent us this image of his GameStop receipt, where he purchased a code for some Mass Effect 3 DLC ahead of the game’s March 6 launch. He reports that he paid $10 for it.

I don’t ever know what this is other than a title but you can guess that odds are good that I am going to buy it.

The level of anticipation I have for this game is staggering, and I am starting to fear that it will not live up to my own lofty expectations. For me, Mass Effect stands next to Assassin’s Creed, Gears of War, and Uncharted as the defining series of this console generation.

(More on this in a future post.)

Questions That Need to Be Asked: FFXIII-2 and Facebook

Chris Carter at Destructoid:

In a bizarre twist of events, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is getting Facebook support. By inputting your social network credentials in the game’s settings, you’ll be able to update your friends on your party structure, story progress, and other useless statistics.

Does anyone else think this is kind of backwards?

Wrong question. Look at this screenshot that accompanies the article:

The correct question is what is up with that dog in the lower-right?