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CURRENTS
Issue #70
January 30, 2008
From Chaos, a Column
Front Page

Greetings, and welcome to the January 30 edition of RPGamer's Currents column.

The deadlines are starting to pile up at school, so things are definitely becoming a little hectic for me right now. Like always though, I rise to the challenge, and manage to find the time to slip a few hours of gaming in. What have I been playing of late? Well, after downloading and playing the Devil May Cry 4 demo, I decided that I simply must familiarize myself with the series as a whole. Sequentially, I went and purchased the original DMC from my local GameStop for less than ten bucks. I squeezed in about four hours over the weekend and found it to be immensely enjoyable. The camera is a bit wonky sometimes, but other than that the game is quite a joy to play, and I think it looks quite impressive for an early PS2 game. (I am upscaling it to HD though, which I'm sure makes it look a good deal better than it would have originally.)

Getting this column up was an ordeal, to say the least. My power went out last night for almost three hours, which destroyed my chances of indexing it on Tuesday night. Not wanting to delay any longer, I lugged my laptop with me to school today and booted it up during my biology class. I have no idea why I bothered going to class, because I didn't pay attention to a word my professor said. I decided to simply skip my next class in order to get this thing finished, so I shuffled over to the lounge area near the cafeteria, and here I sit. Lugging both my backpack and my computer around is not fun, and I nearly lost it all when climbing a flight of steps. Were my reflexes any less honed, my computer would likely be in pieces right now. I'll be sure to attend my next class, but afterwards, I'll be forced to skip my lab in order to rush home and meet with a dell tech guy. Shortly thereafter, I'll have to go to work. And that would be my Wednesday for you. If it sounds stressful , hectic, and rushed, that's likely because it is.

On a more pleasant note, there's a good bit of news to be consumed this week, and I trust you will all find it satisfactory. Off with you now!

EA Complains, Cooper Lawrence Apologizes
Together, we are mighty
Title

If you recall, last week I reported the slanderous, deceptive proclamations that had been made concerning BioWare's Mass Effect. Between Kevin McCullough's columns and the Live Desk program on Fox News, quite an effort had been made to portray it as some kind of interactive porn game. To say the least, it was a slap in the face to BioWare, EA, and gamers of all kinds.

Much to my personal delight, EA is not taking this one sitting down. The company's Vice President of Communications, Jeff Brown, has issued a statement to Fox News expressing the company's immense disgust at the smear job performed on their game. From his letter:

Your headline above the televised story read: "New videogame shows full digital nudity and sex." Fact: Mass Effect does not include explicit or frontal nudity. Love scenes in non-interactive sequences include side and profile shots - a vantage frequently used in many prime-time television shows. It's also worth noting that the game requires players to develop complex relationships before characters can become intimate and players can chose to avoid the love scenes altogether.
FNC voice-over reporter says: "You'll see full digital nudity and the ability for players to engage in graphic sex." Fact: Sex scenes in Mass Effect are not graphic. These scenes are very similar to sex sequences frequently seen on network television in prime time.
FNC reporter says: "Critics say Mass Effect is being marketed to kids and teenagers." Fact: That is flat out false. Mass Effect and all related marketing has been reviewed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and rated Mature - appropriate for players 17-years and older. ESRB routinely counsels retailers on requesting proof of age in selling M-rated titles and the system has been lauded by members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. In practical terms, the ratings work as well or better than those used for warning viewers about television content.
RIDE ON, brother Brown! What a refreshing change to have a representative from a videogame company to stand up and defend his game, rather than another angry journalist. (Such as... well, such as myself.) Sure, we've seen Rockstar appear in court a few times out of necessity, but in general you don't see studios, developers, or company heads taking the time to personally address the disservice done to their product. There's more still, in which Brown calls out how, er, uninformed the individuals at the roundtable were, stating that "they have had zero experience with Mass Effect and are largely ignorant about videogames, the people who play them, and the ESRB system that governs their ratings and sales." Amen to that. Fox doesn't seem all too interested in making sure that their commentators know anything about the subject matter, which takes me to the second part of this story.

Remember Cooper Lawrence, the dating expert who, for reasons beyond mortal comprehension, appeared on the Live Desk program to talk about how evil Mass Effect was? If not, go watch this video and get yourself up to speed. Anyways, after spewing a fair amount of ignorance on live TV, she was bombarded by irate gamers from all corners of the earth. How did they retaliate? They flooded the Amazon page for Lawrence's latest book with spam, nasty comments, and an all-around message of hatred. Hard to say if their actions had any effect, but at any rate Lawrence has come forth and admitted to the New York Times that she made a damn fool of herself "misspoke." From the article:

I recognize that I misspoke. I really regret saying that, and now that I've seen the game and seen the sex scenes it's kind of a joke. Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said itís like pornography. But itís not like pornography. Iíve seen episodes of 'Lost' that are more sexually explicit.

Well, I suppose we have to commend her for this; she realized she was wrong and came clean. If she is to be believed, it would seem that she was grossly misinformed, and that makes me wonder: by whom? What exactly did Fox News tell her before she was put onscreen? Did Fox, in fact, tell her that Mass Effect was comparable to pornography? I wonder. According to an unnamed Fox News rep, Fox has invited EA to appear on Live Desk along with Martha McCallum. (The host of the original smear segment.) Whether or not EA will accept is yet unknown. In my opinion, Fox just needs to issue an apology of some sort and be done with it. Inviting EA just displays the fact that, more than anything, they're just interested in another sensationalized "mini-debate." But then, do we really expect much more from the mass media these days?

I'll end this with a quote from BioWare's CEO, Ray Myzuka:

"We're hurt. We believe in video games as an art form, and on behalf of the 120 people who poured their blood and tears into this game over three years, we're just really hurt that someone would misrepresent the game without even playing it. All we can hope for is that people who actually play our games will see the truth."
Videogames may not be widely recognized as an "art form," per say, but the fact of the matter is that behind every game there are real people with diverse talents working hard to create a quality product. There are artists, writers, musicians, programmers; the amount of talent put into the production of a game is nearly infinite. The least people can do is recognize this simple fact, and think twice before speaking about a game such as Mass Effect like it's some sort of obscenity.

Sources: GamePolitics
Thompson Sows Seeds of Confusion
Jack Thompson defends Mass Effect
Title

Actually, rather than ending with the quote from Mr. Myzuka, I fear I must close this week's Mass Effect coverage with this: Jack Thompson, well known hater of games and seeker of game legislation, has stood up for Mass Effect. Don't believe me? Well, the following is a series of emails between Jack Thompson and Kotaku's Brian Crecente. (By the way, he refers to Cooper Lawrence as a guy. Don't ask me why.)

To: Brian
From: Jack
Immediate News Release - January 24, 2008
Grand Theft Auto IV to Be Released April 29; Culture War Begins Now

To: Jack
From: Brian
I like your new glasses.

To: Brian
From: Jack
Wow, as usual you're grasping the real news here.

To: Jack
From: Brian
I'm surprised you haven't been looking into Mass Effect. http://kotaku.com/348692/ea-fighting-mad-about-fox-news-but-still-no-correction?cpage=2#viewcomments

To: Brian
From: Jack
Why would you be surprised. I don't see any problem with it. The guy who shot his mouth off about it had no idea what the Hell he was talking about.

To: Jack
From: Brian
You mean you're OK with mass effect?

To: Brian
From: Jack
Of course. This contrived controversy is absolutely ridiculous. Report that, why don't you?

....
....
....
Pot... kettle... black?

He's... toying with us... he's playing some sick, sick mind game with the gaming community. He wants to destroy us... each and every one. Stay strong, brothers; do not, I repeat, DO NOT let this man deceive you with his flip-flopping doublespeak.

Sources: Kotaku | 1UP
Square Enix Promises Final Fantasy XIII Demo, says "2008 Will Be the Year"
A drop of moisture in a scorching desert
Title

So how many of you are excited about Final Fantasy XIII? Many of you I'm sure, considering this is an RPG-centric website. I can hardly wait to be honest, but I'm afraid that the next Final Fantasy is a long, long way off; so I've tried not to focus too much on it. My greatest question, and likely the greatest question for the most of you, is simply this: how will the battle system work? Is it actually real-time? Does it still incorporate the ATB system in some way? Do we get another freaking party member, or do we play as that Lightning chick the entire game? The questions, they could go on forever.

Lucky for us, Square Enix wants to answer our questions. According to Tetsuya Nomura, they plan to put together a demo in order for fans to get an idea of the game's battle system. When will this demo be released? We haven't a clue, although Nomura said "2008 will be the year." Now that I think about it, didn't Squeenix say that they hoped to have a demo ready for E3 2007? Yes... as a matter of fact, in a January 2007 issue of Dengeki, a Squeenix rep clearly stated: "We are hoping to have a playable demo ready for E3 in 2007." Heh... well, we all know how that one turned out. I find it disturbing that they weren't even able to come up with a demo in 07, and if I don't see one by E3 08... well, I may have to abandon all hope of seeing FFXIII this decade.

When Nomura is quoted as saying "2008 will be the year," it's unclear if he's referring to the game itself, or merely the demo and some new info. A few sites are interpreting it as a confirmation of a 2008 release, but I find that hard to swallow. I mean, come on... Final Fantasy XII took five years, and it was on the PS2. Perhaps I'll be more inclined to believe it when I have more than a loosely translated Dengeki article to go on.

Sources: Kotaku
RUMOR: Sony to Discontinue 80GB PS3?
Well, at least I'm covered
Title

Do you recall a certain Random last week in which I reported that Sony was apparently looking to hire someone to work on backwards compatibility for the PS3 and their next-gen system? Unless it was a bogus listing, it would give the impression that Sony hasn't completely abandoned the concept of BC. All other facts pointed to the contrary however, with the release of the new 40GB and 80GB PS3's, neither of which are fully compatible with PS1/PS2 games. In fact, the 40GB version has virtually no BC whatsoever.

A certain tidbit that recently emerged from the massive electronics retailer Best Buy seems to suggest that Sony may be doing away with BC entirely. A (supposed) internal memo, leaked by an anonymous employee, spells it out quite clearly: "The 80GB version of the PS3 is going closeout and won't be replaced at this time. It will come off the planogram on Jan. 28." It goes on to say that "only the 40GB version of PS3 will be sold in Best Buy stores at this time. This means that there currently isn't a version that is PS2 compatible."

Think this might be a moronic Best Buy employee looking to start a rumor? Well, take a look at this excerpt from a GameSpot news article:

Although Best Buy had not returned requests for comment as of press time, a scrambling Sony representative did respond to GameSpot, saying "I'll get back to you as soon as I can on this." The deviation from Sony's tried-and-true mantra "SCEA does not comment on rumor and/or speculation" raises an eyebrow, and the response from local Best Buy stores lends significant weight to the claim. After phoning several locations in the San Francisco area, GameSpot has learned that the 80GB PlayStation 3 is neither in the company's distribution warehouses nor in its in-store databases.

In addition, if you take a look at Best Buy's website, you will find that only the 40GB model appears in their online catalogue.

I give Sony a big, fat, stinking thumbs down for this. Backwards compatibility is extremely important to me, and I am very disappointed in the recent trend of developers to discount it as useless. "But Ollie," you might say, "you already have an 80GB PS3 complete with BC. Why would you care, necessarily?" Why? Because this trend will likely continue into the era of the PS4, that's why. And, subsequently, if I want to play my (sure-to-be-large-by-that-time) collection of PS3 games, I'll have to keep that massive, sure-to-be-antiquated box around to do so.

Sources: GamesIndustry | GameSpot
RUMOR: Sony to Release New PS3 SKU?
Damn you, Sony... damn you.

In wake of the above Best Buy story, rumors are now flying high and low that Sony will be releasing an entirely new version of the PS3. According to tech site Ars Technica's Opposable Thumbs Blog, the SKU meant to replace the 80GB PS3 has been uncovered. Apparently, it will feature a larger hard drive, (either 120 or 160 GB) and it will be packed with the new DualShock 3 controller. (The DualShock 3 is available in Japan, although it has yet to see American shores.) Once again, this could be easily discounted as a flimsy rumor, but these are the same guys who discovered the existence of the 40GB PS3 model back in September. So, at the very least, they have a good track record. Aside from that, it just makes total sense given that the 80GB model has virtually been proclaimed dead.

Somehow, every time Sony releases a PS3 SKU, they manage to piss people off. Take the original two SKU's- people thought that the 60GB model was overpriced, and most thought the 20GB version was just, well, cheesy. Next came the 40GB and 80GB versions. While they offered a cheaper entry cost for those yet to purchase a PS3, you can bet that those who had already spent $599 on a 60GB model were not happy to see Sony release a version with 20GB more hard drive space, and a lower price tag to boot. As for the 40GB version, it was cheap, but NO BC FOR YOU!

And now, finally, we have this. And, while I suppose I can't speak for the gaming community as a whole, I can certainly proclaim my personal disgust. Why am I disgusted? Because Sony's going to release a PS3 with possibly twice the amount of hard drive my system has, and with the same price tag. This is exacerbated by the fact that I just recently acquired my PS3. ('Twas a Christmas gift, as my faithful readers know.) Furthermore, and most importantly, I have a very bad feeling that this new model will do away with backwards compatibility entirely. If that turns out to be the case, then, well... read the closing rant in the previous story. In reaction to this, rather than simply giving Sony another thumbs down, I fear that I will have to give them another finger... pointed straight up.

Sources: GameSpot
Manhunt 2 Case Questioned in High Court
I don't think anybody really cares at this point
Title

All the controversy surrounding Rockstar's Manhunt 2 is actually a little funny to me, considering the game really hasn't been all that well-received in terms of critical opinion or sales. According to GameRankings, between the PS2, Wii and PSP versions, it has an average score of 66.9 percent. Not great. Not abysmal perhaps, but not great. However, in spite of this fact, Rockstar is continuing to insist that they be given permission to release the game in the UK. It looked like they might win the battle when the VAC overturned the BBFC's ban, but shortly thereafter, the BBFC dragged the case to the British High Court for re-evaluation.

On January the 24, the hearing was finally held, and the High Court ruled that the VAC should reconsider its decision. Consequently, the original seven members of the board will be reconvening for a final deliberation concerning Manhunt 2. This decision is likely to be final, and should put an end to all the legal drama. According to the Hon. Mr. Justice Mitting, "In the circumstances, it seems to me the only just method of ending this." What does Rockstar think? Well, as you can imagine, they are unhappy. "We believe the VAC decision was correct and do not understand the court's decision to expend further public resources to censor a game that contains content well within the bounds established by the BBFC's 18-plus ratings certification."

I'm inclined to agree that this has all been quite ridiculous, but to be honest I find that I really just don't care anymore. I have no interest in Manhunt 2. The majority of the gaming community has no interest in Manhunt 2. I'm sure there are a few residents of the UK who are dying to get their hands on it, but they're likely in a minority. At any rate, all this foolishness will be at and end soon. The VAC's is expected to reach a verdict within the next week or so.

Sources: GameSpot
RANDOM: Without Which These Relatively Obscure, Yet Inherently Awesome Stories May Not Be Noticed!
  • Kazushige Nojima Writes SSBB
    Are any of you good with names? I am moderately knowledgeable, and I certainly recognize the name Kazushige Nojima when I see it. Who is he? Well, he happens to be one of Square Enix's most prolific writers, and is largely responsible for the plots behind such titles as Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, and the Kingdom Hearts series. More recently though, and amusingly enough, he wrote the scenario for the adventure mode "subspace emissary" in Nintendo's hotly anticipated Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Learn more in the latest "Iwata Asks" column, in which Nintendo's president speaks with Smash Bros. head, Masahiro Sakurai.

  • Sony Shrinks Blu-ray Laser
    Sony has found yet another way to cut costs on their PS3, and all of their Blu-ray players. Working with Nichia of Japan, Sony has reduced the size of the Blu-ray laser to a mere 3mm thick, and envisions including it in 9.5mm laptop drives before the year's end. This should reduce the size and cost of Blu-ray drives, which means that Sony could likely drop the price of the PS3 yet again. Will they? I doubt they will for now, although this is a good indicator for the future.

  • Woolsworth Retailers Drop HD-DVD
    Thus far, 2008 has brought nothing but pain to HD-DVD and its cause. In the latest blow against the medium, British retailer Woolsworths has announced that come March, they will no longer be carrying HD-DVD. And, interestingly enough, the deciding factor was the popularity of the PS3. "The main reason is the success of Sony's PlayStation 3 machine. Because it plays Blu-ray discs, there are over three quarters of a million homes in the UK that can view the new high definition format."

  • LoadingReadyRun Parodies Fox
    Heh... now this one is funny. As the title would suggest, Canadian comedy site LoadingReadyRun has put together a hilarious parody on the Fox Live Desk program that panned Mass Effect. Take a look at it here.
RANDOM IMAGE: In Which Strange, Whacky, or Otherwise Unorthodox Images are Collected!
  • Target Suggest Substitute for Advance Wars
    Obviously the two demographics would intersect
    Now that's... almost cruel. I sincerely hope that no parent or individual commissioned to buy Advance Wars was duped into picking up the suggested substitute. (I refuse to utter the name of that franchise in my column.) If that indeed happened, I feel sorry for the person who received it.

Sources: Kotaku | GamesIndustry

And with that, we put this week in the books. I have to get a rough draft pounded out before bed tonight, which generally isn't a problem for me, but I seem to be suffering a severe case of writer's block this time around. All my creative energy was siphoned by Currents, leaving none for my poor english paper. Oh well, I'm sure I'll come up with something. I always do, somehow.

Ever wish you could comment on the stories and happenings in Currents? Ever have a differing opinion from mine? Well, if you remember, I told you last week to forward all complaints to Q&A host Sean Kepper. This week I'll go a little further and say that, if you ever want to offer your opinion on Currents and the news therein, the best forum for doing so happens to be our Q&A Column, now published twice a week here at RPGamer. Questions and Answers has always been a great place for discussion and a wonderful way for our readers to make their voices heard. Truth be told, it is what originally drew me to RPGamer, back in the days when Matt Demers hosted the column. Both of our hosts, be it Sean Kepper or Shawn Cooper, (better known as Lusipurr) will be more than happy to discuss these things with you, and assert their own opinions in the process. So I encourage you, write in, offer your opinions, and help make Q&A great!

Something else I might add is that Currents, or certain parts of it, is often brought up on our weekly RPGcast. In fact, last week marked the first time that I, Oliver Motok, the esteemed writer of Currents, was actually part of the podcast itself! I may not be there every week, but I will certainly be there as often as possible. So come on, have a listen, and see what we all have to say. And like before, if you disagree with us, write your thoughts to Q&A!

And it is with this shameless gesture on behalf of my beloved Q&A that I end the seventieth issue of Currents. Safety and peace dear readers, and I do hope you'll join me next week for some more of the same.

Oliver Motok (Email Me!)

 

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