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CURRENTS
Issue #85
June 19, 2008
Demon Helicopters
Front Page

June 17 - 1:25 AM CST
I'M BACK! I'M BAAAACK!

I mean...

Welcome to the eighty-fifth edition of RPGamer's Currents column!

My goodness, I felt so bad missing BOTH of my columns in a week, but it was unavoidable! You've all heard about my insane work week, so I won't tire you with any further details. In any case, it's been cut down slightly, which is why I'm here now. So, let's all be thankful for that, and hope that it STAYS this way.

Let's talk about the gaming front! I've been playing the original Fire Emblem on the GBA, which is the only one (among those released in North America) that I haven't played and beaten. As expected, it's completely awesome and I'm loving it. The gameplay in Fire Emblem is like some kind of incredibly sweet, incredibly addicting form of chocolate candy. Once you start playing, it's extremely hard to stop, and you probably won't until you get sick. Unless you're a WIMP who just can't handle the fact that *gasp* DEAD UNITS CAN'T BE RESSURECTED! OMG, OMG, SO UNFAIR! WHERE ARE TEH PHOENIX DOWNS?

On a slightly less positive note, I've been playing Devil May Cry 2. It's not a BAD game, but it is really lacking the atmosphere that the first Devil May Cry so effectively presented. This is mostly because Dante somehow became a mute between the events of DMC and DMC2. He refuses to talk, there are no cutscenes, and as a result the game feels like a really tepid tread through some largely unatractive environments. Sure, the core gameplay (read: the battle system) is as much fun as ever, but overall, the game is a HUGE step down from the first. Somehow, though, I doubt many of you care! I'm talking about a six-year-old, oft-maligned action game on an RPG site! But this is my column, so I'll do as I please.

Let's move onto the news, shaaaalll we?

RUMOR: 30+ Employees Leave, Class Action Lawsuit Planned
WE WANTS OUR MONIEZ
Title

We already know about Mr. Itagaki and his recent defection from Tecmo, in unison with a lawsuit he filed against them for unpaid bonuses. We further know that Tecmo responded, claiming that Mr. Itagaki was distorting the facts, and assuring us that franchises such as Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive were still being worked on. But, as is usually the case with these juicy lawsuit stories, there's more... much more.

Let's start with what's known to be truth, rather than rumor: on June 16, two Tecmo employees filed a lawsuit against Tecmo seeking 8.3 million yen ($77,000) in compensation for massive amounts of unpaid overtime. Reportedly, the workers were put on some kind of "flexible hours" work scheme about four years ago, and from that time forward, overtime was never paid. The plaintiffs represent all 300 Tecmo employees, and contend that Tecmo owes them over 100 hours per month in unpaid overtime. Hiroaki Ozawa, one of the developers for the Dead or Alive series, is one of the plaintiffs, and is also the head of the "Tecmo Labor Union." The suit also accuses Tecmo of creating fake documents, hiding accounting documents, and all other sorts of nasty things. As of right now, officials are investigating Tecmo to determine if they have violated labor laws. All considered, things don't look very good.

Now, on to the rumor portion of this drama. According to 1UP, in wake of Itagaki's departure from Team Ninja, close to three dozen employees are following suit. What's more, word on the street claims that they're planning to serve Tecmo with a big, fat class-action lawsuit demanding the same thing as Mr. Itagaki himself: unpaid bonuses that were supposed to be awarded upon the completion of certain games. Tecmo has yet to respond to this particular claim, but since it hasn't yet been denied, I think it's pretty safe to say that this is the truth. BUT, as of right now, it still has a big, conspicuous RUMOR label pasted on it.

This one looks like a doozy, ladies and gents. Itagaki's departure was bad enough, but now it seems that the entire core team is leaving. That being the case, it's difficult to see how Tecmo plans on continuing these franchises. Oh, and being investigated for possible violation of labor laws is a very serious thing indeed. Stay tuned for more information in this unfolding saga.

UPDATE - Tecmo Trashes Rumors of Mass Exodus
You know, I really hate it when this happens, but what can I do? It took them a while, but Tecmo has finally responded to the rumors of a mass departure from Team Ninja. Long story short, they're stating that it's rubbish of the most shameful sort, and they're kindly asking North American websites to use "caution" while reporting on these matters. (You know they're glaring at 1UP while asking this.) Here are a few sentences from their official statement:

On and around June 15, 2008, various websites in the US reported a rumor about "dozens" of development staff members resigning and filing a lawsuit against Tecmo, LTD., following Tomonobu Itagaki's departure from the company. The rumors are false and no such action is taking place at the company.

...It is unfortunate that false and inaccurate reporting of our organization and employees' actions have caused some unrest among our development staff members. Tecmo, LTD. would like to assure its partners and loyal fans that its teams continue to focus and work on several projects to be released and announced in the future. The company is committed to providing high quality, entertaining products for our fans around the world.

Your continued support of Tecmo, LTD. is appreciated and it is kindly asked that you handle news reports concerning the above matters with care.

Just as an aside, (I didn't mention this earlier) the statement also debunked the rumors that Tecmo had withheld information concerning Itagaki's lawsuit from their shareholders. Scratch BOTH OF THOSE JUICY RUMORS. Sheesh, how boring. Oh well. We still have Itagaki and the two other dudes. That's enough to make for some drama.

Sources: 1UP | Kotaku
Eager to Redeem Himself, Fischer Claims That a Solution is Coming
This is so not an issue for me
Title

Perhaps you've read about Laurent Fischer's recent comments at a Nintendo press event in Europe, during which he claimed that only "geeks and otaku" were concerned about the Wii's limited storage space. I have to disagree with that! People who download practically every Virtual Console release that comes down the pipe need increased Wii Storage! (And believe me, some people do that.) People who aren't too concerned about VC titles are probably fine, because I don't see how one could buy enough Wii games to fill up 250 megs.

Anyways, Mr. Fischer felt bad about his comments and issued all kinds of apologies for them. This was after he was universally lambasted by the many denizens of the internets, including well-known industry figure David Jaffe, who labeled the claims as "arrogant," among many other things. Fischer said he was joking and taken out of context, and then he said he was sorry, and blah blah blah. And, to complete his extended apology, he's come out and said that Nintendo is working on a solution to this issue!

We definitely detect that they [gamers] are serious and we know there is an issue in this, so it's something that we're working on.
And then, in the same breath, he essentially says that they're NOT working on a solution to this issue!

Definitely there's no plan to issue hardware, an external hard drive, but we know that we have an issue in that area. It's very obvious and we're perfectly aware of it, but there's nothing we can say beyond this.

Can you get any more cryptic? It almost sound like this dude is just lying to us, in a pathetic attempt to make himself sound like a dude who cares about the Wii's limited storage capacity, and ingratiate himself with those whom he pissed off. Nintendo's working on a solution, but they're not working on any kind of hardware? So... uh... what exactly do they plan on giving us? Another Wii SKU with additional flash memory? Bigger SD cards? Sigh. In truth, this is hardly a problem that applies to me, since I've used only the smallest percentage of my Wii's memory in the 1.5 years I've had it. This is because I, uh, don't really play my Wii. And this is because Nintendo refuses to release games on it that I care about. But that's an entirely different issue. MOVING ON!

Sources: Kotaku | GamesIndustry
Thompson Gets a Visit from U.S Marshals LOLZ
Black with two sugars
Title

Bleh... this is getting EVER-SO-SLIGHTLY dull in my opinion, but I feel it is my DUTY to report on all that has to do with John B. Thompson. (That's Jack's real name.)

As the title implied, 'ol Jack was recently paid a visit by a couple of U.S Marshals! (Hence the Tommy Lee Jones JPG in the upper right, LOLZ.) Shocking, just shocking! What could the reason possibly be? Well, the two marshals were dispatched by Mr. Frederic Moreno, Chief Judge of the U.S District Court in Miami. Reportedly, it was in response to a letter Thompson wrote to Mr. Moreno, in which he complained about the lack of federal aid he was receiving in his ongoing battle against the Florida Bar. Read the letter here, the segment that Moreno took issue with is below:

We find yesterday that enemy combatants at Guantanamo are to get more due process from federal judges than what I am to have. I guess my "mistake" was not killing 3000 people to make my point...

I demand a hearing.

Sigh. Whacky Jacky, has to make a half-witted reference to Al-Qaeda terrorists. Will he EVER learn? (Rhetorical question.)

Thompson has done a few other things worthy of brief mention. For one, he wrote to the counsel for the House Judiciary Committee demanding a meeting where he can air his complaints about the Justice Department's supposed "harassment" of him and his family. Additionally, he filed a document with the federal court demanding to see any Justice Department records since 1992 that relate to him.

My only guess is that Thompson has all but acknowledged his defeat by the Florida Bar, and has decided that it's more worth his while to bug the Justice Department. I'm sure that this crusade will be every bit as effective and productive as his many others. LOLZ.

(I likes to use teh LOLZ.)

Source: GamePolitics
FFXIII Still Unplayable, PS3 Only
One can only maintain excitement for so long before growing numb
Title

Boy, oh boy, Square Enix knows how to throw a party. People really should take a page from their book. First, give it an utterly ridiculous name, like, say, "DK?3713." (Yes, that's really its name.) Next, limit it to a mere 2,400 people who will randomly be selected through Squeenix's Japanese members website. And finally, make sure that the main attractions of the show are in unplayable trailer form.

Yes, Final Fantasy XIII and Versus XIII are STILL too premature in development for a playable demo to be seen. The full list of what will be at the party is given below:

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3) Trailer
Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3) Trailer
Final Fantasy Agito XIII (Mobile) Trailer
Kingdom Hearts: Coded (Mobile) Trailer
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (DS) Trailer/Playable Demo
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (PSP) Trailer/Playable Demo
Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP) Trailer/Playable Demo
The 3rd Birthday (Mobile) Trailer
Sigma Harmonics (DS) Trailer/Playable Demo
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete (Movie/Blu-ray) Trailer

Sigh. Sounds like quite a party. Judging by Squeenix's track record at events like this, videos of the demos will NOT be allowed, and trailers will be shown in CLOSED THEATERS. So, basically, we likely won't glean a shred of info from this whole shebang.

It's worth noting that they're continuing to brand Final Fantasy XIII as a PS3 title, but let's be frank... if they plan on bringing it to the Xbox 360, I somehow doubt they'd announce it in such an informal fashion as this. And I suppose we can be happy that the three Kingdom Hearts games will have playable demos. Happy for those few who will be able to PLAY THEM, that is!

UPDATE - Forever Fantasy Gleans some Tidbits from Tetsuya Nomura Interview
Japan's Famitsu magazine recently featured an interview with Square Enix's Tetsuya Nomura concerning the upcoming party. By far, the most intriguing bit of information to be gleaned was that as of right now, development of Versus XIII has been all but halted. Why? Because the Versus team is apparently working its collective ass off to get the main attraction, Final Fantasy XIII, out the damn door. How about that? Even if that's the case, I still can't see XIII coming before late (late) 2009. Naturally, we'll be waiting even LONGER for Versus, so... 2011? Sheesh!

ANOTHER very small, very discouraging bit of news came from the interview! According to Nomura, Birth By Sleep, which, among these three upcoming titles, looks like the closest thing to a REAL Kingdom Hearts game, is "not anywhere close" to a final build. But Nomura REEAALY wants people to try it out, hence the playable demo at the party.

Sigh. I long for the days of old, when games didn't take eight years to develop and publish.

Source: Kotaku
Claims Developers Will Favor the PS3 in 2009
Screw subtitles
Title

GamesIndustry recently scored an interview with Sony's president of Worldwide Affairs, Shuhei Yoshida. There are a few interesting things to be gleaned from their conversation, such as Yoshida's thoughts on the future of PS3 software development, and the impact of Blu-Ray's recent victory over HD-DVD.

When asked about the relative lack of "key" titles that have been released for the PlayStation 3 in comparison to the Xbox 360, Yoshida lamented that third-party developers made the mistake of relying too much on their experience with the Xbox 360's architecture:

I'm sure that third party publishers had planned to release their titles day-and-date with the launch of the PlayStation 3, or day-and-date with the launch of the title on the Xbox 360, but because the 360 hardware was out earlier, the games were built based on 360 architecture. But still, they must have been planning, thinking they have enough time, to port the second game to PS3 and release at the same time with the same quality. So they massively underestimated the effort that was needed to re-architect the game to properly take advantage of the PS3's multi-core architecture.

Yoshida said that he was "pretty happy" with the launch titles that the PS3 saw during its first year on the market, and commented on the fact that more and more multiplatform games are seeing simultaneous release on the 360 and PS3, with no difference in quality. "That re-architecture only needs to happen once," he said, "and once you pass that, you have the foundation ready."

When asked how Blu-Ray's victory would affect the PlayStation 3, Yoshida stated that he believed it would have a "massive impact" over time. However, he also noted the fact that it takes a very long time for movie formats to completely shift.

...Blu-ray becoming the de facto standard of high definition video is going to have a major, major impact on consumers' decision making, when they're looking at different choices of games consoles. That's what happened with PS2 - when it launched it was after a few years of the launch of DVD, but DVD wasn't at that tipping point. And actually when the PS2 came out with the low end DVD player that really helped the adoption of the technology, and really made the PS2 attractive. Timing-wise the unfortunate situation for the PS3 was that it didn't come out after a few years of the Blu-ray learning curve - it was almost the launch of Blu-ray in a way, so we had massive amounts of work to do and that really hit the profitability of the company. We tried as much as possible not to pass that cost on to consumers, but we do feel that the early adapters of the PS3 are getting good value [with the integrated Blu-ray].

The full interview with Yoshida can be read here and here. (It's broken into two parts.) Other topics of discussion include his thoughts on his predecessor, Phil Harrison, the recent cancellations of Eight Days and The Getaway, and the PSP's fortunes in both Japan and Europe. (Yes, it's fairly interesting. Have a read.)

I suppose that short of being a developer or programmer yourself, it's hard to know exactly why it's so difficult to program games for the PS3 in comparison to the 360. From what I've heard, though, it's pretty rough. One thing of interest to me though is the fact that, while the PS3 (supposedly) has the potential to pump out bigger, better-looking games than the 360, every multi-platform release that we've seen thus far either looks and plays identically, or worse on the PS3. I'm hoping that this will change over time, because it's a shame if one of the PS3's few strengths over the competition is being squandered.

As for the Blu-Ray thing, I don't think it's even debatable that it will, and already has, translated into some PS3 sales. I mean, it's the cheapest Blu-Ray player on the market right now, and it can play PS3 games! Quite a deal, wouldn't you say?

Source: GamesIndustry
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
Waggle schmaggle, I LIKE BUTTONS
  • Funniest Example of Derivation You'll Ever See
    Are you at all familiar with Limbo of the Lost, a point-and-click PC adventure game by Majestic studios? Well, if not, you're about to be... in a bad way. The game is currently MIRED in controversy over accusations of blatantly copycatting environments from Bethesda's 2006 RPG, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Check out this link, and you'll find it hard to argue in its favor. But, you might get a good laugh - I certainly did. LOLZ.

  • RUMOR: Sony Ripping Off Nintendo Even More
    Why... just why? Ok, so Sony is reportedly working on some whacky "break-apart" PS3 controller that will allow for the development of Wii-like, motion-sensitive games. Sony has declined to comment, which hardly debunks the rumor. On the other hand, "anonymous sources" have reported that, while Sony is working on some newfangled motion-sensitive control device, it's not exactly a "break-apart" dualshock. (No idea how a dualshock broken in half would work anyways.) In any case, if this is true, then I fart in Sony's general direction. Instead of working to establish themselves as a unique and desirable brand to gamers, they're pathetically following Nintendo's footsteps, and buying into this motion-sensing, body-flailing nonsense. I thought the Sixaxis was bad enough, and now this. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.

Done and DONE.

I have tomorrow off! I wonder what I shall do? Hmmm... this bears pondering. Sleep is a given... some gaming is a given... who knows, maybe I'll end up doing something exciting. (Read: something that involves leaving my home.)

Doubtful, though.

Man... I don't know what else to talk about. I mean, all I did today was sleep, game, work on this column, and work at my real job. (I didn't have to go in until the evening, which was quite nice.) My life is an endless cycle of same-old, same-old. But hey, I'm not complaining. My existence is hardly a tortured one. There are a few things I might re-tool in the event that I was gifted with Bruce Almighty powers, but the likelihood of that is practically zero anyways.

One thing I would do, though, is force you all to send me Q&A letters! The link is right below, folks. How hard can it be to click and write a few sentences? There's an honest-to-God Q&A coming this Sunday, and it will be penned by Yours Truly! CAN YOU HANDLE THE ANTICIPATION?

Doubtful! Goodbye!

Oliver Motok
Send me a letter!

 

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