Category Archives: Gaming

Sony ditches PlayStationNetwork Branding, PSN to be known as Sony Entertainment Network

Perhaps part of Sony’s strategy for integrating their services, or maybe to distance itself from the bad reputation gained due to the continuous string of PSN break-ins – whatever may be the reasons, Sony has announced that they will be rebranding their online gaming & digital delivery service, the PlayStation Network or PSN.Sony PSN

PSN will be known as Sony Entertainment Network as of Feb 7, 2012. Curiously, the announcement was revealed as part of a Terms of Service & Privacy Policy update. Typically, you’d expect the general public to not read privacy policies & take them for granted – but Sony chose this method to make it known that PSN accounts will now be known as Sony Entertainment Network accounts.

Sony makes it clear that this will be only a name change & the existing usernames & passwords will not be affected. A firmware update in the near future will ensure that the Sony Entertainment Network branding will be applied to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita – but not the PlayStation Portable.

Here’s the full email listing:

On February 7, 2012, Sony Network Entertainment International LLC (“SNEI”) will update its Terms of Service and User Agreement and its Privacy Policy. As a part of this update, your “PlayStation®Network account” will be renamed a “Sony Entertainment Network account” The first time you sign in to your Sony Entertainment Network account on or after February 7, 2012, you will be asked to agree to the new Terms of Service and User Agreement and Privacy Policy with SNEI if you wish to continue using your Sony Entertainment Network account. Please review all changes to the Terms of Service and User Agreement and Privacy Policy carefully before indicating your agreement. In particular, these are some of the additions and changes we have to these agreements:

  • New terms for parents of minor, subaccount holders regarding the limitations of chat parental controls. Your reacceptance of the Terms of Service and User Agreement and Privacy Policy affirms your consent to the sharing of your child’s data that may occur if your child utilizes certain communication functionalities on PlayStation devices such as PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita systems.
  • New terms that explain the location-based services offered through the PlayStation Vita system. For parents of minor, subaccount holders your reacceptance of the Terms of Service and User Agreement and Privacy Policy affirms your consent to your subaccount holder’s user of these services on the PlayStation Vita system.
  • A description of our “What’s New” section, which provides topical information about our services and advertisements.
  • Information about pre-ordering content.
  • The name of your “PlayStation Network account” is changing to a “Sony Entertainment Network account.”

You may click here to review the changes to the Terms of Service and User Agreement and you may click here to review the changes to the Privacy Policy. The rebranding of PlayStation Network accounts to Sony Entertainment Network accounts is a change in name only. Your username or password will not change, nor are we asking you to change them. On Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita systems, this rebranding will occur in connection with software updates for these devices. (Note, this change will not be applied to the PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system at this time.) This transition is based on Sony’s goal to enhance its unique digital entertainment offering. As a series of these activities Sony started last September, PlayStation Network will be aligned with “Sony Entertainment Network.” This helps us get closer to our goal of establishing a global comprehensive network platform of services across games, movies, music and more, all accessible from one convenient account. The Sony Entertainment Network account also enables use of Sony’s compelling non-game services such as Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited and PlayMemories Online (currently called Personal Space) across a variety of network-connected devices. If you do not agree with the new Terms of Service and User Agreement or Privacy Policy, you may decline to accept them, and you will no longer be able to access your account. If you wish to close your account or request a refund of your wallet balance, or have any questions, please contact Customer Service by clicking here. For more information, please click here. Thank you very much for being a customer!

The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition Trailer Looks Gorgeous

By now, you must know that when I say “gorgeous” I mean “frighteningly violent, filled with liberal amounts of freeze bombs and blood that would make any kind lady look away in shock” yes? If you did not think so, I am afraid you have not been reading my posts very well and thus I shall give you the Very Very Stern Look. *Looks at you Very Very Sternly*. Right, now that the stern looks are done with, shall we proceed with the matter at hand? Good, I thought so as well. Yes, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings will be getting an Enhanced Edition much in the same vein as the original The Witcher received an Enhanced Edition pack. The previous game was completely turned around thanks to this patch going (ratings-wise) from a “rather good” RPG to “oh my god how did we miss out on this brilliant piece of video gaming?”. Judging by the fantastic trailer for The Witcher 2 EE, I think the ratings for that game will go from “this is the most amazing RPG I’ve ever played” to “I cannot think of any other superlatives/God Level/Stop pestering me and go play this game.”

Directed by Tomasz Bagiński, the same man who did the video for the original opening trailer of The Witcher, the trailer shows the death of King Demavend at the hands of the unnamed Witcher (named later in the game, but no spoilers here) whose severed head is shown in the original trailer of the game. Bagiński accomplishes what he does best – showing a beautifully choreographed fight scene with not a single word of dialog. Everything looks brilliant and I would totally want this guy to direct a full-length movie based on The Witcher mythos. Seriously, everyone, make this happen!

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition is slated for an April release – an entire year after the game itself was released. Great stuff from CD Projekt RED!

Steam Mobile: First Look

A couple of days ago Valve released its Beta Steam Mobile app for Android and iOS. Steam, as we know, is the video game digital distribution platform that has quickly become one of the Internet’s friendliest and also its most used. Valve also slowly rolled out the Beta access to its customers through the Steam Inventory (customers with access can send other customers the invite). The mobile app itself is a little rough around the edges – nothing new here because Steam itself is a little rough around the edges. Moreover, it is to be noted that this is still a work in progress for the most part.

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The Steam Mobile app came as a direct request from Steam’s fans, as Valve President Gabe Newell says:-

The Steam app comes from many direct requests from our customers. Seeing which of your friends are online and playing a game, sending quick messages, looking at screenshots for an upcoming game, or catching a sale — these are all features customers have requested. Mobile is changing way people interact, play games and consume media, and the Steam app is part of our commitment to meet customer demands and expand the service functionality of Steam to make it richer and more accessible for everyone.

The app starts with the a mobile version of the “Friends” window which shows your friend list and also shows who is playing what game. Clicking on a friend’s name will initiate a chat thread with that person (although that did not load completely in my case).

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Pressing the app key on the Android brings up the menu with several options like Catalog, Wishlist, Search, Groups, Steam News and so on listed. Clicking on any one of these options is supposed to display the corresponding option, but that did not happen with me.

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Again, I must remind the readers that this is a beta application so I am not holding any of these against the app. So when it does eventually come out of beta, it should have all of these features.

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In short, Steam Mobile is everything that Steam offers minus the most important thing: the game itself. I imagine people will chat with their friends and set up matches for the evening (instead of talking to them through more conventional means, because obviously a smartphone cannot make calls or send texts) or get that ridiculously low priced sale that is on only for the two minutes that you are browsing Steam Mobile. Snide comments apart, it can be a useful way of spending time with folks you only know through Steam, or buying an impromptu gift for someone discreetly. More on this as it gets better.

Play Skyrim On Your Calculator!

That is, if your calculator is a Texas Instruments 84 Plus Graphing Calculator, of course. Intrepid YouTube user no9sniper has found a way to satisfy that burning itch to keep killing dragons, giants and tons of wild wolves while you are in class (and away from your PC/360/PS3 which is still warm from yesterday’s long Skyrim session) with a homebrew version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that runs completely on the Ti-84 plus, complete with lo-fi graphics and a nonexistent storyline.

The game, from the video posted on YouTube, looks similar to the legacy Elder Scrolls games, with simple combat and some customization. You choose your name and your race (Imperial, Khajit or Orc) (Sadly no elves or argonians) and set out on a journey as a warrior into the snowy and whitey world with the greatest graphics card in the world at your disposal (read: your imagination). I initially thought it would be a rogue-like game but it turned out to be nicely designed with some retro graphics elements. Much fun!

I honestly have no idea how much time was invested by no9sniper to create this tiny distraction for class, but it sure as hell speaks volumes about this person’s perseverance! Kudos!

Bioshock Infinite To Include 1999 Mode

Bioshock Infinite is an upcoming game developed by Irrational Studios. It is the third game of the Bioshock franchise and, in the timeline of the alternate universe of the video games, is a prequel to the first two games. It is set, unlike the previous two games, in the fictional air-city of Columbia that has elements of steampunk, Star Wars and Final Fantasy in a surreal-yet-gritty mash up. The developers recently announces that the game will have a super-hard ‘1999 mode’ which will test the player’s skills to the maximum:-

1999ModeLiz

BioShock Infinite’s 1999 Mode will feature an especially demanding gaming experience, forcing you to examine your decisions while going through your adventure in Columbia. With every choice you make, there are irreversible implications, and if your choices guide you down a path not suited to your play style, you will suffer for it.

Every step of the game will involve you taking decisions, such as weapon specializations (with most enemies being impervious to your attacks unless you have the requisite specializations) and resource planning. Irrational Games’ Creative Director Ken Levine goes on to say that “In 1999 Mode, gamers face more of the permanent consequences of their gameplay decisions. In BioShock Infinite, gamers will have to sweat out the results of their actions. In addition, 1999 Mode will demand that players pick specializations, and focus on them.”

This is making me all super excited for this game. What do you guys think?

Bethesda Updates on Skyrim v1.4 and the Creation Kit

Bethesda Studios’ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the most hyped and played games in recent times. Players have created their own meme-verse with the arrow-to-the-knee jokes and other paraphernalia and the game has been a huge success. Fans of the games have been clamoring for a Creation Kit – a set of tools released by the developer to aid and assist in making mods. Bethesda has released a statement along with the release notes for v1.4 regarding the Creation Kit.

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It seems that the Creation Kit will work with the Steam Workshop – a place where community-made items are voted on by players themselves which may then be added in-game. A Steam Workshop for Team Fortress 2 exists and has seen a bunch of items go from just a concept on paper to an actual in-game item. The creators of the items are also rewarded in cash by Valve. In this case, the creators will be rewarded by Bethesda, probably.

The Creation Kit will allow modders to make complete game transformations such as those we have seen with Neverwinter Nights and the previous The Elder Scrolls games such as Oblivion. It is quite amazing that Bethesda is genuinely interested in enhancing the gameplay by giving players the power, for free.

More news will be here as it happens.

Mass Effect 3 Will Require Origin For Both Physical And Digital Copies; No Steam Version

Alright everybody, get ready for a massive s***storm. In a recent forum post on Bioware SocialNetwork, an employee announced that the upcoming final installment of the epic space role playing game Mass Effect will necessarily need EA’s much maligned digital distribution platform Origin, and that Mass Effect 3 will not be available on any other digital distribution service, most notably Valve’s Steam with which EA has had some friction with in the past year.

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Is Origin required for the retail versions of the game?
Origin is required for the PC versions of Mass Effect 3, both physical and digital.

Will ME3 be available on Steam?
During initial release Mass Effect 3 will be available on Origin and a number of other 3rd party digital retailers, but not on Steam at this time. Steam has adopted a set of restrictive terms of service which limit how developers interact with customers to deliver patches and other downloadable content.  We are intent on providing Mass Effect to players with the best possible experience no matter where they purchase or play their game, and are happy to partner with any download service that does not restrict our ability to connect directly with our consumers.

The post immediately received negative comments from several fans who were not ready to install an accessory software even though they were planning on buying the boxed edition just so they do not have to suffer from such software. Moreover, the lack of a Steam version also invited several negative comments as many people (including this author) prefer their games under one umbrella. The fact that Origin as a platform has not received many commendations in the community just added to the repercussions.

Tell us what you think of Bioware’s latest move.

CD Projekt RED Drops Witch Hunt Against Pirates

Remember that time when CD Projekt RED started becoming like That Company Whose Name Starts With U And Which Shall Not Be Named Here? Well their fans told them that they were starting to become like said company as well as trying to ape the music industry and called them out on it. Now the company has retracted its complaints and notices against these probable pirates after angry fans told them that it was an affront to the faith they placed them in.

CD Projekt’s newest game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings shipped without the Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection that is common in most new AAA releases these days; DRM makes it difficult to copy or illegally play a video game. However, in all cases, they are easily bypassed by cracker groups and released for free on torrents. Since The Witcher 2 was released without DRM, because the company said that the security does more harm than good to the legitimate customers, it was praised for its foresight and good intentions. However, later on, in a bid to stop rampant piracy and deter future pirates, CD Projekt started tracking “pirates” in Germany with their IP addresses and sent letters threatening legal action unless they give an atrocious amount (around $1180) as a fine for downloading their game illegally. This did not sit well with a lot of gamers and they took up the issue with the Polish developer itself.

Retracting the complaints recently, studio co-founder Marcin Iwinski said to the fans:

“Being part of a community is a give-and-take process. We only succeed because you have faith in us, and we have worked hard over the years to build up that trust. We were sorry to see that many gamers felt that our actions didn’t respect the faith that they have put into CD Projekt RED.

Not bad at all, CDPR! I was about to lose faith in humanity!

Sony Shows off PlayStation Vita’s Augmented Reality Capabilities at the CES [Video]

The quad-core driven PS Vita certainly packs a punch as far as hardware is concerned. However, mighty specs are not all that it has in its favor. The American and European versions of the Vita will come with a set of six augmented reality cards that can be used for a fun and unique gaming experience.

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These cards can be laid out on any surface to dynamically create objects within compatible AR games. Earlier today, Sony Santa Monica Sr. Manager Dave Thach demonstrated one of the AR minigames – Table Football (Pocket Soccer in the US), in action. As you can see in the video below, each of these cards can be spread out on any flat surface to create everything from the football field to goal posts and stands. The game itself is simplistic, but is smart enough to adapt itself to the field created by you. Aspects such as velocity of the ball automatically change based on the size of the field. The Vita also remembers where your cards are, so you can simply move your Vita for zooming and panning.

The Vita will launch in North America on February 22.

Top 5 PC Indie Games of 2011

As the year draws to its close, we must do our duty as a blog to summarize the things that happened through the year. In addition, considering that I snoop around the PC gaming part of things all around, this post will mostly be about that. As the title says, these are the top 5 PC Indie games of 2011. The PC part is quite important in that all the games have versions made for a personal computer running Windows 7 or Vista (but seriously, why would you be using Vista?). Moreover, each of these games has affected me in one of many ways; from being extremely addicted to it, to playing it for casual fun, to eliciting intense emotional outbursts from the normally stoic person that I am. So, without further ado, here is the list.

5. The Binding of Isaac

Isaac

Equal parts shooter and roguelike RPG, Edmund McMillen (of Team Meat fame) has come up with a truly wonderful and grotesque creation known as The Binding of Isaac. You play the titular Isaac who is going to be sacrificed by his mother to appease her god. Thus, to escape her insanity, you dive into the cellar and find that your tiny home’s cellar is in fact an infinitely long dungeon with creatures both ugly and macabre roaming its cavernous depths. Each dungeon is generated randomly and indeed each time you save, quit and reload, the dungeons are randomized again making no two playthroughs exactly the same. The difficulty, therefore, is not linearly scaled with Isaac finding bosses instead of treasure in one room and being forced to fight said boss. It constantly keeps you on your toes right before opening a door to a new region, adding the thrill of the roguelike with treasure and level-ups into the mix. The game, with its convoluted connotations of religion, genre-breaking game mechanics, and simple cartoony gore is a blast to play. Buy The Binding of Isaac here.

4. Frozen Synapse

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Although my real play of the game has slackened off in the months after its release, Frozen Synapse is nevertheless one brilliant tactical game that must not be forgotten when we are dealing with great indie games of this year. With the minute tactical and strategic thinking of a traditional game such as Chess or Go coupled with frantic shooting and explosive rocket blasts, this simultaneous turn-based strategygame deals with you guiding your soldiers through many randomly generated levels, picking off the enemy soldiers and completing objectives on the way. The game is well made for those who like to play in short bursts, with mechanics made to match the play-by-email style of play native to online Chess or Risk, and matches with 8 or more complete turns take days to finish between to equally matched opponents. A wonderful multiplayer matching system as well as a video-recording of the game provides a fertile ground for passionate strategic players to push their foxy plans into fruition. The game’s futuristic neon tones and sublime electronic music works well to enrich the atmosphere. Buy Frozen Synapse from Mode7 games here.

3. Terraria

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I must confess that my own play time of Terraria does not match up with those of the previous games. However the time I have spent looking at YouTube videos of the endlessly beautiful creations of this labor of love have been much greater than a lot of time I have spent on complete games. Terraria is wrongly being accused of being a Minecraft rip-off. Sure, it is a sandbox game. Sure, it also involves blocks and crafting and monsters at night. Yet, there is a greater difference between the 3D voxel-based Minecraft and the 2D pixel-based Terraria. While Minecraft focuses on the crafting part –   to build new things in a virgin world Terraria has definite Role Playing elements, especially when one plays with friends. The fact that one can play for hours and hours based on just the overworld (to say nothing of the dark and dank underworld) is testament to the great game that Terraria truly is. With a tiny 16MB download, one cannot go wrong with Terraria. Buy one for yourself and one for your friends and you are all set to roam around a colorful pixelated world full of things to discover.

2. Bastion

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I cannot stop talking about this wonderful, colorful, heart-wrenching little game from Supergiant Games. Bastion has a soul that very few games of this era have one that briefly joins with you every time you do anything in this game. While it is at its heart a hack n’ slash adventure game, what makes Bastion brilliant is its narrator and the extremely poignant music. I never skipped a moment of conversation in the game, mostly because of the old narrator’s voice that was simultaneously warm and pained with sorrow. As the Kid trying to save a broken Caelondia, you will go to different places of your land, fight monsters and rebuild Bastion, the one place everyone agreed to go to in the time of the Calamity. You get to upgrade your weapons and buy new bonuses, but the crux of the game lies in whether you can truly build your world anew. Featuring a lovely soundtrack one that has been on repeat in my music player for a long while now Bastion is one of the must-play titles released this year. Read our review here to know more.

1. To The Moon

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It is not often that a piece of art is made from cheaply available tools with an amateurish look and feel to it go on to redefine the medium and successfully bring it into the forefront as a vibrant and true medium of art. This is pretty much the definition of what To The Moon actually did. It is sad to know that it has less of a fan base when compared to the previous indie games in this list. At its heart, To The Moon is a point-n-click game made using RPGMaker that is set somewhere in the future when science has sufficiently advanced to change a person’s memory at his or her dying stages. The game follows the quest of two such science agents who go into an old, dying man’s mind because he wants to go to the moon as an astronaut in his memories. Yet he does not know exactly why he wishes to do so. The two agents go back into his younger years to find the source of this compulsion and make startling discoveries. I can freely say that the last part of the game literally made me cry and that has not happened before with any game (Planescape: Torment came close). It is the best game that I have played all year, and you must buy it from the brilliant developer.

Honorable Mentions

Minecraft: Well it released this year but it is still more or less the same game as the alpha as far as game mechanics and enjoyment are considered.
Gemini Rue: A dark, neo-noir point n click game that took storytelling to a whole new level.
Limbo: Though released for the PC in 2011, the game was developed last year for the XBLA.