War…. It Never Changes

After a ten year break, I have become once again a tabletop gamer and started  playing Warhammer fantasy battle.

Recently  updated to the 8th edition, WHFB now favors a larger emphasis on troop combat and battle tactics while breaking from its old hero focused roots.

Seeing as I had a full dwarf army in storage and said army has gained a significant boost during the recent update, this suits me to the ground.

Aside from talking about my experiences, I will also chat about the game in general, with the odd extra bit on other table games.

Oh also, had a game tonight against another Dwarf player. Suffice to say I have still have much work to do on my tactics…. (The epic tale of which can be found here http://blogofgrudges.blogspot.com/)

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Squaresoft, My Lost Friend: Part 1

What happened to my old pal Squaresoft?

This is a question I have asked myself many times over the last few years.  For years I had been one of their biggest fans who played all their new releases with pride. I even went as far as to order their older less known games!

So looking at gaming activities now, I have to ask myself why I not the fan I used to be?

What changed?

To give some context, it was back  during the Christmas 1997 when it all began, the Christmas I received my first SquareRPG, Final Fantasy 7.

I did not know it at the time but I had embarked on something

magical then, something since playing my first game that I had never encountered before.

You see not only was this the day I played my first RPG, but it was also the day I played a Square JRPG.  Their first RPG to be ported to the Play station console, many of Squaresoft’s big names in development and programming all came on board to help design FF7.

Although I did not know it then, this game would be a revelation to me, a revelation which started my long term love affair with RPG gaming.

As such, every Final Fantasy game released on the PlayStation 1 was to be mine. So impressed with Squaresoft was I, that I instantly purchased other titles they released.

And what made this love affair last was the simple fact they were just as good, even better than the last .

While hooked and blind to all criticism of Square games, it was two of these titles, Vagrant Story and Front Mission 3 that really caught my attention. So much so, these are  two games which I actively play to this day.

You see, what impressed me about Squaresoft games was the level of story depth and unique RPG elements which Squaresoft had no qualms in experimenting with.

One key aspect of this was Squares insistence that each game had a unique story line with its own set of characters and background and providing a different playing experience with each title.

Around this time, a long time rival JRPG company called Enix (famous for their Dragon quest series) began talks with Square to merge into a single company, so as to compete with foreign developers.

About the same both companies finalized their merger,  I had picked up a copy of Final Fantasy X, the first and last of the series to be made by Squaresoft as a single company.

It was  after I had finished playing the game that I heard about the newly formed Square-Enix.

Excited I expected great things from their merger.

Hearing that the company had decided to break with the long standing series tradition and make a direct sequel FFX, that being Final Fantasy X-2, I was over the moon.

Looking back, it was after playing through FFX-2 that I began to have doubts about Square-Enix and their merger.

Now I could explain the very long list of reasons I did not like this game, but I do not wish to re-open old wounds.

Suffice to say, for a game which was a meant to be turning point in the series and very hard to get wrong, Square-Enix got it wrong.

Still, I as well as others were yet to see how far Squre-Enix would change from its Squaresoft roots.

Out was the focus on new unique titles and core game play, in came the focus on milking existing titles, marketing and brand promotion.

The age of Square-Enix RPGS had begun.

Next week Part 2: Love lost

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The Great Gaming Scam: Downloadable Content

The list of offences

Well I had a few ideas for my first article that I wanted to share with all you non-existent followers. But instead of writing it up, I began to play Left4dead 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops, two good games I had become hooked on. Now these are decent games for the Xbox 360, both having a blockbuster feel to them, good game-play even enjoyable online multiplayer aspects… ok that is enough about the positives, these god damn games have priced downloadable content, what the Christ is this?.

I started playing games when I was seven and each game I bought or played, was a fully playable game that has all its content available to the player. This player more than likely paid  60 quid/bucks/Euros to play the title, hoping it was a good game which included loads of content.
So after years upon years of spending money on games and resisting the urge to outright pirate many of them, I feel that I deserve some respect as a paying customer who helped many of these companies be where they are today.
In turn I should benefit from how games as a medium develop, which is the same to all readers and gamers out there who have been paying for and playing games.
Unfortunately it is my utmost displeasure to load up a game and find out that I have to pay for its extra content. This content could be an extra weapon, a player skin or new map, which is not readily available for use by the player unless he purchases it online.
Of the several types of downloadable content that exists, it is the extra map/mission packs I dislike the most.
The Mass effect series, Left4dead series, Halo series and the now notorious Call of Duty series are just some of the offenders.
Now I am aware it can be argued that I do not have to purchase said downloadable content, that I can just play the game and still gain the full experience.
Well I call foul on that right here, as something smells a bit suspect about this whole topic.
Case in point is the Mass Effect series.
A major feature of the Mass Effect games is that, players who have finished previous games in the series to import their character details and actions into the sequels, which in turn directly influences the story.
Aside from the central story line missions,  you can also purchase additional missions to expand on existing game play.
This new content in ME allows the player  to unlock several new characters and story arcs, which resolve old plot points that the main title did not cover.
 So (getting a wiff of cow pooh yet?) if you do not buy the extra content in ME, the core game play and story line in future ME games is affected. This also means that if you did not pay for the extra content, you will not get the full ME gaming experience.
In affect, the developers of the Mass effect series are purposely excluding content from their games, content which directly affects core gameplay, so as to sell it later on as “extra bonus” downloadable content.
We also see examples of this with Map pack for games such as  Call of Duty: Black Ops (here by named CODBLOPS) and the Halo series.  Again this is content which could have easily been included in the finished title, but has been made into downloadable content instead.
Please do not misunderstand me, I do like multiplayer games and I appreciate the chance of expanding my gaming experience with new content. However, I do disagree with to paying up to $10 for a map pack which only has 3 maps (looking at you Halo reach) and was more then likly cut content from the full game itself.
Call me old fashioned, but I preferred my PC gaming days where new maps and custom content was free.
That being said, not all aspects of gaming which suffer from this problem and in fact PC gamers seem to not suffer from this growing downloadable content trend.
Aside from the traditional benefits to gaming on the PC, it would seem that downloadable content for popular games is actually offered for free!
Case in point, expansion missions for Valve’s Left4dead series are offered to the player free of charge.
It also must be said though that traditional PC orientated games companies like Valve have a good track record of trying to keep the gaming community happy.
Valve even claim   that they are forced to charge for Left4dead download content by Xbox 360 creator Microsoft (booo, for shame) and would offer it for free otherwise.
So whats my point?
Well I know many gamers out there do not view downloadable content as a bad thing. I also know there are many good arguments to saying that games offering downloadable content still have enough in-game content to make buying expansions/map packs unessecessary.
Still, as a old school  gamer I feel that if I pay 60+ quid for a quality game, it should have all the content the developer can possibly put in it and I should not be asked to pay more.
I worry about younger and newer gamers who did not grow up in a age where games were stuffed to the brim with content. A time where expansion packages provided more than the bare minimum and maps could be made by anyone and where quality of content was judged by how much content it had.
How could they realise that paying for downloadable content might be a bad thing? That it might only encourage a games publisher to be greedy/lazy and start charging for content which should of been in the game originally?
How could they know what it was like before?
Easy! Just tell them this:
It was better before, don’t fall for this crap and don’t pay for downloadable content after paying $6o as good games tend to include it for free !!

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