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CURRENTS
Issue #77
April 15 2008
Distant Laughter
Front Page

Greetings friends, it has been too long. But let us not dwell on the past, but rather look towards the future; that is, let us look towards the seventy-seventh edition of RPGamer's Currents Column, brought to you by yours truly, Oliver "Metaridley" Motok.

Before we begin, I have an announcement to make. You see, there was a time when I, Oliver Motok, swore that I would never play an MMORPG under any circumstances, ever. The thought of monthly fees made me gag. I found the concept of relying on others to play the game to be undesirable. Finally, the prospect of an MMO entirely taking over my gaming habits, so that I played nothing else, frightened me. For so very long I was told "Play WoW! Play FFXI! Play them both at once!" And for so very long, I resisted.

If you haven't guessed already, my resistance has all but crumbled. Shawn Cooper, better known as Lusipurr, generously sent me his copy of the Vana'Diel collection for the Xbox 360, along with the Wings of the Goddess expansion. I ended up having to buy another copy of WotG for purposes of obtaining a registration code, but it was a negligible fee. I am now a resident of Vana'Diel, on the Alexander server. My name is Barahir and I am a male Elvaan Monk.

Final Fantasy XI is a very good game. I played about twelve hours over the weekend, and got my monk to level 6. I also ran through the first mission, with the assistance of Lusipurr and Firemyst. I can't imagine running through such low-level material is much fun for them, but in any case, I was happy to have their assistance, and it would have taken forever before I could've done it on my own. Anyways, I am very much enjoying the game, and I can hardly wait to uncover and explore all that this world of Vana'Diel has to offer.

In other gaming news, I am slowly working on Crisis Core, which I am also greatly enjoying. Somehow I just haven't been able to devote much time to it, which I find regrettable. Final Fantasy VII, as you may know, is my favorite RPG of all time, and the chance to see some of the history leading up to it is a very gratifying experience. After the abomination that was Dirge of Cerberus, I am quite pleased with how Crisis Core turned out. The story is very well done, Zack is strangely likeable in spite of his "extreme" demeanor, and the voice acting is quite fine. The gameplay could use some work; the battle system is rather pitifully shallow, and the game loads you down with copious amounts of materia and equipment that really serve no purpose. The materia system in Crisis Core is very stripped-down when compared to the original Final Fantasy VII, and, in all honesty, serves almost no purpose. It's almost as if they threw it in there to please VII fans. Disappointing, as materia was integral to one's survival in the original game.

Now, let's dive into the news for this week! ONWARD!

N'Gai Croal of Newsweek Frowns on Resident Evil 5 Trailer
Pssh. We all know that black people are immune to zombification, come on.
Title

I am unsure how many Resident Evil fans we have among our readership. For my part, I've never played a single one of them. I have been told on multiple occasions that Resident Evil 4 is divine, and that I am a fool not to play it. In spite of this, I cannot bring myself to buy the game. For one, I hate shooters. Two, I'm not a fan of zombies. I'm sure the game is spectacular in its own right, but I have my doubts as to whether I would enjoy it. This being the case, I'm not necessarily looking forward to the release of Resident Evil 5, although I will be interested to see if it matches the level of critical acclaim that its predecessor obtained. And, furthermore, the developing controversy around the game may well end up exploding and creating some juicy Currents stories.

Perhaps you remember the game's official trailer that first appeared at E3 2007, and the controversy that surrounded it. As you would expect from a Resident Evil trailer, it depicted twisted, nasty, flesh-eating Zombies being blown away by a swashbuckling hero laden down with more firepower than your average supersoldier. All good, right? Well, except that, in this particular trailer, the setting seemed to be somewhere in Africas. Consequently, all the zombies were Africans. (Go figure.) Africans, as we all should know, are black. What's offensive about this picture? Well, nothing so far, but here's the kicker: the dude blasting away all these African zombies was, in fact, white. A white Caucasian male. (Chris Redmond is his name, I believe.) So, as we have the unfortunate tendency to do in America, many people immediately hopped aboard the bandwagon of controversy and declared that the trailer was an example of racist imagery.

It's been a while since the trailer was debuted, but it's being spoken of again. Specifically, Newsweek's videogame writer N'Gai Croal has voiced his opinions on it. "Wow, clearly no one black worked on this game" was his first reaction to the trailer, he said in an interview with MTV Multiplayer. He also spoke of how some people simply couldn't see the racist aspect: "What was not funny, but sort of interesting, was that there were so many gamers who could not at all see it. Like literally couldnít see it. So how could you have a conversation with people who donít understand what youíre talking about and think that youíre sort of seeing race where nothing exists?"

He's quite right actually, there are many of us who really can't read race into that trailer, and it isn't because we have our heads in the sand or because we're insensitive. I don't have a racist bone in my body, folks; the issue of white and black honestly does not come to my mind unless it is shoved in my face, as is being done here. If not for those who immediately flipped out and shouted "racist," the idea that a white man shooting black zombies in a freaking horror game campfest somehow belies racism would not have crossed my mind. In my opinion, those of us who don't find this imagery to be racist, to me have moved on, beyond the issues of race that once plagued us. Those who are hypersensitive to such things have obviously failed to move beyond the dusty, irrelevant concept of white vs. black.

That said, N'Gai's comments weren't off-the-scale ridiculous; in fact, they were fairly well thought out and articulated. And, like Chris said in the latest episode of RPGcast, he's not some ignorant talking head on Fox News speaking about games he's never played. So I respect N'Gai, but I thoroughly disagree with him. "...The point is not that Capcom can't or shouldn't make a zombie game set in what appears to be an impoverished country where the majority of residents are black," he said. "But what I am saying is that if I was Capcom, I wouldn't have suggested to put out that trailer. I would have said, 'You know what, this has tremendous capacity for being misunderstood, and we want to signal that this is not what you might think it is' ó and they didnít do that." No, they didn't and nor should they. Capcom has not failed here. We, in our inability to let controversies of the past remain in the past, have failed. We, being all too eager to resurrect the controversies of whites and blacks simply upon seeing a videogame trailer, have failed. Oh, and for the record, (and as noted by Mikel in the aforementioned RPGcast) Capcom is located in Japan. Why the hell should we expect the Japanese to be sensitive to our 200 year-old social issues? Just a thought.

Hitman to be Blamed in Beheading Trial
There's actually a hidden mod where you can totally behead people with hacksaws
Title

I am loathe to report yet another story of this nature. To give a quick summary, yet another screw-up committed a crime, and his attorneys will once again claim that videogames (Eidos Interactive's Hitman, in this case) made him do it. Fairly standard stuff, right?

What struck me in this case was how extremely brutal the crime was. Jean Pierre Orlewicz, 17 at the time, beheaded 26 year-old Daniel Sorenson with a hacksaw. I shall not give any further details, nor shall I elaborate on the disturbing amount of premeditation that the man obviously engaged in. If you really want to read about it, go here, this is a slightly less graphic version of the story.

In a CNN video report, Jean Caesarez, who is covering the trial, revealed that many testimonies had been given in which it was stated that Orlewicz had expressed his desire to "commit a crime... and not get caught." (Such noble aspirations.) From the video:

How did the defense deal with that? They dealt with it with a video game called Hitman that he used to watch, and it was a video game where you got impressions that you would kill somebody, hit them from their back side where they were not aware that they were being killed. And, so the defense is probably going to focus on that there was not a true intent to commit a crime, just a fixation with this video game.

You know, I've never played Hitman, but I know that it isn't a game where you behead people. It's a stealth-action shooter, for crying out loud; you don't wield hacksaws. And you certainly don't trap people in your garage in order to saw their heads off. My point is, if they're going to take the videogame angle, can't they at least pick a title in which the gameplay bears some resemblance to the crime in question? Good grief.

The fact that there are attorneys defending this man seems wrong enough. (Though he has that right, of course.) The fact that they are going to blame a videogame is even worse. To so arbitrarily place the blame on a piece of electronic media, particularly one that bears almost no resemblance to the crime committed, serves only to make light of this horrible tragedy. It makes light of this man's despicable actions. It makes light of those who lost a friend of family member due to this man's despicable actions. Why is our society so set on finding new and various ways to excuse crimes and wrongdoings? And for goodness' sake, why have videogames become the universal, multi-purpose scapegoat for when anyone under the age of 35 commits a crime?

...

Can you hear it?

It's him...

He's... laughing.

Jack Thompson.

Sources: GamePolitics
CryEnine 2 for 360, PS3 Looks Great, PS3 Version Most Difficult
Yes, but... will we see a Crysis port? That IS the question, you see
Title

Crysis is one of those games that makes me wish I had a high-powered gaming PC. Additionally, it is one of those games that make me wish I had the ability to enjoy a good shooter. However, I possess neither, so I doubt I shall ever be able to see Crysis run in all its much-touted graphical glory. However, it's possible that I may someday be able to play a game with the notorious CryEngine 2 on my PS3 or Xbox 360. Crytek is currently hard at work porting their coveted engine onto the 360 and PS3, and IGN's Jason Ocampo (formerly GameSpot's Jason Ocampo, oh ho ho) recently interviewed Harald Seeley, Crytek's Engine Business Manager, about this very project.

When asked about the general performance of the CryEngine 2 on the home consoles, Seeley responded in the positive. According to him, when it's all said and done, games should look as if they're "running at high settings, or nearly high settings, on a PC." He went on to say that the most challenging aspect of porting the engine had to do with memory limitations. "Actually, we found it as much or more challenging to address the memory limitations of the consoles when converting our current AI system, as we did while converting our rendering engine or physics system, which was not something you might have expected at the start." Hm... I hope they were able to sort it out. One thing I do know about the shooter genre is that crappy AI can be a game-destroying thing.

Of particular interest to me was when Seeley touched on the PS3 version of the CryEngine. "...there is no doubt that porting our engine to the PlayStation 3 is the more challenging of our two ongoing conversion projects, but that works to our advantage in the end. We feel certain we have the ability to get the most that is possible out of that platform, and therefore PS3 games which run on our engine in the future will definitely stand significantly apart from other games that don't." Several times before, we've heard developers bemoan the difficulty of creating games for the PlayStation 3. For whatever reasons, the system is apparently some alien labyrinth that developers must navigate in order to get anything published. If I'm not mistaken, this was most recently noted by Capcom's Hiroyuki Kobayashi, producer of the recently released Devil May Cry 4. According to him, the 360 is similar in design to a PC, but he described the PS3's CPU and design as "unique," and claimed that only after "repeated meetings with Sony" were they able to program the PS3 version of the game. My point is, we've heard plenty of times that the PS3 is a bitch to develop for. The fact that it's also difficult to port a game engine onto the system is amusing, although I suppose the two projects practically go hand-in-hand. /end random tangent

When asked about a possible Wii version of the CryEngine, Seeley pretty much discredited the idea entirely. (Big surprise). "We haven't seen a great deal of demand for third party engines for the Wii, the limited complexity of games which can be developed for that console also limits the need for the kind of sophisticated tools and middleware which we are known for. So I doubt we will be providing any engine technology for that console in the near term." Well, Square Enix did say that a "partial" version of their newly-christened Crystal Tools engine could run on the Wii. Of course, that hasn't translated to any games as of yet. I'm pretty sure that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers isn't running on Crystal Tools.

Sources: IGN
RUMOR: New DS at E3 2008?
Please... my wallet can take no more this generation
Title

If there's any one thing we know about Nintendo, it's that they love to retool and redesign their portables. All you have to do is look at the three GBA designs: the original model, the SP, and the utterly unneeded Micro. (Seriously, what WERE they thinking?) As we all know, the DS has already undergone an obligatory redesign, and has become the far superior DS lite. However, come this June, (that's next month!) it will have been two entire years without a DS redesign. I can imagine that Nintendo is getting antsy at this point.

Well, considering how well the DS Lite is selling, it's difficult to imagine that Nintendo would have any serious incentive to re-tool the handheld yet again. However, according to Bloomberg Japan, the president of Enterbrain, (publisher of Famitsu magazine) Hirokazu Hamamura, believes it's possible that Nintendo will unveil a new DS at 2008's E3 Media & Business Summit. (I hate that name. To me it shall always be the E3 convention, I'm sorry.) Nintendo, of course, has made no announcements to this effect, and Hamamura didn't cite any sources, he just said that he believed it was possible. However, his predictions go hand-in-hand with those of Pacific Crest Securities analyst, Evan Wilson back in November of 2007. If you recall, Wilson claimed that his "contacts indicated" that a DS redesign had already been completed. He even gave a few specifics about the new design: "It is thinner (it has no GBA port), has on-board storage, and larger screens." However, he claimed that Nintendo would not release a redesign until sales in all three major regions began to wane - which, of course, has not happened. I wonder if it ever will.

So will there be a DS redesign in the future? Like I said, it's hard to see what Nintendo's motivation for such a move would be. I think they likely will, but not until the DS is in its twilight years. Similar to the GameBoy Micro, they may release a final redesign in order to stir up a last hurrah for the system before it becomes obsolete. If they do, hopefully it won't suck like the GameBoy Micro did. And in any case, I think the DS's twilight years are a loooong way off.

Sources: GameSpot
GameRevolver Explains a Certain PS3 Error Code
As long as there are no Red Rings involved
Title

If there's any one thing we can credit Sony for over Microsoft this generation, it's that the PS3 has proven itself far more reliable than the 360 has ever been in terms of hardware stability. Reports of Red Rings, disc read errors, and exploding suburban houses plague the 360 on a regular basis, while reports of PS3 hardware failures are few, if they exist at all.

That said, a certain PS3 error does seem to exist, and a recent article on GameRevolver details it. Reportedly, it usually occurs right out of the box, or within the first month. However, it has been known to strike PS3's after a year of use. When turned on, a corrupted PS3 displays "An error occurred during the start operation. 80010514." When contacted, Sony claimed that a simple reboot and restoration of factory settings would remedy the problem. However, this apparently isn't so. The problem is reportedly due to two possible factors. One, a damaged sector of the PS3's hard drive, or two, a corrupted firmware installation. It is said that this issue generally does not inhibit DVD or Blu-ray playback, only that of games. Amusingly enough, when contacted for comment on this issue by GameSpot UK, Sony's European service department didn't even know what they were talking about. "I've spoken to our customer-services department, and they aren't aware of this issue with the PS3." A spokesperson said. I suppose they could be lying, of course, but since there are only four people in Europe, it's possible there are no PS3s over there in the first place. (That's what Lusipurr says at least; and he seems a learned fellow. Wouldn't you say?)

Interesting tidbit, but this is probably an extreme rarity, so don't go flipping out over it. Take note of the fact that, in either case, this error has nothing to do with the PS3's hardware. The PS3 really is a sturdy piece of hardware, and the fact that such a powerful machine can run so smoothly is no mean feat. Oh, and the fact that it can run QUIETLY is yet another reason that it can be commended. I swear, the 360 could frighten small children.

Castlevania: Order of the Ecclesia Rated by the ESRB
Castlevana IS popular... right?
Title

I am not a fan of Castlevania. Shameful, I know, but it's the truth. Now, that said, I've only played one of them, and that would be Symphony of the Night. I've heard that SotN is the best game among the esteemed series, and the fact that I found it so unenjoyable does not encourage me to try out others. However, my brother implores me to try out the two DS titles, which he claims are divine. I have not taken his advice thus far, and I doubt that I ever will.

Despite my distaste for the series, I am more than happy to bring this little tidbit to your attention. It's not an official announcement, you see, or else it would likely be on our index. Last month, Konami patented and trademarked the title "Castlevania: Order of the Ecclesia." No official announcement of any kind was made. Now, just recently, a rating for the game has appeared on the ESRB's official website. (For those interested, it is rated "T" for Blood and Fantasy Violence.) Oh, and as you likely expected, it's for the Nintendo DS. If it turns out to be real (and all indications are to the affirmative) it will be the third to appear on Nintendo's handheld, following Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin.

Ummm... I really don't understand why Konami is trying to keep this secret. Or maybe they're just too lazy to make a freaking press announcement. In any case, this entire situation is somewhat absurd. Here I was thinking Castlevania is a popular series; you'd think they'd announce the coming of a new entry well in advance. Ah well. In any case, I can imagine this is good news for all the many Castlevania fans out there, and hopefully you'll be given some more concrete and detailed information in the near future. And hopefully I'll be able to post this column before the official announcement is made, and subsequently place on RPGamer's index.

Sources: GameSpot
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
Now, the question is: when will they get Smash Bros?
  • The Wii Finally Comes to Korea
    Nearly 18 months after the fact, our fellow Korean gamers will be able to experience the phenomenon that is the Nintendo Wii. The Wii will finally launch in Korea on April 26, for 222,000 won, roughly the equivalent of USD $225. Wii Sports will launch with it, but it will be packaged and sold separately. Other launch titles include Capcom's Zach and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, Super Swing Golf, and four more that are currently unannounced.

  • PlayStation Store Gets a Makeover
    I enjoy Sony's PlayStation Store. Sure, it was a monstrous, web-based thing, but it had some good content. And now I can't even complain about the format, because as of today, the new, revamped PlayStation Store has been released with version update 2.30. Having loaded it up and browsed it myself, I can tell you firsthand that it is a substantial improvement. It's a very simple, streamlined design intended to quickly and smoothly get you to the content you want to view. The loading times have been cut down significantly, and it just looks more attractive overall. Go check it out if you have a PS3. Oh, and just as an aside, firmware update 2.30 also adds support for DTS-HD Master Audio support for Blu-ray movies, which I'm sure is enough to make some of you audiophiles squee.
Sources: 1UP | Kotaku

The semester is winding down, and things are heating up. God, I can't wait for it all to be over. I recognize the importance of my academic endeavors, but that doesn't make me enjoy them any more. I need a break, badly. Of course, I'll likely be working 50-55 hours a week when the summer begins, so it's not like I'll be much less busy. But the good thing about work is that it stays at work; it doesn't invade the home like college does. So, when I'm at home, I'll be able to do one of two things: write Currents, and play FFXI videogames!

'Till next time, my friends!

Oliver Motok (Email Me!)

 

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