Archive | March 2013

Telegraphed Gazette. 30/31st March 2013

Good day folks and welcome to another edition of the Telegraphed Gazette: my name is Vince, bringing you the latest round-up of news from the past two weeks. Coming up in today’s edition of the Gazette; Quebec language minister launches a campaign to remove an exemption for the children of Canadian military personnel stationed in Quebec in regards to education, diversity is the way to go in regards to the sales of video games says one Columnist, I give a personal opinion on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and finally a thorough review of the video game Halo 4.

The News you care about.

National Assembly of Quebec

Cjad.com released an article on the 20th of March which tells the tale of how language minister Diane De Courcy and her push to remove an exemption where military personnel can have their children attend English-language schools. Now the article was a little fuzzy, but in short what the minister was doing was she – in the National Assembly – was defending bill 14 and states that despite the removal of such an exemption, the schools that teach Anglophones will not have to close. Minister De Courcy also side-stepped any direct answers to the question of the exemption in which military personnel stationed in Quebec can have their children attend English-language schools; and the subsequent attempt to remove this exemption. Now what frustrates me is the continuation of the support for Bill 14, after the protests a month ago in Montreal, after the opposition parties denounced it, and after various non-partisan organizations came out publically to voice their concern and or opposition towards it; the Parti Quebecois government continues – and with near fanatical devotion – to support the bill and all its clauses. Minister De Courcy is attempting to force assimilation on all who set foot in Quebec; and this latest move – while somewhat annoying – is not surprising to say the least. Military personnel stationed in Quebec do raise families in the province, and while most of them hail from Quebec, a good portion of the garrisoned troops are from the other provinces. These out-of-province soldiers probably would like to have the freedom to determine what is best for their kids; especially when the rest of the nation speaks English, and the children may not remain in Quebec after graduation.

Conspiracy theory-wise, it seems like the minister is attempting to lock out other provincial citizens, and attempting to lock in Quebecers so that when the time comes and they decide to separate, they will have a small, professional “army” to back them up. The truth is this will not happen, but it certainly is not in the best interest of the citizens to lock them in French-only schools, especially when their families are stationed there on orders from Ottawa, and not by choice. Funny how Quebec’s politics center around language politics, even when their own economy is bad and their infrastructure is crumbling: it is like these essential aspects of society do not matter; rather achieving a monolingual Quebec is the primary concern of the political party in charge at this time. You can find the article in the link below this paragraph.

http://www.cjad.com/CJADLocalNews/entry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10520269

Having a diverse cast of characters is the way to go according to a gamasutra.com writer in his article talking about diversity in video games and how going in such a direction will aid in the sales of such products. Summarizing the article; the writer talks about how the video game market is broad and attracts players of all sorts of backgrounds ranging from racially diverse to age. Now the write describes that it is important to look at these factors in relation to dollars, rather than on political or moral grounds: citing that the only way to go about executing this plan is to carry it out in a proper business fashion. The article than finishes off with four key points that are related to the topic on hand: such as adults are the larger demographic, player populations are racially diverse, Latino/Hispanic players are big buyers, and Women are the new core when it comes to games. Looking at this from a business standpoint; it is brilliant. The market base is quite diverse, and making the character cast diverse will draw them in further and ensure the future of the industry. Portrayal of the character is equally as important as including them, and if done right the industry could see a steady increase of sales over the years. However with that said, most game companies do cater towards a “local” demographic, and what I mean by that is if the games they make are based around the local population in terms of diversity, it will be hard to suddenly switch things around and cater to a market that may not be as interested in digital entertainment as their current player base. Take Gears of War for example: the series has a diverse cast yeah, but it is reflective of modern-day America in regards to population demographics. Now if you were to publish a game in South Korea, their population is quite homogenous, which would translate into something similar to Japanese anime where every character is almost always the same (minor exceptions noted). Now there are cases where this statement is irrelevant – example the Metal Gear Solid series – but even so the fighting style and storytelling is quite representative of Japan’s cultural practices such as slow motion melee combat to exaggerate the movements, or deflecting bullets with swords and bladed weapons, or the fact that people can jump ridiculously high into the sky and land perfectly on their legs without shattering their lower limbs: though this leans a bit more into the culture-side of things rather than ethnic diversity so I will leave it there. Ultimately this is nothing new, but it is nice to see a columnist talk about the need to diversify the cast of a game in order to attract an even larger audience to the gaming scene. The link to this article is in the URL below.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/189361/The_business_case_for_a_diverse_game_character_cast.php

Column: Korea, oh Korea

NKoreans-camo-fail

Right this is a rather interesting few weeks: North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un (or as I like to call him, Fatty McNuggets the Third) really has no issue stirring up the hornet’s nest does he? The man – along with his top brass – have been testing the South Koreans and their allies for a few weeks now, placing their troops on high alert, conducting missile tests, and really pushing the limits of their aggressive rhetoric that – normally – would be an annual tradition of theirs in which after a few weeks of hair-raising tensions, things calm down and the chubby little bugger returns to his hermit nation a “hero.” Does Fatty McNuggets the Third realize that a symmetrical war with the United States and South Korea will decimate their ranks? Not to mention the fact that their equipment is poorly out of date, and their vehicles have little to no fuel to run on? What are they going to strap political prisoners to the APCs and use them as mules to haul the tanks around? The level of their stupidity is really both quite shocking and hilarious at the same time; what I mean by this is the shock factor is that they might actually – this time – roll over the 38th parallel and shell Seoul: South Korea’s capital city and major economic hub. The hilarious side of this is they are threatening one of the world’s greatest military giants: the United States of America. Who in their sound and sober mind, would go about challenging one of the world’s super powers in a conventional war? Does Fatty McNuggets the Third realize just how badly he would lose to such a giant as the US? Let us not forget about their allies as well that will rush to South Korea’s aid: Canada, Australia, NATO, and possibly more should the Koreans need it. Now let us look at the little tosspot’s list of allies; oh wait there are none. Russia backed away a long time ago, and while they will not fight them, they will certainly not support them either. China is also no longer interested in aiding the trigger-happy country as it does not want to damage relations with its largest trading partners. Thus we come to the conclusion that Fatty McNuggets the Third is absolutely insane, and that no matter how much he pushes, we the allied forces will not budge, nor will we be intimidated by their idle threats.

However I cannot help but feel sorry for the South Koreans, who live under a constant threat of war. Living in Seoul must be an interesting scenario: competitive environment, excitement of living in an urban megacity, but also the spectre of war that looms overhead, ready to bring down the hammer when they least expect it. It saddens me to think that such a beautiful country could live next door to such a vile and disgusting hole that seeks and plots for their destruction; but such is the nature of things. Let us hope that this aggressive rhetoric is just smoke and mirrors, and that after a few weeks, the little chubby kid will back down and settle in for another year of starvation and plotting. However if war breaks out, let us end it swiftly so that there are minimal casualties, and bring them to the negotiation table – perhaps with a bit more wiggle space as the South Koreans gain land from the North Koreans which will extend the border a bit further away from Seoul: actually scratch that point. That was a bad idea because we do not know what sort of tunnels the North as dug over the decades, and if we took the land, not only would they be able to launch guerrilla raids against the South, kidnappings of South Koreans would be a major concern for the government in Seoul. Regardless; either no war occurs, or a swift one takes place – in the best scenario anyways; but as we all are familiar with, peace and liberty does not come without a price. The link to the most recent story is located in the URL below.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/03/29/north-korea-south-us-threats.html

Halo 4: shiny

Halo_4_Cover_Art

Last week I was able to dig through Spartan Ops – a weekly downloadable episode series following a Spartan 4 team on the UNSC Infinity: Humanity’s Capital Ship. After the many hours passed, I have finally reached a sort of subconscious goal of thoroughly digging through Halo 4 before passing judgement on the title. Earlier in the month I was able to finish the campaign in a full day, and I must admit the storytelling and graphic were phenomenal. Chief – having awoken from 4 years in cryo-sleep – has returned as the main protagonist in this latest addition to the decade-long series. This time however, it is Chief who has to stay cool under pressure and stress as his companion AI – Cortana – is going through what is known as rampancy: a state where an AI “thinks itself to death.” Now I will not spoil the ending for you folks who have not played it, but it was certainly sad to see a favourite character fall from grace; as the relationship the characters build with the players really pulls at heart strings in some cases, though I am certain 343 will put a spin on the current state of things in the coming years.

Game play-wise; the game runs smoothly, and the guns sound nice. The click of a fresh clip slamming home in the MA5C rifle is much an improvement from the plastic sound of the MA5C in Halo 3. The Designated Marksman Rifle or DMR is back; sporting a fresh look, and in competition with – in some cases – a fan favourite: the Battle Rifle. 343 also added in a Squad Automatic Weapon for the UNSC (finally), and it handles with ease. Covenant weapons are the usual, except the plasma rifle is gone, replaced by a storm rifle; which looks like a rifle as it requires two hands to operate, and features a mini gun-like firing mechanism that rotates as rounds go off. Usual rule ally to Covenant weapons: they get hot after extended periods of sustained fire, so be careful not to hold down the trigger for dear life. Now comes in the new antagonist: the Forerunners and their weapons. These weapons feel like mini transformers as the weapon parts sort of shape shift and float around a central piece, and reloading is interesting for some, strange for others. For example the pistol and the energy rifle feels’ alien, but the shotgun loads like a conventional break-open 12 gauge. First off, the Forerunner guns are energy weapons, so why do they not simply invent a single energy pack that ejects, and thus renders the need to reload individual rounds obsolete? Did they forget to adjust this piece of tech before their demise, or was it that they were too busy focusing on other things like how do they add natural shrubs to a research facility’s floors? Believe me grass is everywhere, along with small plant life and it puzzles me to think that a Forerunner building would not be able to withstand nature; especially given the fact that the planet in which the building resides is in itself, artificial. Forerunner obsession with shrubs: I will never understand their motives entirely.

Right onto other things; characters are better rendered, and the voice acting – at least for the English side of the game – is well done. Now there are no other languages in-game except for Sangehelli, but I watched a French-language play through while studying for a French-language course, and found that the voiceovers for the characters were not as impactful – if I may be allowed of the phrase – as I hoped it would be. Chief in English sounds like Chief, but Chief in French sounds like a Marine who is light-hearted, and not this super soldier who has mild sociopathic tendencies. Ultimately what I am trying to say is that it feels strange, but localization does not normally carry over with it the original voice actor as they may not speak more than one language, so I will speak of this no more. Coming back to character development, the game does an excellent job in presenting to the fan unique and emotional characters all of whom feel believable. Captain Del Rio who commands the Infinity in the Campaign is this uneasy and nervous fellow, in contrast to Commander Lasky, Infinity’s First Officer who is calm and collect. 343 did a live action series to explain Lasky’s beginning and all I can say is this without spoiling anything: the man has really come a long way. Overall I did enjoy the game, and it was certainly worth the time and money; though I played it with a friend at a friend’s place so technically the money part of that statement is not applicable to me, but you readers know what I mean by that statement. Yes Halo 4 is worth the money, and yes it will provide you with hours of entertainment. Spartan Ops however can get repetitive as the first five episodes recycle the same maps over and over again, with similar objectives: you run to one location, press a couple of buttons, hold off alien hordes, and run to another location to press more buttons, hold off more alien hordes, and then are extracted. After 25 chapters (5 chapters per episode, and I got to about episode 5) you start to get tired of the ordeal. I would recommend you do it with a friend either via Xbox live, or couch co-op, and with some food and liquor as it will take up your afternoon and early evening to get through 5 episodes. Aside from that, I have no complaints related to Spartan Ops: the animation cutscenes are amazing, and the story itself serves as an excellent “dessert” to the main course that was Halo 4. The game is worth checking out, but be ready for a ton of downloads that are gigabytes in size.

Well that about wraps it up for this weeks’ edition of the Telegraphed Gazette. Tune in again on the 13th of April for another round up of news and various topics from around the gaming world, and from Quebec as well: though I am tempted to go national on that subject but that is a different story for another day. Until then my dear readers; my name has been Vince, and I will see you next time.

Telegraphed Gazette: Column 17 March 2013

Greetings readers,

Well this is somewhat awkward; another week goes by and nothing interesting to report on. The only big news maker I have managed to get my hands on was the selection of a new pope by the Vatican earlier in the week: March 13th to be precise. Many people are heralding this as a new era for the Catholic Church; and though I am not a religious person, I have my doubts. The institution itself is quite traditional in the sense that it is not easily modified to meet the needs of a modern-day society. While the Commonwealth Monarchy, and various other European institutions have been able to adapt to the changing face of the world, the Catholic Church – like all other religions – will take quite a bit of time to adjust to the changes and challenges of the 21st century. With that said however, I am optimistic: after all, the new pope elected is the first of his kind, with him being from South America, and hailing from a more simplistic role rather than a politically powerful one. This I can respect, and I am hopeful that over time the church will evolve to be a more “modern” institution; however my definition of modern may not be shared by all, so I will leave the topic here.

warhammer-40k-space-marines-tau-XV25-tyranid-Space-Marines-Tau-Tyranids-Battle

Now onto some interesting news; I have finally been made aware of the 6th edition rules for the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, Warhammer 40,000 or 40k for short; is a tabletop miniatures war game centered on various different armies which you collect and do battle against other players in casual or competitive game play. Now the game is currently in its 6th edition – hence the 6th edition rulebook – yet I have not been informed of one of the most important (at least in my opinion) elements added into the game with the 6th edition: allies. Now prior to the 6th edition – back when I was still playing – the rules did not allow armies from various races/factions to ally with one another: the exception being Imperial Armies like Imperial Guard, Space Marines, Grey Knights, and Witch Hunters. Now there are exceptions to this new addition as Tyranids are unable to ally with anyone; however in general, most armies can ally with one another, though they may differ in their alliance type. Players like myself from back in the day (yes I am that old now) who desired to see a Guard-Marine mix, can now officially make that happen with their own forces. What the allies system does is it allows an individual player – I should have clarified this to begin with – to collect an army comprising of two races/factions. Minimum requirements will exist, but generally the mixture is now possible. What a clever sales tactic by the company who makes these miniatures; Games Workshop: insert rules whereby players who before wanted to collect various units from different armies and field them, can now do so without breaking any of the official rules for either casual play, or tournament matches. My dear readers, this means that the blog might soon be in competition for my spare time as I go forth and reactivate my Imperial Guard army from the mothball force, and begin collecting various bits of other forces to forge this new allied contingent.

This was only a joke my readers; the hobby itself is quite expensive overtime, and since the closure of the nearby hobby shop, it will be difficult for me to find a gaming club close enough for me to consider taking up this hobby again. While the miniatures themselves were an excellent form of creativity; with the painting and assembly required, I doubt I will be able to find the time or place to play the game. Perhaps a few small units to add into my existing army might take a bit of time away, but in all honesty it will not interrupt my writing schedule: at least not as bad as a lack of news like what has been happening all this week. Stated in a previous edition, I do not do game release news as the internet is saturated with such media: I would far rather wait for industry news to come out, than to go about writing on newly released titles for the sake of publishing. Now if the game is good and I personally have played it, I will respectively evaluate the title. However for the time being, I will not engage in such practices.

Anyways readers, as per the usual routine there will be new posts this coming week as I am on a once every two-week schedule when it comes to blog work; The Telegraphed Gazette in particular. Updates and miscellaneous posts might pop up, but in general do not expect a gazette for next week. Thank you all for reading; this has been Vince, and I will see you next time.

Update. 10 March 2013

Greetings readers,

Most of you are wondering: “what in blazes is Vince doing, and where is this week’s edition of the gazette?” Well my dear readers, allow me to answer the question you have put forward: I have exhausted the topics, and there was also a lack of interesting news articles this week. News has been slow, and I have been contemplating taking a bit of time off from the gazette ie: reduce the publishing to just twice a month; bi-weekly by the looks of things. Over the past couple of weeks I have felt exhausted and overwhelmed, what with the course work, and the publishing schedule. Now there are a few pieces I have completed which I will post at a later date, but for now it feels like I want to slow down with the blog, and take a bit of time during the bi-weekly process to really examine where I want to take the Telegraphed Gazette, and what the next objective will become. I apologize to those readers who have followed this blog loyally: you have been my most humble and loyal readers, and I truly thank you for your continued support. Now I will not let you down with a sudden halt of activities, rather I just want to slow down for now, until my course work is complete, or when the news picks up. Beginning of the year rarely yields anything worth writing on, and as you are all aware, the PQ government is doing its usual song and dance when it comes to power and politics.

Right, I certainly hope that response suffices as a reply to the question of a change in schedule, and where this blog is heading (though some of you may have noticed the burnout when the schedule starting to spill over into Sunday). Once again, thank you for your continued support, and remember, bi-weekly; which means that starting next week, I will publish, then take a week off, then publish, then take a week off etc. Truthfully speaking then it should be classified as once every two weeks, though in all honesty I am confident you get the picture. Now there will be pieces popping up every now and then that are really personal pieces which I have put together for your reading pleasure: I hope you like them. Now my dear readers, it is time for me to part and think on the blog and its direction in the future; I hope you will continue with me on this journey as we explore games industry news, as well as news from Quebec. The name has been Vince, and I will see you next time.

Telegraphed Gazette. 2/3 March 2013

Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to another edition of the Telegraphed Gazette: my name is Vince, bringing you the latest round-up of news and comments from the games industry, and from Quebec, as well as a few select stories. Coming up in today’s edition: Mythics’ free-to-play game is closing down, two parents are refused a refund by apple after their son spends a little too much on a free iPad game, a Montreal coffee shop is punished by the OQLF for having an extra ‘F’ in their name, and Bishops University faces steep budget cutbacks.

The free-to-play game Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes is closing down due to financial issues. The article on Gamasutra.com reports that the producer, James Casey, states that the game will close down as the experiment of the free to play title was a success, but was unable to present financially sustainable goals in the long run. Casey also states that the game was a way for the developers to test their server technology, and that overall there was a huge amount of lessons learned from this experiment that he and his studio undertook. Now this situation is of no surprise to me for a few reasons: the game itself was lackluster in that it was unable to provide any meaningful game play aside from Arena-style matches that centered only on a handful of maps, the character design was static and offered no options of customization, and finally there was already a Warhammer Online game out on the market for those who were part of the diehard fan base. What Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes did was it essentially extracted the arena matches from Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and just turned it into its’ own game. Now I am aware that there is a market out there for those wishing to play just arena-style matches, but at least those games offer customization options as well as unique encounters along the way. Wrath of Heroes simply did not have the means to become an interesting free-to-play game, and with the free-to-play market swarming with top quality games, Wrath of Heroes should – in all respects – go to an early grave so the company Mythic can focus on their actual MMORPG – Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning – rather than try to monetize from a lackluster title. The link to the full article is in the address below.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/187480/Mythics_first_freetoplay_game_is_closing_down.php#.UTA8bldWJJM

A young boy and his parents are refused a full refund from Apple after the boy racks up a £1700 bill while playing a free to play game on his parents’ iPad. Now an update was placed on the article from Eurogamer.net in which Apple had finally agreed to refund the parents the full amount that their son spent. Now the story is one I have heard of before; kid plays a free-to-play game, and racks up a large bill because he or she wants to get a few weapons or power upgrades. Now what upsets me is parents STILL do not understand how these devices work, and THEY are the ones using it for professional duties! Yes a game is free-to-play, but parents should – if the device is capable of making transactions – monitor the game and just read up on it through the internet. Come on people, computers can make financial transactions, and when a child goes onto these devices, they are unaware of some of the items in-game that can only be acquired via real world money, rather than in-game currency. The boy in the article looked to be no more than six to eight years of age: children on devices that can conduct financial transactions need to be monitored. Yes the kid stated that the item was “free,” but if YOUR son or daughter runs up to you with a diamond necklace and says it was free, would you believe them? Honestly people, you do not have to become a fascist dictator to keep an eye on your kids once in a while to ensure that they are not making financial transactions without knowing what it is in reality. No, this does not mean you have to restrict them from the use of technology period – as it will handicap them in the future – rather just do what a responsible parent would do and actually watch what they are doing. When they get older – say 13 to 14 years of age – then it is time to start considering that they are in a position to understand right from wrong. I am tempted to say that some people should not be parents, but this world is not perfect, and neither is the parents themselves: even those who try their best may end up doing more harm than good in the end. Parenting and the complexities of modern-day life ladies and gentlemen, the link to the article is below this paragraph.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-02-28-parents-refused-refund-by-apple-after-son-spends-1700-on-free-ipad-game

Things could not get any crazier in the city of Montreal as the language laws enforcement department, the Office Quebecois de la langue francaise, has decided to punish a coffee shop in the Mile End of Montreal for having an extra “f” in cafe. The owner of the shop was previously fined for signage infractions, but now the OQLF has decided that the extra ‘F’ in the word cafe is unacceptable and has moved in to place strikes on the owner of the establishment. Now “Caffe” is spelt with two letter “F”s as the owner wanted to show off the coffee shop’s Italian roots, but apparently the OQLF finds this offensive and only wants French signage to be on display all over Montreal. The situation is rather fascinating as only a week ago the OQLF has attacked an Italian restaurant for having the word “pasta” on its’ menu. It would appear that the OQLF has started to go beyond its’ purpose and is going about striking at businesses for the smallest of details; all of which paints a very negative picture of the OQLF. Originally the OQLF was established to ensure that Quebecers could get services in French when they asked for it, but over the years it seems that the department has begun to take more draconian steps towards exterminating other languages from Quebec. There is not much else to day, apart from how disgusted I am regarding how the OQLF conduct themselves. Certainly they have other more important matters to attend to than simply poking at little cultural signage: perhaps a reduction in their office would be in order? It would seem that the 3.4 million dollar – and I am working off my memory so bear with me – increase in their budget was misallocated as they seem to have run out of things to do over there. Heavy-handed tactics is not the answer, and will only result in businesses leaving Quebec, further reducing its’ economic growth down to nothing. Now I will stop short of asking for the disbandment of the OQLF, as I fully understand the reasoning behind their inception; but overall I wish they would stop going about poking at very minor details like a single letter, or a word used in another language. Anyways, the links to the story as well as related articles are located in the addresses below.

http://www.cjad.com/CJADLocalNews/entry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10511492

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2013/03/01/montreal-french-italian-english-caffe-gamba.html

The English-language University in Sherbrooke, Eastern Townships known as Bishops University is facing some tough times ahead according to the newspaper the Sherbrooke Record. The university – along with the other Quebec universities – faces 250 million dollars in cuts over the next two years: a situation that can be best summed up as more of: “a curse than a blessing” (Sherbrooke Record, 2013). The rest of the story you can pretty much guess: obvious signs of the cuts, the negotiations continue, and people are running about performing damage control duties. This song and dance is really nothing new, given the Parti Quebecois and their little agenda, along with a complete mismanagement of financial assets up over there in the National Assembly. What causes me the most pain is seeing these quality schools struggle to get by; a move that is not to be praised as students who are talented and who possess the drive to learn are denied this opportunity all due to either a lack of space with budget cuts, or simply the fact that their program has been axed from the list of programs available in order to cut costs. Remember that professors are not cheap to hire, and a university with all its assets and functions is not easily maintained on just a few bucks: this price tag is even higher for research institutions who also need money to conduct their research both at the graduate level as well as for individual professors wishing to add another project to their portfolio. There is just nothing else to say that most of you have not already heard from my previous editions: it is very sad to see this happen and I truly wish them all the best as they fight to survive through these dark days. The link to the story is located in the address below.

http://www.sherbrookerecord.com/content/more-cutbacks-bu-wake-summit

That concludes this week’s edition of the Telegraphed Gazette. Apologies for this rather late edition: proofreading was not complete, and I am a sticker for quality, so I had to hold it back until every inch was at least presentable. Tune in next week for another round up of news and comments. My name has been Vince, and I will see you next time.