Friday, 17 September 2010

Collector's Edition and Competition: Gameplanet Newspost

For those of you don't know, Mighty Ape used to be called the Gameplanet store before a split into two companies. I believe Gameplanet is now solely a news site and Mighty Ape is a online store. Today Gameplanet posted a news article about Mighty Ape feeling frustrated about being unable to meet demand due to larger companies holding exclusive rights to the Star Wars Force Unleashed Collector's Edition.

Gameplanet failed to mention that Simon Barton CEO of Mighty Ape is a shareholder in Gameplanet . This combined with the fact that Mighty Ape used to called Gameplanet store as well makes it seem extremely hard not to see it anything but a biased report.

To be fair it's not a big deal really. Its just a straight repost of the comments made by Mighty Ape but its good journalistic integrity to specify any and all possibility particular as the companies were at one point strongly intertwined.

This also brings me to an interesting debate is Mighty Ape's claim of competition good? In this case yes it definitely is and I agree that consumers will ultimately lose out.

In the US gaming industry however what has happened is that each retailer/publisher gets its own exclusive item(s) in their collector's edition. E.g. Gamestop gets an extra map, Steam gets 2 new character skins etc. is this giving consumers choice or ultimately making them suffer? In my opinion, the competition has caused rather silly proliferation of gimmicks in the end rather than giving consumers true choice. Who but the most fanatical fan will purchase all the collector's editions?

Game companies should be creating truly value added products rather than trying to create all these 'micro-differences'. Ultimately, customers will feel better knowing they bought the definitive "Ultimate edition" rather than the Collector's Edition of retailer XYZ. I completely understand why retailers want to create point of differences but surely there's a better way of doing it?

Update on this: Gameplanet has now posted up some clarification on their relationship. Anyway good to know that tweeting works!

They're clarifications are below:
Some comments on this story have expressed concerns about Gameplanet's relationship with Mighty Ape and a possible conflict of interest in our reporting. Gameplanet reported this story because we believe that it is local gaming news which is highly relevant to our readership. Any opinions quoted in the story are entirely those of the parties involved. Gameplanet sought comment from Sony representatives but they failed to respond before publication.

While Gameplanet and Mighty Ape have a long history of working together (Mighty Ape formerly used the Gameplanet brand under license, being known as "Gameplanet Store" until 2008), the two have always been separate companies and are operated independently with different ownership and management. Full disclosure: Mighty Ape CEO Simon Barton is a shareholder in Gameplanet.

Tales of Monkey Island: Only US$4.95 until Monday

A great deal for those adventure lovers, to celebrate the 'Talk like a pirate' day Tales of Monkey Island is now going for only 4.95 US. Check it out here! This weekend only!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People Series

Just finished all five episodes of Strong Bad and thought I would share what I thought of them. This is the second Telltale series I've played, the first being Sam & Max Season 1 which I also finished.

Strongbad's Free Episode
Just something worth mentioning, I've never spent any amount of time with Homestar Runner so I had no understanding of who all the characters were except for Strongbad who I knew as the main character. My first game was Episode 4 Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective which was made free for a limited time. Unfortunately this epiode featured Strongbad making a spy movie further confusing me as to who the characters really were as they sometimes referred to themselves as the characters in the movie and sometimes as themselves. I've not watched spy movies either so a great number of jokes and references were not clear to me.

I don't think Episode 4 was a good introduction to the world or characters as a result and I think its something they should have thought of before using as a promotional episode to entice potential buyers to purchase the game. It made me somewhat reluctant to purchase the series even when presented at US$5 at the recent special.

My second episode however was Episode 5: 8 Bit is Enough which was made free for one day only and that really saved my opinion of Strongbad particularly as I'm a retro gamer and really understood lots of references being made. It remains my favourite episode out of the entire season.

Mini-game with every game - Each game also had a simple retro style game which is funny.
Fairly clever and funny puzzles - Most of the puzzles are your usual quite interesting and I personally found the to be pitched at the right level.

Doesn't take advantage of the PC format to deliver better art direction - This is clearly a design choice but comparing this to Sam & Max's art direction, Strong Bad's creators seem content to simply create and realise their flash drawings in 3D. There is definitely a certain minimalistic charm to it but I feel they could have aimed higher or otherwise included more content in the game to make up for that. Take for example, Episode 3's map and film narrations everytime you conquered another 'land' or Episode 5's 8 bit environments patterned after various period in computer gaming history. more of these additional parodies could have made the game feel more exciting especially as Strong Bad normally walks around the exact same major areas in each episode. The main areas being his neighbourhood which unfortunately mimics the American suburban landscape.
Some secrets and clothes are time locked and you can only get them at certain times forcing you to replay the entire episode to get them - I don't think this is a good way of increasing replayability and it's even more annoying as some of these secrets require you to perform actions such as using two completely unrelated items together.
Game script needs even more optional jokes and funny sayings similar to Time Gentlemen Please! by Zombie Cow where nearly single combination of items will elicit some of clever response by the characters.
Requiring online verification could pose a problem for those without internet connections.

Overall, its a solid entrance into the adventure game market and if you're already a fan of Strongbad and the Homestar Runner series by all means buy it. The Strong Bad games are actually very well done and logical and I've actually had a great deal of fun. It originally retailed at $US30 Short length of each episode makes me feel that US$30 isn't enough. I bought it at at US$5 special and it was certainly worth the laughs but I don't think you should be paying more than say US$15 for the entire season.