Weekend Short-Takes: 4/12/13

Ubisoft's uPlay platform hacked, offering access to unreleased games‏

Simon Wu:

Another day, another service breach. Long time readers will recall that a few months ago, Ubisoft took the bold step of removing all DRM from their games, in an attempt to make it more palatable to actually buy the game and not jump through hoops. And herein lies the latent metaphor I’m about to use: these big companies are giant merchant convoys in WWII, slow and lumbering along, and the hackers are fighter squadrons that fly out and attack them; the companies/ships are only ever able to react and defend themselves. You can add as many layers of DRM/flak cannons as you want, but you will never be able to take the initiative against them. I urge Ubisoft to stay the course; secure, but never, ever, take away a pledge made to gamers; especially not when it concerns a topic as inflammatory as this one.

Max Gruber:

As bad as this sounds, I think this is a good lesson for Ubisoft to learn about the PC market, in that there is little to no market, only pirates and hackers. It is always inevitable, and almost expected, that someone will be able to crack a service on the internet, especially if its anti-hacking measures are either lackluster or nonexistent. There’s a reason why Steam has been so successful over the years: because it’s rarely been hacked.

Jonathan Tung:

While this comes as no surprise to anyone, keep in mind that this incident could result with Ubisoft reverting to their Always-Online DRM stance from a while back, or at least to some stricter enforcement in terms of piracy. There have been similar situations of gamers utilizing exploits in order to get free games, among them the Origin coupon glitch fiasco from October of last year. However, in a rare sign of good gesture, EA announced that they will be honoring ANY purchases made with the coupon glitch in an attempt to avoid bad press. Let’s hope Ubisoft pursues a similar tactic with this.

Alex Miller:

Well, I guess its Ubisoft’s turn to be the target of the week. Revolving wheel of whose been hacked aside, I'm glad to see that Ubisoft's response to this has been to simply take down their download system to address the problem instead of another, more rash course. Hopefully by stopping the flow this won’t get any further out of hand and won’t cause Ubisoft to turn their back on the laudable promise to drop DRM in the face of many other developers simply throwing on more.

mygaming.co.za

Exclusive: Microsoft's next Xbox will take over your TV, interact with your cable box

Simon Wu:

Yes, excellent... I think Microsoft has finally got the message. And in anticipation of Max’s comment, they have to acknowledge the increasingly necessary media side of the platform if the gaming side is to even exist these days. The unfortunate side consequence of this is a little thing that you might have heard of called “always online.” But what Microsoft has learned, and quite smartly, is that cable boxes are not going away. As much as that disgusts me, it’s better to simply make them pretty and use them rather than try and throw the whole dilapidated system out. Who knows, in an industry fighting against net neutrality, maybe Xbox bandwidth might get a speed boost for its troubles?

Max Gruber:

This is nice and all but, Microsoft, isn’t the Xbox supposed to be a gaming platform, and not exclusively a multimedia device? I’m starting to think that Microsoft is digging its hands deep into the mud and are just trying to grub more money out of it. I’m starting to side with the PlayStation for hardcore gaming, and the Nexbox for media, what with the whole hue and cry about the “Always-On” requirement. Afterall, you can’t spell PlayStation without “Play”. Best line for this situation.

Jonathan Tung:

It’s funny really that Microsoft is trying to pursue cable companies in the United States, but what does it mean for the rest of the world? Does this mean the next Xbox is going to be U.S. exclusive, or will they be pursuing similar things in the European and Asian markets? Furthermore, it appears that they’re now copying what Sony has been doing in the Asian and British markets with digital cable, specifically the ability to use your PS3 as a cable box to watch TV via Torne.

Alex Miller:

I don’t think Microsoft’s courtship of US cable companies could in any way prevent the Xbox from being released wherever Microsoft wants to release it (hint: everywhere they can). They have regional partners all over the world, and I think this is just a continuation of that. In fact this, at least in theory, is not even all that new of a feature since the Xbox 360 has been used as an AT&T U-Verse receivers since 2010. Anyways, I definitely see this as good news. The gaming side of the Xbox is not going to go away Max, but they are adding more uses to it. Just because you make a tool more functional does not take away from its other functions. Microsoft knows there is a living room shootout coming, and the more they can do to prepare themselves and anchor their devices in the lounge by making it appeal to as many people as possible, the better off they will be.

worldtvpc.com

Microsoft Xbox Roadmap (2013) (Updated: Xbox Mini)

Simon Wu:

Is this the panacea we’ve all been waiting for? Parsing the news is very difficult. It makes sense that only the new model of the 360’s hardware would be online only: after all, with that one, games are only a small subset of its functionality, which is to serve far more as a set-top box. The always online actually makes sense here; there are no games to play offline, only Games on Demand, which already require you to stay connected. The new console will not have this much feared limitation.

Max Gruber:

I know everyone is still going to talk about the whole “Always-On” requirements for the next Xbox, but I think we should just calm down and look at it in another light. For one, it’s only Always-On for Games on Demand, so it won’t be for every game you purchase. That, and Gamestop has talked about how the next Xbox is supposed to be "a very hot, compelling device". This is coming from a business that centers around used-game sales, so it’s clear that the next Xbox will have a disk drive if Microsoft is promoting it with Gamestop. Though I am being skeptical about it, we’ll just have to see what Microsoft has to offer us.

Jonathan Tung:

Okay, so apparently, I was wrong when I assumed the New Xbox would be online only. As it turns out, it IS online only, but only on a separate version of the Xbox. Yes, you’ve heard right folks: Microsoft is making not just one, but TWO XBOXES. I’m still not so sure what their stance is regarding used games. In addition, seeing that they’re now going up against both Sony AND Apple on two separate fronts makes it quite clear that they SERIOUSLY want to dominate the living room in the future. Too bad that they still can’t get it right on the OS and SmartPhone fronts (Especially since Windows 8 seems too unfriendly towards me).

Alex Miller:

“Durango itself will always be online like any other device (correct with rumors). but it will not be a requirement to play local content and it will not prevent playing used games.”

I am just going to sit here for a minute. Let it sink in.

...

Yes, yes that feels good. The smug self satisfaction of being right. Microsoft’s strategy of releasing an “Xbox mini” has been suspected for quite a while and gives further credence to Microsoft’s aims to control the living room. But as a device that is essentially a living room streaming device, always online makes sense. You can’t watch Netflix without the internet. So in a way these rumors of a new Xbox always being online were true, they just weren’t talking about the Durango. I am also glad that it appears the delay of Microsoft's press conference from April to May was due to the physical device not being ready. This would suggest that we will see the device when it is announced, something Sony decided wasn’t important at a launch event for the device.

Batman: Arkham Origins to be next issue of GameInformer

Simon Wu:

Right now I’m feeling quite bitten by series where the second installment is great but the third isn’t. (read: AC, ME, and Dead Space) While they are pushing their luck and don’t have empirical evidence on their side, there is an equally valid chance that they buck the trend without either selling out, or flopping on the ending. Here’s the thing: I’m guessing the big wigs behind this have already surveyed the landscape and come to this conclusion, and instead of another sequel have opted to totally shake up the timeline with a prequel a la Gears: Judgment.

Jonathan Tung:

At this point, I’m not so sure if releasing another Arkham game is a good thing. I mean, in my opinion, it just feels like one of those unnecessary prequel/sequel games that nobody asked for, like Gears of War Judgement, or God of War Ascension, or even Final Fantasy XIII-2. But as long as it plays well, and gets the approval from the original devs, then I’m alright.

Max Gruber:

I only played Arkham Asylum, though I’ve heard great things about the sequel, and just from looking at the cover of the issue, it looks... ahem, “Dark”. Though I sort of disagree with Jonathan about how it feels like it’s a game no one asked for. I think Batman: Arkham City really warranted a sequel due to how successful it was.

Also, Jonathan, what did you just say about Final Fantasy XIII-2?

Alex Miller:

Well, retconning is nothing new to DC comics, not by a longshot, but for the game series that really did comic books justice for the first time it will be interesting to see how this new studio handles the crossover. Will this story go according to cannon or will the developers get bogged down in talks with DC over the story? Will that affect how the game turns out? hopefully we don’t see another limp third entry in a great series.

gameinformer.com

Dark Souls 2 Gameplay Reveal - 12 Minute Demo

Simon Wu:

Dark Souls and Co. has always had a very unique storytelling method and gameplay method, as the entire discussion that was spawned on the Com-cast has made us very much aware. Max as the fan has the real points, but I would simply like to add that at first glance from a player that has only a casual understanding of the mechanics, that unforgiving difficulty and understanding of patterns hasn’t gone anywhere. I praise them for not ameliorating to the least common denominator and making it bland for the sake of a wider audience.

Jonathan Tung:

While I was quite impressed by the footage that was released today, I still worry about how the new directors, Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura, will be handling the title, especially since they mentioned at one point how they plan on making the new title more accessible. I fear that if such a thing were to happen, they would only end up alienating their core fanbase, much like Blizzard and BioWare.

Max Gruber:

I got a chance to watch the gameplay footage of Dark Souls II, and the things shown are really interesting, like the torch wielding aspect, and how you had to choose between having protection, but zero knowledge of where you were going, or sacrificing your shield for light. While I’m really excited to see some footage of Dark Souls II, I am worried that it’s going to be more casual than its predecessors. And I have to disagree with Jonathan about the new directors alienating the fanbase. I think the game will still be brutal, but much more approachable. My brother got a chance to play Dark Souls, and he just couldn’t get into it. Maybe it had something to do with him never playing Demon’s Souls or King’s Field before, but a game should be approachable, yet contain enough depth to make it enticing for the hardcore audience. ExtraCredits had a discussion about Easy Games, and they really counter your points mentioned.

thatvideogameblog.com

Solifluktion's picture

I'm torn on what to think about the new Batman. On one hand more Batman is always great...on the other I doubt that a non-Rocksteady-Batman would be a worthy entry in the Arkham-Series. After all both games were their respective games of the year (at least for me). But I guess we'll see how it turns out. 

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