friendlessandbroke

A site with no purpose.

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TRAFFIC!?!

Posted by friendlessandbroke on June 15, 2012

People who come here – especially those coming via a Tushar Shout Out:

Thanks for stopping by. I’m in the process of building a new website, so I’m really not doing much to update this one. I have written a few things that are in the editing stage at the moment, but all of my focus is on building right now. When the new site is up, I’ll start blasting it out everywhere.

Keep your eyes open in the near future for the new site! I’m thinking either “We Break Controllers” or “Digital Dick Punch.” Both quality site names with strong mass appeal. There’s a lot to consider.

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Why Do Video Game Movies Suck?

Posted by friendlessandbroke on May 13, 2012

BY THE NUMBERS
The Avengers set box office records last weekend (05/06/12) when it brought in over $200,000,000. The previous holder of all-time highest grossing opening weekend was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 at $169,000,000, and before that, it was The Dark Knight at $158,000,000. Harry Potter – an eight-part film adaptation of JK Rowling’s novels – made $7,706,200,000 in combined international box office sales. Comparatively, the top eight highest grossing Marvel comic-based combined for $5,616,300,000; the top eight highest grossing DC comic-based movies combined for $3,318,700,000; and the top eight highest grossing video game-based movies combined for $1,637,200,00. Even if you were to compare the gross take after adjusting for inflation or the total number of box office tickets sold, video game movies would still be WAY behind the other movie adaptation families.
As per Rotten Tomatoes, video game movies are just as unsuccessful critically as they are financially. In looking at the average scores of the top eight films from each group, Marvel has the highest average with a score of 88%. There were three movies scoring above 90%, the lowest scoring film was Elektra at 10%, and all 28 feature films average a score of 55%. The Harry Potter films scored an average of 84% with only Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban scoring above a 90%, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix sitting at the bottom with 78%. DC’s top eight films averaged 82%, the average of all its films was 48%, two films broke 90%, and the 1984 movie Supergirl was at the bottom of the list at 8%.
Finally, we have video game movies. The top eight movies made from video games scored a brutal 32% on average. The highest scoring film was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within at 43%, and no other video game movie cracked 40%. The average of all 30 films comes out to an embarrassing 18%. Seven (SEVEN!!) movies scored below 10%, and Double Dragon was the lowest with a score of 0%. Some of the most successful video game franchises have been adapted and each one did poorly. Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children scored a 33%, Super Mario Bros scored a 13%, Mortal Kombat scored a 34%, Pokemon’s highest score was 22%, the Halo movie fell apart [later becoming District 9], and the movie version of Zelda has never gotten further than the fan-made trailer stage.

So what exactly is it about video game-based movies that causes them to be so awful?

WE’RE ALL ASKING THE SAME QUESTION
If you Google “Why do video game movies suck?” [in quotations], you’ll get 7,780 results. Echoing the first thought I had when approaching the subject, most of the 30 articles I read led with the obvious: Video games are interactive. Video games start as a set of mechanics (the means by which a player interacts with the game) and then have story built around those mechanics. This story-comes-second approach makes a direct translation between mediums (video game to movie screen) almost impossible. Or, as Doom illustrated, impossible to do without being terrible.
The other popular complaint is a lack of respect for the source material. What are we really saying when we claim that the source was betrayed? Sometimes it means the movie only had two things in common with the game: a title and some character names (eg: Super Mario Bros, Double Dragon, Silent Hill). Other times it means the movie departed from the exact canon established by the video game (eg: Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Pokemon). By allowing so little artistic license to be taken with our properties, we’re painting ourselves into a corner. Mediums can be crossed, and it can be done with astounding success; Lord of the Rings went from book to film, my favorite book (The Arena by William R. Forstchen) is based on the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went from comics to action figures to cartoons to movies back to action figures. In fact, half of the top 10 highest grossing films of the past 10 years are adaptations. What video game fans are doing, though, is demanding that the film adaptations of our video games be the video game while still delivering a movie experience. That’s not just unfair of us to demand — it’s impossible for studios to deliver.

A GROSS MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUNDS
There are more issues with making video game movies beyond interactivity and the handling of source material. A lot of the current video game movies come off as lazy. Some of the scripts to these films feel as if the writer is doing his/her absolute best to be as cheesy and cliché as possible. I can understand the desire to tip your hat to the source material’s faithful fans, but there’s a difference between including a few easter eggs and delivering an immersion-shattering line just for the sake of using a specific adage. Casting is an issue as well. There have been some very big names attached to these films, but a big name does not guarantee a strong performance. Jean Claude van Damme was a terrible mismatch as Guile in Street Fighter; Timothy Olyphant is too charismatic to play a cold, machine-like killer; and the list goes on and on.
Instead of taking the easiest-to-adapt games or the cheapest game rights on sale, the industry should be putting itself in a position to succeed. If it’s going to make a film adaptation of an existing game, why not find the game(s) that would best fit the new medium? Games like Infamous, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Zelda all have well developed characters and stories that are not only deep, but they’re not so much a departure from what Hollywood already puts out that you’d be asking film studios to take some gigantic leap of faith. I’d like to see some of the stronger game studios involved in helping to carve out the rebooting of the video game movie market. Blizzard may have become reviled [since the buy-out by Activision], but it’s still one of the best examples of a commitment to quality. Despite your personal feelings on Blizzard’s games, the amount of polish their games possess is indisputable. I have to imagine the same would hold true for any non-video game product they put out, especially something as large-scale as a blockbuster film.

IF I MAY BE SO BOLD
By taking away the audience’s ability to interact with the story, you sever their personal connection to it; the only message they will hear is that of the person making the movie. Video games offer the chance for self-expression and a depth of experience that comes from forging the story with your decisions. However, player-controlled narrative means the pacing of the story is directly up to the player. Unfortunately, this can really unhinge some scripted sequences that deliver a stronger message when watched, not played. In my experiences with games, this is particularly true of the setup and resolution. It’s hard for a game to have us truly engaged in gameplay while simultaneously trying to tell us who, what, where, when, and why everything is happening. Playing to the strengths of each medium, I would suggest the film and video game each tell a separate-but-continuous story.
Writing the film and video game together [with the intention of having them deliver a complementary experience] bypasses the need to have the film live up to the impossible standards of the die-hard game fan. Instead of having two autonomous works exploring the same property, there will be two parts of a single story. The film serves as Part One: laying down of foundation. The film tells an engaging story that ends without complete resolution. The video game serves as Part Two: the players build on that foundation, crafting their own stories from the work they’ve been given, or, equally as viable, creating the film as a sequel to the game. The player participates in the building of the world, but the resolution is delivered through a passive medium.

CLOSING THOUGHTS
Regardless of who makes the next video game movie, how they make it, or who they have star in it, I can only hope it’s an honest effort. Video games are an emerging medium through which some very brilliant people are telling some incredible stories. Unlike passive mediums, the interactivity of video games allows for both the producer to send a message, and for the player to hear that message while crafting one of their own. If we can enhance that by incorporating the strengths of another medium, great, but we need to do it right because Hollywood will only take so many risks before it stops offering the video game industry opportunities for adaptation.

RELEVANT LINKS

Box Office Mojo
http://boxofficemojo.com/

Internet Movie Database
http://www.imdb.com/

Rotten Tomatoes
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/

Wikipedia
List of Films Based on Video Games
List of Films Based on DC Comics
List of Films Based on Marvel Comics

Wired
Why the Halo Movie Failed to Launch
–          Jamie Russel

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DLC – You’re Doing It Wrong!!

Posted by friendlessandbroke on May 1, 2012

FROM THE LOIN OF DREAMCAST, A MONSTER IS BORN
In 1999 Sega gave the world its final console offering: Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was ahead of its time in many ways, but most notably in that it offered online browsing and game playing through SegaNet. In addition to playing multiplayer games and browsing the web, SegaNet gave players the opportunity to download additional content for games they already owned. This was the first time downloadable content (DLC) would be offered through a console. Despite the Dreamcast’s ingenuity, the system did not find enough success to sustain production; by March 2001, the Dreamcast would be discontinued.
In November 2001, Microsoft released the Xbox. The Xbox, like the Dreamcast, offered built-in internet access which, at the time, none of its competitors were also able to claim (PlayStation2 was only internet accessible with an adapter). One year later, Microsoft launched Xbox Live – a network that allowed players to play multiplayer games over their dedicated servers, and also to download content for their games. DLC was offered to players for free at first, but then came MechAssault. MechAssault (published by Microsoft) was an established, successful game with a strong following and a large pool of dedicated players competing on the Xbox Live network. MechAssault offered players the opportunity to supplement their core game with three new maps and two new multiplayer game types through download for the low price of $4.99. And thus, a monster was born.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ARGYLE
The trend toward online gaming climbed rapidly. The networks offered by console developers saw significant increases in capability, security, and presence within the gaming experience. As these networks became more developed, so did the marketplaces attached to them. Publishers’ interest in producing and offering free content quickly waned as the fair market value of DLC was clearly being established as not free. Games like Dance Central, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band have vast libraries of DLC (with the latter boasting almost 5,200 items available for download). Gran Turismo HD was announced (and subsequently cancelled), a stripped out game where customers would build the game contents up by purchasing cars and tracks in “microtransactions.” Marvel vs Capcom is one of several titles published, followed with an offering of several DLC expansions, and then later re-released as a “special edition” containing all of the DLC. It’s hard, as the living embodiment of the friendless-and-broke gamer cliché, not to feel like I’m being taken advantage of by how much I’m being asked to buy after I already bought the game.
There are times when we can all agree DLC is necessary. WWE 12 is a phenomenally customizable game that offers a large roster of playable characters taken from their weekly show. As new characters are introduced (or older, lesser characters rise to prominence), the demand for that character as a playable commodity in WWE 12 peaks. This is where the application of DLC shines. Yes, we want this new character. And yes, I’m willing to pay you for the work you did to model, animate, and script that new character. It’s a great chance for game developers to continue to support/enhance the player experience without pushing out a new, full game.
There are also times when DLC leans closer to customer exploitation. Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a puzzle game that was “read” by hackers. When I say read, I mean that they looked at all of the files in the game to discern what each was for. All of the expected files were there, but among them were a few surprises. Most notably, the files for the DLC were there in full. All of the “additional” content the publisher was trying to sell you after you already purchased their game was sitting right there on the disc. When you paid for the DLC, you were really just buying codes that unlocked this content on your game. No new properties were transferred to you. All of the costs for creating this content had been incurred – the artists, programmers, writers, and everyone else had already done the work to generate this DLC. The only new cost to deliver this content was the cost of marketing it as an expansion to the original game experience.

DISPARITY IN KNOWLEDGE
This raises some questions that warrant thorough discussion about the ethics of game publishing and what we expect from video games as a medium. Professor Layton and the Curious Village scored an 85 on Metacritic and it received very positive reviews on Amazon; I think it’s fair to say the developer did in fact deliver a full experience to the customer. From the dozens of comments and reviews I’ve read, not a single one talked about feeling like there was a lack of game content. In fact, almost every single one touted the 130 [original] puzzles as a significant selling point. What obligation does the developer and/or publisher have to push for a deeper, “fuller” game? One could argue that they don’t have any obligation. I knew the full Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed at one time, but still paid to see each individual installment of the trilogy without complaint. The properties were created, the costs were incurred, the work was done and the films were made…but we all accepted the three part release of the films. So why does this Professor Layton situation feel so much dirtier? Why does it feel like the consumer was cheated? I think it’s because of the way the material is presented to us. The players outspoken about the Curious Village DLC were upset that additional content was created for them but withheld. They saw it as a deliberate mechanism for extracting their dollars on a sustained basis. That isn’t wholly untrue, but it’s the lack of forthrightness that makes us balk at Curious Village while simultaneously revering Lord of the Rings. If you were told ahead of time that the additional content was on the disc and you’d be paying to unlock that content, everything would be different. By educating the consumer it becomes the consumer’s decision to engage or ignore your product as it actually is. If they know you’re going to be selling unlocks intermittently and they don’t like that, then they can choose not to purchase your product. This is how a market regulates itself. If there’s no demand for a product, then the product changes. Hiding the files is the kind of tactic that drives a wedge of distrust between the producer and consumer. It’s an abuse of the disparity between the technical ability and knowledge of the producer and that of the consumer.
Ultimately the responsibility to regulate this behavior falls on us as consumers. If we come across this sort of abuse, we need to exhibit our discontent by denying these companies our money. The sooner we show educated restraint with our demand, the sooner we’ll get a supply that meets it. Unfortunately, “educated restraint” is not exactly in the wheelhouse of the gaming community. I’ve never been to a forum of any kind that didn’t have incessant whining from a player base that fully intends to buy the product they’re whining about regardless of how much the developer addressed (or didn’t address) their concerns. Developers and publishers will pay attention to the forums (some more than others), but at the end of the day, what they pay attention to most is how many copies their game sold. If a product is selling, they’re going to keep making it; Call of Duty is the absolute epitome of this concept. If it doesn’t sell, they’re not going to make it; Psychonauts stands as an unfortunate testament to this concept.

SECOND CHANCES
We’ve been given another opportunity to help shape the direction and behaviors of the people responsible for producing the games we love. As Tushar Nene writes about on Technical Fowl, “…the Capcom / Namco joint-property crossover Street Fighter x Tekken… would start with a limited number of characters, with 12 additional characters being available through DLC – for an additional $20… The 12 DLC characters already physically come on the on the disc for anyone that purchased it. The DLC is more of an unlock code that allows you to access that data.” If you don’t like the fact that the game expects you to buy the title at full price and then pay additional amounts for additional characters, don’t buy it. That is the only way to make your voice heard, and the more people crying out in that same manner the more powerful their collective voice becomes.

RELEVANT LINKS

Joystiq
Professor Layton and the Unlocked Content
 – JC Fletcher

Microsoft
Press Fast Facts
Xbox Press Releases

Technical Fowl
Capcom Producer Admonishes Street Fighter x Tekken Players For Hacking On-Disc DLC
 – Tushar Nene

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An Analysis of the Gaming Community’s Response to Allegations of Sexism and Racism

Posted by friendlessandbroke on April 26, 2012

THE FACTS
Starting Feb. 22, 2012, Capcom hosted five Street Fighter and five Tekken players in a five-day competition. Each team consisted of four males and a female. Team Tekken was represented by players 200yen (Sean Pak), SuperYAN (Miranda Pakozdi), Tasty Steve (Steve Scott), KOR (Rene Maistry), Bronson (Bronson Tran), and team coach Aris (Aris Bakhtanians). The players were to engage in a series of tasks and challenges throughout an elimination style tournament that would ultimately reward one player with $25,000.

THE CONTROVERSY
Team Tekken’s coach (Aris) made a number of sexually charged remarks toward his team’s female member (Miranda). The comments started on the first day of the live stream “reality show,” but the issue blew up after Aris sounded off at the hour-and-forty-five minute mark of the day five stream. At that point Aris is engaging Jared Rea, a community manager at Twitch TV. The two debated the merits of the abrasive nature and exclusionist behavior commonly found at fighting game events. Jared was challenging that the fighting game community should embrace new players and create a more welcoming environment to foster growth; Aris countered that the fighting game community has used this hostile approach for so long that it is interwoven into the very fabric of the community itself, and new players should have to earn their place by working through that hostility (as others before them have). Aris, in trying to make his point, turned the dial up to 11 by using absolutes.
Aris: If you don’t like onions, you get your sandwich without onions on it, man. I mean, this is the fighting game community.
Rea: Can I get my
Street Fighter without sexual harassment?
Aris: You can’t. You can’t because they’re one in the same thing. This is a community that is um, like you know 15 or 20 years old and the sexual harassment, it is a part of our culture. And if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community — it’s  
StarCraft.

THE REACTION (BROKEN DOWN)
1,184     the number of comments I read;
718         unique user IDs commented on the
10           articles across
7              websites;
200         comments were selected* to be catalogued** for analysis;
82           percent of catalogued commenters posted disapproval of Aris’ comments and conduct;
24           percent of catalogued posts defend Aris or make excuses for his behavior having a valid place in the fighting game community;
Yes, some posts condemned and defended Aris’ conduct at the same time.
10           percent of catalogued posts contained a suggestion of violence as a recourse;
6              catalogued posters used hate speech against minorities or homosexuals while condemning Aris for his socially unacceptable behavior;
27           percent of catalogued posts were adding more to an argument with another poster than they did to the discussion;
25           percent of catalogued posts actually furthered the discussion in some constructive way;
3              catalogued comments (out of 200, mind you) were highlighted in red for making a strong, novel contribution to the conversation;
Most of the posts were regurgitating the same few thoughts in what was a remarkably circuitous many-versus-few argument.

*  To select 200 comments I removed all short posts, then I sorted by one column, removed a bunch of posts at random, sorted by another column, removed at random, and repeated until I was down to 200 comments.
** The process of cataloging comments involved reading them in context then marking them down for each criterion that they met. The criteria were: unaccepting of Aris, violent, hate speech, overly explicit language, insults the article’s author, insults the website the article is on, faults the victim, contributes to the conversation, doesn’t contribute to the conversation, arguing with another poster.

THE EVALUATION
“Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State’s failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.”  – HG Wells
When I was reading through the comments, I wasn’t terribly surprised by what I had found. Overall the posts seemed to match up to the target audience of each publication fairly well. The article on Ars Technica only had 190 comments, but it was a strong discussion. Penny Arcade Report was a very intelligent discussion, albeit a very brief one, and was consistent with the commenting on most of their articles. Giant Bomb and Kotaku were toward the bottom in terms of the quality of conversation, and Shoryuken had the most apologists and defensive stances. Take my judgment for what it is – one man’s opinion that is biased to his own moral compass and personal interests – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look inward to see if we’re a community worth being a part of. As I see it, we’re not. Hearing that only 24% of people were “okay” with Aris’ behavior sounds like this whole thing is a non-issue; when put into context, the reality is a lot uglier. Almost one in every four people are either willing to verbally abuse you (and think it’s okay because you’re competing) or they’ll stand by and watch as someone else does it to you. That’s horrible. And frightening. Personally, I’m thick skinned enough to shake off whatever some idiot wants to call me. But what about my 10 year old niece or my 13 year old nephew? I’m repulsed by the idea of either of them – or any child, really – being subjected to the vile aggressions of the anonymous gamer. Whether you agree or disagree, consider how much the video game industry is growing and how much of a barrier-to-entry is presented by the community’s unmitigated animosity. According to the ESA, females represent 42% of the gaming community. 42%…that’s more than two out of every five gamers. As games and gaming communities become more accessible, that number is going to edge closer and closer to a 50/50 split. Also on the rise is the amount we play games with other people in person (up to 64% in 2010). As a community we have got to embrace tolerance and stop condoning all of the ignorance. I know it’s easier to cross your arms and talk about the wonders of yesteryear; people playing games were real gamers and you could say what you want. That’s wonderful and all, but now let’s talk about how it is today. Today there are millions of gamers and they come in every make, every model, and every color. Stereotypes and profiles about The Gamer have lost all merit. Abusing all of these “new” gamers is cutting off our nose to spite our face. All of the money going into the $20,000,000 video game has to come from somewhere, and I’m guessing that you didn’t pay a few million for your copy of it. If not for the sake of being a better person, you should at least consider a change for the sake of keeping the industry alive. If we devalue the multiplayer experience of everyone we play with, they’re not going to want to experience it. And we all know how awful it is to sign into a multiplayer game and be the only person sitting in the lobby.

THE CONCLUSION
I recognize the work I’ve done here is not exactly infallible. There are a lot of factors I did not (because I could not) account for: How many page views did each page/site get? What was said in the deleted posts before I could log them? How do you quantify subjective things like intent and personality? What percentage readers [for each site] are actually posting? How much do those posters actually represent the voice of that site (if they do at all)? What about all of the other relevant posts that weren’t cataloged?

I drew conclusions, but I did so with limitations. I hope you can understand and embrace those limitations, because that’s the only way reading this won’t be a waste of time. Hopefully when all is said and done you’ll still find value (limited or otherwise ) in my analysis.

RELEVANT LINKS

Ars Technica
Is Pervasive Sexism Holding the Professional Fighting Game Community Back
– Kyle Orland

The Brog
Games Journalism’s Coverage of Sub-Culture
– Isaiah T. Taylor

Destructoid
Sexual Harassment and Fightin Drama Together At Last
– Jim Sterling

Giant Bomb
When Passions Flare Lines Are Crossed (updated)
– Patrick Klepek
Aris Bakhtanians Releases Statement On Recent Comments
– Patrick Klepek

Kotaku
This is What a Gamer’s Sexual Harassment Looks Like
– Jason Schreier
Sexual Harassment is a Joke to These Fighting Game Fans
– Evan Narcisse
Competitive Gamer’s Inflammatory Comments Spark Sexual Harassment Debate
– Kirk Hamilton

Penny Arcade Report
The Ugly Side of Fighting Games
– Ben Kuchera
Back to Basics – Getting Beyond the Drama
Isaiah T.Taylor of the Brog Explores What Happens When the Press Looks At

Shoryuken
Back to Basics Getting Beyond the Drama
– Tom “Inkblot” Cannon

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