Used Games and Heavy Rain

For years game developers and publishers have been trying to come up with a way to gimp the second-hand gaming market. PlayStation LifeStyle has an interesting article where the Quantic Dream’s CEO (Heavy Rain) asserts that the used game market cost the developer over a million units in missed royalties.

This is all according to Quantic Dream CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière, who said that, by judging PS3 trophy stats, they can see that a million people who didn’t pay, played the game.

From a pure black and white perspective, that is true. You could also assert that in general gamers didn’t appreciate the game even with all the critical acclaim Heavy Rain received with the majority of mega sites. Look at the Metacritic score and you will find the user rating is significantly less than the critic rating: 6.7 (1300+ user ratings) to 87 (100+ critic reviews).

I could guess what happened next, but it would be just a guess. While I did buy the game on release day, I may not have without all the pre-hype buzz that showed Heavy Rain as a potentially different experience, which as I have written many times, draws me into a game. I want new and different experiences.

For many gamers, and I put myself in this category, it all comes down to value – if I am on the fence, I will wait until a price drop. If I don’t think a game is worth the full original MSRP (usually $49-60 depending on the publisher, with some Move games starting at $39 and Greatest Hits titles clocking in at $29.99), I wait until the inevitable price drop.

I will disclose that I never by second-hand games for currently support consoles. This is a personal preference, and it also has to do with my software development background. Like I said, personal choice, but I also wait for sales, price drops, etc.

PSN Pass – Embrace The Trend
EA and now Sony (PSN Pass) are now offering one-off use codes for online play. I believe this trend will be adopted by more and more publishers as a way to curb second-hand sales.

One possible side effect may be the return (or at least the demand for) better single player experiences. This console generation has certainly seen the rise of online gameplay focus, which is fine if you have a ton of gaming buddies, join clans (or whatever the cool kids call clubs these days), or do not mind playing against random opponents. Color me different. I am an older gamer and really do not enjoy random gaming jaunts and the vast majority of my friends gave up on gaming long ago to concentrate on family and career aspects of their life. Yes, growing old sucks on a lot of different levels, but I refuse to grow up and I am starting to digress.

At any rate, embrace for more and more one-off included codes for special content, including online play, some of which may be required to complete a game.


Gaming News and Notes

Over the last three weeks, starting right before the Thanksgiving break, I have been on a torrid (for me) gaming rampage. I think I have logged more hours on my PS3 (and even a few on the oft forgotten PSP – Ghost of Sparta) than I did in total January through October.

I have to say it has been fun. Almost like a kid in a candy store. Gaming nirvana if you please. I have found this latest zone has helped me decompress and even get in some quality time with the kids. These days I don’t question how long this ride will last; I just keep on plugging, enjoying it until I put down the controllers.

Crazy Taxi
After pickup up my PS3 Slim for Father’s Day, I flipped Crazy Taxi on eBay. Not because I no longer enjoyed the game; I consider it one of the ultimate pick and play titles. It is just a damn good arcade gaming experience, which blends the perfect elements of short bursts of gaming excitement and the pursuit of high scores.

Besides, the PS3 Slim more or less forced my hand, since it is not PS2 backwards compatible. Of course in my back pocket I knew Crazy Taxi would be headed towards the PSN.

The PSN edition seems to be the same game, minus the licenses (Levi’s, KFC, music, etc), with slightly harder controls compared to the PS2 and Dreamcast versions. Crazy Taxi is still a fun arcade experience; one that the boys enjoy playing with dad. As an added bonus, the PSN version also provides the pleasure (or frustration – take your pick) of pursuing Trophies.

Shame on me for not playing this one more over the past year. FIFA 10 is a fantastic sports game, and the virtual pro feature being balls out fun. In my dotage, I have a hard time pulling off decent skill moves, so my pro still seems a little stiff and rough around the edges. As a striker, I am all offense, with almost no defensive skills. I think my rating is currently 72 and climbing.

Rumor has it Santa is bringing me FIFA 11 ($29.99 during one of the Thanksgiving deals), so I figured I better maximize my FIFA 10 experience before Christmas so I will not feel so guilty when I trade in or eBay FIFA 10. And maximize I have; in fact I have probably spent more time with FIFA 10 than any other game in this article. Fun and highly addicting!

Gran Turismo 5
After waiting an eternity (at least it seemed that way), we finally have a proper Gran Turismo on the PS3. I picked up the Gran Turismo 5 Collector’s Edition – I love the series, even if it is not the best pure “racing” experience around.

After starting off with one of the 25+ versions (or whatever) of a Toyota Corolla, I have been slowly making my way through the game. Due to so many other games in my rotation (or call it my gaming backlog) I have not started the long slow GT grind. I have picked up my B and A licenses, and while I could keep on trying to progress, I have been working on locking up all B and A license Gold trophies, which seems damn near impossible for some.  I actually find this pursuit more relaxing than frustrating; I get in a zone and keep plugging away, slowly decreasing my times until I strike Gold.

The only GT game that I managed to “complete” at 100% was the first release – Gran Turismo for the PSOne.  It has been a long time since those days!  I doubt I have that much spare time to really go after that mark with GT5; however I am sure I will maximize my value (gaming dollar).

I think the game has already been patched 3 times, so the developers did end up rushing the game, which is a bit of a surprise considering the long delay. Over ambitious? Probably.  At least the developers are supporting the game and trying to make things right by the fans.

Sports Champions
My family has discovered the joy of playing Bocce. At least we are enjoying Sports Champions version of Bocce, and we are having a blast learning the rules and associated skills.  My mother is giving my oldest son a Bocce set for the backyard. I love it when videogames cross pollinate real life!

I think my kids’ favorite is volley ball, closely followed by disc golf. My favorites are archery and disc golf, and I also find gladiator duel an interesting diversion. Ping pong is the favorite of my 3.11 year old, but I find it damn near impossible.

On a side note, I need to get two more Move controllers for some serious volley ball and archery dual Move head-to-head action. What would that investment be? Almost $325? I have already “invested” $100 camera + Move controller, $50 second move controller, $35 Navigation controller, $30 Move charge station. Ouch. Archery is a blast with two controllers, so I can only imagine how much fun it would be to have a two-player archery duel with 4 Move controllers!

On more side note. The Navigation controller seems poorly supported. I think the only Move game I have that takes advantage of it is Heavy Rain. Need to come back to Heavy Rain in a future article.

My Aquarium
Did I really buy this one? Just for the hell of it I downloaded My Aquarium. It is a great concept, with extremely poor execution. The graphics are not acceptable; in fact I was not even sure this was an HD title, but from what I have read, My Aquarium is in fact presented in HD … just without the normal eye popping graphical glory. It really is a damn shame that this virtual screensaver does not look nicer, and to make matters worse, the interface is unbelievable clunky, complete with unresponsive controls.

If a “game” begged for updated graphics with Move support, this is the one. To the good, Trophy whores will find a few almost freebies on offer; apparently you can cheat to get them quickly, however I am earning my Trophies the old fashion way. It will probably be a year before all the fish unlock, giving me a cheap Gold Trophy.

I dismissed this one out of hand when it was previously released, however I did pick it up on sale for $0.99. It is OK at best … I mean it is Uno. I have played a few games online, but I disappointed that a couple of disconnects in the “lobby” counted as game discounts. That or someone figured out a way to hack a couple of wins against me; I am not enough of a junkie at this game to try to follow my statistics to see why the game thinks I have abandon a couple of gaming sessions.

I think you have to really love Uno in order to pick this one up. Not bad for $0.99, but not worth a whole lot more than a single ducket. Then again, this could be a nice diversion if someone wants to get their wife into videogames.

Hustle Kings!
Plus continues to deliver interesting content and discounts. I picked up Hustle Kings! a couple of weeks ago when it was discounted to just under $6. I have only played a few times, but the game seems to offer a really nice pool experience. The bar locations have great aesthetics – music, presentation, and graphics.

I’ll comment more on this one in the future. I picked it up mainly because I suck at pool in real life, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that playing a virtual game will actually help me in real life. To a certain degree it already has, at least when it comes to adding some backspin on pocket shots. In real life I would scratch, following the ball into the pocket, but I am getting the hang of how to avoid this mistake. Hope it carries over!

Hustle Kings! also supports the Move. I am not sure how it compares to playing with a DS controller because I have only used the Move. The game appears to do a good job of supporting the Move, however I have to admit that my poor old fingers and hand gets a little cramped trying to line up fine precession shots. As I said, more on this one later.

Did I just do that? Good grief; that is a lot of gaming playing!

Happy Sunday!


Grumpy Old Gamer Returns

First things first, after contacting Amazon to ask them WTF was up with my F1: 2010 pre-order, I received the following response:

Looking into your order, I see that “F1: 2010″ is back-ordered. I’m sorry about this delay–we certainly didn’t expect that this would happen.

Therefore, this item was delayed. Unfortunately the supply for some items will be limited and they sellout quickly. Sometimes, unexpected fluctuations in supply can add time to our original availability estimate. Though the item is out of stock, we do list the item and receive the order. Once we receive the order we will immediately contact the supplier to obtain the item. Sometimes as the case like yours the supplier failed to obtain the item.

We need to order your copy of item from a different supplier, and it will take us slightly longer than we anticipated to ship this item to you. I apologize that you were not notified sooner of this change in availability.

However, I can confirm that we still expect to ship your order by September 23. It should be delivered to you by September 24.

They are shitting me, right? Not only did I pre-order from the get-go, as soon as the game showed up on Amazon (that would be July 10), I never received any sort of notification that (A) game was on backorder (B) game was not shipping on release day (C) that Amazon had an epic fail.

Color me grumpy. The initial reviews are very promising.

Heavy Rain: Seriously Large Move Patch
After a heck of a long download (took three attempts to get the 1.1GB 2.0 patch to download) I am not that impressed with Move support, however I think it is really just a user error getting the Move controller to calibrate correctly. No matter what I do, when I calibrate, the control area (rectangle on the screen) always seems to “float” to the right – not sure how else to describe this behavior.

I have not attempted to use my second Move controller or replace the Move Navigation controller with a standard Dual Shock. I did not have any calibration issues with Sports Champions, so I am really holding out hope that this is 100% user error.

I have spent some time scouring the various PlayStation boards looking for clues to a fix. Scouring forums with immature posters sometimes offers up good, clean, fun; however when I am looking for help with an issue it just makes me a bitter, grumpy, old gamer.


Midweek Gaming Update

No sign of F1 2010 from Amazon, which currently shows the game as out of stock. While my copy has not shipped, Amazon shows an estimated arrival date of September 24; I preordered back on July 10. As much as Amazon gets it right with release day shipping, and their super cheap Prime service, when they get it wrong, they really screw the pooch. I find this sort of service unacceptable …

I have not written too much about Sony’s PlayStation Plus service, but I have been reasonably happy with the games I have gotten for free – WipEout HD and Critter Crunch have received a lot of play time. The discounts have been nice, especially on Magic Orbz, with free DLC. This month is the first time the free PSN game on offer was something already in my library – Zen Pinball, which in my opinion is worth the $9.99 price of admission, so of course making it “free” to Plus subscribers is a nice deal.

The main issues with Plus, in no particular order, have been lack of communication from the Plus team, an every changing list of what Plus subscribers will (or should) receive with each update, and a lack of follow through on the original commitment. The last one is a real kick in the nuts. Plus subscribers were told (although not exactly promised) that they would receive monthly releases of PSN and PSOne titles, avatars, dynamic themes, and an assortment of other fun stuff including discounts. And oh BTW Plus subscribers were promised an opportunity to get in limited early access beta demos.

You can imagine the outrage from the Plus community as Sony has moved from weekly releases to twice a month releases, few if any dynamic themes, a PSN orPSOne title, and officially confirming that getting beta invites are not exactly a guarantee for Plus subscribers.

At this point I am taking a wait and see approach.

Move: HVB
Speaking of Plus, subscribers received an early Move patch for HVB. I gave it a quick try last night and was not exactly impressed. I am not sure if I was just dog tired after a long day, or if the controls are just not intuitive. To be fair, I did not play around with it too much last night, so maybe the new control setup just did not “click” for me, but my initial HVB Move impressions is that Move support was certainly not as intuitive as some of the Sports Champions titles.

Move: Heavy Rain
I think Heavy Rain is due to receive it’s Move patch today. I have been waiting to start over (save file did not transfer from my original PS3 to my PS3 Slim). Hopefully the added Move support adds an extra immersive element to the overall game experience.


Move Me

Tomorrow I should receive a new bundle of joy, hope, and expense from Amazon (via Prime Release Day Delivery). Yes, I decided to Move. I picked up the Move Starter Bundle (Move controller, Eye Toy, Sports Champion), Move Navigation controller, an extra Move controller, and a Sony branded Charging Station.

Will this be worth the money? No idea, but I figured just for shits and giggles I would give the Move a go and see where things land.

I decided not to pick up any additional games for now. Something like NBA 2K11 or even Tiger Woods, just to see how this puppy will handle a “serious” sports game, may be worth a flyer in the future. I wonder how that John Daly game is going to end up; garbage quick cash in, or actually decent?

I would love to try something like Cabela’s North American Adventures 2011 with the Move, but for some inexplicable reason, it does not look like the Move is supported. In fact, reviews, info, opinions, or anything else for that matter are hard to come by on the newest Cabela release. I guess it is just “shoot the animals; you know the drill, but this time in HD.”

I know that Heavy Rain will get an update; same for HVB, which should invigorate this PSN classic. I am not sure if any of my other titles will receive Move patches, but MLB 10: The Show would make for interesting Move support.

I will try to post a few updates over the weekend.


Catching the Move

I have not written much about the PlayStation Move. Mostly because I have been somewhat indifferent, and I am not really sure that I want to invest a sizable chunk of coin into a new system (really accessory) ad-on that may or may not be well supported over the next 18-24 months.

As we move closer to September 17 I am becoming anxious.  Am I going to miss out on something?  Do I need to get my Day 1 Jones going?  Should I Move?

Do I really want to spend $100 for the Move/Eye/Sports Champion bundle, another $50 for a second Move controller (for those games that require two moves and to allow for multi-player games with my kids), and another $30 for the Move Navigation accessory? $180 is a serious investment when gaming dollars are at an all time premium. Not sure about you, but unless I am getting a great bargain, I have become fairly selective in my gaming purchases.  The economy and three growing boys sometimes put a check on my past carefree spending ways.

It will be interesting to see how well the Move is supported in upcoming games. Hopefully we will see a lot of meaningful patches that will allow for somewhat unique experiences over typical PS3 games. The real question for me – does the Move provide for a better experience over the Wii? All signs point to HD gaming with more precision than the Wii. Is the Move worth $100-180 to see if gaming progresses past the typical casual Wii experience? Will the Move be more than a HD Wii?

Lots of questions and hardly any answers for this jaded gamer. If I decide to go with a Move, in addition to Sports Champion, I should have a couple of Move compatible games: Heavy Rain and High Velocity Bowling (HVB).

I haven’t touched Heavy Rain since I switched to my PS3 Slim in June. The Heavy Rain save file was not transferable; and to be perfectly honest I haven’t been in the mood to start over. Every time I think of picking it back up, I think that I should probably hold out until I make a decision on the Move because I could see Heavy Rain’s controls really benefiting from the Move.

HVB should get a nice boost of new reply value with Move support. In my opinion HVB is really an underrated game, but even with the addition of Move support, it would be difficult to call a Move compatible HVB a reason to invest in the Move.

Two supported games for $180 is a little steep for my tastes. Of course getting Sports Champions in the Move bundle would bring my supported library to a grand total of three games. That helps a little on the value front, but very little in the way of ammunition towards convincing my wife that this is money well spent.

So all I am doing is writing about reasons why I should not get a Move, but we all know that I will probably say “f-it” and do it anyway, right? That’s just how I roll.


End of Heavy Rain DLC?

Quantic Dream’s David Cage has indicated that instead of producing more Heavy Rain backdrop Chronicles DLC, the developer has been focusing on PlayStation Move support. According to the article posted at NOWGamer [via N4G], Cage said:

“Unfortunately, Sony preferred to ask us to focus on Move to support the device rather than on creating new content,” added Cage. “On our side, we did not want to spend more time on HR, which would have meant delaying new projects. This is a decision I can understand, and I am certainly happy we had the opportunity to play with this device and to support it, although I am certainly disappointed for fans we could not finish the story of HR the way we intended.”

Too bad. I guess one of these days I better finish Heavy Rain. After switching to my 250GB Slim, the save file was non transferable, and I just have not felt like playing the initial chapters again.

Finally, and this is pure speculation on my part based on poor recollections of an old man, at one point during the various E3 news stories I read that Move support was being added as a new game or premium content. Hopefully this is not the case and it will be just a downloadable patch. If Move support it is paid for DLC, I hope it is free (or seriously discounted) for Plus subscribers. If current games only support Move via a paid for DLC patch, the Move will be DOA.


PS3 – Studios Push the Envelope

Pretty good article from GamesThirst (via N4G) on how the various Sony in-house studios are pushing each other for graphical and gameplay supremacy.

It all started in earnest with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. No one paid attention back then, the game did not receive the praise to so badly needed but deserved. It was, and still is one of the best looking games on any console. After it, the flood gates were opened, and while lazy devs complained about the PS3’s built, Insomniac Games, Naughty Dog, Santa Monica, Kojima Productions, Guerrilla Games, Quantic Dream and Zipper Interactive were all working their hearts off to drop bombshells on the gaming industry. Guess what? It’s exactly what they did.

Technical Quantic Dream may not be a first party studio, PS3 fans have to assume Sony will do everything they can to lock up future IP from the developers of Heavy Rain. Sony may not have the numbers yet, but I like their strategy of getting out original IP experiences.


The Rain Does Not Stop Today

I am only a few chapters into the Heavy Rain experience, but I wanted to offer a quick comment or two. The opening stages/chapters are slow going, but they are necessary to introduce you to the backdrop story and of course the awkward controls. Yes, I still find the controls cumbersome, and they take away from the immersion factor. The quick time events are interesting, and add to the intensity; I just hate holding down the R2 button to walk. Seems so 1996 Resident Evil-ish.

IGN (UK) recently posted an article a couple of days ago offering various opinions from their contributors; spoiler free and worth a read. I thought this opinion summed up my experiences so far in the early stages of the game.

Heavy Rain is so well-put-together and finely produced that it’s guaranteed to suck in even the most skeptical PS3 owners right off the bat. It’s an adventure game at heart — there’s no doubt about that — but don’t let that turn you off. While the adventure genre has been effectively dead on consoles for a very, very long time, Heavy Rain puts a new spin on things. This is no point-and-click, read-read-read bore-fest. Heavy Rain exemplifies what adventure gaming should be in 2010.

It is worth noting that the Heavy Rain metacritic user scores (6.6 based on 566 votes) are significantly lower than the critic ratings (88 reviews). Heavy Rain is definitely not for everyone. A rental may be in order for some; so for this jaded gamer is enjoying the experience.


Heavy Rain Alternate Cover

For those of you that like this sort of thing, Sony made an alternate Heavy Rain cover available for your downloading and printing pleasure. I think this is based off of the UK release.

I am not sure what it says about me that I am posting this link; I can say that I have never been “hard core” enough to replace a game cover with something I could print off the internet. These days I am thankful for small blessings!


Heavy Rain Initial Impressions (Spoiler Free)

Last night I put the Heavy Rain Blu-ray into the PS3 and was immediately greeted with a “must install 1.01 version” message. So of course I did the needful.

When I was playing the game I noticed that the character dialog was choppy (call it audio skipping), which brings me to this article by the examiner; apparently the patch causes some gamers some serious issues.

Among the complaints, many are complaining about game crashes, audio skipping, save/loading problems, and some characters getting caught in furniture. Not all are complaining about the game, though. For many, the game is running fine after the patch and they are enjoying the experience the game offers. Whether the problems are widespread or just a minor problem for some can’t be determined, yet. Since the game isn’t an online title, you don’t need to get the patch to play the game, but you will have to deny the patch every time you play the game.

I guess we will see a 1.02 patch fairly quickly; hopefully. If the audio skipping continues tonight, I guess I can play with closed caption turned on, but I may as well wait to progress the game. For a game that is story driven, this type of glitz is a hell of note, exemplifying poor quality control.

I only played the initial opening chapters, which to be honest, were really just not my cup of tea. I understand that farting around in the house for a little while introduces you to the characters, background story, and gaming mechanics. My initial impressions were certainly not favorable; I would have rather spent my time playing something else.

To be fair, I only played an hour or so; when I progress into the meat and potatoes of the game things may be a lot more interesting. At this point I just cannot bring myself to accept that I am going to spend the next 8-12 hours with Heavy Rain holding down the R2 button to move around. To me it just breaks every aspect of being immersed into the game.

It is really difficult to post comments about Heavy Rain without talking about the story, which in effect would be to give out spoilers. As I move on with future Heavy Rain posts, I will attempt to avoid spoiling surprises for those of you that have not played the game yet, of I will make sure there are “spoiler alerts” to warn you before continuing on with the article.


Waiting for Heavy Rain

The Heavy Rain hype has reached a crescendo, and the reviews are plenty positive. Now it is just a matter of waiting for Tuesday, and of course waiting for the kids to go to bed. There’s no way I can play this one with the kids watching!

Heavy Rain was really an impulse purchase. While I had read the various comments about the game over the last 12-18 months, I was not really interested. The lack of interest may have been due to my gaming doldrums, but I think it was more a matter of being completely disconnected from the content of the story. It just did not look like a day one purchase.

As Heavy Rain neared (or I should say nears) release day, the articles started to sound increasing interesting. Timing could be everything; my gaming melancholy came to a close about the same time Sony lifted the review embargo. I preordered the game, and played the demo.

I am looking forward to this game just because it is so different; new experiences matter, which is very much in line with my contrarian gaming view. This article from TheSixthAxis sums up why I am interested in Heavy Rain.

Is it because it’s so different, perhaps? It’s true, there’s nothing out there like Heavy Rain and, given the development time (and presumed budged) there won’t be another for some time, but is it really as powerful an experience as the hype over the last couple of years would have you believe? Maybe, but that’s not important.

What is important is the direction David Cage attempted to take console gaming. He may have stumbled with the plot (and clearly had some issues with controls) but Heavy Rain is, for its sins, a tale worth telling. It’s sometimes smart, occasionally sophisticated and frequently adult, unlike 99% of games out there.

I should be playing Heavy Rain 40 or so hours. Needless to say, I am excited, dare I say enthusiastic. In fact I cannot remember the last time I actually counted down the time to getting a game. Hopefully Heavy Rain does not disappoint.


Monday – Minimalist Gaming Update

Today is another minimalist gaming update. Not a lot to report, but I do need to get a couple of thoughts on “paper” before today comes to a close.

TheSixthAxis Does Heavy Rain
In general the metacritic scores of Heavy Rain have been fantastic, so it was interesting to see that TheSixthAxis is one of three sites (out of 43) to give the uber title a 7 out of 10.

But it’s not a game, is it? It certainly doesn’t play like one. Split firmly down the middle, half of the time you’ll be steering your character around various locales (left stick to look, R2 to walk) and the other half you’ll be performing some of the trickiest Quick Time Events since Dragon’s Lair. Heavy Rain doesn’t just want you to tap – you’ll be holding, twisting, pushing and bashing that controller before the story is done, and often doing several of those at the same time.

I agree that the controls distract from the game. Funny comment – while I enjoy reading a good review, and this one from TheSixthAxis is fantastic, I seldom make a purchase decision on the actual reviews. I use reviews as a starting point; to see if I may be interested in a game. After reading this review I was thinking about punting on the game; almost. Then I regained my senses. Funny how even this jaded gamer came close to being disappointed in a 70% review. OMG – I have crossed over to the Dark Side.


Friday Night Gaming – WKC:I and Heavy Rain Demo Impressions

I started my Friday night gaming session thinking I was going to have a small dose of WKC:I followed by a quick game of Madden Ultimate Team, and maybe a fast-follower nightcap of Zen Pinball or HVB.

Because I pre-ordered Heavy Rain earlier in the day, I decided to download the demo. I figured I could get in some quality gaming action while the demo downloaded in the background. My experience with PSN downloads, unlike yours truly, is that you would not consider them speedy. Surprisingly I had the demo in under a couple of hours.

Thanks to being completely immersed in WKC:I and the Heavy Rain demo, Madden 10 and the others had to wait.

White Knight Chronicles: International
While I am not very far into the game’s story, I continue to enjoy it, exploring its depths. It is funny how much some of the reviews are docking the game for substandard graphics. I really wonder what everyone was expecting. I agree that the graphics are not the best ever, but the large, detail environments more make up for any shortfalls in the character models, animation, and other details that the pundits find lacking. I really think this view is ridiculous, but I think I am just going to back off of it for a while.

The slow-paced, turn-based combat system is another area where most reviewers have damned the game with piss poor review scores. Once again I have to ask what they were expecting. Zelda? Tekken? Give me a break.

I have not read the manual, and I have not looked at any guidebooks or online FAQs. I really have no idea if I taking my characters in the right direction with my skill, magic, and combat choices. The key for me is that I am having fun in the process; learning how to make new combat combinations is part of the experience. I think WKC:I will open up to a whole different level of RPG combat joy once I actually bother to read the manual, and master some of the skill and combo techniques. In other words, if I actually knew WTF I was doing, I bet I would be effective with WKC:I’s combat system, which begs the question. Who pissed in the reviewers’ Cheerios?

Last night I also attempted to do the online Georama thing for the first time. I did not spend much time in online other than poking around a little bit; it was getting late and the Heavy Rain demo was calling my name.

Getting online was not a simple process. After accepting an overbearing on-line agreement, that looks to be one that you have to accept each time you enter the online mode, I had to enter a new character name; for some reason my avatar’s name was unacceptable.

I am not sure what was wrong with Ming-Fu. Was this name already taken? Are special characters (i.e. a hyphen) not allowed? Does the game engine have some sort of filter that deemed my avatar’s name offensive and generally not acceptable? As my grandmother used to say – that was a hell of a note.

I attempted multiple combinations [Ming-Fu, MingFu, Fu-Ming, Meing-Fu, MeingFu, Fuu-Ming, etc] before finally giving up and going with jcalvert. The one and only; I’m so original. I am not sure what sort of consequences this will have on my offline silent partner avatar, Ming-Fu. Maybe he will have split personalities.

While WKC:I may not be for everyone, especially the pundits that are trashing the game, I implore JRPG fans to give it a spin because WKC:I is a very solid outing.

Heavy Rain – Demo. Spoiler Free Comments
If you are attempting to stay spoiler free, I will oblige to the best of my abilities, but be forewarned that based on the content of the game, it is almost impossible to not give away something.

There are enough reviews and critiques of the demo that I am debating on not going to go into a ton of details yet on the demo. Let’s stick with this approach for a few minutes and see where this takes us once we reach the end of my comments. I’ll stay away from the specifics of the story, at least as it unfolds in the demo; instead I’ll concentrate on Heavy Rain’s gameplay aspects.

It may be a sign of where I am in my gaming career, but I really have not read that much about Heavy Rain. I have seen it mentioned in print magazines, various sites, etc for a long time. Other than it being “the next great game” I did not have any expectations.

I started seeing more and more hype, complete with impressive review scores, which takes us right up to the point where I pre-ordered the game and downloaded the demo.

From the trailer it is obvious that this game is very dark, and will feature heavy content, especially for parents. In fact, I know enough details about some of the back-story that I may consider pulling the plug on my preorder. Call me sensitive to this sort of thing; you can read between the lines … you have been warned.

My first thoughts about the game: an immersive cinematic story-based experience. Dare I say an interactive Myst? I think I have seen this type of game before – being prompted for button presses and certain actions and controller movements is nothing revolutionary. In the case of Heavy Rain, these controls are integral to the game and overall experience. After one session with the demo, I am not sure if my initial thoughts are fair because Heavy Rain is about the experience. Immersive, deep, brooding; I think gamers will get lost in their gaming sessions, which is the point of a well designed game.

Think of Heavy Rain as an interactive R rated movie – violence that is appropriate to the story, very mature content that is pertinent to the overall journey. Of course Heavy Rain’s nudity is well documented, none of which is featured in the demo (at least I did not uncover any); however the demo does have some very suggestive sexual content. Once again, go elsewhere for spoilers.

I wrapped up the two chapters in the demo in about 30-40 minutes, so an obvious concern with the actual game will be replay factor. I have read that the game can be completed in 8-10 hours, but I am trying to stay away from spoilers so I am not sure if this includes a single play-through or if taking different actions and branches increases the overall length of the game.

Based on my 30 minutes with the demo, I believe that Heavy Rain will go down in history as a ground breaking, revolutionary gaming experience. Heavy Rain features high quality production values that broach topics that have never been covered in a video game. Heavy Rain will break taboos that will put it squarely in the arena of appropriate, tastefully done adult gaming content. Heavy Rain truly brings gaming into an adult arena; video games have grown up.

In spite of my trepidations about the main catalyst of the story, I am very much looking forward to the game, and am anxious to play the demo again. Of course I will have to wait until the kids go to bed due to the adult content.