Five years, four months, and 18 days.  That’s how old Grand Theft Auto IV will be when the next entry drops.  Between then and now, Rockstar developed six titles (granted, a couple of them were smaller ones):

  1. Chinatown War
  2. Beaterator
  3. GTA: Episodes from Liberty Cit
  4. Red Dead Redemption
  5. L.A. Noire (yes, the bulk of the work was done by Team Bondi)
  6. Max Payne 3

GTA V’s budget, as I previously mentioned, was $265m, with $137m of that going directly to development costs.  Of the remaining $128m, I am confident that $127.5m of that was spent on advertising in the Toronto area.  Seriously, it’s single-most well-advertised game I can recall since ever, if I’m only considering physical print ads.  Bus stop ads, billboards, building dressings, this game is being PIMPED OUT.

Are you getting it?

Friday, 8:38am – Gavin

That infographic is amazing.  It truly shows the power of the gaming industry as an economic force.  I believe that gaming is still very much an afterthought market as far as front-page, non-VG-dedicated media sources go, but I wonder if this will be the one that opens that up.  Critics will say “Of course it has a higher take than a movie; it costs more” but precisely that, it costs more, so people are less likely to impulse-grab it.

I have questions as to whether or not this bodes well for the games industry not as an economic force, but as a machine that churns out games.  The budget for GTA V was INSANE and it has obviously massively profited on its first day alone.  Yet, Take-Two’s stock barely budged, which means that this was expected.  If big budgets and massive takes become the new norm, at what level will a game be considered a sales failure?  We already saw this year that Square Enix considered Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Human Revolution a failure despite selling around 4m copies each.  If big budgets and big takes become expected, will that negatively impact “smaller-scale” AAA developers?  Surely GTA V is an anomaly, both in terms of sales figures and in terms of pre-release marketing hype, but does this mean that 2K, Activision, or EA will come back and say “OK, if we don’t break $400m on day-one sales for the following titles, we’re restructuring”?

Of course, conversely, this bodes well for indie developers for exactly that reason.  If a game is deemed a sales failure, it tends to sit on the back burner, and the cannibalistic games media moves on to the next title to hype up and discuss.  Indie titles are rarely hyped outside of dedicated columnists/journalists until they’re released, so by eliminating the hype on relatively recently-released titles, you could see a Jonathan Blow or a Terry Cavanagh or a Kan Gao come in and steal the scene – certainly, Blow has already done that with Braid in his lifetime.

In other news, Canadian developer Hinterland Games, based out of Vancouver Island, BC, has been heavily pushing their first game, The Long Dark.  It’s a survival game set in northern Canada (dubbed “the Pacific Northwest”, presumably so as not to scare away American gamers) as the player, a bush pilot, crashes and must survive for as long as possible.  It sounds vaguely reminiscent of the mechanics and systems behind Don’t Starve, except that combat in TLD is rare, and it’s more the environmental concerns about which one needs to be aware.  It’s not often that we come across games that are quintessentially Canadian – how often do you find a game knowingly set in Canada, aside from Sang-Froid, or the brief foray into Montreal in Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

Fans of Toronto’s Gamercamp might recognize the name Emily Claire Afan, who is Hinterland’s community manager, but Hinterland has a huge cast of former AAA developers.  The founder and creative developer Raphael Van Lierop was also the narrative director for Far Cry 3.  Art director Hokyo Lim was the art director for League of Legends.  Audio director David Chan was the first audio director for Bioware, and writer Marianne Krawczyk won a BAFTA for God of War 2, and also wrote for Far Cry 3, and worked with Klei Entertainment on Shank 1 and 2.  Some heavy hitters in this crew!

In four days, they’ve hit $61k of their $200k goal.  While I have never Kickstarted anything in my life, I am strongly considering this one.  Always good to support local stuff, and the game sounds like something that, while there are survival games out there, I haven’t played much of at all (beyond the basic concepts of survival in every game with a lose state, obviously).

Thursday, 8:30pm – Albert

R.I.P Yamauchi.  Thanks for the info on the man behind the legacy that is Nintendo.

I think everyone is most likely playing GTA V. I have it but I haven’t even cracked it open yet. Strange I know, but i’m really saving this weekend to just become a filthy person and just dive right in. I’m a little worried because I have made a lot of progress on Tomb Raider but I am not sure how far I am from beating it. I don’t really want to look up where I am in case I am close to the end and spoil something for myself. It might just be one of those games that you come back to finish at a later time. Speaking of which I have recently beaten X-Com Enemy Unknown for the 3…maybe 4th time. This time however, I beat it on Ironman Impossible Difficulty. It was super difficult but because I was already familiar with what to do it helped me concentrate on other things. One of the advantages of such a hard difficulty is that the enemies actually start being aggressive and come attack you. Leaving me able to sit some men on autowatch and then flank them as they came towards me. Great game! I can’t wait for the expansion.

The other thing I wanted to make sure that everyone saw is the success that GTA V has already had. Ridiculous!

Thursday, 9:00am – Gavin

Sad news down the pipe today, as former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi died early this morning.  He became president in 1949 at the ripe old age of 22, and stayed on until 2002, when he stepped down and was replaced by the one we’re more familiar with, Satoru Iwata.

Yamauchi, strangely enough, wasn’t actually a huge gamer.  However, he was a very savvy businessman and knew what the people wanted.  After his failed ventures at diversification (the storied taxi company, the love hotels, the instant rice), he buckled down and turned Nintendo into a gaming behemoth.  He was able to look at products and determine what people would like and what they wouldn’t like, and he’s the reason why we know the names Gunpei Yokoi and Shigeru Miyamoto.

For more information on Yamauchi as Nintendo’s president, as I’ve previously recommended on the site, I strongly suggest picking up a copy of Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan.  It was a fascinating read.

In other Nintendo news, while people are going bananas over GTA V, another title has hit the market and has sold a whopping 2 million titles in just four days.  That would be Capcom’s new entry into the Monster Hunter series, #4.  As a 3DS exclusive, numbers like this are great for the system, which is thoroughly flying under most people’s radars, but it’s also great for Capcom.  Capcom, as you might know, isn’t exactly on the strongest ground right now.  With about $150m in the bank right now, they don’t have a lot of capital for new projects and certainly not enough to inspire much investor confidence.  They’ve made poor decisions in the past, but hopefully this helps them right their ship.  Monster Hunter 4 has only been released in Japan and isn’t scheduled to be released in North America/outside of Japan at this time.  The Monster Hunter series has always been bigger in Japan than anywhere else, but MH3 for the Wii still sold 580,000 units according to VG Chartz, which is pretty decent for a wholly Japanese game.

On the recommendation of the folks at Gamers With Jobs, I picked up A Ride Into The Mountains last night for my phone, to be played while I’m on the subway.  I gave it a go today and I’m pretty impressed so far, for a title that cost me a whopping $1.03.  It’s a pixel-art game where you ride a horse and shoot enemies with a bow and arrow, controlled by swiping your finger on the screen.  While the colour palette is fulsome, the pixel-based art style would feel more at home on an Atari 2600.  It’s a fairly intuitive game with some on-screen instructions, but you’re left to figure out the physics by yourself.  I beat two stages between home and work today, with several deaths on the first boss.  It’s a fun little game that I’ll grow tired of quickly, but I spent $1.03 on it.  I’ve already gotten my money’s worth as far as I’m concerned.

The music gets repetitive, but you can turn it off.  It automatically remembers where you left off so you don’t have to start from the beginning each time.  You’ll miss a LOT when you first start, but you have unlimited arrows, so it’s not a big deal.  You control your horse (which is animated phenomenally, by the way) by tilting the screen in the direction you wish to go.  You control the horse in a 2D plane (you might get to 3D later on, I don’t know).  It’s perfect for a phone; I imagine that using a tablet for this would feel cumbersome, especially when tilting.

It’s available on iOS and Android.  Give it a whirl!

Wednesday, 1:04pm – Gavin

Well, huzzah that you were able to acquire a copy!  Your girlfriend, whom we all know and love, is a keeper.  May you enjoy many hours with it.

Interesting point about Rockstar being the best at combining game play, storytelling, graphics, and social relevance.  When I think about it, I’m not certain that I could disagree with that.  Max Payne 3 was probably the prettiest game I’ve played (no, I never modded Skyrim) and despite my previous comments about GTA IV being a bit graphically bland, Liberty City still felt like a city.  It didn’t feel like there were any invisible walls or streets that didn’t belong or anything like that.  The world felt large and organic, and surely, the same will be accomplished with GTA V.  I have to gloss over Red Dead Redemption because I only played it for about twenty minute, but I do acknowledge that it was a beautiful game that everyone loved.

The social relevance is encapsulated quite well by Rockstar, at least in the GTA series.  It’s poignant but darkly satirical at the same time, and the ambient environment, especially the radio chatter, does hit on quite a few relevant social issues.  I struggle to think of other game companies that have done this repeatedly – certainly, something like Spec Ops: The Line combines these elements (yes, the repetitive game play was part of the point of the game), but that’s only one entry from Yager, and they only have two games to their name.  Telltale Games, of The Walking Dead fame, has too many duds in their repertoire.  Maybe you could say Bioware, as they absolutely hit on mature, relevant themes in their games, but some might suggest that the storytelling of Mass Effect 3, the game play of Dragon Age 2, the repetitive combat of Jade Empire (which didn’t bother me in the slightest) detract from their ability to take the crown from Rockstar.

Wednesday, 12:07pm – matt

wow. its finally here. GTA 5. my story begins sunday when I frantically searched for pre-orders remaining on the Special Edition of the game. that didn’t happen.

so Monday I heard Microplay was having a midnight launch, and thinking “who possibly wants GTA 5 right away?” I went to the store around 11:58 pm and was greeted by a line of well over 200 people. fuck.

so I rushed home and went to sleep, thinking I could head to the futureshop downtown 8 am opening and grab a copy there, only to be met with an even longer line up and work starting shortly, I hopped on the metro and headed back home again. beaten but not down, yet. while taking my morning dumper I tried to secure a Special Edition in store pick up on the Playbook, and alas, I was denied once again.

so at work I receive messages of glory from a friend at home playing the game and the wheels being moving AGAIN. I decide to fuck off work for a bit and head to a local EB only be greeted once again, by another line up, at 2 fucking 45 in the afternoon. to top this off I have a photo shoot after work severely limiting my ability to pick up a copy after work. luckily my girlfriend came through and grabbed a copy on her way home, and not only that, even installed the game on the system so it was ready when I got home. AWESOME!

so I finally got home, popped the disc in, and it begins. all. over. again.

not ruining anything I couldn’t wait to just get I a car and explore. this game is certainly going to have a tremendous pull on heart string after I had the greatest time in my life celebrating albert moving to California by taking my own vacation there, and instantly recognizing some of the local landmarks I came to know and love.

ROCKSTAR may be the greatest company in terms of delivering the absolute complete package in terms of gameplay, story telling, graphics and social relevance.

Wednesday, 8:37am – Gavin

Welcome back to the fold, Albert!  Glad to see the west coast checking in.

If it makes you feel any better, the reviews are universally stating that the PS3 version of GTA V is the superior version of the game – graphical fidelity, average frame rate, etc.  So have you committed to buying an XBone?  You’d be the first person I know who has decided to grab one.  I’m sure I wouldn’t have a problem with the system despite all of the complaints that arose around E3, but nonetheless, I shall live by the Wii U, and I shall die by the Wii U.

Interesting news about the auction house being shut down.  Having never played Diablo 3 when the Gamentary crew picked it up, I don’t have much to say about it, but you make a great point – the auction house was just another “pay-for-play” system.  Yes, you need to farm/grind your gold, but still, a significant part of the game like that is exploration and discovery, and if you can just buy your way to the top, then the game has a fundamentally broken aspect.  I compare it to something like Fable 2, where weapon shops are not a shortcut for anything.  The types of advanced weapons you can buy at a blacksmith or weapons trader are so rarely found elsewhere in the game’s world that to rely upon exploration would be a broken system.  Yes, you can find legendary weapons by completing certain quests, meeting certain goals, or opening certain Demon Doors, but where the auction house was originally designed as a way to ditch your excess loot, it became a way to purchase the best equipment that would otherwise be found in the world.  Not so much with Fable 2, unless you want to put yourself into super-hard mode – as in, a vision that the developers likely didn’t consider as the main vision.

With GTA V and The Last of Us blowing up peoples’ consoles, Watch Dogs has pretty much flown under the radar recently.  It looks like my kind of game, very much tactical rather than run-and-gun.  The Wii U game pad functionality potential for that game makes me drool, so I completely can’t wait to give it a go.  Of course, it will have to take a back seat.  My Wii U backlog is growing slowly but steadily, with the following released/announced titles hitting my list:

  • Super Mario 3D World
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
  • Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Pikmin 3
  • Watch Dogs

At $60 a pop, that’s more money than I am prepared to spend in the near future.  And there are countless others that are piquing my interest as we go – Scribblenauts Unlimited, Child of Light (even though I don’t care for turn-based RPGs, this looks absolutely GORGEOUS)

But if you ever hear me say that there aren’t enough games for the Wii U, remind me of this post.

Tuesday, 9:02pm – Albert

HEEEYYY EVERYBODY ITS TUUUESSDAY!

Jumping into the Gav show to talk about games! Whaaa GTV V? It’s already here my friends. I had preordered it via Amazon and I will see if it’s waiting for me when I get home. I am super excited to see how it looks and plays. I originally wanted it for Xbox 360 since that’s where all the gamers (Ricky, matt, etc) but alas, my Xbox has been broken. And I can’t justify buying a new Xbox with the Xbone being so close to launch. So I have it for PS3. I was going to pass on it originally because I have many other games to play and wait for it on PC… but what am I? Battling a Backlog Challenge? 😀

While i’m sure this week we’ll hear ALOT about GTA V, here is some other news that didn’t really shock me. Diablo III auction house will be shut down. It has just undermined what Diablo was supposed to be. Looting! The Auction house made it much more about gold and just buying your way to success. If I cared about Diablo III I’m sure I would have feelings about this change. But… um… yeah. There is some news I guess. It’s like Simcity 3 updates saying “OMG we made it much better! Buses actually go to correct places and our servers are working! WE SWEAR” – Yeah, I don’t care about that anymore. Too many good games out there for me to go back and play old ones that should have been working in the first place. I think i’m bitter because I spent $90 bucks on it Day 1. I’m dumb.

There are tons of games I want to play that I haven’t even considering buying yet: Rome II, The Bureau, Saints Row IV, etc…. then there’s this coming soon…

Watch Dogs

Tuesday, 8:29am – Gavin

As I write this, millions upon millions of gamers are mysteriously “off sick” today.  The party started early last night – as I was driving past an EB Games (owned by GameStop, for our American readers) last night at about 10:15, the lineup for the midnight release was already about 40 deep, and this is but one of dozens of stores in the City.  I believe that every EB Games not confined to a larger facility’s open hours (read: malls) was open at midnight.

I’ve never lined up for a game like that, and I’m not certain that there is a game wherein I’d be willing to do that.  Super Mario 3D World comes out on my birthday this year, but I get the strangest feeling that I won’t need to fight any crowds for that one.  Maybe the next Metroid title?  Even then, unlikely.

I miss the days when I got that excited for a specific game, that I literally needed to get it the moment it released.  Mortal Kombat 2 remains the only title I’ve ever pre-ordered in my life, from an obscure company called Chips & Bits,  They used to advertise in the backs of gaming magazines in the 90s.  I believe I got it from a copy of GamePro.  Anyway, turns out they shut down about six years ago: http://www.digitpress.com/forum/showthread.php?101236-Chips-amp-Bits-Store-Shuts-Down

Monday, 3:30pm – Gavin

Not that it’s much of a surprise, but the GTA V reviews are coming in.  Here’s IGN’s:

http://ca.ign.com/articles/2013/09/16/grand-theft-auto-v-review

Spoiler alert: 10/10

Metacritic is equally lauding, but GameSpot acknowledges that the game is pretty much devoid of positive female characters.  Misogyny in the gaming world?  COLOUR ME SHOCKED.  But still, despite that, they still gave it 90/100.

Monday, 9:00am – Gavin

I hear there’s this new game coming out this week.  I guess folks are pretty excited, huh?

Every screenshot I’ve seen of GTA V is absolutely gorgeous.  The world looks tremendously well-designed and incredibly detailed.  I have the slightest of regrets that I won’t be picking it up, as I really would like to just explore the world they created, but alas, the gaming world must go on without me.  I just don’t have anywhere near the time to commit to that game, and if I’m not sold on the specific type of game it is, then it would just be a waste of my money.

I didn’t get much gaming time in this weekend, but I did get to play Super Metroid on the Wii U Virtual Console.  Yep, still just as perfect as I remember it.  But of course, I did notice something of an issue.  Not with the game, but with the controller.  The buttons get a little sticky, like they need a bit of force to actually push them down.  I suppose I was used to the light-touch buttons of the Wiimote.  Or maybe they started sticky as well, and I just beat them into submission.  Either way, turns out I’m not quite as adept at this game as I once was.  It’s still so achingly familiar though.  I’m hoping I can get 100% of the items without a guide.  Unlikely, but you never know.

The other issue I noticed is that right trigger button, when pressed, opens up something of a back-end user-control screen.  It’s got some neat things, like save-states (which I’m adamantly not using with SM), but the problem is that your fingers naturally rest quite close to that trigger button, so I found myself accidentally pushing it quite a bit.  It got to the point that I needed to consciously keep my fingers in different places.  I can’t tell if it’s a poor design or if I’m just not doing something right.

I also got to play The Wonderful 101 for a bit, as I downloaded the demo.  As near as I can describe it, it’s Pikmin with guns and swords.  It’s fun, but I can’t tell if I really like it or if I’m just interested by the new(ish) concept.  The demo gives you absolutely zero instruction, so I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off.  The UI can be extremely cluttered at times – you don’t even know what you’re looking at.  The game is displayed on a tilt angle, like your average RTS.  However, when the game has informational messages come up, they are placed on the left side of the screen, where you simply can’t see what is behind them until you acknowledge the message (but of course, the game doesn’t pause).

It’s a very hyperactive game.  There’s always a lot happening on-screen.  Once I figured out what I needed to do, it was significantly more fun, but there appears to be a slight learning curve with regards to the interactions and attacks.  B is jump, Y is interact, A is “Unite attack”, the core fighting mechanism of the game, and X is “Auto unite attack”, a secondary automatic fighting control that separates the group into two.

You attack by pressing the A button to form a “Unity”, a weapon made out of your teammates.  Using the right-stick on the game pad, you select your type of attack (fist, sword, pistol) and then engage.  When you get hit, your unity breaks, you lose health, and you have to collect your teammates from the ground by walking into them.  The game is paced well in that you never feel like there’s a drudge.  But man, is it ever busy on screen.  Things happen almost too quickly at times, like a busy Japanese bullet-hell game.  There’s so much to keep track of on screen that you never get a chance to breathe.  The “operation” is broken down into several missions – destroy enemies, rescue civilians, put out a fire, that sort of thing.  The music doesn’t change during the course of an operation, which gets very annoying after a while, but the missions and the world feel generally fresh as you’re playing them.  Each mission only lasts about three to five minutes anyway (of the ones I played – I was done the demo in about half an hour).

One of the key controls I couldn’t quite grasp was “encircle”.  With your teammates, you encircle a thing that requires interaction.  In order to do this, you must draw a circle on the game pad around the thing, and then there is an interaction between the system and the thing.  The problem is that you draw a circle on the second screen using your finger (or stylus), and I tried using my finger.  The screen is not as soft and fluid as a Gorilla Glass screen, so my finger felt like it was dragging.  Also, I was staring at the second screen to do it, and I couldn’t tell if I was actually encircling the thing that needed encircled.  You can move your group around once they have formed a circle, but it’s still a difficult mechanism.  Not unintuitive, but still difficult.

All in all, I’d like to play more to see if the game is just more of that, or if there’s a significant variety in what’s going on.  It’s a neat idea and it does look quite nice – at a moderate distance, the world looks like a nicely detailed Sim City town, and the level of detail never falters.

It’s very promising – what’s there is very finely-tuned.  I can’t say it’s a great title though.  I would need to play more to get a sense for it, but Platinum has a solid title on their hands.

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