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Agency and Constraint – How Much is Too Much?

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Agency and Constraint – How Much is Too Much?

While at PAX Prime, I was lucky enough to attend a Dragon Age panel held by a group of Bioware’s creative team for discussion of the series’ future. The room was packed. Fans cheered at most of the announcements, particularly those that suggested a departure from Dragon Age 2 towards their beloved Origins.

When it came time for Q&A, one of them got up and asked a rather peculiar question: “Will we ever see a meeting between Hawke and the Warden?” When the developers hinted it might be possible for the protagonist of DA2 to meet Origins’ heroic cipher, the fans gave a huge cheer.

The question baffled me. It wasn’t the implied desire to see Hawke again; unusually for a western RPG, DA2’s protagonist was arguably one of the most appealing characters. It was the part where people evidently clamored to see a non-character – no voice, no mannerisms, no defined history. Despite all the investment any particular player might place in their Warden, it’s not matched by a similar commitment from Origins’ story.

The desire stems from players not recognizing that bringing back their Warden in any future installment is both impossible and undesirable. The Warden, and the long parade of CRPG protagonists sharing their mold, can hardly be called characters at all, no matter how much “role-playing” the player may do. Their influence may matter, but their characterization does not.

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Sega Announces Brick People for Sega iOS

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Sega Announces Brick People for Sega iOS

This fall, Sega is bringing Brick People, based upon a hit arcade title of the same name, to Sega iOS for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

Players are tasked with feeding the eponymous Brick People by dragging and dropping bricks into the playing field, allowing them to hop and climb their way to presumably delicious fruit. They have 150 seconds to complete as many missions as possible. Upon completing each mission, players are challenged by the “Brick Monster,” who demands players to build specific structures in exchange for more precious seconds.

Brick People‘s single-player includes three difficulty modes: Sweet (Easy), Bitter (Medium), and Spicy (Hard). It uses the iOS’ multi-touch functionality to drag and drop blocks into position or move them once placed.

Brick People features multiplayer as well as single-player. Players can compete over Wi-Fi or play a split-screen game on the same device in the iPad version, trying to complete challenges before the other player can and gaining access to randomized powerups, such as bombs to destroy the other player’s blocks.

Brick People will be available over Sega iOS for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch version 4 or higher. It is Game Center compatible, and includes achievements and leaderboards to compare scores with friends and family.

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Speak for Yourself

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Speak for Yourself

By all rights, gamers and geeks should be free of shows like The Big Bang Theory by now.

Let’s start with some figures, courtesy of the Entertainment Software Association’s 2011 survey.

Seventy-two percent of American households now play video games. Over half of the gaming population lies within the 18-49 year-old range, and, in strict defiance of all conventional wisdom, forty-two percent of gamers are female. (There are almost two and a half women gaming over eighteen for each boy playing games under seventeen.)

Broadening the scope to beyond games, traditional geek favorites continue to suffuse popular culture. The Lord of the Rings and a veritable pantheon of comic-book superheroes have all seen successful and, in some cases, critically-acclaimed movie adaptations. Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, a movie that exists solely due to geek nostalgia and Michael Bay’s explosive tendencies, grossed $344,244,486 domestically, narrowly beating out fellow geek favorite Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at $343,086,045 domestic gross.

Rejoice, my fellows. By all rights, we have reached the Promised Land of acceptance at last. America is a geekier nation than it wants to admit.

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Google to Acquire Motorola

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Google to Acquire Motorola

Google and Motorola Mobility Holdings announced today that the internet giant will be acquiring Motorola Mobility for approximately $12.5 billion.

“This acquisition will not change our commitment to run Android as an open platform,” said Larry Page, CEO of Google. “Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. We will run Motorola as a separate business. Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them to deliver outstanding user experiences.”

Page said that the acquisition would help to protect Android from recent “anti-competitive patent attacks” coming from competitors such as Apple and Microsoft.

The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of directors for both companies. It is expected to close by the end of 2011, or early 2012, and is subject to the usual conditions for such an acquisition such as regulatory approvals from the U.S, European Union, and others and the approval of stockholders.

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Limited-edition TRON R3CONF1GUR3D Controller Available for the XBox 360

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Limited-edition TRON R3CONF1GUR3D Controller Available for the XBox 360

Performance Designed Products will be making 750 new limited-edition TRON controllers for the XBox 360, available exclusively through its website for $49.99 from August 9th, 2011 onwards.

Available only for a limited time, these new wired controllers feature soft rubber grips, vibration support, and a simple, elegant design. The last time PDP released a TRON-themed controller, they sold out in two hours – and traffic took the PDP website down, requiring it be redesigned and beefed-up.

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Shadows of the Damned

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Shadows of the Damned

Shadows of the Damned is a paradox.

It’s the product of three acclaimed creators each considered a master of their respective craft mimicking the same sort of B-movie many professional filmmakers (aside from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, of course) scorn. It’s crude, lewd, sophomoric, and — most damningly — not nearly as action-packed as it thinks.

In defiance of all this, the game has an undeniable charm. It’s colorful, its cast is charismatic, and while it has more than its share of Suda51’s trademark Dadaist quirks, they’re still largely not so bizarre as to drive non-fans away.

But I hope you can stomach dick jokes, because good lord.

Mexican demon hunter Garcia F*cking Hotspur (yes, that’s his name) may be foul-mouthed, almost illiterate, and crass, but he loves his girl Paula something fierce. So when Fleming, lord of all demons and creepy sex offender, first kills her and then kidnaps her because Garcia won’t acknowledge the demon lord has a bigger metaphorical penis, our hero leaps in after his beloved without so much as putting on a shirt, armed only with his trusty ex-demon companion and weapon: Johnson.

Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t write this stuff.

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Starcraft Universe Releases First Full Trailer

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Starcraft Universe Releases First Full Trailer

Starcraft Universe, the fan-made massive-multiplayer-online project, released its first full-length trailer today, featuring raid footage from the current build.

The brand-new trailer will feature gameplay footage of the first “raid” in Starcraft Universe, and will be available here, on the project’s YouTube account, and on their brand-new site.

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inFamous 2 Ending – Good Intentions [SPOILERS]

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inFamous 2 Ending – Good Intentions [SPOILERS]

In the past week I’ve had over an hour of discussion with my brother over the final decision — and endings — of inFamous 2. Not bad, considering that the ending itself consists of maybe a couple minutes’ worth of narration and still-shot frames, and the final divergent missions aren’t much longer.

After years of X-Men and similar stories using superpowered individuals as stand-ins for minorities, homosexuals and other victims of unjust persecution, it’s natural they get our almost unthinking sympathy. Even after the first inFamous, where literally every single Conduit onscreen aside from a Good Cole was an antagonist, all the sequel had to do was show Southern politician Bertrand and his fascist Militia raving about “freaks” to instantly be pegged as Bad People.

We know how this one will go. Which makes the eventual departure from the familiar narrative — both in the specific theme in question, and in the broader sense of a gamer’s expectations about “good” and “evil” paths —  all the more noteworthy.

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Ms. ‘Splosion Man Releases Today

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Ms. ‘Splosion Man Releases Today

Twisted Pixel’s Ms. ‘Splosion Man is live on the XBLA Marketplace today.

The website of the game has been revamped, and Twisted Pixel has released a brand-new trailer for the game. They’ve also announced plans to leverage Microsoft’s Title Management Storage (TMS) system to release free, periodic new Challenges for players to accomplish within Ms. ‘Splosion Man on a regular basis. Each Challenge will last for a week, taking a level from the game and spicing it up with new rules and extra content.

The full press release, trailer, and a gallery of new pictures are all included below.

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