Bethesda’s Excuse

Eurogamer’s Robert Purchase spoke with Pete Hines about their decision to pursue legal action against people reselling games. Go read Purchase’s article and come back.

While I agree that it’s difficult to tell if a “sealed” copy of anything actually contains what it says, or is something that just weighs the same, I found this part of Hines’ argument particularly telling:

“He, specifically, was trying to list it as a new product as if he was GameStop or Best Buy… He’s not a company, he’s not a distributor…”

To Pete Hines you’re not allowed to sell something as new unless you’re part of an incorporated legal entity.

Last week I bought some electronics from a person off of Craigslist, they were selling it as “new” because it was still sealed. When I met the seller I had them open it up before buying it because you do need to be able to tell that it isn’t a box with a brick in it.

That is a legitimate concern, and I’m not sure how you resolve that question over an online purchase, but it isn’t really up to a the original software developer or publisher to police that. If they are going to do that,  you would hope that they have a very strong argument against the individual seller.

Hines is quoted as saying:

“…we don’t want our customers buying stuff from a vendor like Amazon where they think they’re buying a new product and suddenly finding out they got a disc that’s been played, somebody kicked across the floor and scratched and ‘oh they took out the insert that had the special items I was supposed to get for buying this’.”

Hines never makes any statement that the original seller, Hupp, was actually selling a resealed product as new, but he sure does love to speculate that this is what is happening. This is an incredibly flimsy excuse to approve the legal threats against Hupp, and it absolutely isn’t the same argument that his lawyers are using. Their argument is all about a bogus missing warranty.

Even if they’re successful in their pursuit of shutting the practice down, you don’t need to be a lawyer to smell the stench from Maryland. This is about locking out individuals from doing what they want with the things they purchase, not protecting anyone from buying a resealed game.

Surprise, Shadow of the Colossus is Still Great

Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite games. It is from a unique moment in time before independent developers had found the ability to publish their novel ideas widely. Instead, we had this deep series of boss fights from Team Ico that turns out to work just as well today as it did in 2005. At least, once Bluepoint did some serious technical work to make the game presentable to a new and returning audience.

Eurogamer’s Oli Welsh reviewing the new Shadow of the Colossus remake for the PlayStation 4 that comes out on February 6:

So this PlayStation 4 remake is a risky undertaking. The developer, Bluepoint Games of Austin, Texas, is the undisputed master of remasters and has even been here before, having made the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection for PlayStation 3 in 2011. But this isn’t a remaster. This is a remake, rebuilding the game from scratch using new technology and all-new, much more detailed art. Ueda wasn’t involved and everything he and his team made for the original game has been redrawn and embellished to satisfy our hunger for fidelity. In a literal sense, this is an artist’s game remade without the original artist and containing none of the original art. Could its spirit survive such a process?

Yes. And how. Bluepoint has achieved an unprecedented feat in game preservation that creates the definitive version of Shadow of the Colossus and makes a generations-old game feel excitingly modern.

Nootropics Are Bullshit

Eurogamer’s Chris Bratt has a great investigative article and video on the bullshit around supplements. Specifically one that targets people playing games. It’s called GodMode and it is a “nootropic” from Scott Miller, yes the one that used to work for Apogee and 3D Realms.

Here’s part of Chris’ interview with Scott, where Scott goes off the deep end:

“If you read the books that doctors have to read,” said Miller, “they are so anti-supplement, because they’re funded by the pharmaceutical industry. And the pharmaceutical industry tells you things like avoid fish oil, avoid all this stuff. They don’t want you doctors to believe in any of that stuff. I hate to say it, but doctors are brainwashed from day one when they enter medical school that drugs work and anything outside of drugs isn’t going to work.”

In the article, Chris also tries the supplement for two weeks to no effect, because it doesn’t do anything.

Miller’s business model isn’t entirely original, there are similar products that share the same ingredients but target other people.

Alex Jones sells a few varieties of nootropics to his dumbass followers that he calls Brain Force Plus. Gwyneth Paltrow has similar crap in her GOOP store. There are ads on some gaming podcasts for other brands of nootropic garbage supplements. I unsubscribed from one podcast as soon as I heard that ad. These supplements have always been bullshit, don’t trust anyone that sells them.

Super NES Classic Edition Stuff

SNES Box image via Nintendo

The Super NES Classic Edition is out for $80, Chris Scullion has a review of the Brit version which looks a little different externally and in the menu, but is functionally identical, to the US version:

The only main problem I have with the SNES Mini is how important the Reset button on the console is. Any time you want to change a game, save your state, load a state or rewind you have press the physical Reset button on the SNES Mini.

[…]

A button combo would’ve been a better way of doing this. It could be a complex one to avoid accidental restarts: most Game Boy games back in the day could be reset by pressing A + B + Start + Select, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t have been possible here.

That niggle aside, I’m happy with the way each game is handled here. They look great – even though it only outputs at 720p, on my 4K TV they still look crisp – they sound great, and they play great.

I think it is odd that in some places Nintendo have decided to straight out call it a “mini,” as Chris’ box shows:

Well at least we get our more hideous miniaturized console with buttons that lack colour.

Eurogamer’s John Linneman confirms that the tech inside is exactly the same as the NES Classic Edition:

The fact that the SNES mini runs on the same hardware as its predecessor has a number of implications. Among them, we can expect hackers to be looking to exploit the system in short order to add new games – exactly what happened with the NES mini. And secondly, the use of what is essentially the same technology makes it much easier for Nintendo to resume NES mini production.

The only game exclusive to the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is Star Fox 2, Christian Donlan has a review:

Star Fox 2 is an unusual game, an astonishingly inventive sequel that built on the combat and visual thrills of the first Star Fox but wasn’t afraid to experiment with the structure. Rather than starting you at one end of a space map and asking you to pick your route to the far side, choosing from missions that can eventually be all but committed to memory through sheer repetition, you’re suddenly protecting Corneria, your home world, from an ongoing attack from big villain Andross and the attack pretty much plays out in real time. Andross builds bases on nearby planets, and he has cruisers headed for you and IPBMs launching every few minutes. Your job is still to get across the map to take out Andross directly, but you have to respond to other things as they happen. Those cruisers! Those missiles! These are all problems that compete for your time and there’s a panicky thrill in knowing that if you head for a planet to take on an entrenched baddy, there will be missiles still snaking through space towards Corneria, launched from other points. Throughout this wonderfully breathless game, you are asked to think on the fly, and to dash headlong between danger zones, constantly prioritising threats.

The hackers are working on updating hakchi2 for the SNES Classic Edition so that you can load your own ROMs on to the system. Legally backed-up from your own cartridges or downloaded and deleted within 24 hours, of course.

I’m waiting for delivery of SNES Mini now, it will be delivered tomorrow. Seems like hakchi and hakchi2 will require some minor changes to work with SNES Mini. So please wait little more.

They might also be able to fix it so we don’t need to get off the couch to reset the console and access save states. Here’s hoping.

But if you’re going to go that far you almost might as well just listen to Seth Macy with his hilarious article titled “Why Spend $80 on an SNES Classic When You Can Install Emulators on a Raspberry Pi and Never Shut the Fuck Up About It?”:

Nintendo’s highly coveted SNES Classic Mini system comes out today and is certain to be a hot item. A word of advice to gamers who aren’t able to land an SNES Classic: did you know you can just buy a Raspberry Pi and remind people at every opportunity how much fucking better you are for it?

After the NES Classic Edition was announced and became immediately  impossible to find I attempted to do exactly what Macy is joking about by setting up a Raspberry Pi with emulators and it is indeed still a pain in the ass. It’s great that these classic NES and SNES consoles have embedded Linux at their core, but Nintendo have done so much work to obscure that core from their users and make things easy.

That hard work is exactly what has always been missing from any Linux distribution on a single board computer like the Raspberry Pi or desktops and laptops. I have the patience to use this software and fix it when it breaks but this is never as easy as using a Classic Edition. Hopefully Nintendo lives up to their promise and produces enough to go around.

What Would Make You Want to Upgrade Your Console?

Yours truly back in June writing during Microsoft’s E3 presentation for the Xbox One X:

…it feels like Microsoft is less interested in challenging Sony with this high-end console than harvesting their hardcore Xbox fans for yet another console purchase.

I don’t doubt that this console will live up to its technical promises, but it won’t offer much to anyone who already has an Xbox One, it’ll still play the same games. Unlike an iPhone upgrade, the smaller physical form-factor won’t make the Xbox One X any more pocketable. A more powerful desktop computer can also run many of the same exclusive games in Windows 10.

Eurogamer’s headline from Martin Robinson yesterday: Microsoft’s final sales pitch for Xbox One X falls flat:

Microsoft stepped up its commitment to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, backing a proven winner and this year’s true phenomenon in what amounts to quite a coup for the Xbox brand, but the messaging was all over the place. This, it seems, is an exclusive in that very loose definition of the word, with all sorts of obfuscation being peddled out when it comes to future versions on other platforms. Maybe if Phil Spencer hadn’t skipped this week’s show he might have advised that, mindful of a Gamescom from the not-too-distant past and the muddied reveal of another Xbox ‘exclusive’, you can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes for too long.

There were better signs elsewhere, and the list of 100-plus games that will be receiving updates to make the most of the Xbox One X hardware makes for impressive reading – the promise of an improved and definitive console version of The Witcher 3 is almost enough alone to justify the upgrade, and elsewhere there’s an appealing list of games that will benefit from a facelift. But at this point in the console lifecycle, Microsoft needs more than prettier versions of multiplatform games if it’s to make serious inroads into Sony’s considerable lead this generation.

At this point I’m pretty sure that in general people aren’t interested in more expensive mid-generation console upgrades to support 4K televisions unless they have a tremendous amount of disposable income.

The argument that people would buy a desktop computer as powerful also doesn’t seem to hold water. Are people really buying them in droves? Where are the boastful hardware companies filling press release pipelines with numbers? I haven’t seen them, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

I get the sense that people are pretty displeased with the PlayStation 4 Pro, as well, but at least Sony has truly exclusive games like Uncharted and that won’t also be available on Windows 10.

What reason is left to buy the upgraded consoles? Here I am back in June again:

That could change later on. In the future this could be the baseline version of the Xbox One and some games could require the Xbox One X to run at all. The same is true of the Playstation 4 Pro, and I wouldn’t recommend buying either of the original Xbox One or the original Playstation 4 at this point.

So, the fear of being left behind when games might require the upgraded consoles, that’s basically all I’ve got for reasons to buy the Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro today. Maybe Microsoft and Sony don’t want to tank sales of the the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Amateur. Is something going to change between now and November 7th?