Let's put this new Kotaku discussion making machine to the test - by having a discussion, about video games!
I'll get it started.
What is your favorite Final Fantasy and why?
Mine is VI. It was VII as an angst filled teen (of course) but then VI grew on me more and more as I got older. Did you go back for Shadow at the end of the game? Did you even try? If you answered no then you're no friend of mine and you're certainly not worthy of my Genji Gloves, buddy.
My current order is as follows: 6,Tactics, 7, 4, 9, 8, 5, 3, 2, 1
Maybe we can get nine separate threads going in the new system, each one representing a possible choice? (10 if you include Tactics and 11 if you insist on including Chrono Trigger - because someone always does)
Why 9? Because if anyone chooses anything past FFIX as their favorite then they will be banished to the bottom of the new Kotaku commenting hell! It's a special place reserved solely for people who love Final Fantasy XIII.
I honesty have no idea how this works. I haven't slept in more than 30 hours. Let's get to it!
As we spoke to no end about Castlevania old and new, Metroidvania successes and 3D failures, we finally made our way to the matter at hand. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. Cox and Mercury Steam's magnum opus. The drinks flowed and the laughs rolled - then before I knew it we were somehow talking about Batman:
"It's a reboot of the franchise in a different universe than what you know. It's a different take on the mythology. It's a bit like the difference between Tim Burton's and Chris Nolan's batman. It's the same character, it's the same universe, it's a work of genius - but they're both very differnt takes on it."
So I asked him the all important question. If Koji Igarashi and the Castlevania of old was Tim Burton's take on Batman?
"Then we're Chris Nolan, mate. All the way." Dave smiled wide as he said this.
"In many ways, we see Dracula as our Dark Knight. Sure, people kind of know what to expect now, but much like the new Batman films we want to sort of shatter those expecations with the next one. People are going to expect more of the same but we're not going to give them more of the same - we're going to give them something really different. Lords of Shadow one was kind of the origin of Dracula or "Dracula begins" if you like, and Lords of Shadow 2 will be the conclusion to the saga - "Dracula Rises."
But Cox also wants to ask the player, who is Dracula? He says that is the fundemental question at the heart of the Lords of Shadow series.
"Sure, he's the guy that every 100 years the belmonts fight, kill and then he comes back - but we wanted to tell his story. What are his motivations? Where's he coming from? But we also want to explore why is it the Belmonts that have to fight him? Why is it their job? Gabriel is the first Belmont, but there's a reason as to why only other Belmonts can go against him - and we'll answer those questions."
Ah yes, the Belmont clan. Confirmed so far are Trevor, Simon and most intriguing to fans, Alucard.
The beloved protagonist of both Cox and Iga's most famous work, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is finally making his grand return in Lords of Shadow 2 - but this isn't the Alucard we know. Remember, this is a new Castlevania, a new universe, and so too a new Alucard. Cox outright refused to tell me more, and the fan in me is likely thankful he did. Yet you know you want answers just as badly as I do, but luckily you can rest assured you will get those answers and more from Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2.
"I think its going to be a very interesting proposition for people. You will play as the ultimate vampire badass and it's going to be epic. Do you hear me, it's going to be fucking epic, Dave. If you like Legacy of Kain - you will love Lords of Shadow 2. You may not necessarily agree with what Dracula's doing but you'll certainly understand how he got here, and that's what we're going for."
And we too can now understand how Cox himself got here. As a man who once stood and worked beside IGA, we may not agree with the direction in which he's taken the Castlevania franchise, but we can certainly understand how he got here.
To that end I think it's become clear that while Gabriel Belmont may not be the Dracula that Castlevania needs, both he and his producer Dave Cox are definitely the one it deserves.
On a side note, when me and my buddy Chris were working up an image for this story I originally told him to make Iga into the old Batman and Cox into the new. I forgot to specify Burton and Nolan. The initial result was this:
Yes, that is Koji Igarashi as Adam West's Batman - and it's glorious.
After being out for nearly a year on PC as a beta you'd think Xbox 360 gamers would have given up ever seeing a new campaign for L4D2 on their beloved console. But Valve is not one to make people wait any longer than they have to! /s
According to the L4D Blog, come July 24th, 360 gamers will finally get their hands on the "Cold Stream" campaign that has been in beta testing for PC and Mac users since March 2011. The DLC also brings with it updated versions of all the maps from the original Left 4 Dead, just to sweeten the pot.
Valve is also promising some "surprise" updates for all platforms so look forward to that as well. Hell, I might even jump back into L4D on PC if that wasn't the same week Dawnguard was coming out.
So, if you can round up three friends and an Xbox 360, you too can now experience the Left 4 Dead franchise in all it's gory glory.
It's hard out there for a voice actor. It doesn't matter if you're Nolan North, Jennifer Hale or Steve Blum, it seems that some companies are always going to look for big name "Hollywood" talent first.
This has been a thorn in the side of one particularly iconic voice actor - Jon St. John. You probably know him as the voice of Duke Nukem, but he's a veteran voice actor and radio personality with over 30 years of experience in the industry.
I recently stumbled across a video he'd made in which he blames Hollywood celebrities for the lack of work being given to legitimate voice actors these days.
Seeing that the video was uploaded back in 2010, I decided to reach out to Jon to see if he still felt the same way. As it turns out, he does:
"Film actors do not need voice acting roles in video games, or commercial projects. These roles are for voice actors not Hollywood celebrities, and when you consider the amount of money they make for each and every film project, it is unfair to those of us who struggle to make ends meet in our chosen profession. I have trained and worked hard for nearly 30 years as a voice actor, and when a film star lands a role in either a game or commercial project they earn far more than I do, even though I am also SAG-AFTRA union member. How is that fair? I don't appreciate them taking work from me and my fellow VA's."
Jon didn't comment when I asked him what he thought about companies who believed they could use celebrities like Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart (who are both talented actors with recognizeable voices) to add value to their games - but I've no reason to believe he feels any differently.
To Jon, film actors are film actors and voice actors are voice actors and Hollywood needs to stay away from his bread and butter.
What say you? Do you agree with Jon that film actors have no place doing voice work? Or do you think that a talented film actor should be allowed to lend his or her voice to games as well?
Not long ago I had the pleasure of having a long talk with one of my all time favorite game designers, Al Lowe. The godfather of sleazy adventure gaming had plenty to say about the past, present and future of his famous polyester protagonist, but also had some very interesting thoughts about the way we protect our digital rights these days.
According to Al, the whole system of DRM or digital rights management that gamers seem to be getting so up in arms about over the last few years has been a flawed concept since he first saw in introduced way back in the 80's!
I refuse to buy products that have DRM. Ya know I'd rather pay for a CD and rip it than download protected music. To me it's just misguided and it has been misguided since my first involvement with it in 1982. It never was protected from those people who wanted to break it. It was always breakable. All it did was hassle people who paid for the product. And those are the people that you want to be nice to! Be nice to the people who pay and ignore the pirates, because they do what they're gonna do anyway.
In the interview, Edmund talks at length about his childhood wherein he found the inspiration for Isaac and in doing so manages to make some very interesting comparisons between games and religion:
"People wonder why there's a lot of violence in my work. I grew up with a picture of a bloody dying man who is suffering for everybody, a martyr, and it's the whole idea of self-sacrifice. Your exalted God, your God, rips his body to shreds for the good of the world. Violence becomes holy. And in a lot of ways, in the Bible and Catholicism, violence and gore is considered holy. You drink the blood of Christ, you eat his flesh. How does that not come in to me? When I'm going through seven years of catechism growing up and they're teaching me, you know, spells... I'm learning how to cast incantations before I receive the blood and body of Christ, you know? So I can be protected from the devil. It's total magic, and I totally love it for that, I love it for its mysteriousness, I love it for its ritualisticness. I think Catholicism is quite interesting. It's very close to D&D. It seems like such a natural progression."
That is just a tiny part of this fascinating case study of a fascinating indiviudual and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to not read the full interview.
Battlefield 3 has been a huge success for EA and the recently launched "premium" service looks like it'll be a big success as well. So much so that EA Label's President Frank Gibeau thinks it's time to bring the idea to other franchises.
Speaking to GamesIndustry, Gibeau didn't pull any punches when talking about the competition:
"We actually think our Premium service exceeds what [Call of Duty] Elite does - from a value standpoint, from a content standpoint, and longer term we think that we can bring more properties into that offering and that'll be great for the business."
However, he is not too proud to admit that great artists sometimes steal from their competitors and that Premium borrowed heavily from Elite in order to improve upon it:
"They [Activision] did something really innovative and if your competitor does something innovative and you think it applies to what you can do, then there's no harm in doing that. This is an industry where people have a lot of oneupsmanship and if somebody innovates, you match it or you exceed it."
What's promted all this boasting? Well, the sales of Battlefield 3 for one. Gibeau remarked:
"We're quite proud of what we did with Battlefield 3. We sold about 15 million [units] on that game, which was the number two game in the marketplace last year by a country mile.
Before he took yet another jab at the competition:
"It's important that we don't get into a position where we're just milking the franchise and just mailing it in and shipping bad games... We''ve got to stay constantly paranoid about meeting and constantly exceeding expectations on the game design and fun factor."
So what exactly does this mean? Can we expect to see Need for Speed Premium, SSX Premium and FIFA Premium showing up over the not too distant horizon? I'd say that's a safe bet and I bet Gibeau would say it's just good business.
Unless you've been living under a mammoth you're no doubt aware that there's a new expansion out for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It's called Dawnguard and it centers around our inexplicable love of vampires. It's already a hit on the Xbox 360 but before it makes it's way to PC , our 16th President wants in on the action.
If you're into supernatural takes on American history you may be a fan of the novel turned recently released major motion picture known as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Well, PC gamers have been all too quick to capitalize upon the resurgence in honest Abe's popularity and have made this idea one of the most requested mods in the Nexus forums, Steam community and r/skyrim. Luckily, modders got right to work in bringing forth the bearded one to kick some vampire ass.
What we really need here is someone to combine that hat mod with an enchanted/retextured suit that looks like something Abe would wear then package in this enchanted axe that does extra damage vs. the undead and possibly makes them flee. It's a rather simple series of mods, really.
Perhaps they could even be tied together with a quest involving a log cabin? Abe likes those.
Hell, if somebody doesn't get on this in time I might have to crack open the Creation Kit and do it myself!
Anyhow, Dawnguard will be released for PC in just over a score of days. Let's see if we can get some proper Lincoln mods up by then, shall we?