The Internet rose up as one this week in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills that have been working their way through the United States Congress. In this episode of Power Button, Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I get a bit political as we discuss the bills and how the video game journalism side of the business covered the protests and/or participated in them. Was it appropriate for news sites to black out their publications for the day? Should websites owned by big business be held to the same standards as independent publications? We hash it out and get to the bottom of things. Remember that even though both bills have now been shelved, we haven't seen the last of legislation that impacts the Internet. I'm sure we'll see bills like SOPA and PIPA again. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. Next Week: Now that the politics are handled, we're going to let our sociopathic tendencies shine as we discuss Saints Row: The Third. Call the hotline and tell us what you think of the game!
This article was originally published at Kombo.com on June 15, 2009.
Building on the momentum of 2008's Bionic Commando Rearmed, Capcom and GRIN have put together a full 3D action game that skips ahead to several years after Nathan Spencer rescued Super Joe and ended the Imperial plan to revive their leader and conquer the world with the Albatross. We rejoin Spencer shortly after the Federation capital of Ascension City is incinerated with nuclear weapons. Super Joe — now in charge of the Federation's Tactical Arms and Security Committee — springs Spencer from prison, reunites him with his bionic arm, and sends him into the radioactive ruins in search of the people behind the bombing. Spencer's ultimate objective unfolds as the story progresses as part of an engrossing narrative that keeps players guessing all the way to the end as Spencer's past keeps catching up with his future.
Bionic Commando has taken a lot of heat in the gaming community and I've already taken the time to defend what some see as key weaknesses and failings, and as I've played through the game I've come to realize that some players are judging this game based on its gun-toting combat capabilities, but evaluating Spencer's adventure with an eye on his arsenal is not what Bionic Commando is all about. Spencer's best weapon is, by far, his bionic arm. Locking the arm onto a target takes plenty of practice and patience. Most players will fail early and often while - pardon the pun - getting into the swing of things. In skilled hands, however, the arm becomes the most important tool in the game. Just about every major item or object in the game is snaggable by the arm, allowing Spencer to climb just about anywhere. Small and medium-sized items such as rocks and cars can be tossed at enemies with crushing force. The arm can even lock on to enemies to hold them in place as Spencer leaps into the air and delivers a harsh kick to the target. Most impressively, mastering the bionic arm allows players to swing through the air again and again without stopping with momentum carrying Spencer across great distances in mere moments. Swinging madly is just plain fun, and Spencer's enthusiastic howls and shouts prove that he's having just as much as I am.
Fifteen years ago, Square Enix released it's most popular title for the original Sony PlayStation. Final Fantasy VII has led to a number of sequel/spin-off projects, but rabid fans have yet to see the high definition remake for modern hardware that has been in high demand for years. What's the delay? Why hasn't Square Enix driven the big truck around back to load up on the money that fans are ready to dump on them in exchange for a remastered Cloud Strife? Ryan Winterhalter over at 1UP.com has several reasons why you haven't seen the Final Fantasy VII remake yet and why, in all likelihood, you never will. It all comes down to timing, cost, and a lack of general development resources.
One could be forgiven for thinking of Square Enix as little more than "the Final Fantasy company" after examining their TGS lineup nine years ago. The company unveiled the first round of titles in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series: Dirge of Cerberus, Before Crisis, and the capstone project, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. 2003 marks the beginning of Square's Final Fantasy fever. From Crystal Chronicles to Final Fantasy X-2, the company decided that leveraging Final Fantasy would lead to massive profits.
Yet, Square Enix never greenlit a Final Fantasy VII remake during this gold rush. If the market was ever ready, it was then. True, HD consoles wouldn't appear for another two or three years, but remake rumors began to pop up as early as 2000 (where fans pinned the PS2 as the target platform for the remake); yet in those interim two years, all the company managed to put together was a three minute long tech demo.
If Square didn't buy in on remake development while they remained blissfully ignorant of the pitfalls of HD game production and were already milking the franchise for all its worth, they certainly won't do it in the far more dangerous market of today.
The Square Enix of today just isn't the same Square that existed back in 1997. Company cultures change, markets shift, and what could once have been a slam dunk product several years ago is today an expensive, risky proposition. If fans really want to see Final Fantasy VII reborn, perhaps they should focus their enthusiasm in another direction. Why not aim for a remake on a handheld such as the Nintendo 3DS or the PlayStation Vita? Heck, why not give the game a minor visual touch-up and bring it to Apple's iPhone and iPad? While a big PS3 or Microsoft Xbox 360 remake isn't going to happen, there must be viable alternatives on which both the company and the fans can agree. Failing that, perhaps it's best left alone.
I hope you're a Resident Evil enthusiast, as Capcom has announced another entry in the long-running survival horror series. Coming to the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC on November 20, 2012 (later than that for PC, naturally), Resident Evil 6 continues the spiraling saga of beastly monsters pursuing armed professionals in both single-player and co-op modes. Here's a bit of the press release that sets up the backstory for the game:
It has been ten years since the Raccoon City incident and the President of the United States has decided to reveal the truth behind what took place in the belief that it will curb the current resurgence in bioterrorist activity. Due to be by the President’s side is his personal friend and Raccoon City survivor, Leon S. Kennedy, but when the venue suffers a bioterrorist attack, Leon is forced to face a President transformed beyond recognition and make his hardest ever decision. At the same time, Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance member Chris Redfield arrives in China, itself under threat of a bioterrorist attack. With no country safe from these attacks and the ensuing outbreaks, the entire world’s population is united by a common fear that there is no hope left.
In a first for the franchise, Resident Evil 6 sees series favorites Leon and Chris come together to face this unprecedented threat. They will be joined by new characters, each with their own unique perspective and involvement, in this relentless dramatic horror experience enacted on a global scale.
Admittedly, I'm not much of a Resident Evil fan, but I do like to follow the story from the sidelines. I played some of Resident Evil 2 and a decent chunk of Resident Evil 4, but I'm just not much of a survival horror fan. The premise on this next installment intrigues me though (and it certainly makes for a good trailer). The games themselves tend to get a bit too intense for me, but I'm sure I'll watch this one from a distance as well. How about all of you out there? Is there any interest in this one?
This article was originally published at Kombo.com on May 27, 2009.
I'm currently enjoying the Sony PlayStation 3 version of Capcom's new Bionic Commando, and while I will not have a chance to finish the game and write a proper review until after E3, I wanted to take a moment to offer a few thoughts on the game and encourage you to not take the naysayers and mediocre reviews as honest final truth. There's a fantastically fun adventure inside Bionic Commando for those willing to see it, and based on my gameplay experience so far, I'd say that you're really missing out if skip over it. I make it a point not to read reviews of a game before I write my own review, but there are certain supposed definitives about the game that are leaking into the gaming community as a whole. I've heard that hero Nathan Spencer's bionic arm is an unwieldy beast to control and that the seemingly complex controls sink the game. I've heard that the story makes no sense is too linear. I've heard complaints about load times and limited replay value. While I never expect my own tastes to align with the community at large, after hearing these kind of repeated criticisms, I'm starting to wonder if I'm playing the same game as everybody else.
Nintendo has been reluctant to offer demos of new video games published on its hardware. The company experimented with limited demos of minor WiiWare titles a while ago, but has never distributed sample versions of major titles the way that other publishers provide such things on Sony's PlayStation Network or via Microsoft Xbox Live. That changes starting today as the Nintendo 3DS eShop updates with a downloadable demo of Capcom's upcoming Resident Evil Revelations. Next week a demo of Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games will be available with demos of Rayman Origins and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D will follow in the weeks ahead.
"The demo program allows Nintendo 3DS players to be among the first to test-drive select games," said Tony Elison, Nintendo of America's senior director and general manager of Network Business. "Players can try out new genres or series, often weeks before the full versions are available in stores."
Demos really do work. I've been swayed into picking up PlayStation 3 titles that I would never have considered prior to playing a solid demo version. So far it's only third-party demos that have been announced and there's no word on whether or not Nintendo will offer test drive versions of its own. In a way, Nintendo doesn't really need demos for its own material. Super Mario 3D Land and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D sell themselves. Players know what they're going to get with those titles, but the 3DS experiences behind Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid may be unknowns to most people. However, I don't believe that Nintendo should count out demos entirely. Kid Icarus: Uprising may benefit from a demo boost, as could anything else completely new and semi-risky that the company plans to launch. Nintendo isn't a stranger to demos, after all; retail kiosks offering samples of new Nintendo products have been around since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Why not bring that experience home via the eShop on a regular basis for its own products in addition to third-party offerings?
Following on from last month's announcement of Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock for the Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, the first in-game renderings of a few of the game's characters have been released via the game's promotional Twitter account. The image of the Doctor at the TARDIS controls evokes a sort of Telltale Games visual vibe, don't you think? An image labeled merely as a monster shows off a Dalek, but the third image (also labeled as a monster) is strangely blank. I don't know what that's all about. I'm interested in this project and looking forward to seeing where it goes, but I think what we all really want to see is a trailer that shows the actual game in motion. Let's see the Doctor and his companions in action! Fans have certainly waited long enough for a solid Doctor Who video game, but being on the slow path and having to wait for more information can be agonizing.
The Internet has transformed our civilization on a scale not seen since the printing press, but nothing important and essential goes unlegislated forever. You may have noticed that a number of your favorite websites such as Wikipedia, Reddit, and Wordpress have gone dark today in protest of something called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). These bills currently working their way through the United States House of Representatives and Senate respectively would gut the fair use and safe harbor provisions that allow people to legitimately quote articles, post images, and share music and video clips online (among other things). Wikipedia explains these overly broad and poorly written bills currently working their way through Congress (although Wikipedia is offline today, SOPA-related articles remain accessible):
[SOPA] would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.
Opponents say that it violates the First Amendment, is Internet censorship, will cripple the Internet, and will threaten whistle-blowing and other free speech actions. Opponents have initiated a number of protest actions, including petition drives, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and planned service blackouts by English Wikipedia and major Internet companies scheduled to coincide with the next Congressional hearing on the matter.
The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on November 16 and December 15, 2011. The Committee was scheduled to continue debate in January 2012, but on January 17 Chairman Smith said that "[d]ue to the Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks, markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act is expected to resume in February."
Opponents have warned that SOPA would have a negative impact on online communities. Journalist Rebecca MacKinnon argued in an op-ed that making companies liable for users' actions could have a chilling effect on user-generated sites such as YouTube. "The intention is not the same as China’s Great Firewall, a nationwide system of Web censorship, but the practical effect could be similar," she says. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) warned that websites Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo all seemed likely to shut down if the bill becomes law. Policy analysts for New America Foundation say this legislation would enable law enforcement to take down an entire domain due to something posted on a single blog, arguing, "an entire largely innocent online community could be punished for the actions of a tiny minority."
Additional concerns include the impact on common Internet functions such as linking or access data from the cloud. EFF claimed the bill would ban linking to sites deemed offending, even in search results and on services such as Twitter. Christian Dawson, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Virginia-based hosting company ServInt, predicted that the legislation would lead to many cloud computing and Web hosting services moving out of the US to avoid lawsuits. The Electronic Frontier Foundation have stated that the requirement that any site must self-police user generated content would impose significant liability costs and explains "why venture capitalists have said en masse they won’t invest in online startups if PIPA and SOPA pass."
The potential abuse of this prospective law is staggering. As Gizmodo points out, "The resources it would take to self-police are monumental for established companies, and unattainable for start-ups. SOPA would censor every online social outlet you have, and prevent new ones from emerging." Today's Internet strike may inconvenience you for a few hours, but if either of these bills become law, then today's efforts are just a sample of what you can expect. Many of your favorite websites will have to shut down or drastically censor themselves in order to comply with the law. Small independent sites like Press The Buttons would cease to exist in their current forms. Even large sites like Facebook and Twitter would have to drastically alter their policies in order to continue to do business. I urge all of you who live in the United States to contact your senators and representative today and voice your opinion on the so-called Internet blacklist bills. Take a break from Steelport, head away from Hyrule, and come out of Karkand in order to make those calls, write those letters, and send that e-mail. Spread the word to your friends and family, too. While stopping piracy is important, crippling the open Internet to do it is about as counterproductive and outright harmful as things get.
Most of you would attend The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses tour if the traveling concert were coming anywhere near you. New dates will supposedly be announced over the course of the year, so don't give up hope just yet! As for the lucky 12.9% of us who will be attending, we promise not to brag about the greatness of the show. Too much. My girlfriend and I will be going to a performance over the summer as are my pal and podcast co-host Joey Davidson and his wife not long after. I predict a Zelda symphony episode of the Power Button podcast in our collective futures.
Speaking of Power Button, we discussed the season pass concept of bundling future downloadable content at a discount provided one prepays for it back on Episode 61. Now that some time has passed since the widescale introduction of the season pass business model, it seems like a good time to ask all of you if you've ever purchased one. How many season passes have you bought? Just one? More than one? Are you still waiting for the right deal to come along? Or are you completely opposed to the idea? Let's hear your thoughts.
Almost two years ago, the team at Exploding Rabbit wowed us all with a freely playable Flash game called Super Mario Bros. Crossover in which characters from other classic Nintendo Entertainment System games jumped into the Mushroom Kingdom for a little Goomba squashing. In addition to Mario, heroes and heroines such as Mega Man, Link, Samus Aran, and Simon Belmont journeyed from World 1-1 to World 8-4 to rescue the princess. The game was great fun and wasn't sued out of existence by anyone's legal team, so now a new version is on the way that adds new visual styles, music, and tricks to the action. New Super NES and Game Boy graphical modes will be available in the next version, as are new characters such as Mario's brother Luigi and Mega Man's counterpart Bass, plus variations on existing characters including Trevor Belmont, Dark Samus, and Proto Man will join the fun. The new trailer will show you all of this better than I can tell you and is guaranteed to make long-time Nintendo fans smile. Give it a look and then accept the fact that you'll have to wait a bit before you can play it. The game is apparently due out sometime before the end of March 2012. I, for one, can't wait to see it in action.