Buyer Beware, Borderlands Pre-Sequel Season Pass

The people who have bought it are screwed as is, but here’s a buyer’s beware for anyone looking to buy the Borderlands PS Season Pass, don’t.

With Borderlands 2 Season Pass you got four story oriented DLC packages.  When more came afterwards people were upset they weren’t included, but not nearly as upset as this season pass.

This season pass includes only the first four DLC, of which only one is a story oriented.  The new Jack’s Doppleganger DLC will be part of the season pass.

There is going to be tonnes of DLC for this game in terms of story content, but only one will be included.

So if you’re looking at a Steam sale, there is no Borderlands Pre Sequel Game of the Year edition, and you’re thinking of picking up the season pass on sale?  Don’t.  It’s simply not worth it one way or the other.

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Is Borderlands Feminist Tumblr Fluff?

When a feminist writer joined the staff of Borderlands people were very skeptical and began pointing out every single thing they felt might be influenced by it.  It was felt that the game had simply become “Tumblr The Game.”  I’m here to actually say it went the opposite direction by debunking some parts of the game “Borderlands The Pre-Sequel” that people have brought into question.

#1: Strong Females Dumb Males

If you are part of the Male Rights Activist (MRA) movement you’ve probably heard the claim that media likes to portray men as being idiots so that they can have strong females.

In a show like Everybody Loves Raymond, you have Raymond and his father who are the breadwinners of the family who are bozos and idiots.  And then you have their respective wives who have little to nothing to call to their name.  But in order to make the wife of Raymond (Rebecca) into a strong role, they make Raymond into an idiot who is reliant on his wife for answers.

There’s a lot wrong with this dynamic.  In Borderlands you have two female characters who are smart strong independent women.  On the other hand you have the one male character who is a slave to addiction (in this case cyber implant addiction) and a male robot who represents the least capable of the adventurers.  The claim is made that the men are made purposely stupid and the women are made purposely perfect in order to create strong female role models.

The thing, is… that’s just really backwards.  By portraying it this way it means that the only way a woman can ever be strong is if she is competing against an underachiever.  In that dichotomy when you get to med school you have men who sit at the top and get all the scholarships and women who underperform and don’t put in the same sort of effort.  Yet when you look at a field like psychology, a field associated with mediocrity and mass enrollment, you have women at the top.

It’s really not a surprise really with a full generation of media portraying women as only better than men in the light that men have to suck in order for them to be worth anything.

In the end dumbing down males hurts bottom rung males as they learn to see themselves as clowns instead of respectable adults, and it also hurts women who only feel they can compete against someone who is clearly their lesser.

#2: Lesbians and Gays

There is no shortage of homosexual characters in Borderlands.  Sir Hammerlock is the carry forward from Borderlands 2, who “barely seems gay” if you can call that a thing.  Then there is the villain Belly who is desperately in love with his child-aged friend Red.  You have Janie Springs who is the youngest lesbian cougar on the planet.

Other than Sir Hammerlock the game actually doesn’t paint a very nice world for being a lesbian.  A true “Tumblr the game” type comparison would have lesbians and gays being scorned by everyone and being victims in society.  Instead they’re all mostly accepted members of society who are just living their lives.

Belly is a gay pedophile but clearly knows that sort of relationship is wrong… so he never brings it up.  He is however a villain and their relationship is always made to be a bit of a joke.  Belly himself is an imbicle and possibly mentally handicapped and unable to truly understand what his feelings mean.  His character ends up being one of the deeper ones put in the game but is also one they choose not to explore because of the morally contentious topic involved.

Janie Springs is someone who is quirky and weird.  Her sexual leanings are pushed on you very heavily from the very start.  The thing is, she is nothing but a cartoon of a lesbian.  I have known many gay men and women in my life and I can say with some sort of certainty…. she’s weird.

#3: Nurse Nina

Nurse Nina replaces a male doctor.  Some might look at this and see it as diversity in the work place.  Nurse Nina, although the name nurse, is a fully capable surgeon.  She is able to heal all wounds, just like a man.  She is even a dominant personality.  When trying to find a mate she actually straps him up in some sort of wonky medical apparatus to show her dominance of him.  Worst yet she only chooses the most dominant male from the pack so that she gets the one she can most powerfully dominate.

So why is Nurse Nina not an example of a Tumblr feminist conspiracy?  Well, simply put, Nurse Nina fits into the typical role that a woman would fit in real life.

Nina is a nurse. A nurse is nothing more than a doctor’s servant.  In some parts of the world nurses were fully capable doctors capable of treating minor wounds and delivering babies.  That’s the kind of nurse that Nina is.  However with just the nurses’s training she wouldn’t handle the major emergencies that a male surgeon or male doctor would handle.

I mean, at the end of the day when you really need help, it’s a Dahl Male voice that thanks you for your purchase.

Nina also romantically represents a commonly held stereotype, professional women cannot have intimate relationships.  So like the stereotype implies without having had any love in her life until she’s much older (age 30ish) she is now out hunting down men and can’t find anyone worthy of her.

A lot of Tumblr feminists argue that there are just no good men out there.  The real reason of course is the standards of professional women are too high compared to what they can offer a potential mate.

In this particular Tumblr blog the author claims she needs this:

1) Funny and can make me laugh and smile as much as possible. That’s non-negotiable. My levels of happiness are connected directly to my funny bone.
2) Chemistry. Think of a car ride together. You want the comfortable silences and relaxed feeling in the air, not the urge to throw open the car door and roll on out on the 101 freeway instead because that would be less painful and awkward.
3) Well read. Aware of pop culture and cultural events globally. We should be able to sit together for 5+ hours at the bookstore and not feel like we need to be anywhere else.
4) Established. This is a tricky one because I feel like it automatically translates to “having money.” Money is a very fluid thing that comes and goes, but the idea is that the guy would have a good career or a career in the works. I am not on board with the Peter Pans of the world.
5) You need nice grown man clothes. They don’t have to cost a fortune. I can help with this.
6) Optimism.
7) Feeling beautiful around you, even if I’m in my yoga pants without any makeup on. (Does that not look like a Taylor Swift song lyric or what? But it’s true. And knowing that you’ll be beautiful to me no matter what also.)
8) Patience, trust, kindness, spontaneity (of the flower bringing kind, not “hey we’re going kayaking today – take the afternoon off of work!”), comfort in tough times, and love at arm’s length where you can be close but not to a smothering point.

However if a man in a similar position made a list of what they are looking for in a woman, it would be a lot more simple.

Nina is in this particular situation, she knows what she wants in a man so she’s willing to throw out all sorts of potential mates in favor of the one that meets her standards.

It portrays the problem of society, women are expected to marry younger rather than older and perpetrates that pattern.  Nina isn’t a Tumblr inserted character, she’s what they hate the most.  But Nina is a lovable character.  So clearly she can’t be a “hit agent” from Tumblr.

#4. Lilyth is the Good Guy, Jack is the Bad Guy

So at the end of the day the hero is a woman and the villain is a man.

Is this evidence of feminist inserted literature?  Probably not.

At the end of the day someone has to be the bad guy…. or maybe I should say bad person.  Generally speaking the powerful evil heroes of every game are usually male.  The reason for this is the widespread perception that women are not intimidating enough or impure enough to be villains.  Actually having a female villain would have been more refreshing in the end because it would have been something new.

However to make it even less of femme conspiracy, Lylith isn’t even a likable character.  It’s not all that clear that what she is fighting for is all that good.

Borderlands at the end of the day is a universe full of evil and full of bad guys.  There’s no emotional relationship we can have with any of these characters that will make them close to us.

If anything we are more drawn to the evil boss Jack, because he in least represents an attempt to be progressive and implement change.  The vault hunters however are just a bunch of losers who were lured in at the chance of stealing a vault and getting rich but instead were brought into a civil war.  The goal of said civil war… is to implement everything as was…. which isn’t exactly all that good in the first place.

Testing Logic: No Jim, It’s Not a Video Game

JimQuisition is a little program in which a guy rants about something in video games.

Jim Sterling holds the position that games like The Walking Dead (from Telltale Games), Stanley’s Parable and the such are video games and that our standards of what constitutes a video game is too narrow.  He argues that if video games are to survive as a genre what we consider a video game cannot be limited.

Jim makes a very simple logical mis-step, a category mistake.

A category mistake is when you inadvertently place something in one category when it actually belongs in another.

A good example of this would be to say that a basketball court is a game.  No, the basketball court is actually just a location where games are played.   The game that is played there, is basketball.

This is the exact same mistake that Jim Sterling makes.  A lot of these things may be “game” like, but they are not games.

A game is structured play with rules.  So not everyone who is playing is playing a game, but everyone who is playing a game is playing.

Jim quotes the most common definition of a video game:

“A game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or other display screen.”

Note that this definition includes our “game” which in order for it to be a game requires it to have rules and be structured play.

Games like Mario he rightly identifies as most definitely being games because they have rules, scores and objectives.

But “interactive games” are not really games in the same way that a person with homophobia isn’t literally terrified of gay people.  Game in that sense is being used metaphorically to indicate it is game-like, but it is not a game.

So what are these interactive games exactly?  Well, they’re the basketball courts while games are basketball.  They give you the place to play a game, but do not offer up any game for you to play.  When you get there you can either make your own game out of it… or if it lacks enough capability it becomes just an interactive movie or movie set.

No one would argue that an Audio Book is a game.  No one would argue that a television show is a game.  No one would argue that a blender is a game.

So why exactly is it that people are coming to the defense of these game-like video games?

Well simple fact, they’re available on consoles and computers and some people may in the future find them fun or enjoyable.

That however does not stop them from being sold in any market place or gaining distribution.  Games weren’t always popular but they were sold and we had methods of praising them.  All that really needs to happen is change the way in which we label these non-game products.

As a final thought here is a review of The Stanley Parable to illustrate how badly people want these non-games to be games:

This is one of the best walking simulators I have ever played. You get to walk around and look at things while a man with a beautiful voice narrates your actions. Sometimes you get to click on things and he calls you an idiot. It reminds me of my mother.

Why Early Access Games Leads to Failure

Early access games are highly problematic.  They are riddled with flaws, and we still buy them.  There are many great successes in the Early Access games market.  Minecraft is the biggest success.  DOTA 2 is another success. Day Z, yet a third success.

Every single time an early access game is a success it is marked as evidence that the model works and is not in fact highly problematic.

In this article I’d like to explain the problems with early access games.

1. Selling an Idea

So it all starts off as an idea.  A developer has worked on some of the most basic parts of the game and is now selling you a bag of promises.

So you get a game that is completely empty but some sort of first person mode.  The page on Steam will indicate what is coming, but nothing really about what is actually there.  You open the game and it is of course, mostly empty.

Now a game like Day Z that has all of the funding of Arma 2 and Arma 3 behind it will be made regardless of sales.

selling your ideas

But games that are using early access as a way to fund their game, have a problem.  They can only put in the features they have the funding to put in.  So they make a list of things that are coming, but currently only have the funding for one or two.

As you invest and others invest into the early access model they can add more to the game.  But if sales don’t stay consistent and they run out of money they stop being able to develop their ideas, instead they have to find new ways to make money.

This brings in somewhat of a pyramid model of social networking.  After so long the developers might just start asking you to tell your friends… because they need more money.  After a while an early access game that hasn’t quite gotten the funding it needs is going to turn into a full blown pyramid scheme that never gives you the product advertised… just an idea to try and sell to someone else.

2. No Guarantee

Every single product on the face of the Earth has a guarantee.  If the product is advertised falsely, if it’s broken or if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, you get to return the product and bring it back as is.

With the early access games it is, working as intended.  You are buying a game that is broken which means there is absolutely no possible way that you cannot have succeeded in getting your agreement because on paper you are buying… nothing at all.

Now some might say you are buying a promise, like an investment.

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But that’s not exactly the case.  With a share you purchase a portion of the company.  You are not purchasing the potential for profits, you are physically purchasing a thing.  When profits are made you will get your share of it.  But since you physically own that thing you can sell it to someone else.

With early access games on Steam you own the license to access it.  It cannot be returned and cannot be traded or re-sold.  Once you purchase this license it is useless to you.  The only way it becomes useful is if the game actually is made… of which there is no guarantee that it will actually be made.

This can be compared with investment in which purchasing shares purchases something.  The big money investors are certainly playing more risky… but the people looking for retirement and retirement savings plans… it’s a lot more stable and there’s a guarantee of results.

The actual product you are buying is a giant if statement.  If the game is completed, you will own it.  If it isn’t completed, you just continue to have access to a broken incomplete game.

3. There Are Games on the Market

There are literally no early access games out there that are not already on the market.

Generally speaking if you’re going to invest in an idea you will only invest in one you already know you’ll like.  But if you’ve never seen a game like what they’re offering, you will have no idea as to whether or not you like it.

So an early access game shows up and promises that they’re going to give you a shooter that is tactical, you know unlike Call of Duty… which isn’t that tactical.

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But wait, there’s already a tactical shooter on the market…. it’s called Battlefield 4.  You can already play this game and its full and complete.

So an early access game has to convince you to support them instead of playing an existing game that already does what they’re trying to do.  So they have to make ridiculous promises that they simply cannot meet…. unless you were to pay them even more.

fallout2vswasteland

There’s this odd belief that anything that is big corporate and common is bad and something that is small, personal and indie is good.  It’s just not the case.  There are tones of great indie titles… but there are far more terrible ones.

There’s this great game called Minecraft… never played it.  But there are still people trying to make it and early access the exact same concept.

4. Tester’s Fatigue

As a final point of order there is a huge problem in free betas to keep people around.  Free to play games that have early access beta for free can hardly keep the game populated.

However the solution to this was to charge them an up front fee in hopes that by giving it an upfront value the tester might value it more.

It will make them play it more… but it won’t make them value it more.

The most successful early access games end up being the ones that give people tonnes of things to do when they launch.  The ones that have a lot of work to be done, lose people.

Free games have this sort of weird problem where they have to actively advertise to get more people to test their game.

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The free ones have to pay people to keep going.  The ones that charge are unlikely able to survive and thus cannot promote their game in order to attract more people to test it.

So there’s going to be a reduced quality problem.  Initially the development team is going to get tonnes of feedback.  But over time the amount of feedback is going to be heavily reduced.  I mean on the first you will have less bugs, but you will also have less people reporting on bugs.

A game like Minecraft was successful because it was able to successful get its testers to convince their friends to play it… because it was a fun game.  But a game that simply doesn’t have anything fun to do at the time will just fall apart and die.

It can only expect to have so much success.

5. And The Logical Conclusion

Early access games will make more money when they are in early access than they would launched.

The proof is in the pudding.  DOTA 2 when early access was out profiting Team Fortress 2.  Once it went live and became a totally free to play title, it started making less than Team Fortress 2.

In order for early access games to keep testers in play they have to keep micro transactions to a minimal and make their game highly playable by the public.  But once you get past that initial surge of investment and you launch the game… well you simply just don’t make as much money.

Why Did Age of Empires Online Fail?

Age of Empires Online was the first of its kind.  It was the very first RPG MMO hybrid.  The goal was to create a game in which you would level up and do co-op missions with friends, while still having the great multiplayer that Age of Empires has had across the three former games.

It was a hopeless mess…. and killed the Age of Empires series.

#1 Beginnings

The studio that first started the game was Ensemble Studios, these were the guys who made the previous games.  They had created a new company called Robot Entertainment (Orcs Must Die) and for whatever reason… they were replaced.  Gas Powered Games were the guys who made Age of Empires 3 Imperial expansion, while Ensemble was working on this title.

Gas Powered Games took over development and from there on out it was just chaos.

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When Microsoft first sold the game they were going to sell it as a stand alone title just like their previous Age of Empires games.  So they tried to sell it for $60… people just were not biting.  It was also pretty poor timing that Age of Empires 3 Complete package would be released only a few months after Age of Empires Online.  Eventually they would release it as a free to play title with premium civilization purchases that would give you access to multiplayer.

Age of Empires 3 Complete for all intensive purposes was a better game that was more figured out and far less bug free.  Generally speaking when you’re trying to move a community from one game to the other, you make the new game amazing and make the old game mostly unplayable.

Instead Microsoft always left their games in pretty good condition and so the community for Age of Empires really split up along the way.  By the time Age of Empires Online released… Age of Empires 2 had a far larger community.  Age of Empires 3 community was more likely to move back to play Age of Empires 2, than move forward and play Age of Empires Online.

#2. The Game Design

Age of Empires Online was designed around a casual RTS player… not the hardcore player base that they actually had a huge share of.

In the first it had a really tedious leveling system.  You had to do the story to unlock the units that you would need to use in multiplayer.

So if you were a Level 10 you would be able to build villagers and a couple of barracks units.  Level 20 you could build barracks units, early stables, and early archers.  Hit Level 30 and you can do everything but your super units… which you’d get at Level 40.

The matchmaking system was designed that you would try and face people close to your level… but that just wasn’t always the case.  The hardcore players might have played a few multiplayer matches… but quickly they’d realize they have to level… and grind.

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This is really something your typical arcade RTS player wants to do.  Your typical arcade RTS player wants to jump into the action.  They don’t want to feel like they have to earn equality with someone, they want that equality and if they’re good enough beat them.

But the game’s start was very imbalanced and slowed people down.  The hardcores were turned away by how long it would take to be able to functionally play the game and the casuals were turned away by how imbalanced the actual RTS part of the game was.

A part of the grind was developing specialized weapons, armored, and costumes for your units.  At the beginning of the game you would craft and slowly upgrade things.  It just meant that the more you played the further you got ahead… and the newer you were… the less likely you were to catch up.

It meant that newer players would be pushed away from the game and only the early obtainers or people who would grind would stay with it.

#3: The Steam Launch

The game launched on Steam to disaster.  Age of Empires 3 Complete was a pretty big hit and seen as a huge value.  The game was constantly going through Steam sales and it was felt that this would be a nice transition into Age of Empires Online.

But with very few good reviews, people were simply not willing to make the leap from AOE3 to AOEO.

Gas Powered Games however kept at it and continued to add premium civilizations in hopes that people would buy them.  But GPG had a huge problem, they quality of content they were creating was not profitable.  Creating a full 30-40 hour campaign for an individual civilization took 4-5 months a piece… and they simply were not getting sales.

Basically with a free to play title you do a certain calculation.

You assume that 5-6% of your player base will make one purchase a year ($30).  In the free to play market they refer to anyone who will spend up to $200 a year as a “whale.”  Less than a hundredth of a percent of players are whales.

The development cost of the content your are creating has to be less than amount of money you are expecting to get from that.

Age of Empires Online’s player base was shrinking and every single civilization was becoming less and less profitable until the final three premium civilizations were all counted as losses.

With games like these there is a hope that adding new content will bring in more players.  Generally in an RTS game as you introduced expansions and reduced the price of the original game you would get a larger player base.

That simply was not happening, and on top of that after they made the change to being able to earn currency, people weren’t buying this content… they were earning it.

This kind of model works really well when new players are showing up and those existing players earning their purchases are keeping the game popular… but that simply was not happening.

Gas Powered Games officially announced they were dropping support for the game, they would not develop new content for the game and would do no further work on the game, including balancing.  There was a hope by not developing any new content they could recoup their costs by simply collecting on all the premium civilizations they had created.

A few months later Gas Powered Games announced that they were cancelling their next game and another one was put “On Hold.”  it was clear Gas Powered Games could not afford the losses they took from developing age of Empires Online’s premium content.

#4. Games for Windows Closes

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The game might have been fine in a vegetated state if not for one big decision from Microsoft corporate, they were closing down Games for Windows.

Xbox Live was a huge hit.  It is to date Microsoft’s only cool brand.  Investors, speculators, analysts and big whigs were all recommending the same thing, change Xbox Live into the single platform for all of Microsoft’s games.  Make it so that their only cool brand would link up the Windows operating system to their very popular Xbox experience.

By melding these two together they could pave the way for a lot more cross-platform (PC and Xbox) games in which players could play with each other, and it also meant they would gain more centralized information from people through a single Xbox service.

In order to do this they would have to close down Games for Windows.

So we have a problem, there is no one to encode Age of Empires Online to remove Games for Windows which is a DRM protocol required to run the game.  So the game had a timeline.

In December the community organizer announced that it would be in June that the game would be shut down.  They would not sell any new nations and all existing players would gain one free nation.

Some developers came forward to try and fix the game but they simply were not taking help, they wanted the game to die.

All the while Age of Empires 2 re-released as a HD version and saw rampant commercial success.  It was so successful that they developed an expansion for it, the first expansion is almost a decade.  The game still remains as one of the top games on Steam and has a giant growing community with ridiculous numbers of cash tournaments.

New Tags System Could Reduce PC Games Sales

It’s no secret that Steam is the primary retailer of PC games.

However their new tagging system might reduce sales instead of increase it.

Exhibit A is Kingdom Tales:

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The most common tags for it are “Overpriced Port of a Mobile Game” and “scam.”

Of course this doesn’t help you determine whether or not this game is for you.  The term Overpriced Port of a Mobile game has been applied to all SEGA War games, Arma Tactics, and Tiny Thief.

Since this flag has gone up you’ll start doing a little more research if you are still convinced it kinda looks good… or just run away if you don’t like it.

This will also give an abusive way for gamers to assault games and developers they do not like.  It’s no secret that the Steam community hate Call of Duty games.  Modern Warfare 2 was called “bad” as a tag.

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Walking Dead Survival Instinct gets the “famously terrible” tag

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This tag gets shared with The Expendibles 2 Movie, XCOM Rebirth, Ride to Hell: Retribution, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Star Trek.