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News Roundup

•••• Former major league pitcher Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios, which released “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” in February, is in financial hot water with the state of Rhode Island. Taking cash from the state to move from Massachusetts seemed like a good idea when the company was projecting huge sales from its games. Instead, 38 Studios can’t pay its employees or pay the state back. Yikes. [The Boston Globe]

•••• Wired ran a gorgeous preview with lots of screens of the Unreal 4 Engine, which could be the backbone of next-gen console games. I gotta come clean, I’m totally ready for a new console. When, damn you?! When?! [Wired]

•••• ”NHL 13” boats “the biggest change to the franchise since ‘NHL 07’” with True Performance Skating, a physics enhancement that includes over 1,000 new skating animations. It’s unclear whether it’s the quality of the teams that make them or how well the sports lend themselves to video game adaptation, but “NHL” and “FIFA” are just head and shoulders above the rest.

•••• Zynga’s stock price took a nose-dive with Facebook’s IPA, and at one point NASDAQ actually had to freeze trading of the mobile and social game developer. [Techcrunch]

•••• ”Diablo III” had its share of problems in its week. You know, in case you hadn’t heard. [PC Mag]

Tweet of the Week

“SHOCKED to learn that none of the password security questions asked when installing Diablo III involve women, love or relationships.” - @agentbizzle

Blowing Off Steam

The mishandling of “Diablo III’s” launch is something that benefits Blizzard in no way whatsoever. They’ve acknowledged it, apologized for it and seemingly done their best to correct the errors, lag issues and server overloads that players experienced in the first 48 hours of the game being live. I don’t have it in me to be mad at someone for these things. If you feel cheated out of that gaming time and disappointed with your “Diablo III” experience, I suppose it’s your right to tweet angry things and leave 0/10 ratings in protest.

What I can’t see anyone defending is the fact that the server issues need to exist in the first place, because “Diablo III” is more or less a solo-oriented experience. If constant connectivity weren’t required to play the single player game, there would be a lot less to worry about on release night, wouldn’t there?

The always-on digital rights management that being connected to a server provides protects Blizzard against game pirates and the lazy people who patronize them. It also allows Blizzard to monitor and keep above board the newly-sanctioned Real Money Auction House, which could become a nightmare if corrupted (and not in a cool way).

To me, it feels a little bit like buying a single-player game these days is like buying a phone at a reduced price with a two-year contract. Sure, Apple will let you buy an iPhone with no contract that you can do whatever you want with, but you’re going to pay full freight for it (currently starting at $649).

Blizzard could certainly work the cost of piracy into the price of a game that lets you play it offline. For a title that people have been waiting a decade for, if the game is anywhere near good, people will pay it to experience it server-free.  It’s really unfortunate that DRM needs to be so intrusive and connectivity-dependent, but until high-speed broadband flows like tap water, this is not a great solution.

Really Important video

Embattled but loved “Community” on NBC is no stranger to exploring video games through its characters, especially Troy and Abed. Last night the show took it to new extremes with the episode entitled “Digital Estate Planning.” Creator Dan Harmon is a big video gamer, often tweeting about “Skyrim” and “Minecraft,” so it’s not a surprise how well-executed the episode was. The fake game the players traverse through has elements of many classic 8-bit RPGs and side-scrolling adventures. There seems to be a pretty heavy “Zelda” vibe going on as well. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, do yourself a favor and watch the episode. If you love video games, you will absolutely be floored.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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