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May 18, 2009

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I wrote about Naruto as well: http://projectperko.blogspot.com/2009/01/leaf-ninja-village.html

Unfortunately, the game continues to get more and more irritating, including an unbelievably bad quick time final boss sequence. While the game's good points are very good, the bad points are very bad.

Worth playing just to see what's good and bad. It's very educational.

You know, I believe I've been waiting a year to read something about this game (or Broken Bond) that wasn't by a traditional game reviewer. I really just couldn't understand why the games received such universal praise--figuring that probably a lot of people who review games were faithful series-anime watchers. But your description of the level design definitely got through to me. The lack of the double jump at the beginning and the future potential for vertical explorations instantly reminded me of Metroid Prime.

Was the mix of limited and unlimited economies really that novel, though? To me it sounds simply like regular ol' adventure game fare once removed--i.e., instead of the boss dropping a giant heart icon, it drops a star icon that I can use to upgrade my "heart" later. Poe spirits and Biggoron swords become antique coins. Does transforming these into a transportable and savable form really make that much of a difference? I really need to check it out and see--because even if it is much different than a Zelda heart, it still sounds pretty similar to a BG&E pearl to me.

Thanks for the warning on when the game becomes to eat itself apart with poor UI and transparency issues, finally decided it's definitely a rental!

Simon:

No, I guess the the economy is not innovative, but it did seem surprisingly well thought out and executed. It was also refreshing for me, coming from working on a game that had such a hardcore (and player-choice focused) economy.

Glad I could help you decide to give your money to a rental company and make sure the developers don't see a dime :) Instead, why not just pirate a copy, and after you've pirated 3-4 games you feel are 'rentals', then buy the next one you think is a rental at full price - ensuring a reasonable equity and allowing the developers to get their 'fair share' in the end, and you get to actually keep one game out of 5 instead of burning your money away completely.

Kudos on the economy segue! However, I don't know whether to take it as a personal attack or a general venting of frustration. I'm a graduate student. I study videogames. I play them constantly. I buy the ones that I can afford and that I know I'll write about later. I rent the ones that I can't afford and probably won't write about. I don't buy from GameStop. I buy copious amounts of DLC to see more money go to developers. Am I a bad guy? Does a developer deserve my money if they make a game with horrible UI issues that will probably cause you to shelve it? Do rental companies truly contribute nothing to the success of the games industry as a whole?

You don't have to answer all (or any) of these, but I would like to know if the comment was ad hominem and if you really think it was deserved because of one aside I made about renting a game. Should somebody who rides a bicycle to school for lack of money really buy every video game they want to play?

Ah, I see my mistake--I hadn't read that Ubi were the developers. I can see how you would take offense at that, and so I apologize. I do think my questions directly above stand, though. I don't mean it in an argumentative way, but really I'd like to know what you think somebody with limited funds should do.

Ooops - Simon... no was offense intended, and no apology necessary. I was just being bitter and snarky and forgetting that does not translate well to internet comments. Sorry.

But re: your last question about limited funds and legitimate need for access for scholarship.

Ideally - you should petition your school to start buying games for their library - the same way lit students have library access to literature and film students have library access to film.

Since that will fail because Universities are in business for profit now, forget 'ideally'. How about 'an ethically balanced compromise'?

I think the original propostion is sound. You should pirate (or borrow) 'renters' until you have pirated enough games that the total value - if you had rented them - is equal to one game - then either buy a new game with that money or, better yet, buy the game out of the set of games you played that you feel is most valuable to you - thus ensuring not only that 'developers' get their cut, but that the specific ones you personally value get both their cut, and the 'vote' of your dollars.

Since 'ethically balanced compromise' is elaborate and time consuming and at least partially illegal (regardless of whether or not it is just), mostly I think you should just do what you think is best, and you know that way better than I do.

Thanks for the reply Clint! I understand that you're also going through some painful physical rehab (which I was very sorry to hear about--I went to GDX primarily to hear you speak and then found out only way later that you'd been injured) and that these things make us irritable, so I was glad to hear that the problem was the weakness of Internets text and not that I'd made you angry! I myself am on a particularly rough stage of quitting cigarettes, so I was probably "reading snarkily" into your comment to look for personal offense :)

The economic situation in our game lab is pretty dire, as you guessed. We have a decent relationship with EA, which sends us games (that they clearly have a surplus of). But as for purchasing games, it's not just a lack of money but a ridiculous bureaucratic issue. It took us two months to get World of Goo installed on our Wii! So basically the growth of our game library relies on the charitable donations of our professors who've purchased games and don't mind us using them. And, to be honest, I don't think a single one of them even knows what Naruto is :P I was planning on getting Broken Bond when it hit my $30 dollar sweet spot (which I'll address in the next paragraph).

You really have gotten me thinking, though. I studied film as an undergrad, and, although I bought as many DVDs as I could, I rented most of what I saw. I really do despise GameStop, but I'd never really considered that renting might be just as bad. I guess that, because I don't really like pirating anything, I saw renting as this middle-road economical option that wasn't as bad as buying used (without thinking about the fact that it was based on the same economy of developer exploitation). Right now I own about 20 games that I haven't gotten around to playing yet, because I bargain hunt. But now I don't even know if bargain hunting is quite right--I can't vote with my dollar right now, so to speak, but when I start earning more disposable income I really should be more conscious about making sure money gets where I want it to go. Do you recommend buying directly from a publisher's website to maximize what gets to the developer?

Simon:

The difference with film rentals and game rentals is (as I understand it - perhaps another reader who knows can clarify?) - when a videostore buys a DVD they pay a special fee to the distributor for a license to rent the film... I'm guessing they pay a few hundred dollars per DVD- which they then rent dozens of times to make their money back.

With games - this agreement with distributors does not exist. A game renter just buys a copy of the game like you or I would, and rents it. The distributor sees no difference in income between 1 copy sold to a renter (who then makes hundreds of dollars renting it) and 1 copy sold to an end-user.

Anyway - I'm in over my head debating the business model - and can't make any practical recommendations about what is most fiscally 'fair' to distributors, publishers, development houses or individual developers.

I will say the whole thing is kind of annoying though because for all the innovation that goes on in the trenches of this industry, it pisses me off that we can't seem to build talent-developer-publisher-distributor-retailer relations based even on PROVEN WORKING models... nevermind the innovative, forward-thinking sorts of models that will be needed to sustain us through the next 20 years. In face of that degree of incompetance, I have to wonder whether piracy in fact is the true, just, solution for the time being.

(Of course, posting those thoughts will either get me investigated or HAXXORED, so I should probably STFU)

I'm definitely going to research the specifics of it now, but if what you say about game rentals holds up: consider me just as angry and annoyed as you are. That makes no sense. I wonder if somebody has written a history of how the situation came about. I assume it started with NES games, because those are the earliest I can remember available at VHS rental places. I'm assuming it was Nintendo, because I really can't imagine Nolan Bushnell going in on a shit deal like that, but maybe whoever established the precedent did it in the early days to try to woo rental places simply into acknowledging the existence of the industry?

As for the working labor models, I won't post my thoughts publicly either for fear of the same investigation/haxxoring. LB Jeffries, Ian B, and I talked about it for a hot minute once but I really don't understand enough about what's going on to pass judgment. I will say that things are similarly broken for the average Joe in the film industry, but that labor organization both helps/hinders things in different ways... and stuff like the Sundance festival and Miramax help a lot for mainstream-ish innovators. Videogames need a Harvey Weinstein and a Robert Redford, perhaps.

Thanks again for the review and all this other discussion! Hope the therapy goes well!

I played Naruto back when it first came out. The vertical layers in the Leaf village were great. You think you've seen everything in the village and everytime you go up another layer there's a whole new environment to explore that was there the whole time. Realizing the cables could be used to grind across was incredibly exciting too. I thought they were just staying true to the source material and there to look pretty.

The things I did not enjoy:
Traversing the same mesh (outside the city) over and over again. The total lack of enemy variety. It's always the same 3 ninjas attacking you. Maybe a texture swap if you're lucky. Special jutsus I found incredibly difficult and frustrating to pull off.

I think the energy cap thing is from a plot point that probably is not very clear for non-fans. One of the villians (dude with the snake tongue) "seals" you powers off at some point. At some point, you should be able to break the seal and gain your powers back. Did you maybe skip that cut-scene? I'm not sure how clear that is even
is with the cut-scene.

I'm curious to see how Naruto: Ultimate Storm turned out on the PS3. Visually, it looks unbelievable.

It is true that Netflix, at least, kicks back revenues to DVD makers.

For brick&mortar, originally Blockbuster just paid higher prices for their "to rent" copies of vitodetapes, but there were brouhahas over that and I don't know how it ended up these days.

Also, I know in 1992 in Texas game rentals were (or were thought to be) illegal somehow. I know this because I remember there was a store in town that would "sell" you a copy of a game (used, unless you happen to be first in line for a new copy) and would let you "return" it for a small restocking fee as long as you returned it in a couple days or a week or whatever. In other words, it was algorithmically identical to renting, but with a skin of purchasing pasted on top.

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