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Over recent years, the dissemination of game content has shifted from a single complete and finished product in a cartridge or on a disk, to a first release version that then has updates added at various later points. This is even becoming true of consoles, such as XBox Live and PSN games. Whilst there are debates about whether it means paying players are the new beta testers, rushing releases and suchlike, one thing that has caught on this year especially is the idea of seasonal updates.

In short: christmas has come to a video game near you.

MMOs

MMOs have had this sort of content for years, with plenty of titles adding in bits and pieces ranging from encounters to phat lootz to social costumes. Halloween and Christmas seem to be the most popular and this year is no exception with just about everything on the market going for it. Even EVE Online gets in on the act, though these days they have restricted it to gifting each account with some sort of present item such as a ship or an implant.

Trion Worlds Holiday Greeting

The MMOs I have dealings with all have Christmas festivities in some form or another. Anarchy Online has present-dropping leets in tower fields, big christmas trees in the main cities and a series of minigame encounters around a tongue-in-cheek storyline about aliens (lead by the commander Grin'Cha) infiltrating Santaleet's workshop to spread throughout the planet... Rift has had a three phase Fae Yule event going on for the last month or so and and the final phase is due to being any day now, revolving around the newly-freed Fae going overboard in celebrating the rites of Grandfather Frost with gifts, special footholds and costumes. Champions Online has costumes and perks associated with defeating armies of misfit toys, and the final part of an adventure pack series with a wintry theme.


Elsewhere

But it's not just MMOs. Game all across Steam have popped up free DLCs with christmas content ranging from decorations for the Tavern in Dungeon Defenders to a new map with its own achivement and music in Sanctum*. Killing Floor has christmas-skinned zombies, to follow up their Halloween themed DLC. Bunch of Heroes also has a holiday pack... You get the idea.

It's even becoming present in mobile gaming: Alchemy Classic just updated with a christmas addition set, chaging the backgrounds to be festive and adding some 50 new combinations for christmas and yule related items, like Coniferous trees.


But...

Of course with a fixed theme such as Christmas/Yule, there's only so much you can do based on the same hashed-out old tropes (trees, presents, candy canes, snow etc) and it is all a bit jarring with the setting of each game unless it's based in the real world and the here and now. Ultimately it's why Eve Online moved it's christmas celebrations out of game, so to speak (although it was fun pelting the devs with snowballs in my destroyer). It's all just some silly fun, though, and it can make a change in the scenery from the rest of the year.


*For the record, Sanctum devs can't sing. It is funny though.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
In between jetting off to chilly climes, going through the Champions Online archetype rotation, popping into Anarchy Online for it's halloween activities and hitting up Rift now I'm starting to approach end game, I've been playing bits and pieces of other games.

3DS

First up is Zelda: Four Swords, DSiware released for the 3DS and free to all with a 3DS, DSi or DSi XL as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. It's a limited time release and will be vanishing mid-february.

4 swords logo

It's primarily meant to be played multiplayer with up to 4 people playing differently coloured Links, workign together to complete each area of the game. It can be played singleplayer as well, with two Links both controlled by you. This is a little tricky at first: you can switch between them with the R shoulder button and you can set one to follow behind the other, or stand around wherever you left it. The trick is to get the hang of issuing these orders and swapping between them smoothly and quickly. Each Link can hold only the 1 special item beside a sword, and using the right item (and thus the right link) for a particular part becomes critical. In addition, each Link is measured on how many coins it collects, damage it inflicts etc. These all give a score at the end of each area. (Beyond that, I've not yet discovered a use for coins beyond a fee to raise you á la Fairy if you die.)

The emulation for the 3DS is basic. It's not 3D and doesn't suspend properly either, as it was directly ported from the original 2002 DSi version. It's got a tutorial area that explains how the game works and what items can do, which is helpful. Some of the items are funny, like the magnet and many of them are ye olde staples from almost any Zelda game you care to name. It held my attention for a while but ultimately as there's no real story or point to any of it beyond progressing through areas because they're there, I got bored.


PC

Bunch of Heroes is an indie-ish PC game available on Steam. It's very simple: pick a character, team upw ith a friend or two, pewpew enemies and complete objectives in each area. The graphics are cartoony, it's filled with ridiculous puns and there's action to be had all round.

Bunch of Heroes logo

As a co-operative game, it's something of a twin-stick shooter but in an Alien Swarm style more than anything else, mechanically-speaking. WASD to move, mouse to aim and fire. The primary enemy here is zombies (inifinite numbers thereof), you have limited ammunition though there are crates to bust for drops. Nothing groundbreaking here and in fact I got fairly bored of it after the first area.


Android

For the daily commute, I have been at the mobile gaming again on my Android. Minecraft Pocket was finally released for all Android platforms (an iOS version is out now as well) after it's Xperia Play exclusive offer finished and I picked it up as my first paid app.

Minecraft Pocket logo


It's a very pared down version of Minecraft (now officially released) - Minecraft classic essentially. it's purely creative mode with no monsters, health, equipment or resource gathering. You simply select what blocks you want to build with, run around the world you create and build things. The size of the world is also very much reduced, though you have forest, water, mountains, trees and so on.

You can multiplay over wifi or bluetooth, with one phone hosting a server that others can join. As a note, by default your map will be a publically available server unless you turn that off! I've not given the multiplayer part a go as yet.

It runs my HTC Sensation somewhat hot, I have to say, and the graphics start to glitch after a while though that is rectified by pausing the game, switching back to the home screens, then hopping back into the game. It's quite the battery drain as well. I also don't like the D-Pad controls too much, though as these things go they're fairly good. I haven't yet fully adapted to the complete loss of tactile feedback from a capacitive touchscreen when using controls that used to be physically pushed (moreso for the analogue controllers of the later consoles).

Overall I've found it to be fun now and then for building something silly but it really ought to have a flight mode enabled so that it can be a pure building simulator, given all the other aspects of Minecraft's gameplay are gone (adventuring, circuitry, combat etc).


Next up:

I've been playing more of the Alchemy games on my 'droid and I'll be giving those a go-over soon.

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achtungexplosiv

May 2012

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