I now accept review codes because realities of the industry blah blah blah

I’ve been working on this site for five years, and in that time I’ve seen smaller sites with shorter, typo-and-inaccuracy-packed reviews leapfrog mine in search results. Paying for games out of my own pocket guaranteed to readers that I wasn’t beholden to any external forces or tempted to soften the blow of harsh criticism with such popular review nothings as “but there’s a solid base here for [developer]’s next game!” Sadly, it also meant that I got games quite a bit later than other review publications, so that pre-release period where fans link to early reviews to weigh their enthusiasm against the opinions of critics is one I’ve missed out on the benefits of almost entirely. No links = no search engine juice = very little site growth. Blame it on the realities of the industry; I gave the whole “no review codes” thing a good go over half a decade, but it doesn’t work if you want a notable number of readers and aren’t willing to delve into the even uglier waters of clickbait. Search engines aren’t like Youtube where there’s an emphasis on discovering new outlets; once you slip beyond the first page of search results, you might as well not exist in the eyes of those doing the searching.

As for accountability/openness, I plan on making a page listing every game I receive a code for [update: this is now live and can be accessed by hovering over the “about” menu item] in addition to disclosing as much at the end of any relevant reviews. Additionally, any Steam codes will go into a new Steam account that I’ll make public and link to on that page. I’ve also been working on undoing some of the privacy settings I’ve had on my PS4 and Xbox One to make it possible to see recently played games and such, but this has proven to be a losing battle thus far.

Deck13’s The Surge is the first game I’ve accepted a review code for, hence the header image. You may be asking yourself, “hey, didn’t that come out already, totally undermining your point about getting reviews out early?” Yep. I requested it before release, but didn’t get the code until a day after it released. I’m assuming that keys will come faster once I’ve built up more of a presence.

Freemium trash: Fire Emblem Heroes Pt. 2

“But wait,” I imagine you thinking, “why would he continue to play an app he considers both trash and a cynical whoring out of his once-favorite series?” To be perfectly honest, I intended to stop playing, but then I caught the flu and spent a lot of time in bed. Besides, there are occasionally things being added, and I’ve figured a few things out since the last time I wrote about Heroes. None of that has changed my opinion of this thing that can only generously be considered a “game”—can we take a second to acknowledge how perfect it is that the acronym is FEH, as in “feh, I guess gaming in general just sucks now if this is considered good”—but I still thought it’d be interesting to cover, and it gives me an excuse to take some shots. Read more →

Freemium trash: Fire Emblem Heroes

Something like three years ago, I spent a little time delving into the waters of freemium apps in a small series I called “one hour impressions.” The series of experiences that followed filled me so much soul-crushing cynicism that I was able to write off the entire model as something best avoided, and yet my short impressions failed to truly capture just how predatory and disgusting such games can be. Then, a bit of serendipity: a new Fire Emblem game descended from the heavens onto mobile devices, dipping into the freemium model and deciding to show even less restraint when it comes to poor writing and fan service than even the Fates games employed. I’d seen it claimed that the game could be played without in-app purchases, which piqued my curiosity, so I dived into the game with an open mind to get a feel for just how far one can get without paying for anything. Now that I’ve finished (or at least come as close to finishing as one can get when the game itself is unfinished), though, I can’t pass up such a beautiful opportunity to highlight the many things wrong with both modern Fire Emblem and the freemium model. Rest assured that both are in ample supply here. Read more →

Let’s talk about: Denuvo

As I’m writing this, it’s Halloween and the festivities have me thinking about all kinds of scary things. Ghouls. Goblins. Politics. Very scary stuff. Really, though, there are few things that inspire as much fear as the anti-tamper product Denuvo. The big bad gaming boogeyman. I won’t touch anything that uses it, personally, but rather than perpetuate the same lies I’ve seen paraded around about how it messes up SSDs and significantly impacts performance (which—let’s not kid ourselves—do seem to be lies and/or exaggerations), I thought it’d be more productive to talk about some of the deeper problems with Denuvo and some inherent problems with the gaming industry that it potentially exacerbates. Read more →

Time to, like, take it easy, dude

In less than a week, this site will be 4 years and 7 months old. That means a few things. First, it means that my “about” section is incredibly outdated. More relevantly to the topic at hand, it means that I’ve put out 280 reviews (of wildly varying quality!) in that time. That’s 4-5 reviews a month for close to a half-decade. Basically, I need a break. This is more of a hobby than anything, but trying to adhere to a self-imposed goal of that many reviews a month has made it feel more like work than play over time. Besides, I’ve started working on a game of my own. That’s right, terrible developers of the world! Once it’s done, you’ll be able to judge my terrible mechanics and writing! Except you, Lifeline developers. After unleashing that abortion upon the world, you never get to judge anything or anyone ever again. Oh, and same with Ragnar Tornquist. Dreamfall Chapters was like getting punched in the face with a book of bad fan fiction and having to actually pay money for it.

Anyway, the point is that I’m reducing the number of reviews I put out while I’m working on my game because I don’t have enough time to do both. Hard to say how many reviews I’ll end up sticking to, but 1-2 a month sounds reasonable. Maybe more once all the programming stuff is over (I can barely understand how this site works, much less the demonic matryoshka doll that is nested parentheses with math stuff in them) and all that’s left is working on the art and music.

Youtube links that open in a window are fixed

The short story is that non-embedded Youtube links randomly decided to go on a strike and refuse to play in the page, and then I fixed it. There were all kinds of things that needed to be turned off and tweaked, and removing the default Twitter and Facebook integration (because punching everyone in the face with “whore me out” buttons seemed cheap and classless) messed with the cropping and window size, forcing me to hide that stuff in weird ways that make this place more Frankenstein monster than website; Facebook was easy enough to make disappear without any problems, but Twitter refused to play ball and I ended up having to change the link to an empty image embed and throw in a hidden white-colored period to keep the window from going crazy. This place is pretty much held together by scotch tape and rusty safety pins.

A strange new site quirk: videos refuse to play on mobile browsers that use a “request desktop site” feature (to bypass the mobile theme) until they’ve been tapped twice to pause and unpause.

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