Stolen Pixels #146: The Reason for the Season

By Shamus Posted Friday Nov 27, 2009

Filed under: Column 37 comments

So I just got done saying how I didn’t have any plans to use Travis again, and then he suddenly appears.

Travis is talking about the cataclysmic release-day of reckoning we get every year as game companies all try to put everything out right before the holidays. I wrote about this over the summer, and now six months later we are at last harvesting the poisonous fruit of that rotten tree. Last year wasn’t too bad, because there just wasn’t that much that interested me. This year is a lot tougher. I’m actually itching to play about half the stuff in Travis’ list.

I’ve just picked up Dragon Age, and yesterday I found myself reviewing it via my Twitter. I don’t expect that to become the norm, but Dragon Age is so massive that I found myself wanting to say things and I didn’t want to wait the three weeks it would take for me to finish the game and write the review series.

As for the subject of the comic, I really do think it’s a very unhealthy trend.


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37 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #146: The Reason for the Season

  1. Nick says:

    Isn’t it, uh… Torchlight, not “Lamplight”?

    As for the release schedule… Be glad that half a dozen other AAA games decided to delay until spring BECAUSE of MW2 and other November releases.

    1. Shamus says:

      “Isn't it, uh… Torchlight, not “Lamplight”?”


  2. krellen says:

    The lay sister bard you pick up in Lothering (Leiliana) isn’t a complete prick. Though you don’t meet her if you avoid the tavern with soldiers looking for you.

    Oh, wait, I should be responding to the comic here, not the Twitter, right?

  3. Nalano says:

    @2 “The lay sister bard you pick up in Lothering (Leiliana) isn't a complete prick.

    Naw, she ain’t a complete prick; she’s just an overenthusiastic Chant of Light-thumper who speaks to the Maker on a two-way radio so as for divine justification for all the stabbing she does.

  4. nerdpride says:

    I don’t mind the thing you were talking about in the comic Shamus. None of those games sound fun to me. If I’m lucky, I’ll get one fun game for the holidays. I think there’s something about being a game critic that makes you (or someone else) care too much.

  5. GoodApprentice says:

    I’m playing DA:O as well. I gave up on my initial fighter character and have been playing through as both a rogue and a magic-user since they seem to have more depth and personality. The magic-user class has so many different possibilites, spell-wise, that I’ll probably be playing through again with different mage types. Shamus, if you are still in the area of Lothering, beg the ancient elven boots from one of the knights in the chantry before things go south for the town. I didn’t in both playthroughs, and it’s been a niggling annoyance to me whenever I look at my rogue in his now incomplete armour set.

  6. JKjoker says:

    Leliana is a crazy woman with a strange mouth and a boring messiah complex, she even has some banter early on with Alistar showing how boring she is, i really cant understand what some ppl see in her, i restarted the game with a rogue just to avoid using her

    btw, if Travis thinks that too many games were released this xmas season will hang himself in jan and feb when all the delayed games come out

  7. Penn says:

    The games I’m looking forward to playing this fall/winter have already come out:
    Rock Band 2, with a side of Lego Rock Band.
    I might pick up Dragon Age, simply because my wife wants to try it. :)

  8. Rosseloh says:

    Oh man, I feel your pain. Except, not from a reviewer’s standpoint. There’s just so many good games to play and only so much cash to go around…

    Almost makes me glad to see AC2 for PC pushed to next year; at least I’ll be able to afford it then.

    And as for twitter replies, you said: “Dear Main Character: Stop talking smack to the containers I tell you to open. Thx. #dragonage”
    My first char, every time I told her to open a door, was all “Can I get you a ladder, so you can get off my back?”

  9. Telas says:


    Seriously, is the gaming industry adopting Hollywood’s business model?

    Will indie games save us from regurgitated games?

    Stay tuned…

  10. Smirker says:

    @6 – If you play on a PC version it is bugged so the Ancient Elven Boots are not in the cabinet. Last I heard Bioware was aware of it – but no fix is out for it yet. Unless you use some mod from the social Bioware site.

  11. Rutskarn says:

    I can sympathize with the whole can’t-wait-to-review thing–there are so many nitpicks I have with the story, it’s driving me to madness. It’s almost enough to make me pull a Mirror’s Edge, but I know if I tried that I’d probably never stop.

    I like the game, but the story’s a bit…patchy, in places.


    Really? The guy with the dark circles around his eyes, the sarcastic voice, the personal attachment to the king, and the grumbling comments about how we don’t need allies–he was a *traitor*? I haven’t been so surprised since Wormtongue!

  12. Sheer_FALACY says:

    I didn’t really think most of the people in Dragon Age were pricks. Alistair, for example – he jokes around but he’s a nice guy.

    And Batman was released, like, weeks ago. Lots of time to play that!

  13. Heron says:

    I wanted to buy DA:O while it was on sale on Steam yesterday for 25% off. Unfortunately I blew through this month’s gaming budget when I pre-ordered Left 4 Dead 2 last month, so I guess I’ll just have to wait for another sale…

  14. Danath says:

    First Travis comic I havn’t hated.

    I have been playing DA:O less and less lately, I still havn’t beat the game once (I play games really slowly, I like to find everything). The AI is the killer for me, the enemy AI does most of the stuff I want MINE to do, they won’t stand in fires, they will stun and back off to use ranged, just simple things that I wish my retarded buddies would do.

    Frankly starting as a mage is the best option, since you can play “anyone” technically, and even just try to automate the main character, you can use him as a healer/nuker, cause if you don’t, you won’t get one for a while, depending on the order you do events.

  15. LintMan says:

    I thought the Lamplight/Torchlight thing was intentional…

    I actually like Alistair – he’s pretty funny in a self-deprecating way, and he avoids being a total good-guy wuss like Carth in KOTOR.

    As for the other characters, my opinion:
    -Shale is pure awesome.
    -Leliana isn’t bad. After the initial talk, show doesn’t realy come across as crazy, to me.
    -Sten has some occasionally funny linnes, but I don’t really care for him.
    -Morrigan is kinda goofy if you get her to like to a lot.
    -Wynne likes to lecture you a lot, but I like her a bunch for some reason.
    -I could take or leave Zevran. Leliana is more useful, so that means I usually leave him behind.
    -I can’t say much about Oghren yet, since I just picked him up into my party. Next play through, I’ll try to get him early.

  16. LintMan says:

    @Danath: you might want to check out the AI Tactics screen a bit more: I’m pretty sure there’s some base settings for each character that govern whether they will flee from fires, stay back in ranged attack, or chase enemies, etc. I think it’s on the top right and has choices like “Agressive, Defensive, Ranged, etc).

  17. Jabor says:

    As far as DA goes…

    Wynn + Shale + two people who can hit hard = steamrolling boss fights.

    You can replace Wynn with yourself if you went Spirit Healer, or with Morrigan if you specced her for it.

  18. HC says:

    Being as ’tis the season…

    Silent Hill in Azeroth:
    An IF game.

  19. krellen says:

    Shale is pure awesome. Shale competes with HK-47 for awesome, in my opinion.

    The golem doesn’t win, mind, but at least it’s a race. Especially once you find out the golem’s true roots.

  20. ehlijen says:

    You mean the golem you have to pay ea extra for to be able to recruit?

    Yay. No thanks, the game’s ridiculously expensive downunder as it is.

    But I actually liked Lelianna. And Sten. Especially when they start teasing each other over what happened ‘in the alley’.

    Pretty much all the characters become more interesting once they’re actually willing to talk to you. Wynne is no replacement for Jolee Bindo though :(

    As for the topic of the comic:
    Given my favourite genres, that hasn’t been a problem for me for a long time (story based RPGs and turnbased strategy). Even during christmas times, I have trouble finding more than two games I like.

    This christmas I’ll have to make do with Dragon Age (for all its faults, it’s still a decent story RPG I say).

  21. Hawk says:

    The explosion of great games this season has certainly left me in a quandry … so many games, so little time.

    Trying to maximize my gaming time, since the wife is out of town for the weekend, I actually went tonight to pick up DA:O. Unfortunately, I wasn’t diligent enough in checking min specs … my video card exceeds the minimum memory requirement, but is the wrong version (not recognized) so the game installs, but doesn’t run. Back to the store to exchange for an Xbox 360 version … except they’re out of 360 versions. Argh. Now I can either buy a new video card to game this weekend — and I swore I was going to get off the game-driven PC upgrade treadmill when I bought the Xbox — or I can wait until the store gets a 360 copy in to make the exchange.


  22. Jabor says:

    You mean the golem you have to pay ea extra for to be able to recruit?

    Did you buy second-hand or something? You get Shale free if you bought an original copy.

    Stone Prisoner is how EA/Bioware are trying to get revenue from the used-games market – and personally, I think it’s a better idea (from the consumer’s POV) than limited-activation DRM or anything like that.

  23. Amstrad says:

    Now I want to play Lamplight, the even-more steam-punk version of Torchlight.

    Then again, considering the steam-punk leanings of Torchlight, maybe lamplight would actually turn out to be a low fantasy setting such as Robert E. Howard might produce.

  24. LintMan says:

    You mean the golem you have to pay ea extra for to be able to recruit?

    As Jabor said, if you buy the game new, the “Stone Prisoner” golem DLC is free. I just wanted to add that you’re thinking of the “Warden’s Keep” DLC, which is for pay, with the cheesy in-game ad guy, unless you bought the deluxe edition on Steam.

  25. ehlijen says:


    For real?

    I keep getting told I need to download stuff to click certain dialog options. Not actually wanting any of these online accounts to play a single player *only* game, I never tried those options. Is that my problem?

    If not I think I may have to change what gaming stores I frequent in that case…

    Either way, thanks for the heads up!

  26. Jabor says:

    You do need to actually create an account in order to add the codes to it and thus use the DLC.

    There should have been a slip of paper in the box with two codes on it – one for Stone Prisoner, and the other for the Blood Dragon armor.

    Once you’ve downloaded and installed Stone Prisoner, you should be able to go to that gold-coloured area on the world map and start the Shale quest line. The nag guy in your camp is for Warden’s Keep, so you still won’t be able to do anything for him unless you shell out another seven bucks.

  27. Smirker says:

    @26 – Yep. The Stone Prisoner is as the others have mentioned; a free download for all who buy a new copy of the game. The code is on the other side of the leaflet that has the Blood Dragon code (if you bought a physical copy) and should be in a simular location to the Blood dragon code in digital copies.

    I also dislike having to make online/forum accounts (I already have a tad too few for my tastes) – but for a general one with probable long-term viability with a company like Bioware (yes, I’m trying not to think of EA having ownership of them atm) I was willing to do it for this. hopefully, it will save me time and effort down the line when I get other Bioware titles in the future.

  28. Nalano says:

    hopefully, it will save me time and effort down the line when I get other Bioware titles in the future.

    Or, if you’re like me, you’ve already had a Bioware account for a while now thanks to NWN and KotOR and thus have to go through the process of remembering your password and info before you can play DAO.

  29. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Yeah,it sucks to be a reviewer.However,for gamers this is actually a good thing.By most of those games become pretty well covered by the time we are purchasing them,so we can truly decide which will be worth the money.This doesnt work for those people that impulse buy everything new,of course,but for the more sensible ones its a good thing.

  30. ehlijen says:

    Thanks guys.

    I’m going to give the box another good shake and see if there’s any more codes in there. So far I just ignored anything that wasn’t needed to install the game.

    Still don’t think I’m going to get an account, but being free I guess I won’t complain about it anymore :)

  31. Smirker says:

    Good Luck!

    And enjoy the game. I had to go through some hassle for setting up my DLC – but I also had an old Bioware account (from before their purchase by EA) and when i tried to reset my account it never emailed it to me — thus resulting in a painful process for a day or two – but I ended up managing a password reset through another bioware/ea site that did the trick for me.

    Looking back, it was worth it – although it was a real flaming pain in the arse at the time.

  32. Noah Gibbs says:

    You really, really need to put up Travis’s T-shirt there for purchase somewhere. It’s likely to be a big seller.

    The one that says he’s rated four and a half stars, “Compelling”.

    Much like “Fools! I’ll destroy you all! Ask me how“, I didn’t realize how much that needed to be a shirt until I saw it :-)

  33. BlackBloc says:

    Seriously, I didn’t do any gaming for months and now I can’t even dedicate enough time to the games I got, nevermind the games I wish I could get (New Super Mario Bros. Wii for instance). My Champions Online account is wasted, I barely got any time on L4D2, and in a few weeks I’ll get the end of Tales of Monkey Island. Still not finished my first playthrough on Dragon Age… gah.

  34. Jeff says:

    Aw, Leliana’s sweet. When you’re romancing her, one of the Alistair’s teasing dialogs makes me chuckle.

    People like Wynne because she’s the only person who actually cares about the Warden, she asks how you’re doing and such. She also get a unique ability if you take her traveling with you.

    I disliked Sten initially, but he’s grown on me with subsequent playthroughs – you just have to know how to handle him.

    Oghram is hilarious with all companions. Zev + Morri + Alistair has one funny three-way banter, though it also triggers with just Zev and Morri.

  35. Miral says:

    I keep hearing people complain about long load times in DA, but I just don’t see it. Maybe it’s a 32-bit vs. 64-bit or RAM difference? (I have 6GB of RAM, 64-bit.) The game has been reported to be a RAM hog, so swapping could account for it. (I almost never see the loading screen for more than 10 seconds at a time, usually much shorter.)

    And I like Leliana; she, Wynne, and Shale are my favourites at the moment (with Alistair close behind).

    Haven’t played DA for a little while now though, I got distracted by Arkham Asylum, since it was on sale on Steam a few days ago.

    Also, I just saw ROJO a couple of days ago so the shirt in the comic was particularly amusing. :)

    1. Shamus says:

      Miral: The long load times only happen to me if I’ve had the game running for hours. I generally leave the game running all day and alt-tab out to do writing. The times get longer as the day goes. Eventually they get ridiculous (over a minute) and I restart the game.

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