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11:31 PM on 05.22.2011  

L.A. Noire: Where do they go from here?

I love Team Bondiís and Rockstarís L.A. Noire. I feel it is an awesome game and a leap forward in emotive storytelling. I also liked the fact that the game was a bait and switch. People expected another GTA style game and they were giving almost an old school point and click adventure in exchange. Any arguments of those who believe contrary are unimportant as this does not deal with the quality of the game in question, but the consequences of its existence in terms of its own post release lifecycle.

NOTE: SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON

Post release: The story of LA Noire is incomplete, to place it bluntly. Large gaps exist in the time frame of the story, and even snippets of dialogue between Cole Phelps and his partners sometimes suggest unseen cases he participated in. I believe this to be the case for unavoidable reasons. First, the motion scan tech is incredibly space consuming even on PS3. Some stuff, such as the dlc cases are probably left out not only as preorder incentives but merely because there was no more space to put it in the physical media. Second, the time consuming development cycle probably meant a lot of cases were left on the cutting room floor. Third, LA Noireís story is very focused and cases that donít discuss the rise and fall of Phelps could be deemed superfluous and merely dropped to keep the storyís pace tight. It is inevitable that these gaps eventually be filled through dlc though and, in some ways, they already are.

Bringing up the exclusive dlc; Consulís car, slip of the tongue and so on are the first steps into filling in the gaps of time that exist in between patrol and vice desks (Arson desk is narratively the shortest and caps the story off. Through DLC, we can show Phelps very early days in his one-year on Patrol and all the gaps (I believe a total of 7-8 months are missing from the overall time line of the story. The Pre-order DLC will inevitably be made available through various online stores. As well as more individual cases showing up from time to time.

But where do we go in terms of cases post LA Noire credits. In the story (once again, SPOILERS!) Phelps drowns in a drainage pipe, unable to prove himself a hero to himself, his case lost with the death of Ira (the firebug), himself literally drowning because his self imposed and very real failures and flaws as a human being. The character then gets a double gut punch, once again being branded a hero in a manner he would not have felt he deserved, and having his elegy delivered by men he despised and used his memory and efforts to stay afloat. Evil always wins and the efforts of good men are always subverted for the purpose of evil.

But what happens now? Where do we go in the Story of LA Noire? There are two distinct possibilities, we can either follow Jack Kelsoís career as a DAís investigator, himself becoming disillusioned with the corruption of the new DA and those over his head. We may see some resolution to the story as people who deserve punishment get it. However, I expect this to be unlikely. If this were to happen, it would probably be the contents of an LA Noire sequel most likely, where Bondi can go in and address some of the communities concerns with the first product (most plausible improvements would be more to do in the over world, improved dialogue menu, more integration in how the over world is integrated into the case by case storytelling, more street crime, and so on and so forth, the addition of real side missions and so on and so forth.)

We may also get a Joke expansion story, similar to RDRís Undead Nightmare expansion that may explore stories in terms of film genres. We could get Sci Fi, horror, and spy movie stories. That attempt to use the back drop of LA Noire to tell a very different, very weird story. Imagine playing Cole as a G-man as he investigates a whole slew of UFO sightings and abductions (before you say flying saucers and Sci Fi B was a Fifties Phenomena, remember the famous Roswell incident occurred in 1947, the same year LA Noire is set). Or a CIA Cole as he roots out old style Hollywood depictions of Reds before they use the movie industry to take the country. Considering the success of Undead Nightmare, This is far more likely than one would think.

However this all speculation. What do you think will happen next?   read


8:38 PM on 12.06.2009  

End of a Decade, and Hopefully an End of an Era (kinda NVGR)

This is not meant to be inflammatory in any way, but rather incite discussion.

Iíve lived through both the nineties and the 2000s. Iíve seen the rise of CGI and 3D graphics for games. Iíve lived through the golden era of sci fi pc games and RPGs (Planescape: Torment, Deus Ex System Shock 2, bioshock, Fallout 2 and 3).

Iíve also seen the rise in the mass use of the internet and the natural evolution of the system as both a information system and a pioneering form of non national communication networks and systems.

Games, Film, computers and the Internet mark the beginning of a new era of civilization; The gradual building progression to massive, techno-cultural event known to science fiction authors, futurists, scientists, engineers and computer technicians as the singularity. By the logic of this theory, there will be a point in upcoming history in which major technological advancement will continuously speed up until a crux point, the singularity is encounters, in which technological, cultural and artisinal advancements will begin to increase at an infinitely exponential rate until human civilization will be unrecognizable to us and our preconceived notions of it. I believe such an event will occur within the next 10-15 years with the development of a few primary technologies; quantum computing, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and conventional space-time movement subversion (CERN, Quantum tunneling and entanglement, instantaneous travel across the universe regardless of momentum and mass)

I theorize that there have been smaller singularities over human history, signifying points of rapid development in art, technology and culture. Such examples of smaller singular events are the renaissance, the massive technological growth of the Chinese empire before its rapid decline, and most recently, the rapid development of audio-visual and broadcast media in the early 20th century.

But as we make our final steps to the ultimate final singularity, which threatens or entreats the absolute reconstruction of human civilization and consciousness, a growing trend seems to have popped up since the new millennium. It disturbs me very much. And this growing trend is that people are fucking stupid! And theyíre growing stupider every day.



Despite access to growing information networks and consistently evolving forms of informational access, people are becoming less informed and frequently more aggressive when defending the pathetic, half formed excuses. They act in a fashion similar to that of an arrogant genius when in actuality they are low intelligence morons. I make no effort to assert myself as being a intellectually superior being, but I have the benefit of saying that I am far more adaptive and inviting to the introduction of new ideas and concepts into my personal being.

A few cultural points seem to pop up when in defending my development. These are conspiracy theories, social networking, and cultural backlash.

Conspiracy theories, for many, are the basis for fanciful thinking and fiction. For a great deal of others, they represent a concealment of the truth in face of overwhelming counter evidence. These people believe Kennedy was assassinated by his government, the moon landing was faked, and the World Trade Center was destroyed by their own government to justify a war in the Middle East. These people will interpolate, interconnect and invent evidence as they see fit in order to confirm their devout and even insane claims of subterfuge and dishonesty.

In the real world however, the marked stupidity of such people is clearly evident. Despite consistent and continuous proof by non-government experts (history channel, mythbusters, and the discovery channel respectively) countering every conspiracy theory listed above and then some, they doggedly refuse to accept a logical explanation.

I contribute this to a form of evolved natural stupidity. Humans have been able to maintain themselves as the dominant species because of one primary aspect that most animals seem to lack; abstract thinking. While primates and dolphins seem to possess this skill as well, our ability far exceeds them. We win because we can perceive and recognize patterns and hypothesize about the future. We can also inference and preconceive concepts and ideas before we act upon them. Itís what has kept us alive during our development as a species and civilization and allowed us to flourish. Unfortunately, this comes with a downside. This is the persistence of pattern seeking behaviour in a time in our development where itís mostly vestigial in use. Many are incapable of perceiving chaos and random, non-interconnected behaviour and thus, almost as if it were a defense mechanism, people instantly and doggedly stick to the largest web of events and behaviour possible and defend as if with their lives, despite clear and present lunacy in such hypotheses. It can best be interpreted as a bizarre neurological freak of natural selection. With regards to us, it is a specialization and evolution of desired taken to such a point in which it becomes detrimental to us as a species. Because of such rapid onset programming in peopleís brains, its allowed for the persistence and perpetuation of incoherent webs of interconnection and meaning amongst massive groups of people. Through our primary communication systems, writing, imagery and speaking, these ideas persist and flourish amongst groups of people, entering, corrupting and spreading these logic webs/programs in a fashion similar to that of a virulent computer program. An example of such is religion and religious dogma and the problems they cause.


Social networking is another piece in the growing evidence towards mankindís stupidity. Primarily designed as a informational interconnection in the era of post-national internet communities, networks have devolved into cesspools of human idiocy and childish behaviour. People, because of anonymity on the Internet with sites such as this or networks such as facebook and twitter, lose their ability to act with basic social skills. They let their ID run free believing there to be no consequence for their actions due to the dissociative and disconnected nature of the internet. They build groups and communities of likeminded morons on such websites and social networks to persist in their own childish behaviour. Unfortunately this has larger scale ripple effect upon them and society. They begin to dissociate from their real life and seem to only exist on the internet. They become unable to properly interact with people outside their social network and when they do move within the real world, they begin to act as they do on the internet. Unfortunately the clustering effect of such destructive behavior has generated a whole population of people socially ineffective outside the limitations of the internet. They literally cannot function without facebook or myspace and they become unable to properly interact with real people.



To finally address my point is the idiocy of cultural backlash. As films, books, games and such form of entertainment grow in popularity, there is a vocal group of people who express hatred towards it for no reason other than the fact that it is popular. This is known as cultural backlash. The point of such patterns of behaviour is nonexistent. It instead stands as counteraction in a futile attempt to attain independence by rejecting conventional popular media. They then run to sites such as this and Kotaku and many others, spewing off half baked counter culture opinions to make themselves seem unique from what they believe is everybody else.

Look, while I give credence to the belief that Twilight is poor, exploitative genre trash, I realize why people like it. I respect it, as much as I hate it, for its ability to garner such an audience. But the backlash against films such as Titanic and Slumdog Millionare is idiotic at best. These films are expertly made, confident dramas, which display excellent screenwriting and direction. However, the hatred for these films based on popularity makes no sense. While personal preference not matching up with the film resulting in someone not liking it is perfectly fine, having disdain simply because many people like it is idiotic at best. It is merely an excuse for foolish half-wits to use antisocial behaviour on a group with little consequence. They think, by avoiding popular opinion, they can make themselves more noticeable and unique to others. Such attempts at recognition is the desperate throes of a weak simple minded fool who wants more attention than their personality or intelligence should allow.



But such moronic behaviour has extended even further, leading to backlash before a film is even released. Such is the case with the upcoming film Avatar by James Cameron. Remarks that film looks like it will be shit and further general hatred make no sense. All right, while someone may not like something because they donít like the art style or they are not interested in the story is fine. But disdain as well as broad generalized remarks when they have no basis in reality and canít even be determined yet doesnít make any sense. People displaying hatred for a film which has done nothing wrong yet as it has not even been released is the most idiotic thing ever conceived by a human being. It is essentially the judgment of something, with no proper understanding of its quality. Itís thoughtless hatred by groups of nasty self-serving morons who would go personally out of their way to discredit something because they can latch their lamprey like suckers on any handle of the hate wagon they can reach with their sad, limited intellect.

This may seem like incessant ranting, but there is a specific point to my argument. Why is it that in the era of widespread knowledge and interactivity is people growing stupider, louder and less informed? The rise of fools across the world is a sad reminder that though many wonders await us in the future and the next decade, the world is filled with witless, low brow worms who slither in the dirt of their own ignorance, misery and hatred and do nothing to simply live and be happy for the sake of being happy. I wish the stupidity will end with the new decade and hopefully lead us to an age of intellect and honesty towards oneself and others in their. But I doubt that will happen any time soon.   read


9:18 PM on 11.25.2009  

Do The Wrong Thing: The Horror of Understanding


This place is hell. A vast labyrinth of strange near asymmetrical buildings and outlandish perspective and physics bending architectural anomalies. Places that twist the logic between interior and exterior space. Children wander through the town with their own strange customs and gangs. The Adults are trapped in their own world of superstition, politics, and bizarre pseudo-physical class distinction. A thick blanket of yellow brown smog covers the dingy cattle town making everything brown and dying. Unseen dogs bark and howl madly in the distance. Overhead, a tiny patch of sky shows a distant sky of blue and clouds. This is Ancient Step.

I am the player. I am playing Pathologic. I insert myself into this horrid place as a number of characters. I am, at best, a casual participant or pawn in the events that will unfold before me. I start as the scientist who wishes to conquer death. I have come here to see and immortal man.

I wake in a dingy little bed and breakfast. All the mirrors in the town are broken for some inexplicable reason. I leave. In the backyard is a transient and some bizarre fetal creature, they are the half formed men, the cattle herders of the swamplands. They are the wurm. By the buildings gates is a creature in a medieval plague suit and a faceless wraith like creature. They tell me to behave like myself and be mindful of my condition, for I am bound by the rules of reality here. I can hunger, I can weaken myself through fatigue and illness. I listen carefully and leave.

The immortal man is dead. Found murdered in his hidden antechamber between the folds of space and time. Worse, my friend and mentor is dead, found with a giant spike as long as your arm rammed straight through his chest. Some suspect his son, the crazy surgeon. Others suspect a mad half man cow slaughterer. I am deeply confused.

Worse yet, something terrible is coming. Disease. Death, my enemy, creeps ever closer. Every day, people die, places become quarantined, fights break out, and food and resources become excessively scarce. Horror and violence breaks out amongst the people as they fight to survive. I find a weapon and have to sell it for medicine and food. But only the children with toy dog heads have the proper medicine. I have no money and nothing to barter with these mad kids. I am desperate, I am dying. I have no choice; I find a group of them and slaughter them, one by one, with a bullet to the head. I finish off my indiscretion by raiding their corpses and stealing what I need. What have I done?

Soon the world becomes infected. The walls welt and sores open on the buildings. They fester with this strange disease from beyond the concept of conventional understanding. The bodies pile higher and the people grow increasingly mad. The government comes in to quash the infection only to fall to this strange metaphysical illness. People die and I am incapable of doing anything outside of making things seemingly worse.

A million years ago and a face later, I am the surgeon, a healer of men and savior of life. I am also a serial killer. I know I can survive coming illness. I can make medicine but only the swamp dwelling wurm have the sufficient materials. To make my deal with them, I need to sow the land with flesh and blood. I murder people and bury their kidneys in the ground. I get my medicine and live a little longer. The ditches fill with my corpses of my sacrifices. Itís good to be alive.


It all suddenly becomes clear to me. I am responsible for this. If there one thing that is clear, none of this would have happened if I had not pressed the new game button. I speak not of myself in terms of my masks, the characters I can choose to play. I speak of myself, the man before the computer. The disease and horror I unleash is a result of entering this world. If I chose nothing, to not play this game at all this place, this town would still be here trapped in its own little digital universe. I am the outsider, who brings a disease to a new world. I am a bringer of death.

Such are the consequences of my actions. They span not only across this game, but all games. The fact of my mere presence brings suffering to bear for all the simple digital beings within the code. It is like a dark atom, trapped in a constant quantum flux between two states, ever changing. The simple act of observation upon this place of quantum flux causes the condition of the observed Ďuniverseí to change. The quantum state chooses one aspect and for some strange reason, it always destruction. I wish I control this universeís quantum state change but I can not seemingly jump timelines where everything is okay for the town of Ancient Step, the world of Oblivion or the wastes of Chernobyl. But this is simple quantum physics on a macro level, a basic law if you will. The act of observing something will always change the conditions of what you are observing.

I am the player. I am not a passive observer or pawn of the events that unfold before me. I am the instigator, the chaos bringer wrapped in many faces and personas as I travel between distant worlds and stories. I bring famine, war, disease and death upon a people innocent of the Armageddon I unleash upon them. I am the horsemen of the apocalypse. I am a dark god who sows the seeds of misery and destruction in the myriad of worlds I choose to play with.

I am the player of games and I wish to be entertained. Now, who do I play with next?   read


8:42 PM on 11.17.2009  

How the Game Industry Works


In all forms of entertainment, the aspect of selling commercial art is generally considered a part of the entertainment business. This business as people understand it, has been closing studios, merging properties, removing dedicated servers and providing trouble for people for a very long time now. Yet people fail to really understand how abstract the business and all forms of business really are.

See, when a company is a publicly traded commodity, its possession is broken into equal sized fragments often referred to as shares. An abstract reference to a collective of shares is commonly known as stock. As a company gains or loses money in its ventures, the confidence of said company wanes and waxes in the view of the public. This confidence filters into Ďperceivedí value of shares, which then quickly becomes the actual value of said stock. This is the lifeblood of sustaining companies. The quick transference from economic confidence to perceived value to actual value is not actually guided by any form of real logic or economic reasoning. It has been proven scientifically that the flakey, nonsensical and overreacting behavior of the stock market has connecting with such things as mass hysteria and herd mentality (with a little pheromones throne into the mix).

The economic confidence of a company, as mentioned above, is governed by earnings. Every year, executives and the CEO make an economic forecast for the coming year. This forecast predicts how much money the company expects to make by the end of the fiscal year. Such predictions are considered reasonable and in line with the earnings of previous years. However, if less than the predicted amount of money is made during the year, then it is considered a Ďlossí by the executives, CEO, and shareholders (ie STUPID). They then cut down the production end by canceling projects, laying off workers and closing studios to reduce the money sink and increase gain.

This is seemingly counter to the fact that said Ďlossí is not a loss at all, as such money did not exist before the prediction was made. For example, If a company predicted 100 million dollar gain and only made 95 million, then it is considered to have lost 5 million and the company has to let things and people go to make up for it.

Such as the case of the industry. But the illogic goes even farther than that. See, an entertainment company is broken into two parts, the creative section which makes the games, and the management section which contains all the producers, managers, executives and Chairmen. This latter section of a company takes most of the revenue produced by the larger corporation when they actually contribute nothing to the bottom line. They are by classical definition, parasitic, as they drain energy and power from the host while returning little to no benefit.


This economic parasite is everywhere, controlling and trampling the creative department under their Ďleadshipí, buzzwords and execu-speak. It is the reason why Free Radical is dead and Westwood was let go. The people in this management Ďcultureí run the industry and our artistic culture. Virtually no executive has any experience with the industry they are knee deep in. They are interchangeable upper management. They are Ďleadersí, raised by the MBA executive Ďcultureí to go out and make money in any field, despite the fact that they have experience or working knowledge of the industry they are in. Theyíre trolling for profit as quickly as possible, no matter the consequences (short term gain versus long term loss). They are the reason while almost all games are homogenous products. They jump on a trend that sells and jump to the next one as soon as it comes along. They are the reason why big chain bookstores have a wall dedicated to James Patterson, yet shrink the Science Fiction department by 100 books a year. They trade in nonexistent commodities (forecasts) as if they were real, which led to such things as prospects and sub prime mortgages. And we all know too well how that turned out.

And nobody manages to see the unsustainable lunacy that North American economics have created. Nobody listens and almost nobody fights back (I havenít bought an Activision game since 2003, Doom 3 doesnít count as it was it just published by them). But people keep buying games and feeding the leeches and nothing ever changes because people sustain what is simply an illogical, unsustainable, stupid and frankly evil system.

You bought modern warfare 2 and thatís how Bobby Kotick, the scum of the industry and indicative of everything wrong with modern commerce, made 35 million in one week period. Congratulations!   read


9:30 AM on 11.05.2009  

We Should Expect Better: Understanding and Communication

This episode deals with the inherent problem with Blogging about games and the problems within my own post.

Games are an interesting culture to speak about. Even in its simplest form, it engenders discussion and argument which websites such a Destructoid facilitates through both its intelligent community and blog feature. However, this is the internet, which engenders many problems with communication and understanding.

First off, communication. With the internet, itís very rare that people actually know someone to a point in which they understand the intricacies of personal tone and meaning. The best example is the We Should Expect Better Articles. People look at me and say that my derogatory tone and singular accusation is too hard edged against people who work very hard at what they do. Maybe they are right. But what people commonly seem to associate with my posts is me screaming and beating my chest like a lunatic. In reality, if I were to speak with my own voice it would actually be quite depressed sounding and in a very matter of fact tone. Very rarely does any of my problems with gaming actually anger me (such exceptions being music games and social networking), but rather simply disappoints me. I feel that what I think are halfassed products getting paraded around at the expense of better titles as well as the fact that game design has been steadily going downhill since 2000 to be quite sad as a gamer.

Now about understanding. There are a lot of misconstrued opinions about my articles and I feel that I must explain myself for the sake of clarity.

The primary problem is my statements on stupidity. The word, stupidity, is merely a label I place over my feelings about developers. What I refer to as stupidity is in fact is a lack of knowledge coupled with an unwillingness to learn and a delusion that they do something well. A perfect example for this can be taken from my own family history. My father is a director of childrenís cartoons. Heís directed The magic School Bus, Braceface and is currently working on one of if not the highest rated cartoon on the Disney Channel, Handy Manny. There are animators and board artist out there that he knows. They are terrible. They have awful composition, timing, they are even terrible at drawing. They work at a professional level, but lack the talent to do it even remotely well. But they think theyíre the greatest thing since Walt Disney and when someone more talented calls them out and tries to help them improve, they are resistant to instruction and insulted that someone would even question their greatness. That is stupidity.

Through my familyís constant encounters with Ďstupidityí and my own personal experiences throughout my life, Iíve come to recognize and classify human behaviour quite well. I can see when someone is being Ďstupidí from a mile away. And if Iím incapable of succeeding anywhere else in my life, I can rest easy that Iím at least good at understanding human nature to a degree.

The next part of misunderstanding regarding my work deals with my preponderance towards zero tolerance. Well, yes, I have no tolerance towards something that can be done better quite easily. It shows a singular lack of effort and understanding of the profession you are in when you do something wrong. And my ultimate opinion is, if you canít do something right, donít do it at all. However, my concept of right is very different from what you may assume. I see Ďrightí as being neither perfect nor even good. Doing something right is an aspect which can be seen throughout your work. It insinuates itself into the character of the final product you turn in. Doing it right shows you have a fundamental understanding of the work that you are doing professionally. It can be boring, it can just be just not that great, But if you understand what your working on and actually understand how to implement it into a game in way that is significant and relevant to the player, then you have done it right. Look at Dead Space. Was it perfect? Far from it. But did it display a fairly competent understanding of horror, science fiction, space ship design, narrative progress and third person action adventure gameplay? Yes and it did it quite well.

Oh and for the record, when someone such as myself and others who have an admittedly limited experience with game development are able to point out blatant flaws in level, narrative and game design, there is something very wrong with the product you just released.

I also argue that games nowadays are awfully designed in comparison to products from 20-even 6 years ago. And my belief is that in this day of easy to use third party engines, normal mapping, advanced AI, real-time physics and photorealistic Graphics, if you canít beat a game like Quake 2 (1997), Half Life (1999) or System Shock 2 (2000), what in godís name are you doing? And what depresses me further is that none of these newer games make any effort to understand what made those games, with their limited technology, so great.

I donít expect you to agree with me. In fact I hope you donít as it allows discourse and debate to occur. What these articles are the accumulation of my personal opinions into a series of argumentative essays in order to raise questions about the nature of gaming. Hell Iím probably wrong concerning many aspects of my opinion, but itís just how I feel as a gamer whoís been screwed over too many times to count. I also donít think that Iím the smartest person on the planet, but I feel that Iím smart enough to point out something thatís simply inexcusable and voice my opinions.

EDIT - It was recently stated that I'm the 'glass half empty' type of guy. This statement is both true and false. I have no tolerance for bad ideas and stupid game design and will frequently call these games out for the stupidity they contain. But this doesn't mean I don't like or even love them. Some games are good, just despite some horrid design choices. Metal Gear Solid is one, Far Cry 2 is another. In fact the MGS series is my second favourite game series ever made. But there are some really awful design choices that someone should have taken notice of and fixed and there is no excuse for the stupidity displayed by not remedying the problem. However, I won't deny these games aren't fun to play or even great experiences. They just have serious problems that could have been fixed with a little basic reasoning applied.   read


9:35 PM on 11.04.2009  

We Should Expect Better: Music,Rhythm, and Sports Games

This is the third of my We Should Expect Better series.

Now I want to get this out of the way immediately. There is nothing wrong with either music OR sports games. They are designed to do exactly what they do, and I perfectly respect their relatively stable design. There is also nothing wrong with playing them and liking them. The skill of rhythm and understanding the rules of football is quite impressive. There is nothing wrong with them. I even argue that some of them are quite good (rock band, etc).

What I argue is the reason for their existence. As good as these games are, I just cannot support them. Their very is existence are acts in futility and pointlessness. The problem is that while these games may give people an experience they would never have (doing a song in front of a roaring crowd can feel quite good). In fact, as good as these games are, I believe them to be the lowest forms of entertainment and dangerous too.

They arenít real. In truth, they are sub real. Theyíre vicarious alternatives to something you can really do if you put the effort into it. They donít teach you anything about real music and reward as if you did for just being able to keep in rhythm and have fast reflexes. The games show no effort in trying to teach any real fundamentals about playing a guitar, singing, drums, football, basketball. They just turn easy to learn, hard to master real world activities and substitute them for easier digital packages. This is like going to the store and buying frozen desert instead of real ice cream. Itís the nutritional equivalent to the nutritional equivalent of a real active or creative experience.


In fact, games such as Rock Band and Madden are beginning to subvert real sports and music. People donít go out and play football or street hockey on weekends anymore if they can just do Dallas versus Cleveland in the latest Madden games. Garage Bandís have dwindled to nothingness since Guitar Hero allowed people to master Freebird with five buttons and a dongle. Itís a crime for the simple reason that its nature removes the volition to try to succeed for real, turning everyone from potential artists and athletes into armchair wannabes.

Best example I can think of comes straight from Destructoid itself. If you ever listen to podtoid, you hear Samit drone on forever about sports games to the point in which you actually want reach into the mike and strangle his gab hole shut. He knows every single aspect and nuance of these games, the rules, the teams, the plays and the strategies. And yet, for all his constant droning, I have never heard a single mention of him getting off his ass and actually going out and playing football or street hockey with some friends. Whatís the point when he could he could be a virtual superstar on his PS3.


And the strange thing is, it tends to really delude people into thinking that they can really be a successful musician or play a sport well if they just tried. Yet the ease of the game and itís instant gratification never instills a single ounce of real motivation to actually try for excellence. These games and the rise of rags to riches media (high school musical, Fame, American Idol, etc) give rise to the strange anti Barbie of the new millennium. These games and movies strut around giving vapid praise for minimal talent and effort, raising peopleís self esteem when itís not real and not deserved.

And you know what the really sad, ironic thing is. Itís now actually cheaper to buy a real guitar (admittedly a starter instrument) or football as opposed to rock band or Madden. The fact that music and rhythm games are continuously growing and edging out real music when itís actually cheaper to learn how to play an actual instrument makes me cry and want to tear out my hair.

Oh! And it makes me lose faith in humanity too.

If youíre interested in previous iterations of we should expect better, check out my blog for more.   read


12:50 PM on 11.04.2009  

We Should Expect Better: Game Design

Iíve decided to continue from my last post with a whole series of posts talking about aspects of video games.

We as humans tend to have a love for grouping and classifying things. What can we say, we love taxonomy. We primarily classify games in very specific tiers or levels, most of which go unnamed and often unconsidered. I have listed them here in as simple a way as possible.

-Macro-Cultural Origin; Western or Eastern
-Base Cultural Origin; Europe and North America most specifically
-Micro Cultural Origin; from individual countries (Australia, Japan, Korea, England, Germany, France, The States, Canada, Poland, Russia, Ukraine etc)
-Gameplay structuring: Turn Based, Real Time
-Non-diegetic Interactivity: player either acts upon or Interacts (adventure games) with the game world
-Diegetic interactivity: How interactive the actual game world is; a gradient from none to very
-Diegetic Relevance: How important said interaction has with the player, world and the narrative.
-Narrative/Spatial constriction: From Open World to Linear.
-Realism: the gradient of which one gauges a game; from arcade to simulation
-Accessibility: a gradient of which a game is considered from casual to hardcore
-Viewpoint: First Person, Third Person, Third Person Omniscient (the sims, strategy games)
-Design Genre: RPG, Shooter, Adventure, Action, Strategy, and any hybrid possible
-Narrative Genre: Science Fiction, Military, Fantasy, Real World Fiction, Crime, etc
-Thematic Genre: Horror, Adventure, Action, Satire, etc

The list can go on forever, getting more specific and anal about little details that ultimately donít matter. The depth of which I have gone into gives all the base points for picturing/describing a game.

For example, take a game such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. It is a: Western; European game; from Ukraine; that is Real Time; in which a player acts upon a world; with limited interactivity; But said interaction has great affect upon the game world and narrative. It is a somewhat open world game; with a heavy focus on realism; and hardcore gameplay. It is a First Person; Action-Adventure-RPG-Shooter; Science Fiction Game; with a Thematic focus on Horror and Adventure.



Each aspect and influence, from the continent and country of origin to the viewpoint in which you play the game from, has an effect on how we envision the game will be. And rightly so since every cultural, national origin and design choice ultimately has a great impact on the game, how its played, how it regarded and what demographic it will appeal to.

While I argue that we should throw down our classifications and allow game design to run wild and mutate into new and various breeds of interactive entertainment; I know people are stupidly adherent to classification and tend to regard real hybrids with confusion and anger (a lot of complaints I hear about Brutal Legend confirm this).

What I instead intend to focus is what said taxonomy says about game design in general. This fill in blank, madlib sheet for games acts in very much the same manner as socio-ethnic prejudice. People, whether aware of the fact or not, have a tendency to stereotype games based on design points and generalize games from where they come from. This tends to affect the widespread appeal of games to the general gaming population who base most of their decisions and views on second and third hand opinion, personal prejudice, massive generalization, and wildly wrong assumptions. Much like how they govern their lives, in fact.

But I digress, as the inherent problem with gaming stereotypes is that for the most part, they are true. Many games that come from Japan and Korea tend to be anime influenced, turn based, fantasy rpg melodramas featuring angsty androgynous teenagers. And since what represents 60-70 percent of the eastern games that reach our western market resemble the above mentioned stereotype, it forms a solid base from which we form our opinions despite direct opposition to the fact with examples such as Dynasty Warriors, Demonís Souls, Lost Planet, Resident Evil etc. Is it right? No. Is it excusable? No! But does it have basis in fact? Yes, yes it does.

But unfortunately, this realization within itself goes on to raise even further questions about the nature of game design itself. The fact that stereotyped games exist and are fundamentally true makes me question the validity of game design, period. This can be easily explained. Game stereotypes exist simply because they sell. People have an overwhelming preponderance towards safe investments because itís easy to pick what you like and never take any chances.

Unfortunately, this has led to a refinement of a Lego snap-together design document that developers use today to build games that sell. It makes marketable games with minimal effort or cost and the expense of orginality. Put plot point A with introduction of Gameplay feature B. Driving segment C should lead into base assault 3A. Street Level fight G should finish with mandatory tank fight R. Finish off game with set piece 42-Alpha. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Modern Warfare 2!


While this may be attributed to the refinement of games into a high concept entertainment business, which leads to the relatively homogenized nature of game design we see now, and this is true, I argue a counterpoint. I argue that even being unoriginal, most game design is simply terrible. This is, once again, the calling card of my old friend, Stupidity.

And yes, it is stupidity. People walk around and say they are lazy or uninspired. I pose the fact that stupidity is prevalent here because game designers are trained to think this way. Itís called super-specialization. Many are trained to think and act in certain ways, using rote process instead of creativity to develop their games. They are, by process of their own education, drained of actual intelligence and creativity. The levels they make are rote and so by the book that if they werenít visually interesting, it would literally look like you were running around a large corridor with some cover. The game features they implement are so mediocre and overused by the rest of game industry, you could strip a game of itís textures and label and they would not be able to tell the difference between one game or another. But challenging someone trained like this causes them to virtually malfunction. They are so used to doing something a certain way that asking them to do something different will stop them dead in their tracks.

People may ask what is the inherent difference between stupidity and simple ignorance in these situations. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge but the ability to learn. There is nothing wrong with that. Stupidity is the lack of knowledge without the ability or willingness to learn coupled with the complete lack of understanding the basics of real design, which should be understood before making any effort.

The best example is stupid level design. The inherent artificiality of levels in games today is a crime. They design spaces to look real with no understanding of how reality works. Take a street level for example. A street is designed for maximum population access and use. This leads to problems in the level design such as frequent side streets and buildings. So developers miraculously solve this problem by making every side street and off shoot result in a dead end, or are blocked off by cars or police barriers. But canít people just jump over the hood? Not if they canít jump!!! There are also buildings that people enter and use. Oh, wait all the doors are locked. The lack of understanding of how spaces and objects work is simply astounding. Is it not possible that people can jump over barriers and cars or break glass to get access to a building?


They either donít understand this or simply donít care. But what really makes me cry on the inside is the absolute brain bending idiocy to not realize the potential of maximizing the use of the street. Imagine using buildings for cover or using them to get to the access point, turning a regular street level battle into a pitched fight across small businesses and roof tops. And what about side streets? Sneaking behind buildings to take out forces without being seen greatly increases the options for the gameplay and replaying. And the barriers? People can get around cars and signs quite easily in the real world, so why is it so damn hard here. What about blocking off an area with a collapsed building or even a huge vehicle like a fire truck or a train? It makes absolutely no sense and there is no reason why it shouldnít be fixed. This literally took me, some university student from Canada, five minutes to figure out and yet it never occurred to these seasoned game design veterans?

But stupid game design is just as widespread and inane. Take for example the over use of the ĎRPGí mechanics in shooters nowadays, using very basic stats levelling system to give Ďoptionsí to the player. Without significant focus on this feature, itís merely a vestigial left over which just artificially pads the game and gives false depth to it. Itís essentially pointless. Furthermore, you donít have to increase the complexity of a game to make it better. In many cases pure simplicity actually provides a more pure and rewarding experience. What about rechargeable health bars and the QTE in favour of gameplay or simple cutscenes? Just because every thing can be interactive, does not inherently mean it should be and what the hell is wrong with a goddamn health pack.

However the worst offender of bad game design in recent history I can think of is Far Cry 2. Donít get me wrong, I really like that game, but for godís sakes, some of the choices made in the design phase of the product are utterly moronic. For example, why are you randomly attacked every five minutes? Why does everyone want to kill you despite allegiances? Why do you take a taxi into the game but have to use a bus for quick travel. Why are the save spots so damn hard to see? Whatís with the crappy widescreen function? Why do all your buddies get into trouble every mission? Why do enemies see you from a mile away from behind a bush? Why does stealth not work? Why is there no real ending to the game? What is with the inherent lack of SDK for PC users? None of these problemís make any sense and could easily have fixed with a little play testing and tweaks. But they released the product as and never took the time to fix it. It makes no sense.

Why is it so hard to design game that visually and structurally makes sense. Is it so hard, and yes I do recognize the issue put forth by deadlines, to take the time and effort to research spaces and designs. Because everyone else adds some half baked gameplay mechanic to pad the length of the experience, doesnít mean you should too. We live in an age where games are rapidly approaching photorealism (not necessarily a good thing but still) and yet we canít expect someone who has the ability to command development tools at a professional level to make a game to give us a visual and gameplay scenario that makes sense? The original Call of Duty for PC had better level design than Modern Warfare. Iíve played mods for age old games like UT2004, Deus Ex and Half Life that show a better understanding of how spaces are constructed and how they can be used to maximise player experience than most games nowadays. And Yes I recognize great design when I see it; Jak and Daxter, Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank, Half Life 2 and Portal, and even Banjo-Kazooie, it is a simple fact that most games are, no matter how good I or many people may think they are, are all just terribly designed.


yes this is a mod for UT2004 called out of hell, look it up

Maybe itís just me but when I see amateurs out pacing the professionals, there has to be something very wrong with the gameís industry.

Next up on the We Should Expect Better Series is (not necessarily in this order):

-Sound Design
-Morality
-Gamers
-Genre
-Third party Engines
-Ports
-Waggle
-Trilogies
-The business itself
And Finally: Killing the PC (this one will probably be the longest)   read


10:26 AM on 11.03.2009  

We Should Expect Better: Writing

We live in the age of the story. Mankind, since the dawn of human civilisation, has been host to an ever evolving and changing form of make believe, the narrative. Over hundreds of thousands of years we have refined and perfected our story telling ability to what is now considered an art form. We evolve and change and adapt our art, as it is now considered to fit into different forms; written medium, mass printed medium, dramatic medium, visual medium, audiovisual medium, visual printed medium and most recently interactive medium.


However, the emergence of interactive narrative has resulted in a peculiar reversing of refining process and created a situation where the actual quality of game writing is cheapening overall.

There are always exceptions to the rule, examples where the prevalence of quality writing vastly outweighs the dreck. For example there is the decade spanning period of the golden age of adventure games, where the writing and narrative were paramount to the success of game even more than the quality of gameplay/puzzles themselves. There are the exquisite science fiction thriller narratives of the System Shock and Deus Ex franchises, the dark thematic resonance of Bioshock and Pathologic, The nostalgic Uncharted stories, Half Life 2 and related content, the underrated Pariah, the comedy of Tim Schafer and Oddworld Inhabitants, the sublime horror of Silent Hill 1-4, the quality stories put forth by developer Origin systems with games such as Bioforge, or even the primarily visual games of team ICO.

However, for the most part, game writing is often flat and uninspired with poorly plotted stories and preponderance on action and gameplay over subsequent narrative and pacing and using rote concepts or just variances on classic stories (a new game, Dark Void is very much a rocketeer fuelled play on the Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers story). Games nowadays use narrative as loose framework to build varying levels and call them coherent. In some cases, such as the incredibly fun to play Oblivion and Fallout 3, the writing is simply terrible. Even now, a growing group of games such as Call of Duty and Gears of War are typically evolving its own form of narrative play which I like to call situational writing. It involves a random set of levels created by the developers which is the forced upon the writers to arrange them in a manner that can be called coherent, and then write a story to give it general context.

Despite the growth of the situational writing model, we see a constant leaning towards the influence of mainstream blockbuster films, as the primary writing model for most games, which generates stories that tend to be as uninspired and flat as the source material often tends to be.

People tend to excuse this behaviour for poor writing as merely the product of focusing on gameplay. They say that if the gameplay is sufficiently excellent enough, the story could be simply terrible (see painkiller, Mario, and generally most games released by ID software). And while this is true of the fact that the game will be enjoyable to play, there is still no excuse for not even trying.

People look at the situation we face and call the developers and writers lazy or uninspired or even unfocused. However, I prefer a better label without the preponderance to coddling or enabling the developer to escape blame. I call them stupid.


It may sound childish and irrational, but the simple fact that all games that have bad writing tend to be a result of simple idiocy rather than laziness. Most people who generally write for games seem to have absolutely no practical knowledge of or even the conceptual will to understand the basic fundamentals of pace, plotting and dialogue and as a result decide to imitate the success of other stories (God of War to Clash of the titans, every fantasy game to Lord of the Rings or Conan etc, Haloís marines as to Aliensí Marines, Area 51ís Marines to Alienís Marines, Doomís marines to Alienís Marines, Quakeís marines to Aliensí Marines, Crysisí specops to Aliensí Marines, Chromeís Marines to Aliensí Marines, Killzoneís soldiers to Aliensí marines, Gears of Warís Cogs toÖ Aliensí marines, Space Marines toÖ oh you get the damn picture). As a result we simply get a simple variant on the same story over and over with no discourse over any form of unique plotting.

The second form of mass stupidity in the game industry is the developers themselves. They are wrapped up in the delusional belief that they are the most important part of the game. They force their ideas first and then use the writers to clean it up and make it presentable. This may also be a source for desperate overuse of Aliensí marine idea but it stands to fact that writing is desperately necessary. If a game is written in true conjunction with development and there is exchange of ideas between writing staff and the development team, then significant increase in the quality of the plot is inevitable. It may still be rote and unoriginal but at least there is significant context to the events in the game. The writer would write the plot, the developers would take this and tell the writers what does and doesnít work with the described levels, the writers tweak the description to fit better to a game mold, Developers make the game, changing the levels to adhere to coherency of design, writers tweak the story to fit the redesigned levels. It may not be particularly any good, but you still get a plot that is coherent to the order of levels you play.

The third and most fundamental idiocy are the publishers themselves. Executives and producers are what are best described as high paid morons. People with cookie cutter business degrees (executives) or even just over promoted secretaries (producers, donít argue with me as I know this based on family experience) who, for the great majority of these people, have no practical knowledge of the medium they work with, attempt to make high profile artistic and entertaining products. They are so focused on maximising profits and share value they have no concern for creativity and attempt to force as much high concept into their products as possible. To force what sells above all else tends to result in three problems. Games are rushed and have incomplete stories. Games are forced to be high concept and thus be exactly like the next best selling game or intellectual property (ie copying Aliensí marines). And Third and finally, Games are forced to shove out as many sequels as possible which stretches the ability of the already mentally handicapped writing staff even more. Despite a few exceptions to the rule, this corporate atmosphere tends to kill creativity or even the chance for good writing in any gameís industry, creating a barren creative wasteland.



To write a decent, if not original story is not difficult, it just takes time. You have to understand that there are essentially three parts to a story; a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning sets up the conflict and emotional connections for the players. The middle heightens the conflict, danger and panic and ends on a critical moment. The end uses the critical moment to drive the player towards the source of the situation and deal with it directly. The plot should have a logical flow of one event to the other utilising the basic and unastounding concept of cause and effect. Donít randomly introduce characters objects or events that conveniently appear to solve the situation or save the day when their existence and place in the plot makes no sense. Also, itís ok if the story doesnít have a happy ending. Dialogue should sound exactly as how regular people should talk and emote and utilise uncommon phrases and patterns of speech to heighten the mood. Most of the time, people tend to speak candidly about something but often have a double meaning. The second meaning often is inconsequential or innocent rather than devious, secretive or malicious, but itís still a double meaning nonetheless. Attempting to make a character edgy, dark, badass, or deliberately cool immediately results in something that just sounds stupid. Example, Nathan Drake works so well as a character because he is a likable, relatable human being, albeit in an extraordinary situation and profession. Heís cool because he is weathered and accustomed to his profession and not some icy dark anti hero like Lara Croft or forced superfly guy from the most recent Prince of Persia (the most offensively whitewashed QTE game ever made).

But for all my complaining and attempting to reason away my and hopefully many othersí dissatisfaction with terrible game narratives, I know that this will never make a difference. People unquestioningly buy whatís popular and poorly written, the morons keep making money and the cycle of submediocrity inevitably starts again. I can beat and scream and even attempt to defy them by modding and becoming a writer myself. Nobody pays for their ineptitude and nobody ever learns. People may argue with this statement but this is just how I feel about games nowadays.   read


11:06 AM on 10.24.2009  

Burning out on Games

During the summer I experienced a 'Burnout', a point some people get to involving games. Due to the fact that games are interactive longform media, the constant exposure tends to drive people away for periods of time. They attempt to limit their contact and avoid any form of longterm gaming commitments. I know people get 'cause it happened to a few people I know already.

It seems from observation that the length of a burnout is directly proportional to time spent 100 percent engrossed by gaming.

I've found that the equation roughly goes such as this.

hours of a life spent completely devoted to game = H
H is also conditional as it is
The collective time spent absorbed in the last 3-5 games
Take this time and multiply by 12 and you get the collective hours spent in cool down
Hx12 = C

For example the last 5 games I played (Fallout, Deus Ex, BK nuts and bolts, Bango Tooie and Mass Effect) roughly put up about 240 hours total immersion. Not consecutively mind you but it was the total hours spent on weekend and free days over about a 2-12 month period. Then I burnt out.

multiply that collective number of hours by twelve and you 2880 hours of cool down time. Divided by 24 and you get 120 days cool down. Which is roughly equal to 4 months. Which is how long I spent avoiding games (deliberately and subconciously).

I'm now getting back into gaming in a big way, I'm playing the homewold games and other things and I'm planning to get demon's souls, uncharted 2, borderlands, AC 2 and Dragon Age when the last two come out.

oh and just for the hell of it, here are the books I read over the summer/burnout instead of gaming.

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson
Anathem - Neal Stephenson
Hyperion - Dan Simmons
NeuroMancer - William Gibson
Count Zero - William Gibson
Mona Lisa Over Drive - William Gibson
On writing - stephen king
Just After Sunset - Stephen King
The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
Consider Phlebas - Ian Banks
Cyberabad Days - Ian Mcdonald
River of Gods - Ian Mcdonald
The Dreams Our Stuff is Made of - Thomas M Disch
Dhalgren - Samuel R Delany
Building Harlequin's Mood - Larry Niven and another author
The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
Postsingular - Rudy Rucker   read


5:45 PM on 10.22.2009  

Nothing Is Sacred: Blizzard Leaves Me Cold

The game industry is strange and mythical place. Gamers treat the industry like itís the fountain of youth or Shangri-la, a mysterious, hidden place that holds boundless secrets and treasures (though some of these treasures turns out to be something like Barbie Horse Adventures). And in this golden swirling pool, a few sacred cows have emerged. These game series, developers, and designers are often considered to be incorruptible sources of pure entertainment. And at the top of the list is the king of all cows, Blizzard.


Ah, Blizzard, the proverbial cash cow developer. Creator of Diablo, Lost Vikings, Warcraft and Starcraft, they have massive sales figures and impenetrable wall of fans about as thick as korea and more rabid than a fat guy on a buffet. They are, for lack of any better term, rock stars of the game development community. However, one point has always clung to the back of my mind as new Blizzard games burst into the market for gamers to devour; Not a single blizzard game is actually any good.

Yes, Blizzard has some truly amazing Art design in their games, as I love how WoW, Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 Look. Yes Blizzard has incredible CGI in their products. Yes the games are very stable, well balanced, well supported and easy to understand in terms of controls and interface. And from a purely objective viewpoint, Blizzard games do get everything right and I can completely understand how people can love the games and become addicted to them. I donít hold it against anyone who likes a Blizzard game and there is nothing wrong with it.

Itís hard to evoke in writing my meaning as to why Blizzard games are not good. My intended message to you is conveyed as much in body language and tone as it is simply the words on this page. Blizzard games are massive, well constructed and very competently put together, but are simply vapid, callous games underneath all the layers of subterfuge and pretty CGI cutscenes. The most simplified summary to this argument is that Blizzard games, well, they have no soul.


I can hear the arguments brimming and boiling up by now and I need you to understand that this is very hard for me to describe and I know Iím not alone in this sentiment (A group of gamers I know managed to have an eight year running discussion on Blizzard and came to this conclusion). As amazing Blizzard games are in their design, production values and every single structural aspect that makes a game good, there seems to be no love behind anything they do. They seem, strangely, only to be motivated by economic returns. They just are willing to take the risk of investing a major amount of cash and time to do it and it seems to be working well for them.

My primary argument for my case is the very nature of the games themselves. They lack even a lick of originality. They are all rehashes, remixes, and plain rip offs of older, admittedly lower appeal, franchises. Warcraft is Warhammer, Starcraft is Warhammer 40000, Diablo is Dungeons and Dragons with a dash of Danteís Inferno thrown in. In fact, Iíve been told countless times that Warcraft was originally just an abandoned Warhammer RTS project that Blizzard finished working on and then tweaked enough until it was its own IP.

Second, not a single ounce of careful love can be felt in each franchiseís storylines. They are all sprawling, inscrutable histories that are convoluted, have no originality, and not even a lick of logical sense in them. They are made up as they go along. Not much effort was spent on making memorable dialogue. All the drama and horror of the series seemed to have been constructed out of the same base thought, ďHow can we do something cool with this.Ē

Third, there are no compelling aspects to the games they make. The stories are boring, the writing is dull, the missions are rote and half-baked at best. While people may argue for the gameplay, I argue back that Blizzard games are painstakingly balanced, so heavily and artificially designed. Their games become bland, inoffensive and ultimately artificial about 5 hours beyond the initial startup.

My fourth and final argument on the matter is their behavior, primarily their delays, long development times and business models. For the delays and development time, aside from extensive playtesting and balancing, there does feel as if there is a less savory motivation to it. I think, or at least feel, that Blizzard does some form of backwards engineering on other developerís products. The studio, over a long period of time, watches the release of several games similar to them and then begins to pick them apart to maximize consumer Ďsatisfactioní.


Even their games seem to be artificially designed to be addictive. Look at World of Warcraft. It is a sprawling, looping, ceaseless labyrinth of a game designed to keep players coming back, looking for absolution but leave them empty handed and always craving more. Players pine for and scrabble for any form of completion and control, and itís always just out of their reach. It is the perfection of the carrot on the stick idea in the most evil sense.

Their business model though, is just downright criminal. Separating Starcraft 2ís campaign into three parts and selling them at full price? Expansion Packs and battle chests of games up to and over ten years old being sold at the price of a new game? Battlenet becoming a subscription based service for SC2 and Diablo 3 (look it up, they said they were going to do it)? Itís just criminal behavior and gamers, ensnared by their ways just lap it up and make excuses for them like an abused spouse or partner.

Like all forms of entertainment and art, games need love to succeed. It makes them beautiful and wondrous and luminary all at the same time. If a game has genuine passion and love behind it then small and even sometimes big mistakes can be forgiven. Developers like relic, with their Dawn of War, Homeworld (best RTS series ever) and Company of Heroes have love in their games. Developers like ArenaNet with Guildwars, an answer to WoW (and any subscription MMO) and Diablo that has such painstaking effort put into their art, design and story that every moment of the game feels painterly and artistic. Developers like Taleworlds, that, while not perfect, may have created the greatest medieval warfare/feudal politics simulator ever with Mount and Blade.


I was told once that Ďart is not the painted picture on the canvas, it is every loving brush stroke that put that image thereí. As incredibly corny as it sounds, I hold this fundamental truth to be self evident. Blizzard has no love in their art and it can be felt in every texture, every polygon, and every aspect right down to the binary code that their games are made of. Their games are shallow, commercial, and ultimately, hollow.


P.S. Blizzard totally ripped off Guild Wars with the instanced story missions in the Lich King expansion.

and this is a pic of homeworld 2 if you didn't know
  read


2:42 PM on 10.19.2009  

Nothing is Sacred: Online Multiplayer and Long Distance Interaction

With the advent of online functions on game systems, we as gamers have seen a distinct change in the priorities of game design. This presents new problems on the concept of games and new understandings about gamers in general.

As the proliferation of online gameplay spread outward from its death match and capture the flag origins on the home computer, the complexity and depth of multiplayer also increased. From the advent of Battlefield to the success of Halo, multiplayer has become increasingly varied and widespread across the medium.

It has also become incredibly generic.

Multiplayer games started out as just a fun add on to a larger single player game on the web. It took the basic gameplay and resources of the full single player experience and restructured them into a competition-based sub game. And that was the extent of it, a sub game.

However, as the popularity of multiplayer exploded, some games split their multiplayer from their single player games. Creating fully developed, separate, distinct products. Half Life had Death Match, later followed by Team fortress and Counterstrike. Unreal had Tournament. Quake had Quake 3. And so on. While many games still followed the online multiplayer sub game system of development, the new multi/single player schism provided gamers with a wide breadth of options and entertainment. During this period we also saw the birth of new, non-competitive forms of multiplayer in the forms of Co-op and Massive Multiplayer games.



And for a while, it was good. People had options and were having fun with the relatively new toy that was the World Wide Web. But that was soon to change as the new millennium rode in. The year 2000 signified the greatest change ever to happen in gaming.

After 2000, online connectivity all over the planet began to explode, and this brought a slew people seeking new competition beyond their friends on the couch. Whispers of consoles with multiplayer began to fill gamers heads with fancy. Online connectivity coupled with broader demographic concern created massive hits in the form of the battlefield games and World of Warcraft. However, the straw that truly broke the camelís back was Halo.


Halo, at the time, was a massive departure for both first person shooters and games in general. By simplifying and broadening the scope of the gameplay beyond small firefights to massive battlefields and campaigns, Halo created the less is more form of gameplay that made it a success with console gamers who were relatively unaccustomed to first person shooters on their systems. The game also contained a fully developed multiplayer mode, which became the talk of gamers everywhere. At the time, it was still rare to see games with both fully developed multiplayer and single player in the same product. People fell for this hard and the game became a major success at the time.

Unfortunately, as good as the single player was, people only seemed to talk about the multiplayer. Bungie and other developers unfortunately took this to heart and began to focus increasingly on multiplayer. Exacerbated by the advent of online on consoles, games were virtually required to have multiplayer components, with both depth and quality. Games (excluded a few cases such as 3rd person adventure and action) with no multiplayer or the sub game form of multiplayer were derided as being lazy or tacked on. The significance of single player shrank and now almost stands as being a sub game for the multiplayer component or just a frame to add Co-op.


The relative death of single player at the hands of multiplayer creates a scenario of relative dullness for multiplayer as a whole. It used to be that deathmatch and other gametypes were an addendum, a sweet icing on the cake that was a videogame. Even with the multiplayer only games such as Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament, there was always a single player game that was associated with the product. Now that single player has been rendered insignificant by most, games are surprisingly generic now. Despite the skins and graphics and even some of the new stuff that comes around with every new game, it all just boils down to a few simple classifications.

Co-op: 2-8 players, self explanatory (resistance 2 coop, Left4Dead, Halo, Diablo, Sacred etc)

Small-scale close multiplayer: 2-16 players, Small maps generally with no transportation. Often class and perk based gameplay. (Call of Duty, Killzone 2, SOCOM, Counterstrike, Metal Gear Online, Gears of War, Uncharted 2 multiplayer, etc)

Small-scale widespread multiplayer: 8-16 players, large maps generally with vehicles. Often death match, capture the flag and other associated gameplay. (Halo, UT 3 on consoles, GTA4 multiplayer, etc)

Large Scale Multiplayer: 16-64 players, large maps, sometimes vehicles. Sometimes class based. Sometimes objectives based. (Battlefield 2, Resistance 2, UT 3 on PC, Warhawk, etc)

Massive Multiplayer: infinite players, massive maps contains both competitive and cooperative gameplay, has transportation, primarily class based. (MAG, Planet Side, EVE online, WoW, Everquest, LOTRO, WAR, Etc.)

You get the picture. Multiplayer almost never strays from these basic foundations. It is all just variants on the same tropes. Nothing ever really changes. The real problem with this is that with out any significant single player (8-10 hours is NOT significant, think 12-24), these multiplayer games have no context anymore. Its just red colour verses blue colour in an area. And with out any significant meaning as to why you have a purple laser gun in your hand, you realize that it is essentially all the same game with minor variations and permutations to the gameplay.

Also, with the advent of wide scale online functions, online communities form. And unfortunately, this brings the fundamental law of quality into the fold, which is ď90% of everything is crap, including people.Ē


Many people canít handle anonymity. Whether it be oppressive cultural norms, sociopathic tendencies or simply just because they are jerks deep down inside, people have a inclination to explode and lose control of themselves when given a blank slate and zero responsibility for their actions. They become rude and abrasive and bigoted all at the same time. And they choose to vent their hatred across what was once a friendly competitive medium. Online multiplayer has, for all intents and purposes, become generally the trashcan of human social interaction and culture.

But where does it change? Where is there true innovation of gameplay? As much as I would like to see multiplayer die and a new golden age of single player rise to the fold, it is simply just not going to happen. It seems that there are some faint signs of change in the all encompassing fold that is multiplayer online gaming.

And it is NOT MMOS. Massively multiplayer games had their chance and ultimately failed. They had the option of giving surprisingly deep personal interaction with avatars and the option to have people follow their own path across a world populated with other people and the option to interact with them. Unfortunately, the tightly wound class systems and eventual overwhelming dependence on group gameplay over solo adventuring proved that games had never really evolved. Its quest structure also lacked any significant context and had arbitrary reasoning/justification for their experience. It was still coop and competitive game types, just on a massive metatextual scale.

The only two games that really show any sign of evolution of the medium beyond the barriers it had established for itself are Guild Wars and Demonís Souls. These games break the barrier by truly fusing single player and multiplayer into its own new games. The Crossing would have been another one but unfortunately, it was canceled.


Guild Wars gives the option of playing the game solo or with up to 8 friends. The level of human interaction is totally up to you. It lets players experience the thrill of solo adventuring and coop adventuring that MMOís provide without a dependence on either. Competive action is encouraged but not enforced. The thing this game brings that is truly unique, is that the game has context. This instance-based gameplay may be familiar but it breaks the mold for one reason. Youíre not necessarily forced to do anything and your given a reason for why the world works this way. You can change your skill point allocation and even class if you wanted to. There is a reason for why guilds exist. There is reason for why you can have two classes at once. There is a reason why you can opt out of multiplayer and use henchmen and AI heroes instead. It does not force you to follow a set of gameplay rules and dependencies on group interaction like other MMOs and given a Ďjust becauseí when you ask why. It is perfectly integrated without multiplayer or singleplayer overwhelming the other.

Demonís Souls is a different breed altogether. Itís multiplayer is, for all things, unclassifiable. The game itself is distinctly single player dungeon crawler. Its set in a magical kingdom with swords and sorcerers and so on, but there is something twisted about the game. The world is dank and uninviting, people die incessantly and become ghosts, reality seems to shift between light and dark constantly. There is minimal context given for why the world works this way. Its just plain evil.



Context and meaning are given in the integrated online component. When online is activated, you see ghosts wandering around fighting their own battles. You realize that it is other players in their dimension and own reality. Its like the game is experiencing quantum fluctuation from one state (you the player) to another (another player) and you only are experiencing this timeline or dimension because you are simply observing it. Whatever happens across the thin veil of reality is only a faint ghost to you. You realize that your not the only one trapped in the game. Eventually you realize how players can interact with eachother. By sending notes, jumping into other peopleís realities (to help or kill them), and even simply playing the game which changes the balance of light and dark forces depending on how you play, which in turn changes how the whole area will play. It is interaction without interaction and truly one of a kind.

These games can show that both multiplayer and how gamers can interact can change for the better and simply exist without overshadowing singleplayer. Its time that we put down the deathmatch, world of warcraft and call of duty class based team battles and demand something that is beyond our understanding of how a game is played with others. If effortless integration or juxtaposition of both players without direct interaction is needed, so be it.   read


10:54 AM on 04.14.2009  

Sample Writing: White Shadow on the Wall

the following is just a sample of prose writing I did about 4 years ago. Just wanted to share it. Just me doing an experiment in weird lyrical, pseudo biblical writing.

White Shadow on the Wall
Phillip Bastien

For long in the days of the new did instinct fall out of favour with man. He had replaced and subverted it with technology and dominance. And for a while it was good. For in the world where man is the dominant and no other organism can compete with the vast and incalculable depth of manís mind, there was no need for the driving physical urges to survive that so many other creatures had. And thus they, those instincts which kept us safe in the glorious dark days of our primitive and uncultured past, went away.

And man grew weak, replacing the strength of their blows with the rattle of their guns and swing of their sword with the fell swoop of a bomb. Soon the strength of man became a wave of fury and violence that even god himself would cower at. But man was better than that, man was pure in its own eyes.

And yet they were blind. Those baser instincts, those urges that kept him safe before the concept of groups or home had settled in, never truly died away. Like worms, they only dug deeper and deeper until they, though the purity of their origins, were seduced and corrupted by manís civility, becoming its dark side. Instinct became sin. Survival instinct and its desire to live and live better than others became envy. Fight or flight became wrath. Propagation of the species with the most prime member became lust. The urge to become desirable to the other sex became pride. The desire to become alpha to others changed to encompass wealth into its fold and became greed. And so it went that each blessed instinct did die and was reborn as adark spot on humanity. And yet man could not see that sin was the twisted and hungry remnants of his animal fathers' instinct. They hungered for release and due to the restraints of manís ďcivilized society;Ē came out in the worst possible ways; Murder, violence, thievery, plastic surgery, rape, laziness, addiction, obesity, reality television, and covetous behaviour.

But the strongest sin of all was wrath. For all the civilization man shoved down their collective gullet, they could not subdue their inherent hatred and violence. It caused them to separate into groups. Then those groups claimed superiority over other groups, which led to nations, which led to nationalism, which led to wars, which led to slavery, which led to empires, which led to commerce, which led to revolt, which led to promises of redemption, which only led back to the formation of groups which began the cycle of violence and rage once again. And thus was the story of man, growing more powerful and angrier and more violent with every cycle until one day man let loose a scream, a collective gathering of all the rage and murderous intent of its species and let it just fall to the earth. And all was consumed in fire.

The dominant creatures that would follow in the footsteps of man never could truly understand the depth of buried rage and anger that eventually consumed its predecessor. In fact they knew almost nothing of their predecessor at all. Almost nothing of their former glory was left. They had erased themselves, figuratively and literally. They did not even know what they looked like, for all they had to go on were white shadows against a burned and blackened wall.

please note that this is a section of a much longer piece of writing, of which it serves as a prologue
what do you think?   read







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