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March 11th, 2010

Crouched, my squad and I crept along a low ridge, calling in enemy positions to the other squads. Brittle, wintry trees provided cover as we moved behind our objective, taking the slow approach. We had time, and we had an angle. We were invisible.

And then Kozlov slipped.

The snow hadn’t settled around our sniper before he had seized the enemy’s attention. He hastened to find cover, but found only bushes and the trees that, when on the ridge, gave him adequate protection from enemy eyes, but offered none from enemy fire. The three of us still on the ridge watched in still silence as gunfire caused the trees, and Kozlov along with them, to fall. We were exposed.

The explosives came next, flung, propelled, and dropped from the sky. Popov, our medic, jumped right into the shit, hurrying to resuscitate the unsure-footed Kozolv. But he didn’t see the grenade in his way — the shit overcame him.

Sokolov and I were left on the ridge. I struggled with my fight or flight instinct as he mastered his, and flew. Torn, but thinking it the nobler thing to do, I dove into the white hell below. My AUG made two short bursts and let go of six rounds which made their new home in an enemy sniper. I searched our departed medic’s gear and scrambled to ready the defibrillator as I, like Kozlov, Popov, and so many trees before me, fell.

But death did not take me. Instead I lay in the war-stained powder contemplating our missteps. We had all made some. And then my vision went white; when it cleared I saw Sokolov, who held two whining paddles, moving for cover behind a rock. I joined him there and dropped a box of ammo at our feet. Moments later, the instigative Kozlov and Popov redeployed next to us, and we partook of medical supplies. All without a word, we prepared to have another go.

March 6th, 2010

I’ve already written about Portal 2 and the build-up to this formal announcement, but there’s one thing I didn’t know then: Portal 2 has co-op. Besides that, I’m considering the creative marketing campaign as the PC version announcement; this press release and Game Informer cover are for Xbox 360 players.

Hopes fulfilled.

Bad Company producer Patrick Bach talks about what makes Battlefield Battlefield, and the differences between designing for console players and PC players.

Despite reports to the contrary, yes, Silent Hunter 5 is cracked.

Probably the worst thing Activision did this week.

They also did this. I’m less interested in what’s happening now, though, than I am in what’s happening in a year or two when West and Zampella have a new game.

This is several weeks old, but I’ve only just seen it this week. And it’s relevant again. It’s educational and entertaining, even though it’s from the Xbox 360 perspective.

March 5th, 2010

Valve by Flickr user Tim DorrI’ve been trying to write some thoughts about Infinity Ward’s decapitation, but the sensationalist tone of the enthusiast press has distracted me. West and Zampella were kidnapped? Snuffed out? Those are the logical conclusions to why two people were escorted from their workplace? Activision may have released 9 Hero games last year, and Bobby Kotick probably wears socks weaved from baby hair, but they aren’t an organized crime syndicate. Is the extra traffic really worth exploiting a developing story?

My apathy may be due to my preoccupation with Valve this week. I usually think about Valve and Steam a lot anyway, and not always good thoughts. Sometimes I envision a future where Valve goes public and starts making Actiavellian decisions, such as developing Counter-Strike 2 as an Xbox 360 lead, charging $10 for the Engineer update, or releasing Half-Life 2: Episode 3 as three separate games. All of these belong to a future I don’t want to live in.
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February 27th, 2010

My words about it are over here.

Does game design work best when it’s analogous to film making, or to music composition? Neither, and I don’t think it’s important to make the distinction. Games shouldn’t imitate a specific art form, they should express the qualities of them all. Because they can. Video games are the culmination of art as technology, and technology as art. They’re amazing. We shouldn’t limit such a medium by trying to make sense of it in the context of less capable mediums.

Games as we know them today owe a lot to Carmack’s work. I can’t think of a person more deserving of this award.

This week also marks the first year anniversary of Quake Live, as well as the 14th year anniversary of QTest. In celebration, Quake Live received an update and event, and id employees past and present have reflected on QTest on the Bethesda blog.

Of course it is.

EA/DICE restricting dedicated server files to certain “partners” is leaving me conflicted about wanting Bad Company 2. They’re keeping dedicated servers on a leash, just out of reach of total freedom. But whether I like it or not, the market is changing, and we players seem incapable of shifting it in our favor. If EA’s restriction really is just to maintain statistic and rank integrity, and to sell maps (which seems benign in comparison to Activision’s or Ubisoft’s), I can be okay with it. Or I could, if it weren’t for EA’s history of shutting down online games.

But I’m probably overreacting. EA appears to deactivate games based on how many people still play. There’d be greater cause for concern if Battlefield 1942, despite its persisting popularity, had its master servers taken offline in light of a sequel being released. Besides, the Bad Company 2 beta was a heck of a lot of fun, and we haven’t had a successful non-Call of Duty, non-Valve shooter on PC in a long time. I’ll probably give in to temptation and buy it.

This is an hour-long “Quick Look” where every cut scene from Amped 3 is shown. I had no idea the game was so surreal.

February 24th, 2010

In January I posted a series of suggestions for how Valve could improve Steam. Since they’ve just announced and launched a beta version of the most significant update Steam has had since its 2003 launch, I’m comparing what I proposed before with what they’ve actually changed or added. I’ll omit the items which don’t apply.


This took a while.My suggestion: Allow users to create and name groups in the My Games and Friends lists.

What they did: Half of this suggestion was implemented; we can now create and add games to “categories” in our games library. It works like a tag system on a blog in that games can belong to multiple categories.

Follow-up: Allow users to filter by “installed” and “uninstalled” regardless of which category they’re viewing. Also add an extra context menu item with a sub-menu where users can add games to existing categories.


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February 20th, 2010

This is the worst that PC game DRM has ever been. I shouldn’t be as jarred as I am, considering Ubisoft’s history with StarForce. At the same time, I’d also think they’d have learned from how customers responded to those practices and not gone on to worse ones. Read as they try to justify it, and give major respect to PC Gamer for grilling them. They expect me to pay $60 for a game that was released on consoles 5 months ago in addition to being treated like a criminal? No. Fuck that.

These are better reasons (half-truths, as opposed to total lies), but it’s probably best for everyone if Remedy and Microsoft just stopped talking about the PC version of Alan Wake until they’re ready to announce it.

This is just wonderful. I’ve been worried that the console, hand-held, mobile, and social versions of Civilization were indicative of the future of the franchise. Civ IV has aged so extraordinarily well that it almost made sense. But Firaxis is simply colonizing every platform; I’ll consider all of those as practice games for this, a new, proper Civilization game. With hexagons.

This is Stardock using known gaming personalities to show games to customers. I love the concept, but I’d prefer if they did second takes (Bob Came In Pieces) and sound checks (Sins of a Solar Empire) for some of the videos.

An indie contest sponsored by Activision? Ah, I see Master Kotick has developed an appetite for the young and uncorrupted.

Yep, yep. Yep.

February 18th, 2010

Sarah ShepardI played the original Mass Effect on Xbox 360 in 2007 as a male Infiltrator who followed the Paragon path. This was characteristic of me because I rarely play females and almost always play “good” characters. I think the only time I’ve defected to the dark side was on my third time playing of Knights of The Old Republic. But for the next two years I’d hear praise for female Shepard’s voice performance, and arguments in favor of the Renegade path.

I resolved that, when I played Mass Effect on PC, I would play as female Shepard, and I’d also play as a Renegade. So I created Sarah Shepard; I expected playing her to be fun, but not superior fun. I also expected to hate her. I didn’t like myself as a Dark Jedi in KoTOR. Force Lightning was fun, but I was a selfish asshole. I didn’t save the galaxy, I took it. My choices on Mass Effect’s Renegade path didn’t all result in such extremes, though; I could save the galaxy without having to mollycoddle everyone. I’d do it efficiently, and by my own rules. Playing Paragon or Renegade is analogous to playing as Superman or Batman would — that is, if either approved of killing.
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