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 5th, 2010

This is Counter-Strike before Steam.Microsoft has announced that Xbox Live for the original Xbox is being discontinued so they can continue to evolve Xbox Live on Xbox 360 and future consoles. From what I’ve surmised, they used their old tech to make their new tech, but they can’t do what they want to their new tech without breaking their old tech — so they’re throwing it out. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s lack of foresight comes at the expense of their customers. While considering what this means for players and for the industry, I’m reminded of why I don’t like closed systems, and also of Valve and Counter-Strike’s transition to Steam.
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January 15th, 2010

DICE won’t profit, but that’s not to say EA won’t. Still, I’m not bothered.

Very cool idea. If you haven’t, get Peggle, and then get these levels.

I’m so glad that the girls are back, and with Gail Simone writing them, as it should be. If it’s as good as her previous run was, she’ll be writing the two best team books in comics — one team of heroes, and one of villains.

I told you, I’ve got the hot scoop right here. Where’s my check?

Right. Let’s see some details and gameplay at E3, then.

Never before has using the cliché “don’t judge a book by its cover” felt more appropriate.

Vx6 (as I call it — “VVVVVV” is obnoxious) is a good game. Nearly everyone on the Internet has written about it in the last few days, so I don’t feel a need to (just yet). Do read Kieron Gillen’s article, though. Skip to “When I started playing this” if his massive post is intimidating, or if you already know a bit about the game — that’s where it gets interesting (albeit hard to decipher). Also see Giant Bomb’s Quick Look below.


January 10th, 2010

Most player-owned servers aren’t hosted from their homes, they’re rented from third-party hosting companies. As long as EA and DICE don’t keep dedicated servers first-party, all should be well. EA could still charge an exorbitant licensing fee thereby forcing hosts to raise rental fees, but that’s assuming too much. What’s disturbing is that there won’t be mod tools. These decisions together probably mean that EA plans to sell maps. The situation isn’t ideal, but it’s preferable to the precedent Activision and Infinity Ward have set with Modern Warfare 2.

There have been motion controllers for PCs in the past (Wii remotes can even be made to work), but this one shows promise. A video in the post shows the controller being used to play Left 4 Dead 2 on a mirror.

It’s noteworthy because it’s a good Jim Sterling post.

Although I’ve never had a problem using third-party memory units with my consoles, third party controllers have never felt right. This Razer gamepad, however, may be worth a go, especially if the D-pad feels as good as it looks. I use my Xbox 360 controller on my PC as well, so I welcome more buttons. Engadget has a video.

The most impressive statistic? 45% of Steam users have Direct X 10 cards.

A good, hearty article about making games more intuitive and enjoyable, without designing them for children. My favorite is the bit about “Positive Permanence.”

I’m glad that Ben wants to improve Steam, but his suggestions feel misdirected. Few of the problems he discusses are problems that Valve is in a position to solve.

Third-party DRM is redundant, but licensers, such as Sony with SecuROM, may not allow DRM to be patched out of games at the publisher’s discretion. Steam’s multiplayer API is good, and Valve makes the Steamworks middleware available, but it’s up to publishers and developers to power their multiplayer with it. Even then, do we want all games to require Steam?

I don’t like slow downloads and instability — he’s got me there — but that may be more of a problem with ISPs and the Internet in general than with Valve’s planning. Finally, I don’t know how I feel about selling games. I’m sure it could be structured so both Steam and publishers still profit, but I think it would also put stricter usage rights on games so that trading credentials couldn’t be exploited. It could be the end of Offline Mode.

At any rate, Valve’s listening.

November 21st, 2009

I don’t understand how EA can shut down a studio mere weeks before they ship a game. The Saboteur looks interesting, but its release is irreparably tainted by this news.

Hooray for that.

Stardock estimates that Impulse has 10% marketshare against Steam’s 70%, while Direct 2 Drive, GamersGate, and other services split the remaining 20%. 10% for Impulse feels generous, but assuming it’s accurate, I wonder how their marketshare will be fairing now that the Steam-exclusive Modern Warfare 2 has shipped. With MW2, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, and Day of Defeat, Valve controls most of the PC’s multiplayer FPS market. Consider supporting the competition, people.

Speak of the devil…

…and his pal Judas.

Such as first-party dedicated servers?

I’ve spent over 50 hours playing Dragon Age, and frankly, I can’t wait to throw more money at more content.

This sounded really cool until I read that one of the cases from the DS version will be excluded. What gives?

I feel silly for discussing box art, but people have been pretty down on this new Mass Effect 2 cover. Although they still have a planet/moon in the background that seems inappropriately close, I prefer this new cover to the old one. It reminds me of the covers of cheesy Sci-Fi paperbacks — in a good way.

I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoyed Kane & Lynch. They’re on the right track with the movie by casting Bruce Willis as Kane, and I’m digging the style they’re establishing for Kane & Lynch 2 with these teasers.


November 14th, 2009

Such news as this is never easy to hear. Rumors have emerged which suggest that the layoffs affect about a dozen projects at Pandemic, Black Box, Redwood Shores, Tiburon, Mythic, and Maxis.

Wait, didn’t you just–

Oh. Carry on, then. Jerks.

Now, go forth and recreate Diablo. Hellfire edition — the one with the monk. This shouldn’t take as long as Baldur’s Gate to recreate, so I’ll check back in 2013.

It’s cool, just call a votekick or have the server admin ban him.

People losing their jobs is the worst, but this Fox video about the scene in Modern Warfare 2 is a close second for “worst thing that happened this week.” It handily beats the thing about Bobby Kotick getting richer that I (almost) omitted from this post. It’s too bad that the /Gamer guy choked, but I’m not sure it would have made a difference had he not.

November 12th, 2009

Resolve.Modern Warfare 2 is out. I’ve shared my criticisms of the game and its creators in my news posts, but I have other thoughts and perspectives that I have yet to share.

The Price

Console games have been $60 for four years now, but that’s only because the platforms are controlled by two companies who agreed on standards. Although the PC platform has no such governing entities, most of this year’s major releases have adhered to the normal $50 price for standard editions (including Prototype, an Activision game), and some games have been even cheaper. Burnout Paradise, Bionic Commando, Street Fighter IV, and Red Faction Guerrilla launched at $40 on PC. With the market being stable and skewing toward cheaper games, $60 for the standard edition of a game is uncalled for, except by greed.

The Multiplayer

I admit that PC gaming could stand to be simpler and more accessible, but we shouldn’t let Activision’s PR blow the issue out of proportion: it isn’t that hard to find and join a server in a server browser. Regardless, there is no technical reason to choose one over the other, and this is a point that I think many people have failed to acknowledge: matchmaking and dedicated servers can co-exist. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Unreal Tournament 3, Left 4 Dead, and World in Conflict are examples of this. Infinity Ward and Activision’s motivator isn’t accessibility, it’s money. The closed ecosystem will not only enable them to sell maps to PC players, but it could also allow them to sell dedicated servers to players directly — such a move would be anti-competitive toward the third-party dedicated hosting services. They haven’t done this yet, of course, but it’s the next logical step in their mission to monetize multiplayer. It’s what their numerous decisions against PC culture have led me to fear.

The Scene

I haven’t seen the scene, and unless some of the things I discussed above change, I will probably never play it, but I have observed and considered the criticisms of others. I’m fine with this scene existing. It has a right to. Video games are products of collaboration, but they’re also products of creative expression; they are art. There’s good art, bad art, and art that we just don’t care for, but art deserves to exist and shouldn’t be stifled, and from this is where my issue with it stems. As I understand it, before the scene begins, players are asked if they want to skip it. I don’t know why this choice exists — whether it’s pressure from Activision, a compromise with the ESRB, or simply Infinity Ward being courteous — but this choice indicates uncertainty on someone’s part. If they’re including the scene, I would rather they commit.

Were I to play it, I’m sure I would enjoy Modern Warfare 2 , but I can’t endorse Infinity Ward and Activision’s decisions with my money. I wish I could be playing Modern Warfare 2 rather than writing this post, but, such as it is, here I am.