Because I’m Writing So Many Posts For This Site

Looking through some gaming news today, I’m struck by the amount of hilarious negativity going on. There’s this tongue-in-cheek (or is it?) pessimistic preview of The Crew, along with a whole slew of articles like “The Suck of Destiny”, “Destiny’s Squads Are Too Small”, and “Destiny: It’s a small world after all”.

Some of this is just backlash, the pushback against the half-billion dollar hype machine that Destiny embodies. We knew this was coming; we should only be glad that the gaming press and public had the good grace to wait until the game came out to begin rebelling against it.

But I’m struck with a curious idea for a project, and maybe this is so obvious that it’s already been done to death and I just didn’t notice (wouldn’t be the first idea I’ve had after everyone else). How about an enthusiast game site about just absolutely hating the state of video games? I know there are guys out there like the Game Grumps, Curmudgeon Gamer, Yahtzee, maybe more. What I’m thinking is a character who is cynical and pessimistic right up front about everything about modern game marketing and marketing-driven design.

Continue reading Because I’m Writing So Many Posts For This Site


I’m pretty excited for Destiny, the mashup of Borderlands and WoW from mega-successful Halo developers Bungie. It’s been a while since I had a game that I regularly plop down and play with friends when I have some gaming time, and Destiny sounds like it might have the lifespan to fit the bill. Something’s been nagging me about the look and art style, if not the actual experience of playing Destiny, though, and with the latest update from regarding the way that Destiny will treat sequels, it hit me.

Oh, Mass Effect. It’s Mass Effect. Duh.

Look at those purple psychic auras around the characters, the smoothly planed guns, the portable black hole attacks. Bungie is trying to beat Bioware to the punch of making the next multi-game sci-fi epic. I enjoyed the stuffing out of Mass Effect, but I didn’t play it for the shooting, and I’m not 100% sure that Destiny is going to have enough scenery and story to take and hold my imagination the way Mass Effect did. I’m glad that the market for this kind of setting is strong enough that Activision was willing to sink a reported half a hojillion dollars into propping up the franchise, though. And I’m truly intrigued by the idea that if a player buys Destiny 2 and likes it, they’ll be able to go backwards and play Destiny 1 with the same character. How will that work? And does that mean that the world and story of Destiny will have to be fragmented and episodic enough that it can be played through in any order? How will they have a sense of narrative arc in that case?

Problematic. But this is what you get for trying to puzzle out the entire structure of a large new franchise based on brief promotional videos. I should probably know better by now.


Why the book reviews sort of suck right now

I have once again taken on the Cannonball Read Challenge. Read and review 52 books in one year. I have never actually completed it. Reading books is easy and fun. Writing reviews is really, really hard. I do this to make myself write because I want to be a better writer. The more reviews I write, the better they get. I have written a couple of reviews that I am extremely proud of. I know I can write passionately and well when I am enthused about the subject matter. I can hate it or love it, as long as I have energy I can write a great review.

I’m flexing this muscle on books I don’t have a lot of energy around. I run slow to run faster later. I bike slowly up big hills to do it faster later.  This is just another way to get better by working at it.


P.S. The Cannonball Read is a fundraiser to fight cancer in honor of Alabama Pink, someone I never met but whom I miss dearly. Check it out.

A Peek Into the Mind of Sonic Rob

Doop de doo, good morning, computer. Starting you up, dum de dum*. I’m going to go get some coffee while you do that.

Ah, that’s better. Hello, work chat client. Hello, personal chat client. Hello, Outlook; go away now. Hello, web browser. Hi there Google Reader.

Oh, Google Reader. Look at you. You look so healthy right now. Nobody would ever know.

Sonic Rob pours out some coffee for his RSS aggregator.

Penny Arcade, that’s nice. Questionable Content, you’re really more of a routine than something I “enjoy”. Oh Rude Pundit, you so rude. Rock, Paper, Shotgun, argh, I’m incredibly backed up with you. Let’s clear out some articles that I’m not going to get to.

Thing about Settlers: don’t need to read. Thing about graphics cards: don’t need to read. Thing about Battlefield 3 mods: don’t need to read. Thing about PC monitor tech plateauing: open in new tab. Indie game, AAA game, MMO Beta: mlehmpgh. Dead Island 2 review: hm. News that there may be news about another XCOM game: huzzah.

“Relic Foresees ‘Strong Possibility’ Of More Dawn Of War”

*Cough* I’m sorry, who what now?

Continue reading A Peek Into the Mind of Sonic Rob

Dead Space: Luck is Dumb, But Stupid Kills

Spoilers for Dead Space, right from the get-go. That’s how we roll.

I just finished Dead Space the other night (scaaaaary!) and I’ve been thinking a bit about the story. Specifically I was wondering, as one does, why it is that Dead Space protagonist Isaac Clarke manages to survive the events of the game when literally nobody else that we meet does.

You could argue that Isaac is tough and resourceful, and certainly I won’t argue the point. But who isn’t? Hammond is the Chief Security Officer of the USG Kellion, which you would think entails a lot more training in the arts of crisis management and combat. Kendra is a deep-cover secret agent, who would also presumably have plenty of training in fighting and survival, yet both she and Hammond are unceremoniously squished by enemies that Isaac deals with more or less handily. On top of that, the entire military crew and soldier complement of the USM Valor are wiped out – almost to the last man – by Necromorphs in the time it takes them to intercept an escape pod containing a single enemy and then to crash into the Ishimura. What has Isaac got that any of these others don’t, other than plenty of dumb luck to get him through things? Continue reading Dead Space: Luck is Dumb, But Stupid Kills

Cannonball Read – The New Math

Period of challenge – 11/1/09 – 10/31/10

Number of books to read and review – 52

As of 5/28/10 number of weeks remaining – 22 (~154 days)

Books read – 21

Reviews completed- 13

Number of books remaining to be read- 31 – 1.41 books per week or one book per 4.97 days

Number of reviews remaining to be written and posted – 39 – 1.77 per week or one review per 3.95 days

Any bets? Will I finish? If I do, on what day?


And The Award for Honest Reflection Upon Your Business Model That You Probably Oughtn’t to Have Told a Reporter Goes To:

Crystal Dynamics’ global brand director Karl Stewart, for telling CVG in all earnestness:

“I think the model as we see it right now is a frail one. Having the used market is not beneficial to any of us.”

Which is a completely true and honest statement, for values of the word “us” that do not include the subset “customers”. Try to keep that in mind the next time you decide to sling flame online in the name of your favorite major game corporation.

This Project $10 thing from EA is starting to get a bit out of hand. I didn’t particularly care when it was just extra stuff like costumes and weapons that aren’t part of the core experience of a game; in fact, I thought it was a clever way to incentivize buying a new title. The new deal, where sports games will cost an extra $10 to play online if bought used, flips that all upside down. It’s taken what originally sounded like a reasonable proposal – here’s a nice present if you do things the way that’s good for us – and turns it into a muscle play. I can’t imagine nearly as many people are going to stick up for the “buy it new or it’s broken and you’ll pay to fix it” model as were willing to speak out in favor of new-game bonuses. We’re not far now from simply having console games that require a 1-time activation code – free with a new copy, $60 otherwise – to work at all. we’ve already taken the leap that gets us about halfway there.

Continue reading And The Award for Honest Reflection Upon Your Business Model That You Probably Oughtn’t to Have Told a Reporter Goes To:

Character Flaw: Prototype’s Alex Mercer

I was unable to resist the lure of GameStop’s big sale two weeks ago, and picked up a number of games that I hadn’t been interested in buying at full price. One of these was Prototype, which never really looked to be worth $60 or even $30, but became a bit more sexy at $20. I played the game for a while during the voting period for MMPVG2, and a gap week review may be forthcoming at some point, but there’s an aspect of the game I’d like to take a moment to discuss right now.

Alex Mercer, the protagonist of Prototype, sucks. So, a problem for the game.

Before I get too deep into this, let’s be clear that I don’t want to bag on Prototype as a whole. It’s a fun game, a fine budget title. As a playable character Alex controls well, and while I reckon I’m only about halfway through it, the story is engaging if a bit familiar. It’s just too bad that every time Alex says or does anything in his role as the main character of the story, I check the extensive movelist for a command to make him smack himself in the face.

Continue reading Character Flaw: Prototype’s Alex Mercer

Surprise, Surprise

Gamasutra has put up the Brütal Legend postmortem originally published in the December issue of GameInformer. In it, executive producer Caroline Esmurdoc reveals why the demo and marketing for the game played down the clunky RTS aspect of Brütal Legend to the point of obfuscation:

“We learned early on in our relationship with Vivendi that RTS was a naughty word in the console space, so we stopped calling it by that name and, by extension, so did Electronic Arts — positioning the game largely as an action title in the marketplace.”

Yeah? How’d that work out for you?

“Unfortunately, things start to unravel when you get into the meat of the game, the RTS sections. We don’t care what Tim Schaefer says, they ARE RTS sections.”

“Brütal Legend’s gameplay is hard to describe. The back of the box doesn’t even try. All it says, in a bullet point to that effect, is “Vanquish foes with axe and electrified guitar.”

“This is exactly what you do — in the game’s first seven minutes. After that, you’re thrown into your trusty hot rod, the Druid Plow, in which you’ll run over some evil druids and then fight a giant nasty boss monster by driving in circles around it and running over its tongue.

“After this opening segment, you’d think you were in for a goofy God of War–style action game — and you would be completely wrong. A few hours later, what you’re playing is almost entirely a real-time strategy game.”

“As for the story missions, while some of them are basic “kill the enemy” or escort missions, it’s only a few hours into the game that Brütal Legend reveals its hand and makes a surprise turn as a real-time strategy game.

“You read that right: a huge part of Brütal Legend — including most of the missions that will let you advance in the story, and those that serve as boss battles — is a real-time strategy element that mixes the basic concepts of standard RTS games with squad-based console control mechanics from titles like Rainbow Six. It’s unfortunate that this is such a significant portion of Brütal Legend’s core gameplay, because quite frankly, it’s the most tedious, least fun, and most broken part of the game.”

The scary part about this postmortem, a postmoretem being a list of things that went right and went wrong in development, is that Caroline doesn’t mention in her list of things that went wrong “we marketed the the game as belonging to an entirely different genre than it actually belongs to, and as a result some people were surprised and disappointed with it”.