The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Game Companies Are Full of Shit’

Top Ten News Items at E3 2011

Posted by Matt on June 8, 2011

10. Game media apparently still excited by video games based on the ‘Star Wars’ film series. Leading expert baffled.

9. New trends in gaming: voiceovers in games that approximate the sounds of idiots playing those games (“Oh god! Oh god!” FUUUUUUUCK!”), primary example being the latest in the Tomb Raider series.

8. Some games are announced, but they don’t really exist yet, so what the hell was the point? (I.E. Bioshock for Vita, New Super Smash Bros.)

7. Sony is very, very sorry guys. It will never happen again, cross our hearts hope to die. For serious.

6. Revealed: the first major title for Nintendo’s new console: “A Bird Doing Things”

5. Modern Warfare 3 reveals latest footage of people doing something, and then not doing something for long stretches of time.

4. Newest Sony portable console has a silly name… once you forget that we’ve been playing on a thing called a ‘Playstation’ for 15 years.

3. Gaming’s biggest franchise set to return with Halo 4: The Search for More Money

2. Nintendo reveals that they are making a tablet. Seems weird, although I hear there might be a game console attached to it as well.

1. Xbox now becomes voice-commanded with Bing search. It’s like we’re in the future, except then you realize that the future involves talking to a little plastic box and you say GO AWAY, FUTURE!

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Posted by Matt on April 21, 2011

The new consoles are coming! The new consoles are coming!! Oh, joyous day! Isn’t it a great time to be a gamer?

I don’t think I can possibly understand why so many gamers are so obsessed with a new batch of consoles coming out as soon as possible. I have a pretty good idea why people were flipping out over the rumour of a new Nintendo console being announced at E3, with amazing HD graffix and the like: most gamers are still sore that Nintendo decided to target people other than them, and have tugging it to the idea of an HD Zelda since 2008, really. Maybe I’m just an uninformed armchair analyst, but I just can’t see a conservative company like Nintendo doing a complete 180 on their million-selling strategy, but who knows with them most of the time (another batch of rumours says the thing also has a gigantic touch screen controller, which is kind of neat, and more in line with they’ve been working on since the DS, but on the other hand, doesn’t make much sense financially). But that’s almost a separate issue at this point.

But what about the other two? To me, their output at this point is still capable of quite a bit. But then again, I’m not a developer having to work with them. On the other hand, neither are all of the people on the Internet I see clamoring for them. About the only people in the biz who seems to have hinted at wanting a new generation to come soon is, as far as I know, UbiSoft, and like fuck do I think they know what’s best for anyone. I have yet to hear any actual developers talk about how hard it is to develop games for the PS3 and 360 with all their limitations. I have yet to hear of any tantalizing game ideas we’re missing out on because, dammit, these boxes just don’t have the juice. Most of the people actually pushing these things to their limits are either doing it in a low-key setting (like downloadable games with, let’s say, less than HD quality graphics), or are doing it on the PC. Most console developers seem content to churn out essentially the same games over and over again, and something tells me the people behind Final Fantasy and God of War are having to scale back their creativity because of the lack of console horsepower.

For most gamers, I imagine, it’s just early adopter syndrome (EAS): they get bored with their technology fairly quickly, and always something biggerer and betterer. For me, the problem is…I don’t like to spend money. And I haven’t seen any evidence that we’re missing out on anything (if there are, though, I’d love to read about it!). But even if the latter is fulfilled, I can’t even say for sure I’d be excited about new consoles. Part of it is, as mentioned before, I hate spending money, especially on gadgetry with minimal utility (hell, even shit that I could find invaluable, like one of those portable devices with Internet hook-up and everything, I still would feel guilty about buying, because I’m fucking frugal). But as other things vie for my time (like maintaining this blog, for example!), games have to be finding more and more interesting hooks to keep me coming back. And you know what? High-tech audio/visual stuff just ain’t it for me. Or, at least, not on their own.

Consoles are a different business from the games they play, oddly enough. If they become more or less interchangeable, then what’s the point of there being more than one? Yet, they need to have similar structures and capabilities in order to keep the publishers interested in working on them, as Nintendo has learned. So in the end, most features on future consoles that aren’t simply upgrades to what the current crop already has will often have to err on the side of meaninglessness (multimedia stuff like Netflix and shit like Home), as not to alienate other publishers. There are some directions they could go that would allow for some interesting directions in the future: manufacturing the console for a greater emphasis on downloadable content (increasing the harddrive sizes for example), to the point where you can buy even full, retail games through their service. An even greater on getting as much bang for their buck out of what their console can do would be another good advance (Microsoft is already testing the waters there, apparently, by doing trials with game discs that have had extra space freed up through a console update), so we don’t ‘need’ to go back to the well so early. Certainly, consoles should become more adaptable in the future…you know, like computers.

None of those ideas are particularly revolutionary, though. I don’t know what kind of new console features would really make me go ‘Wow’ at this point. A lot of it, to my untrained ear, just sounds like technobabble, which I have no interest in. This is, of course, why I’m not on the boards who decide such things.

The next couple of years should be interesting.

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Posted by Matt on March 19, 2010

Things done in convenient list format:

Why the recently announced Playstation Move is off to a rocky start

1) “Price Point: Under $100

2)Look at it!

3) Price point: Under $100

Okay, that’s about all I got, but I really want to emphasize that price point. I’m under the assumption that this is meant to compete with the Wii, what with the controller looking almost exactly the same, and them releasing party games for it and all. Logic would seem to dictate that if it’s trying to compete with the Wii, it’s trying to compete for the Wii audience, AKA the so-called ‘Casual Crowd’. I mean, why else would Sony or Microsoft be releasing new controller types in the first place, if they didn’t want to tap into that new audience? So okay, we’ve established this.

So, you’re are a potential game console owner, who would likely fall into that ‘Casual’ audience. What would you rather buy: the game console that costs $200 and has an established brand name for what you’re looking for, or the console that could cost nearly twice that much for similar but less developed experience? This is what I don’t understand. Sony wants to compete with Nintendo, I’m assuming, so what they’re going to do is sell the same experience for more money? Are they out of their minds?

Some would likely try to argue that it’s worth the extra cash because it’s ‘HD’, but is there any evidence the new people Sony wants to buy the thing is interested in that at all? They’re barely interested in buying more than two games for the Wii, do you think they care if it has ‘modern’ graphics, a Second Life knock-off, and extra storage space? Fuck no, that’s what gamers care about.

Speaking of gamers, this will barely affect their numbers, either. I’m sure there will be some who will buy into the minor hype and shell out ‘under $100’ for the package so that they can use it with SOCOM 4 (which is one of the least interesting game announcements Sony could have made). But there’s also a whole slew of PS3 owners who have decided that the Wii is a Satanic device and are very disappointed that the other console manufacturers to take a similar route.

I don’t even take joy in making fun of Sony’s follies anymore. It’s just frustrating how half-assed and cynical this whole exercise appears. At least Natal looks like it might try to be a little more ambitious than it’s knock-off roots would imply. But not Sony; if there’s a road to success, Sony will take a completely different road that will send them careening off a cliff.

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Posted by Matt on January 13, 2010

I’m going on a trip to Edmonton tomorrow, and will be there until next Tuesday. I might be taking my laptop, so I could always update from there. But just in case I don’t, see ya later losers!

Anyway, just for some late night indignity, look at this shit.

I mean, I make fun of this game a lot, because it seriously looks like the brain of a sugar-addled teenager from the 90s on a Todd McFarlane binge vomited onto God of War; but it really seemed like they were trying to distance themselves from the original text. Whether that is intentional or not is up to you. But here we are, with EA releasing its own edition of the classic with their laughable shit plastered on the cover. I wonder how many fans of the game will pick it up and feel gypped because it was entirely tit and finishing move-free.

With the game also getting an animated DVD tie-in (look at the fucking covers. I don’t know which is better: generic anime Dante in #1, generic gothic anime Dante #3, or Liefeldian Dante #5), EA is really trying to push this game as a big (multimedia *fingers crossed*) franchise, much like Dead Space. And also much like Dead Space, it’s the safest ‘new’ franchise possible, one that steals heartily from everything else and hasn’t an original idea in its thick skull.

Dead Space, however, had the courtesy to not call its audience a pack of retards.

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Posted by Matt on December 14, 2009

You know, I get a chance to fix an essay that’s worth 50% of my grade in one class. It was a research essay, and I did very little research for it. I could say that it was because I had to balance it between two other research (although certainly not research-intensive) essays of similar length and due around the same time, but that’s no excuse. I. Fucked. Up. And the prof called me out on it; said ‘this is not what I expect of a 3rd year student’, so you know it’s deep shit (and to be fair to me, I did honestly expect to be called out on that aspect of it). And I could fix some of the minor problems, taking out the useless or wrong words he’s crossed out, maybe even fix a few vague sentences…but I almost feel like it’s not worth it. The fundamental structural problems will still be there, and that’s the major issue with the essay. Plus, why make him reread the whole fucking thing if I’ve only fixed the minor problems? That’s just wasting his time. Better to take it on the chin and hope doing good on the other 50% of the course load will counterbalance it enough for like a B-. Disappointing; I was really sort of enjoying that class.

But enough of that mopey dross.

I didn’t watch the VGAs yesterday. I think I’ve only seen the first one they had, which would explain why I haven’t bothered to watch any of the other ones.
What was special this year was the announcement of several ‘major titles’ during the commercials. If you haven’t guessed already, those major titles included familiar titles, the number 2, and subtitles a-poppin’.

The videogame industry is boring and I hate it.

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Posted by Matt on November 10, 2009

The main problem with the GAMES ARE ART movement are the games themselves. It’s really hard for them to be something ‘more’, I guess, as long as they still have to be game, which more or less undermines anything else it might be trying to do. Many of the suggestions to take games to the next level just sound like turning them into choose-your-own-adventure books or the impossible dreams of people who still think the Star Trek holodeck is viable. (Of course, I don’t have this problem because I don’t care if games are considered ‘art’, and if they are considered art it should be for their design as a game, not for any sort of narrative effects).

Take for the example, the new Modern Warfare game that has been in the news a lot lately.

Just to clarify, I have absolutely no interest in it. I have paid attention to the stories about it because it involves quite a few shifty design decisions, mostly on the meta level. Since I have been watching big companies like Activision get lambasted for their idiotic business decisions with morbid curiosity, this game would ultimately come to my attention.

In one level, and I know this is technically a spoiler but look at me give a shit, you play as a terrorist (or an American agent posing as a terrorist, I’m not entirely clear. Keep both possibilities in mind, because while they produce a similar effect, the context is very important) who guns down fleeing, innocent people at an airport until the timer ends the level. Keep in the mind, that something like this wasn’t too much of a surprise, considering that the first Modern Warfare game had a level where your character stumbles around dying in the fallout of a nuclear strike. The developer of the game, Infinity Ward, is intentionally trying to throw in shocking things like that in order to get people to think about the game in some way.

Unfortunately, this time, it doesn’t seem to work. The point was to get home that the bad guys are BAD GUYS and that terrorism is bad m’kay. Of course, putting you in the shoes of the terrorists doesn’t get the point across; it beats you over the head with the point until you are comatose. It’s unnecessary to go to that length to make that kind of statement. It’s not even a particularly compelling idea. They were going for a similar shock factor, but didn’t really think that one through.

And, quite honestly, how many gamers are going to consider that point? Mainstream FPS’ are an especially difficult genre to get a point across in, because they are almost all steeped in the GAME. That’s why they have multiplayer modes. You can’t say that you want to be artistic when the majority of the game is spent playing as an illogical supersoldier shooting at ciphers to get to the next level and eventually the end credits, or as an illogical supersoldier shooting at other illogical supersoldiers for team points. They could say they were trying to be subversive, but any subversiveness is completely drowned out by everything else following the rules of a game.

I’m sure a lot of game developers want to be able to make the salient if overwrought point that (as that Canadian TV icon Ed the Sock once put it) war is bad and people die. The problem with that is that if anyone actually realized that point during the game, what would they do after that? Do the developers expect them to continue shooting fake people, with their heads slung low in solemn realization that they are taking part in a fake activity that in real life is bad? At the very least, Shadow of the Colossus, that game so favored by pompous game philosophes as an example of SUBVERSIVE ART, has the player come to the game’s not so terribly original moral switcheroo (you are a bad person for killing those bosses!) later on, so at least you aren’t going to forget the lesson as you play through more game.

That’s the problem people have to get around. As a game, as something you have to actually participate in, rather than take in (as in film, literature, music, etc.), any point you want to make is constantly be undermined. You can’t make a point about war, really, in a game designed to turn the idea of war into a game. Is it possible for someone to make a game that makes a point about war if they based it entirely around that point? I guess it is possible. You’d have to remove things like multiplayer, or real goals, so it’d basically end up being a ‘real’ simulation of the act…or a carnival ride.

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