WordPress blog won’t let me embed the latest episode of Co-Op, a new show from Area 5, the same guys who produced The 1UP Show. They’ve had me on before, discussing the Fallout 3 downloadable content Operation Anchorage, but I’m on this week’s episode talking about Halo Wars.
The view from the 39th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Vegas
I’m currently sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room to see a game I can’t talk about yet. You’ll hear my thoughts when the embargo lifts later this week. It’s a bizarre trip, my least favorite kind: the publisher-paid press junket. It’s a little talked about but otherwise staple element of the enthusiast press.
No, I don’t know why we’re in Las Vegas, considering most of our time with the game will take place in otherwise standard hotel rooms. But anyway.
I do not like being a journalist on a publisher dime. It makes me uncomfortable. Typically, this kind of event involves publishers flying writers to some location, usually close to a developer or publisher, to play “X” game, conduct interviews about “X” game, participate in some crazy promotional activity loosely related to the game (i.e. fire guns), etc. Some are flown out by their own company, but sometimes, the publisher is footing the bill. That’s me this week. I’m here on behalf of a well-known publication, but the publisher covered travel expenses.
MTV had strict rules against this, with very few exceptions. Some publications alleviate their conscience by allowing writers to fly courtesy of a publisher only if they’re freelance and not in-house. I’ve never quite understood that one, but the reason is usually what you’d expect: “It’s better than nothing.” The pressure to attend because other outlets will be there is too much. It’s not much different than the BioShock 2 situation from last week, actually.
I’m confident my work out of here will be genuine, but I felt a desire to express my concerns. If nothing else, this obligates me to do better work.
Please hold me to it.
[There's some good discussion happening in the comments section about the BioShock 2 incident last week around the blogosphere. Check it out.]
The following is a list of news outlets, including ones I write for, that ran erroneous information about BioShock 2, based on a message board post inaccurately summarizing a Game Informer feature. This prompted both Game Informer and publisher 2K Games to vaguely attempt damage control.
There are countless other outlets that ran the “news,” too, but every single one of the aforementioned publications had the means to verify the information they passed on, information they were forced to backpedal on only hours later.
At least with Famitsu, you can claim it’s a different language. Embarrassing.
Posts have been planned. Posts have been cancelled. Such is the nature of a blog you always expected to ignore. Oh, and there’s the whole matter of my dog’s paw getting lodged in an escalator mishap and her losing a toe. Yes, that.
But in less depressing matters, I’ve been keeping myself busy writing for a number of outlets over the past two weeks. Here’s where you can find me, if you haven’t been following my updates and link whoring on Twitter:
What They Play:
More to come, thankfully.
In celebration of my dear friends at Area 5 signing a deal to make Co-Op a show at Revision3, I humbly present “Max Payne Auditions,” a video I shot and edited with my friends during our freshman year of high school, as part of our made up production company, Schumanfu Studios. Spoiler: I’m not in this one. What would convince me to post one of those? Hmm.
“I, unfortunately, didn’t play it long enough. When you can stand there and just get beat by the boss like over and over and over again and have that women save you every time, sort of takes the fun out of the game. It’s like ‘wow, I can’t die, okay!’”
– Gamers With Jobs Podcast, Episode 118, about nine minutes in
I feel the need to defend Prince of Persia. Folks have chastised Prince of Persia for being too easy, and while I think that often works to the game’s benefit, that’s not what bugged me about the above exchange. No, it’s the notion Prince of Persia’s lack of a game over screen represents poor game design.
The Game Over screen is outdated tradition.
I began to seriously rethink the game over screen over Rock Band. I often played with non-gamers who needed a few drinks before feeling comfortable strapping on a plastic guitar. Almost always, the combination of inebriation and Rock Band’s strict three-strikes gameplay policy meant we made it halfway through a song before failing out. It’s not fun when it happens five times in a row.
Rock Band 2 introduced a “no fail” mode, but it’s hidden away in an option menu. The people who want that option would never find it. It’s as through Harmonix only begrudgingly accepted users aren’t always interested in making their fingers bleed — or they might be drunk — and made the ability to hide Rock Band’s game over screen its own, frustrating mini-game.
But its presence in Rock Band 2 is significant. It’s proof of a social trend directly affecting game development, something Prince of Persia admits, as well.
Don’t get me wrong. Prince of Persia’s combat is deeply flawed, padded with unnecessary repetition and unbalanced combos. But the Gamers With Jobs exert dismisses the combat because Prince of Persia does not kick you to black screen — cue sound effect of Prince screaming loudly in agonizing virtual defeat! — and you’re asked to start the combat sequence all over again.
Remember the last time you died during a boss fight because of a single missed button press? Prince of Persia smartly avoids this common frustration by asking the player to tap a command button to receive another opportunity to execute the correct combo or, if they miss the command window, receive punishment not in the form of a game over screen, but an enemy with slightly more health.
Variety in the ways games handle reward and punishment should be praised. Prince of Persia highlights a trend we’ll be seeing much more of, as developers look to appease the hardcore and draw outsiders in. It will be a painful growing process, but what Prince of Persia gets right is important, and ignoring its bold choices won’t do anything to change what’s inevitably coming.
If you haven’t heard, I’m on the latest Rebel FM podcast with Jonathan Mann, a.k.a. GameJew. This week’s theme was game music and includes a terrible rendition of the Noby Noby Boy theme by yours truly.
Recorded using a newly acquired Kodak Zi6. For some reason, Flickr doesn’t like its videos.