Category Archives: Rambling Man

Onward

Hollywood

In two weeks, I move to Los Angeles. Phew, I said it.

I will be joining Andrew “Skip” Pfister, former podcast editor for 1UP.com, and Sterling McGarvey, now former editor at GameSpy, as part of a fresh batch of recruits for the online editorial team at G4tv.com. Try not to judge a book by its cover…yet — there are massive changes coming to G4tv.com very soon.

My job will be very similar to the work I’ve been doing for the past several years, both at 1UP, MTV News and as a freelancer. I will be reporting the news. Originally, I had intended to turn this blog into a rebellious outlet for my reporting, giving poor-paying freelance the finger and exercising my talents through this gloriously bland-looking blog. Then, I realized I needed to help make rent. Bad paying freelance is better than no paying freelance.

But I’m very lucky, very humbled by the opportunity to continue doing what I love at G4tv.com. In an economy where most people are struggling to find a job period, to be fortune enough to have options was something I did not take lightly. G4tv.com is particularly exciting, an opportunity to shape the editorial direction of a new outlet, work in close proximity with good friends and colleagues (the working from home thing has grown old) and still stay in California.

I almost moved to New York, but chose not to.

You can start following my work over at G4tv.com, but since working for G4tv.com involves a move to Los Angeles, my contributions will occur in spurts. We are all scheduled to start working in the G4tv.com offices the week before E3, right around the time some big changes to the site are supposed to drop.

I will miss heading to the 1UP.com offices, as I have done for the past month or so, to record Listen Up with John Davison, Garnett Lee and David Ellis. I consider all three of them close friends, and will miss them (and many others) dearly when I move onto The Next Big Thing ™. Unless plans change, I will still be on the next two episodes. Try not to say anything too stupid, Patrick.

But change is good. Change is good.

What happens to this blog? I’m not sure. As expected, it fell by the wayside. I’m considering opening up a Tumblr. Maybe it will continue to be a place I drop the material that doesn’t make sense elsewhere. Or I can just drop LOST theories until the new season premieres. Suggestions are welcome.

Thanks for reading. The best is yet to come.

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Konami Making Iraq Video Game, Cops Out With ‘It’s Just A Game’

Iraq

Most of the conversation about Resident Evil 5‘s portrayal of race has dissipated, but one of my biggest takeaways was an open open acknowledgement by many that gamers, games journalists, games writers and game makers must drop the excuse of “it’s just a game.”

Yet that’s exactly what Konami’s embracing while discussing about their compelling (sorry, Stephen) upcoming collaboration with Atomic Games, Six Days in Fallujah, with The Wall Street Journal. Unlike, say, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Six Days in Fallujah doesn’t pretend it’s not about Iraq — it is about Iraq, throwing players into the very battle described in its title. That’s heavy stuff, which Atomic Games president Peter Tamte seems to recognize.

“For us, games are not just toys. If you look at how music, television and films have made sense of the complex issues of their times, it makes sense to do that with videogames.”

That’s encouraging news, right? Finally! It’s refreshing to hear until you read how Six Days in Fallujah’s publisher talks about the game, following the Wall Street Journal describe how Atomic Games apparently  isn’t trying to comment on the war, ala Michael Moore‘s psuedo-documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

“We’re not trying to make social commentary. We’re not pro-war. We’re not trying to make people feel uncomfortable. We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience,” says Anthony Crouts, vice-president of marketing for Konami, the game’s publisher. “At the end of the day, it’s just a game.”

“It’s just a game.”

Is it possible to experience the Iraq war on an interactive level without making someone uncomfortable? It’s a war with polarizing opinions about its proposal, execution and continuance. This game, while technically following moment-to-moment events based in fiction, is actively utilizing a setting with heated history…and that’s not supposed make us feel uncomfortable? I don’t follow. That works for World War II or Vietnam, when most players don’t have personal context. That’s not true anymore. If you’re making a game about Iraq, you’re making a game about the war one of my best friends came back from.

I’ve tried reaching out to Atomic Games to see if they can help reconcile my confusion between the two quotes. I’ll let you know if I hear back.

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Should You Tell A Developer You Haven’t Played Their Game?

Truth, Lies

While sitting in on a developer demonstration for a game sequel, it’s not uncommon for them to ask those in attendance if they’ve played the first game.

In years past, when presented with a situation where I hadn’t played the original game in question, I had multiple answers ready, all various forms of lies.

1) “Yes, but only briefly”
2) “Sure”
3) “Well, one of my roommates/friends/co-workers did and I watched”

None of them were true, obviously. Since then, I’ve come to realize such answers don’t help anyone. I tell them I haven’t played their game. No apologies. I can’t play everything, though I do my best to try everything.

There are instances where a developer will be taken aback, as was the case earlier this week when I was checking out a sequel. I joked with the developer afterwards, telling him I could have lied, and he laughed it off.

“I would have found out,” he joked.

“No, you wouldn’t have,” said the voice in my head.

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Warren Spector Is Right

“We’ve [games] been a niche medium that over-charges for its product and therefore generates a lot of revenue which makes us a little bigger than Hollywood, which is crazy. … If I’ve got a 20 dollar bill in my pocket I can go buy a book, go to a movie, but I can’t buy a game. I can buy a CD, I can do so much even now, but you cannot buy a game.”

— Deus Ex designer Warren Spector speaking to GamesIndustry.biz

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The Press Junket

Las VegasThe 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.]

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Embarrassing

BioShock

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.

* 1UP.com
* Kotaku
* Computer & Video Games
* Destructoid
* Joystiq
* Shacknews

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.

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‘Game Over’ Needs To Go Away

“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

Game OverI 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.

Prince of Persia

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.

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