Ten Years of Gamespotting

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Today marks exactly ten years that I have been a Gamespot registered user. In the time that I have been a member of Gamespot my life has changed. I've gotten married, been through three jobs, three apartments, bought my first house, had three children (triplets, no less), and a vasectomy.

In case 2003 still doesn't sound like it was that long ago, consider that Nintendo's premier platform was the Gamecube, The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker was causing a furor among fans for its cel-shaded graphics, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne was released, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time single-handedly rebooted the franchise.

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Zelda: Wind Waker - The amazing graphical prowess of 2003 gaming

A lot of change happens over ten years. The internet didn't really become pevasive on mobile devices until 2010. In fact, I didn't even have a cell phone when I first registered at Gamespot. At the time, therefore, sites like Gamespot were both the primary source of information and news for video game enthusiasts as well as the only real social outlet we had. I registered because Gamespot offered downloads for many PC games, including patches for said games, and a reliable source for downloading was desirable. There were competitors, but every site had its own culture and the heavily moderated Gamespot community ensured that there was a bit more maturity relative to other sites. And no, I'm not saying that the average Gamespotter was mature, just more mature than competing sites.

It wasn't until 2007 I started writing and publishing content to my Gamespot account. I'm not sure why, but I needed an outlet at the time. I had transitioned to a new city, leaving behind familiar surroundings and college friends. It was a bit random at first: Some complaints about Sony here, and a couple humorous blogs there. Then I wrote a blog for consideration by the site Editors for the Gamespot "Soapbox." At the time, this was a much desired emblem, since it was both rare and there were few emblems to be had overall. More importantly, anyone holding the emblem could post directly to the front page of the site simply by categorizing their blog entry as an "Editorial."

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I garnered the Soapbox emblem with the Editorial, "I've killed you, and no, I don't feel bad about it." At the time violence and video games were a big topic of conversation, for no particularly good reason. It's still a fun read six years later.

Once I gained the exposure of the Soapbox I started receiving hundreds of views and comments. I started writing in earnest; it was a bit convoluted at first, but eventually I sorted my thoughts into columns of popular topics. I did a "Geek to Chic" series, which were basically tips for nerds not to stand out quite so much. I had a slew of humorous entries, personal finance, and tips on PC building. I tried a "Gamespot Cribs" series, but it never gained traction. An index to some of the better entries follows the end of this blog

There was an elite cadre of user-writers that formed unions around various topics to support blogging to the Soapbox and quality user reviews. I became a moderator for a time at Jody's behest, though that was rescinded after I made a blog entry about a topic deemed a bit too adult for Gamespot (and in retrospect, rightly so). Still, it was without question, Gamespot's peak in terms of user-generated content and participation.

Then Jeff Gerstmann reviewed Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.

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That singular event resulted in an upheaval of users that rallied behind Gerstmann, relieved from Gamespot due to his critical comments on a game that had been heavily advertised on the site. Gamespot lost many, many great bloggers, union managers, volunteer community managers, and employees after his dismissal, and has never fully recovered.

There were additional missteps from a user standpoint. The launch of Gamespot FUSE to capture and integrate social media with Gamespot was a massive undertaking, but essentially bifurcated the community. You had some users migrating to FUSE, and others that preferred the persistent format of the traditional forums and user blogs. Gamespot abandoned the Soapbox for a time, dropping it from the front page and alienating some of its contributors, most notably GabuEx. Livefyre replaced Gamespots comments system in there somewhere, though this was a good move, in retrospect.

In the past two years Gamespot has made great strides to recapture the magic of 2007. They brought in Synthia Wieres to help Jody Robinson with community management and social media. The Soapbox was rebooted and the staff have interfaced more directly with their community on an ongoing basis. They introduced "Rangers," users that are not moderators so much as site cheerleaders, which has been a very good thing, and which I've been a proud participant. Finally, CBS Interactive picked up Giant Bomb, bringing Jeff Gerstmann and friends back full circle, and reintroducing many old users to their former stomping grounds. I still miss many users, and wrote an homage to said users in 2011 (link), but there have been quite a few great users filling their shoes, as of late.

I've seen friends I've met through Gamespot go on to become hired and subsequently move on from Gamespot, as was the case with Donklejohn. Danny O'Dwyer started off blogging just like yours truly before picking up an actual Gamespot paycheck, and there he's been making entertaining shorts about some of the most random things I've ever seen. It's a far cry from his Bioshock game footage days. It was great to meet several of the staff at PAX East 2012 and put real faces to their digital replicants.

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Danny O'Dwyer doing what he does best. I'm just not entirely sure what that is.

It's strange to think of how much time and energy I have allocated to Gamespot in the past decade. Ultimately, though, it has been a rewarding online community filled with wonderful people. I have been frequently absent the past twelve months due to volunteer work, my family, and career monopolizing every free moment of my life, but I do hope to once again contribute to Gamespot in some meaningful way in the coming months.

Thank you, Gamespot staff, for creating a rich and vibrant community. For giving me the opportunity to be heard, to improve your site, and to support its ongoing development. I wish nothing but the best to each and every employee and member over the next ten years.



Index of Editorials
Index of Newbie PC Builder
Index of Personal Finance
Index of Geek to Chic
Index of Advice & Recommendations
Index of Humor

Digital Killed the Retail Star

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OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE STEAM

Used games are on their deathbed, and most gamers are not happy. Everywhere you can hear the death knell of used games, from whispers of used game restrictions on the next Xbox AND Playstation, to the increased success of digital media distribution via services like XBox Live, Steam, and Amazon.

Further, gamers are increasingly willing to accept severe and even game-breaking Digital Rights Management (DRM) to play a great game, as evidenced by strong sales of Bioshock and Diablo III. The widespread adoption of Steam signals the loss of the DRM wars for consumers. Sales figures don't lie.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if a game is good enough, to hell with our personal values, we're going to buy it.

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Software Piracy, DRM, and Dolla Dolla Bills, Y'all
For the most part console gamers have had the luxury of avoiding DRM - sort of - because they purchased their games at retail stores. You don't (usually) need DRM when there is a mechanical requirement to play a game, such as a cartridge or disc. This is great for developers, since you have some assurances that your game is less likely to be pirated on a console than on a computer. Even though digital distribution services have gained significant popularity, some estimates of PC game piracy are as high as 93% to 95%. That's probably a bit far-fetched, but consider that in 2011 Crysis 2 was downloaded approximately 3.9 million times. Granted, Crysis 2 is only about $10 today, but back in March 2011 when it was released it was $60, dropping to about $30 by Christmas. Assuming the lower of the two, a $30 sale is about $117mm in lost gross revenue to Gamestop, Crytek, and their distribution partners. Now, include CoD:MW3, Battlefield 3, Fifa 12, and Portal 2 - each of which had over three million downloads via Torrent themselves, and you hit a half-billion in lost revenue pretty fast. Now expand this to thousands of games over the past three decades, including console games that have since been ported to emulators, the Playstation discs that were copied, etc. and you get into multiple billions of dollars in lost revenue.

It is important to discuss piracy in the context of used games because it highlights the financial motivation to move to digital distribution. The incentives are there and the technology exists to enable developers and distributors to almost completely eliminate the viability of used games, but there is some hesitancy due to the probable backlash from gamers. Honestly, though, it doesn't matter: Pure digital distribution is coming. There is too much money involved for the industry to notmake the move.

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Artax represents physical game distribution. Atreyu represents gamers. The Swamp represents the gaming industry.

What to expect
Arbitrary prognostication has its pitfalls, but we can make some logical conclusions based on existing industry rhetoric and sales numbers to prepare ourselves for the future.

Cheap storage and significantly greater internet adoption since the introduction of the current generation of platforms virtually assures at least the availability of retail titles both online and in stores in the next console generation, with brick and mortar outlets eventually going the way of Circuit City. Expect the next generation of consoles to have gigantic hard drives and additional "cloud" storage. An ambitious manufacturer might even go solid state (faster than traditional platter drives, but still more expensive). Expect titles like Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed to be available for download on next-gen consoles, as a result, and downloadable content, or "DLC," to go away in favor of the more marketing-friendly "expansion content."

This will certainly be a problem for many gamers living in areas with restricted or spotty internet access. It's also going to be very annoying for military personnel overseas. Downloading a multi-gigabyte file via a 56k connection - which many people still use - is just not feasible. But with more (many more) consumers gaining access to high speed internet connections (source) it becomes easier for developers and distributors to stomach the loss of sales to a percentage of its base with spotty internet in order to retain more control of that distribution, reduce opportunity loss from piracy, and reduce manufacturing costs for packaging, shipping, etc.

The industry will spin it in a positive light; at first it will be a convenience: Why go to Gamestop when you can order the game right now from your console with a credit card? Shortly thereafter games purchased in the store will require an online connection for "updates," though what it really means is authentication servers (e.g. Diablo 3, and some of this is already happening today). Finally, you'll get download exclusives, followed by the elimination of retail distribution entirely.

Will it happen overnight? No, it will happen over the course of many years, just as Steam and other online outlets have slowly taken over the PC gaming marketplace this past decade. And it's not all bad: Anyone who uses Steam regularly will tell you that there are also a host of conveniences to online distribution, not least of which is the actual delivery method of the game. You have online sales, instant tech support, community tools, contests, and occasionally special events. There's also fierce competition in online distribution right now, leading to some pretty amazing sales through Steam and Amazon, in particular.

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All of this still isn't quite the same as reaching up on the shelf and dusting off that old copy of Super Mario Brothers 3 or, in my case, Frogger. You can't swing by your local store to get a discounted used title, either. But I firmly believe that it isinevitable. Just as the vast majority of consumers now purchase their music online and increasingly view their entertainment via streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, so too shall video games soon be delivered exclusively via the internet, eliminating the used game marketplace, and fattening the margins of developers and publishers.

Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will download all game purchases.

Sources
Defective by Design
Gamespot News
Akamai State of the Internet
Ubisoft CEO claims 93-95 percent piracy rate on its PC games
Kotaku
Torrent Freak
Defective by Design


-Disclosure-

Opinions and speculation of and by Bozanimal are his own and not those of Gamespot.com or its affiliates. Bozanimal is not a Gamespot employee, and is not affiliated with any gaming companies in any way.

Several links within this article may lead to external sites. Neither Bozanimal nor host Gamespot.com or affiliates are responsible for the content of those sites.

Index of Editorials by Bozanimal

Review - Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

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If you loved the original Metroid, prepare to relive your glory days in this 2D exploratory shooter.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (ITSP) opens with a full orchestral score, your flying saucer (and your planet, for that matter) under attack by an unknown alien organism that has infected a nearby star- and that infection is spreading. Naturally it falls to you to do what you can to save the planet. Starting with but a radar and the ship's hull to protect you, you take your personal space craft out into the wilds to save your planet.

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Along the way you upgrade your vessel, solve puzzles, avoid and combat a variety of foes, and uncover secrets that include bonus video footage and concept art. Games for Windows LIVE is required for ITSP, so you will need an internet connection to play the game, including the single-player campaign.

Click here to read the rest of this review (and don't forget to vote it up or down!).

Enough with the Violence. Oh, and Misogyny. Oh, oh: and Religion! Oh-

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Our esteemed News man Eddie Makuch recently posted an Article called, "Violence in Games: Industry Buzz," a compilation of industry views on the pervasive violence demonstrated in this year's E3 which was different than prior years, supposedly, because the violence displayed was for entertaniment value rather than providing support to a narrative or context. Only, this isn't exactly a new topic, and there wasn't really any substantive reason to be discussing said topic other than the fact that Miyamoto - I love you, Miyamoto - doesn't like it. Only his problem wasn't violence, it was the pervasive use of weapons, but we'll go ahead and generalize that for now.

Violence for the sake of violence has existed in games for a long time, and in entertainment in general for thousands of years. In gaming most recently it reached its apex with Mortal Kombat about 20 years ago (1992). To address the issue of gaming violence in the U.S., the ESRB was created two years after Mortal Kombat (1994) to provide guidance to consumers in order to ensure people knew what was appropriate, using reasonable standards, for certain age groups. Similar organizations were created in other countries and regions, and have been widely adopted and consistently enforced more than similar rations of movies and music (Source: FTC). The issue of the glorification of violence in games has been discussed at length and appropriate action taken by forming these bodies to provide consumers with guidance.

Now I'm not a fan of a rape scene - interactive or not - being included in Tomb Raider (supposedly this is not going to happen now, by the way). Lara Croft is a sexualized character as it is, what with the hot pants and cleavage and all. But I'm not going to get up in arms about it being created, either: What are we supposed to do, limit free speech? Tell the developer not to make it? Regulate and outright censor the content? The best "solution," if there is such a thing, is exactly what has already happened, making further discussion of topics like violence, misogyny, and other repetitive, recycled gaming social topic redundant unless those discussing said topic have some sort of alternative solution to address the problem handy, assuming that there is a problem, which there may or may not be.

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The part I really don't like, though, is what people aren't talking about. Hundreds of games that do not glorify violence are coming out all the time, and not just the high-profile, family-friendly, first-party Nintendo titles. You've got Airmech, Bastion, Bit.Trip, Braid, Jamestown, Monaco is Mine, Osmos, Portal, Quantum Conundrum, Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP, Trine, Watch Dogs- need I go on? There are many, many games that focus on puzzle elements, narrative, or to which violence is a mechanic rather than something glorified. I would argue even that, though the violence in The Last of Us is indeed gruesome, it doesn't really seem to be for its own sake, its there to support the suspension of disbelief.

But it's not as fun and interesting to report on games like Lego City as it is topics like the issues of misogyny, violence, religion, stereotyping, etc. in gaming, so all the amazing progress that has and is being made all the time with great narratives and storylines gets outshone by coverage of the hot-button issues.

Preorder Deflowering

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While the rest of the gaming playerbase is on pins and needles, I couldn't be less interested in high-profile games like Resident Evil 6, Crysis 3, Halo 4, Generic Shooter 3, and Brand X Adventure 4. It's all become a blur of "me-too" first-person shooters and third-person action adventure than elicits a yawn, at best. But Indie games can still blow up my metaphorical skirt.

Metaphorical means that I'm speaking figuratively, I'm not actually wearing a skirt. Not even on weekends.

Oh, shut up.

Limbo, Super Meat Boy, Bastion, Braid, Trine- compelling Indie titles are less expensive, almost always more interesting, and take bigger risks. It is also a little-known Indie title that recently compelled me to preorder a video game for the first time in over thirty years of gaming (though I probably would have preordered Dragon Warrior II if they had such a thing back in the days of the NES). Behold, Quantum Conundrum:

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Granted, developer Airtight Games has some serious backing from Square Enix, but it's still a small developer with only one decent (but not great) third-person action game under its belt. But it's got wonderful art direction and Kim Swift, creator of Portal. The original Portal needs no introduction, and its sequel had one of the best narratives of any game ever made, so if Quantum Conundrum is even one-tenth of Portal 2, I will be a happy camper.

In the meantime, I've got some loot from Team Fortress 2 to show off in-game as part of the pre-order bonus.

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Guild Wars 2 Beta Codes and Marriage

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The Guild Wars 2 Closed Beta is THIS WEEKEND, and I've got codes. I'll be giving them out via Twitter over the remainder of the day (06/07/2012). Keep and eye out and be fast to snag one!

AlsO, I've been married for NINE years as of today. Those nine years were filled with joy and pain, triumphs and sorrows, and I am grateful for all the hard work and luck that has gone into our life in that time. In the time I've been with Dr. Bozif have:

  • Gone to art school
  • Graduated college
  • Stood by her through Cancer- twice
  • Been through three career jobs
  • Bought three cars
  • Three apartments and one house
  • Trips to Montreal, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Disney World, Miami, London, Paris, Jamaica, Savannah, New York City, Nova Scotia, and Las Vegas
  • Seen Dr. Boz through two graduations, both undergrad and her Ph.D
  • Had three kids- at once
  • Dozens of fights
  • Probably several hundred movies
  • Probably several hundred hours of video games together
  • Thousands of meals

Though everything I have come to the conclusion that a successful marriage takes a lotof work, but that work is the most rewarding of any you might undertake.

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The Ongoing Tribulations of 38 Studios

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If you're not following the ongoing developments at 38 Studios, developer of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (KoA:R) and the upcoming Copernicus, and you're interested in game development, you are doing yourself a disservice. What you'll find unfolding is a tale of an up-and-coming studio filled with talented people crushed by business realities.

38 Studios was founded by Curt Schilling back in 2006 under the name "Green Monster Games." Though KoA:R was its first major release in 2012, its release is the product of 38 Studio's acquisition of Big Huge Games (Rise of Nations) back in 2009. Schilling started the company with the intention of bringing a MMORPG to market. Copernicus is to be the realization of that vision.

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Along the way some of the realities of running a company got in the way, and to explain requires some context. The company originally leased space in Maynard, MA while still under the Green Monster Games moniker, but struck a deal with the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) to secure a $75 million loan that would bring 450 jobs to the state of Rhode Island by 2012.

What that means is that 38 Studios borrowed this money from the state at what we can assume to be a favorable rate on the condition that 38 Studios relocate to Providence, RI, thereby bringing in jobs to the state. Rhode Island is under intense pressure to bring jobs to The Ocean State. As of April 2012, Rhode Island has the nation's second-worst unemployment rate at 11.2% (after Nevada, which sits at 11.7%).

Unfortunately, it turns out that 38 Studios is having financial difficulty and is cannot pay back its loan in a timely manner- or its own employees. On May 15 local media (NBC) found that State officials were meeting with 38 Studios on concerns about its ability to meet the terms of its loan. While we do not know the full details of the agreement, we do know that 38 Studios defaulted on a $1.125 million payment to the RIEDC as part of its loan package that was due May 1, 2012. It then delivered a check to the RIEDC that 38 Studios Rick Wester said had insufficient funds in its account to cover- so the check was returned. Now you have 38 Studios laying off employees, though how many of its 379 full-time employees (as of the end of March) is unclear. Most recently it came to light that CEO Jen MacLean and Senior VP of Product Development John Blakely are no longer with the firm (Source).

To recap: Thus far you have the state of Rhode Island so desperate for jobs it makes a gigantic loan to a video game company with zero track record to relocate into the state (38 Studios relocated in 2010, KoA:R was released in 2012). This is a huge risk, since you have no cash flow to cover said payments: What exactly was used to secure this loan? Remember: This is taxpayer money being lent to a video game developer.

Then you have 38 Studios who accepted the loan. Somewhere along the lines someone misstated their earning expectations and release dates, because KoA:R sold about 330,000 copies by March, which comes in a bit under $20mm assuming a $60 retail sale... and that's gross revenue, meaning it doesn't take into account distributor fees (Gamespot, Steam, Amazon, etc.).

Analysts put a net asset value of about $20 million on 38 Studios, assuming they could even find a buyer in the event of a liquidation, so it is in the best interest of the State to try and bail out what is fast becoming a sinking ship. Queue the world fly-through of the scheduled 2013 release MMORPG Copernicus:

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The kicker is that Copernicus' release date and trailer were announced by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who is desperately trying to salvage what still has the potential to become a profitable title- if 38 Studios can get its act together.

Boston Globe Reporter Scott Kirsner spoke with game industry executives and venture capitalists who've invested in other developers of massively-multiplayer games and came up with three likely scenarios for 38 Studios' future (Source):

  1. A bigger game studio or media company comes in and offers to take the 38 Studios assets for nothing.
  2. Someone acquires 38 studios offices in Maryland, otherwise known as "Big Huge Games."
  3. 38 Studios eventually shuts down and files for bankruptcy.

These are all possible, but there are alternatives. 38 Studios could secure additional lines of credit from private investors to continue development on Copernicus and meet its loan obligations with the RIEDC. Or the RIEDC could forgive loan repayments temporarily until 38 Studios gets back on its feet- which seems likely because RIEDC needs to save face both economically and politically. They don't want to lose jobs and the governor does not want to look like a fool.

Personally I am hopeful that 38 Studios can stabilize itself financially and complete work on Copernicus, but we will not know what's going on internally for some time.

The day following this blog post every employee from 38 Studios was laid off (Source). Still unanswered are what 38 Studios did with the money it did receive from the loan (money received details).


You can follow the ongoing saga on this page, or follow Rhode Island WPRI-TV reporter Ted Nesi on Twitter @TedNesi.


Sources
WPRI
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Boston.com

Humor - Stand-up for sitting down

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It never seems to work, but I keep trying to tell my wife that my honest criticism gives my compliments that much more meaning.

Did you know the My Little Pony reboot has more male viewers between 20 and 30 than it does young girls? They refer to themselves as "bronies," and there are probably a few among you. As a place to learn moral behavior, generosity, and kindness toward your fellow man, I'm pretty sure My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is gradually replacing religion. Next time I'm conflicted between right and wrong I plan to ask Twilight Sparkle. Either that or Patrick Stewart.

I'm convinced that Star Trek is almost single-handedly responsible for the decline of racism, sexism, and bigotry in the United States. From the original series with the first televised interracial kiss, to a Scotsman as Chief Engineer, and an Asian man at the helm - whose actor later came out as gay - you went to the Next Generation with a woman as Chief Security Officer. Well, until she was killed, anyway, and replaced by a black man playing a Klingon. You even had a black, blind Chief Engineer, a pre-pubescent boy at the helm, and Whoopi Goldberg as- what did she do again?

The next two spinoffs had a black man heading a space station and a woman as Captain. The positive effects have rippled through our society and unified us under the commonly-held belief that everyone regardless of race, age, creed, religion, or sexual alignment has value except Australians. Ever seen an Australian in Star Trek? Yeah, I thought not, mate. Don't believe me? The only Australian actor to ever appear in a role in a Star Trek picture was Eric Bana in the 2009 movie, and he played Nero. That's right: The villain.

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I complain every time I stand in front of a vending machine. The prices are ridiculous, yet every time I walk away and forget to take the change from the tin.

It is possible to be have your kids be the most important thing in your world and still want to drown them. Oh stop it, I love my kids more than anything! Except when I don't.

I had a delicious, well-balanced, international day of food, with Indian food for lunch and Mexican food for dinner, followed by some beer before bed. The next day - first thing in the morning, actually - I began to understand why the elderly are so obsessed with meticulously managing their diet.

It might be hard to imagine today since most Americans associate the Indian accent with telemarketing and customer support, but I think some day we'll find Indian accents endearing, like how we think a southern drawl is sweet entrancing now that it's started fading away with an increasingly mobile population. Now finding someone with a southern accent is like finding an endangered animal. You want to capture it and keep it in a cage next to your bed so you can listen to it whenever you want.

"Say, 'Y'all come back now, y'hear?' Say it, or no bread for a week!"

Seriously, though, some day American ladies are going to be all about the Indian guys, if only because they're so considerate in bed.

"Thank you, come again!"


Index of Humor Entries

Game Radar: Team Fortress 2 Game Night!

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  • When: Thu May 3, 2012 @ 8:00 PM Eastern (5:00PM Pacific)
  • Duration:Two hours or more, participation dependent
  • Server: (TBD)
  • What: Team Fortress 2
  • Where to buy: Steam (No purchase necessary)
  • Platform: PC
  • Map(s): (TBD)
  • Chat Resource: Game Night Chatroom (requires Java)

First and foremost: Spread the word! If you're planning on playing, tell your friends! Tweet about the event, post to FUSE, or send smoke signals: The more players the better!

Please, if you are not using your Gamespot ID in Team Fortress 2, respond with your handle so I can translate! You can also add me on Steam under the handle Bozanimal, just give me a heads-up ahead of time.


1. How do I get in on the action?
It is important to join the chatroom (requires Java) to get info on server status. If the chatroom is not open for any reason, post a question in this thread with your issue.

2. I am from another timezone. What time is that for me?
http://www.timezoneconverter.com

3. What mode will we be playing?
The game modes will vary depending on the server. We'll be cycling through a couple different modes over the course of two hours (or more).

4. Can I drop by late to participate?
Of course! Why not? Be sure to post what time you plan to show right here.

5. What GameSpot folks will I be playing with?
This is notan official Gamespot Community Game Night, it is a "Game Radar" event hosted by the community (or me, rather). As such, GameSpot Staff members may or may not be in attendance. If you're looking to headshot a particular site staff member, Ranger, or Moderator, hit them up directly to ask them if they plan to participate.

6. Do I get an emblem for playing?
No. Unless the Staff elect to play there will be no emblem, just the pleasure of playing a great game with fellow Gamespot community members, and taunting them over their mutilated, cartoonish corpses.

7. So, do I have a good chance of kicking your butt?
Yes, I'm quite terrible. All of my characters have a magnet on their back just for opposing Spies. I'm a pretty good sport, though, so feel free to post those kill shots and endlessly mock my noobishness.

8. Where should I report my "Game Radar" experience?
Feel free to discuss your experience here. Or there. You can also Tweet about it using the #gsfuse hastag, post an update to FUSE directly, or blog about it right here on Gamespot!

Gratuitous breasts cannot save TERA

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TERA Closed Beta Hands-On

    I was lucky enough to have time to both visit PAX East and try Tera's Closed Beta at home earlier this month as part of Gamespot's recent promotion. I've been following TERA for quite some time, and was impressed with how polished the game was when I visited En Masse Entertainment's booth at PAX East. Unfortunately, when I got home and finally logged in, my experience did not reflect my impression from the exposition.
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        In Tera, you play a recruit of The Valkyon Federation, a relatively peaceful coalition of races under a militaristic government. At the outset you are sent to a newly-discovered island to both train and assist the Federation. All races and classes start on this island, and this is where the story begins to unfold through a primary chain of quests that you follow throughout the game. There are many, many sub- and side-quests, but there is one gigantic story arc that unfolds as your character strives to cap its level.
            To this extent, Tera bills itself as lore-driven, but in reality the low-priority of the story is evidenced throughout the game: from the weak character fly-in introduction, to the placement of "Lore" within the tera.enmasse.com game site at the bottom of its respective submenu. The premise is interesting enough, but the story boils down to Hulk-like simplicity, "Enemies invading, defend, smash!"
                The interface will feel immediately familiar to veteran MMO players
                  Tera also describes itself as the first true action MMORPG, and this is actually pretty accurate. World of Warcraft, the standard by which any MMORPG will ultimately be compared, uses a click-to-select interface. The action in Tera takes place in a behind-the-shoulder view and combat feels a lot like an over-shoulder action title, complete with combos depending on your class. The controls combine the best of PC and console-like gameplay. In some ways the action feels like a mash-up of Tales of Symphonia and World of Warcraft. Combat is dynamic and based more on skill and timing than gear. Most classes, particularly the melee classes, have a three-part combo attack where you hit your primary attack three times and it chains them together, doing more damage with the final attack of the three. Certain abilities proc a second "free" ability that is activated when the combo completes. It is sometimes desirable to stop your combo midway to avoid or defend against an incoming attack.
                    This makes for exciting, compelling combat. You can move your character out of the way of incoming attacked, use blocks on-the-fly if you class supports blocking, and use environmental objects to impede foes. Attacks and incoming hits feel like they have impact. Spells and other magical abilities look beautiful, and are fun to cast over and over again. This is a good thing, too, because you will be casting and attacking in the same pattern over and over and over again in the early levels.
                        Think this attack looks cool? Good, because you'll be seeing it a lot
                          As exciting as the action may be, gameplay gets repetitive. Every single quest - ALL of them - involve killing a set number of enemies or gathering a certain number of items... by killing the enemies holding those items. There are stories behind each quest, such as:
                          • (Villains) have appeared and threaten the encampment: Kill them!
                          • (Villains) have appeared and are killing our livestock: Kill them!
                          • We need to take this key area to move forward. Kill the residents so we can advance!
                          • (Villains) have appeared-
                          Questing gets monotanous quickly, but it is also the only way to gain experience and level up. This is a shame since PvP combat can be so dynamic, you currently cannot gain experience through Tera's battleground system like in World of Warcraft, according to the PAX East booth staffers. In short: You will be questing and killing the same things over and over again. If you want to level a second character you will be going through all of the same quests again to do so. It is truly punishing on the player, and a model that was made obsolete years ago.
                              NOW what do you need me to kill?
                                There are seven races and eight classes, and every race can become any class. This is nice because you can pick the race you like without feeling pigeonholed into something unattractive (or vice versa) because you like a particular class. Despite the variety of classes, however, they still fit into the common mold of Tank, Damage Dealer, and Healer. What's worse is that there is less variety in classes and roles than in existing MMOs. If you want to tank, you need to be a Lancer - who happens to have extremely boring animations - or a Warrior, which works like an Evasion tank. There is really only one viable healer, though, in the Priest. There is a Mystic, but for end-game raiding Mystics are far less desirable, is my understanding.
                                  The races are fascinating. There are some genuinely unique races, like the rock-like Aman and large, blue Baraka. There are some bizarre choices, as well. The only thing I can say to a race such as the Elin, comprised entirely of scantily-clad young girls with ears and tails, is that they seem designed specifically to cater to lovers of "Kawaii," Japanese for lovable and cute. Either that or pedophiles.
                                    Each race has its own racial talents that do not materially impact the game, just like World of Warcraft, but they are all begging for their own lore and starting areas, particularly the Aman, who were formerly a slave race. Instead, they all get lumped in together in the opening quest series. It is a real shame to have such creations devoid of similar creativity in lore.
                                        Some of the races are very unique. Others not so much.
                                          There were additional themes throughout Tera besides repetitive quests and two-dimensional storyboards, there was also an overwhelmingly cynical community. One might argue that a game not yet in production cannot have a community, but it was clear from the moment Player One entered Tera that the world was populated with the disgruntled remanants of prior MMORPG games. These were no noobs: These were long-time former players of Everquest, World of Warcraft, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
                                            The MMO staple chat box positioned unimaginatively at the bottom-left of the HUD (heads-up display) endlessly streamed comparisons between dozens of prior MMOs that failed to live up to the standards of the Beta participants. There might be one question about Tera for every fifty comments about how "Guild Wars did this" or "World of Warcraft did that." At one point the phrase, "Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker" started filling chat, a meme exclusive to Trade Chat in World of Warcraft.
                                              It is worrying that there was so much cynicism and "been there, done that" attitude before the game has even launched. It indicates that, once Tera is made public, its denizens will be the same folks that complained their prior MMORPG was not good enough.
                                                  And you need how many of what from which creature?
                                                    Finally, it is impossible to discuss Tera without at least mentioning that its entire female population and half of its male population is hyper-sexualized. By hyper, I mean you could find most any of its characters on a catwalk somewhere, modeling the latest in Valkyon armor.
                                                      That said, en Masse covers most every possible type of attractive creature. The men can be one of three archetypes:[list=1]
                                                    • Boyishly cute like Orlando Bloom or someone out of Twilight.
                                                    • Rugged and manly like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine or Viggo Mortensen
                                                    • Affable but still attractive in a grandfatherly way like Ian McKellenThe women can be one of two archetypes:[list=1]
                                                    • Angelina Jolie in Gia
                                                    • Card Captor Sakura
                                                        Hey lady, nice... eyes.
                                                          In all seriousness, all of the humanoid females have gigantic breasts and wear high heels: ALL of them. Now for me this is wonderful, since I like breasts, legs, and otherwise attractive women. However, it is so pervasive as to be distracting from the game itself. Every time you pick up a quest - be it to kill tree spirits or enemy soldiers - you subconsciously want to lay the questgiver.
                                                            The super-cute Card Captor Sakura lookalikes - with selectable animal ears and tails - also wear super-short skirts and low-back tops. It is also distracting in a way that makes me uneasy about myself, and we'll leave it at that.
                                                                Tera women are very detailed, anatomically speaking. Very. Detailed.
                                                                  All that said, the character models are technically excellent. Built with the latest Unreal engine, every character is infinitely customizable from cheeks to jawline, from hair color to adornments. It makes for a wide variety of faces, though it would be nice to have a way to modify the bodies, as well. A portly female lancer would actually be pretty fun to play, in my opinion. Even as a main (character), you would certainly have no shortage of eye candy in Tera.
                                                                    Those easily offended by sexist or stereotypical portrayals of their gender (or the opposite, quite frankly) may want to steer clear of Tera, or get their soapbox ready.
                                                                          All in all Tera might be worth playing for a few hours just to see the potential of its combat system and lush environments - a lot of work has obviously gone into this game. Unfortunately there is nothing showing the game has any more value than a bargain free-to-play MMO, which is a shame for something so beautiful on its surface and full of potential at its outset.
                                                                            If you are interested in joining Tera's Open Beta test, you can find instructions at the following web address: http://tera.enmasse.com/news/posts/open-beta-test.