Alien Landscape

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Wow... this new Gamespot layout is VERY different.

I don't know why (because it's completely ridiculous) but I feel like there's nostalgia in the right-side profile bar. Having it on the left is weird and the site doesn't feel like Gamespot for me anymore. I'm sure I'll get used to it because I realise my feelings about the changes are totally insane and not based on lack of functionality at all but... that's how I feel.

I think my feelings on the redesign reflect how I generally feel about Gamespot these days: it's not for me anymore.

It's nothing against the newer members of the editorial team, I think they've carried on the Gamespot-style perfectly well. But in this era of blogs and podcasts and videos I've made my investment in certain people and I can't help but feel connected to the personalities that are no longer here, rather than the style of content Gamespot delivers.

And that's how I feel about the redesign. It's not about the fact that the site offers the same functionality. It's just not my Gamespot anymore.

Maybe the real reason I feel that way is because I simply haven't had the time to make the same kind of EXTREME time dedication I made "back in the day" thanks to University and work concerns. Who knows.

Anyway... no real point to this post. Just felt like making it.

Where The Wild Things Are

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I managed to secure the username "Chris" over at Giant Bomb. I can't say that I'll be frequenting that site more than this one or vice versa but if anyone wants to be my friend over there feel free to invite me.

http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/Chris/

It feels kinda strange having a username like Chris. I've always bothered with alias's and, ofcourse, Chris is usually taken by some @sshole who doesn't use it. But HAH! Now I am that @sshole.

Blizzard confirms nothing

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Ok so it's obviously Diablo 3.

If that wasn't clear before a search function for "Diablo III General Discussion" has recently been added to the battle.net forums. But that's not why I'm here.

I'm making this post because I wanted to comment on something I noticed during all the insane speculation, most of which you can view here.

First we had the block of ice, then we had the runes and now finally the eyes and visor/head knob thing. And all along it's been fairly easy to make cases that the art was confirming a new game from ANY of the existing Blizzard franchises, even Lost Vikings. And why is that? Because Blizzard's art is so generic and interchangable at this point that it COULD be any game. They're all the same and they're bleeding into one another in ways I DONT like.

I hope that's becoming increasingly clear to people.

The one part of this ridiculous specualation-fest that I have enjoyed was the numbers. People spent such a long time trying to decode what they could mean and ultimately they've been revealed as the numbers from LOST. This is surely a subtle comment from Blizzard on speculation. Everyone who tried to decode the numbers wasted their time because they were a complete red herring, something that existed because the Blizzard staff thought it was a cool reference and would confuse people, much as the numbers are used in LOST.

Anyway that's all I really wanted to say. I finally decided to make a comment when I noticed two seperate web-sites lining up both Diablo and Arthas to the eyes and triangular head shape and I was given another example of how stock-standard Blizzard's art has become. So standard that they have two characters from completely different franchises striking identical poses.

I've also been thinking about this because of Limbo of the Lost which could have been a cool comment on the interchangability of video game content due to lack of creativity but is instead going to go down in history as a joke. If the developers hadn't charged to buy the thing it might have been cool.

See you in six months.

Restoring my faith

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Have to admit I've been kinda pissed at the games industry recently. Particularly when Call of Duty 4 won Game of the Year at the DICE Awards despite Bioshock cleaning up everything else. Since that awards show I've found out a few things that lessened my anger at the result (ie. it's voted on by a panel not by the industry, you have to pay to join (remember the RE4 debacle?)) but now the Game Developer's Choice Awards have been announced and they completely reverse any bad blood I might have had.

Here they are (copy/pasted from RPS);

Best Game Design:
Bioshock
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Mass Effect
Portal
Super Mario Galaxy

Best Debut Game:
Crackdown
flOw
The Witcher
Everyday Shooter
Aquaria

Best Audio:
Bioshock
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Everyday Shooter
God of War II
Mass Effect

Best Downloadable Game:
Everyday Shooter
flOw
Pac-Man Championship Edition
Peggle
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Best Technology:
Assassin's Creed
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Crysis
Halo 3
Portal

Innovation Award:
flOw
Mass Effect
Peggle
Portal
Rock Band

Best Visual Arts:
Assassin's Creed
Bioshock
Crysis
Team Fortress 2
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Best Handheld Game:
Contra 4
Peggle
Phase
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Best Writing:
Bioshock
God of War II
Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Mass Effect
Portal

Game of the Year:
Bioshock
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Portal
Rock Band
Super Mario Galaxy

Those are some fantastic choices! I have little disagreements here and there, for example I would have given the best downloadable award to Peggle rather than Flow, but most of the winners are totally deserving so it's hard to get angry. Even my beloved Crackdown got a nod!

Personally I would have given Game of the Year to Bioshock (and I did in my own awards) but Portal would still my second choice, obviously it's a fantastic game. I think my impression of Portal is slightly lessened vs. most of the rest of the gaming public simply because it didn't really surprise me. There was alot of stuff about Portal that immediately appealed to me when the game was first revealed and I expected it to be good. Infact before I had decided to buy HL2:Ep2 or TF2 I already knew I was going to get Portal. So maybe some of what pushed it over the line was the fact that for most people it was a huge shock.

Ofcourse it did a whole bunch of other stuff extremely well so... as I've said, it's a deserving winner. I think what's most important about it is probably what it says about how you present a video game. It's short when compared to the majority of other games but it's also exactly how long it should be. Rather than stretching out it's ideas until the player is totally sick of them the game gets in and gets out quickly leaving you wanting more but feeling like you've had a totally cohesive, completely enjoyable experience.

Anyway, so I guess the moral here is that the whole $100 AUS twenty-hour game shouldn't be the standard anymore. We need to start tailoring game length and price to what the game calls for rather than trying to fit everything into an outdated model that strangles the life out of a lot of brilliant ideas.

What to do with Witcher 2?

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Ok so it's not really Witcher 2 (I just wanted the title to rhyme) but it might as well be since in an almost unprecedented move CD Projekt, the game's developer, are re-working The Witcher. The list of stuff they're adding is fairly substantial. They're fixing (or atleast changing) everything that people complained about. Here's a short-list of the most important stuff;

  • - Load times cut by up to 80% in some circumstances
  • - Improved interactivity in battle
  • - 50 new character models so you don't see the same dude as often
  • - Significant re-working of the translated dialog (which was originally terrible) including 5000 re-recorded lines
  • - A new lip-sync'ing system
  • - 100 new dialog animations for making people look more natural when speaking
  • - Free!

Some of these seem more like goals than statements, for example I don't know why they'd cap the models and animations at 50 and 100 respectively, that seems a bit too clean to me. But provided it's all true it poses an interesting question;

What does a web-site like Gamespot do with their review? Theoretically the game is substantially better so long as you have access to the patch. And the game is going to be re-released with the content in the box so does that mean "The Witcher: Special Edition" gets a review with an extra note that the content is actually free if you have the original game?

The Witcher

It really is unprecedented for a developer to bother substantially re-working a game based on the complaints of the public, but I wish more developers would do it. Not only will they probably sell more copies of the game now but they're probably going to strengthen people's love of the game which makes them more inclined to buy the next title in the "franchise".

Just the fact that they're keeping the game in the news probably helps it sell copies, yet they're doing extremely small amounts of work compared to the cost of developing a sequel. I wish other games (like Assassin's Creed) would do something similar and work some of the wrinkles out of there games before moving on to sequels.

Red Alert 3 Thoughts

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How is it that with tesla coils, armoured bears, super-intelligent dolphins, war blimps and a brand new "Rising Sun" faction Red Alert 3 STILL can't look like anything but a generic RTS?

C&C3 or RA3?

Why does this game look SOOOO much like C&C3?! If EA are developing it as an alternative to the "Tiberium" line of C&C games shouldn't they try and differentiate the two visually? For starters the colour grey should be taken off the table as a viable choice for the primary colour of buildings and units. But more importantly they should create the game with a different basic st(y)le. I understand that there were no jungles in C&C3 so the jungles of Red Alert 3 are technically new but they could easily be a part of C&C3 because the overall art st(y)le is identical.

EA first revealed the game with a piece of concept art, done up to look like Russian propaganda. I'd love to see a game embrace that kind of stylized contrast instead of relying so heavily on realism. And I think it would work better given that RTS games are generally some of the most abstract games in existence where a tank might be half the size of a tank producing facility and a man might be half the size of a tank. Games that rely on arcade gameplay like the C&C series also rely on the use of symbolism over realism to communicate information simply and quickly. I think they should be looking at games like Advance Wars to see just how far you can take the abstraction of war and still make an incredibly fun strategic game.

Advertising

Compare these magazine cover images advertising the game to the final product. Which look is more interesting?

I think it's going to be very interesting to see if they can pull this off. Personally I'm excited about it because if I have one problem with Tiberium Wars it's how DEADLY SERIOUS it all is. Well serious might not be the right word… perhaps "legitimate" is a better word. EA took a series which was always quite ridiculous, with its GI Joe-esque armies and arch-villain Kane, and tried to turn it into a legitimate sci-fi story, which is a crap idea, I think.

Hopefully they'll resist doing that with Red Alert 3 and leave the game at full-tilt crazy; the way it should be. The reason I say I'm interested to see if they can pull it off is because this is obviously a high budget game yet the story and cutscenes of the original game were made on a low budget. There was an "indie spirit" to the original games that might not flourish in the money-soaked corporate structure of EA.

Yuri is from Dune...

Who knows what they're planning to do for the cutscenes. I don't know how they're going to get actors if the story is about intelligent dolphins and armoured bears, but the game obviously calls for crappy b-grade acting anyway so what they should do is hire whoever is willing to work, regardless of acting skill. I'm worried they'll do what they did for C&C3 and pick up a whole bunch of relatively well known TV actors who will probably give the story much more legitimacy than it should have. What we need is Need for Speed level acting. Actually more likely they'll try and get actors who have some kind of credibility to genre fans, much like Michael Ironside in Tiberium Wars.

Anyway, the fact that the game features so many crazy elements has me much more interested than C&C3 did, now I just want to see them push the other elements of the game (beside the units) into crazier territory.

Ice Cream-fueled Mystery

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I've decided I'm going to try and change the tone of this blog. A subtle change, but a change all the same. There's probably no reason for me to make this post (because no one will notice) but I'm posting this for myself as much as for everyone else. Hopefully this post will help force the change.

So what's the change to do with? Actually it's something I've been thinking about for a long long time but recently I read an interview with Warren Spector (who created one of my favourite games, Deus Ex) and followed that directly with Cliffy B's comments about PC and those two combined made me realise I want to represent something a bit different from now on.

Anyway, who knows if I'll go through with any of the stuff I have in my brain. I haven't quite figured out how to do what I want to do, so maybe I wont do it. Maybe my current state is just a result of eating too much ice cream and tomorrow I'll regret this. But that's the glory of the internet, I can embarass myself with relative anonymity.

Anyway, as some impossibly cryptic indication of what I'm talking about here is a screen of a game I dearly love.

Floating Castle

Wake.

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It's a matter of time. Or atleast indicative of the psychology of GS staff members.

http://fiddlecub.com/

http://mechberg.com/

http://www.thedudehasgotnomercy.com/

In other news;

I've been playing alot of Poker Smash, I recommend it. The guy on the top of the leaderboards has something like an 84X multiplier... I can manage 3. But I don't think I'm THAT bad a player, I'm currently like number 200 and something on the leaderboards which I think is pretty good for under a day's play. I watched a video of him doing it and it's seemingly impossible, I just can't parse the board that quickly.

The game is essentially Tetris Attack/Puzzle League with the added twist of making poker hands to score more points and a few other gameplay and control tweaks that make it more interesting and easier to play.

Also, Burnout Paradise continues to be awesome. I've found all the gates that take you through shortcuts except for ONE. I've spent atleast two hours searching for that final gate and I simply can't find it. I wish the game didn't force you to replay SOOOO many missions to complete the game. There are already 120 independant missions, why not have that be the limit? The fact that I have to replay some of them 2 or 3 times to get the best license is silly.

Yet another nail in the coffin

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Hollywood is out of ideas. We all get that right? Halo: The Movie... Gears of War: The Movie... Hollywood is clearly chasing US, not the opposite way around.

Which is fine, infact it's the way it should be. What pisses me off more is the fact that ALOT of people who like games seem to call for and get excited over the prospect of these movies. Which is totally backwards I think. If you play Gears of War you've already played THE BEST VERSION of Gears of War. All the movie will ever be is a shorter version of the game sans interactivity that (while entertaining) will probably betray the game. So why bother?

Anyway, the latest "movie buzz" is Bioshock for some ridiculous reason. Anyone who thinks Bioshock would make a good movie has CLEARLY spent about 10 seconds thinking about the idea. The entire point of Bioshock is to explore the world YOURSELF and unravel the mystery of Rapture as you go. Part of what makes it a scary game is how deeply entrenched in the world you are. Why would you want to watch some crappy Hollywood actor trapsing around instead? And the story plays out through audio logs, how can that story be successfully told in an hour and a half? It's probably possible but the point is you've already played the best version of Bioshock, a movie is redundant at this point.

What makes the prospect of a Bioshock movie even more... disgusting to me is that Bioshock is part of a long lineage of titles including System Shock 1 + 2, Thief, Deus Ex and Ultima Underworld that are something very few games can claim to be. Stories which are told using devices NATIVE to video games. Bioshock is a REAL GAME, not a game pretending to be a movie. To make a movie out of a game as "GAME" as Bioshock is would betray everything it stands for, which is the fact that we're BETTER AND MORE than film and we have no need to lower ourselves to their standard any more.

Anyway, if there's anything I want people to take away it's simply to stop getting excited for/paying to see these crappy cash-in attempts. You know what would be better than a Bioshock movie? A Bioshock 2. We shouldn't be seeking film adaptations as a way to validate good games. We don't NEED their validation.