Zkeptik / Member

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Zkeptik Blog

Are the Glory Days of GameSpot Long Gone?

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I haven't signed on in so long. I come back and things are not as they once were. Some interesting interface changes which do look promising and make the website much more user friendly than it was before. But is the content reliable?

Can I trust you again dear GameSpot after I have been burned Oh So Badly?

I have tried listening to the podcasts but they have truly lost their way. They are still entertaining but they don't really keep my attention for long. They are new, they will learn. Do I have faith that they will mature or do I stick with the tried and true group of people that are still doing what they do best, elsewhere?

What I have been ^ 2

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What I have been up to.

Wow. It has been a while. I have gone through a job transition and have been through a LOT of other stuff this past year. Unfortunately GameSpot is blocked so I can't blog during my lunch hour anymore.

I have been blogging on an extremely limited basis here. I haven't been as active on the forums or in your blogs and I am truly sorry. It has been a very exciting last few months during which I would have loved to take part in the discussions that I'm sure were very exciting.

The site pales in comparison to the original ButtonSmashing but at least it is free to me so I don't have to reserve a spot for Google adsense. Feel free to give it a look and let me know what I can do to make it better.

Gerstmann in retro-Perspective

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Let me start off by saying that I have been a reader of Jeff Gerstmann's work for years. I read his reviews, I watched his videos, I even listened to his Midnight Brown music, which if you haven't heard it yet you really should. So when I first heard the rumor I stopped what I was doing and did my best to find the truth.

I want to put things into perspective in a realistic manner with my experience in a professional environment. The boards are full of justifiably angry Gerstmann groupies. Truth is Jeff Gerstmann was synonymous with the GameSpot name, so GameSpot without Jeff is going to be difficult for a lot of us old veterans to accept, especially given the severe implications of the reasons behind his departure.

Quick witted and intelligent, his laid back manner and ability to speak on the same levelas many young gamers is what most people found appealing and highly entertaining. His high level of energy is what made On the Spot and The Hotspot so popular.

So, let's look at things the way they are.

I have noticed, and have always asked about, how it is possible that Jeff Gerstmann could find so much time to do all he does. The videos, the reviews, the music, maintaining his Gamerscore, the Gamerscore Points Report videos, etc. Then it started slowing down. Where before it seemed like Jeff was reviewing all of the top games himself, other reviewers like VanOrd started popping up more regularly. What did this mean? Was he tired? Was he involved in other projects? Was he lacking motivation?

It was inevitable that at some point Jeff was going to move on. It is the nature of the business. You can't sit stagnant in the same, high pressure, high stress position for too long without feeling like a failure. As Editor-in-Chief the only place he could be promoted to was a suit position at CNet. No fun at all. I think it just came as a surprise to everyone that it wasn't his choice. That and that it was possibly as a result of pressure from a third party over his mediocre review of Kane & Lynch.

The quality of the video review, while still pretty professional, had a tense and hurried look about it. One could imagine that this video was done as a last hurrah, a big F-U to the bigwigs. Watch it and listen to his voice. The audio seems like it wasn't coming through especially well almost like he produced it in a very rushed manner. Its highly possible that this firing was a long time coming. We may never truly know the whole story. If Jeff was tired of the job, why would he admit it? If Eidos pressured GameSpot to fire him for posting the video review, why would they admit it? If GameSpot caved under said pressure, why would they admit it?

I first heard the news from Kotaku, NeoGaf made it believable, but to me, the off-schedule Penny-Arcade comicmade it official. Then the horrible, horrible results at the Eidos forums inspired me to write this blog.

Jeff will be ok. He is one of the most well known names in the industry and will have no problem finding a job in the same industry if he is interested. He has a legion of fans that would LOVE to have him working with the 1up group, myself included. 1up seems to allow its writers much more freedom. Something that I can fully picture Jeff doing. He has always seemed to me like he was bottling a lot of that energy and censoring himself. Without Luke Smith they could use a great persona like Jeff.

Or Jeff could start something new, something independent. He has the know-how, the credibility and the following. How many of his co-workers would follow I wonder?

Way to go Jeff! Go out with a bang! You will be missed and if you continue to do what you do so well, I will watch very closely.

"..how can you kill a man without a heart?"

Oh and people, don't punish GameSpot for the acts of CNet. Think about what you are doing. Assuming your petitions and cancellations do any monitary damage to GameSpot, you are just going to cost the hard working employees more jobs.

It might not be up for long but here is the video in review. "Ugly ugly game"

Top 10 Worst Action Game Quirks

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1 Platform Jumping Camera - God of War, arguably one of the best action platformers ever created, also happened to be riddled with some of the most frustrating and cheap camera position problems. In one of the Hades levels you are jumping from platform to platform (literally) but the camera is facing behind you. So many times you are jumping nearly blindly. It just so happens that there are moving, spinning spikes of death that happen to be just out of view until you jump right into their path. Zoom out ladies and gentlemen, zoom out.

2 Convoluted Combos - Although they look really cool sometimes, again I have God of War in mind here, sometimes they don't add much to the game play.

3 Off-Camera Enemies - This has got to stop. If you can't see them and you have no control of the camera to look at them. They shouldn't be able to hit you.

4 Ammo Conservation - Does anyone really enjoy this? Is this really a necessary "strategy" concern in an action game? In RTS titles or games like Counter-Strike running out of ammo makes sense and I'm ok with that but not when it is so hard to come by. I stopped playing most of the Resident Evil games because I would run out of ammo and I refused to read a strategy guide for secrets and hints that are necessary to complete the game with a fair level of difficulty. Stabbing people with a dull knife gets old real quick when the bastards keep re-spawning and your ammo doesn't.

5 Pointless Quick Time Events - They are enjoyable to a certain degree, but they were overdone in God of War and Tomb Raider. Sometimes I would honestly rather watch a cut scene then play through those repetitive events. Some of those kills in G.O.W. looked cool to watch but I had to zone them out so I wouldn't miss the button prompts.

6 Cheap Hits - When you are fighting an enemy and it automatically locks on to them as your target, the enemies around you shouldn't be able to stun you with their attacks. Then you sit there and take a beating because your character gets stunned repeatedly and continuously. Eventually you get out of it but it is unnecessary damage that we could do without.

7 Ridiculous Enemies - I have always admired the Minotaur designs in both movies and cartoons but God of War destroyed that. A Minotaur with armor wasn't as cool as it could be. Most of the game catered to the ancient tales and the videos on the disc even emphasized the importance of simplicity and brutality so I figured the same would apply to the enemies. To the most part it did. The final boss looked ****c, the serpent in the beginning looked great but then a Robocop imitating Minotaur? I figure they wanted some visible way to show the player that they were succeeding in killing the beast but perhaps they could've just used flesh and bone? That would've been crazy. Samus Aran did it in that ****c battle against Kraid in Super Metroid.

8 Sexy Furries - What in the world are they thinking? Sex sells? Sure, I agree if they're talking about Lara Croft but what the hell is wrong with those developers drawing little animals with tube tops and big breasts in a game that caters to children? It's repulsive and a little scary.

9 Out of Context Level Design - In 1993 Nintendo began a resurgence of the mine-cart level design which has now become a staple of the action game. Ok it can be fun but it just does NOT belong in some games. Gears of War did NOT need a mine cart level. In an otherwise serious "ass kicking" attitude game, watching a big hulky guy with giant armor rolling around in a steel cradle felt awkward and silly. I imagine that's why they had that silly accident flip with Dom. Slapstick humor in a level they probably didn't take seriously either. I think it would've been more fun to run around in the background controlling the tracks and killing enemies so that your compadres make it safe down the track.

10 Swivel Cam Fall of Death - Super Mario 64 introduced this fantastic "feature." You are walking across a very thin path over a perilous drop. You are moving in 3D space moving your analog stick in the direction you want to go. Then as you progress across this tightrope of death, the camera quickly swings around and therefore changing the direction you were pointing. In God of War this continues and even swivels violently back and forth depending on which way you are looking.

As a sidenote, as fantastic as I think God of War was it managed to combine many of the problems listed in my collection here sometimes in a single scene. Hanging from a tightrope with guys shooting arrows at you, guys hitting you from the left and the right and the normally cool but complex combos become a repetitive kick kick kick fest.

What are your thoughts? Can you add more?

Slackin' Off

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Harsh. I've been a way for a while. New job, later hours. Much less time to blog. I still have plenty of ideas in me but my schedule just won't allow it. Fortunately I haven't lost my Soapbox privileges.

Cool. I used to be able to blog at work during my lunch hour but no more. I can't even read any news. I really didn't think it would have such a drastic effect.

Will I be able to pursue my true passion? Find out more later...

Top 10 Racing Game Quirks

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1 Odd Collision Detection - Ever see that strange vertical bunny-hop that your car does when you hit a pole or a wall? Remind you at all of Gran Turismo? Considering that its self-titled "Ultimate Driving Sim" motto doesn't come to mind when you see this happen is a problem for me. It needs to stop. Did you miss a pole by at least 5 feet and it still stops you cold in your tracks no matter how fast you were going? That's not what I meant by stop.

2 Rubberband A.I. - It's ok in Mario Kart I guess but in sims? I guess that's why you rarely get a replay function in Need for Speed so you can't watch those recently wrecked A.I. opponents drive like Automan. Get really far ahead and watch those rocket triangle markers on the radar/map go!

3 No Car Damage - If the Atari 2600 could handle car damage in Pole Position, I think the PS3 and 360 can handle it. (I can't speak for the Wii though.)

4 Cement Truck Opponents - When driving a Chrysler 300 you should be able to overpower a car the size of Geo Metro right? RIGHT? Why is it that no matter how large or powerful your vehicle is the A.I. opponents can always push you aside like a headless chicken?

5 Catapult Sidewalks - Some sidwalks you can blast right over, then there are others that toss your 2-ton machine hundreds of feet into the air during the last lap around the final corner.

6 A.I. Team Sacrifice - Team play is understandable if human opponents are involved. It has unfortunately become expected of the A.I. opponents to work together to take you down. Right from the start you can tell who the ringer is since all the opponents "communicate" with each other, slamming their brakes into you and using their Cement Truck weight to push you into a Catapult Sidewalk.

7 Traffic Sabotage - This "Console Communication" also applies to the NPC's. Non-playing cars. Those cars that throw themselves into your path in order to allow their digital buddy to pass you and eventually win the race.

8 Pop-up Surprise - Rare but horrifying when it occurs. There are the occasional games, still in this day and age unfortunately, that haven't quite worked out the level building timing. You turn around a corner and see a clear path ahead of you only to be surprised by a dumpster or a petrified tree that magically "poofs" before you.

9 Useless Camera Position - In car cameras are cool for tech demos but not actual gameplay. We must remember that we are already looking through a window into the game world, the television. So we are in effect, looking through a window, looking through a window only reducing what little frame of view we already had. Any camera that doesn't show you a clear view of the next turn is kind of stupid. You should NEVER have to resort to map to know when to expect a turn. Can you imagine F1 racers checking their maps every few seconds? NASCAR maybe, but not races where you can just attach the Club to the steering wheel to win.

10 Useless EggCars / No Replay - This one is a tie. "Ultimate Driving Sim." "Underground Racing to the Extreme." Eggmobile doesn't scream either of those two marketing quotes. I completely understand that in these racing sims or ladder based racing competitions you have to start somewhere, but seriously, why so many Yugo's? I blame them for the fall of Gran Turismo. Replay. If you make designing the look of your car such a prominent game mechanic, Hello NFS, it should be your right to see your artwork in action. PGR3 had the idea right. Photo's and replays. Some of the very first Need for Speed games had replays come on EA don't be lazy.

Oh who am I kidding?

Can you guys think of any more?

The Wii's Come March?

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As the only avid video game playing adult in my family, I inherited the responsibility and honor to supply the children in our family with any and nearly all video game information and hardware.  There are two kids that I buy games and systems for.  As most of you know all too well, this is an expensive hobby.  Imagine that times three.  I am a working adult with a mortgage and heavy bills but I make do.

Knowing Nintendo's now regular habit of drumming up free advertising with the media by its conveniently timed lack of supply, I knew it would be a challenge to obtain a system this generation.
Nintendo announced early that manufacturing of the system was well under way during summer last year.  That gave them plenty of time to make more than enough systems.  I had a bad experience with GameStop's reservations so I thought I would just wait in line.

The night before the Wii was released however we had a party to go to.  We left early to go wait in line and there were already people there.  For those that read my blog you know the details.  I had two other people available originally to go wait in line with me.  I had to buy three systems.  That would be one for me and two for my Godson's.

Only two of us were available to go at 3 a.m. to get in line and we walked away with only two.  I searched far and wide for the following months but to no avail.  I would call all the different retailers and would not get any satisfactory answer let alone a courteous telephone experience.  The retailers were fed up, and rightly so, with all the annoying requests.

So I listened to all the podcasts, read all the speculations.  Everyone and their Podcast Producer were claiming March was when the Wii's would be easily found.  I kept making excuses to my Godson and even contemplated giving up my own Wii to satisfy his wish.  I didn't want to give him a used one and refused to get one without a warrantee.  He is young and his Wii-Mote WILL break.

It is extremely popular to slam "analysts" for their educated guesses as to when products will benefit from sales and which products will come out on top.  Nearly every podcast that I listen to, The HotSpot not excluded, would repeatedly joke about the education and intelligence that it would take to become an industry analyst yet they also made the same mistake.

We all assumed that the Wii's would be around but the only ones that would ever truly know are Nintendo themselves.  Why must we continue to guess and make such statements?  Only to keep the public calm and happy by given them a solid answer?  If Nintendo won't concern itself with keeping the consumer happy why should any of the media outlets?

Let the investors trust their "Analysts" but don't infest our "only audio source's" with that guesstimation habit.

PSPedia Black

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A long time fan of new technology, I was one of the first in line for the PSP when it was released back in mid 2005.  I had high hopes for the system that, if it were only based on a comparison of technology, would be the only competitor to the infallible Nintendo portable console.

As we all know this could not be farther from the truth.  Sure the system is a (relative) success but it is far from the popular lightweight mp3 player hanging from everyone's neck like they tried to push it as in those early ads.

But today is not about Sony rants or PSP mourning's.  Today's blog is about a mystery that I came across who's answer was staring at me in the face the entire time and for the life of me could not figure out.

The moment I opened my first UMD game I felt concerned that these flimsy plastic self encased mini DVD's were going to scratch and crack easily, destroying my expensive portable game.  Possibly even destroying the most expensive portable gaming system I have ever bought.

I didn't like all the cotton and vinyl UMD carrying cases and bags because they looked more likely to scratch my precious copy of Wipeout.  I bought these plastic ones that in my opinion looked the most durable.

 

I still began to notice scratches on my discs though.  Once one was scratched I would keep it away from the other new discs out of fear that the rough texture of the scratched UMD would spread the "rash."  I was cycling the disc order, each getting their turn at the bottom of the pile.

Never really putting much thought into the cause I assumed it was just regular use damaging the delicate plastic casing.  Then one rare sunny day that I actually had my PSP out in the sun, I noticed scuff marks on the case itself.

 

Forgetting the fact that you can't see a thing on the PSP screen in daylight I was happy that I finally saw the "light."  I use the term happy loosely since all my games (and one free movie) was all scratched now.

I think we could all stand to benefit from accessory reviews.  I always enjoy those special edition articles that review hardware and accessories.  If only there were more.

User Soapbox Nerfed?

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Back to relative obscurity for me.  Ah well.  It was fun while it lasted.  I had a blast hearing your comments and discussions.

:D

Fanboy Breeding - Ignorance is Bliss

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We have all met them.  They are the loudest, most obnoxious, most outspoken, most driven and usually, unemployed members of the gaming community.  Why do they exist?  What purpose do they serve and more importantly, what situations breed these spawns of Satan himself?

I will attempt to answer these questions, and more in this little blog which I have titled;

Choice

It sounds good.  A word used frequently to describe the best of the best.  “USDA Choice.”  “This is an especially choice piece of filet mignon.”  Yet this small seemingly harmless word can cause undue strife in the life of a young adolescent.

Since the early days of videogames, choice made our electronic hobby exceedingly difficult.  “Boy, I sure like all those titles to choose from on the Atari but those blazingly advanced graphics on my friend’s ColecoVision look rad!”

Sometimes it’s easier to justify a bad choice by pointing out the deficiencies of the competitor than to realize and accept the fact that there is rarely a clearly “better” console.

Parents usually force children to make choices when they receive expensive gifts.  “What do you want for your birthday?” they ask.  “A Wii, a PS3, an XBox 360, a PSP and a DS-Lite thank you very much.”

If the world was perfect and we would get all three then the fanboy ne’er would exist.  As it stands however, getting all these systems would push nearly $2,000 not including any additional controllers, games or HDMI cables (thanks Sony.)

Children quickly learn to “justify” whichever purchase they choose to either make the decision less painful or to sell the idea to their parents.  If you’ve ever been to an electronics store during Christmas you know what I’m talking about.  “Oh but maw, Saint’s Row is nothing like that Grand Theft Auto game I promise!  Look it’s not made by Rockstar SEEE!?!”

Children learn to lie to their parents quickly and eventually they start lying to themselves.

Nintendo tells them “People don’t want online play.”  They believe it.

Sony tells them “What you’re buying is potential.”  They believe it.

Microsoft tells them “20 GB is more than enough space for HD video.”  They believe it.

Can we blame the big 3’s marketing departments for the fact that these brainwashed automatons regurgitate their marketing spins as a way of life?

As time goes on and these kids grow up they start saving money for their hobby.  The choice becomes more difficult since it is their hard saved cash that they are investing.  They better be damn sure they are making the right choice.  So instead of actually incorporating the pro’s AND con’s of any console they simply ignore all of the con’s of their system of choice and the pro’s of the competitor’s.  It makes the decision that much easier.

So don’t get angry at the little numbskulls.  Eventually, when they get good paying jobs, they will see the error of their ways.  Once they realize that “Hey, I could totally buy all the system’s if I wanted to.” they will laugh at themselves and how moronic they used to be.