you heard me
I think most people know that I left the site abruptly in November, and can probably guess why, if my constant crusading against CNET during gerstmann-gate wasn't enough of an indication. So now I've come back 8 months later to make an official farewell post and to give people a heads up of where they would see me.
Now why would I come back after 8 months to make a blog post on GS? Well it's mainly because of the launch of Giantbomb, and seeing it's where a lot of ex-GS members are now flocking to,(and of course where Jeff and a lot of the old GS crew are now staffed) I found it beneficial to update my blog about it. Consider Giantbomb to be my permanent replacement for GS in regards to a full fledged profile page in which I update my blog constantly. My username is the same as over here as well, so it won't be hard to find me there either. As a site that just officially launched today, the traffic is incredible, and the general design is top notch. Of course it isn't 100% perfect, but that is to be expected for a 1st day launch.
Now you might see me on the giantbomb forums ocassionally, but it's definately not my main forum that I will constantly be checking. That would go to the infamous NeoGaf. The forum that pretty much haed me down since the gerstmann-gate incident and will most likely be my go-to place in terms of forums for a while to come. Like Giantbomb, my username is the same as the one here, so if any of you are planning to join GAF in the near future, you will at least know one member of the forum.:P
Well, that's it for me. Hope to see some of you at Giantbomb! Drop me a comment if you still remember me.
Oh and to finally finish off my console buying blog, from months past, I got a 360, with plans to get a PS3 somewhere in the fall. If you want to add me on Xbox Live my username is onem1c.
I think this has to be the largest amount of games I've bought this month and it's only going to continue rising. Today I just bought COD4 and Crysis from my local EB games store. Along with orange box and gears this marks the 4th game purchase I've made this month alone. Hopefully I'll be satisfied by both titles, especially after the good things I've heard about them.
Now there are only 3 more games standing in my way, Forged Alliance, Unreal Tournament 3, and World in Conflict. This has to be one of the best years of gaming, but one of the worst years for our wallets.
SO with my first paycheck out the door I decided to finally pick up orange box. It's installing on my 40gb PC right now, and it's going to take a lot of deletion to put in gears as well. Even though some people might have seen me ramble about how crappy GFW live is and how the whole "pay for gold to play ranked" bs really pissed me off, especially when services like steam offer pretty ,much the exact same features at no price, I still went for it over call of duty 4. Maybe I'm crazy, but I just couldn't drop a game that I've been highly anticipating for months on end.(I just began getting hyped for COD4 a month ago)
And with that I'm pumped and primed for the GS TF2 tourney. (Yes I registered for the tourny yesterday even when I didn't own TF2. So what?)
Yes, you heard me correctly. I'm going to get a 360. As I finally have a job and can get enough money to support my broke self, I've decided to finally begin saving to enter the next generation of consoles. My use of the PS2 has been pretty dismal at best, with the only game worth playing on it so far being FFXII(Although I stopped playing the game as I've been having some serious trouble beating some statue boss) I'm hoping to buy a halo edition 360 before Nov. 20 so I can be one of the first to pick up Mass effect, a game that I have been watching for some time now and is by far my most anticipated game this fall.(falling a little ahead of the orange box)I even read the prequel, which marks my first time finishing a book in the past 6 or 7 years. Yes, it's that damn good! I'm also hoping to indulge on the halo 3 craze and pick up gears of war on the side. If all goes well I'll also be able to upgrade my aging computer too.
Now I just have to hope that nothing goes wrong mand my job is actually satisfying.(I head working as a cashier can be a real pain in the ass)
After months of waiting I finally picked up my limited edition copy of
bioshock. I was actually extremely lucky I got the LE edition too,
because I pre-ordered the LE yesterday and from what the EB game
manager said, the LE version sold out a few hours after I pre-ordered.
I haven't played it yet as I'm waiting until night to finally install
and indulge in some rapture goodness, but I have opened it up and as
such have taken pictures of the LE edition(Especially that big daddy
figurine!) for you guys to look at.
*On a side note I decided to pick up a copy of COH alongside LE
bioshock. With supcom, COH, and bioshock now in my hands I'm sure not
to get any sleep for some time to come. :P
I can't stop playing Supreme Commander!(supcom for short) Ever since I got it last week, I've been playing on GPGNet all day. This is seriously the best RTS game I've played since starcraft and that's saying a lot. Although its SP really needs to be improved on(In comparison to the likes of company of heroes) Supreme Commanders MP is by far the best I've seen in an RTS game to date. Not only is the GPGNet system great,(All supcom games are handled through here) with its extensive ranking system, user DL content, clan system, replay vault, and innovative world map, but the fun factor within each game is just a sight to behold. I've actually not been able to play the world in conflict beta as much as before because of this game. I said that WiC would blow every RTS game out of the water but I ake that back. Although WiC is an amazing game and a definite GOTY contender supcom just destroys it in the MP department, same goes with CNC3 and COH. They just can't compare.
Some of the things that I've heard about supcom(and actually believed myself, which made me a bit hesitant to buy it at first :D) is that it's a very slow paced game, where all you do is overwhelm you enemies with units. This is by far the biggest misconception of supcom I've ever heard. The game is anything but slow paced. At the games outset you have to be thinking fast and if you're not fast enough within less than 3 minutes you could find your economy destroyed or even worse, your commander. If you even try to move at a slow pace you will lose(I had to learn that the hard way) and thinking strategically is really the name of the game here, literally. You need to know where to effectively place forward bases, fire bases, (a base made up of AA, point defenses and artillery, etc. usually placed around choke points and other critical areas) and placement of units. Simply moving your units into a base without proper scouting, wither by land or air will have your forces decimated if you're not careful. Although the game seems simple at its outset, especially if you play the early SP missions on easy AI, the game is a lot more sophisticated at its core.
BTW, since I know I won't be able to play world in conflict that often since I have supcom, I'm offering anyone that PM's me first a beta key.
Ah, I've talked too much already, I...have....to....play...more....supcom! :D
I'm really surprised that I got this emblem. Maybe it's because of my recent obsession with getting all the old classics that I missed in my lifetime. I'm talking about fallout, baldur's gate I +II, x-com, and jagged alliance 2. Considering that I'm 17 most of these games came out when I was 3(x-com) or 7(fallout). The only things left on my classics list is planescape torment and ultima VII for my psp.
At the same time though my good taste emblem dissapeared. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
-First 2 paragraphs below taken from my original post
Ever since I found out bethesda was taking the reigns on the production of the series, I've always been quite skeptical. After all their track record on making complex games, RPGs,(Not action RPG's, which is what the TES series has been as of late) or at least games that their fans wanted is pretty bad and/or non existant. Just look at oblivion for reference.(Yes I know some of you will probably argue with me on that and I'm more than happy to get into a discussion about it) After the release of their fallout 3 teaser my cautiousness towards the title is still unwaivering as the teaser showed almost nothing about the gameplay, which is pretty much what really matters. Now with bethesda stating that they want to supposedly "reinvent" the series, I have become more skeptical than ever, and this article I found really isn't helping.
Posted on the NMA forums(No mutants allowed) This pretty much talks about the history of bethesda and their general kick in the pants they've given to their fans. I always thought that bethesda didn't really care much about their fans, but this just blew me away. I uesed to be slightly optimistic that bethesda might actually deliever on a fallout sequel and make it worthy of having a "3" in its name, but not anymore. Below you'll read about the various practices that bethesda has currently used to advertise and develop their games and the various fan sites they've used as springboards to use as hype, or to ultimately shut-up. It's pretty long as it will be in 2 blog posts so bear with me, but I'm sure it will be interesting for most people to read throughout.
This is of course the last of the three parts so pat yourself on the back for coming this far. Of course discussion amongst ths topic is recommended if possible.
Deconstructing the Hype
The purpose of this piece is not to encourage the reader to boycott all products produced or developed by Bethesda. It is instead a warning, that one must be aware of how their hype machine operates, and how not to be drawn in by mindless lingo and false promises, as was the case with Oblivion and Star Trek Legacy.
We'll now take a look at two examples of PR hype from Todd Howard and Pete Hines, the first from the previously cited Escapist article, the second from a recent Shacknews interview
First, Todd Howard's comments in the Escapist article:
"You can't repeat yourself," he said. "I think it's a common trap when working on a sequel to just add some new features and content, and keep doing that. I think that's a good way to drive your games into the ground. You start drifting from what made the game special in the first place. So with The Elder Scrolls, I'm careful to not repeat what we've done before, and to really focus on trying to recapture again what made the games exciting in the first place.
This is an interesting statement, considering that while commercially succesful, since Todd has become the head of Bethesda's in-house development studio, The Elder Scrolls has lost precisely what made its predecessors special. You'll remember that we've already established that it was the roguelike elements and massive gameworlds that made Arena and Daggerfall unique. Playing Oblivion and Morrowind it's clear that, for better or worse, they don't feel like traditional Elder Scrolls games.
This odd way of making sequels worries Fallout fans, because it suggests that Todd has a habit of focusing on precisely what hasn't made a franchise special. For Fallout and Fallout 2, specifically, they used Isometric perspectives, turn-based combat, and a simulationist roleplaying experience. None of those features has ever been in the experience of any current Bethesda developer. Certainly not Todd. It's arguable that none of the Elder Scrolls games even come close to being significant roleplaying experiences. Pete Hines has also affirmed rumours that Bethesda refused to hire original Fallout developers, as will be made clear shortly.
"That's what happens when you're the first to try something," he said. "We certainly took it on the chin for that in the press, but people are still buying that horse armor! I'm talking hundreds of thousands of people.
Horse Armor, for those of you that don't know, was a cosmetic feature removed from the original release of Oblivion and sold later through microtransactions for $2.50 US. While on the surface, hundreds of thousands may sound like a large number, you'll remember that Oblivion has to date sold 3 million units. Hundreds of thousands could only ever represent a small portion of Oblivion gamers who were willing to give the mod a shot, and doesn't even indicate how many of those customers were even satisfied with the purchase. By quoting big numbers, Todd has attempted to make the decisions of Bethesda seem in the right, when in fact the numbers don't mean anything.
"Like I was talking about before, with sequels, you have to define the experience the first one had and stay true to it," he said. "I think the first Fallout's tone is brilliant, but then they start to drift in the sequel and subsequent games. When it comes to humor, I'm very anti 'jokes' in games.
Todd's statement that the series lost quality may appear to sound good to hardliners, but it's that very appearance which raises suspicion. For the longest time Bethesda has remained tight-lipped about what they consider to be important in Fallout, or even what they're doing with Fallout 3. To make such a comment now in the midst of several PR fiascos looks to be nothing more than lip-service.
That aside, his position on "jokes" in games is also questionable, considering that the ad-campaign for the Oblivion expansion, Shivering Isles has focused predominantly on how "funny" the game will be for its focus on madness.
Now moving on to Pete Hines and his Shacknews interview:
Shack: You guys have your own trademark series so you're used to dealing with fan expectation, but is it different or intimidating working on a franchise like Fallout that already has such a built in reputation?
Pete Hines: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. For a couple of reasons. Number one is that we're treating it as if we made the first two, with the same care and attention we give to The Elder Scrolls, but the truth of the matter is that we haven't. As a result there's probably a lot more divergent opinion about what it should be, what we should do, are we the right guys to do it, and so on.
Remember how they treated The Elder Scrolls?
It's also interesting to note that he says that they've treated Fallout 3 like the first two games, while then saying that they actually haven't, making the entire exchange completely meaningless.
Pete Hines: Internally, not really. Internally, we're a bunch of Fallout geeks. There is nobody [here] who hasn't played that game and enjoyed it. I have that game on my laptop, I take it with me and play it. But it's definitely different, because it's not really considered ours, the franchise. We didn't start it. There is a little bit of that sentiment out there that we have to prove that we're worthy to be the guys to make Fallout 3. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, because we have very high expectations for ourselves. The standard that we hold ourselves to, the kind of games we expect to make in terms of quality, we have a very high level of expectation. There's really nothing like the people from the outside expecting more than we expect ourselves.
The notion that all Bethesda devs have played and loved Fallout is highly questionable, considering that in 2004, one Bethesda developer registered as HayT on the Something Awful forums stated:
I also need to find time to play through Fallout 2 now, which is a game I never got to. Don't know when the hell that's going to happen, as I'm a little behind on work as it is.
Whether at the present, all Bethesda devs had played "and loved" Fallout is uknowable, but the fact of HayT's leak, as old as it is, is enough to cast doubts.
Note also that what people "from the outside" expect of Bethesda, in terms of the fan communities, isn't much.
It's a lot like when we were doing Morrowind. Everybody said, "Well, the last game you did was Daggerfall, and it was really buggy, and everything you're telling me about Morrowind sounds good but you need to prove it." It kind of has that same feel, that people are saying, "Yeah, I liked Oblivion, and you guys are good at roleplaying, but you have to prove that you aren't going to screw up this beloved franchise." We think we can do it. We are the right guys to be doing this franchise, we do take it seriously, and we do want to make it a powerful force in roleplaying in terms of what these games can do and be. We hope that when we show people what we're up to, they'll agree. Some folks will, and some folks will say it's not what they wanted. At the end of the day, we respect that, but we have to do what we think is right. Again, you can't make the game that everybody wants because you'll get ten different answers about what that game is.
This is also another effective marketing tool that absolves Bethesda of any wrongdoing because you "can't please everybody," including the fans of the franchise they're developing for.
It's been repeated several times in the past by others talking about Fallout spinoffs:
We know we cannot please everyone - gluttoncreeper on Fallout d20
Yeah, they have their own debates going on about even games that have already shipped. So Fallout was the best, Fallout 2 was the best, etc. So trying to please them was almost like trying to please everybody, but you can't. - Chuck Cuevas on Fallout: BOS
All of these statements ignored the fact that what fans want isn't the feared "Oblivion with guns," a pen & paper game modeled after d20 instead of GURPS (the system Fallout was originally developed for), or an action spin-off instead of an honest-to-God Fallout sequel with similar gameplay mechanics. Considering Bethesda's attitudes towards NMA, DAC, the Codex, STG, and Elder Scrolls fans, it would appear that they too don't care what the fans want.
Shack: Have you spoken at all to the original creators of the franchise--who from what I know already had less complete involvement with Fallout 2 than with the first game--in any capacity?
Pete Hines: We have, on an individual basis. Some of those folks have contacted us on varying levels, whether it's a "Hey, good luck" or a job inquiry or what have you. Not really formally though, no. Again, it's one of those things where I have a lot of respect for those guys. I was a huge Black Isle fan, and all those RPGs coming out of Interplay at the time. I loved Baldur's Gate, Fallout. It was fantastic. Way back when, when I wrote for the Adrenaline Vault, Interplay was one of my companies. I used to cover all their stuff and play everything they put out. I still have my shrinkwrapped copies of Baldur's Gate and Planescape. They did great stuff for which I will always have tremendous respect. But at the same time, if we're going to move forward, we're really going to have to move forward. We can't just say, "Well, let's ask these guys what they think." As Fallout fans and guys who make roleplaying games and have for over a decade, we have pretty good ideas about what we want to do and how to do it.
Notice the discrepancy? Despite being "the right guys to be doing this franchise," as self-proclaimed Fallout fans, Bethesda apparently wasn't interested in hiring people like Leonard Boyarsky or Tim Cain onto the project, even as consultants. The people who created the very franchise they're fans of. Surely any fan making a Fallout game would jump at the chance to work with the "masters" that created one of their favorite roleplaying games.
There's very little to interpret from this statement, other than the significant possibility that Bethesda being full of "Fallout fans" is a lie.
Shack: How do you respond to certain voices from the PC community who make claims such as that you're dumbing down games for the console platforms?
Pete Hines: Yeah, I can't really... It becomes an issue of "Yes you did, no you didn't." They say that we dumbed down our game, that it isn't as complex as Morrowind or that it isn't as good as Daggerfall. I say, the same people that made Morrowind made Oblivion. There were maybe three or four people total that worked on Morrowind that didn't work on Oblivion. We had designers that had key roles in Daggerfall that designed those same systems for Oblivion. The same ones that people said we dumbed down from Daggerfall were the ones that those same guys made.
So four people worked on Morrowind but didn't work on Oblivion. While objectively true, in reality it discounts the massive expansion to the development team between Morrowind and Oblivion.
According to Moby Games, 46 people from Morrowind worked on Oblivion. Compare that to the massively expanded credits for Oblivion, of which 18 people had worked on the Elder Scrolls action spin-off Redguard (which Todd Howard was also the project lead on), while only 5 had worked on Daggerfall, in which 26 people are credited in the design of the game. Numerically, only a handful of people who made ****c Elder Scrolls games worked on Oblivion, and logically, simply because a sequel has been made by the same company that made its predecessor, that doesn't mean that the sequel hasn't been "dumbed down."
Don't Buy the Hype
If I were a betting man, I'd say that the Fallout communities should brace for impact. Bethesda has made several indications that it will steer the Fallout franchise away from what made it special.
Bethesda is a clear example of the fact that regardless of how well a company behaved in the past, it still has the chance to develop into a soulless money-making machine. They've used bullying and scare tactics in an attempt to silence fan communities, and have given no indication that they give a damn what the fans think. In addition to all of that, they have recently made the announcement that they are seeking a community manager, a move that appears to further Bethesda's policy of seeking control over fan communities.
The current project lead of Fallout 3 is a man whose development experience is dominated by action games, and turned Bethesda's own in-house adventure franchise into an action franchise.
There is tremendous cause for worry. Don't buy the hype.
Blacklisting the Codex
Bethesda's bullying before the launch of Oblivion can be best seen in an interview with Douglas Goodall. Goodall was a writer who had left Bethesda after working on Morrowind over his own disagreements with the direction Todd had steered the franchise. However, the interview in which Goodall aired his grievances was forcibly removed from an Elder Scrolls fansite:
Here are the new terms, AS: remove the interview *in its entirety*. All of it. Gone.
Or remove anything submitted by me that hasn't been published by Bethsoft. It's actually quite a lot. Go check. It's mine, it's copyrighted to me, and it's only allowed on your site through my permission.
It doesn't stop there. It won't stop there. I will pursue my own roads to have the rest of your copyrighted material removed, as well.
It's frankly very easy to comply. It's frankly very hard for you to continue with me as an enemy. - Michael Kirkblade
The first signs of trouble for NMA began shortly after Emil Pagliarulo announced himself at the NMA. He posted four times in two days, all in introduction threads, and then went inactive to this day. At the time little was thought of it, and any who cared presumed he had gone back to lurking or was too busy to post.
Meanwhile, Oblivion was released to both the derision and despair of the I love Oblivion community. A month after release, the Codex's Vault Dweller posted his Oblivion review on the front page. Bethesda responded severely to the critical review:
Gavin Carter joined I really love Oblivion in Jul 2004, Steve Meister joined the site a few months later. Both Bethesda developers posted regularly (Steve made over 700 posts), but left us ubruptly in Jan 2006. No explanations were given, but the fact that both of them left the site at the same time does support the theory that they've been told not to post at the Codex anymore. Clearly though, anyone who regularly posts at the Codex for more than a year is well aware of what the Codex is and can't claim that they left because the site is anti-Oblivion or something like that.
As you know, we've always criticized Oblivion, being unimpressed with what's been shown and the focus of the marketing campaign: soil erosion, Stewart, pretty graphics. For awhile, the ESF crowd dismissed our criticism, hoping that the game will deliver what's been promised and new features will be unveiled soon. As the game was getting closer to the release, it was also getting clear that the Codex has at least some points, so more and more people were agreeing with us and admitting that our criticism is based on facts, not bias. Then the game was released and my review was posted on ESF. People started agreeing with it, referring to it, calling it the only honest review, and so on. That's when the ESF mods stated that the Codex is a bad site and its evil influence must be stopped. All links and even references (!) to the site were removed, many people arguing this case were banned. Then even the name of the site was censored. If you type I really love Oblivion, it will be auto replaced with "I really love Oblivion".
I asked several Bethesda people about it, and was told that "Any mention of I really love Oblivion will be deleted. That is all I am at liberty to say."
The I love Oblivion is a free-spirited community that encourages a "say what you please" mentality. The end result sometimes manifesting in the use of links to shock sites. Bethesda cited these causes for their blacklisting of the Codex, however at the time, ESF forum members were also using links to shock sites, and conducting discussions about lewd content. In other words, Bethesda's stated motives were a lie used as an attempt to justify the control and censuring of a community beyond its reach, a trend that has since been repeated.
Where No Trekkie Can Go Anymore
While Fallout changed hands between Interplay and Bethesda, the Star Trek gaming franchise was suspended in a state of limbo. STG's Victor recalls in his interview with NMA:
Star Trek gaming history, now THAT'S a toughy, there's over a decades worth of my views on that subject. Suffice to say it went from one of the most lucrative franchises in the world (PC Gamer Magazines words...not mine) to a blatantly mismanaged mess. For more details have a look at http://www.startrek-gamers.com/history2.htm. It's my ongoing attempt to chart the rise and slow fall of Trek gaming from its official inception by Interplay in 1992 to the death of the franchise in 2003 with the Activision lawsuit, the history stopped there but a new section from 2003 onwards is in the works.
At some point, however, Bethesda was able to acquire the rights to make Star Trek games. In a private exchange with this author, Victor relates:
To be honest no one knows how Bethesoft managed to aquire the rights for the Star Trek franchise. No one knew about it until Harry lang from Paramount announced it at the very beginning of January 2006, what made CBS go with Bethesda no one knows since the 4 previous publishers were much larger companies than Bethesda ever was.
I do know one thing though, the franchse was offered to larger companies like EA...and they flat out refused to take it on after the damage that Activision (had) done to the franchise in 2001 to 2003.
The Star Trek game Bethsoft was working on is Star Trek Legacy. Published by Bethesda and developed by MadDoc, it was released on December 05, 2006 for the PC and Xbox360 to below-average reception by gaming media. Whitemithrandir of the Codex, however, had other ideas of the game:
No. I'm not trying to be dramatic. I'm not trying to exaggerate. I seriously think Star Trek: Legacy is the worst game ever, on the magnitude of Big Rig and [censored] Superman 64...
...Well, I guess as long as the campaign is fun and interesting I could forgive the mindless gameplay mechanics, right? Oh, you want me to go on a "mission"? Save some Vulcans? Sweet! Cool!. Oh noes, incoming wave of Romulan [censored]es! Fight fight fight. Oh no, they have reinforcements! Fight fight fight. Oh no! More Romulans! Fight fight fight. Holy [censored], how many of these [censored]s are there? Fight fight fight. Fight fight fight. Fight fight fight. Sir! Incoming warp signature! OH NO! MORE ROMULANS! [censored] YOU I QUIT.
Legacy was awful, and the sentiment was felt at STG. Why would Bethesda ship such a horrible title? Again Victor relates:
As for Legacy. The game itself was based on 2 previously cancelled titles from Activision. Legacy's first appearance was as Star Trek: Bridge Commander 2 which was to be published by Activision and developed by Totally Games (same devs as the original Bridge Commander). It was cancelled in early 2002 and then reappeared in late 2002 as a new title called Star Trek: Admiral and was held over to the developers of Armada 2....MadDoc Software. That game was then cancelled in 2003 since Activision was in the process of filing the lawsuit and all games under development at that point in time was canned.
Fast forward 3 years into 2006 and Star Trek: Admiral was renamed Star Trek: Legacy and work began on a game which was already cancelled twice by the previous publisher. It's no wonder that there is signs of 3 different game engines inside legacy's core files the most predominant one being the engine of Star Trek: Armada 2.
No one in the community knew much about Bethesda Softworks. Some of the forum posters knew them from the Oblivion game and told tales of how Bethesda shafted that community, some of those early posts are stll viewable in the official star trek gaming forums of Bethesda. No one took them serious though since the hype that surrounded Oblivion was so intense that everyone in trek gaming thought that Bethesda would be Star Trek gaming's new "messiah"...
...boy...did we get that part wrong.
Again from the NMA interview:
Originally it was met with open arms. This was the first game in 3 years and the fan sites were all over it, STG being the one that got the most interviews with the makers of all 3 games (there was Tactical Assault and Encounters being made as well). It was directly leading up to the release in December when things started to turn sour. It started to become obvious that a lot of the features which were hinted at being in the game weren't going to be there, which is the usual case in Trek games. I for one thought it was a bad omen and then when the PC version of the game was released at the end of December we all saw it for what it was...a cheap port of a console game.
As for what is wrong, well, this should sum it all up, they shipped the game with virtually no multiplayer capability for the PC and released a patch on the day of release. That should tell you about their so called "Quality Control" team, they couldn't control their way out of a wet paper bag with a pair of scissors. The game's control mechanism on the keyboard is locked in place, there are numerous bugs with single play and multiplay. So much infact that multiplay has already died off with very few people playing the game online, that hasn't happened since Simon & Schuster released Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Dominion Wars, and that game was an utter disgrace...much like Legacy is today. They based the game on what looks like several seperate game engines, one of them being the age old Armada 2 engine, and that game is now more than 3 years old. Thats what happens when a publisher gives a game to a 3rd rate developer (MadDoc) and then the same publisher (Bethesda) has a non existant QC department and ships the game out as an ALPHA.
STG's reaction developed from welcoming the game to criticizing it. Again, the actions of a community outside of their reach caused Bethesda to attempt to silence them.
On Jan 24th, Victor announced on the STG forums, that Bethesda had blacklisted their site.
Now, people who know me know what I am like. I speak my mind. If I dont like something I say it right on the front page of the site, screw the consequences. It got to the stage where Bethesda Softworks' silence was getting beyond a joke, and that's when The Argus Array, the STG's Star Trek Gaming podcast (which gets about 100,000 listeners) went on the record and listed the flaws of the game in a constructive manner. Argus 13, 14 and 15 all discussed what was wrong with the game and then Lindsay Muller (some kind of artist in Bethesda) came on the official Bethesda boards and said that the Argus Array must follow Bethesda Forum policies...basically Bethesda was now trying to dictate what i should put on my own podcast which I pay the hosting for.
...needless to say I wasn't happy. They didn't want criticism, but I gave it to them full bore. I told them exactly what I thought of Legacy. All the while another particular "fansite" remained silent. It got to the stage where official "volunteer" moderators in the Bethesda boards were allowing any topic made by me to be flamed, but at the same time they banned any of my staff in the forum for the slightest misdemeanor.
Divide & Conquer
What happened to STG wasn't merely a simple blacklisting. Bethesda employed a tactic of Divide & Conquer:
For the first 6 months Bethesda acted like the consumate publisher, something the likes of myself havent seen in trek gaming for a decade. They were WILLING to talk to the fan sites like mine, more than willing for the largest of those fansites (STG) to do a stack of publicity for them via interviews and podcasts. It all changed the day of Legacy's release though, PR stopped, communication stopped and all attempts at criticising legacy in the forums was either locked, covered up or said posters simply vanished from the forums.
...and then the blackballing happened...
They did it for several reasons. One of them being that one or two other major fansites haven't officially come out in public on their front page and panned Legacy, only the STG did. The second reason is one which is more...worrying. Some of the official "volunteer" moderators in the Star Trek Bethesda forums have ties and links to one of the STG competitor fansites...STGU. ChessMess who is the lead of that site doesn't see eye to eye with me and therefore both sites do not get along. This has filtered into Bethesda's way of thinking. Bethesda Softworks had the chance to close down a hateblog on Google's blogger site that was running flame stories about myself and the staff of my site. The blog was being fed information and screenshots by one of the moderators of the official Bethesda board, we know that cause one of the screenshots which the blog displayed had the moderator controls on the screen.
We emailed Bethesda about this...no reply.
We emailed Bethesda about the state of the game...no reply.
We emailed Bethesda about the interview with Pete Hines which Erin Losi PROMISED us...no reply.
This happened the day Legacy was released.
STG and STGU are the kane and abel of the Star Trek gaming franchise. It's an historic point in 2004 when the split between the 2 sites finally started to happen that everyone knows about. Both sites take opposite views of the franchise. STGU thinking that everything is fine while STG telling folks what is really happening out there, fact is STGU doesnt give out "bad press".
That relationship between both sites Bethesda was made aware of, thats why they chose STGU members as the new moderators of the Star Trek gaming official board in Bethesda and thats why half of my staff from my site are now banned from the same forum. The new moderators constantly lock or delete threads i make and give out official warnings to people affiliated with my site everyday and they do it with Bethesda's full knowledge.
Fansite favoritism, complacency in harassment on their official boards, complacency in hate blogs? How Bethesda treated the STG goes beyond a mere blacklisting. By using the STG for their marketing, and then dropping them in favor of a site that wouldn't criticize the end product, Bethesda has acted in a manner that many fear they'll attempt to repeat in the Fallout communities.
Remember our friend Emil? Posting as Lohan, he made a grand total of four posts at No Mutants Allowed on February the second, and the third of 2006. Since then he has yet to make any other post at NMA, and it is perhaps not all that surprising that he made his presence known, and then became scarce shortly before the release of Oblivion.
Fast-forward to October, when Emil made his first post at Duck and Cover as Bethsoft _Emil. It was after being announced Lead Designer of the Fallout 3 project, and yet while posting at DAC he had yet to announce himself on NMA.
I asked Kharn of NMA about the issue:
As for divide and conquer, that's a suspicion created by Lohan's first visit to DaC and made worse by our info from STG's Victor.
When I asked Lohan why he was visiting DaC but not NMA, he stated that he didn't feel like visiting a place where his company was just being burned. This was total and utter [censored] as far as the forums were concerned. Both DaC and NMA members were given the freedom of burning Bethesda, but only NMA had an official policy of discouraging this behaviour amongst members. DaC and NMA were both fairly neutral on the frontpage back then. His stated reason being such an obvious lie, we concluded he was either badly informed or Bethesda was trying to favour what they saw as the more easily manipulateable fansite. The latter seems to more likely conclusion.
[censored] indeed. Remember Emil's first post at NMA?
...I'm really just dropping in to say hello and introduce myself. I'm another Bethesda dev who's been lurking around the forums for a while now, but has never actually posted. It's so much easier to just sit back and watch Pete Hines get tossed into the meat grinder...
...Seriously, though, you guys are awesome. In the few months I've been visiting these forums I've seen more spirited, passionate, intelligent game design discussion than I have on a lot of other game forums in the past few years.
Emil couldn't have possibly been lurking on NMA and then claim to have stopped posting because the company he works for gets ragged on. Especially since he made a joke about the harsh language used when referring to Pete Hines, who works for and is considered the mouth piece for the company that Emil works for.
He's certainly lied about company loyalties, possibly lied about being a lurker, and possibly even lied about thinking well of NMA. His history with NMA and DAC all suggest that his posting habits are being dictated by the company, possibly Pete Hines himself. Even when posting at DAC, however, he only posted a short amount of time, from October 27th, to November 12th, which for the unobservant reader was a month before the release of Star Trek Legacy.
Is there significance to the fact that Emil made his presence known and then stopped posting at two different Fallout fansites a month before the release of two titles produced, and one developed, by Bethsoft? It's impossible to say. Yet, considering the fact that MrSmileyFaceDude, another Bethesda developer has been posting occasionally at DAC, up to January 23rd (at the time this is being written, it is mid-February), whereas his last post made at NMA was on March 14th, 2006, the evidence appears to show signs of favoritism.
What does this mean for the future of NMA and DAC? If the evidence from the blacklisting of I love Oblivion and STG are anything to go by, there's a significant possibility that as the hype machine for Fallout 3 kicks into gear, Bethesda will attempt to use DAC and NMA in order to serve as marketing tools, as was the case with STG and STGU. Eventually, when Bethsoft finds that NMA and DAC won't tow the party line, they'll be blacklisted, and Bethesda may possibly even attempt to garner DAC's complacency with meaningless benefits and exclusive info.
The previous statement serves as a warning. If Bethesda does attempt to control NMA and DAC they are sure to be severely dissapointed.