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taxonomic Blog

Wow, apparently, I'm back??

I know a lot of folks have wondered where I went. Heck, even I did. JodyR even didn't know what was up, and she's a mod. Regardless, I discovered I am unbanned, for whatever reason I was banned anyway, and figured I'd update all of you guys about my current goings-on and where my reviews moved since I was removed from Gamespot's community.

I write for at the moment, and while it's a very small site that mainly covers under-the-radar games, it's quite nice. It's certainly not going to challenge Gamespot in size or readership (or content, YET!) but it's quite nice and they let me go wild in my reviews.

I've written a lot of reviews for the site, but my favorite was my Original Sin review:

So, basically, that's it. I guess I'll use this site again for putting reviews that are too "mainstream" for nichegamer. Plus I can't have someone pay me for a review and then post it here too, I don't know if he'd be cool with it. Like, for instance, I'm reviewing Risen 3 for our site at the moment, but I also want to do a review of the new Borderlands I'll put that here. Also, I lost the war for our Xillia 2 review, so someone else is doing that. Which means, of course, that I'll be putting my Xillia 2 review here.

Hope people are still, you know, AROUND! I'll be posting as time permits.

Taxonomic's Quick and Dirty E3 Rundown Blog

So E3 is just about over (Other than the excellent live cam feed that Gamespot has been doing...good job for once, guys) and I have plenty to say about what was the gaming world's very own Super Bowl and World Series rolled into one. It was happy, it was sad, it was pathetic and sometimes it was beautiful. A display of electronic nonsense that was without peer, and sometimes without any decency either if you count the scantily clad booth babes that take women's rights back a few decades.

Skin-painted women aside, there was plenty to talk about at E3 this year and I'm going to touch on a few of the things that moved me...either for good or for ill.


Nintendo: (Overall grade: D)

First up we have Nintendo's big announcement....which turned out to be a console that I suppose is more powerful than it's two competitors but looks to have nothing on it that helps it stand out. I don't want to sit here and beat up on them because so LITTLE is known about it, but it does reflect badly on Nintendo for not showing more actual footage of and perhaps demo'ing a game or two. For a system that is due out next summer you'd think they would have, at the very least, some mock-ups running on stage.

How Nintendo is going to deal with the Xbox720 or the PS4 (Can't say that'll be their names) when they come out a couple years down the road (Industry rumors say 2013) I haven't a clue.

For the record I did like the gamepad with screen design, but the placement of the analog sticks looks very wrong and whether this thing has a real online network like XBL or PSN remains to be seen. If it doesn't, then the Wii-U (Say it quickly, like an Ambulance siren) will be the kind of flop that doesn't just embarrass a company, but ruins a company. Nintendo had better realize how important the success of their system is to their future. Naming it a silly name was not a good start, either.

Perhaps even more egregious of a sin was Nintendo's lack of info concerning the mysterious state of Last Story & Xenoblade's English release. With all the rumors about these games it shocks me they haven't addressed them. Especially since the Wii is STARVING for RPGs so much that fans are actually buying up used copies of Arc Rise for 40 bucks due to its demand and rarity.

People want Last Story and Xenoblade and yet Nintendo avoids mention of it with almsot as much strength of denial as they do Earthbound/Mother.

Also, no Dragon Quest X news, even though it's suppose to be a wii title. Though rumor suggests it may have been pushed back for a Wii-U release. Even still, NO NEWS OF IT.

Good job Ninty, you failed.

Microsoft: (Overall Grade: F)

Kinect Kinect Angry-white-men-shooting-brown-people Kinect Kinect Kinect more-realistic-wargame-shooters kinect kinect Gears-of-War kinect kinect Halo

/end of show

Sony: (Overall Grade C)

Sony played to their strengths, mainly the footage of Uncharted 3 and its new handheld platform, the PS Vita. Announcing that the Vita's price was the same as the 3DS (250 bucks) was a smart move and a nice change of pace considering the last time they announced a portable at E3. Even Tretton made a veiled "Riiiiidge Racer" joke after the demonstration which helped me crack a smile for the first time in nearly two years.

The Vita looks good but I don't see anything worth buying for it yet. If I wanted Uncharted I'd simply buy the new PS3 one, why buy a whole new system for it? If I see the same RPG lineup the PSP enjoyed I might bite and get one when it reaches a sub $200 price tag but until then I'm not interested. It looks amazing and is certainly light years beyond the wimpy looking Dreamcast-esque visuals of the 3DS but I won't spend $250 bucks on a system that has no "killer aps".

That being said I'm disappointed that Sony didn't devote time to Dark Souls. I expected them to show that up on the big stage but they didn't. I suppose Resistance 3 is more important sinc eit meets the "Angyr men shooting guns" requirement that they are all forced to adhere to now. Yippee.

While Sony *did* show off some Move games, they didn't ride its dry, dusty corpse the way Microsoft did with Kinect. For that I give them a semi-respectable C.

Overall Winner: PC

Like me and my friends said on twitter, since all 3 major companies failed to impress that means the PC wins by default for not even showing up. Rumors say Gabe Newell didn't appear at E3 because the cafeteria there didn't serve onion rings. Or so the joke goes, anyway.

Therefore, he (and we, by proxy) won E3. congrats fellow PC gamers!

Games I was really impressed with:

I have to say that even though the majority of the games shown were shooters or bland re-hashes, I did see a few things that looked incredibly good and were put on my "must buy" list. First among these was a Korean MMO coming out this year called "Rusty Hearts". While Musambani/Lunethex did show me this last year, I never got to see how amazingly cool it was until Gamespot's live floor cam feed yesterday.

Rusty Hearts is a very simple but very fast dungeon crawler/beat-em-up that combines all the visual flair of a paid title with the ease of play you'd find in a F2P game. With a little Guardian Heroes st.yle gameplay and a very slick user interface you'd have to be a very grumpy, jaded gamer (even more so than me) to not see the charm the game exudes. I was impressed enoguh to actually sign up for the beta and intend to try it out with Musmabani a month from now, time permitting.

Another surprise was Capcom's "Dragon's Dogma". While it is a very light RPG and is considerably more action based than what I'm used to, it still looks amazing. Resembling Demon's Souls in look and gameplay (But no doubt not as hard) it easily cuaght my eye and seperated itself from the pack of me-too shooters that seem to always populate the E3 show floor.

The large open world, the huge boss fights, the shockingly decent graphics (It even had god rays)...I almost thought it was a PC game until a quick glance at the booth showed the X360 and PS3 symbols. Shame too, because Capcom really should release a PC version of this. It's certainly no worse than the drek Bethesda is going to pump out later this year. Ahem.

Also impressing this jaded gamer was Snowblind's "Lord of the Rings: War in the North". I've had my eyes on this for awhile since Snowblind was behind it and I lvoed their console Baldur's Gate games, but getting to see a brief in-game dmeo of it during Gamespot's live feed convinced me I need it.

Basically, the game is what I wish Diablo 3 could be. It's a very visually appealing fully 3D "Loot centered" co-op action-RPG that doesn't look like it's reinventing the wheel but seems to make a good one nonetheless. With Diablo 3 and Dungeon Siege 3 looking so old and busted it seems like this could be the one ARPG that really breaks out and makes me want to spend my money on.

Last but not least is the new Tomb Raider. Though they showed VERY LITTLE footage of it, what I *did* see excited me. Lara's new (less bustier) look and the engine re-design really help make the game look more like an action adventure it started as rather than the lame wannabe shooter that the series has become. If I want an Indiana Jones 3rd person shooter I'll play mroe Uncharted, not a Tomb Raider game pretending to be one.

Overall Grade of this year's E3: C

Wasn't really feeling it this year. No truly big announcements other than Ninty's oddly named console and most of the games I thought would make it actually didn't. Plus a lot of the games me and Musmabani/Lunethex wanted to see were behind closed doors. Really wonderful job there guys. Show up to reveal your game then refuse to even talk about it. Brilliant.

Tax's not-so-big E3 Preview Blog

First of all I'd like to apologize for removing my recently made video and closing the channel. One of my obsessed stalkers, who continually tries to add me on every account I make on the web (He's one of the teenage kids that clung onto my old youtube persona, those who remember the type of slope-headed nerds who frequently commented on my channel KNOW how f'ed up these kids were) obviously found it and thought it would be funny to subscribe to it. I've created another channel and made it invisible, as well as making the videos unlisted. I'll be handing out the link to some people here later in the week. I only ask that you do not subscribe to the channel or favorite the videos, or else it won't be a "secret" anymore and this kid will locate it. Good? Good.

Also, I should note that my Witcher 2 review was mentioned in the Gamespot community blog. Thanks to all of those who msg'd me pointing it out. Big victory for my work and yet another thing to add to my portfolio.

That being said, I've been really psyched for this year's E3 like no other E3 before it. Yeah yeah I know...same disappointment waiting for me, right Weedman? Still, with the new console generation getting kicked off this summer and the world having narrowly missed Armageddon before the pigs-can-fly arrival of Duke Nukem 4, you can't blame me for feeling that this one will be special.

Since E3 blogs and opinion pieces are all the rage on Gamespot right now, I figure I'll give my own rundown of what I'm looking forward to, and what I think will happen.

Don't worry, it'll still be cranky and full of old-man whining.

Ten Things I'm Anxious To See

Thing #1: Nintendo's "Project Cafe"

What I want to see:

I'd like to see Nintendo finally escape from this malaise they're in and go back to being the "hardware company" that produces the highest spec consoles again. Believe it or not, there was a time when their consoles were the fastest and most advanced. Sadly, the Wii changed that. The power of the SNES, N64 and Gamecube were replaced with the weakness and ineffectual hardware of the under-powered and woefully inept Wii. Sales were high, but attach rates, the thing that *really matters* to hardware creators, were abnormally low.

I'd really like to see Nintendo jump out of the gate with a hardcore system that produces visuals beyond what we've seen from a console so far *and* give us great gameplay with no gimmicks. Also, a real online infrastructure would be great to see as well.

What I THINK we'll actually see:

Nintendo has already said it's internal flash storage will only be about 8GB. Rumors also claim that their network won't see any big upgrades either, so expect friend codes or something like them to still remain. The ugly TV screen on their ugly controllers doesn't look too good either, if the pictures I've seen are accurate anyway.

To put it bluntly, I'm not expecting much here. I don't think Nintendo has learned their lesson yet. Maybe another generation of abysmally low attach rates and software sales will teach them that lesson.

Thing #2: New "Tales of..." Games

What I want to see:

I'm hoping we get a formal announcement that Xillia will come to the US or what the "other platforms" are that will be getting Graces. Though I'm pretty sure that other platform is the 360, you never know with Namco. Maybe they'll even throw us a bone in the way of a Vesperia PS3 announcement.

What I think we'll see:

We'll be lucky if we get a date for Graces F, let alone any word on Xillia. This *is* Namco we're talking about here.

Thing #3: Footage of Sony's NGP Handheld

What I want to see:

I guess it's called "Vita" and from what I'm hearing the poor sales of the 3Ds have caused Sony to rethink the handheld's design and they are toning down the hardware. They figure if people didn't get the 3DS due to price then they won't get the NGP either, so they are not going for wallet-breaking bleeding edge tech this time around, which I think is an incredibly bad move. I really want to see this thing blow the doors off of everything, but with these rumors going around....who knows?

What I THINK we'll see:

More Uncharted portable footage. Probably running at 15fps. Watch.

Thing #4: Sony trying to recapture the faith of lost fans

What I want to see:

Sony hasn't "lost" me, but a lot of folks are biting mad over the PSN fiasco and I can't really blame them. Poor communication combined with really bad timing have conspired to make Sony look bad in a situation that isn't helping anyone right now. Developers are rumored to be leaving PSN, publishers are losing money because their games are late and Sony has lost millions in revenue...all because of some psychotic hackers. Hopefully Sony makes amends at E3.

What I THINK we'll see:

Sony will ignore it and Kevin Butler will come onstage to chants of "IT ONLY DOES IDENTITY THEFT" at which point he'll cry and run off.

Thing #5: The Big Witcher Announcement?

What I want to see:

I'd like for them to announce an expansion pack or some large bit of DLC that adds more to the game and broadens the ending a bit more. Perhaps another full length chapter or several news quests for the admittedly short 3rd one. Either wya I'd take it and gladly give them my cash for more of what is already this year's best CRPG by far. (Unless I count Drakensang 2, which I technically played last October)

What I THINK we'll see:

The official Xbox 360 port, and it'll look horrid....then I'll laugh.

Now onto "things" I know will be good.

Thing #6: Dark Souls (Demon's Souls 2)

There have been some gameplay videos already but not as much as I'd like. Undoubtedly this year's E3 should change that and show us a good chunk of gameplay for once. I'm interested to see what changes, if any, will be made to the co-op portion of the game and if spears are actually balanced now. (read: nerfed)

Thing #7: Rage gameplay

I know *some of you* out there have tried to convince me this game will suck, but I simply cannot see how. IT's cl@ssic iD gameplay with a brand new engine. It was built for co-op as well, making this exactly the kind of FPS I need right now. A sort of Borderlands with more FPS and less RPG. What's not to like? Hopefully some new footage will convince everyone else of what I'm already certain of.

Thing #8: The BioWare backlash

EA Louse? The leak of details concerning Old Republic Online's imminent fiscal failure? Dragon Age being a dead franchise? should be fun watching BioWare deal with the fan backlash at this year's E3. I have my popcorn all ready for that. Oh sure, you'll have people drooling over ME3...but is anyone who wasn't born 2 years ago going to forgive them? No.

Plus Old Republic looks horrid. It is destined for the bargain bin or a Free 2 Play reversal. Guaranteed.

Thing #9: The Boo's over the Call of Duty subscription announcement

Oh they can try to explain it away as optional all they want, but when they mention it at E3, expect all heck to break loose. I expect some boo's as well as some good cat calls until the offenders are kicked out of the building. Still, it'll be fun to watch and I'm looking forward to them trying to explain it away.

Thing #10: And the thing I am lookign forward to the most: Phantasy Star Online 2 footage.

Hey, they might even announce that it's coming to the US. Sega really did us dirty by not mentioning America in their PSO2 footage last year. We've waited all this long for a true PSO sequel and after the pathetic attempt at recreating it with PSU you'd think they would try to bury the hatchet with the fans and give us something to smile about for a change.

I'm hoping we hear something from Sega about an American version. If not, Sega can kiss my [expletive deleted].

My Witcher 2 Review & Other Assorted Nonsense

If you don't feel like reading another pointless, idiotic, whiny Taxonomic brand blog, then you can go here and just read my recently posted Witcher 2 review. I'm not happy with the review but after 3 hours of tweaking it it's about as good as it's going to get. That being said, let's share my experience with the Witcher 2. It's actually a fairly interesting story, if you can believe it.

I went to the midnight launch on Monday and was the only one there coming to get the game, since the other 15 people in line were there to get LA Noire. Talked with the guys, had fun, but I just wanted to get home and play the game so I rushed home and attempted to install it...and guess what?

It didn't work.

After several failed installs I noticed that the install was hanging on the file and figured I had to find a way to transfer the file in a format my DVD drive wouldn't hang on. After an entire night spent trying to get a 9.6GB file from the DVD my drive couldn't read to my hard drive I gave up and bought The Witcher 2 on Steam...

only to have the Steam downlaod mysteriously fail and error out at 30%. Wonderful.

I went to bed and gave up, figured there was no reason to continue.

Then, it hit me. Put the DVD on my other PC, copy to its hard drive and then zip it up with winzip and put it on two regular 4.7GB blank DVDs. Then, take those DVDs and put the file in a folder on my hard drive that faithfully recreates the exact directory tree of the install discs....and then install the game on my hard drive by, well, emulating the install on my hard disk.

Confused yet? Yeah, others having the problem were confused too when I tried to tell them how I did it, but it DID work, thank goodness.

Unfortunately, I spent 45 bucks on a Steam version I didn't need. While normally I'd be mad (And I suppose I still am) I actually didn't mind too much since the game turned out to be so good.

So while nearly every other game disappointed me this year (so far) it looks like The Witcher 2 is the first that didn't. Not expected, but most definitely appreciated.

In other news, I'm no longer interested in Drakensang Online. Thanks to the 31 people that signed up for beta invites and GOT THEM IMMEDIATELY whereas I did several applications and never got a single one. Just don't ask me why, I'm through witht hat [expletive deleted] and they can kiss my [expletive deleted].

Anyone have strong opinions about Witcher 2? Any thoughts? Feelings? Let them be known in the comments.

My Big Bag of Hate, Spring 2011 Edition

If you've wondered why I haven't been posting (even in the blog comments) it's mainly due to me being so incredibly bored that I was busy smashing my fist through hard objects. Most of this anger was due to severe lack of RPGs, although a bit of the rest was due to various other little niggles that left me wanting to build pipe bombs. Yes, I get VERY VERY temperamental when I have no CRPGs to play. You ought to see me at work. I've made people cry. It's really not good when I don't have any RPGs... let's start with the main problem I had and how I solved it: My lack of a good RPG.

With Witcher 2 being two weeks away and Dragon Age 2 having lasted a whopping three days on my Hard Drive it was pretty nerve-wracking to go about my daily life when I had no RPG to play. To remedy this I pre-ordered Mount & Blade Fire and Sword and figured the spin-off to my favorite RPG of last year would easily sate my appetite for CRPG goodness.

Well, if you looked at the recent rating I gave it here you probably know things didn't work out quite that well.

To say Fire and Sword is a bad game would be unfair. You would be insulting bad games by comparing them to it. The [expletive deleted] thing is so hideously flawed that I deleted it from my Steam installed games list a mere 6 hours after installing it. As a matter of fact it forced me to go to the Steam forums for the game....only to see nearly everyone else hated it too.

Wonderful, isn't it?

Here is a post that pretty much sums up the failures of this game.

And here was a response I made to a fool who tried to belittle and deconstruct the previous post.

After uninstalling Fire & Sword I talked to Musambani/Lunethex on Steam and we both agreed the game was a hideous train wreck. While he played the first two Mount & Blade games I found myself stuck with my boredom and my anger, unable to find anything even remotely interesting to play.

I could play Drakensang, but I beat the first one four times and the second one two times, so that was not going to cut it.

I could re-install The Witcher and finally finish the final chapter for a saved game import in the sequel...but the boring combat would just kill it for me again.

I could reinstall Dragon Age 2 and finish THAT game...but the idea of seeing that same [expletive deleted] dungeon for the 5,000th time didn't appeal to me.

I could play Jeff Vogel's new game, but it looked exactly like his last 50 games and I got sick of his cookie cutter st-yle after Avernum 5 came out.

So you see, it was pretty pointless to even try. There was nothing I could do and I was doomed to sit in abject boredom for two weeks until The Witcher 2 would come and save me.

Or would I?

It was then that I remembered an article in PCGamer a few motnhs ago that mentioned this Oblivion mod here. I knew the idea of reinstalling Oblivion would cause my stomach to heave its contents and my eyes to bleed, so I never bothered trying it. Even though it was compared to Gothic and was said to be so different from Oblivion that it wasn't even the same game anymore.

Well, I broke down and tried it, and good lord were they right.

The game is basically Gothic 2, only with Oblivion's ugly faces. I know that sounds odd, but I'm serious...the game is basically a Gothic 2 clone with a very gothic-esque leveling system and some of the biggest and craziest dungeons you'll ever see. With scripted events, believable dialog, a clever story and every square inch of the map HAND-CRAFTED rather than randomly generated by a computer algorithm you get a game that is above and beyond the game it is using for its base. Far far beyond.

I'm only about four hours in, but the quests and the heavily-scripted NPC events are so original and clever that I feel like I should have paid someone for this. Whether it was the quest to get some soap from the guards (Which involved knocking the soap bars off the ledge by angering a nearby mage who then shot a fireball at the platform) or running away from hoards of trolls and making it into safehouses with just barely a hit point left, Nehrim is the exact kind of European CRPG that Betehsda could only DREAM about making. It's truly a beautiful mod that you all have to play RIGHT NOW.

OTher than my CRPG drought (Which Nehrim finally ended) there were a few other problems that still nip at my heels.

First of all, Gamespot has changed where the player reviews show up. They no longer show up in the right side of each game's info page. Instead you have to click on "Reviews" and then click on "player reviews" under each game's info panel. It may seem silly to quibble about this, but it has SEVERELY limited the kind of eye-catching ability the player reviews used to have on this site. A good player review would get a LOT of clicks and be seen by a lot of people, but now with them being hidden behind two more menus they are relegated to the dust bin and are a mere after-thought on this website. Funny that this happened after I rose such a stink about me not getting the top review emblem. Hmmmmmmmm......

Another sad development in the world of gaming is the PSN hack that Sony still can't seem to recover from. Though I didn't get hit with any unknown charges (I checked), I still canceled both of my cards and ordered new numbers. It's more than a bit disappointing that Sony waited so long to tell users their information had been compromised. I for one have lost a lot of faith in them and will probably be buying PSN items through pre-paid cards from now on.

Yet another "burr in my beard" (If I had a beard, that is) would be Drakensang Online, and how everyone I know got accepted for a beta tester except me.

The guy who did the first English youtube video of the original game's demo in 2008.
The guy who made the two most well received and often linked reviews of their games.
The guy who stood behind them and supported them when so few even really gave a [expletive deleted]
The guy who has beaten the Drakensang games 5 times already and knows the system in-and-out.

Ok, excuse the egotism, but you get what I mean. I am the perfect guy to be a beta tester for it.

Yet three of my friends, two of which have never even played a Drakensang game, got selected for the Beta.

Heck, I can't even get selected for the Path of Exile beta and I've actually entered it with 7 different email addresses and names/locations. Five months and everyone I know is in except me. The god of CRPGs, the master of builds, the king of min/max'ing...denied entry. No one could test balance better than me, yet I am constantly blocked from entering.

If anyone can get in to the Drakensang Beta, I will pay you *real world money* to give me your access code. No joke.

I will then also go into their forum and cuss the ever loving mother [expletive deleted] G-[expletive deleted] [slang for hades] out of these nitwits for not letting me in.

Ahhh....but Nehrim awaits, and my patience grows thin. I urge everyone to download it and give it a shot, you won't be disappointed.

Top Ten Best/Worst Things to Happen to Gaming

A recent article on a site I once got warned for linking to once in the forums (PM me, I'll show you) has caught my attention and given me an idea for a clever little blog piece. That article, which talked about the "worst things to ever happen to the gaming industry", got me thinking about the subject a bit more seriously than I probably should have...given that the website where it was posted isn't known for intelligent discourse. Regardless, I decided to take a stab at the subject and list the worst (and best) things to happen to my hobby.

First up, the top ten worst things to ever happen to gaming:

#10: Sega's exit from the hardware business - Ok sure, I'm well aware that the Saturn and the Dreamcast were machines that suffered from a distinct lack of 3rd party support and were marketed poorly. Still, that doesn't mean they deserved to fail. The Saturn had some of the most unique and entertaining games of the 90s (Panzer Dragoon Saga, Dragon Force, Guardian Heroes, Burning Rangers) yet was passed over by the mainstream crowd due to it lacking big-name cross-platform titles and recognized sequels.

Yet the Dreamcast, which was the first console to have a real, free, and incredibly easy to use right out of the box internet gaming mode suffered the same fate. Even with it having great exclusives and plenty of successful cross-platform titles it floundered for years until limping to an early grave. Sega's loss was an even bigger loss for gamers, since we no longer have Sega's innovative hardware division moving technology forward.

Laugh if you want to, but it was innovation like the Sega CD (I realize the TG-16 CD was first, I had one), Ram expansion cards and online console games that were adopted by Sega before their main competitors. They did what most other companies were afraid to do, and we've forever lost that technological drive Sega's hardware division possessed. In their place, we have Microsoft. Thanks, guys.

#9: Consoles becoming small form factor PCs - A console was a console and a PC was a PC...for 20 years. Then things changed and consoels decided that using the same basic internal architecture of the PCs would not only allow them to compete with the superior PC platform but also steal many of its games...and sell them for a higher price to the console crowd.

In short, it worked. Thing is, it had a very dangerous side effect. It caused consoles to inherit the same problems PCs have always had, such as crashing, patch-release cycles, lock-ups, bricking and hardware failure. The only thing is that with a PC you can easily pull off the side panel and fix the problems yourself. With a console this is infinitely harder and will also void your warranty. Plus you can't just buy Xbox compatible RAM at Best Buy for 50 bucks. This has made console gaming incredibly expensive and not worth the time or the hassle it saddles you with.

#8: Square swallowing up and then destroying Enix - The merger still bothers me to this day. A company responsible for some of my favorite consoles RPGs of all time (7th Saga, Robotrek, Dragon Quest, Ogre Battle, Valkyrie Profile) is now just a pinky finger on the mighty gargantuan body of the almighty Square behemoth. Granted, they still manage to let Enix pump out some quality Dragon Quest sequels (See last year's DQ9) but the rest of Enix's properties have either faded into obscurity or have been killed with horrible re-hashes or half-hearted spin-offs (Covenant of the Plume, anyone?). What remains is nothing like the glorious Enix of old and the JRPG genre has never been the same since.

#7: Gimmicks becoming bigger draws than gameplay - Blame Nintendo for this, after it all was their Wii and its infantile waggle stick that made everyone jump on board the casual express to flail-your-arms-around land. Granted, it's dying down quite a bit now and the backlash has started, but it has caused developers to stop their pursuit for perfect gameplay and has resulted in people rushing to find the next clever use of movement controls. It also makes my once proud hobby look like a childish pastime, something that Sony tried to reverse a decade a half ago when they came here. It's like we've regressed two decades and we're playing with ROB and the Virtual Boy.

#6: Origin selling out to EA, making Ultimas 8 and 9 - As a kid who played his first RPG courtesy of Origin and Ultima 3 I held a lot of respect for Richard & company. They set the bar for other companies like JVC and Sir Tech and were known around the world for basically inventing the modern CRPG. Then, sadly, EA sunk their teeth into them and forced them to release dumbed-down "baby" games that were about as deep as a half-drained kiddie pool. With the Ultima license pulled through the mod for a decade and a half there isn't much left of this once venerable series, and CRPGs have been trying to recover ever since. Thanks, EA.

#5: iD losing the "engine war" to Epic, the rise of Unreal Engine 3 - Hey I have a good idea for PC gamers! Let's get behind and support a 3D game engine that not only is bottlenecked by not having support for more than 2GB of ram but also uses the console's architecture as its basis and therefore neglects to properly support emerging PC technology and texture streaming! Sounds good right? That's what most develoeprs now think, thanks to CliffyB and his hideously untoptimized and ugly (and pervasive) UE3 engine.

The problem was that Carmack & iD were the only guys willing to devote time to emerging PC technology. Carmack's engines were always PC-based and were later trimmed down for the consoles. Epic however decided to make their engine for the consoles and then just port the thing nearly untouched to the PC platform. If anything is responsible for the unfair treatment the PC gets, it's this right here. CliffyB is public enemy #1, and as long as I live I will continue insulting him on Twitter until he blocks me or admits that he [immature act deleted].

#4: Bioware selling out to EA - Go re-read the sixth entry in this list but replace "Origin" with "Bioware" and you get the idea. Though to Richard & Origin's credit they were *forced* to make concessions to EA. Richard admitted that he was threatened and when he refused to change the game they removed programmers off of his project. At least Richard *fought* EA. The thing with Bioware is that they didn't fight, they merely caved in and did what their console-loving masters told them.

For one of the greatest RPG developers of all time to so quickly and steadfastly turn into a cushion on John Riccitiello's couch is not only alarming but insulting to gamers everywhere. After what they pulled with DA2, I doubt any real CRPG'er will be buying any of their games in the future. Even now their boards are suffering from locked topics and deleted posts due to the angry ramblings of betrayed fans. Go and check it out for yourself if you don't believe me. It's a very sad and hard to fathom situation Bioware fans find themselves in currently.

#3: RPGs absorbing FPS gameplay - Ok, Deus Ex is my favorite game of all time...I know you are probably about to remind me about this in the comments, but that isn't the point. While there are quite a few good RPG/FPS hybrids (Deus Ex 1, Borderlands, VTM Bloodlines, System Shock 2) there are WAY MORE that are incredibly hideous (Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Fallout 3, even Oblivion when you get right down to it).

The thing is, the problem with this mixing of st.yles is that it is diluting both genres. With no clear barrier kept between the two you are seeing a messy soup of crammed-in gameplay ideas that ruin the entire package. Whether its real-time shooter elements replacing dice-roll controlled combat or skill trees getting in the way of your mouse aiming precision there seems to be no way to get around the intrusions that one of these two gameplay types imposes on the other. There is only one thing in all of gaming that has hurt the RPG genre more than this and that comes in at #2....

#2: World of Warcraft - WoW changed Blizzard from a hardcore PC developer that was "indie" in spirit and "corporate" in quality control to a company more interested about money and mainstreaming. It caused Morhaime & company to become money-hungry zealots that forgot about the fans that made them famous. They realized that making a watered down online game with decrepit graphics and "so easy your grandmother could do it" gameplay was not only cheaper to do than real games, but also attracted people who normally wouldn't play PC games. Such as middle aged housewives with fat bellies and teenagers looking to grief.

Now whenever you have to defend the PC from a console gamer in a forum you have to bring up WoW as the killing blow, since it is (sadly) the one thing we can hang over them. Thoguh even that won't last for long, since Blizzard has, as we know, already proven they want to transition to consoles. I say let them, we certainly don't need them on our playground anymore if they aren't going to be a team player. Good riddance.

#1: The rise and wide-acceptance of DLC - On the disc content you pay unlock codes for, withheld levels and characters that are held hostage for money, NPCs asking for your credit card in the game...all of these things are now considered normal and it's pathetic that gamers are so willing to put up with this nonsense. It's one thing to see this on the consoles, since they can't download mods from the internet community, but to see $98 worth of DLC in Portal 2 on launch day is downright sickening. In truth, I almost wrote an anti-valve article last week but at the urging of a few people here I decided not to do it for fear of an extreme backlash. Still, I find this practice to be unforgivable and beyond disgusting.

The only company I've seen that seems to get the whole DLC idea right is Gearbox, since their Borderlands DLC has not only been fabulous, but is also cheap and adds a ton of new content. Plus, unlike their competition, they actually started the DLC modules *AFTER* the game was shipped. Unlike most companies (Ahem Bioware) that just cut party members out and sell them as launch-day DLC.

...and to balance out the hate, the top then BEST things to happen to gaming:

#10: - You know how I feel about the Witcher, but I have to give credit where credit is due...and CD PRojekt has done good by the community with their GOG service. These old games, which came out during PC gaming's 1990's golden age, are required playing. What's even better is that they remind the kids just now getting into the hobby what a true PC game is suppose to be like, helping to bring them over to my school of thinking. It's not only a service, it's an educational tool.

#9: The ever-growing relevance of the indie scene - The indie scene has always been big on the PC. Heck, there was a time when Ultima was given out to people in plastic baggies and Richard worked out of his garage. Though things have changed considerably, the spirit has never died on the PC. Instead, much to my amazement, that same spirit has been allowed to flourish on the consoles as well. With PSN's "minis" and XBLA's "Indie channel" it has helped a lot of talented people (Like the guy who started Zeboyd Games) get a foot in the door at a time when gaming is more crowded than ever before.

Though I still think Jeff Vogel needs an attitude adjustment and Basilisk Games is an overrated studio, I like where indie game development is headed and it helps balance out some of the garbage the big companies pump out every year.

#8: The modding community - Mods, they make a boring PC game (Fallout 3, Oblivion) somewhat playable...and they often change the dynamics of a game so much (Gothic 3, VTM: Bloodlines) that they take a mediocre game and make it a cl@ssic. That's the power of the modern PC game mod and it is something that is even more relevant now than it was a decade ago, mainly thanks to the large group of dedicated individuals that fight against corporate censorship (Thanks Bethesda for fighting against nipples!) and refuse to allow cut content or horrible DLC practices mar the beauty of the PC platform. Kudos to you, modders.

#7: Fan translations - Most of the truly amazing JRPGs are elft in Japan, yet thanks to sites I can't mention here there are several brave men and women that fight against this and translate these lost gems into other languages for everyone to get a chance to experience. It might not seem like much, but thanks to their efforts we have filled in the blanks in Persona's continuing story, saw the Secret of Mana sequel and even managed to play falcom RPGs that wouldn't be seen on our shores for a decade or more. While they get a lot of flak and a good portion of them are certifiably insane, they do us a service that cannot be repaid.

#6: Consoles going online - sure it has its downsides too, but when the consoles finally went online they gained the one thing that even a PC nerd like me wanted them to have: internet multiplayer. While MS does do it "Dirty" by charging for the service, Sony seems to be the one company that gets it right and has gone out of their way to provide a free, reliable, powerful service to its customers. Of course hackers are destroying their network at the moment, but you get what I'm saying. Consoles going online has made them far more versatile than they wer ein my youth. Even I have to admit that.

#5: Torrents - Doesn't make sense to you guys, does it? While I'm NOT advocating piracy in any form, I do think torrent technology has enabled us to do two things that big developers refuse to let us engage in. First of all, it lets us download games to try out if we are not given a demo...and that is a big BIG change to the hobby. Not being able to sample games the wya we used to in the "shareware demo" days of the 1990s has hurt PC gaming quite a bit, and to finally get a way to play these demo-less games before we buy them is a welcome change. They took away our demos, but they can't hide a horrible game anymore thanks to torrent leaks. Crysis 2 is proof of that.

Secondly, and nearly as important, is the way that torrents let people share game content. If you can't find a host for your 2GB total conversion of *insert game here*, then why not just do it via a torrent? Many of the bigger mods are now solely distributed on torrents where they can't be censored by the network and cannot be removed by the publishers that despise them. The recently pulled Morrowind improvement mod and GTA:SA's Hot Coffee mod are good exmaples of this.

#4: Sony making gaming "mature" - Before the arrival of the original Playstation, gaming was seen as a kid's hobby meant for nerds, losers and freaks. When Sony came in they changed this perception and made gaming "cool" and "hip". Their clever marketing campaigns, their push for 3D graphics in console games, their very lax standards on the types of games that could be on their system (Compared to Nintendo that would shoot down violence and required licensees to seek their approval) helped take gaming from the kiddie pool to the deep end of the adult's side. Thanks to them we never had to deal with blood being replaced by sweat (Thank Nintendo and SNK for that) and violence and sex were now "ok". While the ESRB eventually cracked down on this and we're still fighting this battle to this day, we have Sony to thank for pushing the boundaries and making gaming acceptable in the mainstream.

#3: The European CRPG renaissance - From 99 to about 2006, most of the halfway decent PC RPGs were of European make, and the sheer volume of them was too much for even someone like me to take in. Still, it was thanks to this period of time that the PC was kept afloat and helped away from the edge of mainstreaming that most of your console RPGs fell off of. With super-deep oldschool CRPG like Gothic 1-3, Arx Fatalis, Sacred, Divine Divinity and Odium (just to name a few) the Europeans as well as the Russians and Ukrainians managed to save a hobby from dying...and for that we should be very thankful.

When you go to buy next month's Witcher sequel or you play a few hours of Drakensang, remember what these European companies do for us. They give us the kind of RPG that Bioware, Bethesda and Blizzard refuse to make.

#2: DOSbox - I grew up a DOS kid. I hated Windows 95 and when I finally "upgraded" to it in the fall of 1996 I was a raging torrent of anger. Though I slowly learned to jsut shut up and deal with it, I could never get over the fact that after windows 98 Microsoft stopped legacy support and took a devoted DOS shell out of windows. It wasn't until 2002 when I discovered DOSbox that I finally got over it.

DOSbox not only allows you to relive those cl@ssics you haven't played since your childhood, but it gives you the ability to record and even improve your games visuals through filters and new resolution modes. It's a wonderful program that is even used by Steam and GOG to play their own games and is now so widely used that I can't imagine a gamer NOT having it somewhere on their system, even if they aren't aware of it.

DOSbox is more proof that good games never die and the community will ALWAYS correct the mistakes of the corporate white shirts (microsoft) that attempt to destroy our hobby.

#1: Steam - Do I even really need to explain this? Steam has not only saved PC gaming, but it has made it stronger than ever. With them having such easy going relationships with indie devs and allowing games to be HUGELY discounted on their digital download service, it's no wonder Steam has taken such a huge elad over its competitors. Throw in the great community options, the profile controls, in-game chat, skype codec support, screenshot storage, cloud based saving and the promise of being able to upload videos in the future you'd have to be really ignorant to see Steam as anything other than the revolutionary program it truly is. Steam has changed gaming the way the TV did news and the way the toaster did bread. It has completely altered the PC gaming landscape forever and has improved it immensely all across the board. To say anything else is blasphemy.

And there you have it, my top ten best/worst things to happen to gaming.

So far, 2011 stinks beyond belief.

In my previous foray into video game community creation I was often criticized for being a pessimistic old man who was jaded, bitter and unfairly negatively when both optimism and positivity would have been more preferred. Knowing this I've instead striven to be more "glass half full" than before and have tried to do my best to see the bright side of gaming. Sadly, 2011 is looking to be the year where that idea gets thrown the [expletive deleted] outside the window.

If you remember a little while back I posted a blog where I listed all of the things I was looking forward to in the coming year. I was full of boyish hope and optimism, excited that so many high profile games were coming in a year chock full of promise and potential.

Didn't last long, did it?

Just look at this year's first big release, Dragon Age 2. I ignored Weedman and assumed the game would have the same depth and non-linearity as the first Dragon Age...but was rudely awakened by the [expletive deleted] gameplay and seriously [expletive deleted] pathetic plot that made about as much sense as a [sexual insult] giving a [sexual act] to a paper towel roll.

In all seriousness, did anyone with even a modicum of taste enjoy DA2? The game was abysmal at worst, sub-par at best. It was so bad I quit the game and uninstalled it 20 hours and 17 experience levels into it. Much like Gothic 4 it was so painful to play it ruined my perception of the series as a whole and had me dangling razor blades over my wrist like an emo [expletive deleted] crying to My Chemical Romance records.

Of course people will defend it, but those kiddies have about as much gaming experience with RPGs as Chris Crocker has with female genitalia. It was so watered down and consoli-fied they might as well put a big "WORKS BEST WITH XBOX" sticker on the front and had a fist come out and punch you if you tried to walk up to the register with the PC version.

It doesn't end there though folks. How can we forget about Bulletstorm and it's horribly short singleplayer that barely clocks in at 4 hours? Or its multiplayer that consists of fighting bots in endless waves? Or its "Hey dad, I can be cool by cursing" dialog? Or its Xbox powered GFWL interface and DRM? Or its easy enemies? OR...well....the whole [expletive deleted] game. I know some of you actually rated this game highly, and you should be ashamed of yourself for doing so. It is short [expletive deleted] piece of [expletive deleted] games like this that make me want to [expletive deleted] CliffyB's mother in her [expletive deleted] while he watches.

OHHHHHH....but that isn't the worst thing that has happened this year. No no no...the WORST was Crysis 2.

You read my review, you know the facts...this game was a piece of recycled [expletive deleted] Xbox trash. You have no deep config options, lack of anything above dx9, no 64bit executable and textures that have been PROVEN to be HALF THE SIZE of Crysis 1's. It doesn't take someone with a PHD in gaming theory to [expletive deleted] see how ugly the game is compared to the first. Plus the short 6 hour campaign doesn't help matters any. It took me only 13 hours to clear the game on two difficulties and half-way finish a third. Now that's [expletive deleted] pathetic.

What bothers me the most about Crysis 2 though is what Rock Paper Shotgun is saying about it. They are taunting us "elitists" by making a big deal out of our claims and telling us we don't know what we are talking about and that the game is just as beautiful as the first.

Well I hate to break this to you but it isn't.

Just read the ill-informed and ignorant user comments in this article here.

See, this is what had me busting keyboards and punching my desk until my knuckles bled earlier this week. These clueless little [expletive deleted] think that DX11, texture depth, normal mapping and native 64bit support is meaningless or at best, nit-picking...and they laugh at people like me for demanding it. Hey, I wouldn't be demanding it if the previous game didn't have it. If they claim this engine is more advanced than the first game, then why is it missing nearly every feature that the first game had STANDARD?????

That would be like Chevy telling you they had a new Corvette that would be their most hi-tech car yet, and you decide to trade in your old Chevy Corvette for the new one. Only when you go to drive it you realize that not only is it missing a tire, but it has no headlights and the steering wheel is mysteriously missing. Would you call this "more advanced"? Maybe if you had an IQ slightly above that of a mollusk.

I know what you're saying right now too. "But Tax, it can't get any worse can it?" I mean, we have a new Mount & Blade coming out soon, a torchlight sequel and CliffyB is finally going to move out of his mother's basement. Things are looking up, right?


Have you seen the previews for The Witcher 2? OH boy...I can't believe how incredibly watered down this game is looking. Just go to this site's section for it and check them out if you don't believe me. You have quick-time events that enable you to auto kill enemies and a skill "tree" that is even more pathetic and linear than DA2's own anemic system. Throw in the arcade-y Xbox st-yle combat and you have the makings for a festering [expletive deleted] pile of fail. The only good part about this is that I'll be able to lick up the warm tears of the Witcher fanboys that will be crying about the death and "Bioware-ization" of their beloved game.

Isn't it sad that Bioware is now synonymous with failure and dumbing down of games? HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA

Wait though...there is one more thing you should know about. One beautiful little tasty tidbit of tittalating news that sent shivers up my spine and had me giggling like a school girl.

Remember how I told you that Diablo 3 would be console [expletive deleted] back last year?

Look who just got proven right.

Whoops! Looks like Blizzard got a taste of that Activision [slang term for male anatomy] and is more than willing to [immature comment rife with sexual innuendo] while holding on to the bedposts. Ouch. They might as well just admit they are raping their fans and the Diablo series as a whole.

So what can we look forward to if we have no "good games" coming out? Well, to be honest I still feel Duke Nukem Forever will be the savior that the FPS genre needs. Hate me if you want, but I really like Randy Pitchford and I think he's one of the few people in this business who does it for the love of games and not the love of money. Borderlands, a game I just bought for the 3rd time this week on Steam for $7.50 (Once for Xbox, once for PC retail, and now once for Steam Retail....3 times), is probably the best example of why he rules this genre. He knows how to make a game fun and never cheats his customers. Duke Nukem is not only going to be primarily a single player game that is at least as long as the previous game, but is also going to be an uncensored festival of improper jokes and nipples. Exactly the kind of old school 1990s PC fantabulism that we need right now.

Fantabulism. I like that word.

We also have Tales of Graces F coming out for the PS3. As a huge Tales fan I can confidently state that it will be a killer JRPG you should all enjoy. Granted, I'd rather have Tales of Xillia but I don't like waiting 5 years. The Tales games have always been quality titles and I see no reason that will change anytime soon.

There is also this little gem right here, A graphical roguelike that promises to not only be good looking, but also very hardcore. And indie. Very, VERY indie. So indie that Technologodoom will probably have a coronary when he plays it.

...but I know what you're saying. What about the REAL RPGs? The epic computer RPGs of the past? Are they gone? Will they die? Must I hump the corpse of Mount & Blade until it's a dry, dusty pile of bone meal?

Well, there's this.

Piranha Bytes may have slipped up with Gothic 3, but when you compare their least glorious game to the kind of unimaginative and watered down crap we're getting from everyone else it looks like ambrosia sent down from god by comparison. Sure, Risen 2 has guns and pirates and probably a fair amount of rehashed Gothic gameplay, but what would you rather play...Fable 3 or this?

Yeah, I figured that.

I was going to end this with a long insult-laden anti-Nintendo screed concerning the announcement of their Wii "successor" but then something really bad happened:

Sony made me mad.

Very, very mad.

This whole Geohot nonsense really [expletive deleted] ticked me off. What right do they have to tell me what to do with a product I legally bought from them? As long as someone doesn't attempt to log onto PSN you won't be hit with a they have NO LEGAL RIGHT to prevent me or anyone else from modifying or "jailbreaking" their machines. This whole idea of me buying your products just so I can "rent" them is bullcrap. Your appliance is in MY HOME eating up all of MY ELECTRICITY and taking up MY guess what? I own it. It's mine. I can do with it what I want and you have NO LEGAL RIGHT to tell me or anyone else what to do with it.

None of this would have happened if they hadn't removed the Linux install ability last year. They got sued in the UK for doing it and I can't believe people let that slide here in AmeriKKKa. We should all be ashamed of ourselves for that.

I was actually planing to get a NGP but not now, not ever. Sony lost me as an admirer and they can go [improper word] a [expletive deleted].

Excuse me while I go onto Steam and play Borderlands with Musambani later tonight. Feel free to join me if you want.

Also I'm thinking of uploading videos to Gamespot. Any ideas? Seems like a neat thing to do, until they censor me for the off-color remarks I will no doubt make in them.

Nintendo Didn't Save Gaming, They Are Killing it.

Normally I don't do a blog *everyday*. I mainly do blogs to drive traffic here so people will bump up my vote counts, especially now that our once private little club is open and I've gone into full "I'm just here to antagonize people" phase. Still, there is one little thing that irks me that I need to make mention of and that is the topic you see in the title of this blog.

You see, whenever me & Musambani/Lunethex are discussing (Ahem) Nintendo products it is absolutely guaranteed that some Nintendo "fan" will come through with the following comment:

"Nintendo saved Gaming after the crash of 83, how young are you that you don't know this?"

Mus/Lune laughs and always tells me he finds it funny when people say that *I* am young and inexperienced, but as a 35 year old gamer who has been gaming since 1982 I find this to be more than just amusing.

As someone who got through the video game "Crash" by playing copious amounts of Coleco, Commodore 64 and begging his parents for tabletop games every month (Stand-alone tabletop games hit their stride around that time) I know more about this period of gaming history then anyone on this site. The only thing Nintendo did was come along with the right marketing at the right time. The Sega Master System was a far superior system hardware-wise and had more faithful arcade ports as well. Heck, just compare both system's Double Dragon ports to the arcade version if you don't believe me. You couldn't even play the NES Double Dragon co-op, only 1 on 1 via an arena/deathmatch type multiplayer mode.

As I said, Nintendo just came in at the right time. They didn't do things better, they just filled a void that needed filling. It's like when a town has no coffee shops except a 7-11 and then all of a sudden a Dunkin Donuts moves in. Even though their coffee is horrendous they sell it by the bucketload because the garbage you get from 7-11 is barely palatable.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy my NES. I still own about 60 NES games in their original boxes with manuals and all. I adored the system and still play several of its games to this day. The question isn't whether they were good or not, the question is "Did they really save gaming?"

The truth is, they didn't. Had it not been Nintendo it would have been Sega with their Master System. Had it not been Nintendo *or* Sega, it would have been NEC. I mean, after all, who was their direct competition? Atari with their failed 7800? All someone had to do was come in and flash some futuristic looking advertisements on TV and make us little kids drool. Sony proved this in 1995 when they realized that if they wanted the mainstream they had to make gaming look hip to picky young adults.

...and as much as it pains me to say it, the real savior of gaming was the Playstation.

I once said to my best friend Mike that, quote, "Sony could put a turd in a box and make billions off of it". As immature as that comment was, it's nearly true. Sony mastered the art of marketing that Nintendo cashed in on 10 years prior and they did it with even more false bravado and machismo than Nintendo even could. Not only that, but they pitched their system as a "Home PC" and bragged in videos that the PSX was capable of re-producing "PC quality 3D graphics".

I remember hearing that in the very first Playstation Underground disc (I still have those [expletive deleted] things too) and I laugh every time I hear it.

Still, you have to give Sony credit for having the [anatomy description deleted] to pull that comparison off. You also have to give them credit for following through and revolutionize gaming at a time when the industry was still trying hard to transition away from 2D. A problem that caused the Saturn, a system I liked, to die prematurely.

As much as I despise Sony, I respect them for moving the console half of this hobby forward when others dragged their feet or ran in circles. Sony has always been a risky innovator that goes [anatomy description deleted]-to-the-wall in everything they do. Whether it's the over-powered and incredibly agile media player they call the PSP or the top of the line Blu Ray player (And one time Linux homebrew giant) they call the PS3 they have always gone above and beyond what was called for.

What does Nintendo do though? They release horribly under-powered machines that rely on gimmicks to get the money of gullible gamers. They re-hash their games from 2-3 generations ago and call them "new". They put out "Brain training" titles and "Nintendogs" games then show middle aged blonde women in an all-white room jumping around and smiling while stroking their DS. They essentially do everything they can to appeal to the lowest common denominator in this hobby and have absolutely no shame in doing so.

...and really, why should they, right? They are making money hand over fist and show no signs of slowing down! The Wii is easily #1 in console sales overall this generation and the 3DS has broken pre-order records! That must mean that Nintendo is obviously the best company and has saved gaming!

Has Justin Bieber saved music because he's #1 in the sales charts? Is McDonalds the best place to go to eat just because they make the most money? Was the Archie's "Sugar Sugar" the best song of 1969 and better than anything the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who or Led Zeppelin produced simply because it was the hottest selling single that year?

No. Sales do not equal worth. If that was the case our doctors would all be telling us to eat Big Macs every day while we drink Coke, drive an SUV and listen to Justin Bieber's latest CD in the car on our trip to Wal-Mart to buy a copy of Halo Reach for our high-fructose addicted children to play while we engage in missionary position intercourse for the sole purpose of human reproduction.

Naturally I'm getting off track here, so perhaps a re-adjustment is in order.

Let's be serious, Nintendo doesn't care about anyone here. They make games for "other people". They want your grandmother and your aunt Esther, not you. They would much rather make an under-powered system consisting of two taped together Gamecubes with a shoddy Internet infrastructure and a hackneyed software delivery service than make a true blue next generation console. That is Nintendo's desire and no amount of White Knighting or lying to yourself will change this sad fact.

Nintendo simply doesn't "try". They don't have to. Their brainwashed fans are more than happy to shell out $250 for a portable Dreamcast with a 3D toggle and a bunch of re-hashed games from the last console generation trimmed down to run on an under-powered portable.

Nintendo never saved gaming. The truth is that gaming has continued on bravely IN SPITE OF Nintendo's efforts to derail it.

Their childish gimmicks, their childish commercials, their childish games, their under-powered systems, their lack of Internet integration or multiplayer support...they are the very definition of "insufficient". Nothing they do ever hits the bare minimum needed for it to be considered quality. Absolutely nothing.

Yet when you say this, this is the kind of reply you get:


LOL These Nintendo 3DS haters are funny.

Translating the Typical GS poster

"This is a crappy gimmick" = I can't afford it or more likely, my parents can't

"Nintendo just rehashes old concepts!" = I hope there is a COD game on the NGP!

"3D is stupid, I am not impressed" = I have never played a 3DS


You see what I mean? If you hate Nintendo, to them you are just a Call of Duty playing knuckle dragging neanderthal with no taste or culture. Either that or you are a poor 15 year old living in a trailer with Bubba and auntie may. They cannot accept the fact that there may be a guy out there who hates the 3DS not because he can't afford one or has a Call of Duty fetish...

but because he's a 28.5 year industry veteran who knows more about the industry than they do.

The Great Gamer *Gut Check* (2011 Edition)

Being a gamer isn't about picking up a gamepad or a keyboard and playing a few hours of DOOM. Unlike other hobbies where all you have to do is show up with a wallet and a clean pair of jeans, you need more than the bare necessities to be considered a gamer. Similar to other "high point of entry" hobbies like cl@ssical music, race car engine repair, brain surgery, rocket engine design and deep sea oil drilling platform creation the hobby of PC gaming isn't something you just bumble into and expect to be considered a true member of. No, gaming requires far more of a person than 90% of the population is willing or able to give.

That doesn't mean that a lot of unworthy people don't find their way into this hobby. Go check the reviews for Crysis 2 and Dragon Age 2 that are all 10's and consist of only two paragraphs if you don't believe me. Their inability to stand back and critically examine all aspects of a game will always prevent them from seeing gaming the way Roger Ebert does films or Stephen Hawking does a black hole. As much as I detest the "Games are art" debate, I do believe that even though games are NOT art they MUST BE TREATED like art.

Simply put...if you love games, you must learn to hate games.

Now you're probably wondering what this whole "Gut Check" thing means. Well, what I'm saying is that we, as gamers, need to examine whether we are each moving the hobby forward. We need to ask ourselves, are we contributing to the forward progression of our hobby, or are we part of the cancer that is slowly rotting away within it?

What I intend to do with this blog is present a few examples of "What the cancer is" and what a true, positively contributing gamer who cares about his hobby thinks about each of these examples.

Arrogant? Maybe.

Though this doesn't change the facts. Our hobby is decaying from the inside because the majority of the people who are following it are not "pulling their weight" and are accepting mediocrity

Cancer #1: "The White Knights"

First up are these "gamers" who are defending Bioware and their incredibly lazy, consolized design choices.

We've all seen it, and we spent 90+ comments in my other blog post discussing it, so you probably know what I'm talking about. People are defending Bioware and Dragon Age 2....but why? Are they blind? Do they not see the deficiencies present in the game?

Here's the deal: Bioware defended themselves by saying that using the same dungeon in every quest within Dragon Age 2 isn't "repetitive", it's just them, quote, "Maximizing the game's potential".

Do I puke back up a bowl of oatmeal 4-6 times to maximize its potential? Do I spit soda back into the can and drink my backwash to maximize the drink's potential? Do I wear the same clothes for a few days in a row to maximize their potential? Do I re-use the same Styrofoam coffee cup everyday? No, of course not. Re-using trash is still trash, and how anyone can defend Bioware for doing the same thing, albeit digitally, is beyond me. Yet these cancerous tumors do.

It's their defense of this kind of mediocirty that allows companies like EA to "Get away" with it. As long as they defend it, accept it and buy it, nothing changes. EA, Bioware, Blizzard and Bethesda know they can do it so they continue going further and further towards outright recycling. Eventually, games will have one small dungeon and it will be recycled endlessly.

Only you'll probably have to pay for the rest of the areas through some insanely over-priced DLC marketplace.

Cancer #2: "The Console Apologists"

I'm not talking about console gamers who hate PCs, I'm talking about PC gamers who think it's perfectly okay for a PC game to have console features. This wasn't a problem 10-15 years ago, but it seems that nowadays there is a lot of "bleed over" in the two genres and a fair amount of today's PC gamers are actually console gamers in disguise.

While a PC gamer shouldn't have a problem with playing console games, that same gamer should *never* accept console-only features corrupting his PC games. If he sees such an infection he should make a note of it and hold it against the developer responsible for it. Simply passing it off as normal and accepting it only makes the developers more comfortable with taking the easy way out. The more acceptance we show the more often we'll see them shoehorn in console-only "features".

Take for instance the removal of the command console in Crysis 2. If you've read my review here at Gamespot then you probably know the details already. If not, all you need to do is play the unpatched retail version of Crysis 2 and try hitting the tilde key. Do you see a command console? No, of course not. A staple of PC FPS games since time immemorial is now considered an "extra" that our glorious leaders at Crytek have decided we no longer need.

Spawning enemies into a level for fun? Altering deep graphics options? Modifying unlisted settings? Oh no, we can't have that! Just hook up an Xbox 360 pad and shut up! Who needs to do all that crazy fun stuff anyway, right? The real crime here is that initially Crytek planned to put all the graphic options that people complained were missing into the command console as CVARs....then they removed half of them after re-enabling the consoles. Can someone tell me the logic behind that? Or even why any real PC gamer would defend this practice?

Cancer #3: Social Networking Fans:

I'm one of the 4 people in the known universe who doesn't have nor even wants a Facebook account. While I do have a Twitter, I absolutely refuse to use Facebook. Most of it has to do with the B.S. the gaming industry has been spewing about how the future of the industry will come in the form of facebook games. Throw in Blizzard's belief that all of their games (Diablo 3 included) are meant to have Facebook features and you can see why I despise it so much.

Oh, but it doesn't end with Facebook, Microsoft is trying to get in on it too with their own silly little scheme. Not only are they failing at trying to catch up to Steam (Spoiler: They never will) but now they are planning on making a version of their Xbox Live social network for the PC, complete with avatar clothing that costs real money and instant messages with cutesy little mii-like faces plastered all over them. Don't believe me? Look at this.

A very embarassing video.

I know what people would say to me in response to that. They'd tell me this is optional, that it's only for casual gamers. Well, I hate to break it to you but it isn't. Any time you buy a game that uses Games for Windows Live as DRM (And many still are, such as Bulletstorm and Bioshock 2) you will be subjected to that whether you like it or not. You will have to put up with all the silliness and immaturity that Microsoft piles onto their pathetic advertisement-filled service.

Another argument defenders of this stuff make is that "Buying things enhances my experience!" Well, I don't see how. Buying a new dress for your avatar or a rifle for your in-game character isn't "enhancing" anything, it's called buying stuff that for 20+ years was included FREE in games. Instead we have weapons and items removed from our games and held for ransom as DLC. Thanks to the apologists the big companies like EA now think this is okay and do it without any remorse or second thoughts.

If you want social gaming, then go and download Steam. You can start your own gaming group, add friends, talk to people in skype-powered voice chat and even have achievement tracking! All in a very mature, minimalistic design that is easy on the eyes and only as intrusive as you want it to be. Plus, even better, there are no ads for Mountain Dew, Doritos or gas guzzling sports cars.

People who find this acceptable or, god forbid, ENDORSE it are a huge part of the problem we are saddled with in PC gaming right now. If these new entrants into the hobby think this grade-school garbage and console-ization is acceptable, than they need to take a sledgehammer to their rig and leave from the same door they entered.

The Final Thought:

Everyone always tells me, "Tax, stay off message boards!" but I can't. Especially with me waiting on all the parts needed to get my main PC up and running again it's left me with a lot of time to read what others are saying in the community. It saddens me to see so many people deliberately hurting the PC gaming hobby who for some pathetic reason actually think they are *helping* it.

Dumbing down, streamlining, mainstreaming, it what you will but it will never lead to a stronger and healthier PC gaming hobby. If you think Dragon Age 2 is acceptable, Crysis 2 is a step forward from Crysis 1 or social networking is the future of the PC platform than you don't belong here.

You belong on the Xbox.

It's time for a gut check. Are you ready to stand up for your beloved hobby or are you going to sell your souls to the EA devil?

Dragon Age 2: The Game That Killed BioWare and United a Community

By now I'm sure you've all read my Dragon age 2 review. If not, please be sure to take a quick look at it since it sums up what I went through this week playing what was the worst CRPG I've played that wasn't called Gothic 4.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let's start by telling you a little story...

Once upon a time, during the Thanksgiving holiday of 1999, I was in the process of installing Origin's highly anticipated Ultima 9. I had waited years to play the game and expected it to be everything Ultima was meant to be. I had heard from the developers (Even Lord British RG himself) that the game was a deep and complex CRPG more than worthy of the great and celebrated Ultima name. As a kid whose very first RPG experience was Ultima 3 back in 1986, this series had meant a lot to me and I had made camping out at the old forums a popular past time amongst me and my friends. Ultima 9 was to be the ultimate CRPG and I was so excited while installing it...

...but then I played it, and my world came crashing down.

That brave, plucky, positive, happy, cheerful gamer in me died that Thanksgiving weekend. It died so painful a death that the screams of my old soul can still be heard floating in the clouds somewhere above the north pole, a pitiful cry that joined with others to form the combined cacophony of dissent that heralded the end of an era. The end of Origin.

To say the old Origin Worlds Online ( boards back then were in a chaotic state would be an unbelievable understatement. They were, without a doubt, the most savagely beaten boards ever...and it was all because of the shoddy release of Ultima 9.

The game was bad, very bad. First of all, it needed a 1ghz PC to run, and that technology was roughly a year and a half away. To make matters worse the engine was built around the 3DFX API and Directx was not compatible with it. To even get the game to run decently on a system that lacked a 3DFX card you had to *downgrade* your operating system's version of direct x and play the game that way. Throw in the horrible frame rate, hideous super-mario-esque animations and the constant crashes to desktop and computer lockups and you had a game that was about as stable as a drunken Charlie Sheen.

It didn't end there though. The game itself was a slap in the face to hardcore Ultima fans. A character that was supposed to be dead earlier in the series suddenly reappears in this game and never explains why he instantly resurrected himself, the game totally neglects to show the avatar's new powers he gained in Ultima 8, and the game never once makes any callbacks to previous Ultima games and instead focuses on setting the avatar up with a slutty pirate girl in a skimpy outfit.

The game was a complete and total travesty. A ridiculous mistake that was so blatant in its horribleness that no one could even FATHOM why Origin would do such a thing to such a time honored and well-respected CRPG series.

Then, two years later, Gamespy interviewed Richard. He then made the comment I'll never forget.

"Electronic arts treated Ultima 9 like a red-headed stepchild"

He went on to say how EA only cared about gaining continued revenue from Ultima Online and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the offline Ultima games. So to get back at Richard for focusing on Ultima 9, EA deliberately pulled people off of Ultima 9's development staff and put them on Ultima Online. The result? A half finished game that was rushed to market to meet the Christmas season deadline.

EA was to blame. They were always to blame.

It was then universally decided that at that moment, EA was the reason Origin went to pot. Ultima 8 was sub-par, Ultima 9 was a flop, and Ultima Online was, well...Ultima Online. So you had a series that was once the cornerstone of the CRPG reduced to ashes all because of a company's greed causing them to push out a half-finished and sub-par product.

....and histoty has repeated itself once again.

You know, I've been reading the various web sites and forum boards that deal with RPG news and rumors and I've been seeing a lot of talk about people involved with Dragon Age 2 admitting that it was rushed. Inon Zur and apparently a mid level BioWare employee said it was rushed to take advantage of the name the same way Activision rushes CoD games out to milk the community dry. Though I wouldn't have believed this a week ago, I certainly do now. Matter of fact, it makes perfect sense.

Everything about DA2 screams "Easy way out". Without repeating what I wrote in my recent review of the game I will say this: Nearly every dungeon in the game is exactly the same.

Every. Single. One.

It's downright amazing how arrogant they are. I've never seen such epic-levels of arrogance before. To think they were so confident in their ability to pull the wool over people's eyes that they felt they could crank out the equivalent of a sub par Neverwinter Nights 2 player made module and pass it off as a full $60 game is absolutely unbelievably arrogant. It's like telling Mike Tyson you could beat him in a fist fight and prematurely betting on yourself a few minutes before he knocks you unconscious. The level of arrogance here in BioWare is simply astounding. I mean, THEY DON'T EVEN TRY TO HIDE THE COPY-PASTED DUNGEON.

Ok, ok...instead of just going on some crazy tangent and repeating what I wrote in my review, I want to answer some questions that the Dragon Age 2 "apologists" have posed to the true gamers over the course of the past few days.

#1: Bioware doesn't have to cater to "you people"!! They owe you nothing! Grow up!

Actually, they do. I've spent 17 years working in retail, 9 of those years as a manager and guess what? When you "sell" a product you have one rule and one rule only: The customer is always right. Why is that? Well, because if you anger your customers you lose their money, and if you lose their money you lose your business. It's really that simple.

Look at it this way, the brunt of BioWare's "Customers" were old school CRPG fans like myself who grew up with Baldur's Gate, Planescape or even KOTOR. If you anger this large portion (Probably a good 3/4ths of their core group are pre Dragon Age fans) then you've effectively crippled your company. From what I'm seeing on the boards the vast majority are rebelling and leaving in droves.

#2: (Actual comment from the boards) If you want to play a game like you're describing there is a dearth of them for you to play.

Are you sure? What, Dwarf Fortress? Sure, you can find plenty of them as web browser games or freeware titles or even a few shoddy indie titles on Steam...but we're talking about REAL RETAIL PRODUCTS here, not half-[expletive deleted] clones done in Java. We want a game like ToEE, Wizardry 8, Might & Magic or...I don't know, how about Dragon Age Origins?

#3: Bioware told you it was going to be a light action game, you have no one but yourself to blame!

I hear this one a LOT on the BioWare official boards. You know, I subscribe to about 6 dozen (70+) RSS gaming feeds and NOT A SINGLE ONE had a story over the last year about how Dragon Age 2 was going to be a watered down action clickfest with a paper thin plot and recycled dungeons. As a matter of fact Bioware made it a point to go to each website and emphatically state that the game was to be different on the console and the PC version would retain the strategic combat and complex nature of the first game. Even PC Gamer backed this up by saying the PC version would be "the superior one" with the, quote, "PC ****combat".

You know what one lone gameplay feature separates the PC version from the console version? The ability to hold the right mouse button down to attack an enemy without having to constantly click it the way you do on the console one!!!!!

Oh....but BioWare says they will "fix that" in a patch. Teeheehee....

#4: (Actual comment from the boards) Do you really believe that those old games had more strategic depth than DA2? I played them and they do not.

No you didn't. I was playing CRPGs back before 99% of the people reading this were out of diapers yet. Back in 1986 I was playing Ultima 3 and as a 10 year old boy loving the heck out of it. As primitive as that game is/was, it is still light years ahead of the simplistic hack and slash that Dragon Age 2 is.

CRPGs from my 80s and 90s youth had true depth. You often had to ration food and pack the party's belonging for long trips. You had to micro-manage inventory, plan combat right down to the correct number of regents to use in a spell and often time had to compensate for wind while sailing the ocean to get around the world. RPGs were deep, complex, and often relied on dice rolls for their combat. They were far, far deeper than this toned-down Diablo clone you call Dragon Age 2.

Obviously, people saying this never played Temple OF Elemental Evil...a game that basically requires an I.Q. of 130 or more to even get create a full party let alone successfully complete. Anyone who has played Wizardry 8 can attest to that game being a real brain burner as well.

So yeah...before you talk you better have walked the walk. Because let me tell you, no one here has the experience I do in this genre and that's a stone cold fact.

#5: You guys are just the vocal minority!

They said that about Lech Walesa in Poland back in the 80s. You might want to google that, kiddo.

#6: You guys said the same about Dragon Age 1 when it came out in 2009!

Not like this we didn't. There were a few people saying it didn't have the statistical depth of BG1 and 2, sure, but they still liked it. We all did. I was one of the people saying that but even I tempered my posts with "but it's still quite good in its own right".

This is something completely different. This is an uprising.

Dragon Age 1 *WAS* dumbed down and consolized, but BioWare made up for that with a great deal of storyline depth, non-linearity and "****". The game world was large, the environments were varied and the characters were all pretty interesting. They managed to be a watered down Baldur's Gate and made up for it with polish. What now, though? DA2 isn't polished. It's copy-pasted and a horribly low-fi effort. So what now?

#7: I haven't found anything to hate in the game yet, just good things. What gives?

Because unlike me, you haven't played roughly 500+ RPGs over the past 26 years. I know, I know. No life, right? Tell that to my ex who still stalks me online.

Let's face facts here: The game is bad. If you can't tell when monsters spawning in waves on top of you, copy-pasted dungeons and laughably inane plot-lines that came out of a 15 year old's livejournal are bad then chances are...

you're a 15 year old newbie with a live journal.

#8: I don't see how this game is dumbed down. The stats and depth are still there!

I don't really get these quotes from people.

Ok, Do you guys see the following:

#1: Only the main character can wear any armor whatsoever (Dumbed Down)

#2: Rogues are forced into dual knives, no longswords or longsword/shortsword option (Dumbing down)

#3: The same dungeon is re-used several times and just re-named for new quests (Dumbing Down)

#4: Gigantic "Drink potion now" button in the lower right corner, can't be removed (Dumbing Down)

#5: Enemies literally spawn out of thin air most of the time, making it look like some 1990s arcade game (Dumbing down)

#6: Lockpicking is no longer a dice roll but lock levels are opened up to you for every 10 points of cunning (dumbing down)

#7: Most NPCs aren't even clicking and very few have dialog (Dumbing down)

#8: Crafting doesn't require collecting ingredients, only paying money after finding *one* source in the field (dumbing down)

#9: Shops are an NPC with one line of dialog and a small box next to them that acts as the storefront (dumbing down)

So can people stop saying this game is not dumbed down? It's extremely obvious it is.

#9: You can't compare it to Dragon Age Origins! They tried something different!

Wrong. This is a weasel excuse and you know it. You don't change horses midstream and you don't sell out your hardcore fans by telling them the sequel will be every bit as deep as the first game but lie and release a watered down title anyway. After 3-4 sequels, sure, you can mix stuff up. Castlevania, Megaman and even Wizardry did that and it worked to varying degrees of success. Though changing the entire formula so DRASTICALLY after only ONE TITLE IN THE SERIES is an unfathomably unreasonable thing to do.

I don't get these people who think just because a sequel is different you cannot therefore compare it to the game(s) that came before it. That's utter bull.

For now, I'm done talking about this. I've grown so sick and tired of seeing young kids defend DA2 and try to pass it off as RPG of the year when it clearly isn't even Action game of the week. I'm going to dunk my head in the river and drown myself. Ugh.