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TheBates Blog

Oh, Gamespot...

Think back for a moment, if you will, to December 2006. Just over a year ago. Gamespot was still awesome. Greg Kasavin was still here, Jeff was obviously still here, and Gamespot was, without doubt, the best and most respected gaming website in the history of gaming websites. Now fast forward a year, and the place is truly and absolutely falling apart. No more Greg, no more Rich, no more Jeff. And now, no more Alex. If you'd told me a year ago that all of those Gamespot legends would be departing within such a small time-frame, I would never have believed you. It sounds overly sentimental and even a tad twee to reminisce about a gaming website, but for a good few years this place was just a bucket-load of fun. There was always something amazing going on and everything from the wry humour that seeped through the various editorials, to the quality of the writing, was simply unparalleled. I like Kevin Van Ord and Ryan Davis and Justin Calevrt and Brad Shoemaker and all the rest, but no organisation can afford to lose talents of the calibre of Kasavin, Gerstmann and Navarro within the space of a year, and not be severely damaged as a result.

My daily visits to Gamespot seem to be turning into twice-weekly visits at the most, and this is truly, truly sad. There isn't even a viable alrernative that even comes close to the Gamespot of old. I find myself reading the likes of Kotaku and 1up, and then I think, "wait, what in the name of God am I doing here?" And then I remember: "Oh yeah, it's because Gamespot's dead".

I'm sticking around in the vain hopr that things can turn around in 2008, but I won't be holding my breath.

Nonsense.

The story running in the news section of this site, concerning Jeff's departure, is complete nonsense. It explains nothing, and will satisfy no-one who is in the least bit interested in this whole debacle. You can't just sack the face of the effing website, only to cower in obscurantist drivel about accusations in the media being "unsubstantiated". OK, so you're saying that we all have it wrong, and that Jeff wasn't unceremoniously locked out of his office at the behest of Eidos and Josh frickin' Larson. Why, then, was he pushed? Surely we, who have been following Gamespot for years (don't be fooled by my 2006 join date), deserve some sort of an answer other than the cliched and hackneyed drivel spouted in that news story. Legal reasons my arse: I cannot believe that Jeff would not want the truth to be told, and Gamespot and CNET should clear the matter up with a definitive and accurate account of exactly why he was shown the (back)door. This ridiculous and lame news story just leaves an extremely bad taste in the mouth.

I'm through with this site.

I've been thinking about what my reaction to Jeff being sacked is going to be. Although it will pain me to stop coming to Gamespot, I believe that my absconding is the only moral option open to me. There is absolutely no way that I can continue to support an organisation that gets rid of its employees for upholding their journalistic integrity. It's mind-bogglingly idiotic.

Jeff Gerstmann is one incredibly talented individual. His writing is of an extremely high standard, his music is absolutely exceptional (better than most bands out there, in fact), and he's naturally very, very funny. He was a real asset to Gamespot, perhaps the best games journalist around at the moment. For him to be kicked out the door for doing his job is an absolute disgrace, and I will be voting with my feet and getting the hell out of here. I'll be hanging around for a bit to hear the reaction from the other editors (I'm sure the likes of Navarro and others won't be able to keep wuiet about this one), but after that, I'm off.

Goodbye Gamespot. It's been an absolute blast.

4th Quarter Scramble

It's becoming a tradition in the gaming industry for the vast majority of the year's most anticipated games to arrive in the last quarter of the year. As the Gamespot editors like to say, once Madden's released, it's almost like the floodgates being opened, with developers everywhere recognising it as their cue to start polishing up their creations for a thanksgiving release (What the hell is it with Americans and thanksgiving? Thanks for the turkey, Lord! Shame about all those poor unfortunates who are starving to death in Africa whilst heavy-duty cranberry sauce dribbles down my chin). And so I am becoming increasingly aware of this phenomenon, largely due to the fact that it isn't hard to notice the distinct lack of quality arrivals throughout the early part of the year, whereas the blockbusters and triple As are shoehorned into stores pretty much all at the same same.

I have spent most of the year moaning (to myself) about how there is a distinct lack of quality games coming out on the 360 and the Wii. I didn't care about Halo 3 coming out in October, or Mass Effect coming out in November, for that matter (okay, maybe I did care a bit), because that was way into the future- I was more interested in what was coming out in February, March, April and May. The early months of the year need quality games too.

It is simply not healthy to have virtually six months of drought, only to be besieged with, um, a barrage of, rain(?) all at the one time. And once the quality games do arrive, it is literally impossible to make a decent stab at playing through them all, what with the need to have to go out and earn a living and interact socially, somewhat hampering the ability to sit around and play games all day. I'm currently playing Puzle Quest on the Xbox, after it was released a few days ago on Marketplace. I had been playing Halo 3, but, as expected, another unbelievably good title, which I missed the first time around on the handhelds, has thrown me a swerveball and made me reassess where my gaming priorities should be lying. And so, after going through more than half the year living on whatever myriad of second-rate crap developers had decided to release, I now find myself with two games that are utterly deserving of my attention, and only the time to play one of them (Puzzle Quest all the way :) )

The situation is only going to get worse, with landmark games such as Mass Effect and Super Mario Galaxy on the horizon, and having to choose between those two, whuch are both looking crazy-good, is going to be even more stressful than my Puzzle Quest/Halo 3 conundrum.

And finally, before you all think that I'm the world's biggest sourpuss, how awesome is Puzzle Quest? For a game that cost me about ten British pounds, I have never had as much fun in my life. That game just sucks you in, big-time, and I have been playing for six or seven hours at a time, something I only ever do if a game resides in the upper echelons of sheer brilliance. It's right up there with the best games I've played on the 360, and a few more titles like that on the Live Arcade service would go down beautifully. Just not anytime soon.

UK Gaming Woes

Who would be a UK gamer? It's a hard life, let me tell you. In between paying roughly double what American gamers pay for their games, and having to wait excruciating amounts of time for them to arrive on our shelves, there cannot be a more masochistic past-time out there.

Over the past few months, I have made several visits to my local GAME store in the city centre, hoping to snag some of the hottest new releases. Visiting GameSpot on a daily basis helps me to make decisions about purchasing games in the store rather quickly, as I usually know right away what score a given game will have received, or at least what ratings band it will have been allocated (8 point something, 7 point something...). Apart from the delightful Viva Pinata, there has not been a single game released over here worth buying for months. Indeed, an experience I had yesterday whilst perusing the new releases almost had me accosting the poor store manager and demanding some frickin' answers: I'm standing there, struggling to justify forking-out £44.99 for some bog-standard 360 game, when I notice a box with the words "Final Fantasy XII: Coming Soon", triumphantly emblazoned across the front. "Coming Soon"?! Come on, that game was initially released about a year ago in Japan, and it's been out in the states for quite a while now as well. I've been reading about that game for what seems like several decades, not to mention having read a ridiculous amount of reviews, not all of them favourable. When that game eventually does hit UK shelves, God knows when, it'll be yesterday's news and hard to get too excited about.

Here's a little round up of this ridiculous state of affairs; all of these games have still not hit UK shelves:

Okami
God Hand
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
Excite Truck
Final Fantasy XII

That's off the top of my head and there's no doubt a lot more, less well-known titles still as yet unreleased. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we oppressed UK gamers need to create some sort of UK Gaming Resistance... we need to stand up to this nonsense and fight for our God-given right to play games at a reasonable date and not have to wait months for those sneaky Italians and Spaniards to get their crappy translated versions. This is a serious problem that must be addressed. Who's with me?!

Doomed

After downloading Doom today for my 360, I was looking forward to a nostalgia-packed afternoon of blasting zombies, imps and 'pinkies' into the Martian dust. What I got instead was a frozen screen and a feeling of numbing inferiority.

Everything had been going so splendidly well at first; the game is still as fun to control in 2006 as it was when I first played it for the Playstation in 1995. The music is different to what I remember, but I reckon that this is a port of the PC original, and not simply one of the numerous console iterations that were subsequently spawned. Regardless, it was still good ol' Doom, just as I had remembered it.

After a few hours of play I had reached the final level of the first episode, a shortish romp in which you must kill two Barons of Hell, those pinkish minotaur look-a-likes that hurl green balls of plasma-ish mayhem in your direction. Anyway, after they had been dispatched(rather easily, may I add), I made my way to the exit, where you are transported to a dark room full of mosters from which there is no escape(no, really). After suffering my inescapable demise, the text began to scroll telling me that the next chapter was about to begin. Great! More nostalgia-filled Doom goodness for me to enjoy!

But wait! What's this?! It's telling me to press the 'A' button, but when I humbly oblige and press 'A', nothing happens, the game just freezes. Hmmm... that's odd, I muse... but not to worry, that last level wasn't very long, and it won't be too much of a hassle to quickly wade through it again.  But the exact same thing happens when I complete the first episode for the second time!  The text scrolls down, and the game does not continue when it tells me that pressing 'A' will have this effect! Four times I tried this and the same thing happened each and every time. It wouldn't even let me go to the 360's dashboard when I tried that. What the hell as hapening?

Disappointed and more than a tad frustrated, I decided to start the second episode manually by turing the comsole off and on again. Episode two of my nightmare was about to begin as I found the going extremely tough with only a pistol and a small amount of ammo to keep me alive. Am I the worst game-player ever? Probably, as I didn't seem to get uch sympathy when I voiced my concerns at Gamespot's 360 forum. I need a new hobby- preferably something that doesn't make me feel like a pathetic loser.

forty-nine ninety-nine

I've just put the price we Brits pay for our Xbox 360 games, £49.99, through a currency calculator. The result wasjust over $94. $94. I'll say that again, just in case the sheer ludicrousness of my findings hasn't yet struck you. $94. That's completely insane. Can you imagine if Americans had to pay $94 for their 360 games? There's be riots. Something has to be done about this. Ah well, at least my dinner's ready. Mmmmm, spaghetti bolognese.

Xbox 360, Oblivion, and mad, loud clicking noises.

So I got my 360 yesterday along with Oblivion and GRAW. The machine had barely been switched on for a minute when I decided to switch its position from the horizontal to the vertical. Big mistake. The machine started making insane clicking noises which is never a good sign. Worried, I removed the disk to find a huge, semi-circular scratch on my copy of Oblivion. My new 360 ate my new game! Apparently this has been happening to other people, and there is a warning in the 360's instruction manual advising folk not to move the console when there is a game in. Surely though, if the console is going to **** up my games after I move it gently through ninety degrees, there should be warnings plastered all over the front of the box or something? I mean, I was able to drop my Gamecube from five feet onto a wooden floor without so much as a scratch! Luckily for me I'm a bit insane and repaired my scratched disk with the good-old-fashioned toothpaste remedy, thereby removing the offending scratch.(my game wasn't working for a few hours)

So yeah, technical issues aside, what a cool console the 360 is. Those wireless controllers are so well designed, and it's great not having wires to trip everyone up. I played Oblivion from about 4pm to 6am, with only a few short breaks. I'm about to go to work now but I can see that this game is going to consume my life for the next few weeks. What a great idea it was to get a 360 a few weeks before my final exams.

Gambling's a Mug's Game

Or so my old Dad is always telling me. "You waste too much money on that bloody internet poker", he tells me. And he's right. But yesterday I won over $750 in a 149-man multi-table tourney, giving me enough cash to buy that Xbox 360 which has thus far eluded me. Joy! The only problem is that Pacific Poker takes 7-10 days to pay up(!), which is pretty ridiculous.

So expect some insane ramblings on my first impressions of Oblivion and PGR3 when I finally get to play them, months after the rest of the Universe.

Meteos!

I bought Meteos the other day, and it's totally mental. The initial buzz is beginning to wear off a bit now, but what a cool game that is. The DS needs more games that make as good a use of the touch-screen as Meteos. Frantically flicking those meteos around whilst all hell breaks loose is really fun. I hope they bring out a budget priced version  of Columns for the DS. With the old Mega Drive version as an added bonus- the tune 'clothos' from the original Columns is totally legendary. One of the tunes for Columns on the GBA was amazing as well. What is it about Columns and insanely catchy tunes?!