Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We're All Doomed

The news on the television just reported there's now a two-month waiting period if you want to buy Sarah Palin's particular brand of rimless glasses. Two months.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Glutton for Punishment

I'm taking a break from writing a review of Spore in my blog about Spore. Afterward I will probably play more Spore, because I really want to patch up the bad relations between my own empire of Flatula (below) and the Troggles who have been pounding my home world mercilessly. There are planets to colonize! There is spice to be had!

This is all after having basically done nothing but play Spore, think about Spore, and listen to talks from the people who made Spore and inspired Spore since last Thursday night. Ugh.

I guess that means it's a good game?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not Dead (Yet)

If anyone is still listening out there: hey! I haven't forgotten about this blog. I've just been a little busy with another project lately. Look for updates to resume...soon.

In the meantime, please enjoy this loaf of cat.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fourth Trip to Hell

Seemingly out of the blue, id Software went and announced Doom 4 this morning. I won't pretend to understand why they issued this reasonably big announcement via an underwhelming press release, what with their annual Texas fan orgy QuakeCon barely two months out. (Maybe they have something more momentous to blow out there. Playable Rage, perhaps?) Anwyay, I can't help getting excited about another Doom game, even if the people who are going to make it haven't actually been hired yet.

I loved Doom 3; Doom 3 got a bad rap. There, I said it. Yeah, the point-A-to-point-B gameplay was archaic by first-person shooter standards even in 2004, and having to swap back and forth between flashlight and weapon was kind of a drag (although I will bow to anyone who's able to handle a tactical 12-gauge one-handed).

Setting the design issues aside, I assert the quality of the Doom 3 experience hinged on the conditions you played it under. Not just the screen resolution and beef of your graphics card -- although those things matter -- but more importantly the ambient elements of your play environment. I plowed through the game strictly at night, all the lights off, with a good bass-heavy pair of Sennheisers on, and it scared the bejeezus out of me time after time. I can't remember a game before or since that's poked my brain's primal fight-or-flight fear response so acutely (some Resident Evils come close), nor one in which I've become so utterly immersed. At times I was living in that world and running for my damn life, and I think the external sensory deprivation I imposed on the experience was crucial to maintaining that feeling.

At the time, the prevailing sentiment about Doom 3 was derision for all the button-pushing, rusty industrial corridors, and endless monster closets. But then, most people I knew who played Doom 3 did it with the lights on (lolz) and even sometimes with other people hanging around. Most of them weren't impressed. Indeed, I went back and played it again in that manner some months later, and the jump-out-and-scare-you moments came off as largely ineffectual and sometimes downright cheesy. Not scary in the slightest. Looking at Doom 3 in the light of day brought its faults into stark relief, where before I had been able to overlook them for the sake of allowing myself to get sucked into the game's reality.

It would be ham-fisted and more than a little pretentious to suggest those other people weren't playing Doom 3 "the right way," and of course you are free to enjoy any game in whatever manner you want. And if you just couldn't stand the mindless enemies and dated gameplay conventions, well, that's down to personal preference. Can't knock you for that. But is it fair to expect a horror-themed game to succeed in any environment? You wouldn't watch Alien or The Thing on a sunny afternoon and expect it to be very scary. (If you would, your constitution's even weaker than mine.)

At any rate, with a new team at the helm on Doom 4, I'm optimistic. The whole Hell-on-Mars thing has been done to death, so let's hope they dispense with that setting and take it somewhere new. (Any ideas? Post 'em in the comments.) If they're smart, they'll at least make sure that the Hello Kitty flashlight is UAC standard-issue equipment this time around.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Stuff You Own...

...ends up owning you, etc. etc. Clich├ęd but true. It's hard to appreciate how much crap you can accumulate in four years of living at the same address, until you have to pack it all up and move it somewhere else. This ain't even the half of it.

Regular posts to resume after I get settled (and get an Internet connection) in my new place. Hopefully! I've been awfully slack in that regard.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Eaten by Grue

You are in an open field west of a big white house with a boarded front door.

There is a small, neglected blog here.

update blog_

Okay, so I wasn't really eaten by a grue (although that might not be all bad -- always wanted to know what they look like). That's a more convenient excuse for not having updated in a week than the real reasons, namely being busy and being lazy. Usually in an alternating pattern, those are pretty much mutually exclusive activities.

Last week was a good week for podcasts. In addition to the IGN GameSages 'cast on Monday, Garnett Lee and the gang over at 1up Yours had me on their show on Thursday. I'm a big fan of 1up Yours and listen to it every week, so it was extra gratifying (and slightly intimidating) to actually get in the mix with Garnett, Shane, and Shawn. I got a little insecure about my contribution to the show; it's hard to jump right into a new roomful of dudes and mesh instantly, but hopefully I done 'em proud.

This afternoon I also got to go outside the protective embrace of my house to check out my first game-that-isn't-out-yet in a while, which I'll be writing up for Shacknews, another site I spend too much time on. This will be my first freelance writing assignment, so it's fitting I'm doing it for a site I've been active on in some way or another since it was called sCary's Quakeholio back in like, geez, '96? Anyway, the game is Fallout 3, the impressions are positive, the embargo is Thursday.

Call of Duty 4 and its variety map pack are dominating my game time right now, to the exclusion of entirely new games that go yet untouched. Playing last night, it occurred to me how long it's been since pure deathmatch was a compelling game type in an online shooter -- but team DM is indeed what I play in COD4 the most. (Looking at some quick stats, it seems to be far and away the most popular mode in general.) That testifies to just how damn good the basic run-'n-gun in that game is. The pacing, the feel of the weapons, the hit response animations -- everything it takes to make up basic first-person shooter gameplay -- are all so perfect. I don't think I could ever get tired of it.

If anyone is still reading this blog, what are you playing these days? I feel like I need to branch out a little. Suggest something!

Lastly, if you happened to get a nostalgic jones to play a little Zork just now, here's a good free option for doing that.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Nobody's Fool

In defiance of the calendar, today's post will be 100 percent earnest and truthful. Sorry! I'm not a very funny guy (not intentionally, at least), and it's good to know your limits.

I wondered how the fine folks at Doofy Crap would handle today's occasion (their first, to my reckoning). They deal in the droll on a daily basis, after all. When your MO is tomfoolery, what do you do on the day when everyone else gets stupid? Do they cancel each other out, like a double negative? I wasn't disappointed in the Doofy response.

On a more serious and work-related note, Jeremy Dunham over at IGN was kind enough to invite me onto their GameSages podcast yesterday, along with Official Xbox Magazine senior editor Dan Amrich, and current TeamXbox contributing editor and games press elder statesman Andy Eddy. (I was a big fan of Andy's first magazine Video Games & Computer Entertainment -- one of the first intelligent console-game magazines, and one of the first game magazines I avidly read -- so it was a real gas to get to share a podcast table with him.) The topic was the games press: the ins and outs of writing about games, how to break into the industry, misconceptions about the job, the standards of games criticism, that sort of thing. Haven't heard the final product yet, but I think we had a really good discussion, and we managed to exceed GarageBand's maximum track length before we finished. Give it a listen, and feel free to bitch about my boring monotone; it wouldn't be a podcast without it.

Finally started playing some games again last night by jumping into a Company of Heroes skirmish match against AI with my buddy Mark from the east coast. And then another, and then another... By the time we quit I'd missed dinner and he'd stayed up late enough to (presumably) raise his wife's ire. Can't remember the last time I've been so enthralled by a strategy game (probably Starcraft), nor so humbled by a strat game's AI opponents. Still learning the tech tree and abilities, in my defense, but we only won one out of at least four matches against two AI players at the 'normal' level, which behaved in surprisingly dynamic and competitive ways. We got worked, basically.

I love the way COH handles resource nodes: they're small, strategically valuable points spread diffusely all over the map that you capture the same way you'd capture a control point in a Battlefield game. It makes your defense absolutely crucial; you have to figure out the right kind of defenses for the terrain and buildings surrounding every point, not to mention choke points all over the map where the enemy will be sending armor and infantry through. It was very tempting to play the game like Starcraft at first -- you know, build up a giant goddamn army and assign the whole thing to the 1 key, then roam around the map obliterating the other guy's expansions. But you so can't play COH that way. It's all about splitting up your troops into specialized teams, using the map features to your advantage, flanking the enemy position. It feels more like real warfare than most RTS games I've played; by way of analogy, COH is to RTS as the original Ghost Recon games were to Quake (but unlike Ghost Recon, COH doesn't make me want to punch myself repeatedly in the temples).

Company of Heroes and its standalone expansion Opposing Fronts are both on Steam as a combo pack for $40, and so far I can say it's worth every damn penny. I was waiting for Starcraft II to revitalize my interest in real-time strategy games (and still I can't wait to play it, especially now), but COH has really beaten it to the punch.