Friday, January 28, 2005

Everyone Read This

Oughtta Stay Out of Pictures - Why video games shouldn't be like the movies. By Clive Thompson

An interesting article on game storytelling. The developer where I work is big on cutscenes and in-game storytelling, but I personally see some of the weaknesses of that style. Taking control away from the player for extended periods of time isn't always a great idea for game design, no matter how strong the story. Anyway, the article sums it up, and I'm too damn crunched to write any more today, so there you go.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sarah Polley Nails It In One

Sarah Polley, star of the recent Dawn of the Dead, says the coolest thing I've ever heard anyone say, ever, in an interview with Gamestar (RIP):

"I think it takes a lot more nerve to not be in on the [Scream, Freddy vs. Jason, etc.] joke. I saw [Dawn of the Dead] with an audience last night, and people were kind of like shocked, because we're so used to that kind of ironic, tongue-in-cheek, like we're all way too sophisticated to actually be scared. I think that era has had its day, and I think people actually want to experience real things in theatres again. I think that it's really brave to make a movie that isn't just making fun of itself the whole time. And it's funnier, actually. "

Everything is so damn ironic and cynical, and you should really consider that, coming from me, the Awesomelord. The new Dukes of Hazzard movie stars goddamn Jassica Simpson as Daisy, Seann William Scott as Bo, and Johnny Knoxville as Luke. Even considering that The Dukes of Hazzard was not fine theatre in its day, it at least took itself pretty seriously and presented an entertaining show. This movie will be, according to my sources (who are essentially the gnomes who live in my head), a mocking, ironic film that goes, "Look how much more awesome we are than the original show! Ha ha, lookit how we make fun of this stupid show!" From that, you get a few laughs, but nothing new.

Satire has value when it's poignant and intelligent. The original Scream almost had it nailed, presenting real horror alongside satire about horror movies, but it still came down to a lot of, "Ha ha, lookit how dumb these movies are! The sex kitten always dies! Ha ha!" The original Knight Rider show is pretty cheesy in hindsight, but it created something new for viewers to enjoy. All the David Hasselhoff jokes let us feel superior to a man who has a huge cult following in Europe (whereas our own cult followings leave much to be desired), but they mean nothing to someone who doesn't understand why David Hasselhoff is so funny.

Sarah Polley's comment is true. It'd be nice to see more real entertainment and less one-punchline jokes masquerading as such.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

You are Not a Journalist, Dude

I promised a rant on this. Well, actually, I was going to do one anyway, so there you go.

I was an editor on a game magazine. I did that work for five years, which I suppose makes me a bit of a veteran in an industry in which the old timers have only been around for 15 years. Here's a little bit about what an editor of a game magazine does:

1) Writes articles. Most articles we'd write were either features, reviews, previews, or strategies. There were always 3-7 news articles in there, but the magazine's 3-month lead time meant that the "news" was anything but. It was always as up-to-date as possible, but a lot of it boiled down to, "In case your cable was down last month, here you go."

2) Edits articles. Believe it or not, someone edits the articles you read in game magazines. In fact, at my old pub, an article would go through several layers of edits, each with a different focus. Here you look for content problems (which rarely happened), here you looked for typos, here you made sure that the text lined up right, etc. In general, the editing done by the actual editors (save that done by copy edit) boiled down to reading the article, making sure the words "workmanlike" and "presentationwise" were only used once each, and passing it on.

3) Keeps up with industry contacts. This is the weak link, here, which I'll explain in a bit. An editor has to keep up with industry contacts, meaning that he must call his assigned PR reps once every week or so and find out if they have any other information to spoon feed him. This involves pretending to like that contact (or, sometimes, actually liking them, and in rare instances, hooking up with them) and getting "sensitive information," like whatever that company's marketing plan allows the magazine editors to know that week.

4) Organizes stuff. You have to keep up with assets, press sheets (very important, since this is the bulk of your content), etc. You also have to keep track of any sections you're in charge of, keep a tracker of the games you think are worth covering (generally any game with a kids' cartoon named after it), and all that. Fun.

5) Sits in meetings. Sometimes they are cool meetings, like demos of games, and sometimes they are crap meetings, but sometimes it seems as though editors spend all their time in meetings. It sucks, because this plus everything else leaves precious little time for the least important thing on this list:

6) Plays games. Reviewers rarely play through games unless they are web writers with a huge staff backing them up or they work weekends and evening hours, which many lifers do. On a good week, I would play games maybe 6 hours for the week. Most of the time, those games suck. I aimed my section toward previews for that reason; I didn't feel that my section should have tons of reviews if I was the only person available to write them.

Notice that nowhere on that list will you find "Investigates stuff" or "asks hard-hitting questions." That's because no one--not the mag you're on, not the game publishers--wants you to do any of that. Despite the fact that I can go online right now and find timely and numerous reviews for games that came out this week, print magazine publishers still believe that reviews and previews sell issues. If your cover read, "XBOX CONSOLE ENTIRELY A TOOL MEANT TO DRIVE NINTENDO OUT OF BUSINESS, PROOF INSIDE," no one would give it another look unless the headline were next to Kanouyuko, the cute-and-sexy-and troubled-yet-independent-and-strong female love interest in an upcoming wannabe-Japanese action-RPG-collection game.

I was on a trip to a developer to see a game for our cover article, and on the wall I spotted flowcharts and diagrams and plans for a game that, even now, has yet to be announced. I could have easily splashed a news article in the mag about it ("FIRST INFO ON EARLY DESIGNS FOR SECRET NEW GAME"). I could have worked the situation so that I could be close to that board as much as possible, taken notes on what I saw, and maybe even asked a developer (not the lead designer, but maybe one of the lower-level working stiffs) about it off the record. Working at a developer now, I see tons of ways a smart journalist could spot clues and get info about secret projects planned for years from now. In fact, I doubt that visiting game writers have picked up on the acronyms and titles mentioned in passing by people who work here. A journalist would be listening in, aware that they will hear something they shouldn't.

The problem is, this sort of thing isn't encouraged. In fact, there is an understanding with game publishers that a journalist will not write about anything the publisher doesn't want written. Even with a review, the publisher can say, "Don't tell anyone about the fighting system," and the reviewer is obliged to comply. The punishment for failing to do so is an angry letter from the publisher to the mag's CEO and, often, witholding of assets from the magazine, which limits the mag's coverage of that publisher's games in the future. The bottom line is that game mag writers are the puppets of the publishers. You rarely read anything in a print magazine that the game publishers don't want you to know.

When I was in journalism, I and a few others at my mag tried to change the focus a bit. I was tired of features that were, essentially, just free ads for the game they were about. We're talking 5 page previews full of fluff about how awesome the game will probably be, with one line of caveat saying, essentially, "Maybe the game won't be as good as we hope, but we think it will!" A couple of other editors and I decided to try new stuff. Interview developers (NOT publishers) about game cliches and ask them why they keep using them. Confront developers about mature games and why they make them. Ask developers why they think gamers don't finish games. Even in the fluff pieces, include sidebars full of the developers' history, interviews with interesting people involved with the game, etc. Do anything more than the typical, "Why are you so awesome?" ass-licking that game journalism tends to be. In the months since I left, I could see that philosophy really taking shape, and the magazine was far more readable for it.

Writing reviews and previews is not journalism. Printing a "scoop" that the publisher gave you is NOT journalism. Asking that three of the seven screenshots the publisher is giving you be exclusive is NOT journalism. Writing an article about what you THINK a game will be like is not journalism. Giving in to Rockstar's demands that you run the screenshots they give you for your review, even when they are obviously not taken from real gameplay, is emphatically NOT fucking journalism. Actually, running anything that Rockstar Games allows you to run is definitely not journalism, because Rockstar is in complete control of who knows what when, and they are masters of making games seem better than they are by withholding information.

Anyone with a love of games and elementary writing skills can be a game journalist with the right contacts. Actually, you don't really need the love of games, because being a game journalist is a good way to kill that love for good. If you want to distinguish yourself from the flock, you need to do something different.

Try being a journalist.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Jumping to Conclusions: Resident Evil 4

After thirty minutes of Resident Evil 4, I feel entirely qualified to say that I just don't get it.

If you read the reviews linked above, you'll learn that this is the best survival horror game EVER. It's like the Halo 2 of survival horror, except that Halo 2, as the best game ever, is already the Halo 2 of survival horror. I just don't see it.

What I see is awkward controls, a camera view that makes me feel like I'm running forward at a diagonal, an aiming system that makes wild shots the norm, and enemies that have none of these limitations. I can't dodge attacks without running, I don't have enough bullets to really shoot the guys coming at me, and while I don't operate like a truck anymore, I operate like a drunken suicide case who has to stand still to shoot a gun. Needless to say, the swarms of guys who each take nearly an entire clip to kill tend to take me out with Olympic ease.

Maybe I'm a big retard. Maybe I'm too busy thinking about tomorrow's field trip to McDonalds to actually be any good at the game. Other people seem to like it. Other people seem to like it a lot. They seem to have discovered bosses and other cool bits, while I tend to die to the Spanish Fast Zombie Clones over and over. But damnit, the game controls horribly. I can't get past that.

Yeah, you get to jump through windows and kick people's heads and knock over ladders and stuff, but that's essentially just pressing A. I have yet to think, "Man, I just did something cool!" Instead, I think, "I just pressed A and watched something happen!" Likewise, I don't feel like a crack secret agent who has been through zombie hell. I feel like a rookie at a firing range who hasn't learned that mobility in a firefight could save his life.

I assume it gets better; it has to. Otherwise all the reviewers are retarded. I'll give the game another shot, but maybe I need someone to explain to me what makes the game good. I'm missing something, and that something is the key to having fun in the game.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Objective Opinions?

GameDrool, a blog from one of the editors over at GamePro. The original article prints a long, interesting letter from Trip Hawkins, the now-president of Digital Chocolate and former-master-chief of 3DO.

The comments below that article get into the philosophy of game reviewing, with comments from, "Good on that reviewer!" to "Game reviewers need to be more open and objective." There seem to be two camps on this issue:

1) Game reviewers need to be objective. Championed mostly by game publishers and people who insist on calling game reviewing "journalism," this stance believes that game reviewers should take into account the chance that someone out there will enjoy almost any game they review, and so they should angle the review toward finding the good things about each game and communicating those.

2) Game reviewers should give their opinions. This one is self-explanatory. When someone is paid to play a game and tell what they thought about it, then you're obviously asking for opinions. This one makes reviewers succeptible to their inner biases, say some, and it skews their reviews likewise.

There's good and bad in both camps. For Camp 1, you risk a review that reads like the manual for a support group ("The game's not fun for me, but hey, we're all okay, you might like it!"), but you also avoid some of Camp 2's bias. I believe that a skilled and conscientious reviewer stands in both camps, able to understand the good and bad and the difference between that and what he likes and dislikes.

For example: I don't like having to reload multiple times on a level. I hate the interruption of game flow and the frustration that creates. Others like the challenge and don't mind reloading, because they like trying to approach the problem from different angles. If I mention the dying and reloading in the review, it's just my opinion that it's lame, and that's not necessarily true for others. But if that sequence in the game causes reloads because of cheap shots, poor controls, or unfair challenge, then that's not going to be fun for the "different angles" guy, either. So I put it in my review, so people know what to expect.

Then, what happens when someone reads a review like, "This game isn't really that great, but you might like it"? That tells no one anything. That reviewer might just as well have written, "I like pretty flowers, and zeppelins are big!" The reader gains no information and has to go somewhere else for a clear opinion on the game.

For Camp 2 folks, you have to be considerate of the state of the gaming art just as much as your own likes and dislikes. You can't just say, "This sucks! This game is like " and hang it up. You have to be able to explain, often in objective terms, why the game wasn't fun. Learn about game development processes, figure out why something turned out the way it did, and drop that in the review. Maybe make notes and plan to look into development snafus for a future article--developers are often willing to do post-mortems for publication, and there are few things readers like more than seeing behind the scenes. At that point, you're getting into actual journalism, which is where the objectivity comes in.

As a reviewer, you don't have to be objective, but you have to be fair. You have to understand things and keep things in mind and know stuff. You have to have played tons of games and be able to compare them. You have to be ready to say unfavorable things about a game you were hopeful about, and you have to be ready to suck it up and accept that, just maybe, Barbie Beach Vacation or whatever has some redeeming value. Maybe not to your readers, of course, but to someone.

Opinions are subjective by their very nature. When someone writes a review, they're not searching for the truth; they're forming an opinion. The reason I say that reviews aren't journalism is that I don't think they are. Journalism is the search for and archiving of truth and facts, and there is precious little of that in game mags these days... but that's another topic. This belief that reviews must be objective comes from the confusion that reviewing is journalism. Reviews are opinions, and they don't have to be objective. They just have to be educated.

Anyway, I wanted to bring this discussion here, especially since 50% of the 4-person readership I have here are game journalists/reviewers or were at one point.

So, let me have it.

Someone Finds Bush's Remote Control

The Australian: Bush vows to cut out the 'cowboy' talk [January 15, 2005]

"Quick! Knock out Cheney and take it!"

"This is gonna be so much fun!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

News from The Roanoke Times -Rodeo in Salem gets unexpected song rendition

News from The Roanoke Times -Rodeo in Salem gets unexpected song rendition




Monday, January 10, 2005

Okay, Fine. My Top 10

Don't ask me why I linked to normalMode above. Just don't.

Maybe it was because that site's Top 10 list inspired me to make my own. Now, granted, I've done almost nothing but World of Warcraft (I'm not the only one), and so I'm pretty much just going to make stuff up.

Anyway, here we go: The TOP 10 AWESOMEST STUFF OF 2004!!!!

10) Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
So, it didn't sell a lot, and it was buggy as hell, and it contained some really questionable design decisions (You are rewarded for being a very social-focused character, but eventually you have to wade through combat to win), but damn if it didn't have the finest video game dialog writing in decades. Meaningful choices, real characters, and intelligent handling of mature subjects made Vampire a must-play for anyone interested in game dialog and storytelling. Which is, apparently, only a few thousand people.

9) Cats
Ah, the joy of pet ownership. Months ago, I had no pets, and I find it hard to imagine what life was like then. Thinking back, though, I imagine that my apartment didn't smell like poo, my sweatshirts didn't have tiny white hairs all over them, and I was well-rested and less cranky when I woke up in the morning. That said, they are cutie-wootie, as well as cuddly-wuddly, so, #9.

8) Dracula
I don't think he was involved in any pop culture this year, but Dracula's awesomeness cannot be limited by time. Well, no, he was in Blade 3, but I'll keep him at #8 regardless.

7) Fable
The game to end all games except WoW, Half-Life 2, Halo 2 and all games that came out since dropped this year to a surprisingly hostile crowd. Despite the fact that the end of the game was a bit of a "Haw, haw!" to players who spent the whole game maxxing their melee skills, I played and enjoyed this game to the extent that I was looking forward to coming home from work and popping it in for a few hours. Of course, it only took a few hours to beat Fable, and at that point I was desperate for any reason to come home from work, but there you go. It's mostly on the list because some people at work still complain about it to this day, cementing it in the Not So Much Remembered as Not Forgotten hall of fame.

6) The Show With the What Now
There's always some popular show that I missed during the year, but to be cool I have to put it on my list. This covers all of those. It's either Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, The Lost, or something like those. Maybe Tru Calling. Who knows. Anyway, there you go. My bases are covered.

5) Space
Space comes in at #5 with a bullet. Mostly because it's really awesome. Filled with spaceships and space pirates and Space Awesome, Space is a shoe-in for the Top 5 of 2005.

4) Harold & Kumar Chase the Burger
Special thanks to the French for their version of the title to the best stoner comedy in years. This movie made Dude, Where's My Car look like Dude, Where's My Car. Plus, Doogie Houser. Honorable Mention: Dodgeball, which in French is entitled, Ball Chaser.

3) Some Book
I never read anything, but there's a book on this list. I'm guessing it's probably the sequel to The Davinci Code or something. Actually, I read the first half of the sixth Dark Tower book, so let's change this to:

3) The First Half of the Sixth Dark Tower Book

2) World of Warcraft
Less than a week before WoW shipped you could hear me going, "Pshht, I am above these petty MMORPGs, this one is just EQ done again, and also you are stupid." Then the game came out, I bought two copies, followed by 2 two-month subscription cars and a second computer. Now if the Nazis need to find me for some reason, I'll be easily spotted sitting in front of my monitor running through Loch Modan. However, woe be unto the Nazi who interrupts my WoW time. Damn Nazis.

1) Canada
Moved to Canada this year. All year long, people told me, "Boy, it sure gets cold here later," but I didn't believe them. -40 degrees Celsius is like the Tooth Fairy of temperatures, except that I've looked every morning and, no quarters. When you're thinking of temperatures so cold that your intestines freeze and shoot out of your belly at supersonic speeds, it's hard to understand exactly what it means. I'll be finding out in a couple of days.

Anyway, Canada wins because it is awesome. Yeah, so the health care isn't free, but it's there when we need it. Yeah, the prices are high, but the good ol' US dollar is dropping, so that'll even out a bit. Yeah, it's cold, but... okay, it's just cold. The biggest problem I've run into is that the people here pronounce "pasta" to rhyme with "masta," as in "masta killa." If Canada and the US turned into giant robots armed only with their respective awesomeness, Canada would win, and it would be saving children and avoiding falling on puppies the whole time.

So, there you have it: my Top 10 awesomest things of 2004 or whatever. Read it and weep.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Will Eisner, 1917-2005

I met Will Eisner once or twice a few years back. Whenever you meet someone you admire, there's a frisson of nerves, like there's some kind of aura of awesomeness around that person. On the outside, he was just an old man, like someone's grandfather. But when you meet him, you realize that this is the man who made comics the respected medium it is today, who recruited Bob Kane and Jack Kirby to work for him in the 1930s. This is the man for whom the Comics Oscars are named. The guy is The Man.

Someone told me once that he saw Eisner at every ComicCon he went to, and that every time he saw Eisner, he marvelled at the fact that Eisner was still alive. The man's legend is so large among some people that most of us just assumed he was dead already.

He wasn't famous for creating Batman or for bringing post-modern attitude to comics. He was famous for defining comics, for teaching the artform, and for inspiring comic scholars like Scott McCloud to think of comics as something other than "funnny strips." He wrote strips in the 60s that dealt with everyday people with everyday problems. He pioneered the graphic novel. He walked on water.

Meeting Will Eisner, I realized that if Benjamin Franklin were alive today, that would be what meeting him would be like. Shaking the hand of a pioneer, an inventor, and an innovator. Touching the fingers that tapped the temples from which sprang The Spirit. Hearing the voice that taught comics' most lauded professionals how to tell a story in pages with panels. I'm sure that somewhere, Nicholas Cage is finding clues to Eisner's treasure as we speak.

I linked to the official bio of Will Eisner from his website, so I won't go into his life here when there are already better sources. He's a worthwhile man to research if you like comics, and his work is a worthwhile read. There's also a good interview with him, which you can find here.

Sometimes we take such comfort just knowing that certain people are still around that we take them for granted, and when one of those people dies, it's like a slap in the cultural face. Will Eisner's passing leaves a hole in pop culture that many won't even know exists.

G'bye, Mr. Eisner. We'll miss you.

'L.A. Times' Drops Daily 'Garfield' as the Comic Is Blasted and Praised

'L.A. Times' Drops Daily 'Garfield' as the Comic Is Blasted and Praised: "a strip produced by a committee, devoid of originality, devoid of guts, a strip cynically DESIGNED to be inoffensive and bad, on the theory that public tastes are insipid."

It wasn't just me.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

RIP Will Eisner

I just found out through Normal Mode (linked above and off to the side) that comics pioneer Will Eisner passed away Monday from complications from bypass surgery.

I'll have more on Mr. Eisner later, probably tomorrow, but damnit. If there ever was a true sign that maybe the Rapture was on its way, this is pretty much it.

More info here.

The WoW Age War

Linked above is an interesting thread on the World of Warcraft forums. In it, a poster proposes that Blizzard create a 20-or-over RP server to attempt to filter out some of the immaturity in the game. The original poster finishes her post with, "And for all I know, it is the adults, but I think this would help the problem somewhat for those of us that want to play a semi-serious game."

What follows is 12+ pages of arguing, accusations, insults, and general good times. G'head, read it. I'll wait.

Actually, maybe I won't.

It's interesting, because lately I've noticed that WoW, more than perhaps any other MMO I've played on (and I've played a lot), has a bit of an age-gap problem. On one hand we have the hardcore Bliz-kidz who migrated over from Diablo 2 (one of the most exploited and abused games out there, and one which was released back in the 1700s and still finds an audience of loud, leet-speaking cheaters), and on the other hand we have casual gamers who were attracted by the bright lights and pretty colors. In the middle we have experienced MMO veterans, but we'll leave these aside because most of them just want to get in there, kill monsters and take their stuff, and log out with a smile on their faces. As always, in this case, the silent middle-ground majority isn't worth a damn thing, because it's much more fun to talk about the whiners and screamers.

Most of these arguments seem to devolve into arguments about the merits of actually typing real words rather than Internet shorthand. "U" versus "you," "LFG" instead of "looking for group." Someone gets called a "grammar Nazi," someone else gets called "intolerant of young people," and someone else gets called "a jaded, bitter old fogey." And though I am all of those things, I resemble those remarks.

In my last job I wrote for a magazine that, despite its own public protests to the contrary, was skewed toward younger audiences. The trick to getting a younger audience is to convince them that you're really going for an older one. A 13-year-old will always be interested in what a 17-year-old is doing, but the opposite is rarely true. One reason why kids seem to grow up so fast is that the media and people marketing to kids constantly feed them more and more "mature" content, because they know that young teenagers don't want "kiddie stuff."

So young people flock to games that seem more mature, making older people, who believe that they are the ones for whom the game was made (and who are often right), uncomfortable. In a society in which the "age is maturity" idea lies at the heart of the "separate every age group by the year" school grade system, the Internet, and MMOs in particular, bring kids and adults together in the same world and simply say, "Play nice!" When one person in an area wants to spark a conversation about "OMG, Ashlee Simpson is soooo lame, i hear she effed Fred Durst lolololol roofles," while another wants to kick back with a beer and slay some orcs with his wife while the baby sleeps, you don't have a real healthy environment for cross-demographic solidarity.

To set the record straight, I'll say what no one else will. Older people are, on average, more mature than younger people. I can say that as someone who is peering over the edge of 30, and I know that people older than me will generally agree. Unlike most people in the world, however, I also experienced the younger ages, as well. I know for a fact that saying, "Older people are more mature than you," to a person between 13 and 18 will generally spark a "Nuh uh, you are a Nazi, loser," response. Younger people don't like to be confronted with the fact that they are young. The same phenomenon makes 14-year-olds write in to game magazines pleading that the editors convince their parents that they can handle Grand Theft Auto. The fact that they will, indeed, grow older and both A) become of age to purchase those games and B) become mature enough to really handle them almost completely escapes them. They want to be older now, to feel older now.

A lot of it comes down to respect. Young people don't get much respect. Young people think, "When I'm older, I will be able to play whatever I want and do whatever I want, and older people will respect me, because I have the power to act on my will." Because they are constantly pandered to by media and marketers, who serve them the sex and boobies and course language they think instantly makes them more mature, these kids think they're ready NOW, and so they should have that respect NOW. Cue sense of entitlement, end argument.

On the other hand, older people think that people aren't truly mature until they are exactly the same age that the older person is. As if, at age 25 or so, a person goes from Diddy Kong to Golgo 13 in one smooth shift of perspective. Older people cannot accept that every social ill is more likely caused by someone around their age, and so they blame younger people. The main characters in The Full Monty are older people, folks. So are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Mike Judge, the Ramones, Paul Reubens, and Blink 182.

The solution? Older people must attempt to understand what drives younger people. Kids just want to be treated like people, man. Really, that's it. And they are people. When their parents and older people around them won't give them respect, they got to television, music, sex, etc., who are there with all the respect the kid can buy. Give a kid REAL respect, and you make them socially bulletproof.

Meanwhile, younger people need to understand that wisdom does indeed come with age, even if it's not exactly directly proportional to it. Older people tend to have a better grasp of what's important in the world, they have often lived through hard times and made it through, and they generally have a better sense of perspective. Back in the day, young people used to "learn stuff" from older people. I know I did.

We're all on the Internet together, and no one is going to change by staying the same. While it makes the WoW forums more interesting (which is, I believe, the point), it doesn't serve anyone to have this odd age war. If you want to hate an age group, hate babies. They're goddamn useless.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

BBC NEWS | Business | Games giant EA buys Ubisoft stake

BBC NEWS | Business | Games giant EA buys Ubisoft stake

Toldja I'd get it for you, and I am not a liar, no matter what that one lady says.

Also, because you're nice: EA buying out DICE

Good to see EA is back on its old pattern of succeeding with a developer, buying them, and ruining them. It's nice of developers to offer EA a "try before you buy" program. It's like EA gets these developers on layaway.

Monday, January 03, 2005


OMFG! He's updating! The world will surely end now!

So, it's 2005. New Year's Eve used to mean hanging out at home, eating a spread of tasty finger foods, and maybe getting a sip of champagne if I asked nicely enough. That was a long time ago. This year, we had New Year's in a pub very near (nearly in) my apartment and had champagne from a plastic cup. Awesome. On a better note, since the last time you heard from me, I got engaged to my lovely and talented girlfriend of 3.5 years. Also awesome, but not in an ironic fashion.

2005 looks like it will probably be, well, much like 2004, just with more World of Warcraft. Same president, just surrounded with more evil geniuses and fewer (read: one less) actual voice of subtle moderation. The various wars and other travesties caused by my nation of birth will likely continue through the year unless stopped by some foreign superhero of the kind mentioned in passing in Astro City. Y'know, like the "Birds of Paradise" in Rio de Janeiro. Like in those books, these heroes' involvement will likely be reduced to one panel.

As for games, well, my inside sources for that dried up months ago. The deeper you go into the industry, the more your general contacts dry up. Now I know tons about what my current company is doing, but little about what anyone else is doing. I know now the phenomenon of "developer tunnel vision," which prevents developers from being aware of each other's "new features" and which causes five games to come out at the same time with the same sparkling new technologies. At the same time, I'm more aware now that games really do take a long time to make, and so a lot of the concurrent technology development really is a coincidence.

I imagine that Resident Evil 4 will be pretty good, and that a number of other games will rock. That's good enough for me.

In other news, and this probably deserves an AWESOME NEWS bit, EA has purchased controlling shares in DICE (the developers of Battlefield: Ad Nauseam--a completely baffling and unexpected departure from official EA developer-gobbling policy, I'm sure) and a fair chunk of Ubisoft, as well. I've heard that the French government is considering tossing Ubisoft some money to combat the apparently hostile procurement of shares, mostly because it's too hard to translate "EA" into French (I believe it would come out to, roughly, "Electroniqueaeouxois Artimapotomous" or "XRG"). I'm thinking that this whole thing might be good, because it's only a matter of time before we see Samwise Fischer in Shire Cell: Blanket Fish Together Gel.

Anyway, so, my New Year's wish for everyone is that 2005 be at least as good as 2004 time a bajillion. And I know I'm supposed to make a resolution, but I prefer putting the responsibility for stuff firmly on the shoulders of others.