blizzard

All posts tagged blizzard

Yesterday night we returned from a weekend spent in Toronto visiting my mom's side of the family, and my Grandma who is pretty far gone down the dehumanizing imprisonment of a body stricken by Parkinson's disease. I know she could see us, hear us, and understand who we were, all by the steady twinkling in her eyes, but the best she could manage for a greeting was one upturned corner of her mouth.

You're going to wonder what the hell Diablo 3 has to do anything with my grandma. It doesn't really. It's just this anxious feeling I get, this yearning for radical change, that renewed in me seeing what my own frail old age may be. You ever get that prickly desire to go out and do something anything that matters? Watching the old folks at the convalescence home been force spoon-fed their medicated gruel, Xstine kept gouging my ribs and saying "See! Exercise! Take care of yourself!" But that feeling wasn't new to me, as I had volunteered at these places when I was a teen.

So when I excitedly saw the gameplay trailer for Diablo 3 (see below), I knew I was set up. I happened to have been playing Titan Quest recently with Xstine, which is nothing but mindless grinding, slaying monsters, gathering loot, repeating as flea on flea on flea. It's a game that is fun because it offers no redeeming values, and you yield yourself to that like a drug. The art is fantastic, but the game is simplistic. I never actually played the first two Diablo games, but I imagine they weren't much more.

The question we ask ourselves often is "Have we wasted our lives playing things we have nothing to show for?" Unlike many of the other games I've played, Diablo-type and World of Warcraft-type games feel like they've added very little to my person and yet have debitted so much of my productive free time. How should I translate every second wasted in these games into seconds of my life I could have extended with exercise?

Then I had to listen to Blizzard, the masters of game design, ruminate like guffawing film students as they talked about their design approaches to Diablo 3. It was embarrassing. It shattered my mental picture of them to hear them say stuff like "it makes it more interesting to make the hero the center of the story." Or to point out their grand "philisophical" vision taught to make a barbarian class more barbaric. My gods. I hold those game designs to be self-evident. Hearing that kind of "enlightenment" has seriously made me consider what the personal value these games are having on my life. Now when I play, I can see my grandma's eyes through her haze, judging my expense of youth.

Mythic's upcoming Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has been delayed, much to the dismay of our unsatiated but repressed MMORPG addictions. Every so often, we crave some kind of mindless persistent entertainment that requires no effort. Since quitting WOW and DDO, nothing has been able to broach that hunger, but WAR may change all that. Just look at this historic occasion… the greatest collector's edition ever!

We're talkin' 128-page hardcover graphic novel, 224-page hardcover art book, limited edition figurine, open beta / head start keys, and a staggering amount of in-game goodies… all for $79.99??? :yikes: Well, I got our two pre-orders today, I just didn't have a choice. I was held at steampunked gunpoint, while the acrid sting of saltpeter smoked off my credit card.

So I read up on some Warhammer lore, being only vaguely familiar with it before, and was shocked at how many ideas Blizzard took for their Warcraft series. Granted Blizz did a good job, and Warcraft lore is exceptionally well written, but it's hard not to say that Blizzard losing their Warhammer project and then going on to appropriate the remnants into the beginnings of Warcraft must have been the best thing to happen to that series. The wealth of imagination within prognosticated success.

In other marginally related news, Atari got delisted from the NASDAQ. That is Atari, the developer formerly known as Infogrames, who thought owning that legendary name would do them good. Instead, not even their attempts at leveraging the venerable Advanced Dungeons & Dragons franchise could save them. I'm sure dear old Gary Gygax is… well I'll let this Penny-Arcade comic finish the joke:

Yeah, hot on the heels of EA acquiring Bioware and Pandemic, we have the Activision + Blizzard merger, which is big news and has Xstine wishfully talking about getting a free subscription now… but I have something else on my mind.

You, fair reader, must ask yourself. Was Jeff Gerstmann's review (above) of Kane & Lynch wrong? Was it unfair? Was it a justifiable reason for him to be to be fired from Gamespot after an offended Eidos snatched back stacks of advertising dollars with an angry yoinks? Probably not. But somehow, I don't feel the slightest sympathy for him. I'll tell you why his firing pleases me, and why it should please all those gamers who hope their medium is taking its rightful place among the world.

Criticism. What does it mean? Why does film, art, and music criticism surpass video game criticism? Because criticism, as an artform in and of itself, teaches you something about what it criticizes. It deconstructs the craftsmanship, the message, and the greater context of a work's role in the pantheon. Video game reviews, however, are nothing but paid opinions of what Steve adroitly described as "people who couldn't get into the game industry." Fanboys, backseat game designers, internet experts, and such forth.

Their reviews contribute little to the creation of a better game because these people have no experience working in games. On the other hand, music reviewers can play instruments, art critics can create art, and movie reviewers can have academic backgrounds. What do game reviewers have besides a subjective internal list of what they'd rather vege on a couch playing? I'm not ignoring the flaws of other forms of criticism, but let's be honest here, even at it's best, game reviews are bad. At the end of the day, games are designed for someone in particular, unlike movies which generally can be enjoyed by anyone when done well. Games are inherently fantasy fulfillment, not fantasy creation, and have to be judged on how well they satisfied gamers of a particular type. It is on that level where, for some, Bejeweled can be as good of a game as World of Warcraft.

Gamespot reviewers think that by arbitrarily demanding some games to have innovation, some games to just be fun, some games to be an "experience," whatever their pseudo-standard is, they are "raising the bar." Bullshit. Until there is a real literary quality in games that can be criticized, game journalism is just a recommendation to buy. We all know game advertisement pays for reviews, don't kid yourself. There isn't even anything wrong with that, and I bring up Penny Arcade reviews as an example of it done well. People are simply shopping for the review they need, and for your site to pretend it's creating a golden metric for an immature medium is ridiculous.

To those who want to go out and picket for Jeff, who think the review above sounds like something of senior editor quality at a major game mag, who think they're fighting the evil corporations who are "corrupting" this brilliant stuff with sponsorship, you've already lost. That shit ain't free, nor should it be. Ask yourself how any criticism is paid for. Then demand a higher standard. Abolish this bullshit point system.

Go with the Netflix 5-star system:
:star: hate it,
:star::star: didn't like it,
:star::star::star: liked it,
:star::star::star::star: loved it,
:star::star::star::star::star: unmissable
.

Ultimately, the only two factors that matters for a game are fun and value. Game review snobs demean the whole industry, just like snobs in any other industry.

Today's tragedy in Mumbai, India was almost as displeasing to me as the rumor floating around that the source code for Hellgate: London was stolen from its ex-Blizzard team at the incredibly talented Flagship Studios. Yes, insensitive, but my sensitivity is increasingly dictated by an increasingly local Sphere of Giveadamn.

Why are we not at all-out war with these fuckers? To put it provincially, that is. But I only see providence in province when dealing with terrorists, and I'm actually partial to violence in my worldview. How is the rest of the world not sick of the fact that since 1960, the number of terrorism victims has increased ten-fold each decade? And they aren't just bombing the evil wicked white men of the West, they're bombing the shit out of themselves!

To draw ample analogy, to me it's like the code heist of my beloved upcoming game. You'd think empowered rebels of the MAN would be out exposing the government's dirty secrets, instead of attacking an industry that was practically SPAWNED by hacking! Hackers cracking games I could rationalize, but hackers stealing from the very people they wrap the keyboard wire of their demimeaningful lives around just reeks of utter AOLification of a scene once noble through the works of 2600 phreaks and anarchists. No, not *a* scene, *THE* scene.

Listen up you hackers. Instead of creating the sixteenth version of a program to advertise porn in my blog, why don't you twats do something useful. Hack some terrorists. Hack some spammers. Hell, restore the chivalry of the cyberknight and go hack the NSA where your balls could get snatched and your ass landed in jail. In the days I remember, the technopirates of olde existed to hack those who deserved it. Bring me back those days of homemade napalm and multi-colored boxes, and when terrorists were actually guerrillas and minutemen, not like these puppets of Al-Qaida dancing within the skirt of a shattered Pakistan.

E3 pics are up!

Most of the big news probably slaps you in the face at each and every game site, so I'm going to stick with impressions and hands-ons, and leave headlines out of this. Overall, this E3 was probably the best one I've been to, with less focus on graphics and more focus on gameplay overall, with the exceptions of the two you-know-whos. Booth babe quality wasn't bad even with clothing restrictions, and watching Fatal1ty bring some wannabe to the brink of tears on the The Longest Yard conversion to Quake4 had me and Xstine laughing our asses off.

So without further ado…

Microsoft Impressions:
Xbox 360 games continue to look better, and I continue to think about getting one. Games look as a they should on a $400 system. Gears of War looked phenomenal of course, but Huxley was surprisingly fun too considering the amount of lag this FPS MMO had, and I was dukin' it with a roundtable of over 30 people. And its framerate was still a SIGHT better than the Crysis engine game, which when not in that Siberia known as the 10-minute loading screen, was trying to impress us with spring-collision driven foliage bending nonsense at a blistering 4 fps. 3D benchmarks are a FAR CRY from being games, please.
Still, Lumines on XBox Live and the announcement of Windows Vista allowing PC and console gamers to meet in sweet swiss bliss gave the system the edge. In Peter Moore's own words, why buy a PS3 when yyou can get both a Wii and a 360 for the same money? As much as I hate the guy, he's right as rain.
Oh yes, Viva PiƱata looks rad (see pic), and besides some framerate problems, has got real style. Good job Rare… finally…
7/10

Nintendo Impressions:
As fanatical as the gaming media has been so far about the Wii, I have a huge complaint. I never got to play the damn thing since the line of lines, the sweat-infused meta-line that wrapped itself around the vortex of Nintendo's creative navel, was so entangled that I had not the ken to locate its extradimensional entry point. Dammit Nintendo, you spoke of playing is believing, but put your new console in the furthest reaches of E3's 9th circle of hell. My heart wept for a chance to play Super Smash Bros Brawl, but my melatonin begged for just one more day of sunlight.
Still, just watching the announcers playing Wii Sonic on the big screen by just tilting the controller left and right filled me with an instinctual, pheromonal kind of parasymptomatic gravitation back to West Hall over and over. Instead, I settled for some DS games, like Magnetica (aka Zuma) and Brain Training. Why is Sudoku so damn addicting.
8/10

Sony Impressions:
Let's forget about the price for a second, and the feature trickery. Do the games look good? Well, as you can see in the photos, their setup at E3 was still running on a bunch of dev kits, but at the moment it looks good. Not $200 good, mind you, but good. Warhawk wasn't very fun, but had that impressive kind of fluidity and SFX density that reminded me of great Dreamcast rail shooters. Madden looked godawful, honestly, with horribly overdone fur/grass. Heavenly Sword looked pretty good, like a PC version of Devil May Cry, although pixilated self-shadowing and jerky animation need work.
The booth area was pretty packed, and people were cheering like mad at the Final Fantasy trailers, but the actual wait time to get into the private showings was about 5 minutes. There will definitely be a market for PS3, evidenced my the throngs of people in the Singstar booth and the Country Karaoke Revolution game. The PSP, btw, went the way of the N-Gage.

4/10

PC Impressions:
I was pleasantly surprised. Hellgate: London continues to look great, and although the avatars are ugly, the gameplay is smooth and addicting just to even watch. The Conan MMORPG was graphically beautiful, especially the horse animations, but it seems like there was stuff being killed only when I looked away. Boring.
Xstine and I are both excited about Neverwinter Nights 2, and eye-rolly about World of Warcraft's expansion and its new Dranei Alliance race. NCSoft held a pretty exciting Guild Wars: Factions tournament with Koreans slaughtering Koreans, but nothing was nearly as exciting as THIS…..


8/10

Finally, some of the coolest things we saw there were these two toys:

Nerd par excellence Sirlin, the man who can never stop telling us about the life lessons he learned form being a pro Street Fighter 2 player, and the creator of a site about game design, always gets on my nerves. But usually, he's got a seed of truth sequestered in his geekspeak, and this rant about WoW is, for the most part, summary of why we quit.

Let's not talk about the lowest depths of hell each soul logs in to delight in on the PvP servers, the torture and abject disregard for life and decency of the weaker player. Honor system… what a fuckin' euphemism for wholesale slaughter. Let's talk about why it exists. It exists because Blizzard has set an example for arbitrary rules. This is ok, this is not, that is not, that is ok. Sirlin is exactly right in that their abuse of their own ToS has left a culture that respects no boundaries, except those profitted from and still under the radar.

In a sense, this form of control has yielded Blizzard a co-conspiring consumer, complacently paying away and assuming fault when their flawful system offers yet another exploit. Xstine and I dealt with this since beta, and we learned that there is no which way about it. It's completely at Blizzard's behest.

Which brings me to this picture. And ones like it.

Having lately read Dogs and Demons, I felt that, despite the book's failings, it is essentially correct. The Japanese society too is held in a thrall of social control so cleverly surreptitious that it permeates every level of the ladder. When asked at a job interview what he would do to improve the company, one applicant responded immediately by saying "Goodday" and being polite to all.

Like World of Warcraft, arbitrary rules have become culture. The Tea Ceremony, once a simple and spontaneously hallowed ceremony, was turned into a veritable manufacturing process post-WWII. And taking the way it is today as "tradition," no one is able to deviate from a cultural paint-by-numbers given to the people by the state. Same goes for flower arrangement, today an ugly cyborg completely devoid of the awe of nature it once had.

And just like WoW, there is a need for an outlet. When I looked around Gadgetzan, I saw Nanking. In Japan, where everyday every hour every moment you are stapling your life and hopes to your work or your study, tossing away personal achievement in their world of kamikaze sacrifice, your identity warps. In WoW you see unbridled violence, often the dishonorable repeat killing of the same person by the same hunting party to the point where the person logs out, resolving to do the same when he is empowered one day. I was shocked at the things I did in-game, having considered myself a chivalrous gamer. In Japan, violence and perversion is enacted in hentai, love motels, the streets of Shinjuku, the noise scene.

It's funny that we embrace Japan in the West as "hardcore." We think of them as extreme, pushing the limits for all cultures. We don't see a school system that abandons all but the highest scoring, condemning unsatisfactory detritus to a shameful future. The "world's most advanced educational system" in which you study more and make less progress? In Japan, talent is defined differently than America: it is the ability to get along with others. The ability to conform. Women in particular are disposable, becoming housewives, eschewing the path their education suggested. We don't see a workforce that has words describing "death by work exhaustion." We see their lone company of creativity, Nintendo, and then ignore the lack of imagination that led to a befuddling collapse in economy.

We've confused their outlet with their strength.

At the entrance to Onyxia, my first raid, I realized what stupidity it was to have waited for two hours for forty idiots to assemble and be wiped within an hour. I realized that moment that WoW was headed in a direction that would never recognize the feats of one person outside its unspoken rulesets. I realized that if my raid had survived, I wouldn't have been any more satisfied, as Blizzard would continue to heap more hitpoints on more lowpoly models for bigger and bigger player mobocracies to attempt an extraction of fame. I realized that anime's lure was addictively drawn glistening eyes and intricate robots, and permutations thereof, which after a certain volume, began to insult my intelligence. I have not yet regretted leaving Azeroth, for it lies in the hands of confused, fate-wrought masses, much like Japan.

What's that? Wait… is it true… yes! OPERA! On the DS! The gateway drug now has a pusher, and what a fine wifi pusher it is!

To commemorate this wonderful day, I've got two great clips for DS fans as well as DS newbies:

Football meets Japanese self-throttling insanity

Phoenix Wright Spoof (this is actually very close to what this game plays like, fyi)

This week Christine got me re-addicted to Tower Defense, which surprisingly exists almost exclusively as mods for Blizzard games. If only the terribly addicting genre was transcribed to my favorite portable, then the world would be complete. Heck, they should pack the game with an IV drip of your favorite anti-depressants, into which I would mainline the tasty new Mountain Dew MDX energy drink, thereby offering my serotonin levels permanent residency in Valhalla.

As much as I ended up hating WoW, I can't help but feel outraged at Blizzard getting sued for some dumbshit 13-yr old jumping to his death to re-enact a scene from the game. I think they mean the scene in the game where you jump off a cliff and die horribly regardless of what level or armor you have. You know, they keep forgetting the levels of constant and pervasive Kubrickian violence in movies, TV, and comics, probably because games are "interactive" and therefore more influential.

Let me tell ya something. You know what's interactive? When I was a kid we had life-like gun replicas before they had to be colored like toys. We had ninja swords and fake blood, pop-cap pistols, fireworks, and midgetized O.K. corral shoot-out sets at the park. Then we'd go there and take it out on each other until some kid got hurt, cried, bloodied, wiped up, and back to keep pchoo pchooing with the rest. We would mix household chemicals and pesticides into secret concoctions of death to back up the rubber-band guns and paperclip maces we made that could easily have left us blind. I got flung off a merry-go-round once and ate dirt 5ft away.

Maybe the problem with games is that they aren't interactive enough. Maybe we learned our lesson because kids did get maimed. Maybe that's how our fragile little psyches avoided corruption. So how about making laser tag legal again? I can't believe we got arrested at 4am running around having the time of our lives in an abandoned park. Don't you get it? Laser tag meant we were sick of shooting it out in virtual De_Dust in virtual Iraq with virtual glocks.

I know why this stupid chinese kid jumped to his death. In China you only get one kid. You aren't going to let him shoot a paintball gun or go bungie jumping or wipe his own ass. So, being sick of an entire life at a study desk, he wanted to see some sunlight. Too bad he was a noob at it, if he had some practice I'm sure he would have survived to enjoy his BASE jump.

Live a little people, or you're gonna die the first time you try.