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Random Tuesday Thoughts – Post Cruise Edition

St. Thomas Harbor

Beautiful St. Thomas. Photo Credit: Me!

So, first thing’s first. Cruises are aces. My Special Lady –she hates that descriptor, by the way, so no one tell her I wrote that– and I hit up Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas (6k passengers, 2k crew) for a trip through the East Caribbean and could not possibly have had a better time. And that despite a 10 hour layover in an overcrowded terminal in Ft. Lauderdale when coming home. (Seriously, fix your f***ing airport.)

If you’re the type that likes quick hitters and a more guided experience over going off on your own to explore every nook and cranny of a destination, then getting on a big floating hotel is where it’s at. It also helps if you can happily lose hours of your life just standing on a deck, drink in your hand and wind in your face, overlooking the water. Also, important safety tip, plan an alcohol budget and, if the price fits, pre-purchase a package. We were gifted a 5-bottle wine package that we used just for dinners and, even had we paid it ourselves, it would have been well worth the money. We did not, on the other hand, drink nearly enough for the premium alcoholic package to have been worth it.

So – gaming. Since there’s been so little (read: nothing) that I’ve been interested in taking deep dives into for quite some time, I’ve decided to just collect some random notes throughout the week that I can then group up, comment on, and post on what’s traditionally been our quietest posting day of the week. This edition is helped out by the fact that there’s actually been happenings this past week…

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1. Did you hear that GAME INFORMER! has release details on Thief? Yes, that GAME INFORMER! The one that publishes words with a cover that reads GAME INFORMER!


Hey, I’m excited by the prospect of a new Thief game, and this looks promising given that Square and Eidos Interactive did a credible job putting out Deus Ex, but the way the news proliferated from the gaming media was nothing short of a giant circle jerk that probably did just as much to fluff Game Informer as promote Square’s project. They did successfully make themselves part of the story, so bravo… I guess. Doesn’t mean I’m particularly impressed that they can solicit a promo video from Square and then slather their logo all over it as if it was anything more than joint advertising.

Tomb Raider - Lara on Radio

2. I’m playing Tomb Raider. I dig it so far. The usual caveats apply as I’ve only got about four hours or so with it, but in terms of telling a new Lara Croft origin story, it’s delivering on what it promised. Regardless of that, though, what I really like is that it cost me a scant $35. The cost of a game has nothing to do with how good it is, of course. We’ve covered this ground before. But, for me, I’m happy to take a flyer on a AAA game, one with a glowing critical reception, when I’m not paying through the nose to do so. I’ll grant you, I only got that price because Gamefly offered a pre-order deal at the same time there was a 10% off discount code available, but as a general note to publishers everywhere, if you want to incentivize me to pre-order, give up on the useless in-game items (crap) and tell me you appreciate my faith in your project by knocking $10 off the price. Sure, you’re getting less for my wallet, but it’s not nothing, which is what EA got from me last week. Which brings us to…

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3. Tomb Raider stands in stark contrast to EA’s release of SimCity. I blame EA for this. They took a project that looks extraordinarily promising and forced it into box (virtually-speaking) that is in no way appropriate for it. Forcing players to have constantly active Internet connections? Players, days after release, encountering wait queues up to 30 minutes or more to play a SimCity game? (It doesn’t matter if it’s a temporary issue. That it can be an issue at all for a game that forces you online is enough.) Features being disabled to try and get people online when I don’t want to play online to begin with (and never wanted to)? Charging $60 for the privilege of doing so? Without even talking about what’s right or wrong about the game itself, I am completely and totally disincentivized from playing a game I was genuinely excited to play. EA, the problem with SimCity isn’t the servers, it’s that I have to be on your servers at all to play it. That’s what you should be learning from this experience and that’s what you should be apologizing to consumers about.

4. As I type this, Richard Garriott is in the midst of announcing his new Kickstarter-backed project, Shroud of the Avatar. He’s billing it as this weird MMO meets single-player RPG hybrid that I admit I don’t fully understand, even claiming at one point that it’s not an MMO. I’ve watched the Kickstarter video and it sure has hell walks and quacks like an MMO to me, despite all the talk of great single-player experience and story and some mention of being able to play offline. I’ve seen these claims before. Many times. It’s long been the Holy Grail of online RPG-dom and I no longer believe it actually exists. Maybe, maybe, maybe as we see more about it, my interest will grow (and I will keep tabs on it), but right now there aren’t nearly enough details for me to believe in this project, let along throw money at.

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It doesn’t help that the interview format they used to announce the game is 80% Lord British fluff fest. Now, Garriott influenced me more, as a gamer, than any other name in the industry, but it’s been over 20 years since he last released a product that genuinely meant something to me (Serpent Isle). You’re not selling me on your ideas for the future when you spend far more time patting yourself on the back for what you’ve done in the past. Maybe he’ll finally recapture the magic he used to have. I hope that he does. But he’s officially in Show Me territory now, which is a much lesser tier of anticipation than I have for projects like Wasteland 2, Torment, and Project Eternity.

5. This weekend I travel to Columbus for AbnerCon(tm). I am looking forward to an entire weekend of boardgames in which Bill does not win a thing. It’s tradition.

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at

8 thoughts to “Random Tuesday Thoughts – Post Cruise Edition”

  1. Ooh, what is this “premium alcoholic package” you speak of? Sounds right up my alley. I myself am a premium alcoholic.

    I’m interested in Thief, but I don’t know about this whole reboot thing. Gaming seems to be handling it better than movies, though. Deus Ex turned out pretty good, and rebooting Tomb Raider and Devil May Cry seems to have worked out for the better. Hopefully it will turn out better than Deadly Shadows did. And as long as they don’t farm out some boss battles for Garrett to a random studio who has no idea what the series is about…

    I’d also like to thank EA and Maxis for providing yet another example of how always-online DRM is a stupid fucking idea. I hope the SimCity servers stay down for months. I have paltry little sympathy for the people that actually bought the game, given that we knew it was going to be always-online, given the fact that no online game has ever had a smooth launch, and given EA’s horrendous track record in general. Just…why the fuck did you buy it? Seriously?

    I wish I could say that EA will learn a lesson from this, or that people will remember it and care about it months from now, but I doubt that’s the case. It makes me sad, but I’m sure the game will be working nicely a few months from now and nobody will care anymore. That’s really the most depressing thing about this whole debacle to me.

  2. The thought of going on a cruise to me is like spiders for Todd. Not because I’m scared of boats, but I’m scared of lots of middle aged people being leisurely and hanging out in swimwear. Drinking white zinfandel by the box/bag. Not bottle.

    THe thought of guided tours…yeeech. Turn me loose in a city and I’ll find the awesome stuff, which is usually far away from where the boats let out.

    The Sim City thing is just making me madder and madder. Not because I was dumb enough to buy an always online game and can’t play it, but because other people were willing to- yet again- give into this kind of bullshit to play whatever game they for whatever feel is absolutely essential for them to play at the time. How many sales of that game were to people who grumbled and griped about the DRM…but bought it anyway instead of just saying no to these mountebanks? I mean god damn y’all- play SimCity 2000. It’s still great!

    I’ve got Tomb Raider coming from Gamefly, apparently on a very, very slow mail truck. It looks interesting. Wouldn’t pay more than about $10 for it though.

    As for the Garriott thing, my new mantra is “fuck social gaming”. I grew up playing games by myself, that’s when I was happiest playing games and I never thought “gee, I wish I could play this game with total strangers or see what random weirdos are doing”. I think I’m pretty much done with any and all kinds of social gaming outside of async multiplayer turn-based games (which should be multiplayer) and chasing friends’ pinballs scores. So I see “MMO” or “social features”, I’m immediately not interested.

    1. For what it’s worth, I didn’t grumble and gripe about the DRM until what could arguably be called the biggest game publisher in the business couldn’t get that shit to work.

      I hate to do it, because I really like their games (at least the pieces that aren’t covered in big-business-moneymaking-bullshit) but I’m finally done with EA.

      At least Capcom has some company now.

      1. Oh don’t let that fool you. You think the (arguably second) biggest fucking publisher on the planet can’t get an always-online game to work properly? Bullshit. They had to have known that they didn’t have enough capacity to support demand. They had preorder numbers, projected sales figures, a fucking beta test. If EA truly had no idea it was going to fail, they are literally the most incompetent giant technology company on the planet.

        I believe this was a calculated risk on their part. Launch with the absolute minimum number of servers, and fuck it, we’ll add more if we need it. Why take the risk of setting up tons of servers that never get used? Sure, there’s some PR backlash, but now we get to ramp up to exactly the optimal capacity we need, and in a few months, nobody will remember this.

        Well fuck you, EA. I will remember this. I will remember how your pure, utter greed fucked your customers over. If you demand that your customers be online all the time to play your game, then you better be online all the fucking time. No excuses, period.

        If you demand it of us, we should demand it of you. If your game is now a “service”, then that service better fucking be available, or so help me gods you will feel the wrath of angry consumers. And that feels like your stock price taking a fucking nose dive.

          1. I don’t understand how the greater un-obsessed gamers don’t get this angry…

            I mean.. if I only bought three or four games a year and didn’t follow any news and/or reviews but remembered Sim City from my youth… and I get *THIS* server horseshit.

            Me or you would run off to play one of our many other games (or ignore or be complicit) but those people that buy into this without a clue…

            Where is that backlash? It should be on the news, watchdog, panorama… not buried under Call of Duties 2012 sales and forgotten.

            If any other entertainment medium did something this sleazy, it would be a real story.

            The games industry is still regarded with some contempt by the media… sorry.. scrub that. The game industry itself regards its customers as rube’s and humanoid shaped wallets.

    2. I jumped on the Anti-EA Barnes wagon starting with Dead Space 3 and that kept me from an idiotic purchase of Sim City as well. I’m glad I gave my money to Tomb Raider instead. That was a game worthy of my $60.

      Thank you Mr. Barnes and thank you EA for helping me spend my money wisely.

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