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Tuesday Meditation – We Had Subs Edition

We Had Subs It Was Crazy

So, yeah, there’s no JTS post this week because there’s no JTS this week. We’re sorry about that. But you tell Brandon he shouldn’t be exhausted from his move or Bill that he shouldn’t watch OSU’s elite eight game live or me that I shouldn’t enjoy a pre-spring break evening with my kids since they were about to spend the week out of state. The stars aligned against us this week, but we’ll be back and all will be well. In the meantime, it’s Tuesday and things happened. Richard Garriott was kind of a dick. Bioshock Infinite was awesome, but not as awesome as everyone says. Also, Michigan did something even more awesomer… and there were subs… it was crazy. (God, but I love MGoBlog’s style.)

Richard Garriott and the Art of Winning Friends. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t all aflutter about Garriott’s Ultima-rebooty thingy, Shroud of the Avatar. The game’s presentation itself wasn’t really enough to grab me, though I’ll always follow anything the guy does. Maybe it’ll work. But regardless of that, I have to say that Garriott going around acting like a dick isn’t helping matters when he says things like this:

“You know, I go back to the day when I was the programmer, I was the artist, I was the text writer, etcetera,” said Garriott. “Every artist we’ve ever hired ever is infinitely better at art than I ever was. I was never a good artist, or audio engineer, or composer. I was a pretty good programmer, but now all of our programmers are better than I am—but if I’d stayed in programming I could probably keep up.

“But other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I’m not saying that because I think I’m so brilliant. What I’m saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there’s a reason why.”

Yes, he’s trying to make a larger point in proclaiming to PC Gamer that other game designers suck and nobody is really as good as him. And, yes, a lot of sites ran with the “they suck” quote without providing any context to it at all. (That context being that people are trained enough to be designers as opposed to the usual artist, programmer, janitor roles.) And, yes, in context, and wading through all the prideful braggery, there is a reasonable point to be made. But let’s not pretend Garriott A) didn’t know exactly what he was saying and B) wasn’t being a dick about it. He was. A consummate dick, in point of fact.

Then, when the whole thing blew up on him, as was inevitably going to happen, instead of offering even a token apology that hinted maybe he should have used different words, he went and insinuated it was PC Gamer’s sensationalism that caused the stir and, oh, here’s what I really meant now that I am being shamed into acting more reasonably. And PC Gamer’s Logan Decker, instead of starting a ridiculous flame war, took the high road and said, hey we don’t think we’re to blame and we even sort of agree with the man. It’s nicer than I would’ve been about it.

It’s hard to watch a guy you really rather idolized for a very long time behave this way, especially when he really hasn’t done anything noteworthy for gaming in 20 years. Maybe if there were a line up of great 21st century games to his credit I’d be more willing to accept that bravado. There’s not. Given that, just a small dose of humility would be nice. It is one of Ultima’s eight virtues after all.

Infinite Praise. Except Not. Tom Chick is taking heat for his Bioshock: Infinite review from exactly the sorts of people you’d expect. I’ve only got a couple hours spent with the game (I’m barely even into the shootery parts) and even based on just that taste I can tell you that he’s absolutely right about this game. It’s a beautiful, beautiful package. It’s also the same damn shooter we’ve been playing. What’s funny to me is Yahtzee called this one waaaay back in his review of the first Bioshock game (right around the 44-second mark) .

“It isn’t like System Shock 2. It is System Shock 2.”

Infinite is System Shock 2… too. They’re all the same game, mechanically speaking and at this point I don’t think it’s completely out of line to call Irrational a one-trick pony. They’re just really, really, really, exceptionally good at that one trick. Nobody does that trick better. And, you know, that’s okay. It beats the hell out of yet another Call of Duty. That doesn’t mean, however, that regardless of how good the setting is (and Columbia is amazing) that it’s not all getting to be a bit rote to actually play through. Bioshock at least had a decade separating it from System Shock 2. We had warm fuzzy memories, but little in the way of equivalent experiences. Now, we’ve done that. It was practically yesterday and I don’t think it’s asking too much of Irrational to suggest they need to come up with something more than shoot with this hand, use magic with that hand, listen to some audio logs, and scrap for money in trash bins. You don’t have to re-revolutionize everything, but a bit of game mechanics evolution to go with these brilliantly imaginative environments would be swell is all. Also, the save system sucks. Hard.

Final Four!!! It’s been 20 years and a lot of dark times since the maize and blue of Michigan saw Final Four action. Down by double-digits with just a couple minutes to play (and a statistical .6% chance of winning the game), that elite eight victory over Kansas had precisely zero business happening, which makes it all the more glorious. That game-tying three from Trey Burke in the waning seconds to send it to overtime will live in tournament lore forever. Also, there were subs and it was crazy. M fans, you have a T-shirt to buy.

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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…

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…

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.

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.