Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fun with Venn

To my dog,
Please refer to the diagram for future reference. Notice they don't quite touch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today's Article full of Win: I've read that edition

The wonderfully humorous, and disturbingly accurate Genre-Fiction Generating Flowchart. Good for books, comics, and movies:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

As if I needed another reason

Local political moron, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-I wish she wasn't from-Texas), is leading the charge against Net Neutrality (http://rawstory.com/blog/2009/09/gop-senators-net-neutrality/).

Hardly surprising, considering that her #1 contributor is Vinson & Elkins, the law firm of AT&T (the #1 Donor to Congress), who along with Comcast (who has Hillary Clinton in their pocket along with Time Warner) have been the main two opponents of Net Neutrality.

Of course if you really want to make your head spin, News Corp, the owners of Fox News, gave more money to Hillary Clinton than to John McCain or George W. Bush.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Arkham Asylum isn't the only mad house that needs a policy review

This one apparently let's mentally ill killers go on field trips:

Why are you reading...Blackest Night?

Since comic book purchasing statistics came online, sometime around 1215 AD, Marvel has regularly bested DC in the top single issues and money made (DC does seem to do better in trades though, weird). This changed with the Blackest Night crossover, which has been the dominant comic book for the past couple of months. Black Hand, possessor of the Black Power Ring, is bringing the dead back to cause fear and take over the universe.

First, this series is continuity heavy. How many current comic readers know who Sue Dibny is and what her significance to the Justice League is (the entire Identity Crisis seems to conveniently be ignored on a regular basis in DC comics anyway)?

Then the main part of the series is giving Secret Invasion a run on it’s title of longest mini-series that took almost no time, 3 issues + 1 Green Lantern tie in to tell a story that takes about half an hour.

Third, they already brought in a new character to tell everyone what the hell is happening and how to stop it. Holy Dues Ex Machina! Of course, this involves getting the cooperation of at least one person who won’t want to cooperate. Don’t know how they plan on solving that one, but the easy answer is to have Sinestro go cave their skull in and take his ring.

They probably won’t do that, but I just solved the entire problem in what, take about 3 pages to draw?

Monday, September 14, 2009

World's Greatest Human Dies

That was the title Penn & Teller gave to Normal Bourlag, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090913/ap_on_re_us/us_obit_borlaug.

Estimates put the number of lives he saved from starvation somewhere between 245 million and 1 billion.

He's also the person Creationists and those who oppose Genetically Modified foods fear, since his research is based on genetics (and hence evolution) and proved that Genetically Modified food is not dangerous.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quick Reviews: Gamer & Batman: Arkham Asylum

Just a quick run down on these two:

Gamer is the new movie with Gerard Butler as a convict fighting in a real person FPS shooter for his freedom from death row. The movie is pretty good, but disappointing as there is a better movie hidden inside of it.

It wants to tell a story about our own desensitization to violence, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to illustrate how the internet age has isolated us from each other, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to show how people will act in completely anti-social manners because of the anonymity of computers, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to be a morality play about how the poor and desperate will be taken advantage of, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to be a Cyberpunk classic, nearly approaching being the best movie for it's genre, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It is a pretty good movie, the action is appropriately violent and disturbing, the street scenes are gritty and ravaged, the acting is well done. Editing is kind of jarring, you could tell it was planned that way, but not well executed.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best Batman game ever made, and one of the best Stealth Action games. The graphics are across the board excellent. The voice work is done by some of the Animated Series voice actors (Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as Joker and others, Arleen Sorkin as Harley) and is as excellent as you would expect and the story (by Paul Dini) both set new standards for a video game.

You feel like Batman, you move like Batman, you sound like Batman. You are the Goddamn Batman, and you hate chocolate. It's an excellent game.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Secret Worlds MMO & New Dungeons & Dragons MMO

The website for Secret Worlds (a horror/conspiracy/dark world MMO from Funcom),
http://www.darkdaysarecoming.com/, has a quiz up to see which faction you should join. You get a little facebook icon and some graphical swag for taking the quiz, but it also enters you in the Beta test pool. So if you like Betaing game, you know what to do.

Going back a bit into history. Atari had partnered with Turbine to produce DDO. Then Atari bought Cryptic. Then Atari decided not to extend any more of the Dungeons and Dragons license to Turbine for them to produce more DDO games (which is good, Turbine did a huge disservice to the license and alienated a lot of players and fans and took a really good game and ran it into the ground in a matter of months). Now Atari has put the Dungeons and Dragons license in the hands of Cryptic.

Turbine sues Atari, Atari is sueing Turbine, and Cryptic is producing the Forgotten Realms based MMO, Neverwinter Nights.

Great, my currently two most hated MMO producers are fighting over who gets the chance to destroy my favorite game for the third time around. First Wizards of the Coast, then Hasbro, then Turbine, now Cryptic gets a shot at molesting my adolescence. Look guys, my childhood wasn't asking for it. It wasn't wearing that short skirt and pole dancing like Miley Cyrus. Please leave my childhood alone.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fallen Earth Review

Fallen Earth is a new MMO from Fallen Earth, LLC and Icarus Entertainment. To date, it looks like this is the only thing the two of them have produced. Fallen Earth is billed as a MMOFPS (Massive Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter) and has been in development for 6 years.

It shows it. Had this game come out 6 years ago, it might have been worth something. As it is now, it's slow, looks bad, has crappy voice acting, and commits the only unforgivable sin in a game, it's boring.

Creativity: Serviceable
While this is the first Post Apocalyptic MMO I’ve played, it isn’t all that creative. They tried very hard to recreate the environment of the Fallout series, even using fonts that are near identical inside the game. While it is billed as a MMOFPS, the combat system plays much like Tabula Rasa. One nice touch was the fact that you can see all of your equipped weapons on our characters body, as opposed to just the currently active weapon like in most MMOs.

Character Models: Junky
The character models have some decent customization to them considering this is an MMO not made by Cryptic. There are a variety of faces, hair styles, tattoo and piercing options for both face and body, but almost all of them are ugly or laughably bad. Character animation is also poorly done, with everyone running and walking like an arthritic octogenarian. I did like the fact that I could put my character in some classic Run DMC Adidas.

Environment: Serviceable
The environments were there. They look appropriate for the game and matched the theme and setting. Nothing really bad here, but nothing outstanding either. One problem was the sound. There was no music when I played. The sound effects were almost non-existant, and the voice acting makes Age of Conan sound like it was done by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Clarity & Playability: Workhorse
This is the game’s strong suit. All the pertinent systems, like combat, movement, crafting, environment interactions, were presented clearly and are easy to use. The tutorial is well done and presents things in a clear and straight forward manner. The UI is streamlined and clean. I never needed to ask for help in the game, as all the information I needed was presented to me and it was easy to refer back to.

The controls really stop this category form being Exemplary. You have two modes, for lack of a better way to describe them. MMO mode and FPS mode. Controls in MMO mode were wonky. Alternating between almost unresponsive and overly sensitive. When you entered FPS mode (active aiming, which plays more like a 3rd person shooter than an FPS) the controls tightened up and became usable. The problem is that there was no point in using FPS style shooting. Even when you were on target you would still miss based on stats, and lining up a head shot did not do any additional damage or increase the odds of a critical. There was no point in using this for combat in the game. I did stay in FPS mode most of the time, just for more precision on the controls.

Accessibility & Community: Serviceable
The game ran well on lower end hardware. The in game chat was friendly and positive and lively, including a Dev being on answering questions and chatting. I did not get involved in grouping or PvP while I played.

Replayability & Longevity: Junky
The game is class-less, you get action points to develop your character, so you can play how you want and mix and match things. There are a variety of starting locations based on how you want to specialize your character. So there is replay value. But I honestly don't see why you would want to play in the first place, let alone, play again. The main problem with playing is combat. Enemies were incredibly stupid. I would pick a guy off from 20 feet with an unsilenced rifle and his partner standing shoulder to shoulder with him failed to notice. The only tactical movement and enemy would do was either charge straight towards me, or strafe from side to side like an old time shooting gallery at a county fair. There was no variety in tactics, but they did manage to not give everything a ranged attack, so you know, there is that.

In conclusion, I recommend that you avoid this game. It might be worth it as a Free to Play game, but I wouldn’t spend any money on it.

MMO Review Format

As previously stated, I play, or at least try, many MMOs. Most don’t hold my interest for long, usually less than 2 months. So far the records are held by City of Heroes at 27 months and still going (not counting breaks for other MMOs), Guild Wars that was off and on for over a year, Dungeons and Dragons online at 8 months, and Age of Conan at 6 months. Everything else scores below those numbers.

One of the problems I’ve had is quantifying my feeling and experiences in the games into a system that is understandable to people besides me. Especially one that won’t get excessively long winded, as I often become extremely verbose when talking about a subject I am emotionally invested in (I once turned a 2 hour martial arts class into a 4 hour dissertation on the history of fighting arts because my audience was too polite to tell me to shut up).

The first thing was; what categories did I want to rate games on? I thought about the traditional, but then went a different direction. Every game website and magazine rates things like graphics and sound, usually a 1 to 10 rating or some variation of them. But those are meaningless and suffer from ratings creep. Of course Metal Gear Solid 2 looks better than Metal Gear Solid 1. So, if I gave MGS1 a 7, that means MGS2 needs at least an 8. Since MGS3 looked better than MGS2 it needs a 9, and that would leave me with only a 10 for MGS4. Is MGS4 a perfect game visually? Is it right to compare the appearance of MGS4 to MGS1 considering the different hardware capabilities and the visual precision of TVs between now and then?

So I went with the following categories:

Creativity: Is this something new and interesting, or is it a complete rehashing of previously seen elements? If it is a rehashing, are the elements used in a new and distinct way, or could the game best be described as some other game with new curtains?

Character Models: Do the character models fit the genre or theme of the game? Are they appropriately detailed when compared to the rest of the game? Do they animate smoothly and effectively? This also includes sounds, are the character sounds appropriate? Are the sound effects synced up properly with the character’s actions. This also has to do with how much customization I have on my character’s appearance.

Environment: Does the environment’s appearance add or detract from the game? Does it match thematically with the game? Are the environmental sound effects appropriate? Is the in game music appropriate and does it add to the feel of the game?

Clarity & Playability: Are the in game features, systems, and functions clearly understood and easy to use? Is the User Interface clear and easy to use? Are the menus clearly labeled? Are the help files actually helpful? If I need to refer to the manual, is it clear and concise? Also, can I just sit down and accomplish something in a short period of time, or does this require an investment of time more in line with a second job? Finally, does the fame smoothly transition you around the game world or is it herky jerky? Do you have to do a lot of back tracking and time sinking? Are you suddenly given quests well outside your level range or ability to complete.

Accessibility & Community: This has 2 parts to it. One is, does the game run well on my hardware or hardware you can purchase at major retailers, or do you need to make adjustments to your hardware? Do you need to update drivers or other pieces of software manually, something most users don’t know how or won’t do? Also, are the forums, game community, or people on the in-game chat system helpful, knowledgeable, and polite? Or are they elitist, rude, and dismissive of new players? (You may question that value of that, but that is the number 1 reason why my wife and I don’t play WoW, the community and social interactions of players). Finally, how easy is it to form a team in the game and is Player v Player accessible and balanced? This is a multiplayer game after all.

Replayability & Longevity:
Is this something that you do once and you’ve seen it all? Is there an incentive to make alternate characters? Are there multiple ways to solve quests or play the game? Are there enough quests that you couldn’t hit them all on your first character? Also, is there enough variety in the enemies that fights feel different, or is everyone just a palate swap?

Next was, what system would I use? Numbers without context are meaningless, which is why statistics tend to confuse people. Without knowing what the context of the number you are presented with, how do you really know what that means? If I tell you 9 out of 10 Dentists endorse my product, does that tell you anything? What if I only used retired dentists? What if I only interviewed Periodontists? Or Forensic Dentists? What if my sample set was abnormally small, like 20 dentists? What if I threw all dentists who voted Democrat in the last election out of my sample set? Without knowing about the context under which I derived my numbers, you have no clue if my numbers mean anything (always remember that when someone cites a statistic).

I settled on a 5 tier description system:
Worthless: It’s bad, really bad. “I can’t believe the publisher is putting it out there in this state, bad”. Any game that scores one of these is an instant “Do Not Buy”. It shows a complete lack of caring on the part of the developers and publishers and a disregard for the customers.

Junky: It’s not horrible, but it could be a lot better. It still comes in below being serviceable or adequate. It might get better with time or work, but it shows quality control was lacking.

Serviceable: It does its job, it isn’t terribly impressive, but it isn’t cringe worthy bad. It exists. It will get you from point A, but you park it at the rear of the parking lot so no one sees you arrive in it.

Workhorse: It more than does its job, it does it well. Still room for improvement, but it’s worth including on a resume. I few systems of this quality can pull an otherwise subpar game out of the mire into something enjoyable.

Exemplary: It is at the top, and there is little room for improvement on what it does. This is the way all other games should be doing it.

Finally, and this was the easiest part, what would be my ultimate conclusion. I’m basically going to say, “I recommend you play this” or “I recommend you avoid this”. If this is a game that I think the subscription price is worth, I’ll say so. If not, I’ll tell you to avoid.

I’ll start using this system with my next MMO review, which will be for Fallen Earth.