Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jabberwocky Bandwagon of Unconcious Elitism

I'm not sure if the title of this post accurately portrays what I am trying to describe, and it is a little too late in the night for me to think properly and try and fix it. Whatever. The topic of this ... well, lets be safe and call it a rant now ... is simply about jumping on the elitist bandwagon of a game that appears to have wide community approval in some way or form.

That probably doesn't make sense, so I will use a few direct examples. Counter-strike. World of Warcraft. Halo. Starcraft.

All big games. All popular titles that many people play. All games that, in my opinion, are incredibly overrated.

Now if this was a forum post and not a personal blog, many a fanboy (or fangirl), without even reading the rest, would by now be hitting the reply button and appear to be fending for their lives in defence of their game they hold in such reverence. I expect I would get the full array of responses from "lol noob U sux" to more elaborate, well structured posts describing how "it is funny that you are obviously new to the game and not very good at it". As this isn't a forum, I'm glad I can completely disregard that step and move on.

So what the hell am I talking about? Besides the fact that I don't even know myself, I am mainly talking about a certain social quality your average gamer seems to exhibit. To describe this as simply as possible, I will break it into 3 steps or 'traits' of exhibition:
  1. Realize a game you play or used to play is incredibly popular (for whatever reason)
  2. Generally pretend or forcibly become knowledgeable on the game in various ways
  3. Argue that said game is the best of its genre and imply that people who disagree don't know what they are talking about. This can be because of inexperience or the fact that you are simply better at the game than them.
There was one point when I remember being a bit of an 'elitist prick' about the original Unreal Tournament. I would like to think I stopped that attitude a long time ago (grade 11) as I find I am generally trying to get people in to games I enjoy at a positive and comfortable pace. The most recent example/s being various fighting games that I am getting in to. Some of my friends are surprisingly good :).

Back on topic however, the attitude I described is something I have run into more frequently as time goes by, especially tutoring games related units at QUT. If you were to ever raise the question "What is the best example of RTS design?", you would get a plethora of people demanding that it has and always will be Starcraft. Some of these people haven't even played the game, or if they have, justify their small playing time as priceless experience and proof towards their unconditional justification. They will state that the game is incredibly popular and 'e-sport' level in Korea, so it must be good! If you disagree with them, you simply don't know what you are talking about or don't understand. You would even find that most of these people have played very few, if ANY other RTS games at all. Hence ... bandwagon elitism.

Now I don't dislike Starcraft, or any other games for that matter. Or Blizzard, really. I think hating something that doesn't really affect you, assuming you can avoid it entirely, is stupid. I eagerly await it's sequel but I will freely admit I am not a fanboy. So me using it as an example in this next point has nothing to do with what the game is. This point is the game's unwavering popularity.

Some people like to think the game made it to where it is all on it's own, but I can tell you now, luck and force of will by Blizzard did more than you think. First of all, the timing and theme of the game were perfect. People were just getting into the sci-fi insanity of Total Annihilation and Dark Reign at the time, and releasing a Warcraft-esque version of the style was very appealing for audiences. You can argue that Blizzard stole many an idea from the Warhammer 40k universe (Protoss = Eldar, Terran = Space Marines, Zerg = Tyranid), a universe which had long been established beforehand, but that is a debate best left for someone who actually cares. At the time, Korea was also exploding into the wonderful world of inter-networking and so, in cafes and libraries all over the country, a particular game was necessary to test their now renowned networking capabilities. The game was fun and addictive, so it is quite understandable if a nation feels a certain connection to a game that in a sense, brought them into the light.

Then there is the fact that Blizzard patched the shit out of it. Still a little company at the time, cradling their new moneymaker and listening to the community was a good call in terms of its longevity. Something like over 15 patches, 5-6 of those being major balance changing additions. You show enough dedication and support to something and people will automatically assume that it must be good. The West caught wind of it's Eastern popularity and (slowly) followed. People say it's the best game ever, so more people play it. The rest is familiar territory.

The game did not introduce any revolutionary concepts or mechanics to the genre besides being (nowadays) a well balanced execution of the tried and true formula. It is not the only game out there that requires high levels of player's skill and speed in an RTS format. It just happens to be the most popular. If you were to ask a fanboy "What is it exactly about Starcraft's actual game components that make it successful?", your response would most likely be gameplay elements that exist in all games, both modern and old, that simply don't have the hype and religious fanbase behind them that Starcraft has. You will hear things like "Starcraft, now there's a game!" and have everyone in the room sagely nod their heads and stroke their beards in agreement without questioning it or understanding why...

So I guess my point after all this is that there are things in life that are really quite trivial (such as games) that are revered for qualities that are either overrated or incredibly commonplace. Some of these things (such as games) don't really matter, but should this attitude be expressed towards other aspects of life like religion or politics, then things can and do get out of hand. I guess I would just like people to think for themselves more often than not, instead of simply jumping on the Jabberwocky* Bandwagon of Unconscious Elitism.

Jabberwocky - a term used to describe something that no one really knows what it is, but whom deny ignorance of its true purpose. Also a nonsense poem about a monster by Lewis Carroll in his novel 'Through the Looking-Glass' written in 1872.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ultrakill LAN 2010!

Thanks to everyone who came to the recent Ultrakill LAN! While slightly all over the place with people arriving randomly/not at all and indecisiveness on games being played, I still consider it a success. It is good to know that LANs with >10 people are most definitely still possible. The following is a compilation video of some of the footage from the LAN. While it is unfortunately mostly from my PoV (client side demo recording :S), I have not discarded the many embarrassing and comic moments of me either doing something stupid or getting fragged by various people.

This is just a low quality temporary version for the moment. Not going to upload more than 100mb while I am not at uni :). I have a 500mb HQ version if anyone wants a copy themselves. I am considering making a redux version should I spend the time working out some demo recording tools so I can make the video look more awesome, but we will see...

Official LAN picture (courtesy of Panics):

I was hoping for a total number of 12 people and managed to get close to that with 11 at one given point. In any case, it is the largest 'friends only' LAN I have hosted. However, should something like it happen again I might insist we hire out a hall or larger room somewhere instead.

As long as people remember to bring a chair, fold-able or otherwise...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

↓ ↘ → ℗

Oh em eff gee! Possibly the greatest video ever:

I will freely admit, playing a Street Fighter game has seriously warped my mind ... but I wouldn't have it any other way. For those wondering wtf they are looking at, just look at the HP bars for the majority of the fights. Some of the moves in this are downright hilarious/ridiculous and definitely epilepsy inducing (something I should be wary of).

If only all of life's problems could be solved by throwing flaming balls of plasma at them, the world would be such a better place ...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Something wicked this way comes...

E3 2010 is over. I paid about as much attention to it as I usually do, mainly seeing it as a medium for various technology and games related companies to advertise their mediocre, unoriginal and sometimes terrible products as revolutionary and innovative. While some bits of media did hold my attention to higher than usual degrees, some seemed a little lacklustre and not very well thought out (e.g. Sony's Move and Microsoft's Kinect campaigns).


Certain games have piqued my interest however and are making me think ahead about what I will be doing/playing a year from now. I will be upgrading my PC when Crysis 2 hits shelves, being the benchmark game for the next generation of gaming, but what components should I be looking at? I have recently revisited both GRID and Crysis (the original) on my PC which both ran slightly worse in Windows 7 than they did in XP 2-3 years ago. This makes me think about the performance differences DX11 could have and the graphical horsepower I will need to run games smoothly on a modern OS. Memory wise, 4GBs will be the bare minimum and with at least decent DDR3 speeds and clock rates (all unknown at this point). Quad core or Dual core? Should I try a SLI/Crossfire setup?

These questions all bare a familiarity to me when I made my gaming PC over 3 years ago, a machine that has lasted me to this point (and admittedly still works fine). It will undoubtedly take me into a fourth year (at which point I will retire it), however the hours of research, benchmarks, comparisons and opinions will inevitably take place several months from now. It should be something I look forward to, but at this point in time I see it little more as a bump in the road towards playing more games that do not truly satisfy my gaming needs.

The truth is, although I look forward to certain titles, part of me knows they will just end up on the shelf to my right, collecting dust alongside so many others. They will entertain me for maybe a week or two, some maybe a month, but they will never be what Unreal Tournament, Half-life, Quake 3, Total Annihilation and Red Alert were back in the day. The problem is I know exactly why...

There are too many games. For someone like me with a genuine interest in so many types and genres and the technologies used to create and run them, these games do not hold my interest for any great length of time. I am never 'stuck' with them like I used to be back in the day. There is also the fact that the vast majority of these games are not actually anything new. Oh they may offer some fancy new weapons or gameplay mechanic for killing your foes, but really, when every game does it, it kind of becomes expected lest it fade away amongst the flow of similarly done games.

There is also the fact that many of these games, particularly First Person Shooters, are evolving gameplay features that eventually become hybrids of each other. The 'ironsights' evolution is a classic example. Why does every FPS game need to have ironsights? Aiming a real gun (which I have performed countless times) is so incredibly different then what is portrayed in games it is almost laughable. Especially when using a scope. Unless you are a cyclops, aiming down a rifle in a game does not look or behave anything like it does in reality. So why attempt to emulate this feature again and again? Why burden an already slowing down genre (in terms of game speed) to badly portray this need to aim a rifle like a 'real soldier'?

Cover systems are another thing. It kind of started with the original Gears of War, but it is hard to place with so many other games borrowing the idea. This need to point out, focus and lock players into a messy system of hiding behind conveniently placed chest high walls and peek-a-boo corners is revolting. What happened to simply pressing crouch or even having lean buttons, or better yet, making a player's character actually move fast enough so their pudgy ass doesn't get blown off every time its hanging around a corner? Needing to press a button to sit behind a wall and then behave differently (take less damage, never die, cannot be seen etc) is incredibly unrealistic and something that should be abolished.

To an extent I do know the reason behind these control nerfs that are now seen as 'features' in the industry. Console gaming. But I won't bring up that point again, at least not in this post...

Nevertheless, I will end this post off on a good note. Although I think Rage, Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm will be both less appealing and successful than their respective companies previous franchises/titles, there is still hope for the genre of fighting games and RTS. Mortal Kombat is coming back and looking as gory as ever, and MvC3 is definitely something worth looking forward too. RUSE is also looking quite promising and should add a new take to an aging RTS scene.

Sooner or later, time will tell ...