Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I hate Monopoly

I dislike Monopoly, and I am proud to say it. A classic board game invented by the Parker Brothers in 1935 (originally a derivative of 'The Landlord's Game' by Elizabeth Phillips) is a game about being the biggest asshole in the room. Oh yes, this game has made me cringe and roll my eyes in tedious, mindless repetitiveness for many years until the day my sister and I somehow both came to the conclusion that playing it was an utter waste of our time. People don't like to admit they hate things, especially when it comes to entities that existed in a 'high culture' or golden age of society. Holding reverence for classical things seems to give people a sense of importance and a feeling of being more civilized. Whether this be books, music, poetry or in this case ... board games, having respect for the aging and popular things in life qualifies you as a normal person in our glorious modern age of humanity.

For this particular case, Monopoly, I do not respect. I do not like it, and I will explain to you why.

1. It is slow
First of all, I have both won at the game and lost at it. Winning involved me being younger, less opinionative and more excitable, essentially being blinded to its flaws. It also involved everyone just giving up. Losing involved me being exactly the same, except me being one of the ones giving up. The giving up process usually took between 3-4 hours. Most of this time was spent looking at people moving various board pieces, counting their money or counting my own. Or in jail. It takes so long for things to get into motion and so long for anything even remotely resembling a winning condition to emerge that most people remember just how slow the game is and .. give up.

2. It is boring
For the most part, it is a game of attrition. Unless you are playing with people who are not solely relying on the action packed experience of observing a pile of cardboard and plastic for 3-4 hours, you are going to be bored completely out of your mind. Monopoly is fine if it is played with some light, off topic discussion, but mostly people are so engrossed in the experience of doing virtually nothing that they find conversation disruptive. They take the game so stupidly seriously!! You can pretend all you want that you are forming a winning strategy in the back of your mind, but you know you are in the same boat as everyone else. Waiting for your turn to roll so your heart can light up or flop when you land on a spot on the board. Which leads to my next point being that ...

3. It is driven completely by the roll of the dice
I am a Guru for games with skill and balance, and this game has virtually none. It is all luck. You could pretend to be the best monopoly player in the world and get trounced by a newbie learning the ropes with a consistent stream of unlucky dice rolls. Who lands on Mayfair first is not determined by you, and should you get it, you know you did absolutely nothing of worth to get there. Luck. It does not equal skill. And I think people know it, whether they admit it or not. Why? Because ...

4. The game encourages cheating and sleazy behaviour
A presence of luck sets off some part of people's minds that make them become cheating sleazebags. This is particularly true in games or events that actually do require skill and when a player KNOWS they are not going to win without cheating. Steroids in sports are the same as aimbots in FPS games (albeit a significant physical component). In monopoly this translates to giving incorrect change, overcharging, stealing or even innocently landing on someone's property and hoping they don't notice. These are all behaviours you would be fined and possibly sent to jail over in real life. Apparently these activities are "part of the game" and "how its meant to be played". If that's true then this game is sick and I want as little to do with it than I possibly can.

5. It is not a friendly game
Grinding your friends and family into the dust over hours of questionable game-play is sure to create tension. Conflicts can arise, disputes over properties and cheating and getting unlucky. I don't know about other people, but I don't like watching people suffer or be miserable for extended periods of time. This may be the hunter in me talking but giving your prey a quick and painless demise is more humane than torturing them to death. It is also honorable, showing a lack of negative emotion and some personal consideration for your foe, even in death. As much as I hate people in general, I don't like dragging out victories or defeats for hours on end. This just leads to more frustration and more bursts of unqualified glee for whoever it is who thinks they are winning. You are not winning. You are being a wanker.

6. It delivers a terrible message
People living in high society have traditionally had an incredible misunderstanding and under-appreciation for the working class citizens. Look at Marie Antoinette for a prime example. The picture of upper class rich bastards debating and competing for land which possibly houses thousands of citizens while sipping wine glasses and adjusting their monocles is an image I find incredibly disturbing. Depending on your point of view, actual real world monopolies can be a bad thing. Take Microsoft for example. Sure they have made a platform from which the average PC user can globally use and unite, but they completely control that sector of the market. Without competition they have all the say concerning the price of their products (i.e. ridiculously overpriced) and just what gets released.

Want an example? A recent project which was hoping to deliver cross platform gaming between Xbox and PC users was canned when PC users were found to be too dominant. Why? Well the only logical reason is because they want people to keep playing on the Xbox. This shuts down the market for a lot of PC developers in terms of demographics and forces players to play certain games on only one exclusive platform (i.e. Halo - Xbox). Because they control Xbox Live, the (paid) networking interface for the Xbox console, they can simply do whatever they want. There is nothing we can do otherwise.

7. Gambling
I hate gambling

8. It makes me want to punch people in the face!
This is really the main point of this whole post. For all the above reasons, whether people are oblivious to it or not, when I roll that stupid dice and land on your stupid property and have to look at your stupid smug face with its stupid smirk, I literally have to hold myself back from smashing it in. This game makes me incredibly angry, for all the wrong reasons. It is supposed to be a competitive game and yet sometimes there is nothing you can do from being slowly beaten down over time. It is different from the anger I will feel in say, a fighting game. I may tell my friends how much I hate them (jokingly) and how that round was total bullshit, but I know I could have done something about it if I was quick/clever enough. It is my fault. But in monopoly? The reason I am angry is not because of me. It's all on you, you selfish, cheating, poncy, arrogant bastard!

So that is why I hate monopoly. I have rarely enjoyed it. It is one of the few things I actually truly dislike. If you were to play it casually for an hour with some beers and light conversation some time then sure, count me in.

If not, then you are going to want to be real careful playing that game around me...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anonymity of the Avatar

This post is a little... muddled, but whatever.

"I love Alma's red eyes. They make her sexy! Who cares if she is a child, she is dead! Fuck her all night long!" - Terminator, Action Trip video comments

I found the above comment by a rather vulgar Action Trip reader to be ... incredibly funny. Not because of the content of the matter, but because of the incredibly straight-forward and easy going manner in which this individual addressed his/her desire to fornicate with an underage girl. Or should I say, ghoul. I imagine your everyday soccer mum, not used to the horrible things people say on the internet, would find this behaviour unacceptable and demand that this pedophile be put to justice. For the rest of us, we just smile, shake our heads and read the next obnoxious comment...

We all know that what people say on the internet is not a good reflection of how a person behaves in society. Being anonymous is a shield, a big sign in red letters informing you to be a douche-bag. Hell, I've done and said offensive and terrible things online before so I am not exempt. For the most part it was actually pretty fun, letting the illogical, frothing-at-the-mouth cave troll side of the human mind come forth in all its glorious stupidity. And all its horror! I can imagine for some, saying completely ridiculous and terrible things can be a form of stress relief (or something). Although for some people, what they say may actually be what they believe/intend to be true :S

Anyways, this got me thinking about people's anonymity in games. I already know some people play games just to be tools. Ganking and corpse camping in WoW, a form of Schadenfreude in gaming format, is a prime example. But that is negative behaviour, reinforcing the idea of being anonymous. There are many other types of player behaviour when gaming, besides this. Some (and hopefully most) people play competitive games to do well, to the best of their ability. Some are genuinely helpful, serious in their attempts to make others understand and improve their game. Some are even so helpful that they may even turn the act of helping into a game of their own:

I think players of games are generally less inclined to be douche-bags primarily because they are required to interact directly with other people. They can be punished, so to speak. Assuming you are not cheating, any game mechanics you exploit can be turned on you. Anything you say in chat, no matter how offensive, is ignorable as it is not the focus of the game. This is of course unless you are actually a good player though (very rare!).

I like to think most people would avoid using 'cheap' tactics in gaming so as not to belittle themselves by once AGAIN using a dominant strategy. This is not always the case however as I found not so long ago in the terribly imbalanced and skill-capped multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2. Noob-tubing, the act of using a grenade launcher attached rifle in combination with the 'Thumper' M79 grenade launcher itself to guarantee yourself at least 4 near instant kills per spawn. Combine this with One man Army and you have a lot more chances. Grenades kill anyone, dead, at any range (except point blank) and at any health. I estimated nearly 70% of players in some of the last games I played using this 'strategy', sometimes with the argument "everyone else is doing it". You could argue that this is equivalent to the AWP wars that Counter-Strike turns into after 15 mins, but I disagree. You spawn from the very start of the game with Noob-tubing equipment in MW2 whereas AWP snipers must play for at least 15 mins, building up their cash for the ultimate weapon. Should they die, they lose it. That's called balance. It disturbs me that modern games developers have totally lost the plot when it comes to it in their games...

Getting back on topic, when you are playing games with friends or in real-life, you try not to be a wanker. People don't like to be associated with their gaming behaviours and disposition. You only have to look at the recent hiatus about Blizzard's real ID system on their forums to understand that. This is because it is either a) not what they like to see themselves as, or b) gaming is generally not seen as a positive thing in the eyes of others. It's still the 'childish' activity of immature people according to older generations. Hell you only have to ask my parents opinion of it to get an incredibly ignorant and biased view on it.

Most people in this world are genuinely good people, even if they don't know it. As ill behaved and awful as they may be online, whether through forums, chat rooms or gaming, they probably are not like that in the real world.

But then again, there are some people who are just ... jerks! Anywhere and everywhere.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On Lazers and Explosions...

StarCraft 2 has a game within the game (greetings canine!). This game is called Lost Viking, an arcade game booth found in the Catina within the single-player mode. Despite what everyone keeps telling you, it is NOT a 'secret' game. It is placed directly in clear line-of-sight of the player, so anyone playing the single-player should stumble across it. Secrets are not placed directly in front of you.

Anyways, I decided to give it a go one boring night. Having given it about 10 seconds previously before stopping and continuing my campaign, I can honestly say it is a good bit of fun and shows off the modding capabilities of Blizzard's WarCraft 3 Mk II engine (yes, you know what I mean). The game itself is ... well I wouldn't say it is difficult, but it is definitely not a walk in the park. I had no idea what I was doing but still managed to unlock 3 achievements in one hit. The unlocking of those achievements (big display on screen saying you have unlocked something) are also what got me killed. The video below is this game in action. The player is not very good :S

I will probably return to play it at some point and get the 500,000 point achievement, but only because I enjoyed playing it. Achievement whoring is not something I really like doing in games and I personally think its a cheap method of creating re-playability. But that is something I will rant about for another time. My point is I enjoyed the 'mod' which paid tribute to many a Top Down Side Scroller (or Vertical Scroller) of yesteryear. It is a genre of gaming you rarely see being made anymore, which I find disappointing. I also would like to know why.

Depending on who you talk to, some people may regard these kind of games as mindless. You usually start in a ship that shoots peas and eventually deck yourself out with enough firepower to destroy the universe. Things fly at you, you shoot them and they explode. You also move around. Mindless? Well ... yes to a degree. They can also be incredibly skillful, relying on player reactions and destructive creativity in order to a) simply survive and b) achieve the highest score possible. Some can be so incredibly skill based they can even turn people off. A popular example of this is Ikaruga, a TDSS classic where players can morph between light and dark ship variants to either absorb damage or inflict more upon the same/opposite enemy colours. The following video is of someone playing BOTH players (1+2) in this game.

Yeah ... that. That was on Normal. I tried this with one ship and failed miserably. My neanderthal brain just could not grasp the concept of changing colour to absorb incoming enemy fire as I tried to avoid everything with very low success rates. I imagine with practice I would be better, but my first play session was definetly a slap into my gun-ho, 'shoot everything!!' face.

Anyways, these games are fun. Instant fun at that. Sometimes I consider the days before storylines and character development to be the true pinnacle in gaming awesomeness, skill and enjoyment. Historically these games almost seem to have been wiped out since the birth of the First Person Shooter. It almost appears that as games have become more technologically advanced and more like movies and books, the industry has tried to shed the skin of old relics regardless of their success and popularity. Thinking about this inspired me to download Raiden 3, a game ported from the PS2 to PC quite awhile ago. It still looks awesome, is very enjoyable and will possibly cause me to have a epileptic fit sometime in the near future.

So long story short, these types of games is the game type (lol) I intend on making sometime in the near future. It is the sort of game I have been wanting to make since the last year of my degree, instead of involving forklifts and tanks. A work-in-progress Alpha is currently on standby as things are sorted out. I would like to implement a more realistic control scheme in the form of keyboard movement and mouse/controller aiming but at this point it is not set in stone. Hopefully something significant can be completed before the end of the year.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Can D

This is sort of an 'awesome sauce' post, just a bit more wall-of-texty. Hopefully it crits you for at least a trillion.

I have always thought the guys behind Blizzard Game's cinematics do an exceptional job. I am sure they outsource a lot of it to some pwnage CGI company, but if it is actually done in-house, then that's even more impressive. Basically it has always been ahead of its time, even back in the day with the now terrible looking WarCraft 2 intro cinematic.

Nowadays it is no different. Having recently finished the campaign in StarCraft 2, I found the non-ingame cinematics to be quite impressive, just like they were in the recent World of WarCraft games. Especially in Wrath. They are presented well narratively and have a certain visual aesthetic to them that separates them from anything else. Some people even mistook the Arthas in the Wrath introduction before he summons the Frostwymre to be a live action actor!

If there ever was to be a film about either the StarCraft, Diablo or WarCraft universes, it should definitely be digital and at least contributed to by Blizzard's cinematic department.