I ordered some Sisters of Battle Rhino doors from Forge World a few weeks ago. That’s a pretty standard order for me; I order little mod pieces rather often, since I’m an inveterate modifier. So this is probably the seventh or eighth Forge World order I’ve placed. This time, though; this time, there was a catch.
Apparently, and unbeknownst to me, between the time I placed my last order and the time I placed this one (a span of about three or four weeks, give or take), the entire United Kingdom was taken over by rogues and terrorists, and there are now no longer any legitimate business entities operating there. No, really, that’s true. Well, according to my bank, anyhow, since that’s what I gathered from them when I tried to figure out why they refused to pay the charge. The financial wizards behind the curtain have made the magical, irrevocable decision to refuse all transactions involving the UK indefinitely. For my own good, don’t you know, since it’s pretty obvious to everyone that this company I’ve been doing business with consistently for a year now is in fact a terrorist front. If only I weren’t so stupid, I’d have noticed that already.
In retrospect, I suppose the signs were there.
You know what the dumbest and yet most weirldly prevalent piece of misdesign I can think of is? "Low HP" warnings that never fucking stop beeping. Is there anything more irritating than that?
I’m talking to you, Nintendo. From The Legend of Zelda forward, you’ve made game after game where as soon as I start to get low on health, I have to listen to BEEP BEEP BEEP incessantly. It’s one thing to beep a couple of times as a heads-up, but, seriously, I get it. You don’t need to continue the beeping. At least when baby Mario goddamn cries there’s some sort of OMG REALISM reason for that. Why the hell is it that my heart meter has to have an unstoppable irritation generator attached to it?
So the Dawn of War II multiplayer beta is open. I installed it, and was pretty psyched about trying it out, but it turns out that it’s public multiplayer only — the private and local modes are disabled. And you know what? Fuck public multiplayer.
Now I’ll give you that I’ve enjoyed public multi games when they’re carnage-centric; I had some fun playing Quake 3 with randoms back in the day, for example. But you know what’s never been fun? Playing a head-to-head strategy game online against random people (and what’s even less fun than that is playing a co-op strategy game with random people, but I’m reasonably sure the Dawn of War II beta doesn’t include the co-op mode). If I wanted to hang around listening to trash-talk from teenage stoners all day long, I could just turn the chat channels back on in World of Warcraft. They’re off for a reason.
I was keen to see how the new system would play, with its lower focus on base-building and resource accumulation and greater focus on actual combat and tactics; the sameness of building up your base in every single level is part of what puts me to sleep about typical RTS, so it’d be keen to see if maybe I can stay interested in Dawn of War II the whole way through its campaign. Also, hey, there’s a co-op campaign mode; maybe I’ll play with the wife.
This is a "Games for Windows — Live" game, which I’m given to understand basically means it uses Microsoft’s Xbox Live for the PC setup. And you know what? "Xbox Live for the PC" is a shit name, but it’s about a thousand times better than "Games for Windows — Live." Attention Microsoft: sack your employees in charge of coming up with service names ASAP. I’m also not really clear on why Relic isn’t just using Steam’s own game-stats-and-chat-and-acheivements system, but, hey, there you are.
Still and all, if anybody’s keen to try it, let me know how it is. I’ll probably get it when it comes out.
We went out for cajun and creole tonight, and I have to say, it’s a very unusual cuisine. I’m quite fond of it, but it certainly reflects the peculiar characteristics of the Louisiana region — it’s an odd combination of styles. You get the latin style, with the heavily-seasoned mixed vegetables and rice, topped with mixed meats, but it’s crossed through fancy French cuisine at odd angles. The result is menu descriptions like this:
A delicious spicy combination of crawfish tail meat, shrimp, red peppers, yellow squash, broccoli, green onion in a lobster brandy cream sauce. Served with rice over a puff pastry.
You see what I mean? There’s all this brightly coloured spicy hoo-hah, and it’s accompanied by a brandy cream sauce and served over a puff pastry. It’s just about the weirdest combination of styles I can come up with. It is also, however, really good. Really good. And that restaurant in particular was excellent (which I’m sure will be highly relevant to my mostly-west-coast-and-international readership); it’s not a fancy white-tablecloth place, but the diner ambience and the blues on the radio seems to fit the cuisine better anyhow.
Am I the only one who can’t make any sense out of this? Apparently the team that won this game wasn’t supposed to win so much? And it was, in fact, a violation of some weird, abstract "golden rule" that they did? And they apologised for it? And then the other team’s defense was lauded for their excellent work during the fourth quarter, which was after the winners stopped trying to score any more points?
I just can’t figure it out. I cannot wrap my head around the concept of playing a competitive sport and attempting not to win by too much. What the hell does that even mean?
The story thus far: A lot of gullible baseball players are using maple bats these days out of conviction that they hit the ball harder, this despite clear evidence to the contrary and the fact that better-performing bats would be banned from use in a heartbeat. Kind of like corking. Old-school ash bats explode into a shower of harmless debris when they break, but maple bats aren’t like that; they tend to snap off and send one large, jagged chunk flying off toward somebody. There were two high-profile injuries caused by flying bat fragments last season. Since the player’s union is absurdly powerful, MLB lacks the authourity to tell the players to knock off with the maple bats; as such, they’ve commissioned a study and are implementing new regulations on the manufacture thereof.
All of which makes me wonder why they don’t just switch to goddamn aluminum or synthetic bats, which would eliminate the problem altogether. I’m given to understand that highly-paid bat scientists have already created an aluminum bat that performs exactly like a wood bat, but, when overstressed, prefers to destroy itself with a damn great dent rather than by shattering. If aluminum won’t work for whatever reason, I find it unpossible to believe that here in the grim darkness of the far future we can’t make some type of synthetic bat that has the same general characteristics.
I love the tradition of baseball, and, sure, neither an aluminum nor a synthetic bat would produce the same "crack" as a wood bat. But you know what? I stop caring when people start dying. Maybe that’s just me.
Oh, also? No, baseball goddamn does not have any obligation to make sure its current contracted bat manufacturers stay in business indefinitely and never have to change the way they do things. These companies are not in fact too big to fail.
So there’s this really fucking awful lefty political kinda-rap, kinda-reggae, kinda-ska band called Spearhead. I have to listen to them on a regular basis, since I work with a dude who’s just about their biggest fan. Well, they recorded a song about Barack Obama, and all the radio stations here in the DPRM have been playing it just about non-stop for a while now. Here it is if you really hate your ears.
I mean, this is not a political post. I’m not talking about St. Obama at all here. I’m just saying that song is wack. You like those Supremes knock-offs in the background wailing "yes we can?" Holy shit, dude. Regardless of whether or not you think that Obama tool is any use to anyone, you can’t possibly like that song. It is the worst song of all time.
The Cubs traded Felix Pie? No! NO! NOOOOOOO!
At least I bought my epic Felix Pie jersey before this black day. This day which will live in infamy forever.
Dead. That article sadly fails to record what Montalban’s last words were; I’d be keen to know if he did indeed spit his last breath at William Shatner. You know, for hate’s sake.
Pursuant to a conversation I had last night with Stephen, I’ve been thinking about review methodology and the way I apply ratings to games. He said he isn’t particularly fond of my rating scheme, and brought up as an example the fact that I gave Professor Layton and the Curious Village a perfect score of 5, while Super Mario Galaxy got only a 4.5. He has similarly criticised me in the past for not rating Portal or Metal Gear Solid as perfect, either.
There are two ways to rate video games. Either you can rate them against each other and try to develop a big ranking of how good various video games are in comparison to one another, or you can treat every game in isolation and just compare it to what it could have been or what it tries to be. I take the latter approach, because, quite frankly, I think the former leads to madness. How can you really definitively state which of Mario Galaxy and Layton is the better game? They’re not particularly similar; it’s the proverbial apples and oranges. I agree wholeheartedly that Mario Galaxy was more daring and took more chances — that it "did more" than Professor Layton — but I’m not convinced that’s a strength in and of itself. Though more to the point, I suppose what I’m not convinced of is that that’s a weakness on Layton’s part. Should Layton be penalised for being straightforward and simple? For being a "small" concept executed perfectly instead of a sweeping masterpiece with flaws?
I don’t know. I’m not being a jerk here — I honestly don’t know. I think that’s the hardest single question in crticism theory, and probably all those people you read who talk about how giving star ratings is a bad thing and should be avoided are probably just ducking that question, whether they realise it or not. I think ratings are important. They provide context for the body of the review and help you put things in perspective when I’m talking about them — is this thing I’m complaining about a minor quibble, or a show-stopper? The rating helps you determine that. It also provides information at a glance, which is convenient, assuming you know what that information means.
When I rate a game, I follow a pretty straightforward process. First, I determine whether or not the game is fun, and, if so, if it’s fun enough to pass the time, or if it’s fun enough to put other shit off so you can play it more. You know, really, really fun. Fun is the most important thing about a video game. If it’s not fun, I don’t give two rats’ asses how good the graphics are or whether or not it has minigames. Final Fantasy VIII had some of the best graphics of any game on the Playstation, but it was goddamn terrible and so it got a zero anyhow. On the other side of the coin, if it’s a whole lot of fun, it’s not going to get a low rating. Once I have a fun level nailed down, I start to nitpick. First I look at the graphics and the sound. I don’t review them the same way as most people, though; I don’t give a good gorram how many polygons you’re pushing or what shader effects you’re using or anything at all involving the word "voxels." I care about the game’s visual style. In the case of Layton, the graphics were simple, but they had style to spare; Mario Galaxy, meanwhile, may be on the humble Wii, but, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, it still looks better than everything else. This is because it has an incredible sense of style. Sound I handle the same way — remember when I panned the music in Dragon Quest VIII because, while very well-made, it didn’t seem to fit in the game? Yeah, that’s right, my method of reviewing sound actually involves more than just complaining that there’s not enough (heaven forfend) voice acting. Unlike, you know, some people’s.
I pick apart details in the controls. In the menu layout. In the game flow. Does it have slow sections? Does it have parts that get really fiddly? Does it have important, insufficiently-documented options you’ll have to look up on the internet? I analyse the game’s difficulty curve. But in all these cases, there’s one common thread: I don’t compare the game to any other game unless it’s really inviting me to do so. I never complain that the game isn’t as graphically demanding as some other game, or has less voice acting than some other game, or is shorter or easier or has less plot depth than some other game. This is because variety is good. I like short games and long games and easy games and hard games and all kinds of games. Bigger isn’t necessarily better.
But this brings us back to square one — is Mario Galaxy more deserving of a perfect 5 than Professor Layton? Mario Galaxy is a masterpiece. I love the shit out of it. But, upon reflection, no — my 4.5 rating stands. Every issue that I called the game out for still applies, and still matters. It still has a bunch of stupid minigames. It still has really weird voice acting. And — most significantly of all — it still has infrequent but meaningful control problems, and that’s a big deal in a platformer. I just played it again not too long ago, and I can confirm that it’s actually an issue in the game’s control and not just a case of me being garbage; the best example I have involves Dreadnought Galaxy. I was upside-down on this moving rectangular solid, and I pressed forward on the stick in an attempt to move deeper in along the z-axis. Instead, I moved outward — the exact opposite of what I wanted. No big deal; I just stopped doing that and pulled back on the stick instead. And promptly began moving outward again; I just pressed two completely opposing directions on the stick, and they both resulted in movement in exactly the same direction. This is not a PEBKAC situation, and it wasn’t an isolated event, either. Minigames and voices were overlookable, but the play control issue was severe enough to cost the game one half-point.
Layton, meanwhile, was a much less ambitious game, but is as near as I can tell entirely free of meaningful flaws (well, okay, I do have an issue with the game’s marketing in one respect, but I’m not going to hold that against the game itself). It is, in essence, perfect; if you know what the game involves, and you’re in to that kind of thing, then I can say with absolute certainty that you’ll enjoy it. It’s a great time for fans of brainteasers. Mario Galaxy, on the other hand, is possibly the greatest platformer of all time, and certainly the best of its generation. I can (and do) recommend it unquestionably to just about everybody. But I can’t shake the conviction that I would be doing my readers a major disservice if I gave it a perfect score when I know perfectly well that it contains flaws that measurably detracted from my enjoyment.
Incidentally, for what it’s worth, if they’d ditched the minigames and tightened up the controls, yes I goddamn would have given it a perfect score. Not only would I have done that, you’d have heard loud and forceful announcements from me about how I’m leaving my wife and marrying this game, because it’s the best game ever made. Fortunately for her, they didn’t.