Category Archives: Opinion
There are currently three kinds of property. The first can be referred to as real-estate or lands owned. The second a delightfully antiquated word such as chattel, or moveable property, encompasses. It is the third which is rapidly becoming more complex and variegated in our society: Intellectual property. Intellectual property is intangible, and therefore difficult to establish a concrete definition for. Intellectual property and its protection made up 34.8% of the American gross domestic product for 2012 alone. And that percentage is projected to keep increasing.
There are a number of subdivided laws designed to regulate intellectual property: Copyright, Patent, Trademark, and Trade Secret to start with. The problem we are experiencing is that creativity does not begin in a vacuum. For one invention to be made, it must incorporate other patented inventions. For one book to be written, it must incorporate character archetypes and story concepts that have been presented countless times before in other copyrighted books. Where then does one draw the line?
I normally do not like MMORPGs with a monthly fee, but I decided to finally give Eve Online a go and I signed up for the two week trial. Thus far this is the only game that I will buy a monthly subscription for, because it is just that good. I will provide an article on my experiences in Eve Online once the Trial is over, but my attention was caught on something different, Dust 514. Dust 514 is a Playstation 3 FPS that aims to give just as big an experience as Eve Online, while also “cooperate” with Eve Online gamers. I did not follow Dust 514 at all, as I was not a Playstation 3 gamer, and since it was not coming out for the PC I was not interested in it. However I then decided to watch the Trailers and Gameplay Videos and with a huge exclamation mark I noted, “This is what Planetside 2 was meant to be!”. Now, there will always be certain differences between the style of gameplay in Dust 514 and Planetside 2, but let me give you a few reasons why Dust 514 might end up being more popular than Planetside 2.
I love the Total War Series, and although the Community is divided in regards to Avatar Conquest in Shogun 2, how you earn and level troops, etc. I am a fan of this new bold system, and I hope Creative Assembly will stick to it. What raised my concern, especially with the new Rome coming out, is how Creative Assembly handles DLC material. Now, in terms of the Singleplayer campaign I see no problems. When I bought Fall of the Samurai I got a free Clan Pack that added another faction to play as in the Main Campaign. I tried the different Clans and when I gave the DLC Clan a go I found it well balanced, and not an overwhelming force with some unfair advantage. While I miss the days of Rome: Total War, where you would unlock new Factions as you conquered them in today’s day and age it seems normal for a company to release countless DLCs, effectively making you choke out more cash in order to have a full game experience. This is not the problem as such, the problem is how Creative Assembly deals with Multiplayer.
I recently watched a Vlog by TotalBiscuit (aka. Cyncial Brit). The Vlog was titled, “Should you pre-order videogames?”. At first I did not know what to expect, as the image of the woman in kitty ears in the Video’s “Title” made me wonder just what was I about to face but what followed was an accurate criticism of pre-orders. The Vlog did not only point out countless flaws in pre-orders, from the point of view of the consumer and developer, but also brought one very important thing to our attention, the marketing practice of the publishers. This is something that TotalBiscuit stressed when giving the example of Aliens: Colonial Marines. I liked some of the Aliens games, but I was by no stretch a fan of the series, not the sort that would pre-order the game. I believe some time last year I watched a trailer and thought, “This is gonna be awesome.” but I was never even close to buying the game without seeing a review first. Up to the very point of the release it seemed that this would be the next big Aliens game. It was one of the best selling games on Steam, thanks to its marketing and the fan base that was anxious to get it. All of this through pre-orders. The opposite happened. I waited for a review by Angry Joe and when it came it was brutal. Throughout the board critiques pointed out the overwhelming number of flaws in the game, and I imagine the hearts of countless fans were broken when they got to play their preordered game.
I am certain you heard of this before. More or Better? Better or More? Quality vs Quantity. It is a legitimate concern in real-life terms and in strategy games of different types and sorts. Do you want more of something worse, or less of something better? Rather than telling you how to do your shopping, or what sort of holiday decisions you should undertake let us focus on Strategy Games alone. We immediately stand at a problem however. How do we define Quality and Quantity? The easiest way to differentiate between the two is Cost. Typically in Strategy games something that is more expensive to produce, maintain or purchase is of higher quality. Meanwhile the Quantity approach has a relatively low cost per unit. The best quick example that comes to my mind is from Shogun 2. For 800 Koku (points) you can purchase two Matchlock Kachi Units, or a single White-Bear Infantry Unit. Who would win, the two Matchlock Kachis Units, or the Single White-Bear Unit? We might be more prone to pick the White-Bear Unit but the truth is, “All depends on the circumstances.”. A lot depends on your opponent, on the territory you are playing on, reserves, production, etc.
After reading John’s article on the Lifecycle of MMORPGs one section especially got me thinking, about the “Elitism” and “Xenophobia” of long-time, high-level players toward newcomers or low levels. It formed a rather ugly picture of how people behave and act once they feel they are in a higher position of power, they do not like those greensleeves, the newbies, the low-levels. As John presented his case he also showed how Developers try to counter this state of things, to allow low-levels to mix-in with the high-levels. The new with the old-timers. Does it work? It would seem not sufficiently well to keep a game afloat. However, this Opinion piece is not focusing on MMORPGs, it is looking at all the other games, which might be classified as MMOs as well. I recall how in the past I was angry, and how even now I am angry with the “Elitism” of higher rankers over newcomers or even casual gamers. This is almost a rant against, “All those high level pr*cks.”.
No doubt the multitudes who live and breathe “OMG Teh Haloz!” have already pre-ordered their copies of Halo 4, bitch-slapped the single-player campaign, and quickly jumped into the frag-frenzied quagmire that is online play with nary a thought for what enriching experiences they’ve shot through at breakneck speed in their underfull skulls. Writing a review for their benefit would be well after the fact—and writing one for yours would be equally asinine in the face of gameplay which is uncannily identical to its predecessor, Halo: Reach.
So, what I’d like to do, even though I know this will not likely be popular since it seeks to evoke free thought, is to look at the story Halo 4 presents—its nuances, its tropes, its plotholes, and the simultaneously laughable and almost impressive fact that it’s composed entirely of other stories.
To critique the story and expose roots going back centuries requires that I divulge the story, and for that reason I must warn you: Abandon hope, all ye who abstain from spoilers.
Following your near suicidal war with the ancient species known as the Forerunners, whom the Covenant worshipped as gods, Master Chief was left on the remains of the crippled frigate Forward Unto Dawn. Religion. With rescue unlikely, most of the frigate depressurized, and no chance of more hospitable accomodations, Chief allows himself to be put into cryogenic sleep, telling his trusty AI, Cortana, to “Wake me when I’m needed.” This presented developers with the opportunity to shoehorn another story into the Halo series should they decide that Halo 3 was not enough and be incapable of producing new intellectual property. Suspended Animation.
- Religion: What can I say? The Covenant are a race of warmongering fanatics dying and murdering in droves in the name of beings they don’t understand who care nothing for them. Seems like allegorical commentary to me.
- Suspended Animation: James Cameron has got this one sewn up tight. It’s a standard of science fiction and has been since the ‘20s.
When you awake at the beginning of Halo 4, four years have passed and the Forward Unto Dawn is currently being boarded by Covenent. Cortana initially assumes it’s a salvage crew considering the fact that you’re out in the ass end of space, but you soon learn your crippled vessel is being mauled by what appears to be an entire Covenent fleet whilst being pulled toward a mysterious planet composed entirely of metal.
The sidestory that immediately appears is that Cortana is past her sell by date (and her new model really needs the gap between her teeth fixed). Apparently AIs only live for seven years before suffering from Rampancy, a condition in which the amount of data an AI has absorbed over its lifespan reaches a threshold and causes the AI’s personality to replicate until its consciousness is ripped apart. Kind of like a computer with too much porn in it. This of course immediately begs the question of why Cortana didn’t enter stasis much like Master Chief in order to reduce the amount of information she was processing over her four listless years waiting for Chief to awaken.
I’m actually reminded of the entire Machinima series Red Vs. Blue, in which AIs, their creation, and subsequent decline into insanity features heavily. It also predates Halo 4, begging the question of where Halo 4’s writers got their lynchpin idea. I do believe a lawsuit may be in the offing. AI.
- AI: It stands to reason that if the brain is an engine for performing complex calculations, then something along the same lines can be replicated with a sufficiently complex computer. In its earliest form, the AI concept was a positronic computer used to operate robots whose functions were watched closely for aberrations or bits of random code that resulted in something along the lines of a human intelligence. In this case, human intelligence was dangerous because it was unstable. But once writers realized a legitimate disembodied voice in the main character’s head was useful for dialogue and developing a plot quickly, they immediately made AIs benevolent servants and friends of humanity, which seems to me to be an excellent example of man’s simultaneous xenophobia and willingness to accept something new if it looks like it will involve less work.
Being a child of the eighties, the concept of video games evokes a very clear mental image. Either you went to an arcade with a pocket full of quarters or you were lucky enough to have a console that you played in front of the TV whenever no one else was home (There was only just the one TV, and the rest of the household had priority over you and your “silly toys”). In both cases a substantial sum of money would be expected to change hands. $60 for a new cartridge or CD has been the standard. And if you didn’t like it, your money was already in someone else’s pocket.
Horror is a concept which is difficult to define even among those who have written or presented horror their entire lives. John Carpenter said there are two types of horror stories. In one, a group of people are sitting around a campfire at night. A wiseman looks up from the flames and explains to them all that there is a great beast in the wilds. To survive, to be safe, they must best it. In the other, that same group of people are sitting at that same campfire. That same wiseman looks up from the flames and explains to them all that there is a great beast within themselves. To survive, to be safe, they must look within and best it.
Clive Barker also has two horror stories. In the first, the monster which everyone fears is alone. This is an objective universe which man rules, and that one monster is the aberration, the deviation from the status quo. It must be destroyed for man to re-establish supremacy over his domain. In the second horror story, the monster is a gateway. In discovering it, learning about it in detail, we learn that the world is not as it seems. What we know about the world is the merest fraction of a truth which extends into the darkness forever, and as we learn more we are pulled into that darkness. This is subjective horror.
Music in Video Games appears in many different forms. A lot depended on the game genre, the set tempo and of course the context. A lot of the time it seems that a Video Game cannot exist without music, but is that always the case? Sometimes, especially when playing Stealth-style video games you prefer to switch off the music. This is not because the music is bad, but because you prefer to hear every sound around you, and music might distort that. However at the same time the very same games that are easier to play without music can lose a bit of their charm. In the end, how big is the role of Music in Video Games? I would go so far as to say that without music the vast majority of Video Games would not be as popular as they are now. I would like to name a few cases where music really pulled some emotional cords for me, while also stating a few examples of games that did not have music, or were more fun without it.