Friday, September 25, 2009

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker characters revealed, Master Miller ready to claim Fly Fishing merit badge

Images of characters from the forthcoming PSP game Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker have come out in Famitsu magazine. Characters have been identified named Amanda, Huey, Chico, Strangelove, Coldman, Cecile, Miller (presumably the actual Master Miller this time), Paz, and Galvez. It looks pretty cool, although Miller's aura of elite stone cold killer mercenary badassness is somewhat diminished by the fact that he's wearing what appears to be a Boy Scout uniform.

The game is set in Central America a decade after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and is about Naked Snake/Big Boss and the band of soldiers who will go on to form Outer Heaven. Hideo Kojima will be doing the game himself, presumably because he felt dissatisfied trying to tie up the Metal Gear universe’s assorted loose ends, mysteries, and contradictions in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and realized that sticking another prequel into the middle of the series’ timeline provided the perfect chance to retcon all those revelations and once again make Metal Gear the incomprehensible, self-contradictory 20-car pileup of bewilderment that it was meant to be.

My theory is that in this one The Boss will turn out to be alive after all (with the woman killed by Naked Snake in the final battle of Snake Eater revealed to have actually been a time-traveling Otacon in drag) and warn Snake that both the Patriots and the Philosophers are merely front organizations for a still-more confusing and diabolical cabal called the Theologians who have secretly ruled the world since their founding by William Pitt the Younger, James Monroe, and Pope Pius VII in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. Then Revolver Ocelot- who, needless to say, has actually been working for the Theologians all along- shows up, and… well, I don’t want to spoil it.

The name of the character “Strangelove” is no doubt an homage to the titular character from Stanley Kubrick’s classic Cold War film Dr. Strangelove, a movie that has quite a few parallels with the Metal Gear Solid games: the threat of nuclear holocaust looms large, secret doomsday weapons are deployed, and at least half of the major characters are out of their damned minds. And when I think about it, Dr. Strangelove himself is probably the most Metal Gear-esque movie character ever. He’s crazy, he has a distinctive physical abnormality, he’s a defector, he’s intimately involved with nuclear weapons, and one of his limbs has its own independent will that sometimes works at cross purposes to his own. Give the man a tragic ten-minute soliloquy and a bipedal mobile nuclear weapons platform, and he’d fit right in.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Victoria 2 is doomed, DOOMED!

I kept it off this blog for the sake of decorum when it happened, but I squeed like a teenage fan girl reading a fifty-chapter Sephiroth/Naruto/Sonic the Hedgehog slashfic when I learned a few weeks ago that Paradox Interactive was actually making a sequel to Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, one of my all-time favorite strategy games. Paradox head honcho Fredrik Wester was convinced to approve the project by Paradox lead programmer Johan Andersson after the Paradox forum community clamored for it. Wester has said that he does not expect Victoria II to turn a profit, citing the catastrophic, Hindenburgesque launch of the original Victoria, and has said that he will shave his head if proven wrong.

I actually know a guy who lost his hair in a bet. A few years back, he vowed- presumably while drunk or in the grip of some sort of sanity-blasting psionic mental assault- to shave his head if his beloved Chicago Cubs didn’t win the World Series. If you have even a passing knowledge of baseball, you know that’s sort of like saying that this is the year the entire United States Marine Corps will be vanquished on the field of battle by Steve Urkel from Family Matters, so you can imagine how that turned out. He’s always had a soft sort of appearance, so the shaved really didn’t work for him; the first time I saw him post-shearing, it was as if Winnie the Pooh had joined the Aryan Brotherhood.

Sadly, I have to say I share Wester’s pessimism; the fanbase for intimidatingly complex historical grand strategy games with a focus on economics and industrial development named after notoriously prudish British heads of state is a devoted one, but it’s not terribly large. (Which I can only assume to be the reason Paradox has thus far shown no interest in my design document for Cromwell: A Short-Lived Theocratic Commonwealth Under the Sun. Some day...) I certainly hope I’m mistaken, though, and I’m looking forward to it.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

For those times when porn from the internet, DVDs, VHS tapes, magazines, satellite broadcasts, and premium cable just isn't enough

Vivid Entertainment, the titan of the American porn movie industry that has brought you such classic works as I Was Teenage MILF, Nubian Nurse Orgy, and the epic Team Squirt decalogy, has expressed interest in selling downloadable adult movies on the PlayStation Network. Company cofounder Steven Hirsch says that the PlayStation 3 platform is only the first step, saying:

“If we move forward here we would look at other potential gaming platforms like the Xbox 360. The Wii seems to skew a little young."
Yeah, the Wii market could be a problem. Though in a way it’s too bad, given how much success the Wii has had adapting various genres for use with motion controls. If you could peer into my soul right now-which of course you can’t, with the beta release of Google Soul Scryer still months away- you would witness an epic battle between good and evil as I struggle against the temptation to make some disgusting joke involving the Wiimote.

To get serious for a moment, I can’t imagine Sony ever agreeing to this. Video games seem to have largely displaced television and movies in popular demonology and become the number one symbol of Things Corrupting the Youth of America Today. The situation is aggravated by the continuing perception of many people that games are entirely or almost entirely for kids.

A few years ago, the mere fact that the Sony PSP could connect to the internet was enough for it to be declared some sort of child-devouring magic sex machine.
Officially sanctioned hardcore porn on a game console would ignite a media shitstorm of Biblical proportions. No amount of explanation about the PS3’s parental controls would be enough to calm things down. (And it goes without saying that actually taking a few minutes out of your day to check in on Junior to make sure he’s not visiting sites with names like is too much to ask of parents.) This would be a bigger public relations blow for the video game industry than the false Fox News report on Mass Effect, the Grand Theft Auto “Hot Coffee” scandal, and the 2005 release of the universally condemned Call of Duty: Waffen-SS combined.

And besides, this surfeit of smut available today is bad for a young man's moral development. Not because it’s porn, but because it’s easy, unearned porn. When I was a kid, seeing people naked was work. You had to have a friend with Cinemax whose parents would let you sleep over and then stay awake into the middle of the night, or scour the video rental store shelves for movies from that period in the 1980s when you could have occasional frontal nudity and still get a PG rating. It taught discipline, ingenuity, and perseverance, and I’m a better man for it.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Penny Arcade Expo 2009: Lots of stuff related to stabbing people

The sixth annual Penny Arcade Expo, aka PAX, has come to an end. I’m the kind of extreme introvert who considers going grocery shopping or attending my own birthday party a harrowing experience, so this sort of event isn’t my thing, but from everything I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun for those gamers who are part of the whole convention/gamer gathering/making eye contact with other humans crowd.

In an example of the sort of bizarre cross-linkages that occur when one has a strong interest in several disparate nerdy subjects simultaneously, the name “PAX” keeps making me envision Tycho and Gabe from the comic wearing 2nd Century Roman legionary armor, wielding blood-soaked gladiuses (gladii, whatever) and surrounded by dismembered Celts. Which, now that I think about it, would probably be the greatest webcomic-related poster ever.

Speaking of brutally slaughtering people with swords, a playable version of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle for the Nintendo Wii was revealed at PAX. Now, I certainly applaud efforts to bring more games like this to the Wii. That said, running into something like No More Heroes must be disconcerting to many of the people who’ve come to gaming for the first time through that system because of its family-friendly appeal. I can just imagine my mother browsing the shelves at the game store: “Let’s see, here’s a collection of sports minigames to play when you have friends over… Here’s a game that let’s you use the Wii to help you exercise and lose weight… How cute, a game about taking care of pets… Ah, here’s a game about a guy trying to get a girl to have sex with him by hacking people to bloody shreds with a lightsaber!”

In one of the odder examples of promotional game swag, Ubisoft also promoted the game by giving out toilet paper featuring the No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle logo and returning series protagonist Travis Touchdown. Frankly, this strikes me as an extremely poor method to promote this particular product. Presumably, the sequel's subtitle is supposed to evoke the image of the game's sword-wielding hero fighting for his life, whereas a promotional item like this gives the impression that the game's titular "desperate struggle" is the result of Travis Touchdown's inadequate dietary fiber intake.

Continuing further with today’s “edged weapons” theme, Klei Entertainment previewed a forthcoming side-scrolling brawler at PAX called Shank. What system it's for remains unknown at this point. The game is part of a projected trilogy, and if sales of Shank are good players should watch for the release of the sequel Shiv in 2011 and the trilogy’s epic conclusion Sock Full of Pennies in late 2012.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Well, at least I can still play EVE Online to take my mind off the economic cri- DAMN IT!"

It’s remarkable how persistent online worlds are taking on more and more of the complexity of the real world. Case in point: The world of massively multiplayer online game finance is also a feculent cesspool of corruption, negligence, and incompetence. On the plus side, at least the average gamer doesn’t have the lobbying clout to ask Uncle Sam for a few hundred billion dollars every time he screws up.

Case in point: banking in the popular outer space MMO EVE Online. The in-game economy is player-run, and enterprising players of EVE have actually created banks where people can deposit their hard-earned ISKs, the game’s currency, and earn interest. In June, news that EVE’s largest bank, called EBank, had lost over 200 billion ISKs due to embezzlement by its own CEO, “Ricdic” (possibly not his real name), resulted in an actual angry-mob-of-Bedford-Fall’s-residents-swarming-the-Building-and-Loan-in-It’s a Wonderful Life-style bank run as depositors rushed to get their money out while they could.

Things have now gotten even worse, with the proprietors of EBank announcing a freeze on all withdrawals and cessation of interest payments because of their unexpected discovery that, due to a combination of theft, bad loans, bad management, and lack of auditing and oversight, EBank currently has a deficit of 1.2 trillion ISKs. (Plus, I’m sure the sort of top-shelf marketing consulting firm that was no doubt needed to come up with the name “EBank” doesn’t come cheap.) EBank is promising to start allowing withdrawals again once it is on more secure financial footing, though given that they are still bleeding out 12 billion ISKs a month that may be a while.

There are three important lessons here. One, rigorous auditing and record-keeping is essential to any business venture. Two, never under any circumstances trust a grown man who calls himself “Ricdic.” Three, in these troubled times, you can’t count on the banking system to be there when you need it. I hate to toot my own horn, but it’s incidents like this that confirm the wisdom of my recent decision to empty my bank account and invest all my money in South African bullion coins as a hedge against hyperinflation and the imminent civilization-shattering collapse of the global financial system. A few years from now, when you’re hauling whole wheelbarrows of nigh-worthless green paper to the grocery store in a mad rush to buy food before your money loses its last remaining shreds of purchasing power while I’m living like a king off of my stockpile of gold Krugerrands, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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