Saturday, December 25, 2010

Star Wars teaches us to hate Christmas, life

This post originally contained the 2010 version of my post on The Star Wars Holiday Special. Click here for for the current, expanded 2011 edition. Happy Life Day to you all!

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Here comes an angry mob of new challengers: Part 1

Thanks to my highly-placed game industry contacts and arduous journalistic efforts- a description I like to think captures the intrepid spirit of Pointless Side Quest better than the more literally accurate "we're friends because I went to elementary school with his cousin, and I asked him if he was interested in writing something on my blog when I was at his apartment watching Kingdom of the Spiders"-  we at Pointless Side Quest are proud to feature  a two-part guest post by Kevin Folliard. Kevin is the writer of the popular video game movie spoof Press Start from Dark Maze Studios, its forthcoming sequel, and the ongoing online animated series Press Start Adventures. Today, we join him on his recent, ill-fated expedition into the very heart of darkness, otherwise known as Capcom's Chicago Fight Club, in search of an early close-in look at the newest entry in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3:  Fate of Two Worlds.  Imagine my enthusiasm when I learned of Capcom's Chicago Fight Club event, showcasing the latest build of the game right in my hometown!

Growing up as an introspective gaming nerd, a good part of what got me through the doldrums of high school was looking forward to the next blockbuster fighting game.  As a comic book geek and a Street Fighter junkie, there was no series throughout the late nineties that brought me greater joy than the Marvel Vs. Capcom franchise.  All the mechanics and conventions of my favorite games,  bright vibrant animation, and my favorite American superheroes.  That's why, ten years later, I've become giddy with anticipation over the revival with youth and exuberance, free Capcom merchandise, and a good time for all, right?  Not so much.

Allow me to take you on a journey, my friends.  A journey that reveals the depths to which obsessive anticipation can bring you.  The spectacle of five hundred whiney, greedy, impatient fan boys and a complete and utter disregard for the words "organization" and "crowd control" have proven to me once again that I am officially, unequivocally, a mature functioning adult.

On the afternoon of September 21st my cousin and I set out for a shady warehouse on Wolcott Avenue. (Interesting choice, Capcom.  You do realize this wasn't a real fight club right?)  There we meet up with a good friend who had generously purchased us fast food.  A wise strategy, as we would need sustenance to last the night.  The event was to run from 8-11PM, and the first one-hundred receive special "swag".  So arriving at 6PM seemed reasonable, right?

Oh me of little faith.  The truly obsessed and devoted had arrived at 3PM, and received special wrist bands indicating their placement in line.  Fair is fair.  Furthermore the line in the small warehouse courtyard winded from the entrance and snaked back and forth at least eight times.  It would be a long wait, but at least my fellow gamers  had formed a neat and manageable line.  Slowly but surely, we'd all make it in and play the game in a calm,
efficient, and respectable manner.  After all, people who are obsessed with video games are often social outcasts, but ones with mutual respect for one another, an intellectual and progressive brotherhood of upstanding citizens, right?  But as Jurassic Park's Ian Malcolm taught me long ago…

Chaos is inevitable.

Enter Capcom USA:  master planner.  An inaudible set of directions indicated for the chosen first one-hundred to step forward and receive their coveted promotional crap, and it begins.  Four or five gamers, sweaty with anticipation, decided that with this new development they could no longer stand to be in the neat and organized line that had formed throughout the courtyard, and so they bum-rushed the entrance, prompting a lemming-like stampede in almost everybody.

When it was over, we had all been compressed like sardines.  Fronts had become backs.   Left had become right.  Yet some strange compact semblance of the line remained.  Apparently we were all respectable citizens until some guy says something we don't fully understand.  (In the future Capcom, invest in a megaphone.)  It wasn't clear what the coveted swag actually was from our vantage point.  But I conjecture had it that it involved some kind of eco-friendly Capcom shopping bag.  Ah well… I guess I won't be browsing the aisles at Trader Joe's with a Servbot tote-bag anytime soon.

Already it was clear that it would be a long, uncomfortable night.  After a drawn out-process, the chosen one hundred were beckoned forth, and the line dissipated completely into a crowd of seething, rabid fanatics.  My rational-minded companions and I shuffled forward to accommodate a frenzy far more brutal than a mob of Resident Evil zombies.  Somewhere to the right a Capcom grunt held fistfuls of special wristbands, intended originally for the second and third batches of hundred to arrive in order but now doled out at random to any screaming nutjob with the ability to push and shove like a preschooler.

When the frenzy settled and the wristbanded chosen were slowly but surely shuffled into the promised land, my compatriots and I found ourselves a good seven feet from the entrance.  Surrounded by my hardcore gaming "brethren," I suddenly felt about as alien as the Silver Surfer.  There was:

The gentleman in front of me with the "I *heart* vaginas" hat.

His pal with the "I love boobies" wristband (apparently not the kind of wristband that Capcom acknowledges).

The sweaty vein-busting loud mouth demanding that he be let in next because he is wearing a Marvel t-shirt and an official Street Fighter IV Ryu headband.

The terrified and dejected youngster who had collapsed on the ground behind me, hugging his knees and rocking back and forth, forcing me to balance on an angle to avoid falling on him and crushing his neck.

 A self-righteous fighting game fanatic behind me snapped and suddenly lost faith: "This is EXPLETIVE DELETED ridiculous!  What the EXPLETIVE DELETED are they doing?! EXPLETIVE DELETED, EXPLETIVE DELETED morons!  Don't they EXPLETIVE DELETED realize that I have to get some EXPLETIVE DELETED sleep tonight?!"  Apparently he was so forlorn that he forgot that nobody was forcing him to stay.  From inside the club a techno remix of Ken's theme from Street Fighter II drifts out and he becomes even more incensed, "Why the EXPLETIVE DELETED are they playing Ken's theme?!  This makes no EXPLETIVE DELETED sense?!"

While I too am hot, and tired of standing as the hours creep by.  I also can't help but smile at the displays of childishness, impatience, and irrational entitlement that surround me.  And all over a game that, a year from now, we'll all be tired of playing.  Which I point out, to the amusement of some of the more level headed folks around me.  It made me feel safe to see such rational acknowledgement.  These were my kind.  Accepting of their quirks, but able to function in the real world respectably.  You can see it in their eyes.  And suddenly I no longer felt so alone, and I had the courage to withstand the nonsense that tormented me… for a little while longer.

Kevin Folliard is a writer in the Chicagoland area, having written several screenplays for Dark Maze Studios in Champaign which are available worldwide on DVD, including the acclaimed video game parody “Press Start.” He is also the creator and head writer for the companion monthly web series to the film “Press Start: Adventures.”  His short fiction has appeared in the literary E-zine “Burst”.  Kevin is currently an academic writing advisor for the Effective Writing Center at the University of Maryland University College.

Will Kevin ever penetrate Capcom's inner sanctum, where the object of his quest awaits? Will Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 fulfill the lofty promise of its lineage?  Will the guy with the "I *heart* vaginas" hat ever actually get any? Stay tuned for Part 2! 

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nothing ends, Cid. Nothing ever ends.

Leigh Alexander has an interesting post at Kotaku about her problems with finishing games that she likes: the more she enjoys a game gets attached to its world and characters, the more she'll try to extend the experience as long as possible and the less likely she is to actually finish it.

I can relate to this. Unlike Alexander, I do always finish a game if I like it, but I've definitely had the experience of trying to put that off as long as possible. The most memorable time this has happened in the past few years has been with Persona 3 and Persona  4. I loved both of those games, both for their gameplay and for their characters and story, and I didn't want to leave either behind. I've also put a ridiculous amount of time into Just Cause 2 and have yet to complete the final mission, though my hand will probably be forced in the near future by sheer lack of anything left to destroy.

My earliest recollection of doing something like this, however, is my fanatical Glenn-Close-in-Fatal-Attraction-esque attachment to Final Fantasy III /VI on the Super NES. It wasn't the game that introduced me to RPGs and made me a fan of them- that was Dragon Warrior- or the game that made them my favorite genre- Final Fantasy II/IV-  but that game enthralled me like nothing had before. I loved everything-  the gameplay, the story, the characters, the absolutely incredible music- and just didn't want it to end. It helped that my excitement for the game had been raised to a fever pitch by the fact that I wasn't able to play it for several months after it first came out. I didn't have the money to buy it, and the sole rental copy at my local video store (kids, ask your parents) was always checked out. And I mean always; I know because I walked or rode my bike up there every day for months to see if it was in. I was eagerly looking forward to it after being amazed by its predecessor and tantalized by playing a few precious minutes of it at the local FuncoLand (kids, ask your grandparents),  so once I actually got hold of the game I held on to it like grim death.

November, 1994: A young John Markley traverses the Chicago metropolitan area in search of Final Fantasy III. While Markley would ultimately find an available rental copy in a now-defunct independent video store, many were not so lucky; between October of 1994 and the release of Chrono Trigger in August of 1995, thousands of gamers who left home in the '94 Chicagoland JRPG Rush would lose their lives to frostbite, starvation, avalanches, and the dearth of console RPGs on the American market during the 16-bit era. 

Still, I couldn't leave it unfinished- I had to see what would happen. More importantly, not killing  my archnemesis Kefka would've set a dangerous precedent. You let one insane, magically augmented jester get away with becoming a god by tapping into the power of three ancient imprisoned goddesses, unleash a storm of cataclysmic destruction that scours the planet with fire and rearranges the very continents, slaughter uncounted millions of innocent people, leave human civilization in ruins, and turn the entire world into a bleak, desolate, post-apocalyptic hellscape with the most depressing overworld music in the history of RPGs, and the next thing you know they're all going to be doing it. You've got to nip this sort of thing in the bud.

The result of my dallying was that when I finally, reluctantly, decided to finish things, my character's levels were so absurdly high that my final encounter with Kefka lasted all of about half a turn. Attacks in Final Fantasy games back then had an absolute, unbreakable limit of 9999 damage per hit, but when the toughest character in your ludicrously over-leveled party is equipped with both the item that lets them hold a sword in each hand and hit twice with each attack and the item that lets them do a quadruple attack every turn, it doesn't really matter that much.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I tried to offer a similar promotional deal when I sold my old games on Craigslist, but apparently that's a Class 4 felony in Illinois

The Collector's Edition of CD Projekt's forthcoming PC RPG The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has been revealed by Gamestop. In addition to its more conventional collector's edition gewgaws and bibelots, this collector's edition includes a sculpture of the head of the game's protagonist, Geralt de Rivia. It's not life size, but it looks pretty respectably large. CD Projekt has repeatedly denied rumors of a planned “Ultimate Edition” in which the head will actually be animatronic and sing Cy Coleman's "Witchcraft" when activated, with spokesmen for the company insisting that CD Projekt's reported recent purchase of several thousand surplus Big Mouth Billy Bass motion sensors was “pure coincidence.”

I'm a big fan of the original The Witcher, which was easily the best RPG/unlicensed pharmaceutical manufacture simulator released by a Polish developer in the past five years, but this isn't for me; the current trend for increasingly elaborate and costly special editions just doesn't interest me much. I'm a simple man with simple needs. But if you're currently redecorating your home or office and have decided that the glowering visage of a battle-scarred albino swordsman, alchemist, and monster-hunter-for-hire is just what you need to tie the room together, opportunity knocks.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Planned Duke Nukem game suffers unexpected setback; in other news, water still wet

It seems that the planned Duke Nukem game for the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS, Duke Nukem: Critical Mass, isn't going to be happening after all. Gearbox, which acquired the rights to Duke Nukem from 3D Realms back in September, has apparently pulled the plug on the handheld system spin-off, which was being developed by Frontline Studios. Gearbox is reportedly still still going ahead with its plans to release Duke Nukem Forever next year, though if the 13-year history of Duke Nukem Forever's development is any guide there will soon be another indefinite delay when the head of the project decides to scrap everything to start over on a different engine, or the programmers are abducted for ransom by Columbian guerrillas, or a meteorite flattens Gearbox headquarters, or whatever.

What would have been Duke Nukem: Critical Mass will instead be released in modified, de-Duked form under the title Extraction Point: Alien Shootout, which has to be one of the most aggressively bland names for a video game since the days of Combat and Adventure on the Atari 2600. It sounds like it should be shelved alongside those generic boxes of cereal that characters on sitcoms eat when the network doesn't want to use a real brand name. They may as well have just called it Military Terminology: Science Fiction Violence.

Is anyone actually surprised by this turn of events? It's Duke Nukem, a subject I've had occasion to mention here before. If history teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that there will always be some sort of complication for anyone foolish enough to defy the natural order and actually attempt to release a new Duke Nukem game. We're talking about a franchise whose flagship sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, has been in development hell since 1997, roughly two-thirds of the character's entire existence. The franchise has spent those 13 years under nigh-perpetual siege, endlessly afflicted by legal battles, staff turnover, missed release dates, massive financial losses, wrathful angels with flaming swords leading plagues of locusts, etc.

I just wonder why the Duke Nukem series became this way, afflicted by enough misfortune to kill any other series several times over and yet seemingly unable to die. Did someone involved in the production of Duke Nukem 3D defile an ancient Egyptian tomb? Did 3D Realms raise the capital to make Duke Nukem Forever by selling bones looted from Indian burial grounds? Did the whole staff take take a trip to New Orleans, get drunk during Mardi Gras, and run into an old cemetary yelling, "Voodoo is total bullshit, and may the angry ghost of Marie Laveau afflict me with some sort of horrible voodoo curse if I'm wrong?" It must be something.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Somehow, the words "From the makers of the 3DO" just don't inspire much confidence

Panasonic has announced a new portable handheld game system called the "Jungle". It will apparently be focused on online gaming, and has a touch pad and full keyboard alongside more console-style controls. Not much is known yet, aside from the fact that one of the flagship titles will be a Battlestar Galactica MMO.

First impression: Awful name. I applaud Panasonic's attempt to offer a change of pace from the "game systems that sound like acronyms for government agencies" style of naming seen in the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, but ”Jungle” sounds like an internal development codename that Panasonic forgot to change for retail. I would have thought it obvious that naming a video game system after vegetation was a bad idea, but I guess not.

Older handheld systems did it far better than their modern successors in this regard. The Nintendo Game Boy, the Sega Game Gear, the Atari Lynx, whatever the hell that portable version of the TurboGrafx 16 was called... THOSE were names for game systems. On the plus side, the inevitable Guns N' Roses references that will appear in every video game press article about this system from now until the end of time pretty much write themselves, which is a timesaver.

It's early yet, but frankly what I've seen so far seems like the worst of several worlds to me: Bigger, less convenient, and almost certainly much more costly than a DS or PSP, less versatile or user-friendly than a laptop computer, pointless overkill for the sort of mobile games people play on cellphones. I also can't imagine playing a game that involved any significant input from a QWERTY keyboard on a keyboard that size. Maybe it'll do better on the Japanese market, where handhelds and wi-fi based multiplayer games are much bigger business than they are in the US.

Alternately, if the Jungle is able to play some of the big MMO names like World of Warcraft- it's still not clear at this point- Panasonic may be able to tap in to the ultra-hardcore MMORPG player/addict/Morlock market. Necessity is pitiless and unyielding, and even the most obsessively devoted MMO player has hitherto been forced to occasionally face those nightmarish interregna- trips to the bathroom, funerals of immediate family members, house fires- when he simply must step away from the computer, precious dopamine draining from his limbic system's burnt-out reward pathways with every moment. The potential appeal of a portable MMO-focused system like the Jungle is obvious, though I'm not sure how much disposable income that particular demographic has.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The most appalling eruption of foul language since Hitler said "damn" in the original Bionic Commando!

This is supposed to be a blog about gaming in general and not the Mafia II Offensive Content Gazette, but a journalist goes where the news is: the Guinness Book of World Records has provisionally certified Mafia II as the game with the most instances of a well-known swear word. This is a family blog, so for decency's sake I'll just say it's the one that starts with F and rhymes with "fuck."

Mafia II dethrones previous record holder House of the Dead: Overkill, a fluffy, Disneyesque romp for the Nintendo Wii that used the word a mere 189 times. Prior to House of the Dead's release, the record had been held for a stunning 16 years by Sierra Entertainment's critically acclaimed but commercially disastrous movie-tie in point-and-click adventure game Glengarry Glen Ross: The Quest to Sell Some Fucking Real Estate. Sadly, the game was doomed commercially by a gaming marketplace not yet ready for the game's mature content, the greater popularity of rival series such as King's Quest and Gabriel Knight, and the limited audience for games about middle-aged guys sitting in a room and yelling at each other about their unsuccessful careers in the real estate industry.

A spokesman for Guinness said:

"The number associated with the record is liable to change in the next few weeks, as 2K have promised to supply us with a copy of the game's full script under NDA so we can count the number of f-bombs ourselves and update the record with a complete figure."
This really has me wondering what working at the Guinness Book of World Records office is like.

Can anyone be assigned curse-counting duty, or is there somebody at Guinness who focuses on this sort of record? And if the latter, what's he like? Is he a seemingly normal man with a nice home in the suburbs and a family who thinks he works in the sporting records department? Is he some sort of shadowy, morally ambiguous black ops figure, tolerated as a necessary evil and yet feared and shunned by the very Guinness staffers he protects for making the sort of grim moral compromises that the naive, soft-handed civilians who spend their days compiling aerospace speed records or measuring the world's largest structure made entirely of popsicle sticks could never face? Is there some insane, subhuman, unspeakably foul-mouthed Gollum-like figure confined to a dark, filth-encrusted pit where he subsists on carrion, whatever live rodents he catches, and the gnawed bones of other Guinness employees who stood too close to the pit? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Analyst's report: Open-world crime genre projected to have offended members of every ethnic group on the planet no later than 2015

The Italian-American advocacy group UNICO publicly condemned the recent release of Mafia II and it's developer and publisher, 2K games and Take-Two Interactive, for what UNICO has called the game's racist portrayal of Italians and organized crime. UNICO president Andre DeMino issued a statement in which he said:

Why would [Take-Two] foist a game on their targeted audience of young people wherein they will indoctrinate a new generation into directly associating Italians and Italian Americans with violent, murderous organized crime, to the exclusion of all of the other 'mafias' run by other ethnic and racial groups...Take-Two is directly, blatantly and unfairly discriminating and demeaning one group to the exclusion of all others. We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian Americans.
Unfortunately, Mafia II is set in the years following World War II, decades before the Mafia began the groundbreaking series of affirmative action programs that have made the ranks of today's Mafia such a diverse, United Colors of Benetton-esque smorgasbord of Men of Respect of every race, color, and creed. Take-Two is apparently going for an authentic historical atmosphere, so making a game where the main characters are 1940's/50's American mafioso named Abdullah "The Dolphin" ibn Yusuf, Ragnar "Berserker" Gustafsson, and Nine-Finger Johnny Krishnamurti creates some suspension of disbelief issues.

I could sympathize with DeMino more if the pervasive pattern he alludes to actually existed in modern games, but I see no convincing proof that it does. There are too many Eastern Europeans and Japanese and African-Americans and Generic White Guys of No Particular Ethnic Background in crime-related games for the claim that Italians are being systematically singled out to be plausible.

It could be a lot worse. Pretty much any time a character who shares my principal ethnic background shows up in a video game, they're a freaking NAZI. Or a soldier fighting for Nazi Germany. Or a Neo-Nazi. Or an exiled former Nazi. Or a thinly veiled stand-in for a Nazi. Or some sort of monstrous Nazi cyborg hell-beast spawned by unnatural Nazi superscience and/or blasphemous Nazi occult lore.

As the old proverb goes, "I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." Or, in this case, "I was sad that I was a tough-talking 50s gangster, until I met Undead Mecha-Hitler." Words to live by.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Furious edge-of-your-seat bus route scheduling ACTION!

Paradox Interactive has announced that it will be publishing developer Colossal Order's game Cities in Motion, billed as the "ultimate public transport simulator." Player's are put in charge of running a mass transit company with scenarios based on the cities Vienna, Helsinki, Berlin, and Amsterdam and a time frame spanning 1920 to 2020. This sort of thing is right up my alley, and I definitely like what I see so far.

The subject matter may be mundane to some, but I'm a a lifelong resident of Illinois. When you live in a state where the two consecutive governors preceding the current office holder are now both convicted felons, several streets in yout area have had half of their lanes closed for "repairs" since President Taft was in the White House, and every news story that references roads invariably includes some combination of the words "scandal," "extortion," "bribe," "racketeering," "federal grand jury," and/or "will neither confirm or deny allegations of ordering Chicago Outfit assassins to conceal the alderman's severed head in the Governor's Mansion," the very concept of well-run transport infrastructure is strange and exotic.

This sort of game is probably the biggest reason I remain interested in PC games despite generally preferring consoles. The reactions of gamers to this sort of niche strategy game tend be split them into into two pretty sharply defined camps, in my experience: Those who find the prospect of spending hour after hour designing subway systems in a simulated 1950s Finland utterly fascinating, like yours truly, and those who have already started to nod off from sheer boredom just reading the words "designing subway systems" and would be in danger of slipping into a coma if they suffered extended exposure to the actual game.

Sadly, as has been demonstrarted by the commercial failure of games like 2009 multiplatform title Call of Duty: Postwar Highway Reconstruction and the PS3's critically acclaimed but financially disastrous recent entry to the Shin Megami Tensei series, Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha Vs. The Transport Workers Union of America, one of these groups is not large enough to provide the sort of sales needed to support console development costs. So it's definitely nice to have the PC for niche titles like this.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So many disgustingly inappropriate Wiimote jokes I could make, so little time

Publisher Microforum is releasing a "massage simulator" game called Enjoy your massage! for the Nintendo Wii. (Idiosyncratic capitalization theirs, not mine. I can't say I'm fond of using full imperative sentences, complete with punctuation, as titles. Maybe they're going for a "stern German female masseuse bellowing commands" sort of tone.) Microforum promises that:

Enjoy your massage! has been created with the cooperation of a team of psychologists: a special mix of slow breath-rhythmical animations and harmonic sound relaxes the player and enhances his emotional involvement.
So "emotional involvement" is what the kids call it nowadays, apparently.

It's a natural progression, really. The Wii has achieved its stunning success by appealing to a hitherto untapped market for casual and family-oriented games, so apparently developers for the system are again seeking out new markets by trying to win over the lucrative "sweaty, clammy-skinned perverts who can't quite work up the courage to take that copy of Chained Heat up to the counter at the video store, age 18-35" demographic.

So, if you've ever wanted to use the power of the Wii's motion controls to simulate the experience of rubbing people, you'll have your chance starting on August 9th. Also, seek help. Or social contact. Or some back issues of Hustler, or the underwear section of a Sears catalog, or something, for God's sake.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Red Faction: Armageddon trailer has too many aliens, not enough property damage

One of my favorite games of this generation, Red Faction: Guerrilla, is getting a sequel entitled Red Faction: Armageddon. To be honest, the trailers that have been released so far don't have me that enthusiastic, since it appears that the open world hit-and-run gameplay of Guerrilla has been replaced by a rather claustrophobic-looking underground setting, and this time the antagonists are aliens. The original Red Faction on PS2 was also set in a pretty constrained environment, and there's plenty of games I like that are too, but this seems like it's losing a lot of what I loved about Red Faction: Guerrilla.

The cool thing about Red Faction: Guerrilla, aside from the fact that virtually every structure you encountered (some of which were quite large) could be demolished, was how it was different from most third-person action games. You had to pick your battles, use the element of surprise, think about things like escape routes, and know when to fight and when to run away. Despite that, it still revolved around action rather than stealth: lots of bullets flying, vehicles slamming into each other or crashing through walls, wrecked buildings coming down in rains of debris. (I'm generally not a fan of games focused on stealth. If lurking out of sight to evade an ever-present threat of detection and hostile confrontation was something I enjoyed, I'd just spend more time around my family instead of paying $60 for the privilege.)

Hence my annoyance at the complaints I occasionally heard about how, once you did something to cause an enemy alert, the game would spawn endless waves of enemy reinforcements until you escaped to a safe house or hid outside of the populated areas: You're not supposed to stand your ground mowing down wave after wave of enemies as if you were playing Gears of War or Call of Duty. The hero of Red Faction: Guerrilla is a guerrilla. He exploits mobility, stealth, surprise, and the ability to conceal himself in the wilderness or among the civilian population to launch sudden strikes against the enemy, destroy his objective, and then get the hell out of there, as opposed to sitting immobile out in the open so that he can get into a slugging match with a numerically superior enemy army. That's why the game was called Red Faction: Guerrilla and not Red Faction: Napoleonic Infantryman. I'll miss that style of gameplay if it's gone in Armageddon.

I'm not enthusiastic about the introduction of aliens, either. The story of Red Faction is not particularly deep or the focus of its appeal, but I liked the fact that it was a science fiction setting where all of the antagonists were human. The crimes of the antagonists- robbing Martian workers of their livelihoods, making dissidents "disappear" during the night, murdering noncombatants to terrify the populace into submission- are human crimes. The conflict was based entirely on fighting back against the brutality, oppression, and exploitation perpetrated by and against human beings, and that just has a different feel for me than fighting some inhuman subterranean horde. Neither is inherently better, but I find Red Faction: Armageddon's apparent switch from the former to the latter jarring.

Plus, there's just something inherently cool about a hero who uses his work tools to strike down his oppressors, especially when the principal tool in question is a giant miner's sledgehammer you can smash through solid walls with. It's like being Wat Tyler and The Mighty Thor at the same time. Or perhaps the Kool-Aid Man, if the Kool-Aid Man crashed through the walls of houses in order to kill people with repurposed mining equipment rather than distribute Kool-Aid.

Still, I'm going to try to keep an open mind about this while I wait for more to be revealed. You can check out the website for Red Faction: Armageddon here.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Pointless Side Quest turns 1

It's hard for me to believe, but this past Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of Pointless Side Quest. From its humble beginnings Pointless Side Quest has become a colossus of the blogosphere, drawing threes of readers each and every day.

At times like this, it's only fitting to take stock of the past. Cue up the schmaltzy romantic flashback montage ballad of your choice as we look back on a year that brought us:

My groundbreaking proposal for what promises to be the hottest game yet in the ever-popular "God of War clone based on Macbeth about fighting an army of genetically engineered monstrosities in a steampunk alternate-history 19th-century Scotland" genre!

A chilling look into Mario's secret world of underground blood sports, drug smuggling, medical fraud, and gangland brutality!

The most terrifyingly evil artificial intelligence since Ro-Man!

Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and the phrase "time-traveling Otacon in drag," in the same sentence at last!

The day Fist of the North Star opened my eyes to a new world of crudely pixelated, ludicrously violent entertainment!

Ill-fated attempts at legitimate commentary!

Final Fantasy brings us an epic saga of childhood orthodontia-related emotional trauma, those obscenely expensive bags of nuts sold at hotels, and Cloud Strife's dark and tragic history of minimum wage recreational facility employment!

Sentient talking birds who sell insurance and challenge our rigid binary conceptions of gender!

A cavalcade of middle school-level jokes about topics including, but not limited to, porn, women's sanitary products, venereal disease, constipation, sexual aids, and much, much more!

My inexplicable recurring fixation on regicidal 17th-century statesman Oliver Cromwell!

My ability to enjoy Christmas, Star Wars, or Bea Arthur is destroyed forever!

Illegal drug use!

Subtle, tasteful discussion of EA's subtle, tasteful marketing for Dante's Inferno!

Crude sexual objectification!

Crude 19th-century anti-Irish propaganda!

A ten-year PlayStation 2 retrospective that degenerates into a distasteful anecdote about the time I became violently ill playing Half-Life!

Quite a year, indeed.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Collect 10 skulls for the throne of Khorne!

A trailer has been released with gameplay footage from Vigil Games' forthcoming Warhammer 40,000 MMORPG, Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online. (Or Warhammer 40K, for you godless metric system users.) I'm not much of an MMO guy, but what they're showing so far is interesting:

The trailer's pretty impressive, but I've long thought that Warhammer 40,000 was ill-suited to the MMORPG genre. The 40K universe mostly revolves around very large-scale military conflicts, and the Imperium of Man- the good guys, sort of, albeit by the standards of a universe where a genocidal amalgam of the Spanish Inquisition and Stalinist Russia is the last, best hope for mankind- is a rigidly hierarchical and authoritarian society. It's a context where the usual paradigm for MMOs, where players and their characters have a great deal of autonomy, doesn't really make much sense for the setting's most important faction.

That's fine for a strategy game like Dawn of War, but a setting that is less “lone hero or small band of adventurers running around on their own initiative and doing various quests” and more “enormous hordes of nameless, faceless canon fodder being ground into mulch” is less promising for an MMORPG. (Unless the game's main buffer class is the Commissar, who strengthens the stats of the party by periodically executing other party members, in which case I will buy at least three copies the day it comes out.)

That said, the look and style of what they've shown so far suggests that Vigil has a good feel for Warhammer, so that's cause for optimism. Time will tell.

I do have a minor nitpick about the video's opening narration: Saying “It is a time of war” in this context is sort of superfluous, given the Warhammer 40,000 universe's lack of times of things other than war. It's like specifying that World War I was a time of humans who breathed oxygen, or that the Roman Empire fell during a time of a time of things that were made of atoms, or that August 3rd, 1998 was a time when Pauly Shore should have been repeatedly kicked in the balls for being Pauly Shore. Aside from that, though, top notch.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I never thought I'd long for the quiet dignity of the U-Force

Microsoft has announced that the Xbox 360's motion control system, heretofore called Project Natal, will instead be released under the name "Kinect." At this point I'm starting to wonder if Federal Trade Commission regulations require all video game motion control devices to have really, really stupid names. There's clearly some malign force at work when changing the name of a product to something as cringe-inducing as "Kinect" is at least arguably an improvement.

First Nintendo replaced the perfectly serviceable name "Nintendo Revolution" with "Wii." Then Microsoft, witnessing the Wii's explosive success and apparently reaching the conclusion that pre-Wii motion controls systems had failed to catch on because their names weren't stupid enough, dubbed their own motion controls system "Project Natal," which makes it sound like either some sort of obstetric equipment or (if you pronounce it "Na-TAHL") some war-torn Third World capital city of the sort that Christiane Amanpour does solemn voiceovers from for CNN.
Now Natal is replaced by Kinect, which sounds like the sort of name you'd give to a cheap knock-off of Legos or Tinkertoys. The name does have the advantage of sort of resembling the word "kinetic" and so has something approaching actual relevance to the product, though if Microsoft is trying to imitate Nintendo's success in appealing to a broader audience I'm not sure a name vaguely evoking a term most people probably haven't used since fifth grade science class is really the way to go.
Meanwhile, there's Sony's entry in the field, PlayStation Move, which is arguably the most generic name ever given to a consumer product. It makes the branding of the cheap store-brand soda that my mom used to buy, with the brown label that just said "Cola" on it, seem like a riot of creativity by comparison. It's like making a candy bar called Eat, or marketing a clothing line called Wear, or re-releasing Daikatana with the title Uninstall. On the plus side, Move isn't obnoxiously "clever" like Wii or Kinect, and sadly that's enough to make it my favorite of the the three. It's troubling to realize that the best-named motion controller ever made was probably the Sega Activator, AKA this monstrosity:

There's just no marketing like 90s Sega marketing.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

In which I scrape the bottom of the Rockstar Games-related controversy barrel

Red Dead Redemption has drawn a bit of criticism in Ireland for the character of “Irish,” a drunk, which the Irish news site Herald has criticized for invoking “the stereotype of the drunken Paddy.” Sadly, negative portrayals of the Irish have a long and unfortunate history in the world of gaming, dating back to the release of Hibernian Blaster for the ColecoVision in 1983 and arguably reaching their apex in 2007 with the release of Activision's Call of Duty: Black and Tan and the ill-received God of War clone To Hell or Connacht: The Adventures of Oliver Cromwell.

Red Dead Redemption developer Rockstar Games is no stranger to controversy over its portrayals of various ethnic groups, of course, having previously come under fire for it's portrayal of Haitians in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and for alleged white supremacist themes in the controversial 2008 PlayStation Portable release Grand Theft Auto: Aryan Brotherhood Prison Assassination Stories. Rockstar has not made any public comment specifically referencing the issue, but is reportedly unfazed by the criticism from Ireland and has announced that it's forthcoming entry into the city-building/strategy genre, SimGreedy Land-Owning English Bastard, will be coming out as in early 2011.

(I'm somewhat troubled to realize that this is the second time in less than a year that both Oliver Cromwell and the Aryan Brotherhood have somehow come up in the same post. What the hell am I doing with my life?)

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ben Kingsley in video game-related role that DOESN'T inspire profound dismay

Some rather neat news about another well-known actor whose voice will be appearing in a video game: Ben Kingsley will be providing the voice of the King of Mist Peak in Peter Moleyneux's forthcoming Fable III. It's Fable, so based on past precedent there's a good chance that by the time the game actually comes out “Oscar winner Ben Kingsley as the King of Mist Peak” will have been scaled back to “Guy who watches the Oscar awards ceremony on TV every year as the Viceroy of Mist Peak,” but let's stay positive.

I hope this goes well for Kingsley, a talented man whose career has followed a Hindenbergesque trajectory that somehow took him from winning the 1983 Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Gandhi to a recent supporting role in Uwe Boll's BloodRayne. Though not, sadly, Bloodrayne II: Deliverance. He's not listed in the cast for the forthcoming BloodRayne: The Third Reich, either. I can only hope he'll return for the inevitable BloodRayne IV: Bleed Harder so that his fans will finally get to see him reprise his role as whoever the hell he played in the first movie.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ten years of PlayStation 2

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love came out for the Playstation 2 on the US on March 30th.That's not a big deal in itself (unless you're a die-hard fan of the strategy/RPG/dating sim/mecha genre), but last month marked the ten-year anniversary of the Japanese release of the PlayStation 2. The American anniversary will be this fall. A decade after its birth and three years after the release of PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 just keeps lumbering along.

It's been quite a 10 years, too. So many memories: The first PS2 game I ever played, Summoner. Still an underrated game, in my opinion.

The time a friend and I played through Metal Gear Solid 2 in a single marathon session, lasting late into the night. If you're familiar with both the late-game events of MGS2 and the psychological effects of sleep deprivation, you know that's not a good idea. Never before or since has a game caused me to repeatedly ask my friend “OK, have I fallen asleep in my chair and started dreaming, or did he actually just say that?”

Spending more time on the Disgaea games than I have ever spent on any other life activity, including (but not limited to) family gatherings, personal hygiene, schoolwork, and social engagements, EVER.

Becoming violently ill when I failed to anticipate the results of combining a rental copy of the PS2 port of Half-Life, my life-long vulnerability to motion sickness, the lingering effects of an indeterminate quantity of Guinness consumed earlier in the evening, and what later turned out to be the early symptoms of a strain of flu that was going around.

Loving Xenosaga. Then grudgingly tolerating Xenosaga II. Then loving Xenosaga III which, aside from its inexcusable failure to bring back Shion's glasses, was a fantastic comeback for the series.

Seizing control of the train in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and accelerating to such high speeds that it derailed as I approached a bridge, went flying over the side of the chasm the bridge spanned... and just started floating in mid-air, presumably because the programmers at Rockstar didn't anticipate my train fetish.

Being the only adult male in the Western hemisphere who actually liked Tidus in Final Fantasy X.

Joining every other adult male in the Western hemisphere in wondering why the hell Vaan was even in Final Fantasy XII.

Ace Combat 4, Ace Combat 5, and Ace Combat Zero. I let out an anguished Revenge of the Sith-style “NNNNOOOOO” when I found out that Ace Combat 6 was an Xbox 360 exclusive.

The RPG/horror series Shadow Hearts, or at any rate the first two. (The third one was just sort of meh.) Aside from the great gameplay, it broke the usual JRPG mold in all sorts of ways: Instead of the usual fantasy settings, it was set in the early 20th century in our own world. (Aside from some minor liberties taken with history. For instance, the real Grigori Rasputin died after being beaten, shot, and thrown into a river by a cabal of noblemen and reactionary politicians, rather then when his aerial fortress was destroyed by a Russo-Japanese shapeshifter in the sky over Petrograd.) The battles were turn-based but relied heavily on reflexes as well as strategy. Protagonist Yuri Hyuga was actually old enough to buy tickets to an R-rated movie without being accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Plus, it had what is probably the filthiest joke ever to appear in an American localization of a Japanese RPG. (Early on, the heroine is being held prisoner in a village where the people have turned to cannibalism. Yuri is having none of that, so he breaks in to demand her release and... well, from there it practically writes itself.)

Persona 3 unexpectedly becoming one of my favorite games of all time. Which I then sold online in mint condition for over $100 when its unexpected success caused a crippling shortage. Then finding a complete used copy in very good condition at my local Game Crazy for $40, buying it, and then selling that for over $100 as well. (Hey, arbitrage is an essential part of any market economy.) Then, shortly afterwords, cackling like some evil top-hatted Gilded Age plutocrat when Atlus announced that they were localizing Persona 3: FES and the once-lucrative Persona 3 used copy market collapsed. Then getting Persona 4, which managed to be even better.

Yes, it's been ten truly magical years of action, adventure, drama, obsessive behavior, profitable speculative bubbles, drunken first-person shooter-induced projectile vomiting, assorted angst-ridden bishonen both likable and unlikable, and Russo-Japanese shapeshifters making appalling puns about cunnilingus. A true golden age.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to feature 40-minute Revolver Ocelot monologue about the Pepsi Challenge

The upcoming Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, a prequel set in the 1970's starring Naked Snake/Big Boss, will will contain some rather garish product placement for real-world products including Axe Body Spray, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, and Doritos. (See here and here.) This has led to some pretty severe criticism from some fans, because apparently the verisimilitude of Metal Gear Solid's heretofore grittily realistic world of military action, international intrigue, evil sentient amputated limbs, casual fourth wall-breaking, men made out of bees, and postmodern hyperreality will be shattered by the presence of anachronistic soda logos.

Admittedly, a lot of the placement's look pretty tacky, but I think the products chosen are actually a good thematic fit. With the possible exception of the Kingdom Hearts series, I can't think of any other franchise that screams "stuff someone thought up sitting in a huge cloud of marijuana smoke at 2 AM" more than Metal Gear Solid. So, really, having part of the gameplay revolve around searching for Doritos seems entirely appropriate.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

41m@ \/\/i11 pwnzor j00, p01ntm@n LOL!!1!!1, (Or, existence of F.E.A.R. 3 revealed)

The good news just keeps rolling in for me. A promotional image for the third game in the F.E.A.R. first-person shooter series has appeared in a Spanish gaming magazine, featuring recurring series antagonist/spooky psychic chick Alma, some creepy undead-looking guy, and what appears to be an enraged rifle-wielding Jesus all surmounted by the title "F.3.A.R." Should be good times.

About that title, though. I love the F.E.A.R,. series, and it's out of that very love that I say this: Using numbers as substitutes for letters is the most obnoxious form of communication ever conceived by human beings. Unless you're a time-traveling hacker who needs to send a coded message to your past self in 1989 and/or The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, just don't. When people hear that a new F.E.A.R sequel is coming out, they should be thinking "dramatic shootouts, creepy horror, and pissed-off brunettes who kill people with psychokinetic powers," not "subliterate 14-year-old on the Xbox Live support forums demanding to know why he's not allowed to use ''B1tchslapRaH0Wa420' as his gamertag."

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Persona 5 announced: I am far too masculine and dignified to make “squee” noises, but if that were not the case I would do so here

Katsura Hashino of Atlus, director of Persona 3 and producer of Persona 4, has announced that work is now under way on the fifth game in the popular RPG series. Virtually nothing else is known at this point; even the system it's being made for is still a mystery. Atlus USA has been doing a nice job making the various Shin Megami Tensei-related games available in America, and Persona 3 and 4 were two of my favorite games on the PS2, so confirmation that there will be a Persona 5 is great news for me.

I'm curious to see where they take it. One of the interesting things about parts 3 and 4 was that, despite sharing a setting and having the same basic mechanics, the tone of the games was strikingly different. This extended from the plot and characters into subtle things like the color of the in-game menus (dark and somber-looking in 3, lots of cheery yellow and orange for 4) and whether the majority of the game's important events too place at night (Persona 3) or during the day (Persona 4). It was quite a shift.

Which made sense, given that the dominant theme of Persona 4 was the pursuit of truth, self-understanding and acceptance, and the overcoming of illusions and ignorance, whereas the theme of Persona 3 was DEATH IS INEVITABLE AND INESCAPABLE, ESPECIALLY FOR YOU. (I hasten to add that the game is much more fun than that probably makes it sound.) I thought that they did both styles extremely well, so I look forward to seeing what's next.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just Cause 2: The Grappling Hookening

The release is just a few days away, so I wanted to put in a good word for Just Cause 2. I downloaded the PS3 version of the demo, and it blew me away like nothing else has in years. The demo has a half-hour time limit in which you can run around a small portion of the game world, and I have played it at least eight times; that's how addicted to it I am. I'm incredibly cheap and usually have a decent-sized backlog of games to play through, so I rarely buy games as soon as they come out; Just Cause 2 is the first game released by a company not named Atlus that I've ever been excited enough about to actually preorder.

It's a third-person open world action game game where you roam around the fictional island nation of Panau, destroying facilities, assassinating enemy leaders, and doing missions for various factions to overthrow the tyrannical government of the island. In addition to the various weapons you can wield and vehicles you can commandeer, you have a grappling hook and reloadable parachute you can use to rapidly travel across the terrain, zip to advantageous positions to attack, escape from pursuing enemies, and destroy things in various creative ways. It's sort of like Mercenaries meets Red Faction: Guerrilla meets Bionic Commando meets gleefully over-the-top action movies like The Transporter.

Based on my experiences with the demo, I would enthusiastically recommend this game if you are interested in any of the following:

Zipping from building to building and vehicle to vehicle with a grappling hook while your enemies are in hot pursuit, sort of like Spider-Man if Spider-Man spent more time killing people in Third World countries.

Blowing lots of things up.

Advancing beyond mundane forms of transport acquisition like running up to vehicles and carjacking them at intersections, and having the option of alternative methods such as parachuting off a cliff that overlooks a busy road, landing on the roof of a moving car, forcing your way in through the window, and seizing the wheel, all while the car continues barreling down the highway at fifty miles an hour.

An open-world game where you run around kicking ass, wreaking havoc, and fleeing from the pursuing authorities with a main character who's not a sociopathic hooker-killing gangster.

Leaping off the roof of a four-story building, firing a grappling hook at an attacking enemy helicopter in mid-air, reeling yourself in, spraying submachine gun fire at the crew while hanging on to the outside of the cockpit, hauling the pilot out of his seat and hurling him to his doom, seizing control of the helicopter in mid air, and unleashing a torrent of rockets and gatling gun fire at the enemy troops gathered below.

If you own a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or PC, try out the demo if you haven't already. The full game is coming out on March 23rd. has a nice deal where you get $15 credit towards the next game you buy from them if you preorder Just Cause 2, so if you do any new game shopping there you can essentially get it for $45. I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

(Note: This ought to go without saying, but I receive no compensation from either Square Enix or Eidos for this post. Sadly, despite the boundless potential for niche marketing offered by the internet, the "video game fans who like jokes about particle physics and Oliver Cromwell" demographic is not large enough to make corrupting me worthwhile. I do get a small percentage through if anyone buys the game via the Amazon link in this post, but be assured that the emotional and spiritual satisfaction I would gain from the knowledge that I helped someone find a game they enjoyed would vastly overshadow any merely material gain that... Hell, I can't even type that sentence with a straight face.)

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Must.... resist... disgusting... Wiimote joke...

Microsoft is going to try to market the Xbox360's motion control system, Project Natal, through celebrity endorsements in women's fashion/relationship/celebrity magazines such as Vogue and Glamour, presumedly in the hope of using motion-controlled games to reach beyond the existing gamer market in the same way the Nintendo Wii has done. It really is quite remarkable, when you think about it. The idea of stuff about video games in something like Vogue really drives home how much things have changed since I was a kid. I grew up in a time and place where a significant interest in gaming was extremely uncool, and where female gamers were like alien civilizations or tachyons- we didn't rule out the theoretical possibility of such a thing, but the idea had no empirical support and the actual sighting of one would have been a major discovery.

It does seem like an interesting idea- if it works, it would give Microsoft an untapped new market that the more family-focused Wii doesn't already dominate. I'm really not sure how many different games you can make in the Top 14 Positions to Make Your Man A Groveling Sex Slave/Summer Outfits to Conceal Your Colossal Buttocks/Yet Another Goddamn Article About Anne Hathaway's Hair genre before the market is oversaturated, so hopefully Microsoft will show a little more imagination than we've seen in past attempts to market games to women.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Star Trek Online not yet making players suffer enough, executive producer says

In response to complaints about the new Star Trek Online MMORPG's lack of a significant penalty for death, Craig Zinkievich of Cryptic has said that the developers are looking into ways to “give players a deeper sense of loss when something bad happens,” but that he doesn't like the the type of penalties usually used by the genre, saying:

“I get that people want to feel a sense of risk when they’re fighting in battles, but if the only emotion you feel when you’re playing a game is fear that you’re going to lose some time due to an arbitrary gameplay mechanic, we’re probably not doing something right, ” he said.
Originally, I was going to suggest that Cryptic buy the rights to Star Trek: Insurrection and force players to sit through a brief clip of it while their characters respawn. Then I remembered that he said he wanted to create a “sense of loss,” not a “sense of dismay, nausea, and revulsion, coupled with indignation that Paramount tried to pass off a really bad rejected script from the TV show as a feature film.” So, back to the drawing board.

You know, the first time I glanced at the source article, I immediately thought, “Wait, the Federation doesn't have the death penalty anymore. It's one of those things they've somehow 'evolved beyond,' like greed and racism and dignified military uniforms that don't look like something from the Men's Sleepwear section at Sears.” I hate it when I get my wires crossed like that.

(Yes, I'm aware of General Order 7. Don't imagine you can outgeek me on this, poindexter.)

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

"The Tester" debuts on PlayStation Network; Sony to unveil "The 19th-Century Textile Mill Worker" this summer

Today marks the debut of Sony's new reality series on PlayStation Network, The Tester. The Tester will feature, in the words of the show's official site, “11 avid gamers competing in a series of physical and mental elimination challenges to win an actual job as an official PlayStation game tester along with a $5000 signing bonus.” If you have any knowledge of what being a game tester actually entails, the problem with this premise is obvious.

A tedious, poorly-paid, mind-numbingly repetitive job is not a prize. It is an anti-prize. If it ever made direct contact with an actual prize, both would be utterly annihilated in a cataclysmic burst of gamma radiation that would reduce everything within a five-mile radius to molten slag. Hell, just having it within proximity of that $5,000 dollars is risking disaster.

The word "prize" implies something of value. This is why game shows and reality usually offer the chance to win things like new cars and large sums of money. This is why the Showcases on
The Price Is Right usually involve things like luxurious home furnishings or exciting vacations, rather than 10-year prison term in a Federal Supermax facility or home foreclosures or syphilis. This is why there was never a smash hit game show called Who Wants Regis Philbin to Beat the Shit of Them With a Rattan Cane. (Rege's terrifying prowess in the deadly art of eskrima is one of the best-kept secrets in show business.)

The show itself didn't really catch my interest, though your mileage may vary depending on how much you enjoy American Gladiators-esque sporting events with people in giant plastic spheres, people using cliched game terminology to express their anguish during personal crises, and watching the producer of PlayStation Home berating someone until they cry. If that's your thing, the first episode is available for free download on PSN.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Scottish action/adventure game

Jonathon Knight, producer of Dante's Inferno, says that for years he's also had the idea of doing a game based on Macbeth. Based on what he did with Dante's Divine Comedy, his hypothetical Shakespeare adaptation would probably portray Macbeth as a wisecracking American secret agent in an alternate-history steampunk version of the 1870s, charged by President Ulysses S. Grant with defending America from the machinations of the diabolical King Duncan, or somesuch.

To discover the horrifying secret behind the mysterious Scottish military research program known only as “Project Untimely Ripp'd,” Macbeth will have to infiltrate the very heart of the tyrannical Scottish Empire and confront the monstrous Thane Macduff, prototype for an army of genetically engineered supersoldiers that Duncan intends to mass-produce in artificial wombs and conquer the world. Faced with a power-mad tyrant, an army of cloned superhumans not of woman born, and three mysterious women who keep showing up in cutscenes to deliver cryptic dialogue that won't make any sense until the sequel, Macbeth will be pushed to his limits to survive. Rated M.

You know what's frustrating? Every time I try to mock Dante's Inferno by coming up with a ludicrous game premise vaguely related to classic literature, I end up with something I'd actually like to play. Now I'm going to end up spending the rest of the day depressed by the fact that Macbeth: Fury of Glamis (and it's smash hit sequel, Macbeth II: The Rise of Banquo) will never actually be made.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Final Fantasy creator announces new part-performing amusement for the Wii

Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his company Mistwalker will be making a new RPG for the Nintendo Wii called Last Story. It's nice to see the Wii getting more RPGs, given how sparse the system's RPG selection has been so far. (Though the same could be said of every console so far this generation, sadly.)

I know I'm taking the low road and going for the obvious joke, but... With all due respect to a talented man responsible for some of my all-time favorite games, it's a shame his otherwise boundless creativity apparently doesn't extend to names. We've gone from “Final Fantasy” to “The Last Story?” It's as if a group of former Epic Games employees made a game called Clockwork of Strife or Fraudulent Playoffs. I hope the game does well enough to result in more Mistwalker games for the Wii, so that players can enjoy the epic adventure to be had in The Concluding Tale and The Ultimate Confabulation and The Last Weepy, Drunken, Rambling Anecdote Before Falling Off the Bar Stool and Sliding Into an Alcoholic Coma.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dungeons and... Well, more dungeons

Found via Game Culture: If you're a devotee of tabletop role-playing games planning to go on an interstate bank-robbing spree in the Midwestern United States, there's some bad news. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling on a prisoner's lawsuit claiming that his rights to free speech and due process were violated when his Dungeons and Dragon books were taken by guards, has upheld the right of Wisconsin's Waupun Correctional Institution to ban RPGs.

The lawsuit was originally filed by inmate Kevin Singer, reportedly a long-time gamer, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing a man with a sledgehammer. I'd been planning to make some sort of horrible joke speculating that Singer is a cleric and thus can't wield edged weapons, until I remembered that 3rd Edition D&D did away with that rule almost a decade ago. Damned kids with their d20 system and their feats and their cable television. Feh.

The ban was instituted due to the prison administration's fear that the game was being used in gang-related activity. Those of you from more sheltered environments may scoff at such an idea. Here in Chicago, though, the scourge of RPG-related gang warfare is known all too well, leaving a trail of shattered lives since the blood-soaked rise of criminal groups like the Almighty +5 Vorpal Nation and the True Neutral Aryan Druids in the 1970s. It all seems like harmless fun and games until it's a kid from your neighborhood who gets bludgeoned to death with a sock full of 12-sided dice.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

A gun-toting, steroid-addled boy's best friend is his mother...

Scott Miller, cofounder of 3D Realms, has said that the next few years will bring a “strong resurgence” in the Duke Nukem franchise, and insisted that Duke Nukem Forever is still not dead, despite the recent dismissal of the game's entire development team and the fact that the game has been in development hell since the McKinley administration.

You know, the way 3D Realms has spent the last 10+ years claiming that Duke Nukem Forever is still on its way used to be funny, but now it's just kind of sad. The level of denial being displayed here is starting to remind me of the way Norman Bates in the movie Psycho kept his mother's dessicated corpse in his house, dressed up in her clothes, and had imaginary conversations with himself in a raspy falsetto "old lady" voice so he could pretend she was still alive.

Best of luck to them, I suppose, even though at this point I expect the Daikatana franchise, the Confederate States of America, and the Serpent Men of Valusia to enjoy a resurgence long before Duke Nukem. Yes, I know it's impossible for the Serpent Men of Valusia to resurge, since they're fictional characters and never actually existed in the first place; they still have much better prospects.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Who Are the Ad Wizards Who Came Up With This One: Castlevania Edition

This March will see the Japanese release of the Castlevania soundtrack box set, which will include 19 CDs and a DVD. The complete set will retail for 21,000 yen, about $232 U.S. To put that in perspective, you can get all of The Beatles' studio albums on 12 CDs. You can get Richard Wagner's monumental four-opera Ring cycle on 14 CDs. The complete discography of heavy metal legends Iron Maiden is (as of their most recent release) also 14 CDs.

Could someone please tell me who the target market for a $232 collection of 19 CDs of Castlevania music is supposed to be? I find it hard to imagine anyone that devoted to Castlevania, and when I try to visualize such a person I find it even harder to imagine that they would have $200 to spare, given the limited economic opportunities available to insane shut-ins.

Admittedly, I'm not particularly up-to-date on Japanese culture, so for all I know there's nothing wealthy Japanese people who still have a lot of cash to throw around after nearly two decades of economic stagnation enjoy more than sitting down in their living rooms with a snifter of 40-year-old cognac and rocking out to remixes of "Vampire Killer" for days on end. So perhaps I shouldn't be second-guessing.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

2009: A year in childish mockery

It's been a satisfying first year here at Pointless Side Quest. From humble origins, the blog now draws threes of readers every day. Before we move on to 2010, I'd like to take a look back at some of my favorite Pointless Side Quest moments of 2009:

Horrific violence with edged weapons!

Rambling, barely coherent attempts at serious, legitimate commentary on gaming!

Cloud Strife's epic struggle with malfunctioning bowling equipment!

The nightmarish and most likely drug-fueled landscape of Illinois insurance advertising!

Star Wars, Bea Arthur, and Jefferson Starship, together at last!

A veritable ocean of smut, vice, and depravity!

The first and, God willing, last time the words "William Pitt the Younger" and "time-traveling Otacon in drag" appear in the same sentence!

Fist of the North Star confronts the bowel-dissolving horror of Miller Chill!

Crude ethnic stereotypes!

And, of course, picking on Dante's Inferno over and over and over again! (Incidentally, has anyone else checked out the demo? It's sort of what the God of War series would be like if the design document for the first God of War had been the notebook doodlings of a 13-year-old boy trying to think of ways to shock his mom.)

I'd like to thank my friends and associates Lecester Reed, JT Molloy, David Lanzafame, Kevin Folliard, and Kelly Goldston for their input when I started to seriously consider doing this blog. I'd especially like to thank Lecester for helping me decide on the name "Pointless Side Quest" by talking me out of my (ill-conceived, in retrospect) original plan to call the blog "Baron Heinrich von Markley's Fantastickal Video Funatorium."

Thanks also to:

The guys at, who inspired my love of the phrase "Speaking of..."

Everyone who has linked here.

My beloved Unattainable Bar Girl, waitress and occasional bartender at the local bar I frequent, for her friendliness, professionalism, and Shion Uzuki/Yomiko Readman-esque hotness in the face of several years of my poorly executed attempts at conversation. She's sort of like the Beatrice to my Dante, though hopefully my unrequited infatuation will never spawn a God of War knockoff that looks like it was designed by Beavis and Butthead.

And, of course, everyone who's read the blog so far. If you want to keep up with Pointless Side Quest, you can subscribe to the blog's feed, follows me on Twitter, or join the blog's page on Facebook. Happy New Year, everybody!

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