Considering I meant to have this post up three weeks ago, I suppose that I should consider dropping one or more of my activities. Then again, I care too much about all of them to drop any of them. This blog included. Even if I only wind up making one real-content post a month, I intend to keep up with this thing.
For a while I was feeling more than a little guilty that I had Game Clears up on the blog, indicating that yes, I did in the strictest sense “have time” to write and I was simply choosing not to out of laziness or selfishness. It’s in my nature to feel that if I’m not being “productive” then I should feel guilty, stemming from my theory that if I have the capability to do something, then I also have the responsibility to do it. The problem, of course, was that every time I would sit down to write for the blog, the writer’s block I’ve been suffering under for a while now would reassert itself, and I would wind up staring at the blank page for a while before giving up and playing a game.
Of course, I do have to relax at some point. I can’t be expected to be “on” constantly. If I choose to do so by gaming, well, then more power to me. I have to break myself of the mental block that says “relaxation = selfishness”. It’s going to be a long road, but the first step is accepting that those game clears should be proof that I’m not going completely loco.
Anyway, let’s talk games for a little bit. Portal 2 has been the big one, and even though I finished it before I wrote the first draft of this post, I still find myself going back and getting a chuckle out of some of the more funny aspects of the game. What I found most interesting was that Valve rewards humor on the part of the player, as well as giving the player something to laugh at by him or herself. Wheatley is funny, but when the player is rewarded for doing something stupid-but-funny, that’s even better.
One thing I’m finding to be even more fun about the game, and which extends the replay value of it dramatically, is the co-op campaign. There’s an entirely different dynamic between GLaDOS and the two robots Atlas and P-Body, and that can even be extended to the players. I’m going through it off and on with Chris LoBue, a partner of mine in BM&G, and we recently unlocked a hilarious interaction gesture where one of the droids takes the other’s “head” off and plays with it for a moment, inviting retaliation. It’s slapstick at its finest, and it reaffirms Valve’s choice of using robots for the co-op and not human characters.
That said, someone needs to patch in support for a third robot based on a cube, and then Valve can do the whole Three Stooges bit up properly.
So, after that, there was… Hmm, well, I suppose I could talk about the 3DS. Yes, I did get it on launch day, and no, I don’t regret it for a second. You’d be surprised how much fun I get out of something as simple as StreetPass and Find Mii, but that’s the standout feature of the system so far in my mind. It simplifies the whole interaction between gamers, and it’s the natural evolution of the tag modes that were pioneered in titles like The World Ends With You and Animal Crossing. The simple addition of real-world interactions to certain games is the hidden revolution in the machine, and I only hope that this becomes the breakout feature of the device in the way that the original DS’s touchscreen advanced portable gaming. To steal Microsoft’s phrase, it’s good to play together.
Nintendo is doing a great job of engaging with the playerbase this time around as well, too. The NOA Twitter feed highlights the various city-based StreetPass gatherings and clubs going on around the US. Granted, they haven’t gotten around to StreetPass Pittsburgh yet, but we’re still a small group. That’s actually symptomatic of the rather weak launch that the 3DS has had in the past two months. I’ll be the first to say that it was a little underwhelming– there were really only two titles that were worth picking up, and one of them (Bust-A-Move Universe) will only be worth picking up once it’s in the bargain bin, if a better version doesn’t come out before then. It’s annoying that the software isn’t there to support it yet, but I’m confident that that’s going to be fixed very soon.
It was a little annoying, too, to hear that the 3DS eShop has been delayed until the pre-E3 show– but not nearly as annoying as the mind-games Capcom is playing with Mega Man Legends 3. The big problem there is that the game still has not been given a green-light for full production, according to Capcom’s Dev Room initiative. The official word is that, depending on performance of the Prologue Version– the paid beta that was supposed to be released alongside the eShop– the game would either be scrapped or funded in full. In effect, Capcom is holding the game for ransom.
Now before I continue, I want to clarify something: it could be argued that BM&G is also holding a game for ransom, in that we can’t produce Point of Descent without funding. It’s a tricky parallel to navigate, and while it’s flattering to put an indie developer working on their first game on the same level as an iconic studio such as Capcom, that’s simply not the case. We’re going to continue work on Point of Descent regardless of how our Kickstarter and 8-Bit Funding pages do (I’m sorry I’m not being more subtle about that). Capcom, on the other hand, can throw away resources on a “failed” experiment and not risk ruin. The problem, of course, is that Capcom isn’t just throwing away money, but also reputation. They’ve been on rocky shores in that regard before, and I think it would be very wise if they just went ahead and announced at E3 that they’re just trolling us all and that MML3 is definitely coming out. It’s not like Capcom’s a stranger to being a lying creator either– witness the shell games they played prior to the official reveal of MVC3.
Anyway, E3. It coincides with a major Apple event, too– WWDC– but we’ll get to that in a little bit. This year will see the unveiling of the Nintendo console that will likely be in ludicrously short supply next year. (I learned my lesson and will be putting down a pre-order as soon as I can.) What has me puzzled, though, is that there haven’t been too many rumors about what Sony and Microsoft are doing. This could be a great opportunity for the both of them to steal the spotlight a little bit. One would imagine MS, at least, is showing something worthy of buying live airtime on Spike TV for their pre-game on June 6th at 4:30p EDT. Sony has taken a bit of a bloody nose this past month, but they’re running their own show the same day at 9p EDT. Nintendo is set up for the 7th at 12p EDT, which is conveniently when E3 proper starts.
As an aside: Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think Sony and MS have made a HUGE misstep here in scheduling their pre-games the day before Nintendo’s. I draw this thought from The West Wing. See, that show, believe it or not, had some pretty good insights into information control. One of the big tenets was that you want to make sure you get the most press time available. If you want to bury a story, you drop it in somewhere between major announcements so that it gets relatively little attention compared to the big stuff. By placing their shows in such close proximity to Nintendo’s, MS and Sony are trading the lingering effect of being last for the bombastic effect of being first. They’ll get the big initial drops, but Nintendo ultimately will have the most eyeballs on its work because it’ll be in a prime position to react to the other two pre-games.
In the end, though, it really boils down to what games are being shown off, and going by some of the less verifiable rumors I’ve been hearing– which I’ll not lend credence to here, as they come from some really sketchy sources– I think we’re all going to be very, very happy with all three consoles’ output this year. Just trust me on this one.
Moving on to Apple. By the time I get this post up, many of the Apple Stores around the world will have gone into lockdown mode in order to prepare for a major revamp of some sort. Nobody really knows what it is, except that it involves “gigabytes” of encrypted data being pushed to store servers; it might be as simple as giving iPads to employees to use instead of iPod Touches for POS terminals, or it could be a surprise launch of OS X Lion. We’ll know for sure in the morning. The rumors of a new iPhone hardware unit to be announced at WWDC on June 7th are pretty tantalizing, too. But what is probably the biggest news is the formal announcement of iOS 5.0. The mobile OS is slated to include a huge number of improvements to the everyday-use-case of i- devices, with the chief among them being a completely redone push/notification system. Apple, I think, didn’t expect push to be as big or as quickly embraced as it has been, and the initial implementation is starting to show its seams. Granted, there are also a lot of other things that need some spit and polish among the iOS guts, and a few things that are being driven by the (healthy and appreciated) Android rivalry. I would like to see some form of lock-screen widget implementation so that I could see weather and notifications at a glance, and I would be shocked beyond measure if the new notifications platform did not include an option to set truly customizable alert tones.
I mentioned in an aside up there that the rivalry with Android is “healthy and appreciated”. I mean that. The fact that the two operating systems are advancing and pushing each other forward by leapfrogging features means that, no matter which one users pick, they don’t miss out– assuming a long enough timescale. I’ve been an iOS user for going on three years now, and I’m not about to look back at all. Point of fact, I look to Android to see what features will be in the next major version of iOS. About the only thing I’m really unhappy with is the slower pace of releases from Apple compared to Google, but at the same time, not having the dizzying splintering going on that the Android landscape has is a definite plus in my book.
One other thing before I leave the Appleology pulpit: Apple and Google are both learning from the OS wars of old. They may have differing platforms and opposing goals, but both of them are very careful to rely on industry standards and are working towards interoperability. That might just be reflective of the current culture of interoperability in the computing world today, but it’s a breath of fresh air from the not-as-long-ago-as-I’d-like days when floppy disks came formatted in Mac and IBM flavors.
I suppose, really, the last thing to go over in the life-dump is the aftermath of Tekkoshocon and what my next steps there are. I was asked to help out with the RPG room for Tekko, and I did so. I make that sound so banal, but in truth it was probably one of the best times I’ve had in a long time at a con. There was stress, of course– comes with the territory of helping other people have a good time– but in the end it was worth it. Since then, I’ve been working on getting the video game room for The Sangawa Project together, and that itself has been an adventure and a half. At some point I’m going to have to go back up to Sharon to try to clean out Budd Street Video of some rare titles. That show comes just a couple of weeks before Otakon, which… I still haven’t registered for. Lisa Ortiz is a pretty big draw, but it largely depends on whether or not I really want to get into the Dealer’s Room. Which I probably do, but I may have to see how things go in the interim. Otakon probably isn’t going to have an attendance cap again, but if they do, I’m sure there will be enough notice to get things going in time.
That about covers everything I’ve wanted to mention. I’ll try to wr– oh, for cryin’ out loud, I promise that all the damn time and I never deliver. I suppose that if you need to get a fix on me, you could just keep an eye on my Twitter feed. If something big does happen, I’ll set aside time to write about it. Beyond that, I’ll try to keep this place up to date with the Game Clear notices and suchlike as I relax my way through this life. Ciao, kids.