Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Aug 15, 2012
The problem with feelings of nostalgia is that they invoke such polar reactions. After all, when you feel let down by such a revered icon as Nintendo, it feels like an attack on your very childhood.

The smoke has settled and the dust has cleared from what many have deemed a by-the-book E3 that had little highs and many lows, including Nintendo’s “reveal” of their new system, the Wii U. I recently had a chance to play many of the demos that were available at E3, and while I was anxious to try out Nintendo’s new console, I was more interested to see if all of the Internet damnation was viable or if it was just more jaded remarks from a collective community that never seems content.  Critics have already extensively broken down each gameplay scenario from each of the demos shown at E3, so instead of regurgitating the same information from the quick slices I was able to play I will instead be delving more into the new interactive scenarios thT Nintendo’s most important asset—their new controller—could create and also tell you why it’s okay to finally forgive the Big N.


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Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012
After settling into the competitive, online playing field of some games, I find all other functions of the game superfluous, especially single player mode.

Counter Strike version 1.3 was the first video game that I played online in any capacity. In my high school years, I was a Nintendo devotee, which afforded the bare minimum of online gaming experiences. Though I owned Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II for the Nintendo Gamecube, the $10-a-month charge to play online was too steep for my part-time, $7 an hour job. So when a friend told me to buy Half-Life in order to play alongside him and millions of others in Counter Strike for free, I was sold.


To this day, I have never played more than 30 minutes of the original Half-Life. After settling into the competitive, online playing field of Counter Strike, I found all other functions of the game superfluous. But Counter Strike is unique, and not only because it revolutionized the first-person shooter. It was a successful online multiplayer experience ostensibly without a single-player accompaniment.


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Tuesday, Nov 22, 2011
by Cat Goodfellow
It’s not all grey and colorless in Eastern Europe. The past few years have seen some genuinely engaging titles surfacing from a swamp of mediocrity, and recent legislation offering Russian game companies government subsidies suggests that there might be more where those came from.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Eastern Europe doesn’t produce much interesting in the way of games. We don’t hear a great deal about them in the West. Even in Europe, games from Russia and its close neighbors don’t enjoy a great deal of distribution and advertising. It’s not all grey and colorless over there, though. The past few years have seen some genuinely engaging titles surfacing from a swamp of mediocrity, and recent legislation offering Russian game companies government subsidies suggests that there might be more where those came from. With that in mind, here are a handful of the most promising Eastern European games around right now. My only caveats: that they be developed in Eastern Europe, playable in English, and available with reasonable ease.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Sep 10, 2009
Two amazing collections of personal stories from MMO games have been posted online.
From EVE Online

From EVE Online


There have been two absolutely amazing MMO stories coming down the blog pipeline and both deserve mentioning.


The first is Jim Rossignol’s four part series over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun about his five year experiences with EVE Online. It chronicles the formation of a small raiding corporation called The State and their wanderings across the massive universe of EVE. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s a startlingly open game where players form enormous corporations and alliances. Resources must be mined, transported, and developed at player created stations. The need to ferry supplies and control markets, all controlled by players, make his stories of pirating and raiding groups fascinating both as a social experiment and purely because of how complex these online games are becoming. Fondly remembering a long conflict with another corporation Rossignol writes, “The few months in which we fought, toe to toe, is something I’d love to be able to recreate or recapture, but I know it’s lost. A singularity in the history of gaming. It was so valuable: a time when the kind of game I’d always dreamed of had come to pass: carving out our niche in a living universe, protecting the weak, working as a team to make money and bring down enemies.”


From Ultima Online

From Ultima Online


The second is a collection of musings by a former GameMater or GM of the now defunct Ultima Online. The game was one of the first graphically depicted MMO games and drew heavily on MUDs and previous Ultima games for its design. What made it unique was what a hostile and wild place the game became when contrasted to modern MMO’s. If someone unprepared stepped outside of town, thugs would descend on them immediately. The game was ridiculously unbalanced as well, allowing for master players to basically dominate the scene. Being a GM in such a culture, which resembled Hobbes’s state of nature more than a civil online game, allowed one called Backslash to collect a long list of stories. So many that he’s posted three essays so far with hopefully more to come. You can check the first post out here. He comments, “As an ex-professional deus ex machina, I have a brain full of these stories that bubble up unbidden in my memory from time to time. I thought you might enjoy if I shared a few of the more interesting stories I took part in.”


You can’t make stuff like this up.


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Text:AAA
Sunday, Aug 17, 2008
Glenn McDonald's coverage of GenCon continues...

More updates from GenCon:


I’m a total sucker for old-school, turn-based RPGs, like the first few videogame iterations of Dungeons & Dragons. In these games, you controlled a party of 4-6 characters, and would lead them in turn-based combat against the bad guys. That meant each character would act individually in turn—the elf fires his arrow at the orc, the wizard moves three squares and shoots a fireball at the troll.  Time crawled to a stop in these games. This was combat which in game time was resolved in seconds, actually taking an hour or more to play in “real” time, as you carefully executed each hero’s actions.


Promo art for The Continuum

Promo art for The Continuum


This is the kind of excruciatingly minute control that turns on a certain variety of videogame RPGers—like me. The new D&D games, like the otherwise excellent Neverwinter Nights series, move too fast for my old bones. I like the old-school approach. So I was psyched to check out a new game premiering at GenCon: The Continuum. A hybrid of sorts, The Continuum combines elements of turn-based RPG play with strategy wargames like Axis and Allies, along with a Collectible Card Game (CCG) aspect. I demoed the game in the main convention hall, and man-oh-man, am I sold. This game is going to get me in a lot of trouble, I can tell.


The cover of issue #1 of The Continuum's comic book

The cover of issue #1 of
The Continuum‘s comic book


The Continuum lets you control entire armies of 300-plus individual characters, each of which has its own stat block, equipment, etc. The CCG element comes in when you assemble your armies. You essentially purchase new and better combatants, much in the way you would purchase new cards in the digital version of a game like Magic: The Gathering. Your army becomes, in essence, your deck. What’s really cool here is that the game is entirely browser-based—it’s all managed via Flash animation, and the raw throughput of data they are managing here suggests they have a real design savant on staff somewhere. It’s nicely scalable, too. You can command various squads of up to 20 characters, or even your entire army as a whole, if you want to play quick and dirty. But—if you really want to—you can micromanage all the way down to the level of each individual fighter, commanding each in turn just like in the old days.


The Continuum just came out of beta a couple months ago, and already has a solid, global player base (you can play others online or go solo against the AI). The game has a very cool and compelling narrative chassis as well – check it out for yourself at www.thecontinuum.com.


I spent a good part of the rest of the day attending various writers workshops and symposia (besides writing about games, I also occasionally write for them—I recently realized a lifelong dream by co-authoring a Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook, an advanced geek achievement I am proud of beyond all rational proportion).


A little bit of exposition in EVE Online

A little bit of exposition in EVE Online


There’s an interesting trend happening in this area. As the videogame industry continues its phenomenal growth, companies are starting to recruit science fiction and fantasy writers—and tabletop RPG game designers—to provide the narrative content needed for their rapidly expanding worlds. This is especially the case with MMOs, massively multiplayer online RPGs like World of Warcraft, Everquest, EVE Online, etc. One panelist, speaking at a workshop on freelance fantasy writing, estimated that every new expansion of a videogame RPG or MMO requires about 500,000 words of scripted dialogue to populate the conversation “trees”.


This writing used to be done by the coders themselves, or a small team of copywriters pulled over from the marketing division. And it showed. So the idea that the big companies are now hiring fantasy and sci-fi authors is a win-win for everyone. The games get more literate, and the writers have a new market. 


As always, the most fun to be had at GenCon is wandering the exhibit hall and people-watching. Or troll-watching, or stormtrooper-watching, or what have you. More pics after the jump…


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