Game Over 1UP

January 7, 2009 at 7:47 (News, Video Games)

At this point, I think I might just turn to a life of crime.  For all intents and purposes, the great 1UP is dead.  Certainly the loudest of us, but also very likely the best of us, 1UP came to be an inspiration to many.  Its distinctive voice, its uniquely straightforward house style, its frank and formidable editors – how an institution like it has become could be so slap-dashedly disbanded I can’t profess to understand.

Is this the face of the economic crisis, at last?

Did Ziff do this?  I wonder.  Maybe I can blame the war on terror; hey, maybe Bush, why the hell not?  Osama must be so goddamned pleased about this, the bastard.

I’m honestly lost for words.  The 1UP podcasts meant more to me than I could possibly express.  Hell, they were friends – and now.   Now, who knows where they’ll land.

To Skip, to Ryan, to Philip and Nick, Jay Fresh, James Mielke, Anthony Galleigos, Matt, and to Shane, Shane above all others.  This is beyond my capacity to understand.  Maybe with more wine I will.  How that could possible be of help to you all, I’m afraid I fail to see.  May you all go on to better things together.  May the hippie enthusiast press live longer than it appears it has.  May this not be the end of it all, all that you’ve built.

Permalink Leave a Comment

My So-Called Second Life: Week 00 (A Preamble)

January 5, 2009 at 21:25 (My So-Called Second Life, Video Games)

All’s been quiet on the Uncertain front for longer than I’d like.  There are a few Finest Fives about ready to roll out but they’re already belated enough that I wouldn’t be doing anyone a disservice by taking a little while longer to make sure my selections are just so.  There are a gang of reviews in varying states of readiness, not to mention an array of preview pieces and news articles long-since gone and, truthfully, all but forgotten.

It could be the post-holiday doldrums – maybe it is, at that – but I seem to have lost much of my enthusiasm for the tried-and-true variety of game journalism that’s been my stock-in-trade these past years.  I don’t doubt that there’s still a place for it; you need only point your browsers toward IGN or Gamespot to see that, assuredly, there remains a substantial audience for traditional, scored reviews and too-optimistic previews, yet the formula of that whole song and dance has sucked the fun right out of it.

I don’t mind being the guy who scored Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 higher than any other game this year – six months on I still find myself coming back to it, time and again, to try my hand at each of its sublime modes, to reclaim from some Friends list interloper at least third place on each of the integrated leaderboards.  I don’t find the fact that my Ace Gamez reviews of XBLA board-game Ticket to Ride and the PS3 port of the lacklustre Condemned 2 have affected the all-important Metacritic aggregates one way or the other.  The numbers were never the point; from the get-go I knew that I’d have nothing more to do with them once they’d been set loose into the great unknown.  Easy come, easy go, and so they were: so they have been.

The problem, then, isn’t the numbers – at least, it’s not just the numbers.  Their prominence certainly grates, the backwards pre-supposition of their importance, but the numbers aren’t a sickness: rather, they’re a symptom that speaks of a larger problem facing the enthusiast press.  The regimented way in which so many game journalists seem content to write their reviews – that’s the problem.  A checklist of largely arbitrary opinions on the pros and cons of a particular game may be the beginning of a opinion, but by itself, such an article is a worrying ways away from what should be the logical conclusion of the sort of thought we owe our favourite form of entertainment.

Thankfully, the internet isn’t devoid of honest-to-God game criticism.  Not so long ago, 1UP alumni Shawn Elliott stirred the pot some with a star-studded symposium on very much the same subject I’ve been addressing here.  I have high hopes that the project doesn’t flounder in the face of the staggering odds it’s surely set against, but we shall see.  In the meantime, there’s what’s left of Ziff Davis.  There’s Sore Thumbs, from ex-EGM kingpin Dan Hsu and his lovely assistant Crispin Boyer, there’s Giant Bomb, Gamespot’s greatest hits, and let’s not forget Gamasutra; then there’s N’Gai Croal from Newsweek’s Level Up, although updates have been sadly scare of late, and last, but last from least, there’s Stephen Totillo’s MTV blog, Multiplayer.

So.  In an attempt to re-invigorate the experience of writing about a subject I still hold dear, and with a particular tip of the hat to Totillo, that purveyor of refreshingly straightforward game criticism, let me introduce you, one and all, to My So-Called Second Life, an exclusive new feature I mean to publish here every Friday.  All pretenses otherwise aside, it’s going to be my game diary.  I’d commit to daily entries but readers, let’s be honest with ourselves: that’s not going to happen – I’ll only disappoint you.  Thus, week by week, expect a no-bullshit account of the most memorable moments of my last seven days of gaming.

These will not be reviews.  I will score nothing.  All I mean to do is offer a no-nonsense, pressureless perspective on the video-games I play, be they for fun or for work.  Inevitably, there may be recommendations, but My So-Called Second Life will be about the essential experience of being a core gamer; its sole currency the moments that stand out to me, make me question my conception of video-games as art and entertainment.  It will be about those things that make me proud to be a gamer.

What better way to bring in the new year?

Permalink Leave a Comment

Around the World With the NXE

November 19, 2008 at 17:21 (The Funs, Video Games) (, , , , , , )

Kotaku just unearthed an excellent little friend-with-benefits of the self-anointed New Xbox Experience in the form of this URL:

http://avatar.xboxlive.com/avatar/GAMERTAG/avatar-body.png

I’d link it all nice but the point isn’t to click it – resist temptation, fair Uncertainites; opt instead for the magic of CTRL-C, substituting “GAMERTAG” with your Live ID before advising your browser accordingly.  It all seems far too straightforward a system to have come from Microsoft, but the shiny new dashboard (more on that later, perhaps) is all about adjusting expectations.  The end product of the process above coughs up a handy transparent .png file for you to save and shortly abuse in Photshop or your graphics package of choice.

For your pleasure, a few for instances.  Not inappropriately, here’s the flagship Fenix:

Me and Marcus, Ain't It Grand
Me and Marcus, Ain’t It Grand

 Little known fact: avatars are backwards compatible with Amiga 500 games:

Shadow of the Niallalot
Shadow of the Niallalot
But we can do better than retro videogamers, surely.  Imagination shall be our only limit!
One Small Step for Avatars

One Small Step for Avatars

Nicely played, MS.  I am amused.

Permalink Leave a Comment

All Your Basses Are Belong To Us

November 19, 2008 at 13:28 (Music, News, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

However misguided the R&B ambitions of Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Quantum of Solace may be, it’s been much too long, I fear, since I last indulged in such bombastic bass, and “Another Way to Die” fills that sweaty pit of sub-sound perfectly.

Still haven’t seen the movie, though.

So who saw this coming?

How Many Million Bicycles in Beijing?

How Many Million Bicycles in Beijing?

I’m enough of a dyed-in-the-wool Guns N’ Roses fan that this album already means more to me than the punchline I imagine much of the rest of the world will hear it as, but all the leaks have meant there are only five songs I haven’t already heard a hundred times over.  “There Was A Time” is still my favourite; I’m such an outright sucker for rock ballads I should be pelted with animal crackers until dead.

***

Two new reviews for you all to take a gander at.  Actually, come to think of it, six reviews, I suppose — the Puzzle Pack and the Power Pack collect together three PSN titles apiece.  The latter is decidedly the better of the pair, and while it’s great value for money – both are, but I’d sell my remaining grandparents for flOw – I can’t help but be a bit disappointed SCEE seem more intent on wringing a few more sales out of some middle of the road downloadable games than genuinely representing the unique strengths of the PlayStation Network.  Still.  A tenner and change makes for an incredible deal that’ll keep anyone with a PSP busy during what little downtime they have between the flood of triple-A console and PC releases.

Soundtrack to this entry: Donovan – Hurdy Gurdy Man

Permalink 1 Comment

Command & Cactuar: A Review of Multiwinia – Survival of the Flattest for the PC

November 16, 2008 at 23:36 (Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

pc_multiwinia_surivival_of_the_flattest_boxshot1

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Three like-minded undergrads meet at Imperial College London and hit it off.  In their love of retro games, Chris Delay, Mark Morris and Thomas Arundel share a passion that proves decisive when they band together to form Introversion Software.  Almost single-handedly, Chris cooks up a little hacker sim by the name of Uplink, while his collegiate compatriots get down to the business of selling their fledgling company’s quirky debut.  They appoint themselves “the last of the bedroom programmers” and invest in some CD-Rs and ink for their printers; they make and distribute the first copies of the game by hand.  They’re a dedicated, down-to-earth bunch of dreamers, and as such, it’s a pleasant surprise to say that they didn’t fall victim to that essentially British condition Top Gear so aptly ascribes as “ambitious, but rubbish”.  Within hours of its launch, Uplink had made back the developer’s paltry initial investment – and then some.  Enough, say, for Introversion Software to take to E3 2002 and drop £10k on showy speedboats and supercars.

The path Introversion Software took from those no-doubt hazy days to the more sobering state of the industry today hasn’t always been straightforward, taking in the bankruptcy of their then-publisher to the near-insolvency they faced themselves, not to mention a series of heartbreaking delays.  Their sophomore effort finally arrived in 2005, but despite critical acclaim and strong overnight sales, few gamers were willing to drop full retail price on an indie darling from a largely unknown quantity.  So few, in fact, that Introversion Software had to sign on for government benefits to sustain themselves through the six miserable months after their failure at retail.  But then: lo, Gabe Newell said, let there be Steam.  And there was Steam.  And it was good.  Valve’s groundbreaking distribution network made a modest success of Darwinia; it was the perfect platform for such a loving throwback to find its feet, and that it did, thanks in no small part to the modding community that blossomed around Introversion Software’s geometric RTS.

pc_multiwinia_surivival_of_the_flattest_screen1

Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 1 Comment

This Blog Did Not Happen

November 11, 2008 at 7:24 (politics, Satire, The Funs, Video Games, Videos) (, )

I’ve promised several times not to make this very post, but.

http://superobamaworld.com/

Also:

A Lesson To Us All

The more attentive of you may have noticed Gears of War 2 in the neat little gamertag tracker on the sidebar.  Thusly: except for a few articles I’ve stashed in my drafts, expect very little for the immediate future.

That is all.

***

Soundtrack to this Entry: At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command

Permalink Leave a Comment

True Story, Swear to God

November 7, 2008 at 14:43 (News, politics, The Funs, Video Games)

I’ll have a couple more appropriate updates for you all later on today and through the weekend – or at least I damn well beter; I’m juggling three different drafts at the moment and my browser’s buckling under the strain – but for now, consider me helpless.  Despite assurances to the contrary, how can I not point you fair discerning few to this incredible portrait of America’s new Big Mac?

Spacecoyotes Obama
Spacecoyote’s Obama

Rendered, in case you haven’t wasted enough of your life on video games to recognise as much, in the style of Okami, the superlative PS2 RPG which saw a Wiimake on Nintendo’s little white waggle-box earlier this year.  Whether or not a trail of flowers will flourish from out of nowhere wherever the new President-elect walks remains to be seen.  Cynical bastard that I am, I tend to suspect not, although the impromptu flashmobs that sprung up in San Franciso and much of the rest of America after the networks started calling it for Obama give me reason to hope I’m mistaken.  I often am, and there’s a sweet sort of eagerness to believe amongst the people out there cheering on street corners for the future of the United States that I’d hate to see reality betray.

But consider this the last Obama post for the forseeable.  This isn’t a political blog, after all, and I haven’t forgotten as much – it’s hard, on the other hand, not to get caught up in zeitgeisty excitement that’s come of America finally kicking out the George junior jams.  It may only a matter of time until everything goes tits-up again – isn’t it always? – but for now, it feels like this could be the beginning a brave new world.  However much Europe might hate on the United States, the level-headed understand how pivotal it is in the global climate.  If Obama lives up to the promises he made on the campaign trail, just imagine how different our worldview could be by the end of the decade.

Maybe a new Kyoto treaty finally gets through and global warming doesn’t melt us all.

Maybe stem cells aren’t dead babies anymore.  Maybe they save lives and change medicine forever.

Maybe we aren’t going to war with Iran, after all.  Or North Korea.  Or China.  Or one another.

Maybe the economy picks up some and I can start importing stuff from Amazon.com again.

Or maybe things are so thoroughly awful at the moment that we’ll hightail it after any old dream.  I can’t wait to be wrong.

In any case, with this and the achievement unlocked picture from bonfire night, plainly, yes, I’ve outed myself as one of those strange creatures who see major world events through the lens of video games.  Who’s up for an NPD number-driven review of the economic downturn?  The state of the media according to its portrayal of first-person shooters?

I thought not.  Fear not, precious uncertainites, the political posts are done.

***

Soundtrack to this entry: God is an Astronaut – God is an Astronaut (2008)

Permalink Leave a Comment

Gamerscore Whore

November 5, 2008 at 18:23 (News, politics, Video Games)

No, fear not, I’m not back for another round of politics, just to quietly offer the following as an addendum to this morning’s post.

My My, Mr President, What An Excellent Gamerscore You Have...

My My, Mr President, What An Excellent Gamerscore You Have...

And it’s the youth of America what did this.  They came out in force, two in every three of them voting for Obama, and changed the face of the world in a single night.  Well done, little people

Permalink Leave a Comment

A Spoonful of Sugar

September 30, 2008 at 8:08 (News, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , )

Can’t stop for long, but between articles for Blogcritics and a column on indie films I’m working on, I wanted to take a moment to pimp another of my reviews over at AceGamez.  This time I’m gently poking fun at Opoona, ArtePiazza’s junior RPG for the Wii.  Here’s the intro text:

“Former Square Enix assistants ArtePiazza finally break out of the Dragon Quest grind with a new, original series. Sadly, despite an excellent soundtrack and an ambitious Skate-inspired battle system controlled entirely using the Nunchuck, the eponymous Opoona’s adventure is an experience measured at all times by a desire to achieve crossover success with the casual Wii crowd.

This isn’t My First RPG by any stretch of the imagination, but poor level design and a dodgy camera will test the patience of core gamers. If you can swallow that, you could well love Opoona…”

Click through here to read the rest, if you please.  First person to spot the sneaky porn lingo I snuck past my editor wins an official All Things Uncertain no-prize!

Here’s something to ponder in the meantime: do I want to uproot my life and move to London to take a job with Gamespot UK?

Permalink 1 Comment

Halo Killer

September 6, 2008 at 13:30 (News, Rants, Video Games) (, , , , , , )

I’m late to the party, obviously, but still light years ahead of the mainstream media, who you just know are going to cotton on to the Halo half of this tragic news.

The Watertown Daily Times is reporting that an eleven-year old by the name of Joshua Nimm took the day off school to play video games.  When his Dad got back from work that afternoon, he found Joshua dead, a single, .22 calibre gunshot wound to the head.  Local PD have since concluded their investigation, asserting that Joshua was trying to recreate something he’d seen in Halo.

It’s horrible news, of course; I mean, it’s awful, it really does suck for the poor kid, and I’m only covering this because I’m wont to suspect that the minute an American newspaper or a British tabloid gets their filthy hands on the story they’ll blow it out of all proportion.

First off: I’ve played all three of the Halo games to date, and nowhere does anyone – neither Spartan nor Elite – shoot themselves in the head.  A gun to your head, though; it’s a pretty familiar image – and I’m saying that as someone who’s never seen a real gun.  I’ve seen it plenty in the movies.  On television, too; and in books and comics and other video games.  But not in Halo.  In the end, whatever my problems with the franchise, Halo and its sequels are the LIVE generation’s Star Wars, and they’ve always known their place.  There are moments of maturity, even of sacrifice (I feel like I’m giving these games to much credit already) but Master Chief is a moral machine, and the notion of suicide is much too real, much too terrifying, to ever intrude on the cartoon mechanics of his narrative.

Not that the vast majority of the media will care enough about the truth to fact-check the inevitable flood of stories that stem from this incident.  It’s just too delicious an opportunity to have a go at one of the few video games the general public knows exist; Halo 3 was in the news last year when it beat Spider-Man 3 to become the most profitable entertainment launch ever.  And we all know, if there’s a video game involved somehow, it’s probably to blame.  Unless they find Marilyn Manson mp3s on the kid’s computer, that is.

You can be sure, though, that having a gun in every home, a pistol under every pillow and a loaded rifle in every closet in America – that’s not to blame.  I mean, how else could these wonderful peace-loving people defend themselves against the ills of modern society otherwise?

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »