Sunday, September 28, 2008

One Quick Spore Note

I'm done with Spore, and I'll tell you why once I get around to writing up that other Spore post I've mentioned, but first I wanted to just say this. I remember Will Wright promising that the Space stage would be the ultimate sandbox, where not only could you reshape planets and all that, but you could also revisit the other stages of the game, i.e modifying creatures and civilizations and whatnot. While that's technically true, all the tools required to do those things cost outrageous amounts of money, and like I mentioned before, you can't do them at your own pace. You'll always be getting called back to prevent pirates or enemy raiders from destroying your shit.

So here's my question: why isn't there a special Sandbox mode that's unlocked once you "finish" the Space stage? One where you can freely revisit any of the prior stages and do whatever you want however you want, with no limits other than your imagination? I should be able to get to play around with creature building, tribal wrangling, civilization expansion, and yes, even get to blow up as many planets as I feel like while cruising around the galaxy in my tricked out spaceship with no limits or restrictions.

If Spore's primary tagline is "Not really a game," it's secondary tagline should be, "Untapped potential."

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Hate Sheep

I want to talk a little bit more about Spore eventually, but I might end up doing that in a full fledged review over at Kitsune Games. Dunno, we'll see how it goes.

Anyway, right now, I want to talk about how much I hate sheep. No, not the fluffy mammals, the people who can't think for themselves. Those people who read things on the internet and take it to heart, with no regard to what they actually believe.

Take, for example, television, which is a subject near and dear to my heart. New shows will come out, and they'll be great. Everyone will love them. A couple years will pass (or sometimes just one), and then all of sudden you hear people say, "Oh, that show? The first few seasons were good, but it's terrible now." What happened? The internet happened.

Here's some examples.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is somewhere on my top 5 list of the Best TV Shows in the History of TV Shows Ever. However, I disliked the seventh season, for reasons that are my own. I really, really liked the fifth, and especially the sixth, seasons, though. Seemingly everyone else on the planet hated everything after the fourth season. Why? Because the internet says so.

Heroes. Not in my top 5, but certainly in my top 10. The first season was fantastic. The second season, while cut tragically short by the writer's strike, was equally so. Everyone else? The last episode of the first season was terrible, and the second season was a mess. So says the internet.

Veronica Mars. Perhaps the single best TV show I've ever seen. Three seasons was definitely not enough time to spend with Ms. Mars. I can honestly say I enjoyed each successive season more than the previous one. I'm definitely a minority of one, though, because everyone else says things started to go downhill with season 2, and season 3 was nearly unwatchable. Blame the internet.

What I'm trying to say is that when some idiot on the internet blasts a TV show for a supposed drop in quality (either real or completely imagined), everyone jumps on the bandwagon. This type of behavior probably leads to quality shows getting canceled. Basically, morons bleating about "bad" TV shows gather others to their cause, they all believe the rhetoric, stop watching, the ratings go down, and the shows get the axe. I don't actually have any data to support it, but that's my theory. Fucking sheep.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spore (PC) Impressions

I've been playing Spore for the past week, and have put in around 10 or 12 hours, enough to reach the final Space stage (the five stages are Cell, Creature, Tribal, Civilization, and Space) and play around in it. My initial thoughts about Spore since I first heard about it (some 3 years ago now, at least) were that it isn't a game in the traditional sense, and those are still my thoughts. There's no ending, no goals besides advancing to the next stage, and no real structure or story.

The most interesting part, the space stage, is fatally flawed. The general idea is to take over the galaxy, either by force or by economic means. You can complete missions for other races, establish trade routes, terraform and colonize new planets, buy out existing colonies, or blast them all to hell. The fatal flaw that I've found in this game that is very clearly marketed at the "casual" gamer, is that you can't do anything at your own pace. Let's say you want to explore the galaxy and do missions, and that's all you want to do. That's fine. Until you meet a warlike race, however, and they declare war on you with no provocation other than the fact that you were in their system. After that, they will relentlessly and tirelessly attack your colonies until there is nothing left of them. Sure, you can put up meager defense turrets, but they'll be blasted all to hell in no time. Sure, your colonies will purchase attack vehicles on their own, but not nearly as many as are needed, or often enough to turn aside a single invasion. Whenever your colonies are attacked, you must immediately drop whatever you're doing and return in your ship to help defend. Even if you're in the system that is being attacked, by the time you get to the planet and defeat the invaders, they will have wrought heavy damage to your colonies. Any buildings or turrets that were destroyed will have to be replaced by hand. You can choose not to replace them, but that simply means the next time you're attacked, the invasion will be able to destroy everything that's left more quickly, not to mention that your colonies will not be at full operating capacity.

What this boils down to is a futile exercise in micromanagement, something no casual gamer would ever find fun or interesting. Even I, as a self-described hardcore gamer have no interest in micromanaging my colonies. I'm off exploring the galaxy, goddammit, my people should rebuild those turrets and buildings automatically, and there should be an option to create a standing army so they'll be ready for the next invasion and won't have to whine that they're being attacked and plead that I come help them. That way, even if I'm in a war that I didn't start and didn't want, I don't have to scurry back and forth across the galaxy just to keep from being wiped off the face of the universe.

At this point, I had a lot more fun reaching the space stage then actually doing things in the space stage. Messing around with my creature and doing all of the tribal and civilization stuff was surprisingly fun, although I'm not sure I would ever want to do it again. The space stage, however, has the potential to be really, really good, and it's not. Kind of a shame, really, because I would have gladly paid $50 just for the Space stage that incorporates all of the interesting ideas it has with none of the bullshit.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Release Date Calendar

Rejoice! A comprehensive release date calendar, in easy to use calendar format complete with color coding!

I've been searching for something like this ever since Gone Gold went down, and the void it left was not sufficiently filled by the continuation of the community or the eventual resurrection of the sister site, Console Gold.

On a related side note, looking up Gone Gold for those links reminded me that it was at that site that I originally started reading Bill Harris' work, which he moved over to Dubious Quality just before Gone Gold closed. It's like six degrees of Kevin Bacon, or some shit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This is Why GameStop Sucks

If you've got some free time, please hit this link and watch these videos. They're made by a former GameStop employee who has decided to call out the retailer on all of their bullshit. For some reason, the first video ("01") has been removed, but the other 8 are still there.

Sad But True

Let me first make one thing perfectly clear: I am a die-hard Oakland Raiders football fan. I have been a member of the Raider Nation since I've known what football is. If you prick me, I'll still bleed red, but for metaphorical purposes, it is Silver and Black.

That said, this made me laugh uproariously, which is sad. But very true.

From the Shutdown Corner:

Don't Count On ... ... the Raiders continuing to be so tragic. Actually, you might be able to count on the Raiders continuing to be just that tragic. I don't know. What we witnessed from that morosely-dressed clown troupe on Monday night was almost unspeakable.

Things started well enough for them. They ran the ball. Justin Fargas found some holes, Darren McFadden had some success when he touched the ball. There seemed to be a shred of two of promise.

From there, I'd like to say that the wheels came off, but that wouldn't feel like an accurate description. The wheels didn't just magically come off, the Raiders all got out of the car (all 45 of them were in one Volkswagon; remember, this is a morosely-dressed clown troupe), shot the wheels off the own car, busted out the taillights, smashed the windshield and poured Splenda in the gas tank. Then they all piled back inside and started screaming, "CAR WON'T MOVE, ME SAD NOW!"

I just don't know how you can allow a performance like that to happen. Ninety-six penalty yards, most of them coming on ignorant personal fouls, a pathetic passing game in which Ashley Lelie was the star receiver, Eddie Royal consistently and viciously abusing DeAngelo Hall ... at no point were the Raiders anything but an ugly carpet for the Broncos to walk on.

You don't need talent to have discipline. You don't need a loaded roster to not be an embarrassment. The Chiefs found a way to take the field and not be a laughing stock, and they went out of their way this offseason to strip their roster of talent.

There's just no excuse for a team performing as poorly as the Raiders did on Monday night. I don't care if it's Week One or Week Seventeen.

Thursday, September 04, 2008