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by Ethos

Hey! Look! Listen! #67

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

I wrote this entire article before writing an introduction. Why? I don’t know. But now it’s 1:27 PM CST, on Saturday, which is 33 minutes before I have to be at work. And I just got out of bed 27 minutes ago. And I need a shower. And I really don’t want to go to work.

But anyway, yeah, here’s my gift to you for the week. Unfortunately I’m a little too poor to buy Epic Mickey at the moment, although I sure would love to.

But that’s enough. Good day to you all, and please to enjoy below.

Dead Space 2 “Scarier” According to EA Boss

Worried that Dead Space 2 will be sacrificing scares and atmosphere for the sake of bigger guns, bigger action, and multiplayer modes? Yeah, so am I. But hey, John Riccitiello’s played through Dead Space 2 already – and he says that the game is, in fact, “scarier” than the original.

Now, seeing that John is the CEO of EA Games, I can’t help but think that his opinion’s a little biased. Or maybe “biased” isn’t the right word; maybe he’s just lying, because even if it was less scary than the original, it’s not like, y’know, he’d ever say that.

Or maybe he’s telling the truth, and Dead Space 2 will be even scarier than the original game. Maybes, endless maybes.

Speaking personally, I’m excited for Dead Space 2, but I’m fully prepared for an experience akin to BioShock 2. I mean, at least the setting is fresh, but I still get the feeling that there may be a lot of “been there, done that” involved. And there’s a multiplayer mode.

While we’re on the subject of EA Games…

EA Is So Stupid

EA has polished its image quite a bit in the last few years. I’m not entirely sure how they did it – fresh franchises like Dead Space certainly helped, as did undeniably strong, if familiar products such as Battlefield 2. But, at the end of the day, they’re still a money-hungry mega-publisher, and their most audible figures tend to be… well, ignorant businessmen. Like Frank Gibeau, president of the EA Games label. Recently, Mr. Gibeau had some things to say about a few of EA’s more financially disappointing franchises: Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space.

About Mirror’s Edge, he had this to say:

“There were issues with the learning curve, the difficulty, the narrative, and then there was no multiplayer either.

“The key learning from us was that if you’re going to be bold with that kind of concept, you need to take it as far as it can go in development.”

Hm, well, most of that sounds legit, except… no multiplayer? Listed as a con? Outside of money-speak, I’m not sure you can list the lack of a game mode as a detriment to its quality.

He also mentioned Dead Space, which, while profitable for EA, didn’t meet expectations. Why didn’t it? Well, much of the same reasons, it seems:

“It made money for us, but didn’t hit expectations. We felt like we had an IP that struck a chord, and one that hit quality, but again it missed multiplayer modes.

“So when we re-worked Dead Space [for the upcoming sequel], we looked at how to make it a better idea, how do we make the story more engrossing, how do we build [protagonist] Isaac as a character, how do we make this game a success online.”

Hm. This rubs me the wrong way. For several reasons.

First off, I know this guy is speaking in terms of cash, and I shouldn’t expect anything else. The truth of the matter is that a game without a multiplayer mode doesn’t hold the same wide appeal as a game that does, particularly in this day and age of social gaming. I get that, I really do.

However, being an individual who appreciates videogames as an art form, it pains me to see them broken down into individual money-making components. A multiplayer mode does not make a game better. A multiplayer mode, in fact, can cloud a game’s focus and make it worse.

What these quotes display, though, is an obvious but painful truth: more so, perhaps, than any other entertainment industry, the game industry is hopelessly intertwined with commercialism. You do not, for example, hear Paramount Pictures’ CEO Brad Grey spouting off about how the latest Transformers movie failed because it didn’t have enough explosions and boobs. Now, I’m sure statements like that are made behind closed doors in Hollywood all the time, but they’re smart enough not to say them publicly.

Frank Gibeau saying that Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space fell short due to a lack of multiplayer modes is essentially the same thing. And it was publicized. And nobody (except me) thinks anything of it, because that’s the way this industry works.

Perhaps, though, I’m overreacting.

Hey, Guess What: Comcast Sucks

It’s sad, but true. And… well known amongst the residents of the states. Comcast, quite simply, has a monopoly over broadband internet in the United States. And they abuse their monopoly well. And I’m only saying this for the sake of you non-American readers who might need a little context before I jump into this story.

Recently, it was made known that Comcast is squeezing a certain networking company – Level 3 Communications – for extra cash. Why? Level 3 recently signed a deal with none other than Netflix to become their primary provider for streaming video.

At this point, you might be wondering what, exactly, Level 3 Communications is. An excerpt from a New York Times article offers a simplistic explanation: Level 3 is a “highway” through which internet traffic travels; Comcast represents the on/off ramps of said highway. Make sense? At least a little? Good.

Now. As you can probably gather, since their deal with Netflix, Level 3 has been pumping quite a bit more data through their pipes. So. Comcast forced them to pay for it.

Mind you, now: Comcast forced one of its partners to pay a toll in order to deliver content that Comcast’s own customers requested. Seems a little fishy, eh?

“With this action, Comcast demonstrates the risk of a ‘closed’ Internet,” said Thomas C. Stortz, chief legal officer for Level 3. “Where a retail broadband Internet access provider decides whether and how their subscribers interact with content.”

Yeah, that sounds about right. Very timely, this is, because it cuts to the heart of a big issue in the United States right now: Net Neutrality. And, since Comcast is our tyrannical internet king, they’re intrinsically related to it.

However, not ones to take insults lying down, Comcast retaliated with this vague nonsense:

“We are happy to maintain a balanced, no-cost traffic exchange with Level 3. However, when one provider exploits this type of relationship by pushing the burden of massive traffic growth onto the other provider and its customers, we believe this is not fair.”

Yes… but… the customers requested this “massive traffic growth.” Level 3 was meeting a demand. Which is exactly what Comcast should be doing. If Comcast is going to turn around and gouge a partnering company every time I stream a Netflix movie, then what the hell am I paying them $80/month for?

I’m trying to see how this possibly makes sense, and I’ve arrived at the conclusion that it just doesn’t, and Comcast is evil. These are exactly the sort of people who shouldn’t be in the process of merging with NBC Universal. I get the weird feeling that NBC.com’s download speeds might getting a lot faster in the near future. Unless the FCC actually does the right thing, and sets proper ground rules for this sort of thing.

The internet belongs to the people, goddammit.

This is like Mapco charging the local Hummer dealership every time one of those gas-guzzling monsters rolls through and fills up.

An Inception Video Game is (probably) Happening

Skeptical as we all (rightly) tend to be about licensed videogames, you can’t deny that the surrealistic world of Inception provides a wealth of potential for a videogame. If done right, that shit could be, for lack of a less depraved term, off the chain.

So, we can all be tentatively happy and wary of the fact that Christopher Nolan is, in fact, working on an Inception game. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the director of last summer’s biggest film had this to say: “I always imagined Inception to be a world where a lot of other stories could take place. At the moment, the only direction we’re channeling that is by developing a videogame set in the world.”

The article goes on to say that Nolan is working with a “team of collaborators,” and that any Inception game is a “longer-term proposition” at the moment.

A “team of collaborators,” eh? I like the sound of that. It makes me imagine a table surrounded by game geniuses, hashing out a way to bring Inception to the interactive world with bravado and style.

On that note, if you were to choose a dream-team of collaborators to work with Nolan on such a project, who would they be? I happen to have a few ideas:

1. Ken Levine. The man who behind BioShock, one of the single most atmospheric games ever created, surely, could work wonders with a concept like Inception.

2. Patrice Desilets. Creative director behind Assassin’s Creed II, which remains the greatest sandbox game I’ve ever played. An Inception game, in my opinion, would absolutely require an open, non-linear world.

3. Amy Hennig. The creative mind behind Uncharted. A brilliant writer, and clearly knowledgeable of how to construct some of the greatest videogame setpieces of all time. Something an Inception game would need a lot of.

If I thought long and hard enough, I could come up with a longer list. Those are just from the top of my head. Now it’s YOUR turn!

Aren't they cute?

Life as we Know It Redefined

Before we begin, let me warn you that this is probably the most out-there story to ever grace Hey! Look! Listen! It’s not about videogames in any way, really. Regardless, I feel like its something that people of our kind might appreciate.

The definition for life itself has been changed. That’s right.

In Lake Mono, California, there’s a certain microbacteria known as GFAJ-1. This bacterium has long been known to breathe Arsenic, a compound that is poisonous to every living creature on the planet, save a few microbes.

Well. NASA announced last Thursday that GFAJ-1 wasn’t only breathing Arsenic. It was substituting Arsenic for Phosphorous, one of the essential building blocks of life as we currently define it. That is to say: this particular microbe is using a poison to build DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes.

Now. Obviously. This changes everything. Life exists outside of the pre-existing requirements we’d identified over the centuries. Extra terrestrial life just became that much more of a possibility.

Think about it: if a life form here on earth can formulate its very DNA through means poisonous to every other living creature, then what sort of bizarrely unconventional life must there be out there?

I’m no scientist, so I’m not going to bore you with further discussion; go to Gizmodo for a more in-depth discussion. But, truth be told, this something I find extremely interesting, and honestly, quite exciting. And I hope you can as well.

EA’s Awesome Plan to Dethrone Call of Duty

Call of Duty is a massive brand name. It’s picked up a lot of momentum over the last four years or so, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. Competitors, such as EA’s recent Medal of Honor reboot, have very pointedly tried – and failed – to take it down. At this point, the world is forced to wonder when and if a suitable competitor will ever give the franchise a run for its money.

Well, the boss of EA (who’s now made *two* appearances in this very column) has a plan. Oh yes.

His plan?

“Make a better game,” Riccitiello told Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo during an interview. “And make a better game again.”

Alright, well, perhaps there’s more. Later in the article, Riccitiello went on to say:

“What I’ve witnessed a couple of times in the games industry is the way you unseat a market leader is you make a better game a couple of times in a row. ”

The mind behind EA Games, everyone.

Well, to be fair, I’m unsure if I should be more baffled at John for saying that, or at Totilo for writing an article entitled “The Plan to Dethrone Call of Duty.”

Thoughts?

Wii Speak Peripheral to be Phased Out (In All Likelihood)

“The Wii Speak microphone is still available at limited retail locations,”  Nintendo told IGN. “Additional shipments can be made if consumer demand increases.”

HA

HAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Ahem. That’s enough. I’m over 2000 words. Let’s hear it for the longest HLL OF ALL TIME.

Yeah. Alright, well it’s Friday night. Time to uh, DO STUFF.

Hey! Look! Listen! #52

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

It’s TUESDAY, everyone! And you know what that means; or, you should.

That’s right, it’s time for a big, beautiful new edition of Hey! Look! Listen! I’m your host Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and just two days ago, I managed to delete my ENTIRE music collection off my computer. And off my external. Case in point: it was all completely, 100 percent gone.

Well, I actually managed to recover some of it with recovery software. And Charlie, being a music man, has quite a collection for me to sample from. So, it wasn’t as awful as it could have been. Even as we speak, I’m enjoying psychedelic tones of The Flaming Lips. (Soft Bulletin, to be specific.)

But nobody cares about that. It’s time to talk about VIDJA GAMEZ

Courtesy of Kotaku's latest Shop Contest.

26 Employees Have Left Infinity Ward

Ahhh. Karma’s a bitch, eh Mr. Kotick?

Last Friday, five more people packed their bags and left Modern Warfare 2 developer Infinity Ward. During the subsequent weekend, three more people left. And, just yesterday, five more parted ways with the sinking development studio.

The total number of IW employees who have jumped ship is now at 26. Of those 26, 12 have been confirmed to now be employed by upstart development studio Respawn, which is headed up by ex-Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella.

There’s nothing quite like a good quitting story. And this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. I really hope Activision recognizes the fact that they’re reaping what they’ve sown here. As far as I’m concerned, Modern Warfare is dead – I’m ready to see what Respawn Entertainment as in store for us. (Kotaku, VG247)

California’s Violent Game Bill Being Re-Heated

Mmmm, microwaved Violent Game Legislation leftovers.  So gewd, so gewd.

Well, not really. But it makes for some good Game Journalism fodder, I guess. Remember California Senator Leland Yee? He actually used to be in gaming headlines fairly often, mostly because of the bill he wrote stipulating the restriction of violent game sales to minors. The bill was actually signed into law by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but then subsequently blocked by the state courts.

And now, for god-knows-what-reason, the damn thing is going to the supreme court.

As you can imagine, certain people are happy about this, and certain other people are not. Mike Gallagher, head of the Entertainment Software Association, is not. Speaking to Kotaku, he said the bill “…could have a distinct chilling effect on the types of games that are made, the types of games that are marketed, and certainly the types of games that are sold, and how widely available they are.”

Yes, well, any law that essentially defines the demographic of certain products could have that effect.

Leland Yee, on the other hand, is more optimistic on the matter. Makes sense, I suppose, seeing that he wrote the bill and whatnot. Here’s what he had to say to Kotaku:

This is not about Leland Yee trying to destroy the industry. This is not about Leland Yee trying to prevent any of you game [developers] from developing any more atrocious kinds of games. This is a free society. If you have the imagination to do something even more horrible with the technology, then god bless you. That’s part of our freedom of expression here in America, but you just have to figure out when it’s appropriate and when it’s not appropriate. For me, as a child psychologist you ought not be doing it for kids.

He just couldn’t resist those smug, holier-than-thou comments that tend to characterize game-hating politicians, could he? Perhaps you’re wondering what Mr. Yee considers an “atrocious” kind of game. This excerpt from his bill shines a little light on the matter:

(A) Comes within all of the following descriptions:
(i) A reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors.
(ii) It is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community as to what is suitable for minors.
(iii) It causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
(B) Enables the player to virtually inflict serious injury upon images of human beings or characters with substantially human characteristics in a manner which is especially heinous, cruel, or depraved in that it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the victim.

Lots of vague language in there, like “reasonable person,” and “prevailing standards in the community.” Also, (and I know I’m just being difficult here, but still) by my eyes, Link from The Wind Waker inflicts some pretty “serious injury” on “characters with substantially human characteristics.” Maybe not in a “heinous or cruel” fashion, per se, but being bludgeoned with a Master’s Sword certainly involves “serious physical abuse to the victim,” wouldn’t you say?

The silver lining in this scenario is that once the Supreme Court rules on this, it’ll likely put a pretty decisive end to any and all similar litigation. Or… so we can hope, I suppose. (Kotaku)

Dunno who did this, but thanks.

WTF: Square Enix Announces New “Extreme Edges” Label

God. Square Enix continues to display their ignorance of what appeals to Western gamers. Whether it’s releasing a watered-down mockery of Final Fantasy or making an announcement like this, the result is the same: a collective “WTF” from the audience they’re trying so hard to garner.

In the latest Famitsu, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada announced that Western-developed games bearing the CERO D and CERO Z ratings will be published under the new Square Enix Extreme Edges” label. (CERO D is equivalent to an M rating, while CERO Z is similar to the dreaded AO rating.)

Supposedly, the intent of this is to inform consumers of what to expect from the games they buy. My translation: Japanese Square Enix fanbots who buy anything with their logo on it will be spared the pain of purchasing a game like Kane and Lynch: Dog Days.

Yeah… I kinda hope we don’t see that label make its way to the states. It’d be slightly embarassing. (Siliconera)

Kotaku Pisses Off Famitsu

Kotaku recently gave Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu the beatdown it’s deserved for years. Hit the link for the full article, it’s a good read. In a nutshell: Famitsu, and its publisher Enterbrain, are being used to advertise Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the PSP. Hell, one ad campaign prominently features the mug of Enterbrain’s president Hirokazu Hamamura. The entire campaign is a pun on his last name.

What a happy-looking man.

As you’ve likely heard, Peace Walker received a perfect score from Famitsu. 40/40. Kotaku’s Brian Ashcraft rightfully called this out as a conflict of interest. Famitsu Magazine appears in Peace Walker. Famitsu magazine and Enterbrain are actively promoting the game, and thus, have a vested interest in its success. Any review would be a conflict of interest. And a perfect score? Well, that just looks downright dirty.

Kotaku Japan – which is an entirely different entity from the Kotaku we know – translated and published the article. Ballsy of them, eh? Well, they paid for it. Famitsu quickly contacted them with complaints. Metal Gear publisher Konami contacted them on the same day, and uninvited them to a Peace Walker launch event.

Fishy, fishy, fishy. Remember when receiving a 40/40 from Famitsu was a big deal? Those days are long gone. It’s bad enough how Famitsu is acting, but frankly, the fact that Konami took issue and snubbed Kotaku Japan in such a way is the most damning evidence.

Who knows what really happened. Maybe Konami didn’t buy that 40/40. Maybe it’s a coincidence that they both decided to bitchslap Kotaku on the same day. But no matter what the actual facts are, it’s an entirely inappropriate thing. It is, at the end of the day, a blatant conflict of interest – and that’s a fact. (Kotaku)

Comcast Named Worst Company of 2010 by Consumerist.com

This one will only interest our American readers, probably – but, speaking of, how many of you guys have Comcast? Most of you? Maybe all of you? Yeah, they kinda have a stranglehold on the cable internet market. As a result, they’ve never really had to care about those things called “customers” Oh, and that 250 GB per-month limit? What’s up with that? And that FCC ruling they pushed through? Come on, now.

Anyway. Through the very internets they supply, they’ve finally gotten theirs. Kinda. People over at Consumerist.com voted them 2010’s Worst Company in America, beating out titans such as Ticketmaster, Cash4Gold, and Apple. Mikel Fahey of Kotaku had this to say:

Congratulations, Comcast! I’d send you an e-card or something, but I need to watch my bandwidth, jerks.

I really should stop wanking off Kotaku. Maybe it’ll happen one day. (Kotaku)

When I’m working for them. HA!

Erm, well anyway, that’s all she wrote for today, folks. Look for my decision as to what backlog game I’ll be tackling later tonight!