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Tycho / on Fri, Jun 7 2002 at 6:09 am

Gabe and Kara were driven from their home by gigantic arachnids earlier this week, while professionals filled their home with poison.  Where we’re from originally, Spokanistan, they have spiders, but they don’t go to school or some shit like they do here.  They don’t eat birds or drive cars, for example.  Spiders on this side of the state can legally marry.

Thank you very much for writing in, everyone who wrote in about the Army Game thing.  I do apologize that the volume I received made it virtually impossible for me to respond to most of it, but you may be sure that it was read by a human being, even if you were very, very angry, like a bear who has learned to type.  The way I formulated the question in the post (“Why are Army games dangerous, and others are not”) seemed to keep things by and large from focusing on the political element, which is a good thing in my opinion.  Good, because Political Commentary anywhere it doesn’t intersect with games is outside the site’s charter, and it’s difficult to contain a discussion like that once it starts.  Good, too, because I’d had enough political and theological discussions by the time I was nineteen to figure out that they are functionally inert.  No-one convinces anyone of anything, everybody just heaps their baggage on the table and gestures at it wildly.

One of the most intriguing angles, and one I’d considered only briefly, was its possible effect on game development - established developers who must now compete with a new, publicly funded product that is free to consumers.  I see this as a valid concern, but I do question how much effect this factor will actually have.  Either as a compliment to one party or an insult to the other, I don’t really care how it’s interpreted, I don’t distinguish between mods and retail games anymore.  I just don’t.  CS, FLF, and DoD made the distinction irrelevant for me, every game that comes out competes with every other game for my attention and claims victory on merit.  I’ll bet I’m not the only one with this innovative policy.  When one game is free, Bob Gamer isn’t running over to the bank to deposit sixty dollars because now he’s saving money all of the sudden.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s like Jesus floated down from heaven, pulled his loaves and fishes, Konami code shit, and now you’re getting two games instead of one.  Hallelujah.  It’s enough to make a man get the joy, joy, joy, joy down in his heart.  Where?  Down in his heart.   

In short, good games have nothing to fear from this.  Middling games will get reamed, and stupid crap will be manhandled by Penny Arcade in a filthy alley as per usual. 

After innumerable requests, we decided we might as well capitulate.  Our new garment - entitled The Dirty Dozen - is now available.  Jim has long since moved out, of existence I mean, but I like to think he would have been proud.

Brenna and I are going to see The White Stripes this weekend, which I might appreciate more if she were not wearing a shirt that said “I Love Jack White.”  I considered a host of reprisals - fashioning a shirt which read “I Love Cat From The Screensavers,” or perhaps “Our Union Fills Me With Shame.”  Then, I remembered that she let me write on like three girls.   

(CW)TB out.

i’ve got the peace that passes understanding

anon / on Wed, Jun 5 2002 at 5:41 pm

Baby Killers!

Tycho’s thoughts on any negativity surrounding the Army Game essentially mirror my own, so I’ll try my hardest not to be terribly redundant.

After I ranted and raved about the Army Game during E3, I got a flood of emails regarding the game that were both positive and negative.  The positive mails were essentially in line with things we’ve said here:  namely, we’ve all been playing military simulators for years now, and it’s intriguing now to see the folks who do it in real life showing the rest of us how it’s done.  The negative mails… well, they were out there.  I think my favorite mail was the one where the guy said that this was propaganda that targets underprivileged minorities.  That’s such a dumb idea, I can barely wrap my head around the concept.  Are they handing out food stamps for GeForces now?  I didn’t know underprivileged minorities had gaming computers.  I also didn’t know that they’re apparently idiots.

Most of the arguments are essentially wrapped around some kind of hippy anti-army/anti-America sentimentalism.  Whatever.  That’s the kind of thing that’s outside the realm of things I’m willing to care about… only once the military began producing entertainment did it even begin to register on my radar.  If you’re incapable of seeing complex issues in shades of grey, and feel that if you are not AGAINST the Army, then you must be FOR the Army and the violence the represent… well, that’s your prerogative.  I do think it’s pretty funny to see a bunch of people who claim to be pacifists getting this riled up, though.

Again, as Tycho said, this is essentially advertising.  I recognize that the characteristics of a large corporation and a military organization are essentially one in the same, and on some level I also recognize that corporations have a basic right to advertise themselves.  The game costs about as much to make and distribute as a 30 second Super Bowl commercial, but I don’t hear folks bitching about that.

Having said that, I realize there are a few really cool things about this game that I left out of my E3 posts, and I thought I’d get all those things out in the open, while I still can.

For starters, I mentioned just how great the sniper weapons are, but I neglected to mention that not just anybody can use the sniper rifle.  No, you have to earn the right to lay hands on that Barrett, son.  In order to access the sniper weapons, you actually have to complete a single-player training course and earn a certification.  There are some other training schools mentioned on their website, though I’m not sure what their respective purposes are.  I’m sure cheats will become available to unlock those weapons or abilities in short order, but I find the idea that not just any jackhole can grab any weapon in the game pretty interesting.

Another interesting system they’ve got are Rules of Engagement points, or as I call it, the Anti-Fuckface System™.  Basically, the Army has these basic rules for its folks in the field.  It’s mostly common-sense stuff, like:

  1. Don’t shoot enemies who have surrendered,

  2. Don’t shoot civilians, and

  3. For God’s sake, don’t shoot your fucking teammates.

Currently, is most video games, if any given player is getting his rocks off by capping his teammates, the most they can do about it is either try to vote him off the server, or try to nail the TK’er as soon as the round starts… and that’s about it.  We all know that those methods are about as effective as writing your assailant a sternly worded letter.  Go ahead and try to pull that shit in this game, though.  When you break the rules, you’ll start accruing RoE points.  When you get too many of those, your screen will fade to black, and you’ll hear the sound of a harmonica playing.  When you come to, you’ll be inside a jail cell.  You heard me… fuck around and the game will actually take it’s ball and go home.  You’ll find yourself unable to reconnect to the server for a period of time determined by the server operator.  The best part about all this, though, is that the Army is paying HomeLAN to host a large number of servers, and I’ve been told that there are plans to lock you out of the entire HomeLAN network if you fuck around on one of their boxes.

One of the things that excites me the most about this game is how they intend to continue supporting and updating it.  They’ve got funding through 2007, and having talked at length with the developers, they’ve got some pretty big plans for the game further down the road.  Every time we asked them about the inclusion of any given feature, the answer was either “That’s in there” or “Not yet… keep waiting.”  It’s pretty refreshing to know that these guys aren’t going to be fired the week after they ship their game.

See, now I’m all excited again.  Before I go lie down, I’d like to mention that if you happen to be aware of a site that performs Afterburner installations, I’d be very interested in hearing about it.  It seems like that’s the sort of service that could use some attention.

(CW)Safety Monkey

Tycho / on Wed, Jun 5 2002 at 6:11 am

These America’s Army games really seem to enrage some people.  I have it under good authority that Brenna’s not crazy about them either.  That’s fine, you can all be wrong together.

We did a comic about some of these fears that should be fairly accessible no matter where you land philosophically on the issue.  You’ve either got ridiculous caricatures inside the strip to enjoy, or you can (like ourselves) see the fervor about the whole thing as ridiculous to begin with. 

America’s Army games are propaganda!

Oh, they must be bad, then!  Propaganda is a loaded term.  It’s fun to bandy about, don’t get me wrong, but it obscures reasonable dialog.  Can we use the modern word “advertising,” please?  I only ask because it’s more accurate, and less incendiary. 

It cost seven million dollars (source) to make it.  That’s a lot of money.

Maybe to you, or me, or Bob it is, but these fuckers lose forty-three times that much money in the couch.  Where did it go?  Nobody knows.  Outer Space.  If it helps you, just imagine that’s seven mil that isn’t being transformed (via some dark process) into bombs or guns something that fire comes out of. 

But they are buying weapons with it - weapons in a battle for young minds!

Are you this dramatic when you buy a gallon of milk?  Because I’d like to see that.  You’re not being rational.  The market is up to its ass in military themes.  The fact that this one is “free” or “authentic” just ends up bullet points on some feature list to gamers, a great percentage of whom have very firm opinions about their hobby.  We’ve been pretending to be soldiers all our lives, in one way or another, in the woods or at ten twenty-four by seven sixty-eight.  Wanna stick it to the man?  Download it, play it, and then don’t join the military.  It’ll be like installing Linux on your Xbox, man.  I’m talking about some hardcore shit.

If you’re worried about America’s Army hurling youngsters into lives of military service, there are a couple points I’d like to make.  For one, if games are as efficient at “snaring the young” and “committing them to life choices” as you seem to fear, just think how much worse it could be.  I mean, shit, nobody in the Army runs around with fake fangs, hanging out with a cape on in the park.  Count your Goddamn blessings.  For two, thank Christ on the cross these pitiful creatures fell victim to an organization that will feed and clothe them, because a young adult who consults videogames as some kind of elaborate day-planner is in desperate need of guidance.

Whenever someone starts talking about The Military-Industrial Complex, it’s like a switch gets thrown in my head and then I hear only music.  I don’t find arguments that seem memorized particularly evocative.  Oratories that stem from an absolute, fundamental, all-purpose hatred of the military as a concept - without any reasonable concession to its modern necessity - strike me as intellectual preening.  I’d like very much to hear why the America’s Army games are dangerous and other games are not. 

(CW)TB out.

Gabe / on Mon, Jun 3 2002 at 11:39 am

it’s time to kick ass and click ads…

I also wanted to draw your attention to our sponsors this month. The fine folks at Arush and Rockstar have stepped up to the advertising plate for all of June. Please be sure and help us out by giving them a little clickity click. Rockstar it seems is also adverting GTA3 over at IGN. My dream is that at the end of the month I will get a mail from Devin over at Rockstar telling me how much better their ads did on PA than IGN. Then he will invite me over to his house for pizza and ice cream and we’ll be best friends forever.

-Gabe out

Gabe / on Mon, Jun 3 2002 at 11:25 am

Caterpoker, I choose you!

I don’t pretend to understand the circumstances surrounding my occasional interest in RPG’s. Like Tycho said it hits about every three years or so and when it does I usually pick up two or three titles. Then I inevitably get to points in the games that remind me why I hate RPG’s so much and that usually snaps me out of it. Then I can go back to playing something fun like Soccer Slam or REZ.

I agree with Tycho concerning Doom 3. What we saw at the show was certainly a cool technology demo but it hardly deserves best of show. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just don’t think it’s all that interesting. We only ever saw one or two enemies on the screen at once during the entire demo which doesn’t seem very Doom like. In fact the only thing about it that did seem reminiscent of the previous titles was its apparent lack of a story and its same old satanic art direction. From what we saw the story seems to be the same old “oh crap a doorway to hell opened up and now freaky shit is coming out.” That’s enough to get me killing monsters but it’s certainly nothing revolutionary in the world of first person shooters. Then there’s the art direction, which appears to have been done by that weird guy from your algebra class who never washed his hair and drew swords and pentagrams in the margins of his notes. I guess a guy impaled on an upside down cross with a goat head might have been cool when I was in seventh grade but now it just looks silly. I’ll give you that the monsters and environments were well constructed and looked very real but the problem is their original concepts seem totally uninspired. Sure it’s the best looking hallway with pipes that leads to a room full of boxes I’ve ever seen but it’s still just the same old pipes and boxes. For me the game of show has to be Panzer Dragoon Orta. No other title on the show floor, with the possible exception of Zelda looked as interesting. When I say interesting I don’t just mean the graphics were cool. I mean this title is a work or art that was actually interesting to look at. The designs for the various creatures, environments and vehicles are so astounding they put most big budget Sci-Fi flicks to shame. I’m still looking forward to Doom 3 but I’m not expecting anything more than another Doom game from it. I’d love for them to prove me wrong.

Do you live in or near Sunnyvale California? Do you know where Golfland USA is? If you answered yes to both of those questions then you my friend have homework. I have received a couple reports that Metal Slug 4 is at that very arcade right now just waiting for you to go down and play it. So your homework is to get your ass down there, drop some quarters in that son of a bitch and then tell me how it is.

Speaking of Neo-Geo games I have put up a new article in our Land of the Rising Fun section. This time I give my impressions of King of Fighters 2001. Travis from Videogame Depot says they are scheduled to get some more copies of KOF 2001 in next week as well as some home systems to play it on. He also said Metal Slug 4 should be arriving in his shop soon which is very exciting. I tend to get a few mails each week from people asking about the Neo-Geo. It seems many of you are interested in getting into the scene but you’re not sure where to start. Well to help you out I am working on a new article for Land of the Rising fun that will explain the finer points of getting started collecting Neo-Geo stuff. I’ll try and layout the basics concerning everything from the Neo-Geo MVS arcade system to the Neo-Geo color Pocket. I’ll cover things like how to avoid getting ripped off and what to look for when you decide to get your first arcade machine or home system. If you have any questions regarding any aspect of the Neo-Geo feel free to send them to me so I can include them in my write up.

-Gabe out.

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