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Tycho / on Fri, Mar 12 2010 at 12:00 am

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The Bar Mitzvah

I’ve been trying to write this post forever, forever, but my cohort has been taking a “Blur Break” now that has gone on for the better part of an hour, and it’s almost impossible not to look at the screen while these things occur.  Furthermore, it’s difficult not to stand to one’s feet once the final lap has begun.  And then, at this lap’s culmination, it takes every ounce of my reserve power not to hoist a defiant fist.

Bizarre Creations only makes great games, so it should not surprise us that Blur follows tradition.  Their UI is a marvel as ever, aesthetic and meaningful without being pat.  Codes were plentiful from every site I visit regularly, so access was trivial.  We just leave the box on, now.   No use wasting time with the startup, as another “break” is always frightfully near.

I always feel a little guilty when I describe a game with some mathematical equation, of the form “it’s this plus this,” something I did most recently with the excellent Soulcaster.  It’s unimaginative, like describing a steak by listing its inherent organic compounds.  Blur is a case, though, where it’s almost startlingly accurate: if you were to blend Modern Warfare and Mario Kart in equal measure, you’d end up with something very much like what we’ve been playing.  That is to say, immediacy married to progression of a role-playing game.

The reality is that compelling RPG DNA now courses through every genre. We try to make it seem like this is a bad thing in the comic, but the point there is more general.  We’re being manipulated, certainly, but we like it - or, at the very least, we are rewarded biologically.  The JRPG is present in the mind at the moment, but our potent Western blends - addictive hybrids, bred with shooter or adventure game stock - are the inheritors of that lineage.  And those are only the most direct descendants.

I’ve talked to Robert about the dominance of World of Warcraft, and how you could possibly go about defeating such a beast, and the first thing he told me was that you couldn’t do it by recreating World of Warcraft.  If that seems obvious to you, and it is obvious, wonder then why so many have bet millions of dollars throwing a very similar hat into an almost identical ring.

I’ve been playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 lately, not every night, but most nights - and yeah.  This is a roleplaying game. Specifically, an MMO. Except you go from instance to instance all night, and at no point does anyone craft a jerkin.  The “middle place,” the nontent in which players are made to stew, doesn’t exist in games like Modern Warfare or Bad Company.  It’s just the awesome Pirate Ship at the end of the Deadmines, again and again, every time you play.

So, how does one win?  Modern Warfare 2 has 25 million players now, and they’ll make hundreds of millions of dollars on downloadable content, by marrying a brutal and breathless shooter to the wholly researched and psychologically engineered gameplay of the massive genre.  One of these comes out every year, and the scythe is drawn again.  Since Infinity Ward and Blizzard are both wholly owned subsidiaries of Activision, which is to say they are Activision in a legal sense, the overarching point about competition doesn’t really work in this case.  Technically, in the scenario described above, Activision wins twice.

(CW)TB out.

(instrumental)


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