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Tycho / on Fri, Feb 22 2002 at 12:00 am

Hotly anticipated - by Batjew - State Of Emergency has arrived, and it’s largely irrelevant.  Like some mini-game run amok, creeping to the edge of the platter until the entire disc is overcome, SoE takes (arguably) the worst parts of GTA3 - the running around and shooting - and stretches out that Dentyne-esque five minutes of flavor into this epic cord of mediocrity.  I guess it’s sort of controversial - I guess - but it wants it so bad that I’m loathe to grant it.  Here’s something to keep you occupied while you aren’t buying it.

For the last few days, people have been directing my attention to articles on “Hate Games” - mods in essence, centered around racial themes.  Like the Columbine thing for Half-Life, you don’t have to wonder what the PR ramifications are for gaming in the mass media.  That’s probably worth investing some thought in.  These games are an expressive medium - something we regularly contend here at Penny Arcade - so it was only a matter of time until someone chose to express something that we disagree with.  Nazis or Aliens today likely take umbrage at ninety percent of the product in a given game shop.  When people get really mad at these things, or whatever, I hope they understand that this is how many people feel about our games in general - that they represent and reward depravity, pugilism, and senseless violence.  It’s fine to feel that way, but the same edifice that empowers dumbasses to produce this kind of shit underpins and protects our ability to express anything, let alone a game that lets you shoot off any one of fifty distinct body parts.  Are people going to be all, “Oh, I guess Jews are crafty” because they played some Goddamned videogame?  Not any more than they’re going to want to drive over Grandma after playing GTA3.  Do games negatively impact behavior or don’t they?  We’ve maintained every other time it comes up that the psychological toll of this passtime is negligible.  It’s good to go back over your arguments once you start sounding like the other side.   

It was too late to get in on that Dungeon Siege contest I mentioned, the info I sent never went where it was supposed to go - but Steve (the guy who is handling the whole thing, he’s been very nice to us) is handing over two copies to give out any way we please.  He may regret it:  I give you “Penny Arcade’s Embarrass Yourself In Public Dungeon Siege Win-It-Before-You-Can-Buy-It Giveway,” and absolutely anyone can play.  Here’s how. 

  • You will humiliate yourself for our amusement in a public place, and provide us with evidence of the fact.  Working PA into it might help.  All evidence, victorious or not, will be posted on the site.

  • It’s not our fault if you get in trouble.

  • Nudity doesn’t get you any bonus points*.

*Nudity will get you bonus points

The contest will end on March 8th, 2002.  That means there’s only two weeks left to erode your sense of self!

(CW)TB out.

a logical progression on the timeline

Tycho / on Wed, Feb 20 2002 at 12:00 am

To be honest, this conversation actually took place in the car on the way back from SpokVegas.  Other than that, everything else in the comic is factual, provided you don’t count the room or our representations in it.

This was the month I’ve been waiting for on the Xbox tip, but the reviews I’m seeing so far are somewhat disheartening.  WWF Raw, which I’ve been looking to compare to (in my opinion, the Highly Amusing) WWF Smackdown: Just Bring it, gets a 6.5 from Gamespot and a 9.1 from IGN.  Mysterious.  How about Wreckless, then?  Hong-Kongy, mission-based driving action, amazing graphics?  Gamespot clocks in at a geriatric 6.8, while IGN shoots by at (a comparatively blistering) 9.0.  Curious about New Legends?  I consumed the 7.0 review at Gamespot, knowing in my heart that IGN would give it something like a ten point five to amplify my distress.  Neither one was crazy about Nightcaster, averaging out at about a seven, which would ordinarily place it in the far-flung suburbs of Buysville.  But, when I saw this bit on Evil Avatar, I became despondent:  Game Informer gives Gunvalkyrie and Jet Set Radio Future - the games I was convinced would rescue the month - a 5.25 and a 7, respectively?  I guess I’ve never heard of Game Informer, so for all I know, those numbers might represent how much they paid for lunch.  It got me thinking, though - I like all kinds of things other people don’t seem to.  I felt Kingpin’s “BagMan” multiplayer mode was the best thing since best things.  Also, Gabe and I are of the opinion that Zombie Revenge is about as good as a brawler gets, and we’re the only ones who think that.  I typically take the average of the reviews I read and make my decisions based on that, but instead of discarding a month’s worth of games on a stranger’s say-so, I’m considering heading into EB making up my own Goddamn mind.  It’s something I’ll need to ease into, obviously, and I’ve been making decisions all morning in an effort to limber up.

I signed us up to be a part of this Dungeon Siege Sneak Preview thing, but since I don’t see us on there, maybe I did something wrong.  Still, maybe one of those other sites can hook you up:  as I understood it, once the contest goes up for reals, the first ten people to sign up at each site come away with an early copy of DS.  That certainly seems like something I’d want you to be able to do here.  I wasn’t supposed to say anything about it obviously, but I’ve been to this Gas Powered Games place - it’s like a half-hour away, in good traffic.  If memory serves, Chris Taylor and I spoke briefly regarding my urethra.  I guess they might be mad that I broke the silence regarding my visit, but what are they going to do - send somebody over here to kick my ass because I said their game was fun?  That seems unlikely.  The ass kicking I mean, not the fun.  I can vouch personally for the fun.  The game does everything it possibly can to be fun, streamlining or outright removing the tedious crust of classic hack and slash gameplay.  You’ll see what I mean.   

We all get depressed sometimes regarding our capacities and aptitudes, and from where I’m sitting you’re looking at two real options.  The first is to end your own life.  Penny Arcade doesn’t support this option, so please don’t call our friendly staff for assistance - I only include it here for the sake of completeness.  In fact, we recommend most firmly against it, particularly if you would like to continue living, or have new carpets.  The other option - the palliative yet indecorous option, which we fully and officially endorse - is to find something worse than you can do, and scramble atop it with a hoarse laugh.  I learned this technique from our own Gabriel, who is nothing if not reprehensible, taking comfort where he can in the crude scratchings of the autistic or the infirm.  So, if consumed with self-loathing regarding my vocal and lyrical contributions - as I was Monday, for example - I’ve found that if I slam down a shot of Bryan Wilson’s holiday indiscretions, and chase that with Uncle Ed’s Millennium Band, I emerge from despair invigorated and cocksure.

(CW)TB out.

ding-dong ding-dong ding-dong ding

Tycho / on Mon, Feb 18 2002 at 12:00 am

The story you are about to read is true.

But that’s just his side of it.  While Batjew was in town last week, he and his cohort Gabriel - brazen and unchecked in their feverish hortations - also played Medal of Honor, while the notorious S. Monkey and myself kept Nazi populations low.  They, however, began play without first connecting to the Goddamn GV.  That’s the rule.  If you’re going to play a game, MoH for example, Gabriel, you start by hooking up to Monkey’s GV.  You do this because that’s where your teammates are.  You don’t just nip off to some burnt-out hole in France to hunt the Axis with your pal Batsomething there.  I guess I have no great reserve of sympathy for a man who can’t be bothered to click fully three (apparently, very strenuous) times.

Speaking of the crew, we hope to give that Renegade Multiplayer Demo a try on Monday night, if we can.  You might recall my being very impressed with what was shown at E3 last year - I’m wondering if what you can download doesn’t include the highest quality art assets, because the multi demo I’ve got here (with requisite patch) doesn’t look anything like what I saw there.  The geometry is about right, but what I’d seen at the expo led me to believe that these basic (but certainly serviceable) environs would be dressed for the dance with fairly lavish textures.  That’s not what we’ve got.  As an enthusiast with my predilection toward team-based action, it’s hard not to be enamored with the overarching conceit of Renegade - playing out a round of CnC from the ground level.  Yes, please - I’ve left room.  But there had better be some real cream filling in that son of a bitch if they want me to put up with these rough edges.       

We’re going to be getting rid of NewsPro soon - not because it hasn’t served us admirably, but because it was never exactly what we needed.  It was good enough as a proof of concept, and I think we all like having the ability to append items to the post - but we need something that’s actually archived along with the main body of the content, so a year from now you can know if Gabe called me a Crappopotamus or not.  The same twisted genius that fashioned our web-searchable archive is already well underway on something that’ll give us precisely what’s required, along with a slicker overall presentation and titillatingly exposed wrists and ankles.  I’m so excited that I’m considering a small amount of physical movement.   

Let me tell you something about being in a band.  When your band disintegrates - and this disintegration is an immutable phenomenon, like January - these intimate partners of yours are going to get new rock bands that you aren’t in, the sonic equivalent of girlfriends, and you’ll be invited to a practice where you listen to them and get kind of embarrassed that they ever wasted their time with you.  Because you can sing, you began to get the impression that maybe you should, and the ability to tell genuine epiphany from run-of-the-mill hubris is something you might want to investigate.     

I’m sure I’ll get a hit more stuff up here later Monday or Tuesday, but for the time being I’m pretty wiped out by the drive back from SpokAngeles.  That, I guess, and the fact that the Lipton MOHAA server has no trace of that infernal Omaha Beach, whose perpetual return - like an infested and unwelcome zombie pet - is the only thing that shocks us away from the game.  I’ll hitcha again soon.     

(CW)TB out.

it’s the hive of my bee

Tycho / on Fri, Feb 15 2002 at 12:00 am

Lame Boy Advance

Around the time we signed, sealed, and delivered the Lameboy Advance strip, we mentioned a site called Portable Monopoly.  A place to discuss the relative satisfaction of consumers with Nintendo’s (in many respects) excellent machine, it also focused on devising a true, elegant, and replicable solution to the problems of glare and visibility.  Taking their most recent updates into account, they have engineered a kit - soon available for thirty-five dollars U.S. - that will allow GBA owners to perfect their handhelds.  Today’s comic fast-forwards to a dark future, where people who couldn’t be trusted to transform Optimus Prime from a semi into a robot are suddenly skewering their palms on soldering irons.  As for our representation of the Big N: truth be told, though we probably aren’t supposed to say, we’ve been to Nintendo, and it’s not all that bad.  Everyone we met was really nice, except for the (like) twenty guys that came in to gangbang us at Super Smash Brothers.  We hate those guys.  But everybody else was fine. 
 
I don’t know if you downloaded that Star Trek: Bridge Commander demo or not.  It’s hard to know what to make of it, and I’ve played through it a couple times.  It’s exactly what you think it is.  I mean, you’re the Captain of this massive thing, and you look all around and talk to people.  There were zero surprises for me in the demo, none at all, which begs the question:  is it because there’s nothing here, or because they did absolutely everything right?  It’s like I imagined the way the interface would work, and it just does that.  I already knew how.  Obviously, not everybody wants to sit in a chair, even if it’s a Space chair, and there are plenty of keys to let you manage everything manually, but I have a feeling that the more naval pace of the combat might not appeal to those fond of the experiences Totally Games is widely known for. I wish I had more than what’s available in the demo to go on, as it’s made me very curious.

ModernTales, as it is currently conceived, is an idea that Monkey and I had when we were eating burritos over a year ago.  The burritos could have had this idea.  Everybody’s had this idea.  Aggregating content - and then, once you’ve aggregated enough, charging a subscription for that content - is hardly even an idea to begin with.  It’s like peeling a fucking orange.  No Bothans need to die in order to get the schematics of that motherfucker.  Getting the intermediary, inedible shit off of something that tastes good is a reflex.  Selling collections of desirable products falls in the same category:  perhaps you’ve heard of “magazines.”  They’ve shown very good taste in their content, though, which elevates this venture beyond a mechanical process - Scott Kurtz and rstevens are on board, for starters.  I mean, look at the Wedlock picture that’s up on PvP right now.  That’s the most vibrant, vital thing I’ve ever seen him draw.  I’ll pay two dollars to have Scott Kurtz kick my ass every month, hell yes.  And their rubric for revenue sharing is also worth a look - I doubt we’re looking at the future here, or whatever, but it’s better than the present, which has a lot in common with a Goddamn nightmare.  These elated visionaries never contact us when they roll out this kind of shit, which is great, because it allows us to maintain this blackguard thing we’ve got going.

A couple site related thingies to relate, and I don’t mean a new cup or some shit, you want to look at this:  BioWare‘s David Chan sent in his introduction for the Industry section, one rarely gets to hear from the “Sound Guy” at a company, which is a bitter irony.  Pulling hard on the bridle, I steered Safety Monkey’s hulking frame into the shameful servitude that is his rightful place - the result is his Warcraft III Beta Diary, which pleases me.  Also, and this might be fun, our ridiculously indulgent masters at HomeLAN just set up a PA Wolf server.  We took out that motherfucking MP_Castle, put in Destruction and Trenchtoast, and limited it to two respawns just as a test.  Obviously we’ll change it if it’s no fun that way, but I’m curious to see if you could introduce the tension of a CS or MoH into the Wolfian arena.  Lastly, for a guy who says he hates Spokane so much, I can’t seem to stay away - Scott Vaio in tow, I’m spelunking that hellhole’s non-Euclidian mazes to finally remix the last of the Fine Print stuff.  Please, please, please don’t e-mail me.  I’m probably going to come back to over a thousand messages, yes, but if I only have to drag nine hundred messages to the trash, you’re saving me valuable clock cycles. 

That was sarcasm. 

Don’t be mad at me.

(CW)TB out.

i’d sacrifice two
to get that slave out of you

Tycho / on Wed, Feb 13 2002 at 12:00 am

This Valentine’s Day, we wanted to tell a few special people in the gaming industry how we really feel.  For the record, that is indeed my raw scrawl present in the amorous missive to 2015 - they’re practically Goddamn hieroglyphics, seriously, and I’d like to thank the advent of Personal Computers for my atrophied penmanship.  I’ve said all I’m going to say about Medal - you hope - but having had the chance to while away a Saturday with Gabe playing a game where you run a Golf Course, for Chrissakes, I found myself surprised at how much fun I was having.  A good game is simply a good game, a concept we’ve already discussed - but allow me to be surprised at how good.

Paige Young - Director of Corporate Communications for Lithtech, Incorporated - was very polite when she asked me to clarify and “change some of the language on our site” regarding their product.  When it didn’t happen that day, she wondered why - that one’s easy.  It wasn’t Wednesday.  Aside from the fact that I couldn’t guarantee you’d actually see it if I altered the post in the middle of the day, the heavy, holy hand of God would be required to budge the firm Mon/Wed/Fri tradition.

Many readers told us the same thing she did, and it’s sensible enough:  is it right to blame the tools that were used for shoddy workmanship?  Well, no, not exactly - but that isn’t the data I’m attempting to correlate.  Because they have positioned their product (I refer here to the “Lithtech Engine”) as a tool for those with “modest budgets,” they have created a market for themselves empowering companies to cheaply position licenses and produce games that never should have been made.  So, no, the tools themselves did not produce the monstrosities we associate with the LithTech engine - and while a game like NOLF proves that an extraordinary team can make the exact technology used a mere footnote, every half-assed offering that employs their technology dilutes the vigor of their brand, and their “low-ball” bid in the engine department provides fertile ground for this process of erosion to continue.  It’s like some Red Light District - it’s not inherently evil, in a brick/sidewalk/streetlight sense, it merely provides a ready context for tawdry acts to flourish.  So no, the tools aren’t to blame directly for the bad games.  But it’s not like they didn’t help.     

I received an extra copy of the Warcraft III beta you hear everybody talking about, and who in hell knows why, but (in a moment of uncharacteristic benevolence) I awarded it to one S. Monkey.  Though Gabe and I played Warcraft II many a night and had a lot of fun doing it, Starcraft was really our game.  We weren’t very good at that either, now - employing it as more of an elaborate Starship Troopers simulator - but we weren’t ashamed to play it on Battle.net, for example.  In the end, though, it’s like the car thing I was mentioning on Monday.  Though I have a fondness for RTS - superceded, of course, by a love for turn-based strategy - there is an echelon of talent that I never seem to reach in the genre, and as such I’d feel more comfortable leaving a tactical assessment of War3 to someone who has both been there and done that.  Luckily, this describes Monkey to a T.  In exchange for this valuable beta, I have demanded content on this topic for us to read - content which must be delivered no later than Friday.  I’m given to understand that he and his partner Vrtrasura made quite a name for themselves at a LAN center called “Virtual Realms” over in Boise, and it is my hope that he can parley that into making a name for himself giving me what the fuck I asked for.  As for some brief impressions, the main thing I want to communicate is that for all the talk about New Genres and Role Playing Strategy and whatever else, proponents of the classic Warcraft series will be very familiar with this package.  Obviously, I’m not able to speak to the single player campaign, which may make more use of these elements - but I want to minister comfort to those who think Blizzard is trying to fly the franchise into the ground or something.  Based on what’s there for me to judge, I believe they have been good stewards of your trust.     

(CW)TB out.

it’s seven plus one from here
to where i want to be




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