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Tycho / on Wed, Jan 7 2009 at 12:00 am

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The Dregs

I am trying not to be too strident on the matter, afraid that we’re dealing with an old man/lawn scenario, but I’m bad at being polite.  If you must both a) post constantly and are b) paid in direct relation to how divisive, petty, or vicious you are, I imagine it’s very difficult to write in a useful or interesting way.

At long last, someone from Epic seems aware that their game has become a kind of hilarious punchline, and suggests they’re making moves to resolve the most egregious issues.

Gabe asked me why I still play a game that is so fucked, and I don’t have what I would call an excellent answer.  During pregnancy, there are women who have a terrible urge to eat dirt and gravel, convinced at some deep level that they need whatever is in there - for me, the game contains some mysterious nutrient.  Also, I never expect to win, so losing usually doesn’t bother me - at first.  What gnaws is wondering how I might have lost, something that happens more each night as players turn to h4x, which are the systemic equivalent of black magic.  Bugs and exploits (I think it’s fair to distinguish between the two) corrode the game because they injure the simulation’s authority.

Independent of purely technical problems - which, as I have described, suffuse the entirety of the product - there are disputes of what you might call a “doctrinal” nature.  The fact that smoke grenades have concussive, stunning effect, or have a secondary use as proximity mines aren’t software concerns - they’re philosophical matters, but to the community that has sustained this franchise they’re acts of heretical violence toward “authentic” Gears of War.  These concerns are brought up in the same breath as serious engineering problems, which should help you understand how fundamental these things are felt to be.

This happens a lot, it’s the challenge of the sequel, where people purport to want something different until you give it to them, at which point they gaze longingly back to some imagined Golden Age.  That’s the cynical version, of course, and I don’t fully believe that.  More often, the people who made the original game were only able to execute on a subset of their vision, and when the idea is illuminated in further games it deviates from a Canon that was never intended to be absolute.  Tribes 2 is a perfect example of this force at work.  We liked where it went, and felt it was a natural extension of a game we loved.  This was not necessarily the consensus view.  

You may have seen me flip out in my customary way about the idiotic focus on what “Rank” a game is, and I tried to explain some of the ways this number is useless ephemera, but I was mostly exasperated then and couldn’t express myself with concision.  This is why I hate it: because, like review scores, it posits demonstrably false ideas: that everyone wants the same thing, or that it’s possible to measure an aesthetic experience.   

(CW)TB out.  

so flushed and pale

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