Chasing the Purple Nether Drake

16 01 2008

To be fair, I’m actually more on stage five of my WoW withdrawal. After a full two years of playing (at a casual, not end-game pace), I quit last July. Part of it was because I was in Montreal for two months, but had I not grown so weary of the game, I probably would have continued. I’m not sure why I had grown tired of it, really. Perhaps the tedium of it had finally gotten to me–I’m not really one for repetition, which makes it strange that I liked Assassin’s Creed so much. Or maybe it was the fact that I was trapped in Zangarmarsh, with no escape from the mind-numbing effects of the neon-blue sky. The colour was so thick, like a fart that filled the entire room, that I could feel my mind dulling every moment that I was there. Seriously, it gave me headaches.

So here I am, some six months later, and the desire to once again return to Azeroth is upon me. I’m not quite sure why–perhaps it’s the alluring effects of one William “TJ Hooker” Shatner–but I find myself tempted to spend some of the Best Buy bucks I received during the holidays on a WoW time card. It got me thinking about what it is that really draws me to WoW. I mean, I’ve tried every other MMO I could get my hands on: Eve, Everquest I & II, Final Fantasy Online (I refused to adorn that abortion with a numeral), Habbo Hotel, Maple Story. WoW is really the only one that caught my attention–that and Lord of the Rings Online, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Now, the simple yet complicated intricacies of WoW are known quite well, and we won’t go into them other than to say that part of the reason the game is addictive is because, well, it’s fucking fun. The other reason, of course, is because it’s positive reinforcement and therefore develops and continues to feed a strange addiction. Why I bring this up is because I’ve never been one to become addicted to anything. Not alcohol, drugs (of those that I tried), cigarettes, or video games. So I find it kind of unsettling that I have this compulsive urge to go back into a game I know I may dislike after two or three hours of playing it again.

This leads me to wonder if it’s WoW specifically, or just a good MMO in general, that I crave. Why, I could just as easily plow into LOTRO and probably become quite enamored with it. The difference is the social aspect–which, strangely enough, is one of the reasons I quit WoW. It’s hard to start a brand new game with the scale of an MMO, and it’s even harder to do so without anyone there to guide you or play with you, someone who is going or has gone through the same trials and tribulations that you are experiencing. WoW became that way, once my casual guild mates became far less casual, and I was left eating dust while they all glided to 70 and got their tier sets. I’d be interested in trying LOTRO on a regular basis, but not without the support of an established guild that is gentle on the backsides of newbies.

It is a pickle, no doubt about it. MMO’s are truly a strange beast. Maybe I’ll be able to resist this urge, at least until Burnout Paradise comes out, at which point I’ll be far to distracted to want to play anything else. One can hope.

kefka.gif Persepolian

Playing Telephone: Gerstmann “Lynched” by his own petard

30 11 2007

Disclaimer: I’ve never been one to report rumor as fact or support that act in anyway. What is being presented here is a series of facts and ideas about a very important, and probably very complicated, series of events. Whether they are causational or coincidental is up for interpretation, but nothing more.

[UPDATE] So, CNet finally talked to Joystiq about what went down on their end with Gerstmann. While they denied the accusation that Gerstmann was fired due to external pressures from Eidos, CNet Spokesperson Sarah Cain didn’t comment on whether or not that pressure was put on. Eidos is still quiet.

The more this unravels, the more it seems that it was all indeed a series of coincidences. Then again, Cain could be hiding the truth, but we’ll never know that. I have a lot more I want to say on this issue in general, but it’ll have to wait for a separate post, probably till tomorrow.

[UPDATE] Despite CNet’s “response” to the hottest button issue in gaming right now, the dudes over at Penny Arcade may have the most reasonable-sounding story for all of this.

How they heard it was that Gerstamann’s review wasn’t the problem so much as the “tone” of it. Apparently this has been a problem CNet has had with him for a while, and since his apparently scathing (although if that’s considered harsh, no one’s heard a Yahtzee review) commentary about K&L sent Eidos in a frenzy, pulling thousands of space bucks from future advertising revenue, Jeff was–as PA put it–sacrificed.

Not all the info on this matter is entirely external speculation, however. Wired‘s gaming blog Game|Life brought up a now-removed forum post by an anonymous CNet Employee stating–in short–that the timing of the Eidos pull out and Gerstmann firing was far more coincidental than people are giving it credit for.
[UPDATE] Well, at least one part of this story has been confirmed. Jeff’s been fired, but no one’s talking about why yet. Well, to be correct, everyone is talking except for the parties directly involved. This story is going to be huge, and I’ll reserve any judgment or commentary until full details are revealed. All I can say is, I wish Gerstmann the best of luck.

Ok, so I’m not a huge fan of rumor mongering, but this story is a) way too huge and b) making way too many rounds for me to ignore. If it’s to be believed—and I by no means suggest that it is—Gamespot would be the second video game site to be accused of such an act in recent months. While part of me finds it a little far fetched, a larger, more cynical part finds it hard to disbelieve.

There are a lot of problems with stories like this, namely that many of the pieces seem clear on their own that it’s hard to be objective about the big picture. Kane & Lynch had insane marketing, and not just on Gamespot. That poor excuse for mishandled software was promoted up so hard my ass was bleeding the “F” word. Then there’s the often refuted but incredibly infectious notion that, with the right money, a game critic will sell out his score to the highest bidder. IGN is often accused of this—one only has to look at the shock they caused when they gave the “accurate and responsive” Lair a 4.9.

Then the objectivity kicks in, though. For one, Gamespot may have had some questionable reviews in their lifetime, but that’s always been more due to a subjective response by players rather than a marketing beef. Not to mention Gerstmann’s never really been one to pander his reviews to anyone, and I don’t see why they’d pick now of all times, and for a game as benign as Kane & Lynch, to can his perhaps jubbly ass.

In either case, I’m going to be really interest to see where this goes. I’ll be watching.



Foreign Analysis: Rock Band

29 11 2007

I know it’s not my day, but I had something I thought people would like to read. A friend of mine (thanks Jinny) put me onto an article on by Sleater-Kinney’s guitarist,

An admitted non-gamer, Brownstein gives a humorous and thorough reveal about what she feels are the important differences between a real band and a “Rock Band”. It seems she enjoyed the game but, like most musicians I know, she holds onto the mantra that if you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours pretending to play music, you might as well learn a real instrument. I don’t see why you can’t do both.