Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Uphill Battle

I've avoided this for long enough, I think. Normally I don't complain all that much here and just stick to personal writing and reviewing, but I cannot simply stand by anymore. As those who know me know, I am an avid and long-time gamer - I will happily admit that I like all sorts of computer, console and tabletop games. But it seems remaining a gamer in the new market is becoming more and more difficult, with certain gaming companies taking what can be seen as an anti-gamer stance, or more specifically, non-loyalty to their long-time gamers. I'm looking at you Blizzard/Activion...Bliztivision...Activizzard. Whatever.

My first and foremost complaint comes with the release of the long awaited and anticipated (for seriously over a decade) game of StarCraft 2. I, like most other gamers, loved and continue to love StarCraft 1 and still play it, enjoying it's more or less perfection of the RTS (real-time strategy) gaming model. Not only that, but you were guaranteed to be able to play with your friends whenever you wanted. After Blizzard merged with Activision, it seems to have turned its back on us ever-trusting fools and royally flipped us the bird.

One of the top priorities of an RTS (or what SHOULD be a top priority of an RTS) is multiplayability. That is, playing with more people other than yourself, whether in the same room, house or country. StarCraft 1 had LAN support which allowed computers, connected in the same house or room via wireless or direct-cable connection, to play in the same game with one another without having to be connected to the internet. One benefit of this is the epic fun that all gamers know, known as LAN Parties. You and your friends bring your computers and play a lot of games together, simple as that.

Blizzard (or, more accurately I believe, Activision) has made the direct and forceful choice to remove LAN capabilities from StarCraft 2 for good. That's it. Period. The reason given by Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, is that they want to give a gaming experience so good, that people "won't even want to have LAN parties". I'm sorry, what? Have you ever PLAYED games? That's one of the benefits of being a gamer! Here is H-to-the-usky-Husky talking about all these issues in a video accompanied by kittens. I know it's 25 minutes, but if you're interested in the issue, it's worthwhile.

But "Ah," I hear you cry, "surely without this, you can still play online?" Of course, but another thing being removed is the chat and unique game names from the new Battle.Net service - the online multiplayer system for Blizzard games. This makes not only chatting with your friends difficult, but organizing games with your friends a huge pain. With no unique game names, how are we to know which "4v4 [Map Name] Melee" are we supposed to join? There will be hundreds!

Ah but wait, maybe there won't be. In the old Battle.Net system, you could choose which region to play in (Asia, US East, US West and Europe) and could therefore meet a whole bunch of new people. No longer! Your StarCraft region will now be chosen for you depending on the address given in your Battle.Net account - say goodbye to all those friends you made in StarCraft 1, you won't be able t play with them anymore unless you falsify your address, or buy multiple copies of the game - something which I'm sure Activision's CEO would love.

Another rumour circulating the web is that the previously free service of Battle.Net will now become a 'pay by the month' service similar to Xbox Live. This will definitely make being a gamer even harder, and once more limiting the scope of the multiplayability of a multiplayer game!

What strikes me most, out of all of this, is that Blizzard have always been a gamer-loyal company, always releasing top-quality games that are loved by all - what gamer doesn't have fond memories of Diablo, StarCraft, Warcraft or WoW at SOME point? All these games are great and, despite the fact that they often took FOREVER to be released, they did so because it was to make the game better, to make sure it was perfect. It seems to me that now they are releasing an unfinished, sub-par sequel. Despite the decade-long wait for a game which looks in Beta to be possibly one of the most fun RTSs of all time, I could wait a little longer for them to get this baby right.

What is frustrating is that, through all of this, I know I will still buy it - hell, I preordered it. I WANT to play that game. Desperately. And Activizzard knows that. They know we gamers will fork out the necessary money to play the games we want to play, even in spite of all their glaring flaws. And that goes double - if not triple - for StarCraft 2. The only way we can get things to change is if we stand up and say, "Hell no, no more, we aren't buying your games unless they are done right and are made loyally for your fans". But, unfortunately, I cannot see that coming.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dream: Zombie Apocalypse

Before you ask, yes, I have REALLY messed up dreams:

We - who is we? a large group of us for sure - are on the top (8th) level of a business building - it's definitely offices, not apartments. We are survivors - there are maybe 15 of us? I am in the elevator - it is my turn to scout the lower levels to make sure there are fewer zombies. I go down in the lift but it speeds down and then shifts to the side, as if along a train track, the doors open. I see many zombies around. I am holding a lead pipe, but there are many of them - I can FEEL in my GUT that I'm doomed. They crowd in, but they're not like normal zombies - they just look like people with blood on their faces - I can feel, I know they're smart - smart like people. They crowd in, I am beating at them, but I am bitten. Now, inside my head, being a zombie isn't so bad - I'm part of some kind of collective of greater people. "Why wouldn't you want to be one of us? Get the others." "yeah, this isn't so bad". I go upstairs in the lift with three other zombies, but we're pressing level 3 on the lift - is this where we started? - and I am able to mask that I am a zombie - I have special vision, it goes black and the people have yellow outlines and I can identify other zombies, who are thick yellow blocks shaped like people. One approaches and says he'll take care of Raymond (?) and I should take this woman - a woman I do not know - but I love, and she loves me. She lets me bite her neck, bite the flesh off, there is blood, I can feel myself chewing chewing chewing the flesh off her neck. She is saying that she loves me, she is laughing, smiling, loving this, and as I eat off her flesh, her face is peeling off - now she is a zombie and I lift the flesh back onto her face, it has the texture of gauze.

Now I am no longer a zombie - am I someone else? I have a length of pipe again and am with three others in the lift going down to fight off the zombies - who are not only smart, but fast I now remember - they crowd inwards and I am beating at them with the pipe, everyone is beating at them, but I am bitten on the arm. We're back upstairs and we're all sitting around - the feeling of dread, doom and bitterness in us. I wake up, sweating.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


And inspired by Westerns:

He moseyed his horse slowly through the sands, still a few miles out of town. The dry shrubs and tumbleweeds almost shimmered in the glaring sunlight, sand caught in the dried plant matter to look like sparkling diamonds. Jack didn't even look twice and spit over the side of his horse. He reached around into the saddlebag and took out a cigarette and, with a clink, lit it with his old lighter. Smoke swirled around him in a cloud that made him look like one of those new steam engines blazing down the desert at speeds not meant for man to travel at, "If it's faster'n'a horse," he'd said, "then men weren't men to travel it." And he'd meant it. He hadn't ever travelled in one of the dirigibles, either. He found that more unnatural than the trains - men in the sky, flying like birds? Against nature as far as he was concerned. He leaned his hand down, like he did every couple of hours, and checked to make sure his handcannon was still at his side. It was. He then checked his watch, like he did every couple of hours, to see if he was making time. He was.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Captain Horatio Adventure

This piece was inspired because I'm really into steampunk at the moment, and because I met a guy at GenCon in 2008 called Captain Horatio Adventure:

The zeppelin began to descend below the smog-choked horizon of London. Horatio felt that rising in his gut whenever an airship descended that little bit too quickly. He reached over into his brown, leather satchel and fished out his gold monoscope and peered over the landscape, examining the soot-blackened buildings of the city he had left behind so long ago. He spotted his old school, a place he thought torn down a decade ago, but there it was, in all its sandstone glory. The walls seemed pockmarked, but he couldn’t see any more details – the monoscope had its limits. He folded the contraption away and clicked open his pocket watch from his waistcoat pocket – a quarter past eleven. He wouldn’t be late, but he wouldn’t be entirely on time. He’d have to forego changing his clothes and simply go straight to his meeting. He looked down at himself. His waistcoat was stained with coffee spilled on him early in the flight, his jacket was worn around the sleeves and he had lost a cufflink. He really wished he had the time to change his suit. He still knew where his old tailor was, “Please prepare for landing, all safety straps must now be fastened.” Horatio tugged at the leather strap around his waste to make sure it was connected. He sipped up the last of his coffee as the service girl came by and collected his cup and saucer.


So I've decided to undertake the Na(itional)No(vel)Wri(ting)Mo(nth) competition. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November - which is only 1,667 words a day. One of the reasons I'm telling you 5 people who actually (occasionally) read this mess of a blog is because now that I have, it will be too embarrassing for me to give up and will force me to finish it. I hope.
I will be posting samples of the work once I get underway on November 1st, and anyone with any ideas about WHAT I should write about are completely welcome in the comments section below.
Should it be steampunk? Noir? Realism? Gritty contemporary realism? Magic realism? Fantasy? Narrative non-fiction? Help me figure this mess out!