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Merry Fucking Christmas
[ Community -> Kiddie Pool ]
Kiddie Pool posted by DarkUnderlord Fri 31 Dec 2004, 2:07 AM

Merry Fucking Christmas.

  1. You're safe - and you know it!
  2. Unemployment
  3. Fallout: A Massively Mutiplayer Online Role-Playing Game
  4. Super-Cool Graphics
  5. The capacity to act or think differently.
  6. Patchamitosis
  7. Fallout 5

You're safe - and you know it!

A good thing to do at the end of any year is to look back on this time last year and ask yourself whether you've actually achieved anything. I'm quite proud to say that I haven't. That I haven't just yet, that is. Sure, you could say that joining the staff here at DAC is achieving something. I'm just not quite sure what it is I've 'achieved' if that's the case. For those that may have missed the boat, I believe a short re-cap on DAC's current year is in order and really, what better place is there to start an article on the year's events than a look at yourself? I also don't want to spend too much time on this, so here's the short one two three paragraph synopsis of the year at DAC.

The year started with Killzig and Kreegle both at the helm of the site as they had been for some, God knows how ever long DAC's been around (we guesstimate since about 1998ish). That's about how long it lasted though. Killzig seemingly got tired of running DAC and so the site slipped into some veritable form of internet decay. Everyone went nuts, basically. Megatron was made an administrator and took all of 24 hours to turn DAC into a shining example of what not to do with a web-site. Every registered user was e-mailed tubgirl, among a variety of other less innocuous things. Kreegle, quite obviously, wasn't too happy with it all and decided to shut DAC down. For one brief glorious moment in time the entirety that is DAC was replaced with an image of the Vault Dweller walking off into the sunset. In reality, that's what happened to Kreegle after he was thrown out by our Overseer, Saint_Proverbius. Saint (among others) didn't think the DAC closing down thing should've happened regardless of how shitty things had become, so they re-opened the site. But that didn't last too long either.

Seemingly, Killzig forgot to renew the duckandcover.net domain name. DAC went from the shits, to closed, to re-opened, to offline all in a brief period of about five months. Not all was lost however, as a new domain name was purchased: thevats.net. Word filtered out and some people actually managed to find the site. Except Killzig who at about the same time seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth, or at least Queensland Australia. And so DAC was left without a captain, had about two staff memebers who knew of and could access the new URL but didn't know squat about how to administrate a web-site and was left with a handful of hard-core members who were really only there because they had nothing much else better to do.

Which of course, brings us to our current situation. If DAC were a horse, it would've been shot and shot a long time ago. Fortunately (or depending on how you look at things, unfortunately) DAC wasn't, or isn't, a horse and still has some life left. Saint_Proverbius, in one of his more Saintly moods, deemed that DAC shall live and so it was. In DAC's 6 days of re-creation, Mr. Teatime was saddled with the day-to-day running of the joint. Calis came onboard to setup some code to get the place ticking. I joined the staff to provide backup assistance with the code and also to begin work on any new systems, as well as write long-winded articles like this one. King of Creation joined the staff to post news, I think, and some other people joined as well, just because it seemed like the kitch thing to do at the time. We also bought a new domain name, duckandcover.cx, because Killzig owned thevats.net and no-one knew where he'd gotten to or whether he wouldn't re-direct thevats.net domain name to tubgirl and leave DAC in the lurch (again).

So there you have it. I'm still working on DAC's new code which once complete, will allow the site to have more post-apocalyptic goodness. A new design is being worked on too, which will be launched at the time the new code comes online. Duck and Cover still has a future, for the time being at least. Just don't ask me when all that new stuff will be ready.


On a more personal level, about this time last year I was involved in selling babies for the Government. People would plop down their $30,000 AUS and we'd do our best to send them out a black one, a shiny black one (Some people would ask for white ones but they're few and far between and incidentally, cheaper too). Needless to say my attitude (that is to say, burning cess-pool of negativity) is not conducive to carrying out such affairs. I quit last week (technically I didn't sign the extension of my contract, which is a lie because I actually did. I just 'revoked' my consent to its extension in an e-mail I sent on Christmas Eve - probably not the wisest way to quit but it does the job).

Which brings me to some other people who we'll find lined up at the unemployment office this time of year (I'm lieing again though because I'd personally rather take the next 6 months off, as opposed to applying for jobs in order to meet the conditions required for me to get unemployment benefits). I am of course talking about the former staff of Interplay Entertainment, a company which has defied all odds to survive yet another year as some sort of zombie enterprise. We can however take comfort in the reality that quite clearly now, the company is at least dieing for certain, rather than last Christmas where the chance of some last minute salvation always seemed possible (however remote). Black Isle Studios is gone. Jefferson was never finished. Van Bueuruen (I never know how many u's to put in that) was cancelled. Fallout: Enforcer was released and it majorly sucked as predicted (
See our article here - This is the point where I get to say I told you so: I told you so) and finally, the Fallout license was sold for $1 million US, at least giving Herve enough cash to last another couple of months in his new rented abode (behind the back of Wal-Mart I believe, in a small brown cardboard box).

... but where does that really leave the once mighty Interplay? Why, on the brink of creating the greatest MMORPG the world has ever seen of course! Bankrupting a company once valued at some $200 million US is no easy feat and it seems Herve thinks he still has some magic left. Fallout Online (commonly referred to as FOOL, for obvious reasons) is Herve's silver bullet intended to save the company. Ironically Herve doesn't realise he's become the living undead now and silver bullets are harmful. Interplay have lost money, their offices, their staff, their equipment and any semblance of a fan or support base they once had. So who's going to make this MMORPG for them? Why, Tim Cain of Troika Games.

Fallout: A Massively Mutiplayer Online Role-Playing Game

F! True Company Story: "I hope Troika Games continues to make quality role-playing games, possibly expanding to three teams," Cain said.

But most ambitious, he also mentioned venturing into a heavily trodden path, changing it for the better. In short, creating a "true-role playing" MMORPG.

The company which proved with the release of the Temple of Elemental Evil that isometric games aren't some dead genre, locked in the past forver and that they can in fact sell at least reasonably well, has seemingly decided that MMORPGs are the future of its survival. A company which has so far struggled to make an RPG 'the right way' (but at least seems to be getting better, albeit slowly) seems to think putting an MM in front of the genre will make a difference. Are they really so desperate as to risk their company on a genre so fragile and fraught with problems? I'd have thought the gaming industry itself was bad enough.

Perhaps that's unfair of me though? At least Troika are making attempts to work on real RPGs where your choices make a difference. My only concern is that with each passing release, it seems to prove Fallout was more and more of a fluke than it was any sort of ingenious insight to RPG design with the promise of more to come. Then again, maybe I just think Fallout is better than it actually was? Some sort of Vulcan mind trick my brain plays on itself to block out all of the bad memories about Fallout and therefore portray the game in a glowing light, a classic that can never be out-done? :Fires up Fallout: Hrm... Nope, you can forget that theory (Adds to the to do list: Write something up about what makes Fallout so good).

On the bright side, this may well be a last ditch attempt by Troika to get the Fallout license after losing to Bethesda in a bidding war. Maybe. The thought of a Fallout MMORPG in Troika's hands causes a shudder down my spine. Given the issues many people have had with their titles to date, I don't think they're ready for an MMORPG and all that that entails. It will be the death of the company. A financial disaster from which the company could not recover. I don't think I'm ready to see the end of Troika just yet. Hopefully the new year will see them find a publisher for Mystary!, their as yet unnamed post-apocalyptic project that we've all been drooling over since the first screen-shots came out. Hopefully the game will be major-game-ending-bug-crash free. Hopefully it will be a return to the glory days of RPGs (if there ever really was such a time). Hopefully it will sell enough for Troika to fund more titles like it. Hopefully.

By the way, whatever happened to that great ToEE patch that was going to fix all of our problems anyway? I say it's time for an expansion pack. Throw in the litany of bug fixes required and add some content all in one go. Don't worry, Maxis and Electronic Arts are doing it with The Sims 2. Release a reasonably complete game now, add all the content that used to exist in the original later. Expansionitis seems to be the new disease of the gaming industry. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Gamers who enjoy the first offering have the chance to buy more, which is what any happy gamer wants, really. More levels, more quests, more options for the same game. Not a whole new game (or at least not yet, anyway). The developers then have an opportunity to work on more content later. Allowing them to fine tune the technical things like the engine in the initial release, get the basics working and then add more, more and more as long as it sells. Those who don't like the game are only burnt for the price of the initial product. Those who don't want to pay full price or would rather wait to see what happens, get to buy the combined expansion packs later for a much cheaper price. It, as I said, provides an opportunity to give the gamers what they want: more.

Super-Cool Graphics

So how's this for a funny idea for a game? It's a first person shoot'em up. It uses all the old tricks from the original classics. Monsters magically appear from thin air right behind you, in places you've already cleared out. The big weapons are found in the middle of brightly lit rooms where once picked up, the lights go out and the walls fall down and the player is surrounded by bad guys. There's only one way through each level so if you find a locked door, it's either locked indefinately as a 'no go' area, provided only for effect, or you have to go through another way, find the key and then come back later. The game will be set mostly indoors, in the dark and rather than spending effort creating any sort of mood, we'll just give the player a flashlight and call it 'intense atmosphere'. It will have some outside areas that you can see from windows but we won't allow the player outside, except for brief excursions where they have 10 seconds of air in an air-tank and they have to hop from air-tank to air-tank, all of which are left conveniently on the ground at 10 seconds intervals, to get through. God forbid we make any decent outside areas. Oh yeah and it has super-cool graphics. The best you can get.

I am of course, talking of Doom 3. That so-called 'big gun' of the FPS world that was released this year. If you noticed the sarcasm in the previous paragraph, you will be well aware of my feelings for the game. I wanted more. Doom 3 relied on cheap tricks. Rather than an air-tank that lasts for 3 minutes so you can have some nice outside levels on the surface of Mars, you have to play "hop to the air-tank" whenever you step outside. Air-tanks, quite literally, last only 10 seconds and so you are forced into the laughably ridiculous situation of hopping around, picking up air-tank after air-tank, in one short excursion outside as you fight off those giant floating eyeballs. Apparently this is a game that tries to take itself seriously.

It's time for some originality. I don't want to hit an unopenable door. A door that's magically sealed because gee whiz, the developers couldn't be bothered building that half of the base. With quick load times, todays computers are ever more capable of handling an entire facility. No linear, straight-as-an-arrow path which is the same each time. Give the player more, give the player some choice. Build the whole damn facility, every last bit, and let the gamer wander around their own way. Let them find their own way to the surface or their own way through to the portal machine. One way too hard? Go back, find another way. Some people might call this adding "RPG Elements". I prefer to think of it as the next evolution of the FPS, a step up I thought we would've reached by now.

The capacity to act or think differently.

I don't want, nor do I need, super-cool graphics. Just 'good' will do fine, thanks. I want some mother-fucking gameplay. Whatever happened to that? Doom 3 with its plastic spiders failed to break any new ground beyond better looking graphics. Graphics which are too dark to actually see. I can't say much about the other big release of the year, Half-life 2, as the old Win 98 machine that's hooked up to the net wouldn't be able to play it. No internet conection on that laptop of yours or that un-networked PC? No Half-Life 2 for you! I'm not an online gamer and I don't see why I should have to hook my PC up to the internet just to play an offline, single-player game. There is no reason, other than cost, as to why Valve Software could not offer a phone number to dial that allows users without an internet connection on their gaming PC to register Half-Life 2. Microsoft started it. Macromedia took it onboard. There's no reason why Valve can't.

Ahem. Where was I? Ahhh yes... Speaking of originality, there is one company who promise to bring some to the FPS genre in the new year. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (which I guess stands for something) have promised:

... a very special atmosphere. To give you an idea of it, imagine Ghost Busters in Chenrnobyl, add "Stalker" movie by Andrey Tarkovsky, "The Roadside Picnic" book by Strugatsky brothers, intelligent mutant creatures, anomalies, stalkers. As you may probably know, we went to the very Chernobyl a while ago, and we are up to bringing its murky atmosphere of post-Soviet reality into the game. The main game features are as follows:
  • 20 square kilometers of the Zone, outdoor areas
  • original creatures and their abilities: group intellect, telepathy, telekinesis
  • unique types of weapons
  • strong non-linear plot with several endings
  • realistic communication with any sapient character
  • exploring anomalous zones by means of special equipment
  • many types of weapons
  • trade
  • two-hand fire
  • strong character intellect
  • changing world of the Zone
  • control of vehicles and robots.

    In short, the game sounds great. The artificial intelligence is supposedly going to be world class with other "Stalkers" (or should that be S.T.A.L.K.E.R.S.?) able to improve, gain experience, outperforming the lagging behind player in terms of storyline development. A situation when a too slow-paced player finds out that the main objective of the game has been accomplished without him involved. We can only wait and see whether those statements are lived up to, or whether "advanced AI" turns out to be little more than a monster running away from you every now and then. It also remains to be seen if the developers are able to keep holding off until the game is ready or whether they'll just release it and then see how many patches they need after the game's release. Of course, the other option would be to wait for Project: Phoenix but I don't think human beings live that long.


    Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 each have one. Temple of Elemental Evil has had 3 so far (the 3rd only just released as I write this). But all that's nothing compared to the 6 patches required by Silver Style's latest piece of shit: The Fall. It seems the Fall really did live up to its name and fell flat on its face right after release. It seems that if Expansionitis doesn't consume the gaming industry then Patchamitosis, its friend in crime, will. Almost the cancer of the industry today, it seems nothing you buy is spared. In most cases, little more than a week after the game hits the shelves, the first patch is out. The Fall managed to better that though by releasing its first patch before they released the game.

    I have to say well done to the developers for supporting their product after release but in the end, who does that really help? Is it a requirement of today's age to be on the internet constantly looking for the latest patch to that game you just bought but can't play because the first quest is broken or because it conflicts with your graphics card? I can remember my days prior to internet access (back when the net seemingly really was just about Star Trek) when I bought gaming mags just to get that latest whopping 20 MB patch (Even when I got the net, I wouldn't really have wanted to download that on a 28.8 kbps internet connection).

    The reason we're often fed is "the developers ran out of time". Budgets must be met, schedules kept and the gears of the marketing machine kept moving but does that really help sales? By far the single biggest seller of games has to be word of mouth. I know I've personally bought more games because of what others have said then for any other reason (and certainly not because of advertising). How does releasing a buggy piece of shite help, when the first 5 people to buy the game can't play it, then tell their friends they can't play whom then tell their friends and so the spiral continues. Quite simply, it doesn't help. I deliberately didn't buy ToEE until the second patch was out (and seemingly that still didn't help much with the bugs). I know two people who are waiting to get ToEE in the bargain bin, if they bother getting it at all.

    Seemingly this may be traced back to the gamers want for more. Games don't generate word of mouth unless they've really got something spectacular. Greatest graphics! Lip-synching! Phsyics Engine! Over 250 spells! Role-Playing Game of the Year! Some kind of worm on the hook to lure them in. Generate the hype and get boxes off shelves and into grubby little hands. This in turn forces developers to aim for these lofty goals, to build that great new game engine that'll knock 'em all dead, rather than buying that old one of the shelf. They make a feature list and they pack them in. One after another features are added. Selling points they hope will draw enough attention to lure gamers away from whatever else it is they're playing at that time.

    Is the solution then, to cut back on features? Instead of 250 spells, how about just 50? Instead of lip-synching, how about just a solid game that works without crashing or voice-overs that don't drop 10 decibels and become inaudible right at the most important bit? Let those things be added with the expansion pack. The other 200 spells, the extra voice-overs that couldn't be completed in time, the great new area you had an idea for, those extra quests. Throw them all in and charge gamers more. Then again, is it really possible to replace one disease with another? Does that fix anything? Is Expansionitis the solution to Patchamitosis?

    ... or am I as a gamer expecting too much? Am I too demanding of today's developers? Is what I want some unattainable level of gaming bliss that exists only in my mind's eye? Oh sure, we want great physics engines and super-copol graphics but Jesus Christ All Mighty, we're still playing the same games we had back in '92. It's Wolfenstein 3d all over again, only it's not as much fun. Where are the classics of today's era?

    Fallout 5

    Finally of course, speaking of classics, we were all delighted this year to hear that finally, after 6 years of waiting, not only will we get our longly desired for Fallout 3 but we'll also possibly get a Fallout 4 and a Fallout 5 too. The only down-side is that Bethesda are making them. It could've been worse. Troika could've bought the license and released a buggy game that failed to meet our (quite unreasonably) high expectations, proving that Fallout really was a fluke and destroying all remaining hopes I have in Troika (As a side note, notice how the Troika logo seems to be of a guy who's trying to move a lever that's gotten stuck on 'design' and who can't seem to move it beyond that point onto the final 'code' stage? Perhaps there's a message there). As a worse scenario, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel could've actually sold well and killed the license off in one fell swoop. Thankfully it didn't though (only 17,000 units sold I believe) and so a multitude of gamers won't have warped expectations of what a Fallout game is... or will they?

    Morrowind, Bethesda's most recent cash cow, was a good game. It was fun. You started in a prison (ala every other game Bethesda seem to make). It was also really, really boring (I've never had so much fun playing whack-a-mole) and linear. What's worse is that Bethesda seem to have bought the license without any sort of understanding of the fan base for the game nor what that fan base wants. "We're all great fans of Fallout" is the usual proclamation, right at the same time as some other tid-bit gets released about how turn-based combat is old fashioned or isometric games are just so like, old man, and like, get with the times, dudes and dudettes. A guy called Chuck Cuevas said exactly the same thing and where did his game end up? Down the toilet (Chucky of course, was the genius behind FO:BOS). There's a reason there are about 20 minutes worth of official fan club members names listed in the credits to the Lord of the Rings DVDs. Listening to the fans pays off (No really, if you paid the $100 and signed up to a three year membership of the *new* LoTR fan club before the cut-off period, your name got in the credits. Let's take a guess and say there are 5,000 names in the credits. Do the math and you've got a pay-off anyone would be proud of).

    Perhaps, once again though, I am being too harsh. I critiscise Bethesda but they're a successful company. Really successful. Morrowind sold palette loads both on the PC and on the console (perhaps there's a lesson there for other developers? Cross-platform games - akin to even the likes of Grand Theft Auto - seem to out-sell their PC only or console only counter-parts). Things seem to have quietened down now too as the crazy, whacky PR Pete seems to have learnt to hold his tongue about things that are "yet to be finalised". The screenshots for Bethesda's latest game in the making also look really sweet. At least Fallout 3 will have super-cool graphics...

    Merry Fucking Christmas.

    The Mailbag: ... is decidely empty for several reasons, one of which being that nobody's sent anything yet.
    Drop me a line and I'll be sure to make your whingeing public when I decide to do another one of these.
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