Old news Redux

2 Nov

Part two of my two-part list of things I began to like just as everyone else who had heard of it drifted into indifference.

Freakonomics

freakonomics

Why it’s good: Divided into toilet-friendly chunks, this is microeconomics for those of us who were too busy playing InkBall to exceed in our Economics A level. Witty and intelligent but never innacessible or esoteric, this is a fascinating book o’words which finds solutions to problems you didn’t even know existed and leaves you feeling slightly inferior for not having worked it out yourself. There’s a sequel coming out and I’ll be impressed if it’s as much of a compelling read as this one; the story of a drugs gang with a firm grip on capital flow and accounts is far, far more interesting than that sentence makes it sound, and bizarrely heartwarming in places.

I don’t read many books – the format is uniform to the point where it feels impenetrable, and the task of reading one cover to cover seems like a far too arduous task, but this one is worth the time of anyone with a sense of sight.

But I wish: They wouldn’t say “…to be sure” so often. That’s it. That’s all I got.

Minerva: Metastasis

minerva

Why it’s good: It’s a mod for Half-Life 2, but unlike a lot of amateur fan-made mods it’s a) coherent b) not a massive size to download and install and c) exceedingly professional, and a lot of fun.

Rather than borrow the models, textures and items from HL2, reskin them a bit and get some friends to phone in some voice acting over Skype, Minerva creates its own compelling canon inside the Combine-occupied Half-Life universe. A ‘reprogrammed’ Combine soldier, now taking on a new role which involves shooting former work buddies, you’re dropped on an island and told to investigate whatever the hell is in there. And you’re told this by Minerva – your disembodied master, someone or something which may be friend, foe, human, machine or god for all you know. She makes her sarcastic, caustic presence known through text messages beamed directly into your head, not unlike GLaDOS from Portal with her voice removed and given knowledge of Greek mythology. Being functionally identical to Half-Life 2, the gunplay is solid and the puzzles suitably taxing (considerably more so than Valve’s efforts, in fact), the story is both deep and sharp, it’s a good few hours long and there’s a single, shining, brilliant moment where the world is turned upside down in catastrophic fashion – with you right in the middle of it. It’s so good the guy who made it got hired at Valve, who already had influence in the latter stages of the mod’s development.

But I wish: the puzzles, already challenging enough, were signposted better. Often you’ll come up against a room where you have no idea what to do – once this happened to me after all my guns were taken away and two rather peeved former Combine colleagues were chasing me through the (gorgeously designed) level. Another time, it happened after I’d ran out of ammo trying fend off infinite waves of zombies trying to find what I needed to do next.

The WordPress Proofreader

spellcheckicon

Why it’s good: The single greatest thing about moving the world’s foremost blog with a name referencing the scene from Flight of the Conchords where Jemaine tries to cheer up Bret with their oven is that WordPress, unlike Google Site’s crude and primitive design, features a proofreader. It wasn’t what made me switch, mind you, as I’ve only recently discovered it. Note how spelling accuracy is up, up, up whilst grammatical errors are down, down, down. Truly, this spel chekker has aloud me to realize my dreems of bein a true righter.

But I wish: it could have been applied automatically. The process of clicking the icon then waiting the five-odd seconds for it to scan for errors isn’t a difficult task but requires multiple repeats, which can break the flow of my wordy, complaining consciousness somewhat. Unless you wait until the end of writing to click, but WordPress made a fatal error in assuming I’m not thick and won’t forget.

The Death of the Left 4 Dead 2 Boycott

youaredead

I’m shocked.

Why it’s good: There’s something endearing about their refusal to admit fault, like a baby who keeps stumbling into the corner of the coffee table. Of course, they couldn’t let it end without some self-important autofellatio! Here’s some extracts from their exit letter.

“Our goal wasn’t to steer people away from L4D2, it was to get Valve’s attention and have them support original L4D. We succeeded and that’s where our mission ends; nothing more or less.”

“Nah, it wasn’t to steer people away, it was just to actively discourage people from buying it! At least our group, which is so huge it constitutes less than 2% of people who bought L4D and probably closer to 1% of people who have played it, is enough of a juggernaut to give Valve sufficient sleepless nights so that they can design, build, write, hire voice actors for, playtest and release a new campaign in two months! That was totally us, guys!”

“As for Left 4 Dead 2 we are all aware it expands on L4D’s gameplay and takes it to the next level. Its successful sales only confirm that we’ll get to slaughter more zombies in future, not that we have failed.”

“God, it looks like so much fun…good thing I have a warped understanding of what “failed means!”

“People have lost sight of why we’re here. The comments are always full of trolls, people bashing Valve and phishers. What is more, people are unwilling or unable to wait for Valve to follow through in any cohesive way.”

“Jesus guys, be patient! We waited literally hours after L4D2 was announced to decide that Valve had completely forgotten about the original and threaten not to get it unless they give us more free stuff!”

“As a collective we have done more than achieve a few goals, we have paved the way for Developer-Community relations in the future. No matter what the press or other gamers say, we have made an indelible mark upon the future of this industry. You should all be proud, we certainly are.”

“You heard it here first – the best way to communicate with devs is to throw a hissy fit when they bring out new games. And how about them game journos, huh? Yeah, like they know more about the industry than us! The way they bang on about it like it’s their jobs or something. Anyway, we had like three Rock Paper Shotguns articles written about us so FUCK THEM”

Unsurprisingly, it’s Valve that come off the best from this horrendous debacle. I can’t even consider the good grace it must take to see a bunch of uptight nobodies whine that you’re making a Triple-A title, something that will take up a year (at least) of your lives, too quickly for their liking and respond with anything other than “Piss off then”.

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