Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Please, tell me what I'm missing.

I posted about this on Google+ yesterday, but my blog reaches a slightly different audience, and this is something I really do want engagement on.

The long and short of it is, I don't understand why Bioware is held in such high esteem. I'd like people to tell me about Bioware games; tell me what's good about them, what was not so good about them, and why I may or may not be missing out. I have played some Bioware games (and I'll discuss that in more detail once comments start coming in; I don't want to be swamped by arguments of "you're wrong about this", when what I asked for is "this is why it's good") and I'm willing to listen to reason.

I have been impressed, largely, with the technical aspects. Bioware has been good at squishing bugs; better than the average by a long way. But debugging doesn't make a game great; some of the best games I've played have been excellent despite bugs aplenty.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The well was poisoned

One of the ways in which I fill my time is by watching Spoiler Warning. Spoiler Warning is an internet-based video series wherein one of the participants is playing through a computer game, and the remainder are heckling him, backseat driving, and talking about something else entirely while he does so. This mess is then cut into episodes and put on YouTube for the enjoyment of the masses.

So far, this setup has worked well. I watched playthroughs of all three Mass Effect games, and noted that they changed massively in play, tone, and writing quality; and felt no desire to bother playing through myself. I watched a playthrough of Fallout 3, in which the game was roundly eviscerated for its flaws of writing and plot, but the bugs I saw told me that I would enjoy the game - and when I bought it, I did indeed enjoy it. When they reached Deus Ex Human Revolution, I had been refusing to buy the game; their showcasing of the game showed me that the objectionable parts were FAR outweighed by the parts I found excellent, and I bought the game. Their single episode on Team Fortress 2 made me realise that it was something I could find fun; and when they covered Half-Life 2, that got me to re-activate my dormant Steam account so that I could re-play it.

I've enjoyed games vicariously through them; and I've been reminded of what I loved about games by them.

And then The Walking Dead came along. People had been saying very complimentary things about this game; the team at Spoiler Warning thought it was good enough to roll straight into a season without the traditional couple of weeks' break. I saw gameplay I would enjoy; I saw writing I would savour; and what I didn't see was the hideous mess that is the broken save system. I bought it; I played it, briefly; and I threw it at the wall in utter disgust at the betrayal of its potential. I was so disgusted, in fact, that I opened a ticket with Steam support stating that as designed, it was a defective product; and I did receive a refund of the money I'd spent on it. Steam doesn't give refunds except in very unusual circumstances, so I shall definitely be asking more probing questions regarding future purchases.

However, I have until now enjoyed all the Spoiler Warning seasons. This includes the ones featuring games I would not expect to find fun to play. I'm no longer enjoying the current season, though; the sour taste from my disgust with the game itself has seeped through, and even as the trademark heated discussions, sidetracking, and (so far as is possible) chaotic stupidity on the part of the player character continue, I'm finding almost no desire to watch the new episodes. Meanwhile, the old episodes of Fallout 3, being released onto YouTube after the original video host for said season decided they didn't like having content, are dragging me back; but The Walking Dead provokes at best a listless response, and at worst active dislike.

This is their tenth full game, though, and they've covered numerous other games in specials, one-off streams (multiple times, said streams have induced me to buy games by showing me what can be done in them), so they're running a better than 90% success rate in entertaining me, and I don't blame them for what The Walking Dead did to me. Whatever Season 11 turns out to be, I'll watch it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Tale of Two Videos

CD Projekt RED recently released their teaser trailer for the upcoming computer game Cyberpunk 2077, and unfortunately ignited a firestorm with it. The video, and my thoughts regarding it (along with the reason for the cryptic post title) are below the jump.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How to make it worse

One of the local cities is in a bit of a deadlock with its employees. The employees are underpaid, and the city claims it's broke. An independent arbitrator recommended the city shut up and give its employees a 12.5% raise. Twelve and a half percent annual increase. That's, frankly, unheard-of; but it might actually increase the wages' purchasing power to what it used to be.

See, the official measure of inflation leaves out a lot of things that have gone up a lot faster. Stuff like medical care (a lion I don't care to poke with a stick right now) and the price of housing. So while there may have been so-called "cost of living" increases (although that's by no means certain), they won't have kept pace with the actual cost of living, based as they are on a bogus measure. So the purchasing power of the city employees' wages has declined.

And what do people do when they have less purchasing power? Even in the days of doing everything on credit and hang the future, they buy less stuff. This means less sales tax for the city, which puts a hole in the budget, leading to no pay increases, and so reduced purchasing power and oh look, we have a vicious cycle because people are scared of shared deficits (personal deficits, they're fine with, but try sharing them and people will scream bloody murder) and so the public sector employees are acting as a drag on the economy.

Now, if you increase a typical working stiff's take-home, what's he going to do? Dollars to donuts he'll buy a huge television, and boy howdy does that carry some sales tax. Then he'll buy a blu-ray player, some games consoles, a whole bunch of movies in HD, and he'll re-up his cable which also feeds revenue to the city. And suddenly, by increasing your workers' wages, you've made a massive increase in your revenue, and you can afford the increased wages. It is impossible to cut your way to prosperity. It's been tried, over and over, and it has completely failed on every occasion.

So while 12.5% may be taking the piss, a pay freeze is one of the worst ideas around for recessions. It makes the recession last longer, because the economy is driven by consumer demand. And when there's no slack in the consumers' budgets, they don't provide that demand, and we have a stagnant economy. All of this is simple logic...