"The End"

Hi again.

Lately I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about Giant Bomb. Not about anyone in particular, but about the community as a whole. Here are my thoughts.

Community

What a fascinating social study Giant Bomb would make. Though some of us would rather believe that we are all disconnected from each other (and at times I can certainly see why), the truth is that we are more than anonymous users typing anonymous things into anonymous little boxes (unless we’ve actually become 4chan. Then god help us all). The truth is we are a community in every sense of the word; we bicker, fight, joke and laugh about things that are important to us both individually and collectively. We make friends and enemies, and the lines between both seem to blur the more we get to know one another. In fact, we’re so much a community I can already almost feel those cynical, world-weary fingertips trudging across your keyboard, primed and ready to tell me how wrong I am.
 
Now most often on Giant Bomb, when community is brought up, it’s in a negative light (or at least a would-be constructive one). Usually it gets brought up because we’re all being a bunch of jack-offs and someone feels the need to call us back into line. Usually those threads devolve into people slinging mud at one another, never wanting to admit they (le gasp!) might be in the wrong, so I’m not here to say or do any of those things. I think every part of Giant Bomb’s community is, for better or worse, essential to its survival. From the trolls to the old hands to the fanboys to the newbies to the bloggers to that guy who hates everything and everyone for no particular reason. Everyone has a place. I’m not here to tell you that the way you Giant Bomb is wrong, because there just ain’t no “right” way, baby.
 
However, if there was one thing I could leave you with in this section, it’s this: don’t lock the doors. In my year and change of activity on Giant Bomb I have seen a disturbing trend of clique-ism that is becoming more and more pronounced (although it wasn’t ever particularly subtle to begin with) amongst the “veteran” user base. I shan’t name any names and I hope no one takes this personally, because that’s not the point. The point is that it’s ultimately detrimental to everyone if we retreat to our ivory towers and scowl at the plebeians milling about below. Fresh blood should be welcomed, and if you honestly can find no other reason in your heart to do so, then at least take comfort in knowing that by your actions, you are promoting the continued existence of the Bomb. And if one of those newbloods ends up doing something cool, celebrate it. Let them know! It doesn’t make you less of a man/woman/forum-goer, and it will encourage the creation of worthwhile material instead of cheap gags to get a quick laugh.

Give a Little, Get a Little

This bit’s more for the moderators. First, you all do a daunting and thankless job. Without you, this forum would have collapsed under its collective weight long ago.
 
However.
 
We need to talk about this quest thing. Namely we need to talk about the blogs that are still clogging the forums. We need to talk about the fact that in spite of the continued efforts of myself and many other regulars to flag them, these threads remain open for far too long, often taking hours to sink (unlocked!) to the bottom of the forums. The most common excuse thrown around is that you’re “too busy” to respond to every thread. Aren’t you forum mods? Shouldn’t your primary concern be the forums, regardless of whatever other task you’re no doubt saddled with? Didn’t you just recruit two more mods? Essentially, the regulars are moderating the forums for you, and it’s creating friction amongst them. Why? Because it’s unclear as to what should receive a reprimand and what shouldn’t. Should you post a clearer version of the forum guidelines so that we can understand and enforce them better?
 
No.
 
Because we are not the mods. You are. So here’s the bottom line:
 
If you are a forum mod, moderate the forums. If you think you can’t find enough time to collectively respond to every spam thread, then find someone who can and give up your spot. It is not the community’s responsibility to clean up quest spam, and its sucking morale faster than a six-dollar hooker.
 
As I said before, moderating is a daunting and thankless task. Naturally, not everyone is up for this task. If you’re not then you’re not and you need to find someone who is. Whew! Now that that unfortunately nasty bit of business is out of the way, let’s move on.

You Rock. Yes You.

Specifically you. As you’re reading this, you are actively rocking. Why? Because you’re a part of this great, big, beautiful mess. Whether you’re staff, mod, blogger, troll, wiki slave, forum-goer, lurker or anything else you’d like to add to that list, you’re helping make Giant Bomb possible, and for that you have my personal thanks (for whatever its worth to ya'). In the year and change I’ve been here I’ve seen the forums grow and shrink, soar and self-destruct, praise and abhor. I’ve made both friends and enemies, and to both I am grateful for whatever wisdom they may have bestowed upon me. Now I never wanted to make this post overly sentimental or too self-indulgent, so I apologize if all of this seems rather abrupt. I won’t give much by way of explanation for what comes next, because I don’t think you guys need another one of those. The next bit, a quote from one of my favorite literary characters, sums up both how I feel and what I need to say, after which I suppose I’ll wait for the flights of coolstorybro.jpgs to sing this blog to its rest.
 
Alas, a year is far too short a time to live amongst such excellent and admirable forum-goers. I don’t know half of you as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
 
I regret to announce that this is THE END.
 
I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.
 
-End_Boss.

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This Blog Can See Through Walls

Well that's infuriating.  

I slave over a hot blog all day, present it to the posting system and what does it do? Erase all but a line like I never meant nothin'. Anyway, I guess them's the breaks, so without further ado, my summarized blog:  

Splinter Cell: Conviction 

Is the name of the game, or at least the name of the next game to be covered by The Irregulars. If you'd like to be on the show, leave a comment here between now (18/04/10) and next Saturday (25/04/10) letting me know. 

Also!  

If you have no clue as to who or what The Irregulars are, check us out here or on iTunes! 
 
Thanks for reading, 
End_Boss.
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Criticizing Metacritic

What’s a “Metacritic”?

Over the past couple of years, Metacritic and the scores it hands out to today’s games have become very important to us as an audience, and like anything that gains a little traction, the website has since become a lightning rod for controversy both within and outside of the industry. 

Some say the website is a blessing and that the simplified verdicts it hands out serve to cut through the crap of the review scene. Some say it’s a curse, that it generalizes without transparency, that its system is fundamentally flawed. Still others know relatively little about it, hearing the many voices of dissent as more of a distant thrum. Up until recently, I belonged to that third group; though I knew of Metacritic and its controversies, I hadn’t done much by way of actually educating myself on the subject. A couple of days ago I set out with the intent to correct that little problem and recorded what I found. For anyone interested, here it is. 

Reviews? Who Needs Reviews?

Reviews are a writer’s expert opinion on game X after they have spent enough time with it to feel confident about their conclusions. Review scores are that little number (or letter, or other symbolic measurement icon) floating next to a game’s review on any given website or in any given magazine, and the system that governs these little numbers is referred to as the numbered review system. Now despite their size, these little digits and symbols are remarkably important and have caused a slew of heated debates throughout our industry’s history with developers, publishers and critics alike all voicing their discontent with the system at some point or other. In fact, some publications are so fed up with the idea that they’ve thrown the system out entirely, opting to try to coerce their readers into actually reading their reviews by not offering a “one sentence sum-up.” 

Developers have sunk or swam by this murky science for years and reviewers have come into conflict or lost their jobs all because of a single digit number at the bottom of a page. Now, if you’re already thinking that this system could use some fool-proofing (though some would suggest the scorched earth approach), you’re probably right. What it doesn’t need is another entirely superfluous and equally flawed system heaped on top of it, right?

Enter Metacritic. 

Big, Broken Tent

To the average person, Metacritic gives the appearance of being an all-inclusive think tank, a repository for every review out there. But this average person might also suspect pulling in every review from the edge of eternity for every game under the sun to be an impossible task, with the latter impression being closer to the truth. Metacritic does not compile scores from every publication, or even close to every publication. Instead, Metacritic claims to pull only the best reviews from the most respected reviewers at the most prestigious publications via an undisclosed algorithm formulated in-house. So just to clarify, who exactly determines the people and places that belong to the aforementioned and flattering adjectives?

Well, Metacritic does. Oh, and they’re not saying how. 

Not only does Metacritic pick and choose which scores to pull, but if it sees a review without any kind of scoring mechanic attached to it, it will attach its own score and pull that review anyway. At the face of it that might not seem like such a bad thing, but when considering the site’s growing influence within the industry and its complete lack of transparency in operation, its terrifying. Metacritic has set itself up in such a way that it can, at any time, directly influence a game’s review score simply by pulling a review that does not conform to the numbered system and assigning one to it anyway. Coming from a website preaching ethics that claims to provide a service to which integrity is invaluable, doesn’t that seem like a rather large loophole? 

The bottom line is that no one but the men and women behind the curtain really know where Metacritic’s loyalties lie, and at this point they are quickly becoming one of the most influential sources of information in a fifty-billion dollar (and growing) industry. So the question is, why isn’t anyone checking up on them? 

I Like Where This is Going…

I mentioned earlier that Metacritic is becoming increasingly important to us as an audience, but it’s also making waves on the inside: according to May’s issue of GamePro, some companies are now including Metacritic clauses in their hiring contracts, which state lovely things like: “Metacritic scores must be over eighty-five for titles X through Y.” I probably don’t have to tell you that that statement (quoted from an unnamed publisher) coupled with what we now know about Metacritic spells "shitstorm" if said site’s rampant monopolizing of the review industry is allowed to continue. Not only is it currently leaving its visitors’ opinions misinformed, it’s now poised to force the people on the other end of the games to play to its tune too (or suffer the consequences). 

In any situation, many voices are better than one voice. The numbered review system, as it exists now, is flawed but serviceable. Metacritic is dangerous because it threatens to overburden that system with its own (again, superfluous) weight and silence the many voices of reviews in favor of just one: its own.

Thanks for reading,
End_Boss.

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The Walking Dead, Frank Darabont and Why You Should Care

I have such a huge boner right now.

No seriously. Look at it! It's ridiculous. What could inspire such titillating arousal, you ask? Well, a lot of things, but today it's a very specific thing. Take a gander, if you will, to the left of this page where my avatar is. That, my friend, is a zombie. Not just any zombie mind you, but one Rick Grimes, the baddest ass of all badass small-town Kentucky cops with a wife and little 'un. He's also the star of The Walking Dead, an inimitable series of graphic novels by one Robert Kirkman of Image Comics fame. Now I know I've talked a lot of mess about TWD in the past, so I won't get too into it now, other than to say that it has the same appeal for me that the 2004 television reboot of Battlestar Galactica had: despite their settings and how easy it would have been to turn either of these franchises into a camped-up mess, both titles offer stellar character drama laid over a tense background of death and tragedy that leads to stories that, while at turns unsettling and even downright gut-wrenching, are utterly captivating, seizing you from the first few issues (or episodes, as the case may be) with an unrelenting, ironclad grip. 
 
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, according to HyperGeek, a Canadian comic book enthusiast's site, American cable channel AMC will begin filming a six-episode live-action arc of The Walking Dead to be directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). Robert Kirkman will be intimately involved in the directing process. 

 HAUNTING.

Hallelujah.

I've been hearing rumors about The Walking Dead coming to the silver screen for a while, and I'll admit that for the most part I was terrified: what if it was terrible? What if it was downright unwatchable, TWD's answer to The Real Ghostbusters? Well, the possibility is still there, especially without an announced cast, but now that Darabont is on-board, I feel a little better about the show's chances. With filming beginning in June of this year, I imagine we'll be finding out sooner rather than later. 
 
Thanks for reading, 
End_Boss.
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Nintendo, Microsoft and Edward James Olmos

It has been nine days since my last blog post and over nineteen since I posted something that I’d consider to be a “proper blog.” For some that might seem like a relatively short time, but I try to write at least a page’s worth every day, so for me it’s been quite the hiatus. Anyway, a while back I promised I’d be posting a real update soon, so without further ado:

Oh Nintendo, You so Crazy!

Nintendo announced the “3DS” a few days ago. It’s surprising to me that they’re trying to adopt such a young technology so quickly, and if it were anyone but Nintendo I would dismiss the idea immediately, but considering their four year money printing streak after investing in the seemingly risky Wii, I’m not ruling anything out. Still, I wonder if Nintendo has simply overestimated its collective insight on this one, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

Someone at Nintendo is thinking in greenbacks (or yen, or loonies or euros) because pushing this new technology to their handhelds seems like an extremely pragmatic move on the company’s part, at least from a nickels and dimes perspective; it allows first-party developers (because let’s face it, those are the only ones that will be breaking any ground in 3D for six months after the handheld’s release at least) to experiment with the new technology without a huge financial overhead (at least in comparison with shipping a 3D Wii, for example). This way, if the tech is completely unusable, its just one model on a portable platform lost, as opposed to potentially an entire console (or at least a sizeable peripheral).

Regardless, whether or not this new 3D platform becomes important to gaming enthusiasts at large is entirely dependent on Nintendo’s ability (or inability) to treat this as a justifiable evolution in game mechanics and not as another cash-cow peripheral (I’m looking at you, Motion+).

Soulless Machines

I checked out Microsoft’s new “Game Room” the other night, and that whole thing is kind of a mess. The menu navigation was convoluted and it all felt lifeless in the same way that the 1 vs. 100 programming is to me. I could go on and on about the hollow trappings of it and probably draw some comparisons between this and Home’s launch on the PS3, but the most important thing about Game Room was its catalogue of games, and all of them seem awful. Not only are they not the most appealing games, but no real effort has been put into a smooth emulation. These are the exact same games seen on freeware emulations every day, presented in the exact same way for a price.

I can easily see this fizzling out and being forgotten in six months once the relatively small portion of XBOX Live-goers who thought they were interested discover that they are in fact most definitely not interested.

Splinter Cell & Edward James Olmos

I checked out the Splinter Cell: Conviction demo that recently hit XBOX Live and from what I can tell, it’s the same demo section that’s been shown at press events in the past, beginning with Fisher interrogating some poor sap in a bathroom, followed by some very familiar Splinter Cell traversal and combat.

Most of it felt pretty good (in the loose kind of way that Splinter Cells tend to), but the mark and execute ability seems like a poorly conceived mechanic laid awkwardly over the game’s serviceable framework. The obligatory melee kill before an execution completely hamstrings what could otherwise be a great idea, and the handful of times the mechanic works properly feel incredibly contrived. As an example, toward the demo’s midpoint I found myself eavesdropping on three guards in an underground complex from the rafters above. While only one guard was reachable from the pipe I was hanging on, the melee kill afforded to me by dropping onto him allowed me to quickly tap the execute button, silencing the other guards (previously marked) before they could get a shot off. It was definitely a cool moment, but I can’t help but feel that these weren't vicious mercenaries I was killing but lifeless mannequins, set up to be knocked down in a very specific way. Hopefully the disturbingly linear nature of the demo is merely a poor indication of the game to follow. I’ll definitely take a look at the real deal when it hits next month. 
 
Oh, and as a final note about Splinter Cell; I haven't had enough time with the game to tell if Michael Ironside really sounds as drunk as Jeff described on last week's podcast, but if he does I humbly submit Edward James Olmos as his voice acting replacement. Dude's voice has gravel (for those who've watched it, think Admiral Adama of Battlestar Galactica but more Sam Fisher-y).

Well, that’s about all I’ve got for now. For those interested, I’m still mulling over the next podcast and am now taking game suggestions, so if you want to get on the next episode or would like to suggest some talking material, let me know here, via PM or in an e-mail to the.irregulars@live.ca. I’m also thinking of recording some video content at some point in the near future and am planning to visit LA for this year’s E3, where I hope to get some footage of the floor and, well, anything else I can without getting tossed out! 
 
Thanks for reading, 
End_Boss.
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Borderlands "Double-Pack" Arrives April 6th, is Baffling

According to Joystiq, 2K Games will be releasing a GOTY-styled "double pack" of Borderlands and its first two DLC installments. No, you didn't read that wrong and it isn't a typo; the package will contain the core game, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot exclusively, opting for some unknowable reason to drop The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, the third and most worthy of Borderlands' DLC. The pack will retail for $19.99.
 
To further confuse the issue, PS3 owners will not be offered the new bundle despite all included DLC packs being available over PSN. In my eyes, this might mean one thing and definitely means another:
 
A) There just might be more Borderlands DLC coming.
B) There's something in the water over at 2K Games.
 
I guess we can be excited over the possibility of more Borderlands content, but I wouldn't go dropping twenty bones on the pack, as I'm fairly certain an all-inclusive edition will be released once the game's DLC has been exhausted.
 
Thanks for reading,
End_Boss.

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The Irregulars Return to Rapture

Hey folks, I know its been a while since my last proper blog, so I wanted to write a little something just to say that there is more coming; I just haven't been able to sit at a keyboard long enough to sort out my thoughts these past few days. 
 
On a lighter and more productive note, episode two of The Irregulars is up and ready for listening on Buzzsprout or for download from iTunes. You may notice that there are only two people on this episode, and that's not for lack of trying: although we had a third guest scheduled for the recording, an unfortunate series of events prevented him from joining us until things were just wrapping up. That said, things still went extremely well and I feel like we got a much more polished product this time around. Hope you guys like the podcast! 
 
Thanks for reading, 
End_Boss.

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Lakes of Molten Rage

Dear sir/madam,
 
My name is [ALFRED GUGGENHEIMER], and I recently sent one of your M15x model laptops in to your repair center to have its case repaired, keyboard replaced and video card upgraded as per my agreement with your technical support.
 
It took well over a month for the package to actually return to me after being express shipped to your facility, and that only after I chased it down because your call center claimed to have no record of the shipment and repair information you sent me . Not only this, but the laptop has returned non-functional and incomplete. The repair order, which was left unsigned by its incompetent technician and which states that it came from Florida, not Houston, lists my laptop as having been “repaired/exchanged.” This was not what I asked for, nor was it what your company agreed to.
 
As I said, your company returned my laptop non-functional. Upon receiving it, I booted the computer up, worked on it for five minutes and then watched as it blue-screened and crashed, never to boot up again. This after the mystery technician signed off on having “worked diligently to address all reported computer issues.” Not only did you not address the reported issues, you worsened the situation.
 
Given the absolutely ridiculous number of hoops I’ve had to jump through to get a broken laptop back , I hope you’ll understand when I ask that my laptop either be express shipped to and from your facility for repairs at your expense OR that Alienware replace my laptop with a current-generation (and functional!) equivalent OR that you reimburse me the [BIG MONIES] dollars that I have so far wasted on your company.
 
Just figured I'd give anyone interested a little insight as to what's going on in my life right now. XD
 
-End_Boss.
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The Irregulars, Episode Two: Bioshock 2

  

Hey folks, figured I'd post a little somethin' somethin' to let you know that the second game to be covered by The Irregulars has been chosen and, in case you couldn't tell from my subtle banner work above, that game is Bioshock 2. I am now looking for two community members who have played through the game in its entirety and would like to participate in the recording. Little Sisters shall be discussed, Big Daddies pondered and self-righteous ideologues examined, so if you'd like a spot on the show, be sure to speak up in the comments or send me a PM. If you are a community member and would like to appear on The Irregulars but haven't heard of us before (or if you're just plain curious), check this page out.
 
I'm also excited to announce that community members that participate in this episode will have their likenesses caricatured and used as episode artwork (a digital print will also be sent to the user). This is something I'd like to do for every Irregular installment, and if its well-received I will certainly try, but financial constraints being what they may, this might be a "once in a blue moon" kind of thing. Also, the art is not a requirement of being on the podcast; if you'd like to talk some Andrew Ryan but don't want your mug up on the internet (cartoon-ified though it may be), that's cool too. 
 

SHOW ROSTER

Host: End_Boss
Editor: End_Boss
Producer: End_Boss
Willing Slave: End_Boss
Guest 1: OriginalGMan
Guest 2: [CANCELED]
 
Thanks for reading, 
End_Boss.
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End_Boss Visits Pandora's Secret Armory

The Secret Armory of General Knoxx

A journey worth taking, albeit with some caveats.

The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is an interesting DLC pack if only because I can’t seem to make my mind up about it. When I first booted it up, I found the quests grueling and unreasonably difficult, and while I would normally be willing to admit that it may be my own lack of skill holding me back, in this case I’m talking about a game that I’ve sunk over sixty hours into (and have thus had sixty hours to get less terrible at it), and it certainly isn’t like I was the only one complaining; my teammates, which ranged from Berserkers to Soldiers and everything in between, all agreed that their experience with the new zone (at least initially) left them wondering what they were doing wrong as their Vault hunter collapsed for the twentieth time that hour (the first hour, I might add). 

However, the Armory is really well put together as far as mission structure and zone layout go, and the narrative we’re provided with moves along at a steady clip and doesn’t get in the way of the action (which is great, when it’s working), so I wasn’t ready to give up on it just because of a few scrapes and bruises (and, y’know, millions of dollars lost in Pandora-bucks). Thankfully, it isn’t long after the initial grind (or perhaps “bashing-of-face-against-wall” would be a more appropriate description) that the Armory finally picks up, and as soon as I figured out that I would have to use elemental-appropriate weaponry against some of the newer enemies (the Shock Trooper variant of Atlas soldier and the highway drones come to mind) I was flying through missions and across highways in my Monster (truck). 

Speaking of the Monster, I should talk briefly about the three newest ways to cruise around, specifically the Racer, Lancer and Monster. While it seemed a bit trivial to me when I first heard about the addition of three new vehicles, I must admit their presence in “new” Pandora is much appreciated and, for the most part, each of the new vehicles handles well (if very specifically) and none of them feel like a throwaway vessel. 

The Racer is best suited to a single occupant, as it’s high speed and touchy controls make vehicle combat a last resort as opposed to a priority; it’s best used to scout out non-highway zones before entering them in earnest, especially since the plains of the Armory are covered with huge, vicious spiders called “Drifters” that can put even the heavily-armored Lancer out of commission with a few well-placed shots. 

The Lancer is an armored personnel carrier that doesn’t become available until a little further into the DLC, which is probably good, since the four-man tank can rip through just about anything in its path with mines, built-in explosives, a light machine gun turret and some kind of vehicle-mounted laser cannon that poses a significant threat to even the aforementioned Drifters. Unfortunately, the sheer number of things that the Lancer can do coupled with the fact that you cannot transfer seats without exiting the vehicle mid-combat makes it a choice best suited for full squads. 

Finally, the Monster incorporates aspects of the core game’s buggy with a bit of the Racer’s speed and some of the Lancer’s armor for good measure. What makes the Monster unique is its heat-seeking trident rocket launcher, mounted on the back of the jeep’s body. By having the most effective turret in the game, the Monster can prove lethal to large enemies (such as the Drifters), as its considerable firepower and automatic target tracking is backed up by surprising mobility. It’s the obvious “middle of the road” choice, and the vehicle I most often take out onto the highway. 

As for the highways (and bases, and dungeons, and midget shanty-towns) themselves, well, they feel a lot like Borderlands, and I don’t say that disparagingly. What I mean is that the core game’s frantic bullet-slinging is intact for the Armory, and the new mix of enemies that roam Pandora make for an interesting engagement almost every time. Unfortunately, with the rest of the game play came Borderlands’ suicide AI, that which compels frothy-mouthed enemies to hurtle toward me through a hail of bullets with no regard for their own personal safety, the result of which is often me running around in backward circles (is that even possible?), unloading shells into slackjawed nitwits that have never wanted anything so blindly as to see me in a body bag. 

The other problem that could not be eradicated by a DLC pack is the ever smaller number of people actually playing Borderlands. The majority of the time I spent wasting Atlas goons I spent by myself, and not for lack of trying; it’s just that after an hour of surfing sessions (each more aimless than the last) and an hour more of hosting sessions just so a handful of glassy-eyed morons that are twelve levels higher than me could engage in their own exercise in futility by bashing me with lead pipes for ten minutes before their tiny attention spans can direct them to the “exit game” option in their menus, I got a little tired. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem for me, even in a multiplayer game, but given the difficulty of some of the new missions and the fact that more players always means better loot throughout Pandora, the scarce session lists (and even scarcer decent sessions) make battling through the Armory just that much harder. 

Now, before I continue, let me state that I understand that not every XBOX Live-goer is like this and that I have in fact found one or two decent people whilst playing through the Armory. What I described above is merely indicative of my experience. 

I didn’t think I would ever be able to get back into Borderlands after investing so much time the first go around, but with The Secret Armory of General Knoxx Gearbox has provided enough new content to make the trip back to Pandora a pleasant one, if best experienced by a group (assuming you can find one). 

Thanks for reading,
End_Boss.    

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