UPDATED: A Plea to Drivers

I've thought about writing this blog (rant) multiple times before, and decided that now was as good a time as any. So, here are some of my least favorite kinds of drivers, and a plea to people everywhere. Note, these are not necessarily the worst or most dangerous types of drivers (light and stop sign runners come to mind), merely the ones that are most common.
 
Driving Slowly in the Left Lane 

 
As somebody who drives regularly in the left lane, this is one of the more obnoxious behaviors that I can think of. On any road with more than one lane, the leftmost lane is the passing or fast lane. If you are going to drive slower than or at pace with (this is actually worse because then you can't pass in either lane) the right lane, then get in the right lane. There is absolutely no reason for you to be in the left lane and hold everyone else up.
 
Now, there is an even worse breed of this sort that I like to call the Left Lane Crusader, a specimen easily identified by the presence of a column of traffic reminiscent of a presidential convoy. This fellow is even worse than the hopelessly oblivious slow driver because the Left Lane Crusader does it on purpose. Somewhere, at some point, the Left Lane Crusader got it in his mind that he is single handedly making the road and the world at large a safer place by regulating traffic speeds. 
 
Wrong. You are actually more dangerous because you are acting unpredictably. What's more likely to cause an accident than pure speed is unpredictable differences in speed. If everyone is driving at the same pace, there probably isn't going to be a problem. However, when you pull into the fast lane and try to change the pace, that is far more likely to cause an accident.  

Moreover, you've now created a column of irritated, tail-gating drivers which is the perfect environment for a major accident. Well done. If you have a problem with speeding, hand out pamphlets or buy a bumper sticker, don't try and play superhero on the road.

Not Using Turn Signals   

How hard is it? Really? If you can't be assed to flick out your middle finger and hit the turn signal every once in a while then please get off the road. I don't care whether you're turning at an intersection or just changing lanes, use your god damned turn signal. Is there a good chance that you're going to cause an accident if you don't use it? No. However, I think we can all recognize that when driving behind someone, it is always helpful to know what the person ahead of you is intending to do. So just do it. It's really not that hard.
 
The worst offender of this, though, is the Weaver. This prick thinks the highway is his personal playground and he drives like he's playing Grand Theft Auto. Not only does this guy rarely use his signals, but he indiscriminately passes in the left, middle, and right lanes. Rarely, he does use his turn signal and I can only imagine he does so to make himself feel slightly better about his otherwise asinine behavior. Kind of like getting a Diet Coke with a large pizza. 
 
Don't be that guy. 
 
EDIT: To sum up my exact feelings. Thanks to SSully!
  

  
  
Leaving Massive Gaps between Cars at a Light 
 
When you're waiting at a traffic light, do you leave 2 or 3 car-lengths between you and the next car? When the light turns green and the car ahead of you starts to go, do you take your time and continue to leave 3 car-lengths between you? Good, you're responsible for only 2/5 of the cars getting through the light that actually should have. 
 
I'm not saying it needs to be a drag race when the light turns, or that you need to drive so that the next guy's exhaust is going directly into your grill, but just make an effort to keep the gap reasonable. Just pay attention and when the light turns, be ready to go. 
 
Awareness of Drivers Behind You
 
This one is sort of related to the gap issue in the previous point. When waiting at a light, or just when stuck in a line of traffic, be aware of the cars behind you. Often, I see someone get strung out in the middle of an intersection or access to a turning lane blocked, only to see the cars further up leaving massive gaps between themselves and the drivers remaining blissfully oblivious to everyone behind them. Once again, just pay attention and be conscientious of other drivers.  

On Ramp Speed 
 
This one is admittedly rare, though infinitely baffling. I don't know if it's grannies or just hopelessly incompetent drivers, but this motherfucker merges onto the interstate like he or she's cruising down a dirt road. Exactly how do you plan to merge safely with 70mph traffic while going 30mph? The on ramp is meant for you to build speed and match pace with the highway traffic. That's why it's there. Please make use of it. 
 
The Ungrateful Driver 
 
There is little else as infuriating as an ungrateful prick. When I wave you on at a stop sign or slow down to allow you onto the road, I expect a fucking appreciative wave. All you have to do it throw your hand in the air. One little motion. Do it. 
 
As a quick addendum, when waiting at a turn to get onto a busy road, pay attention. I don't know how many times I've slowed down and flashed my lights at someone only to see them staring at their cell phones or staring out the fucking passenger window. What are you doing? 

Passing Traffic in Another Lane at a Merger 
 
This, ladies and gentleman, is the worst of the worst. These people cannot be dismissed as merely oblivious or incompetent. Rather, they are just assholes. Pure and simple.
 
These are the people who, while you're waiting in line at a merger or an exit ramp, think that they can simply fly by in the other lane and butt-in further down the road. In my experience of being in the car with this sort of person, they usually rationalize their behavior by saying, "Well, there're two lanes, so people should use both." I can't discredit that. There are two lanes. However, let me paint a picture for you.  
 
You have a funnel (merger). On one hand, you have a bucket of rocks, and on the other hand you have a long, straight tube filled with rocks. When dropped into the funnel, which do you think is going to pass through quicker? Clearly, the tubed rocks since they'll fall straight out of the tube and through the funnel's bottom. The bucket of rocks will eventually pass through the funnel as well, but only after a lot of shaking and jostling. 
 
The point is, instead of passing by all of the other cars and jamming up the funnel when you have to butt back into line, just merge with the single lane earlier on. When you begin to see the lane slowing down, get over at that point, while other cars don't have to slow down to accommodate you. In the end, everyone (not just you) will benefit for it. 
 
The worst offenders of this that I've noticed are the too-important-to-wait assholes in the BMWs and Mercedes, or the presumably apathetic fuck driving around in his shitmobile. In either case, this person doesn't give a damn about anyone but themselves. 
 
That said, there is one flavor of this sort that surpasses even all others. That is the person who does this same thing, but uses the shoulder of the road to do so. This one is really self-explanatory and I have nothing more to say than if you're this person, you should be shot. 

Conclusion 
 
Now, I know most people think they are better-than-average drivers, and you might be thinking that I think my shit don't stink. I admit, I've made mistakes while driving and I've probably managed to piss one or two people off at various times. However, I make a conscious effort to be considerate on the road and behave responsibly. All I ask is that more people try and do the same. 
 
If you recognize any part of this rant in yourself, I'll be happy if it just pops into your mind the next time you're behind the wheel. 
 
Anyway, /rant.

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Frustrations with L.A. Noire (spoilers through Homicide)

Before anyone calls me a troll or says "What's the point?", I just want to say I don't presume to change anyone's opinion of the game, or tell you that you're wrong or an idiot for liking the game. These are just some personal frustrations I've had with the game, and I'm simply putting them out there as discussion points to see if anyone agrees, and to see other people's thoughts on the game. 


Repetition  A serial killer may offer a high-stakes plot device, but investigating nearly identical crime scenes over and over doesn't do much for gameplay. Park, naked lady, wrench, framed "murderer." Go.


Lack of Gratification

Again, I understand what you're trying to do with the plot, but it's not very fun running around to different locations for two hours just to arrest a guy I know didn't commit the crime.

Too Easy
The game often feels more like an interactive movie than a game. Investigating a crime scene is merely a matter of patience, walking around the area until the controller buzzes and then pressing 'A". Yes, you can turn off the cues, but then you'd just have to walk around constantly pressing 'A" since there are a large number of objects that may or may not be interactive. Moreover, once you do pick something up, the game tells you whether it's important or not. With these two things combined, you can never feel clever or feel like a detective because you are drawing no inferences yourself.

You never actually do any detective work yourself, you simply guide Phelps through his. A good detective game should be about drawing inferences and deducing things yourself, but you're not doing that. The closest you can come is to pick the evidence that counters a specific lie, but again this is ungratifying because the game has already essentially pointed you to the evidence and told you the significance - it really just feels like a mini-game of connect the dots.

Lack of Choice
This fits into the idea of the game being a very guided experience. You never have the option of roughing a suspect up or maybe pushing the suspect in an interrogation. Something as simple as a Bluff option where you claim to have a witness or something would at least allow you to feel some personal control over the course that an interview takes. The Truth, Doubt, and Lie system is pretty cut and dry as it stands.

Things as small as street crimes not being able to be replayed would at least make the world feel more your own. That criminal got away because I screwed up. Instead, the game just loads you back and lets you do it over again until its inevitable conclusion. The most choice I've seen thus far in the game is choosing to charge suspect A or B, which seems like a fake choice given that one of them had a bloody wrench and shirt in his apartment. Who could get that wrong?

Dead City
This is a narrative driven game, and perhaps having less side activities is more realistic, but I can't help but feel like there is some sort of lost potential in the city itself. More so than other open-world games like GTA or RDR, the streets and alleyways really just feel like filler between the game's story locales. Hell, the game doesn't even let you park and walk up to the door; you can be going 80 mph past the storefront and it will snap to a cutscene. It all just adds up to make the city feel inconsequential and lifeless.

Confusing Story
Maybe this is just me (I don't think so, I'm usually the one who follows a thick plot), but I would sometimes lose the thread in the middle of an interview or when going from place to place. Often, I would find myself driving to a location or going to speak to someone just because they were in my notebook. I don't play every case in one sitting, so I can easily forget how one person is related to the case, or where I got their name from. The information in the notebook is often very incomplete, and I don't want to read through pages and pages of the log to get a refresher. A game with this much information needs a more elegant and complete method of of tracking everything.

By the time I was going after the Werewolf, my partner was referring to people who I simply did not remember. The ring belonged to who? The lady in the park? Naked? Killed by a wrench? OK, the first, second, third or fourth one?

Unexpected Dialog
Sometimes during an interview, when I select one of the three options, Phelps says something that I completely was not expecting, or what I had in mind. Instead of thinking like a detective, you're left trying to figure out what the script-writer might have had in mind at the time he wrote the dialog. The same could be said for some pieces of evidence - - maybe the dialog matches the evidence to the lie, or maybe it doesn't.

Story Funnels
One of the most obnoxious things in a game is when it pretends to offer a choice, or an open way to approach a situation, and then suddenly and without warning funnels you into something unexpected. In one of the early cases, I being silly, thought it would be a good idea to arrest the murderer before the accidental hit-and-run driver. Apparently, the game didn't agree, and I got to finish the case being informed "it was too bad I let the driver get away." I believe this happened a couple other times as well. Those are "put the controller down" moments.

---

I don't mean to say that everything in this game is bad -- not by a longshot. The city and characters that Team Bondi has crafted are incredibly detailed, and the technology is second to none. I think the facial animations are really a transformative technology in the industry, and I can't wait to see a character as charismatic and likeable as Nathan Drake animated in such a compelling manner.

However, when a game as polished and potential-filled as L.A. Noire stumbles in some area, it just makes it that much more noticeable and frustrating. I respect Team Bondi for taking a bold step in a new direction with a new technology, but ultimately I think the game is better as a proof of technology and academic study than as an actual game. It feels almost like Assassin's Creed, where they pioneered a new style of gameplay and created a solid framework, but it won't be until the sequel that they really flesh it out and make a much more compelling gameplay experience.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the game thus far. I don't think I'm going to finish the game, so I just wanted to get some of my thoughts out now.

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Book Review: The Ultimate History of Video Games

 The Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven L. Kent is a comprehensive and enjoyable account of the development of our favorite industry. From the days of coin-op mechanical games and pinball, all the way through the launch of the PS2, Kent covers the maturation of the industry in incredible detail. Weighing in at nearly 600 pages, Kent leaves no stone unturned and no detail left out. However, while the book is dense with information and admittedly lengthy, it manages to read much more like a fast-paced story than a tediously plotted history text.
 

 Nintendo Play Station?

This readability is no doubt thanks to the book’s greatest asset: it is straight from the horse’s mouth. The book is littered with quotes directly from the people within the industry, and nearly every page features at least one or two block quotes. These are not low-level QA testers or programmers, but the very men who helped to shape the industry: Ralph Baer, Nolan Bushnell, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Hideo Kojima to name just a few. Along with a foreword by Peter Molyneux, these firsthand accounts lend the book immediate credibility, as you are never left wondering where a certain bit of information came from, or what the people involved actually thought at the time – it is right there in front of you.

Another asset working in the book’s favor is that Kent never bogs you down with company detail after company detail, but rather, weaves both the business side of the industry in with the personal side, allowing much space for hilarious anecdotes and tangential stories from the men themselves. Whether it’s a story of Bushnell riding around on a conveyor belt when company executives show up, or members of the Xbox design team almost killing themselves by overcrowding an elevator, Kent spends as much time making you laugh as he does informing you. The only part of the book that slowed down was a large chapter surrounding a number of court battles that spanned the 1970s-90s, though even there, an anecdote or two elicited a laugh.
 

 The game that crashed an industry.

If there were any criticism that I could lay against the book, it is that it only covers up until 2000, just after the launch of the PS2 and as GameCube and Xbox are in development (by no fault of the book itself as it had to be published sometime). Personally, while I would have liked to learn more about the development of the newer consoles and personalities, this didn’t bother me too much since I have followed the industry more closely since the mid-2000s and know much of this information already.

Overall, Kent’s book is exactly what the subtitle says it is: the story behind the craze that touched our lives and changed the world. Whether you’re a history buff who happens to like games, someone hoping to one day work in the industry, or just a gamer with an appreciation for the industry, you owe it to yourself to read The Ultimate History of Video Games. You won’t regret it.

 
If you have any questions about the book, or if you’ve read it and would like to leave a comment, go ahead. Thanks for reading!

Below are just some of the people interviewed in the book:

Nolan Bushnell, founder, Atari and Chuck E. Cheese
Minoru Arakawa, president, Nintendo of America
Howard Lincoln, chairman, Nintendo of America
Gumpei Yokoi, designer, Game Boy
Kaz Hirai, president, Sony Computer Entertainment of America
David Rosen, cofounder, Sega
Peter Moore, former president, Sega of America
Trip Hawkins, founder, EA and 3DO
Alan Miller, cofounder, Activision and Accolade
Greg Fischbach, president, Acclaim
John Romero, cofounder, id Software
Masaya Nakamura, founder, Namco
Hironobu Sakaguchi, president, Square USA
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator, Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda, et al.
Hideo Kojima, creator, Metal Gear
Ed Boon, creator, Mortal Kombat
Yuji Naka, creator, Sonic the Hedgehog
Toru Iwatani, creator, Pac-Man
Alexey Pajitnov, creator, Tetris
Joel Hochberg, cofounder, Rare Ltd.
Steven Wozniak, cofounder, Apple
Bill Gates, COO, Microsoft
Seamus Blackley, co-designer, Xbox
Michael Katz, former president, Coleco
Steve Russell, creator, Spacewar
Ralph Baer, designer, Magnavox Odyssey

So, yeah, you get it… 
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Call of Duty did not invent the fucking wheel...

Alright, I felt the need to write this after hearing so many people saying "Call of Duty anyone...?" and "Way to rip off Modern Warfare" in relation to so many different games.  The most recent that I've seen is calling the co-op campaign of Splinter Cell: Conviction a rip off of Spec-Ops. That doesn't even make sense. Modern Warfare 2 has separate "challenge" levels for co-op, not a campaign.
 
Call of Duty does have some unique things such as killstreak rewards, said co-op "challenges," and probably some other things I'm not thinking of, but believe it or not, it was not born from the vagina of originality. Below are just some of the things that people are claiming are rip-offs of Call of Duty, listed with games they've appeared in before Modern Warfare. A lot of these probably appeared before even the games I've listed, these are just the ones that come to mind first.

  • Modern setting - Ghost Recon (2001) or Battlefield 2 (2005) if you want a popular online shooter
  • Persistent ranking system - Battlefield 2
  • Unlockable weapons - Battlefield 2
  • UAVs / Shooting down UAVs - Battlefield 2   
  • Weapon mods  - SOCOM 3 (2005)
  • Customizable kit loadouts - Battlefield 2142 (2006) 
  • Seperate co-op "campaign" - Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (2006)
  • Perks - Fallout (1997) (Call of Duty did bring them to FPSs)
 
The entire video game industry relies on give and take. Games before Call of Duty did it, Call of Duty did it, and games to come will do it. So, please, if you don't know what you're talking about, kindly shut the fuck up already.
 
DISCLAIMER: Since some people seem to think I'm hating on Call of Duty -- I'm not. I'm hating on people who talk out of their asses and attack other games when they don't know what they're talking about. I've played every COD since the original and love the series.
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