Some stuff about parenthood and websites... and puppies!

We recently bought a Dragon modal for above the crib.

Duders. Today is my last day at CBS Interactive, and as such this ends my reign of terror running Giant Bomb / Comic Vine. The reasoning is very simple and quite boring. I love Jeff, the team and the community here all very much, but a few months ago I decided that I'd take some time off once my kid rolled around. So actually, I guess I just lied to you. March 29th was actually my last day. The past three weeks I've secretly been rearranging my garage, doing some gardening and downloading Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen. After 13 years of weekends, nights and twitter replies it's been a pretty drastic change. Mostly I've just been hanging with Veronica and saying shit like "And this Veronica is Icewind Dale II, Daddy's favorite game".

I'll leave the sappy stuff out of here but put briefly, thank you for these amazing sites. You have no idea how much fun it is to be a tool-builder and then see people use your tools. More than that, it's been fun having the dialog about what to build and why things are built the way they are. That just doesn't exist anywhere else on the Internet, and I've enjoyed all the PMs, emails, twitter replies and skype call-ins over the years. I know I've helped inspire people into the profession and that's been pretty fucking rad for me because it means I know that others will help mold the Internet away from the shit-storm of crap that it sometimes seems to move toward.

So, why the long wait for the announcement? Basically because I knew CBSi was in talks to hire someone to take over a lot of the community management and product issues I maintained. That person needed to understand how and why the community works, not just be able to steward an engineering team. I was hoping they'd pick someone in particular, so I waited a bit so you guys knew this wasn't some random decision. We had a plan damnit!

Matt Rorie is now the Product Manager for Giant Bomb.

I just blew your mind. I know. You're in shock. But then you're like... but Dave, Rorie isn't a designer? I hate to break it to you Internet, but me being a designer/coder was more a product of us being a 2-person company back in 2006, that's never the way it works on sites of this size. Usually the guy who manages the web site has no more skills than being friendly and buying engineers drinks in exchange for code (Tip to Rorie: @ltsquigs likes Vodka gimlets). Also know that for all intents and purposes, Alexis has been the designer of these sites for the past two years. I mostly just built the CMS and moderation tools. It's been that way for awhile because Alexis is a much, much better designer than I am.

More importantly having Rorie join the team means that I know there's someone in charge that can do more than just file bug reports and make wire-frames. It's still a small site and it's better to have well-rounded people that can be on camera, chat up users at PAX and chip in with the occasional review. Selfishly I'm also pleased that Rorie knows how to fill the gap of totally obscure PC game coverage. If you sit and think about it, this totally makes sense.

As for me. While I officially don't work here anymore I've decided to take a page from Gary Whitta's playbook and show up anyway. I'll still be popping in on podcasts, quick looks and the like as usual. I just won't be getting paid for it. All my friends work here, so it's kind of impossible to really leave.

If for some reason you need to contact me I'll still be on the boards and reading PMs, but you can also find me on twitter @enemykite or by email at dave.snider@gmail.com. I have no idea what I'm going to end up doing for a job down the line, but for right now I'm just digging making goofy faces at my kid.

Thanks for everything duders.

PS: You should totally freak out the people at CBS and buy a subscription. They'll think Rorie is some kind of business genius, and as I've mentioned before, it's the best way to help the site moving forward. Then maybe we can get him on Survivor or something.

One last note

Jeff, this one's for you buddy. I never thought I'd get to build a video game website again. Thanks for making that happen.

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Chili Day

Dave's Chili recipe

Cooking stuff needed

  • Crock pot or slow cooker.
  • Strainer.
  • 1 large frying pan.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • One tablespoon or so Olive oil.
  • 4 anaheim peppers (2 large green peppers can sub)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 onions
  • 2 small cans sliced jalepeno peppers with juice.
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice.
  • 2 cans pinto beans.
  • 1 cup flour or corn startch
  • 1/2 bag pre-shredded blended mexican or cheddar cheese.
  • Lemon Pepper, Cumin, Chili Powder, Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Cover bottom of large skillet with olive oil, add diced garlic and cook 1 minute.
  2. Add beef, separate into fine chunks and add lemon pepper. Cook till brown.
  3. Strain beef to remove extra fat, transfer to your crock pot.
  4. Dice Onions and Peppers and add to pot.
  5. Add, beans, tomatoes and jalepenos to pot with all juices from cans. Add one cup of water using one of the cans.
  6. Add a few tablespoons of cumin, chili powder. Usually I use about a third container of each from your normal sized small spice container.
  7. Add half a cup of flour to one of your empty cans and fill it with cold water till 3/4th full. Mix with a spoon till creamy then add to pot.
  8. Let cook for 90 mins stirring every 30 mins, then repeat last step with more flour if it's not thick enough. Taste and add more chili or cumin as needed.
  9. Cook another 60 mins then add two handfuls of shredded cheese and mix into the chili.
  10. Cook for 30 more mins then serve with saltines! Enjoy.
97 Comments

Woah, got too many questions about Mass Effect 2

 OK. I guess there needs to be some clarification about my comments on TNT about Mass Effect 2 as I received way too many PMs on the subject. 
 
First let me start by saying that of all games released last year, I'd put Mass Effect 2 up there pretty high as the a game I would recommend to a random gamer I met on the street under the age of 30. This is strictly a personal opinion and more a commentary on the direction of the industry in general. This discussion is specifically only meaningful to those who are familiar with the history of Bioware and the Western RPG genre. 
 
It is of my opinion that Dragon's Age will likely turn out to be one of the last, if not the last AAA produced single-player CRPG. What do I mean by the term CRPG? As an acronym, Computer Role Playing Game. Put in less generic terms, the type of RPG that follows the traditions of the Rogue, Ultima, Gold-Box, Wizardry, Might & Magic and Infinity Engine era.  I leave out The Elder Scrolls mostly because it has never been a party based game, and always existed in real-time in the first perspective. In that sense, The Elder Scrolls series was always more about exploration than combat. My guess is that over time, even the Elder Scrolls style games will rapidly devolve into games more along the lines of Fallout 3. That is to say, action games with light, meaningless skill progression that exist in large, explorable worlds. Are they RPGs? Yes. Are they part of the same genre of the old CRPGs I love? No. They share more in common with Red Dead Redemption than Wizardry.
 
If you ask the majority of people what they like about RPGs, they'll normally talk about the story. But to be honest, the story in most video games is horrible, and outside of a couple true gems like Planescape, we're really talking about great stories in relative terms within the medium. What I, and I believe some people who grew up on CRPGs really enjoyed, was the complicated, challenging and more importantly... flexible combat systems that existed in those games. When you're asking me to pinpoint how I can consider this genre dead, I'm pointing to the tactical combat portion of it. The story in Dragon Age was relatively great, and by all means Mass Effect 2 seems to be better, but I thought Dragon Age was a great game because the combat was rewarding. 
 
The combat in Mass Effect 2 is boring. It's is a shooter more than an RPG. That's OK, I like shooters and I certainly like STALKER and BioShock, so what's the deal? Well, I also think Mass Effect 2 is a shitty, uncomplicated, floaty shooter with fairly meaningless skill upgrades that they are for the most part pre-set and easy to choose. Fuck yeah I want better shields. Fuck yeah I want better X attack. The actual combat involves me moving from set-piece to set-piece Gears of War style. See those barricades? Oh. I guess a fight is about to happen, I better go hide behind this wall where I'm suddenly impenetrable from anything. Because of the meatiness of the health and shields in these types of games, you largely die because of a lack of patience (trying to kill them too fast) vs. making bad decisions in strategy. I miss the puzzles of battle. I miss counterspells. I miss crowd control. I miss focus fire. I even miss the idea of things like tumble rolls. I miss knowing that in some battles I should take the mage out first, but in others I should prolly sleep his minions and take out the healer.
 
Please don't confuse this with me thinking games are too easy. I can up the difficulty in games like Mass Effect 2 and make them difficult. But that change normally only effects my caution, not my planning. I'll admit, I couldn't make it through Mass Effect 2. But that was because the fights at hour 15 were the same fights I had at hour 2. I just couldn't walk through any more barricaded chambers. The rock, paper, scissors shield mechanics created a formula that was static throughout the course of my time in the game.
 
I did enjoy the story and the characters for the most part. It's what got me through the first game. But once I found that I was going through another assemble the team style plot device (it was a weakness in DA too), even that couldn't keep me going. You want me to walk through all 3 ship decks with their individual loading points to get to the fun conversations? Ugh... at least in Dragon Age they were all sitting at that one camp. Morrigan was all of 10 steps away. Having to make my way through the ship in ME2 was the worst. I quit. I had to. I finished one of those world missions and went through all that mediocre combat and now I've gotta spend 30 minutes walking around just so that I don't feel I'm missing out on anything. Done. End. Rage Quit. 
 
But this is the new style of "RPG". They are essentially hybrid shooters with dialog trees. Deus Ex plus. Remember when Deus Ex 2 came out and the whole world groaned? That is what I think about Mass Effect 2. Oh... OK, so you took all the challenging bits out of a the good style of game you used to make (I'm talking infinity engine), made the world progression a lot more linear and made it so that it's impossible to totally gimp your character with the trade off that non of these skill choices really matter. 
 
It's certainly nothing new, and it's not Mass Effect 2's fault. If we're looking to point the finger, KOTOR is certainly the one that lead us here. I only chide Mass Effect 2 so much because I'm bitter no one is making combat CRPGs anymore. The Eastern Block style games are closest. They are both challenging and radically different. Say what you will about the technical qualities of games like STALKER, The Void or Amnesia. They are god-damned different that it takes you a couple hours just to figure out how to play them correctly. Look, that limits their appeal, but shit, that's what I enjoy out of games these days: a novel approach.  
 
I wouldn't be so mad about these games existing other than that they are pure replacements, rather than alternatives to the style of game in which they preceded. I wouldn't lose all hope though. There's still an audience for this stuff. We're not huge, but I get PMs almost daily from people who miss the old style combat CRPGs. That's what the independent gaming movement will eventually find. It's not just about games like Braid that push you outside of the mainstream to some higher plane, it's simply about reaching a smaller, passionate audience. We're out there and we're waiting. 

272 Comments

Snider web work circa 1999

If you've read my site bio you know that before I started building sites professionally I made them for fun for the various quake clans I was in. Recently I was trying to find my Vietcong play discs and came across an old dusty CD tittled "Snider, web + art". I give you, dear readers, some of the contents from that disc. As you know I'm pretty supportive of anyone trying to learn how to make the web a profession and I hope this truly amateur work from my early days inspire any young nerds out there to stick with their work, because you eventually do get better.  
 
Also, holy shit. Look at that fucking poser tough guy image!

177 Comments

What I'm working on - Single sign on

By far the hardest thing we're working on right now is the ability for users to link their various accounts from all the Whiskey Media sites into one account. It's rough because we're trying to keep everyones unique usernames and profiles intact in a way that causes the least amount of confusion. I'll likely make a video on the whole merger process but for the meantime gander at this here screenshot and feel free to ask questions.  
 
Here's the main bullet points: 

  1. Single sign on is free, you don't need to pay for it.
  2. You don't need to do it (at least initially, we'll likely ask old users to make the switch within 3-6 months).
  3. You'll be able to retain your different usernames for each site, though all new sites we end up building you'll have to use your main name.
  4. People can't pick a main whiskey name that is already claimed on one of our sites already (no worry about land grabbing). This means that if your posting here with name "X", you don't have to worry about stealing your name, you already have it.
  5. If you decide to get a paid account you will also need to sign up for a whiskey account.
  6. All brand new accounts made after september 9th will work across every site, only you old folks need to have the hassle of merging accounts.
  7. We aggregate your wiki points score across all sites and will use that score as the main barrier for wiki privileges.
  8. Mods will remain unique to the site. So being a mod on one site won't make you one on the other. 

123 Comments

Paid membership update: the basics and a video test

It should come as little surprise to most of you that the engineering team here has been working on a paid membership product for Whiskey Media over the last couple of weeks. While I'm gonna wait for each of the sites to make formal announcements about what it includes I figured we're far enough along at this point to start talking roughly about our plan and get some feedback from everyone. I'll be releasing more details over the next couple weeks as we adjust with your feedback.
  
First, why are we doing this? 
 
It's easier for us to build towards what our users want, than what random visitors off Google require. We can either build a better product than our competitors and rely on our small, hardcore userbase to partially support us (that's right, you're now a pie slice!), or we can go for quantity as a content farm and build everybody-eats-it-but-nobody-likes-it web sites like our competitors. We like being able to be proud of our work, so door number one it is!
 
What am I going to lose if I don't buy any of this? 
 
Sorry, you must be thinking about someone else. We're in the not pissing off the Internet business. The site as you see it right now will remain largely unchanged.

What's this about unified Whiskey Media accounts? 
 
First off, we're going to create a unified Whiskey Media account system tied to your email that will work on any of our sites. You don't need to pay for that, everyone will just get it for free on day one after jumping through a couple account-linking hoops. Yes, you'll be able to retain different usernames across sites, but you'll only be able to link one account per site to your umbrella email account. If you end up deciding to upgrade to a paid account you'll earn the benefits across the entire network so no worries about us trying to make you pay more than once. 

 The mobile version.
Dude, just give me some details already. 
 
OK, so it wasn't hard to figure out the nuts and bolts stuff  you guys wanted... HD Video, mobile / iPad support and no ads. Fine. Done. So without further ado lets list out the first 3 confirmed features... 
 

  • Stream and Download HD Video at 720p (we shoot and receive most source material in 720, 1080 would just be upscale). Here are a couple tests, let me know how they look (Wargames, Portal 2). We plan on doing this for our entire back catalog, but obviously the newer stuff will look better.
  • A completely redesigned mobile site built in HTML 5 with video-watching, commenting and profiles built into it from the start. It will work on any smartphone with a web browser (iphone, android...etc). The site will continue to work as is for everyone else. Our iPhone app from last year is still free.
  • No ads (if you go for yearly billing). Sorry but we need to be able to make reasonable guesses against our ad inventory, and we can't do that unless we know for sure what portion of our audience is in it for the long haul.
 
Dude, that's it? 
 
Nope, not even the start. That's just the stuff you could have guessed. I'll talk about the rest in the next couple weeks and I'm sure the various editorial teams will start talking about this stuff pretty soon. For now I just wanted to say... yes, this is a thing, it's happening in September and don't worry, we're trying to be smart about all this.
 
 Unified accounts are free.
What definitely won't be in the plan? 
 
  • Paid message boards. I just don't like segregating audiences.
  • Anything that involves the wiki. Sorry, that's something we all built together and I couldn't ask anyone to pay for premium access or features there. We'll be rebuilding/redesigning all our wiki and API tools quite soon, but that has nothing to do with this. As far as the wiki goes, everyone is equal.
  • Calendars of anime chicks?
  • Free games from five years ago?
  • Any sort of in-your-face hard sell. I've got the feeling most of you just want to support us and could care less about the features. That's great, we'll respect you back in the same way with not trying to do anything stupid when it comes to convincing you to make that decision.
 
What will this cost?   

We're still figuring that out.  If I mentioned anything that wasn't concrete I think our BizDev guy might have a heart attack. I can say there will be a monthly and yearly option. Along with no ads we're considering giving T-Shirts to anyone who signs up for the yearly plan. Does that sound like a good idea, what would you want to see on the T-Shirt? We'd likely have to add $10 to anyone outside the US to pay for shipping if we end up going that route. 
 
Will you support paypal? 
 
Right now we're thinking about going only with credit / debit card processing. If there is wild outrage that paypal isn't an option I'd like to hear it.
 
Duder, I've got an idea! 

I'd love to hear it. Let us know what you think below.
875 Comments

My return to RTS games

Games like Silent Storm were always my kind of Strategy
With few exceptions, I've never really enjoyed RTS games. The amount of frantic key pressing and learn by repetition strategy always put me off immediately. The times I did manage to slog through the first half of any RTS game I was rewarded with 2 hour missions where I spent a good portion of my time building up a base. While that seems fun for some, the RPG nerd in me liked my battles a little more confined and slow paced. I liked being attached to my "units" and caring about their deaths rather then pumping a new set out of my barracks. Turn-based strategy like Fallout Tactics, Silent  Storm and X-Com were always more my speed.

Imagine then my surprise that I've been totally addicted to Dawn of War 2 the past week. I had played through the first one and although I loved the setting and the steps they made to make it less twitchy the game was soon easily forgotten in the large pile of games I gave up playing after a week. The recent sequel I haven't put down and it's easy to tell you why.
  1. I have built nary a base in the entire campaign.
  2. I control only 4 units the entire game. Although each unit is made up of several marines, I can only control them together as a group.
  3. I level up these units across the campaign and can tailor them to my playstyle.
  4. I can equip these units with dropped loot, further cementing them into the class of marine I want them to be (melee vs. ranged...etc)
Did I mention I haven't built a base? While some may be thinking... well, it doesn't sound much like an RTS to me, I can only reply... thank you Relic for removing the tedium out of this genre. I start every 20 minute mission with the same troops, who are now slightly stronger from the last mission, and use tactics, cover and the ever rare retreat to beat my enemy instead of amassing troops for 30 minutes so that I feel confident I can take out the other side. Relic didn't stop pleasing me there though, because they added boss fights to almost every mission and alleviated my other harp against the genre -- that defeating the enemy should be more involved then blowing up some buildings after the enemies are dead.

The battles in Dawn of War 2 are intense but confined
I can't tell you how freeing this feels. Finally I can enjoy this genre. While I'm still a little slow when it comes to all the key commands, the focus on tactics over units really has me hooked. So much so that I'm going to give World in Conflict a go, which I hear has a similar quick to fight feel.

Now remember when I said there were a few exceptions to my RTS hate? The exceptions all come from Blizzard, specifically Warcraft III and Starcraft, which I spent many of my younger years wasting my days on. Having played through DoW2 I can now only wonder if my experience with Starcraft II will be sullied by this experience. While I know Blizzard will have a great story waiting for me, I don't know if I can suffer building up a base or dealing with 100 units on the screen again. While I hope that's not the case, I also can't imagine how it could be a Starcraft game without those kinds of amassing of units.

In any case, suddenly I'm really excited by RTS games again. If you have any recommendations leave me a comment. I've got World in Conflict and Company of Heroes all queued up.
34 Comments

Redesign Screens...

Still working on little things, and you'll notice my screen cap program doesn't grab flash vids, hence the large gaps in my blog. Right click and pick open link in new tab to see the full versions. T-minus 1 weekish. Yes, we are that fast / obsessed with our jobs.





42 Comments

GB Redesign progress...

An example of a mock I give to our engineers to dread over.
So I'm starting week 2 of actual CSS work on redesigning Giant Bomb. It's going amazingly well. You know you're digging the style when you get bummed out when you have to use the live site. The first steps were reworking all the core CSS (buttons, major layout classes...etc). If you've checked out the mocks you can imagine that this had me making lots and lots of rounded corners for various layout sections of GB. Using rounded corners, while better looking, drastically increase the complexity of a site's frontend code. For this reason I had sworn off the look a couple years ago, but like a lost lover, have embraced them again recently.

This week I'm mostly taking those core CSS changes and implementing them throughout the actual HTML on the site. That means I basically go through each and every page on the site and massage the new style into the old templates. It's pretty tedious work, but after having thrown together the original Giant Bomb in only 6 weeks it's nice to have time to spend fully on making the site prettier, instead of worry about functionality. Coonce is helping out as well, helping me out with the backend stuff that I can't do on my own. I'm very excited about everything, so much so that I've been regularly showing up back at the office after dinner to attack more templates. Right now I'm waiting on my local database to rebuild so I figured it'd be a good time for an update.

While I'm doing this Ethan is working on a MAJOR gallery/image management redo. The new stuff is all drag and drop and well... impressive. Basically we're banishing checkboxes from image management and trying to better define galleries and in turn fix a lot of those tools. Those changes will likely make it into the site before mine and will come in handy to some of our bigger image uploaders. Andy is working on some additions to our search functionality and working on requests from the API forums.

Mostly the things I'm most excited about is showcasing the crew downstairs content a little better. I think if you don't check the site everyday you can miss a lot of the funny vids they add to the site daily. Right now we do a pretty poor job at promoting vids, news, guides and user reviews on the game pages. I've reworked those pages the most and it's nice to see VInny's stuff float up better. In general I'm just happy with the way things are actually looking from a cleanliness perspective. I've tried to cut down the length of our pages without losing content. It's not the easiest thing to do, but I've spent a lot more time on font sizing and line heights this time to make things in general more readable.

In any case, that's what I'm up to. I'll likely add some screenshots to this post in a half hour or so when my local database is finished rebuilding. I guess that just leaves me raiding the vinyl collection at the office till the db is built. Right now Jackson Browne's Running on Empty is on. 
42 Comments
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