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The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...

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The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Bethesda Game Studios
Posted on Sunday, July 10 2016 @ 20:14:31 PST

I've not reviewed Fallout 4, yet, and I might get around to it some day.  Until then I'm most likely going to chuck gravel at Bethesda's increasingly crack-brained approach to design and technology.  Today is for technology.

One of the common knee-jerk defenses of Bethesda's degenerate design and Frankensteinian technology is 'mods will fix it' or some variation of that.  This was never a valid defense.  It puts the onus of responsibility for their games ending up in a state of polish on a group of hobbyists working in their spare time for no pay.  Such an arrangement is absurd and the only upside to it is that the brave souls who manage these efforts can use it as a stepping stone to a career in the industry.

However, the way forward for some of these projects is very bleak for Fallout 4.  The exact issues, and why the mod teams working on them may have to put their projects to rest for good, are detailed on a Reddit post by user Arthmoor here.  Another batch of problems pertain to how the game uses geometry described by user jonwd7 here.  I recommend reading both posts but the rough sum of it is that using mods, including unofficial patches, causes weird technical hangups that it shouldn't as a result of changes made by Bethesda either in the jump from Skyrim's version of the engine to Fallout 4 or at some later point in a patch.  So, short of some kind of engine revising patch, there's basically no way for either the unofficial patch to move forward or for something like the Skyrim Mesh Improvement Mod to ever get off the ground.

It appears that the issues they've described are the result of measures taken to improve performance.  But those measures have made what were once simple edits into massive projects which create absurd headaches down the line.  Ironically there are viable alternatives that would yield similar performance gains (like not handling all shadow map instructions on CPU core 1) without hamstringing mod makers or the patch process.

Whether Bethesda will listen to their concerns and do anything to resolve them is anyone's guess at this point.

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System Shock Remaster Hits Funding Goal
Posted on Saturday, July 9 2016 @ 10:01:09 PST

On Saturday, July 9, Nightdive Studios' Kickstarter for a System Shock remake reached its funding goal.  The goal was reached with 19 days to spare and additional funding now goes to stretch goals.

Nightdive is perhaps best known for bringing classic games out of the murky territory known as abandonware and back into the commercial limelight with functional releases compatible with modern Operating Systems.

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Six Other Games Which Did Not Measure Up
Posted on Sunday, July 3 2016 @ 07:58:13 PST

Jeb Haught wrote an article about ten games which failed to meet expectations they'd raised.  So here's six more.

-Bioshock Infinite

Five years of development to create an overproduced arena shooter with worse mechanics than previous Bioshock games, especially 2.  It's a 'Shock' title in name only, and everything about it is either nonsensical or lazy in the extreme.  There isn't a single aspect of the game that doesn't practically shriek 'wasted potential' and that's half the problem.  This game could have been something genuinely great but it's just sophomoric grandstanding that contradicts its own points.  It's the game that killed Irrational Games and for good reason.  The forthcoming re-release in September is the perfect opportunity for everyone to finally come to grips with what a poser Ken Levine really is.

-Fallout 4

All any series fan wanted, at heart, was a damn Fallout game.  Fallout 4 fails to deliver on every single front.  It isn't even sort of an RPG anymore and it completely lacks even the most threadbare imitation of Fallout's spirit.  Skyrim was, in itself, a good game but it contained many warning signs that the studio's creative brain trust was running out of ideas.  Fallout 4 is the first example of what that bankruptcy looks like and I'm honestly concerned that more press outlets haven't noted it.  If Bethesda follows this trend any further I wouldn't be surprised if active dialog is actually removed outright in their next game with poor benighted Pete Hines forced to stand there, in public, and make an utter fool of himself and try to justify such an awful thing.

-Diablo 3

A game whose development included a QA phase longer than most other games' whole development time.  It was a mess at launch and it's pretty much permanently soured me on Blizzard's games.  If it wasn't the blatantly obvious lore-torching to spite David Brevik and the old Blizzard North team, the complete abandonment of tone and atmosphere from previous games, the hideous attempt to turn it into Warcraft or the godawful auction house and everything that came with it, then something else - the completely simplified and orthodox itemization and high level play all conspired to alienate the old guard who could look past Diablo II's inarguable flaws to have fun with that game.  What was left was streamlined, simplified, devoid of any kind of abstract heft and while I've been assured patches and an expansion have seen to fixing its flaws I'm simply not interested.  Blizzard successfully burned their bridges with me.

-Spec Ops: The Line

Touted as adult it is instead self-absorbed solipsistic nonsense wrapped up in a Cliff's notes understanding of the works of Joseph Conrad in a framework taken straight from the films of Michael Haneke.  It gets a staggering amount of things wrong just setting up its story that a former serviceman like Walt Williams would be expected to get right.  The game is everything wrong with seventh gen game design taken to its absolute limit, including pretentiously insulting the player for buying it instead of building a better game.  The studio responsible has since gone under and the lead writer has gone to do basically nothing.

-Mass Effect 3

Between the expectations set up by Mass Effect 1 and 2 (more 1 than 2, as 2 is a deeply flawed if still good game) and the ecstatic praise heaped upon the game at launch by press outlets anybody who actually paid for the pleasure would have expected an at least decent sequel.  What they got was a train wreck.  It wasn't the point where things went off the rails, mind.  That started in 2.  But in 3 the train is fully off the rails and before the prologue is even done you can see the canyon floor below.  The rest of the game is a nonstop ride to the bottom.  This was one of the first games made by Bioware with their creative leadership fully in 'Abe Lincoln's axe' mode; practically nobody at that level was still involved with Mass Effect in even a nominal capacity and the rest had left the studio outright years prior.  The result was such a huge disaster for both Bioware and EA that it's caused irreparable damage to their reputation.  Their attempts to fix the problems completely failed and they're effectively pressing the reboot button for Andromeda, but it's doubtful that's even coming out.

-DmC: Devil May Cry

A classic case of misdiagnosing the problem and applying the wrong medicine.  Keiji Inafune still had clout in the Japanese industry when DMC 4 shipped and sold below expectations.  The result of that influence led to DmC: Devil May Cry.  When it launched it sold even fewer copies despite launching in direct competition with absolutely nothing.  It was the only serious release on anyone's timetable with a massive margin fore and aft.  So much was wrong with the game, from choosing to use an engine which couldn't reliably keep up an ideal fill rate for character action games, to the deliberate antagonizing of the same series fans' whose attention they desperately needed to serve as word of mouth, dumbing down mechanics, some very bad aesthetic design, a story that reads like satire written by a semi-literate teenager whose understanding of politics and economics comes from watching MSNBC and Current TV while huffing paint...it's the Shadow the Hedgehog of DMC titles...

-Thief (2014)

I'm not sure this is a fair entry.  Not because the game isn't bad.  It's absolute trash and should be avoided by everyone.  I can say it from experience; I played it so you don't have to!  No, the reason I'm not sure it's a fair entry is because...did anyone really carry water for this thing?  Even people recommending flat-out admitted it was grossly inferior to previous entries and not exactly a paragon of stealth gaming.  As a stealth game Dishonored is inferior to the old Thief titles.  It has a number of flaws that basically break the stealth game.  There's no real challenge in it at all on any difficulty.  But the thing is, this is far worse than that.  Where Dishonored had the 'screw it I'm razor-wiring/shooting/rat-swarming everyone today' mode atop the broken stealth to make it a super power game with a broken stealth mode, Thief is just a broken stealth mode.  There's a surprising commonality with DmC and Diablo 3 in that all three games featured efforts by developers to willfully antagonize series fans.  As with DmC it worked.  It took over a year for this game to crack a quarter of a million copies sold, after having been priced down to bargain bin levels numerous times.  Like Bioshock Infinite the publisher was stuck footing the bill for five years of very troubled AAA development.

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Peter Moore Said a Thing
Posted on Saturday, May 7 2016 @ 12:51:58 PST

After broadband became available and Steam took off with consoles following suit years later with their own digital storefronts it became fashionable, once in a while, to say a very stupid set of things.  This set of stupid things can be summed ...   read more...

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A Few Words on Mighty No. 9 (Updated) (Again!)
Posted on Friday, April 15 2016 @ 09:46:06 PST

Writing for Gameranx Nick Monroe shows that Comcept have silently slipped yet another ship window.  It's now a year behind schedule and they don't even have a new raft of bogus excuses to declaim personal responsibility.  In fact, t...   read more...

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Final Fantasy XV Will Almost Certainly Fail
Posted on Thursday, March 31 2016 @ 17:57:55 PST

Via this GameInformer piece it's come out that Final Fantasy XV has to sell ten million units to break even.  Ten million.  That's a budget north of 240 million dollars.  Scattered across more than eleven years of development.&...   read more...

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Fallout 4 Needs Revision, Not More Content
Posted on Monday, March 28 2016 @ 14:42:13 PST

    So Fallout 4's first DLC, Automatron, came out and it isn't worth ten dollars.  If you didn't get the season pass at the early low price and haven't shelled out fifty dollars for one, or were considering a stan...   read more...

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Regarding Doom's Box art poll
Posted on Friday, March 4 2016 @ 13:37:25 PST

So the Doom twitter account is running a poll for alternate sleeve design for the new Doom box.  You can find it here but you'll need a twitter account to vote.  I have a serious question about this.  WHY?!?!?

Not &#...   read more...

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On Translation and Consumer Rights
Posted on Saturday, February 27 2016 @ 07:49:19 PST

Translation is inherently dicey.  In the 13th century Dante Alighieri warned against even trying to translate his Commedia out of its native Italian because it was impossible to reproduce the original meter and rhyme scheme.  As I sit here ...   read more...

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A Couple News Items
Posted on Thursday, February 18 2016 @ 09:36:32 PST

As reported yesterday by GamesIndustry.biz, Warren Spector has left his academic post to join OtherSide Entertainment full time to work on Underworld Ascendant and System Shock 3.  As mentioned in previous coverage of OtherSide and System Shock ...   read more...

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