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June 14th, 2004, by Matt
I'm doing a one week stint as a guest editor covering the games beat at Gizmodo. I have only posted one article so far and already I have made a poop joke. But it is the sort of highbrow, literate poop joke that keeps you coming back to this site even though I told you I quit.

It's the Mug Rack at the End of the World

June 3rd, 2004, by Matt
No speeches: TMOL is on hiatus from regular updates so I can concentrate on other projects. The audience just hasn't grown at a satisfactory pace. Feel free to visit TMOL occasionally for further updates on these perhaps fictitious "other projects" or send hate mail via the contact form on the About page.

An Apology

June 1st, 2004, by Matt
Upon review, last Thursday's update was too much preachy and whiny, and not enough funny. The inadequacy of Thursday, combined with seeing both Homestar Runner and Red vs. Blue on TV, caused a drunken rage to come out of nowhere and it made me throw a candle at today's update. The problem was that the update and the candle were both from Thief 3, so when the candle hit the update, it knocked it across the room into a chair, which hit a person and broke his back. Everything was irreparably damaged. Sorry, today's update was really going to make up for Thursday, in my opinion.

If this makes you angry, it might make you feel better to know that when the dust settled, three works in my prized collection of square mirrors with rock band logos silkscreened on were also destroyed. Well, one of them just had the cardboard frame partially ripped, but that does ruin the collector's value. If anyone cares, they were the Ratt, Krokus, and King Cobra pieces. The Krokus was a rare abnormal, where the red part of the four color process was accidentally skipped.

Adding Resistance the Jason Hall Way

May 27th, 2004, by Matt
Jason Hall has a plan to increase his gym time. See, his new job at Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment means that he has to oversee the production of the game tie-ins for WB movie and TV properties, like Eight Legged Freaks, Malibu's Most Wanted, Judge Mathis, and Elimidate. Obviously, a game must meet or exceed the quality of its inspiration. To that end, instead of periodically reviewing the titles in production under his company's banner and deciding for himself whether or not they're of sufficient caliber, Jason has instead chosen to do nothing at all, release the game no matter what, and let the pseudo-literate throng of game reviewers (represented by the average score tallies at GameRankings.com) decide how much of a game's profits go to the publisher of the game, and how much WBIE keeps. This will supposedly keep the brand that a bad game ships under from suffering "damage" because...WBIE will keep more money from the sales of the crappy game.

OK, so Jason's plan seemingly has a large flaw. But crappy games won't be made because there's an incentive not to, he says. Except developers want to make licensed games about as much as actress/models want to work a booth at E3. Jason's former employee, Craig Hubbard, has inexorable and feverish dreams of being corralled into making an unending list of WB licensed products, a task not made light even if he were to make them for the GBA and preface the title of each with P.O.C.K.E.T. Licensed games are for the most part what developers do if they can't get any publishers to fund their real ideas. Very rarely that's not the case, if it's a hot license, like The Matrix used to be. But that outweighs any Damoclean "incentive" you can provide by hooking their royalty checks to a group that is comprised of at least 90% total morons. If it's not hot, like everything at WB that doesn't start with "Harry Potter and", nothing is going to make your developer expect anything beyond that final milestone check.

Of course, the biggest uh-oh in Jason's plan is that games not based on movies and TV have always done better critically and always will. Out of the top hundred games at GameRankings, there are only two movie-based titles. One is Goldeneye and the other is Knights of the Old Republic. Out of the top two hundred, there are...Goldeneye and KOTOR. See, even the lunatics who peg the fairly decent Metroid Prime as the #4 game of the last decade or so somehow manage to arrive at the truth: that original games and their sequels have a Jason Hall-sized larger chance of being better than anything that WBIE is planning on implementing this policy for. It's admirable that he wants to see the best Catwoman game that can be made, I guess. Actually, it's not. It's ridiculous. Burger King doesn't make their Lord of the Rings cups out of Waterford Crystal; the fanciest ones are plastic with a cheap LED in the bottom that kind of makes it look like they glow. If Jason Hall wants to see good games, he should get people to make good games instead of making good games about movies. Why add that extra step?

Meanwhile, my superior grasp of market realities has netted me the great honor of forgoing a Senior Vice President's salary in favor of begging you to click on one of TMOL's ads so that I might receive three or more cents in exchange. It's my distinct honor to do so now.

Matt's Guide to Review Writing, Part 2

May 25th, 2004, by Matt
Thursday will bring TMOL's cash-poor weight to bear on something stupid and Jason Hall-related that I saw today, but— unfortunately— too late to make the press. Instead I will be giving you, today, one good reason why what I will be showing you on Thursday is really stupid.

The review writer has many tools at his disposal— or in the case of GameCritics.com, her fussy and fancy disposal— to make a side comment that doesn't fit with the flow of speech. Those dashes I just used are one; parentheses are another. Parenthetical comments let you footnote your own writing, and should be used whenever possible, as in IGN's review of Beyond Divinity:
He adds a unique perspective whose value and depth grows throughout the time you spend together. (He brings more than that to Beyond Divinity. When you're only controlling one character, some decisions can be taken in realtime, on-the-fly; especially since Larian allows players to configure a host of key combinations for spells, weapons, potions, etc. But when you have two or more figures in your party, it becomes necessary to stop time via the spacebar then select respective actions, and let matters proceed. Otherwise, you'll never pass the range of puzzles, traps and monsters that require two party members for their defeat.)
Look at that. The parentheses open and this review kicks into overdrive! Four full sentences of parenthetical comment closing out a paragraph! As if to say, "These four sentences aren't really as important as the rest of the paragraph, even if they take up twice as much space. I'm just giving them to you as a bonus. I also separate an independent and a dependent clause with a semicolon because that is how we roll here, to the extreme, like a vandal."

So, you up-and-coming reviewers, take it from Barry Brenesal: if you want to really give your review laser-like focus, put as much of it in parentheses as possible. What's critical is your opinion; supporting information is just added value.

Matt's Guide to Preview Writing, Part 2

May 20th, 2004, by Matt
IGN's Douglass C. Perry offers this stunning depiction of what Doom 3 is all about:
"Doom 3 is ... a return to the hellish, dark, and evil lairs of hell."
Pretty gutsy. Remember writers, when picking adjectives to describe the lairs of hell, "hellish" is one that is certainly very hard to argue with on terms of accuracy. You should probably stop there. The job of the preview writer is to hedge, to make sure the description of the game's current state is predictive of the final product. So do it. Bonus Example: If Valve ever deigns to let any journalists actually play Half-Life 2, you may find it "too much" to open your preview by explicitly describing City 17— the fictional city in Eastern Europe that is the setting of the game— as Eastern European, or even a city. In that case, pull back a little. Only cop to the buildings being "structure-esque". Your readers will thank you for painting a truthful picture.

J.A.C.K. into F.E.A.R.

May 18th, 2004, by Matt
Is this the new trend, Monolith's Craig Hubbard? Are you going to keep putting acronyms into Monolith's game titles? First there was No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way. Then there was Contract J.A.C.K., and now, F.E.A.R.. I suspect you consider that deciding to name the Tron game "2.0" was a minor, frustrating victory, since it was about the only way you could fit a period into the title, computer acronyms being the period-less monstrosities that they are.

I suppose it will be OK if— as this screenshot suggests— the whole point of the game is to make a virtual George Broussard shit his pants. Every time he lets loose, he could come to some sort of vocalized self-realization, starting with "Oh, damn. My expanded digestive tract will cause the results of this loss of bowel control to be quite voluminous," and working up to "Christ! Who the hell takes eight years to make a videogame? An idiot with yet another tremendous quantity of shit in his pants, that's who!"

I know you will do the right thing.


What to Do If Your Dog Has an Excitement Urination Problem

May 13th, 2004, by Matt
I meant to go to E3, but I accidentally forgot to get a reason to go. So instead, I moved TMOL off of the thing at HomeLAN that at times could have been called a server cluster, but mostly was just a cluster. If you are reading this, congratulations. You are visiting TMOL at its new Canadian mountaintop refuge.

Luckily— as opposed to unfortunately— hardly anybody I knew went to E3, and so far nothing too exciting has happened there. It's quite obvious that these two bits of information are closely related. But here is a summary of the most exciting things that happened from what I hear:

  • There is a forthcoming new Zelda game, in which you will travel way too much on a horse instead of traveling way too much on a boat. Instead of playing lots of flute to get where you want to go, you will have to fight lots of other people on horses. The designers have also accepted the point of view of gamers whose manhood requires that their skinny little musical elves in tights be hardcore pointy-eared baby-faced forest prancers, and not cel-shaded.
  • Sega had a major announcement. They warned everyone that they were going to. It was, if you were the type to be knocked-over impressed by seeing a game that you saw at E3 last year, only this time with a SEGA logo at the beginning.
  • In Kentia Hall, Asian cell phone game developers uniformly decided not to spend thousands of dollars to come to the U.S. and show off: both how they almost know English, and all of their games that will only ever be available in Asia. As such, Kentia was instead used by Peter Molyneux to show off a hundred or so of the lower-profile experimental game projects he is currently attaching his name to, all of which feature sliders that only really change things if they're set all the way left or all the way right.
  • Capcom is announcing a 2D fighting game mixing characters from different milieus. But wait, this isn't just Other Guys vs. Capcom this time. This time, it's five different intellectual property domains instead of just two. And, not joking here, three of them start with "Street Fighter".
  • The new add-on for the America's Army game was certainly interesting.

Maybe something will happen later today or tomorrow out there. I'm hoping. Maybe one of the thousands of Penny Arcade fans who never came back after visiting via Tycho's link will be so disgruntled by the crappy recommendation that the PA/UbiSoft meet and greet will turn violent. Probably not, though. Anyway, hopefully this new server will work OK and things will get back to normal here. I personally apologize if any undue stress has resulted from the troubles.

Humanitarianism

May 4th, 2004, by Matt
A couple of readers have asked why there has been no skewering of Steam on TMOL. There are two reasons, both of which are really simple.

1) I tried it when it was first released and deleted it after it became apparent that I wasn't going to be using it for anything. So I don't really know that much about it, and there really hasn't been much pressure to pretend I do.

2) When I was in fifth grade, a retarded kid in my school was walking around the playground with an amazing quantity of snot hanging down from his nose to his waist. He didn't seem interested in threatening anyone with it, he was happy merely trying to keep it swinging back and forth and away from his shirt.

The point is, it's no fun to make fun of the infirm, unless they really deserve it. I've heard stories about how it requires you to have a patch to play a game but chokes when it tries to give it to you; how it uploads hundreds of megabytes of files to you that you haven't asked for, just in case you do ask for them; how Steam's password recovery page asks you to enter your password. Steam's snot is copious and dangles lengthily. Where's the humor in pointing that out?

I ask you.

That aside, I'd like to retract an earlier statement that there are no funny things in World of Warcraft. There are some funny things in World of Warcraft.
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