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,
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
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
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
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.
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.