Being a Genwunner

Shortly after my twelfth birthday, something released to the world that would change the entertainment industry forever by giving birth to a franchise that has been wildly successful but strangely uninfluential. This was the U.S. release of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. As successful as this series has been, it has done little to nothing to advance the gaming industry.

It is not like Ocarina of Time, whose Z-Targeting and use of rotating 2-D sprites to give the illusion of 3-D revolutionized the industry. It is not like Super Mario 64, whose player-controlled camera solved a problem that many other franchises banged their heads against. In fact, nothing from Pokemon has made its way into other games, but it doesn’t take long to figure out why that is the case.

Pokemon is really nothing more than a JRPG with an overabundance of potential player characters. As it does nothing new, there is nothing that it has that can spread to other game series. And that’s fine, really–I’m not bashing the series for its lack of innovation with the core concept.

I loved Pokemon. I watched the anime. I played the card game, which served as a wonderful introduction to Magic: The Gathering later (the rules are almost identical, after all). And I played the hell–the ever-loving hell–out of the original games. I had Pokemon Blue, and I shudder to think of the hundreds of hours I poured into it. In my circle of friends, I had the Level 255 Charizard that, for months, no one could defeat–obviously. And no one knew how I had a Level 255 Charizard.

It was a kid named George, a year older than I, who figured it out and ended my reign of terror with his level 255 Blastoise.

It's hard to even explain the feelings that this image invokes.

It’s hard to even explain the feelings that this image invokes.

It was all thanks to what I’d named my character and the use of the Missingno. glitch–a glitch that was fair game to us, because anyone who used it to duplicate Rare Candies was going to get curbstomped by someone who actually bothered to level to that point.

Then Pokemon Yellow released, and I got it–most of us did. And it destroyed the fine balance of the games. Venusaur, Blastoise, and Charizard–powerful Pokemon, to be sure–were now dirt common; you were sure to get all three simply by playing the game. When you needed a Grass type, you went with Venusaur, you went with Blastoise for a Water type, and you went with Charizard for a Fire type. The only problem these Pokemon had was that they were single types–though Venusaur was Poison (a trait that did little more than make him more vulnerable to the already-obscenely-powerful Psychic types) and Charizard was Flying–but couldn’t learn any Flying moves. I’m pretty sure Charizard was Flying in the original two (not including Yellow), but I know he was given Flying in Yellow.

Surfing Pikachu also became available, which was a Pikachu who knew the Surf ability. Since the player still had to trek through the Safari Zone in order to get the Warden’s Teeth (If you don’t understand that sentence, then… don’t ask) for the Strength HM, this didn’t really help a great deal–except in battles, where a Surfing Pikachu could crush a Geodude, sometimes Graveler, Onix, and Diglett without problem. The damage formulas were not nearly as well-balanced then: the type advantage of using an ability whose type matches the attacker was negligible compared to base damage and the Super Effective difference, and a Surf was powerful enough to kill almost everything in a single hit. This was rectified a bit with Pokemon Stadium and the series going forward.

However, none of that mattered against an Alakazam or Mewtwo. We all know Psychic was broken then, but it wasn’t actually the Special Attack / Special Defense problem that most people think. It was that Psychic had a type advantage to almost everything, and the only types to which it was weak had Poison as a secondary type. The Caterpie/Metapod/Butterfree line would be the only exception, but as its stats were really weak (Butterfree has never been a top tier), it didn’t matter. Plus, there were no Bug attacks that were worth a damn.

They had no choice but to keep adding them, since they foolishly kept the type.

They had no choice but to keep adding them, since they foolishly kept the type.

Ghost types were an absolute joke. There were only three, and only one of those was worth using: Gengar. Haunter was decent only for those who couldn’t freely trade to get a Gengar, but there was no reason to use Haunter–or, god forbid, Gastly–when Gengar was available. Plus, Gengar could learn Strength, a fairly powerful Normal type attack that did have some use. But there were no useful Ghost moves, and all three Ghost types also had Poison as a secondary–meaning they were weak to Psychic.

Then the next generation was released. I got Pokemon Gold. Without discussion or planning, my best friend bought Pokemon Silver. He had also bought Pokemon Red. It was rather curious, and I’m sure that he named his in-game rival after me, and I know that I named my in-game rival after him. This was near the end of our friendship, since my increasing atheism and leaning toward the goth side would separate us, though not on bad terms. At that point, though, we were still friends. We still versused regularly (whenever someone nearby had a link cable, as neither of us had one), and we even battled Pokemon Cards over the phone. I’m still not 100% sure that he didn’t cheat a few times with his goddamned Chansey coin.

He and I both played through the games. True to the game, he was always just ahead of me in progress. When he reported that he was finished with a city, I would be arriving to that city. No matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, he was always about an hour of progress ahead of me. I’ll never understand it, but considering the games… The in-game story certainly became true for me. “I just got my Eevee! I’m going to turn it into Espeon!” he would say about fifteen minutes before I arrived in… whatever that city was called.

Nowhere near as powerful as the image of Blue.

Nowhere near as powerful as the image of Blue.

Strangely, I can tell you all of the cities in Gen 1. I could also name all 151 Pokemon from memory, and could put them in Dex order if you gave me enough time and a few hints. But the next 100? One of the cities was called Cherryblossom, right? I don’t recall any of the cities, but that’s because I didn’t play through Gen 2 nearly as many times as I played through Gen 1. Getting 151 Pokemon was never a realistic goal for me, because getting all the starters was a distant daydream. No one was willing to trade them to you at earlier stages, for fear that the principal or a teacher would come out, forcing us to put our games away, and leaving them without their star mon. We weren’t allowed to have the games at school, of course, so that was a real threat. Many were the battles interrupted by the sudden appearance of a teacher, and it wasn’t always possible to meet up later in the day to fix a trade that went wrong.

So why were we playing? We weren’t trying to battle competitively–not really–and we weren’t seeking Dex Completion. So why were we so addicted? Because it was FUN. It was extremely fun.

I couldn’t begin to guess how many times I played through Pokemon Blue. Well over 20.

We lost interest, though. Many things happened then.

First, we simply got older. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire released in 2002. In 2002, I was getting drunk with friends in a double-wide trailer we stayed at each weekend, playing Dungeons and Dragons and Super Smash Bros. I was an aspiring rock musician and played in a band, and I was getting laid. Pokemon wasn’t even on my radar. The other kids with whom I played–the same was true of them, at least to some degree.

In a very real way, we had outgrown Pokemon.

This was inevitable, of course, because the games didn’t evolve in the same way that the Harry Potter series evolved. I was 11 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone released–Harry Potter was for my generation. So was Pokemon. It was a wonderful time to be 10-12 years old. These two huge, incredible entertainment properties released for our generation, to our generation. One grew up with us; the other refused to. Pokemon was the one that failed to age properly.

hp booksPerhaps because Rowling was able to write the books faster than Game Freak could make the games, Harry Potter grew up with us, at more or less the same rate. Around Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter began falling behind, but Pokemon had fallen behind by Ruby and Sapphire. And very few of us stuck with it. I was dating (literally) the hottest chick at the school; she was the singer in our rock band. I did things that college students were supposed to be doing, largely thanks to the lack of parental supervision, culminating in my arrest at 17… But anyway.

Many years passed, and Pokemon Diamond / Pokemon Pearl released–again, shortly after my birthday–in 2006. It had been out for a year or two before I picked it up. I just wasn’t interested. But I did finally get it. At first, it was like seeing an old friend once again. “Hey, old friend! Good god, where have you been? I’ve missed you!” I said, even though the starters could never hold a candle to Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur. “Bidoof?” I asked. “Okay, well… that’s a Rattata colored brown, isn’t it? It’s okay. I’ve made some poor choices, too. Starly? It’s cute, but… isn’t it just a Pidgey? At least in Gen 2 you had the sense to just use Pidgey again. What happened?”

That became an issue. Starly was just a copycat of Pidgey. Bidoof was just a copycat of Rattata. Wurmple was just a copy of Weedle. To say that I was unimpressed by the new Pokemon would be an understatement. I wasn’t simply unimpressed–I was rolling my eyes.

Then there was the Beauty Contest. “Oh, old friend… What in the hell happened to you?” I cried, for this was the equivalent of finding out my old friend was secretly harboring a deadly heroin addiction. It was bad enough to see these blatant rip-offs of old Pokemon being presented as “new,” but the Beauty Contest? And, if I remember correctly, the Beauty Contest was forced onto players and had to be done at least once to make progress.

But I did it, and I didn’t hate it. I didn’t enjoy it. I was supremely disappointed that my old friend had stooped to such levels. But it was something to do, and I did it. My Luxio and I–Shinx and Luxio were good, new mons, at least.

I got the fourth gym badge and reached the swamp. At that point, I saved the game… and never played it again. What had gone wrong? It’s hard to say. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl… simply didn’t do it for me.

We never liked Gen 2 as much as we did Gen 1. I have my hypotheses why that might have been the case, but the primary one… is simply that it was the same goddamned game again. It was like Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, except the improvements here weren’t nearly as drastic as SMB1 and SMB3. It was really just two new types and some new Pokemon.

Dark–let’s face it. Dark should have simply replaced Ghost, because Ghost was clearly always meant to be Dark in the first place. That’s a pretty large fuck-up, considering Dark was implemented almost entirely to curtail the power of Psychic types. But look at the type advantage chart–they’re virtually identical, except that Normal attacks don’t hit Ghost Pokemon and Dark is weak to Poison. Simply rename “Ghost” to “Dark” and add a half-weakness to Poison, and it’s the same freaking thing. Dark and Ghost are not both necessary, and it only clutters the type chart. Ghost should never have been a type any more than “Rat” should be a type, or “Bird” should be a type. “Ghost” was just a characteristic that three Pokemon had; the types of those ghost Pokemon should have been Dark. I understand that it was a Gen 1 mistake, but they fixed it in Gen 2 with the dumbest possible way.

Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar should have become Dark/Poison, and their ghost abilities should have been removed–or relegated to simply being oddities for those three Pokemon, in the same way that Pikachu had a few oddities and was able to learn both Surf and Fly. A new type to use against Psychic wasn’t necessary–all that was necessary was to rename “Ghost” to “Dark” and create some mons that didn’t combine Dark with a weakness to Psychic, and create some abilities that actually did damage and had Dark as the type. Implementing both was a stupid decision.

It also introduced Steel, which I am totally onboard with. But Poison already sucked as a type–did they really have to harm it more by giving a type immunity to it? Compare Poison to Fire. Fire has 4 x2 strengths and 4 50% weaknesses. Poison has two x2 Strengths, 4 50% weaknesses, and 1 0% weakness. It’s an utter joke, and this is why the game will never be balanced: the types aren’t balanced.

Every Type should have the same number of Strengths, the same number of 50% weaknesses, at least 1 type it can’t affect, and the same number of types that are Strengths against it. Once that is achieved, then individual Pokemon can be created to make use of that. As long as it’s not balanced, though…

Psychic/Dragon. Can you imagine that? Prior to the implementation of the Fairy type, that would have been disastrous.

Anyway. It’s not my goal here to critique the series, not really.

UmbreonOther than Umbreon, there were no mons in Gen 2 that I really liked, and I only like Umbreon because–remember earlier when I said I was starting to lean toward the goth thing? It’s no surprise I liked the Dark type. But here, things began to get complicated, but they didn’t get complicated in the right way…

Breeding for eggs became mandatory to get some Pokemon, and that was tedious as fuck. There was nowhere to catch Pichu, so if, for some god forsaken reason, you wanted a Pichu, you had to breed. This also created the need to breed in order to get the best IVs. So before you could do any real battling, you had to catch dozens of specimens, Release all the ones with the worst stats, and then take careful notes of their stats. Then you had to gain them a few levels–the more, the better–and do some asinine calculations to figure out which one was actually the best. Then you had to do it again, but you had to get a member of the opposite sex. Then you had to breed them at the daycare, and repeat the process all over again until you had one that wouldn’t get crushed immediately.

I never bothered to do it. So the above paragraph may have some inaccuracies and mistakes. I don’t care. The very thought of stepping into that was unappealing, and it was unappealing even then. It was not like Chess, where you could, on your own merits, blaze a path to success. It was more like World of Warcraft–you had to grind. There was no other way.

It also introduced the Happiness mechanic, and some mons who could only evolve through Happiness. Ugh. Great. Something we can’t directly control. Thanks, Game Freak. How irritated was I to realize that my Umbreon could only evolve if my Eevee evolved at night and had a high enough Happiness? Very irritated.

It also introduced the Day/Night mechanic, which made sense but was also fucked. Because now, in addition to needing to know where a certain Pokemon appears, you had to know what time of day it appears. What if you couldn’t play during the Day? What if you couldn’t play during the Night? What if you couldn’t play on Sunday or Wednesday to do the Bug Catching event? You were just screwed. I think it was Sunday and Wednesday, but it doesn’t matter.

A bunch of useless berries and apricorns were added, too, which was just more tedious crap to keep up with, most of which didn’t affect the game enough to bother with. Oh, my Lure Ball increased my catch rate against Water types? Great, because Water types are soooo hard to catch. Berries were useless. Even with strategic planning, the idea that your Pokemon with the anti-Confusion berry would get hit with confusion was laughable. Plus, the berries were one-use, so if it was useful, it immediately became grinding to get a bunch of them, which was immediately not fun anymore.

But no one in their right mind would have held a Berry, not when items like the Quick Claw and all the others were available and vastly superior. Let’s see… A one-time use item that restores 10 HP or instantly cures Sleep… or something that lasts forever and gives my Pokemon a small chance to act first? And the Quick Claw wasn’t even one of the good items!

So in addition to having to breed for the best stats–after pouring over the 251 Pokemon and figuring out which mon you needed–and after grinding them up to a sufficient level, you also had to find and give them the best item for them to hold. Can you see why this wasn’t much fun? Give me a Pokeball, give me a Pokemon, and fucking let me have at it. Get all this other shit out of my way.

disgaea.0It’s not because it’s complex. I love Aion, Rift, and World of Warcraft pre-Cataclysm. I love complexity. Disgaea PC is currently in the lead for my Game of the Year 2016 award, and Disgaea is complex as shit. The problem here is that the Pokemon series became complex in the wrong way. It became complex in a way that requires tedious grinding (which is strange to come from a huge Disgaea fan), not clever strategies and tactics. Though strategies and tactics do play a role, they do not eliminate the need for grinding, and it doesn’t matter how clever you are–if your IVs suck, you won’t win.

It’s kind of like World of Warcraft. I’m a PvPer–a titled PvPer. I do arenas. Did arenas, I should say. I did briefly return a few months ago, to check out Warlords of Draenor, but I left again shortly after hitting Level 100. It’s just not for me anymore. If Blizzard wants me back, then they have to:

  • Give Warlocks back our curses.
  • Give Affliction Shadowbolt back.
  • Take Cyclone and Fear off the same DR.
  • Give back Soulburn: Waterbreathing.
  • Give back Felflame.
  • Restore the WoD perks to baseline Warlock abilities. Seriously. They took abilities away from us and then gave them back as Warlords of Draenor “perks.” Great, thanks, Blizzard. My “perk” is that my Drain Soul is now back to how it was before you fucked it up. Gee. Thanks. How creative and inspired you are.
  • Restore Howl of Terror to a baseline ability. It already shares DR with Fear; there was no reason to turn it into a Talent.
  • Give us back Death Coil.
  • Remove Soul Swap from the game. It’s broken, and you’ve had to nerf shit repeatedly since you implemented it. Just remove it from the game and give us back our DoTs.
  • Give Haunt back its old functionality and remove its Soulshard use.
  • Get rid of the Soulshard crap.
  • Give me back my Spellstone.
  • Drain Mana would be nice, too. I once won a 44 minute arena match with my ex-wife because of a beautifully timed Drain Mana. It was epic; it was a beautiful, awe-inspiring match, ending in our victory when we were only 1 minute away from the match timing out into a Draw. I wish I still had the video of it.

I realize that’s quite a lot of demands, but they’re pretty much in order of importance–except Soul Swap. If Soul Swap is removed, and then the next 6 bullets are done, then I’d be willing to return to the game. Until then, Affliction is a pale imitation of its former self, and it’s just not any fun to play.

Before I got off onto all of that, though, my point is that I do arenas. And one of the things that bothers me are the people who insist that World of Warcraft is not a gear-based game, that it’s skill-based. Because that’s utter bullshit. I don’t care how good you are. If you raid without gear, your DPS will suck. So how, exactly, is this not a gear-based game? If you try to Arena without a full epic PVP set, you’ll get curbstomped. How is this not a gear-based game? The upper echelons of PVP are skill-based, sure, but the gear is a huge part of this, as well. In raiding, skill is almost negligible. In 1500+ arenas, skill becomes increasingly important, but it’s still gear-based, even at 2700 rating.

Pokemon is now the equivalent of being gear-based. Gen 1 didn’t have the complexity for skill to play much of a role, either, and it showed, even then, that the series was going to become based more on stats and “things that happen outside of battles” than the battles themselves. But it wasn’t yet a problem, and it was only slightly a problem in Gen 2.

go awayWhen I, and many others, attempted to return with Diamond/Pearl and Black/White, we expressed our dismay, our concerns, and our disappointment, and we were rudely insulted as “genwunners,” written off as blinded by nostalgia, our complaints ignored by the idiots who have now played the same exact game 7 times and haven’t noticed.

Because that’s another huge problem with the Pokemon games: they’re all exactly the same. You play a 10 year old kid going to 8 cities to fight 8 gym leaders, solving small problems in cities along the way, usually by overcoming a criminal organization, and then defeat the Elite Four. Along the way, you’ll need to learn to Cut trees, to use Strength and push boulders, to Surf… Along the way, you’ll find a Game Corner or Game Corner Copycat, you’ll find a large city with a Mega Mart, you’ll find a Safari Zone. The only differences will be the names of people you encounter, the types used in the gyms, and some of the Pokemon themselves. Download a graphics hack of Super Mario Bros. 3, though. Tell me–is it a different game? No, of course not.

And that’s what the Pokemon games have more or less been since the beginning: graphical hacks of the previous generation. Nothing ever really changes, and the games are exactly the same. It’s almost like Mega Man 3, 4, 5, and 6. Actually, it’s exactly like Mega Man 3, 4, 5, and 6.

That, I’m sorry to say, is pretty much the Pokemon series.

But we were interested in returning. Rather than addressing our complaints and welcoming us back into the fold, though, and walking us through the new grindy elements and mechanics, we were rejected and insulted.

That’s fine. You keep playing the same game over and over. Zelda and Mario fans do it. It’s a pretty obvious staple of Nintendo’s repertoire: just release the same game again, but change its name, and the stupid people won’t know the difference. Moreover, you can get the stupid people to loudly insist that it’s not the same thing. And, in a case of beautiful irony, these same people will criticize the Call of Duty games for being identical.

So I’m a genwunner, and the above freaking treatise explains why.


Publishers, Developers, and Consumers–Don’t Be a Tool

It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many areas, and there are many more serious places where I’ve seen this. The most serious one I’ve seen in recent years was in regard to NSA spying, where a horrifying 50% of Americans supported the NSA. They don’t realize, it seems, that in life it is a matter of us versus the government, and that they have clearly not sided with “us.” Which is particularly odd, because they are a member of “us.” It doesn’t really matter if one personally approves of the NSA or not–that doesn’t change the fact that you’re not part of the government; you’re part of the people, and you should side with the people. It’s really that simple.

In regard to video games, I’ve noticed an alarming tendency of gamers to take the side of developers and publishers. This comes in many forms. The one I’m dealing with now is that I am being blamed for what is clearly a glitch in Final Fantasy VI on PC:

Let’s just think for a moment. After I made a post in the Steam forums discussing how much I love Final Fantasy VI and how easy it would have been for Square-Enix to make me give it a 10, and pointed out that I simply can’t do that now, the responses I got met one of a few clear types:

  • It’s your hardware/drivers.
  • You don’t meet the system requirements.
  • Don’t go looking for glitches and bugs, and this won’t happen.
  • Why would you give this version a 10 anyway?
  • Go away.

It’s primarily the first that I want to focus on, because that is the go-to response we get from developers and publishers any time there is an issue with their game. Nevermind that this is almost completely irrelevant to a game that doesn’t use 3D Hardware Acceleration because it’s a 2D sprite game with everything pre-rendered. The System requirements for the PC version of Final Fantasy VI are laughable:

  • OS: Windows Vista / 7 / 8 / 8.1 
  • Processor: Pentium 4 2.4 GHz 
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM 
  • Storage: 950 MB available space

Does anyone out there truly believe that I’m not sporting something superior to a Pentium fucking 4 and 2 GB of RAM? As it happens, I’m running on an AMD six-core at 4.2 GHz. For that matter, I’m in the town of Zozo. Do people seriously believe that I made it 4 hours into the game with invisible sprites, CTDs, and other major issues, and just suddenly decided I couldn’t handle it anymore? Did it seriously occur to no one that this is an issue that just appeared, and that drivers and hardware therefore cannot be the issue in this pre-rendered sprite-based game?

They’re parroting that response at me because that is what they’ve been trained to say–and they don’t realize it, because humans are very easy to train, especially when they don’t realize that it’s happening.

A few years ago, I watched a friend be trained by his Ford vehicle to use his seatbelt. It used an irritating sound that went off any time the vehicle was cranked and the seatbelt wasn’t clicked, until he finally got to the point where he fastened his seatbelt first thing upon entering any vehicle. He had been trained. Thankfully, he did realize that he had been trained, but we aren’t usually aware of how we’re being trained.

When you contact a developer or publisher to tell them you have a problem, their response will always be a request for you DXDiag, a reinstallation of Runtimes and other packages, as they do everything possible not to fix the issue but to make you into the source of the problem.

This is, with almost 100% frequency, what I’m running into in regard to this glitch in Final Fantasy VI. It’s my fault; I did something wrong. I, the owner of an I.T. consultant firm, a VB.Net, Java, Python, Ruby, and C++ programmer, did something wrong. I, the person who once wrote his own drivers for the HD4350, did something wrong. It can’t possibly be that Square-Enix was just being Square-Enix and released a glitchy, buggy game prone to CTDs and game-breaking bugs.

I don’t blame them for this, to be clear. They aren’t bad people, and they aren’t really wrong; just misguided. They don’t see things for how they really are. In reality, there are two sides here: the consumers, and the suppliers. Know which side you’re on. Because even if you disagree with the other consumers, they are doing things that will benefit you.

Emulation rights is a great example. I know tons of people who are against emulation and blatantly conflate it with piracy, shown here:

This is what a modern day Uncle Tom looks like.

This is what a modern day Uncle Tom looks like.

Consumers have already fought this battle–we fought it in the 80s when VHS gave us the right to record broadcasts and view them at a later time of our own choosing. The courts basically decreed that publishing meant “to make public,” and that, by publishing, the publisher relinquishes most of their rights over it. This makes… total fucking sense, and that it makes sense is the reason I continue to be surprised the judges made that ruling.

It’s like if I wanted to stand on a street corner performing with my acoustic and singing–if someone wanted to record it to watch later, what the fuck right would I have to stop them? None at all. If I’m doing something publicly then it’s largely up to the public what they do with it.

No emulation is not closely associated with piracy–it’s only so associated by fuckwits like you, Fish-E, who can’t think without the publisher’s permission to have a given thought. You have the legal right to modify your games in whatever way you want in order to make them playable in a way that is convenient for you. We fought for and kept that right in the 80s. Try to keep up. Ripping a game to your computer to play it with an emulator is absolutely no different from recording a broadcast through VHS. What you’re saying is, “Because some people use VHS tapes to make illegal copies of movies, VHS itself is associated with that, and deserving of a ban for discussing.”

No, you fucking moron, and you don’t get to conflate two disparate concepts like that. We have different words for them for a reason. “Emulation” and “piracy” are different things. That’s why we have two different words–to describe these two different things.

As it happens, I’m in favor of both, and fuck the publishers and developers. I’m not here to make EA, Square-Enix, Ubisoft, and WB money. I’m here to enjoy my life.

I will not:

  • pay full price for an incomplete game. See Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim GOTY Edition.
  • pay for a game that I don’t know works correctly. See Civilization 5, Final Fantasy VI.
  • pay more for a game than I think it is worth.

I happen to use piracy largely to try out games, as glorified demos. I never felt that Skyrim was worth $60, plus the price of all that DLC. It had too many problems: it was shallow–oh, so shallow–glitched, bugged, and barely working. I paid $40 for the GOTY Edition not too long ago, and I feel it was worth that.

Last year, I paid $60 for Dragon Age: Inquisition on launchday, even though it cost $10 more than it had any right to cost, in what was clearly a bald cashgrab by EA. It almost the last on-or-near-launch-day purchase I’ve made. Since, I’ve bought a few other games on or near launch day, but, curiously, they are all Nintendo products. Nintendo, I have not and will not pirate your games until you give me a reason to, and I say with a sincere clap and genuine approval that you have never given me a reason to.

I’ll get into the problems with Dragon Age: Inquisition–like the fact that Bioware evidently doesn’t know what an “inquisition” is–one day. For now, let’s just say that purchase bit me in the ass, and that I did not get $60 of entertainment out of that World of Warcraft Wannabe. Prior to that, Bioware was one of the few companies whose games I wouldn’t pirate, because I knew that I was going to get a high-quality product. Dragon Age: Inquisition destroyed that faith.

So if developers want people to stop pirating their games and to stop waiting for GOTY Editions to purchase them, then all they need to do is release working, complete products. Sectioning off parts of the game to sell later as DLC? Nope. Not gonna pay for something that should have been included in the game already. Nintendo has started doing that, with Mewtwo being locked behind a paywall. The really messed up part of this is that you already have the characters and stages if your game is updated–you’re just not allowed to use them until you pay Nintendo an extortion fee. That’s my issue with DLC and multiplayer: if something is on my system, you can’t fucking tell me that I can’t use it. Because at that point you did give it to me, whether you want to admit it or not, and I don’t give a fuck what legal shenanigans and word games you can play to convince another lawyer that you’re correct. I’m talking basic right and wrong here and simple ownership rights, and the fact is that you gave me that DLC in the last update.

The entire gaming industry is a FUBAR mess, and it’s not helping that a large portion of consumers have no idea that they’re being Uncle Toms for developers and publishers. With indie developers, I get it. They’re small studios, and they don’t have the cash flow to keep their studio going. But then you have them saying things like:

“Just pirate it,” Notch said in response to a fan who couldn’t afford Minecraft.

Team Meat actually presented the argument, as I am, that piracy is good for example–the indie studio behind Super Meat Boy. I’ve actually had multiple people bitch at me for using pirated versions of Minecraft and Super Meat Boy. That’s right–these people are such Uncle Toms that they’ll be an Uncle Tom even when the developer itself doesn’t give a shit. People bitch about me pirating Minecraft and hurting Mojang when, prior to being purchased by Microsoft, Mojang themselves didn’t give a shit.



These Uncle Toms remind me of this dumbass image. It is “extremely offensive”? To who? No one fucking worships Isis. And if they do, they’re retarded, so fuck them anyway. I laughed hard the first time I saw this image floating around Facebook as people expressed how “offended” they were on behalf of this non-existent deity that no significant portion of the population believes in.

Since we're getting offended on behalf of fictional characters now...

Since we’re getting offended on behalf of fictional characters now…

Yes, if you believe that Isis is a real goddess with an actual existence, you’re retarded, and fuck you. Of course, I’m an atheist and think this about most religious beliefs, but the pagan ones that dust off old, defunct gods and believe in them anew are definitely a bit more retarded than others.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a lot, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 is finished downloading. lol–I already had a pirated version. And I just bought it on Steam. Half of my purchases on Steam have been for games that I’ve already pirated. It’s just different to play a game legitimately. I don’t know why it is, but it is. Team Meat is correct; I am correct.

So know whose side your own. Are you an Uncle Tom? Or are you a consumer?

Long live the Pirate Bay.

Crowdfunding & Psychonauts 2

It has been announced that Psychonauts 2 is in the works, and that it is being crowdfunded. Wait. Did I miss something? Although I never played the first Psychonauts, plenty of people did. According to Wikipedia:

Although the game was first cited as the primary contributing factor to a strong quarter immediately following its launch,[51] a month later Majesco revised their fiscal year projections from a net profit of $18 million to a net loss of $18 million,[52] and at the same time its CEO, Carl Yankowski, announced his immediate resignation.[53] By the end of the year, the title had shipped fewer than 100,000 copies in North America, and Majesco announced its plans to withdraw from the “big budget console game marketplace”.[54] Schafer stated that by March 2012 the retail version Psychonauts had sold 400,000 copies.[55]

So the game initially caused a very strong quarter, but going into the second quarter the figures were revised from a net profit of $18 million to a net loss of $18 million. The game sold so poorly that the CEO of the company resigned? That’s fine; I accept that, and way to take responsibility, but that raises the question: What makes them think it will be a good idea to make another one?

No sequel should ever be crowdfunded. The argument about Psychonauts not being successful financially just goes to show how bloated video game development budgets have become. Final Fantasy XIII, of course, sold millions of copies and was considered a failure by Square-Enix, as was Tomb Raider. As Jim Sterling routinely points out, publishers would rather have no money if they can’t have all the money, “some of the money” is not enough. If they make a game that is only profitable by $1m, they consider it a failure.

Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic remains the most expensive game ever made; it was so expensive to make that there was never any chance that Bioware would recoup the cost. I don’t remember the details now, but in order for The Old Republic to be successful, they needed a ridiculous number of paying accounts over the course of two years. Actually, that only caused them to break even. The Old Republic should go down in history as the biggest fuckup in gaming, beating out Atari’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial by a wide margin.

Atari spent an obscene amount of money making E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, of course, and a sizable chunk of the millions of dollars went to George Lucas simply for the license. Much more was spent on advertising and publishing; millions of copies were made. The game itself was rushed out in something like 5 weeks. And Atari has never recovered from that enormous fuck-up that caused the scales to fall from the eyes of the gaming public, making us realize, “Shit. These games actually kind of suck.”

And while the gaming industry is thankfully putting the money into game development itself (except in the case of Square-Enix, since all their money goes to making pretty movies), the fact remains that they haven’t learned from Atari’s or Bioware’s fuck-ups. Just think about what it must mean that they incurred an $18m loss on a game that was already on sale.

Maybe Psychonauts was pretty good. But if they can crowdfund its sequel to the point where they can make a suitable game, it really will go to show how bloated the first game’s budget was. While I applaud Double Fine Productions for at least offering stake in the profits to investors, the bottom line is that it shouldn’t be necessary; no sequel should ever be crowd-funded. If it wasn’t successful enough for a sequel to be made without resorting to crowd-funding, then there is no reason to think the sequel will do any better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like really talking about it, because the idea is abhorrent. Crowdfunding exists for people to get their first creation made. Under no circumstances should it be used to make sequels and follow-ups; this undermines the entire point. And with fucking pre-orders and season passes already blurring the lines and making AAA publishers basically ask for crowd-funding, this “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” bullshit the gaming industry is obsessed with needs to stop.

Market forces dictate that if you make a product and sell it, and you don’t sell enough copies of that product to cover the costs of making a follow-up, then you fucked up. The market has brought you before the courts, you have been tried, and you have been found wanting. Bow out and come back when you’ve got a new idea. Tim Schafer is just using crowdfunding as a “Get out of fucking up free card,” and he shouldn’t be rewarded for that. If you liked Psychonauts and want to see more, great, but don’t give your money to Double Fine Productions. They’ve already demonstrated that they lack the financial sense and appeal to truly survive in the industry. They’ll be back in two years asking for more crowdfunding to make Psychonauts 3.

It’s not strictly necessary that Double Fine Productions make a game that would be Psychonauts 2. Look at Mighty Number 9 and how it comes from the creator of Mega Man. It is undeniably the spiritual successor to Mega Man. They didn’t come before the gaming community and say, “Look, people, we know we screwed that last one up. But if you’ll donate a bunch of money to us, we promise we won’t do it again. So if you’ll pay us today, we’ll sell you a hamburger Tuesday.”

Because that’s what it really is. It’s not “We’ll give you a hamburger Tuesday if you pay us today.” It’s “We’ll sell you a hamburger Tuesday if you pay us today.” Fuck that, people. don’t let them get away with it. They fucked up. They did that all by themselves. They’ll have to come up with something else to fix their fuck up. They can’t just come before the gaming community and start begging for money, not after fucking up so badly that their previous game recorded millions of dollars in losses.

You dun goof’d, Tim.

And then there’s this:

tim schafer