Bonuses Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Behold the Bonus Material! I wrote a complete military history of Call of Duty for the cool folk over at Den of Geek, and when they pushed their plate away after only the main series entries, full of fantastic faux-fighting fun, that meant more material for you!

THE ABSOLUTE WORST: Black Ops: Declassified

Military history is littered with new inventions which just didn’t work and the corpses of those who tried to use them. Black Op: Declassified was released on the PS Vita, and worked about as well releasing the pin from a grenade. Inside a tank. That’s been filled with napalm for no adequately explained reason, but would still be more potentially useful than this disaster of a game.

You could finish the single-player campaign faster than you could field-strip and reassemble a rifle, and you’d be better off throwing the dismantled parts at an enemy than trying to use the touch controls on this unstable multiplayer network. And the AI enemies were so stupid that would work, because they wouldn’t know which part of the gun was actually the bullets and would assume they were dead. Either that, or they’d just got stuck against one of the walls again.

Strike Team

Strike Team was the iOS and Android entry in the series, and just like the little portable screens it was released on it turned out to be surprisingly useful. A drone’s-eye view lets you tap and swipe commands to your elite military unit, like a tactical tinder, and if they’d developed the whole game around that it would be higher on the list. Unfortunately it also insisted it was a “real” Call of Duty game with a first-person shooter mode controlled by touchscreen-thumbsticks. Which work about as well as touchscreen-dentistry, and are even more painful. Like any computer-expert geek trying to prove they could fight combat by jumping into real combat, it was crippled and just slowed everything else down.

Finest Hour

Finest Hour happened when Activision asked “What if we try releasing Call of Duty on consoles?”, and it’s still the closest anyone has come to programming a money volcano. This wasn’t a simple port of the original but an entirely new title, back when developers made an effort to convert titles instead of throwing the code at a new compiler and making their coders work overtime until it fit. Finest Hour featured an interleaving multi-fronted story with more understanding of the World War than most of the people who fought in it. It wasn’t so much a new release as a revelation.

Now go read the real article!

The Saga of Splatoon

My original ode to Splatoon is extending into a saga. The more I play the more I love it. I’ll have written the Inkyssey by the time I’m done and I’ll enjoy every second of it. Especially in the (dank) light of ridiculous complaints about the original piece. Like those who insist that every point is erased by pretending there’s a functional difference between modern first- and fixed camera over the shoulder third- person shooters.

"This might SEEM like a wasteland of desaturated murk, but if you look closely you can make out that we're looking over his scapula! Checkmate!"

“This might SEEM like a wasteland of desaturated murk, but if you look closely you can make out that we’re looking over his scapula! Checkmate!”

If they want to get technical they should talk about how precision console shooters are a contradiction in terms. Easily a cursor is what we invented mice for. Sharpshooting with a thumbstick is like performing heart surgery on a unicycle: you can learn to get precise enough, sure, but it’s awkward and clumsy and people are doing to die more by accident than intent. Splatoon is the first truly console shooter, the first to invent a weapon mechanic which works with that level of control.



Other reasons I love it:

  • Enemy players who “hide” and let me paint half the map to get close so that they can “surprise” me.
  • Including a ranked mode for those Stockholm Syndromed players who still need the risk of wasting entire games on zero result so that their little numbers and letters feel more important.
  • The steering skill and reflexes of Roller Chicken. Feint straight down the line then that little sideways shimmy like you’re judo-throwing them into an ink vat explosion.
  • XP and gold for the losing team so that even a team of idiots is just a new game mode where you extract as much value as you can. (Nothing like a spawn with four paths and three teammates all taking the same one.)
  • Enemy players with the most splats and the least points.
  • Ink-sharking: roller, squid backwards around a corner from a range enemy, and when they follow RISE UP LIKE A BRIGHT PINK JAWS! (And speaking of ridiculous Jaws…)
  • The next round of Dark Souls feels dark and oppressive again instead of “Gritty game rendered in a gravel quarry flooded by a sewage leak #3,432,843.

Now, if only someone would render de_dust2 so that we could finally colour that place in…

How Splatoon Will Save Shooters

An online squad-based shooter on the Wii is more adorable and less expected than kittens performing a piledriver. Splatoon is being mocked by hardcore gamers as a silly underpowered gimmick for children. You know, the same way the Wii was. Back before it was bought by every single person on the planet. One of my earliest positive career memories was getting triple-pay office temping during a bank holiday, which meant the bosses weren’t in, which meant I got 300% pay for playing Doom for eight hours. And Splatoon is even more fun.

splatoonMy latest Cracked column is an ode to this rainbow bursting across the bland rubble of modern online shooters. I still mourn the migration from Battlefield 3,I’m overexcited for Overwatch, my custom shooter mode is GoldenEye John Woo mode (Facility, DarkBots on a team against me, slow motion with pistols and shotgun only), and I’m telling you: Splatoon is the most exciting shooter on the market.

For more first-person action:

The Real Online Shooter Classes

The Counter-Strike Guide to Grammar

your-a-fagThe Dark Side of Duck Hunt

Surviving Smash TV with Four Fantastic Twin Stick Shooters

The Worst Jurassic Park Game Ever Would Have Been The Best Movie

I drill through the amber of history to extract The Strange History of Jurassic Park Games over at Den of Geek today. (Wait, this isn’t amber, it’s just old console plastic which has gone strangely yellow after years in the attic.)

jurassicgamingHere I want to share some extra material I had to cut for space. Jurassic Park: Trespasser was one of the most tragic cases of reaching for the stars, then chopping off your arm at the elbow because you didn’t have time to buy gloves. Revolutionary new systems were developed almost exactly far enough to create problems no-one had ever seen before, then rushed out the door before the bailiffs could confiscate them. The most spectacular was the brand new AI system with internal variables which would give the dinos unique behaviour you could learn, avoid, or even provoke. Except it didn’t work, and the dinosaurs all just stood there doing nothing. Up against a deadline, the developers just jacked all the virtual dinosaurs’ aggression counters to maximum, so that the revolutionary A-Inos just mindlessly attacked, charging directly at humans in easily-defeated straight lines. That’s not just a movie, that’s every AI movie PLUS DINOSAURS.

Read more about Trespassare and many more mad games in The Strange History of Jurassic Park Games

Wizards Probe Fundamental Particle of Magic with Large Dice Collider

Wizards from around the plane are collaborating on a new spell designed to probe fundamental particle of magic. The Large Dice Collider will roll use thousands of empowered and extended Mage Hands to accelerate twenty-sided dice from either end of a twenty-seven kilometer long table path.

“Standard Dice Theory shows how all the rules of our reality are bound up in these dice particles” explained Archmage Higgus Bozonn. “In the early days of Greek wizards evoking magic missiles, they thought the dice only had four sides. But we advanced. Taking a shocking grasp of electricity revealed the d6. Further studies revealed the d8, d10, d12, until we were able to expand these basic facets to twenty-sided Standard Dice Theory, revealing that everything in our world was defined by these ‘dice’, not just our magic. But we still don’t know how these dice operate – from our perspective, they seem to be entirely random. The Large Dice Collider should help us learn how to control the most fundamental forces of our reality. Well, ” said the wizard, straightening her baggy sleeves, “More so than we already do.”

The fabulously expensive apparatus is the result of a decade of preparatory conjuring, costing millions of gold pieces. Twenty-seven kilometers of black onyx were required to craft tables smooth enough for the dice rolls. Diamond dice were painstakingly prepared, numbers engraved in gold-lined carvings filled with black pearl dust. 1,000 GP of gemstones line every meter of the table. An army of stone and iron golems functions to maintain the installation, and to dissuade wandering bands of adventurers who mistake the long, gem-filled tunnel for a particularly rich dungeon. (To date twenty level ten parties have been repelled, though in one tragic incident a level four party was forced re-rolled.)

UPDATE: The LDC has been shut down for repair after an early roll resulted in a 1, causing critical explosive failure and a large crack in the table.

More gaming goodness

The Worst Romantic Lessons from Videogames

Video game have decided that they must have romantic options, and they do it the same way every social shut-in who decides they suddenly need romantic options: clumsily, loudly, and with a ludicrously simplistic idea of how human relationships work. Every AAA release has decided it needs a romantic subplot, even when the main plot is best described as “insane chain-reacting-fireworks murderer”. But you can’t expect subtlety from people who program games about exploding entire species and decide halfway through that they want to add a boning simulator.

Though one game did get it right. (Source: Volition)

Though one game did get it right. (Source: Volition)

Prepare yourself for Valentine’s day with videogames. Which has the advantage of working whether you’re dating or not.

And behold: a bonus entry! Cut for word count, but restored for you, the worst lesson found in the most games!

One Love Fits All

Do you like girls? You better hope so, because most games think you love girls. In virtual worlds where “conservation of energy” means saving your plasma ammunition, and gravity is just a gentle reminder, heteronormativity is the only inviolable law. Fantastical lands of imagination where you’re allowed to select any body type and gender you want for beating up strangers, but love means taking what you’re given by the Love Interest Clone (TM) factory.

Which is weird, because sex is where our species has spent most of its imagination since it worked out it had one.

More gaming love with

Total Psychopath Holding On To Red Shells in Eleventh Place

(Source: Nintendo)

(Source: Nintendo)

Police have been alerted to a dangerous individual holding on to three red shells despite being in eleventh place. The lunatic was last seen rounding the baggage claim in Sunshine Airport, and should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.

“The psycho’s just holding them!” according to our source in twelfth place. Who was quick to add that their current position was only due to a blue shell, a star, and a sequence of other drivers who can only be described as “every male offspring Canis Lupus ever produced”.

The demented driver shows no sign of improving their position by firing the red shells, instead seeming content to sit there defending the second worst position possible in the game. Our source further opined that this is the sort of person who would end up stabbing someone over a parking space and clearly needs to be bloody watched.

UPDATE: Police have been dispatched to arrest the driver on reports that they actually fired all three red shells backwards, and are therefore “at least a serial killer”.

More gaming goodness


Next GTA Game To Feature Incredibly Realistic Graphics of Racism, Sexism

The next Grand Theft Auto will continue the series’ trend of crafting incredibly realistic game worlds by including racism and sexism.

“In most games character creation is just a cosmetic tool,” explained lead developer Al Abaster. “They completely ignore how much your appearance affects your progress in the real world.”

With the updated Real World (TM) mechanics, choosing any race other than white will increase police sensitivity by several hundred percent. In past games your police alert level was limited to crimes you’d actually committed. “We felt this was unrealistic”, said Al. “Now black players will start with the police permanently at one star, raising to two or three should they do anything suspicious like running or standing still.”

Selecting any gender other than male reduces the cash rewards for completed tasks by 70%. Also, in the game’s new leveling system, the player will frequently fail to increase a rank even when they’ve collected sufficient XP. Seventeen new sound channels have been added to play the cat-calls and unwanted advances players will hear at all times when playing as women, including during cut-scenes and mission-critical information.

“Games are chasing realism”, said Al. “There’s nothing people want more than for our fantastic vistas of freedom imagination to more closely mirror our shitty reality. So now it’s time for gamers to face the problems of the Real World (TM).”

More gaming goodness

It’s About Poetics In Gaming Journalism

  • Writes scathing intra-office memo after finding employees playing “Catch” in the corridors of the Daily Moralist. It’s about gaming in ethics journalism.
  • A new law designed to dissuade people from stealing DS and Vita charging cables from each other as they travel from place to place. It’s about ethics in gaming journeymen.
  • A stoned discussion about the right or wrong of Mario massacring every living thing he meets on his way to the Princess. It’s about the ethics of the gaming journey, man.
  • The diaries of researchers using a Matrix to investigate game theory as applied to various Benthamite theories of society. It’s about journals in ethics gaming sims.
  • Taking damage to the speech center. It’s about journics in ething gamalism.
  • Having sex with someone who dresses all in black every day. It’s about effing in gothic diurnalism.
  • Treating wounds with prepared plant material before modern medicine. It’s about medics employing herbalism.
  • Scoring on multiple targets by firing large numbers of small vaned darts in a sharpshooting competitions. It’s about flechettes in aiming tournaments.
  • Rides an Acherus Deathcharger to a quest in Azeroth. It’s about epics in gaming journey sims.
  • We’re guaranteed to lose because we have three snipers and no healers. It’s about medics in gaming determinism.
  • It’s wrong to take bets on how long people will twitch due to St Vitus’ Dance. It’s about ethics in gaming ergotism.
  • Some assholes don’t believe that their bias is a stupid preference for bad old days? It’s about skeptics and blaming conservatism.
  • Some backwards rejects from the gene pool believe that girls can’t enjoy hobbies? It’s about genetics inflaming paternalism.
  • Reads #gamergate. It’s immature misogynists pissing on their own hobby in a failed attempt to prevent others from enjoying it.

More gatehate with

Rater of Gater Haters

My Cracked article on #gamergate went up last week, and it was glorious. The comment section was Conan’s best in life streamlined for the internet age. “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.” That stuff gets pretty easy when they flock to drive themselves past you in a whining parade, pre-crushed, and there’s a 33% time-saving with nary a lamentation to be had.

The only thing that could have made it better would be if I was on a cruise across a caldera in the Mediterranean at the time. Which was actually the case. Nothing like basking in the beauty of the world while ignoring the “asshole alert” in your pocket.

"You have a message from 'Spank Bitchoker'. Would you like to read it?" "No. No, I don't think I'll be doing that."

“You have a message from ‘Spank Bitchoker’. Would you like to read it?”
No. No, I don’t think I’ll be doing that.

The piece got over five thousand comments. Well over a hundred thousand words. I usually enjoy reading the comments, one way or another, but that pushed it over the Commentasekhar limit of collapsing into a one-way hole of sucking, an infinitely compressed ball of hatred from which no useful information can be extracted with modern science.

Hard to say which wastes more energy (Image: NASA)

The only difference is that real black holes can be interesting.  (Image: NASA)

The length of the posts I did see was insane. And the sheer number of people who had no preconceptions or real interest in the issue, but just coincidentally happened to drop by to point out a few things at short story length, wow. It was enough coincidence to power at least three lottery jackpot wins. Which is even-more-coincidentally the amount you’d have to pay me to read them all.

It’s inverse SEO. Hordes of idiots searching for certain words which are already online and then writing volumes of repetitve bullshit. But SEO is a reversible process, because no matter which direction you run it in the results aren’t good. And it’s a thermodynamic process, because no matter which route you take it makes everything worse.

What these War and Peace-of-their-mind dumping gaters don’t get is that quality still counts over quality. All their thousands of words don’t cancel out even one comment from someone whose opinion I respect. Related: holy hell:

gate scalzi

gate wendig

gate doctorow

gate manna phrozin

If you don’t know those names, great, you’ve just found lots more good stuff to read. Gaters trying to astroturf over people who actually make and think might as well be wallpapering Jupiter.

But since they’re trying so hard, I will give them one bit of helpful advice: seriously, if your username or icon is about bitches or the choking thereof, you really aren’t getting read.


Games are fun! Other things aren’t!