As our calendarial look-o-back rushes to catch up with the present day, we leap on it like angry wrestlers and pin it to November. “Tell us your November-based secrets!” we cry, as it fights to get free and hurtle into December. But we are strong, and soon it relents. Resigned to this temporary fate it looks up at us and speaks slowly and carefully. “Okay then, here are November.”
Kieron: I kind of wish we went totally apeshit on this and started reviewing and critiquing everything that passed our eyes. Writing an exegesis on the Valve Toilets would have been splendid.
John: We totally said we would do that. Then jetlag arrived. And then Left4Dead. And then the Cheesecake Factory. Man, we should have reviewed the Cheesecake Factory. This was a superfuntime. And we got to see Obama win the election in an amazing underground bar called The Pink Door, where you went through a glowing pink door in a back alley. We should have reviewed that too.
Jim: It’s lucky that the game was good, otherwise we’d have been forced to torch the joint. As it happened we just ended up torching the tank, and that seemed like enough. The few really good games I’ve had of this in the past weeks (few because I’ve been playing all the other games, and Eve Online) have been amazing.
Alec: Why were we so tired when we were out there? Are we really that old? Also – I must post my photo of Kieron posing with that Democrats For Mcain placard he found.
While we’re there, we grab Erik Wolpaw and make him join in with one of our podcasts under threat of a dead arm.
John: Some would have tried to force out as much Valve gossip as they could. We got him to talk about Gauntlet. That’s the RPS Promise!
Kieron: I’m going to try and get more developers on the podcast in the new year. After buying a mic, of course. And I’ll get them drunk, so they are a little looser with their tongues too.
Jim: Listen to the strange metallic room bonging and gonging in the background. Valve are so rich they had everything made out of wrought iron, even the table.
Alec: I reckon special guests are the way to go with these – it gives a focus other than Wot We’ve Played and whether I bought crisps or nuts.
Tim Schafer reveals the design docs behind Grim Fandango. We stare at the pretties.
Kieron: I love this kind of stuff. The Planescape docs getting out in the wild is similarly joyous. Chatting to Spector last year about them donating a load of stuff to a library, hearing news of archaeologists-of-gaming going through Origin’s files and discovering lost treasures and the whole thing with the leaked Infocom hard-drive makes me glad that people are actually taking looking after the past seriously, in a way more than just, “Lets’ emulate an old game.” Now, if someone would actually write the much needed book on the rise and fall of the British games industry, we’ll be getting somewhere…
John: The Day of the Tentacle one please.
Jim: Not a bad glimpse into the creative process. One day soon you too might be clever enough to design a smoking, wise-cracking skeleton.
Alec: Grim Fandango remains one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen. Has anyone managed to mod it for high resolutions yet? Meantime, Double-Fine have also started up the Psychopedia, which is hosting a bunch of prototype stuff from Psychonauts. Wuv yoo, Schafer.
Kieron:Still haven’t played it, alas. I suspect the sequels may do the business, in a similar way that Prince of Persia took a while to get going commercially.
John: I might take a crack at this over the holidays. Along with 900 other games.
Jim: I played it! And I actually really liked it. There’s some really dodgy rail shooter and “dodge the asteroid!” bits, but the main fighting corridor stuff is great, and the final boss is just nasty.
Alec: I watched my housemate play it for a bit, but then decided to go do the washing up instead. Action games have to be particularly interesting to snare my snobbish attention these days. It’s like I’ve finally grown up or something.
Kieron: An Eve FPS should be asteroids, but in first person, and with you having to collect the bits of rock after you blow it up. For eight years.
John: I suggest a co-op shooter in which you get to fire once every fifteen days, and then argue over whether that was the right decision.
Jim: See how they’ve never actually played Eve? Le sigh.
Alec: Amazes me it’s taken this long for CCP to expand their empire. They’ve got such a captive, absurdly passionate audience for their spaceshippery.
Kieron: This really wasn’t me pitching for work. And it features the second most embarrassing mis-word-write of the year when I said “Parse” rather than “Essay”. The first being in the big symposium thing when I used “tautology” where it clearly wasn’t one. Being a pseud is hard sometimes, especially when you’re not all that bright.
John: Kieron was totally pitching for work. Anyone want a game script written?
Alec: Or a film script? Or something about robots and cats?
Jim: Comics need a new graphics engine.
A post about piracy receives fewer than 60 comments. RPS faints.
Kieron: We’re going to need a new page-impression cow soon. Mark my words.
John: Nah, there’s plenty-a milk in this old girl.
Alec: Dear The Internet: PLEASE stop mailing us about that Tweakguides piracy article. We’ve already posted about it. Kisses, RPS.
Kieron: God, this got messy. I’d take it as another opportunity to note that the second set of figures, if anything, lean low, since the main missing influences on it will be positive ones (i.e. People not logging into the Tower of Goo factory thing. And what sort of idiot logs into one on a pirated game?)
Jim: Fortunately, beneath it all, World Of Goo was great. I hope you bought. Yes, you, Steve.
Alec: I pirated it nine million times, because nothing gets me off quite like destroying small businesses.
Kieron: You know that bit in the Simpsons where comicbook guy is staring at a nuclear explosion or something and just says – in a single burst – I’vewastedmylife? That. Exactly that.
John: I wonder if he had fun. I guess if he did, good for him. But I’m tempted to doubt it.
Jim: That man is actually faster than other humans, like The Flash.
Alec: I’m sure a lot of people said ‘gratz’ to him and it all seemed worth it. Did rather seem he was missing out on everything that makes Lich King so suprisingly super-fun, though.
Kieron: Better than John, who gets weirded out by real weddings. One day I’ll write about my first online funeral… problem being is finding a way to do it without being exploitative, y’know? From the other end of the online experience, I want Jim to write about his Kingpin funeral one, for a different sort of thing.
John: My rule: leave weddings before the dancing begins. I’m a better person for it.
Jim: World Of Warcraft is the new Las Vegas.
Alec: I still want to go to a proper WoW wedding sometime. Please invite me if you’re having one – I promise I’m too gentlemanly to lech over the bridesmaids or throw up in the punch.
John: I really loved being scared by the Witch. This is something you opt into, like a horror movie. People who boast, “Well, she didn’t scare me at all!” just sound like giant twits to me. Oh, well done, you lessened the impact and fun you had. Have a prize.
Kieron: I think my favourite comment on the RPS threads this year was someone noting that Kate Bush confused him. She’s like the Witch, but hot. Truth.
Jim: Hot witches are hot.
Alec: A scowling photo of skinny, long-haired friend of mine was tagged as ‘don’t startle the witch’ on Facebook. She was instantly offended by the witch comment, and I feel bad that I can’t begin to explain the joke to her. At the same time, it’s funnier because she doesn’t understand it. Giggle.
John: This is proof that both Chet and Tom Bramwell are good sports. Also it’s proof that RPS is prepared to resort to guerilla tactics to get attention. Be warned, gaming sites. We will infiltrate.
Kieron: My favourite bit in a podcast this year was where a sleep-deprived Walker and a hungover me discussed how I’d imagined Chet would be a tiny bald guy and he’s actually an enormous nordic warrior who could crush us like twigs. And he could. And he will.
As is traditional for these posts, here’s your monthly MMO closure announcement. This time, Tabula Rasa.
Kieron: I liked my time with this one. A bit of a shame. I’m planning on going back in January, when it goes free for a couple of weeks. We should all go and have an apocalypse party or something.
John: I never got past the not-really-aiming thing. Which is perhaps petty, but it bugged me. It made the whole world feel oddly false. That, and getting killed by some giant floaty thing in one shot over and over when on a given mission path. That didn’t help.
Alec: Lasted a week before the cowardice at TR’s heart turned me off it. Genuinely fascinated to see its end days, though. There’s a lot of interesting ways it could resolve its human refugee setup.
Alec: RAGE, LIKE A MAN ON THE INTERNET.
John: Despite being assured by Ben Goldacre that the doc involved in this, Nigel Denby, was a good sort, I was enormously disappointed that he chose to ignore my email asking for more information and details over what controls would be used in the testing. The whole thing seems ridiculous, but no doubt canny marketing by PopCap.
Jim: I don’t believe in Anne Diamond, she’s a story made up to scare lefty children.
Alec: I swear Diamond was a figure of genuine respect, tolerance and niceness when I was younger. Was I just naive, or has she been twisted into this uninformed evil form over the last couple of decades?
Kieron: As in, more than one person, get one.
John: You really think you’ll be able to be seen in public without 2009’s must-have accessory?
Alec: An Angry Blog recently accused us of constantly hawking stuff like this. Yeah, that one t-shirt post we did was absolutely outta control. Sorry, readers!
John: It’s like they’re a teacher who’s saying, “Unless whoever did the piracy owns up, we’re going to punish the entire class.” But a teacher who has lost his mind, and whose punishments become increasingly insane.
Kieron: The number of propriety game-things trying to run on my machine is just getting stupid now.
Jim: God, this was crappy. On a brighter note: it’s fucking ace on PC. If you can get it running.
Alec: Again, I’d love to have seen the decision-making process for this. I’ll just bet there’s some Rockstar programmers who are absolutely mortified by what happened, and at the same time some bellowing red-faced bureaucrat who can’t believe the game still got pirated in vast quantities.
Kieron: Tom Chick likes it and John Walker doesn’t. That’s all I know.
John: John Walker is correct. Well, it’s not a case of not liking it. It was very, very average, with some enormous bugs. Something that really stuck in my craw was the real-world gags within. They build this HUGE world, have all these stories about heroes and mysterious futuristic devices and so on, and then have gravestones with Portal gags written on them. Or references to the flaws of the genre. Or comments about the development team. It made the whole thing feel cheap and tacky.
Jim: Is nothing sacred? oh.
Alec: I’m going to give this a go. I’ve heard bad things, but I’m hungry for ambitious fantasy gubbins after King’s Bounty. And if it is bad, well – then I get to say so.
Call of Duty: World At War
Kieron: Having spent the last half of this year buried in books about WW2, I felt an odd sympathy with this return to all things Khaki. Co-op was a predictable addition, but not an unwelcome one. And I think that while it may have lacked the inspiration of CoD4, Treyarch have shown they can make a decent CoD game. So well done them.
Jim: The multiplayer mode is excellent.
Alec: Decent wasn’t enough – and it was only just decent at that. There’s a crippling lack of ambition to it, and the grenade spam-death in singleplayer is the kind of thing a blind weasel could have told Treyarch to ditch. Co-op and zombie modes were a hoot, however.
Tomb Raider Underworld
John: Definitely one of my games of 2008. Absolutely beautiful design, some of the best level design I’ve ever seen. And banishing bosses completely was a marvellous and brave decision that deserves trumpeting from the rooftops. It’s a shame the story was so utterly awful, and despite the introduction of a stun gun for those not willing to murder a puma/grumpy guard, the combat was still superfluous. But it was the best Tomb Raider so far.
Kieron: My girlfriend is about to start playing this. I’ll interrogate her afterwards, or perhaps just watch. I could have a series of columns called “Staring At My Girlfriend”. That won’t be creepy, at all.
Kieron: Not all games with Minotaurs in them are awesome.
Kieron:It’s a bit of a shame about… well, everything that’s a bit of a shame about it. 32 multiplayer in a GTA race is just obscenely hilarious, and driving around the city with Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse blaring was magical. My personal worst thing? Forget the frame rate, the security, everything else – it’s that my saved games don’t work. That means I need to play the opening ten hours for the fourth time (360, 360 again, PC review code and now PC retail) to get back deep into it. Gahk!
John: I played it through on 360 and loved it. And I’ve never even liked a GTA game before. (Realised they’re brilliant, played them for many hours, but never liked them.) But I’ve yet to brave the PC version.
Jim: See above. Loved it, still playing it through (for the second time).
Alec: I prefer Saints Row 2. I am such a renegade, me.
Kieron:You’re not a renegade. You’re a heretic. It’s not on the PC yet, you bast.
Kieron: Another one I want to go back to – I tried after writing those impressions, but it crashed when it started for some reason and I’ve never wandered back. Pah!