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Now That's What I Call A Best 2008: December. Erm.

Around 1998, the questions - confused, angry and amused - came quick and fast. What would esteemed British comicky book 2000 AD call itself come 2000 AD? Would 20th Century Fox change its near-sighted name to reflect the new millenium? And, most of all, what would Rock, Paper, Shotgun do when the time came to write a look back at December 2008 before December 2008 had even finished? Read on, gentle read-o-tron, to find out the truth.

You're absolutely right - we're going to do exactly the same thing we do every other day, Pinky - try to write about the major events of that month.
If that distresses you, we suggest you go to Goa to find yourself for a month and come back in late January, by which time this'll seem like the thoughtful mulling over the past you so crave. Don't blame us - blame the calendar.

Hey, remember when the Black Mesa Source trailer was released? Good times, good times.

John: I find myself in the: Why Don't They Use Those Talents To Make Their Own Game camp. But I'm still interested to see how this works out.

Jim: I can see exactly why they went for this: Half-Life is absolutely brilliant, and there's no better banner to get people to flock to. I suspect I will actually play it through, even though I've completed Half-Life end to end six times.

Kieron: I've still never completed Half-life. Man!

Alec: I'm gently amazed at the good will towards them after this trailer. Not that it wasn't a great-looking trailer - but we're still talking about a mod that's been in progress since the dawn of time and that's released nothing solid to backup their fancy talk. A one-level demo or something would have assuaged all fears of vapourware. Hopefully something's in the pipeline. All the best to 'em, anyway - looking forward to seeing it.

Hey, remember when we started writing our analysis of the year that had passed? Aaargh, brain cramp!

Jim: Man, this was awesome. We should do it again next month.

John: I remember that writing my thoughts about January were some of my happiest, and saddest, and inbetweenest memories of the year.

Kieron: I don't think we'll days like the days when we looked back on days we'd never see again again.

Alec: I can't remember what we said. Can we do a series of round-up posts covering the round-ups?

Dungeon Keeper 3: The MMO. Good times, deeply surprisingly and faintly horrifying times.

Jim: Is this a real news story? It seems like one of those made up stories we keep posting. I just can't tell anymore.

Kieron: You know, if I was incredibly rich, I'd go around buying up much-loved-yet-ignored old PC games licenses, and then turn them into the least appropriate game imaginable. Development-as-comments-thread trolling.

Alec: My suspiscion it that this was just someone shortcutting art design or something by renting rights to a disused license. I can't genuinely imagine it'll be dungeon-building.

We don't actually need to say anything else about all that GTA IV DRM/bugs/silly app bullshittery, do we?

John: No.

Jim: Look over there, a unseasonable bee!

Alec: Was there some sort of controversy? I don't remember any.

Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter to return. Bet they'll be just like Oblivion, and you'll all be so happy.

John: Neverwinter isn't a surprise, since the series hasn't really gone away. And its sequel a couple of years back was really fantastic. However, if Atari's desperate clawing for any money at all results in giving this to anyone other than Obsidian, we're in for trouble. I can't really think of anyone else I'd trust with the Baldur's Gate license either. And I'm sure Bioware are rather desperately hoping the same. Hmmm, I wonder if Alpha Protocol will be any good.

Jim: RPGs for me tend to crash down in a place I'm never quite happy with. Why not take the same budget and make something more like Bloodlines, eh? Why not do that?

Kieron: Because it's even harder.

Alec: To bring up the spectre of the Witcher again - it's got at least as many problems as any sequel RPG, but many of its players brushed 'em off in sheer, understandable glee at having a good RPG to play. In the case of these, Fallout etc they're going in with certain expectancies, and that can only backfire. It's second-album-by-favourite-band syndrome: no matter how good it is, the mere fact of it not being the same songs as last time means it deviates from the conception of that band you have in your head. Atari really should just slap a different name on Baldur's Gate 3: if it's a great RPG, word will spread regardless of its title, because the roleplaying community is passionate enough to make it so.

Mister Garry ' Garry's Mod' Mod - if that is indeed his real name - turns out to be absurdly rich.

John: One day I'll become an incredibly proficient coder and write something that's phenomenally successful on Steam and become so rich I can DESTROY THE WORLD. Or I'll just sit around in my pants. It's one of those two.

Jim: I wish had sold something. Anything.

Kieron: You know, by writing that one Sabretooth comic for Marvel I've got out in February, I earn more than I do as a games writer in a month? That's why games-journalists-are-all-bribed-and-corrupt forum talk is so grating. If money mattered, we wouldn't be doing this bloody thing anyway.

But it does make me happy when an indie-guy just gets rich by the magic of releasing something lovely that people like.

Alec: Yes, this all the proof that's needed that PC gaming isn't some arthouse outfit that puts obtuseness over profit. A good idea, well made can sell incredibly well - and we need more reportage of the cases in which that does happen to ensure more people try it.

Also, games journalism really does pay shit. I'm going to take a job as a binman next year.

Tim Stone, the Winston Zeddemore of RPS, joins in with our festive listmania, offering up eight things all flight sims should do.

Jim: Merry Christmas, Tim. You are more talented than any of us. Well, Kieron anyway. (He can't even draw.)

Kieron: I can draw. In fact, tonight whilst you sleep, I'll be drawing a whetted blade across your jugular.

Alec: I've been sent a flight sim by [a mysterious stranger] for Christmas. Doesn't he know I'm physically incapable of controlling them?

Cryptic sell their souls to Infogrames-In-Disguise. What will become of Champions?

John: Hopefully a lot more than any other MMOs Atari have touched. This seemed an odd, odd choice. I'd love to hear the story behind it one day.

Kieron: Yeah. They seemed so confident when I went to visit them for Champions. What's happened? Worldwide recession, that's what.

Jim: Anyone remember Horizons, eh? What a game.

Alec: Once again - the MMO industry pretty much went tits-up this year. We can only expect casualties in 2009, I fear. I desperately hope Champs isn't one of 'em.

50% of adults play games, it transpires. The other 50% are too busy killing prostitutes.

John: But importantly, 49% of them are playing terrible games.

Jim: Adults are great. I hope I get one for Christmas.

Kieron: I met an adult once. It was awesome. They talked about sideboards and similar stuff. I asked them what they made of King's Bounty and they just stared at me. I then peed myself. I don't like adults.

Alec: I just need to learn how to talk about football and cars and I'll be a functioning human being at last. On the survey itself - I don't think it surprised anyone, did it? These are expensive items that generally carry a 15 or 18 age rating, and are pretty much the only easy at-home hedonism available to anyone who can't bear to point their eyes at Strictly Big Survivor every night. Apart from sex and reading, but no-one does those anymore.

Telltale pay us squillions of dollars to stealth-advertise their games

John: You know, when you see an interview on a gaming site/mag, that's because the people making/publishing the game want to promote their game, and the mag/site want people to read it. It made me pretty sad that Emily at Telltale and I thought it would be much more fun, and funny, to do comedy interviews about a pretend scandal, and people cry foul. But if we'd run a bog-standard interview with a Telltale dev asking about the game, no one would have said a thing. Bah.

Jim: Lucky that we got so rich off all our other corruption, anyway. Man, I am so rich. I wear a helicopter for a hat.

Kieron: God, I'm going to end up whining again.

Alec: I really loved the way people made offensive pronouncements and accusations towards us without doing even the faintest scrap of research or fact-checking first. That was lovely, that. I HATE YOU ALL.

Naughty words in Disney game SCANDAL: Pure is unpure.

John: I sure learned some excellent new swears from that. Thanks Disney! You lovehole nookie zipperheads.

Kieron: I had to google zipperheads. Oh my. Aren't the US military charming gentlemen.

Alec: That's exactly the kind of ignorance I'd expect of a slattern like you, Gillen.

Fallout 3 gets its mod kit, and the crazysupermegahyper-angries are increasingly struggling to find reasons to say Bethesda violated their childhoods.

Kieron: When I'm going to report stories like the "We're not sure", I'm going to add a proviso "You do understand that they'll almost inevitably do it, but want to actually have a big post-release story for PR purposes so don't want to confirm it and reduce the scale of the story later".

Alec: A magazine wants me to write a GECK tutorial for them. At this stage, it's a bit like being asked to tear a phonebook in half with my bare hands.

Despite hating all foreigners with a passion he normally reserves for the homeless, orphans, women, milkmen and koala bears, it turns out Jim once stifled his loathing for long enough to visit yet another country - and has some frightfully insightful things to say about its gaming culture.

Jim: I love our milkman, actually. Leonard is his name. Hi Leonard! Love you.

Kieron: My favourite thing about this being posted on RPS it being motivated as sheer passive-aggressive nastiness at someone being an idiot on another website. Amongst other things, he was laughing at the idea of any of us writing about another culture. When, in fact, Jim won a real-world award for doing exactly that. Ah, those internet whining blog kids aren't always that bright. So we got to entertain the readers and roll our eyes at hateful dolts at the same time. RPS is awesome! Even when we're being bastards we do it in a cheery positive way.

Alec: Jim is still RPS' leading journalist for this, and his upcoming Russia piece. I am bitterly jealous, and that's why I'm going to kill him, steal his skin and assume his identity. And cats.

We catch first wind of what might yet erupt into a really major scandal that kicks the bloom right off Steam's sainted rose - a Euro version of the digi-download app launches, and initially lovely prices soon descend into rip-off horror.

John: We're still trying to figure this one out, and once Christmas is over we'll try and get some answers. But it seems the new UK Steam has led to fantastic new prices for UK people, and in turn seen prices lower on US Steam. But somehow this has left the rest of Europe with price increases. Since the pound and the Euro are currently identical, it's a very strange state of affairs. Euro readers, be assured we're equally thrown by the price increases, and want to find out why Valve/their clients have done this.

Kieron: Yeah, this is simply beyond my ability to understand right now with my tiny refictionist brain. We'll dig into it in the new year.

John Walker loves Prince of Persia. He thinks it's the best game ever made. He'll kill any man that says otherwise, and if he met the woman of his dreams but it turned out she didn't like it, he would have her arrested and flogged.

John: There was the most extraordinary interview on IGN yesterday with PoP's producer, in which he stated how disappointed he was in people for not embracing the innovation and change in this game. He said,

"What surprises me is how little these high-level risks seem to be noticed and appreciated as attempts to shake up the industry and push things forward. Perhaps I'm an idealist, but I think perhaps I was expecting a few more virtual pats-on-the-back for our attempts to do something new."

It's immediately weird that he could be saying something like this in light of the ludicrously high scores the undeserving game has been receiving. But it troubles me greatly. Trying something new, and terrible, does not deserve pats on the back. And when the thing you're trying is to remove all challenge from the platforming, and create a tiresome string of bossfights, it's hard to understand exactly how this was intended to shake up the industry. He does acknowledge that they should have created varying difficulty for the game (but adds he doesn't know how they could have. That's because they simply couldn't have with the derivative nature of the game they intended to create). However, he also calls it an "art game", which caused my head to fall off in incredulity.

Jim: Look at me! I'm trying trousers on the top half of my body!

First Old Republic footage released. It cracks the internet in half. DON'T YOU PEOPLE KNOW THAT'S HOW THE JEDI-SITH WAR STARTED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Jim:When I get to play this I'm going to be a Sith called Darth Rug.

Kieron: I can't work out an untasteless gag to go here, so I'm going to sit quietly on my hands and feel the carcinogens release into my brain.

Alec: If I can't play as a Jawa, I'm not playing at all.

Eve is corrupt and exploitable, or something. Lest it not be obvious, the person compiling the links for this post isn't Jim.

Jim: OR IS IT? No, it isn't. CCP haven't had the best track record of exploits and the resultant clusterfucks. This one doesn't seem to have gone any better than previous messes, despite CCP's innovations. Still, some people got free spaceships, so it can't be all bad... Oh, that's what was bad. My bad.

Kieron: I wish I had a spaceship.

Alec: What's an Eve?

The first Watchmen footage is a little like being repeatedly kicked in the stomach by a rhino a clown hat who keeps saying rude things about your mother.

John: Good comments on this story, as people tried to come up with a game as inappropriate. My offering is an action FPS of All Quiet On The Western Front.

Jim: We all watched the Watchmen, it seems. No one came away with a yellow smiley.

Kieron: I'll take this opportunity to steal a gag from the sadly-departed The Weekly: "I watch the watchmen," says Watchmen's supervisor.

Alec: The only possible game adaptation of Watchmen would be Tales of the Black Freighter: The RTS. Oh no! I'm out of friends' corpses! I can't afford to build my raft!

Spore de-authorisation tool eases the DRM pain a little. Hype-victims continue to bemoan the fact the game wasn't exactly what they thought it would be, because we're all so enjoying hearing that again and again.

John: The hype over this game wasn't what I hoped it would be.

Kieron: I personally found the backlash over Spore underwhelming. I was expecting an enormous, brutal backlash without precedent, but it was just a regular really angry mob. It's such a shame.

Jim: De-authorisation sounds like some kind of supernatural process that could be done on a novel, where the author is erased from the timeline, only to be replaced by a sinister doppelganger with a different history.

Alec: There's so much room for some interesting, thoughtful writing about how and why Spore failed in a few/many/all/delete as applicable ways and how it could have been better, which is why the fact most of its critics default to "NO IT'S SHIT IT'S SHIT AND ANYONE WHO SAYS IT ISN'T IS A CORRUPT LIAR" is so disappointing.

The day that irony died: Angry Internet Men are angry about being called Angry Internet Men.

John: If we don't get comments from AIMs on this post, angry that they're being accused of getting angry by being called Angry Internet Men, I will be grossly disappointed.

Kieron: I admit, I'm not that fond of the AIM meme either. But I still think an ANGRY INTERNET MAN T-shirt could be splendid.

Jim: I still think we should have called then The Laughing Boys.

Alec: The real, terrible, bitter irony of 'AIM' is that it's become a knee-jerk insult used by exactly the kind of people it initially referred to against anyone they disagree with, and for that reason I suspect we won't be using it much from now on. It's still a funny dismissal of a crazy shouting man when used in the right circumstances, however.

Achievement Unlocked: a last-minute contender for indie game o'the year.

Jim: Elephant?

Kieron: Elephant.

Alec: Clearly, no-one else on RPS has played this yet. You're all fired.

Kieron: Elephant.

EA jump aboard the Steamtrain at last, but mess a bit and end up leaving a couple of limbs behind. HELLO, WE'RE EUROPE! 728 million people! Ring any bells?

John: Of course they're out in Europe now as well. Except for... the UK! Hooray! Brilliant! (Which I'm assuming will have something to do with the crazy Euro prices matching the crazy EA Store prices, but not the more reasonable prices for UK Steam.)

Jim: We should get rid of the pound. It's boring now anyway.

Alec: I want Groats to come back.

Crayon Physics Deluxe beta finally released. Oh god, we're posting about stuff we posted yesterday.

John: Yesterday was brilliant! Wait, no it wasn't. It was a really bloody awful day. But fortunately I had Crayon Physics Deluxe to play, and that made it better.

Jim: They don't make 'em like they did yesterday.

Kieron: I think with the luxury of hindsight, we can say we probably got a little overexcited over this one. Sadly, when running a blog you don't get a chance to sit back and really consider your opinions.

Alec: Yesterday was without doubt one of the worst days I had all year. Wheeee. Hopefully this'll help, once I get round to playing it.

    Notable Games!

Minotaur China Shop

John: I thought this might be the Flashbang game I wouldn't enjoy as much, with the tones of Diner Dash (a game I hate so very, very much - it's the lowest form of chores-as-play imaginable). But it turned out I was stupid for doubting them. Utter brilliance.

Kieron: The angry Minotaur is awesome.

Alec: I've got a lovely Minotaur China Shop t-shirt here that's too big for my tiny, emaciated body. I shall have to think up a clever competition to give it away to one of our full-size readers. Something really devious, I think.

Defense Grid: The Awakening
Jim: One of my favourite games of the year. And, like many of my other favourite games of the year, it is available only under unfavorable conditions. How queer.

Alec: He keeps going on about this, which is un-Jim-like. I'm worried he's convinced Valve to rename Eve into Defence Grid on Steam, just to lure more poor saps into his motionless MMO.

Space Giraffe

Kieron: One of my favourite games of the year too. Hurrah for December!

And Merry Christmas everyone. God bless one and all, etc.

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