The busiest months of the gaming calendar approached, and September was already thrumming with activity. The stories came thick and fast, like an ogre full of amphetamines.
John: I did. Civil disobedience has a place, and a destructive act of opinion-vandalism got a lot of attention: job done. The argument is often that such a protest might put people off playing a game they'd otherwise enjoy. I'm okay with that. It would have been a pointless protest if this weren't the result. It wasn't as if Spore was going to sell in anything other than hundreds of billions anyway. This was an effective way of getting EA's attention, and it not only worked, but was a function of change.
Kieron: This was an interesting day in the RPS chat room. With me, for once, trying to actually be the diplomatic one in the middle of the melee, trying to explain the key difference - that John cares more about ethics and Alec cares more about art. And me? I honestly dunno. I suspect being the guy who's most vulnerable to someone deciding to do this kind of mob justice to for a cause that's not justified may make me question it on that level alone. But I'll give them this - they proved Jim wrong. It worked.
Jim: Yep, I assumed that EA would shrug this off entirely, but it seems like someone actually paid attention. A little bit, at least.
Alec: I have very little else to say about this, aside from that things really haven't worked out too badly in the end, despite neither the defence or the prosecution behaving terribly well in the first place.
John: RPS readers came along, and were impressively lovely. It was nice to meet people, and pretend to be famous in the most tiny way imaginable.
Kieron: Except when John wandered off leaving me to chat with readers and play with Darwinians. The anti-social bast. A fun weekend, in an agreeably shambolic kinda way. I suspect I got so drunk I ended up making a pass at Chet from Valve or something.
John: I wandered off because Jim phoned, and then I had to talk to Ross and Tim, and then Craig had me look at something, and when I got back you were all gone! Jim!
Alec: I didn't go because PCG didn't need me for the fun bits like the panel show, and I am a churl. I didn't fancy hiding terrified in a corner for a weekend for no reason, but would definitely have been interested to meet'n'greet if it had been closer to home.
John: Coming up with the name for this was like a miniature version of coming up with the name for RPS when we first started. The four of us saying almost random words until something sticks, and then tossing it back and forth until we've found the right version. It's fun to think in a four. I should probably have joined.
Kieron: Warhammer was another victim of the too-many-games syndrome for me, so I feel bad at sort of not being involved in the Guild we spent so much effort (er) thinking of a name for.
Jim: Less too-many-games, more too-much-Eve. There's only space for one, maybe two MMO type games in my life, and I'm afraid Warhammer isn't one of them. As much as I love Games Workshop's tiny-nerd universe, I really can't stomach much more fantasy MMOing. Give me single player fantasy a la The Witcher, or give me spaceships. Or robots. Where the fuck is my robot MMO? That recent NCsoft rubbish doesn't count.
Alec : Yeah, I feel really bad our involvement in the guild was so short lived. WAR really lost its charm for me though - I was revisiting it yesterday for a work thing, and it really did seem so bland and charmless after having spent a couple of weeks in Lich King a little while back. The PvP's pretty solid, but I do hope Mythic can find a way to inject some more personality into the thing.
John: I wonder how common a theme this will continue to be - learning of an MMO's existence after it's ceased to be. I'm not convinced the Halo universe is nearly intricate enough to merit an MMO, but I imagine a studio somewhere is working on a new something that will endeavour to prove me wrong.
Kieron:I think several thousand fanfic (and slashfic) writers will probably disagree with you on that one. Admittedly, I don't.
Jim: And I counter by saying that I do! I'm certain a Halo MMO could be created, but that doesn't mean it has to end up like Tabula Rasa or whatnot, it could simply use the "massively" bit and create a game with persistent characters and hundreds of players. Planetside? Sci-fi Guild Wars? There's a bunch of design options out that that no one is exploring, because MMO developers are mostly not even trying. Fingers crossed that NetDevil don't screw up Jumpgate, and that CCP can manage that follow-up to Eve with World Of Darkness...
Alec: I thought Halo was perfect for an MMO, in fact. I can't stand Halos 2 and 3, but - despite the universe's dready, cack-handedly told core narrative - the basic man vs alien with sinister third party in the wings setup seemed ideal for a generalist sci-fi MMO setup. Doesn't sound like Ensemble's game was going to be an especially refreshing one, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the concept resurfaced at some point.
John: We always knew we'd be frustratingly sporadic with these, but I promise we'll try and get something close to a schedule sorted out in the new year. Not one you could set your calendar by, but at least with some regularity. I think they've been pretty good so far. Apart from the bit where we recorded them on a wilting carrot. I heard the other day you can plug headphones into a recording socket and they work both ways - I bet we'd have had a better result doing that than with Kieron's dictaphone mic.
Kieron: Actually, I've got some plans for this too, which may help. I haven't told the other RPS guys, because I like to spring things on them. I will promise you this, though: it won't be done with that dictaphone mike. Or maybe it will. Annoying sound quality freaks is almost as much fun as annoying people with my grammar, y'know?
Jim: The podcasts that we did post have all been quite fun, especially the Valve stuff.
Alec: We do have another podcast in the bag, but it's probably a bit too shambolic even by our agreeably unprofessional standards, having been recorded in a fog of manflu and overwork. Best to return next year in a blaze of glory, methinks. Sound quality shouldn't be an issue in future, too.
John: Alec is the King of Good List Features, despite being the one who moans about the existence of list features the most. It's one of the paradoxes that holds the universe together.
Kieron:John is correct. Whether it's agreeably stupid or actually practical, Alec knows what to do. This one was especially good, in that it was a gamer-demand list which wasn't ridiculously presumptive or actually impossible. There's certainly stuff you could quibble with, but compared to the usual "every game should feature co-op" style fascism, Alec was the picture of even-handedness.
Jim: And wholly PC too, this was one of those things were the actual platform we play on - the personal computer - came to the fore in our editorialising. I wish we could do more of that, but years of writing crappy hardware features for UK magazines means we are allergic to non-games content. Sorry!
Alec: One day, I'll write something intelligent and insightful. Until then, wry complaining in a little too much detail is pretty much my idiom. I'm really not the biggest fan of list features, but so long as there's something to them other than namechecking and nostalgia (I noticed, with some horror, 'The Top 10 Shower Scenes In Games' dribbled into my RSS feeds the other day - I think it was on GamesRadar. Dear sweet baby Jeebus), they can make for fun pieces that inspire worthwhile discussion. The underlying theme/issue of this one is that PC gaming desperately needs more standardisation - but how do we achieve that without some sinister Microsoft or inept PC Gaming Alliance getting a new stranglehold on the platform?
Kieron: I've never played SWAT co-op. I feel unloved. But not as unloved as the old lady who you spray with mace and then taser.
Jim: Despite being years old this was one of my game experiences of 2008. Really great fun to return to a game that everyone was familiar with, and be able to jump in and have a laugh. There was almost no-one left behind on the learning curve, and we played through stuff that we'd forgotten, or never seen, for japes and much hurrah.
Alec: Yeah, I'll always have fond memories of repeatedly tasering OXM's Mike Channell into paralysed agony during our four-man SWAT 4 co-op session a couple of months ago. It was his Sisyphean punishment for shooting a hostage in an earlier round. We should definitely dig this up again - especially as it gives me more interest in Irrational's next move than Bioshock did.
Kieron: This was a fun time, if in the best tradition of actually doing a really stupid thing, and the fact that it's such a stupid thing makes people like the feature, even if the execution is wayyyyyy off. Standing in the shop down the road, going through the sunglasses rack and trying to find the most 1990s-industrial-band shades for under a fiver was also quite the experience.
John: And any doubts that RPS are all trained ninjas were immediately put to rest. Fear us, magazine publishers - we will steal your secrets AND YOUR WIVES.
Jim: Naturally, we'll try and get some real information on DX3 next year. Or we might just make it up. Will it feature greasels? Probably, fucking greasels.
Alec: One of the more hilariously pathetic behind-the-scenes arguments we had this year was whether this was just an excuse for Kieron to stick a huge photo of his posery, sunglasses-clad face on the front of RPS. (Hint - it was). Which is why I decided to create that monstrous photoshopped image as an unsettling compromise.
Kieron: I believe I wrote this when it came out, but the trailer just showed a fundamental misunderstanding about what people would want from a C&C-related shooter. It simply didn't look like C&C. It'd be like doing a Halo RTS, and then making it gritty street level cyberpunk with no Master Chiefs or Covenants.
Alec: It was when struggling to write the Games of 2008 preview piece for this back in January and having to feign some sort of optimism for a game that looked clearly dreary and out of touch with its parent franchise that I realised I don't have to do the usual preview cynicism-blocking on RPS.
- Notable Releases
World Of Goo
John: World of what now? That sounds rubbish. Aha ha ha, that's my little joke for you there. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll be finding room to write more about this somewhere else during our nostalgia-em-up month, so I'll save my superlatives for that. Meanwhile, if you didn't buy this yet I'm going to come to your home and smash your greenhouse.
Kieron: Never heard of it.
Alec: I still haven't forgiven 2D Boy for our review copy deleting my savegames. I'm glad we decided there was absolutely no way we'd include this in our 12 Games of Christmas thing.
Kieron: I think Alec was the one who liked it most from the RPS group, but I was second, happily putting 30-40 hours into the thing before being distracted by something shining in the corner of my room. It's... Oh, I'm going to use the word "brave" again. It's one-third-make, one-third-share, one-third play model is something which I'm interested in seeing people try, y'know? So I liked it. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't be interested in someone trying that more mechanic-based game. C'mon, designers - be brave. Give it a shot.
John: I am sad this didn't click for me. All the other kids were having fun, and I was staring in confusion about why I was meant to be enjoying it. I didn't, not a single second of it, and as such I'm a giant loser.
Kieron: But enough about John going clubbing - he didn't like Spore either!
John: Aw, it's like he's trying to tell a joke!
Alec: You are a giant loser, though.
The way gamingdom wheeled on Spore continues to upset me a little - possibly along similar lines to the way Kieron bristled at people attacking Bioshlock last year. Absolutism governs web discussion about games too much of the time. Whither the middleground of opinion? Spore broke a lot of promises and dropped a few balls, but it's sad and odd that so few were happy to say they Quite Like It. Presumably it's because those that do aren't mad and angry, so are happy enough to quietly enjoy the thing rather than bellow about it. I'm still hoping we'll see new boldness in the expansion packs, something that adds more meat to the flaccid third and fourth stages. That the first add on was Cute'n'Creepy parts gives me the fear that Spore's ingenuity ship might have sailed already, sadly.
John: With this and Bejeweled Twist, someone needs to go and give PopCap a kick up their billionaire buttocks. Are they getting a little too relaxed? We're a fickle planet, and want new new new. Not the same as last time with an extra exclamation mark. And make more Bookworm Adventures, you bastards.
Kieron: My sequel-aversion meant I never actually played this. Er... PEGGLE!?
Alec: What a shame. Hopefully Popcap will redeem their cynical ways with the upcoming zombie game they've been murmuring about.
The Witcher EE
John: I can't help but wonder why the developers felt the need to overhaul the entire game when the original version was apparently so perfect in every way that anyone who dared suggest otherwise was shot down in acid-coated flames... Bitter? Good heavens, no.
Kieron: I'm not even sure where we are in the Witcher-related running gags. Are we pretending to slag it off to get a rise from people pretending to have a rise? Man! I'm totally lost. I quite like the Witcher, and I especially like how they've pushed it in the extended edition and then started Good Old Games. I'm interested in seeing what they actually do next. But seriously - that card game. Tacky, guys.
Jim: Okay, CD Projekt need to bring out another game now. We've done enough talking about this game. (Which you should probably have played by now if you have even the slightest hint of RPG in your blood.)
Alec: Cards'n'no jump button aside, I enjoyed the EE more, largely as a result of turning off the still-awful English acting (very much a red rag to me - one of the main reasons I don't have any time for Far Cry 2 is theridiculoushyperspeeddialogue) and playing it in Polish with subtitles, but by God it's a fight to get past the woeful first couple of stages. I'm slightly amazed the EE didn't slice some of that off so newcomers could get to the genuinely great stuff more quickly. Very glad it's worked out for CD Projekt though, and hope that their next move builds on what they got right here rather than coasts off it.