Category Archives: Gaming

Goodbye, EGM

I just read and confirmed from multiple sources that Electronic Gaming Monthly, a veteran gaming magazine published since 1989, has been canceled. It seems EGM’s parent company, 1Up, has been sold off to UGO and almost immediately, the decision was made to scrap EGM and lay off several senior staff members. The January 2009 issue will be EGM’s last.

I’ve read EGM on and off since the early 90s, back when gaming was just for us nerds and didn’t command near the popularity and respect that it does these days. I remember the bold sense of humor and no-nonsense reviews were traits that really made the magazine stand out from its competitors.

But alas, as video games have evolved and shifted into mainstream popular culture, so too has journalism evolved away from print media such as newspapers and magazines toward interactive, cheaply-distributed websites. Magazines and local newspapers are going to have some tough choices to make as the years go by. Even the ones that survive may not remain in the same forms we recognize today.

I knew the day was coming when most of my favorite print magazines would disappear in favor of an online presence, but I didn’t expect it to feel like suddenly losing several old friends. I hope all of the recently unemployed staffers find alternate work quickly. For all the laughs they have provided over the years, it’s the least I can hope for.

Lavatory Repository

Apparently following the example of the crate review system, someone has collected various game screenshots of… toilets? I’m not sure whether to laugh or be repulsed.1402278090014

There are gamers out there who claim that you can judge how interactive a game is based on it’s restrooms. It’s an interesting theory. Level designers can, after all, put in as much or as little thought and effort as they want to design a game restroom. After asking a few questions, it’s easy to see how restrooms could be used to measure the interactivity and realism of a game.

For example: Are there urinals in the men’s rooms (not found in every establishment, but most)? Can you flush the toilets and urinals? Can you open and close the stalls? Are there toilet paper dispensers? Can you run the faucets in the sinks? Is there a soap dispenser? Is there a hand dryer or paper towel dispenser you can use? Can you see yourself in the mirrors? Are there waste receptacles? Can you actually USE the toilet or urinal?

All of these things (with the exception of urinals) are required by law in most publicly accessible establishments, and people expect them to be there. And these are only the basics. What about condom machines and baby-changing tables? What about the “For a great time…” messages in the stalls? It just seems to me that game designers often overlook how seemingly trivial details can be so effective at maintaining the “suspension of disbelief” required for player immersion.

We all know it’s not uncommon to see “ultra-realistic” or something to that effect on the back of a game box. Isn’t it time we expected more from the games that make these kinds of claims?

I suppose this brings up an interesting question: How real is too real? We don’t, after all, want a susceptible gamer to lose a grip on his (or her! We are living in a new age of gaming!) own reality because the games he or she plays may very well be TOO realistic. I’ll save that digression for another post.we_could_be_living_in_virtual_reality

Unfortunately, though there are no limits on imagination, there are limits on resources. Who has the time and budget to model and texture all those little objects when it’s difficult enough to ship the game without them? This collection of toilets illustrates an important fact: In almost every game, someone is paid to design a toilet. How many object modelers spend valuable project time creating mundane objects like pay phones, desks, toilets, and other such things when their time could be better spend creating art for the proprietary elements of the game, such as the character models.

Is it too ambitious to think some talented modelers out there could create libraries of common object models that could be purchased for a nominal fee by game developers? Or perhaps I am just misinformed and it’s already been done. But if not, I think a decent modeler could make a good chunk of money by doing the grunt work of modeling common objects so that game artists can focus their creative talents on something more productive. It seems pointless to reinvent the wheel – or in this case, toilet.

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*BTW, I would strongly advise you not to watch the lol.swf video in the parent directory. It’s quite offensive. Perhaps it serves as proof positive that the owner of this collection is not as eccentric as I first suspected, but simply disturbed. You have been warned.

Lament for an Addiction

This started as a comment and seems to have materialized into a post.

EverQuest gave meaning to the word ‘dedication.’ It wasn’t a game for the casual player, and probably still isn’t. It was almost like a job, requiring shifts of 8+ hours to make even just a little progress.

There would be days when players could spend that entire 8 hours grinding, and lose it all over something stupid, like typing the letter ‘a’ in front of an NPC before bringing up a chat window. There were days when I really should have not have even logged in, losing entire days of progress over a couple of stupid circumstances, and thankful that I at least recovered my corpse.

There was a curious mix of anticipation and self-loathing that washed over me each time I loaded the game and was greeted with its timeless loading screen and music:

Yet I still continued to pay and log in faithfully for nearly 3 years – committing myself to the game so much that my academic performance suffered. I essentially lost about 4 semesters of college to EQ, yet here I am, relentlessly tempted to go back to it or try out another MMOG such as World of Warcraft.

I must be a glutton for punishment – finding myself irrationally drawn back to a game that wielded terrible, destructive power over my life when coupled with my obsessive personality. And some would say I got off lucky. There are stories circulating of players who lost their jobs, families, and even their own lives over EQ addiction and frustration.

I’ve even tried several single player RPG games in an attempt to find something that might resemble a single-player EverQuest. Anything to fill the void. Morrowind even came close, but it still left me wanting.

I suppose I’m never going to find a comparable experience to EQ in a non-MMOG. Even as I insisted on being a solo player, it’s apparent to me now that I thrived on the player interaction that the game fostered.

Perhaps I should just stop searching for a replacement and swear off MMOGs until I have a CS degree in my hand and a steady job. At this point, it seems like it’s for the best.