Last night, before tossing and turning for a good three hours, I finally finished George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones." I'd been nibbling my way through the book -- a 900-page tome -- since late May, so I was understandably thrilled to see its final page, as well as its wildly out-of-place ad for the "A Game of Thrones" collectible card game. But AGoT's only the beginning of a planned seven-part series that began in 1996. Needless to say, AGoT's sequel has been on shelves, Amazon, and wherever else books are sold since before my age had taken on a second digit, and because AGoT ended on a huge cliffhanger, I nabbed the second book from my local Borders with all the subtlety a frothing nerd could muster, clasping it in my hands with a grip that bystanders described as "air-tight."
However, if I'd voraciously devoured AGoT back in '96, I'm fairly sure my satisfied smile would've flipped upside down. The final chapter felt like a build to the climax, but then -- as though it was a badly planned rollercoaster -- the story just ended, leaving readers dangling for roughly two years. (Yeah, the bad kind of rollercoaster.)
Obviously, literature isn't the only medium that backhands its users this way. Games, too, have a habit of rolling out large, red, inappropriately timed stop signs just when things are getting good. Even worse, development cycles now pack double the staff and take twice as long to complete compared to only a few years ago. Looks like the wait between sequels will only grow more arduous before it tapers off.
So, what's the least satisfying game ending you've ever come across? How did you react? Did you pen an angry email? Boycott the sequel?
This installment of the Roundup features the successor to a top-notch game with an abysmal ending, a peek behind the scenes of a controversial game that's attempting to tell a titanic, cliffhanger-laden tale, and so much more. See the stunning conclusion after the break.
Each year, we ask, "Was this the best year ever for games?" A good deal of the time, our answer tends toward "Yes," with a few nostalgia-maniacs vehemently worshipping 1998 instead. "Oh, they're just raving fanboys," I've always thought of those stuck in '98. "Their opinions are rooted in so much misguided subjectivism that even a bulldozer couldn't budge them."
However, a recent post at the always-interesting Sexy Videogameland gave me some insight into another, altogether more-acceptable reason for gamers' unyielding grip on the past. The post, by Leigh Alexander, of course, took a look at our tendency to play a game once, shove it into a nice, dusty shelf corner, and leave it there with no hope of excavation. Why do we do this? Especially when, as Leigh pointed out, many of us were happy to bury months of our lives in a single game back in the day.
But the answer's simple, really: You're reading this column.
As a bleeding-edge gamer, when you're not playing a game, you're probably reading about other games -- basking in the ever-brightening glow of a new title's hype -- and getting yourself psyched to play them. This column, with its daily dose of the latest gaming news, only helps propagate this trend.
Really though, does it matter? As Leigh pointed out, our consumer-focused society breeds hit-driven industries. Movies, TV, sports -- you name it. "15 seconds of fame" is an apt phrase. So we're just like other media. Big deal. But I think it does matter. I think games, by virtue of their interactivity, are meant to break the typical, rapid-fire hype cycle. And that's why so many gamers love 1998. The year was chock-full of top-notch titles, but gamers still spent hundreds of hours with their favorites -- testing boundaries and pushing limits. Why? The hype train as we know it hadn't quite picked up steam. Print was still strong and the Internet wasn't the all-knowing force that it is today.
And therein lies the problem. As the gaming industry grows -- as the press expands and the hype train takes on new carts -- it defies its own potential. Someday, games will shrug off the shackles of linearity, but will gamers stick around to experience those trailblazers in different ways? Or will our own anticipation for The Next Big Thing get the best of us?
Today's Roundup details a couple of initiatives that could grab at gamers' ankles and never let go, but will they work? Can't say. But for now, my commentary will have to suffice. It's all past the break.
I find television show depictions of people playing games absolutely ridiculous. Actors, directed by people with no grasp of how gaming actually works, lean and rock like they're atop a mechanical bull. Those of us who actually game can vouch for how utterly false such depictions are. But while some of us may sit hunched over in our cushy chairs, mouths agape, displaying only the basest signs of life, a good many of us do express emotion while we play. Thing is, when the actor asks, "What's my motivation?" The director should fire back with a single word: "Pissed."
Without a doubt, most of us play games for fun, but when I'm winding languidly through Uncannily-Accurate-Sniper-Alley for the tenth time, you'd have to be Stephen Colbert to turn my frown upside-down. We're all human, so when things don't go our way, we get frustrated. We shout, we curse, we frighten small children. However, gaming is unique as a medium in that, unlike television, film, or music, it manages to evoke such fiery emotions. Good or bad, you have to admit that's kind of cool.
So, when you play games, do you let your emotions take control? Have you ever embedded a controller into your wall? A mouse? Have any stories you'd like to share?
Today's Roundup isn't intended to make you angry -- or even a little hot under the collar -- so take a load off and give it a read. Inside, you'll find an EA cash-grabbing scheme that's a tad different from the norm, Ubisoft taking piracy by the horns, hope for Crackdown 2, and much, much* more. Jump past the break and let the catharsis begin.
The gaming industry is, currently, on the forefront of media. There's nothing else like it -- nothing else endowed with its far-reaching potential. Gaming is the future, so I guess it makes sense that gamers' gazes are aimed unflinchingly forward, never braking for the past -- or even the present. Our news always involves what's "Coming this holiday season" and our real-life heroes, when not piecing together the latest triple-A titles, rack their brains over how tomorrow's games will work. Why can't we stop for a breather every once in a while?
But no, our breakneck pace continues today. We'll rest when we're dead or when we practice what we preach. Into the crystal ball I've gazed, and I've seen things, man -- things like Unreal Engine 4, PC gaming's death, and, ack, Cammie Dunaway! Consider this crystal ball retired!
Unless a playable demo manages to leak onto the web like the trailer for the upcoming Max Payne movie did, Far Cry fans won't be catching a sneak hands-on peak of the hotly anticipated sequel, Far Cry 2. Slated for release sometime before Christmas, Ubisoft's first person shooter isn't being developed by the same team that conceived the original game, and will sport a new game engine. Because of the changes, gamers are holding their collective breaths on whether or not the follow-up can maintain the same appeal that made the first game such a surprise hit, but it looks like that won't be known until it ships.
Far Cry 2's creative director Clint Hocking explained the decision not to release a demo saying there's no way to offer a teaser without giving up a significant amount of game play. "I don't know too many people who are willing to give away a 12-hour game or free," Hocking said.
Hype. The gaming industry lives and dies by it. More often than not, however, our expectations are sent crashing to the floor when our anticipations finally come to fruition. Today, then, was like tumbling to the ground, only to look up and glimpse an 18-Wheeler that's primed to make you into a road pizza. So, if you think you can take it, why don't you jump past the break to find out why you should be feeling more than a little let down?
Oh, and to make up for today's Debby Downer syndrome, you'll also find a link to a page that sells completely legal DRM-free copies of classic games. Or will sell them. In September. But that's something, right?
The death-defying urban acrobatics of free running—seen recently on the
big screen in the Casino Royale remake, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Live
Free or Die Hard—are replicated to great effect in Assassin’s Creed, an
action-adventure console port that puts you in the nimble shoes of a
12th-century assassin. Light feet and tremendous upper-body strength,
rather than overwhelming firepower, are your greatest assets as you
scale walls and barrel across rooftops in one of the most refreshing
games we’ve played.