"With great power, there must also come great responsibility" -- Uncle Ben, Spider-Man
"With great power and great responsibility, there must also come walls of text." -- Far too many videogames
It's atrocious, too. Last night, I was forced to read my way through the opening of a game released only a week ago. The game's gloriously rendered prison cell bars would likely have even the rottenest of holding cells in jealous fits, yet mere moments after I moved beyond those gnarled steel beams, I was assailed by a text tutorial of such ridiculous length that it would've benefitted from a rabbit-ear feature.
"This is next-gen?" I wondered aloud.
We can polish graphics to such a sheen that even the most mundane objects wrap their tendrils securely around our eyes and never let go, yet integrating a tutorial with actual gameplay is an insurmountable task? The very thought is absurd, and doesn't exactly get me pumped to play the rest of the game. After all, if gameplay matters so little that the designers couldn't even be bothered to, you know, teach me through interactivity -- a little quirk that I hear makes games sorta cool -- then why should I expect anything better from the rest of their game? It's like popping a Porsche chassis over a Flintstones car; take the thing for a spin and your next stop will be the used-car dealership.
So, which ripe-smelling, antiquated videogame "features" do you think should be given the boot? Are there any that you'd actually like to see stick around?
Today's Roundup is all about the future -- no artifacts from 1993 here. Inside, you'll find only the latest news concerning Deus Ex 3, F.E.A.R. 2 (Yep, that's the name, now), and two separate plans to "save" PC gaming.
NBC's fling with Microsoft's Silverlight platform appears to be over, at least for the time being. NBC had previously agreed to stream the Beijing Olympics to viewers using Silverlight instead of Flash to deliver the content, but now that the Olympics have wrapped up, NBC has turned back to Flash for this week's NFL season opener.
Even still, the short-term relationship can be viewed as a success for Microsoft, who managed to increase its install-base through the apparently time limited partnership. Overall download specifics were never disclosed, but we do know that at one point 1.5 million downloads were being registered per day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, at one point "more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already [had] Silverlight 2 installed." Having a large install base is important because it makes it easier for Microsoft to convince developers to use its platform.
And for Adobe, it means getting back a major partner, but not without a downside. While viewers were able to watch NFL games with Flash installed, reports have surfaced complaining of unwatchable video quality saddled with freeze frames, blurry action, and skipping back and forth while as the feeds tried to buffer.
It's a good time to be a browser connoisseur. Last week Google unveiled it's beta Chrome browser to the public, and Mozilla has now made available for download Firefox 3.1 Alpha 2. Code named Shiretoko Alpha 2, the new browser is built on a pre-release version of the Gecko 1.9.1 platform. New features include:
Drag and drop tabs between browser windows
New selector to create areas of Aero-style "glass" in XUL
Support for some CSS 2.1 and CSS 3 properties
Improved performance and new preference values for color managment profile support
At a glance, the previously struggling Napster appears to have bounced back and is now doing well. As outlined in the company's fiscal first quarter financial report, the music service can boast a positive cash flow for the fifth straight quarter with revenue holding steady at about $30 million. According to Napster's brass, the company is making the right move and is in a good position moving forward. But convincing investors of that is another story altogether.
Despite the positive quarterly financial reports, Napster's stock hit an all-time low in mid-July and today is trading at less than half of what it went for one year ago. Subscribers are down 7 percent from last quarter, and a group of impatient investors have initiated a proxy battle to win seats on the board.
"It's kind of damned if you and damned if you don't," Napster chairman and CEO Chris Gorog laments. "The bottom line is, five years ago we were number 2 or 3 in the this industry, and five years later we're still number 2 or 3 in this industry."
Hit the jump to learn why Napster remains stagnant.
In a seemingly never ending battle with the FCC, Comcast is back on the offensive. The cable giant is looking to overturn the ruling reached on August 1st which found them in violation of the FCC’s network neutrality principles. Comcast was mandated to immediately cease any packet shaping initiatives and to publically disclose the full extent of its traffic blocking policies. Experts close to the case have chimed in on the issue and it would appear as though news of the appeal wasn’t all that surprising. Comcast has become famous in legal circles for appealing any decision it doesn’t agree with, and this case is no exception. Comcast firmly believes that packet shaping of peer-to-peer traffic is a legitimate and reasonable means of managing network traffic and intends to defend that contention to the bitter end. Despite the impending appeal, Comcast has agreed to abide by the FCC mandates until a new verdict is reached. Comcast’s packet shaping activities have been in the spotlight since late 2007 when the Associated Press revealed proof that Comcast was blocking P2P traffic during peak hours. The FCC case was seen as a test run help to determine if it could enforce its network neutrality principles. I’m sure most Maximum PC readers are rooting for the FCC, but since so little precedent in a case like this; the outcome of an appeal could still go either way.
Be informed, dear readers, Microsoft’s next installment of security bulletins is going to be on September 9 – Patch Tuesday. Microsoft revealed in the security bulletin advance notification for September that it will release four security bulletins on the following Patch Tuesday. All four of them merit immediate attention as they have been rated critical. The security bulletins will all fix vulnerabilities pertaining to remote code execution. The Patch Tuesday in August also carried quite a few security bulletins related to remote code execution including a patch for the “MS Access Snapshot Viewer ActiveX control," which hackers had begun to exploit using a malicious toolkit.
I'd like to think that I'm a fairly well-adjusted person. I'm generally jovial, well-versed in a range of topics, and only fly into embittered, cursing rages when people really deserve it, or when they speak to me between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM without having submitted the proper paperwork. Overall, though, I'm a circular peg in the round hole that is our society.
But it wasn't always this way.
As a wee lad, I was quite the little nerdling. I wiled away my time basking in the glow of a computer monitor, sending tiny green orcs to be trampled into tiny green puddles against insurmountably immense forces.
But that wasn't enough for me.
When I wasn't playing, I was drawing. Covered in construction paper scraps and the glue I didn't ingest, I'd emerge from my lair looking like a Swamp Thing pinata. There was a purpose to my demented sciences, however. In essence, I created the ultimate fan art. Towering paper monuments to my favorite videogame characters, they were. Four feet in height, and crafted with the utmost care. They were at once my greatest friends, yet also my only friends. (Note that I was, like, eight. It was perfectly normal, right?)
So, has gaming ever busted down the doorway into your day-to-day life? Any stories you'd like to share? Art projects? Fan fiction? Halloween costumes?
Regardless, today's Roundup is right up your alley. Boiling in the belly of this monstrous site are stories about a console developer decrying consoles, a PC developer spitting in the face of piracy, and Peter Moore dropping a big, bad F-bomb right on top of Sonic The Hedgehog's creator.
If Microsoft and Mozilla were content to shrug off Google's Chrome browser as just another also-ran, they might want to reconsider their position. Chrome still has a ways to go before it poses a legitimate threat to either of the market leaders, but its off to a damn good start, surpassing Opera in market share right off the bat. Net Applications' Market Share statistics site shows Chrome peaking at 1.48 percent the day after release, and as high as 1.73 percent yesterday. By comparison, Opera sits at .71 percent for the month of August, the highest it's been all year.
So what's the big deal? That remains to be seen, but Google's muscle in the online community should be obvious. For all of Chrome's potential, it's a beta release that so far doesn't support extensions and isn't yet as polished as other established browers, at least not yet. And while Opera isn't nearly the opponent that either Firefox or Internet Explorer is, many would consider it a niche favorite.
Is Chrome's initial success a sign of more to come, or will the initial buzz wear off?
Google Apps might be a dwarf compared to its rival Microsoft Office but it is making steady progress. It has finally made a stride of some significance by making it to 1 million enterprise users. The company claims to be successfully wooing 3,000 businesses to Google Apps everyday. However, it is certain that a significant chunk of its users are using the free version; the Premium version carries an annual subscription fee of $50.
Google Apps’ contribution to Google’s annual income was a paltry $4 million in 2007, and not a whole lot should change in the foreseeable future. Not that Google would be banking on a miraculous turnaround, as its product currently doesn’t even deserve to feature in the same sentence as Microsoft Office – at least going by the economics of magnitude. Google seems to be aiming for a ponderous victory over Microsoft.
In the past, I've clambered to the top of my soapbox tower in order to wax ludological about why games should be fun. While riding back down the escalator from atop my exceedingly ritzy box, I gazed upon my audience, hoping that I'd at least imparted one tiny nugget of info: I don't care about difficulty -- I'll even turn a game's masculinity meter down to "Very Easy" -- if it means having a good time. Lucky for me, many of today's game developers seem to agree with my sentiment. They hold our hands like an overprotective mother herding her child across the street. They give us failsafes for our failsafes. They design their games to be "fair."
But therein lies the problem. Personally, I think games should flip us a double-sided coin every once in a while. If the scales never tip, then what impact do our choices have? Take, for instance, BioShock. Whether you saved the Little Sisters or ended them, you still gained roughly the same amount of Eve, and bonus powers were negligible. BioShock was supposed to have us wracking our brains every time we made a choice. Your life versus the Little Sisters' -- power because of necessity versus mercy. Instead, though, the whole thing was a sham.
More recently, Mercenaries 2 made a similar mistake -- essentially replicating its weapon set across the game's different factions, making your choice of gun-toting employer basically meaningless.
And guess what? The onus for this trend rests on our shoulders. If the aliens have nicer weapons than the humans, we hop on message boards and join in a chorus of variously pitched whining. Single-player or multiplayer, if a game isn't perfectly "balanced," we get uppity.
So maybe we should just ease off our "!" key and let developers flex their creative muscles from time-to-time. A few failed attempts would be well worth the successes other games might reap.
But what say you, MPC readers? Should games continue down the sterile road toward same-same fairness, or would you prefer developers give some meaning to our choices, even if it means ruffling some feathers in the process?
Either way, this installment of the Roundup is just what you're looking for -- mostly because you're already reading it. Today, you'll find news about a wicked-cheap font from which X-COM now springs, a good reason to nab an Xbox 360, and episodic gaming's great failing.