Something of Beauty

Playing Bloodborne isn’t all I’ve been doing, but it’s a lot of what I’ve been doing.

Bloodborne Screenshot

Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Transcendent Quest for Beauty in Bloodborne:

…one of the handful of art designers of the game, Masanori Waragai, tells how he brought a design for the game’s undead dragon to Miyazaki. Looking at the sketch of a disgusting beast, swarming with maggots, Miyazaki chastised Waragai for relying on gross-out imagery: “Can’t you instead try to convey the deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to a slow and possibly endless descent into ruin?”

You always remember your first.

We’ve known each other for twenty years now, and I can still remember the first time we met so vividly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so breathtaking. You were the standard that everything after was judged by, and did they ever hate you for it.

We had a lot of good years, and even when it started to become clear that I needed to move forward, I kept coming back. I was so young, but you were always there, a reminder of what I needed and deserved. You were my touchstone.

Here’s to another twenty years, Doom.

Doom

If you have ‘Peace’, you simply haven’t yet seen the thing that’s trying to kill you.

Let me tell you about Star Control II.

ur_quan_kzer_za_wallpaper_by_dczanik-d3k1nmt

Star Control II is the best game. Like, actually the best game. If you’ve played it, you know how good it is. If you haven’t, don’t take it from me. There’s no shortage of publications who agree with me on this one.

Gamespy:

Star Control II is the best game ever made. Not the best classic game, not the best sci-fi game. Not even the best PC game. The best game. Ever. This is the kind of addicting game that invokes euphoria and will leave a great hole in your life after you’ve won. You’ll wet your pants in anticipation to play this game after you’ve had a taste of it. For those of you who have played the game and do not agree with these statements, I feel genuine sorrow for all three of you.

Gamer Theory:

Star Control II was easily the best open world game of its time. It’s really rare, even today, to find a game that offers the same level of freedom, non-linear progression, and sense of scale that Star Control II has.

Gamespot:

Simply put, Star Control II had everything. It was challenging, rewarding, open-ended, fun, and highly replayable. It’s a genuine classic that’s still unsurpassed, and it’s so original that it hasn’t even been imitated. And even though the game is more than 10 years old now, it still holds up extremely well, and most of today’s sci-fi-themed games can’t hold a candle to it. From playing Star Control II, you clearly get the impression that the game was a labor of love. Yet it’s just as evidently a work of incredible talent and creativity.

Star Control II is easily one of my all-time favorite computer games, and one of those games that makes me feel privileged having played it–I felt like I’d dug up a chest full of gold doubloons when I discovered that game, it was so unbelievably good. It’s just an amazing work of fiction, not to mention a really fun game. Long after I’d finished the campaign several times, my friends and I would still play the super melee mode for hours and hours. I never would have imagined that my favorite shooter and my favorite RPG of the era would be part of the same game.

There aren’t any other games like Star Control II. The only other game that compares in the slightest with SC2 in ambition and scope is Mass Effect, and while the resemblance isn’t coincidental, SC2’s open-world and non-linear gameplay is on another level. And it was made over twenty years ago.

In 2002, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III’s company Toys for Bob released a partial source port of Star Control II under an open license, and over the next ten(!) years the fan community worked to transform it into a near-perfect port that is downloadable and playable on modern systems. (There’s also a great-looking fan effort to remake the game in HD that I’ll be downloading once I get home. If you start downloading it now, it’ll probably be done by the time you’re finished reading this!)

There was a sequel produced in 1996, but the creators (Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III) weren’t involved and its existence is generally ignored by most SC2 fans. For years, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III have talked about how much they’d love to make a proper SC3, but they couldn’t get the trademark rights from Accolade.

Fans have been checking in with Toys for Bob every few years, but it didn’t look like there was ever going to be another Star Control.

UNTIL NOW:

Stardock Entertainment has acquired the rights to the Star Control franchise in the ongoing sell-off resulting from Atari’s bankruptcy filing. Stardock, producer of the popular space strategy games Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations I & II, has announced that it intends to use the rights to produce a new Star Control game, reviving a series that hasn’t seen a proper sequel since 1996. According to a press release issued by Stardock, the company will begin work on the game “this year,” with a release date to be determined.

The Star Control series—and Star Control II in particular—is an enormously important part of the PC gaming canon. The games are the reincarnation and true successors of the earlier Starflight series, and most modern space adventure games take at least some of their gameplay and humor elements from them (including Mass Effect, which director Casey Hudson has directly attributed to Starflight). At first blush, the news of Stardock’s acquisition seems to be excellent for fans of space exploration games.

At first blush! But it’s complicated, and there are big problems:

First, the sale was for the Star Control 2 trademark, and not the intellectual property of the games themselves. Toys for Bob own SC2 (which is why they were allowed to release the source), and any new Star Control game made by Stardock would need to negotiate with Toys for Bob to use any of the alien races or plot points from SC2.

Second, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell is a total asshole. He has a history of sexual harassment, and when he was politely asked by one of his employees to stop touching her hair (seriously) and to not make sexist jokes in the office, he replied that her request

is not acceptable to me. I am an inappropriate, sexist, vulgar, and embarrassing person and I’m not inclined to change my behavior. If this is a problem, you will need to find another job.

(Seriously!)

Third, Toys for Bob should be making this game. Stardock won’t get it right. EA couldn’t get it right. And it is for sure possible that even Toys for Bob wouldn’t get it right — but they’re the only ones who know what ‘right’ should look like.

SC2, more than almost any other game I’ve ever played, has a personality. The same way games like Portal, Thomas Was Alone, A Boy And His Blob, or Limbo have personalities. I wouldn’t want to see Portal 3 made by EA, or Limbo 2 made by Bioware. Those games were brought to life as labors of love, and no amount of homage or respect by third parties can be expected to do them justice.

In a perfect world, Stardock would make whatever game they wanted to make, and then gift a license to the trademark to Toys for Bob so that they could make the game they’ve wanted to make for the last twenty years.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a perfect world, and we’re likely going to have to live with another imperfect followup to a perfect game.

But (quite fortunately), Star Control 2 is still out there, free to play, for any of us to dive into and discover all over again.

I can’t wait.

sexual harassment for fun and profit

There are a lot of things happening in my life that I’d like to write about, but my heart is heavy and my skin is raw. Instead, I’m going to write about this new contest from Electronic Arts:

Stay classy, EA.

Stay classy, EA.

I’ll give you a minute to re-read the ‘How To Win’ section a few times.

That’s right, EA literally wants you to sexually harass the booth babes at Comic-Con. You don’t have to settle for staring awkwardly at scantily-clad flesh and working up the nerve to brush your hand against an ass or two as you walk past them; their employer has actually posted a sexual bounty on them — so please feel free to grab a handful and get your money’s worth! And if your photos are the most ass-grabbingly great (keeping in mind step 3!) you’ll get to take them out to dinner in a fancy limo!

Goddamn it if EA isn’t the worst thing to happen to video games since Ultima Online. (Actually, scratch that. They published Ultima Online. I guess they’re just the worst thing.)

Every now and then I think about dropping everything and getting back into the video game industry, but then I am gripped by this fear, this panic, that somehow someday somewhere I would end up working for EA, and that’s enough to shake those dreams from my hair.

Oh, booth babes. Have we not yet visited enough ignominy and nerd germs upon you? Truly, you are the most underappreciated of all sex workers.

Corey & Vampirella

Corey & Vampirella. photo: roadkillbuddha

It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of gum. Also, money.

It is a sad day today for old-school PC gamers. 3D Realms, the developers of Duke Nukem Forever, have shut their doors.

Duke Nukem Forever, the game that was promised to be a Quake II killer.  The game that was already so late by 2001 that they stopped announcing release dates. The game that had won the Vaporware Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

Now, we will likely never see the pixelated stripclubs and alien cops that were promised to us back in 1997.  All we have are a few minutes of footage from E3, and a handful of leaked screenshots and promo art.

In memory of what could have been, I will end this post with highlights from a list of things that have happened while DNF was under development:

  • Over 25 Final Fantasy games and 2 Final Fantasy movies
  • The entire Sims and Grand Theft Auto series.
  • Also Unreal, Dance Dance Revolution, Tony Hawk, and Halo.
  • The rise of P2P filesharing, including Napster.
  • All three Star Wars prequels, and the LOTR film trilogy.
  • Bullet time, Family Guy, South Park, and Harry Potter.
  • Two Mars rovers and the International Space Station.

…and things that happened in less time than DNF’s development took:

  • Everything The Beatles ever did.
  • The United States moon program.
  • World War I.
  • World War II and the entire Manhattan Project. Including the fucking atomic bomb.

Rest in peace, Duke.

Things I have been enjoying lately: Second in a series.

Left 4 Dead.

This just might be the best co-op game I’ve ever played. 4 players versus insane zombies, running from building to building, fucking shit up proper. From the Shacknews Review:

It’s actually very easy to quantify just how replayable Left 4 Dead is, in the same way that one can identify an infectious disease.

Because that’s what playing Left 4 Dead for the first time feels like–the beginning of a terrible affliction. We played the game for two straight days at Valve, only occasionally surfacing for a gasp of fresh snacks. We played so much Left 4 Dead that it made us all physically ill. We came home thoroughly infected, bed-ridden and moaning like the undead.

And the most common phrase going around our chat channel? “I wish I could play more right now.”

L4D Grafitti

It really is that much fun.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be on Xbox Live.

Gamer Public Service Announcement

Tales of Vesperia is the most visually stunning video game I have ever seen, and is easily the best RPG I’ve played since FF7. Maybe since FF5.

All of this video is in-game. That is what the combat actually looks like.

The battles are real-time, the skill system is a perfect combination of the job system and the materia system, and I’m over 20 hours in and I just got off the first continent.

This game is to the 360 what FF7 was to the PS. It’s worth buying the console for.

…but don’t take my word for it, ask Famitsu (who gave it 9-9-9-8), or ask Japan (where 360s are now sold out at every major retailer in the country).

All Apologies

I was wrong about Game Of The Year, dear reader. So wrong.

It’s not Mass Effect, even though it’s the first game that’s ever made me miss Star Control 2.
It’s not Portal, even though GLaDOS is the best villain since Sephiroth.
…and it’s not Bioshock, even though it has the perhaps the best boss fight (Ryan, not the other one) in the history of RPGs.

It is not any of those brilliant, beautiful games which have brought me countless hours of enjoyment this year.

It’s Rock Band.

ps: winter still sucks

Fun Facts:

– Danny’s rave was fantastic. I opened with Apotheosis, and closed with Hellsau. I’m an asshole like that.
– Mass Effect just might be the best non-Japanese console RPG I’ve ever played. This is what Star Control 3 should’ve been like.
– There’s an instrumental mix of NIN’s Year Zero floating around. It turns a good album into an incredible one. You should find it and listen to it.
– I should be sleeping.

Trauma Center

…and so ends Jairus’s Albertan Teaching Adventures – class wrapped up today. Jairus’s Albertan Hotel Adventures will continue for another couple of days.

Class was good. The students are all pretty fun and friendly, so it wasn’t too tough. Mostly people I’d end up hanging out with outside class, if I lived in ALBERTALAND. The oldest student is sixty, but he’s easily the most fun. His daughter is a professional snowboarder, his son is an actor (Dead Like Me, Final Destination 3), and he loves industrial music. I might’ve sold him on coming to COMA in April.

In other news, I stumbled upon a Wii. It is sitting in a shiny white box, waiting to be loved upon my return to Ottawa – and loved it shall be.

I had more delicious burgers today, but paid the ultimate price for them: Hiccups. As the wise Siddhartha knew, life is suffering.

Delicious beefy suffering.

Authorities will be in contact shortly for appropriate reeducation.

Holy shit. There’s a whole AI-style alternate universe all over the net about the new NIN album. Behold the new tour shirt:

The highlighted letters spell ‘I am trying to believe’.

…which brings us to iamtryingtobelieve.com, which then leads us to all kinds of crazy audio files and fucked up and awesome websites.

I don’t know what to feel anymore, Trent. I am trying to believe. :(

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September 30th, Toronto: “PLAY! A Video Game Symphony is a Symphony world-tour featuring music from blockbuster video games. The music is performed by some of the finest, world-class orchestras and choirs. Graphics on large screens suspended above the orchestra accompany the scores, highlighting memorable moments from the video games.”

A typical program:

Uematsu Play! A Video Game Symphony Fanfare
Uematsu Final Fantasy
Kondo Super Mario Bros.
Mitsuyoshi Shenmue
Eriksson Battlefield 1942
Uematsu Aerith’s Theme ur Final Fantasy VII
Nakamura Sonic the Hedgehog
Iwase Metal Gear Solid
Hülsbeck Apidya
Shimomura Kingdom Hearts
Soule The Elder Scrolls III
Uematsu Swing de Chocobo ur Final Fantasy
Grefberg The Chronicles of Riddick
Mitsuda Chrono Cross-Chrono Trigger
Hayes World of Warcraft
Yamaoka Silent Hill
O’Donnell/Salvatori Halo
Kondo The Legend of Zelda
Uematsu One Winged Angel ur Final Fantasy VII

Mike/Oni T, you guys down for a roadtrip? The tickets are, unfortunately, orchestra priced, but there are some fantastic seats available.

What I Did Today, by Jairus Khan.

First, I had to update my dashboard. My XBox is running a standard Xecuter BIOS, and I went with Avalaunch 0.49, the choice of kings.

Due to my crappy DVD drive, my XBox can only read DVD-R media. No CD-RW for me. Gonna have to get me a Phillips or maybe just the Thompson laser. After several unsuccessful attempts, I had DVD-R media my XBox could read.

Then came Debian. Or, more appropriately, Xebian. Even though it has horrible documentation, I managed to come out on the other side, a few hours later. I pulled a fakie on the FS so that it thinks all the needed partitions are inside one big 3GB file on my HD. This makes things simple.

THEN!

The Apt-Get nightmare. Hours and hours spend fighting with compilers, version conflicts, dependencies, and everything else I hate about Linux. I made it through, but just barely. I’ll have to take it easy for the next few days, glibc has sapped my strength.

In the end, however, it was all worth it. It took the day, but I got what I wanted. Linux running on an XBox, with full joystick support. Not because I give a crap about Linux, oh no. A much, much better reason.


The Ur-Quan are coming, bitches.