Saturday, November 28, 2009

Opinions are like what, again?

Reviewing or previewing a new game is not a difficult concept. Yet, each blogger, gamer or gaming website approaches it differently. Some are perfectly content playing a game for a few hours and slapping a numerical rating to that bit of time. Others wouldn't touch a rating system until they've finished the game.

For me, I tend to stay away from reviews -- especially for MMOs. First impressions are another thing entirely, as I'd be happy to relay my initial thoughts to anyone who may be interested in hearing them. I'm not telling you to buy or not buy the game, just saying that this is how I felt.

Something related to this is... let's say, influences. At Massively (and the whole Joystiq Network), we have strict policies against accepting anything that could potentially sway our opinion about a game or a game studio. It doesn't matter if the promises of free dinners, free subscriptions or free travel would actually sway our opinion, it's the fact that it could be perceived that way. Do I think this is a good policy? Well, it has its advantages when you want to fall back on credibility and honesty, but I don't think it's the best way to handle things anymore. Sometimes I feel like a food critic who is invited to sit and watch the other food critics eat away, and then expected to give my impressions of the food based on the table scraps that fell to the floor.

Do I sometimes feel resentment for those people at other sites who are flown around the world to see the newest and shiniest games? Hell yes I do. They get the exclusive and no one says anything about how they got that exclusive. Their traffic numbers go through the roof, and it's a win-win for their site. It's really hard to stay competitive in a market like that.

Related to this is the very real issue of reviewers getting paid or 'influenced' to give a game a little higher score. Does this happen? Hell yes it does. Have I seen it happen directly? Nope, and I hope I never do.

Many game studios (especially the smaller ones) will do what they can to make you as comfortable as possible while playing their game. Want a few extra items from the item mall? Hey, no problem. Whatever we can do to help! Professional game journalists know that this is just the way things go, and they roll with it. They're getting paid regardless of the outcome of their review. Smaller bloggers who may run a self-funded hobby site about what games they love to play might see this a bit differently. Whoa! Free stuff in a game! And all I have to do is review their game? They'll even give me a free subscription and free box copy! I love this studio! Now I'm going to play this game and write a review of this awesome game from this wonderful studio that I love! Whoooo!

You can see how that could be a problem. I'm not saying that all small-time game bloggers are easily bought and sold, but to me, it seems that they're much more impressionable. Heck, any time an ArenaNet developer even acknowledged my presence when I did GuildCast, I'd flip out.

So now, what I do is only talk about the games that I enjoy. I recently gave a raving first impressions "review" of Allods Online. Is it because of anything the studio did? Nope, not at all. I even went into that game expecting crap, and was pleasantly surprised. So I wrote an article on it and made a short video. I think it deserved it. On a side note, it makes me happy that so many other bloggers are now starting to check that game out. Hopefully I had some influence in that, even if they'd never admit it.

When I play a game and don't enjoy it, I'm not going to trash it all over Massively. I will simply give it minimal coverage. If someone else on the team enjoys that game, more power to them. I realize that everyone has differing opinions on different games, and that's just the way life is. When there's a game that has been popping around the other sites here and there, and we're not talking about it... it's because no one enjoys the game. We're certainly not going to lie and say we like a crap game, no matter how many free in-game horses or paid subs are offered.

I really think we're doing it right. I often wish our more skeptical commenters could take a look 'backstage' sometimes and see how this all works, but it's really not as complicated as many make it out to be. We like a game, we rave about it. We hate it, we don't rave about it. We're not in the business of trashing games, but I think we are in the business of telling people what we like.

I can sleep at night knowing that I am being honest. And I'll take those table scraps.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Interwebz speedz

I have a confession to make.

I am still on a low-speed internet service. I know, I know. My job relies on a proper internet service, right? I have what Comcast calls 'Performance Lite", which is 4mbps/512kps line as it was all I could afford for a long time.

This horribly slow internet is why I lag so much in games and have huge problems with voice comm in games. It's also one of the main reasons I'm so quiet in Vent or TS, because when I talk, it's delayed by 10-15 seconds and it always interrupts someone. I'd rather just stay quiet and not interrupt.

But yesterday, I received a letter from my local electric company saying that they've installed fiber optic lines in my old neighborhood and I can get internet up to 50mbps!! I'm not going to fit the bill for that, but the lowest package they offer is 15 mbps for the same price I'm paying Comcast for 4mbps.

I'm very VERY excited about the possibilities here. No more horrible lag in games (hopefully). No more hiccuping Skype recordings. No more long delays in Vent or TS. No more keeping quiet (ok, I'll probably still do that.)

Take that Comcast, you monopolizing effers.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009

Well, Halloween was fairly uneventful. Sarah and I went to a local costume party we saw on Facebook, for a local theater group. We thought it might be cool because they might respect effort put into costumes, and also we have no friends. There was a costume contest and the prize was $200, so we figured we'd try for it.

Well, I really don't want to sound too bitter (hint: I didn't win), but it was mainly a popularity contest among people who were already friends. We soon realized (after being asked several times who were were and how we were associated with the theater group) that we were not at a public party afterall. Anyway, we paid our money, so we were staying.

I received more than a few comments about how my costume scared the Snow Whites and the Tinkerbelles there, but there were a few really nice people who I talked with about how I made my costume. They were impressed.. or possibly not. They were actors, afterall.

When it came time for the parade of costumes, we were asked to walk up in front of everyone (probably 40 people) and stand there while they said our names. Hey, no problem, right? From here, they chose the Top 10, of which I was included.

For the second stage, we were told to go up front and act out the role for our costume. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I am horribly scared of being in front of crowds. So I beat on my armor a bit and yelled. There were a few claps, but mostly scared stares. I'll take that!

When they announced the next stage of voting (for top 5), they said that now they wanted people to go up front and do a monologue about their costumes. Remember, these are actors and actresses here. These are people who LIVE to be in front of a crowd and they're very witty and clever. I was terrified. I was actually praying to God that I would not be in the Top 5, because I would rather walk home without $200 than to embarrass myself in front of these people (who I will never see again).

Well, God answered my prayers and I was not chosen for the Top 5. We left not long after that, but I honestly can't remember the last time I had been so scared. Highschool, perhaps? I don't know. I'm a 34 year old man and I can't deal with being in front of groups with nothing to say. Sure, I did it at Dragon*Con during my panels, but that was different. I knew the topic and I was among friends.

So now I pack away the costume, dream of ways to improve it for Dragon*Con 2010 and move on. I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My post-apocalyptic costume so far

For anyone who followed along on my post-apoc costume previously, I will consolidate the progress here and post new photos as well.

To catch everyone up who hadn't been following along, basically I saw an amazing panel at Dragon*Con this year with Kenneth Reising where he described the process involved with making a post-apoc costume. I had always loved costuming stuff, but never knew how to get into it. This panel really inspired me to get something going, either for Halloween this year, or next year's Dragon*Con.

I scavenged Goodwill, other thrift stores and local flea markets for parts and pieces for my new costume. Ironically, much of the costume has come from junk I had in my garage or basement, as well.

What's that? You want to see pictures? Sure thing!

My new home

So, after many MANY problems with my web host, which include everything from accusations of hacking to repeated downtime to the latest issue of having their ENTIRE SERVER hacked, I've decided to finally give up on running websites on my own.

At first, I was told that only my sites were hacked, but it turns out the entire server that housed my sites was hacked. This is good because it means I don't need to take it personally, but it's bad because my sites are broken, and you know me... I didn't have recent backups.

So I'm done with that crap. I'm done with having my own sites, and I'm handing that part of it over to I've always thought it seemed a bit less "professional" when bloggers used services like this, but it certainly has its advantages.

So this new blog will be a compilation of my latest projects, and my thoughts on MMOs, the post-apoc genre, music, family, off-grid living and anything else that tickles my fancy.