Ignorance as anger

One of the big things that drives me just batshit about trying to do anything but particularly on the internet is the people who don’t know anything but believe they know not only more than you, but that it proves you have some ill intent.

For instance. Over at the good ship USSM, Dave took on a job to edit a Mariner annual for Maple Street Press. I’m mostly out of writing about baseball, but for Dave, I was totally willing to take on writing two pieces for straight freelance rates. We all got paid a flat rate. Well, we didn’t, because we haven’t even been paid yet, thank you standard industry practices. But yeah: $x and thanks.

Dave did a great job recruiting people, the annual turned out amazing, and as a result, it’s sold ridiculously well. I don’t know how well, but whatever. I posted on USSM about where to get it and noted in passing that we didn’t make any money for extra sales, so we’re not pumping it out of some naked greed.

One of the host of people that like to hang out and complain about USSM accused me of lying about it. While the money we made for each additional copy might only be a few cents, it was something, so I should stop lying to our readers, etc etc.

To review:
– I agreed to write for a flat payment $x, and signed a contract that says that.
– I mentioned that we made no money from additional sales in a post.
– Someone who has no knowledge of what our contracts were accuses me of lying and acting in bad faith because they believe they know more about the situation even though they have no actual knowledge of it.

And it wasn’t “I believe the usual arrangement is x, so I’m extremely suspicious…”

Seriously. This kind of thing drives me insane. Would you go argue with a particle physicist that quarks had three kinds of spin and therefore they were skimming money off the LHC and spending it on ripple and fast women?

Anyway.

Yup

“If we had signed to Gold Mountain management, or if we had signed with Geffen, maybe Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain sells 750,000 copies instead of 250,000 copies. But it was really just the difference between being Pavement or being Weezer,” Malkmus says. “I never had a great deal of confidence in my ability to write hits. There’s a formula to that, and I’m not a good chorus writer. I’m better at the verses. Sometimes I don’t even get to the chorus.”

— From Chuck Klosterman’s interview of Stephen Malkmus, of Pavement

Oh future, and the measurements of Killer Loop Coup glasses

I had a pair of Killer Loop Coup sunglasses way back when, and they fit amazingly well, I saw well in them, and then someone stole them, and ever since I’ve been burning through knock-offs, being disappointed in new ones, and fighting the temptation to buy a used pair off eBay for $200.

So I’ve been idly trying to figure out what the nearest current replacement is to at least get a reasonable fit. And after searching for a while, I was getting really honked off that the Internet wasn’t bowing to my will and I realized what I was mad about (and that Google has created an Internet where keyword spamming has destroyed nearly all context and meaning).

I was mad that I could not, from my desk at home, search for and easily locate the measurements for a pair of sunglasses from ten+ years ago.

The level of immediate gratification and information retrieval we have available and have come to expect is that high, and the absurdity of it struck me only then: why in the world should it be true that I should be able to go to Google and say “killer loop coup lens width” and have something returned?

And then Bing returned the results, nice and clean, translated from the Japanese.

Seriously.

Lens width: 56 mm
Lens height: 32 mm
Overall width: 145 mm

Aw yeah.

The year in gaming for a really jaded gamer

So! Here was my year, essentially, as I finally gave up on PC gaming.

Persona 4. Times a lot. I very nearly played it twice. It’s so great. If this had come out on the Wii, say, it might be the game of the year on that console. It’s funny, cool, it’s sooooo Japanese and weird, and it takes itself seriously too, and the characters are great (and kind of hilariously stupid), and combat is deep and interesting (and challenging throughout)… loved it. I didn’t think I would, either, and I was utterly won over.

Fallout 3. Still. Hated the crashes, hated the whole Windows Live experience w/DLC.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. I’d heard a lot of good things, and it was Zero Punctuation-endorsed, so I was in. But it’s… it’s not good. It’s a Western shooter where you end up killing 100, 200 or so people while making your way through a town of 12 people. And the cover mechanic is okay but I never quite got it, so I spent a lot of time in controller frustration land. Also, I don’t understand how the South lost the Civil War. They could have just sent the worthwhile brother north to rend destruction all the way up the coast until the North surrendered. I know, that’s not the point, but when you and an NPC can kill off huge units of organized, heavily-armed military units, it raises some questions.

Red Faction: Guerrilla. There’s just something about taking down buildings with a sledgehammer that makes my soul smile. And it had a sense of humor I just loved. “Given enough explosives, any moron can destroy a building. Don’t you want to be that moron?” Yes. Yes I did.

Grand Theft Auto 4. I gave it up for being tedious and boring when it came out, and finished it off. It had its moments, but I kept wishing I was playing GTA3, or GTA San Andreas instead. Or something actually fun. The bugs didn’t help. I hated all the driving around: it really just sapped the fun out of it. If you have an hour or two to play a game, the last thing you want to do is spend it driving to a mission start, from there to the mission, and then losing. Some of those missions required so much driving it made me hate the game. I hated the friend mechanic, especially because it required so much driving. I hated that at several points your success in a mission depends largely on amazingly stupid AI-controlled characters (“There’s a boathouse full of guys with automatic weapons firing at us! Chaaarge! Hey I’m dead and you fail the mission and have to go back and pick me up and drive me here so I can do that again it’ll be awesome!”)

Prince of Persia. It’s fun, it’s gorgeous. I don’t like the Street Fighter-style combat system (I’m old, I don’t have time or energy to memorize combo sequences, sorry). I loved playing it, and I never got frustrated because I found the partner-saves-you mechanic charming. The hero does look… dumb. And the dialogue is both great and a little too self-aware and clever sometimes. I ended up giving up when I needed to go floaty-white-blob-hunting to advance agaaaaaaain, and it felt like makework, going back through sections collecting McGuffins for no good reason. Also, I got

Dragon Age Origins. I like it, and I’ve liked everything Bioware’s ever done, but it is a little Knights of the Fantasy Republic. And on the console, I can’t control stuff as well as I used to on the PC, and the difficulty of some encounters is just crazy. And I’m constantly broke. And the other characters are jerks and the companion-soothing part of the game makes me want to scream sometimes. But it’s sooooo deep and often wonderful. That got put on pause for

Assassin’s Creed II. What a game. It’s a testament to how beautiful and well-done the world is that I often find myself wandering around the cities, getting in trouble, running around the streets taking side missions, rather than advance the plot (which is quite nice). I hate when the free-running mechanic fails (and it does), causing Enzo to veer 30 degrees off-course from the post I was heading straight for and instead into the five-story free-fall the game thinks I wanted to do. And the combat sometimes doesn’t make any sense to me, and I’ve spent some time trying to figure that out. And the Tomb Raider sections require me to take blood pressure medication.

But then there are moments where it all comes together and feels so perfectly natural. I was on a mission going after some guy across rooftops, and a guard got me, knocking me of and into the street below, and I started to run alongside the buildings, knowing that if he kept going in that direction he’d have to drop down in a hundred yards or so, and if he did, I could catch him there. So I barreled through the crowds, knowing if I tripped or missed a turn he’d get away, not really sure if I was even right about the geography… and I made it, came around just as he dropped onto the street, lept, and as I stood and cheered Enzo tackled him. It felt perfect: a payoff for all the time I’d spent wandering around, running the streets, learning the controls, all of it turning this slim chance of success into triumph.

I played the first game and found enough of it annoying and broken to make me give it up early, and this… it’s an amazing achievement.

Rock Band Beatles is great, too. Whole other thing, though. I played Gears of War 2, it was… Gears of War 2. Had some great scenes and set pieces. Plot doesn’t make any sense. Or the world. Or… never mind. I know that’s not the point. Also, the biggest bad-ass on the planet has a death allergy to water, which sucked.

Oh, DS-wise: Scribblenauts was pretty great for the first bit and then I grew to hate the controls, how so much stuff doesn’t work how it’s supposed to, and how you’re reduced to using the same six objects over and over. And the controls, oh, how I hate the controls.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box was Layton-y and the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. It has a plot that makes less sense the longer you play, and the least sense when it’s all supposedly resolved. The fact that one of the characters is absent for– I’ll stop.

Game of the Year as played: Persona 4. In terms of hours of enjoyment, it’s on the all-time list.
Game of the Year as released: Assassin’s Creed 2.

Games I still need: Batman, Borderlands, a PS3 and a host of PS3 games. I uh… also still want to play 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. YO FIDDY. I’ll play Halo ODST when I can get it for $30. Or $20. I may never play it. I went back to play some Halo 3 and it didn’t go well.

I’d say art is subjective

But then I’d have to talk about what art is.

Why Armageddon is one of the movies in the Criterion Collection
:

…it is never confusing, never boring, and never less than a brilliant mixture of what movies are supposed to do: tell a good story, depict characters through active events, invoke an emotional response, and entertain simply and directly, without pretense.

The state of Mac gaming, frustration restated

I’ve been interested in the state of Mac gaming for obvious reasons, and found this article by Akela Talamasca, at Big Download:

At the same time, the actual process of coding for the Mac hasn’t been an open road, either. Apple is notorious for keeping an iron grip on the computer’s innards, insisting that developers jump through tons of hoops just to get approved for inclusion as an Apple-worthy product.

Huh? Inclusion? This doesn’t make any sense. Apple doesn’t regulate the market for developers for Macs at all. The iPhone store, sure, but that’s not we’re even discussing. How does Apple’s iron grip on what goes into the products they build have anything to do with… any of this other stuff? I know it would certainly reduce development and QA compared to PCs: you don’t have to worry about all the different video cards and drivers, for instance, both the bane of development, and you don’t have to patch the code because there’s a networking problem with certain motherboards manufactured six-to-nine months ago you happened not to test against.

But yeah, if you want to develop a Mac app, here’s how you do it:
1. Go to Apple.com
2. Download Xcode
3. Write your app
4. Put it up on your website

Steve Jobs doesn’t come by and firebomb your house or anything.

I was fully prepared to write this off as general-issue unclear writing. But then we get to this:

Even then, there is the subject of the actual Mac users to consider. What percentage of Mac aficionados cares enough about playing video games to lobby developers to adopt their favorite platform? The perception of the Mac as a computer for creatives works against it to some extent. People who want that cachet might buy a Mac, but they’re probably not going to want to spend much time playing games on it. They would rather write music, edit movies, create artwork — all the things that Apple has spent over twenty years convincing them that the Mac does better than PCs. These users, if they play games at all, will probably find the current methodology — port over a PC game that was popular three years prior — to be adequate for their gaming entertainment needs.

Question that wonders about percentages -> “some extent” -> “might” -> “probably not” “much” -> “if” “probably” …

To some extent? What extent is that, exactly?

It would be hard to write a paragraph with less content or insight. I have a ton of Macs in my house, having moved over after decades of PC gaming. I play games. So do other Mac users. I don’t sit here and think “Wow, I’d love to play Red Faction:Guerrilla but I feel some strong compulsion not to… if only I hadn’t been indoctrinated by 20 years of marketing telling me I can only use this Mac to do creative things! Which I guess gaming doesn’t count as! Okay!”

Or back to this:

What percentage of Mac aficionados cares enough about playing video games to lobby developers to adopt their favorite platform?

WHY DON’T YOU ASK THEM. OR ASK PC-ONLY DEVELOPERS. OR FIND DATA OF ANYTHING.

For example… how many Mac owners have consoles as well? Because if that’s 90%, the answer to the question is “the state of Mac gaming is that Mac customers are playing Modern Warfare 2 on their XBox while their video editing suite encodes their student film.” Or whatever.

Lemme just pre-empt the rest of this discussion.

Here’s why the PC game market is killing the Mac market. It’s really simple.
1. PCs, in total market share, vastly outsell Macs. So developers and publishers have almost no incentive to develop for the platform, unless they’re guaranteed some huge percentage of Mac users will buy in to make the port profitable. So you get World of Warcraft. Or The Sims. I could get all economist here, but the result is a vast diversity of games on the main platform, a ton of people who can develop on it, and a paucity of titles on the other.

I could stop there. It’s such a huge force that it dwarfs all the rest.

2. Mainline Macs don’t ship with video cards that can comfortably play new games, encouraging people to buy those games on consoles, and developers who want to write games with cutting-edge graphics to develop on consoles and PCs.

That said, look at how long games came out for the PS2 after it had been eclipsed. Why? Because it had such a huge installed base (see: #1)

(Digression on #2: part of the reason for that is because video card companies face much the same problem as game developers in #1, which is why your game card choices on Macs range from expensive and bad to expensive and just horrible)

3. Because of #1 and #2, if you’re a gamer and you have a Mac, you’ve probably got a console. Or two. You may have a PC.

4. If you do have a Mac capable of playing games (say, a Mac Pro you’ve put four SLI cards into), there’s nothing to play with that kind of rig… unless you crank up Boot Camp, drop into Windows, and then fire the game up. At which point the sale counts for the PC version, fueling the problem of #1.

5. None of this is helped by really bad ports. If Neverwinter Nights 2 is going to run horribly on my Mac and there’s no support, why not just use Boot Camp. Or heck, use VMWare and play it in a window? Can’t get any choppier.

There’s the state of Mac gaming: there aren’t that many, so if you want to keep playing after you switch over, you exacerbate the problem by driving sales to consoles or PC versions.

Do you know how I know these things? I’ve talked to other Mac gamers, and game developers, and read up.

How does Apple solve for this, assuming that they want to and I’m not sure that they do? It’s a tough road.

– Better evangelism: “Our customers will pay for quality products and clearly they have money to do it”
– Better support and developer tools: they need to make it amazingly easy for studios to port. Support for DirectX, essentially (yes, I know). May include staking the money for the ports.
– Better video cards across the product lines. My Mac Mini, which is an amazingly cool computer, has “NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory” (I think it goes up to 512 if you stuff enough memory in it, actually)… that’s a $40 graphics card in a PC, less if you ever get your mail-in rebate. On the grand distribution of currently-sold video cards, that’s near the bottom. No recently-released PC game is playable at reasonable quality on that card. You can get 60 frames a second on Far Cry 2 at really high settings and ~80 at lower with a GTX 285. My Mini has maybe 1/10th that video power.

If the Mac Mini and the iMac are the consumer staples, and Apple wanted to build the brand out into gaming, they have to be able to game. And right now that’s just not at all what they’re built for.

– Barring all of that, figure out a Mac-only exclusive that uses the advantages of what they do have (particularly iPhone and digital content creation w/iLife) to make the Mac a must-buy. Graphics power isn’t everything (see: Nintendo Wii). Maybe you build a sweet ARG. Given sufficient money, I’ll go work on this.

Or pay Blizzard to go Mac-exclusive. Apple’s got cash (I know, I know, Blizzard blah blah. But Apple has something like $25 billion in cash sitting around).

Now everyone can skip reading the rest of that four-part series.