Valve <3 Macs!

Valve announced that Steam is coming to the Mac, and along with it, support for simultaneous releases on both PC’s and Macs of all their future products. The best part?

“We have added a new feature, called Steam Play, which allows customers who purchase the product for the Mac or Windows to play on the other platform free of charge.”

This is excellent news.


Infinity Whoooooa

This week has revealed some of the scariest news I’ve ever heard. This whole thing with Infinity Ward is freaking me out like nothing ever has. And as the week goes on, more details are slowly leaking out that make the whole ordeal even more insane. Let’s start from the beginning.

On Tuesday, reports started leaking out that hired goons showed up at Infinity Ward to forcibly remove the two heads of the studio from the premises. As the day went on, it became clear that the two heads, Vince Zampella and Jason West, had been fired by Activision for “insubordination” and “breach of contract”. Kind of strange that the heads of the studio that made the two best-selling games of all time were fired, but okay, fine.

Of course, the next day reports are out that Zampella and West are suing Activision , also for “breach of contract” and some other claims. Wholly expected, in my eyes, after their sudden departure. But here’s where it gets good.

West and Zampella’s lawyers released a statement, with these details:

Activision conducted the investigation in a manner to maximize the inconvenience and anxiety it would cause West and Zampella. On little notice, Activision insisted on conducting interviews over the President’s Day holiday weekend; West and Zampella were interrogated for over six hours in a windowless conference room; Activision investigators brought other Infinity Ward employees to tears in their questioning and accusations and threatened West and Zampella with “insubordination” if they attempted to console them; Activision’s outside counsel demanded that West and Zampella surrender their personal computers, phones, and communication devices to Activison for review by Activision’s outside counsel and, when West and Zampella asserted their legally protected privacy rights, Activisions counsel said that doing so constituted further acts of insubordination.

(Blockquote shamelessly stolen from Scott Jennings, via Broken Toys. Apologies.)

Yes, Activision supposedly submitted West and Zampella to intense interrogation for 6 hours, berated the rest of the staff, and repeatedly threatened them with “insubordination”. Now, I’m not one who is going to judge anyone before the entire truth comes out, but I highly doubt that this quote is completely false. Given how close everyone is in this industry, the truth is going to come out eventually, and my guess is that it’ll be sooner rather than later. Everyone knows people at IW, so I’m going to patiently wait and see what comes of this. The story is just getting started.

I’m actually an Activision shareholder. I bought into them when they acquired Blizzard, mostly as a safe investment since I highly doubted Blizzard was going anywhere anytime soon. But when this story broke, I immediately called my dad (we discuss financial stuff all the time) and talked about the implications of this. Regardless of whether I’m taking a loss or not (which I would), I’m not sure I can buy int0 a company that treats their studios, especially their most successful ones, as disposable. I’ve voiced my displeasure at Infinity Ward before, but as a part of “the industry”, you can’t help but be angry at the treatment of the employees. But again, let’s wait to see where the truth leads is. Can’t wait to hear where this story goes, though. I’m on pins and needles.

Oh, and lastly, I was hearing rumors via Twitter (probably the most unreliable source there is) that these two were shopping IW to EA. Does anyone know anything about that? I don’t want to perpetrate this rumor, but I am very curious if that’s the next chapter of this story to be revealed.

Lessons in Web Hosting

Ever since the Internet began (I think that’s a pretty epic way to start a blog post, don’t you?), I’ve been wanting to purchase myself a website. Not because I have anything I want to put there, I just have been learning HTML, PHP, ASP.NET, and so on and so on for the past 10 years. Yeah, I can practice them all just by creating local webpages, but you can’t get a true feel for it unless it’s out there on the scary Web. I want to play around with databases. I want to create web forms and have people submit them. I just want to explore. Well, it looks like I finally got that opportunity.

A close friend and I had been talking for a while now about doing a podcast. You know, one of those podcasts where we talk for a while about whatever we feel like (mostly games, of course). I finally got our act together and we actually moved forward with this plan. While I don’t have anything to reveal just yet, I have been learning a ton this week about web hosting. It’s amazing how much I didn’t know, and I found it terrifying that these sites don’t actually adequately explain what it is you need to purchase.

For example, let’s say you’re a complete beginner on the Web, but you want to start a webpage. What does “Domain” mean? What does “Hosting” mean? Where do I get these things? What other things do I need to consider when purchasing? What’s “Shared Hosting”? What’s the other option?

I don't know what that means!

I know all the answers to the above questions, but not because any of the hosting sites I visited explained them to me clearly. It’s entirely possible I looked in the wrong place for the answers, but I think that should be the most important thing you see on a site that’s trying to sell you a product. What is your product? Why do I need it? This is Marketing 101, folks. Even I know that.

So, in order to have a site that can host a podcast, I figured out that I need enough storage to host, let’s say, at least a year’s worth of audio files. And I have no clue how much bandwidth I need, but I played it safe and went with “unlimited”. Can’t really go wrong there, right? It ended up being way cheaper than I expected, especially when we end up splitting the cost between the two of us. (Oh, yeah, did I mention that, partner?)

Right now I’m waiting for the Domain registration to complete (which takes 24 hours? That sucks), after which I’ll have fun playing around with installing WordPress, some forum software, and maybe a little playspace for me and my databases. I’ve always wanted to try to create a web game. No, Jick, I’m not copying off you.

The Bloggers Talk Back

Last month, I was part of an interview on Massively about the relationship that community managers should have with blogs. I really enjoyed answering the questions, both because it was my first opportunity to do so in a public manner, and also because I liked seeing a pop quiz that I knew all the answers to.

Sure enough, today Massively invited the bloggers to answer similar questions from their point of view. I was hopeful that they’d do something like this, because I was interested to see if my opinions and view of the bloggers were in line with how they saw themselves. I think I can safely say that I was spot on. The blogsters that were interviewed fell right in line with my thoughts about how we should interact with them, and I’m very glad. It’s nice to be validated once in a while. The blogs that were interviewed (like Bio Break and Keenandgraev) understand that they’re the editorial side of gaming press, more or less. They have no restrictions in what they can say, and there’s no need for them to please the company they are currently talking about. You can’t necessarily say the same for any of the press sites out there. Remember the Kane & Lynch debacle? Good times.

Anyways, my point is: You go, bloggers. You keep doing what you’re doing, because I love reading you and because I respect your position. I won’t forget about you at my next job.

The Power of Community

Don’t ever tell me companies don’t listen to their communities.

It’s Free!
We heard our community and we acted. Champions Online – Revelation will now be available to everyone at no extra charge. That is a free expansion pack for all Champions Online players.

’nuff said.

The MMO Genre

I started writing this as a response to Kyle Horner’s Massively column, but then I realized it was getting too long for anyone to care about it on that site. So, if you’re here, you’ll actually read it.

The question Kyle proposes is whether a good story can supplant grind in an MMO (the example being SWTOR). Here’s my problem: I think the “MMO genre” has defined itself in a way that has backed itself into a corner. There are now these expected features that must make it into any new MMO or else everyone declares that it is a failure.

What if we take a step back for a moment and consider the option of redefining the genre. I don’t mean it in the manner of “We’re going to revolutionize the MMO!” I mean that we’re no longer going to make these generalizations and assumptions about what an MMO is. Let’s just assume that an MMO means “A game which game be played online with a large number of other people in the same area at the same time.” If we drop all other features, the question remains: Can story be stronger than the grind in an MMO?

The Grind

Don't you just love it?

Without a doubt the answer is yes. Think about your most memorable gaming moments. Were they that time you killed 1000 gazelles in The Barrens in WoW? Or was it when you discovered the truth behind what you were doing in Rapture and what was up with Andrew Ryan? Or when you finally took down the Joker in Arkham Asylum (well, okay, that boss fight was a bit anti-climactic, but still)? How about learning who/what was behind the evil in Mass Effect (The first one. No spoilers on the second, please)?

Story sticks with us far longer than any grind ever could. The arguments are “Well, I’ll play through the story once and then be done.” So what? Why is it such a crime to finish a game these days, and then come back when there’s new stuff to see? Look at Guild Wars. Especially due to their unique subscription model, you can come in, play the story, then come back when a new expansion comes out. Why is this a negative thing?

Now, I’m not talking about this from Bioware’s point of view, clearly. Obviously they will want to put hooks in to keep you playing month after month so that you can keep giving them your money. But why is this such a terrible thing for a player? If you enjoy the story, then who gives a damn about how long you continue to play the game? Gaming is created for YOUR enjoyment. If you like it, you play. If you don’t, you put it down. (Or you continue to pay just to talk on the forums. It happens a lot, trust me.) Define the game on your terms, and play what you think is fun. I’m fairly certain Bioware’s on the right track to create an MMO that attracts those outside the MMO genre, because they’re not falling into that trap of what an MMO “needs to be”. Let them decide for themselves what will make the game good. Have they ever steered you wrong?

Uh oh!

Just saw that this blog got linked to on Massively. Does this mean I have to start updating it for real?

Here’s the quick update: Assassin’s Creed II: Buy it. But not until you’ve forced yourself to play through the first one. The first gets a bit repetitive, but the payoff is worth it to play the second, which is just amazing.

After I beat ACII, I immediately switched over to the first Mass Effect and finished that up. Excellent game, but I was sad to see that I killed off two of my party members. Wish that had gone differently.

And now, I jumped right into the sequel. I hear it’s much better, so it remains to be seen.

That’s the quick gaming update. Yes, it’s true, I’m no longer with Cryptic. I wish them nothing but the best, as I love everyone in the company. In the meantime, if anyone knows of some awesome Community position anywhere, please don’t hesitate to let me know 🙂