Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

PC Gaming Nerdgasm

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In the inevitable bile-spewing hatefest I get for the PC gaming industry for primarily producing…

  • graphically updated yet oversimplified sequels to cult classics, aka the same game for $50 but worse*
  • licensed crap to fill (aka drown) a niche market into oblivion**
  • FPSs with “innovative” MMO elements that boil down to repetition as an artificial gameplay lengthener***
  • Our Warcraft Is Different+
  • sequelitis in general++
  • console ports++

…I have to give credit where it’s due. EA developed an original game for once. Valve has, when not creating multiple instant cult favorites (Portal, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead), allowed their coming into being (Zeno Clash – proof that Chileans are fucking weird), largely through hegemony over probably the most innovative software distribution system created: Steam.

‘Course, Steam is equally loved and reviled, depending on how early one adopted it (its earlier iterations were lessons in frustration) and how fast one’s internet connection is, but between Steam and Direct2Drive, brick and mortar software stores are obso-fucking-lete (and not a moment too soon, Gamestop).

That all said, I gush over Valve because they make games with a capital G: Things that scream “hey, this is new and different” yet playtested for a smooth experience. Also, if ACE Team’s Zeno Clash is any indication, then as producers they also don’t butt into the development of weird new shit too much, making them the kind of big company professionals everybody wishes EA was.

Some other (somewhat smaller) companies still make me feel a similar way: Relic. BioWare. Relic for actually pushing forward gameplay innovations in the RTS market and Bioware for actually employing real live writers when it makes its RPGs – and it shows. They don’t have the endless coffers to playtest forever, so have issues upon release, but both actually have avenues to player communities where developers can engage in direct dialogue, so it’s all good.

BioWare as a developer in my mind kinda melds into this primordial goop that includes defunct developers Black Isle Studios and Troika Games, their successor Obsidian, and re-emergent producer Interplay, mainly because they were all in some way related to the development of the series of RPGs that comprise most of what PC gamers view as the PC RPG canon: Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, Planescape, Knights¬† of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights.

I at some point previous to this blog had a long hatefest of Interplay’s selling the Fallout franchise to a third party, namely Bethesda, because that ensured a game going from mediocre graphics and excellent writing to excellent graphics and writing that, quite frankly, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Bethesda as a company is the RPG equivalent of Id Software: It makes engines that other companies then use to make good games. Id Software’s Doom and Quake were excellent trade show models, but as games they were dry. Likewise, Morrowind and Oblivion are only acceptable as launching pads for actual game production, except while Id Software knows it’s creating an engine for licensing, Bethesda actually holds the dubious distinction of drinking its own KoolAid as to its game-making abilities.

I wasn’t the only one to hold that view. No Mutants Allowed is a prominant Fallout series fansite that held deep reservations as to the direction the series was heading; namely that it would be ruined by Bethesda. Of course, aligning with NMA and similar “hardcore” collectives of PC gamers makes me something of an inconsolable PC apologist that will forever wear the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia and will never be pleased, but fuck you: I still have the original Fallout CDs and I know good writing when I see it.

After Fallout 3 came out under Bethesda, I’m convinced they were totally vindicated. The holes in Bethesda’s main plot (and world) could be driven through in a Peterbilt carrying a modular home going highway speeds with plenty of elbow room to spare.

Well, according to Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the franchise is returning to familiar waters by being picked up by Obsidian Entertainment – staffed largely by former members of Black Isle Studios along with a few plucked from the corpse of Troika Games, both of whom worked on the original Fallout. That Interplay took its Bethesda blood money and announced it would begin again developing the games it stopped during its financial problems five years ago is an added bonus.

Commence nerdgasm.

*Bioshock, Command & Conquer, Need for Speed
**Fallout 3
***Far Cry 2
+Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, Tabula Rasa
++Too many to mention

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