||The Firing Line 11: Lest We Forget
August 19, 2003 Tom Chick
Summary: Tom Chick on the Firing Line: Lest we forget
Observing Game Memorial Day
With a writer like Tom, you never know if he pulled something out of his ass at the last minute, or if what he wrote is genius. It's just better to trust the Chickster's instincts and post it. So, here's the Firing Line. About Gaming Memorial Day or some such. And don't expect a Return Fire... Tom missed and accidentally (we think) delivered Supporting Fire. Confused? Imagine how confused you'd be if you spent the entire night trying to teach a bartender what an Irish Car Bomb is, and drinking down every one of his mistakes...
| Governor||Page:: ( 1 / 5 )|
Firing Line #11: Lest we forget
Observing Game Memorial Day
As a citizen of the state of California, I'm doing my part. I'm running for Governor. My platform is this: that Blizzard should release the v1.10 patch for Diablo 2 already. If I am elected Governor, it will send Blizzard a clear message. A vote for me is a vote for 1.10. I know what you're thinking: 'What if Blizzard releases the patch before the October election date?' But I've already thought of that, which is why I have a back-up platform: that Freaky Flyers for the Xbox should have Xbox Live support. Granted, it's not quite as hot-button an issue as the Diablo 2 patch. Also, it was ripped off from Penny Arcade since I haven't even played Freaky Flyers, but it’s all my staff could come up with on short notice. It's still better than anything Gary Coleman has.
However, I'd like to take a break from my campaign to remind you that today is Game Memorial Day, the day we side aside before the onslaught of holiday titles to remember those that came before, those that are liable to be forgotten while we're playing all the cool stuff that comes out just before Christmas. In retailer vernacular, the month of September counts as 'just before Christmas', so everything from here on out is technically a holiday release. And yes, I'm looking at you, Tron 2.0, a.k.a. Mr. August 26th.
We need Game Memorial Day because pretty soon, as we're playing Half-Life 2 like Gabe Newell said we'd be doing starting September 31st, we'll have forgotten all about the stuff that came out earlier in the year. So when you're sitting around fat and lazy after this upcoming Thanksgiving, with a dozen new icons on your desktop, and you suddenly think, 'Oh, jeeze, I need to come up with my list of Top Ten Games of 2003!', don't forget stuff like Black Hawk Down, Galactic Civilizations, Age of Mythology and other things I can't remember right now because I haven't played them in a while.
Don't forget Black Hawk Down. It still holds up as a great multiplayer game, although in your memory it might take a back seat to the persistent online elements of Planetside and the sheer variety of gameplay in Battlefield 1942, which you're probably still playing like gangbusters. But Black Hawk Down's engine is fast for its size. The teamplay stands up to the moron factor without resulting in seven guys standing in line waiting for an airplane to respawn. The weapons have just the right mix of lethality and panic-inducing noise, with a bit of strategy thrown in with flashbangs, smoke grenades, and claymores. There are enough gameplay modes to keep it fresh; if I never play another game with "tickets", that's fine by me.
SIDEBAR: California Governor Gray Davis is the subject of a statewide recall initiative. According to recent polls, the leading contenders to replace him are Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Don't forget Galactic Civilizations. It isn't nearly as refined as the big-budget Age of Mythology or Civilization III, but it's a yeoman-like work of solid game design. Perhaps more importantly, it is a miracle of timing. It arrived at exactly the moment that thousands of strategy gamers were scowling and making that weird face a dog makes when you put peanut butter on his tongue. This was the widespread reaction from those of us who had just played Master of Orion 3. We were furrowing our brows and wrinkling our noses and making sounds like 'eww', 'ack', 'ugh', and ‘oof’. We were ready to forsake the genre forever, preparing to spend the rest of our days with fantasy RPGs and World War II shooters. Then GalCiv, as we affectionately call it, arrived to cleanse our palettes and make strategy gaming safe for science fiction once more.
| The Turn of the MOO||Page:: ( 2 / 5 )|
Don't forget that Age of Mythology is probably the best RTS this year. What's that? Oh. My staff has just informed me that Age of Mythology came out last year, so let's move on and be thankful we have Game Memorial Day to remind ourselves of things like this.
Use this day to remember Rise of Nations. I know you love the new Night Elven Warden in Frozen Throne -- I do too -- but wasn't it cool the first time you nuked a wonder of the world? How could you forget that? Believe it or not, that was 2003. Wasn't it? Was that last year, also? Hold on a second.
Okay, my staff has just informed me that Rise of Nations was indeed released in 2003, so I stand by what I just wrote up there.
Don't forget the recent expansion pack to Age of Wonders 2, Shadow Magic. Non-Blizzard expansion packs are easy to forget, because you'll mentally file them away with the original release. In many cases, expansion packs deserve to be forgotten. Take the pair of half-baked scenario packs for Disciples II, in the tradition of the Heroes of Might & Magic: Nickel and Dime Them To Death expansions. Take the disastrous Play the World scam for Civilization III. But Shadow Magic is different. It revitalizes Triumph Studios' Age of Wonders series and takes the wistful sting out of our nostalgia for Master of Magic. This is Master of Magic now, in everything but the name. Don't forget it just because it's part of the dishonored genre of expansion packs for turn-based games.
Don't forget Vice City, although unless you're one of those 'I hate consoles' nuts, you probably played it last year on your Playstation 2 like the rest of us. Folks who swear by the PC version are like people who swear by vinyl recordings sounding warmer. Mouse aiming, my ass. In a post-Halo world, most of us are good enough to venture out on foot with a console controller. And don't even try to tell me about playing your own MP3s in the PC version. If you're not digging on the great licensed music in Vice City, you're missing the point. Vice City is all about indulging your road rage while listening to Foreigner's "Waiting For a Girl Like You" and thinking back to what a disaster your prom night was. If Bonnie Simmons is reading this, I'm just joking. I had a grand time. (Captain Chick, lawsuit de-cloakink off the starboard bow! Ink-comink! –Chekov -ed.)
SIDEBAR: Age of Mythology was released in October of 2002. Rise of Nations was released in May of 2003.
Oh, and please don't forget Postal 2. Not because it was a good game. It wasn't. But because it stirred up some silly people to object not to its mediocrity as a game, which was the real problem, but to its offensive content, which existed for no other reason that to get silly people to shriek loudly about a game no one would have heard of otherwise. Next time a bad game comes out, remember Postal 2 and hate the bad game for its own problems rather that your own agenda, which might dovetail neatly with the agenda of the guys making the game. My staff has informed me that I should probably shut up now, because I'm just giving Postal 2 the attention I think it doesn't deserve in the first place.
| Return to Sender||Page:: ( 3 / 5 )|
Please don't forget Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, wait, I was thinking of the movie. You can forget about the game.
Please don't forget Master of Orion 3. Remember it like you remember the day your dog was hit by a car. Think of it as a learning experience that makes you stronger. Then play some GalCiv to ease the pain. (That’s twice you’ve supported Brett’s point from the last Firing Line, Tom. You’re getting soft in your old age. -ed.)
Don't forget Midnight Club II, one of the best racing games in a long time, and one of the only games of its type available for the PC. At least until Need for Speed Underground comes out. Which is when you'll really need to remember not to forget Midnight Club II.
Please don't forget Raven Shield for having the worst CD-key authentication technology ever to screw up a multiplayer game. Seven hundred and twelve patches later and it still causes all manner of authentication headaches on a LAN. Surely this will deserve some special recognition at the end of the year. Don't let the potential disasters of the latest LithTech netcode, the delay of Half-Life 2, and your lingering ire for MOO3 distract you.
You can forget Unreal Tournament 2003, not because it's necessarily a bad game. It's not, really. But you can forget it because the 2003 at the end of the name is a trick. My staff has advised me that it came out in the fall of 2002.
Finally, please don't forget Sacrifice. Not because it came out in 2003, which it didn't, but because it's good enough to hold its own against anything else from the last three years.
Also use this day to consider what titles you need to play in the next few weeks before the holiday glut hits. For instance, you know you didn't play Vietcong. You know you should. Maybe you even bought it out of a sense of obligation, but you haven't gotten around to playing. So make your Game Memorial Day list and put Vietcong on top. My staff has informed me that he totally agrees.
SIDEBAR: All of your mana hoars have been slaughtered.
I was going to make fun of Brett for crying because he had to play awful games like Mistmare and Valhalla Chronicles, which can't be that bad, because I've never even heard of them. But then I remembered a dream I had a few nights ago.
| Return Fire||Page:: ( 4 / 5 )|
In my dream, I was playing Master of Orion 3. I was trying to find out how many Industrial DEAs I had making shipyards on the fourth moon of the sixth planet in the Trillbigdian system, but not only could I not find where Industrial DEAs were listed, but I couldn't figure out how to find the Trillbigdian system, and then I realized that once I found the information, it wouldn’t make any difference because the game was playing itself and, besides, I couldn't even remember what DEA stood for and I didn't even know what was going on except that the fate of the universe came down to my computer doing math while I watched helplessly and then I woke up in a cold sweat. Before I could fall back to sleep, I had to get my GalCiv box and bring it to bed with me. The next day, the neighbors said they had heard me screaming 'No more moo three, no more moo three'.
Games like that will do a number on you. As someone who's tried to slog through various releases of Battlecruiser, the MOO dreams are the only reason I'm not still having flashbacks about trying to figure out which ctl+alt+shift command tells my fighter pilots to put on their boots so they can join the heated battle going on around me, only to accidentally enter the command that drops all my shields, powers down my weapons, initiates the self-destruct sequence, and performs a quick load of my last save. You don't walk away from games like that without being a changed man. I hear you, Brett. Solidarity, my brother. Maybe we should unionize. Hang on a second, my staff is trying to inform me of something.
...dude, I'm trying to write this thing, what do you want?
My staff has informed me that talking about unions might alienate big business, so scratch that. I have decided that if I am elected governor, I will pass a law mandating coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder among game reviewers. We should probably also get special training, kind of like they give to people who handle hazardous materials. Maybe we could even get those orange suits. After all, we're playing the bad games so you don't have to. My staff just told me that's a cool line and I should get it printed up on a button.
Okay, okay, I need to take a deep breath and go play Sacrifice right now. I'll be back in two weeks.
SIDEBAR: Your altar is being desecrated!
Oh, wait, I almost forgot about this part because I was so busy trying to forget Battlecruiser and MOO3 while trying to remember Game Memorial Day. This is going to be about a flight simulator anyway, so most of you can go now.
| Shot of the Week||Page:: ( 5 / 5 )|
This week's Shot of the Week is from something Brett has already screenshotted, but I've been fooling around with it a lot in the past week. Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2004 is really a great package, stuffed with so much stuff that it's hard to not keep coming back just to poke around. I'm no good at navigating without the GPS, and I still can't do a landing in anything heavier than a DC-3. But I enjoy tooling around and admiring scenery and futzing with the flight models for the different planes. Besides, without Flight Simulator 2004, I might as well unplug my joystick and put it in a closet. And I paid good money for that thing.
My screenshot is from something I discovered this weekend. If you go to the virtual cockpit (use the shift+s command to cycle the views) and zoom out the field of view all the way (the minus key), it really boosts the sense of speed during low-level flight. It also makes it much easier to get a sense for how a helicopter moves around. It brings back pleasant memories of Longbow 2. Here's a shot of me zooming up to the lip of the Grand Canyon in a Robinson R22 helicopter at about 100 knots. My staff has informed me that this would be illegal in the real world, so this is kind of edgy, like Grand Theft Auto. He has also informed me that next year I should remember that Flight Simulator 2004 came out in 2003.
SIDEBAR: I’m surprised Tom didn’t list Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin.