Penny Arcade, we need a formal apology…and probably more.

23 09 2013

I had a cold making voiceover work (such that it is) impossible for me, so instead of finishing my 3rd episode last week, it’s sat on the bench; I instead spent my time making maps of make believe places and prepping for the D&D campaign I’m running, which I hosted on Saturday. Anyway, that’s not what I’ve come here to talk about today.

Rock Paper Shotgun has stepped up and drawn a line. They explain (at great length) that they are boycotting PAX going forward, but reserve the right to change their minds, which I assume is contingent upon Mike Krahulik stepping up and unilaterally apologizing for the epic, epic jerk he’s been. There are two articles (making for lengthy reading) both their initial statement, as well as a valuable clarification.

I assume that I’m nobody’s first stop for information, but just incase you missed this massive debacle, here’s a reasonable summary that’s mostly (but not entirely) devoid of interpretation and conjecture.

My feelings on it.

I think my position can be summed up pretty quickly; let’s first start with this quote from some UK Uni’s new student orientation:

“Consent is really too low a bar. Hold out for enthusiasm.”

I don’t know precisely how we got here, but we live in a rapist-apologist culture right now; one where women are held accountable for dressing and acting in ways that cause men to assault, hurt, or offend them. It’s textbook displacement of responsibility and yet it’s somehow okay, everywhere, and utterly ignored by much of our media, our acquaintances, our perceptions.  Something like 25% of all college age women report being raped in their lives; see the wiki article for a laundry list of citations. This shit should have more people enraged: sexual assault is heinous and we need to revise our worldviews such that it’s no longer a laughing matter. Do you see people writing comics lampooning child pr0n? No, because that’s fucking disgusting. We should treat all sexual misconduct in precisely that light: it is abhorrent. Make sure your kids (especially your sons) grow up believing it is anathema to all things good on this earth.

I get that “Gabe” (Mike K.) doesn’t really get it; he’s got the same flimsy excuse most of us have, that it’s built into the power of male privilege and very deeply entrenched in our culture…but, frankly, this shit must not fly anymore. The guy’s being a turd. He’s human like the rest of us; he wants to not suffer, he wants to be happy; we have more in common than what sets us apart.  He’s not evil but he is being grossly irresponsible. He should be looking into this shit, trying to learn why so many people are hurt and upset; whether he likes it or not, he’s a recognizable face in the industry and his actions are helping to sustain a gaming scene that is toxic to anybody that’s not straight and male. He ought to want to learn; ought to want to be better; he ought to not let his anger get the better of him, because – right now – he’s coming off in the worst possible way.

Regarding PAX.

I will be going. Boycotting it can send a certain kind of message; one that I feel carries more weight considering who you are. RPS boycotting sends a powerful message; they have a great deal of influence in the industry, so their not going is going to have shockwaves. They’ve drawn a line, and nobody can mistake it.

I will be attending, because: 1. I don’t have that kind of influence, but more importantly 2. we need people there who want Gabe to shape up. I’m confident that we’ll see more LGBTQ and feminist presentations and panels at PAX going forward, and I want to be at those events: just one more straight white guy trying to help. Equality and a safe atmosphere is what I want for gaming.

I want this so bad, because – right now – I feel like I can’t, in good conscience, share my beloved hobby with my yet-to-be-born daughter(s). Women have a hard enough time feeling safe on their commutes to work; how can I engender in my own daughter(s) love for a scene where she(/they) can’t currently feel safe?

People like Feminist Frequency are (at tremendous cost to themselves) trying to make the gaming scene a better place; safer and friendly and open, that’s what we want. Yet right now their opinions are vehemently and venomously opposed by a cluster of men who fear losing their privilege, who don’t want things to change. Things need to change.

And change starts with us.

So, go to PAX or be vocal about not going; either way, keep the following in mind.

Whether or not you want to, just like Gabe, your actions matter. Don’t let them be passive; that’s what Gabe’s doing and…well, look at this mess.

What can be done?

Honestly, I don’t know; I’m not a member of the affected demographic, just a passionate sympathizer. It’s not a battle I can fight, I don’t think, though I’ll keep flailing in my attempts. A formal apology from the Penny Arcade brass couldn’t hurt. Maybe donating every shred of profit from the next year’s worth of PAX to RAINN would go a long way to making amends. I know that he did kind of apologize, but it was for the wrong things and incomplete. That he revealed his ire for ever pulling the merch speaks volumes to his ignorance on the damage he’s done. He doesn’t get it. Well, he needs to. More specifically, he needs to want to.

Everybody’s watching, man. Whatcha gonna do?

New XCOM Enemy Within Achievements suggest base defense and human enemies.

13 09 2013

It’s not for sure, but…well, see for yourself. There are achievements for killing enemy medics and snipers, which may describe roles for aliens and not humans…but what do you make of it? Or the Zom-B-Gone achievement?

Elite Defense and All Hands on Deck really sound like some form of base defense; maybe your Interceptor launch stations can be located and come under fire in EW.

My personal favorite is Guardian of Earth. “Designate a highly decorated soldier….” Decorated, eh? Like, with medals and accolades? I can give my soldiers medals?

Oh, and the aliens were having a mud party which I needed to shut down.

So, this happened.

11 09 2013


10 09 2013

I read this article from back in January (which I’d missed) which indirectly answers, I think, my own query: why is Solomon not attached to the XCOM expansion? Possibly because he really, really, really needed not to be. The whole reason I never really pursued the games development avenue, despite my nigh insatiable curiosity and lust for it, is the tremendous sacrifice it demands. That article really spells that out. Basically missing the first year of your kid’s life so you can make the greatest game ever? That is a harsh trade to make; not one I’m capable of.

A few real life friends of mine asked me if I’d ever pick up the Let’s Play idea…you know, the Youtube initiative that I basically dropped cold turkey. Editing those episodes was fun but very labor intensive; that’s not really a deterrent, but there was this whole job turmoil/I moved/I’m getting married/endless chaos scene, and then a real need to just play games in my downtime. That and, frankly, I hated my Let’s Plays; they felt forced, artificial, and dry. (I am maybe not my own worst critic, though I strive to be.)

So, I dunno if we’ll see that again. I have been playing XCOM thought; a lot. I’m upwards of 370 hours now, according to Steam. I got the Achievement “Ain’t No Calvary Comin’”, which means one operative saw every single mission in the game. I did this on Marathon, without realizing until the end that’s what I was doing. I only lost one operative that entire game (an assault) for doing something colossally stupid (sending him in very, very deep all by himself) giving me a Memorial Wall of size one. This was on Classic difficulty, which I have really no trouble with; only the fun kind of trouble.

Impossible Mode is another matter. It redefines brutality. I can only take so much of it, haha.

All that said, I admit I’m frothing at the mouth to make a video, so maybe I will.  Just one more. We’ll see where it goes. If it sucks, you’ll know: you’ll never see it. <3

Enemy Within Mah Brainz

21 08 2013

This video shows some really cool stuff off. In particular, what I shall call The Punch at like 4:19.

Here’s a big IGN article, and here’s a big Kotaku article. There’s a lot more,  like RPS…just hit the Google for “xcom enemy within”.

My excitement is pretty unbounded here. Gene mods and mechanized armor are very welcome additions to the game, as are freakin’ power armored sectoids. I’m also excited to see they’ve rebalanced some of the no-brainer class abilities: for instance, a stiff nerf to Squad Sight preventing you from scoring a critical when  using it vs. the Sniper’s move-and-shoot ability’s aim penalty is cut in half to balance it out. Melee combat?! Yes, please. And the flame thrower looks delicious.

There’s one thing I haven’t yet seen mentioned or asked about, and it’s odd because I feel like that question is really begged for here. There are now even more options for soldier builds, and already my strike team roster for any deployment is very tight…at six soldiers. So, do I get to bring more operatives out to the field? Say, eight?

I hope so.

My reintroduction to Ironman Impossible last night went as well as you might expect for my time off, though maybe worse than I expected: I very easily cruised through that Classic Marathon game, only losing maybe four or five soldiers and brushing aside the opposition. Impossible is significantly harder. I lose one operative a mission, on average. It’s so easy to trigger a cascade of alien packs, and their fire is pretty withering, even when I’m hunkered down. It’s hard and fun in the way Classic mode was when I first got into it…even if I have lost both Bomb Missions I’ve tried so far, losing my entire team in the process of trying to save the city. That’s XCOM, baby. That is, in fact, XCOM.

I’m also a bit saddened/surprised to not see Jake Solomon’s name attached to this; the lead designer is Ananda Gupta. Don’t get me wrong, what little I’ve seen so far of XCOM:EW looks fantastic…but I gained a lot of respect for Solomon and I wanted him to continue tending to his baby. “Jake Solomon’s XCOM.”

We gotta wait until November for this. It’s going to feel like a long wait. But I have XCOM:EU and Minecraft to keep me company in the meantime.

XCOM: Enemy Within

20 08 2013

So, this is happening. Allegedly (and, in all likelihood) Gamescom in Germany.

Last night I finished a Classic Marathon game; I stomped the Temple Ship, so – after my several month hiatus – I am prepared for Ironman Impossible. And it looks like I’m just in time.

Announcements should begin tomorrow.


Job. Moved. Traveling. Back now. Cool? :) Cool.

Oh, right. This old thing.

14 03 2013

Kickstarter, how I love thee.

This is old news now, for the most part, but for old news it’s certainly making a lot of new noise. inXile is my dream come true. Brian Fargo – as in the guy that presented us Fallout – is now leading a team consisting of many of the people that worked on those legendary Interplay titles in making titles in that very spirit. Wasteland 2 is happening. The gameplay looks fantastic…like the classic Fallout that lives in my heart had a beautiful child with XCOM. It looks really, really good. They’ve now decided to push the concept team over to a new project for preproduction…a spiritual successor to Torment. (I know that TotalBiscuit commented recently that he wasn’t sure this was a thing. Here’s Extra Credits explaining why pre-production is so vital to a good game.)

These are incredibly low risk Kickstarters. Not only does the team behind it consist of some legendary names with a staggering collective resume (Fargo, McCombs, Monte Fucking Cook) but look at that Wasteland gameplay. Customizeable UI? Upload our own custom portraits for characters? We can set up an ambush? I scratched my monitor throwing my wallet at it.

Fargo says it best in his intro video for Torment: he’ll never have to have an awkward chat with a publisher ever again. He’ll never have to mitigate the potential damage that comes from metric-based publisher directives…you know, like the ones that kicked the recent Simcity launch right in its junk. When you cut out that intensely overbearing middleman and you return to a world where you can focus on creativity and need to stretch dollars, you can make decisions that publishers would consider unacceptable risks. Fargo and his crew are giving us DRM Free, text-based, turn-based, top-down RPGs where story is the focus. There’s no FPS elements. There are no microtransactions, no always online bologna-crap. Like I said back when I gushed about Project Eternity…these guys can and will breathe reality into our dreams. Watching those dreams take shape in real time is rather nice. I do want story. I do want freedom to wander. I do want time to consider my next moves and experience a heavily tactical turn-based strategy game. I want replay value and character development and deep, meaningful, resonating choice with real goddamn consequences.

It turns out I’m not alone. These projects are netting millions of dollars from crowd-sourcing from people who – like me – remember the games Interplay and Black Isle gave us long ago. It demonstrates fan interest; it generates start-up capital; it gets us what we want.

That’s not to say Kickstarter is the end-all/be-all killer to publishing, as much as I want it to be.  Will I give my money to Brian Fargo and Friends? Hell yes. Would I have given my money to the brilliant gung ho indie dev that gave us FTL? No. Why not? Well, because Fargo and Friends have demonstrated very clearly an ability to produce; their actions very clearly match up with their motivations and my expectations.

Meanwhile, I am 100% convinced that Garriott can’t hope to generate a game I’ll enjoy. Make no mistake, I hold a tremendous amount of respect for Ultima 4 through 6 and I even enjoyed what of 7 I played, long ago. And possibly Tabula Rasa was a better idea than we saw, maybe hamstrung by publisher directives or any number of design-level problems that went against Garriott’s “vision”. But where has he been this whole time? What games has he made? The big picture on the Kickstarter page tauts that they’ve got devs from pre-EA Bioware and freakin’ System Shock. (But they put Tabula Rasa in there, which, you know, I’d have dropped from my resume, personally.) I’d like to see names. Fargo is a name. Colin McComb is a name. Monte Fucking Cook is a name. Garriott is…well, he was a name. You need to show me that you can make something that I’ll like…and while it’s obviously a very early prototype, that conversation system…blech. I’ve seen Interplay’s convo systems and I know the people who made those systems are on inXile’s payroll.

Wasteland 2 is slated to drop in October. I can’t wait.


So, it seems like they fixed the teleport bug. I’ve only played a bit since the patch, but it’s looking good. (I have yet to play a mission in the notorious graveyard though.) The patch is being beta tested and you can opt in on Steam here. I recommend it. I’ve been planning a new kick-off in XCOM for Youtube, pending this patch, but you know, real life has a way of utterly gobbling up my time.

There’s also word of a big announcement at PAX from the Firaxis guys; Jake Solomon will be there as well as others from the XCOM and Civ 5 teams. I’m hoping they’re going to drop some real meaty DLC on us.


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