There is no pattern here

I haven’t written in a while, not because there is nothing to say, but because I have been busy with other stuff. So here is a post of random thoughts.

Gaming thoughts

So last month L.A. Noire, advertised as the most expensive game ever, was released for XBOX360 and PS3, but not for PC. People keep talking about a “next generation” in consoles, but that next gen already exists among us PC enthusiasts. Now I do not want to start a war between consoles and PCs, but this is something I have learned and have numerous examples to its veracity: Complex games are far better on PCs than they are on consoles. Console controllers are fine for simple games like arcade ports, 2D scrollers, racing games, simple sports sims, etc., but for FPS, or third person 3D, or RTS games, PC controls are far superior. Keyboard in one hand and mouse in the other just feels more natural than two thumb controls and a dozen awkwardly placed buttons on controllers designed for 12 year old hands.

So why do gaming companies not support PC gaming anymore? Most likely it is sales, and also copy protection, and not having to try and support 3 dozen different graphics cards, all good reasons. But games are hitting an upper limit in how complex they can be by pandering to consoles. A complex game like L.A. Noire could be a lot better on a PC, but there are no plans to port it.  Even though I own both an XBOX360 and a PS3, I will not be getting it anytime soon.  I already got Red Dead Redemption collecting dust, having never gotten past the tutorial because I hated the controls so much.  (I don’t really play game with controllers, I use my PS3 for watching videos, and my XBOX360 for playing Kinect Sports and occasionally Windows Media Center).

I tried the demo for Dragon Age 2 on my PS3, the PC version is better.  I tried console and PC versions of DC Universe Online, and the PC version is better.  They ran into a problem on DCUO in that there is a power combo that is uber powerful when played on the PC version (specifically the Transmutation power in the Sorcery line and Shuriken Storm on the Martial Arts line would, when executed in sync, do massive amounts of AoE damage).  This combo was easy to execute on the keyboard/mouse, but damn near impossible to do on the console controls for the PS3 version.  The problem was that there was no fix for the PC version that did not create a massive nerf of the PS3 version.  I do not know if they ever fixed it, I stopped playing DCUO back in February, and haven’t gone back.

WTF is going on here?

Another blogger name Cyber Trekker over at http://thegreatslexpedition.blogspot.com/ has been posting a lot that Cyberspace (aka the Metaverse, aka the 3D web) is already dead, thanks to mobile communications which are moving people back to “reality”.  (He’s not the only one, I have been seeing a lot of 3D web is dying articles lately, this was just one).  Simultaneously I see this video demonstrating Windows 8’s new interface model, which looks like Microsoft has plans to turn the PC into a big Windows phone.  Simultaneously EA announces that SimCity 5 will be a Facebook App. Meanwhile, famous game designer Richard Garriott wants to create a new “semi-3D” Virtual world portal that will tie social networks like Facebook, with mobile apps, with new virtual worlds into one big happy family.

I’m sorry but, this is insane.

Let me be clear: There is enough room on the Internet for everything and everybody.  Some may get the impression that the 3D virtual worlds are dying because their “share” of the internet is getting smaller.  In fact, the 3D Web continues to grow and it is only a matter of time before it too expands into the realm of mobile computing.  Its already making minor dents. But I have always said that the 3D web will never take over the 2D web, instead they will enhance each other.

Second: Memo to Microsoft: If I wanted to have my PC work like a tablet, I would just get a freaking tablet.  The Windows 7 interface is the greatest PC interface ever, and I already have gadgets on my desktop that show me news and weather and other stuff, and it is a lot prettier than the ugly orange-green-blue-purple mobile phone interface you are pushing for Windows 8.  Why not multiple interface models? One for traditional keyboard and mouse, one for “touch screen”, and one for Kinect?  You did not think of Kinect did you?  The bottom line is this: If you focus on merging the PC experience with the mobile experience, you are going to lose on both fronts.  Android, based off Linux, is already available for PCs that want to behave like mobile phones. There is no need to have common interfaces between devices.

Thirdly, Facebook sucks for gaming!  I know how the 300 million facebook users seems like a huge audience for gaming, especially social gaming, but every game on Facebook is a novelty at best.  SimCity might do well, as long as it is simplified to the casual user (wasn’t that what the godawful SimCity Societies try to be?)  As far as trying to interface a virtual world with Facebook, its been tried multiple times, always ending up in failure.  Facebook is a place designed for real people and real identities, virtual worlds are place for fantasy and role play make believe.  Are you really interested in letting your family, friends, and workplace know about your cosplay activities? Virtual Worlds and real life Social Networks do not belong together, ever!

Is there a pattern here? We have console game designers trying to turn console gaming into something it is not. We have advocates of mobile computing saying that mobile computing will take over everything, which is clearly not true. We have game designers tinkering with gaming on social networks, something it is clearly not designed for.  We continue to have people wanting to merge social networking and virtual worlding, which are incompatible.

The only pattern I can see is that there seems to be an ongoing battle between those that want to merge everything together, and those like me that think we are better off using the right tools for the right uses.  But this battle has been going on for a couple of decades.  In the 90’s “portal” websites like AOL and Yahoo wanted to be everything for everybody.  They wanted to make their websites so complete, there would never be any reason to go anywhere else.  They failed of course, but a lot of good came out of those attempts.  Now Facebook wants to play the “portal” role, and mobile phones and gaming consoles want to eliminate the need for PCs, and none of these objectives will succeed, but maybe some good will come out of the attempts.

Or, maybe there is no pattern here.

6 thoughts on “There is no pattern here

  1. Arim C. June 5, 2011 / 11:05 am

    I think more traditional gamers won’t go for most of the mobile applications and that that will indeed make it hard for game companies to completely transition over to mobile applications. However, media companies in general have had ways of either bribing or hurting their customers to get money in greed since the 1920’s, and only in recent years has it been noticed enough for people to speak out against such hurt. Yet, the bribing part is mostly still apparent through all the tempting features they boast about for recent games and how much “cheaper” they are than before, and I think that’s why mobile applications have continued to keep coming back for more attempts at merging everything. And that for the same reasons, recent games have usually focused more on side features than the actual game itself, although a significant number of them probably have a worse game and story than the actual side features because of that…maybe even some glitches in such games could count as prime examples of bad central game design. But, I’m sure that when there’s enough bad reviews and enough bad opinions for both merging everything and bad games, the media companies will adapt to what the people want in both cases…long as there’s enough people that won’t be easily bribed to stand up for better recognition of PC games and any other noticeably ignored feature of technology that people would prefer to use. And of course, same for better quality video game development.

  2. Winston June 6, 2011 / 5:23 pm

    SimCity for Facebook!? Ugh. Am I the only one who thought SimCity 2000 was awesome BECAUSE of the complexity? EA might as well just update the graphics for SC Classic since the simplicity of the game would be perfect for Facebook. And how many freaking “Diner Dash” and “Bejeweled” clones have to be made before everyone realizes they are all the same crappy game?! RockStar is currently the only company that I know of actively trying to produce good, immersive, complex games. Bring on GTA V! And if it’s only for Facebook I’ll hide in my corner and cry, clutching my copy of “Hidden and Dangerous” to my chest.

  3. HDBadBoy June 15, 2011 / 7:36 pm

    I figured most OS’s would have transitioned to some form of cloud OS like Joli OS aka Jolicloud. Slowly but surely it is moving that way especially with all the advances in web programming technologies. However, I’m a diehard Quake Server fan and enjoyed gaming with my students back in the day on an old NT box running Quake Server networked to the student stations. Finding it hard to transition from keyboard controller to a handheld controller otherwise I’d be glued to the tube playing Halo Reach, Call for Duty, or Modern Warfare and sipping on Jolt Cola.

  4. HDBadBoy June 15, 2011 / 7:45 pm

    I think Agent Fox Mulder would beg to differ about, ” You see a pattern developing her Scully”..LOL

  5. Revlin J June 28, 2011 / 7:05 pm

    The trend of merging categories of interactivity is one symptom of a general dissolving of boundaries that seems to be happening in our global society. I don’t think this is a new thing or particular to the net, rather what we see is acceleration in the progress of this trend. Ariane, you are sort of taking a reactionary perspective to these corporate choices, which is not a bad thing. If categories of experience are so tastelessly merged as to make the results tacky, sleazy, boring, etc., then those results should be rejected for the “pure” roots.

    On the other hand, I see these mergers as full of potential rewards, and it is not the corporate empires which will stumble upon such rewards through their clumsy scheming. The 3d web is in major transition right now, because a long forgotten, but not buried, technology is returning. Do you remember VRML from the late 90’s; tacky, chunky 3d produced by an HTML-like markup? Have you heard of X3d and X3Dom? These are W3C technologies that are totally derived from the original VRML attempt. X3d has not seen much action in our web lives and how could it — none of the major browsers directly supported it.

    Now however, WebGL is emerging with built-in browser support in the bleeding edge releases of firefox, chrome and safari. Along with it comes a new-found significance for X3d and X3Dom, as those markup languages will now be directly renderable by modern browsers. This is not a future thing. This is happening now and you can test drive it by simply googling around for examples. In the next couple years I think 3d web will undergo metamorphosis into an entirely different species of experience.

    As to merging categories, the results are only as good as the ingenuity of the people making the revisions to our types of experience. I think 3d and blogging and social networking do go together and will eventually be a common synthesis. However in the process of becoming common these things will become so different as to be completely unrecognizable in relation to their current form. You’re blog will become your body. For you, Ariane, this seems to have already occurred to some degree. You play and participate in sexual activity with anyone who goes far enough with the projection that you’ve put out in the form of a game. Most people find your game by way of your blog. Your blog becomes a conduit to your persona, never mind that you present this persona as a fictional character of fantasy; never mind that any writer presents her characters as imaginary figures — each character is in fact a real and living being inside the mind of the visionary. Now these beings can be made real to others in a process of illustrating that inner vision, which is what you have begun to do. I think many, many more people will follow in your virtual footsteps and that these mergers of type are a way to further enable this possibility.

    I wouldn’t worry about our friends and co-workers finding out about our multiplicity of identity. Well, I am worried, but in the same way that I worry about breaking the news to a close friend that I’m moving far away and won’t be seeing them very often. Our warranted identities, which is to the say the person that everyone who knows your body thinks you are, will lose their social significance as the social domain becomes more and more fluid. The biological body is also taking on a fluidity of being, become quite intangibly defined as the means to alter it multiply. Ultimately the modern notions of embodied identity and a singular self will become quaint, out-dated, out-moded, and found to be a totally naive way of thinking about one’s self in relation to one’s world. In answer to WTF: that is the fuck.

  6. Cyber Trekker February 12, 2012 / 11:40 am

    Sheesh! Not another human posturing under the handle Cyber Trekker.

    Being the original Cyber Trekker instead of the one referred to in this post, I am rather infuriated that others have essentially hijacked my handle as its usurpers.

    I wish humans were more original…

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