Monday Morning Developer Memorial Day Edition
Posted Monday, May 31, 2004 by Mr. GBob
Great moments in Monday Morning Quarterbacking. The year is 1864. Leutnant George Heinrich Rudolf Johann von Reisswitz of the Prussian Guard Artillery takes a tactical board game his father used to nitpick the obvious failings of Napoleon and introduces the princes of Prussia to the first real war game…a genre that would occupy many a lonely teenagers Saturday night until the advent of Dungeons and Dragons. In this we owe a great debt those Monday Morning Developers who came before us.
“I’m a charger
That charges through the night
Like an orange bolt of lightning
Passing everything in sight.
I'm the best pal the Duke boys ever had
I'm thunder on the highway looking bad, bad, bad”
-Johnny Cash: The General Lee
Fat Elvis Syndrome
Johnny Cash is one of the pivotal figures in American popular music. His music spoke to the heart of the country, with songs ranging from soulful gospel songs to honky tonk ballads of murder and sex. Yet there is another side to his music. At one point in his career he decided it would be a good idea to write a song about the Dukes of Hazard. This happens in the game industry as well. Great designers, with a track record of excellence, will find themselves making a terrible game. Perhaps it’s a badly realized sequel that is rushed out the door, or a game concept that so wild that it could never possibly find an audience. The Monday Morning Developer calls this “Fat Elvis Syndrome”. Elvis, near the end, had accomplished all one could accomplish in his field. He would have been happier spending his reaming days popping pills, practicing kung fu and recording spirituals. Instead he was forced on stage to sing “Jail House Rock” for the millionth time. Little wonder he would become fat, bloated, insane, and recording songs like “In the Ghetto”. Other music artists find themselves making concept albums, or blowing their head off with a shotgun.
We bring this up because, once again, there is trouble at Ion Storm. A few years back “trouble” and “Ion Storm” in the same sentence would have as redundant as “wet” and “rain” but thanks to Warren Spector in their Austin branch, the company had turned itself around. It would never make up for the excesses of the Romero years, but it had a fighting chance. According to Shacknews, Ion Storm has laid off the majority of its work force and its future seems in doubt.
What does this have to do with Elvis? Ladies and gentlemen, I would suggest that Warren Spector is on the cusp of Fat Elvis syndrome. Spector is one of the great developers that Origin produced. His games, such as Ultima Underworld and Thief, helped pushed the boundaries of computer gaming. Then things began to go badly. The sequel to Dues Ex was viewed by many as a disappointment. Rumors were circulated that he spent most of his time absent from the day to day handling of Dues Ex 2. Add to this behavior the notion that his next project was going to be a Tomb Raider game, and the case is closed. Here is a man who needs a break from gaming. If, indeed, he is leaving Ion Storm, than the MMD hopes that he takes time to remember why he got into the business in the first place rather than do the video gaming equivalent of “Aloha From Hawaii”.
“I'm a hero
and that's how I'll make you feel
when your riding shotgun with me
and the law is at your heels
I'm glory bound but when the chase is done
I'll take off through the mountains and have fun, fun, fun
I'm got style, tearing through the curves
let my flag wave proudly to the people that I serve
I'm number one and I will always be
the pride of the south they call the General Lee”
Korean Gamers sue NCSoft
Who says that America doesn’t lead the way in culture? South Korean gamers have banded together in a class action lawsuit against NCSoft, claiming that the rates are too high, the game doesn’t work, hackers aren’t dealt with, and that the sale of virtual property is negatively impacting the game.
You know, the last person sued over an online game was Richard Garriot and Ultima Online. Richard is now working for NCSoft. Ever get the feeling there might be a trend here? If you get struck by lightning once you think, “that’s too bad”. When it starts happening again it makes you wonder what thunder god you pissed off.
Like the UO lawsuit, this is another pointless waste of the company’s time. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, no company puts a gun to your head, forcing you to play their game. Except Sony Online Entertainment, and that’s only for Everquest. We have a suggestion for gamers thinking of calling a lawyer because your +5 sword of Ubergeekdom was bought on E-Bay. Get outside. Smell a flower. Go on a date. Let that rage be channeled in a more productive way.
We recommend writing pointless articles. It helps us fill the time.
If the game industry went a single year without making a World War Two theme game the Monday Morning Developer would hang up his rant machine and retire happy. How many times must the war be fought, anyways? Even the sequel to Freedom Force is based on 1960's Silver Age heroes traveling back in time to FIGHT GOD DAMN WORLD WAR TWO! There is hardly a single theater of war or method of fighting that hasn't been covered. What's left? Perhaps a game where you play a WW1 vet trying to raise war bonds for the war effort. Perhaps a game where you play one of the many prostitutes of Italy. We may not be hitting the bottom of the barrel, but we're pretty damn close.
But it's Memorial Day, and perhaps it's worth noting why we play this war over and over again. In an age of luxury and comfort, it’s difficult for us to picture the kind of sacrifice that earlier generations made. In other times we would sing of their glory in songs or poems. Instead we make video games. I would like to think that when people play these games they are doing it because they wish deep in their hearts that they could have had the courage and strength of character to do what their forefathers did.
Games for sick children
The MMD has a thing for sick children. We can be a cold-hearted bastard around the clock, but when we hear of a child who is ill, we can’t help but be moved. The MMD would like to encourage everyone reading this to join Gamer’s Pulse and the Children’s Wish foundation in their new charity drive. The plan? For people to donate their old video games, consoles, strategy guides and gaming equipment to help seriously ill children get better.
Have a collection of games that you no longer play? They may be coasters to you, but to some kid stuck in a hospital all year they may be the best damn thing to ever happen to them. Are you a developer with a warehouse full of your latest crapfest? Well, here’s a place for it.
The MMD would also like our readers to think of donating a copy of a MMORPG and a Gametime coupon. Virtual worlds are an escape from the daily pain of life, and these kids are in a great deal of pain.
Readers are encouraged to send their video games to
Attn: Gamer's Grant Wish's In 2004
1721 Chewalca Road #25
Opelika Al. 36804
China censoring video games
Starting September 1st, video games sold in China must be approved by the Ministry of Culture. Video games, according to Chinese authorities, are dangerous not only to the countries morals, but dangerous to national security as well. What is interesting from the standpoint of western game developers is that once approval has been granted, developers will not be allowed to amend to change their products, effectively taking online games out of the equation.
The MMD would like to condemn this blatant crushing of dissent on the part of John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act.
Goddamn, technology changes fast
The MMD picked up a new hard drive this week after the old bite the dust. Clocking in at 250 Gig, it left us feeling funny. You see, in the computer room sits an old machine I call "Mr. Computer". Here was a machine that I purchased to play Wing Commander 2 with. The size of the hard drive? 50 Meg. In other words it would take over 500 of those hard drives to match my current storage capacity. That's close to 600 pounds worth of equipment. We don't know if this makes us feel excited about the state of technology or merely feeling old.
Warner Brothers gaming site review policy
The Hollywood Reporter has an article claiming that Warner Brothers is planning to change the license fee a publisher must pay based upon the web reviews the game receives. A game that generates poor player feedback will be more expensive to make than one that receives a good review regardless of box sales. Warner Brothers has a desire to make games that don’t suck and the MMD applauds that. Warner Brothers wants to make game developers responsible for the product they ship and we applaud that as well. Hell, we’re even in favor of giving fellow Monday Morning Developers the whip hand. As a reviewer we are willingly bribed and if it means more swag for us than let me be the first to shake Jason Hall’s hand.
Still, the MMD is slightly disturbed by this notion. Bad games are never intentionally created. Meetings are not held where evil cabals of game developers think of new ways to punish the players. A bad game can happen for a number of reasons. One of the most common reason games fail is because of outside influence by so-called “experts”. When dealing with a licensed product, the developer is often at the mercy of outsiders. It seems to us to be more than a little bit unfair for a Warner Brothers executive to dictate the look and feel of the game, and then turn around and suck money from the developer when the game comes out smelling like a dead tuna. Accountability is a great thing, but too often it counts the people on the bottom and not the jackasses who got those people there in the first place.
We find it difficult to believe that any WB executive would allow his or her salary to be dependant on what Roger Ebert or Harry Knowles have to say about their latest masterpiece.
Go back to raping a great movie studio you soulless bastards and stop picking on game developers. Don’t you have a Superman movie to fuck up?
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Theft
Singles: Flirt Up Your Life recently released a 4-hour trial version. The MMD had mentioned this game in passing last week as being one of the new wave of sexual based games on the American market. Always looking on the horizon to find a game that we can enjoy with Mrs. MMD, we thought it might be worth a look. The game did state that it was a Sims-like game, so we had no great hopes for something original. What did, however, surprise us was how shockingly unoriginal the game actually was.
There is nothing new under the sun, and there are many derivative games on the market. Never before, however, have we seen a game that was so blatant in it’s theft. The user interface, the game elements and the made up language the characters speak was exactly like the Sims. The only differences were the enhanced graphics, the nudity and the lack of “fun” to be had.
This led to a very interesting question. Why hasn’t Electronic Arts sued the hell out of Edios, the publisher of the game? Well, the answer is that they may not be able to. The law regarding intellectual property theft is hazy, at best, when it comes to the game industry. One of the earlier lawsuits in the industry was when Atari sued Sierra Online over the game “jawbreaker”. Jawbreaker was a Pac-Man clone, with the Pac-Man character replaced by a giant set of teeth. The maze layout was identical, as well as the game play itself. The case would end in a draw, but the precedent was set. You can copy game play, you can copy ideas, but you can’t copy character names or other similar property.
In other words, if you wanted to make Ultima Online, go ahead. Make the commands the same. Make the skill based advancement the same. Use the same basic commands. You just can’t use names like “Moonglow” or “Britannia” and forget about “Lord British”. This is both good and bad, of course. Without IP law working like this, it would be impossible to make a 1st Person Shooter without paying big bucks to John Carmack. The bad news is that dreck like this Sims-ripoff can happen.
The game is only 30 dollars to own, but we would rather just buy the Sims and make believe that they’re naked. It seems a more rewarding experience.