Make heaven sleek, streamlined, and awesome for us, Steve. Beware, though: They allegedly have creatures with a billion eyeball wings and cow faces up there. This might be a toughie, even for you.
What happened: Ooooo, John Carmack said a swear! But then, I can’t blame him. He has every right to be [synonym for RAGE generated by HilarityTron Over-9000, which also named itself], seeing as his game nearly burst into flames on launch. Foremost, horrific texture issues rendered the PC version nearly unplayable. The worst part, though? Carmack and co couldn’t even fix it directly, instead having to wait on graphics card manufacturers to get their acts together.
What it means: You can’t be everything to be everybody. You can try. You can promise ultra high-res texture packs, support for all sorts of bells and whistles, and the goddamn moon, but eventually something has to give. Granted, id’s been pretty upfront throughout the whole thing. As Carmack said, “We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games.” Even so, with its first in-house production of seven years finally bringing the most satisfying shotguns in the business back to shelves, id Software finds itself in an awkward position. Once an industry pioneer, it’s now sort of throwing modern shooter design elements into its game to see what sticks.
Once a PC powerhouse, it’s now bending over backward for consoles while also trying to reach for the incredibly high bar set by PCs. And let’s not forget its slow-but-sure advances onto mobile devices, either. Id, ego, and superego – every bit of this company’s collective gray matter is in the midst of an identity crisis. It’s not the undisputed ruler of the FPS realm anymore, nor am I sure it wants to be. Given that it’s now aiming for shorter development cycles and less of an emphasis on graphics so bleeding edge that they’ve been known to cause permanent, disfiguring eye lacerations, it’ll be interesting to see if Doom 4′s a bit more… cohesive. Nowadays, you either make games for absolutely everyone ever or a tiny but avid niche. The industry’s outgrown what id once was, but can id grow into a different yet equally relevant role? At the very least, it’s heartening to see Carmack and co trying new things. Especially in the shooter space, “retro”-style games (think: Serious Sam, Hard Reset, Painkiller) seem to be the go-to response to Call of Duty fatigue. RAGE may not be a revolution, but for a developer that could throw some levers, push a giant red “easy” button, and become a Doom and Quake factory in an instant, it’s an impressive risk nonetheless.
What happened: If a megaton falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? That question was more or less posed by Epic’s announcement of Flash compatibility for Unreal 3, which will probably just, you know, change the face of gaming as we know it. No biggie. Hardcore types, though, pretty much shrugged and went back to getting hit by trees they didn’t hear falling.
What it means: This has the potential to be absolutely huge. I mean, look at Facebook games right now. They’re small and primitive – like cave-dwelling man or modern Nickleback fans. UE3, though, is like moving from the SNES era to the current crop of consoles for these things. It’s not one small step or one giant leap; it’s a jetpack powered by guitar solos that can go from zero to the sun in under four seconds. It’s odd: Gamers constantly fear the death of triple-A and glorious graphics, but then they turn around and scoff when something like this happens. Newsflash, folks: This is a large part of how it’s going to stay alive. Put the right tools in the right places, and suddenly, it’s viable again. Mobile and social gaming are here to stay, and now high-end engines are available for both. You may not be a fan of social games now, but think about it this way: Mobile gaming used to be a crappy version of Tetris and mocking people who owned T-Mobile Sidekicks. Now it’s everything from Angry Birds to Infinity Blade. If much of the gaming industry’s going through a supremely awkward puberty, social gaming’s still a newborn baby. Who takes joy in mocking defenseless babies, you dick?
What happened: Bethesda told its side of the story in this epic tale of scrolls and swords, eternally retold. Long story short, Zenimax isn’t hunting down Mojang for sport. There is no big, bad, pointlessly malicious wolf in this situation – just no-holds-barred business. Zenimax (perhaps rightfully) believes that letting someone sort of move into your trademark’s territory is a slippery slope. If one company can do it, what’s stopping everyone else?
What it means: Squabbling over the specific word “scrolls” in relation to role-playing games may be taking things a bit too far, but this does shed light on an issue that’s ignored far too often in the gaming industry: theft. I’m not referring to piracy, either. I’m talking primarily about the pilfering of ideas. I mean, how far is too far? Gameloft, for instance, pretty much makes a living off meticulously cloning other people’s games and putting them on platforms those people can’t quite reach. And how about Capcom’s shameless swiping of ‘Splosion Man earlier this year? Point is, a lot of people don’t seem to realize that Zenimax does have cause for concern – even if not from Mojang specifically. Zenimax, then, feels that it needs to set a precedent, and Mojang just so happens to find itself in the line of fire. Hopefully, however, cooler heads can still prevail. And if they don’t? Well, if Zenimax demands Notch’s hat as part of the settlement, that’s the last straw: We march.
What happened: Everybody died. No, seriously. Dark Souls has that effect on people. Like, a bunch. It’s basically the opposite of a cakewalk. It’s a cake hunt. And you’re the frail, frightened, possibly frosting-coated prey. Dark Souls is like being eaten by cake is, I guess, the main thrust of what I’m saying.
What it means: Dark Souls’ rise to such revered status even among people who aren’t certified, card-carrying masochists is utterly fascinating. Much of it, I think, can be attributed to the game’s lack of traditional videogame difficulty. Really, it’s more of a puzzle – only impenetrable until you’ve solved it. As Brenna so rightly put it: “You’ll find that with a little practice, a lot of luck and an eye to good advice, Dark Souls isn’t that hard. But you are. You’re a badass. Badasses don’t need checkpoints.” Games are a lot of things nowadays – accessible, cinematic, and even empowering – but rarely are they honest about it. Dark Souls doesn’t pull punches or pitch softballs – unless they’re aimed directly for your softballs. Neither, though, does it claim to be anything else, and that’s incredibly refreshing in an industry so full of smoke and mirrors.
What happened: After a long, basically incredible battle with pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs passed away. Because cancer is a dirty, rotten cheating motherfucker.
What it means: Really, what more can I say that everyone else hasn’t already said or felt – especially after Brenna’s impassioned look back? Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs was an incredible human being. He dreamed bigger than anyone else and then spent every second of every day realizing those dreams. You can say he died young – and you can shed a few tears over that – but I’d trade thousands-upon-thousands of years for 56 as meaningful as his. For now, though, who cares about my words? His are way better: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”