Friday, September 10, 2004

Back To Normal

The games giveth, and the games taketh away.
Oh, sure, everything seemed bright and shiny yesterday, at least what I can remember of it. I got a fruit basket from George Lucas by FedEx today, so I hope I didn't have sex with him. Partly because it'd be embarassing, but mostly because I know he's going to go back and edit the footage to mess with which of us shot first.
But a scant 24 hours later, the games industry was more than willing to provide the antidote for my all-encompassing euphoria brought on by the games industry. Because for every heartbreaking work of mind-staggering genius like Burnout 3, there are a dozen hateful fuckups to bring one back down to earth. Having safely regained my grounded, comfortable bile-rage for everything and everyone, I would like to dish out a hearty round of Fuck Yous to the industry I both hate and love so very much:
Electronic Arts: Don't think I don't appreciate you buying up Burnout 3 so that it didn't get left in limbo when those asses at Acclaim drove their company into the ground, because I do. That said, other than "continuing to exist", all you appear to have brought to the Burnout table are a double-handful of awful songs and, more importantly, a bunch of lopsided hamster-wheels masquerading as online game servers. It's not like you didn't notice the positive press you were getting, it's plastered all over your web site, but somehow, despite two-plus decades in the game-making business, you failed to realize that people would actually want to play your fabulous new game against each other. I know Burnout 3 is famous for its spectacular crashes, but you didn't have to take that literally.
I understand why you wouldn't want to overcommit. After all, you've got an underground bunker, cooled to superconducting temperatures with liquid nitrogen, housing a series of supercomputers you outbid NASA* for, run by a staff of 1,000 you signed to lifetime contracts, all so the three people playing "The Sims Online" can trade lamps all fucking day. But still, you bitched for two years about not wanting to be a part of XBox Live, and you finally sign on in some form of half-assed hybrid, and it doesn't work. I'm not the biggest Microsoft booster in the world, but every once in a while, they do behave as if they know what the fuck they're doing.
Plus, the fuckers are putting out "Ty The Tasmanian Tiger 2". This, of course, is a sequel to "Ty, The Tasmanian Tiger", famous for being 2003's most mediocre game. It featured a wacky Australian mammal who ran around collecting things, jumping, and fighting enemies. If this sounds vaguely familiar to you, it's probably because the game was completely fucking unoriginal. It was also famous for going on clearance faster than any other 2003 holiday game, according to an informal survey of Internet columnists who, when wandering through Best Buy in January 2004, made remarks to the effect of "holy shit, that fucking Tazmanian Tiger game is twenty bucks already?"
Still, the game was in fact released, which is more than I can say for the Infinium Phantom, which will accomplish the heretofore-thought impossible task of making the Jaguar CD and the Virtual Boy look like stunning successes. The Phantom, you see, is a new videogame console. Or it will be. Or it -would- have been. Essentially, it's a stripped-down PC in a console-sized box that you plug into your TV. You then "rent" games by downloading them over a high-speed Net connection. Admittedly, a few key details have been left out of the product's promotion, like what it will look like, how much it will cost, and when you can buy it, but as the Internet boom showed us, the magical world of venture capital rarely sees these as "problems". Up to a point.
That point appears to be right around now, when the company that doesn't make it yet is already in hock for about three million, and has... a hundred grand in the bank. And that's without a single product on shelves, nothing to sell to anyone, and Christmas fast approaching. Oops. Plus, we can't even blame their impending doom on the Bush economy. Disappointment piled atop an already heaping pile of other disappointment.
Forcing them, apparently, to put parachutes on things that then require the parachutes to be caught on a helicopter. Which is, admittedly, a bold and exciting technique, albeit not terribly elegant.