In my essay I will argue that existence is predicated on beer and that marbles control adhesion.

It's been a while since I voluntarily wrote something. In that time I've rejoined and once again left the DAOC community. I've rented Splinter cell and found it irritating, and, perhaps most importantly, I've begun snorting coke in ernest as I play Master of Orion 3 and await Diablo II version 1.10 to come out.

My sorrow glands began lactating when I'd heard that MOO3 was changing from the brainchild of Alan Emerik to a cut-down polished window-help tutorial. Of course, I don't enjoy being identified with groups--any groups--so I put a tourniquet on my whining and attempted to think positively. In the immediate aftermath of that decision I noticed the deplorable tribute to humanity's worst character exemplified in the MOO3 fanboy legion (or perhaps merely highly retarded battalion).

The MOO3 fan scene went to hell in a special kind of way that I haven't seen before. The stand off in my brain as to which morsel of dork meat deserved the most of my contempt quite shielded me from the actual state of the game as it was being developed. Truth be told it's very near the point of my wanting to see the game only for the sake of breaking this tie and committing myself to truly hating one group or another.

It's a pretty amazing feat in a world where message boards and chat have turned communication into (at best) an 8th grade classroom simulation, and functions as an experiment in how wrong human behavior can go when pain isn't involved in setting the restrictions on whim. It's of a degree where otherwise good people are using garden variety attention-whore trolling tactics just to break up the unrelenting inanity. Post after post of shear idiocy including generous helpings of repitition, and everyone seemingly oblivious to their formulaic roles in recycling archaic tit-for-tat that seems almost traditional. These people must think going through the motions of great past assholes gets them to heaven or something because there are 100's of pages of stickied op-moved posts rotting at the top of the forum, and yet these infernal threads do not suffer a want of fresh bile to gorge themselves.

A long time ago I made some threats of giving my opinion vis Mario Sunshine. My attitude is simplicity itself, I don't play games to be a janitor. What little joy I get out of a texture-switching particle effect wears rapidly thin, especially when so much "new" is part of the set of concepts and gameplay elements knowns as "crap". Mario sunshine is not the same kind of advance that mario 64 was. Rather than expanding your range of interactions with the environment it throws in a rather typical 3 flavors gameplay element: certain things get unlocked a certain way, given the small rock-paper-scissors repetoire at your disposal, you're never lost. The game designers get an easier job with new inflexible puzzle elements that you need only slot into place to use. This principle is expressed best, I think, in the final level before encountering Bowser, where you merely repeat the cardinal 'rock paper scissor' actions 3 times each to get through. Not much mystery, or interest.

There are moments when the game shines. Pulling the arms off of a giant squid (which is mysteriously adverse to water) and firing missiles at a giant robot bowser from a moving roller coaster (shades of Panzer Dragoon Orta) are both somewhat interesting. However the vast majority of the game is about throwing fruit through a basketball hoop or hosing down the landscape to relieve it of some disturbingly dessert-like coating. Even the monsters are nothing but tasty icecream treats shaped like classic Mario characters. Some merely shaped like classic ice cream treats. The distinct mario flava is not present, and furthermore, the gameplay mechanics do not feel genuinely new. The only significant difference is in how shamelessly all characters in the game blaim you for things which can't possibly be your fault, get you to do them favors, and then withhold anything resembling gratitude. Mario was a hero in all the other games he starred in, why does he have to be a chump with menial duties this time around? If I wanted that, I could just play Luigi's mansion.

It's interesting that people love Nintendo so much, since, as I recall, it wasn't really the quality of the games themselves that got me so intensely interested, it was the fact that they were coincidentally the most popular at the time. The mystique of gaming and the mystique of nintendo was riding high, and that's what made me like them. The fact is, there was little on the original nintendo, the super nintendo, or the n64 that really was amazing. Smash brothers, sure. The mario series itself. Zelda. But take any one of those games individually, and you see that it was nothing so great (except for Mario 64...that was really impressive). The gamecube continues this idea. The games are brilliant. Well, let me rephrase, they contain brilliance and their creation speaks of the talent of their teams. Unquestionably, the games being released now are of incredibly high quality. But there is still something lacking in my mind. Mario sunshine was by far the best looking mario to date, yet the gameplay and the motivations which brought your character along were strange and unintelligible. The new Zelda Wind-waker game is similar. In fact, I find myself asking 'when did this turn into samurai jack on the ocean'? It's really quite strange. Metroid turned from a space-quest with interesting visuals to an 'exploration game'. Something which I don't get. Sure, the visor is great. But the thing is, why would you put an exploration game inside a first-person perspective? That's not the way of things. People want to see themselves in the environment. That's how the game becomes an exploration experience. Otherwise it's the intense feeling of isolation and frustration at not being able to view your environment unfettered. All these strange elements seem to me to be a statement. A statement that Nintendo never had the super-juice that made them true visionaries--like Sega. They just had an impenetrable mystique generated by their following. The impenetrable mystique shields such companies as Blizzard and Nintendo from true evaluation. Their fanbase creates the games they make for them--regardless of their actual content, the community has the reception for the game ready before it comes out.

The community has power, possibly over the form of a game itself. Apart from the direct creation of the game, their white noise might influence developers to the point that they can produce crap. Halo is an example that most people would not consider in this vein, though I think it illustrates the point. The original idea of halo was so vague that everyone merely assumed, based on the trailer, that it would be the most revolutionary game ever devised. At some point it became merely a highly polished multiplayer fps for console. While it was certainly the best console fps ever produced, it still was nothing like the original ideal. Examine the industry, you can see that everywhere, games with hype die a little, at their core (I'm not speaking of 'not living up to the hype', since all fanboys can make up the fact that the game is 'amazing' after the fact, without need of reality to stall their frolicking). Hype literally destroys design, by imposing a morale effect on the design team.

The point being that MOO3's destructive community turned MOO3 itself into a brilliant game which is inexplicably no fun to play. It has parts that seem like they might be fun, but every part that demands detail is vague, and every part that would be fun is separated and delayed by activity which is not. The game was destroyed by tension created through fan interaction.

I bring this up because, in comparison to halo, diablo, or moo3, Planetside has a small fan following. Sure, there are 1000's of people, but they do not have the same kind of social intensity that games which were ruined by their fans have. The strength of the development teams' stealthier project has created its own fans--advertising itself and promoting positive feelings about their game as it reaches completion rather than heightening fear and anticipation.

On what basis does hype actually affect a real world product? Well, there is a rather remarkable example of such a thing occuring right now.

The new war in the Persian Gulf is widely agreed by people with intelligence to be, in some way, retarded. Whether it's because of how stupid everyone sounds, or because of actual conviction that it is an underdeveloped solution to a greater problem, that of unnatural political borders in the Middle East, it is clear that something about this war, which should have been a no-brainer, is, instead, a fuck up. I believe this is due to the community around this war being retarded.

I mean let's face it, you have your republican fanboys, your legion of obnoxious knee-jerk antiwar critics, people like me who are just trolling by saying things that piss people off, and then attention whores who want to say idiotic things like 'it's about the troops' or point out that they have kids in the army (who fucking cares about your goddamn kids? As if there aren't thousands upon thousands of other people with kids in the army, or barring the army, some dangerous profession that could cause their death like the police force or drug running). These now deeply entrenched viewpoints are the result of a very simple phenomenon that is readily recognizable in the game industry.

The United States, a once respected war maker, had a few bad years. They produced a 'police action' (not even a real war?) which was lambasted by critics and almost universally despised. It was so bad that people felt it was justified to harass employees of the US on the grounds that they worked for an evil corporation. Then the US released operation Desert Shield, and its expansion pack, Operation Desert Storm. The world loved it. It was the perfect competitive product and completely overshadowed the war which Iraq released shortly before it (operation we'd like Kuwait, kthxbye). Everyone bought into the war, with only a few sour apples trying to pretend that it really wasn't that great. Typical of certain software releases, the war was rediculously popular, even though it seemed like everyone had something negative to say about it. Despite the complaints everyone watched it religiously and no one complained that it had been released. The war had a cliff-hanger ending, with the chief bad guy escaping (in a kind of predictable move) leaving things open for a sequel. Everyone knew there had to be a sequel, it was obvious--anyone who attacked small countries for no reason clearly was going to do something to upset us against in the future (*cough*), and when that happened, we knew that the US would be ready with better weapons, more camera angles, and all the might of the formidable DC marketing department. How could they lose? Even if they produced crap, they were going to make a mint both in public opinion and sales.

But then the community set in. First there were the ever-present critics, trying to dredge up mindless factoids about the original war which were theoretically supposed to condemn it in some way. While the first war certainly had failings, it was a textbook satisfying short-term engagement. There wasn't anything to discuss. But this gave fan-boys cause for ire. Fan-boy legions wanted to see the sequel sooner so they could show off the critics. As both sides argued over trivial crap (before the second war was announced) such as who would cause the war, or if it would be just another predictable self-interest action, idiocy began to infect the discussion (as with most communities concerned with a sequel). N00bs to the discussion kept coming in and embarrasing the professional hippies who were criticizing the war. Their inept tactics giving the fanboys fodder for their agenda, with new fanboys joining everyday--needing only to express undying devotion to the US to join the ranks of the mindless. Time marched on and the people got in a state. They were arguing about anything and everything related to war and the running of the country with no real interest in any consensus, really only in opposition. Meanwhile people like me started websites with translucent visions that hinted at dissatisfaction, but had no real detail. As the debate reached a critical point where it seemed to be over whether the US should stage the sequel in Israel or not, Muslim dominated 'Sandywood' released a movie set in New York about the deaths of a comparitively small number of people as well as two giant eyesores.

The movie took America by storm. No one had ever seen something like it before, it was praised everywhere for its eye-opening qualities, and moved even the most jaded of viewers to some kind of reaction. Fanboys and critics alike unified for a brief moment in enjoying the film (though, immediately they began to disagree about what particular aspect of the event was the best). There is no spoon became a reality.

The US, in a smart business deal, secured the rights to the war about the movie from New York city and an unlimited number of sequels. They decided to set the war in Afghanistan, taking advantage of the fact that there was a war there a few years ago that the soviets tried to market, which the US marketing department sabotaged. The US had promised the Afghans a war in their area (much better than the soviet one) for a while, so this seemed like a good time to cash in that chip. The US invented a bad guy to chase, and the war was afoot. The feel good hit of the industry for the christmas season, it was immensely popular, and immediately the fanboy legion and critics who were infesting message boards with opinions about endless inane crap were augmented by a huge swell of new vocal retards, each with their own opinion, and many with petitions for sequels to operation "kill some goddamn heathen camel jockies" (the unofficial name of the Afghan war). Unfortunately, the US had had people at work already laying the groundwork for a sequel to Iraq. The public would have to wait for the sequel to Afghanistan for at least a little while.

At a company stock-holder meeting, the CEO of the US (GW Bush) announced a series of proposed projects and gave an approxiamate relase date for Iraq's sequel. In the 3 projects announced, there was the sequel, a war staged in Iran (another place the company had a license for), and a sequel to the Korean war (a fairly old release that wasn't even compatible with modern platforms). Some people who had an excess of nostalgia liked this schedule. Others feared that impinging on China's market-share would cause them to sabotage the projects. Above all, the absence of a sequel to Afghanistan irritated the troglodytes on the newspapers, radio, and tv channels. Everyone had something to say about the new plan, and all of it was stupid. The release date for the Iraq sequel was set around 3rd Quarter of 2002, but there were numerous delays, mainly related to distribution issues and the ever popular 'we'd rather take the time to get it right' line which signifies some kind of disorganized state or serious issues to resolve. The fan boy legion was destroying the most obvious sequel of all time, and they didn't care. As weeks passed, their drunken hooting got louder, and those who weren't part of the 'debate' wondered what the hell was taking so long.

Finally, a few weeks ago, the war was released. The Marketing department for the US must have been drunk off its ass, or else totally unconvinced of the success of the product, because nearly universally people condemned the 'shock and awe' campaign and 'operation free the dirty sand monkeys' as uninspiring and stupid catch phrases. But no big deal, right? Marketing didn't make the war. Well, out of the box, the war had a couple bugs, nothing major, but embarrassing nonetheless. Furthermore, there were no German or French language translations of the war, potentially losing millions of sales. In the first few weeks of play, people were wondering where promised features such as chemical attack and Predator UAVs were. The head of marketing in power at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, and his assistants, was close-mouthed and hopelessly corporate, not helping to assuage the mounting community criticism of the event.

What I believe happened was this: community ire about nothing in particular because inseparable from development. Too many community outlets fed into development, and too many development milestones were released to the community. The resultant plans gave people fodder for idiocy, and because america, taken as a giant brain, is stupid, the resulting product was muddied and sucked. The core features were still stable and passable, indeed, probably better than average if taken outside the context of the hype, but so what? It's short of the possibilities--for a very simple reason. Too many people had input. Committies destroy everything they touch, and what is public opinion (or fanboy legions/message boards/irc channels) but large unwanted committees?

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