Archive for November, 2012

A Higher Standard

November 28th, 2012 1 comment

You might know of a professional gamer known as Destiny. Steven Bonnell has about 27k followers on Twitter, and a very active presence in several Reddit communities, as well as a popular website. He truly is a professional gamer, and by that, I mean he makes a living through streaming, advertisements, endorsements, and gets to play video games all day.

Which is good, actually. We need more professional gamers if we want to be treated more seriously as a culture. But professional shouldn’t just mean that you’re able to make a living from it. Like in “real” or perhaps “mundane” sports, if we’re going to hold these people up as examples, we need to actually hold them to a higher standard than your typical flamer, troll, griefer, or 12 year old boy in a 23 year old’s body.

About 3 months ago, a female fan of his going by the handle “Bluetea”, was exposed to a few of Destiny’s fans. He had shared naked pictures of his with two of his friends.

This was uncool.

In retaliation, she gained access to his Twitter account and shared pictures of his dick to all of his followers.

This was also uncool.

But here’s where the real crux of my problem: In response to the beginning of this drama, what Cloud Nine Labs, one of Destiny’s major sponsors and the designers of his website said, was largely “That’s just Destiny being Destiny.”

“The principals at Cloud Nine Labs, including myself, remain in support of Stevens PR decisions. Furthermore, we encourage his brutal honesty, snide remarks, controversial comments/subjects, humor, etc. as it brings a uniquely dynamic and highly entertaining element to the streaming experience. His strong personality is what makes him Destiny – one of the most successful SC2 streamers of all time. Other SC2 personalities should take a cue from Mr. Bonnell because the SC2 pro circuit is not just “gaming”. It has become a powerful industry that can be monetized by establishing a strong, widely talked about brand which Steven has managed to accomplish.

In short: stop bitching, change your tampons and up your game”

Contexual language aside, this is really disappointing to me. Not in a sexist way (though it is) and not in a greedy sort of way (it’s that too). It’s disappointing is that this is what we want our role models to be. Snide, arrogant, assholish, and proud.

While admitting that we’ve got a way to go, I’ll also point out that in mundane sports, we don’t accept this behavior. Manny Ramirez, OJ Mayo, and even Mike Tyson aren’t people who we hold up for the next generation to be.

We should be forgiving of flaws of character. We should understand that people have lapses, and people are jerks from time to time. I talk about people behind their backs, I gossip, I carry opinions of people that are less than favorable. You do too. We all do. But we don’t encourage that sort of behavior, and we shouldn’t. It’s certainly not the kind of thing we should hold as an ideal.

So what do you think? Are we hopelessly doomed to being assholes forever. or can we step up our own games? Lemme know.

Share Button

Opening the Marketplace

November 21st, 2012 No comments

As Nintendo’s latest console (the WiiU, for those of you not aware) hits the market, the indie gaming community is reacting to the news that its online market will allow developers to set the prices of their releases, and not Nintendo acting as distributor. Further, in what may be a particularly generous move, they won’t charge developers, nor require them to charge, when releasing patches for their games.

“These seem like perfectly reasonable things to me, and I don’t know why you’re writing about them,” I hear you say.

“Because they’re not the current industry model,” I reply. “Currently, developers have to pay distributors to patch their game, and can’t set their own price points.”

Nintendo is setting itself up for success here. They didn’t do a lot with the Wii in terms of helping indie developers out the last time around, and invariably, they flocked to the better games in town, if you’ll pardon the expression. We got gems like Braid and Limbo, but on the XBox and the PS3. The Wii was sort of standing in the cold, having three main problems: an unfriendly marketing system, advertising which stressed professional development, and developers wary of trying to build a game around the Wii’s controller system.

At least two of these problems vanish with Nintendo’s about face. With their embrace of letting developers set their own pricing, their online market becomes much more appealing for people making small games on their own. They still have to drum up about $5,000 for a WiiU development kit, but considering that XBox’s new development kit Durango is going for about $20,000, this is a small hurdle. Second, Nintendo isn’t shy about trumpeting their new policy on indie gaming, nor should they be. Lots of press around the move has already circulated, and Nintendo has gotten acclaim from such indie studios as Frozenbyte (Trine 2) and Tomorrow Corporation (Little Inferno), both of which are eager to work with the industry veteran when it comes to their new platform.

The third issue, Nintendo’s unusual controller setup, presents a challenge for the interested indie developers, but I hope they think of it as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. Can they create something to use the WiiU well, or are they just going to be trying to get something that functions without looking too deeply at the hardware?

Whichever situation pans out, I’m hoping that the increased interest in indie development will spur some competition between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft to treat their consoles as new playgrounds for young developers. Give indie teams something to work with and on, rather than clutter that gets in their way. With review systems to get games into the market already established, there’s no need to further burden small but talented shops from taking the plunge into developing for consoles, rather than PCs. Congrats to Nintendo for realizing this, and starting what I hope is a trend.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

From the Stream to the Ocean

November 18th, 2012 1 comment

E-sports has particularly taken off in the last few years, driven largely by such streaming websites as and Given that e-sports main point of accessibility is the internet, it should come as no surprise that services should develop that drive this standard, and make it more and more conventional and accessible. Where once YouTube videos might be the best way to view large gaming events, these were merely recaps of the events of tournaments and championship matches that had already passed; it was previously impossible to witness events as they happened, without being their yourself.

And yet, demand grew, and with it, people began to seriously pay attention to the methods of distribution of content. Sites like Twitch and Justin opened up, and began to attract streamers. But game developers have started to pay attention to this as well. Introduced some time ago, Riot’s Spectator Mode for League of Legends allows people to observe games currently being played. You can either chose to spectate any game on your friends list or any of the “Featured” games, though how they come to this determination is as of yet unknown.

Other games, notably Starcraft, utilize these websites as well, but only Riot has bothered to build in the streaming functionality into their games, and this suggests that they are perhaps better prepared to deal with the future of this growing sport.

This is the start of a larger trend, and perhaps a larger post, but I’d appreciate a bit more feedback. Do you think that e-sports have a viable future? What else could streaming do for video games?

Give us your thoughts, either by comment or by email, and suggest some topics for future posts!

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Leader of the Pack

November 13th, 2012 1 comment

Is Valve the best game company in the world? Gabe Newell’s reactions to his impromptu interview/birthday party by members of 4chan’s /v/ board might suggest so. Not only was he willing to talk about one of Valve’s new projects being an entirely new engine (perhaps Source 2), but he was also willing to have a frank discussion about the role of gamers in the industry.

Though he admitted to not being particularly happy with Greenlight at the moment, he was earnest in his endorsement of Kickstarter, even suggesting that the audience he was being interviewed by use it to get /v/’s treasured game Pressure underway. “Greenlight’s better than nothing,” he said in summation of its efforts thus far, “but it’s still not really where we want to be.”

In talking about DRM, he noted that Valve wants to use it, which was initially a bit of a surprise, given his stance in the past. Here, he talks about how DRMing is not important to the individual game, but to the customer’s account. “The problem is, you’re going to end up with a lot of assets inside of your games…what we worry about are people stealing accounts, that’s like a million times bigger of a problem. So the question becomes, as you have more and more value in your accounts…that’s way bigger of a concern.”

The video’s first 30 minutes contain a lot of question and answer stuff that you normally expect, but this is in itself interesting for two reasons. One, Gabe is willing to take the time to meet a bunch of fans who have come up to the studios and want to ask him questions. This isn’t abnormal for Valve, but it is for the rest of the industry. Who goes out of their way to listen to the concerns of their customers like this? Riot comes close I think, and should be lauded for their efforts, but allowing open tours of your facilities and meeting with real people in your own home as it were is really something. The second reason this is interesting is because Mr. Newell is talking earnestly. He’s being clear, honest, upfront. He is not an outsider. He’s a gamer. He’s part of this community, and he’s gotten a lot of respect for it. If other businesses (or hell, even governments) could have such honest representation, I think we’d feel a lot better about the state of the world.

Then, “Gaben” takes it for a twist, and asks the assembled fans what they at Valve should be focusing on. “So what should we be paying attention to that we’re not? I mean, this is your opportunity.” The conversation drifts to talk about Gabe noting that /v/ is generally a good predictor of trends in video games, and that they may want to use this talent to create a market for these predictions. “One, you’d be incredibly accurate, and first of all you’d be blown off, but then you’d be like ‘Holy shit! We’re pretty accurate at predicting stuff.’” He was frustrated, it seemed, at the current usage of Metacritic to be a source of quality information. “Metacritic…nobody at Metacritic called up a bunch of game companies and said ‘You should pay us for this,’ it just turned out it was a better tool than anything anyone in the gaming industry had created for evaluating the quality of what they did.”

This sense of things is what separates Valve from a lot of their competition. They are willing to take their time on a host of things, from developing their product, to critically thinking about their customers’ wants, needs, and desires. They’re approaching this industry from a perspective of an artisan who takes serious pride in their product, and wants their fanbase to be happy. “We try to make sure that the customer knows what they’re getting, but we also don’t want to become the dictator that tells everybody ‘You have to do things our way.’ Doing things the customers don’t know is happening is something that we want to avoid. At some point, they’ll [companies that do this] just turn evil, and be put down.”

I wonder about specific examples he may be thinking of. I think that Gabe would be the first to pick up a pitchfork if he thought Valve was headed in the wrong direction, and this amount of integrity in any industry, much less the gaming industry, should be applauded. So here’s to Gabe Newell and Valve, the leaders of the pack.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Tools of the Trade

November 10th, 2012 2 comments

A lot of controversy has been stirred up in the last two years because of DRM. Notable examples include Assassin’s Creed 2, and Diablo 3. Though Blizzard still uses it on Diablo 3, Ubisoft did away with it, and it looked like the data side of the gaming world had been split, but for the most part, settled. It was a bad thing, and gamers got to rail against it for a bit and have a victory. Right?

Well, turns out that the hardware manufacturers may not be done themselves.

Razer recently updated their popular Naga gaming mouse with new software. Called Synapse, this software acts as to connect your mouse with Razer’s servers, requiring an authentication before allowing you to do anything notable with the mouse, like write scripts for its customizable buttons. Without the ability to add macros, what you’re left with is an $80 plug-and-play mouse. It’s not always on; once you finish your authentication, you can do what you want to with the mouse, but the notion that hardware now has an extra door to go through is galling. As professional gaming is taking off, the equipment those pro players use is under no scrutiny, except honest competition. In the same way that people might talk about which engines are best, or which typewriters have the least problems, gaming tools were just things to be honestly compared on their merits. He uses X mouse. She uses y mouse. The brands were notable for their difference in performance in only positive terms, like a car racer’s vehicle. You didn’t have to avoid a particular brand because of the way the keys might stick or the problems with a scrollwheel.

Now, those instruments must be scrutinized, and not just for mechanical faults. That’s painful and sad. There was something you could trust to be quality, and now, it’s tarnished. Fool’s gold. Razer’s addressed these problems. They’ll update Synpase to give the Nagas “a more robust offline mode”, but it seems like if they had to put out this software after just seeing what Blizzard and Ubisoft had to go through, it was a bad idea that got away from them.

Razer will still go on. They’re a large, successful company, and they’ve been slapped on the wrist, but coming to this point at all is unfortunate. Was Razer just the first? Will there be more hardware manufacturers who decide that they too have to collect data about their customers, and sell it to who knows who. Because of this, gamers are put in the unenviable position of having to go further in their research of products, and perhaps the worst case scenario is that they’re left with no choice in the matter at all. Don’t want to buy Razer because of malware? What you’ve got left is Logitech, really. Sure, there are some out on the fringe, but for the most part, Logitech’s the only other game in town.

I had hoped we’d seen the last of DRM on either side of the fence, but it seems that we have to worry now if our keyboards will have our login information, or if our monitors might store our favored search terms. This is probably a little hyperbolic, but at least we saw software malware years ago. Hardware malware had been largely off the radar until we got blindsided, and now we have to sit and wait to see if there’s more to it than just this.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

State of the Blog

November 9th, 2012 No comments

So, many of my familiar readers know my situation. Here’s to any that filter in:

My name is Patrick Colford. I’m 28, and currently unemployed. I just came back from Korea, where I taught English for a year. I’m looking for work in a writing field, and I need to build my portfolio, and this is my honest attempt to do both.

Thanks for stopping by.

I’m going to make this blog a way to move forward in my life. I need your help. If you could share this blog with your friends, and look for a donate button some time in the near future, I’d appreciate it.

For those of you who are uninitiated, I write about gaming. I will write about what currently catches my fancy, but since I’m trying to be a paid writer, I’ll give my audience some subject material privilege too. Pay me to write, and I’ll write about what catches your fancy too. You can drop me a line at, and let me know something you heard about on Reddit, or in a gaming magazine or article online. I’ll look it up, think about it, and tell you my thoughts. I’ll try to do some research, and provide an interesting opinion.

Anyway, to add on, I’m trying to make November my time to do it. November, for those of you who aren’t writers or who don’t have writing friends, is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a time to try and use the entire month to write a novel.

I don’t think I can do this right now, but I’m working on it. I’m honest about this with myself, so I compromised. I’m going to try and make this a month to write more. So, I hope that you’ll indulge me with some time and help me write. Give me your energy and opinions, and I will let you know. Every Tuesday and Friday until the end of the month, even in the face of adversity, will have a blog post.

Thanks for everything guys. Here’s to an honest try.

-Pat (Tabor)

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Completely Twisted

November 6th, 2012 2 comments

League of Legends has come to the end of its second season, with the Taipei Assassins taking home the mantle of World Champions. With this unexpected victory now behind them, Riot looks to the future of the professional scene and season 3, and begin to lay down their vision in the rework of LoL’s redheaded stepchild of a map, Twisted Treeline.

In a statement regarding the transition period between seasons, Marc Merrill (president of Riot) said that the remake of the map was one element they were introducing to change the nature of the game. Even though Season 2 had seen a lot of adjustments, including the Honor Initiative, Spectator Mode, Champion Remakes, and graphical fixes, these changes were merely the polishing of a game that was already very successful, by professional gaming standards. “But we’re still just getting started. In fact, we’re always striving to improve the game over time. With Season Three on the horizon, expect League of Legends to continue to evolve.”

If the rework of Twisted Treeline proves to be the standard by which Riot moves forward, I am very excited to see what comes next. In its previous incarnation, Twisted Treeline was a muddled mess of a map, too big to be comfortable for 3v3s, but too small for anything else. Its buffs were awkwardly placed, the layout of the jungle was snarled and incoherent, and when these elements were combined with exceedingly narrow lanes, the map gave too much power to teams with heavy control or pull elements like Blitzcrank/Nautilus/Ahri. It was, simply put, frustrating.

Twisted Treeline’s remake was released soon before Elise stepped onto the Field of Champions, and just in time for Halloween. While the various skins and themes of the holiday definitely influence the map, the balance that was once lacking from the Treeline is now closer to being realized. No longer does the TT feel like a sprawling tangled snare, but instead, a more streamlined and action oriented map, where two teams rest for control over altars, and the middle ground. The Elder Lizard and the Dragon are gone, their buffs switched around into two altars and one neutral mob.

If you’re looking for a significant short term buff (and you’re strong enough) head over to Vilemaw, the new boss creep of the map. A giant spider who may have eaten the last boss creep, Vilemaw is a significant threat, and a significant prize. He’ll give you the Crest of Crushing Wrath on his defeat, which may give your team that last rush needed to take the enemy’s Nexus. This isn’t too much different than Baron, and isn’t as interesting a change to the map as the altars are.

The altars are a great point of contention, one which doesn’t rely on a team fighting and getting weakened by a creep. Instead, the two altars are split on either sides of the jungle, one closer to either team. Control one altar, and receive a small gold on kill boost. Control both, and you get increases to your attack damage and your ability power. It’s a way to invest zones of control, and give something for the players to fight over other than towers and creeps. Control over the altars is governed by a small timer, and once you capture one, an altar cannot be recaptured for 90 seconds, making them both a valuable prize and something that isn’t game changing by itself. If your altar is captured, the enemy team gets a small benefit for a short, and then you get to try to reclaim it. It is only over the whole of the game that the bonuses have a decisive impact on your game: if you’ve held both altars for a more significant part of the match, then its buff will be felt in the end as you accrue more gold than your opponents.

The last significant change to TT is the addition of several items. Treeline has a host of new items meant only for it that were added because of the player count. In 5v5s, there’s more of an opportunity for everyone to do a bit of damage, and so the items tend to be a little weaker on the whole. With fewer players and the possibility of a really beefy team, the designed of the new TT felt that some heavily impacting items needed to be in the mix.

On the whole, the new Twisted Treeline is a fun, interesting place, and if we can see this sort of thought put into just a map, I’m looking forward to season 3 as it rolls out. When the designers listen to their players, you get a higher quality game, and though I don’t know what the future holds for League of Legends, I’m sure it’ll be a bright one.

See you on the Fields of Justice, Summoners.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,