Tag Archives: media

Brian Crecente says Goodbye to Polygon

Brian Crecente:

So I wrapped things up at Kotaku and joined Grant and crew to help launch Polygon. Then somehow five years whipped by and before I knew it I went from covering presidential press conferences and breaking news on new games to spending my days writing about esoteric pinball machines or the state of gaming and game culture in Cuba.

When Rolling Stone contacted me about joining the magazine on its 50th anniversary, I simply couldn’t say no. I’ve spent more than a dozen years talking about how I wanted to build the Rolling Stone of gaming publications. Where better to do that then at Rolling Stone?

I’ve always looked forward to Brian’s work on Polygon’s Good Game column. Good Game is host to a wonderful catalog of news and opinions about the good happening within gaming — a medium and community continually made a scapegoat of evil in this world. A kindred spirit, Zero Counts was founded upon a very similar message.

Glixel (Rolling Stone’s gaming vertical) has been publishing some spectacular pieces as of late. I’m very excited to see how Brian’s legacy and institutional knowledge from Kotaku and Polygon bolster Glixel.

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E3 2017

E3 debuted in 1995 — 22 years ago. This year, for the first time ever, the Entertainment Software Association welcomed the public to the expo. As a follower of E3 since age 9, I was overjoyed to have nabbed one of the 15,000 publicly released tickets.

The Event

The days leading up to the event were spent streaming presentations from Microsoft, Bethesda, EA, and Sony. Nintendo’s event took place while I was in the air, so I dove headfirst into the tidy 25 minute Nintendo Spotlight upon touchdown. I’d missed Ubisoft‘s presentation, but felt fairly caught up after scanning headlines during the cab ride from LAX to the Los Angeles Convention Center. I was ready for E3.

As expected, the entry lines snaked around the building. I had braced myself for standing in lines for three days straight. In the meantime, I took to booking appointments for the Sony booths via the Experience PlayStation app. I attempted to sign into the app with my PSN credentials only to find myself in an “incorrect password” loop bug, identifying storefronts and cars for CAPTCHA for upwards of 30 minutes. (Mind you, the likely “slammed by tens of thousands of E3 participants” LTE reception was poor. This did not bode well for my battery.) I could have signed in as a guest, but was hoping for a bit of PSN love if signed in. After several failed attempts, my password was finally reset, I successfully signed into the app, and was able to grab one of the remaining theater demo slots for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. All other demos and theater slots were booked. Try again at 2pm.

Our entry line eventually moved into the Convention Center’s south hall where buzz was abound the cacophony of video game themed booths. Final Fantasy. Capcom vs. Marvel. Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Massive projections. Lighting flurries. Dragons. Cram over-the-top Disneyland aesthetics into an overcrowded casino and you have E3. Entering the gates of the video game holy land seemed everything I’d hoped it’d be.

Then we looked for games to play. And looked. And looked. And looked. The massive crowds had overtaken all available consoles for the next handful of hours. All lines were quickly capped. Luck being our only chance to play anything, it quickly became apparent that a three day pass for a single price was less of a steal as it was a requirement to actually feel like you were able to participate in what E3 had to offer. It would certainly take at least three days of waiting in lines for an attendee to play your top five choices of E3.

Clinging to hope that the crowds would thin out over the next two days, my friends and I took to wandering, stargazing, and stabbing our phones for appointment times at the Sony booth. Splitting up and sharing our experiences proved to be the best strategy. Nintendo’s construction of Super Mario Odyssey‘s New Donk City was the star of the show. IGN’s production crew and round the clock coverage was captivating. A plethora of fighting game competitions littered both halls. (I was transfixed watching Injustice 2 fighter Jen annihilate nearly every competitor that showed up.) Ubisoft made their presence known with multiple massive projections, live demos from development teams, and plenty of Just Dance 2018 performances. (Any tips for getting Hyuna’s Bubble Pop out of one’s head?)

While it was nice to see and play highly anticipated games ahead of release, the real magic of E3 2017 were the extravagant booths, passionate publisher/developer staff, wandering games media personnel, and ecstatic fans. The lines were hellish and I really wish I’d been able to play more. It was an exhaustive, discouraging experience that could have been more conducive to consumers with better line management (Sony’s mediocre app was the best experience and even that was painful), more live demos rather than hands-on areas with larger theaters, co-op or multiplayer experiences when possible, more occupied floor space, and simply less people. One full day may have been enough, but three was required to participate in more than one activity. It was certainly a childhood dream come true and I was expecting no less, but I can’t say I’ll be retuning to E3 without media or industry credentials in the future.

The Games

At the end of day three, I walked away seeing live demos of Uncharted, Spider-Man, Monster Hunter World, Days Gone, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and played Super Mario Odyssey and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. (My friend and I lucked out by standing next to a nearly unoccupied Super Mario Odyssey demo and I waited two hours for 16 minutes of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.) In hindsight, it was not enough to feel fulfilled by the experience.

Of the two games I played, Super Mario Odyssey was the better. Odyssey feels like the perfect amalgam of all 3D Mario adventures: The playground of Super Mario 64‘s introductory courtyard, Super Mario Sunshine‘s NPCs, Super Mario Galaxy‘s inventiveness, and Super Mario 3D World‘s fidelity. Above all, there is a “weird” factor that has been generating buzz. The various worlds Mario can travel to feature a variety of art styles: the playable New Donk City feels like a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater / Sims hybrid while the Sand Kingdom felt like a traditional 3D Mario world with a new classic 2D side-scrolling mechanic added to the mix. (Think The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.) The game played as great as you can imagine, but the real allure is looking forward to the variety and trying to figure out just what the hell is going on!

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is the game I’m most looking forward to. It’s gorgeous and surprisingly deep. I can’t recall ever seeing the Mushroom Kingdom in such detail. And like any great Mario game, it feels like it may be deceptively difficult. I’ve never played an XCOM game, and the demo seemed to only scratch the surface, but the number of methods to approaching and evading battle seemed impressive. There is a certain chess-like quality to the game in that you may need to think twice or thrice before executing a move. Enemies lurk in around cover and, if you’re not careful, environmental elements can throw off your game. I do worry that variety will be a problem; the old “Sonic” syndrome where the first handful of levels feel great but then feel dull or repetitive or both. We shall see.

Uncharted looks like Uncharted. I certainly love the idea of playing as Chole, but the sequence shown did little to suggest that this would be any different from previous iterations. And that may be fine, but unless there is a drastically different element (Uncharted 2‘s sequences > Uncharted 1, Uncharted 3‘s story > Uncharted 2, Uncharted 4‘s fidelity > Uncharted 3), I feel it’s a bit soon to jump back into this world.

The live Spider-Man demo went a little off script from the Sony presentation but was largely the same. I love the Arkham-like feel, but the reliance on quicktime events is a bit off-putting. Still, I’m looking forward to this game. (Now I want Insomniac to make a TMNT game!)

Days Gone was touted for it’s variety of mission approaches and environmental effects on the population, but the post-apocalypse / zombie infestation disenchanted me. How are we not done with zombies yet?

Both Monster Hunter World and Middle-earth: Shadow of War looked incredibly chaotic yet impressive. The highlight of Monster Hunter World came when a giant iguana-like monster crashed out of a nearby forest to feast on another gigantic beast — albeit lower in the food chain — plumping up like a snake after the meal, and sauntering back into the forest. Back at the nest, the iguana-like creature regurgitated part of his meal, summoning it’s offspring to the feast. Later in the demo, the same iguana-like creature would join our battle against a T. Rex-like monster as the T. Rex-like was trespassing on the iguana-like’s territory. Quite the world!

Middle-earth: Shadow of War looks to be focused more on castle raids than the previous entry. Players will recruit orc war chiefs throughout their play and choose which ones they will bring into a castle raid, strategizing their recruits’ strengths vs. the castle’s war chiefs’ weaknesses. Before the demo, director of technical art at Monolith Mike Allen touted enhancements to the nemesis system; however, these did not seem evident to me. I was expecting something more along the lines of the beloved Brûz.

There was lots of buzz about Detroit throughout the show. It plays like Heavy Rain, allowing payers to investigate a scene in attempts to build a successful outcome to a dire situation. While I did not get a chance to play Detroit, I did observe four different endings to the hostage scenario players were given the opportunity to partake in: 1 failure, 3 successes. The failure resulted in the hostage being killed. The successes varied in:

  1. the player sacrificing himself to save the hostage
  2. the player saving the hostage, but being shot during the encounter
  3. convincing the rival android to comply, saving the hostage and himself

There are plenty of games that offer a variety of situations and solutions, but to see these different scenarios play out next to each other simultaneous by different individuals’ actions was rather interesting to see. I can’t say the game is for me, but of those that played it, most felt it was the game for them.

As noted, I wasn’t able to partake in much. Nor were all games showcased during the presentations being showcased — Anthem and God of War most notably. Ultimately, I feel I’d gotten everything I needed from the presentations. A trip to E3 was not warranted.

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‘On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog’

John Markoff,  former technology reporter for the New York Times, in an interview on Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast:

On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog. I think identity and the fact that you disconnect [real] identity from your internet identity has proved incredibly vexing for society. It played out in this election. It played out in Brexit. (It was a factor in both—I don’t know if it was a deciding factor—but I actually do blame the internet.)

I grew up with John Perry Barlow and his manifesto in WIRED in which he argued that cyberspace would be this “Socratian” abode above the grimy politics of the world. Then I realized I was wrong.

The internet is simply a reflection of all the good and the evil in the world.

[…]

What’s striking to me is that what the science-fiction world saw in the ’80s and ’90s has actually come to pass; the cyberpunk sensibility. There was a book written by Vernor Vinge in the early 1980s called True Names. The basic premise of that was you had to basically hide your true name at all costs. It was an insight into the world we’re living in today.

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Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and the Born This Way Foundation Launch #HackHarassment

Kara Swisher, re/code:

The first knee-jerk reaction of those who think completely free speech is the paramount rule of the Internet is simple: Stop whining, you stupid girl, and take it, because everyone should be able to say exactly what they want, however they want and in whatever way they want to say it.

It’s a canard of an argument, designed to turn a complex issue into a reductive black-and-white debate where no one can come to any agreement.

Still, it’s always set up this way when anyone attempts to make the more obvious point that free speech is not as free as all that in the real world, where there are numerous social repercussions for behaving in a rude, obscene and appalling manner.

Simple example: If you loudly tell a woman she deserves to be raped for speaking her mind on any subject in the public square, at a party or at work, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get ejected from there and, at the very least, you’ll be subject to much-deserved derision and censure.

Not so on the Internet, where such talk is all too common and much too tolerated. Which is why Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and the Born This Way Foundation are coming together to co-create Hack Harassment (#hackharassment), a new, collaborative initiative to fight online harassment and provide safer, more inclusive online experiences.

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Polygon Skips Star Wars: Battlefront Review Event

Polygon:

Review events are a reality of the industry, and in the case of multiplayer-oriented titles, they make sense — it’s very difficult to organize 20-40 people in different locations remotely at the same time, and we introduced provisional reviews this year to account for server uncertainty. We’ve attended review events this year when it made sense to do so, including events for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and even Battlefield Hardline.

But we will not participate in review events that tie our hands in ways that restrict us well after the general public has full access to the game in question. With that in mind, we’ll be playing the full version of Star Wars Battlefront on EA Access this week, along with many of you, without support from EA. As we have not agreed to any advance access or accepted any coverage restrictions, our provisional review will be live once we are confident in the opinions of our pair of reviewers.

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Fun v. Experience

Justin McElroy on the Dying Light episode of Polygon’s Quality Control podcast, edited for clarity:

I think in our profession, our desire is to have an experience and then be able to move on to the next one. There is a pressure on us to be comprehensive in our knowledge and awareness of the medium. So, for a game that can reveal everything it has to say in three or four hours, there’s a real attraction because we can have the entire experience and move on to the next thing.

I think that people who are playing games for fun maybe don’t have the same sort of voracious compulsion to get to the end, which I would separate from rushing through a game. I think it’s more of a desire to have had the full experience and then be able to move on to the next thing.

This describes exactly the reason I play video games now. Unlike McElroy, I am not expected to have comprehensive knowledge and awareness of the medium, but for the sake of my blog and personal interests, I try to. I certainly love writing about video games and the industry at large, but actually playing video games has become more about connecting with the zeitgeist rather than enjoying and immersing myself in the experience.

In my gaming heyday, I could pour countless hours into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Starcraft, and Heroes of Might & Magic III simply for pleasure and to perfect my strategies. I played Star Fox 64 over and over just for fun. I spent an obscene amount of time playing Final Fantasy X just to be swept away. Today, there are plenty of video games I enjoy (see my reviews of Monument Valley and Rocksmith 2014), but it has been a long while since one has repeatedly beckoned to me to spend hours playing for fun. Instead, I find myself dipping into a game for a few hours to understand it on a mechanical, design, and experience level just to be part of the conversation. Hell, I spent $60 on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U only to tap out after 2 hours. (Queue Nani McElroy.)

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There is No End

Ludwig Kietzmann, Joystiq:

How can you envision an end when your purpose is to be in motion, always? Where do you stop if what you make, write and think is inextricable from the moment? We poured a bit of our heart and humor into each little vessel – a news story, an opinion, a review – paraded it for thirty minutes and then watched it fall off the page to make room for the next one. And the next. And the next. There is no end.

I just compared blog posts to heart vessels, by the way, and you should know how irritated I am by that. It’s just reporting. It’s just video games. It’s just … what we did.

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Greg Miller, Colin Moriarty, Nick Scarpino, and Tim Gettys Quit IGN

Kinda Funny Games Patreon:

In September, you changed our lives. We launched a Patreon for Kinda Funny, and your response was beyond (BEYOND!) our wildest expectations. The support, the Tweets, the shares — it all showed that we really had built the community of best friends we’re always talking about. And, once we knew that, all we wanted to do was make more content for you.

Enter Kinda Funny Games. Now that we don’t work for IGN, we can talk about the stuff you’ve always wanted us to talk about on YouTube — games.

I was initially taken aback by this news. Four iconic personalities leaving IGN?! There must be bad blood. I was wrong. After 3+ decades of experience at one of the leading video game publications, backed by 1755 patrons at the time of this publication, and a deep desire to speak their mind at any given time, these guys are braving the unknown and entering into an excited new era of media.

I thoroughly enjoyed Keza MacDonald of Kotaku UK’s (ex-IGN) thoughts on the news:

This reminded me of some thoughts I posted in June 2014, derived from Griffin McElroy’s interview with The Indoor Kids:

Baseball diehards can tell you the subtleties in team dynamics. There can be diversity under the same umbrella. Many more sites need to embrace the privilege of instant and educated opinion. If the games community cannot foster intelligent conversation on its own, someone must lead the way.

As an employee of a large tech firm, I deeply understand the desire to freely speak about the industry you are a part of and the prohibitions instated. The benefit Kinda Funny Games has over other would-be media personalities is an established fanbase; however, that makes it no easier to cast aside benefits, workplace friendships, and security.

While I can’t say I am a fan of their humor, I do enjoy their critique of video games. Godspeed, Miller, Moriarty, Scarpino, and Gettys.

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2014: Zero Counts Launch + Greatest Hits

In April 2014, I realized my blog TheStarrList had taken a hard turn into gaming. It was time to start something new. I gathered up those gaming-centric posts from TheStarrList along with several lengthy comments I had made on Polygon and IGN articles and stuffed them into a blog formatted after John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. In May 2014, I launched The State of Gaming with the intention to focus on business, controversy, culture, education, history, health, and other topics in the gaming industry. After a link on Daring Fireball, I decided to cool-down the blog’s pretentious title into something more personal. I recalled a childhood debate: When considering “lives” in video games, does “x1” mean you are on your last, or does zero count?

Writing about games has long been a dream of mine, but there has always been insecurity in indulging in entertainment critique and commentary. For lack of better terms, Zero Counts has tapped into a rich well of inspiration, passion, and creativity. By surrendering my inhibitions about games writing, I have written more frequently and published more on varied topics than ever before.

Without further adéu, here are the most popular posts from launch year, 2014:

  1. Hail Mario (linked by Daring Fireball)
  2. Humanity in Hearthstone
  3. Club Nintendo stuck in Mario Kart traffic
  4. Old School Hip Hop is the new Golden Oldies (retweeted by Ben Thompson (@monkbent))
  5. Save developers and you will save your soul

Looking forward to even more writing in 2015.

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