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The Chainsaws Of November
October 27, 2008 4:04 PM   Subscribe

CliffyB Knows Fun (single-link New Yorker)
posted by turgid dahlia (33 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Must... suppress... rage... over... UT3's... crappiness.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:11 PM on October 27, 2008


"Epic had begun as a company churning out somewhat rechauffé fare—pinball simulators, clone-ish retreads, an uninspired but popular game known as Unreal Tournament."

Annnnnd this is why the New Yorker should stay the hell away from video game reporting. Unreal Tournament is probably the second most imaginative thing Epic has ever put out (right after Unreal) and is head and shoulders above Gears of War in creativity, originality, and superiority to other games on the market.

Gears of War is popular for the same reason Halo is popular. It's a FPS on a console that isn't total crap or a horribly mangled port from the computer. Compared to computer FPS offerings, it is good but not outstanding or especially notable.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:18 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Are they saying they didn't like Epic Pinball? Because Super Android sure was fun!
posted by aubilenon at 4:21 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


After an entire page of this article refused to reveal the point, I went all flak monkey, and now I have to go buy a new system.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:28 PM on October 27, 2008


Thanks, I'm not a gamer but I enjoyed that.
posted by dolface at 4:31 PM on October 27, 2008


Tell me that's not really CliffyB in a gears suit. Please tell me it's not. With the codpiece all low down like that he looks like a dwarf.

also, gears is a phenomenal game, but so was unreal tournament. Unreal Tournament was like a revelation in multiplayer gaming. Getting into why is a mite technical, but the short version is that it was built from scratch to make multiplayer as challenging and skill based as possible, while simultaneously embracing the user generated content community with all its heart. I love that game.

But don't go shitting on gears, now. That game is a perfect distillation of action movie gameplay. Plot-wise, sure it's not perfect, but UT had no plot at all besides the tired "Millionaire wants people to kill each other on tv" storyline.
posted by shmegegge at 4:53 PM on October 27, 2008


UT is still one of my favorite FPS games.

"CliffyB" is a tool, though.

Thanks for the article, I'll read it soon.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:05 PM on October 27, 2008


Who was the guy they used to write these kinds of articles about after they stopped writing John-Romero-is-a-Geek-Rockstar articles and started writing CliffyB-is-a-Geek-Rockstar articles?
posted by Kattullus at 5:09 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you want to talk about games as a form of intellectual and creative expression, don't choose an FPS.
posted by butterstick at 5:11 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Come to think of it, is there any easy way to get UT to run on an Intel iMac, with 10.5.5? Because that would be totally sweet.

I think I even have an old, old install disk around here, somewhere.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:11 PM on October 27, 2008


paisley henosis: Come to think of it, is there any easy way to get UT to run on an Intel iMac, with 10.5.5? Because that would be totally sweet.

I think I even have an old, old install disk around here, somewhere.


Well, if nothing else, you should be able to install linux or windows on the mac and then run UT on that. UT and UT2004 both supported both macs and linux, but I suspect that the mac support was probably only for the powerpc architecture. It's still probably worth a try to install the mac version first, and only fall back to dual booting if you have to.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:20 PM on October 27, 2008


InstaGib mode was awesome.
posted by baphomet at 5:29 PM on October 27, 2008


If people get UT up and running, is anyone else interested in a mefi classic UT matchup day?
posted by jaduncan at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2008


Tom Bissell is an excellent writer and an avid gamer -- probably the only one now working. He's responsible for getting Paula Fox back into print, writing an excellent collection of short stories (among other works), and, now, seriously investigating the once hilariously blog prolific (he seems to have since knocked it off) Cliffy B. If anyone else knows any writer now going who unites these various interests into one person who is also adept at most of the Battlefields PLEASE mention them in the comments. Am serious -- always looking for new books. . .
posted by matthewstopheles at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2008


Gears of War is popular for the same reason Halo is popular. It's a FPS on a console that isn't total crap or a horribly mangled port from the computer. Compared to computer FPS offerings, it is good but not outstanding or especially notable.

Well, for one thing Gears isn't an FPS it's a 3rd person shooter. The difference between them is pretty massive, 3rd person shooters have been popular on consoles for a very very long time(generally control better on consoles too)

To go into it in more detail, Gears isn't popular because it has no competition or that it's one of the few games that doesn't suck. It's based around a very simple principal, the cover mechanic. This seems a bit basic but it really is what makes the game work so well, it's almost entirely copied from a PS2/Xbox 3rd person shooter called Kill switch. If anyone had the pleasure of playing it they'd instantly recognize how much was lifted from the little known game and plonked into Gears. It had one of the most intuitive control systems of any 3rd person game I've played. It's primarily the elements that were lifted from this game that made Gears so much fun to play(blindfire, easy to use cover etc)

Implying that two of the most popular games of this generation are only popular because the competition is so poor is at best...misinformed.
posted by MrCynical at 7:11 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I gotta say, if this is excellent games writing, that's a shame. He did get to his point by the sixth page, I suppose:

Bleszinski and the other Epic designers came to this form as children. Growing up playing games, they absorbed the governing logic of the medium, but no institutions existed for them to transform what they learned into a methodology. Gradually, though, they turned a hobby into a creative profession that is now as complex as any other. They have established the principles of a grammar of fun.

Whee! Processes and workflows! I feel a little cheated, since I usually enjoy games journalism. I didn't get much, if anything, out of the article.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:14 PM on October 27, 2008


The original UT is fucking sweet, and it was also critical to the evolution of Epic as a company; it was the point where they really began to move beyond id as a premier maker of FPS games. Tom Bissell may be a gamer but he's way off the mark there.

Epic also started out publishing shareware like the wonderful ZZT, but whatever, I'll stop while I'm ahead.
posted by selfnoise at 7:26 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


...it strikes me as nothing so much as a typical dot-com profile of the late nineties, replete with the red herrings of the founders’ personality quirks mixed in among the far-reaching insights that they have deigned to let us overhear.
posted by juv3nal at 8:05 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I gotta say, if this is excellent games writing, that's a shame.

Compared to what usually passes for gaming journalism, it's fuckin' Capote.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 8:09 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have ut2004 running on osx intel 10.4. so its possible.
posted by captaincrouton at 8:11 PM on October 27, 2008


If you want to talk about games as a form of intellectual and creative expression, don't choose an FPS.

*cough* Half-Life *cough*
*cough Portal *cough*

Well......sorta
posted by graventy at 9:31 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


MrCynical: Well, for one thing Gears isn't an FPS it's a 3rd person shooter. The difference between them is pretty massive, 3rd person shooters have been popular on consoles for a very very long time(generally control better on consoles too)

I've played through Gears, so I know what you're talking about, but it looks and plays so much like a first person shooter I actually forgot it wasn't one. The genres are all but merged at this point.

Implying that two of the most popular games of this generation are only popular because the competition is so poor is at best...misinformed.


I've played through Gears and I've played some Halo and what surprised me about both games was how normal they were. They feel very much like a normal, good-but-not-genre-crushing shooter on the PC. The cover system in Gears was new to me and pretty cool, but I'm still not really a fan of the 'one key does everything' system. I would really rather handle my own cover via the crouch and prone keys and not have to worry about getting stuck on the wrong side of a pillar or something (this is especially true in Mass Effect, where the cover system was copied poorly and is a curse and a burden and doesn't require you pressing any key to activate it... gah.)

I'm not saying they're bad, in fact they're really quite good (I'd rate Gears as being great, right up there with Bioshock) but they're not quite so brain-smashingly fantastic as people make them out to be. Unreal Tournament (and UT2004) actually were, on the other hand, which is why having them derided in this article and the series thrown aside by the developer is so annoying.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:42 PM on October 27, 2008


When UT came out I thought of it as "the other Quake 3". And I was a hardcore FPS player at the time. I think for something to be considered innovative, it needs to be pretty noticeably different from its compatriots. Not that UT isn't a good or great game -- I wouldn't dispute that at all. Quite often greatness comes from refinement of existing ideas. But that's different than 'innovative'. Innovative can mean 'gimmicky', but it also means that even a bozo reporter could tell it apart from the next thing.
posted by breath at 10:58 PM on October 27, 2008


Unreal Tournament was like a revelation in multiplayer gaming. Getting into why is a mite technical, but the short version is that it was built from scratch to make multiplayer as challenging and skill based as possible, while simultaneously embracing the user generated content community with all its heart. I love that game.

It's all forky-spoony geek hair-splitting, I know, but UT was no Quake 3. It's too bad that id's star has waned in the intervening years, of course, and now I'd say that Valve clear holds the FPS crown, both in single player and deathmatch areas, as far as innovation, polish, and pure quality. It's a matter of hard-to-articulate 'feel', but for me at least, the Unreal series of games, both single and multi-player, just never did it for me.

Regardless: Quake 3 was and still is the pinnacle of pure skill-based deathmatch, I reckon. Some disagree, I know. That's the way these things go.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:14 PM on October 27, 2008


I've played through Gears and I've played some Halo and what surprised me about both games was how normal they were. They feel very much like a normal, good-but-not-genre-crushing shooter on the PC. The cover system in Gears was new to me and pretty cool, but I'm still not really a fan of the 'one key does everything' system. I would really rather handle my own cover via the crouch and prone keys and not have to worry about getting stuck on the wrong side of a pillar or something (this is especially true in Mass Effect, where the cover system was copied poorly and is a curse and a burden and doesn't require you pressing any key to activate it... gah.)


As for Gears and Halo feeling "normal" when you played it on the PC. You only got them years after their original release on the Xbox and 360, 2 years is a long time in computing yet Halo and Gears still managed to top the charts. At the time of it's release Halo could easily compare to shooters being released on the PC in graphical power and scale. With Gears there wasn't much to compare it to because developers don't release 3rd person games on a PC first.


The "one button does everything" is really more of a side effect of being on a console, however it's one of the best things to happen to games, developers on the PC have been known to assign every single little function to a separate key meaning setting up keybinds for complicated games is a total pain. Most games so far have used the crouch/prone system rather than cover and it's always awful as you have to cycle through crouching and being prone.

Most games that use a cover system still haven't gotten it right, which is probably why Gears stole their entire control system.

3rd person and 1st person games are very very different, it's much easier to see the difference in a game like oblivion which is a 1st person RPG with an optional 3rd person camera, having this 3rd person camera doesn't stop it being a 1st person RPG as that is obviously what it was designed for.
posted by MrCynical at 3:23 AM on October 28, 2008


anyone else interested in a mefi classic UT matchup day?

I have the GOTY edition on my pc but I have never played online, against actual human opponents, because I don't care for the idea of having my ass handed to me by some nine-year-old.
posted by Restless Day at 5:38 AM on October 28, 2008


The success of UT I think was also related to the fact it was one of the first multiplayer games of that kind to start the shift of focus from deathmatch to team based game. Not that they invented it, but they made it waaay more popular, preparing a lot of FPS players to the incoming battles. Let's not forget free for all can be very frustrating - there's one winner after all - while even the worse player can do something for the others in a squad-based game.
Q3 at the time was mostly a deathmatch game (id later released a Team Arena expansion).


They can also be credited as the first to release a mode based around an attack-defense scheme, with players following certain objectives related to the map instead of capturing flags or generical control points. Assault was fresh and quite entertaining but I don't remember it being very popular.
posted by darkripper at 8:19 AM on October 28, 2008


Regardless: Quake 3 was and still is the pinnacle of pure skill-based deathmatch, I reckon. Some disagree, I know. That's the way these things go.

there's a lot to be said for it. on an anecdotal note, where I had issues with quake 3 but loved UT was quake's comparatively limited gametypes. as you said, it was skill-based deathmatch, and thanks to mods it got many many more gametypes added by the community, but UT to my mind took that ball and ran with it so much farther. It came right out of the gate with some stunning alternative gametypes that were absurdly fun, and when the user community started adding custom mutators and models, skins and rulesets, full conversions and the lot, it was just incredible. quake 3 was, to my mind, an excellent seed that UT sprang from as a more developed blossom.
posted by shmegegge at 8:55 AM on October 28, 2008


As for Gears and Halo feeling "normal" when you played it on the PC. You only got them years after their original release on the Xbox and 360, 2 years is a long time in computing yet Halo and Gears still managed to top the charts. At the time of it's release Halo could easily compare to shooters being released on the PC in graphical power and scale.

I might quibble about Halo looking as good as its PC shooter peers at the time, but otherwise you're exactly right. Perhaps due to so many other games borrowing elements now, it's easy for people to miss Halo is the source of many things that are pretty much genre conventions now: a limited weapon inventory, regenerating health, a camera that pans out to a third person view for actions that are normally cumbersome in first person, etc.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:26 AM on October 28, 2008


that's weird. I know you wrote "Tribes is the source of many things that are pretty much genre conventions now..." but every time I look at your comment, I see "Halo" there instead. Something must be wrong with my eyes.
posted by shmegegge at 10:29 AM on October 28, 2008


Is there anything more stereotypically nerdy than the contention that something actually was first done years earlier in some obscure work?
posted by smackfu at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2008


MrCynical: As for Gears and Halo feeling "normal" when you played it on the PC. You only got them years after their original release on the Xbox and 360, 2 years is a long time in computing yet Halo and Gears still managed to top the charts. At the time of it's release Halo could easily compare to shooters being released on the PC in graphical power and scale. With Gears there wasn't much to compare it to because developers don't release 3rd person games on a PC first.

Well, I played Halo a bit after the fact, but my time with Gears was spent immediately after it came out, on a 360. And it was beautiful looking, and great fun, but just not that special. If anything is unique about Gears, it's that the campaign is designed around cooperative multiplayer, which is where it absolutely shines. The much-lauded multiplayer is nothing that hasn't been done better on the PC. Hell, it was done better by the same people who made Gears. Three times.

In my opinion, the reason that UT and its descendants aren't as popular is because they don't make the console transition well. Without the fast, accurate aiming provided by a mouse, you will get absolutely slaughtered. It's not the same as Gears and Halo with their slow, clunky sniper rifles and rather slow player movement - in UT2004 you can snipe while literally bouncing off the walls (at an opponent who is probably also bouncing off the walls.) You can always tell when a game is designed around consoles - the sniper rifle will be slow, crappy, and require you to move slowly while using it, and no other weapon will have long-range accuracy.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:37 PM on October 28, 2008


that's weird. I know you wrote "Tribes is the source of many things that are pretty much genre conventions now..." but every time I look at your comment, I see "Halo" there instead. Something must be wrong with my eyes.

You may be right: the bulk of my Tribes knowledge boils down to "Inn't that the game where everyone's got jet packs and they use 'em to ski along hills and such?" so if that's where some of those features made their debut, it's news to me. I do know a few in particular -- the regenerating health, dedicated melee and grenade buttons -- are common genre conventions now thanks to Halo.

In my opinion, the reason that UT and its descendants aren't as popular is because they don't make the console transition well. ... It's not the same as Gears and Halo with their slow, clunky sniper rifles and rather slow player movement - in UT2004 you can snipe while literally bouncing off the walls (at an opponent who is probably also bouncing off the walls.)

I'm gonna play the "It's a feature, not a bug" card on this. The UT/Quake school of twitch shooters has never appealed to me, so sniping while bouncing off walls is exactly the kind of thing I don't want. You're right that slower shooters are a better fit for consoles than faster ones (for the obvious mouse-look based reasons), but again, for people looking for a more tactical, less reflex-reliant game, that's a good thing.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:57 PM on October 28, 2008


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