The Tangent: Year Two in Review

The Tangent: Year Two in Review

by December 31, 2009

The TangentReflecting on a second year of indignation.

This year of the Tangent’s been a much quieter one, as I try to find the right balance of articles for the reader. It’s been slim, but my most prevalent concern has been that I don’t want to waste the reader’s time. Extended Damage, for example, was one I ultimately regretted. I had intended to flesh out that column with more examples of how reselling old games with old flaws creates new anger from consumers, but I failed to do that, and it turned out to be a waste of your time. For that I apologize, and that’s why I’ve been more careful to pick my topics since.

Let’s run down the year, shall we? And by that, I mean with a motor vehicle. We’ll head to the car wash right after, no one will know.

The Tangent: Smart Business
Gamers do some amazing things to champion underachieving developers. It will incite blind rage in some for me to even just mention that I think New Super Mario Bros. Wii falls into this category, so I’ll go no further with that. Currently the biggest trend is exclusive pre-order content, often limited to certain retailers, sometimes offered in different varieties. What that means is for a few titles, you can’t get every extra publicly available for the game unless you buy multiple copies, and if you don’t pre-order it, that same game for the same full retail price on launch day won’t let you have that decorative skin, or weapon, or item, or even unique level. Some pre-order promotional items tantamount to cheat codes easing you past early parts of the game with an unbalanced item, which can really sour players on competitive multiplayer if the pre-order item offers a clear advantage. Too many people are patting developers and retailers both on the back for this, eager to point how clever a move it is to exploit some gamer’s desire to collect every extra possible, or have an early advantage or unique item. I just want my game to be equal to others, especially if I paid the same price for it.

The Tangent: Fan or Amateur?
A unique, but barf-inducing, background warping effect.In recent months I’ve seen a sharp increase in the skill with which new fan productions are crafted, but with an unfortunate lack of imagination. Too many creators are trying to roll things back to what they perceive are the classic ideas, mimicking their execution more than the logic behind them. If your demo begins with green-tinted meadow hills with quarter ramps and loops and a few Buzz Bombers, you’re not really displaying your creativity.

To drift closer back to the original topic, because of confidentiality agreements, it’s not easy to know when a fan does become involved with real production of a series. Often when they talk too much about their role, their employment becomes short-lived. Taxman’s mentioned having some sort of a dealing with Sega over his engine work, but again, if it’s true there’s very little he could talk about without endangering it. I still think my suggestion holds true: do it for as long as you’re having fun with it, but don’t expect it to land you the career of your dreams. It can be good practice, but to land a job, you’ll want to show an independent creativity, not just a derivative one. If the job doesn’t matter to you, spend as much time on fan work as you like, even if people claim you’re wasting your efforts. It’s your time, it’s your enjoyment, you do with it what you like.

The Tangent: Extended Damage
Being honest, this article was an example of me being truly disgusted. The 2006 Sonic The Hedgehog was acknowledged by Sega representatives as a broken product. To release it to a fresh new market, knowing it still retained significant, correctable flaws, sent me up the wall. On the plus side, very few products have since followed that matched this negligent behavior. Sonic Unleashed became available on October 20th, not improved over the retail release, but receiving the same minor patches. Sony’s PSN service seems to be taking a different road, often as a platform for localized released too expensive or niche to market in stores, at least until the brand is proven.

The Tangent: Christmarch, a.k.a. Giftmas II
Capcom showed some sanity, delaying some of its releases past the March catastrophe. There may be several smaller titles announced and on store shelves between then and now, particularly with Nintendo’s recent strategy of surprise releases, but now that Giftmas has passed, we’ve probably seen the bulk of the major title announcements set to hit March. Interestingly, as of this writing, Yakuza 3 still lacks a definite date in the US. Just passing the 10th anniversary of Shenmue’s release, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for Kazuma yet.

The Tangent: The Year in Review
Oh how meta. I saved ’08s countdown for last; let’s list a few notches that have since shifted.

Were-Sonic Unleashed
Project Needlemouse is still a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma for just a little while longer, so it’s not known if there’s a Werehog Surprise yet to be endured. Most signs point to it being solo Sonic, but no one has publicly guaranteed that so far. Meanwhile, the Werehog enjoys a place in the fandom with some fans, but hasn’t yet made an appearance in the Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing lineup. I have the feeling he’s not gone for good, but his reappearances will be more like comical references and extras more than a serious aspect of upcoming games.

The Micromote
Natal’s coming! Gem (rumored name of the PlayStation 3 Motion Wand Controller Device Dongle, DualShock halfsie sold separately) is on the way! Microsoft did some ridiculously clever things with the Avatar Marketplace and is making loads of cash for very little work. If Microsoft has a remote planned to supplement Natal, they haven’t shown it yet. They’re probably going to go without one this generation to make a point against Sony’s solution. And do you know what? That concept video for Natal still irritates me when I think about it. Not only would the skateboard scan feature not happen for obvious legal reasons, but the kid’s hands obstruct it. It should’ve scanned in his fingers or left blank spots on the board. Your fake video was too fake, Em-DollarSign! I bet those weren’t even real people, but highly-advanced puppets!

Celebrity Guitar Hero ‘Debate’
You can’t see it, but I’m shaking my fist angrily.

It's just like de Blob, only with actual Nazis.
A Hazy Future
Devs are running to hide in digital distribution, middleware isn’t as prominent or versatile as it needs to become. This isn’t good. Pour another one out for Free Radical, and a bottle of wine for Saboteur developer, Pandemic Studios. Their name lives on, but their staff is gone.

The Lectures of Developers
Diablo II’s now in the works again! They’re going backwards to add rainbows everywhere, and sparkles to the vampires. Denis Dyack says words, or something. Honestly, I’m not even truly sure what Silicon Knights is up to at this point. The only current leads are Too Human, which didn’t perform that well to begin with, and a partnership with Telefilm Canada on something called Siren in the Maelstrom, with no further details available. While writing this section, I personally found it distasteful that Silicon Knights set their search engine description to “Developers of Metal Gear Solid series and Too Human.” I’m not kidding, try it. They developed a remake of one Metal Gear Solid title; that makes it sound like they created the series to start with, particularly since it’s listed before the series they actually created. It’s telling that they promote their limited involvement with Konami’s series more than their own, more recent efforts.

Is Average Enough?
Sega did patch the game, but it was to fix some lapping glitches and to prime the game for DLC, as mentioned above. The camera still chugs if it gets too close to the Werehog’s fur. They did at least support it with an array of new DLC levels for both Sonic and Fuzzy, some more creative than others, a few utilizing the previously-discovered unfinished areas. I would’ve liked a performance patch, but they didn’t hang the game out to dry like they did with the 2006 title, and that’s appreciated. I’m looking forward to the giant mystery box that is Project Needlemouse, which some are already convinced is a bad game because of words in a teaser trailer. These people’s minds would be blown by the claims and promisies of game commercials in the 1980’s and 90’s.

And that wraps up another year, another bevy of Tangentry. To all reading, have a happy new year. Wait, this is the editorials section, that’s all wrong. Make that a furious, embittered new year! Get drunk and complain everything’s wrong! Now that’s the spirit.