Thursday, October 29, 2015

Getting Trapped in 'Metal Gear Solid V’s' War Economy

Smooth and bold; just like the military-industrial complex!
This week on PopMatters I get all paranoid about Metal Gear Solid V's sneaky implementation of the war economy.

Here's a free alternate title: the Metal Gear-industrial Complex.  I really think it could catch on.

This isn't a post about Konami's shady dealings around online modes and microtransactions.  I've made my peace with those.  It's about something I find even more unsettling (and cool in the context of MGS V.

By the end, the game makes a strong argument about why militarization tends to spiral out of control.  The game sets you down a path where you continually need to get money to develop weapons that directly add to the need to develop more weapons.  Of course you need money to do this, so you eventually find yourself in a never ending loop of militaristic capitalism.

Of course you could opt out, but you have to be OK with either having a poor loadout or getting ransacked by other players.  A couple months after release and the game has become one huge arms race crossed with a prisoner's dilemma.  With the advent of nukes, meta-game factions have begun to make the cases for and against proliferation.  Sure, perhaps the world would be better off without nuclear weapons, but who wants to go first?  Who wants to bet that a bad actor won't do something reprehensible.

Not I and probably not you either.  So instead we find ourselves in a familiar cycle within one of the most fascinating games of the year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

EXP Podcast #352: Split Ends

Look at the divide you've created 343!
Halo 5: Guardians just release, and for the first time since the series began, the latest entry in the franchise does not feature split screen co-op. I only just learned of this travesty moments before recordings, so feast your eyes this week on some shock and anger as it happens. Of course we also discuss ways to bring the benefits of couch co-op to the online space, so maybe there's hope yet!

Probably not...

- Here's the show's stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format, or click play below.

Show Notes:

- Runtime: 35 mins 02 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween: Spooky Houses Edition

It's Halloween again! It's time to partake in the holiday tradition of poking around in houses you have no business exploring. Nothing bad can happen, right? RIGHT!?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Expressing Yourself in Destiny

This week on PopMatters, I describe dancing the Carlton like a weird sort of improv.

I did not touch on the microtransactions aspect of the sweet new emotes in Destiny. For that you can check out yesterday's podcast right here.

For this follow up, I actually want to spotlight the game genre that has move given us the first of dance: the MMO. "Slash dance" became a thing for me in my World of Warcraft days. As my trusty Night Elf Druid, I could /wink, /nod, /sniff, and so on. I had an emote for any occasion. This huge list of emotes grew as the game went on, adding more ways for players to express themselves in all sorts of ways.

Like Destiny's emotes, many of these gestures could target other players. There is a special joy not just in laughing, but laughing at someone else. Building in non-verbal communication goes a long way towards lightening the mood giving players alternative modes of communication besides aggression alone. This is based purely on anecdotal evidence, but I suspect in-game gestures can decrease toxicity in game communities as well. I am far less likely to express aggression if I can /burp, /cackle, or /fart at my opponents and friends.

That deserves an /applause.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

EXP Podcast #351: The Microtransaction Mambo

How could you say "no" to this face?
Hey, I'm not saying that I'd pay for the ability to do the Carlton dance.  What I am saying is that maybe the fact that other people can pay for the ability to do the Carlton dance isn't all bad.  After all, it brings me enjoyment.  There's been lots of talk about microtransactions recently and not all of them have been as seemingly-benign as silly dances.  In fact, by the end of the show, things escalate to the point where Jorge and I start talking about nuclear proliferation.  Will we ever reach micro-transaction disarmament?  Listen in to find out.

- Here's the show's stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format, or click play below.

Show Notes:

- Runtime: 33 mins 7 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Metal Gear Online: Anti-turret Sneaking

There's nothing more satisfying than creeping up on the competition and then launching them into the air.  Well, maybe mowing them down with a mech comes close.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Insignificance in 'Star Wars Battlefront'

Keep absolutely still. Its vision is based on movement.
That's no moon; it's a column about Star Wars!

Last week I spent some time with the Battlefront beta and got a small taste of what it would be like to live in the Star Wars universe.  However, it wasn't the life of an infamous smuggler, heroic Jedi, or terrifying Sith: I was a grunt.  A fairly expendable feeling one at that.

As is the case in Dice's other large scale combat game, Battlefront gives you control of a fragile, largely-anonymous soldier.  You can try to go all Rambo, but a couple shots will take you down.  You're more likely to succeed if you keep your head down and try to stick close to your squad.  You're only a small part of a bigger team effort.

The size and duration of the battles add to this feeling of being insignificant.  The mechanics reinforce the scale by juxtaposing you against the Vader and Luke hero units who might as well be gods walking amongst mortals.  If you die you can almost instantly respawn, so there's no time to process your mistake or do any real character building; you just throw another pawn into play and try again.

It's a pretty harsh learning curve and the people playing are already ridiculously good, so I'm not sure I'll spend too much more time with Battlefront.  Still, it was fun (and more than a bit humbling) to get a taste of what it must be like to be a normal dude among Jedi.  I've never felt less important.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

EXP Podcast #350: Hardware Habitats

Ahead of its time!
Console exclusive games are increasingly rare in our current console habitat, but this hasn't always been the case. How have our hardware limitations shaped our playing habitats and how we see entire genres? Will the future of VR look like older console generations? Most importantly, what does Mr. Businessman think of the console wars of yore? All this and more on the latest EXP Podcast!

- Here's the show's stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format, or click play below.

Show Notes:

- Runtime: 33 mins
- "That Time Final Fantasy Ditched Nintendo for Sony," by Patrick Klepek via Kotaku
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Star Wars Battlefront: Hoth Stuff Coming Through

The Star Wars Battlefront Beta is (was) live, and we got in one some of that Hoth action. Watch Scott and I scream like children and shoot lasers at stuff!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Stirring Up Esports Drama

The League of Legends World Championship is underway, and what a series it has been!

So while this week's PopMatters article comes to the defense of the analysts on the desk at Worlds, I do think Riot could improve the viewing experience of the World Championship with two things:

1) More play-by-plays. When I first started getting into Fantasy Football, I found the process of actually watching the games incredibly boring. I was confused by the long breaks and the scramble of men around the line of scrimmage was just a jumbled mess. The only easy thing to understand in football for someone unfamiliar with the sport are long throws for epic touchdowns.

As I started to pay more attention to the individual players on my team, the detailed play-by-plays of specific moments in the game provided so much insight. It sounds silly, but grabbing a pen and drawing on a huge screen is super useful for beginners. It turns what at first looks like a random mess into a discrete moving system of key players in key positions. When the analysts take pen to screen, they generally do a great job analyzing single plays in a match, especially positioning.

2) A beginners stream. The Dota 2 International has been doing this for awhile. A second stream of shoutcasters catering to those unfamiliar with League could walk players through basic character abilities during a match. Most importantly, a beginners stream could bring new viewers clarity into the incredibly important pick-and-ban phase. Unless you are familiar with every character in League of Legends, you will miss out on one of the most crucial elements of a match.

I mean, I'm pro and all, but I would love to be able to watch and talk about the World Championship with others. As long as we keep the drama to a minimum.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

EXP Podcast #349: The News Blues

That poor man; he's been stuck like that for hours.
They say no news is good news and this week we can't really argue with that.  It's been a little rough out there, but we can't use that as an excuse to turn a blind eye.  Instead we wade into the mess and actually manage to find a few glimmers of hope here and there.  In fact, you might say that we are the heroes Tony Hawk, Deus Ex, Batman all deserve.

- Here's the show's stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format, or click play below.

Show Notes:

- Runtime: 40 mins 59 sec
- "Activision aware of Tony Hawk 5 issues and working with dev to address them," by  Brian Crecente, via Polygon
- "Batman: Arkham Knight PC version circles October for retail return," by Allegra Frank, via Polygon
- "Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ‘Augment Your Pre-Order’ program canceled," by Allegra Frank, via Polygon
- "Sources: Destiny's DLC Plan Is Changing Big-Time," by Jason Schreier, via Kotaku
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, October 6, 2015