Keyboard Geniuses

E3 Players

E3 = Emcee Square

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Steve Heisler • June 8, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Let’s All Hold Hands And Not Work Correctly
Microsoft E3 2012 press conference: Trey Parker and Matt Stone

In John Teti’s rundown of the Microsoft press conference—the “nerdy rich kid” of the video game community, in his words—he described how the gaming giant proudly demonstrated its ability to stream your music directly to roughly 7,000 devices in your home. RidleyFGJ added a bit of color, noting one of the few moments in Microsoft’s presentation that aimed to truly please—making fun of itself:

It says a lot about their presentation when the best moment was a surprisingly well-timed barb from South Park co-creator Trey Parker: “How many times have you been watching
an episode of South Park and thought, ‘I’d like to be able to watch this on my television, while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven all while sitting in the refrigerator?!’” I imagine that everyone present in that conference who laughed at that joke (and I imagine that was everyone) was also bitterly reminded of how painful the build-up was to that moment.

We laugh because it hurts. Effigy_Power spoke further about this need for every machine to talk to every other machine:

This obsession with interconnectivity between a slew of devices that have no business talking to each other is such a lame premise. It’s been tried before, if I remember correctly, such as with the idea of using the Game Boy [Advance] as a controller for the Gamecube, which didn’t pan out.
And in general, aren’t there more pressing matters? Making the limited amount of content shared over streaming services show up on multiple screens at the same time isn’t going to plaster over the fact that streaming services themselves are still flawed and about as all-encompassing as a 1995 Verizon cover map.
Why can’t these show-off extravaganzas remain true to their form? Comic-Con hasn’t seen an actual comic in years, E3 is turning into the Multimedia Con (which I am sure already exists) and the last roleplay convention I went to (years ago, mind you) was a 6,000 squarefoot flea market. It’s like Sten says: “No one has a place here. Your farmers wish to be merchants. The merchants dream of being nobles, and the nobles become warriors. No one is content to be who they are.”

Keying in on the ironic conclusion to the Microsoft event, Swadian Knight used this opportunity to play fantasy-interconnectivity with a few Microsoft devices/products:

Nothing compares to Microsoft ending their presentation about how they want their technology to be involved in every part of your everyday routine with the trailer for Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2, a game with the premise that hostile forces would take control of everyday technology as a means of war. I can just picture the enemy general/big bad screaming “Kinect: Kill The President Of The U.S.A.!” in his living room.

The Stuff Of Legends
Rayman Legends

Anthony John Agnello reported from the field that the upcoming WiiU title Rayman Legends could actually be good. The catch, though, is that you have to play it on the WiiU, which is as touch-screen-y a console as Nintendo can make before being issued a restraining order. In Legends, a fifth player sits back and uses the screen to control a bug, so while other players are having lots and lots of fun, you’re stuck touching points of light without so much as a free hand to drink your Stella (because you’re a classy guy). In the comments, the discussion turned toward Super Mario Galaxy, which had a similar system: While one person played the game as Mario, another could use a second Wiimote to gather up floating stars from around the screen. Girard, renowned director of the comment-thread CATFRENZY trailer, defended this player-helper setup:

I actually quite enjoyed that style of interaction and found a few different ways to make use of it. In addition to the expected scenario of a less-savvy friend being able to gather and waste star bits, I found what was more fun was giving a friend or younger relative the chance to play as Mario, while my more experienced self played as the 2P and used the cursor’s ability to stun enemies or hold back obstacles like rolling boulders, making the game less frustrating and challenging. He was traversing the world, and I was manipulating the world, and we were working as a team toward the goal, which was pretty great.

It seems like people expect the “helper” role to be handed over the grandma or little cousin to save them from the boredom of just watching the “real” gamer play, but I found it better addresses the frustration experienced gamers have when they sit and watch less-experienced gamers frustrate themselves playing a game. It gives you an opportunity to use your knowledge of the game to assist their gameplay without just snatching the controller out of their hand and beating the level for them.

Naughty Dog Done Made Us Cry
Sony E3 2012 press conference

While Gus Mastrapa’s peered into the abyss of the Sony E3 press conference, Spacemonkey Mafia patted our backs and reminded us that there is a world, a better world, outside of E3, one in which death is not the equivalent of an APPLAUSE! sign:

I have a two year-old daughter, and watching this trailer for The Last Of Us made my heart hurt. The sense of vulnerability and urgency was so tangible in the trailer, heightened by the utter lack of music. It must have felt completely different watching it in an auditorium full of people cheering for death, because in the silence of my home, the game appears to do a fantastic job of showing just how high the cost of life is. If the game is capable of maintaining that tone throughout, without devolving into camp or bloody rampage, Naughty Dog will have achieved something truly impressive for an action game. Hell, any genre, really.

Life is precious, and it shouldn’t be wasted. Oh, no, I was talking about my bowl of Life cereal.

Do As We Say, Not As We Do (But Really We Don’t Do, We Just Say)
Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference

Nintendo’s press conference reminded John Teti of how much over-explaining goes into Nintendo titles these days—a far cry from back in the day when Samus’ space ship crash landed on an alien planet, and you had to just go. Dikachu nodded:

I grew up playing video games when virtually nothing was actually explained to you. You had to actually FIGURE SHIT OUT. And it was incredibly fun and rewarding to do so— would the original Legend Of Zelda be anywhere near as awesome if Link had a fairy telling him every goddamn thing along the way?

Nowadays every studio insists on bashing every detail of the game mechanics over your head at every opportunity. Cutscenes, voice overs, popups, button diagrams…it’s like programming robots to do repetitive tasks. I can understand the impulse—reaaaaaally casual gamers may not want to play if they can’t mow through it in a few hours—but there are still a ton of us who just wanna dive in and explore.

ALGUIEN_COMENTA was quick to follow-up with a link to this helpful graphic, outlining the grim scenario of Super Mario Bros. being designed by today’s over-explaining standards. It’s fairly accurate, though it wasn’t quite clear enough that I’d be playing this game as it streamed wirelessly to my radiator. I found a fire flower! Wait, that’s just me putting my hand on the radiator.

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293 Responses to “E3 = Emcee Square”

  1. RidleyFGJ says:

    I made Keyboard Geniuses!

    I’m gonna go places!

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I used to be like you, but now I’m just jaded.

    • Limeade Youth says:

      **To go places, press left or right.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       I am basking in the glow of your adoration, fellow members of the Society. It’s sort of flickering and seems to have rather large pixels, but it’s a nice glow anyways.

      PS: With the mass of comments under a mass of E3 articles, choosing this week’s lucky winners must have been a chore. Or John just threw darts at his screen.

      • RidleyFGJ says:

        I can settle for “lucky dart.”

      • Shain Eighmey says:

        His poor screen!

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         Flickering?!?  Large pixels?!?  My adoration uses cutting-edge (circa 1991) Mode 7 graphics.  Marvel at the scaling and rotation!  You don’t even need 3D glasses!  No, I am not just using buzzwords!

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Way to shift some paradigms.

        • slammin_sammy_sneed says:

           BLAST PROCESSING IS BETTER YOUR SNES 3 MHz PROCESSOR SUCKS.  FACE!

        • Electric Dragon says:

          The new BizTalk 9500GT can leverage 3000 paradigms a second! It can think outside up to 256 boxes simultaneously! Now with unprecedented low-hanging fruit plucking capabilities!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Yeah, like the trunk of my car.  You’re late on your payments to Mr. Muscles!

  2. Boonehams says:

    “Life is precious,…”
    And God.  And the Bible.

  3. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Ah, I wasn’t aware the comments were edited.  Because I sure don’t remember calling my fellow Gameological commenters “The most dispiriting trash barge of troglodyte window-lickers I’ve ever had the displeasure to share the internet with”.

       …Though I’m sure I would have had it occurred to me at the time.

  4. caspiancomic says:

    Man, Girard’s Catfrenzy trailer still makes me laugh. Also possible: I’m still laughing from the first time I read it.

  5. Shain Eighmey says:

    There’s just so many good comments here! I think we’ve had some very interesting discussions this week, and I look forward to that continuing. 

  6. Swadian Knight says:

    I guess now I can add ‘Keyboard Genius’ to my CV. When do I receive my certificate?

    • HobbesMkii says:

      It may never come. Just do what I do and tell people that its in the shop, being framed.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I put “Time Magazine Person of the Year 2006” on my resume. Technically accurate!

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Holy shit. I want to do this, but I fear that it would prevent me from y’know, getting a job.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           That may be the point. I always get out of Jury-duty by telling the law-council that I am a Maoist. I don’t even fully understand what it means, but it scares the shit out of people.
          (I have a little red day-planner that looks perceptively like China’s little red book… it’s a valued prop, even if it reads “1997” on the side I don’t show.)

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus Wow. That’s sort of an “evil genius” level of government manipulation. Although I’m surprised they fall for the day-planner. I have a copy of the Little Red Book, and it’s both quite tiny and quite thick. It also has a picture of Mao on the front.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Yeah, but how many people do you think have seen an actual copy… they’re not even that hard to get, but it does tickle me that a red day-planner from 15 years ago works out just fine.

        • caspiancomic says:

           @Effigy_Power:disqus Oh shit, 1997 was 15 years ago!?

        • Merve says:

          @caspiancomic:disqus: Thanks for making me feel old.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         I hated that issue. What a cop-out.

        • Merve says:

          My family stopped subscribing to Time shortly after that issue. Moreover, the reflective Mylar pane on the cover didn’t even work properly; at first glance, it looked like the magazine had wasted a bunch of money putting aluminum foil on the cover for some reason.

  7. Is there a greater brand disconnect between the US and UK than Stella beer? In the US, it’s all “pouring competitions” and Sundance. In the UK, it is known widely as “wife beater.” 

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Stella Artois is only classy in the US if the name throws you enough that you can’t figure out it’s another Anheuser-Busch InBev brand. Microbrews are for the truly classy. The real indies of beer.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         I like German beer. It makes me feel like a Uber-Mensch.
        Well, my favorite is actually Heineken, but let’s not split hairs.

      • Limeade Youth says:

        But among beers I can get at the convenience store at 11:55pm, Stella is tops. Second is a 25 way tie for crap.

  8. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody, Mr. Glitch here with another classic game review! Today, I’m reviewing the 1992 DOS classic, Star Control 2

    From the antediluvian muck of the early 1960s arose the very first computer game, Spacewar! It was a top-down view of two rocket ships trying to take each other out while avoiding falling into a star. It accurately simulated thrust, inertia, and gravity, and it only needed a computer the size of a house to run it. 30 years later, Star Control 2 took this simple concept and ran with it to make one of the most memorable video games I’ve ever played.  

    In the first Star Control game, you assemble a team of space ships from the Alliance of Free Stars or the Hierarchy of Battle Thralls and engage in one-on-one Spacewar!-style ship combat. Each ship has unique characteristics: Some are slow and powerful, while others are fast & weak. Some have shields, some have homing missiles, some can launch waves of fighters, and some can self-destruct in a massive shockwave. There’s a rudimentary strategy game included, but the focus of that game is the combat.

    Star Control 2 lifts the combat elements out of the first game and drops it into a huge action RPG. As it turns out, the war detailed in Star Control did not go well for Earth and its allies. A series of still images, drawn in a nifty retro-futurist style, tell the story of a space expedition that became stranded on an alien planet when Earth was defeated. They discovered an underground starship factory built by a powerful, extinct (aren’t they all?) race called the Precursors. They used the to build a new ship and return to Earth, only to discover it has been enslaved by the Hierarchy, and its leaders, the Ur-Quan. Thus begins your struggle to free Earth and defeat the Ur-Quan.

    Star Control 2 is a huge game. It encompasses a whole galaxy of star systems you can visit, most of which have planets you can land on. You spent much of the game gathering resources from those planets, upgrading your Precursor ship, making allies and building a fleet to combat the Ur-Quan. The events in the game play out in real time, so it’s possible to miss critical moments and even lose the game if you waste too much time. The game is funny and engaging, with a Hitchhiker’s Guide cleverness to it that extends down to the design of the alien species and their ships. For a save-the-whole-entire-galaxy RPG, it stays refreshingly tongue-in-cheek. It explores the aftermath of Star Control’s war in surprising depth, too. In your travels, you learn that allies and enemies from the first game have switched allegiances, withdrawn or completely wiped themselves out.  Several new alien species are introduced too; some with pretty sinister motivations themselves.

    Though the focus of Star Control 2 is on the single player game, it has a fun two player mode too. Players assemble teams of ships from both games and fight each other to the last ship. The game assigns a point value to each ship, which helps balance out the teams. You can load your team up with nothing but heavy-hitters if you want, or you can mix & match. Personally, I derived immense maniacal pleasure from blowing up my buddy’s Ur-Quan Juggernaut with my chumpy little Shofixti Scout and its divine wind bomb.

    The original DOS version of Star Control 2 can be played through DOSBox, but it can be pretty temperamental. Fortunately, the game’s developers released its source code to the Open Source community, who developed a copyright-less version called The Ur-Quan Masters. It’s available for free on Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. Check it out at http://sc2.sourceforge.net/info.php You’ll need a copy of the starmap too, which served as both a guide and the original game’s copy protection. You can get a copy here: http://graff.mine.nu:8050/Expatiate/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/starmap.jpg

    Thanks for reading my review. Next week… Umm, I don’t know. Anyone out there have any requests?

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I recently learned that there was a sequel of sorts to Zombies Ate my Neighbors called Ghoul Patrol. You should check it out. I only played through the first few levels the other day, and didn’t like it as much as ZAMN, as the controls didn’t seem as good and also probably because I don’t have the nostalgia for it. I’d be interested in what you have to say about it. 

      So yeah, Ghoul Patrol.

    • djur says:

      Star Control 2 is one of the best games ever made. Everyone who has not played it should immediately download The Ur-Quan Masters. I suggest the original music, not the remixes. And the voice acting.

      Hint: when you run into the aliens who look like my avatar, ask them a lot about the Androsynth!