Cliff Bleszinski on the problem with making video game sequels

Clifford Unchained – The Problem with Sequels:

But if you give the hardcore what they claim to want then the press respond “It’s just Game 1.5”

And then if you change it too much the hardcore will claim “you ruined it!” while the press might just give you accolades for a bold, fresh take.

That, my friends, is the sequel conundrum. 

It’s a lose-lose situation. Lots of young and nerdy creative types for the last decade or so have looked at video games and thought, “Yeah, I could make these for a living.”

In reality, it turns out that even dream jobs have their downsides. In the case of game designers, it’s that the balance that has to be found between making the game you want to play and the game the hardcore fans want and the game the press want to see.

IGN gets developers to “react” to the PlayStation 4

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, the makers of Gears of War and the Unreal Engine:

As we’re building games that are an order of magnitude more detailed than the current generation, Unreal Engine 4’s tools combined with PlayStation 4’s hardware enable developers to achieve that in a reasonable amount of time and on-budget. Our console efforts are focused on high-end, mainstream platforms that will be supported by enormous launches and large-scale support by major developers and publishers.

Reads more like an Unreal Engine marketing page than informative reporting.

Gabe of Penny Arcade on the Surface Pro tablet

Microsoft surface pro

Penny Arcade:

As a mobile solution for a digital artist I’d say the Surface Pro is a winner. Now obviously if you need Photoshop you will probably want to wait until they get their driver issues worked out. If you’re a Sketchbook user (or you could be) then this thing is ready to go right now. I had some people on Twitter asking if the Surface Pro makes sense as an alternative to a Cintiq at home or the office. That one is harder for me to answer. I personally really like my Cintiq 24HD and I would not use the Surface pro at the office instead of it. With that said, if I had about a grand to spend and I was looking at a Cintiq, I’d say the Surface Pro is a much better purchase than the12WX Cintiq. The 64gb Surface Pro and the 12” Cintiq are about the same price but with the Surface, not only are you getting a fantastic drawing tablet that you can take with you wherever you go, it’s also a fucking computer!

This is probably the most positive thing that I’ve read about the Surface. It makes sense, really – he needs a tablet that lets him do digital artwork with the fewest hassles possible. The tech press is looking for a general purpose device that will replace their tablet/laptop (it doesn’t help that it’s priced somewhere in between what most people pay for those two kinds of devices).

As Gabe points out, for someone looking into buying a high-end drawing device like a Cintiq, the Surface Pro is a steal. After all, you also basically get a laplet/tabtop (because we need more stupid terms like phablet) thrown in for free.

The problem is that Microsoft is trying to sell this as a mainstream device like the MacBook Air or the iPad. At its current price point, I don’t think its compromises make it appealing to people looking to buy a device at either end of that spectrum.

75 prominent Republicans come out in support of gay marriage

The New York Times:

The Proposition 8 case already has a powerful conservative supporter: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under Mr. Bush and one of the suit’s two lead lawyers. The amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief is being filed with Mr. Olson’s blessing. It argues, as he does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes, and that it advances conservative values of “limited government and maximizing individual freedom.”

Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.

The times are certainly a-changing. The Republican Party needs to keep moving in this direction if it’s going to stay relevant – as the article mentions, roughly 70 percent of voters under 30 believe that gay marriage should be legal.

Republicans could even use this tactic to undermine Democrats on key youth issues, like the War on Drugs. I’m willing to bet a lot of people would be swayed by a small government argument: the government shouldn’t be interfering with what people do with their bodies, we should cut wasteful DEA spending on less harmful drugs like marijuana, etc.

These next few years are going to be very interesting.

Penny Arcade on the PlayStation 4

Penny Arcade – Augurism:

The bump to eight gigs of ram was clearly a recent addition, and there’s a lot of gesticulation toward the more “wibbly-wobbly” and “timey-wimey” aspects of the backend.  By the end, though, they showed a machine that was exquisitely tuned to this particular nanosecond.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Wait, what?

Just kidding. Here’s what Tycho really thinks:

After absorbing the presentation, I feel confident in saying that the Wii U is the last of the traditional consoles, perhaps the last one ever.  Sony’s hour-long apology to publishers for the Playstation 3 (coupled with the leaked Durango specs) make this fairly clear.  Dedicated PCs with custom operating systems are the future, if not the present; it might be worth taking a moment to really let that soak in.

I agree completely. This is exactly why I don’t plan to buy another game console – with consoles becoming increasingly similar to PCs, I expect that we’ll see more major releases coming to PCs on day one. Also, screw spending another $400 bucks on a new console and $60 on games when already I have a badass XPS desktop ready to go and and a larger Steam backlog than I care to admit.

Patrick Miller takes a look at games journalism

patrick miller writes about videogames — RIP 1UP: A meditation on where games journalism is going:

So, instead, we rely on advertisers to subsidize our costs so we can offer the publication for cheap or free. Essentially, we have two masters; the readers, who demand quality (and can take their eyeballs elsewhere if they’re not getting it), and the advertisers, who demand reader eyeballs (so they can increase awareness of their product so that you will buy it). These are two separate but parallel transactions: The editors tell the readers, “Hey, you should come here and read all the awesome news reporting/in-depth features we have, for free” and the ad salespeople tell the advertisers, “Hey, you can get a picture of your product right next to an article that someone is reading!” For one transaction, the product is the publication; for the other transaction, the product is your eyeballs. 

Sounds a lot like what we what we hear about most other kinds of journalism nowadays. Online publishing is going to have to find a workable business model over the next few years or we’re going to keep going through this same pattern of shrinking and consolidation – and SEO bullshit and link-baiting.

Enough with the sequester, let’s talk about the long-term

On March 1st, the Obama administration will be forced to institute an $85 billion across-the-board cut to spending on military and domestic programs in the United States. This cut is the result of the summer 2011 standoff over raising the debt limit. Like the debt limit and the fiscal cliff before it, the sequester is only a problem because Washington made it a problem – there is no reason that spending should have to fall immediately other than politicians said it must happen. It’s certainly not because the bond markets think the government is in trouble: as of the time this article was written, two- and five-year US Treasuries have a yield of less than 1%. That means that investors and other nations are essentially paying the United States to keep their money safe for the next few years once inflation is factored in. 

So the market isn’t freaking out about our debt and deficits now. That’s not to say that the bond vigilantes might not come out and demand higher rates over the next few years, right? That would seem likely if it appeared that the United States’s fiscal situation was getting worse, but according to the latest report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, it seems that deficits are going to become less of a problem over the next few years:

With revenues expected to rise more rapidly than spending in the next few years under current law, the deficit is projected to dip as low as 2.4 percent of GDP by 2015. In later years, however, projected deficits rise steadily, reaching almost 4 percent of GDP in 2023. 

Essentially, this means that we don’t really need to worry about the deficit for the next decade because, as a percentage of gross domestic product, the debt will be remain roughly where it is today. In other words, compared to the economy as a whole, the debt will stay relatively the same size. To better illustrate this point, here’s a graph from the CBO report showing the debt as a percentage of gross domestic product over the last 70 years and the projected debt through the net decade:

Screen Shot 2013 02 25 at 1 47 04 PM

So what should policymakers focus on over the next decade? According to the CBO, the most pressing issue in the coming decades is going to be our aging population and the effect that will have on entitlement spending:

After 2017, if current laws remain in place, outlays will start growing again as a percentage of GDP. The aging of the population, increasing health care costs, and a significant expansion of eligibility for federal subsidies for health insurance will substantially boost spending for Social Security and for major health care programs relative to the size of the economy.

Anyone who has even a slight interest in politics knows that entitlement spending is one of the touchiest subjects in Washington and has been for decades. Any attempt by either Republicans or Democrats to make Medicare and Social Security more fiscally sound is met with hyperbolic criticism. With that said, some plans hurt recipients more than others: raising the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 67 would cost patients twice as much as it would save the government, for instance. The safest bet seems to be the fabled “balanced approach” put forward by those on the left and in the center of the political spectrum: use spending more effectively so as to minimize the pain felt by those who rely on the safety net to get by, and increase revenue via closing tax loopholes and raising the percentage of earnings subject to tax to historical levels. Back in early January, Henry J. Aaron wrote a piece for The Atlantic proposing policies that would do just that, including:

  • Boosting the payroll tax rate from 6.2 to 7 percent
  • Taxing currently-exempt cash compensation
  • Raising the cap on earnings that are exempt from the payroll tax (in 2012, payroll taxes were only applied to incomes under $110,100)
  • Reducing benefits for high earners who claim them early
  • Replace Medicare Advantage plans with a more affordable and more efficient “super-Medicare” with slightly higher premiums for those who want more benefits
  • Spending more money to police Medicare fraud
  • Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014

Any combination of these policies would have a major impact on the long-term budget while causing as little pain as possible on either those who rely on Medicare and Social Security and the tax payers paying for them. Implementing them would reduce government spending by trillions of dollars over the next several decades while preserving the safety net Americans have come to expect from their government.

Update: This article has also been syndicated over at A New Take. The edits they’ve done make it look much nicer, so go check it out!

The mainstream media treated Bush better than it does Obama

sean hannity asshole

Hey, Sean Hannity, here’s what a “lapdog” press really looks like –

Complaining about the “liberal media” has been a running, four-decade story for conservative activists. But what we’re hearing more of lately is the specific allegation that the press has purposefully laid down for the Democratic president, and that it’s all part of a master media plan to help Democrats foil Republicans.

The rolling accusation caught my attention since I wrote a book called Lapdogs, which documented the Beltway media’s chronic timidity during the previous Republican administration, and particularly with regards to the Iraq War. I found it curious that Hannity and friends are now trying to turn the rhetorical tables with a Democrat in the White House, and I was interested in what proof they had to lodge that accusation against today’s press.

It turns out the evidence is quite thin. For instance, one never-ending partisan cry has been the press has “ignored” the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last year; that they’re protecting Obama. Yet the New York Times and Washington Post have published nearly 800 articles and columns mentioning Benghazi since last September, according to Nexis.

What the lapdog allegation really seems to revolve around is the fact that conservatives are angry that Obama remains popular with the public. Rather than acknowledge that reality, partisans increasingly blame the press and insist if only reporters and pundits would tell ‘the truth’ about Obama, then voters would truly understand how he’s out to destroy liberty and freedom and capitalism.

I used to occasionally listen to a couple of minutes of Sean Hannity on my commute home from school each day. The amount of time that I could tolerate it for varied widely, but generally I would get sick of his misrepresentation of reality after three to five minutes.

I don’t understand how people can watch hours of Hannity and the other liars/idiots on Fox News day in and day out without their brains turning to mush. If you honestly believed these people, you’d think that the United States is led by Emperor Obama and his Consulates, Pelosi and Reid. Never mind the fact that Republicans have effectively brought responsible governing to a halt since 2010.

Bush got away with invading a country without good reason or declaring war. Obama gets called out on basically every misstep he takes. A shame the truth doesn’t make for a very good story.