Discovering Qualms

I have been accused of hate-watching Star Trek Discovery, and as much as I’d like to deny it that’s probably accurate. I love the actors and the clear skill of so much of the cast and crew. I can’t stand the writing and the narrative choices, especially in the last two episodes, and I cannot abide the clear breaks in canon. I’ve been having trouble with accepting that clearly since so many people disagree with me that the things I can’t stand aren’t broken but are just signs that this just isn’t for me, and that the fact that STD isn’t for me doesn’t invalidate anything else about Star Trek or “ruining my childhood” as it goes. And then there’s today.

I guess the argument “What I don’t like about discovery doesn’t damage what I like about other Star Treks” just died horribly.

The timing of this stinks of CBS trying to add more subscribers by launching this along side the next season of STD, seeing as the DS9 expansion Victory is Life is less than two months old and was only just released on consoles two days ago. We’ve had far less new content with the new expansion compared to others, but that ignores all the hard work the STO team did revamping existing content for the expansion. I’m still not happy about it, but this announcement is also thanks to a leak. This was supposed to be announced at the next big Star Trek convention, and while that might have only been another week away, it still would’ve made it a different week than the console launch of Victory is Life. My biggest issue with it is definitely that there was a crunch for the VIL PC release, with several aspects of the DS9 model & map revamp not guaranteed to launch if they weren’t finished on time. All I can think is if CBS didn’t want this Discovery content while the show was “airing” then the STO team could’ve taken their time with the DS9 sets and not had to worry about “If Ops isn’t finished in time we’ll just have to not put it in.”

So, aside from crowding freshly-released content and potentially making the dev team’s schedules unpleasant, why must I care (especially negatively) that this content is being added to the game? To me Discovery just doesn’t mesh with anything around it in a way that wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if it was its own universe AS IT SHOULD BE versus something that “definitely happened in the same timeline as the original series and the other shows.” I think that would fix almost everything I don’t like about the show (the Klingons bowing to a new ruler who will detonate the planet otherwise still doesn’t compute, but whatevs). It gives the freedom to change both the Federation and the Klingon’s cultural designs because they don’t have to line up with anything else. Starfleet’s court martials looking more like courts on Cardassia or in the Klingon Empire could also be explained away easier. I think you’d still have trouble getting all of Starfleet to agree that going Death Star on Qo’nos would be plausible, but getting ONE admiral to decide it’s a good idea isn’t hard.

Fucking hell, I just realized why “The Battle of the Binary Stars” bothers me so much as a title in-universe… BECAUSE ABOUT 85% OF STAR SYSTEMS HAVE TWO OR MORE STARS. Jesus Fucking Christ. Also this is a great example of what I don’t like about Discovery, where established science and canon are ignored because they think something is cool. And that is EXACTLY the vibe I got from the season 2 trailer. I feel I can definitely argue that some of these things are not okay and need to be course-corrected, and therefore the writing may not be objectively bad as I feel, but it’s definitely screwing up in at least a few places.

The biggest strength of Star Trek Online has always been tying everything together. And I would describe this as the biggest weakness of the STD team (not within their own story, but to the greater whole). This honestly means that the STD content for Star Trek Online will probably be the best Discovery content that will ever exist in my book, but I’m worried about how much of the STD team’s work they will have to use and how they will have to incorporate said work into the greater whole. It’s like trying to reconcile George Lucas’s fifth and final version of the Original Star Wars Trilogy with their theatrical releases #hanshotfirst. I look forward to seeing what the STO team does, but I’m worried what CBS and the STD team might have forced upon them.



[no content]

In lieu of something of substance, here’s a bunch of Star Trek Online screenshots. Meara is teething/not sleeping so I really can’t handle anything requiring more thought.

Also, since their 30-year history of events between Star Trek Nemesis and the beginning of the game is no longer in an easy-to-digest format, here’s a PDF of History 102 – The Path to 2409, stylized as an in-universe Starfleet Academy file. It’s LARGE.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kotaku’s Assassin’s Creed III’s Final Chase Sequence Was The Worst Thing I Played All Year

I came across this article on Kotaku and wanted to share it with friends and family who haven’t had a chance to finish the game yet, so I’m reposting it here with spoilers and images removed. To see the original article click on these links. The article sums up my feelings almost perfectly about a stretch of gameplay that takes two minutes to successfully complete that I spent over an hour on. All my changes are obvious.

Assassin’s Creed III’s Final Chase Sequence Was The Worst Thing I Played All Year

As I leapt into the fire, dying for the 28th time, I didn’t feel anger or frustration; I felt resignation and a little bit of wonder. How, I asked aloud, to no one in particular. How on earth does something this awful wind up in a big-budget video game in the year 2012?

I was playing through the final chase sequence of Assassin’s Creed III, wherein the protagonist chases a man across the dockyards of Boston. Trying and failing, again, and again, and again, forever and ever, amen.

Really, it’s just the final leg of a chase sequence of sorts that’s been going on for what feels like the back half of the game. I lost count of the number of times Connor grunted, “I need to find [enemy character]” at someone, usually upon arriving somewhere [said character] wasn’t.

Eventually my search led me to a tavern in Boston, yet another place where [said character] wasn’t. But there was a guy there at a table, and some light torture later, he told me [said character] could be found at the docks. So, I go to the docks, and there he is, ready to run away. And we arrive at the worst video game sequence of 2012.

My discussion of it here is not intended as a walkthrough. It’s at best a post-mortem, an attempt to slowly drive back past the car wreck, stare down the wreckage and attempt to attain some sort of closure. With the hope, however futile, that the healing can begin.

As with many missions in Assassin’s Creed III, this one begins with a guy moving away from you with a glowing marker on his back.

[Image removed]

Chase him! the game instructs. Okay, you think. So you begin to chase him, and three seconds later this happens:

[Animated GIF of barrel exploding immediately in your path removed]

These explosive barrels just sort of happen to explode in your face, sending you flying backward, arms pinwheeling, lurching away from your target.

1) Why did the barrels explode?

2) No, seriously. Why did the barrels explode? Did someone make them explode? What happened? Why? {Rob’s note: on maybe the tenth playthrough I noticed someone on the side shooting the barrels to fuck you up.}

The upshot is that the chase begins with what amounts to a giant middle finger right in your face. Something of a sign of things to come, as it turns out. You think you’re gonna chase this guy? The game says. Fuck you, you are. First, we’re going to slow you the heck down, buddy!

If you don’t fall down and fail the chase right there (Again: This happens like three seconds in), you then have to get around these guys:

[Image of two soldiers blocking your path removed]

And it’s much harder than it looks! You’ll have to slip around to the side, but don’t cut back too quickly or this will happen:

[Image removed of DESYNCHRONIZED: Target lost]

You’ll get knocked down and fail the chase. Okay, so, now the game has put two obstacles in your way in a matter of seconds, either of which can make you fail, and neither of which is particularly easy to dodge. I played this sequence around 30 times (or more, it kind of all became a blur). Each time something different would happen.

That can be a good thing, right? This game is unpredictable! No. That’s not what’s going on here. The controls are just inconsistent and dodgy as hell. So the only inconsistency is that I have no earthly idea what Connor’s going to try to do this time.

Alright, so, you get pretty good at slowing down before the barrels explode and going to the right to get around the first dudes, and then you hit these dudes:

[Image of an entire line of soldiers blocking the end of the pier removed]

Who are easier to dodge, you just have to go to the left and run alongside the water.

And that’s when you notice that the game has given you two optional objectives: Stay within a certain distance of [enemy chararacter], and don’t shove anyone. DON’T SHOVE ANYONE.

It’s easy enough to ignore these objectives, but when you do, you get a big flaming chunk of red text and an “X” on the screen to tell you, you know, that on your 26th try of this godforsaken travesty of a mission you’ve fallen short of the lofty goals the game has set for you. Oh, you will not be getting 100% synchronization! Nope! Because you shoved a guy in a high-speed chase.


Alright so back on track. You’ll play this part of the chase a couple of dozen times at least, so you’ll get pretty good at it. I actually got good even at not shoving people. But believe it or not, this 100-yard stretch of hell is not even the worst part of the chase. Now comes the second part, the burning boat.

[Image removed]

You’ll run into the boat to see [enemy character] standing still and waiting for you, which is just insulting on so many levels: The game is rubber-banding you, there is no way to catch [said character] before this point or after it, you’re basically running through a totally scripted cutscene. It’s a movie in which the director hasn’t told you where to go.

So now, you’ll run forward and in the grand tradition of annoying-ass video game chases, the fire causes a pathway to become blocked just after [enemy character] passes through it:

So you’ll probably die here once or twice before figuring out that you have to go up and around. Then, you’ll get to the end of the ship and you will encounter a moment I have come to think of as THE ENTIRE PROBLEM.

It looks like this:

[Image removed showing area Connor needs to go through that looks impassable]

It’s another moment when the roof collapses right after [enemy character] passes under it. You’re thinking, based on what you did when the exact same thing happened five seconds ago, that your answer lies in turning to the left, jumping across the fire, and following [said character]. Who you can see heading that direction anyway.

And so, bless your heart, you will try doing this. Again and again, you’ll try. And you will fail, again and again.

Here, watch me fail, a lot:

Yes, those are all separate attempts—I just started recording myself after about my tenth time through. The video makes its point in the first minute or so, but if you’d like to share my pain all the way through, be my guest!

So okay, as you’ve gleaned from the final part of the video above, you actually are NOT supposed to turn away from the roof that fell, you’re supposed to go through it. I was stymied by this so hard that after an hour of trying, I fell into that black hole of existential despair that only video games muster. You know the one, where you have a timed sequence that you must beat, and yet you know that there is a certain point past which you will have no idea how to proceed.

It isn’t that you know what must be done and lack the skill, you likely have no idea what to do. And you run straight into it the fire, and every time you fail, and you knew that you were going to fail, because you had no idea how to proceed when you started. It becomes a special sort of hell, and you begin to have real thoughts about life, and death, and the passage of time.

And then eventually you crack and do what I did: You turn to YouTube, and you find a guy who has finished the game and you watch him. And then you play through the rest of the hateful sequence and are rid of it forever.

Many things in Assassin’s Creed III feel thrown-together, but this chase, those five minutes of gameplay that somehow stretched into hours, stands apart. It feels as though it was thrown into the game at the 11th hour with no playtesting or second thought.

Of course, some of you will have sailed through this sequence on the very first try. And to you I say, with no ill will: Well done. Good show. We’re all very impressed. (Okay, maybe with a little bit of ill will.) But given how many people I’ve heard talking about this mission elsewhere, I have a strong suspicion I’m not the only one who had this much trouble with it.

Yes, the rage will fade; the frustration with this chase and the rest of the game’s interminable, unsatisfying ending will evaporate. And yet this document will stand as evidence that a multi-million dollar video game can still contain moments so truly awful that all you can do is sit, gobsmacked, staring at your television and shaking your head.

The “Death” of Console Gaming

Slashdot was kind enough to point me at this piece from Wired that proclaims dedicated gaming devices are obsolete. The funniest part of that to me is not thinking how often I see people claim that PC gaming or the PC itself is dead, but that I would actually be very happy to see consoles disappear. Quite frankly, PCs can use keyboard & mouse or controllers, and consoles have rarely embraced the keyboard & mouse.

When I was in grade school way the fuck back in the early 90s, I had two ways I could play video games. I had an old DOS computer, followed by Macs, and I had a Super NES. I’d had my copy of Mega Man X loaned to someone who either lost it or decided they weren’t going to return it, and it had been my favorite Mega Man game (and the only one I owned). Buying used games was not something on my radar, so I had no idea how to possibly get a copy until emulation popped up. Once I got it emulated, I was ecstatic until I started trying to play it. If you’ve ever tried playing Mega Man with a keyboard then you fully understand my pain. Here was a game I cherished for years rendered nearly unplayable by the input device I was trying to use. I bought a gamepad the first chance I got, and everything was golden. Several years later I was leafing through the manual to Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII for PS2 and discovered it supported Keyboard & Mouse. I had a blast at that game, which got terrible reviews mainly for it’s gamepad controls that worked very poorly for a shooter.

Let’s now move ahead to four years ago. It’s the current console generation, and I have just purchased an XBox 360 to add to my collection that now included a Wii and the shiny original PS3. I had also just been forced by finances and World of Warcraft’s system requirements to switch from my college PowerBook G4 laptop to a Windows 7 desktop machine. A good friend instantly demanded I play Portal now that I had a PC, and it took a disturbing amount of time for me to listen to him. I now have a rule he is clearly aware of; If he recommends me a game, I must play it. The next game on his list was Assassin’s Creed. I started trying to play Assassin’s Creed 2 (I was told to skip 1 in hopes the refined gameplay of 2 would sink its teeth into me faster, it did) with the keyboard and mouse, as it had been years before USB that I had bought a gamepad. I very quickly stopped, installed drivers for my PS3 controllers, and started again. Assassin’s Creed was the first game series I encountered in a while that is best with a game pad. And even if I hadn’t used random drivers to use my preferred PS3 controller , most games these days are designed to work with a 360 controller with little to no effort.

These days I find myself doing almost no gaming in the living room. My Wii has not been used in ages. The 360 is used mainly to watch shows from Geek and Sundry on YouTube. The PS3 by far gets the most use, but as a Blu-Ray/streaming media player. Despite owning every Nintendo and Sony console to date, I find that I am a PC gamer. I have no intention of buying the Wii U, or any other console. Quite frankly, I’m an adult, and I can’t afford to keep my PC hardware completely up to date, let alone buy every new console that comes out just so I can play the latest Mario or Metal Gear games. To my horror, I actually strongly dislike motion controls and wish they were optional. The last console game I bought was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I own every console Zelda game and have enjoyed them all (except Zelda II, that was kinda lame), but I haven’t really been able to play Skyward Sword because my dog thinks I’m trying to play with her. The last console game I played? Rockband 3. Consoles still have the local multiplayer advantage, but even that is out of date.

The downside of being a PC gamer is the industry’s obsession with piracy and its supposed impact on their business. To this end we are subjected to crazy DRM and delayed release dates. Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham City are perfect examples of this. For the past 30 months both Arkham City and the latest 2 Assassin’s Creed games have had huge ad campaigns with set release dates only to have their PC release dates moved quietly. I didn’t know Arkham City was delayed for PC until I couldn’t install it on the supposed launch day. Searching for the answer led me to the knowledge that Assassin’s Creed Revelations was also delayed. The reasons given for this were that vast majority of game sales are right away, and while I could download Assassin’s Creed 3 for XBox right now if I wanted to, it’s much harder to pirate games on a console than on a PC, so console piracy isn’t something they care about. PC piracy is supposedly too easy so they push those release dates back enough that they aren’t available pirated before the launch date on consoles, thus supposedly ensuring they lose less sales to easy piracy. It’s a dick move, and it’s not going to work. Hell, I had to use a pirate crack to get a store-bought copy of Dragon Age II to work, just because I lived on the east coast, and it was time-locked until midnight pacific to deter piracy. Considering pirates had been playing the game for a week, it didn’t work very well. I can’t remember the last time I virus-scanned something three times. The real best way to get rid of piracy is to get rid of the physical media so no one can make illegal copies before release. That’ll work way better than anything else in practice today.

Whether or not Console Gaming is dead doesn’t really matter, because it’s dead to me. I would love it if the industry agreed with me so I don’t miss out on any games though. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hide in a hole in the ground with no internet for 3 weeks so nobody can spoil Assassin’s Creed 3 for me. Fuck you Ubisoft.