Last week, when every blog took the opportunity to regurgitate a rancid, reeking mess of the year’s “best” every Goddamned day, I wondered why we weren’t partaking in this ritual. Those articles were barely worth reading the first time, and now they’re shambling back, blind and grasping, like some headless groundskeeper? That seems like a strong play, and preferable to actual work. So, here they are: the most incisive, most poignant assertions made by the site in two-thousand and nine. If you don’t remember them, maybe you were drunk. As you so often are.
I’m as excited about the games coming out in the first quarter as I was about anything that emerged over the holiday proper; for whatever reason, the things I crave most seemed to collect at the end, as though in the tubes of a centrifuge. It is densely packed with juicy seeds, arranged by nature in a mathematically optimal fashion. The first morsels have already begun to peek out - for us, Bayonetta ranks high. I was asked a couple weeks ago if I’d be willing to advertise it, and I said yes perhaps seven times in rapid succession. It was an easy call - we rarely have the chance to see a game in its final state before making a decision like this, and it was a true luxury. Mass Effect is also fast approaching. I even think about it sometimes, this Mass Effect, whenever my obsession with Heavy Rain allows me to do so.
The message Sony has endeavored to project regarding MAG - that there are lots of players - isn’t especially compelling to me. Having more players doesn’t make a game more “fun” according to some Kabbalistic schema, and you’d think we wouldn’t have to start the discussion at such an elemental level, but there you have it. Games with lots of players might be new on consoles, but they’re not new to anyone who has owned a computer for the last decade. Designing for that many players is like trying to make a house out of yogurt. It’s a dangerous business, and moist.
What Modern Warfare 2 borrowed from role-playing games was Progression, which it leverages expertly. The rest of it is largely stateless: you’re free to pick and choose “who” you want to be each spawn, and perked correctly you can even make such choices in real-time. MAG takes the metaphor more seriously, internalizes it, with characters and factions and progression inherent to a given persona. I loved Planetside, but couldn’t bring myself to pay for it, let alone convince my cohort to do the same. I still think about my time there, behind the rudder of a massive Galaxy Dropship. What you see in the MAG interface is a game with tremendous granularity, hooked into a metaconflict. It’s a model I already like.
It’s now in open beta, ostensibly at any rate, and though I’ve manipulated these intriguing, tasteful menus I’ve never been able to penetrate the game proper. I’ve tried to get in three or four times already today, and was rebuffed at every turn - buffed and then buffed again, to a healthy shine. I’d love to tell you more about it. Maybe you’ll have better luck.