The History of Valve Releases, A Timeline

This is something I painstakingly wrote up for a Valve opinion piece I worked on. It was originally in that column but it was way too long so I decided to pull it out and publish here for anyone who was interested.

Half-Life

  • 1998: Valve’s seminal debut is released
  • 1999: The first Half-Life expansion, Opposing Force, developed mostly by Gearbox Software is released.
  • 2000: Deathmatch Classic (now more commonly known as Half-Life: Deathmatch) is patched into the game. It is almost an exact remake of deathmatch from Quake, by id Software, but of course in Valve’s GoldSrc engine (which was in itself a heavily modified Quake engine).
  • 2001: Blue Shift, the final Half-Life expansion, is released, again mostly developed by Gearbox.
  • 2004: Half-Life 2 is released after many delays and very public set-backs.(Eurogamer)
  • 2006: HL2 Episode 1 is released.
  • 2007: HL2 Episode 2 is released as part of The Orange Box.

Now to be fair, I think this undersells Half-Life 2 and its subsequent episodes a bit. The three HL2 titles are an incredible accomplishment. It is technically part of an existing fiction and property, but almost everything about the HL2 games are wholly original, from the engine to the setting.

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The Great Gaga Experiment Part 2: The Image

In part one of this little experiment I talked about  Lady Gaga’s music after a whole day of listening to nothing but her discography. My conclusion was that her music isn’t for me, but I can definitely see why some people adore it. The biggest problem I have with it is that while it has more thematic depth than a lot of top 40 radio fodder, it’s still shallow pop with the musical range of a Nickelback. Her music is just sort of boring, with almost every song hitting the same ominous verse-anthemic chorus structure.

That said, in the current pop music landscape — a world of singles and not albums — it’s hard to really fault her for this. This is not music that’s meant to be intently listened to from end to end. You’re supposed to hear a song on your local top 40 radio station, get the hook stuck in your head and maybe head to iTunes to download it. At which point you’ll probably hear it occasionally as you put your iPod on shuffle while you work out or maybe at a club or something.

This is low impact, pop fluff and by those standards it’s nothing less than serviceable. I’d much rather listen to most tracks off of Born This Way than anything by Katy Perry or Kesha (fuck you, dollar signs aren’t letters!).

HOWEVER

Serviceable pop tunes do not make an international icon. For this you need an image; a message; a…well gimmick and Gaga has those in spades.

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E3 2011 Analysis: Nintendo and the Wii U

Yes. It’s called the Wii U.

Say what you will about the name of Nintendo’s new console, you have to admit it’s a neat piece of technology that could lead to some very interesting game designs. We haven’t seen anything particularly revolutionary yet, but in the right hands it’s easy to imagine some really unique and novel stuff.

At the same time novelty is the problem. The Wii hit it’s stride early with games like titles like Wii Sports, WarioWare Smooth Moves, Boom Blox and  Zak and Wiki  thoroughly exploring the various implementations of the Wii Remote. What seemed like a promising new avenue for design became a boon, with waggle shoehorned into places it needn’t be and an overwhelming amount of minigame collections and other novelty-based games.

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E3 2011 Analysis: Microsoft Press Conference

So the Internet hated Microsoft’s 2011 E3 press conference. Like, really hated it. NeoGaffers and games press professionals alike were fed up with the attention Microsoft gave to Kinect titles. The show opened with several high-profile third-party titles (Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect 3, Ghost Recon) and Kinect even snuck its way into a couple of those presentations.

As someone who loves video games, sure, I was disappointed. From a business perspective, however, this conference included announcements that are sheer genius and will help Microsoft continue its recent successes.

There are a  few main points I want to make here:

1. This press conference wasn’t for you

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The Great Gaga Experiment, Part 1: The Music

If you’re reading this, you know Lady Gaga isn’t exactly my scene. I’m a curious fella, however, and seeing as how she has officially transcended the title of phenomenon and become a mammoth pop-institution, I figured the release of her sophomore album, Born This Way, made for a pretty good opportunity to try and wrap my head around her popularity.

I spent the better part of a day listening to her discography, reading about her and digging through the annals of pop history in an attempt to get a grasp on what has made her so popular and to form a valid, informed opinion of my own. I’ve split my findings into two parts, starting here with the music.

Let’s do it:

The Music

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News Analysis: Activision and the Conference Call of Doom or Predictamajig: Activision, Take-Two and Call of Duty

ACtivision

Activision-Blizzard is all over the news as of late, what with the conference call of doom that announced the (for now) death of their music game business and the recent closure of Bizarre Creations. The biggest news is that Activision is currently rumored to be looking into an acquisition of Take-Two, the current owner of 2K Games, Rockstar and their respective properties.

The disbanding of the music game business unit and the cancellation of True Crime: Hong Kong, which by all accounts was relatively far along in development and turning out not that badly, came swiftly and without warning. These are only the latest examples of something we knew about the mega-publisher all along: Activision is entirely unafraid of putting down financially declining franchises and studios.

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