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Here’s a Letter I Wrote To BioWare

I enjoy so much of Star Wars: The Old Republic that it almost physically hurt me to quit playing it, there are just so many cool things and ideas in this game.  But I just couldn’t take the dragging game play and the clearly, at this point, draconian shell of MMORPGs that it kind of shut itself into.  I wanted to make sure that BioWare, the developers of SWTOR, knew that I was concerned about their first foray into the MMORPG market.

When confronted with the questions asking me why I was quitting The Old Republic, I had to enter Other/Other because the problems I had with this title were so far reaching that they really didn’t have a valid category in the drop downs.  What happened afterward was basically a brain dump of the biggest, glaring issues I had with SWTOR, a game that could have easily been so much better.  And here it is in full:

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I feel that there are many flaws to this game that stem from the predisposed requirements of traditional MMORPGs that this game could easily transcend and still allow to be marketable, profitable and allow players to keep coming back for more.  I have not leveled a character to maximum because, as fun as the story is to play and as fun as it is to keep building my character as an actual character and not just controlling it as a puppeteer does to a marionette it is an absolute slog to get to the parts that make my character matter.  If you were to reduce the experience requirements to get to maximum level by at least 10% across the board past 20 I believe this would make the game a bit more streamlined and allow the player to change environments more frequently and reduce the diminishing returns one feels by being on Tatooine for five hours, or even Hoth for longer.
The second issue I feel that really drags this title down from its full potential is the combat.  BioWare has made so many strides in this industry, be it the interlocking stories between games you’re famous for, or even switching up combat and trying new things with each new title, some things less successful than others, it seems odd to me that you’d keep in the trappings of EverQuest, a nearly 13 year old game.  Combat is boring button mashing that isn’t made any better by the simultaneous competing with the ideologies and paradigms of the much more subscribed to World of Warcraft.  And I mean this by no offense, but you’re innovators in the world of gaming.  Able to craft fine stories and gameplay to boot.  Wouldn’t it have been better to figure out a way to maybe make your skills more reactive?  Or more action oriented in the vein of Mass Effect 2?  Or just somehow different from every other MMO out there?  I’m not saying it’s possible, or even probable, to fix this glaring issue, but my character grows, both in personality and in skill, but the gameplay does not reflect this.  All you are doing is sending us more monsters with more HP that do the same things.  If any company could do it, BioWare is the company that can make combat in an MMO interesting, if at least a bit more like a combination between Aion and TERA.
There are so many things in this game that I absolutely adore.  I love the companion system.  I love the settings and the freedom I have with my character.  I love that socializing matters.  I am really impressed with what you have done.  But the pacing for the grind has to be improved, as the leveling is not at all the point of an MMO.  A player should be able to do their class quests alone and get through a planet easily, that should be the pace to set, the other stuff should be lumped with the [BONUS] strings of quests that come at the end of planets, after your character has made a name for themselves.  I, and I feel that many others, aren’t playing the game to run around for random people, but for the chance to play their characters, and there is very little character building to be had in these non-class quests from my experience.  Sure there might be some Dark or Light Side points or what-have-you, but that really isn’t something that ultimately matters, since you can get those later in the game doing the end game Operations and Flashpoints, or you should if that isn’t already an option.
Perhaps if things get ironed out, I will return to this game, because it fascinates me, and my character was my own creation that had a life of its own.  But it feels that the developers did not do any forward thinking enough in the gameplay aspects.  I look forward to future news and additions you will be coming up with for this title.

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Generational

I’ve been playing Sonic Generations almost nonstop since I rented it on Thursday.  And it’s pretty awesome, all things considered.  Also, I am almost completely done with it.  So I’m pretty glad I didn’t pay 40 dollars for it, otherwise I might have been a little peeved.  Nevertheless, it’s the most fun I’ve had for a long time, and it’s pretty much the reason why I didn’t update earlier, but I have a self-imposed deadline, one article every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

So, unfortunately for you, I have to adhere to that.

But I’ve noticed a few things for the first time that I should have realized probably more than a decade ago, the most jarring of which is that those little dinging sounds that happen randomly when you’re underwater are submarine sonar radar noises.  I know!  You’re probably like, of course, what else would it be?  I didn’t know until, like, yesterday.  Mostly because I wouldn’t guess why it was happening because there was no submarine and there was nothing indicating such qualities.  Yeah, leave me alone.  It was dumb that I didn’t know, but now I do, so shut up.

Another thing of less import is that Chemical Plant Zone has some sexy, sexy music.  I always preferred Emerald Hill Zone when I was younger, but now that I’m more aware of musically inclined stuff, there’s a lot going on there, especially for that ridiculous little Sega sound chip.  I mean, this isn’t saying Emerald Hill sucks now, or anything, but I like all the little nuances of Chemical Plant and it’s awesome.  The remixed versions of it in Generations aren’t half bad, either.  But, like with so many other things, the original is far more impressive for multiple reasons.

I also realized that I don’t give a shit about any of the Sonic the Hedgehog games released after Sonic Adventure, mostly because they are garbage.  I don’t think I’ve played any of the non-handheld ones since Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, and that thing is a steaming hunk of trash.  Really, for the A Emblem I can’t hit anything in my terribly controllable go kart?  Thanks, Sonic Team!  Real stand up gents you are!  Go rape a Chao.

So there are some things I noticed.  Maybe there might be more, I don’t know, but I figured this was at least something to put up, at least.  And if you don’t like it?

Tough.


Minus der Bär

So, I got to thinking today, if I were to compile my fourteen favorite Minus the Bear tracks onto a ‘Best of…’ type playlist, what would I include?  Can I possibly pare down so much good work into such a small, compact form?  Especially if you consider how fucking wonderful and lifechanging all the tracks on Highly Refined Pirates are for me, not to mention the technically amazing albums that Menos el Oso and They Make Beer Commercials Like This turned out to be?  And that’s even ignoring the latest two records, Planet of Ice and OMNI which, while not a personal watermark or best happened to churn out a few gems and their debut EP, This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic, which sets the blueprint for all subsequent releases, and the odd track here and there, notably the single new track from Acoustics, the Planet of Ice and OMNI B-Sides and the two instrumental filler tracks from Bands Like It When You Yell “Yar!” At Them, it comes out to being just under 100 tracks, if I can remember it all like I think I can.  So is it possible for me to compress this to twelve items?

I’ll certainly make the attempt, and any entries will probably be in chronological order.

Hey, Wanna Throw Up?  Get Me Naked obviously goes in as the first track, most notably because the tapping is prominent and, as previously stated, it sets the groundwork for any following songs, especially from the first half of their career.  Also the lyrics about drinking and hanging out, because that’s what almost all of Minus the Bear’s songs are about.  But no one cares about lyrics, anyway, so whatever.

Pantsuit… Uggghhh should probably come after, mostly because it’s got the same qualities, but brightens things up for anything that might come from Highly Refined Pirates.  I’ve always enjoyed the overall feel of this song, and I probably wouldn’t be able to explain it because I’m bad at explaining things.

Skipping anything from “Yar!” because anything new is really just three and a half minutes of electronic filler, I’d probably jump right over to Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse, it’s the first song I ever heard from these guys, it’s the song that made me pick up a guitar, it’s the song that made me change the way I think about music, and instruments, and anything that deals with notes of sorts.  So it’s kind of important.  And it’s a great song to boot.  So, obvious choice.

We Are Not A Football Team follows, but I’m not sure if I want to go with this one or the more soft acoustic version.  I’d probably go with the latter, but only to mix things up a bit from the pretty dominant electric guitar that has been front and center up to this point.

Closing out our selections from Pirates, we’ll come to Andy Wolff, an instrumental piece, again, just to mix things up a bit.  Not to mention that I like how it sounds and I think it’d open us back up to the more noisy material from Beer Commercials, since that’s where we’re heading next.

Fine +2 Pts goes in just because of the driving rhythm.  And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to put up with it.  QED.

I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s Alien will bring us down to Earth for the more melancholy and serious feeling of Menos el Oso.  I’ve always found that it’s always important to follow a mood, regardless of what kind of release an album is getting.  Be it a mixtape, or an anthology of some kind, you want things to follow a groove, simply because it kind of connects the entirety of someone’s body of work.

We’ll skip right to The Fix.  Their expertly execution of samples and looping is very important to the sound of their music from here on out, and since this is featured prominently in this track, especially at the chorus, makes this a seriously important track to place on a best of list.  Plus, you need your requisite song about banging in a hot tub on any album.  It’s in the rules.

Next is the widely accepted song Pachuca Sunrise.  It needs to go on here.  It’s the centerpiece to Menos el Oso and probably one of their best known songs.

And I have a special kind of love for This Ain’t A Surfin’ Movie.  I love the lyrics, I love the surf rock feel of the track, the wind down, all of it.  It has to go on here or I will commit seppuku.

Interpretaciones Del Oso is garbage, so we’ll just ignore it to head to Planet of Ice.

I don’t really care for this album as a whole, but I think we’ll go with the LP version of Ice Monster, mostly because I think the melody based lead part gels really nicely with the ending of Movie.  And I’ll go with the acoustic version of Throwin’ Shapes just to shake things up a bit.  These are really the only tracks on this album that I care for.  So I’ll leave it at that and we can head to OMNI.

I think I really stopped going absolutely insane over Minus the Bear when they started getting overly serious about everything, somewhere between Menos and Planet they lost some of that playfulness, and it’s really reflected in the work they’ve done since.  At least it seems obvious to me.  But I still care about them in a way that I haven’t really given a damn about a band before, mostly because they changed my life by such a huge degree.  But OMNI has some of that playfulness coming back through.  And I only have room for two more theoretical songs.  So this might be a hard choice.  Or it might not be.  It depends on if you go for the better known songs, or the ones that I actually like.

For the former, which might sell more albums, you’d clearly go My Time and Into The Mirror.  My Time is notably for the Omnichord which is where the LP gets its name from.  Who knows if it will never come back into the mix or if it’s just a one-off instrument for novelty.  Into The Mirror was the lead single from the album, so it makes sense that it might be better known and, therefore, a better thing to put on this record.

But fuck that, this is all theoretical.  I choose, instead, Summer Angel, mostly for its brightness and the return of their recently lost playful attitude.  And Hold Me Down for the positive and energetic feel about it.  A high note to end on, as it were.

I think this would be decent and I might do a test pressing to see if it all works together cohesively before I consider it sheer brilliance in the realm of shitty compilation records that get chucked out all the time.

I doubt anyone but me cares, though.  And that’s okay.  Because I don’t expect everyone to agree with me all the time, or to even care about every topic of conversation I choose to expand upon.

But I hope that this is only the beginning of a magnificent run of great music from this five-piece.  And I wish them another wonderful ten years to come.