F*cking product placement… How does that work?

November 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Not like this. (Note: last time I use this meme. Promise.)

Seriously, I could probably do a whole blog on poor product placement.

Offenders: Microsoft and How I Met Your Mother.

CrunchGear very much hits the nail on the head here. But, in essence:





For shame, Microsoft, and the producers of HIMYM, for even believing for one second that this would fly.

If this is how far down the show has sunk, I think I’m pretty much done with it. I mean, jeez, even I, Robot wasn’t this bad (though it was also terrible):

Product placement isn’t evil, but as soon as it becomes obvious, it has failed. As soon as people get wind of it, they turn against the product. When done badly, it’s incredibly lame.

Is that really the response you want the consumer to associate with your brand?


Whiteboard girl “hoaxed” the Internet hard, apparently

August 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

A bit of reporting from the BBC about the whiteboard girl stunt which turned out to be fake.

As soon as I read this story I felt it missed the point. What’s important wasn’t whether the stunt was true or not; it was funny. Arguably, it was the news outlets that got duped, reporting this nonsense obviously without doing any kind of basic fact checking. The Internet? Was the Internet “duped”? The Internet doesn’t care. And amusingly, The Chive understood this. “Jenny” resurfaced Wednesday, infamous whiteboard in hand, with her last words:

Ultimately the article elucidates two points, both pretty unfortunate for mainstream journalism:

  1. Some mainstream media outlets, who actually have the resources and manpower to professionally cover all sorts of news stories, sometimes have worse journalistic standards than the average Internet blog run by a community of voluntary writers; and that
  2. The mainstream media, even the BBC, still don’t have a real understanding of the Internet or its culture.

(A big thank you to the reddit community; I’m glad I wasn’t alone in thinking this.)

"You know, not every game needs a RPG levelling mechanic"

January 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

Castle Crashers is a game I’ve been dipping in and out between more heavy-weight titles such as Borderlands or Halo 3: ODST. While it has a fantastic presentation and a lot of content, it doesn’t come across to me as that great a brawler, and here’s why:

  1. AI enemies can continually hit you while you’re incapacitated on the ground (cheap and irritating design).
  2. RPG stats levelling dictate, to a good extent, how fast you progress through the game.

Recently, it seems that you can’t find a game that doesn’t have some form of RPG levelling mechanic in place. In many games they are well implemented and compliment the core design, adding a layer of superficial depth and giving the player incentive to progress. Batman: Arkham Asylum, incidentally, does it pretty well.

Unfortunately, sometimes the shoe just doesn’t fit, and here we come to Castle Crashers.

The problem with Castle Crashers is that you are forced to grind and repeat levels over and over so you can progress through to the next one. Now, if the combat was as well designed to allow a player to win purely through skill, this wouldn’t be an issue. As it happens, it’s not. Because your attack and defense stats are directly tied to the levelling system, you just aren’t going to get very far on skill alone, unless you are also very, very lucky.

Another perpetrator of this kind of design philosophy was Dead Rising, which used roughly the same system. Again, all it meant was that the player had to replay sections of the game over and over, just so they could get their stats up to a certain level where they could get through.

Now, I’m sorry, but at what point did playing the same part of a game over and over equate to fun? I must have missed the memo or something.

Castle Crashers would have done far better not having stats levelling in there. It would have been a better game for it if all enemy stats were balanced against the player’s in a fair and even-handed way. If they felt they just had to have some manner of RPG-style progression in there somewhere, it could just be that for every level you gain you unlock a new combo – something ancillary like that, something that doesn’t totally unbalance the game and arbitrarily prevent the player from advancing.

Overall, Castle Crashers is a game I’d recommend, in spite of the flaws I’ve just outlined, because of its “charm”, in the way it references and pays homage to the genre. Purely as a brawler, though, in terms of the combat mechanics, it is merely competent and not much more.

'Left 4 Dead' Survival Pack PC Impressions

April 23, 2009 § Leave a comment

Valve released the much-anticipated Survival Pack DLC for Left 4 Dead this Tuesday. Included were two Versus maps (Death Toll and Dead Air) and a new game mode called Survival, which comes with its own exclusive map, The Last Stand. Also included were some bug fixes and gameplay changes.

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Television Recommendations — 02/04/09

April 2, 2009 § 2 Comments

Two recommendations today: ‘The Wire‘ and ‘Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe‘.

UK residents are in for a treat lately with two excellent pieces of television; unfortunately, both are on quite late. The BBC seems to think people will bother to catch The Wire at 11:20pm on a weekday, and that’s their call. If I were a working man – which I’m not at the moment, but if I were – I doubt I’d stay up to watch it. Adding insult to injury, it seems that they haven’t got the digital broadcast rights for the programme, so you can’t catch it on iPlayer either. Well done, the BBC, you’ve just gone and shot yourself in the foot again. At first, I was pretty excited to hear that The Wire would be coming to UK television screens, but I’m not going to watch it like this. Luckily, if you know where to look, the internet can provide every episode of the critically-acclaimed series for free and whenever it’s convenient for you.

Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe is on at a better time (10:30pm every Wednesday) and, fortunately, you can catch up with episodes on iPlayer. It’s also on BBC4, so I don’t know how much advertising coverage it’s getting – but probably not a lot. So here I am, pimping it out. It’s funny that the one word that comes to mind when thinking of Charlie Brooker is ‘genius’ – and he’d probably give me a clip round the ear and humorously berate me for saying that. Charlie Brooker isn’t a genius, but he is a very smart and funny guy.

He has around half an hour in his programme, and he dedicates it solely to satirically mocking and analysing the British media. The show surprises me every time by just how good it is at both informing and entertaining. For a start, it’s amazing just how much he covers within that 30 minutes of screen time; there is almost no fluff or padding in the programme (apart from the poetry reading in episode one, which was kind of shit). Added to that, is that everything he says or remarks upon is so absolutely correct – almost all the time. He is consistently spot-on on a regular basis, and he communicates so well to the audience, not with pretension or with condescension, but simply by talking clearly and with common sense. And then there’s his sense of humour, which is a mix between piss and fart jokes and sarcasm — but it’s funny sarcasm. The man, quite simply, is a brilliant satirist.

So, this is good news for people who still watch television. For everybody else with a good internet connection, it won’t really register a blip. Since almost all terrestrial channels have catch-ups through their respective online services, and since most popular television series are readily available via torrents and streaming websites, this blog update is almost obsolete — because, why watch television nowadays when you can download programmes quickly, for free, at decent quality, with no adverts, at your convenience and, sometimes, only a day after they’re first aired on American channels?

Television is becoming obsolete, if it isn’t already so. And the television licencing in this country really needs revamping because, frankly, the system they’ve got going is archaic, and it doesn’t really account properly for those downloading programmes using the internet. This is from the TV licencing website:

You must be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV. It makes no difference what equipment you use – whether it’s a laptop, PC, mobile phone, digital box, DVD recorder or a TV set – you still need a licence.

You do not need a TV Licence to view video clips on the internet, as long as what you are viewing is not being shown on TV at the same time as you are viewing it [emphasis added].

Basically, this means I can watch any programme I want, which has been shown on British television, as long as I’m not watching it as it’s being broadcast. This means that you can watch everything on iPlayer (or 4oD) if it’s after the programme has been originally aired.

It’s not that I want to be charged money to watch iPlayer or 4oD or whatever, but, in theory, I can watch almost all of the programmes the BBC aires without contributing tax-wise. And, hey! It’s a great deal for me, but it doesn’t make it very fair now, does it?

Anyway, I’ve kind of gone and hijacked my own train of thought here. I’ll just finish up by saying that The Wire and Newswipe are fantastic programmes, and they deserved to be watched (on whatever equipment you watch television on).

The 'In My Opinion' Defense

January 25, 2009 § 1 Comment

Having just watched the film Amadeus (which I would recommend anyone see) I decided to check out the imdb entry for trivia to see if anyone else had anything interesting to say about the film. While I was doing this I caught this petty exchange in the forum:

Oh God, operas *sigh*
by morbius82000 (Wed Apr 23 2008 13:23:23)

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The most pretentious and boring of musical art forms. The operas they chose weren’t very interesting either. Too bad they couldn’t have focused more on his symphonies or piano works.

Re: Oh God, operas *sigh*
by Suzume-san (Thu Apr 24 2008 06:51:11)

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It might be nice if you prefaced your remarks about opera with an ‘in my opinion’, Morbius. One or two of us here rather like it.

You wouldn’t believe how often I hear this being said, usaully at me for expressing some kind of assertion or belief on a topic of interest; and every time I do hear it I become a little more annoyed for the next time someone boldly flings this tautology at me.

Is it really necessary to preface every opinion we make with an ‘In my opinion’? Are we really that afraid of another’s perspective challenging our world-view that we encourage them to recognise the irrelevence of their opinion before they even advance it? If I were to make a comment similar to the OP’s example above for someone to come back to me saying something in the way of “that’s just your opinion” I would respond “Yes! Of course it is my opinion, whose other opinion could I possibly be qualified in expressing other than my own!”

And this leads me onto my second point: using “in my opinion” as a defense against all potential criticism. On the other hand of the spectrum you see, especially in forums, that people will frequently use the ‘In My Opinion’ defense to safeguard their own opinion against all possible attack. The idea goes: if I point out my assertion is subjective then no one can criticise me because I have already advanced that this opinion has no claim to an objective truth, and therefore you have no need to take it seriously, and you yourself may offer up an alternate opinion without it being regarded as ‘wrong’ or incompatible with my own. We can be both be happy in that nothing has been said which challenges the other since both are subjectively right.

This is pure cowardice, it is almost as if saying “my opinion has no real value, and I am so uncertain of it that I preface it with a defense which almost states something to the effect that this assertion expressed by myself is an opinion, has no real objective validity about it and therefore neither challenges your view and cannot be challenged itself because of its subjectivity.”

This is where these people go wrong: subjective opinions can be challenged on the matter of coherency. It doesn’t matter how many ‘in my opinion’s’ you put before your statement; if your opinion is totally incoherent, doesn’t make any sense or just doesn’t match with the facts then your opinion is wrong.

Opinions are an expression of subjective truth that we may or may not choose to advertise, but to abandon them so quickly because they have no truth value from an objective standpoint would be to abandon a part of ourselves: of who we are and what we believe in. Opinions are valuable precisely because they are subjective, because they are personal and belong to us and we should defend them and protect them to this end.

Of course it can come down to personal taste where it truly is a case of no one being right or wrong. For example, I might say “I like jam; you don’t like jam.” And that would be perfectly fine; there is no need to further qualify that statement. When it comes down to the most basic sensory experiences this is often the case. Of more important interest though, is that while discussion over art can often take the form of rational arguments essentially it can boil down to somebody just not getting it, and then that’s about as far as you can go on the subject. It can often come down to individual feeling and things so subtle that often no further discourse can be had. For example, if you look at a film like Sin City you could have two contrasting perspectives, one positive; one negative and both can be entirely true. One person may say that they loved the comic-book style, the monochrome visuals matched with splashes of red gore, the melodramatic dialogue and the cliched, archetypal characters. Another may say that the whole thing is a shallow and banal affair; a strong case of style over substance in a film if they ever saw one. What it comes down to here is someone just not getting the style, while the other does.

Sometimes it’s just a case of you say to-may-to; I say to-mah-toe. Let’s call the whole thing off.

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