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Friday, February 01, 2008

Steam Support Is A Joke

Seriously, Valve should be embarrassed.

First, you don't get an automatic support account with your Steam account. Apparently they think Steam will work so fine you don't need one.

Secondly, they're wrong.

Thirdly, when you click "Contact Support" on the page "Contacting VALVe Billing And Support" - you see this:

You don't have to be a seasoned interface designer to realize that's a whole page of fuck up right there. Oh, and that "Contact VALVe Billing And Support" page has been rated a whopping 21%.

So basically when Steam devours your game whole because even after being uninstalled and reinstalled - the entire game is stuck at 100% validation and won't launch, the best Valve can muster to help you out is to have realize that you don't get a link to complain, or an email to complain to or any kind of thing to complain or try to demand a resolution.

Oh no - you get to ask a question.

Gee. Thanks Valve. So I asked my question:

Honestly, how can you be a company of Valve's stature and consider this to be an acceptable level of support for customers? Is this the basis for a whole new platform for which people are to buy and play games? When my game won't load because Steam updated it, broke it, and refuses to run it even after reinstalling it ... I have to register a new account and wander my way through some insanely horribly designed support pages in what was your apparent hope that I'll just blunder upon a solution myself and not cost you a dime?

Seriously? You just broke a game I paid perfectly good money for and the best response I get from Valve, ... oh, sorry VALVe, is to ask a question via some random form?

How about I go into your house, take something valued at $50 and then smash it? How about when you ask why I did that, I simply offer you a stack of forms and tell you to figure it all out and please, please, don't try to call me because honestly that would be quite the bother to me. Really, you should be thinking of me in that kind of situation, right?

So I'm asking you a question. How can Valve honestly have tech support this bad? And while you are considering that with all the muster you can, let me give you a follow up:

I am going to go uninstall Steam completely. Then I will reinstall it. If the game I paid for doesn't load up - do you think I'll ever install Steam again?

Would you? Maybe. Because maybe you know something I don't. But because your customer support is this shoddy - neither of us may never know.

Now, I should give their support one bit props. Because when I submitted that question, the second FAQ listed on their "Thank You For Bothering Us As Little As Possible" page was How Do I Uninstall Steam.

Wonder why that over comes up...

Insanely Great Sarah Connor Posters

They've been out since November, so you might have seen them already, but in case you didn't, TV Addict has the whole lot of these.

We're keeping up with the show and so far it's maintaining my earlier favorable impressions.

For Sunday: Silverman Owns Up

Sometimes I find Sarah Silverman funny, sometimes just a bit out there.

This I found hilarious. A bit NSFW.

Some Notes On Facebook Gaming

Just some personal thought:

1) If my ability to play the game is based largely on the number of people I can convince to install it, I'm from here on it just uninstalling it right away. It's a stupid design. Designers should be thankfully enough that I'm giving it whirl, by forcing me to essentially play a game of chain letter before I can even see what the gameplay might be like ... you're chopping yourself off at the knees.

2) Why the heck doesn't Scrabulous offer to send a notification whenever someone's turn is up?

3) BBS door games were once the total bomb. I still think there are some lost lessons there, but I think the fact that a portion of the people reading this have no clue as to what I'm referring to is evidence that they need to be evolved considerably before being compelling in a modern age.

TV Watch: Lost, The Beginning of the End

Television shows often remind me of large scale allegories of real life hardships. Sports Night, for instance, is surviving adversity often despite oneself. Buffy is about overcoming problems with the help of your friends. Star Trek is about how one should never, ever, ever build a holodeck.

Lost is about gross project mismanagement. In this sense, it shares an interesting narrative space with 24 ... a show who's entire premise is that our whole government is weak were it not for one action hero.

Lost is kinda the same without the action hero.

Before I make it sound like I didn't enjoy the Season 4 opener - let me say I did. Enjoyed it quite a lot and am rather looking forward to this season. If this is the tone the show is taking, I think it will a good finish with a lot of focus on the mystery elements of the plot without losing track of the characters. The flashfowards are being used brilliantly and I think the producers are proving that they can use last season's twist to very good effect.

But it's been three seasons in now and I can't help but be reminded as to how we got there. Seriously, Ben, at some point being vague and mysterious ... I mean, clearly as a strategy this has really sucked. People have died. Your people, their people, apparently putting the entire planet at risk in some mysterious and vague way people might actually help work against if you weren't so vague and mysterious.

Locke - that goes for you too. The reason why Hurley is my favorite on the island is that he's the only one I trust would actually tell everyone to stop, shut the hell up and listen when he knows something important.

Anyway, that's just a burden the new season will have to deal with. I can say I'm probably not nearly as interested as I was into trying to figure pretty much anything out. I mean in the first season when it was weird polar bears and noises, I could liken it to a game where you might be able to put clues together. Now we know the writers are willing to throw just any old wrench at you to keep you from doing just that.

Oh, did we forget to mention that time and space might jump around? Did we? Oh, sorry. Thought we had.

Anyway - I am looking forward to the final episodes, which hopefully we'll actually get on time (pending the WGA strike).

Oh - my favorite moment? Abaddon. Great to see the actor getting a sweet cameo, hopefully we'll see some more of him. Wonder what side he's allied with.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

There Is A Hot Fuzz Flash Game

Totally sweet.

Game Play: Ghost Squad

If I had to pick a single word to describe the rails shooter Ghost Squad it would be quite simply: ridiculous. The game is an arcade port and screams arcade port from every ounce of its soul - from the slightly outmoded graphics to the almost creepily well timed sections where you would normally have shoved another coin in the slot.

The concept is simple - there are three missions you're more or less expected to run through in one sitting. None of them are terribly long and the sequences will total up to about a half hour or so. There's a ridiculous assault on a cabin with hostages, a ridiculous assault on Air Force One to save the president and a ridiculous jungle assault to save Dr. McCoy (not, sadly, voiced by Deforest Kelley and actually probably isn't a doctor).

Upon finishing the missions in arcade mode, you get experience points, unlock new weapons, new alternate paths in the missions, new costumes and the chance to play the whole thing over again with slightly different gameplay. In party mode you get none of that - but you do get the chance to play it with a total of four people. There's also a tutorial/challenge mode that most people will venture into about once.

Four people on a 2004 rails shooter designed for two is ridiculous. You shoot *everything* very fast.

And yes, it's fun in that mindless rails shooter sort of way. It's fun to listen to the moronic dialog (my favorite still being the declaration that because you're ghost squad ... don't leave any traces (just shoot everything in sight).

At $30 I think Ghost Squad might be the most appropriately priced Wii game on the planet. It's not great, barely good - but it is fun and cheap.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

TV Watch Lost - WTF Were We?

(Previous season spoilers to follow, obviously)

I consider myself something of a "in for a penny" Lost viewer. That is, I was hooked completely during the first season, but by the third I felt like the core elements had gotten lost themselves - but I still have an interest in seeing the plot through to the end.

To recap, when the show starts up again tomorrow night - we are still pretty far removed from knowing much about how mutant polar bears, invisible whisperers, smoke monsters, purple skies, regeneration, karmic coincidences and time travel all fit together in some semi-explainable format. We've gotten some specifics on DHARMA, some perspective on what was the day to day operation of the island and lots of interesting interconnected bits on the main characters.

Last season's last minute twist to focus on Jack and Kate off the island in some point in the future provided plenty of conversation fodder, but like so many things on the show replaces on question (does anyone ever escape) with even more, and somewhat even more puzzling ones (why does anyone want to return).

Jack seemed to insist that the only way to return the island was a similar fateful crash, so whatever was "protecting" the island seems to be operational. I would say expect a good deal of plots and subplots to weave between "modern day" off island and "back then" on island, leading up to the show's finale.

Hey, they had to run out of backstory plots sometime.

Interestingly, only half of the already shortened season has been written, thanks to the WGA strike - so the ongoing joke of the producers that Joop the orangutan would end up smoking a pipe in a leather chair explaining the whole show in an abrupt finale is now officially closer to happening. Personally, I think they have a lot of ground to tread and very little time to do it, so I'm hoping we don't get any Nikki and Pool Boy type filler episodes this season around.

For those who can't quite remember all the events of the last episode (though I hear it will be replayed tonight w/ added on-screen information, which should be interesting), check out Lostpedia's synopsis.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Steam Validating ... And validating ... and...

Oh right, that's why I don't like Steam. It downloaded the TF2 updates last night and now the validation on the file is stuck at 100%, even after exiting Steam and even after rebooting the computer.

So basically software I have bought and installed is trapped on my computer. There's no actual problem with it, no actual bug, but the software that wants to police that software has utterly freaked the hell out and I can't access it.

Quick forum searches indicate the only real solution is uninstall the local content and reinstall. Oh. Yay. I was hoping to check out the new features, now I'll have download software I already had and hope Steam decides not to be an idiot anymore.

Update - Valve has made it clear to me that they are in no way responsible for actually delivering software via Steam. Because of this, I'd recommend boycotting Valve.

Parody On Media Reaction To Games

This is really making the rounds, but I see no reason not to pimp it more:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Where Are Computer Icehouse Pieces?

Grand Aleks let us know of this Icehouse design competition, but I'm not sure she's getting the big picture here.

Loony Labs gave the world Icehouse some time ago, but the real gift turned out to be Icehouse pieces, or so my board game intelligence tells me. The thing was that the pieces to the game were fairly cheap, fairly generic and extremely versatile. The can stack, be turned to point, have various colors, etc...

So people started making their own rules to them. Not just "modding" a board game, not just making house rules and the like, but making brand new games out of nothing more than the existing pieces. As far as I can tell - there is no computer analogy. This is because computer games generally begin with board, not the other way around.

Am I wrong? Is there a more appropriate equivalent? Or is this just one thing the real world still has on the virtual? The ability to take objects and apply abstract rules, free of cost?

Movie Watch: Cloverfield

Cloverfield is hands down one of the most inventive monster movie ever made, if not the most inventive one ever made. Now, granted, it's not a genre with a lot of stiff competition in that field and even Cloverfield is still mostly drawing within the lines, so to speak.

And let's also get out of the way what Cloverfield is not. It's not the best horror movie ever or the scariest movie in ten years or anything like that. What the film has going for it is the unique perspective - and honestly that goes a lot farther than the "Blair Witch" shaky-cam style shooting. There's a depth of digital editing and set design here which we've seen creeping into movies (see Zodiac's blue screens at work for instance) which is genuinely used to create a setting for the viewer.

Unfortunately that setting is scarier than even Cloverfield's much guarded monster, which isn't bad by any Godzilla standard, but the devastation of New York is simply that much more effective. If Cloverfield has any fault, it's that once you've settled into this backdrop, the movie starts to feel even more commonplace. The premise simply runs out of shock value about two third through the plot.

The plot, however, is good enough that you'll be debating for hours after the film whether you would or would not have shared in the character's footsteps. And simply seeing all this action unfold at the street level is done so tightly, that the rather boilerplate plot feels new and fresh.

Cloverfield breaks away from movies like 2000's Godzilla by taking the destruction and dram seriously, unlike that movie's near mon rom com standing (monster romantic comedy for the non zom rom com fans). It also breaks away from Blair Witch as Cloverfield will withstand the hype so much better as its use of scenery actually immerses the viewer into the action, rather than assuming suspension of disbelief from the beginning (Blair Witch is much more frightening when one is tricked into thinking it really was recovered footage first).

Definately recommended.