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Posts Tagged ‘PC games’

I’ve been meaning to write a reaction to last week’s sale of id Software to ZeniMax, but it’s honestly taken me this long to figure out how I felt about it, exactly.  For anyone that was an avid gamer in the mid 90’s, id (and particularly the DOOM series) represented a very specific division between ‘us’ and ‘them.’

If you were a teenage nerd in the mid 90's, you recognize this poster

If you were a teenage nerd in the mid 90's, you recognize this poster

They were unapologetically hardcore in their approach to game design: their subject material was edgy at the time, and their games always required top-of-the-line hardware to run really well.  You either dug DOOM’s horror/sci-fi storyline, complete with impaled space marines and hooved demons, or it turned you off.  You either had the patience to manually configure a mulitplayer session, or you didn’t go near it.  Id’s developers even appealed to a very specific audience, with cars and attitude more befitting the founders of Image Comics than the code monkeys of the day.

In its heydey, DOOM was tremendously popular, but only among the specific audience of hardcore gamers.  This planing away of less-than-hardcore gamers was not only a ballsy move by the id guys, it helped light the way for a lot of nerds avid gamers to figure out who their friends were, and where they fit in.

On the one hand, ZeniMax seems like the perfect place for a shop like id.  As pointed out in last week’s superb “Listen Up” podcast, id’s strengths complement ZeniMax’s own Bethesda studio’s weaknesses perfectly, and vice versa.  Guys like John Carmack can continue to work on bulletproof code and not have to worry about moving up the food chain and staffing up as a publisher just to maintain their IP.

But a part of me is a little… not sad… nostalgic for the loss of id as its own entity.  While they stood in one place and cranked out shooters seemingly fueled by Red Bull and teen angst, this industry changed around them. 

World of Warcraft came along and showed PC gamers that they could play with each other online in scenarios that weren’t always framed by the barrel of a gun.  Microsoft’s entry into the console game brought a “shooter box” into the market that had fixed specs and a user base too large to ignore, so id’s constant pushing of the hardware envolope had to be roped in for their games (not to mention their more profitable engine licensing business) to be a success.  Like a former chart topper turned lounge act, DOOM‘s shock value wore off with age and Grand Theft Auto, then our Wiis and casual gaming friends, wives, and mothers showed us that you could hold a controller and smile at the same time, in a non-ironic way.

The DOOM movie: too late to be awesome, too crappy to by funny

The DOOM movie: too late to be awesome, too crappy to be funny

Meanwhile, Race to Witch Mountain’s The Rock starred in the long awaited big screen adaptation of DOOM.

In reaction to the sale, estranged co-founder John Romero tweeted “i guess i was shocked and sad to see the id Software of old changed forever today. it’s a new day and a new id.”

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RIP Scrabulous

RIP Scrabulous

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the rapidly expanding world of casual gaming apps delivered over social networks (and who hasn’t?!), last week was an interesting one.  At the beginning of the week, the poster child for Facebook as a gaming platform, Scrabulous, was turned off for all North American users.  By the end of the week, it had gotten a minor facelift and was reintroduced as Wordscraper.

With all the parties involved, and all the legalese to wade through, it’s tough to tell who ultimately made the call to pull the plug.  I mean, what are they really saying in a publicly issued statement like this: ‘Hasbro is pleased that the developers have voluntarily removed their infringing Scrabulous application on Facebook, and we appreciate Facebook’s assistance in expediting this matter‘?  Besides, it was in pretty much everyone’s best interest to make Scrabulous not look like an exact Hasbro knock-off, at the very least.

EA paid a no doubt princely sum to execute games based on Hasbro’s IP.  To keep potential suitors interested in their games, beyond EA’s 2013 expiration date, it’s to Hasbro’s advantage to protect their game concepts as ownable, patent-worthy product.  Facebook needs to prove to the world (including advertisers) that they have a handle on protecting copyrights within their platform, and it’s not the hedonistic wild west that MySpace or Second Life turned into.  Even Scrabulous‘ designers, the Agarwalla brothers, had something to gain by pulling and modifying the game.  They’ve shown the world that they know how to make a simple, working social game.  It’s the hottest hot spot right now for VCs, and it behooves them to not get sued back to the stone age so early in their careers.

Died and reborn as Wordscraper... like a zombie!

Died and reborn as Wordscraper... like a zombie!

It’ll be interesting to see how Wordscraper fares after its relaunch, combined with competition from EA’s fully branded, household name Scrabble app.  Even more important are the results of Hasbro’s lawsuit in this case.  After all, it could set a precedent for tons of litigation down the road.  At its core, this suit asks the question, “what constitutes a ‘game’ and just how much of that is ownable?”

Do the makers of a million bad Tetris knockoffs owe Alexy Pazhitnov royalties?  Do the makers of that Wii beer pong game owe your fraternity some coin?  This suit could decide once and for all.


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