Friday, August 12, 2011

One With Nature: Character-environment interaction in games

What makes a game immersive?

Versimilitude in games has always been a big factor in the creative process.
Without this factor we'd lack such industry standards as dynamic lighting, HD graphics and physics engines.

It's everything from the way the characters stands on low settings to the way the light breaks through the leaves of trees on Ultra.
It's how it sounds when you swing a sledge hammer into a zombie's face and it's the user interface itself.

Every facet of design factors into our own suspension of disbelief, and cultivating a feeling of versimilitude can change a game from a mediocre FPS to an industry standard.

Here's looking at you, Half life 2.

Environment design is always a very important facet of cultivating versimilitude, particularly in conjunction with a game's UI.

It's this facet that allowed games like the Splinter Cell series to stake their claim to the bloated FPS market, held aloft on the back of a man wedged 10 feet in the air, feet propped against opposite walls of an alley way.

Splinter Cell in particular makes good use of its environment, allowing players to alter lighting conditions, cut through fabric barricades, hang from pipes and generally aid themselves in evading discovery, or perhaps allowing them a whole new dimension of places to attack enemies from.
Meanwhile Fallout 3 stalled gameplay for 2 hours to get through a plywood fence guarded by 8 year olds.

Later Assassins' creed games also love using environmental interaction as a selling point, attacking from above and below, reinvigorating an already drying franchise in terms of gameplay prospect.
Stabbing someone in the face can get old quick, despite popular belief.

Crytek engine games also love to use environments to their advantage, such as hurling enemies through shacks in Crysis or starting bush fires in Farcry 2, saving both games from being really quite terrible in terms of gameplay and design choices.
That said nothing will save Sniper: Ghost Warrior from being near-unplayable, but I'll save that for another time.

However there are many games that ignore this aspect and suffer greatly for it.
The gamebryo engine games, from Oblivion through to the newer Fallout games, all suffer from very unintuitive interaction between character and environment, particularly basic movement and item placement.
It feels more like your character is running on an invisible treadmill and using its ancient power to glide across the landscape than actual foot propulsion.
It doesn't help that the engine's graphics REALLY didn't age well and that even to begin with every character looked like a spitting image puppet with leprosy.
Thankfully for Bethesda the modding community came to the rescue, salvaging all 3 games from all of the annoying little issues that quickly become a tidal wave of irritation, like firing tear gas into any given audience for the Glee movie.
New Vegas in particular cleaned up rather nicely, since it was by far the better of the two in terms of lighting and design, even if it was still terminally underpopulated and had even more bugs than its predecessor, but unreliability in game engines is a topic for another time.

Any game, no matter how tired and leathery the game's premise has been worn over the years from overuse, no matter how many cliches are used, can be salvaged with a decent engine that allows more in depth use of the environment.
Dead rising 1 & 2 are good examples of rather dry games that were saved by player-environment interaction at its most basic level, weaponry aquisition.

The real problem within the industry today is a combination of the idea of 'safe' investment and efficiency problems with the more popular Operating systems games can use, leading to a lack of processing power.

Games that really gave me hope for environment use were titles such as Bad company, Assassins creed brotherhood, the Crytek games (barring Sniper:GW) and especially Bulletstorm, which based its entire premise around the idea, though failed to innovate quite enough.

Giving players the chance to use a situation in new and creative ways is one of the best ways to improve player satisfaction.
There is little more satisfying than bursting through a wall via C4 in Bad company and killing a larger group of opposing players, luring the remnants into the building, then blowing the remaining supports, crushing the rest beneath a pile of rubble.
This gameplay facet is also extremely effective when combined with locational character damage, such as the crippling system in Fallout: New Vegas or the severing system in the Deadspace series.
On one occasion in the former fo the two I played a stealth throwing/melee character inspired by the film "The Hunted." and was playing the new vegas bounties mod (I fully endorse the mod, it's excellent).
One boss difficulty fiend with a high end weapon in heavy armour, on very hard difficulty, vs me, my ghillie suit and my throwing hatchets.
Sneak-strafing from building to building, disarming and crippling him with hatchetts was the most cathartic session of gaming I've ever had, primarily because it felt more cerebral than just playing a game like Black & White and setting fire to entire villages because I could.

Innovation is a major basis for catharsis and catharsis is, in turn, a major base for enjoyable gameplay, particularly in the already very bloated and festering FPS market, which pretty much has its own dogma by now.

If the medium's to advance, one major, viable route it most likely has to exploit is the one I've discussed here.
We've already made great leaps forward with titles such as Bad Company and Red Faction: Guerilla.
If we can make the system work more fluidly and on smaller scales then we could have games that easily rival Minecraft in terms of pure replay value.
If Minecraft, a game still in its Beta when it became a cult smash hit, making millions in the process, can make use of this factor, then why can't the rest of the market?

Misanthrope, signing out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Twilight part 2: Rise of the Pedo-wolves or how my standards for parody titles dropped a peg or two.

After a long hiatus of seriously wondering why I do what I do for such mediocre output, I'm back with the rest of the Twilight review....
Thus we continue ripping into the writings of an author who is simultaneously pursuing an embarrassing mid-life crisis on print and setting feminism back to the days where wedding rings weren't the fashionable proposal tool, but a donkey's jaw-bone tied to a stick and the average engagement party consisted of a light bludgeoning as foreplay.
Before we move onto the Pedo-wolf himself let's talk about our framing characters, i.e. the extras with speaking parts written in/cast purely to highlight characteristics of the main 3 via reaction where it isn't shameless expository speeches thinly veiled in casual conversation.

What is slightly disturbing is that despite being so sparse in appearance I am much more invested in even the fringe characters such as Mike Newton give us a more interesting and by far a more believable character, showing off Michael Welch's ability to encompass the role perfectly compared to Pattinson's intentionally ham-fisted, constipated acting.

This said many of the living wallpaper parts in this movie were played by people who gave even less of a shit than Pattinson did and I can hardly blame them.
Some were as obnoxious as they could physically muster and this is when the plot didn't require them to be acting in a way that was bordering-to-outright illegal, which bridges over to the entire meeting premise of the series, the incident with the panel van and the near death experience in the first film/book.
We have someone driving a vehicle that in many places requires an additional license exceedingly erratically on school grounds and choosing to drift into a parking space currently occupied by an arguably living person.
This person is not reprimanded and appears later in the film without another word said about it.
This said, he did look incredibly surprised that she wasn't dead afterward so perhaps he had our best interest at heart.

The neglect of far more interesting characters only highlights the already evident egotism that runs through Twilight like syphilis in the aristocracy.
Characters that the plot affords far too much attention in the belief that they are all that matters in the world.
The Volturi encounters further this view, pitting the entirety of the top of the vampiric Hierarchy against a single vampire, his surrogate family and a woman who has the ability to evade mind control which is due primarily to the character's lack of the prerequisite thought processes.
The reason that glamorised versions of vampire stories hold up varies, in harlequin romance bodice rippers it's the sexual interaction between two characters of vastly differing levels of physical and social influence, similar to the aristocrat and the maid scenarios.
In the socially driven vampire series, such as Whitewolf's old and new worlds of darkness novels and games, the plot is driven by the politics of vampiric society and the codes by which it is maintained as a secret, usually with the main characters playing a a small, pivotal role in the set up that is manipulated by a 3rd party that wields vastly greater influence and power, primarily because a book centered around the view point of Judas Iscariot's bloody romp through modern day new york whilst being a magnificent bastard would be rather dull and end up something akin to the 3rd Blade film.

Twilight attempts to be a harlequin romance with a celibacy Aesop, which only further complicates the restraints involved with Cryptophiliac scenarios, like deep frying a stick of lard.
Later, with the introduction of the instrumentally more powerful Volturi it seems to attempt the political intrigue aspect of the vampire sub-genre only to fall on its face because the Volturi have no real goal beyond the sustenance of the masquerade, something they've already safeguarded by supposedly propagating the myth that vampires are killed by sunlight, meaning that Edward's suicide by masquerade destruction would do nothing but make him look like the worst gay raver in history.
The worst aspect however is the attempt at action sequences, consisting of cheap motion blur effects and high speed running lariats.
I thought I'd never say this but maybe Blade Trinity wasn't so bad. Sure it was a badly made action film, but at least it was an action film, it was vaguely competent at showing martially adept characters, unlike Twilight that shows a civil war veteran as someone who's idea of an ambush is an open field clothes line rush.

Thus we home stretch.
I'm really sorry for having dug up this corpse to begin with, now the site of the excavation is surrounded by wolves that need to be dealt with.

Jacob Black.
We all know Jacob.
The living embodiment of the idea of not letting a dingo play with your infant.
It's nice to know that a Serbian film was pre-empted by a tween schlock harlequin romance book in its wrongness.
To begin with we have a character with a physique that is his sole character trait beyond lycanthropy being a homosexuality analogue and that he fills the slightly less obsessive boy next door niche.
That is before several scenes, such as the spooning scene (due to a suspect lack of planning for people who were going into the mountains with a storm on the way) and the upcoming Pedo-wolf revelation.
Now, when your series already compares homosexuality to a mythical affliction that strips a man of his inhibitions and causes him to run rampant with only his animal instincts to drive him you're already on shaky ground.
Now when you introduce a character with a name taken straight out of a wish fulfilment fanfiction and give them the characteristics of both the Unborn and Look who's talking, two equally horrifying films involving intelligent infants and the possibility of bloodshed then you have some real fucking issues and need a therapist.
When this becomes the canonical pairing at the end of the book then you really need to evaluate what I just had to say, because this kind of shit I expect from the writers that only appear on Bennet the Sage's fanfic theatre and quite possibly Dateline if Chris Hansen gets up to his old tricks again.
Honestly, The person who cleared this for not only print release but a film probably met the person pitching it when they were going door to door because they are legally obligated to do so when they move to a new place for fear that children go missing and the lynch mob kills someone else by mistake.
This is honestly shit that Salo would have left out of the script.

Jacob's only real purpose in this series is to create artificial tension between Bella and Edward, because there was no way this series was intended for film, because if it were then Meyer would have had both male leads in a kiddie pool full of melted lard, wrestling before the end of the first book, probably for the right to marry Bella when it was over.

The ending of Breaking Dawn was so badly handled that it even made the majority of the gibbering horde that are the Twilight fandom do a double take and wonder if they had picked up the Joe D'Amato parody by mistake, because this is the sort of shit he used to get sued for.

Jacob also offers a two-for-one token deal in terms of cast composition, being both native American and a stand in for a homosexual if lines such as "Have you ever tried not being a werewolf?" and "What you do is disgusting and immoral" suggesting as much.

As for the handling of the Werewolf interaction segments of the film, again it falls flat when it tries to use the imprinting system, an incredibly bizarre choice for the utilisation of Lycanthropy since being a stalker has already been covered by Edward's involvement in this excuse for a plot.
A werewolf is traditionally a creature with a hairline trigger in regards to animalistic habits, again handled well by Whitewolf in their worlds of darkness with rules that indicate that a Werewolf would have trouble taking a walk in the park without losing control of their urges, and particularly in regards to going berserk when accosted, because even if you're a meek little pup you will feel some frustration or hatred when accosted, leading to unintentional metamorphosis and eventual mauling of those involved.
What's more, the more base canine instincts such as the desire to assert himself as the alpha are not really explored that much with Jacob since Edward seems to be the more territorial of the two.

Renesmee, whom I mentioned earlier, was really a very stupid idea to begin with as humans and vampires are obviously genetically incompatible and it was already established that they were infertile.
As for the human level intelligence, it makes little sense as our personalities and intellect are shaped by a mix of genetics and what we perceive.
Bella and Edward are NOT the exemplars of intellect that would produce a coherent from birth child, They would be lucky that the child was capable of higher brain function, since the allele is obvious recessive in their families.
The possibility of adult level brain activity in a newborn infant is developmentally impossible unless you include genetic memory, in which case the child would likely just be incredibly depressed at their genetic lottery results, being born to the romantic equivalent of Beavis and Butthead following amateur lobotomies or use of agent orange as a contraceptive.

With this I bring a close to this review and with it panning of it as a whole, since I'm likely the last one leaping onto this burning bandwagon.
Frankly I'm proud of myself for not giving my shotgun a 12-bore blow job after the first installment.
I could probably explore more of this series but you've heard it all before from other critics and I'm mainly finishing this two parter just for completionist's sake and that my OCPD wouldn't let me post again until I've done so.
Until next time,
The Illustrated Misanthrope,
Signing out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Twilight Part 1 : or how I stopped blaming a dillusional mormon and learned to hate society.

Few books or movies illicit the level of sheer pure-hearted, fiery eyed, passionate hatred seen when Twilight first devastated creativity as a whole when the first movie hit theatres like an anthrax attack.

Twilight is infamous for being the embodiment of a failed attempt at style over substance.
It is as if Meyer herself were attempting to dig a vast tunnel system of plots but only got far enough to have a shallow trench, convenient for disposing of the corpse of postmodern literature which she so thoroughly brained with hardback copies of her insipid saga, before covering in lime and burying under a patch of posies.

From a literary standpoint, Twilight is the big budget equivalent of an Anne Rice vampire chronicles fan fiction gone horribly, horribly awry.
In this case the self-insertion the author attempts is executed with all the finesse of inserting a cactus into the rectum of a man who has previously undergone ad-hoc surgery that replaced his anal sphincter with a cheerio. I apologise for the imagery on that one but when you reach this layer of critiquing hell, the level that gets your hotmail account bombarded by even more shit you don't care about than facebook already does, you begin to grow bitter.

That's completely irrelevant to me, because as you can tell I am so utterly jaded already that I could supply the entire legend of the five rings continuity with enough materials to allow them to make mechs out the the stuff.

What's odd about Twilight's infamy is that it's almost memetic in nature.
That is not to say that Twilight isn't deserving of hatred, it is the insipid ramblings of a psychotic Mormon woman who has severe romantic issues to the point where she has gone on record as being willing to leave her (I would expect long suffering) husband for her own characters.
However, Twilight turning up in mainstream media is comparable for net critics to the discovery of the true cross in a back garden in Basingstoke.

It is one hundred percent pure, undiluted, uncut, diamond standard snark bait.

This brings me the the phenomenon of Twilight itself, by far the most interesting aspect in my opinion i.e the only one I give a fuck about because I'm a selfish prick.

Twilight represents many things for may people and it is that quality that draws out attention, as it is a symbol of many movements.

The fans that support this series like Atlas holding up a sky saturated with effluence do so not because it is a good book and I'll argue anyone on that subject, but because it symbolises the penetration of fan fic quality writing into mainstream literature.

Twilight itself is formulaic, it is every fan fiction written by a rabid fan since the idea's inception with a few worthy exceptions.
It is laden with transparent faux-flawless characters (The dreaded Mary sue/Marty Stu character archetype) who can do no wrong and who's sense of logic sets the sympathetic status quo, or protagonist logic as I call it.
To elaborate, protagonist was not always a term for good people doing good deeds for people to see in stories.
Originally protagonists were just political, social or religious proponents, varying from spokespeople to shit-kickers and perhaps this is closer to the common standard than some writers would intend it.

Before I digress into picking out every little flaw (and I'll get to that in time), I'll try to convey exactly why this series has gotten as far as it has.

It gave people hope.

Not in the inspiration of the characters, but in the fact that it could get to where it is.

As soon as this was published, it was guaranteed to hit the big time because it represents an aneurysm in the otherwise stringent standards of literary publishing.

It represents opportunities for the sanity damage inducing grade fan fiction writers to penetrate the market, it is the MOAB of bad literature, breaching the canopy to let through the fucking swarm.

Twilight being published was like the call of cthulhu for shitty fan fic fans, and like cultists to the great god with a mollusk for a face they flocked to it.

Don't mistake me for a man who mindlessly bashes all fan fiction regardless of quality, I'm not.
I used to write fan fiction myself and I appreciate good fan fiction like any other good quality media.
However, the factions that Twilight championed are not the good fan fic writers.
They are the essence of the mediocre.

Now Twilight stands as a vast monolith in the center of modern day media, cleaning out awards shows, backed by its unified horde of fans which have been lead into this shit storm by a glimmer of hope that their own work will be appreciated when Meyer is finished eroding standards world wide.

Now we're getting down to the thick of it.

We've waded through the fan logic, now it's really time to hammer the nail of Helena itself into the heart of this sparkling abomination.

I'm going after the motivations of the 'author', Stephenie Meyer.

Now Mrs Meyer has a rather strange relationship with her own series.
As mentioned she has obviously crafted the main characters as idealisations in her opinion.
Somewhat odd when you consider the level of satire it would normally take to create such abominations, and many find the series as a whole fucking hilarious, one or two of my closest friends included.

I theorise that it is your basic escapism fic, as found on every page of fan
Meyer is a married woman nearing middle-age.
Most people consider having an affair around that age, but if your idealised version of yourself is Bella Swan, a shitty Anne Rice rip off novel may be the easier sell.

Again i shudder to think what her husband has had to go through, I would expect that he's actually dead at the bottom of some ditch, murdered by spouses around the world dragged to the movies by the fandom's thralls. The poor unfortunate partners who spent hours in a cinema, desperately attempting to fashion a makeshift shotgun from chair parts, XL drinks cups and using the sugar content of cinema sweets as an accelerant to force hand fulls of pop-corn through their palettes in a vein attempt to off themselves before their internal organs either liquefy or attempt to vacate their bodies via their urethra.

In essence, Twilight is a standard mid-life crisis on paper were it taken by intent.
This is a literal representation of what Meyer was trying to achieve in writing this, though that is perhaps not the best way to articulate it.
There's something disturbingly fresh about a series writer who is writing for the sake of her own ego rather than money, but then again, some people still think about the evolution of characters, something Meyer obviously missed in Eng Lit class.

Now we can move onto the characters themselves, let us begin with Bella.

Bella is what is known in the Fan Fic business as an author avatar or Author self-insertion, if you prefer double entendres.
In all cases she is, in the series, an idealised, highly sexually desirable, humble, determined, intelligent, beautiful, etc,etc, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit this woman looks like her face caught fire and someone put it out with the ugly shovel.
Now I may be largely asexual with a few notable female exceptions, but there is something about Bella as a character that is so vacuous that it drains any sense of desirability from anyone involved.
The character is bland, clingy, obsessive, has no noted hobbies beyond reading (so Meyer could throw in obligatory Romeo + Juliet reference, as ever characterisation purely to try and validate the intertextuality, though I doubt Meyer knows what that is.) and obsessing about the male characters, who serve little beyond showing how sexually desirable Bella is and there are not enough drugs in the world for me to piece together the full cycle of ego-stroking on this one.

Bella is utterly insipid and it's frankly embarrassing if this is Meyer's idea of an idealised version of herself, and it likely is as beyond what is obvious to the reader (which may be seen as devotion by the author) no discernible flaws are shown.

Bella is a character that fails at every attempt at a redeeming feature Meyer puts forward.
She is simultaneously a whining, co-dependant headcase and an arrogant sociopathic narcissist.

This woman is more of an abomination than I am, and I'm essentially a super villain who has a side-line in poor quality, pseudo-intellectual Internet reviewing, that's a pretty steep summit to exceed, but Bella drives up the side of that standard in her shitty van and uses the incline to achieve geosynchronous orbit, apparently awaiting the day when the universe rightfully revolves around her and whatever poor fucker she fancies for the day.

Now we move on the embodiment of the death of vampires as a character concept.

Edward 'diamond skin dickhead' Cullen.

Cullen is, as this attached picture describes, as far away from vampirism as you could possibly achieve without achieving technological singularity level cybernetics and coding in the Cthulhu mythos.
In fact, this picture is too flattering, at least the Fae are capricious and psychotic and occasionally kidnap women and small children.
Cullen is a walking affront to vampires as a character concept, embodying the 'no weakness' school of vampirism to the point of satire.
Vampirsm in the Twilight continuity (I feel dirty just typing that, and not the good kind of dirty.) are just a vehicle for superhuman levels of bodily exertion.

Cullen himself is less threatening than the count from sesame street but doesn't fail in creepiness primarily due to being a super-powered stalker who makes a habit of breaking into peoples houses to watch them sleep.

The biology behind Cullen is also extremely questionable.
We have a creature who obviously has alterations in muscle structure in order to achieve the physical exertion anime fans and steroid junkies alike dream of, implying major biological departures from human biological structure, such as the molecular content of the tissues of the body, only furthered by the 'Saturday Night Fever' homage that is a Meyer type vampire in the presence of sun light.
It has been stated that the glittering effect, as well as the transformation on death of vampire corpses into a marble like substance is natural for this species, and that the former is caused by sunlight triggering an alteration of the skin surface into a diamond like material.
This doesn't impact on the dexterity of a vampire, though I imagine that if he were rolling up an RPG character his stealth skill would suffer as a result of being made of what equates to a treasure hoard.
The nature of the change also implies that it is a biological reaction to UV light that causes the conversion to a crystalline structure, which means that vampires have gained this trait via mutation and I'll bold the next section for the sake of my fellow biologists out there ravaging their eyeballs with broken bottles: Vampires have gained an evolutionary trait means their cells actively convert their epidermis into crystal, an act which undoubtedly requires the expenditure of energy and minerals, which confers no possible advantage and serves only to make them more noticeable, increasing the likelihood of predation and/or general acts of Sanguivoriphobic violence against them, this makes no sense in terms of natural law as there is no survival pressure fended off by this feature beyond getting laid in the 70's when disco was still in. This feature in fact means that vampires must feed additionally in order to maintain their sparkle-spawning organelles and the price will be hefty because diamond structure requires hideous amounts of pressure and energy to form, thus why diamonds are rare.

Vampires do not use the sparkling as a mating display, there is no data to suggest it stops them going up like a roman candle in sunlight, and it wastes energy, so by all means a trait such as this should have been in decline biologically since the species first arrived.

The rapid-rate calcification of corpses, or in layman's terms instant vamp statue, just add death by plot, is bullshit too, as it implies that vampires are a largely calcium based life form in order to support such a change when their precursors, humans, are largely carbon based lifeforms, and evolution rarely leads to a change in primary physical content when the original mutants prior to speciation were nutritionally supplied by carbon based life forms.
There is exactly one condition in this league of material shift, and it has a 100% mortality rate because it slowly calcifies the sufferer as bones grow in the stead of damaged tissue.
Admittedly I'm quite privileged in that British High school equivalent Biology is a similar curriculum to American degree grade Biology, but could Meyer not have learned basic evolutionary biology? I can recite this shit off the top of my head and I may not have even passed that A2 paper.

The sheer idea of a character of this type with physical capabilities demonstrated by this character is horrifying.
A creature who is essentially invulnerable by virtue of author fiat with a cognitive ability of a packet of prawn cocktail McCoys crisps is a scary concept, throw in the subservience to an emotionally abusive and manipulative character like Bella (I'm sure I'm giving her far too much credit on this one) and despite being hundreds of years old relying on an utterly chaotic, random flurrying combat style and maintaining a teen aged mindset (A few lobotomies thrown in for good measure) makes him perhaps the single most dangerous thing on the face of the Earth on a local scale.

Part 1 is at a close.
Here are some pictures of proper vampires to cleanse your soul.
Because otherwise any prospect of part 2 will evapourate into the ether like my dignity and self respect.

Castlevania's Dracula may have been cheesy dialogue wise, but he's an age ahead of the Cullens.
This iteration of the famous count is a blend of hammy vocal acting, aesthetic class and monstrous power (except for in Simon's quest when he's painfully easy to chain-stun, but that's for another time.) and it all fits together nicely as a sort of guilty pleasure, like an egg and bacon sandwhich made with fried bread.

Self explanatory for Hellsing fans, a reinvention of Vladamir Dracul, but true to Dracula's status as an eldritch abomination, nowhere near as human as his form suggests and probably quite capable of slaughtering countless humans.

The pictured variant, when fully unleashed, consumed the essence of every single man, woman, child and Nazi vampire in all of London, added it to the millions of souls at his disposal and was on the brink of becoming a god.
And he's the protagonist.

The humble varghulf.
Also known as what happens in the Warhammer universe when a vampire goes on an eating binge across the Continent.
Varghulfs embody the animalistic nature of vampirism and are known to eat entire villages without even making a dent in their appetite.
Again, how it should be done.
Don't get me started on when they start eating dragons.

Finally, something very close to my heart as a S.T.A.L.K.E.R player.

The ultimate vampiric creature.

Embodiment of what we fear in vampires.

Can you see it?
Then You're already dead.

Until next time folks.

Note: I've been ironing out the issues with this one, primarily failures on my part in terms of improving content and getting around to proof reading this article, which I forwent in favour of sleep due to time constraints and general incapacity.
Update: Expect an updated, more fluid style in future posts.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Civilisation 4: The entire fiasco in a nutshell.

I previously attempted writing this article prior to playing the expansions to this game.
My initial complaints were the sluggish unit generation and arbitrarily long winded research system.

That can wait, as I'm about to discuss what makes civilisation 4 utterly pointless to the usual RTS fan.
The Combat system is as follows:
75% of the time time the computer controlled enemy wins without casualties.

The best example of this is when my unit of 3 US marines were slaughtered by a band of 19th century musket users without inflicting a single casualty.
The other best examples are the 27 other occasions on which this occured.
Not to mention the destruction of 88mm acht acht artillery pieces to the same black powder muzzle loaders.

What I have gathered is that the enemy rate of fire is somewhere in the region of 10-fold that of your own, higher grade units and will fire to the exclusion of your units, causing a situation by which a muzzle loader can fire 12 times while a M1A1 thompson SMG, a weapon known for its high rate of fire in its era, fires twice at best, both bursts of which will miss.

This crippling fake difficulty makes success by military impossible unless you forgo all advancement bar the dark ages and spend the rest of your 2 millenia building cavalry and infantry from a dozen different settlements.

The ineffective nature of air support runs throughout the game's combat system, meaning that all the kirovs in the world won't stave off all 3 of those riflemen, or cause a single piece of visible damage to the town across the border.

The nuclear weapons have all the range of a gnat's fart and all of the effect, to the point where non-combat units can merrily prance about in the nuclear fallout without injury.

ICBMs and other weapons of mass destruction that mummy and daddy warned you about lest you poke your eye out do precisely bugger all and call me cynical but last time I checked cities very rarily survive those, so when I look to see my opponant's largest visible city, a measely rank 16 settlement completely intact I begin to lose my temper.

Now, I'm not the sort to hold a game up to those in its genre that it doesn't try to be like, or else I'd have patched SCUD storms into this festering piece of shit and Bismark would be calling me an infidel out of the other side of his anthrax scarred face, but Civilisation 4 is not a well designed or executed game.

The game's blatant cheating and fake difficulty hamstring the efforts of the average RTS player and as a player with little experience in the Civ series, it fell on deph ears as soon as I noticed that the enemy AI had built every single one of its cities precisely one square outside of nuking range, an act that showed the game in all its meta-gaming fowlness.

To depart from the non existant combat system, I move onto the political system.
Civilisation 4 seemed to me to be a very politically driven game in terms of gameplay, making you lick enough collective ring-piece amongst your national neighbours to make the american government come round for some pointers for its next conference with Israel.

This is another visade the game broke when my largest allies, all of which I had at pleased or higher, suddenly heel turned and declared all out war, my only remaining allies being the people I hadn't given a shit about because they weren't immediate neighbours.
This declaration of war was in spite of not only my actions, by my membership to the UN and so forth, and it's certainly disconcerting when the UN of all groups declares you an infidel and begins waging holy war on your highly technologically advanced arse.

Precisely half way between the war against my Norscan Empire and me calling bullshit and ending the programme (which was difficult, since the game pops up even if the task manager is used, the cunt.) I was actually asked to wage war on one of my few remaining allies by the UN that had declared me an infidel and sent an endless legion of musket wielding mooks not only into my country, but seemingly teleporting them directly into my capital city.

Now onto the difficulty curve, or rather, the difficulty line.
There is no departure in difficulty between settler and Normal.
I've played long term games on both.
There is no difference.
Even on settler difficulty you have to watch units with a combat score of 24 die to units with a score of 10 or lower.
It's abyssmal.

Normally I wouldn't fault a game for trying to be difficult, I enjoyed both dawn of war games and their expansions and I particularly loved Dawn of war 2 because it was more difficult and more squad orientated, relying on cover and skills.
This game is an abomination unto the RTS genre that needs to be eradicated.
How this game achieved the acclaim it has is beyond me, but if the politics I encountered are anything to go by, I guess there's a lot of cases of brown tongue going around the community at large.

And so it begins.

Welcome to Misanthropy Illustrated,
Your average snarky game/film/TTG/General media/politics blog.
I'm your host for this blog, Bill Newman, AKA The Illustrated Misanthrope, and I'll be generating your internet drama tonight.
All in all you can expect irregular updates, endless torrents of abuse at shit I don't like and a spectrum of activity that is about as promising in concept as The Duisburg Love parade music festival's organisers being hired to arrange Michael Barrymore's next pool party.

I'll say now that I've neither the equipment nor the funds to set up anything special in the vein of The Spoony experiment or Zero Punctuation primarily because I'm a jobless leaving student on an island where working for the UK Film Council is considered stable employment, therefor even getting audio logs will be an achievement.

I'm more than open to suggestions, and to pre-empt many I will be ripping apart such modern classic riff fodder as the Twilight series, anything made by bioware and gainax anime

My first reviews will likely be on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R game series in comparison to each other and the book/film, also anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Civilisation 4.

As I say, don't expect scheduled review release times, or even coherent layouts and expect updates of released reviews and posts.

Goodbye for now, and expect improved quality when I'm not talking about bugger all.