Patrick Klepek for Giant Bomb:

Quarrel is a word game (imagine a mix of Risk and Boggle) with a massive problem: an inconsistent, utterly mystifying word filter.

Try typing in “help,” “start,” “hung,” or a variety of so-far unpublished words during an online game on Xbox Live Arcade and prepare to be told, without explanation, the word can’t be used.

You can see why this might be a problem for a word game.

I haven’t had the chance to play Quarrel online yet, but the fact that there’s a word filter at all on a game like Quarrel that depends on playing words in order to win is ridiculous, let alone the fact that the words that are being caught are seemingly completely innocuous.

I also have the Scrabble implementation that is part of Hasbro Family Game Night and have played it a couple of times, but I can’t recall running into a word filter this strict before.

“Microsoft clearly has reasons for censoring the words they do but we haven’t discussed that with them,” said Taylor. “What we’re focused on at the moment is working with Microsoft to provide a suitable solution.”

The “suitable solution” will come in the form of a patch in the near future. Taylor did not have a timetable for this patch, nor would he elaborate on the details of any proposed solution.

“Suffice to say that it will fix the current word filter issue,” he said.

The only acceptable fix in this case would be to remove the word filter entirely so long as the parental controls on the 360 are set to permit non-family friendly content.

I’m not quite sure what the concern is here. Quarrel is rated E, but every game that has an online component has to carry an ESRB notice that states “Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB.” There is a reason for this in that a rating system—however it reviews the content of a game—cannot actively anticipate all actions of a human player.

As an example of how misplaced this word filter is in a game of this type, I can attempt to play the word “start” in a game, and when that fails and I lose the battle (really, you should check out Quarrel, warts and all), I can let fly with an unrestricted string of profanities over the voice chat and there is nothing to stop me.

…that sucks all the money out of my wallet, that is.

Maybe this guy is in charge of the Mass Effect 3 marketing plan.

Here’s a trio of stories from Joystiq today:

The Mass Effect series is hitting iOS devices with Mass Effect Infiltrator, coming to iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch soon, EA announced. Infiltrator is a third-person shooter featuring weapons and powers from the Mass Effect franchise, where players attempt to free prisoners from a hostile Cerberus base.

Players will receive awards for collecting evidence of Cerberus crimes in their mission, with each discovery and rescue increasing their Mass Effect 3 Galaxy at War Galactic Readiness rating. Actions in Infiltrator can affect the larger Mass Effect 3 storyline, and weapons unlocked in the mobile version can be used in Mass Effect 3.

Sold as long as it’s better and more meaningful than Mass Effect Galaxy (not hard to accomplish). IF it’s anything like the superb iOS versions of Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space that came out of EA I’m sure it will be great.

At an EA event in New York, the publisher revealed another iOS Mass Effect 3 tie-in, joining Infiltrator. “Mass Effect Datapad” is an iPad app that works with the console/PC game somehow. Details are currently slim on this one; we’ll get you more info as we learn it.

I’m buying this even if especially if it is an iPad-browsable version of the in-game Codex, which can trap me for hours if I’m not careful.

Reader Craig sent us this image of his GameStop receipt, where he purchased a code for some Mass Effect 3 DLC ahead of the game’s March 6 launch. He reports that he paid $10 for it.

I don’t ever know what this is other than a title but you can guess that odds are good that I am going to buy it.

The level of anticipation I have for this game is staggering, and I am starting to fear that it will not live up to my own lofty expectations. For me, Mass Effect stands next to Assassin’s Creed, Gears of War, and Uncharted as the defining series of this console generation.

(More on this in a future post.)

Chris Carter at Destructoid:

In a bizarre twist of events, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is getting Facebook support. By inputting your social network credentials in the game’s settings, you’ll be able to update your friends on your party structure, story progress, and other useless statistics.

Does anyone else think this is kind of backwards?

Wrong question. Look at this screenshot that accompanies the article:

The correct question is what is up with that dog in the lower-right?


By now a good amount has been written about this “event” by various people.

It boils down to:

  • BioWare/EA releases the Mass Effect 3 voice cast trailer, which includes a bunch of people we expected and one person we didn’t.
  • Said person is Jessica Chobot, who also happens to be a member of the games press who did a preview of Mass Effect 3.
  • Cue crazy conversation tearing up the internets about (choose your topic): pandering to lonely male gamers, publicity stunt casting, conflict of interest, whether previews in game coverage are actual journalism, etc.

So far, the best opinions on this I have read are Susan Arendt’s rundown of the possible reasons for doing so:

I get all that. I don’t like it, but I get it. This is a business, after all, and EA is very, very good at gaming the system to get more of your munney. Which is why I just plain don’t understand the Chobot thing. What does including her hope to achieve? Let’s go through the options.

and Bill Abner’s thoughts on the journalistic integrity of this move or lack thereof:

It’s good to know that Maxim has finally infiltrated the game press and BioWare continues to fuel the repressed sexual angst of both teenagers and lonely adults.  Never fear, now you’ll get a chance to nail a virtual Jessica Chobot! Maybe she’ll even do a Fem-Shep scene! Dream come true, indeed. All of this is so slimy, so juvenile, and so…profitable.

Truth is, I don’t care if Jessica Chobot is in Mass Effect 3 or not. I mean look, if I don’t care that Martin Sheen is in it I really don’t care that someone who licks PSPs makes a cameo.

G4 should care, though.

They should care a lot.

Look. I had been wishing that people would at least give Chobot a break on this. As far as I can tell and understand, she’s actually someone she plays and enjoys playing games and has been a big fan of the Mass Effect series.

If you were provided this opportunity to voice a character in purportedly the last game for a while in one of our favorite series, I’m sure you would jump at the chance (and if not I would hope you would defer so I could do it instead).


Then I read this interview puff piece on G4 regarding the casting announcement.

Let me provide you with some choice quotes:

“It’s a dream come true. I’m excited, stoked and honored. I’m seriously in 7th heaven,” Chobot said. “It’s cool just because it’s in a video game, but it’s also for one of my favorite companies of all time, Bioware, and in one of the most epic series of all time, Mass Effect 3.”

This is great. It’s about the kind of quote that I would provide were I in that position. BS detector not engaged yet; condition green.

Chobot says the sight of herself as a virtual character was a bit of a shock at first.  “You’re just not used to seeing yourself like that,” she explained, “I have huge chipmunk cheeks. I hope I don’t look like a chipmunk in real life…and the butt and boobs are impressive. I wish I had boobs like that, and the butt is quite large. I hope my butt is not that big, but I’m happy that everything looks very firm in the game.”


This is a grade A humblebrag. It also happens to draw attention to the reason lots of people have been ragging on her for being in the game that I was hoping was just mistaken: “They made me look pretty in the game (except for the big butt) but I’m really not all that pretty” says the former model who had a picture taken suggestively licking a PSP.

But let us go on.

“Last I heard, I am one of the ‘romanceable’ characters in the game,” Chobot said. “I think you can bring me on the Normandy, I think you have the option of kicking me off too. I’m not sure if that’s before or after you romance me, so we might have a Jersey Shore moment. I think you can romance me with a man or a woman. We’ll see when the game comes out,” Chobot added.

When asked whether she planned to “romance” herself, Chobot said, “Oh, I’m gonna give it to me so hard.”

*klaxons blaring*

*exasperated sigh*

I could facepalm on this twenty times and it wouldn’t be enough. It is pandering, juvenile, and embarrassing all at once. I’m not often embarrassed by what happens in the games industry, but this “interview” by a “journalistic outlet” is just plain awful and I’m frightened to think that not only did someone write it, but I have no reason to believe that this is anything other than thinly veiled PR for G4 and someone thought it was a good thing to post to the internet.

As cool and respectful to women as Bioware has been with Mass Effect (female main character option with complete voiceover, strong female character in ME2’s Liara, range of love interests in ME2 for those playing as a female lead), they have done just as much that’s lame (female love interests that all have daddy issues and insecurity, Jack’s “clothes”, Miranda’s gratuitous ass cleavage), so this unfortunately doesn’t really surprise me.

I was hoping to be able to get past this and maybe be pleasantly surprised in a casting choice that strangely made sense in the end, but this promotion in the form of “reporting” just brings into relief the fact that it’s a mark of the immaturity that still plagues the game industry and the media that covers it.


Going all the way back to last year, I told myself (and others) that I was going to make a concerted attempt at blogging more often. I view it as tragedy that I work for a company that has as its goal helping to bring publishing to as many people as possible by providing the best hosted blogging platform in the world, but seem reluctant to blog myself.

I think part of this has been information overload. I am very good at synthesizing large amounts of information and finding the stuff that’s interesting, but over the last six months or so there’s just been too much going on.

My effort this year is going to be one gaining focus. My thoughts on this:

  • I’m more likely to write about things that interest me.
  • I’m more likely to write about things that I read, and vice versa.
  • I’ve been reading too much and in too many areas, and thus my writing has suffered as a result.

I have historically had a problem with focus. The result of this is last year, when I blogged about everything from my family to tech things to anecdotes to whatever.

I am going to change this.

If you look at the menu of my blog now you will see that I have divided things into two basic categories: “games” and “off topic.”

Games are my hobby and my passion. I love playing them, I love thinking about them, and I love dissecting them, whether it is a game that’s sitting on the dining room table with pieces and points scored, a sport, or the latest video game on my TV. Therefore, games are going to be the focus of my blogging from this point on.

I’ve also made changes to my information intake. I have cut free all of the big tech aggregators that I have in my reading list and will now depend on friends and Twitter to find the really interesting stuff there (which is usually a really good indicator). Instead, I’m looking for the best blogs to read that talk about the stuff that I want to talk about. I’ve already curated quite a list that I hope to share with you in the near future.

I think that by reading more about the stuff that I want to write about, I can engage in that discussion and hopefully become part of a larger but more focused community. I also believe that by focusing more on a tighter scope of content, I will build my audience from people who want to read about those things. There is an emergence in critical thinking regarding games (specifically video games) happening right now and I want to be a part of that.

The last thing that I plan to do hasn’t happened yet because I am still trying to figure out how best to do it, and that is to set aside a specific time each day to write. I don’t practice the craft often enough and as a result I don’t think my writing is up to the level that I want for myself. This will be an effort to change that.

I made this decision about a week ago and it’s taken me that long to write this post, so I’m not really being successful so far. But I do hope that you will join me by reading. If you don’t think about games all that often, I hope to teach you a thing or two or clue you in the really interesting things that are going on in the space. And if games do interest you, I hope you will join in the conversation.

This is what I get quarterly from Kill Screen for $40 a year; just shy of 100 pages:

This is what I get from the Grantland Quarterly for $48 a year; about 340 pages including a pull-out style section:

To be fair, Kill Screen is full color and has a lot more content that either isn’t available on the website or is delayed there after the print publication. (Grantland is done in 2-color groups and has mostly content that was published on the website about six months earlier, but it’s hardcover.)

I love both publications and think that they are both full of a lot of very, very good writing, but there’s a value comparison here that’s not in Kill Screen‘s favor, especially considering that Kill Screen has ads and Grantland Quarterly doesn’t.

Nathan Brown for Edge:

“We heard the same justifications for passing on it over and over again ad nauseam. One signal came through clearer than any other among the general noise of reasons why Quarrel wasn’t for them, and that was this: ‘Gamers don’t buy word games’.”

It’s a claim Anderson naturally disputes, and with Quarrel launching today on Xbox Live Arcade, he calls on gamers to buy a copy – “Or four, it’s only 400 MSP” – and to “tell everyone you can about the game. Discovery remains the single biggest challenge facing original games these days by far.”

I plan on proving them wrong later this afternoon (and I already have it on iOS). Join me.

Quarrel comes out on Xbox Live Arcade today for the measly sum of five whole dollars and it’s pretty safe to say that if you don’t buy it you don’t like words.

It is a great iOS game that inexplicably lacks multiplayer, which is something that they thankfully decided to remedy for the Live Arcade incarnation.

Huge high five to Nimblebit—developers of Tiny Tower—for this image that’s making the rounds today:

Click on it; it’s way too big to slap into a post.

This is shameful: the dual currency system, the game basics, even the stocking of items and the favorite job mechanic would all seem to be directly lifted, would they not?

Lots of people have been wondering if Zynga is foundering; this certainly doesn’t make it look like they have much magic left right now.

(Seen on VentureBeat, Destructoid, et al.)

UPDATE: Nathan Brown writes for Edge on a noticeable trend developing with Zynga.

Tom Bissell for Grantland with a fascinating behind-the-scenes on how Madden is made every year:

Every year for the past three years, key members of Madden NFL’s development team have traveled to the Bay Area suburb of Pleasanton, Calif., to meet with John Madden himself at his production company’s office building. There, Coach Madden and the dev team discuss identifiable trends that have emerged in professional football over the past year and spitball ideas about how these trends might be implemented in gameplay. Coach Madden is also briefed on the creative direction and “feature set” of next year’s game. Once that’s done, Coach (as he’s called) and the dev team watch a fully catered afternoon’s worth of professional football games in a large studio space that Coach built after retiring from broadcasting a few years ago.

I—like, I am sure, many others—did not have any idea that Madden was as intricately involved in the development of each game as portrayed in this article.

It’s a great read on how EA Tiburon works to create a fresh take year after year, and some thoughts on the future of the king of sports video games.