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Archive for "Games"

May 4, 2009

Personal Recommendations, From Me to You

I’m kind of slow sometimes.

People often ask me for recommendations for things like games and books and music and other things we humans need to survive. So a couple weeks back, I spent an afternoon putting together a huge collection of lists of my favorite games, music, movies, books, and even food…and then promptly forgot to mention it here on the main page.

So, hey, lookie there in the left-hand sidebar! It’s a Favorites page! It has all sorts of recommendations of stuff I happen to enjoy a whole lot. I hope you’ll find them useful. If not, feel free to leave a comment on that page. As long as you’re okay with me telling you how wrong you are.

May 1, 2009

New Previews: InFamous and MAG

1UP has just put up two new previews of mine. One is for the gritty super-slash-antihero game InFamous from Sly Cooper developers Sucker Punch. And the other is the 256-player (!!) first-person shooter MAG, from SOCOM devs Zipper. Both games look great. Check out the previews and see if you don’t agree.

March 26, 2009

Beyond Good, Beyond Evil

[I’m surprisingly busy with work for this time of year — thankfully — so here’s another reprint: In My Day #106, originally published in The Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine, Issue #106, July 2006]

If you’ve been playing along with the OPM home game (that is, our staggeringly awesome podcast — tune in at today! [Edit: :( ]), you know that a few of us here have been bitten by the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion bug. So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why this game is so compelling. I mean, sure, it’s enormous, and sure, it’s real purty, but we’ve seen other big, beautiful games that haven’t captivated our interest (and that of millions of other players) like Oblivion has. But I think I figured out what that special something is that keeps people talking about the game: freedom.

Now, “freedom” is a buzzword that’s been thrown around since GTA3 made “sandbox” games the Hip New Thing. But consider what that means in the context of GTA: You can be a bad guy…or you can be a really bad guy. I mean, you can follow along the main story and steal cars and carry out hits and whatnot, or you can do all that plus run down pedestrians and beat grandmothers over the heads with baseball bats. What you can’t do is be a hero. (Well, you can be a goody-goody, law-abiding citizen, but that pretty much entails walking down the sidewalk and looking at architecture. Not exactly the most entertaining experience.)

Continue reading “Beyond Good, Beyond Evil” »

March 10, 2009

A Ziff-trospective, Part III: Oakbrook Terrors

West of Chicago, there’s a spot where interstates 294, 290, and 88 all come together. Just west of that interchange, on I-88, is a toll plaza. If you look to the south as you’re driving by, you’ll see an extended-stay corporate hotel. And behind that hotel you’ll see a low, sprawling orange building with a glass canopy over the entrance.

If I were to estimate the amount of time I spent in that building…well, let’s do it now. I went to work there every day for almost four years. Call it 7500 normal working hours. Now add an extra 40 to 60 hours a month to account for deadlines, for around 44 months. Yeah, that’s about what I expected: ten thousand hours is a pretty fair estimate. To do that all at once you’d have to work for about 14 months straight. Without stopping to sleep.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. Some of my fondest memories happened in and around that building. I made some dear friends. I learned some important lessons. I met my wife during this time. I laughed a lot. I ate some really spectacular take-out.

But you stay in any place long enough, you’re gonna get a little crazy.

Continue reading “A Ziff-trospective, Part III: Oakbrook Terrors” »

March 6, 2009

New-style Music-Games Column

Wanted to note two quick things:

Thing the First: My weekly column about music games is up over at Green Pixels. We did something a little different this time, reorganizing the column as a collection of links to let you dig into the catalogs of the different artists. I think you’ll find it more useful than previous columns.

And Thing the Second: Don’t worry, fans of office-related destruction, I’m still working on the Ziff-trospective, Part III — I had some things that needed tending to over this past week, but I’m planning to have it up over the weekend or early next week. Thanks for your patience.

February 26, 2009

New Review: Korg DS-10

ds10coverAh, I thought I’d posted about this one when it went up, but apparently I didn’t. Green Pixels posted my Korg DS-10 review earlier this month; it’s a nifty little gadget that’s all about turning a portable game machine into a full-fledged musical instrument. Go have a look if the idea of near-limitless musical twiddling interests you.

February 20, 2009

A Ziff-trospective, Part II: Mere Anarchy

When last we spoke, I promised to tell you some dirty little secrets about the Bad Old Days of EGM, OPM, and assorted magazines, in their original home in Lombard, Illinois. And I have no intention of shirking my duties.

But trying to hang these all together in some sort of coherent narrative would a.) take way too long, and b.) probably not make any sense anyway. There was a lot going on, as you’ll see, and if I were to try to hem everything up all pretty it would probably come off as some sort of fevered drug-dream. So instead, let’s peek in on some memorable moments, some iconic people, things, and events that represented that whole heady, smelly time.

Let’s start with the Cone of Violence. It’s as good a place to start as any. Now, enough has been said about this device that I’m not going to waste much time describing it except in the simplest terms: It was a full-size traffic cone, heavy as these things are, positioned appropriately next to the Blitz machine… Oh, I haven’t told you about the Blitz machine? Yeah, we had an NFL Blitz arcade machine in the office, positioned directly in front of the main door so that you couldn’t possibly miss it. “Oh, I was just heading down to the break room for a soda, but I guess I could squeeze in one game.” It’s a wonder we ever got any work done. Anyway, games of Blitz could get pretty heated, thanks largely to what has been variously called “CPU assist,” “rubberband AI,” and “bullshit.” See, what happened was, as soon as one player opened up a big lead, the game would start causing him to fumble the ball, throw interceptions, miss easy passes — pretty much do everything but trip over his own shoelaces. This made some people angry.

But it made Crispin Boyer positively livid.

Continue reading “A Ziff-trospective, Part II: Mere Anarchy” »

February 18, 2009

How to Kill the Videogame Industry

Host a multimillion-dollar event filled with “glamour, sizzle, and excitement” in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression, when half the people who would normally be covering it have been laid off.

Oh well. We had a pretty good run, didn’t we?

A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening

In my most recent post over at 1UP, I started musing a bit about some of the good times I had in my ten-and-a-half years at Ziff Davis Media. With EGM having closed just shy of its 20-year anniversary, there’s a lot of this going around, I understand. Shoe and Crispin did plenty, in written and verbal form; Mielke wrote The Compleat Milkography, Vols. I – XXIV; Greg Sewart rebutted with a different perspective; and C.J. reposted some classic musings of his own. And that’s just a small sampling.

Look, I never claimed to be a trend-setter.

The thing is, I’ve noticed some gaps in others’ accounts. Some gaps that need filling. And by God, I’m just the man to do it.

Plus, I have pictures. Incriminating pictures.

And so, I present to you the first in a four-part series: A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening.

Pretty much any story anyone tells about Lombard includes mention of it being the most suburbiest of suburbs. And oh dear lord, it is. (Or at least, it was the last time I was there.) But do you think that mattered to a 22-year-old kid, fresh out of college, new to Chicago, and starting his first day of work at a videogame magazine? No. No, it did not.

It was June 24, 1996. A bit more than a month previous, in anticipation of moving from my hometown of Cleveland to Chicago, I had answered an ad in the Chicago Tribune for “Writer / Game Player” with a resume (thin) and writing samples (laughable). Both, I learned later, had been promptly lost, but my cover letter had stuck around on someone’s desk long enough to make some sort of impression. So I got asked in for an interview, impressed the hell out of everyone by showing up in a tie, and found myself reporting for work at the offices of Sendai Media the following Monday.

Let me tell you what I saw the first time I walked into this place. You drive up on the outside to a very plain, very institutional-looking, brown-brick building. Three floors, darkish windows — pretty much the epitome of the anonymous late-20th-Century office building. (Come to think of it, here: see for yourself.) You open the doors into a modest, tiled lobby, facing a bit of ugly abstract art that’s inexplicably blocked off with velvet ropes. You go up an open stairway to the second floor. Straight ahead is Reception, but if we’re going to EGM (and we are), we’ll turn left. Swipe your card and open the door.

Continue reading “A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening” »

February 16, 2009

Stop Pollinating Yourselves


Attention game journalists:

Can we stop overselling Flower please? Yes, it’s a lovely little game. Yes, it does a lot of interesting things with control. Yes, it has wonderful atmosphere and a nice message. But how about we let players discover these things for themselves? Do we really need to engage in a Most Embarrassing Hyperbole contest every time we talk about the game?

Here, I’ll help. Here’s a handy list for anyone planning to review, blog about, or otherwise cover the game:

Things Flower Does Not Do

  • Redefines gaming forever
  • Cures cancer
  • Justifies, on its own, the purchase of a PlayStation 3
  • Reverses global warming
  • Personally fellates the player
  • Magically turns your significant other into a gamer
  • Rescues us from the post-holiday lull
  • Saves the whales
  • Feeds the hungry
  • Allows you to stop considering other games for Game of the Year
  • Sticks it to The Man
  • Helps you clean your apartment, you filthy troll
  • Brings about peace in the Middle East
  • Takes the place of real flowers for your loved one
  • Makes you any smarter, hipper, or more attractive
  • Loves you

Things Flower Does

  • Kills a couple hours in a soothing, and yet thought-provoking, fashion
  • Surprises the player…if you people will let it

Thank you for your attention.