The Forthog DLC Is Cancelled: Long Live Forthog

We’re hopefully not going to be in the business of reporting news, but the Lord of the Rings: Shadow of War “Forthog Orc-Slayer” DLC has been effectively cancelled, with everyone getting refunds: “The DLC will be withdrawn from sale and will be a free download for owners of Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Anyone who has purchased the DLC will receive a full refund.”

In an announcement, a WB Games community manager explains how the logistics of the project became insurmountable, and notes that

We now recognize that tying our donation to sales of the DLC was not the best way to achieve our goal of offering financial support to the family and creating a lasting memorial to Michael Forgey.

In case you are still interested in the overall topic of the ethics of immortalizing someone, in a DLC or otherwise, I wrote about it from a philosophical point of view in the article, “The Calculated Corporate Cynicism of Shadow of War’s Charity DLC.”

Admittedly, I was quite miffed about the DLC, so I gave the article a feisty title. There are some nice things in the article, too.

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List of Games That No Longer Run on AMD Phenom

Note: I do have just enough self-awareness to file this story under our historical category, Time Machine.

Update 31 Oct, 2017:

UPDATE 25 Oct, 2017:

  1. Added Resident Evil 7 to the list. Like Destiny 2, it originally required SSSE3 support.
  2. Added Destiny 2 to the list. Tech support notes the game requires SSSE3. The developers “…are investigating the issue and will attempt to fix the crash” ((https://www.bungie.net/en/Forums/Post/236455208?sort=0&page=0)). See this post for more information.

There is a tiny, though increasing, category of PC platform video game ports: Games that no longer run on AMD’s Phenom AM2/3 CPUs. There is a simple reason why, shared by all these games: They have been programmed to require CPU support for Intel’s SSE 4 (“Streaming SIMD Extensions 4”) instruction set, version 4.1 or higher, or the SSSE3 (“Supplemental Streaming SIMD Extensions 3,” not to be confused with SSE3).

The Phenom CPUs, however, only support SSE up to 4.0, and lack SSSE3 support, as it was introduced in the Bobcat architecture in early 2011. These two issues, either/or, form the simple reason why some games, older and newer, fail to start on Phenom processors. As a surprise to absolutely no-one, I am one of these last Phenom survivors affected by this issue.

Phenomenal Legacy

AMD produced Phenoms from 2007 to 2008, and Phenom II’s from 2008 to 2012. It’s now 2017, but to everyone’s surprise, these processors are still surprisingly feisty. The final Phenom II processors produced do not pale, much if at all, in comparison to AMD’s follow-up 2011 FX series – a fact that obviously has much to do with AMD’s failures at CPU development. After all, AMD is only finally beginning to catch up to Intel with the new Ryzen architecture released this year. Back in 2008, however, the Phenom was a competitively priced, powerful alternative to almost everything Intel was offering.

Admittedly, it’s been seven years since the Sep 21, 2010 introduction date of my AMD Phenom II X4 970 BE, but I’ve managed to hold on to it just fine. You may be surprised to hear it still runs all most new games today. I won’t bore you with the details, given this is an article for the like-minded, but I just tried out three games on the Phenom-hating list: Dishonored 2, and Mafia 3, both which run easily around 60fps in high detail after being patched by developers, and Dead Rising 4, which doesn’t boot at all without SSE emulation (see below). Other new games, like Prey, work equally well.

I know 60fps isn’t great, or even good, but it’s not bad, either. Heck, I played the original Half-Life 2 on an Nvidia GeForce 2 MX GPU. That’s bad.

List of Games Not Supporting AMD Phenom at Launch

Below, I have compiled a list of PC ports that did not outright run on AMD Phenom CPUs. I’ve compiled information of current with patch notes and developer responses. The current list includes the following games:

  • Agents of Mayhem,
  • Dead Rising 4,
  • Destiny 2,
  • Dishonored 2,
  • Mafia 3,
  • Nex Machina,
  • Earth Defense Force,
  • METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN,
  • No Man’s Sky,
  • Resident Evil 7

(more…)

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The Cuphead Runneth Over Dean

GamesBeat writer Dean Takahashi, @deantak, recently had some trouble playing Cuphead:

This new video has, in many ways, brought back the game journalist competency debate that last reared its ugly head when Polygon’s Arthur Gies played Doom and didn’t do it very well.

The emergent arguments and accusations levied at the person in question have been as various as they are dubious: That Mr. Takahashi’s specific position, as a video game journalist, requires him to be good at all games, or flatly refuse to touch anything and everything that he is not “good enough” at; and that his incompetence at one game now renders him entirely incompetent on the whole, furthermore throwing his entire review history under question. In addition, his performance has not only at once “embarrassed” him, but also the entity he works for.

Finally, it was to be noted, Takahashi’s flub had once again illustrated – nay, revealed – the review charade, calling into question the entire premise of not only games journalism, games journalists, but also journalism and the media on the whole!

This is to say nothing of the dismaying meanness directed at Takahashi, which quite obviously relates, in large part, to a collective psychosis, an osmosis into social media -based outrage culture, wherein any and all faces protruding from the otherwise ubiquitous and oblique mass media diet are instantly bandwagoned upon, to be smitten with holy anger for daring to err, in public, or in private. There were also those that simply tried throwing further fuel on the fire, like @stillgray, who chose to abandon professional courtesy in favour of blatant populism.

In this post – which is, by the way, not a defense of Takahashi, or in favour of any other specific person – I discuss the idea of whether we can have, at all, a shared criterion of competence that can be applied uniformly, and fairly, to video game criticism. I also discuss the unique – and very, very difficult position – that games journalism, and especially reviewing as one of its sub-sections, occupies amidst different types, or forms, of the objects of aesthetic analysis.

If you, in your heart of hearts, think that Mr. Dean Takahashi is a bad, or a flawed, person because he’s bad at Cuphead, and that as a journalist, this would then imply that he essentially fakes his his way through reviews (also discussing game endings), then I guess that’s fine, too. Takahashi makes for an easy target for criticism, after all: One can easily bring up some of the more indefensible things that he’s written, even discounting all the PR release talk, like his claim that a Warhammer 40 000 game ripped off Gears of War.

That being said, I think it might be pertinent, for this article, to read and attempt to understand his personal response to the debacle, which unfortunately ran with the same clichéd headline I had prepared for my own article.

The essential point of this article is simply this: If you at all believe that occasions such as these are clear-cut, open-and-shut cases in favour of the idea that “games journalists are all bad and should feel bad,” then I want to present an argument to the opposite. I also detest the idea of intentionally avoiding the complexities, difficulties, and ambiguities of the topic and believe that does a great, great disservice to all of us: To those writing reviews, and to those reading them.

There is nothing simple at all about the constant negotiation and balancing act that a games journalist does, between the three terrible pillars of competence, objectivity, and public servitude.

(more…)

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The Calculated Corporate Cynicism of Shadow of War’s Charity DLC

Note: For the purpose of this post, I have created a new category of post called “Contemporary Cynicism”. In this series, we are going to offer opinions that discuss the question of right and wrong in video games without adherence to common constraints set upon such public discourse. Since the video game companies of today often seem to be so beyond what we consider ethical behaviour, then maybe we should be, too.

Several outlets are now reporting that Monolith is releasing a charity DLC, for Middle-earth: Shadow of War, in memory of their late executive producer Michael David Forgey (1973-2016). Here is a promotional video for the “Forthog Orcslayer” DLC:

 

This stirring, even touching advertisement, which stands in direct opposition to an earlier trailer released for the game, contains music written and performed by the late Michael Forgey himself, advertises the DLC as available for pre-order now, for $4.99. The product is described as follows:

A legend among the Orcs of Mordor, Forthog Orcslayer is an unstoppable warrior who saves Mordor’s mightiest heroes at their moment of greatest need.

Mike “”Forthog”” Forgey was our Executive Producer and great friend here at Monolith. He was always ready to leap into the fray and save the game whenever and wherever he was most needed. We lost Mike to cancer during the development of Shadow of War, and we want to remember and honor him with a little bit of immortality in Mordor. The legendary Forthog Orcslayer is our way to continue having Mike leap into battle and save us when we’re down.

We hope that you will share in the experience of being saved by the legendary Forthog Orcslayer as you enter the land of shadow.

According to the announcement, “WB Games will donate $3.50 of every Forthog Orc-Slayer purchase to the Forgey family through 31st December 2019.” (more…)

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