Monthly Archives: October 2009

Modern Warfare 2 goes too far.

Here are several minutes of leaked gameplay from the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In the scene, the player takes the role of a terrorist as he and his crew invade and wreak havoc upon a civilian airport, callously killing waiting passengers and their families.

Disclaimer: No one outside of Activision has seen what happens before and after the scene, but I do believe that enough is shown to make some initial conjectures about the content.

Most of us at the studio recoiled and winced in disbelief when we watched this. If we were so affected, what the hell is mom going to think when she sees her kid gunning down innocents in an airport? What is the press going to think? Christ, Jack Thompson is going to have a field day with this.

From the official statement in response to the footage:

The scene establishes the depth of evil and the cold bloodedness of a rogue Russian villain and his unit. By establishing that evil, it adds to the urgency of the player’s mission to stop them.

Players have the option of skipping over the scene. At the beginning of the game, there are two ‘checkpoints’ where the player is advised that some people may find an upcoming segment disturbing. These checkpoints can’t be disabled.

Modern Warfare 2 is a fantasy action game designed for intense, realistic game play that mirrors real life conflicts, much like epic, action movies. It is appropriately rated 18 for violent scenes, which means it is intended for those who are 18 and older.

If the goal was to establish the depth of evil and cold bloodedness of the villain, Activision has failed sorely. By having the player assume the role of the villain taking part in these horrific acts, they’ve consequently freed the conceptual villain of a portion of the blame, because now the murdered civilians are the result of direct actions taken by the player.

That’s an important distinction.

If the goal was to establish the depth of evil and cold bloodedness of the villain, why not remove the player’s ability to dictate or control the scene in any way? Activision could’ve easily used the very successful opening of the first Modern Warfare as an example, throwing the player into the role of the terrorist, allowing, at the most, the ability to look around the scene helplessly with the right stick as your avatar and his buddies lay waste to the innocents. That would’ve been horrifying to experience.

Or hell, place the player in the role of a civilian. Establish a scene — hugging your wife and children goodbye, tossing a soda into the bin, turning back to the flight status board — when WHAM, gunfire erupts. Do you run towards your family, unable to do a thing as they are gunned down, or do you duck behind barriers, scrambling for safety among the crowds, amidst the screams and the panic, as the terrorists nonchalantly walk though the terminal, killing all in sight? That would’ve been horrifying to experience.

The scene in the video? 100% gratuitous.


From the ESRB Rating Information:

The most intense depiction of violence occurs during a “No Russian” mission where players take on the role of an undercover Ranger: Several civilians are gunned down at an airport as players are given a choice to participate in the killings (e.g., players can shoot a wounded civilian that is crawling on the ground), or walk by and observe without opening fire.

The above quote certainly changes the circumstances. Rather than putting the player in the role of the evil villain, the player is undercover and along for the ride, accompanied by the villain, who is demonstratively evil. Whether the player chooses to follow along or resist the killings is entirely up to the player.

I like this scenario much better.


I was going to write a review of the 1991 James Glickenhaus (director of The Exterminator, The Protector, and a handful of other similar-league releases) anti-drug revenge movie McBain, but honestly, you’ll learn everything you need to know about McBain simply by watching this brief/horrible/awesome scene from the film:

As far as I can tell, it’s been out of print for years and never officially made it to DVD in the United States. I ended up purchasing a Hong Kong 4:3 release of nebulous legality, which honestly makes the whole McBain viewing experience that much more special.

McBain trivia! The movie’s release prevented the Simpsons writers from referring to their own character of the name same (star of a fictional McBain series of films), so they invented a real name for the character, Rainier Wolfcastle, to use instead.

Restoring Count-Down: the cabinet.

So here’s what I started with… a handful of erratic spraypaint additions and a repainted backbox surround.
Count-Down side
Count-Down backbox
Count-Down front

The original Count-Down stencil art is (in my opinion), the worst of all the Gottlieb System 1 games. A shame, as the playfield and backglass designs are some of the best from the era.

If you look at some of the better System 1 examples, you’ll see a much more skillful use of style and composition in the stencils. Thoughtful design, sharp and flowing edges, graphic design pieces that hold up as art on their own. Now compare those to Count-Down: rather than choosing lines carefully and pushing towards the iconic, the rocket was simply illustrated as a child would draw it (although I do like the coiling smoke of the liftoff), with cabinet front stenciling that did nothing to connect the pieces or bolster the overall theme.

So I said purists be damned, and drew up something new.

In the old days, back before the word hitchhiker became analogous to murderer, if you came across traveler with her thumb out while you were only driving a short distance, this is the gesture you’d give:
Hitchhiker gesture

That gesture said, “hey there space babe, you’re welcome to come along, but I’m not going far,” giving your prospective hiker the chance to pass and wait out for a more beneficial riding opportunity. And in space babe terms, circling the Earth in a space station would certainly be considered short distance travel.

With that in mind, I themed the stencil redesign on the NASA space program of the 1970s, with a Saturn V rocket (carrying the Skylab payload), and a font based on the agency’s then-current worm logo. At the same time, I still wanted the cabinet to be recognizably Count-Down.

Here’s the final artwork, just before sending the Illustrator files off to Rich at for reproduction.
custom stencil

While the addition of the numbers meant that two sets of backbox stencils would have to be made (usually, stencils on one side simply mirror those on the other), I felt it was necessary to anchor the art to the game, and to help the backbox stand out as more than just a smaller version of the main cabinet design.

Here’s what I received in the mail a few weeks later:
custom stencils from
Continue reading

link love 101609

If you’re local, don’t forget: Max Brooks will be speaking at the Clark County Library tonight at 7:00pm.


Playgrounds from the 1970s. I was thinking the other day that designing a series of dinosaur jungle gyms would be a lot of fun… apparently there’s at least one already out there. Also, we had the generic t-shaped gym when we were kids — five of us would climb into one at lunch and be Voltron for the hour. [via MAKE]

Heather Anne Campbell’s Demon’s Souls review. I’ve been chipping away at the game all week… it’s tough, but fun tough.

A Gamasutra Q&A: Parsing Fumito Ueda’s Creativity.

Restoring Count-Down: Playfield

I mention this every time I write up one of these, but I can’t stress it enough… take lots of pictures! If your memory is as unreliable as mine, reference photos will save your ass when it comes to the putting everything back together stage.

Playfield reference
Under playfield reference

Another tip: Punch all of your rails and nails into a piece of cardboard. Even better than a reference photo.
Rails and nails!

While the playfield plastics were mostly in decent shape, they were a bit warped. A hot afternoon in the sun pressed between sheets of glass (thanks Cyberball RIP!) flattened them out nicely.
Flattening plastics

First step before touchups was to clean the hell out of the playfield. Tim Arnold recommended Turtle Wax Chrome Polish, which also came in handy for the actual chrome bits later on, and I followed that with Novus2 and Magic Eraser melamine foam (with alcohol rather than water) to pull up some of the heavy ball swirls in the paint. Be careful with the melamine foam, as too much pressure can quickly chew through your playfield.

I used water based figure paints because I’m a nerd and had some on hand, but I dunno if I’d go this route again. Coverage was sometimes a pain, and I had some minor color shifting after the clearcoat application.
Touching up space and the Gottlieb logo

The above area, after touchups. The nosecone match was a bit off, but as I ended up repainting the entire cone, it looks fine assembled.

Touchup work is very delicate and time consuming, but the end results are worth it. Maybe. I mean, I love the way the playfield turned out, and thank God for podcasts to listen to in the background, but I spent many many hours hunkered over the thing. Something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life and all that, right?
Finished touchups!

Next step was clearcoating. Clay Harrell’s pinball restoration guide was a huge help here, and I recommend referencing it if you undertake a similar project. Between that and his repair guides, you could pretty much get from beginning to end with his articles as your sole source of information.
Clear coat time

I used Varathane semi-gloss clearcoat, applied liberally with a day or two of drying time between applications. Once I had a couple coats down, I added a round of light sanding between each coat, taking care to not tear into the layer beneath. After a total of six coats, I let it cure for a couple weeks and then took a final pass with the high grit sandpaper.

The whole clearcoating process took about a month, but the actual time requirements each week were minimal. The important part is having someplace for the playfield to dry where it won’t attract dirt and contaminants.

That's a Sea Devil reflecting in the playfield.

Next: restenciling the cabinet.