Monday, February 14, 2011

No High Scores

Well, we're finally up and running, somewhat.

Still a few kinks to work out but the new blog, with the four JTS members plus Barnes is now live and ready for your perusal.

Hopefully we can bring our different gaming background together to provide you guys with something a little different. Making a new blog worth reading isn't easy but with Todd on board it'll be gravy!

So check out the site, register and comment and we hope you stick around.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Just What in the Hell is Going On Here?

Blame Brandon.

Ok I realize that we have stopped updating the blog.

Seriously -- blame Brandon.

Ok...don't blame him. We should have been a bit more up front about our plans but truth be told we weren't entirely certain what we wanted to do.

Let me explain.

All three of us write for GameShark and partake in the now surprisingly popular Jumping the Shark podcast. We have a devoted following after 50+ episodes.

Nutweasel was always a way for Todd and I to vent a little, talk sports games, boardgames, and generally goof off. I have known Todd for nearly 15 years and consider him a great, great friend so writing with him has always been a joy for me, even though I constantly give him shit for pretty much everything he does. It's just what I do.

Gameshark is my job, and as a contractor for Mad Catz I am somewhat limited in what I can do there from a site design standpoint (don't get me started) and from an editorial standpoint. The blog was a way for me to just be me.

Todd and I maintained the blog for a long time (see the archive) and discovered a pretty solid following...for two doofuses who blathered about nothing in particular. Although the traffic soared every year when NCAA and Madden shipped.

Then came Brandon. Brandon has somehow ended up being one my closest friends, which either says a lot about what a great person he is -- or my choice of friends. I'm undecided as to which.

Brandon is also a great writer, but adding the third man didn't mesh well with Nutweasel. I mean what do we start calling the site? The Nut, the Feisty Weasel and the Transformers Geek?

Doesn't roll off the tongue does it?

So we hatched a plan that involved lassoing in another Jumping the Shark alum, the brilliant Danielle Riendeau, and another writing machine in boardgame/videogame savant Michael Barnes to form a daily gaming blog where we could all do our thing and provide various takes on gaming subjects from all angles.

All five of us come from different backgrounds (Todd and I being the most similar) and what makes the podcast so special (to us at least) will hopefully translate to this new site.

The new blog, which I will publicly announce on next week's podcast, will go live on Feb. 14th (Monday) and I will provide the links at that time. The blog will be a bit more professionally organized with many, many more updates than what Todd and I were able to do here -- even when we were updating as often as we could.

It should be a hell of a lot of fun and another way for all of us to just write about games -- be they PC, console, hand held, or cardboard. From news posts, trailers, game diaries, Brandon's Pokemon obsession dairy, Danielle will talk about the game design class she teaches, Barnes will write a thesis on Ameritrash and Eurogames, and Todd will...well we aren't sure yet but I'm sure it'll be awesome! (see what I mean, I can't help myself)

Basically if it interests us, we'll talk, about it.

So that's what's going on.

I'm sorry to have abandoned the site here for so long, but like I said--

It's always better -- and easier -- to just blame Brandon.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Won't Be Eaten By Atlanta Zombies Either

My last post was about how I'm smarter than your average Norwegian vacationer and as such, would not be falling prey to Zombie Nazis any time soon. Now that the Walking Dead is burning up the air waves, I find it necessary to quiet the raging concern that I might be eaten by Atlanta zombies when shit goes down. After all, I live about 30 minutes north of Atlanta and that's where the Walking Dead takes place, so put two and two together and you have reason to be concerned.

1. Location, Location, Location
There are a fair number of housing developments in the suburban towns surrounding Atlanta that are built right next to churches. More importantly, they're built right next to cemeteries. As with any major, metropolitan area, sprawl can be a problem and often times new shit gets built next to the old shit. Around Atlanta, many times the old shit is either a church, a trailer park, or a church trailer park. Many times there's a cemetery there too. Usually more with the churches than with the trailer parks, but I wouldn't be surprised. Many the times have we driven past these new housing developments and I say to my wife that there is no way in hell I would live to such places as when the zombie outbreak occurs, those people in the housing developments are the appetizers. I ain't about to get munched on by no zombie just because I wanted a swim and tennis community. Fuck that. I don't even play tennis.

2. Life in the Country
My county is pretty dang rural. In fact, not five minutes from me it turns into horse country and while horses have shown to be tasty snacks for rampaging zombies, they tend to live in areas that aren't very population rich. I'm not saying I live out in the boonies or anything, there is a SuperTarget about ten minutes from my house, but we don't have a lot of zombie rich environments: namely cemeteries and hospitals. All I'm saying is that when the zombie outbreak starts, I'll have plenty of notice before I start seeing walkers roaming up my driveway.

3. I Know All About Headshots
In trying to paint a realistic rather than campy image of a zombie outbreak the Walking Dead appears to take place in a universe that doesn't have fictionalized zombie outbreaks. I bet that for the majority of people reading this site, if I were to ask you how you kill a zombie, the answer would come out immediately: destroy the brain. The folks in Walking Dead don't seem to know this which I find odd. This seems to happen a lot with supernatural themed media. In vampire and werewolf movies, the only person who seems to know how to dispatch the beasty is some grizzled dude who has been hunting them his whole life. The rest of the people in the movie are all like "Really, turns into a wolf? That's so weird!" Supernatural seems to be the only show that tries to place itself in our universe, a universe that is steeped in monster fiction. I think it's part of why the show succeeds so well, as they can use the fictionalized aspect of monsters, silly tropes and all, to play with their version of monsters. But I digress. Bottom line is that I know how to fuck a zombie up and I ain't about to waste time while doing it.

4. Slow Jams
The one thing I have learned about Atlanta residents in my five years here is that they can not, to a person, drive to save their fucking lives. Traffic here is horrible, many times because Atlanta drivers become functionally retarded upon getting behind the wheel. I have hit traffic jams, like ground to a halt traffic jams, at the strangest of times. When Rick moseyed up into Atlanta (and yes, they actually filmed in Atlanta), and there were zero cars on the highway into the city, motherfucker should have known that the city was not where he wanted to be. If I'm heading into Atlanta and I'm not stuck behind some asshat who can't be bothered to put down his phone long enough to use his blinker, I know something's up and I'm turning around and going the other way.

5. OTP, Yeah You Know Me
In Atlanta, there are two types of people: people who live ITP, or Inside the Perimeter and people who live OTP, or Outside the Perimeter. In this case, the Perimeter is I-285, the freeway that encircles Atlanta proper. I live and work OTP and have very little reason to ever go ITP, except for the occasional rock show or cultural event. ITP folks and OTP folks usually don't hang together as it takes about three hours to go from one to the other. Plus, there are so many towns OTP that you don't have to go ITP for really anything, except the occasional rock show or cultural event. If a zombie outbreak were to happen here, you wouldn't catch me going ITP for shit, not even if I thought there were a refugee camp. Plus, CDC ain't even downtown so it's not like that's going to help. I'm sticking OTP where there's fewer people and more SuperTargets. I bet the toy looting will be epic.

So don't worry, gentle readers, I don't plan on being eaten by zombies of any stripe any time soon. Murdered by rampaging hordes of GI Joe toy looters in an abandoned SuperTarget? That seems more likely.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I Will Not Be Eaten By Zombie Nazis

Or Nazi zombies for that matter. I never know how to phrase that. Nazi zombies make it sound like someone rose from the grave and then joined the Nazi party whereas zombie Nazis connotes Nazi who became zombies. Either way, I shall not die at the hand, or teeth of such undead fiends, and here's why.

This is all coming from my recent viewing of "Dead Snow" a Norwegian horror film that pits a group of monumentally stupid Norwegian people against hordes of undead Nazis. As a horror movie it was "eh". It wasn't ever all that scary, something I think is fairly important to the genre. It was more of the dumb, gory kind of horror a la "Evil Dead 2" and less of the "Sweet Jesus I just pissed myself" kind of horror as in "The Descent" or "Beaches" so as long as you know that going in to it, you'll do fine.

As a zombie film it wasn't bad. Nazis are always good villains because everyone hates them, including Nazis themselves. Turning the Nazis into zombies gives us even more reason to hate them and for those that lived during WWII, I'm sure there were times that the Germans seemed like an unstoppable force of evil, imagery always associated with zombies. At the same time, anyone who lived through WWII probably isn't spending their time watching "Dead Snow" so instead we have to just be happy with two great evils that taste great together. I will say that the movie kind of fudges a bit with the whole zombie lore. Not in a "28 Days Later" or Left 4 Dead way where the zombies are infected people but more of a "I'm not really sure these are zombies" kind of way. Clearly they looked dead but they also bled, steam came out of their mouths during the snowy bits (probably just as much due to low budget film making than an outright creative decision) and you could dispatch them without busting up Ye Olde Braine Pan. The end result was that they seemed like Nazis who just never died, rather than the undead, an unimportant distinction when being munched on by one of them but I felt it needed to be made.

Regardless, based on what I've seen in "Dead Snow", here's why I won't have undead Nazis wearing my guts for garters any time soon.

I Do Not Hang Out With White People Who Have Dreadlocks
Do you know a white person with dreadlocks? That person makes poor decisions. They are a bad decision maker and if you are in a situation that you feel will result in your safety being threatened, you can write that person off for helping you in said situation. If they feel that dreadlocks look good on them, or any white person, they are dumb. That's it. There was a white woman in the movie who had dreadlocks and the minute I saw her I thought "Oh, you're the dumb one" and she was. In fact, she was so dumb that she ended up paying for her stupidity with her life. Upon successfully escaping from the zombie Nazis she returned to the cabin where her boyfriend and his friend were fighting the undead legions. Her boyfriend was in the midst of a murderous rage, wildly hacking apart a Nazi's head with a hatchet. Rather than hanging back a safe distance and letting him finish his grim task, and then calling out his name to get his attention, she decided instead to walk up and grab his shoulder. He promptly turned around and buried the hatchet in her neck. See? Dumb. As she died he watched her pass, no doubt trying to find the words to say "You always looked stupid in those dreadlocks."

I Do Not Camp
I do not camp. Not ever. I abhor camping. This strategy would have saved the lives of multiple people in this movie. If you and I are going on a vacation and we stop the car on some remote road and then you tell me that our eventual destination is at the end of a 45 minute walk through the woods, I will punch you, take the keys and leave you to be consumed by the shambling hordes. If I have to walk 45 minutes through the woods to get where we are staying, it's a pretty safe assumption that this place doesn't have a) power, b) running water and c) cable. I am not a Neanderthal. I am not a bear. I am not a cougar or a hedgehog or a coral snake. I am a civilized human being and I will not spit on the advances made by our ancestors and shun the comforts that they worked so hard for. If the zombies attack me while I'm staying at the Holiday Inn then so be it, but I'm not about to tempt fate by staying in some remote cabin far away from a Coldstone or a Target. I mean, come on. Similarly, if I know that the mountains are haunted, I'm certainly not going to pitch a tent in said mountains. I'm not even going to pitch a tent in my own backyard. If my kids want to camp they're on their own. I hope they remember to bring shotguns.

My Zombie Repellent is Semi-Automatic
Everyone knows that a shotgun is the best form of zombie repellent. Everyone. Shotguns have a wide spread, ensuring total cranial decimation and they have excellent stopping power. Everyone should know that your shotgun has to be semi-automatic or you might as well have a puppy in your hand for all the good it will do you. In the movie, our hapless vacationers are visited by Scary Old Dude who then tells them that there's Nazi's in them thar hills. He then proceeds to camp in them thar hills and when he hears mischief outside of his tent he grabs his shotgun, a useless double barreled manual jobbie. Well dude, I hope for your sake there's only two zombies coming after you because they're not going to wait for you to reload. When the zombie apocalypse comes, and it will come, mark my words, there's going to be two kinds of people in this world: those with semi-automatic shotguns and those that are dead. Well, and the undead so that's three. Come to think of it, kids probably shouldn't have guns so I guess that's four. Or the elderly, they probably shouldn't either. Ok, so when the zombie apocalypse comes there's going to be five kinds of people in this world: those with semi-automatic shotguns, kids, the elderly, those that are dead and those that are undead.

I Know How To Fire A Weapon
Now I'm not saying I'm Frank Castle up in this bitch but I can hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun and I'll spray a zombie's white meat all over creation as it's running towards me as fast as you can say "Shaun of the Dead". I know that America has all sorts of gun crime and accidental gun deaths but when the zombie apocalypse comes, what country do you think will fall last? I can give you a hint: it ain't gonna be Norway. Not if the entire country shoots like these morons.

I Will Not Have Sex In An Outhouse
Yes, this is a thing that happened in this movie and there wasn't any nudity so it was nothing but ick, especially when the chick put the dude's finger in her mouth right after he had just wiped himself. In a movie where a dude climbs a mountain using a zombie's intestines as his rope, the fact that the outhouse sex scene was the most disgusting thing says a lot. I'm not saying I wouldn't have sex in a bathroom. Hell, my master bathroom is bigger than the room I lived in during my college years but a bathroom is not an outhouse. Bathrooms have nice counters and, more importantly, running water to take the poo and pee away to a happy place called Shit Meadows where the human waste can frolic in fields of filth. An outhouse is basically a shack that sits atop a shit filled hole. Maybe I've been married too long and the promise of regular sex has dulled me to what it was like to be young, in my twenties and so desperate for nookie that you're willing to have sex at any time, even when straddled over a still steaming pile of your own filth but I don't think so. True to the "first person who gets laid gets dead" rules of horror, the woman who did the deed was promptly then pulled into the poo pile by the zombies. She did manage to escape though and as she stumbled to the cabin, caked in shit and desperately trying to hold her guts in, all I could think of was "Ooooh, that's going to get infected."

I Know All About Pirate Gold
At its heart, "Dead Snow"is not a zombie movie, it's a pirate gold ghost story movie. You know the kind. Pirates get gold, they get cursed, they disappear, someone finds the gold and the pirate ghosts then terrorize everyone until they get their gold back. The same thing is going on here only instead of pirates it's Nazis. See back in the day, the Nazis occupied some Norwegian village and did bad things like steal the villagers' gold. When the tides turned against the Nazis the villagers said "Fuck that shit" or the Norwegian equivalent (fuck det der, loosely translated) and rose up and either killed the Nazis or drove them into the mountains, I don't remember. Oddly enough, they didn't get their gold back first. The dumb ass vacationers then find said gold and even though they had been told about the gold by Creepy Old And Poorly Armed Dude, and even though you could clearly make out a giant, gold SS eagle they were still all like "A-durrr, what's this? Derp, derp, derp." If some dude tells me a story about stolen Nazi gold and then I find a chest of it in the cabin I wouldn't be staying in because it's out in the fucking sticks, you best believe I'd be chucking that gold off of the nearest cliff with a quickness. Happy trails you zombie fucks, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

I Do Not Ski
The first, and only time I've ever gone skiing, I almost fell off a mountain. I have been terrified of skiing ever since. If I don't ski, I can't try and ski through the mountains to get to a cabin and meet my boyfriend there. If I'm not skiing through the mountains, I won't get attacked and eaten by undead fascists. This ain't rocket science.

And finally...
I Am Not Dumb
I may not be the brightest bulb in the bulbarium (you know, the place where they grow the light bulbs) but I'm not nearly as stupid as the people in this movie. Granted, that's what you expect in horror films, to see dumb people making bad decisions and getting their faces eaten off for their dumb troubles. Still, the humans in this movie are so blindingly stupid that it becomes increasingly hard to feel anything but contempt for them and, as a result, start cheering on the zombies in the same way that if you were to watch someone climb into the tiger cage at the zoo, you'd be more inclined to see how it all plays out rather than rescue the guy from his own terminal stupidity. At least I would. Well, me and Katt Williams any way. (As an aside, that bit is one of my top ten favorite bits. Katt Williams is a fucking genius and if you can't see that, then there's no hope for you.) So yeah, I may not be the paragon of intelligence, but I can tell you this: if I get to the woods and there's a sign that says "Warning: Zombie Nazis Afoot" you can best believe I won't be sticking around.

Monday, October 11, 2010

NBA 2K 11 Review

Posted this morning.

It's on the long side so Todd gets to yell at me.

Another great sports release and I am serious when I say in the review that picking a sports game of the year will not be easy. A lot of GREAT stuff in 2010.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Secretariat Film is a Pass

The Secretariat movie was beyond disappointing.

I understand poetic/creative license when doing a historical film like this.

But this movie got SO many things just plain wrong that it was distracting to anyone who knows the story of this great Thoroughbred.

They turned it into classic Disney Hollywood schlock.

They turned good people into villains for no good reason other than every story needs a bad guy.

They filmed the damn movie at Keeneland -- this would be like filming a movie about the Daytona 500 in Indianapolis, and leaving in the symbols of Indy in place. Hey guys, we have technology to erase the KEENELAND signs.

They got SO much wrong. For no reason at all. The dialogue was cookie cutter and the directing was like a made for TV movie.

They got one thing right: Secretariat was a nationwide phenomenon and won the Triple Crown in 1973.

Good job guys.

NBA 2K11 Review Monday

Review is pretty much done at this point.

So many things to like/love about this game and still so many things that need work. I think this is about as "complete" a 2K game as we have ever seen, but there are still a lot of head scratching decisions that were made by the developers.

In all, it's highly recommended but with caution: the main one being you better have some serious gamepad skills to get the most out of what this game is trying to accomplish.

It's the hardcore flight sim of sports games.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cut Scenes From Hell

I hate cut scenes in sports games.

Despise them.

NBA 2K11 loves them. With all its heart.

I am playing on full 12 min. quarters and games are taking a LONG time, because, well, I'm on 12 min quarters but also because every play stoppage, every sub, every free throw, 2K wants to show me how "TV Like" its game is.

I DO NOT CARE who the Sprite Player of whatever is, or the Gatorade whatever moment is. I do not need the Gatorade sub screen to show me who is coming in and out of the game. A quick flash of subs is all I need. I sure as hell don't need up close shots of players after a play.

Now, you are supposed to be able to turn that shit off, but in the presentation menu I only see a few options for such things and I still get to see these intermittent cut scenes far too often in this game.

GET ME TO THE ACTION. I don't give a shit if this is "just like it is on television."

This isn't television. I have shit to do. I am wearing out the A button on my controller pleading with NBA 2K11 to stop showing me stuff that has nothing to do with me playing the game.

As for the game itself, it's good, it's bad, and I hate Michael Jordan.

Seriously, it is a very challenging game when playing on the "PRO SIM" mode. I lost to the 76ers 104-101 as Boston in overtime. I didn't care to see Even Turner killing me with 3s because ...Even Turner shouldn't do that, but overall it feels pretty authentic.

I STILL think t egame is best played by gamepad gurus who can master a million different moves, and I still hate that slow PFers who get caught in rotation on Rondo can guard him like they are John Starks...but hey..

Monday, October 4, 2010

NBA 2K 11

Been playing this one a lot today -- got this too late to have a review up tomorrow -- but it's coming ASAP.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Civilization 5 and Its Artificial Unintelligence

So, if you’ve listened to this week’s Jumping the Shark podcast you got a plateful of Civilization 5 thoughts. At that point I had about six hours or so in the game and had a generally favorable impression. Now that I’ve had a full week with it (and about 20 hours), it has soured somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going back to Civ IV (yet). There’s a lot of stuff I like a great deal and, if I don’t get lazy, I’ll write about that too, in a later post. That said, I’m really distressed by the level of incompetence I’m seeing and reading about with regards to the AI.

Here’s the thing. I really want to be sympathetic about the game's AI issues given that the combat model is a total revolution (no pun intended) in the Civ series design. But I can't. This is something where Firaxis knows they're making this big change -probably right from the beginning- and they have to *know* that military AI will have to essentially be re-built from the ground up. That's something they have to get right. A few holes is one thing (and inevitable), but this isn't a game that, long term, can absorb having a toothless AI against an experienced opponent. And it is toothless. It apparently can't conquer a city state without a Herculean effort. How is it going to beat a human player once said player has grown comfortable with the rules and mechanics?

It would be one thing if the AI itself got better on higher difficulties, but from what I'm reading it really doesn't. It just gets bigger and better bonuses. (That’s a totally unverified assertion; your mileage may vary.) If what you see with the AI at the Prince level (where the playing field is totally level) is what you get, then they really have some work to do.

In my first game, played at Prince (4) difficulty, I achieved a science victory by 1985 (not totally unreasonable at that level), while the AI was still floating around in frigates and finding out gunpowder was kinda neat (way too inept at a level where the playing field is supposed to be level). Militarily… well, here's an example from that game, which I completed last night:

I'm (as the Americans) on a continent with the Persians and Greeks. I take out the Persians pretty early on. They never had more than a couple of military units and they threw them away by attacking the teeth of my invading forces (composed of archers, chariots, and spearmen; no siege units at all). With no siege units, conquering their two cities took a bit of time, but it was a speed-bump since Darius could not defend himself.

Later I went up against the Greeks, who were of equal or greater size to my civ, but were less advanced (later on, significantly so). I fought them, basically, in three stages.

The first phase of the war was fine. I attacked him where he was over-expanded and at his weakest. (He plopped two cities in a line, bisecting my empire in two.) No big deal that I easily won that confrontation. I should have, given my tech advantage and the fact that I had horses and Darius did not.

The second phase is where it was obvious the AI just didn't know what it was doing. When I started up hostilities again, Alexander had been picking on two city states (Stockholm and Venice). He'd mostly given up on Stockholm because I went in and positioned my own units around the city to protect them, so he appeared to have turned his full attention to Venice. And when i say “full attention,” I mean very nearly that. He left a couple of military units behind, but not nearly enough to protect his turf. So when I moved in, I basically had free range to roam his countryside and position myself around his cities however I liked. Bear in mind, any human player would have seen this coming. I had units all over my border with him.

Now, he's got at least four military units up to the north, basically laying siege to Venice, which was on a peninsula, sans actual siege units. I did not go to his capital straight-away, so even discounting my invasion was telegraphed a good five to ten turns ahead of time, he still had time to bring his forces back. Maybe even heal them up a little. As I took out my initial target (Sparta) he did nothing of the sort. I ended up taking his capital with nothing there to defend it because he was all about Venice. Again, I didn't even need siege units of my own. I just relied on my, now huge, tech advantage that had me running over his turf with Knights and Muskets.  (I couldn't build trebuchet's if I wanted to, since I lacked iron.) He did eventually pull units back as I moved north, but once his capital fell it was beyond too late. Once I had conquered all but two of his cities I took a peace deal so I could deal with unhappiness from all these new puppet states.

The third phase was just mop up. Alexander had no means to build enough units in ten turns to mount any kind of defense.

Ignoring my ability to build a big early tech lead despite not yet being familiar with all the new gameplay concepts, what really bugs me is that it seems clear the AI is incapable of moving to defend itself, even when it has the means to do so. This is not the kind of thing that can be justified by, "well, it's a new combat system."

Alexander focusing on a city state while he’s got hostile forces marching on Athens is just not acceptable. Also, just to be clear, I'm an experienced player, but not a particularly good one. And that’s an important distinction because you don’t have to be one of the savants at CivFanatics to badly exploit this game. You just need enough experience with the game to understand how the different mechanics work. That’s just a function of time.

Now, balancing that is a host of stuff I really like. The Social Policy system is really interesting, even if I do think I like the old Civics system a bit better. I *love* that cities can now defend themselves to some degree. AI aside, I love the new military model. It’s so much better than the stacks of doom model of previous Civs. I like how culture works. I think I like the new global Happiness model that essentially replaces stuff like corruption and healthiness, although I’m not convinced it’s well-balanced yet. (Others seem to think there’s a lot of ways to exploit happiness, but this is probably more a concern for players more skilled than I. Still, Firaxis may have oversimplified in relying on that mechanic to dictate empire growth.)

And also, to be fair, I did see the AI do some things that were, well, if not especially smart, certainly correct. Long after I vanquished Alexander, Napoleon came trolling from across the sea. He surrounded the city state of Stockholm with galleons (I think). I was not looking for war with France, but I also did not want to lose Stockholm as an ally. So, I exploited my giant tech lead by gifting Stockholm with a destroyer. As soon as that ship was in Stockholm’s port, Napoleon wasted no time in pulling back, rather than fight an uphill battle. That’s good. (Also, there’s a perverse thrill to be had from launching a torpedo attack from your sub on a nearby frigate. BOOM!)

I think the take home is ultimately that this game is a load of fun early on where you're just learning how it's evolved from CivIV (or learning it for the first time). Firaxis took a lot of chances and tried a lot of new things with this game and I respect that *a lot*. That said, long term, it really looks to me like Firaxis has a ton of work to do to get this game balanced and running the way it needs to. Their history says they will, but until they get a legit patch in the field, you should buy the game knowing that long term enjoyment from the gameplay is probably limited for the foreseeable future. (And by long term, I mean in the 40+ hour range. I put about 15 hours into my first game on a standard size map and game length and am far from tired of it. I can just see some of the writing on the wall.)

Yes, you can up the difficulty, but personally, I don’t enjoy the game as much when I know I’m getting beat just because the AI has ridiculous production and research advantages. I like to be challenged on a level, or only modestly tilted, playing field. That’s something I got from the previous games that it looks like I’m unlikely to get here. I’ve started a new game on King (5) and we’ll see how it goes. I hope to be proved wrong.