Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Top Five Things That You Screwed Up In Your House Ad

I'm tired of seeing flyers, pamphlets, Craigslist ads, and even MLS listings that are meant to sell me on a multi-hundred-thousand dollar purchase, but end up feeling like they weren't even worth the three seconds of consciousness I dedicated to looking at them.

Without further ado, the list of reasons why your house ad sucks, created solely by my unenlightened inexperienced homebuyer self. Oh wait... it's "a great starter home for first time homebuyers"? Maybe you should listen to me.

  1. Your photo sucks
    Practically every home ad includes at least (sometimes only) one photo. Why on Earth would you use that photo to take a picture of the complex welcome sign? Could you not just use words for that? Is that picture of four words really worth a thousand words? If there's only one photo I get to see, it had better be a shot of the front of the house! Or, if there's something truly impressive (ie. newly remodelled kitchen, or stunning view), then maybe that, but it had better be gosh darn impressive.
    Collary: the rest of your photos suck too!
    If you're using a website, you can generally include lots more photos. THEN DO IT! Why only include two or three? Digital cameras are cheap, webspace even more so. Anyone who can afford your house has broadband, so don't worry about my poor overworked Internet connection. And lrn2photos, people! I admit openly interior house shots are difficult to photograph well, but at least try to get a few with decent lighting. And it really isn't that hard to maintain the aspect ratio when you upload them. Oh, and take at least one picture of every room - if you leave one out, I'll assume you did so for a reason.
  2. Location, Location, Location!
    Sorry, I don't care how nice your house is, if it's in Tacoma, and I work in Seattle, I'm not buying it. Plus, this tempers everything else you say about the house - price can vary heavily by region. And no, the county is not enough! I *must* know the neighbourhood of the city in which it is located. Ideally, I want the exact address, but I acknowledge that this may not be appropriate for some venues. Thankfully MLS listings always seem to require exact addresses.
  3. Size matters.
    It may be newly remodelled and be in the best school district, but I'm not spending my life savings just to close a deal on something smaller than my bachelor apartment. This applies to all the main statistics: square footage (both the house, and if applicable, the lot), bedrooms, bathrooms, floors. If you don't tell me, I assume it's because the numbers are bad for the price you're charging.
  4. HOA / Community Issues
    While not always applicable, or simply not enough room, if you can, I need to know about the community. HOA dues are good to know, but what do they cover? What about the inevitable pain the nearly pervasive HOAs around here inflict? Pet policies? Restrictions on modifying unit exteriors?
  5. It's Nice?
    Come on now, you have a text box to sell your house with. You should really fill it with key selling points, and avoid duplication or fluff. This is the 21st century; I don't need you to tell me that it's minutes from the highway - I'm looking at the satellite imagery of you on your front porch as we speak! If the stats are elsewhere, don't repeat them. I want to know about the sweet upgrades, your buyer bonus, how you get complimentary room service for life, and how it's peaceful and quiet. Oh, and it's "luxurious, modern living at an affordable price?" Strange, so were the last three!

Now people are wondering two things, I'd bet.

First, do people really do nooby things like this?
Go visit Craigslist, and take a look. Next question.

Second, some may be of the opinion that leaving out details can make sense. Build the curiosity, convince the potential buyer to call to find out more. Then the magic seller agent can weave the web of salesmanship from which the hapless buyer has no chance to escape.
Sorry, no. Maybe in a hot market you can get away with that, but when I'm seeing a dozen listings a day for potential purchases, let me tell you that I'm not wasting my time on your crappy ad. Anything I don't see I assume the worst about, and that'll quickly get you cut from my shortlist.

That's my rant. Carry on.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Dead Rising

I got the chance to borrow Dead Rising the other day, and have played it a significant part of the way through (partway through 'Overtime').

After playing for awhile, I'm left bewildered.

How on Earth could such an innovative, creative, diverse replayable game be released with such obvious gameplay flaws?

Let me give you a bit more. You're a freelance photographer/reporter, in a mall, filled with zombies. Your objectives are to:
  • Survive.
  • Reach the helipad in exactly three days of gametime, for your ride out.
  • Reveal "the facts" about how zombies ended up in the mall, as dictated by a set of chained quests.
  • Rescue a variety of survivors hiding in the mall, desperately avoiding both the zombies and a variety of psychopaths.
  • Killing psychopaths and zombies.
  • Gain "prestiege points" (read: XP) by doing varieties of the above tasks, as well as taking photos for later publication.

All of these (except survival) are optional, and in fact, it would be exceedingly difficult to satisfy them all simultaneously (I think there are at least 5 main endings based on combinations of above). This automatically means heavy replayability, but is further augmented by unlocked game content, including a continuation "overtime" day following one possible ending, a free-play mode, and plenty of fun Xbox achievements.

And, in the end, you get to rummage through an entire mall, taking whatever the hell you want from it, and using these objects to kill zombies, and perhaps take pictures afterwards of your handiwork. Oh, and the graphics are great.

But one must wonder where their test team was on for all this. Such a great game is completely ruined by several fatal gameplay flaws.

  • Controls. Every single button on the controller is used, normally in unintuitive ways. Plus a series of special moves for which they do not describe the controller combinations to activate.
  • Control utility. When your weapon durability expires (yes, all weapons do this), it automatically switches to the next item (no you don't really control ordering).... if you're wildly swinging a bat, congrats, you've quaffed all your healing potions before you realize it. If you get a radio message, it beeps intermittently until you answer, locking out all combat controls; unless you get attacked, in which case it cuts you off, then you get chastized for interrupting the speaker. Your guns are practically useless without targeting, which takes forever to manually perform (no Z-targeting!). Likewise, action shots are not enabled for your camera, and even if they did, taking any 'good' photos basically means you're going to get hurt.
  • Difficulty. The game is hard... very hard. Without an FAQ, most are just going to get frustrated and quit when you encounter your *first* psychopaths which outnumber you three to one, have the game's most powerful weapon, and a jeep, before you've even really seen much more than your first handgun!
  • Unforgiving. Most games these days seem to have a "no stuck" mentality - ie. you can never play yourself into a dead-end. This game explicitly counters this - the main plotline is heavily time-sensitive, and offers no outs. You can only make one save game, so you can screw yourself easily by saving with too little time left or with too little health to survive an encounter.
  • Quirky human fights. Fighting hordes of zombies works gracefully. The human fights are downright lame - they're pattern fights at best, and at worse simply require you to exploit pathing and clipping bugs to make possible. This gets even worse when they start loading the mall with humans with full automatic weapons.
  • Heavy zoning. Come on, if WoW can have an entire continent with seamless transitions, one should expect a single group of mall stores without 15 seconds of loading time.

Seriously, how can anyone with any experience of enjoyment of games justify all of these as non-critical issues?

Game companies just make me mad sometimes.