Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The tumbler

THE BATMOBILE. or sort of w/e. Yeah the tumbler is the name of the car Batman drives and its so freaking cool. He uses it to "tumble" off rooftops. I am also tumbling off towards tumblr.com how cool is that? Yeah I used cool like 4 times already, Ill stop. For the future, bad jokes aside you can find my writing over at here

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Death of the Self, (and the Rebirth of the Family)

A man had a dream, a dream of a world where rational self-interest reigned free. A place where man is not held down by governments or morality, outside of God and away from the leeches of society. In the world of Bioshock, that dream is realized. Enter Andrew Ryan; an enigmatic randian hero. He constructed a city underwater, a thriving metropolis free from the constraints of the common man. Rapture, he called it. Yet by some cruel sense of nature, man will always be man. The city fell to ruin, in a philosophical sense. Its citzens begun to experiment with genetics, trying desperatly to alter their appearences in a vain attempt to achieve beauty. Eventually these genetics spiraled into weapons, and the city erupted into an all out civil war. Little girls now roam the halls of Rapture, extracting "Adam" from the corpses of the forgotten. While the Big Daddies, large hulking men and women in diving suits, stand watch over them.

This is the world of Bioshock,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Immersion Break

Immersion is the magic word that game developers love to use. Its the happy bunny rabbit that sits on top of your desk and reminds you why your life doesn't suck. Yet everyone has it, so the point of having it isn't really that unique, its just there for your own devices. Immersion works in relatively the same aspect. Every game developer loves touting the fact that their game has wonderful immersion aspects and how it sucks gamers in. Any experience that breaks it, therefore makes the game terrible and virtually unplayable. The gaming press has an even worse time when it comes to immersion as well. We will dissect a game and complain about how we were taken out of the experience. Thus ultimately destroying our enjoyment of the product as a whole.

However, this isn't anything new. When you go to the movie theatre, there will be people walking in and out of the movie constantly. When you are reading a book, your mother or pet of some kind will bother you, taking you out of the fanciful or philosophical adventure you were enjoying. My point is that Immersion disruption in games is much the same. If a game is good enough in its execution of its story elements, the construction of its game designs, then immersion is a useless factor. Nine times out of ten, the average gamer will not be absorbed in your product. They won't wait on the edge of their seat, hoping for the next power-up mushroom to appear. Chances are that they will come in, play for an hour then go drink a beer and watch TV. Immersion is an important factor in game design, but it should never be the focus. What makes a game great is not drawing people into the world. Sure its a contributing factor, but the vast majority of people don't care. They want a brilliant story, solid game play and an experience that only this medium can provide.

Friday, January 15, 2010

In Defense of Video Games

As of late, the gaming world has been bogged down by mediocrity. In titles that we once endeared and treasured above all else, we are stuck with crap. Nintendo keeps giving their loyal fans their comny throw-up of the past 10 years. Microsoft practically tries to charge us for the air we breathe.
While Sony doesn’t understand the typical consumer and now tries to play catch up.

2009 was a terrible year for games. Massive layoffs and less then stellar titles started to show that the game industry is not immune to recession. Titles like Assassins Creed 2 and New Super Mario Brothers Wii show us that our industry is dying. When games like that receive massive praise for recycled game concepts and rehashed graphics. Yet they were both huge successes, both commercially and through meta-scores.

First of all I'm not complaining that they are bad games. They are the hyperbole definition of fun. I lost myself for hours in Renaissance Italy, helping my friends save Princess Peach from the castle. Yet fun isn't a valid excuse anymore. We as a entertainment medium have been trying to validate our choices through this fallacy. "you can't knock that game, its sooo much fun dude." That excuse doesn't work now. It might have worked back in the Atari 2600 days, it might have worked when Gallagher was considered fun. It doesn't work today.

These games are not amazing or groundbreaking. Assassins Creed 2 is a rehash of broken concepts hidden by a sequel moniker. It is simply the first game, with all its myriad problems, both aesthetically and fundamentally. The combat is flawed and broken, along with the control of the main character as well. All wrapped up with the laughable plot elements of a Dan Brown Novel. New Super Mario Brothers Wii is a lazy port of a DS game with the multiplayer functionality of a Sega Saturn game. Any game can have 4 player local co-op, that isn't an accomplishment anymore.

There are plenty of titles that are just as equally undeserving of any garnered "groundbreaking" or "innovative". No fan boys, stop it. If you truly love your console and your companies as you so blatantly confess, ask for more. Ask for Quality, not Mario or Zelda. For all of us. Otherwise, kittens cry, and the terrorists win.

2010 Predictions

1. Jade Empire 2 will be announced and released sometime in 2010
2. Diablo 3 release date announcement, hopefully not 2012 or 2013
3. Nintendo releases at least one original IP that isnt a rehash of their work from the past 10 years
4. Sony beats Microsoft in overall game sales or console sales.
5. Final Fantasy 13 will be mediocre at best, not groundbreaking.
6. A new WoW expansion (not cataclysm) will be announced
7. Starcraft 2 the wings of Liberty will be released sometime this year.
8. Multiplayer, motion control and 3-D will be in practically every game, and we will all get sick of it by the end of the year.
9. Sony will dominate at E3
10. Capcom will suffer lackluster sales from Deadrising 2 and Dark Void
11. Crysis 2 will be released this year.
12. A new reboot of the Resident Evil franchise will take place.
13. A sweet Steven Segall game will be announced
14. Fanboys will be just as retarded as all the previous years
15. Mass Effect 2 will be freaking awesome
16. Alan Wake will get delayed until 2011
17. A new Batman game will be announced and released this year
18. Xbox live will be free (yeah right)
19. Infamous 2 will be announced at E3
20. The Bioshock movie is going to be highly entertaining, and be loosely based on the game.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being a Hero Sucks

The country of Ferelden is in a state of civil war. Amidst the tumultuous bloodshed and conflict, the horrid Darkspawn have waged a war against all sentient life. Seeking to plunge the world into ever casting darkness. You are a Grey Warden, a soldier who safeguards the world from evil. The nations of the world have fallen out of grace with your order. You are seen as sycophants and manipulators. It falls on you, however to sacrifice your life to save the world. You must lose all you love, all you cherish, to save the hypocrites of the world. Being a hero sucks.

Dragon Age: Origins is the latest game from Bioware. The company that brought you Jade Empire, Knights of the Republic, and the Baldur's Gate Franchise. I make note of this as Dragon Age borrows heavily from Bioware's past titles. It also still carries the numerous flaws of a Bioware game. The item management and quest log is as awkward and unwieldy as ever. Enemies die in awkward positions, coupled with the amazing frame rate hiccups and random game ending bugs. Yet even with all those problems, Dragon Age is an amazing game. It borrows all the great things from its past games, and improves upon them greatly. This is true fantasy Role Playing brought to life.

Taking its cue from High and Dark fantasy, Dragon Age is a tale of good vs. evil ultimately. Yet it moves into unfamiliar territory of the RPG genre; the morally grey. Dragon Age transcends the usual expectations of the series and diverts from the traditional angel v. devil points motif. You aren't docked points every time you commit an evil or good action. Instead, you simply face your consequences. Do you side with the crafty but beautiful Morrigan? or do you side with the ever chivalrous Allistar? Morrigan makes comments that are very true; people are petty and altruistic. What is a few of their lives worth in the end? You don't have time for their petty squabbles, you have the world to save. Yet Allistar and the others of your party tell you that you must act with civility and grace, save those who are in need, be a hero. The world of Ferelden is the embodiment of your choices, selfless or otherwise.

With that in mind, Bioware has truly created an amazing fantasy world. Ferelden is a land awash with its cut-throat politics and its seedy underbellies. Prostitutes proposition themselves to passing onlookers, thieves run unopposed through the streets. The true accomplishment is the well written dialogue and rich history. It breathes life into the world and adds weight and dimension to player choice and character development. The lore and background history breathe to life the essence of the game. Every character is multi-faceted, each pertaining to very human flaws. They are people, not lines of code, mirroring your decisions. Some believ in a higher power, many have hopes and dreams. They have experienced war, famine, poverty and devastation. It is not the fantasy world you imagined when you were a child, but rather the one that exposes the faulty lines within the modern world that we inhabit.

Akin to the overall story is the game play. The game play follows traditional RPG mechanics. You control one member of your four player party at a time. You may switch between any of them, at any time. Combat is handled in real time, or you have the option of pausing. You are allowed to pause at any point during the combat. Which means you can cue up one action for your party after every pause. This allows you freedom in deciding how each battle plays out and furthers your understanding of the game rules. After combat, each of your characters recieve experience points. Earn enough, and you level up, unlocking new abilites and spells. The stronger the enemy you face, the better loot and gear you gain for that fight.

Pretty standard fare for an RPG game. Yet there is absolutely nothing wrong with this formula. There is absolutely no grinding in Dragon Age Origins, opting instead of letting your prowess in combat rely on your skills as player. Bioware has trimmed the fat of the needless time sinks found in RPGs and show you the more combat driven side. You as a player determine all your characters strengths and how well they do in combat. The tricky nature behind the combat is ultimately what determines the "fun" factor. At its most base form, you can simply move your character around the room and press the A button until your party does all the work. On the flip side, you may opt to completely plan out the course of every battle. Learning to use your characters strengths to their full advantage. Understanding all the weak spots and blind points in a boss. Using the vast compendium of spells at your disposal to better dispose of your enemies. Or simply equipping the strongest armor and the most powerful weapon. Subsequently the combat is as deep or as simplistic as you desire it to be.

Dragon Age: Origins is an amazing experience, from start to finish. It is a wonderfully crafted RPG that you'll play through multiple times. Yet Dragon Age is not for everyone. It is an old school Role Playing Game, a game so deeply entrenched in its own lore and history. If you are willing to look past that, you will find a complex world full of betrayal, honor, loss and love. A world where you can indulge in fanciful dream fulfillment. Or you know you can slay Dragons, that's pretty cool too.
9/10 (I dont personally believe in score attachment, but it is here for those that do not wish to read the full review)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

That was Controversy?

Hailed by Fox media and right wing news sites, as a "terrorist" simulator, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is the game to talk about this year. Of course the controversy stems from the one mission 2 hours into the game that places you as an undercover CIA agent charged with infiltrating a Russian crime cell. This situation escalates with you and your compatriots rushing into a Moscow Airport, shooting civilians by the dozens. As a civilian cries for mercy, you desist to pour boxes of bullets into said person's skull. No, of course that isn't how it is.

It simply is just melodrama that appears to support either the "games are art" or the "violent video games are negative" argument. The game supports neither, and the journalistic fallout is appalling. Multiple, if not all game publications have labeled this experience as "intense" and emotionally groundbreaking. While I will not name drop,(cough GameSpot, GameInformer cough) this behavior only strengthens the publicity that this game receives. Seriously? You are stabbing a knife into someones neck while seeing the whites of their eyes staring at you. You kill upwards of 200-300 people in your trek to stop the ultra nationalist psychos from taking over the United States.

The entire game is just one anthetamean based over the top action story. It may look photo realistic, but the actual story and scenarios are far from it. There is nothing realistic about the scenarios placed in Call of Duty and as such, no it does not operate in a morally grey area. Modern Warfare 2 is simply just The Rock: the video game.

So placed with the absurdity of the overall game, we choose to cry foul at this one airport level? We as gamers don't have a problem gunning down digital men and women clothed in army fatigues. But oh no, give them a plaid shirt, denim jeans and suddenly we are despicable evil men. Give me a break. Point being, there is no controversy in Modern Warfare 2, so shut up.