Sunday, December 30, 2012

An idea for a game based on the 5 stages of grief.

Just had an idea that I had to share. A game idea. One for kids. Its sketchy at best but its more of a teaching tool than something for adults.

You play as a kid, selectable boy or girl, with an adult AI character, selectable man or woman depending on the person that was lost. For a few hours, having experiences with the adult and learning to trust them. Safety, happiness, and bright colors are the themes from the start. Puzzles are easy, hints are plenty, and reassuring comments are abundant.
Then during one of the levels, the adult's gone. The character goes through the 5 stages of grief through themed levels.

Denial: The player finds their way back to the beginning of the first level while the colors gradually fade. The kid thinks they're okay on their own but the levels they went through with the adult are now hard or impossible to complete. There are no hints, the character is left alone.

Anger: This can either be done through the character they play, a change in the levels color schemes, or conjured as emotion through the player. They meet other adult characters that are downtrodden, always looking down, and never listen to the player's instructions. None of them work well, they don't seem to understand the puzzles and walk away at times. The character in turn gets mad and the movement is faster.

Bargaining: This is done in the same instance as anger. Switching out the adult they trusted with someone else. They start to long for the original adult and will subtly ask the others if they can go find the original. Replacement adults show the wrong kind of sympathy, leading the character to...

Depression: They can't have the original adult back and suddenly new puzzles are introduced. These can't be solved. None of them. Character visibly gets sad and the overall color scheme turns blue and the character's walk slows.

Acceptance. Returning to a backtracking section of the level, the character comes across something that helps them solve one of the puzzles. At the end of that puzzle is something that helps them solve another (a map, a tool, etc.). This is done several times until the last. During these puzzles the colors slowly change back to normal. The player feels as though they can accomplish things on their own.

At the end of the last puzzle, the character comes out into bright sunlight with a smile on their face and the smiling faces of the replacement adults. They realize now that they can do whatever it takes by themselves and they can learn to move forward with life.

The idea is sketchy because I feel like not all of the levels should involve puzzles. Maybe building things too and that requires one of the adults but none of them want to help. It can most definitely be improved on but I'd like to see it happen. It wouldn't have to be played by kids who are going through a tough time, it could be used to prepare them for IF one of those tough times come.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Gaming History, Abridged

I have recently discovered that it is mentally impossible to be sad while the Super Mario World overworld theme is playing (wait about 40 seconds for the Yoshi bongos).

See? I told you.

I can't remember which was my first experience playing video games, or the year, but it was about 1991. I do remember having two babysitters growing up; family friends with kids of their own. One family had an NES while the other had an Atari 2600. Eventually the second family bought a Nintendo and a year later my brother and I were given one. Its the only time I can remember my dad actually playing video games with us: the Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt combo game.
I went through having an original Game Boy, a Game Boy Pocket, a Game Gear, a Nomad, a Genesis, and a crappy computer. These were the systems that I grew to love gaming on and would borrow games from friends and vice versa.
My brother and I always hoped to be the first one home after school so we could play whatever new games we had on whatever console we had then. I was rarely obsessed with the games I had but ones such as AAHHH!! Real Monsters, Vectorman, MUSHA, and even Bubsy (I was young, don't judge me) always captivated my attention.

I remember being obsessed with Pokemon in 6th and 7th grade. I would always look forward to waking up on weekdays before school just to watch the Pokemon cartoon. I had the comics from Nintendo Power, I had toys, I had plush dolls, the strategy guide, and the cards. Still do. They're in a box in my closet. A little while after going to a meeting for the Pokemon card game I just gave up on it all. It must have had something to do with the old-looking guy that was sitting around playing a card game with a bunch of kids and being serious about it.
A demo of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater came about via a Pizza Hut promotion and I was instantly captivated with the sport. I credit the Pro Skater series with turning me towards gaming even after going through a phase of being a skateboarding poser. After seeing how skateboarders treated each other and how no one was willing to teach me to ride one I delved into gaming more.

Some time in the summer before 10th grade I bought a Gamecube and for a year I only had Super Smash Bros Melee to play. I discovered EB Games and unfortunately sold off most of my collection, which included almost all of my PS1, NES, GameBoy, Genesis, and some PC games.
A year later I bought myself an Xbox when I read that if Monolith were to make a Shogo 2, it would be on that console. Shogo: Mobile Armor Division was the first PC FPS game I ever played. Not Doom, not Quake, and to this day it remains in my all-time favorites. I played on a crappy, over-priced, underpowered Gateway computer that could barely run flash games well enough. A friend loaned me some RAM and from there things got better. I could finally play games in a slightly higher quality. I also got interested in computers and fixing them. I had to otherwise the computers we had would succumb to viruses. But despite my best efforts they would always get ruined. I don't know how many times I've had to reformat the computers we've had but it was a pain to lose my saved games after pouring hours and hours into them.

My childhood hero was Sonic the Hedgehog. I had a plush doll, still have it in fact, that I carried around with me everywhere for over a year. I never took it to school because I was afraid of it being stolen or ripped by some other kid. Ironically that didn't help because the neck ripped open while it was in the wash. I watched the SatAM cartoons near-religiously, I had a couple of comic books, I had the Tiger handheld, I have a VHS tape of the cartoons, I had toys galore. Eventually I just grew up and Sonic lost his attitude when the Dreamcast came around.
I remember being in middle school and a friend of mine would always badmouth the Dreamcast for whatever reason we could find. We were Sony fanboys and we were dedicated to the console. Yet, whenever I looked and read about the games being released I was secretly envious of it. Oh how wrong I was to look down upon the console. A few years ago I bought a used DC and a few games for it. I can't believe how ignorant I was back then.
The original blue blur will always be one of my heroes, not this green-eyed poser you see in today's games that can't do anything right.

My favorite game of all-time is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on the Dreamcast. The graphics are superior to the other consoles, even PC, and it just had this overall feeling of completion. It's the definitive version of Pro Skater 2 in my mind. Neversoft asked fans what they wanted and they implemented those ideas into the game. The level editor, the create-a-skater, an expanded soundtrack, Spider-Man as a secret character, and a couple more pros added to the already amazing line-up made THPS2 the perfect way to do a sequel. I own almost every version of Pro Skater 2 with the exception of the Mac and iPod versions.

I'm a collector with a preference for the old school. My current collection total sits at over 400. Lately though I've been feeling that its all for nothing so my collecting has slowed down significantly.
I have some rare gems in my collection such as M.U.S.H.A. and Legend of Dragoon as well as a few others.
I was never really into RPGs and RTSs. They seem to be clones of one another. But I'm coming around: I've been playing a few of each and, although I'm not awestruck by them, they can at least hold my attention.
Sim racing is my favorite genre. It takes more skill than arcade racing and has helped me with driving in real life. 

I don't consider myself a professional, and I'm certainly not an amateur. I'm not hardcore or casual. I don't dispute console faults and advantages. I'm a gamer. I find the best of each and play them as equals. Fanboys are the most annoying, ignorant, and selfish beings on the internet.
I've been expanding my gaming horizons lately and have played some Magic the Gathering.
I also want to start a DnD group, but I can't find anyone willing to delve into the adventures with me.

This is part of where I stand when it comes to gaming. I hope, if you've been paying attention to my blogs any, that you get a general sense of who I am gaming-wise. Without video games, I don't know where I'd be. They've been there through rough times and they've also caused some great moments (double kill headshot with a single bullet in SOCOM:Combined Assault. No one else will ever see that). I feel like I'm a part of something big and that's how I like it. Gaming crosses so many cultural boundaries and is being pushed forward by people with bright ideas. I enjoy those ideas. I wish many others would as well.

Keep Playing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

 (This review is spoiler-free. Also quick and hastily written.)
Let me start by saying that if you're expecting a hardcore movie all about video games then you'll be disappointed. Actually, you shouldn't be because its still a good movie. Its about a single character and for once its not a Disney princess. Also Pixar was NOT involved in this, its all Disney, so don't go looking for the Pizza Planet truck.

Should you set your mind to see it, you should try and imagine yourself as a kid again. Don't be so serious about video games and if you are then try to have a little fun with it. I say little because most of the humor is childish and never even once borders near adult. Its also never spoon feeds a "retro is better" message to the audience.

The plotline is well written, not all about video games. While it is shallow its never too complicated to follow. Some kids might not understand a few things and it won't dwell to explain them. It doesn't jump from game to game and try to cash in on licenses either. The special characters are guests and never main, never distractions. It shows a few memorable moments in the credits such as Sonic in Chemical Plant Zone. For a Disney movie its the typical fare of "underdog saves the day." There are few too many lingering poop jokes and the name calling at one point will probably make you wish they'd just stop.

Animation is sort of lacking in the texture department, don't expect it to look like a AAA game but there are moments where you notice the digitized textures on a few things and can only chuckle about the nod to the olden days of gaming. The big "violent" or scary moment comes during the Heros Duty segment, which lasts about 10 minutes. Another moment comes from one character repeatedly slapping another. Its comedic humor with an air of goofiness and will get the kids laughing. I noticed a moment in the first part of the movie where a reflective wall texture showed the image that was through the wall. Character designs are reflective of their games: Ralph and Felix are simple due to their primitive game, Sergeant Calhoun is intricately textured, the people of Sugar Rush are kids in a kid's game. Most of the movie takes place in the game Sugar Rush and at one point I found myself wondering if they were just going to end the movie with Ralph staying there.

Voice acting is superb with John C. Reilly playing the part of Ralph as a big, lumbering man. He's never dumbed down or flat-toned due to his size. It took me a long while to place Jack McBrayer as who he was, and playing Felix he can't escape that slight southern drawl he has. Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz is probably one of the better characters as she plays the part so well, childish insults and high energy. Jane Lynch as Sergeant Calhoun brings a toughness to the character, no-nonsense, but she's never gentle.
The music soundtrack, to me anyway, was a little bit of a let down. It could have used less Owl City and more chiptunes music. Artists such as I Fight Dragons or Animaniguchi would have been a better choice.

Plot villain almost smacks you right in the face upon the explanation of something. I won't spoil it but you should be able to see it coming. When it does show you'll understand that some decent thought went into it. However the villain is never really a major part, even near the end. Its more of a minor inconvenience when compared to a bigger threat.

Just about the only gripe you might come up with is that it uses up its bag of guest appearances in the first 45-50 minutes. Pac-Man and Sonic are good and all, but a few more minutes screen time wouldn't have hurt. Don't discard that as a bad move: its a movie about Ralph, not about the other star characters. They're never shoe-horned in and are mainly background filler. Moments where you can point out who is who. Don't expect to see Mario anywhere besides being mentioned. Nintendo wanted too much money for his appearance and they probably would have wanted more screen time. While Bowser does make an appearance its understandable with the "Bad-Anon" meeting that takes place at the beginning.

Should you see it? Of course.
Should you get the DVD/Blu-Ray. Yeah.
Should you get the game? No. They're cash-ins with little imagination to them anyway.
Just remember, if you do go see it: put your Modern Warfare attitude on pause and go back to the days when you played NES.

Monday, October 1, 2012

An Honest Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

I can't write this coming from a passive angle. The Pro Skater series of games are among my favorites and Pro Skater 2 is not only my all-time favorite but its the one I cut my teeth on when it came to calling myself a gamer. So you can understand my utter disappointment when I say that Pro Skater HD is quite possibly the worst of the worst of the Tony Hawk games. Worse than even Ride and Shred. At least those two attempted something new. Pro Skater HD has us believing that it came to fruition to fix all the wrongs of the past few games. A revisiting of what was once greatness. An acceptance to the fans that the games can still hold their own.
Instead it cements the hopeless resurrection of the franchise.
At this point, Robomodo just needs to exit the gaming business. Their constant failures of games means meager profits for parent company Activision and they've wasted so much money on doing the wrong things. I find it funny how Tony Hawk himself was kind of "meh" about the whole idea of returning to the roots. Yes, it is what fans wanted, but we never wanted this. The amount of pros that signed up to return can be counted on one hand. The rest are amateurs that somehow got popular enough to make it in. I guess the others knew this game was going to suck so they all stepped away from it.

While I love the Unreal Engine 3, its versatility is completely wasted here. When I first heard the announcement I figured it would be a few levels from the first two Pro Skaters with just  HD re-skins. Instead the entire game is built from the ground up using UE3. This translates to a wonky, glitched, and pathetic remake. This engine is best suited for real-life physics and shooter games, not the arcade action of the Pro Skater variety. Had the original Pro Skater 2 engine just been used it would have been understandable and would have made for a better game overall.

I'll get the graphics portion out of the way and say that while its awesome to see the old levels get a facelift they're still the same. No new areas, no hidden secrets, same old, same old. If you've played the first two then expect de ja vu. Yes, there are a few small variations added to some of the levels but adding a kicker or planter doesn't make it more exciting.

Outright frustrating, the controls have suffered the most, making it nearly unplayable at times. Automatically snapping to rails when grinding or not grinding at all, rag doll bails that can sometimes force the character through the ground, unachievable heights due to a change in controls, and the glitches... OH SWEET TAP-DANCING JESUS. THE GLITCHES. The game is playable for the most part until you find your skaters foot stuck in a rail somehow after what should have been a normal grind. Then you start to realize that the game is seriously screwed up on an engine implementation level.

One major thing missing is the beloved Create-A-Skater from Pro Skater 2. Instead, for the XBLA version, we get our Avatars to skate around with. Create-A-Park? Just a memory. Couch co-op? Nope, its online only.

The soundtrack is pieced together with some old favorites from the past and some really horrible indie stuff from today. Its a sad mixture that lets you know that the hardcore, punk, do-it-yourself, push-the-envelope skaters of the olden days have disappeared and whats left are teenagers with flat-brim hats, Monster energy drinks, and piercings thinking they're evolving a sport that has been stagnant since Hawk landed the 900. (Yes, I know, a kid has landed a 1080, but I don't see him winning competitions left and right.) Let's face it, the skateboarding craze of over 10 years ago has cooled and this game does nothing to relive those memories.

I've played through Pro Skater on PS1, N-Gage, N64, GBC, and Dreamcast,. I've played through Pro Skater 2 on PS1, DC, GBC, GBA, PC, N64, and Xbox (when I say my all-time favorite, I mean it). I've gone through the levels so many times I know them by heart. Here, playing through Pro Skater HD is just a chore. Its boring. Slow. Uninteresting. Non-challenging in the sense that the only thing holding the player back are the bad physics.

I can't go on.
I'm usually good with words but now they just fail me. 
This game is horrible. That's all there is to it.
You're better off spending $15 buying the first two Pro Skater games on any available console than wasting your money on this. At least you'll get more content, entertainment, and value from something from the past.

Keep Playing.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Random Blog: And Now For Something Completely Different

I have WAY too many unfinished blogs and some of them have no real point while on others I was never able to fully flesh out the point. So instead of letting them rot in my backlog, here's what I have. Just splattered all over for you to read. My thoughts on things from reviewers to sports. I hate to use the word "rant" but that's what some of these are, so don't take them too seriously and don't throw bricks at me for anything I say.

With everything going 3D and motion control these days, it seems like video games are trying to become a different sort of medium. Going beyond games to become "interactive experiences." I don't think the original creators of Space Invaders ever thought that motion would be used to control a game.
I for one think makers are getting away from the point: GAMES. I don't want an experience, I just want a game. I don't want to become immersed in another world, I have too many problems in this world to ignore them. Gimmicks and flashy advertisement campaigns will not make me want to flail my arms around with a controller (or without). The problem with all the touchscreens, motions, and hand waving is that there's no pressure sensitivity. That's what a controller does best. Leave it at that. Until a touch screen can be pressure sensitive (and I'm sure it can) then let's just leave it to the controllers.

Half-Life Theorum:
Is it just me or does Freeman seem more like the cause of trouble in some things?
Was he placed at Black Mesa as a test subject or did he know what he was getting in to?
The opening text scroll of Half-Life states he's 27, with a P.h.d. in Theoretical Physics. The text seems to state that he's already been employed by whomever the G-man works for.
What are his "employers" really trying to get him to do?
G-Man isn't the bad guy since he's sent Freeman to liberate people. Or is he? Is there a hidden agenda behind the G-Man? Such as by destroying the Combine, does it give way to something greater?
And why did Freeman's "employers" wait so long to send him back?
What happened in the time between Black Mesa and City 17? Was Freeman sent to other places that we don't know about? And if he was, was the Combine there waiting for him, or another threat?
While we're on the subject, Cpl. Adrian Shephard was put in the same position by G-man but never released from his holding. How does he play into the story or was that just the dev team playing games with us?

Gaming Jockey:
(International readers, please note that when I say football, I don't mean futbol. I mean American Football. With the guys holding the brown egg-shaped object most of the time and running around with it.)
So Auburn Tigers won whatever championship just a few days ago. I don't know which one, I don't keep track of that crap. There will be another championship in a couple of months, I guess. I don't see the appeal in a bunch of guys running around a field chasing a ball. I have to hear it from almost everyone else, mindless droning. I live in a city where three or four college football teams converge and the amount of meat-headed fans grows each year.
Some football lover can say they don't see the appeal of playing games all the time.
     Because its me doing it.
Its me unlocking achievements, getting high scores, showing off what I've accomplished. Me going on the adventure as a character I control, meeting people, killing scores of enemies and me playing the game.
Not some guy on my favorite team who scores the goal. Who acts like a jerk off the field. Who trips and is out for three games because of hurt pride.
Gaming is personal for me. When someone bests me in a game, they're just better. With football, you can say whatever team you want and there will be a million fans behind you. When it comes to a championship you have to swallow your pride and root for some other team.
With gaming, we're all together. No matter what. Personal rivalries exist, yes, but regardless we are all gamers under the same banner.
I would much rather spend an hour playing a bad game than spend an hour sitting in a chair yelling at a TV while a football game is going on.
While we're on the subject, what is with football fans referring to their teams as "we?" You are not on the team just because you wear a hoodie or have a bumper sticker. You are not running on the field. You are sitting around watching jocks.

Reviewers Reviewing Reviewers: 
Ladies and Gentlemen, enough is enough.

We have come to the point that reviewers are themselves being reviewed (btw, you might be sick of the word by the time this blog ends).
I, unlike many, discovered the Angry Video Game Nerd just before he became the AVGN, back when he was the Angry Nintendo Nerd. His videos were hilarious and shed light on some bad games. It was something new: a man being frustrated by simple NES games and being tormented to the point of randomly cursing over losing a life. And who would argue with him? Some of the NES games he reviewed are just awful.
Of course, with success come imitators. Soon the Irate Gamer appeared and practically copied words from some of the Nerd's reviews. Following this, even more "angry reviewers" came along. (For purposes of keeping this gaming I'm excluding the Nostalgia Critic, even though he too has many clones and has very little in common.)
I thought the breaking point would finally occur once videos of the Angry Contra Kid  as well as some long-haired 13-year-old needlessly cursing out his viewers hit YouTube. Instead, this sparked more imitators. People sitting at home on their sofas, in front of webcams on their desks, copying hours of gameplay and (half the time) writing and rehearsing scripts. Most of them can't think of something more to come up with other than cursing a lot because they lose a life. I've said before: Don't curse the game, curse your lack of skills.

When I write reviews I try to give the good and bad points of the game regardless if I liked it or not. There are always some things about a great game that I don't like. I try to go for an air of professionalism in anything I write and mull over sentences in my head several times before I think about writing things, including this blog, including this sentence. My grammar and spelling might not be 100% accurate all the time but I pride myself on knowing what a paragraph is. Meanwhile, I've seen two-word reviews that get massive amounts of thumbs up by people because the game is popular.
It seems more gamers are turning to community sites where other gamers post their thoughts and are being driven away from professional sites. This can be attributed to some sites being bought out by major companies, or by some employees being fired, or by giving the Legend of Zelda an equivalent of a 'B.'

If you've seen the last few AVGN videos, you'll realize that they're not as good as they once were, like James Rolfe is becoming burned out. On the contrary, he has a lot going on for him and something must give slack. Thus the AVGN reviews have slowed and he's not as angry. He's a bit more informative and while that has deterred some fans, others have gone the opposite direction to the point of frothing madness, giving themselves online screen names similar to the "Angry Video Game Nerd" and cursing out anyone in a comments section who doesn't agree with them or didn't like the video. Rabid fanboys, if you will. They've lost sight of WHY games were created and only focus on the minor and bothersome details of some of them.

Things must change. Cursing up a storm about a video game, old or new, may get you a few hits on YouTube, but in the long run it is not a job. I'm not saying these established reviewers need to quit, quite the opposite: the rest of us need to quit. They have it covered, they're good at what they do.
Pat the NES Punk is informative, although his acting can be called cheesy, he's not a professional actor.
Angry Joe is opinionated but informative. Its those factors that make people trust what he says.
Spoony makes his frustration of games to be the humor in his reviews.
There are other reviewers that do things well. But you, sitting at home, thinking you're a hot shot, spouting off curse words because Cloud from Final Fantasy isn't in the next Smash Bros game isn't doing a whole lot for yourself or people who think about their reviews, much less helping the world of gaming.

Find a niche: be original or be professional. Do something that sets you apart from the cursing YouTube children or do reviews on par or better than the professional sites. You might get fans either way, whether doing videos or writing.

An Open Talk About Gaming Communities:
When I first started playing PC games back in 2001, I was behind on a lot of things. It wasn't until I installed Shogo: Mobile Armor Division that I was introduced to GameSpy Arcade, a shareware multiplayer game server browsing utility (thanks for clarifying that, Wikipedia). I went to check out what GameSpy was and was hooked. The news and reviews of games that I didn't even know existed were all right there. Fargo and shaithis were the two that made me stick around; their humor and back-and-forth banter was a weekly thing for me.
Later I discovered Gamespot and I loved all the information they had. I joined up and established myself as a gamer there. Not long after I saw an ad for 1up in a gaming magazine. I signed up but didn't take the community seriously. A few months later they announced they had been bought by UGO and I had left. I don't like UGO, they're more concerned with showing soft-core porn of video game heroines than the news I'd rather read about
Over the years several community websites were added to and deleted from my favorites list. Either they weren't the right communities for me or they went out of their way to insult me and not make me feel a part. Destructoid and Giantbomb being two of them. Communities for trolls and foul-mouths, I was even cursed out by one of the staff members on Destructoid for claiming I was Christian.

Opposite Ends of A Spectrum:
Another 360 controller broken.
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
Never before have I played a more glitchy, buggy, unenjoyable, slow-paced, wreck of a POS such as this. It somehow manages to make navigating your way around a chore. There's no clear sense of direction and I'm left with a wiki to tell me which way to go. The fighting system is the worst in a game that I have ever come across. 19 times out of 20 my strikes have me missing the enemy completely, even if I'm standing right in front of them. It can't be that hard to swing a sword and hit something.

"Whoa whoa whoa... Morrowind is an AWESOME game. You're crazy!"
-100 difficulty and I still died against a Clanfear. Does that tell you something? I'm level 3 and if leveling up were any more difficult I'd probably have to cancel all plans in one week to get to a level good enough to explore the map.
I understand the imagination behind it and how it could be a great game, but how people ignored all of these problems is a wonder to me. There are just too many.
At one point I looked at a cloth sign hanging on a wall and pressed the A button. "Your crime has been reported." WHAT?! How can the game penalize me for pressing a button at a sign? I'm not trying to steal it, its a sign on a wall. I'm not there to vandalize it or sell it, its a cloth sign on a freaking wall.
All of that fail and on the opposite end of this spectrum resides Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Quite possibly one of the better games I've ever played.
My character isn't treated like an animal, I can easily earn people's trust, the storyline deeply involves my character, the compass tells me where to go, the traveling is fast and easy, the environments make me want to explore, the combat is never too difficult and I can always land a hit, the magic system is open to all professions and races, leveling up is never a chore and feels rewarding, and its just FUN overall.
I spent about 8 hours one day playing Oblivion because its that good. So why is it some people have overlooked Oblivion in favor Morrowind when the sequel is a much better improvement overall?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On the frontlines of Guild Wars 2: The First Few Days (updated)

I've had Guild Wars 2 installed on my computer since the beta but have only been able to fully play since a few days ago. I pre-purchased the collector's edition because I deserve it after two years of waiting and its worth it. The 10-inch Rytlock statue is amazingly detailed and is a great collector's piece. The rest of the collector's edition comes with a book, custom art prints, a frame, a music sampler, and the game disc. I wouldn't really say it's worth $160. Maybe 120 at least. A Making Of DVD would have been better than the book.
But I'm not really here to talk just about the collector's edition, this is about the game itself. Since its fairly new there are a few rough edges this early in the release, of course. But these problems are prevalent and immediate; things that should have been fixed in the several betas leading up to release day. I just have a small list of things that are negligible but are constant, looming problems.

-Random audio cues cause confusion. I don't know whether I just passed an NPC or if its shouting at me from the area I just teleported away from.
-Armor dealers are segregated into levels of 5 and you can only start buying armor from Armorsmiths at level 10, and even then you WILL find something of better use out in the wild than waiting to level up for the appropriate gear.
-You need a newer model computer to run it smoothly with full graphics. I'm sorry to say but it looks  best at mid-level, or at least with the shaders turned off. For some reason the shaders cause an improper light texture on the character model, even when covered by shadows.
-Thankfully, the game was planned out that the random events that happen throughout the world are joinable by all people while the minor enemies respawn quickly. Sometimes too quickly. Several times I've found myself between a couple of bandits with less-than-half health.
-The Down But Not Out is both a blessing and a curse. While you never really die in this game you simply teleport to a waypoint of your choosing at the mere cost of money. There are a few times where you'll simply be outnumbered or overpowered and even then the DBNO can't save you. You simply don't heal yourself well enough.
-The game modifies your level depending on what area you're in. Say you're level 20 and have headed back to the starting area, you'll be scaled down to the same level in order to make it a fair fight. I understand that doing so adds a bit of realism and the only way you can overpower the enemies are by your armor and weapon power, but it negates the skill levels that you may work so hard to earn.

I play a ranger, its my favorite class. But it seems to have been nerfed by the changing of the skills. -You can no longer switch out skills individually. This time the skills in your bar depend on what weapon you are currently carrying. If I'm wielding a short bow then my attacks will be quick with not a lot of power or range. A long bow will yield greater range with slower but stronger attacks. Additionally I can choose to fight with a sword this time around. And my attacks will be tailored to that weapon.
-The ranger class has been reduced to a support role, not a major damage dealer or one that can hold its own in a fight. It seems that the creators were hellbent on forcing the player to have a pet around the whole time. Which leads to the problem of pets being more trouble than they're worth. They cause a greater aggro circle and will sometimes wander off or stay behind to attack whatever enemy that was passed by if approached too closely.
-Ranger targets what it wants to. That's a major problem and there's no excuse for it. It makes me miss the auto-targeting of GW1.

I'm sure many of these issues will be fixed but some of them are design decisions that just turned out for the worse. I'm going to keep playing and if you want to, feel free to join me on the BORLISS PASS server. Look for Marcone Antelius.
Also, for the g1s out there, I created the guild Screwattack (wouldn't let me use two capital letters) with the clan tag GOne (wouldn't let me use numericals), so come find me.
No one joined, possibly because no one cared, so I deleted the guild.

Keep Playing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Classic Game Room's Review of Enthusia Professional Racing

I'm not one to post other's reviews since I prefer doing them myself. But since I've already done Enthusia, I figure showing off another viewpoint wouldn't be so harmful. Classic Game Room has posted their review and its decent. It doesn't really go into details of the problems of the game, and Mark's terrible driving in the background isn't helping anything either, but it addresses a couple of points I missed or didn't go into detail about. If you're not following Classic Game Room anywhere, you should check them out. They do several reviews a week and you can get a chuckle out of the humor every now and then.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Retro Game Hunt: A&K and Joey's

I REALLY must apologize for the background noise throughout this video. The places we shot in had noises and they came through clearly with my ultra-freakin-sensitive camera.
Also, it was filmed on my birthday so what better gift than to go retro game hunting?

Friday, June 1, 2012

What I Did While ScrewAttack Was Down

A few weeks ago (as of writing this), the best website of all time went offline for some upgrades. I checked back every few hours only to be met with a filler page. SA hosted a contest asking for videos about what we did while the site was down. Some people showed off their comedic sides, others just talked, and since I'm not one to sit in front of a camera and ramble on, here's my funny.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: Guild Wars: Edge of Destiny by J. Robert King

So here's something different: since I'm slow on game reviews right now, I have done a few game-based book reviews over at (by a few, I mean I lost them all when I deleted my account the first time). The only game review I have planned is a Shotgun of Diablo 3, but for now here's a quick review of the second Guild Wars novel, which in the timeline comes before the first. Go figure.

I've played Guild Wars for over 6 years now, I've completed most of the game and expansions, I believe I have a decent grasp of the universe and the goings on of it. I know about the events that changed Tyria, the continent on which the Guild Wars games are based, into what it is. J. Robert King takes what I know and ignores most of it. From time jumps of indeterminable amounts, "80s montage" moments, hollow and single-minded characters, a lack of depth in respect to the universe, a repetition of the words "Just then," and "hackles," and just plain lazy writing, Edge of Destiny seems like a quick paycheck from an author that doesn't seem all that interested in the source material or his own work.

Whether you've played Guild Wars or not, Edge of Destiny hurts to read.

The previous book of the series, Ghosts of Ascalon, made the readers care about the characters, giving them back stories and reasons for what they do. In Edge..., the characters are being led by their societal norms. They refuse to look past what they've been told and rarely show respect for each other. The side characters are forgettable with a few offering more than just padding. The overall storyline of the books plays out like an RPG: character gets quest, character completes quest, trouble arises where character is given another quest (at least its not Kill 10 Rats).

The only saving grace is the overall back story to some of the characters that are met in Guild Wars 2, even if it makes each of them sound like complete tools.
The ending is a quick one. Happening almost too suddenly and with the resolution being unsatisfying, just like the rest of the book. If you like Guild Wars, it could be considered required reading. But for an average reader who likes tales of other worlds, knights, magic, dragons, etc., then this was definitely not written for you.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Second Look @ SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 3

(Images are taken from
(Please note that I haven't been able to play the multiplayer for this game yet. I did buy my copy new but my home wifi security setup isn't compatible with the PSP.)

Fireteam Bravo is back in a black ops mission that has them running around the fictional country of Koratvia. A military regime has risen to take power and threatens the Russian government, their nuclear arsenal, and the world. The story is extremely weak and awfully cliche, often sounding like a rejected script for a Tom Clancy novel. Its best to be taken with a grain of salt and only to give you reason for shooting up rural areas. As Wraith, you are joined by former-team lead Sandman, team member Raven, and newcomer Toro. While a four-man team might seem to be overkill this time around its much needed as enemies are less forgiving, there are more blind corners, and open areas are just begging for your ambush.
Fireteam Bravo 3 was developed by Slant 6 Games, the ones responsible for the previous SOCOM Tactical Strike on the PSP, leaving Zipper Interactive to make mediocre games such as the Online Only SOCOM Confrontation. Throw in a few surprises such as former-SEAL-turned-merc-leader Lonestar making a major appearance, a nice variation in the environments, as well as a wide selection of weapons and you've got the second best in the FTB series. But with all of the improvements, FTB 3 is still lacking in certain areas that make it hard to appreciate.

 See this enemy in the background? Most of them will do this: stand out in the open.

A small amount of tactics can be used this time around with the four-man team, split between Able and Bravo, but nothing that resembles Tactical Strike's advanced, and initially puzzling, two four-man team tactics. Two people can cover a target or a door better than just one. However that's not really the case here as it rarely presents the opportunity to do so. There is very little need to cover targets, use bounding overwatch, or even split the team to open a door. Its more run-and-gun, less planning, and its so painfully obvious that it seems the developers intended it to be so.
The major flaws of the game are more pointed towards the enemies themselves. While there are a decent amount of them scattered throughout the levels, things such as some never needing to reload, the inability for some to find cover, and the way they can pinpoint your exact location after one misfire makes them less like soldiers and more like robots.
Another problem comes from level design. While they do vary nicely, they're just as linear as they've always been in SOCOM games: narrow ways opening into arenas where you're free to snipe and pick off opfors with ease.

The sound is one of the better aspects of this game, with the environmental effects being surrounding and clear. Rain water hitting the roof of a car in the level Grey Dawn is something unexpected and lends to the thought of just how much attention went into sound details. While guns lack powerful sound they do vary in tones. Explosions, however, do pack a punch. They are better placed and more defined than in the previous games.
The orchestral soundtrack is something that comes with the territory of a SOCOM game. Whatever effort has been put into it can be changed by simply adjusting the sound options. There's no reason to have it on since the only time you might notice it is at a scripted moment.
Voice acting can be described as sterile: its clean and clear at all moments. Very little emotion even after two events happen that split the team. There's no confusion, only determination. Sure, they're hardened military men, but I doubt real people stay as stern as these guys when facing odds like in this game.

BOOM goes the dynamite. While there is no TNT in this game, the explosions are loud and clear.

The graphics are definitely amped up for this title. Its a huge step from the first FTB game and as a latecomer in the PSP lifespan shows that the system was capable of graphics comparable, and maybe even surpassing, those of the PS2.
A gradient has been placed over the foreground to give a cold, dusty feeling on some levels  whereas sunny skies and in-doors are without. Cracks in the ground, rocks protruding, lights giving off rays, and even some water effects show that the PSP still has some beef to it. While most edges are squared, its to be expected. It shouldn't distract from the gameplay.
Cutscenes are in-game rendered and what's most noticeable is the mouth movement on the characters. The engine for this game does what it can and does it very well.

 Class photo: Raven, Wraith, Toro, Sandman, and Lonestar.

If you've played the other two FTB games, then you're sure to navigate through this with very few hangups. Its tuned so that it might be challenging only to newcomers. Veterans only need to learn the new button layout and they're good to go. The initial single-player game clocks in at a humiliating 3-4 hours and while there is a decent replayable factor to it you'll just wish more could have been done. With enough attention, you could sweep through with 100% completion on your first playthrough. The custom missions replace the non-campaign missions from the last game but give you very little reason to play them since some last less than 5 minutes.
There's just NOTHING memorable about this game.
Overall, Fireteam Bravo 3 should see our SEAL team retiring with an honorable discharge. Thanks boys, but I don't think we'll need you on the PS Vita.

Keep Playing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shotgun Review: Halo CE Anniversary Edition

(Shotgun reviews are my one-shot, opinionated, quick reviews of games. I hit you with the facts and a little bit more all at once. Pictures taken from Gamespot and

Hard to believe its been 10 years. Actually, for me, its easy. I was never one that was heavily invested in the Halo games but I do like the extensiveness of the universe. I was curious to see how the new 343 Studios would handle Bungie's baby, seeing as how 343 is comprised of former Bungie devs.
Let's clear this out of the way first: its the original Halo game with graphical improvements, achievements, Kinect functionality, skulls and more storyline added via the data terminals hidden throughout the game. If you played it so long ago on the original Xbox, its the exact same game.

The new graphics are just the icing on the cake. Some things that might not be clear to see with the classic graphics become great to look at with the new. You can switch the graphics styles by simply pushing the Back button and the change happens fast, there is no level reloading. All its simply doing is placing the new textures over the old. It almost seems to be a rush job at some moments. Unfortunately, I will say that the graphics aren't as good as Halo Reach.
There are a few pop-ins, particularly a few Grunts and Elites appear out of nowhere, as well as Sgt. Stacker in the flashback video the Chief takes from Jenkin's helmet. Textures at a slight distance will also have a pop-in effect. Its definitely not fitting for people who get angry at glitchy graphics.

Is it worth playing? Yes, but possibly only for the achievements and data terminals if you're a fan of the story. If you're in it for the flashy graphics and are expecting a complete overhaul and re-telling of the first Halo game... its not here. If you're worried about the game needing Kinect to be playable, its not. The only thing the Kinect brings to it is a library of data from scannable weapons, enemies, and objects. The game can be played without it and its no reason to rush out and buy one. Its just an addition to give more depth to the universe.
As an added bonus, the game comes with a standalone Halo: Reach Anniversary map pack. The maps are remakes from the original Halo game and can be played without the need of owning Reach, just know that you will be missing out on a better game.

*Dodges objects thrown by fanboys*

Hey, hey, hey! Reach is better to me because you actually get to know a little bit about the characters rather than being a faceless space marine! For some reason that baffles me, there was a pre-order bonus that included avatar gear and the Grunt Birthday Party skull. Thing is, you didn't have to pre-order anything. I bought mine from the store with the cardboard box around it. it would be tough to find it that way now so any early adopters need not shell out $10 for the DLC.

The combat is the same as the original Halo, the button layout is different but not a huge change. The friendlies, enemies, vehicles, weapons, and power-ups are all in the same places. Driving the Warthogs are still wonky and floaty. Some small confusion might ensue because things look different but that's practically a moot point. There are some moments where the new graphics aren't attached well and you can find yourself poking through walls.

What it boils down to is this: if you want the achievements, get it. Its cheap and can provide a weekend of something to do. A rental at best.
If you're expecting a grand re-packaging of Halo, its not worth it.
All others need not apply. If the original game didn't draw you in to the Halo universe so long ago then this one will not help any. I've had it since a couple of weeks after release and I haven't even bothered to complete it. Its just not very interesting.

Keep Playing.