Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taking a Portal to the next Bastion.

In case the title of this post wasn't obvious, and puntastic enough, I recently finished Portal 2 and Bastion.

Here are my thoughts on both:

Portal 2:
     Portal was superior to Portal 2. The primary reasons for this being ones that can't be replicated. The twist in Portal where you escape from the final test chamber, and the newness of the experience really made the first Portal game stand out, both made it a step above Portal 2. Even so Portal 2 has great writing, introduces new mechanics to go together with the original portal mechanic, and is all-around top notch in it's delivery of all those things.

     This game is probably in third place, behind Saints Row: The Third and Skyrim, for my top game of 2011. For an independent game (Despite being eventually published by Warner Brothers) that's a pretty big accomplishment. The art, music, and emotion invested in each of the moments really makes the game shine.

(Editors Note: I wrote this up briefly a few months back before being buried in college work, I figured I would put out my initial thoughts on both games after having completed them.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oh boy, Comedy!

So, I've started submitting features, and maybe articles soon for my college's satirical paper.
Now, I'm actually in the club that I'm making fun of, and the piece does require a bit of understanding of events that have recently happened on campus, but it plays off of the stereotypes of being a Gamer, some of which might be funny.

E-Sports Meeting Minutes
As reported by Mr. Schink

  1. Call to Order: 7:00
  2. Play Halo Reach: 7:01 – 8:00
  3. John yells at everyone else claiming “they cheated” 8:01 – 8:04
  4. Actual Call to Order 8:05
  5. Snack Reserves
    Dangerously Low (and dangerously cheesy, but seriously guys, stop eating all of our snack reserves). 
    Note for the Future: 10 pounds of Hot-pockets and 4 gallons of Mountain Dew: Gamerz Fuel is never enough 
    Possible Option 
    Dress-up like pirates and harvest vending machines. 
    Force all freshmen and jans to work in the hot-pocket mines.
  1. Recruitment
  • The girl to guy ratio is 1:Alot, we might want to change that.
  • Posters
    • Last time we had an event we had about 400 posters, We need 10 times that next time.
  1. Funding
  • John said he got money from student council, but all we have is an I.O.U. Note that smells vaguely of latex.
  • Denny has about $5.50 in pocket change, that's about five times our budget from last semester.
  1. Looks like a fight is about to break out
  • Someone just made fun of John's face, saying it looked like “If some one made a pepperoni pizza and used hot pockets instead.
  • Oh, a nice right-hook from John, his fist has maybe, 10-pounds of force, that's a lot.
  • Here comes Matthew into the battle, it looks like he's carrying a controller of some kind.
  • ...I never knew you could do something like that wit ha Gamecube-controller.
  • Ian seems to be tossing, Dorito chip powder at people while yelling something about “casting fireball”.
  • I really hope they don't notice me under this cardboard box in the corner
  • Oh god, I think they noti
[This report was found covered in soda stains, grease, and pizza bits, the writer has yet to be found.]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Skyrim: An Open Heart Surgery and Explanation

I really like Skyrim.

No, you don't seem to understand, I REALLY like Skyrim.

Giving Skyrim my award of Game of the Year isn't really enough to describe how much I love it.

I understand it has flaws, I mean it's still as broken as political campaign promises (what a bad zinger) on the PS3.

Thankfully, I decided to construct a gaming PC over the past summer and have had the best experience.

I guess I should better get to why I actually love Skyrim so much. So I'll go ahead and just take apart piece why I enjoy it so much.

1. It's an Open and Immersive Fantasy game

Ever since I was but a wee little lad in New England I've always loved Fantasy. I would get every Harry Potter book the day it came out and read it to completion on the same day. Even to this day I'm still a huge fan of fantasy books, as well as science fiction.

I was also bullied a lot when I was younger, in elementary and middle school, I had always dreamed of being the valiant Paladin, the powerful Wizard, and the mysterious Thief, both taking revenge and doing the same heroic deeds I often read in books.

Now, a lot of people often live out these fantasies through table-top games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, but even to this day I have yet to meet a dungeon master and other people that I could possibly play a game of it with. Skyrim manages to fulfill that same desire, without needing to go through the effort of wrangling together a group of people.

In Skyrim I can be an dark elf, oppressed by the nordic people of in Skyrim, who uses his stealth, and skills in destructive magic to rise through the ranks of the Dark Brotherhood and exact his revenge upon the nord populace. Or I can be a schizophrenic lizard-man that hordes cheese.

That's what's great about Skyrim, its designed to be open enough to allow the player to do almost anything. And as a PC player, there will be mods for every possible addition to Skyrim imaginable.

"But Will..." you begin to tell me, with pitchforks raised at my mention of liking Skyrim better than Morrowind, "The other Elder Scrolls games have those aspects as well, and some do it better, why do you like Skyrim so much?" Well, that leads me to number two.

2. It's the highpoint of the series thus far.

I think it is, at least.

Now before we continue, I think it bears mentioning I have only played, about 30 minutes of Morrowind. It might seem unfair for me to compare Morrowind to the rest of the series, having played it a year ago, and in the context of modern games. However, I was about 8 years old when Morrowind came out, and at that time the extent of my gaming interest was only within the realms of Nintendo games and products.

I gave Morrowind an honest go. I tried playing it without mods, and just couldn't get past the bad 3d graphics. Then I spent at least 4 hours trying to mod Morrowind with help from an online overhaul guide. However after following the entire guide, was unable to run it. So that was Morrowind.

Then came Oblivion.

Oblivion was a great game, it just seemed kind of, bland. It had all of the basic pieces that Skyrim would come to use and need. It was open, accessible, allowed the player to do as much as was possible within the confines of the engine, and to be almost anything. It was also very moddable, and because of the timing of it's release, before there were many big franchises on the 360, it acquired a much larger audience than the previous games.

But as I mentioned earlier, it was bland. Albeit some of the side quests were interesting, but it was set in an extremely generic fantasy setting. The main quest was your run of the mill "Demons are attacking the city/nation/continent/world/dimension/reality so we'd better look for the chosen one". A lot of storylines can be abstracted to the point of following that plotline, but Oblivion didn't have anything that differentiated its plotline.

Skyrim took the raw ore, that was Oblivion, and refined it into a pure and strong metal ingot.

Many of the mechanics from the previous games such as leveling up, companions, combat, and magic were refined. New systems and mechanics were added that enhanced game play and immersion, such as the Radiant Storytelling system that helps introduce the player to undiscovered quests and dungeons organically.
Now by just playing, you'll often run into the quests you want ,without ever having to really search them out.

The parts of Skyrim that needed to be simplified were. First is the removal of Acrobatics and Athletics. Running and jumping more in order to improve how fast you move and high you can jump seems ridiculous. As well, how much you used a skill, over the course of a level, determined how much you could boost the ability scores related to that skill, if you decided to choose to boost the related ability scores.

Instead, once you level up, you choose to either boost Health, Magicka, or Stamina, and then are given a perk to put into a tree. It's much simpler, but with the wide amount of trees available, and the medley of perks within each tree, it makes creating a character with a unique feel much easier, and still as robust as previous games.

The dungeons themselves were refined. Each dungeon even if slightly similar, has its own backstory and relation to the Elder Scrolls universe.

Sure, you might end up going through a few nordic barrows, but maybe one has been taken over by a necromancer, whose minions you must fight through, or another hosts the corpse (And probable magic zombie version) of the legendary hero, Ragnar the Red. Every dungeon is unique and has it's own quirks and pieces of design that differentiate it from one another.

Aside from the mechanics, worth mentioning as well is:
  The improved art style. The Uncanny Valley is less present, thanks to more stylized characters.
  Improved quest design and writing. Every one of the Guild Quests is about at least as lengthy and interesting as the main quest.

But really, these two aspects lead me to my last point.

3. Norse Mythology is my favorite flavor of Mythology.

I love Loki, and Odin, and Thor, and Frejya, and the Ice Giants.

Just as importantly. I love Heavy Metal, specifically Folk Metal.

If you don't know what Folk Metal is, or haven't heard much, and want to at least somewhat understand what I'm about to talk about. I would suggest listening to these 3 songs:
Are you back safely? Good.
Were you rocked to the very core by the sheer power of Metal? I hope so.

I love Folk Metal, because of how the songs seem to, within me, evoke heroic triumphant feelings. It makes me want to go sailing with a sword and a shield and slat the mighty Kraken! (Of course I should probably start with the squid that lives in my closet.)

It's hard to describe this feeling, but I 'll do my best. Metal often taps into the primal warrior-like part of me that wants to go out and do things that bards such as Homer would sing of in short poems or epics.

As well, I love Norse mythology, and Dark Age/Middle Age northern European history and culture.

Skyrim draws off of those things and more.

It's the land of the Nords, more or less, vikings. You slay dragons, have arduous battles in an icy land. Also, unrelated to the Viking and Norse point, I love Dragons. If my favorite animal could include a mythological creature, it would be a Dragon.

For me, Skyrim's themes, settings, characters were all intertwined with things that I already loved, and Skyrim felt like a celebration of them.

It felt like a celebration of Western rpgs, Dungeons and Dragons, Norse mythology and architecture, the beauty of winter, making your own story, and of truly heroic experiences.

Well, I think it's time to go start my fourth character. It's either a cat-man that punches dragons to death, or a cowardly bard, tough choice, but I'm glad to be able to make and have that choice.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Best Kind of Dragons, Infinite Dragons.

You know what's cool?

A Dragon.

And might you so happen to know what is even cooler than a Dragon?

Two Dragons.

And of course the best kind of dragon is an "Infinite Supply of Dragons".

If you don't know what I'm talking about, PC Gamer recently reported that Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, will have "an unlimited amount of dragons", or, as I like to call it, "Infinite Dragons."

That's right, Infinite Dragons! If you were to calculate that amount of dragons on a multi-sided die, it would be an "Infinite Sided Die"

A, "d-Infinite", if you will, as opposed to say, a "d20". Except the "d" doesn't stand for "dice" it stands for "Dragons", and instead of six dragons, or twenty dragons, we have infinite dragons.

Now, I have talked to a few people and read a few arguments against having an unlimited number of dragons to slay with magic, swords, or your bare hands. Some argue that the amount of dragons will make fighting a dragon less special, and that the mystique of fighting a dragon is often that they are so few in number.

Well, my argument to them is this, yes, I concede, that the more something happens, the less unique it becomes. However, what makes dragons so amazing and awe-inspiring is, for the most part, not how rarely you encounter them, but the fact that they are giant, flying, fire breathing, tanks, made of scales and death.

Dragons are like a force of nature; One does not simply fight a Dragon, one survives a Dragon. When you see something like that, which has through video games, table top games, fantasy novels, and myths been so feared, you have two responses, fight, or flight.

Then there is what fighting and killing a dragon means in Skyrim. In Skyrim when you kill a dragon, you absorb it's essence and become more powerful. You're become some form of Dragon Kirby that kills it's enemies, eats them ,and then absorbs its powers.

The only thing that I really hope is that many of the dragon encounters vary enough in terms of difficulty, strategy, and that the encounter itself is designed to make you feel like you are the heroe in some kind of Norse epic poem.

No one will really be able to determine that until the game comes out. I can't wait until release when I can begin slaying dragons, an unlimited amount, and constructing some form of dragon-bone castle from them, now there is a lair for a true hero.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Achievment Unlocked: Games are federally recognized as art.

So before you continue on, read this.

Seriously, I know you're still there, take a quick look.
I'm talking to myself now, aren't I?

Welcome back! So as it seems the NEA can now give grants for video games as public works. I won't go into further detail on the specifics, as you just read them, but this could have some really interesting possibilities.

Games that wouldn't normally be granted a budget, on account of graphic content or niche appeal, now have a chance of being made and distributed publicly.

I would like the greatest public project the world has ever known... H.P. Lovecraft: The Game, you basically play as Lovecraft who has to fight monsters from his own story.

It's a 3rd person actions rpg, and you, as Lovecraft, wield an evolving Victorian Pen-Sword.  Or something like that. It would be very awesome.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I Just Realized: Sony's Videogame Division has had it rough.

It's like Sony just keeps getting abused over and over by this thing we call fate.

To begin with Sony had a pretty terrible PS3 launch, thanks to a 600$ price point, and some pretty egotistical statements by Sony representatives at the time.

Then we had the PSP, which has done poorly compared to the DS, and even worse if you compare it to smartphones, if you're of the opinion that smartphones are a mobile gaming platform. In addition, the PSP Go was as successful as a Roman orator with a speech impediment and missing a tongue, a.k.a. not very successful.

This generation many of what were previously Playstation exclusive titles, such as Final Fantasy, and Grand Theft Auto, have appeared on Xbox 360.

And the cherry on the top of this abysmal ice cream sundae of economic woe is the recent PSN debacle.

I fully realize there are other sections of Sony involved with things other than video games.

But at the same time, I can't help but feel a bit bad for how they have done this generation, I wish them the best of luck in the coming years.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


So, I've come to the realization that I won't always be able to have long, introspective rants and soapboxes on video games, and meanings, and trends in the industry, so I may once in awhile just delve into discussion about current events, or things I have noticed lately.

I may have posts called "I Just Realized:" with something that I just realized about a game or subject after the colon.

Well, for now I'll round up some of the more interesting bits of news I have seen this week and comment on them, give my take.

Well,  looks like the PSN fiasco might finally be ending soon. Took them long enough. They delayed telling people that their info might be stolen. This even went down right around the release of Portal 2, probably hampering its sales on PS3.

I don't even really know what to say at this point about it. Governments are investigating Sony, the PS3 is jailbroken wide open. These things along with the dismal sales performance of each PSP. If there has been one company which, at least video games-wise, has been in a rough spot the past few years. It's Sony.

I'm not one to start up "Which console is best" arguments, but if I were to argue what company was the "Loser" financially this generation, it would by far be Sony.

Till next time, one reader who possibly stumbles into this forsaken blog by accident...till next time.