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Oh my god, are you serious...

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Feb 9, 2012 4:13 pm GMT@ Cutepotatoes So lets say that a 12 year old who had been polite to everyone all year, hadn't bought anything prior to Call of Duty, had decided to pick this game up because he knew that his friends enjoyed it, and he wanted to enjoy it with him. He gets straight A's, hasn't done a bad thing in his life, cares for his family, but since he bought this game, he's a retard.

You're too kind.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Yep, got my third moderation this time around. This is ridiculous, I mean yeah, retard (hopefully people won't be on me for using this word in a blog) isn't exactly a nice term, but I've definitely seen worse go unpunished through out pages on this site. Plus, the article that I posted this comment on is over 4 days old. You'd think that moderators would be more concerned with articles that are available right now, but I guess what's really important is whether or not someone is just going to skim through all the old articles and is highly offended by a mere poop joke. We want to make sure his experience on Gamespot is sound, I mean, he could be an 11 year-old, right? Well, that'd be one smart 11-year old, considering he likes to look at sale charts for games.Step up your game, Gamespot.

Oh boy, it's a review full of Rage!

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Oh man, do I have a surprise for you guys. A lot of you know that I can't stand Skyrim at this point, but how could I rage more? Well, look at this here review, and it'll tell you why I'm so full of Rage and why I can't get enough of it!

Review full of Rage

In all seriousness, Rage is just awesome. I know there will be those who might not like it too much, but I still encourage you to take a look at what I have to say. While I'm still working on my writing skills, I think that this is my best review yet. If you can find any thing that I might need to work on (other than talking about sound, I know I need to work on that), then feel free to tell me. But tell me in a way that's logical, or else you might end up sounding like the guy at the end of the comments in this blog. ;)

-Cal Burkhart

Convolution: Yay or Nay?

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Con-vo-lu-ted: Extremely Intricate; too complex or intricate to understand.

Hey hey, it's been a while since I've blogged. I've been too busy enjoying myself with a few games that I haven't really gotten the chance to play a lot (like Crysis 2, Far Cry 2, and Arkham City). Don't worry though, I've been thinking a lot. Today's subject is something that a lot of us think about, without actually acknowleding, and that is convolution.

When we sit down to play video games, there are certain moments where we get stuck, and don't know how to advance. It's common in open-ended adventure games, and in a lot of puzzle games too. We never really stop to think about this design choice, because we're too busy making rude remarks to the makers of these games because they didn't fully explain a certain objective. Why do developers go out of their way to make us think about what we need to do next? Well, I just said why: to think. By most proffesional reviewing standards, when something like this happens, then that just means that the game didn't explain something right. But what if I were to say that this is a design choice that could enhance someones overall experience in many ways?

Going back to what I was originally saying, what do you do when you get to certain parts of a game that you don't know how to complete? Obviously, you try to solve that problem. It's the developers way of making you part of the thinking process by letting you put another piece into a half-finished puzzle. Like linearity, there are good ways of doing this, and there are absolutely horrid ways of doing this.

So without trying to sound like a broken record, I'm going to mention Castlevania again. This series has gone through some many different game-feels that it's almost impossible to find a category where you can't talk about Castlevania. A lot of you might have heard of Simon's Quest through the AVGN, and without playing the game, you'd think that it is a poorly designed game based on what James Rolfe said. The truth is though, it's even worse than one might think with knowledge obtained by the AVGN's recent lackluster videos. Playing this game, it's more than evident that the people who were behind this game had no idea what they were trying to tell their players. So much so, that it actually ruins what was a pretty basic game.

The source of this games problems came from a multitude of poor explanations, which made the game pretty much unplayable. Thankfully, this problem was solved when later entriees in the series actually made the RPG/Platformer approach work, with games like Symphony of the Night and recent Nintendo DS games. They give you a steady path for you to follow, and don't confuse you with cryptic dialouge from NPC's. So knowing what bad convolution is, how on Earth can being vague actually benefit a game?

At the risk of repeating myself again, Dark Souls pretty much nails the concept of what it means to be convoluted. The main reason that it works well here is because the only things that are convoluted are things that you solve through trial and error. Trial and error is usually never a good thing to have in anything gaming related, but Demon's/Dark Souls is one of the few games that uses it to it's advantage, in combination to it's convoluted nature. Everything that you do in the game can be analyzed and solved, even before entering into the situation head-on. The game never blatantly tells you things that aren't control related, so it's up to the player to problem-solve.

It's not a perfect system, as it never really can be, but this series has it down about as well as one could expect. People rag on this game for being needlessly hard. Well let me be one of the first to call them needlessly stupid for not thinking when playing the game. Just because something isn't told to you upfront, that doesn't mean that it can't be explained through logical thinking. And that's all there really is to any convolution one might find in any game: problem-solving. How does this benefit the player though?

It's all about the satisfaction that one gets when they solve their confusion. When you're done with a really tough part that felt almost unexplained, didn't you feel awesome about yourself? I guarantee that anybody who has beaten either Dark Souls or Demon's Souls will tell you that it was so worth going through the troubles of the game, just so you could proudly state that you had done what very few people even get half-way through doing. I know that my friends feel it, and hopefully I'll feel it too someday when I finally get to beating Dark Souls; it's all because it'll make you smarter in the end as a thinker, and a gamer.

Now I have to get back to some more pressing matters, like finally beating a few games in my back-log. Hope everyone has a great week!

-Cal Burkhart

State of the Reviewer: Are we shallow?

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We've obviously come a long way since the creation of video-games. With every generation that passes us by, we grow more insightful about what we like, and what we couldn't care less for. Our ideas about what we like and hate has grown along with technology, with more elements being involved with gameplay, design, story, graphics, and everything else that a game is comprised of. So naturally, our way of judging would obviously change quite a bit, given the new standards that are constantly set by new games. But, is that change obvious?

What I mean is, what if a reviewers judgement didn't go along with the constant stream of new improvements that are being made with games? Some people might be stuck in the past, while others might be more concerned with whether or not their expectations were meant, it could go either way. I've thought about this because of my recent review of Skyrim, where I think I was one of the first people who trashed that game for reasons that weren't bugs. I've been questioning the credibillity of this review for the soul-purpose that I still feel like I should've liked this game more. I'm not letting other people persuade my decision, I just feel like I'm missing something from the current reviewing rubric that I should've looked at so I could appreciate this game more.

That's what made me think; are we shallow? This is a question to everybody on here who is even remotely familiar with judging a game. Everybody has different way of writting, but where are we all at on this gauge of criticizm? I feel like my hype towards certain games like Killzone 3 and Skyrim have pretty much killed all hopes for me hyping up a game and actually liking it. The games that I usually love are the ones that I buy on a whim. I tend to not hype games anymore, but there are two games that are coming up that I just can't help but get excited about.

One of these games is Dishonored. As you can tell from my profile, I'm kinda looking forward to this game (you should be too!), but I have a growing fear that I won't like this game because of the morals that I've developed over the span of time that I've been reviewing games. This hobby that I've been attending to has made this character trait develop in me, and it's the one that's labeled "judgement". Everywhere I go, I can't help but nit-pick the small details of, well, everything. I never had this problem when I was just herpin' around with my PS3 controller, playing games that I didn't know any better about, like Lost Planet 2 and Enchanted Arms, and still enjoying them. I don't think I'd enjoy them nearly as much if I went back to them with my current mind-set.

I'm not saying that you can't be shallow just for liking everything that you play, that's pretty much the definition of shallow. But I feel that an even greater sense of hollowness can be found with people who tend to find problems with everything, like I seem to do. I just want to play games like I used to; without factors in my mind telling me whether or not the game I'm playing is good or not. Movies don't seem nearly as interesting to me (that could just be what's being put in theaters right now, though), and music seems to always be hit and miss with me, no matter how much I love heavy metal (and I do very much). All of this started when words started being put onto Microsoft Word documents, explaining why the game you were playing is total garbage.This brings me back to Skyrim again. I WANT to enjoy this game, but my critical mind just won't let me. It pains me that this form of shallowness is holding me back from having a knee-slappin' good time, especially when it's a game that I had been looking forward to for a very long time.

TL;DR Version: I'm not really enjoying myself with games anymore, because of the reviewing standards that I've grown accustom to these new standards, and I'm expecting too much :(

So what do you think? Has your view on gaming changed since you started inspecting every detail (if you do write)?

-Cal Burkhart

P.S, if this blog sounds kind weired, give the credit to Tool. :3 ?

Skyrim & Redline

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I've got some good news, and bad news.

Bad news is, Skyrim didn't grow on me. This game is an absolute mess. If you want to read on as to why I think that this garbage is garbage...

Here's the Elder Scrolls V review you should read.

Now, for the good news...

This movie, oh man... THIS. MOVIE.

Yesterday, I recieved my Blu-ray copy of "Redline", and honestly, I didn't know what to expect from it. I've been out of the anime swing lately, since I've come to the conclusion that it's pretty much all the same, without knowledge of this movie still on it's way to my house. I went out, unlocked my mail box, and found my package with this movie in it. Without hesitance, I opened it up, went to my PS3, popped it in, and let it take control of my mind for a good hour and 45 minutes.

I've finally found a movie that I like more than "Akira", and this movie just destroys everything that Akira set-up. Pretty much everything is a step-up here, and it's definitely the nicest looking movie I've ever seen. It took 7 years to create this film, and with over 10,000 hand-drawn images, it really goes to show. Everything about his movie (save for the mouth animations) looks absolutely stunning. The amount of color that was soaked into this movie is down-right pleasing, and the amount of insanity that is there to match it's color pallet is more than evident.

I would go into further detail, but I really don't want to. Everybody should see this movie and just appreciate the effort that it took to make this amazing movie. It isn't perfect, but in my opinion, no movie is. Give it a watch!

To end this blog, I'll leave you with the song in the ending credits. Trust me, it'll send chills down your spine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3m29Mj7ANM

-Cal Burkhart

Linearity: Yay or Nay?

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Lin-e-ar: Adjective, definition:Consisting of or predominantly formed using lines or outlines.

When discussing video-games, linearity is a subject that tends to come up often. It's used to discuss the overall design of any game, whether it be an FPS or an RPG, or even Puzzle games. It's a term that is used for just about every game in existance, and with most people, it tends to be taboo. But there are those who believe that it is a practice that should be wholly recommended to developers. But who would be right in the discussion; people who are given a straight line to walk in, or people who want to choose which straight line they can walk in? No one would be, both have strengths that the other couldn't possibly achieve, no matter how much time it takes to design both.

As for me? I would lean more towards linearity. With linear games, you get elaborate designs that couldn't possibly be matched by a huge, open world. Take a game like the first Castlevania for the NES.

As a lot of you know, the game is essentially a straight-forward action game, and one of the hardest in it's categories. The elaborate design of the game couldn't possibly be matched by any open-world game, even by todays standards. What Konami made with Castlevania was something that was unmatchable, a game that required up-most skill to beat, and to this day, I've only made it about halfway through the game before rage-quiting. This is an example of a linear game done exceedingly well, and is still one of the best games ever made.

The game is a lot shorter when being compared to games with bigger scope, and more massive worlds, which is why people argue about linearity in the first place. With open worlds, you know that there is going to be more to do, and that you don't have to do all of it if you wan't to complete the story. In linear games, it's pretty much impossible not to do everything while completing the game at the same time. This makes the game generally shorter when being compared with something with an open world. But people only seem to use the length of the game as their main reason for liking open-world games more than games with linear design in mind.

Call of Duty is an example of linearity being one of it's biggest flaws. I like this series, and enjoy playing through the campaign, but it's pretty obvious that there wasn't a lot of thought put into it. The whole campaign is just you, with a gun, going through a bunch of "elaborate" corridors. It's fun, but it isn't nearly as memorable as something like Castlevania, where you know that the developers definitely knew what they were doing. What makes Call of Duty memorable is just it's numerous amount of explosions, which makes it seem like an action film, but let me ask you; do any of you remember what happened in the action scenes of Tranformers 2? You don't? Well, neither do I. That's exactly what I mean here.

Castlevania is a game with a lot to it; enemies are varied, design is pretty much unmatched, the difficulty came from legitmate challenge, and so much more. A lot of what makes Castlevania special is what it does that no open world can even hope to do. Games like Dark Souls, Dead Space 2, and Rage take advantage of their linear designs, and create experiences that stick with us. Games like Call of Duty and Battlefield 3 reinforce people's ideas of linear designs being simple, and way too strict. It's nothing but the same thing over and over for games like this, and with little true variety in their folds, they end up feeling like a waste of time. This is why some people don't even bother with the campaigns of these games, and just skip to the multiplayer.

What about open worlds though?

Games like Assassin's Creed are the perfect example if you want to describe open-world games as "a waste of time". For the record, I don't hate these games, but I'm not exactly fond of what they do and how they do it. Playing Revelations, you'd have to be lying to yourself if you didn't think that things were relatively simple in this game. The combat is just a mess of button mashing, and the AI is some of the worst I've ever seen in an open-world game. You'd never see these type of flaws in an action game like Castlevania. In fact, you saw the opposite in games like Castlevania. The enemies wouldn't stop attacking you in that game, and using your whip required patience and timing. Constantly mashing the whip button meant that you were going to die soon, because you're not using it right.

It's impossible "not to use it right" in Assassin's Creed. The game pretty much played itself in a lot of aspects, with the climbing, the combat, and jumping around the city. If you wanted to do a whole bunch of neat tricks in this game, all you needed to do was hold down two buttons, push forward, and let the game do the rest for you. Again, have you ever had games like Mirror's Edge have you just hold down a few buttons? You had to have legitimate skill if you wanted to get far in that game. Assassin's Creed, quite literally, holds your hand through out the game in it's entireity.

Fallout 3 is an example of an open-world done exceedingly well. On hard, this game offered quite a nice challenge. Not only that, but the game didn't constantly guide you through the game. A lot of what you did in Fallout 3 came from the choice of the player, while still offering a main narrative for the player to follow. The game wasn't designed around the concept of elaborate set-pieces, or narrow corridors, it was made with player progression in mind. The variables all matched up to aspects of your character that you had been building up ever since you had left the vault in that game. You could take up fire-arms as your main source of attack, and risk being useless in melee combat, practice speech, and be not very good with explosions, etc.

Games like Assassins Creed offered other things in their open worlds, but none of it felt right. As I mentioned, this game offered little in the ways of player freedom, not only in combat and movement, but also in planning. Everything in the game was designed for you to just blow right through it, with an almost unneccesary amount of items to use, and too few times for you to actually take advantage of what you want. It isn't that the game gave the AI too little (which they technically did), they just gave the player way too much.

I suppose it's just players choice as to whether or not they just want to sit down and enjoy the experience (Assassin's Creed being the prime example of that), but making the arguement towards linear games that they don't offer enough is downright wrong a lot of the time. They may not offer as much content as these huge expansive worlds might, but what they do offer tends to last a long time in your mind (if done right). I hope that more developers start to take care of their single-player story modes more in ways that older games like Castlevania and Megaman did. Games like Dead Space 2 have shown that a straight-forward design can make for a prosperous game, that people will want to experience over and over again.

-Cal Burkhart

http://www.youtube.com/user/CalBurkhart?feature=mhee

I have a bit of a confession to make...

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Image

...I'm not really enjoying Skyrim as much as I initially had. Actually, I haven't really been into it much in general. This is the game that made me just want to end that little list I had started in December for my favorite games of last year, all because of how addictive in nature that Skyrim was. But after playing it for about 40 hours now, and analyzing it thoroughly, I've come to the conclusion that this game has been throwing it's smoke in my face, with me thinking that I was still getting one of the deepest experiences around.

This game fooled me into thinking that true effort was being put into it. Don't get me wrong, this is still a game worth playing, but it makes me wonder how much professional reviewers actually played this game. I've never really mentioned payed reviewers in my blog before, as I don't really care to get into the debate as to whether or not bias actually exists among professional ranks. I've had similar feelings towards ratings and reviews towards another game that came out last year, during February. I don't think I need to tell you what the name of the game is; lets just say it's a PS3 shooter that is a sequel to one of my favorite FPS's of all time.

This game was getting positive rave thrown at it, but it was more reasonable than what Skyrim has been getting. Right now, this game that I'm talking about has a Metacritic average of 84. Skyrim, on the other hand, has an average of 96 (for the 360).Like I said, I've been playing Skyrim for some time now, and I really, REALLYdon't think that it deserves anything close to a 96. People might give this game a 10, or a 9, and I'm perfectly fine with this. But these are people who aren't being paid to give reviews. Seeing these professional reviews irritates me a lot; did they analyze this game at all before throwing perfect scores at it?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Image

The main reason that this game has been getting so many perfect scores is pretty unanimous amongst reviewers, and it is this:

The game is huge in scale/it offers more content than any game to date.

If you had asked me why I thought this game deserved a perfect score within the first 10 hours of playing, I would've said the same thing. But I'm not 10 hours in anymore, I'm about 40. This game is huge in scale, but it doesn't offer much within the scale. The game offers more content than any game to date, but most of that content is entirely recycled or completely boring (or god-forbid, both). See? I just killed the only two reasons that anybody would have if they honestly thought that this game was GOTY material. Plus, I could go into detail as to why I think that this game offers even less than what is "all flash, no substance". So, I'll make a few bullet points as to why this game isn't nearly all that it's cracked up to be:

  1. It lacks "stuff" - Stuff, by definition, means "Matter, material, articles, or activities of a specified or indeterminate kind that are being referred to, indicated, or implied." Stuff in Skyrim would be labeled as enemy types, spells, weapons, characters, and much more. You play the game for a certain amount of time, and before you know it, you realize that there isn't much "stuff" in Skyrim.
  2. There is pretty much no motivation - Playing an RPG like this, you'd expect the stories and characters to at least be comprehensible, at best. But I wouldn't even say that about what's being offered by Skyrim. Going back to the "stuff" thing, everything about the quests in this game feel hollow, like there should be more to it than what you just experienced.
  3. It's a needless act of repetition - If you've played this game, you're more than familar with the old Nordic ruins that you constantly visit. While I know that all of these are technically different, you could have told me that if I was simple-minded and I wouldn't believe you. Everything that is present in this game feels all to derivative of... itself. The more you play it, the more it seems like you're doing the same thing over and over again.
  4. It's more "a chore" than anything else - Like most of the complaints I've mentioned so far, the more you play this game, the more you'll realize that there isn't much fun to be had. Managing inventory, completing quests, crawling dungeons, none of it is really that entertaining. It feels more like work than an achievment, and since the game is so easy, achieving anything doesn't really satisfy.
  5. Yes, I'm perfectly capable of doing that on my own - And yet another staple for games that I don't like, this game has a firm grasp of your hand, and it doesn't let go. Switching between this and Dark Souls made me realize even more what a waste of time most of this game is. It's almost impossible to lose to any enemy, and if you do, then all that happens is, you respawn to the door that you last left out of, which most of the time, is right next to where you died. There are little to no consequences in this game, and what consequences do happen are ones that are caused by the games own bugs and glitches.

There is more, but that'll be for when I ultimately decide whether the game is worth your time or not in a written fiasco. I know plenty of people who love this game, and I won't blame them for liking it. It's not like Killzone 3, where I'll try my hardest to make sure you hate it as much as I do, mainly because I still very much like this game. I don't hate this game, at all, but I definitely see myself down-right loathing this game once I hit the 200 hour mark. Game of the year? Hardly, I can think of 5 games that easily trump what's offered with Skyrim.

Sorry Bethesda, I love you and all, but Skyrim just doesn't do it for me.

12/30/11 - I'm ALMOST done...

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GOTY= Skyrim. There, done! Man...

Image 32

Congrotulations! A winnar is you!

Is it just me, or is it an absolute chore to make lists like these and explaining everything? I mean, yeah it was fun making up some of these awards and giving them to their rightful owners, but man, it was just one big head-ache after another. I definitely won't be doing anything like this next year. And it's not because I'm lazy or anything (which I am, but still), it's because writing these things made me realize what I should be doing instead of talking about video games. I should be PLAYING them!

Gaming shouldn't be something that sucks the life out of players when they write stuff like this. The whole point of videok-games even existing it just to have fun. I was having fun, until I decided to go official with this and started writing reviews. I love writting blogs on this site, but when it comes down to numer scrunching and analyzing, it comes to the point where it pretty much turns me off from enjoying myself. So, instead of continuing this blog, I'm going to go play RAGE. I really enjoy playing this game, and I hope that's why you play games too. For the enjoyment value, the fun, the pure satisfaction of finally being able to play something that you've been waiting for for months!

Everybody have a good week, I'll be back in a month or two. Have a happy New-Year!