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The Art of the Board Game

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I've been having a very hard time keeping up with video games while being in college. As many of you currently attending or...heaven forbid...college graduates (those poor souls) know, classes and the optional job or student organization sucks a lot of time out of your day. I've come to a point in my life where much of my video gaming is condensed into the few breaks I get while in school. While I do have my consoles and gaming-oriented laptop with me at college, a game hardly gets booted up unless my friends are all busy.

This might have to do with the types of games I like, but I simply cannot invest the time in a long, time-soaking game with all of the stuff I have to keep up with at school. I value the time I do, and I still keep up on gaming news for the one or two titles I will be making time for in the future. Until that time comes, however, I need some sort of gaming in my life. I have to scratch that itch in my head that's screaming for a challenge of some sort that doesn't involve learning a new language or computer code.

Well, you see where this is going. I found board games.

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No! Not those. Those are boring.

The board games I'm talking about are not the ones we all grew up with as children. No Battleship, Monopoly or LIFE for me. Nope. I'm playing games like Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, Munchkin, Dominion, Infiltration, Civilization: The Board Game, Settlers of Catan and so on.

I've become a big board gamer ever since I started becoming aware of how many inventive and creative ones there are out there. I never thought I'd see the day where I would be scouring the internet for the latest board game news (alas, I do now). In fact, a large part of my reasoning for not playing as many video games in my free time nowadays is because I have these board games that I can play with my friends.

With the move towards online, more connected gaming, a lot of the old-fashioned four-friends-on-a-couch style of video gaming has been lost. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, not at all; it's a natural part of the evolution of video games. It still exists in a psuedo form through custom matches and voice chat, and many games with a multiplayer component still allow for splitscreen, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of gamers will play with their friends through an internet connection most of the time. However, as video game multiplayer moves more towards online aspects, it is impossible for board games to do so. Sure, you could pick up the XBL/PSN version of Settlers of Catan and play them online, but anyone who's played the game in physical and digital form will tell you that it's far more engaging and fun with four friends at a table. This is true with all board games.

What board games bring to the table (pun intended) that video games still can but (I feel) people ignore is that 4-friends-on-a-couch feeling that made gaming so much fun 10 years ago. With a board game, everyone is at the same place. Everyone is looking at each other, everyone is communicating strategies and deviating plots in front of everyone else. Playing a board game is a very intimate event. In a game such as A Game of Thrones (the board game is probably one of the best things on this planet...but, then again, so is the franchise) you must consider where your interests lie, and where they clash with your allies/enemy's interests. The game's functions and procedures almost force you to cooperate, while encouraging backstabbing at the right time. It's a delicate balance of diplomacy and war, and such a balance would be impossible to achieve in a game. Part of what makes A Game of Thrones and other board games of the same irk so compelling is that, whatever you do, someone's going to react to it, and they're right across the table from you. You have to put up with their rage, confusion, or perhaps their own evil plots on the spot as the game progresses. It tests wit and mettle, such a test that I have yet to see a game communicate successfully. Throw in some text messaging (well call it "sending a raven") and you have strategies and plans being created without even a word being said.

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Those. Freaking. Lannisters. THE NORTH REMEMBERS!

I particularly value the face-to-face aspect of board games because it allows for strengthening of friendships and sharing memories, even if you did just destroy your best friend's capital city, taking all of their tokens and laughing as they're eliminated from the game. Another aspect I value is that a board game can be completed within 45mins-4 hours (depending on the game). You get a complete gaming experience from start to finish in one sitting, often with side conversation, food, laughter (shouting, too) , and a good time with friends sprinkled in. I don't have to wonder what will happen next or look up a strategy on how to beat an incredibly difficult boss. I won't have to save my game for later. It's done. And I can come back to it again and again, and often I do, because the board games I play have multiple scenarios or variations for each game. They may have a randomly generated map. They may be completely cooperative. They may have a persistent world that changes with each game you play. They offer much the same entertainment video games do, but in a different form. A form more practical for someone like me, who would rather spend his time with his non-video-gaming friends than playing his video games, while still playing a game.

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The most horrifying part about Arkham Horror is not Cthulu, but how impossible it is to win. Even if the game is cooperative.

It's funny, one would think that tabletop gaming is on the decline nowadays. Digital entertainment continues to surge in both popularity and revenue, to the common eye it would seem that the days of rolling a die and praying for anything but a 6 is over. This is not the case. Board gaming is as strong as it has ever been, and its creativity never seems to die. I've always felt that more people should wet their feet into the realm of these complex board games just once, to see if they like it. If they're already a video gamer, I guarantee you that they'll probably fall in love.

In Defense of the Bronies

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I never thought I'd be writing a blog on a game based in the My Little Pony universe. Alas, here I am. And there is so much to be said.

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Ponies. Yes. Ponies. Little ones.

Unless you either A) live under a rock, B) dont' have an internet connection or C) are dead you've more than likely heard of the concept of a "brony". Since you're reading this blog, you have an internet connection, are probably alive, and I'm assuming do not live under a rock. Therefore, you should know what a "brony" is. If you do not, it's a male(usually older, but a male of any age will qualify) who watches and enjoys My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Now, Gamespot's Maxwell McGee already wrote and incredible article on the indie project My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic. In fact, it was so well written and researched you'd think I'd have absolutely nothing to say because he seriously covered everything you could think of writing a blog about.

Well, thing is I'm not talking about the game. I'm talking about the one thing McGee couldn't write on...the comments.

As you'd expect, so much flaming was going on in these comments it was an oven. An oven so hot that if you tried to cook your pizza rolls in there they will burn.

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The horror. The horror!

Once I finished reading the article I wrote a comment congratulating the devs on making a great game and admiring their commitment to a fandom. It wasn't too long before someone tried to attacked my comment (saying that I was being an "attention whore" by being accepting; clearly a troll), but luckily some awesome Gamespot members put him down in my defense(and, even luckier, a mod deleted the comment later). I don't like responding to trolls or flaming comments, so I appreciated how quickly some members came to my defense with intelligent responses (rather than starting a flame war).

Those defenders made me wonder...why this community get attacked as horribly as it does? I did not understand it, not in the slightest.

That is...until I related it to another, completely different issue.

I noticed in the comments that many, many bronies were revealing themselves, proudly supporting the game and their passion. It was incredible. I understand that the article was talking about My Little Pony and would therefore draw the attention of bronies, but when searching their profiles, there was nary a hint of being a brony in their blog posts or union affiliations. Indeed, it seemed as if this article acted as a catalyst in the brony community on Gamespot. McGee's article praised the game for being a creative and smooth fighter, saying absolutely nothing negative or degrading in regards to the MLP community.

It's my belief this acted as a signal to bronies that it was alright to out themselves as a brony, seeing that Gamespot was accepting of them. The article let them know that Gamespot was on their side, and that was enough for them to come out and support this game.

This idea of "coming out" as a brony has had me thinking a bit for a few hours as I periodically checked the comments for updates. Once the mods finally hit the page, many of the negative comments were deleted, so my analysis was being brought to a close as the posts defending bronies from negative comments were soon becoming irrelevant. No longer did those negative comments exist, making the defending posts lose context to any new readers.

Before the removal of such posts, however, the attacks on the brony community and its defenders reminded me strongly of another community-the gay community and its allies.

To be clear, I am NOT drawing a correlation between bronies and being gay (not, mind you, that there is anything wrong with being gay I myself am a homosexual). I am drawing a connection between the perception of said communities in the public eye. Both are misunderstood (though, to be fair, the gay community is gaining more approval as time passes) by the majority of the public, and much of the public will lash out against them in their misunderstanding.

A lot of this misunderstanding has to do with the media's presentation of the communities. GLBTQ people are depicted as promiscuous, carefree and flamboyant. Grown men who like children's toys and shows (particularly those aimed at a younger, female audience) are depicted as creepy and socially awkward.

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Hello, socially awkward, child-toy-collecting, children's-show-watching Disney character. Oh, wait...

It's an issue that's becoming bigger and bigger each year-the media is constantly forming our opinions and biases on different cultures, hobbies and ideas. No matter how aware we are of it, it still will affect us at a subconscious level. The best we can to do to combat it is to look at everything we see objectively.

That's exactly what I did when I heard of the brony community. I looked at the idea objectively. My knee-jerk reaction was to react in a bit of disgust, but I know that's wrong of me to judge such a group of people unfairly. I considered why it exists.

Bronies did not exist in such large numbers until Friendship is Magic was released, so it had something to do with the show. I did a bit of research and realized it a Saturday morning cartoon, not unlike Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Xiaolin Showdown, and other shows that frequented my television set as a child. I know how addicting watching those shows can become. They're usually packed with action and halfway decent character development, and are usually expertly animated and brightly colored. They're flashy, fun, and are a joy to watch as a child, and for many people that joy just does not go away. That's normal, I myself love Disney films and still freak out like a child when I get the chance to go to Disney World. It's nothing different from the brony community still liking Saturday morning cartoons.

The cartoons are almost always heavily merchandised, and My Little Pony has been a toy marketed at little girls since the 80s. It was a perfect storm for collectors of T.V. show merchandise. The explosion of bronies should not have come as a surprise to anyone, it came just as the explosions of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! before it. It's a Saturday morning cartoon, and there's nothing wrong with adults liking cartoons.

To all of the bronies out there: don't be afraid of what the world thinks of your passion. The more you expose yourselves, the more you will come to support each other and cast away your dissenters. More and more allies will reveal themselves. Those who realize the true nature of your fanbase will realize that you are no different from those who enjoy Halo, Pokemon, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft or otherwise. The internet is a nasty place, but there is no reason to hide what you love from the world in a place where anonymity reigns supreme.

And, to those who relentlessly attacked the MLP community in the comments on McGee's article: as entitled to your opinions as you are, know that, even though you cannot see the face or know the name of the person you're attacking, that they exist, and they do feel. They're as human as you are. Anonymity comes at cost; you're able to say what you're want, but consider saying what you're going to say in a comment to a person in real life. Would you do it?

If not, I rest my case.

And, before I go, I will post a picture of my favorite pony.

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It's Bill the Pony. Because Bill the Pony is awesome.

What 2012 Has Taught Us- Gaming in Review

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Holy crap. Christmas is on Tuesday, and we ring in the new year a week after that. I can hardly believe it. Remember Twisted Metal? That release created quite a stir. How about Final Fantasy XIII-2? What about Mass Effect 3? Or Diablo III? Man. The release of those games feels like years ago.

Yes, this year has delivered us many titles. We've seen breakout hits, disappointments, surprises and everything in between.

But, in the midst of all the madness, what does it mean? What have we learned?

1) A Great Story Can Sell A Game

Case in Point: The Walking Dead


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It seems the zombie craze won't be going away any time soon.

With a successful foray into almost every medium available, it was to be expected that The Walking Dead franchise would attempt to create a stake in the video game industry as well. What we didn't expect, however, was 1) an adventure game and 2) a good/fantastic/freaking mind-blowing adventure game.

Yes, The Walking Dead took us all by surprise. Telltale's adventure games have been decent at best, and are usually plagued with frame-rate issues that ruin the flow and enjoyment of a game (see: Jurassic Park: The Game and Back to the Future: The Game). On top this, their puzzles were simplistic, the story linear, and the quick-time events far too frequent. When I heard one of my favorite comics/TV shows was being adapted into a game by them, I held my breath and crossed my fingers. I hoped for the best.

If you've played all 5 episodes of the game, you'll understand where I'm coming from when I say the narrative deserves a spot in the top five video game stories of all time. What made The Walking Dead so much was fun the amount of weight dialogue had in the game's flow and story. Every decision was crucial and remembered; who's life do you save, and who's do you sacrifice? Who gets the last rations of your meager supply of food? Do you attempt to save a dying man, or kill him before he can turn on your group? All of these questions and more come up, and hardly any of them have easy answers.

Admittedly, between dialogue events there wasn't much to look forward to. The gameplay mainly consisted of not-very-challenging puzzles and quick-time events. Of course, this is to be expected of an adventure game, and, if the story wasn't very strong, it's unlikely this game would have sold as much as it did.

What The Walking Dead proved to us is that if a game's story is strong and the gameplay doesn't get in the way of enjoying it, it can and will sell. Throw in a ridiculously cheap price point ($20 for all 5 episodes or $5/ea., with the episodes going on sale many times through Steam, Amazon etc.) and you have a game that will be irresistible to many.

2) Hype Can Kill

Case in Point: Mass Effect 3, Diablo III

Hey, remember Mass Effect 3? I do. I was eagerly awaiting that game ever since a release date was put out for it. And you know what? It was a great game. Really. The gameplay was smooth, sharp, and fun. The characters were fully fleshed out, the decisions were hard, the art direction was phenomenal and everything just worked.

That is, until it ended.

For those who live under a rock, what makes Mass Effect 3 leave a bitter taste in many a fan's mouth is its initial (and, for many, even its extended) ending. It didn't change dramatically based on a player's past choices and, indeed, was extremely vague and didn't close up hardly any loose ends when it came to the fates of your squad, races, or even Shepard (that is, until the extended cut was released, but even then it felt a bit hollow).

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Just. Just no.

After the extended cut, however, the ending was pretty satisfactory if you ignore the fact that the original one ever existed. Why do we still hate it, then?

The answer is simple: we expected too much.

That may sound like an excuse for Bioware, but what a lot of gamers (including myself) forgot to realize is that, regardless of how good the plot, characters, and gameplay was, Mass Effect 3 is still a game. It's still out there to make a profit, and, with such a rich universe, it's going to get another game made for it. The vagueness of the endings can be explained by one thing: there's gonna be a sequel. Or perhaps a prequel. Or perhaps a parallel story. Whatever it is, it's gonna be made, and without a definitive ending for all of the characters and races, Bioware was (and kind of still is) free to do whatever it wanted with the next game.

We hyped it up. We expected a spectacular ending that changed with every small decision we made, perhaps rightfully so, but in the end it wasn't just Bioware's fault that we didn't like the ending. It was our own, too.

Another example of death-by-hype is Diablo III. The game is not bad by any means. Indeed, it's a great dungeon-crawling action-RPG, but why were fans so upset?

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I thought it was pretty fun, at least.

Perhaps the first flaw is that it took 10 years to release. Not only does that leave a lot of time for hype to die, but it also leaves a lot of time to just build it up, and, knowing Blizzard, that's what they did. I can remember reading news stories about the game in 2006; it's fair for gamers to believe that, after so long, the game would be one of the most incredible things on the market once it was released.

Gamers didn't get the ground-breaking game they wanted, but they did get a better version of Diablo II. Now, I never played that game, so it's possible I enjoyed the third installment because I didn't know how similar the second one is to it. I still haven't beaten it, but I enjoyed my time with it (possibly because I got it for free, too. World of Warcraft did that for me with its annual pass).

How much can a top-down action-RPG change, really? The mechanics remain basically the same because they work. There's not much room for flexibility in the formula and it more or less comes down to killing a ton of enemies to get loot, killing more enemies to get better loot, and then killing a big enemy for a loot pinata. It's been the same for years and will remain the same for years, and it's my belief that gamers were expecting something more, hence why the game's flame seems to have dwindled greatly since its release.

Too much hype can spoil a game, and these two games proved it.

3) The Video Game Industry Has Problems

Case in Point: #1reasonwhy

I'm going to get flamed really hard for this, but #1reasonwhy has a legitimate point, and I feel those who dissent against it either don't understand what it's there for, or just don't want to believe it's true. What #1reasonwhy isn't is a cry against sexism in video games themselves, it is a cry for reform in the way many game developers and companies treat their women. Kotaku posted a great image of a collection of tweets with the #1reasonwhy hashtag, and some of them are truly startling to read, you can read it here.

I was disgusted with many-a-gamer's response to this story. According to some, women don't belong in the industry. According to others, they're just making a big stink over nothing. My response to those people is this:

1) 40% of gamers are women, as proven here (ESRB is the source, too. I wouldn't doubt them). Therefore, they do have a right being in the industry, even if you believe they didn't before (which they did, because the industry does not belong to males). Women get women better than men do, simple as that.

2) If it was over nothing, it wouldn't have become as big as it did. In fact, if it was all a lie enacted by some woman (or man poised as a woman) wanting attention, it's more than likely it would have been shot down by women in the industry who would claim that they are treated wonderfully by their employers.

Now, this is not to say that all video game-related companies are sexist towards women. They don't, in fact, it's likely that a majority aren't. But the fact that so many women (and men, for that matter) tweeted #1reasonwhy so many times with so many stories proves that it's a problem even if it's only the minority that has to go through it.

And, for those who still believe women have no place in the industry and shouldn't be complaining about being harassed in it, Halo 4's lead director was a woman. Yeah. Men sure do love that game (myself included).

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This post is becoming quite long, so I'll end it here. I'll be making a part 2 in the coming days, so I hope you enjoyed this one enough to come back and read the next one! Please feel free to comment on any of the points I made (and even to refute)!

Wait and Listen

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I was greatly disappointed by the lack of music from League of Legends in Gamespot's compilation of top video game tunes of 2012. It's a shame, really, because once a new a champion is released, he/she is usually accompanied with some absolutely breathtaking music.

I joined the League in August, right after Diana was released into the fields of justice. Immediately when opening up the game I was stunned. The artwork on the login screen was exquisitely drawn, but what blew me away was Diana's theme. Daylight's End is a chilling, immaculate piece of music that describes Diana's character perfectly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ajX6oFoegU

Ask not the sun why she sets
Why she shrouds her light away
Or why she hides her glowing gaze
When night turns crimson gold to grey

For silent falls the guilty sun
As day to dark does turn
One simple truth she dare not speak:
Her light can only blind and burn

No mercy for the guilty
Bring down their lying sun
Blood so silver black by night
Upon their faces pale white

Cruel moon, bring the end
The dawn will never rise again.

And to believe that this comes out of a free-to-play game. Most games I play cannot come up with a vocal piece as chilling as this one. The singer's voice is a haunting, and she has a very large range. Going from low alto notes to high soprano with what sounds like little effort at all. Ever since I joined the game this is the only login music that has vocals in them, and, trust me, if anything got me to keep playing the game, it's Daylight's End. A game that produces such excellent music is hard for me to ignore.

It's a shame, really, that these songs only play on the login screen. I understand they would seem out of place on the home screen, profile, shop, etc., and that there's really no other place for them. That's not the shame. The shame is that most players won't take the time to sit down and just listen. Most people I know either disable the login music or just login too quickly to care. It's almost unfair to the composers of this music; each song has been treated as if it were going to be used in a setpiece moment in a AAA game. Many of these songs have sweeping movements and dynamic changes in their themes; clearly the composers and performers want these pieces of art to be heard.

Nami, the newest, most recent champion, brought forth sensational slow, dramatic piece that communicates the mystery and wonder of the ocean perfectly. Listen to it here:

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

Most people will only hear the first ten seconds or so before they login to the game, which may possibly mislead them as to what the song sounds like. The opening is filled with light piano and bells, sounding innocent and playful, bringing forth images of delightful, lighthearted sea creatures such as dolphins. However, as the song progresses a choir begins to lend its voices to the song with some deep orchestral strings, communicating the sensation of traveling deep beneath the waves and into the vast, unknown ocean. It's beautiful, it's epic, and it's an absolute joy to listen to over and over again.

What makes these songs even better is that Riot lets you have them for free. Yes, you can get every song from the login screens for free. You know these songs matter to Riot when you hear the quality of what goes into something that they hand out for free. Whoever composes these pieces does it for the love of the game and of music itself; Riot does not benefit from the music written no matter how good it is.

You can get them all on their soundcloud page:

https://soundcloud.com/leagueoflegends/sets/league-of-legends-music

One of my favorite champions in the game is Zyra. I love the way she can manipulate the way other champions move and fight with her thorn spitters by essentially scaring them away. On top of that, her ultimate ability has massive potential to turn a bad fight around. Not only does it do massive damage if she's built right, but it stuns your foes and soups up any spitters caught in its area of effect. Her music demonstrates the confidence she has and the fear and uncertainty someone will feel if they go into battle against a good Zyra player. It's sinister, it's well-written, and it's an absolute pleasure to listen to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjLAnKPQ_1o

I understand the excitement of being at the login screen in League of Legends. I understand the want to jump into a match in the fields of justice. I understand how fun it is to see which of your friends are online and making a match with them. I get it. All I ask is that you put that excitement at bay for a minute a or two. Just wait. Wait and listen.

A Return to Blogging

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Well, this is awkward.

It's been a long time...a very, very long time since I posted that last blog. So much has happened and changed since then. I spend a long while last night just looking through my old blog posts noting how my writing changed as I joined this avid Gamespot community.

You know what? I miss it. I remember being excited when seeing certain users posted new blogs. I remember building some great relationships with other gamers online. I remember anticipating the next comment my blog would (ever-so-hopefully) get. I remember the unions I joined, the conversations I participated in, and the absolute blast I had with this community.

And, in remembering all of that, I note how much this website has changed. It's made it so much easier to connect and contact other users, to share your ideas, and to become someone of note in this ever-changing Gamespot community. Something that took time and effort a mere 5 years ago (when my membership started), takes so much less of both.

I haven't disappeared off the map completely, I comment on news stories regularly (mostly because some people are really, really,reallymisinformed or biased and I feel that I must blow a gigantic hole in their argument).

For those of you seeing this blog and remembering who I am, I'll give you a short update. The last blog I wrote was from three years ago, when I was a Sophomore in high school. If you do the math, that puts me in...college right now.

Right. Well, I'll give out some information on that. I decided to leave my home state of Illinois and now attend Penn State, double majoring in National Security and Cybersecurity as well as minoring in Arabic.

As far as gaming goes, I sold my Xbox360 and switched to PS3, a move that will forever go into my book of great decisions. I still have my Wii and play it every so often, but if I'm playing on a Nintendo system it's more than likely going to be the 3DS (which, by the way, I love to death).

I got a gaming laptop from my parents for graduation, so I'm regularly diving into the wonderful world that is PC gaming. Steam is kind of the best thing ever. I playedWorld of Warcraftfor a solid year and a half before I had to cancel my subscription (I wish I had more time to really dig intoMists of Pandaria, but alas, I did not) due to schoolwork. I'm often found playingLeague of Legendsbecause it'sawesome.I'm still a Final Fantasy fanboy, and I still thinkthe market is far too saturated with FPS games. Seriously. We've had enough.

So, on that note, I'll end this blog. I'll try to keep up regular posts...perhaps one every 2-5 days. I have ideas for the next few, but, as we all know, this gaming world is volatile and ever-changing, and there will always be something to talk about.

Hello Gamespot. I'm happy to be back.

-Thunderstarter

Nintendo's Plan of Disruption-The downfall of Microsoft and Sony

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"OH NOEZ!!!" You yell at me, "HE'S GONNA BASH SONY AND MICROSOFT! WHAT A CASUAL NOOB! HARDCORZ ALL THE WAY!!!!!1111eleven".

Yeah. Settle doen if you were really going to say that.

I have recently read a very well-researched and evidenced blog called "Birdmen and the Casual Fallacy". I read it just today and it was written in 2008.

You can read my condensed version, or you can read the entire article. In an effort to keep it shorter I may have lost a few points or left a few out. Here is the original article:

I swear, everything that was said in the article came true at E3 2010. That, or it is currently in the works.

Read the original article (it's lengthy) or read my condensed version and THEN read my comments at the end. Enjoy!

- http://malstrom.50webs.com/birdman.html


DISCLAIMER- What you're about to read is a condensed, bite-sized version of the blog I read. I take no credit for anything I say here. It belongs to Sean Malstrom. If I put something in quotation marks, it's from the blog (unless stated otherwise). My comments will be separated from this.

Part 1: Birdmen

"Centuries ago, men attempted to fly by putting wings on their arms and flapping really hard. Logically, in their minds, it should have worked. Birds fly. Birds have wings. Therefore, having wings should mean man will fly."

These men that tried to strap on wings and fly ultimately failed. They became the object of many cartoon parodies and pictures with funny captions on the internet. The descendants of these men are still with us today. Do you wish to know where they are? Right in our game industry. Who are they? Some of the highest acclaimed gaming executives, journalists and analysts.

"Nintendo is flying high. Rather than examine the nature of this flight, the birdmen are mesmerized by the feathers. The analysts and executives do not see the concepts of disruption and don't even understand the Blue Ocean principles (though they think they do). The feathers they see on Nintendo's ascent are casual games. Therefore, they surmise, if they make casual games then they will be flying high with Nintendo."

"There is nothing new here. Years ago, when Grand Theft Auto 3 hit big, all the birdmen began putting out Grand Theft Auto 3 clones. Years before that, it was first person shooters. More years before that, it was bloody fighters. One can find the birdmen back in the 8-bit generation making platformers. They would look at Super Mario Brothers and go, "Oh, I get it! We just need to make a game with cute music, colorful world, and upgrades like the magic mushroom!" Slapping wings on their arms, these games flopped. Amazingly, despite how many times the birdmen fall down, each generation they are ready to put on feathers and jump off a cliff."


PART 2: How the Casual Fallacy was Born

The game industry is distinctly hardcore. Every game developer, gamer, publisher, journalist etc. knows that. These "hardcore" gamers see more then an average person does in a game. They see heart, sophistication, magnificence, they see art (not Roger Ebert, though. He doesn't see art in games, apparently). In a casual game, this game sees simplicity, non-art, and easiness (in a sum, that is).

With that thesis in place, you could easily replace the word "casual" with retard Hardcore gamers see Casual games not as an advancement but a hindrance to the gaming industry. Because of the new definition of "casual" you can easily think of all casual games as retard games.

"Despite every company and their dog making these 'casual' games, the so-called casual audience is not buying them (just as they didn't buy the platformer clones of the 8-bit generation, the fighter clones of the 16-bit generation, the GTA clones of last generation, and so on). When seeing their 'casual games' flop while seeing Nintendo's 'casual' games in the bestsellers, the third parties growl and say, "IT IS ALL NINTENDO'S FAULT! People only buy Nintendo games! Third parties can't succeed on this platform!"

The problem is not in these companies' execution of their plan. The problem is their world-view. Their perception is totally off, and it is costing these companies millions upon millions of dollars. Don't you think, guys, that it is time to think about things a littler harder before you waste more millions?"

Part 3: The Casual Gamer is a Myth

"WAIT!" You yell from your computer screen, "How is that true? Look at all of the shovelware on the Wii and DS!"

Let's put this into perspective. Speakers. Yes, speakers. T.V. Speakers, computer speakers, pick one. Now, for speakers, the better the speaker, the more money it costs, right? The same goes for gaming. The better the game, the higher the price

"But wait!" You yell, "I found a new copy of Bioshock for $20!"

Let's keep the comparison going. Think of games as new "models" for a certain line of speakers. When the newer models come out (AKA newer games) the older models drop in price. The quality is the same, but the price is different.

Keep the speakers in your mind and think of "hardcore" games as upper-tier speakers and "casual" games as lower-tier speakers.

" "Well, knowledge is the defining characteristic of the tiers. The more knowledge one has, that means the more audiophile one is, the more likely he or she will reach for the upper tier. At the bottom, the users know little about audio and do not care to know. The ones at the top are very passionate about their audio and will pick out separate speakers and subwoofer just to maximize their experience."

Are you saying the people on the bottom tier are stupid? Are they just casual listeners?

"Only an upper tier person would define them as 'casual'. They just don't have that much passion about audio so they don't have much knowledge." "

HA!

Going back to games, what creates the passion for games?

By having the games they want to have.

Wouldn't a gamer who constantly buys the lower-tier games he wants be called "hardcore" after gaining knowledge of these games? What right do you have to tell them they aren't passionate about their critically panned games?

Part 4: The Upmarket and Downmarket

Basically, the Upmarket are games with a ton of features, but no so many that it gets overwhelming. The downmarket are those games that have little features or so many that it gets confusing. The ones who are at the peak of these upmarket games are called hardcore.

Part of Nintendo's plan involves introducing people to games slowly. Introduce games that have a good amount of features, but not nearly the amount that say, a Metroid game would have. That would scare them away. The game is good, but not a ****c. They use the upmarket in a unique way, meaning that they have a plan to slowly bring their players up into the peak of the upmarket, so when they sell those AAA titles they will get more money.

Part 5: The Upmarket

"
Today, what is considered an "8-bit game" would be considered a "casual game". Evidence of this is seen with 8-bit and 16-bit spiritual sequels emerging only on handhelds while the consoles stay near the more complex games. Ports of Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Legend of Zelda have appeared on handhelds. What used to be ****cs have become damned as "casual" games. This is the current industry hive-mind view. This is the hardcore view. But what is the reality?"

No.

Let's divide games into tiers. The first tier mentioned being most immersive and the bottom being the least. Please note that I did not create this list and it's not meant to be perfect, just representative.

" Let me give examples of these tiers:

Tactical RPG/Strategy- Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Master of Orion, Command and Conquer, Warcraft, MMORPGs
Epic RPG- ('epic' meaning very story based) Later Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, Ultima, practically most JRPGs
Tactical Shooter- Ghost Recon, SOCOM, Counter-Strike
First Person Shooter- Halo, Unreal Tournament, Call of Duty
Third Person Shooter- Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto 3, Resident Evil
3D Action Adventure- Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Eternal Darkness
3D Platformer- Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, Rayman 2
Basic RPG- Early Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. (Likely) Dragon Quest IX
Action Adventure- Legend of Zelda, Metroid
Adventure- King's Quest, Monkey Island
2D Platformer- Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog
Mini-Games / Arcade **** Wii Play, Centipede, Galaga, Pac-Man
Puzzle- Tetris, Dr. Mario
Non-Fiction Game- Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Brain Age, Nintendogs, cookbook software, how to learn English, etc. Flight Simulator, Sims"

Most of the tiers are self-explanatory and because of that I won't explain any of them.

Now we analyze. When gaming started (the arcade era) games were simple, those lower tiers were extremely popular and the only games being produced were those. As time went on and those kids who spent allowances at the arcade got jobs and grew, more and more complex games were being made. These people were able to handle it due to their past experience. The so called "golden era" of the PSX, Dreamcast and N64 is the example of a time where only upper-tier games were selling well. This is due to the growth of the gaming industry. The downmarket tiers were thus abandoned until the DS was released. More on that later.

The "casual" game market today was not created by Nintendo, it was already there. Flash game sites are proof. If you look up "fun flash games" on Google you will find a plethora of sites where you can pick up and play games for a few minutes and get off.

Watch this.

Much like in the gaming era of the NES, SNES, Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis etc., many western game developers were shocked when the market stopped buying their simple games to buy these new "Japanese Games", this happened on the DS.

When the DS was released, it was reviled and not liked due to the amount of shovelware put on the system and the simplicity of Nintendo games that were put on there. Now it is a system with a plethora of AAA titles. Why? Developers realized that their simple and poorly developed games stopped selling a few years in. It seems that the market wanted more than the five-step games they had, and that's what they got.

The Wii -was- doing the exact same thing.

Part 6: How to make a Trillion Dollars

Nintendo saw this market coming with the flash gaming website boom. In 2005, Yahoo saw that 70% of its active users accessed its flash game section of its website. Nintendo decided to dominate this market. The DS was the start of it, then the Wii came along and finished it. They sold everything at an affordable price and got their consoles out there. Then they started producing games the whole family could enjoy.

They had no intention of staying there.

You see, it's a well known fact that the games that make a lot of money are the blockbuster, hardcore games.

Nintendo isn't stupid.

At the time of this article, Nintendo started releasing hardcore titles like Super Mario Galaxy, SSBB, and Mario Kart Wii on its system. The people who had already bought the casual games looked at the new games with awe and tried them, with the experience they had from the earlier games, they were able to easily pick up and play the new hardcore titles.

Part 7: The End of the Birdmen

The Birdmen are the companies who ignored the lower tier market of games. Now Nintendo has a firm grasp on it. There are two things a company can do now that Nintendo has a grasp on it;

1) Fight- Companies try to get into the same market that has already been dominated. This is a risky strategy, because since the market is dominated it is now impossible to reach the amount of success the dominating company has.

2) Ignore it- Pretend its not there and keep selling the top tier product. They will still sell, but not nearly as much as the dominating company's.

Both strategies normally end in failure.

Make the connection?

This could very well spell the end of Microsoft and Sony.

Why? The casual train has been long gone. Nintendo got everyone aboard and rode it off. If Microsoft and Sony don't react soon, it's over.

"OH NOEZ!" You yell in sudden realization, "TEH HARDCOREZ ARE GONNA BE LEFT OUT!"

Read this:

" You see it, don't you? You now are suddenly seeing the Big Picture. Now, when you hear Sony says that they think Final Fantasy XIII or Metal Gear Solid 4 to 'save them', you realize they are relying on the upmarket. Just now, Nintendo announced paid online services and even download content. "What does this mean?" asks a reader. It is a sign that Nintendo is moving upstream into the upmarket, into the more hardcore areas.

The tsunamis were just the beginning. Malstrom puffs on his cigar while standing in knee-deep water. He points to you. Remember this room? Here are the statues of all of gaming's heroes. Malstrom held up out his palm, and you see a drop of water fall into it. You look up to see the roof leaking. "The water is rising!" you shout.

Yes. The Old Era will soon be gone. Enjoy its last gasp. We are in the midst of a huge shift where little will be as it once was.

But my hope is that people will stop being birdmen. Instead of looking at Nintendo's games, their marketing, or their online and say, "Oh? That is for casual gamers! This means they are going for people who don't normally play games! LOL! I AM SO INSIGHTFUL!!!" they will instead look at Nintendo starting at the bottom of the tiers and moving their way up.

A thoughtful reader asks, "Malstrom, this is an interesting and, indeed, ingenious strategy Nintendo is using of creating a very profitable business model, aiming to dominate the lower tiers, and then move up. The competitors cannot compete because they will not be as profitable so they will lose the attrition wars and can only retreat upmarket. What is the name of this strategy?"

It is called Disruption."


Sony and Microsoft saw this coming. They just ignored it, and now that Nintendo has control of the lower tier, they are blaming Nintendo for creating it. It was already there. Yahoo! Games, Addictinggames, Armor Games etc. are proof of. It was a Blue Ocean of opportunity.

That Ocean is now owned by Nintendo.

---

My comments:

This was written in 2008. I think its shocking how relevant it still is. Sean Malstrom was right. Look at E3 2010.
Microsoft and Sony have obviously chosen the "Fight" strategy to beat Nintendo. Their weapons are Kinect and Playstation Move. The only problem is, they're trying to sell to a market that's already satisfied with their Wii, why would they want to spend $150 on a peripheral and $300 on a new console when they already have a console with motion control?
There is proof already that Kinect isn't faring well:

"In an interview with Eurogamer, ShopTo CEO Igor Cipolletta told the site the number of Kinect preorders the retail chain has received is "very low." As for the pricing, ShopTo currently offers the Kinect for €153.75 ($188), while the executive pointed out that a Wii can be had for just a little more. ShopTo's online site is currently sold out of Nintendo's hardware, but the Wii Sports Resort bundle ordinarily sells for €166 ($203).

"It's too high," Cipolletta said of the Kinect price. "We believe that with this current economy it should be around £70 ($105)."

When Kinect arrives, Microsoft expects 15 games to launch alongside the device. First-party offerings include Kinect Adventures, Kinectimals, Kinect Joy Ride, and Kinect Sports. A number of third parties are also on board, developing such titles as EA Sports Active 2, Konami's DanceMasters, and Sega's Sonic Freeriders. Publishers have also promised postlaunch support, such as a Star Wars game from LucasArts, Q?'s Child of Eden, and THQ's UFC Trainer." -Gamespot.com

Playstation Move isn't available for pre-orders yet, but it costs more than a Wiimote and you'll need 2 Move controllers for some games. It's not destined for good things.

Nintendo has just jumped back into the upper tier market. They have a cornucopia of upper tier titles coming out:

Metroid: Other M
Kirby's Epic Yarn
Epic Mickey
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Golden Sun: Black Dawn
Dragon Quest IX
Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light

And even more 3rd and 1st party top-tier titles were announced for the 3DS...

Kingdom Hearts 3D
Resident Evil: Revelations
Metal Gear Solid
Final Fantasy
Assasin's Creed

And so many more. Nintendo is moving right back up with the "hardcorz".

My conclusion? I think Sony and Microsoft have their work cut out for them for the next few years. They have to respond to Nintendo. If they don't, they will fall. Like moths to a flame, and Nintendo will have a virtual Monopoly on the gaming market.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. It means another company can try to release a new console/handheld and do well when everyone only has Nintendo consoles and want something a bit different.

This is a marketing plan, and Nintendo has done it successfully.

Kinect's Future

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After reading the article Gamespot just posted about the Kinect's new price, I have decided not to buy the peripheral. It's not worth it.

For all of you who missed that little news chunk (Although I admit you must have not looked over at the news feed at all since it was contained in a single sentence) the Kinect has officially been priced at $149.99.

$149.99

All of that money for a Wiimote rip-off.

Really?

Let's not forget the $80 Wiimote clone, the Playstation Move. But that's a different blog.

Kinect.

Microsoft, this is seriously one of the worst things you have come up with. Yes, we realize that you overprice everything ($100 for Wi-Fi that should be built in the Xbox) and that you love to hype everything (SHUT UP about the Xbox360 slim!) but asking Cirque De Solei to advertise your product and then charging an insane price for it is overkill.

Let's look at the games. Of the 6 games advertised at the press conference (Plus the Star Wars game) I want...none of them. All of the games are already on the Wii, but WAIT, they're HD. That's right, Microsoft, you basically made HD versions of the most popular Wii games out there.

Now I'm sure they are good games, but anybody who has a Wii will ask, "Why should I spend $300 on an Xbox and $150 for Kinect when I already have motion control on the Wii?" Microsoft wanted it to be an impulse buy, but I don't know many people who have $150 lying around in their pocket all the time.

That price will plummet after the holiday season, I'm sure. Once Microsoft sees how much we don't care about Kinect, they'll drop the price by...let's say $50. And it still won't sell. Soon they'll take it off the store shelves because it won't sell, and Kinect will be a thing of a past.

That's in an ideal future, but knowing Microsoft they'll just think, "Let's advertise it more!!!" and we'll see more and more about something we simply don't care for on T.V., on the bus, in the Newspaper, and soon in the bathroom.

I think most MS fans wish Kinect would go away. It's embarassing. Microsoft tried to sass Nintendo during their conference, but Nintendo has already proven themselves with the Wii. The Wii did so well because of two reasons;

1) Innovative Motion controls

2) $100 less than the 360 at the time of release, and $350 less than the PS3.

It's still $100 less than the 360.

Kinect is only $50 less than Wii, and the Wii is a console.

Kinect, you have nothing going for you. Nintendo has done everything you're doing before but better. I'll save my money for the 3DS, thank you. That's real innovation.

Next Blog: Playstation Move and the 3DS!!!!

E3 Grades

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E3 had a host of many pleasant and unpleasant surprises from a few companies so far, and I am here to give grades on the big 3.

Microsoft

I did not like this press conference. Let's face it; they had big shoes to fill after last year's highly enjoyable conference. The best part of the show was when the showcased the plethora of sequels that don't improve on the previous games they were named for. GoW looks no different. Halo is the same. Fable III made me want to barf with the absolute mention of the name.

Also, I laughed so hard when they said, "We've brought you many memorable characters, such as (the guy who shoots aliens in space) and (the guy who shoots aliens on Earth)." Apparently both characters are so badass they don't need emotion or a real backstory, nope. They've got guns, and lots of 'em.

Anybody who missed the Kinect portion can watch Nintendo's '07 conference. Have fun!

Grade: D

Nintendo

I'm pretty sure we can all agree that we expected close to nothing from Nintendo. The only thing confirmed for presentation that we cared about was Zelda: Skyward Sword (Which looks AWESOME by the way). The first (small) part of the conference was an indication of last year. Sales figures and third-party casual games galore. Yay...

But then Warren Spector came out. Instantly everyone was like, "HOLY CRAP EPIC MICKEY!". They were right to say that, because the game looked epic. The side scrolling missions are definitely a thing to be looked at.

This was only the beginning as Nintendo continued to b*tch-slap Microsoft and Sony's faces when they announced Kirby, Donkey Kong, Dragon Quest IX, Metroid: Other M and more and more core games to be released before the year ends.

The best part of the conference was when they showcased the 3DS. After showcasing the fantastic hardware (a very big improvement indeed) they revealed a list of titles being developed for the 3DS. There were so many they couldn't fit it all on the screen! Allow me to list a few:

Resident Evil

Metal Gear Solid

Nintendogs+Cats

Kid Icarus

Asassin's Creed

Kingdom Hearts

Final Fantasy

...and so many more. Not to mention the trailer they showed for the console had a clip with an arwing flying out of a DS screen. Did they just confirm a new Starfox? I think so.

Nintendo blew everyone away at their conference.

Grade: A+

Sony

Alright, I'm not gonna lie, Sony had a decent conference. The only problem I had was anything featuring the Playstation Move, because it was no different than Wii Motion+, I really don't care what Sony says. It was no different. Many people say the demo for say, sorcery was more 1:1 than Zelda:Skyward Sword, but anyone who's played with a Wii Motion + knows how 1:1 it already is. Sony was showcasing things that were done in Nintendo's '07 conference. Really. I think Microsoft and Sony are living in the past.

Not only this, but the 3D games DO require that you spend thousands of dollars on the T.V. to watch it. It doesn't work that well with gamers.

The games showcased were good, but the only surprise was Portal 2...and Heroes on the Move.

Portal 2 was less of a surprise to me, honestly. Valve knows there's a market with the PS3.

It was decent, but nothing spectacular.

Grade: B-

My Guide for beating the Last Boss in FFXIII

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WARNING: I WILL SPOIL WHO THE LAST BOSS IN THE GAME IS. TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY KNOW WHO THIS IS.

---

"We are Orphan, and through us, you shall know redemption!"

This are the intimidating words that are heard at the end of the game FFXIII. Yes, indeed, you must fight the entity you once thought it was necessary to save. Now Orphan has turned against you (not that it was ever at your side) and you must defeat it in order for humans to truly be free.

The song that plays during his opening cutscene is enough to tell you that the upcoming battle is going to be rough. But fear not! I am here to give you the very best strategy I have to get rid of Cocoon's battery. This is a complete guide for both forms of the dreaded being. Follow my instructions to the dot and you should be well on your way to seeing the ending of the epic saga of FFXIII.

Party:

Your party should be Lightning, Vanille, and Hope (Trust me!). Lightning will be your party leader. Make sure you've expanded your character's crystarium to a comfortable point. Buy one (or two) Cherub Crowns from the shop at the save point and attach one to Lightning and one to Hope (Hope dies easily due to his low HP). Optimize your equipment for a balanced party to ensure maximum safety and damage.

Paradigms:

You need ALL of these, so read carefully: (Lightning first, Vanille second, Hope last)

Tri-Disaster (Rav/Rav/Rav)

Retribution (Med/Med/Med)

Relentless Assault (Com/Rav/Rav)

Diversity (Com/Med/Rav)

Evened Odds (Med/Sab/Syn)

(set your auto-paradigm to Retribution)

--PART 1--

Orphan will open up with a very welcoming attack called Merciless Judgement. This will knock all of your party member's HP down to 5%, but don't worry, your party will heal fast. QUICKLY switch to the Evened Odds paradigm and make sure your party has at least these buffs before continuing:

Haste

Enfire

Bravery

Faith

Veil

Shell

Protect

And Orphan has these status effects:

Slow

Poison

Imperil

Curse

After all of that is finished (It might take a bit, don't worry.) switch to the Tri-Disaster Paradigm and wail on Orphan until he staggers. Immediately go into Relentless Assault and wail on him. Make sure Light gets an attack right before the stagger ends so she can use Smite (9999 damage). The end of the stagger should bring you to about 45% of Orphan's original HP (It's an awesome strategy!). After this, QUICKLY switch to Retribution, Orphan WILL you Merciless Judgement right after this attack.

There are two forms for Orphan, and this is about the time you will be experiencing a switch. There is Consummate Light and Consummate Darkness. Worry about both equally. Light will deal some significant damage and Darkness will debuff you and inflict status effects. Don't worry about these unless he manages to get a slow or pain on your party, quickly debuff these ailment. Keep a watch on his ailments and your buffs and switch paradigms accordingly. After the first stagger, he's going to become very unpredictable. The game dives into a bit of a game of chance as he gets a move called Progenitorial Wrath, which is an instant death spell. This is why you have a Cherub's Crown!

Because Orphan becomes so unpredicable at this point, switch to retribution right when Lightning's HP (or your party leader's...it SHOULD be Light if you have a brain) hits yellow, then quickly start buffing/debuffing/attacking. Use Diversity when you're getting close to a stagger but need to heal.

You should take Orphan out on the second stagger.

--PART 2--

This is it. The final battle. Orphan will immediately cast Doom on your party leader, don't sweat it! Quickly buff/debuff using Evened odds and follow the same strategy as before. Unlike the last battle, Orphan can only be hurt once staggered, so once you stagger him use Lightning's skill One-Man Army to effectively drive up the chain gauge. Switch back to relentless assault and wail on him, when his stagger ends go back to retribution as he will cast a spell called Rebrith.

This part of the battle is quite easy but a bit time consuming. After Rebirth, rinse, wash, and repeat. You should defeat Orphan within the time limit.

I hope you found this helpful! I only needed to try the 1st battle twice with this strategy and the second battle once. Good luck!

Final Fantasy XIII Perspective

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Ah, yes, now it is time. Now it is time for you all to hear my judgement on a game that, as you all know, I've been waiting for anxiously. I'm not the only one, though, so after I give my opinion I want all of yours (if you care).

So you all know where I am, I'm on Chapter 12 of the game and have played about 32 hours of it (More like 28 due to my letting-game-sit-there-in-an-idle-fashion for 4 hours). I obviously have had my fair share of the game, its story, characters, gameplay, world and enviornment. I know what I'm talking about when it comes to this game.

Let me tell you right now, I am in absolute love with Final Fantasy XIII.

The game starts off at a Lightning-fast pace (no pun intended), with you starting to play as Lightning and Sazh, two characters that are on a train straight out of their home of cocoon and headed straight for the horrible land below it, Gran Pulse. Gran Pulse is filled with horrible monsters of all kinds, and going there is an immediate death sentece for all who set foot on it. This was all due to the purge, which was a program inacted by the government of cocoon that required voulenteers to be sent to Gran Pulse.

Lightning and Sazh break out of the train and fight a monster created by PSICOM, the Cocoon's form of Shinra. Lightning then goes on a search for her sister, Serah, and Sazh tags along for fear of being seperated and captured. The game goes on from here, eventually united Lightning, Snow, Sazh, Hope and Vanille in a Gran Pulse temple that was captured by PSICOM. They are all branded with a mark by this temple, making them Pulse L'Cie, and are given a focus to fufill. If they don't fufill this focus, they will turn into a horrible monster called a Cie'th, and if they do, they are "granted" eternal life by becoming crystal.

It's a death sentence. The characters whish to deny their fate, but as the story goes on and characters develop and find themselves, it turns into a wonderfully told character-based tale. No, this game is not plot-based like all of the other Final Fantasy games. This game is not about Lightning, Snow, Vanille, Sazh, Hope, or Fang, it's about all of them and their struggle to come to terms with their fate and each other. Characters that are annoying at the beginning (Vanille, Hope) become wonderful characters at the end that one could truly believe are real people.

The gameplay, one of the most controversial (and for me, hated) issues of the game. I hate it because it's a dumb argument. I like the gameplay, Square Enix has firmly stated that they do not wish to go back to a turn-taking ATB-style battle system and still fans beg for it. Read the reviews, decide if you want the game, then buy it. Don't just buy the game because of the title or write a review based on what you've heard in other reviews that you don't like.

I like the battle system. It's different. No, it doesn't place every aspect of the battle in your hands, but it makes sense. Here's how it goes, you have a set number of ATB slots to fill up with attacks. The battles are in real-time, so you have to be quick. You can fill these slots in with attacks by yourself, or you can fill them up on your own with your own combinations. The other option is to choose the auto-battle function, which automatically fills up your slots with the best attack combinations you have for the current situation. This is often the best option, due to the battles being so fast-paced. To add to that, you can only control one character, and there is a function called the Paradigm system. Each character has a selection of classes to choose from, and each paragdigm you make can only house 1 class from each of the 3 characters in your party. This calls for a lot of strategy-for there are over 30 paradigms to make, and more and more become available to you as the game rolls on. This means you must carefully pick out the paradigms necessary for your team and the bosses you're battling. Do you have a paradigm that allows for buffing+healing? How about fast healing with sufficent protection from a teammate? How about a paradigm for those rare moments that allow you to wail on your opponent with everything you've got without worry? It's these questions that make the system so much fun, and you'll be surprised when you find out how much time you are spending creating and designing new paradigms- as you are only allowed to have 6 per battle (which, trust me, is not a lot by any means.).

People also complain about the leveling up system-saying it's too "linear" and doesn't give you that much freedom to design your team. These people are just people who are trying to rail on Final Fantasy...for it's a horrible argument. Why? Every Final Fantasy Game-Save 11+12-had linear leveling-up system. It's just the FFXIII took FFX's leveling system and slapped a FFXIII wallpaper on it. It's almost the exact same thing as the sphere grid, which only really allowed you to see what moves you'll get next. This is the exact same leveling system as every other damned FF except you see the aquired moves beforehand.

People complain about the game's linearality. It's linear, yes, but again, so is every other Final Fantasy. "But at least in the others you could re-visit levels, Thunderstarter! You're an idiot!". Who actually did that, anyway? I mean seriously, why should I go back to a dungeon at level 60 that I conquered at level 6? There's no point! "There's no optional boss battles or "ultimate" boss post-game!". Yes there is, the same way there was with FFXII, there's a hunt where you fight some ultimate ultra-badass monster at the end of. Not only this, Gran Pulse is a completely open gameplay area (minor spoiler...really minor...I'm not joking...look at the cover of the instructions manual...) in which you many go anywhere you want...so stop complaining, please. I find it pointless to travel from "hotspot" to "hotspot" on a map when I can just go straight down a path and reach it. Hey...FFX was linear too, and you all loved that one, didn't you?

"The story is horrible! It made me go to sleep!" It's character-based. Sorry there weren't seven explosions in one cutscene in the first 10 hours of the game like you wanted. "You can't care about the characters!" I don't see why, they're definitely more 3-Dimensional than any other character in any Final Fantasy I've ever played (minus the very close to FFXIII character development Crisis Core-which is much better than FFVII). Are you people that complain sure you played for more than 3 hours...or at all?

"You can't control your party!" The battles are so fast-paced, why would you want to? The AI is great and Auto-Battle is wonderful. There's nothing to complain about. It allows for the battles to be harder.

"The music sucks!". Each to his own taste, but I enjoyed the surreal feel the music gives to the game. "Fighting Fate"- a song you hear when fighting a certain boss- is wonderfully orchestrated. The chorus hits very odd and contorted notes that contrast perfectly with the music...giving the boss battle an "all-or-nothing" feel. Sure, it's no Dancing Mad, One-Winged Angel, or Battle at the Big Bridge, but it's still very good music. "It's the same for all the battles!" Again, same with every other FF game.

"Why don't they go back to the original ATB gameplay? This new stuff sucks!" Money people. Gamers don't like turn-taking gameplay, at least new ones don't-it goes by too slowly. So SE disguises it with something more fun...is there a problem?

Look, to each his own, but I love FFXIII. It's one of the best games in the series, having beautiful graphics, a simple-but-engaging battle system, a great (and great-voiced) cast, a surreal story, and a wide world to explore right below Cocoon. I love this game so much I went to 3 Gamestops to get the collector's edition guide...which they only printed a quarter million of around the world (when over 10 were shipped).

Guess who my favorite character is and you get a cookie!

THUNDA OUT!