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Streamlining in video games

Let's be real for a second. Video game companies are businesses. And as businesses, they operate in a fashion that would best optimize their profit margins. Strange, but I've never really thought of these companies like that until recently. Maybe it's because I'm not a 10-year old little boy anymore, but reality has been smacking me in the face as of late.

The streamlining of video games is becoming a trend and I, for one, am not happy about it. Crysis 2, Dragon Age 2, Killzone 3, Socom 4 are all just recent examples of a company compromising the identity of their video games for a game that they feel will appeal to a wider range of the current populous of gamers. I can't blame them for wanting to maximize their profits, but it just seems like a move that lacks integrity.

I'm not saying these are bad games. I enjoyed Dragon Age 2 and Killzone 3's MP is great. But it's a bad sign when there are a large group of fans claiming that the predecessors of these games are the superior games. Crysis 2 seems to have the largest of these groups and after playing it, I agree.

I have a very low opinion of shooters in general. To me, there isn't a lot of variation between games and nothing new or exciting is being introduced. It seems like everyone is just trying to perfect the archetype that was already given by games like Halo and Call of Duty. But the original Crysis was a game that felt like it's own game. I felt like Crysis wasn't just a great shooter, it was a great standalone game. There was a certain atmosphere and a unique approach to the game. And rightfully so, it developed a rather dedicated following. But why, after the critical praise, and superb community support did the developers feel the need to streamline the game to feel more like every other shooter on the market?

Well, when Crysis was first released, there was a lot of noise going around that the game wasn't selling too well. Much lower than anticipated. Why? Hard to say. It generated enough buzz to be successful. But gamers may have been put off by it's hefty system requirements. In any case, the game didn't sell as well as EA or Crytek hoped. So, what's the solution to this? Target a different audience. So they took the concept of Crysis, a name that most gamers know from the high critical praise, and targeted console gamers. Not only was the game no longer a real PC game in name alone, it was now more like your typical console shooter like Modern Warfare 2. Gone are basically all the elements that made Crysis what it was and in are all the elements that history has shown to sell well.

And guess what. It worked. Crysis 2's figures exceeded those of Dragon Age 2 and Dead Space 2, two other EA games and it's easily their most popular release. Here's a fact that might surprise you though. Almost 60% of Crysis 2's sales came from the Xbox 360. 30% came from the PS3. That means, no exaggeration, that 10% of Crysis 2's sales came from the medium it originated from, the PC. 10%. That number speaks volumes. Yes, they more than likely lost a ton of PC fans through their wanton disregard for that fanbase's needs. But the point is they took a title that was beloved and sold it's soul for money.

Crysis 2 isn't a bad game. It's a good shooter. But it doesn't stick out from the mass of other good shooters on the market and it isn't what I'd call a good standalone game. My biggest shpeal on the subject is, if you as a company, wanted to head in another direction than the direction set forth by the original game, why not just create a new game altogether? There is no reason to keep the basic conceptual components of the original game. Unless you, as a company, are lazy as hell and don't want to come up with something new. Or maybe it's so you can capitalize on the buzz that was generated by the original game so you can move more units of the game. 10% of the sales coming from PC is better than 0%, am I right?

It's not just Crysis. All of these games are guilty of the same thing. The only games I can think of that really tried to do something different are LittleBigPlanet and Heavy Rain. And I mean, hell, even Heavy Rain was just a fancier version of Indigo Prophecy.

I would like to see a game company with integrity. Again, this might just be a result of me being a little boy at the time, but years ago I felt like companies like Squaresoft and Capcom were making games based on what they wanted to do, not what was popular at the time. Would there ever be a Final Fantasy VII if they were too scared to think outside the box? I doubt it. I know that there are still creative, intelligent game developers out there that are capable of innovating the future, but where are they?

This will sound cheesy, but what I really want is some heart being put back into these games. Some of these games were an extension of the developers creative psyche, and it showed through the games. So instead of figuring out how to perfect prototypes that are already laid out for you, how about some creativity and some reinvention? This is really lacking in the gaming industry these days and I'm sick of playing games that are just a different version of another game.

Maybe the future will bring some better results, but as of right now, this generation will be known as the one that's too afraid to trying anything new. At least to me. Maybe games like The Last Guardian or even Deus Ex will emerge and restore my faith. As of right now though, I am shaking my head at the lack of integrity and heart being shown by these gaming companies.

What's up? New Blog!

Life's pretty boring, but I'm trying to make it through. School started and I'm already loaded with lots and lots of work :(. Meaning my gaming time has been cut down considerably. *sigh*

I'm going to get Mass Effect 2 soon though, so that should cure my itch a bit. I played a bit more of Cataclysm and it's more or less what I expected. Once you hit the level cap, you're back to routine grinding and whatnot. There's not a lot of change of pace. So, it's unlikely I'll come back full time. Also, did you know that the Worgen mounts are just you getting on all fours and running? I mean, how ****ing stupid it that?

Anywho, the Saints are out of the playoffs this year, so I'm bummed about that. But I'm rooting for the Packers to take it all the way. Aaron Rodgers getting a Super Bowl the year Favre retires? I like them apples. Meanwhile, I'll be cheering for my hockey team as well. Let's go Caps! Ovechkin >>>>>> Crosby, I don't care what you say.

I started watching a couple of episodes of The Cape. Man that show sucks. I mean, it's really, really bad. Even for a TV show. I really don't have any shows to watch anymore because of crap like this. I can watch Smallville and Supernatural I guess, but my patience for those shows is waning now.

So I've been relegated to watching a lot of anime. Right now I'm watching Moribito, and it's not bad. Not great, but not bad either. Then Full Metal Alchemist will be on deck, so at least I have those things to look forward to.

Oh, and I'm super excited for The Human Abstract's new album. It's not coming out until March, apparently, but the singles they've released are awesome! I'm checking out Decoder's new album right now. It's like ambient, indie music. It's extremely mellow and, to be honest, I'm having trouble paying attention because it's almost too soothing. I can't tell if it's good or not, bleh.

Anyways, that's all I'm up to. See ya around.

World of Warcraft's Cataclysm, A message to the old schoolers

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I were watching some Seinfeld reruns to pass the time before we went to another friends house. Out of the blue, he asked me if I was going to return to WoW when the new expansion came out. My exact response was, "Nah, everything about that game has changed." Ironically and almost on cue, a Cataclysm commercial came on and boldly asserted that "Everything will change!"

I've been playing World of Warcraft ever since the vanilla beta. I am neither an unreliable Blizzard fanboy nor am I a hardened hater. I am simply a veteran player who has cleared all of the content up to the Lich King (except the original Naxx40) and has experienced everything there is to experience in this game. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, my WoW career would make for an interesting story. Full of guild drama and an unrelenting desire to be the very best there is. But that's a story for another time.

I did not, in fact, buy Cataclysm. I quit WoW right after beating the Lich King and didn't look back. I've quit WoW quite a few times actually. Every time, without fail, I was lured back. But I really think this is it for me.

I've played a little bit on a friends account. And indeed, everything has changed. Note that not enough time has passed for anyone to know the full extent of the changes. I haven't experienced any end game content so I have no way of knowing if they stepped up their game in that area.

First impressions of the new designed world. Immense, beautiful and diligently executed. I could spend hours just exploring the old sites, seeing what everything looks like now. Make no mistake, visually WoW is as stunning as ever. Even for a guy like me who has seen so much from this game, I was very happy with what they accomplished. Cataclysm really did improve the game aesthetically.

But here's what I care about in the end. The technical side of the game. And from what I can tell, vanilla end game will still the best WoW has ever had to offer. This is based on what I know about how Wrath started out as well as BC. Note that I had no delusions that Blizzard would suddenly revert to the difficult, skill based game it was early on. And you shouldn't either. Blizzard is catering to a new a populous and shifted the focus of the game to accessibility.

Every change that I see seems like it was changed to make the game more accessible, not to increase the quality necessarily. One thing that is very certain almost immediately is that the c lasses are NOT balanced. Not a real big surprise there, I know. But it's a little annoying because the same c lasses are getting special treatment. For instance, Mages are still one of the top c lasses in the game. They have never been underpowered. Ever.

And here's the funny thing. They're one of the easiest c lasses in the game to play. You don't even really have to know how to play one. Itemize well, have a decent grasp on the "rotation" and you'll be exploding the meters with less effort than every other c lass...besides Boomkins. As far as I can tell, Mages are still one of the top dogs. And it's a bit of shame because they're not a c lass that you have to put a lot into to get a lot out of. Personally, I believe the more difficult c lass should net the greatest potential. Blizzard thinks otherwise.

Itemization looks like it's even easier than it was before. Which is saying a lot. So now, your 3-button c lass are going to be even EASIER to play if you can imagine that.

Instances, once again, are difficult if you're undergeared. Not because the instance is actually difficult. This seems to the running theme with WoW now. Everything is doable as long as your geared. Back in the day, it was everything must be executed perfectly even if you ARE geared. And every party member is integral to the success of the instance. Not exactly the case here.

WoW is never going back to it's old ways. Don't fall into the trap of being lured in by something different. This is a simplified game of what you know and love. Personally, I love the thought of fighting Deathwing. More than anyone, I wanted to fight him. But it's just not the same game anymore. Defeating Arthas was ridiculously easy and it was so underwhelming. That's why I quit playing.

I'm not an elitist and in-game, I've always been a friendly player. But it absolutely infuriates me, seeing so many people with the Kingslayer title. I mean, seriously. How many people beat the original Kel'Thuzad? Now that's an accomplishment. How is beating a servant of Arthas more compelling and satisfying than Arthas himself? My greatest pride in WoW is defeating C'Thun, a boss that would crush so many of these Kingslayers. That sort of challenge wasn't present at the end of Wrath. There is no reason to assume it'll be there in Cataclysm.

The real problem here is that WoW has no competition. It really is the absolute best MMO on the market. It's gorgeously designed, orchestrated masterfully and the lore is magnificent. It's more immersible than anything else out there. But it's also a huge waste of time if you've played it before.

If there was legit competition here, the population of WoW would decrease. This is a GOOD thing because less players means that there are fewer bad players (I feel bad for saying that) in the game. Which means Blizzard can stop worrying about how to cater to those individuals and they can make some quality end game raids. And they can smarten up the mechanics as well. But that's really not going to happen here.

I will give credit to Blizzard because they do listen to their players and adapt the game accordingly. The problem is that for more old school players like me, this makes the game less fulfilling. And we are the minority in the game now. It's not our game anymore.

So don't look into Cataclysm if you're a vet. Just don't bother. No, we haven't seen the end game content, but it's obvious where the game was headed with Wrath and my first impressions of Cataclysm only confirms this. Save yourself the time, the effort and the money, friends.

I'm going to play a bit more and check back in later. My old guild buddies have a habit of calling me to fill in for them in raids on occassion so while I don't plan on playing full time, I will be dropping in on some raids to see if I'm wrong.

The best band no one has ever heard of...

Ok, obviously I'm embellishing a bit. But this band has really caught my attention in a huge way and I am so surprised nobody seems to know who this band is. The band I am speaking about is The Contortionist.

It's a little like when I was listening to Killswitch Engage's original self titled album and thought to myself, these guys are going to be big. Granted, I don't like KSE and any album of theirs after Alive or Just Breathing has utterly underwhelmed me.

After that name drop, you're probably guessing that I'm talking about a metal band. Yes, they are a metal band. But they're a very unique metal band. Metal music often comes with the negative stigma of loudness, headbanging, macho douchebags, and overused blast beats. Such is not the case with this band.

The Contortionist offers a fresh perspective of metal. The utilization of atmosphere, soundscape and raw emotion seem to meld together perfectly. This harmony is rare in metal, and that's a real shame. If you like music that sweeps you into another world, you know what I'm talking about.

They are a band that provokes thought and demands your attention for the full duration of the song. This is why I feel like they're not as accessible as most music. But the same can be said about bands like Tool. You just have to give them a chance and let them captivate you.

They seem to be drawing comparisons to Cynic, Between the Buried and Me and Periphery. Which isn't far off, but I think this band really has it's own identity. They've created a sound that if you heard it, you wouldn't say that sounds like Between the Buried and Me. You'd say that sounds like The Contortionist.

Alright, I've been rambling for a little bit. The best way to see if you'll like a band is by listening to a track.

Primal Directive by The Contortionist

I will say, they are very easy to write off. I implore you to listen to the entire track before passing judgment. They are very aggressive and the heavy metallic riffs may be difficult to get acclimated to, specifically for people who aren't used to metal music. But, it's worth it :).

And hey, if you don't like it, that's fine too. I don't expect them to be everyone's cup of tea. But they are much more than they seem to be. You'll think they're a completely different band at the end of the song, then what you initially thought after the first 30 seconds of the song.

Enjoy! I see these guys becoming big someday. They're very young.

Their debut is out now. It's called Exoplanet and even after the first few months of listening to it, I can't get enough! Atmospheric space-metal is awesome :).

South Park Kid Hero Identities

I have no idea why this bugged me so much. But I really wanted to know which kid from South Park was Mysterion.

And after watching the last episode of South Park, Coon 2: Hindsight, I think I've figured it out.

Mysterion is Clyde.

A lot of people already had a hunch that it was Clyde, but I think this episode gives us the best idea.

Let's start out naming all the heroes we KNOW the identity of:

Stan - Toolshed (stole his dads tools, and walks in after the siren goes off in his house as toolshed, also we can see his face)

Token - Tupperware (we can see his face)

Coon - Cartman (given)

Iron Maiden - Timmy (pretty obvious)

Mint Berry Crunch - Bradley (we can see his face)

There are 7 kids watching the news without their costumes on at Kyle's house at the end of the episode. They are Stan, Kyle, Clyde, Token, Timmy, Kenny and Bradley.

This means there is no way Craig is Mysterion, which was my earlier guess (haven't seen much of Craig since Pandemic which is a shame because I think he's awesome.)

The only 3 people we are not sure of are Kyle, Clyde and Kenny.

Kyle COULD be Mysterion (in the S13 deleted scene, he wasn't and was covering for the real Mysterion at the end). But it's more likely he's The Human Kite for a couple of reasons. Both The Human Kite and Mosquito have Kyle-esque voices. Mysterion does not.

The second thing is Mosquito gets his butt kicked by Cartman. Kyle probably wouldn't let Cartman do that to him. The Human Kite didn't hesistate to tell the Coon he was getting kicked out of Coon and Friends. Kyle wouldn't hesistate to tell Cartman news like that and Mysterion didn't want to tell Cartman at all.

So we can assume that Kyle is The Human Kite (it would explain the closeness to the racial slur).

That leaves Kenny and Clyde. This is a little tougher to guess because Mosquito doesn't really act like either of them. But it's very likely that Kenny is Mosquito because he has a high pitched voice that sounds like Kyle (if you've heard Kenny talk before without being muffled, he sounds a LOT like Kyle). Not only that, he has a very cheap costume with Ketchup packets.

That means Clyde is Mysterion. He matches the voices, he was tired in school the next day during the first Coon episode and he hates Cartman.

We'll find out next week who the real Mysterion is, but I really think all the evidence points to Clyde. It COULD be Kenny as well. If they wanted to pull a huge twist, that would be the way to go.

I think Mosquito's identity is probably what's bothering me the most though...

Oh and I thought Captain Hindsight was HILARIOUS.


So it turns out Kenny is Mysterion. Needless to say, I was wrong. And it's actually very surprising to me. As well as deliciously ironic because Kenny is...poor. And his super power is not being able to die.

Anyways, so now we know who everyone is. Clyde being Mosquito is very surprising as well because Mosquito is a total ninny.

Toolshed - Stan

The Human Kite - Kyle

Tupperware - Token

The Coon - Cartman

Mint Berry Crunch - Bradley

Iron Maiden - Timmy

Mosquito - Clyde

Mysterion - Kenny

I was right that it was either Kenny or Clyde after narrowing it down, but I just got them switched up. Between the two of them, I really wouldn't think Clyde is Mosquito, but apparently he is.

Top RPG Storylines/Characters


So recently, my friend asked me what RPGs I thought had the best stories. When I heard this, I really had to think about it. It's not as clear cut as I thought it'd be, because there are so many good stories being told through these games. So I had to think about which of these games had the most lasting impact on me. Which one of these games can I look at 15 years after playing it and still tell myself that this game had an incredible storyline.

It also got me thinking about the characters. As we know, characters and storytelling go hand-in-hand, because why would you care about the story if you didn't like the characters? As I thought about these things and started writing what I felt, I realized these games were epic beyond belief and nothing short of spectacular will ever top them.

You know when I really thought about it, RPGs have a power not a lot of other media outlets have. Because you're the one advancing the story and you're the one playing the role of the character, the game has a chance to endear to you in such a way that you'll feel liberated from the earth. That is a power I have felt with no other, and it's truly remarkable how these interactive stories appeal to us.

Note when I decided to make this list I am putting into consideration only the story and the character development the game brings to the table. Basically this means ALL other aspects aside.

Also I had a lot more to say about the first two on the list because they weren't as clear cut as I just liked the story.

1) Chrono Cross

Chrono Cross is my favorite RPG of all time. I thought it had all of the pieces of the puzzle. Brilliant and involving gameplay, unique and memorable characters, beautiful score, intense graphics and visuals, and one of the most carefully orchestrated and well delivered plotlines I've ever seen in any kind of media.

The brilliance of Chrono Cross' story comes from it's delivery. And to many, this might actually be a weakness. Chrono Cross effectively takes what seems like an innocent, peaceful situation and completely turn it upside down in a hailstorm of complex narratives and events. You start out as a 16-year old boy living in a fishing village, minding his own business and living his normal life.

What ends up happening is you find out Serge is the Chrono Trigger and the whole goal of the game is to defeat the Time Devourer, a giant monster who you have to beat with a tricky element puzzle. The thing is the game is absolutely littered with lore. There's stuff in the game you'll probably miss because you're too busy trying to keep up with the main storyline.

The complexity of the storyline is what makes me feel so attached to this game. I thought it was so simple at first, but as things unraveled I realized how epic everything that was happening to Serge was. From Harle actually being the lunar dragon to Kid actually being a Schala's daughter-clone (see Chrono Trigger), there are twists and turns in the story that left me speechless. The intricate plot is a turn off for a lot of people, and that's a shame. Because they're really missing out. I also find some people feel the story is too simplistic, in which case, they more than likely didn't finish the game.

Albeit, Serge is not the most interesting character in the world as he's supposed to be a reflection of you, the player. But the colorful cast of 50 different characters ends up fixing that. Each of those characters is well developed (apart from a few uninteresting, bad eggs) and I found myself with a different party every time I played the game. The connection to the characters is still there, because they somehow managed to develop each characters backstory within the confines of Serge's own story. It's truly beautiful storytelling that any RPG lover should partake in.

2) Final Fantasy VII

It'll get a lot of hate because it's popular but Final Fantasy VII really did have one of the finest plotlines in RPG history.

The intense rivalry between Cloud of Sephiroth is not one anyone will forget. It just hits you on so many levels. Cloud is a guy, who should be dead. He was a lowly grunt who basically stole the identity of his best friend (albeit unintentionally) and fought with the greatest warrior on the planet, Sephiroth. The way that Cloud's story unravels before your eyes is just fantastic storytelling.

The relationships the character develops with the other characters is what really astonished me. I've really never seen other characters this involved in developing the main character. Where would Cloud be without Tifa? Probably still in a wheelchair.

We definitely have a different kind of development in Cloud as a whole as well. It's not that he's learning and growing, it's that he's finding out who he is. You think he's a badass first ****soldier who plays by his own rules. But the truth is he's a weak little grunt, who got a lucky shot on Sephiroth and has probably one the most pathetic, emo backstories I've ever seen. And yet somehow, he still perseveres against Sephiroth.

There's just something about Cloud. He won't let Sephiroth beat him and it's this power of the spirit that truely endears him to the player.

(That man looks like the devil himself)

Aeris and Zack are two characters who's relationships with Cloud really got to me. Zack's story felt a little bit untold (which is why Crisis Core was nice) but you could see the friendship and the bond these two characters had. It was, in essence, Cloud's responsibility to defeat Sephiroth for his friend. And what better way to do it than holding up his mantle. Aeris, on the other hand, was that genuine, sweet innocence personified in such a way that her death left a void, not only in Cloud, but in the player as well.

To top it off, you have one of the greatest villains ever conceived. Sephiroth's greatest power could be felt by the player: instigating fear. When I first played this game, I was legitimately afraid of Sephiroth. The creepy music and atmosphere he drew was terrifying. The blood stains smeared on the wall and floors made you want to go in the other direction. In fact, that's what I was thinking the whole time. "I should just run back to Midgar and forget chasing this freakin' psycho." That especially reigned true when I saw the giant snake impaled on a giant wooden stake.

Sephiroth is the personification of fear itself and all of these characters deliver a story that if told through the eyes of any other characters, might be a lot less epic and lot more cheesy. These characters are what brought this game to life and that's why FFVII has my number 2 spot.

3) Shadow Hearts / Shadow Hearts: Covenant

This a little hard for me to put up here so high. However, the original Shadow Hearts coupled with this one makes me think a little differently.

The reason I truly loved both these games and the story they presented is because they presented them with humor. Actually it was the blending of humor and epicness that really caught my eye. For starters, the main character, Yuri, is equal parts hilarious and badass.

In the first game he's basically doing what a mysterious voice in his head is telling him to do throughout the entire game. It's funny because everyone in his party thinks he's nuts.

The quest that is set forth become crazy epic in the last few hours of the game. The escalation is awesome and the ending of the game is truly moving. That's something I thought Shadow Hearts did very well. And it's sequel continued that trend.

Covenant had the same humor aspect and Yuri was still pretty badass. But the ending of this game freaked me out a little bit. I did NOT see the twist at the end of the game coming and I was completely taken aback. They hid a rather obvious twist so well that I never saw it coming. Skillfully done and the combination of both endings often makes me group these two together. It's still a game I go back to thinking about because of it.

4) Final Fantasy VIII

I did NOT want to put this on my list. But my friend convinced me on this one. This game gets on here because if the often perceived twist of the game is true, then is probably the greatest fast ones ever pulled by game developers.

Note, I don't believe that the twist is true because I felt like if it was, a developer would've confirmed it by now. But the provocation of thought is enough to appeal to me.

(It's just club sauce, don't worry)

For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, many people believe Rinoa is the sorceress Ultimecia you fight at the end of the game. I haven't played it in awhile, but I've been told there are "clues" littered throughout the game. The idea is, Rinoa and Squall live a happy life together for the rest of his life. Meaning he dies because he's not a sorceress and Rinoa goes crazy because she has to live forever without Squall.

Essentially she wants to go back in time to stop time at a certain point (believed to be the part where Squall and Rinoa are wandering aimlessly through space, and the sappy music is playing and you want to kill yourself; Rinoa says something along the lines of "I wish time would stop right now" and that's where that theory comes from). Somewhere between the attempts to come back through time, Rinoa loses all of her memories of her past because she makes a GF and junctioning it causes memory loss. She only knows she wants to stop time to stop her pain.

But her going back in time causes a time rift in which there are two worlds. And even more fiddling with time causes a third world. These parallel worlds conflict with each other and when Squall and his crew wind up fighting Ultimecia, the get to the end of time. Hence the white room with nothing in it. Then the story reverts back to when Rinoa and Squall can live happily ever after again (the first world). Where Rinoa will inevitably go crazy again and destroy everything because she's a moron.

(It's Rinoa, but slightly less annoying!)

That was my really half assed explanation of it, and I'm sorry. But there are more detailed explanations on the web. Might I recommend the one on GameFaqs? (You have to scroll down to the contents and find it).

While this has not been confirmed and it's seems a little outlandish, if that was indeed the intent of the story writers, then I am absolutely blown away at the intricacies of it. The thing is, I can not dispute the claim in any way. There are disputes to certain elements such as the GF Griever being a reflection of what Squall fears and not Ultimecia actual GF, but as a whole, it actually seems plausible. Plausible but not probable I think is the general consensus. Even so, it's heavily through provoking and might actually force people to play the game again.

5) Xenogears

Xenogears gets the last spot after much contemplation because it takes themes and concepts that, while they're not overly original, meld in such way, with a intricate plotline and fascinating characters, that after you're done, you feel like you've witnessed a masterpiece. The complex religious themes and philosophies introduced in the game are also very interesting, particularly when you're replaying the game and paying attention to them.

On paper, a protagonist with a split personality complex and a mysterious past coupled with piloting mechs around seems like something out of Gundam Wing. But the story really is so much deeper than that. While the characters are decently interesting and theirbackgrounds are extraordinarily detailed, the strength of the story lies within the characters struggle to find deeper meaning.The story tackles different issues such as man's dependancy on these machines and the lines between men and gods.

Xenogears plot is confusing to say the least, as many great plotlines are. It's one of those games I had to play a few times to really understand and a lot of the things happening to the characters are entailed in a deeper issue. While it manages to attack all these issues, the astounding thing is the character development is still phenomenal. Most of these characters are all very interesting and bring something new to the table.

While you can make the argument that they fill out an specific archetype, I honestly think these characters branch out past that distinction and manage to endear themselves to you without filling an archetype. It's rather impressive considering the level of detail in the plot itself.


Closing thoughts:

These are games that I feel like if you played them once and came back to them 10 years later, you'd still have a ton of food for thought. It's not a coincidence that most of these games are from Squaresoft and the one that isn't from Squaresoft came from old devs who worked for Squaresoft. That's because Squaresoft used to be THE RPG factory. Not only did they revolutionize the ATB system, they had some of the most gripping and beautiful storylines every devised. It's a bit of a shame considering the current state of Square-Enix (1 notable RPG released on a next-gen system, and an utter disappointment at that).

Not to say that games not made by Squaresoft weren't good. Here are some honorable mentions: Breath of Fire III, Breath of Fire IV, Vagrant Story, Suikoden II, Suikoden III, Dragon Warrior VII, Final Fantasy X, Chrono Trigger. If you're in for some hard hitting storylines and immersive worlds look no further than these wonderous games.

Overall, I'm quite satisfied with the list, though I would've liked to have Breath of Fire IV or Vagrant Story up there as well. But if you were to go out and buy all 5 of these games, I guarantee, if nothing else, these stories will captivate you.

I haven't been well...

The last few months haven't been good to me.

Seems like nothing goes right for me anymore. The last few weeks in particular.

I remember at the beginning of summer a bunch of my old World of Warcraft buddies talking to me, complaining about the game like I was before I quit. The only reason I stayed originally is 'cause I felt like I was letting my guys down if I left. But after all the complaining it seemed like at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel in Final Fantasy 14.

But it looks like that was a dud. Much like every new MMO. I was speculating and looking forward to this for a long time, something to take away the drudgery of WoW, while emphasizing the great pros of an MMO. That game is still not in existence and I've lost faith that it will.

Huge letdown at this point, but this is not the reason I'm depressed.

At the beginning of summer I decided I wanted to do a little experiment. At that point I was 6'0" 210 lbs, around my football weight for high school. I decided to gain 15-20 pounds (eating fatty foots, not exercising) over the next few months and see what the physical and mental tolls my body would pay for making such a drastic change.

Monitoring my weight weekly revealed to me that I wasn't gaining too much weight too quickly. So for a few weeks I didn't check my weight at all. I felt...lazy and didn't want to do something that would take a good minute.

Unfortunately, the next time I checked my weight I weighed in at 240 pounds. I was pretty shocked. I had not anticipated gaining so much weight so rapidly. I felt sluggish, tired and less in touch with reality. I daydreamed a LOT under these conditions, which was very odd to me. I looked at myself in the mirror and felt ashamed and hurt that I'd let it get this bad. I felt hopeless, though the plan at the beginning of the little experiment was to diet and exercise my way back down in time for school.

My girlfriend at the time had noticed the weight gain, and though she didn't seem overly upset about it, she would tell me to lose weight every now and then. Eventually she broke up with me for personal reasons. This was before I had actually maxed out in weight.

But after that, I felt a weird comfort with food. I felt like eating it made all my troubles go away. So I gained about 10 more pounds incidently. 6'0" 250 lbs with not a lot of muscle. I lost most of it from lack of exercise.

I did end up meeting my current girlfriend a little later, who didn't seem bothered at all by my less than stellar body type. It was a little odd because she is VERY pretty and a girl like her wouldn't be seen with a guy like me. So for the last month or two I've been dieting and exercising a lot more, trying to get back into shape. I'm at 220-ish at this point but I still feel out of shape and sluggish. A ton of that just isn't muscle.

I'm actually caught out of breath walking to the metro now. My body is nowhere near where it was last year. I've been feeling very depressed and unenthused with everything lately. On top of that, that rapid weight gain and loss is taking it's toll on me mentally. I feel tired and hungry all the time. I'm sleepy right now and it's 8:30 PM. I almost feel like I can't make it back to what I was before, and that's a real shame because I feel like I'm not good enough for my girlfriend right now.

Concentrating on school is an ordeal in itself. I'm getting plenty of sleep and I'm still tired. I've been having chest pains while exercising as well. Everything just seems to not be working. I'm so close to crash dieting and just getting all the weight off, but I almost feel like my body is at the edge and any extreme measure like that will be detrimental in the end.

I go to school from 8-5 every day and either come home or go to my girlfriends house. This is a huge problem because I'm so hungry throughout the day. Sometimes I can't help myself with the craving and go get a footlong from Subway or some Chipotle. I don't really have time to make a bag lunch or anything because of school and it's just killing me.

Either way, I feel like I have to do something soon. I'm intimate with my girlfriend, but I can't see her being physically attracted to me right now. So maybe not eating anything for a few weeks is the way to go...

The darkened chasm of my soul....

Hello world...How are you?

Don't answer that. I don't actually care about you. Why? Because my life is a black hole of misery. Every moment I'm alive is sheer agony. Agony so grating and disheartening, Adam Sandler is no longer funny to me. Or maybe his movies just suck now, I don't know, I'm too busy cutting lines of resentment into my horribly pasty skin. The darkness of my life swirls around me and envelops me like the cake around the creamy center of a Twinkie. Wait...that probably wasn't the best metaphor. The Twinkie does not accurate portray the darkness that is my life. More like a ding dong or some other chocolately treat.

It's like...the devil is tormenting me. The devil...a creature so dark and mysterious, the endless enigma of his mind can only be understood by an individual as dark and disturbed as myself. You see...years ago the devil formed a company...known as AT&T Wireless. He promoted good service...He promoted lies... The truth is, AT&T sucks and they drop 99.9999% of calls. The devil realized he needed a phone, so he got a phone made by the most diabolical phone company on the planet...Motorola.. The ensuing days of dropped calls and horrible phone mechanics drove the devil insane and turned him into the horribly, blackened beast we know today... I tried to switch to AT&T...just so I could be one of his faithful minions. That's how blackened my soul has become. But Verizon's horribly excellent service forced me to stay with them. Those bastards...

It's...horrible. The darkness of my life burns me to the core of my existence. Which is nothing. Because I don't have a heart. Because it was shattered. Shattered in the blackened chasm where it used to be. Now all that's there is dust. Blackened dust.

I saw an orange the other day...It was sitting there. 5...maybe 6 days. Taunting me. Calling me fat. Rolling around in it's unwarranted glory. It told me to stop eating red meat. It told me eating Fruity Pebbles all day wouldn't give me the amount of fiber I needed daily... It told me lies. I awoke in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and other bodily fluids. I knocked over a bottle of Vitamin Water I was drinking before I fell asleep while checking the time on the alarm clock... 12:48 A.M. The time was now.

I picked up my pocket knife. Climb downstairs. Turned on the lights. Put an episode of Friends on. And crept behind the orange. As I raised the knife I realized the orange was staring right at me. I gave it a wicked grin and stabbed into it's flesh repeatedly, tearing into it. I drank the juice and devoured it's innards while watching Rachel *****slap Ross for 45 minutes. I know the show is only 30 minutes long. But it feels like 45 minutes. It wasn't until after I had ripped apart the orange that I had realized it was tainted. And alas...the orange had the last laugh as I spent the next hours curdled in the corner of my bathroom in the fetal position, covered in my own feces.

The horrible life of horror that I live, you can not comprehend...

The words a guy never wants to hear...

Had a bit of a scare the other day.

I have a bit of an interesting situation going with my girlfriend. We've been going out for a little more than 2 years now, but it's all been under the noses of my family. See, they're not the type to approve of her, so I'd rather not even involve them in the situation. However, I'm a college student who lives with my parents. So, they're pretty much aware of everything I do. It's been a real chore keeping my relationship under wraps, but I make it work somehow. She lives about 10 minutes away and it's kind of like a second house to me because I spend most of time there.

Here's the thing, I've been pretty careless when it comes to actually having sex. I almost never buy rubbers, she buys them usually and if she doesn't have any on her, well I don't use anything. Naturally, this is a recipe for disaster, but nothing bad has happened, so I just don't worry about it.

But the other day, she tells me those terrible words associated with her period and I literally flipped my **** You have to understand, I'm an extremely calm person and the only people I ever yelled at are my parents. I'm never panicked, worried or stressed about anything. But this just got my mind racing.

For one thing, I can't keep a baby from my parents. And, because they're still supporting me, that would turn into a very bad situation for me. They have explicitly stated if I do something not to their liking, they'll kick me out. Second, I'm in my second year of college, I don't have a degree. Which means I wouldn't be able to get a job that would sustain both me, Amanda and a kid. More than likely I would drop out off college in order to get a full time job. She was trying to be a chef last time I checked, but I assume that dream would go down the toilet as well.

I mean, to top it all off, I'm just not ready to be a parent. So, all of that just dawned on me the second she told me she might be pregnant, and I started yelling at her. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was my fault, but at that moment I was so mad that I couldn't really think straight and I had to yell at someone. She didn't say a single word the whole time I was yelling. She kind of just absorbed it all. I ended up making her cry though, and I felt really bad about it afterwards, but I just couldn't contain myself because my life was just going OK and all of a sudden my world gets shattered.

I ended up leaving her house and not talking to her again for a few days. I was just contemplating what to do, and I almost told my parents but I realized it was going to be a huge waste of time, and it was only going to hurt me in the end.

So, I did the only thing I could think of and I just pulled myself together. I decided I was going to have to drop out of college, there was no way out of that. But, I might be able to get a halfway decent job somewhere if I started looking hard. I figured I'd have to either move in to her house (not sure what the deal with her roommates was though) or find a small apartment in which I could support all of us. I'd probably end up selling all of my crap, video games, TV, whatever I could get money for. She would probably have to put her associate's degree to use and find a meaningful job as well.

It wasn't going to be pretty but I was going to make it work somehow. At that point, she wasn't returning my calls or talking to me, probably because I yelled at her. But, I drove to her house, and told her what was going to have to happen. I was laying down the hammer really, because she's way more irresponsible than me. No more smoking, drinking, recreational drugs, late nights, whatever it is for her. For the most part, she understood. I swear though, I was hoping she'd interrupt me and say "I'm not pregnant." But after a few hours of talking to her I realized she was absolutely convinced she was pregnant at this point.

I was like, damn, I'm going to miss my PS3. Everything was as fine as it was going to get, and she seemed OK with it. We both were kind of angry, me moreso than her, so we had sort of aggression relieving sex that night. And no, I didn't use a rubber, because what was the point, right?

A little while after that though, she called me up on my cell and was like "I'M NOT PREGNANT!" at the top of her lungs. The relief, you know, it was crazy. I never felt more relaxed than I do right now, because after that scare, I realize I have it pretty good and I don't really have anything to worry about.

Though I will say, I haven't had sex in a little more than a month and a half and she's in Canada for awhile so that's got me down. She hasn't been the mood since that scare, so I guess I'll have to wait it out.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 Blurb

So it's summer, and after being sober from World of Warcraft for a good while now, I decided to get back into some multiplayer goodness with Battlefield Bad Company 2. I was initially thinking of getting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but after playing it at a friends house and realizing that the only skill involved was dancing and stealthing around the edges of the maps waiting for that one idiot to run across the middle so you could waste them with 3 bullets faster then they can say "YAHTZEE!", I decided that I was better off playing this.

So the campaign mode--ahh who gives a **** about the campaign. The multiplayer in the game delivers what it promised. Better maps and combat that isn't particularly original or exciting. Oh don't get me wrong, run around shooting people in the face is always fun no matter the setting, but is it really different from Metal Gear Solid: Modern Warfare 2? Well, I can safely say I can run down the middle of the map without dying instantaneously anymore. Now I can turn around 20 degrees before actually dying, hoo-rah!

Seriously, what is this gloryfied game of hide and seek really? A measure skill or a measure of luck? Oh don't get me wrong, it's loads of fun running up to a n00b and wasting him with your M60 (hey, shouldn't you be healing? WTF?), but you can help but feel immasculated with ladygagalover96 comes up and shoots you in the head with a handgun while you're trying to revive juniorhighwizard98 (oh, c'mon!). Imagine the conversation you'd have asking these children why the aren't in school and being responded to with "it's summer, poopy pants!" Which leads me to a direct comparison with the child from an episode of "The Simpsons" who berated his mother for a copy of Bonestorm before preceding to tell his mother to "shut up."

Oh did anyone else notice the dust? Or the guy who's standing directly IN the dust who's about to shoot your balls off because you're NOT standing directly in the dust?

What's worse is that I always seem to be placed on a bad team. Now, that's just luck for you, but when it comes to this game, I've just had bad mojo. It seems we have one 45th level player on our team, and I breath a sigh of relief only to realize he's hopped into the helicopter and is more concerned with not dying than actually winning the game. So while I'm down at the flag, attempting to capture it while be surrounded by 1397825748 enemy players, he's flying around destroying the tanks that are located at their base, because there's nothing more dangerous than a stationary tank.

Of course, there are a terrible amount of frustrations I have with this game, including running up to people and shooting them in the head, only to see them crouch down out of your line of sight and shoot you in the dick, but I honestly can't stopped playing. Which makes me believe there is something terribly sinister about this game, and the only way to combat such an addiction before I stab my girlfriend in the head with a butterknife, is to destroy the game...

Maybe before school starts...

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