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weedman1985 Blog

I've Had Enough

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I've just logged in after many months of absence to find that most of my reviews have vanished without a trace. No moderation notices, no point deductions, no ban .... nothing. This kind of amateurish bullshit is simply unacceptable as far as I'm concerned, but really, I'm not sure why I was so surprised when it finally happened. Thankfully, I got most of my reviews backed up on various Word files but the fact still remains that a bulk of my reviews had just disappeared into thin air and it seems like I'm not the only one who had become a victim of this new "glitch".

To be honest, I don't really care at this point, either. Whether they bring back my reviews or not, I'm officially done with this shit hole for good. I will not be posting any more reviews or blogs in the near future, and possibly ever again. I'll still be around for a while, merely because I get a fair share of gaming news here on this sewage canal of a website. I'll still read your blogs and reviews, but as far as my opinion is concerned, it's a only matter of time before this whole community goes under. It's already showing signs of slow inexorable decay. No one seems to post blogs anymore, and no one seems to read any of them, either. Can't say I blame them. It's impossible to get anything done with this awful new layout.

EDIT:

It seems like my reviews are still out there, it's just that Gamespot doesn't seem to realize they belong to my account.

I'm so tired of this crap.

The Problems With Mainstream Western Games

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Most of your average, run of the mill Western gamers would tell you that the title of this article is false and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Western games; that they are perfect in every possible way, and that no developer outside of North America has ever come close to the same quality of gameplay and storytelling as their favorite Western developers. What they neglect to to tell you, however, is that most western audiences are also biased, hypocritical fuckwits, who will never admit fault even if someone were to point it out with a glowing red marker.

Typically, it's the same people who play only mainstream games and thus have very limited scope of what the industry actually has to offer. The often touted argument that Western games sell more and therefore must be better, only proves one thing - that people are dumb enough to purchase the same crappy, copy & paste sequels that would have otherwise worn out their welcome in the eyes of anyone who has a modicum of common sense. It does not, however, prove that these games are good (see: Call of Duty), yet many clueless idiots are rushing to their shitty blogs to write how " LOL JAPAN SUX" and "THEY HEVAR MADE GUD GAMZ" in a manner resembling the ramblings of a twelve year old boy bragging about how many girls he's fingered.

Unfortunately for morons, their view of reality will never change the facts: Western games have, for many years, suffered from a wide array of crippling gaming tropes and not a single one of them has ever been put under serious scrutiny. I'm not necessarily talking about the gender tropes, although that could certainly part of it, but rather the popular settings, lore, and tone of said games have been so rigidly formulaic throughout the decades that it became an undisputed standard. Now nobody could even imagine life without them. Ask yourself how many times have you played an RPG based in J.R.R Tolkien's fantasy world or any other popular western book? Now ask yourself how many times have you NOT played a western RPG that was based in the aforementioned fantasy world? Not a lot, that's for sure. It's no wonder that Mass Effect is so popular, but even then, the setting is only as far as this franchise is comfortable expanding on in terms of creativity.

What raises my ire the most is the fanboys who claim that JRPGs of late are the same cookie cutter sequels re-branded and repeated ad nauseam. Have you fanboys ever stopped to take a look at your own endlessly recycled stream of piss poor excuses for games? because it sure as hell doesn't look good from where I'm standing. How many of your so called "RPG" haven't ripped their combat mechanics wholesale from The Elder Scrolls or even Diablo? Why am I suddenly reminded of Demon's Souls and how every single western outlet had labeled this game as suicidal even before it came out, with numerous sources who claimed that nobody these days would dare play a game that's even slightly difficult? That's how much the west is terrified of anything new and exciting. And what about other genres? Name one western FPS in the last decade that DIDN'T have cover mechanics, regenerating health, slow paced combat or two weapon slots? Seriously, when was the last time you saw a western company attempt something new? You want to see risk taking? Look no further than "The Collective" by Square Enix. Heck, even Ubisoft had ventured into "uncharted" territory with games like Might and Magic 10, Assassin's Creed 4, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and many more, all the while mainstream western companies barely budged a god damn inch in the last ten years.

Another thing that irks the crap out of me is the west's fetishistic obsession with anything that's "dark" and depressing. I suppose the audience's boring, privileged life-styles leave something to be desired, so the industry steps in to fill the space with a steady dose of horribly written characters that display no emotions other than angst or gritty seriousness. It doesn't help that every single protagonist is depicted as a heroic handsome white person destined to be savior of the world, while at the same time can do no wrong and possess no character flaws, goals, conflicting emotions, or moral ambiguity of any description, which ultimately makes them even more fictional than Saturday evening cartoons. Fact is, ladies and gentlemen, that western protagonists have degraded horribly over the past decade to the point where they are as seriously lacking in charm and likable qualities as their range of human emotions. Worse yet, most of them seem to have taken the role of complete douchebags in some bizarre attempt to acquire a shred of personality, only to fall flat on their face. I can only assume that the decrepit wastes of flesh who pass as writers these days, simply forgot that being a scumbag is personality trait that won't necessarily make you loved and respected by everyone. Not that a western gamer has much choice when it comes to crappy protagonists, either. Who would you rather play as? The angry xenophobic soldier who's hobbies include spouting jingoistic one liners and propagating the master race, or would you rather be the angry xenophobic space marine who's hobbies include spouting jingoistic one liners and propagating the master race, in space?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

The shit doesn't end here, either. I can even argue that most mainstream western games these days are like an elongated shit smear across the carpet of video gaming history. The same asinine games that once plagued this hobby have not been weeded out by evolution but instead managed to further entrench themselves in the industry in direct proportion to the ever shrinking awareness of cultural diversity, while the the good ideas have been stomped out and forgotten because good ideas do not shift enough copies for corporate scumbag's liking. So instead, we got games loaded with so much unlockable bullshit that there is barely any actual game contents left to play with. Take Call of Duty for example, which unsurprisingly turns into a boring run of the mill shooter that people immediately stop playing the moment they unlock every available gun in the game, or perhaps you'd like Bioshock Infinite, who's gameplay just barely gets a pass only due to the unlock-able nature of vigors and various equipment pieces. If it weren't for them, you'd be snoring into your keyboard long before the first hour of gameplay is over. Fact is, RPG elements and unlockable contents are liberally employed by western developers because it's the only way they know how to keep the players playing their crappy games. It's all just smoke and mirrors designed to distract from the fact that none of them have any fucking clue on how to make these games fun to play, anymore.

At the end of the day, the fault for this bloody mess lies squarely at the people's feet. If it weren't for those who bought, loved and most importantly, voted with their wallets to keep these abominations afloat for so many years, we wouldn't be in this situation to begin with - A stagnant and rotten industry that ironically only keeps getting worse every year because of the very same people who now blog about Western culture being vastly superior. Sadly, this problem doesn't only represent Western audiences but also seems to have infected the expectations of people all over the world. The sheer frequency I'm met with the aforesaid blog posts is disturbing, and serves only as further proof that my suspicions were correct all along. It means that very few people in this world are interested in diversifying themselves or trying out what other cultures have to offer. Instead, they prefer to wallow in the safety of their cultural ignorance; their own imaginary world where they are nothing short of royalty, where every person has to bow to their every whim if they wanna be accepted into their lucrative social circle jerk.

Microsoft and Xbox One are Shite

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Since both consoles have been out for a few days at the time of writing this blog, I decided to weigh in on the subject matter in a calm, rational and unbiased manner, just like every media outlet has successfully managed to do thus far.

Starting with the lovable Microsoft corporation who have always stood by the consumer and who have pledged, in Phill Spencer's own words, to give consumers the best service available on the market today. Then a few months later, he proceeded to fuck people over with hardware failures, invasive micro transactions and now this fresh new torture -

https://twitter.com/getB3NT/status/404963267896172544

As if the xbox community ever needed another reason to cry over something. What gets me the most is that thirty years ago, all you had to do to enjoy a gaming session on console was to pop in a cartridge and off you go. Compare that with what we have today - when you aren't sure your machine would even work when you plug it in for the first time. Thirty years of progress and it seems like we went backwards into the stone age. No other industry would ever dare to release a broken product on day one, but not here. In the game industry this is perfectly acceptable.

Worse yet, now we have censorship blighting our consoles. I'm sure that decrepit arse of a man, Phill Spencer, would make their decision sound perfectly reasonable and inoffensive to anyone who has been dropped on the head when he was still a baby, but these people are sadly the majority. In fact, I'm sure he can make murder sound perfectly reasonable and inoffensive. So long as the Xbone was used at some point, the fans would defend it with their lives. Microsoft is well aware of that, which is why micro transactions have been deployed in every Microsoft published game on that piece of shit, thus far.

At this point I would usually conclude by saying that the Xbox is for the mentally challenged, but this time I'd like to point out that this is especially true in today's market. If you can save $500 to buy a vastly under-powered and potentially broken plastic toy on day one, you can also wait a month or two and add another hundred dollars to buy a proper gaming PC, which amusingly enough, has tons of great games and doesn't stop you from doing whatever the fuck you want, at any given time. There really is no argument at this point when it comes to the Xbox one (there never was one to begin with, tbh). Even the most ardent defenders of the Xbox one can't even pretend that their purchase is even vaguely justifiable considering that half the games that are out are either ports, shittier versions of their PC counterparts, or shambling monstrosities that should have never been made.

Don't believe me? I will prove it to you:

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Port. Vastly inferior in both graphical fidelity and performance to it's PC counterpart.

Battlefield 4 - Again, nothing more than a vastly inferior port in a piece of shit drivel, diabetes inducing vomit heap of a franchise.

Call of Duty: Ghosts - Same as the above statement. See: Hitler's favorite pass time.

Crimson Dragon - Never heard of this one but reviews are pretty terrible across the board.

Dead Rising 3 - Presumably one of the few exclusives this shitty consoles has. All around a poor sequel to DR2 and is reported to have some serious performance issues.

FIFA 14 - Nothing new, at all. It's literally the same assets and gameplay modes recycled from FIFA13.

Fighter Within - Fuck off.

Forza Motorsport 5 - The only game that's actually half decent. But really, there are ten times more racing games on PC which are way better. Also, this game has micro transactions. Enjoy paying $37 to unlock one car.

Just Dance 2014 - Ubisoft firmly believes anyone still gives two shits about the dance game genre. As if we didn't have enough of those fucking games already. Nothing new, move on.

Killer Instinct - Would be a pretty awesome fighting game if it weren't for the ridiculous price tag and business model. Way to go, Microsoft.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes - I can't imagine anyone not being completely sick of those games by now. Not exactly a killer app and in my opinion, and not worth the price of admission.

LocoCycle - (???) apparently very poorly reviewed, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

Need for Speed: Rivals - Awful garbage that is locked on 30fps even on PC. Horrible menus and annoying tutorials, ridiculous plot, AI rubber banding, and general lack of effort. Anyone looking for a burnout sequel is better off playing burnout again.

Powerstar Golf - The most boring sport ever devised by mankind, right below curling. Can't imagine a video game based on golf being particularly fun, not to mention, nothing new compared to the PC.

Ryse: Son of Rome - Crytek's true show of skill when it comes to designing games. Bad reviews across the board, touting it as an absolutely awful piece of entertainment.

Skylanders: Swap Force - I did some research on it and it turns out the game is a money vacuum. Wanna play the full version? pay us more money. Nevermind the fact that you already spend money on it when you bought it. Games like these are always a good deal for the consumer. Also, it's multi-platform so again, no cigar.

Xbox Fitness - Fuck off.

Zoo Tycoon - Take a wild guess

Zumba Fitness: World Party - I would rather eat my own fecal matter.

There are also a ton of the usual shovel ware sports games, to which I would apply the same argument I did to Battlefield 4 and CoD:Ghosts.

This is your launch lineup, ladies and gentlemen - A bunch of vastly inferior ports and titles you would never play unless you're stuck shitting for an hour and need to kill time quickly, at which point you will not be able to whip out that $500 paperweight out of your trouser pocket, and will regrettably have to resort to a much lesser known device which is called a "cellphone". And while you are sitting there with your pants down, shit dribbling from your arsehole onto the pavement of the local homeless shelter that rejected you not a while ago, you'll ponder about that piece of crap console that ended up shorting the power and causing your house to catch fire. And when you realized the only thing you managed to save was your favorite console by which you swore a few months ago, the best thing left to do was to put that console in use for the only thing it's good for - under your head, as a pillow while you sleep on the park bench, right next to the pile of smoldering ashes that once used to be your home.

An Overdue Rant

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I've been encountering the discussion of gameplay length much more frequently in the past few months and it always made me scratch my head as to why this discussion had started in the first place. Why on earth does anyone think that less equals more?

The most common argument against the "excessive" length of video games and RPG specifically, is that gamers don't have a lot of time on their hands these days. Finishing a 60 hour long game is therefore nearly impossible and it stops them from experiencing other games in the mean time. Sadly, I can't give less of fuck about that. Gaming is a hobby - not something you are obligated to take part in, whenever you have some free time. Therefore, such this hobby should not, under any circumstance, bend over to accommodate the individual. Don't forget that the main reason behind the stagnation of this hobby is the overwhelming desire to expand it to a wider audience - That same desire manifests itself in the form of wanting progressively shorter games.

There is another prevalent attitude that wants to justify shorter games. The fact that sometimes they are artificially lengthened to accommodate the advertised play time, which feels tacked on - in many cases even grind-tastic. The notion that video games must be tightly contained to enjoy the overall experience and that any "unnecessary" part be taken out for the sake of feeling more "immersed" in the experience is what seems to be the thing these days. There is another claim that states games are rarely ever finished as a result of their longevity.

I'm here to break it down to you - this is simply not true and has no factual basis. Supporters of the aforesaid idea have been throwing statistics left and right and numerous polls have been conducted just to prove their point but as a professional statistician will tell you, these are merely educated guesses. In this case however, it's not even an educated guess, i.e there is no proven connection between the length of the experience and the low completion rate. Maybe the vast majority of people didn't finish these games because they are boring? Polls asking people why they haven't finished game "X" are unscientific at best and severely damaging to this industry, at worst. Whatever people may think is right, may be entirely wrong, which is usually the case because humans have what is medically termed as "intuition" - A useful tool to have but sadly not always a practical one. Your sub-conscience is the only part of your brain that knows the correct answer to that question and no one has been able to decipher what exactly goes on in there.

As stated, the reasons are more sub-conscience than anything else and the causes of this behavior can vary. My idea of why people don't finish games anymore is a bit more plausible than a simple "length" issue. It's something that can at least partially be proven. With games lacking in substance as much as they do today, it's not surprising that games resort to a lot of artificial padding. its the only way to add gameplay with minimal effort, which is employed much more often than a decade ago. The reason behind it is simple - budget limitations. With 3D game assets costing as much as they do these days, is it really so surprising that developers resort to these practices? excessive use of game padding is, in my opinion, the main reason why many games lose their appeal over time. Another problem may be in the fact that most game endings these days are horrible. Western games are particularly guilty of this, so much so that I quit playing ME3 in the middle and will never play it again. In contrast, You'll be surprised to know that I have never played a Japanese game that I haven't finished.

There could be another reason to why people don't finish games. It's the paradox of choice that most humans are susceptible to, which may play a pivotal role in this case as well. If you don't know what "the paradox of choice" is - it's the notion that too much choice causes most people to be unable to pick what they want. It's a known behavioral phenomenon that has been observed over the years and may manifest itself in the game industry. The fact that hundreds of games are released every month, choosing between them may be difficult for some people. They may trade off their unfinished games many times a month and never really be satisfied with what they get.

In conclusion, I think it all boils down to this - the reasons behind games being unfinished has never ever been an issue of length, but rather the inability to keep the player interested in the subject matter. It's not an easy task considering your average RPG is about 50 hours long. With competition being as rampant as it is nowadays, the problem needs to be addressed by teaching developers how to make games better not shorter. Games that will have replay value and enough depth and variety to keep people from putting them away. Making games shorter is merely a temporary solution that will no doubt create more problems than it will solve.

Criminally Underrated Games Part Three: Might and Magic (series)

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Whenever the words "Might and Magic" are brought up in any gaming discussion, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the venerated Heroes Of Might And Magic series who's popularity had reached new heights in recent years, even despite the all encompassing popularity of shooters like Halo and colossal, easily stamped out generic cash cows like Call of Duty that latch on to this industry like an inoperable cancer.  Yet no one seems to remember Might And Magic - the now sadly forgotten series that went on for eight sequels, unbeknownst to the vast majority of the gaming world.

Even back in the early 90's when M&M was reaching the peak of its popularity, it was still considered obscure despite the constant hype and admiration that surrounded the popular Wizardry series as well as other similar role playing games that put an emphasis on dungeon crawling and exploration. The fact that M&M wasn't getting the mainstream attention the developers wanted, prompted them to eventually come up with a spin-off series in an attempt to boost its popularity. Thus Heroes of Might and Magic was conceived only to swiftly overshadow the former series in an ironic twist of fate, pushing it even further into obscurity.  The rather infuriating consequence of its obscurity is the inevitable questions that seems to arise whenever the subject is brought up in a conversation. Questions like - "Oh, don't you mean Heroes Of Might and Magic? yeah, that series was awesome!", which somehow still manages to irritate the crap out of me.

Because unlike Wizardry which ended on a high note with the best title in the series and possibly the genre as a whole, Might and Magic in stark contrast, ended in a prolonged, heart rending whimper before finally dropping lifelessly on the ground with a sickening thud.  Only a select few followed it on its last voyage in tearful reverent silence that was far more tragic than the cataclysm that had befallen the once mighty Ultima series. The fact that it died alone and unloved, never to achieve the mainstream admiration and recognition it so desperately deserved, followed by the subsequent disband of the company that developed the series which was later picked apart by EA and Ubisoft like a pack of hungry vultures, was what really stuck it to the handful of fans this franchise still had. The inevitable demise of New World Computing marked the closure of an entire chapter in video game history as it signified the death of the once beloved Dungeon Crawler genre, moments before it was diced up and fed to the increasingly simplified Role Playing format you see before you today.

Funnily enough, the Wizardry series which also died with no prospect of a sequel roughly around the same time NWC kicked the bucket, has been passed on to the Japanese who still make new games in the series, albeit in their own fashion, even to this day. But I digress.

Might and Magic 7 found its way into my possession quite early in my teenage years and it was my first taste of the series and indeed the entire genre, geographical location and antipathy towards gaming notwithstanding. I think I was about twelve years old at the time and having played Planescape  a few years previously, I felt relieved to find an RPG that wasn't so hopelessly infatuated with itself but instead let you run free and do whatever your heart desired while finding shiny treasure and leveling up characters as you went along. It was my first taste of the Dudgeon Crawler genre and I instantly fell in love with the series as well as the idea of having a game that's based almost entirely on progression and character building rather than delivering a narrative.

 

M&M7

 the character creation screen can be a little overwhelming for people who have never played old school role playing games before. 

 

Dungeon crawling has been around for decades and it perpetuates one of the most simple concepts in video game history despite being one of the most management heavy genres that have ever existed. M&M was certainly no different in that respect. Hundreds of inventory items had to be sorted carefully, stats had to be allocated sensibly, and character progression is not done automatically but rather required the player to find the right trainers scattered throughout the lands just so they could progress further down their respective skill "trees". Yet despite all of those "distractions", the games core mechanic is very enjoyable and takes up the vast majority of the experience. The difference is philosophy between M&M and other game franchises that feature huge sandbox worlds, is that The Elder Scrolls for instance sends the player on a variety of quests while on the way there is a chance some nice loot might be found, whereas M&M usually tends to send the player on a certain quest for the sole purpose of finding epic loot which might end up in an encounter with another unrelated quest along the way. Another reason for why I prefer M&M over other games is that even the dungeons require extensive exploration that often reveals secret chambers as well as very cleverly crafted puzzles, friendly NPCs, and sometimes a few new quests.  And no matter how awesome you think the rewards are, there will always be a more epic prize not too far way, as the game somehow always makes it worth your while to explore its massive dungeons despite not having a loot scaling system that matches drops to the player's current level.

Might and magic can be played in either turn based or real time mode while the gameplay perspective is similar to what you will find in an elder scrolls franchise, except that in this case the player is in charge of four, sometimes five clueless adventurers as opposed to just one. I find it much more interesting because not only do you need to form a synergy between the party members but also because it contains a management aspect that often characterizes games such as final fantasy, where various character classes have certain specializations unique to them and no one else, forcing the player manage their limited resources and keep said party members alive in various situations at all costs. For instance, there are only a few classes in the game that can cast spells from specific schools of magic and you would do well to keep them alive when fighting against enemies that are weak to those spells. The reason behind this ideology is that enemies usually cluster up in small hordes and picking them off one by one is sometimes impossible, so lading quick kills is the best option if you want to survive the horde of nasties charging your way. In fact, the series is known for being quite difficult at times, often throwing packs of baddies at the player, each possessing the ability to wipe-out the entire party in just a few hits. Though surprisingly, these games are never unfair. It just means that players have to strategize as well as learn every talent and spell available in the game, especially the non-combat skills, since finding loot is the main source of income for the party and every treasure bearing chest in the game is heavily booby trapped and will likely insta-kill your party if said party doesn't possess the right tools to disarm them.

 

M&M7

 Might and Magic 7 allows for a party of four adventurers plus any non-combatant followers you happen to come across.

The later titles in the series begin an overarching storyline that's told throughout events that took place in a universe called Enroth - A bizarre place where all manner of mythological creatures dwell,  and spans three titles as well as subsequent HoMM games, so the story jumps around from series to series and is told much the same way chapters would be written in a book. I won't go into specifics as to what the story holds, but the creator's fascination with science fiction ended up eventually being included into most of the later titles in the form of laser weapons and other such gadgets even despite the fact that the game's setting is clearly high fantasy through and through. Though sadly whatever bits of story were told in the later titles, they weren't particularly well delivered despite being well written and interesting to read. The problem was that while video games were a new and interesting medium through which you could tell a story, the early days of 3D graphics were a troublesome time, when cut-scenes and voice acting were scarce. The tools developers had for delivering a story to the audience were limited and hard to use and as a result, the emphasis was put on the dungeon crawling aspect which ended up pushing the storytelling off to the sidewalk.

Though to be honest, I can't say I'm disappointed by that fact. Yeah, the story is great if you want to spend the time reading it, but if you don't, you can just explore the world and hunt for secret treasure inside massive labyrinthine dungeons instead. And this is what M&M does best, better than most games I know.

Being exceptionally old and therefore steeped heavily in the old school PC role playing genre, means that the series will come across as nothing short of obnoxious to anyone who has never experienced the old school RPG back in its hay day.  On the other hand,  if you are fan of old school RPG and have never heard of this series before, then I highly recommend M&M. Because as far as role playing games go, these are the ones that deserve to be played the most. Once you get past the learning curve there is enough depth here to keep the loot whoring gamer thoroughly entertained for many hours with replay value being especially high due to the random nature of drops and the various party compositions that can be created from a combination of four races and nine classes that are usually available in the later titles in the series. When referring to the later titles, I of course mean M&M 6,7 and 8, since I've yet to play any of the earlier ones. The ninth and final installment in the series is by far the worst and is the main reason why the company that made these games eventually went under.

Might and Magic is a living testimony to the fact that a strong game play component is enough to carry a game by itself even in a genre so steeped in the notion that story telling is a critical part of any self respecting role playing game. And though it may look like I've been ragging on story driven games in the past few paragraphs,  the truth is that I still love them just as much as I do the entire role playing genre. It's been my passion since I was a little boy and  I would never trade my love for role playing games in exchange for anything the world can offer me. My intention was merely to highlight the fact that M&M came at a time when I desired something different that all my previous experiences with western RPG up to that point did not deliver to a satisfying conclusion - A niche that M&M was all too happy to fill, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. 

 

On Game Scores and Reviews

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My personal statement on game scores has been, up till this point, rather ambiguous. I used to occasionally bring up the subject without ever actually giving you the full disclosure about what it means to me, so here is my chance to speak my mind and perhaps shed some light on the whole "issue" of game scores, and an issue there certainly is.

Even despite the fact that I regularly use the system, I oppose the use of numerical scores for a number of reasons: 

1) I firmly believe that a complex opinion on a certain subject cannot possibly be represented numerically

2) Scores poorly communicate whether or not the game is actually worth your time

3) They create dependency and only exist for PR purposes and nothing else

4) Scores are often distracting from the reviews themselves

So why am I still using them?

The answer is simple: It's because there isn't a single website on the planet that doesn't use them. If you want to post your reviews to the public then you must utilize the score system. Whether the rating is represented with stars, coins, numbers or scales, it's basically the same system in a different dressing. There is no other way to go, these days.

This would have been fine at least if the media didn't employ the most unprofessional reviewers possible. Now, I'm not exactly a professional by any stretch of the imagination, lest anyone accuse me of elitism, but I can think of several pundits (to say the least) that really use a nice throttling session and a boot in the a** for being absolutely disgraceful. I'm not so much complaining about the scores themselves, but rather their insistence to overlook glaring design flaws because the game appeals to them and no one else, forgetting that their bloody job is to review this game for everyone, not just for themselves.

Now, I never put myself above naming and shaming the people who deserve the boot, so I'm going to do it right now:

http://www.gamespot.com/gone-home/reviews/gone-home-review-6413000/ - Carolyn Petit has been a disgrace to this establishment for quite some time, but her recent review is what tipped it well over the fence for me. I always said that a reviewer has to at least try to be as unbiased as possible, not to mention a semi-competent gamer. So while failing miserably in the latter category, she also recently failed in the former. If you read the review, you'll notice that there is barely any mention of the gameplay, you know - the most important part of the game. Instead, most of the review concentrates on how the story is great, ultimately giving consumers next to no purchasing advice. So I did my research and found out that she strangely omitted the fact that the game is overpriced ($20 on Steam) and incredibly short - clocking at about 2 hours at most. 

Look, personal opinion is just that, and you will be hard pressed to argue about it with some people, but there are some aspects of games that are factual and cannot be debated. The game's lack of contents, pricing, bugs, performance issues - all of these things absolutely must be taken into account or at least be mentioned somewhere in your review. Not knowing to enable Vsync when reviewing a game on PC is the kind of rookie mistake I simply refuse to accept from a professional reviewer. It's no wonder this website is the laughing stock of the entire industry. 

I'm not even mentioning the stupidity behind giving a game with no gameplay such a high score, but this is the reality of the industry we currently live in. It seems like people are finally realizing that instead of working hard to make a proper game they can instead make a short arty ******* title with zero substance and sell it for an inflated price. Genius. Making games has never been so easy.

Now then, Destructoid. - http://www.destructoid.com/review-mark-of-the-ninja-234567.phtml , otherwise known as the ugly cousin to 4ch*n.

Now don't get me wrong, Mark of The Ninja is actually a pretty good game, but after reading this review you would be left scratching your head as to why it got such a high score, since it's lacking in any true details about the actual game. Again, omitting some of the most important aspects of the game such as length, pricing, game balance... The reviewer also mentioned that the story wasn't very good, so why did it earn a 10/10, then?  but the real kicker was the last statement - "Let it stand as the benchmark by which all stealth games are now measured."

If that doesn't show complete and utter lack of experience then I don't know what does. In the reviewer's mind, I guess, the Thief series never even existed. Though I guess I can't complain too much about the 10/10 score in this case. At least the reviewer acknowledges that the gameplay aspect is by far the most important, but that doesn't mean the reviewer it's right. 

 

This brings me to my next point -  that 9's and 10's are far too common these days. Such high scores should be reserved only for games that could be considered revolutionary, touting elements that have never been done before or at the very least, have never been done before so well. A game that deserves a "perfect" score is a title that's an immense achievement in every aspect of it's being - a game so colossal and ground breaking that it flattens all the other games in the genre with it's sheer amount of depth (both gameplay and story) , creativity, length, challenge, consistency, sound design, level design, writing, voice acting, graphics, performance, and balance. Then and ONLY then is it worthy of a 10/10 score. I dare you to mention one game in recent years that actually deserves this title.

I'm sick and tired of seeing these scores being thrown away like candy by people who know nothing about this hobby. It does naught but damage and undermine the truly revolutionary games that often gain absolutely no recognition by the public. When I see a professional review posted on your website, you better make damn sure that it's up to bloody standard. And If you're crap at video games and/or have only finished journalist school without any actual experience, I suggest first giving yourself a year or two of internship before jumping into the game reviewing bandwagon. 

Sadly, this industry is choke full of crappy, inexperienced "professional" reviewers that I'm not surprised that every other industry is laughing at us. I really hate to say this, but how come movie critics have to master movie history by meticulously watching and scrutinizing every aspect of the major classics of movie making, while game critics are often bums with no education and knowledge of this hobby? 

The reality of our situation is much more dire than most people think. As you can see, We have no standards in the game reviewing field. Come to think of it, neither do we have any definitions of what gaming is, or what genres we've got.

Until we fix these problems, we as an industry, are going nowhere.

Obsession Over The Movie Industry

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I will honestly never understand it. What's so great about cinema? not only do you get to sit next to a bunch of fat people who breath so heavily you can barely hear the movie, but it also smells like piss. The seats are all covered with popcorn, cola and **** stains, you start to wonder why a story about a clan of blue half-naked midgets who live in the close relation to the only female within miles might cause someone to get aroused. But then some people masturbate to episodes of the care bears, so what the hell do I know about human nature. What gets me the most is that you get nothing out of going to the cinema other than disappointment. And don't tell me that it's a social thing. You can just as well call your friends, huddle next to your massive 50' TV and have a much more pleasent time without being interrupted by occasional puking noises or the wafting fart gas of the massive Chinese man sitting next to you. 

But what I hate the most about this obsession is it's relationship with video games, mainly that we should all strive to be recognized by the public as an art form. In other words, be more like movies. 

As much as it may sound appealing to people, public recognition will only lead to bad things. History teaches us that the medium as a whole has always benefited from the fact that it's fairly niche. Obscure franchises and games untainted by mass appeal are the ones who can truly experiment with the most interesting gameplay ideas without being shackled to some obnoxious predetermined standards in order to be relevant. Mass appeal has done nothing but damage this once great hobby. You only need take a one good look at the movie, game, and even written literature industry these days to understand that. 

But it doesn't end here. What sickens me the most is the fact that we have to look up to Hollywood of all things - the now artistically bankrupt and exploitative industry that produces nothing but mountainous piles of crap. The same industry that pretends to have standards while in reality has as much integrity and self respect as a dirty middle-aged crack whore. On top of the above issues, It's also populated by self-important, pretentious toss-pots that think they are the epitome of human culture, and that everyone who isn't into their shitty hobby is somehow beneath them. You should watch the discussions some people are having over these horrible movies. It's Like watching a bunch of agressive smelly tramps fighting over who owns the best trash pile. Imagine them piling over to gaming as well. We have enough people with idiotic ideas in this industry as it is, the last thing we need is even more of them. 

I always said that the strive to be accepted by the general public, i.e putting glistening graphics and cinematics full of expository dialogue has proven detrimental to a game's overall depth and quality, and it's not getting any better as the time goes by. In light of the recently re-emerging classic genres, the Triple A franchises are slowly becoming the laughing stock of the industry for their obvious lack of depth and emphasis on bloated cancerous game mechanics and over abundance of boring exposition in favor of actual god damn gameplay. 

I always said it - gaming is very different from movies. People immigrating here with a movie going background would never understand this. It will color their opinion of the industry, and since they will be the majority, it will drive gaming further into ruin, possibly without salvation. Even in terms of storytelling, the interactive nature of the experience and the fact that you need to make sure the story stays fresh for ten or so hours (as opposed to two at most, in cinema), means that you have to drastically change the way you tell it.  Simply copy pasting from one medium to another is a recipe for failure. Sadly, it seems that no movie maker had realized this completely obvious thing. Gee, I wonder why.... 

In conclusion, let's stop wanting to be just as **** as the movie industry. Please. We have much more important things to worry about.

External Links: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/10492-The-Ebert-of-Videogames?utm_source=features&utm_medium=index_carousel&utm_campaign=all

Criminally Underrated Games Part Two: God Hand

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I think I've lost count of often I hear about mainstream games being far too easy for us hardcore johnnies, these days. For instance, Final Fantasy 13 is often mentioned as a pretty blatant example of a game can be won without any actual player input. And that's quite disturbing when you think about it, but on the flip-side, people often mistake games like Dark Souls for being difficult, when in reality, DS's only challenge lies in the multiplayer, while as the rest of the game is as predictable and toothless as any other triple A title released these days. This in turn led me to believe that in order to find myself a real challenge, I'd have to go back in time. Specifically, to the far-off year of 2006 A.D - when God Hand was born into this world from the tender and loving womb of Clover Studios, makers of the colorful and imaginative Okami, which is popularly considered to be Clover's magnum opus.

Sadly for most people, there hasn't been a time where I couldn't disagree more with the popular opinion.

God Hand is a game that, in many ways, redefined the very notion of challenging and innovative gameplay. Before that, high difficulty usually meant either doing bad things to the player when he least expected them, or throwing the player into a situation where luck was a more deciding factor than skill. God Hand showed us that you can be both difficult and fair, while still maintaining the same level throughout the game up to the very end. And that's not simple.

The obvious question is this: "just how difficult is God Hand, exactly?". The answer to that question: "as hard as your mind can comprehend". You see, God Hand is fairly legendary when it comes to difficulty. It's a game that will eat you alive if you screw up, and is constantly demanding that you prove your worth. Even the basic enemies you encounter in the first screen can demolish your smelly *** faster than you can say "oh crap, they kicked my dick off". But here comes the interesting part - God Hand has a unique and revolutionary mechanic where the game adjusts it's difficulty on the fly, depending on your skill level. If you are ripping through bad guys like they are nothing, it gets harder. Alternatively, if you are getting pounded into the dirt, it gets easier. This is indicated by the level meter located on the left side of your screen. The higher it is, the harder it gets. There are four levels in total, each one is exponentially more difficult than the last. Just to give you an example, at level "Die" (which is the highest one), the easiest enemies in the game can pound your face into the ground within seconds if you aren't careful. Each difficulty level makes enemies react faster to your attacks, dodge your moves, do more damage, and generally be a lot more aggressive. They will attack in groups rather than individually and generally be a huge pain in the arse. It's such a simple mechanic to keep the difficulty up that I'm surprised that no developer had used it since God Hand. Despite all of that, the game leaves no gaps and will never throw you anything you can't potentially handle. But can you handle it? at the beginning, you probably won't. You will die time and time again, it will make you rage, it will make you throw your controller at the screen, but give it enough practice and, if you are good enough, you'll eventually be able to push forward. 

 

    Dragon Kick

 Gene, the protagonist, executing the spectacularly awesome Dragon Kick that never fails to put a smile on my face.


Luckily, at your disposal are over a hundred different moves that can be unlocked and bound to any button on the controller, so it's possible to create your own unique combos. Moves can also do different things, like launching enemies away from the player, stunning them, breaking guard, juggleing, staggering, knocking them down and so forth. There is a near limitless potential for combo attacks due to the staggering number of moves available, and you can experiment with them as you see fit. It's a simple yet deep combat mechanic that offers a ton of replay value as a result of that. On top of the basic moves, you have the God Hand itself, which you can unleash on occasion upon an unsuspecting baddie, for a limited amount of time. While in God Hand mode, players can punch at super speed and become invoulnerabele as well as unblockable. As if that wasn't enough, you also have roulette moves which are "one time" super attacks that do ridiculous amounts of damage, not to mention pretty damn awesome to look at. These moves include, amongst others, the ability to kick someone into orbit, the ability to unleash a ground shattering stomp to some punk's unsuspecting face, and of course my favorite - kicking someone in the balls to make them stunned for a few seconds. There are over thirdty roulette moves in total, so there is plenty of stuff to work with.

Referring back to my last paragraph, God Hand is a very silly game. Although unlike games like Duke Nukem Forever or Saint's Row 3, it doesn't employ over the top irony or references to other games while pointing and laughing. Instead, the humor is mostly comprised from subtle gags directed straight at gaming cliches, while at other times it's so blatant that you can't help but laugh out loud. The game often pits the player against the most ridiculous stereotypes and expects him to be intimidated even though every bad guy in this game looks like a tosser. They all think they are the ultimate badass yet they use pathetic looking super moves and comedic one liners that make you laugh till you herniate your spinal column out your rectum.

In addition to all the other game aspects, God Hand has some of the best soundtracks I have ever heard, often containing catchy tunes that will linger in your mind long after the game is over. The fantastic soundtrack adds even more impact to the already impressive array of sounds present in the game. Every punch, kick and slap has a satisfying thwack that will most likely make you go "ooooh, that was painful", which will also follow with the phrase "but also spectacularly hilarious" - A feature that very few games can bolster.

God Hand is a game that really doesn't pretend to be anything other than a simulator for punching people in the face, but it does so extremely well. There's no a complex story, no dialogue trees, no puzzles, no mini-games aside from a few basic ones, no fancy environments, and no annoying support characters to dribble in your ear constantly. God Hand , therefore, shines so bright not only because of what it does, but also as a result of what it doesn't do - it keeps it's focus on the one thing that counts the most - the punching. The combat system is designed in such a way that it matters what the player does at any given time. Dodging is the only way to not get hit, and it's very dependant on what kind of dodge you perform. Will you side strafe to avoid a vertical attack, duck down to avoid an high attack, or perhaps back flip to avoid a low blow? the combat requires a lot of skill and as a result, It feels rewarding when you perfectly execute the right dodge maneuvers. There isn't a single attack in this game that cannot be dodged, i.e the game is never unfair. If you fail, it's because you suck. Some people won't be able to accept that and will absolutely despise the game as a result. However, those that manage to get past the steep learning curve will be rewarded with a meaty, challenging and extremely satisfying experience that only becomes more enjoyable the better you are at playing the game.

The Most Inspirational Failures Of Tomorrow

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God, exam month has been boring. I spent most of my time either studying or sleeping off a massive hangover that I got as a result of trying to procrastinate. Now I feel like my head has been pumped full of cement. I feel like my life has been a never ending loop of sucking these past few weeks, so I decided to vent my frustrations by taking the piss out of things that I dislike. Of course, these products are not necessarily heralded as failures at the moment of writing, not as much as they are more likely on a straight course to being a failure, but **** it. This blog was never known for being good, so I might as well live up to expectations.

First stop is this - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/141790329/araig-as-real-as-it-gets - the ARAIG, which sounds like something you would excrete from your mouth when feeling the onset of immense pain and frustration, so the name is at least adequate. It's especially funny because the test subject that was shown in the pitching video wasn't particularly impressed either, yet was desperately trying to hide it.

When asked "what do you think?", he replied that "it's certainly interesting" in the most half-hearted manner possible. Now I'm not an expert on human psychology or anything for that matter besides assholism, but when a question ends up generating an ambiguous reply that doesn't quite answer said question, you know that something had gone horribly wrong somewhere. Perhaps even more so than ever, when the person being asked that question is one of the developers themselves. Kind of makes you wonder if they have any faith in this project to begin with.

Luckily, It seems like I'm not the only one who realized how much of a shit miracle this suit truly is, judging by the staggering amount of criticism it got on every bloody gaming website on the interwebs. I don't know about you, but I don't remember ever wishing my gaming experience to be even less enjoyable than it already is. A suit that shocks you to force your muscles to contract perhaps simulates a realistic reaction to, say... a bullet hitting you in the chest, but I thought the very reason we play games is to escape realism. You know, so we can have a bit of fun dicking around in a virtual world without any consequences for doing so. Designing a suit that shocks you in the balls for killing the wrong NPC kind of defeats the purpose, wouldn't you agree? Besides, if I wanted to participate in a realistic simulation of being shot in the arse multiple times, i'd go to a paintball match with a bunch of friends. It's much more fun because not only is it more realistic than any CG simulation will ever be, but also because you can inflict inordinate amounts of pain upon your unsuspecting friends. Besides, watching them twitch in agony brings out an intense feeling of satisfaction only rivaled by masturbation.

Sorry if I painted that mental image in your head.

Anyway, our next stop is the profoundly unimaginative Elder Scrolls Online, which recently managed to make me even less excited than before. The early signs that this game might suck rooster gonads were apparent the moment they announced the game. My very first thoughts were; "Are you bloody serious about making an online game? you barely managed to make a single player RPG. What makes you think you are qualified to craft an online experience?"

In fact, many questions seem to arise from this announcement, and even more seem to creep up the further it gets in development. For instance, they decided to make one mega server instead of many smaller ones just so you can "play with your friends whenever you want!". "Remember how much it sucked not being to play with your best friends because they were on a different server?" a Bethesda employee would cry out. To which I replied "Nope!", in the most aggravatingly dismissive manner possible.

Here is a broad philosophical question: if you decide that you want to play a certain MMORPG with your buddies, knowing that your friends are playing it as well, would you:

a) join a random server in the hope that your friends happen to be playing on it

- or -

b) ask them before joining a server, thus avoiding having to transfer

Well, if you're smart, you would choose option b. Here is another question: is it possible that you might not know your friends are playing this MMO? short answer - no. Unless of course they aren't really your friends, thus you wouldn't wanna be playing with them anyway. Case in point - in the vast majority of situations it's very easy to play with your buddies regardless of what server they are on. But here is where TES:O fails the most - having just one server will most likely mean that logging in during busy hours would be neigh impossible, especially during the game's launch. A game like World of Warcraft was laden with connectivity issues and massive queues at every launch as well, but the load was divided between many different servers. Keep in mind that WoW is the most stable MMO I have ever played, yet it still had problems. I just can't imagine TES:O being able to handle all the stress. And what if the server crashes? what if there are connection issues? you are inflicting all those issues on your entire user base at once. All 10 million of potential customers. As a general rule of thumb, trying something that's never been done before, usually ends in a disaster. The kind of unmitigated disaster that would probably involve evicting the victim from the scene with a ****ing spatula, like that mad wanker who tried to parachute off the Eiffel tower using only his coat, but I digress. Smarts were never Bethesda's strong side. Not ever since that tragic skiing accident when they ended up being permanently stuck in Zenimax's butthole, much like a human centipede. In fact, it's exactly like a human centipede.

Recently there has been even more of a media buzz after being handed out to the press, to try the game out. The result was, as expected, a resounding "ehhhh", though said journalists still maintained that TES:O isn't a shit game. Somehow, I don't find that particularly reassuring. Bethesda has no business making anything. And before some of you bring up Skyrim as an example of great game design - being fun for a while doesn't earn the gameplay a pass, especially not if the product as a whole was still extremely buggy, easy to exploit for maximum profit, shallower than a deflated kiddie pool, and as well written as some of the worst otherkin fan-fiction to ever flush it's way into the vast cess pools of **** And trust me, I'm being very generous here.

There is , of course, a slight chance it might not fail after all. The fact that Bethesda still exists and their games considered to be good are, at the very least, a testament to the company's resilience in the face of failure. That, or humanity's unrelenting stupidity. Whichever you may choose to believe.

 

Lastly, there is Microsoft who filed an achievement patent for watching movies. Yes, apparently that's a thing now. So if you want to enjoy yourself with a bit of immersion breaking extravaganza, now you can!

What next, Microsoft? A program that phones your parents every time you watch a porn movie?

In all seriousness, this is just pathetic. Why are developers so keen on flashing these annoying achievements in our faces in the middle of the game. You can be playing Silent Hill 2, drenched in the lonely and haunting atmosphere of the game when all of a sudden an achievement window pops up on your screen like a surprise rapist would jump on an unsuspecting victim from a near-by bush, which immediately throws you back into reality, and you realize that the dishes still need to be cleaned, and the laundry needs to be washed as well. Come to think of it, I also need to take a bath, do my homework, shave my cat, and do all the other **** we squishy humans life forms need to do on a daily basis. And that's not fun.

Actually, I don't even know why I'm complaining. Making things as boring and tedious as possible was basically Microsoft's motto for decades. It's the very foundation upon which the entire entertainment industry is based on, these days. The shovelware business is the bubbling **** stu that fuels the corporate masterminds of this generation. Complaining about that is like complaining that god doesn't exist. You won't get anything out of it other than a sore throat and a bunch of very angry Catholics.

A Short Reminder

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It seems like the "defeat" of Microsoft has brought an abundance of gleeful and self congratulatory articles about how " the devil has been defeated" and how there will not be any more evil ever again, so brace yourselves for a shock: the reality is far more grim than you think it is. The evil may have been pushed back, but the war is not over, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Now comes phase B of the plan, since the original scheme crashed and burned spectacularly. The name of that phase is operation stealth Cloud. That's how I like to call it, because it's one of those sneaky tactical espionage slash murder missions, except it's the bad guys who are trying to sneak garrote our favorite wallets to death without us noticing. 

So what does Cloud do besides sounding like a really faffy name for a main protagonist?  

Cloud service is designed to offload certain processes from your machine to another, via the internet. It also allows to save data on remote servers for backup, thus allowing users to access said data from any location with an internet connection. It all sounds fairly simple and harmless. of course, this is just a facade. Cloud computing was designed with big corporation efficiency in mind, not for gaming applications. 

Also, notice the key word here - internet. See example below - 

http://www.gamespot.com/news/microsoft-teases-cloud-based-crackdown-for-xbox-one-6410743

Cloud computing adds nothing to your game other than save file backups and other such nonsense. Unless it's an MMO, these features are next to useless. So why does Microsoft want to promote such a feature?

The answer is simple - it's a blanket excuse to mandate maintaining an internet connection at all times. In other words, this is another manifestation of the always online DRM. That, and an excuse to call the game an MMO when it clearly is not.

You see, publishers have said that they abandoned always online DRM but in reality they will never do so. They will just try to implement it in increasingly sneakier ways. Ubisoft had also shied away from Always Online after a massive backlash from the fans. They even went out of their way to convince us that they've abandoned this practice completely... except here it is, back again, and stronger than ever before. 

http://kotaku.com/ubisofts-next-gen-racing-game-is-always-online-they-e-512250025

EA has also gone back and forth in regard to Always Online (Sim City, anyone?). Same goes for most companies that used it. 

Even more humiliating is the fact that Ubisoft tasked us, the PC gamer community, to advertise their ****ty games for them. It's like the rich kid asking the poor kid to grovel at his feet for the privilege of riding his daddy's shiny limo. Do you think I'm exaggerating? I wish I was. 

http://www.gamebreaker.tv/pc-games/ubisoft-pc-gamers-petition-the-division/

These are dark times, my friends. Do not think for a second that the worst is behind us. Stay alert and always suspect publishers of foul play, especially if their actions seem to benefit consumers more than corporations. 

Consumers may have won this battle, but the war is far from over.