Has Portal 2 Solved All Our Problems?
- May 29, 2013 8:45 am GMT
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I finished a replay of the single player campaign over the weekend and have come to the conclusion that Portal 2 is gaming perfection. In fact I am even considering a third playthrough with the developer commentary turned on (a feature that a lot of games could benefit from). The same criticisms of games turn up time and again and developers will continue to address them to create even greater experiences. However what Valve have done with Portal 2 doesn't feel like a counterpoint to criticism where a few tickboxes dictate content. Portal 2 feels like something created from scratch with no baggage and no attitude. It just does everything right.
GAMES DON'T HAVE DECENT STORIES
Portal 2 is a puzzler at heart but one with a great story (and even a history). One not told through clumsy exposition or non-interactive cut scenes but one that's all around you in the behaviour of the characters and the nature of the environment. Wheatley's Clumsy attempts to manipulate modules show you the dilapidated and fragile state of this long abandoned test facility and hint at further mysteries. Games like Limbo and Shadow of the Colossus had this same passive approach to their storytelling and weave it into the game itself instead of resorting to stand-alone cut scenes or walls of text. On the surface GLaDOS is a callous and brutal monster yet her link to a loyal Aperture staff member shows us a depth that is played with an incredibly deft touch. It makes audio diaries look like space marines with fingers in their ears.
AAA TITLES AGE 3 YEARS ON RELEASE
How about graphically? While the Source engine may not be pulling the kind of sex appeal that gamers drool over when giving the latest CryEngine stunner the once over, it's hard to think the game could look much better. It's simply presented to be sure but this art design ensures that the hyper real look of it ages incredibly well. In fact the game only falters when we see the heroine's arms in front of camera right at the end. Before this the only organic presence in Aperture Laboratories is the occasional weed growing between cracks in the facility (and the odd potato of course). I am confident that this is a deliberate design decision on the part of the games often overlooked visual artists. Here, less is definitely more.
THAT WHOLE FEMALE ISSUE
Portals main characters were both female. This was not a feature of the game. There was no bullet point on the back of the box, no press conferences with a grinning sales executive hosting previews where they pointed out Chell's strength and/or vulnerability, no debate, no discussion and certainly no rage. There was just a person holding a portal gun who happened to be a woman and an AI who technically was neither male or female. Portal 2 introduced two male characters in Cave Johnson who was the passionate and scruple-free founder of Aperture Laboratories and Wheatley who was a moron (and also technically neither male or female). The outrageous inclusion of men in the sequel incited anger in precisely nobody as they are simply well written characters where gender is moot.
GAMES ARE NOT FUNNY
And what amazing writing it is. The humour from the game comes from it's words and performances (and perhaps the odd accidental and brutal death) and there are plenty of other media that could take note too. Not only does this game make you chuckle, it makes you chuckle all the way through. From GLaDOS making sly fat jibes through Wheatley's babbling monologue to Cave Johnson's safety notices, there is a gleeful spirit that is evident in every line. Of course it helps that the lines are delivered impeccably too and when a character starts speaking you never get the feeling that you wish they wouldn't. 'Did I tell you about my wife?' Yes Dom, yes you did.
SILENT PROTAGONISTS DETRACT FROM IMMERSION
Of course one person who doesn't say a peep (apart from the odd grunt as she is fried by another Thermal Discouragement Beam) is main character Chell. During a recent playthrough of Metro 2033 it was very jarring to have Artyom mute during conversations and little asides like 'you're a quiet one, aren't you?' actually made conversations feel even stranger. Even playing as Gordon Freeman, the ultimate silent protagonist, felt a little empty the last time I went through Half Life 2. The idea that a character who never speaks can be a vessel for our own voice works wonderfully in Portal 2. During scripted sequences she (you) is addressed constantly but you never feel that a question is being ignored or that a response is necessary. During quieter moments (as in the Metroid Prime games) an ominous silence feels far more frightening or awe-inspiring than glib comments about spooky corridors or vast rooms.
GAMES ARE TOO EASY NOWADAYS
Perhaps a full discussion for another time but Portal 2 is certainly a challenge and has a gameplay mechanic that actually forces you to think in a completely new way. Going back to the game is like returning to school after the summer where you have forgotten how to write. Thinking in portals is actually a skill and it takes a while for it to return. I am not talking about simple muscle memory (the Bad Company syringe springs to mind) but an actual different way to move through a 3D space. Built on this are some devilish puzzles that require real thought and can never be beaten by simple trial and error. On top of this is the co-op where twice as many people can scratch their heads in the same room. The difficulty curve is impeccably judged and based on brain power with a little dexterity thrown in for good measure. There is nothing artificial about the challenge here.
So to sum up, Portal 2 is basically the best game ever. It builds on a great core mechanic with personality and wit that never feels tacked on or cheap. It looks good, plays well and ages beautifully and if there is another game out there that achieves the same level of quality and professionalism then I want to know about it.
10 years of Gamespot
- May 29, 2013 6:45 am GMT
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Today marks the 10th anniversary of my Gamespot account, even though it certainly feels like much longer.
In fact, it has been much longer than ten years. Today actually marks, in an unofficial way, the 10th anniversary of my entry into high speed internet. Before that, using dial up, I used to visit this website on a (much as possible) regular basis, even before it was actually called Gamespot, way back when, through AOL, when it was called VideoGames.com. My actual earliest website memory was looking for a demo of Quake 2 and stumbling into an in depth guide to Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest, from which point, I turned into a regular visitor. I'm awfully sure I had an user account from when accounts were actually implemented to the site, but that has been lost thanks to the numerous moves and email address/computer changes, from which I was never able to remember or find what it was.
There are many things I'm thankful to Gamespot for for these past ten years. Many, if not all of my best friends abroad have come from visiting this site and interacting with the community. When I previously worked at an union called Community Contributions, I met some of my most cherished buddies that I keep contact 'til now and have even met in person a few times, like Austin (MrCHUPON), Al (The_Antipode), Brian (DrFish62), Pete (Ryvvn), among many, many others. From that union, my interest in writing about games grew into what ultimately brought me to an event like E3, a dream of mine for years, and having the chance to meet many of the people whose work I've followed over the years.
It's unfair to list everyone I've come to know through this site since the beginning. Among the staff, I've had the chance to learn a lot, not only about games, but about the culture as well. Some of my fondest (and also most annoying and frankly depressing) moments have come from being called in to help out as a moderator for the website, in 2007. From then on, I've had the chance to take a casual look at tip of the iceberg that is managing such a gigantic community, a daunting task for the staff, which, for the majority of my time contributing, fell to Jody, who among the editorial staff, has always played an integral part in keeping me going with Gamespot over the years.
I couldn't write about the past ten years and not mention interacting with Gamespot's live video shows in between all the reading, arguing and writing. Those are probably my favorite memories of being around and checking the site out, by watching shows like On the Spot, chatting community members up and even somewhat interacting with the staff through questions. An easy smile comes from remembering all the inane babble that came from chatting with friends during those shows, that like the CCU, have endured through friendships that I still hold dear 'til today (you guys know who you are, I hope you are reading this - if not, bah, Dave, shame on you). Some of them have even moved on to be part of this site's staff thanks to their participation!
In contrast, certainly there were moments when I wanted to leave Gamespot behind. The chaos that was Jeff's firing in 2008 was easily the most likely of moments to have dropped this site forever - but I'm glad I didn't. It's amazing that Gamespot was able to pick up the pieces of an otherwise shattered state and have come back to be once again one of the most referenced websites around. I wouldn't dream of thinking I had a pin of an influence in that revival, even though, in many ways, I'm positively amazed to have been around to see it. And even though I'm hardly as active in the main website community as I've once been, I love to dive in sometimes, to check its pulse.
It's hard to imagine keeping active with something for so long, and even more so to imagine if it'll still be going ten years from now. But instead of worrying about where we'll all be so far ahead, I'll enjoy and cherish the memories of where I've been since then. Even the bad ones are worth keeping around in the corner of my mind, as reminders of how I've come to appreciate the best moments even more. Those moments when you give them more than a chance when you're expected to quit them... and are rewarded so much for doing so.
And thanks to everyone I've met on this cheesy, insane, frustrating and utterly amazing journey!
'It's Down to You and Me!' - The Etymology of a Boss Fight
- May 29, 2013 2:12 am GMT
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*Warning - This Blog Contains Spoilers!*
Like film, there are some games that require us to repeat the experience before more complex story ideas become clear. Perhaps its because those ideas are buried under spectacular gameplay or simply don't register over visual fidelity. Bioshock Infinite is one of these games and it's a testament to its difficulties regarding comprehension that it should culminate in one of the most talked about endings in gaming history. But a lot of that talk has to do with the philosophical and downright bizarre images that bombard the player for the final ten minutes rather than any fundamental element that goes into the definition of a computer game. One element in particular is the boss fight - Bioshock Infinite doesn't have one. It certainly has its share of villains but all are presented with the least amount of interaction by the player, choosing instead to act out their fate via scripted in-engine cutscenes.
This departure from one of the oldest established rules of game design can easily be forgiven considering the focus on storytelling over gameplay. This is also probably why combat, exploration and puzzle solving in all of Ken Levine's games are somewhat generic despite their much touted freedom of approach. Again, this is all fine because the sheer beauty of the settings, heavy use of thematic elements and outstanding story should allow us to easily forget the lack of innovative gameplay in all three Bioshock games. In fact, it came as great relief that Levine wisely chose to focus on his strong point and give Infinite such a memorable send off by overpowering the senses with a combination of image and exposition rather than gameplay. It was the latter that led to my disappointment with the send off given to Jack in the original Bioshock. After being taken on such an expertly crafted journey through one of the most artistically memorable settings of the last decade, it all ended in a boss fight that was jarringly limp by comparison. The villain of Frank Fontaine is unthreatening looking like a cross between the Hulk and The Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan. The bland environment fails to mirror the profundity of the plot while the gameplay hits rock bottom by resorting to one method of defeating Fontaine with a rinse and repeat attack surely not seen since the days of the 90s iterations of Super Mario Bros. In short, the moment Jack steps off that final elevator to meet Fontaine, the profound commentaries on civil unrest and government oppression go completely out of the window.
There is a substantial challenge present in creating a great boss fight in the industry's current transitional period of becoming more story driven and closer to a cinematic experience. How can games give the player direct involvement in the defeat of a villain without putting compelling themes and emotional resonance on hold for the duration of the fight? If Bioshock is any evidence, it seems developers must decide whether to give their game's final showdown a story or gameplay focused perspective. But is a great boss fight really made by finding just the right balance between both? Given Levine's expertise residing firmly in the realm of storytelling, this may be why he was unable to provide us with an effective climatic showdown.
Part of the problem with Bioshock's fight with Fontaine is the lack of any real difficulty throughout the course of the game. Death has no penalty thanks to devices known as 'vita-chambers' that allow the player to instantly respawn with no downtime or inventory cost. This happens in real time rather than reverting back to a previous save point meaning tougher enemies like the Big Daddy can be worn down without any fear of starting from scratch. This also applies to the confrontation with Fontaine resulting in the loss of any sense of urgency and tension in what should be the pinnacle of both. However this can be argued as essential if developers decide to lean more towards story than gameplay as being hampered by challenging enemies defeats purpose of moving forward with discovery and exploration of plot.
Even so, there is no rule that gameplay cannot result in an emotionally satisfying, not just exciting, boss fight. Rewind to the early 90s were games were oriented around difficulty and Super Mario is surely one of the leading examples. The Japanese developed games became infamous with The Lost Levels for releasing an entirely different Mario iteration for overseas gamers on the assumption that non-Japanese gamers were not adept at handling higher levels of difficulty present in the former. Nevertheless it's precisely this difficulty that gave Super Mario Land 2: Six Gold Coins such a memorable final level. Mario must traverse Wario's castle avoiding devious traps, pitfalls and new enemies out of left field. Previous levels included a bell that could be rung to activate a checkpoint at the half way mark a - bell not present here. The level's raised difficulty gives the subsequent boss fight enormous resonance as the game's climax by giving the player emotional leverage that is provided by this 'descent into hell' - the triumph through adversity that all fictional characters must go through in order to reach their goal. On reaching Wario himself, the showdown is announced with a midi-version of a drum role as he steps off his throne to confront Mario in person before charging towards him. The fight happens in stages with each taking three hits to defeat. Each stage features Wario with a new ability including flight providing a tense reminder that he is not the pushover encountered in previous zone bosses. All of this ensures his defeat is a memorable and satisfying one. Six Golden Coins manages to achieve through difficulty what modern games seldom achieve through story - a climax that pays dividends to the challenge that has immediately preceded it. This makes Bioshock's ending even more frustrating as it was a rare example in today's market of a game that had enormous character and thematic power at its disposal to create a truly unique payoff. Instead it wastes them by attempting to make use of something it most certainly did not have - challenging gameplay.
So what of story? How can it hope to achieve a satisfying ending in the form of a fully interactive boss fight? Apparently with great success when discussing Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Despite featuring intriguing gameplay elements centred on stealth and subterfuge, it seems clear the overall focus is on narrative. The game makes heavy use of cutscenes and codec communications Both involve long winded plot exposition and revelations adding to a complex overall plot that would make Christopher Nolan proud. The frequent use of codec conversations do well to remind the player they are not alone in their mission despite spending the majority of the game alone. Central character Raiden has a number of allies to call on including his commanding officer, girlfriend Rose and Snake himself whenever he should need vital pieces of information. Both the flow of information and gradual development of character relationships are what the player invests emotional connection in when navigating the various obstacles. One example is a confrontation with a Harrier jump jet. Rather than leave the player to face the threat alone, Snake is ever present providing support of both the emotional and firepower kind.
Towards the end of the game, this investment begins to be used against the player in preparation for the final showdown with Solidus. Multiple characters are either killed or removed from the story in some fashion. The colonel who has been Raiden's primary conscience throughout is revealed to be nothing more than an artificial construct and a young girl who Raiden had saved and protected earlier is brutally stabbed to death. Solidus is revealed to be the primary antagonist which ultimately leads to the final showdown taking place on the roof of a ruined Federal Hall in New York City. After being supported by allies, the player is suddenly left to face Solidus alone. The disconcerting cut off from friends adds to the knowledge that Solidus is ultimately responsible for the loss of every one of them. So there is no shortage of personal motivation for defeating him. Adding more resonance is the setting of a crumbling icon in the form of a statue of George Washington. Washington is arguably remembered most for leading the American Revolutionary War, a conflict costing countless lives but with the goal of achieving independence for those who had become indigenous Americans since the arrival of the Mayflower. His selfless idealism is juxtaposed with the presence of Solidus who, as a politician turned terrorist, spent a lifetime manipulating public opinion through staged environmental disasters. This in turn allowed the creation of powerful Metal Gear weaponry with which to hunt down The Patriots also at the cost of countless lives. Both George Washington and Solidus Snake cemented a legacy, but for Solidus it was a far more self centred goal thus making him the antithesis of Washington. How fitting then his final moments should be spent at the foot of Washington's statue desperately reaching up as if wishing history would remember him as such a powerful icon.
The finale of Sons of Liberty is a master class in catharsis as both story and symbolic imagery join together to create one of the most effective boss fights of the last decade. The general rule of all great boss fights is a feeling of a one on one battle to the death. With Solidus and Raiden, after such an outstandingly staged narrative, it's impossible not to feel rushes of adrenaline as personal anguish, loss and powerful metaphor all culminate in a case of 'you or him'.
How does Bioshock's boss fight compare considering the games high praise for storytelling? Quite simply, it doesn't. The reason being that although the game contains some highly intelligent and intriguing commentary on politics, genetic experimentation and civil liberty, these are represented more by the city itself rather than through character. Jack spends virtually the entire game alone with the only 'interaction' with others being through pre-recorded messages from various citizens of Rapture. No close friendships are formed and there are no allies to call on for help as every message you receive seems to be laced with manipulation as Fontaine, Ryan and Tenenbaum all struggle for influence over Jack. All of this leaves a vacuum for the player by the time he fights Fontaine as he has suffered no personal loss and without the presence of any relevant imagery representing some kind of narrative element, the fight is left hollow and meaningless.
To close this editorial, the question now is perhaps why game developers apparently find it difficult to create a game that can bring all parts of a whole together for a showdown that delivers both heartfelt story and exciting gameplay. It's not a question of talent as Ken Levine and Hideo Kojima are among the most talented members of the industry. But is there a tug of war occurring between objectives? Like boss fights themselves, story and gameplay constantly vie for the player's attention in all games but if they could only call a truce and learn to coexist, the potential for mutual improvement is almost limitless.
A few words on Kinect...
- May 27, 2013 12:35 pm GMT
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When Microsoft first held a tech demo of Kinect at E3 2009, I remember being blown away by the sheer potential that was on offer. The game being showcased was called Milo and Kate, a sort of virtual interaction between the player and a 10 year old boy. When I first read about what Kinect was intended to be, I dismissed it as an attempt to rival Nintendo's motion control technology. But it was quickly revealed to be a lot more than the copying of arm movements. One particular awe inspiring moment came when the demo tester quickly drew a picture and held it out to the screen where Milo then reached out and 'took' the drawing from him. A digital version of the piece of paper appeared in his hand with an identical drawing on it. It took me a while before I could quite believe what I was seeing. This clearly went far beyond anything Nintendo was doing and I began throwing all sorts of ideas around in my head about this being the beginning of sentience of computers and artificial constructs.
Unfortunately, this game was subsequently revealed to be only a tech demo and was never released as a full game. Since the release of Kinect proper, I have seen little more than motion control games in the vein of the Wii such as Kinect Sports and Star Wars Kinect. I have yet to see the system achieve the kind of potential seen in Milo and Kate. Many have said that Kinect is generally disliked among Xbox gamers but if Microsoft would only focus more on bringing games like this to the front of the queue, I suspect it would be held in far greater regard as a pioneering piece of technology. I only hope the Xbox One realises this.
Game marketing as a game itself: Was Molyneux's Curiosity really an experiment?
- May 27, 2013 3:59 am GMT
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A life changing reward for a lucky player, that's what's been promised. Out of thousands, the person that chips away the last cubelet of the layered Cube on their Android or iPhone, wins something "life-changingly amazing by any definition". Tapping the screen endlessly wasn't the only option either - in addition to winning digital coins (spent on tools for chipping more efficiently), it was possible to pay real money (1, 7 or 10 dollars) to remove huge blocks of cubelets at once. But get this: it was also possible to pay real money to *add cubelets back*.
This has been going on for almost 7 months. Curiosity is a part of the 22 Experiments project by game designer Peter Molyneux (Dungeon Keeper, Populous, Black & White, Fable series) and his recently founded 22Cans studio. Many critics and fans repeatedly accuse Molyneux for overhypeing his own work in a grandiose manner. True or not, with every new project the promises are getting bigger while the style continually serves to mystify, trying almost too hard to sweep us off our feet. This time it was a cat in a bag: we were promised something spectacular, and the only way to uncover this uncannily undefined mystery was to be a part of the experiment. The experiment (which is the word Molyneux himself uses to describe Curiosity) ended on May 26th, with one lucky Scottish player chipping away the last cubelet.
The announcement of the winner was a Matrix-like scene. Molyneux being Morpheus, he finally gave a red pill to One persistent player. Surrounded with white, dressed in black, his voice echoing like an undismissable but calming conscience after a sought-out catharsis. All of us who wondered "What is the Cube?" got our answer. The red pill though, is only one. In addition to getting a cut of every sale of Molyneux's upcoming game Godus, the winner gets to be a digital god. The rest of us, well... We get to look forward to the next experiment, while enjoying the 'privilege' of partaking in a 'historical', first of its kind, 'world-altering' event. What really happened here?
Stay with me while I go off on a tangent. The announcement video instantly reminded me of two science fiction movies I recently saw: a) an animated short called Lucky Day Forever, and b) an episode of the excellent mini series Black Mirror, called 15 Million Merits.
a) In Lucky Day Forever, the main character is living in a highly polarized futuristic city. He lives in the ghetto, a dangerous, dirty and decaying part of the city. He workes as a janitor among the glass babylonian towers of wealth in the rich, impeccably white district. What keeps all the poor and destitute citizens in check is the promise of winning a place among the perfect elite. By playing the ubiqutous lottery, everyone has a chance to win a body replacement and a place among the tall, strong, white-teethed superstars they are bombarded with on TV. If you care to watch it yourself (which you should, it's short and well worth it), *SPOILERS* ahead: protagonist manages to get a winning ticket and rushes to join the cream of the society, expecting love, fame, fortune and happiness. Needless to say, his new life turns out to be a big lie - superficial, meaningless and completely void of love. *END of SPOILERS*. What does this carrot-chasing, this lure of grand prizes, remind me of?
b) In 15 Million Merits (you can watch the full version on Youtube), we see a guy sleeping in a high-tech cubicle, eating in a high-tech cafeteria, riding a bike in a high-tech gym, surrounded with people who are doing the same thing. Details aside, they are there to get into a competition à la American Idol/Britain's Got Talent. To get in, they have to pay 15 million Merits. They earn Merits by biking, playing first person shooters, watching vulgar shows and enduring ad after ad, commercial after commercial, blasting from the huge screens. Each refusal to do so detracts a certain sum from their Merits total. This is without a doubt a very dystopian iteration of Britain's Got Talent - the goal of reaching fame and glory through ruthless competition is worth sacrificing anything. Furthermore, *SPOILERS* people who actually get to perform have to drink a certain beverage beforehand, which makes them very susceptible to persuasion. A female singer (who would otherwise never do so) is talked into accepting a role in their pornographic ads. Near the end of the movie, the protagonist flips out and holds a powerful speech in front of the judges (uses strong language). He shows the charade for what it is. The judges play along, and transform this subversive element into another cog in the machine: he gets his own show filled with ads, where his once passionate, now watered-down threats of suicide are just another way to make the rats stay in the labyrinth. *END of SPOILERS* Again, what does all this carrot-chasing, this lure of grand prizes, remind me of?
Let' get back on track. How does all of this relate to Molyneux and his Cube experiment? All three examples (two fictional, one real) are about making people involved. They are all about getting people on the hype train, getting them excited, and making a selected few the symbols of what the consumer should yearn for. The real one, the Cube example, even gives a way to prolong the road to success, to undone what other players have managed to undertake to uncover the secret of the Cube. Having this on mind, how can we not ask ourselves: was Molyneux's Curiosity ever an experiment? Are experiments not about finding the answer, acquiring new knowledge, testing a hypothesis with a scientific mindset? Maybe Curiosity is all of those, maybe not. Perhaps the result of this 'experiment' was known all along. A friend asked me yesterday: "how is this whole thing different from a pyramid scam?" That aside, the most useful byproduct was probably the hype. It was a perfect way to get the word out, to transform the Cube, 22Cans, Peter Molyneux himself and ultimately Godus into something that is talked about. Self-sustaining publicity. Did it work? Don't ask me, I'm the one talking about it.
Here is a quote from Molyneux which sheds some light on what he sees as a game design issue, and what he offers as a conceptual solution: "I am fed up to the back teeth of consuming other people's visions - of directors' and screenwriters' ideas of what a hero should be; of novelists writing stories that they think are good, but I think are rubbish. Why can't we have stories about me? I want to have my own unique experiences."
But what is the definiton of a unique experience? To express ourselves, to influence the world we dived into, in a unique manner? Is this really how we want to express ourselves then - buying lottery tickets? All for the promise of that one Willy Wonka golden ticket, that appeal of entering the Sphere, that mystery of uncovering what is inside the Cube. Which element here is the ground-breaking, world-altering fulfillment of the promise? The part where one of 'us' gets to be become one of 'them'? Do we really want, and need to be manipulated like this in order to be entertained and excited?
Personally, I'd rather call things for what they really are.
EDIT (2013/05/30): I rest my case.
And We Have A Winner
- May 26, 2013 1:13 pm GMT
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So earlier today the final piece of Peter Molyneuxs cube was chipped away. For month many gamers have wondered what was hidden away in that thing and have eagerly chipped away at the cube in hopes that they would be the one to discover the treasures that lay within. As it turns out the reward was to be bestowed godhood. No seriously the winner, Bryan Henderson from Scotland, was made a god in Godus, another of Molynuexs new titles. He also gets a share of the cash from all the sales made by Godus and other benefits of being a God in a video game (Discounting the ones in God of War). Not sure about you guys but I think that is one hell of a reward just for repeatedly tapping at your phone screen.
And with that Moluneuxs social experiment comes to an end. Many will be disappointed, some angry (I imagine this how the top contributors feel after their efforts have gone to waste), and some will be happy knowing that theyve finally found out what lay within that cube. Myself; Im still wondering why Molyneux started this experiment and what he wanted to find out from it. Also is it fair that all those who contributed to Bryans victory have been left out in the cold while he reaps the reward? Will we be seeing another cube popping up anytime soon, or something absurdly similar, and will we be as curious the second time round? Please share your thoughts below.
- May 26, 2013 10:08 am GMT
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After a couple of really average games I desperately needed to play something good and then along game Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite so I knew I was in for a pretty good time! I've not intentionall spoilered Bioshock but if you don't want to know then I'd suggest not reading.
First up was Dishonored which I wanted to play to get away from FPS games which is all I ever seem to play. Dishonored has a nice blend of play styles depending on how you want to play it. I started the game with the intention of stealth and working a clever way through the different situations but in the end I just went all out for kills and deaths. There aren't many games where you can kill almost everyone without getting a game over. Making decisions about life and death is great and actually makes the kills feel more meaningful. I went for the high chaos path as it seemed like less hassle and made combat easier as trying not to kill anyone sounds boring to me. I'm glad they put that option in though as it'll prove a tough challenge for even the most dedicated of gamers.
Considering I went all out for carnage I never really used the weapons. Although the sword combat isn't exactly anything to shout about I preferred to get up close and personal rather than picking enemies off from afar. I don't feel I got the most out of the game in this respect as there were a few weapons by the end that I hadn't even used.
After the first few hours of the game I thought I'd be writing a very different review to what I have. I really wasn't getting on well with the game as it just seemed really disjointed and the story was average at best and the gameplay seemed overly frustrating. The setting could've been amazing but the graphic style and scale of the areas let it down for me as I wasn't in awe of anything. Compared to other triple A games I thought it was a bit of a disappointment. At some point around halfway through, everything just seemed to click into place and the game turned around completely for me. The powers came together and I get my head around how to use them and the story improved as it was progressing pretty quickly. By the end of the game I was annoyed there wasn't more of it!
I'm not a big fan of collecting stuff and this game really makes you collect things. They aren't even interesting things like collectables towards an achievement but small things like coins and books/letters which just slow the game down too much for my liking. I don't like to have to scavenge and search for items as that's my least favourite part of RPGs so to do it in this type of game didn't appeal to me (the same applies for Bioshock as well).
Dishonored should be applauded for the various ways it can be completed. Having the choice to go back through the game and play it completely different to the last time is excellent. Even when I died and had to redo something I'd just done I often ended up doing it a totally different way to what I'd done just moments before. I'd like to see a sequel as its original enough to warrant a second go at it. I gave it a 9.0 based on the second half of the game. The first half would've only got a 7.0 but I think that was more my fault for not getting to grips with it sooner.
Following on from one great game to another, I played Bioshock Infinite. I didn't think I'd get to borrow this off my friend quite so soon so was pleasantly surprised when I get hold of it. The original Bioshock is still one of my favourite games and the sequel was more of the same which was great. Infinite has a completely different look which was a good move as I don't think I'd have enjoyed another game set in Rapture as much as I did a new location in Infinite.
I stayed away from most of the pre-release material and anything written about it after the game came out. It wasn't particularly intentional but I'm pleased I did. Having not really seem many screenshots everything in the game was a new experience and boy was it a good one.
The first two hours of the game are some of the most enjoyable I've ever spent in a game world. The superb attention to detail was amazing and the way they managed to create such a vibrant and lived in game world was incredible. I really took my time wandering around and taking in everything, searching every nook and cranny and reading all the posters etc. If it was real life I'm sure I'd have been arrested as I was walking up to everyone and just standing next to them whilst they talked and exhausted every conversation before progressing.
Apart from the visuals, the most outstanding thing about the game was the music and what they chose for the various locations in the game. At no point did I think the music didn't fit what was going on. The single best part of the game for me was just listening to the barbershop quartet. No idea why but it was just excellent and that was the moment I knew a lot of love and attention has been poured into this game. Also when Booker is playing the guitar with Elizabeth singing was a nice touch. It just amazes me what the developers can come up with to make a game world that extra bit special.
There aren't many games where I was actually annoyed when combat began. Whilst the game was happy and bright I was just praying for a battle to end so I could get back to exploring. As the game went on and it got darker and more combat orientated this wore off for me and the action took over. I don't think I enjoyed the action anywhere near as much as the splicers and big daddies from the original but it's not like it was bad. Standard enemies were a bit plain which was the only downside but they were satisfying enough to take down. The only annoying enemies in the game were the weird minions in Comstock House. They were damn annoying but if I'd have had the patience I could've slipped through unnoticed so it's more my own fault than the game's.
The weapons whilst mostly generic were actually pretty fun to use. The carbine became my go to weapon when I wasn't attempting to get a weapon specific achievement. I didn't really use any of the Vox weapons as I didn't really feel the need to. I managed to get all the weapon achievements which I don't usually do. They were all good in their own way so it was nice to use them all. The vigors were in no way a good replacement for the plasmids of the original as they were all really dull. None of them really had enough damage for my liking. I got to a point where I wasn't even using them but then realised I needed to start so I could get the achievement. When you combine them together things got a bit more interesting but I never went back to them once the achievement was done.
The story was pretty interesting all the way through and the ending was a bit of a mind bender but I loved it. The throwback to Rapture and getting to wander through it again was a nice touch and it did make me want to go back and play Bioshock again. I'm still not sure I fully understand the full meaning of the ending but that's the fun of it. I now get to read through articles online that discuss it and it's something I want to do. Most games I finish and move on and forget about it so this is the sign of a good game.
I game Infinite a 9.0 as I felt the action wasn't as strong as it could've been. The first two hours were easily a 10.0 but it didn't quite manage to pull that off for the whole game. I could quite happily now play through Infinite 2 now in the same world as I still feel it has a lot to give and might mean we get the next game a bit quicker. I suppose the next game will be next gen so might be a bit further away than I'd like. It'll be interesting to see if they stick with Columbia or move onto another location as they're pretty inventive with what they can create.
I'm trying to keep on a run of big budget games so I'm going to play Dead Space 3 next. It may not be the best game in the series but I love Dead Space so I'm trying not to let reviews and other opinions affect what I think of it.
Xbox One - The De-evolution of Gaming Culture
- May 23, 2013 11:25 am GMT
- 0 Comments
When Nintendo unveiled the Wii U, it came as little surprise it would continue the departure from traditional console gaming considering the steps taken with motion technology and a family friendly presentation that led to the original Wii's success. With the unveiling of the Xbox One and Microsoft's own apparent departure from a gaming focused system, it seems the console market is now undergoing a kind of de-evolution. It would be fair to say Microsoft and Nintendo believe themselves to represent the pinnacle of innovation and originality if their advertising campaigns and grandiose press conferences are any evidence. But does the Xbox One actually represent a step backwards as far as gamers are concerned?
Although Sony's original Playstation brought gaming into widespread public recognition by appealing to clubbing culture with trance like visuals and pumping soundtracks, it was the Xbox that pioneered online console gaming. With the introduction of Xbox Live spearheaded by the phenomenally successful Halo, Microsoft quickly and aggressively seized early control of the online market something both Sony and Nintendo have yet to match. The genius of Microsoft's approach was not simply to create a way for gamers to play online but to turn that interaction into an entire community. With the ability to compare statistics, achievements while forming and nurturing online friendships, the widespread popularity started by Sony ended up consolidated back into a culture especially for gamers - rather than club socialites seeking a way to impress their real life friends by showing interest in what they believed to be 'the next big thing'. Essentially, Microsoft gave gaming back to the gamers.
With this in mind, it came as something of a disappointment to learn that the Xbox One would apparently be undoing some of this by catering to a more general community beyond those who play games. The console was revealed to include a Blu-Ray player, Skype support and an evolved online marketplace for movies and music, not to mention integrated Kinect a feature that has never been truly accepted by gamers as a practical method of playing games. So the name Xbox One is something of a misnomer - 'One' meaning all forms of entertainment delivered by a sole system while simultaneously splintering off from a culture of gamers that had been so expertly set up with the previous two consoles. All of this combined with the lack of backwards compatibility and we have system that appears hell bent on erasing the established gaming history of so many who had finally found a devoted community to call home.
The decision to cater for a wider demographic could very well prove fatal for Microsoft considering it already faces competition from the Wii U and is set to face the Playstation 4 on release. It can be assumed the Playstation 3 was the least popular of the current generation systems. A rocky beginning and a severe loss of credibility for Sony after the Playstation Network was hacked in mid 2011 resulting in the compromise of millions of credit card numbers means its been a difficult road for Sony of late. However, it now has a chance at redemption and reclamation of its status as the most popular console developer as proven by the Playstation 2's record of the highest selling console of all time. If you consider the departures from traditional gaming being made by Nintendo and the now risky fracturing of gamer culture by Microsoft, it leaves Sony in an interesting position to take advantage of the Playstation 4 now being the only console to still offer a traditional and dedicated gaming experience.
- May 22, 2013 4:10 pm GMT
- 0 Comments
It's been over a month since I've submitted a blog (hello, again, by the way!), and it's because I've had nothing that I felt was profound to say. I believe that if Im just echoing somebody else in my ideas, then there's no point in me writing them.
Okay, well now I have something to say, and you are all free to rage in the comments below. I brought my crowbar for protection this time .
NOTE: I won't be posting about the catatrophe that was the XboxOne announcement today. I do have something to say about it all that hasn't been said yet, so I should probably say it soon before someone else beats me to it...
Zyxe's latest blog discussed Gamespot's recent increase in articles discussing social issues in gaming, and asked for the community to respond to tis question: love it or leave it?.
Now, such user blogs are usually met with a lot what I would call pushback from those reading it, but Zyxe took an approach that was purely to generate discussion, and it worked. She refrained from putting in too much of her own opinion so as not to turn anyone away from the question she was asking, there were only a few comments on her blog that I would deem worthless (i.e. not contributing anything to the discussion at large). I applaud Zyxe for her ability to generate such civilized, thoughtful discussion.
I must admit, I expected less from the community, but Zyxe refrained from putting too much of her own personal opinion on her blog, which is what would usually generate less-than-desirable responses from other users.
So, where am I going with this? I'm very glad that I finally saw our community engaging in intelligent discussion, but Im sad that we cant do that with opinion-filled pieces and articles. Whenever an article that is slanted and someone's personal bias appears, a lot of people cover their ears and yell, "LALALALA, I cant hear you!" and then comment as to why the writer of the article is stupid/fat/ugly/communistic/closed-minded/too biased, et al etc. It's a disturbing trend that needs to be discussed.
The issue we're running into as a community is that when someone presents an opinion thats remotely dissimilar to our own, we consider it as an attack. We can't even discuss our opinions on consoles without calling each other out for being elitist/stupid/retarded, or whatever insult you can come up with. It's ridiculous. Choosing a console is a rather arbitrary decision in the first place, and arguing over which one is superior is childish and silly. It comes as no surprise that when we talk about something of considerable magnitude, such as sexism, that we cannot hold civilized conversation, either.
This is my statement to the community at large:
Gaming is a unique industry. It wasn't too long ago that video games were constantly under attack by the media for being too violent, sexual, for bringing down test scores and grades, for creating socially backwards outcasts, and more. Thankfully, that era is, for the most part, over. Video games still get attacked for violence, but I think we can safely say that those arguments are holding less and less sway over the general public because gaming as a whole has become widely accepted and adopted by an increasingly mainstream audience. This is what we've wanted for a very, very long time.
However, with such advancement in gaming's scope, there comes the inevitable scrutiny that comes with being so massive. It's not a bad thing; every form of media undergoes it. Television, movies, books, music, it hasall been brought to the table and examined for hints of sexism, racism, homophobia, and other things that we as society would see as detrimental to the medium and insulting to the groups being affected. Its to be expected, and instead of screaming at those trying to generate discussion about those things and telling them to go away, we should be engaging with them and showing them how we have matured as a community.
Its completely fine to be OK with these problems. If they don't affect you, why would they bother you? That's fine, that's fair, but please, please don't yell at people who recognize the issues still present in games who try to bring light to and correct them. Just because you're okay with them doesn't mean they don't exist.
Diana Allers' personality goes as deep as her cup size.
If you really think they dont exist, that's fair, just be civilized when creating a counter-argument. Both sides exhibit the issue of plugging their ears and ignoring each other when debating about these issues. Instead of listening to each other, the community wishes to engage in a massive dick-measuring contest to see who can insult each other the fastest. This gets us nowhere, and it shows that perhaps we havent grown up, we havent matured, and were still a bunch of bickering children who cry when we are told weve done something wrong. Can you imagine what that makes our community look like to outsiders?
"Why should we care? They aren't gamers." We should care. What do you think those senators that are making decisions about violent games being sold see when they go into the comment sections of our websites? If we want to be taken seriously and not be seen as a bunch of 14 year olds in our parent's basements, we must start taking discussion seriously.
When someone sees something sexist or exploitative of a certain group in games, they're not trying to take your games away from you, they're trying to improve a medium they enjoy. I am a proprietor of the idea that too many times female characters are robbed of their agency in games, but that doesn't mean I think that games (or game developers) are evil or sexist as a whole, and I certainly dont believe that people who play and enjoy these games are bad people. Much of the community would think otherwise, simply because I think that sexism is an issue in games I am automatically viewed as having a certain set of viewpoints and will immediately be attacked for them. It's childish. It's presumptuous; it's everything we dont want to be viewed as.
We need to open our ears and hear every side of the argument, and we need to consider it.
We need to stop talking and take Navis advice for once. We need to listen.
NOTE: I have been suffering some issues with LiveFyre, sometimes the comment section won't load, and sometimes it will load but I won't be able to post a comment. If I cannot respond to a comment, it's because of that.
The Hottest New Gaming Console! EXCLUSIVE!
- May 22, 2013 10:54 am GMT
- 0 Comments
READER APPRECIATION STUFF:
First off, let me say I appreciate you all giving me feedback on the Chinese Knock-Off Gaming blog. I considered making it into an editorial series and plan to do another one some time in the future! So yup, I greenlighted myself or something. But seriously, thank you for your feedback, regardless if you liked it or not (or just thought it was okay). Anywho, on to the next subject:
EXCLUSIVE: HOT NEW SEXY GAMING ACTION!
Ever since the dawn of humans, there has been a drive to innovate, dominate and consummate. However, people have had trouble combining all three without the use of questionable substances and flexible ethics, trying once in the 1960s with the practice of "free love," and once again in the 1980s with the widespread trend of "fresh powder" and something called "synthesizers." Lately, though, there has been a severe lack of sexily-dominant innovation. Gone are the days of "good vibrations," "pet rocks," and "quotation marks." How will anyone innovate? How will anyone dominate? How will anyone sexy?
Today is the day everything changes! TODAY is the day where folks will be able to combine their need for the new, the ultimate and the sexually attractive!
TODAY, I present you with:
Some crap from the 90's that not a lot of people outside Japan owned!
Yes, gamers today are striving for something new, something hot, something they want to make sweet, sensual love to. Well too bad, get sad; the new generation of consoles are more interested in having relations with your pocketbook than your pretty little mass of gray matter! However, there's plenty of innovative sexy dominance to be had with the amazing Some crap from the 90's that not a lot of people outside Japan owned:
First and foremost, gaze upon those hunks of corded plastic at the bottom of the image: these newold devices called "wired controllers" allow the player to hold something in their hand that manipulates the image on-screen and, most impressive of all, there are absolutely no batteries or recharges required! The old-school design allows players to believe they're playing an old, outdated console because THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE DOING YOU STUPID IDIOT! Get ready for the future yesterday with the ability to control poorly-rendered 3D characters on your spankin'-new CRT! As any gamer worth their weight in cartridges knows, though, controllers are not everything. There's also menus!
Tired of menus? Tired of having to start the system up, select the game tab, then select the game to play the game inside the thing that plays your games so you can play a game? With the all-old SCFT90TNALOPOJO, all you have to do is use your finger or equivalent appendage on the seductive "power button" and you'll get a little swishy animation, followed by the game thing you put in!
(game things you put in sold separately on e-bay for high prices)
But gamers, true gamers, I'm talking about the kind of people who would honestly find it completely awesome to actually be a game, want more than a controller that's not going to run out of battery power when the ******* boss has just one-half a bar of health left after you've spent all ******* day just trying, I mean REALLY trying, to get it so you can 100% the game and be done with it (****); and a start-up screen immediately followed by the game. Yes, true gamers want that thing you put in there that has the game in it!
Oh heck yeah, you know you want a game copy. With this piece of 90's dinosaur crap, you will be able to take a disc and play it RIGHT AWAY! That's right, no installs, no patches (even though sometimes you wish there was one)! SCREW THAT NOISE, you want to just start playing video games so you have a good excuse to snack on junk food! Boy oh boy, does this thing have games, too:
You want a Japanese dating sim where you're hitting on Japanese high school girls like a creepy old man minus the creepiness of hitting on real Japanese high school girls? YOU GOT IT!
You want a poorly-rendered adventure game with voice acting done by people who you suspect have severe speech imp-imped-problems and/or brain injuries? COMIN' RIGHT UP!
You want a side-scrolling shooter where you play as a mess of blobs shooting at giant husks of corn while wacky music plays? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU BUT YEAH WE GOT IT!
You want it, you silly person
Social networking is also something that exists but who cares, you just want to share these wonderful games with someone! Your buddy wants a game copy, too. However, your buddy is far too poor and jobless and moochy and probably is stealing from your wallet when you're not looking to afford the cool games. How do you solve this problem? Easy, you lend him the game and he can play it! That's right, you don't have to have them pay a fee or break their legs for stealing $20 from your stash (the latter is recommended, though), you just have to give them the game and it plays! JUST LIKE A REAL GAME!
With all these dominant sexy innovations, the old hunk of Japanese plastic from the 90's is by far the biggest bang for your buck. For only about $40-50 used at some used game store or online retailer, you will be able to enjoy all the obscure games of yesterday, today!
I look forward to you enjoying old stuff and complaining about the graphics!
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