Oilers99 / Member

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Oilers99 Blog

Hey, remember me? I still exist. Uh, not that anybody is reading this...

Okay, so given that my last post (in which I bid farewell to this site's forums, and to some extent, gaming) talked about my UPCOMING wedding, I know it's been a while. I just thought I would throw out an update on my life for the two or three people who are still posting regularly that may be following me. Eh, for all I know, the number of readers of this post could be zero. But I can't sleep, and I want to reflect, to here it goes anyway.

I had a bit of an epiphany tonight. I realized that I had gone through a particular cycle twice, and both times, it ended up with me feeling burned out. The first time it was with videogames, and the second time (more recently) it was with music. The cycle went like this--I devoted a lot of time and energy to it, hoped to achieve a career in the field, then gradually became disillusioned with my ability (to be a game designer and later a musician) and my seeming shortage of passion for the thing, only to follow it up by avoiding the subject as much as possible and simply not gaining the enjoyment out of dabbling with it that I used to. Seeing that has been weirdly liberating--I haven't played games much over the past five years since my last post, and for the first time in a long time, I can actually see that changing. (For that matter, I think I will also be able to start playing music again, which is a relief as well.)

See, I think I need to let go of the need to make my whole identity about being a gamer, or being a musician, or being a third hobby (that I will discuss momentarily). It kinda wrecks the sort of long-term career planning I have typically done, which is alarming as I am turning thirty this year (egads, I started on these board at age FIFTEEN!), but honestly, the long-term blue-skying about what I could do and could be has only brought me heartache and harm. I have a job for now, and it might lead to other things later. That's enough.

So for the first time in a long time, I think I may start to genuinely get joy out of videogames again. Those who saw my posts know that I was a Nintendo fan first, and I never really "outgrew" their games. It helps that I think the Nintendo Switch is the most personally compelling piece of hardware that they've done to date, and probably has me more legitimately excited to play their games since, well, the GameCube. I have a pre order in, something that I didn't do for the Wii U, and I think at this point, given my tastes have never quite jived with standard AAA games, the mix of indie and Nintendo games with in a portable system is probably about perfect for me.

There are a couple of things I do want to talk about. The first is that I've developed another hobby over the past several years. Let me introduce it to you with an image:

No Caption Provided

This is Terra Mystica. It is a board game, though I tend to distinguish Terra Mystica and other board games I like to play (as opposed to Monopoly and Sorry and Clue, which I am not interested in) as "hobby board games" or "designer board games". You may or may not be aware that in the past ten years, board games have undergone something of a renaissance, with a notable uptick both in their popularity and design quality. Terra Mystica happens to be my favourite game of any type, ever, surpassing even the hallowed Zelda games in my estimation. Instead of numerous evenings spent playing videogames, I now tend to spend whatever evenings and weekends I can cobbling together family members and friends to play my latest purchase (and they are not cheap, with an average board game coming in at $60-$80 Canadian), or going to a meetup at a local board game cafe.

I find that this hobby combines a lot of the things I got out of playing videogames as a hobby years ago. But instead of playing games on my own and then hopping online to socialize by discussing, say, Metroid Prime or The Wind Waker, the social aspect and the playing both occur simultaneously. In some games, how you act socially IS the game (look up a game called The Resistance, for instance). Even local multiplayer videogames don't quite capture the feel of playing a board game together with other people, as you actually sit and face the other players rather than all face a screen. If you consider yourself a gamer, and have never played games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, The Resistance (or The Resistance: Avalon), Terra Mystica, Pandemic, Dead of Winter, Splendor or even Settlers of Catan (which is sort of a bridge between mainstream board games and hobby board games), you are missing out. I guarantee that since you already like good game design, you will be able to find board games that appeal to you.

A good place to start might be to see if there is a board game cafe in your area. Basically, they will have a selection of hundreds of board games to play, and for five dollars a day (though I know of a board game cafe that charges $2.50 an hour... which is why I rarely go to that one), you can play any of them for as long as you want, in addition to offering food and drink for sale. If you like a particular game, you can also often purchase a copy on your way out the door. They're fantastic places to hang out, have a lot of fun, and learn some new games.

What has been most exciting is that I have actually landed a job at a new board game cafe opening in my city. My official title is "Board Game Master", and I will be responsible for essentially ensuring people have a good time playing board games as long as they are there. This is the most excited I have been to start a new job that I can remember.

As for what the future holds, who knows? I have been starting to think about fatherhood, and it is something I want, though I do want to be on firmer footing with employment before that happens. Maybe with a little less existential angst invested in making my hobby my identity, I will carve out some kind of career in board games. I don't know, but I feel more optimistic that it's going to turn out all right than I have in a while.

I want to leave you with this thought--my time here was critically important to becoming the person I am today. It helped me start to come out of my shell, and God knows that's what I needed in my teenage years. I am grateful for the ridiculous amount of time I spent discussing trivial things like the supremacy of Ocarina of Time to Final Fantasy VII (if Ted sees this, he KNOWS I'm right on that one) helped me socially, and I think intellectually as well. It helped me learn how to communicate a little more clearly. Most importantly, it taught me to see the value of other people at a time when I was very cynical about human beings. For that, I am especially grateful to you.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for being a part of my life.

So yeah, being done with GameSpot forums, mostly, and all that...


Lots and lots of fond memories of GameSpot, but time to bring some closure. I hope the thread doesn't get judged as "belonging in a blog post", and get locked. It seems unlikely that it will do more than sink down the first page, but hey, if any of the people who remember the good old days, so to speak, want to chime in for nostalgia's sake, that would be wonderful. If we had our first post in years from people like scomer or ssfreitas, I think that would be lovely.

How terribly odd.

I can't help but be confused that Final Fantasy XIII was not only not nominated for best graphics technical and especially best graphics artistic, but also not even on the vote list for readers. Am I missing something? Is that game somehow much, much less beautiful than I remember it being? Was I crazy for thinking it was the best looking current generation game I had laid eyes on to that point as a hybrid between excellent tech and outstanding art direction?

Odd. Final Fantasy XIII may be something of an odd duck in its franchise (rollercoaster streamlined gameplay is not something most fans are used to, especially after the extremely lacksidasical XII) I can only conclude that GameSpot's staff does not play role-playing games, generally. They might as well change the name of the RPG award to the VanOrd category, because as far as I can tell, he's the only staff member that really cares about that genre.

To be fair, BioWare seemed to have an impact with Mass Effect 2, but egads, did anyone pay much attention to this year's crop of JRPGs?

As an aside, I think Final Fantasy XIII is (based on fifteen or twenty hours of play), much like Final Fantasy XII, a misunderstood genius of a game, only it's even mor jarring, because its design principles jumped to the opposite end of the spectrum of where XII sat. Really need to go play more of that game...

A Trigger.

Seeing Brian Ekbert go has reminded me that, for many years, I was serious about becoming a gaming journalist. Here I am, several years later, knee deep in an attempt to re-invent myself as a musician, and his post, which you can find here, touched on a couple of things that have been plaguing me of late. His past struggles to find employment are not unlike my own at the present. His attitude towards getting the kind of work he wanted is much like my own; I may give it a shot, but I don't honestly believe it could happen. What he did do differently, though, was that he kept pursuing his passion. What could I do? I don't play piano or sing well enough to contribute to a band yet, and I don't have any particular skillset that I could see being of use anywhere in the music industry. But...

It does bring out a nagging thought... could I be a professional videogame reviewer? Has my thinking and writing progressed enough to that point? I still love videogames with a deep passion, though my wallet has certainly circumvented me this year from playing that many of the 2010 crop. Would I love to write critiques on games? I would, but...

I remember impressing a lot of people for the skill I possessed for a "writer my age". But the years come and go, and before long, you're a soon-to-be twenty three year old who is still struggling to learn the rules of the university game, hasn't been paid a cent for anything he's written, and is a hodge-podge mix of scattered ideas, concepts and dreamings for comics, videogames, novels, poems and songs. I haven't written anything serious on videogames for at least a year, and I don't know what more to say about an industry that is stubbornly refusing to move past its own self-declared limitations to be the entertainment juggernaut it should be, but rather contents itself to sell to the same two major groups it's found out like their products.

I think it's time to start writing some reviews again. First up; The Beatles: Rock Band and Persona 3: FES. It's time to see where I've come to.

God knows if it's going to go anywhere this time.

To all those who have complained about Final Fantasy XIII...

Screw you. Ten hours in, this may be not only one of the all-time greats, but perhaps the most important role-playing game of this generation.

This game seamlessly fixes a number of issues present in JRPGs that we've regretfully come to accept with common-sense design and focus. No poor pacing. There are no balancing issues. Character c1asses are instantly useful and allow intuitive, immediately tangible management. The ATB system doesn't feel like a glorified way of slowing down combat, or a gimmicky way of making it exciting; it's up to you to make decisions quickly, and there are consequences if you don't.

My biggest complaint? It doesn't immediately make apparent the usefulness of components, which led me to sell them all off, since I assumed they were items gained for the purpose of sale, much like loot in Final Fantasy XII. Speaking of Final Fantasy XII, this game may be its exact opposite; Final Fantasy XII is meandering, political and subtle, whereas Final Fantasy XIII is hyper-active, emphatically develops character and is grandoise. Almost in every way, Final Fantasy XIII zigs where Final Fantasy XII zags, making playing them at the same time (as I am doing) a remarkable study of contrasts in uncompromising, near-incomparable JRPG design.

Oh, and it just may be the world's most gorgeous game.

I think I know why it's so hard to get through role-playing games.

I'm not a completionist, but I am a stop to smell the roses. I've started playing more Final Fantasy XII recently (after deciding to drop the last ten or so hours of Persona 3 until later... I think I overdosed on that one slightly... I'll come back to it later), and in the past five hours, I spent it creating a lengthy chain of some fairly difficult foes, complete one hunt, complete one main plot point, and defeat an elemental. I also talked to a number of people, and have started an odd little side quest where I have to retrieve some kind of rod.

If I focused on the main game, I could have probably been a good ways towards the end by now. My characters seem to be a little ahead of the curve, so I can probably plow through the next set of enemies on the main story path.

When I played Batman: Arkham Asylum, I think I was trying to play the game slower than it was designed to go. I was scanning everything, despite a relative dearth of things to scan, and hunting down the riddler's challenges pretty extensively... so much so, that I managed to find 75% of them in my first run-through. But the Riddler's challenge was really the only thing that rewarded looking through every nook and cranny.

What's interesting is what happens when a game changes my habits. Playing BioShock, I started it by looking for every audio log, checking out all the little details in the environment, and generally just sinking myself into rapture, instead of rushing through and taking down splicers as fast as I could get to them. But after the twist, I HAD to know what was going to happen, and began to rush through the game, to see how it ended. Normally, though, I don't want to miss anything.

But that's the thing about Final Fantasy XII... it indulges my habits too much. This is a series that has built itself on having an innumerable number of things to uncover if you dig far enough into it.

I'm torn. I really want to push forward Final Fantasy XII's excellent and underrated story, and I've got Blue Dragon, Planescape Torment, Persona 4 and Knights of the Old Republic to get to. On the other hand, I'm enjoying myself. It's just kind of depressing to see my hour totals continually inflate when there are other RPGs in my collection of a similar quality calibre sit, waiting for me to finish a ridiculously long Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Age playthroughs.

Plus, I swore to myself I wouldn't touch Final Fantasy XIII until I finish a few of my RPGs.

I guess I'll have to push through certain games more than others. Blue Dragon is a game I'm enjoying primarily for the gameplay and visuals... I can probably stand to power through that one. Dragon Age, on the other hand, has an intriguing and deep fantasy universe to explore... I'm much more inclined to discover every nook and cranny.

I just have to cut back on talking to NPCs.

Finding attractive people attractive...

is, like, so last millenium. Ordinariness is like, totally the new red hot.

Move aside, sex symbols like Meghan Fox and Brad Pit. The new players are Kathy Bates and William H. Macy.

Pass the word along. The revolution's gotta start.

Have blogs on GameSpot taken away from the discussion on GGD?

I was thinking about how there are relatively few regulars that post new topics to GGD, they either link to news or just respond to what topics other users bring up, and I wonder if the reason is due to journals being a feature on GameSpot. I mean, if I recall, a lot of what used to be posted on GGD was fairly personal in nature; one person would be playing through a game that was a couple years old, and they'd relate their experiences in a GGD post. Now, that sort of thing usually ends up with a blog post. I do having a blog, but I wonder if we're making a mistake by putting our game-related experiences on our blogs instead of the game boards.

I'm starting to think I should reserve my blog for rants, and post anything game-related thoughts to GGD.

The Bs: Batman and Beatles.

I picked up these two games at once, and I must say that they're both highly impressive in their own ways.

The situtation is this with Rock Band; I bought the original when the PS2 version was on sale, but later when I bought the PS3, I found out the instruments, but not the game were compatible, so I have not delved too deeply into the formula. Granted, I have played Guitar Hero I and II fairly extensively, but what's nice about this one is that I really like the whole track list. The Beatles strayed into a wide variety of musical territory, but what they had, beside their basic musical genuity, was accessibility. It's hard not to like them whether the song is blues, do-wop pop, a pre-cursor to hard rock or psychedelic rock. I'm also starting to make the transition from normal to hard on guitar... a perilous transition, due to the sheer mind-twisting power of relocating your hand on the frets, but I think the reported reduced difficulty of this one has helped. If I can master hard on Beatles, I can probably survive it on other ones. Singing is fun, though it's hard to find the middle ground between the way I want to sing, and the way the game wants me to sing it.

Batman is an intelligent simulation of being in Batman's shoes. It casually integrates stealth, brawling, puzzle-solving, exploration and the moody atmosphere in the series so naturally that it's hard to believe it's taken this long to bring a truly excellent Batman game out. I remember being indifferent to the first trailer, which to my eye, made it look like a standard brawler with above-average visuals. The strength of the game is that it underplays the action; you will spend as much time exploring and sneaking as you will fighting hand to hand. Oh, and the writing and acting is surprisingly decent; the strength of the game is that you actually feel like you're filling Batman's shoes in their entirety. Also, the writing and acting are surprisingly decent, letting you really sink into the role. Batman himself is a little stiffly acted, but most of the time, he doesn't get in the way.

As an aside, I beat the original Uncharted today. Fun game, but not special. Unsurprising coming from Naughty Dog. They are still making the same stupid mistakes with poor checkpoint design. There are definitely some frustrating sections. It's the game equivalent of a mindless, summer blockbuster. But in this industry's absence of games both interactive and emotionally deep, that's about as complicated as games get I suppose. I'm a little lukewarm on jumping into Uncharted 2, simply because I do not trust Naughty Dog to do anything particularly impressive, regardless of what accolades critics and fans throw their way. They're highly derivate and usually create games with unwieldly difficulty curves and bland stories. For some odd reason, I keep buying their games; I have a Crash game, bought two Jak games and completed the third during a rental, and bought Uncharted (I think for a lack of ideas of what else to buy with my PS3). I think I'll finish up Persona 3 (I think I'm... eighty five hours in? The end is nigh for that one.), and maybe Devil Survivor, then go after a few other RPGs. The sooner I beat some of my role-playing games, the sooner I can justify Dragon Age.

Hey, that videogame stole my name!


Who knew that Lucidity would be someone that another human being would think of as a good title for a videogame?

I don't suppose this really affects me, but it was certainly jarring to see a 5.5, of all possible scores, next to the title of my pet concept.