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Ratatoskr321 Blog

Tweaking Mechanics: Dungeons and Dragons

While many RPGs, particularly Japanese RPGs, create their own rulesets, a lot borrow from commonly used tabletop RPG systems. The most common of these that we see in video games is Dungeons and Dragons (henceforth referred to as D&D). This isn't really surprising since D&D is undoubtedly the most famous and popular RPG ruleset available and it was a natural evolution to move this system into the video game medium. In fact, D&D first transitioned to video games all the way back on the Intellivision in 1982, one of the earliest RPGs made for consoles (earlier titles existed on computers but they were unlicensed). But does the system really belong in games? Do games need to rely on D&D principles at all or does it simply hold them back?

Adv. Dungeons and Dragons on the Intellivision. Still looks better than Dwarf Fort!
Adv. Dungeons and Dragons on the Intellivision. Still looks better than Dwarf Fort!

First, it's helpful to understand the basics of how D&D works to see how the games handle the system. D&D, if you don't know, is a set of game rules meant to be used over the top of a collaborative story, controlled by a Dungeon Master or Game Master with the details filled in by the players. The game uses campaign guides in order to help move the story along as well as rules for how to determine the outcomes of the player's actions. Every outcome in the game is determined by rolling dice. The amount of dice rolled, the type of dice rolled and the amount needed are determined by character statistics. The highest level of statistics will seem familiar to anyone who's played an RPG in the last 30 years: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma. There are many lower level statistics too, determined by the items equipped and the base stats of the player. Things like will saves, reflex saves and others help determine how your character responds to specific actions like dodging arrows or blades all the way to how NPCs will respond to your character. The complexity of D&D has made it so popular as a tabletop system because it allows flexibility in storytelling without needing to worry that the game won't be able to account for player's actions.

A system that allows stories to be told and uses something as simple as dice to determine success or failure in actions? Sounds perfect for a video game, right? Well, yeah, it was. It allowed complex games like RPGs to exist on consoles like the Intellivision which never would have been able to handle RPGs like we have today, even disregarding the graphical quality. Not only that but it gave a standard that allowed players to jump in and immediately understand the basics.

So what's the problem with D&D in video games? Well, there are a few. The first and most glaringly obvious is that it's simply too complicated. Many people, especially D&D mainstays, will cry foul at this stating that they learned it so others can too but the issue is that most won't. Let's look at one of the most popular D&D RPG's: Baldur's Gate.

A character sheet from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
A character sheet from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition

Some of this is simple. Down in the bottom left, we have hit points. The current hit points versus the maximum hit points. Hit points equals health so that's how much health you have. Simple. Up in the top right, we get some character information. This is one of those games where you keep adding to your experience and you have to hit a new goal to get the next level up. This character has 513 experience so far and needs 2250 to reach the next level. Sounds good. Most anyone who's played an RPG can get behind that. Just below that they seem to have some immunities. Protection from Poison, self explanatory. Mind Shield, some type of resistance to magic attacks, perhaps? Still, that's not too unusual and the game probably teaches you as you go. Resist Fear, fear must be some status effect. Fatigue, maybe that's a status effect on them now? So we have a bit of potential confusion but nothing that wouldn't be solved simply by understanding status effects, something that often changes from game to game. From here, things aren't necessarily as they seem.

The top left has the character's stats, as I mentioned above. It looks normal except for one thing, strength. 18/35? What on Earth does that mean? Maybe there are two strength stats? Perhaps one for melee or ranged? Nope. You see, in AD&D 2nd Edition, which is what Baldur's Gate is based on, once a character's stats hit 18, they start to go up in increments so instead of just jumping to 19 when you put another point in strength, they get to go through fractions. So the 35 is actually saying you're 35% of the way to 19. Let's jump down to the armor section. Now the most common mode of thinking for most people would be the higher the number in armor, the better, but that's not how 2nd edition works. We'll explain in a bit why that is but for now, just know that you want a lower armor class which is why it has the bonuses under it for Medium Shield -1 and Dexterity -2. Bouncing over to the bottom right, we see the weapon statistics. Throwing Axe which does a damage of... 1d6 +1? What? And what are those numbers underneath it? Number of attacks 3/2? To understand this, you have to remember that on the tabletop, attacks are determined by rolling dice. 1d6 represents the number and type of dice rolled to make your attack. The first number is the amount of dice, in this case just 1, and the second number is the maximum number that die can have. So 1d6 means roll 1 6-sided die and the number you get there is your damage. The +1 modifier is then added to whatever number you just rolled so if you roll a 5, you do 6 damage, ignoring the enemies armor.

No Caption Provided

Moving up one cell we finally make it to the granddaddy of all nonsense, THAC0. This is actually an acronym that you will thankfully never see anywhere else other than D&D games. It stands for To Hit Armor Class 0. You know how in almost every RPG, you can miss an attack or get critical hits right? Well, in 2nd edition AD&D, you have to make a roll before dealing damage that determines whether or not you even hit. To do this, you roll one 20-sided die. So check out that character stat, Base THAC0: 20. That means you have to roll a 20 just to hit an enemy with an armor class of 0. Not great odds, huh? Thankfully, there are modifiers. Throwing Axe stats and Dexterity stats give a -3 meaning you subtract 3 from 20 to get your actual THAC0, 17. This means you have to roll 17 or higher to hit an enemy that has an armor class of 0. Better but still not great. Now, remember that I told you before, you want a lower armor class number, right? This is because the hit calculation is THAC0 - Armor Class = X, with X being the number you need to roll. So if this character fights an enemy with an armor class of 10, that would be 17 - 10 = 7, and they'd only have to roll a 7 or higher to hit the enemy. You can also go below armor class 0, though so some enemies may have a -2. That would mean you'd have to roll a 19 or higher, even with a THAC0 of 17.

Congratulations! You understand the basics of D&D (or at least 2nd edition). Now, all of this may be a bit convoluted but it at least makes sense from a pen and paper standpoint. The problem is that this is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY for video games. The Throwing Axe has a damage of 1d6 +1 which is necessary to specify for a die but in a game, why not just say 2-7? We don't need to know why it's 2-7 from the number generator's perspective, just that it is. As for armor class, any logical person would think that more armor is better from a defensive point of view. That's all we need to know, so why not invert the numbers and make it make sense?

Another important statistic we didn't go over are saving rolls. These are broken up into millions of little granular statistics like fire saving throws and reflex saving throws and all sorts of other saving throws. These are your ability to dodge whatever types of attacks come at you, be they fire spells, arrows or whatever else. This isn't even a bad concept for a video game but there isn't any need to refer to them as saving throws. That's just confusing for a gamer that may not be thinking about their video game from the perspective of rolling dice. Why not just Fire Dodge or Arrow Dodge. It's granular and unnecessary for most games but if a game wants to use it, they can and this way, it's apparent to the gamer what that skill is for and what it does.

As we progress forward, the industry seems to feel similarly about this as even the D&D labelled games tend to throw all of this information under the hood in favor of simple gameplay. However, they're commonly throwing the baby out with the bathwater as they've decided that what people really want are action RPGs like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance or Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale but this isn't true! We still love complex RPG's, we just don't want to have to leap over unnecessary hurdles like are present in the famous Infinity Engine games. They don't make them bad games, quite the contrary. Baldur's Gate is still one of the best RPGs, even holding up in modern day playthroughs, as the Enhanced Editions prove. It's just ridiculous that we have to learn about THAC0 to enjoy them.

End note:

Seriously, though, D&D rules can be a slog to learn but if you like RPGs, it's worth it to play Baldur's Gate and the other Infinity Engine/Aurora Engine games out there. Specifically in regards to Beamdog's Enhanced Edition games, don't believe the review scores! Many people give it bad scores because they essentially just modded the original games to make them look more modernized (things like increase the supported resolutions and make it widescreen). If you aren't willing to go through modding the original titles, however, definitely look into these games, they are well worth the 20 bucks each as they offer easily over 60 hours of great RPG content. If you are willing to experiment a bit to get it working, has the original titles available for much cheaper and their forums have some easy to find, useful guides for modding the games to get them working on modern computers. I recently got them both working wonderfully on my Windows 8 machine so I can happily confirm it is doable.

Along with Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, here are some other great D&D RPGs you can use your newfound THAC0 knowledge to delve into:

  • Planescape: Torment
  • Icewind Dale
  • Icewind Dale II
  • The Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Neverwinter Nights
  • Neverwinter Nights II

Japanese Game Development Has a Problem Pt. 1

It isn't much of a secret that the Japanese game industry, the once king of all things video game, has been falling on hard times. Consoles simply aren't selling in Japan anymore in lieu of mobile and social games taking the foreground. This obviously hurts their game sales but it goes beyond that as well. Console sales are through the roof in the US, with the PS4 and Xbox One having two of the best launches in console history, but Japanese games sales are only dropping. Why is this? Let's take a look at some of the primary reasons the Japanese game industry is having trouble and ways they can fix this. Note that this will take a few blogs to go through so bear with me!

1) Game Development Time is Too Long

Game development costs money. The company has to buy all the equipment needed like computers that are strong enough to deal with the high graphical abilities required by game developers, engine licenses, office supplies, the office itself and whatever else is needed for the project. On top of that, the developers need to be paid fair salaries as well. There are lots of numbers thrown around for average salaries but based on several reports on Japanese developer's average pay, it's safe to say it's around $60,000 a year when converted to US dollars. That means for each year, for a development team of around 50 people (not an uncommon number these days), that's $3,000,000 just to pay the salaries! Now, other than license costs and potentially more expensive computers, these are costs every company has to deal with. The difference is that game companies have to survive entirely off of their game releases. While big companies have many titles in the works at all times, most developers only work on one, maybe two games at a time. That's a huge risk since if that one product fails, they probably won't have the capital to back up another production cycle.

So as you can see, it benefits the developers to balance quality with a speedy development cycle and yet, Japanese developers have been spending obscenely long amounts of time to develop games in the last decade. Sure, some major titles like Super Smash Bros Wii U and 3DS had a decent turnaround of two and a half years but others have been in development for well over the norm. Final Fantasy XV is an easy target, being in active development for almost nine years but it's not the only one. The Last Guardian (eight years), Persona 5 (five years), Ni no Kuni (five years for US) and many more. Compare this to the US market where development for a major AAA title rarely progresses beyond three years and you see the enormous increase in costs.

This has been one expensive road trip.
This has been one expensive road trip.

There are other unfortunate but realistic barriers to Japanese game development that make this even more of a problem. While historically, Japan was the central hub of game development back in the 8 and 16-bit era's, Japan's market simply isn't as large as North America. This means that while selling copies in Japan is important, the only way to truly recoup those costs for larger titles is to sell well overseas in the European and North American markets. This increases the importance of hiring translators who often sell their services for quite the pretty penny. While any developer wanting to sell games in other regions will need to do this as well, it's not as important for North American developers who can make larger profits from selling only in their own region.

So what do the costs have to do with how many copies a game sells? We aren't asking why Japanese developers go bankrupt, after all, we're asking why games don't sell. Well, it's important to understand these costs to understand the mindset of Japanese publishers. While the developers will usually be concerned primarily with the quality of the game, the publisher's job is to make sure the game is going to sell and they will push developers to make choices that will make that actually happen. This is why it's extremely important for developers to pair with a good publisher that understands their product as disconnect here can turn an otherwise good product into trash very quickly and as the costs for the product go up, the publisher gets more and more nervous as a failure could end their company. They start pushing for things to be different, more mainstream, more like this and that game that sold well and suddenly, the original product is lost to become something it's not. This is just one example of how development for a game can get sidetracked by fear of cost but there are many more out there.

Marketing is also hurt by these long cycles. When a game is in development for ten years and the expected console of release changes to different generations, you can bet that the graphics of the game are going to suffer. Even if, like me, you don't let graphics decide whether or not a game will be good, the fact is that a lot of people base their entire buying decision off of how a game looks. Even if you don't know it, graphics help make up your mind about a game too, as a good first impression can set the stage for how a game is perceived by you for a long time. Perceptions are a hard thing to change.

Imagine what this could have looked like had it not been started in 2004?
Imagine what this could have looked like had it not been started in 2004?

One of the key things marketing wants to accomplish for games is to generate hype but this can be a double-edged sword. If you weren't watching E3 in 2006, it'd be hard to explain the excitement people had over watching the reveal of Final Fantasy XIII Versus. It was dark and gritty and everything we wanted from a Final Fantasy, breaking into the modern era. In 2015, it'd be easy to simply discount Final Fantasy XV, as it's now known, simply on the fact that we've been disappointed for too long. Each year brings the promise that maybe this year, the game will be released or, heck, even get a release date and each new year, we are robbed of that. The simple fact is, the hype train eventually has to come to the station or people are gonna go all Snowpiercer and start freaking out (If you haven't seen Snowpiercer yet, well... go see it.)

So how do we fix it?

Stronger planning in advance will help any development team. Obviously, ideas can generate during the process and these shouldn't be ignored but the basic format of the game should be decided well before the game is ever started in earnest. Look at Nintendo's format. While it's not perfect for everyone, they develop on a model of gameplay ideas paired with characters and story rather than having a character and story come first with gameplay ideas secondary. This allows them to maintain focus and make the game much faster while still having a high level of quality.

Publishers also need to get a tighter rein on their development teams. Allowing these eight year cycles to continue is simply not okay for the industry. If a game doesn't look close to being done after three years, seriously consider cancelling it and start up on something else. It's tough to take a loss but it's better than continuing to pour money into a pit that probably will come to nothing.

Also, look into licensing different engines that allow for quicker and easier development. Many US developers license engines such as Unreal or Unity that allow for very quick turnarounds and don't require people to learn coding unrelated to their particular role. In fact, some engines allow full game creation without any programming knowledge whatsoever and they aren't even half bad. Kingdom Hearts III recently switched away from a proprietary engine to the Unreal Engine 4 and that will no doubt help improve the design time for the game. Sure, the licensing fees will add a bit of cost to the development but it will be a lot cheaper than paying a full staff for even an extra six months.

What ideas do you have to improve game development cycles in Japan? How about what other reasons are there for Japan's struggling game industry? Maybe they're doing things right and we need to change our buying habits? Let me know in the comments.

Tweaking Mechanics: Freedom of Choice

As we move into an era of independent games and games that are funded through alternative means, experimentation is becoming more and more common. Genres don't quite mean the same thing as in years past as we now have things like "First Person Role Playing Shooters" and whatever you'd like to call Gone Home or Depression Quest but you know, that's okay. Instead, we have a constant mixing and matching of more specific game mechanics. Sometimes this makes a Frankenstein's Monster of a game but other times, you strike pure gold. I'd like to examine some of these more specific mechanics over a series of posts.

The first mechanic that interests me is the illusion of granting free will or a morality scale. Early computer games did this all the time but the modern interpretation of this mechanic can probably most accurately be traced back to Knights of the Old Republic. In that game, it was treated as a way to determine which side of the force you stood, light or dark. As a way to prevent grey areas where Star Wars fears to tread, they made your choices swing to massive extremes like give the old beggar all of your money on the spot or beat him to death with a stick and take his money. This extreme level of choice has spawned a new revolution of game decision making and is a factor leading to the Games as Art movement.

We, thankfully, have moved beyond the extremes but have maintained a solid interest in choice, manifesting in many different interpretations of the mechanic. I'll start with the game that sparked my interest in this: Dreamfall Chapters. The Journey... Dreamfall... whatever series has existed for well over a decade but has only had three entries, thus far. The Longest Journey, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey and Dreamfall Chapters. Chapters is the first to introduce a choice mechanic into the series and wow did they go overboard. Along with dialogue choices, you can also have these overall action decisions that decide where the game will go. The game also makes a point of letting you know that your decision has been noted. Nice of them to shove consequences in your face. This method is really an evolution of the system in The Walking Dead: A Telltale Series, where your decisions are noted and will affect the storyline moving forward in some relatively minor way. Your choices can then be compared with others who have played online.

This system forces people to think about their actions every time they have to make a choice but it tends to limit choices to a few key moments. It works well in more of a visual novel style of game where the developer plans on taking the player on a set journey but wants to give a vague illusion of choice. The Walking Dead series will always end more-or-less the same way but you get to make choices that will determine who makes the journey with you.

Almost as a response to KOTOR's extreme choices, The Witcher thrives in forcing players into grey areas, eliminating the sense of right or wrong. These choice mechanics usually have far more pronounced consequences than systems like Dreamfall Chapters or The Walking Dead and refuse to allow you simple choices. The Cat Lady is another example of this style of choice in games. While these do help players to role play at a much deeper level, the goal of systems like this is usually more to force players to think about issues they wouldn't normally address. The Cat Lady allows players to question their personal feelings regarding depression and suicide, even if these topics aren't ones the player normally thinks about. The Witcher thrives in finding morally ambiguous situations and forcing players to make a choice.

Finally, the last major style I've seen is the attempt to really tell a player-driven story. A game where the player makes all the choices and reaches a logical conclusion. In my opinion, no game has yet done this perfectly but there have certainly been attempts. Heavy Rain is an example and, from what I understand, Beyond: Two Souls is very much the same way. Visual Novels can sometimes fall into this style as well, such as Long Live the Queen, forcing players to accept consequences, for better or worse.

Choice is something that games have now been doing for a long time because it's interesting but, at the same time, it is something that requires a great deal of planning to be executed effectively. Games often tell a story and true freedom rejects the concept of being placed on a linear path, no matter how well crafted that path may be. The Stanley Parable is an interesting and comedic look at this struggle and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in examining choice in games. Part of the struggle is also that increased technology actually holds us back from true choices in games. Look at the Fallout series for proof of this. The original two games provide a massive level of choice, giving you the option to really follow whatever path you like. Compare the choices here to Fallout 3 or New Vegas. As technology improves, greater development requirements actually prevent freedom of choice. In the original two, they had to use some basic graphics but most choices were simply text. Easy enough to write down a new outcome. In the new games, however, they would have needed additional voice work, new cutscenes, animations, character models, etc., etc. Also, there are limitations on what can be shown in games. It's one thing to tell someone they see a mangled corpse and it's another thing to actually show images of the thing.

As we move forward into the gaming future, choice will, no doubt, evolve drastically as it continues to be a point of interest. Where will it evolve to, though, is the interesting question. Will we see a burgeoning niche of old-style adventure games, throwing players into an open world with literally no direction and seeing where that takes them? Will we see a rebirth in games like Star Control 2 which has players undertake tasks but with no set path on how to accomplish those goals? Maybe someone will be able to make a game like Heavy Rain but with more pronounced choices and less course correction? Or maybe something completely different will take place and we'll see new methods of giving players control over their own games. If you have a great idea for a method of giving players choices, there has never been a better time for you.

Angarin: The Escape

Hello everyone. As some of you may know, IRL I'm a writer who's about to graduate with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Montana (one of the top schools in the country for CW). As with many writers, I'm currently writing my first novel, Angarin: The Escape and I'm funding it through Kickstarter. It's a dystopian science fiction trilogy about a group of kids who decide that The Arx, Angarin's oppressive government, goes too far and that their best option for a future is to escape their walled-off city. I'm trying to reach $2,000 by the end of the month and could really use your help. Still, I'm not asking for your donations, if you give at least $10 to the campaign, you are securing your future copy of Angarin: The Escape. Many other prizes are offered as well. If you'd like to check it out, click on the link below or search Angarin: The Escape into Kickstarter to reach my page. Thanks for your time!

Scribblenauts Puzzle 1

Sorry that it has been so long since my last post. It would take far too long to explain my absence so just trust me that I missed you all.

Anyway, I don't know if I mentioned it before but I have to say, I am so glad I hadn't heard about the game Scribblenauts earlier. If I had heard about it last year, I don't know how I'd still be here. Even the month I've been waiting has been horrendously painful. I am easily more excited for this game than any other I have ever wanted throughout my 19 years of gaming. So as a way of passing the time until Scribblenauts comes out. I want to post a sample puzzle and you all comment on how you would solve it and what items you would use. The catch? You cannot duplicate someone elses answer. It must be your own, unique answer. Everyone understand the rules? Alright, here we go!

Your first puzzle will be an actual puzzle used in the game. If you have seen the videos on Gamespot using this puzzle, do not copy their answers.

Puzzle: A cat is stuck on top of a house, you must return it to it's owner.

Have fun! And be creative!

I'll be gone for a few days but I'll certainly be back to see your answers by Wednesday.

Probably Should Have Warned Ya

Generally, my blogs will only be about video games but I have to make an exception today. Don't worry, there is a tiny bit about gaming in here but it's a side note. I really cool side note but still a side note.

I didn't post anything over the weekend because of my work. I am currently working as a summer youth intern for my church and we had a retreat up to a conference event called CONVO. It was a blast and I had a lot of fun. I went when I was a youth and this is my first time going as an adult (technically ;P). But anyway, that was where I was for the weekend and why I didn't respond to anything during that time.

Now, the bit of gaming that I did have to write had to do with CONVO this year. They decided to hold a Rock Band tournament. My normal Rock Band group at home all are a part of my church and were all there at CONVO so they signed us up. I was doing vocals, which was pretty normal for the group (our drummer and I usually switch off). The only thing is, my singing is very personal to me and I've never sung in front of big crouds before. Well, the winner to this tournament would have to play up on stage in front of the 300 or so people that were at the retreat. First of all, we had to perform in front of anyone who wanted to watch though. Our turn comes around and we, after a series of awkward and very quick decisions, decided to play All The Small Things - Blink 182 during our tournament round. We played and pretty much everything that could have gone wrong, did. My voice was completely off at the beginning and it took me a second to get ready. Our bassist tripped over the cords and knocked the controller out. Our drummer fell off beat because of the pause and ended up failing. It just wasn't good. All of this was in front of probably around 40-50 people too. Fortunately, the judges let us try again because of quite a few technical difficulties on their part. So, we replayed the song and just owned it. I was jumping up on tables and singing to the crowd, who was all singing with me. Our whole band busted out during the choruses. We just had a lot of spirit and that got the crowd to love us. Earlier today, when they announced the winners, they said that our band had won by half a point. We were ecstatic of course but it was tempered by the thought that we would play in front of everyone. Exciting but certainly nerve-wracking. Well, about 11:20 this morning, we got up on stage to play Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi with about 300 people in the crowd. Because of the sound system and the fact that I ended up with two mics, a clip on and the rock band one, the vocal system was completely shot so I just focused on singing it well and getting the crowd into it. Overall, we rocked it and had everyone cheering. It was an awesome experience and I'm so glad we got that chance. Just thought that was a really cool event so I wanted to share. Hope you are all doing well. I'm not sure what game to talk about next, either Heavy Rain or Dead Space: Extraction. Which would you like to hear about?

Peace my friends!

A New Hero For A New Time

One of the many subtitles being attributed to the highly anticipated game Assassins Creed II. The first Assassin's Creed game was originally released to mixed reviews, often criticizing the repetitive combat and weak mission objectives. However, one thing that was praised by almost all sides was the great storyline that mixed science-fiction with the war-torn atmosphere of the Holy Land in 1193.

To give a little bit of background to those who haven't played or simply don't remember the events from Assassin's Creed, the game introduces us to two heroes. We start the game as Desmond, a modern-day "every man" who is captured by a company called Abstergo who is really a front for the Templars. They force Desmond to use a machine that forces him back in time into the memories of his ancestor, Altair, the incredibly powerful yet headstrong assassin from Jerusalem 1193. The game ends with Desmond still held captive and Altair's fate unknown.

In Assassin's Creed II, developer Ubisoft Montreal is leaving Altair for now to focus on another of Desmond's ancestors, Ezio Auditore de Firenze, a nobleman from Florence, Italy who lived during the year 1476. Ubisoft is keeping quiet about how Ezio, born into a well-to-do family, turns into a vengeful assassin looking to upset the balance of power in Italy but it isn't hard to assume some of the possibilities.

Here is what we know so far about Ezio's storyline. He was born to a very rich and powerful family in Florence, Italy around the year 1452. He was always very talented at athletics and could often run and jump faster and farther than anyone else. Instead of assassin's work though, he used these skills to enhance his playboy status, by evading angry fathers. Along with being quite the powerful athlete, Ezio is a very smooth talker, making friends with most everyone and seducing many women. One day, however, something happens and his family is betrayed. This sets Ezio off on a tale of vengeance against the powerful Italian families where he discovers even more sinister plots are unfolding that he alone must stop.

While this will be the bulk of the gameplay during Assassin's Creed II, Ubisoft has not forgotten Desmond, our imprisoned descendent who has discovered some very interesting secrets himself over at the Abstergo labs. He will still be the games central narrator, using the Animus machine to learn about Ezio's storyline while also learning about his own past and people.

The cities that have been announced so far that are playable in the sequel include: Rome, Florence, Venice and the Tuscan countryside. Assassin's Creed II will be available for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC this holiday season.

Sources: Game Informer Issue 193, Screw Attack 04/04/09,

Review Guidelines + Lost Odyssey First Impressions

Well, it's taken a few days to get organized but I'm finally ready to start working for real on this blog. I wanted to start off by stating how my reviews will work. I have all the current and last gen systems except for the PS3 so my reviews will cover everything but the PS3 for now (unless i play a game suitably at a friends house, I might write a review for it). As for my gaming area, I play on a semi-decent TV, about 28" but I do not have HD in it so I won't be able to give you the full extent of the graphical power for most games. I have quite a bit of reviewing experience too, working for a few gaming websites (all unfortunately defunct now) and I reviewed several games on a previous account. All in all, I hope to provide the best reviews possible so that you can make informed decisions on games. Obviously, these reviews are not going to be perfect and are simply one opinion. I highly suggest you look at more reviews than just mine before deciding to pay for a game. Finally, the game I'm working on now. I am currently playing Lost Odyssey for the Xbox 360. It seems to be a pretty great RPG but standard in a lot of ways. While it does have a few new twists to the gameplay including a timing mini-game whenever you attack, most of the features have been done before. Also, some decisions were made about this game that seem incredibly dated. For example, I would have thought random encounters would have died off long ago but Lost Odyssey maintains them. That being said, the graphics are amazing and the characters/storyline all seem very interesting. I'm excited to play through it and can hopefully give you a good review when I'm finished. Peace friends!


I believe it's pretty standard to start off these blogs with an introduction so that's what I'm going to do along with explaining my purpose for blogging now. First of all, my name is Devin but I'd prefer it if you all called me Ratatoskr on here. I don't mind telling you all my name but, the way I see it, it's easier if we just stick with some standards here and since not everyone will read this and know my name... It just makes life easier. I am a 19 year old male and am currently a student at the University of Montana - Missoula studying Creative Writing. My hope is that, in the future, I will be able to sell the book trilogy that I am working on called Angarin. I can't give you any specific details on it other than to say that it is a fantasy/sci-fi series that, I believe, takes the best from both genres without plummeting into either stereotype. I know from previous experience that everyone asks where my name came from. Ratatoskr is actually a very fitting name for this blog. It is the name of a character in Norse mythology who travels up and down the world tree, yggdrasil, to spread news and gossip to the different planes. I thought that, since this will be primarily a news blog, it worked well since I will be spreading news from all across the gaming world directly to you. And on to my purpose. In case you haven't already picked up on it, I want this to be a news blog for the video game world. Along with that, I have a few other projects in mind to share with you all throughout the life span of this blog but you will find those out in time. Hopefully you will enjoy them. As for the specific kind of news itself, I regularly surf plenty of different websites including, Gamespot, IGN, publisher/developer websites, video game websites, as well as receiving subscriptions from a variety of magazines including EGM and GameInformer. Since these mediums all receive different information, I thought that I could centralize the important information here for my readers. Now obviously this blog isn't going to cover everything in the video game industry. Too much happens daily and there is simply too little time to regurgitate it all here. So I will mostly cover specific games that you all care about. One genre that I will not be covering here are sports games. It's not that I have anything against sports gamers, I simply don't personally enjoy the genre. My personal preference is towards RPG's (Japanese or Western) but I also play action/adventure games, shooters (third and first person), the occasional MMO, puzzle games, some fighters and several others as well. Along with video game news, I want to write an in-depth review each and every time I finish a game. I play all different kinds of games, new and old, but hopefully they will help you out with that game you've always been curious about. Well, I think that's enough for now. Thank you for reading this and I hope that this blog will be an important stop for you in the future. Peace my friends!