Ryan Davis and my father

I should've walked up to Ryan Davis and said hello last year at PAX, but I was too shy. Davis was a personality in my mind, a charming, affable personality that I couldn't believe existed in a real human being. He was the voice and the figure I had spent hours listening to and watching on Giant Bomb. I didn't want to ruin the image I had of him.

My only interactions with him were small. He "blocked" me on Twitter for revealing that I liked the banana-flavored Runts exclusively, and he private messaged me once to inform me I had won a copy of Dragon Age 2. The private message's subject was simply, "dragons," because that's how he rolled--reduce the most arbitrarily complex things into what they really were about.

That's something I took away from his (too) few reviews on Giant Bomb. His ability to choose the perfect, perfect words to express specific things about a game, left me feeling inadequate. I can only hope to one day write at a level he did.

And that was just the writing. His personality reminded me of my father's. (They both even had the same beard!) My father, like Davis, didn't understand the concept of "breaking the ice". For him, the ice was broken for everyone. He would talk to anyone like a long-time friend, grounded and humble. My father spent the last few years of his life in and out of a hospital. You'd think it would be constantly depressing and stressful, but not with my father. Every nurse would know him by the end of his stay. Like Davis, he would pick on people, call them out, but never in a mean way. I think he used it to bring people down to their real selves, to ease them from any kind of social anxieties.

Unlike my father, I'm quiet. Yet, he never tried to force me to open up more. Instead, I wanted to be like him by example, his personality was contagious, and I can't think of anyone that didn't like him. That's special, and I wish I had that ability.

I had been listening to the Bombcast a few years before my father passed away. When he did, it was Davis that reminded me of him every week on the podcast, and eventually every day as I consumed more and more of Giant Bomb's content.

When I glanced over at Davis and Jeff Gerstmann at the Double Fine panel during PAX last year, I wanted to get up and meet him. But I couldn't do it. I don't know if I was scared or nervous, or both. It would be like seeing my father again for the first time in two years and I didn't know if I could handle that. I had planned to get over it and meet him this year at PAX.

I never met Davis, but he still had a considerable impact on how I view games and in many ways, life. Like my father, I admired him by example.

But I've made a mistake if I let him stay an example. Ryan and my father would have went over to say hello. They wouldn't have anything to regret.

So, I'm not going to make the same mistake again.


Here's all of Patrick Klepek's PAX East 2013 interviews in one place

"Panel fuel?" - @patrickklepek

Here's all of Patrick Klepek's PAX East 2013 interviews in one file.

If he adds more, I'll add them and re-upload the file.



Time stamps:

0:00 - Dmitry Glukhovsky (Metro 2033) Interview - Podcast page

21:55 - Brendon Chung (Quadrilateral Cowboy) Interview - Podcast page

29:29 - Nathan Fouts (Mommy's Best Games) Interview - Podcast page

46:22 - Damian Isla (Third Eye Crime) Interview - Podcast page

57:44 - Chris Dahlen (Mark of the Ninja) Interview - Podcast page

[Image credit: Twitter]


Venturing into Unknown Territory: The Next-Generation of Consoles

The first of what I would call the “next-generation” consoles has officially hit the U.S. market this Sunday. Of course I’m talking about Nintendo’s newest foray into the third dimension, the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS is the first Nintendo console that takes anything other than games seriously. It’s also the first system in a long time that attempts to break down the online multi-player boundaries that plagued the DS and the Wii: by eradicating the need of a different friend code for each game. Nintendo has obviously chosen to forget their past values and move onto the new generation of video game consoles, but do these upgrades suffice?

Sure, you could argue that 3D entertainment is where everyone is going right now, and I wouldn’t disagree but does that warrant a $250 ticket into a new hardware era? Looking at the actual graphical power inside the 3DS is quite shocking. The smart phone in your pocket is nearly as powerful, and if it isn’t, it probably will be before the 3DS enters it’s second anniversary. You’re right, you can’t play Mario on your iPhone 5 or your Motorola Atrix, but you can play Tiny Wings, Doodle Jump, Angry Birds, and Dead Space. You can even make phone calls, text your friends, and browse the Internet over 3G (or even 4G). The problem and point I’m trying to bring out here is that consoles have a very different upgrade cycle compared to phones. Sony was smart enough to unveil their PlayStation Suite and Xperia Play additions to the market. Whether or not it fails doesn’t matter, Sony sees that mobile gaming is becoming increasingly popular and vital to the future of gaming.

There are those that will say they are “pure” gamers and will never touch a small bird in a giant slingshot, but for the companies, the money doesn’t lie. Developing a game for the 3DS costs more than it would for iOS, or Android. The typical $0.99 - $1.99 price tag is attractive no matter how new (or old) the concept is-- people will buy it.

Suddenly the 3DS doesn’t sound so good anymore. Not when you can get games that constantly innovate on a platform that is doing the same.

What about innovation on the home console front?

I think everyone will agree that full support of 1080p resolution is a must for any of the home consoles. An Xbox Live-like service would be a wealthy addition to Nintendo’s next iteration, and an overhaul of the PlayStation Network would be welcome. Sony is stepping in the right direction with cloud-based saving. It would be nice for them to focus on making PSN a better experience overall.

Processing speed is a given, but not something that I am necessarily in need of. I am by no means a heavy PC gamer, so I have never witnessed any of the most recent games at their maxed out settings. After recently watching Giant Bomb discuss this topic, they made a great point, reinforced by Crytek’s newest computer conqueror Crysis 2.

Crysis 2 looks beautiful on a fully-loaded PC running at some crazy resolution that I can only dream of, but it looks nearly as good on an Xbox 360. “Nearly” is a relative term, but apart from some slow-loading textures and a severe drop in framerate, it’s essentially the same game. It’s because of games like these that graphical power is not a must for me. I don’t know about you, but I would gladly play another year of games that look like Uncharted 2.

The dude(r)s at Giant Bomb also talked about this idea of Nintendo playing their own game in this console “war” (I really hate that term). It’s the notion that Nintendo makes consoles with small technical upgrades, usually with a well-advertised gimmick and the same titles for every new generation of gamers to have the games they can say “they grew up with”. Playing Ridge Racer in 3D doesn’t change the fact that it’s 2011 and you’re still playing Ridge Racer on a newly released console. Mario and Link are on their way, ready to take advantage of the newest gimmick that Nintendo has to offer.

Motion-gaming is a whole other topic that I’m not sold on yet. Microsoft would disagree while they wave their “4 million Kinect units sold” in my face. I’m sure those people are happy playing Dance Central, and only Dance Central during their monthly dinner party.

If it makes any difference I’m not buying the 3DS, at least not until it gets a re-design. I have thought about purchasing a smart phone though. For me, the Xperia Play will be an interesting event to watch unfold, but I have no interest in participating in Sony’s new idea. Now this , has me all excited. If someone smart enough takes that idea and runs with it, we could see mobile gaming come into it’s own.

The “next-generation” of consoles are coming whether we like it or not. The current generation has lasted a long time, more than every previous set. It’s going to be hard to keep them around for so long again with so many choices for improvement. That is unless you’re content with flailing around with your friends on a bus, in front of a camera, shoving one dollar bills into a console, wearing glasses on a plastic skateboard.     


Where do Wii go now?


Do you think the Wii should go for a round two so to speak and catch up with its next gen contenders? Or should they just give up and try to make an entirely new system?

 Was it a failure?

The Nintendo Wii is a perplexing system. On one hand it broke the controller-barrier we've had with games for years, and on the other hand it's last-generation material. If you ask any family out there today the Wii is quite possibly the first video game they've played together and had loads of fun. It has the ease of use that will get your grandmother off the couch and playing tennis.

The key question in it's abilities is: is this really next-generation gaming?

To answer that question it could take hours of discussion and arguing but its quite obvious to see that the Wii did something. It definitely was not a failure and it does have a few very awesome games. The problem is that it was a family oriented system to begin with. It was never meant to jump in guns blazing against the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. For Nintendo the sales numbers don't lie.

Lately those numbers have indeed been falling, and as some may notice the last first-party title we're expecting from Nintendo is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It has been shown on the Wii, but that doesn't mean it can't come out on Nintendo's next console. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was originally made for the Game Cube. The fact that we've heard little about Skyward Swords could mean that Nintendo may unveil new details on a new console during May's E3. Some say a HD Wii that would finally give us hi-definition gaming could be on the horizon, or a new console all together. It wouldn't be surprising if the next console had nothing to do with motion gaming and instead something completely different. Nintendo generally does their thing, blows peoples minds, and moves on. In a more realistic approach its easy to say that we will see a HD version of the Wii. 

So back the original question, no, I don't think Nintendo is even really in the console race at the moment. Nintendo does what Nintendo does. They will amaze people and make bank no matter what. I think if they are not going to make the Wii HD, then they need a new gimmick or a refinement on motion technology with their new console. The PlayStation Move is essentially a better Wii and with more power behind it. Nintendo needs to match it and break out with something crazy.

For right now Nintendo has their hands full with the 3DS, and keeping young children away from it. They will ride 3D until it hits the ground and pick themselves back up with yet another idea.

So, do they need to catch up? No. They don't need to. Nintendo may not be "next-gen" but they are continuing to evolve and innovate with each successive hardware iteration regardless of the competition.


My Commander Shepard is better than yours



 The game of the year lists are out. The nominees have been argued, and the winners have been chosen. For most, this winner is Mass Effect 2. Sequel to the well-received Mass Effect back in (if you can believe it) 2007. Mass Effect carries a very specific attribute that we’ve never had before. It’s not a game, it’s a world.

When I say its a world, I mean BioWare handed us a universe expanding countless planets and solar systems containing various races and history on a plate and gave us the knife. They didn’t choose just anybody for us to play, but the most influential figure in the universe to date, Commander Shepard. The key thing to realize is that Shepard is only making history when you’re holding the controller. This introduces a very unique trait that is given to the player. Choice.

Choice can be argued to exist in all games, but in Mass Effect it allows the world to adapt to your decisions. As it turns out essentially killing off a entire warlike race through genocide can really piss them off. In Mass Effect you deal with this dilemma directly, and it affects your world. At the end of Mass Effect 2 you have to make some very important decisions ultimately deciding who lives and who doesn’t. I lost three loyal squad mates on the final mission. Not because I didn’t like them (although I could care less if Jack’s rotting corpse lays in that elevator), but because I made the wrong choices. Yes, you can go search for a gigantic flow chart emphasizing the choices I should have made but the real question is: Does it matter? 

This could easily go into politics and religion in a blink of an eye, but I’m going to keep it based solely on Mass Effect, if I can.

What makes these choices wrong?

It’s something I’ve been trying to come up with ever since 3…erm…2 of my most trusted comrades were lost in the midst of my suicide mission. For many, these wrong choices can be cured by playing through the game again and following a specific guideline to keep everyone alive. If you look at the achievements it even rewards it. This could also be just a way to have replay value in a game without multi player, but the point remains. Why should I have to conclude this chapter in the most perfect way? I mean, it was supposed to be tragic. The whole game built up to it. Everyone kept talking about giving their lives if they needed to, and we want to have the same ending as everyone else? Doesn’t that effectively take my 50+ hours of gameplay and throw it to the Vorcha… or dogs? I know it’s a lot of questions, but I honesty can’t answer them. I’m just baffled why people want to keep games non-linear when the same people will complain that straight lines are so 2000 and late (oh, yeah, I just referenced that).

So, if I could cause you to do anything, I want you to think about it. Why not, stick with your decisions and save humanity without those friends of yours?—If your Shepard died in the end, well, then that just sucks.

I think BioWare would like the experience to be your own, not the same as the next guy behind you in line at midnight come the third iteration. 

Games are telling stories, and as I’ve said before they contain one extremely unique ability: to let you make the actions. If a game is created to follow that simple purpose don’t ignore it, and complete your own story arch. I know I’m going to—I just hope saving Earth doesn’t require a singing, alien scientist. 

Note: Playing through it all again is a blast and I recommend it, but you should keep that as a separate storyline.