"You are all assholes, I don't want to work with you anymore."

A few years ago, back when I was still a directionless GameStop employee, I had conditioned myself to a pretty sporadic sleep pattern. I’d go to bed at 3 AM only to wake at 7 the next day to open the store. I’d then go to bed even later that day to wake up at 2 PM on the next. I’d then start my next shift which was at 5 PM. It was pretty unhealthy for me to do that and I should of stopped one week in but that went on for a while. I felt like crap every “morning”. I... was a dumb kid.

Yet every time I’d wake up, I’d have a giant smile on my face. The day was starting properly. Why? Because of my alarm.

“Hold on, am I sitting at a table with three people that are gonna sit here and defend Renny Harlin movies? Let’s do Cutthroat Island next if we wanna do that. Come on. Come on! John McTiernan! Master of modern fucking actions movies, the guy made Predator, God dammit. If you’re gonna sit here and say Renny Harlin made a better movie than him, you are all assholes, I don’t want to work with you anymore.” - Giant Bombcast, 07-21-2009

Every morning, I would wake up to that audio clip, one of my favorite moments from the Bombcast. Of course, I made sure it was cut long enough to let Dave say “I can’t wait for a year from now when we are having the same conversation and two out of four of us are wearing night vision goggles”, so that it could end on Ryan’s loud, infectious laugh.

My favorite picture of Ryan. "Incredulous about a fucking MOUNTAIN made of SPACE. In space? Whatever."

I joined the site when it was in its earliest of early forms in 2008 and have tried to be/been one its most dedicated members. I had followed the crew through the Gamespot days but beyond watching their stuff, I didn't go on the forums or interact with the community there at all. Giant Bomb changed that. Here, the community was small and devoted. We were all here because we all loved Jeff, Ryan, (with the eventual addition of Vinny and Brad) and video games. Everyone on the forums started knowing who everyone was and, like many others, I’ve had the great fortune of making some friendships through here that will last me until I, too, breathe my last breath.

Though videogames united all us, the staff on the site was the bonding agent that made us stick, smell weird, and be potentially hazardous to children under the age of four. We essentially grew to become accidental members of a cult of personality, only no one involved really has any power over anything. The guys at the top who act like idiots on camera send love our way with content we can’t get enough of and we return the love with in-jokes, bizarre Tumblr posts, and a personal bond that I, for one, don’t regret a single bit. The relationship all of us share with each other and with the Giant Bomb staff is unique in its existence. The absolute flood of love towards one another on Twitter that continues as of this writing is a prime example of that. When we need it the most the site is there, be it staff or community. We are one big family and this domain that sports an excited-about-exploding bomb is our home.

On the 3rd of July, 2013, we lost one of our family members. I’ve unfortunately never met Ryan but the effect he had on me was profound and meaningful, enough to characterise a good portion of who I am today. His enthusiastic love for all things “dumb” has fueled the ironic appreciation I have for terrible music, movies, and games. His boisterous energy in any argument he threw himself was so amusing and entertaining that it made me love to argue on even the stupidest of topics. Even if I was wrong, I brought the biggest smile to my face by simply being as energetic about the argument as he would have been.

Perhaps it should stay there. Something I can look at now and then to give myself a laugh now and again.

The image at the very top of this post is a scan of a school project I did. We had to do a black and white, high-contrast portrait on Scratchboard. (A material that is entirely black which you can scratch/carve to reveal a white undercoating.) I had many options for my subject but I settled on Ryan, figuring that it would probably be really hilarious when I’d be done with it. Sure enough, it gave me a laugh every time I looked at it. That portrait began a long-line of jokes from my classmate Anna who whenever she’d see me watching Giant Bomb content or photoshopping some stupid bullshit involving Ryan would be sure to tell me: “Oh my god, why are you so obsessed with Ryan?!” It was just coincidence every time but I laughed regardless. I suppose I was, to some extent. Maybe the "personality cult" is just so strong that I don’t really realise it myself.

My plan for the scratchboard was to go to PAX East 2013 and give it as a gift to the man himself. It was the least I could do for the endless hours of entertainment that he, and Giant Bomb as a whole, had provided me through times both easy and tough. I was unable to go this year, due to school and money problems, so the planned changed. Next year, I’d have enough money saved up to go to PAX East 2014 and I’d have the scratchboard to give to Ryan and a poster of the Daily Dota to give to Brad, Matt, and Matt. (and Crispy? I don't know if he attends.) It seems the plan’s changed again. I’m not quite sure what my ‘Plan C’ is.

I’ve cried more today than I have in an extremely long time. This loss... it’s not easy. I’m still trying to grasp the reality that I will never hear or see Ryan ever again. It’s unfathomably difficult to accept. And this is just me, a 20-something year old jackass in a Montreal suburb, saying this. My brain lacks the processing power to understand how crushed his wife, his family, his friends, and his coworkers must feel. I take comfort knowing that to him, they were all just one big group and he was his enthusiastic and expressive self to them all.

In some bizarre way, I looked up to Ryan. If I could reach out to 1% of the amount of people he’s affected with what I do for a living, I would die a happy and complete man. The world has lost one of its most special duders.

May it forever be Tuuuuuueeeeesday! in heaven, Ryan. You will forever be missed.

45 Comments

dot dot dot - seven: Asymmetrical Gameplay

Well well well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? So much for trying to keep a proper schedule. School’s been frighteningly busy but that’s something I’d rather talk about later. For now, I actually have games to talk about!

The first is something I wanted to get around to last blog, which is Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. I beat it the night I posted the blog and man, what an ending that game has. Plot twist after plot twist, insane reveal after insane reveal. The end of 999 is some bizarre-ass rollercoaster that refused to let me close the slack-jawed expression I kept for hours both during the ending and after. Additionally, the cast of characters hide interesting backstories and complex personalities behind some admittedly stereotypical design. The way their stories intertwine is well-thought out and the overall plot hides a secret that still sticks in the back of my mind as one of the more memorable stories I’ve played through in years. Some of the reveals at the end of that game, one in particular that involves the DS hardware itself, are so clever and so baffling that I have a really hard time not loving everything about that game. I’m eager to start playing Virtue’s Last Reward, if only to more about the universe the first game sets up. As far as virtual novels go, 999 is easily my favorite. Few games make me want to lock myself up in a room or message board and just endlessly talk about everything in it.

Dat intro cinematic. MADHOUSE did a pretty legit job with the cinematic stuff in Awakening.

The second thing I’ve put a bunch of time into is what’s acting as my in-between before I jump into VLR-- Fire Emblem: Awakening. After a three week-long search, I was able to secure myself a physical copy thanks to a friend of mine who works at Gamestop. Amusingly enough, he let me know he had a copy left a few minutes after I had another retail store email me to tell me they had a copy of the game set aside for me. I got my copy at Gamestop but went on a long adventure/walk with a friend to the other store, that was significantly more out of the way than I thought, so she could also have a copy for herself. … At any rate, I really, really like Fire Emblem. It’s not exactly surprising the socks off of me or anything but it’s an extremely good SRPG. I’ve been meaning to scratch that itch for a long time now and this is doing that job wonderfully. The in-combat mechanics are fun, inventory management is neat, and the character recruiting/team building/team organising stuff keeps me a lot busier than I’d of thought. I can’t say the story is exactly captivating or anything (so far, I’ve just completed Chapter 10) but the gameplay is keeping me going, as are the Paralogues.

I’ve been killing time with some other stuff when school hasn’t kept me super busy, too. I got Crashmo which is adorable and fun. (And surprisingly hard past the halfway point) I’ve also been dabbling in Black Ops II here in there when I can, mostly trying out new loadouts and tactics. I used the QBB LSW for a good stretch to find that I really, really like that gun. Right now I’ve been playing a Tac-45-only class, which has also proven to be pretty fun. And funny. People seem pretty irked when you finish 40-10 in a Demolition match when only using a pistol.

This giant time sink is, finally, done.

So, games aside, why have I missed so much blogging time? School, man. School. I’m on study break right now until Monday and while not having to wake up at 6 every morning is a welcome change, I’ve still been doing schoolwork and other nonsense that’s been keeping me from completely de-stressing. For the last two weeks, I’ve been tirelessly working both here and at school to finish the panoply of projects that were due. I had a 44-page children’s book to finish, a giant poster for Seoul Fashion Week to fix and finish, a bunch of armored police concepts to make for Concepting class, bookstore banners to design, a magazine layout to design and finish (both cover and inner-spread), along a bunch of other shit. The children’s book nearly killed me as it forced me to stay at school for close to ten hours straight and the fashion week project was no easy breeze, either. What’s been stressing me the fuck out, though, is my animation project.

The Dean of Education (I think that’s his position, at least) is going to give a speech at some thingamabob about how our school, Dawson College, plans to educate kids properly and blah blah. The speech is a little boring, so he’s asked us, the Illustration and Design program, to create a short animation that would accompany his speech to make it a bit more captivating. Since we’d be pooling both of our program’s third year groups, (For a total of 30-something students) we’d all have to find one style for the animation and have everyone stick with that. As such, our animation teacher made each of us create a bunch of designs for the characters, objects, and scenes in the animation. He’d then take all of them, go over them with the class, and the designs and style we’d like best is the one we’d pick and animate. I was nothing short of thrilled and honored and terrified to have my designs picked as the winner.

My designs for the animation project.

Alongside having to animate one of the harder scenes, (that I admittedly volunteered for) I also had to create a bunch of character sheets and respond to a bunch of design questions all at the same time. It’s unspeakably humbling to be in the position I’m in but at the same time, it’s made me work my brain and my patience for my own art to a really dangerous point. Everything I make, everything I draw, everything I think and say about the project has to be made so that it’s not just for me to draw, but so that everyone else can draw it, too. It can’t be too difficult to draw. I need to draw multiple things in multiple ways because they can’t guess what I’m thinking that hidden part would look like. It’s having a whole mess of people watch over my shoulders while I draw. And that’s not counting the expectations I have to make everything as nice and appealing as possible for the final look of the animation. It’s an important project that means a lot to the program and the Dean; I can’t fuck it up. Not that he hasn't been supportive since or anything either, but I suppose having the teacher, when the design was chosen, say: “Aw, I was really hoping [other person]’s drawings would win.” is little fuel for motivation and confidence, too. Things like that have made me second-guess every stroke I make when I draw for the past two weeks on this project...

FISTS. What better image to put than Donnie Yen from Ip Man, a movie centered around the grandmaster of the art itself. You should watch it. It's an excellent movie.

On a brighter note, though, I took up something over the past few weeks that’s been doing me a lot of good and I’ve started to find a really fond appreciation for. As per a requirement for a class, I started taking Kung Fu lessons. I’m four weeks in now and I’ve all but forgotten about the requirement. I’ve been going purely out of interest and love for it. I’ve been practicing Wing Chun, a discipline that is centered entirely around the human body and efficiency. Every movement, every stance, and every action is all based on what is the most efficient way of completing that action. It’s absolutely fascinating to both study and practice. I encourage you to read up about it. It has a pretty interesting history, too. Plus, it was the discipline Bruce Lee used. What have you got to lose? NOTHING. That’s what.

That’ll wrap it up for this week. I hope to have something up next week. We’re starting a bunch of projects so the work load will be minimal, hopefully. Who knows. This program keeps surprising me in the worst way possible. I can’t wait to be done and get out there working, doin’ neat art and stuff.

PEACE OUT

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dot dot dot - six: THE BOTTOM SCREEN OH MY GOD

Darn, it seems I’ve missed two weeks of blogs now. My apologies, I’ve been unfortunately busy with school. Midterms are happening so the majority of my projects are due, meaning late nights both at school and back here at home. That said, I do have some stuff to talk about!

Firstly, the PS4 was announced. I don’t have anything to say about it other than what’s already been said but I am pretty excited for it. Sony seems to really have listened to what both developers and consumers loved and hated about the PS3, and are smartly reacting to those comments. Sleep mode and Background tasking are also big things for me. I am unfathomably excited to have both of those be a feature on a console.

That comes out in months, however. LET’S FOCUS ON CONSOLES OF NOW. LIKE THE 3DS. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE DS GAME I’VE BEEN PLAYING ON IT THAT IS TWO YEARS OLD. Through Patrick's comments and the incessant pushes from classmates to play both the original and its sequel, I bought a 3DS XL along with a copy of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

As it stands right now, I have only one playthrough left. I’ve unlocked 4 out of 6 possible endings and the ending I need to get now, the True ending, will unlock ending 1 & 2 at the same time. I just finished getting the Safe ending and... man. I’d really like to make a spoilerblog or something when I beat the whole thing or like... get on a podcast and talk to dudes about it because holy shit you guys, 999 is really worth playing. It’s puzzles are pretty easy and repeating them in the multiple playthroughs can get a little monotonous but the plot goes in one of the most insane and compelling directions I have ever seen. It unveils this gigantic web of mysteries and somehow explains all of it whilst throwing in a handful of other plot twists and it’s overwhelmingly awesome to let sink in. I can’t wait to finish the True ending tomorrow but even without it, I feel pretty safe saying 999 is one of my favorite games.

EDIT: I wanted to post this yesterday but Giant Bomb was acting weird and was not letting me. Since then, I have gotten the True ending in 999 and have fully beaten the game. I do want to write a full blog about it some time soon, but for now, I leave you with my thoughts on the ending itself.

Oh, yeah, the 3DS! Funny that I don’t actually own and 3DS games for it at the moment. My intention was to pick up a copy of Fire Emblem with it but my chances of finding one in stores right now seem dire. I’ve fortunately got myself on a local game store’s pre-order list for the next shipment of copies but that might still be a while. Regardless, I’ve got a couple demos on it and I quite like it. The giant screens are pretty and the 3D works well when I don’t push the switch all the way. Playing the Monster Hunter 3 demo on it was really fun, despite that demo being stupidly difficult. I’d like to play a full game on it, though, partially so I can actually StreetPass and shit. The 3DS doesn’t let you do any of that nonsense when you’re playing a regular-ass DS game.

Non-game related, three new albums of note came out recently that are all worth talking about. Ken Ishii & Marc Romboy’s Taiyo released on the 8th and, like you’d expect from an album Ken Ishii worked on, it is a blissful collection of minimalist synth and ambience mixed into deep, punchy bass. I’m honestly not too familiar with Marc Romboy so I can’t comment on how present his influence is in the album but if you are a fan of Ishii’s previous work, you’ll find a good amount to like in Taiyo.

The M Machine’s Metropolis Pt. II was second to release in the batch of three and boy, where do I start. If you’ve listened to Metropolis Pt. I, which I named one of my favorite albums of last year, you’ll probably know how much I was looking forward to this release. I’m unsure if I commented on it in my 2012 blog and I am too lazy to check, but I felt like Pt. I was as much a terrific album as it was a promise of great things to come. The focus on atmosphere and immersion over SiCk BeAtS and thrilling synths made for an incredibly pleasant experience and Metropolis Pt. II is no different. If Pt. I was the promise, Pt. II is the delivery in full force. The six-track EP is one of the most captivating listens I’ve had in ages. From start to finish, it refuses to escape the dense, echoing sounds it swims in and does so through one of the most refined progressions I’ve heard in an electronic album. The space in which its atmosphere lives, the aquatic-like nature of its synths, horns, and breaks, and the astonishing vocal work makes Metropolis Pt. II a landmark in recent electronic history. It left me with the distinct feeling that it was the best thing to happen to the genre since Justice’s Cross.

Lastly is Kavinsky’s Outrun, which released... yesterday? Yeah, that sounds right. Sunday night, Kavinsky released his first full-length album and, surprise surprise, it is pretty great. The deliberately 80’s, French electro-ass electro producer put together a really good mix of his newer and older work and it makes for a really fun and easy listen. Provided you can see past how repetitive his older work (Testarossa Autodrive, Grand Canyon) is, you’ll find a lot to like in Outrun. If anything, listen to it for how silly and great the “story” behind his character is.

That’s... pretty much all I have to say? I’d post about schoolwork and art stuff but I’d rather do that when my stuff is actually done as opposed to being almost-but-not really done.

So yeah, sorry for the late update. I’ll try and be on time next week! As usual, thanks for reading!

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dot dot dot - four: Absolute First Obsession

A bit off-topic this week, mostly because I need to put more thought into the longer piece I wanted to write about. With this generation of consoles finally coming to a close, I’d like to reflect on a game I think marked this generation the most. I still need to figure out how the blog will go though, especially considering it’ll be an opinion piece. Objectively, I think Call of Duty 4 would be the game but subjectively, well... you’ll see sometime in the coming weeks, I suppose.

That aside, I do want to put some thoughts down on a few other things. I’ll try and close it out with some game stuff.

Kevin Spacey's acting is pretty amazing. There's a subtlety to how cuttthroat he is and it's super compelling to watch.

First and foremost: House of Cards. The show “premiered” on Friday and I sat down to watch the first two earlier today. I had this stupid idea in my head that because it was original programming by and for Netflix, it would be of some sub-par quality. That the lead is Kevin Spacey and the first two episodes are directed by David Fincher flew over my head. Although the first 30 minutes take a bit to get going, the show’s pace picks up almost immediately after that and has been consistent in its quality since. I had planned on getting some kind of work done today but before I knew it, 10 PM happened and I found myself at the end of the sixth episode. It’s way more captivating than I thought it would be.

Not to say it doesn’t have its flaws. I think the direction post-Fincher (only the first episodes were directed by him) is spotty on occasion. It’s good but Fincher’s touch on his directed episodes really showed. They complimented the writing and acting very well. And while the acting is terrific across the board, the writing can feel flat on occasion. It would be fine in any other situation, but the strength of the performances make it so that the faults contrast a little roughly whenever it is a problem. Fortunately, that’s happened once or twice that I can recall. It is, otherwise, an excellent show. It’s a political drama, so you’ll most likely know whether or not you’re on board to begin with, but if it does pique your interest, watch it. It is well worth your time.

Netflix original programming also got me thinking: I wonder if this is what direction television will slowly progress towards. While I doubt Netflix will turn into a one-stop-shop for all programming in the future, I welcome a scenario where I can go onto a service like Netflix, Youtube, or Hulu (Ahahaha... Hulu. Funny, right? Haha.) and watch the entire season of a show if I want to the day it starts “airing”. Especially because it potentially cuts out a television network overlooking every decision, possibly forcing the content or quality of a show to suffer or change because of its policies and whatnot. (Which is why, again, ahahahaha Hulu.)

Thumbnail (very rough design) for the Seoul Fashion Week project.

So yes, House of Cards is great. It took up most of my time today and because of that, I got no schoolwork done. I suppose I’ll be in an all-out rush on that tomorrow. My final semester is picking up some. I’ve got a Seoul Fashion Week poster to design, a commercial for Gillette to pitch and work on, a classical composer portrait to re-imagine, a magazine featuring Dubmood to create, an animation to animate, (durr) a title sequence to start in After Effects, and an environment to create concept art for. A lot of work, in essence. The magazine has me super excited, though. The theme for it was some vague non-sense but the jist of it was that we needed to create a cover and two-page spread that features a musician of our choice. I picked Dubmood, a chiptune/electronic artist who made Overlander, one of my favorite albums last year. We’re free to use photography instead of illustration for our designs, but it was (obviously) enforced that we needed the rights to use the photography if it wasn’t ours to begin with. As a shot in the dark, I emailed Dubmood’s label, which he operates himself, asking if he had any press shots to send that I could use with his permission. He excitedly replied, supplying me with some incredibly well-photographed shots from one of his live shows. Now I have all these wonderful ideas for the design and I have some really amazing assets to back them up!

While working on all that school work this week, (in addition to every other possible second, really) I dove into some more musical exploration... which consists entirely of one band.

ISN'T SHE JUST THE BEST I LOVE YOU TOO, EUNJUNG.
13 Comments

dot dot dot - three: You Should Pass on This Season

Sorry for the late post--schoolwork caught up with me in a bad way Sunday and had to focus on that instead. But hey, you get a post now! REJOICE. SING WITH PRAISE. Send me gifts.

I’ll try and keep it short because I have other school stuff to get to tonight but I want to talk about something that is especially irritating to me. Over this past weekend, Black Ops II was holding a Double XP ‘event’, so I sat down for some hours to play and grind out experience and progress. I did so with a friend of mine both in preparation for the upcoming DLC pack, Revolution, and to try and have some fun. While I succeeded in the first, I completely failed in the latter. Black Ops II, for a variety of reasons, is a frustrating experience. There are faults, there are reasons why those faults are even more aggravating, and there is the final reason why it makes me completely sad that I have to deal with said faults for a year.

Blap blap and shit.

So to start off, why is Black Ops II an infuriating experience? Though I think most could see this as being subjective, I feel it pretty objective to state that Black Ops II’s multiplayer is broken. Between lag compensation, unbalanced weaponry, poorly sized maps, awful matchmaking, and the worst spawn system the series has seen, Black Ops II does a significant amount to crush any positive changes that it brought to the table. Treyarch did a number of smart additions to multiplayer, like Scorestreaks and the Pick 10 system, that don’t change the formula but switch it up enough to make things feel somewhat fresh. At its core, it is the best the series’ multiplayer has been since Call of Duty 4. When everything works, it’s some of the most fun I've had playing games.

The issue is that it very rarely works. As of lately, it’s never really worked at all. Player connections are mediocre at best and the game’s terrible lag compensation makes some situations even worse. Running for cover is no longer an option because shots will hit around corners, thanks to the game delaying hits to “even out” the connection odds in the present lobby. It’s become common to shoot at an enemy and have him turn around and kill you, all whilst you continue to riddle him with bullets. Everything when playing feels ‘off’, as if the game was in this constant struggle of leveling the playing field by adjusting everyone’s connection to some kind of average ping. I'm sure this is not how the lag comp actually works but it's how it feels to me when I play it. This is in addition to SMGs that dominate the playing field, maps that contain choke points that encourage the use of the formerly-mentioned weapon type, matchmaking that will frequently stick unbelievably skilled players against a team of way lower skill, and a spawn system that doesn’t think twice about spawning you, or the enemy, within feet of each other. Multiplayer has become a balancing act of min/maxing my class loadout for “what works best against players this week”, fighting lag compensation, and working around all the faults mentioned above to complete an objective in a game mode.

I link to this video because while I don't usually care much for Youtube commentators/players, he explains lag comp really well (far better than I can, anyway) and states pretty clearly why it's an issue in Black Ops II. Notably, there's a winning side and a losing side to every gunfight based entirely on the connection at play.

Awful, isn’t it? I should just be able to sit down, play with my friend, and have some fun, but I can’t. I can’t turn off my brain anymore and just play. The balancing act takes too much processing power and to even have the slightest chance of winning a match or finishing above a 1 kill/death ratio, (which is an entirely different problem) I need to concentrate and focus. Every time. What makes those problems even more aggravating? The actions taken to change them. Which is none. None whatsoever. I’m usually not a subscriber to the vocal outcry from a game’s angry community, (lolololol DmC) usually dismissing it as the internet will be the internet. I won’t be an idiot here and say the Black Ops II community is any different, as I dismissed their extremely vocal complaints for a while but... I just can’t anymore. They’re not wrong. They’re vocal about it because underneath all this horseshit is a game that is worth playing. Worth playing for hundreds of hours. None of us can access it, though, because there are all these issues to deal with and no one’s done squat about it. It’s been brought to Treyarch’s attention multiple times and the only response the community’s gotten is either “Get better internet” or “It must be you, because the game is fine”. Constant dismissal with two patches, alongside other numerous hotfixes, have brought no change to the core issues at hand. The better person in me wants to believe that Treyarch is actually very hard at work on fixing these issues. I want to believe that they are. They were terrific at supporting Black Ops 1 whenever issues arose. If they are working on a fix, is it too much to ask for a simple acknowledgement of the problems nearly everyone in the community has been experiencing?

A golden era we will probably never get back.

I just wish the game would feel right again. I’ll spare the longer paragraphs I could write about the experience but I recently went back to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer and... it’s frightening how, five years later, that game is still unbelievably excellent online. Everything felt right. Every hit, every death, every assist, and every game mechanic. The cut in extra features felt like a breath of fresh air. Three killstreaks. A set of perks to worth with, all providing minor changes. 4 attachments per gun. That’s it. Go nuts. To go from that to Black Ops II, an ostensibly more advanced game, and feel like everything is wonky and not working quite right feels tragic. You guys had four games to get it right with and it’s still flawed. How do you work off a brilliant blueprint and Sharpie all over it, hiding what made the foundation excellent?

In any other situation, I’d do what I did with XCOM when I couldn’t see past its flaws. I’d stop playing. I’d just give up. I’d bring my game in, I’d trade it, and probably buy myself something neat like Asura’s Wrath. But I can’t. I can’t, because of the reason why it makes me completely sad I have to deal with these flaws for another year.

Like many other players, I bought the Season Pass. I bought it when the game was still fun to me, thinking that I can’t wait to play all the awesome new maps in this awesome game when they come out. Shit, they’re even adding new weapons! (And, to be truthful, the new maps do look super cool and the Peacemaker SMG does look fun to use.) But as my time with the game’s multiplayer grew, I got to realise I wasn’t having fun anymore. The only reason I was playing was just to do something with my free time, (an admittedly shitty reason) to keep up with the community’s playstyle, and not let myself get rusty for when the maps release. The joy and excitement I got out of the new features and the great new maps are gone. Instead, I fight the game to try and fight the opposing players. Deaths feel unfair. My own kills feel spotty. Matches feel disjointed and poorly paced. I’m playing a game that I know and accept as being busted, and I can’t stop myself from playing. With an additional $60, I preemptively promised myself dedication to something I thought I loved, only to find myself dedicated to something I understand and now somewhat dislike.

There are plenty of ways I could phrase it but had it best when I came to the realisation on Twitter.

It is a game I sincerely, deeply, honestly want to love. For all the criticism it gets, the Call of Duty series is a fantastic bunch of videogames that can continue to offer hours upon hours of fun. It’s why it hurts me so much to say the things I said above. I want to love it but I can’t. I just can’t anymore. It’s aggravating and I hate spending my time on something I don’t enjoy because it has flaws I cannot look past. They are flaws that actively ruin an amazing experience. They are flaws that could be easily addressed, (at the very least, the important ones like netcode) and they are ignored and dismissed as the constant yelling of an angry community. It fucking sucks.

But hey, they got my money. Twice. I suppose the joke’s on me, right?

--

Oh my, I didn't keep it short, did I? Well, I suppose that's another point to how much I want to like the game. :c

I'd also like to thank the aforementioned for throwing me down a dark, T-ara ornamented hole I'll probably never get out of and for also pointing me towards some really cool tunes. Thanks for reading, guys! See you next week, hopefully with something less depressing of a subject matter.

7 Comments

dot dot dot - two: A Conflict of Specialness

Oh hey, a second post. THE SERIES LIVES ON. Here's hoping I can find it in me to keep this going throughout the year. This will probably be when the posts actually appear, since I tend to be not-so-busy on the weekends. I'm sure homework will change that in a couple weeks time, but it should be easy enough to spare the half-hour it takes for me to write a blog post.

There's not that much in the way for me to talk about except for something that came up when talking with . We had an extended discussion over Steam about Dark Souls/Demon's Souls and the strengths of the two games the other day. I came away from it with the realisation that while Dark Souls is an improvement over Demon's Souls in nearly every way, DS still holds a relatively special place in my heart. It stuck with me because, in a lot of ways, I feel the same about Persona 4 versus Persona 3. P4 is a better game than P3 in every facet, yet Persona 3 is the first one to come to mind when I am prompted to think of my favorite JRPGs.

Oh, Mitsuru. I miss you. ;-;

Why is that so, though? I actually enjoyed my time with Dark Souls far more than I did with Demon's Souls, and the same applies for Persona 4 versus Persona 3. (and FES) Would it not be logical for me to unquestioningly prefer the better sequels to the originals? The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me because I think that, ultimately, it comes down to novelty. What P3 and Demon's Souls did on their respective releases felt like a landmark moment. With P3, I was finally able to enjoy JRPGs again. An actual mature story with well-realised characters, an incredible soundtrack, and some of the most fun gameplay intertwined with addictive dating sim-like aspects. I couldn't have fathomed such a game would exist, let alone have it be so enjoyable.

With Demon's Souls, I got to play the revival of classic game design. Punishing difficulty that forces you to learn and better yourself as a player. Combat scenarios and level designs that, while difficult, are fair and done in a way to teach you mechanics and strategies to use later on. To channel Egoraptor for a bit, it reminds me of Mega Man X, where the first stage of the game is designed in a manner to teach you everything you need to know as a player without explicitly telling you so. Sure, Demon's Souls has a tutorial level but I'm more specifically talking about Boletarian Palace 1-1. Playing through it again, it reminded me just how strong of a level it is. Every enemy placement, object placement, and architectural decision is there to teach you something. The doors, the bridges, the ledges, the enemies hiding behind walls-- everything. When you finish 1-1, you have, through repeated play from dying so much, learned the core of what you need to make your way through the game. You'll learn better tactics later on but they'll just be an improvement over what you've already learned.

Pictured above: one of the most amazing environments in modern gaming.

There's a bunch of other shit in Demon's Souls that makes it great (like the art direction, soundtrack, and mechanics) and all of those are (I feel) improved upon in Dark Souls. The art direction is stronger, the soundtrack is better, and the mechanics are extended and improved upon. There's so much I could elaborate regarding why I feel Dark Souls is a superior game but that would be unwrapping the entire game by so much that it's just simpler for me to sum it up that way. Maybe I'll save it for another time. So, if it's better, than why does Demon's Souls still feel so... special? The same applies to Persona 4. Why does Persona 3 hold such a special place to me if Persona 4 is, obviously, such a better game?

JOLLY CO-OPER... oh wait, wrong game.

Because it was the first time I saw it happen in front of me. Dark Souls and Persona 4, while obviously better than their previous iterations, are still improvements over an original brilliant foundation. It doesn't feel as special to me because I have, unfortunately, seen it before. I'm playing through a better version of what I've already seen and it's letting me enjoy it on its own merits, but it is still the same core idea. If anything, it made me wish there was a way to experience those games for the first time again. Heck, it makes me curious to know what it was like for players who have never played Persona 3 or Demon's Souls before playing either Dark Souls or Persona 4. Was it this revolutionary thing to them? Could they even go back and enjoy P3 or Demon's Souls for what they are, or would they see those games as some kind of shadow behind much better games?

So yeah, that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, especially if you've played either Dark Souls or Persona 4 (or both) and then went on to play the original games after. (I'll say Persona 3 for P4, considering Persona and Persona 2 are kind of really different from the PS2 games.) Until next week, or something, toodles~

... also, I wish I could experience NiER for the first time again, and I only say that because I'm listening to the brilliant OST again.

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dot dot dot - one: New beginning! And stuff.

Hey, duders. To break in the new year properly, I'm taking it upon myself to reset my blog. I tried to run a regular(ish) series last year that didn't exactly pan out because the format I restricted myself to made it so that I needed to invest more time into it than I really had. More often than not, it'd result in me not really bothering in writing or proof-reading the small bits I had written. Some of you over on the beta site might have seen the exciting, fantastic, brilliant, award-winning prologue entry to this blog series. To those of you returning: yo. To those of you who are new: Double yo. To those of you wondering about the name: I didn't know what to call the new blog series, so I named it after the unfortunate silence that rang through my head when trying to come up with a title. The parentheses are because the title didn't look good design-wise without them. SUPER INTERESTING FACTS, YO.

Maybe the reality of my anxiety will just be me crying over this.

The idea is to give myself a spot where I can vent on stuff, more-so than I can on Twitter or Tumblr. Neither of my accounts there are places where I can do that in proper comfort, so to the wonderful community of Giant Bomb it is! I'll (hopefully) still be talking some about games but there's most likely going to be a mess of off-topic stuff going on up in hurr.

So, what do I want to talk about? ... I don't know. My head's in a bit of a stir because of a couple things, the more notable ones being the return to class tomorrow and the really dumb situation I've put myself in with a close friend. The two make me feel anxious for different reasons and both being problems at once is less than ideal. I'm slightly terrified of returning to school because I worry I lack the creativity to make it through this final semester. What comes after I graduate scares me just as much, if not more.

How do you not fall for such a wonderfully goofy person, man. :
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Aura's Top 10 Games of 2012

The actual awards! Yay! No categories, only raw numbers. The way I like ‘em.

I didn’t get to play as many games this year as I’d have ultimately liked. Being unbelievably busy with school and running into a few monetary issues certainly helped in draining my gaming time. What I did get to play, though, made up for one of the strongest years in games that I’ve had. The omissions are worth praising alone. Hotline Miami, FTL, Black Ops II, SSX, Phantasy Star Online 2-- a lot of really great stuff got cut and I think it speaks volumes to the overall quality this year. Regardless of taste, opinions, or preferences, 2012 was a fucking kick-ass year for videogames.

Hold onto your reading glasses and reading hats, people, because this might get a little long.

Forza Horizon is a terrific racing game. I love it for both what it is and the promise it shows, because its quality means we can expect great things from Playground in the future. The driving mechanics are rock solid, the car list is varied and great, the events are dealt out and organized in an intelligent manner, and the features you’d expect out of a Forza game are present and as good as ever.

I wasn’t sure how well an open-world Forza game would work out but I’m really happy it works as well as it does. Playground found a way to cleverly balance the arcadey nature of their pedigree with Forza’s smart accessibility mechanics and car tuning. There’s depth to the actual driving in the game and there’s a lot to do in the world with it. Events and challenges are everywhere and they are, for the most part, a lot of fun to do. It also helps that Forza Horizon is absolutely beautiful to look at. The world of Colorado that they’ve rendered is a picturesque one, for sure.

I haven’t completed everything in it, far from it, but it’s something I see myself returning to every now and again. It’s a terrific game to go back to and just drive around for some fun.

Achieving anything in Super Hexagon dwarfs any other feelings of achievement I’ve had in games this year. The lightning-fast pace at which the game plays is addictive and very quickly starts to be one of those “Just one more.” games. The grind of repeatedly smashing into a wall, the process of learning the few randomised patterns, and the eventual mastery of successfully chaining multiple patterns together at the end of those 60 seconds is the best of feelings.

Super Hexagon also deserves credit for breaking the laws of physics, as it redefined the amount of time it takes for 60 seconds to wind down. Changing it from “60 individual seconds” to “FUCKING FOREVER” is a feat worthy of praise.

Borderlands 2 is, more or less, the perfect sequel. The soundtrack is better, the story is better, the characters are better, the skill trees are better, the guns are better, the gunplay is better, the side-missions are better, the main story quests are better, the world is better, the art direction is better … and so on. It also helps that the game having a central bad-guy gave a lot more direction to its plot. I appreciated the tone Handsome Jack brings to the story and the world. He sells that universe really well.

While that’s all well and good, though, the co-op is really what got me this time. I played through the entirety of Borderlands 2 (and all of both DLC packs so far) with a friend and have had an absolute blast because of it. Grinding out weapons, experimenting with weapons and equipment, fighting raid bosses... It’s the best co-op experience I’ve had this year, for sure. Though truthfully, I feel like Borderlands 2 is hampered by its “more of the same” nature. Everything about it is better than its predecessor, but it could have used something new. If anything, it makes me excited to see what comes next for that franchise.

Fuck me if Rockstar isn’t just the best at making gritty-ass games about really depressing premises. Take a guy who loses his wife and kid, give him a crippling addiction to pills and booze, make him take a private security job in a shithole country to shithole people, and out comes one of the most fun-to-play third-person shooters with a presentation to die for.

The plot twists are what they are and I think, ultimately, the story probably isn’t as well-rounded as I’d like to think it is. But the characters they develop and the places the story takes you, that shit’s pure Rockstar. They managed to make me feel empathy for Max, and I’m far from anywhere near as bad of a shit point in life as he is. From the narrative to the soundtrack, Max Payne 3 has a fantastic neo-noir tone that I couldn’t get enough of and by the time it was over, I was in absolute love with it.

Fez completely took over an entire weekend of my life. The Saturday and Sunday I powered through it existed only for me to play the game. Eating, sleeping, working-- all secondary priorities.

Why? Because I needed to crack that fucking code.

I BET THERE'S SOMETHING HIDDEN HERE THERE JUST HAS TO BE

Its beautiful art and wonderful soundtrack aside, Fez is the ultimate throwback to games of old merely by design, where its many secrets and revelations only come to life through trial and error, pure luck, clever deduction, or repeated discussion with friends. Regardless of how I solved each of the puzzles, they all had me going crazy in my chair, furiously taking notes and talking to friends about what I saw and what I missed.

Yet the even crazier part about all this is where Fez is just supposed to be this silly little platformer. It’s deceptive appearance only fades away once you “beat” it for the first time, and the discovery of what game Fez was all along is one of the best moments I had this year. Discovering your new abilities, cracking the code, solving the most hidden of puzzles, getting the highest completion percentage... it was addicting and I’m thrilled I played through it all in two sittings. It consumed me for an entire weekend and when it was all over, I felt like I had just taken a trip through childhood again. I wish more games did that.

Well, here’s a game I had no idea I was going to like this much. What looked to be a poor-man’s GTA actually turned out to be the best open-world game I’ve played since GTA: San Andreas. With an awesome amount of Hong Kong action film nonsense to boot, Sleeping Dogs was like a direct injection of fun into the pleasure centre of my brain. It captivated me and I wouldn’t let it go until I beat it to absolute completion.

Pew! Pew!

There’s a ton worth praising in Sleeping Dogs, like the fighting mechanics. The brawling combat is a ton of fun. I’d dare to say I even like it more than Batman: Arkham Asylum’s combat, which is what it obviously inspires from. The environmental attacks and the minor upgrades you get always made every encounter unique and fun to experiment with. In an even more impressive feat of balancing multiple mechanics, the guns were fun to use as well. The driving, too, is a lot of fun. So fun, even, that I had no problem completing all of the optional race missions. Despite my love of Midnight Club, I fucking hate open-world checkpoint races and I still managed to like them in Sleeping Dogs. The driving is slippery and snappy, and made exploring the city in cars a lot of fun to do.

But what I liked the most about Sleeping Dogs is its story and tone. It’s a pure Hong Kong action flick. The plot points are as cookie-cutter as they come. Cop who has childhood connections to Triad goes undercover. Cop gains trust of Triad. Cop struggles with priorities. Cop wonders who he should be fighting for. So on and so on. It’s all there and sticks to the formula right up until the end, but it does it in a really intelligent way. The game is a little blockbuster in nature but has no problem playing it serious. Its ability to walk the line between the two made experiencing the game’s story so much more enjoyable. It was a consistent reminder of why I didn’t like GTA IV’s story so much. Whereas GTA IV was taking itself seriously in a world that did not, Sleeping Dogs just... kind of does both in a world that does both, too. It would have been really easy for the game to come off as cheesy when it was trying to be serious, but it didn’t. It’s enjoyable and likeable cast of characters did a whole lot to aid this, as well.

Its tone and incredibly well-refined mechanics kept me hooked. I didn’t want to stop playing and purposely beat it to 100% completion because I wanted to stay in that world for as long as I could. My time with Sleeping Dogs was some of the most memorable I’ve had with an open-world game, even if it was an incredibly short 35 hours.

It’s really interesting to see the experiences of others who either played all the episodes in one shot or played them alone, weeks apart. My experience with The Walking Dead was a shared one, where my friends and I gathered on the release of each episode at one of our houses to sit down and play together. It was a social activity... one that was usually comprised of complete silence. Rarely did someone speak, usually only to suggest a decision when one would arise. It was an experience we shared together and I feel like the biggest moments in that game had a significant impact on all of us because of it. It felt like we were a group along for the ride. Partners to the group featured throughout Telltale’s incredible narrative.

There’s little I can say about The Walking Dead that hasn’t already been said by the dozens upon dozens of sites, blogs, and users who have picked it as their favorite game this year. The characters are some of the most well-realised to have ever been introduced into the medium, the story has some of the finest examples of suspense and character development, and the presentation and delivery of the episodic content is the new standard for games of that format.

There’s an intensity to the game’s story that I don’t think I’ll be able to find in another game to come for a long, long time. I cried, I got scared, I jumped out of my seat in absolute horror, and I clenched at more controller handles and couch cushions than I ever have before. The Walking Dead is an absolutely fantastic adventure game. I really hope it inspires Telltale to expand and explore the ideas it brought to the table with this series, because they really did accomplish a lot.

It fucking breaks my heart to even have to write anything about Analogue: A Hate Story. Like Digital: A Love Story, I’m sitting here just thinking about what I read through and can’t process the amount of shit it’s making me feel. My heart sank when I looked up a screenshot to put into the banner, of all things.

Analogue’s story about a once-prosperous, now-deserted ship in space is a haunting one, and the AI that accompanies and elaborates on the lore is an infectious personality I grew to love. *Hyun-ae is funny, a bit scary, adorable, and intriguing, offering a unique insight into the game’s central plot of “uncover why the hell this entire ship is now desolate”. It has multiple plot twists and revelations, some of which are so heartwrenching that I had to double take or would end up speaking out loud to myself in shock. It’s not a long game, it took me close to an hour and 45 minutes to finish, but the story it tells is a fascinating one. There are themes and concepts explored throughout Analogue that you don’t really get to see in games. The feminine perspective on the events it presents are every bit as interesting as they are haunting. They are definitely worth experiencing for yourself.

*Hyun-ae goes from being a little off-putting to really charming a lot faster than I expected.

The visual novel’s writing is, like in Digital, fantastic. Christine Love has a way with casual conversation that I admire and wish I could duplicate for myself. The dialogue feels natural and is easy to read, without sacrificing the complexity of what’s being presented. The interface to read the narrative with is also much improved. I appreciate Digital’s throwback look, but it made reading for an extended amount of time a little strenuous. Analogue’s interface is clean, concise, and easy to navigate when unlocking multiple text ‘blocks’.

The music in Analogue is terrific, too. The originally composed soundtrack compliments the inviting nature of the interface and its AI incredibly well. It knows when to set a mood, and it knows when to be nothing other than minimalist background music to let you concentrate on the reading in front of you. I suppose my only gripe with the game overall is the art. Though this is largely my own nitpicking, I think the lines on Raide’s character work is a little unrefined. The character design and the coloring is great, but the final linework lacks polish that I feel it could really use. The expressions and overall look of the characters end up being a little flatter than I’d like because of it. Though again, this is merely my own nitpicking. As someone who does almost nothing other than draw characters in his spare time, it’s something I couldn’t avoid seeing and pointing out.

That little bit aside, I adore everything about Analogue. It’s a terrific follow-up to Digital and it makes me realise that I have an appreciation for these types of games I did not know I had. Christine Love’s untraditional approach to visual novels are great, and Analogue is a prime example why. It’s story is gripping, it’s characters are loveable, and the way it presented is unique and fun. As if it wasn’t enough that the narrative is absolutely excellent, the act of having to dig and discover it is a rewarding and interesting experience. Analogue: A Hate Story is well worth your time and it stands in a respectable company of games that really affected me.

More importantly, though, is its placement on my list. I fucking love Analogue. It did not hit as hard as Digital: A Love Story did, (mostly because I related to the latter, whereas I have yet to live in Space Korea like Analogue portrays) but I fucking adore it none-the-less. Both are easily some of my favorite games of all time, yet I cannot place it higher because I did, ultimately, enjoy the following games more. Like Digital back in 2010, I have to add this weird addendum where I’ll say that, realistically, Analogue might be a game to stick in my head enough to merit being at a spot like #3, but I know in my heart that I had more fun with the games above it.

But save for the top two, no game this year made me think like Analogue did. I just... see, it’s becoming this weird thing again like the end of my Best of 2010 list. God dammit, Christine Love. Why do you do this to me.

Well, there. My list is re-organised to reflect how I truly feel about the game.

Fuck man, now I just can’t stop thinking about what happened on the Mugunghwa ship. Argh. This is fucking me up so bad. I’m gonna go … eat... or something. Fuck.

You got to see the end of the Genophage.

A conclusion was brought to the Quarian/Geth conflict.

A Thresher Queen headbutted a Reaper to death.

Shepard got to revisit and re-explore relationships and events from the entire series, as well as some from additional lore like the books.

Mass Effect 3 is every bit as meaningful a game as it is a closure to the trilogy. Regardless to what you think of the ending, the journey to complete Mass Effect 3 is one of the most satisfying and personal experiences I’ve ever had in videogames. The always-incredible narrative and dialogue is there to form an engaging and awesome story, and the refined gameplay is there to make the combat the best it’s ever been in the series. The characters and the interactions you have with them, the scenarios you get to see during the invasion of the Reapers, and the way it finally all comes to a close makes Mass Effect 3 one of my absolute favorites this year.

It’s worth mentioning that it also features some of the most fun multiplayer I’ve had in 2012. Who knew that wave-based, class-driven multiplayer could be so much fun? In Mass Effect, of all games! The improvements that Bioware has made to the shooting mechanics shine bright in the multiplayer and it makes it something I continually want to revisit.

Instead of writing why I picked Journey merely on what I think of it is as a game, I’d rather explain the experience I had whilst playing it. I could talk about the beautiful soundtrack, the absolutely breathtaking art direction, or the simplicity of its design, but I won’t. Instead, I want to talk about one of my playthroughs.

My first playthrough of Journey was fantastic. I got to share my time with a bunch of different users and it made for a magical experience that I completely fell in love with.

My second playthrough, however, was the one. I paired up with another player in the usual area (the one where you need to connect the three pillars with the cloth bridges) and we promptly chirped at each other and continued on our adventure together. As the game progressed, however, we began to develop a means of communicating. If one of us found a symbol, we’d quickly chirp at each other. The other would then chirp twice to say thank you. The same applied for any other secrets like the flOw creature or glyphs. If we wanted to call each other, we’d chirp three times. If we were walking along, we’d occasionally count. One chirp, the next would do two, then three, and so on. I made a friend, and we developed our own way of communicating.

We stuck close to each other to make sure we always found the same secrets, and stuck by even closer when trying to avoid the floating creature underground. We endured the harsh winds of the mountain climb together and we both fell near the peak of the mountain. A tragic moment, as he fell to his knees seconds before I did. When the end sequence began, the two of us weren’t near each other. I couldn’t find my friend. This was it. The end. He had to be there! We have to finish this together! I couldn’t find him, where did he go? I tried to impede my progress in the level for as much as I could, afraid I might have overshot my partner.

Suddenly, out of the blue, he appeared. He bursted out of the ground, leaping into the sky above me and chirped at me incessantly. He was trying to find me, too! I leaped towards him and got as close as I could, as we both repeatedly chirped at each other, the skies filling with the endless symbols we were casting into it. We climbed, flew, and jumped together towards the end, where the light grew and the credits sequence started to roll.

I sat there, conflicted and full of emotion. I was in tears. I was so happy that I had found this friend. This one person, whom I’ve never met, felt as close to me as any of my closest, longest-lasting friends. We had seen everything together. We had been through everything together. He was everything I had just put myself though. We both depended on each other. We were there for each other, and now it’s over. He’s gone, forever. I’ll never see him again. I couldn’t bear the thought. I just cried instead, happy and sad at what I just realised.

At the end of the credits, the list of usernames appeared. Expecting two or three names, I was shocked to only find one. The other player, who I knew could be multiple people, really was just a single person. I created a PSN message and wrote a thank you note to the player. I thanked them for being the most amazing partner. I was so grateful they had made my experience what it was.

A few minutes later, the player replied. What was in his reply was some of the most broken, poorly put together English I have ever seen. And then it hit me: this person clearly didn’t speak English. Their sentence wasn’t hard to read because their English was full of slang or internet shorthand. No, it was because they just didn’t speak it. This person with which I formed an actual connection, with which I had developed a means of communication, and with which I had shared an experience I felt was deep and meaningful, most likely doesn’t speak the same language I do. If we met in the street, we wouldn’t even be able to say anything to each other. Yet through Journey, we got to experience what we did.

For that playthrough, I pick Journey as my Game of the Year. Nothing else has ever come close to giving me that kind of experience, and I am not sure anything else ever will. Journey is something unfathomably special and the videogame medium is incredibly fortunate to have it, as are we.

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And that's it! Thanks for reading, and have a great end of holiday! :'D

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Aura's Annual Award Bonanza: 2013 Edition - Day Three

The final day! Despite my award calendar running out, awards will continue next year. Don’t worry, you guys.

See that? Mayan joke. Hilarious, right? That doctorate I got at Comedy College is paying out in fucking cash, man.

As someone who enjoys employing sarcasm whenever I can, this might come off as a little hypocritical, but I am starting to get really fucking tired about everyone in the game industry being so cynical about everything. Watching E3 unfold this year was an unfortunately shitty experience, with seemingly every game critic using their various mediums of communication to elaborate how boring and uninteresting anything was. Whatever happened to being excited about videogames? So what if there were a bunch of sequels. So what if a bunch of them were shooters. Didn’t you feel like it was even remotely cool to see new things? That maybe some of them would have potential down the line to be larger than the sum of its parts? Look at Spec Ops or Black Ops II’s campaign, for example. Is every person so unbelievably jaded that everything just sucks by default, now? New IPs were announced and shown, and people still found a reason to complain about them.

2012 ended up being almost a full year of watching my Twitter feed during any important gaming-related (sometimes unrelated, even) event and having everyone try to be a fucking comedian like it was brick-wall amateur night at the Chuckle Hut. It made this year feel like it was significantly less exciting than it really was and that is a depressing thought. An absolute deluge of quality games came out this year, and all anyone had to do or say was fucking complain or make fun of them.

Now that the world didn’t actually end, maybe we can all try and be a bit more positive during 2013, yeah? That’d be fun!

Runners Up: I want nothing more to end other than Bronies or Cynicism in gaming. Wait no, maybe end the X-Factor forever so Top Gear doesn't ever have to start a season later again, I guess.

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It’s not in my final top 10, so I made it’s own little category because I feel like Black Ops II’s campaign is really something worth talking about. I knew ahead of time Treyarch was going to try something different with branching paths and the like, but I don’t think I could have foreseen how much the changes they made would affect the story’s actual outcome. Player choice is an extremely prominent mechanic in the campaign and it’s used with an incredible effectiveness. The choices it presents to you upfront are what they are and some will affect the story more strongly than others, but it’s the choices it hides from you that are super interesting. There are situations and outcomes in the game that I had no idea I ever had a role in and each one affects the possible ending you will get differently. It was fascinating to me that my friends and I could have an extended conversation about the story’s campaign, and all discuss how different the story we experienced was. It’s always great when I can do that with any game, but that I could do with a Call of Duty game... it’s exciting. Super exciting. If there’s something new worth bringing to the table with single-player first person shooters, it’s how Treyarch handled player choice in Black Ops II.

Also, more games should have explosions.

Runners Up: Blink mechanic in Dishonored, uncovering a narrative like in Analogue

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There’s not really much to say here other than I have little interest in playing Assassin’s Creed III. I had an absolutely fantastic time with Brotherhood and skipped Revelations because it seemed like it would burn me out on the franchise. Then ACIII was announced and it looked fucking awesome, yet I sit here, a few months post-release, and I’m just... completely uninterested by it. It just seems like the same. The story seems neat, but hearing that the Desmond stuff closes out in a less-than-satisfactory matter is really unappealing, considering that is the real story I care about.

I just... maybe I’ll wait when it’s dirt cheap. Maybe. I don’t even know. Maybe I just want to move onto something else. Maybe one of you has a reason for me to get excited about it, or something.

Runners Up: Xenosaga 1-3. Those games are just gonna sit there, unplayed forever. At least they look nice on my shelf.

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Continuing the annual tradition that began two years ago, this award is dedicated to the best sound effect in a game this year. While I was originally going to award it to Jenn Frank’s wonderful role as the announcer in Super Hexagon, I find it far too unfair not to award it to the reloading sound for Tediore weapons in Borderlands 2. It’s such a good sound. It sounds like it should. Mechanical, digital, both together like a gun that’s cloning itself should. Good stuff.

Runners Up: Announcer voice in Super Hexagon

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Let me be clear: I really like Dishonored. I just feel that the game plays it far too safe with its story. Nearly every plot point I’ve encountered has been incredibly predictable and the characters just seem so... flat. Emily and the Empress seem like the ones to have any sort of actual “character” to them, while the others all seem like total stereotypes or cookie-cutter secondary NPCs provided by the NPC Cookie FactoryTM.

Dishonored still has me largely in its favor because the gameplay is fucking terrific, the level design is some of the best I’ve seen, and the world it’s set in is wonderfully realised. I just wish the story was there to cement all of them together, because right now it’s being a rickety axel on what could be an otherwise incredibly smooth and satisfying ride.

Runners Up: Roller Coaster Rampage, The last few months of my life jesus christ man. Girls, am I right?

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And that's it, folks! The award categories are done. Hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed sitting here, furiously typing out these really dumb opinions that I have. Make sure to come back tomorrow for my full Top 10 list!

Did you miss Day 1? Maybe Day 2, even? Shit! Better click the links I gave there to make sure you can read them, too!

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Aura's Annual Award Bonanza : 2012 Edition - Day Two

Little late today. And by "today", I really mean "Oops, Day 2 and Day 3 will actually happen the same day". Sorry! Holiday family plans and whatnot. Regardless, Day 2 is upon us! Welcome to the dark middle chapter of my awards. There will be blood.

And Shepherd’s Pie. But mostly blood.

From the simple concept of the Wanderer to the iconic depiction of the Mountain in the background, the art in Journey is creatively and emotionally inspiring. The environment designs are simple yet rich, and the symbolic nature of its world says more than most big-budget, developed universes do. There’s little more I can say about Journey’s artwork when it is one of the few examples where a picture of it fortunately says a thousand words.

Runners Up: Forza Horizon, Susan Coffey

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God dammit, man. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD should have been something wonderful. It should of been the nostalgia pull for me. The dumb Sonic fans get dumb Sonic games every dumb year that caters to their dumb wishes, and what do we get? Shred? Fuck!

But wait! RoboModo (ugh) was there! It promised to save the day! It promised to deliver a game that had some the best levels, the best music, the best skaters, and the best idea: bring back the classic Tony Hawk formula. Two-minute runs; complete goals to win.

And what did we get instead? We got a game that had seven-levels, with four of them being absolute trash. Downhill Jam? I know Tony Hawk wanted it in the game, but maybe some of you GAME DEVELOPERS thought it’d be cool to tell him that maybe a level that isn’t THE WORST would be a better idea to feature? Where’s School I? Or Minneapolis? Skate Heaven? YOU GUYS DIDN’T EVEN PUT IN PHILLY, JESUS CHRIST. Put that in the pile of “Things That Should Have Been Included”, alongside Split-Screen multiplayer or H-O-R-S-E. Oh, and Create-a-Skater. I can deal with not including the Park Editor, even if I love it, but not having a skater creator? Come on, man! YOU DIDN’T GIVE US PHILLY, AT LEAST GIVE US THIS.

Yet even more appalling are the absolutely busted physics. It’s haunting how frequent a combo or trick will come to an end because of a freak physics bug that will make you fall through the level or slingshot you into the sun. Did you want to take that rail? Ha, fuck you. Here, hit this wall sideways instead. Oh, that’s broken? Hold on, I’ll get to it when I’m done counting your $15 over and over again and then laughing. Maniacally. Like the asshole I am.

It could have been so great, man. It could have been the fucking light at the end of a long and dark tunnel. Instead, there was a cliff at the end of the tunnel, one where we all fucking fell off. Every. Last. One of us.

Runner Up: None. There is literally nothing more disappointing this year than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. Fuck you, RoboModo.

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Nier is both something special and something tragic. It’s something special as in it is something I had almost no expectations going into and left with a sense of wonder at what I had seen. Nier was nothing remotely close to what I was expecting. I never could have foreseen it implementing bullet-hell shooter mechanics into third-person combat, or that it could have such a fantastic group of characters, or that its soundtrack would be the best of its kind, or that it would have plot twists that threw my jaw to the floor, or thrown in mechanics half-way through the game that I still don’t even understand how no one has never thought of doing before. Nier is a game with so many damn curveballs in its design and it makes it one of the most refreshing JRPG experiences I’ve had the pleasure of playing.

But it’s equally tragic because where Cavia saw a chance to do something different, unique, and, for once, exciting with the JRPG genre, the general market saw a chance to ignore it. It’s sub-par presentation made for a game unappealing to the eye’s first glance and it seems like many ignored it because of that reason. It sold poorly and was ultimately responsible for Cavia’s demise. The first Square game to be likeable in ages, and the studio responsible for it is shut down. It makes me really thankful Atlus is still around (although its handheld focus this generation is worrysome) because the number of developers willing to try something different grows smaller by the year.

At the very least, we’ll always have Nier to remind us what a design doc filled absolute craziness and creativity can look like.

Runners Up: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, Parasite Eve

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Okay, now is the time to talk about the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle. Now is the time to talk about it and why I think it’s fucking ridiculous that so many of you got so angry in the first place. I’ll throw in the caveat here that I beat Mass Effect 3, for the first time, with both the From Ashes and Extended Cut DLC, so my arguments might be a little skewed here, but I believe the core will stay true.

I don’t have a problem with players disagreeing with how the ending was handled. That’s all fine and good. It’s your opinion and, to some extent, you have the right to voice it. What I do have a problem with, however, is the kerfuffle that came about from players demanding Bioware to change the ending.

Mass Effect 3 is a creative work by a group of individuals. Like any other creative work, you are in your right to interpret it however you want, but it remains their creative work. Let’s say you are an illustrator, like myself. You make an illustration of, I don’t know, cats. Cats dancing in the rain. You finish it, proud of your work, and your fans fucking hate it. They hate it so much, they demand you change it to something else. The cats shouldn’t be dancing, they should be walking! Do you change it? Do you cave in to the pressure of your fanbase to alter the vision of your creative work? Fuck no, you don’t. It’s your work. It’s yours alone and while they are free to interpret it however they want, it is not up to them to decide what the subject of your artwork should be.

And even more to the point, why would you be so focused on a singular aspect of a larger image? Why does it bother you so that the cats are dancing? Is there nothing else to appreciate in that illustration? Just like with Mass Effect 3, I feel like many let the ending completely blind them as to what made the rest of that game great. Like I explained on Day 1, there is so much more to Mass Effect 3 that makes it worthy of being the best RPG of the year, yet so many felt the need to ignore these events because of a single moment in the game. It’s juvenile. It’s close to resembling a fourteen year-old girl dropping her popsicle on the ground and crying because “her entire fucking day is ruined omg”.

Get real, folks. Re-adjust yourselves a bit and re-examine what exactly you are criticising, and why you are criticising it. You might find there is a lot more to love than there is to hate.

Runners Up: #1ReasonWhy existing in the first place, being exposed to more MLP shit

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I fucking exploded when I saw Dark Souls II being announced at the VGAs this year. I am so god-damn excited, you guys. Not just because it’s a sequel to one of the best games of 2011, but because it also means there’s finally room in mainstream gaming for something as incredibly unique as Dark Souls. Narrative and lore that is never explicitly told to the player, difficulty that is aggressive but rewarding, art design that is dark and subdued. These ideas should be exclusive to some niche but they aren’t anymore. They’re enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, and it makes me so happy.

While all we got was a trailer and a few shots of concept art, I am unbelievably excited for Dark Souls II. Everything I’ve seen, heard, and read of it sounds like it’s heading in a great direction and I cannot wait to see the finished product.

… man. They made a sequel to Dark Souls. Fuckkkkkk that’s so rad.

Runners Up: Black Ops II’s campaign, Finding out I didn’t fail painting class

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And that's a wrap for Day Two! Did you miss Day One? Shit! Check it out here. Come back tomorrow for the final award categories! Err... well, more like later today, I suppose. At least, if you're on the East Coast.

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