Device Connected - Episode 11 (15/4/2012)

Oh my, it seems like I completely missed last week! Hm. I suppose keeping all of my spring break homework up to the last minute was a terrible idea, since it didn't exactly allow me to write anything for the blog. Weak. There’s an entry this week, though, so let’s get to it.

Probably worth starting with stuff going on around me. For starters, I ended my last scheduled therapy session about two weeks ago, which felt pretty great. I will by no means say that I am “fixed”, because I am not. I still think about the past far too often than I should, and it has been stupidly controlling my decisions on occasions I wish it did not. The difference now is that my mood has significantly improved since. For the first time in what feels like a very long time, I do feel happy. I have felt happier, but time will come where I’ll be up to that again. I still get sad every so often when I over-think things, but it goes away a lot faster now. I can actually get up in the morning and feel motivated to go out and do things.

WUB WUB WUB WUB

Things like going out to concerts with friends, such as the Feed Me show I went to on the 3rd. Fucking brilliant show. His setlist was perfect, and I don’t think I had ever seen a crowd so energetic. The bro-douchebaggery brought a lot of unmerited moshing to the show, but even still I was having so much god-damned fun that I couldn’t of cared less. It was amazing, and a really terrific mood brightener amidst a flurry of homework that has kept me grounded at home for weeks now.

The post-show was slightly unpleasant, though. For one, my friend lost the tee he bought from the merch table somehow. $25 down the drain. :( We had also spent three hours jumping up and down, so our legs were fucking exhausted. This was worstened by the fact that it was now 2AM, and there were no metros passing anymore. Montreal/Laval has the worst metro system, I swear. Whatever the case, we live an hour’s transit away from downtown, so we crashed at my sister’s place that night. Which we had to walk to. A five kilometer walk. At 2AM, tired and with busted legs. Argh. To make matters worse, I had to shit really bad for the last kilometer or so of that walk, which was really unpleasant. … Sorry. It just adds to the detail. I think.

But whatever. We woke up the next morning feeling fine, and then I went to school and was sore all-over for the next two days. Totally worth it.

In game-related news, I finished Mass Effect 1 and 2! Woo! I beat 2 to completion this time around, which I did not get to do the first time. Scanned all the planets, did all the side-quests and everyone turned out fine at the end, so that was fun. I also wrapped up the only DLC I had not played, which was Overlord. What a terrific piece of content. Great story, fun gameplay, some really awesome scenery, and a plot twist that really had me in awe. It was something else, in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen touched upon in a game before. Cool stuff. I'm excited to get 3 this week and finish out the series, finally.

FUCKING HOPE YOU LIKE GETTING SHOT FROM ACROSS THE MAP FROM A DUDE WHO PAYED $60 TO STAND STILL IN A VIDEO GAME

I’ve also been playing a bunch more of Modern Warfare 3, which continues to be aggravating. They released the new map for PS3 this week, Black Box, which has encouraged players around the world to be dicks and literally do nothing but camp. The map is just designed in a way where players can sit in one spot and have an open view of 30% of the map, then just pick off anyone they see running or sniping. Almost every match I have played on it was a lousy experience, and it’s making start to get a little annoyed with the game. The more I play it, the more I start to realize all these retarded things that Infinity Ward has overlooked that will never be fixed. They’ve proven with 3’s multiplayer that they’re too lazy to make a real effort to change things, so why would they fix things like your predator missile screen also getting flashed when you do? Or killstreaks being erased when you earn one on top of the other? Or PlayStation servers that are apparently rented out of a barn somewhere in Montana, because it usually takes half-to-all of a mag to kill a dude, when it should only take three bullets.

Or maybe it’s just me having shooter fatigue. Who knows. What didn’t give me any kind of fatigue, however, is Journey. I did a second playthrough during my break, which turned out to be an even better experience than my first. Why? Because of this:

I actually played the entire game with a single partner, where we actually developed a language to communicate with each other. We eventually knew how to say we were happy, worried, that one should get the other to come over here... it was something else. Especially later in the game, where we had actually lost each other and I began to worry. A lot. My friend was with my as I was playing, and saw me getting scared that I had actually lost the person I was with for the whole game.

But you know what’s the real kicker? It’s that I messaged that person afterwards. I thanked them for being the best partner I had ever had in the game, and they replied later. They replied in … pretty broken english. They thanked me, too. But then it dawned on me-- whoever I played with was definitely not from my neck of the woods. Not even close. There is probably a very steep language barrier between the two of us, and yet we understood each other perfectly in the game. We were completely in sync, but in real life we would probably be completely dumbfounded and unable to even say “Hello”. I’ve never felt like that with anything before, and that realization was something really special. That I was even able to have that kind of experience... man. Just, videogames, right?

A lot of the tracks look really... barren

I also bought F1 2011, and I’ve played a bit of the game’s career mode. I’ve also played some online with a few fellow Bombers which was a lot of fun. The game’s alright, though it has a few noticeable shortcomings. For one, the game doesn’t looks that great. Some of the texture work is rough, and a lot of the character models are pretty terrible. The cars themselves look alright, but the detail on them is also spotty at times. It also has the worst driving line in the history of racing games. It frequently lies, telling you to brake at distances that will make you irreversibly overshoot turns. Really stupid, so you end up having to practice spotting your breaking points off actual track markers and whatnot. If you’re a fan of F1, though, it’s pretty neat.

The last thing I played was Lumines: Electronic Symphony. I borrowed my friend’s Vita to play it, and yup, that game is Lumines and yup, that game is totally rad.

Know what isn’t rad, though? The fucking Vita, that’s what. A beautiful system, but Jesus Christ that device is the most poorly conceived thing I have ever used. The menus all have a different way to opening and closing (Some require the label peeling, others to hit an X button, others to hit a back button) and a bunch of features can’t be used without closing another. Worst of all, though? No drive mounting.

I wanted to put some episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air onto it so I could have something to watch on the way back from school. A reasonable thing to want right? No? Well, get fucked. I tried to anyway. Here’s a step-by-step progression of me trying to do so:

I hook up the Vita up to my computer. It detects I’m connected to a PC, and says I need to do a firmware update before I can install drivers onto my PC. I do the firmware update. Takes half-an-hour to download through wi-fi and install. It installs, reboots, and I re-plug it to my PC. It installs drivers. It fails to install one out of the three. It tells me I need to download a Content Manager application for my PC to transfer files. I download the application. I install it. It starts, and asks me where my music, video and picture folders are. It indexes all of those folders, including all 90GBs of my music. This takes about 45 minutes to finish. Finally, the Vita is ready to connect to my PC. I plug the Vita into my PC, and it tells me to open the Content Manager app on the Vita. I do so. It shows that I cannot copy files onto the Vita from my PC. I need to do the copying from the Vita itself. It asks if I want to copy from the PC to the Vita, or vice versa. I tell it from the PC. It asks what I want to copy. I say Video. It opens the video folder that was assigned in the PC Content Manager. This folder does not have Fresh Prince episodes in it. I cannot browse my folders on PC. I unplug the Vita, restart Content Manager on the PC and tell it to go to the folder when my episodes are. It indexes that folder. I plug the Vita in and do the same thing again. It opens the folder, and does not list any video. The DivX-encoded .avi files aren’t compatible with the Vita. I shut the whole thing down and I do not touch it. I give the system back to my friend.

That shit right there? That’s unacceptable. I get the “we need to fight piracy” thing, but you’re actively encouraging me to find a workaround when you make copying fucking files so inconceivably difficult. It’s fucking 2012, and I need to use a god-damned application to transfer files onto my extremely advanced piece of hardware? Fuck, Sony. 2003 called and said that even in 2003, that shit is stupid. My three-year old phone can play any video or audio file in the known universe, and your $250 media system can’t play the most common codec in digital video? What. The. Fuck.

The games seem fun, and the system is powerful and beautiful to look at, but fuck that thing. Fuck it, and fuck its stupid design flaws, especially if they impede my ability to watch Fresh Prince on the go.

China! After a grueling two weeks of no racing, F1 returned this weekend in Shanghai with a really exciting race. Qualifying was a pretty fun watch, with Rosberg and Schumacher taking the top spots. I was excited to see Raikkonen place high up, and even more so to see Kobayashi place third. Sauber is really killing it this season. Biggest surprise of the session has got to be Vettel, though, who barely made it past Q1 and didn’t even get into Q3.

He also didn’t perform that well early-on in the race, dropping back to, like, 19th or something after the first few laps. The rest of the race was a ton of fun to watch, though. Shanghai is a great track, and it kept a lot of the racers close to each other. At least, when they weren't flying off the track to fly into outer space. There were constant battles for 4th and 8th place, which made the middle and latter parts of the race a ton of fun. Grosjean actually finished, which was awesome. I also really wanted Raikkonen to shine. He did for a very good portion of the race, but stayed on the same tyres for too long and lost so much grip. He was drifting into turns, practically. It was no surprise that he gave up his 4th place to drop down almost 10 places. I can’t imagine defending that position with tyres that worn being any kind of possible. I was really hoping he’d be near the top, but I was also kind of rooting for Rosberg to win. He gave an amazing performance, and really earned that win. Can’t complain about McLaren placing second and third, either.

__________

And that’s it! See you next week. :]

6 Comments

Device Connected - Episode 10 (1/4/2012)

What a disappointment that my 10th successful update to this blog has to be a delay. I've got to get back to this shitty painting homework, so I'll cut this short.

This week has been full of excitement and work. I finished therapy, started playing more games, beat Mass Effect 1, and continued a bunch of stupid school projects that I want to die. A lot has happened, and is still happening, so I need to get back to it.

Next week, you can expect a big update. Outlook on life, Journey, Mass Effect, art, and the Feed Me show I will have gone to.

Until then, I leave you with this:

2 Comments

Device Connected - Episode 9 (27/3/2012)

I’m honestly a little surprised that I even got a blog up this week. It’s a little late, but I had a lot of homework to do and the Formula 1 race lasted significantly longer than I expected. Silly rain. Monday edit: And I’m even later! Sunday caught up fast, and I spent almost all of the day writing. Sorry, guys. :( Tuesday edit: HEY GUESS WHAT I HAD TO DO ON MONDAY NIGHT? DID YOU GUESS HOMEWORK? Well, you were half-right. The other half was Call of Duty, and going to bed early. But this is seriously the last edit before I post this damned thing.

This week was the first week returning from March break, which I think the entire class was sure would be a little bit easy on us. You know, return from vacation, ease into things or whatever. But no. Instead, we had to build a creature out of tin foil and soldering wire, start reproducing Vermire’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, and render a set design through technical drawing within a week and due for the following week.

I’ve done two out of three, but haven’t been able to finish the painting. I fell victim to an absolutely terrible migraine on Saturday, something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. My eyes felt like they were being crushed and my brain felt like it was swelling so much that my skull was splitting open. I think breaking my collarbone was the worst kind of pain in the long run, but I could deal with that again. After the initial unbearable pain, a back-brace and weeks off physical activity weren’t so bad. That migraine, though? I never want to feel that ever again. Ever. I couldn’t even rest, because lying down made my head hurt on whatever side I’d lie on. Thankfully, it went away later in the night. It only lasted a small, reasonable 8 fucking hours, but it has passed and hopefully will never come back.

Last Sunday, (the 18th) after a long stretch of homework, I sat down in front of my TV and decided to play Journey. After a strong recommendation from fellow duders Xeiphyer and Ossi101 to play it in a single sitting, I shut off all the lights, plugged in my wonderful monitor headphones and started playing.

I should preface: I really hate the “games as art” argument. What art means is a topic unbelievably subjective. In addition to that, going to college in an art program really enlightens you to how full of shit the majority of the arguments are. I don’t like talking about, I don’t like hearing it, and it sucks that I need to bring the topic, and words that could be associated to said topic, to light.

With that said, what followed for the next 90 minutes was the single most meaningful experience in videogames I have ever played.

And yet for as incredible as it was to play, it is incredibly difficult to describe. What mechanically makes Journey isn’t anything to laud over, really. It’s linear, it’s an adventure game, and it is fully functional in both those aspects. No, what makes Journey is the experience of completing the adventure with the help of another anonymous person, and the emotions and lessons you take from it.

Throughout the game, you are never told who your partner is. You’re left to cooperate with a complete stranger through a very limited language, and you are “given” the task to help each other reach an end goal. The sense of comradery becomes strong very quickly once you find out that being near each other recharges your jumping meter, and it creates a sort of personal attachment to that person. You feel connected to them, like they’re a really close person you can count on. It’s simulates a lifelong-like friendship within minutes, and it comes with a similar kind of heartbreak when you end up losing your partner. Maybe they left, maybe you both got lost-- whatever the case, having them vanish brings a sense of loss, and I never thought I could actually feel that from a game.

I ended up sticking with the same person throughout the later half of the game, and the final task Journey imposes on you was one of the most tear-jerking, unbelievably powerful moments I have ever seen. I can’t bring myself to spoil it for someone who hasn’t played it, but you just have to know that nothing will impact you like this does. Something else in life will, but not like Journey does. The entire adventure, and the people you meet along the way, is unique to Journey, and I don’t know if any other form of entertainment will mark me like it did.

Art.

And here’s where I get sappy. In both art and life, I try to be as literal as possible. I don’t take to the “hidden meaning” school of thought, which makes Illustration far more lovable to me than Fine Arts is. I don’t like pretending like my art means something when, really, I just want to make something awesome for people to enjoy. Journey, however, is one of the very few things to make me think differently. There’s a beautiful metaphor for life to be found in the game, where you are constantly fighting life to reach your personal goal. You’ll meet people along the way who will be of great help to you, who will grow close to you, and will, sometimes, unfortunately leave your side. But every person will have played a part in helping you reach your peak, and this will let you share with others your experience and stories about getting there. I never, ever thought I could actually see a game, or any form of media really, this way, but I couldn’t be more serious about it.

Journey isn’t just a wonderful game. It isn’t just one of the best PlayStation 3 games, either. It is the shining example of the maturity of a medium. It lives in a form of entertainment driven by the constant thrill of self-reward and self-satisfaction. It is an escapist experience that explores the trials and tribulations of life, and the true impact of human interaction. It makes you feel. It doesn’t make you feel happy or sad, it actually pulls at the various strings of your psyche to make you feel like something important and meaningful happened.

It goes without saying that it is, without a doubt, my favorite PS3 game. And not just that, but I truly believe it is a highlight of this generation.

Any more than that, and I’ll basically be circlejerking with myself about the game. But seriously, go play Journey if you haven’t. Borrow a friend’s PS3, even. Just make sure you play it, because this really is an important game.

Well, what a weekend of racing that was. Malaysia is always a fun race because it seems that the track itself eats tyres for dinner every year. Qualifying and practice was a close repeat of last year, with Schumacher placing third and Raikkonen in 5th (but starting 9th) being exciting changes. The race was the real surprise, though. For one, Grosjean’s start was fucking incredible. Launching from 6th to 3rd before the first turn? Unbelievable. Such a shame that we was knocked out early once more. His bump with Schumacher seemed to be a mutual error, but sucks none-the-less. He has great promise, but he’s yet to show it in real competition.

Then came the rain. And not just regular rain, but a full-on storm, too. Lightning on the track! Bringing out the red flag was wise, considering cars were practically flying off the track in turn 9. Took what seemed like forever for the race to start again, but it finally started again and... well, things were weird. Button smashed into the tourist of a driver Kartheykian, Vettel ran into similar problems with the same HRT driver, Williams suffered poor lap times, and Hamilton messed up his pit stop. The series of mishaps let Alonso take the lead pretty quickly, (with Massa continuing to do terribly) but the real surprise came in the form of Sergio Perez and his incredible performance. Despite being on intermediate tyres in slick conditions, Perez destroyed sector times lap after lap all while quickly gaining on Alonso for the pole position. The battle between the two for First was amazing to watch. Perez just wouldn’t let up, and I’m confident that had he not slipped up a few laps before the end, he’d of walked out of that car a winner. But still, second place for him and Sauber is nothing to scoff at. With his fantastic defensive skills in Australia and his performance in Malaysia, he is seriously proving himself to be a threat this year. I can’t wait to see him next in China.

__________

And that’s it! See you next week. :]

(Also sorry for the lack of pictures and stuff. I need to get back to this shitty painting, so no time to divulge to hunting down the perfect accompanying pictures.)

7 Comments

Device Connected - Episode 8 (18/03/2012)

Welp, it’s been a week! A nice, relaxing week off from school and almost every other responsibility. A week of rest.

I left on Friday night to my dad’s, where I stayed for the weekend. I live in the heart of a busy suburb, with my apartment directly next to the busiest highway in the area. I take public transport to get everywhere, I go to school in downtown Montreal, and my entourage generally consists of condos and shopping malls. My dad works in the same downtown area (a 20-minute walk from my school, which is pretty cool) but lives a 45-minute commute away, in the Laurentian country. Surrounded by mountains, forests, dirt trails and half-paved roads, I felt like it was the perfect place for me to take some time off. It certainly helps that I don’t get to see my dad as often as I’d like, too.

The perfect day.

And so, I went over and had a great time. Accompanied him for the few errands he had to run, which ended up in buying a bunch of bread for me to make french toast with, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. On Sunday, we went hiking out on a local trail, with the weather being perfect. The weather was warm, the sky was completely clear of clouds, and there was absolutely no wind.

I got back on Monday, and it’s since been a mixture of relaxing, drawing, playing games, hanging out with friends, catching up on TV shows, (Finished LOST and Metalocalypse!) and cleaning up. I also did some fun arts and crafts non-sense, like make a display of my favorite albums.

It wasn’t exactly the most productive of breaks, but I took the time I needed to chill out from the regular routine. I feel a lot better, even if I didn’t exactly accomplish much.

Though I played the usual SSX and Modern Warfare 3, I started a new Mass Effect save earlier this week because I lost my original saves when moving to a new 360. It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least. A lot of what Mass Effect great is still there, but there is also a lot that has not particularly held up well.

The inventory is still total garbage, the loading screens between individual sectors on the Galaxy Map is a drag, the shooting is acceptable at best, and there really needs to be an actual running speed when holding down A. But even still, the game remains great. The story is still my favorite, the characters are still great, and the game still has a sense of style that I sorely missed in 2. The B-movie, 80’s sci-fi look and feel to everything... I felt like it really defined what Mass Effect looked like, and that Bioware departed from that saddens me. Maybe it will come back some time in the future. One can hope, really.

This weekend was also the start of the 2012 Formula One season. I haven’t kept up with the sport for the last... two years or so, so I got really excited when I became able to watch it again.

The qualifying session on Saturday was surprisingly entertaining, with some really surprising results coming from it. Ferrari placing so far back was my biggest surprise. I mean, I know they haven’t been doing that great as of late, but that bad? Really rough. Vettel not being in the top three was also surprising, though I can’t say I was disappointed with Hamilton and Button taking the top spots. I was disappointed with Kimi Raikkonen placing so far back, though. For a return to F1, I was sad to see him not reach the potential he had with the Lotus car.

Perez, in the surprisingly strong Sauber, played a terrific game of defense against other drivers.

Even more entertaining was the race on Sunday. As a Button fan, I got all giddy when he blasted into the lead straight out of the first corner. Even more impressive was his ability to not only stay there for the majority of the race, (eventually winning it! :D) but that he managed to create an 11 second lead between him and Hamilton in second. The battles between Hamilton and Vettel were also a ton of fun to watch, though I was bummed that Grosjean and Schumacher got taken out of the race so early. Rosberg did a pretty good job with his laps, but I felt like there would of been a lot more action at the front and middle of the top-10 pack if Grosjean and Schumacher would of been there. Even still, there were a lot of great moments, like Perez being terrific on defense, and Kobayashi showing confidence and aggressiveness in his overtaking. The weather was beautiful, the track was in great condition, and there were a lot of really good moments in the race--like the hilarious radio conversation between Raikkonen and his crew about the blue flag. That had me giggling for a while. Good stuff.

It was a really great start to the season, and shows promise that this year might not be a Vettel/RedBull runaway like it was last year. Mercedes has an extremely competent car, McLaren has two world champions driving their brilliant car, and Lotus is also showing a good amount of promise. It’ll be interesting for sure, and I can’t wait to watch the Malasyian race next weekend.

Also, I guess the F1 part of the blog will return next week. And every subsequent week. I want somewhere to talk about it. Maybe I should spin this off into its own thing? I don’t know. I guess I’ll keep it here for now.

__________

And that’s it! See you next week. :]

6 Comments

Device Connected - Episode 7 (11/04/2012)

Hey guys, actual update this time!

I’m really sorry for the lack of anything worthwhile from this blog in... what is it, three weeks now? School finally caught up with its mountainous load of homework, forcing me to stay entrenched in the darkened nest that is my room. Between that, midterms, and dealing with personal matters, I haven’t exactly had the time to spend writing and doing things I’d otherwise like to be doing.

But, reading week is finally upon me, and with it comes the pleasant joy of writing another entry in what continues to be a wonderful place for me to vent my nonsense. Fortunately, I actually have a bunch of crap to talk about this week.

I’ll start off with what I have the least to talk about, which is Modern Warfare 3. The first two maps came out on PS3 not too long ago, and the limited time I’ve had with them has... well, I haven’t played on them since. Right now, the only people interested in playing those maps are the super-elite, who spend all of their multiplayer experience min-maxing every possible loadout and playing like assholes. As someone who wants to enjoy my time with the game, I’ve decided to chill on that. I’ll wait ‘till the other two maps release as a single pack for the common folk, and go back to them once the masses have padded out matchmaking. As it stands right now, the Elite matchmaking is full of people I have absolutely no interest in playing against.

You'll, unfortunately, be sharing a whole lot of care packages. But whatever, let them have that shitty Remote Sentry.
Blast Shield is REQUIRED. Grenades fly everywhere, and you'll be quick to realize it's impossible to survive without the perk.

As a replacement to that, my friend and I have started playing a whole bunch of Drop Zone, one of the custom playlist options added around Christmas. We had tried out the mode when we started playing to see what it was like, only to find out that it was a grenade-spam fest. It was complete chaos, every team we joined would be behind the enemy team by 4000+ points, and it gave us no interest in playing it ever again. As of late, however, the mode seems to have changed. I’m up to level 57 on 4th prestige, and every single level has been spent playing Drop Zone. I can’t explain why but it’s suddenly become playable, and it’s been an incredibly fun experience. The constant fight to hold a territory that randomly moves across the map is tons of fun, and losing gives you the great benefit of giving you an INSANE amount of helicopters, UAVs, and CUAVs to take down. Couple that with Blind Eye Pro, and you have an entire match of my friend and I just shooting stuff out of the sky. Otherwise, it’s an entire match of my friend and I fighting to see who an capture that AC-130, Reaper, or Osprey first.

If you’re getting bored of the standard TDM/Domination fare, give the mode a shot. Equip Blast Shield (you won’t survive without it) and you’ll see-- it’s a great break from the traditional experience. The only downside is that it seems to bring out the worst in players. I tend to go with my usual loadouts-- silenced MP5 with Sleight of Hand/silenced ACR with Blind Eye-- and when I get a little ahead in points, everyone pulls out the Strikers with Range, or RSASS/AS50s to quick-scope with. It’s... I don’t know. It’s not like they’re any harder to kill, but it bothers me that it continues to be a problem like it was in Modern Warfare 2. You’d think Infinity Ward would of, you know, realised how busted both those weapons are... Whatever the case, it’s hardly enough to detract from how fun Drop Zone is. Try it!

This is what I really want to talk about, though. Which, really, is hilarious, because I have no idea where to start. SSX gets so many things right, I can’t even begin to list all the things that it’s gotten me to fall in love with. It’s the perfect sequel to a franchise I have loved since the very first iteration, and is also a mechanically brilliant re-invention of a genre of a time gone by. The core elements that made SSX an insane amount of fun are still here. The unrealistic physics, the characters, the ludicrous tricks, and the great track design. It’s all still here; made with modern controls and modern features to make it impossible to put down.

As you’d hope with a true SSX game, the physics follow the wonderful series tradition of insanity. Your average speed will always hover around 120 kilometers per hour, (74 miles per hour, for you Imperial sillies) and jumps will generally be around four or five times as high as whatever building you work at. The course design brilliantly caters to this, emphasizing the various hazards and environmental features of the mountain ranges featured in the game. There is something to be said for having a course work equally well (with some exceptions) in Race It and Trick It events. The courses still have an insane amount of shortcuts, hidden paths, alternate paths, and trick-centric paths, only instead of having three mountains-worth, you have... 29? Yeah, I think 29 is the right number. If not, it’s around there, which is still totally insane.

Oh, and the tricks are still insane, the characters still spout wonderful nonsense and the game is very pretty.

FFFFFF--Africa

Cool, now let’s talk about online, because this is what makes SSX. Taking a cue from its racing bretheren, SSX has an Autolog-esque feature called RiderNet; a feature that assumes the role of an expanded leaderboard. Players on your friend list will become rivals, who can then set scores and times as challenges for you to beat. Beating them will earn you in-game credits, as will surpassing the scores of other friends on your leaderboard. If a rival tries to take down your score, and can’t, you earn credits for every retry he’s put in. Much like it was in NFS: Hot Pursuit, (and that other abortion of a Need for Speed game, I suppose) this grows to become incredibly addictive whilst also being incredibly infuriating. Mind you, it is in probably the best way possible, as it drives you to be a better player if you’re the competitive type, but with it comes those few times where you just can’t shave those few seconds off no matter how hard you try and... well, then controllers fly, I suppose.

Don't expect to ever place in the Diamond brackets. Unless you are a bad person. Then have fun!

The Global Events are an equal stroke of genius. Taking the place of standard head-to-head multiplayer, global events take place on every drop in the game, where each drop will be a single event held for a pre-determined amount of time. Certain events will have an entry fee, and that fee totals into a larger prize pool. (Certain events are also free, where the pool is also predetermined) Competing in the event will place you in one of five brackets dependant on your score, and the higher bracket you place in, the larger the percentage of the prize pool you obtain. Certain events will also have pre-determined conditions, such as a Survival event in New Zealand banning you from using Pulse Goggles. (i.e.: FOG EVERYWHERRRRRRE) As you’re competing, the game will race some ghosts against you from various tiers, as well as insert any real-time players on the track. It gives you the great sense of playing against others, while still having the ghost to race down the track. It’s the combination of everything great about the game into an online event, and it gets you money. There’s nothing to not like about it. I seriously love it. Just like I seriously love the game.

Oh, god, and I haven’t even talked about how it remixes your music on the fly. Like, holy shit. I don’t want to delve into stuff about my music, but you should try it out with some breakbeat and drum and bass. Those two genres were made for SSX and its remix feature.

Lastly, there’s been art. As I am typing this, I realized that I stupidly planned this section without thinking that I am actually at my dad’s right now, away from all of my schoolwork and stuff. I’ll talk about what I can, but this will be a lot shorter than I had planned...

So while I don’t have any school work to share, I do have this personal piece that I am working on. It takes up two pages in my sketchbook, which add up to a combined size of 17x22 inches. It’s... pretty big. I started doodling out some stuff, made the character, and thought it would be kind of neat if I crammed the whole thing full of stuff with as much detail as possible. So I started dicking around with circular shapes and, 15 or-so-hours later, I am at this point. It’s about nearly done, with probably an hour or two more of work to put in.

There’s also been these stupid drawings I’ve done of myself and others, mostly because I’ve found a good amount of stress relief in drawing really silly shit. I’ve never really let loose with any of my art, so it’s a really nice change of pace and heart. I like silly. I love silly. I love being silly and drawing silly.

That... just about covers it, I think. I can’t think of anything more I’d have to talk about. I look forward to a week of doing nothing other than eating, sleeping, and playing games, so you can expect a whole bunch more of that nonsense when I get back next Sunday.

Until then, thanks for reading. And... I don’t know, don’t get yourself killed or something. :’D

__________

Last week's post!

4 Comments

Device Connected - Episode 6 (04/03/2012)

Hey, an actual update this week!

... Well, not really. I'm still steep in midterms, unfortunately. BUT! It all ends this week. Friday marks the start of a well-deserved reading week. :D As such, I'll actually be able to write!

But in the mean time, you get a small update. I've been playing a crap-ton of SSX, and I can't wait to talk more about it. I'll elaborate on it waaaaaaay more next week, but what you can expect is that I like it very, very, very much. Also, some stuff on the two new Modern Warfare 3 maps and how... tepid I am, I guess, to the whole thing. I'll also talk about what's been taking up so much of time. Ugh, school. This semester's being a real bastard.

But as it is now, I need to get back to this dumb homework. Stupid paint. I feel like a jerk for constantly delaying this blog, but... well, yeah. I didn't see all this work coming. Sorry. :<

As usual, here's another wonderful Birgirpall BF3 video to pass the time.

2 Comments

Device Connected - Episode God Dammit (26/02/2012)

I actually wanted to have a post today. Honest. I spent all weekend in homework (and still am in so), and every time I told myself I'd save up a little spot to write stuff.

Then, out of nowhere, it's 30 minutes past the time I normally post, and I haven't written shit.

So again, I am sorry. This week is midterms, and it's made the past few days infinitely more of a rush then they should have been. I swear to you, there will be something up next week. I promise. <3

In the meantime, here is more Battlefield 3 nonsense.

2 Comments

Device Connected - Episode 5 (12/02/2012)

Hey, I actually have a gaming-related topic this week! Holy crap!

Though first, I’d like to touch-upon something else quick. The Flashbulb’s new album came out this week, and you should all give it a listen. Benn Jordan is one of the most astounding musicians I’ve ever heard, and his newest album, Opus at the End of Everything, makes him even more deserving of that praise. I don’t know how to continue talking about it without sounding like an ass, so just give it a listen here. Now, on to the real topic.

I’ve pretty much played little-to-no games over the past month and a half asides from boatloads of Modern Warfare 3, essentially because I’ve had trouble finding motivation in my depression to play anything else. I suppose there’s some kind of catharsis to be found in gunning down wave after wave of player-controlled fodder. If anything, though, it’s made me realize how little of a step forward MW3 took, especially when compared to Black Ops, and what is really missing from Call of Duty to make it exciting again.

bang bang bang bang bang

For starters, there are the improvements Infinity Ward has made which, while few, are worth noting. There’s the weapon proficiencies which are a decent way of slightly changing a gun’s playstyle, even if everyone uses Kick or Attachments anyway. The new point streak system is also a great addition, with Support being a terrific compliment to snipers and Specialist being the optimal way to play a SMG class. The new Tactical (Portable Radar) and Lethal (Bouncing Betties) equipments are also pretty great.

The only downside to these improvements is that they apparently came at a cost, that cost being the near-complete ignorance of the additions that Treyarch brought to the table in Black Ops. Heavily customizable gun loadouts? Gone. Emblem/playercard creation? Gone. Wager match game types? Gone from matchmaking. (until now?) Varied, well-thought out maps? Gone. Better in-game scoreboard? Gone. And the worst part? All of that is gone because Infinity Ward is apparently run by children. People who can’t accept that another team is iterating on their franchise. While I understand the sentiment of having another team working on something you’ve been the sole developer of for years, there should still be some humility and respect to be found when that secondary team actually makes meaningful, fun changes to your game. Black Ops really gave me the impression that the team working on that game’s multiplayer really gave a shit about it, and did so because they were huge fans of the multiplayer themselves. That IW goes and rips out all of Black Ops’ improvements gives me the exact opposite impression of them.

Despite being entirely cosmetic, I miss being able to etch my clan tag into my gun, or display my emblem on it. I miss creating my own emblem, too. The Callsign titles and emblems are fun to see and unlock, but everyone still shares all of them. It was really cool to see all the really dumb shit that people came up with on Black Ops, even if half of them were weed leaves.

GREEEEEEEEEEEEEY

I also felt like the maps in Black Ops were much better. There was more variety in the environments and the actual layouts were better, even if the spawns didn’t always hold up so well at times. The omission of a Nuketown-esque map in MW3 is a god damned shame, and that every map is varying shades of brown and grey is even more annoying. There is also a laziness to their layout that irks me in certain maps, with Downturn being the biggest offender I can think of. Downturn is a terrible map, with no real flow to combat and its open spaces being nothing more than a 20ft area cluttered with blown-up cars. There are no areas that direct players into combat, there are no shortcuts to anywhere (only hallways that take twice as long to take) and there’s a complete underground system of tunnels that are never used because they lead to the least crowded areas of the map.

So colorful!

Fortunately, players seemed to have come to the same conclusion, as I have no played a match in Downturn for... well, weeks. On the other hand, the other maps remain. While they aren’t bad, they’re just bland in a way that makes it really unexciting to play on. I’m brining up Nuketown again, because it’s such a brilliant map. It was compact, it had one area for major combat (the street/lawn) and two minor areas for run around skirmishes. (houses and back of the street) Best of all, though, is that it was colorful. It was bright and sunny, and the objects that composed the map were all as bright and colorful as the sky. The 50’s-like design to everything was a refreshing change of scenery, and was a complete guilty pleasure when the Nuketown 24/7 playlists came on. You knew the spawns would be broken and you knew playing Domination on it would lead to so many grenade deaths, but you played it anyways because it was so frantic and fast-paced. You never had time to take a breath because shit was always going on, and it was always a ton of fun to look at.

This is the biggest thing I’d change in Call of Duty. See, not too long ago my friend and I were talking about how great Doom used to be. The pure, unhinged fun of a shooter that made no god-damned sense and you didn’t want it to, because why the fuck do you need it to when all you really want to do is to shoot stuff. The game has terrific level design, great enemies and weapons that were a ton of fun to use because it didn’t restrain itself. The same applied to subsequent games like Quake and Unreal, yet all of this went away thanks to the sense of realism and storytelling that developers began to think was where the genre needed to go. While I can’t criticize this decision, (Since I do enjoy some of those experiences) it’s something that needs to be loosened up a little. This is especially so in Call of Duty’s case, where it does not hold itself to realism very well and has proven this with every iteration of the franchise since COD 2.

Everything could use more pentagrams, really.

So my suggestion? Let the developers go nuts. Make a map that’s set on a cruise ship, a moving train, a series of high-class apartment rooftops, an underwater facility, a not-abandonned amusement park... the moon, even? There are creative teams on these games having their actual creativity be stifled, and I really do feel like opening this door to them a little would bring great, fun things. As an artist, I can assure you that once you have carte blanche to let loose a little, the possibilities are so much greater and so much more engaging.

The same applies to the game modes. Gun Game and other Wager Match types are gone from matchmaking, with some of them being sent to private match types instead. I probably spent half of my Black Ops play time in Wager Matches. They were so unbelievably fun, which is where the series always stands best--when it’s ridiculous. Removing them from matchmaking was a horrible idea, because there needs to be a way for players to let loose a little. After all the serious gaming, it’s great for there to be a place to just relax a little and play something with less serious rule sets. I know I am not the only one who thinks this, because Infected is currently one of the most played match types on MW3. The last-man standing mode was exclusive to Private Matches since launch, but was integrated into the Community Playlists last week to great success. Lobbies are constantly full, and most players joining and general parties of 2-3+ players just talking and hanging out. The relaxed, social and fun experience is back. I haven’t heard anyone get angry or cuss at players in the match type, because it’s so insane that there’s no reason to. It’s just smiles all around. I can only hope that they’ll add Gun Game to the rotation.

Oh my god, I can see text if I look at my walls. I need to wrap this up before all I see is text.

The point I’m trying to get across is that maybe, just maybe, games like Call of Duty shouldn’t take themselves so seriously. There’s a time and a place for it, like the single player, but the multiplayer’s variety and fun shouldn’t be crippled because of it. If the whole development team just had a little wiggle room for their ideas to come out, I bet we’d see a game that would be drastically more fun to watch and play.

Also, Infinity Ward should quit being babies and bring back my god damned created emblems. The gaming industry iterates constantly, so quit being sore losers and actually add in the improvements you failed to come up with yourselves. Maybe it’ll give you some ground to work on and further improve them instead of taking them out altogether.

___

Last week's post

5 Comments

Device Connected - Episode 4 (05/02/2012)

I’m afraid I don’t have all that much to delve in this week. Most of it has been me dealing with the shitty parts of life catching up to me, combined with some work and frustration on the side. As is with the last few episodes, I’ll get the life stuff out of the way first: I've started therapy this week. I had my first hour-long session, and while I didn't leave feeling better about my situation, I do have a lot of answers I didn’t have before and that alone is worth it. I’ve misguided a lot of hate towards myself and, while I am still not entirely comfortable with the things I have done in the past two years, feel more comfortable with myself knowing why I did them. There’s still a lot more to go through, though, with the end goal being to get myself in a spot where I don’t fall into depression every half-hour.

So, what else is there in life? Well, for starters, there’s music. I’ve been listening to Gemini almost non-stop this week, with the Graduation EP probably being my single most-favorite EP ever. I’ve squeezed so many plays out of the four-track album. I’ve also been catching up on podcasts a fair amount, with about two weeks-worth of This is Only a Test and My Brother, My Brother and Me sitting in my iTunes un-listened to. That’s since been fixed, thankfully. Gosh darn if those McElroy brothers aren’t the funniest men alive. Feed Me’s new EP is also out, and I am listening to it as I type this. Thoughts on it next week, but it seems pretty alright on my first listen.

I also started catching up on LOST this week. I started watching the series mid-summer last year and stop watching at the end of season 4. The people I borrowed the DVDs from didn’t have seasons 5 and 6. :( I decided to finish the show now, considering that if I don’t get on it, someone in class will spoil it by randomly bringing up the ending. It’s nearly happened a few times already, best not to risk it. I’m about mid-way through season 5 now, and the show is going off the rails so heavily... It’s captivating like crazy, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely satisfied with the direction it’s taking.

In other media-related news, I finally got around to seeing The Artist. I missed just about all of the major releases near the end of last year, and I especially hated myself for not seeing The Artist, considering how much I adore Michael Hazanavicus’ and Jean Dujardin’s previous movies. I did watch it, though, and my only regret is not seeing it sooner so that I could of spammed my Twitter feed earlier about how wonderful it is. The movie is so unbelievably charming and the character performances are so great. They all express so well and there’s never a moment where you feel out of the loop for missing out on any of the non-existant dialogue. The cinematography, the soundtrack, and the presentation are all so perfectly done, too. It really does feel like some love-letter to the cinema of old, and it’s something I recommend everyone give a shot. It might not be entirely your cup of tea like it is mine, but it’s worth the chance that it might.

On the flip-side of that is Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, of which I also watched this week. It is also something I recommend you watch, only on condition that you love Tim and Eric and hate "actual" comedy. I am not entirely sure how to describe the movie to anyone who doesn't already know what brand of insanity Tim and Eric deliver. All I can really say is that if this clip doesn't do it for you, then this movie sure as hell won't. As for myself, I loved the cameos, I loved the stupid plot, I loved the stupid things that happen because of the stupid plot and I loved the stupid, stupid ending. My god, that movie was stupid awesome.

As for games, I’m afraid I've done almost none of it this week. Other than play Modern Warfare 3 with my friend, (in which we both did miserably this week, for some reason) I haven’t done any gaming whatsoever. .. wait, no, that’s a lie. I bought Dustforce, but the system requirements completely lied. It barely runs on my laptop that should be far more powerful than the minimum requirements, even at the lowest settings. A true bummer, because the laggy ten minutes I got to play of it seemed super-awesome.

Last on the docket is art, of which I made a bunch of. I finished this piece, which I started last year, and made these (1) two (2) drawings for a school project. We needed to design creatures inspired from the Greek mythology Cerberus monster. The first one is the one the teacher picked, though I personally adore the second one far more. I’ve started to make more for fun, but the stuff I had to do for school needed to take precedent. Fucking renderings...

Oh! And my phone now runs ICS. It’s awesome! Unfortunately, though, my old music player (PlayerPro) seems incompatible with ICS. I’ve re-installed PowerAMP, but I suppose the hunt is on for a proper replacement. Maybe I’ll make a guide for Android players on Tested like I did for Twitter apps...

And with that, see y’all next week. I’ll try and actually play games this time, so I have something interesting to talk about for once. ;D

3 Comments