My Year in Video Games (2014 Gaming Habits and Life)

Late in 2013, after having the typical difficulties of remembering all the games I played that year and what I had thought of them at the time for my games of the year list, I decided that it would be an interesting experiment to log what games I've played and when for 2014. After a year of gathering data I came about some mildly interesting results: I played about 104 video games in 2014, anywhere from a couple of minutes to 100+ hours, and most frequently played between 6 and 10 PM.

Here's the results in lovely graph form:

You can view all the raw data in this list and here's the googledoc of it compiled. You'll notice that I did not include a break down of platforms because I almost exclusively play games on PC so I figured it would not really be worth the time.

Now for a bit of perspective. 2014 was an odd year for me. I started out as the tragic overly optimistic indie dev, believing that despite a lack of experience I could still probably make a living making only games. I was living off the inheritance and a very meager savings. This lasted 6 months. 6 months too long in retrospect. In that time I got involved in some game jams that were hot at the time and made couple of things I'm really proud of. But that's for another article. What's important about those 6 months is that being unemployed and a night owl means I had a tendency early on in the year to play most of games in the early morning between midnight and 6am.

This is especially true of January when I wasn't really sure what to do with my life. I was freshly unemployed and my grandmother had just passed away. On top of that a lot of cool and interesting games had come out. I played 14 games in January. The Banner Saga and the first half of Broken Age were my favorite releases, but I also discovered the wonder RPG, Paper Sorcerer, the tough as nails, Escape Goat, and replayed through the 3rd best game of 2013, Gunpoint.

February saw a distinct drop in games being played. This is most likely because it's when I was working on a game for the Flappy Jam. Typically if I'm working on a game, my desire to play other games decreases for the amount of excitement I have for the project. During that month I discovered a particular podcast called Let's Play the 13th Age right around the time I was getting a bit burned out on Paper Sorcerer and when Banished was released. I ended up playing a lot of Banished. Or at least it felt like I played it a lot. That game really captured things I loved about city builders.

March saw an increase in games played but that's partly due to me going to some indie dev meet ups around Seattle. I was working on what I then thought was a game of moderate ambition. During that time I was regularly going to the Indie Dev Support Group which is a weekly get-together of indie devs in a cafe where we all just work on our games and chat about what we're working on. Unfortunately I don't go to that any more as I've moved to a different part of Seattle and it's a pain to get to that particular cafe.The big game that month was the HD versions of FFX/X-2. I was really into replaying FFX for a while and super excited to eventually get to FFX-2 since I unironically enjoy X-2 quite a bit. But come April my desire to play FFX petered out for one reason or another and I haven't gone back yet. Maybe in 2015. I hope.

April, May, and June settled into a consistent rhythm for my gaming habit despite being some of the most turbulent times of my life. I was having regular issues with my internet dropping out all year (thanks Comcast and old house wiring!) The internet continued to be spotty and come April my one roommate who just moved out decides it wasn't worth informing me she'd be taking the modem. That night I played through Escape Goat 2 to almost completion. It would be about a week or so until I was able to get my own internet back up and running. With spotty internet I found myself downloading games when I could and playing when I didn't have internet access. One that I discovered was the fantastic Gidon Duet by Lulu Blue. It's a simple game and doesn't have nearly enough content, but the level editor makes up for that. Towards the end of April a game was quietly announced to be in closed alpha. That game was Orcs Must Die! Unchained. A game that despite being incomplete would become my favorite game of the year. I would go on to play it consistently up to November where I decided to wait for the next big patch that I cannot talk about to drop. By the end of April it was clear that my project was way to ambitious for my skill level and time frame and that I would need to find a day job.

Come May not much had changed or progressed on that front. By the mid point of May my lovely land lady would inform me that she wanted everyone out of the house because she was going to be renting to someone else and I suddenly had to find a new place at an awkward time with no real source of income. That situation would eventually work itself out to some extent but not fully until October.

Gaming-wise I was playing a lot of OMDU and decided to start a Let's Play of the original Orcs Must Die! over on Something Awful because no had in the LP forum. I've done LPs in the past, but this was my first on SA and it was mostly painless. While I continued to post it over the year there are 3 episodes still to be posted due to reasons I'll go into below.

LRRCON also happened in May, which a convention put on by sketch comedy group and Desert Bus For Hope organizers, Loading Ready Run. They had a lot of games set up for folks to play and I met/reconnected with a lot of cool people there. It was there I took 2nd place in a Nidhogg tournament.

Come June I started a crappy job at Barnes and Nobles that I didn't keep for very long and had moved into a much cheaper place with new complete strangers that I would eventually find I get along with pretty well. June was a scatter-shot of various games I bought on the Steam Summer Sale. While there were a handful that I really enjoyed, the clear and most important one was a game called Lyne. At the time I had pretty much abandoned my one project and where trying something else but it wasn't coming together. Then I played Lyne. And continued to. And played it more. And more. And more. Until I realized that I could probably make something like it and ended up prototyping and idea for a similar game. Very rarely does a game come along that inspires me so directly and instantly to work on something. I spent the next couple of months (up to September or so) working on a project inspired by Lyne. It's great and you should play it.

In July I continued through the games I had gotten from the Summer Sale, but nothing really stuck outside of One Finger Death Punch. It was just so intense and enjoyable. Sessions of that game would feel like I played it for hours when it was only about 15 to 20 minutes.

August was an odd time for me. I don't really remember what I was doing other than going out to a lot of job interviews and being pissed I had to, but very thankful I could, rely on family support to pay the bills. I continued to play Lyne, OMDU, and others but I was looking for something to escape into. I found that in Trails In the Sky. It has been a long time since a jRPG had grabbed me as much as that game did and I was glad for it. I ended up putting over 50 hours in it and seriously considered NG+ once I finished in September.

At the end of August there was PAX Prime and that meant PAX after parties. I was able to meet the OMDU devs at there meet up they did and that was awesome finally being able to put a face to the voices I've was pestering for months over the secret team speak server. The next day was Doublefine's party and I got to meet a ton of amazing people that I've admiring for a long time. Including Brad Muir (:D), Dave Lang, John Drake, Dan Teasdale, and Tim Schafer. And other cool people who aren't yet known to the Giant Bomb community. There was also the first time I got to play the newer version of Gang Beasts having previously only briefly messed around with the alpha version. I also played Roundabout in a hotel lobby before the party and knew I was going to be playing it when it came out. Unfortunately I missed out on the GB meet up and didn't run into any of the GB folks at all.

The next day, September 1st, last day of PAX prime, was the Seattle Indies Expo. I volunteer there and if you were wondering why I played so many more games in September than all the other months it's because of that event. While not specifically focus on local multiplayer games, there were many great local multiplayer games being shown. I was finally able to play Crawl and really enjoyed it. There were a lot of notable games from that event; Tumblestone, SlashDash, Paperbound, Memory of a Broken Dimension, but my time with them was too brief. While I can't say all of them interest me personally, there wasn't one that wasn't at least interesting.

The rest of September was filled with new hope on the job front and three newer games; Shovel Knight, Defense Grid 2, and of course Roundabout. I liked Shovel Knight but wasn't in love with it. I didn't like the over-reliance on instant death traps. DG2 was just about everything I could have asked for in a sequel to Defense Grid. The only problem was there wasn't enough of it.

I apparently didn't play very many games in October, but the ones I did play were memorable. The MASSIVE CHALICE backer beta thing came out and I really enjoyed my time with that game even though it was incomplete at the time. The first part of Dreamfall: Chapters came out and I could have been more excited. The Longest Journey has a very special place in my heart and DFC felt like coming home. One of the reasons why I didn't play as many games in October and the first half of November was because I was working. Not only at a new job, but also on a new game. Something that I'll be announcing with a proof-of-concept prototype soon. There was also something else that happened. Something real fucked. My main desktop broke. The one hard drive is most likely the case. I haven't been able to get the money to fix it until recently. So we'll see how it goes. I actually took its death very well considering I can't do a lot of work. But earlier in the year my monitor died and everything needs an upgrade in it so I should have saw it coming. Fortunately I have a laptop and have been making games on it since my monitor broke.

My birthday is in November. I'm 29 now. I won't go into the psychological ramifications that almost being 30 has had on me, but it meant that I'd have some extra cash and some new games to play. Since I didn't go anywhere for Thanksgivings I decided to play stuff. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth came out that month and I had a blast playing that for about a week before burning out on. I suspect I'll come back to it every now and again though. My one roommate got a Wii U and I was able to play some first party Nintendo games. None of them really grabbed me, but they're fun for what they are. Lastly I played Dragon Age: Inquisition. It barely runs on my laptop, and I don't think it's very good. I stopped playing it once I hit a game breaking bug. I might come back to it once I get my main PC fixed.

December was a busy month for me. I spent a lot of time working on my current project and even more working my day job. Which thankfully gave me a lot of cash. I barely played anything during December. The only things of note were The Fall and Lost Constellation. I had been meaning to play the Fall since the Quick Look but didn't get around to it until then. I was looking for more games for my GotY list and decided to play it over Jazzpunk, Fract OSC, and Always Sometimes Monsters. I wish I had played it sooner. Lost Constellation came over the Christmas break. It was a delightful little experience and makes me happy that stuff like that exists.

2014 was a odd year in a lot of ways. I felt I did a lot of growing as a person and may finally have my life on track. This last year leaves me hopeful for the future in spite of all the horrible things that have happened around gaming culture. I think we have a bright future ahead of else, though I haven't checked twitter since I started writing this.

I will be doing this again for 2015, but will be refining the process significantly. So keep a look out for that I suppose. Thank you for reading and have a great year.

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Candy Jam Recap

The Candy Jam is official over, but is still accepting submissions til the end of the week. For those that don't know, the Candy Jam was a sort of protest that spawned out of King.com's trademark over the words "Candy" and "Saga" then use such trademarks to send legal warnings to developers whose games contain such words regardless of whether those games had any similarities to their game Candy Crush Saga. Well game devs, being a creative bunch, decided to protest this by creating a bunch of parody games involving those words. Over 300 games were created and submitted. Having participated in the game jam with a game of my own I decided to check out what others had made and here are some of my favorite (Ie that ones that I played):

Candy Nom Saga - Lets start weird. This game is weird and dumb. You guess which flavor candy the face likes. BUT THE MUSIC. I really hope Vinny could find that music since it was apparently found on Freesound.org.

Candy Match Forever - Match 3 is a great and popular genre... sometimes it's a bit too easy though. Some games in the genre are even known for their great stories.

Candy Chasm Saga - This is an actual game with challenge and is actually rather fun. It was made by the guy behind the upcoming Loot/random dungeon/Metroidvania game, Chasm.

Candy's Crushes Saga - This is a cute little puzzle game about a gal's romantic relationships. I didn't get to the end but it was fairly well designed and rather tricky.

The Candy Apple Crusher Saga - It's a shoot'em'up. The controls are a bit awkward, but that art is pretty damn nice!

Candy Escape Goat Saga - This was made by the guy who made Escape Goat and uses the engine that Escape Goat 2 will use. There are 6 puzzles that combine the mechanics of Escape Goat with match 3 mechanics and it's some of the best puzzles I've played. It does require you to install it however.

Too Much Candy - A fairly simple avoidance game. It was pretty cool.

There's a bunch of other nifty ones on there I'm sure, but I have yet to go through all of them. Sooo much candy. You can find more games on the official site.

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I made a game for the Candy Jam

UPDATE: I fixed a few things with the download. Had the wrong kind of file up there. Whoops

Here's what I made for the Candy Jam - http://d_w.itch.io/candy---a-space-horror-saga

Don't know what the Candy Jam is?

This is the first actual entirely complete game I've ever made by myself. I did all the programing, art, and audio. It's a rather simple game. You click to move your guy around. Once you start moving you can't stop. Clicking drains fuel, but you can regain fuel by collecting lollipops and it'll slowly recharge on it's own. You want to avoid gumballs, rock candy, and the dastardly Candy King as they'll all lead to DEATH.

Have fun! All feedback is accepted and encouraged.

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Sound Design - Replacing sounds from video game cutscenes - Parasite Eve - Sheeva Transformation

I'm a sound designer who wants to work in video games. So I was looking for things to do to expand my portfolio and figured replacing the sound effects from video game cutscenes is a pretty spiffy way to do that. Here's one that I did recently. It's the Sheeva transformation scene from Parasite Eve.

All the sound effects except for the dog barking were created, recorded, and preformed by me.

I plan on doing more in the future, and was thinking about doing the opening to Shadow Hearts next. Maybe I'll do a few scenes from movies as well. Suggestions and feedback are welcomed. Hope you all enjoy it!

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NYC Molyjam: The Journey and the Aftermath.

I had never attended a game jam before. I never really thought I was in a position or skilled enough to complete something in such little time. But I love ridiculous ideas and the mock twitter account, PeterMolydeux, was one of the reasons why I signed for twitter so I could not have not gone to Molyjam. (Now there's an awkwardly worded sentence!) 
For those that don't know. Molyjam was (is?) a game jam based around ideas from tweets made to satire things the real Peter Molyneux might have said. The one rule of the game jam was any game made had to use at least one of the tweets posted by the mock account.
 
NYC Molyjam was at one of the New School's buildings and was free to attend. After some introductions to the jam and rooms everyone there mingled and eventually over the course of Friday night about 4 or 5 teams were formed and ideas were discussed. The team was able to get into consisted of the organizer for the NYC jam, the UI designer from Doublefine, and various members from the New School's Game Club. We ended up having  4 programers, 3 graphic artists, a writer, and a composer/sound engineer which was me. The whole process of what idea we choose base our game off of was pretty organic. We had a few. One of them being an idea for a roguelike that generates it's game map by a string a text from any of the tweets that Molydeux has made. Which is awesome, but a bit to ambitious for the 48 hour limit. Eventually we settled on the idea from this tweet: "What if your son was the sun? If he sleeps, the sun vanishes. If he cries then woodlands set on fire etc." 
 
And thus Prodigal Sun was born. 

The goal of the game is to appease your son, the Sun, and prevent him from burning everyone alive. Originally it was going to have parts where you answer its questions and where you have send various objects to the Sun, but we kind of simplified that so that you're just launching rocket platforms containing people, animals, and such into the Sun. Which is never not fun.
I had made a good chunk of sound effects and music for the game that did not get used, but like the saying goes "it's better to make more than you need and not use it then need something and not have it." The goal I had with the music was to set mood. There was some discussion that maybe it's the Sun's birthday, so I tried to make it festive. The village was sort of medieval but they have rocketry, so I used medieval-esque instruments made then out-of-tune to be more realistic (...yes yes I know) and combined them with some synthesizers.  
When it came to the sounds, I used mostly stuff from a sound effect library I own as well as original work I have recorded. So of the sounds, like the scream for example, I had to record myself doing. Additional sounds came from the public domain and I don't think they ended up in the final version of the game. 
Working with everyone on the team was refreshing and fun. Everyone did their part and their best to get the game done on time without any BS that I've encountered with other teams. Maybe it was because the short deadline or because they all wanted to create something absurd and awesome. Regardless, it was probably the best experience I had working with a group of strangers. 
 
But enough about the game I worked on. What about the other games at the NYC jam? Well.....
 
Betraille:Part Deuxwas an interesting multiplayer game similar to Assassin's Creed's multiplayer. Basically there are a whole bunch of variously color cubes moving around the game map. You're controlling one of them. You have to figure out which one, then figure out which ones are being controlled by the other players and get near them to take them out. However if it's an non-player character then you are removed. Whichever player is left at the end of the game wins. It was pretty fun and there was certainly some interesting strategies to employ. 
 
These Automatic Arms was a quite fun and bizarre top down shooter where you couldn't control your shooting and would constantly being turning left. The object was to avoid shooting innocent people (which were of course represented by green squares). It was really cleverly designed and worth checking out.
 
Finally, the game that I was most impressed by was What Would Molydeux? which  was, as one of the designers put it,  so innovating to video games that they removed the video part. It's a card game. The object of the game is to create sentences that sound like something Molydeux would tweet. The first person to put down a period (full stop) wins the round so the object is to keep the sentence going as long as possible and make it difficult for other players to finish the sentence. Not only was this fun and ridiculous, but it showed a certain cleverness that one must appreciate. I hope the guys who made it work on a free digital version similar to siteslike duelingnetwork (yugioh) and Fantasy Strike (Yomi) have done for other card games. 
 
All and all my first game jam was an amazing experience that I am glad I had. I hope to someone work again with the people that were on my team someday in a professional capacity, and wish them and everyone who participated a luck with what ever they go on to after this! Can wait til the next one!
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Does It Hold Up? #1: The Legend of Zelda

Like many people I went to visit family for Thanksgivings. Well the computer at my Grandmother's house is pretty old, but I found that I had put on some old NES games on it and decided that looking at how some of them still hold up would be an enlightening endeavor. So I decided that a semi-regular weblog series where I attempt to discuss older games without the every so dangerous rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Without further ado let's take a look at the 1986/1987 release, Legend Of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The Legend of Zelda was one of my favorite games when I was a child. I fell off with the series once the N64 came out, but those first four games have a place in my heart. The first one was on the earliest games I can remember playing. There was one birthday party when my friends and I spend a good chunk of it playing through quest 2. That was probably the last time I ever played the game until yesterday. Even after so long, it surprised me both how much I remembered and how much I had forgotten about the game. It also surprised me how well designed and fun the game I found it to be. There were a few things here and there that of course felt archaic, but it's certainly still an enjoyable experience.

What I found especially enjoyable was how challenge was presented. In modern games the philosophy is to prevent the player for dying unless they are especially careless. That is not the case in the first Zelda game. Health is rarely dropped from enemies and conversing it the key to survival. There are two health potion items in the game that also add an interesting albeit overly simple mechanic into the mix. The blue potion will fill up your health once then disappear and costs 40 rupees, but the Red Potion works twice and cost 68. There is no reason not to grind for the more expensive potion, but I'm glad the choice exists. In a similar vein the shops that dot the world map will sell the same items at different prices. Sure you can get that nifty shield for 160 right near the starting point, but you can find that same shield for a mere 90 rupees once you find the step ladder. That really rewards those who explore.

The combat was were the game felt the oldest, but there was a subtly to it that I doubt I had picked up on when I was a child. The sword comes out rather slowly which allows you to quickly "spin" to a different direction. This can be handy in some very specific situations, but was most likely an unintended result. For those that do not know, when at full health Link can shoot a sword from his sword. This also takes a long time from the button press to when the projectile is actually fired and the end result requires the player to time their shots well as spamming doesn't tend to work as an effective tactic.

In some of the later parts of the game become almost like a bullet hell game. Where you must dodge tons of fast moving projectiles while taking out these knight enemies that can only be damaged from the sides or from behind. These rooms were what I found to be most challenging parts of the game. Especially since those enemies are immune to the boomerang which I found to easily the most useful item in the whole game.

The only thing that I was really disappointed in were the boss battles. While some of them were pretty clever, most of them just consisted of you running up an whaling on the boss until it died. Some bosses could even be killed in a single hit. This tended to make the levels end on a rather anticlimactic note. This isn't unique to the Legend of Zelda however, many of the Mega Man games tend to fall to the same weakness. It's always a shame regardless of the game and is someone that still often plagues modern video games.

In conclusion, when a game is a solid, enjoyable experience, it is ageless. The Legend of Zelda is ageless in that sense. As long as you don't have any sort of prejudices to 8-bit graphics and music, and have an appreciation for well crafted games, then the Legend of Zelda will not disappoint. While looking back on this game has been a very enlightening experience, one thing that does not surprise me is why this game is as well regarded as it is. This game is simply a good game.

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Skyrim: Impressions after 20 hours. (Potential Spoilers)

I am playing this game on the PC.

Unlike many people that bought Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim I did not have any preconceived notions about it. I didn't really follow any of the preview stuff and may have caught the odd trailer here and there but didn't set out discover anything particular about the game. It wasn't even on my "looking to play" list, and I really did not think much of it before it came out. Before Skyrim I have never played an Elder Scrolls game. I was never really into PC RPGs when I was younger, and though I had a decent computer by the time that Oblivion came out that game gave me the impression it would be over-hyped and barely functional (from what I understand, I was not far off in that prediction).

The only game I've played previous to Skyrim that was developed by Bethesda Softworks was Fallout 3. Which I really couldn't get into. You see, Fallout 3 would crash about 2 times out of 3 if I tried to enter a building that was near the lower left portion of the map. This made it impossible to do the main story. I did do, or attempt to do, tons of the side stuff in the northern areas of the map, I found that many of them were near impossible for me to do. OR perhaps I was just terrible at it. Regardless I came away from that game with an outstanding "meh" towards it. There were certainly things that I really enjoyed, but felt it was too much of a chore to get working and never came back to it.

So as you could probably guess, my expectations for Skyrim were essentially nonexistent. So why did I pay 60 dollars and wait 4 hours for it to download on a Sunday after it was released? Well, as the competitive fighting game community will tell you, hype is an interesting thing. I have a tendency to believe that the more hyped up something is, the worse the product will be, and after watching various coverage of this game and hearing people talk about how near-life changing it was (when it looked pretty bland from the coverage), I could not resist the temptation to find out what it was really like.

One of my favorite things in the world is to be proven wrong. After my time in Skyrim, I can pretty confidently say that as a game, it's alright. It's not the bug ridden hell that other Bethesda games are known to be, however it is far from a shining example of what a modern game should be and had tons of really major and frankly bizarre design flaws. I cannot say that I did not enjoy what I have played so far. Nor would I condemn anyone for liking or disliking Skyrim. However the amount of ravenous praise that the game is receiving is still completely and totally inconceivable to me. It's certain not "RPG Of the Decade" like a certain other game that came out earlier this year. (teehee) Allow me to break down the aspects I like and dislike about Skyrim.

LIKES!:

  • The music, atmosphere, and general sound design. As someone who is a composer of music and an audio hobbyist (oh someday it will be my profession!), having well produced audio is always a plus. Who doesn't love that Level Up sound? It's brilliant! It ironic, makes the player feel powerful, and fits with the theme and setting. Prefect. There are some sounds and here and that are a bit lackluster, (the stone doors in particular are obviously just cinder blocks being dragged on a concrete floor,) but overall the sound production is great through out the game.
  • The combat. I'm playing as a Breton with a loose focus on magic, archery, and stealth. One of the things I didn't really take to in Fallout 3 was the combat. I could never seem to figure out how not to die in that game. In Skyrim however, I'm having a blast sneaking around sniping people with my bow then burning them if the detect me. I found that it's always better to travel with a companion to help with large groups on enemies, but will get to companions a little later. I've really enjoy fighting the 4 or 5 dragons I've come across. I could see it getting a bit stale once I've taken down my 20th, but right now the battles and challenging and fun.
  • The perk/leveling system. I am a major fan of complex and obtuse leveling systems. It's one of things that attracted me to games like D'n'D and Dark Souls. That doesn't mean that I don't appreciate a simplification. Skyrim does something really interesting with it's leveling system. In some ways it builds upon what games like Final Fantasy 2 explored, but also asks the player a very simple question. "Do you want more magic, health, or stamina?" This, for the most part, allows the player to focus on how they want to play the game and allows them to experiment with relatively low risk. While I wouldn't say that it is a prefect system, but it generally seems to work pretty well.
  • Non-game breaking bugs. Experiencing "jank" in video games has become a growing endeavor of mine in the last couple of years. When a game breaks in a way that's funny or non-inconvenient it adds a lot of fun to that game. Sure it completely breaks immersion, but as we'll see later, immersion is not a problem with Skyrim. I've had tons of fun little bugs in Skyrim that always cause giggles of delight. For example, my horse decided it would be a wonderful thing to just fly off and land in a tree. Another time, an NPC just jumped into a line of dialogue concerning a quest I had without me even prompting her or being aware of her involvement. It was very surprising. I've only had one game breaking bug, but fortunately, I had saved shortly before it happened and could not get it to repeat.
  • Being able to quite to the desktop without having to go back to the main screen. More games need to do this.

DISLIKES!:

I wish every game had infinite time to be made and the craftsmen who poor so much labor into these silly yet beloved pass time of ours could truly realize their visions. Unfortunately it is very clear that some major things were cut from Skyrim and it seems few that have had such excitement for this product are willing to admit that. Deciding to either ignore or accept them. Well I'd rather point them out.

Now, I'm perfectly aware that these criticisms are my opinions and you may not share them. That's fine. I would like to ask, however, if you open the topics to debate instead of out right ignoring them as if you like or dislike something you should be able to explain yourself in an intelligent manner. Otherwise, why even have the opinions in the first place? (Don't answer that.)

  • The menu system is awkward. I like collection junk as much as most fans of the genre, but really it would be nice if they allowed you to sort your inventory by other things instead of just category and alphabetically. Sorting, value, usefulness, would all be really helpful and it boggles my mind why they wouldn't do that in the first place. The favorite system is really great and makes items, weapons, and spells that you know you'll use really easy to access... in theory, but in practice I found myself wading through tons of stuff looking for my sword or a certain spell. If I could arrange my favorite in what ever order I want. Weapons, Magic, Potions, Food. Or whatever order a player would want. You can bind favorited things to 1 through 8 on the keyboard on PC version, but that begs the question, why not 9 through = as well? (NOTE: I haven't actually checked if there is a way to include those last four buttons, but by default you can't bind things to them.)
  • There aren't any characters in Skyrim. Well perhaps that's a bit harsh and quite untrue, but as to where I am in the story (just finished with the Greybreads and have been doing some side stuff in that general area) every character I've come across is flat and sterile. I think the only character that I remembered the name of was my current companion Lydia. I've done a couple quests for the werewolf group (oh aren't they called the Companions?), but other than them being werewolves and having a very low bar to who they accept into their circle I couldn't tell you much about them (SHIELD-BROTHER). It took all of three quests to get into their highest circle and to learn their secrets. People are incredibly trustful in this game. "We won't let you into the city!" "I have information for the Jarl!" "Alright then." Really? That's was easy.
    The companions are the worst though. Early on you can ask a bard to come along with you on your journeys and I thought "Oh awesome! He'll write music about me and have all these clever bardic witty comments to flavor my journey! It will be great!" But alas, there were no witty comments, no songs. He just kind of tagged along. Only saying a few generic lines that any character of any race, gender, class, build, what-have-you could say. Shortly after I ran into a woman in an inn and beat her up because she asked me too. I was all "Oh cool, she'll be sharing wonderful stories of her travels..." and well you can probable see where this is going. They have no personality to them what-so-ever and are essentially just pact animals for your to give your extra crap when you reach your weight limit. Now it seems that there are a lot of people that you can have tag along with you, so having tons of unique dialogue for all of them would be impossibly ambitious, but maybe this is one of the many places they should have opted for quality instead of quantity.
    There is a lot going on in the world of Skyrim, but having such flat character has made it incredibly difficult to get into. I'm a big fan of the whole civil war plots in RPGs. It's one of the reasons why games like the Suikoden franchise and the Witcher 2 really resonated with me. Those games, however, have incredible characters with motivation. faults, and arcs. I don't care about a single character I've come across in Skyrim. It's actually really tempting to just try to kill off every single one I come across just to see what happens, but I doubt I'd be able to survive. This leads into another issue I have with the story telling in the game.
  • You cannot role play in this Role Playing Game. Why is my character in Skyrim? We're told that we were caught trying to get over the boarder at the start of the game. Why were we trying to get into the region? This could have very easily be explained during the intro by having one of the NPC's asking you, and then depending on your answer you could get a small stat bonus or some type of item. The intro is pretty haphazard in general. I see what they're trying to go for, but I don't think they pulled it off very well. For example, say you ended up choosing to be a cat man, but none of the NPCs happen to mention it during your cart ride despite there being very strong sense of racist towards the cat people in this world. Just about any race that isn't a Nord would have most likely gotten some sort of comment during that cart ride. Let's move on from that.
    The game offers very little dialogue options. You really can't express your intentions to all the various characters in game and thus can't really feel anything towards those characters, which in turn makes them stale and uninteresting. Regardless of who is playing as the Dragonborn, everyone will have the exact same conversations with anyone they run into in Skyrim. Why even bother having a silent protagonist then? If every single player will have the same experience through the story (the "speech" stat options aren't deep enough to count as a different) then why not just record some voices? This is by far the most disappointing part of the game and is the major source of any animosity I have towards this game. Video games, especially RPGs, have matured passed the silent protagonist, but if it must exist at least they could have given us some actual choice in this game. Not just big binary choices like "Imperials or Rebels" either.
    On the PC version talking to people can be awkward. The controls aren't really consistent. Sometimes when I click on the option, it chooses it like expected and everything is dandy, but other times it chooses a different one or the same one that I just heard. This is regardless to where that little ridicule is too and can be really annoying.
  • The World is Flat. There is no shortage of lore in the Elder Scrolls universe, but because of the previous two bullet points you probably wouldn't really know that since you don't get a sense of the world from the the people that inhabit it. There is no doubt that you will stubble upon hundreds of various books in your journey through Skyrim. You'll probably even open each one to see if it boosts your skills or teaches you a new spell, but you can also read the ones that do to find out more about the world of Skyrim in the most exposition-al way possible.
    I'm not against having books/PDAs/What-have-you's in games that help flush out the fiction a bit, but when the majority is only explained in such a way, I think there is a problem. Admitted, I haven't been clicking on every dialogue option or hearing everything everyone has to say for reasons mentioned above, so maybe they to exposit about everything you can read in this various books. It would be nice if after collecting these books that their contents were all dropped into some sort of codex/journal, but at last, I don't think anything like that exists within the game.
  • There's a lot to do, but not really. A lot of the quests so far have been go kill these bandits, or get back this item, or something else that leads to some else that's very similar and uninspiring. While I have done more then a hand full of quests, most of them were all kind of the same thing. I just wish there was a bit more variety early on. I mean how many ancient tombs filled with undead can there be in such a small area? Turns out, quite a bit!

So far what I have determined is that Skyrim is kind of a mediocre game that feels either rushed, poorly paced, or both. This is essentially how I ended up feeling about Final Fantasy 13. Based off what I've played, I don't think I would recommend this game to anyone. I will certainly play more of it, because I don't think I've discovered what people see in it yet and for a game that could easily be 200 hours worth of time, maybe there's something in there. I will at least finish up the main story thread and maybe do that "About last night" (or what ever it was called) quest.

EDIT: I posted this to the wrong forum, but whatever.

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Desert Bus For Hope 2011 starts today!

For those of you that don't know what Desert Bus for Hope is, it is a fundraiser that the sketch comedy group Loading Ready Run has done for Child's Play for the last 5 years. Basically they play Desert Bus from the unreleased Sega CD game Penn And Teller's Smoke and Mirrors until they run out of time. The more money people donate the longer they play. They stream all of it nonstop. But they don't only play an incredibly boring game, they also auction off some really awesome things, have call-ins from famous people from the our video game community, and do all sorts of other stuff. The whole event usually lasts for about 6 days.

I'm excited for this year since it's the first time I actually have some money to donate. I doubt I'll be able to get any of the auction since they tend to quite quickly go into the thousands, but still.

Will anyone else be watching and/or donating?

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Looking for some feedback on a sound effects project.

I'm compiling a portfolio (in my case that's music and audio post stuff - ie sound effects) of my work and would like some feedback on the most recent thing I have done.

Basically I took the Rat Transformation scene from Parasite Eve and replaced all the sound effects with ones that I recorded myself.

Here is the result!And here's the original for comparison.

Please, any and all feedback is appreciated.

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