Ryan, you great and wonderful...

I have newer met the man, yet, as many have already said, I felt deep, deep sadness. You know, when Ryan left GameSpot, I did not think of it much. I was more sad about Vinny leaving than Ryan, but from the first minutes of the Arrow Pointing Down podcast he started to grow on me. And now here I am, a day after the announcement, and I still feel weird and not really wanting to believe that this enthusiastic man is gone.

I received a message on Steam from one of my Dota 2 co-op mates that only consisted from a link to Matt's article. All I could do couple of minutes later was to spam the word "fuck" into the chat. I kept typing and typing it into the little window as a way of holding myself from more bigger emotions. And when I stopped, I took a little pause and said that I was sad. After that tears started to fall and it hit me even harder.

He was one of the best people covering this industry. While he did not do much reviews, they were well written and articulate. Works of a person that had great control over words, a master of his craft. I liked reading his reviews just for the way he wrote and conveyed his thoughts. And the podcast man, the freaking podcasts. That intro line and his way of saying it is now engraved into my brain. He was a great host to one of the best podcasts around. Definitely the best video game podcast. And he could do it for hours, sometimes even day after day and I loved every minute of it, never skipping ahead.

And in this sea of bad emotions and feelings, I can also be happy. I can be happy that I could enjoy the work of this man. I can be happy that he worked a job he loved and was doing it with his friends. I can be happy for his ability to leave a big mark in peoples lives to the point, that after only few times of meeting him, people write lots of posts about him. So I am happy for all the thing people wrote in memory of him, because it is great that he could connect to people in all the ways they say he did.

While my heart goes out to his wife, friends and family and while I am sad that he died at such I young age, I am happy that at 34 he did so many wonderful things. And I will be always happy for him and his friend starting this site more than five years ago. The seventeen year-old Latvian boy, who followed them form GameSpot, could not be happier for them and himself about the creation of Giant Bomb. So Ryan, thank you for giving me things to be happy about. I will miss you.

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An inteview with Drew Part 2: Sheep's Head

Some time ago, I did and interview with Drew about video production at Giant Bomb. Back then the interview was more of an accident, then something that was planned. But after watching the fantastic Iceland video, I had a good excuse to ask for another interview. We talked about the trip itself, used equipment and video production in general.

Me: So, Iceland. How was it?

Drew: Iceland was amazing! Even while I was there, I was itching to return. So many nice people, great food (seriously!), and plenty of further opportunities to explore.

Me: Did the trip made you want to dive into the crazy world of EVE?

Drew: Absolutely, I only wish I had more time to devote to it!

Me: Giant Bomb must be getting invites to different events form time to time. Yet you don't go to all of them, especially with a camera and someone to film with it. So how do you decide where to go and what to shoot?

Drew: It really depends on what we think we can get out of it. The output of the site takes a serious hit when one of our editors and HALF of our video production team is out of the office. But EVE Fanfest is something that really interested Patrick and I, and we knew that if we attended, we'd get some pretty unique content out of it. It's tough to know what you're going to get, exactly, since we had never been to Fanfest (or Iceland) before, but we were confident that we would be able to find some stories. I mean, we were going to a strange foreign land, and there are always video opportunities when that happens!

Me: How do you decide on what should be filmed and what not? How does stuff get left on the cutting room floor?

Drew: Before heading out on trips like this, I have only the vaguest sense of what I want the final video to be like. I try to keep it this way so that I let the experience dictate the tone and pacing of the video. As a result, I end up filming anything and everything that might be interesting, which translates into hours upon hours of footage (16 hours 53 minutes 11 seconds 41 frames of footage, to be exact). Obviously, not all of that will be interesting enough to make it into the final video. Sometimes a shot will get left out because it doesn't look good or has bad audio, but most of the time it's because it doesn't fit with the narrative you want to tell. For example, I shot a lot of the panels at EVE Fanfest, most of which were over an hour. Almost none of that footage made it into the travelogue video because it didn't really fit next to shots of us eating a sheep's head.

Me: How much equipment is required on trips like these? Do you have it separately or some of the studio gear has to be taken with you?

Drew: On trips like this, it's good to stay light. You've got to be able to carry everything with you if the need arises. That said, since we had no idea what to expect, I packed my camera bag with as much stuff as I could. In addition to the camera, lenses, light, mics, cables, batteries, chargers, wireless kits, and tripod that we normally take to events, I brought along four GoPro cameras (with mounting equipment for any conceivable surface/structure/person), a Kodak Zi8, and my personal Micro Four Thirds camera, a Panasonic GF3 with 20mm pancake lens. At events, I like to keep a camera on me at all times, and the Zi8 has served me well in this capacity before. This time, however, I wanted to try something new and ended up shooting almost all of the non-Fanfest footage with the GF3. I hadn't shot a lot of video with DSLRs, but after getting my sea legs on this trip, I'm a believer. Having a camera small enough to stick into my jacket pocket is critical to the success of a trip like this, because there's no WAY I was going to bring our (comparatively giant) AF100 out to a bar, or into a bouncing van, or to a geothermal hot spring. Compared to the Zi8, which is super easy to operate with one hand, the GF3 was a little tough to handle sometimes (like trying to keep Patrick in focus while simultaneously drinking a shot of Brennivin), but the image quality and low-light performance makes up for the occasional blurriness.

Me: E3 is soon. How does that compare to Fanfest?

Drew: E3 is a little different because, for the most part, it's a known quantity. We generally know what kind of videos we want to come away with (day wrap-ups, livestreams, interviews, direct feed whenever possible). At E3, it's just a matter of making it all happen, and ensuring that each video has enough content to fill it. And, as always, be on the lookout for anything crazy that could be incorporated into a day wrap-up or broken out into its own video. E3 is also more stressful because not only are our days packed with back-to-back appointments, but we also have to edit video and put up content during the show, something Patrick and I only had to do once we got back.

Me: Has there ever been a time, where you wanted to put something on the site, but could not do it for one reason or another? Has something been fully edited, but not posted?

Drew: Not that I can think of. We have had to take videos down and edit parts out before, mostly things like developer tools or debug code showing up in the video. Some companies are fine with it, some aren't. We hate doing this, obviously, so we try to really nail down the specific limitations that are on the video before devoting production bandwidth to it.

Me: Does the editing stuff out happens often? How strict are the rules you have to work with?

Drew: Not often. We try hard to make sure it doesn't happen. It's usually just the result of a miscommunication. Sometimes it's not made clear to us what we can't show until after the video is up.

Me: Last time we spoke, Whiskey Media still was a thing. How has you work has changed, if at all, after the CBS buyout?

Drew: Even though the four video producers at Whiskey Media were on different brands, we worked in such close proximity and with the same equipment that it was no problem for one of us to cover for another. Joey would often fill in for me in the control room while I was working on a video review. Now, since we only have two people, we've had to find ways to streamline our production process so that we can free up my and Vinny's time as much as possible for more video pursuits, while still getting the same amount of video up on the site. This streamlining has come in the form of equipment (such as our realtime H.264 encoder, which allows us to turn around Quick Looks and live shows in a fraction of the time we used to) and communication/time management (we're much more strict about shooting schedules here than we were at Whiskey).

Me: Is there anything you miss from the WM days?

Drew: That bar, man! We had a bar in our office! And the people, of course. That's not to say that the people here aren't totally nice (they are!), but it's always tough to part with people you've worked with for years. Fortunately, they all seem to have landed on their feet, and I get to see some of them from time to time.

Me: Jeff has said, that it would be awesome to add another producer to the staff. Despite allowing you guys to go more on trips, how would it affect video production at Giant Bomb?

Drew: I'd love to have another producer on our team! It would definitely mean more video, and probably different types of video, since we'd have more time to spend on edited content like the Iceland Travelogue.

Me: So, if I get this right, then you have new equipment to substitute for lack of more editors, yet you still feel a need for another one. Is there any tech out there, that could lesser the problem? And is there anything in particular you would like to do for the site?

Drew: Equipment can make things easier, but it can't do everything a human can, like go to an off-site appointment or edit video or lay explosions over a live show at just the right time. As for future content plans... I've got some ideas ;)

Me: Oh, so any HOT scoops you can share with the readers about future content? Any teases you can give us?

Drew: Nope!

When I asked him about where he would like to go and film, he said this: "Everywhere!" Also he said to his loyal fans to just keep flying! And that is all we talked about, so I hope you enjoyed it.

On a side note: There is something cool in saying "Last time we spoke..." when doing an interview. Makes you feel legit.

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Game of the Year 2012: By The Numbers

Giant Bomb's Game of the Year feature is done and it is time to combine the individual lists of the editors and see how they compare to the official list of Giant Bomb. The counting system is the same as last year, with one point going to the the last game on the list and ten points going to the first game on the list. Since Alex was one of the judges this year, he has moved form the additional list team to the main list. But I still left Drew, just to see, how he would inapact the end result. First, let's review the individual top 10 lists.

Brad:

  1. Mass Effect 3
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  4. Mark of the Ninja
  5. Journey
  6. Asura's Wrath
  7. Far Cry 3
  8. Dust: An Elysian Tail
  9. Frog Fractions
  10. Trials Evolution

Ryan:

  1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Hotline Miami
  4. Mark of the Ninja
  5. FTL: Faster than Light
  6. Forza Horizon
  7. Rock Band Blitz
  8. Journey
  9. Asura's Wrath
  10. Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Jeff:

  1. Far Cry 3
  2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  3. Syndicate
  4. Fez
  5. Forza Horizon
  6. FTL: Faster than Light
  7. Rhythm Heaven Fever
  8. Persona 4 Arena
  9. Pinball Arcade
  10. Call Of Duty: Black Ops II

Patrick

  1. The Walking Dead
  2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  3. ZombiU
  4. Mark of the Ninja
  5. Dishonored
  6. Fez
  7. Journey
  8. Papo & Yo
  9. Asura's Wrath
  10. Slender: The Eight Pages

Alex:

  1. The Walking Dead
  2. Journey
  3. Hotline Miami
  4. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  5. Forza Horizon
  6. Rhythm Heaven Fever
  7. Sound Shapes
  8. FTL: Faster than Light
  9. Sleeping Dogs
  10. Rock Band Blitz

Vinny:

  1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Sleeping Dogs
  4. Mass Effect 3
  5. Binary Domain
  6. Fez
  7. Spec Ops: The Line
  8. The Book of Unwritten Tales
  9. Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers
  10. Journey

Drew:

  1. Halo 4
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Diablo III
  4. Spec Ops: The Line
  5. Journey
  6. Digital Combat Simulator
  7. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  8. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
  9. FTL: Faster than Light
  10. Hotline Miami

These are the lists an below you will find a table of three lists with the official top 10, math top 10 and math with Drew top 10. Don't think that this is about the right top 10 list of Giant Bomb. The math list is made from individual lists, not from a discussion of a team. So keep that in mind, as you compare the lists (the numbers in brackets are the points).

Pos.Official ListMath ListMath List with Drew
1XCOM: Enemy UnkownXCOM: Enemy Unknown (53)XCOM: Enemy Unknown (57)
2The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead (47)The Walking Dead (56)
3Far Cry 3Journey (23)Journey (29)
4FezMark of the Ninja (21)Mark of the Ninja (21)
5JourneyMass Effect 3/Forza Horizon/Fez (17)Mass Effect 3/Forza Horizon/ Fez/
Hotline Miami (17)
6Mark of the NinjaHotline Miami (16)FTL: Faster than Light (16)
7SyndicateFar Cry 3/FTL: Faster than Light (14)Far Cry 3 (14)
8Mass Effect 3Sleeping Dogs (10)Spec Ops: The Line (11)
9ZombiUAsura's Wrath/Rhythm Heaven Fever (9)Sleeping Dogs/Halo 4 (10)
10Sleeping DogsSyndicate/ZombiU (8)Asura's Wrath/Rhythm Heaven Fever (9)

The top 2 are the same in all three lists, which kind of was expected. The only game to be featured in all of the individual lists was XCOM, while The Walking Dead and Journey were on six out of seven lists (Jeff did not put these games in his top 10). These lists show me how personal opinion can influence the end result. This can be seen in the official list (Far Cray 3, Syndicate) and in the math lists (Halo 4, Forza Horizon, Hotline Miami). Hope you found all of these numbers interesting.

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Going from one MOBA to another

I have been playing League of Legends for about a year and a half and never really wanted to play another MOBA game. The closest anything got me to stop playing LOL was Heroes of Newerth, but it never got out of me more then just vague curiosity. But, after watching the tournament for DOTA 2 in Liepzig, I knew I wanted to take part in the beta for this game and see what is all the fuss about. So I got my invite past week, played about 30 matches of it and here is what I think about it.

I will start by saying, that I don't feel that one game is better then the other. At there core, there are the same three lane, wave based, five on five game, but with different takes on this formula. So for someone, who never played the original D.O.T.A., but enjoys LOL quite a lot, it was not hard to get into this game. But that is just me and for someone new to the genre, I would not recommend DOTA 2 as a starting point without someone to guide him or her. Now, I know it is a beta and all, but as of right now, the game does nothing to explain how it should be played. What is confusing is that one the first launch of it, it asks how familiar is the player is with MOBA style games. After you choose one of the tree variants, it does nothing about it. I chose the second one, that I thought would explain to me things like creep denial or give me some tips on which heroes should I choose. It did none of those things and just let me be. There is a "Learn" section in the main menu, but all it does is give you the list of all the heroes in the game and descriptions of there abilities. So for anyone interested in this beta, I would recommend trying the Sniper first. He has only two active skills and is pretty easy to use. This is the reason, why LOL has a tutorial, but I don't know if it was present during that game's beta.

Despite that, there are some things that DOTA 2 does better than LOL. For one, it has an actual spectator mode, that allows you to watch live and recorded games. For comparison, the best thing that League of Legends has right now is a third party program called LOLreplays. But there is no live game functionality and it has some bugs and issues. DOTA 2 also handles the community side of things better with having public chat rooms in the game and it benefits form the fact, that it is a Steamworks game. But the main thing it does better than LOL is how it handles leavers. When someone leaves a game, that can pretty much ruin the whole match for the 5-1 player team. In League of Legends, if someone disconnects, there is nothing you can do about it, only to report the player after the game. In DOTA 2, if someone leaves, a 5 minute timer starts counting down. If the player does not come back during this time, when the timer ends, anyone if free to leave the match and not be labeled as a leaver. I cannot stress you enough how awesome that is. Starting a ranked game in LOL, only to loose it, because some kind of a jackass died 5 times at the start of the game and left, can be very frustrating.

Oh, I have written 3 paragraphs, but said almost nothing about the gameplay. So, how does DOTA 2 feel compared to League of Legends? Well, in some ways it is the same game, but in other ways it is not. The meta game is almost the same: one players goes to the middle lane, two go bottom and two go top, while one of them can be a jungler. The difference is, that there are no masteries, summoner spells or runes in DOTA 2 like they are in LOL. So at the start of every DOTA 2 game every hero starts the same. In both games the early part of a match is mostly about creep management and last hitting. DOTA 2, as did the original mod, adds the ability for the player to kill his own creeps and deny gold for the other team. However, the biggest difference is to be found in the hero stats and there skills.

In League of Legends there are two stats, that can influence the effectiveness of champion abilities. They are damage and ability points, and different skills scale differently from these points. For example, the more ability points a mage has, the more damage his skills inflict. In DOTA 2, a heroes stats don't affect his skills, so the amount of damage showed in the description of the skill is the amount it will do for the rest of the game. Because of this, after you have maxed out a skill in DOTA 2, it will stop to scale which is different from LOL, where buying new items will improve champion skills. Because of this, damage dealing skills in DOTA 2 can deplete the amount of rivals health for a hefty amount even at level one. To balance this out, skills, for the most part, cost a lot of mana points. In some cases a primary skill can take away more then a half one someone's mana pool and mana regeneration is quite slow at the beginning. All of this forces a player to be more careful with his usage of skills at the start then he would be in League of Legends. And because of this, solo kills are more rare in DOTA 2 and require more of a team effort than in LOL. Don't get me wrong, it is still possible to kill someone on your own in DOTA 2 and it is still better to work together in LOL, but I found it to be a bit more difficult to do a solo kill in DOTA 2.

The death penalty is also a lot bigger in DOTA 2. In LOL, when you die, all you have to do is wait for you to come back to life. In the other game, the times are longer and you also take a gold penalty for dying. The amount of money you have is split in safe and unsafe and when you die, you loose the unsafe part. Now, what counts for safe gold and what does not, I don't know. All I do know, that loosing 1K of gold can be very bad, when most of the items in the game are expensive. The big cost of items makes sure, that you will end most of the games with only one or two big items, where in LOL half of the games end with having three or four of big, combined items. Both the cost of the items and gold lost upon death make the game a bit harder for one team to come back. When one team starts dominating the other, they get gold, while the other is loosing it, especially if the loosing side is spending there gold on come-backs. That allows for the winning side get there hands on some good items a lot faster, than the other would have. While that won't affect the skills, it will affect the need to go back to base to heal or restore mana. And the less time you are in your base, the better. I have yet to see a comeback, where one team defends there base and pushes there way to the enemy's side. Combine these facts together, and I would say, that one a typical DOTA 2 match is shorter than the average League of Legends match.

One might say, that DOTA 2 is harder then LOL. And I will agree, that LOL is a bit more auto-attack focused. To quote someone I encountered while watching a DOTA 2 game: "LOL is where nabs go to play." Well, in my experience, I would not call one harder than the other. If anything, I feel that I do a bit better in DOTA 2 than in League of Legends. Both games still require the same from their players and both can be hard to get into. They just focus a bit on different things. League of Legends is more about the meta game, where DOTA 2 is more about single combat situations. At least that is what I think about both of these games and my experience with them.

P.S. If you plan to play the DOTA 2 beta, be ready for long waiting times. Since this is a beta, there are several, several times less players than there are in League of Legends.

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An interview with Alex

He plays drums, is knowledgeable both about movies and video games. He is a professional Nicolas Cage expert and knows a thing or two about bad truck games. Who is this wonder man, you might ask? Well, it is Whiskey Media's own Alex Navarro. I got to ask him a series a disjointed questions, that, maybe, could be called an interview, about starting Screened, working for two sites and a bunch of other stuff. Enjoy!

Me: Thanks for agreeing to this. Could you please tell me how did the idea of Screened was born? What made you leave Harmonix and start a site at Whiskey Media?

Alex: I can't tell you the exact origins of Screened as I actually wasn't there for the initial planning meetings. The Whiskey folk had already decided they were definitely going to do a movie/television site in the vein of Giant Bomb, and it just so happened that I was back in the Bay Area during a holiday break and hanging out with Mr. Jeff Gerstmann when he told me the site was in development.

Little known fact: During my time at CNET/GameSpot, I had lobbied several higher-ups there to allow me to do some work on FilmSpot, the apparently doomed-from-the-start movie website the company briefly pretended it cared about. As it turned out, no one there in management really gave a crap about that site after the guy who helped get it created (I believe that was a Vince Broady joint) left CNET, so nobody had much interest in paying anyone to dedicate significant resources to that site.

So, anyway, that's a roundabout way of saying I'd always wanted to get into writing about film, either in addition to writing about games, or as a full-time gig, and the idea of working for Whiskey on a movie website sounded incredibly appealing, especially given that I'd been considering leaving Harmonix anyway. That's sort of a long story, but I think I've said before that my relationship with MTV Games wasn't overly great at that point, and I was increasingly frustrated with working with them. Plus, you know, the possibility of working with my old friends again was kind of a hard thing to ignore. So this seemed like a really good opportunity.

So I interviewed with Shelby in early 2010, and not long after that everything came together. We started working on the site and getting all the pieces in place, we hired Rorie, and eventually, the site was born.

Me: How different is it to review films compared to reviewing games? How much of your experience covering video games could you use, or was it something completely new to you?

Alex: It's a pretty different mentality. Video game criticism tends to focus so much on the mechanical. How solid is this framerate, how do these controls work, etc. Often times, the idea of narrative gets checked off as a single bullet point to address in a paragraph. Though, honestly, a lot of games really don't deserve much more acknowledgment than that as far as their story goes. The ones that do deserve more attention in that area I suppose are the ones I've been enjoying most lately.

When you're reviewing a film, you're certainly taking into account technical aspects like direction, cinematography, performance, music, and whatever else. It's just that it's much more in service of the overall understanding of how well a movie tells its story. You (typically) go to a movie to watch its plot unfold. Sometimes that becomes ancillary to seeing a particular actor or seeing specific action sequences, but even those things factor into the overall storytelling. Games can have no story (sports games, puzzle games, etc.), or have tons of story. You have to be able to parse what parts are important to each individual game, and focus on those. Like, I doubt I'd ever give a Mario game a negative review just because its story sucked. It's more about the mechanics, the world design, and what have you. Likewise, I don't care how technically proficient a movie is if it can't make me care about its plot and characters.

Me: With your last sentence in mind, do you think there is something substantial to gained by trying to change the viewing experience of a film goer? Can things like 3D, IMAX or even D-Box add something meaningful to a movie, or is just novelty and a way to make a ticket more expensive?

Alex: I think if it's one thing movies like Hugo, and yes, Avatar, have proved it's that 3D can be used as something more than a silly gimmick. And I think if there's one thing movies like Piranha 3D and A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas have proved, it's that when you are going to use 3D as a gimmick, it's best to be as ridiculous as possible about it.

Like all things, technology absolutely can aid a film-going experience. It's all about how the director chooses to use it, and whether that technology is really capable of immersing you in the experience, or just a cheap gimmick to raise ticket prices. I am not 3D's biggest fan, but I even recognize that there is merit to it when it's used well. As for D-Box or IMAX, I'd say it's the same thing. I don't find D-Box that enthralling personally, but I know Ryan loves the hell out of it. It certainly has its benefits, if you're way into big, crazy action movies.

Me: Going back to covering films and video games, how did you get involved with Giant Bomb and back to reviewing video games? Do you count as an intern/freelancer at Giant Bomb or does just Jeff ask's you to review some games, because everyone else is busy at that time? How much does it affect your ability to work for Screened?

Alex: My current role basically has me as a 50/50 split covering games and movies. I'm still a full-time employee of the company, not freelance or anything. Movie assignments get worked out between Rorie and myself, whereas game stuff usually just comes from me talking to Jeff whenever stuff is coming out.

Getting back involved with Giant Bomb...you know, I can't recall the exact thing that got that all started. I did a few reviews back in 2010 during the Q4 crunch, as I recall, and then at some point I had some free time and just started doing some news posts for them before Patrick came along. Again, I think that mostly just was a matter of convenience, originally.

As for my decision to take on this 50/50 role, it just made sense to me. I still love games and like writing about them. Likewise, I still really dig writing about film. I guess I'm a bit of a dilettante, in the sense that I like to involve myself in a lot of different art forms without necessarily focusing all my efforts on just one. It's why I used to write up those big Album of the Year posts every year--I really like following and discussing music, but I think I'd go nuts if that were the only thing I were doing.

Me: Yeah, I remember those posts. I used to to enjoy them, but, from what I understand, they take a lot of time to make, yes? Could you see yourself reviewing albums or covering the music industry?

Alex: I'm not a particularly great music writer. Part of the problem is that music, for me, is an exceptionally personal thing, and oddly something I find pretty difficult to explain in terminology people will understand. Also, as someone who is a drummer exclusively and has no real sense of how to write songs beyond the scope of structure and tempo, it's hard for me to really judge music on the same wavelength as people who do kind of understand that stuff. So it's why I stick to just writing my lists of the stuff I really liked, because it's simpler than trying to write full reviews of every album I come across. It also doesn't require as deep of thought when explaining, since I'm just explaining why it made my list.

I dig reading about the music industry, be it reviews, news, interviews, or whatever else. But I doubt it's an area I'd want to cover professionally.

Me: Your site does also cover TV. What can you say about modern television? Do you agree with the notion, that traditional television is a dying breed of entertainment?

Alex: Dying? Maybe not, but certainly transforming. I'll freely admit that my passion for TV is perhaps less than that of games/movies, but I watch a good number of shows in my free time. Far more than I did, for instance, before DVRs and Netflix came around. I think the truth of the matter is that the traditional Network model is beginning to show its age, and the networks that have been able to adapt to this (licensing shows to Netflix or Hulu, using the Internet to help promote the program with clips or entire episodes, etc.) are the ones that will be the most successful in the future. I don't know that the idea of scheduled programming watched via your television will ever go away, but it'll be one option among several ways to consume your favorite programs. As long as networks can find a way to monetize it, they'll do it.

Me: So, it has been some time that you moved to the east coast. How did it impact your workflow? How do you review unreleased games? Do you have your own debug units for consoles?

Alex: It's actually been really good. One of the neat things about the New York game scene is that everybody here's pretty friendly with one another. Which isn't to say that the San Francisco scene isn't friendly, but I've gotten pretty close with a number of writers here who've all been pretty cool about helping me make local PR contacts and letting me know about events, and such. It's a pretty supportive group of people and it's made the transition a hell of a lot easier.

I have a debug Xbox that I've had for, god, I guess since I was briefly freelancing between my time at GameSpot and my gig at Harmonix. It's beat to shit, but it does the job.

Thanks Alex for this interview and super fast response time to my questions.

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An interview with Patrick

It has been less than a year that one Patrick Klepek joined the team, here on Giant Bomb. And, I don't know about you, but I feel he is a great addition to the editorial staff of this fine website. But, while have followed Jeff, Ryan, Brad and Vinny from their GameSpot days, I barely knew anything about Patrick. So this is a little interview I did with him about his past jobs, time at Whiskey Media, his news stories and little about gaming news in general. Hope you will enjoy it.

Me: I, and a lot of other people, were introduced to you during one of the Bombcasts. Back then, you did not work for Giant Bomb, so can you tell to those that don't know, where have you worked in the past, why that did not work for you and how did you come to Whiskey Media?

Patrick: The Bombcast from GDC, right? I don't think I was on before then. I've been around the block a few times on this side of the industry. Started attending E3 when I was 14, and mostly wrote for Gaming Age Online (www.gaming-age.com), which is the origin of NeoGAF. Much of Gaming Age went on to work at Ziff Davis Media, who at one point operated 1UP, EGM, GFW/CGW, GMR and others. My friends there would connect me with freelance when I was in college, and when I graduated, 1UP news editor Luke Smith left for Bungie and I took that position. About six months into that gig, Stephen Totilo offered me a chance to be the San Francisco correspondent for MTV News, which I accepted. I spent a year reporting there alongside Stephen and Tracey John, another talented reporter, before the recession hit and I was laid off. By that point, I'd surmised that having more experience on-camera would prove useful, so I interviewed with G4 and took a position as a news writer in Los Angeles, writing for their Feed blog, contributing to X-Play and co-hosting E3 the following year. EGM was rebooted during that time, and I was offered the chance to be a senior editor on the digital side. That proved to be a complete bust, a waste of a year of my life, and I began quickly looking for something new, which turned out to be Giant Bomb.

Me: Yes, it was the GDC podcast. But what do you mean by saying, that being a senior editor on the digital side of EGM was a bust?

Patrick: Well, I signed onto EGM as part of EGMi--the digital initiative. While it started out as a web service and remained a web service during my time at EGM, it was really an iPad app. I couldn't tell you why it took so long before the iPad app to launch, but it didn't come out until after I'd left. I can't say much more without getting into touchy legal ground, but I found the prospect of working on an all-digital magazine for a pioneering device to be a very lucrative opportunity, but I wasn't given many ways to contribute to how it actually came about, and so I decided to move on.

Me: So now you are here, at Giant Bomb. How has it been? How is the staff, the community? Is Luchadeer haunting you and threatening to shave off your hair?

Patrick: The transition from EGM to Giant Bomb could not have been more incredible. The community here is great--attentive, responsive, passionate--and the editors share the same values I do when it comes to creating content that you care about. Of course, Whiskey Media has to make money, but the underlying philosophy of Whiskey Media is making content that you believe in, and trusting there are other people who care just as much as you. It's been a very inspiring place to work, one that allows me to chase down my favorite pursuits, and I think it's created some of my best stories yet.

Me: Speaking of which, a lot of your stories are more like editorials on a specific topic. Like the first Crash Bandicoot game on Cryengine 2 or multiple stories about Team Bondi. How hard is it to find all these stories and information about them?

Patrick: By and large, I cover what I find personally interesting. It's why Giant Bomb was such an appealing place from the outside looking in, as they were approaching games coverage the same way I always wanted to. The more you're personally invested in telling a story, the more interesting it's going to be for the audience. That said, not every story I publish is The Most Interesting Thing Ever, but it tends to be my personal barometer. Also, I have a softspot for the watchdog role, and I've tried to go out of my way to chase down stories of consumers getting screwed by companies. Finding the information is easier than one would think, and is usually as simple as sending an email or a Facebook message. It's all about persistence.

Me: How hard was it to cover the Infinity Ward piece?

Patrick: Without diminishing what I accomplished with the story, it was largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I happened to have the best contacts for that story to break around, which allowed me to cover the breakup from both Infinity Ward and Activision's perspectives. It wasn't so much hard as it was exhausting, as I was trying to stay on top of the story as new developments broke, more memos came my way, and other reporters began to pick up where I'd left off. I'm not sure I'll ever have a story like that ever again, but I'll spend my whole career trying.

Me: Lastly, in your opinion, what is the state of news coverage in video games today?

Patrick: Things like Twitter have made it easier than ever to filter out the crap and focus on what you're interested in, especially in regards to writers and reporters who put out quality work. You don't have to follow an entire publication, you can simply follow someone you trust, and if that person breaks that trust, it's as easy as clicking "unfollow" to move on. That said, as a whole, we could be doing better, and focusing less on making sure people have something "new" to ready every five seconds. We've trained them to expect that, and it's what degrades the quality bar for most publications.

And that is it. I would like to thank Patrick once again for answering my questions. Have a nice day, duders.

24 Comments

Game of the Year: By The Numbers

As someone who likes math, I decided to break down this years video 10 ten lists ans see how they compare with the editorial team. Every game got points depending on how high it was one every editors list. One point goes to the number 10 game and 10 points go to the number 1 game on the list. I also have included Drew's and Alex's top 10 lists into a separate list, so that we could see, how they would influence the end result. So here are top 10 list form the editors:

Ryan:

  1. Saints Row: The Third
  2. Portal 2
  3. L.A. Noire
  4. Rayman: Origins
  5. Batman: Arkham City
  6. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  7. Super Mario 3D Land
  8. Trenched/Iron Brigade
  9. The Gunstringer
  10. You Don't Know Jack

Brad:

  1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  2. Bastion
  3. Dead Island
  4. Dead Space 2
  5. Portal 2
  6. Gears of War 3
  7. L.A. Noire
  8. Renegade Ops
  9. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  10. Saints Row: The Third

Jeff:

  1. Saints Row: The Third
  2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  3. TrackMania 2: Canyon
  4. Mortal Kombat
  5. Bastion
  6. Batman: Arkham City
  7. Portal 2
  8. Gears of War 3
  9. Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure
  10. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Alex:

  1. Portal 2
  2. Bastion
  3. Saints Row: The Third
  4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  5. Mortal Kombat
  6. Batman: Arkham City
  7. Rayman: Origins
  8. Jetpack Joyride
  9. Dirt 3
  10. NBA 2K12

Vinny:

  1. Saints Row: The Third
  2. Bastion
  3. Batman: Arkham City
  4. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  5. L.A. Noire
  6. Warhammer 40000: Space Marine
  7. Dark Souls
  8. Portal 2
  9. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes
  10. Rocksmith

Patrick

  1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  2. Catherine
  3. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
  4. Saints Row: The Third
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  6. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  7. Rayman: Origins
  8. Portal 2
  9. Shadows of the Damned
  10. You Don't Know Jack

Drew

  1. Portal 2
  2. Bastion
  3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  4. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  5. Dirt 3
  6. Digital Combat Simulator: A-10C Warthog
  7. Gears of War 3
  8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  9. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
  10. Battlefield 3

Now, before we get to the end results, I want to stress, that this is not a post about what should have been the overall top 10 game list of Giant Bomb. This is just math, based on their personal favorites. And there is a difference between liking a game and being critical about it. Also, I think they did a good job of explaining their point of view during their end of the year deliberations podcast. So, with that in mind, I present to you the final lists (the numbers in brackets are the amount of points for each game):

Pos.Official listMath listMath list with
Alex and Drew
1The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimSaints Row: The Third (38)Saints Row: The Third (46)
2Saints Row: The ThirdThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (29)Portal 2 (45)
3BastionPortal 2 (25)The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (44)
4Portal 2Bastion (24)Bastion (42)
5Dead Space 2Batman: Arkham City (19)Batman: Arkham City (24)
6The Witcher 2: Assasins of KingsL.A. Noire (18)L.A. Noire (18)
7Batman: Arkham CityRayman: Origins (11)Rayman: Origins (15)
8Gears of War 3Catherine (9)Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (14)
9L.A. NoireGears of War3/Deus Ex: HR/TrackMania 2/
Superbrothers/ Dead Island (8)
Mortal Kombat (13)
10Rayman: OriginsDead Space 2/The Witcher 2/Uncharted 3/
Mortal Kombat (7)
Gears of War 3 (12)

After 10'th position, both lists start to have a lot of ties, although the simple math list starts having them at the end. The interesting thing is that Portal 2 was the only game that appeared on everyone's lists, while Saints Row: The Thirds was on every of the five judges lists. Some games got a lot of point because they were high on someone's list, like Catherine being number 8, because it was Patrick's second favorite game this year. Hope this was somewhat interesting for you to read.

12 Comments

Going back to Simcity 4

I like simulation type games like Tropico or Caesar games. I can spend numerous hours planning road layouts and ratios between amounts of different buildings. They have a great build-in sense of progression, as your town grows from a little settlement with few houses to a big and busy city. And anyone who is a fan of the genre, probably has tried playing on of the Simcity games. I think I have played Simcity 2000 at one point, but several years ago I tried the fourth game in the series. So, while I get my broken RAM replaced and not able to play any of recently released games (Oh Skyrim, how I crave you), I decided to revisit this 2003 game.

Well, couple of cities and some time spent on browsing the internet for helpful tips, I don't think I like it very much. Well, let me be more clear. I like it for the first couple of hours of every new city. It is fine, when you lay out your first zones and start to bring services to people. On a side note: The game teaches you fast, that things like healthcare and education are a luxury more than a necessity. After a while, you start making money, doing some more zoning and slowly changing your low-density zones to better ones. You see your city grow, feel good about it. The pollution levels are fine, people are healthy, safe and well educated. And all seems well, until you hit and invisible wall and start to loose money. At first I didn't really understand why. I did everything as I did before, using some of the things I have learned from my previous failed attempts to build a metropolis. And after watching video tutorials on YouTube I understood, that, without a network of other cities connected to yours, it will grow only to a specific point.

And this is where I go from liking this game, to not so much liking this game. I don't wan't to manage other cities, just to make my main city grow. I don't want to have areas called "FarmVille" with nothing more than one power-plant and lots of agriculture zones. I like these games, when I can build a fully self-sufficient city, and not worry about making several dummy-towns. Other games, like Anno or The Settlers, allow you to trade to make money and get rid of excess goods. Since you don't make anything specific is Simcity 4, the only one quantity that can be managed in a similar way are the people. And I get why such a region network system is in place, but I don't really find it fun.

Maybe it just has not clicked with me yet, so I will probably give it another go or two. But as of right now, I think it holds back a game, that otherwise is a great city building game. I think it would be better, if you just had virtual neighbors, instead of making them on your own.

13 Comments

An interview with Drew

After watching Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 video review, I wrote to Drew Scanlon, here on Giant Bomb, to congratulate him on his fine work. What started as a simple thanks, turned into a little conversation/interview about making the review and video production in Whiskey Media in general.

Me: Hey Drew. Just wanted to congratulate you on the awesome job you did while working on the Modern Warfare 3 video review. As someone who has to edit videos from time to time, I can imagine the amount of work that went into making that video. A very good job.

Drew: Thanks duder! Yeah, the montages took a bit of doing, but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Me: I guess so, since the game is not that long to begin with, and you included a lot of explosions, you must of edited footage almost of the whole game. How long did it take for you to make that video review?

Drew: Yeah, most of the clips are from the middle of the game. Overall, the review took me around three days to edit. And now you know why video reviews are kind of rare!

Me: Well, I kind of figured it out myself. Considering, that not all the game come in time for you guys to review it and then make a video review of it. Plus, I can imagine there are more useful ways to use yours and Vinny's time, as a review looses its value after the game has been already out for some time. By the way, is there a clear difference in what you do, and what Vinny does, ore you both edit and film the same stuff?

Drew: Vinny oversees all of Whiskey Media's video production, so sometimes that means he's editing stuff that doesn't go up on Giant Bomb. I, on the other hand, edit for Giant Bomb almost exclusively. I do most of the Quick Looks, Video Reviews, and until recently I Love Mondays, which our intern Thomas has taken over. When we have an off-site appointment, I'm usually the one to take a camera to it and edit it afterward. During live shows, Vinny usually runs the control board and I run the audio mixer. This is the case for all live shows, regardless of what site it's for. Often, however, Vinny is busy during the live shows, so in that case it usually falls to me and occasionally another producer (Joey, Ana, or Thomas). Thomas generally helps out wherever he is needed, so he's done a bit of everything. Who edits what isn't really set in stone, though. Our schedule is changing constantly, so it really comes down to who has the time!

Me: So, before editing or shooting, when is the last moment that things can be changed and someone else does it? A day before or couple of hours?

Drew: Things change all the time. Sometimes I'll have to get Thomas to come over and monitor audio levels while we're recording a Quick Look while I go edit another one, then, if I'm still busy, Thomas will take over the editing for that Quick Look. Generally, though, once a larger project like a Video Review starts the editing process, it rarely changes hands. FYI, the "posted by" name on the video page refers to the person who edited the video, and generally they are the ones who write the deck (the video description) and choose the still (the video thumbnail image).

Me: Speaking of interns, is hard for a new video intern to get the hold of things, or is it a pretty straightforward and easy to understand process?

Drew: We take our video intern candidates through a pretty rigorous interview process. They kind of have to know their stuff before applying. Thomas has been editing video for years and knows Final Cut Pro. From there all he needed was to be brought up to speed on our workflow, which didn't take more than a few days.

Me: And how much do you expect for a potential intern? How much did Steve know, before he became a video intern?

Drew: They have to be pretty proficient in filming and editing software, so that we don't have to spend time training them. I had seen Steve's work in the Question of the Week segments, so I knew he could film and edit, but he still had to pass our interview process. The "video intern" job description has changed a bit since then, however. It's less a grunt work position and more an assistant producer position, which requires a lot more know-how and responsibility.

Me: Well, filming and editing is one, but how much does your and intern jobs require knowledge of audio and other hardware? How much equipment does Whiskey Media use?

Drew: We use a lot of weird capture stuff that people won't likely be familiar with unless they come from a video capture background. In addition, we have a lot of audio gear, but most of it is pretty standard (mixers, compressors, etc.), so that stuff should be pretty familiar to anyone who has audio production experience. I should stress here: we are currently not looking to hire any video interns! Last time we posted a job posting, we got literally hundreds of responses!

Me: What would you say is your typical workday, if there is one that can be called like that?

Drew: We usually have a meeting about what video features we're doing that day, then it's just a matter of dividing up the work and doing it! For me specifically, that can include, but is not limited to, setting up studio spaces for recording or filming, running the camera/capture equipment and monitoring audio levels, editing, going out for an off-site shoot, and running part of a live broadcast.

So here you have it! I hope this gave you an idea about the video production process here in Whiskey Media and you found it interesting. I would like to thank Drew once again for this.

34 Comments

Choose wisely, noob!

Almost everyone who has played games online has encountered the word "noob". And while it has lost a part of it's original meaning, it is still used to point out unskillful players (well, when someone thinks the other is unskillful). There are a lot more other words that are used with it and such behavior has been a part of gaming since the 90's. But there is something to be said about MOBA style games and the people who play it. There is an opinion that people who play such games are a part of community which can be one of the worst in video games. It is a valid one, with some proof to back it up. I must say that I only have played League of Legends, but I know that in other, similar games people tend to behave the same way.

Popularity leads to assholness

Valve held a DOTA 2 tournament in witch the winning team won 1 million dollars. Riot plans to spend 5 million in prizes this season.

Battle arena games are very popular right now, but why? Well, first of, games like LOL are free to play and free beats playing for something which grants a bigger amount of users who are willing to try it out. Then they find an interesting mix of RPG elements and team mechanics that can be found in games like Team Fortress 2. And the 5v5 matches have a nice length to them which is typically 30-40 minutes. It's longer then a regular FPS deathmatch., but not long enough to get boring and uninteresting.

These games also lend themselves quite nicely to tournament play because of their team-gameplay nature. That helps them to be constantly covered by the gaming press and be talked about. And that is probably the biggest factor of their popularity, this sports game appeal, like soccer or hockey. It is fun to kill a random dude in Call of Duty, but there is something else in coming victorious after a big team-battle and pushing their lane a little bit further. But this sports like nature of the genre is also one of the biggest problems of it.

I love your mother

After the game, one of them is going to tell the other about his/her lack of skill in an inappropriate manner.

Since this is a team game and everyone picks a character a the star of the match, players have a role. The problem is, that everyone wants to be the David Beckham of their match. Everyone want to be the guy, who powns noob with their might and skill, leading their team to victory. And there are classes that can do that. And there are others classes that can't do that, but they are still needed. Every second game I play, someone asks in the team chat window "tank?" as a request for a tank. I try to be the tank if I can, but if I already locked in my pick, there is little I can do. A support type character is even a bigger rarity. Once I ended up in a team, where everyone was a ranged type character. How we won that, I still don't know, but a good team composition can be a big factor.

But a bigger problem comes from peoples attitudes and behavior as everyone has a opinion. And they have a right to have one, but they tend to forget, that other people also have such a right. A user may spam: "ban trynda! ban trynda! ban trynda!" and if you did not ban Tryndamere, then you will find out some interesting things about yourself. This may happen if your pick is wrong, or if you died one to many times, or if you took the blue buff, or if you killed an enemy that the other player wanted to kill, or...well you get the point. And you will learn a complete different set of things about yourself if you argue back (which is pointless). This can go to extremes, where players leave their lanes, stop playing for couple of minutes or leave the game outright if someone did something they did not like. And behavior like this doesn't fix the problem they had, but makes everything worse, because a 4v5 game is practically a lost one.

In my opinion, most of these cases can be avoided if people just relax and remember that they are playing games. They are just games. Sure, a big rank score is awesome, but it has no value outside the game. You might think that this is obvious, but there are times I have to remind other players that. The funny thing is that I once played with someone who said to me: "This isn't just a game. This is a ranked game" And I don't think he missed my point. It can be odd that something that was designed for fun can be so frustrating to some people. I am not saying that all these people complain without reason, they just take to close to heart. (to be fair, there are cases where the reason is either completely stupid or missing altogether).

/surrender

I like playing League of Legend a lot and cannot wait for the DOTA 2 beta to start, but dealing with random jerks most of the time can take away from enjoying the game. I know Heroes of Newerth has voice chat that can solve some of these problems, but I wonder does it in reality. I know that because of this, some people play by themselves as little as possible which is a shame. I know that most people that play these games are not like that, but one asshole is enough to spoil the game. Sometimes, there are two.

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