The Lost and Damned- impressions and innovative use of music

 note: I realize this is kind of poorly written, organizationally and thought-collection wise. Would appreciate any tips from any of you experienced writters/bloggers out there.
 
I bought this a week ago cause  I had some points saved up. I played Gay Tony as well so I've hit all of the DLC for GTA.  I have to agree with most reviews, the game is fine but by far the weakest of the DLC and main game. The characters are unlikable at the start; it's a lot of dumb anti-institutional shit and them alternating between swearing, calling people deadbeats, or saying "Brother!" before every sentence. Johnny starts off unlikable, the leader, Billy, is worse. However, it does do some very good things.
 
One of the things that I think that The Lost and Damned did better than any other game is its use of music as a symbolic device; the game has a kind of late credit sequence where they introduce all the characters movie style, along with their name and rank within the gang.  (shown below, starts around 15-30 seconds in).

  While this part was awesome by itself, what really caught my attention was the guitar riff/rock background music. At first, it has no meaning at all- it's just some badass music Rockstar found that fits with the bike riding sequence. However, the notable guitar riff introduced in this sequence pops up elsewhere in the game- after notable story missions, during cutscenes where epic shit is happening, etc. All of this serves to accumulate meaning into the guitar riff- it symbolizes all the badass shit that the gang is doing, the sense of "brotherhood" (no matter how abrasive it is at first) that the Lost have with each other, and all they stand for- they don't take shit from anybody, stick together no matter what is happening, etc. 
 What really makes this awesome is the ending (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW, if you haven't played it by now and still care well...). 
   
  
This isn't emotionally impactful in itself until you actually go through the circumstances leading up to this scene: The one thing the Lost pride above all else is their Brotherhood- they refer to themselves as brothers, and Johnny constantly states that the brothers would never betray each other, no matter what happens. However, by the time this scene hits the Lost has fallen apart- Billy got caught selling drugs and was sent to prison, his lackey, Brian, believes you set him up and convinces most of the Lost to try and take you down; in GTA fashion, you kill them all. Jim, one of your closest allies, is shot during the diamond storyline that ties this game, gay tony, and the core GTAIV storyline together. You had gotten word that Billy was about to rat you out to the government; again in GTA fashion, you take him down and return to the clubhouse, where this scene occurs. 
This scene shines above the rest of the DLC, and I'd argue the rest of anything that GTAIV has to offer, non-gameplay wise. What's made plain during the course of the DLC is that the Lost are a GTA version of Peter Pan's Lost Boys- they never grow up- the opening scenes with Billy emphasizes that they live to basically have fun- screw women, drink and do drugs, and kill anyone who looks at them the wrong way. Billy and Johnny in particular have talks about the "deadbeats"- us, the rest of the world, who go out and work and earn money and listen to "the Man". The tragedy that follows is Rockstar's way of showing their own Lost Boys that at some point, you have to grow up- all the shit they've been through shows that, and at this end, the surviving Lost are forced to live with the realization that they have to go out and live with the rest of the world now. The burning clubhouse symbolizes them putting an end to that chapter of their lives as Billy's death (analogous to Peter Pan in my earlier metaphor) proves to them that the world is no place for their brand of immaturity.  
As they exit the clubhouse for the last time, that guitar riff from the beginning plays, only this time as a solo, at first on a Harmonica, and then the guitar. This is the point where I actually felt some kind of bittersweet emotion, as the guitar riff- which once symbolized the Lost and their "don't care" attitude and lifestyle- now comes to mean something else- and end to their lives, all they knew, and the beginning of their new chapter. What's striking is that the music doesn't change at all- most game/movie music nowadays would attempt to do the same thing, but by altering the theme to some minor key so that instead of happy/badass, it's sad. Instead, the riff track remains exactly the same, a reminder of what you had been through for the past couple hours and what the remaining Lost would have to do now that their lives as a biker gang are over.
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Starting to play SCII multiplayer

So I got Starcraft II like a week after launch, but due to multiple factors, including my PC being bad/overheating and such, I never ventured beyond the singleplayer (which I still haven't beaten yet). Today I bought some compressed air, shot out all the dust from my laptop's cooling vents, and tried shit out, and it didn't crash, so I decided to hell with it, and tried out MP. After playing a few practice games against mostly bad people (I played against someone who just made like 15 supply depots and a couple additional SCVs), I decided to hell with it and started my placement matches. 
 
 I lost my first one to a VR rush that I did detect on time, unfortunately my macro skills are such that I was not able to mass produce enough Vikings to fend it off (anyone have any tips? I play Terran since it looks the easiest to learn).  
 
My second placement match I won after about 50 minutes. For a match between 2 noobs, it was pretty epic if I do say so myself. I saw he went for the early stargate so agressively made Vikings and sent a couple marauders to harass him and hopefully slow him down. Unfortunately it didn't work as he rushed with a carrier and 2 void rays (hey, I'm a noob), and he proceeded to almost take out my base/expansion. Luckily I was able to lift off my command center from my main and rushed it to a corner of the map, where I built another one and sent my last one to the High yield, landing it around the rocks. (I had like 2000 minerals. like I said, I can't really macro so if i'm being attacked/attacking my production goes down to zero). Luckily this saved me as I had enough for the second command center and 4 starports, as he had not yet killed my barracks/factory. I furiously pumped out Vikings while mining two bases at the same time. After a while I figured out that he was just rushing air (carriers, VRs, and at one point a mothership) while turtling with shitloads of photon cannons. By the time he finished destroying my base and figured out what I did, I had around 18 Vikings, more than enough to kill off all his air power. I turtled up and started furiously pumping out more vikings while getting my production back to normal. Eventually I was able to win it after several Viking pushes, since (again, we're both noobs) he only heavily photon cannoned his ramp, and didn't overlap his pylons very well. I sneaked around the side, hit some SCVs, got aggresively owned by VRs/Carriers/cannons, sent another wave around the side, hit the pylons powering most of his buildings, and, well, eventually I was able to macro him to death. Yeah I suck, but I'm having a ton of fun with the game, although dealing with reaper/6 pool/VR rushes is annoying as hell. Even though I've lost most of my matches against decent players, I totally get why so many people are addicted to this game. I really want to get better/figure out how to actually multitask, so that I actually feel like I'm doing well instead of barely beating people I can tell aren't that good.

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about all of the IW staff leaving...

So if you haven't heard yet, all of the lead designers/programmers/artists for IW have left the company. Don't know where they're going, but I'd guess Respawn Entertainment, the new company founded by West and Zampella, the former IW heads who left the company. Now, we still don't know which lawsuit is telling the truth, but in this news seems to be pretty telling: why else would all of the design heads leave if they weren't pissed at IW? Of course, they could all just want to work at Respawn, but it seems like either Activision really was being assholes. Even if they didn't do what West/Zampella claimed they did, the fact that they're leaving must at least mean they haven't been nice overlords for the past 3 years if all of the staff are inclined to believe west/zampella's side of the story. 
 
Now all that's left to do is see if they all join respawn. that might explain it, but I doubt it.

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about morality systems in games.

 EDIT: Due to the volume of comments saying the same thing, I will post about the general consensus of those that replied: 
Morality systems today use too many bars or systems that gauge how good or evil you are. It takes away from morality because then gamers just fill it up like an XP bar. It would be far better to have an organic system where moral choices happen automatically and aren't monitored apart from story changes (killing a party member, for example, would affect the outcome of the story). Otherwise, moral choices shouldn't even be mentioned in the game because players will do what they're naturally inclined to do in abscence of a system. this would be easy to do but no company has done it yet. 
Also, players feel inclined to either be very good or very evil because you are penalized for not doing so (can't upgrade powers in inFamous, lose loyalty of party members in ME2, etc.). Neutrality is generally penalized in games, which leads gamers who would otherwise be neutral to pick a side. this goes back to the previous paragraph- don't track or reward morality (beyond the choices themselves; I have used the example of killing an ally for a unique gun many times.) 
 
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
Original blog as follows:
 
 
This started out as a response to someone else's blog post about the same topic; I originally intended it to be a short response but it ended up being semi-long and I want to continue discussion about the topics raised in my post specifically, so I reposted it here.  The response is to why gamers, when faced with a morality system in game, will always be either completely good or evil, and never neutral. I've actually thought about morality systems for awhile, and i've yet to come across a game that does it well. the point of a morality system is to gauge the actions of your character, but when implemented it usually ends up as another game mechanic that gamers want to complete. I think that this is due to several reasons. First, the way its presented- as a gauge or title is very much the way stuff like Health and XP is presented. This leads morality to be viewed as another XP gauge- something to max all the way out. Second is the presentational limitations of games- there are very few games that connect to gamers emotionally, and of those very few that are powerful enough to influence their decisions. A prime example of this is games with multiple endings. The intention of those is to reward gamers with viewing a special ending that's reflective of their actions, but more often that not gamers adapt their gameplay to get the ending of their choosing. Instead of the morality being an impact of gameplay, gameplay becomes impacted by morality.  
 
Which leads me to the question- do you think that morality systems in games are flawed? if so, what would you do better/differently?
 
The original post is as follows:
  
I think it's more because a good morality system hasn't been implemented yet. Either you're completely good or you're completely bad. You addressed the lack of mixed decisions, and I think there's a couple reasons for this. First is that you never care enough about anyone to make an opinion based on them- you won't hate anyone enough to just kill them, or like anyone enough to spare them. For games that reward being good/bad (bioshock, inFamous), there's no incentive to be neutral. In Bioshock there are achievements for either rescuing or saving little sisters- why save a few if you don't get rewarded for it. Other games like inFamous REQUIRE you to pick a side- if you don't you can't unlock abilities. It's like that for a lot of other games too-you're rewarded for being good/bad so there's no point in being neutral. 
 
Also, a big problem is the emotional disconnect that a lot of people have. A lot of people play assholes because blowing shit up and shooting helpless people in the face with a shotgun in GTA is fun. If we cared about the characters we were killing, it would impact our decisions but since games haven't reached the point yet where we're truly emotionally connected to the characters/story players will behave in the way they want to- either they want to be the hero, in which case they'll save the character because it's what heroes do, or they want to be a villain, in which case they'll kill the poor bastard because that's what villains do. 
 
I think a part of that is also because of the media we watch growing up- rarely as a child do you watch cartoons where the characters are morally neutral in their actions. Either there's the archetypical hero who does the good stuff no matter what (And always wins-perhaps why we always play good people), or the villain, who will always commit evil acts (and loses). When we are able to play these roles ourselves, we naturally want to act the way our idols in cartoons do- to be like Superman and be the ideal hero, or to be like Team rocket (pokemonlulz) and always be the villain, because when we were growing up that's what all of the characters we saw did and we naturally want to imitate them.    

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Achievements, quests, etc.

ok, to start off, one of the reasons i'm bothering to write this is because of the new quest thing for Giantbomb. the second is because i've wanted to talk about achievements in general for awhile and this has provided good enough incentive for me to do so...lol. 
 
To start off, I'm not against achievements. I like them, but not to the point where I'll play a game I no longer want to just to get achievements. Games have always been primarily about fun for me, and achievements aren't going to change that. That's why I hate ridiculous achievements like "beat the game on Super hard impossible mode without dying/using a health pack/gun/etc.", because those are a blatant attempt at trying to make you play a game for a long-ass time, perhaps enough to convince yourself you like it or are willing to buy the sequel/expansion/DLC/etc. What I do appreciate, though, are the achievements that give you incentive to try out things you wouldn't have before, like a certain quest in an RPG or a fun way of killing someone in a game, like the Borderlands achievement where you jump on an enemies' head. 
 
When evaluating the new Giantbomb quest system through this criteria, I think that they've met mixed success. Giving me incentive to create a background, blog post, link to twitter, etc. is nice because some of this stuff I never bothered to look at before, but I dislike some of the "go to this page" quests. I understand the trivia aspect, but I don't see what the point of those are. May be just me, though. 
 
Level 4 here I come...

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