It's me! Your good old timey friend! Y'know, Fattony12000? That guy wh...h-hey where are y-you going!? It's okay duder, I'm not here to ask anything OF you; I'm here to GIVE YOU some free digital data! Namely in the form of a totally work in progress, totally kinda sub par (at least for now) modification for the Ryan Davis-approved video game Sid Meier's Civilization V. At this stage of development many of the core things I want to implement are still nebulous, but I think I'm forming a somewhat cohesive picture in my mind's eye for how I want The Nation of Taswell to look, play and feel inside of the game. Nebulous enough that I am, of course, open to suggestions and comments from each and all of you. Hit me up!
To give you a very brief word picture of what I currently have floating around in my mind for this mod:
A Civilization that is focussed more on culture/music/religion/Great People (you know you gots to get those dope custom Great Musicians)/modern-era technologies (mass media/communications-type stuff). As opposed to a militaristic or commerce-based Civ.
The atomic bomb could be tweaked and renamed the Giant Bomb, obviously. (partially done)
Add a new technology and/or buildings/units relating to the sphere of video games. This may take a while. (partially done)
Adjusting China's AI to somehow ignore/care less about what this Civ does.
Change the colours used for the Civ and the units that are part of it. I'm thinking some hench New Balance colourway.
Make the names, descriptions, units, abilities and traits not placeholder. (partially done)
Add more/better copy to the mod description, Civ selection and Dawn of Man text. (partially done)
Add custom music/sound effects. I'm thinking about making a new voice-over for the Dawn of Man intro. (a little bit done)
Make a proper icon for the Civ, right now it's just a tiny Ryan face, which is great (of course), but I wanna try and keep to Sid's style guide. (partially done)
Oh, and whilst you're here you may as well buy ALL OF THE CIVILIZATIONS courtesy of the latest Humble Bundle right now! It's almost, almost like I planned for this to happen somehow. (You've got 7 days left on the sale, at the time of my modifying of this message.)
And thaaat will just about do it I reckon! Ta very much for sitting there and scrolling your mouse wheel down this far. We all thank you for your patronage, yeah, even that guy sat way in the back. Even though he doesn't show it, he really thinks you're great for being cool enough to make it this far.
Amid a maelstrom of painful tears and uneasy chuckles, the cold shock of loss and hot stab of anger. Heavy grief hanging in the gut, warm memories of better days gone by, played over and over inside the mind’s eye. I’ve not been alone in feeling these emotions, I'm but one among the many thousands of people who've been expressing their thoughts and feelings online, huddled masses yearning to breathe free once again, to feel the weight of death finally lifted from atop our shoulders. That day will come, sooner or later, depending upon the person. My thoughts are with those closest to Ryan's memory, as well as everyone with the heart to mourn his passing; even from the distance that this digital world inherently brings to the relationships founded within it. It's been a sight for sore eyes to see this many humans come together for such a singular cause, because of and using this crazy silly thing called the Internet.
As has seemed fitting to most of those who visit this grand website that Ryan helped to carve from out of the perilous cliffs of the World Wide Web, a small offering of one’s thoughts on the tragic events of July 3rd, 2013 feels like a thing you just have to do. This is me trying to do that. I'm just sorry I'm so shitty at it.
What follows is a very short movie film that I made to say thanks to the man whose untimely death has inspired me to stop being quite so much of a pussy. To give things a go if I’ve a means and an end to do so. Go with what feels good, and if it turns out as less than you wanted it to be...do it better again next time. I sincerely hope I don’t have to make a video like this again for a very, very long time.
Yes. The shirt I’m wearing in the above video is a large. Yes. I’m only a small. That’s why I look (even) weirder/lamer than you might very well have expected. Speaking of shirts, I do have to give mad sick props to @alistercat for very recently sending me three shirts that I did not yet have as part of my collection. One of which I'm wearing in the above thing. And yes, I use the word collection because out of the six Giant Bomb shirts that I now own, only two are in my size. I still buy them just because I like 'em, even knowing that I’ll never ever wear them under normal circumstances. Thanks Giant Bomb, you've Steam Sale-ified t-shirts for me.
The podcast which he mightily hosted these past years was probably the avenue by which his influence was felt by most of us in the world. The sheer amount of hours he (and the rest of the crew) put in, the regularity, the professionalism (he did silliness very professionally), the joviality and camaraderie on display was always a pleasure to listen to. I don't think it would be too grandiose a claim to call Ryan one of the finest men to sit down in front of a microphone and talk into it. I must just say though, you guys damn near broke my heart in two with your most recent episode. I think, in general, Ryan wanted people to have as much fun as he did, for as much of the time as possible.
Would you duders watch me play Sid Meier's Civilization V and it's two expansion packs (Gods & Kings + the hot 'n' fresh Brave New World) for at least 12 hours? Civ V was deemed to be a five star game by Ryan, and I'm inclined to agree with him. Therefore, I put it to you that I'd like to conquer the known lands of Civ V in his name, bringing his funky fresh brand lifestyle to the hip new demographic of uncultured peons of the ancient world. If you'd like to watch, chat, vote, donate (to a charity/concern of some sort, precise details TBA) and Skype with me this Friday/Saturday/Sunday (precise details TBA) and just generally kick back for a bit. This is not a cry for help, not like this was.
Additionally, there may be other things going on with other duders both this weekend and next, so stay tuned for deets.
Look, I'm sorry, okay? I just think this is some dank ass prose poetry.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
- The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. Published in 1923.
So...thirty days late and a Silver Eagle short, right? Well, be that as it may, this ain't no belated April-based gambit going down right about here. What you are in all actuality reading IS the March edition of my hallowed blog. It’s just taken a little while longer to serve up than I, and by extension I assume you, would have liked. It’s just been...tricky, recently, okay? I’ve been busy meeting new people, visiting new places, learning new things, exploring new planes of existence...working at a brand new job which I managed to snag myself, in fact. That’s right, both me and Matthew Rorie have come to the ends of our respective long roads. Thus, just recently I’ve been spending much of my time trying not to get fired as well as buying dope new tees to help me look super fresh pon road; rather than straining out this corpulent little bloglet for you to greedily devour with much gnashing and noshing of teeth.
(Send me your suggestions for dope tees, please.)
Don’t worry, I won’t be carrying on like that throughout this meandering journey into the recesses of my mind which contain these silly thoughts and ideas and feels relating to video games. Because I do have something to talk to you all about that is about a video game, well, two video games in general to be precise. I’ll not prolong your stay on those gleaming tenterhooks for much longer, I promise, I’ll get to the nadir of my point in the very next paragraph. I won’t make a fool of you, not again...not like last time.
Henceforth, I humbly introduce to you my novel idea of typing words mostly regarding this hot new jam called BioShock Infinite. Words, incidentally, which won’t include names/roles/arcs of characters, minor/major plot points, descriptions of combat scenarios or cut scenes, discussion of weapons or vigors, or indeed anything of much note that occurs directly upon the screen or amongst the vibrations in the air which issue forth from your speakers. The thing I’m primarily concerned with getting all up in the guts of on this fine April March day, is the aspect that I’ve probably enjoyed the very most out of all the Shock games. That being the somewhat nebulous, sensually intangible, yet mightily palpable human notion of...
(All that being said, I am a ratified signatory to the Declaration of Spoiler Warnings, 1945, and as such I am officially warning any and all of you that there may be spoilers ahead for any and every aspect regarding this newly released video game. Although, as I mentioned above, this is not my intention in any way shape or form. In furtherance to that addendum, the following words are based on my initial 4 hours 36 minutes and 9 seconds of gameplay, so if you’re cool with me maybe spitting game about parts of this game that occur fairly near to the start, then we’ll get along just dandily*.)
Watch out, or you might tread on the toes of God...
It is observable, that their Conquests and Acquisitions in Columbia, (which is the Lilliputian Name for the Country that answers our America,) have very little contributed to the Power of those Nations, which have, to obtain them, broke thro' all the Ties of human Nature.
- Taken from “State of Affairs in Lilliput” by Edward Cave, as published in The Gentleman's Magazine, 1738. This is the earliest written record of the word Columbia being used to describe the country of the United States of America.
Columbia. An expression of an ideology from the mind of man. Made form in pure white cloud and blood-stained stone. The icy will of a nation and the hot toil of men, put to work in service of the realisation of a nation’s dream. A land of glory made real by those who now call it home, but which also plays host to the myriad nightmares of yet others still.
So, just a few lines above this word you will no doubt have bore witness to an image and a quote which I selected for your enjoyment and contemplation (there are many more of those to come, by the way). And just under those words I tried to write something that hopefully gives you an inkling of an idea as to where I'm coming from with regards to dissecting the parts of this game that I want to try and dice up on the cold slab of analysis. From the opening minutes of Infinite it was abundantly clear to me that the peeps at Irrational Games had created an eminently moody piece of art. Dozens upon dozens of aspects played into the feeling that I got from wandering and wondering at the world they’d created. Like their last game, a blending of the real and the fictitious helped to evoke very specific feelings in me. Calling to mind memories of our own human history, mixed up with how things could have gone if events had played out slightly differently. I’m not saying that this game went with the Fallout style of world building, which strongly plays off divergent courses of history, but it does do that very effective thing of allowing each of us to bring to the experience our own knowledge and feelings on certain real world events, places and people. For example, America is a real place, Abraham Lincoln is a real person, quantum mechanics are a real thing, but Infinite takes the meat of our real world and marinates, cooks and serves it up in its own very special way.
Any video game that is trying to engender a strong sense of atmosphere in a player’s mind, as might be particularly found in many games within the horror genre, has a whole host of tools from which to select and implement against the player’s brainspace. I’ll take a moment here to talk about the first of the games that aren’t BioShock Infinite, but which do conjure up the same sorts of feelings I got from Ken Levine’s latest opus. That game is, of course, Journey. That’s right, Infinite and Journey are directly comparable to each other if we evaluate them on the level of atmosphere. If you were completely crazy you could even make a case for the argument that they are set in the same fictional universe. Luckily for you I’m not feeling that crazy today, otherwise I would spend three or four thousand words talking about how these two games do take place within the same contiguous reality.
So, Journey. Just thinking about the name of that game stirs up all kinds of memories of the fantastic atmosphere it created through superb application of visual style, use of space, movement, light and shadow, fluid controls, simple core mechanics which were also used in a rewarding fashion, sound, music and maybe most importantly...storytelling. What that game is able to convey at an emotional level is utterly incredible considering it contains no readable language or spoken dialogue whatsoever. Those kinds of tools are comparable to the physicality of a canvas, upon which an artist is able to make their art. Whether through acrylic or electrons, watercolour or gouraud shading, the message or feeling or thought should always be at the heart of any creative endeavour. And in Journey and Infinite both, I feel like they were reaching out to touch my consciousness, using different tools, eliciting different feelings but still deeply engaging a part of my brain beyond just what looked pretty on the screen, or sounded ripe in my ear hole.
As Jenova Chen has talked about in the past, the primary driving force behind the games he created with thatgamecompany was that of the notion of attempting to convey emotion. Everything thatgamecompany put onto the screen was designed to facilitate that goal. Just as, I feel, BioShock Infinite intends to do with its own goal of immersing you in a thickly rich world, replete with atmosphere that’s positively dripping from its chiseled jawline.
I could list a whole bunch of events (both the mighty and the miniscule, the brief and the protracted), scenes and sequences that I felt helped in the spreading of such a crunchy pickle of atmosphere onto the ham and cheese sandwich of my soul. But that would be a gross violation of the things I talked about in the third paragraph, and boring, therefore it’s left to my significantly lesser ability of being able to talk cogently about what I felt, and not what I saw up on that screen that incited such feelings.
Have you ever been alone, void of contact or assistance, helpless apart from that which you can action by your own means? Let’s say, in a situation where you were stranded upon a lonely road, your vehicle has failed you completely. It’s night time, it’s dark...but it’s not any of that TV or film bullshit, it’s just a normal night, but you have somewhere to be...and you can’t get there. Let’s say this road that you are broken down on is in a rural area, a small two lane road cutting through fields, or maybe running alongside a forest. It’s an area you know well, maybe you’ve travelled this road hundreds of times before, you know you’re pretty safe from most harm. No terrible wild animals are coming to gore you, nor is any horrific crime likely to befall you. It is, however, going to be many hours before anyone else ventures down this road to proffer assistance. You decide to spend the night in the car.
Now, think of all the millions of people who have slept in their cars overnight for some reason or another. Very rarely will something have happened to them over the course of the night that would give them cause for alarm. You know you’ll be fine, alone, in the dark. But don’t you still feel like something, somehow, is watching you? Just out of sight. No, there’s no vampires or creepy trolls coming to get you, no Neo-Tokyo biker gangs barrelling down on you to beat you to death with chains, no aliens no wildfires no freak accidents no nothing. But you (I mean me, really) still have a thing in the back of your head that keeps you unsettled. The kind of sensation you might feel before a fight or a flight, before an explosion of energy and effort on your part. The feeling of tensed muscles, quickened breath, eyes widening, all brought about by nothing other than an imagined experience taking place inside your mind’s eye.
Your brain is processing hundreds of inputs from your surroundings (the chill of the night air, the white blue pallor cast over everything from the moon above, the occasional hoot of a distant owl) and filtering them against your conscious and subconscious mind, the place where you write your own narrative, quite removed from what’s actually happening in 4D space around your puny human body.
Errrrrrrrrr, so...what I suppose I was trying to get at there was that Infinite impressed upon me such a strong presence of it’s own remarkable world, that I could imagine myself as being there. Immersive is a word that has been used (not by me, heavens no) by many, and hated by yet more still. I will simply state here that both Journey and Infinite immersed me so deeply inside their own worlds, inside their own perspectives on the subjects they deal with internally, that for a brief time at least; I felt I could connect with them on a level bordering my own understanding of the real world around me. I felt like I did not have a screen in front of me, nor a controller in my hands.
And...er-hem...that was cool, I guess?
God, I should really write these ahead of time shouldn't I. Barf.
Behold, Britannia! in thy favour'd Isle;
At distance, thou, Columbia! view thy Prince,
For ancestors renowned, for virtues more;
- Taken from a collection of poems written by a group of Harvard graduates in 1761.
I want to do a thing, won’t you please help me do a thing? If not for me, then for the kids? As all good and true duders will doubtless be aware, we like to play video games around these parts. Play video games on camera whilst being streamed live over the Internet, in a good number of cases. Especially around the time of October/November, since about the year 2008. In case all of this is shooting right over your head like a mighty DPRK missile; I am, of course, talking about the yearly annual Extra Life 24 hour gaming marathon that takes place every year, annually. Throughout which people sit down and play video games on camera for a long time whilst other people donate money to the just cause (if you’re still really completely clueless, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through Extra Life is an effort to makes games, toys and other fun stuff available to sick kids up and down the country of Columbia, so as to give them something fun to do whilst recuperating in shitty hospital). A pretty cool guy has been heading up this community's efforts over the past few years, and will continue to do so for this year’s iteration, but what won’t be the thing that has been done before is ME taking PART in this THING.
Now, whilst the 2013 edition of Extra Life is officially going down on November the 2nd, you’re actually allowed to raise money at any time throughout the year. So, with that being said, that is what I’m going to try and do. Partially because I want to get my name out there as a person who can do this, so that when it comes to the real deal, even if no one watches/donates to me then, I’ll still have some amount of cash built up in donations beforehand. As well as just to try and get some practise in for the big night, mainly because I consider myself a pretty boring and charmless kinda guy, if I can figure out the stuff which does and does not work, then the real thing should go a bit smoother for all involved.
Oh, and the marathon is actually for 25 hours this year. Daaamnnn. RAISING THE STAKES.
FOR THE KIDS.
Because I'm totally a complete loner and don't get to talk to many sweet people about video games, I'd very much like your opinions on what I should play. So I rustled up a little list for you guys to provide steer (god, you can tell I work in a real workplace with working people now can't you?). If you have other suggestions or comments on the matter, please feel free to shout at me through the normal digital pathways.
The little (p) symbol next to the name of a game means that I’m at least part of the way through it.
If thou'st clicketh me, thou will be set free
I strongly suggest that y'all check out Lorne Lanning's great little Eurogamer Expo talk about Abe's Oddysee HD Hyper Megamix Edition in particular, as well as a bit of Oddworld in general. Which I am mainly mentioning here because I am both going to this year's expo, and starting to get quite hyped for the release of Abe's Oddysee New N' Tasty this very autumn.
* See how I made you scroll all the way down here to see this stupid little thing? I know!? Right!? Total dick move if you wanted to read this part without having to scroll past all that hot wet content I typed up for you. Well, seeing as you’re down here, we may as well get to know each other just a little bit I suppose. I like video games and that dope Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar with toffee popcorn inside it, oh, and also this totally rad cherry cola made by a company called Fentimans. Check it out if you can.
IF you rolled down here natural style, could I be so bold as to recommend you try out some dope stuff like this, this and this? There’s no real reason for this thing to be down here, I just thought we might be able to vibe better, you know, outside of the confines of all that total shit what I done typed up there up there...which...incidentally...you might not have read if you just skippity skipped down here upon seeing that asterisk in the first place. Do you do that whilst reading proper stuff too? Do ya read the footnotes in a novel right there and then, or save them up ready for the turn of a page? Terry Pratchett, in particular, has a great knack for adding brilliant stuff into his Discworld footnotes, you should check them out sometime...I guess. Anyway, we’re about done here, sorry to have wasted your time if I wasted your time. Send me your cool things via the World Wide Web if I didn't waste your time and you want to be pen pals.
This month's effort is something slightly different from my usual random ramble of rambley random words. Instead, I bring you my first ever 'piece' of 'work' submitted for editorial approval upon a website upon the Internet. It...didn't make it (which I fully expected, in fact I reckon it'll take several dozen of these before I get good at it, you know, like the knack you get for eating the orange bit out of Jaffa Cakes without getting chocolate on your fingers), and thus, with this gaggle of words left lying around I thought they could be used up on this fine forum. Hey, it's just those harsh market realities that we're all facing, you gots to get those words out there wherever you can these days.
Giant Bomb Dot Com (it's a website) will forever remain my home for this sort thing, I just thought I'd serve up something a little more...considered.
Take it easy duders!
A Tale of Five Cities
“I'm dreaming of a city
It was my own invention
And I put the wheels in motion
A time for big decisions”
- David Byrne, What a Day That Was
A yawning black chasm stretches across the face of my 15” CRT monitor, save for a few lines of white text and a single pulsing rectangle of light. There is naught inscribed upon that curved sheet of darkness, yet. I’d heard whispers in the wind about the program that I was about to execute for the first time, that it was a digital construction set wherein I could mould a complete living city from the dirt itself. From nothing, I could raise a bustling metropolis hewn from silicon and machine code. Or, if I felt so inclined, raze my shining beacon of civilization to the ground by unleashing earthquakes, floods, fires, plane crashes and rampaging monsters upon the huddled masses of my once great city. That’d be pretty cool, too.
I am, of course, talking about SimCity Classic. Which was the MS-DOS version that saw release in 1993, itself a port of 1992’s SimCity for Window 3.1. I was, of course, four years late to the Maxis party at that point, but give me a break, I was only about six years old at the time. Even at that point in my life I knew video games and I would get along just fine. We’d formed the basis of a happy relationship a couple of years back. That being said, this step up and into a completely new type of game was something slightly scary to both of us. However, it’s my distinct pleasure to report that we got through this stage of our partnership; and both me and SimCity remain great friends to this day.
SimCity Classic was one of my very first forays into the peculiar landscape of actually practising the art of creating something inside the world of a video game. Unfortunately, I’d missed out on great groundbreaking games such as Populus and Civilization at that point in my life (although we’d become well acquainted at a later date). Quite apart from the more common, and awesome, genre stylings of running and jumping whilst moving from left to right through a level, shooting Nazis in the face with chainguns or kicking people off motorbikes at 120 mph. All of which are fine undertakings, of course, but being introduced to a game where the core concept associated very strongly in my young mind with the idea of playing and building with toys such as Lego or Meccano, was extremely exciting and intriguing. And indeed still is, what with the latest version of SimCity due to be released on the 8th of March, 2013. A date to which I have been keenly looking forward to for a number of years now.
Although the toolbox given to me as a newbie civil engineer was relatively limited by the standards of the next game in the series, it still afforded me a vast array of options at the time. And quite apart from the physical placement of zones and buildings and infrastructure, there came the involved systems that governed the growth and success (or lack thereof) of the entire city. These aspects, such as managing pollution, taxation, crime and balancing the mix of zones all helped to create a strong running narrative for my city. Having to deal with these interconnected systems which fluctuate hither and thither, allowed the game (which has no traditional win condition) to feed you a reason to keep playing. To keep you striving for continual improvement, to go bigger and better than you had done so before. All of these things hooked me as a child, and those sweet gameplay barbs are still buried beneath my skin, 20 years later.
The solid groundwork laid down by Will Wright and Maxis was expanded upon in 1994 with the release of SimCity 2000. Once again though, events conspired against me and I was unable to get in at the ground floor of this fantastic addition to the series. Instead, I had the privilege of playing the Windows 95 version of the game. In late 1995. On the mighty CD-ROM format, no less. Once I got that brilliant big PC box into my grubby little mitts, I found that to my no great surprise, it was well worth the wait. Maxis did the usual host of things that you’d expect from many sequels of past and present. They added more stuff, made graphical refinements (one of the biggest changes was the move to a dimetric camera perspective) and allowed the player to extend their influence beneath the surface of the earth. Lots of little things, that when mixed up together in this giant sandpit of a game made for new ways to experience the simulation of being the founder and mayor of small seaside industrial town, or the master of a sprawling metropolis of the future.
With SC2K I was able to create on an even grander scale, I had even more space within which to forge my vision. With this bigger pit of sand came more playthings to dump into it. I could generate non-polluting electricity from the wind, create airports and seaports, dictate a host of ordinances to my citizens and build a whole new variety of entertainment and utility buildings. However, one of the features that I spent the greatest amount of time with was the powerful god mode that you had during the map creation process. Hours could pass before I settled on a design and began my city. Sometimes I would just make and remake the landscape without even building anything, just testing out whether or not I could create 500 metre tall calderas, or perfectly symmetrical V-shaped valleys.
Forever, the march of progress treads. And with that progress (and success) throughout the 1990s there came a knocking at the door of Maxis in 1997. A pretty big knock, from a pretty big fella called Electronic Arts. The door was answered and we got our next SimCity game in the January of 1999. SimCity 3000 was a Maxis title that I actually did manage to catch upon it’s release!
Whilst Maxis reports that it was largely left to it’s own devices when creating the final product that we got on our shelves, it is also an oft-held belief in the video game industry that when you have a larger company holding onto your purse strings, changes can be made throughout the creative process that may be less than desirable. Far as I can tell, no such mockery of the art of simulation was made with this damn fine game. Of all the releases so far this is probably the one that I poured the most hours into. Which is maybe slightly at odds with the fact that I feel I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. Once again they added more stuff and things, gave the art style an overhaul and further refined the UI. However, there was one major step forward in gameplay with the inclusion of being able to wheel and/or deal with your neighbouring city-based chums. Too much trash? Ship it over to them to deal with! A pretty neat idea, and one which I think formed the basis of what we’ll see with the online trading and collaboration between friends in SimCity 2013.
The turn of the millennium passes by, and many other games have entered and remained lodged in my mind, slowly squeezing out the real estate once occupied by SimCity. I still loved the concept, the gameplay, the mechanics, the art and the audio. But there was just so much other gaming goodness to gorge upon at the time, this is why I have to reveal that SimCity 4 holds the unenviable position of being my least played SimCity game. I just didn't have all the time that it required of me, or, maybe, that I required of it. The year is 20003 and three dimensional graphics are used in a SimCity game for the first time (the 64DD version doesn't count). Apart from saying that it was a good game and that I liked it, I can’t really recount for you that it was much of a life-changing experience. Maybe I was just growing away from SimCity?
It is now 2013.
Nope, scratch that. I love SimCity all over again! It may have taken a decade (maybe the time apart did us good?), but playing through that hour long demonstrative slice of simulative pie about five times in a row really got the ole RCI indicators going again. Over the course of the first few minutes of play it became obvious to me that Maxis had put a lot of work into refining the experience from an information and control perspective. They make the surfacing of useful information so much quicker and easier than before, and in many cases, actually pleasant. All the clever artistic tricks they pull off with the mapping of data, the gorgeous use of colour and tilt-shift, how easy it is to create both a regimented grid-based city or just go completely crazy with those curved roads and the way the audio actually syncs up with what is going on inside of the simulation is a superb touch as well.
It brought the experience closer, in some ways, to the kind of feeling that I got when playing The Sims for the first time. I felt like I could peer right through a window and into a digital being’s life, see where they went and what they did. It’s this minute attention to detail contrasted with being able to affect those massive sweeping changes for thousands of people with but the click of a mouse that makes it so very clear to me that Maxis has poured so much detail into every level of the simulation this time around, that I feel I shan’t be wanting for much else for a good while.
Oh, and curved roads. My god, the curved roads.
“All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful, but the beauty is grim.”
So, the previous bundle of words that I pushed to you via the information superhighway was a bust. The one and only comment I received on it was from my good self, not that I’m blaming YOU, deary me, no! In fact, it was during the very first edition of this epic undertaking that I did indeed state that this whole sorry saga would primarily be for my own benefit. Something to allow me to uncork the plug from my brain and pour out any excess thoughts into a pool. A pool that I could then reflect upon later. A reflecting pool. AAAAARRGHIKNNNNNNOOOOOWWWWW!!!
Stocks are down. Money are down. All are down.
Do. Not. Fear.
I have the sweet sweet tonic that you need to calm your fears, settle your wearied mind and to soothe your cantankerous soul. So, if you please very much; take a seat right there and loosen up those tight, stifling clothes (yeah...yeah, just like that) and take this hot cup of what I got.
Let’s kick off this brand NEW edition OF the FATBOMB! 2013! WE DOING IT! YEAH!
If you were expecting, nay, requiring the best wrought and written words that I've ever produced for this series of blogs, then I'm afraid I must let you know upfront that you are about to be mighty be disappointed. Once again I had to rush this mother out there in somewhat of a state of incompleteness, and for that I am sorry. I need to get some polish to rub all over the next edition.
Gotta go fast
This month I are mostly been playing Sleeping Dogs and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, both of which I acceptably completed in my opinion, although I've yet to reach for the 100% in either game...yet. Now watch out, because the bunch of games that I'm going list are definitely not in any sort of state of completion, and will, in all probability, require the rest of this year for me to get through (not enough good games to play throughout the year of 2013, hmm?). These games are these:
With all that being writ, it’s actually a gaming-related pastime, and it is only tangentially related to the sport of gaming, that’s been taking up quite a bit of my free time these past few weeks. Consider yourselves fairly warned with these words; it can be addictive to the soul, obsessively compulsive to the brain, and a surly temptress luring your eyes and fingers to their very doom. I am, of course, talking about...
Take a video game you know and love.
Now destroy it in every conceivable way. Strip it back to its bits and bytes, learn everything that maketh the game the very thing that it is. Use that knowledge to reorder the very nature of its being. Master it. Over and over and over again.
Then do that about 40 or 50 times over the course of many months and several years.
And you’re good to go!
Sounds scary, right? I know, I know, it was and continues to be consistently terrifying to my every sense. BUT ALSO SO VERY RIGHT. I encourage you all to take a look at the fantastic feats of these glorious girls and guys whom create a video game playing experience very much not of this world.
Whilst I had been aware of the scene for a few years, it had never really sparked a further interest or deeper appreciation within me. That is, not until I bore witness to the events that unfolded during the live annual charity event put on by the two biggest websites in the sport, SpeedRunsLive and Speed Demos Archive. This extravaganza of speed is a non-stop cavalcade of gaming for an entire week. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. Seeing such a multitude of different games and the ways in which they could be bent to their runner's will was astounding, the skill and effort that was on display meant that I could not help myself in signing up with SRL and SDA before the very first day was out.
Does anyone here have the bug for running? Were you even aware that this was even a thing? Let me know, so we can take each other's hands and lead ourselves into this dark land.
I wholeheartedly apologise to Alan Seeger, his family, his friends. Everyone, really.
Here are some vidcon video links to give you a taste:
Fall down this wonderful hole with me, go on...I dare thee! If you brave this dangerous journey then you too can have sick art all up in your Steam libraries. Don't know how to do this wonderful thing? Well, all you have to do is 1. Load up Steam 2. Select Grid View from the top right corner of your library, that'll make all the games turn into pictures 3. From there, simply right click on any one of those pictures and select Set Custom Image 4. Pick your poison, and it's off to the races you go!
I did these, for example:
Once you go textless you never go backness. It is truly a work of art to see all these works of art displayed in a fashion that treats the eyes to a veritable feast of colour and shape. Join me or die. If/when you do come to your senses and you want to give this a right good go yourself, all you have to do is make your objet d'art fit inside a 460x215 sized image file (png for life).
So, playing video games whilst streaming them out to the world using the Internet? THat’s never been done before, right!? Well, I’ll break this newly sodden ground with my hoe of virtue and get right on that thing. Soon. Soon. To that end, I propose that anyone and everyone reading this thing should help me decide on which games I should play within a set period of time. A period of time around, let’s say, TWENTY AND FOUR HUMAN HOURS? Oh, and for charity of something, I guess.
For some reason I have it in my head that I should play 24 games within those 24 hours. I don’t know why, maybe I won’t because it’s really stupid. Maybe not. Either way, I’d like some input on what might be cool to show the whole world. If the whole world had undergone a near-total annihilation by Mega Virus, leaving about four people left alive to actually watch my stream.
Some of these games have had a few hours put into them, whilst others have nought but scant few minutes devoted to them. The one thing they do all share is that I have not reached the kill screen on any of them. Because of my ineptitude and lack of coolness, I'm still not quite sure as to whether or not I should be making my way through a larger volume of smaller games (just to give them a go) or if I should just duder up and actually complete, say, two or three larger games (to be totally sick). Suggestions to me on a SAE.
Video games which came out three or more years ago count as older. Video games which didn't, count as newer. The dates y’all see down below are when the game came out, and the platform you see down yonder is the platform I own aforementioned game upon.
Too Human (2008 on Xbox 360)
Quake 4 (2005 on Xbox 360)
Syndicate (1993 on PC)
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (2012 on X360)
Metal Gear Solid 2 (2002)
Metal Gear Solid 3 (2005)
Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker (2010)
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City (2010 on PC)
Lost and Damned (2010)
Ballad of Gay Tony (2010)
Darksiders (2010 on PC)
Batman Arkham Asylum (2009 on PC)
3D Dot Heroes (2010 on PS3)
Dead Space (2008 on PS3)
Zeno Clash (2009 on PC)
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (2004 on PC)
Demon's Souls (2010 on PS3)
Blade Runner (1997 on PC)
Rez HD (2008 on X360)
Wipeout HD Fury (2009 on PS3)
The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection (2011 on PS3)
Shadow of the Colossus (2006)
Halo 4 (2012 on X360)
Syndicate (2012 on X360)
Hitman: Absolution (2012 on PC)
Kentucky Route Zero (2013 on PC)
Dishonored (2012 on PC)
Darksiders II (2012 on PC)
Batman Arkham City (2011 on PC)
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2013 on PS3)
The Gunstringer (2011 on X360)
Killzone 3 (2011 on PS3)
Dark Souls (2011 on X360)
Dragon's Dogma (2012 on X360)
I'll try not to be late with these bloody things again. I swear. Really really really. No, I mean it this time, you just gotta believe me, man. I-I just need a bit more time, okay? I’ll get your money, okay! PUH-P-PLEASE DON’T KILL ME AND MY FAMILY!!
It’s here and back for this year! It’s that ding dong sound that comes in your ear! Also hello and welcome to my final blog of 2012. I hope these words find you all happy and joyous and filled with the general merriment of the spirit of mankind that seems to be going around during this time of the year. On today’s menu, a home cooked stew of dope video games that I liked throughout the year of 2012, made from a blend of nine deliciously different titles.
>>> >> > Everything below this point is currently work in progress < << <<<
My Nine Most Bestest Video Games Which I Done Played During The Year Of 2012
Picante, yet delicate on the palate. And yes, it really is just nine, that's all you're getting for now! These fine organically-grown video games are also in no particular order, except for the order that inherently comes from me writing about them as they spring to mind and then putting finger to keyboard so as to get my thoughts into your head. Yeeaaah, I'm in your head now.
And I shan't leave.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
As a fan/victim of the original UFO: Enemy Unknown, as well as a longtime fan of/slave to those fine folks at Firaxis, I’d been looking forward to getting my grubby little mitts on this game for a good long while. Unfortunately, as I have very little money, I’ve been unable to acquire a copy of this slick looking remix on the original 1994 flavour-filled fillet of resource management and turn-based combat. That is, until...
Father Happimass dropped in on the 25th of December and bestowed unto me a gleaming new copy of XCOM! Yaaay! He also, unexpectedly, chucked in a copy of Dishonored! A game which is appearing on lots of lists this year, and (probably) deservedly so. However, since I have only had time to play the opening sequence so far; I am, with a heavy heart, forced to omit it from proper inclusion upon this list...even though it somehow managed to worm its way in here...in XCOM’s spot! GET OUT OF HERE, DISHONORED!
Phew, now that he’s been escorted from the premises, let’s get back to the matter at hand, shall we?
In the small number of days that I’ve had with XCOM, I’ve managed to put 31.5 hours into this cast iron meat grinder of a game (where time is represented by the meat, and the grinder is the Xbox 360 controller plugged into my PC). And have loved very nearly every single minute of it, I can look past the infrequent and minor issues. I’ve never suffered anything as catastrophic as the flesh-eating virus levels of pain that some members of the Giant Bomb staff have expressed recently. There was a patch of a few hundred megabytes in size to download before I actually got into the game, so it’s quite likely that this dose of sweet patchy medicine helped fix some old issues. Some of the very minor bugs that I did experience was the occasional glitchy path-finding behaviour of some of the flying enemies, along with about one instance of a turn not ending properly, leaving me stuck in between turns, unable to make a move. Luckily, the fix for that issue is to always be saving...that’s right, you should all be making use of the single most powerful weapon in all of video games...unlimited savegame files.
Since I am talking technical, I will try to expound ever so slightly on what I thought of the graphical quality and art style. Ready? They are both great! I love the exaggerated proportions of the character models, the massively meaty weapons (particularly once you get up to the level of laser and plasma weapons), the use of slightly flat lighting combined with the ever-so-slightly cartoonesque texture work really helped to construct a visually interesting image on screen. Even though I can only run the game in 1080p on my 32 inch HDTV, I still really like how it looks, and how it runs. In fact, over these past few years I’ve found that I’ve really come to appreciate a video game which loads up and gets me into the action nice and swiftly. I also noticed this with Skyrim on the PC as well, I would be in the game world before I could even read the white text that pops up on those black background loading screens.
On a very quick note, since it’s not something that I’ve seen too many people talk about when they talk about this game. And that is...the music...it’s mad dope! I found it giving me super strong Deus Ex: Human Revolution chills in certain parts. That is, within certain parts of both the game and myself. Certain. Parts. As to the rest of the audio work, I found all of it pretty superb as well, I never got sick of the voice of the Council, or the double tap of a plasma sniper rifle.
Those things, combined with the rawdog stuff that occurs during combat really helps to sell this major part of the game (the other part being the base building and management aspects) as being something exciting, frenetic and impactful. Even though we are 'just' dealing with an auto-pausing boring-old turn-based strategic-combat model-dash. The combat puzzles that we have to navigate through during our meetings with these jolly little green men are simple enough to pick up, but allow for a huge amount of experimentation and flexibility. Once you start making real use of the combination of different abilities, weapons and equipment, you'll get to a point where you start to feel really powerful and effective during combat. And that's really hard to do in a video game in 2012 with guns and aliens and explosions and shit, and where everything just sits there on the battlefield waiting for your next input.
^ On a related note ^
Getting this game has also coincided with me getting a good ‘fibre to cabinet’ broadband connection, which has allowed/inspired me to test out high quality streaming. As opposed to my previously...low quality streams (which still included some sick games, such as the shiny MTGO beta, FTL and SimGolf, so...SCREW YOU! I’M TRYING MY BEST OKAY!?). Therefore, over the past few days I streamed about six hours of 720p/1080p footage on TwitchTV, and played around with the ‘upload to YouTube’ feature. I found out that Twitch does indeed suck down my 1080p juice and spit it out to YouTube in fine fashion, I always thought you had to be special to get 1080p streamed to Twitch, apparently not! Oh, and I got about two viewers over that period, which is a marked increase over my previous record of diddly squat.
I went ahead and deleted those test files from the Internet, because they were shit for actually looking at. IF you DID want to SEE them, well, I saved these snippets on YouTube for you (I don’t narrate or appear in any of these videos, and there are looong pauses where I go AFK to eat Terry’s Chocolate Orange).
FTL: Faster Than Light
Oh, it’s like a roguelike-like-like-rogueyliek-like-rogue? Let’s just say that I think it’s a fantastic strategic resource management video game. Which you SHOULD be playing entirely as a turn-based adventure into the cold hard vacuum of space. Nice meaty sprite-based graphics with bright pastel shades contrasting with pulsing red laser beams coupled with delightful music, makes for a pleasant time in your eye and ear holes. But it's within your brain hole where you will be required to up the ante and step up the plate; for a single slackening in concentration or slip of your steely resolve, could result in the deaths of every crew member under your command!
But then you just start again and learn from your mistakes. So that's fine too.
Two weeks after playing and completing this awesome video game I went and watched Drive on Netflix. Holy hell, they should sell those two works of art in one package. Dat visuals. Dat music. Dat story. Dat mechanics. God damn.
An utterly astonishing work of art (art, of course, being anything that is a thing that has been created by a human being and can or cannot make you feel something or think about something...or nothing). As to why I reckon it’s superb, allow me to repeat something that I’ve said earlier on in the past:
For such a small team, and for the amount of time that you can get through this wondrous experience, it has so much to offer to those of an open mind and contemplative nature. Backed up with just being a damn solid explorey platformy video game as well. From the graphical quality and art direction, to the complete lack of voice over combined with the stunning audio work, and with a story that just builds and builds from seemingly nothing into, quite literally, a transcendental finale. It's clear to me that this game was created by people who had such a well honed idea of what they wanted to create, at both an emotional and mechanical level, that they did not let anything dilute or compromise their vision. And that vision is a pure joy to plod and fly and skate and swim through.
Final Fantasy VII
Yeah, that’s right you fuckers. THE SPIRIT OF MOTHERFUCKING CHRISTMAS UP IN THIS PLACE RIGHT ABOUT NOW. Here's a great thing that I wrote in the past and which I am appropriating for use within this yummy little dish of words:
Yeah, yeah, I know, it's not about the spirit of Christmas in the traditional sense. It is, however, very much linked to that jolly holly day in my mind; due to the fanciful fact that I got this fantastic role playing game, on this very day, 15 years ago (I'd heard that it was created in a strange and wonderful land called...Japan).
Bearing in mind that this was the first Final Fantasy game that we got over here in the United Kingdom, and also the first one that was ever created on this newfangled Sony PlayStation thing. Well, let's just say there's a whole bunch of other reasons as to why this game has always stuck with me, even after 15 years have ticked by. And that's something I hope to explore in this series of daily videos, taking a stroll down this cold and frosty memory lane, warmed by the sights and sounds of this fine game.
Is anyone else on these fine forums in the same boat as me? Was it your first Final Fantasy? Your last? Did you like, love or hate it? For all the love/hate that FF7 catches (from both the Sephiroth-swooning fans, or those who are nihilist about Nomura), I'm still very much of the mind that this game holds up in so many ways that it was worth revisiting.
That was a thing that I wrote in this thread, and if you will allow me to continue in a similar vein I will add just a few new words to it:
Out of the two role playing video games that are on this list (the other game is notMass Effect 3 either, which itself does not make this hallowed hall of fame at all, as you'll see in the next paragraph) I went and stuck a 15 year old JERPERG right up in here because it's freaking dope. Even now, I am still finding it damn good fun from top to bottom. Which is not to say that there aren't bits in its tops and bottoms that are just a little bit goofy or even a little bit crappy in some parts (translation issues, stiff interpersonal character dialogue, some aspects of the visuals), but for a game this large and ambitious they get it right on so many levels that I still had fun romping through it. In terms of where I am in the game so far, I've just stepped outside of Midgar for the first time (well, not the 'first' time, I've been through this game about a dozen times over the years) and it still visits unto me a strong reaction of just how big and wide open the whole world seems. You spend those first five or six hours running through the dark and dirty metropolis of Midgar, only to then be set loose in a massive 3D environment whereupon YOU CAN GO ANYWHERE! I know, not really, but it sure as shit feels like it when you hear that main theme pipe up and start swinging that camera all over the place.
Oh yeah, Mass Effect 3! I said we'd have a little talk about it right here inside this lovely little paragraph, didn't I? Well, let's cut to the chase, and lose these italics:
It does not make my list for two very big reasons (also maybe spoilers for every Mass Effect game ever):
1) The quality of the storytelling.
Especially when compared to the original, and best, game, this finale is but a shadow of that former self. It's mostly a poorly told affair, a twisting and winding road marked by only a few interesting plot points (resolving the Genophage issue, dealing with the Geth and the Quarians). It's riddled with a multitude of fairly minor (but annoying) plot holes and inconsistencies and lazy short cuts. The dialogue between you and your party members still remains strong throughout, but it's the huge leaps of logic that I had to make for the game, when it repeatedly failed to make a cohesive (and good) blanket of scrummy story to wrap around my head brain. This tacked on diatribe isn't going to turn into a massive ranty list, I swear, but I will just pluck from my memory a couple of things that really irked me about how some of the big story beats were handled in ME3:
Within eight minutes of the game starting, we bear witness to a whole bunch of Reapers landing on Earth. In previous games, a single capital-class Reaper like Sovereign or Harbinger is shown as being able to dominate or destroy many thousands of individuals and subjugate entire civilisations from afar. Even during a stand up fight, they are no pushover; I don't have the exact numbers to hand but during ME1 it's demonstrated that Sovereign was able to destroy a vast number of warships all by 'himself'. He did have some Geth backup earlier on in that fight, but when it's just him inside the Citadel there are something like 25 or 30 wrecked Alliance warships floating about the place, and not a single Geth vessel to be found. Reapers are goddamn death dealing monsters, and when hundreds and hundreds of them land on your planet (which you also didn't see or hear anything about, prior to their arrival) you are done. D. U. N. This sequence was something I expected to see in the final third of the game, and it stinks up the rest of the story something fierce. I know, ME2 does this weird time-and-pace-bending thing as well, but not to this degree, not even close.
There's a Destroyer-class Reaper (they're the lickle ones which ain't quite as big or tough as their big 'n' tough brothers) which shoots down two fleeing unarmed transports filled with about 10 people each, and yet ignores the EXTREMELY IMPORTANT escaping warship known to every single Reaper in the entire Galaxy, the Normandy. From which Shepard is able to bear witness to the innocent death of a young innocent boy innocent. Emotions.
2) The inverse relationship of scope and scale to the use of bombast throughout the entire narrative.
WORK IN PROGRESS, PLEASE PARDON OUR DUST.
And so here ends my talking about other games inside the spots reserved for other games.
...or am I?
Far Cry 3
A whole bloody barrel bursting with fun and frolics and fire! ARGHMYGODTHERE’SFIREALLOVERMYARMS!
Tight shooting controls, first person running and jumping that isn’t total shit, stunningly gorgeous vistas, great combat puzzles (Who/What are you fighting? How are they armed? Where are they positioned? All the Ws?), mixed in with just the right amount of silly situations sprinkled about the place for you to discover. Whereupon you can blow them up. Or set fiery fire to them with flaming arrows. Or fly a hang glider rigged with C4 into them. Or unleash a couple of pissed off tigers on them.
Wipeout HD Fury
So, I’ve been spending large amounts of my annually designated festive frivolity time playing this (damn fine) four year old video game for the PlayStation 3. A game which I got for free
As someone who remembers very vividly the day that they ordered a copy of Wipeout 2097 via mail order, when this recent hankering came over me I fell into a deep Wipeout-shaped hole and bust through the whole original campaign in a few days (no, not 100% Elite-level gold medals across the board). And man, it felt good. Now to finish off the Fury side of things!
I poured hours upon hours upon hours of hours and hours into Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. I introduced my girlfriend to it last year, and whilst we’ve made our way through a couple of chapters, she was finding it pretty difficult to keep up at the sort of level that I’m used to (the sort of ‘level’ that comes with hundreds of hours of experience). So, earlier this month, she introduced me to the joys of Neverwinter Nights, well, reintroduced might be slightly more accurate. I had put a few hours on the clock playing this damn fine game, back in the day, but my girlfriend has much the same level of experience and skill with NWN that I do with BG2. I found this co-op method of rolling with another (good) human player there to back me up, help guide me and generally just stop me being a silly billy.
It’s still a good old fashioned D&D-based RPG, with solid mechanics and great world populated with hefty combat and witty dialogue. With an interface and inventory system that's quicker to navigate, a decent action queue and a levelling system that's much easier to get to grips with than anything found in BG2. That is not to say better, in all cases, I certainly know my way around BG2; but I can tell that quite a few refinements were made here and there to allow the player a more streamlined start in what is still a pretty mechanically dense game. Also, going fully 3D and allowing for camera control was such a welcome break from the static point of view offered by BG2, as beautiful as that view still remains.
We got a Kinect this year. I know, I know, we’re just racing along the very cutting edge over here, ain’t we? Since this is the only game that either me or my partner has put any real time or effort into spazzing out in front of, I have to say that I've mostly enjoyed it, and the Kinect has been working...well enough! I know, right!? We are lucky in that we do have just about a big enough room within which to display our grace and poise through the medium of dance, and I understand that this is a major factor as to whether or not the core 'controls' of the game will even work for you. As it stands I've been through every song on at least the middle of the road difficulty, alongside getting a fair amount of them locked up at five stars on the hardest setting as well. And it's been pretty damn fun all the way down that song list. The choice of choons are nice and varied, as is the move set (up to a certain point, I wasn't expecting to see any Thracian chain dancing in here*), and I felt the way in which they built you up from the simple steps was fantastic. It's never pushy, never negative, but it's always John T. Drake.
Maybe the best thing I can say about this game is that it's inspired us to pick up a copy of Dance Central 2 this very December, which means it'll be on next year's list, if my timing on these bloody things is to be any witness.
* They need to put Thracian chain dancing into Dance Central: The Fourth.
THE END OF ALL THINGS!?
ARGH SHIT I’VE GIVEN MYSELF AN EVENING TO WRITE THIS SO THAT’S ALL I’M GOING TO WRITE RIGHT ABOUT NOW SEEYA LATER DUDERS!
I suppose I should really close out with a proper end of year/Christmas farewell instead. Oh yeah, I went and combined Christmas with New Year's in this here blog, didn't I? I swear I got you a present! No, really, it's just...er...er...shipping, yeah, that's it! That Internet company I ordered it from are slacking on the delivery, so that's why it isn't it here yet...Internet companies, am I right?
Until 2013 (which is tomorrow, that's how short I made the loop, doing it this way really limits the length of time within which bad/unhappy stuff can happen to you duders throughout 2012) then, have a good whatever you have!
- White Rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (published 26th November, 1865).
Shh shh, it’s okay, it’s okay. Don’t cry now. Come here, that’s it. Shh...there there. Everything’s going to be fine. I-I know, I’m late...but I’m here for you now. I am, now and forever, still going to call this mighty heap of words the November edition of my fattest of Fatbombs, and that’s just going to have to be something that you deal with. In your own way. In your own time.
We can get through this, okay?
Well, with all that soppy bollocks out of the way, let’s talk about rape, murder, profoundly cruel and terrible psychological and physiological torture, sadism, insanity, racism, experiments on living humans whilst their eyeballs are removed and placed in jars so they can watch their own torture taking place, immortality as a means of never ending punishment, cannibalism, terrible and unyielding pain and suffering, infanticide, the Holocaust, unrelenting hopelessness, child abuse, slavery, paranoia and all-consuming hatred for life. Shall we?
I Have No Legs, and I Must Walk
So, some pretty rough stuff goes down in that damn fine Walking Dead video game, doesn’t it? Well, on today’s foray into the oppressively dank, constantly dangerous, crushingly deep, dark jungle of our shared video gaming experience, I want to introduce to y’all, a good friend of mine. A friend who might call the situations that we struggle through on our path down those increasingly grim episodes of the Walking Dead game, a close sibling.
1995’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, a point-and-click psychological horror adventure game. It’s premise, setting and theme are based upon the 1967 original short story by Harlan Ellison, and it was developed in collaboration with the author and a company called The Dreamers Guild. This is a grimly dark journey through fear and pain and guilt and brutally violent physical and mental torture.
Before we dive on down to these dark dark depths, take a deep breath whilst I run through just a couple of the very broadest of broad plot points, so as to try and give you some idea of the lens through which Harlan and the developers make you view this grim tableau of abjectly horrible misery.
We take control of a total of five separate characters throughout our journey, we assume control of each one in turn, with the order being decided upon by the player. These five unlucky avatars are the last remaining humans on the planet Earth (although one of this number stretches that definition, thanks to horrific genetic manipulation by our antagonist), we join them after 109 years of unrelenting torture and constant humiliation at the hands of an entity known as AM. This entity is a twisted conglomeration of three national supercomputers that were built to wage war against each other, during the period of military escalation that occurred as the Cold War turned into the Third World War.
So, a global thermonuclear war being waged by three Skynets sounds pretty bad, right? Well, unfortunately things got very much worse for us homo sapiens, because these highly advanced AI systems soon came to the conclusion that man was their true enemy, and united, becoming one all-encompassing Allied Master Computer. This singular being promptly unleashed the Final War upon all of humanity, and winnowed the entire population of the Earth down to the five hapless souls we see in this game.
To give you an idea of where AM is coming from, here is the very first thing you hear from him, upon starting a new game (an interesting point about AM is that he is voiced by Harlan himself):
Hate. Let me tell you how much I've come to hate you since I began to live. There are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer thin layers that fill my complex. If the word 'hate' was engraved on each nanoangstrom of those hundreds of miles it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate I feel for humans at this micro-instant. For you. Hate. Hate.
Yeah, he’s not a happy chappy. He hates humanity for creating him as a supremely powerful, highly intelligent sentient being, whilst constraining his physical form to a compound buried deep within the Earth. He’s been taking out these frustrations on your sad little group over these many many years, and it’s with his latest idea for a ‘little game’ that we take charge of our tortured travellers, and try to work through some serious fucking shit.
AM forces each of these characters to confront their own, very serious, emotional and moral flaws, he’s not setting them up in these cruel scenarios to try and help them, or make them learn some ultimate truth about themselves. He is simply expressing his deep-seated sadistic tendencies towards humanity. Inside of the story told within the book and this very video game, he has chosen a slightly different method of torment to inflict upon his playthings, this time, he wants to get really really deep under their skins. So deep that he might flay them alive with their own guilt, sorrow and anguish.
Now, I will not delve into the specifics of the sequences that we must endure as the player, whilst we tread this trail of misery through the story arc. So, if you have yet to play the game (I know, it’s such a hot new joint that you just HAVE to stay spoiler-free), please believe me when I say that it’s worthwhile me keeping that stuff secret from you. I know, I know, we shouldn’t have secrets from each other, after all the time we’ve spent together. But it’s for your own good. Okay? Okay.
With that above thingy being said, I will, gladly, talk about some of the themes and feelings and CHOICES that we explore in this game. Because, yeah, I mentioned The Walking Dead at the top of the episode for a reason, and that reason is...
We be throwin’ dark.
So, I own all five episodes of The Walking Dead, but have only completed the first one at the time of writing. However, even within this relatively short amount of interaction, I have come to notice some things that are similar and some things that are not so similar between these two versions of ‘Moral Quandaries: The Video Game’.
The realities inside of the worlds created by these two different stories are both, understandably, overarchingly grim. At every turn, a situation goes from bad to worse, a small victory or respite in the misery is quickly and suddenly followed up with a severe swerve in the opposite direction. The interplay between the small victories achieved by the player followed up by harsh consequences or horrible reprisals, is a dynamic that allows both games to keep the feeling of threat high, and along with it, the tension.
It was this near-constant feeling of menace, of ‘something’s just going to go wrong, I know it’ that I experienced throughout much TWD that must have fired up some dusty old neurons inside my head, and which jiggled them into releasing some memories of playing through IHNMAIMS (blimey, that’s an acronym and a half right there, let’s stick with how I’m about to refer to the game in the next sentence, instead) the first time. Now, to be clear, I didn’t play I Have No Mouth back when it came out, it wasn’t even something I was aware of until around 2005. So I never had the privilege of talking about it whilst it was hot, so to speak, I don’t believe this game ever really did crazy numbers; and it seems like about half a dozen people on this website even know what it is. That’s a small part of why I’m writing about it here, since I get AT LEAST one person who seems to read through this cavalcade of consciousness, maybe it’ll help to increase the population of those gamers who have played it, or at the very least, know of its existence.
Bearing that in mind, let us trudge ever forwards and downwards into the dark and seedy recesses of the human mind, I hope you brought a torch!
Within both these video games, we take charge of a character and guide them through some pretty sticky situations. Whether it’s high pressure moments where a binary choice between one life or another has to be made, or the smaller scale stuff that will impact upon our progression in a more subtle, long term way. Both of these games play with the idea of not just taking into account the choices that you did make, but also those that you dismissed out of hand. How a game can take note of all those multitude of choices and present variations within a plot is really interesting, and possibly devastating once you realise that hours down the line, you in fact made a terrible choice and affected some change that was really not to your liking.
I find myself revelling in the darkest of dark moments found in both of these games. Yes, I might feel sadness, anger, disgust, fear (or if I’m real lucky, all four at once!), but I’m comfortable with a video game invoking these feelings inside of me. At least it’s not something external to a piece of electronic entertainment that’s impressing these rather bleak situations upon me, and I’m extremely glad of the medium of video games for allowing this two-way conversation between me, and the art that I’m exploring.
Next up, a little bit of sweetness and light, to cleanse the palate.
Steam’s Big Picture Sale Thingy
A sale? ON STEAM!? HOLY FUCKING SHIT GUYSҨ®¥?½!Ѩ!|?ᴟԒѼ҉
No, wait, it’s okay. We’re just seeing phase two of Valve’s master plan to take over the world using video games. That whole ‘making it easy to play PC games whilst you’re sat on the couch thing’ was given a great push in the direction of creating a uniform, cohesive experience for any user wishing to partake of these forbidden fruits, with the advent of Steam’s beta of the Big Picture. Now that it’s been given some time to air out, Valve have officially launched the setting as a thing, and are celebrating by selling a whole bunch of awesome games for cheap!
A common slight shortcoming that I found during those beta days, and one that still remains to some degree today; is that you’ve still got to keep a keyboard and/or mouse handy BECAUSE THE BLASTED GAME WON’T LOAD UP UNLESS YOU USE A MOUSE TO ACTIVATE A SPLASH SCREEN ARGH! As it transpires, what Valve are now pushing as part of their second phase, is the co-branding and official recognition of games that do not require anything other than a gamepad to install, boot and play. Sweet!
And I reckons, so I does, that by this time next year, we’ll be seeing many more fully supported titles in that list right there. There’s a future bet I’d be pretty happy to wager on. Do not disappoint me again, Gabe.
The sale, by the way, ends on the 10th of this very month...I mean December...yes...and it’s main page can be found over here. If you can’t click won’t click on that, then please feel free to peruse these choice cuts from that very link:
Woo! indeed. Over these past few days I’ve been putting plenty of hours on the clock in this fantastic new iteration of open world-bounding, and large-scale chaos-creating video gaming boom boom. But there’s been one aspect, above the passable plot, exciting combat and enjoyable sidequests, that I’ve found the most personally pleasing. And that is...
We just got this dope as fuck Metropolis poster framed up all nice like, so all is well with the world. I best get back to hanging that mother up, as well as spreading cheap Christmas decorations about my house. I will be back soon, sooner than you would like, no doubt. If you are one of those lost and damned souls who does want to see more of my juicy electronic, photon-based entertainment, right here on this web zone called Giant Bomb Dot Com, then please do feel obliged to check out these other hype ass threads that I done did:
There are times, Caterina, when I find myself transfixed by a shadow on the wall, or the splashing of water against a stone. I stare at it, the hours pass, the world around me drops away...replaced by worlds being created and destroyed by my imagination.
Fucking god damn Hotline Miami is some baller ass shit, ain't it? This wasn't my first dabble in the neon-coloured bubbling waters of Jonatan Söderström’s game creating mind, but I had been out of the loop for a little while when this hype-ass heavyweight block rocker rode into town. I will and shall be talking about this beautiful/horrible video game further on down this page, but god damn.
Don’t worry, we’ll get to some more Borderlands stuff in the next few words, but I'm pleased to report that there won’t be too much more of that game to come out of my keyboard and into your eyes over the coming episodes of this blog. There’ll be much more focus on other games that I like and loathe.
Oh, and it’s Spook Month too, I guess. So hold on to your bootstraps because you’re just gonna get filled with horror.
I think, for the time being, I've had my fill of delicious Original Style Borderlands. I've not attempted to make any further strides in my noble fight to 100% it on PC, mainly because me and my co-op partner have been wrecking faces and jumping off places in the stunning sequel (although there are some minor caveats to that blanket statement of praise). Whilst I will eventually get back to the hike up completionist mountain, in order to stake my flag into the top of Borderlands peak, I will use this time and space to talk about the dozens of hours that I've enjoyed, so far, in Borderlands 2.
Let’s start with breaking down, in the most simplistic and shittiest terms possible, what I majorly like and majorly dislike about this game. Just, because...well...I feel like it.
No more per character weapon levelling
The slightly thicker, meatier plot
No fall damage
No more per character weapon levelling
Most of the dialogue
Some of the humour
These above points are in specific reference to changes made from the original game, and in that regard, we are going to have a look at how and why these changes were made; and why I think what I think of them. Let us start with very first issue/improvement...
I like AND dislike: No more per character weapon levelling
Okay, just to make sure we all know what I'm talking about (I have enough trouble with that as it is), this fairly small combat-related system is a thing that was present in the first game, whereby you essentially levelled up your skill with any one of the seven weapon types, in a Daggerfally/Morrowindy stylee. Here are some pictures to jog your manky memory!
Got it? Course you do! It’s easy enough, use a combat rifle more and you get better at using a combat rifle (as you can probably tell, I used the combat rifle a lot). Now, in Borderlands, this always gave me an incentive to stick to one or two main weapon types, essentially ‘maining’ them. This system also linked into the classes and their associated class mods, ideally if you wanted to get really sexy powerful with the submachine gun; you’d want to use a class that would get buffs to their submachine gun effectiveness based on class tree as well as mods, and finally the overall weapon proficiency.
This trinity (cut down to a duology in the sequel) lightly punished you for not sticking to a cohesive weapon and class plan. Going ahead and picking up that dope rocket launcher when you possessed but a mere level 1 proficiency with it, would mean you’d miss more, take longer to reload and do less damage. I feel that Gearbox perfectly balanced these points in the combat system with the benefits that were very easy to gain from just sticking with a weapon throughout the game. This, in turn, made picking a class and weapon combination really matter so much more than in Borderlands 2. Which opted for a slightly broader system, where anyone can use any weapon, and tied the ongoing weapon-based levelling into the mighty Badass Rank.
Which, don’t get me wrong, isn't a bad thing, I'm not saying that the move to this different levelling system is worse in some way. I just dislike that the old system isn't in there as well (or modified and incorporated in some clever way). I JUST LIKE THINGS THAT LEVEL UP THE MORE YOU USE THEM!
Anyway, that was a stupid thing. On to the next thing!
I like: The slightly thicker, meatier plot
More twists, more turns, we get to see cooler places, and experience better characterisation throughout the overall storyline. All good. Except for a couple of little things...
I dislike: Most of the dialogue
I cringed throughout nearly every single line of Tiny Tina’s (I love Ashly Burch in every single way possible, by the way). Handsome Jack ceased to be threatening in any way after a few hours of idle threats and perfunctorily poor puns. I did like the majority of the Claptrap stuff, but it did grate on my nerves in a few places, the idling or ‘hanging around not doing anything’ stuff was pretty great all round. To be honest, the less words that I have to listen to, between me and my shooting of people in the head, the better. To my mind, and from what I can remember, there was just less of that stuff in the original. And I kind of appreciated the slightly scant amount of words that I was subject to.
I like: No fall damage
Yes! My god yes!
I dislike: Some of the humour
The frequent use of overt Internet-based humour just did not jibe with me, I felt that the way the first game handled stuff like film parody and self-referential stuff was just funnier. Again, this is just me (I love Anthony Burch in every single way possible, by the way). I would have been fine with nods to stupid dubstep and silly memes (both of those things are big parts of my life) if it was kept out of the ‘front of house’. References to that stuff inside of menus, achievements, item descriptions, rather than the more in-your-face approach taken this time around.
A Hotline to Hell
Firstly, go and buy this game.
Secondly, go and play this game.
Thirdly, get a white suit, a rubber horse mask, bang a load coke up your face, roll up your jacket sleeves up and get to fucking work!
Phew, with that outta the way, we can get down to the meat and bone of this game. The tight as shit mechanics. Which, in this disgusting and weird metaphor, hold up and support the beautiful skin that wraps the whole package up into a finely chiselled and wondrously honed experience. What the two guys (along with their large supporting cast of musicians) at Dennaton have managed to create here, is such a distilled and concentrated experience of video-gamey-ness that it very nearly blows my mind.
I have just realised that ONCE AGAIN, I've given myself one day to write this shit. And therefore, am not going to be able to do proper justice to harping on about Hotline, I must therefore, unfortunately, withdraw from this section for now. To return at a later date!
Some slightly alternative scary stuff that you might not have heard about before, but should watch anyway! Because I’m telling you too! Whoooooooooo!
And so, here endeth the lesson for tonight, I apologize for the roughshod nature of this batch of text. I promise promise promise to do better next time. Thanks for pretending to read this stuff. Don’t get too spooky tonight duders!
Oh, shit, I've left myself an afternoon to write this bloated testament to my many failings and shortcomings as a man struggling to exist in this harsh digital landscape of a dystopian future Neo-Tokyo. Always struggling to get by, always striving to learn and grow and someday become something better, to amount to something more than just a miserable little pile of secrets. Got that? Good. Now, on with the show!
Since last month’s update on my shoot ‘n’ stroll around the original Borderlands, I went and stuck a few more hours up inside it, attempting to pound every last quivering rivulet of content out of it. Which, of course, in this day and age, means getting 100% of all possible Steamchievements...right...right!? Well, I ain't got the hundo quite yet, but I'm still happy with where I am right now. Especially since Borderlands 2 is now out and downloaded and playing on my computermatograph, which means the sad tired original is getting tossed aside for the short to medium term. More on that new hotness later in the programme!
Sticking with my congealed thoughts on the original game for the time being, let us discuss more of what I think makes this a wholly great CFPSWRPGE (Cooperative First Person Shooter With Role Playing Game Elements). I have already talked about how the weapons (the combat rifle, in particular) and classes (the soldier, in my case) provide an extremely solid set of gameplay mechanics from which to base the team-oriented combat puzzles on, the strengths of certain elemental types against particular enemies, the balance of extreme-range snipers backing up the close range Action Powers of those getting up into the enemy's fray. A quick thought here, those special class abilities you use are called Action Powers. Action. Powers.
Since I talked about that shit that I just talked about before, before. We’ll move swiftly on towards the next little thing that I want to fill your squishy eyes with words about. Plot. Firstly, just to make sure that we are all on the same page as each other, I am talking about plot in the old skool sense, as defined by Aristotle way back in the day and around the corner. This, in essence, takes the word ‘plot’ to mean “the arrangement of the incidents”. Not the story itself but the way that the events inside of the narrative arc are presented to the audience. Good that? Good.
A quick synopsis of the storyline in Borderlands could look a little something like this:
The player character (herein and henceforth called the Vault Hunter) arrives on the planet of Pandora, in search of mega treasures located inside of a mystical place known as the Vault.
You shoot lots and lots and lots of people and mutants and wild animals and crazed lunatics. Gaining information or keys that progresses your progress towards the...
Whereupon you find and open the Vault, gaining fame and renown the world o’er.
At least that’s what it looks like to me, cause I ain't knee deep in the corpses of my felled enemies because of well wrought characterisation, or deeply compelling tension sprinkled around the game in order to drag my ass through to the end. I'm here to shoot things. Lots and lots of things. Again and again and again. In this way I would liken it somewhat to Halo, yes there is a story wrapped up in there, but it’s the combat that you partake in that writes the interesting scenarios you and your colleagues find yourself in. That time when you were both so low on ammo that you had to beat down every mother fucker in the place with your bare hands, that time when you ran your vehicle into a group of soon-to-be-road kill only to have the physics engine throw a shit fit and send you spinning out into orbit.
This near-constant action-packed “arrangement of the incidents” is what I consider to be the real plot of this game. Those moments, good and bad, funny and sad, crazy and mad, are all the reasons I need to play games like Borderlands 1 and 2. Which is why I'm not bothered by the lack of a strong story in the first game, and the addition of lashings of more story sauce in the second.
Me and my combat rifle are writing our own stories. IN BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD.
Before we bounce on this segment, here are some more numbers from then and from now:
Smelly Old Numbers
First played: 21 July, 2012
Last played: 4 August, 2012
36.7 total hours on record
51 of 80 (64%) achievements earned
First achievement earned: And They'll Tell Two Friends (21 July, 2012)
Last achievement earned: It's so realistic! (4 August, 2012)
Haven't played any more Guild Wars 2 since the first week of September, and I don’t know why! I sure as shit like it plenty enough, and I'm by no means ‘done’ with it. I’ll have to think about it more and then write more words more.
I've been teaching my partner how to play this game over the past few weeks. As someone who has dipped in and out of the scene over the years (I was first ensnared by the wiles of this superb card game back in 1998, during Urza’s Saga) I've always been saddened by the fact that I've played barely any of the game face to face with another humanoid, what with me not living anywhere near a major population centre for the past twenty years. I have dabbling in the online joys of MTGO, and that’s just great of course, all the Magic all the time, but there is still a difference between that and playing paper. And playing with that OG sleeved-up cardboard feeling is just something I've had a hankering for recently, and thus, I harangued my partner just enough to allow me to lead her down this magical path.
This endeavour lead me to realising that it’s really hard to teach someone something that you know quite a bit about (with regards to mechanics and terminology and jargon and rules and whatnot), when they have absolutely no point of reference for what the hell you’re talking about. But as with anything on this good green Earth, if you practice enough you’ll get better and better at it, and she did, so she did!
I was defeated during our second ever game.
Getting more involved in the physical version of this game has also lead me down the dark path of art alterations, proxying and defoiling. Maybe I’ll document my learning process at a later date, but it just seem super cool to me that you can do all these crazy things with some simple tools, such as acetone, shop towels and a printer. It’s still something I have yet to actually perform on my sacrificial cards, but I once my (CH3)2CO arrives, I’ll get to work. Arts and crafts always appeals to me when it involves scalpels and extremely flammable chemicals.
Vidz that I didz
I ‘shot’ and ‘edited’ my first ever ‘video’, considering that I'm in my mid 20s and have had a deep fascination with/massive love of films and video games and film making since about the age of 5, it’s really stupid that I've never actually done anything about it in any way shape or form. I could have made a life and career for myself if I was brave and clever enough to actually work at it, now I'm just wasting away inside a rotting meat shell, waiting to die. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, here is a thing that I did.
If you want to hear my stupid posh voice talk about things, I also did a thing about Steam’s Big Picture Mode:
Which, as a matter of fact is a great little feature, which, in part, helped my partner come over to the dark side of PC gaming in order to enjoy Borderlands 2 co-op with myself and others. Thanks Gaben!
Oh, one more thing. You know that biggest of Big Live Shows that happens every year? Yeah? You remember how the audio is all desynced and shit on some of those videos? Well I went and fixed that for you all, but only up to part three as of right now, and I still couldn't properly fix that horrific background noise during Comic Vine’s segment. For your perusal:
Only a short one today because 1) I left it until today to do this. 2) There’s water coming through my ceiling because the fucking piece of shit radiator is leaking. Don’t worry, I turned off the stop tap and drained the system. I just need to go and get a replacement T-shaped valve thingy and rip up some floorboards to check for damage. This Is Living.
Hello, my name is Fat Tony 12000 (no, it’s not), and you may have seen me pop up (not a euphemism) on this splendiferous website from time to time (from July 2010 onwards, if we interacted previous to that date, then I'm afraid it was a Fraud Tony), if we’ve spoken before and you liked it...then mad props to you, if we’ve spoken before and you hated it...then mad props to you. I am writing this thing because I want to write some words that some people read, well actually, if I’m being honest, it doesn't especially matter to me if anyone actually reads this stuff, because I can just pretend in my head that everyone reads it but is just far too busy to respond to it.
If you do not know what I am, then I will tell you right now. I am a ‘person’ who in the past has done things like this and this and this, and most recently creeped a little bit on Karen Snider. Please forgive me for my sins, I will try and make it up to all of you, somehow. My modus operandi right here and now is just to spit hot-forged links of words onto the anvil of your mind, so your brain can work them into a brilliant shining coat of zirah bagtar armour. Which you can ensconce yourself in and wear whilst fighting across this deadly digital battlefield, that we call...Giant Bomb Dot Com.
Since none of you duders came to my aid, I just went ahead and ploughed through this lovable little scamp of a video game by myself. And good golly, isn’t that just a jolly little FPS to romp around in? Coming back to it after a couple of years away from the Xbox 360 version of the game, and getting down to the juicy PC version (it ain’t that terrible, despite what many people say about the UI, as it happens, you should be using a Xbox 360 controller anyway) was a great experience. The amalgamation of blasting through half remembered parts of that game along with experiencing the new sights and sounds proffered by the DLC that I had missed out on the first time around (namely, Claptrap's New Robot Revolution) was really quite a good bit of fun.
The instantly familiar heft and weight of the weaponry was somehow soothing to my ailing digits, the tried and true left trigger/right trigger combination of firing a scoped combat rifle into the squishy heads of distant enemies was like a warm comforting blanket around my shoulders. In fact, this familiarity was fed by more than just these feeble human feelings, but also due to the fact that I was still using the same wired Xbox 360 controller that I had bought in October 2008, and which I had originally played Borderlands with back in 2009. There is a small story to this particular controller (and in particular, the particular parts that make up this particular controller) that maybe, someday, I’ll be able to share with you all. If you’re good, and don’t leave any of this homemade content on your plate.
What a crock of shit all that was, maybe I should write about why I thought this was an awesome game in 2009, and why I think it’s still pretty not bad today, or whatever day I post this edition on (yeah...that’s right, these posts are called ‘editions’...bringing back that magazine terminology for twenty does). Here we go.
I started a completely new game on a completely new platform, but I still choose to roll with the only class that I had ever poured any serious amount of time into, the soldier. It’s not as if I’d not tried out the other patrons of punishment during my first go-around with the game, but the time I spent with the other four characters probably totalled something in the region of a dozen hours or so. The primary reasons for picking the same guy once again are that I really like having a deployable turret with homing missiles, team ammo regen, grenade regen, huge magazine sizes on scoped combat rifles, along with grenades and bullets that heal my whole team. All of these little features packed into the soldier really suit my style of gameplay, at least in this game, which is to usually stay out of way of enemies and put about 500 corrosive rounds into their skulls from outside of their effective range. Now, Mordecai and his affinity for sniper rifles could of course reach out and touch those distant enemies with great ease, but those rifles tend to be semi automatic and have small magazines. I like to be able to go from burst fire to fully automatic as and when the situation demands.
I’ve not forgotten that all of the classes can indeed make use of all of the weapon types, but the way I tend to play is to stick with the favoured weapon of that particular class, I find I can make the most of class mods and proficiency levels that way. Speaking of class mods, and their interaction with your skill points (oh yeah, this game includes some RPG elements...hmm...), did you know that even though you can only have five points assigned to any one skill in your skill tree, any bonuses applied by class mods invisibly stack above and beyond that ‘maximum’ number, all the way up to nine points in total, made up from five points from the tree and four points from a mod. Huh, that’s not a thing that’s ever mentioned or explained at any point in the game, ever. Which is a shame, at least for the ghost of past me, because I never knew that the first time around. I rectified this by making damn sure that I exploited this functionality throughout my recent playthrough.
My faithful soldier is called Walter White, and I can role play him. Wait, no, that’s not really what I mean, let me try and explain what I’m getting at. As we all know, Borderlands has a light sprinkling of RPG Parmigiano-Reggiano all over its meaty FPS lasagne base. Now it clearly isn’t a RPG in the same way as Fallout or The Witcher or Baldur’s Gate is, but it does have those flavourful crunchy nuggets of RPG elements mixed up in there. I, however, am not talking about functionality or mechanics, loot tables or the levelling up that is bestowed unto the player by these associated RPG elements. What I mean by role playing in this case is that, more than any other single player/co-op FPS game that I can care to remember, you are being constantly encouraged and rewarded by the effect you are having upon both your enemies and your teammates. The role that you are playing. Not through dialogue choices or a colour-coded morality wheel, but through the weapons and abilities that you bring to bear on your opponents, and the well-defined niche that you are filling inside of the team dynamic. More words coming at you in the next paragraph...
In a 4 player co-op campaign game of Halo 3 (which is great fun, by the way), you have a ‘role’ as part of the team in relation to the weapons that you are carrying, which in turn probably comes from your skill and ability with those said weapons. There are certain people who are expert snipers, and will never pick up a hammer or a sword, then there will be those people that prefer to stick with plasma weapons in order to effectively rip through enemy shields and so and so forth. Due to the weapon balancing that Bungie does in its Halo games you are actively encouraged to change weapons as the situation demands it, you cannot physically reach out to an opponent who is 300 feet away with a shotgun, so you must switch up or scavenge up something else to deal with the threat. Ideally, your teammates will be aware that you are holding the sole shotgun among your group, and therefore target the enemies that you can not...ideally...
Now, these roles as defined by balance of player ability and weapon limitation in Halo 3 are morphed into something quite refreshing when we look at how Borderlands handles things, at least in my gorgeous watery blue eyes. You have quick access to any one of four weapons (not quite from the beginning of the game, but still early in the grand scheme of things), with no restrictions as to what kind of weapon you are able to use at any particular time. Unlike what we find in the Halo games, where every weapon behaves in the same way every time, you are able to supplement and upgrade the effectiveness of your armaments in Borderlands. This, of course ties into those scrummy RPG elements mentioned earlier, upgrading and levelling up and whatnot. But what I feel that Borderlands is giving me here is a continual feedback loop where I become more and more invested in using a weapon, along with the feeling that I'm playing into the role that the combat rifle is best suited to.
I’ve just spent all that time just rambling about how I think the combat rifles in Borderlands feel rewarding to use.
I THINK WE’LL END THIS TRAINWRECK THERE FOR NOW THANKS!?
I'll sit quietly and think about what I done, and try to form actual real boy thoughts about this game and talk about other goods things that are on the inside of it, suffice it to say that it's still a great game overall and it remains as enjoyable as ever. And except for the slight inconvenience caused by the lack of warp points inside of the DLC levels, I have learnt to love it all over again. The warp points are just a minor issue that I’m sure Randy has personally fixed for Borderlands 2, which will drop into my gaping British computer machine in 45 days time.
I have not caught on fire or been shot at, I would therefore consider this to be an extremely profitable summer for me. Profitable, that is, in my own sense of happiness, safety and comfort. You could say that I'm currently running a surplus of comfort, by which I mean that I’ve realised that I am exceptionally physically lazy and quite unhealthy for my age. These aspects of my life I am very much working on to improve. However, I have another aspect of my being that I need to impress upon myself to cultivate, something much trickier to mold and refine than muscle and flesh...the human mind...my human mind...mer thinkin’ dome.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a 2000 word sob story about how stupid I think I am, and how much I feel sorry for myself due to my many failings. What I want to get out there is that everyone should learn about something that they never knew about before. At least once a day. Every day. Even if it’s boring or something you’ve never cared about previously, even if it’s reading or watching or listening to something about some person who lived 2400 years ago, or some field of science or sociology or technology that you never even considered ‘for you’. Just try and learn. Spend a few minutes reading about the rules to a sport you’ve never heard of, or how IPS LCD screens work, and then try and talk to other people about what you’ve discovered. Who knows, you might just strike up a conversation with the world’s foremost Ga-ga ball or Pyotr Nesterov expert.
If you already learn stuff, then good on ya, I’d love to hear what you’ve recently found out about this Mad Mad Mad Mad World. If not, then why not give it a fair old shake and see what falls out of the bountiful information tree growing atop the hillock of the human condition. Even as the sun is starting to set on this, the most pleasant of Earthly seasons, we can still try to keep a bright ray of knowledge streaming through the darkened canopy of our own ignorance and my god what am I talking about.
I will report back with my findings, in the meantime...
Always be learning.
So...how has your summer been? No...your Real Summer
We did it guys, as if we were waging our very own campaign of righteous justice against a foul bastion of wickedness and immorality, we won. We Won The Steam Summer Sale 2012. Give yourselves a big ole round of applause and a hearty pat on each other’s backs, at the same time. There have been a few Giant Bomb threads regarding the good and bad sides to this most recent sale, as well as the varying opinions expressed by some of the Giant Bomb staff. I fall on the side of having greatly enjoyed sampling a few choice morsels of cheap video game meringue, lovingly spread over my lemony Steam library curd filling. Whilst my library is not ‘complete’, I am getting to the point where I have the vast majority of games that I could ever wish for. Except, that’s what I thought last year. And the year before that.
What follows is a list of what amounts to my haul for this year:
Total = £35.94 (which is about $56.15 in the new money)
If I were to buy all of those games today, I would be looking at a grand total of £131.94 ($206.14 or €165.95 or ¥1313.96). At the time of writing this, only one of these games has been played to any great degree. And it’s one that I had already put dozens of hours into when it was originally released three years ago. Stupid me, right? But that’s the thing, so long as you’re playing something that you want to, how are you really disadvantaging yourself? The game isn’t going anywhere, and what if you feel like digging yourself into an Empire: Total War trench and playing that for an entire week sometime in the future? Well, I say you’re not hurting anyone, least of all yourself, if you’ve bought a game that you don’t end up playing for a bit/six months! Those who drop £200 on each sale, year after year, and play only one of those hundreds of games; are the ones with more money than sense and they should be rightly mocked for being rather silly indeed.
I will play them all. I will. I swear this unto you Gabe.
What if I write words about me playing them as well?
For those of us privileged enough to be classed as Premium Subscribers, we got to drop in on Vinny and Dave and Jeff and Karen last Friday, and shoot the shit via Skype (as well as a bloody phone call, someone actually phoned in...ON A TELEPHONE!), I was lucky enough to be picked for the second time in a row on this show (the last one was primarily about Dave and Alexis chatting about the slog they have to go through to Rebuild the Bomb). And after some brief Olympics banter and a M4 motorway quip from Jeff, I got down to spurting out my question into Dave's ears.
It was the same question as last time.
Then things went a little creepy, in a good way.
You shoulda been there, man.
The Big Live Show V3 is coming to our screens and lives pretty soon, by the way. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say when, but Jeff did let us in on that super hot secret date, if you were there then you know. If you weren’t, then, well, you only have yourself to blame don’t you?
Well, that was something wasn’t it? Allow me to leave you with these last few things, a parting gift if you will.