Despite having SSX in my possession, I've been taking intermittent turns between that game and other things, mostly in order to give my fingers a rest from doing insane goddamn runs over and over. The main game I keep returning to is The Old Republic, a game which many have had complaints about while I've been mostly alright with. The experience has been fun as hell, and there are a ton of positives about that game. Last night, unfortunately, I ran into one problem that just pisses me off a little more than I care for.
That problem is the normal Operations. For those not in the know, Old Republic breaks its instances down into two groups: Flashpoints (your normal instances) and Operations (raids). Flashpoints come in the normal and hard mode varieties, offering separate loot tables for each. Each hard mode Flashpoint drops one piece of Columi gear from the end boss, the second best tier set in the game. Meanwhile, the raids come in three different varieties: normal, hard, and nightmare. The Hard and Nightmare modes drop the best tier set in the game, Rakata. Meanwhile, the normal mode drops Columi and Tionese (Tionese being the third best set in the game by most considerations). This sounds all fine and dandy...until you look at the actual statistics of it as well as how goddamn infuriating it is that such a flawed design can happen with raids.
That's not to say that flawed design choices don't exist elsewhere in the game. However, the way looting works in raids is kind of fucking stupid. In Hard and Nightmare, you can either flat-out roll for the gear like you would any other instance...or I'm assuming you can set up master looter. Maybe not. I haven't seen it happen once. However, in normal mode raids, the loot that drops...which is Columi, remember that...is automatically rolled on amongst the classes that could use said piece of gear - even if they already have that piece of gear or something better.
FUCKING REALLY? Don't get me wrong, folks: I'm already geared out in Columi and Rakata mix, so I don't need anything from the normal mode raids. I got lucky in the one Hard Mode raid that I've done so far to get a good handful of gear already, plus I've been running hard mode Flashpoints for a while. I also understand the purpose of why the normal mode raid looting system is set up this way: it helps to stop ninjas from stealing gear in PUGs. However, it creates another problem: denying people the gear that they could very much use. Moreover, why would you even BOTHER running a normal mode operation AT ALL when you KNOW you can just do a particular flashpoint at least seven times in one week...which will more than likely total the amount of time you spend in a normal operation ANYWAYS...
The math just doesn't work out, folks. It doesn't, and it's frustrating to see such poor design in a game that I personally feel is pretty damn solid for what has been released. I'm still always finding stuff to do, and I haven't gotten to do a whole lot of progression through the raids and such yet. I've got achievements, crafting, mounts, all kinds of stupid shit to keep me occupied in the game, even if all of it isn't the most important shit in the world according to the world of Old Republic.
However, how do you actually launch such a flawed raid setup and continue to let it live like this when you as a company are more than likely sitting around saying "goddamn, this is so fucking stupid, what were we thinking?"
So...last night, I did my first...and beyond getting any achievements out of them...last normal mode operation. They are pointless. There's no need for it. It's a waste of space and development time that could've gone towards...I don't know...fixing some bugs that still exist in the game.
I'm not unsubbing or anything. I just need to vent my frustrations. That's all. With the 1.2 patch on the horizon, a lot of things are changing up and being fixed. Hopefully, this is one of those things.
I've been waiting patiently for February 28th to come around. By patiently, I mean I've had to buy one of those things that keeps you from grinding your teeth and playing on Bulldog non-stop in the SSX demo until I would eventually accomplish what many others have done: buying SSX. Ladies and gentlemen, that day has finally drawn nigh. The skies have opened up, the rain of the SSX world is pouring on our blessed souls, and it is both refreshing and full of life.
There are few games out there which could bring this level of giddiness to me, those being the words "new Vagrant Story" coming from Matsuno-san's mouth and Level 5 spouting off "Dark Cloud 3". Every gamer in existence have those few games which they will always be unapologetic about, sure. However, there are the very few games which make them pop a raging nerd-boner that refuses to go limp. Those are the three for me, and I now have a game in my hand that I will LITERALLY dump as much time into as I did with WoW (that's from launch until the end of Lich King for anyone curious). I know that seems weird to hear, that someone can dump that much time into a snowboarding game. However, I grew up in an arcade atmosphere, and there's nothing like high scores and the challenge of keeping them that drives me to achieve my own personal greatness.
So I hope to "see" everyone possible on the slopes. I've already gotten a million different friend requests and accepted as many as possible. Meanwhile, I figured I would throw up what my custom soundtrack will consist of for the game, just so you know what I'll be jamming as I tear into the slopes...
Goldfinger - "Superman"
Sylosis - "Teras"
Thrice - "Under A Killing Moon"
Chemical Brothers - "Elektrobank"
36 Crazyfists - "The Heart and The Shape"
Collective Soul - "Shine"
A Dozen Furies - "The Everlasting Grudge"
Sponge - "Plowed"
Led Zeppelin - "Rock and Roll"
Spineshank - "Synthetic"
The Offspring - "Killboy Powerhead"
Filter & Crystal Method - "(Can't You) Trip Like I Do"
Canned Heat - "Going Up The Country" (thanks to Skate 3 for making me think of this one)
When Alan Wake's American Nightmare was announced, I got giggly with excitement. While many bemoan the combat of the original game and others herald the atmosphere and story that this "franchise" offers, there was a part of me that simply got excited because of a simple idea: more Alan Wake. The first game ranked at #2 for me in my 2010 Top 25 Games. It was the mixture of atmosphere, story, characters, pacing and most importantly a constant sense of mystery that made Bright Falls a wonderful place to visit.
It's all of these things, however, that American Nightmare truly lacks, particularly in the first three of those aforementioned fields. It's something that will drive any Alan Wake fan absolutely batty. Sure, you can say "well, what did you expect from a $15 downloadable game", and I will reply with "a lot...because it's a proven formula".
Take a look at Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, a perfect and shining example of how to take the core game and bring it down in size yet still capture everything that the full game could potentially be. It's about being a bite-sized chunk while making sure it's a truly satisfying experience. Granted, I never actually PLAYED Dead Rising 2 because there was not a single friend of mine that could recommend it, and that is rarely a good sign to purchase a game. Regardless, that little $10 downloadable was fucking excellent. In turn, why couldn't Alan Wake's American Nightmare be the same?
I don't want to say that the atmosphere isn't there, but little details that made the atmosphere work correctly are missing. There's no darkness fog that gets thicker as you walk into areas you shouldn't be in. Instead, you have invisible walls. The game isn't all that dark anyways, so you never feel like there is something out there you can't see. Even something as small as just pushing X to reload your weapon rather than mashing that button to reload faster makes a massive difference. The sprint lasts longer before exhaustion kicks in. The checkpoints are frequent. The enemies are too basic and non-threatening. Ammo is readily available at all turns, so much so that there is a box which will automatically give you full batteries and full ammo on your guns. The guns are incredibly powerful, basically handing you carbines and submachine guns and shotguns as if they were water: always flowing and never drying up. The characters (what few of them exist) are wooden statues with moving mouths, not the active and meaningful types you found in Alan Wake proper. Even then (***SPOILERS***), they rarely survive long enough to be meaningful anyways (***END SPOILERS***). The mini-map gives too much information.
Essentially, Alan Wake's American Nightmare is hand-holding in the most egregious way possible. If anything, it's downright insulting to what Alan Wake was all about.
Why? What possible notion would make Remedy say "let's take out all the things that made Alan Wake unique and what it was supposed to be?". Was it sales numbers? Was it to try being like everyone else? Yeah, yeah...we know. It's "not a sequel" and they "focused on action" and blah blah blah. That's fine, but they could've left plenty of those things I mentioned above in this game instead of sacrificing them on an altar of sales numbers and mainstream popularity. Hell, even the DLC for Alan Wake was able to hold onto all of those elements while also introducing new ones and STILL remain more compelling than American Nightmare.
With American Nightmare, we get something that's not even quite a watered-down Dr. Pepper. We get that glass of lemonade that has been sitting around at room temperature for about six months while we've just been walking through a desert for two hours. We'll take it because it's what's there, but it doesn't mean the taste is what we want.
Unfortunately, this is a double-sided blade. We as consumers are supposed to vote with our dollars, right? Here's the dilemma that Remedy has created for themselves. If we vote by buying American Nightmare in droves, we are saying "we want a watered-down experience of hand-holding". However, we already voted on Alan Wake, a game that eventually became profitable but did not see the sales that Microsoft or maybe even Remedy was hoping for when it came out. In short, we've more than likely doomed Alan Wake already no matter which way we go.
Two weeks ago, the possibility of picking up The Darkness II immediately looked like a bit of a stretch. Thanks to Powerup Rewards as well as the guy in front of me that was trading in a fresh copy of The Darkness II, I ended up picking the game up for about $33 total. If anything, it felt like a sign that I had to play the game.
The first Darkness game was something special. Starbreeze took a fantastic comic book series and crafted a story into their game that was both heart-wrenching and well-paced. At the same time, it wasn't just the story that made it matter. The developer took the time to pay attention to the characters; giving them the time necessary to gain an attachment to them allowed for the dynamics of the story to hit that much harder. It was the first video game I ever played that forced me to put down the controller at a difficult climax in the game (those who have played it know exactly what I'm talking about) and walk away from the console. It was a tough blow, a punch to the stomach like someone had a fistful of quarters when they did it. My heart sank...
Fast forward to now.
The Darkness II is here, made by a different developer altogether: Digital Extremes. The level of worry I had going into this game was (I feel) rightfully justified. These are the same guys that brought us Dark Sector and are more involved with multiplayer gaming like Unreal Tournament and the multiplayer component of Bioshock 2 than single player games with expressive character. It makes you ask yourself "can they do this story and its characters justice?"
Seeing a developer respect the material they are working with is a beautiful thing to behold. Very few can ever truly capture that essence of magic - melting good gameplay with characters that make you genuinely "feel". Playing through The Darkness II, you would almost think that Starbreeze was still on the job. Digital Extremes looked at how revered the first game was and made sure to keep that essence which made it meaningful. They delivered a solid story with gripping climaxes and unforgettable moments of character development, but they also kept things that made the first game feel unique (such as the loading screens where Jackie delivered monologues while sitting down in a dark room). They improved the core gameplay mechanics drastically, making it a far more playable game. If anything, Digital Extremes built upon what the first game made, and all the additions were astoundingly good and necessary things. However, the core of the game still lies in how the story and characters are handled.
Jackie lost the love of his life in the first game during a rather painful and vicious scene to behold. It's one of the most memorable moments in gaming for me, solely because of the juxtaposition at play and how well it was executed. Here you are, a man with this power that makes you all-fucking-powerful. However, despite all that power, you are completely helpless when you need that power the most. You can't do anything but watch. Digital Extremes pulls that same thing off again in The Darkness II, and as tragic as it is to behold, it is goddamn beautiful to see a developer who isn't afraid to go there.
It's the one thing that I feel The Darkness has over many other games out there: it has the emotional gravitas and capability to go where few are ever willing to go, and it will always deliver that punch to the gut. Every time I had to make a choice in The Darkness II, I put the controller down and walked away. How can I choose which one of two characters takes a bullet at my order when I care about them both? How can I make a choice whether to stay or leave behind someone I care about so much?
Sure, there are guns and you shoot things. That's great and all, it works fine. Whatever. It's not the reason I'm playing the game. They make all that enjoyable enough for me to get to the parts I genuinely want to see: the story, the characters, and how it all plays out. If you are playing The Darkness II for the shooting aspect, enjoy the eight hours of doing 5-10 different executions over and over followed by using the same 8-10 weapons over and over. If you are playing The Darkness II for what the game is actually about (the world it creates), you are in for a treat as it delivers in spades.
The biggest testament I can give to The Darkness II is its ending. No, I'm not talking about the big reveal. I'm talking about the moment before that. You save Jenny's soul, and right afterwards, the credits roll. When you are done with the credits (you know, by skipping them), it puts you right back to where you were: holding the woman you love after freeing her from the Hell she's been in. One single option comes up, a single button to press in order to finish the game out...
Everyone knows that EA has a penchant for rebooting shit. In the month of February alone, we're getting two reboots - Syndicate is being reimagined as a first-person shooter and SSX is being brought back from the rigor mortis status that On Tour and Blur cursed the franchise with. Both have a lot of marketing around them, and even a decent level of hype. We've also seen a reboot of the Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit portion of the NFS franchise, which turned out to be a fantastic game that pulled in out of left field. There are even rumors that reboots of Army of Two and Dead Space are in the pipeline (one of which thoroughly confounds me to no end).
However, there are many franchises that fans have been asking to have rebooted...and yet it seems that those words fall upon ever-deafening ears. What's even weirder is the fact that EA has the studios in place already to make these reboots happen pretty easily. The question is "why not?".
For instance, there are millions upon millions of Madden fans around the world, but the biggest problem you face is the constant criticism of how the games are always the same. Sure, the easy answer is to say "IT'S FUCKING NFL FOOTBALL, HOW THE FUCK DO YOU WANT IT TO BE DIFFERENT, YOU WHINY SHITS?". However, the proper answer would be to reboot the Mutant League series of games. For many of us, Mutant League Football was a fond memory of blood, violence, and pigskin mayhem that we are ready to see again. Beyond that, it would give you a chance to change the rules, make football something a bit more interest, and yet you could still keep Madden to your "simulation" style all the same. It's a win-win situation, and with the largest team of developers dedicated to sports in the industry as well as a penchant for rebooting classic over-the-top franchises like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz, there should be little to no reason why you aren't expanding your portfolio with some Mutant League action.
Another prime example of how perfectly things can come together is to take a look at the Strike franchise. David Jaffe recently mentioned Jungle Strike in a brief pass-by during his DICE 2012 keynote and it got me thinking: people have asked for years why the Strike franchise has just been sitting around to rot, but EA has given us no answer. What's more interesting is that EA dumped resources and time into trying to make Medal of Honor such a huge hit because of the popularity of not just Call of Duty but modern wartime games in general. However, they had a game franchise that was already involved in political ideals as well as wartime scenarios that could've easily been used. Bringing a new version of the Strike games out with that same isometric camera angle but with modern day graphics and sound technology would be pure gaming sex. Where is the reboot of this heralded franchise, EA?
The crowning jewel of mistreatment from EA falls on the shoulders of a one-time behemoth, the mightiest of the mighty: Road Rash. This high-speed mixture of racing and brawling was on the road to high success...and then came Road Rash 3D and Road Rash 64 (the latter of which was actually developed and published by THQ), two games that failed to be either financially or critically successful. What went wrong? It's a perfect and relatively easy formula to figure out: go fast and beat a motherfucker up while you do it. Can you imagine going at 100mph in a game based on today's technology, whipping a chain in the air and causing a guy to get plastered into a wall? CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW FUCKING AWESOME THAT WOULD BE?! You have Criterion sitting over in the corner with rumors swirling for a while that they are secretly working on a new Road Rash game. Are they?
These are three sacred franchises from EA's past that many fans have been rabid to see reboots for. Why hasn't this happened? Many of those fans may not realize this, but it could rest squarely on the shoulders of what was a seemed attempt by the company to garner interest in the games for a new generation: EA Replay. This compilation featured all three of the franchises talked about in this blog: Road Rash, the Strike franchise (specifically Jungle Strike and Desert Strike) and Mutant League Football. The compilation was not only poorly advertised, but it was made exclusively on a handheld system that was notorious for its ease of piracy. In turn, EA Replay only sold around 70,000 units, thereby damning any chances of the franchises coming back...
...or so it would seem. Another game featured on that same compilation is seeing a reboot release this month: Syndicate. Therefore, the question stands: is there enough interest amongst the gaming community to get EA to support reboots of these beloved franchises?
The purpose of my Knee-Jerk Reaction blogs is to give a perspective of the first hours of a game, the ones that help define whether you will continue playing it or put it down in favor of something else. These are not any form of FINAL opinions on the game, but merely early observations that could or could not change through the course of more gameplay.
Total game time so far: 5 hours
Kingdoms of Amalur takes out the stale combat of many RPGs and looks at it from a fresh standpoint like most action-oriented games would. If anything, I think the closest comparisons that can be made is a limited version of the systems found in Bayonetta with a flavor of the feel from El Shaddai. You have your primary weapon and secondary weapon, as well as spells, and you can pretty much combo those in any way that you want to take down an enemy. This type of "free-form combat" is something that many RPGs could take note of, as it would easily lift them up to a higher status.
The game also does a great job of realizing its world. Despite the relatively linear way that things seem to feel (it's a bit more Fable and Dark Souls than it is Skyrim), the immensely large world is vibrant and well-stocked with some interesting people to talk to and enemy types that feel original. We've all seen kobolds before, but these kobolds don't feel like many of the others we typically see in RPGs. You can tell that Big Huge Games had a lot of fun developing the art assets for this game, as they are creative and unique to the world.
The other great thing about Kingdoms of Amalur is in how it handles classes. The Destinies system was one of the major selling points, and this could've been an easy hit-or-miss scenario. Luckily, having the ability to free-form my own class with the skills that I want and not have to rely on strictly being a warrior or strictly being a sorcerer is incredible. The actual Destiny cards themselves are little more than some stat bonuses (more crit chance, more melee damage, more spell damage, etc), but you feel unique regardless of it all. Kudos to the developers for this.
There are a lot of little things that Kingdoms of Amalur also gets right. There are bags already given to you for holding onto reagents, crafting materials, and other things to help keep your inventory space a bit freed up. Also, there is no encumbrance in the game, but instead it is handled by inventory spaces (you start with 70 and can buy different backpacks later with more spots available). The dungeons are well-designed and rarely feel like you are walking into something you've already seen. The faction side stories are just as well-told as the main storyline, something that Skyrim cannot say for itself. I also give mad props to the developers for having a plethora of different weapon types to play around with. Despite having points in greatswords and faeblades at the moment, that hasn't stopped me from playing around with chakrams, bows, daggers, longswords, and even staves. Giving a player variety in a game focused on role-playing is necessary to keep a player intrigued in your combat as well as the gear they pick up.
None of that is to say KoA doesn't have its problems early on. While the combat is more action-oriented, it never feels like the breakneck pace that you WANT it to be. There are also times where you feel like something should've connected in your combo, but it didn't. Some of this could be faulted to the relatively wonky camera that the game uses, as it gets rather scatterbrained and never seems to focus on the combat at hand. This leaves you swinging at things that are somewhere off-camera and wasting precious time fiddling with the camera angle rather than kicking ass. That same camera also could do for being pulled back a little bit, as the up-front style of it really makes me think of Fable a little more than I'd like to.
My other major issue with Kingdoms of Amalur is that a lot of the game feels like it is filled with all the tropes of an RPG...solely to be filled with those tropes, like there was a checklist that said "yes, we have crafting...yes, we have socketing...yes, we have alchemy...yes, we have persuasion and lockpicking and blah blah blah". Some of that stuff is very under-realized. The lockpicking in particular feels a bit clunky and generally easier than you would find in a Bethesda game. I can think of only three times that I've actually had to move the lockpick from its starting position. The magic lockpicking (called dispelling) feels like it was added as a form of variety to the traditional lockpicking mechanism, but it becomes rather irritating because of what feels like a relative amount of inaccuracy when trying to activate the lockpicking runes in the little mini-game it presents.
I should also mention something about loot here. I love loot. Loot in games is one of the biggest reasons I play RPGs. Yes, I dig the stories that they present and want to know about the world and the inhabitants of that world. However, when it comes down to it, we all just want to look like badasses and chop heads off. The biggest problem with many RPGs comes in devaluing the "carrot-on-a-stick" mentality that most RPGs need in order to continue progressing. For example, I should not have purple gear by level 10...from doing story quests. That's just a bad way of handling your color grading, and in turn, you have now devalued the color grading completely by giving me these epics at a low level. I also should not be getting "set bonuses" by level 10. Throwing out sets all willy nilly at early levels makes a lot of other armor completely worthless to a person. Someone took time to program that stuff, and it will more than likely never be seen now. In turn, this means you as a developer have now made it to where people are going to say "I'm not going to replace my purple with a green, even though that green has some more damage than this does".
There are also a lot of other things that hold Kingdoms back from giving me that super tingly feeling of absolute, unadulterated awesomeness. Jumping is handled via a Zelda-esque "jump point" function, meaning that you can't just scale up a few rocks to get to the path you want and instead have to travel an arbitrary distance. This is also something that helps make the game feel a bit more linear than it actually is. The inventory system is relatively clunky, as if it were designed sometime around the end of the PlayStation 2 era. It's serviceable, but there have been great strides made in something as simple as inventory management. There's also an unnecessary density of side quests that feel like little more than menial tasks that you would find in an MMO - get this many of this item, go fetch this, go do things for me because I'm goddamn lazy. Mind you, there are plenty of times that the NPCs you receive those quests from will make fun of the fact that they won't go do these menial tasks themselves, so the self-awareness is nice. However, there's this feeling brewing up in me that thinks all the side quests are eventually going to feel like artificial padding for gameplay time. Maybe it's because I'm not approaching Kingdoms of Amalur like an MMO, which a look at the world map will tell anyone who has played an MMO before exactly the design philosophy of the game. Crafting feels nigh useless so far, especially if we go back to the whole idea of "devaluing" your gear by giving out epics through the main and side storylines. Even then, it never feels like the crafting system is superbly explained, and something that feels completely unexplained are the different diseases, curses, and other status effects that pop up on the right hand side of your HUD. I know that I'm picking up these buffs from different shrines around the world, but what the fuck do they do? TELL ME WHAT THEY DO!
I like it...a lot. Despite all the negatives I can give about it, it's an RPG and I'm only five hours in on a character that is melee-focused. The combat and world more than make up for dealing with nearly decade-old mechanics. The Destinies system raises the bar for all RPGs beyond this to give players more freedom in their "role-playing". If anything, I think that's what I can best classify Kingdoms of Amalur as for me right now: it's a game that's more about playing your role and kicking ass than it is about all of its "RPG checklist" systems. We'll see if these opinions stay the same when I hit over 50+ hours in the game.
What about you? How are you feeling about the game? What are YOUR knee-jerk reactions? Do you agree or disagree? Keep the discussion going.
You know what sucks? The thing that really drives me nuts?
When the gaming industry wants to drop four games in one month while I'm in the middle of doing some major work that is going to keep me from buying those games.
In particular, I'm working on doing some restoration work to my 1991 Mustang - about $1200 work of work. In the meantime, the gaming industry has decided that January and February have turned around from being the "dumping ground for shitty games" into "the timeframe we release games that will be pretty damn awesome and we just couldn't quite squeeze them into the holidays".
Fuck you, gaming industry, for making this difficult. I love gaming, but I love my car more. This means that you have forced my hand. The only two games that I will be purchasing this month are Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and SSX. I will not be dumping money out for The Darkness II and Syndicate after all, as that is essentially the cost of my A/C compressor, and I don't feel like throwing that much out on games that I know will be $20 cheaper in two months.
That's part of the problem with game buying now, isn't it? You go to the store to pick that shiny new copy up on day one, and then you get that sinking in your heart a couple of months later when it's $20 cheaper. Luckily, I've got this lovely little system in my brain where I can tell if a game is going to hit that lower price bracket soon. Want the secret? Here you go...
1. Is it published by EA? If the answer is yes and the game doesn't sell a million out of the gate, then expect it to be $40 within two months.
2. Is it published by Activision? If the answer is yes and it is not Call of Duty, then expect it to be $40 within two months.
3. Is it a game that you've seen a lot of advertisement for but not a lot of people talking about on forums? If the answer is yes, expect it to be $40 within two months.
4. Is it critically panned? Two months, if not shorter...
Given that three of the four games I want happen to be from EA, I feel like I'm in luck. Nonetheless, I already have my pre-orders (yeah yeah, I know, I hate them too) for KoA and SSX.
What about you guys? Which games this month are you picking up, if any? Are you going to be waiting around for some to get cheaper?
There are always people that want to say what you as a gamer prefer to play is somehow "wrong" or "stupid", some even going so far as to say you play "bad games" just because they don't like the specific genre. You see it a lot with Call of Duty players towards others, and that same feeling seems to get reciprocated a lot. However, how do you handle it when these situations come up?
Recently, my friend and I were discussing games that we are looking forward to playing in 2012 - specifically, the early part of 2012. Amidst the nods of "more Dark Souls" and "more Skyrim" and "Old Republic" and "Kingdoms of Amalur", it became quickly apparent to me that I had dropped a bombshell of hype on him that he wasn't ready to hear, like he needed to grab onto something because the blast seemed too much for him to bear. I said the following words:
"SSX is going to own my soul this year. I guarantee that I will put more hours into that game than anything else."
He seemed blown away by this, asking how the hell someone could possibly put that over stuff like Dark Souls, Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, and Old Republic. Thus, I had to explain to him my obsession with SSX 3, the pinnacle of the franchise. It is no lie to say that I put more play time into SSX 3 than pretty much any other game in my life, barring World of Warcraft and possibly Vagrant Story. There may be a few others, but they don't come to my mind immediately. The point of the matter is this: I got every Platinum medal in the game, posted up on message boards with high scores as often as possible, and in general was very fucking good at SSX 3.
In this lies a problem, though: how do I explain why I spent so much time in a game where you are essentially just going down a track and doing tricks? How do you make someone who has never played the game and has little interest in doing so understand "there's a thrill in doing these tricks, getting the big air, going fast, and the general atmosphere"? I don't feel like I have to justify why I like a game to anyone. However, it's not like he's saying "oh, fuck that game, it sucks". Instead, it's an understanding that we both like different kinds of games (he loves Soul Calibur, I'm not a huge fan) but I can't explain to him why I'll put more hours into SSX than he'll put into Skyrim or Dark Souls.
There are few that can even understand the level of hype I have for SSX. This is something I've been waiting for since playing SSX on Tour and being thoroughly saddened and disappointed by what it was. I've been dying to see only a handful of games get their proper dues in sequel form: Vagrant Story 2, Dark Cloud 3, SSX, Fear Effect 3, and a new Kain/Raziel game.
It's like all the people waiting for Persona 5 or some other illusive game that never seems to get closer. This time, though...it is finally happening.
I'm ready for SSX. I'm ready for the slopes, the peaks, the spills, the tricks, the speed, the ambiance, the atmosphere, the soundtrack, the leaderboards, the RiderNet...EVERYTHING!
Tomorrow, on January 18th, many sites around the internet are planning either blackouts or some form of protest against two pieces of American legislation that are currently being considered by Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. Some of the world's largest internet entities have committed to the cause: Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit has all dedicated themselves to fighting this cause.
It's not enough.
Google merely plans to put up some wall of text on their home page to make people aware. What they don't seem to realize is that YouTube, a company they run, has already been spreading the message for a while now. Therefore, posting some fucking essay about how SOPA and Protect IP are bad isn't going to do more than what has already been done.
Wikipedia will be shutting down the English-language version of its website for 24 hours tomorrow. /slowclap Congrat-you-fucking-lations. Meanwhile, I'm going to open my browser up, load another version in some other language, and then hit the "Translate" button. It may not be perfect, but it will serve my purpose well enough.
Reddit will be going down for 12 hours. Whoop-tee-fuck.
The problem with protesting against something like this is that you need to be ballsy, and in corporate America, no one is willing to actually commit in fear that they are going to lose their fat-ass dirty dollars.
If Facebook shut down for a week solid...
If Google cut all of its services off for a week solid...
If Wikipedia killed its site for a week...
Would they lose money? Yeah. Would that make the shareholders worried? Yeah. They should already be worried about these bills passing and potentially killing the sites they have investments in. When it comes down to it, you as a company need to be willing to say "I am going to risk my business, my lifesblood...in order to see this legislation never passes, and I'm going to set an example to the world by showing how a bill like this can TRULY affect modern day living".
Personally, it could be the wish to see what kind of utter chaos would happen when someone can't tweet what they ate for breakfast or press "Like" on a status about how shitty the day was for them. I want to see people freaking out when they actually have to RETAIN knowledge rather than pulling out their Google smartphone to look on a Google search engine what 8 x 2 equals.
I want people to realize that they are too reliant on technology so they can understand the harm these bills will impose.
But instead...instead, we get a bullshit protest. We get a handful of websites that say "we're going to make sure we're still remaining profitable, but we're gonna show Congress by waving our fist in the air and telling them how bad this legislation is".
Lead by example, not by lies.
Until next time...
"Blackouts" have started.
Google put up a Google Doodle of their name censored out. If you click it, it tells you some stuff about SOPA and Protect IP...but only if you click it...and only if you want to learn about it. The search engine is still fully functional. LAWL
Wikipedia has killed the English version of their website. Luckily, you can just type in wikipedia.org with no prefix like "en", and then go to the Spanish version of the website...and have your browser translate it to English. As it turns out, you can then read it in pretty damn decent English (no more difficult to read than a lot of texts that people send nowadays anyways!).
SUPER...EFFECTIVE...PROTESTING. It may raise some awareness somewhere, but it's nothing more than a ding.
When the game was announced, I found it to be an odd way to go, but the things that my friends and I were coming up with as possibilities of what the game could offer got us incredibly excited. However, there's a lot of times when "the internet happens" and you just don't want it to. It feels almost like it has this painstakingly accurate way of shitting on your hopes and making you break down with a facepalm followed by a "why". That's what led me to not caring about The Old Republic - the negativity of those on the internet.
As a gamer and a person, I end up having these moments pop up right when certain games launch. For those who remember, I spewed nothing but venom and hatred for Fallout 3 before its release because of what seemed like blasphemy to what the previous games had been. However, upon release, my curiosity got the best of me and led me to be lined up at a local Wal-Mart to pick up a copy. Even then, I was told that all they had were the Lunchbox Editions. I threw down $80 for a game that I had just been talking non-stop shit about for the better part of a year. It was an instance where I was so relieved to find that the game was great.
Meanwhile, there are those times when those purchases just don't live up to anything, not even the slightest shred of hope...like Divinity II.
My friend asked if we were going to install The Old Republic on the computers at work, and I told him how Origin was a shit setup but we'd definitely look into it. He told me it didn't use Origin.
REALLY? Alright, you have me a little more intrigued.
After installing it...which was INCREDIBLY FUCKING EASY, I decided "eh, let's check it out for a little bit".
30 minutes later, I needed to buy the game. The Star Wars geekdom in me was tickled just right. Even though I only reached level 3 in the game, it showed me what I needed to see to commit: The Old Republic is a game where the money and production value that went into making it has proven to be a massive labor of love.
There are so many things that impress the hell out of me with The Old Republic. One of the worst parts of most MMOs is that the solo questing is always nothing more than a boring ass grind where you barely read any of the lore or story being given to you. With The Old Republic, BioWare puts that front and center. There have been many times that I've questioned whether this should've been a single player game out of the gate, as the focus on the story is great. All the voice acting is good, and the level of immersion I've already experienced with this world is deeper than anything I've seen before in an MMO.
There are also the smart choices in the little things, from how they handle crafting to the target marker icons used in marking different mobs. There are a fuckload of world bosses, plenty of instances, lots of heroic quests (some of which can be both lengthy and challenging), a real feeling of a WORLD that feels ALIVE and BREATHING.
Is it the most open world? No. Things do sometimes feel rather sectioned off and instanced, almost linear in design. However, I see it as being no different than something like the world of Dark Souls or even the world of Dragon Age: Origins. Both had good worlds while also still having a bit of a mapped-out, more linear approach. It's how you handle the context and the general aesthetic of that world, what tone it sets. The Old Republic handles all of that well.
The quests are smartly designed, as most of the times, quests have a bonus objective (almost not unlike Dungeons & Dragons Online) of "kill this many guys". The quests themselves, however, are generally the "get so many of these things" or "hey, go do this to that many things" types of setups. However, each of those things seems pretty well-reasoned when you are talking to the NPC that offers that quest. In previous MMOs, that stuff was just a grind. In here, that grind is masked behind a REASON to do that shit. I know why I poisoned the water supply at the Rebel Camps on Balmorra. I couldn't tell you why the fuck I ever had to poison anything in World of Warcraft.
That's where The Old Republic succeeds and many other MMOs...in my eyes now...fail - BioWare has found a way to engage the player into the world and the story that is unfolding, not just shove it aside as a grind to get paid.
All of this is nothing more than to say "thank you, BioWare...and I'm sorry for doubting you". Whether you care for MMOs or not, The Old Republic feels like a love letter to Star Wars fans while also feeling like the improvements that were needed in the world of MMOs. Many of those improvements are not necessarily new, but they are compiled together.