Rest In Peace, Ryan Davis

Fuck.

I didn't see the news about Ryan's passing until hours after it had hit the site. Reading the headline, I was, as so many others were, absolutely shocked. I felt like I had taken a bullet to the chest. With tears in my eyes, I've decided that I have to put something on paper that in some small way, pays homage to the incredible man that we've lost.

Ryan Davis was one of my biggest heroes, and a huge reason that I am pursuing the career that I am. He had the incredible ability to offer commentary that was at once hilarious, and deeply meaningful, and his infectious happiness on both audio and video put a smile on my face more times than I could ever count.

This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what an incredible critic Ryan was. His reviews of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Civilization 5 are, in my opinion, some of the best pieces of critical writing that this industry has seen.

Giantbomb will never, ever be the same without Ryan. It's times like these that I have to believe that there's something up there, waiting to greet him with open arms.

Seldom have I felt myself so deeply affected by the loss of someone, and I never even had the pleasure of meeting him. I can't imagine the pain and hardship that his close friends and family must be going through, and the depths of my condolences towards those people know no bounds.

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, sweet prince.

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A Response to "Game Theory" by Lucy Kellaway

After checking out Worth Reading this week I was intrigued by Lucy Kellaway's "Game Theory" article, and it's accompanying perspective piece from Matt Brice. Admittedly, my first response was nerd rage, but given that that's completely useless to furthering a discussion on the topic, I decided I'd try to put my thoughts into a blog post rather than just post a comment. For the record, the articles in question can be found here:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/41f8bcc0-1158-11e2-a637-00144feabdc0.html#axzz29UjVDD70

http://realtalkvideogames.tumblr.com/post/33804404262/take-us-seriously-but-please-none-of-that-highbrow

Now, the first criticism that can be leveled at Kellaway is the apathy at which she seems to approach the situation she's found herself in. I get that she doesn't play games, that's fine, but she's clearly not interested in doing too much work to appreciate them, and that seems to undermine the position she's accepted. That said, it is admirable that she made any effort at all to understand the medium. This cuts at the core of what bothers me about "outsiders" complaining about games. Very early in the article she writes about how the GameCity prize "wants to start a cultural conversation about video games and get people talking about them the same way they might talk about Ian McEwan's latest novel or the new Woody Allen movie." The problem here is that she's just pulled two names out of her hat that (arguably) represent modern pinnacles of their respective mediums. The only reason there is a "cultural conversation" about Woody Allen movies is because people "knowledgeable" in the medium have recognized the artistic value in his work. If you pulled a kid out of high school who grew up on Kung Fu movies and told him to judge a Jazz competition, he may have a similar appreciation for Herbie Hancock that Kellaway has for Mass Effect. That's kind of why I think this whole "GameCity" prize is a bit of a joke. High brow film critics lampoon things like the MTV Movie Awards, but hey, let's put a bunch of people who don't play or appreciate the intricacies of games or development in a room and ask them to pick the best. Inevitably you're going to end up with Journey being the most well received, it's the most like a Academy Award winning film (for the record, it's also deserving of any praise it gets, but that's not the point). To simply give up on Mass Effect because you don't feel an immediate connection to the character or controls is the equivalent of angrily switching the dial away from Chopin because the melodies are more than 5 notes long.

This brings me to Brice's blog post, in which he defends Kellaway's position. He argues that it's on game developers to make sure that players "get it." I desperately hope that his comments are falling on deaf ears. What's wrong with asking someone to do a little work to appreciate a piece of art? Furthermore, what's wrong with people not "getting it" in the first place? I've never met a gamer who wants games to be taken seriously because they want film critics to like them. Generally the argument for games as art comes either from a defensive place, or because we believe that International laws that protect art should extend to games. I don't particularly care if my grandfather wants to have a cultural discussion about Deus Ex, I'm already having that discussion with people who "get it." So at the end of the day, I commend Kellaway for trying, but she really doesn't have to, it's OK, she'd probably rather be reading Steinbeck anyway.

Sorry if this came off as too ranty!

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Free 2 Play

So I think I'm going on a free to play kick. It feels... strange...

When I was a kid, I devoured free to play games. Thing is, at the time they were all Korean MMOs, and none of them were that great. Looking back at some of the crap I played I really wish I could get some of that time back. That said, they were fun for me at the time because I didn't have money or a credit card. When I hit high school and got a job I stopped bothering with free to play titles. $15 a month went from prohibitively expensive to seeing one less movie a month. I suddenly became very much opposed to the free to play model, mostly because I thought it could sing the death knell of the traditional, AAA MMO.

Well, free to play looks pretty good now a days. I haven't tried much from the current crop of games, but Vindictus, LOTRO, Rusty Hearts and DDO are all now on my Steam list, and I'm kind of excited to put them through their paces. I also plan on hitting up the PSO 2 beta tomorrow night for TNT, though the entertainment I've gotten out of that game so far is mostly from the knowledge that it isn't technically "for" me (being a person who resides well outside of Japan).

The model that intrigues me the most right now (and I'm sure multiple games fit this) is that of DC Universe Online. The idea that I can play the game for free, but in order to play certain quest lines I have to throw down $10 is great in my opinion. It's a lot like Pocket Legends, a game that I am unashamedly a fan of. I think if MMOs can appropriately leverage this type of F2P model at large that they will be heading for a bright future.

Interesting stuff.

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And After a Long Hi-Atus

Hey all,

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Work has been pretty busy, I'm thinking about taking the blog down to a post a week. We'll see. After last week's "worth reading" and all the runoff from E3, gender equality in gaming has been on my mind. I think the issue is a deep seated thing, and is informed by the way women are portrayed and treated in society at large. That said, gaming can be a subculture that progresses gender relations rather than hinders it. Right now, it still comes off as a boy's club. Now I want to make it clear that I disagree with the notion that the ESA should outlaw booth babes, because I don't think some sort of governing body is in a position to quell the issue. Instead I think the solution lies with the gaming community, developers, publishers, and press. The press, first of all, can stop engaging positively with sexist behavior. I shouldn't see pictures of editors with booth babes in Game Informer, models reading from teleprompters on G4, or similar models telling athletes that they are "so hardcore" because they play Call of Duty on Spike. The burden, of course, partially lies on the consumer, because by consuming that media we only encourage this kind of behavior. Next, developers need to stop type casting women so much. Why is it that practically every female video game character is under dressed and under written? And why aren't there more female Master Chiefs, Marcus Fenixs and Nathan Drakes? This isn't to say that the occasional DOA or Lollypop Chainsaw shouldn't exist. There's a time and place for T&A, but we need it in much more moderation.

Next, publishers could stop pandering. Yes, games often have polygonal boobs in them, but how about showing me what makes the game good. I play DOA because I like the fighting system. If all I cared about was scantily clad women then there's an entire Internet of swimsuit photos and porn out there. Publishers could also stand to push for more realistic, strong female leads.

Finally, and most importantly, the community needs to be more accepting and friendly in general. This goes beyond the sexism issue. I can't tell you how many times I've been called a faggy dickweed by some stoned-out-of-his-mind teenager, or the times I've heard some 12 year old telling his mom to "fuck off bitch," during a game on XBLA. Usually people just stay quiet, but enough is enough. We, as adult, mature, well adjusted consumers of gaming media need to start speaking up on these services and make our voiced be heard as loud as them. There's nothing wrong with some language, but when it becomes derogatory, something needs to change.

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E3 2012 In Closing

I know, I know, the show ended Thursday, but my weekend got eaten up by the Guild Wars 2 beta (more on that later this week, in a word, it's good). I wanted to start this week off with my thoughts on the show as a whole. What I liked most about this E3 was the great mix of old and new. On the one hand, you had new IPs like the Last of Us, Playstation All Stars, Watch Dogs, and Zombi U. On the other hand, there were plenty of sequels like Halo 4, Assassin's Creed III, and Rayman Legends. Finally, there were some great "re-imaginings" of some classic games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown and SimCity. Overall, I felt like the mix of new IPs and old were pretty good, obviously I'd like to see even more new stuff, but it's hard to complain.

My least favorite aspect was the lack of any real surprises outside of Watch Dogs. We all knew the sequels were going to be there, we knew Quantic Dream's new game would get a reveal, we knew the Wii U would have more sequels to old games, nothing real got my goosebumps going (again, aside from Watch Dogs). This was disappointing, I had no "oh shit!" Moments like at E3s of yore. At any rate though, I should probably talk about my favorite games shouldn't I?

I'm not going to name my best of show, mostly because I would have to list four games. First of all, the Last of Us looks absolutely stunning, and I have no doubt it will be everything it promises. Naughty Dog has never made a misstep in my opinion, and this looks like the best work they've ever done. Next, Assassin's Creed III looks killer. I want that game so bad, and the fact that there's something of a companion piece on Vita is super exciting as well. Third, Watch Dogs does look very promising. Yes, the shooter sequence was a bit of a turn off, but as discussed on the day 3 Bombcast, I have a feeling that combat might be something you can avoid if you play your cards right. Finally, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is easily my most anticipated game of the year at this point. Firaxis has never done wrong, and that game looks like a wonderful adaptation of one of the greatest strategy games ever conceived. My only concern is the console port, as I will be playing it on Xbox, I'd also love some kind of co-op option, as this is a game I'd love to enjoy with my dad over the interwebs.

So there it is, what I loved and didn't love at yet another Electronic Entertainment Expo. This year looks pretty stacked, and I can't wait for holidays to be honest!

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From the bottom of the bottom, to the top of the tops

Hey all,

Sorry I didn’t have time to post yesterday, between actual work and trying to watch press conferences I didn’t have much time to write. I know I’m pushing back my top #10 feature AGAIN, but come on! It’s E3!

So on to press conference impressions:

Microsoft:

Started strong, I liked the Halo 4 demo, and the Splinter Cell stuff looked great. The issue I had with these is that they looked very similar to previous entries in their series, nothing new there. A lot of Microsoft’s press conference felt like I was watching CES, not E3. Smart glass looks like it could be interesting, but aside from being used as a playbook for Madden, I didn’t see very useful gaming applications come out of it. The Gears of War trailer was there… But we learned nothing about the game from it, so I’m going to gloss over it mostly. The talk of “new IPs” was very underwhelming. Wreckateer and the other games they showed looked very uninspiring to me, but who knows, maybe that weird looking Gore Verbinski game will be interesting. The app stuff was a complete bore in my opinion (OK, it’s not “for” me, fine) but the sports stuff was nifty. My concern is that I will have to pay through the nose to actually watch hockey on my Xbox, and I won’t be able to get in market games anyway, so it will probably be a waste for me given that my hometown team is my favorite team (go Red Wings!). By the way, what IS Forza Horizon? I mean, I get it, but why? It just seems unnecessary. Ending with Black Ops 2 was probably smart for them, but ultimately it reeked of “we don’t have any good first party stuff in the pipes, enjoy this multiplatform game demo!” All in all, Microsoft’s conference was a little bland, but they showed stuff that will be very important for them over the next year. Oh yea, almost forgot, USHER! You guys like him, right? He’s cool, isn’t he?

EA:

Where to begin? I guess I’ll start with Gears of Dead Space, *ahem* sorry, Freudian slip? Anyway, the Dead Space trailer was a joke if you ask me. Did anyone really want co-op in Dead Space? And where was the atmosphere and suspense that made the first game good? Finally, can anyone get a sentence out without dropping an F-Bomb? I swear like a sailor in daily conversation, but even I don’t do it that much. Really the only other thing I got out of the EA conference was sports, sports, sports… I like sports, but not to the extent that it was pushed at the conference yesterday. I guess it just goes to show how much of EA’s revenue comes from sports games, and I’m sure there were plenty that were pleased by it. The Need for Speed announcement was cool, but unsurprising. The Battlefield stuff was a given, and they seemed to emphasize it too much. Finally, the Medal of Honor demo seemed a little too much like Battlefield for my tastes. Again, the EA conference was… fine. No surprises, a little disappointing at times, but everything they showed will probably sell gangbusters.

Ubisoft:

Oh Ubi, what would we do without you? Finally, my blood got pumping a little. Aside from a really weird Far Cry 3 trailer, this conference was on fire in my opinion. Watch Dogs is up there for my game of show so far. It looked awesome based on the trailer, and to have a real demo, and not just a CG trailer, shows me that the game may actually come out this console generation. Assassin’s Creed III looked phenomenal as always, I can’t wait to get on the Connor train this holiday season. Rayman was neat, and a fun treat. I don’t know what to think about Zombi U, it could be great, but Zombies are a little tired, and they showed nothing but a brutal CG trailer. Aside from the games, there was a lot of dancing, and a lot of comedic misses from the host Aisha Tyler, I wasn’t a huge fan of the theatrics, but the games were rock solid. Oh yea, Shootmania looks great.

Sony:

If I had to pick a day one winner, I’d have to hand it to Sony. Playstation All Stars looked great, The announcement of the Big Daddy as a character was a great surprise, and the Beyond announcement was phenomenal. I can’t wait to see what Quantic Dream has up its sleeve next. The Wonderbook looked really interesting, not something I would necessarily want, but it could go a long way in getting families on board with the PS3. The announcements of Assassin’s Creed: Liberation on Vita, and CoD: Black Ops Declassified for Vita were both great news. I can’t wait to get into an AC game on my Vita, and having a competitive shooter to play on my lunch breaks should be a blast. The further content shown from Assassins Creed just had me salivating a little more, I hope the nautical stuff is persistent through more than just one mission. Finally, what will almost assuredly win game of the shows across the Internet, the Last of Us looked downright mind blowing. My early prediction is that it will be the defining game for a generation. Sony knows what they’re doing, and I think they took the cake.

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Hey, guess what? Steel Battalion doesn't suck!

I've always wanted Steel Battalion. To date myself a little, I was too young to have a job when the original came out for Xbox, and my parents were certainly not going to fork over the cash for the giant peripheral needed to play the game. Instead I would wander in to the local mom and pop game shop and play it on their demo unit when I had the chance. I still want that game, even though I have no means to play it, and I've heard from many a person that it is not worth the hassle to get it running. You see I grew up playing Mech Warrior extensively, and I've always wanted a game in that vein that really captured what it was like to be in the cockpit, not just running the mech from a keyboard. Imagine my elation upon hearing a new SB game was in the works. Then imagine my sigh of disappointment upon hearing that it was going to be a Kinect game. After hearing about it on the Bombcast and seeing trailers though, I decided to stand cautiously optimistic. I even bought a Kinect and an Xbox last month (I had gotten rid of my fat model a couple years ago). Outwardly, I told my friends and family that it was for Dance Central, Halo, and Alan Wake. Inwardly, however, I knew it was because I was holding a torch for Steel Battalion.

You can see how I would be exited to play the demo then. I didn't know that it was out this week, I've been too enraptured by Diablo III (and strangely, the Witcher during server downtime) to keep up with what's on Xbox Live these days. Last night I decided to throw in Deadly Premonition so I could watch the next set of Endurance Run episodes today and I noticed that the SB demo was up. Download confirmed.

With great apprehension I set up my game space exactly as they recommended, going so far as to get a straight backed chair from my kitchen to sit in so that I didn't slouch. I gotta say, aside from some minor frustration with the Kinect stuff here and there, I'm pretty impressed. I don't think the game will review particularly well, and I don't think it will appeal to the masses, but playing the game is remarkably intense if you're willing to get sucked in. I had the sound up, the lights low, and the apartment to myself, so I got way into it. I jumped when the VT got shelled, grasped desperately for the viewport handle when it got blown out, and clawed at my comms officer as he tried to escape, hitting the air in front of me a little harder than was probably necessary to get him to calm down.

I do have some concerns though:

First of all, the game seems to have weird difficulty. My first playthrough of the demo, I got annihilated. I stepped on a mine inadvertently and got my leg blown off. My viewport got smashed by an enemy VT, and before long I was a scrap heap. The second time through however, was a cake walk. I don't know if the game adjusted the difficulty, or if it was just because I knew where the enemies would be, but it seemed almost too easy (I'm guessing it was the latter). My other concern is that it is really hard to keep track of what is going on. The guys in your VT will be screaming at you, there will be comms from your commander coming in, and the sound of the battle around you thunders from your speakers. On the one hand, this adds to the immersion, on the other hand, I'm sure it will frustrate many. Finally, the Kinect stuff can be a little wonky. Luckily the actions that you perform using Kinect are easy enough to correct, as they happen pretty fast. That said, I had a hard time quickly switching between HEAT rounds and AP rounds, and I accidentally shut my viewport a few times, effectively blinding myself. Things like that could lead to tragedy quickly depending on the scenario. I think the game will have a relatively high learning curve, and many will find it too punishing to be enjoyable. Kind of like From Software's last game. What was it about? Souls or something? ;)

In the end, I have to say I loved the demo, and am excited for the game. Even if it turns out to be a mess to get through missions, just turning it on and trying will be a blast. I think many of the game's missions could simply be excuses for them to throw more and more sensory overload at you, but sometimes, that's what I want from a game. I will certainly be picking up a copy, and I encourage you to check out the demo if you have a Kinect.

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Better Late Than Never

So Friday I promised #10 of my top ten favorite games of all time list. Then Memorial day happened, and I decided to be a lazy bum. Deepest apologies! I'm applying the following rules to the list:

1. Only games released pre-2011 will be considered for the list. A game needs to have time to sink in before I consider it one of my all time favorites. If I were to do this again next year, I'm pretty sure Skyrim will be on it, if I do it in 2013 odds are Diablo 3 will be on it.

2. Only 1 game per franchise will be considered for the list. If I didn't have this rule then there would probably only be three franchises represented. That's no fun.

3. This is a list of MY favorite games. This list is biased, opinionated, and to my tastes. Don't get mad at me because X respected game isn't on the list, chances are, I'd agree that it should be on an unbiased list of greatest games, but I'm only listing my personal favorites.

4. I grew up a PC gamer, this is why most of the 90s games are PC games. Most of the console games on the list are from this generation, as I didn't really embrace consoles in the 90s and early 2000s.

So without further adeu:

#10: Assassin's Creed II

Why I love it:

Maybe it's because I played it during a rough time in my life, or maybe it's because I love the time period, but I got completely sucked in by this game. We're talking wake-up, eat some fruity pebbles, then play kind of sucked in. I was in between jobs and just had a tough break up, so I needed an escape, AC II provided that. However, all that said, I do think this game is great beyond the emotional duress that caused me to play it. The controls and traversal mechanics were so much smoother than Assassin's Creed I, a game that I felt was painfully average. The combat and gadgetry were also vast improvements, and the story actually had me paying attention. Finally, the hidden glyph puzzles were genius, and gave me a reason to keep playing even when I was starting to feel a bit of a drag on the story. I could also go on about the art direction, the dialogue, and the set pieces, but I'm sure you understand by now why I adore this game.

My plan is to be back Friday with #9! When the reveals are done I'll add a list my profile.

Stay Frosty!

Jester

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Treadmill? What treadmill?

So last night I rectified one of the biggest travesties in my gaming repertoire. I finished Diablo II. It took a sequel twelve years in the making to get me to finish what is considered by many to be one of the greatest PC games of all time. Why? I wasn't very interested. I played the first Diablo many years ago, and I really enjoyed it. I think it was the atmosphere and the lack of an explanation for why things were the way they were. Upon completing it, I booted up D2. My response? Yuck. I hated the look of the game, hated the feel of the combat, and hated the skill system. I was not hooked, so I put it back on my shelf and decided maybe I'd enjoy it someday.

Turns out, that day was last Thursday. The trailers and gameplay for Diablo III looked great, and I decided to run out and buy a copy. The issue is that I have this nagging OCD issue, and that is that I can't play sequels out of sequence. I had to play Diablo II before Diablo III, and boy am I glad that I did. After clearing act I, I felt like an idiot for never giving the game a fair shake. I still am not the biggest fan of the skill system, but the atmosphere, story (yea that's right story), and combat had me hooked. I played every free moment I had over the last week, and managed to finish act V last night at around 2 AM.

So what exactly is the point of all this? A lot of people tell me they don't like Diablo style games because they are "loot treadmills" or "hamster wheels." I always figured this was because no matter what you did, you didn't feel a sense of progression. I don't understand what they are talking about now. I rolled a Demon Hunter this morning as my first foray into Diablo III, and within an hour of playing I had heard a bunch of journal entries, met several characters, had a couple of exciting fights, unlocked a few skills, and starting gearing out my character. It certainly didn't feel like a treadmill. "But that's one hour!" You say. Yes, it is, but after 20 hours of Diablo 2's campaign I was still feeling progression, and did not feel like I was on a treadmill.

There was a point at the end of act V, when you have to "fight Baal's minions," where I almost gave up and watched the final cutscene on YouTube. I could not, no matter what I did, kill the final wave of minions. Granted, I was under leveled, but I had always been able to manipulate followers and town portals to make my way past sticky spots in the past. Not so here. So what did I do? Hit up the optional dungeons I skipped. Within one hour I had gained a level and picked up a new piece of gear. I went back to where I was stuck, and while it was no cake-walk, I did in fact manage to clear the area. In this example I felt real, significant progression that had an impact on my play experience.

If Diablo 2 is a treadmill, I just went over the top.

Stay Frosty

P.S. Check back Monday for #10 on my list of personal favorite games. I'll post a blog, as well as start a list.

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Fancy Meeting You In a Place Like This

Hello Giant Bomb. My name is Pat, I like video games, I like writing about video games, and I like Giant Bomb. As such, I've decided that this would be a great place to start my gaming blog (a project I've had tabled for months). I'm going to try to update three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That said, I can't promise anything as I have a crazy work schedule, so try to bear with me!

The posts probably won't have a ton of structure to them. Some might be rants, some might be entries into a top ten list, some might be reviews of games. Most of the content will focus around gaming, but discussion will undoubtedly turn to music, film, maybe even beer. Who knows!

So hop on my good ol' adventure wagon and join me on the magical mystery trail to fun time!

P.S. I'm tired, Diablo will do that to you...

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