Thanks for everything, Ryan.

I've been trying to write something since I heard the news of Ryan Davis's passing, but it's been difficult for me to put my thoughts into words. Many others have wrote heartfelt and touching things, and I don't think I can be as eloquent as they have been. But it's important to me that I try to say something.

Around the time when Giant Bomb was founded, I was going through some rough times, and I was depressed. The thing that helped me get through those times was Giant Bomb - it was a constant I could always rely on. It didn't matter how down I felt or how difficult things were, Giant Bomb was always there to provide a laugh and lift my spirits. Having something positive I could fall back on was immeasurably important and comforting to me. I've been watching quick looks and listening to the Bombcast regularly over these past five years, and they have never failed to cheer me up.

Ryan was a large part of why I loved Giant Bomb. In some ways, he was Giant Bomb. His repertoire with Jeff and the other guys was one of the defining characteristics of the site. He brought an enthusiasm and energy that pretty much defined the Bombcast and much of the site's other content. He was really damn good at what he did, and it showed.

He had a fun, genuine and unique personality that I admired. He seemed to have an enthusiasm for living and a love for making people laugh. He was constantly hilarious, and always enthusiastic about it.

I admired the way he was always genuine in his interests. I couldn't imagine him ever faking an interest in something. If something didn't work for him, you could tell immediately, and he was able to articulate exactly why he didn't like it. But when he was passionate about something, you could feel the energy he had for that thing. You knew he loved it, and it made you want to love it. He inspired me to be vocal about the things I love, and be genuine about myself and my interests.

He could be professional and intelligent about super dumb stuff in a way I didn't think was even possible. He knew exactly how far to go with a dumb joke, and expertly avoided crossing the line. It was a really impressive skill.

There's so many other things I loved about Ryan. His sense of humor. His enthusiasm for things. His laugh. He could talk about anything and make it hilarious and memorable. He was genuine in everything he did. When he was rude or mean, he usually did so with a kind of humorous sincerity you couldn't help but love. He could be fun, mean, friendly and boisterous all at the same time. He had a real talent for just being a magnificent, lovable asshole.

Through the site, Ryan brought a lot of joy and laughter into my life. The news of his passing has deeply affected me in a way that I have trouble putting into words. As much as this has hurt for me, I can't imagine the difficult times that Ryan's family and friends are going through. My thoughts are with them. And for Jeff, Vinny, Brad, Drew, Alexis, Patrick, Alex, Matt, and everyone else at Giant Bomb, thank you guys so much for what you do.

Ryan brought a lot of joy and laughter into my life and I'll always remember him. Thanks for everything, Ryan.

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E3 2012 - Thoughts on the Microsoft Press Conference

The keyword for the Microsoft Press Conference is "dull." Nothing particularly exciting happened, and more often than not, the stuff they were showing felt like a huge waste of time. It's gotta be one of the worst press conferences in years, and it left me feeling almost worried about the industry. I'll break it down chronologically:

The conference started with a bang: Halo 4. I'm not a Halo guy, so I was ready to write it off immediately, but it actually looked pretty good. The graphics were terrific for the 360, and the new enemies looked like a welcome departure from the Covenant. Halo isn't really my thing, and it doesn't look like Halo 4 is going to change that, but I was very impressed with the short demo they gave.

Next up was a demo for Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Hands down, the most impressive thing I saw at the conference. Fundamentally, it looks like more Conviction, but that's not a disparaging remark - Conviction was a kickass game weighed down by some unfortunate flaws. It's too early to say for sure, but it's looking like Blacklist is going to fix some of the problems of the first game, while capitalizing on the stuff that made Conviction great. Ubisoft clearly has a knack for fun and accessible stealth combat, and if the demo is any indication, Blacklist could be their finest work yet. Spring 2013! As for the Kinect voice stuff: sure, why not? It didn't look terribly offensive.

(I'd like to go on a tangent here and bring up the fact that it's insane and baffling that voice commands are only now starting to find their way into mainstream games. Microphones have been a part of PC gaming practically since the beginning of time, and the fact that the Kinect's built in microphone is being treated like some innovative feature is fucking ridiculous. What's worse is that the voice support never finds its way into PC ports. For shame.)

Next up was EA Sports. Footballs, Kinect, quarterbacks, something something...

Oh hey, Fable: The Journey! It looked like a generic, decidedly un-Fable-like experience. The best looking parts of the game are things that aren't actually going to work because Kinect just isn't precise enough. Looked really dull and gimmicky.

After that, Phil Spencer revealed that they were about to show a new Forza game that combines the realism of Forza with the freedom of open world environments. Then they showed a Gears of War trailer. Yeah, it was kind of odd. But anyway, the new Gears looked a bit interesting. I'm pretty sure it was a prequel, because parts of the trailer featured Locust (who, of course, should all be dead). It looks like it follows Baird as the main character, and I get the impression that you'll be fighting humans at some point instead of Locust. Didn't really grab my interest, to be honest. It feels like exactly the kind of post-trilogy cash grab I was expecting.

And then, suddenly, Forza. The new game is called Forza: Horizon, and it looks really really good. The cars look great, it's got a great sense of style, and the new open world format sounds incredibly exciting. Coming October this year.

I think I fell asleep during the next segment. Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Marketing Man, took the stage to talk about Xbox Bing. He started talking about new search features as I dosed out of consciousness. I awoke during the part where he showed off his Spanish, and fell back asleep. After that was a lot of sports and music and other non-game related bullshit.

Suddenly, FITNESS! I don't actually remember the name of the game but it had something to do with Nike. I could tell because John Nike himself took the stage and talked about shoes and Kinect for like 15 minutes. "If you have a body, you're an athlete." Has this guy ever seen an average North American body...?

Next up was Xbox SmartGlass. It basically allows you to interact with your Xbox through a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone. It can give real time information related to the content that you've got running on your TV, theoretically supporting movies, games, and social media. It also enables your mobile device to serve as a controller. Basically, it's the Wii U controller. Nothing sarcastic to say here. It looks like an alright feature. I don't think people should be making a big deal about it, though - I've been able to do most of this stuff with my PC for ages.

But, hold on: stop the fucking presses. Internet Explorer is coming to Xbox later this year! Also here's a quick little Prometheus spoiler.

Fuck you, Microsoft.

Anyway. Next up was Crystal Dynamics with Tomb Raider. It was nice to finally see a video game, but their demo didn't leave me feeling too positive. Last year, they talked up the exploration and survival mechanics in the game, but the demo they showed didn't acknowledge any of that stuff. It was an incredibly scripted, barely playable rollercoaster ride of Lara getting horribly beat up in increasingly ridiculous ways (and the brief gameplay bits were shamelessly pulled from Uncharted). Over the course of about 30 seconds, she fell through a waterfall, crashed into a plane, fell through the glass, parachuted through trees, and fell down a mountain while getting violently tossed around every step of the way. No, I'm not even exaggerating. No part of what they showed was believable in the slightest, and it kind of made the whole thing seem like a creepy girl violence fantasy. The emphasis of the game seems to be horribly violent things happening to Lara and her moaning and breathing heavily through all of it. I thought it was a little uncomfortable during the demo last year, but it's much worse this year. Shame too, because I really wanted to like this game. I guess I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Following that was three trailers shown back to back. First up was Ascend: New Gods, which is some kind of 3rd person action fantasy game made by the Toy Soldiers guys. Looked pretty violent, but I didn't get any indication of what kind of game it even was. Immediately after was a teaser for Lococycle, which is perhaps the greatest game name ever. It's Twisted Pixel's newest game, but I have no clue what it is yet. It's Twisted Pixel though, so you know it's going to be awesome. Finally: Matter. It looked like the cores from Portal floating about the Geth server level from Mass Effect 3. If I had to guess, I'd say it's some kind of abstract puzzle game. Looks neat.

After that: Resident Evil 6. Looks fluid, fun, and very Japanese. RE5 had some of the most stiff and unresponsive controls in the genre, and it's looking like RE6 is trying to go as far in the opposite direction as possible. The stuff that's actually happening is INSANE - it's probably the silliest and most unashamedly Japanese game in the series. And that's exactly what I'm looking for in my Resident Evil. The demo didn't last long, but I came away impressed.

Next up was Alex Ruiz with Wreckateer. Looks competent, but there's not much else to say about it. It's a 3D Angry Birds for Kinect. That's all you need to know.

The next thing was South Park: The Stick of Truth. Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the South Park guys) took the stage and began with a joke making fun of the Xbox's ridiculous over-connectivity thing. I thought the the trailer was kind of hilarious, which was a nice surprise considering I don't normally like South Park. I'll cross my fingers for this one though. It's kind of an odd thing, but I've never played an Obsidian game I've enjoyed. And I've played most of them.

Dance Central 3 was next. They showed a trailer that looked identical to the last two Dance Central's, and then Usher himself was released from his cage and began to "perform" on the stage. Fuck you, John Drake.

Afterwards, Don Mattrick took the stage, and made some godawful "usher" pun. There were audible moans from the audience. Thanks for that, Mattrick.

To conclude, they showed a very lengthy demo of Black Ops 2. It's exactly the fucking game you would expect. It starts with some exposition filled with meaningless military jargon (danger close, alpha one tango!), your vehicle crashes, you crawl out all disoriented, a dude tells you where to go, you follow him, you shoot dudes in a glorified war setting, there's a on-rails vehicle sequence, and then they pull the "huge building falling down towards the character" scene directly from Battlefield 3. It's the same boring shit that we've been playing for years. It's another fucking cash grab by Activision. It really ended the conference on a sour note.

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That Mass Effect 3 Ending Is Perhaps Not As Bad As You May Think

Spoilers ahead!

While people are looking into the ending way too much, this "Indoctrination Theory" stuff is actually what's going down with the ending. I know it sounds silly and desperate, and I dismissed it at first too, but after I read about some stuff, I almost felt bad for not noticing it the first time. So bear with me here, I know it's easy to laugh at, but BioWare did something really neat with their ending, but it does need to be broken down and spelled out.

So here's the thing: Remember how the kid vanished in the vent at the beginning? That was a bit supernatural. The thing is, the kid was never actually real, and it was just a symbol for Shepard's battle against the indoctrination. Remember the weird forest place from his dreams? After Shepard gets hit by the Reaper laser, suddenly the exact same shrub vegetation from his dreams appear on the path to the teleportation thingy. And from there, things get really supernatural. Shepard finds himself in a room that has scenery pulled directly from the Collectors ship, the Geth ship, and another ship from the first game. It makes no sense. What's even more unnatural, Anderson somehow beats Shepard to the panel even though it's a straight path.

Now it gets even more crazy. Anderson represents Shepard's willpower to resist the Reapers, and the Illusive Man represents the Reapers trying to fully indoctrinate Shepard's mind. Why do I think that? After Shepard shoots Anderson, you hear not one but two groans of pain. YouTube the ending - it's totally there. Remember, Anderson more or less represents Shepard. Later on, the camera actually pans to a new wound in Shepard's body - the exact same place he shot Anderson. Also, during this scene, Shepard sees black tentacles at the edge of the screen. When the game was talking about symptoms of Indoctrination, it specifically mentioned the black tentacles. BioWare knows their fiction. Why would they put all this stuff in? It can't be just an accident.

So, after that, when Shepard get transported to a new magical place (which, you gotta admit, is pretty silly and unnatural), the kid is there. The kid was always the symbol for Shepard's indoctrination, and at this point, he's directly talking to him. He says that you can destroy all synthetic life, but he discourages it because apparently "people will just build synthetics again, repeating the process." He encourages Shepard to take control of the Reapers instead, and if you choose to do that, he gives a menacing smile. What's happening here is that Shepard is making his last stand against the indoctrination. If he decides to control the Reapers, he's giving into the indoctrination. I mean, he's even covered with Reaper/Husk looking stuff. If he decides to destroy the Catalyst or whatever, he's resisting against the indoctrination. Think that's silly? The "destruction" ending is the only ending where Shepard actually wakes up in the London rubble. The part that really underlines this stuff is how the "destruction" ending is tinted with Renegade red, and the "control" ending is Paragon blue. It's a neat device that BioWare used to represent how the Reapers are trying to convince him to get the "control" ending, and as a result give into the indoctrination.

So yeah. That's kind of a lot of stuff. If you don't buy this "indoctrination theory", you gotta admit, there is a lot of stuff in the ending that's weird and unnatural. They know their fiction, and there's no way all this stuff was just an accident. You could say people are looking into it too much, but keep in mind: BioWare knows their fiction better than any of us, so maybe it's not crazy that you have to look into the fiction this much to understand what's going on.

If you do buy it, it makes the ending weird in a different way. If all that stuff really was happening in Shepard's mind, then how the hell does the story really end? So, he wakes up in London, free of the indoctrination, but then what? All that stuff with control/synthesis/destroy was just an illusion, so none of that really happened. BioWare is in a tricky spot right now. They could just forget that indoctrination stuff and say "fuck it, let's just pretend that never happened", or they could provide a real ending to the story. Either way, they put themselves in a really bad spot. If they do run with the indoctrination stuff, a lot of people will call bullshit. If they decide to ignore it, then we've got a really shitty ending to Mass Effect 3.

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A few thoughts regarding the latest Bombcast (02-28-2012)

I originally made this post on the Bombcast comments page, but decided to move it here instead. I wanted to get a few things off my chest, but it was probably a bit too heavy and involved for the comments page.

Anyway, on to the rant: I'm totally with Vinny regarding the ME3 marketing direction, but I think the bigger problem is EA. There's been a lot of talk about why people are so cynical about BioWare these days, and I think the problem is EA. Their services integration (like Origin bullshit) is starting to become really, really ugly. And the hand of EA is becoming increasingly visible in BioWare products, like the gross marketing direction on ME3 or the rushed development cycle of Dragon Age 2. I mean, there's completely unrelated studios owned by EA that they're just calling "BioWare: Something." Even though parts of ME3 will probably be totally fine, I think people are hesitant to give it praise because of how EA is spreading its evil corporate fingerprints over games we used to love without qualification.

Another thing, about the discussion about the fighting game community. I normally side with (or at least can understand) Jeff's position on stuff, but I thought some of his comments here were kind of gross. He was definitely giving Aris's boneheaded argument way too much credit, and was more or less siding with him on some points. Brad was pretty vocal about this too, and I think he was spot on. Aris is an arrogant fucker, but I think the problem runs deeper. Kids these days need to be taught how to be respectable people. The fact that they could even consider that being a disrespectful asshole is an acceptable way to behave is a serious problem. Kids are impressionable, and they need to be taught how to be good people from an early age. You would think that this would just be common sense, but the attitude of kids is a glowing example of how they're being raised incorrectly. I think this also ties into Dave's comments about how the juvenile attitude of the internet will never change. Yes, young men are absolutely terrible people. But I don't think it needs to be that way - the problem isn't developing technology to effectively censor loudmouthed kids, the problem is that they genuinely don't understand that being disrespectful is a bad thing. Anyway, sorry for getting a little carried away with this rant, but I just wanted to get these things off my chest.

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