I Bought a Wii U!

So, it's been two weeks now since I bought my shiny new Wii U. And while I certainly could wait longer before writing this blog, I feel like I've spent enough time with it to have enough to say about it, and the games I have for it. I'll start with the system itself.

I knew the Wii U was going to be smaller than the current gen consoles, and the last gen consoles (not counting the Wii), but I was still a little surprised by how small. Specifically, how narrow it is. I was thinking that I might have to remove my 360 from its spot in my "entertainment center" to make room for the Wii U (not that I use my 360 at all these days). But lo and behold, I was able to get it to fit between the PS4 and 360 without any trouble at all. If I ever get an Xbox One and try to fit it in there, then I may have to do some creative organizing, but for the time being, everything fits. (Except for the PS3 I have on a thing that's supposed to be a little lap table for laptops, but never mind that). In terms of looks, I think it's fine. It's not rad looking like the PS4, but not dumb looking like the Xbox One. I do the the all shiny nature of it makes dust more apparent than it would be if it was more matte (I should add, I have a black Wii U), and my house tends to get really dusty.

The interface of the console definitely feels like it is continuing the Wii tradition of big squares in a grid. It's not a bad interface by any means, but it's more like the Wii than I was expecting. I do think it's odd that when on the Wii U's main menu, you can swap between two menus, the Wii-looking one, and a Miiverse-y one where you can go into different parts of the Miiverse and do stuff (but more on the Miiverse later). The part that I think is weird is that you swap the two between the TV screen, and the Gamepad screen (more on that as well later), but you can only interact with the one on the Gamepad. At least so far as I can tell, there isn't any way to do stuff with the TV screen. Maybe if I was using a different type of controller, like a Pro controller, or a Wiimote, this wouldn't be the case. But I don't have a Pro controller yet (I plan on getting one), and I'm not using Wiimotes unless I have no other options.

I will say this about the interface: It's easy to navigate, and easy to rearrange stuff. I can drag things around with the touchscreen on the Gamepad, to my heart's desire. It's a feature that would be nice to have on something like my PS4, where I have a bunch of downloaded games, but no way to sort them. It also has some neat features like a log that keeps track of time spent in games and other things like the Miiverse, on either a daily or monthly basis. The Wii had a similar feature, and I'm told that the 3DS and Xbox One (of all things) also have similar features. It's nice to know how many hours I've spent in games, after all.

The only other thing worth noting about the main menu stuff on the Wii U is that there's a Quick Start menu on the Gamepad when the Wii U is turned on, which allows for faster access to stuff. It's a nice feature, but one that I'll probably quickly forget about once I get a Pro controller and stop using the Gamepad.

Which brings me to my next topic: The Gamepad. I don't think it's a very good controller. It's not comfortable to hold for long periods of time, some of the button placement is a little awkward, the screen is not great, the camera is crappy, the rumble is so bad I just turned it off, the battery life is poor, the range is poor, and I'm pretty sure the headphone jack is literally broken on mine. But let me tackle these things one at a time.

  1. Despite having a couple of "bumps" on the back that could be considered "grips," this this is basically just a large rectangle, and it feels awkward to hold. Never mind that it's larger and heavier than other controllers, which doesn't help either.

  2. This controller uses a "symmetrical" design with the buttons and sticks like PlayStation controllers, and unlock Xbox Ones. But unlike PlayStation controllers, here the sticks are above the buttons, rather than below. That's fine, but the Start and Select (which are oddly also labeled + and -) are so low relative to the sticks (which is where my thumbs naturally rest when using it) that it feels a little awkward to reach down and hit them. Same with the Power button, and I practically have to remove my hand from the controller to hit the Home button in the center bottom of the controller. These aren't terrible things, by any stretch, but they don't improve the experience either.

  3. For a controller where the main selling point is that there's a screen in it, the screen certainly isn't very good. Both in terms of the quality of the picture, and the touchscreen itself. It's a touch-ass-touch screen, when means pressure, not however it is that capacitive iPhone type touch screens works. I don't really mind that aspect of it, because I'd rather use a stylus than my greasy fingers and have to be wiping off the screen all the time. Then again, this house is so dusty that I've been putting a thing over the controller when I'm not using it to keep dust from collecting anyway, so I dunno. Maybe I should do something about all the dust in this house, but that would require effort!

  4. The only thing I've used the camera for thus far is the Mii Maker, which resulted in comically bad Miis. This one's not that big of a deal, because it's not like I was going to take selfies with it or anything (not that I think I can).

  5. Rumble, on the other hand, is a bigger bummer. Then again, I'm used to playing without rumble, whether it was the old SIXAXIS in the early days of the PS3, or using the DualShock 4 with my PS3 in these late days of the PS3. Conversely, I'm sure it saves on battery, so it helps there.

  6. The battery died in my controller on the very first day. Granted, maybe it would have been smart to just keep it plugged in the first day, but why would I do the smart thing? Since then I turned the brightness all the way down, turned the rumble off, and try to keep it in the charging cradle thing when not being used. I haven't had any issues since then, but I also haven't really tested it to see how long the battery lasts. Long enough, though. And if worst comes to worst, I can just play with it plugged into the AC Adapter.

  7. One of the advertised features of the controller is the ability to play (most) games on the controller, like it was a giant Game Boy. So, I decided to test the range of the controller by taking it around my house. I wasn't able to even get into my bathroom before it lost the connection, so what's even the point? You may think I'm joking (and I partly am), but hey, wouldn't it be nice if it worked in the bathroom?

CORRECTION! While I thought my headphone jack in the controller was broken, I ended up writing several paragraphs about that. But then I decided to make sure...And it turns out I'm just an idiot. It just needs to be FORCED in, much harder than with most things. And after talking with someone (fellow mod Ross, Hi Ross!), it sounds like there still might be something wrong with mine, just not what I thought was wrong. Anyway, I now know that it does work, I get audio out of it, and really I could have cut all of this to make me look less stupid, but where's the fun in that?

Anyway, it's a real shame that the controller isn't better to use overall, because I do like aspects of it, conceptually. Like the touch screen. I've used that to draw some really awful pictures in the Miiverse! Like this one, for example!

Anyway, I really like the Miiverse. It's a silly thing in the way that I want Nintendo things to be. But I'm pretty sure that once I get a Pro controller and start using it, my Miiverse drawings are going to grind to a halt. I'll probably keep putting text and screen shots there, but I don't see why I would go to the trouble to get out the big Gamepad just to draw something silly. I know that people have, in recent months, complained about how stamps have ruined the Miiverse, because it's gotten rid of a lot of the drawings. And that's definitely true for Miiverse pages for games with stamps. But there's still some really "good" art on the Miiverse, and some actually good art, to the point where I really hope that some of these people have other outlets for their talents. Because they deserve better.

Is there anything else I want to cover before I get to the actual games? I think the Netflix app on the Wii U has a really terrible design choice, in that it is not possible to select sub accounts. That wouldn't be a problem if I only had one, but I don't. Both my dad and I share the same Netflix account, and we each have a sub account. And because my dad is the one with the credit card who pays for Netflix (which I can thank my lack of a job for), his is the default one, I guess. That means I can't watch Star Trek on my Wii U because it doesn't know which episode of Enterprise I left off on, and I'm too lazy to remember! I literally had a moment the other day where I went from playing a game on my Wii U, to wanting to use Netflix, and I realized this when I had to turn off a machine with Netflix in it to use another machine with Netflix in it. Hopefully Nintendo fixes that at some point, but it doesn't really matter when my PS4 does Netflix as well (and better).

Okay, now I think I can get to the games! My Wii U came bundled with New Super Mario Bros U/New Super Luigi U on a disc, and I bought Mario Kart 8. On top of that, I got Wind Waker HD free through that Club Nintendo thing (which has since expired, for those out there that hadn't taken advantage of it).

New Super Mario Bros. U

I had a realization the other day, as I was playing this game. I had never actually finished a side scrolling Mario game. I had played the Game Boy Color version of Super Mario Bros 1 up to World 8, but never finished it. I think I got about halfway through SMB 2 (GBA version) before I stopped, and I got about halfway into New Super Mario Bros (the first one on DS) before I stopped. The real tragedy, though, is Super Mario World (GBA again). I'm pretty sure that I actually made it to the final boss, but never beat it, because I couldn't figure out what to do. I had finished all the 3D ones that I had played. Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy, but none of the sidescrollers.

So there I was, wondering if I really wanted New Super Mario Bros. U to be the first sidescrolling Mario game that I ever finished in my entire life. Then I stopped worrying about it because no one cares about stuff like that and beat the game. Well, it wasn't quite that easy, because I am apparently the world's worst NSMBU player.

Seriously, I had gotten the vibe before playing this game that it was easy. And maybe it is if you are better than I am, but I was having a fair amount of trouble with some parts of this game. I even game overed at some point. And the thing that people don't tell you, because I guess no one else ever game overed in this game, but the game over system in NSMBU is MESSED UP. You lose all of your progress since the last time the game did a save after one of the castles. I'm not kidding. After that happened to me, I looked up a spot to get hell of lives, and then I got 70-something lives. It was a little overkill, but I ended with my life count in the 50s, and that was with normal 1up attainment throughout the course of the game.

Now, I don't mind when games are hard, usually. And I beat the game without too much trouble, so I'm not saying it was Ninja Gaiden II hard, or anything. (NG II being the game so ridiculously hard that even on easy, it was still the hardest game I ever finished.) But I prefer when games are hard in good ways, not in bad ways. If I die and I feel like I messed up, that's fine. The problem with NSMBU is that most of the time when I died, I felt like it wasn't my fault.

In a lot of ways, this game is the anti-Super Meat Boy. Now, I only ever played the first world of Super Meat Boy, because I was doing it on my friend's computer, etc. But I know enough about the game to talk about it. The controls in that game are super tight, and when you die, it restarts almost instantly. NSMBU is so slidy and loose that it feels like every level is an ice level (never mind the actual ice levels). If the game had tighter movement, I would have been able to get through it much more easily.

And it's a shame, too, because I really like a lot of things in the game. It doesn't really do many new things, or carve out an identity of its own, but it does play with a lot of the traditional Mario tropes in some interesting ways, mostly in the level design. Like, there's one level where a Lakitu is throwing piranha plants. There's baby Yoshis that can eat ghosts. EAT GHOSTS. There's a lot of neat little things in this game, and if it played better, it could have been something really cool and special. Even so, I did enjoy it overall, and I'm glad I played it.

I also really love the background art in this level.

New Super Luigi U

Now, I know what you're thinking. If I was complaining about the feel in the main game, then I must HATE this. Well, you're wrong! While I would still like it more if it was a tighter feeling game, I think the faster paced and shorter levels on NSLU makes it a much more enjoyable game. Now, I should be clear, I haven't finished it yet. Maybe I'll absolutely hate it by the end, I dunno. You'll have to wait until I finish it and follow this up in a future blog. But until then, I'm enjoying it more than the main game.

Wind Waker HD

Like New Super Luigi U, I haven't finished this yet, but I did play the game to completion on the GameCube, so I don't really have to. I'm mostly writing about my thoughts on this new version, I can do some big retrospective thing on my thoughts on all the older Zelda games at some point in the future.

But for this version specifically...I'm a little torn. It definitely looks better than the GameCube version, but it still looks like an uprezzed GameCube game. Not that I should have expected anything more than that, but you know. It still looks really nice, don't get me wrong. For the most part, the art style more than makes up for the relatively simple geometry in the environments, characters, etc. But there's times when this game looks pretty GameCube-y.

Really, though, my biggest complaint is with the controls. While this game has an option to invert x-axis for third person view, and an option to invert y-axis for first person view, that's it. No option to invert y-axis for third person, no option to invert x-axis for first person. Now, I don't invert x-axis at all (because I'm not a monster), but come on Nintendo! What kind of person would invert one for one point of view, but not for the other? And why is it a different axis for both options?! ARGH! So, I'm left in this awkward situation where I have it properly inverted in first person, but not in third, and I'm constantly moving the camera the wrong way. And I refuse to change, because it's a part of me, and I can't change. It's like asking me to stop being bi, it just won't happen.

Okay, that's a lie, if I really wanted to, I could force myself to stop playing inverted, but I'm not going to do that. Not when I can continually annoy people by playing with my y-axis inverted like I should. But it is hampering my enjoyment of the game, and that's too bad, because it's still a really good game, overall!

Aside from the graphics, the other "big" additions are a magic sail that changes the wind direction automatically (which is useful, but would be really hard to find if you don't already know from the internet), and the ability to take selfies and put pictures of them on Miiverse. Seriously, Link takes selfies. Oh, and you can put the pictures, or just plain messages, into little Tingle bottles, and throw them out to sea for others to find. And you can find them too, and see stupid things other people have done.

I'm going to keep playing it, of course. It's still a great game, after all.

Also, I took a funeral selfie.

Mario Kart 8.

The last Mario Kart game that I had played was Mario Kart DS. Which I liked quite a lot. And I like this Mario Kart quite a lot. I think it looks really nice, and it's a fun Mario Kart game. Maybe the best Mario Kart game, overall. Not the best kart racer, that's still Diddy Kong Racing. But this is a really good one, and I really like the online stuff. Especially with a full twelve racers, it gets chaotic in a way that I love.

It's not perfect, though. The game doesn't really have a ton of options for changing things, like the number of laps in a race. I think that's partly because two of the tracks, Mount Wario and Rainbow Road 64, aren't done in the traditional 3 lap style. Instead, it's just one long lap that has two checkpoints along it, but when you pass one, it says you've gone to the next lap. There are some options that can be set for regular races against the AI, or online races with friends, like what items to have, but not much else.

But back to those two tracks, Mount Wario and Rainbow Road 64. I really like Mount Wario, because it's this long trek down a mountain that involves going through a big cave, and across a dam. It's a cool race, and I wish there were more like it. But I don't like what was done to Rainbow Road 64. See, the thing I liked most about Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64 was that it was super long. Way longer than it probably should have been, really. But I liked that. By Mario Kart standards, it was an endurance race. Sure, there were weird shortcuts you could take, but the intended route took a long time for one lap, and you had to do three of them. But in this one, one lap has been made into the entire three laps of the race. I wouldn't mind if there was an option to set it to be like in Mario Kart 64, but so far as I can tell, there isn't.

About the only other thing I can think of worth mentioning is the music. I think it's really great, which is a little unfortunate, for me, because I've been mostly playing this whilst listening to stuff on my computer, and not the in game music. But that's just me.

That was supposed to be the Luigi Death Stare.

So, that's about it for the Wii U stuff. Overall I'm happy with it. I definitely want a Pro controller, but I am enjoying the games I have for it. I'd like to play Super Mario 3D World, and Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, and I plan on downloading Shovel Knight once I'm done with the stuff I have. Aside from that, I'm mostly looking to the future for my Wii U stuff. Bayonetta 2, and Super Smash Bros. For Wii U are games that I will get. And knowing my luck, I'll get that dumb Hyrule Warriors game too, because I bet Ross won't stop talking about it. Ever.

What else has been going on? Well, I continue to make no progress on my third novel. If anything, I'm feeling like I might have to completely start from scratch. Again. And I had already gotten about a third of the way into it. I dunno, I'm thinking this book might be cursed. I'll get it, or something done eventually, though.

Oh, and I became a mod on Giant Bomb too. That was pretty cool. It's more work than I expected, actually. Not a whole lot more, but still a bit more. I still really like it though. I mean, if nothing else, it's nice to just be able to give back to this incredible website that I've been visiting for years. To know that I'm a respected enough member of the community to be given this level of responsibility! It's great! And I haven't managed to screw it up yet, so it's probably going to last for a while. Probably.

I can't really say much else about it, so I can keep the shroud of mystery around the mods intact (if I don't, I have to make a blood sacrifice to the puppy gods to appease Rorie). Instead, I'll just leave you with more silly things I've put on the Miiverse.

61 Comments

Destined for Obsession.

As you may already know, Destiny has already hooked me. I almost used the word "addiction" in the title of this blog, but then I figured that's in poor taste compared to people with actual addictions, so I didn't. I do have several people related to me (cousins and whatnot) that have dealt with and continue to deal with serious addiction issues, so maybe I'm slightly more sensitive to it that most people.

That said, man, I'm as close to addicted to this game as is possible, for me, at least. And it's not even out yet. I put over fifty hours into the Beta, and if you count the Alpha, I've got to be over sixty and on my way to seventy. Granted, I don't have a job, or a life outside of the internet, but still, that is A LOT of time for me to spend playing a game like this. Especially since most of it was spent in the PvP part of the game, but I'll get to that later on. I should start from the start.

So, as you may remember from when I wrote about the Alpha, after playing that, I was left excited and hopeful for the game, mainly the campaign. I played a little bit of the PvP (The Crucible) in the Alpha, but not much. Again, hopeful is the important word, because even in the Alpha, I had suspicions about the overall quality of the campaign stuff, I just wasn't willing to go so far as to have low expectations for it. I am willing to do that now.

That's not to say the campaign stuff in the Beta is bad. Fundamentally, the shooting in Destiny, whether it's against AI or other players, is still fantastic. It is absolutely some of the best shooting mechanics I have ever played in a video game. Part of that may be the continuing "DualShock 4 factor," which is to say that it's the best controller I've ever used and just about everything feels good with it. That said, I'm sure this game plays great no matter what the controller is.

It's also a game that got more fun to play (in terms of pure mechanics) the more I played it. My increasing skill with the game is part of it, but a lot of it was the skill advancement. Unlike a game like Borderlands, where almost all the skills and upgrades are either defensively focused, or upgrades to attacks/class skills, Destiny upgrades the movement options of the characters quite a bit. Well, really it's just a skill in the skills menu, but it feels significant every time it gets upgraded. At least with the Warlock class, I didn't play a Hunter or Titan enough to get beyond the first jump upgrade (level 3, I think).

But that second glide jump upgrade for the Warlock is when the game really clicked for me. Suddenly I was zooming around, changing direction in mid-air, and just generally feeling like a totally rad space magician straight up merc-ing fools with space magic. If I was smart, I would have recorded some footage of me doing rad stuff in the game to use as an example, but I'm pretty sure all the footage I saved on my PS4 is of dancing and flipping over the hover bikes. Which, to be clear, are both fantastic features in this game, but not crucial to feeling like a totally rad space magician.

While I'm talking about core mechanics, I should mention the guns. I'm a little torn on them. On the one hand, I feel like the game covers all the typical gun roles that you would expect in a first person shooter. There's the high rate of fire guns with relatively low damage, the ones with burst fire, the single shot guns with high damage (ranging from revolvers to rifles). That covers the main weapons, then there's the secondary weapons, which include sniper rifles, shotguns, and a charge-y up rifle thing that I didn't care for. After that are the heavy weapons, which appear to just be rocket launchers and heavy machine guns. Just about anything that you would want is in there, and I enjoy using some of them quite a bit.

But they're also kinda boring, in terms of design. I mean, there's no Needler. I'm not saying this has to be an Insomniac game where every weapon is completely unique and weird, but it would be nice if there was some stranger stuff in there. Or even if it was like Borderlands, where most of the guns are normal, but then you find something truly strange and weird. And for all I know that stuff may be in the game, but given the overall tone, and what I've seen so far, I doubt it. This is a game set hundreds upon hundreds of years in the future, it'd be cool if the guns in the game felt a little more sci-fi-ish, but it's not that big of a deal. And like I said, this isn't the full game, so who knows.

Then again, some of the gun upgrades I was getting were leaning in the direction of being weird. Like the last sniper rifle I was using. Well, first I should say that if you use guns and pieces of armor enough, they can be upgraded. Mostly it's normal stuff, like more damage, and different gun sights, or holding more ammo for the armor. But this one sniper rifle got the ability to collect ammo from afar by shooting at the ammo. And it totally works. Which, really, I shouldn't be surprised that an in game features works, given the overall level of polish in the Beta, but it's still a weird thing. Especially given how limited sniper rifle ammo tends to be.

That's a definite gripe I have, how the ammo works in this game. So, instead of collecting specific ammo for specific types of guns, there are three kinds of ammo pickups. Primary, secondary, and heavy. They're clearly color coated, and one type works for all guns in that category. For example, the same green secondary ammo pickup will refill my shotgun, or my sniper rifle. But, there's a weird thing that I thought was a glitch from the Alpha, but is still in the Beta, so maybe it's not. Anyway, if I have my shotgun equipped, and I have full ammo, but switch to my sniper rifle, I won't have any sniper rifle ammo. So, naturally I'll switch back to my shotgun...which now also has zero ammo. Now, if you equip another gun of the same type, say, a shotgun with a higher damage rating, the ammo count stays the same. But equipping a different type of secondary weapon will reduce your ammo to zero, for all of your secondary weapons.

I didn't try it with primary or heavy weapons, but I just don't see why that's in the game. Maybe it is a glitch, and they just didn't have the time to take it out before the Beta. I certainly hope so, because things like that are only going to prevent me from wanting to switch between weapon types in between battles. I was already complaining about the lack of variety in the weapons, but implementing systems like that will only make me want to stick with a couple of things even more than I already was. Then again, I mostly stuck with an assault rifle with a big magazine (44 rounds) in the Beta, because it was simple and worked, so maybe I'm not one to talk about this.

I'm also kind of the same way when it comes to the class specific skills, too. Part of why I liked the Warlock so much is the feel of that upgraded glide jump, but I also like that class's special skills the most. They're basically just magic grenades in two varieties, medium and large. Seriously, the grenade is a magic grenade, and the super is a bigger magic grenade. The melee special is more than just a magic grenade, as it sucks energy from foes to recharge the other powers more quickly, increase movement speed, and probably something else if the Beta hadn't artificially stopped me from continuing to upgrade my abilities.

I think that's enough about the mechanics. Well, I suppose I should put in one sentence reminding you that despite my complaints about certain aspects of it, it's still SUPER fun, and everything goes together pretty nicely. Okay, now I'm moving one to other things. Namely, the not so good parts of what I played. Granted, this is a Beta, so perhaps the final game will address some of these issues that I am about to discuss. I highly doubt it.

Destiny has really poor mission design. Based on the Beta, missions involve starting in the same spot of the map, running and/or hover biking to a location, fighting a couple waves of enemies, and then the game forces you back to orbit. All of that within the span of ten, maybe fifteen minutes. Problem number one with this is that there's too many loading screens in this game. If there are a string of missions in a location (Old Russia, in the Beta), then I should have the option to do them one after the other without having to go through a loading screen to get to orbit, and then another loading screen to get back down to the planet. Now, if this game had a ton of meaningful story, and going to orbit and/or The Tower resulted in my seeing some well done cut-scenes with characters I cared about, I wouldn't mind. The problem is that none of the story stuff presented in the Beta seemed like it was worth caring about at all. And none of it is skippable either, which really sucks if you're creating a new character to play with a friend and don't want to see the same bad cut-scenes AGAIN.

Okay, bad is a stretch. They're just boring. There's two "characters" in the story. The faceless "Speaker" guy, and the little Dinklage Ghost robot (also faceless). And I guess the character you play as has some dialog, which technically makes him/her a character as well. But I don't have any reason to care about anything going on. We've seen so many games (and other things) with big, nebulous threats to Earth that it's gone WAY past cliché. It's not enough to make me care any more, if anything, it makes me care LESS because I know that betters stories can be written. Hell, I AM a writer, I've WRITTEN better stories (but that's a different discussion).

Anyway, the point I was trying to get at before I distracted myself is that this would be a better game if I could just go and do another mission on the planet without going through more loading screens. It makes the game feel disjointed, especially when there aren't meaningful reasons for it. The Tower really only exists to buy stuff, or have encrypted loot decrypted (a system that I hate, by the way, when I get loot, I should be able to use it instantly). Yes, you can dance and hang out with people in the Tower, but it's pointless. I can dance anywhere in the game, there's a dance button. I don't need to travel to this one stupid place just to dance with friends, I can do that in the battlefield! Why? Because dance CAN bloom in the battlefield.

I've gotten off topic again. Now, even if the game didn't force you into orbit at the end, these still wouldn't be great missions. Not terrible, but not great either. They're short, and rely heavily on "just shoot waves of enemies." They lack the bombast that you get from more heavily scripted shooters, and lack the "tactical freedom" that you get from more open ended games like Crysis, Far Cry 3, MGSV (I assume, but also kinda Ground Zeroes). Granted, those games are A LOT more stealth focused than Destiny, but you get what I mean. The missions in this Beta felt kinda lazy. Bungie can do better, and I really hope that they aren't indicative of the game as a whole. That'd be pretty disappointing.

Now, I wasn't going to say these harsh things about the Beta, because it was a Beta, but then I played the mission on the Moon that Bungie had hyped up, and only had open for a couple of hours. And it was the same exact poor design as the Earth missions, the only difference was that it was on the Moon. I know the response is going to be, "Well they're just holding back the good stuff from the Beta, they want to keep it until the final game." I dunno, I feel like they think this stuff IS the good stuff. Maybe I'm being too harsh. I dunno. But when I'm playing through a mission, and start thinking that I could design a better mission (something I usually don't when playing good games), then I think I'm using the appropriate level of harshness.

The PvP's pretty good, though. There was only one game type in the Beta. I forget the name, but it was a control points type mode. But it did have its own spin on it, where points are pointed not by simply holding the control points, but by killing enemies. Controlling the points just gives points multipliers that add more points to the team's points totals in the quest to get enough points to win. Okay, I'll stop saying points now. Basically, they injected some team death match in to make it slightly different. But, in the end, it still plays pretty much the same. You run around, kill enemies, and recapture control po...er, zones. It's fun. I played almost fifty hours of it, after all.

There were only two maps (both good) in the normal playlist, but there were a few days in which Bungie opened up "The Iron Banner" playlist, which did not scale weapons and gear to make things more balanced, unlike the normal mode. That playlist had two additional maps in it (also good), which made it the place to be when it was running. So far as the not balancing thing goes, well, the level cap was 8 in the Beta, and I was at 8 with level 8 gear, as was everyone else. It felt the same as the other mode. I'm sure that, when the full game releases and people are at the cap (20 seems to be the rumored cap) the day after release, there will be a noticeable difference.

I don't really have any gripes with the PvP. I just hope that there's a decent number of maps and modes. Specifically maps. I'm fine playing that game type forever (control zone type modes have always been my go to in these sorts of games), but the game needs a decent number of maps.

Is there anything else I wanted to mention? Probably, but I got interrupted part way into writing this (good for you if you can spot the exact spot), and may have forgotten some stuff. Either way, even with my complaints about the mission design, I'm still really excited for this game. It's easily the game I'm most excited for this year. I'm going to buy it, and spend many, many hours playing all of its game modes. I'll probably buy a bunch of DLC for it. I'll make another weird looking alien dude that looks like a lady because I like dudes that look like ladies. I'll make my character's armor look real stupid in the name of humor. I'll dance until the end of time in this game. And I'll have a ton of fun doing it.

Maybe I'm going into the realm of too much information, but I think this guy's pretty cute.

Okay, is there anything else I want to write about? Yes, but I feel like this blog is long enough. You'll have to wait until next time to read what I think about my new Wii U. I do like it, but I'll get way more specific in the future. I really hope to get back into writing my in progress book, but who knows. I have another, probably really stupid project in the works with a "Twitter friend." I can't really talk about it, other than to say this "friend" is making me "play" a Visual Novel for "research" for this project. I'm not going to say which one he's making me "play," because I'm slightly embarrassed. (Never mind that I linked to it and you know what it is now).

And there's something else cool happening soon, but I was told not to tell, so I won't say what it is. You should know shortly. I'm excited. Not like, super excited. Moderately excited, I'd say.

Oh, speaking of that, I'm almost done with my Star Trek Quest. If you didn't know, then last year I decided to watch all of the Star Trek on Netflix. All the shows and movies. Well, technically Netflix doesn't have Insurrection, so I can't watch ALL of the Star Trek, but close enough. I'm in Season 3 of Enterprise, and when I finish, I'll probably write something up about watching all of the Star Trek. I might put it here, maybe on my WordPress, maybe both, I dunno. It's still a few weeks off, though. But that's interesting.

And as usual, I didn't proofread any of this, so sorry. You can live with a few typos. Probably. Also, here's something I drew on The MiiVerse. Hashtag Year of Luigi.

14 Comments

PlayStation Plus Catch Up!

I had been meaning to write this last week, before the Destiny Beta, but you know how these sorts of things tend to go. Anyway, the idea was that I had a whole bunch of PlayStation Plus games that I hadn't gotten around to playing, so I was going to play them all (to completion or otherwise), and write something about all of them. And I will do that, but don't be surprised if the bulk of this is just me gushing over every aspect of Destiny, but that'll be for the second part of the blog. Anyway, here's the PS+ Catch up!

Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt.

And, of course, the PS+ Catch up starts with a game that was not a PS+ game. But, it was on sale for under $5 with PS+, and I played it in the near past, so shut up, I'm writing about this game. Anyway, if you didn't catch the Quick Look of the 3DS version of the game, this is a game where you play as a future old west robot that does some mining and stuff. It's pretty good, and looks nice on PS4. Not really a whole lot else to say about it, other than that I really liked the level of customization for the controls. You don't see that in a lot of console games these days, but I really like it when games let me do things like that. Ideally, I don't have to, but sometimes default control schemes just aren't exactly how I'd make them. This was one of those games, and I ended up switching around a couple of the buttons.

Verdict: Really fun game that I completed.

Skullgirls Encore.

Okay, now I'm into the games that I got free on PS+, and more or less in the order that I tried them in. I wasn't sure what to make of this game before playing it. I mean, I enjoy most fighting games. Not great at them, but I enjoy them. I did not enjoy what I played of this game. Granted, I did not spend a lot of time with this game, so it's very possible (and likely, I'll say) that more time spent would have led to a greater understanding of the game.

That said, even going through the tutorial, it just felt like something was off. It's hard to put into words, but I just didn't care for the feel, or flow of the game at all. Fighting games are no fun to me if I can't get into a good flow, and I didn't here. Also, I wasn't able to pull off quarter circle forwards with the d-pad, so I was switching back and forth between the d-pad and the stick, which seemed like a bad way to play. And it's a six button fighting game, which makes sense for arcade sticks, but not for controllers. Having to go to the shoulder buttons for regular attack buttons in this sort of game is not something that I enjoy doing. It's the thing that stopped me from wanting to keep trying Street Fighter IV the one time I played Street Fighter IV with my then-college roommate, and at least in that game, I was able to get something resembling a flow with a couple of the characters, even without using the shoulder buttons much.

Verdict: Didn't like it much, will probably delete it.

Mutant Mudds Deluxe.

Like Steamworld Dig, I believe this game falls under the category of "started as a 3DS game, later ported to console." I think. Anyway, this is probably something you've never heard of or conceived before, but this game is a "retro-platformer." That means it's meant to look and play like a game from a much older generation of consoles. I know, it's a new and radical idea, but that wasn't enough to keep me interested for more than a few levels. The look wasn't the problem, it was the stiff platforming that was the problem. I can see why some people might like that type of platforming, but I'm not one of them.

Verdict: It's okay, but I'm not coming back for more.

Thomas Was Alone.

This game is interesting in that it is literally the most conceptually boring idea for a game (jumping rectangles) married with halfway decent narration. Apparently narrated by the British guy from the Assassin's Creed games (you know who I mean if you've played them), which I didn't realize until after I beat the game and looked up who it was. I needed to, because I knew he sounded familiar, but couldn't put my finger on it through the game. And it's decent narration, with some decent writing. Actually, if the game didn't have the narration, I probably wouldn't have played it through to the end. I didn't care for most of the actual game play, and I really did not like the music in the game. It didn't help that I had to turn the music down to 40% to get it quiet enough that I could clearly hear what the narrator was saying. I get wanting to have your music loud, but unless you're Deadly Premonition, and have the greatest soundtrack in the history of man, don't make it so loud that it almost drown outs the dialog. Also don't make it terrible.

Verdict: Finished it, enjoyed it enough. Could have been a little shorter, if anything.

Doki-Doki Universe.

When I started "playing" this "game," I fully expected it to be something stupid that I would give up on after an hour. So, naturally, I not only played it to completion, I played it to 100% completion, both in terms of in game stuff, and the Trophies. Well, not if you count the DLC, of which I played none, but I cleared out all the non-add-on stuff. There's a few different reasons why I spent my time 100%-ing this game. One of them is that I have way too much free time on my hands, and I make a lot of dumb decisions.

But the real reason is that I actually enjoyed the game a fair amount. Yes, it's really simple, really easy, and in a lot of ways, pretty clearly designed for kids. But it's also one of the strangest and most absurd games I've ever played. This is a game about an abandoned alien and his friend balloon (named Balloon) that get picked up by a guy named Alien Jeff (who comments how he thinks it's weird that his parents named him "Alien") who tells the robot (named QT3-something something) that he needs to acquire humanity to prevent his model of robot from being recalled and destroyed. And to do that, he must travel the stars atop steeds like flying pigs, and a flying cheeseburger with eyes. As he goes from planet to planet, he must do various tasks for the people there, to get a better understanding of what humanity is.

QT3 has the ability to summon objects out of thin air (he uses Dust Bunnies as his energy source, which you have to replenish occasionally, but the only time I ever ran out was intentional, to get a Trophy), and those are the main collectibles in the game. New objects to summon, that is. It's a great concept, but most of the puzzles are very simple, because as I said before, the game is clearly aimed at kids. Nothing wrong with that, and in a way, I kinda liked the game's cutesy style, and...naivety. That's not to say the game isn't cynical at all, because some parts of it are (especially Alien Jeff, who does have some legitimately really funny stuff in the game). But it was really refreshing to play such an optimistic and happy game. It was great to play a game where one of the main ways to interact with NPCs is to blow kisses at them, or hug them.

It warmed my cold, dark heart, just a little bit. Then again, sometimes you have to make NPCs hate you to get their collectibles, which I think goes completely against the rest of the game in a way that I don't think is cool. Especially when one of the planets in the game is explicitly trying to teach you that bullying is bad. If I was going to change anything about the game, it'd be to remove that. It just feels completely out of place. It's not for most NPCs, but it still doesn't feel right.

Verdict: Fun, silly, and worth some of your time just for the personality quizzes, which I didn't mention above, but were pretty cool.

Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark.

Now, if you know me (and you probably do if you're reading this), then you know that I like stealth games. A lot. So, you're probably thinking that I would enjoy this game, because it has stealth right in the title. Or, at least you were until I started writing this, because why would I be writing this way if I enjoyed it? Well, the answer is that I didn't care for this game much, so you were write, I didn't enjoy it. It's not terrible, but it didn't appeal to me in the way that the stealth games that I like do. Really, it's not like them at all, aside from the stealth.

This is a 2D side scroller where you have to avoid cameras, turrets, etc. I like 3D stealth games where you have to spend a bunch of time observing enemies, sneaking around, knocking dudes out, etc. Stealth Inc is a puzzle game, not a stealth game. I certainly like a fair number of puzzle games, but I didn't find the puzzles here enjoyable, so I didn't play a ton of it. Maybe it gets better later one, I don't know, but I lost interest. Also, I didn't like the music.

Verdict: I might try some more of it in the future, but probably not.

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut.

The first thing I noticed about this game was that I hate the art style. It takes pixelated to the extreme, and then some. I could barely tell what anything was in this game. At least at first, I kinda got used to it after a little while. But even then, I didn't enjoy it very much. I mean, this game's not bad, I'm not going to knock it, but I just don't like survival-horror stuff very much, and I got lost very easily when I was playing this game. And unlike something like Resident Evil, this game didn't have hilarious voice acting to keep me playing in spite of the lack of interest in the game, so I stopped playing

Verdict: Not my thing, but conceptually sound.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.

I was not expecting this, but this ended up being the one I was the most disappointed in. Despite never having played any of the Sly Cooper games before, I was expecting to enjoy this game. I didn't. Well, I did enjoy some of this game. See, when playing as Sly (or one of his ancestors), the game is pretty good. It's got simple platforming, and simple stealth. It works, and it's fun.

Everything else about the game seemed pretty bad. Playing as Bentley the Turtle would have been passable if not for his atrocious voice acting, and the hippo (whose name I don't remember) didn't even have passable game play to go along with the voice acting. Okay, real talk. I know I'm the guy who always picks dubs over subs, and has talked a big game about how I always think that voice acting is better than no voice acting, because I think bad voice acting is funny.

This is the game that proved me wrong. Oh man, the level of HATE I have for Bentley's voice is something that I have not felt toward a video game in some time. It's not just the actual performance, it's how he never stops talking! And how he's talking to himself about in game mechanics when a simple box with a sentence of text could appear on screen and tell me what I need to know in a quarter of the time! AAAAARGH.

It's too bad too, because if this game was just the sneaking and platforming with Sly and the Coopers of yore, I would have played it beyond the first "world." And hey, maybe it gets way better past there, but I doubt I will see it.

Verdict: The best part of this game is that there is a ninja named Rioichi Cooper.

Vessel.

This game is all right. It's a side scrolling puzzle solving game with fluid dynamics, and it's enjoyable. I don't care for the art style much, and I was getting some weird slow down in spots, but I was enjoying it. Not really much else to say, there is a Quick Look on the site if you really want to know more about the game part of it.

Verdict: Cool, and a game I will return to later when I'm not playing stuff I'm more interested in. Probably.

Puppeteer.

Like Doki-Doki Universe, I'm surprised as how much I'm enjoying this game. I haven't finished it yet, far from it, but I was having fun with it before Destiny took over my life (more on that later). Also like Doki-Doki Universe, a lot of what I enjoyed was in the absurdity of the game. It's non-stop ridiculous in a way that I wished more games were, and I think it has a great art style to match it. The part where it's a game isn't as good, and some of the writing is a little hokey, but overall I enjoy it.

Verdict: I'll come back to play more of it in the future.

I think that's it for the recent PS+ games that I've been playing. You know what? Despite teasing about writing about Destiny here, I'm not going to do that. This blog is long enough as is, and I'll wait until after the Destiny Beta ends before I write about how obsessed with the game I am. Sorry. Here's a picture of one of the characters I created in the Beta. Also, it's a dude.

Look forward to that, and more, in my next blog!

13 Comments

Nazis, and caves, and arrows, oh my!

Before I get into the meat of this blog, I think I should address my previous blog here. I was having a really bad day emotionally, and feeling really depressed. Not the first time it's happened (not by a long shot), and (unfortunately) it probably won't be the last time either, but these things happen. And while feeling so down and out, I wrote that blog, and put it on the site.

I do also want to thank everyone that commented, your kind words did help. Quite a bit, actually. And some fun days of doing stuff with other people have helped as well since then, so I'm doing much better overall (despite some other stuff going wrong, but that's neither here nor there).

Now that I've got that out of the way, let me get down to business. The "theme" of this blog is "Games that I mostly really like but get quite frustrating in parts, mostly at the end." And by "theme" I mean it applies to two of the games.

Anyway, you know what I mean, right? You'll be cruising along through a game, having a blast, and then suddenly there's a weird difficulty spike. Sometimes they're completely arbitrary and out of nowhere, and sometimes it's the final boss, which was the case for these games I recently played.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

In retrospect, I'm a little surprised that I didn't play this game sooner. I mean, it speaks to me on several levels. First off: Nazis. Not only does this game have a higher Nazis per minute quotient than any game that I've played since Call of Duty 2, it also uses Nazis better than any other game I've played. See, in most games with Nazis, they just use Nazis as an easy way to make sure that the player wants to defeat the enemy. Granted, in most games where you fight Nazis, it's set in World War II, which makes shooting Nazis make sense. It makes less sense when it's something like Nazi zombies, or what have you, but never mind that, those are also zombies.

Wolfenstein, on the other hand, spends quite a lot of time (at least by first person shooter standards) on the actual beliefs of the Nazis (in a negative fashion, of course, because Nazis were assholes), and even (SPOILER) has a level that takes place inside a concentration camp. Though, from what I've read about the actual concentration camps, it doesn't really come close to showing what it was actually like (and to be fair, it's not really doing that, given the setting of the game being after the war, and what the camp in question is doing in the story of the game). And I really like that the game does present these things, even if the end goal is still, "Just shoot these Nazis unless you feel like stabbing them, which is also cool."

It's important to keep that stuff in mind, because if you don't, it's real easy to fall down the, "Nazis are kinda cool" hole, especially in this game where they have plenty of cool stuff. There's robots, cyborg dogs, giant robots, lasers, and even a base on the moon! You take out the Nazi part of it, and suddenly they seem like a pretty cool bunch. But they're still assholes. And while Hitler himself is not actually in the game (fingers crossed for the sequel), I think Wolfenstein does a pretty good job of making you really dislike the villains in the game. There wasn't a single one of them that I didn't want to stab and or shoot by the end of the game. Of course, there's only a small handful of named villains in the game, it's not like Batman where there's a whole crew of bad guys with weird gimmicks waiting for a piece of BJ Blazkowics.

I only mention this stuff because I know I've had a weird relationship with Nazis in my life. Which is not to say that I've ever met a real life Nazi, mind you. It's just, well, I guess it starts with my dad. See, he was raised back in a time where people amused themselves by going outside and playing with friends. I know, weird, right? Anyway, whenever they would do things like play "cowboys and Indians," or "Americans and Germans," he always played the bad guys, namely the Indians and the Germans. And while Native Americans (as I usually prefer to call them) are proud peoples with storied histories and traditions, Nazis are still kinda just assholes. But, getting back on point, my dad (no, he's not a Nazi, I'm heading that off now) grew up with that, "Sympathy for the bad guy" kind of thing, and he ended up passing it on to me. It's why I (especially as a kid) wound up rooting for the bad guys in a lot of movies, whether it was Darth Vader and the empire in Star Wars, or the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (shut up, I was like three years old the first time I watched that movie).

And, when you grow up with Hogan's Heroes, The Blues Brothers, and Indiana Jones as your reference points for Nazis, it becomes easy to think they're kinda cool. I mean, once I got into middle school, and started actually learning about WWII (at that point mostly from the History Channel, back when it was actually a halfway decent source for shows about actual history), I very quickly realized that Nazis are, in fact, not cool. But even so, it's hard to completely remove all that stuff from your head after so many years, and I still find myself thinking things like, "Nazis make every [piece of fiction] better!" I actually heard my dad say something like that just last week. He, however, doesn't specify that it's just in fiction (again, he's not a Nazi), even though that's what he means.

Not to get this even further off topic, but this same "Nazis make things better" mindset even weaseled its way into one of my books. When I started writing SPACE COPS 5000, I ended up including Space Nazis as one of the "factions" in the book. It started mostly as a joke, but as I got further into the book, as the result of a lot of other things in my life outside of book writing, video games, etc, I ended up feeling more depressed, and "darker," and the book went darker as well. And as it did, I eventually decided to make the Nazis more...Well, I've gotten enough off topic, I'll just say that I did my best to make the Nazis in there not JUST a joke. I feel like if I don't, I'll be getting dangerously close to just full on advertising for my book, which was not the point.

The point, was that as someone that has gotten dangerously close over the years to liking Nazis, it was nice to play a game that was very up front and forward with the fact that Nazis are assholes. I'm glad the Nazis weren't just there for a punchline, or because they're easy villains. I mean, that's why they were in the original Wolfenstein games, but I'm happy that Machine Games decided to go above and beyond what they needed to in order to make a Wolfenstein game, even if at the end of the day, it's still a game about dual wielding automatic shotguns and blasting Nazis to pieces.

Speaking of Machine Games, playing this game reminded me that I've still never played Starbreeze's good games, from "back in the day." If you don't know, my understanding is that a bunch of people left Starbreeze (makers of games like The Chronicles of Riddick: Butcher Bay, and The Darkness) to go form the core of Machine Games. And while I haven't played those games, I can tell that this new Wolfenstein feels like a Starbreeze games. Certainly more so than the LAST Starbreeze game (man, I really did not like that one). Those other games aren't known for the parts where you shoots things, they're known for atmosphere, and for the parts where you AREN'T shooting things. And while I would still say that a majority of Wolfenstein is about shooting things, it still has a lot more not shooting things than most first person shooters.

While I definitely appreciate that, it doesn't always work. There's one level in the game where a decent chunk of it involves piloting a small watercraft through some flooded tunnels while you turn some things, and pull a lever or two. It's literally as exciting as my description of it. Actually, most of the not shooting things parts of the game aren't great. Well, that's not true. The objectives that you have during them aren't great. They're usually really simple and boring things like finding a thing. But having an opportunity to walk around for a few minutes, talk to people, and explore? That I really like.

I kinda wish this game had been set up a little more like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That was a game that overall I really loved (one of my favorites of last generation), but also a game that had a lot of issues. But maybe the thing I loved most about it was the "flow" of the game. It was part stealth game, and part RPG. There were cities (small, but still cities) that you walked around in when not on missions. There were larger stealth missions that moved the story forward, and smaller side missions that often involved a mix of some stealth, with some more RPG type stuff like dialog trees.

I'm not saying that Wolfenstein needs to become an RPG (though I'm not saying I wouldn't be all for it), but if the game had leaned more into that sort of stuff, with a bigger area to explore, and more meaningful things to do in those non-shooting parts of the game, I would have really liked that. And maybe if they make a sequel, and are given enough time/money, they might do something more along those lines in the next game. Even if it doesn't turn out exactly as intended, I still think it would be fascinating to see.

Boy, I sure did get off topic, didn't I? I was planning on writing about games getting frustrating, and how hard the end boss of this game was. I dunno, I feel like the stuff I did write about is more interesting than, "Hey they made the end boss hard because it's the end of the game."

That's about all I have to say about the game without getting into the nitty gritty of game play mechanics. For the most part, I think it's a really fun, and well playing shooter. It feels good, most of the guns sound good, and the ones that don't, don't for a reason (either silenced, or are lasers). The one thing I would definitely change in the game play department would be to add either a complete pause, or some level of slow motion when using the weapon wheel to select weapons in the game. It's not game breaking or anything, but I do feel like it would have been better with something like that.

Anyway, it's a really fun game, and a really interesting game in a lot of ways. I wouldn't really call it a looker, because it really (at least on PS4) just looks like an up-rezzed last gen game, but it ran well, for the most part, so I'm fine with that. But if you haven't played this game, it's definitely worth your time. Maybe not for $60, but you can probably find it for cheaper than that if not now, then soon. I got it for $30.

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

PixelJunk Shooter: Ultimate

This game was free on PlayStation Plus, so I downloaded it, and have been playing it here and there ever since then. It was only yesterday that I actually beat it. But, perhaps the better place to start would be in what this game is.

See, PixelJunk Shooter was a PS3 game, one that I got for free, as my second PS3 (which I bought after my first decided to stop reading Blu-ray discs (games and movies)) came with a download code for it (and a copy of Uncharted 2, which I already owned, but that's irrelevant). And then PixelJunk Shooter 2 came out a while later, which I also played. I enjoyed both, but both ended up being kinda frustrating in parts.

But I didn't remember HOW frustrating until I played Ultimate. Ultimate isn't a new game, it's those two PixelJunk Shooter games redone for PS4, and combined into one game. And I must say, they definitely did change up the graphics quite a bit. It definitely looks like a new game, and for the most part, I like the graphical changes. The interface is better overall, and the various fluids in the game look and move better than before. I dunno that I would say it looks like something the PS3 couldn't have done, but I would say that overall, I like the look of it better than the originals.

I haven't actually gone back and played the originals since then (but I did re-watch the Quick Looks for both), so I don't really know what, if any, changes were made to the feel of the game, or the actual levels. I didn't really pay THAT much attention to the Quick Looks, I just wanted to hear Vinny say "fluid dynamics." But I do still really enjoy the core game play of the PixelJunk Shooter.

If you don't know, it's a 2D game where you fly a ship through caves looking for scientists and diamonds. You need to rescue the scientists to proceed to the next part of the level, and you need to find enough diamonds to unlock more levels. And generally speaking, it's not super difficult to find all the scientists, and all the diamonds. I didn't, because I think I missed one scientist (a secret, named one, of which there is one on each level), and I missed ten or so diamonds (there's over 450 total, I think). But getting enough to proceed isn't too much of a challenge.

But that's not to call the game easy. You can die pretty quickly, and the game isn't big on checkpoints. Once you enter a part of a level, there are no checkpoints until you find the scientists, and go to the next part of the level (there's seven parts per each level). Some go quickly, others don't, and having to redo four or five minutes of carefully flying around enemies and magma gets tedious quickly when I keep dying on something stupid because I refuse to not get diamonds, even though I had way more than enough to proceed to the next level.

And then there's the final boss of the game. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I was being quite vocal with how much trouble I was having. The worst part was that I had already beaten that boss at the end of PixelJunk Shooter 2, at which point I probably thought, "Well, at least I never have to do that again."

It's more than a little funny, in retrospect, especially given that my thoughts were, again, "Well at least I never have to do that again." At least not until they decide to remake it again for PS5.

But, frustrations aside, I still had a lot of fun with it, despite those issues. And the music. Man, I just don't get the music in there. WAY too much hip hop in there. And that end of level bit of music? TERRIBLE! Hate it! But I never have to listen to it again, right...?

If you have PS+, and remembered to redeem this game, I'd say it's worth your time. Maybe not if you already played those games on PS3. Hard to say if you only played the first one. Ultimate isn't set up to let you go straight into the stuff from the second game. You have to play through the first one first. Makes sense for people that haven't played it before, but I could definitely see there being people that played the first, but not the second, and who would like to just jump into those levels. But I'm not one of those people, so oh well!

Towerfall: Ascension

Here's the last game on this here blog of mine. It's another free on PlayStation Plus special, but a much more recent one (this month). At first I was a little miffed that this was going to be one of the games, not because I didn't want to play it. Quite the opposite, but my reaction was that I would probably not have many chances to play it with people (which is probably going to be true in the long run). If you don't know, I live with my dad (no job, out of college), and while I could probably play with him, I dunno how much he'd like it, and I haven't really done that in years. And I don't have friends over very often.

BUT, last week my sister came over for a few hours, and I decided to try playing it with her. And we had an absolutely blast, and must have played about four hours straight. It's a pretty simple game, all things told, so I don't really have much to say other than I was surprised at how much fun we had, even with only two players. I was impressed with how I was able to jury rig some "handicaps" to even the playing field a bit. My sister isn't particularly great at video games (about all she plays is Burnout Paradise, which she loves, but isn't great at), and I am pretty good at games, so it was either that, or go so easy on her that I wasn't having a ton of fun. But the game has a lot of options for turning things on an off, and for doing it on a player by player basis. So, I was able to turn off seeking arrows for me, and turn on a shield, max arrows, and wings (for flying) for her, which ended up making it a lot more even. And like I said, we both had a ton of fun.

Unfortunately, she doesn't come over as often as I'd like, partly because of Towerfall, but mostly because she is my sister, and I should spend more time with her than I do. And for the foreseeable future, I don't foresee many opportunities for be playing this game with other people. My friend was saying that we should do a "local multiplayer games" night or something, but given that we recently were able to go through the end of MGS4 together (it was his first time), I doubt we'll get around to it any time soon. It might not make a lot of sense, but just trust me when I say that we're terrible at organizing things, and getting around to doing things with each other.

Also, if you want a fun time, find someone that is receptive to the type of insanity that is MGS, and watch that person play through the end of MGS4. It was a ton of fun to go through that stuff with him.

Sooooooo good. (You get what I mean, friend of mine).

I think that's about it for the stuff I have to write about. I haven't really made any progress on my book, but I'm not going to give up on it. Just need a little time away before I plow back into it. Been seeing some movies, and I'm going to see more in the near future, but I'm not really into talking about movies. That's not my thing. At least not the whole, analyzing movies thing. I could go on about dumb movies, and dumb stuff in dumb movies that I like for dumb reasons, but I'm not going to.

I do, however, have plans for my next blog. I have a bunch of PS3 games that I got on PS+ over the last few months that I never got around to playing, and I feel like they might make for a good, rapid fire blog. So, look forward to that!

4 Comments

Novel Writing: Never Good Enough.

I don't know why I'm writing this. It started with an idea that seemed good, but before I even wrote the first word, I started to question myself. "Why bother? Only a handful of people are going to read it, and they don't care. They might leave some supportive comments, but at the end of the day, they'll go on with their lives just the same as if they hadn't read it. It doesn't matter."

That's what goes through my head (or some variant of it) every day I try to write something. Doesn't matter if it's another chapter of my latest book, a dumb blog about video games, or something like this. And it doesn't go away after writing for a few minutes, not usually anyway. At least not with this one. Sometimes I get into the groove, and get some serious work done, but not as often as I used to be able to. Back when I was young and naïve. You know, a couple years ago.

Let me give some back story here, because I'm starting to lose the thread a little with regards to the main point. I've been writing blogs about video games on and off since...2006, I think. A lot of the older stuff is lost to time (and good riddance to it), but I've written a lot of stuff on the internet. And even of the stuff that's still there, most of it is nonsense. Intentionally so, mind you, but still nonsense. I've had a lot of fun, and I've met some great people in the course of doing so over the years.

But then, in 2011, while I was still in college, I had the brilliant idea to start writing a novel, because clearly that was a better use of my time than trying to figure out what kind of a career to get after I graduated. Because, obviously, I was going to be able to write a hit novel, and never have to get a real job because the money would come flooding in.

Like I said, I was young and naïve. But, I stuck with it, and about a year later, I had a finished product that I was happy with. Of course, during the course of that year I gave up on trying to get it actually published, because that process seemed too hard and time consuming, so I just self-published it on Amazon. There I met a rousing success where tens of people downloaded the book, and most of them were from when the book was free to "promote" it. The idea being that people get it free, read it, like it, and recommend it to people that then pay money for it. I'm pretty sure most of them just downloaded it, and never touched it again.

However, I wasn't deterred. I had written a book, and my friends/a couple people on the internet said they legitimately liked it. So, I started working on a sequel. But I wanted to aim higher, and make something bigger and more ambitious. And I did. As a result, it ended up taking longer to write than the first. Of course, it didn't help that during the course of the later editing stages, I ran into "small" problems like a month-long bout with some of the worst depression of my life, and being hospitalized and then diagnosed with an incurable intestinal disease (nothing life threatening).

But, I eventually got it to a state where I thought it was acceptable to publish, and I did. Where I met a rousing success where tens of people downloaded it, almost all of them from a free promotion. As downtrodden as I was by my continued failures, I couldn't stop. While the first book could have stood alone, the second clearly left it open for the third in the trilogy, and I had to see it through to the end.

And now, here I am.

It's been a couple months since I started writing it. Probably closer to four, actually, I don't really know off hand. I started strong, but ran into some issues early on. I was trying too hard to make the third book "edgier," for lack of a better word, and ended up scrapping a lot of the three or four chapters that I had written. I started over, and got onto a much better track than I had been on.

But the more time that passed, the harder and harder I've found it to focus on what I've been writing. It's hard to justify working on something that maybe three or four other people will actually read to completion, most of them being close friends that are reading it not because they would have sought out this thing and read it anyway, but because I wrote it, and I asked them to.

It's demoralizing, and I think I may be approaching my breaking point. I thought that by writing this, maybe I would get a better grip on what I have accomplished as a writer, and that would boost my morale. And, it is an accomplishment. I've written two full novels, both of which are good (according to my friends), and that's more than most people can say. Hell, that's probably more than most authors can say. It should be something that I'm proud of, and that I brag about.

It's not. I just get disgusted and depressed when I think about it. That I've spent countless hours of my life working on these stupid books that no one cares about. And when I say "countless," I mean it literally. I have no idea how many hours I've spent either actually writing, or just thinking about these books. Walking around, I'll be thinking about what to do next, what characters I need to create, how to justify including stupid things like a castle siege, or a bank heist into them. There were times in college when I couldn't get this stuff off my mind, and I was spending all of my waking hours thinking about it.

Like I said before, I don't know why I'm writing this. It's only making me feel worse, not better. A part of me thought that maybe it could at least be some well written thing that helps examine some deep, inner meaning, or some BS like that. Just seems like a rambling mess to me. I shouldn't even post this, but I will, because I've spent time working on it instead of my book. Or studying for that driver's license test I've got to take before my permit expires next month.

I don't even remember what the original point of all this was. Something about the books, and it not being good enough? In retrospect, of course it was stupid of me to expect anything more than what has happened. And it's my fault too, for not putting in the effort to try to get an actual publisher to actually publish one of these books. But what's the point? No one's going to read these books and say, "Oh yeah, I'll approve company resources to print this dumb thing and sell it in stores." Nothing about what I've written seems anything at all like what people want to read these days, or at least what publishers think that people want to read these days. And of course they don't, I'm a weirdo writing to my own, weird tastes. I could try to write something that appeals to more people. Just ape the boring "young adult" novels that seem to be all the craze today. But why do that when I can write a sweeping space opera that has everything from Space Nazis to Guerrilla Dragons fighting for freedom with GUNS?

I think I figured out why I've written all this. It's because I'm depressed, angry, blaming myself, and don't have any other way to try to vent my frustrations. And would you have guessed that it's not working, and only making me feel worse? I think I already said it's made me feel worse, actually.

I'm not going to stop writing though. Not yet. I'm maybe a third of the way into this next book, perhaps even forty percent. Even if the end product ends up a terrible piece of steaming garbage, I'll feel worse in the long run if I just give up. I have no clue when it'll be done, but I'll finish it one day. And at this rate, it'll probably be the last thing I ever write. Or the last big thing, at least.

If you've actually read all this, then thanks. It still means something when people actually care enough to read all the way through, even if I acknowledge that it's not very good. Unless you just skipped to the end, at which point you are basically history's newest greatest monster.

34 Comments

_Dogs, _Destiny, and _Du..._Di..._Da...uh...E3.

I just want to say in advance that this blog was written in chunks, and it may feel a little disjointed at times. Just saying.

Despite what I had been thinking mere days ago, I was able to finish Watch_Dogs within a month of its release! Or, rather, finish the story. I still have side stuff that I will probably do eventually (and time before one month after release), but never mind all that.

Watch_Dogs is kind of a weird game. Ever since that initial showing at E3 2012, the game has had a dark, and very serious tone. And that extends into the game too, aside from a few moments of levity from a couple of the side characters like Jordi. Generally speaking, though, it's a serious game trying to tell a serious story about serious characters doing serious things.

The problem where this all falls apart is the second you get into a car, and realize that a few memos between the people working on the story, and the people designing the core mechanics of the game must have gotten lost in transit. While the part where Watch_Dogs is a story is no nonsense, the part where it's a game is almost ALL nonsense. The driving is loose and crazy in a way that just screams, "We want this game to be fun nonsense." I could call it slidey and loose all I want, but that doesn't really do it justice, so I went and edited together a video. Though, I should say that it very quickly devolved into a lot of other nonsense, like ghost riding motorcycles in midair/slow motion, so maybe it won't actually do a good job of demonstrating the looseness of the driving.

It does do a better job of showing the tone of the open world part of the game much better than any official stuff you'll see from Ubisoft, at least. I mean, if this game was as serious as the story, it shouldn't have a slow motion mode, for example. But it does, and it's quite useful both in shootouts and whilst driving. Aiden Pearce (the dude you play as, and no, I don't know why they went with Aiden) is fragile enough in gunfights that you can't just run around willy nilly during fights. If you do, you're probably going to die. The game isn't super hard, it's not like I was playing Rainbow Six Vegas and dying constantly (to be clear though, RSV was a great game, I'm not knocking it), but you gotta be careful...At least until you buff up the slow motion skill. Then you can kinda just pop off head shots like they're going out of style. It is governed by a meter, like video games are wont to do, but you can craft slow motion refill items, so it's not really something to worry about. Even without the items, it refills pretty quickly.

It also does this weird thing with the slow motion where every time you pull the trigger, it goes out of slow motion to allow the bullet to hit the guy, but for less than a second, then it goes back into slow motion. It's a good way to let you know if you actually killed the guy or not, but it was also a little jarring at first.

I think jarring is a good word to use when describing a lot of aspects of Watch_Dogs. There's definitely a bit of of a jarring difference between the tone of the story, and the tone of the game play. And really, we all know WHY it is that way, so I'll stop beating around the bush. I'm sure someone at Ubisoft had this great vision for an open world game where hacking was going to be your tool. Rather than fighting with weapons, you would be using the environment to your advantage. Don't shoot those cars, hack the traffic lights to cause a collision in the street. Don't shoot the cops, cause a blackout in the city and use the cover of darkness to escape. And there are certainly times in the game where I used tactics like that, and they not only worked splendidly, they were some of my favorite moments in my time with the game. The problem is that at some point during development, someone realized that the project was too big to make back its money without appealing to a wider audience, because they assumed that a game with just this hacking stuff wouldn't get the sales they needed. So, they added guns.

Now, would the game have sold as well as it did without as heavy a focus on gun play? Maybe, there's no way of knowing. I'm pretty sure that a lot of the hype around the game was from the graphics of that 2012 E3 showing, not the fact that he shot some people at the end of that demo. And I bet that most of the sales were from people like me that just wanted SOMETHING to play, and were foolish enough to not buy Wolfenstein (don't worry, I will play that game eventually).

It really is unfortunate, because like I said, my favorite parts of the game were when I was able to use the hacking stuff to accomplish my goals. When, rather than running in guns blazing, I used the cameras to mark all the enemies, used distractions to get by them, or even used the environment to take them out. Granted, I really like stealth game, so of course that type of stuff is right up my alley, but I'm sure there was a middle ground between "hardcore stealth game" and "game with stealth elements where you carry twenty guns."

Speaking of stealth elements, while I do like that the game often has options for nonlethal take downs, I wish it was more consistent with them. If you hit the take down button with no gun equipped, Aiden hits the guy with a baton, and he's knocked out. But do it with a gun equipped, and he'll do a different animations where he shoots the guy with the gun. While I appreciate that the gun doesn't get magically replaced with the baton, I would have been happier if instead he hit the other guy with the gun. Even worse is that while you can shoot cops in the legs to disable them, you can't do that with any other enemies in the game. I tried, they just take it and keep going, unlike cops, which fall down after one shot to the leg, and a message pops up saying "Cop Disabled." I get that something like that might be game breaking, but you can't even do that when the game specifically requires you to use a nonlethal take down on an enemy. But, at least in those situations the game does do the thing where it magically replaces the gun with the baton if you do a take down with a gun equipped, so hell, I don't know. Video games!

I've got other complaints with other fairly specific things in the game that I might as well mention while I'm at it. You can hack helicopter to momentarily disable them, which can mean the difference between escaping the cops quickly, or being in a long, drawn out chase. But, it my experience, while in a vehicle the helicopters were usually so close that I couldn't actually pan the camera up enough to get the helicopter into view, so I couldn't hack it. Even with the slow motion power, turning the camera completely around to try to see a helicopter and hack it is dangerous, and then not even being able to do it is annoying. Especially when helicopters are about the only thing that won't be shaken off your trail by a blackout, which is really limited to only being useful at night, for obvious reasons.

There's a few times in this game where it puts you into insta-fail stealth situations. I love stealth games, but I can't stand it when they do that. A lot of the fun in stealth games is trying to salvage a situation that quickly deteriorates once you've screwed up and been seen. Now, there's not too many of them in Watch_Dogs, and the ones on foot aren't super hard. But there's one, near the end of the game, where you have to do it in a car, and it was one of the most aggravating things I've played in a game in quite some time. It's not even that long, as I was quite surprised at how short it actually was once I finished it. It was a sequence that should have taken two minutes, but took closer to 35 or 40, if you count repeated attempts.

The production values of this game are all over the place. No, it doesn't look nearly as good as that E3 demo (I played on PS4, obviously), but there are still times when I think the game looks pretty good. At night, with a heavy downpour, I think it looks very nice. And the frame rate holds up, aside from when the game is saving right after a mission, which is definitely a bummer that that is still a thing in modern games.

But on the other hand, there's stuff in this game that just looks absolutely rotten. Like the facial animations, or the lack there of. No, I'm not saying that faces don't animate, but they have all the quality of a GameCube game. Seriously, I don't think the facial animations are any better than Resident Evil 4 era faces. Granted, that was definitely the high end of GameCube games, but this is the year 2014, and this is the PlayStation 4 I was playing on. LA Noire came out three years ago and still has the best facial animations that I've seen in a game. Granted, there are games this year that have great faces, and I bet more will later. Ground Zeroes and Second Son both have fantastic facial animations. Watch_Dogs does not.

And in a game that cost tens of millions of dollars, hell, probably well over a hundred million dollars to make, I can't comprehend how someone thought this was acceptable. How, no one thought to budget in the extra money to put some metal dots on people's faces and record something that looks decent. I'm not saying that level of facial capture is easy, or cheap. Of course it's not, otherwise it would be in the game. But I still don't think what's in this game is acceptable for the scope of the game, and the amount of cutscenes in this game. We, as a society, should be beyond things like this, and have good, realistic facial animations in big budget games. Hell, Uncharted 1, which came out in 2007, and has all hand animated faces, blows this game out of the water in terms of faces. And no, this isn't just me vaguely remembering, I went and rewatched some stuff from that game to make sure before writing this. That's right, I did RESEARCH. Well, "research," at least.

Now, I know that most of what I've typed here has been pretty negative. And for good reason, Watch_Dogs has a lot of issues, but overall I liked the game a lot. There may have been a tonal divide between the story and the game play, but I liked the game play regardless. I had a ton of fun sliding around the streets of Chicago like a lunatic. I had a lot of fun ghost riding those cars in slow motion in mid air. And I even had a lot of fun during most of the story missions. I just wish there had been more tonal consistency in the game. And better faces.

So, for Watch_Dogs 2: Dog Watcher, I hope they change that. I don't care if they make it into the game we all thought Watch_Dogs was going to be at first (harder core stealth, less shooting), or if they make the entire thing a goofy and silly story to match the game play. I just want consistency between those two aspects of the game, and I think either could work. But I doubt that we'll get either, and Watch_Dogs 2 will be more of the same. Also, it'll probably be called Watch_Dogs_2.0.

Also, there's no dogs in Watch_Dogs. Come on Ubisoft! GTA V had dogs, and that game doesn't even have dogs in the title!

Part of the reason why it took me so long to finish Watch_Dogs was that E3 happened, and at a certain point during that week, I just stopped playing games so I could focus on being on the internet to see stuff about games that aren't out yet. And I figured that whilst I was writing this blog, I might as well write something up about E3.

I liked it. I think this was a good E3 year. Granted, a lot of the new games were either officially announced, or leaked before E3, but if you discount that, then it was a pretty killer E3. Okay, sure, maybe you might be bummed about how most of the stuff is coming next year, but isn't that kinda the case with most E3s? Whatever, I was happy with what I saw from this year's E3, and I am excited for games being released both this year, next, and who knows, what with delays and all (I will eat a metaphorical hat if Uncharted 4 is actually a 2015 release, don't ask me why, but that's the one my money is on for a delay).

Anyway, I thought Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed Unity had really strong showings for games coming out this year. And uh, I guess that Shadow of Mordor game seems pretty cool. Bayonetta 2 and Destiny (more on that later) are also games coming this year, though I dunno if I'll have a Wii U or not. Depends on if there's a price drop, or a good deal closer to holiday season. Okay, fine, I admit it, this fall is looking a little slim. I mean, that's (hopefully) two really good Ubisoft games, and a (hopefully) good Lord of the Rings game. And #DRIVECLUB, I'll have the free version of that, I guess. And uh....hm....Dragon Age III?

Next year though? Man, can I just preemptively declare it my favorite year for video games? MGSV, The Witcher III, Batman, Bloodborne, Mortal Kombat X, No Man's Sky, need I say more? Okay, sure, No Man's Sky doesn't have a date attached to it yet (so far as I know), but those other games are gonna be rad, and there's others I didn't mention.

I don't really have much to say specifically about those games other than that I continue to be obsessed with all things Metal Gear, and that The Phantom Pain Is looking especially good. I mean, just look at this sheep. It's being Fulton Recovery-ed! So good.

My favorite thing, or even trend, you might say, from this E3 was the, "And you can play it, RIGHT NOW" thing. It happened with Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha (almost got that one try, without checking), it happened with the Battlefield Hardline Beta, and most importantly, with the Destiny "Alpha," which I was able to get into.

I have mixed feelings about Destiny, based on what I played, which was a fair amount. The "Alpha" has three character classes in it, and the level cap is 8. I was able to get one character of each class up to 8 in the course of the "Alpha." So I feel like I spent about as much time with it as you can, if not more than I should have.

Overall, I liked it. I think the core game play is rock solid. Everything about the shooting feels good, and I'm glad that it does, because that's probably the most important thing, right? If that part was junk, then none of the rest of it would matter, unless it had a great story (which I'm going to say it probably won't). But the rest of it? Well, the story mission it starts you in was good, and the Strike was fun too. The Strike being a quest to go fight a boss with a couple of other people in co-op. It was pretty tough, in a good way, mostly. It has a recommended level, and I would not recommend playing it too far below it.

But then there was the explore mode, which just seemed boring to me. If I was playing and chatting with friends, it'd be better, I'm sure. But at a certain point, I don't see why I would rather do that in the explore mode over play the story missions, strikes, or just chat with them via the internet. I'm not going to fully condemn the mode, because it's not the final version of the game, but right now, I'm really feeling it.

So, if the game ends up having a lot of focused story type stuff, and I have some people to play with it'll be a rad game. Actually, I should say, people that I can coordinate when to play with, and actually play with them. I've had this happen before, where I would make sure I bought the same version of a game as my friends, to make sure we would play together, and then it never happens. Sometimes it wasn't our fault, like with Dark Souls II. My friend and I did everything we could to try to play with each other. We made sure we were in the right level range, in the same covenant, and even had that ring that helps with co-op, but none of it worked. At a certain point we just decided that From Software hates us and gave up.

Oh, and [Insert tired joke about moon wizard here.] I love that Bungie is doing its thing with dumb enemy names again, but making them even dumber than ever. At least with Wizards, I don't really remember any other, specific enemy names. Knights, maybe? I remember the faction names, like "The Fallen" and "The Hive." And really, if we're talking poor Dinklage lines, "Oh no, it's the Hive" is the winner, not the moon wizard line. The moon wizard line is at least funny.

That's one of the characters I made in the Alpha. I will say, maybe my biggest complaint is that there's no beards. Granted, that's a lady, but my first character was a robot, and my second was a dude, and there weren't any beards. As a bearded man, I'm offended at Bungie for not representing me in its game.

I think that's all I have to say about that. And everything else, really. Maybe not, I did start playing PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate yesterday. It was free on PS+ this month(?). Or was it last month? I don't remember, either way, I started playing it, even though I played both of those games on PS3, and this is a remake of those. Still fun though, and the game looks quite a bit nicer than it did before, which is nice.

But what's up on the horizon? Hell, I don't know. Looks like a whole lot of nothing until Destiny comes out in September. I downloaded War Thunder onto my PS4 a while ago, because it's free to play, and airplanes, but I haven't played any of it. I might play some of that at some point, I guess. I dunno, maybe not. There was a Quick Look of it, maybe I could rewatch that to see if the game is any good or not.

And outside of games? I continue to have little in the way of a life, I continue to slowly practice driving, in the hopes of getting my license, and I keep trying to make progress on my next novel. It's been slow goings, though. After the complete and utter failure of Space Cops 5000 (which part of me was expecting, given that's what happened with the first one), it's been hard to motivate myself to write when I remember that no one cares enough to actually read these books. And I don't know why I keep harping about it in these blogs, clearly if I haven't convinced anyone yet, I'm not going to.

Or, more people, I guess. Some people have at least read some of it, but in a way, that's kinda worse. I mean, never starting it is bad enough, but what does it say when someone does start it, but doesn't feel compelled to finish it? Not good things, I can tell you that.

I'm ending this now, because writing about it makes me feel depressed, or I make my friends annoyed because I keep complaining about this and then they respond by saying they do want to read the stuff, but don't have the time, etc. I know, I know.

Oh, and as is typical, I didn't proofread any of this, so it's probably of low quality, for a variety of reasons. I'm sorry.

I found that on the internet, and it's the best fan art I've seen yet for MGSV. Sure, maybe the right thing to do would be to credit its creator, but who has time for that? It's not like working on something means the creator wants recognition, right? Oh, wait...

6 Comments

Transistor? I hardly Know her!

Okay, I know I always try to go for something "witty" in my blog titles, but I don't even know how that is what I came up with for this. I'm kinda tempted to wait until after I've played a bunch of Watch_Dogs before writing another blog, so I have more than one game to work with. But as tempted as I am, I think Transistor is due a blog dedicated to itself, because I think it deserves words written about both the game part of the game, and the not game part of the game. You know, the part where people talk and the plot is advanced. Or, "story," as some people call it.

Having finished the game, and gotten maybe 40% of the way into a new game plus (I had wanted to finished it a second time before writing this, but playing with all the Limiters on is CRAZY (but more on that later)), I feel confident in saying that there are aspects of this game that I absolutely love, and some other things about it that I don't think work as well as they could. I'll start with the part I think works the least well, the story.

This game drops you in without telling you anything, and slowly reveals things about the story as the game continues, while also moving the story forward from the point where it begins. That's fine, I know I've done similar things in my writing, but the issue I have is that I don't think the game gives all the answers that I think it should. I don't think that every story ever made has to share every last detail of everything that has happened in it. But there's a fine line between leaving unanswered questions and feeling unsatisfying. I admit that it is possible that finishing the game in Recursion Mode (new game plus) gives more answers, but based on what I've played so far, there aren't any significant story differences between that and playing it the first time.

I know there are people out there that will talk up the benefits of not knowing being better than knowing (or whatever nonsense it is that JJ Abrams goes on about). It's like that new Godzilla movie. There's a ton of buildup to Godzilla appearing, which is fine, but it takes it too far. You wait half the movie before Godzilla shows up (not counting a few glimpses in the opening credits), and then it says, "Cool, now you've got to wait before you see him again."

That last paragraph doesn't make any sense. I should probably just delete it, but I'm not going to, because Godzilla. I did actually like that movie a lot, but in a, "This is good, but if the next one is another movie done in exactly this style, with these same actors, then that's going to be a complete and utter bummer, because the best actors in this movie aren't in it nearly enough, and there is nowhere near enough Godzilla."

The point I was trying to make is that Transistor goes too far in the not giving answers direction, and I was trying to give an example from popular culture to help better make my point. But I can't really say much more without getting into spoilers, of either Transistor or Godzilla, and I don't want to do that for either of them here. So I'm just going to move on, after stopping for just a moment to say that I like the voice acting in Transistor.

Then there's the game play. Before watching the Quick Look, I knew absolutely nothing about the way this game played, so I just figured that it would play like Bastion. And, in a way, it does kinda play like a clunky version of Bastion, at least when played in real time. But unlike Bastion, which is very fast and responsive, most of the abilities (or Functions) in Transistor are slow and have a lot of down time between attacks. But that's because the game isn't meant to be played that way, at least not most of the time.

Instead, you're supposed to pause the game and plan out attacks. Honestly, strategy type games aren't really the sort of thing that I usually get into, whether they're turn based, or real time. With "traditional" strategy games that I've tried playing in the past, like Advance Wars, or XCOM Enemy Unknown, I enjoy it at first, but grow to hate the game over time because I'm so bad at it. But there's a few things about Transistor that address all of the issues that I've had with more strategy focused "strategy" games in the past.

The first one is that, unless you're using the dog Function, there's only one character to control. Rather than a whole army, or unit of dudes, I only have to worry about one person. And even with the dog power, if they die, then I just summon more, it's not like I "have" to reload a save like I would if I lost someone in XCOM. It's so much easier to only have to focus on one person that it makes a dummy like me able to get through the game without too much trouble at all.

Similarly, the fact that all the battles take place in small zones, and there's no fog of war makes it much easier to keep track of everything. Not as easy as it should be, however. While the battle zones are small, they're usually big enough that not all of it can fit on the screen at once, and there's no way to zoom out the camera. Normally that would be fine, but I had more than a few instances where I couldn't see where to aim at an enemy because it was hidden behind the interface at the bottom of the screen. I get not wanting to show everything to the player, but not being able to aim properly because of HUD issues is something that shouldn't be in a game as well polished as this one is. But it's a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, and I don't think I ever got killed over it.

Another thing that sets it apart is that it never (or rather, rarely) forces you into use the time stop and plan your Turn out stuff. Unless you're waiting for the post Turn cool down to end, you're always able to just hit a button and use whatever Function it is that you have equipped. And there's very little in the way of dice rolls in this aspect of the game (at least so far as I can tell), so it's not like XCOM where a guy can miss with a shotgun from eight feet away. If you miss, it's probably your own fault, and that's a much better way to make a game than to have random chance force misses onto you, at least for this game.

Speaking of Functions, the level of customization that this game has in the Functions is crazy. There's four slots, one per button, each of those has two augment slots, and there's four passive ability slots. You don't start with all of those, because of course this game has RPG elements (like everything else), and what you can equip is dependent on available memory. But beyond that, the only restriction is that you can't augment the same function with twin functions. In other words, you can't augment the Breach Function with two Crash Functions. All of the Functions have different effects. Crash is a simple attack when used in a main slot, but as an augment, it confers a stun bonus. But as a passive skill, it makes you immune to being stunned or slowed. I don't know the exact number off the top of my head, but there's a pretty decent number of Functions in the game, and a pretty decent variety in them. There's regular melee attacks, projectile attacks, debuffs, status effects, one that can summon a dog, and even a good old fashioned dash, just for good measure.

The combat has way more depth to it than I expected from Supergiant Games, not because I doubt their skill, but because they're such a small team. Bastion was a really fun game, but also quite "simple" when compared to this. I know they acquired more people since Bastion, but even so, the depth to this game is nuts. Especially given how balanced most of it feels. Aside from being able to stun lock most enemies (something I never got into until trying to get the Trophy for completing five battles with all ten Limiters on), I haven't really stumbled onto anything that feels like it breaks the balance they were going for. Obviously some things work better on certain enemies than others, but for the most part, it's balanced, and it's fun.

(And then there's the Limiters, which make the game harder and give bonus XP for having them on. There's a couple that I don't think are very rough, but there are some REALLY rough ones. That Trophy for beating five battles with all ten on is quite hard. For all I know, maybe there is one set of Functions that is completely broken, and I just haven't found it yet, but I don't know.)

Although, one of the problems that this sort of design runs into is when players get into a groove of using the same abilities they like, and not changing things up as they get deeper into the game, despite unlocking new Functions. But they managed to create a couple systems that encourage, or in one case, force players to vary things up.

The encouragement comes in the form of the challenge rooms in the game. Rather than letting you go into them with whatever you currently have equipped, the game either forces you to use a set of Functions, or lets you choose from a much smaller pool of them. And as you might expect, being thrown into rooms of enemies without being able to have full control over the Functions you have equipped forces you to think and adapt on the fly, which is really fun. There's tons of combos and things that I probably would have never tried on my own, so having this in the game was a brilliant move on their part.

And the forcing comes in the form of how this game punishes "death." Rather than instantly dying upon health reaching zero, under normal circumstances, Transistor goes into Emergency Turn mode. This gives you a chance to do some extra damage, or run away before you die. And if you can avoid being hit until the Turn cool down ends, the game will go into Emergency Turn again the next time you get hit. BUT, if you get hit during that cool down, the game disables one of your Functions, and restores full health (but one of the Limiters disables Emergency Turn, and goes straight into disabling a Function). And you don't regain access to that Function until you've been to a couple Access Points, which is where you can equip the various Functions and Limiters. It's not until you've lost all your active Functions that the game goes into game over, though if you're relying on a certain one, you might want to reload anyway. At least that's what I've been doing with all the Limiters on, because MAN, the game gets hard with all the Limiters on.

Hm...Is there anything else that I want to say about the game play? The frame rate is mostly stable, but I have noticed a little bit of choppiness when I use a bunch of Functions in quick succession that have a lot of effects and stuff Bouncing from enemy to enemy in Recursion Mode, when there's a lot more enemies on screen than there would have been the first time through. But for the most part, like I said, it runs fine on PS4. But the game does have this weird thing where the fans in the PS4 get really load in menus, like at Access Points. I don't really know why, either. I mean, this game looks absolutely beautiful, but it's not pushing the PS4 hardware. I'm not really complaining, or worried that Transistor is going to destroy my PS4, but it's weird either way.

I already mentioned that the game is beautiful, especially on my big TV. I know that I'm a sucker for colored lighting, and similar things, but man, it just looks gorgeous. These screen shots don't do it justice either. At least not on my laptop's screen, because the colors don't look nearly as good as they do on my TV, but I know you don't want to read my gushing over my TV's colors (again), so I'll stop.

And I think that's everything that I have to say about Transistor. If you haven't played it, you should.

I don't think I have anything else to say about anything else.... Not much happened over Memorial Day weekend. I've seen a few movies, like Godzilla, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. I liked the new X-Men, but First Class is still my favorite, largely because it had a plot more focused on the Cold War, and it had more Michael Fassbender than this movie did. That said, I'd say it's my second favorite X-Men movie, so you should see it if you like X-Men stuff. Or even if you don't, it's still a good movie.

I haven't made a ton of forward progress on my book, but I'm still chugging away on it. I have not put as much work into my new, secret project as I had wanted to, but hopefully I will soon. That's a smaller thing that I can get off the ground more quickly, and hopefully you guys will like it once I do. I don't want to spoil what it is, but I will say it's another writing focused thing, because that's about all I'm good at doing.

I'm thinking about doing some live streaming from my PS4. Would you guys watch that? I'm not going to make promises, mind you. I don't know if my internet upload speed is fast enough, and I don't know about providing commentary over it. For one thing, I can't stand the sound of my voice, at least not any time that I've heard it recorded and then played back through something, so I don't think my talking over it would add to people's enjoyment. And if I don't comment over it, what's the point of live streaming, when I could just edit the best parts into a YouTube video? Also, I do all my video game playing in the living room of my house, and I don't want to be talking to myself out loud when my dad is around, because when he is, he'd be able to hear everything I'd say. So if I do stream, it'd have to be at weird times when he was out working, or something.

Anyway, that might happen, it might not. If it does, I'll tweet a link to it, and you can watch if you want. Or not, it'll just be me doing dumb stuff in Watch_Dogs or Ground Zeroes, probably.

That's it! I'm going to go get Watch_Dogs right now, so look out for me tweeting screen shots from it, and maybe a live stream? As usual, I didn't proof read any of this, so beawre of tpyos.

Praise the Sun! \o/

7 Comments

Sticking to the Line.

It's been well over a month since the last time I blogged about video games. Not since the last time I blogged (though it's almost been a month since then), but that was a one time deal. I mean, I can only come out once, right?

Anyway, as is often the case with me, I go through lengthy periods where I'm either not playing anything, or not playing anything deserving of more than a passing reference in a blog. Mercenary Kings is all right, but I don't think I could write a whole blog about it. If it wasn't obvious enough already, then I'll be blunt and say that I do now have some things to write about, which is why you're reading this thing I wrote about video games that I played.

Spec Ops: The Line.

When this game was released, it fell under the category of, "I'll buy it if I see it on sale, which really means I'll probably never play it because by the time it does I'll have stopped caring about it." But then it was $5 on PSN, which was a price that I couldn't refuse. I played it, I'm very glad that I did play it, and I think this is very much one of those games that everyone should play at some point in his or her life.

This is a difficult game to write about. Usually when I write these blogs, I try to avoid talking about the story too much, and focus on the game part of the games. But I feel like doing that here would be doing this game a disservice, and also missing the point. I'll do my best to talk around the story, and if I do run into spoiler territory, I'll white it out, classified government document style. I will say this though: If you have not played this game, and have any inkling at all that you might want to, go play it now, before reading anything I have to say about it. It's fairly short, and probably mad cheap on Steam, because as a non-PC player, I just always assume that everything is mad cheap there all the time.

Spec Ops presents itself, at least within the game, as a pretty standard third person, cover based shooter. About the only things it does differently from any generic third person shooter are that it has three grenade types (regular, sticky, and flash), and that it has light squad mechanics. It's basically just, push a button when aiming at a dude to have your squad focus on that dude. So far as I could tell, there's no way to direct them to specific cover points, which I would have liked. It does have a neat feature where the lines that the characters say when doing things like reloading, or telling your squadmates to focus on specific targets change over the course of the game. Up front they're very professional things that soldiers should say, but by the end, well, let's just say that they sound like the things these people would say after going through the stuff that they have.

But in a way, the game is almost intentionally generic. Up front, it's so standard and generic that by the time the game starts going outside the box with the story, that it makes it that much more impactful. This game isn't like The Last of Us, which opens with (spoiler for the beginning of The Last of US) Joel's daughter dying. This isn't a game that would lead you to believe that it's going to have strong emotional resonance, or be doing anything other than having some dude-bro soldiers fighting generic "Middle-Eastern" terrorist type enemies.

By the end, it's clear that it's really about the toll that war takes on soldiers, especially those placed in command. The ones that not only have to commit horrible acts, but can't even use the, "I was just following orders" excuse to help justify it. Which is not to say that Walker (the protagonist) does not spend most of the game trying to justify his actions. He certainly does, and how his rational changes and morphs throughout the game is definitely an important part of the story.

Part of the way that the game helps make these choices that Walker makes in the story feel more impactful is that a handful of them are either in the hands of the player, or at least presented in such a way that it feels like there's a choice, even if in reality there isn't actually a choice. I mean that both in the, "this is a video game and choice never really matters" sense, and in the sense that...Well, you'll have to play the game to see what I mean. Unless you have played it and still don't understand.

This game's also really brutal. Brutal in ways that games rarely get. I don't want to spoil anything, but take my word for it. This game is brutal. Maybe the most brutal game I've ever played. Not in the sense of the literal amount of gore shown on screen. If that's your standard, then something like Mortal Kombat 9 would be your high point, or maybe REVENGEANCE.

The difference here, if I really need to state it, is that Spec Ops is a dark, serious, and most importantly, grounded game. I'm not saying it's a completely realistic game. Even outside of regenerating health, and other game mechanics, there's definitely plenty of times when this game operates under "action movie physics" (like exploding barrels) rather than real world physics. But at the moments when it matters most, the game is as realistic as it needs to be to FEEL real, regardless of whether it actually adheres to the laws of physics.

The game has really great voice acting to back up all this stuff too. Nolan North gives one of his best performances as Walker. At the very least, I'd say it's his best "serious" performance, as there's still a part of me that thinks his work as Steven Heck in Alpha Protocol remains his finest work. The rest of the cast is great as well. I particularly liked that Jake Busey (son of Gary Busey) was in this game, and I didn't even realize it was him until I saw the credits, and laughed. If you've never seen anything with Jake Busey in it, then take my word for it when I say that he looks and sounds almost exactly like a younger Gary Busey. Or at least he did in Nazis at the Center of the Earth, because like I said, I didn't realize it was him until the credits.

That's probably about all that I really have to say about the game, at least without going into massive spoiler territory. If you haven't played this game, then please do. It's honestly one of my favorite games of the last generation, and like I said before, a game that I think everyone should play. We don't get many games like this, and frankly, I don't want there to be a ton of games like this. I still like mindless shooters that don't make me think about morality, or mental illness. But I'd definitely like there to be more games like this. Maybe two or three a console generation. I think that sounds about right.

If you have played the game, and didn't listen to the spoilercast that GameSpot did closer to the game's release (in 2012), I recommend you give it a listen. Jeff Gerstmann and the guy who wrote the game were guests for it. Even if you've played the game, I think it's safe to say that the writer drops some stuff that you probably would never have realized. If you haven't played the game, and are serious about not playing it, it's still worth a listen. Just consider playing it first. Or after, you'd still get a lot out of it.

Oh, one last thing. This game has loading screen tips about cognitive dissonance. Yup. I probably should have included a picture of one that actually said that, but this isn't a PS4 game where I have a screenshot button, so sorry!

Stick it to the Man.

After Spec Ops, it was nice to have something lighthearted and goofy to play. And this happened to be free on PS+ for PS4, and thus I played it. If you have absolutely no idea what this game is, then you could start by (re)watching the Unprofessional Fridays video where Vinny played some of the PS3 version (assuming you're a premium Giant Bomb member). Or, I could tell you that it's a "platformer-adventure" game. Yup, video game genres are still broken.

Stick it to the Man is one part side scroller (though there is a little bit of z-axis movement, Little Big Planet style), and one part puzzle solving adventure game. More specifically, it's the "find the right items and use them in the right places" type of adventure game. It's not a pixel hunt, thankfully, because the game is always very clear about what items you can grab, and where you can use items (though not about what item is to be used on which spot).

Most of that is built around the main character (Ray) having the ability to read minds, and by doing so, often create a physical representation (as a sticker, thus the "stick it" in the title) of said item. He can also stick items to people's thought bubbles to make them think of a specific thing, also for use in puzzle solving. And at least in the PS4 version, when you listen to people's thoughts, their thoughts play through the controller's speaker. I know I saw a thread on GB where some people were complaining about that, and the "tinniness" of the speaker, but I think the audio quality is fine. Maybe I'm just used to the terrible in-controller speaker on Wiimotes, but I like the DualShock 4's speaker.

For the most part, it's pretty simple and straightforward. I did get stuck once, not because I didn't know what to do, but because an NPC that I needed to follow me literally got stuck. I had to reload the game, and thankfully she had gotten unstuck, and I was able to proceed. Aside from that though, I never had much trouble with the puzzles, and if anything, I wish they had been a tad more challenging.

The other aspect of the game are the stealth sequences. For story reasons, the government (or, "The Man," if you will) is after Ray, and occasionally he has to get past government agents. These parts aren't especially difficult, but they're also not fun. The only thing they do that is remotely interesting is that occasionally you can read the thoughts of the agents and attain stickers to use against them. If one is thinking about how sleepy he is, then you can get a "ZZZ" sticker, and use it to put an agent to sleep for a few seconds. Or if an agent is trying to remember what Ray looks like, you can get a "Ray's face" sticker, stick that onto an agent, and other agents will chase after him. It sounds more interesting than it actually is in practice.

Luckily all the stealth parts of the game are short, and not very hard, otherwise it would have been a serious drag, and really lowered my overall opinion of the game. But as it is, I enjoyed it, and I think the game is just funny enough often enough that I'd say it's funny. If you have a PS4, and PS+, then you have absolutely no reason not to play the game, it's only a few hours long, and I think worth your time.

Also, I think the art style is fantastic. I probably should have gotten a screenshot of my own to use, but the game is so linear, and didn't really have any funny glitches, so I wasn't hitting that Share button very often.

It's also a very strange game, especially toward the end. Don't read the following whited out bit if you have any intention of playing this game. There's a part in this game where the solution to a puzzle is to move a pregnant woman's pregnant belly into a man, and make him pregnant. No, I'm not joking, that is literally a puzzle solution in this game.

Mercenary Kings.

This game's all right. I dunno, I don't really have a ton to say about it. The weapon customization stuff is cool. The part where bosses can just run away is lame. I tried playing it in co-op, but local two player still splits the game into quadrants, and it didn't let player 2 have any access to my unlocked gun parts. That meant we had to either play the early game missions (where I was wrecking stuff) or mid game stuff where his early game weapons were way too weak to be effective against most of the enemies.

I still haven't beaten the game. I think I've put 10-12 hours into it. I'm not opposed to playing more, I've definitely enjoyed most of what I've played. It's just a really repetitive game, and I haven't been in the mood to play long stretches of it. Or any of it, on most days. I'll probably finish it at some point.

That's it for the games I've been playing. And probably will be it until Watch_Dogs comes out. I dunno, I might play Transistor, but I literally know nothing about that game, other than it being the next game from Greg Kasavin and the other people that worked on Bastion. People seem to be excited about it, but I dunno.

Not much else has been going on lately. I saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which I didn't think was great. There's a new Godzilla movie coming out, which is rad. It's gotten me watching the old Godzilla movies on Netflix, which are not of high quality, I'll say.

I've somehow gotten into a situation where I am going to watch local lacrosse games, despite not enjoying watching lacrosse at all. I'll just say it's a family thing, and leave it at that.

Still working on my novel. Making progress, slowly but surely. Nothing else to report on that front.

I've often made passing references to feeling depressed and whatnot in these blogs, but I've been feeling a lot better since the last time I wrote up one of these things. I can't say with 100% certainty that it's because I came out (as bi), both in that last blog, and outside that blog (to my parents and friends), but I'm going to say that certainly didn't hurt.

And that's all I've got to say. Since I still don't feel like I have a proper replacement for Luigi pictures, and I did mention Nolan North, I'm going to go back to the days of including a picture of Nolan North, at least in this one blog.

13 Comments

My life as a closeted bisexual. Updated X2!

Update: Today (the Wednesday after the original post) I came out to my dad. He was surprised, but that's about it, so it went well. I've left the rest of the post intact, but thought it was worthwhile to add this.

Update 2: I have also now come out to my mom! She was less surprised than my dad, but it also went really well. Just thought that was worth updating this, on the odd chance that someone else stumbles across this in the future.

So, today's been a weird day. I woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, and logged onto Giant Bomb. All the stuff I usually do. I encountered this thread, and went in, because a thread about people's secrets seemed intriguing. I didn't even have any intention at all of actually saying anything. Instead, what happened was that I saw another Giant Bomb user say that his secret was his (well, I don't know that he's necessarily a dude, but I hate it when people use "they" or "their" for a single person of unknown gender) being bisexual. And, being the rational person that I am, I decided then and there I was going to do the same, and came out of the closet as being bisexual. And I figured I might as well mention it on Twitter, so I did.

What followed was a bunch of people saying really nice things, and being really supportive, and it couldn't have made me happier. I mean, I shouldn't have been surprised, given that Giant Bomb is usually great community, and the people that follow me on Twitter (many of whom I consider to be friends) are of course going to be supportive, but still. It warmed my heart. And then I figured that I should write up something proper and lengthy about this, my experience with this, and being in the closet for so long, because I like writing and it seemed like the thing to do.

I guess I should begin at the beginning. Obviously no two people are the same, and my experience isn't going to be the same as anyone else's, but it took me a long time to figure out that I was bisexual. I mean, I knew I was attracted to the opposite sex at the "normal" age (early teens-ish), but it wasn't until 2009 that I realized I was bisexual. I was 18 and a half. If you read the stuff I write on the internet a lot, this next part will make a lot of sense.

It was Metal Gear, of all dumb things, that helped me realize it. If you're not familiar, the series features several bisexual characters. Almost all villains, and arguably not portrayed well, but nonetheless, it has bisexual characters, which is more than most video game series can say. But this wasn't a case where it introduced me to the concept of bisexuality, and I instantly realized my own sexuality. No, instead I played MGS2 in early 2007 (featuring Vamp, the most prolific bisexual in the series), then MGS3 in mid 2007 (with Volgin, another bisexual), and then MGS4 in 2008 (where Vamp returns). But it wasn't until about a year after MGS4. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep, which, as you may have guessed, often leads to me thinking about Metal Gear.

I don't remember the specifics, but eventually my train of thought led me from MGS4 to bisexuality, and somehow the thought, "Am I bisexual?" popped into my head. It was like an epiphany. Suddenly a lot of things about my life, the way I thought about certain people, reacted in certain situations, made a lot more sense. I wasn't convinced, because, at the moment, I thought, "Well, I'm tired, it's late, and I'm a crazy person, so maybe it's a fluke." So I did what I could to "check." I won't go into the details, but I'll say that some time on the internet helped assure me that I was indeed bisexual, and for that moment in time, I was happy.

It's no secret that I'm prone to feeling pretty depressed. I have been since my early teens. I had already been on an upswing, as it was my last year of high school, where I had finally started opening up, spending more time with people, etc. But, for that moment in time, this was like... a lighthouse? Like, a beacon leading me to... Okay, I'm bad with metaphors, that's why I'm a novelist, not a poet. It really made me feel a lot better about myself...At least for a little while.

Because then I was faced with a question: Do I tell anyone? Given the fact that this was five years ago, you can probably figure out what happened. Aside from one friend of mine, who I told, I kept it to myself. (And hey, friend of mine, I do appreciate that you've been there for me all these years, I only hope I've been a good enough friend in return.)

But when it came to whether or not to tell my parents, well, it wasn't so simple. Because it took me so long to realize it, I had spent years telling people I was straight. And for whatever reason, every year after I entered my teens my mom asked me like two or three times if I was gay. Not because I was acting stereotypically "gay" or anything, it was because I wasn't out dating anyone, or showing much interest in girls (though I can say with authority that I was in fact, interested in girls). Even beyond that, my relationship with my mother has been strained at best ever since my early teen years, even to this day (though it's certainly better now than it has been at times). Anyway, between my general inclination to hide things from her, saying that I was straight for years, and that specific time being when my relationship with her was at its worst, I just didn't. And my dad? I don't really think he'd care either way (he's certainly always been open minded about everything, and loves me (to be clear, my mom also loves me)), but again, I just never found a way to say it.

So, I told myself, "Well, if it comes up in conversation, I won't lie about it." Which is why a couple years later when my mom was driving me somewhere, and talking about my cousin, who was bisexual, I of course, lied and said I had no interest in men when she asked. So...yeah.

We don't exactly live in a world that's completely friendly and welcoming to LGBT people. And as time went on, and I kept hiding the truth, I became more and more accustomed to just trying to keep it a secret. To trying to suppress it as much as possible. And since I'm bi, and not gay, it's not like I couldn't pursue "normal" relationships. I could have theoretically never told anyone, met a woman, gotten married, and lived a perfectly "normal" life. And there's nothing saying that parts of that won't happen, but clearly the keeping it a secret part is gone.

But keeping a secret like that starts to wear away at you. I did, at one point, try finding some means of contacting other bisexual people, through totally anonymous internet stuff. It was certainly helpful, and enlightening about other people and their situations (so if people ever tell you that Omegle has done no good, it's a lie), but I was still keeping it secret. Aside from that one friend (who I never mentioned it to again, and he may well have forgotten (I don't blame you if you did)), I was just bottling it all up.

Like I said before, I've been prone to feeling really depressed at certain points in my life. The last year especially has been rough. Between lingering worries about my future (financially), the passing of Ryan Davis, all my medical problems that started appearing last year (Crohn's Disease), and a bunch of other things, it's been rough. And having my bisexuality at the back of my mind, just sitting there, reminding me of how different I am, how weird I am...it didn't help. Especially when there's people out there denying that bisexuality even exists. Of course, those are mostly the same people that think that people just choose to be gay, or bi, and those people are both horrible and horribly misinformed, but they exist. You can even find gay and lesbian people out there that deny and shun bisexuals if you go digging deep enough into parts of the internet that I wish I had never found.

And honestly, there's been times when I wished I could just choose to be straight. That I could forget all about it, and be "normal." I couldn't, obviously, but I don't think I have to go into details about how trying to deny a part of yourself exists is bad for your mental state of being. And I was having thoughts like this within the last year, so it's not like this is something I got over a long time ago. Hell, even with the incredible reaction I've gotten (you guys are the best), there's still a part of me, even though it's very small, but there's a part of me that wishes I could be "normal." It's probably the smallest it's been since those thoughts first appeared, but it's still there.

And that sucks. Maybe if I could ever bring myself to actually come out to my parents, or if I got into a better state of mind about the rest of my life, I could finally drive those lingering thoughts out. Probably not, given that I live in the US, a country that I still love with all my heart, despite how awful it can be to LGBT people in certain states. Even here in Massachusetts, there's plenty of horrible people out there that, well, I won't go into the specifics, but you know how awful people can be.

But, thankfully I have a community like Giant Bomb's there to support me during my low times, and there to pat me on the back for my arbitrary and rash decision to say these things today. The GB crew, and the content they've made have cheered me up more times than I can count. Any time I've felt down, they were always there with some Quick Look of a terrible game, some play through of something idiotic, or some incredibly long podcast about the most inane and hilarious things imaginable. I wouldn't give the stupid and hilarious conversations I've had on Twitter with the people I've met on Giant Bomb for anything. Same goes for all the discussions and outright arguments I've had with people on the site itself. Well, maybe for a world without hate against LGBT people, a cure for Crohn's Disease, and a few billion dollars. Then I'd think about it.

But seriously, you guys are the best. The absolute best. Though, really, I should be thanking the person that introduced me to Giant Bomb (that same friend, oddly enough), because I can't imagine what my life would be like today if I hadn't found it. What it'd be like without the friends that I've made. Matlock, Chabbs of Abkhazia, Krummey, Fattony, Josh the Miku fan, Abyssful (I'll never forget, Liam), Little So Crates, Mento(s) and Diet Coke...There's too many to name! I'm sorry if I didn't mention you, but I love you all, and I'd give you all hugs if I could, and wasn't worried about germs (damn health issues).

So here I am, writing the most heartfelt and introspective thing I've ever written. Trying to describe the last five years, and the emotional roller coaster that's been. Even now, hours after I made the initial comments (never mind how I mentioned my bisexuality on a Ground Zeroes thread a month ago (totally in context and to make a point) just to see if anyone would notice (they didn't, aside from the one person I was directly addressing)), I'm still nervous. There's still a part of me that would rather clam up and keep this all to myself. But screw that!

It's been a long road. And if anyone reading this has had similar experiences, or has any questions, feel free to ask (just be reasonable with the questions). If you're not ready to tell everyone, PM me, if you want. I'll take your secrets to the grave. If the things I've written here help a single person, either understand his or her own problems, or helped a "normal" person understand what LGBT people go through, then I'll be ecstatic. I'll feel like I've helped give back to this wonderful, amazing community of the best people on the internet. And ZombiePie. That guy always says every blog I write is my return to blogging, and F that guy for that. (I'm kidding! You know I'm kidding, right?)

So that's that. I'm bisexual, and I'm out loud(ish) and proud(ish). I'm in good company too, with people like David Bowie, Sammy Davis Jr., Freddie Mercury, Obi-Wan Kenobi, etc. At least according to Wikipedia, which has a list four pages long.

Oh, and I tried my hardest to come up with a good pun for my bi-line, but I couldn't, so I opted for a normal sounding title. Guess I left my puns in the closet, I'Ll Get Back To you later if I think of some.

124 Comments

Second Son, Second Souls, and Second Guessing.

I beat inFAMOUS Second Son a few days ago, and earlier today I beat Dark Souls II. I was meaning to write up a blog about Second Son last week, but I never got around to it. By which I really mean that I started several times, but couldn't do it. Been running into that a lot lately. Start trying to write something, but then I just don't have it in me. Even now, this isn't "flowing" anywhere near as well as it usually does. It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's more that... Ah, never mind. Forget I said anything.

Anyway, before I put my foot in my mouth too many times, let me get started on Second Son. I'm kind of torn on this game. I really loved the first two inFAMOUS games, and I really like this one. And on paper, this game is better than the first two in most meaningful ways. It plays better, it looks (hell of) better, and I can point to this game and say, "This is why I paid $400 for a PS4" with a straight face.

And yet, it feels like half a game. It feels like there should be twice as many story missions, or maybe 30% more, I don't know. It's just, compared to the first two games, and what open world games usually have content wise, it feels pretty light. You could race through this game pretty quickly if you wanted to, and even 100%-ing the game didn't feel like it took very long. But, coincidentally, I don't think there's any in-game way to see how many hours have been spent playing it (I could be wrong though).

As I was getting to the final mission, it felt (to me) like I was where the half way point of the game should have been. That's not to say that the game doesn't wrap up the story, as the story is quite wrapped up at the end (at least with the good ending). I just wish there was more to the game. Which, I suppose, can be seen as a good thing to say about a game. It's better to be left wanting than to be left wishing it had stopped hours earlier, I guess.

But I'm willing to forgive the game's "shortness" (again, compared to the first two at least) because of two things. The first is that the game play is absolutely spot on and rock solid, and because the game looks absolutely amazing. I try not to use the word amazing (or at least I think I do, I don't know that it would hold true if you actually looked through the things I usually say), because I think you should actually be amazed if you use that word. I was amazed at how good this game looks.

After thinking about it, it's not too surprising, though. Before playing it, I had only ever seen videos of the game online. Videos at resolutions lower than 1080P, and on screens not as good as my TV. Everything ends up looking better on my TV running in the full resolution than it does in video form on my computer. I probably shouldn't have been so amazed, but gosh darn, does this game look good!

Well, most of it, at least. The colored lighting, particle effects, explosions, and wet pavement all look incredible. The facial animations? Stunning. Frame rate? Almost always solid (and even when not, it's less than a second and barely noticeable). But, there's some clipping. And the pedestrians don't look so good. And I noticed some shadow detail draw-in stuff. You know, the kind of thing where...Eh, forget about it, I'm nitpicking at this point.

I'm a sucker for colored lighting, sunsets, and sunrises, and this game has all of them in spades. If only there was more of it!

The story missions are all fun, but the side content is mostly not so good. There are enemy truck-generator-things that you need to blow up, and fighting past the enemies to get to them was always fun. And there is a spray painting mini-game that despite existing solely to make use of some of the controller's gimmicks, I actually enjoyed. You have to hold it sideways (like a spray paint can), and tilt to aim the paint. And when you pull the trigger to spray, it makes a spray painting noise out of the controller. It's really gimmicky, and kinda dumb, but I enjoyed it. It helps that the graffiti was usually pretty good, and often humorous.

But the rest of the side content is lame. There's no "side missions" in the sense of getting a quest from someone and then going and doing it. Well, unless you count that "buy a new copy" stuff about "what happened between inFAMOUS 2 and Second Son." Actually, if side missions in this game would have ended up like those, then maybe the game is better off without them. But the non-new-copy-code side stuff is about finding audio logs, shooting cameras, and chasing down a dude hiding in a crowd. Yawn.

It's a real shame, because something cool could have been done with all the powers in the game beyond the main mission stuff. And even then, the missions are either free-form enough that you can just use whatever power you have at the time, or they gin up some story reason to give you smoke (so you don't have as many traversal powers and can't just run over all the walls and get out). It would have been great if there were missions where you needed to have a certain power for one part, but then needed to switch on the fly to solve some other problem. As it is, I generally tended to just stick with neon unless I needed to get somewhere else really quickly, at which point I went to video (it has more flying-ish powers).

Also, and I guess this is slight spoiler territory, so I'll white it out, but you don't get the final (fourth) power until the final boss fight. I anticipated this happening, so I left one district of the game full of side stuff so I would have something to use the power on, but I think that's weird. Then again, it feels a little half-baked and unoriginal compared to the other three powers, so maybe that's why. Also, if it's a concrete power, how come I can't refill my power meter off concrete sidewalks? Or anything other than defeated enemies?

But overall I did like the game a lot. The core game play is fun. Fighting enemies is thrilling, and the simple act of traversing the world is a joy. If only there had been more reason to explore, and more things to do. But, as it is, it's the best PS4 exclusive, and that alone is enough reason to warrant anyone with a PS4 to pick it up. And with the binary good/evil morality stuff, there's good reason to play it twice, which I will do at some point in the near future. I played it good first, because that's what I always do.

Like I said above, I also beat Dark Souls II. I already wrote a blog about that, so I won't go into a ton of detail about that, but I do have some more things that I'd like to say on the subject. Like with Second Son, I'm a little torn about this game. On the one hand, the minute to minute game play of DS II is as fun and gripping as DS I was. But, it's just not quite as good. I'm not really sure how to put it into words. I guess part of it is that DS II is easier.

It's not just that though. DS II does get quite a bit harder in some of the game's later areas, but even then, it kinda feels like it's just aping the first game. Well, aping sounds cruel, and I don't want to sound cruel, because I still loved Dark Souls II. Just, not as much as the first one. I wrote a lot last time about how the world of DS II doesn't feel anywhere near as connected as DS I, and now that I've finished the game, I feel confident in saying that's true of the entire game.

For example, in DS I, the game was designed in such a way that there would often be one bonfire, and you'd later open up a shortcut to it (like in Undeadburg). DS II, conversely, is usually designed in such a way that the levels are, well, just that, levels. They start on one end, and you progress through it until you get to the next bonfire, and keep going to the next bonfire. There's definitely shortcuts to be had, but it's not like the first one, and I feel like the game is missing something without stuff like that.

I don't think the bosses are as good either, but I can't really get into that without going into details about the bosses in DS II, and I'd rather not spoil anything, so I won't. I do know (and I didn't notice this until a friend of mine pointed it out) that a lot of the bosses in DS II are "tall guys that you can just circle around and hit them." I'm paraphrasing, but his words were something like that. Which is not to say that bosses like that can't be fun (a lot of them are), but it is a running theme through a lot of the game's bosses, and it makes them feel a lot more generic (so thanks for pointing that out, KRIS).

And the final boss is too easy. Come on, you know better than to do something like that, From Software. I'm also not really sure why that boss was the final boss. In DS I, you were pretty clearly working toward a specific goal, and then the boss at the end made sense. Here, the boss is in a seemingly random place, and it's a "thing" (again, not trying to spoil too much) that didn't seem like "it" was important to the overall story until that point. But maybe I'm just missing something.

Don't get me wrong, there's a thing or two near the end of the game that are really cool/kind of crazy story wise, but aside from that I'd say I think the first one had a better story overall. But I could just be missing stuff. Well, I'm probably missing stuff, this is Dark Souls, after all.

In the end, it took me just under 70 hours to get to the end. The game lets you keep playing after the credits, so I might try to clean up another optional boss or two before I go into new game plus. And, after all this, I think that's what you should take away from what I'm saying. Despite not thinking it's as good as Dark Souls I, even after 70-ish hours, I want to go back in for more. I didn't have that feeling after DS I. That's kind of because there weren't any areas in DS II where I thought, "Well, that was fun, but I never want to do that again." DS I had several of those, and maybe that's the thing that DS II is missing.

There's no Sen's Fortress. There's no Anor Londo. There's no areas in this game that made me feel like I had accomplished the impossible after getting through it. That's what this game is missing. That feeling of doing the impossible.

I do wish that I had managed to do some jolly cooperation with that same friend of mine, but I'm afraid that now I'm much too high level (180s) for him. Yeah, that's another thing about this game. It's almost impossible to get into a game with a specific person. We tried, and tried, and tried. We did everything the internet said would help. We made sure we were within level range, we bought a ring to help connect us, we even joined the same covenant! Nothing worked. I did get to help some other random people, and even summoned some others for a couple of the boss fights. But nothing with my friend. Oh well!

Aside from these two games? I've played a bit more of Ground Zeroes. Still really enjoying the game part of it, but the more I play it, the more I realize just how little Kiefer Sutherland talks in that game. I'm really getting worried that this might be representative of The Phantom Pain, and that's a bummer if it is. What was the point of paying all sorts of money for Hollywood talent if he's going to talk so little that it starts to seem out of place during some vital story scenes? Hopefully I'm wrong, and he's appropriately chatty in The Phantom Pain.

Also, before I move on, I have a few things (game play wise) that I think HAVE to be changed by The Phantom Pain. I won't dwell on them though.

  1. There needs to be less clipping, especially with Big Boss's character model and his weapons.
  2. They need to do CQC animations WITHOUT Big Boss's guns just disappearing the second the animation starts.
  3. Weapon customization needs to be done BEFORE the missions start (this is the one I have the most hope for actually being addressed).
  4. Big Boss's shadow should have hair. Right now his shadow is mullet-less.
  5. Load time on the iDroid needs to be non-existent, there's no excuse for the map not loading for several seconds some of the time.
  6. The music for the helicopter arriving shouldn't reset to "no music" every time I turn the game off.
  7. Enemies should actually speak when you put a knife to their throats and demand information out of them.
  8. Draw distance needs to be improved.

The worst part is that several of these things shouldn't even be issues. This is the year 2014, clipping and hairless shadows shouldn't be in games with production values like this, and every line of dialog should be spoken, even if it's throwaway lines like "You'll find ammo over here."

That's about it for game related stuff that I have to talk about. I've been trying to work on my next book, but I haven't been able to get anything done. It's a combination of second guessing the direction I'm taking this one in, and of not thinking that any of this novel writing stuff is worth the time and effort I put into it. I mean, no one is buying either of the two books I put on Amazon. Granted, these are electronic books being published with no advertising, and from a "unknown" (I quote because if you're reading this, you are aware of me) author. I shouldn't be expecting killer sales, but it's next to impossible to put that much work into something and not feel real bad when I can't even get the people that read my blogs and follow me on Twitter to buy it (aside from a couple, and I appreciate them greatly).

I also feel like I've said this before. Several times. Deja vu? My whole life is just trudging through endless circles, doing the same stuff over and over and over and over...

I'm not even going to bother linking to either book. You can type "The Allegiance of Justice" or "SPACE COPS 5000" into Amazon. Or not, that's what you're probably going to do.

I'm going to end this now before this turns into me complaining about my life and how depressed I am. Wait, crap.

I was going to put in a picture from Goat Simulator, which I haven't played, but would if I had a computer than could handle its majesty, but I didn't immediately find one when I searched the site, so I'm not going to declare the successor to the Year of Luigi to be The Year of the Goat. I guess Waluigi will have to do, for now.

38 Comments