Abstraction and Filling in the Blanks with ONLY YOUR MIND

Ah, my turn.

Click

Click

Cli--

Oh, god.

OH GOD

“Davis! Davis, he's – he's pinned down, the muton's got him pinned. Oh christ, Davis, just hold on!”

The quavering orders from command didn't help, but it's not like Davis had a choice. He hunkered down onto the earth beneath his feet. The suppression of plasma tore his cover in half. All he could do was get down as low as he could and stare at the dirt until it was all over.

“Fuck, goddammit. We need to, um, who has smoke grenade?”

“Flores? No, fuck, but I can definitely imagine a scenario where we're going to need all three of those medkits.”

“Vandermeer! Yes, thank christ almighty, get that smoke grenade on him, get him that cover, now.”

It fizzles and pops into a dense, purple cloud. Davis hears the hiss of the dissipating smoke all around him. He feels a little safer.

“ALIEN ACTIVITY, EVERYONE. HOLD ON TO YOUR TITS.”

The mutons push forward with a force of a thousand black belt-tier karate kicks to the sternum. They open fire, almost blindly, at Davis.

Davis looks up. He will live to see another day.

Here's the reality of it: I made a bad click in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the most ass-clenching game of 2012, and Davis overextended, triggering some mutons that wound up suppressing him. I made him hunker down, giving him that defensive bonus while cutting off line of sight. I tabbed through my soldiers until I got to the support with smoke grenade, giving Davis that extra defensive bonus. The result was some missed muton shots, leaving Davis unscathed once more.

But the magic of it was how much of the scenario turned into a scene of peril and suspense when filtered through someone completely involved in the game. There's little about XCOM that's actually literal; it's an abstraction of numbers and dice rolls where you can take as long as you want to figure out the most optimal solution, but the imagination bubbles.

I'm imagining how much shit is in their pants.

You aren't just stacking up two assaults up a door – that's Ramirez and Tymon readying for a breach into a room they know they haven't cleared. A reaction shot isn't just a mechanic in the game – that's rookie Valdez on anxious patrol and then TOTALLY FREAKING OUT by the sectoid skirting around her line of sight, making her anxiously pull the trigger. And when sniper Grant is taking his reaction shot with the opportunist perk, that's a man with ice in his veins, for his tour of duty spans over two dozen missions and has an uncanny cool. Double Tap isn't just a final ability. Grant can take out two x-rays in a blink of an eye. Everyone looks up to him.

It's – it's that word – immersive, which makes a game like XCOM such a nice reminder against an industry that's so obsessed with the term. It's understandable and admirable, but incredible visuals and being very literal with the presentation of the world isn't the only way to pull this off.

Hotline Miami has a great understanding of this too. What you're seeing is a top-down perspective of your guy pushing through a door and seeing a little pixel fist knocking some other top-down guy off his feet and then clicking to smash his pixel face in. It's another abstraction, but the grittier details are being filled in with great precision by the player – Ryan Gosling's kicked that door down, rushed the Miami gangster before he had a chance to react and now he's feeling the steel of his own crowbar as Gosling smashes his face in. There's blood everywhere – on the curtains, the mirrors, the tiles. It's like he fed this guy a live grenade.

It's a bit of a demand, to be imaginative, especially when so many games aim for an explosive literalness that has come to define Uncharted and Call of Duty's greatest, most “immersive” moments, but it's an amazing part of the brain that's gone so underutilized. It's the internal narrative going on in the player that's most interesting – what he's thinking, what he's interpreting from the going-ons in the game – but obviously a lot of games just can't support this. Being in first-person is going to be inherently incompatible with abstractions. A tightly scripted video game has little room for the internal, player narrative to spring forth. A game like Dishonored must show very literally what the player is doing because of its perspective and it does so with some incredible results. It's perhaps a greater achievement than either XCOM or Hotline Miami because it lives up to what is being imagined, but the point is:

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PRETEND BREAKING NEWS: Battlefield 3 unites the world

In a startling announcement today, President Barack Obama and all major world leaders announced plans to declare world peace to get ready for Battlefield 3.

"My PC parts just arrived and I don't really care about Libya anymore." said Moammar Gadhafi, ousted ruler of Libya.

Peace talks occured roughly 30 minutes after Digital Illusions (DICE) released their latest Battlefield 3 trailer on YouTube. Boasting full-scale destruction and 64-player online warfare on the PC, all world leaders promptly started making diplomatic calls to one another.

The trailer displayed an online carnage atypical of what games offer today, with a wide selection of armored vehicles, air transport and massive maps for players to wage war in. Rendered using DICE's own proprietary Frostbite 2.0 engine, the visuals on display were on the bleeding edge of technical excellence.

"After that trailer, all bets were off," said President Barack Obama "I wasn't really too keen after the beta, but this trailer just changed my mind completely."

Obama added that he understood the slight irony of the situation in how a war game would promote world peace.

"I think that's the secret all along." said Obama "We all know war can be thrilling as long as no one gets hurts, but that's never ever the case. It's always tragic, always full of despair, but those moments of do or die -- the intensity, the adrenaline rush of combat, that RPG screaming past right above your head -- that's something I'm sure people want to experience and DICE has done that. They've made war fun."

DICE was not surprised by the sudden willingness from all nations to finally join hands in unison and work together to achieve a better world.

"It was one of the unintended side effects when working on Battlefield 3, so we're not surprised at all." said Lars Gustavsson, lead multiplayer designer for Battlefield 3. "Towards the end of development, we got reports from our playtesters saying that they had sudden urges to promote world peace."

DICE will be the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in promoting and ultimately securing world peace.

"Just another trophy for our trophy case. Not really a big deal." said Gustavsson.

With only 6 days left until the release of Battlefield 3, world leaders are quickly reaching terms of agreement before the impending release.

Obama hopes world peace will be established before October 21st, so everyone can start preloading the game.

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Sleigh Bells Live. Wait, no, I meant SLEIGH BELLS LIVE

Make it a priority to see a band you dig live. Just once. Preferably a small venue when you can get really up there.

This is one of the things I'll get all nostalgic over when I'm 70. I've rarely gone to live shows. My first was at a Friendly Fires show at the Roxy in LA two months back, but I dunno, that one didn't really do much for me. I think it was because they played too much new material. I couldn't really get into a vibe and I didn't see the crowd super crazy too.

I found out about Sleigh Bell's little show before Coachella at Pomona's Glass House like a week before the show started. Jumped right on board. Goddamn, I had no idea I lived near somewhere so cool. They're going to have Yeasayer in next month. WILL BE THERE

First opener was fine, second opener was late and we just started getting sick of waiting... and then... and then...

Sleigh Bells gets on stage. They start with Crown on the Ground. People lost their shit. I lost my shit. Everybody lost their shit! I tried taking a lot of pictures, but by the second song, I didn't care. I will never, ever lose my shit like that ever again.

The crowd was completely nuts. Everybody was just hollering, screaming, jumping, throwing hands up in the air. Being part of that just put me in another world. 

I can't remember how many times people shoved me one way, tripping up my balance. No one cared and no one cared if I did the same. I got so worn out halfway through it that I just started leaning on people while still trying to put my hands up and they really didn't care. So awesome.

Then some guy went crazy and started tackling people or something. At first, all it did was piss me off, but he looked like he was having a good time, so I tackled back. I just start cracking up with this... complete stranger. And then everyone got into it. It got so bad that I lost my friend in the crowd and wound up on the opposite side of where I started. Just the energy there, unbelievable. I suppose this is old news for people who go to these things a ton, but man, that collective energy was really something.     


 Got to touch Alexis' when she was crowdsurfing.
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Look, I was kind of bored.

I've been waiting for Muramasa to arrive from Amazon this past week (and it finally has and the game is pretty sweet), so I tried to divert my attention onto something else, so I repleaced Genesis from the latest AC2 trailer with D.A.N.C.E., which is also from Justice. So, my magum opus. I don't know what led me to do this:

I have a feeling this is going to get taken down in 5 seconds due to copyright stuff, but I hope you guys at least kind of like it while it's still up.

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I finally have a copy of Persona 4 #5: It's really over.

Playtime: 80 hours and 16 minutes

Current Feelings: I spiraled into a day of depression after I watched the ending.

Holy crap. This was the sequel Persona 3? Holy crap. Holy crap.

I finished this just last week. Attained the truth through the usage of the convenient guide on GB and then said my goodbyes. I really shouldn't have loved the true ending revelations as much as I did, because it basically amounts to Silent Hill 2's mastermind dog ending, but I did. I tried to make sense of it in terms of the themes Persona 4 was shooting for, like accepting and searching for the truth, as prepostorous as it may seem. I think that worked.

So, cool game. Great game. Awesome game. Unforgettable game. True, this game is a lot like Persona 3, but if you didn't like Persona 3 (like me), then you should still give Persona 4 a chance. It made the right adjustments and gained a real sense of focus. Persona 4 was way more story and character-driven.

And that's really what I clung to me for the entire game. Social links don't tie into the main storyline very well, if at all, but still. The middle of the game started to get really predictable, but still. The writing does have a tendencey to get cyclical and it does like to restate plot points, but still. Dungeons have their own visual motif, but they aren't really all that different from another. But still.

Looking back at my 80 hour and 16 minute playtime, I couldn't help but remember all the great moments that gave Persona 4 so much heart. It's the characters that really anchored and supported this entire game and for me, they'll easily go down as some of my all-time favorites. Yes, they're pretty static after you rescue them, but all of them had really well-defined personalities and they were always entertaining to be around. I can't imagine Persona 5 working for me unless they reuse the entire cast from Persona 4. I just can't.

Since P3 and P4 were my first SMT games, it's gotten me to order Digital Devil Saga 1, which came in the mail two weeks ago. I've put maybe an hour into it, mostly going crazy at WHAT THE HELL LOOK AT ALL THESE PERSONA 4 ITEMS IN THIS GAME, but I think I like DDS's combat system more. It's faster and the way turns are handled are 100% sweet.

But whatever. Persona 4 really resonated with me. That ending still gets to me, even though it was filled with cheesy lines. I think this game needs to be played and even if you don't like it, you can at least tell that I'm wrong and you're right.
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I finally have a copy of Persona 4 #3: KING'S GAME WHAT THE HELL

Expect some spoilers.

Playtime: 50 hours and 4 minutes

Current Feelings: KING'S GAME WHAT THE HELL

That cut-scene could've easily been the worst thing about this game, but the voice actors did it for real and got hammered before the recording. Superb drunk acting, all of you. Having not watched more than 5 minutes of the Endurance Run, this and all the P3 crazytrain of references blew my mind, even though not all P3 memories were good. The game did highlight the good parts, at least.

A general question: I saved Naoto. Midterms are arriving this Friday. Is the case really that far from being solved? I wouldn't mind if the game went on for another 50 hours, but all this talk about the answer being far off tells me answers will arrive sooner than later. A simple yes or no, please. Maybe a rough estimate of how many more hours of gameplay are left. I am doing as many social links as possible, if that matters.

So, all I've been really doing is lavishing this game with praise, but I have few things:

- Social links for party members are great, but I wish they tied into the critical plotline. These guys are too important and too ingrained into everything that's going on in P4, and it bugs me when none of my party members acknowledge the things that happened when I hung out with him. I wish Chie and Yosuke would go absolutely batshit over the fact that I'm totally dating Yukiko now.

- Plothole. The Midnight Channel. How has this not become the center of a media circus? Everyone sees it, everyone acknowledges its existence (and if someone doesn't then that person is dumb) and it broadcasts everything me and my party members are doing inside the TV. The static filter during battles should be proof enough, but when I hear the roars of outside observers, then that just drives the point even more.

Other than that, lovely.
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I finally have a copy of Persona 4 #2: I'm abandoning my friends.

Expect some spoilers.

Playtime: 16 hours and 18 minutes

Current Feelings: I am enamored with thoughts of Persona 4 when at work. I am enamored with thoughts of what is to come when I play Persona 4. Persona 4 currently has a sizable stake on my summer.

I get delerious when I play this game because it's astronomically better than Persona 3. It blows my mind. I never expected Persona 4 to be this much better. I wish I could understand differing opinions. Actually, no, screw you guys. Persona 4 is way better.

Tiny things, like the fast travel and the ability to equip stuff on my party members right on the menu screen are such obvious additions, and they do so much to jack up the pace and keep things moving. The bigger things, like the awesome cast of characters and how the game's weather system gives the game some serious focus, pretty much kills any problems I had with Persona 3.

Anyway, I've just saved Kanji and I was really impressed by how the game handled his character. The whole gay thing was initially an uncomfortable gimmick when I was going through the saunas, but it really tuned into the core theme of Persona 4: Identity. This is such a great of handling angst that's in a lot JRPGs. Persona 4 integrates it right into the gameplay, instead of listenting to douchebags whine about everything in cut-scenes so I can dislike them for the rest of the game, like what over half of Persona 3's cast did. Oh yeah, I can't believe they got Troy Baker to voice the guy. His Matt Baker Yelling Voice Mode works so well for Kanji.

Though, the greater, larger feeling that pervades the entire game is a real sense of warmth. Persona 3 was a really cold, distant game. Party members were largely impenetrable, the urban city was filled with valley girl dumbheads and aristocratic jackasses and even the use of the color blue throughout the game made the game all the more colder. And so when people started spouting out stuff about friendships in Persona 3, I thought it came off as really shoehorned and heavy-handed. Persona 4 has none of that; Inaba's very lived-in, city folk is a foreign concept, Nanako is adorable and when Yukiko took that mortal blow for me, I felt something there. There's something totally between us. I can feel it.
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I finally have a copy of Persona 4 #1: I finally have one.

Finally. After Persona 3 left me jaded and conflicted, I ordered a copy bundled with the artbook from Play-Asia at a grotesque $57.50. I really wanted that book. I like pictures. I like pictures that are in books. I would've ordered them seperately from Amazon, but Amazon tricked me by hiding the art book from search results, I think, because it shows up again now.


It's been two weeks of anticipation with each day disappointing with a lack of Persona 4 and picture-filled books. I didn't even try to pretend to not expect it; I was excited as hell everyday, even though Persona 3 didn't exactly fufill most of my expectations. It was my love for anime that essentially kept me onboard and if Persona 4 was better, even a little, then Persona 4 would be the best game ever made.

I oggled at the cover of the art book. I was impressed by its size and quality. I expected this thing to be crafted out of newpaper material and haphazardly stapled on all four corners. I've tucked it in somewhere in my bookshelf. I think I lost it already, which is good, because I read that that thing's filled with spoilers.

So, okay, I played the game for 2 hours and 22 minutes today. Just like Persona 3, there's just a lot of exposition and a lot of set-up. I loved the first few hours of Persona 3 because of this. The game seemed destined for great things. Persona 4 gives off the same feeling, just moreso. Way moreso.

I'm really here just to indulge myself, but you can keep reading if you want. Persona 4 is a funny game... like, I laughed on numerous occasions. The quality of the dub is frightening in its sheer quality. The voice actors catch each little inflection, jolts key lines with substantial energy and really gives everything the characters a nice air of authenticity and believability. Persona 3 had a largely great dub, but the direction here is much more percise and much more fastidious, at least so far.

And the characters are just better. Way better. A lot of it has to do with how everything's set up. MC has a family, classmates at school seem much closer than the ones in Persona 3. I think part of this has to do with Chie and Yukiko both being girls, instead of the general gender clashes that occured between Junpei and Yukari. The lack of seniors also helps keep party relations pretty close-knit, too. And since we're all discovering what the hell is going on together, there's a greater sense of togetherness. We're all confused and we should all work together to figure out what's going on.

I mean, again, at least so far. I hope Persona 4 doesn't just come to a complete halt with its main storyline progression like Persona 3 did for days. It occasionally got unbearable. I haven't watched much of the Endurance Run, but the chances of finishing the game before them seems slim. That'd be something, though. I'm probably going to have something to say everyday, or whenever I put a substantial chunk of time into the game. I did this for P3 somewhere else, so I am to do this. Now.
17 Comments

We all need to get ArmA II.

  


HHURHGUHHUHHHHHHHHH

Guys. Guys. This game comes out next week. Essentially Operation Flashpoint 3. There's some history with the naming deal, but the summation of all that is:

1. Codemasters published the first Operation Flashpoint. Bohemia Interactive developed. It was totally ballin' and did really well.
2. Cohemia split. Codemasters kept the name. Bohemia made Armed Assault, or ArmA for short. Pretty much Operation Flashpoint 2. Pretty much. Just couldn't take the name with them.
3. Codemasters is using the name again for Dragon Rising and Bohemia's about to ship out their totally gangster sequel, which looks leagues better than the first ArmA.

The best thing about this game will be the editor. The amount of dumb/awesome things you can do with it is ridiculous. The second best thing is the multi-player. There is no player limit. There's footage of 50-man co-op games. I don't know how that makes any sense, but I have an erection now.

Though, I might have to crap on your current state of euphoria by mentioning that everything Bohemia makes is anal-rentetive about realism. Play the ArmA demo. Get confused. Get lost. Make your helicopter go into half a loop and then watch it come crashing to the ground upside down. And you're going to need a pimpass system to get things looking sexy. I have a pimpass system. We all need to get pimpass systems and ArmA II.
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