Thanks to Duncan Harris over at DeadEndThrills I have made my Skyrim look far better than it has any right being. I think at this point in time I have actually spent more time modding my copy of Skyrim than I have playing it...
I have never played Dota or any of the stupid clones it spawned, despite the inane whinging of certain members of the community, but thanks to Giant Bomb superstar Killjoi I received a shiny Dota2 ticket. First impressions are time-consumingly positive. I read some guides, and a bunch of the old IRC crowd showed me the ropes, but I was basically picking random heroes until I found one I liked. Tidehunter is pretty cool but Batrider is the way forward. Hype!!
I'm completely comfortable being labelled a miserable bastard for this one. It might be a direct result of the whole divorced parent thing, but Christmas for me has always been more trouble than it's worth. Just give me my copy of Dark Souls and leave me the fuck alone.
Work means I have to sleep at "reasonable hours", yet all the interesting stuff (Community events, Starcraft tournaments, Giant Bomb livestreams) seem to always take place at just after midnight. Which is, incidentally, just after I go to sleep.
I don't really know what kind of ceremony a 350th blog warrants. The only other members of the site to hit this digit are Bruce and Dalai, both of whom breezed past with such speed that they probably didn't even notice.
350 blogs. Fuck. That's one blog every 3 days for the entire duration of my time here on Giant Bomb. Since day one. During that time I have travelled all over the world, endured my entire university degree, and played more incredible videogames than I would care to mention. Times they are a'crazin.
You were there, Giant Bomb. The whole time. So join me in a little nostalgia:
I've been cultivating this hangover for a while now. Everything seems to be happening at a great distance. My eyes are blurry, attempts to focus resulting in the sensation of screwdrivers being twisted into my retinas. When I move my head I can feel my brain sloshing against the inside of my skull. It is in this state, that I begin this blog:
I found somewhere to live, in North London. It's a flat, on an estate, shared with a couple of other random gentlemen. A single bed is the only issue I have with the room, especially after the wonderful king-size that I was rocking at University. I could probably upgrade to a double here, though I'm unsure if I would be able to squeeze my computer into the room afterwards. I'm still playing furniture tetris, trying to figure out the best arrangement. Standard moving-in nonsense.
The result of having a stable living environment means I have been able to bring up all my shit to London. Shit like; my Xbox, my personal computer, and my collection of Gears Of War figures. The essentials. After a month of roughing it on a sofa in Brixton, the level of comfort which I am currently experiencing is... well... it's just lovely.
The important part of this blog is that I bought a PS3.
It was supposed to arrive on the day Uncharted 3 was released, but due to the stupid fucking company messing up the billing address it has been delayed. It's now Saturday and I'm still not playing Uncharted, which means I probably won't be able to play until next weekend. This makes me very angry. The experience of having to shuffle around my ever-complicated schedule is both new and unwelcome. Having time to play videogames is something I have never really had to worry about, and the removal of that instant gratification is bizarre and frustrating. However, in the absence of an axiomatic availability, the value of any time at all in which I can murder a virtual menagerie of beings becomes exponentially higher.
I just bought Battlefield 3. I'm going to install it and play it. I'm also probably going to write a blog bitching about Origin, and Battlelog, because they are both awkward, clunky, and unattractive. Like your mother. However, in order to play Battlefield 3 I am still willing to have sex with her. If you know what I mean.
A quick "I'm home for the weekend!" blog: I'm home for the weekend. The first week working in London has been kinda rocky, and not in a "Wooo, rock and roll!" kinda way, more of a "Fuck, these rocks are sharp and they are cutting my feet" kinda way.
Work, huh? Yeah.
I still haven't found a place to live yet, which is why I'm pretty absent from the site. Sorry about that. As soon as I get settled down I'm going to blog the something out of this bitch.
For now, I gotta sleep. I actually have to have a sleep pattern now; 'pattern' being the objective word, implying regularity and routine - both of which fucking terrify me. I hope this kind of thing doesn't catch on.
Life has been moving pretty fast lately, both in the real world and in the land of videogames. Where do we begin....?
I got a job. Well, actually, I got two jobs. Specifically, I got a shit job, then I got a not shit second job, and so quit my first shitty job. Bleurgh.
I just accepted a 3 month contract as a runner in a VFX film studio in London. As a recent graduate, getting a position as a runner is pretty standard, as this is how you learn the layout of the studio, how the pipeline works, the different people you will be working with, as well as just a general understanding of how, as MattBodega would say, "the graphics" get made. In practice, I'm going to be making coffee and passing on messages, but we all gotta start somewhere...
How does this affect you at Giant Bomb?
Well, I'm not going to be around much. By "much" I mean "at all". I'm going to be working long hours and I'm either going to be commuting 2 hours each morning or sleeping on a sofa in Brixton, neither of which allow me extensive access to the internet or Giant Bomb. I only completed Gears of War 3 yesterday, and if you know how much I love Gears Of War you will understand how fucking criminal it is that it took me that long; I literally didn't have enough time to play that game. Still, it's done now, and I'm not saying a goddamn thing about it. I need time to meditate and play a little of the multiplayer before I wade into a full review.
Anyway, MattyFTM has agreed to cover the Blog Initiative while I search for somewhere to live. It might take a couple of weeks. Fuck, it might take months. At this point everything is pretty uncertain. Stay tuned...
It was also great to see some whiskey shirts in the crowd. I got to meet some Giant Bomb peeps, notably Matt and Mracoon. Fun was had. Photos were taken. Hotdogs were eaten. All this, and more, coming soon...
THE BLOG INITIATIVE
You guys are awesome. The incredible reception and enthusiasm to The Blog Initiative that we have generated as a community is why I devote so much of my time to this site. Big love to everyone who contributed, and all the great writers out there. I want to be inside each and every one of you. The Blog Initiative is going strong!
The future is uncertain. When I figure it out, you can be sure I'm going to write it down here. Catch you on the flip-side, Giant Bomb...
It's kind of weird to me that more people aren't getting actively hyped about Rock Of Ages. It's a glorified glorious tower defence game. You guys like Plants Vs Zombies, right? Well, Rock of Ages is kinda like that, except you control a huge rock with a face on it. Also you travel through time. There may or may not be battle cows. How can you not like that?
Firstly they conjure up the downright nightmarish Zeno Clash, and now a game in which Sisyphus battles his way through time by smashing down fortresses with a giant rock. Also, there are war elephants. The absolute cluster-fuck of surreality for which the studio is earning a budding reputation is one that I would like to support - a much more conceptually interesting project than the latest "KILL THAT GUY WITH BULLETS" murder simulator. When the quick look arrived last week I was already fairly sure I was going to buy the game, but watching Ryan and Patrick play looked so much fun that I had bought the game and started installing it on XBL before the video had even finished.
Rock Of Ages is a lot of fun.
I think it's important to put that out there, with the medium becoming increasingly complex - Rock Of Ages has been stripped down to be a fast, light, funny and entertaining product. The "storyline" involves a sequence of 30 second cinematics and a handful of different mountains down which you must roll. That's really all there is to it. Oh, except one level where I had to fight a dragon. That was weird.
What makes Rock Of Ages unique is it's style.
The cardboard cut-out aesthetic may initially look strange, but I took to it instantly, being a huge Monty Python fanboy. I have to mention that the sounds in this game are also great, with stock screams, farts & incoherent simlish mumbles giving the game a lot of character. There's something wonderfully satisfying about the terrified bleating of the peasantry as you crush them beneath your enormous boulder.
Where it gets interesting is in building your defence. My brother and I have been experimenting at length as to what makes the best combination of items and the best way of positioning them to cause your opponent the maximum inconvenience. I tend to opt for rows of towers with catapults behind, while my brother has an ongoing fascination with the War Elephants. I would rather channel the enemy off a cliff using fans and dynamite, whereas he would rather use that dynamite to smash you into tiny pieces. The jury is still out as to which tactic is more effective.
That would be one of my few issues with Rock Of Ages - any moderately skilled player can easily avoid the majority of enemy traps and weaponry, and in many cases the game becomes a race - as the gate will almost always be destroyed by the third run, regardless of how well structured the defence is. Knocking an enemy off a cliff will set them back a couple of seconds but it won't lessen the damage they do to your base, so it's only really an issue if you are lagging behind. It therefore makes more sense to use your limited resources for blocking shortcuts and bottle-necks instead of attempting to destroy the opposition's siege boulder.
The important thing to stress here is that Rock Of Ages is a thoroughly charming game.
I think what I like about it the most is it's easygoing sense of humour. It doesn't try too hard to be funny, and it doesn't sell itself as a funny game, though the humour is definitely there. I still cackle with glee whenever I break open the doors of an enemy fortress, to hear them screaming like little girls, and I chuckled repeatedly at the introduction to Plague. The game oozes an insanity that perfectly matches my own weird sense of humour, and for that reason it was an instant hit. I think this may be one of the few games which I actually attempt to S-Rank, as I need to squeeze as much time out of this purchase as possible.
Rock Of Ages isn't a super competitive game - this isn't Starcraft, folks, and there's only a limited amount of finesse one can employ when placing battle cows, but it's a blast to play split screen, and definitely worth your time. And money.
I was pretty upset hearing about the myriadofcomplications that plagued Project Zomboid. Conceptually, it's the game that I always wanted - a zombie survival game with emphasis on long term survival. Project Zomboid is in many ways a much better thought out and feasible simulation of zompocalyptic Darwinism than the obvious alternatives. I'm not saying Left 4 Dead would have been a better game if Zoey was required to pop anti-depressants, but long term planning is something that the genre has taken great pains to avoid. The closest example of the mechanics which drive Project Zomboid are those of the Dead Rising franchise, where a series of countdown timers must be carefully managed. Hunting Zombrex was a frustration to many, though in terms of a gameplay mechanic it was hugely beneficial in creating a structured narrative - another welcome consideration, though a hefty inconvenience to those of us who just wanted to fuck shit up with a paddlesaw.
Which is why I was pretty stoked when the Project Zomboid Alpha was released last week.
Project Zomboid is in many ways a game of trial and error, though each error is delightfully instructive. The first time I started the game I found myself in a bedroom with my wife, who was bleeding profusely on the bed. I was instructed to search the house for painkillers and bedsheets, which I then crafted into bandages using a simple combine-to-craft interface. In the bedroom cupboard I also found a pillow. Placing all these items in my inventory, I carried them over to my wife and administered them. I wrapped her leg in the bandages, gave her some painkillers, then selected the pillow with the intention of making her more comfortable on the bed. But when I clicked on my wife, she suddenly begins pleading with me, then sobbing and apologising for "slowing me down". The realisation hit me: Instead of making her more comfortable I had unwittingly smothered her to death with the pillow.
Weirdly enough, this is not the first time that has happened to me.
My second playthrough was slightly better.
Instead of immediately killing my betrothed, I explored the rest of the house, as she requested, and looted some wooden planks, nails, and a hammer out of the shed - which I then used to barricade myself and my wife inside the house. As I was outside in the rain a small icon popped up. "Damp", it said: Your speed is slightly reduced. Remaining out in the rain turned the icon further red, until it said "Soaking". This made me more susceptible to illness, as well as reducing my vision and speed. "Oh" I thought absent-mindedly, "It's that sort of game". By "That sort of game" I mean "Fucking intense". There are meters for hunger, tiredness, exhaustion, fear and general health, as well as a breakdown of individual injuries on different areas of the body, all of which must be routinely checked and maintained. During my explorations I encountered many types pills including Beta-blockers and Anti-depressants, which implies a stupidly deep level of health and psychological management, too. There are dozens of items, many of which appear useless but no doubt have some use within the crafting subtext, an area of the game I have barely begun to explore. This isn't minecraft, though; This crafting involves combining a pot, a can opener and a can of soup to get: a pot full of soup. Which you then have to put in the oven to cook. This is exactly what I did on my second playthrough, only 5 minutes into the game. Suddenly my wife calls me from upstairs - she has got the radio working! I dash up to her bedroom to listen to the static-ridden broadcast, but no sooner than it finishes my wife mumbles "Do you smell something burning?" and I panic, rushing back down the stairs. The kitchen is on fire. I left the soup in the oven and now the kitchen is on fire. I freeze, wondering what tools are at my disposal to deal with this problem. But it's too late, the fire is spreading - along the walls, the cabinets, the ceiling. I rush back upstairs to my wife, but I wasn't fast enough. She's on fire. Soon enough, so am I. We both die, engulfed in pixellated flames.
Back to square one.
The thing I love most about this game are the stories. During one playthough I was spotted through the window by a stranger with a shotgun. He ordered me to open the door or he would open fire. I told him to leave us alone, but he just laughed. When I ducked out of sight he yelled "I'm going to kill you, motherfucker!" before blundering off into the darkness. I never saw him again, though I could hear shotgun blasts echoing off the nearby buildings.
Another time I had ventured further out into town, turned a corner into a horde of zombies, and was forced to retreat and barricade myself into a hardware store. This was loaded with hammers, nails, saws and other practical tools, though lacked the one thing I really needed, which was food. I huddled against the far wall, baseball bat raised, watching the health of the door gradually drop as the zombies on the other side slowly battered it down.
There was another time when I drank a bottle of whiskey, passed out, only to wake up and find the building completely full of zombies - another when I got lost in the woods, surrounded by zack, and collapsed from exhaustion. I have been playing in small doses, each game rarely lasting more than about 20 minutes, but I'm finding each adventure desperately unique and dynamic. I think one of the most enjoyable aspects of this game was reading about the adventures of other players using the #projectzomboid hashtag on twitter.
But it's not all good.
Now, I should probably mention that this game is buggy as hell. There were times when the framerate would inexplicably plummet, others when the graphics would glitch out, and on several times the game just straight up imploded. It's an alpha, and it's very openly unfinished. It's also only available through Desura, which is what I like to think of as "Indie Steam". I don't mind having the client installed, but it's a bit of a pain having Steam and Desura and Origins all running at once. Seems slightly excessive. My most heavy beef with the game is that there is no save functionality - which means you must restart your survival attempt from the beginning each time you play. I don't mind so much, because it's kinda nice having a fresh story - but it's a pain having to abandon a game halfway through when you are doing really well and have a house fully stocked with food and weapons.
I think the real reason I enjoy Project Zomboid so much is because it's fucking hardcore. It will kill you, end your game on a whim, leave you stranded with no tutorials and no instructions as to what you are doing. The game expects you to figure a ridiculous amount of shit out for yourself. From the very start of the game you have complete freedom to all it's features, all it's mechanics, all areas of the map. It's brutal, and it expects you to fail. When the game begins you are introduced with the title screen:
THIS IS HOW YOU DIED...
Which is entirely appropriate, because you will die. A lot.
If that sounds like the sort of thing you would enjoy I urge you to check it out. One last thing to add before I end this blog, though; Project Zomboid has seen fucked-up levels of piracy and it's not even out of the alpha stage yet. If you in any way interested in playing this game for yourself then I know they would love and appreciate your support.
There. That was my good deed for the day. Now I'm going to go lock some innocent threads.
about holding down the Q key and watching a mechanical blade slide out of your arm, to then disembowel whatever fool happened to be standing in front of you. Deus Ex HR is riddled with such satisfactions, and finding them for yourself is both engaging and rewarding. The pit into which DE:HR repeatedly falls is one of practicality; Namely, which is the fastest way to achieve my goals - as oppose to which is the most entertaining.
As a narrative example, let's consider the circumstances which led Sweep into the local virtual police station. Instead of skulking around looking for ventilation points, rooftop access, or invisibling (that's now a word) my way into the building, I walked up to the front desk and engaged the gentleman behind it in conversation. I had directed no praxis points to "Speech" and made no attempt at any Jedi mind tricks. In fact, the conversation seemed to take care of itself, despite prompting me to get involved on several occasions. I had no idea what the guy was talking about, so it didn't seem to make any difference what I said to him. The nametag in the chair seemed to be spluttering about something traumatic which had happened when he and whatever-my-dude-is-called were in a SWAT unit together. Without paying too much attention to what he was saying, I absently clicked my way through the sloppy banter.
Suddenly I found myself with permission to roam the halls of the police station as I saw fit.
"I'll tell the guys to let you through" sulks the cop, and away I skipped. I had somehow unlocked complete freedom to the entire building, where I could loot as many guns and pocket secretaries as I could carry. Meanwhile everyone on the force seemed to have gone temporarily blind. Maybe they just didn't care that a half-robot cyborg non-cop was taking their shotguns? They probably aren't being paid enough to care. Story of their meaningless virtual lives.
The most frustrating part of this entire adventure was that, once inside, I found a myriad of ventilation pipes and secret passageways, shortcuts and security puzzles which would have been fantastically fun to traverse incognito. I felt cheated, as though the accidental ease of fobbing off the receptionist with some goofy dialogue had somehow deprived me of a large chunk of gameplay. I might as well have opened up the console and activated god mode, for all the resistance that part of the campaign consequently offered.
This is, I feel, I pretty good example of my beef with Deus Ex.
I'm not blind to it's charm, nor obscured to it's obvious merits - it's narrative structure and freeform gameplay are admirable - but those choices remain so transparently linear that I find myself almost wishing for a more focussed and polished central set of tasks. On several occasions I was spotted halfway through a a sneak attempt and, resorting to the tried and tested plan B, simply pulled out my gun and blasted the room to smithereens. Not only was this easier and faster, it also meant I had the freedom to then walk around unhindered and explore the virtual landscape to it's full potential. It seems almost wasteful to bypass these elaborate cyberpunk stealth playgrounds, but if shotgunning this room full of criminals is an easier way to get from A to B then that's what I'm going to do. For all it's apparent choice, the story seems to continue regardless, making my gameplay decisions feel meaningless.
Maybe it's just me and my obnoxious lack of patience. Deus Ex is a solid game, but it's apparently not the game I want to be playing. Or maybe it is, and I'm just doing it wrong. Either way, I'm going to continue doing it, wrong or otherwise.
In 30 minutes (11pm GMT) we will be playing Gears of War 2 wingman on Xbox Live. It will be a private, intimate, invite only game for Giant Bomb people who like chainsawing each other in half.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED
please send me a friend request:
We have been running these events every night for the past few days and they are good clean fun. Well.... they are good fun, at least. If you want to build up some hype for Gears 3, this is a great way to do it.
A slur of Gears Of War 3 information got dumped onto the internet today as, with only one month until release, EPIC is beginning to slowly ramp up the hype. For me, that hype was maxxed out quite some time ago, so this new footage was fantastic to watch. I'm really pleased that the game is taking more time to flesh out the backstory of some of the characters. You can see the footage here:
However between Gears 2 and Gears 3, a lot of stuff happens. Two whole books worth of stuff, in fact. I read those books, the most recent of which was only released two weeks ago, and I have that knowledge. I wouldn't recommend you read them unless you love the Gears Universe stupid amounts, but they are great for general backstory and go into a lot of detail about Marcus and Dom growing up, for example. Anyways, I appreciate most of you aren't going to read those books, so for anyone who is interested, here's the important stuff:
If you plan on reading this book then SPOILERS.
EDIT: To clarify, all this information is taken from the official Gears Of War books by Karen Traviss. I did not illegally download the game -____-
As Jeff mentioned in the video, the COG has been disbanded. After Jacinto was sunk the COG island-hopped until they landed on Vectes, an old naval base. Vectes contained two settlements, civilian and stranded towns that, due to a deep sea trench, had never seen a locust before. The COG quickly took care of the stranded problem and integrated into the town of Pelruan - those of you might remember it as "Old Town" from the Gears 3 Beta - where they prospered for a short while, assuming that the locust had been defeated and and straglers couldn't tunnel beneath the abyssal-trench. However the lambent eventually turn up in the form of several lambent Leviathans (That Giant underwater Boss from Gears 2) and spray polyps everywhere. Polyps are the smallest form of lambent, effectively replacing tickers in Gears 3. You can see them scuttling about in the new footage.
Pretty soon ships start disappearing and "stalks" start cropping up all over the island. These stalks, as shown in the video, drop various lambent dudes everywhere. They also kill all surrounding wildlife. As they start spreading across the island, the COG realise they can't hope to defend themselves. Chairman Prescott calls a vote and despite only 25% of the remaining population wanting to leave, orders the evacuation of Vectes. Hoffman tells him to go fuck himself and steals an encrypted data disk from Prescott's desk. Prescott refuses to tell him what's on it, and denies any involvement in the creation of the lambent, despite Hoffman accusing him of keeping information withheld. You may remember the sires in during Gears 2 as the cause of this. After Hoffman takes control of the COG, Prescott leaves with his two private protection Gears, and a stack of lambent corpse samples. Hoffman orders the last remaining navy submarine to follow Prescott's boat but despite keeping a close eye on it, Prescott disappears and the boat is found floating empty in a patch of sea.
With Vectes slowly being corrupted by stalks, the COG disbands. Hoffman takes the largest amount of civilians and the most vulnerable members of the group (the untrained population of Pelruan) to Anvil Gate, a mountain-top fort which he defended during the Pendulum wars, earning him an Embry Star. The fort is considered impenetrable and has a working hydro-electric power supply. However those of you who remember the Gears 3 demo at E3 earlier this year will remember that level is called "Anvil Gate" and it was getting pretty badly fucked up. Dizzy and Bernie Mataki (who is now Hoffman's girlfriend) also go with him, as well as a platoon of Gears led by Sargent Rossi.
Delta Squad remain with the Navy as the roaming strike force, to be flown out to any of the new settlements that need help. The navy is led by Quentin Michaelson, though Delta Squad is (I assume) being led by Anya as she holds the highest rank as Lieutenant. Delta consists of: Marcus, Dom, Baird, Cole, Anya, Sam, Jace, Carmine.
Here's some basic info that you may or may not find interesting:
Marcus and Anya are a thing.
Dom and Sam are almost a thing.
But despite Sam's advances, Dom refuses to get close to anyone ever again, because he's all emo now. As Jeff mentioned, these guys are on their last legs. Dom has decided that the only reason he is staying alive is to protect Marcus, as he has nothing else worth living for.
Jack, the robot, is fucked.
All the little robot things are broken except for Jack, which Baird is trying to fix. In the fourth book (yes, there are 4 fucking Gears books) Baird mentions that he's trying to figure out how the cloaking device works and see if he can make it work on anything that isn't a robot. As the last remaining smart-person in the COG, Baird is routinely tasked with fixing/operating complicated machinery, and as mentioned in the new video, Jack is broken. No more Jack :(
The COG have no fuel or supplies.
When the stalks started tearing up Vectes the farmland was slowly killed. The remaining cattle, sheep, pigs, were either taken aboard the ships or hacked up and put on ice - though there weren't many of them so I guess they worked through that stuff pretty quick.
Oh yeah, Clayton Carmine may have an obsession with Bacon.
In the book he is seen standing outside a farm and talking to the pigs, telling them they are going to be bacon soon. And then in the new video when the Stranded guy offers them bacon he goes "mmm, bacon" - so this might be a recurring thing. Which would be awesome.
When Hoffman arrives at Anvil Gate, a bunch of Pesengas show up.
Pesengas are COG troops and are basically ninja mercenaries. I would love them to be in Gears 3 - that would be amazing. They fight with giant swords (www.GiantSwords.com - it's a website, about... swords?) instead of guns, can move silently, and are generally badass. They are all members of a hill tribe from the mountains up by Anvil Gate and signed up to fight for money during the Pendulum Wars, not any political reason. The grandson of a Pesenga who fought with Hoffman duing the Pendulum Wars offers, with his family, to help Hoffman defend Anvil Gate from the Lambent. Padrick Salton also shows up, another sniper from the pendulum wars who was in the same squad as Marcus and Carlos (Dom's brother) during the Pendulum Wars.
Pressing the Left Stick to put a target on enemies.
As Jeff mentions, this isn't especially useful when playing solo, but when you are in a multiplayer match and trying to show your team-mates where enemies are, this is really useful. This is probably more of a co-op tool than an effective way of getting your AI buddies to target certain enemies.
"Who?" - yeah, you can't be blamed for not knowing who these guys are. Gorasnaya are a bunch of guys who showed up out of nowhere and joined the COG on Vectes, but were actually their enemies during the Pendulum Wars. There are still many remaining grudges but by the end of the book they are all chummy again. When the COG disbands they return to their home island, so I don't know how much play they will get in the third game. I tend to think of these guys as the Russians of the COG universe.
The "stranded" model is the one the COG chose to adapt, opting for lots of small settlements instead of one large group. As the COG has finally been disbanded the stranded are no longer seen as full enemies, rather as another stranded group themselves - so as shown in the video, there are frequent trade negotiations with the other stranded groups.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, though if you have any questions then I shall do my best to answer them. Hopefully that fills in the blanks left by Jeff during the preview.