Having acquitted my life of all distractions in a desperate attempt to complete my work for a University deadline, that deadline has passed and I find myself with very little remaining extra-curricular activities to occupy my time. Fortunately, there are always threads to moderate...
As blog titles go, I thought that one was pretty good.
Well, most of you have probably seen the little red sticker under my name that let's people know that I am one of the two new Giant Bomb moderators. I'm both honoured and excited to be part of such a hard-working team and look forward to laying waste to whatever troll or spammer dares to venture out into the open. I always had a deep appreciation for how much the mod team did behind the scenes and now that I am, myself, behind those scenes my mind is continually being blown as to exactly how much work these individuals put in to keep Giant Bomb the best place on the internet. I had probably better leave it at that before MB catches me and brings out he gimp again :(
And so, on to videogames!
It is taking me a ridiculous amount of time to play through Dead Space 2 and there has been large doses of speculation as to why that may be. It might be because the world in which Isaac Clark lives is so beautifully fleshed out that I am continually distracted by the detail and life that has gone into making the Sprawl such a complete entity. On more than one occasion I found myself pausing to listen, with a morbid curiosity, to the screams erupting from the other side of a door. It is widely understood that, when it comes to horror, it's what remains unseen that haunts us the most, and Dead Space 2 has the most masterful grip of this concept I have ever experienced. The game is just wonderfully creative with features that other games simply take for granted or dismiss - things like lighting and sound, which are frequently slapped on as a secondary means to reflect actions the player is performing, actually direct the pace of the game in Dead Space 2. The resulting atmosphere is incredible.
However I realistically appreciate that the reason Dead Space 2 is taking me so long to play is because I am, in fact, a fucking pussy.
The practice of actually playing the game usually involves me slowly edging towards a door, clicking the [OPEN] button, then frantically backpeddaling with my gun raised. I usually repeat this two or three times just to make sure there is nothing scary on the other side. I learned my lessons from the original Dead Space. This franchise takes pleasure in fucking with your preconceptions of how a videogame works.
Yep, I learned my lesson and I learned it good. If there is a necromorph already lying on the floor then it's probably still alive. You see those wall vents? Bad shit is probably going to come out of those. If there is a lull in the music then RELOAD. And most importantly - never assume you are safe. Ever.
It's this constant manipulation of it's players that makes Dead Space 2 so consistently terrifying.
As soon as you think you've got the game figured out it drops you in a unique set-piece that defies any pattern you assumed had been established. You think because you have a rocket launcher you are safe now? Ok, well let's see what you do when we drop an enemy on you in an elevator that's only 6 square ft across, genius. Or how about we make you crawl through a pipe and stick the camera right behind your head so you cant see shit. Or how about we just leave you in a straight jacket with no guns and no health.
Dude, fuck that game.
But in the best possible way.
That's about it, really. I handed in a university assignment on Friday and, in true student fashion, got completely wrecked afterwards. Oh, and I watched Summer Wars again, which is a truly incredible film and I urge you to go check it out. There is a great review up on Screened, which is how I discovered the film in the first place.
Oh, and apparently there's a superbowl happening? Some people are excited about this. I am not one of them.
The second strip in response to the initial controversy:
The Blog where Mike (Gabe) removes the dickwolves shirts from the Penny Arcade store:
" It’s true that we have decided to remove the Dickwolves shirt from the store. Some people are happy about this but a lot more of you are upset. You think we’ve caved into to pressure from a vocal minority and you’re not entirely wrong. let me at least break down why we did it though.
First of all I would never remove the strip or even apologize for the joke. It’s funny and the fact that some people don’t get it, or are offended by it doesn’t change that. People complained about the strip and that’s fine with me, my response as always is “if you don’t like it don’t read it.” It is very easy not to log on to Penny Arcade and read our bullshit. We’ve always made offensive comics and that’s not going to change anytime soon. If jokes about violence,rape,aids,pedophilia,bestiality,drugs,cancer,homosexuality, and religion bother you then I recommend reading a different webcomic.
PAX is a different matter though. We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. Now whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter. These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable. It’s how they feel and according to them at least, removing the shirt would make them feel better about attending the show. For me that’s an easy fix to the problem. I really don’t want to have this fight and if not having it is as simple as not selling a shirt then I’ll do it. Contrary to what they might think I’m not a complete asshole.
Now for some people removing the shirt isn’t enough. They don’t want to come to PAX or support PA because of the strip or because they think Tycho and I are perpetuating some kind of rape culture and that’s a different matter. First off it assumes a lot about us that simply isn’t true but more importantly it’s not something I can fix. I’ve gotten a couple messages from people saying they are “conflicted” about coming to PAX. My response to them is: don’t come. Just don’t do it. In fact give me your name and I’ll refund your money if you already bought a ticket. I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.
So there you go. It’s not a simple decision. No matter what we do we’ll have people mad at us. If you want to talk more about it we can chat at PAX."
The blog from yesterday about how someone threatened to kill Mike's family:
" I think this has really gone too far. We have people on both sides of this ridiculous argument making death threats and worse. Kara was certainly upset to see someone mention on Twitter last night that it would be funny to come to my house and murder my wife and children. I know there are people who see themselves as being on our side that have made equally disgusting comments in the other direction. I want to make it very clear that I do not approve of this kind of bullshit.
I am certainly guilty of being snarky, sarcastic and rude. I apologize if that gave anyone the impression that I would ever condone this sort of behavior. If you are out there making these sorts of threats thinking that you are somehow doing our good work, please stop. I never should have engaged them at all much less the way I did. Obviously Courtney Stanton has been very vocal about her dislike of us and our behavior. But she is not censoring us, she has not stripped away our freedom of speech. She didn’t even have anything to do with our decision to remove the shirt. I’m sure she is just as upset with the threats being made by people who consider themselves her supporters. So I’m asking you to please leave her alone.
Personally I’m done with this argument and I’m asking you all to be done with it as well. Don’t go read the blogs, don’t respond to the Tweets, just let it go. Thank You. "
Jerry (Tycho) reiterates in his slightly longer more convoluted blog from yesterday:
"The other reason I didn’t speak about it is because I didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to the sources of complaint. Apparently, there are people who imagine they’re doing us some kind of a favor being jackasses and saying terrible things to critics of the site. Well, I’m a big boy, and I can handle my own shit. If you’re a reader, and not somebody just out for a scrap, if you love me at all you’ll put an end to that kind of bullshit. When someone believes something about you that isn’t true, the optimal strategy isn’t to prove to them time and time again that they were actually right all along - that you may be dismissed out of hand, that you have no merit. I assume that’s the opposite of what you want.
Can we all agree that threatening to kill someone’s wife and children, as happened yesterday, has no place in any fucking society? This is why I had to say something: because people who imagine themselves to be “agents” of each side have now graduated to threats of actual, physical violence."
WHAT SWEEP THINKS ABOUT ALL OF THIS:
Now we get to the actual blog part.
What the fuck, internet. I can understand a base level of intolerance for slightly edgy humour - for every victimising joke there is a victim, sure. That's the whole point. I don't understand how someone can be so overwhelmingly confused by the difference between ironic parody and malicious intent. There is a difference between making a joke about rape and actually wanting someone to be raped. I don't see how people can get so caught up about the content of a comic strip, something which is conceptually fucking obnoxious - let alone in the context of videogames. I don't understand why people feel the need to pounce on an issue which I thought was socially redundant by now. If you are personally offended by what you see in the world around you, tough shit.
A couple of people have got in touch with me since I posted this blog on the subject. I guess the reason that I feel the way that I do is because I can't relate to someone who is being fucked up by this issue. I can't relate to a rape victim who is suffering from repeat trauma, depression, panic attacks - I don't have the mental capacity to do so - but I can appreciate how horrifying it is and that's not something I would wish on anyone, ever. So whilst my opinion remains the same, I do appreciate that humour like this does contain the capacity to really fuck someone up. As a friend of mine just wrote to me on steam - both sides in this entire argument have been completely insensitive to the intentions of their dissenters.
I urge all the people who are saying "It's just a fucking comic strip, people are too easily offended" I urge you to go read this article over on IGN which made me rethink my entire position on the subject. Cheers to Gaff for the link.
But that's not the point of this blog.
The point of this blog was to address just how far some people are prepared to take this shit, and despite the fact that I can't relate to the sentiments of the people opposed to this, I can't see any way of justifying a threat on the oppositions family. Despite Tycho asking for this nonsense to end I think it's important to address what is obviously fucking bananas - I would hate to think that people think this is acceptable behaviour, online or otherwise.
You just have to learn to deal with it just like everybody else - and as Jerry wrote in his blog:
" people deal with horror of this kind in different ways, and one of them is with humor."
This was originally typed in the Epic PM. It's being put here as well.
It's 3:27am and i'm still in university, working. I can hear students getting back from whatever shit club they went to and they are drunkenly singing in the car park. I hate them more than I could ever possibly articulate. I am the only one here in this room, on the fourth floor of this office building, sitting at a computer and trying to figure out why this fucking arm IK has been parented to the shoulder control of this stupid fucking rig. It has taken me 3 hours already and I am no closer to completing my work, which means I am no closer to going home, which means I will probably end up sleeping here, in this room. Except I drank 2 cans of redbull on the way here so I guess I wont be sleeping anywhere at all, for a few hours at least. Everything on the screen might as well be binary. I'm clicking through facebook, giantbomb, twitter, facebook, giantbomb, twitter, facebook - and with each click there are no significant updates, no meaningful progressions. It's all just blank, like watching this video on mute
As you are watching it you can't help but feel like it's doing something slightly sinister to your brain, and then when a real youtube ad actually pops up on the screen it startles you and you realize that it's all true and you really are living in some warped hypnotic trance where you are actually being controlled by forces beyond your very comprehension.
I feel like I want to scrub my brain with a brillo pad.
I have racked up a pretty respectable amount of WoW hours over the past few years
but something that has always bothered me is the screen setup, especially towards the level cap, where there are a ridiculous amount of abilities to keep track of and skills that require ever-specific instances in which to use them. I actually stopped playing originally because I felt healing at endgame was too dependant on addons like Grid or Healbot. Having spent the majority of the game healing using simple button presses in 5-man instances, the big endgame raids simply overwhelmed my playing style to the extent that it was virtually redundant. I tried playing with Healbot but I always found myself lagging slightly behind the other healers. This may have been because they had better gear, or were better at the game (I am not so arrogant as to dismiss this possibility) but it often felt as though they were given some obscure advantage by whatever interface setup they had that was granting them faster response and cast times. I did some research and tried out a few combinations. After using Healbot, Grid felt pretty inadequate. Xperl was pretty but largely unhelpful as it did little to differentiate between buffs and debuffs. In the end I just became frustrated. I was spending most of my time staring at grids of healthbars instead of the action in which I was supposedly partaking. I ragequit both WoW and my Discipline Priest.
I started playing again not long after.
Once an addict, always an addict.
Since then I have begun using a slightly weird setup, but one which I feel allows me adequate freedom and clarity to perform well at both tanking and PVP with my new warrior (Just dinged 70 ^_^). It looks a little bit like this:
I installed Bartender to move my action bars up into the middle of the screen, where they sit just slightly to the right of my character. This means I can see the cooldowns of my abilities and trinkets at all times. 90% of my actions are done by mouse clicks. Yep, you read that right. I'm a clicker. I have a few macros set up, sure - Usually just to conserve space - but nearly everything I do is done by mouse. I find this setup the most flexible because it let's me see the cooldowns of all my abilities at the same time, meaning I can click on whichever is going to become available first. No more button-mashing the number keys impatiently. It also means the edges of my screen are nice and clear, which I like. The blizzard toolbar artwork at the bottom has not aged well.
I have a few other simple addons like Omen (aggro counter for tanking) and a Damage Counter, but that's about it. Oh, and sexymap of course. Because everybody should have a sexy map.
I have told a few people about this weird setup I have and they all look at me like I'm some kind of crazy person.
but it seems to be working out fine for me so I see no reason to change. I have played through the majority of the game this way and I actually prefer it a lot to using a keyboard full of hotkeys. I very rarely have any problems in Instances (none that are related to my setup, anyway) and I am fucking destroying fools in Battlegrounds as a Prot Warrior. Proof:
I have become so comfortable with this interface that I actually found it weird trying to use key-presses last time I tried. I'm slightly worried that this will eventually come back to haunt me but until then i'm happy to keep on clickin'.
So what i'm really interested in is what setup you guys are using.
Do you have macros, addons, do you click or use keys? Do you have some weird 8-button mouse that lets you do everything, or do you pay some kid in china to play the game for you? Let me know, I'm intrigued!
FOR THE RECORD
I am not looking for advice on how to play Priest or Healer. I can see you fuckers getting geared up already to call me a noob and tell me it's because I had the wrong addons or whatever - seriously, we have discussed this in a previous blog (which I can't be fucked to go find. It's in the pile, somewhere). That ship has sailed and I no longer give a fuck about playing a healing class.
I would like to hear about what setup you use if you yourself are a healer :D
The gaps between my blogs have been growing recently.
Sorry about that.
Ah January, such a beautiful month.
Full of hope, optimism, and a new student loan. I actually tried to quit drinking for this most precious of months, fearing that the onslaught of New Years Eve and the Mass of Christ (Coming soon on Xbox 360) would leave me a hollow specter of my former self. It stands to reason that a month of alcohol = a month of hangover. That's maths, and cannot be argued with. Do you know what happens when you argue with maths? Horrible, horrible things.
In the Steam Christmas sale for about £5, which seemed reasonable. I'm slowly working my way through it, in a kind of "I'm going to take my sweet fucking time" kind of way. I enjoy each chapter as an almost episodic product, each sequence of events presenting me my daily fix in a bitesize chunk. This has actually come to replace my daily episode of whateverthefuck i'm currently watching. Ever since I finished The Wire I have been struggling to find a suitable replacement for my quiet (ha) evenings at home. I'm trying to watch Mad Men at the moment, which seems to work well alongside Mafia 2 as they are set in the same era - but it's just so damn slow.
Whilst many supposedly found the Mafia 2 campaign too linear, in this scenario I actually like being told exactly what I should be doing and who I should be shooting. The missions give an excellent selection of classic scenes from generic mobster movie X, balanced with some traditional everyday mafioso shenanigans. Every mission provides something new to see and do, and I have to give credit to the versatility of Mafia 2's game design. Mafia 2 frequently ventures off the beaten track, a particular example being when Irish goons burn down your house halfway through the game leaving you with no money or clothes, and forcing you to run to your buddy Joe's house in your underwear. It's not as good as that bit in Kane and Lynch 2 (I can't believe I just said that) but it's pretty good nonetheless. The game begins in Europe in WW2, there's a whole sequence inside a prison (Including a short episode in the shower room where... well... you drop the soap. That shit is slippery.) and lots of unique hotels and warehouses which provide really memorable gunfights. The weaponry gives a satisfying punch, and the destructible environments make firing the Tommy Gun completely badass. The writing and characters are all pretty good as well, believable voice work, with that slightly edgy Mafia charm that implies they could flip at any second and cut your fingers off.
The game isn't perfect, though
Perfection being a tall order after the sensational Grand Theft Auto franchise nailed Liberty City so successfully in it's latest installment. Being unable to shoot whilst driving is a noticeable problem, as is the inability to hail a cab - frustrating considering the city is so saturated with them. The designers also seem especially proud of their fighting system, a relatively simple punch'n'block charade into which you are repeatedly forced. Sometimes this feels appropriate (in the prison, for example) but there are times when it feels labored and I just wish I could pull out my gun and shoot the fucker in the face. Mafia 2 also boasts an impressively anal traffic system, characters shouting discomfort at your nonchalance for red lights, speed limits, and pedestrian lives. Just like in real life, however, the police are equally alert, and it's pretty frustrating being constantly badgered by the local constabulary for going slightly over the speed limit. The driving in Mafia 2 is robust and it can be tolerated, though not excessively so. The game can't expect me to actually obey the highway code at all times... right? That's getting way too real, way too fast.
Possibly my favorite thing about Mafia 2 is it's fantastically accurate portrayal of 50's America. There aren't many radio stations (only 3?) but each blares some pretty exemplary music, along with advertisements for the latest new fangled technology, at which one cannot help but laugh. I'm generally really enjoying the post-WW2 vibe, the cars, the clothes, everything. It's like exploring Fallout 3 before the nukes went off and the land was covered in feral ghouls, something of which I am constantly reminded. The general population does a good job of just lounging around, getting on with their lives, talking, spying on their neighbors, having sex - the random stuff you can overhear and see if you explore gives a lot of life to the city. I also quite like the bizarre selection of interactions available within any domestic building. I can turn on the faucet, pick up the phone, open the window. What gameplay purpose do these actions serve? Absolutely fuck all. There's something quite surreal about it... i'm suspicious of their inclusion, as though i'm expecting to have to turn on the faucet at some pivotal moment in the campaign. What does it mean?
That's pretty much all I have been playing this month, in relatively small doses no less. Oh yeah, and World Of Warcraft, though in similarly small doses. I'm level 69 (shh) and just got to Howling Fjord, having trudged my way through the pathetically redundant quest design of Outlands.
I'm not sure I like Bulletstorm. It seems to be trying slightly too hard to be over the top. That works when you have a genuine sense of humor, like Borderlands or Duke Nukem for example, but fails when your jokes primarily concern dick and fart jokes. I don't understand why a game which will undoubtedly be rated M is being marketed in such a condescendingly crude manner. HEY LOOK GUYS, YOU CAN SHOOT THIS MONSTER IN THE BALLS!! LOL!!! Using the word "fuck" repeatedly doesn't make you big and cool. Unless you are a sentient cheeseburger.
Having said that, the EPIC edition comes with Beta access to Gears Of War 3. So i'm buying it. Don't fucking judge me, it's not like I had any principles anyway...
"The past is a history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present."
Well, it's been a couple of weeks since my last blog so I should probably catch you lot up to speed.
I went to visit my parents for Christmas, leaving behind both PC and Xbox in a snap decision that I quickly came to regret. I spent about a week using my brothers laptop to scan for steam deals, none of which caught my eye, and to check giantbomb for festive shenanigans. I drove from Bournemouth, where I am at university, to my Dad's house and then, on christmas day, over to my Mums. The drive was interesting, as I had to cruise down quite a few small country roads that were pretty icy and, not having a wealth of driving experience, I was a little worried that I would fuck something up in the frosty conditions. However this journey paled in comparison to the drive back yesterday evening which culminated the elements in a nightmarish concoction of Ice, wind, rain, snow and fog. Perhaps the worst conditions I have ever driven in, so bad that I frequently found myself missing turns in the road purely because I couldn't see them. As a fresh driver I found the entire experience quite terrifying and, having arrived at my Dads house without incident, I bought myself Bad Company 2 Vietnam as a small reward for having survived. The maps contained within are fucking excellent, I might add, bringing back my love of Vietnam war films in a rapid torrent. Within the hour I was falling asleep to the legendary Hamburger Hill. Divorced parents are a bitch to negotiate between but, on the plus side, double presents! And that segues nicely into my next topic:
Or rather "Presents" as I was fortunate enough to receive more than one. My mum bought me a SatNav for my car, an item I find myself automatically referring to as my minimap. I also got given Cataclysm, which I'm not really sure was a good idea, but as my Warrior is now level 55 i'm going to need it sooner rather than later. The momentum I have for World Of Warcraft is definitely waning, though I'm finding Battlegrounds a lot more enjoyable as a Protection Warrior and i'm far from burnt out with the game. Other presents included money from my dad (enough to fund my new years eve) and a bottle of Vodka from my brother which will no doubt result in a hilariously forced drunken blog at some point in the near future. As for games i'm mostly playing Bad Company 2 at the moment, though my brother and I have played a ridiculous amount of Black Ops: Zombies over the past week - Black Ops being the only split-screen co-op game that we had the foresight to take with us while visiting the old parentals. Working as a pair we managed to get to round 15 fairly consistently, though without the other two players it made defending a single room fairly difficult so we frequently were overwhelmed. Our best strategy was to pick the downstairs route and get to the third room (up the stairs at the end of the outside bit) where one person could defend the stairs and the other would defend the two windows - though without the upgraded weapons you are almost certainly doomed to fail before you reach level 18. I think the highest level we got to was about 22, which isn't bad for 2 players playing Co-Op on a 20" screen. Ideally you get some decent weapons and then constantly stay on the move, setting off traps, auto-turrets and placing claymores and monkeys. We shall continue to strive for perfection and report back once the plan has been finalized.
I'm off to London for New Years Eve where I shall be attending a pub and then a houseparty and then probably wondering around drunkenly trying not to get hit by traffic, as per usual. Having spent far too many bones the previous couple of New Years Eves I shall be playing it fairly safe this time with a slightly more economic approach, but no doubt we shall be thoroughly messy regardless. To those of you off adventuring with the similarly inebriated I wish you the best of luck. Godspeed, young champions!
I'm trying really hard not to get too caught up in the Game Of The Year discussion again.
I have a feeling nobody appreciates me spraying my opinion everywhere like a feral tom. There were a lot of good games this year. A lot. To say that one is better than the others is fairly redundant. Starcraft 2 is an excellent game. (Opinion! See, I told you that you wouldn't like it.) I spent weeks playing Starcraft 2, watching tutorials, watching live GSL tournaments, learning build orders, the full deal. I was hooked, in a very real 5am kind of way. So, how does that stack up against Mass Effect 2, a game which, on arrival, I played for 18 hours without stopping except to eat and pee. Not at the same time... OK, maybe once at the same time. Have you ever tried eating a Mars Bar whilst taking a shit? It's harder than you might think...
Then there's Red Dead Redemption, a game which I didn't obsess over but can fully appreciate, in a pretentious kind of way. What about Halo Reach? That was a cool game, right? ....no? No, I didn't think so.
And the entire affair is completely undermined
by the fact that the game I spent most time playing this year, despite my best efforts and intentions, is World Of Warcraft. Did you see that coming? Because I sure as fuck didn't.
Oh, and Civilization V. I'm not speaking to Civilization V right now. That filthy whore.
So I decided not to get involved in Game Of The Year stuff. There are so many great games out this year that you should play, I don't think it's fair to push one out as some kind of "Winner". That would be like comparing Eagles and Triangles.
(Triangles are always better than Eagles. End of discussion.)
We all know which are the best games that have come out this year and we all know which ones would suit us best as individuals. I'm going to stop because this is starting to sound depressingly like a "WHY CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?" blog. However I think it's important to point out that the best thing about Game Of The Year discussions are the discussions. The actual decision is pretty secondary. You want to stick up for Metro 2033? Good luck to you. You want to create a bullet-point list explaining why Poker Night At The Inventory is the best thing since sliced bread? My baguette disagrees!