Why Giant Bomb happens to be where I get gaming news and reviews

Confession time.

I have never utilized the opinion of a Giant Bomb staffer to help me decide whether or not to buy a game.

Sorry, guys. I understand that the mission they have for this site is to provide expert opinions on video games that will help guide the purchasing decisions of gaming enthusiasts like me. But the honest truth is that I'm going to buy what I'm going to buy. And like your average American consumer, my predisposition to purchase one game or another is very difficult to shake. I HAVE PLAYED EVERY RESIDENT EVIL GAME EVER RELEASED AND I'LL BE DAMNED IF I'M NOT GOING TO PLAY RE6.

Honestly, I would be very surprised if the average reader of video game enthusiast press websites and magazines relied on those publications to guide their purchasing decisions from month to month. Your average reader more likely gravitates toward outlets that can support his own preconceived notions about a game, focuses on the kinds of games that he likes to play, and also provides a like-minded community where he feels welcomed.

But honestly, none of these are reasons that I frequent Giant Bomb. The real reason that I visit the website, watch the videos, obsess over when the Bombcast gets posted each week, and skim through the GB phone app during meetings is because Jeff, Ryan, Brad, Vinny and Patrick are Jeff, Ryan Brad, Vinny and Patrick. In short, I am part of the Giant Bomb community because of its personalities.

Thinking about it, the majority of the content that I consume associated with this website has nothing to do with games that I play or ever plan on playing. Shit, I watched a Quick Look of Intel: Discovered the other day! And I watched it because I wanted to see the goofy shit that those guys would get up to. (And, secretly, I was hoping to see Jeff break a Kinect out of sheer frustration.)

The Bombcast is my #1 preferred method of consuming Giant Bomb information. And the "Whatcha Been Playin'?" segment is my least favorite. I'm much more interested in what license Vinny is working on this week, whether Jeff is going to kill his roommate, and what tier/ranking/class/medal/level/recognition/status/segment Brad has achieved in Starcraft 2 over the weekend. I want horror movie reviews from Patrick and character actor trivia from Ryan. To be honest, these guys could be reviewing flavors of canned soup, and I would still listen to the show. Because they are funny, entertaining, and they work well together.

The same goes for the entire website. And so, yeah, occasionally I may read a review of a game. But more often than not I am not looking for buying advice. I'm looking for entertainment.

I don't know why other users come to the site, but I suspect I'm not alone. And I really don't mean to burst anyone's bubble about the value or usefulness of the reviews on the site. In the end, I'm an avid video game player. And so I value being part of a video game-focused community. And I'm glad that games have brought together this collection of talent that I get to watch and listen to and--occasionally--interact with. But if suddenly there were no more games and I ran out of money and I would never again ever buy another video game-related product ever again, I would still visit this website every day. Because it's run by interesting and entertaining people. And I hope they don't have plans on stopping anytime soon.

I would love to see more content on Giant Bomb that occasionally diverts from gaming. Sure, I realize that most of it has to have that video game hook. But would I watch an hour-long video of these idiots cruising around Germany in Porsches at breakneck speeds? Shit, yes! Would I listen to a podcast of Vinny from his ham radio for a couple of hours each week? You bet! Would I watch a video of Jeff washing his car in a white undershirt that's just one size too small set to Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again?" What a ridiculous question!

Anyhow, the point is that Giant Bomb, for me, is a source of entertainment first, community second, and video game purchasing guidance third. Or maybe fourth... Third would be a source of the baddest summer jams... BUT I DIGRESS!

Keep it up, guys. You're a lot of fun to watch, listen to and read. And don't sweat the "trust" thing. I don't believe a goddamn word that comes out of your mouths.


Harmonix, Donuts, and My Descent Into Madness... PART FIVE

1:28 PM

Took a break from Blitz to take the kids to swim practice and mow the yard. Made a special trip to a local game store to pick up a used copy of LEGO Rock Band for more tracks so I can earn more coins so I can use more Power Ups so I can keep my high score aspirations fueled...

After lunch, took another crack at "Donuts, Go Nuts." Managed to pull off my highest score yet: 257,617. The Jackpot/Flame Notes combo seems to be working well...

That score is good enough for 3rd on the leaderboards at this point.

Pray for me.


Harmonix, Donuts, and My Descent Into Madness... PART FOUR

7:22 AM

Awoke on the couch when my kids came into the living room. Controller was lying on the floor next to me. There was a line of drool trickling down the side of my face.

Took a couple of minutes before breakfast to check the leaderboards. Dropped to 5th place. Top score is now 287,904.

Time for more coffee.


Harmonix, Donuts, and My Descent Into Madness... PART THREE

10:45 PM

Coffee has kicked in. Haven't blinked in over an hour.

The leaderboards are now dominated by someone with the gamertag JaoSming who scored a 287,904.

Latest run: 249,434 using Jackpot, Flame Notes, and Super Guitar. That score puts me at 4th place, my highest ranking thus far.

Must continue on, even though I'm fairly certain the wall just moved. A little.


Harmonix, Donuts, and My Descent Into Madness... PART TWO

9:23 PM

Logged on tonight to see that I've dropped to 8th place.

My best score of 224,909 now seems paltry compared to the first place score of 268,697 posted by someone named "Rayjay2."

Latest attempt netted me a score of 215,679 (Jackpot: 60,606; Blast Notes: 16,000; Super Guitar: 15,301). Drums and vocals were 100%, and bass and guitar were 99%. I only fell out of Blitz Mode once.

Just brewed a pot of coffee. Digging in for a night of listening to Matt Chaney's voice...


Harmonix, Donuts, and My Descent Into Madness... PART ONE

I don't know when it began.

It had to have been sometime in early 2011 when I discovered Matt "Chainsaw" Chaney's catchy, pastry-inspired ditty from 'Splosion Man was available on the Rock Band network. "Donuts, Go Nuts" had found some novelty popularity in my house, particularly by my children, for its repetitious ukulele riffs and references to a wide variety of donut-like goodies. For several days early that year, we all walked around the house singing, whistling, humming the tune. I'm sure I played it a couple of times in Rock Band 2 or something. And then at some point I forgot about it...

Enter Rock Band: Blitz.

Harmonix's latest offering is a low-key take on the burnt out plastic instrument genre, but with a heavy dose of leaderboards and quite public mockery of friends (also known as "pathetic losers" who have "no chance in hell" of beating "my epic high score"). Fully couch-playable with just a simple gamepad controller, Blitz imports your old Rock Band tracks into a new--but old-school--rhythm game format. There is also an optimization component, with players choosing from a variety of power ups to increase their scores in different ways.

But it didn't really catch on for me initially. Sure, I enjoyed getting some use out of the few Rock Band tracks I had downloaded in years past. It was nice to take a break from Skyrim and a couple of shooters I had been playing for months now. And the graphic design was nice. But I didn't really get hooked.

Then I saw "Donuts, Go Nuts."

"Cool," I thought. "Let's see how this one plays."

I did okay, initially. I think my first score was somewhere around 80,000, which probably put me in the top 100 on the leaderboards. No biggie.

"That seemed like a pretty simple song," I thought. "I bet I could do better."

Sure enough, the next time around, I placed at #15. FIFTEEN. In the WORLD. I've never been that highly ranked at anything. Ever. Forget how many people have actually attempted the song. Forget how easy or straightforward the melody may be. Forget that there is not even a piano part. Toss all of that crap out the window because goddammit I WAS FIFTEENTH ON A LEADERBOARD FOR A VIDEO GAME.

*blink, blink*

"I could totally get to Number One."


That was three days ago. I am currently ranked sixth in the world at "Donuts, Go Nuts" on Rock Band: Blitz.

I have probably logged a good six or seven hours just playing that one song.

When I turn on the XBox, my family leaves the room.

My three-year-old can now recite the lyrics from beginning to end. (Yes, even the part about croquembouches. I don't even know what those are.)

It's Friday. And all I can think about is playing more Rock Band: Blitz, singing along with Chainsaw into the wee hours of the morning, crushing my controller when I fail to break the high score...

...and maybe, just maybe, reaching that Number One spot.


Dungeon Defenders: Max Level (six times). Now what???

I and my entire family are shamelessly addicted to Dungeon Defenders on the XBox 360. I've easily put in 150+ hours. And yet I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. This is great, of course, because I'm getting a ton of value out of the game in exchange for very little money (in my opinion). However, it's also a bit frustrating, as I feel I should be progressing further based on the amount of time and attention I've put into the game. I'd appreciate the input from some of your veterans on what I may be doing wrong.

After leveling my first character to 70, I attempted some of the campaign missions and challenges on Hard and Insane. It was immediately evident that I didn't stand a chance. So I started reading some character build guides and some level guides online. I realized that, aside from just the character's level, I had to allocate skill points to certain areas and effectively "specialize" my characters. So I began building and leveling new characters. Here is what I have so far. (Apologies for not including actual stat numbers, but I am at the office away from my XBox.)

Tower Monk: All points in Aura Health/Damage/Radius/Rate with leftovers in Hero Speed/Casting

Tower Apprentice: All points in Tower Health/Damage/Radius/Rate with leftovers in Hero Speed/Casting

Tower Huntress: All points in Trap Health/Damage/Radius/Rate/ with leftovers in Hero Speed/Casting

Tower Squire: All points in Defense Health/Damage/Radius/Rate with leftovers in Hero Speed/Casting

DPS Squire: All points in Hero Health/Damage/Speed/Blood Rage with leftovers in Circular Slice

DPS Huntress: All points in Hero Health/Damage/Speed/Piercing Shot with leftovers in Casting

(NOTE: "All points" obviously means a max of 70 hero points, as the XBox version has not been patched to increase this.)

So there I have six level 70 characters with points properly allocated to their specialities. I have been able to solo many of the campaign missions on insane, eventually hitting a wall with Ramparts. After that, I start having trouble with the later campaign missions and bonus/DLC missions on insane. Also, I cannot solo any of the challenges on Hard or Insane. I have tried partnering up with my wife and/or kids for two-, three-, and four-player coop on these, but the added enemies and increased enemy health make it impossible.

I have NOT yet started to allocate appropriate points strategically in my hero items (armor, pets, weapons). This, I feel, is maybe my biggest failing. But I'm not really sure where my item points should go. Should I use the items just to further increase my character's specializations? For instance, should I just level up all of the items for the DSP Huntress to further increase her Hero Health/Damage??

How important is elemental resistance? I understand that a lot of people put high stock in this area, but it seems like for the mana I spend I get very little return on the investment.

Finally, what is the secret to beating the challenges on Insane? I don't want to simply watch a YouTube video and then repeat what I see there. I'd like to have one or two character builds that are tough enough to experiment and find my own way through these. So what else do I need to focus on?

I realize this is a lot of questions. But after reading through other forums, it's obvious that the DunDef community is very willing to help. So I'd appreciate some of you experts giving me your thoughts. Thanks a bunch, guys!



Wiki question: Single-platform updates to multi-platform games

I've been a GB member since the beginning, but I'm only just now getting into features like editing Wikis, using the blogs, etc. So forgive me if this is a relatively naive question to ask. I'm just looking for clarification on how these things are handled.

On a wiki entry for a game that was released on multiple platforms, how does one denote a feature of the game that is only available or has only been released on one platform? Example: For Dungeon Defenders, there are now FIVE difficulty settings on the PC version since the last update. But the console versions feature only the original four difficulty settings. The current wiki for that game notes as a feature "four difficulty settings." So would one simply add the fifth difficulty and note parenthetically that it is only on the PC?

Apologies if this is WAY too detailed a question. Feel free to tell me to shut the hell up and just do it...



Dungeon Defenders - My Game Of The Year


Somewhere between the GiantBomb staff’s fourth and fifth day of Game Of The Year deliberations, as I yelled that exclamation to everyone and no one, I resigned myself to the fact that the fine gentlemen at GiantBomb never actually played Dungeon Defenders. That’s understandable. They have a finite number of hours in the day, the month, the year. They can’t play everything. And so some things will be missed. And that’s too bad.

During the early parts of the Day Five GOTY podcast a conversation ensued about “worst trends” and whatnot. One of the nominated worst trends was the over-serialization and resulting burnout of some franchises. As Jeff had said multiple times this year in reference to games like Modern Warfare 3 and Uncharted 3, “We have played these games before.” Developers of successful mega-hit games are resigned to mass-produce followups to their critical successes without giving those sequels the proper amount of care and consideration, resulting in less-than-optimal releases. This is the crux of the BombCrew’s argument against annualization of franchises. And yet we have titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Saints Row: The Third vying for the title of “Game Of The Year.” I will be the first to say I have played a lot of both games, and other sequels to franchises that many would classify as “tired.” Still, I always like something new.

That’s where Dungeon Defenders came in. It was new—at least to me. Granted, I have not played every video game known to man, so I could be wrong. But it seems that nothing quite like DunDef has ever existed before. It combines tower defense (Gerstmann would be rolling his eyes about now…) with an action RPG in a cute and immersive art style. Throw in some very handy co-op elements (Why, yes, I do need some extra mana. Thank you for sharing.), an enormous amount of loot, and a deep series of both story levels and challenge levels each with four different difficulty settings, and it’s easy to see why after all this time with the game I’m still eager to play. All of that in one package, to me, is new.

And it still feels new. I’m hundreds of hours in, and I still have not been able to complete some of the missions and challenges. (NOTE: I didn’t write that, “I have not finished” these parts of the game. I wrote, “I have not been able,” because even after all the time I’ve put in to the game, my characters still aren’t up to the really tough challenges.) There is a boatload of DLC to boot with more characters, more weapons, more enemies, more maps… For an inexpensive downloadable game it is an enormous value.

But value alone doesn’t make for a Game Of The Year contender, admittedly. It seems that when the BombCast guys really start talking about their favorite games, it comes down to the experience and memories created by the games themselves. So where does Dungeon Defenders weigh in experience-wise? Let me lay this on you very simply:

It brought and continues to bring my entire family together for hours at a time in a way that no other entertainment device—video game, movie, book, board game, etc.—has ever done.

That, to me, might not make it a Game Of The Year. That might make it the Game Of The Decade. Or more.

Late at night when I’m the only one awake, I pop in Saints Row or Rocksmith or Skyrim. My wife plays Angry Birds in the morning with her coffee, while my little girl looks at the screen and cheers her on. Our two boys, each with their own 3DS, wander off alone to play Super Mario 3D Land or Ocarina Of Time by themselves. We are a gaming family. We play games, talk about games, think about games… But we had never had a single title that we could all agree to play at the same time and derive equal enjoyment from. Sure, I would stomach Kinect Adventures for the sake of my kids. And they would humor me by playing Burnout: Paradise and making cars blow up. My wife even tried her hand at Gears of War 2 for one night until she threw down the controller in frustration. So we never had one game that all four of us could play and enjoy like we have with Dungeon Defenders.

An example: I stayed up late one night and finally finished the challenge called “Ogre Crush” on Insane difficulty, netting me the unique loot item known as the Ogre Party Hat. The challenge was finally beatable with one of my characters. So I tried again. And again. And a fourth time. And finally I had not one but FOUR Ogre Party Hats. Late that morning when I was sure the kids were at school or otherwise occupied, I texted my wife: “Tell the boys I have a cool new surprise from Dungeon Defenders for them.” Sure enough, when I walked through the door after work, I was deluged by the boys and their little sister begging to know what the surprise is. I told them. They flipped out. We spent dinner talking about it. We finished up dinner, cleaned the kitchen, then sat down to play. And the next couple of hours were spent testing out our new gear in different ways and talking about how awesome it was.

This kind of thing STILL happens. None of us have gotten tired of it yet.

Those hundreds of hours of gameplay I mentioned before? Probably one hundred of those are with one or more of my family—either my wife, one or both of my two sons, or even my little girl. To create a game that compels grown-up gamers, their wives (who have little-to-no interest in gaming to begin with), and their children of varying ages to sit and play and cheer and laugh and scream and come back to do it all again the next night… That is no easy accomplishment. And the fact that Trendy Entertainment pulled it off in a package that is such a great value at the same time is a significant feat. I have really come to appreciate what they developed and the value it has provided my entire family.

So that’s why Dungeon Defenders is my Game Of The Year for 2011. And by all appearances it will be one of the games that we play the most of in 2012. While I wish the guys had given it more props—or any, for that matter—I understand why they may not have. Just take it from me, if you’re looking for a quality experience that’s different than a lot of other games, give it a try. And that goes double for you family gamers out there.

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