Blogging: It's How the Coooool Kids Cope With Tragedy

We all heard the news, and if you haven't, I'll be brief: Giant Bomb lost founding member and all-around amazing duder Ryan Davis. I don't have a lot to add to the discussion, others who knew him better are doing a FAR better job, but I do have two very specific, very personal memories from what were two of the happiest months of my life as a Whiskey Media intern:

Look at him...knowing so much about OTHER carbonated beverages too!

Memory 1: at the end of my first day, Mat Rorie (who I actually knew prior to the internship) suggested we retire to the bar for a couple of celebratory drinks. Somehow the entire staff caught wind of this, and I kid you not, over the next hour, an honest-to-God party broke out. I won't even say they were celebrating me being there, I think there was just something right in the air and I got caught in the middle of it (in the best way possible). When it started out, I figured as a dilligent intern, it was my duty to tend bar and LORDY was I making a mess of it, serving half-foam abominations from the WM kegs. Ryan Davis advised me on how, PRECISELY, to tilt the glass so that it not only didn't great the massive head, but wouldn't disrupt the pour nor clink against the metal. It's a technique that has served me well in my amateur bartending at parties. He also used to, on occasion, drink from a large, glass boot.

Secretly: THIS is my #1 favorite Indiana Jones movie...

Memory 2: This was a different, much more staid, time in the bar, but somehow the notion of our favorite Indiana Jones movies got brought up (with Crystal Skull not even needing to be on the list). Everyone went down their list, mine was Raiders, Crusade, Doom, and Ryan pointed out that Doom is his absolute favorite Indiana Jones movie. I scoffed, literally, and DEMANDED to know how the movie with the annoying lady, the annoying kid, and the silly cult could possibly be best. After advising I "shut my mouth" as I had "No idea what I was talking about" (both true), he dropped the knowledge on me that the kid and the woman were the ACTUAL antagonists of the movie, the cult was just window dressing. He expounded at GREAT lengths on this, but I barely heard it as my mind was BLOWN.

Ryan and I didn't interact over much during my internship (my sometimes goofy and WINNING, sometimes legitimately awful gaffes notwithstanding) because I was mostly into the writing (which I still am, thanks to Comic Vine) side of the sites, but I was always amazed to see him work with the more video-inclined interns. As someone who still consumes Giant Bomb media multiple times a day, this loss has me finding difficulty expressing myself, so hey, thanks for listening. And, of course, Ryan Davis will live forever through the internet and through this site, so may he rest well.

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Do We Actually Want Innovation?

This is a long one. Don't wanna read? Don’t eat.

Pictured: Apparently worst than a literal housing crisis

So it’s been about a month since the...controversial(?) DmC Devil May Cry’s release and, while the inexplicable fervor has died down for the most part, it has not gone away despite the game’s excellent review scores and almost universal acclaim from reviewers, with some accusing Capcom of somehow having the capital to pay off the entirety of gaming journalism for positive reviews. I qualify that because, to check out the Metacritic USER score, you’d think this game had committed a war crime. Or swindled someone out of their house and life savings with predatory banking practices as EA apparently did last year when it was voted the Worst Company In America for the crime of nickel-and-diming people’s disposable income away from them and also maybe ruining a prominent trilogy’s ending. That last one really depends on your perspective.

This isn’t going to be a post about any one thing, it’s going to be a post about a problem I’m noticing popping up in the enthusiast circles of videogames and that’s the absolute, savage hypocrisy with which “innovation” is simultaneously demanded and reviled. What this essentially boils down to is this: MANY people who claim to want innovation actually only mean they want games that they don’t now play to change so that they’ll want to play them. I might as well go to the two best examples I can think of: Madden and Call of Duty.

Pictured: Something WORTH getting upset at a company for.

I don’t personally play Madden, I like American football, but not enough to know player names, and I play Call of Duty as a rental for the campaign, so obviously I’m not the target audience for either product, but I can admire what they both do and how they do it from a distance: they’ve captured the elusive “casual” gamer and the hardcore alike. “Casuals” love it because essentially they can buy the one game that comes out every year and that’s perfect for the kind of experience they want, but it’s also led to both franchises stagnating and putting out iterative steps every year rather than a fully-realized, entirely new game every few years. Again: there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, it works for them and their consumers seem perfectly happy with it. But something funny happens whenever a trailer or announcement for either of these, and some other, games gets released: the comments, and even forums, are flooded by people taking them to task, with most of the derisiveness stemming from the “sameyness” of the franchises and how incremental each game is, usually while throwing in something bemoaning the lack of creativity in the game’s industry. But what happens when real innovation DOES happen? Well...why don’t you ask Ninja Theory? Or Bioware? Or Nintendo? Or, yes, even Capcom.

Pictured: UNASSAILABLE BADASS

The new Devil May Cry game was assailed, from trailer one, for the crime of not being samey enough. For delivering a Dante, and indeed a world, that was markedly different from the previous four iterations (though, to this day I have no idea who the original Dante was from the perspective of the fanboy. First this new Dante was too bombastic and cavalier, then he was too “emo,” which in this case meant “I don’t like how he looks and am not clever enough to describe it,” then, finally and hilariously, he wasn’t bombastic and cavalier ENOUGH). Likewise Mass Effect 2 had blood vomited upon it for DARING to excise the Mako portions (that were the worst part of the previous game), streamlining the combat (or “dumbing down” as the fanboy might say, despite the fact that 2 is much, much more challenging than 1) and in hindsight, it is beloved as the best in the series, which, of course, displays a hilarious lack of self-awareness. Ask Link, who had to endure the japes and jibes of being cel-shaded as not “ADULT” enough...for a game about an elf who wanders the land trying to save a princess from an evil wizard. Yes, surely that is a game that deserves to be taken very, very seriously in terms of art style.

Pictured: Goddamn Emo Punk

The sad thing is that this isn’t an especially new thing, the idea of “I just want everything I like to stay the same and everything I don’t like to become something I do like” is as old as human thought, but it’s a shame when people deprive themselves of something truly great because it somehow offends their sensibilities. Oh and before I wrap up, and this is purely a pet peeve: if you spend three years berating a company with knee-jerk reactions over a game you haven't even played, letalone seen very much of, you don't get to be stoked with indignation that the company takes a quick, and clever, dig at your expense. Sorry. I’m not saying you have to LOVE DmC, Mass Effect, or anything else, I’m saying you should at least be CONSISTENT with what you want out of the industry. You can’t bitch and whine that the industry has stagnated and then scream when they change something. It makes you look silly and childish.

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GOTY 2012: All The Coooooool Kids Are Doing Blogs!

2012 was certainly a weird-ass year. The console generation's almost certainly overstayed its welcome (thanks in part to a global financial meltdown), and devs who would perhaps rather be breaking new ground have been forced to retread the old. In spite of that, and my list will certainly run this joke into the ground, I can't think of a year in recent memory that I stayed up well past midnight (and I work early) more times than this year. But the year was not without charm nor delights! I think I can wrangle up at least 10 excellent games that I'd call...GAMES OF THE YEAR!

1. The Walking Dead

There's really nothing left to say, is there? But I guess if I had to I could list the fact that every single person in this game acted, more or less, like a real person (even if that real person was unstable/under a lot of duress), it involved one of the ONLY likable child-characters in ALL media, let alone videogames, gameplay that was somehow minimalist, but never quite "not a game"-level, and some of the most genuine, emotional rides in years. One of the greatest videogame experiences of all time on any system and proof positive that videogames truly earned that protection under the 1st Amendment.

2. Mass Effect 3

I liked the ending even before the extended cut (and even more after it) but that's not the point. The point was/is the journey and this game had one of the most emotionally resonant ones since...well Mass Effects 1 & 2. But there's another aspect overlooked by so many in the debates about endings, DLC and plot twists: the multiplayer. It's been almost a year since this game came out, and in addition to no fewer than five free expansions, there's been an entire new layer placed over it. So frankly, I feel like I paid for the single-player campaign and got this for free.

3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

"There's no MARKET for a turn-based, hardcore, sci-fi, top-down shooter!" someone said, not accounting for the fact that Firaxis knows a thing or two about a thing or two about "Just...one...more...mission...oh hey, when did the sun come up?"

Glitches aside, which I never experienced until the very end, this game was basically perfect for me. A no-frills story (what? You need MORE than the Earth being overrun with extra-terrestrial invaders??), the by-the-seat-of-our-pants research-style, the expendability of your units (and how CRAZY attached you get to them, especially after slapping a nickname on 'em) along with a game that very rarely felt cheap and much more just felt punishing. A beautiful example of how streamlining doesn't have to mean dumbing down.

4. Sleeping Dogs

SSSSSSSSSSLEEPY DAWGS!! There, now I got that out of my system and can say that this game is one of the most satisfying open world experiences of all time. Particularly because it bridges the whole "what else can I do in this world besides story missions and random rampages" perfectly with actual character development. That and having an actual awesome melee combat system was something I didn't even know was missing from open-world sandbox games until this one showed me the error of my narrow thinking.

5. Persona 4 Arena

We're going to follow our deep, strategic RPG with a fighting game that continues both the story and the character arcs. STOP LAUGHING, IT'LL WORK!! And it did...AND it had a deep, nuanced fighting game system. More accessible than Guilty Gear or BlazBlu, and a truly rewarding, gradual learning curve with room to grow. I may not return to it, because I don't have time to dedicate in order to become truly proficient, but the single-player alone was worth it.

6. Spec Ops: The Line

What if, instead of trivializing the horrors of war, we actually showed the psychological impact that it had? This game began the trend of disempowerment fantasies that have seemingly swept videogames recently AND made player choice really, REALLY matter in a very granular way. The shooting may not have been on the level of a Call of Duty or a Gears of War, but for a game that had me legitimately breaking down and wishing for a way out, I'll take the switch. And if you hear what the head writer has to say about the deeper levels of the plot, it gets EVEN better.

7. FTL: Faster Than Light

Okay, this time I'm going to...have a Mantis on my ship, but also have this guy in the engine room, this guy in the life support, this guy on guns and GODDAMNIT, they just blew up my life support!! VENT THE AIRLOCKS INTO SPACE! PUT OUT THE FIRE BEFORE THE SHIP BURNS UP-well the ship burnt up...I'll try it one more time...it's 3AM...

8. Borderlands 2

"Sorry babe, I know it's 2AM , but the roommates and I are just...we just need to defeat this guy, then I'll come to bed...yeah, it'll only be another 10 minutes..." A truly great multiplayer experience but VERY playable as a solo venture with enough development to be fun and even some legitimate laughs to be had.

9. Dust: An Elysian Tail

This one just BARELY snuck in after a couple of marathon sessions, but it was more than worth it for a great, character-deep story along with a no-frills, incredibly satisfying and sleek combo system. Large enough to make exploring feel fantastic, but not big enough to become tedious.

10. Lollipop Chainsaw

Hilarious writing coupled with addictive gameplay. It's either endemic of videogames' attitude toward women or a brutal, hilarious satire of it. Either way, it's clever enough without being too in love with how clever it is and the gameplay is a perfect mix of hack-and-slash hilarity and arcade-style fun without the coin-pumping requirements.

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Mass Effect 3 Ending (TITANIC SPOILERS)

I am not going to spoiler block ANYthing in this blog, because the entire thing would read like one of Richard Nixon's memos. So if you haven't beaten ME3 yet and decided to ignore my giant, obvious warning, I will say again: Turn back. Turn back. Turn back.

Upfront: the fact that they have very similar cinematics sucks and I really didn't care for the starchild (I thought the projection could take the form of your love interest or at least a Prothean), but neither of these things even came close to ruining the experience for me. And frankly if the former ruined it, that's incredibly shallow. It basically says to me that, rather than really consider what the ending actually MEANS, one would rather be wowed by production values, which is ironically anathema to what MOST people were complaining about before the game even came out! But more on that later. Alright, it's been talked to death but this is my blog and I'll talk if I want to (I feel like we've been here before, have we been here before?), but this ending has GOT to be one of the most polarizing things to ever happen in the history of videogames. I'm not even being hyperbolic when I say this. Name me one other single in-game event from any other videogame that has divided the entirety of such a huge chunk of the community like this has. And I can even see why: having seen my ending and then discussed the other two (and I'm talking top-tier Galactic Readiness endings), it's definitely not the direction I'd have thought Bioware would go in. And I think that's PARTIALLY what some of this backlash comes from: a certain subset of people really, really don't like being surprised. They like to brag about how they "totally saw it coming," usually with a single pinky outstretched and nose turned to the ceiling, so that they can feel superior to their peers. But this? Nobody could have seen this coming. Shepard sacrificing him/herself (only time I'm going to do that) so that the war could end, even at the cost of the Relays, was heart-wrenching. This article postulates that it's one of the only videogames to ever actually earn the "visceral" descriptor and I agree: I had an actual, gut reaction both to the revelation that the game was coming to a close and to how it ended, and I'll admit: I felt initially betrayed.

Like this only with power armor. And her head is shaved around the crown.

A large part of me wanted to see Shepard make it, to sweep Jack off her feet in the proud VJ-Day photo tradition, get shitfaced with Garrus, arm-wrestle Wrex, see Tali lead her people and on and on. But then I really sat down and thought about what this ending meant in the greater galactic context. Mass Effect has always been a series about contextualizing greater conflicts into personal stakes, but this ending is almost an exact mirror-image reverse of that concept. It's an incredibly personal moment of sacrifice to give the entire galaxy lasting peace. I couldn't bring myself to destroy the geth or go down the same path as the Illusive Man and try to control the reapers just to selfishly give myself a chance to live because that's not who my Shepard is. Over the course of three games and over five years, these characters have grown to mean something and to betray that just to give myself a shot at a happy (or at least happier) ending actually seemed completely antithetical. Of course the game ends with Shepard dead. How could it end any other way after all the previous sacrifices to make the galaxy safe? Ironically Brad's joke during the ME3 Quick Look of "So this is an even suicidier mission?" turned out to actually have a huge chunk of truth to it: Yes. This WAS an even suicidier mission, because for me the only way it could end was with Shepard's death. It also precludes them looking at all the zeroes they'll see with sales figures and having EA go "Make another one, we don't care that you said you wouldn't." Or if not precludes, then it at least makes it a LOT less likely.

So I guess at the end of the day, I really, REALLY don't understand the vitriol that's being hurled at this game. So much vitriol, in fact, that there's apparently a petition started for a NEW ENDING?? Setting aside the incredible stupidity of that notion, how would that even WORK? Furthermore I remember before the game came out, people were screaming, or really screeching, that the game had gone in a "generic, DUDEBROHUAH!!!!" direction. Now whether or not you think that's true: you must admit that the ending they wind up giving you is the absolute antithesis of that mentality. It's almost as if people are just looking for a reason to justify the hate they preemptively threw at this game rather than admit that, perhaps, they were wrong about what they wanted in the first place. I'm not saying you're wrong to be upset with the ending if it's not what you wanted, I'm saying you can't accuse the game of going in too generic of a direction then complain that the ending wasn't straightforward enough. It's not a picture-perfect Hollywood happy ending, it's not even a particularly happy one. But to say it's depressing is doing it a MASSIVE disservice because depression implies an absence of hope and this ending is anything but hopeless. In fact, in retrospect I actually find it incredibly uplifting. Anyway, thanks for reading (if you did, and if you didn't I'll probably be able to tell by your comment). I feel like I'm still processing it and the more I do, the more I find myself liking it. Not being happy about it, but being satisfied with it.

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In-Depth Demo Thoughts

Probably a titsch redundant at this point (since it's more than 5 minutes after the demo was released) but fuck it, it's my blog and I'll write I want to. Write if I want to. Wriiiiite if I want to. You would write too if you just played this demooooooo. Oh and I haven't tried the multiplayer, so I may edit this to include that after I do, or I may just make a separate post. Long story short on the single-player portion: You start where the game will start, play through the intro mission, and then jump ahead to somewhere seemingly within the first third of the game to give you some idea as to how the skill progressing works.

The Bad

This demo starts out presumably around where the game itself will begin and herein lies my first, and biggest, complaint: the game begins with a whimper. After you played Arrival (in which you killed 250,000 batarians to cut the Reapers off from the Mass Relay that would give them unfettered access to the more populous parts of the galaxy), I expected Shepard to be in the midst of a court-martial when the Reavers interuppt the precedings, but no. You've been stripped of your rank and effectively grounded (with Andersen making vague reference to "that shit you pulled"), but the Alliance seems to have come around and believe in the presence of the Reapers. They call you in to consult (again, I thought the Reapers were being widely denied as even existing?), when the massive, sentient ships make landfall on Earth and begin indiscriminately blowing up EVERYTHING IN SIGHT! This is where the demo kicks off, but it's an oddly hollow moment compared to the absolute "WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK!?!?!?" moment of The Normandy being destroyed in the first five minutes of ME2. The whole thing came off as a little rote.

On a more nitpicky level: I chose the default JaneShep character and her facial animations were a little wonky at times. The closest thing I could think of is Juno in Force Unleashed who, in the first game, appeared to just be opening and closing her mouth when she talked, giving her a weird fish/ventriloquist dummy appearance. It wasn't NEARLY as pronounced in this game, but it looked weird. And Wrex's voice actor seems to have trouble finding his ...well voice. He sounded a little unsure, which is something Wrex absolutely should NOT sound like (but it was still good to have the big lug back).

The Good

Everything else. The game plays incredibly smoothly. The animations transition much more organically from one into the other (as opposed to the more "snap from one to the next" of the previous two games), Shepard is MUCH more dynamic now able to jump, climb, drop down, combat roll, and vault over cover, thus eliminating the incredible logistic irritation of the previous two games. On a more fundamental level, this game does exactly what they promised it would: it splits the difference between ME1 and ME2 in terms of action VS RPG. The shooting is still very much ME1 with Shep now able to wield any weapon effectively (as any combatant with this level of experience should), but the number of weapons you can take into a mission limited by class (with Soldier being the only one that can wield all of them), but the abilities now branching at every level past the third. Yes, even ammo abilities have completely different branches which, even just previewing them, makes me extremely excited since the branches seem to be change how each ability works substantially. It's also great to already see in this preview who's coming back and who has yet to be seen. Edit: Additionally, I picked up a number of weapon customizations, which I couldn't/didn't use in the demo, but the sheer number I got seem to indicate that customization is back in full force, so anyone missing it in ME2: your prayers have been answered.

Ultimately this demo failed to completely WOW me, but it did absolutely show me that they're going in the right direction. It also makes sense that they wouldn't put a giant "OH SHIT" moment in their demo necessarily, so I'm still absolutely willing to be wowed. For those worried that Bioware had somehow lost their way or were just shoveling a pile of crap when they talked about compromising between ME1 and 2, it absolutely seems like they're doing exactly that. And there are PLENTY of dialog wheels even in this hour or so, so no worries: the game is still plenty chatty. This demo did exactly what it should have: gave me a taste so that I'm absolutely down to pay for a full experience.

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Internship Blog: One Must Fall

Around three months ago, and quite on a lark, I sent our friendly neighborhood community manager Ethan a PM after seeing a post for a Whiskey Media internship on his Twitter feed. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it since I lacked experience (in video editing, specifically), I wasn’t in college (I’d already graduated) and I figured I’d be too old (none of your damn business!), but he PMed me back and set up an interview that led to an audition, that led to a second audition, that led to me getting a two month, full-time internship. Two months have passed and I’ve met people in the industry I’ve admired for over a decade, I’ve worked the journalist side of E3, and I’ve non-launch partied with a major development team. Hell, I even met a reallife Kingtern and trained a newbie. But let’s focus for a moment on that sweet, sweet, insane, gray-hair-giving conference known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

The biggest roller coaster content-wise

When I realized that my internship would intersect with E3’s schedule, I immediately asked Ryan if I would be going with them and if I should be preparing to spend a week in LA. Ten minutes later, after he stopped laughing, he assured me that I wouldn’t, but that I’d be holding the fort at the office with the other intern (Ben had yet to burst onto the scene) and Kessler, who would be in charge. This was probably for the better, I’d only been with the company for a little over a month and E3 was the last place for a neophyte intern to be not only screwing up, but constantly asking questions. The decision was a good one as even being in the office turned out to be absolute pandemonium for the first day. Trailers had to be posted every few seconds, and remember that we need to write decks for them, find screenshots to represent them, fill in various bits of info about them, and keep our eyes on the conferences. After a twelve hour workday on Monday, things settled down considerably and we were able to commiserate about the various announcements. It was an arduous and absolutely insane experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And that kind of defines the internship itself.

I will cling like a symbiote to this site!

I’ve been in the job market for a long time now and I’ve been fortunate enough to have one other job that I actually enjoyed, though I was too young to fully appreciate it at the time. Since then, it’s been miserable drudgery that’s been a means to an end. Having a job that I’ve actually cared about is, in some ways, more stressful since working the others. If I didn’t do well here, not only did it actually get noticed, but I’m letting down a company that I myself respect. And I learned that waking up early is still kinda crappy, even if it’s for a job that you love. At the end of the day, though, and at the end of the job, it was some of the best two months of my life and I will miss it terribly. Until I show up on Friday for the Comic Vine podcast. That’s right, you should have killed me when you had the chance! Cause I’m sticking around as a freelancer for Comic Vine and also continuing in their weekly podcast! Getting paid to write has always been a dream of mine, but I’m not going to call Whiskey Media some kind of magical dream factory...because if I did, I’d have to give up the Dream Formula, and no one wants that. Now to get a little indulgent: thanks to the community for the support and well-wishing. Ethan: thanks for believing in me enough to hire me, Tony: thanks for giving me a chance to get paid to write. Nick: good luck, you'll NEVER want to leave this job if you do well enough (which you will). And Ben, Kessler, and Lemon: thanks for helping me fill some of my professional blanks (and I had to train one of you embarrassingly for me) A transition like this is always easier with a lot of great people backing you up. I’m not done by a longshot, so keep your eyes on this blog, and my articles.

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I'm a Wizard, and THAT Was E3

There I am in my Whiskey Media "I'm a Wizard..." shirt (which I DID have to pay for, just in case anyone thinks us interns get special privileges) holding a goblet of...magic potion...let's go with that, on Friday, June 10th 2011. E3 technically ended yesterday, but we're still putting up videos, and I have COMPLETELY checked out mentally. You can hear me on ComicVine's podcast, and read me on their frontpage, though that probably won't be til the weekend. I'll also probably show up in various Lemon Lense/Kessler Kams, so look for me there. I think this is gonna be the first blog that i don't post to the forums. Keep this one for my loyal followers. Hope you guys enjoyed our coverage, it was absolutely insane around here, though not as insane as it was in LA I'm sure. Oh and expect a full-on blog about the E3 experience. Long story short: it was one of the most intensely incredible experiences of my life, even though I didn't actually GO.

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Internship Update: Rise of the Interns!

Look at him...confused by our simple box technology.

Two weeks later and already a ton has changed. By now you've all been introduced to Ben (or GlenTennis as you probably know him better as), who arrived two weeks ago (kinda. More like a week and a half). He's assumed many of my previous responsibilities, including the AnimeVice trailer updating, and I had to train him. He's also tall like a tree, so training him was an effort, I had to get a bullhorn and stand on a footladder to communicate on even the most basic level. And the most basic level is all he understands, so I need to make simple hand gestures and symbols. This week will also see the return of Matthew Kessler Bodega the Third, Esq. to the Whiskey Media family of sites, so I'm learning from the master now. At least that's what he tells me. He's also promising/threatening to integrate me and Ben into his future video features, which has a vaguely sinister tinge to it, doesn't it?

Speaking of learning, my job's become a great deal more complicated what with posting trailers for Giant Bomb, which has vastly more stringent standards of formatting both on the internal naming and what appears on the site. There have been stumbling blocks, some more glaring than others, but overall it's been a great way to learn about aesthetically pleasing formats. On that topic: have you seen the Giant Bomb Facebook page? Cause it's pretty great...and I'm not just saying that because I'm the one who posts most of the links on there. The other Whiskey Media sites have Facebook pages too, but you'll have to look at that OTHER guy's blog to get those links, cause let's face it, you came here, you want to hear about me.

Return of the Kingtern

And hey, SPEAKING of the other Whiskey Sites, you may have heard your friendly neighborhood intern on Comic Vine's podcast over the last few weeks, which has been great for a few reasons, most notably I didn't ask for it. Ethan essentially wanted to know if I'd like being on the Comic Vine podcast and I had to think about all the various ways I'd like to say "yes." I wasn't nearly boisterous enough my first time and was encouraged to cut loose and be a bit more of a presence in the future 'casts. I've apparently been doing a fine job and I've been learning a lot about professional-level podcasting, which is great for me since I've always wondered what goes into one of these things and actively participating in one really is the best way to find out. I've also been talking about comic books for free for YEARS, I had no idea I could get paid for it.

But wait! There's more! Whiskey Media quests are hot like the surface of the sun and I've been writing most of them across the board. So if you've liked them, that was ME and if you didn't...those parts were all Daniel's fault. I tried to talk him out of them, but he refuses to listen to reason and then he gets all knifey. Writing these quests has been a great way to express myself creatively in small bite-sized chunks. Writing's always been one of my passions but it's been tough to find time to do any in my freetime, so it's nice to find time in my professional life. Of course they're pretty limited in their subject matter, but it's much better practice to have to write with limitations than total freedom.

Editor's Row buzzes with activity

Apart from that, we're all gearing up for E3 (yeah, even the non-Giant Bomb Whiskey Media folks are, in their own ways, since it will probably touch every facet of the sites) and I'm limbering up my trailer header/deck typin' fingers to be inundated. I've actually had a few people ask me if us interns are going to E3, and the answer to that is HEEEEEEEEEEEELL no. They wouldn't let me anywhere near that event, and with good reason. As much as I've learned and as far as I've come, I don't even know what I'd be doing there as I'm not anywhere near the level of professionally writing about the biggest event in videogames of the year. Still, I'll be making my own contributions and lightening the workload and isn't that what's REALLY important? Aren't I the REAL hero in this story? Yes, and yes.

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Internship: Month 1 (It's a Long 'un!)

Holy Magilla Gorilla, has it already been a month? It seems that way, but my journey to this internship began a whole month and a half ago. HUGE difference. I started following Ethan (resident community manager) on Twitter a few months back and I saw an update on his for an internship at the Whiskey Media Offices. Now, I'd applied for such an internship when it got posted on the actual forums a few months ago, but had heard nothing back. I figured "Oh well, it was a longshot anyway" and promptly forgot about it. Until I saw that Twitter post and sent Ethan a PM. Thus did the ball begin to roll and an interview was scheduled. I wore the only tie that I own and suited up to make the best impression I possibly could. I also borrowed my roommate's peacoat because the nicest coat I own is a leather jacket.

 Editor's Row
The interview went exceptionally well, though I only knew that in retrospect because HEY! Here I am. It started with Ethan asking me a few questions about certain things I'd do if I got hired, what my interest in the Whiskey Sites was, how long I'd been a fan, etc. I had a hard time with that "stuff I'd do if I got hired" part, but the interview continued. Phase 1 done with, I then met Whiskey Media marketing mastermind Daniel, who was certainly more...casual, I'll say, in his approach. His approach was more of a "Hey! How are ya? Who are ya?" He was accompanied by ComicVine maven Tony and Screened senior puppy correspondent Rorie, the latter of whom I'd actually met outside the office a couple of times. They ran me through a gauntlet of some of the best, most strange, interview questions I've ever been asked. It was also ridiculously stressful because I've been in the workforce for about a decade now, and I'm really, really good at job interviews because they're mostly the same thing regardless of where you go. A job interview at most places amounts to "how well can you answer these questions that we got out of a management book that was written twenty years ago for use in high-rise office buildings?" This wasn't like that at aaaaaaall. These were questions that were so well integrated into the interview I wasn't sure if I was just shooting the shit, or if I was actually being interviewed anymore. I'm still not entirely sure which was what. There was also a tour of the whole office sectioned out in the interview, and I was asked to stick around and meet the office dog Chloe, who is adorable as long as you approach her the right way. I also got to watch Tested record a segment, and it’s crazy to watch those crazy videos actually get filmed. Again, it’s not like what my preconceived notions were like at all, it takes a lot of professionalism to look that casual and funny. In any event, I was called in to moderate a TNT chat (MKvsDCU) and apparently I did well enough to earn a job offer. Which was met with utter jubilation on my part, of course.

My workspace complete with coffee.
Day 1 was pretty standard first day stuff, except that I was suddenly surrounded by people I’ve watched and respected for close to a decade, but they were all pretty laid-back, which was good because I was a powder keg of nervous energy. My primary go-to people were still Ethan, Daniel and Melissa, who handles a lot of the logistics for the office and control room, because here's something that a lot of people may not get just by perusing the sites: the Whiskey Media editors and engineers are BASICALLY working constantly. I’ve never been so surrounded by people who start working the moment they come in and don’t stop until they leave. Don’t get me wrong, they still chat and whatnot, but it’s almost always WHILE they’re sitting at their computers typing away. Or filming. Or playing a videogame FOR filming or reviews. Day 1 concluded with a massive impromptu staff party in the fabled Bar Area that pretty much had me intermittently gushing like a fanboy and remaining completely silent for large stretches to listen to crazy-insider stories about the various industries that everyone had worked in.

Days 2 & 3 were the infamous Whiskeyocalypse, so that was certainly a baptism of fire. It went from me struggling to find stuff to post to me struggling to parcel out my time so that I could do everything that was required of me and STILL moderate all the new chats that were suddenly springing up due to all the livestreams. I also found time to make it into the semi-finals of the Mortal Kombat: Scrub League invitational and blurted out “Full of win” loudly and proudly on-camera to over 7,000 people. My internship was going amazingly. Things settled down from there, and I’ve fallen into a pretty decent groove of updating AnimeVice (described accurately as my first trial), getting food, sending out mail, creating quests...you know, intern shit. I’ve also become a regular on the ComicVine podcast, which is amazingly fun and very informative, and am posting trailers on Giant Bomb which has, hilariously, resulted in more followers than all my chat hosting combined.

 He stalks your dreams.
There are two things that really stand out to me so far: one is that I answer the phone, which is usually just someone wanting to be let into the building, but almost every day there is at least one call from someone who has no idea who we are and is either trying to get walkthrough help or tech support, TECH. SUPPORT. on a videogame. These are particularly hilarious when they somehow don’t believe me when I tell them we don’t provide those services and try to convince me to help them. The other was Whiskey's nomadic son Alex Navarro. We wished him farewell to him on Friday (Saturday for some, but I was too in my cup to make it to that) and I have to say that I feel sorry for the interns who are coming in after me because Alex stood out as extremely approachable and extraordinarily helpful. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the editorial staff have been helpful, particularly since I've become more acclimated, but Alex specifically came off as more laid-back, and, again, approachable right off the bat. I'll conclude by saying that it's interesting that I’m it, too which is kinda cool because I feel like I’m learning at an increased rate and getting a more personalized experience. Apparently there’s going to be a deluge of new talent coming in, and I’m about to become KING INTERN! Only to be slain by my son and he by his and on and on like some grand, Greek tragedy. Keep tuned into this blog for more updates.
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Dragon Age 2 Demo Thoughts

I just played the DA2 demo again and I have so much to say, so I figured instead of starting a million different forum posts, I'd just put it all in a blog. 

I Love the New Darkspawn

 Okay, I lied, I already started a forum post about this, but I just can't help myself. The new darkspawn look is awesome. We learn in the last game that darkspawn are created by corrupting humans, elves, dwarves and Qu'nari into hideous monsters. But the darkspawn in DA:O look almost exactly like orks from any other fantasy series, specifically the Lord of the Rings movies. They're vaguely reptilian-humanoid monsters who tend to hunch over and use scavenged, corroded equipment. In this, they appear to be twisted, corrupt, insane versions of the creatures that they were originally created from, and I think that takes great steps to differentiate this from other fantasy games/books/movies.

Learning From Our Fallen Brothers

 Something I noticed in my second playthrough of the demo was that there were locked abilities for all the party members that corresponded to both "Rivalry" and "Friendship," and both were essentially polar opposites of one another. The tragically flawed Alpha Protocol (check my lists for more on why I liked that game just fine) used a similar system by which alienating your allies could be just as useful as embracing them. Alpha Protocol did a lot of things I hope to see in future RPG games, but this is one of the most interesting and I'm glad to see it used in a game that's guaranteed some level of success. Hopefully it'll catch on in other games so being a jerk can still pay off. 

Better, Stronger, Faster

 I've only played through DA:O once, despite loving the living HELL out of the game. This is because it's so laboriously paced that I can't see putting ANOTHER sixty to eighty hours into it while I still want to play other games. Part of this stems from the combat which, by Bioware's own admission, takes from Baldur's Gate 2, which was itself an extremely slow-paced game as it had to adhere closely to the Dungeons and Dragons system. That Dragon Age II is taking a much more brisk pace to the combat, including attack animations and "charge" moves that get characters into melee combat with a quick strike, is a welcome change. I understand the desire for a throw-back, but a game that was made a certain way out of necessity and one that was made that way stylistically are very different. 

Finally...

 There's nothing much negative to say about the game, other than I really hope it doesn't hitch and load as much in the final version, but I really love what they've changed. They seem to be shooting for the same tone while not just resting on the incredible sales of their previous iteration. That's something I admire about Bioware: they're not afraid to change a formula netted them great sales, even if it means potentially alienating a few users. Bioware seems to have paid close attention to the flaws of the original and taken real steps to fix them. I'm more excited for this game than ever, which is pretty much the point of a good demo.
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