Why am I collecting Operating Systems?!

So yesterday, I thought it would be fun and play a really old terrible game. 
 
The context of this game is circumstance, let's just say it's a First Person Shooter that involves the player playing as Space Jesus.
Regardless, when it came time to install this game, I found out that I couldn't. Confused by Windows 7, and this strange newfangled contraption known as a "64-bit System", the game's installer simply refused to run. 
 
Concerned, I busted out a box filled with a plethora of old PC games. Same install errors were produced. Even when attempting to change compatibility modes, the installers would not budge. So I decided to boot-up an old Windows XP laptop, install the old game, and copy it over to my Windows 7 system. It worked.
 
I didn't like doing this. 
On a whim, I tried a suggestion from jlrm01. I snagged up a copy of VMware WorkStation 7, and I guess the entire day passed me by, and now I have several operating systems, and as of writing they keep piling up. Do I need to be able to run Windows95? How about Ubuntu? More importantly, why can't I get this old Macintosh OS to work?! It's annoying to have to boot up an emulator to play amazing games, like this
 
...
 
Yeah. This summer is pretty boring. :P
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Happy Fourth

So I had this brilliant write-up, but someone had to sweep under my computer for the billionth time this week and it got disconnected. Not happy.

What I am happy about, it's that it's the Fourth of July. I love the Fourth of July. I'm about the most apathetic patriot ever, but I've been hearing fire-crackers go off the last three days, so consider myself excited. I hope everyone has a safe, fun holiday today.
 
Oh, and if this scene from the mini-series John Adams doesn't make you crack a small smile, then...Well...I'm sorry? :P

  

You should also see this mini-series if you haven't already. Keep safe everyone. None of this.

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I've been Duked


Yes
Another Duke Nukem Forever related blog/thread/opinion/thing.
Don't worry: You will live.
 
Maybe.
   

On burgers...

We see Duke Nukem as a franchise that will be around 30 years from now, like James Bond...

- Scott Miller (1998)

 
It's not that Wendy's is bad, it's just you know what you're getting.  You also know that in
Burger a la Nostaliga
the case of fast-food, your meal is going to be considerably better from some of it's competition: But it's still fast-food
 
So it's always odd for me when the person behind the counter asks me if I would be "dinning inside", using a vocabulary that perhaps hinted that Wendy's was something more than just cheap food. Anything either than "For here, or to go?" sounds foreign, and makes me wonder if I'm at the right place. In this case, they have to say that because of some policy no doubt. I understand the constraints of working there, but it still doesn't alleviate my confusion.  
Still perplexed, I nodded in agreement, snagged my burger, and went to sit with a friend of mine. 
 
The topic of conversation today: Duke Nukem Forever.
This was roughly around four years ago. 
 
    "Do you think it would ever be released? I hope so." The statement from my friend put me off-guard.
    "Why? Do you care? Do you think people still care?" I asked already knowing the answer. The question was one I had asked a dozen times before, and I knew it would be one I would be asking a dozen times in the future.
    "I loved Duke Nukem 3D. You remember how we used to play that game. That game was boss! I think Duke can still be done right. Remember the level where you pressed a button, and a fucking building was demolished, and then you had to run-and-gun through the rubble!"
    "Yeah."
    "That game had weapons that other games would have killed for! What games do you know now that have fucking shrink-guns Nick?!"
    "No, I get you. But I gotta ask, does Duke as a character still works?"
 
    "Of course!" He stammers, he can now see where I'm going with this. His eye's reflect that as I watch him trying to pre-answer my own train-of-thought. He's going to have to make a concession, although I get the feeling that his half-agreement will be in earnest.
    "So you wouldn't be asking for anything more than what was in Duke Nukem 3D?"
    "Of course I would! I think of Duke Nukem as the Southpark of gaming! It's offensive."
    "Yeah, but Southpark is usually offensive for very specific reasons. It's satire. When it is offensive, for the sake of being offensive, it's in a league of it's own. You also have to remember that Duke Nukem 3D was released before the first episode of Southpark."
    "Shit. Don't remind me." We both pause, another silent reflection to how old Duke Nukem Forever's development time. He finally has his final answer. I have pushed him to the correct conclusion:
 
   
 Pictured: The South Park of gaming. Literally.
"Look, of course the game will be better than Duke Nukem 3D in terms of humor. Duke Nukem 3D was released when? 95?"
    "96."
    "Right, it ran on like the Doom Engine or something."
    " Build engine."
    "Right, it's just a given that it's context is going to be better. I mean, it's been almost a decade since that game. Stuff has changed, and I'm sure Duke Nukem Forever will be on-par with today's boob jokes."
    "I agree." This isn't a lie. Do I have doubts? Yes. Everything my friend says sounds reasonable though. It just makes sense. Even years later, Duke is more of an symbolic figure to the era of mindless shooters. Relevant? No, but still a representation of something. Forever might not be as revolutionary as Duke Nukem 3D, but Forever would still be a modern game. The worst it could be at this point would be a throw-back, and that could be be pretty cool.
 
I would have this conversation countless with many different people up to last week. It's strange knowing that I will never have a similar conversation again. 
To never talk, think, or read news every-other year about a game that has been in development for a majority of my life.
 
I gotta write something.

Duke and me.

Nostalgia has this annoying issue of messing with your memory. 
I think it's rather wise for us to drop in an old beloved game from time-to-time, just to remind ourselves what we used to play. Even though I have played and enjoyed videogames that are thirty years old ( GO TEXT ADVENTURES!) I know myself enough that there will be a day that will pass, where I'm going to look at videogames in an exasperated manner. That the threshold of entry would be too alien, and too difficult.  

For those who don't usually play old games, I think it's a good habit to do so from time-to-time. I would imagine it helps stemming off the inevitable, "old-man-syndrome" that is destined to take-hold of us. Although the concept of me complaining about whatever videogames are thirty years from now, has me giggling. 
 
 Timeless.
Historical context is an important concept to understand when you play old games. One simply does not start showing an old black-and-white film to a kid, and not explain how revolutionary it was, without citing films of that time-period. This is more important for games, but I find that it's a serious notation that we seem to skim on.
There are certain parts of games that can stand the test of time. Start up the original Ocarina of Time, and you will still be impressed when you first enter Hyrule field. Boot-up Final Fantasy VII, and you will appreciate the haunting opening-shot of Midgar.
 
At the same-time, like all old games and films, there are moments that newcomers would find alien to appreciate or understand. Whether they be the bombarding yelling from Navi explaining to you rudimentary tutorial, or a under-realized and poorly explained character creation system, this historical context is always there. 
 
I don't think newcomers to Duke Nukem 3D, would find Duke's standout moments very appealing.
This was an era where key-cards were still the de-facto means of level progression, where maps were mazes and not fully realized "locations". One of my favorite aspects of the Marathon series was an attempt to bridge this boundary, you were still in-effect running through mazes, but there was a narrative and a design element that pushed for something more
 
It was Duke Nukem 3D for me, that finally nailed it.
 
The mazes were now now fully-realized locations. There was a movie theater, there were bathrooms, and space-stations. You could make the argument that these were
 Holy Crap! Something is happening while I play!  It's like an event.  That's scripted!
functional locations.
Most of that had to do with the Build engine, that at the time was the most advanced 2.5D shooter engine ever conceived. It allowed for many memorable events that were usually the direct result of player interaction. We take most of this stuff for granted now, but Duke Nukem 3D was one of the first harbingers for this type of design. 
 
At the same time, Duke Nukem's 3D level-design was still a maze, built for collecting key-cards. Backtracking was a necessity, and the difficulty and direction of these maps went from being fairly straight-forward, to head-scratchingly convoluted. 
 
At the time, I loved it. 

Duke and me, twelve years later...

Replaying the entire single-player campaign for XBL was a fun experience, albeit another somewhat nostalgic crushing one.
 
Thematically, Duke has been a mess for quite some-time.
Over the years, my opinion on the actual character of Duke changed. With every subsequent Duke game, that was not Duke Nukem Forever, my opinion on Duke matured and the less relevant he had become. I had many conversations with friends regarding Duke, that followed suit with the previous conversation. I simply didn't understand why this archaic character-type was still relevant
 
As I replayed Duke Nukem 3D, I began to see how much of a technical show-case the game was, versus something more..."substantial". 
A main character: Who said things about things you were doing! Things you could interact with! Everything that made an impression on me as a kid were technical in nature, the out-dated comedic stappelings were an added bonus. A few chuckles here and there, while Duke mowed down endless waves of enemies. 
 
I completed the campaign, and at the same time a clear vision of what Duke Nukem Forever etched itself in my mind.
The humor gave a few chuckles, but was noticeably out-dated:  
But it was the interaction of Duke in his environment that defined him
Great weapons, and a skewed semi-futuristic world, with interactions the played could orchestrate with reckless abandon. That, was the standout for Duke Nukem 3D. It was ahead of it's time regarding these concepts, concepts, one could argue that have been lost with modern shooters.  
 
No QTE, just a bunch of stupid silly diversions and lunacy, players could interact with while shooting, and while exploring.
 
In other words: There was more to Duke than just second-hand toilet humor, from a grade-school recess. There is a solid continuation of Duke Nukem 3D's core design and mechanics, that has a place today. Whether we have seen hints of it in GTA or Bulletstorm can be up for debate, but whatever the exact specifics: It's there.

Duke and me, fifteen years later...

To put it bluntly: Duke Nukem Forever is a horrible game.
 
There is no gaming editorial "conspiracy", the only bias that has been presented are from people who are paid, to give you opinions on how you should spend your money. In this case, Duke Nukem Forever happens to be a complete train-wreck.  
 
 Some of these characters out-side this door are not animated.  It's a little creepy.
While this iteration of Duke Nukem Forever hasn't been in development since 1997, the project itself as a whole has been in development for fifteen years, and it shows
Not from technical standpoint, but from a design standpoint. Duke Nukem Forever is a Frankenstein monster, composed of design concepts, art assets, and levels poorly patched together. Looking back on old trailers, it's difficult to cite what parts from what time-period are being used half the time. One thing is for certain, whatever version of Forever we got, it feels like the remnants of the last fifteen years of FPS gaming is present, and it's not pretty
 
My favorite part, and clearest example of Gearbox literally patching-up a bunch of unfinished concepts happens about one-third into the game:
At one point Duke comes face-to-face with a giant Alien Queen. You kill the creature, but Duke is severely injured in the process. When Duke awakes, he is in a strip-club. "Huh? I must be dreaming. Kick-ass!" He exclaims as a stripper approaches. 
You are then instructed to find the following:
  • Popcorn
  • A vibrator
  • A condom
Upon finding these items, you are "treated" to the beginning of what looks like a poorly animated lap-dance from said stripper. The screen fades to black, and the next thing
popcorn [pop-kawrn] -noun 1. Food consumed by strippers.
you know you are inside a flying attack helicopter ready to assault more aliens.  
Oh, I'm sorry, did you want a transition between bleeding to death and a strip-club?  
Nope
Was Duke dreaming? 
I have no idea. Maybe? Another marine inside the helicopter quickly begins talking about the situation of what has happened, suggesting Duke was asleep. 
It's perhaps one of the most brilliantly jarring sequences I have seen in a game in recent memory. While nobody should go into Duke Nukem Forever wanting a great narrative, the transition is so spasmodic and unprofessional it's jaw-dropping on it's own right. 
 
It's the equivalent of a game developer trying to stick two separate entities together with duct-tape. 

Anatomy of a train-wreck

The first direction of logic one would use to defend Duke Nukem Forever is that it's a throw-back. 
The problem is that no one part of Duke Nukem Forever, seems consistent with a single game project. Duke Nukem Forever steals concepts from first-person shooters over the last fifteen years. 
 
 Hey! Remember this awesome thing? Yeah, the guys that made this game don't.
What's impressive, that even with another developer sewing all these levels and concepts together: None of what is present is good. There was a reason why Valve hasn't repeated something akin to Xen in the original Half-Life. This memo wasn't shared with anyone on the Forever development team apparently. First-person platforming is abound and back with a vengeance. Why
If this is supposed to be a throw-back, why are we bringing back one of the most hated elements of FPS design? Why are we not focusing on the things that worked?
 
Like the core level design! In this regard at first Forever takes a step forward remedying this. Some of the level design is more open than the traditional single-corridor crawl...Except the incentive of hunting key-cards is gone... Well that's perfectly understandable if the level design itself is good...

It's not. Repetition is everywhere, pacing is horrible, and the core design for these levels, specifically the incentive to push you in the correct direction has evaporated as well. Valve and a countless amount of other developers, mastered the concept of making you run from point-A to point-B without you noticing most of the time. Duke's not down with that. There is no basic coherency from going to point-A to point-B. Most of the time you push forward without any rime or reason. The original Half-Life had more explanation regarding the direction you were going. 
 
So it doesn't work as a throw-back, but wait, should we even be considering it a throw-back
Duke Nukem Forever borrows modern shooting mechanics straight from Halo, such as health that regenerates and holding two weapons. Why?
If the rest of the game is supposed to feel dated, then why are there modern shooting mechanics in this game? That's right, even the game's core mechanics are not safe from being amputated from something else.
 
Okay, so if the level-design and the mechanics don't work 100%, how about the humor?
You already know the answer to that. To say that it's dated, and many places more confusing than funny, would be an understatement. 
 
Duke Nukem Forever's only consistent attribute, is it's inconsistency that ranges from functional to bad. Being "functional" is not a selling-point, nor a positive accommodation that should be rallied around.
 
That's being said: I want you to play Duke Nukem Forever.
 
 
 
 

 
 
I'll give you some-time for you to process that last statement.
 
 
 
 
 
I want you to play Duke Nukem Forever, or at least see a youtube play-through of it. 
I came to this conclusion rather recently, but upon reflection, I think that we will never quite get a game like Duke Nukem Forever. I think it should be used as a teaching tool, some type of educational apparatus in conjunction with a lesson-plan to give you a run-down what happens when game development goes out-of-control. Even without the educational intent, I think people should go and see it somehow.  
 
Duke Nukem Forever is a humbling experience. I don't think anyone wanted Forever to be a bad game, at least I didn't. 
Talented people worked on this project for years, trying to redo Duke Nukem 3D's cutting-edge example. The end product, after multiple engine changes, complete overhauls, and over a decade push to keep the game not only current, but the equivalent to Duke Nukem 3D's historical significance, is an utter failure. 
 
Something should be said about that.
 

Duked.

"With sales data, It seems like *customers* love Duke. I guess sometimes we want greasy hamburgers instead of caviar..."

- Randy Pitchford (2011)

 
At Claim Jumper there's a hamburger called "The Widow Maker". 
I'm not much of a fan of the local Claim Jumper. The last time I went, I found the portions ridiculous. Also, the combination of one individual having to use three chairs to sit, is an image I can't remove from my mind. 
 
"The Widow Maker" is a pretty hefty burger if my memory serves correct. Something Duke would have for breakfast. 
I remember it being better than fast-food. It was still a burger, but it was a glimpse of something beyond the traditional fast-food diet we get accustomed too.
 
I'm rambling...What I'm trying to get at is this:
Clearly, someone is selling Big Macs to Randy Pitchford, with restaurant prices. To compare a full-priced game, to that of a greasy burger, is an analogy exclusive to lowly-forum writers. Have you read what people write on forums? It's usually nonsense, unreadable dribble that goes on forever.  
 
Regardless, how did we go from "The James Bond of gaming", to a "greasy hamburger"? 
 
There was one point during Duke Nukem Forever that caught my attention in a positive-light: The beginning.   

More of this please.
The remake of Duke Nukem 3D's stadium fight brought to life. An interactive chalk-board, where anything to write or draw impresses a sole marine. Duke questioning out-loud, why the hell he was picking up a piece of crap from the toilet.

This is what Duke is: Blowing up big aliens, and having the humor relate to the stupid things you were doing. 
It hearkened back to the revelation replaying Duke Nukem 3D, what Forever could be. Somewhere during the development of this game, I feel that what made Duke Nukem 3D became lost. With an inability to keep the game current by traditional means: The most visual component of that game, the out-dated humor, was tossed into the forefront and expanded without any reasoning regarding why some of that humor worked back in 1996.
 
I haven't given up on the idea of Duke, Randy Pitchford, and his inability to count money when he buys food aside. (Seriously, someone help that guy. The next thing you know, he's going to compare you not buying another game to people enjoying a ditch versus a toilet. It's a slippery slope folks!)

I do believe there is a place for Duke today. Perhaps not his dated, and border-line disturbing persona, but what Duke is as a game. It's this disconnect that is the origin to almost all of Forever's problems: An inability to agree what the game should be, and an inability for fans to agree on what the game should be.  
 
Seriously, why call it "dinning inside"?! It's a freaking Wendy's!
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E3 2011 Reflections

My PS3 just YLOD, so I'm going to write today for my free-time.
 
Another E3 came and went last week, and once again I find myself glued to my computer deciphering every iota of coverage that my brain can process.
Last year around this time, I only blogged and shared my guttural thoughts regarding Microsoft's press conference. For this year though, I thought I would take the time and make mental notes, and eventually regurgitate all those thoughts into a nice smelly pile that might be interpreted as opinions...
 
...That's not to say that I'm....What I mean is...
...Nevermind.
 
In other words, I've decided to do a "proper" E3 blog this year. One in which I can express certain thoughts concerning certain subjects in a astute manner. I will need a name for this blog, something that reflects in exact detail regarding the subject that has transpired, and a good launching pad for me to elaborate on multiple points. I shouldn't think too hard on it, let's name it the first thing that drops out of my head.
 

 
Alright...Lesson learned...Next time, I'll give it more than a fraction of a second when I think of a name for a blog.
To the first award!
 
  
Assassins Creed trailers have always been pretty consistent in being quite excellent, but I've never felt it like they've taken that pivotal extra step that Revelations leaps toward near the end of it's trailer. UbiSoft has a past history of always picking a very interesting, and specific selection of music for it's trailers. I remember hearing Sigur Ros for Prince of Persia's trailer a few years ago, and Revelations follows suit with a song from WoodKid.
 
It works perfectly, and the final sequence of Ezio walking out, to what appears to be the first ledge Altair jumped off of, in the first Assassin's Creed game elevates the entire piece to an epic level that grabs your attention like a vise. It's well directed, and set's up an introduction to Ezio's final story arch in a manner that is beyond impressive.
 
   
While TGS is always Japan's forefront for game announcements, but it was the lack of game announcements during press conferences that for some reason caught my attention this year. It was a bit depressing, and while a new Final Fantasy was being demoed, it was shown nowhere during any conference. At one point Cole was shown off for Street Fighter X Tekken for the Playstation Vita, and it caught me off-guard.
 
Not to say that Japan's presence was at zero capacity, but when it came to showing off on the main-stage, out-side of Nintendo and a few quick mentions at Sony's briefing, (Yeah, Last Guardian is still a thing!) they seemed to be seen nowhere. It just felt bizarre.

   
Snow? Noel?! What's next?  Why is Sarah into dude's named after the things during the Christmas holiday season?
Speaking of Japanese games, I liked Final Fantasy XIII, but was aware of it's issues. 
This game looks like an attempt to fix those issues...I think. At least that's what they have said in interviews, and that's what some people have said after getting some hands-on action with the demo.
 
It's not that I don't trust Square...What am I saying? No, that's exactly it, I don't trust Square. I don't trust a developer that states towns were not able to be added to a videogame, due to technical constraints.  
It's decided: I'm going to be a crotchety old man about this. 
I want this game to do really well, and I see the potential for this game-world. I'm not getting excited until I start reading some import reviews. I don't care how many trailers you show me, showcasing all the positive steps you are taking trying to fix your core game-design.
 
I got the platinum trophy in Final Fantasy XIII. I am allowed to be skeptical and critical. It's the rules. 
 

KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!
Last year comedian Joel Mchale for some reason hosted UbiSoft's press conference. Was it out-of-place? Sure.
He's a pretty funny guy if you've ever watched him on either Community or The Soup. Although one could argue that he was a bit of a fish-out-of-water in context for presenting the conference. He got the job done though, and his genuine, "What the hell is going on?!" reaction to the unspeakable bizarreness that was UbiSoft's lazer-tag game was priceless.
 
I don't know who Mr. Caffeine is. All I know is that I walked away after watching that conference with a profound sense of confusion, like I was blindsided by a traffic accident. What is he? A traveling salesman? The worst comedian ever assembled? Were those jokes? Does he work at UbiSoft? What the hell just happened?!

I would have taken Joel Mchale over him. I would have taken Michel Ancel doing bad Shakespearean acting for the entire conference. Hell, I would have taken anything over this guy. Mr. Caffeine seemed like some genetically put-together creature, specifically designed to annoy and bother the people watching the conference.
 
Hating Mr. Caffeine is an admittedly easy thing to do. While I can poke fun at him for pages, the real question regarding what an E3 press conference presenter should do to not be considered an abomination seems a bit undefined. 
It really is a thankless job. So while I take great fun jumping on the "Let's Hate Mr. Caffeine Bandwagon", I'm also perplexed at what else anyone with that job can do to make it better..
 
 
  
Why is Geoff Keighley in a suit?
When did I miss the part where E3 becomes the Oscars?
Holy crap, this coverage is intense! They're going to be doing this all-day?
 
I still remember the days of struggling to get a proper connection to one of these conferences, and even then it was susceptible to time-out's and camera-men who were more interested in pointing their camera's at everything but the games.
 
GameTrailers had coverage that both floored me, and had me confused whether or not what I was watching appropriate to the event. E3 is a big deal, I get that part, but they had a person who's only purpose was to read twitter questions!
Wrap that pseudo-editorial-title around in your head for a second, and apply a conversation regarding that job:

"Hey, so you're on TV? What do you do?"
"I'm the chief gaming spokeswoman/news presenter, for twitter questions regarding live game demo's."
"Wow...That's...Amazing?"

It's funny, especially when people try and downplay the lack of big announcements. We're not supposed to expect to be hyped, or be blown-away with this type of coverage? The only thing that's missing is fire-works being shot-off from a round-table discussion regarding a previous press conference.
 
While there was some defiantly some low-lights, watching Mr. Keighley do typical TV-stalling when Sony did it's now mandatory "AGHHH! WERE LATE!!!" was kinda jaw-dropping for me. I was actually impressed at how natural it all fit-together. There's not much that you can do with that type of situation, and he pulled it off.
 
While I liked the precision of the coverage, parts felt absurdly over-the-top. The whole experience kinda creeped me out, and I can't tell if they should be praised or be reprimanded. Instead, they win having the creepiest coverage. This is not to be confused with G4's "weirdest" coverage, with a circle of spectators clapping whenever something happened during a E3 demo.
 
Of course GiantBomb had the BEST coverage, but everyone knows that.
 
 
    
Problem: Your last E3 demo and trailer had a epic-level that was palpable.
Solution: Make everything more epic.
 
 O_O
I didn't think that was possible. It is apparently, and I'm a terrible person for even considering that. It's great to see how just ludicrously amazing this game looks. What's even better? This project got scrapped. So now we can enjoy this game without any horrible movie tie-in.
 
There seems to be a common theme of environments falling apart. Last year it was a house on fire, this year it's a ship. While the demo was filled with scripted parts, it still looks like a wild-ride. Seeing that final sequence of Drake hanging off the side of a flying plane gave reminders to the last game's train sequence. It's almost like they took the base of everything in the previous game and just sat around thinking of ways to make it more over-the-top.
 
Just give me this game. I don't care if they're not finished, I demand it. Just hand it over.

 
 
 You might be able to afford it!
While watching the reaction of everyone knee-jerkingly booing at the announcement of AT&T's involvement with the Playstaiton Vita was kinda funny. (Props to Kaz Hirai being able to get through that required contractingly obligated statement like a champ.) The big portion that got my interest regarding the Playstation Vita was it's price point. I'm actually pretty surprised at how low the price-point of this device is, and I know I wasn't the only one.
 
I just assumed $300-$350 at a starting point...On the low-end
Everything, regarding the NGP (Vita) that was slowly creeping out on gaming news sites and blogs pointed to a high price-point. It's going to be very interesting how this plays out, whether or not the Vita will get a larger consumer base than it's predecessor. 
 
At the same-time, you look at the Uncharted Vita demo and wonder why anyone would ever use touch controls. The whole platform is curious to me, and the unveiling of that price-point definitely adds fuel to the speculation machine. 
 
 
Battlefield 3 wins because it has dinosaurs.  
 
There's a part of me that want's that sole reason to be the reasoning for me picking this. 
I could go into detail and talk about how the Modern Warfare 3 demo didn't have that "wow!" hook like jumping on snowmobiles or piloting a helicopter. That everything that was shown had already been done to death, but without that extra oomph of...well...anything...
 
Do you care? I don't. I really, really don't. I'm sure both products will be fine.

I feel like I've been fighting FPS fatigue for a while now, specifically military shooters. I feel completely out-of-the-loop staring at multi-thread discussions comparing and contrasting BattleField 3 to Modern Warfare 3.

I'm just going to pick the one that looks better than the other one. The demo of Battlefield 3 might have been a bit drab in comparison to previously released content, but damn does that game still look and sound great. It's a fantastic technical showcase.
 
There's also dinosaurs in it. 
Dinosaurs and tanks. 
 
 

So apparently Microsoft decided to remind me in great detail why I still shouldn't be interested in the Kinect again this year. To be fair, it's great to see other third-party developers stepping-up to the plate and showcasing Kinect compatible games I might play. Personally, I cannot wait to scream at my team-mates in Mass Effect 3 to spam certain abilities over-and-over-and-over again. 
I'm sure other people in this household will not judge me as I scream alone at my television.
 
During the now E3 mandatory, "HEY! Kids love the Kinect!" live-montage of child actors, demonstrating how difficult Kinect games are for kids...
...
...
 
...Uhm... Mr. Tim Shaffer appeared and began talking about the new Sesame Street game he's making, and then he said something that was akin to finding a pocket of air.
"So, let's get on with our demo. Unleash the simulated family." 
  
 
I lost it.
I was laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair. Everything regarding Kinect games for children be demonstrated was so sterile and devoid of any interest. Unless you were riveted by what's essentially a giant ad for Disneyland, Tim Shaffer's self-aware life-line was desperately needed. 
 
On a semi-unrelated note: For people wondering why DoubleFine is making a Sesame Street game, he backed up the reasoning with elegance and class. 
I won't be picking up the game, but I sure as hell understand why people would. 
A videogame designed to be played with your preschooler, that's not garbage? ARE YOU MAD?! 
 
 
Here is what I know about OverStrike: There are four characters, they kill dudes, and the tone of what was on display seemed great.
It was short, to the point, and left a lasting impression. If there was anyway to quickly get you interested in a new IP, the trailer for Overstrike hit all the right notes.
  
  
It also over-shadowed the QTE-heavy demo of Need For Speed: The Run, a game that I believe would be better if all the driving was QTE.
That was a joke.
 

I find that my past experiences with Tomb Raider is bizarre. I enjoyed the first two games as a kid. I remember heading over to my cousins house and taking turns playing
 OWWWWWWWW!!!!
the second game. For me, they hearken back to my history playing the original Prince of Persia as a child. I really liked the original games...as games, and always felt that the obvious over-sexed main character was just an addition. 
 
Then the franchise literally fell-apart from the seams, and Crystal Dynamics took it over. I was a fan of Crystal Dynamics for years thanks to Legacy of Kain, but what they did with Tomb Raider: Legend was amazing. I went for enjoying the series, to straight-up-hating it with a capital "H", to finding it enjoyable again.
 
The newest reboot looks fantastic. The demo focused on a clear attempt to show a natural progression of character development, how Lara slowly turns into a hardened survivor. It looks like great Tomb Raider platforming mixed with a strong cinematic focus, and the concept of a open-world design has me floored. There might be some Uncharted vibes one could take away from the demo, but just like how people compared Legends to Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, I think this move is consistent and smart.
 
 
It wasn't really a contest. 
Nobody really embarrassed themselves, they showed off new Nintendo 3DS content and of course: The Wii-U. 
 
Reggie went on too-long thinking of words that can be applied to the letter "U" to illustrate a point, but that's okay. It's essentially a DS for your TV, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm interested to see how that second screen works. I have this feeling that it might be "abandoned" or miss-used like the Wii-mote before it over-time, but the games that are not multi-platform and use the controller specifically has my interest peaked. 
 
Speaking of multi-platform: Darksiders belongs on a Nintendo console. Given the nature of the game, it made sense that the sequel was getting emphasized. 
But will it be used?

Really curious about the systems internals, and it's here where the press conference did the right thing. There's a time and place for that type of specific information, and I'm happy we didn't get a repeat of Sony's Playstation 3 specification power-point presentation.  
 
Goofy unimaginative name aside, I thought the conference did a great job getting you initially interested in the Wii-U. It wasn't "the best" way to reveal new hardware, but we've certainly seen worse. 
Nintendo wins also due to the mediocrity of the other two big names in the room. Sony did a good job, but like all years for some reason still seems scatter-shot and inconsistent with what they showed. Microsoft was just flat-out boring and still seems to be having difficulty selling the idea of Kinect a year later. Oh, and there was also this.
 

Final Thoughts

A little boring to be perfectly honest, which is weird because there's a ton of great stuff coming out this year. 
But there was also this strange feeling of deja-vu with some of these announcements. Other big-title games like Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, and BioShock Infinite look great, although we already knew that they were going to look great.   
Everything seemed...I don't know..."safe"? You could say that works both ways. We didn't have any real "Ridge Racer" moments, and thankfully Cirque Du Soleil was nowhere to be seen. 
 
What I do know is that this year is going to be very interesting to watch, especially regarding the Vita and Wii-U. I'm wondering if Sony can shake off the haphazard consumer interest that plagued the previous PSP. For the Wii-U, the more things released regarding specific aspects of how that system functions the better.  
 
Thanks for reading, now I can go back to mourning my dead PS3.
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Regarding Vidiots

I've decided to publicly talk about this.
 
If you are reading this, thank you. 
You have navigated to this page on your own volition. Or, one of my secret police officers of the Vidiot Freedom Squad Of Freedom, is currently holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read this. My apologies, do everything that this individual says, it will be over in a bit.
 
I joined up on GiantBomb at it's inception, or sometime immediately after the site was established, I'm not exactly sure the exact date. Over the last few years, I've gathered a small amount of followers. This has been tons of fun, and I look forward to being around as long as I possibly can. 
Over the years I've blogged about random gaming crap, I've made and shared videos, and recently I've broken down the insanity regarding getting S-Ranks in games. Right now I'm "setting up" my E3 blog which will be hopefully finished soon. 
 
I have been wrong on many subjects during my time here, it comes with the territory of being anonymous and comparing ideas and concepts on the internet. 
I will never though, wish a game company to have it's employees "left to rot". I am also not flat-out stupid enough, to proclaim that Nintendo should "R.I.P" , because of the Wii-U. I also passed elementary school English, and understand that the letter "i" should be capitalized when it is alone.
 
I don't know who this guy is, and personally I don't care. I also don't care if another person has a similar user-name, even if it's off by literally a letter. 
There's nothing really I can do about the situation, and it also seems there's nothing that mods can do about it either: Which is alright. 
Perhaps this will pass, or perhaps this individual will get wise and change his user-name. 
 
What I do care, is if one of you awesome people get me confused with this individual. 
Tonight, that happened. 
 
It was awkward, and personally quite infuriating. NOT, at the individual who made the mistake, but at the overall situation. 
 
I'm going to use this opportunity to do something positive, and remind you all that this individual is not me. Over the last few days I've gotten quite a few messages regarding this guy. Thanks for the advice, and for everyone, thank you for your time.
 

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TOS: Yakuza 3

Notice: The following S-Rank was a platinum trophy obtained on the Playstation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIII. It is not associated to my official S-Rank list on GiantBomb. Here's hoping that Sony will figure out that people like sharing their trophy information, outside of their own official site. Like every other achievement system in existence.

Aloha

I've recently returned from this years Sasquatch Music Festival out in the most beautiful place on the planet, the gorge. Whenever I see the venue each year, I always get this funny visualization of God getting bored after making the most amazing thing ever, and then making this awesome venue even more...err..."awesome-er". 
I'll be doing a write-up about it soon.
 
Sadly this year, I somehow got a nasty version of bronchitis from the music festival. One of the small short-comings from the festival is that it's out in the desert, and you're camping. From afternoon to evening it felt like a 30 degree difference, usually happening instantaneously. One second it's in the 90's and the next you're bundling up within layers of jackets. 
Let's just say I'm pretty convinced that I caught this thing while sleeping. I was using a sleeping bag and a liner inside the sleeping bad, and still felt chilled. That's how bad it was.
 
But enough about that, it's time to get back and talk about something we all love: Achievements and trophies!

Back into the Fold...

Clarification: Even though this game is not supported on GiantBomb's official achievement system (PS3 Exclusive) I'm still considering this a worthy S-Rank to write about. It will not be the last PS3 exclusive I write about concerning achievements, this case, trophies.
 
Last year a game was released that caught my attention. I've been always a passing fan of the Yakuza series, but Yakuza 3 really grabbed my attention. So much so that I took the time to write a very comprehensive review on it, (Note to self: Find time-machine and get more time to write more reviews) and when I was writing a recap of last year, I gave it my own "personal" GOTY. Mass Effect 2, I love you, but there is really one game that will stand-out for me when I reflect on the year of 2010.
 
 Was 100% this game a....good thing?
For better or worse, the concept for this blog series began to materialize after I decided to go after this game's Platinum trophy. I walked away a bit bewildered, in deep thought after getting the Platinum, and how getting that trophy changed my perspective of that game. It's no surprise that I've been getting requests to talk about Yakuza 3 after starting this strange attempt at a blog series. 
 
A lot of my final conclusions regarding how trophies were handled in this game, were not positive in regards to Yakuza 3. Especially regarding what defines a proper "challenge" regarding achievements and trophies. I know I'm supposed to end these introductory paragraphs with a hook that's supposed to keep you guessing, whether or not this game handles achievements well. 
Yakuza 3 doesn't get that luxury, it's a bad trophy list plain and simple. 
That being said, the reasoning behind why Yakuza 3's trophies fail isn't just because of a few bad apples, Yakuza 3's trophy set is almost analogous in showcasing in general terms how Japanese developers are still even at this time, this long into the current generation, still figuring out the pro's and cons regarding achievements and trophies. 

S-Rank Synopsis

Collectibles: Manageable.

 
Volunteer // Master Environmentalist // Key Collector    
The closest thing that Yakuza 3 has to a "collectible", are the many key-lockers strewn about both area's of the game. Collecting all of these is not a difficult task, plus, you are not required to do so. Another collectible trophy involves collecting trash off your beach, this is easily obtainable through reloading the same area multiple times. Picking up trash is still quite monotonous, and you are given the impression that you were supposed to be picking up trash causally during your multiple play-throughs, but instead you're bound to go after this in one big run by reloading this area. 

One Stupid Achievement // Grinding: "F**** you." 
Mini-Game Master  
I'm combining two categories (One stupid achievement, Grinding) into one because it's impossible to talk about these two concepts separately with this one trophy. 
 What do you mean you don't like playing five hours of Billiards with a computer A.I. that blatantly cheats?!
If you have ever skimmed over, or have done a passing research on Yakuza 3's trophy set, you probably have heard of a little Gold Trophy entitled: "Mini-Game Master."
How bad is Mini-Game Master? Last year at PAX I approached the individual running the Yakuza 4 display. I had to ask him what they were thinking when they made this specific trophy.
Yes, your attempt at questioning my logic are sound: Specifically, how this random individual who worked this demo kiosk was in any position to say anything regarding the subject matter is a correct assumption. 
I didn't care.

The back-and-forth was awkward, but he did theorize that the development team didn't know what they were doing. I felt like the victim of a crime, obtaining a thread of closure. Is that analogy too severe? Guess what?! It's actually the most representational thing I could think of! That's how bad it is!

Mini-Game master requires you to "Complete" every Mini-Game in Yakuza 3, and it will be the bulk of your time as you attempt to obtain Platinum. The problem is that "Completing" some mini-game's requires you to beat "difficulty" challenges, or a certain goal. We will be discussing how the difficulty in this game is broken in just a bit, but never is it more apparent while attempting Mini-Games. Certain levels of difficulty has the computer out-right cheating most of the time. Pool is almost laughable, as you must play a near perfect game, because if the computer get's one try it's almost destined to win.

 TOO MANY CARDS! AGHHH!
Other mini-games are just crap-shoots, mindless attempts at luck. Golf is a full-blown game by it-self, so there's no real way to bull-shit through it.  

Perhaps the most
Pictured: Probably the easiest challenge that you will accomplish.
interesting mini-games are the very Japanese-centric games that somehow didn't get the axe when Sega's localization budget got squeezed. Mahjong might be out, but the game contains multiple card games with the Japanese playing cards known as Hanafuda.
Hanafuda is a very specific card set that really has no real direct comparison out-side of Japan. Many of the game's mechanics might mimic certain western card games, but only remotely. The game really doesn't provide a comprehensive tutorial, so you're going to be figuring out different concepts and what card goes with which set by yourself for the most part. 
Before you ask, yes, the higher difficulty for these cards games also cheat.
 
Mini-game master would have worked as a personal diversion, but instead it's a required gold trophy. You will experience every mini-game Yakuza 3 has to offer, and you will subsequently grow to hate a good potion of them. A trophy or achievement that in effect, works against a game's over-all design in a poor manner, is something that shouldn't be celebrated. The monotonous nature and the overall repetition of grinding through half of these games award Yakuza 3 with one of the worst achievements of last year, and an influx of grinding that seems completely out-of-place.
 
Originality: Not Bad.
 Getting Revelations is fun in it's own right.
What makes Yakuza 3 so bothersome when it comes to trophies, is that you see glimpses of what could be a phenomenal trophy-set amongst the chaos. Achievements should encourage enjoying and fulfilling certain aspects of a game, as well as give a good challenge, or something that might be considered bizarre or off the beaten-path. Yakuza 3 has these moments with individual trophies for trying out certain mini-games and knocking people over. It's like there are two trophy-sets in this game: One, a forward thinking set that looks mildly interesting, the other an example of first time trophy-achievement confusion that's more concerned in offering the player drab-boring chapter completion and challenges that are beyond ludicrous.
 
I think a large majority of these headaches could have been avoided through some intense play-testing. It's a bit infuriating to see something that isn't being properly exploited.
 
Point Value: Whaaa?
Ultimate Challenger
Nothing makes sense. A bronze trophy for completing all Ultimate Skill challenges? A silver one for picking up trash?!  
Yeah, alright.
 
Missable Achievement: Not exactly missable, but still annoying.
Substory Dabbler // Substory Fan // Substory Enthusiast // Substory Addict // Substory Completionist
With five trophies just for completing sub-stories, doing the side-quests will also eat a lot of your time. Unless you miss one. 
While these screwed up quests can be redone in Premium Adventure mode and other play-throughs, the sheer amount make it a hassle. Toss in a convoluted manner in which these sub-quests are "activated" and these normal completionist trophies can quickly become a nightmare. From what I've read online, you can actually miss certain side-quests even in the game's robust premium adventure mode. Be on your guard, get a guide early and save often.  
 
(Notice that there's four bronz trophies for substories, and then it skips ahead to a Gold trophy for completing them all?)
 
Difficulty: Crapshoot
Testament of Strength // Mini-Game Master
Yakuza 3's difficulty can be measured with housing materials spewed about from a hurricane. 
It's all-over-the-place, never consistent, and is hampered by a design that dives in
Beating the campaign at "EX-Hard" difficulty: Easy.  Beating a batting cage challenge?: ughhhh.
directions at random. Mini-games are are either ludicrously easy (Bowling) or give the impression you are rolling dice. (Batting cages)
 
To make matters worse, the actual difficulty for the game is spasmodic in nature too. The game has difficulty trophies that can be easily cheated. Does beating the game on EX-Hard sound difficult? Well it's not when you break the game's difficulty thanks to items you get by completing objects and multiple playthroughs. This concept would be a positive if it wasn't for the absurd contrast in difficulty in Yakuza 3's extra-curricular activities. While playing through Yakuza's main campaign is fun, it can get a bit boring the third time-around.   
 
New Game+: Good Effort.
The Yakuza series knows it has a ton of content, and is accommodating because of that. Yakuza 3's Premium Adventure mode is a the foundation of something that could be excellent and needs a bit more fine-tuning, but what's on display is a well put-together mode. You will be unlocking a good portion of your trophies via this mode, and it's good to see a game giving you the means to accomplish it's tasks.
 

Stacking: Acceptable.
Difficulty trophies stack in theory, although in a very bizarre move Yakuza 3's EX-Hard mode is only accessible after you beat the game on Hard. This isn't a new concept to series veterans, but it's strange for those of us who go achievement hunting. Thankfully there's a trophy for each subsequent difficulty play-through. If you're looking to play through this the minimum number of times, start your game on Hard and work your way from there.
 
Other Positive Categories
  • DLC: None!
  • Glitches: None!
 

Final Grade:

  

Estimated Time: 60-90+ Hours / Multiple Play-through's. 2+

 
Yakuza 3's saving grace are a few scattered mini-game trophies that implore you to try out what the game has to offer, and a few fun random ones that show a hint of originality. It is hampered by too many campaign centric trophies, poor trophy value, horribly inconsistent difficulty, missions that are side-missions that are convoluted by design, and what's possibly the one of the worst incentives and challenges to playing mini-games ever. At least the experience is wrapped in a NewGame+ mode that's accommodating enough to be functional.
 
 It's not embarrassing to say you ran from some of these challenges.
Achievements are incentives, crazy unnecessary incentives that fuel a strange version of OCD that exists within all of us. 
I come from the mentality that achievements should reflect the best parts of your game, and push you into directions in order to experience parts that you wouldn't normally experience. 
At the same time, they should offer a challenge for the few brave of us, and it's here where things begin to get a bit more confused for developers. Mini-Game master is a challenge on it's own right, but it's a type of "challenge" that shouldn't exist in any achievement set. You are not a better gamer, or have experienced something that others didn't take the time to experience. It's not a proper challenge, and gives an impression of a game tester being bored. Instead the achievement makes you dislike the mini-games Yakuza 3 has to offer, which offends the purpose of achievements.
If Yakuza 3 had actual difficulty balancing with it's mini-games, then if would make sense. Sadly this isn't the case, and it makes the reasoning for such a challenge even more confusing.
 
I find myself a bit perplexed as I complain about what Yakuza 3 does wrong concerning it's handling of trophies, seeing how between the Japanese and English releases so much content, many tied to trophies, were cut. While I'm upset that content was cut from Yakuza 3, from a sheer achievement standpoint it tosses my opinion a bit into a gray muddled territory. 
 
Getting an S-Rank in Yakuza 3 isn't necessarily worth it. Mini-game master and the multiple difficulty trophies give a strange sense of unnecessary padding, and while it's always fun to get a Platinum trophy, you can file this one under confused reflection versus something to be proud of. It's not for the faint-of heart, and Mini-Game Master will make you want to harm random individuals.
 
It should be noted that using guides are a necessity. There's a user on GameFaqs called ThePatrick, who in my opinion is some-type of walking Yakuza gaming god
Use his guides, because there are tips and tricks in some of them that dwarf your own personal logic and reasoning. I can't stress this enough: Use his guides. The only reason why I was able to pull this off was because of his guides. 
 

ThePatrick's comprehensive guide can be found here. 
Check ps3trophies for even more information.

 
Everyone have an awesome E3. Really excited about several titles already. 
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In defense of the adventure


Hey, look, I can blog again!

I finished up over two months of paperwork. I'm going to a different college next year, but the amount of time and energy I had to devote to finishing this was a monumental task that pulled me away from here.
I'm also have been preparing for a four-day music festival, I'll be trying to pump out a new TOS before the end of this week.

I want Cole's hat!

"Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Dammit, they heard me fart."
Getting caught into the hype of big name launch titles, can be pretty difficult to gauge. Taking that bold step back, and rolling a fine-tooth comb over a game's issues can be difficult sometimes, especially if that game is a critical darling.

I'm not going to lie: I'm a few hours into L.A. Noire, and I'm thoroughly impressed. To be fair though, my bias was already constructed prior to jumping in. The sheer concept of an interactive version of L.A. Confidential, really freaked me out from the get-go. I'm a fan of American films from the golden age of noir cinema. That time period, especially the ones that seem to go almost toe-to-toe with the then required censorship of that time period.
If the first few hours continue at the rate that L.A. Noire has so far established, recommending the game for other people will come to be a very easy concept for me.
What's fascinating for me so far has been one of the most vocal "complaints" about the game since it's launch.
I go hunting on the forums for opinions about the game, it doesn't take long to find another proclamation. The user begins by stating how he likes "the faces", but then goes on a tirade.

Apparently, this game is not Grand Theft Auto.
My face contorts in an expression that one might interpret as pain. It's not. It's just the the bouncing logic ball hit a metaphorical brick wall in my head.
This won't suffice. I need to ponder all this.

Flashback

"So what exactly is Yakuza 3?"
"Well, it's kinda like the Japanese Grand Theft Auto."
"Uh- Like hell it is. What the hell does that even mean?"
"It's like GTA."
"So you drive cars?"
"No."
"So, there's no stealing cars in Yakuza 3?"
"Right."
"So why in god's name is it the 'Japanese GRAND THEFT AUTO'?"

Of course, actual game...context...aside, we know why this assumption was made and why it has lasted so long. There's a bunch of fair factors really, but the core one and
 Pictured: Someone not stealing a car or any vehicle.
the easiest to point-out is the similar open-world design. Before we start comparing the narrative criminal undertones and comparisons, it's the way the game is presented that immediately get's our attention. A mini-map in the bottom left corner, side-missions that are opened as you progress, and a realistically replicated version of a section in Tokyo.

Somewhere between the release of GTA3 and now, I feel the concept of an "open-world design" has become so synonymous with the GTA series, that we have collectively completely forgotten that this design has been around for decades. I mean no disrespect for Rockstar, in my personal opinion they have nearly almost perfected and understand the open-world design blueprints better than most developers.
The problem is that any notion of an open-world environment brings up reminders of Grand Theft Auto. It's problematic because GTA isn't just open-world game, but also has a very liberal sandbox addition to it's core design: Giving you a bunch of tools to mess around with the world dynamically, aka: Deciding if it would be fun to jump on the hood of car with a rocket-launcher and redecorate a lane of traffic.

Reading complaint's specifically about L.A. Noire's core design not being similar, gives an immediate gut-reaction of concern and confusion. If you're on the fence wondering if you can just kill anything with a shotgun in this game, and you haven't read a preview, review, or one of the many developer made video's explaining how the game works, let me take this time to explain in very subtle detail the context of this game's design:

L.A. NOIRE IS AN ADVENTURE GAME.

Yeah, it's an adventure game.
Those game's where you pick up items and junk. Those games that you talk to people, and don't shoot guys.

I have the impression, that a game should be categorized on the vast majority of it's design. While you do get into many fire-fights in L.A. Noire, it's not a shooter. A vast majority of your time is scrounging crime-scenes for clues and interviewing people. The mechanics for a large majority of the game, like most adventure games, are not immediate. It's slow, methodically put-together, and is very accommodating if you screw-up.
In fact, you really can't screw-up. So those who do not enjoy receiving the penalty for an adventure game, can sit back and relax that their experience will not be halted. It's design that requires you to think, but ironically you don't have to.

 "Presented by:" does not equate "Developed by:"
There's a part of me that thinks that L.A. Noire play's almost like a veiled product. The front cover has "Rockstar Games Present's" emblazoned like a spot-light of an auto-sale. It's only on the back where you see the small icon for actual developer Team Bondi. While it's easy to harp on people for not taking the time to research their gaming investments, I don't necessarily blame them for walking in and expecting GTA from something that has virtually no interest in being GTA.

On the flip-side, it's been incredibly interesting to see and hear opinions from people who normally don't like adventure games enjoying L.A. Noire. For years I have had the impression that it's been primarily the slow methodical nature of adventure game design that had turned-off usual adventure game dissidents. I'm slowly considering that this isn't the case. If one were to compare and contrast the motions of going about your detective work, to any adventure game, you would see the sharp similarity. The mechanics on the other-hand, are an entirely different story with the usual pixel-hunting/item collecting/hot-spots being represented by audio cues and other means that more represent what one might consider a more "hands-on" game. It's that distinction that I think are winning people over.

Coherency

The down-side of screwing up in a traditional adventure game is simply not doing anything. You hit a brick-wall and nothing happens. Would it make sense for a crime-scene investigator to wander around in circles for three hours trying to solve a rubik's cube? Granted, our perceptions and suspensions of disbelief need to be held back a bit when it comes to games, even those that are technically period pieces.

 You mean if I live a violent, criminal filled life, the end result might not be pitch-perfect?!
While L.A. Noire keeps pushing you forward, it also keeps you on a track regarding where the story goes. If Rockstar has a legitimate place in this ramble, it's that L.A. Noire's linear story-structure is still quite comparable to previous Rockstar games. Ignore the gameplay for a second, and just think story. Linearity in story offers far more coherency than a nameless, voiceless protagonist wandering around a desolate wasteland.
At the end of the day, Niko Bellic needs to loose something dear to him, and John Marston will need to calmly walk out through a door and obtain redemption. You have no direct control over these very amazing and memorable events. Similarly, as a bright detective: You will solve, or at least attempt to solve, the cases and crimes presented to you.

The lack of any direct "failure" is in contrast to another game L.A. Noire get's wisely compared often too: Heavy Rain. In that, you could have had main playable characters die, but still continue on-ward and watch the narrative continue.
I'm not sure such striking and sweeping directions the plot would take, if you decided one choice over another, would have made the experience better. L.A. Noire's plot, like GTAIV and Red Dead Redemption seems very clear on the direction it want's to take. It has characters and events that need to require, and fill out a purpose...

The debate...

Fun fact: You can get in trouble for speeding in Mafia 2. Unlike LA Noire, where Cole CAN DRIVE AS FAST AS HE DAMN WELL PLEASES!
...Which I can imagine might be a difficult reality for us to all agree on, because we play games. I can see this hand-off approach to narrative being confusing to some. Rockstar had the narrative context, to inject their games with a heavy amounts of sandbox elements: No one would bat-an-eye if on of their anti-heroes decided to take a break and cause havoc. You also never really thought about the lack of control and say you had with the plot, the game-world was big and interactive enough that such a discrepancy can be over-looked.

But because Cole Phelps is an individual who's moral compass overshadows his own persona, he is not allowed the usual GTA sandbox shenanigans. His gameplay is regulated to an adventure game, one that seems built in a manner in an attempt to bridge fans who detest the genre and those praise it. The more I think about it, the more bizarre it structurally makes sense in my head, and yet the more it begins to make sense.

The real crux of the "debate", and the initial point, is that if an adventure game, or perhaps any other genre can be allowed to exist in an open-world design? Is it possible to appreciate what the game is trying to do, without any comparisons to GTA.

Case in point: About a year ago Mafia 2 was released to critical confusion. Taking a lead from it's predecessor, the linear 3rd person shooter was stretched out by long-drives, and a lack of things to do in it's game-world. Overtime it also became a very tire-some, uninspired game, but the notion that the open-world had a lack of variety out-side it's main missions was a stickler by many reviewers.
Unlike Mafia 2, L.A. Noire has about 40 side-missions to take on and at least attempts for a certain amount of variety. It should be noted that it's core design and sandbox elements seemed out-of-touch with it's self, and one shameless paid DLC later gave the game a myriad things to out-side of it's main campaign.

That being said, because of the game's narrative context and it's adventure game focused design, the similar illusion of freedom others might have in GTA or RDR isn't on the same level. Is this okay? Should we even be making these connections, seeing how the genre's are so far apart in it's execution.

I'm wondering if my opinions will be jaded to one side or the other after I finish. Perhaps after those side-missions dry-up, I'll be aching to do something else between drives. For now, I get the feeling that we need to take a break, take a step back, and appreciate the game for what it is. Just a thought.

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Lack of updates X_X

Blog writing has been delayed a bit due to school and...well...applying to different schools.
I actually haven't played a single game in several days. I'm kinda going through some other stuff too, so consider this a small bump in the road in what was quite the steady stream of updates. For me at least.
Oh, and I'm also working on some ludicrous side-project. More on that later.

Anyway, there should be something more substantial in the next few days. A new TOS for sure, and maybe, I'll write a bit about that Sony...Thing.

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TOS: Alan Wake

 

...aaaand were back.

"We're" back? That implies that this blog is done by more than one person.
Perhaps, I am suggesting that we as a community are finally "back"? As in there was a moment of instability, and now we are have collectively have returned to the fold, as if though everything can resume to a sense of normality. 

You might have noticed that this suggests, that it is only when I proclaim that such a sense of normalcy has returned, that such stability has the right to manifest itself.
"It's been back up for a week now! Vidiot, does that mean that the Giantbomb community only returns to itself unless you say so?"
"That's absolutely right."

"But what about..."
"Shutup."

"..."

My first blog about S-Ranks was about Beyond Good And Evil, the second concerned Final Fantasy XIII. Today, I though I would change it up a bit, and go back to the 360 (at least for me) to discuss a third person shooter that involves a lot of coffee...No, literally.

I enjoyed the hell out of Alan Wake, even with it's minor rough edges. It's such a bizarre game, and it's get's even stranger the more you read about the game's development. It was originally conceived as an open-world game, and while the final product is a strict linear-shooter, it's original design is still visible. There's driving sections, buildings and environments that look as if they were designed for something that played radically different. The actual by-the-numbers game is a strict linear affair, and in turn, gives the game environment a sense of depth and complexity that wouldn't normally be there. Everything about the idyllic vacation town of Bright Falls seems realized and fleshed out.

 Do they translate the word "flashlight" into "torch", in those other countries that speak English all weird?
This plays a bit against the experience a little later on, where certain environments seem to stretch indefinitely. Pacing is not exactly Alan Wake's strongest suit. It doesn't detract that much, but it is a bit noticeable.
Although when everything works in Alan Wake, it's defiantly a worth-while experience. It's atmosphere is thick, and it's depiction of the Pacific Northwest especially, is incredibly solid.

Remedy also worked on Max Payne, and when it comes to the enemy-to-enemy shooting mechanics, it really shows. Everything is tight and incredibly precise in it's execution, which is impressive given the lack of any real visual feedback on where you're aiming. No cross-hairs? No problem. The aim-assist overcompensates, but it doesn't detract. Toss in the combat design focused on constantly finding light-sources...Yeah, I enjoyed it.

The story? Yeah, it works. The execution might be a little spotty, and certain main characters like Barry fall flat, but it works well for a vast majority of the experience. There are some pretty neat twists, I just wished that the dialog didn't feel so stale most of the time.
...

...But what about the achievements?! Enough talking about the actual game, let's talk about what were here for.

S-Rank Synopsis

Problem: Your game is a strictly six-to-eight-hour linear action adventure game. For some reason, you thought that adding a multiplayer mode might have been, "inappropriate". This immediately limits your achievements.
Solution: Your achievements are not limited at all. The entire experience benefits from your game's precise focus, and so do your achievements.

Sadly, Alan Wake seems to overcompensate a bit from the first mentality. That being said, outside a few blemishes, Alan Wake does a valiant effort trying to think of "challenges" to do out-side of simply playing through it a bunch of times.

Collectibles: "Dude...Enough...Stop it. Holy crap, what were you thinking?!"

Paging Mr. Wake // Damn Good Cup of Coffee // Finders Keepers // Boob Tube // FBF-FM // Canary // Couch Potato // Bright Fall Aficionado // Picking Up After Yourself // Hypercaffinated // Every Nook And Cranny // Collectors Edition // Cardboard Companions // Tick Tock // Licensed Properties //

Please make sure you are siting down in a secure location, before you scroll down. 



Seriously...



Alan Wake on it's own, has 284 collectibles. Look at all those icons up there. Those are all for different achievements, dedicated to finding and picking up stuff. It's that ludicrous.
Let's break it all down shall we?

  • Coffee Thermoses= 100
  • Manuscript Pages= 91
  • Nightmare Mode Manuscripts= 15
  • TV Shows= 14
  • Signs= 11
  • Can Pyramids= 12
  • Radio Shows= 11
  • Supply Chests= 30

Then there are the multiple combat specific achievements, but were getting ahead of ourselves. Were just talking about items that sole purpose is just to pick-up and collect.
Not enough? Don't worry. There's also the two DLC episodes:
  • Alarm Clocks= 10
  • Cardboard Signs= 25
  • Video-games= 10

 The most important thing to do? Getting attacked by baddies? Psht, how about finding cardboard cut-outs.
What in gods name Remedy?!
Did you get bored? Did you think we might be so ADD, that we wouldn't find being chased down by a flood of ghostly creatures boring?
What the hell happened?
Were not talking about easy to get collectibles here. Some of the collectibles are stretched all over-the-place. Run up a mountain for three minutes?
Get comfortable, and hit the play button on your podcast buddy!

Even though the collectibles are daunting, I actually had a very difficult time wondering how hard I would complain about Alan Wake's laughable reliance on them. To it's credit, Alan Wake is incredibly forward thinking. There's an in-game menu you can access at anytime that shows stats of every action, from how many enemies you've killed with what weapon, to how many of these annoyances you have picked up so far. It's really well-done, and Remedy should be applauded for at least giving it's players, the tools they require to accomplish such an asinine task.

So while it's quite clear that the collectibles are defiantly a detriment, and a poor conception over what qualifies as "challenge", it needs to be stated here that it's only the sheer amount that will give you the most grief. It should also be noted that not all the collectibles are "pointless". Manuscript pages are actual pages of a story you can read, and anyone who remembers Max Payne is going to get a kick out of the fake TV-Shows.

That being said, enough is enough. There are collectibles, and then there is this. For every neatly written page, there is another coffee thermos that is vapid in it's contextual value. You will not be running around and hunting these yourself, you will be going back and forth with a guide. It's too bad, that too many of these achievements had to be focused on picking up junk.

Grinding: Tacked on.
Weapon specific combat kills, and an unrelenting thirst for collectibles will take a substantial amount of your play-time. While certain weapon achievements may unlock naturally, it's quite normal to complete this game a few times and still not have them all. This becomes more of an annoyance, as the later achievements force you to play through the game on higher difficulties. We will talk about how playing the game on higher difficulties will affect your experience in just a second, but one thing is for certain: You're not going to be looking for upping the amount of kills you've had on some score-counter.

I have to bring this up again, but even though this is another negative, Alan Wake's in-game menu makes this far less painful than it would have been.

Originality: Not Bad.
There are some genuinely interesting achievements on display here. Challenges involving completing a level without dieing, another involving a speed-run. Most of these can be obtained on lower difficulty levels and are easy to get while you're mopping up during another play-through. While there are a ton of uninspired kill-counter-with-said-weapon achievements, there are a few neat little ones that are hard to spot and are quite satisfying to accomplish.

Point Value: Those damn collectibles...
A normal play-through will net you roughly half of the achievements in the game. With so many point dedicated to finding collectibles, it's difficult to really take a single 50 point achievement for beating the game on Nightmare difficulty seriously.

DLC: Fun.
 The DLC is almost required regardless of achievements, but the achievements themselves are pretty interesting too.
You will have to buy the DLC if you get this game on Xbox. Platinum trophies can be obtained without DLC, because that is one achievement concept that Sony does better than Microsoft.          
See what I did there? Did I invoke a bit of personal bias? You should get upset about that. I look forward to not listening to you.

Purchasing DLC in order to get more achievements that break an S-Rank, are not usually things to applaud. The interesting about Alan Wake's case is though, that even without the achievements, the DLC is almost mandatory to the experience. Alan Wake suffers from "Ending is in the DLC" syndrome, and while you might walk away from Alan Wake's bizarre final climax that decides not to explain much of what happens, the DLC on the other hand pushes the plot in a far more satisfiable conclusion.
Not only that, but the final moments of the last DLC chapter virtually set-up the sequel: That has a premise that from a simple conceptual standpoint, you have to stand-up and applaud in terms of it's sheer creativity.

The achievements are also perhaps some of the most creative. Play-through a level without dying in one sitting? Bring it on! Each comes with it's own set of collectibles, but because of their bite-size nature, it will not be the general focus. The challenges here get a bit more creative and will genuinely put you through your paces. 

Difficulty: Satisfying.
Alan, Wake Up 
After completing the game on Normal, Nightmare difficulty unlocks. I would probably recommend playing the game the first time around on Hard. Playing Alan Wake on a
 Oh gawd, oh gawd, oh gawd, get to the light, get to the light, GET TO THE LIGHT! RUN YOU BASTARD!
higher difficulty is one of those rare instances where a higher difficulty "works" for the experience. Nightmare makes taking on multiple enemies at once, not practical, with even the most weakest of baddies becoming into semi-glorified bullet sponges.
To counter this, you really need to be constantly looking for light sources. I've never seen a game's design and mechanics force you to become this paranoid, but Alan Wake succeeds. Turning on a generator, just in time before being over-run by an army of shadowy figures is defiantly a ton of fun.

Like all higher difficulty modes, there will be moments of reloading certain saves a few times to barrel through certain choke-points. I never got the impression from other action games though, that my progress was being halted because of lazy design.
Black Ops, I'm looking at you and your ridiculous enemy re-spawn count.

Did I mention that there are certain collectibles you can only get on Nightmare difficulty?
Yeah, that never seems to end.

New Game+: Meh.
There's a well put together menu, that allows you to keep track of all the collectibles. It should also be noted that collectibles carry over in multiple play-throughs, although that has more to do with the Stacking category of this blog.
There's nothing much to it. It would have been interesting if anything else happened outside of replaying certain levels over-and-over again. When your main tasks are just finding junk, you would kinda wish something new would pop-out. If you're down with that, and have a good podcast or movie to watch, then you will enjoy yourself.

Other Positive Categories:
  • Glitches: None!
  • Stacking: Yes.
  • One Stupid Achievement: None! 

Final Grade:

Estimated Time: 25 Hours / Multiple Play-throughs.


It's a bit frustrating to see how Alan Wake flirts with having something that's "just a bit more", than your standard fare of achievements. It's commendable what Alan Wake does correctly though: Playing the game on a higher difficulty actual benefits the actual game, and doesn't punish you cheaply most of time. It's in-game menu allows you to track just about every action that works toward unlocking something. Some of the mission specific achievements are neat little challenges, that in some cases will dramatically shake-up the manner of which you play.

With a great foundation, Alan Wake then seems to attempt and overcompensate for...well...something. I'm not exactly sure what, but I've seen such shenanigans before in other games that are strict linear shooters. Alan Wake's bizarre huge lean on collectibles and weapon kill counters, give the impression of a struggle concerning trying to figure out what exactly should be emphasized as a "challenge".

The problem is that having over 200 misc things to pick up, does not equate to something challenging, it equates to tedium. In fact, I'm sure "picking up things over and over again", qualifies as a definition somewhere for tedium.
The great news is though, that Alan Wake strives to bring some stability to it's own madness. As if someone who was testing this had to pull the lead designer aside and state something to the effect of: "Hey, we need something to tell the players how close they are to killing 50 enemies with a flare-gun." Alan Wake provides this where other developers don't even bother with. Certain collectibles such as manuscript pages have a flair of quality, but you're going to tire out fast hunting every nook-and-cranny for some of the more obscure items.

Overall though: It's a good S-Rank to go after. It could have been better, but for the most part is appropriate to the context of the game.

Use guides. For collectibles RoosterTeeth's Achievement Hunter site has a great series of videos complete with commentary.
You might need a laptop+TV combo for this one.

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