That damn blog :P

Small bite-sized update:
A couple day's ago I bought a car. I've never bought a car before, so the last few day's have been quite the whirl-wind for me personally. I'm starting to catch my breath again, but it looks like my activity here has suffered because of it.
 
About a week ago I began writing about Nier. When I do "Brain Dumps", I usually write without much thought beforehand, specifically how I should structure the writing. I like to think of them as "stream of conscious" articles, that have a subject, but are heavily injected with my own thoughts and narration and have a haphazard but playful flow to them.
 
I also suffer from extreme A.D.D. 
Thing's that I have slight interests in: Are expanded into almost compulsive, probably unhealthy, manic necessities that I must examine and submerge myself in an almost OCD level of interest.

Now, I'm not making excuses for myself here, but sometimes these quirks appear in my writings: What starts small, usually turns into big several page tomes. 
Recently, I decided to write about the game Nier: This blog is now over six pages, and still has a way's to go.
 
So let's do it this way. Let's break it into parts shall we? 
First part of Nier will appear at the end of this week. Perhaps I can write something else to go along with it. 
 
I'll leave you with the following:

  • You're not missing anything from the English Yakuza 4 demo. The demo only contains the "Battle" mode from the Japanese demo, no story mode anywhere. If you want to get a feel for the four characters, it's pretty neat, but that's about it.
  • I love Stacking.
  • Lego: Harry Potter is the most calming game I've ever played for some-reason.
  • GIVE THIS MAN AN AWARD!
 
  

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Formspringing

I recently joined up Formspring a while ago, my reasoning was completely out of peer pressure, so I can be cool like the cool kids.   
...No seriously, go ask me a question. It's fun.
 
For the uninitiated, Formspring is essentially a question answer board where users ask and respond questions that go back and forth indefinitely. It has been a fantastic distraction for the last few days. Recently though I didn't touch my account for a complete 24hours, thus returning I was presented with the following:
 

 ...GAH!!!!
I'm pretty positive that there is an undercurrent of OCD tenancies that lies dormant within me. When it appears, like most people with severe ADD, it manifests itself in things that I enjoy:
I like writing. 
I like videogames.
I like social media.  
 
It sometimes pains me to write single sentence responses to elaborate questions. Formspring seems to be a cultivation of some form of diabolical plot against me. 
So I basically sat, for about an hour, and responded to 66 questions without any breaks. Half-way through answering, I accidentally closed the window, and thus had to re-write my responses all over again. Some of the last responses seem out-of-breath upon reflection. I don't think I've ever experienced being winded by writing. 
 
Oh, and apparently this happened:

-_-
For the questions descending from first to last (bottom to top):
#1)  Yeah, I did not know this thing was an actual thing. So I would like to apologize to organicalistic for my response: 

What the hell is "Do you like horny bunnies like game"? This is the end of language. How do I answer such non-sequitur verbal dribble.

#2)
  
#3) Ah... I love the internet. 
 
Nier brain-dump blog hopefully will be finished by tomorrow, or Monday.  
There seems to be a resurgence of blog's here from everyone. Thinking of different types of serialized thing's I can do. 
Reinstalling and getting my streaming software up and running, after my computer died. 
Still playing through Stacking. Finished getting platinum in all three Sly games. For some reason, I'm playing my younger brother's copy of Lego Harry Potter.
Thinking about S-Ranking Nier.
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Portable gaming thoughts, and I hate the NGP acronym.

 

Now portable!

Glass Boxes

Have you looked at an original GameBoy recently?
 
No, not the Gameboy pocket, or another semi-modern color iteration. I'm talking about the original Gameboy: The one you can knock someone out with.
 
 I had a friend who had one of these. He spilled a pack of ketchup once inside it.  He got upset.  I laughed.
Looking back on this original device, it's hard to imagine that we considered such hardware using descriptive terminology that utilized the word "portable". Several years ago the Pacific Science center had a little show going on about gaming's history. Seeing the original Gameboy on display in a glass case, as if it was some archeological discovery made me chuckle a bit. At the same time the device looked alien to me as it sat alongside it's portable brethren. The Sega Game Gear and rare Nomad took watch over the Gameboy, as if they were two sarcophagi standing still, looking over a fallen king. 
 
They were also, and I'm paraphrasing my reaction here, "Farking huge!
 
What was perhaps most interesting was not the devices themselves, but my reaction that they seemed foreign.  Perhaps I have discovered a concept in human nature, where anything placed in a glass box is rendered as an alien artifact, but my own personal reaction superseded this idea. (If anyone can randomly take things they own and place them in a glass box, and see how they're own perception of said object/person changes to said individual, please contact me so I can take all credit for this idea.)  

The GameBoy was not some mysterious device for me. It was a freaking GameBoy. I played with one for years. Same thing with the GameGear, a device that out-side of it's ludicrous battery-life, wasn't all that bad of a device in retrospect.   

Yet here I was. My DS was somewhere in my pocket, next to my phone. I took it for granted. While I began to reminisce about the time's I had with the GameBoy, my mind pondered about how far we had come.  
 

Back to the future

Enough of that, back to reality: 
What a strange cornucopia of gaming news that has happened this past week, that everyone knew was going to happen.
 
 TROPHIES? TROPHIES? I HEARD SOMEONE SAY TROPHIES! I DON'T KNOW WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW! WHERE ARE THE TROPHIES?!
Surprising people these days is pretty difficult. Outside the occasional E3 announcement, trying to hide the development of anything these days seems to be a challenging balancing act. Even the announcements that are supposed to take people by surprise, are not necessarily surprising for what the product is, but instead the circumstances surrounding it. Although one could easily argue those circumstances are not surprising

The amount of time and effort involved in making new hardware for companies, kinda defeats the usual blanket silence regarding what the next platform is going to be. You then compound stuff like, the internet, and you have situations with anonymous individuals leaking full-blown prototype shots of said hardware. Or in the case of the PSP2, developers flat-out stating not only it's existence, but certain key-features with it's hardware.
 
Watching the PSP2's debut was an interesting experience to say the least.
 
I hate the name of the prototype. "NGP". Certain acronyms annoy me, because I find that saying " Blops" out-loud sounds like I'm referencing some-form of transmitted disease. I don't like NGP for another reason, specifically it's use of "Next-Generation" in it's title.
 
Yes, I understand that it's a prototype/not finalized name. Other systems and hardware go under a myriad of different monikers and names prior to release.
NGP just seems lazy. It reanimates memories of a time a few years into the current console generation, and listening to how people would still refer to the current generation of systems as "Next Generation". As if though HD consoles were stuck in some time-warp, and we were incapable of calling something current....current...and had to keep referring to modern games as some unobtainable concept that had yet to be shown to the world. 
 
 Yeah...You like that don't you?

As of now there are too many things about this device that I don't like, but perhaps more importantly: Don't understand. 
Everything will become more clear in the upcoming months. Right off the bat the idea of having touch capabilities on the back of the device confuses me. Playing an intense game on-the-go can become difficult enough with out-side stimuli, now you want me to feel the back of this thing? I get the impression we will be seeing tons of funny youtube video montages, of people feeling up the back of this device in a creepy manner. It's one of those things we will understand when we finally get a-hold of the device ourselves...
 
That didn't sound right...I didn't...I...uh....with the previous sentence...err...
 

The Japan factor

Do you know what I took away from the entire show this week? That Japan might be in a bit of trouble. This part is admittedly a bit more muddled, and the amount of variables are off the charts to make a concrete statement: But my level of concern for Japanese game development, that silent barometer that resides silently within many of us, began to rise a bit with me. 
 
"A hand-held, with PS3 capabilities and graphical fidelity!!!"     
 
That sounds great right? Right? It's going to have trophies too! MMMM! Delicious trophies!  
 
 Nathan Drake's wisecracking one-liners will not be hampered by the systems small size!
Small problem: Japanese game development is strapped for cash. 
A combination of archaic development management, coupled with simply the high cost of producing these games, has hit Japan's once thriving industry hard. I'm talking in broad generalizations here, the exact make-up of what's happening in Japan is far more complex for one blog to illustrate entirely. What has happened in the last few years has been a resurgence in portable games, and of course, the Wii.
 
Looking for a new cool JRPG? It's probably on the DS, or the PSP. 
While the next few sentences are pure personal dribble: It almost feels, for me at least, that Japanese game development has become terrified of HD gaming in general. It feels like they are almost, hiding out in the portable market. Weathering the storm. I don't take that much umbrage with them, it makes sense that they're focus is just to survive. 
Also, Japanese games love Monster Hunter. Can't blame them, even if I don't understand it.

Valkyria Chronicles was probably my personal favorite game of 2008. Yet here I am two years later, not playing the sequel on the PS3, but on the PSP. This isn't an absolute example of what's happening everywhere within Japanese game development. Just pointing out a trend, a philosophy that I feel the PSP2 threatens.   
 
 In all honesty: I don't think any portable device can render the awesomeness of Snakes mustache.

To be fair, who knows the exact quality of these games. Although if Sony is pushing this device with it's graphical fidelity as it's top billing, one has to take notice. Based on the current speculation, one can argue: If Japanese game development can't comprehend the costs of current generation games, how will they be able to make games for this device? Again, I'm talking with sweep generalizations (and speculation), but there is a pause for alarm here.   

Watching the "games" that were on display for PSP2, it felt like I was watching a cornucopia of art assets being ported over. You ported over character models from Metal Gear and Yakuza! That's awesome! 
What else do you got? Anything new? Uh...This doesn't bode well. 

The bigger news? How about Epic's Mark Rein jumping up and down like a hyper child binging on candy, because Unreal 3 runs fantastic on it?

Rein calls the NGP a "pretty huge deal" for not just Playstation fans, but gamers.


 Pictured: Epic's Mark Rein showing how big of a "huge deal", this is.

How much of a deal is it? Pretty huge.
 
That obviously vague statement makes me wonder the capabilities of where this device can take us. Western portable gaming (outside of cellphones and Iphone devices.), isn't exactly very prominent. I'm not talking about the trillions that Angry Birds has made, just talking about who leads software sales on PSP and the DS. Can this be the beginning, of the rise of big budget western portable game development?
  


History

Which brings me back to the original PSP....and the glass display box.
 
The Game Gear sits alongside the GameBoy. The Gameboy was technically inferior to the Game Gear. The Nomad was literally a portable variation of the Mega Drive/Genesis, which at the time wasn't exactly a dead platform. Both were crushed by Nintendo's little portable device, that didn't get the ability to display color until 1998. A year after Sega stopped supporting the Game Gear. 
While Sega's collapse is one that someone could write volumes of books about, it does make one still pause and wonder...
 
...Does powerful hardware command the same form of dominance in the portable market? 
The PSP was hailed at the time as a portable device able to render PS2 quality games, but how exactly did that help in the long run? As an owner of both the DS and the PSP, I would be lying if I said my PSP got the most play-time. Every once in a while, a PSP game would floor me, make me upset and wonder why other developers are not trying to upstage what I'm currently playing at the time.   
 
Instead of diving head-long into praise, I find myself holding back. Contrary to another Sony press release, I feel like I've been down this road before too many times. Not only that, new-found uncertainty about what's in development now bothers me. Are we on the verge of finally bridging the gap between these different platforms? Or are we perhaps forgetting, that Angry Birds doesn't necessarily need Unreal 3 to be successful. 
Stick in what's probably going to be a very draconian closed system with how you play these games, because of the current PS3 hacking controversy...
 
Well...I wish Sony luck...I don't normally pick up consoles when they immediately launch...But at least I'm enthusiastic about the next big thing. 
 
More apprehension than excitement. :/
 

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"You're getting shot-up!"


Kinda like the retro look
             

Gaming habits and bragging rights

I don't think I'm going to finish Black Ops on veteran. 
 
Perhaps another time, when I have a small break between games. Right now my main focus has been finishing up Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Nier, and Sly 3, all of which I am taking my sweet time with. ( LBP2 is probably next on my gaming list.) 
I slowly digest games, I can make an eight hour game become a week or more. I like this methodology and when I purchase games, I try to implore myself that I must take a long time to finish them. 
 
I think in some-respect, that's one of the factors why achievements appeal to me. I like achievements that make me explore every nook-and-cranny in a game. Assassins Creed might have a bunch of misc junk you have to collect, but I'm exploring through area's, I wouldn't usually check out.
 
 &$#^@^*! LEGENDARY!
I remember playing the first Halo and having the ultimate bragging rights when a friend would stop by. We would boot-up the game, then check the level-select and show each level emblazoned with a Legendary difficulty logo. I probably didn't recognize it at the time, but such interaction is an extension from our primordial gaming roots. 
The High-Score on an arcade machine, that general moment where we check something that someone able to accomplish. It's no surprise that social networking and the internet elevates such bragging rights in a very organic manner. There was this person on TV talking about how people "perform ourselves" on web sites that have open forums, which makes sense when you stop and think about it. For example, you might not believe this, but I do act very humble in real-life. Unlike here, I don't necessarily plaster my ego on readers faces, as if it was some palpable matter. 
Ladies

It just makes sense that achievements are so intertwined with social media/internet. We broadcast our bragging rights, in conjunction with our own self-indulged advertisement. I don't mean any of this with a negative connotation, just an observation about why achievements have worked so successfully from a player perspective.
 

Where it goes "wrong"?

My major fault with achievements is when difficulty get's confused for monotony. Is beating Black Ops on veteran require skill? How do we come to a consensus that having "skill" in a singleplayer game means? During the first level of Black Ops while you are off trying to assassinate Castro, you are required to rappel down a cliff via a pre-scripted action. 
 
I died ten times.
 
 Captain Obvious says: Doing this awesome thing, isn't awesome after the billionth time.
The problem comes from an enemy placement on the bottom of the cliff. Friendly NPC's come to your aid during this sequence near the bottom, but none of the allies in CoD games, or most shooters, really do anything. When you hit "X" to rappel, you are stuck in a canned animation, incapable of defending yourself. I tried valiantly to spot the single enemy who kept striking me down before getting to the bottom of the cliff, but could not spot him. On the eleventh try I rappelled, and this time the enemy didn't have time to immediately kill me out-right. Why? I have no idea.  

It's times like this when I question difficulty achievements, when your increase in difficulty is akin to a roll of a dice, versus something more substantial. I get the feeling like I'm grinding because of some developers lack of foresight.
 
It's when the achievement, or trophy, butts-heads with your overall enjoyment of the game when I get turned-off. If the achievement alters my overall appreciation for a game.
 PICK DONATELLO
Did you notice that Black Ops has a return of the endless re-spawning enemies? On Veteran you will. 
 
It's a difficult tight-rope to cross, because "difficulty" is a such debatable concept. For those of us who remember the original Nintendo-era, or farther, this conception of difficulty becomes far more complicated. Days forgotten trying to figure how to get through the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and getting myself destroyed day after day. These days we would look at such insanity as bad game design. 
 

Gaming roots

What's funny is that we put all our focus on talking about pushing new technology, design and new experiences: and yet so much has stayed the same. 
 
A hail of gunfire is peppered around me. The noise of skimming bullet's play out like a crescendo of controlled anarchy, becoming louder as I make my way to the origin of the firefight. Woods stops and holds his ground while I advance, a flurry of bullets fly at my face...distorting my vision...
 
"YOU'RE GETTING SHOT UP!"
 
That doesn't look that bad.  Just crouch behind a box and I'm sure your neck will grow back.
The million dollar budget for the production falters, a grenade bounces off of Woods and explodes, he shakes off the explosion of a grenade. Like Wolverine my previous shot-gun round to the cranium apparently is all but gone, and without a second thought I mow-down everything around me down.
No different from something akin to playing Metal Slug, or something even older. Something more archaic. The level comes to it's end, I obtain my "high-score" (achievement) and move on. 
It's funny what has changed: How we now try and regulate the difficulty of what used to be "normal", to something optional. 
What's stayed the same: How High-Scores have evolved into achievements. 
 
Yet when it comes to presenting (<-Keyword there) the concept of damage, we haven't done anything new since gaming's inception.
 
Perhaps our use of health-pick ups allowed us to compartmentalize how much punishment a videogame character can take. 
One can argue "It's just a game!!!", yet I think back at achievements and high-scores. 
 
Sure, achievements are not perfect. Developers abuse what qualifies as achievements all the time. 
Although what was a relatively dead concept from gaming's roots: The basic act of broadcasting and boasting your accomplishments, was revitalized to a more modern era. I don't think you can go farther than that in gaming when it comes to base concepts: The evidence of "winning". 
 
Yet with all our technological muscle, we are still stuck in, at least what I personally feel: A very primitive way of presenting violence being inflicted on player characters. 
The evidence of "losing". We don't play with cubed pixels as characters anymore, and the idea of a human being being shot a billion-times, breathing heavily and having all of his wounds simply "disappear" confuses me. 
 
I don't have answers to "fix" this "problem". 
Nor do I advocate if a solution would be found, that it should be applied in an absolute manner. Just something to think about.  

A reminder that while the Halo's regenerative health mechanic works wonders, it made sense in the actual concept of the world of Halo. (Last time I checked, a modern solider doesn't have access to a futuristic regenerating shield.)
And perhaps more importantly: A reminder that even the most base concepts of gaming, can change in conjunction to the context of today.  
 
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Super Belated 2010 Retrospect

Warning: The following blog might not make sense. It's also very quite long. The opinions expressed here are mine alone, and thus, shouldn't be taken seriously at all. Or listened at all in general. If you can "listen" to the opinions, as if there is an audible sound being produced by this text: Go get medical help, because you are hearing voices.

 
"What the hell?" See? I just wrote what you said out-loud. Pretty cool huh?
    
I KNOW! I'M LATE! *Runs* 
Not to be a depressant, but every-time at new years the sense of commendatory at parties is usual a mixture of:
  1. How much can I get drunk?
  2. No seriously, I bought one of those personal breathalyzer's. I did good last quarter, and I want a blood alcohol level that matches my GPA.
  3. This year is going to be soooo much better than last year.
 
Strange how number #3 on that list, never really seems to happen that much.
 
So now were officially in 2011, and that means one thing: We all only got one year left on this planet.
Beside that, it's been time for pause and reflection over the past year. I began writing up an annual blog, but current personal issues, and of course my relentless indecision, stopped this from being released on-time. 
 
This year wasn't that bad. 
I did some pretty cool video work at PAX. Got a Sega Saturn
...Got laid-off...
...
...HAPPY THOUGHTS!
 
In all...not seriousness...I didn't want to do a simple retrospect either like last year. I wanted to also formally hand out unrelenting, and absolute judgment,on a series of subjects and games that happened this year. It's time to hand out these very ugly golden..."award"...things.
 
 

2010 began with Mass Effect 2, and ended with me still hoping something would come close to topping the experience that was laid-down in January. This year was filled with fantastic releases like Red Dead Redemption, but was also seemed plagued by a long laundry-list of titles that simply couldn’t top the legitimate hype from BioWare. Starcraft 2, maybe ? It felt like it sucked the wind out of everybody. The Halo franchise usually comes packing with an army of ridiculous advertising pomp and circumstance, but even the last Halo game being made by the series creators, seemed to be muted. Live-action advertisement? Yeah, it's been done. The critical collective hype-train seemed very selective this year, as if everyone was strangely winded. Red Dead Redemption seemed to grab a foothold, but it seemed like a lot of peoples minds were made-up after January.
 

 All eye's are on Mass Effect 3

The best part about it is that it's well-deserved praise. For years I have wondered how a non-linear sequel for a game could be done. Something more than the usual cop-out, being vague and non-specific about events. Or, doing the Deus Ex approach and mashing multiple different endings into one giant confusing smorgasbord. Mass Effect 2 simply attacks the problem head-on, with every little choice thread carrying over one way or the other. That endeavor itself deserves attention and praise, but the real moment of amazement is how effortless such a feat is accomplished.
To be fair, one could legitimately analyze these said choices and question their quality in both depth and implementation, which I did, but it's the illusion that what I decided mattered in the last game.
 
Fantastic production values coupled with shooting mechanics that, while sadly strip a lot of the RPG out of the game, still feels leaps better than the strange marrying of design that was attempted in the first game.
 

Hey! It's a tie between three different people! They are all in game development regarding RPG's too! Topical?  o.O.o

I would like to point out that all three of these individuals are people that I highly respect. Which makes this fun, because each comes packaged with a quote that seems to be grounded in the context...of another planet. Each dealing and detailing with their respective craft: The RPG.
 
During the beginning of the year, Square's bizarre-interview-quote-o-meter was already on some end of the spectrum, that didn’t exactly mesh with reality. With the release of Final Fantasy XIII, the meter went into over-drive, with a flurry of completely nonsensical jargon that blinded the most zealous of fans.
Specifically: Me.
Kitase was involved of some of my favorite entries in the Final Fantasy series, but his explanations for what Final Fantasy XIII was bewildered me. Even his own declaration that it wasn’t an RPG could top this list, although it was his combined quote he had with another producer, Motomu Toriyama, that sent the internet into a confused stupor:

Considering the amount of work to make graphics that deserve HD, it is hard to make towns in the conventional style,” said Toriyama.
Kitase agreed, stating “it is very hard to make games on PlayStation 3 in the same style the games in that era had. Making graphics will take enormous time.”

Wait? What?! 
Time?!? 
You had over half-a-decade! 
You released games, this generation, that were in HD, and had towns.

Bro! Kitase my man! What are you smoking?!
 

 It's right there! See it?!

I do not deny that higher production values have no change to the amount of work that must be put into a project like this, they do, especially for developers that don't have big budgets. But to state that both time, and effort, is the de-facto reasoning behind not including them in your product makes little to no sense. Especially given the context of the actual game. Lack of towns make sense with the design of the game, not the actual technical constraints for at least what's on display here.

There are towns in Final Fantasy XIII, just not exploited in a manner properly at all. Geometry for the two locations of Nautilus and PalumPolum, seem to be there, just inaccessible to the player. So what's the problem? Is it a design issue? Is it a technical issue? Should I be packing my bags and making a trip to Rockstar, and proclaim that towns are too hard to make in HD and they should stop? 
 

"Well, before I address the main point I just want to take a slightly more controversial route: You can put a 'J' in front of it, but it's not an RPG. You don't make any choices, you don't create a character, you don't live your character... I don't know what those are - adventure games maybe? But they're not RPG's." - Daniel Erickson (Bioware)

Oh, give me a break. Let's just set another forum on fire while were at it?
 
You already have written my choices between two stark paths (good and evil), and even consequences for me. You produce phenomenal writing, that gives me the illusion that I am in control, but we are still emulating the table-top experience. We are not directly translating the Player vs. “Pissed-off dungeon master who is trying in vain to keep up with my madness”. Which is a good thing!
 
I was under the impression in the last two decades, that we were defining the RPG genre, like all gaming genre's, based on relating design and mechanics. To pick and choose mechanics in such an ironically short-sighted manner, that in this case works against your own projects! 
For example: I could easily state that the lack of traditional RPG combat and mechanics in Mass Effect 2, means your game is not an RPG.
But to state the all encompassing, absolute definition, of an RPG, hinges on dialog trees that shoot the plot in another direction?
 
I've seen that in adventure games...oh...wait... I can make choices in other games too. 
 
Is GTA IV, or Red Dead Redemption an RPG by this goofy definition? 
I "lived" out a character far more in either game in comparison to Dragon Age, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect combined. How about Heavy Rain? If choosing the direction of where the narrative is going to go is such a major factor in the RPG definition, why isn't that an RPG? Am I not "Role-Playing" a single dad while looking after my kid?

Apparently you can't "live" a character without very a very specific character stat-tree.

So the definitive connection to being an "RPG", are character stats, and growth and abilities associated with those stats.
Well, the quote states you don't create a character in JRPGs right? There are no systems or mechanics in play, that define what the character can become right? 
Wait?! There are? When did that happen? It's always been that way?! Well it's still crap! Because while I can create a character to be a magic user in this JRPG, I still can't empower him with a talent-tree of useless abilities!
Yes! Five points to Farting! That helps my lock-picking skill, THAT I WILL NEVER USE! 
 
While not equally as ridiculous, It's almost as if someone is complaining about how all modern First Person Shooters, aren’t real FPS, because we don't only collect card-key's anymore.

How about the actual plot of these JRPG's? Are there no legitimate concerns there? Anything we can improve? No? How about game balancing? No? Nothing we can do better? No?!
The problem is the design fundamentals?!

How hard would it to be to come to a consensus that both sub-genres overlap each other enough, to be part of the same genre? Instead of focusing what divides both spectrum’s, is it too hard to celebrate how diverse and awesome the RPG genre is? Styles might become popular, change, mutate and mature, but to pick and choose certain mechanics and design to solidify the absolute definition of what deems to be "worthy" of being part of a genre seems...Stupid.
It also makes less sense, when you start applying similar logic to other genre's.
 
As far as the silly deceleration “You can't just put a 'J' in front of the genre!” Well, crap Erickson.
We've only been collectively doing that for about a decade. Before that, we were just calling them RPG's for the previous two decades. It wasn’t until the two genre’s shared the same spotlight on the same hardware platform, that this "debate" really heated-up.
 
What I find really funny though, is that no matter how much we bitch and complain about the proper use of the term “RPG”, no matter how much we write for pages that go on seemingly forever (and in some cases in certain threads those pages eat each-other) our bizarrely polarized negative opinions are not going to change how Japanese developers define their own freaking games! 
 

  
Nothing I write here will properly convey anything productive in trying to illustrate what happened at Konami's E3 Press Conference this year. Let's all stop and remember, that something like this actually happened.  
 
 
  

So the Kinect launched this year.
I’ve been waiting for the moment I begin caring. That hasn’t happened yet. I don't think it's going to happen this year either.
 
Kinect's best offerings so far have been hacked demonstrations. The term “It's not for you”, really holds true regarding Kinect for me. It's depressing because I had a lot of

 DUDE, THIS WATER "LOOKS AMAZING."

interest, up to the now dreadfully remembered E3 press conference. I knew “mass casual appeal” is a hallmark of these motion devices, and nothing would solidify that concept more than the disturbing Skittles sequence. 

Kinect is probably going to be stranger in the long-run, because even other games that require motion control support can't really be ported to Kinect. Well, they could, but the development costs and attention would require more effort. Take the upcoming HD port of No More Heroes for example. It's getting release outside of Japan, only on the PS3, and only for the Move. The Move got a lot of complaints for not being as “creative” as the Move, and being a glorified Wii knock-off. Yet in a strange ironic twist, the Move might have a fantastic opportunity to exploit a small market that the Kinect cant. 
 
HD Wii ports anyone?
*Takes off uncalibrated prediction cap* 
 
What I do know, is that Microsoft has spent a ton of money for this thing's advertising. I walked into one of the new local "Microsoft Store" and the place was wall-to-wall Kinect's, filled with equally confused customers wandering around in a stupor. and making the press wear...giant...white glowing baby bibs... Have to do with Kinect? Hell would I know.

Whatever comes out of the Kinect in the long-run has yet to be seen. It's neat tech, but like most motion controls, it hasn’t shown what I already do with a controller better. Also, is there anything on the horizon for Kinect? After pumping this much money into it, outside of the immediate games and that neat project being done by ex-Panzer Dragoon creator...Is there anything big in the pipe for this thing?
Dancing!

  

Without diving too much into spoiler territory: At one point during Sam and Max Season 3, you are digested by a large monster that looks like a cross between Godzilla and Cthulhu. The insides of the monster resembles that of a home, with the stomach being a kitchen and it's legs represented by a weight room. In order to take control of the monsters legs, one of your companions needs to run on a treadmill. An easy task, if it wasn’t for the fact that the ally in question was pregnant, which isn’t the problem impeding your progress.

It's kinda like Sherlock Holmes. Except it's not like Sherlock Holmes at all.
No! The focal point of this puzzle is appealing to her that you have sympathy, and understand what she's going through. Why? Because each time you talk to her, the psychic aura of the area transmits your internal thoughts to her, which is a series of jokes about how you think she's fat.
That is a simple puzzle in Sam and Max: The Devils Playhouse, easily the best offering TellTale has done so-far. Their recent work on Back to the Future has been quite well received by fans for a reason. I feel like these guys have single-handed brought back this genre from obscurity. I don't think it will never return to the mid-90's boom during the Lucas Arts/Sierra days, but Telltale has proven with their success that this genre has not died. That players have been waiting to return to the genre, and that a combination of digital distribution, cheap costs, and my unwavering belief that there is no substitute for great writing.

 
If you haven’t had the opportunity of checking out the revival of Monkey Island, Sam and Max, and now Back to the Future, I implore you to do so. They’re hilarious and phenomenally respectful to the source material of their adaptations. I am phenomenally excited about their future take on Jurassic Park.
 

  

Last year, I stated that I thought Modern Warfare 2 was my favorite FPS for 2009. In the same breath I also stated that the single-player plot was abysmal, and in a later blog this year, wrote that it was written by...*ahem*

Infinity-Ward, Head-Writer“Chimps” The Frat-Monkey.”

As an aspiring young individual who wishes one day to join the game developer work-force, I've been trying to follow the terrifying...very unfunny...legal battle between Infinity Ward and Activision.
It's disturbing, and slowly turning into a dense complex web of legal “He said”/”She said”. Modern Warfare 2 was one of the highest selling pieces of entertainment media of all time, the legal repercussions shows this.
 
Normally I would take a side, but my own jaded personal bias has skewed my perspective. Don't get me wrong, I trust Activison about as much as Glenn Beck crying nonsense because he's off his drugs...again. Recent Activision legal filings states that there was a conspiracy within Infinity Ward to damage Activision, and expanded on the growing hostile divide between Treyarch and Infinityward that we already kinda knew existed.
 

You did not see any of this coming last year, that's for sure.

In retrospect, that situation seems like crap: You create a series, that another developer has it's hands in, and once-in-a-while produces another product with the series name, that you made . Just think about that for a second. That kinda sucks doesn’t it? That's kinda like sharing homework with someone. I can't imagine that in the long-run no form of legitimate animosity between both parties wouldn’t take root. 
 
While I hope they get the money they deserve, I'm not really concerned for their long-term situation. I think EA will treat them phenomenally well. For god-sake: They made Modern Warfare 2! That sold a bagillion units or something. Besides, EA seems to have something tangible to a soul...now.
As for Activision, their public statements and overall image appeal right now is in the toilet. Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised if no dedicated servers for MW2 PC was some bureaucratic suit who wanted to appeal to Lord Ughumenthal- Who's name translates as “The Dark One that sleeps in the bloody tears of ill children”.
One thing for sure, this thing is going to get uglier and more disturbing in 2010.
 

  

On the same subject...
... Black Ops is a good game!
I don't have the same feeling of mind-numbing pain when I reiterate that statement, in the same manner I had last year with Modern Warfare 2.
 
Last year I stated that Modern Warfare 2 was my favorite FPS, beating out Killzone 2. In the same breath, and for a large majority of this year, I have come back to this game over-and-over again. It might have had fantastic visuals and production values, but Modern Warfare 2's single-player is still, without a doubt, the dumbest experience I have ever had the “pleasure” of playing.
 
So much so, that a year later, people are running editorials trying to match MW2's single-player short-comings as some form of conspiracy to their current legal situation. A far cry from getting GOTY awards on all console platforms. Black Ops single-player campaign is silly, but focused. There is a beginning, middle, and end. There are character's, with what appears to be tangible persona's that go beyond: “This is the dude with a ski-mask.” 
 
Call of Duty doesn’t need fantastic narrative, but it at least needs something that's beyond a bunch of set-pieces and a script that sounds like someones paranoid fever-

Unfazed by the madness.

dream. I know that's an ironic statement given the subject matter of Black Ops, which is one huge conspiracy theory after the other. The ending and big plot-twist comes at you a mile away, but it does enough that doesn’t have your head spinning in circles afterward. Many players just skip right into multiplayer, but for those of us who like a standard solitary experience, in conjunction with a neat multiplayer: There's a lot to like.
 
Treyarch has had a good year, and I feel like they deserve it. Their previous work pre-Call of Duty 3 for me is now a distant memory. They have proven themselves that not only can they match the work of IW, but I feel like they have surpassed them in many ways. Stepping out of a giant shadow in the middle of this circus with little scratches to show for it. Good job.
 
Hopefully Ughumenthal will leave them be. 

  

Fable 3 has a fantastic first impression, that begins to deteriorate almost immediately.
Peter Molyneux stated that Fable 3 is not an RPG, although that didn’t stop people nominating it for “Best RPG” award. Peter is kinda right, Fable 3 isn't really an RPG: Even though you create a character and make choices. 
See? I just made this shit topical to what I previously wrote! Bwhahaha! 
 

 Duder, this is guy is actually played by Sir Ben Kingsley. I KNOW! o_O

Fable 3 is a design nightmare, wanting to simplify mechanics that are already, pretty damn simplified
In it's mainstream approach, it also then throws you in a loop regarding the ridiculously unnecessary monotonous approach regarding real-estate. The ending, and it's outcomes, are about as painfully convoluted as it get's. Why focus on a design to simplifies everything, yet contain some of the most convoluted elements to appear in the series so far?
 
How many days do I have left?
 
I also am defiantly in the camp of not liking the new Pause screen. It's great for putting on new clothing, but outside of that seems to have not much functionality in regards of basic item management. I found the map a mess in terms of judging where things were in relation to elevation levels, and to reiterate Brad's review: “Where are my freaking potions?!”
 
How hard it is to make a good in-game menu?
 
Places are reused from the previous game, instead now with the strangest slowdown I've ever seen. (YOU ARE ON THE MOOOOON!) The game also seems host to technical problems from the last game, as I once again, had a glitch in which my family disappeared.
 
The thing is though is that Fable 3 isn’t a bad game, just not the solidified "aware" entry in the series it seems it wants to be. Instead, overtime Fable 3 seems pretty underwhelming in retrospect. It's too confused to be terrible, and what it does right, it does right. Fable 3 is probably the funniest of the series, and it's game-within-a-game quest is something that's going to be remembered for years. It hits this bizarre middle-ground that any real passionate opinion on either end of the spectrum...well...seems unnecessary.
 
It's harmless, and thus, is kinda...
….”Meh”.  
 


 There was something there!...Nah, just keep going...Just keep going...
Whoever you heard about that story, with me playing this, and crying in fear is a liar! Liar! 
Let's just put it this way: The last time a game really freaked me out was the original Fatal Frame. Amnesia returned me to that fateful night I rented that game from Blockbuster and went to bed later, listening intently at every creak in the house, prepared to be attacked by some otherworldly visage.
 
Scary game is freaking scary.    
 


 
  

 Try frowning while playing this. I dare you.

Is is possible to frown while playing Costume Quest? Possibly.You would have to rip out your soul to do so.
Easily one of my favorite downloadable game this year, Costume Quests fantastic writing and style encompasses an entire the sense of feeling of the Halloween holiday into a single game. It's fantastic. The very traditional RPG elements work fantastically. It might have quick moments of spiked difficulty, especially during the beginning, but a few blemishes don't deter from the experience.
 
While many people equate Tim Shaffer as the mind behind everything Double Fine, it's Tasha Harris who deserves credit of the fantastic design and concept that's probably one of the most original offerings in games for the last few years.
 

  

Fallout: New Vegas was a runner-up for this, but in the end of the day nothing can beat the quick cash-in before Christmas that the Oddbox apparently turned into. This went under the radar for a lot of people, but for those interested in playing the likes of Munch (eh.) or Strangers Wrath on the PC (yay) this has been a fantastic train-wreck to stare at. It's not broken or buggy, it literally isn’t finished with everything from custom resolutions still being worked on in an upcoming patch.
 
It would be hilarious on it's own right, if it wasn’t for the fact that people paid money for this:
 

  

It's upsetting that I was actually torn over what game should win this “category”. When Fallout: New Vegas crashed and burned, I saw a bunch of positive feedback from fans, proclaiming that nothing was wrong because “it would be patched.”
 
I struggle to find words to describe how bad an idea that is.
To set a precedent like that scares me. I think back on all the really great, low-sales games I played this year each completely playable from beginning to end without problem. Then I look at something like Fallout: New Vegas, or the Oddbox, and it infuriates me. All fantastic games, yet held back this year because someone decided to hit a deadline over making sure the damn thing didn't fall apart.
 
Don't kid yourself. Bugs like this don't appear, out of thin air, when given to consumers. New Vegas was held out from many reviewers initially for a reason. At the end of the day it's not just bad for consumers but the developers reputation as well. To see a trend like this scares me.
  

There was a bunch of really great games that were released this year that didn't perhaps get the commercial attention they deserve. I've talked quite a bit about both games this year. 

Enslaved feels like a dying breed of melee linear action adventure games, that combat is defiantly more simple than what is usually released these days. Pretty upset that

 Some of the best characters of the year.

there's no Enslaved 2 idea's kicking around. The simplicity of Enslaved concerns me about their future projects. Their upcoming DmC looks like a horrifyingly poor adaptation, that has sent the internet into a understandable negative frenzy. If I had a “Back to the drawing board award”, New Dante's unpleasant emo-homeless drug-fueled anorexic design, would get top billing.
 
For better or worse, Resonance of Fate is Final Fantasy XIII's antithesis. It's flawed, but given how barren finding good JRPG's for HD consoles are these days, it's refreshing and worth your time if you are into the genre. The battle system at times is a convoluted mess, but it's about as refreshing as you can get from the traditional static turn-based affair that's apart of the genre. It's story is as equally refreshing, more focusing on a small band of mercenaries with the traditional “end of the world” scenario playing out as a religious conspiracy, disconnected from the immediate story. When both plot threads meet near the end of the game, the result isn’t as fluid and organic as it could be, but it's far more memorable that the usual: “YOU ARE BAD!” cookie-cutter scenario that plagues the genre.
 
Oh, and this totally happened. 
 

  

A magazine is a collection of printed works, usually articles that run the gambit of editorial and news, combined together in an issue that is usually about a particular subject... It's kinda like a website, but you can carry it! But you can't post stuff on it. Unless you physically write in it, but then other people can't see what you write.
...Yeah, it's easy to make fun of.
 

 If you live near, or have seen the Pacific Northwest, your appreciation for the environment is defiantly increased...although...no rain?

I saw a bunch of people crying foul about Alan Wake getting Time Magazine's Game of the Year. I don't know why. 
Who cares what the hell Time freaking Magazine has to say about videogames in general? Seriously? 

That being said, I loved Alan Wake. I was not keeping track of it's very long development, that I think ticked off a few people, or the fact it's ending was in DLC form.
Regardless, Alan Wake is a surprisingly solid action game, worthy of previous Remedy efforts with Max Payne. The game's focus on a disgruntled writer and his story coming to life, makes sense within the context of a magazine's selection. Mass Effect 2 deserves it's praise and awards, but sometimes in the context of people, and in this case a publication: It's far more interesting to select something that is contextually more personal.
 
Will Alan Wake be remembered as everyone’s 2010 Game of the Year? No, but it's going to be remembered as, hopefully, an excellent start for a new IP. The connection between such an underrated game, and this publication doesn’t reek of the usual: “We need a Game of the Year award, quick do a videogame search on Google!”
 

  

On the subject of grounding a Game of the Year choice in context...
Getting the platinum trophy in Yakuza 3 was an experience this year that was both...”insane”, and yet deeply gratifying. Yakuza 3 has a plethora of flaws, and is even missing a large portion of it's actual game thanks to a really...strange...localization decision.
At the same time: Yakuza 3 was probably the most fun I had all year. It has it's slow moments, but the payout is probably the most fun I've had all year. The combat is simple, but hilariously brutal. The quest design is all over-the-place, and the locations vary from painfully underdeveloped to a very convincing visual rendition of Tokyo.
 
Without the random people on the street fighting you.
 
I was really taken aback by the game, and wrote a huge review for it. The process of writing that review, coupled with my terrible decision to get every trophy in that game, was an experience that stuck and stayed with me all year.
 

I don't think a spine can bend like that.....ouch...

There's a lot of stereotypes of Japanese games these days, like how they all deal with saving the world with a band of angst ridden teenagers. Yakuza's contemporary setting is refreshingly fascinating, the lack of an English voice track increases the enjoyment one would have watching a foreign film.
 
But the real connection for me was my road to get the platinum trophy. Mini-games one would gloss over initially are brought out in full-force for those who want this. The realization the game had a full-blown golf game, versus some mini-game knock-off freaked me out. 
Then there was the Hanafuda card games. The hell is Hanafuda you might ask? Had no idea, until Yakuza 3, in which you are required to play the different card games with the specific deck of cards. Looking up the cards online and figuring out how to play the games, it went over the simple compulsive need to challenge myself. 
 
I was learning about stuff!
Wait, is that a good thing?!
 
For me, looking back on 2010 the strangeness of Yakuza 3 is front-and-center in my mind. Mass Effect 2 might be the GOTY for everybody, including me, but the experience that stuck with me this year, the experience that I personally will equate 2010 with: Is Yakuza 3. 
 
 
In closing, bring on 2011! You guys are always awesome, and I got a feeling this year is actually going to be great.

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Best Game Soundtracks of 2010

It's been difficult month, but I'm slowly (FINALLY) bouncing back. 
 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. Before I pull out a giant 2010 retrospective like a lot of people are doing, I'd thought I would do what I did last year by talking about my favorite game soundtracks of this year. The big giant retrospect will come later: And I have a ton to talk about.
 
It should be noted that I don't have a personal favorite, or list the soundtracks in any-form of competition, or in no particular order. I don't think we give enough credit to the music that's in our games sometimes. I know I've missed a few, and if you feel like you want to donate to this list: By all means go at it. I can't play everything. Even though I tried. 
 
By cloning myself....
 
...it didn't work out...
 
...although my clone did have like, six arms....that was pretty cool.
 
So without further ado, let's get at the giant list. Or, as I affectionately call this blog:
 

  

Final Fantasy XIII

Composer: Masashi Hamauzu  

A few year's back I picked up a very confusing game called Dirge of Cerberus. After reading a torrent of negative reviews I had initially passed on the game, then picked it up for barely nothing out of a bargain-bin. Dirge of Cerberus acts and feels as if it was developed by a team that has never played a shooter in the last decade, and had multiple problems, but it wasn't the terrible mess I was awaiting it to be. The game was a mediocre shooter that had the name "Final Fantasy VII" attached to it and fans rightfully grumbled about it.  
This was also the first time I really took notice of Masashi Hamauzu as a composer. He previously worked on the Saga series and working alongside Uematsu with Final Fantasy X, but with Dirge of Cerberus he was technically filling in the shoes of Uematsu exclusively, who's works at this point almost have mythological repercussions. Like the game, Hamauzu's soundtrack was accepted in a very polarizing manner by fans. He decision to not cover any actual music from the original Final Fantasy VII was confusing enough, but then Square thought it was cool to promote this turd in the soundtrack.

It was upsetting to me because outside of whatever the hell this turd is, and the lack of any Final Fantasy VII music, Dirge of Cerberus had a pretty good soundtrack.  
 

  
 
What's fascinating for me is that Final Fantasy XIII has, yet again, barely no redone Uematsu music. No victory fanfare, just an increased focus on his own work. I think it shows maturity, and perhaps it's probably best to sometimes ignore fans. Hamauzu is not Uematsu, and unlike Sakimoto with Final Fantasy XII he seems far more confident in his work. Final Fantasy XIII has a very solid soundtrack and style, and there's more than enough memorable tracks here to qualify a purchase outside of listening to the music exclusively in the game. The battle-theme that's most heard will be stuck in your head for a while, not because of it's repetitive use: But because it's simply good music.
 

Mass Effect 2

Composer: Jack Wall
 
It's a bit hard to remember, but there was a time before and just after Mass Effect 2's release, when there was a bit of controversy regarding Mass Effect 2's soundtrack. The first Mass Effect seemed to be a homage to 80's sci-fi and it's soundtrack followed suit, featuring heavy synth rarely diving into anything orchestral. Jack Wall kept the sound of the original game, while adding a full-blown orchestra for multiple tracks. The end result is a mix of something more traditional, with something that equally still respects the original concept.
 
I dig it. I think the combination of synth and orchestra, gives Mass Effect more identity. Something that's more than just a homage and is able to stand-alone. To compliment the soundtrack are several character and planet themes that more mirror what was on display in the first game, so there is still something for everyone.  
 
  
 
In lesser hands this had a higher probability of not working. Jack Wall has been scoring game soundtracks for years now, and I was always a fan of his work with the Myst series and have been wondering if he would ever undeniably top that effort. I really do feel like he did just that here. 
 
Not only that, but he never stopped making music for the game. Every DLC for Mass Effect 2 has come with it's own "mini-soundtrack", each one with new themes that work phenomenally with not just what's in the game, but on it's own as well. Great work all-around.  
 

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game

Composer: Anamanaguchi 
 
How strange was 2010? My favorite downloadable title was a movie tie-in.  
 
That's freaking strange.
 
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game has a soundtrack, to top all retro soundtracks. Anamanaguchi is a chiptune punk band, and before you ask or say anything: Just say "chiptune punk" a few times out-loud. Doesn't that sound awesome? I'll let you be for a few minutes.  
 
  
  

It's probably the best description of their genre of music too, the band consists of the usual suspects: Guitar, Bass, and Drums. Then they throw over a hacked NES and Gameboy into the mix and the end result is nothing short of freaking awesome. One of my favorite experiences this year was running through the first level of this game, then having around the mid-point the live instruments slowly work their way into the music track. It's probably something that can't be replicated by just sitting and listening to the music. Regardless, the entire soundtrack feels like a giant love-letter to the NES generation. It makes sense in the context of Scott Pilgrim, and it's just plain awesome to boot.
 
Anamanaguchi has performed live a few times at Pax. For those who have more interest in the actual band, you might want to check their official site
 

Resonance of Fate

Composers: Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka
 
Resonance of Fate is that really good JRPG that was released on an HD console this year, that you probably didn't play because you heard it has a really crazy battle-system. That's true, the battle system at times defiantly over-the-top. Mechanics and design not organically meshing with each-other, and instead seems like someone just threw-up a bunch of idea's into a battle-system. 
It is functional though, and while the game defiantly does have a bunch of problems, it's kinda upsetting to see this thing go under the radar. Apparently, just having Nolan North in your game does not constitute sales. You actually you to advertise your game.  
 
Wait, who published it? Sega? Ohhhhhh... 
 
Resonance of Fate also has a phenomenal soundtrack. Every-time you turn on the game, you are reminded about how awesome the soundtrack.   
 
  

That's what plays when on the freaking main-menu. I know right?!  
 
The soundtrack itself is divided between two extremes. Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka are the composers and their styles couldn't be more different. Kōhei Tanaka does the heavy orchestral work, while also doing environmental music. My personal favorite is this piece that plays in an impoverished town. Sakuraba on the other hand deals primarily with the battle theme's which seem hit-or-miss. 
 
In terms of just sheer variety, the soundtrack for Resonance of Fate deserves your attention and was defiantly the biggest surprise for me this year. 
 

Halo Reach

Composer: Martin "Marty" O'Donnell 
 
Halo has good music. 
No matter how much your opinion on the actual series might be, that iconic gregorian chant has been etched into the brains of generations, similar to the victory fanfare or Mario going into sewers. 
 
Admit it, just the sheer mention of "Mario" and "Sewers", made you do the "Duna-Duna-Duna" out-loud. We are weird. 
 
What's really interesting on how the Halo series from a musical standpoint has developed. Halo 2's soundtrack stumbled, Halo 3 felt like a definitive Halo soundtrack. Then you had Halo ODST, which for me was absolutely fascinating. Having a game as intensive as Halo, then risking the experience by deciding to incorporate Jazz...In a Halo game...and then have it work, is something that really impressed me last year.     
 
  
 
Halo: Reach on the other-hand does two things: 
1) It acts as a standalone soundtrack, filled with dark and depressing themes in context to the game's story.
2) An audio prequel to the first game. Hearing quick snippets of other Halo themes in new tracks, as if they are in some-form of metamorphosis is something that has to be heard. Marty isn't just a great composer, but his more thematic nebulous music for the down-time of Reach is still equally fantastic. This is worthy to be in your collection.
 

Red Dead Redemption

Composers: Bill Elm and Woody Jackson
 
Let's put it this way: Everyone this year remembers when they crossed into Mexico.
 
Bill Elm is a member of the band Friends of Dean Martinez and ex-member Woody Jackson, team-up to probably create one of the best soundtracks this year. For the longest time now Rockstar has been using licensed music in it's open-world games, all accessible from the vehicles. Horses don't have radios, (Unless they're alien hybrids, which if they are: Send pics) so how Rockstar was going to implement music into Red Dead Redemption was something that interested me. The instrumental music is just fantastic.
 
   
Red Dead Redemption at least refreshed my memory, that music in western movies can be freaking awesome. Not just the instrumental work, but also sequences like crossing into Mexico, giving you the feeling that you are in an interactive western. It's good stuff and deserves to be on this list.   
 

I missed a bunch.

Shorter list than last year. I know, I feel awful: This blog is only a little over three pages. I felt like there was a few missed opportunities this year. I was debating Fable 3, perhaps it deserves a shout-out. Someone recommended God of War 3, a game I've sadly skipped this year. I didn't know if Tron: Evolution was deserving either, haven't played the game but I've heard that Daft Punk tracks from Tron: Legacy do appear on the soundtrack.
 
If you have any recommendations, feel free to add. 
 
Oh, and before I forget.  
 
  
 

 
Merry Christmas everyone.
lml-_-lml
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Dear David O. Russell

I was going to post a blog about Fable 3 today, but something else caught my eye that I couldn't possibly pass-up. 
 
 

Dear David O. Russell
 
Last year, I had the great opportunity to play one of my favorite games in recent memory. 
Uncharted 2 was a brilliant combination of traditional cover-based third-person shooting, with a strong narrative that payed homage to the likes of Indiana Jones in a contemporary setting. There were many comparisons made from the first game to the film Romance of the Stone, but the sequel solidified a far detailed identity for the series. 
 
The series is filled with monumental potential for not just the inevitable third chapter, but for other mediums.
 
The reasoning for the strong presentation and narrative for the series originates from writer Amy Hennig and a team of phenomenal individuals from Naughty Dog, who's past experience are both cemented in videogames, film, and even stage. This fantastic combination resulted in what many considered to be a product that rivaled most action-packed summer film's during it's release.
 
While I enjoy the Uncharted franchise immensely, I would not classify myself an "Uncharted fanboy". Although, when I heard that you would be involved with directing a feature film for the game, my interest piked quite a bit. Having played both games, I find that the series is prime for a film adaptation. To use the terminology: "Brain-Dead", it is a prime situation where one would have to, go out of their way, to mess it up.
 
That is why that I am absolutely ecstatic after reading your recent interview in the L.A. Times.  

While the video game centers on Nate Drake (a descendant of Sir Francis Drake) and his quest to find lost treasure on an island far from civilization, Russell plans on expanding the movie to include Drake's extended family -- and put them in fraught, globetrotting situations with some of the world's most influential people.

"This idea really turns me on that there's a family that's a force to be reckoned with in the world of international art and antiquities ... [a family] that deals with heads of state and heads of museums and metes out justice," he said. 

As we all know: All videogame films are phenomenal examples of perhaps the best forms of adaptation, in any medium. 
 
Films that we can look at, even if were not fans of said franchise, and proclaim: 
"Yeah, I think a movie about a videogame series, that has nothing to do with the actual game in any-shape or form, outside of character names make sense!" 
 
In other film adaptations from other mediums, like books and television, we are constantly constrained by concepts like: "Keeping the same characters", or "Keeping the same plot", or "Keeping the same tonality in some-shape or form, with the original source material". 
These concepts are ludicrous, and I can't wait to sit and watch a movie adaptation of Catcher in the Rye where Holden Caulfield is a ninja sworn to protect his family from alien invaders. 
 
Why are directors and writers so concerned about acknowledging what they are adapting? Why can't they be like you: Fully prepared to expand on the source material. 
 
I like that word, "expand": it's so fantastically vague. It gives you almost complete permission to do whatever you want with it.
 
Hell- You're better than the source material. Screw the source material!
Nathan Drake doesn't have a living family, nor has anything to do with "international art" or "antiques" apart from coming across artifacts from long-lost civilizations through the many odd-jobs he has treasure hunting.
 
None of which having anything to do with heads of state, whatever the hell that means, but that's not the point! 
 
You're "expanding" on the source material, and god-bless you for doing so. 
Just think of all the great directors and writers that came before you this past two decades. All of which had the same intention, all succeeded so admirably with critics and fans. Who could forget the plot expansions of The Super Mario movie? Or whatever the hell that Resident Evil franchise is about now.
 
Don't listen to the critics that might proclaim such statements like: 
 
"Even though I'm not a die-hard fan, what I know of the series makes me feel sad for those individuals: Because you are showing complete general incompetence grasping the bare-bones basics of the themes you're adapting at such an early level. We've been down this road so many times, and for the people who are watching the beginning of this train-wreck, regardless of you're own personal bias: It's gotten to a point now that it's become freaking parody upon itself, and such dribble should be laughed at for the general incompetence of what it is." 
-someone 
 
I want to help you with your creative vision. 
In fact, I'm sure we can all help you with your creative vision!  

I have some, what I feel, are better "expanded" versions of an Uncharted film adaptation. I hope you enjoy some of my suggestions! I really thought some of these idea's quite thoroughly.
 
By "quite thoroughly", I mean I drank a ton of beer, spun in a circle, then yelled out-loud the first thing that cropped up in my head.

Idea #1

Nathan Drake is a time traveler.
 
Upon saving Abraham Lincoln from time-traveling terrorists, Nathan Drake returns for his biggest adventure yet! 
 
Stopping the sinking of the Titanic!   
 
Robert De Nero plays the voice of his wise-cracking, yet serious fatherly-figure "Sashimi": a miniature pterodactyl from the Triassic period in this HIGH-FLYING ADVENTURE!
SOAR to new heights, that's fun for the whole family.
 
Except the part with the Titanic sinking.
Cover your kids eyes for that one.
 
You know what, screw that previous statement: Bring your kids. 
The Uncharted franchise always screamed "family fun", with it's multiple sequences where people are shot to death. I'm sure the whole Titanic sinking thing will be a-ok. 
 

 Yeah- This makes sense.

Idea #2

Nathan Drake is in high-school!
 
It's the prom, and there's only one way for Nathan Drake to get the girl of his dreams: The star cheerleader Elena! To do this he must stake-out the school, and discover the lost Indian burial-grounds of a tribe that was wiped-out: By VIKINGS!
 
Robert De Nero plays the voice of his wise-cracking, yet serious fatherly-figure "Uncle Jagermeister ": An ex-CIA operative who's secretly on the run from an ancient cabal of animal-human hybrids that look like polar bears who originate from people dreams like that film Inception. 
 
In fact, the whole film is like Inception, but it's not: We call it Uncharted. That means it's not like Inception....
...Even the part where they enter peoples dreams and construct worlds to get information. You might say, "Hey! That's lifted from Inception!" you can't say that though, because were calling the film something else.
 
Plus there's evil dream Polar Bears, and I named Robert De Nero's character freaking "Jagermeister". I mean, how fu***** rad is that? 
I would like to point out his name has nothing to do with the bottle of Jager in-front of me.
 

Idea #3

National Treasure....
 
Oh, wait....that's what you're doing already....
  
 
 
In closing, I wish you the best Mr. Russell. I'm sure the casting of Mark Wahlberg will be as equally relatable as the "everyman" persona that Nathan Drake exhibits.
 
Because when I think of Mark Wahlberg: I think of someone I can relate too, and have a fun time hanging out with.
 
-vidiot-
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Serious'd

 
I was laid off from my work today.
 
I have worked part-time at an establishment for over/about three years now. The job helped me considerably after high school and paying my way through college.

I have never been laid off, fired, or removed forcefully by a pack of rabid space gribbles...Which was either a dream I had, or, that's the way they fire people from jobs in foreign countries. Think that was on the wiki-leaks thing or something. 
 
The last thing I want is for this blog to turn into some creepy live-journal depression rag. It's difficult though, when life kinda kicks your ass at a time where everything was finally being put into place. Not necessarily 'fair', especially given the holidays are around the corner, but more importantly: The fact I'm going to a new college starting next year, and desperately need the cash. 
 
I kinda just wish...even though me being let-go seems to be because of strictly financial reasons...Regardless...I just kinda wish, that after working at a place for three years...after going through roughly seven different people, who were my "managers" in a two-year period...That me being laid-off wouldn't be over the-phone, but face to face with another human being, specifically, the newest manager: A person who got the job a week ago, and I have not had the opportunity of meeting. I know that these circumstances are not easy to do, that it is strictly business, however, I do feel that the situation seemed ridiculously nonchalant and borderline disturbing given the circumstances. The more I think about it, the more disgusted I become, which is sad for me because the people I worked with: Are all great people
 
Even the one's that are terrible. Those ones are great too.

I wish I had the opportunity to leave on my own accord. I think I'm going to take a break from life for the next few days. Not because I want too, but because I honestly don't think I have the capacity to digest any new drama. It's ironic that I wrote about dealing with stress in the last blog regarding the holidays, this is defiantly a moment where a lot of that still holds true. I guess this is the part of the blog where I quote a Linkin Park song.
 
Small problem though: I haaaate Linkin Park. 
 
Instead: I'll link to this.
 
Fable 3 retrospect dropping either tomorrow or wednesday. 
It's another huge blog...That's crammed with words....and diagrams...
  
For some-reason I have a hankering for garlic bread....
 

   
 
Fun fact if you haven't noticed for the last...uhh...two years: I own the Hamburglar page on GiantBomb.
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GO HOLIDAYS! Plus, video and stuff!

 
Hey. It's like the holidays. That's pretty cool no? I think it is.
 
Recently Washington state was hit with a bunch of snow, resulting in typical fashion: Of everything being shut-down. It's bee a great couple of days....Even though it seems everyone recently have been stuck in a perpetually depressing mood. Also, certain people think it's cool to borrow DVD's from you for over a year...and then disappear...
 
 
 
 ...
 
 
I made myself sad.
 
... 

 
...ANYWAY, I do hope that everyone is in a festive mood. If you're not: Consider this your ultimatum. Get in a festive mood. I demand it. If you're not then I'll appear when you least expect it, and MAKE YOU get into a festive mood!...
...And I will take my DVD's back.....Grrrrrrrrrrrr....
 
It's the freaking holidays. 
Perhaps the overbearingness of the holidays doesn't mesh well with certain people. It is too much, I can agree with that. They turned on the Christmas music where I work, continually reminding myself that apparently there are only five Christmas songs ever written and a billion variations of said music. I can never gel well into the defined holiday structure that's advertised, so my mantra during the holidays pretty much boils down to: "Fuck it, I'm going to now listen to happy music, and turn off my legitimate things to be worried about for the next month." Not ignore said issues, but make a doubled-effort to let nothing really get the best of me for anything. 
 
Laymans terms: Not let things annoy me as much as they would normally do.
 
North Korea is currently not helping my mantra. STOP IT! STOP IT NORTH KOREA! TAKE THIS MONEY AND GO BACK TO YOUR CORNER! YES! Look! I'm paying attention to you! STOP IT!
 

Gaming related things that deserve bullets

  • I'm one achievement away from an S-Rank in Enslaved.
  • Speaking of achievements my gamer-score is now over 50,000.
  • Replaying Alan Wake for cheevo's too, shooting for an S-Rank for that as well.
  • ....GB needs to get it's achievement data sorted out already.  
  • The Scott Pilgrim movie is amazing.
  • The Sly Collection is great.
  • I DON'T HAVE BLOPS. I also officially hate that acronym. 
  • My Saturn is "in the shop" and will be a-ok in the next few weeks.
  • When you're streaming game-stuff live over the internet, getting your sound set-up is ludicrous no matter what you are trying to do.
  • I hope Steam doesn't make me download another round of games during black friday that I'll never play and...I CAN DOWNLOAD EVERY GAME EVER MADE FOR TWO CENTS?! I'LL TAKE A MILLION OF THOSE!!!
 
Vidiot Channel Update.
 
Finally uploaded the second part of my playthrough of Panzer Dragoon Saga onto my "viewing" channel. To reiterate: I do streaming on justin.tv, and then I upload the said broadcast onto my LiveStream page. I use LiveStream as storage because justin.tv for some reason deletes past broadcasts. Also justin.tv has no playlist feature, so if you just want sit back and watch something even though nothing is going on, you can't. One might ask why I haven't just moved everything to LiveStream, and my response is that I'll take Flash Media Encoder over LiveStream's ridiculous proprietary (<- Fun fact, I have severe difficulty pronouncing that word in real-life whenever it comes up in conversation.) Procaster software. 
 
Whatever. It's great fun and I'm getting ready to do another round of broadcasting soon. Sorry for the ads.
 
Watch live streaming video from vidiot at livestream.com
   
 
 
YO! HAPPY FREAKING HOLIDAYS! AND HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
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Preserving the past


I've been pretty quiet here for the past few months or so. I set-up my video channel, which is going to have another dump of content soon. Looking back at the frequency of my blog updates in comparison to this year seems almost night and day. This year has been surprisingly hard for me in, and my emotional state is kinda less than stellar right now. I have a bunch of stuff to do, and I'm quite overwhelmed. 
 
I'm shooting for a huge goal next year. A new college, leaving my old one, a more structured life strict life that will come with it. I'm terrified. I really am. The metaphorical pants have been pissed multiple times just thinking about it. At the same time I want it happen now. My patience has dramatically diminished, with not just my goals, but socially with people as well for better or worse. I've become incredibly anxious.
 
Enough about that. Let's dive into a giant sea of text shall we?
 

It's good to be writing again
  
   
 One of the first things I did when I finally got my first HDTV several years back was hook up my PS2....and then immediately disconnect it...and walk around in a circle trying to understand what happened like someone after a car accident. What followed was a humble lesson regarding the differences between SD and HD, and my slow realization that we might have a problem down the road. 
 
Sony's decision to ignore backward compatibility with future PS3 models began to really bother me as I realized that hooking up a PS2 with component cables wasn't going to cut it for me. In the madness of trying to figure everything out, reality hit me like a sack of bricks. I feel that backward compatibility is paramount this generation. The preservation of the previous generation to look acceptable on our new monitors. One might argue that the change of aspect ratio is also a cause for concern, but the ability to not be able to play an older generation game on our new hardware, without really tinkering with it, really bothered the hell out of me. I snagged a 60 gig PS3 while simultaneously pretending that what I was paying was half...of what I was actually playing. Now I could play my older library of PS2 up-scanned without any problems. 
 
When my PS3 laser broke while playing Final Fantasy XIII I payed another bundle of money to get it fixed...once again pretending that I was paying half of it...
 
 I hope this one day happens.
I could have payed half of what I payed. Crap, I could have payed a fraction. When I logged on to Sony's site to get it fixed, I was greeted by a message asking me to "UPGRADE!" to a newer PS3 model. They would literally send me a new system for next to nothing. What a deal! Except it's not. Except the new models don't have backward compatibility. Except it's not an upgrade if you give me something that has less functionality. 
It's like giving someone a McDonald's meal, asking if they want to super-size it, and then take away their fry's. Don't give me that crap that the "Upgrade" they're talking about is the Hard-drive, most people swap that damn thing out the moment they buy these things.
 
If you haven't: The hell is wrong with you? It's easy, cheap, and Sony actually supports it. Bust out that screwdriver! NO! Zip your pants up! That's not what I meant you sick bastard!
 
...
 
...Anyway, my concern about preserving the previous generation kinda has hit over-drive the last few months as I started to explore the Sega Saturn library in full detail. (I'm hoping to post a bunch of cool stuff about that in a later date.) The system literally has a whole host of games nobody knows about, and is worth the time to really check out. It's upsetting that I didn't know about it, and it's upsetting that the only real way to experience it is through emulation that's not on the same level as it's Playstation counterpart, or doing what I've done: Hunting down a system and pretending that all the games for it are actually several times less that what they market at on Ebay. 
 
Click this. You see that price? Yeah. That's for one disk. For a four disk game. That's fucking ridiculous, I hate that and I really think something should be done about it. 

 
 
 So while I don't have an all-encompassing answer for a cheap, less expensive way to legitimately preserve games, without burning them to disks and emulating everything: Sony has kinda made up it's own mind about it, and I don't know how to  100% feel about it.
 
 Is it wrong to get really depressed thinking how nothing has happened with this series?
At this point I would like to talk about how I hate ports.
No, I would like to talk about how I hate ports, for the sake of making a port. Perhaps it's been the ad-nauseum of seeing yet another port of an NES Final Fantasy, or a port of Myst that for some reason has been on everything except XBLA or PSN. Think about that for a second. Myst is on the freaking DS. Yeah, I know! WTF right? Why would you put it on the DS? It feels like Telltale freaking owns a fraction of both PSN and XBLA for god-sake. Am I not the only one who see's opportunity here?! Sheesh
 
Well regardless, my taste for ports is all over the place. I'm looking at you Chrono Trigger DS, and how it feels like that the only reason why you exist is because Square was having a bad holiday season. Guess we will wait for the next new Chrono development! Hahahahahahaha! Like that's going to happen! XD
 
It's funny because it's sad.
 
-_-
...
 
...I have yet to place the like's of the God of War Collection, or The Sly Collection in a proper acceptance range. I loved the first Sly game, but I never got around playing the other two. The Sly Collection was a great way to dive into the whole series, and I'm very satisfied with my purchase. All three Sly games look phenomenal, there is a big difference between up-scaling and letting the PS3 render everything. Anyone leaning, or curious about a purchase might want to check this video out. ( Link source)
 
In a way these repacked collections are almost embodiments of everything I despise about ports. Sony has no interest returning it's PS2 functionality, and if my personal experiences with trying to get my PS3 repaired is any indication: Sony doesn't want me to have PS2 functionality. Why not make a quick buck off me, while they repackage and sell me a game I can already play with ease? It doesn't feel right. Perhaps my own personal acceptance would be better if Sony actually had backward compatibility back in their damn console.
 
Because I see so much potential in these re-releases, and I can't wait to see what else is down the line.  
I've always felt that giant compilation's of big name franchises has been a viable market. Why not? Surely you haven't played EVERY Ratchet and Clank game. Let's face some pretty bad fact's too: There's a good chance you don't own an actual copy of Ico....Bastard....
 
Sony has a neat, almost Criterion collection market it can easily camp on. Microsoft has it's abysmal Games on Demand service that I don't know anyone who uses. I can easily see good Sony exploiting this to their advantage.
 
I could also see bad use of these compilations. Hastily thrown together collections that don't use HD rendering, ignore trophy support, ignoring 16:9 widescreen, or doing
People who own all three games might be still inclined to pick it up, perhaps at a lower price?
something really stupid: Like sticking each entry individually online at a fixed price. Thing's like that really under-utilize what's possibly a really good use of preserving past generation games in one disk that we can probably plop into our Playstation 4's, or, whatever.
 
The idea of every Resident Evil game on one disk, full HD and trophy support appeals to you. Admit it.
 
So I gotta ask: What's your take on this strategy? Perhaps we've talked about this before, but in regards to...I don't want to say "ethics", but perhaps the wondering inclination if there could be another solution to bringing the PS2 library into the HD generation proper, for everybody who still owns their PS2 games. I'm still torn about it, I wonder what other people think.
 
BTW: I see a bunch of talk with people wanting the PS2 generation Final Fantasy games in one giant collection. That's all fine and good, but you have to be aware that there will be trophy support....
 
   
  
BWHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I SEE YOU CRYING FOR A PLATINUM TROPHY FOR FINAL FANTASY X IN YOUR FUTURE!!!
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