whatisvisceral's forum posts

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#1 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -

2010 was a year of ups and downs for me. Personal problems have made the last half of the year not the greatest ever. But I have enjoyed a lot of great games, music, movies and tv shows this year. So without further ado, here are my favorites for 2010:


1. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (or AssBro) was the biggest surprise for me this year. I was very worried that this would be a cash-in from Ubisoft, trying to get a quick buck out of the insanely brilliant Assassin's Creed 2 (AC2). The fact that Patrice Desilets, lead designer for AC2, left Ubisoft the second they announced AssBro was also very worrying. But then I played the game and it's even better than AC2! There's more to do, you feel like more of a badass than in AC2 (which seemed impossible to me) and Ubisoft actually took a chance and changed some things around (like the combat system) and added new stuff (like training your own assassins, which is awesome).

2. Fable 3

A lot of people had complaints about Fable 3's overhaul of the menus and inventory system. I admit it's not the most user friendly change but I have to give props to Lionhead for trying this. The new menu stuff feels so natural after a while and that's just because you CAN do this stuff in a video game. I hope they stick with it and expand it in the inevitable sequel to make it a little more smooth. Even though the game was full of bugs and it tried to screw me over near the finale, I'm still placing this at #2 for one simple reason: I had some pretty good co-op sessions that were a lot of fun. And the keyword here is fun. I had tons of fun with Fable and I can forgive the game all of its faults because of that.

3. Red Dead Redemption

  I have faith in Rockstar. In my opinion they are just about the only game developer who get what a sandbox game should be like (although Ubisoft is closing the gap with AssBro). Red Dead Redemption was amazing. Everything about the game just showed a level of quality and polish you don't find in many games. Yes, the game had bugs, but when it was firing on all cylinders it was hard to deny it's beauty and brilliance. There were numerous moments where I was just riding my horse around the environment and had to stop to take in the sights because the world is so beautiful. The gameplay and story are also very well done and that's what kept me coming back.

4. Dead Rising 2

Anybody who knows me will confirm that I am crazy about zombies. I am one of those people who thinks zombies can make anything better and try to insert them into as many game concepts I can at work. So when I tell you I was a big fan of Dead Rising when it first came out, this should be no surprise. I have been waiting for Dead Rising 2 from the moment I finished the original Dead Rising so having the game in my hands was a pretty great moment for me. The game isn't perfect and I have some issues with it. I wished they would have strayed further from the original game and the boss fights are just horrible. Other than that I had a lot of fun with the game and it was that same familiar feeling I had when playing the original game. The new ways to kill zombies and the ridiculous combo weapons had me coming back for more every time!

5. Alan Wake

May 18th was a hard day for me. I was holding both Red Dead Redemption and Alan Wake in my hands and had to choose one game to start playing. This meant the other game would have to wait a while. I picked Alan Wake first because I suspected Red Dead Redemption would be better and take longer to complete. I'm glad I did, because I don't know if I would have enjoyed Alan Wake as much after Red Dead Redemption. That being said, Alan Wake is an amazing game. Like Red Dead Redemption, the game was polished so everything in it contributed to the atmosphere. And the atmosphere was superb. I am a sucker for story-driven games that don't try to cram in useless functionality. Alan Wake did get pretty repetitive after a while but the story and the visuals had me on the edge of my seat at every turn.


1. The Damned Things - Ironiclast

I can appreciate the odd Anthrax song, I used to like Fall Out Boy before they became too poppy and I am a huge fan of Every Time I Die. Combining member of these three bands into a single super rock band sounds stupid and you'd expect some very conflicting results. But, it happened and the album they recorded... is one of the best albums I have ever heard. It might be the 'filthy rock 'n roll' phase I'm in right now, but it's really, REALLY good. Every song just rocks like a motherfucker, the guitars are heavy and have plenty of solos, the bass is thick and chunky, the drums are rowdy and angry and the vocals are brilliant. I didn't know Keith Buckley could sing that well but apparently he can. What really puts it over the top are Buckley's insanely creative lyrics that just beg to be sung (or screamed) at the top of your lungs. I think I'm going to enjoy this album for a long, LONG time!

2. Danko Jones - Below the Belt

I am fairly late to the Danko Jones party but this album rocks like a motherfucker. Since I saw them live this year at Pukkelpop in Belgium, I haven't really listened to a lot of other bands. Danko Jones got me through some rough times this year so just for that, this is my #1 album of the year.


3. A Day To Remember - What Separates me From You

I am a sucker for popcore (or moshcore or beardcore or whatever the hell is the 'official' term). A Day To Remember really is one of the best bands in this genre as they blend pop-punk music and vocals with hardcore breakdowns and screams perfectly. This album is not as good as their previous effort, Homesick, but at least it doesn't have as many slow songs!


4. Veara - What We Left Behind

I always enjoy discovering new bands. And while Danko Jones was my big 'new' discovery this year (even though they've been around forever), Veara was a welcome addition to my music collection. Some fresh and upbeat popcore music that was immensely enjoyable during the summer. I hope they can follow up this album with an even better one next year!


5. Story of the Year - The Constant

Story of the Year is a band that has been in my music collection since their first album, Page Avenue. My friends have since dropped them because of horrible live performances and lyrics they consider simple and basic. While I agree with both those criticisms, I always enjoy their albums. Maybe their lyrics aren't that deep but they can rock like nobody's business and put a lot of emotion in their songs. And really, songs like 'Eye for an Eye' and 'Won Threw Ate' are exactly the kind of songs I love.


I find it hard to pick favorites among movies. I like so many of them and with movies I find it harder to point at one and say:"That's the best one." I have no problem doing that with games or music because I enjoy them longer and repeatedly so it's easier to pick. So even though I'm going to pick 5 movies right now, this isn't necessarily the right order or the only movies I enjoyed this year.

1. Inception

I had a lot of expectations from Inception. I've been a fan of Christopher Nolan for a while now (since Memento, really) and enjoy his movies immensely. Sometimes I think he is the only director left in Hollywood who has the chops to create a blockbuster movie that is as entertaining as it is intelligent. So anyway, I had a lot of expectations and I didn't really watch a lot of trailers for Inception (since it's Christopher Nolan and I trust him to make a good movie). So I was really blown away when Inception exceeded all of my expectations. It was smart, suspenseful, entertaining, visually interesting, well acted, well written and something nobody had ever seen before.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Having read the comics books, I didn't think this movie could ever be made. Even when it was announced that the brilliant Edgar Wright would be doing it, I had my doubts that they could cram everything into one movie. And besides that, there are so many quirky things happening in the books (both story-wise and visually) that this could never work on a screen with real actors. Well, having finally seen the movie: I stand corrected. It was perfect. They got so insanely close to the source material that they deserve some kind of prize because that must have been really hard to do. I enjoyed each moment and all the actors were perfectly cast. No complaints except that this might be the first and last Scott Pilgrim movie unless Bryan Lee O'Malley writes some more books.

3. Kick-Ass

I am a comic book freak so whenever Hollywood announces they are making a movie of one of the comics I love, I hold my breath. More often than not, Hollywood goes completely nuts and puts people on the project that know nothing about the source material. Luckily, every studio turned down Matthew Vaughn when he tried to sell the Kick-Ass movie and he had to raise the funds on his own. Keeping John Romita Jr. (the artist) and Mark Millar (the writer) on board during development of the movie was another good move that made the movie a bit better. All in all, Kick-Ass is one of those comic book movies that stays close to its source material but also becomes its own thing (which is good, in case you're wondering).

4. Iron Man 2

I loved the first Iron Man movie. It was the first movie that Marvel did themselves. This gave them the opportunity to pick the cast and director without studio executives trying to force big stars on them who have nothing to do with the source material. Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect casting choice for Tony Stark because even in his personal life he looks, talks and acts a lot like him. Iron Man 2 was a nice extension of the first Iron Man movie but the real reason I enjoyed it so much is because Marvel started putting in the building blocks for their 'bigger universe'. I can't wait to see the Captain America and Thor movies that will then lead into the Avengers. Marvel has the opportunity to make this happen finally and I really hope they pull it off.

5. The Social Network

For a long time I have resisted the urge to throw myself into social networking sites. To me it always felt like people were being self-obsessed idiots and posting useless information. Recently I have come around on this opinion since I am now living in a strange city and don't have a lot of contact with my friends or family. It's nice that I can keep up to date on them and they can keep up to date on me (without using phones, because I hate talking on the phone). Anyway, The Social Network did something I didn't think was possible: it was a movie of dudes sitting around computers creating a website. Somehow they managed to make this interesting, suspenseful and very recognizable. To me, that is a very big achievement because, again, I didn't think that was possible. This also gives me hope that a Masters of Doom movie might work (seriously, if you like games and are interested in game development/history, check that book out).

TV Shows

1. The Walking Dead

This one is a no-brainer for me (Ha, see what I did there?!) The Walking Dead has been my favorite comic since it started. I've recommended it to pretty much everyone I know and the people who have started reading it have really enjoyed it. For years I have said that the Walking Dead, if done right, could be the greatest TV show ever. Finally, somebody listened and the Walking Dead tv series is now a reality. While it is not quite the best show ever yet, it has been handled really well. The show stays close to the books but diverges regularly to keep things interesting for people who have read the comic books and know them by heart (like me). The casting so far has been sublime and I have faith in Frank Darabont because of his previous work. I can only hope this series gets a lot of seasons from AMC and they raise the quality even more in the following years.

2. Fringe

Fringe started out as a show that was maybe a bit too much like the X-Files. Like most JJ Abrams shows, the characters were interesting, the episodes well written and the actors perfect for their roles. Then slowly, some deeper plot threads started getting weaved into the first season. Season 2 expanded on this and ended with a really awesome season finale. Now we're a few episodes into Season 3 and shit is getting really awesome. If I had to explain what's going on this season to somebody who knows nothing about Fringe, they would never watch it. Seriously, if you've seen the show, try to summarize the last 8 episodes in 10 to 20 sentences. The result will sound like the worst B-movie sci-fi fan fiction ever written (only without all the sex). But somehow Fringe makes all of this seem natural and exciting. It's mind-blowing at times. I just hope this doesn't get canceled prematurely and that the ending will be better than Lost and Alias' endings!

3. Dexter

Dexter has also been one of my favorite show from the first episode. The concept is crazy enough to work: a serial killer who was trained by his stepdad to only unleash his inner monster on people who deserve it and who also works for the police (and so does his sister) as a blood spatter analyst. The series is very suspenseful and has taken some unexpected turns at times. I can usually predict where most shows are going from a while away (and I'm usually right) but Dexter has been surprising for most of the way. The current season is playing with the new dynamic they put the characters in and it's been awesome all the way!

4. Modern Family

It's hard to find decent comedy shows lately. It seems that the easy laughs are what networks prefer (judging from shows like Two and a Half Men, S#!t my dad says and How I Met Your Mother). But every once in a while, somebody greenlights one of those shows that has everything lined up perfectly: writers, performers, sets and style. Modern Family is that show. It's hard to explain why it's so funny (other than Phil's boasting and subsequent ineptitude) but I guess the easiest thing to point out is that the characters are very strong and play off each other perfectly. I think the writer's can just throw in every subject matter they can think off and the show will make itself funny just by how these characters react to it. And if you thought that there couldn't possibly be a character on tv more clueless than Michael Scott from the Office, you should really check out Modern Family's Phil Dunphy. That man... Is just... I don't have any words, just watch it!

5. Castle

Like my belief that zombies can make pretty much anything better, I also believe that Nathan Fillion can make anything better. Yes, I am one of those people who still curses Fox for canceling Firefly when they did and desperately want Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion to just finish that show. Sadly, that will probably never happen. But somebody realized that it doesn't really matter what situation you put Nathan Fillion in, as long as you give him a slightly arrogant yet insecure smart-ass to play. Which is exactly what he does in Castle. Normally, I don't care about procedural police shows (as in: a new case to solve each week) but Castle stays interesting because of... well... because Nathan Fillion plays Castle. That's it. I just enjoy watching Nathan Fillion play this character. The rest of the show is pretty ok, but Fillion takes it to a level above ok, completely on his own! They could make a show about Nathan Fillion cleaning up his garage and I would still watch it.
And that's it! If anyone made it this far: thank you for reading! You rule!
I hope 2011 will be better for me personally and for everyone else too! Have a good one!
#2 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -
Yeah, that video is weird. It's the exact opposite of what my AI buddies did in the first Vietnam mission: not shoot anyone :/
#3 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -

I will gladly admit that I am not the best CoD player in the world (so no offense taken), but also definitely not the worst. Regardless of my (limited) skill level, I don't think that automatically excuses cheap and lazy game design. Up until the point where I had to storm down the hill, I had not died that much in the levels before (except for the horrible part in the opening level).

And I agree that it was silly to pick on the MW1 ending being re-used. That was a cheap shot but come on, it was really obvious that that's what they were doing. I didn't mind them re-using it so much (even though it felt cheap and random), the biggest problem I had with that was how they handled the moment after that where Woods just runs away without even mentioning it. I just saved your life, dude. Some acknowledgment of that would be nice.

And the Dragon's Breath mission was actually so awesome that it made up for a lot of the bad stuff. I really enjoyed that mission and I hope there are a lot more like that one in the rest of the game! Believe me, I WANT to enjoy this game since I payed 50 euro for it.

#4 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -

So, after my last blog post about how horrible Call of Duty Black Ops (from this point on refered to as Blops) is as a game, I was a little hesitant to continue playing. But today I figured "Ah, what the hell. It can't possibly get any worse, right?"

The game answered swiftly and with great confidence: yes, it can and will get worse. The next mission, which was the first Vietnam mission of the game, is fucking horrible. Pardon my French, but it just is. It's 2010, I thought we were past this point in games and were finally able to make some decent games that are engaging and fun to play. I guess Treyarch feels different and has taken several steps back to ensure that Blops will never be any fun.

So now I'm just going to be a little bitch and write down my experiences with Blops as I play it. These posts will be long and there will be lots of swearing and general anger from my side. I will try to keep the (big) spoilers to a minimum and just focus on the gameplay/game design aspect of the game from here on out. If you are a fan of Blops or don't like reading long slabs of text, I suggest you stop reading this post right... about... now! If you like actual games and can't be bothered to actually play this crap, follow me on my magical adventures in Blops!

Edit: Since I posted this in my last post, I should also post it here: I am a huge CoD fan and a professional game designer. Most of my complaints come from my experience and education creating and playing games. I don't *hate* CoD by default. And before this backfires and becomes 'a thing', I should also add that these are my personal opinions. I do not represent anyone else, least of all the company I work for.

Charlie don't die

I left off at the Vietnam mission last time. This mission starts with me in a tent. Woods (the character I've been following around for pretty much every mission up until now) shows up. My character gets walked to a jeep, I have no control over what's happening. We ride around for a while, during which Woods explains things I don't understand nor see the importance of. Suddenly, an explosion! OH NO! The jeep gets knocked over and our other buddy gets flung out of it. Woods and I pick the guy up and drag him to a trench. Again, I have no control over this. My character gets walked to the trench by the game itself. Now Woods fucks off and I have to drag the unconscious dude through the trench on my own. I can't move backwards or sideways, only forwards. Great. I reach the end of the trench and drop the unconscious dude on the floor and PRESTO! He magically feels ok within a second and gets up and runs away. Right... In the next section, which wasn't all that exciting, Woods and the other dude run ahead. At one point I lit a cigarette (in real life, not in the game) while I was in a safe spot, so my character was standing still. I noticed that Woods and the other dude were shooting a lot. So I stood still and watched them. They literally played the same shooting animation for about 2 minutes, without reloading, moving or saying a word to me. It was very, very awkward. This could have been done a bit better in my opinion. The second I approach them, they snap out of the shooting animation and run away. Whatever.
Now, the real fun starts. We get to the top of a hill. Below are a bunch of NVA soldiers shooting at us. My mission says:"Push back the NVA". Alright, I can do that. At least it doesn't say "Follow Woods". So a checkpoint appears in the level at the bottom of the hill, near a trench. Ok... So am I supposed to push back the NVA or get to the checkpoint? I decide to slowly work my way down. Woods and Hudson (the miraculously healed unconscious dude from before) are already one level down so I join them. There are NVA everywhere around. And they are all shooting at... wait for it... ME! All of them! I take out as many as I can, but they respawn. Forever. And they don't just randomly throw in some new enemy. No, they run up from the bottom of the hill and stand in the exact same spot as the enemy I just killed. Is this really the best Treyarch can do? Infinitely re-spawning enemies that run up to the same spot every goddamn time?

Ok, so the infinite respawn means, in my experience with the Call of Duty games, that you just push forward until you reach the checkpoint. So I go down one more level on the hill. Everybody still keeps respawning around me. Woods and Hudson at least follow me down a level and are now the only friendly soldiers around. We're standing behind some medium cover. This means if I crouch, I can't see over it but I also can't be hit from the front. I have to stand up to shoot over the cover. Woods and Hudson are both standing up, are not moving and keep yelling the same phrase over and over again:"Enemy by the trench". Yeah, I know, Woods. I've shot the same exact enemy about 30 times now. But thanks for calling it out. I should also add that in addition to standing in the same spot, not moving, being shot at and not dying, both Woods and Hudson are also NOT. FUCKING. SHOOTING! Not once did they shoot an enemy. Even the ones that were out in the open right in front of them. So I am literally the only one shooting enemies and they keep infinitely respawning. At this point I am at a loss for words. But I have to keep going because this game has to have some redeeming quality at some point, right?

So I decide that the game probably wants me to straight up RUN towards the checkpoint, at which point the enemies will magically stop respawning and I can continue. So I book it down the hill. Only death awaits me because again, everyone in the level is shooting at ME and nobody is shooting at them. Fucking awesome. I respawn aaaaaaaaaaaaall the way back at the top of the hill. Goddamnit! Ok, no more mr. Nice Guy. I drop my M60 and assault rifle and pick up a grenade launcher and shotgun. That should do it, right? Wrong. The reload is too long so I die within seconds. This goes on for about 20 minutes. I keep dying because this mission is fucking stupid. Let me make this clear: I can not run to a spot on the map where enemies keep infinitely respawning while my AI buddies refuse to shoot anyone and literally every enemy in the level is shooting at me. This is stupid. It's a stupid thing to ask of the player and it is an even stupider way of designing this level. Woods' only advice to me is "We have to improvise" (Really, how?), "Let's blow em all to hell!" (That will be easier if you start shooting, Woods) and "Now, Mason, now!" (Mason is me, and I was blowing people to hell at the time). I am REALLY frustrated with the game at this point and am seriously considering turning it off and just watching whatever the hell is on tv. Or jabbing a pencil in my ear, whichever feels the most comforting. But I shall press on! I will not let this game beat me!

Tenacious me!

So through sheer luck and tenacity, I finally make it down the hill in one piece and find a spot with enough cover to take out the enemies that are shooting at me. Now I have apparently 'made it' and Woods and Hudson decide that their picknick has lasted long enough and join me at the bottom of the hill. So, what I have done now is spend about 30 to 45 minutes shooting, swearing, dying, exploring the map to see if I'm just an idiot and I missed something and running towards the same spot like a moron (while swearing and shooting). FUN TIMES, YAY! I should add that in this map where I am supposed to run at one specific spot like a moron, the level designers took the time to add 4 bunkers that are useless, tons of cover that only helps the enemy and a trench at the bottom that makes the enemies harder to hit. But I made it! Victory! Onward, to the next section! It can only get better, right?
Wrong again. I am starting to think that this game is never actually going to get fun or good. Now, we are at the bottom of the next hill and we have to go up the hill. See what they did there, that's totally different from going down a hill. A checkpoint appears on the map and for a second I see red. They couldn't possibly... Did they...? Yep, they did. Infinitely respawning enemies. But now I'm going UP a hill and the hill is covered in trees and fox holes for the enemy to hide in or behind. I don't know if anyone knows this, but when fighting on a hill, the army that is shooting down always has the advantage. Add to that the infinite respawn and trees for cover and I am boned.

I am not going to describe what happens next, but it wasn't fun. It was quicker than going down the hill because now I knew what horrible level design there is in this mission but it was about as much fun. And again, Hudson and Woods stood at the top of the hill, out in the open, yelling at me, not shooting anybody, not dying and just being assholes. And then, when you get to the top of the hill, *SPOILER ALERT!* they make you do the exact same thing that Modern Warfare 1 ended with! *SPOILER ALERT OVER!* Come the fuck on, Treyarch! REALLY?! For fuck's sake!

*MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!* So I fall down, because I am the best soldier in the world, right, JFK? And Woods is a moron and attack somebody with a jammed weapon. He gets knocked down and the NVA he was attacking is about to shoot him. Magically, I have a revolver which I swear I didn't have before. So now I have to aim and shoot the NVA soldier before he shoots Woods. I have to admit, I let the NVA soldier shoot Woods the first time. I just wanted to see Woods die. So after that very emotional moment for me, I shoot the NVA soldier the second time. Woods gets up and RUNS AWAY! He literally doesn't say ANY-FUCKING-THING! Nothing. He just takes off. No "Hey Mason, thanks for saving my ass" or even a "Fuck, that was a close one". NOTHING! He takes off and my mission is now "Follow Woods". AAAAAAAAARGH! This was the fucking easiest moment so far to have a tiny bit of character development or emotion or bonding between this character that has been in almost every mission so far and there's nothing! How the fuck do you justify that as the game designer or level designer or script writer who is responsible for this? That is just fucking horrible!

Now we go through a tunnel and come to a fairly large area with a jeep. Woods tells me to get in the jeep. But, as I have noticed, whenever Woods tells me to do something and I don't do it, the game breaks. So I refuse and stand in the same spot. Nothing happens. The NVA in the background are shooting wildly at random things but never seem to hit anything. Hmmm... I wonder... So I shot a group of 4 NVA soldier in the distance. And lo and behold, 4 NVA soldiers spawn and run to the exact same spots where their fallen comrades have just died. So I shoot those 4 guys. And... 4 new ones spawn to take their place. And they don't just spawn off camera and run up, they fucking pop out of thin air at the back of the level and run to their assigned positions. Ugh, really? I know I'm really nitpicking right now but this happens a lot in Blops: when I don't do exactly what the game tells me, it takes me all of 5 seconds to expose how lazily this has been made. And you can say "Well, do what the game tells you then!", which is what I should do but Blops makes this too easy. And, I should add, this is a mission where Woods drives the jeep around and I shoot tanks. It doesn't even really matter if those guys respawn or not, especially if I haven't even gotten into the jeep yet.

This dragon needs a mint!

The next mission, surprisingly, is pretty goddamn awesome! Finally! This is where they introduce the infamous flamethrower shotgun, called the Dragon's Breath, which rocks! It still has the killing power of a shotgun but the reach (and fire) of a flamethrower. I haven't seen any weapon like that in a game before so at least that was refreshing and fun to play around with. Woods is back for this mission but I get to take point. Immediately I feel like I am in charge and it's a lot more fun. Woods isn't constantly running in front of me with 'Follow' over his head. I get to clear rooms, shoot lots of guys and feel like a bad-ass. The mission starts off inside a building but takes to the streets pretty quickly. There's plenty of variation in gameplay as you take out soldiers, tanks and defend a position. Finally the type of mission I expect and enjoy from Call of Duty. Maybe there is still some hope for Blops.

Story, schmory!

Sadly, I still don't know what the fuck is going on with the story. They keep throwing new concepts at me (now there's a defector and something called Nova 6) and introducing new names that mean nothing to me. The story is all over the place and the writing is cliché and clunky. This is where the decision to make the story all flashbacks breaks everything. If you use flashbacks, make sure you connect them clearly instead of making them setpieces that happen to share the same characters.

But this article is getting too long and I enjoyed that mission so much I don't want to ruin it with a potentially shitty mission so that's it for today. I need a drink and a smoke after all that.

#5 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -

Yeah, Doom was awesome as hell (pun intended :P)

And I played that when I was 12 or something, never finished it until I got older :)

#6 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -

That may be the biggest problem in all of this: it doesn't matter if the next Call of Duty game is an RTS about dancing unicorns who fight werewolf lawyers, it will sell anyway. This might make the developer take some weird choices because, as you said, why bother?

Also, I am totally proposing an RTS about dancing unicorns who fight werewolf lawyers at work today :P

#7 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -

And if you enjoyed the game: awesome! You probably paid for it so you got your money's worth!

Me, I payed 60 euros (yeah, I'm from over there) and am now stuck with a game I will never enjoy as much as you did. And I really want to enjoy it as much as you did! For god's sake, this is the biggest game of the year, it should be awesome!

#8 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -


Exactly, Wood is bad-ass! But I am not Woods in the game! I want to be bad-ass, Woods can pick up whatever bad-assness I leave in my wake ;) I agree that a Black Ops unit shouldn't be in huge battles but breaking everything up the way they do, even the levels feel small. The Gulag level in MW2 has you fighting with a small unit too but that level felt HUGE! (Again, I haven't finished the entire game yet, so that could still come)

I don't agree that the things I complain about are 'sorta what this game is'. No CoD game has made me feel like this before, even though they have been super linear forever. There is a difference between linear and literally not letting me do anything without Woods guiding me there. I also think we shouldn't be accepting this stuff from a franchise as awesome as Call of Duty!

And of course I like Gary Oldman! Are you crazy?! Who doesn't like Gary Oldman?! And there's nothing wrong with Reznov, it was just another dude leading me through another level, telling me what to do.

#9 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -

So... I wrote a blog post ranting about Call of Duty Black Ops being a bad game here on Giant Bomb. I was going to send it to some of my co-workers and friends to see if they agreed and that was going to be that. But it seems people on Giant Bomb actually read these blogs. Silly me, underestimating the community here at the greatest video game website ever created.

One of the comments on my blog post ended with:

"i'm confused. black ops is a modern shooter. this is kind of what you get."

Now, I'm not trying to bash this person's comment but it's kind of shocking that we're at a point in history where crap like Black Ops is considered 'kind of what you get'. As a game designer and somebody who considers games the greatest art form in history, I can not stand for this, people!

So let me crank up the Danko Jones and tell you why that I feel this way. Quick disclaimer: this is probably going to be a long ass post again, so the TLDR crowd can consider themselves warned. Also, while I am a professional game designer (as in, I design games and somebody pays me to do that), I have never worked on a triple A title and do not claim to be the best game designer in the world.

What is a game?

The way I see it, a (contemporary) game is simply: a world. This world is populated by whatever the game developer puts in it (buildings, trees, cars, animals, people, whatever). Unless it's an MMO or a game with user generated content, this means that whatever the developer put in, that's what you have to work with.

Besides whatever the developer put in the game, there are two other important aspects to this world: the player and the rules. The player is what drives the game and the rules determine how the player drives the game.

The rules

Essentially, the rules determine the gameplay. This can be anything from how fast the player walks to where the player can and can not go. This also includes how weapons or powerups work, how the health system works and how and when the player dies.

Now, since games shouldn't be like a list of chores your mom gives you, they should empower the player. After all, these virtual worlds are set up for us to play in so let us play. If your rules work against the player, you're doing something wrong. By punishing the player with the rules, your system becomes something the player experiences as limiting. It's okay to punish the player, but that punishment should always come from the fact that the player did something stupid and not because the game was not clear about something or is working against them. Being consistent is a big part of this. In other words, if the rules suddenly change to accommodate for something the developer came up with and the player dies because of this, it wasn't their fault.

So when Black Ops takes control of my character for 5 minutes and doesn't let me walk around, I get annoyed. We're in a 3D world that a lot of artists and programmers spent time on, for crying out loud! Let me walk around and appreciate their work. I can't break the game if you won't let me and if I take a long time, what difference does it make to the developer. By making the choice to take over my character movement, the developer is saying:"You can't do this, we'll do it for you."

The player

When you're making a game, the worst possible thing you can assume (in my opinion) is that the player is an idiot. He (or she) is not an idiot. They can do things themselves if you just tell them what to do and make sure they can do it. If we've learned one thing from Bioshock's brilliant plot twist, it's that players will do whatever you tell them to do. They're in a game so they want to play. If you program it right, there should be only one thing they can do: whatever you tell them to. You don't need to hold their hands after the tutorial, just be clear and make sure everything works.

Speaking of tutorials: Black Ops doesn't have one. None of the standard "Hey private, fire your gun down the range. Now do it crouched. Now do it down the sights. Awesome, you rule, here's a cookie." Nothing. But then the game does feel the need to make me follow another character around in every mission I've played so far. This might become a story thing later on, I don't know, but it's frustrating. What's the difference between having Woods (the character you follow) lead you around and placing a waypoint on the map for the player to get to? If you have Woods lead the player around, the player feels like a secondary character. If you place a waypoint on the map and let the player go there, the player feels like the leading character.

And don't tell me this couldn't be done any other way, because Woods and Bowman could have been following you instead of the other way around. If they did it like that, when JFK tells you you're the best soldier in the Pentagon scene, you would believe him! Now you feel like a jackass because it should be Woods in that chair and not you. At that point you've followed two guys through the first two levels, got captured by the enemy and lost the (seemingly important) character at the end of the second mission.

Laser eyes, baby!

For a long time, there was a phenomenon in comics and cartoon shows which baffled anyone with a decent brain: writers would just give a character powers that suited the situation, which they would then use and immediately forget about. I call this 'convenient writing'.

Hollywood is now the main offender of convenient writing and it annoys the hell out of me. Too many movies and tv shows seem to have scenes that were written by the director going "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if they did this ridiculous thing". This leads to a cool scene that usually doesn't fit into the world or story. In some instances it doesn't even fit into the laws of physics. I think we all know who has turned this into a major 'art' form: mister Michael Bay himself.

It seems games are starting to copy this style of writing and Call of Duty is the worst offender at this point. But in games it's worse than in movies. Why? Because in a movie, the viewer has no control over what happens and has to passively accept what is going on. In games, the player has control. You still have to accept what happens but you play a role in what happens. If games like Black Ops feel like they should treat the player like somebody who doesn't matter, players are going to get angry.

It's the combination of rules and the way the player is treated in Black Ops that does not make me feel empowered in the game. I don't feel like I am the engine driving the game. I'm treated like some kid who can honk the horn from time to time but I never get to really drive. And I really like driving because other games let me, so when Black Ops won't let me, I throw a hissy fit!

The point

So what is my point? Nothing really. I don't want to bash Treyarch because clearly they are very skilled at making games. It's just that somebody at Treyarch made some very strange decisions that ruin the game for me (and lots of others, apparently). In my opinion, they approached the game from an angle that is completely wrong and should never be used in any game ever again.

For a few years now, there is a big discussion going between the 'main stream' and the gaming industry/community about whether or not games are art. Obviously, gamers who have played games like Rez, Flower, Resident Evil 4, Metroid Prime, Okami, Shadow of the Collossus and Half-Life 2 will call games art. But Call of Duty is one of the biggest game franchises in the world and any 'main stream' people seeing this game will call this trash. Hell, seasoned gamers are calling it trash (including me and I've been a gamer since I could see over the desk and reach the keyboard). And I can't blame them. If we are really going the Michael Bay way, then something is going wrong. I'm not saying every game should be the equivalent of a French art house film but it seems like Black Ops has no interest in being a game but would rather be... well... a Michael Bay movie.

So... Anyway... The point, yes, that's where I was going. If any game designer reads this (big or small), please: trust the player! Don't treat them like children because we're all big boys (no matter how some of us behave ourselves online).

And any non-game designer that are reading this: discuss! Because we're all backseat drivers anyway!

#10 Posted by whatisvisceral (29 posts) -
I honestly didn't expect anyone to read this (except for the people I was going to send it to :P) but thanks for reading my long-ass article. I made the end a bit more quotable now :P
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