A GotY list? Not really

This year has had some high points. There's no denying it. Shadow of Mordor was pretty good. I'm enjoying the GTA5 re release on my PS4. Wolfenstein managed to be a nice surprise.

All that being said though, a huge part of this year has been layers upon layers of disappointment. Halo: Master Chief Collection, the long running Assassin's Creed series, InFamous:Second Son was much less than it's predecessors managed even though it looked pretty.

Between the extremely piecemeal way some folks are trying to sell games now and so many various problems, I just don't think I can really get behind a Game of the Year list this year. It'd be full of asterisks. Too many games that were twice the hype for half the game (Destiny), games that tried something new with old concepts and left me wanting more (Titanfall), games that frankly should have been delayed (Master Chief Collection, Assassin's Creed), and even the games that I ended up liking were still hampered by a feeling of franchise malaise (InFamous) or just plain old missed opportunity (Sunset Overdrive).

This year has been a mixed bag. Elation, disappointment, happiness followed by heartache. It just feels like making a list of "Best of" would be disingenuous and hollow.

About the only game that really grabbed me with no caveats this year was Civ: Beyond Earth. Never having been very interested in Civ, this was my first one. Adding aliens and terraforming made it appeal more to the sci-fi nerd in me. I'm much more interested in science fiction than history, so I decided to finally give Civ and honest try. And I really ended up having fun with it. My PC has been giving me trouble of late, otherwise I'd probably still be playing it. Maybe next year I can finally get a new machine and give it another go. In the mean time I guess I can play on the Wii U. Mario Kart 8 was pretty great. So those two are my games of the year I guess. Congrats Sid Meier and Nintendo. You guys managed to make a couple of true gems this year. Kudos.

How about you? How was your year of gaming? Do you share my disappointment or am I being too dour? I'd love to hear how other folks have felt about this year in gaming. And if you've got a GotY list going, how about a link? I'd love to take a look. :)

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I hope Shadow of Mordor gets ripped off... a lot.

Like many video game fans, I picked up Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and I've been having a bunch of fun playing it this week. (I didn't start it the week it was released because of Forza Horizon 2)

After spending quite a bit of time playing ME:SoM, I really hope that other game makers rip it off (as the title suggests). There's a lot about the Nemesis system to praise and I'm sure you've all read much of it like I have over the past couple of weeks.

The real point of this though, is to share something I was talking about in passing with some friends. What I'd love to see happen is the makers of Star Wars games to look at ME:SoM and steal their little hearts out. The entire time I've been playing it, I can't help but wish it was a game based on a Force wielder.

As I imagine it, a Shadow of Star Wars type game would need to make only a few changes. Most of what works in Mordor would work well with only tiny tweaks to accommodate the license. Instead of a Wraith, you'd have to be in Force purgatory. Instead of Orcs, you'd need to be fighting Bounty Hunters. You could be specific even. Say you were fighting a colony of Mandalorians for instance. That way the Nemesis (NemeSith?) system could have the same kind of naming conventions as ME:SoM. In that you have a list of names and titles and the random generator throws a character together from the various tables or whatever they're doing behind the scenes to give the Orcs such interesting personalities in the game. They could have that unique Mandalorian armor basic style and as the action figures show it would be easy to come up with nearly infinite varieties.

They can even keep the dynamic where a fallen foe regularly comes back after defeat. Make the fights as brutal as you like, and after a defeat they can come back with robotic augmentations, scarred armor, blaster scoring, etc. And with the lesser enemies a lightsaber lends itself to the same kind of brutal combat we see in ME:SoM as well.

The one thing that would need to be changed or added would be some kind of morality system. Usually the binary Good/Evil morality systems are silly because humans are not binary creatures. We exist in the gray. But with the Jedi/Sith it works fine since that's kind of the whole point of the Light/Dark dichotomy. However they decide to implement the system, it should play out in the upgrade screens where you pick your skills. Characters should be similar to Cole from inFamous. With skill sets that favor aggressive saber moves and Lightning for Dark characters, and Stealth and more Force Push/Pull/Grab style maneuvers for the Light. Obviously Light side Jedi shouldn't be shooting Force Lighting and using Force Choke. Although a Kyle Katarn or Starkiller style character would be a must. Someone you could build a story around but also give the player the agency to travel either path but still keep the narrative flowing.

Anyway, this has just been an idea that's been kicking around my head while playing over the past week. I guess we all have our "dream games" we wish were real. So what are some of yours? And if they made a Shadow of Coruscant (or whatever) like I describe here, do you think it would be fun? In this dream scenario lets pretend that EA won't be developing it so we can avoid any fear that comes from them holding the Star Wars license for the purposes of this discussion. :)

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The Monks

Watching SpikeTV's "Deadliest Warrior" and they're pitting Shaolin Monks against Maori Warriors. But seeing as the Shaolin were a pacifist order, wouldn't "Deadliest Warrior" be an insult to them?

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The Beenox conundrum

For those not in the know, Beenox is the developer who is currently at the helm of the Spider-man franchise. A license owned by Activision and currently in the process of being milked and ruined in the Activision crap crank machine.

Not that I mind them cranking out Spider-man games. At least in theory. I love Spider-man and playing games with him as the main character are like Kryptonite to me. I just can't seem to resist them, even though I know they're ultimately going to fall short of expectations.

But really, what do we expect? These aren't really "gamers games" now are they? These are games designed to appeal for the under 10s. Games meant to get the kiddos to remember moments from the movies or afternoons playing with whatever action figure features Spidey's likeness these days. They aren't meant to be for the hardcore. This ain't Arkham City folks.

After an afternoon and an evening playing the new Amazing Spider-man game, I can't help but feel a bit let down. It's not really even Beenox's fault at this point. I honestly believe that they are trying to make a Spider-man game that will appeal to all of us. But Beenox doesn't get what gamers want. Gamers, at least gamers I know and associate with, would rather fail on their own than play a game that does all the work for them. Gamers would rather have a set of mechanics that allows for them to pull off amazing things, not have a magic "hold my hand" button that makes you look amazing while barely doing any of the work. I'm talking about "Web Rush" in case you don't know. Look up the videos if you aren't following me on this. It's essentially a "be badass" button that has the ol' webhead flip, jump, wall-run, and dive to any point you dictate after pressing the right bumper. And for what it is, it works OK. Not great. Not all that exciting. But the barrier to entry is low and I guess that's what we've allowed to happen. We've let developers hold our hand so long that they don't know how to make anything else.

Many of us fondly remember Spider-man 2: The Movie: The Game. And for good reason. The web-swinging mechanics in that game were unmatched before or since. They gave you an engine to perform amazing feats if your thumbs were nimble and your hands were skilled enough. It was exhilarating in every way to pull off a solid line with Spider-man's web swinging. Everything else in that game was busted though. In anticipation of the new Amazing Spider-man game, I dug out my PS2 and played SM2 for the better part of a day. Fighting bad guys was as formula as it can be. The random crimes were repetetive and the voice over was phoned in and flat. For all intents and purposes, the game doesn't work. Except for the one thing that works so very very well. The swinging. I spent hours just swinging around SM2's virtual world and I know many others did as well. And because it was all based on skill rather than "hard cloud theory" and "web rush". Not everyone was tough enough of course, and the game catered to them as well. There was an "easy swing" mode for those not interested in learning the game. Those who just wanted a tangential movie experience without a lot of effort could have exactly that and more power to them. It's the fact that the games developers gave us the choice, that is why we still remember it to this day.

Beenox, for their part, have made a decent super-hero game this year. It's not the worst of the Spider-man games that I've played (Friend of Foe, I'm looking at you here). I just wish that someone would come along and realize that Spider-man is primed to get his Arkham City. A game that balances great combat, which is almost there in ASM, and great web mechanics like SM2 with interesting visuals, maybe something like Ultimate Spider-man from the PS2 era. A game that uses stealth options like the Noir segments from Shattered Dimensions and gives us the option to really master the mechanics like we did oh so long ago. I guess until then, we'll just have to keep settling. Or, Heaven forbid, skip a few games so they get the message? Nah, that'll never happen. :P

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Double Fine!

Today is the end of the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter thingy. In case you haven't kept up with things, these guys asked for 400k and are well past the $3,000,000 mark. With a few hours left, who knows where the final number will end.

I wanted to do something to commemorate the moment, so here it is. :)

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Halo 4... WOW!

I don't like being cynical. It isn't fun and the only benefit is that when things go pear shaped you can be that douchebag who says; I knew it all along. I see the appeal, but it's not really something I ever longed for. Of course in this day and age we're all cynics to a degree. At least those of us who spend time on the internet seem to be. So I've been harboring this secret cynicism, scared of what direction the next Halo game might go.

In case you missed it (though I doubt anyone reading this would have), Monday was the first good look we've had at Halo 4 and the structure of 343i's up and coming first entry in the Halo saga. And I. Am. Dumbfounded. (On the off chance you missed it, head here: [link] )

The first thing that stood out to me was the music that played in the videos background. All at once amazing and fresh while still managing to be distinctly Halo. It's not an easy thing to do. Making something as boundless and epic as Marty O's scores from the first 5 entries in the Halo games is not something one should take lightly. And it's clear to me that they have not taken anything for granted. The music cascades with the action we've seen. Every note seems to be begging to tell us a story. And the best part is that none of it, not a single bar, feels like it's retreaded material. It all feels new and fresh and done with care. This alone is enough to get me excited for Halo 4. (Not that I needed a push mind you).

Beyond that we got our first look at Spartan-4's. This may be the most exciting thing of all. With the S-3s all but wiped out and John being the last active duty S-2, it's good that they are moving forward in this regard. John will always be the anchor of the Halo games for me personally, but that doesn't mean I don't want other interesting media to consume (like a zombie snacking on your brains). This opens up the canon to all manner of interesting possibilities. And when they said they are working in a narrative justification for Reds fighting Blues I about dropped my jaw. I LOVE the attention to detail that Halo's stewards are showing off here.

I know a lot of people are sentimental for Bungie. God knows I've shown them infinite love in the past. But for me, I was a Halo fan first, and a Bungie fan second. While I'm interested to see where they go and what they do, it's always been my secondary concern. Second to who was going to be taking over my most beloved gaming franchise. I for one, am happy with the team at 343i. I'm eager to see where they take us next. And I'm eager for this Holiday season to get here so I can start my next adventure behind the Master Chief's visor.

The videos I've seen tell me that this new game is going to focus on the Chief's origin and character more than in the past. That is fantastic news. And everything I have seen (which admittedly isn't much) leads me to believe this is going to be one hell of a game in both single and mutliplayer. Halo is the only mutliplayer I bother with and I can't wait to get my Battle Rifle on again!

*This entry copied and reposted from my Deviant Art blog

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Whiskey Shots 4 "Challenge Day"

I'm not really looking forward to tomorrows BRICKED! finale. It's been a well of great material. But there's plenty of good stuff in the Giant Bombcast too so if I make another one of these, it'll probably be based on something the guys say in that broadcast. Or maybe something from the GDC coverage.

But for now, here's the last BRICKED related Whiskey Shots. Enjoy it. OR ELSE!

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Whiskey Shots 3 "Case of the Mondays"

I enjoy the "I love Mondays" segments they do each week here at GB. I really do. But that opening bit needs at least 10 seconds trimmed off of it. I'm as big a fan of Ryan Davis as the next Whiskey Media subscriber. But I can't figure out why that opening bit takes a full 25 seconds. Unless....

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