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Playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the first time

What is a better way to kick off a new year then to start playing a new game...that is 12 years old? Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a game I had my eye on for a very long time. It is one of those games you hear a lot about, even after their prime. Somehow this game stood the test time and is still mentioned form time to time in the video game community. It took the buzz around The Force Awakens and a recommendation form a friend, who played it back in the day, for me to finely crack and try out this classic.

It took some effort to make KotOR run on this Windows 10 laptop. Even though Microsoft are pretty awesome when it comes to backwards compatibility, this time some extra effort had to be done. I needed to reinstall the game in Windows XP SP2 compatibility mode, set both the game exe and the setting exe to said mode and edit an ini file just to make the game run. Then, once the intro movies would play out, the game would crash. After some researching on the internets, I found out that disabling movies would fix my problems. So, if a cutscene was not in real time, I would not see it. That made a bit hard to follow the story at times, but nothing too big to be a major problem. Also, 7 hours into the game, my save file got corrupted and I had to download someone else's save form the internet. I would then edit that save in an editor to try to recreate my character the best I could. So you know, fun times. But compatibility problems are to expected in an old game and even modern games can ruin a save file.

It has been too long
It has been too long

Before we get into my experience proper, let me give you a bit of context. My favorite game series is Mass Effect, the next space epic that came from BioWare after KotOR. Playing the first Mass Effect back in 2008 when I was 17 was one hell of an experience. That game took me with its universe, characters and story. Also, that film grain. I still have specific memories of that game that bring a warm feeling for me and remind me why I loved that game so much. It is not all about the first game, however. The other 2 games are great in their own right. So with that in mind and what I heard about KotOR, I came into this Star Wars game as a sort-of predecessor to Mass Effect.

Once I could get into the main menu of the game, I could begin my playthrough. But, upon hitting the new game button, I found three available classes to choose from with horrible descriptions. So back to the internet for some research, this time to find out what is a scoundrel. This is where I also found out that alt-tab'ing crashes the game. After restarting the game, I chose scout (later it turned into a Jedi Sentinel) and was exposed to the game's RPG system. Knights of the Old Republic uses a DnD inspired system and is pretty honest about it. Ability and item description of then use terms like 1d6 to show the dice roll'y nature of the game. And like DnD, it supports a good range of play styles. Ranged and melee, single handed and two handed, sneaky and is all there. That would be all good if this was not a Star Wars game, however. But it is. Melee is much better than ranged in this game, and once you get your lightsaber all you really have to think about is one thing: single handed for the iconic look or double-bladed/double saber for more power. Even a good amount of skills are not worth your time once you figure out two or three the most useful and powerful. The biggest benefit I found to the RPG system was a world building one. It showed me that the world of KotOR can support a lot of different types of characters, no only Jedi, even though Jedi are the most powerful.

You won't be a Jedi form the begging though. There is a good part of the game you have to play through before you become a Jedi. With the level cap of 20, I became a Jedi at level 8. Once you become Jedi and are done with training, the game opens up (before this KotOR is somewhat linear) and you can start to see some elements of Mass Effect in it. You have a nice amount of party members to talk to, you have ship that you can travel to different locations to and you can go at your own pace. This is also where I feel the similarities, for the most part, stop, since both the characters and locations rarely are the same quality as found in Mass Effect.

The reason I fell both of these fall a bit flat, especially the characters is the setting itself. Star Wars is primarily a set of movies. Sure, it is a lot of other things, but movies are the main thing. What happens in those movies informs everything else about the Star Wars universe, not the other way around. Maybe some race or a world from the extended universe will find its way on to the big screen, but only if it has little importance and does not require some prior knowledge from the viewer. For Star Wars to work as a movie, it has to be light on technical detail. You won't hear long and big explanations about how stuff works in Star Wars like you would in Star Trek or Mass Effect, because there is no time for it. Look at the main thing of this universe: the Force. It is at its best when it is vague and mystical, giving it magic properties and doesn't get into some pseudo science like midi-chlorians. That is why I look at Star Wars as wizards in space with light swords.

If such an universe is your setting for a long, 30 hour RPG, you might run into some problems. And BioWare did. Take Bastila for example. She is someone you hear about from the very start on the game and is central to its plot. Her battle meditation ability is mentioned several times in the game and is key to why the Republic is still able to battle the Sith. But this ability isn't really explained. The best I could come up with is that it helped to predict enemy movement and tactics. Now, again, in a two hour movie that would be fine, but in a game dozen times longer than that, I started to get tired of hearing the same things about Bastila's battle meditation for the sixth time without getting more info about it.

Her character arc is also flawed and is emblematic of missed potential most of the game's stories have. Once she joins your team and you can talk to her, you will learn that she struggles a bit with keeping her emotions at bay and is someone who is young for having her abilities. Now, I would have loved a deeper exploration of these things. But the only time her emotions come up in any meaningful way is in a side quest about her mother, which is on path of the main story line, so you spend about 20 minutes on it. Her age and the pressure she has to deal with is also not talked about in length. The only times it comes up is when compared to the main character. If you are playing as a light side Jedi, she would say something like: "I am amazed you can be so calm and keep it together." And I get that the reason for this vagueness is the Force, since explaining this stuff would need a better explanation of the Force, and we don't want that, do we?

A bright star of this game
A bright star of this game

These kind of problems can be found in almost every party member in the game, except for two: HK 47 and Jolee. HK 47 is a great character in terms of his attitude and the adventures he has to tell. There is no big arc for him, but hearing his disgust for "meatbags" through his stories is a lot of fun. He definitely stands out the most out of the rest of the roster. Jolee, on the other hand, is the closest you will get to a Mass Effect character in KotOR. Party members in ME were so great, because you got to learn about alien things, like how all the different races and cultures worked. Through the things those character had to tell, the player would explore the universe of Mass Effect and have a better understanding of the setting they are in.

In Star Wars, the Force is a very binary thing. Either you are fighting for justice and peace, or you just want to destroy everyone and everything. But what if there was a neutral Jedi? Someone who left the Jedi order and did things he thought was a better way than the order's. Well Jolee is that Jedi. He is the one character in this game through whom the player explores new territory. While the game itself forces the player into being really good or really bad, at least Jolee let's them imagine what it would be to walk your own path as a Jedi. In some way, this just showed me once more how the setting of Star Wars can be limiting.

In terms of locations, most of them are fine and are interesting to visit. The only let down in my book is Tatooine. In Knights of the Old Republic, Tatooine is a planet with little on it. The biggest thing going for it is the mining operation conducted by the Czerka corporation, but even that is ending by the time the player get's there, since the metal is bad quality there. The player also will learn from the sand people that all this mining is tearing up the land on the planet and is hurting their connection with nature. That is an interesting premise, yet the areas you visit themselves don't show this premise that much. The only meaningful physical reference to the mining is a big movable rig in the middle of one of the zones, yet it does nothing. Now, I get that this lack of stuff has to do something with the technical limitations of the time. I would, however, trade the big rig for some environmental damage that the sand people talked about.

I know I criticize this game a lot, but I did enjoy my time with it and I like Star Wars. But it is a game of its time and I do feel that having their own universe with Mass Effect helped BioWare to craft a better game in all major aspects. Yet in a world before ME, I can see how KotOR got the praise it received. Especially when you remember that this was the time of the prequels.

P.S. Ebon Hawk has nothing, NOTHING on the Normandy.


My thoughts after attending my first tournament

On Tuesday, September 30 I stumbled upon a post on about a Fireside Gathering being organized here, in Latvia. I was surprised to learn about it, since I given up hope to attend one. For those of you who don't know, Fireside Gatherings are community organized LAN events, where, by playing Hearthstone, you could get an exclusive card back. In other words, it is just an excuse to hang out with other Hearthstone players. This event, as many of it's kind, was also a tournament.

The tournament would take place in Riga, our countries capital, on 4th of October and the attendance fee would be just 3 EUR. While all of that sounded great, during the summer I started to fell of Hearthstone and by early August I have stopped playing it completely. In order to compete at any decent level I had to get back immediately, since I had only 4 days.

On Tuesday I didn't get to play much, because of the late hour, but it was clear that I was rusty. Wednesday and Thursday brought another revelation: my favorite mage deck was no longer viable. Curse of Naxxramas and the recent patch changed the meta. The classes and decks I felt most comfortable against dropped in popularity and were replaced by a new wave of control warriors and midrange priests. These priests would prove to be a pain in the ass and a once OK matchup became something I could rarely win. During these days another thing became clear: I needed to finish Naxxaramas in order to get some new cards.

Midday on Friday I purchased the remaining three levels of Naxx, got all of the new cards (except for the paladin one) and continued my practicing. All of the remaining day was spent on building new decks and testing them out. Now, before I continue, let me state that I don't have that many of the top tier cards. Of all the legendary cards in the game I have the ones they give for finishing levels in Naxx, Alexstarza, Archmage Antonidas, Bloodmage Thalnos, Captain Greenskin and Malygos. No Cairne, no Rag, no Sylvanas. None of the good and popular legendary cards one would encounter the most on the ladder. But I had to make due with what I had.

The first deck I made was a token druid that kind of worked. Then I tested my old midrange shaman deck and found it to be still good. I played couple of matches with a warlock zoo deck and, well...zoo was still zoo. All I did to it is I added couple of new minions. I tried to build my own priest deck, but I was lacking a lot of the key cards to make it work, so I had to scrap that idea. After exhausting what I could do on my own, I started searching the internet for new deck ideas.

I had multiple tabs open of this site on Friday.
I had multiple tabs open of this site on Friday.

Druid, warlock, paladin and warrior control decks were out of my reach for lack of needed legendaries and epics. Somehow the idea of trying the new miracle rogue decks did not cross my mind, so that left me with mage, shaman and hunter. As I said, my shaman deck was fine, leaving me to focus on two classes. The first one I tried was a hyper aggro mage deck made popular by the player TheFishou after he used it in a tournament. I won my first 3 games with it and lost the 4 next ones. Maybe I got lucky in the beginning and was just bad with it or maybe I needed more games with it to find out how good it is. All I knew I did not have that much time and aggro can be a coin flip, while I fancy myself control type decks.

After that I tried two midrange hunter decks. The first one was Naiman's hunter deck and with it I won 2 games and lost 5 (I guess it is because I lacked snake traps). The second deck was Spark's midrange hunter and it yielded much better results. I also felt more comfortable with it, so I decided to use it during the tournament (I would not need it). The last deck for the day would a secrets mage and it proved to be quite a nice deck. In my last match of the day, I won against a priest and that made me feel good. In total, I devoted about 12 hours to Hearthstone that day.

I woke up on Saturday at 9:30 AM, did my morning routine, played two matches of Hearthstone, lost both of them with my shaman deck, said to myself "That is enough warm-up" and left the apartment. I went and voted in parliamentary elections before hoping on a train to Riga. At about 11:40 I was at the tournament held in place called Dreamforge. Now, Dreamforge is a store I did not think could exist in Latvia. On sale there were WarHammer 40K sets and Pathfinder sets, they host different events like this one or an upcoming Netrunner regional. I think they also sell anime and help people with cosplay.

But they just hosted the Hearthstone tournament, because the main organizer was a NGO with the name of Pentaclick eSports that, among other things, runs League of Legends tournaments. Learning about them, Dreamforge and all the people that took part in this tournament showed me that there is a nerd culture in this country. Our small, post USSR state country of 2 million people. That revelation was awesome.

The Latvian Nerd Underground. Seriously, the shop was in a basement.
The Latvian Nerd Underground. Seriously, the shop was in a basement.

At the tournament I met two guys I knew from the university, Junk and Bocmanis, so I hang out most of the time with them. They were watching the League of Legends world championship. All of the players were dived in 8 groups with 3,4 people in them. I was in group D, while Junk and Bocmanis were in groups B and C respectively. The group games were best-of-one games and only one player would advance form the group. Before all game sets, both players can ban against the other player one hero class from the nine in the game. Junk won his group 3-0 and so did Bocmanis. At about 2 PM my turn to play came.

As I sat down in the small room with a big table (that took most of the space) and 6 computers, nervousness kicked it. My shaking hands made a challenge out typing the answer to a Battlenet security question. Thankfully, once my first match started, all of it toned down I could play with little trouble. I banned priest for my first opponent and she banned paladin. My opponent was a paladin that tried to be a control deck but ended up being midrange, since I noticed cards that were usually used by players with small card collections. I won that game using my shaman deck with little trouble. One thing though, as I was executing my winning move, my shakiness came back.

The second game was against practically the same paladin deck. I banned priest once more and the guy banned warlock, but I was not going to use my zoo deck. I once again used my shaman and won that also. This match was streamed to the main waiting room for everyone to see (so would be all of my remaining matches), so my game finishing nervousness found a new buddy in performance anxiety. As I was waiting for my third group stage match, I learned that the fourth player in group D was moved into a different group. That meant that I was getting out of my group and into the quarter-finals.

The tournament bracket was set up that A group winner would be facing group C winner. So group victor from group B would be playing against me. If you recall, Junk won group B. Out of Bocmanis and Junk, I would call Junk the better player. He is very calm, is not super emotional and likes control style decks. His best deck is his paladin control, so before our best-of-three I banned his paladin. He knew about my success with shaman and I was forbidden to use it. The next best thing was my secrets mage.

First game, my mage against his control druid. I was doing a pretty good job of denying him board presence. Loatheb and Counterspell helped me against any spells he might use against me. Then he put down Ancient of War in taunt mode. That would have been quite a challenge to overcome, but I top decked Polymorph. The rest of the game was short and I was leading 1-0. Next match, I stay with my mage, he changes to control warrior. For the first part of the match, everything went the same as against the druid deck. Then he puts down a Sludge Belcher. I could use my minions on the field to kill it, but that would leave me with an empty board. I thought of using Fireball, but decided against it and used Polymorph instead. Two turns later he puts down another Sludge Belcher and forces me to use the Fireball. Later in the game I put down a secret, Duplicate. He tries to play around it by thinking its either Mirror Entity or Counterspell. He realizes that's neither but fails to guess that is it Duplicate. He kills my Sunwalker and as a result gives me two new ones. That won me the second game and a spot in the semi-finals.

My mage and shaman decks I used throughout the tournament. Note that Loatheb was not in my shaman until the finals, where I replaced a Chillwindyeti with it.
My mage and shaman decks I used throughout the tournament. Note that Loatheb was not in my shaman until the finals, where I replaced a Chillwindyeti with it.

My opponent for the next set was Bocmanis, who won his quarter-finals with a 2-0 also. I don't remember much from those games. The things I do remember is that he banned my shaman, I banned his priest. He used a paladin deck and a hunter deck against my mage deck, but I won both of those. I do remember that my secrets were a problem for his hunter. The last move of the game was him trying to draw a card with flair, but that got Counterspelled and his hand was left with no cards to play. I took the headphones off and heard Junk say form the other room: "Cancer Mage!" I laughed.

Winning the two only people I know in this tournament kind of sucked, but that meant I was in the finals, something I did not expect to accomplish. As I was waiting for the finals, I watched the second semi-finals in the waiting room. It was a hand-lock against an aggro mage deck, similar to the one I tried on Friday. The mage got the most insane top decks I have seen, bursting down his opponent with Mana Wyrms, Frostbolts and Icelances. That was the second game the mage won and he was my opponent for the final set of games. Before that though, a best-of-three took place for the third place, which Bocmanis unfortunately lost. Here I must say that Bocmanis had less cards than I did and the highest rank he ever got on the ladder was 13. I was happy to see him make it that far.

I was waiting for the finals, I was talking to Junk about what to ban and he said: "You can ban whatever you want, he seems the kind of player that is good with everything." That wasn't something I wanted to hear, since I could not say that about myself and relied on two deck to carry me. But then I remembered an ex StarCraft player, Day[9], and he said about facing though opponents: "It is not about who they are, but hat they play." I reminded myself that and went into the final game of the day (if you have 2 hours to spear, I recommend you watching this video of Day[9] talking about his life of StarCraft).

By this point it was about 7 PM. We both picked hunter as our ban, though it turned out my opponent, Harijs, did not like hunter decks and did not use them. Harijs was taking his sweet ass time to get started. He was thinking what to ban, changing some of the cards in his deck (we did not need to submit decks before the tournament and could switch at any point) and just thinking a lot before the game. At 7:10 PM we started our first game in a best-of-five. My mage lost that one to his shaman and it was not even close by the end of that match. In the last few turns I was left in a very defensive position hoping for a miracle that never came.

Game 2. He made some changes to his shaman and used it again. I chose my shaman. I won that game by having a better board presence then he did. Game 3, he switches to a priest deck and I stick to shaman. I win that game also by having a better control over the board than he had. Game 4. Changes again from his side, the same matchup and everything goes the same way, except in reverse. I get a bad hand in the beginning and never get the chance to come back. He wins it and it is 2-2.

Last game of the day, he makes changes again (as I look back I start to doubt that those were real changes and not a way to psych me out), sticks to his priest and faces my mage deck. By this point I felt confident in myself. I knew that, if I can have better board control than he has, I can win this, so I was relieved to play against his priest for the third time in a row. My secrets keep him guessing and Sylvanas proves to be little of trouble for me to handle. It is my turn 10, I have three minions on the board and I draw a Fireball. I hit his face with my guys and all I had to do is to use my Fireball and Frostbolt to finish him off. As I was doing it, the shakes were as strong as ever. But after casting my last spell of the game and winning the first ever tournament I attended to, I let out a growling shout as a way of energy release.

From the left: Harijs, the second place winner; the guy with the crazy face is me; Misha, the third place winner.
From the left: Harijs, the second place winner; the guy with the crazy face is me; Misha, the third place winner.

Man, that some way to spend a Saturday. My body has not pumped so much adrenalin in a long time. During the midday, my friend texted me to find out what I planning to do in the evening. I had to call him back since I could not write a sms even if my life depended upon it. I will note, that despite all of it, I played some of the best Hearthstone matches I ever had played. As we delved deeper into the day, I got deeper into the zone. Long story short: if you have the chance, take part in a video game tournament. It is a ton of fun.

P.S. You can watch the final here.


Observations as someone who is trying to climb the ladder

I started playing Hearthstone a few weeks before Blizzard moved it into the open beta, making it early December. Now it is the end of June, so that makes it about 6 and a half months playing this game. Now, I am no amazing player and I don't put it the countless hours a day into this game like other people tend to. But I also think I am not horrible and maybe can reach the oh-so-sweet legendary status. As of this writing, I am rank 3 with only two decks that have a chance of carrying me to the top. Also, they will reset the ladder in five days, two of which I am busy, so I have to hope for some good matchups.

My close copy of DuckwingFACE's mage deck.
My close copy of DuckwingFACE's mage deck.

The deck that I am using is a mage deck taken from a player by the name DuckwingFACE and it is almost the exact copy. I had to substitute Bloodmage Thalnos for Loot Hoarder, because I don't have Thalnos in my collection. This deck has served me well so far, getting me from rank 15 or 14 to my current rank 3, and I hope it will get me to legendary. The other deck that I have and could achieve this task is warlock-zoo, but I am not a big fan of playing it. I will give you some statistics and observations I have made playing this deck and also just general thoughts on the game itself (if you are not interested into matchup analysis, then I advise to skip to the last part.).

On the scale of aggro decks (the ones that try to win the game quickly) to control decks (tries to keep the board relatively safe for the first half of the game and then pops a couple of big threats that could end the game in one or two turns), this mage deck leans to the aggressive side, while having some late-game potential. The goal with it is to establish a good board presence early on, so that, coming into mid-game, you are hard to stop. It is advised to hold on to some of your cheap spells for Archmage Antonidas, the Fireball generating machine.

Warrior (6:6, 50%)

In the current meta the most used warrior deck is the control warrior, but overall it is not a popular deck right now. That is a good thing, since my mage deck has a hard time dealing against it. This deck can stop me from establishing the board and generate enough armor for my Archmage and Fireballs not to matter. The 50% win ratio is just me being lucky, having won those 6 games because of good draws or horrible play by my opponent.

Shaman (8:7, 53.33%)

I think shamans have a slightly better chance of winning this matchup (though my stats would suggest otherwise). Lightning Storm and Feral Spirit are cards that can easily stop this mage deck from winning, with Fire Elementals and Doom Hammers coming in as close seconds.

Rogue (11:16, 40.74 %)

In today's meta, if you are playing against a rogue, then it is a miracle rogue. This matchup lives and dies by the speed of the rogue playing Gadgetzan Auctioneer, after which you might have a turn or two before the inflicted pain of Leeroy Jenkins, Shadowstep, Cold Blood and Edwin Vancleef.

Paladin (10:5, 66.67%)

For the past week or so I have noticed a rise in aggroish paladin decks, which is different from seeing the more standard, control type paladins. These more aggressive paladin decks have a slightly better time against this mage deck, than the more typical paladin deck, but they don't make this class a counter. Consecration and Truesilver Champion are still the cards to watch out for, but beyond that paladin has no really good tools to deal with this deck.

Hunter (7:2, 77.78%)

The recent increase in mana cost for the Unleash the Hounds helps this matchup quite a lot, giving you one more turn to deal some damage. As long as your Violet Teachers does not flood the board with 1/1 tokens, you should be fine. Also, since hunters have very little protection against spells, Fireballs to the face are extra great here.

Druid (30:11, 73.17%)

Because zoo and miracle rogue are popular decks right now, the more classic ramp druid decks have fallen out of favor,since they are too slow. This gave rise to the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo that can deal 14 damage on it's own. But I find that still a bit too slow against this mage deck, because the druid still needs to use the early-game to gear up for the later stages of the match. At that point I can already have a couple of minions dealing damage to the enemy player.

Warlock (18:23, 43.9%)

When playing against warlock there are only two options:

1) Your opponent is a hand-lock. This means he is too slow for you and you are most likely to win. Just don't burst him down too quickly and give him free Molten Giants that can be taunted.

2) You opponent is a zoo warlock. If that is the case, you are close to boned and have to hope for some great top-decking. If you cannot deal with first few turns of your opponent playing monsters, you have lost.

Mage (9:3, 75%)

In a case of a mirror match, the best case scenario for the opponent is to have the same deck as you do. If they don't, then you should be OK. The now popular freeze-mage does not do so well against this deck, since you should be able to burst them down fast enough for it's late game tricks not matter.

Priest (7:6, 53.85%)

It is all very simple against a priest, really. If it goes into late-game, you are probably gonna lose, because priests can be very good at playing the mid-range role and keeping a check on you.

These are my win/loss statistics with this deck against different classes.
These are my win/loss statistics with this deck against different classes.

At this point I don't think these stats are going to change, unless a new, before unseen type of deck becomes popular in the meta. As it is right now, the popular decks now have been around for quite some time, shuffling around as one becomes more popular than the other. This is why everyone is waiting for new cards to mix things up in this somewhat stale meta.

Looking at all these statistics made me realize one thing: at some point every match becomes a numbers game of how much are you likely to win. Hearthstone is a game where the lows are not that low, but in return the highs are not that high. Sure, there is a place for comebacks and upsets, but in a lot of cases the outcome can be predicted in 6 or 7 turns. Sometimes even faster.

To the games credit, a typical match is not that long and it lends itself to short bursts of play extremely well. So even knowing, that you are playing a lost match is not that bad, since you are gonna be playing a new one in couple of minutes. But, as I said, I have only two decks right now, that could take me to legendary. If the meta shifts and my mage deck will no longer be viable, then I will be forced to grind for new cards until I can make a deck that can compete. Unless I devote myself to zoo, which I don't really want to do.


Ryan, you great and wonderful...

I have newer met the man, yet, as many have already said, I felt deep, deep sadness. You know, when Ryan left GameSpot, I did not think of it much. I was more sad about Vinny leaving than Ryan, but from the first minutes of the Arrow Pointing Down podcast he started to grow on me. And now here I am, a day after the announcement, and I still feel weird and not really wanting to believe that this enthusiastic man is gone.

I received a message on Steam from one of my Dota 2 co-op mates that only consisted from a link to Matt's article. All I could do couple of minutes later was to spam the word "fuck" into the chat. I kept typing and typing it into the little window as a way of holding myself from more bigger emotions. And when I stopped, I took a little pause and said that I was sad. After that tears started to fall and it hit me even harder.

He was one of the best people covering this industry. While he did not do much reviews, they were well written and articulate. Works of a person that had great control over words, a master of his craft. I liked reading his reviews just for the way he wrote and conveyed his thoughts. And the podcast man, the freaking podcasts. That intro line and his way of saying it is now engraved into my brain. He was a great host to one of the best podcasts around. Definitely the best video game podcast. And he could do it for hours, sometimes even day after day and I loved every minute of it, never skipping ahead.

And in this sea of bad emotions and feelings, I can also be happy. I can be happy that I could enjoy the work of this man. I can be happy that he worked a job he loved and was doing it with his friends. I can be happy for his ability to leave a big mark in peoples lives to the point, that after only few times of meeting him, people write lots of posts about him. So I am happy for all the thing people wrote in memory of him, because it is great that he could connect to people in all the ways they say he did.

While my heart goes out to his wife, friends and family and while I am sad that he died at such I young age, I am happy that at 34 he did so many wonderful things. And I will be always happy for him and his friend starting this site more than five years ago. The seventeen year-old Latvian boy, who followed them form GameSpot, could not be happier for them and himself about the creation of Giant Bomb. So Ryan, thank you for giving me things to be happy about. I will miss you.

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An inteview with Drew Part 2: Sheep's Head

Some time ago, I did and interview with Drew about video production at Giant Bomb. Back then the interview was more of an accident, then something that was planned. But after watching the fantastic Iceland video, I had a good excuse to ask for another interview. We talked about the trip itself, used equipment and video production in general.

Me: So, Iceland. How was it?

Drew: Iceland was amazing! Even while I was there, I was itching to return. So many nice people, great food (seriously!), and plenty of further opportunities to explore.

Me: Did the trip made you want to dive into the crazy world of EVE?

Drew: Absolutely, I only wish I had more time to devote to it!

Me: Giant Bomb must be getting invites to different events form time to time. Yet you don't go to all of them, especially with a camera and someone to film with it. So how do you decide where to go and what to shoot?

Drew: It really depends on what we think we can get out of it. The output of the site takes a serious hit when one of our editors and HALF of our video production team is out of the office. But EVE Fanfest is something that really interested Patrick and I, and we knew that if we attended, we'd get some pretty unique content out of it. It's tough to know what you're going to get, exactly, since we had never been to Fanfest (or Iceland) before, but we were confident that we would be able to find some stories. I mean, we were going to a strange foreign land, and there are always video opportunities when that happens!

Me: How do you decide on what should be filmed and what not? How does stuff get left on the cutting room floor?

Drew: Before heading out on trips like this, I have only the vaguest sense of what I want the final video to be like. I try to keep it this way so that I let the experience dictate the tone and pacing of the video. As a result, I end up filming anything and everything that might be interesting, which translates into hours upon hours of footage (16 hours 53 minutes 11 seconds 41 frames of footage, to be exact). Obviously, not all of that will be interesting enough to make it into the final video. Sometimes a shot will get left out because it doesn't look good or has bad audio, but most of the time it's because it doesn't fit with the narrative you want to tell. For example, I shot a lot of the panels at EVE Fanfest, most of which were over an hour. Almost none of that footage made it into the travelogue video because it didn't really fit next to shots of us eating a sheep's head.

Me: How much equipment is required on trips like these? Do you have it separately or some of the studio gear has to be taken with you?

Drew: On trips like this, it's good to stay light. You've got to be able to carry everything with you if the need arises. That said, since we had no idea what to expect, I packed my camera bag with as much stuff as I could. In addition to the camera, lenses, light, mics, cables, batteries, chargers, wireless kits, and tripod that we normally take to events, I brought along four GoPro cameras (with mounting equipment for any conceivable surface/structure/person), a Kodak Zi8, and my personal Micro Four Thirds camera, a Panasonic GF3 with 20mm pancake lens. At events, I like to keep a camera on me at all times, and the Zi8 has served me well in this capacity before. This time, however, I wanted to try something new and ended up shooting almost all of the non-Fanfest footage with the GF3. I hadn't shot a lot of video with DSLRs, but after getting my sea legs on this trip, I'm a believer. Having a camera small enough to stick into my jacket pocket is critical to the success of a trip like this, because there's no WAY I was going to bring our (comparatively giant) AF100 out to a bar, or into a bouncing van, or to a geothermal hot spring. Compared to the Zi8, which is super easy to operate with one hand, the GF3 was a little tough to handle sometimes (like trying to keep Patrick in focus while simultaneously drinking a shot of Brennivin), but the image quality and low-light performance makes up for the occasional blurriness.

Me: E3 is soon. How does that compare to Fanfest?

Drew: E3 is a little different because, for the most part, it's a known quantity. We generally know what kind of videos we want to come away with (day wrap-ups, livestreams, interviews, direct feed whenever possible). At E3, it's just a matter of making it all happen, and ensuring that each video has enough content to fill it. And, as always, be on the lookout for anything crazy that could be incorporated into a day wrap-up or broken out into its own video. E3 is also more stressful because not only are our days packed with back-to-back appointments, but we also have to edit video and put up content during the show, something Patrick and I only had to do once we got back.

Me: Has there ever been a time, where you wanted to put something on the site, but could not do it for one reason or another? Has something been fully edited, but not posted?

Drew: Not that I can think of. We have had to take videos down and edit parts out before, mostly things like developer tools or debug code showing up in the video. Some companies are fine with it, some aren't. We hate doing this, obviously, so we try to really nail down the specific limitations that are on the video before devoting production bandwidth to it.

Me: Does the editing stuff out happens often? How strict are the rules you have to work with?

Drew: Not often. We try hard to make sure it doesn't happen. It's usually just the result of a miscommunication. Sometimes it's not made clear to us what we can't show until after the video is up.

Me: Last time we spoke, Whiskey Media still was a thing. How has you work has changed, if at all, after the CBS buyout?

Drew: Even though the four video producers at Whiskey Media were on different brands, we worked in such close proximity and with the same equipment that it was no problem for one of us to cover for another. Joey would often fill in for me in the control room while I was working on a video review. Now, since we only have two people, we've had to find ways to streamline our production process so that we can free up my and Vinny's time as much as possible for more video pursuits, while still getting the same amount of video up on the site. This streamlining has come in the form of equipment (such as our realtime H.264 encoder, which allows us to turn around Quick Looks and live shows in a fraction of the time we used to) and communication/time management (we're much more strict about shooting schedules here than we were at Whiskey).

Me: Is there anything you miss from the WM days?

Drew: That bar, man! We had a bar in our office! And the people, of course. That's not to say that the people here aren't totally nice (they are!), but it's always tough to part with people you've worked with for years. Fortunately, they all seem to have landed on their feet, and I get to see some of them from time to time.

Me: Jeff has said, that it would be awesome to add another producer to the staff. Despite allowing you guys to go more on trips, how would it affect video production at Giant Bomb?

Drew: I'd love to have another producer on our team! It would definitely mean more video, and probably different types of video, since we'd have more time to spend on edited content like the Iceland Travelogue.

Me: So, if I get this right, then you have new equipment to substitute for lack of more editors, yet you still feel a need for another one. Is there any tech out there, that could lesser the problem? And is there anything in particular you would like to do for the site?

Drew: Equipment can make things easier, but it can't do everything a human can, like go to an off-site appointment or edit video or lay explosions over a live show at just the right time. As for future content plans... I've got some ideas ;)

Me: Oh, so any HOT scoops you can share with the readers about future content? Any teases you can give us?

Drew: Nope!

When I asked him about where he would like to go and film, he said this: "Everywhere!" Also he said to his loyal fans to just keep flying! And that is all we talked about, so I hope you enjoyed it.

On a side note: There is something cool in saying "Last time we spoke..." when doing an interview. Makes you feel legit.


Game of the Year 2012: By The Numbers

Giant Bomb's Game of the Year feature is done and it is time to combine the individual lists of the editors and see how they compare to the official list of Giant Bomb. The counting system is the same as last year, with one point going to the the last game on the list and ten points going to the first game on the list. Since Alex was one of the judges this year, he has moved form the additional list team to the main list. But I still left Drew, just to see, how he would inapact the end result. First, let's review the individual top 10 lists.


  1. Mass Effect 3
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  4. Mark of the Ninja
  5. Journey
  6. Asura's Wrath
  7. Far Cry 3
  8. Dust: An Elysian Tail
  9. Frog Fractions
  10. Trials Evolution


  1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Hotline Miami
  4. Mark of the Ninja
  5. FTL: Faster than Light
  6. Forza Horizon
  7. Rock Band Blitz
  8. Journey
  9. Asura's Wrath
  10. Alan Wake's American Nightmare


  1. Far Cry 3
  2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  3. Syndicate
  4. Fez
  5. Forza Horizon
  6. FTL: Faster than Light
  7. Rhythm Heaven Fever
  8. Persona 4 Arena
  9. Pinball Arcade
  10. Call Of Duty: Black Ops II


  1. The Walking Dead
  2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  3. ZombiU
  4. Mark of the Ninja
  5. Dishonored
  6. Fez
  7. Journey
  8. Papo & Yo
  9. Asura's Wrath
  10. Slender: The Eight Pages


  1. The Walking Dead
  2. Journey
  3. Hotline Miami
  4. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  5. Forza Horizon
  6. Rhythm Heaven Fever
  7. Sound Shapes
  8. FTL: Faster than Light
  9. Sleeping Dogs
  10. Rock Band Blitz


  1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Sleeping Dogs
  4. Mass Effect 3
  5. Binary Domain
  6. Fez
  7. Spec Ops: The Line
  8. The Book of Unwritten Tales
  9. Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers
  10. Journey


  1. Halo 4
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Diablo III
  4. Spec Ops: The Line
  5. Journey
  6. Digital Combat Simulator
  7. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  8. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
  9. FTL: Faster than Light
  10. Hotline Miami

These are the lists an below you will find a table of three lists with the official top 10, math top 10 and math with Drew top 10. Don't think that this is about the right top 10 list of Giant Bomb. The math list is made from individual lists, not from a discussion of a team. So keep that in mind, as you compare the lists (the numbers in brackets are the points).

Pos.Official ListMath ListMath List with Drew
1XCOM: Enemy UnkownXCOM: Enemy Unknown (53)XCOM: Enemy Unknown (57)
2The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead (47)The Walking Dead (56)
3Far Cry 3Journey (23)Journey (29)
4FezMark of the Ninja (21)Mark of the Ninja (21)
5JourneyMass Effect 3/Forza Horizon/Fez (17)Mass Effect 3/Forza Horizon/ Fez/
Hotline Miami (17)
6Mark of the NinjaHotline Miami (16)FTL: Faster than Light (16)
7SyndicateFar Cry 3/FTL: Faster than Light (14)Far Cry 3 (14)
8Mass Effect 3Sleeping Dogs (10)Spec Ops: The Line (11)
9ZombiUAsura's Wrath/Rhythm Heaven Fever (9)Sleeping Dogs/Halo 4 (10)
10Sleeping DogsSyndicate/ZombiU (8)Asura's Wrath/Rhythm Heaven Fever (9)

The top 2 are the same in all three lists, which kind of was expected. The only game to be featured in all of the individual lists was XCOM, while The Walking Dead and Journey were on six out of seven lists (Jeff did not put these games in his top 10). These lists show me how personal opinion can influence the end result. This can be seen in the official list (Far Cray 3, Syndicate) and in the math lists (Halo 4, Forza Horizon, Hotline Miami). Hope you found all of these numbers interesting.


Going from one MOBA to another

I have been playing League of Legends for about a year and a half and never really wanted to play another MOBA game. The closest anything got me to stop playing LOL was Heroes of Newerth, but it never got out of me more then just vague curiosity. But, after watching the tournament for DOTA 2 in Liepzig, I knew I wanted to take part in the beta for this game and see what is all the fuss about. So I got my invite past week, played about 30 matches of it and here is what I think about it.

I will start by saying, that I don't feel that one game is better then the other. At there core, there are the same three lane, wave based, five on five game, but with different takes on this formula. So for someone, who never played the original D.O.T.A., but enjoys LOL quite a lot, it was not hard to get into this game. But that is just me and for someone new to the genre, I would not recommend DOTA 2 as a starting point without someone to guide him or her. Now, I know it is a beta and all, but as of right now, the game does nothing to explain how it should be played. What is confusing is that one the first launch of it, it asks how familiar is the player is with MOBA style games. After you choose one of the tree variants, it does nothing about it. I chose the second one, that I thought would explain to me things like creep denial or give me some tips on which heroes should I choose. It did none of those things and just let me be. There is a "Learn" section in the main menu, but all it does is give you the list of all the heroes in the game and descriptions of there abilities. So for anyone interested in this beta, I would recommend trying the Sniper first. He has only two active skills and is pretty easy to use. This is the reason, why LOL has a tutorial, but I don't know if it was present during that game's beta.

Despite that, there are some things that DOTA 2 does better than LOL. For one, it has an actual spectator mode, that allows you to watch live and recorded games. For comparison, the best thing that League of Legends has right now is a third party program called LOLreplays. But there is no live game functionality and it has some bugs and issues. DOTA 2 also handles the community side of things better with having public chat rooms in the game and it benefits form the fact, that it is a Steamworks game. But the main thing it does better than LOL is how it handles leavers. When someone leaves a game, that can pretty much ruin the whole match for the 5-1 player team. In League of Legends, if someone disconnects, there is nothing you can do about it, only to report the player after the game. In DOTA 2, if someone leaves, a 5 minute timer starts counting down. If the player does not come back during this time, when the timer ends, anyone if free to leave the match and not be labeled as a leaver. I cannot stress you enough how awesome that is. Starting a ranked game in LOL, only to loose it, because some kind of a jackass died 5 times at the start of the game and left, can be very frustrating.

Oh, I have written 3 paragraphs, but said almost nothing about the gameplay. So, how does DOTA 2 feel compared to League of Legends? Well, in some ways it is the same game, but in other ways it is not. The meta game is almost the same: one players goes to the middle lane, two go bottom and two go top, while one of them can be a jungler. The difference is, that there are no masteries, summoner spells or runes in DOTA 2 like they are in LOL. So at the start of every DOTA 2 game every hero starts the same. In both games the early part of a match is mostly about creep management and last hitting. DOTA 2, as did the original mod, adds the ability for the player to kill his own creeps and deny gold for the other team. However, the biggest difference is to be found in the hero stats and there skills.

In League of Legends there are two stats, that can influence the effectiveness of champion abilities. They are damage and ability points, and different skills scale differently from these points. For example, the more ability points a mage has, the more damage his skills inflict. In DOTA 2, a heroes stats don't affect his skills, so the amount of damage showed in the description of the skill is the amount it will do for the rest of the game. Because of this, after you have maxed out a skill in DOTA 2, it will stop to scale which is different from LOL, where buying new items will improve champion skills. Because of this, damage dealing skills in DOTA 2 can deplete the amount of rivals health for a hefty amount even at level one. To balance this out, skills, for the most part, cost a lot of mana points. In some cases a primary skill can take away more then a half one someone's mana pool and mana regeneration is quite slow at the beginning. All of this forces a player to be more careful with his usage of skills at the start then he would be in League of Legends. And because of this, solo kills are more rare in DOTA 2 and require more of a team effort than in LOL. Don't get me wrong, it is still possible to kill someone on your own in DOTA 2 and it is still better to work together in LOL, but I found it to be a bit more difficult to do a solo kill in DOTA 2.

The death penalty is also a lot bigger in DOTA 2. In LOL, when you die, all you have to do is wait for you to come back to life. In the other game, the times are longer and you also take a gold penalty for dying. The amount of money you have is split in safe and unsafe and when you die, you loose the unsafe part. Now, what counts for safe gold and what does not, I don't know. All I do know, that loosing 1K of gold can be very bad, when most of the items in the game are expensive. The big cost of items makes sure, that you will end most of the games with only one or two big items, where in LOL half of the games end with having three or four of big, combined items. Both the cost of the items and gold lost upon death make the game a bit harder for one team to come back. When one team starts dominating the other, they get gold, while the other is loosing it, especially if the loosing side is spending there gold on come-backs. That allows for the winning side get there hands on some good items a lot faster, than the other would have. While that won't affect the skills, it will affect the need to go back to base to heal or restore mana. And the less time you are in your base, the better. I have yet to see a comeback, where one team defends there base and pushes there way to the enemy's side. Combine these facts together, and I would say, that one a typical DOTA 2 match is shorter than the average League of Legends match.

One might say, that DOTA 2 is harder then LOL. And I will agree, that LOL is a bit more auto-attack focused. To quote someone I encountered while watching a DOTA 2 game: "LOL is where nabs go to play." Well, in my experience, I would not call one harder than the other. If anything, I feel that I do a bit better in DOTA 2 than in League of Legends. Both games still require the same from their players and both can be hard to get into. They just focus a bit on different things. League of Legends is more about the meta game, where DOTA 2 is more about single combat situations. At least that is what I think about both of these games and my experience with them.

P.S. If you plan to play the DOTA 2 beta, be ready for long waiting times. Since this is a beta, there are several, several times less players than there are in League of Legends.


An interview with Alex

He plays drums, is knowledgeable both about movies and video games. He is a professional Nicolas Cage expert and knows a thing or two about bad truck games. Who is this wonder man, you might ask? Well, it is Whiskey Media's own Alex Navarro. I got to ask him a series a disjointed questions, that, maybe, could be called an interview, about starting Screened, working for two sites and a bunch of other stuff. Enjoy!

Me: Thanks for agreeing to this. Could you please tell me how did the idea of Screened was born? What made you leave Harmonix and start a site at Whiskey Media?

Alex: I can't tell you the exact origins of Screened as I actually wasn't there for the initial planning meetings. The Whiskey folk had already decided they were definitely going to do a movie/television site in the vein of Giant Bomb, and it just so happened that I was back in the Bay Area during a holiday break and hanging out with Mr. Jeff Gerstmann when he told me the site was in development.

Little known fact: During my time at CNET/GameSpot, I had lobbied several higher-ups there to allow me to do some work on FilmSpot, the apparently doomed-from-the-start movie website the company briefly pretended it cared about. As it turned out, no one there in management really gave a crap about that site after the guy who helped get it created (I believe that was a Vince Broady joint) left CNET, so nobody had much interest in paying anyone to dedicate significant resources to that site.

So, anyway, that's a roundabout way of saying I'd always wanted to get into writing about film, either in addition to writing about games, or as a full-time gig, and the idea of working for Whiskey on a movie website sounded incredibly appealing, especially given that I'd been considering leaving Harmonix anyway. That's sort of a long story, but I think I've said before that my relationship with MTV Games wasn't overly great at that point, and I was increasingly frustrated with working with them. Plus, you know, the possibility of working with my old friends again was kind of a hard thing to ignore. So this seemed like a really good opportunity.

So I interviewed with Shelby in early 2010, and not long after that everything came together. We started working on the site and getting all the pieces in place, we hired Rorie, and eventually, the site was born.

Me: How different is it to review films compared to reviewing games? How much of your experience covering video games could you use, or was it something completely new to you?

Alex: It's a pretty different mentality. Video game criticism tends to focus so much on the mechanical. How solid is this framerate, how do these controls work, etc. Often times, the idea of narrative gets checked off as a single bullet point to address in a paragraph. Though, honestly, a lot of games really don't deserve much more acknowledgment than that as far as their story goes. The ones that do deserve more attention in that area I suppose are the ones I've been enjoying most lately.

When you're reviewing a film, you're certainly taking into account technical aspects like direction, cinematography, performance, music, and whatever else. It's just that it's much more in service of the overall understanding of how well a movie tells its story. You (typically) go to a movie to watch its plot unfold. Sometimes that becomes ancillary to seeing a particular actor or seeing specific action sequences, but even those things factor into the overall storytelling. Games can have no story (sports games, puzzle games, etc.), or have tons of story. You have to be able to parse what parts are important to each individual game, and focus on those. Like, I doubt I'd ever give a Mario game a negative review just because its story sucked. It's more about the mechanics, the world design, and what have you. Likewise, I don't care how technically proficient a movie is if it can't make me care about its plot and characters.

Me: With your last sentence in mind, do you think there is something substantial to gained by trying to change the viewing experience of a film goer? Can things like 3D, IMAX or even D-Box add something meaningful to a movie, or is just novelty and a way to make a ticket more expensive?

Alex: I think if it's one thing movies like Hugo, and yes, Avatar, have proved it's that 3D can be used as something more than a silly gimmick. And I think if there's one thing movies like Piranha 3D and A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas have proved, it's that when you are going to use 3D as a gimmick, it's best to be as ridiculous as possible about it.

Like all things, technology absolutely can aid a film-going experience. It's all about how the director chooses to use it, and whether that technology is really capable of immersing you in the experience, or just a cheap gimmick to raise ticket prices. I am not 3D's biggest fan, but I even recognize that there is merit to it when it's used well. As for D-Box or IMAX, I'd say it's the same thing. I don't find D-Box that enthralling personally, but I know Ryan loves the hell out of it. It certainly has its benefits, if you're way into big, crazy action movies.

Me: Going back to covering films and video games, how did you get involved with Giant Bomb and back to reviewing video games? Do you count as an intern/freelancer at Giant Bomb or does just Jeff ask's you to review some games, because everyone else is busy at that time? How much does it affect your ability to work for Screened?

Alex: My current role basically has me as a 50/50 split covering games and movies. I'm still a full-time employee of the company, not freelance or anything. Movie assignments get worked out between Rorie and myself, whereas game stuff usually just comes from me talking to Jeff whenever stuff is coming out.

Getting back involved with Giant know, I can't recall the exact thing that got that all started. I did a few reviews back in 2010 during the Q4 crunch, as I recall, and then at some point I had some free time and just started doing some news posts for them before Patrick came along. Again, I think that mostly just was a matter of convenience, originally.

As for my decision to take on this 50/50 role, it just made sense to me. I still love games and like writing about them. Likewise, I still really dig writing about film. I guess I'm a bit of a dilettante, in the sense that I like to involve myself in a lot of different art forms without necessarily focusing all my efforts on just one. It's why I used to write up those big Album of the Year posts every year--I really like following and discussing music, but I think I'd go nuts if that were the only thing I were doing.

Me: Yeah, I remember those posts. I used to to enjoy them, but, from what I understand, they take a lot of time to make, yes? Could you see yourself reviewing albums or covering the music industry?

Alex: I'm not a particularly great music writer. Part of the problem is that music, for me, is an exceptionally personal thing, and oddly something I find pretty difficult to explain in terminology people will understand. Also, as someone who is a drummer exclusively and has no real sense of how to write songs beyond the scope of structure and tempo, it's hard for me to really judge music on the same wavelength as people who do kind of understand that stuff. So it's why I stick to just writing my lists of the stuff I really liked, because it's simpler than trying to write full reviews of every album I come across. It also doesn't require as deep of thought when explaining, since I'm just explaining why it made my list.

I dig reading about the music industry, be it reviews, news, interviews, or whatever else. But I doubt it's an area I'd want to cover professionally.

Me: Your site does also cover TV. What can you say about modern television? Do you agree with the notion, that traditional television is a dying breed of entertainment?

Alex: Dying? Maybe not, but certainly transforming. I'll freely admit that my passion for TV is perhaps less than that of games/movies, but I watch a good number of shows in my free time. Far more than I did, for instance, before DVRs and Netflix came around. I think the truth of the matter is that the traditional Network model is beginning to show its age, and the networks that have been able to adapt to this (licensing shows to Netflix or Hulu, using the Internet to help promote the program with clips or entire episodes, etc.) are the ones that will be the most successful in the future. I don't know that the idea of scheduled programming watched via your television will ever go away, but it'll be one option among several ways to consume your favorite programs. As long as networks can find a way to monetize it, they'll do it.

Me: So, it has been some time that you moved to the east coast. How did it impact your workflow? How do you review unreleased games? Do you have your own debug units for consoles?

Alex: It's actually been really good. One of the neat things about the New York game scene is that everybody here's pretty friendly with one another. Which isn't to say that the San Francisco scene isn't friendly, but I've gotten pretty close with a number of writers here who've all been pretty cool about helping me make local PR contacts and letting me know about events, and such. It's a pretty supportive group of people and it's made the transition a hell of a lot easier.

I have a debug Xbox that I've had for, god, I guess since I was briefly freelancing between my time at GameSpot and my gig at Harmonix. It's beat to shit, but it does the job.

Thanks Alex for this interview and super fast response time to my questions.


An interview with Patrick

It has been less than a year that one Patrick Klepek joined the team, here on Giant Bomb. And, I don't know about you, but I feel he is a great addition to the editorial staff of this fine website. But, while have followed Jeff, Ryan, Brad and Vinny from their GameSpot days, I barely knew anything about Patrick. So this is a little interview I did with him about his past jobs, time at Whiskey Media, his news stories and little about gaming news in general. Hope you will enjoy it.

Me: I, and a lot of other people, were introduced to you during one of the Bombcasts. Back then, you did not work for Giant Bomb, so can you tell to those that don't know, where have you worked in the past, why that did not work for you and how did you come to Whiskey Media?

Patrick: The Bombcast from GDC, right? I don't think I was on before then. I've been around the block a few times on this side of the industry. Started attending E3 when I was 14, and mostly wrote for Gaming Age Online (, which is the origin of NeoGAF. Much of Gaming Age went on to work at Ziff Davis Media, who at one point operated 1UP, EGM, GFW/CGW, GMR and others. My friends there would connect me with freelance when I was in college, and when I graduated, 1UP news editor Luke Smith left for Bungie and I took that position. About six months into that gig, Stephen Totilo offered me a chance to be the San Francisco correspondent for MTV News, which I accepted. I spent a year reporting there alongside Stephen and Tracey John, another talented reporter, before the recession hit and I was laid off. By that point, I'd surmised that having more experience on-camera would prove useful, so I interviewed with G4 and took a position as a news writer in Los Angeles, writing for their Feed blog, contributing to X-Play and co-hosting E3 the following year. EGM was rebooted during that time, and I was offered the chance to be a senior editor on the digital side. That proved to be a complete bust, a waste of a year of my life, and I began quickly looking for something new, which turned out to be Giant Bomb.

Me: Yes, it was the GDC podcast. But what do you mean by saying, that being a senior editor on the digital side of EGM was a bust?

Patrick: Well, I signed onto EGM as part of EGMi--the digital initiative. While it started out as a web service and remained a web service during my time at EGM, it was really an iPad app. I couldn't tell you why it took so long before the iPad app to launch, but it didn't come out until after I'd left. I can't say much more without getting into touchy legal ground, but I found the prospect of working on an all-digital magazine for a pioneering device to be a very lucrative opportunity, but I wasn't given many ways to contribute to how it actually came about, and so I decided to move on.

Me: So now you are here, at Giant Bomb. How has it been? How is the staff, the community? Is Luchadeer haunting you and threatening to shave off your hair?

Patrick: The transition from EGM to Giant Bomb could not have been more incredible. The community here is great--attentive, responsive, passionate--and the editors share the same values I do when it comes to creating content that you care about. Of course, Whiskey Media has to make money, but the underlying philosophy of Whiskey Media is making content that you believe in, and trusting there are other people who care just as much as you. It's been a very inspiring place to work, one that allows me to chase down my favorite pursuits, and I think it's created some of my best stories yet.

Me: Speaking of which, a lot of your stories are more like editorials on a specific topic. Like the first Crash Bandicoot game on Cryengine 2 or multiple stories about Team Bondi. How hard is it to find all these stories and information about them?

Patrick: By and large, I cover what I find personally interesting. It's why Giant Bomb was such an appealing place from the outside looking in, as they were approaching games coverage the same way I always wanted to. The more you're personally invested in telling a story, the more interesting it's going to be for the audience. That said, not every story I publish is The Most Interesting Thing Ever, but it tends to be my personal barometer. Also, I have a softspot for the watchdog role, and I've tried to go out of my way to chase down stories of consumers getting screwed by companies. Finding the information is easier than one would think, and is usually as simple as sending an email or a Facebook message. It's all about persistence.

Me: How hard was it to cover the Infinity Ward piece?

Patrick: Without diminishing what I accomplished with the story, it was largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I happened to have the best contacts for that story to break around, which allowed me to cover the breakup from both Infinity Ward and Activision's perspectives. It wasn't so much hard as it was exhausting, as I was trying to stay on top of the story as new developments broke, more memos came my way, and other reporters began to pick up where I'd left off. I'm not sure I'll ever have a story like that ever again, but I'll spend my whole career trying.

Me: Lastly, in your opinion, what is the state of news coverage in video games today?

Patrick: Things like Twitter have made it easier than ever to filter out the crap and focus on what you're interested in, especially in regards to writers and reporters who put out quality work. You don't have to follow an entire publication, you can simply follow someone you trust, and if that person breaks that trust, it's as easy as clicking "unfollow" to move on. That said, as a whole, we could be doing better, and focusing less on making sure people have something "new" to ready every five seconds. We've trained them to expect that, and it's what degrades the quality bar for most publications.

And that is it. I would like to thank Patrick once again for answering my questions. Have a nice day, duders.


Game of the Year: By The Numbers

As someone who likes math, I decided to break down this years video 10 ten lists ans see how they compare with the editorial team. Every game got points depending on how high it was one every editors list. One point goes to the number 10 game and 10 points go to the number 1 game on the list. I also have included Drew's and Alex's top 10 lists into a separate list, so that we could see, how they would influence the end result. So here are top 10 list form the editors:


  1. Saints Row: The Third
  2. Portal 2
  3. L.A. Noire
  4. Rayman: Origins
  5. Batman: Arkham City
  6. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  7. Super Mario 3D Land
  8. Trenched/Iron Brigade
  9. The Gunstringer
  10. You Don't Know Jack


  1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  2. Bastion
  3. Dead Island
  4. Dead Space 2
  5. Portal 2
  6. Gears of War 3
  7. L.A. Noire
  8. Renegade Ops
  9. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  10. Saints Row: The Third


  1. Saints Row: The Third
  2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  3. TrackMania 2: Canyon
  4. Mortal Kombat
  5. Bastion
  6. Batman: Arkham City
  7. Portal 2
  8. Gears of War 3
  9. Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure
  10. Deus Ex: Human Revolution


  1. Portal 2
  2. Bastion
  3. Saints Row: The Third
  4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  5. Mortal Kombat
  6. Batman: Arkham City
  7. Rayman: Origins
  8. Jetpack Joyride
  9. Dirt 3
  10. NBA 2K12


  1. Saints Row: The Third
  2. Bastion
  3. Batman: Arkham City
  4. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  5. L.A. Noire
  6. Warhammer 40000: Space Marine
  7. Dark Souls
  8. Portal 2
  9. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes
  10. Rocksmith


  1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  2. Catherine
  3. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
  4. Saints Row: The Third
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  6. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  7. Rayman: Origins
  8. Portal 2
  9. Shadows of the Damned
  10. You Don't Know Jack


  1. Portal 2
  2. Bastion
  3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  4. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  5. Dirt 3
  6. Digital Combat Simulator: A-10C Warthog
  7. Gears of War 3
  8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  9. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
  10. Battlefield 3

Now, before we get to the end results, I want to stress, that this is not a post about what should have been the overall top 10 game list of Giant Bomb. This is just math, based on their personal favorites. And there is a difference between liking a game and being critical about it. Also, I think they did a good job of explaining their point of view during their end of the year deliberations podcast. So, with that in mind, I present to you the final lists (the numbers in brackets are the amount of points for each game):

Pos.Official listMath listMath list with
Alex and Drew
1The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimSaints Row: The Third (38)Saints Row: The Third (46)
2Saints Row: The ThirdThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (29)Portal 2 (45)
3BastionPortal 2 (25)The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (44)
4Portal 2Bastion (24)Bastion (42)
5Dead Space 2Batman: Arkham City (19)Batman: Arkham City (24)
6The Witcher 2: Assasins of KingsL.A. Noire (18)L.A. Noire (18)
7Batman: Arkham CityRayman: Origins (11)Rayman: Origins (15)
8Gears of War 3Catherine (9)Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (14)
9L.A. NoireGears of War3/Deus Ex: HR/TrackMania 2/
Superbrothers/ Dead Island (8)
Mortal Kombat (13)
10Rayman: OriginsDead Space 2/The Witcher 2/Uncharted 3/
Mortal Kombat (7)
Gears of War 3 (12)

After 10'th position, both lists start to have a lot of ties, although the simple math list starts having them at the end. The interesting thing is that Portal 2 was the only game that appeared on everyone's lists, while Saints Row: The Thirds was on every of the five judges lists. Some games got a lot of point because they were high on someone's list, like Catherine being number 8, because it was Patrick's second favorite game this year. Hope this was somewhat interesting for you to read.

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