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I'm still alive. Life is great. I love you all.

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Movin' on up

It's been a while since I wrote an all-out blog. I hadn't even realized how damn long it had been until I was surfing around on Giant Bomb today. Holy shit, where does the time go?

It's been a long few months of constant shit to take care of, but such is the way of life, right? My girlfriend and I have finally moved in together. She wanted to move in earlier, but I have a staunch rule of "only after six months together." Everything takes six months, ya know? When you first get roommates and think "this is going to be awesome," it turns out six months later that they are slobs and piss you off to no end. Six months is about the time where pregnancy (at least I'm told) seems to be coming to its biggest challenges and obstacles, but closer than ever to the final days. Six months is how long it takes to cycle through two seasons. A lot happens within six months, and so we are now at this point.

It's weird. VERY weird. I've never lived alone before, let alone with a girlfriend. This is a first in my life, and while that's sad to admit at 31 years old, I also never wanted to rush into moving in with someone that I was in love with. It needed to grow and blossom. I needed to know that she would be able to live with my hyper-critical bullshit enough and dish it back out as well. Luckily, she does just that.

Alongside that time, I've also taken a deeper interest in cooking. Maybe it's because of the MasterChef marathons that seem to run off the Roku in our apartment on a fairly regular basis, but cooking has always been a passion of mine. I can't make the perfect buttered crab or whatever, but I can grill up some tilapia like no other!

Part of the renewed interest in cooking is because...well...I'm not lazy anymore. I got sick of being fat, and as I looked at my girlfriend every night and realized that she is it...she's the one, I knew I needed to be around as long as possible. Therefore, for the last two or three months, I've been hitting the gym. I'm not talking about some 30-day challenge shit or even just a "go to the gym two times a week" shit. I'm going five times a week minimum, and it's not exercise: it's training. Hellcentrics, high-weight low-rep, low-weight high-rep, deadlifts, squats (ass to grass, muthafucker), inclines, declines... If you name it, I've been doing it. So far, in the last two or three months, I've dropped at least two pant sizes, about 30 pounds, gained muscle, my traps are getting big, and I feel great. I FEEL great. I don't feel like I'm huffing and puffing. Because of the change in my diet to all-natural foods (no sodas for seven months now, no high fructose corn syrup for four months, everything is fresh cooked rather than processed foods), I have felt like a new man. My acid reflux doesn't fuck with me anymore. It's an amazing change, and one that I've felt incredibly inspired to both share with people and try to get them involved in.

My girlfriend and I also recently added a new member to our little family. His name is Connery, and he's about 9 weeks old. Oh...and he's a cat. I've never been much of a cat person, but my girlfriend begged and begged to get a cat. I finally gave in on the condition that he would be neutered ASAP and that if he clawed me at any point, I would declaw him. So far, he's fucking awesome. He's a daredevil, a cute fuzzball, and a goofy bastard. He likes to nap on my keyboard while I'm trying to play games, but he's finally getting to the point where he'll sleep on my lap while I'm playing a game. Just...ya know...he freaks out a little when I die on League of Legends...because I freak out a little when I die on League of Legends.

So...overall, there's not a lot of gaming talk here. I've been playing the shit out of Warframe and Marvel Heroes. That's about it.

Hope everyone is doing well, and thanks for reading.


While I was at Which Wich (A tribute in bag art)

My girlfriend and I go to Which Wich every week because, frankly, they have bomb-ass sandwiches that I fucking love. For anyone who has never been to Which Wich, however, allow me to explain what you are about to see.

Which Wich is a national sandwich chain in America where you take one of many bags that are on a wall, fill out what you want with red Sharpie marker, and then hand it in. Afterwards, they return said bag with a tasty sandwich inside. After you are finished devouring and conquering, you use that red Sharpie to draw pictures on your bag, then hang them up in the store. A lot of stores will usually skim through the art and pick the best ones to hang up.

My girlfriend and I have our own goddamn wall at the place. That's how much art we have for them. We've done all kinds of bag art, ranging from My Neighbor Totoro to an NES box art version of Which Wich to the Jaws poster with a sandwich replacing the swimming lady and "WICH" replacing the Jaws logo, aliens, My Little Pony, Star Wars, X-Men, and all kinds of stuff.

However, given the recent circumstances with Ryan's passing, I decided that today's art needed to be dedicated to the man himself. What better tribute could I offer to him than to replicate his pirate face on the back of a sandwich bag for public display? AMIRITE?

Therefore, I give to you "#heyeverybodyitstuesday".

No Caption Provided

...and here is proof that this sucker is sitting among the other pieces of art on display.

No Caption Provided

Thank you all, and have a good night.

P.S. - The Star Wars one below Ryan is my girlfriend's work.


I owe Ryan (and the crew) my life...

It's always weird when someone who inspired you but you never personally met passes away. You feel this crushing blow, like someone jammed their fist at full velocity to your solar plexus and took all of the wind from you. There's that first tinge of "this is unbelievable," and in Ryan's case particularly, it's going to be hard to believe because he was a funnyman, prankster, and always finding a way to troll someone.

This is no troll. It's reality.

Upon hearing the news of Ryan's passing, there was this sense of profound sadness, and my friends said "why are you crying about this?" I didn't expect any of them to understand, and I don't honestly expect any of you to understand either. However, if it wasn't for Ryan and the crew, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I've said it a few times before, and whether people noticed or not is besides the point. I used to run an independent game site called BonusStage. My buddy John Pippin was writing at another site, but he freelanced at BonusStage. He knew how often I would sit around on Gamespot, soaking in all the content. He and I would sit around and talk about game reviews, and without fail, we would somehow always land on the same topic by the end of the night: how these guys over at Gamespot...Jeff, Ryan, Brad, Greg, Rich, Alex...were changing the way gaming journalism worked. When the opportunity to join BonusStage arose, I was quick to take it. My ultimate goal was to, maybe someday, work at Gamespot alongside these guys that inspired me to do this. Moreover, it was their enthusiasm for games that really made me love games far more than I did before.

Ryan, in particular, was someone that I found myself drawn to more than the rest. He was upfront and honest, brutal with his words but understanding of a situation. He was always the first to call out bullshit and put it all in proper perspective. He was someone who, if in any other body, people would hate and loathe. However, there was a sincerity, an honesty, a caring to him that made it all work. He was an asshole that people liked.

That last paragraph I wrote also describes me. It was refreshing to find someone who shared not only some of my personality traits, but also loved the same hobby. In turn, I started writing game reviews. I did that for about three years, but the world of independent gaming websites in an industry monolithed by giant sites like GameSpy, Gamespot, IGN, and multiple others didn't have much of a chance. It was shut down, and I had to figure out what was next for me.

Luckily, I had at one point interviewed the owners of a local LAN gaming center for an article on iGames-related gaming centers. I began frequenting the store as a regular customer. Shortly after a job I was working ended, those same guys that I interviewed asked if I wanted a full-time job with them.

I have remained at that job since that day. It's been seven years now. Within that time, Gerstmanngate happened, Arrow Pointing Down podcast happened, and Giant Bomb was born. These are things that I followed closely. Since Giant Bomb was created, I have felt at home here. It's a place where the community watches out for each other, the staff aren't just some faces that we know the names of, and in general, we're a family.

If it wasn't for Ryan, I wouldn't have started writing about games. If I hadn't written about games, I may not have gotten the job that I've had for the last seven years. If it wasn't for Ryan, I'd probably be stuck in a cubicle asking for medical records from doctors and hospitals, working a boring ass 9-5, and being unhappy in life.

His death is truly profound for me. I'm 31. I'm three years younger than he was. It's an eye-opening experience when someone close to your age dies.

Thank you, Ryan. Your confidence, charisma, sincerity, and jackassery will be so sorely missed by so many. Personally, thank you for showing me...beyond your gaming persona...that life is weird, so be weird in it.

My condolences to Anna, Jeff, Brad, Vinny, Alex, Drew, Dave, and all of those affected by this loss.


The Problem with Microsoft's Position Pt. 2: Effects on Gaming Centers

When Microsoft revealed the "details" on the Xbox One, it left many shrugging, angry, enraged, confused, and most importantly, looking towards Sony as an alternative. The perspective that many had while watching that press conference was one of "I want to see what Microsoft will be doing." However, as I watched the press conference, I had two separate perspectives, one of which is relatively unique that many people have never had cross their mind: as the manager of a network gaming center.

For those few who do know here at Giant Bomb (and the many that don't), I work at what many would call a "LAN center," but we call it a "network gaming center." What does this mean? A lot of our business is built around a simple idea: come in, sit down, play video games with friends/family/complete strangers. It's not just about gaming here, as the social aspect is what we want to create; in our town, there are not many places that young people under 18 can go to hang out and relax in a safe environment. While some people will say "why would people pay to go somewhere and play video games at $5.00/hour (cheaper with bulk time, any unused time is saved on your account until the next time you come in), I would ask "why would people pay bar prices for drinks when they could invite people over and drink at a cheaper rate?" We go as low as $2.00/hour in bulk rates.

We've found a moderate level of success in a business model where many only last about six months to a year.

This will be our ninth year of operation.

When we started, it was with much less equipment. We were a floor space of 3,000 square feet housing 20 PCs (eventually moving to 28 PCs) and 4 original Xbox stations on 70" projection screens. Within three years, we were moving into the location next door because we needed more space; we were filling up regularly on PC and Xbox alike. Within the confines of our 6,000 square feet, we house 40 PCs, 28 Xbox 360 stations, a pool table, an air hockey table, and a Rock Band station (complete with an Ion drum kit!). All of them are system linked as well as online-capable (all 28 Xbox stations have their own personal Xbox Live accounts if someone doesn't have their own).

Why did we choose Xbox and Xbox 360? The choice was actually very simple: multiplayer. At the time, Halo was wildly popular. Remember that fervor around the release of Halo 2? Imagine how many people wanted to come into our store and play on this massive projection screen covering an entire wall, each person getting their own 32" slice of the pie. Now imagine people wanting to link up all four of the consoles for a massive 16-player deathmatch. It was extreme amounts of fun. When Xbox 360 and PS3 were being shown off, the choice was very simple to make. Xbox 360 supported four controllers on a lot of games for local multiplayer, better system link options for local LAN play, more secure online capabilities with Xbox Live, and Halo 3. These were all things that we needed to have happen.

"Josh, why did you feel the need to info dump all that stuff? I thought this was about Microsoft's problem with the Xbox One."

It absolutely is about that. Look closer at all the details that I've laid out. We have 28 Xbox 360 stations, and in terms of game variety, we have over 100 different games for people to play on Xbox 360 and at least 40 on PCs. When you go out to buy the new Call of Duty, you have to buy one copy, maybe two (one for a friend or a second Xbox in the house or something)?

When we buy the new Call of Duty, we are most likely buying a minimum of ten copies. We'll also have 17 of our house XBL accounts going out, so we'll need to get our subscriptions updated on that. Let's do the math:

  • $600 x 10 = $600
  • $60 x 17 = $1,020
  • $1,020 + $600 = $1,620

When Call of Duty: Ghosts comes out, we will most likely be spending close to $1,700 on the game. It makes your $60 purchase seem a little piddly in comparison now, right?

In turn, it means this: if we can save a couple of bucks here or there in order to get copies of a game, then we'll do it. If we can get a copy on eBay for $50, a copy on Newegg for $48, or a used copy at Gamestop for $55 minus our $15 off coupon from the Rewards program because we spend a LOT of money at that place, we will do it.

Mind you, we do not get this many copies for every game. With the majority of our games, we get one copy. It's all we need. However, with Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Battlefield, Borderlands...these are the games we get a larger quantity of copies for. Why? Shooters are popular and that's what people want to play.

If Microsoft plans on somehow restricting the use of used/borrowed games on their consoles, this is bad news for us. With ten copies of Call of Duty, we can at least switch them between the 28 consoles that we have. However, saying that we'll have to either get 28 copies (more if we decide to expand on the console area at all) because of a potentially restrictive used games policy?

When we look at the next generation of consoles, we are currently saying "which one is going to offer the best options overall at a cheaper overhead?" and the current answer is Sony. Why? Sony's online (as far as we know) has no cost attached, but it is looking to be as fully featured as Xbox Live is. The next generation is currently looking to have a more online-focused setup and stepping further away from the local multiplayer ideals. If that's the case, then it means some rearranging on our part, and the PlayStation 4 is the better option for that specific focus.

The issue here is that we'd be "changing horses midstream." We've used Microsoft consoles and operating systems since we opened, and it looks that in our tenth year of operation next year, we'll be switching to Sony if Microsoft doesn't get their shit together. We have customers that come in to play a game before they decide to buy it themselves, a form of rental if you will. We have customers that don't even own an Xbox 360 console, yet they have an Xbox Live account and purchase Microsoft Points regularly to spend on the games here. What about the people that come in and end up saying "I want to buy an Xbox 360?" This has worked great for Microsoft, and they do not even realize it. Hell, we're just 28 Xbox 360 stations. Look at Howie's Game Shack. They are franchised...and last I checked, they have at LEAST 50 stations in each of their locations! This is money in their pocket, and they are about to lose it all because of restrictive policies.

That's not even the worst part of it. Our customers who play Call of Duty generally like playing it on Xbox more than PlayStation. Our customers like playing Halo. They like the Xbox Live platform. What happens if we make the switch to Sony's PlayStation 4? Will it receive the same type of fanfare and support from OUR customer base?

As it stands, the next generation of consoles is a scary prospect for gaming centers all over America. Many of them are small businesses that were founded with the idea of providing a place of comfort for gamers while also making a little bit of money. These aren't get-rich-quick schemes. We're not rich folks. We're regular joes that like video games and want to offer a space for people to enjoy that hobby. What happens when restrictions might take away a part of that hobby?

This blog is meant to offer a different perspective to everyone, one that many would not even see or hear about unless they were made directly aware of it. It's meant as a way to say "we have thoroughly enjoyed Microsoft's console on a personal and commercial level, and it sucks to see the rumors and news that we're seeing."

I also understand that asking a game console manufacturer to keep something like gaming centers in mind as well when they are designed a console is general craziness. They are looking at the individuals at home, not the individuals at LAN spots.

The times, they are a-changin'...and we can only hope that it's for the better. We'll know more at E3, but until then, we're sweating bullets.

Thanks for reading. Appreciate your time.


The Problem with Microsoft's Position in the Next Generation


We sit here now knowing more information about our future in gaming. Microsoft and Sony have tipped their hands to give us a look at what their plans are, and the two could not be on further ends of the spectrum.

I've sided with Microsoft over the course of this last generation for a number of reasons:

  • The overall stability and feature set of Xbox Live
  • The Microsoft exclusives (Banjo-Kazooie, Halo, Alan Wake, and a handful of others)
  • I liked their controller a hell of a lot more
  • Xbox Live Marketplace and its plethora of fantastic downloadable titles
  • It's the console that we chose to carry in our gaming center (meaning I didn't have to buy a console)

Nothing that Sony had offered with the PlayStation 3 tickled my fancy. Well, there's that and the fact that Dark Cloud 3 was never announced. Personal issue aside, PlayStation 3 seemed like a high-price Blu-Ray player, and I'm more of a digital content type of guy. After they were hacked, things drastically improved for the PlayStation 3 and I began to see the console that I wanted Sony to make this whole time.

Now that we've seen what Sony and Microsoft are both offering, it would seem that Sony learned from their own hubris and mistakes...and they fully have plans to fix those and get right with gamers again. Meanwhile, after the Xbox One reveal conference today, I have this deep down feeling that Microsoft doesn't understand the depth of the mistakes they are about to make.

From here on out, we will be talking about some things that are merely rumors, some things that are confirmed kinda but not really because something or another things but they are basically confirmed, and things that are definitely confirmed.

The first problem that Microsoft has deals with their approach to "always on." Phil Harrison stated in an interview (that has since been kinda-sorta debunked by Microsoft support but Harrison keeps pushing that it's correct information) that you will need to turn on your Xbox with an internet connection enabled to it at least once every 24 hours. This sounds like a lame duck "authentication" DRM attempt. Either have it one way or the other, but don't middle of the road this shit on us. If you want an always online DRM, then make it require an internet connection at all times. If not, then don't include the function at all and move on.

However, the deeper problem with this comes from the potential of alienating audience. What happens if I have my internet shut off for a couple of months because I decided that my internet bill money could go somewhere more worthwhile? As it stands, internet is a LUXURY, not a NECESSITY. Hell, what happens if I forget to do this "turn it on once every 24 hours" thing for three days because I'm on vacation? What kind of punishment will I face? An Xbox Live ban? A fee that I have to pay in order to re-authenticate everything? Nothing at all? It's a very bad thing to leave people guessing about potential punishments due to one of your silly policies like this.

The second problem deals with their general approach at this press conference. Yes, we get why you are calling it Xbox One. It all has to do with your "new age" metaphoric bullshit need to say "it's the one box for everything." You said the same shit about the Xbox 360 also, and by all means, I'm not going to be the one that tries to deny Microsoft completing that mission fully. Show of hands how many people had a console doing their movie streaming, game playing, social media aspects, and multiple other services? However, this press conference did nothing but assure people "hey, we're going to offer television, streaming, television, sports, television, Call of Duty, exclusive television series, sports, Call of Duty, television." Included is a compilation that highlights these points:

See the problem here? Sony focused on the thing that matters to gamers: the games. They gave us some talk about the system itself, but they made sure to point out "hey, you like games, so do we, let's play some fucking games." The deeper problem, Microsoft, is that your focus was on everything BUT games. Yes, I'm aware that you are talking about games at E3, but as part of your initial reveal, showing more than a Call of Duty trailer would mean a lot. Right now, the information and buzz out there is not good. You've shot yourself in the foot.

Third, we'll talk about the "used games/borrowed games" rumors. You are going to make a fee...equivalent to the full price cost of the game play it on another profile? You are fucking high. You literally puffed on some incredible shit and have gone batshit-lost-your-fucking-mind. Yes, I know that the used game industry (places like Gamestop) can hurt the bottom line of some publishers, but honestly, we do not exist in the same time as we used to. Back in the day of the PS2, there wasn't a downloadable game space. You didn't hear all the whining about used games then. Why? That is due to this generation having a strong presence of downloadable titles right at our dashboards costing $10 or $15 which could equate to the same level of value that a full $60 game could present. Because of things like this (as well as economic issues in the United States), $60 is a steep asking price. People are looking for values. Here's a better solution: publishers work with places like Gamestop, garner licensing deals for selling those used games. This would means the publisher is still making some money overall, and it could possibly keep a couple of studios alive. I'd like to think that Bizarre Creations would still be alive if this were the case.

Instead, you wish to alienate more of your audience. If you are going to charge the same price as a full copy of the game, why not just buy the full copy of the game? Okay, that's the point. We get it. However, why not just stay on PC? Hell, it costs about the same amount plus about $100 to build a PC that will run all the third party shit you offer on your box, run all the same services that will be on your box, literally do EVERYTHING your box does outside of exclusive titles. However, I can buy my games at literally FRACTIONS of the price. My new copy of Bioshock Infinite was $35. My new copy of Dishonored? $30. My downloadable games? Wait until they go on sale and pick up Mark of the Ninja/Deadlight/Iron Brigade/Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet/Toy Soldiers for $10. Not only will I have the game available to me whether I'm online or off (in most cases), but I can also plug in YOUR controller and play them...with better graphics...better frame rates...and generally better experiences.

Is this going to stop piracy? No. If anything, it will promote people sharing their Xbox Live profile email and password, allowing anyone to download the profile and play whatever games they want. You are exchanging one way of trading for another. The only issue is that you will now be pushing people towards compromising their secret information, which could lead to security issues on the user's end as well as your own. It's a downhill idea, and nothing short of "dump this used game policy crap completely" is going to make it easier on you.

A deeper problem that you face? You got accidentally lucky with the Xbox 360. There weren't tablets, smartphones, and primitive mobile gaming devices at the time. In this day and age, why do I need your box to watch television, to search the internet, or to play downloadable games? We have a myriad of devices at our disposal to take care of their wants. What makes your console special? It has to be the games, and right now, you've shown nothing. That could change at E3, but unless some of these policies change, I doubt that will happen.

Let's address a patent that you offered back in November for the Kinect, something you didn't offer a lot of focus on. First off, the fact that you HAVE to have the Kinect attached to your system for it to work is silly. However, when looking at that patent, we can start to understand why. The idea that there are companies who use your browser cookies in order to direct advertising to you is already a little creepy. However, the idea that your company is going to be spying on how many people are sitting in my room while we watch a program on your box? Are you seriously out of your fucking mind?! Do you think that will actually fly? I say this while living in a country that allows cameras on top of street lights and street corners, etc. Maybe people won't have an issue with that, but many of us do! If there are too many people, you will prompt me to pay more money? How about we just unplug your box and throw it in the trash instead?

The mainstream of casual gamers out there may not realize what you are doing at the moment, but we do: you are just hooking a PC up to a TV. That's what consoles have always been: underpowered PCs. However, the parity at this point is really hard to not correlate. The issue is that you are creating a highly restricted PC.

As it stands, Microsoft is fumbling into this generation...HARD. Hopefully E3 can reveal stuff that changes my mind, but as it stands, really fucked the pooch on this one.

Thank you all for reading, and please, share your thoughts in as civil of a manner as possible.


A Tribute to West, TX - A Town I Know and Love

Many of my friends are RNs, police officers, volunteer fire department members, and generally good folk who are putting in a lot of time to help out with the town of West, TX. To say the least, everything right now is surreal.

My house is ten minutes away from West, in a small rural area called Elm Mott. My brother was home with his girlfriend when the explosion happened. He said the sound was massive, the earth shook, and he couldn't believe what he was hearing and seeing. Sirens non-stop down the highway, panic on the news, the YouTube videos coming out. I literally drove up there on the 11th to see Judge Pareya about getting a traffic ticket dismissed. For those who haven't been to West every year for Westfest, for those who have never been to a Trojans game, for those who have never stopped by the Czech Stop for some of their infamously amazing kolaches, for those who didn't get their first driving lessons on the highway by going up North I-35 to go into West for some of those kolaches, you are seeing the news and it's just that: You don't get an idea of how big the town actually is.

The suburb where I grew up just south of Elm Mott is called Lacy-Lakeview. That suburb itself houses more people than the entirety of West, TX. West is a seriously small town - 2,800 people. When news reports are saying "up to 100 buildings destroyed," they are essentially saying "the town is gone, it's done, there's nothing." Obviously, that's not entirely true. There are still buildings standing, and luckily for the people in West, first responders were quick as hell in getting out there and doing everything in their power to help.

Everything around here is close-knit. Many of the people who live in West are people that all of us know. If you look up Wesley Adcock right now, he can be seen helping people on the streets. He's just a regular Joe, but when his cousin Joanna popped up on my Facebook with an article saying "So proud of my cousin right now!", it brought a tear to my eye. It's not just because he's doing the right thing and doing what he can. It's because that hits close to home. When people you KNOW are involved in something this big, you start feeling that connection.

My days off are Sunday and Monday this week. When those hit, I'm going to be making my way over to West to try and help the best I can with whatever I possibly can. Until then, I have to sit here at work and watch the news. I plan on donating blood later today when I get off, but this feeling that you are shackled...that you could be helping and yet you can''s annoying the living fuck out of me.

I've never been this close to tragedy. The idea of West being tragic as fuck. That place was awesome.

Meanwhile, my heart and thoughts go out to all the people affected - those injured, deceased, first responders, hospital personnel, and everyone else. It's one thing to see something like Boston happen from a distance and say those same words...and a completely different thing when the blast was no more than 10-20 minutes from your home and it's a place you've been to for the last 25 years.


On Bioshock Infinite and Its Clandestine Nature




Games rarely "affect" me. When I say "affect," I mean it much in the same way that a movie would "affect" someone. I can keep the count of games which have pulled this off on one hand easily. Imagine my surprise when I started up Bioshock Infinite (on PC, of course) and initially said "wait, so this is the first Bioshock?" Having recently just played the first few hours of the first Bioshock within the last week, I realized something: I was analyzing Bioshock Infinite in the same way as a movie. I was drawing parallels, and it felt awesome.

Right off the bat, I'm introduced to a familiar scene: a lighthouse that I am arriving at, one that will presumably take me to this "magical" land outside of the normal world. As I entered, I basically expected to get a sky-o-sphere (my idea of the opposite to a bathosphere). Instead, I was greeted with a grisly scene overall. It was tense and wrought and exciting.

When I finally made it into Columbia, there were clouds kissed with sunlight, great buildings floating through the sky, and religious fanatics to greet me? Wait, what is going on here? What the hell have I walked into? People are praying to George Washington and Benjamin Franklin? Okay, I don't remember hearing anything about any of this in the few previews I watched and read.

Oh, and now we're apparently in a rather racist place that continues to follow in the belief that all men were NOT created equal? I'm at a fair...and they want me to stone a black woman and an Irish man who are a couple because they are racist pricks? Fuck you, announcer. Fuck you right in the...

...and this is where my adventure began.
...and this is where my adventure began.

These little secrets, things hidden away behind closed doors for the public to finally discover upon its release is what, I think, has pushed people to react so heavily about Bioshock Infinite, singing so many praises. It's tackling sensitive topics within a medium that...well...

...maturity isn't always our repertoire.
...maturity isn't always our repertoire.

We are an industry that acts with a certain level of gusto about our hobby, but we're also an industry that still features large-breasted women, dildo bats, anthropomorphous animals, and Duke Nukem. That's not to say those things aren't great in their own rights and ways, but as it stands, I can't recall a game off the top of my head that hit on the ideas of religion, racism, bigotry, AND transdimensional tears all in the same thing with such a heavy hand and bluntness. If anything, it's the ONLY thing that has shocked me about Bioshock Infinite.

Something unique and important to my experience with this game happened, though.

My grandfather, a thoroughbred badass.
My grandfather, a thoroughbred badass.

During the course of the week that I started playing Bioshock Infinite, my grandfather (mother's side) turned 92 years old. He's an incredible human being that has taught me so much in life, and I started thinking about something complex. In 92 years, think of the things that my grandfather has seen and lived through. When he was born, segregation still existed, women were just getting the right to vote, insulin was created for diabetes, and the radio/TV/record/8-track/cassette/CD/DVD/MP3/internet/cellphone were created. He has seen every major war of the 20th century.

The next time I loaded up Bioshock Infinite, I went into it with the mindset of my grandfather as a child. What would he think? How would he react? He's not a racist. He's not a bigot. He's just a guy living his life. He was a race car driver as a teen and he liked working on cars as well as gardening.

I saw the game in a very different light. I saw this game as though everything was normal, that this was just the way life was. I looked at it at a tilt, and I saw that this was a city created solely for the idea of being its own product to the people who inhabited it.

It was an interesting change, to consider looking at it through the eyes of someone who lived through shit like that. I still didn't agree with almost any side in the game other than Elizabeth. Even then, she pissed me off plenty. She would run off because she didn't agree with the way I handled situations. There was a strain there, something that felt distant. This is where the disconnect happened for me, though. With Booker being a voice-acted and written character, it meant that I rarely had much of a choice when it came to the decisions I was making or the way that I was interacting with her. In turn, it felt like I was just making someone else's decisions for them with this character. It's an interesting disconnect, as it basically made me feel like this was a first-person shooter where...instead of taking on the role of this lead character, I was God taking control of him.

I haven't reached the end of Bioshock Infinite yet, and at the rate I've been playing it (a few missions at a time to soak in everything that is happening before continuing on), I should be done within the next week or two. Yes, the combat is better than the previous two games but not by much. Yes, there are still computer-controlled AI opponents that aren't very smart (although they can be a real hassle on Hard). Yes, the skylines are totally rad!

Is it a work of art, though? No. Is it a masterpiece? Not really. Is it something for people to get all "OMGWTFBBQSAUCE" about? Maybe, but I'm not seeing it. Is it a fantastic game, though? Fuck yes.

Hope you are all enjoying your adventures in Columbia.

Thanks for reading.

Please do not post any spoilers beyond the Hall of Heroes.

P.S. -- I'm under NDA for the Marvel Heroes I can't give specifics...but I can say this: I'm going to be playing A LOT of Marvel Heroes when it comes out.


On Marketing in the Games Industry

Recently, the gaming community has become infatuated with a new piece of marketing: The Phantom Pain. Specifically, the incident in question revolves around an interview that Geoff Keighley had with the supposed CEO of Moby Dick Studios, Joakim Mogren. The CEO showed up on the screen with bandages covering his face, revealing very little information beyond an "accidental" moment where a screenshot had the FOX Engine logo on it. There are many that believe the CEO to be completely CGI, a fake. His first name is an anagram for Kojima, referencing the director of the Metal Gear Solid series. There are those who filled in the lines on the logo for The Phantom Pain and found it shows "Metal Gear Solid V" as fitting into the absent spaces.

Speculation after speculation - it's one way to get people talking about your game. However, is it all necessary? Is the elaborate circus show that is being put on genuinely worth the money put into it?

The name "Metal Gear Solid" carries with it a certain selling point. All you have to do is merely mention the words "Metal Gear Solid 5" and there are plenty of people out there who will cream their pants in over-orgasmic excitement. When a name like that is as heralded in a particular industry, do you really need this massive ruse in order to sell your game? At some point, it feels like the real purpose is missing here: the game.

Then again, this is Kojima's "thing." He likes the attention. He likes to play mind tricks, right? He has a flair for the overdramatic that few in this industry can really accomplish on such a massive scale. When his name is mentioned as being involved with a project, there's a fever pitch of humid tension in the air that cannot be denied. The franchise he gave birth to (and many would argue pushes the envelopes of what each console generation since the PS1 has been capable of) has been widely praised in almost all of its formats.

In turn, this begs the question: why go through such a huge PR stunt in order to unveil what people already know? It wreaks of pretention and narcissism in ways that would make David Cage or even Denis Dyack do a double take. People say "it's fun, so stfu about it," but I'm trying to understand where the fun of the marketing meets against any other specific walls, like making a video game itself.

No, I do not have the numbers for how much the marketing on The Phantom Pain has been at this point. However, I'm willing to wager that Konami could have possibly hired on some extra people and created jobs with it. They possibly could have had some funding to push for a smaller original IP. The money put into this marketing could have been used towards things far more productive. Instead, they were used to put on a fake interview...with a possibly CGI person...about a game that people already know is Metal Gear Solid 5...

Yes, it's funny, but in a climate where game studios (and even publishers for that matter) are being shut down on a regular basis, this type of hubris just seems like a massive slap in the face honestly. Let's be honest for a moment: if Konami did not have Kojima and the Metal Gear franchise, where would they be right now? Most likely, the answer is "the way of THQ." I cannot think of a single other franchise (save Castlevania...but again, let's be honest with ourselves) that Konami has under their belt which is successful enough to keep them afloat. Mind you, I don't pay attention to the Japanese market, which is obviously where their primary business would be.

In the end, I feel like an old fart shitting on some young kid's joyous day with all of this, but it needs to be said. These words need to be committed to some form of permanence, and while I'm just some regular ass dood on the internet pointing things out with my keyboard at hand, it doesn't make them any less true.

When does the marketing mean more than the game itself?

We haven't seen anything more than a trailer and an interview with a person that is possibly faked with CGI, and all of that shows me one thing: graphical power. Let me clearly state this: I could give a fuck less about your graphics. It's great and fantastic that you can make things look more photo-realistic. However, that's not what I'm here for. Sure, it'll mean all those wet-dream self-important cutscenes that Kojima loves to load his games down with will look all shiny, but what about the game?

You know what would be far more revelatory, far more interesting? Kojima walks out on stage, unveils the game as MGS5, and announces that Cliffy B. IS the head director on it. Not only would I be vastly more interested because it might actually be a game with a decent control scheme that doesn't feel clunky as shit, but it would be a melding of Western and Eastern design philosophy from two of the top people in their respective fields. THAT is exciting to me.

Unfortunately, we must sit through more parlor tricks to get to the final revelation. Meanwhile, our industry continues to look like a bloated mess of hyper-expensive game creation. Studio and publisher closures continue. Parlor tricks and "marketing over material" continue. The misogynistic and homophobic industry continues onward.

Enjoy the circus, folks. I'm going back to playing Don't Starve.

Until next time, piece.


I've Been Playing Games!

I prefer this Dante. Deal with that however you must to get some sleep tonight.
I prefer this Dante. Deal with that however you must to get some sleep tonight.

A Trip Through Limbo: Devil May Cry

Personally, I do not hold nearly the level of reverence for the Devil May Cry franchise that many others do. I remember thoroughly enjoying Devil May Cry 3 for its steep difficulty and excellent combo system. The first game is merely a blip in my mind, while the second is a blip in everyone's mind. The fourth game is an interesting thing, as I remember people speaking poorly of it upon release but spouting fonder memories in recent years.

Going into the new Devil May Cry, I did not care whether the new Dante was different from the old Dante, whether Trish was in the game or not, and all this other hoopla that has surrounded the game. The only thing that mattered was that the gameplay was solid, the story was good, and the combo system was rightfully complex but streamlined. All of these bullet points were checked off in my time with the game, and that puts a smile on my face. The one thing I didn't expect was what essentially felt like a complete-180 in terms of political and social commentary in the storytelling. Seeing Alex Garland return to help on the story of a Ninja Theory game (he wrote Enslaved, one of my favorite games of 2010) was a nice surprise. Seeing just how hard this story hits against many things in modern society (soft drinks/energy drinks and their relative unhealthiness, mainstream news stations and how they are controlled by corporations and government, etc) was a breath of fresh air. Sure, it was ham-fisted at points, but as someone who believes in freedom and liberty, it was an interesting twist to see in a popular game from a Japanese publisher.

Overall, it's a game I would highly recommend playing through. I don't typically care for cutscenes and even story, but every once in a while, something grabs me by the left testicle and refuses to let go. DmC has done that rather acutely.

Watching The Evolution of a Game: Warframe

I've spent a myriad of hours playing through the virtual world of Dark Sec...errr...Warframe. Some have pawned it off as being "Mass Effect 3 multiplayer but worse." Personally, I never played Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, so I can't speak one way or the other on that topic. I can say this, however: Warframe has continually delivered an insane evolutionary process in how the game is developing.

The art direction in Warframe is definitely pretty unique in terms of sci-fi games.
The art direction in Warframe is definitely pretty unique in terms of sci-fi games.

When I originally found myself in the beta, the game was nothing more than "run through, shoot things, collect stuff, repeat." There was little skill in all of it - just charge up your sword and slice or shoot your guns. The enemy AI wasn't particularly good either. However, after a number of weeks, the beta feels very different than it did before. Maybe this is because I'm finding myself deep into Saturn (the game progresses by which planet you are going to). It feels like the enemy design, the level design, and what is expected of you has ramped up significantly, to the point that it almost feels like a completely different game than what I was originally playing. It makes me realize that Mercury is, for all intents and purposes, a tutorial planet to get used to the controls and gameplay.

Saturn has been quite a challenge so far, namely because it takes a long time to level up your account and I haven't really been spending any "money" on gear. By "money," I am referring to the in-game currency (credits). I've just been hoarding it all, waiting until it is closer to launch so I can stack up gear and be uber-powerful. There have been regular updates coming out, and it's been marvelous watching this game grow and grow.

Climbing Through The Ranks: League of Legends

Meanwhile, in another free-to-play game that I spend a majority of my time in, the new "league" system for ranked matches in League of Legends has continually proven to be one of the single most frustrating things to deal with in my gaming history. Never have I felt so powerless and incapable as I have trying to make it into the next division or tier. For those who don't understand, League of Legends' ranking system has adopted something more akin to StarCraft II's ranking system. There are six league tiers (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Challenger). Within each of those tiers, there are five divisions. In order to place into a new division, you must work up enough wins to reach 100 points, and once you obtain that, you will be placed into a two-out-of-three qualifying series. If you win two, you advance to the next division. If you lose two, you are dropped back down to 75 points. If you hit zero points and lose a round or two, you drop down a division.

I've found that lower divisions don't seem to know how to stop Zed from dominating a match. Therefore, I'm playing Zed a lot.
I've found that lower divisions don't seem to know how to stop Zed from dominating a match. Therefore, I'm playing Zed a lot.

I have yet to suffer the latter half. Unfortunately, what Riot didn't tell us is that matches played before the start of Season 3 counted towards placement matches. I trolled those matches...because they didn't matter. In turn, I ended up in Bronze Division V - the lowest bracket. Okay, okay...I deserved it...probably...maybe. However, I know I'm at least a Silver Tier player, possibly low Gold at the moment. Nonetheless, I am sitting in Bronze Division III, fighting my way to get into Silver...and it just seems so goddamn impossible. I hate to sound like that rage-filled monstrosity that you find in many matches, but people are fucking stupid. This is a solid fact, irrefutable. People generally seem to make this game harder than it actually is. Maybe it's because I've played at higher levels of competition in the game and understand many more intricacies of the gameplay, but I think it's common knowledge among many players at this point. The level of frustration that I have with people in matches has become nearly toxic. I spew venom like the people I hate in the game. Don't get me wrong: I'm typically offering solid advice to people...written in all caps... Here are a couple of examples:


I'm quite friendly in League of Legends...until someone pisses me off with their ineptitude. Yes, I'm told to calm down quite a bit...but it's difficult. It honestly is. I know that attitudes like this are what drive people away from the game, but this presents a problem that Riot has in their game: there are no comprehensive tutorials in League of Legends to explain terminology to players, no honest place to get advice on general strategy within a game, and no worthwhile masterclass available to teach one the finer points of the game. Sure, you can go to SoloMid and watch pro streams all goddamn day, but they are pros...and you are not. It means that they have done this day in, day out for twelve hours a day. You play for maybe two hours or so and do not have the time or care enough to learn this minutia that can turn a game around in a flash. I've played no less than four matches in my last ten where my team was under by so much that it seemed impossible to win, but I was able to carry my team out of the gloom and we would win...and I was told that I was horrible and a bad player because I refused to surrender and move on. Instead of being thanked for the wins, I was lambasted and told I would be reported to "pushing the match further than it needed to go."

In essence, here's what I'm saying: don't play League of Legends. It really is a game made purely for masochists that hate themselves.


The Dead Space Equation

Many may not realize this, but the simple logistics of a question can be solved by pure mathematics. It's true. Particularly, they can be used in the instance of Dead Space. I hadn't really thought about it, but and someone else bringing it up on Twitter has helped make a lot of sense out of things for me that I previously didn't think about. For instance, let's start with this question: "is Dead Space better than Dead Space 2?"

If we're going on a pure game-to-game ratio, we would have to start from the equation of "Dead Space = Dead Space 2." From here, we must look at all of the modifications in order to determine whether or not this statement is true.

Dead Space: one animated movie, one comic book series - as a formula, we'll say it's (DS)(Downfall + DS comics).

Dead Space 2: one animated movie, one graphic novel, one regular novel, one downloadable game - as a formula, we'll say it is (DS2)(Aftermath + Salvage + Martyr + Ignition).

Immediately, we can subtract the downloadable game from the equation of Dead Space 2's modifications, as it does not truly add anything to the overall experience and lore. Therefore, the new Dead Space 2 formula looks something like this:

Dead Space 2: (DS2)(Aftermath + Salvage + Martyr - Ignition).

This seems like an unfair advantage overall right off the bat, as Dead Space 2 offered a larger budget to the game. Therefore, we must look at the difference in budget and use that as a percentage applied to the overall modifications for Dead Space 2. In turn, we now find ourselves with the following:

(DS2)(Aftermath + Salvage + Martyr - Ignition X .4)

In turn, this brings us to the point where the formulas are no longer quantitative, but rather qualitative (given the percentage is factoring in how DS2 would work within the same realm of possibility as DS).

This leads us to the following conclusion:

(DS)(Downfall + DS comics) > (DS2)(Aftermath + Salvage + Martyr - Ignition X .4)

That is if we go by pure numbers. However, there is still the Y factor, which is Extraction. That has not been added into the equation at all. Technically, it fits with DS more than DS2, so we will add it into the DS formula.

(DS)(Downfall + DS comics + Extraction)

This creates another lopsided force of momentum, as it causes Dead Space to be outweighing in a quantitative manner. Therefore, we must add a percentage to the DS formula now as well in order to reflect the qualitative capabilities over the quantitative.

Thus, we end with the following formula, which I think everyone can agree with overall:

(DS)(Downfall + DS comics + Extraction X .2) = (DS2)(Aftermath + Salvage + Martyr - Ignition X .4)


What was the point of this blog and all of its zany madness? It's simple, really: some people dig one game and some people dig another. Both are rather different in their qualitative states, and everything outside of the main two games should be considered as part of the game it is representative towards overall. If you don't care for any of that outside stuff, then on a pure game level, Dead Space > Dead Space 2. However, if you are someone like myself who cares a lot about the lore in this franchise because they have actually created a great, strong, fleshed-out world, you will see the games as equals because the supporting materials to go with them make them worth being invested in.

I'm hoping Dead Space 3 will do the same thing all over again for me.

Thank you for your time.