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After spending 50+ hours in This War of Mine and making it to the ceasefire twice with no casualties on my side (and everyone gett...

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(STORY SPOILERS) Theory on Horizon: Zero Dawn

Spoilers about the game's story follows.

If you're okay with spoilers, read on.

Here's my theory:

Project Zero Dawn was proposed because Dr. Elisabet Sobeck was NOT an expert on military technology

The game has a hologram recording of generals suggesting they could send unmanned bombers to attack the rogue machines, and Elisabet responded that they could not send anything automated because they would end up getting hacked.

Disregarding the issue that the nanomachines responsible for the Plague can take over electronics of a different architecture and programming language, Elisabet seems to have little knowledge of non-electronic weapon systems that could still make a huge impact against the machines, like nuclear artillery platforms.

Let’s take the in-game strategy of giving recruits railguns, who will end up being just cannon fodder anyway. This is horribly inefficient if you compare the effect of a railgun to a weapon like the M-29 Davy Crockett, a man-portable nuclear launcher. In real life, this weapon was never used because it was a suicidal weapon, but in the context of a robot war apocalypse, this kind of weapon would be critical.

Another alternative would be to send birds, dogs or various other animals to deliver the nuclear payload. No human lives would be lost, though training the animals to hit the right targets would be hard.

Dr. Sobeck, however, did not know about weapons like this (which makes sense because she was never involved in weapons development, and her robotics was focused on peaceful use).

The terrible side-effect of this is that Sobeck couldn’t develop a strategy to exterminate the machines, and instead opted for a risky solution. The generals in the room didn’t mention any of this, because they made the false assumption that Dr. Sobeck already considered the use of portable nukes.

While Elisabet’s plan did work out in the end, it seems apparent to me that Project Zero Dawn was only proposed because Elisabet wasn’t an expert on weapons.


The importance of a game's title

I'm not really the type who cares about what a game's called as long as it's fun or interesting. Monster Tale, for example, had an unfortunately generic and boring title but after watching the quick look I decided to buy it and wound up having fun with it.

Yet, there are people who would actively stay away from a game not because of what's inside but what its name was. Years ago when I was in high school, a week after Psychonauts was released, I asked one of my closest friends if he's tried it yet. He said he had no interest in it, because "the title sounds like something lame." Hearing the title made him think the game was set in outer space with crazed astronauts. Thankfully, he decided to buy a copy after trying it out at my house.

Mass Effect was another case. My cousin had no interest in it until I let him play with my copy for an hour. Although he'd seen preview videos of it before, he said he still had no idea what the game was about because of the title. The words 'Mass Effect' didn't mean anything to him at all, and thought the developers were lazy because they "couldn't come up with a good title."

Let's say there's a game with great graphics, fun gameplay and a storyline filled with clever plot twists and endearing characters. It takes itself seriously and shows that its creators really cared about their work, while still retaining some good comedic/whacky elements that don't feel out of place and doesn't assume the player is an idiot. The problem?

It's called Shoot Dudes. The only reason why it's called Shoot Dudes is because the game developers' CEO wanted it to be Shoot Dudes. That's it. The CEO knows it doesn't reflect what the game has to offer aside from the fact that some point you will shoot dudes. He knows there are people who, upon hearing the title, will lose all interest and won't even bother to watch videos of what actually happens in Shoot Dudes. He doesn't care.

I know at least three people in real life who would never buy a game like Shoot Dudes. The strange reasoning behind it is that "good games shouldn't have lame titles."

How much does a game's title matter to you? If a game's title sounded incredibly stupid or nonsensical (like Dark Dracula Summerhome Cheap Adventure Fun Banana) and didn't give you much of a clue about what the game is about, would that be enough to keep you away? Were there times when you had the wrong idea about a game just because of its title?


A game you hate just sold 1 billion copies.

There's this game, and you watched previews of it. You've seen the trailers. You don't like what you've seen so far, but reviewers you trust seem to have had fun with it, praising the game in vague terms because they didn't want to risk spoiling what's in store. The game gets perfect scores everywhere. You decide to give it a shot.
So you buy the game. You play it. Your own personal verdict: "This is shit!" You can't enjoy anything about the game. Angry and confused, you decide to stop playing it. However, when you check out the internet, you discover the game has become extremely popular. In less than a month, it has made 1 billion sales.

Yes, that's right: This game is so popular that the game's publisher, due to customer demand, made more retail copies than there are actual systems that can even play this thing. Everyone who has ever owned one feels they should buy extras 'just in case something happens to it'.
You don't understand it. Nothing makes sense. You've played the game, you've spent as much time with it as you were willing to bear with before deciding to stop, and yet almost everybody else  adores every single part of it, from beginning to end. Worse, everyone else thinks you're crazy because you're not calling it 'the greatest game ever made'. No one in any forum agrees with you, no one you know understands your confusion. Not even your closest friends are immune to the game's charms. Everyone in the world either owns it or wants to own a copy. It is apparently so good even all the software pirates would pay for it because the game is so impressive, so amazing that people are compelled to pay money for the developer's efforts.

What would you do? Go on a rant on the net about how everyone else is nuts? Ignore it and hope the popularity dies down soon? Meet a psychologist to figure out if you're the crazy one? Give up games forever, believing it to be a sign of coming trends? Investigate the game's developers to see if they're running some kind of brainwashing scheme? As for me, I'll just stay quiet and hope there will be games that won't try to follow the 'leader'.


Game has a crazy, implausible premise? I'm in!

When it comes to videogames, I've always preferred 'crazy' over 'realistic'. I'm not bothered at all, for example, by the premise of Homefront where North Korea has basically turned into the Superman of Asia, beating the shit out of everyone to the point that it has enough power to invade and occupy the United States. It's incredible how Homefront's started this bizarre debate about how powerful/competent North Korea can be in 13 years, between people who think that North Korea's crazy enough to pull it off (or hiding a lot more assets than we thought) and the people who find the concept so absurd that they can't see themselves enjoying the game no matter what. Then there are the people who think it's ripping off 'Red Dawn', despite the fact it's written by the very same author, because the basic premise sounds less plausible than Russia doing the occupying.
I don't care about how 'realistic' a story in a game is; as long as the madness stays consistent and has its own special brand of logic, I'll be fine with whatever crazy situation you throw me into. Zombies are invading my lawn and my only weapons are plants? Sounds awesome! I get to go to a camp full of psychic kids and jump into people's minds to cure their psychoses? Sign me up!  Russia falls under the control of Ultranationalists and invades the USA without using a single nuke? Sounds interesting to me.
Let's say there's a game where every time you put one egg and one slice of cheese into a basket they both combine to create a salmon. Does that make any sense? Of course not, but if it becomes crucial to the plot or somehow becomes an important part of the game mechanics, it's a sign of 'good crazy'. If every time you do it you always get salmon, that's good and consistent crazy. It would only be ruined for me if, say, the recipe changes for no reason whatsoever, like if cheese + egg suddenly means 'lawyer'.
Of course, this doesn't mean I hate stories written with the intention of staying 100% plausible. Splinter Cell, for example, tried its hardest to convince you that one very well-trained secret agent can sabotage a well-defended base, by making the player character very fragile to gunfire and being given gadgets that could believably work in real life. I like Splinter Cell games, for all the interesting mostly-plausible scenarios.

I know a lot of folks really don't like these ridiculous circumstances/settings some games have, since my suspension of disbelief can take a lot of lunacy without ruining my enjoyment of the game, but I'd also like to know if any of you guys have a preference for the crazy as well. What sort of games would you put up as a good example of crazy awesome plotlines/premises?


Medal of Honor reboot: What it did right and wrong (Long read)

So I played and finished the 2010 Medal of Honor game. Tried the multiplayer too. It was overall a mediocre experience, and throughout both modes I couldn't help but feel that the game was in desperate need of another six to eight months of polish and brainstorming, or perhaps a true focus on whether it should be a singleplayer or multiplayer experience.
This is just going to be about the singleplayer, as that was the part that was more interesting to me. Also, spoilers ahead.

What the singleplayer game did right:

  •  The character dialogue: The devs had real soldiers consulting them, and the dialogue shows it. The use of clockface to indicate enemy location was a neat touch. Also, some real-life special forces in Afghanistan did indeed have huge beards and wore local garb as a sort of social camouflage. 
  •  Representation of the enemy: Accurately, the game acknowledges the existence of Chechen and Arab foreign fighters alongside the Afghan Taliban and if you paid any attention to the audio you can indeed hear these multiple languages (Pashto, Chechen and Gulf Arabic) being spoken, and those are just the ones your squadmates recognized. Speaking of audio...
  • The guns sound great. Not that significant, but the few weapons you get to shoot with sound appropriate. Unloading a whole ammo belt with a machine gun is an orchestra of stress relief.
  • Peek and lean: A good alternative to the third person cover based mechanic, though how useful this is to you definitely depends on your play style. I stayed in cover a lot, just popping out to look at where the enemy was and see if there was an opportunity to flank them.
  • No 'final boss' or 'primary antagonist'. It effectively removes the idea that there is this one dude in charge of the whole enemy faction keeping it all together and emphasizes the fact that the Taliban are a very decentralized force. Took out a leader? They'll just move the next guy up the rank, and the next, and the next...
  • Representation of local allies: Quite a large number of Afghans were eager to fight the Taliban, and the game emphasized that they were important to the war effort. Tidbit: 9/11 happened just two days after the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Afghan Northern Alliance leader who was a veteran of the Soviet invasion and very strongly supportive of democracy and the arts, as well as an enemy of the Taliban.
  • The sniper mission 'Friends from Afar' was fun. Linear, yes, but it wasn't as frustrating as most sniper missions can be. The part where you had to wait for the enemy to find one of their wounded was an interesting part for me.
You may have noticed that very little of what went right were gameplay-related. Unfortunately, this is because the gameplay needs a lot of fixing.

What the singleplayer game did wrong:
  • Scripted to the max: As mentioned in the GiantBomb review and as seen in the game's Quick Look, there are parts where there is some serious gameplay and story segregation. What  I mean by this is that what you do is secondary to what the game's story wants you to do and what it wants you to look at. The two most notable scenes are the 'campfire' and 'hold the line' parts, where in the first scenario you come upon an enemy camp. Soon as you open fire a dude will run out of a bush and make more smoke come out of the campfire, signalling an attack. Unfortunately, there is no way you can kill that man until after he does the signal, which really bothered me. The 'hold the line' bit, where all your friends are screaming that they were running out of ammo becomes both hilarious and jarring when everyone somehow has hundreds of rounds in reserve for Mister Important (You).
  • No civilians? Really? While the game may be loosely based on a real life conflict, it would have been interesting to see civilian characters in the missions. Not as people to escort, but rather to emphasize how terrifying real war is. Families fleeing from a soon-to-be warzone is a common sight in Afghanistan.
  • Invisible walls. They couldn't even bother to add rubble or broken junk to block you. It's a big sign that the devs were either rushed, or worse, lazy.
  • Enemy AI. The game mentions that the Chechen enemies were better trained and had better equipment than the local fighters, but there was zero difference in how they fought. A potential for elite enemies (not in terms of damage endurance but accuracy, correct use of grenades and flanking abilities) squandered.
  • Ridiculously abundant ammo, always ready for requisition from your allies. Not only does this discourage you from picking up and trying enemy weapons, it made the game too easy as well as ruining the aforementioned bit where you were holding the line. This feature should've been easy-mode only.
  • Almost-zero freedom when it came to spotting targets with the laser. Wish it was more like in Bad Company, with parts where you could call in a strike on whatever you wanted instead of what the game wanted.
  • Gunfighters. Flying in the gunship was cool until you realized that yet again, the game just spots targets for you and you don't have much freedom on what to shoot.
  • Friendly AI. Voodoo, Mother, please stop running in front of me when I'm shooting. I know your butts are invincible but really.
  • Mistakes in the subtitles. Seems like a minor thing, but boy were there typos. Would've been neat if there was a subtitle feature for enemy dialogue, especially considering it's implied that your squadmates understood some of the enemy's languages.
  • Awful textures and texture pop-in. It's made even worse when some parts are detailed with love yet it's surrounded by low-quality rocks.
That's the list of issues for me. I know some might disagree on what the game did right and wrong, and I'm fine with that. Also, when it came to the setting I honestly didn't mind that it was set in Afghanistan. Whether you're in Gardez or in Berlin, I wouldn't care where I am as long as the gameplay's fantastic, which unfortunately isn't really the case here. They did a lot of effort in the 'realism' aspect (representation of enemies and allies) without putting in more effort for the 'game' part. 
So what about you? What do you think they did right or wrong?

Purchase Intervention

Normally, I wouldn't care what sort of games you buy. I've seen  folks buy some of the worst, most awful videogames I've ever seen (like the now thankfully illegal 'The Guy Game' ) but I didn't say or do anything because I'm the sort of person who figures people have their own reasons to buy and play whatever games they want and none of it's really my business.
Then there are times when I just can't stop myself from intervening. One of those times was two years ago (2008), when this brother-sister duo (one looked 12 while the other looked about 15) wanted to buy an MMORPG that was "like World of Warcraft but not 'cause mom said we couldn't play it anymore". Trouble was, the game they picked up wasn't an MMORPG at all: It was Medieval 2 Total War, a strategy game.  Standing right behind them in the line at the cashier, I just had to say something and tell them they were picking up the wrong sort of game.
As it turned out, they took it because "it looked just like WoW. Look at all the swords and armor!" and thought it was an MMORPG because they saw some screenshots of it and "saw lots of dudes PVPing in a huge map!" I could've exploded with a barrage of insults that basically could be summarized "HOLY CRAP YOU KIDS ARE DUMB" but I decided not to and instead asked them why their mom banned them from playing WoW in the first place. There was a very good reason: The kids weren't doing well in school and their mom noticed them playing for at least ten hours a day, not doing their homework and such. They promised their mom that they'd stop playing WoW, and their mom would let them play a different game but only for an hour a day at most.
 After a short conversation, I convinced them to find a different game. I'm not an MMO fan, nor am I knowledgeable about the subject, so I couldn't recommend them what to buy instead. One of the store clerks helped them out, and I myself proceeded to purchase a copy of Battlefield: Bad Company.
There were a couple of other times when I intervened. This one was last year: A nine or possibly ten year old boy had convinced her mom to buy Scarface: The World is Yours for his PS2. The clerk at the desk asked her if she was aware of the game's 'Mature' rating. She said she didn't know that it wasn't meant for kids and then asked her son if there was swearing in it. Apparently, all the violence in the game wasn't a problem with her but swearing, for some reason, was.  The kid just said "Nope, not a single bad word!" 
At that point, I just had to tell her: "Lady, I'm sorry but your son is lying to you. That game's got a ton of swearing." The clerk joined in and backed me up, telling her if she didn't want  swearing then she should not buy it. The kid was understandably upset, screaming at us "WHY ARE YOU RUINING MY LIFE?!" or something like that. The mom just grabbed his arm and yelled at him as they both exited the store.
If the mom really knew what was going to be in the game, and was okay with everything, I would've just shut up.  If the parent's okay with all of it, what the hell, sure, go ahead. The kid was just lying and sooner or later his mom would've found out about it anyway.
The clerk, Ian (I think his name was Ian, I can't really remember) thanked me for saving him from another angry parent complaining about buying a game they shouldn't have. I immediately asked him for a discount, but sadly he couldn't. "Wish I could, but I can't. Store policy. Besides, you already got a discount card."
I shrugged, and eventually left the store because I couldn't find a copy of Disgaea 2 there.

I now ask you: Have you ever intervened? Did you ever find someone about to make a mistake when it came to buying a game and then do something to prevent it?


Awful videogame character design: Looking for examples

Being someone who draws and paints for a living, I have a lot of interest in art in videogames, from background assets to weapon designs and character designs. Aesthetic pleasure is a major reason why I replay Uncharted 2 from time to time. The deliciously-detailed and impressively-designed backgrounds are like porn to me.
Most of the games I enjoy tend to have what I consider to be fantastic character designs, like Team Fortress 2 and  Odin Sphere. Team Fortress 2 succeeds in giving each playable character class a distinct silhoutte and just the right amount of detail to help players understand immediately what each class does. The cartoony aesthetics help to reinforce the idea that despite the violence, the world of TF2 is one that lives in the realm of humor and silly fun. As for Odin Sphere, aside from the gorgeous painterly 2D graphics, each character is unique in design, loaded with detail and every playable character has his/her own distinct color scheme that suits their personalities.
I also have a kind of a morbid fascination with terrible art, and that includes pig disgusting videogame character designs. What I mean by 'pig disgusting' is unintentional ugliness, or a failure to express what the character's supposed to be. Well-designed monsters are meant to be ugly or disgusting, but a badly-designed monster looks like something little children could have scrawled, with little care for aesthetic sense. Games like Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust is home for many terrifying examples of supposedly attractive characters that look like the stuff of nightmares.
There are also cases where the character design is bad in the context of gameplay. Example: Brown characters in a brown background under a brown sky. While it may make sense for a military-themed videogame to have characters wearing camouflage to match the colors of the environment, if you're playing a game in third-person and your character as well as other characters look almost exactly alike with little difference in silhoutte shape it can get pretty confusing.

I'd like you to share with me: What game(s) do you personally think have terrible character designs, and is there a reason why you consider them to be awful?


"I don't have to buy it right now"

I used to buy new games I wanted on the first day of release, even when I still had some other games I liked and wanted to finish. I had this weird fear that everything I would want to buy would be sold out if I waited for a few weeks later, even if it was a 'niche' title with mixed reviews. This got even more ridiculous when I started buying digitally-distributed games on day one of release, regardless of how many unfinished games I got left, despite the fact that it's impossible or a game like that to 'run out of copies'. I started to realize a few months ago that I could've saved a lot of time and money if I just focused on one game at a time instead of buying new ones as soon as they become available.
The most recent example was Mafia 2. I wanted to buy it, but decided to wait because I still have 3D Dot Game Heroes, X-Com (never finished the original one) and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift on my plate.  'I want to finish the games I got first, Mafia 2 can wait' I told myself.
Dead Rising 2, I might pick that up if I've finished one of the games I've got by the time that comes out. Managing money when it comes to buying games is a bit difficult for me because I keep thinking 'man if this game is good I'm not going to be able to buy it if I wait too long'.
Anyone else got that weird fear? The fear that you're going to miss out on something good just because you didn't buy it the moment it came out?


'Too nice' for multiplayer(?)

Let's get one thing straight here. When it comes to videogame multiplayer matches, I am a combat pragmatist. I am not going to switch to my melee weapon just  because you ran out of ammo. I am not going to think twice about stabbing or shooting you in the back. If I have placed explosives on your vehicle I will only blow it up after it's been loaded to the limit with your friends and not before. I will not wait for you to get into a tank before I blow you up with my own tank.
From Battlefield 2 to Call of Duty to Killzone 2 to Team Fortress 2, I do not care about 'honor' in videogames. My aim is to help my team as much as possible, and if that means I have to take every opportunity I can get to screw your team over, then I will. That said, I do care about being polite. I don't mind if the people I'm playing with are rude and filthy-mouthed, I try my best to thank people for helping me and not explode into a ball of rage when someone messes up. I ignore trolling in the chat, whether in voice or text, and just concentrate on helping other folks instead of getting caught up in a pointless-yet-energetic argument.
My willingness to be helpful and rare acts of rudeness seem to have surprised quite a number of people I've played with online. Here's an example: This was about two years ago, and I was playing multiplayer on Modern Warfare 1 on my PS3. There was this teenaged kid who sounded about 15 or 14 years old on my team. As a sniper, he was camping quite a distance behind me. As for me, I was rushing forward looking for enemies. Unfortunately, I ran into three dudes and while I was able to take out two of them, my submachinegun had run out of ammunition and the last one standing had already opened fire.
That kid sniped the last man's head, and I was saved just half a second before death. I said  'Nice shot! You just saved my life there'  and he thought I was being sarcastic, promptly telling me to shut up. I was a little surprised by the kid's reaction, and I thought "Maybe he just wants to concentrate, he's probably looking for other targets. That's fine with me."
Then in that same match, the kid had moved to an indoor position and I happened to be in the same room. The boy was staring out the window, while I was behind him picking up an assault rifle from a dead player (since I was out of ammo). Suddenly, an enemy player ran into the room and charged straight for the sniper. The guy didn't seem to have noticed me, probably because I was in a corner, and I immediately gunned him down. I didn't say a sarcastic 'you're welcome' or anything like that, but that kid just yelled me for 'stealing his kill'. He claimed he heard the footsteps and was going to turn around and stab the enemy dude at the last moment, apparently wanting to make himself look badass. Later on when we were in a similar situation, he shouted at me for being an idiot after not killing someone who had just knifed him.
While one could say that was just a case of some troubled kid who seemed to have deluded himself into thinking the entire world is against him even if people are just trying to be friendly, there have been several other times when I'm being helpful or nice and people either reacted with genuine surprise or suspicion, as if a man saying 'thank you' or 'here you go, have fun' is a sign he's about to grief you in some shape or form.
Here's another story, an older one, during the days when I used to play Battlefield 2. It was common for players to quarrel over vehicles, and in this one instance I was in an attack helicopter. There were these two guys, one of them got in as my co-pilot, but the other one just shot at me, telling me to 'GTFO the heli! i wanna ride with my pal!'
Not wanting to deny two friends from having their fun, I got off the helicopter and said 'okay, here you go! Have fun!'
Then neither of them wanted to be on the helicopter. Apparently they thought I put C4s on it, and feared that I had planned on killing them the moment they were airborne. I have a lot more stories like this, but I think it's best I stop now before this post becomes the size of a small mountain.
I don't know how common stuff like this is, but I seem to run into strangers like these a lot. Either I'm too nice for multiplayer or there's a really large number of paranoid people who don't seem to understand that strangers can be helpful/nice too. Team Fortress 2, in my experience, seems to have fewer people like this, which kinda explains why it's currently my favorite multiplayer game. 
Of course, from time to time I do lapse into the jerk-zone. Sometimes when I'm in a  bad mood I say things like 'you idiots why did you put all your sentries in the same spot?' or 'which one of you morons let two engineers build sentries in front of our spawn while i was dead?', but I try my best to stay polite and helpful. It's just so strange to me when people respond to niceness with shouts and suspicion.
What about you? Got a similar story to tell?


What game do you keep coming back to?

Ever had the urge to play something old? Something you once thought you were done with, and yet a part of you misses the fun you had and you want to play it again?
For me, it's either EndWar, Uncharted 2 or Sims 3. From time to time I get that weird urge to just play one of those three again, even if I know there's a deadline for me to meet and a painting/animation to finish. Most of the time, I don't give in; I need those hours or else I'll never get any work done. However, when I do give in, it all feels just as good as the first time I played the game. 
While EndWar isn't a strategy game that I'd call 'excellent', I love the way you view the battlefield, 'on the ground' with the troops and hearing the individual voices of every unit group's leader. The in-game chatter between infantry is a neat touch, even if it sometimes gets drowned out by explosions and such. The game's got problems for sure, but it's fun to play again. 
Uncharted 2 is a different sort of beast: The whole game is so bloody beautiful, and full of so much detail that I end up getting inspired to draw or paint something when I notice a cool little detail about the locations. The world of Uncharted 2 is one I'm happy to come back to, mostly because of the fantastic scenery.
Sims 3... is an enigma. I can't explain what it is that I like about it, especially considering I got sick of Sims 1 and skipped on Sims 2. Maybe I like the 'Traits' feature, giving sims weird combinations of traits like 'Evil' and 'Friendly', or 'Loner' and 'Romantic'. Maybe I just like the goofiness of the Sims universe, a world where an Insane sim can go fishing at the public swimming pool AND ACTUALLY CATCH SOMETHING. I'm not really sure, but I always find myself playing again for a half-hour to an hour, once every week or so.

What about you? Do you have a game or a set of games you find yourself playing again a long time after you thought you're finished?

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