Friday, July 11, 2014

PAD #36: Brief Hiatus

I haven't been finding the time to write-up PADs or even the two new columns I've been wanting to do.  The reason is plain and simple:  I'm busy sorting things out in real life.  Namely, while I do wish to find work in writing, I need something that can tide me over while I practice my craft enough that I can feel comfortable taking-on an actual job in the practice.  In the meantime, I need a job that keeps at least some cash flow going, so I've been trying to focus on that more, which has (ironically) left me with a little less time to sit and write.

With that being said, I also plan to post a little less frequently.  I want to try and focus a little on Game 4 Thought and Spoilerific, so if that means I only post a couple times a week, then so be it.  After-all, it's GFT and Spoilerific that will garner interest in this blog, where my daily PADs were mostly for my own benefit as practice.  Simply put, I think it's time I put that practice towards something a little more productive from now on.  I'll still post PADs from time to time, even though they'll no longer be the daily effort that the name implies; perhaps I'll come-up with a different meaning for the acronym.  Basically, PADs will be mostly the same kind of thing that they have been, me just talking about recent events.  Almost like elongated Twitter posts (something that I arguably should get into).

Anyway, just figured I'd get that update out there for what little traffic I get.  My hope is that I won't be gone too long, and when I come back, my posts should be more worthwhile to read.  So I'll see you when I'm able to post again, and until then, game well.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

PAD #35: Still on the Fence About Echo

Went and saw 22 Jump Street today.  Partially for a lack of anything better being released the past week or so, partially because I enjoyed the first one and heard that this one was also really good.  Well, it didn't disappoint.  I'm honestly not sure if I want to do a Spoilerific on it because it's the kind of sitcom where I go specifically so I can just switch-off my brain and have a good laugh for a while.  Part of what makes the movies work is that they both take 4th-wall-breaking jabs at their own existence, and thus at movies in general.  The first one taking a jab at the entire concept of remakes, with this one making a gag about Hollywood's tendency to make sequels because "Hey!  The first one was good, right?  Let's just do it again and it should make more money.  Right?"

The movies were written by the same minds that took the idea of a movie about Legos and turned it into one of the greatest movies this year (or maybe it was last year?  I forget off-hand), as well as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (which I've personally never seen, but have heard is pretty damn good).  Both movies that no one really expected to be all that great, along with the Jump Street movies, but that all managed to deliver.  Apparently they're going to be directing a TV show called Last Man on Earth, so it'll be interesting to see if their legacy continues.  Admittedly I don't often like Television as much.  Outside of acclaimed hits, I tend to find that TV shows tend to have a very samey feel to them.  It's not that they're poorly written per se, it's just that when I know how I'm supposed to feel about a specific character because they fall very directly into their archetype, it's hard to care.  "Whelp, I guess I'm gonna have to hate him, because he's the obvious jack ass who's going to be the obvious jack ass in any scene that has him, and they'll never explain his character well enough to have us know why he's a jackass (or they'll give a very shallow reason for it) because then we might feel conflicted about hating the jackasses in our own lives."  Bleh...

I started playing One Way Heroics the other day, and it's pretty fun little game.  It's an RPG with a little bit of Roguelike sprinkled on top.  You explore a world that's generated Minecraft style (which is to say that it's random, but you can specify the seed for the same world over and over if you want), with the gimmick being that the world is being eaten by an ominous darkness that's creeping over the world from west to east.  There-in lies the gimmick for which the game is named.  Every turn you take (walking, attacking, whatever), the darkness creeps a little closer, so you have to keep moving gradually East lest it consume you.  The game ends when the end boss spawns and you kill him, when you reach the end of the world, or when you die.  All-in-all, for a game that only costs $3.50 (and I got it during Steam's summer sale, so it was cheaper still) it's a pretty fun little RPG.

On that note, I think I'm gonna give it another run or two.  Thanks for joining me on today's PAD, and I hope to see you next time.  Until then, game well.

Friday, July 4, 2014

PAD #34: Happy 4th Everyone!

I'm taking the day off, but I figured I'd pop in to wish everyone a happy and especially a safe (if you're lighting-off fireworks) 4th of July! ^_^

Thursday, July 3, 2014

PAD #33: Gamers Do Love Their Punching Bags

Looks like a news post hit the gaming scene like a powder keg.  The UK's Advertising Standards Authority declared that EA cannot post their game as being "Free to Play".  To keep things short (I could easily do an entire post on this), I disagree with their assessment.  Of course, that hasn't kept the gaming community from shouting a collective "Hurrah!"  It seems that the desire for bloodlust has overwritten the sense of justice.  Like or hate the model of gaming used for Dungeon Keeper, it CAN be played without the need for purchases.  The fact that you can pay to bypass the timegates doesn't negate this, as the timegates are the core mechanic.  Remove the timegates and the game is just tapping a bunch of upgrades and then you're max-level by the end of the day.  Having to slowly upgrade your rooms and minions is what gives the game some pacing.  Paying to bypass that is mostly for the hardcores who want to tackle the game more seriously, and would rather pay to get up there than to take the time to do it slowly.  Another thing I noticed is that the ASA is taking exception to the fact that the ad in question doesn't mention that there are in-game purchases, which I suppose is fair enough.  It makes me wonder if this is the ruling that most gamers are making it out to be, and if EA will just put-out the same ad in a couple days with "Features in-game purchases" as an added disclaimer.

Looks like Extra Credits put-out a video talking about Early Access, and they presented a rather interesting spin on the whole thing.  Most complaints about the system that I've heard thus far have focused on the consumer side of things.  Discussing things like how developers can sell a game and then aren't obligated to deliver, and that some developers even seemed to be abusing on that notion.  Things only got worse when the developer of Towns scrapped the project entirely, but I digress.  Rather, Extra Credits talked about it a little from both sides, and spent a bit of time talking about how Early Access can be harmful even to the developers.  Discussing things like would-be enthusiasts getting bored by the time the game is officially launched so that there isn't any real community, or journalists getting bored of talking about the game by the time it's out, so the release comes with little fanfare.  Basically that whether you're a consumer or a developer, the whole Early Access system is something to be cautious of and to make sure that you're completely certain before you jump on board.  Definitely some great insight, though I think there's a little more to discuss.  Early Access is such a new system that there are a lot of aspects and angles to consider.

Another thing that I've seen discussed lately is the whole concept of "save scumming".  For those unfamiliar, save scumming refers to the practice of saving frequently during a game as to lose as little progress as possible when the player messes-up and needs to reload.  It also refers to using said saves as a way to by-pass what would otherwise be a random dice roll.  As an example, maybe a conversation requires the player to pass a speech check (likely affected by a speech-related stat).  If the player has a low skill in speech, then there might only be a 10% chance to bypass the check successfully.  Passing the check can mean anything from getting better items from the character, to having the character not attack you (or maybe the speech check was just the opposite and you wanted to provoke him).  That 10% success rate is no problem when you can just save scum through it.  As such, it's a practice that is often frowned-upon, and is also why many games today are largely checkpoint-based for saving.

To keep things from getting into a full-on Game 4 Thought (though I probably will do a GFT on save scumming), I've never considered the practice to be a bad thing.  Or rather, I don't think that checkpoint-based saves doesn't fix the issues that make save scumming a bad thing.  Take the above example, many would argue that save scumming is bad because it makes the speech skill worthless when you can just save scum through the conversation.  Okay, but what happens when the game uses checkpoints so that you can't save scum it?  Does speech continue to be useless because even when maxed it can sometimes fail?  The problem then isn't that the player is able to save scum the conversation, it's that the speech skill was implemented into the game in an inherently-broken fashion.  The solution isn't to remove save scumming, but rather to find a better way to execute the speech skill in such a way that players with low skill have no chance of save scumming through it, while players with high speech skill can generally make their way through the conversation with optimal results.

I think that should wrap things up for today.  Thanks for joining me on today's PAD, and I hope to see you around next time.  Until then, game well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PAD #32: Pleasant Surprise

Checked-out Tomb Raider's multiplayer, and it honestly wasn't bad.  I was mostly just checking it out to see if it would be possible to still earn the achievements (I'm a major achievement whore), and was rather surprised to find that there's actually a decent number of people still playing.  Sure it's hardly into the numbers of something like CoD, but this is a game that mostly sells for it's single-player mode.  It's surprising to find anyone in there in the first place.  That's when I caught myself actually having a bit of fun with it; after I switched from the controller to the mouse, natch.  I used the controller during the single-player mode because I consider the game a platformer first and the shooty bits to be a secondary feature (the sluggishness of the enemy AI would tend to agree with me).  When playing against someone who can potentially kill you just as fast as you can kill him though?  You better be bringing your A-game, and an analog stick just doesn't compensate for your aim getting kicked around nearly as well as a mouse can.

Apparently Ubisoft is running damage control by boasting about the number of women that will be in Farcry 4.  "Packed to the gills" being the exact phrasing.  Between that and the way that they were quick to announce that the playable character isn't a white dude (though he is still a dude) makes it seem like Farcry 4 is just one big effort to snuff-out their current image of publishing games that are filled with white dudes.  It's to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if their next big game announcement features a female protagonist.  Not because it's a game they actually care about, but because they're concerned about shaking-off that image.  Not to say that it's a bad thing that they're adapting, just that I'd rather it not feel so token.  Still, Ubisoft announcing a game with a female protagonist.  Hm... I wonder if they have something sitting in the vaults that they could revive for just that occasion...

After long-last, EgoRaptor released a new Sequelitis, this time focusing on why he feels that Ocarina of Time was a very lackluster sequel when you really look at it.  He also used Skyward Sword as an extreme example of how homogenized the Zelda series has gotten.  Over-all, I rather agree with him.  While I never really disliked Ocarina of Time, I never considered it to be that great.  It was fair.  Passable.  It passed the time, with it's main redeeming feature being that it put an interesting twist on the story that was told in Link to the Past to put a little more emphasis on The Triforce than on The Master Sword.  One measure of a good game, in my opinion, is to ask yourself this question:  "What would I be left with if I stripped-out the franchise?"  In the case of Ocarina of Time, if you removed everything that made it Zelda and replaced it with original characters/items?  You'd have a bland adventure game that everyone would quickly forget about.  How do I know this?  Because I've played a lot of games that could easily have been a Zelda title if you just swapped-in the iconic characters and items, and most of them have been lost in the mix and basically forgotten.  I think it's part of why I never picked-up OoT for the 3DS, because deep down, I just didn't want to play it again.

Well, thanks for joining me on today's PAD.  Sorry that it had to end on a bit of a downer.  Hopefully the next one will be a bit more jovial.  Until then though, game well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

PAD #31: It Can't All Be Good

While I'm enjoying Tomb Raider over-all, I have to admit that I do have a few gripes.  I think most of them focus around the fact that the game tries to wear a face of "realism", but then so-much about the game feels "video-gamey", so to speak.  Here's an example; early in the game Lara realizes that she's going to need to get food somehow.  The game conveniently drops a Bow on you with plenty of arrows around, but I'm willing to chalk that up to luck, so whatever.  It then has you hunt a deer with the bow so that you can get used to aiming and firing it, but also so that Lara can get some meat from it.  Goal achieved, Lara now has food, and you learn that you get experience from harvesting them.  So at this point, rather than some form of hunger system, the game just has Lara waging this one-man war against all the fauna of the island.  It stems this somewhat by sometimes saying that an area is "hunted out", and you get minimal experience for killing animals in that area, but it often quickly forgets this and you go back to getting full experience for every kill.

Another example of what I mean is in the way that you have to do certain things.  Through-out the game, you find these storage nets that you can burn-down to find a crate that can be looted for "salvage" (which is used for upgrading weapons).  Why Lara feels the need to burn these down instead of using an arrowhead or her axe, two much more rational techniques, the game never really explains.  You burn them down because that's just how the game wants you to do it.  Then there's the village early in the game where you find these containers hanging just a little bit higher than Lara can reach.  To get these, you have to light the hanging sconces that are conveniently located right next to them, then use the rope arrow to get them swinging so that they swing up and ignite the nets.  Why Lara can't just get up on her toes and reach up with the torch that she usually uses is an issue that the game tactfully avoids.

Then there's some of the barriers.  Again, you would expect Lara to just use her prying axe that's been perfectly adequate for ripping doors open up until now, but instead for the sake of barring-off areas until you have the right tool, she just won't.  Rather, you need to use things like the rope arrows to shoot doors and pull them open, or the shotgun of all things to blast-down another type of barrier.  Granted in the latter case the barrier has barbed wire, but it still doesn't look like anything that should be too difficult to take down with her prying tool.  The game does sometimes place these barriers in areas that would be out of reach, so you NEED the range afforded, but that's a case of using level design to excuse otherwise arbitrary barriers.  When you first acquire both of the mentioned "keys" to their respective "doors", you're mostly using them against barriers where the axe would be fine, or you've even gone passed these barriers and need to backtrack and now need to backtrack now that you have the arbitrary key.

They feel like petty niggles, which is why I don't let them ruin the game for me (I did already say I'm enjoying the game), but when a game seems to be trying to go for a more realistic aesthetic with everything it does, it just makes these video-gamey barriers feel rather jarring in contrast.  It's like the developers are trying to have their cake and eat it too, and the resulting paradox just causes me to get pulled out of the experience.  Again though, I am enjoying the game on the whole.

Thanks for joining me on today's PAD, and I hope you see you come by again tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Monday, June 30, 2014

PAD #30: I Just Don't Know What I'm Suppose to Feel Anymore.

I actually had a bit of fun writing-up those Spoilerific posts.  I might have to make that into a regular thing.  I do tend to go see movies about once a week.  Even on the weeks when I don't, there's a nearly limitless backlog of movies I could talk about.  Spoilerific won't always be negative, of course.  Just that I happened to start the series on a movie that didn't impress me.  It'll basically just be an in-depth look at the movie: the plot, the characters, things I liked, things I didn't like; basically anything and everything about the movie that I feel is worth discussing or analyzing, with spoilers noted up-front so that I don't have to stress about what would or wouldn't be considered a "spoiler" since everyone has their own limit.  In short, it'll be something for people to read after they've seen the movie, or if they don't care about spoiling the movie.

The Steam Summer Sale is done, and sadly my wallet did not survive unsullied.  Most notably, I got the Tomb Raider Collection.  I got it for a few reasons.  Firstly, I always loved the first three Tomb Raider games (especially the second); and to a lesser degree, the fourth and fifth ones.  Secondly, I always wanted to check-out the trilogy(?) of Tomb Raiders from when Crystal D took over and rebooted the series.  Thirdly, I've always kinda wanted to see the newest one for myself.  That's the one I started first, in fact, and it's left me rather confused.  I think I'm actually enjoying it.  The story is rubbish (or at least the story-telling), don't get me wrong, but the game itself is... not bad.  That's not to say that I was going into it expecting to be disappointed, I just didn't expect to like it... if that makes any sense.  It probably doesn't, but that's part of why liking the game (so far) has left me confused, because I'm not honestly not sure what I was expecting out of it.

I just got done reading a book called Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty (and the author name is important if you go looking for it, because that's apparently a surprisingly-common name for romance novels).  It's a super hero novel that plays around with the idea of seemingly-useless super powers that turn-out to play vital roles in a massive struggle between the heroes and villains.  I think my favorite thing about the story is that you never feel quite certain which side is good and which side is bad, and it's a question that's never adequately answered, even when the story reaches a point where it would seem cut-and-dry.  Over-all, it's a very good story that I'd recommend to anyone looking for a different brand of Super Hero story.

I think that'll wrap-up today's PAD.  Thanks for joining me today, and I hope to see you tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

SPOILERIFIC! Transformers: Age of Extinction - Part Two

Welcome back to the second part of this SPOILERIFIC!.  Yesterday I went into detail about some of the key characters, and found them to be pretty lacking.  In the hopes of finding something redeeming for the movie, I've decided to retrace the steps of the movie in the hopes that it at least tells an interesting story (I'll be glossing-over anything that was covered in the character analysis; refer to Part One for those details).  My findings after the page break (since it was a 3-hour movie, this is a bit of a long one):

!!! WARNING!!!  Spoilers After The Break!!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

SPOILERIFIC! Transformers: Age of Extinction - Part One

Welcome to SPOILERIFIC!  Today's subject will be Transformers: Age of Extinction.  As a note, I will be going in-depth on several plot points, so only read if you have seen the movie or do not care about spoiling the plot of the movie.  Without further ado, let's start the first SPOILERIFIC!

I lamented the other day that I wasn't entirely happy with the newest Transformers movie, and I plan to outline, in detail, why I felt that the movie could have done better.  For the first subject, let's talk about the humans.  Yeah, I know, nobody cares about the humans, but the movie spends most of its time with them, so I should hope that their story is worth the time, right?  Otherwise they could have shaved most of the duration of the movie down to a respectable hour-and-a-half.  After that a brief discussion about the Dinobots, and then tomorrow I will discuss the plot as a whole.

!!!WARNING!!! Spoilers After The Break!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

PAD #29: He Shovels Very Well

Unfortunately, my headache yesterday prevented me from getting a Game 4 Thought ready this week.  Then, as-if conspiring against the column entirely, Shovel Knight came out today and ate my entire day.  That game, simply put, is spectacular.  Imagine Mega Man if, instead of selecting from a boss selection screen, you selected levels similar to the Super Mario Bros 3 map screen.  Basically, there are 8 rival Knights (from The Order of No Quarter), and each one has their own stage that you must traverse before getting to fight them.  During the course of each level there are branching paths that will lead to treasures and is also how you find each stage's power-up (instead of killing the boss Mega-Man-style).  On the map screen there are also side-levels that can be played for extra treasure by using the power-ups found in previous levels.

So what does one do with all that extra treasure found though-out Shovel Knight's levels?  Buy power-ups, of course!  In the first town there is a vendor who sells you extra health, and a vendor for extra mana, each getting more expensive with each purchase.  In addition, you eventually reach a city that has an armorer and weaponsmith.  The extra armor is never strictly better than what you're wearing defense-wise, but rather will provide bonus effects, sometimes at the cost of a drawback.  For example, you can have armor that gives you more mana for using abilities, but it comes at the cost of taking extra damage.  Meanwhile the weapon smith will upgrade your shovel to have additional effects, like a ground shockwave when you attack at full health, or a charged attack for a harder swing.

As far as challenge goes, I'd say the game has a good balance.  Veterans of platformers will find the game very easy, while players who are newer or maybe just less practiced in the genre will have plenty of challenge beating the levels.  When you die, you release 3 bags of gold that will float in the place where you died.  If you can reach them before you die again, then you can collect them to receive no penalty, but if you die then those bags will be lost and replaced with the 3 bags that got released from your newest death.  As a balancing mechanic it's decent.  None of the upgrades are so vital that not being able to afford them will hurt the players chances on the higher levels if they can't afford them because of dying too often.  So players who are dying a lot and losing a lot of gold can still have the option of playing earlier levels if they really want that upgrade, but they aren't really penalized in any major way if they decide to soldier forward and not worry about it.

So yeah, that was most of my day, and probably most of tomorrow when I get out of work.  I got the game expecting to like it, but I didn't expect it to be "Oh, it's dinner time already" good.  My suggestion?  Buy it if you have any love for platformers.  Thanks for joining me on today's PAD, and I hope to see you tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PAD #28: Age of Disappointment

Just got home from a pre-screening of the new Transformers movie.  My thoughts?  Eh... it's the usual action movie schlock.  It has good action set pieces, but as usual with a lot of these movies, they failed to capture the essence of what made the source material great.  I'll probably go into more detail on it on Friday when the movie is officially out, but in the meantime that's my thoughts on the movie.  I suppose for the sake of having something good to say, I do like the the Autobots (who aren't Optimus and Bumblebee) actually look fairly distinct now, so that when a shoot-out happens between the good guys and the bad guys it's a little easier to tell who's who.  All-in-all, it's at least closer to the third movie than to the second, which is probably about as much as we could ask for from Bay.

Had a nasty headache all day, so I wasn't really able to sit down and get anything done as far as typing goes.  So unfortunately I probably won't have a Game 4 Thought to post tomorrow.  I suppose that's what I get for procrastinating on it all week, though that's part of why I'd like to have one or two done in advance at any given time so that I have at least something to post even if I get held-up for some reason.  Anyway, what with the headache, I'm gonna call this one a bit early.

Thanks for joining me today, and I hope to see you tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

PAD #27: The Things That Can Rob Our Thoughts...

I suppose it was inevitable that my wallet would fall victim to Steam's Summer Sale eventually.  Specifically, I got a game called Lyne.  It's a neat little puzzle game that I wishlisted a while ago, but never actually got around to buying.  I figure when it's 74 cents is as good a time as any to get it, and it was rather a good get.  The format is kinda unique, basically you have shapes on a grid (squares, triangles, and diamonds), and you have to connect all of the like shapes with a single line that cannot intersect itself or other lines.  There's specific start/end pieces, and it gets tricky when it includes the pieces that can be used as a connector for any shape's line, but needs to be used a specific number of times.  It has thousands of puzzles on its own, but then also has daily puzzle sets, so I'm sure it'll occupy quite a number of hours.

I also just got done playing To The Moon, though this wasn't a new purchase.  I got it a while ago via Humble Bundle, but just never got around to playing it until now (it's easy to get a clogged back-log with Humble Bundle).  It was quite a trip.  It's a short game, but that's because it's strictly about the story, and what a story!  It's a story about a man on his death bed, and he contacts an agency that specializes in altering memories so that the soon-to-be deceased can die with happy memories.  The two doctors arrive to learn that his request is that he wanted to go to The Moon, but that he doesn't remember why.  The bulk of the gameplay is playing as the two doctors as they use a device to travel through his memories Inception-style, gradually making their way backwards while they try and find a way to make his desire come true, learning more and more about his life as they go along.  The story has left in a bit of a pensive mood, to the point where I almost want to run it through again in the hopes that it'll get out of my system.

I'd maybe write a bit more today, but my brain is just stuck focused on thinking about To The Moon.  Maybe I'll go for a walk or something.  Thanks for joining me today, and I hope to see you back tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Monday, June 23, 2014

PAD #26: The First Step to Fixing a Bad Habit...

Crap, is it a new week already?  I'm gonna have to get crackin' on the next Game 4 Thought!  Ideally, I'd like to have them done at least two weeks in advance, just in case I go out of town or otherwise don't find time to write them.  If something more topical comes up, I can always delay one of the more general ones.  I just gotta get in the habit of coming here and working on them whenever an idea hits.  I do have a couple I've started, actually.  One of them I might have ready for this week, though the other one will require a bit of research and thought.  Looking at the post list for the blog, I noticed I had a really old piece I technically finished, but it's kinda sloppy since I wrote it a few years ago (damn, are all my posts from back then that bad?).  Still, I should be able to edit it into something presentable.

On that note, I really need to make more of a habit of coming here to work on my PADs more-often during the day.  Seems that over the course of the day (even while sitting at my computer on Firefox) I'll think of a dozen-and-one things I could talk about when I work on the next PAD, and then forget most of them when the time actually comes.  Still, that's part of why I'm doing these; to try and pinpoint bad habits and reform them into good habits.  There isn't much I can do when I'm out and about, but I should really break into the habit of pretty much always having a tab open to a new blog entry so I can, if nothing else, jot down notes.  When I'm out, I'll have to get into the habit of trying to keep a notepad on hand.  I need to start getting out of my own head and get used to living on a piece of paper.

Also, I'd like to encourage people to comment if there's anything they'd like to hear my opinion about or see me discuss.  Feedback in general is always appreciated.  The PADs are generally for my own benefit, but that doesn't mean I can't try and make them enjoyable for others to read.  Anyway, I think that'll wrap things up for today.  Thanks for joining, and I'll see you tomorrow.  Until then, game w- wait, is Spec Ops: The Line 80% off on Steam right now?  Hm... decisions are about to be made.  Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

PAD #25: Gawd It's Hot x_x

It's Steam Summer Sale time.  Thankfully my wallet has managed to remain unsullied.  I think  a lot of it is that the same games seem to be what go on sale every time, so I've already bought most of the games that would have interested me.  At least that's the conclusion that I'm drawing with the way that every time I see a sale on a game I might want, I already have it.  Seems the gimmick this time is that players are split into 5 teams, and they get points when they craft a badge.  At the end of each day the points are tallied, and thirty people on the winning team get three of the games on their wishlist for free.  Only problem is that there are tokens that players can randomly (albeit rarely) acquire when they craft a badge that allows them to switch teams.  This has had the predictable effect of causing players to jump to winning teams, thus causing them to gain all the more advantage.  So far, of the 3 days the sale has been running, only one of the days has seen a close race, and even that was only between 2 of the 5 teams.  The other two days it was a wide gap between the winning team and the rest.  If they do something like this for the rest of their Summer/Winter sales, I'm hoping they do away with the ability to hop teams.  It's a neat idea outside of the blatant one-sidedness of the whole thing.

Meanwhile Google Play switched to a song that I'm having a hard time ignoring.  It's a chiptunes song by Big Giant Circles called Far Beyond Eyes.  I've never heard it before, but it's freaking amazing!  It's like a compilation of standard RPG tropes; boss fight music, overworld music, title screen music, dramatic scene music; all wrapped into a single song.  It's... kind of a little bit awesome.  That is definitely getting tossed into my favorites playlist.  Alright, back to typing that last paragraph now that the track has switched to something still awesome, but not distractingly so.  Almost sounds like something out of Mega Man X at parts...  *Ahem*  But yes, right... back to that first paragraph.  Yeah, I know, this is the end of the second paragraph.  Just think of it as time travel or something.

After talking to a friend about Tribes the other day, I decided to download it and get back into it.  Unfortunately, it seems that the developers have stopped supporting it, which means the community has shrunk a lot.  The main effect of this is that the players who stick around are generally the highly skilled ones.  As much as it sucks when a lot of "n00bs" join multiplayer servers, they're kind of a vital tool in the longevity of a game.  I suppose I can't blame the devs for dropping support for the game if it wasn't making them much money, but at the same time I have to wonder how well it was advertised; which I guess is a double-edged sword in and of itself.  Game isn't doing well, and advertising is not only expensive, but doesn't guarantee an increase in sales.  So now Tribes has kinda devolved into the Team Fortress Classic problem where there is no getting into the game because nearly 100% of the community who still plays it has damn-near mastered the game.

Thanks for joining me today's PAD, and I hope to see you back on Monday.  Until then, I need to trim my beard.  Oh, and game well.


Friday, June 20, 2014

PAD #24: Lazy Days are the Best

Looks like Anita recently released a new video for her Tropes vs Video Games series, this time focusing on the objectification of women in games.  Now, I get that she means well, but honestly I feel that her videos aren't helping.  Let me just say up front that I'm 100% in support of the feminist movement, and I definitely agree that women could use better representation in the gaming industry.  That being said, her technique is simply fallacious.  The big problem with her videos is that they operate in a bubble.  It's to the point where she'll give an example of a game where you can hire female prostitutes, but completely ignore that it's a game that also has male prostitutes.  Her videos will go on and on every time a female is feature in a not 100% positive light, and make sure to ignore if the same game portrays men the same way.  Her videos also tend to ignore any game that's inconvenient for her to acknowledge, making it sound like every single game has several examples of women being misrepresented.  In short, she comes-off as the bad kind of feminist where it isn't feminine equality she wants, but feminine superiority.

On the brighter side of things, I picked-up Lego Movie and Pacific Rim today, so my movie collection has increased by +2 spectacular movies.  Pacific Rim because it's just plain concentrated awesomeness, and Lego Movie because it was already a great movie that then threw-in an amazing twist.  I know twists are kinda cliche (partially due to a certain director who loved throwing twists into his movies because it worked that one time), but this is a rare case where it actually worked.  Unlike most twists that just feel like a cheap way to make the story seem more interesting than it is, Lego Movie pulled it off in a way that added an entirely new layer of meaning to the entire film.  I don't think I will ever get sick of either of those movies.

Yeah, kind of a short one today.  Probably because I spent all day watching movies.  At any rate, thanks for joining me today, and I'll see you tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Game 4 Thought: When is it Okay to Break ToS?

Here's a little Game 4 Thought:

A bit of controversy was sparked when a developer was banned from Steam for exposing a security loophole in Steam's announcement pages.  Tomáš Duda said in a Reddit post that he had reported the issue a few months prior to the incident (source).  When he learned that it had gone unfixed after all this time, however, he took the more proactive approach of exploiting the weakness in a fairly harmless manner.  Specifically, he made an update page for one of his games play a song and shake around.  When Valve saw what he did, they nearly-immediately fixed the vulnerability and then gave him a year-long ban from his developer access, and from the Steam Community.  Thankfully they were able to get in touch and the ban was lifted within a few days.  So it all had a happy ending, but there was still some controversy during the interim that I feel is worth talking about.

Simply put, some people felt that Valve was being completely unreasonable in their ban, while others basically shrugged and said "He broke the ToS, he got a ban.  What's the big deal?"  The latter group is who I would like to address with this.  The big deal is that it isn't as cut and dry as simply breaking the ToS.  It's about the message he was trying to send.  Yes, he did break the ToS, but he did so in order to expose a weakness that Valve was apparently content to ignore.  Just how harmful could the weakness be though?  After-all, he only made music play and caused the screen to shake around.  Well, according to posts on the Reddit thread discussing the matter, it can get a lot worse than that.  Worse as-in someone could write-up a script that directs you to what looks like the Steam Store, but when you make a purchase the money goes to the script writer instead of to Steam, and obviously you don't get the game.  Apparently there are other possibilities other than that, but I'd say that even just being able to steal money from Valve's customers is enough of an exploit to label this vulnerability as a big freaking deal.

So here's a little breakdown:  Best-case scenario, Valve simply has a very slow ticketing process, to the point where reporting an issue could take months before anyone sees it.  The exploit would probably have been fixed, but who knows when they'd finally get the ticket alerting them?  In this case, Valve seriously needs to send someone down there to kick some asses into gear.  It is completely unacceptable that vulnerabilities like this could exist, and they aren't getting fixed because the guys in charge of reading bug reports are too busy playing Skyrim or something.  Worst-case scenario, an official at Valve DID read the ticket, and then just threw it out!  Regardless of whether or not the vulnerability was explained in a way that made it sound threatening, an exploit is still an exploit!  It's Valves responsibility to seal-up any potential threats, big or small.  In either case, it is 100% Valve's fault that the developer was able to take advantage of this loophole when he did; it should have been long-since fixed.

As a customer on Steam, knowing that they're so slap-dash about fixing security loopholes is kind of worrying to me.  So when someone makes it apparent by doing something completely harmless?  Damn straight I'm on his side!  The thing that worries me is the people who were rallying to support Valve on their decision.  Don't get me wrong, I understand that some people are just Neutral/Lawful, so the law is the law is the law (or in this case, the ToS is the ToS is the ToS), but that still doesn't address the core issue:  Valve was told about a vulnerability in their program that would, in addition to other potential problems, allow an enterprising hacker to create a pseudo-store that would steal money from their customers, and they didn't fix it!  So are we saying that we DON'T want developers to take the pro-active stance of doing something harmless when these exploits go unfixed in order to draw attention to them?

"Well, if Valve doesn't fix the problems, then it can just be their fault when someone DOES take advantage of them.  This guy didn't have to break the ToS, so he still deserves his punishment," the argument tends to go.  That's just it, though, I DON'T WANT SOMEONE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE IN THE FIRST PLACE!  I am a customer on Steam.  You know who gets screwed when someone hacks into Steam and is able to, for example, create a false Store that sends customers' money to someone's account and then doesn't reward the game that was "purchased"?  ME!  I don't care how much egg gets on Valve's face when the exploit happens.  I don't care that some developer can jump-up and shout, "HA!  I reported this AGES ago, it should have been fixed!"  No, I care that potentially up to $60 of my money (per game in the purchase) is now squatting in some guy's account.  Maybe I'll get the money back, but I probably won't.  Maybe Valve will give me a key to unlock the game that I didn't actually purchase, but maybe they won't if there's no sufficient way to prove that I did in fact fall victim to the exploit.

No, I'd rather just avoid all of that potential hassle, and any hassle from other problems caused by this exploit.  I might not even fall victim to the exploit, but I'd still rather not have to deal with it happening in the first place.  I would rather a well-intentioned developer create a harmless little prank to illustrate the loophole so that Valve has to notice and fix it.  I would rather that any exploits in Steam's coding be fixed and sealed-off.  I would rather not like to hear about Valve banning developers when they do something harmless to highlight an exploit that has seemingly gone ignored.  I'm not saying that Valve should throw this guy a ticker-tape parade, but to have banned him when his actions were strictly in favor of pointing out a loophole before someone can use it in a way that's actually harmful?  As a customer on Steam, I don't like that one bit.

This has been some Game 4 Thought.  Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PAD #23: Introducing "Game 4 Thought"

I've been meaning to get this spinning for a while, and when I went-off on a bit of a tangent about something on yesterday's PAD, it prompted me to just crop it off and put it in it's own post.  As a result, I've decided to use it to kick-off an idea I've had in mind for a while:  Game 4 Thought.  The obvious pun being on the idiom "food for thought".  My hope is that I'll be able to get a new Game 4 Thought written every week, posted on Thursday mornings (CST).  The goal of GFT (since using the number for the acronym would make it one letter off from a television station) is for me to talk about issues in gaming that I feel are worth discussing.  Strictly speaking, it's an opinion column, so while I aim to try and keep things as unbiased as possible whenever I can, I'd be lying if I said that every single one is going to be completely on the fence.  Another aim is to perhaps occasionally play devil's advocate on an issue where I feel that both sides have a fair point, but discussions seem a bit unfairly one-sided.  This also means that I probably won't post PADs on Thursdays anymore, since the Game 4 Thought article will count as the "Post-A-Day" quota.

I watched the new Team Fortress 2 video today, it was pretty good.  Makes me wonder when they'll just do a full movie, I would be all over it.  Apparently it's part of some big update that's going to be coming pretty soon.  As a reference to the video, bread will occasionally spawn when a player teleports.  It doesn't do anything, and it despawns shortly after appearing; it's basically just there for giggles.  Having checked the TF2 blog, it looks like they've made the Day 2 announcement which features some new weapons, new bread-themed skins for old weapons, and of course achievements.  I haven't played TF2 in ages, so maybe I'll check it out with this update.  Always did want to join a community back when I played regularly, it's just more fun when you can actually get to know the people you're playing with instead of hoping into random servers with random people you'll never get to know.  It just makes the whole experience feel more hallow.

Thanks for joining me today.  I'll see you guys tomorrow for Game 4 Thought, and then on Friday for the next PAD.  Until then, game well.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

PAD #22: Pre-screenings FTW

Bit of a headache, so I'll probably be brief today.  I got into a pre-screening for Jersey Boys tonight.  It's a movie about The Four Seasons, though it follows Frankie Valli more-so than the other three members.  I honestly couldn't say how closely it follows the real story, but no doubt that they added a little bit of narrative zing to parts that wouldn't have been interesting.  I'm okay with that, over-all.  It's not a documentary after-all, so I can see why they might have been willing to toss-out a few facts for the sake of keeping a good story going.  Anyway, it was pretty decent over-all.  If the idea of a movie about The Four Seasons is something that peaks your interest, then there's a good chance you'll enjoy it.

I had another issue I wanted to talk about, but it's turning into a post of it's own.  So I'm gonna crop it out and place it in it's own entry; go through it and edit it a bit more carefully than my PADs (I've re-read some of these after the fact and noticed a lot of errors; some of which I do fix, but not all).  So that'll wrap things up for today.  Thanks for joining me, and I hope to see you tomorrow.  Until then, game well.


Monday, June 16, 2014

PAD #21: Of Zombies and Dragons (and Vampires, too)

I was able to get out and see How to Train Your Dragon 2 yesterday, and it was just plain awesome.  The movie really did a lot of expand on the lore of the dragons, to the point where even details of the first movie make a bit more sense.  The villain I feel could have been handled a little better, but he was over-all as menacing as he needed to be.  Hiccup goes through the movie convinced that if he can talk to Drago, then he can convince him that his methods are wrong, and that there's no reason to fight this war.  After-all, he was right the first time everyone disagreed with him, so he's certain that he's right this time.  Needless to say, part of the crux of the movie is Hiccup learning that some enemies simply cannot be reasoned with, and the means by which he learns this lesson will definitely leave an impact with some people.

I was browsing at Half-Price the other day.  Technically I was looking for the first How to Train Your Dragon, since my dad hadn't seen it and I wanted to get him up to speed before we all went to see it the next day.  It most certainly wasn't a convenient excuse to watch the movie again (or maybe it was).  Anyway, I ended-up just having to get the movie at Best Buy (it was on sale, so score on that), but while I was browsing at Half-Price I stumbled across a gem that I can't believe I hadn't gotten up until now:  Shaun of the Dead.  Screened it today to make sure that some jerk hadn't sold it to Half-Price to unload a broken disc (it's not exactly feasible to screen every movie they get, so it can happen).  It works just fine, and I was able to add a movie that needs to be in any zombie movie collection.

So yeah, that's two awesome movies I got this weekend that I should have gotten ages ago.  I've always been kinda slow about buying DVDs (and I guess these days, Blu-rays).  I guess I just don't watch movies at home all that often, so it never feels like a priority.  Still, it's nice to have a good collection of seasonal flicks, like zombie movies for May, or horror flicks for October.  Not the kind of horror you're likely thinking about, though.  No slasher flicks, and not even that many ghost-type flicks.  They're too cliche and just tend to not work.  Rather, I like movies like Let Me In or 30 Days of Night.  Let Me In because it tells a love story where the couple winds-up together in the end, but it can hardly be called a happy ending because of the ominous implications about their lives that the movie alludes to, and 30 Days of Night because it's just so visceral.  I suppose it could be classified as a "slasher", but it does so in a way that works.  Most slashers are so sloppy about introducing characters that it's hard to give a crap when they get picked-off, and the villain's motive is usually bland.  Granted I haven't seen any of the classics yet, but the slasher genre has never really done it for me; with 30 Days of Night being an exception.

Well, that'll wrap things up for tonight.  Thanks for joining me for today's PAD, and I'll see you tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

PAD #20: [Edit] Whoops, Forgot the Title Again

Looks like a big debate right now (or non-debate, depending on who you ask) is about framerates.  The debate comes about with games in the next gen still running in 30 FPS (Frames Per Second).  That, in and of itself, probably wouldn't have gotten too much controversy going, except that in response to people noticing this, some developers have started stepping-up to defend their choice to stay with 30 FPS by claiming that it's better.  In one case in particular, the studio insisted that they opted for 30 FPS because they wanted the game to have a "film-like" aesthetic.  My personal opinion?  They're doing the same style of backtracking that Bungie was doing when Halo only allowed for 2 weapons.  The only difference is that "tactical decision-making" has been replaced with "better aesthetics".  Don't get me wrong, I get it.  After all the hype of the "next generation" of gaming, it's only natural that people are going to be disappointed that we're still running on yesterday's framerates, so of course developers are going to start finding ways to justify the decision.

Looks like another hot debate was kicked-off by Ubisoft.  The short version is that responded to the question of a female playable character in the next Assassin's Creed by saying that it would be too much work to include.  They later replied to the controversy by pointing out that the narrative of the game would include strong female characters; they just wouldn't be playable.  Now, I will grant that adding an extra gender to a game definitely is more work.  If nothing else, there's the matter of a different character model.  The real meat of the controversy is whether or not adding extra animations and costumes is as much work as Ubisoft claimed.  Honestly, it feels to me like Ubisoft is getting caught in a lie.  Animators who have worked on games that feature both male and female playable characters have been chiming-in to say that it isn't as much work as Ubisoft makes it sound.  So it begs the question, were playable female characters ever a part of the plan?  If they were, then it's sounding like Ubisoft is mismanaging their resources if they really do feel that women were so much extra work that they just had to be cut.  Meanwhile if women were never on the agenda, then wouldn't it have been a better PR move to come up with something better that other studios couldn't call you out over?

Pulling my head out of the gaming'verse for a while, I watched How to Train Your Dragon today to get caught-up before seeing the sequel tomorrow.  I absolutely love that movie.  I'll be honest though, when I first heard about the movie I had my doubts.  The trailers didn't really do a good job of showing the human characters, so they looked kinda half-assed, and the plot wasn't really explained all that well.  Even the shots of Toothless in the commercials I saw didn't really do a good job of giving him that awesome/cute vibe he has going on.  It just seemed like a movie that was getting hastily slapped together for the sake of the easy "it doesn't have to be good because kids will make their parents see it anyway" cash grab, and that I would be obligated to hate it for somehow managing to make dragons look bad (something that should be illegal).  Thankfully, I decided to go see the movie anyway, if only because it was getting a lot praise from reviewers.  I absolutely feel in love with the movie.  The jokes were clever and generally worked, the story had great emotional weight, and the dragons (especially Toothless) were completely awesome.  Needless to say, when I saw a the teaser for it last year, there were no words to be had.  Just slack-jawed wonder.

I'll definitely be posting my thoughts on the movie when I come back on Monday.  Thanks for joining me on today's PAD, I'll see ya guys in a couple of days.  Until then, game well.

Friday, June 13, 2014

PAD #19: E3 Wishlist

It was a fun E3, but it couldn't last forever.  Still, there were some games I would have liked to hear about that didn't seem to make a showing.  For one, I was hoping that this E3 is when Bethesda was going to announce what they've been working on since Skyrim released a few years back.  Most likely it'll be Fallout 4, but at the same time it could be the next Elderscrolls title or even a new IP; though that last one seems the least likely.  My hope was for a Fallout 4 announcement, though.  Anyone looking through my archive will see that I spent quite a bit of time talking about Fallout, and the kinds of mechanics that I felt would be interesting to see in the future games.

I also think another Metroid would have been nice.  Not that I was disappointed with what Nintendo had to show this year, but the last Metroid we've gotten was Other M, and I really don't want to be right when I predicted that it's disappointing reception would likely lead to a dry spell for the series.  It'd be nice to see some more Prime-styled games, and are we forgetting that Metroid used to be a 2D sidescroller, Nintendo?  I would love to see a full-scale, console release of a side-scrolling Metroid.  A 3DS release would be okay, too, but I want to see one that doesn't need to get downsized to accommodate the smaller screen.  Something with the same glory and splendor as Symphony of the Night, probably the last side-scrolling "Metroidvania" game to see a full console release, and none of the handheld-based games have come close to it in graphical prowess or in sound quality.  I think it's time we see a change to the notion that side-scrolling games need to be handheld.

Killing Floor 2 was announced a while ago, so it would have been nice to see a little more info about it at E3 since it'll be released (Early Access) this summer.  Though I suppose I can content myself with at least knowing it exists since I'm already planning to get it at launch.  Something from Blizzard would have been fun, possibly some info on the next D3 or Starcraft expansion.  Though I suppose they have their own convention these days (which I'm going to) where they tend to make these announcements.  So yeah, I think that's mostly my E3 wishlist for the year; Bethesda's current project, and something Metroid-related.  There's probably more, but there's nothing that comes to mind at any rate.

Thanks for joining me for today's PAD, and I'll see you tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

PAD #18: E3 Steam

So it looks like E3 is still chugging.  Or at the very least Nintendo is still showing-off some stuff on their Treehouse stream on YouTube.  Most interesting is a game I just heard about today, Codename: STEAM, being developed by Intelligent Systems (of Fire Emblem fame).  It stands for Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace, and it's about a team that was put together by Abraham Lincoln to defend Earth from invading aliens.  Let me reiterate that:  It's about a game about a steampunk squad.  Put together by Lincoln.  To fight aliens.  Developed by Intelligent Systems.  So it's about awesome, formed by awesome, to do awesome, being developed by awesome.  I am so on board with this!

The best part about Codename: STEAM (CNS?  CS?  I dunno) is that it plays rather differently from IS's usual fare.  For those not familiar with Intelligent Systems, WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU!?  *Ahem*  But also, they are known for two series.  The aforementioned Fire Emblem, and the Wars series (recently known as Advance Wars).  While the two games had a few unique mechanics to themselves, the gameplay itself was generally the same between the two games.  There's nothing wrong with that, though.  For fans of Turn-based Strategy games, there was enough variance between the two to enjoy them both.  Still, it's great seeing something new coming from them that has a completely different style of gameplay.

Codename: STEAM is still a turn-based strategy game (TBS), but instead of controlling squads of a dozen or more troops, you now only control 4 units.  It still uses the back-and-forth system of you moving all of your units, and then the enemy getting their turn (as opposed to Shining Force where anyone from either team might go next).  One new mechanic is something called "Overwatch" that both your and the enemy team can use.  Basically, if you leave action points (called "steam" in this game, natch) unspent, the character can react and attack during the other team's turn if an enemy comes into view.  It means that just rushing into battle can have its risks, since you don't know if an enemy might be waiting around the corner with an attack's-worth of Overwatch.  It works both ways though, and since Overwatch attacks take less steam to use, you can potentially do more damage during the enemy turn than during your own.

Each character naturally has their own specialty.  The team that was shown during the gameplay demo I watched had one demolition character with a grenade launcher, a soldier-type character with an assault rifle, a sniper character (guess what she uses), and a support character who can throw bait on the field to try and lure enemies out of cover (Edit2:  I found this video of the developers demonstrating the game in which they used another character with a gatling gun and a charge attack).  On top of that, each character has a special ability they can trigger.  The ones I saw during the demo was the support character being able to put a shield around himself for protection, and the sniper was able to charge-up her weapon to get increased range and damage.  In addition to that, you can equip each character with a secondary weapon or ability.  For example, the demolition guy had a sentry turret he could throw on the field, and the support character who is otherwise defenseless was given a support rifle so he can deal at least some damage.

Definitely a very interesting showing.  As a longtime fan of IS's games, I am really looking forward to this game after what I saw, and will probably pick it up on day one.  Though I guess that comes as little surprise with the way that I managed to fill an entire blog post with just that.  Thanks for joining me on today's PAD, and I'll see ya tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Edit:  I keep seeing people saying that they hate the artstyle.  Personally, I rather like it.

Edit 2:  Added a couple of links, including info about another character.  So not surprisingly, you can pick from more than just the 4 characters in the demo I watched (which was part of the Treehouse stream, so I can't post a link to it yet). 

Edit 3:  Nintendo just uploaded a compilation video about Codename: STEAM that makes for a good over-all summary of the game.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

PAD #17: E3 Leftovers

So another E3 has come and gone.  Still have a few things worth mentioning, though.  Firstly, I guess Nintendo decided to recycle Kirby's Epic Yarn with Yoshi.  The game looks okay, but I can't help but feel like a lot of the "neat" mechanics they showed-off in the trailer are mechanics that I already got my fill of in Epic Yarn (to the point where I'm pretty sure they're using a lot of the same sound effects).  Seems that if they didn't have any new ideas for the whole "yarn" mechanic, they should have held off for a while.  Still, the game could be interesting if the gameplay holds-up; though I doubt any Yoshi game will be able to hold a candle to Yoshi's Island.  I think the most impressive thing about the game is how the graphics look like actual cloth; as though the game was animated using stop motion.

So I guess there's going to be some dragon game on the 360?  Can't say I'm all that impressed, though.  Hopefully the game's advertising wreaks of "This is meant for kids", because that's honestly what the trailer felt like.  The way that the character had this playful (and annoying) whimsy about him while fighting, and how he puts his headset on while charging into a fight (ho damn guys, he's listening to his tunes, it's on now!)... the whole thing just feels like the kind of fantasy I might have had while I was eight.  Being meant for kids isn't necessarily a bad thing though, maybe I'm just annoyed that it's a game that I should be 100% pumped about, but can't really see myself getting into because of the blatantly-aimed-at-a-different-generation main character.  Though the worst thing about the game wasn't even in the game, but rather the poor guy who was forced to make the obvious "action on a whole new 'scale'" pun, meanwhile having to pretend that the Monster Hunter series doesn't exist so that the statement itself can be not a complete lie.

So I didn't notice back when I mentioned the game, but apparently Yager is going to have some involvement with Dead Island 2's development.  Hopefully they bring along some of their storytelling prowess to turn Dead Island into a game worth talking about.  Don't forget that these are the people who released a game who's gameplay would have left the game as forgettable, but then included a story that had such biting commentary on the very genre in which it was set that people couldn't NOT talk about it.  Still, they'd have Telltale's The Walking Dead to worry about; if they do try and release a zombie game with a deep story, the comparisons will be inevitable.  On that note, I looked them up and I guess they slipped a trailer passed me at some point during this E3.  It's a game called Dreadnought, and looks to be set in a sci-fi setting, possibly focused on piloting fighters, but it's hard to tell.  After Spec-Ops: The Line, though, this is a company to keep an eye on.  Will they continue to impress, or will The Line be their one moment of glory?

I think that'll do for E3 this year.  Though who knows, it might be all that anyone is talking about for a while, so I might have to talk about it again tomorrow for lack of anything else going on in the industry.  I guess we'll see tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PAD #16: E3 Goodness

I said that I'd find some good stuff to talk about today, since I don't wanna just sit here and gripe about stuff I don't care about, and boy did Nintendo ever deliver.  I think the most interesting thing they had to show today was Splatoon.  It's basically an answer to the question of "How can we get the younger generation into shooters?"  It's a game of color vs color, and the objective is to splatter as much paint of your team's color on the board as possible before the time is up.  Of course you can splatter paint over your enemy team's paint, and getting hit with the enemy color will eventually kill you and force you to respawn back at base, so it isn't just a game of ignoring the enemy team to focus on splattering paint around.  It has another interesting mechanic in that you can sink into the paint for a form of fast travel, and to reload faster.  There's quite a bit that you can do with it.  A very interesting-looking game.

Xenoblade Chronicles X got a bit more info today.  Forget if I mentioned it yesterday, but there wasn't as much to talk about except for a brief gameplay trailer.  Today they talked a little more about the story.  Apparently Earth got caught in a battle between a couple of warring alien races, and the resulting battle left Earth ravaged, and humans fled on giant arc ships to get away from it.  Seems odd that the aliens would be fighting at Earth when it has nothing to do with either of them, but maybe that gets fleshed-out in the story.  On that, it's been revealed that, despite sharing the name, X is more of a spiritual successor than having any story relation.  Think System Shock -> Bioshock, I guess.  Similar themes and similar gameplay, but otherwise unrelated.  This game is a big part of why I want to get a Wii U eventually.  Pikmin 3 and Smash Bros being two other pieces to that puzzle.

Speaking of which, it was kinda fun watching the Smash Bros Invitational Tourney.  The energy from the crowd was awesome, kinda wish I could've been in there.  Never been to an E3, but it looks like it'd be a lot of fun just for that.  Unfortunately I had to leave for most of it, so I missed any actual info that they released.  I came back in time for them to be showing-off some new game mode, but since I missed the intro, I wasn't really sure what was going on.  Something about gaining stats?  I dunno.  Really looking forward to the game.  I'll definitely be getting the 3DS version when it comes out; Wii U version if I have one.

Last game that I wanna talk about is Mario Maker.  The entire thing is a level editor for 2D Mario.  The feature I watched had graphics from both the original game, and from the "New" series of games.  Maybe you can make levels in the Mario 3 or Mario World style, but I don't know for sure.  It'd certainly be nice, but even with just the two styles it's pretty interesting.  Probably the neatest thing was the idea of creating a level for another player to try and beat, then he adds to it to make it harder and passes it on.  Just the whole idea of passing it back and forth until someone is unable to beat the level is kind of an awesome idea.  Which is to say nothing of the endless wealth of levels you'll be able to get online (or at least I hope it'll have that feature).  Sure there'll be a lot of lemon stages, but there'll be plenty of great ones as well.

Probably be more E3 tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

Monday, June 9, 2014

PAD #15: E3 Lethargy

Almost forgot that E3 was coming up, and suddenly here it is.  Of course one of the first things I noticed was a Dead Island announcement.  Anyone picking through the archives on this blog would know that I have a bit of love for zombie games, and Dead Island is no exception.  It's a bit disappointing that there's going to be both a class and a level exclusive to the PS4, but hopefully that's going to be a timed thing.  Still, it's something that's becoming more common that I don't really care for.  I think a game should be the same from system to system.  If you want a game to be system-exclusive, then make it system exclusive.  I don't really like this practice developing content that's exclusive to another system, then charging me full price for the game anyway.

A new top-down Tomb Raider has been announced, and it still leaves the same funny taste in my mouth.  Similar to the first game like this, I just feel weird calling it "Tomb Raider".  Yeah okay, so these games are called "Lara Croft and the [Blank]", but it is what it is, and what it feels like is a completely different game where they just replaced the main character with Lara Croft and then called it a Tomb Raider game.  It does sorta beg the question, though, of why a character like Mario can be in just about any game and feel natural, where this Lara Croft series of games just don't feel like Tomb Raider titles despite being thematically similar.

And naturally, since the "first" one sold so well, they're putting-out a sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot from a few years back.  It has a completely laughable title, but I was willing to just ignore the game and move-on until Lara had to open her mouth.  She harps-on about some "destiny" crap, to the point where you look at the title and suddenly "Tomb Raider" isn't just the name of the franchise, but apparently it's what Lara is "meant to be"?  Like there's supposed to be a specific "Tomb Raider"?  I dunno, I'm not buying it.  Smacks of "We don't care about the series, but we gotta put together another one because the last one sold, so we'll just call it 'destiny' since that's certainly what it feels like to us."

Okay okay, that's enough complaining about E3.  I do like to try and keep positive, so tomorrow I'll dig-up some stuff that I'm actually looking forward to seeing (aside from Dead Island 2).  Until then, game well.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

PAD #14: Now With Titles!

Heh, just noticed that I forgot to add a title to yesterday's PAD.  Normally I just write the number and then come back to add a title once I know what I end-up rambling about, but I guess I forgot about the second part yesterday.  Ah well.  Late PAD today because I was out all day.  First I went to a graduation party for one of my cousins, then it was to my sister's place for the rest of the day for a party she was throwing.  Over-all, it was good times.

While at my sister's, my dad and I watched Inception (while other family members came and went).  It's only the second time I watched it, and forgot how awesome of a movie it is.  Definitely the kind of plot that you have to watch more than once to really get.  I suppose that's a turn-off for some people, but for me it's just the kind of movie I love.  It was interesting watching for some of the stuff I'd been reading about since it came out; like the theory of how Cobb's wedding ring was actually his totem, while the top he carries around was his wife's totem.  It would explain why she's seen holding it during some flashbacks, and it's a theory that adds some extra symbolism at the end when he forgets about the top (a reminder of his wife) in order to go be with his kids.  The movie certainly isn't without its flaws, but today was a fun reminder that its virtues more than make up for them.

Friday, June 6, 2014

PAD #13:

After returning home from seeing Maleficent, it's time to blog a little before diving back into Wildstar.  My opinion?  Eh.  It wasn't great, but it certainly could have been worse.  I think my favorite character was the crow who acted as a spy for Maleficent, even if he was only included for the sake of giving her someone to talk to during the movie, almost to the point of acting like her conscience.  Probably the best part of the movie is that it doesn't really make Maleficent out to be an "anti-hero" as much as the trailers made it seem.  She was never fighting against some grander evil, but rather the movie portrayed her motives as being purely revenge-driven.  Still not sure how I feel about Maleficent being given a heart, but it does make for an interesting dichotomy; the original movie being things as told from the perspective of the royal family, and this new one being Maleficent's side of the story.  It's worth seeing, if nothing else.

There's an interesting interview with Todd Howard that should interest Elderscrolls fans.  During the interview, they talk about how he's in Germany right now because he's receiving a Lifetime Award from the LARA Awards, which is pretty awesome.  Though I think that the most interesting part of the interview was Todd mentioning how Morrowind basically saved Bethesda.  As he puts it, Daggerfall did well, but then the company "spread [itself] thin".  Not only did they release those little-known Elderscrolls spin-offs that didn't do well, but he also mentioned that there were projects that no one ever heard about.  So they merged with Zenimax, and that was the saving grace that let them create Morrowind and "go all in".  It's also great hearing a video game developer talking about the great things that you can do on the PC, and saying that he doesn't care that sales on consoles tend to be better because PC is just the best way to play their games.  He also mentions that the reason that they haven't announced their next game is because they're waiting until it's closer to being done, because they don't want to just trickle-out information.  They want to announce it and BAM, there's tons to talk about with it.  Still, fingers crossed that it's Fallout 4.  I would be all over that!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

PAD #12: Trailers and Controversy. Yay! ^_^

My back was really sore yesterday, so I spent most of my time taking it easy and watching Game Grumps and Zero Punctuation while laying at my bed.  Unfortunately, this meant I didn't want to sit at my desk since that would have aggravated the problem.  As much as I want to get a post per day up, it isn't worth doing more damage to my back than has already been done.  On the plus side, I got a new chair for my desk, the old one being the main reason my back went out.

There's a New Witcher 3 trailer.  Never did play the second one, but I loved the first one, so I might have to pick that one up when it comes out.  I'll have to see how the stories tie together and if I should beat The Witcher 2 first.  I suppose some people would tell me that I should just on principle.  On that note, I just learned that there was a gameplay trailer for X that was released a while back.  Looks like its combat is going to be a retread of Xenoblade's, which I have mixed feelings over.  The combat system wasn't bad per se, but it felt clunky.  It seems like it was set-up to be controlled with a keyboard first, and later jury-rigged to work for a controller set-up; which might make sense if it wasn't a console-exclusive title.  Basically, it was a fun game, it just feels like I should have been playing it on my PC instead of the Wii.

A bit of commentary about Early Access games happened on Total Biscuit's latest mailbag episode, and I have to agree with him.  The issue at hand was about the writer of the letter going into the open beta for a game, but then seeing in-game purchases all over the place.  I think TB puts it best in this video when he says "If you started charging, it's fair game," and later, "anything that claims to be in open beta with a cash shop is not a beta anymore; it's just released.  It is a release!  If it is a release that has a lot of problems, then tough shit!  You decided to release a game, and you decided to charge money for it when it wasn't done."  Agreed, 100%.  Yes, every game is going to have its bugs, but when a game is released with several (potentially game-breaking) bugs, then it's inexcusable; I don't care if it has an "Early Access" tag.  Early Access is not an excuse to have a buggy product.

Still having a blast with Wildstar (when my computer isn't bottle-necking).  I think my favorite part is just the combat.  After all the MMOs I've played, this is one of the few where just fighting is entertaining.  I'm admittedly still in early-game content, so we'll see how it holds-up for end-game, but right now the game is in a state where I actually look forward to jumping into fights, where usually in an MMO the fights are just a means to an end.  Another thing I really like is the occasional challenge I stumble into.  At random the game will declare "Challenge Begins!"  Suddenly I have to kill as many enemies as I can, or maybe gather enough of an item that's laying on the ground, or maybe some form of a platforming challenge.  At the end the game gives you a randomized reward.  It's a nice little change from the usual grind of just running quests and turning them into the quest giver.  Speaking of which, that's another thing I like, most quest givers will call you when you complete the quest, allowing you to turn-in on the spot, and then they'll give you the next quest in the chain.  Cuts-out a lot of the back-and-forth trekking that plagues most quest chains in MMOs.  All-in-all, while the game does admittedly make a number of MMO mistakes, it does enough things to fix other MMO problems that it balances-out over-all.  Throw-in the fun combat, and it's just a good game over-all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

PAD #11: Stubbornness is a Great Scapegoat

I was at Half-Price today and spotted a few copies of Transformers Vault.  This is one of those gems I missed the first time around on account of me having not heard of it.  They were selling for only $15, marked down from the original $35, so I had to jump on that.  After checking Amazon and B&N, looks like I got a decent deal, too.  Even on eBay I was only able to find one listing at $15, but that guy wanted $15.80 for shipping!  Always gotta watch for that on eBay.  Meanwhile Half-Price wanted to charge me $1.06 in sales tax.  Lemme weigh my options, might have to sleep on that one.

Seems there's some controversy with Mario Kart 8, and I don't mean Luigi's death stare (I could YouTube videos of that all night if there wasn't Wildstar to be played).  I guess there's a bit of an exploit in the game where you can hop at the end of speed boosts so that you don't slow down to normal speed as quickly (basically, being on the ground makes you slow down faster than while airborne).  Needless to say there's an outcry of how this is going to ruin the online play, being countered by the opposing faction saying that it really doesn't give that much of an advantage.  At the end of the day though, if you're really that worried about winning, then learn to do it.  It's hardly "cheating" as most detractors say, and jumping is just a single button-press, so it's hardly a difficult thing to learn.  It's something easy that everyone can do, and anyone who cares enough about the game is likely going to be at least reading the forums, if not actively posting as well.  When you get right down to it, it's just something for people to stubbornly refuse to do so that they can blame it whenever they lose a match.  Maybe Nintendo will patch it out (since that's a thing consoles can do now), maybe they'll specifically leave it in even for future games.

Meanwhile, here's an awesome video of an awesome goat.  If you can watch this without feeling the need to comment about the amount of dust in the air, then I think it's safe to say that you have no soul.  It was included in Goat Simulator's patch notes, which were quite amusing.  You should give 'em a read if you're the kind of person who can have a sense of humor about that kinda thing.  Anyway, today's PAD is gonna be rather short.  C'ya tomorrow.

Monday, June 2, 2014

PAD #10: 'Cuz Sundays are Blurg

Yeah, I know.  I missed a day.  It was a slow and lazy Sunday, and my cold was making me feel all bleh.  I think I'm just gonna take Sundays off in general, just a day to relax and do whatever.  Like re-watch old Grumps episodes or Futurama reruns. :3

Got into a pre-screening for Edge of Tomorrow.  It was... not bad.  Not great, but not bad.  I guess my main gripe is that they took what could potentially have been an interesting story and just kinda didn't do anything with it.  Without wishing to spoil anything, the ending didn't really do it for me, either.  I'd compare it to the same reason that the ending to The Dark Knight Rises kinda turned me off.  The action scenes are good, so we're gonna re-tread my thoughts on the latest X-Men movie with the ole "If you don't care about story you'll probably like it".  I tend to get that impression with a lot of movies, you'd almost think that movies were a terrible medium for storytelling if it weren't for that occasional gem that just blows me outta the water.  Rare moments like Nightmare Before Christmas, or Paranorman, where I just can't help but fall in love with the characters.

Absolutely loving Wildstar so far.  Unfortunately my computer doesn't agree with me on that notion.  Perhaps it's time to start saving-up for a replacement.  My current build has actually lasted quite a while for being a quick patch job to get a computer back up and running.  It's lasted long enough that I've actually forgotten what broke that I needed to replace.  Even putting Wildstar aside, though, she's been showing her age recently.  Seems with every game I get, I have to turn the settings down just a little bit more than before.  Ole girl's been having issues caching properly, too.  So it's making some games really choppy at the start until all the assets are loaded, and then gets choppy again if something new comes along (which can be easy in an MMO where you can bump into classes with different abilities, or even the same class using a different build).

Talked to an old coworker the other day, and I'm thinking I might go back to driving.  It wasn't a great job, but it paid decently and kept me on my feet pretty well.  Between my hours being cut at my current job, and my computer quickly showing her age, I'll need to find something.  Admittedly, I do kinda miss delivering pizzas, some days.  Something about being able to drive around during the nicer days that made the lousy days worth enduring, mixed with the pay being fairly good for the effort.  It's hell on the car, but at the same time pays enough to keep-up with maintenance for the most part.  I dunno, something for me to consider.

Well, I guess that's that for tonight.  I'm gonna get in another hour or two of Wildstar before turning-in for good.  C'ya tomorrow.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

PAD #9: Can't Be Bothered to Come-up With a Title 'Cause I Wanna Get Back to Wildstar

And Wildstar's early access has started today.  It's a game that's had my interest ever since their first trailer a number of years ago (which I was gonna link to, but couldn't find), but I never really followed it all that closely like one of my WoW guildmates did.  Now that the game is finally out (for pre-order customers, at least), we've all jumped into it with the hopes that we'll get into it like we did with WoW.  From what I've played so far (both of beta and live), it's an interesting game.  Probably my favorite part about it is how the combat varies from other MMOs.  Nearly every attack is AoE-based, with the area of effect showing on the ground so you know where you're targeting.  Some attacks will follow you if you move, where others will continue their effect based on where you were when you launched it or where you placed it.  So far I'm having a lot of fun with a Cassian Medic (though I wanted to be an Exile Esper).

The creator of "Rust" (who I didn't know was also the same "Garry" behind "Garry's Mod") chimed-in about the massive amount of games being put on Steam's service.  Short version, he sees it as a good thing.  That's undoubtedly going to ruffle some feathers, but I don't necessarily disagree with him.  His stance is that it's a good thing because it forces developers to have to step up and make sure that their game stands above the others; do a little extra leg work, as it were.  Basically the idea that more competition is a good thing.  Why play this game and not the dozens of others that play just like it?  Because this one has that extra bit of polish that I like, or maybe it has an art style that appeals to me.  I've always been on the fence about the whole issue, mostly because I know how to look for a good game and am not afraid to do a little extra skimming to find it.  Sometimes I wonder if maybe gamers just got too accustomed to the model where only "good" games were ever released, so now they feel a little spoiled for choice now that they actually have to filter passed a few lemons.  I'll definitely say this, though:  Gamers got what they asked for.  They just didn't consider the negative side effects of what they wanted.

Friday, May 30, 2014

PAD #8: New Look!

I got sick of that ultra-skinny template I was using before.  After skimming through a few, I think I like this one a lot.  Now my paragraphs look like paragraphs instead looking like the sidebar on a newspaper.  I might play around with colors and fonts later, but for now I like it.  Now to fire-up some music, been in a chiptunes mood, lately.

Seems there's a fair bit of controversy around Watch Dogs, which I guess is to be expected given the amount of hype the game received during the couple of years before its launch.  Long-story-short, the game isn't what Ubisoft said it would be.  Yeah, big shocker.  It does beg an interesting question though.  At what point do we draw the line between "the usual media hype" and "flat-out lying to their customers"?  The first warning sign was when Ubisoft showed-off some gameplay footage that had severely toned-down graphics compared to how it looked the year before, almost as if Ubisoft realized that the "Next Gen" consoles weren't going to be able to handle the graphics they originally had in mind.  Now the game is out, and there are videos comparing the game to GTA and videos that just look at the game on its own, and it's hard to deny that the game looks nothing like the "true next gen experience" that it was hyped to be, especially given that the reason for the game's delayed release was so that they could "win the next generation".  Instead, it looks like we just got a run-of-the-mill GTA clone that replaces the randomness of GTA with a hokey hacking mechanic that many criticize as being just a long-range "Use" button.

Read a bit more of All Hail Megatron today, and I am definitely digging it.  The most interesting part of the story so far has been the Autobots as they deal with trying to survive on Cybertron (which in this continuity, is basically a desolate wasteland that can no longer support life).  Meanwhile they also have to deal with the fact that they were betrayed to the Decepticons by one of their own, but they don't know who.  The reveal of who did it and why was an interesting twist, though astute readers will likely see the bread crumbs.  Also, Kup is a bad-ass, because of course he is, but he's just plain awesome in this story.  Haven't quite finished it yet, but I'm gonna have to track down some other comics from this continuity.  It's my understanding that another mini-series is called Maximum Dinobots, and there are just no words for that.  No words.  Maximum.  Dinobots.  Speechless.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

PAD #7: Something I Didn't Know I Needed

So I was nonchalantly browsing at Half-Price Books today when I stumbled upon something that might very-well have changed my entire life.  Well okay, so it's nothing that drastic, but it sparked a surprising amount of joy that I probably haven't felt since I was a kid; or perhaps when I first saw The Avengers, anyway.  I was in the comics and manga section when I noticed a book sitting on the shelf, it was a Transformers book called All Hail Megatron.  I picked it up, curious, as I had no idea what I was supposed to make of it.  Then I opened it up and I swear it was like a golden light had shown-out from the pages, and a rainbow sprang forth while an unseen angelic chorus "ah"ed at the splendor.  A recent-looking comic done in the style of the Generation 1 Transformers.  I knew right then that I needed this comic in my life.

So naturally when I got home, the first thing I did was hit-up Google to demand answers.  I discovered that this was a part of a comic series that had been running since a couple years before even the Michael Bay movies were a thing.  Just let that sink-in, before the first Transformers movie, keeping in mind that the fourth is right around the corner.  Anyway, All Hail Megatron is a series that starts a little ways (a wiki article refers to it as the "second act"), and that one objective of the series was to serve as a sort of in medias res jumping-on point for new readers.  Basically, it starts-out with the Decepticons taking over Earth while the Autobots, having been defeated during a previous story arc, have been left desolated on Cybertron, and from the looks of things when I was flipping through the pages, have a bit of drama to sort-out before they can get around to saving Earth.  Probably the best part about it is that since they aren't being forced to adjust the story to accommodate a toy line (since there isn't one), they're able to actually tell a story without needing to worry about forcing-in new characters or contriving reasons to get rid of characters who aren't selling well enough.

Sign me up for that.  Depending on how All Hail Megatron fares, I might have to check-out the rest of this comic series.  Amusingly, and coincidentally, I also stumbled on an amusing Transformers parody on YouTube today based on when Optimus gets revived during Season 3 (or maybe it was Season 4).  I laughed quite a bit, I don't know if I should be ashamed to admit to that or not, but I did.  I've never actually seen the series of episodes where Optimus gets revived, probably because Season 3 was so terrible that I just couldn't keep watching it, and that's after surviving through Season 2.  SEASON TWO FOR FUCK'S SAKE!  We're talking about the season where one of the Autobots falls in love with some human chick after being tasked with being her bodyguard; the season where some Transformers and Spike time travel back to medieval times; the season where some big game hunter captures some Autobots so that he can hunt them for sport ; the season where... you probably get the idea.  Season 2 has a lot of very asinine episodes, yet Season 3 was somehow worse!  So yeah, that's my dirty little Transformers secret.  As much as I loved Generation 1, I haven't finished watching the entire cartoon series.  Though I think that those who have would tell me that it's nothing to be ashamed of, and that they're a little bit envious.

On that, and having added a number of new words to Firefox's dictionary, I think I'll sign-off for tonight.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

PAD #6: At Least I Don't Have Allergies

Oog... This weather is really doing a number on my head.  Hard to focus much when you constantly feel like you're wearing a hat two sizes too small that you can't get off.  It's the main reason I hate the late-Spring/early-Summer transition.  For some reason that sudden shift to warmer weather just kills me.  That's still no excuse to miss a day though, so I'll do what I can.

I guess that LeVar Burton fired-up a Kickstarter to revive Reading Rainbow.  To keep it up with today's trends, he plans to bring it to the internet rather than to TV, which I feel is a smart move.  He also wants to create a version specifically for classrooms.  Normally I'd say that you should rush over and support it as soon as possible, but he apparently met his quota within a few hours of launching the campaign on Kickstarter.  By all means you should still donate (it's a good cause after-all), but the urgency of the situation is slightly lessened.  I don't have any kids of my own yet, but my siblings do, so it'll be nice to have Reading Rainbow available for them.

Google has a new car out.  I haven't read much about it, but I've seen some pictures and... it looks interesting.  It's small enough that I honestly don't know how well I would fit in it.  Still though, the idea of a self-driving car (it doesn't even have a steering wheel or pedals, from what I understand) it kind of amazing.  It's the kind of the thing that you'd never expect to see in your lifetime.  Hope for, sure, but never actually expect.  I'll have to do some reading on it to see how it works.  I also wonder if it'll be street legal without a steering wheel.  Having never been too much into cars, I don't really know what all is required (though I've seen some of the crazy designs that are actually legal); I would have to guess that "a steering wheel" is part of the list.

So Comcast has this commercial they keep playing where they say that they've changed for the better.  The commercial has a customer (inexplicably riding shotgun with the Comcast service guy) and asking how he knows that they've changed.  From there the service guy rattles-off a few of the new features they're promising, and the customer is clearly impressed (because otherwise it'd be a commercial for their competitors).  Erm... except that a list of features doesn't mean they'll actually adhere to them.  The commercial does close-off with the tag line "Hold us to it".  "Or what?" is my immediate response.  Cable companies have been pretty good about staying in their own borders, so what am I going to do if they haven't changed?  Switch back to dial-up?  Then again, I've long since realized that commercials aren't really for me.  Once you understand how commercials work, they just kinda stop working on you outside of just making you aware of the product or service in question.