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2:48 PM on 09.06.2012  

Cblog Analytics - August 2012

Good god, Destructoid, were you as swamped as I was last month? Four days late on the Analytics. Four days! Unprecedented!



Oh man, oh man, did you guys see those GAMES last month? No, I'm not kidding -- I saw VIDEO GAMES! So many of them! Looks like August has been elected as the vanguard of 2012's big Fall/Winter release wave, giving us both Sleeping Dogs and Darksiders II on the same day, accompanying big-shot MMOs The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 a short while later. A good thing, too; with July's healthy selection of controversy-bait appearing to have retreated into hopefully lengthy hibernation, Cbloggers needed some cool stuff to write about. And write they did!

This 7th edition of the Analytics sends us past this year's halfway point. I'd be lying my pasty arse off if I said I'd enjoyed counting all these numbers, but it sure is worth it when I see the end result, especially now that the series has been going on long enough for me to start noticing long-term patterns and trends. Thanks to everybody for their continued support; knowing you guys love seeing the numbers as much as I do is the better half of what keeps the stats rolling out month after month, so don't forget to take another look at last month's edition so you can get a clearer picture of what went down in August!

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Remember: If there's something I haven't covered that you want to see next month, post it in the comments!



In total, 404 blogs were posted this month!
-(That's 37 less than last month's count of 441!)
-Still holding at the above-400 now-standard average

The most-blogged day was Sunday the 5th, with 22 blogs!
-(That's 1 less than last month's most-blogged day!)
-Holy inversion, Batman! A large number of blogs written over the big hooplah that was Gaymercon's rapid Kickstarter success happened this day, but even disregarding those entries, this would've been high-activity for any time of the week, much less the historically bone-dry weekends

The least-blogged day was Sunday the 19th, with 2 blogs!
-(That's 4 less than last month's least-blogged day!)
-…And then there was that. Other than a notable lack of things happening, I can't find any pattern or potential correlation regarding what is now the record low blogs-in-a-day since I first started doing the Analytics. Things recovered immediately afterwards, fortunately

On average, there were about 13 blogs a day!
-(That's 1 less than last month's average!)
-A measurable decrease compared to July, but basically on-par with June. Beyond the mysterious drop-off on the 19th, peaks and valleys don't seem to have concentrated on any particular period of time. Looking at the topic breakdown below, this makes sense; Gaymercon caused something of a furor in the early month, Sleeping Dogs & Darksiders 2 drove a lot of fingers to keyboards mid-month, and PAX Prime dominated much of the late month





The flavor of the month was PAX Prime, which was written about 11 times!
-(That's 3 more than last month!)
-Like July, Cblogger's thoughts in August were far more diffused across a variety of topics; no Mass Effect 3 endings or E3 blowouts this go around. Sexism appears to have secured itself a recurring appearance, having latched onto the popular Dtoid consciousness two months ago; however, there doesn't seem to have been a central issue around which such discussion is focused this time, like Tropes vs. Women last month or the Tomb Raider thing from June. Probably need another month or two before I can make any reasonable predictions or inferences on that end

This month's Bloggers Wanted topics prompted 7 blogs to be written!
-(That's 16 less than last month!)
-This month's topic of Conventions is already pretty exclusive compared to previous prompts, and the fact that it didn't show up until halfway through August (cough) didn't do much to help the numbers. You guys running out of ideas up there?

This month's Artists Wanted topic prompted 4 blogs to be posted!
-(That's 8 less than last month!)

About 87% of blogs were varied enough to have less than 5 blogs per topic!
-(That's 1% more than last month!
-Remember: varied discussion of a wide variety of topics can very easily be interpreted as a Good Thing™, as it indicates a huge breadth of interests and viewpoints. Compare it to, say, dozens of terrible copypasta (p)reviews of the same 5 or 6 big-budget AAAs





A total of 2,758 comments were posted on the Cblogs this month!
-(That's 535 less than last month!)

48 blogs received no comments! ;_;
-(That's 14 more than last month!)

The most commented blog was Occam Thoughts: Community, by Occams electric toothbrush, with 49 comments!
-(That's 12 more than last month's most-commented blog!)
-You know what I should do in the future is just bookmark an Occams blog as soon as it pops up, since the man carries attention-magnets big enough to make Disney contemplate patent infringement lawsuits. It'd save me a lot of time recording this stat

On average, there were 89 comments a day!
-(That's 15 less than last month!)
-While overall numbers may come out lower than in July, note how much smaller the spikes and dips are in the graph. Rather than being concentrated mostly around a handful of popular members, comments were (usually) distributed across a much wider spectrum of authors and blogs





In total, the Dtoid community fapped 2064 times!
-(That's 369 more than last month!)
-The sudden increase is more representative of how July's blogging was driven mostly by controversial topics; this time, the repeat of the "oh god the community is DYING I TELL YOU" phase the Cblogs went through in March was the worst it got

56 blogs went through the month fap-free! ;_;
-(That's 31 less than last time!)

The sluttiest blog was also Occam Thoughts: Community, by Occams electric toothbrush, with 45 faps!
-(That's 20 more than last month's sluttiest blog!)

On average, there were 67 faps a day!
-(That's 12 more than last month!)
-If you compare this chart with the blogs written chart up top, you'll notice how closely the peaks and valleys line up. This shows a consistency with August's comments distribution, i.e. a lot more love to a lot more people. Combined with the significant increase in both total faps and average faps-a-day, it's basically a universally positive turnout for community love this month





This month, 52 new members posted their first Cblog! (That's 3 less than last month!) Were they good? Bad? Fun? Long? Short? Will they post again? Did they post 12 more times already? There's only one way to find out! In order of appearance, they are:

hbomb - clustergeek - billyandjulia - N0Gil - JFZeb - worldsanddreams - Kmkin20 - Gamernerd101 - dbluee - Nathan Evrard - myherozero - sneakyg - Kinjiro - bigben4879 - IamZeroKelvin - Svitlana - Vkmies - Jason Bann - LiquidBear - chompers633 - Tiffanie Chiasson - AtTheSpeedOfFetus - Immortal Phoenix - Freddiethesupermouse - 29 Rooks - CheapBossAttack - Shaostyle - tremault - JMandalore - bigdonkey1 - scarritt - Broseidon - fringe figure - BobofMainframe - nanashi - CombustingFetus - jaxx - OhMyApollo - sadisticfreak432 - FaithPills - Forrgotten Soul - dergrimnebulin - Cronomax - SayWord - CubixFails - ChelseaBoy93 - Firelordzero - wintersault - nickstyles - PanaMusica - Stavros StevieGreek Dimou - Kwamouflage

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NOTES:

-Until a better method presents itself, statistics are counted by hand, per-day. Comments and Faps are recorded at the end of the next day, to give the community ample time to read and respond. I also do my best to disregard obvious spam-posts, but I can easily miss one or skip over what's actually just a really shoddy & self-aggrandizing but otherwise legit Cblog. This means that there are likely minor errors and inaccuracies present, but none of them should be significant enough to invalidate anything

-Cblog Recaps and last month's Analytics are not counted, but all other serials (like FNF) are, under the rationale that serials still exist for the purpose of "creating" content under a certain topic or theme, while the Recaps & Analytics merely seek to sort and organize the blogs

-For the flavor of the month, I do not count Bloggers Wanted topics - the statistic is instead recorded separately. A Bloggers Wanted topic that covers another popular, non-BW topic is only filed under the BW statistic

-There is still some inherent subjectivity in deciding what constitutes a "unique topic," so keep that in mind if there seems like there's some obvious category that I've ignored (although feel free to tell me)

-Statistics are not intended to impart any kind of judgment or opinion in and of themselves - If I have any personal thoughts, they are noted below the corresponding statistic   read


5:28 PM on 08.01.2012  

Seeing the Matrix Code



Hey, kids, want to see a magic trick? Shazam! I've just read your (yes, your!) mind, and now know that at no less but possibly more than one point, you (yes, you!) have had no less but possibly more than one friend, relative, dog, teddy bear, or imaginary companion who does not regularly play video games. Crazy, right? Now how about this: I'll even bet you've tried to talk to one of them about the subject.

Don't pass out yet, folks; I'm just getting started.

It didn't go so well, did it? "What's that word mean?" "Oh, I've never heard of that." "Is that the one with the guns?" "So it's just like Super Mary Brothers?" It's been the same with me, even when the disadvantaged party carries the best of intentions, like when my dad gave up on Mass Effect because he couldn't find the jump button. It's like speaking to somebody in an alien language where the vocabulary changes ten times a year and everything sounds like third-rate mid-80's album titles.

It's not just that non-gamers (and several non-non-gamers) have to reach for a Wiktionary every time an RTS or an RPG or an R-Type or an R4 is mentioned, scratching their heads as they try to organize their 360s and their 1080s and their 8.8s and 599s -- a different sort of "language," one that's a little harder to discretely define, can be found at the source of their hapless confusion, lying in the ambiguous shroud between convention and invention, with an arm stuck in a multi-millennial time-warp and a leg furiously kicking away repeated attempts to translate it into neat and professional-sounding words.



I say "Super Metroid," and you… wait for it… Alakazam! I know that you (probably) are thinking of a big open world, dozens of missile expansions, spin-jumping across pits of lava, squirming in terror before cheering triumphantly in the space of 1.5 minutes, and such. Since this article's being written for a community blog on a gaming website, there'd likely be no confusion and maybe even some agreement were I to throw the terms "level design," "progression mechanic," "platforming gameplay," and "presentation" at those four qualities, but to my dad or your imaginary friend, I might as well be speaking Alpha Centaurian.

What I'd be trying to categorize is the language of video games; their Matrix code; incomprehensible gibberish to an outsider, confusing and contradictory to the insider, vast and ever-changing even to those experienced enough to decipher it. The existence of such a thing is not unique to the medium, of course -- languages and patterns of craft are found in everything from movies and cars to buildings and toilets, but the (relative) youth of gaming means that we've yet to come up with the right "translations" for even a fraction of all those thousands of compositional bits; for the few that exist, we tend to steal what we can (the "camera"), stretch existing definitions to ligament-tearing breadth ("levels"), and coin ugly portmanteaus for the rest ("Metroidvania").

But as difficult as it may be to sit and toss flowery terminology around in high-minded circlejerks, these patterns and hidden consistencies still exist, and only become more visible the more one plays. Hand the average gamer a copy of Left 4 Dead and Revelations 2012 (topicality!) and, even if they may not be able to articulate exactly what the problem is, one of those games is much more likely to find itself tearing up some wild animal's intestines than the other.



Where things get interesting is when this "code" does become visible. Contrary to what most internet forums would tell you, the quality of a game is subjective, relying heavily on frame of reference -- the kid who grows up with the appropriate doses of Doom and Half-Life, with some sides of System Shock, Battlefield, No One Lives Forever, and Halo, is going to approach, say, Soldier of Fortune: Payback (a very very bad game you should not play, for the curious) with a much different mindset than the kid whose entire gaming repertoire consists of McKids and Super Noah's Ark 3D. Not only has Subject A experienced a great number of what would widely be considered "better" games, that range has provided him/her with a bunch of visible patterns -- inventory menus; weapon functions; puzzle types; not necessarily conventions, but enough similarities that he/she can see how the budget Call of Duty clone compares and -- more accurately -- doesn't compare.

This is why so many SRS GAEM CRITCS cream their pants over things like Grand Theft Auto IV and Journey; either those dozens of patterns and (for lack of a better word) devices that pop up in so many different forms are presented or approached with a huge level of depth and variety (Procedural animation! Ultra-detailed worldbuilding!), or they're simply not there, the conspicuously empty space filled by something that can't be easily traced back across a genre clothesline. It's not even necessarily "innovation," to use an overexposed and oft-misapplied word, that draws out the double-digit numbers and angry comments; looking back across an element's history and seeing that every prior example doesn't quite measure up is usually enough -- there aren't many things the first Modern Warfare did that hadn't been done before, but that didn't stop so many of its qualities from shining so brightly.

So, in a really roundabout way, "new things and well-polished things are good and there should be more," then, but I've got to think that all the difficulties I've had defining exactly what I've been trying to write about for the past few paragraphs (count how many times you see "pattern") is the best possible state for the medium to be in. As soon as something becomes categorized and established, it by necessity becomes exclusive and limiting -- defining what something is tends to also define what it is not; and while understanding this Matrix code undoubtedly helps us analyze and appreciate the most well-crafted of video games on a far deeper level than we otherwise could, spend too much time examining it, and you end up tarnishing what makes it so fascinating, turning all the once-likable characters into faux-losophy spewing androids and making people suffer through the most awkward and protracted sex scene since The Room; and at least in that one, you knew whose bare ass you were staring at.   read


7:29 PM on 07.27.2012  

Miserable Game Corner - Spec Ops: The Line and The Walking Dead

No, this isn't supposed to be a recurring segment; just a double-meaning meant to lure your angry clicking here instead of to whatever nonsense the analyst-of-the-hour is spewing. Also, this article is as close to spoiler-free as I can get with games this plot-heavy, but, per usual, your standards may differ from mine so don't burn my computer or anything



I can't say I didn't get what I asked for. I'm always preaching about games needing to get mature -- for-real mature, not headshots-and-titties mature -- and then these two titles come along, replete with convincing characters, heady subject matter, and a couple of skull-crushing anvils worth of horrifying moments, ensuring I felt like thirty different kinds of shite by the time I was done with them.

Instant Mood Depressor #1 was Spec Ops: The Line, which, having caught my attention early on, found itself in my mailbox a short couple of weeks after launch day. The one thing I love more than carbon-copy military shooters is deriding carbon-copy military shooters, so a game which is meant to do both at the same time! sounded like the best way to spend the next couple of afternoons. Worst-case, I get to point and laugh (and laugh and laugh) at a cynically vapid attempt to cash in on a trend that's already gotten old; best-case, it's a genuinely affecting and worthwhile exploration of the darkness inherent in blah, etc., you get the point.

Unfortunately, this was the best-case scenario.

Spec Ops is a very hard game to talk about without spoiling, not in the least because its MO is to tie a cardboard mask to its face act like a slightly better-written Battleduty of Warfront for just long enough that the player is suckered in -- leaving their gut wide open for the daddy mother-fourletter-er of all punches. I've built up a strong, strong tolerance to pixelated death and dismemberment; even during the game's marquee turning point (you know what I'm talking about if you've played it), I was actually pumping my fist in the air and cheering at the game, applauding it for having both narrative skill to make the scene necessary and impactful and the nuts to put it out there in full view, rather than tuck it away behind +15 evil points or a "don't-go-here-if-you-want-to-be-offended!" display.


And then there was a major news network controversy

But by the game's end, I was legitimately tired, exasperated, drained, depleted, what have you, fully numbed to how many bullets I was pumping into dozens of American soldiers -- I wasn't disgusted, I wasn't thrilled; I wasn't cringing, I wasn't smiling. Outside of some vague, irrational need to trudge forward, clinging on to the completely idiotic hope that there'd be something at the end that'd make the horrors I'd seen and caused worthwhile, I was emotionally dead. Just like the characters. Just like I was supposed to be. Bravo, Yager.

In a way, Spec Ops seems to have put itself in the worst possible position to be financially successful. Masquerading as another dirty brown cover-palooza, however necessary it may be to facilitate the game's thematic intent, hides the colorfully, beautifully dystopian worldbuilding and merciless story from those who would most appreciate it, while its shaky mechanics and forgettable multiplayer alienate the drooling frat boys who would most benefit from it. With any luck, though, word of mouth (such as the 468 above!) will be enough to dip its combined sales just over the profitable hump -- if you've got $50 to burn, you could even snag a copy! If you take your video games at all seriously (and it's okay if you don't) or are at least sick to goddamn death of how homogenized the shooter genre appears to have become, it's well, well worth it.

What a relief the upcoming Steam summer sale was going to be, thought I! I'd pick up a couple of cutesy indie titles and the Civilization V expansion, and spend the next several days washing away the blood and grime off of my virtual conscience. While waiting for the appropriate price reductions, Telltale's The Walking Dead appeared as a daily discount. I'd heard some nice things, so I checked the usual gamut of professional opinion-havers to be sure and plonked down the $15. Episodic? Oh, cool; I'll knock them out tonight, I thought to myself, a contented smile on my face.


There's no way this could be anything but a bright and uplifting feel-good story, right?

Well, guess what wasn't on my face six hours later. While one game is focused on constant combat and the other deals mostly with interpersonal relationships, I can draw a surprising number of parallels between The Walking Dead and Spec Ops, other than the fact that they both caused my left hand to spontaneously turn into a perpetually-refilling bottle of hard liquor, of course; both of them are heavily character driven stories, placing a smattering of "normal" people into a hellish world and watching with demented glee as they degenerate into violent, irrational sociopaths. Both of them require meaningful decisions from the player, which never impact the story when you want them to and always impact the story when you don't want them to. Both of them are unapologetically dark and violent, focusing on brutality so explicitly and closely that they pass beyond exploitative and land in truly disturbing territory.

There's one thing here that Spec Ops doesn't have, though, and that's a warm heart at its very core. While the latter's objective was to completely erode and weather away every last trace of morality and humanity in its characters -- and, by extension, provide a reflection of the player's role in the average shooter -- The Walking Dead centers around good people trying their best to survive and help those they care about; the horrible things they do in their panicked desperation usually serve to enhance their believability as conflicted human beings, rather than depicting them as broken, remorseless shells.


YOU MEAN LIKE A ZOMB-

It didn't do much to stop me from hating hating hating hating myself and a couple of those characters, though. In a curious irony, I was at my most comfortable during the skill-free action segments, where all I had to do was point vaguely in the direction of a zombie's head and click rapidly -- with the worst possible consequence being a four-second reset, there was nothing to lose beyond self-respect. Life-or-death choices, where I've got no clue what's going on and either side will forever despise me for sticking with the other, though? That's how you create tension in this kind of game: my life may be expendable thanks to my magical wizard respawning powers, but all these squishy NPCs aren't so lucky. Making sure to play with the horribly immersion-breaking "story notifications" turned off (man I'd love to know exactly what people think of me every time I say something to them in real life!), The Walking Dead gave me an experience just as tense and emotionally turbulent as any action-packed murder-fest, leaving me as drained and regret-filled as my tour with Spec Ops.

But while I indeed had a miserable time with both Spec Ops and The Walking Dead, I loved nearly every minute of them; like any good anything, they appeal to more than just my love of popping heads, drawing out a far wider range of emotions and responses than "F*CK YER!" and "F*CK YERRRR!" That's the line (cough) between "toys" and "entertainment" -- and it's one I hope games will stay on the right side of in the coming future.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and soak my head in industrial bleach and unicorn-shaped chocolate.   read


11:48 AM on 07.02.2012  

Cblog Analytics - June 2012



Well, that was a much more exciting month! For all of the negativity that seemed to surround it, this year's E3 didn't let us down in the attention-generation department, driving a considerable portion of June's media frenzy. Throw that in with 133 mL of sexism controversies and you've got a blogging-explosion worthy of gaming's most expensive and extravagant spectacle, for better or ill.

Or at least that's what you'd think, but while there was an increase in activity this month, it's a lot lighter than I perceived and expected. Worst-case, this means that March's staff-shift, April's 10-things-about-me, and E3 here are merely masking an overall decline hinted at in May - but I'm more convinced that the Cblogs are simply settling into something of an equilibrium now that there's no bigmajor internal thing going down. Of course, the only way to find out for sure is to check back next month and see how July shapes up - don't forget to refresh your memory on last month's edition as you read these new ones!

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Remember: If there's something I haven't covered that you want to see next month, post it in the comments!



In total, precisely 400 blogs were posted this month!
-(That's 36 more than last month's count of 364!)
-What a nice, round number! Even more interestingly, this surplus is the exact same as the number of E3-related blogs

The most-blogged days were Tuesday the 5th and 26th, both with 20 blogs!
-(That's the exact same as last month's most-blogged day!)

The least-blogged day was Saturday the 16th, with 6 blogs!
-(That's 3 more than last month's least-blogged day!)
-Lowest number of blogs on a mid-month weekend. SHOCKER

On average, there were about 13 blogs a day!
-(That's 1 more than last month's average!)
-All things considered, June was a far more predictable month as far as hard numbers go; a brief surge at the beginning due to E3, low points on the weekends, etc.





The flavor of the month was once again E3, which was written about 36 times!
-(That's 27 more blogs than last month!)
-Note that quite a few other potential topics - Weeyoo Wii U, for example - fell by the wayside, as the number of blogs on such things that weren't centered around E3 didn't make the 5-blog cut. I separated Tomb Raider-related blogs from general sexism-blogs under a similar line of thinking: if it was mostly about the game itself, it goes there; otherwise, it goes in sexism/misogyny

This month's Bloggers Wanted topics prompted 36 blogs to be written!
-(That's 18 more than last month!)
-E3 was the only official topic this month, Dtoid staff! Come on, guys, give us some more stuff to write about in July

About 85% of blogs were varied enough to have less than 5 blogs per topic!
-(That's 2% less than last month!
-Even with topics, it does indeed look like the Cblogs are starting to settle into a comfortable set of numbers. Also, that little "X-is-the-worst" mini-meme made 5 blogs while Dragon's Dogma slipped off the edge with 4? For shame, people





A total of 2,479 comments were posted on the Cblogs this month!
-(That's 77 more than last month!)

28 blogs received no comments! ;_;
-(That's 3 less than last month!)

The most commented blog was I'll see you around, Destructoid., by Samit Sarkar, with 69 comments!
-(That's 30 more than last month's most-commented blog!)
-I feel I should also mention Maurice Tan's departure blog, which barely falls short at 61 comments. Godspeed, gentlemen

On average, there were 83 comments a day!
-(That's 16 more than last month!)





In total, the Dtoid community fapped 1701 times!
-(That's 189 more than last month!)
-Unlike May, you'll notice fewer large "spikes" in faps-per-day; June's totals were mostly driven by infrequent posts from popular community mainstays (as well as the aforementioned staff departure posts) rather than the more even distribution of hot stuff we've seen in previous months

87 blogs went through the month fap-free! ;_;
-(That's 17 more than last time!)
-This is probably the only stat that is "worse" this go around, but that makes sense considering the trend I just mentioned

The sluttiest blog was also I'll see you around, Destructoid., by Samit Sarkar, with 67 faps!
-(That's 30 more than last month's sluttiest blog!)
-I once again feel it prudent to plug Maurice Tan's post, which trails just behind at 65 faps

On average, there were 57 faps a day!
-(That's 6 more than last month!)





This month, 47 new members posted their first Cblog! (That's 6 more than last month!) In order of appearance, they are:

Chonglei Chen - Ficos Gaming Mind - Brian Brennan - McSlaughter - chrisbradshaw - James Crisp - PandaOnIce - Teenydinosaurs - Kramda66 - Solar20XX - - Radox Redux - theinternat - Kent Lundblad - BrittanyG - MacManus - Equipollent - Stephen Blaze - bigboss0110 - AntDaGamer - Cramjomlin - McFlyGold - BossFightTV - kearns87 - Tex Deckard - gaminglife - fzzywarbals - Camiwaits - Megabyte - P45K - mystakin - Falldog - SkintCrayon - ccesarano - Stephen Carlander - otrapendejada - Stealth - RPG Mania - DigestiveGaming - solidturtleman - Ali Sed - Poetaster - seagaia - KazuoTS - PinkRanger - therealdanhill - mullen10 - accurization
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NOTES:

-Until a better method presents itself, statistics are counted by hand, per-day. Comments and Faps are recorded at the end of the next day, to give the community ample time to read and respond. I also do my best to disregard obvious spam-posts, but I can easily miss one or skip over what's actually just a really shoddy & self-aggrandizing but otherwise legit Cblog. This means that there are likely minor errors and inaccuracies present, but none of them should be significant enough to invalidate anything

-Cblog Recaps and last month's Analytics are not counted, but all other serials (like FNF) are, under the rationale that serials still exist for the purpose of "creating" content under a certain topic or theme, while the Recaps & Analytics merely seek to sort and organize the blogs

-For the flavor of the month, I do not count Bloggers Wanted topics - the statistic is instead recorded separately. A Bloggers Wanted topic that covers another popular, non-BW topic is only filed under the BW statistic

-There is still some inherent subjectivity in deciding what constitutes a "unique topic," so keep that in mind if there seems like there's some obvious category that I've ignored (although feel free to tell me)

-Statistics are not intended to impart any kind of judgment or opinion in and of themselves - If I have any personal thoughts, they are noted below the corresponding statistic   read


12:02 PM on 06.29.2012  

Quest for Blood: How Seeking Ultraviolence Showed Me the Best Side of Videogames

Two violence-related articles in a row? Oh no! Well, at least this one's about nice things; I'll try and find something rainbow-sparkly for next week



During my adolescence, I would constantly preach how videogaming was the current high point of creative potential, combining every layer and facet of human art and multiplying their power by its unique interactive capabilities. I'd go on and on about the subtlety and nuance; the depth and wit; the scope and scale of its greatest landmarks, speaking in tones as excited and passionate as they were awe-struck and reverent.

I'd never admit it then, but I was a lying little shit.

For reasons I'm still unable to fully divine, my mother and father had decided early in my youth that playing Banjo-Kazooie was a thing they would very much like to do, and took it upon themselves to slowly and subtly slide into my apparently-no-longer-impermeable gaming bubble. "Neat," is what I'd thought at the time -- parents who fumble with the controller as if they were trying to pilot a jet and tilt their bodies 60 degrees as they play and bicker over directions like they were on an interstate road trip and secretly look at GameFAQs to try and make me think they'd suddenly discovered how to get to the next world and otherwise fill out the jolly sterility of a gaming stock-photo nearly to the pixel (minus much of the jolliness and sterility) seemed preferable to parents who'd torch anything electric. Family moments were had, memories were inscribed, bonds were bonded, and I got to be the one kicking them off the TV every now and then.

Something went a little wrong, though. After Banjo came Super Mario 64. After that came Banjo-Tooie. Hey, that's fine; three of the best 3D platformers both now and then. Marginally less fun was to be extracted out of Donkey Kong 64, but hardly to the point of alarm. Every now and then we'd play Mario Kart 64, which would lead to lots of flying plastic and pain-threshold noise, reminding us why we don't play Mario Kart 64. But then the cartridge slot found itself occupied by Banjo-Kazooie once again, and thus began a sort of five-year-long time-loop, in which I'd be playing the same four or five games for far longer than was probably healthy.


"A romantic comedy fantasy." Whose fantasy? You know there's somebody

You see, while parents who are at least mildly videogames sure seemed cool, my mother was the kind of person who would have to shoo flies out the window because she couldn't bring herself to swat them, and my father believed the ESRB ratings were literally law. Playing a few platformers had made them just savvy enough that I couldn't gently slide my hand over the bottom-left corner of a game-box and slip even Goldeneye past their protective eyes, but knowledge of little else made them just oblivious enough that they were convinced even a few seconds' exposure to anything more realistic than a bright red bird shitting grenade-eggs would forever 1. scar me for the remainder of my life, placing me into a permanent vegetative state of shock and fear and/or 2. transform me into somebody that'd leave even the hypothetical mutant offspring of Jack Torrance and Mel Gibson shivering in a corner and crying for pappy.

Irony (n.) /ˈaɪ.rə.ni/: This had the precise opposite effect. Shortly after an ill-fated setup where I would have to have Dad enter a password every time I wanted to get on a website, I gained mostly-unrestricted access to The Internet, which led me to quite a bit of gameplay footage of people being shot, smashed, sliced, sautéed, and otherwise massacred in explicitly gory detail. Having been carefully sheltered and shielded from such horrible things my entire life, I found these videos -- and, thus, the games -- as incredibly fascinating and infinitely desirable as they were wholly unattainable.

I found ways to survive. After finally making the case that Star Wars: Dark Forces 3: Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast and its colons wouldn't lead me to cause the immediate murder of every human being in the neighborhood, I scoured (i.e. did a short Google search on) the web for a gore mod. Not finding anything satisfactory led me to pry open the asset archives myself and learn how to re-do particle effects, re-color textures, and re-enable the 14-point-dismemberment system mysteriously present but locked off in the game's code.


I've come a long way since then

While I may have been driven by nothing but juvenile bloodthirst, I had discovered what would become one of my most valuable hobbies: game modding. Other than simply playing the dick out of everything I could get my four-inch hands on, nothing has expanded and enhanced my knowledge of and appreciation for what goes into a videogame more than tearing apart its innards and reassembling its organs and entrails into a digital Frankenstein tailored to my unique desires -- yes, sticking "g_saberRealisticCombat 1" into an autoexec.cfg so I can chop heads off at first, but later transitioning into wholly new effects and weapons. Downloading SDKs and trying to improve the blood FX has since become something of a ritual to which I subject every moddable PC game I buy, taking on less prurient goals if I end up liking the toolset.

Haphazardly patchworking extra murder into my PC games wasn't going to cut it forever, though, and before long, I'd set my sights on acquiring a game box stamped with that elusive "M." The game inside said box? Half-Life 2. Why? Whatever title I chose needed to meet certain criteria:

1. The game must have a downloadable demo I can use to present my case.
2 The game must be M-rated, because that's the whole goddamn point.
3. The game must be very well-received by critics, because that lends considerable legitimacy to my position.
4. The game must be on PC, because any other gaming system besides the GameCube is a blood-spewing deathbox in my parents' eyes.
5. The game's demo must contain sufficient quantities of nonviolent content to make it appear as harmless as possible.
6. The game itself, however, must also contain sufficient quantities of horribly gruesome death, since that's the other goddamn point.

Split between the lengthy opening and the zombie-infested Ravenholm chapter, Half-Life 2's demo fit the bill as if I'd constructed the list around it rather than the other way around. Once I'd confirmed that tearing walking corpses in half by launching sawblades at them satiated my bloodlust well enough -- for that was all I really cared about -- I brought my mother (who was always the more malleable one) to the monitor and began to carefully examine the game's introduction, piecing together how each little stroke and brilliant touch subtly but masterfully intertwined, constructing a vaguely Orwellian future-imperfect which used a harsh clash of…

Starting to sound like something a little more than an excuse to get at some dismemberment?


Who cares about best-in-class worldbuilding when there're ZOMBIES TO KILL

The effort was a success, and I'd sent Dr. Breen crashing down the reactor within 48 hours. With no known homicides appearing in the following months, the hardest barrier was now shattered, and a pattern began to emerge: I'd comb through websites and old Game Informer issues looking for the cream-of-the-M-rated-crop, explain what made each game so great, and watch my collection slowly grow. Here's Deus Ex, in which the player is capable of and rewarded for not taking a single life, highlighting its open-ended and player-driven nature; this one's Bioshock, whose setting and characters are so instantly compelling and engrossing; check out Halo, which couples its breathtaking vistas with a fun, pulpy sci-fi plot; Grand Theft Auto IV isn't cool because you can shoot up prostitutes, but rather because a ludicrous amount of detail is poured into every square inch of architecture, meshing with unprecedented depth in procedural character behavior and a Tarantino-like flair in its wickedly sharp dialogue.

Almost completely unintentionally, I had attuned myself to what makes some of the medium's most beloved works so well-regarded and widely praised; it happened slowly, and, for a time, unconsciously, but my adolescent hard-on for extravagant violence had guided me, crotch-first, directly toward gaming's finest examples. Over several years, my faux-snobbery gradually morphed into honest-to-goodness for-real snobbery, slowly but surely molding my talents, interests, and personality to be thirty times more videogames than I'd have ever thought.

Would I have developed such an ardent and, at times, blind love for our little hobby had my upbringing been a little more lax on age restrictions? Would I still be churning out 1500-word articles about the subject if I'd been able to drill into dino heads in Turok 2 during my formative years? Probably. Would I care as much about its making? About what it can do as much as what it already does? Would I still want to tear apart and examine the nuts and bolts of nearly every game I buy? Probably not; so, for that, thanks, Mom and Dad. Your well-meaning overprotectiveness ended up failing in just the right way, driving me in however roundabout a manner to end up looking for and appreciating mature experiences in the sense of true maturity: not fountains of blood and geysers of curse words, but subtlety and nuance; depth and wit; scope, scale, and the willingness to push things farther and farther in the search for more compelling, meaningful, and plain-ol' fun experiences -- for real this time.   read


1:09 PM on 06.02.2012  

Cblog Analytics - May 2012

I'm almost wanting to wait until tomorrow so Maurice Tan's goodbye blog doesn't get buried beneath the pudgy, mouthbreathing, bespectacled, zit-ridden exercise in self-gratification that is the Analytics, but the stats must go on! Don't hurt me, guys



Welcome back. Although two of the year's big juggernauts - Diablo III and Max Payne 3, namely - found their way into gamers' sweaty, eager palms this month, May was a more subdued month for the Cblogs, with no major controversy or community phenomenon sparking off the surges of Dtoider activity we've seen buzzing about on occasion. That's not to say things were dry, of course - and with E3 preparing to present to the world its glitzy, deodorant-caked arse in less than 48 hours, we'll almost certainly have some interesting numbers to look at in another 30 days.

Last month's organization seems to have been the way to go, so no changes this time around. And, of course, before you start gobbling up these delicious statistics, don't forget to treat yourself to an appetizer and check out last month's edition.

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Remember: If there's something I haven't covered that you want to see next month, post it in the comments!



In total, 364 blogs were posted this month!
-(That's 136 less than last month's count of 500!)
-Again, it's been somewhat of a dry month, and without any major fad like last month's 10-things-about-me (which continued to trail into May!), the decline is not as astounding as it may seem

The most-blogged day was Wednesday the 30th, with 20 blogs!
-(That's 22 less than last month's most-blogged day!)
-I can't find any specific thing that led this day to come out on top; considering the next highest was only two less at 18, it's probably just a favorable rotation of Mars or etc.

The least-blogged days were Saturday the 5th and 19th, both with 3 blogs!
-(That's 2 less than last month's least-blogged day!)
-Saturday glides down from on high and ends Sunday's killing low-activity spree. Fun while it lasted, but it's still a weekend, fitting in with the general trend

On average, there were about 12 blogs a day!
-(That's 5 less than last month's average!)
-While it's a definite drop from April, the overall trend this month held surprisingly steady, with each low dip countered by a high peak and vice versa. The mild increase denoted by the trendline is primarily due to the recent ignition of the E3 train - brace yourselves for the spectacular wreck next month





The flavor of the month was E3, which was written about 9 times!
-(That's 65 less blogs than last month!)
-The difference here has more to do with how f*cking huge 10-things was than how few strong topics there were in May, although this is 2012's weakest flavor so far

This month's Bloggers Wanted topics prompted 18 blogs to be written!
-(That's 24 less than last month!)
-Specifically:
Collaboration - 1 (trailing from last month)
Hype - 17

About 87% of blogs were varied enough to have less than 5 blogs per topic!
-(That's 16% more than last month!)
-With only one Bloggers Wanted topic really existing for May, the drop is understandable; I'm honestly surprised Diablo III didn't attract more attention, but I guess anybody who cared about it enough to write about it was too busy playing or trying to play





A total of 2,092 comments were posted on the Cblogs this month!
-(That's 1494 less than last month!)
-More evidence of how 10-things blew such a massive crater in April's numbers that any chance of a nearly-as-competent follow-up act was virtually vaporized

31 blogs received no comments! ;_;
-(That's 19 less than last month!)
-Well, at least that's an improvement

The most commented blog was So frustrating!, by Elsa, with 39 comments!
-(That's 5 less than last month's most-commented blog!)
-Technically, this is tied with Andy's Diablo III… thing (see the faps section below), but I'm pretending it isn't out of spite WHAT'RE YA GONNA DO ABOUT IT BROSKI

On average, there were 67 comments a day!
-(That's 53 less than last month!)
-No big "thing" that happened on the 4th - just a lot of popular blogs/bloggers, boosted by it being FNF time





In total, the Dtoid community fapped 1512 times!
-(That's 1478 less than last month!)
-I'm sure you can come up with dozens of better jokes about this than I can

70 blogs went through the month fap-free! ;_;
-(That's 21 less than last time!)
-On the other hand it's getting really hard to restrain myself

The sluttiest blog was Review: Diablo III, by Mr Andy Dixon, with 37 faps!
-(That's 17 less than last month's sluttiest blog!)
-You kids are just sucking up to the bossman, aren't you; what a bunch of
(not jealous not jealous not jealous)

On average, there were 49 faps a day!
-(That's 51 less than last month!)





This month, 41 new members posted their first Cblog! (That's 15 less than last month!) In order of appearance, they are:

Blart Dick - Hanif Hackley - JosieScoresby - Kelly Raila - Chris Cris - grataxe - L3ED - Jonathan Johei Oyama - jackdan594 - siegarettes - stubbleman - lilmoefow - Dukes Largest Nukem - Admiralsombrero - shaxam1029 - Mr Van Carpels - Atary77 - Zhukov - Scield - Paddy Murphy - FatTroll - Bonder - Chi - ipaqi - David M Rosensteel - Corpral Hicks - jbro08 - ModernCreed - The Gameslinger - Ocelot - Buff Orpington - Frans Van Carpels - Siete KeKe - Fuhjem - Doggerel - Brock Delebreau - Watshealing - DotEater - Nicky Austin - PippinForLife - jkgeis

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NOTES:

-Until a better method presents itself, statistics are counted by hand, per-day. Comments and Faps are recorded at the end of the next day, to give the community ample time to read and respond. I also do my best to disregard obvious spam-posts, but I can easily miss one or skip over what's actually just a really shoddy & self-aggrandizing but otherwise legit Cblog. This means that there are likely minor errors and inaccuracies present, but none of them should be significant enough to invalidate anything

-Cblog Recaps and last month's Analytics are not counted, but all other serials (like FNF) are, under the rationale that serials still exist for the purpose of "creating" content under a certain topic or theme, while the Recaps & Analytics merely seek to sort and organize the blogs

-For the flavor of the month, I do not count Bloggers Wanted topics - the statistic is instead recorded separately. A Bloggers Wanted topic that covers another popular, non-BW topic is only filed under the BW statistic

-There is still some inherent subjectivity in deciding what constitutes a "unique topic," so keep that in mind if there seems like there's some obvious category that I've ignored (although feel free to tell me)

-Statistics are not intended to impart any kind of judgment or opinion in and of themselves - If I have any personal thoughts, they are noted below the corresponding statistic   read


9:39 PM on 05.23.2012  

In Your Face: Why the UI is Super-Important and Needs to Stop Being Ignored

Oh my, it's been a while, hasn't it? I knew I'd falter on the every-week thing at some point, but since I did two articles a while ago I'll pretend nothing happend and move on. Also: By "UI," I'm talking about not just various kinds of menus but also HUDs and similar data displays; this may not be technically correct in game-speak but I need a general term and it's good enough for this article



One of the (hundreds of) great little touches in Max Payne 3 is its very beginning. After a couple of pages of lawyer speak and after press-starting through its main title, I was immediately thrust into a cutscene of Max arriving at a new apartment and promptly drowning himself in alcohol and self-pity. The music swells, the camera blurs and bleeds out, Max stumbles around in drunken agony - and only then does the main menu slide into view, sliding back out directly into the next cutscene as soon as I select my difficulty options.

It's easy to dismiss this seamless, loading-free stream of cutscene-to-gameplay as gimmickry, but the simple fact that it's so noteworthy (as far as I know, only Uncharted does likewise) seems to highlight just how important front-end presentation is to a game - and how depressingly often it appears to be completely neglected.

Sure, like just about everything in the medium, the main menu and the pause menu and the score and the lives and the ammo and so on were displayed with nothing but function in mind during gaming's early days, because why on earth would you lavish attention on a few meters when there are sprites and backgrounds (and then skyboxes and character models) who need that loving craftsmanship so much more? Of course there were fancy decorations on arcade cabinets and those one-game LCD handhelds like the Game & Watch series, but they were just that - decorations, supplying what could not be rendered by the Hamster-Wheel Age technology at work.


Gotta go fast

Skip forward to the '90s - we're still in the middle of bare digits, simple bars, and cumbersome themed menus; the most nuanced and thoughtful frontends I can think of are Doomguy and BJ's right-angled mugs scowling and - when health is low - going so far as to bleed and scowl at the same time.

Yet there is one game which seemed to actually give some significant thought toward the meters and numbers that would be on screen for 10 hours straight, and that is Half-Life - the title so famous for showing just how engaging and involving a game world can be when it's more than a loose string of made-to-order death-arenas and floating rocks. The HEV suit in which protagonist Gordon Freeman treks through hell-on-Earth doesn't only provide a plot-excuse for having abstract symbols and gauges plastered across his eyeballs - it reacts to the world around him, more effectively grounding and drawing the player into Black Mesa, like when it calmly states in its soothing GPS-voice "major fracture detected; morphine administered" after the player sustains an injury that (I would assume) causes Gordon's leg bone to shatter into bits and protrude itself half a meter above what was his kneecap. Great stuff.

Another four years leads to one of the best examples of UI-gameworld integration ever in Metroid Prime. If you have played this game on or near release, you probably remember looking upward, watching the raindrops splash across the TV, and sitting in place for over a minute going "oh SWEET." I do too! Everything from the subtle sway of the visor as the arm cannon sweeps to the left to the fog lingering on the screen after passing through a leaking pipe to Samus' faint reflection and raised arm when lit up by a nearby explosion further served Metroid's trademark sense of isolation - that this thin transparent window is the only thing protecting you from an entire planet bent on your destruction.


HHHHHHHNNNNGGGG

The fact that these kinds of things tend to pop up in first-person games is likely not a coincidence - not only is the "visor" method an easy way to explain away one of the most abstract necessities of gaming, but the tendency of the relevant genres to focus on the world around them lends itself quite naturally to making sure every aspect of the game makes thematic sense; even the relatively mediocre Syndicate reboot from earlier this year had a wonderful little touch where the player's cyber-vision would highlight and provide a small description on f*cking everything instead of just plot-essential objects. Still, it's not just about HUDs - Fallout 3 ties inventory and character management into the charmingly rugged Pip-Boy you can pull up on your wrist, Far Cry 2 (which I've waxed about before) coats its menus in the same African grit that pervades the rest of the game, and even panning the camera out uncomfortably close to the back of Dead Space shows us the real-time, in-universe holo-UI - an absolutely brilliant stroke, removing that abstractness I just mentioned and whatever safety you might find in your run-of-the-mill pause-menu, augmenting its intended focus on horror.

It is unfortunate that such titles are exceptions - paging through my memories and game library, I'm having an immensely difficult time thinking of anything else, much less anything from before the current generation. The recent push toward minimalistic and unobtrusive frontends is an improvement, certainly, but when even Gears of War - a series to which the word "subtlety" is treated with the same manner of semi-hostile confusion and bewilderment as the word "female" was at my high school's D&D club - is getting by with nothing but an ammo meter at the top-right, you know there's improvement to be had; only Metro 2033 comes to mind as taking full advantage of having no UI beyond the new-game load-game menus.

Yes, I hear you screaming "FABLE 3!" way over in the back there. While bold, magically teleporting your character (no matter where he/she is) to a connection of rooms staffed by an out-of-place John Cleese is not only more cumbersome and time-consuming than a good old-fashioned inventory menu, but ultimately just as senseless and arbitrary. And yet, it is an effort - and I'd love to see more developers try and tinker around with these age-old conventions.


Not only that, but it keeps trying to sell me things

Here's one: does a game even need traditional menus? Of course there has to be an array of technical options tucked away behind a Start or Select button, but imagine slotting in a fresh disc, sitting through the obligatory legal-speak, and then hopping straight into gameplay. A journal (which the player would be conveniently sat in front of) may take the place of a load or even a level-select menu, for example, and the inventory could be just that - a backpack or a briefcase which opens to show its genuine contents, to be rearranged, emptied, or enlarged by the character's own hand. The effective actions and "steps" the player has to take haven't changed - merely the manner in which they are presented.

As technology improves and designers get more creative, I have no doubt that that we'll eventually start seeing some real widespread effort placed into these kinds of things - while I dismissed Gears UI strengths as fairly pedestrian a couple of paragraphs ago, the fact that they are there and are now commonplace does indicate progress is being made. With another console generation on the horizon, another leap can't be far away.   read


1:30 PM on 05.02.2012  

Cblog Analytics - April 2012



If you were here at the beginning of the month, you probably don't even need to read the Analytics to guess what half the stats will be about. But do it anyway, because they're likely even bigger than you think! And, of course, make sure to check out last month's edition if you want to compare charts and other things.

I've added the Bloggers Wanted stat back in as a part of the Topics Covered category, but beyond that, there's not much changed since last time. With luck, I shouldn't have to count these by hand anymore in the near future, as a more convenient method is ostensibly on the way - but for now, apply a modest amount of salt to the ones-digits in comments, faps, and topics.

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Remember: If there's something I haven't covered that you want to see next month, post it in the comments!



In total, precisely 500 blogs were posted this month!
-(That's 5 less than last month's count of 505!)
-neat

The most-blogged day was Monday the 2nd, with 42 blogs!
-(That's 18 more than last month's most-blogged day!)
-This was due to the illustrious bbain kicking off a "10-things-about-me" trend, which basically grabs all the awards this month despite happening at its very beginning - the most faps and the most comments were to be found this day

The least-blogged day was Sunday the 22nd, with 5 blogs!
-(That's 1 less than last month's least-blogged day!)
-Another Sunday! I wonder how long this streak will last. As you might expect, the fewest comments and faps happened on this day

On average, there were about 17 blogs a day!
-(That's 4 more than last month's average!)
-The front-loaded early days are what's skewing the average up despite the blog count being nearly identical to last month. It also provides a good bit of the following trendline's steepness; while the overall trend is still declining, the numbers are around the same as the last two months after all the dust settles





The flavor of the month was 10 things about me, which was written about 74 times!
-(That's 20 more blogs than last month!)
-W-O-W - that's about 15% of the month's blogs. Glad to see that thing took off as well as it did

This month's Bloggers Wanted topics prompted 44 blogs to be written!
-Specifically:
Disappointment - 2 (trailing from last month)
Dreaming - 32
Collaboration - 10

About 71% of blogs were varied enough to have less than 5 blogs per topic!
-Disregarding the Bloggers Wanted category (which was not included last month), that jumps up to 79%, or 1% more than last month. Either way, considering how many people were in the 10-things-a-palooza, the rest was light fare - PAX East covered some territory and Mass Effect is still stumbling around the building looking for the exit, but everything else was nicely diverse





A total of 3,586 comments were posted on the Cblogs this month!
-(That's 604 more than last month!)
-Daaaaaaaaa…

50 blogs received no comments! ;_;
-(That's the exact same number as last month!)
-huh

The most commented blog was Occam Thoughts: 10 Things About Me, by Occams electric toothbrush, with 44 comments!
-(That's 29 less than last month's most-commented blog!)

On average, there were 120 comments a day!
-(That's 34 more than last month!)





In total, the Dtoid community fapped 2990 times!
-(That's 918 more than last month!)
-…aaaaaaaaamn

91 blogs went through the month fap-free! ;_;
-(That's 1 more than last time!)
-Interesting how both this and the no-comments counts are almost identical to last month. This'll be another one to watch in the coming future

The sluttiest blog was 10 things you didn't know about bbain, by bbain, with 54 faps!
-(That's 8 less than last month's sluttiest blog!)

On average, there were 100 faps a day!
-(That's 33 more than last month!)





This month, 56 new members posted their first Cblog! (That's 1 more than last month!) In order of appearance, they are:

Skyscraper - Ismoista - Keith Ballard - 1337 Sammich - Jacob Sigg - Cody Walker - Iris Repliforce - UrbanToledoGang - PixelsAmpersandBits - gutsack - Charles Cox - Lord of the Thunder - Sir Davies - Shifty1897 - KeithTheGeek - molamolacolacake - lordscar - TheOgGamer - onomatapedalo - jessalynzo - StrongStyleFiction - Burdmayn - Nick R P Green - jennyfish - ASaiyan - Jradrox - JR Stone - DougCL - RUSKULL - berto - eriyon - ninjapresident - r0b0t0 - David Nolan - sdgundum990 - Shinta - Anton Govorin - streetpassnj - exp0d - Probchild95 - Robert Cousineau - ShotStopper93 - TheEliteSpear - Stephen Beirne - Hottrod - ThisIsTheUltimate - Alpha Unit - sandwichassassin - Nebunez - nonetheartist - virtuaroid - jenrai - Juhwann - Prettyboy - My Enormous Hairy Downstairs Kitchen - EAPidgeon

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NOTES:

-Until a better method presents itself, statistics are counted by hand, per-day. Comments and Faps are recorded at the end of the next day, to give the community ample time to read and respond. I also do my best to disregard obvious spam-posts, but I can easily miss one or skip over what's actually just a really shoddy & self-aggrandizing but otherwise legit Cblog. This means that there are likely minor errors and inaccuracies present, but none of them should be significant enough to invalidate anything

-Cblog Recaps and last month's Analytics are not counted, but all other serials (like FNF) are, under the rationale that serials still exist for the purpose of "creating" content under a certain topic or theme, while the Recaps & Analytics merely seek to sort and organize the blogs

-For the flavor of the month, I do not count Bloggers Wanted topics - the statistic is instead recorded separately. A Bloggers Wanted topic that covers another popular, non-BW topic is only filed under the BW statistic

-There is still some inherent subjectivity in deciding what constitutes a "unique topic," so keep that in mind if there seems like there's some obvious category that I've ignored (although feel free to tell me)

-Statistics are not intended to impart any kind of judgment or opinion in and of themselves - If I have any personal thoughts, they are noted below the corresponding statistic   read


3:45 PM on 04.29.2012  

Mario Really Is Fantastic, and it's Not Just Nostalgia



I'm going to be breaking my usual once-a-week routine here to reply to this article by FrDougal9000, because, as the large comments thread would seem to indicate, it really needs one. For the purposes of this piece, I'm speaking about the platformers - comparing Mario Teaches Typing to Sonic '06 doesn't seem fair. FOR SONIC AHAHAHAAHAAHAA

If I were to pick one word to describe Mario - one word to encompass his style, his contributions to the medium, his very essence - it would have to be "creativity." Applying the description to a series that hasn't put out a non-sequel in nearly five years does seem odd, and let's be honest; we haven't moved away from the formula of jumping on, over, and around a sequence of obstacles since 1986.

Where Mario's genius lies, however - and where hundreds of other would-be imitators inevitably fall short - is in taking that incredibly simple concept, executing it to almost literal perfection, and applying it across a dizzyingly, dazzlingly diverse set of levels, environments, and secondary tools. Super Mario 64's very first three levels have you tossing a giant sentient bomb off a mountain, coaxing a killer eel out of a sunken ship to reach the treasure inside, launching yourself out of cannons, racing a huge turtle, and more. Super Mario Bros. 3 handed you powers of flight, and sent you across a hitherto-unseen array of moody forests, snowy peaks, labyrinthine castles, and scorching deserts where even the sun itself is after your head. Super Mario Galaxy sets itself into probably the softest science-fiction universe in existence, allowing it to completely throw out physical laws in its quest to provide the player new and interesting ways to leap over pits.



But their sequels? Super Mario World took the base concepts of "lots of powerups and a world map" and blew them to massive proportions, providing multiple paths and exits, f***ing Yoshi, and a huge amount of detail in the presentation thanks to the capabilities of the SNES. Super Mario Galaxy 2 contains more variety and ingenuity in a single world than you'll find in most full games, constantly flipping perspectives and gravity while introducing awesome things like the Bulb Berry to keep the variety constantly flowing. Even Super Mario Sunshine, probably the closest thing to a "mistake" the series has ever come close to (quite a few people actually find it their favorite), takes the Super Mario 64 formula and centers it around creative usage of a goddamn water-hose -and still manages to rarely repeat itself.

When you look at the pitiable floundering of, say, the Sonic franchise, whose first jump to 3D in Sonic Adventure practically sold itself on novelty before the series regressed into buggy, awkward, cumbersome mediocrity, the slick, superb polish and boundless originality of his Italian rival shines all the brighter. Castlevania lumbered along on life support for years, only finding reasonably firm footing after its umpteenth reinvention in Lords of Shadow; Crash Bandicoot and Spyro have all but disappeared; even Donkey Kong remains trapped in the second dimension and even Metroid has suffered painful blows in Prime: Hunters and Other M.



It's because that creativity - that earnest, expansive, almost child-like ability to conjure the fantastic out of the mundane - carries with it a kind of timeless magic and wonder that can reduce manly men to girlish giggling. Only Nintendo's own Legend of Zelda franchise comes close to possessing that kind of power, and even that series is far more guilty of retreading and rehashing, with its latest appearance in Skyward Sword frantically tossing in as many ancillary features and structural changes as it can muster to capture the same freshness that Mario seems to pull off so effortlessly.

To put it even more simply - Mario is fun. No; he's not just fun to play. He is fun. He represents that giddy delight, that enraptured smile, that reason video gaming as a medium appeals to so many different people in so many different places. I play Mario. My brother plays Mario. My 5-year-old cousin plays Mario. My parents play Mario. Nothing in gaming is as universally adored - very, very few things anywhere are as universally adored. As long as there's an audience for fun, there is an audience for Mario - because, in every meaning of the word, it's constantly, consistently, incredibly fantastic.   read


9:58 PM on 04.27.2012  

Hey, Who Remembers Hover?



I do! Packaged with shiny new copies of Windows 95 along with a Weezer music video, Hover is a shallow, ugly, bare-bones tech demo with three short levels, moronic AI, highly luck-based design, and a paltry selection of mechanics - most of which are irrelevant toward the central goal of running over flags.

Hover is also a game that I love.

85% of this is nostalgia. But it is nostalgia that - when I booted up the game a couple of days ago for the first time in years - sprayed out of every orifice, dripped down every limb, clogged my nose, blocked my ears, and forced me to change into a new pair of pants. Hover was my first 3-D game, and the first game in which I was able to reach up and scrape some flaky chips off my parents' high scores (remember those?).

It's a very personal kind of feeling that's different from going back and playing, say, Pac-Man, because unlike the yellow ubiquity, I feel as if Hover was this amazing little secret I and only I had unearthed - none of the few acquaintances I had at the time ever thought about which part of the Windows 95 Install CD-ROM you're supposed to eat first, much less what lay within its digital contents. I was surprised to find that the trippy, quirky music and grainy, out-of-place sound effects had imprinted themselves so heavily that I was actually doing my utmost to hit every power-up and every tile, just to feel another wave of pleasant recognition.


Speaking of trippy, check out this level art

But the other 15%? This is one of the things I love about rediscovering old games I only played as a kid - now armed to the teeth with the knowledge and experience to analyze and break down even most joyful, delightful, and earnest titles into a dull, grey listing of component parts, I can pick out just what it was that enraptured my young mind so easily and completely.

In this case, it was the feeling of isolation in a hostile and indistinct world (which, probably not coincidentally, is something core to the Metroid series I devoutly worship). The nature of the game is as innocuous as it gets - drive around in bumper cars and capture three to six flags before the AI can do the same. But where are those flags? I don't know. So I search around - what's that powerup? It's too blurry - I can't make it out. Closer and closer - oh crap, I just got stuck in a sink tile! Even though I quickly memorized the layout of its few maps, the flag spawns were randomized just enough (and the level design was poor enough) that I could never just sail across a few set places and call it a level - there was always uncertainty, always exploration needing to be done; always the feeling that I was lost in a hazy, passive-aggressive labyrinth.

Key to all this was the AI, referred to quite ominously as "the Drones." There were three on each map - one to seek the flags, one to sail around and do nothing of importance, and one whose mission is simply to track you. Today, of course, I realize that the threat of being pushed slightly in a direction I didn't intend to go in is probably the least threatening thing in the game, what with tiles that vaporize flags you've captured, trap you for several precious seconds, or abruptly spin and launch you to the other side of the level; but at the time, hearing the soft, brief, airy tone that announced a Drone's intent to ram into me at full speed elicited the kind of startled gasp and frantic maneuvering that I wouldn't rediscover until Ocarina of Time's Shadow Temple.


I SEE YOU

All of this was surely unintentional, of course; the awesome feeling of being lost in a hostile maze was due to confusing and unintuitive level design, the tension of being in an indistinctly claustrophobic world was thanks to the blurry and poorly filtered visuals, and the sense of isolation was brought on by the lack of friendly AI or any multiplayer option. But did the fact that the crack team of Microsoft engineers probably never gave a single consideration toward making Hover anything but a short, mindless half-advertisement stop it from acting on me in such a significant manner?

Certainly not. Perhaps the pools of nostalgia I haven't yet managed to towel out of my eyes are coloring my viewpoint somewhat, but Hover, completely unintentionally, manages to hit a kind of atmosphere that many modern games can't do when they're trying their very best, and I can't help but find that to be incredibly neat. Now, if you'll allow me, I have to pop out the door for a second - there's still a six-year-old high score to beat.

(If you want to try Hover yourself, you can download it for free off of Microsoft's FTP server! Check out the "External Links" section at the bottom of the Wikipedia page I just linked)   read


9:54 PM on 04.18.2012  

The Rhythm, the Stick, and Serious Sam 3: BFE



A couple of days ago, Serious Sam 3 was on sale. So I bought it. The following piece I wrote about it may look and sound and feel and walk around and pick its nose a lot like a Review™ does, but I assure you, it isn't one! Nobody likes those! I simply found a few neat things about its general design which I thought would make for interesting reflection and analysis, but the words did end up sounding real important- and official-like, so I think I'm trying to say sorry about that if that is indeed the case

It is easy to look Serious Sam 3 as exactly what your mom envisions the first person shooter to be: A puerile and gratuitously gory rampage in which the player is tasked with annihilating as much as possible as quickly as possible, whose killing fields are strung together by thin wires of clichés, caricatures and nauseating one-liners.

It is easy because it is true.



There is something the game is not, though, and that is "mindless." When one thinks of more cerebral entries in the genre, their thoughts might turn toward the Far Cry or Crysis series, whose open-ended encounters and fiendish AI provide for and require thoughtful, out-of-the-box approaches; or perhaps something like SWAT or Rainbow Six, in which well-planned and well-executed tactics trump basic mechanics every time.

In a way, I found that the same concept applied to Serious Sam 3. The game did not "rely" on good aim and fast fingers, because it assumed I already had them. Its (admittedly lengthy) introductory levels dipped straight into parody - tiny smatterings of enemies, appearing in groups no greater than four or five, spawn in predictable nooks inside narrow, artificial corridors; the starting pistol comes with an utterly superfluous iron-sight feature; a military chopper crashes - but, crucially, served as a covert tutorial, slowly introducing what enemies do what and what weapons kill what best - the hammer can clear out groups of charging cyclops-things, the double shotgun works best against skeleton monsters, and so on.

In the "average" shooter, pointing and killing is the "end" - how speedily and efficiently the player can transport bullets into enemies' heads is what constitutes the measure of their performance. In Serious Sam 3, it is merely the means - of course I will be holding S and Mouse1, but the real challenge lies in figuring out how I'm going to take the tools I have and use them to carve my way through the hundred-strong wall of aliens standing between me and the other side of this arena.



Pull out the Assault Rifle. Pick off some of the kamikazes. Double shotgun - wait until the skeleton thing is right in front of me and fire. Another one - dodge to the side, turn around, repeat. Pull the Rifle back out, do a 180, and strafe to the right, mowing down more infantry. Hear the mechanical sound of a walker to my left - pull out the rocket launcher, hit it in the face. Do another 180 - another skeleton thing is coming right at me. Quick dodge, hit it with a rocket as it flies past. See a thin area in the horde. Quickly dash the crosshair between infantry, popping off two shotgunners here, three kamikazes there; I'm on the other side, and ready to shave off another sliver of extraterrestrial flesh.

The above is a transcription of a little less than 13 seconds of gameplay. Again, the "point" isn't the aiming and firing - doing that flawlessly is simply a fundamental requirement. Instead, the meat of the combat is an almost rhythmic dance of dodging and weapon-switching; it reminds me of a cross between Batman: Arkham Asylum's wide palette of counters and counter-counters, Geometry Wars' need for constant movement and the occasional mad charge into the thick of it, and what I like to call the "Bullet Hell Inversion," where the goal is not so much to dodge projectiles and hostiles as it is to occupy the tiny fraction of space where there aren't any.

After it finishes toying around and takes the training wheels off, Serious Sam 3 ends up requiring a level of mental agility and acuity that'd send Brain Age stumbling for some Advil. The 13 seconds I wrote about above are just that - a fraction of a fraction of one encounter, each requiring a rapid mix of assessments. How quiet is that kamikaze scream? Is that enough time to rocket a walker firing at me? I just killed a scorpion-thing with my double-shotgun; will the reload be finished quickly enough to take down the skeleton monster coming at me from behind?



Looking at the dozens of things that pass through my mind during a firefight highlights the intricate, brilliant design work that at first is masked by the horrendous animation, glitchy shadows, awful dialogue, and general roughness on the game's surface. The detail went into mechanical things - each enemy has a distinctive spawn and movement sound, from the trademark "AAAAAAAAAAAA" of the kamikaze to the thunderous stomping of the raging bull. Their AI and movement is straightforward and predictable out of necessity, not laziness - precise timings and rhythms are drilled into my head, to be called upon (along with each highly distinctive but equally useful weapon) as notes and flourishes in the destructive symphony that I must flawlessly improvise during each battle.

Where, say, Bulletstorm drives the player to pull off awesome stunts through the carrot of points and upgrades, Serious Sam 3 punishes doing anything else with the stick of swift death. Where nailing a sick riff in Guitar Hero rewards you with a sky-high score multiplier, stringing together flawless rocket hits and dodges rewards you with a precious two seconds to collect yourself and prepare to do it three more times. Survival isn't the minimum line - it's the only one.

It could be said that this line of thinking is archaic, a relic of the days when video games were intended for nobody but children and neurotic obsessives - where even completing a game was a privilege to be enjoyed by the skillful few. I would have to agree with this, and concede that it's probably for the better that most games aren't designed with the same philosophy. But as the one-off throwback that it is, I can't help but be impressed at Serious Sam 3's big noggin, and how sneakily it hides it behind the gore and explosions - it's something I found myself missing dearly in the modern era of shooters. I can only hope it finds its way back.   read


12:36 PM on 04.04.2012  

Cblog Analytics - March 2012



Another month ends, another bunch of numbers reveal themselves! Since I knew what I'd be looking for at the start of the month, there are quite a few new statistics I've been able to record, and the organization has rearranged itself accordingly. I've removed the Bloggers Wanted statistics since that has recently been reverted to (apparently) a bi-weekly thing, and I've also removed the most prolific blogger and shortest (and therefore also longest) blog categories, as I believed them to be too meaningless and narrow in scope compared to the other things I'm looking at.

Other notes about what/how I record and do are listed at the bottom of the post. Don't forget to check last month's Cblog Analytics post if you want to compare charts and such in more detail than I'll be doing below.

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Oh, and remember: If there's something I haven't covered that you want to see next month, post it in the comments!



A total of 434 blogs were posted this month!
-(That's 71 less than last month's count of 505!)

The most-blogged day was Monday the 19th, with 24 blogs!
-(That's 2 less than last month's most-blogged day!)
-Looking at the day itself, there doesn't appear to be any significant anomaly - it was simply the intersection of the first day of the rather popular BW topic "Disappointment" and the massive ME3-ending wave

The least-blogged day was Sunday the 4th, with 6 blogs!
-(That's also 2 less than last month's least-blogged day!)
-February's least-blogged day was also a Sunday - not much of a surprise, really; you'll see in the graph below that the number of blogs posted drops off sharply on the weekends

On average, there were about 14 blogs a day!
-(That's 3 less than last month's average!)
-Interestingly, the overall trend was the opposite of last month - the number of blogs per day increased steadily as March wore on. The release of Mass Effect 3 almost certainly helped to stimulate this, but there's another likely factor whose impact you'll see highlighted a little farther down





The flavor of the month was (once again) Mass Effect, which was written about 54 times!
-(That's 39 more blogs than last month!)
-Shock and amazement! I didn't even have to begin counting the numbers up to tell you it'd be this way, but there're still some pretty surprising figures. As illustrated in the pie chart, 37 of those are centered around either the game's ending or the controversy surrounding the game's ending - even the ones that avoided the ending have 7 up on the next most popular topic, DLC

About 78% of blogs were varied enough to have less than 5 blogs per topic!
-(That's 11% less than last month!)
-Of course, even something as huge as ME3 can't change the fact that nearly 4/5ths of the months blogs remain unique - it's amazing how many different things we can find to write about in this little hobby of ours





A total of 2,982 comments were posted on the Cblogs this month!
-come on you jerks you were only 18 away from 3,000

50 blogs received no comments! ;_;
-oh but when you're being dicks you hit the nice round figure

The most commented blog was The writing on the Destructoid front page sucks: A short complaint., by EternalDeathSlayer, with 69 comments!
-(That's 30 more than last month's most-commented blog!)
-See the next statsistic for why this is of particular note

On average, there were 86 comments a day!
-The fascinating part happens on the 13th, where the above blog kicks off a big hoopla about what was apparently a low point in the Dtoid community's existence - a decline which started right before I slid in here, and thus escaped my notice until then. After this - and you'll see an identical trend with the fapping - there seemed to be a huge surge in community activity. Borne of ill circumstances or not, it's great to see the healthy boom - I hope it continues to grow throughout the year!





In total, the Dtoid community fapped 2072 times!

90 blogs went through the month fap-free! ;_;
-oh look there's another nice number - hey at least neat, round assholes are better than

The sluttiest blog was The State of the Community Blogs, by Mr Andy Dixon, with 62 faps!
-(That's 22 more than last month's sluttiest blog!)

On average, there were 67 faps a day!
-And it comes full circle. What I said up there about the comments applies down here - it's great not only to see an awesome community get recognized by the website, but also to see that they do indeed listen to us when we think things need some reworking - and really want to push that along! Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there's a single other gaming outlet that has this kind of relationship going - it's a really, really neat thing for a new guy like me to walk into





We attracted 55 new members this month! In order of appearance, they are:

Wolf Girl - uuddlrlrbadick - Grey P Anderson - Olo Nexus - Rhysybaby - The White Rose - Stephiroth - Robby Mamonluk - amx70s - Gamegodtre - Wuyunk - Mokuu - uber bondy - KD Alpha - LightForceJedi - wenger56 - Vampknight 364 - ThatDocktorGirl - Captain Carrion - JeffreyMann - DocSeuss - Samson R Jinks - Rianq - Aruji Shinigami - Gaming Novice - Laraso - David Eby - MarcisHawkins - StormTrooperGuy - Bryan Carr - DrButler - Gamers Ballad - John Posey III - pcgamer09 - dredgman - kirrylord - disgaeniac - God Complex - Roberto Loya - Beatlespip122 - TaleSpun - TMillsap - TheChosen - warezIbanez - OHShuzBallz - LongDeth - SS53 - Levito - Hound Of Hades - Kristi78968 - Caliban - Zombie Orwell - TimOfTheNorth - Oculin - JPNags

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NOTES:

-Until a better method presents itself, statistics are counted by hand, per-day. Comments and Faps are recorded at the end of the next day, to give the community ample time to read and respond. This means that there are likely minor errors and inaccuracies present, but none of them should be significant enough to invalidate anything

-Cblog Recaps and last month's Analytics are not counted, but all other serials (like FNF) are, under the rationale that serials still exist for the purpose of "creating" content under a certain topic or theme, while the Recaps & Analytics merely seek to sort and organize the blogs

-For the flavor of the month, I do not count Bloggers Wanted topics, but the blogs themselves are factored in

-There is still some inherent subjectivity in deciding what constitutes a "unique topic," so keep that in mind if there seems like there's some obvious category that I've ignored (although feel free to tell me)

-Statistics are not intended to impart any kind of judgment or opinion in and of themselves - If I have any personal thoughts, they are noted below the corresponding statistic   read







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