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Anthony Burch's blog
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11:30 AM on 12.29.2009

A tribute to videogame fan films, and a game you NEED to play (but won't).

Firstly, this. Any excuse to watch Escape from City 17, right?

Secondly, The Void is currently on sale for half off ($9.99) on Steam, and really deserves to be checked out.


On the one hand:
It's one of the most interesting, gorgeous, atmospheric, original, haunting, and tense games I've ever played.

On the other hand:
It's oppressively hard and vague, to the point where you spend most of the game with no idea of what you're doing while being punished for that very fact. You'll get yourself into jams that require you to reload hour-old saves just to prevent yourself running out of resources.The glyph-drawing system is so fucking inaccurate that anytime you want to draw a "donate" glyph, you need to save the game first because otherwise the game will arbitrarily decide you didn't actually draw the glyph and then take all the color you used to draw the glyph anyway and say "hey asshole you should have drawn the donate glyph" even though you did.

But goddamn if I don't keep coming back for more, in a way I really didn't expect to. Mostly, games like this (hard for the sake of hard, suffering from some shitty design, where loss results in a lot of wasted time that has to be repeated) piss me off after a few hours and I never come back to them. Demon's Souls is still sitting on my coffee table, my character still sitting unfinished in world 3 or something.

But there's something about The Void, and how unrelentingly original it is (as a game, it literally defies genreclassification -- it's either an RPG or an FPS or an RTS or none of these or all of them) that keeps me coming back. Something about how INTENTIONALLY vague its story and mechanics are, and how the gradual discovery of what to do and how to do it is satisfying in a wholly unusual way (granted, some things I just never found out on my own and had to ask for help with, which was less cool).

When playing, people kept asking me what the game was. eight hours into the game, I still have no idea. But I know I like that.   read

2:24 PM on 12.15.2009

A new article, and thoughts on The Saboteur (and open world games in general).

Firstly, this is about the most prolific video game movie actors in Hollywood.

Two are supermodels.

The Saboteur is, to me, an incredibly enjoyable game that isn't actually all that good. While its controls are horrendous and certain aspects of the design make no sense (death has absolutely no consequence, for instance), it highlights something far, far more open world games should be doing: making the act of dicking around in the game world equally as fun (if not more so) than the linear, scripted missions.

In something of the same way that Red Faction Guerilla's "control" meter worked (where you were free to lower control by doing anything yo uwanted, be it blowing up propaganda signs or taking out huge-ass military installations), I like that the side-stuff in The Saboteur isn't completely divorced from the main gameplay save for cash rewards (as is the case in GTA, Assassin's Creed, 99% of all sandbox games). When you blow up a sniper tower in The Saboteur, it feels like you're not just doing it for the shit of it -- you're doing it to lower the Nazi presence and make it easier to handle that area.

Granted, this is what the game wants you to think, and not the reality -- once your alarm level gets high enough, one more sniper tower doesn't mean shit -- but I like the fact that more games are trying to unite the overworld and the game proper, rather than going the GTA route and just throwing linear missions in a nonlinear environment.

On an unrelated note, the simple act of escaping alarms, especially if you're going for the gold hiding-from-stuff perk, can be fucking epic. Successfully evading a level five alarm was one of the most enjoyable things I did in the game, and none of it was scripted.

That, really, is what appeals to me; putting the player in a position of power to determine what sort of experience they wish to have, and how, and when, and then complicating those intentions with enemies and varied terrain and so on and so forth. Games like The Saboteur and Red Faction Guerilla are a step in the right direction where open-world games are concerned. They're not there yet -- I still want to see a sandbox where the "main" missions and the supplementary ones are all but indistinguishable -- but for a game that suck as much as the Saboteur does, I'm having an awful lot of fun with it.   read

2:20 PM on 12.01.2009

An article on game documentaries, and Assassin's Creed II thoughts

First of all, this.

Second of all, I think AC2's ending has to go down in history, alongside the Star Destroyer bit in Force Unleashed, as one of those gameplay moments that sounds absolutely spectacular written down but is actively horrible in execution.

I actually kind of enjoyed the game itself up until I realized it wasn't ever going to get any harder or more varied (which, luckily for me, didn't actually hit home until just before the ending). It's better than the first, as little as that is saying -- the new structure helps things along, but more than that the fact that every single assassination mission is different from every single other assassination mission. To some degree.

The game is still nowhere as good as it could and probably should be, though. I really liked climbing towers to find viewpoints until I realized many of the towers were exactly the same. I really liked the fact that I had new ways to deal with guards and the crowd, until I realized almost all the groups you can hire are identical to one another (no difference between a whore or a thief luring a guy away). I liked the new items Ezio could wield, until I realized that the combat is so easy that you never feel even remotely obligated to use any of them other than the wrist-shanks.

I still maintain that AC's combat should be really, really hard in order to encourage stealth and running and chases and all the items you've got -- like how MGS3 on normal mode is kind of boring, but on extreme it's a goddamn revelation.   read

2:05 AM on 11.29.2009

Holy shit, Kohlstream

I mean, holy shit. These are goddamn amazing. I'm reading the backs of the boxes now, and god damn. And the DVDs actually work in my PC. I'm watching Mortal Kombat as we speak.

Thanks, a thousand times thanks.   read

10:52 AM on 11.03.2009

Regarding depictions of gamers in films, and an unofficial HAWP

<p> Firstly, a top five list about the stupid ways movies portray gamers (and the Digg link if you feel like it). Secondly, the forumites already found it but Ash and I did a scene for the Star Wars Uncut fan project, which can be viewed here: I'll probably bug you about it again if any of the other people who took the scene actually finish their version and I need to smack them down via the eventual SWUncut voting system.</p>   read

12:14 PM on 10.20.2009

Comparing Japanese and Western video game movies.

Spoiler: Japanese ones tend to be better.

Which is odd, because I have the exact opposite opinion when it comes to, like, actual games. Sold Demon's Souls a little while ago, and despite loving the first Way of the Samurai like it were my slightly idiotic son-in-law, I can't fucking stand Way of the Samurai 3. I'm either not gonna review it or do so without a score, because I can't even complete the game once without getting frustrated and angry.

Slightly unrelated: I am so fucking sick of bad guys that take memorization and a high-level weapon to kill just because their attacks are really strong and they have a shitload of HP. If Way of the Samurai had the fighting system of Bushido Blade, it'd probably solve every goddamn problem I have with the game. If I wanna kill the recruiter of one of the clans midway through his speech, I shouldn't have to level up my sword eight times and bring a baker's dozen of mushrooms and rice balls to the table just to survive.

I really can't remember the last Japanese game I unequivocally enjoyed (Little King's Story was great, but did take some equivocation).   read

4:04 PM on 10.18.2009

If you are on this list, you're getting a free HAWP DVD.

This will get a frontpage post very soon, but you should probably know that the HAWP Season One DVD is now available:

And if you're on this list, that means you did art for the DVD that I used, which means I owe you a free DVD, which means I need you to email me (reverendanthony[at]gmail[dot]com) your mailing address.

Gyrael (Kiranio?)
Phallus Knife Fight

So, do that.   read

5:04 PM on 10.13.2009

A followup to my JUMP! review

At the time of writing the review, I hadn't completed the game and thus didn't give it a score. The Dtoid tips line got an angy email from some guy who hilariously ended with "email me back if you want my full review," basically saying that I sucked as a gamer and reviewer because I couldn't beat it.

I'm not going to argue that specific point so much as I'm going to say that I have since beaten JUMP!, and consider it just as bad as I did the first go-around.

The problem with JUMP! isn't that it's overly hard -- it's that it assumes being "retro" when it comes to difficulty is a reasonable substitute for legitimately interesting level design. You'll die not because the game is throwing a bunch of really interesting, really difficult shit at you (a la, let's say, N+), but because the platforming challenges are so not-demanding that you'll more or less just sleepwalk through most of the boring parts, and occasionally die just because you weren't paying all that much attention. I think I addressed this in the original review through constantly blabbing about "uninspired platforming" whenever possible.

When I finally hunkered down and tried to keep my attention as fixed on the game as possible, I beat it with a half-dozen lives left over; I also didn't feel any better than I had when I lost all my lives on the second-to-last level. Yeah, I'd put enough effort into the game to beat it in one sitting, but I wasn't really given anything in return.

The game wants it both ways: it wants you to get that retro feeling of accomplishment and triumphing over punishing-but-fair level design, but it also wants to make the game easy (and therefore, in many cases, boring) enough so that an average person can make it all the way through.

So, yeah, I still don't think it's very good.   read

1:34 PM on 10.07.2009

The winners of the HAWP DVD fanart contest thing (also, idiocy)

I am the stupidest person in the world, and one of the credits in the fanart menu section on the DVD will be wrong. I am intensely, intensely sorry for this and will try to mention the real artist as frequently as possible when promoting the DVD and whatnot. Gyrael is credited, for some reason, as Kiranio on the DVD...

...Wait, did Kiranio just change his name? I'm confused. Either way.

The following people have their art featured in the actual DVD menus. Everyone else still has at least one piece of their art on the DVD fanart credit montage, even though they don't have a menu to call their own (unless I forgot you, in which case I'm intensely sorry). The "winners," I guess, are:

Gyrael (Kiranio?)
Phallus Knife Fight

So, congrats/thanks/loveyou. I think the DVD looks really good, and it's thanks entirely to all of you (even the ones who we didn't end up using still make that montage look damn cool).   read

12:07 PM on 10.06.2009

HAWP DVD stuff (also Big Trouble in Little China needs to be a videogame)

You can tell it's true because I wrote an article about it. Just writing about the goddamn thing makes me want to see it again.


I finished the proof and sent it off to CreateSpace. Now I just wait for them to send it back, and approve their proof. Or something. Either way, it's kind of out of my hands now, which is nice.

Shit, I have to make a cblog explaining who made the final cut. I'll do that soon. Suffice to say, if you submitted something you are at least in the DVD credits (unless I missed you, in which case sorry), and like a dozen of your artworkz are actual DVD menus.

The final features:
-Two deleted episodes
-An easter egg
-PAX panel audio and powerpoint included as DVD-rom feature
-Sexy fan art montage

And it'll retail for around 18 bucks.   read

7:40 PM on 09.29.2009

I'm gonna be on a live radio show tonight (in case you want to listen).


While the Podtoid crew will be talking about pecs and Super Street Fighter IV tonight, I'm going to be on ChatterBox Video Game Radio at 9 pm Arizona time (in other words, roughly three hours from now).

You can listen live from their web site, and call in to ask questions/troll/whatever.

That's pretty much it, really.

Oh, wait -- tonight at 10 pm AZ time (in four hours), the first-ever solo episode of Once Upon A Pixel goes live on GameTrailers. Should be pretty ace.   read

12:37 PM on 09.22.2009

The future is now

Wherein I discuss videogame movie technology and how close we are to reaching it in reality.

On the subject of future-tech, I just got an iPod touch and am flabbergasted by how willingly people will put up with an intrinsically bullshit control scheme so long as it's connected to a device that can also play music and make flapjacks. On last week's Podtoid, we complained how irritating it was that Scribblenauts was entirely stylus-controlled and thus really awkward. Playing games on the iPhone -- even relatively okay ones, like Spider -- is like multiplying every bad thing in Scribblenauts by a factor of eighty, only without the tradeoff of imaginatively hilarious word bank gaming.

It's kind of sad when the only game I'm actively looking forward to on a platform is Canabalt.   read

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