My gaming story does not begin with an Atari, or Nintendo, or Sega, or any other console for that matter. It does not begin with text adventures, MUDs, or point-and-click adventure games on the PC, either. It doesn't even begin with a Game Boy. It begins with my dad and a little RTS called Total Annihilation.
When TA came out in 1997, I was six years old. I used to love spending time just watching my dad playing computer games, shouting out what I'm sure must have been very sage advice like "Make a Krogoth! Make a Krogoth!" If he played any other games at the time, I can't remember anymore. None of them mattered as much as the one where he would build ridiculously large armies of giant robots and send them in against the AI's ridiculously large armies of giant robots.
My go-to strategy? INTIMIDATORS EVERYWHERE.
A couple years later, Unreal Tournament came out. Around this time, I think, was when I started playing games myself on our other PC. The only two games I played were Total Annihilation and Unreal Tournament, and I never got bored with them. I also didn't get to play very often, instead watching the Discovery Channel or reading books or magazines about science; I was a very nerdy child.
When I actually started to love gaming was when I started playing those two games with other people. My dad worked with a bunch of other techies at some place where they did techy stuff with computers (my memory is rather fuzzy on this), and every Friday he would pack up his PC and monitor and take everything back to his workplace to have a LAN party with his coworkers until very late at night.
I still remember the first time I got to join him at one of these. I was so excited I'm pretty sure I was visibly bouncing up and down. I was going to get to play with other people! I was the weird nerd kid with no friends. Even if I had had friends, everyone else was playing Nintendo, so I wouldn't have had anyone to play with anyway, so this was a first for me.
I helped my dad pack up the family PC, he packed what our family referred to as his "frankenmachine," we piled it all into the back of his Nissan 240SX, and we were off. I even got to ride in the front seat! So cool!
I loved my dad's little 240.
When we got there, I got to meet some of his co-workers, none of whom seemed to mind me being there, which in hindsight is pretty awesome. I let my dad set up the computers because I had no clue what was going on in that mess of cables behind the computer, made even messier with the presence of giant network cables stretching from desk to desk to desk. Meanwhile, I got some snacks and something to drink. I'm pretty sure I talked at length to anyone who would listen just how awesome Total Annihilation was.
After some time, I started my first match of TA multiplayer. I knew I was good at the game from my hours and hours of playing it on easy, with a massive resource handicap, and with the entire map and all units on it revealed. I had never lost a match before, so I was going to be great!
I wasn't. I lasted half an hour maximum before what seemed to be a thousand tanks rolled straight through my base, demolishing everything in their path. That night, I learned the meaning of the word "humility".
Next up was Unreal Tournament, which I did significantly better at, even playing on maps I had never seen in the base game. I didn't win, but I had a lot of fun. All of the little tricks I had learned to confound the AI bots didn't work anymore, so I had to improvise, and the sense of accomplishment whenever I actually did frag somebody was amazing.
The sniper rifle was so OP. CTF Face was just a headshot monster kill waiting to happen.
I played UT for the rest of the night, until I got really sleepy shortly after midnight. I took a nap on a couch and woke up the next morning in my bed. We went to those LAN parties often together, and every time I would fall asleep there, only to end up in my bed at home the next morning. Those are my fondest memories of my dad, and my fondest memories of gaming.
These days, we don't get much time to play together due to our conflicting work schedules, but we still find time to jump into Borderlands or Supreme Commander every now and then. And yes, we're both anxiously awaiting Planetary Annihilation.
I work at my local Target store as a cart attendant. It's a menial job involving bringing shopping carts into the store from the parking lot, cleaning restrooms, changing trash, helping 'guests' to their cars with large heavy items, and generally being the store gofer. I might make it sound bad, but at least I get to spend time out in the open air and a variety of tasks keeps me from getting bored.
With that out of the way, I would like to offer some general tips on how not to be a horrible person when you're shopping. Because apparently there's some confusion among the general public.
First of all, if you pick an item off a shelf and later decide you don't want it, do not put it on another shelf. Either put it back where you got it, or hand it to the cashier when you get to the registers and tell them you decided against getting it.
When you take an item of clothing off of a rack, look at it, and decide against it, the correct thing to do is to put it back. Do not just drop it on the floor. Do not toss it behind your back. Do not throw it into another section of the store.
Stop signs still count, even when they're in a parking lot. No, you are not above the law just because you really really need to buy a lawn chair and the store is about to close.
When you've loaded up your car, do not drive away and leave your shopping cart in the middle of the road, or a parking space. Doing so inconveniences everyone else and makes you an asshole.
Shopping carts are not your personal trash can. Do not leave empty beer bottles, dirty diapers, half-drunk ICEE cups, child car seat boxes, boxes of old decrepit baseballs, religious pamphlets, hubcaps, car floor mats, used hypodermic needles, used condoms, used tampons, barf bags, dirty underwear, old tires, or any kind of dead animal in a shopping cart.
When using the restroom, poop goes in the toilet. Some inappropriate locations to defecate include the floor, the sink, the mirror, the urinal, the toilet paper dispenser, or the outside of the toilet. For you women out there, toilet paper goes in the toilet. The floor is not the correct place for toilet paper. If you for any reason make a mess in the restroom, just tell the staff that there's a mess. You don't even need to tell them you did it!
I hope that clears some things up. Yes, I know it doesn't have much to do with gaming, hence the off-topic tag. I hope it's not too off-topic. If it is, please say so, and I'll hide it. (I actually did look at the FAQ and didn't really see anything about posting non-gaming related blogs)
I recently finished Assassin's Creed III, and I thought I'd take a few minutes to share what I liked most about each of the past AC games. Nothing special, just thought I'd post something positive on Destructoid for once. There's far too much negativity out there these days; a newcomer could be forgiven for reading all the comments and thinking none of us actually enjoy playing video games.
Assassin's Creed (2007)
The first game in the series lacked a lot of features they added in the later games, but it did have one advantage over the rest: planning out each of your kills. I loved completing all of the investigatory missions, using the information I had gleaned to lay out a plan of attack, and plan an escape route passing by citizens I'd saved, before finally heading out to kill each Templar. It's something I've never seen in any other games, really. I would love this sort of gameplay to return to the series.
Assassin's Creed II (2009)
The second game added an economy, which made the game world feel much more alive. However, what sets it apart from the later games, I feel, is the presence of Leonardo da Vinci. Using his inventions made the game feel more interesting to me, because I've always been a fan of speculative fiction.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (2010)
The third game's biggest improvement was the main enemy, Cesare Borgia. He's the kind of character I love to hate. In comparison, I can't remember any of the targets from the first, second, or fourth games. Also, Renaissance Rome was more fun to explore than any of the other cities, simply because it had more landmarks that I was able to recognize (of course, other people may feel differently).
Assassin's Creed: Revelations (2011)
Revelations had three high points for me. The mission where you have to protect Suleiman without him knowing while you are dressed as a bard, poorly singing tales of Ezio's past achievements to distract the guests while your comrades take out Templars was amazing. The ending was actually a happy ending with finality. It actually made me smile to realize Ezio got a "happily ever after," which is unusual in video games. Also, Ezio is like sixty years old in Revelations and is still the deadliest guy in Europe. The entire game was like Red where you play as Bruce Willis.
Assassin's Creed III (2012)
The best part of the latest game is the revamped combat system. No more waiting to counter, not to mention having to deal with enemies shooting at you by using human shields. Combat simply felt more, for lack of a better word, kinetic. That said, it's still my least favorite of the series.
So, I've noticed a lot of negativity about the video games industry in general, especially here on Destructoid. A lot of commenters enthusiastically responding to news of falling sales figures, cynical views of developers and publishers, that sort of thing. I've read countless articles and opinion pieces all over the internet about how console gaming is going away because people are switching to mobile games and browser games (take the NY Times' write-up on the Playstation 4 announcement for example).
I'm not refuting the fact that the industry is in decline in terms of money made. Figures and statistics are figures and statistics, and to argue with them is to argue with mathematics. I'm also not saying that I am pleased with publishers like EA and Activision/Blizzard. Some corporations in gaming have simply become cartoonishly evil caricatures, and when I picture their CEOs in my mind they look like male versions of Mom from Futurama.
Pictured: Bobby Kotick
However, there are some things I feel like I need to put out there. Screaming out my window about it would probably not be very productive, or appreciated by my neighbors, so I've opted to write a blog about them.
If you read the article I linked from NY Times, granted not exactly the first place I go to for any kind of tech news, you probably got the feeling that its writers weren't exactly gamers. Two passages in particular nauseate and confuse me, including this one:
[i]"...These and other new features cannot hide the fact that PlayStation 4 is still a console, a way of playing games on compact discs that was cool when cellphones were not smart.
Much of the excitement in video games has shifted to the Web and mobile devices, which are cheap, easy and fast."[/i]
I don't know anyone who thinks that there is really any comparison to be made between mobile games like "Angry Birds: Basically the Same Game as Before but with New Cute Sprites" and browser games like "BoringVille: Sending Annoying Invites to Your Friends is Now a Gameplay Mechanic" with full PC/console titles, or even games on dedicated mobile platforms like the 3DS or Vita. Yes, they're cheap, but I get more entertainment for the same price from eating a sandwich. I've installed a number of games to my phone, only to delete them to make room for music after noticing just how badly phone games still suck.
Who thought this was a good idea? Who?
With all that said, I think one of the reasons the industry as a whole is selling less games and less units is simply because the Wii fad is over. I mean no offense to Wii owners, but most casual gamers were only drawn to the Wii because of the novelty of motion control. Now the novelty has worn off, they don't really care anymore. Eventually, the novelty of smartphone time-wasters will wear off, too, at least for the most part.
People are still going to want to play real games, with stories, depth of gameplay, decent graphics, and actual content. Just because YouTube exists doesn't mean people won't still pay to watch TV shows and movies.
Looking at a recent decline in sales of console games and an increase in mobile game sales is not necessarily representative of what gaming will be like in a year or two. Statistics cannot always be extrapolated.
From XKCD, my favorite webcomic
On a slightly unrelated note, I don't think I've ever seen an actual hands-on kiosk of the WiiU in any store. One where you can actually play demos of actual games, instead of watching trailers and looking at screenshots. I work at Target, and I know we don't have one. A hands-on demo kiosk for the PlayStation Vita got me to buy one when I was just curious about it. It seems silly, but the WiiU's sales would probably be less crappy if they actually tried selling them.
There are a lot of people who hate Rock Band and Guitar Hero, for one reason or another. Phrases like "learn to play a real instrument," "stupid plastic instruments," and "when will this fad be over," are constantly thrown around. Some people even complain about their favorite bands "selling out". I'm here to say that, at least for me, Rock Band is not about playing make believe and pretending to be a real rock star.
The first and most common complaint I've seen, especially on YouTube, is deriding people who are good at the games and telling them to learn to play a real instrument. Many of the people who are really good at the game, like YouTube users guitarherophenom and IBitePrettyHard, actually already do play real instruments, and quite well. Other people, like me, don't care about making music. If I wanted to learn to make real music, I would learn how to play the guitar for real. You'd have to be a complete dumbfuck to think that playing Guitar Hero is anything like playing a real guitar (Nobody does. At least I hope nobody does. People's stupidity has surprised me before, though.).
For me, the appeal of Rock Band is in skill progression. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are the only games I have ever played where I actually got noticeably better over time. I started out playing Guitar Hero III at a friend's house in the summer of 2008. I played on easy and missed about a third of the notes. I kept going over to play the game (he lived across the street from me), and eventually I was able to play on medium, then hard. Then, at the very beginning of this year, I moved away, getting my own copy of Rock Band 2 with a guitar and drums as a late Christmas present. By the end of this summer I had beaten Green Grass and High Tides and Painkiller on expert guitar, things which I wouldn't have stood a whelk's chance in a supernova of doing a year before.
No other game has ever done that for me. Playing something like Call of Duty 4 on veteran difficulty wasn't really challenging to me. Tedious, but not challenging. I had gained nothing in the way of actual skill by the time I had finished it. My aim was no more accurate, my reflexes no quicker than when I had started the game. The only reward was the ability to say that I beat the game on Veteran. Something I probably could have done when I was ten if I had had a strategy guide. Whoop-de-fucking-doo. It just felt like a complete waste of my time.
With Rock Band, it was really easy to notice how much better I got. My ability to process the notes coming down the screen got better and better with practice, as did my fingers' ability to hit the buttons in time. I learned tricks like anchoring my index finger on the green for songs like Painkiller, Panic Attack, and Get Clean.
I've noticed a lot of people talking very favorably about Demon's Souls' difficulty. Specifically, about how it encourages the player to keep going despite the immense difficulty, how it's always fair, how rewarding it is to advance, and how you actually get better at the game by the time you finish it. Every single one of those perfectly describes Rock Band.
My sense of rhythm improved drastically. I listened to music differently, hearing each instrument track as a separate entity. The game introduced me to Metallica, who I had previously thought to be terrible. Now they're one of my favorite bands. I gained new respect for AC/DC after playing through a few of their songs (they're my second favorite band now, after Pink Floyd). In general, I grew to love music even more than I had before, and the music I listen to is of a much wider variety, directly because of music games. Now, I'm even thinking of getting a real drum set and learning how to play for real.
I guess the point of this post is that, if you're put off by RB/GH because you think it's only about make believe, then there's a different way of looking at it and a completely different appeal. Also, if you like difficulty and feeling rewarded, then there is nothing more rewarding in my experience than finally beating a song like Battery or Green Grass and High Tides on expert difficulty. Nothing.
I recently had to do an assignment for my video game design course where I had to come up with an idea for a vehicle-based game. What follows is the result.
My vehicle game is a sort of arcade mech combat game. Players take control of giant mechanical war mechs in the likenesses of figures from classic literature (i.e. robo-Okonkwo, robo-Huckleberry Finn, robo-Dr. Frankenstein, robo-Lenny, robo-Beowulf, robo-Macbeth, robo-Winston Smith, robo-Odysseus, robo-Jabberwocky, etc.) and fight each other with lasers, rockets, melee, and other weaponry commonly associated with war mechs. The game has no story mode, instead focusing solely on multiplayer and skirmishes. The game also has no real setting, instead having various themed arenas where up to eight characters can fight in team battles or deathmatches. Each arena reflects a major setting of one of the works of literature each character is from, so there’s a level for Of Mice and Men set in a wide open field of wheat with a few farmhouses scattered around, and so on.
The view is in 3D to better display the absurdity of each of the robo-characters. Each character has strengths and weaknesses, except for Robo-Frankenstein, who has no strengths and is in fact a gag character. When players pick up certain pick-ups, they have the ability to activate their character’s super move, which is unique for each character.
For example, Robo-Frankenstein’s super move is to huddle in a corner and mutter to himself. Robo-Okonkwo’s is to hang himself, which does massive damage to all of his opponents. Robo-Odysseus can blind his enemies. I don’t have them all fully worked out yet.
I actually have a sort of working title for it: Hyper Ultra Robot Wars Turbo Classic. The soundtrack is composed mostly of J-pop.
I just thought I'd share this with the Destructoid community.