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Ballistic's blog

7:01 PM on 11.12.2010

Courage in Life and Legend of Zelda

There are times in my life where I can let fear get the best of me, where I donít feel very capable of doing much more than retreating into my room to try and recover. Other times, its not outright fear but a deep sense of uncertainty that stops me from doing things that I feel are risky, like standing up to people who hurt others. But in spite of my battle with fear, there are times I win out, and take on struggles that may hurt me, and risk those blows that may wound my heart in order to save those I care about from those same troubles. Life is full of moments that ask of us to put ourselves out there, knowing we may get hurt in the process, but it is our courage that keeps us going, especially through the pain.

Courage is an abstraction most videogames struggle to handle, but if there is one series that has done an incredible job representing it, it would be the Legend of Zelda games, specifically through the health bar. Everybody should be pretty aware of what theyíre like; just about every Zelda game has had heart containers and several individual hearts onscreen to represent your overall Ďhealthí. Whenever you take a hit, a little sliver of one of your hearts goes away. Itís a pretty clever visual design, because hearts are a nearly universal symbol of health and vitality.

But, hearts are also representative of other things, especially something very close to the Zelda series and especially Link himself, and thatís courage. Now, I donít think itís a perfect analogy of courage, and in some games it may not have represented that, but thereís certainly an argument for it. First of all, think about the mythology of the series. The triforce is representative of three great virtues: power, wisdom, and courage, to which Link himself is often assigned the piece that symbolizes courage, which he has to travel all over Hyrule to collect.

But in a more practical manner, Link must also go around collecting heart pieces to gain the fortitude to withstand his inevitable fight with Gannondorf. If Link had to face him with the same amount of heart that he had at the beginning, Gannondorf would make short work of him. Now, if you look at what has made Link grow to withstand his enemyís attacks, there isnít much to explain it. Maybe he gained more strength, making his body and muscles tougher, but then why would they use hearts to represent this? Certainly there is no practical explanation for his body to suddenly jumped to be able to take four sword hits instead of five. No, what I suggest is that he gains an expanded determination, and a mental fortitude to overcome the damage done to him.

Think about what he has to do in order to gain these hearts, Link must enter the darkness of dungeons, face trials and traps, and then fight an evil monster, that when defeated leaves behind a heart. Biologically it doesnít make much sense as to why he suddenly got ĎhealthierĎ, but what he has done is go through nothing less than the very definition of a test that proves your courage, and this new heart is a wonderful and practical symbol of his newly proven bravery.

And when he clashes against enemies or is hurt by the environment, he is hurt physically yes, but I would say that those hearts onscreen are more directly representing Linkís ability to shrug off the pain he feels, to have the will to keep on fighting even when he is in mortal peril. It more or less is an active approximation of Links' determination to reach his goals and overcome obstacles.

Sure, there are other examples that you could make to say the LoZ health bar is simply that, a health bar, and maybe I am reading too much into the symbolism of the game. But I beg you not to forget that themes of the series are built upon the value of discovery, and the courage to explore. So what if Miyamoto really meant those hearts to represent health, I know in my heart Link gets more courageous with every beast he slays, and that it has taught me that growing braver takes the strength to use and test your courage each day.   read

1:15 PM on 10.04.2010

Welcome to 2005! AKA An old blogger returns!

Hey Dtoid, it's been a long time!

A few may recognize me, but most of you probably don't. I'm just a fellow lover of video games from the back country of North Carolina. I've been following Destructoid for a couple years now, and since then I even posted a few blogs on here about a year and a half ago. Unfortunately I hit a roadblock and never quite got back on track to producing more blogs, even after starting half a dozen different topics that never quite got finished.

Destructoid is such a great community and it was an incredibly fun experience letting you guys see my writings and interacting with you all that I swore to myself I'd one day I'd get back to blogging. Then I started getting behind with video games. I lost my Wii, and never had quite enough money to afford to replace it or ever get a ps3 or 360. It got harder and harder to have anything relevant to talk about because the closest I ever got to most games was by reading about them. Well that changes today!

I am now the proud first time owner of a brand new xbox 360! Damn. Video game systems have come a long ways. The menus, the options, internet, the way it's all...connected, this generation of consoles really is a huge leap ahead of the old one, not just in terms of graphics, but in usability and their place in the home. They really have become like media centers for your house.

Anyways, once all the excitement wore off from buying the console, I realized I didn't actually have any GAMES to play on it! That's where I could use you guys' help. What games would you suggest!? I'm not sure which ones still stand out and are worth playing today since it's been so many years since the system has come out. What games are all the cool kids playing online together these days? Which ones do the dtoiders like to use for FNFs the most?

Here's a list of some I'm considering:

Lost Odyssey
Call of Duty (4 or MW2)
Batman Arkham Asylum
Mass Effect 1&2
Street Fighter 4/Soul Calibur 4/Tekken 6
Fallout 3

I hope you guys will take me back! Please, be gentle! I don't even know what blog etiquette is like anymore. I'm glad to finally feel like I can once again add my input to the great games discussion going on here though. See you soon on live, feel free to add me!   read

2:16 PM on 04.23.2009

You're all Wrong, Kuja's Best!!!

Okay, I will not deny the awesomeness of either Kefka, Sephiroth, or any other final fantasy villain for that matter, but merely to explain why in my mind, Kuja would make all the other vilians seem like pansies in comparison. There probably aren't alot of people who agree with me, but I hope to change their minds, or at least let them see my point of view. Here, I come to Kujaís defense as if I were proving his case in a court of law. Iíll let Destructoid be the jury.

Exhibit A: Kujaís theme music is fucking awesome. Itís simple, yet haunting and chilling. Thereís no pretentious choir like Sephirothís One Winged Angel or elaborate and complicated sections to it like Kefkaís but it does itís job of letting you know that the villain is on the scene ready to do some malicious shit.

Exhibit B: Androgyny is frightening due to its sexual ambiguity. The Japanese know this well and use that to their advantage to make their bad guys super scary. You may think Sephiroth is androgynous with all that long flowing hair, and Kefka could bury the pyramids under all that makeup, but they may as well look like the guys in contra compared to all the androgyny that Kuja wields. He unfolds his master plan while talking about it as if it were a play, and we all know Ďplays are for the gaysí. For crying out loud, the man wears a thong on the battlefield! Anybody who does that can't be afraid of whatever you're gonna dish out against them, and is probably more concerned with throwing you off your game before you even face them. To top it all off, heís got a tail. Thatís right, heís not only sexually ambiguous, heís species ambiguous too. Itís almost as if some horrible serial killer blew up a building that somehow held several zoo animals and transsexuals in it, all in an attempt to harvest the corpses so he could sew them together to create a Cirque Du Soleil performer. No villain could even dare to have such a horrific origin story.

Yeah, I reused the image, but it's even more relevant to this blog! Why? Because...

Exhibit C: Kuja kidnaps children and underage girls with the help of twisted midget clown twins! Of course, he says it's for the eidolons trapped inside those supple young bodies, but you know he must get off on that kind of deranged fantasy situation. Even the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be uncomfortable with the stuff Kuja does.

Exhibit D: He rides a fucking silver dragon! Thatís right he rides the famous C-Blog recapper Silverdragon1979!

No other villain has a ride that baller! You can't deny that a silver dragon is one of the most pimpin' transports there is.

Exhibit E: When he goes Ďtranceí all of his hair literally becomes feathers! Sephiroth would be so jealous if he knew. On top of the new look his trance allows him to wipe out your party with a single use of the spell Ultima.

Exhibit F: He went from being a simple doll and lackey for Garland to almost destroying all of life and existence. Not many can claim to even have dreams that big, let alone getting so close to accomplishing them. Kefka may have in fact been successful in bringing on an apocalypse and ending civilization in FF6, but it was Kuja who actually engulfed and destroyed the dying world of Terra for a lark on his way to trying to wipe out the crystal of life. Technically, he was even successful in his plan, killing the party and bringing about Necron, the ultimate harbinger of death. If Zidane and his group hadnít simply refused to stop moving and beat Necron into submission, Kuja would have won.

I rest my case! So, after seeing all this evidence, are you still so sure that your favorite villain could go toe to toe with Kuja and win? Or would he take one look at Kuja and go mad like weaker mortals have? Ask yourselves this before you comment: Who would you be more afraid to be in the same room with, a dude with long hair, a creepy clown, or some freak whose part monkey, part woman and all villain?   read

3:23 PM on 03.14.2009

How to Build a Time Machine Out of Popsicle Sticks. (NVGR)

Okay guys, since it's a slow weekend, I'll bring some entertainment (hopefully) to the c-blogs. The following is an article I wrote for a college English course given the prompt, "write an essay in the form of a step by step guide." Our teacher encouraged creativity and humor, but I think I went a little bit beyond what he was expecting from us. I wrote a love letter to Back to the Future. This, is that love letter.

Have you ever wanted to go back in time to any major event in our history? Well, now you can with these easy-to-follow directions! In no time at all, youíll have a time traveling machine that will actually work! (Disclaimer: This process is NOT guaranteed to result in a vessel capable of traveling through time) With just Popsicle sticks, some elbow grease, and determination, traveling through time can be possible.

The first step in creating the time machine is gathering all the Popsicle sticks you will need, and trust me, too much will not hurt! A great source for gathering Popsicle sticks is in the frozen foods section of your local grocery store. Iím of course talking about delicious frozen Popsicles! Just buy all that the store has to offer, and then go to any other store that might sell them and buy them as well. After youíve raided every available Popsicle stand, pun intended, bring them home to your refrigerator. Your goal now is to lick your way down to the prize, the Popsicle stick itself. The task of licking this much ice cream might be a little too much for you alone to handle, so invite some friendly neighborhood children in for some as well! Iím sure theyíll come running if they hear you shout, ďI could sure use some help licking all these PopsiclesĒ and youíll be thought of as a very kind person around the neighborhood for being so generous. Iíve also heard that you could buy packs of Popsicle sticks at an arts and crafts store, but who would want to go in such a pretentious place?! And besides, youíve earned a nice spot in the hearts of your fellow citizens.

Next, comes more drastic measures, you are going to have to get your hands on some weapons grade plutonium. Now, you donít just walk into a store and buy plutonium. Itís not that easy, even for some powerful countries, but it can be done! A dangerous but surefire method is to steal it from someone who already has it. In these days of strife and conflict, many terrorist groups could likely have some in their possession. If you choose to obtain it from them, then you will have to infiltrate their ranks first. Learn their language, goals, and become a memberís friend. Then one day casually mention in a conversation that you would like to become one of them, and that access to their weapons grade plutonium wouldnít hurt. I myself have not tried this step, but I will assure you that if you have followed my steps, they will let you see their shiny radioactive plutonium. After that, quickly swipe the biggest sample of the material you can get your hands on and get out of there! Soon the extremists will likely want to have your head on a pike, so you will need to finish the time machine quickly!

Now that youíve acquired the fuel for the time machine, itís time for you to build the part that makes time travel possible, the time-flux capacitor! This is a piece of machinery that has confounded modern science for all of the ages, a device that can actually bend time! But as the movies have taught us, all you need is an epiphany in order to accomplish a little thing like breaking the laws of physics. An epiphany is a moment of realization where you can think clearly about something and are able to imagine a solution to a problem, all while doing something mundane. My personal suggestion for creating an epiphany in this case involves hanging a clock in the bathroom. Not a particularly dangerous thing to do, unless youíre standing on a slippery toilet to do it. While your standing up there, concentrate on the topic of your time machine, cruising through time and picking up hot chicks in the future, let yourself lose balance and when you fall, aim your head for the sink. If you just clip it, and there isnít much blood, youíve hit the sweet spot. This will cause your to have an epiphany abut how the flux capacitor works, and from there itís easy!

Youíve finally gotten all the necessary parts to create the time machine, so letís start building! Now, the way I see it, if youíre going to build a time machine, why not do it with some style? Thatís why the body of the time machine should be built from a 1981 De Lorean. A clichť choice, but one thatís sure to make you popular with the ladies of any time period. Just make sure to watch out for those nuts in the 1950ís whoíll think youíre driving a space ship! Be sure to wear a radiation suit when you insert the plutonium core, as the radiation is lethal. Donít be afraid to use a little force when putting it together, just remember that anything can fit if you make it. Finally, after every piece is up and running, itís important to work on the most critical part, the air freshener. Using the Popsicle sticks that you obtained and a little bit of glue, you can fashion an air freshener in almost any shape, from flower to geodesic dome! After youíve got the design you want, just spray it with your deodorant of choice and you are ready to go! Now, thereís no limit to where and when you can go!

Congratulations, you have put together a time machine, going on an adventure that will only be equaled by the ones you have exploring the time-space continuum. Have fun fellow chrononauts, but remember that there are many pitfalls you will need to watch out for when time traveling, such as stopping yourself from ever being born, creating an alternate timeline because you altered the past ,and being struck by lightning and becoming stuck in the old west. Oh, and donít forget about those terrorists! Stay safe, and remember, you couldnít have done it without this guide!


4:35 PM on 03.11.2009

I sold my Wii today...

This is my monument to a little white machine that I had to let go today. Iíll tell you why itís now gone, but before I do that, let me tell you the story of the day I got my Wii.

About a year ago, I had just come into some cash, and at a fortuitous time, because Super Smash Brothers Brawl was about to be released. The smash dojo was pumping out screenshots and gameplay features daily, so hype for the game was at critical mass. Back then, in between going to classes at my local community college (go underachieve without leaving your home!) I would hang out with a high school friend named Drew, who had my class and play Call of Duty 4 online matches. Things were pretty sweet actually.

The Wii was still really hard to find back then, and every time I checked Wal-Mart or GameStop, they would say they were out of them. I was starting to think that I wouldnít actually get my hands on a Wii for the midnight release of brawl. That was unacceptable to me, because in my circle of friends, Iíd get left in the dust if I didnít get my own time to train with the game. Drew would also help out with my quest and let me know if he saw one.

One day, as we were leaving the college, Drew announced that he had to go to Walmart for something and asked if Iíd like to ride along and check for a Wii. I jumped at the chance, but not because I thought I would get one, but because there was nothing else to do between classes. Everything seemed to be business as usual when I got there, no Wii in sight,. As I walked out of there, I decided to also check on the GameStop in the same shopping center, with even less expectation of finding one.

The place was nearly empty because it was only about noon when we got there, and a pretty nice young girl was working. I walked up to the counter, already defeated in my mind and asked if they had any Wiiís in stock. She said yes in a pleasant tone. ďOhĒ I believe I said, and almost walked out without registering what that meant. When it dawned on me, I turned to look at Drew, who had an even better reaction on his face that I must have had. I suddenly felt very happy, but also very nervous. I donít immediately jump onto big decisions like spending money, and so I couldnít help but have some hesitation at the moment.

I withdrew into a corner of the store with him and began to ask, ďWhat do you think I should do? Iíve got the money, but I donít want to just blow it so quick without thinking! Plus, my mom would kill me if she knew I had done something like thatĒ Drew, who doesnít ever think about decisions but simply does them couldnít even believe I was asking this and pushed me back up to the counter. I knew he was right, and so I went through with the transaction and left the store feeling happy but a little shocked at what had happened.

On the way back, Drew shouted, ďDude, you just got a Wii!Ē that made me realize just how excited I should be. I opened up the box, something that always makes the gamer inside me alive with anticipation, and smelled the new electronics smell that enticed me to play it. The moment of unboxing a new system is always exciting, and seeing the pristine parts for the system for the first time made the purchase worth it to me. If you really wanted to stretch for an analogy; itíd be like a mother falling in love with her baby for the first time upon birthing it.

Itís only been about a year since I first got it, but I needed to pay off a debt I owed, TODAY. So that was the quickest thing I could sell and raise the cash needed to pay it. I didnít have an SD card either, so my VC games and super smash brothers brawl save file is vaporized. I watched them format it when they took it. Like watching them euthanize your puppy or something. It sucked. I still have my trusty Ps2 (knock on wood) and brawl will always be played at someone elseís house so my gaming will mostly be the same as it was before.

I donít think Iíll buy another Wii though. Even though I loved the one I had, there isnít much there to draw me back. To be honest, Brawl was the only thing that I bought the Wii for, and besides the virtual console games, the only thing I had for it. The next system purchase for me will either be a Ps3 or a 360. So, why donít you guys tell me about some of the experiences you guys have had with the Wii, good or bad.   read

9:33 PM on 03.08.2009

RPGs are good damnit! Rebuttal to Reverend Anthony

For anyone who missed it, Reverend Anthony took time out of his day of stomping on kittens and raping all that is good and happy with the world to personally spit on what many gamers here on destructoid find close to their hearts, JRPGS in this blog. His opening volley was a nice little Indy ďgameĒ called Linear RPG which I actually found to be worth playing, and found hilarious in itís lampooning of JRPG storyline. But the thing is, Anthony took that harmless little game and used it to base his entire argument against the JRPG without considering what people really enjoy about the subgenre. Hopefully I can explain what I think are the reasons we love RPGS/JRPGS and provide direct responses to Anthonysí own attacks against them in a way that you can relate to and understand.

JRPGS are built on ritual. Youíve heard the story a million times before, in the same way, with practically the same character archetypes, and yet you still find yourself attracted to the next shiny new game, which promises to be essentially the same thing, and yet you find that to be a good thing. WHY? Itís because we crave that sameness. We want to grow accustomed to that battle theme that weíll hear literally thousands of times, we want to be able to navigate the menu screen without even looking at the television because of how often weíve specifically used hyper potion, we want to be comforted in the knowledge that every single enemy of the same type can be killed with the same exact formula every friggin time.

I know some of you reading this who love JRPGS will be disagreeing with me on some of those examples, but to some degree my point is true: JRPGS are built to be stable, predictable, and ritualistic. Itís what makes the old ones so endearing to us, because they have become ingrained so strongly in our memories. Every facet of the experience of playing them gets stuck in our heads because we experience it a million times before itís over. What would normally be an annoying and frustrating experience to a non fan becomes familiar and soothing to the fan of JRPGS. Just answer me this: would we feel as connected to characters in RPGs so much if we only went through a dozen battles with them, versus the countless number of battles that we have with them? Stories in RPGS are usually meant to have taken place over a considerable period of time, and because of that, the characters in the game feel closer to each other. This feeling usually is even shared with the player because of the extensive real life hours the player has put into the game through this padding of lather rinse repeat gameplay.

JRPGS are founded upon character interaction. I noticed Linear RPG was missing a critical part of the JRPG experience, the party. Oh sure there was the love interest, or Tseret Nievol as she was cleverly called, but a JRPG isnít the same without a full party. The epic nature of the story of an RPG is meant to show that no one person is capable of tackling such a huge problem like the apocalypse alone. It is only through the power of friendship and all that Captain Planet MaíTi business that the main character ever makes it to the final boss. Lovers of JRPGS also desire to see a variety in what kind of people join the protagonist in his quest, and want to also feel like theyíre a part of such an incredible group.

Some of the best characters in RPGs havenít even been the main characters or even the ones most relevant to the plot. Itís been the minor party members that are simply there to provide a distraction from the main battle that have been the most endearing to fans. Cait Sith, Koromaru, Mog, and many other minor party members have been that special element that changes the partyís dynamic and made the group feel unique to that RPG, and not simply another Mage/Warrior/Thief combo. Without a rounded out party, there is no respite from the problems of the main characters, and no other people for the main character to talk their problems out with. It isn't even possible for the protagonist to handle all the different types of enemies out there without the specialized help of a well rounded cast.

JRPGS have choice, not in battle, or story, but in the methods used to prepare the party. Hereís where the Linear RPG comparison to real RPGs completely breaks down. Nowhere in Linear RPG did you have to stop and check to see if your materia was lined up right so that you wouldnít just be casting Fire on one guy, but the whole group. Nowhere in Linear RPG did you have to re-equip your weapons so that they werenít just the strongest, but the most effective against the particular enemy you were facing. Nowhere did you need to realize that the enemies werenít regular baddies, but Zombified, and you do best to throw some Phoenix Downs on them to insta-kill them. Equipment and Party management in RPGs are a small thing, but are really the one thing that is left mostly up to the player to figure out how to use the way they want to.

The variety of ways that JRPGS uniquely handle leveling up and party management is where the real strategy and playerĎs style shines through. If I were to take a look at one personĎs version of Khimari in Final Fantasy 10, he might not play anything like another personĎs through the nature of the sphere grid. The materia system of FF7 also makes it possible for player customization to create whatever kind of effects you would like for your characters to have in battle. Believe it or not, when I see my friends play RPGS, itís hard not to notice all the little differences that their choices have made in their playstyle.

Good JRPGS have strategy in battle if you do not grind all the damn time. But I will easily concede that if itĎs strategy that game designers want us to use, then they must design a better method of limiting or ending grinding. Many longtime JRPG players seem to fall into either 1 of 2 camps. They either love the grind and come back to the game after itís beaten to try and outgrind themselves, or they challenge themselves to beat the game with as little effort put into grinding as possible. I guess Iím of the second type.

Something I noticed myself doing in Persona 3 relates to this. I found myself getting into a pattern of racing to get to the tops of each segment of the tower that was unlocked without running into too many encounters, which I had learned to avoid extremely well if I wanted, and lock down the teleport that was available at the top. Then after exiting and saving, Iíd play the boss. Sometimes Iíd get my ass beat, and other times, I would hang in there. Iíd look for the patterns in the bossesí attack, seeing what weaknesses my party members would have to him, and work out a plan of attack. With my characters underleveled, each move was a matter of life and death. Iíd restore dead party members, only to have my party wiped out, try again, and the same thing would happen. Eventually Iíd give up and go back to leveling, but with a sweet spot in mind to level up to. You see, thereís a moment in those underpowered battles where youíve been able to weather the worst of the enemies attacks, your party has been brought back to acceptable health levels, and thereís this great sense that the battle is under control and you can see it out to the end if you donít screw anything else up. Itís kind of thrilling when it happens, but itís never there if you always have the advantage of higher levels.

I want to end this by saying that even though I only agree with about 3% of what Reverend Anthony believes, I almost always strongly respect his opinions because he backs them up well, and with great reasons. I feel like this was one of the most inflammatory things Iíve read about games, while also being the most well reasoned, and it made me want to respond back with my own well reasoned and explained love of JRPGS. I hope that this in turn garners some well reasoned and explained comments, but thatís up to you.

P.S. I personally love one personís comment on how to EXPLOIT the leveling system of Linear RPG, that was side splitting.   read

3:27 PM on 02.02.2009

Another "Ten things..."post. I know, this will stop at some point.

Well, I know the best time to do these blogs have passed, but I'm still doing this because it's almost a requirement at this point. When I came to the C-blogs last night and saw the state that they were in I was almost disapointed, because I really underestimated just how much quality you guys put into these things. But as I read them, I found out so much cool interesting stuff about everyone that I got the urge to do one myself.

1. My favorite author is Stephen King, and of his 40+ books, I love his 'Dark Tower' series the best. It was my obsession in high school, when he finally released the last of the books in the series. I was actually disapointed with most of the stuff in the final books, except for the ending, that was perfect to me. Roland of Gilead is one of the biggest badasses in fiction. If you claim to be a Tower Junkie like me, then let me know down in the comments, I love to hear from fellow fans.

2. I'm in a series of short films on youtube that my friends and I did. It's called Pipe Fighters, and in it we fight each other with pipes in alleyways using really fake superpowers, with a story thrown in there. It's about as terrible as it sounds, but it's hilarious for that, sort of like watching wrestling. Related to filming this, I have done some kind of illegal things, but the most hilarious one has to be the time the cops showed up as we were filming with me in a santa suit in front of the courthouse at night. Good Times, good times.
phony commercial advertising a lego set for pipe fighters. I'm the morbidly obese half black one.

3. As a child, when my used super nintendo refused to play any more games, I took it out back and bashed it to pieces with a hammer. I think I even did something similar with my nintendo. I'm not sure just how the retro fans are gonna take that, but my number 4 might be worse...

4. I hate the dreamcast. Maybe hate is too strong, I really dislike the whole concept of the dreamcast. At the time it was released, I thought it was really stupid because it had video memory cards that left gaping holes in the controller when they weren't there, and the cord attached to the controller from the bottom instead of the top. Never played any games on it, but at the time I thought it was retarded.

5. I've been tazered in the but-tocks. That's also on film.

6. My drive to draw and read are slowly dying, and that really makes me sad. In my teenage years, if I wasn't playing games, I was either reading, or drawing something I was reading about or playing. It's been a part of who I am for the longest time, but now that I'm getting older and 'mature', if that's actually possible, I haven't done much of either. It's something I really want to try and fix, but don't know how. I'll try and upload some of my earlier stuff on here at some point.

7. I've shot one of my friends directly in the eye with an automatic airsoft gun. We occasionally play games of airsoft at night, specifically a match where everyone hunts down my friend Blake because he's an excellent Sniper and will usually kill us before we kill him. One night, I was given an automatic to use when I'm normally stuck with the single shot cheaper guns. Somehow that kind of made me mad with power and I went hunting for Blake based on the sound he was making walking through the forest. Well, he made a noise trying to shoot at me, and I whip-turned and let off a half dozen shots in the direction of his sound. I thought he was playing a trick on me when he let out a scream but didn't come out from hiding.

8. I have several nicknames, but many many people know me as "Toby". It's a stupid and complicated yet simple story how I got that nickname.

9. I've owned 3 playstation 2's. The first was a refurbished one from gamestop that I ended up pulling off my dresser because I pulled my controller too fast. The second one is a story in it's own right because my friends pooled their money together and bought that one used online one year for Christmas. That one eventually succumbed to the Disk Read Errors. The third I recently bought refurbished at gamestop, but I got a warranty and it's been great this entire time, Knock On Wood.

10. Milk and Goldfish crackers are my lifeblood. I could live off of nothing but that for several days at a time.

Well, for anyone who took the time to read this, thank you!   read

5:51 PM on 01.31.2009

Playing With Others: Life Lessons Learned from Super Smash Bros. Melee

I know, who freaking releases their monthly musings article on the last possible day? Well, if you know me (and you probably donĎt), then you know I procrastinate like crazy, but thatís actually not the cause of this delay. This delay comes from my problem with not knowing how to tackle this monthís topic of playing with others. My mindís been trying to approach it from several different ways, but with failure every time. But hereís hoping I hit the nail on the head this time.

Super Smash Bros Melee was an obvious pick for the subject of multiplayer gaming for me because Iíve never gained as much experience in playing any other game, or learned so much from playing a game with other people. Iím not just talking about things Iíve learned about relating to how to play the game either, I mean Iíve learned freaking life lessons from this stuff. And I didnít even realize just how influential itís been in these recent years until just now.

Do you know the feeling of having a skill within yourself that you are so trained in that you have utter confidence in your ability to perform it well? Itís something that I had never truly felt until I gained it from playing Melee so much. You really canít get that satisfaction in yourself unless you have it tested against others regularly, and multiplayer games shines in that area. Itís kind of ridiculous to say that I have self confidence in myself because of video games, but I have seen the difference itís made in me after these years. I know that the confidence Iíve gained has given me the courage to try other things that are difficult for me, and has in effect, made me more of a sociable and well rounded person. In fact, I would probably still be a lurker on Destructoid instead of a contributing poster if melee hadnĎt instilled a greater sense of pride in my gaming ability.

Hanging out with friends, and sparring against your friends, whether it be in real life or virtually, are two different things. You can talk to your friends and gain close personal knowledge of who they really are, and still not know them at all the way you do if you were to face them in combat. That sounds like something youĎd hear Snake say in Metal Gear Solid, but IĎve found that itĎs true. Thereís a different sort of knowledge of your friendís mind thatís given to you when you have to guess their attacksí and their strategies against you. I know my friend Seth will always go after the guy who gets above 100 damage first, and makes sure to kill anyone who continues to try get back on the stage after almost dying. I know my friend Casey is much better at single combat and tries to stay out of the fray that a four player match creates, only to clean up against the last man standing. I know my friend Chris looks for opportunities to get into those same frays that Casey sometimes avoids just hoping to send everyone flying, but is also sometimes vengeful and will hunt you down for something you could have done to him.

These are little things, but they speak of deeper parts of their personalities. We know each other better for the quirks that we have in these melee matches than we have through half our conversations. And through all this continual sparring and fighting comes a great sense of brotherhood. We all have the mutual feeling that if one of us got challenged to a game, the rest of us would be there to back us up and root for us, then kick our ass if we lost. In effect, itís helped me to understand them and be closer friends with them, and that has also opened my eyes to see how important friends really are.

Playing with others has been such an important thing with me. I know that it must be the backbone of what all makes us feel united as a single group of gamers, and especially for this community at Destructoid. I really wish I could join you guys in Friday Night Fights, but I still have to use dialup, so itís a little out of the question. I could tell a million stories about all the matches my friends have had, I could even write lengthy descriptions of each of my friends and what itís like to play with them, but I think this was the best way to capture the whole effect of how great it has been to play Melee with my friends.   read

10:08 PM on 12.07.2008

Persona 3 makes me wanna JIZZ. IN. MY PANTS.


If you don't wanna read without pictures, just watch the video and go to bed. For those who came for Persona 3, continue.

I just needed an excuse to post that video, honestly. But sincerely, I am really very impressed and enamored by Persona 3. Me playing it all started with Dale North's review of Persona 4, which finally broke my long held stance that I wasn't missing out by not playing those games. Until I read it, I didn't know what everyone was going crazy about it for. But the next day, yesterday in fact, I found myself in the local Gamestop, and one of my old friends was working. He innocently asked if I was looking for anything specific, and that turned into a 10 minute long search by him to find the store's one remaining copy of Persona 3: FES. His determination to get that damned thing made me feel bad enough to kill any miserliness about my spending and so I took it home with me.

First of all, let me say, I haven't played very far into the game, maybe 10 hours at best, It's almost the full moon and I don't know what's going to happen, but this game has some personality to it. I use that word loosely because when I say personality, somebody could really take it to mean that it's too into itself, and 'why the hell did they have to make it so you shoot yourself in the head to summon your persona, it's just a gimmick', but they'd have to be retarded for even thinking that. When you peel away all the extra layers of style and gimmicky coolness that surrounds the game's youth oriented characters, it really has a living realistic world at work that draws you in. Things didn't entirely click for me until I was introduced to the daunting tower Tartarus, which is the only real dungeon to the game. Having to balance that and School/relationships is really one of my favorite experiences in video games this year.

After I passed that mark, I was constantly smiling to myself for lack of a better way to express how the game was growing on me. I would find myself saying such things as, 'man I really should go to bed early so I can feel better in school tomorrow' and, 'I hope she likes me, I hope she calls me before I go to bed tonight' and it be because I both cared about my character AND because it affected my battle stats. This is the exact manner of gameplay that I have dreamed about creating when I had fantasies of being a game creator. It doesn't even matter that I didn't get to do it my way, I'm still having a blast, and I'm feeling this way for doing stupid stuff that I've done in real life with dread and boredom! BRILLIANT!!

This was a last minute blog, so I apologize for the lack of pictures to keep your minds from wandering, but seriously I have to tell you, if you like RPGs, but think they're all the same, go play this one, I can't explain to you why, you just have to PLAY IT.

And JIZZ. IN. YOUR PANTS.   read

4:11 PM on 12.05.2008

Yippee Ki-yay Motherf- Oops, cannot say thatÖ

Destructoid has been an excellent place to get the news about games youíre interested in, and has opened my eyes to several great titles I would not have known about had I ignored this place. But nothingís perfect, and that means not even Destructoid can cover every upcoming promising game. Recently one series that seems to have slipped through the cracks has come to my attention. No one is talking about the gaming legend Matt Hazard! Never heard of him? Thatís funny, heís done a plethora of games, spanning back to the arcades in 1983 in The Adventure of Matt In Hazard Land, A Fistful of Hazard in the year of my birth 1987, and even the Japanese game Goonzilla versus Mega-Matt in 1993. Unfortunately, as the years have gone on, heís dropped off the radar of most gamers and has sunk to the level of many unfortunate mascots of yesteryear and is only seen in party games and the typical kart racer these days. Is none of this ringing a bell for you? Were you too young to have experienced the savagery of a Hazard game? Could it possibly be that your retro knowledge of old games is *dun-dun-dun* incomplete?!? Find out on the next installment of Destructoid Blog-C!

Seriously though, calm down, read on.

All of this and more information about Matt Hazard can be found out at this awesome site, a viral marketing ploy to create a sense of history for the new game Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, the true topic of this Blog. Iím really surprised that the first place I heard about this game was not destructoid, but my newest GameInformer. Surely someone should have found it interesting and latched on to this project, but mysteriously, I did some searching on the site and found almost nothing but the typical news blurb about it. Well, itís time to drop some knowledge on you folks, so hereís some info on this upcoming title.

The real hook of the game is that itís a hilarious parody of your typical action hero archetype in videogames, and of games in general. The story starts when Matt Hazard is contacted by his old publisher, Marathon Megasoft about reviving his career as a figurehead of videogame carnage, finding out only too late that itís a giant trap. As he makes his way through the typical meatpacking plant level, killing goons with his arsenal of guns and bad one liners, the fallen enemies are mysteriously re-coded into zombies from a previous game heís starred in. You see, the game heís supposed to be playing in now is being hacked by someone out to kill Matt using his old enemies. This leads to some really unique moments that I hope will be used fully to great extent.


The premise and script for this game were concocted by Dave Ellis, an award winning games writer previously known for writing the script for Dead Head Fred. Further giving the production of this game credit is the fact that the great Will Arnett from Arrested Development is doing the voice of Matt Hazard, giving him a gruff yet comedic over-serious tone. Also lined up to voice of Megasoft executive, Wally Wellesley, is Neil Patrick Harris, AKA Doogie Houser. Hearing Arnettís voice for Matt is great, and his delivery of some of the goofed up one-liners like the title of this blog are priceless. Check out some of the videos for your own appraisal of his work.


Ultimately though, this is a videogame weíre talking about here, so for all this hilarity and parody, gameplay has to work well for the game to be any good. There is very little known about Vicious Cycle Software, the developer of Matt Hazard, which is based in Chapel Hill NC, besides the fact that they did the previously mentioned Dead Head Fred. Up until now theyíve mostly done childrenís games, but nothing quite as ambitious as this current project. Videos for the game look like thereís an adequate cover system in place, and it uses the now commonplace third person perspective.


Itís hard to tell just how good or bad this game could end up being, but nonetheless, I think that this is a gamersí game, and people should be aware of it. So, what do you guys think?   read

1:37 PM on 12.01.2008

Why I am the most excited about the new Prince of Persia

This entire year has been a great one for gaming, despite what the outsider analysts would say because of the lack of name brand releases. Even the hounding recession that goes on nearly worldwide has done little to hurt the sales of games. Several acclaimed games have come and gone, from Little Big Planet to Gears 2 to Left4Dead. But throughout this year, besides my unavoidable obsession with MGS4, which I will never get to playÖ I have really only been looking forward to one game with true excitement and anticipation to see how it turns out. Thatís been Prince of Persia. Iím excited because I honestly donít know if itíll end up being a classic, or a forgotten promise.

This game is practically a series reboot due to the level of changes that they have made to it. The classic prince from the sands of time trilogy is gone. For that matter, the awesome time shifting abilities that came with the dagger of time are also removed. Heck, anything that you knew from the original series have been thrown out at this point. Except for the general theme of an acrobatic young Persian man in a similarly Persian styled location. This makes you wonder just what in the hell were the developers thinking on this one, because the last generationsí Prince games ranged from good action/platform games to excellently told genre defining platform games. They didnít really need to do anything but put out another chapter in the princeís story and people would buy it, and all would be the same from years previous. But they didnít do that, and that has me wondering, maybe even hoping, if they have a really excellent idea in store for us with this next game.

Talking about new aspects of the game, the female partners that the other games have only used minimally or with no relation to gameplay, have been replaced with Elika. From all the statements Iíve gathered, she has been made completely integral to each element of the game. Platforming can only be done through the help of Elikaís assisted jumps and magic. She deals magical damage that makes the enemies react differently. She moves the story along through interacting with her and removing the pestilence from the land in each area. And possibly most shocking of all, she destroys any need for a game over screen by saving the Prince from any deaths he could experience through falling down one of the games many infinite chasms. It sounds like you arenít simply playing as the prince but a combination of the prince and Elika, as if they were melded into one mind with two bodies with which to move around. This is a highly dangerous tactic by the developers, because teammates for you to worry about have hardly ever worked well in video games.

And yet, Ben Mattes, the producer seems to be so sure of how successful they were that he bet his job on Elika not being in the playersí way. I donít know just what was going on in his head when he said that, but that takes either impressive levels of idiocy or some huge balls. Interestingly, Elika wasnít described as a character for you to empathize with like Yorda in Ico, but is meant to elicit an experience closer to how you feel about a useful item in your inventory. Iím not so sure what to think of that comment. If thatís their goal, why even have all those actions be performed by a character, why not have those functions just go to some awesome weapon similar to the sands of time? Maybe they have plans to use these general good feelings that will likely be fostered by Elika being useful to their advantage in telling a heart wrenching story. Who knows. But what I do know it does is make me excited to find out how it will play out.

As if the introduction of a new partner to the game wasnít enough, theyíve also decided to drop a new style on the Persian flavored world in Prince of Persia. If other fans of the series were anything like me, when they found out they were a little bit perplexed, and even a bit more hesitant. I couldnít decide if something like that was necessary let alone whether I liked the style at first. However, after hearing their reasoning, I understand the need to differentiate the game from Ubisoftís brother title, ďAssassinís CreedĒ, which takes the route of realism. As for the art style, I think it best speaks for itself in the trailers. I wasnít able to get a grasp of what they were shooting for by simply looking at pictures of the game. I mean, sure it looks like an interactive fairy tale on paper, but thatĎs flat and unimpressive. But you donít get it through your head that you play this until you see it in motion. It all clicked for me when I saw this yearsí E3 trailer. It floored me with the song by Sigur Ros setting the mood and inviting me into an all too beautiful world for me to explore and traverse. The animation, something that I find to be key to how immersive a game is, for the most part looks like it does justice to the ridiculously-fluid-for-itís-time last gen Prince of Persia. I think simply watching this game will be satisfying in ways that other developers should take note of.

The element of the game that Iím most apprehensive about is actually the gameplay, the one thing that hasnít really faltered throughout the seriesí uneven progress. First of all, no dagger of time? eff-this! That sums up part of my beef with the gamesí new story direction. I loved the ability to go back and fix the last mistake you just made with the dagger, and Iím afraid that not having it is gonna really flare up any kind of irritation that the platforming or fighting got away with because you could undo it. It also means that if they try and compensate by giving you less fiendish puzzles to get through, we could end up seeing a very neutered version of the platforming that we all know and love with the series. The saving grace of this issue could be how well Elika is implemented, but itĎs hard to tell just how those chips will fall.

The other side of the equation though, fighting, has been handled differently with each iteration of the PoP games, yet it has always remained brutal and challenging. This time the developers have come up with a new philosophy for the fighting in this game, trying to make each encounter with Ahrimanís emissaries feel like the equivalent of a boss fight in other games. A noble pursuit, and one that made me sit up and take notice of how they were doing it. The team plans on limiting the number of enemies, and will try and break up the now tired back and forth of a sword fight with cinematic camera cuts, and a combo like system using a button for any action involving Elika, the princesĎ glove, and jumping each. In theory, it sounds like a cool idea, and one that would get rid of any need to learn combos, since youíre making them up as you go. But Nick Chesterís recent evaluation of the combat when he played a demo has me worried that it gets repetitive, and is too easy to win. If thatís how it remains in the final build, then a great deal of the gameís potential worth to hardcore fans has been lost.

Ultimately, Iím excited about this new Prince of Persia, because I see it as a chance for a new exhilarating adventure in a world that could only be realized in the space of a video game. Mind you, right now, itís just the hope of it being an exhilarating experience, but itís still got me pretty excited to see what kind of opinions it gets. I think with a game like this, the creative potential is huge, and therefore, even if itís not that great or is poorly executed, it is still worth talking about and even worth pondering what could have been.   read

1:01 PM on 11.27.2008

Taste: You got peanut butter in my video games? (Happy Thanksgiving)

Happy thanksgiving everybody! Iíve been wondering when was a good time to publish this blog, and Thanksgiving seems to be about the best opportunity to talk about food related video game interests. So as you sit down to the computer, relaxed and nicely engorged from the undoubtedly wonderful meal that youíve just had, lets do something really gluttonous, and talk about MORE food. For a long time, itís been recognized that great video game music can aid in remembering a moment from a game with great clarity. And of course, seeing a gameís classic characters or locations will also bring to mind what it was like to play it. But recently I have realized that there is another form of association in videogames which I have experienced. When I taste just the right foods, I immediately have memories of a time when I was playing a video game and consuming that same food. I donít know of many games or foods like that, but it sticks out in my mind as something unique and worth mentioning.

Back in high school, I had long hassle-free summer breaks between school years. Usually that gave me huge periods of time to play especially long games like RPGs. Itís really surprising that game companies donít take advantage of this and release more games over the summer for younger players who have the time to play them then. Anyways, one particular summer, I borrowed Grand Theft Auto: Vice City from a friend, maybe one or two years after it had been released. I took a whole month out of my summer to play that game and steal/blow up as many cars as I could get my hands on. In the real world, I was lazily lying around, playing this game and eating a new brand of party mix chips which had Dorritos, Cheetos, and Pretzels all in one bag that got you closer to a heart attack with each mouthful. Soon, that was my snack of choice while going on a rampage through the city. Eventually, I made my way through the story missions until it was time to take vengeance on my betraying buddy Lance. I took back my place as the Mafia kingpin of that city of vice, and ended my killing spree. Strangely, I lost my taste for the party mix, and went back to my regular combination of Goldfish Crackers and pretzel sticks. A couple months after that, I ended up buying those same party mix chips again, and found that as soon as I started noshing I was mentally back in Vice City, sexing up hookers and avoiding the po-po. It was almost as vivid as actually re-experiencing that one especially unproductive month that summer. I didnít realized how ingrained some of those moments in the game were in me until that happened.

Another clearly memorable game that is connected to a particular food is Jakk 3, which I played just last year. This time the food was freshly baked biscuits. I canít say why, but for the longest time, me and my brother have loved biscuits with butter and jelly on them. Around the time that I was playing through the early Haven city missions in Jakk 3, I happened to pick up some biscuits from the store and shared them with my family. It was really a good experience to have with everyone standing around the kitchen, waiting for the biscuits to turn that appetizing shade of golden brown, and talking or laughing while we ate them. We ended up doing this a couple more times because we liked it so much, and I would always go back to playing Jakk 3 when I had my belly full of that buttery baked goodness. Earlier this year, I was brought back to those times when I ate some more of those biscuits, and also recalled those treacherous missions in Jakk requiring you to gain ancientsí technology in the belly of long forgotten crypts and tombs. Iím glad Jakk 3 is tied to the taste of biscuits and family times, and hopefully Iíll remember them if I play it again, getting hungry for more biscuits.

But these are not the only examples that come to mind when gamers eat and play at the same time. Iím sure everyone has some game that they associate with eating pizza when sitting around the console with your buddies, passing around the controller, and trash talking all night long. It just goes with the territory when you have good friends who enjoy the same games as you. Pizza will be there, and it will be consumed while you play video games. For me, I think itís hard to call just which game most strongly sticks with the taste of pizza. I have to say that I did play a TON of Halo 2 and 3 at my friend Blakeís house, often when there was pizza in abundance, and with a mountain dew close by. But I also recall that with Super Smash Bros and even Tekken 5, pizza made itís way to the party. I guess pizza is too much of an all purpose gamer food for it to be connected to one specific game.

I think developers have only just begun to really explore how we not only interact with video games, but how they interact with us. Just imagine how much impact a game would have if you were so fully immersed in it that you could touch, taste, and smell, as well as hear and see the world that they have created for you to explore. To me, video games already create such strong impression, that the prospect almost frightens me with how deeply I would find myself immersed in virtual reality, when there is a nice one already provided for us. Anyways, I hope that was a interesting diversion for everyone who read this, and once again, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!   read

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