Blindfire 's blog
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Howdy, I go by Blindfire. Welcome to my blog on Destructoid.

I was a late bloomer when it comes to videogames. Growing up, my family has never been especially affluent, and we pretty much just didn't have the cash to throw down on Nintendo or Sega.

I didn't really play a lot of games outside of the occasional visits to family friends in Phoenix, where I got acquainted with classics like Sonic, Donkey Kong, and Mortal Kombat. I was awful at them but I didn't care, I knew then and there that I'd fallen in love with videogames. The next time I'd get to play videogames would be on a PC, home-built basically from scratch by my uncle and my mother. It was a piece of crap that housed everything I could cram onto it, from Doom to WarCraft II. It underwent several hardware mods as time went on, but eventually we moved on to pre-built equipment and haven't looked back since. Some of my fondest memories, though, are of starting up DOS and typing in the command string to start up Rise of the Triad. I still have a huge soft spot for RTS games, as WarCraft II was the first game I really understood all the mechanics of.

The PlayStation was my first console. It was a pastime for me more than anything, really. A handful of decent games that I played occasionally when I wasn't doing something else. It wasn't until Metal Gear Solid that I really started to grasp gaming as a kind of physical concept. Metal Gear Solid made gaming a tangible thing for me, and I still have a powerful love for that series to this day.

I didn't become a real gamer until around 2004. That year, my gaming collection grew exponentially for the PS2, and for my newly-acquired Xbox. I made so many discoveries about games and gaming that year that I literally can't quantify it; it was an epiphany that has led me to expanding my horizons and seeking every new game experience I can find.

These days I try to keep an open mind about games, and let anything surprise me.
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The 1911. Ol' Slabsides. The handgun almost everyone knows universally as "The .45", so much so that many don't know any other firearms chambered in .45 ACP. One of the most prolific, iconic firearms in the history of the United States of America. Along with that pedigree comes a lot of homages, imitations, and references in all sorts of media. Today I'm here to talk about why the 1911 was the first firearm I ever purchased, and some of the games I've played over the years that have featured this wondrous piece of American engineering, sometimes portrayed realistically, other times... less so.

I've always more or less been into firearms. I grew up and live in the American southwest, in Arizona. My state has always been defined by firearms and their use to tame the wild and spike the lawless. It's damn near impossible to grow up in the shadow of legends like Wyatt Earp and Tombstone without a healthy respect and more than a little bit of reverence for guns. My granddad was a fan of revolvers, and with the combination of Arizona's historical status as the "wild west" with the wheelgun and my granddad's influence, it should be no surprise that I'm a big revolver fan myself. In fact, nearly all of my trigger time up until I purchased my first handgun was on wheelguns. My 1911 was actually the first semi-automatic handgun I'd ever shot.

Speaking of firsts...

The first shooting game I ever played was Syphon Filter on the Playstation. At that time I didn't possess the skill to get very far; I never got further than the Washington Park without cheating. But I will always remember the sense of intense satisfaction I got from finally getting out of that flaming mess of a subway station and into the hedge rows of the Washington Park level. That's the first time in the game that you can acquire the ".45", and it was amazing.

Up until that point the pistol you are restricted to using is a silenced 9mm, which fires fast, but takes a minimum of 3 hits on unarmored enemies (without factoring in head shots). Once you pick up that .45, the game changes. Suddenly, up close, a single shot with that pistol will drop an unarmored enemy instantly, and that shot comes with a nice big "BLAM" to punctuate how powerful this handcannon is.

That was sort of how I felt when I first went to the range with my 1911. It was an experience I know I will never forget. Thankfully what I'd shot the most was .357 Magnums that my granddad reloaded with meticulous attention to detail and the same level of care he'd have used to tend to an infant. So when I slid the first loaded magazine into my 1911, racked the slide, alligned the sights on my target, and pressed the trigger I was pretty well prepared for the blast that came with it. But it was still my first .45, and my first semi-automatic, so the changes from shooting a revolver were distinct for me and that's probably what stuck with me the most in Syphon Filter and in my own experience. There was a change here, and it was distinct: what I'd shot before was undeniably capable and certainly lethal, but what I held in my hands that day had upped the ante considerably. I emptied the first magazine, slid in the second, and put another seven rounds into my target with a huge smile on my face. I consider the .357 Magnum to be one of the greatest, most capable cartridges ever created, but I couldn't fire 14 rounds of .357 Magnum in a matter of a handful of seconds. As my first semi-automatic, the 1911 opened my eyes to all new levels of capability lacking in my beloved revolver shooting.

Anybody who has played the Metal Gear Solid series knows that there's a love affair between Hideo Kojima and the .45 ACP cartridge. There's been a handgun chambered in .45 ACP in every Metal Gear Solid, and in some cases multiple handguns in that caliber are used. But there is no moment in Metal Gear history where that affection for the .45 is more clear than Big Boss's custom 1911 scene.

When EVA first hands Big Boss his shiny new 1911, he just about loses it, and I know exactly how he feels. (Wanted to find the scene where this happens, but I couldn't get an isolated clip of it, so here's the CODEC on it instead):

The 1911 in Metal Gear Solid 3 isn't the powerhouse of Syphon Filter, however. It's a more realistic portrayal of what a handgun should be in combat: reliable, portable, more effective than nothing, but nevertheless pales in comparrison to shoulder-fired weapons. Metal Gear Solid 3's portrayal of the 1911 is probably the one of the best in gaming, highlighting some of the history and the custom options, without taking its capabilities up to mythical proportions. Inaccurate shots with the 1911 in Metal Gear Solid 3 yield poor incapacitation, making accuracy the key without relying solely on an unrealistic portrayal of stopping power.

The 1911 love in this series continues on into Metal Gear Solid 4, with Old Snake's Springfield Armory Operator, and again it's portrayed with a fair degree of realism, without the silly fanfare of the .45 ACP's mythic capabilities of knocking grown men down with one shot. Snake approaches his own 1911 with less of Big Boss's reverence, though he makes good use of the Operator throughout the campaign.

My 1911 doesn't have a whole lot of bells and whistles on it. I bought something a little more standard, a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec (stock photo at the start of this article), lacking in about 99% of the modifications/changes Big Boss goes on about here (and about 70% of the stuff in Old Snake's Operator). Nonetheless, there's something about a 1911 when you put it up against other handguns. The second handgun I ever bought was a Glock 21 (Glock's pistol for the .45 ACP enthusiast). When I stack the two up side by side, there's just something special about my 1911 I can't quite describe. I love my Glock, and I carry it, but it doesn't quite have what my 1911 does; some inexplicable little sense of identity. Or perhaps it's just my connection to guns and american history that makes the 1911 feel different for me, but it just feels like there's a soul there that more modern designs haven't had the time to develop.

If there's a game out there that has a soul, it's probably Resident Evil 4. This game remains one of the most impressive transformations any longstanding series has ever undergone. It completely reinvented the Resident Evil series and took it somewhere entirely new for that series, with nothing short of spectacular results.

The Resident Evil series trends strongly toward the use of 9mm handguns. Essentially every main Resident Evil game's protagonist has carried a 9mm handgun, perhaps most notably the Samurai Edge custom Beretta M9s used by the STARS members. Leon Kennedy's primary handgun in every Resident Evil he's been featured may have been a 9mm, but he's the only main Resident Evil protagonist I know of that's ever had access to a 1911. And Goddamn, it was a good one.

The Killer7 Magnum in Resident Evil is probably my favorite Magnum in any game of the series. A double-reference to the game Killer7 as well as a bit of an homage to the 1911 wielded by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Terminator, this gun is just dripping with badass and campy cheese.

The moment Leon picks it up and you equip it for the first time, you know you're in for a good time. Everything about this gun in Resident Evil 4 is gold, from the shooting animations that make Leon look like a weak little pipsqueak of a man to anyone who's ever shot a .45 (my wife manages that cartridge better than he does!), to the crisp and clean reload animations and the utterly indescribabe destructive force it represents. Is it even vaguely realistic in its portrayal? Not even close. But picking it up and firing it reminded me of Syphon Filter and a dozen other games where realism takes the backseat to fun which, in my opinion, it damn well ought to most of the time.

When it comes down to it, that was probably the main factor in my decision to buy a 1911 as my first handgun: fun. I bought it to take it to the range and reconnect with my love of shooting after my granddad passed away. Prior to that purchase, I'd never shot at a range without my granddad or my brother, and after he passed I swore I'd not step onto a range until I'd bought something that belonged to me. It seemed wrong to me to take any of his guns out of storage or shoot his ammo until I'd taken that step for myself, demonstrated my sufficiency and my capability to survive and provide, and add to the family collection. It was a choice I made to show myself that I was still here, and moving on with my life. And furthermore, taking responsibility for that life I intended to live. When I made that choice I knew in my heart that first gun would have to be something special, something precious to me that would be with me for the rest of my life, much like my memories of packing up the lever- and bolt-action rifles, the sixguns, and going to the range with my granddad.

So, with all that said, what are some of your favorite firearms in videogames? Do you prefer realism to cheesy action, or vice-versa? Have videogames ever had impacts on your own firearms choices, or ones you'd like to own?








Blindfire
12:32 PM on 12.23.2014

While everyone is working on and debating their Game of the Year choices for 2014, I'm going to be turning the dial back a couple notches and looking back. Partly because I didn't write a single blog in 2012, and partly because of my New Year's Resolution. My goal this coming year is to identify some key factors in games I enjoy and continue to play long after I've beaten them, and use what I find to narrow down my game purchases. In keeping with that general theme, I welcome you to Hat Trick, a blog series where I'm going to be examining a year of game releases and purchases, and identifying three games from that year that I'm still playing today, or I'm still captivated by the original experience of playing them.

2012 was an interesting year for me as far as gaming goes. I played one or two of the "Game of the Year" titles in 2012, but frankly the games that have stuck with me the longest weren't on that list or anywhere near it.

No. 1:

I'm just gonna say what everyone is thinking (or should be thinking): "Mech suits are awesome."

Armored Core V gets on this list because, frankly, the time I put into that game was worth three or four times what I paid for it. The sheer volume of entertainment I got out of Armored Core V is hard to quantify, but why did it capture me so? Was it purely mech suits smashing eachother to bits? Autocannons the size of school busses? The endless possibilities of dick/ass jokes inherent in a rudimentary version of MS Paint?

Armored Core V was a landmark of the series in many ways, but perhaps more than anything else, the shift into a team-based multiplayer arena shook up the Armored Core formula and took it somewhere new and interesting. Along with that shift came something of a return to form in the gameplay, by dialing back the breakneck speed and flight mechanics present in its predecessor, Armored Core 4. Armored Core V also changed up some of the series traditional customization and building, and allowed for the placement of custom emblems physically on the parts making up the AC, giving the player the opportunity to truly visually design their personal walking death tank in an entirely new way. The end result of all these changes was mechanical magic.

I spent more time than I really care to think about fine tuning everything about my AC, and everything from the booster, generator, weapons choices, to the very last decal I put together and carefully placed on it, had a purpose. It took almost six months of tinkering before I was able to really create exactly what I wanted, and then another three weeks to design logos and emblems to compliment what my design turned out to be. It was an unweildly and difficult to use hunk of battle steel, with a weapon selection that wasn't terribly effective, but I loved everything about that damn AC. Even today, I'll boot up Armored Core V (or its follow-on expansion, Verdict Day), just to look at the end result of all that tinkering and testing.

Looking back, I think the reason Armored Core V captured so much of my attention and my time had a lot to do with the visual design of the game. The shift from AC4's lightning fast, sleek designs back to something more like a walking tank appeals to me on an aesthetic level, and the sense of weight returning to the series was something I greatly appreciated. Beyond that, Armored Core V provided almost unprecidented levels of customization even for an Armored Core game, and once I dug into that, there was no turning back. A trend I find in many games I play long after I've beaten them is customization, and I've come to value the trend in modern games to allow the player to really create something unique of their own to utilize in the game's environment.

No. 2

I feel like Dragon's Dogma is a game a lot of folks forget about. It was a title loaded with style, epic fights, interesting mechanics, and a decidedly odd take on the cooperative experience.

My love affair with Dragon's Dogma began with the demo, where I was screwing around in the character creator prior to the game's release (my love of customization strikes again), when I crafted a character that would transcend Dragon's Dogma and find an iteration in almost every RPG I played from that day forward: Jack Danger. Battle Ranger.

The concept for Jack was pretty straitforward. Jack is sort of a Don Quixote analogue; not the true hero of our story, but a man who is utterly convinced he is the savior of the world and must meet the challenges set before him with zeal and courage, and almost no sense of self preservation. Because those are not windmills, those are giants and chimaeras and dragons. Oh, and goblins, Arisen. So many goblins. Jack's pawns were actually real adventurers who chose to look after him in his mad quest to save the world, whom he steadfastly ignored/misinterpreted, as "pawns" are all a figment of his overactive imagination.

While I was playing Dragon's Dogma, I shared certain events that happened with friends and family in the form of Jack Danger's Adventure Journal, Jack's recounting of events which were worth discussing. The most memorable of which I'll share here:

We have word that there are a group of bandits hiding out at the ruins of a watchtower up the mountain path. Alice (Alice was Jack's main pawn, actually an old friend from his village trying desperately to keep him out of trouble) thinks we should leave them be, but there will be no raiding of honest commerce on Jack Danger's watch!

Arrived at the ruins. They appear to have either tamed a cyclops, or they have one man who is the biggest, ugliest gentleman I have ever laid eyes on. If it is a man, I wonder what they fed him to do that. And where I can get some that won't make me look quite that ugly.

First attempt was less than successful. We did learn that it was a cyclops and not a man, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. The battle was going well, with the bandits dispatched by my extremely talented hands from a distance, though it was difficult with Hector (My brother's pawn; he killed Death once) carving them up like Christmas hams. We were able to set about half of the cyclops on fire with some oil and a bit of fire magic, but then it punched me off the cliff.

Alice seemed mildly upset while I was falling. I don't blame her, if I'd been in her position, I would have expected me to die as well, and a world without Jack Danger is no world I'd want to live in. But she forgot the little trinket I spent all of our grocery money on the last time we were in Gran Soren. "That's worthless," she said. "We need bread and meat, and you buy a yellow stone from a man who specializes in forgeries?" Well, once again, Jack Danger is right, and she is wrong, for when I finally struck the ground, my "worthless little forgery trinket" shattered and all was well in Jack Danger's body. I admit, feeling my ribs and spine re-assemble was a little disconcerting, but everything seems to be back where it was supposed to go.

To celebrate my survival, Hector jumped off the cliff to assist me with (save Jack's life from) the chimaera I landed next to. Tomorrow, we'll see about that cyclops. I need to go sleep off a death hangover.

Stories like that are what made Dragon's Dogma such a wonderful game for me. I have so many memories of the adventures of Jack Danger, Alice and Hector that it's still a surprise to me that I haven't spent even more time with Dragon's Dogma than I already have. Jack Danger, Battle Ranger, has since made appearances in Skyrim, FFXIV, Dark Souls, and just about anything else I can wedge him into. He remains insufferably sure of himself, and on occasion still gets punched off of cliffs.

No. 3

The most surprising of my Hat Trick for 2012, Mark of the Ninja came completely out of nowhere as one of the most memorable side-scrolling experiences I've ever played.

I still remember with remarkable clarity the exact thought I had when I bought it and downloaded it: "How are they going to do a stealth side-scroller?" Several hours later, when I'd finished the story and sat back with a sense of intense satisfaction, I knew I'd just finished something truly special and unique. And promptly went back to play it all over again, varying up my playstyle from mission to mission with every combination of ninja outfit and equipment I could imagine, and no matter what selection I used, it all pretty much worked and worked well.

Since then, I've gone back and played it over again several more times and each time I come away impressed by what this little title brings to the table. Like the other two games on my Hat Trick 2012 list, Mark of the Ninja has customization, but it's a game which focuses almost exclusively on making the gameplay itself adaptable. The player decides how, and the game offers every opportunity it can find to grant the player their own unique experience. It was a unique and sublime experience that I will remember as long as I can, and continue to play as long as I have access to it.

Even more impressive is that, despite its meager price tag and short story, I still consider it to be one of the most fully realized games I've ever played. The emphasis on gameplay is what really cements this title in this list, and is a reminder for me that while a so-called "Triple-A" title may have a bigger budget to throw around, what makes a game good is the underlying philosophy of its design team, and how well that team can bring the ideas in their heads out into a functional, playable, fun experience. It's well worth it to remember going into 2014 that some of the best games being made aren't necessarily coming from major studios or development companies, and some of the best ideas won't come with a $60 price tag on them.

 

So, that's Hat Trick 2012 all wrapped up. You've seen mine, now show me yours: tell me three games from any year that put a major mark on your library, and if you don't have enough space to do it in a comment box, write up a blog with Hat Trick in the title and link it in the comment section.








Blindfire
2:45 AM on 12.19.2014

Do you... see what I did there?

 

That was terrible and I should apologize. I won't, but I should.

So, hello again Destructoid. It's been a long time. Like, 3 years long. An amazing amount of shit can happen in three years. I'll hit the high points:

I lost my computer. I lost my grandfather. My girlfriend and I started living together. I went from being an unemployed college student to working out of the food and beverage department at a major resort. We got two cats. I got a driver's license. I got a truck. I joined the next gen. I started what I hope will be a magnificently expensive (and extensive) firearm collection. I discovered a love (nay, obsession) for a wonderful concoction called "bourbon", though I admit I liked it before, I just got enough money to really try some good stuff. I went from food and beverage to security at the same resort, which is now what I do for a living (a wonderfully colorful job which has some... interesting stories). The girlfriend is now my wife. Our wedding colors were Renegade/Paragon and everybody who was in on the selection had to wear their Shepard's respective color (I was the only Renegade. Someday I will convince one of them to convert). Somewhere in all of that I found little snippets of time to play videogames.

So that's my last three years in a horribly insignificant sounding little paragraph which does not even remotely describe the actual impact of any of those things. (Also, I like parenthesis!)

Now we come to why I'm back despite having less time than ever to indulge in videogames, which have been a vital part of me for about as long as I'd care to remember.

Like the last three years, there's a lot behind these words, but here's the simple version:

I missed it. I missed Destructoid, I missed games, I missed community, and maybe more than anything else I think I missed writing on a regular basis. So I suppose I'm back for selfish reasons and I'm hoping that wherever Destructoid has gone in the last three years, and whomever makes up the rank and file these days, will enjoy my rambling, babbling, two parts esoteric vocabulary one part obnoxious videogame snob three parts wikipedia blogging style. I'm also hoping to see some old faces, I'm sure there's some still around writing up a storm. No doubt I've got a lot of catching up to do, which brings me to my next paragraph.

I've got a New Years' Resolution and it runs a little bit counter-intuitive, but hear me out. I want to play less games next year. Now, don't get me wrong, I played some really amazing games this past year, and I wouldn't trade a moment of those experiences for all the gold in Fort Knox, but I also wasted an abysmal amount of money on games I frankly knew I wasn't going to play, knew I wasn't going to like, but I picked them up because, hey, I wanted to try to keep up with the industry and what was goin' on that week. Then, as my collection grew, I started to find myself wondering what the point was. Why did I buy so many games that I didn't even have the time or the interest in? I didn't have an answer. I still don't, but what I did discover is, I want more out of my games than I got this past year.

So the goal of this blog of mine, for the great year of two thousand and fifteen, is to buy fewer games, and take a lot harder look at what I enjoy, and what I want out of a game. And while I could definitely make that journey of self-discovery entirely on my own, I think I'd like to share it with an audience. You know, for fun and also possibly to have a teeming mass of unforgiving people who don't know me well enough to feel bad when they smack me back into line should I start dropping into bad old habits. While I'm at it, I also want to showcase some of the other things I intend to do with that surplus of money I won't be spending, though I'm going to do my best to link those things and experiences to videogames in some meaningful way.

That's pretty much it. Uh... anybody want to bring me up to speed on the last three years for Destructoid?









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So, I finally got my copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I pre-ordered the Augmented Edition from GameStop for the art book and the special features disk; I love little things like that which give you an insight into game design. It's fascinating for me to get an idea of how a game is formulated, how each element in the mixture comes together harmoniously into a whole. There are some little things in that design that I want to talk about, but we'll get into the nitty-gritty of that in a moment.

It took me three days for my first playthrough, with around 8 to 10 hours logged each day back-to-back, and probably around 15 to 20 on the final day. It's just one of those games that is impossible to put down once you begin. Like a great novel that keeps you up half the night always dying to see what's on the next page. My time with the game was always tense, with each next step toward the finish line revealing dozens of different ways to approach each goal. I'm now a few hours into the game on the Give Me Deus Ex difficulty, and there literally hasn't been a single thing I've done the same yet. The level of work put into the options given to you as a player is just staggering compared to most games on the market. I love this more than anything about Deus Ex: Human Revolution: it's a game which is first and foremost about the gameplay.

That's not to say that the story isn't present in everything the game throws at you as well. Nearly every nook and cranny of the game seems to have been carefully formulated, nurtured, and selected to serve the greater narrative. Which is excellent in its own right, especially insofar as the game's propensity for taking the bulk of that narrative out of cutscenes and into the game world, making it present if you want it and unobtrusive if you don't. The story provides a framework for the superb gameplay without getting in the way of it. It's a subtle touch that's lost on a lot of games. You can see the opposite effect in games like Final Fantasy XIII, where the story is overwhelming and propagates itself into the gameplay rather than creating a web which supports the game. One of the most difficult things about game design is the marriage of gameplay and story into something coherent and enjoyable for the player. Some games get it wrong. Some games get it right. Some games split the difference. Deus Ex: Human Revolution generally gets it more right than wrong, but it's the wrong part that I really want to talk about today.

The only real bone I have to pick with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, is Adam Jensen, and in a greater sense the trend in certain games to leave a character's motivations and intentions open ended.

My problem is this: in a game that is as story dependent as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it is nearly impossible to execute a Multiple Choice Protagonist properly. What is a Multiple Choice Protagonist, you ask? It's pretty simple: any time a character is written in such a way as to leave their motivations and methods up to the player, you have a Multiple Choice Protagonist. The idea being to give the player the ability to formulate their own interpretation of the character in question rather than having the writer pre-define it for the player. In a deep and rich story driven environment this presents problems because the story of the game must be written in such a way that any individual player's interpretation of the character and their choices must be accounted for somewhere in the narrative.

Some games are entirely based around this phenomena. inFAMOUS did a pretty good job with the concept, but it sidestepped the actual part where the player gets to form their own interpretations of Cole. inFAMOUS at its core was just two stories, and depending on which route you took you got one story or the other. Other games which give the player the ability to define their protagonist include The Witcher, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II and Mass Effect. All of these games are narrative frameworks which are built from the ground up around a player's choice in the narrative. Some elements of the story are out of the player's reach, but in their interaction with the story through their character they are able to define the motive and method of the protagonist. Unfortunately, they all share the same troubles I'm about to point out in the portrayal of Adam Jensen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Adam Jensen is purposefully played as close to blank as possible in order to facilitate the Multiple Choice Protagonist phenomenon. He isn't completely devoid of personality, though. He retains a slight sense of humor, and an intense amount of anger and drive. There are even moments when this invisible badass/walking arsenal is vulnerable in surprisingly human ways. It's quite pleasant to watch and find a new facet to him you hadn't seen or noticed before. Furthermore, the dialogue options which you have to choose from are varied and each one seems plausible as a response from your custom-tuned security chief. They remain individual enough for you to choose from them, seeking to define Adam as you want him to be, while never quite stepping outside the boundaries of who he is within the greater story of the game.

The problem only creeps into view as you get deeper into the game and you begin to pick up strange, counter-intuitive vibes from Jensen as he converses with other characters. As Jensen's vested emotional interest in the story grows, his interaction with other characters likewise becomes more volatile and direct. This leads to the inevitable problem of the Multiple Choice Protagonist, in which the character you play appears to become almost bipolar and flip-flops between all the defined roles and ideologies at the player's disposal. Despite all that the player has built upon the framework of Jensen, through learning more about him and simultaneously defining him by actions and dialogue choices, when the emotion finally starts coming out that illusion of the player-defined Jensen melts away and utterly shatters immersion.

Jensen angrily questions ideals which the player may have previously had Jensen accept with the absolute certainty of faith. He gives thought to ideas that the player may have stringently avoided, and their perceived version of Jensen would never even consider. It becomes impossible to track your Jensen through to the end of the game; he gets lost somewhere in all the jockeying to satisfy everyone's version.

I like risks and new things in games. I think it keeps them fresh, exciting, and interesting. Deus Ex: Human Revolution followed in the footsteps of a lot of games which seek to provide the player with as much choice as humanly (or inhumanly) possible, chief among these influences being the original Deus Ex. It takes some exciting steps in the writing department; when Jensen is not being played in such a way as to seem to be the polar opposite of the vision you have of him, he can be one of the most surprisingly intuitive Multiple Choice Protagonists I have ever played, and much of that satisfaction is thanks to some absolutely stellar writing and acting. Even so, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is unable to avoid one of the biggest pitfalls of the Multiple Choice Protagonist route, namely that when the character is presented with multiple options, he must be played in such a way that leaves him disgusted and simultaneously compelled by all of them in order to justify all possible decisions at the player's disposal.

This problem is something Deus Ex: Human Revolution very nearly avoided aside from a few very particular conversations and scenes. Unfortunately for everyone who gets pulled into the tale of Adam Jensen there will inevitably be a moment which breaks their immersion in the world and the character. All it takes is a receptive stance on the wrong side of an issue, emphasis and tone in a strange place, or some other subtle conversational cue. This game, and Adam Jensen in particular, came about as close to perfectly playing the part of the Multiple Choice Protagonist as any other game I've played which features the phenomena. It's just a pity that it eventually, perhaps inevitably, drops that carefully and immaculately maintained ball.








I know, I've been away for awhile. Longer than I'd have liked, but I haven't been able to muster the urge to write more than a few lines in comments lately. Today, though, I think I want to sit down and talk about what's been going on in my life lately, and how it relates to my gaming experience.

Recently I underwent cataract surgery, and I know what you're thinking. "24 years old and you have cataracts bad enough to warrant surgery? Isn't that something old people get?" Well, yeah, it is. My doctor tells me it's an occasional side effect, though, for people who undergo medical treatment for asthma at an early age due to the steroids in the medications. My lungs work great now, but my eyes? Not so hot.

I've actually been having trouble with it for the past few years. Due to multiple complications any kind of treatment had to be put off until I was able to either afford insurance on my own or get back onto my father's company insurance. Couldn't afford it on my own, job market was terrible. Couldn't get back on my father's insurance, we didn't have money to send me back to school to finish up my term. So any attempt to combat or treat the problem had to wait for awhile. Then awhile longer. Then awhile longer than that. I'd grown surprisingly proficient despite essentially being blind in one eye, but there are certain activities (in particular, driving, a necessity, and shooting, a hobby) I had to habitually avoid.

The issues with the cataracts were exacerbated by sunlight, so I gradually began to spend more and more time indoors, and countered with very dark sunglasses for being out and about. Thankfully the problems I was having were not nearly as bad with things like screens or televisions, though they still proved to be difficult from time to time. It made it a lot easier to function through that period where nothing could really be done for my eyes.

After the revised Health Care bill went through Congress, which extended the time dependents could be placed on a parent's insurance, it was finally time to get down to business. One visit to an ophthalmologist, and I was set for my surgery the very next day. 24 hours between me and clear vision in one eye.

I don't have a problem telling you, I was fucking terrified. The laundry list of shit that could go wrong coupled with the already debilitating effects of the cataract in that eye and the knowledge that recovery would mean wrapping my brain around an entirely new way of seeing compared to the adaptations I had made to the cataracts being present, it was all pretty difficult to take in. No matter what nightmare scenario actually happened when I was under the knife, though, nothing could be worse than the actual blindness I was experiencing and the havoc it was wreaking when my brain tried to mesh the conflicting images from both eyes in my head. It was necessary. It never ceases to amaze me what human beings are capable of when something is necessary.

The surgery itself was a pants-wetting experience mainly because it's a personal nightmare to have my eyes messed with in any way, shape or form. Near as I can tell this stems from an experience I had as a kid where another boy threw sand at me and it got into both my eyes. Trying to blink it out caused it to get under the lids and I could feel it scraping against my eyeballs. Ever since then, anything about the eyes bothers me and I tend to tear up very easily even in empathetic situations, like seeing a person on TV in a dust storm. Most likely psychosomatic but it's still there and still irritating as all Hell. Once they had me drugged up I calmed down a bit, but not quite all the way down. Memory gets a little fuzzy there, though.

Post-surgery they taped an eyepatch to my face and sent me on my way for another day. A day of itching, irritation, and general fear, wondering if things would work properly when all was said and done. All is said and done now, and things worked... pretty good. Adjusting is difficult. My left eye is now essentially permanently set at a certain range, about arms' length. It was supposed to be closer but the astigmatism in the eye caused a very slight misalignment with the artificial lens they gave me. The strangest thing about it is, I can't focus on things with that eye any more. (This isn't a complication, it's just the nature of the artificial lens, it doesn't focus.) It's like looking through binoculars that you can't adjust. Surprisingly frustrating.

My doctor says it's going to be difficult adjusting to having the "vision of a 65 year old man," and I have to say I agree at this point. It's a very strange experience overall. For the rest of my life, one part of me will always be synthetic. There will likely be more as I go on, but 24 is kind of a young age for that kind of initiation and it's still very weird.

So far it's had a somewhat negative impact on my ability to game. I have to be sitting at just the right distance in order to make out subtitles, which makes any story-based game more difficult to follow. The same trouble has cropped up in shooting games, having trouble discerning what's what, particularly friend or foe. As a result I've been playing a lot of fighting games, where things tend to be a bit more straightforward even when they're blurry. Thankfully this will be rectified as soon as I'm able to get my new prescriptions written for glasses, which I'll have to wear the rest of my life. It's still weird wrapping my brain around that idea, too.

Now at this point you might be wondering to yourself, "What the fuck does any of this have to do with Deus Ex?" The answer is simple. When I started thinking about the unexpected necessity of having something in my body replaced in order to function, I felt a strange sort of kinship with the new Deus Ex: Human Revolution protagonist. I came to the conclusion that I might actually enjoy having that unique thing in common with a character, and began to wonder how many little traits and experiences in our lives provide us with those personal connections to things, whether they be fictional or otherwise.

So, now that I've shared one little idiosyncratic connection my life has, I'd like to hear about how all you other D-Toiders relate to and find common ground with characters in the medium. What little things do you have in common with, or seek out in game personalities? Who do you feel the most common ground with among the casts of your favorite games? Share in the comments!










Two years ago today I wrote and posted my first blog on Destructoid. I'd been wondering after two years here on the C-Blog circuit what I could do to adequately commemorate this "blog birthday". Then it hit me. Two years. Two years. TWO YEARS! Two years' worth of material ripe for the picking on this subject. So here I am, two years later, two years wiser, and with a whole new slew of games to dissect with entirely new connotations of genre generalization, both good and bad.

For those of you who didn't read the original blog, and don't want to bother reading it now, genre generalization is my term for what happens when a game tries to mix, connect, or combine two different archetypes of game design and fails. In practical terms, we're talking about games like Mass Effect, which pushes together third person shooting mechanics with RPG design but doesn't deliver on either front. Just so we're clear: I'm not saying that this leads explicitly to bad games, though that does happen, just that it tends to result in a watered down experience of the two extremes. Mass Effect is good, but lacks the punch of a meaty, satisfying shooter. Likewise, it misses the mark on a truly deep character building experience of an RPG. This mixing of two extremes produces something unique, but lacking in really developed gameplay.

I think genre generalization is where the industry as a whole is headed. Every individual person has a distinct and unique appetite for everything, from food to colors to games. Mixing and matching game design philosophies allows game companies to capture larger demographics and get deeper market penetration by appealing to a wider audience with a variety of features. And with that definition over with, let's start digging into the guts of these games to get a better idea of what I'm talking about in practice.

The Good



Valkyria Chronicles is a poster child for what can go right when you mix genres. Welding together turn-based RPG style, real time consequences, rapidly shifting and dynamic objectives requiring teamwork between your units and careful management of your command points, this game creates a unique environment and an extremely satisfying mix of RTS and RPG mechanics. The main thing to take away from Valkyria Chronicles' success is that it actually uses its root genres to make something new and exciting. Valkyria Chronicles isn't a victim of genre generalization because its mix is used to produce something unique; it doesn't try to be both an RPG and an RTS at once.



One word. Well, two, actually. Borderlands. This game is a kind of polarizing lightning in a bottle; I only ever see pure love or pure hate for it. Personally I like the idea more than I like it in practice but that alone isn't reason enough to slide it off the good example list. Borderlands blends first person shooting, good level up and skill mechanics, an amazing loot system, and reasonably satisfying co-op.

Borderlands, more than anything else, manages to dip its fingers into the RPG world and draw influence from completely unexpected sources. Leaning more toward Diablo style mechanics, by focusing on loot drops and dungeons, Borderlands connects two very different genres and styles. The most surprising thing about it is, Borderlands does it successfully. Well-managed shooting, huge variety in loot drops (with each new weapon opening up potentially new gameplay styles and questions to the player), all sewn up with a slick but rough sense of humor.

It's not the deepest shooter, and it's far from the deepest RPG, but Borderlands manages to not cock up the mixture and produce something sub-par; it's more than I can say for a lot of games which try to blend genres and create a big ol' mess o' slop, which brings me to...

The Bad

Brutal Legend. Sort of the opposite of Valkyria Chronicles, Brutal Legend never quite tells you that you're signing up for an RTS and not a brawler, and it's a painfully shallow RTS at that. This is a case of two genres slapped together to carry an idea, and it just doesn't get the job done. Not a bad game, but the gameplay on both fronts is generic and uninspired. The world is great, but the game itself is just lacking something more developed and satisfying.

Hunted: The Demon's Forge isn't what I would call your attention to if I wanted you to play a good shooter. Or a good RPG. It's a ballsy title that tries to mix cover based shooting mechanics with hack & slash gameplay and dungeon crawling, and only the dungeon crawling aspect actually provides any kind of satisfaction. The cover system is haphazard, the aiming is sluggish, the melee is slow and lacks depth, and the puzzles are mostly of the "get this thing, bring it here" variety.



Brink is... complicated. It tries to blend more than two genres, and sort of gets one of the four right. It's a shooter, mixed with an RPG. It also tries to mix singleplayer and multiplayer, which goes pretty poorly overall. So much so that most reviewers and most people who've played the game consider it essentially just a multiplayer shooter. What's more, it's a multiplayer shooter that was inspired and influenced by games which normally don't get talked about or looked at very often. Blending the first-person-platforming style proposed by Mirror's Edge, the extremely tight class-based team mayhem on display in Team Fortress 2, all curled up around the objective style of Enemy Territory. And it also borrows heavily from RPG concepts; there's a progression system with levels, powers, and abilities, all of which are obtained by earning experience points for performing a variety of tasks, such as missions, slaying enemies, and assisting teammates.

The problem isn't that games like Brink, Brutal Legend, and Hunted: The Demon's Forge try to branch out and appeal to a wider audience. The problem is that they generally do it very badly. Brink is a pretty good example of this because it misses the mark on most of the things it stuck in the mixing bowl.

The platforming is sketchy and loose, and being tied completely to one button basically makes their fancy parkour system a glorified sprint button. Hold sprint to jump over obstacles in your way, hold sprint to run on walls, hold sprint to sprint, so on and so on. It takes out almost all of the sense of actively maneuvering through a space, replacing it with a "hold this down to get to your objective faster" button. Likewise, the shooting leaves a lot to be desired for me personally by removing the additional damage of things like headshots; Team Fortress 2 does a similar thing, but retains it for certain classes and weapons, and it bothers me there, too. Both games, to different degrees, lack a certain incentive for players to step up their game. Finally, the progression and character building is satisfying but swift and when it's over a lot of the game's previous momentum seems lost. When you're no longer playing for the next level you're just playing Brink, and that alone seems surprisingly unsatisfying.

Even riddled with all these problems, these games still manage to be a passable experience. Muddy and unpredictable, but still pleasant to play if you get a taste for it. They're not explicitly broken games. This is genre generalization in action; a mediocre product that's dime-a-dozen and forgettable trying to do so many things at once that nothing ever gets the love and attention it needs to develop into something truly amazing.

Threading the Needle

Every now and then there is a game which manages to do something incredible. There are very few of these, I consider them to be the most impressive productions of the game world. These are games which manage to completely retain their original genre, in an entirely new medium or fashion. This is not genre generalization; genre generalization is a strait up mix of two genres in almost equal measure, which damages the depth or the playability of the final product. These games don't mix genres, they somehow manage to thread the needle and produce an experience which does not truly hamper or inhibit either influence. This is a very small pool of games, but there is one that I think almost anyone can relate to pretty easily, so we'll talk about Deus Ex.



Deus Ex is an RPG. It can also be a shooter, but let's not beat around the bush. It's an RPG first and a shooter second. Skill selection and leveling up can be used to turn Deus Ex into a shooter, but from the very beginning this game cracks you over the head with a sign that says "I AM AN RPG", and expects you to treat it as such. Somehow this combination of RPG and shooter isn't a contradiction. Here we are 11 years later, and I'm still not sure why that is.

So much of what you can do in Deus Ex is dependent upon your selection of skills and your chosen augments. Entirely new options open up for the player that focuses on hacking instead of heavy weapons. For each skill there is a purpose, a style, or a unique edge offered to the player to wield and use in the challenges presented by the game. It is pure RPG expressed in an entirely unexpected, non-traditional medium. More important than anything, Deus Ex manages to never lose or diminish its RPG feel in the maelstrom of first person perspective design. It avoids the problem of genre generalization by fine-tuning both of its influences into the final product, changing shooter mechanics to fit its RPG feel, rather than arbitrarily throwing both design directions up against eachother.

The next game in the series, and for many what is shaping to be the only true successor to the Deus Ex lineage is set to be released in August. Only time will tell whether Deus Ex: Human Revolution truly lives up to its namesake. If it does, we'll be treated once again to that strangely perfectly tuned game which retains depth without sacrificing anything in the transition to a different medium. This is where I'd like to see the games industry go. Away from generalization and toward a new generation of games which utilize a combination of influences to create something entirely new and fresh.
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