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4:23 PM on 02.13.2014

The Past: Wonder is everything

Roughly 21 years ago my parents bought me a SNES. They tell me now it was for a birthday but I can't remember. One day I didn't have a SNES, the next day I did. Its all sort of relative at that age.†

What I can remember are the hours of joy that lumpy plastic box brought me. I've talked before in my posts about how a sense of childlike wonder often made the difference for even the worst games I played as a child but here I go again. Way back when Blockbuster was still a thing I would rent games every week. I'd play anything I could get my hands on. The only game I can remember outright hating was EarthBound because I couldn't wrap my head around the RPG style combat, and to this day, I hate myself for not grabbing the used copy from Blockbuster when they sold it.†

I was an avid reader and at such a young age these games could visually take me to a place that those books described. Not only that but unlike in a film I could control the story. That simple fact accounted for most of my fascination with the medium. The first time I played an RPG with choice based decisions my head nearly exploded. The first time I played a Strategy/Sim (probably Roller Coaster Tycoon or Stronghold) my head nearly exploded. I WAS GOD. KIND OF.

It's true that somewhere along the way I lost the sense that everything is fucking amazing all the time. I think it's rather natural when growing up and my tastes in gaming changed. I discovered The Elder Scrolls†and other deep investing games and eventually forgot all about my "friends" from the past. That is, until I found my SNES a few years back.†

I've blogged before about wanting to replay all of my old games and make videos about them on YouTube. If anyone is actually interested, there are a few up and more will eventually be coming, but for the most part I couldn't really think up an lot to say about most of them. Frankly, from an adult point of view, my tastes sucked. But there was an odd side effect I hadn't expected from surrounding myself with those childhood memories.

I found that sense of wonder again.†

Slowly but surely I found myself enjoying the games again. Time had given me just enough distance to remember the fun but not the game. Eventually I'd hit a spot that I had no memory of at all and that†is where the fun starts again. I found myself questioning "What's just over that mountain?" "What does that power up do?" "Was Mew really under that goddamn truck the whole time?" (It's not, don't try, you'll only have yourself to blame).

Strangely enough I've found that it works on modern games as well. Sure, two years after the fact Skyrim†is showing a bit of age but I JUST BEAT A FUCKING DRAGON INTO SUBMISSION AND RODE IT. I may be one of the few people on the planet that found Super Mario 3D World just a little underwhelming but HOLY HELL I'M A KITTY NOW.†Fine Mass Effect 3's ending was a little disappointing (though I still liked it) but I LITERALLY JUST FORCE PUNCHED AN ALIEN MERCENARY TO DEATH.

For some reason the little problems that would have, or did, annoy me before have slipped away. So to make this long story really, really short:


If you ever find yourself constantly aggravated or disappointed by games; find some retro classics and allow yourself to just have fun.†

I'll be waiting here with some hot chocolate when you get back.   read


9:50 PM on 12.08.2013

Is Realism important?

Warning: There are some minor spoilers†

Nothing strikes more fear into my heart than the words "Gritty, Realistic Reboot".†

It didn't use to be this way. At one time, in the distant past of 2004, I would have quickly accepted the possibilities that the "gritty reboot" could have brought. The world was young and bright, or gritty... what does that even mean anyway? I don't want grit... that sounds... uncomfortable (*author hasn't slept in 48 hours)

But the world is changed, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, everything was a gritty reboot. Even things that technically weren't remakes had the same verbs used to describe it as everything else. And nothing was sacred anymore. Not even our video games.

Now I'm not here do discuss the "gritty reboot" today (HA! I JUST MADE YOU READ THREE PARAGRAPHS OF MOSTLY USELESS INFORMATION!!!) But I am discussing what came after. In the wake of the trend of movies and games attempting to become hyper realistic we somehow lost what that realism is. Increased technological ability meant that we were allowed to tell stories in even more realistic and graphically interesting ways but just as easily as we gained the ability to tell realistic stories we threw it away.†

Most recently I've been playing through the newest Tomb Raider†for the first time. I remember that the marketing campaign surrounding the game was the attempt to make the story far more realistic than it had been before. Mostly this involved giving Lara proportions actually found in nature but a good deal of the game really does look (admittedly badly) at what would psychologically happen to a young woman suddenly thrust into this scenario.

Don't get me wrong. Video game logic is wonky and for good reason. True realism would be boring as hell if not done exactly right, but where is the breaking point? Fantasy elements aside (those are cannon and perfectly acceptable within the games reality) how much damage am I really supposed to accept Lara can take? Within actual gameplay (shoot outs and the like) I can accept getting hit because that's just how fights work. It is what it is. What I find hard to digest is literally everything else. Think about it.

Before Lara starts her shift into gun toting badass she survives a shipwreck, gets clubbed over the head, assaulted, hung upside down, lit on fire, dropped a good fifteen feet onto her head and impaled, run through freezing water, and left to survive the elements after surviving a cave-in. This is only the first twenty minutes of the game. Not to mention she steps in a bear trap and sleeps it off. A god damn bear trap. Used to trap bears.


What I'm saying is that there is no way she should be alive.†


Of course we know Lara Croft cannot die, the game is a prequel, but with good writing its possible to suspend disbelief and forget that. Unfortunately, as it is, the effect is pretty game breaking for me. I'm too far in to actually stop playing at this point but I can't possibly feel any source of tension or drama for a character who so routinely shrugs off life threatening injuries. I had the exact same reaction to Peter Jackson's Hobbit†when I saw it. The Dwarves, who couldn't take on three trolls, can suddenly kill hundreds of goblins, yet can't take out a small platoon of Orcs, but fully intend to go head to head with a dragon? I don't believe it. I believed it when I read the novel but seeing the overdone action simply sucked me out of the story.


So here's my question to you C-Bloggers and D-Toid community:


Do you have similar reactions to big budget action sequences? Or does a game or movies level of realism matter to you in the least?
  read


7:36 PM on 11.08.2013

DapperMouse, Destroyer of Worlds

Having decided to take advantage of the fundraiser/sale going on at gog.com I snagged a copy of FTL. I had played for a few hours before something struck me. Something horrible.

Somewhere, an unsuspecting planet was about to receive a massive payload in the form of missiles.


Lots of missiles.

For those of you who donít know FTL or Faster Than Light is a spaceship sim made by Justin Ma and Matthew Davis of Subset Games. The player is given a ship (the Kestrel before any others are unlocked), a small crew, and tasked with outrunning the coming Rebel armada in order to deliver vital Intel to the remaining Federation forces. The game plays like a Roguelike and is generally pretty fun unless you accidentally destroy a few ecosystems like I potentially have. †Just hear me out.
I should have known the assignment was doomed from the very outset. Your crew is entirely customizable but they do randomly generate names. One look and I knew I was in for something potentially wonderful.

Crew Chief Butters reporting for duty!


Not to be undone by fate I quickly made a few more edits.


Thatís better.


No sooner had we launched from the base our boys ran afoul of a Mantis ship. FYI, the Mantis are bad news bears and for the love of all that is good and holy do not let them board your ship. Not wanting to be turned into a pile of wreckage I quickly launched a volley of lasers at their weapons room and a missile straight at their shields. Only problem is, the missile didn't hit. Guess Butters wasn't the best choice for a commanding officer.


Oh hamburgersÖ


Not wanting to look like some sort of non-missile colliding wuss I decided to launch about three more at the ship, all of which missed. Eventually I took the thing down with sheer determination and focused laser blasts but it hit me:

1. There is no gravity in space.

2. Without gravity there is no friction to slow or stop an object.

3. An object with a given momentum would continue drifting at that momentum.

4. Five missiles will continue drifting in space forever.†


Or until they hit somethingÖ


Suddenly I was hit with philosophical guilt. Of course, nobody would actually ever get hit by those missiles, itís just a game. But what if it wasn't? What if some poor bastard was just enjoying his day until the inevitable occurred. I tried to picture myself just sitting on a park bench enjoying the day whenÖ






Not only had I potentially ruined somebodyís day in FTL but the same would apply for any other game. Launching a killing spell into the wild blue yonder in Skyrim is certainly a lot of fun but eventually something has to stop it. Randomly firing off missiles in Star Fox? Hope you can sleep at night you potential murderer. The worst realization, especially in terms of space related games, is just how easily you could screw up an entire ecosystem with just once loose weapon. One day Chiktup the proto-human is crawling out of primeval slime and the next second BOOOM wiped away from the history books. Just one misfire could have spelled the difference between homo-sapiens being the dominating force on Earth and a literal planet of the apes.



Oh donít even look at me like you wouldn't love that you smug bastard.[sub] Photo credit to David Burke[/sub]


When Kyle, Cartman, and Butters were wiped away by the Rebel Fleet just 45 minutes later I couldn't help but to feel some sense of justice. After all, what is floating dead in the abyss of space for eternity compared to the horror of destroying worlds. Itís not like the spacecraft holding their cold bodies would ever crash into anything andÖ.

Well shit.   read


12:00 PM on 11.01.2013

My 7th Generation: DapperMouse the Rat Killer

First experiences are always the ones that linger the longest.†

The moment that most quintessentially defined the 7th console generation for me happened in the five minutes of my Xbox gaming experience. I was still getting the hang of†The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion,†stumbling through the starting dungeon, when I stumbled across a war hammer. Giving it a few swings I adjusted to the feeling of it in my grip when suddenly I heard a sound behind me.

The phantom text that had been guiding me through the dungeon suddenly alerted me that an enemy was in the area. Turning wildly I tried to find my foe. I heard skittering all around me when suddenly Hell's rat dove out of a dark crevasse and dove straight for my face. I swung blindly, left and right, cleaving the darkness until I heard a hard thunk.


Artists Rendering

______________

Suddenly I was out of the game. DapperMouse the fearless Wood Elf Archer had transformed back into Cody, the awkward chubby 18 year old sitting on his parents couch eating potato chips at two in the morning.†


Sadly not an Artists Rendering


The game had just broken my immersion but I wasn't sure why. Carefully I replayed the experience in my head a few more times. I knew something of notice had happened but I just... didn't... know... what....

______________

Another scratch behind him sent DapperMouse wheeling back in a circle. Something else was coming for him. He slowly moved closer and closer to the staircase from where the sound came from when another rat came leaping from the darkness. Expecting the attack DapperMouse swung and landed a heavy hit on the rodent slinging it back into the darkness. He turned and-

______________

I paused the game. †It had happened again but this time I knew what I had seen. It was the rat. †When I hit the rat with the hammer I didn't get a pre-rendered death animation or a simple rag-doll body loosed into the world but I saw a rat go flinging, with the appropriate weight, into the darkness. It was the physics that had pulled me out of the game. †Not because they were badly done but because I had never seen them done that well.†

The 7th generation has brought about a lot of changes to the landscape. Not all are good. I dislike that multiplayer is shoved down our throats. I hate the onslaught of overpriced DLC that shows no sign of letting up. I hate always on DRM and innovations that aren't really that spectacular, such as the Kinect.†

But

We've seen a new wave of processing power and technology that isn't letting up either. Call me an idiot but eventually I can't help but to think the industry will find a new route. The DLC and DRM will fade away, perhaps for something far worse but maybe, just maybe, towards something better.

When that happens we can thank the 7th generation for showing us what was possible.   read


12:15 PM on 10.24.2013

What I Learned on my trip to San Andreas

In the few short weeks GTA Online†has been live I've made decent progress. As of writing this I'm level 18 and have about $120,000 squirreled away. It doesn't sound like a lot but as far as I'm concerned this is a pretty impressive achievement. I've written before about how I generally detest multiplayer games but so far I'm really enjoying myself. Though, all of this hasn't come without some knowledge being imparted unto me. Here are some of the things I've learned.

You Can Make A Lot of Money Off of Bounties (But Be Careful)

Most of the cash I've made has come from selling high-end SUVs and collecting Bounties. I don't have any particular quarrel with the people I'm tracking down. I've never taken out a bounty myself and often I give my target a portion of the cash for providing me with an entertaining stand-off. Its not all fun and games though. A life spent mimicking Dog the Bounty Hunter can be quite costly. You need to keep stocked up on Body Armor, ammo, and decent gun mods. Decking out your car with additional armor and engine boosts really couldn't hurt. Plus, you've got to take medical bills into account.

You're also going to be getting shot at a lot. Most of the people with bounties on their heads are active trolls who have decked out their guns and ammo just as much as you have. If you take a quick peek and realize they are a much higher level than you, DO NOT PURSUE THE BOUNTY. You're probably going to get blown away by someone with much better toys than you. Even then, claiming a bounty is likely to piss the player off. Percentage of the profit or not they're likely to come after you for awhile, or maybe even mark you. If played safely you can make a couple thousand easily. If it goes badly, you're going to be out of a lot of cash. Personally, I wouldn't pursue a bounty that isn't worth at least $3,000.


A Lot of People Are Dicks

Online is absolutely full of them. Just huge erect dicks driving high-speed in sports cars or Army helicopters. These players want nothing more but to fuck your shit up. To them the game is all about trolling you right out of your hard earned cash an supplies. The best, and by best I mean most infuriating, tactic that I've seen so far are trolls who put sticky bombs outside of the Ammu-Nation stores. They know fine and well that you probably don't have any cash to steal but they do know you've probably just dropped a good deal of money on Body Armor and they can immediately take it away from you, plus medical expenses, with the push of a button. The first time it happened to me I laughed so hard I cried. Then continued crying with I shot the bastard in the face a couple of twenty times.

Fortunately most trolls aren't the brightest players. Sure, there are some that take it to a level of such brilliance that I can't even be mad when they get me but for the most part its all about cheap thrill. They have a tendency to broadcast their attacks in the open so you can generally see it coming and take some care not to get taken down. Unfortunately...


You Just Can't Trust Anyone

I mean no one. Trust absolutely no one. Everyone is out to kill you all the time maybe. If you see that white blip getting closer get the hell out of the way. I mean, I've just complained about the trolls but I've done it myself. You're running down the street minding your own business when a low level character comes running out of a store with their brand new heist money. Its just too tempting not to shoot them and take it for yourself. I'm guilty of it. We're playing a crime simulator for God's sake and I'm more of an anti-hero anyway. Just don't abuse the system I guess. But really though...


Everyone is Starting to Learn to Work Together

There are jerks online and there always will be but for the most part players are beginning to team up. There's only so far ahead you can get backstabbing and messing around with other players and teaming up offers far more cash and rewards. Lately I've taken to hanging around Los Santos Customs, a spot notorious for trolls robbing unarmed characters, and taking out any players who mess with the innocents like some sort of hood rat Batman. Of course, the recently saved players don't always understand and I get shot up by panicked runners quite often, but you've got to take baby steps to make a city better.†


Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to head back online and see if I can finally break into the military base. If not, I might beat up some civilians and hand out cash to low level characters for no reason. Or just shoot them, who knows.   read


12:22 PM on 10.03.2013

The Bitter Truth

As I've blogged before, I've recently started replaying my older games and consoles. Most of these games I've owned for close, or even over, twenty years but some I've picked up from local gaming shops with a decent retro library. I remember as a kid I never really finished games. I wasn't even aware that some of them had endings. It wasn't until the N64 to PS2 era that I really put a lot of stock into finishing video games. I think the first game I actually completed may have been Metal Gear Solid†(my parents were pretty liberal in what I could or couldn't play) or maybe Ocarina of Time.†

In the coming years I've dismissed my uncompleted library as simply being a child. Motor skills aren't exactly fully developed in those years so hairpin platforming was always a hassle. Even putting the time and effort into finishing a game can be difficult for a child. The next shiny thing comes along and the old game is forgotten and the new played until it too is forgotten. It hasn't been until my replaying that I've been forced to face the bitter truth.

They're really fucking hard and I kind of suck at them.



I mean... really, really fucking hard.


Not only that, but they're weird.†


As shit.


Before huge gigantic open worlds and countless mini-games (I'm looking at you GTA) were a conceivable possibility games had to rely on making sure you simply never stopped playing the game. The best way to do that? Either sell all of your programmers soul's to Phot, ancient god of Brutality, Lust, and Bitchin' Level Design, as the Super Mario Team seemed to do, or simply make your game fucking impossible to beat. Or you could go with a compelling story and well written characters I guess but what kind of earthbound mortal would do that? Seems like kind of a final solution. It was probably safer to go with Phot honestly.


Does anybody really believe this could be thought up by anything other than an Ancient deity obsessed with death and clean coding?


There's sort of a sort of strange personal dignity that gets hurt when forced to admit that instead of simply being a kid you were really just bad at your hobby. Its like that all those singers on American Idol who so firmly believe they are destined for the big leagues and just can't accept the fact that nobody knows how to tell them they suck.†


But...


I realized that it's actually kind of funny as well. A friend and I desperately tried to get through Donkey Kong Country for a good hour before having to give up on the third world. Imagine, two grown men collapsing in a giggle fit because they were just so bad at something. Then imagine our delight when some of the more surreal aspects of these games kept popping up. Things that you easily dismissed as a child but now seem wildly out of place or outright bizarre.†


So, in keeping good with the promise nobody really wanted me to keep, I've launched a YouTube channel where I'm uploading a new video featuring my struggles to play these monstrosities every other Friday. †If you so wish you can check that out here†http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPLAacKNZEM†or if you don't wish... don't click it I guess? I mean... Nothings making you. If you like that noise you can also check out the GameTalkGuys who I've linked to my profile. They make fairly entertaining videos, some of which I've helped with.

Most importantly this will be the only blog that I mention the channel in so if you like it please subscribe. Not only that but feel free to request games. If in my ability I'd love to stumble through whatever you wish to throw at me.   read


10:37 PM on 09.19.2013

Upon Arriving late to the Party

My life really has one consistent theme. I never experience anything while it is still culturally relevant. For example:

My wonderful girlfriend, thinking it would be a nice Valentines' Day present, bought me a copy of the Les Miserables†blu-ray, knowing that I was a Theatre Major in college and a general Musical buff. I hadn't seen the movie in theaters, which if you remember, was about the time everyone stopped caring about it, but even then I managed not to watch the movie until about three months after she bought it for me. The approximate number of people I have talked to about the film? Probably about three, actually not including my girlfriend, who has still not seen it, and never really wanted to see a three hour musical starring Wolverine and Maximus playing miserable French people to begin with.

So, when everyone was off willy-nilly making fun of it, I had no real context as to what was truly going on. I mean, could I have imagined that Russell Crowe was a shitty singer? Yes. Yes I could have. Without ever having to see anything or hear the soundtrack I could have imagined that. But I was still relatively left out in the cold when people wanted talk about it. Even so, the story is pretty harmless. Love it or hate it there really aren't any cultural landmarks that have come out of it. Now nine months after it's theatrical release, the world keeps on turning as if it never really existed and this is the same for a good deal of movies. No harm, no foul.

The same cannot be said for video games.

I still haven't played about ninety percent of the blockbuster games that came out 2012 to 2013. So what you ask? Well I'll tell you, thanks for asking, you're a real pal. Navigating Geek culture is hard. I mean really freaking hard. I once heard Christianity referred to as the "Church of Me" as you can really interpret the Bible however you wish and due to this there are legitimately as many schisms in the Christian faith as there are Christians. The same is true with Geek Culture. Bear with me for a second while I explain.†

Religion, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is "A pursuit, interest, or movement, followed by great devotion". That very definition could very easily be used to describe any of the many Fandoms in existence today. There are those among us who know more about Equestria or Dr. Who than their own countries' history. After the 2012 Apocalypse fail I saw countless Facebook statuses about the Doctor having clearly saved us. But just as in the "Church of Me" each member of these Fandoms will see and react to information in a different way. Just think of how many fans of the Doctor wanted the 12th Doctor to be female, as opposed to those who didn't or didn't have an opinion on the matter.

It is this reaction to stimulus that makes the culture so hard to navigate. In a room of 10 people, who all like Doctor Who, three may have wanted the 12th Doctor to have been a woman, one may have stopped watching the show were it a woman (we call this one Smallmindedfuck, or, piece of shit for short), three who it didn't affect either way, and three who can't stop bickering about whether he's actually the 12th Doctor or not long enough to focus on the other debate. Even within the microcosm of the room the fans likely wouldn't have been able to agree on key details.

So, getting back on topic, I have discovered that arriving late to the party as it were can turn a simple conversation into a minefield. Case and point:

Five months after its release I finally got around to playing Bioshock: Infinite. Holy hell was I missing out. Sure there are glaring plot holes and jumps in logic, but it a game like Infinite†I could almost assume they are intentional. Mostly I had focused on that ending and the ramifications of it all. The cyclical nature of it all, the multi-world theory, the fact that Elizabeth's costume is a clear allusion to the Little Sisters and that proves my pet Booker DeWitt is an alternate universe Andrew Ryan theory AND I WILL SCREAM THAT TRUTH AT EVERYONE UNTIL BURIAL AT SEA†INEVITABLY PROVES ME WRONG!

Only, for everyone else, five months had passed. Anything and everything I could have possibly theorized from that ending, somebody, somewhere, had already said. My discoveries were old news and to my shock the new game smell had worn off. To a good deal of the internet and my friends the awesome gameplay and mind fuck of an ending were lost to words like Sexism, Tropes, and Damsels. Friends that months ago recommended the game and wanted to discuss it now couldn't believe I enjoyed a clearly misogynistic piece of fiction. Infinite had, to some, become a Pariah. †

Of course, not everyone believes that and that's part of what makes being part of the Gaming, Geek, whatever adjective you want to attach to culture so great. There are so many thoughts and and opinions flying around you'll never be able to wade through them all. And somewhere, in the midst of all those thoughts, is a Utopia that we can create, I know its possible. It also just makes people who have a tendency to be out of the loop for long periods of time very nervous and uncomfortable whenever they attempt to bring up a topic.†

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pop in the new Tomb Raider. I hear it's pretty good, we can talk about it tomorrow.   read


11:09 AM on 09.10.2013

Throw away Nostalgia, We can never go Home

About a week ago (okay six days, WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME?) I wrote a blog about missing the good old days when gaming was easier. Well not "easier" per se, games could be incredibly difficult back then just as they could now, but playing them didn't put us through so many loops. We didn't have to have friends, or a constant internet connection, or DLC, or friends. We could just play the games we wanted as we wanted. So imagine my delight when I signed onto Xbox Live the other day and I saw Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.

The original game was released way back in the yesteryear of 1990, a year in which I happened to be just under one year old and some of the younger readers who might happen amongst this blog may remember as the time your parents talk about. When dinosaurs still roamed the earth, gas cost less than a dollar-fifty, and cellphones were approximately the size of bricks. Way back then Blockbuster (kind of like Netflix, ask your parents) would allow you to rent actual gaming consoles as long as you had a valid membership card (Sort of like an online account, ask your parents). Between the ages of three and five, when I first got my SNES, my parents would often let me rent consoles and games, one of the first being Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. For years afterwards I had impressions of this Mickey Mouse game but couldn't remember what in the hell it actually was until a couple of months ago when I heard about the remake. Imagine, half remembering something that had a profound affect on you for the better part of two decades and suddenly discovering it again. This time with improved graphics and a soundtrack by Gregg Kirkhope!

Unfortunately, the Universe attacked. Seeing my glee from immediately purchasing the game the internet went out... and stayed out... for four days. Being unable to complete the download I decided not to be swayed from rediscovering my childhood and set out on an epic four day quest to replay the games I remember as being the best from my childhood. This time, however, I recorded the footage for prosperity.

The results varied.

You see, sometimes I was spot on. I remembered Super Mario World†and†Yoshi's Island†to be spectacular and you know what, nearly twenty years later they still are. Unfortunately, I also remembered things like... Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage†and TazMania to be pretty good too. They aren't. Not at all.

How does this all line up with Castle of Illusion? Well, it all goes back to how we remember things from childhood. Most of us have a tendency to pick out the good bits and leave the bad behind. Once my connection got up and running again I was treated with a pretty fantastic remake but it was somehow still empty. The graphics are pretty, the worlds expansive, and Kirkhope's score is an absolute delight but nothing, absolutely nothing will ever recreate that childlike wonder of experiencing the game for the first time. I had similar reactions to The Ocarina of Time†and Pokemon. They're both great games, Ocarina will forever be one of my favorite games of all time, but it never feels like the first time anymore.†

So I've grown a little. Sure, gaming may be more complicated but that doesn't mean that the next wave of consoles will be any lessened by it that those before them. And sure, there will be plenty of disappointing games but every console has them, that isn't any reason to avoid it. As for the footage I captured, I have every intent of turning them into full fledged fake reviews and launching them on YouTube.†

Maybe someone else will be able to discover a lost favorite, as I did with Castle of Illusion.   read


8:53 PM on 09.04.2013

Thoughts on my impending Console break up

I put down my controller and attempted to come out of the haze I had been in. I had something to say and I knew Oberon had to hear it. I sighed, took a breath, and just let it out. ďYouíve changed.Ē

Oberon looked at me with that blank stare he always has. The little red light on his Kinect sensor flickered. No, he wouldnít respond. The poor bastard canít even recognize Iím speaking to him unless heís powered on, and even then itís half-hearted at best.

†I know what heís thinking though. ďBut what about the good times?Ē He would plead. ďThe nights we laid awake playing Oblivion and Mass Effect? Those were good days.Ē†

I would smile sadly and shake my head. ďThey were Oberon. They were the best days of our relationship. We were young then, with high hopes, dreams, and the world was a song. And the song was exciting. But then it all went wrong.Ē

Oberon is still sitting on my television stand staring sadly across the room at me while I write this. He doesn't understand that one day, one day very soon I fear, Iíll power him down and that will be that. His little sensor will never see the light again. I hope when that day comes heíll understand. †Itís not him. Our relationship just wasn't built to last.

Now you have to understand that Oberon and I have been buddies for eight years but we've never really wanted the same things out of life. Heís always been obsessed with counting up his Achievements and wanting to play with other people; two things Iím not overly crazy about. Plus heís always pushed sharing every little thing that I do in a game. I just want to play the game, other players and their achievements be damned.

Though, really, itís not his fault. Gaming has changed and I havenít changed with it. I miss the days before the internet could ruin any plot twist or if Iím stuck in a puzzle I canít just immediately Google how to get back out. Back in the day, I could play Mario for hours without questioning the purpose. I have vivid memories of my dad and me playing Ocarina of Time for hours trying to find our way out of the Water Temple. It was fun and if you couldnít figure out a puzzle, so what? You came back to it later. Now gaming almost feels like a chore. If I canít complete an entire game in at least 48 hours the internet will somehow spoil the ending. Sure, I could just stop playing but then my friends will see my achievement list and theyíll know Iím a quitter.

Recently, Iíve been playing New Super Mario Brothers 2 3DS. Despite having a ridiculous name itís actually pretty fun. I like the frivolous feeling of it. Sure thereís a ďstoryĒ as it were but the main goal is to collect one million coins. Why? Fuck if I know but Iím going to do it. Where are the hidden exits? Who the hell knows but Iím going to find every last one of them even if it kills me. The design is the same formula Mario has used for nearly three decades but itís still fun as ever. It brings out the very inner child in me Iíve tried so hard to stamp out, and honestly, Iím kind of happy to see him back.

If I could, Iíd ignore the next generation of gaming. Iíd stay with Oberon until the servers start to shut down in the next few years and he begins to forget the DLC that Iíve bought over the years. Then Iíd just go back to my PC for strategy games and my retro consoles for everything else. But I canít kid myself. I canít imagine being left out of the next big innovations and, despite probably not living up to their promised expectations, the next generation just looks so damn cool.   read


11:51 AM on 08.29.2013

In defense of Dragon Age or: How living in a Fantasy World would be awful

I've always had a problem with the Dragon Age series. I've played them over and over and am eagerly awaiting the release of Inquisition†but something has never felt quite right. It's almost as if the pacing is both too fast and too slow. Small slights will escalate out of control but what appears to be an overarching plot will suddenly disappear, much like Morrigan's baby. Sure, it'll likely be brought up again in Inquisition†but what if you didn't take the ritual? The plot can't be that overall important unless gamers really are going to be treated to vastly different endgames.†

But this morning I realized something.That pacing is actually... pretty legit.†

In real life, how often do things come barreling in or seem to just kind of fizzle out? Or it kind of happens both ways? It happens all the time. †Take the Red Herring from Dragon Age 2. The first two acts of the game revolve almost entirely around the Qunari landing in Kirkwall. The events build to it's own climax and then fizzles out. Disappointing as this is, as the Qunari plot was far more interesting than the real story, it's pretty realistic. Despite how Apocalyptic the moment feels, sure enough the game hops a few more years into the future and this has been replaced by something else entirely. Now, that doesn't mean that the Qunari didn't influence future events, they undoubtedly did, but what appeared to be the true threat the entire time took a backseat by the endgame. Which brings me to the Mage/Templar struggle.

Magic is dangerous. I don't think there has been a Fantasy book, movie, or video game that has ever avoided shoving that message down our throats. Though, the truly terrifying aspect of magic, in my opinion, is the control of it. Most entries seem to operate on an honor system. Abusing magic is bad so of course only a select few evil, and easily disposed, people would do it. Or, if the big bad is an evil mage, there has to still be a way to take it down.

Dragon Age†however, takes this concept and runs with it. Magic is dangerous, Magi can become possessed, becoming possessed makes them nearly indestructible, therefore all Magi must be locked away in the Circles. Does it theoretically lock away the bad guys? Yes. Does it subjugate thousands of otherwise innocent people? Oh God yes, hence the central conflict of the DA series. But the truly "realistic" aspect is that even this system just doesn't work. A massive quest in DA: Origins†involves a Circle rebelling and nearly everyone being slaughtered and mentally abused. Countless Apostates (Magi not belonging to Circles) are encountered and are nearly entirely evil because, bad guys don't follow the rules. The same exists in real life. Ban on guns? Bad guys will still use guns. Stealing is against the law? Bad guys are gonna steal. Magi should be locked away so that they don't abuse their power? Bad guys aren't gonna have one bit of that noise.

Magic is both the wonderful and terrifying aspect of a Fantasy world. In a fantasy world I could turn lead into gold or fly around on a magic carpet. Or I could use my powers to raise an undead army and burn the world and, if I were powerful enough, there is absolutely nothing anyone could do to stop me. You just can't police magic and the ramifications could be endless.

I want to change the subject for just a moment and bring up Skyrim which is†one of my favorite games of all time from one of my favorite series. Draugr are quite possibly the most common enemy types you will encounter as they exist in nearly every cave the Dragon Born investigates. They are nearly everywhere and scurry around in crypts like rats. The problem? Almost nobody believes in them.

Consider this for a moment. The very first time in the game that Draugr are mentioned is after your escape from Helgen. Whichever character you are escaping with will stop, look towards Bleak Falls Barrow and tell the Dragon Born that when he was young he'd have nightmares about Draugr creeping down from the Barrow and through his window. While he is still visibly shaken by these memories it is clear he passes them off as a child's fear with no real life consequences. The horrifying fact is THIS IS SO INCREDIBLY POSSIBLE. Even later in the game the Dragon Born can accept a quest in which your traveling companion (I've been searching all morning and can't find their name. If anyone in the comments remembers I'd be more than happy to rework this paragraph) outright exclaims, "Draugr? I thought they were a legend!" How can anyone believe this? The Draugr are everywhere and it's more than established that excavation and historical research is becoming a common thing in the Elder Scrolls†universe. How is it not common knowledge that shambling husks await you in almost every single crypt?

It may appear to be laziness on the part of the writers but I think its far more. Human beings, and I'm sure fantasy beings as well, avoid what we are afraid of. Instead of facing our fears head on we would prefer to blow them out of proportion in myth and legend and then simply deny that they exist. The draugr very clearly exist but it makes life easier if the characters just pretend that they don't. Much like when the dragons begin to reappear. Until Alduin himself is assaulting cities nobody will allow themselves to believe the source of the obvious destruction around them. Now, what does this have to do with Dragon Age?

The innocents.

For every evil Mage that's locked away from society forever there are at least a thousand innocents ripped away from their families and forced into solitude. So they become resentful. That anger grows generation after generation until someone snaps. They allow themselves to become possessed, or they don't even realize they have been, and attack. Hell, the ending of Dragon Age 2†featured two of the series most respected Magi committing atrocities out of what they believe to be necessity. One destroys a building and kills one of the only Mage supporters within the Chantry and the other, believing there is no alternative, allows himself to become possessed and must be put down by the protagonists.†

In real life, terrible things happen. There are awful people who do awful things for seemingly no reason but there is always a way for society to learn. We learn that public spaces should be better guarded. We learn that we have to take personal responsibility for our safety but the fact remains that there are always precautions we can take against becoming victims. In Fantasy? Terrible things are done by people who have terrible, god-like powers and there is little to no way it can be predicted or protected against. And if these things happen enough, you're either going to face massive persecution or everyone will bury their heads in the sand while the monsters exist, quite literally, in your backyard.   read


2:23 PM on 08.24.2013

Gaming with DapperMouse

As a general rule I prefer to game alone. Not just alone but in silence, in a darkened room, with incense burning.†

"Woah." You might say. †"What sort of hippie-dippie New Age Pagan bullshit are you into DapperMouse?" Well friends the truth is far worse. You see, I'm not particularly meditative or even all that spiritual. I just don't play well with others. As for the incense? Well, honestly, I'm just weird.

My favorite games haven't really changed for the last fifteen years. I still find myself instinctively drawn more towards my SNES and N64 than any of the Battle Call of Honor: Future Zombie Ops that come out three or four times a year. Though, if a game is good, I'll play the shit out of it. †My most recent obsessions have been Bioshock: Infinite and the Mass Effect games. Yes, even the third one, disappointing as it may have been. Flashy graphics and amazing effects can't hold my attention like good old fashioned story-telling or replayability. I can't tell you how many times I've had a speed-run through Super Mario World, and frankly, I'm down to do it again very, very soon. Truth be told though, the only games that I just can't get behind are the ones that put an intense focus on multiplayer.

Its nothing personal. Trust me, its not you, its me. †You see, I'm not very good at what one may call, vocally expressing myself. I write, that's true, but when writing I can take the time to perfectly craft what I'm intending to say not just rely on whatever gibberish manages to fall out of my mouth at any given time. I can't communicate with other people for any amount of time before I just start word vomiting, which makes me panic, which of course only makes the word vomit worsen. My spirit animal is a Hobbit, but not just any Hobbit, I'm that creepy faced Samwise Gamgee from Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings. He has a noble heart but spends most of the movie stammering and desperately trying to convince everyone around him he's worthwhile.

† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † ††
"No guys really. I can hold my own against Saurons. Just give me a sword."
  read


9:58 PM on 08.20.2013

Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant

Two weeks from today Rome 2: Total War launches.


I want it.†


No... I need it. †

I need it like a dying man needs water. I watch the trailers and read all the news. Each day as the calendar ticks closer I salivate more and more at the thought of once again controlling my armies and sending them to war across ancient Europe.

I try and tell myself the obvious. †Of course there is no way my computer will run it. It just isn't in the cards, the poor thing would probably explode if I even mentioned the concept to it. Plus, as a person who works part-time and makes just over minimum wage, the nearly sixty dollar price tag is pretty steep, even now. I always thought at a certain point in my life it wouldn't be a big deal to splurge on videogames now and then. Clearly twenty-four wasn't my year. †Maybe twenty-five.

Regardless, the Total War†series is quite possibly one of my favorites. You see, it allows me to let out the very worst in me. I'm a very awkward and socially inept person. It's just kind of a fact that I've had to learn to live with. But not when I'm playing a Total War†game. I'm a King, nay an Emperor. A living god according to the Roman tradition. And really, within the confines of the game, am I not? Buildings are built because it suits me. Thousands of AI soldiers fight and die because I will it. Nations are crushed because I demand it. None can stand. We have no beginning. We have no end. We are infinite. Millions of years after your civilization has been eradicated and forgotten, we will endure. We are legion. The time of our return is coming. Our numbers wiLL DARKEN THE SKY OF EVERY WORLD. WE ARE ETERNAL. THE†PINNACLE OF EVOLUTION AND EXISTENCE. BEFORE US YOUARENOTHINGYOUREXTINCTIONISINEVITABLEWEARETHEENDOFEVERYTHING-

......

Jesus, sorry about that. †I just... I just get so worked up about it. †I can't remember which game I'm even playing.

The fact is, I become my own worst enemy when in charge of a computer simulated nation. Take my last play-through of Medieval 2. I started out slowly enough. Playing as England I decided that the best path of victory was to unite the British Isle. So, unfortunately for Scotland, I wove a path of destruction right through them and Ireland and united the Isles. Good. †But then Portugal attacked. †I had done nothing to Portugal but all the same, I had been attacked. My self imagined Divinity had been called into question. They had to pay.

Quickly enough I gathered a massive army. I generally play under rather berserker conditions. I mean, why send an army of highly trained and balanced troops when I could send ten-thousand catapults and twenty-thousand Cavalry troops in a thirty-thousand ship armada? Go big or go home, you know? But something happened that I couldn't have possibly predicted. The rest of Europe really didn't like my massive army floating around the water. The Papal States also didn't like me crushing small Catholic countries. Soon enough I was surrounded by enemies. My gigantic army faltered and that day tiny computerized Europe learned that even a god-king could bleed.

That's the ultimate lesson. †Eventually, no matter what your play style, you're going to loose in one of these games. It's almost inevitable. But the fun is all in how you get there. And I know on September third I'm going to be giving a pep talk to thousands of tiny soldiers in a brand new campaign, and in that moment, they don't have to say it. I know they'll all be thinking, "We who are about to die salute you!"†


Or maybe they'll be cursing the jackass god-king who can't help but to attack everyone in his general radius. It'll be one of the two.   read





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