I woke up one day and realized that I was no longer content not sharing bits of my personal life and opinions with strangers on the internet. In my spare time I enjoy long walks in the rain, breathing, and naming kittens after obscure literary references.
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.
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?
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 don’t 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.
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.
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 something…
Suddenly I was hit with philosophical guilt. Of course, nobody would actually ever get hit by those missiles, it’s 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 when…
Not only had I potentially ruined somebody’s 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 don’t 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. It’s not like the spacecraft holding their cold bodies would ever crash into anything and….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.