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GiftofGab's blog

7:56 AM on 02.02.2010

Dammit the 'Toid is always right!

Been on d'toid for quite a while now, and its been really awesome. The community based atmosphere makes it a lot more entertaining to see what everyone's talking about, instead of just reading comment after comment. What's really interesting however, is that when it comes to games you should be playing, it seems like they are always right. Yes I know it's their job to tell us what good things are out to play, but still they do a great effort to actually highlight the games that are absolutely worth it.

Take Valkyria Chronicles for example. This game was so far off my radar it would have had to send smoke signals to get my attention. I don't play any sort of strategy game, I haven't been into a JRPG since FFX, and in general it seemed a lot like the generic game that would have anything called "Valkyria" or "Chronicles" in it. When I came across the article "How Valkyria Chronicles made me a sobbing emotional wreck" I stopped and thought to myself what sort of game would make anyone do that? I could think of MGS4 which made me do that, but that was a high profile release, and plus its Metal Gear Solid, by the fourth installment evoking emotions as well as turning your brain into mush designed for consumption by tiny babies is par for the series.

I couldn't (obviously) read the entire article, because of spoiler avoidance, but it lead me to the review which reinforced the notion that I wanted this game, despite everything I know that I don't normally play. So I decided to take a chance and buy it, and while I haven't finished it yet, it is a truly excellent game. The only real faults on it are a couple of silly problems with the menu system that can easily be worked around, like the lack of autosave. I'm around 60% done with it, and already I have to buy a PSP for the second one. I have also bought two copies of the game for two of my friends who seem to like it as well. It's because dammit the 'toid is ALWAYS RIGHT.

Another good example is 'splosion man. Once again I had heard about this game, but it in no way seemed special to me. There's no real reason, it just fell into the inevitable swirling black hole of doom that a lot of videogames that don't really distinguish themselves do. Though the articles here are rather convincing, kind of like Sessler Soapbox in article form. Unfortunately, I can't find the one that convinced me to play it, but this game is awesome! So far it's been like Crash Bandicoot in the Portal universe, with 'SPLOSIONS! HOW DOES THAT NOT SOUND AWESOME??? I'm anticipating the difficulty to drop down on me like a ton of giant angry pregnant three-headed fire breathing dragons, but it's still worth it. Especially now that it's half price.

I didn't mention the reviews here not because they aren't good (they are usually rather in-depth, actually) but because everyone and their illegitimate stepchild have reviews. But I have had great outcomes just getting the games that didn't seem interesting originally, but they were given the spotlight on Destructoid, and now I have to run around and tell everyone I know to play the damn games because they are just that good. And because dammit the 'toid is ALWAYS RIGHT.   read

12:25 PM on 12.08.2009

Why Custom Soundtracks are necessary.

There are times when a games soundtrack fits wonderfully with the game, and adds to the incredible setting within the environment of the game you are playing. Fable and Dead Space both provide great examples about how the soundtrack in a game can be used to enhance the overall experience. However sometimes, the soundtrack used for the game just isn’t sufficient to the experience that the player may want for the game, despite its quality. For these times, the players need to have access to their own music in game.

Lets get this out of the way quickly, this isn’t a plea to Sony to ask for more custom soundtrack support on the PS3, nor is it praise for the 360 for having it standard, although I do feel it’s necessary. It is much more of a look into why we as gamers need custom soundtracks, and what the benefits are for having them.

Halo 3 is a perfect example of how necessary it is for gamers to have custom soundtracks when they are playing a game. While the overall score that was designed was excellent, it does not take into account the emotion of the player. How could it? It is not possible for soundtracks to cater to every single person, they are designed to provide the best and most suitable music for everyone. Because the player designs custom soundtracks, they cater to that specific player’s tastes, and what they like to hear when they are playing a certain game, or the music that they listen to throughout their day. When I have access to my custom soundtracks in Halo 3, my adrenaline rises, my aim becomes sharper despite the extra brain power needed to play and sing the song at the same time, and the music seems to fuel the game and make that headshot all the more meaningful, making custom soundtracks very similar to the runner vision in Mirror’s Edge.

Single player experiences are greatly enhanced by the presence of custom soundtracks, depending on how they are implemented. Any campaign that you have already completed, but are replaying for whatever reason (trophies/achievements, entertainment, sheer boredom) can be a bit easier thanks to the presence of your own music. This is especially true for RPG’s, which may require long walks treks without vehicles to destinations or several monotonous tasks that you need to complete in order to continue. Soundtracks can even be implemented in a specific way to enhance the experience. In the Xbox version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, you were allowed to play your custom soundtracks through the radio, but only when you were in a vehicle. That provided an even deeper sense of realism (I like to listen to my music when I get into my car, after all) I even “missed” my music after I exited the vehicle I was in in the game.

Multiplayer is especially made more entertaining when you have access to your own music. In the middle of a heavy match in Gears 2 or Killzone 2, the music providing you with the rush is extremely satisfying. Think about how many times you were listening to your own music in Burnout Paradise and how many times you were were “in the zone” and it helped you avoid crashing, or helped you get that last takedown before the cars destroyed you because you crashed too many times.

If you can find a good balance between being able to hear the other people in the game and where they are coming from, and being able to listen to your music at a good volume, you will find that it will help you a lot in game. It’s a very small detail that may not matter to most people until you actually try it, then, like me, you and your music will become inseparable.   read

6:48 PM on 10.24.2009

Immersion and Realism: Games and movies

Amazing karate movies starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan, Insightful movies made by Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg, Action packed movies starring Jason Statham and Bruce WIllis. Whenever you walk out of any of these types of movies, you're coming out feeling some raw emotion invoked by the film. Walking out of a Jet Li movie (even "The One") makes you feel like you can beat up anyone that just happens to walk by. Crank, while not a very good movie, is still a movie completely dependent on the instant “rush” that we feel from seeing action. The best movie could not hold a candle to a game that is “action packed”, like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves however, for the simple reason of immersion.

Games can be more engrossing than movies in several different ways. Take the example of Bethesda’s Fallout 3. Once you become immersed in the world of “Post Apocalyptia” (as three-dawg calls it) you’d be hard pressed to find something else more interesting to do then to take another quest and try to build up your character, or even just to see how that quest now effects the world around you. People have forgotten about their day to day lives, relationships, and sometimes even children (scary i know) over Fallout 3. This level of attachment that comes with building you character from nothingness, and then taking it out into the open world to see if you can fend for yourself amongst all the world has to offer is a feeling that cannot be rivaled by any other form of media, let alone entertainment. (Although I believe the closest they got might have been the Tamagotchi) This idea is something that many games do on a daily basis. Not only Role Playing games such as Fallout 3, Sports games like NBA 2K10 have a “Create-A-Player” option, and even have the option to take your created player into a league or franchise and see if he can compete with the established greats of the sport.

Where movies can still excel beyond games is that few games take the opportunity to provide a look at real life situations. Much like healthcare in the 90’s, gamers and media alike pretend like Six Days In Fallujah doesn’t exist anymore, and we have moved on to other games without acknowledging that what was lost by the cancellation of the Six Days in Fallujah game was the chance to have a game portray a real life, currently ongoing war with real names, real soldiers stories and a real historical background. Filmmakers will continuously be making things that will not ever happen in a game, because either publishers are too afraid, or gamers are to ignorant to handle "Non-Fiction Gaming". Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (and its fast approaching sequel I expect) do a good job of providing a message that any war becomes extremely pointless and self-perpetuating quicker than America’s dependance on oil, but they have not gone the extra step and provided that level of realism that would make an okay war game a deep and heart-pounding look at the state of war in our lifetime. I love a good fiction story as much as the next person, but can we continuously stay idle and be fed spoonful after spoonful of fiction, or generalized wars that barely have any basis in real life. We must look to the already established and branched out cinema medium in order to fully take advantage of one of the biggest disappointment games have so far, is that "realism" doesn't consist of anything but a dreary brownish grey backdrop and some historically accurate guns. I would much rather see in a "realistic" modern war game raw emotion and character development that is based on actual personalities instead of some focused-grouped side show comedy relief.

So while games have a much deeper level of immersion and ultimately engrossing satisfaction that movies ever will, we need to present alternatives to our current state of affairs of lost treasure romps and “kill everything in the room, then proceed to the next room to repeat for absolutely no reason” style of gameplay and focus more heavily on bringing in real life current situations into games, just as movies have attempted constantly to bring in our stories, and have failed at almost every turn. The medium of the game will flourish I believe, once publishers are not scared, and gamers are prepared to take the next step and bring in the billions of interesting stories that happen each day, without the use of the imagination.

*Update* At the time of writing, the new article saying that Six Days had not been canceled was not written, however the point still stands.   read

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