Hi, I'm JT. I'm 29 years old, with more than half that time spent wandering the silicon wasteland of the internet. I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I'm an occasional C-Blogger on Dtoid, but I spend most of my time these days working on my internet radio show, the Blue Shell Manifesto. If you like chipmusic and video game covers, feel free to stop by 8bitx.com Thursday at 10 PM Eastern to check it out, or blueshellmanifesto.com to get information and show notes!
- I'm nervous. I've always been kind of a wallflower at these Dtoid meetups, and if I'm going to make something out of Dtoid Penn, that really should change. If anything, the copious amounts of alcohol flowing at Gamers Gone Wild should really help with that. Of course, having an entire freaking lounge where I can whore the Rock Band microphone also helps.
This is going to be awesome.
-Speaking of which, here's my rough schedule for PAX:
5:45 AM - Train departs from Trenton.
11:00 AM - Train arrives in Boston, drop off stuff at hotel and beeline for the convention hall.
6:30 PM - Watching CTZ rock Paul Bellezza's world in the eating contest to end all eating contests!
8:30 PM - OMG PROTOMEN PROTOMEN PROTOMEN
Gods among men.
10:00 AM - Shake off possible hangover, depending on what's left of me after Protomen concert.
10:30 AM - Chiptune concert- coming out to see the mighty Zen Albatross make 8-bit sound boards his bitch.
11:00 AM - More general PAXness!
1:00 PM - Last I heard, this is when we're doing the picture thing. Hope Hamza brought enough shirts for the class.
6:30 PM - Heading over to Gamers Gone Wild early to recruit a band for the Rock Band competition. Probably going to be there the entire night.
11:00 AM - Last laughs at the con before heading home.
2:00 PM - Train leaves back to Trenton. Home in time for Wrestlemania.
- Cosplay: Looking forward to some mind-blowing costumes. I have the gear for a Travis Touchdown outfit myself, but I'm leaving it at home: in my current shape, I'd look like Travis' mid-life crisis. You know, after Sylvia divorces him for the third time because slicing people open just doesn't cause as many coins to fly out of their bisected corpses as it used to.
Besides, even Sylvia can't compete with these three.
- Blogging: It's a thing I should do again. I've written maybe three full articles by this point that I've thrown out. Part of this mess of ramblings is just a desperate attempt to put something out there before the next rotten round of second-guessing. On that note, here's an idea: MikeyTurvey does pictures on demand for the Dtoid community, and he is awesome for it. To help me break my writer's block (well, not so much a block as a gelatinous cube), perhaps I should open up a similar idea for articles or short stories. What say you, community? Ready to make me the blogging equivalent of A Night At The Improv?
- So, the NARP didn’t happen quite as planned. Thanks to a Murphy’s-law-esque series of last-minute cancellations, the only members of the nascent Dtoid Penn group who showed up were myself and FunWithBonus. I admit I gambled with trying to set up a NARP this quickly, and it simply blew up in my face. There’ll be time to try a get-together again in the future (perhaps this weekend?) but for now, Dtoid Penn’s not off the ground just yet.
We have not yet begun to NARP.
- That being said, I still had a great time. 8 on the Break is a time-tested hangout and it shows. Its state-of-the-art dancing and fighting games contrast sharply with the wood-grain paneling, dark, non-functioning jukeboxes, and cheesy, neon-drenched storefront. It all looks like someone put a $5000 entertainment center in a $500-a-month apartment. It’s exhilarating and homey at the same time.
The game selection is less reminiscent of a typical arcade as it is the basement of your rich best friend. Not a single inch of floor space is given up to redemption garbage. Every game is fifty cents or lower, and everything here is either state-of-the-art and fully upgraded (In The Groove 2, DJ Max Technicha, Pump It Up Pro, Blazblue: Continuum Shift, Tekken 6) or a beloved classic (House of the Dead, DDR Extreme, SF3: Third Strike, the hundred-or-so options in the MAME cabinet). Or, it’s pinball.
FunWithBonus (right), with friends Koi and Jim, being awesome at pinball
- When I arrived at about 8 PM, I already found Dtoid pinball wizard and 22nd-ranked Pro-Am player Steve “FunWithBonus” Bowden and two of his friends, Jim and Koi, on a Star Trek: The Next Generation table. Since everyone else had bowed out of the NARP idea at this point, I introduced myself and spent the next few hours playing a few rounds with some of the best pinball players in the world.
When taken to a professional level, many games get modified, transformed, and stripped down to nearly unrecognizable versions of their original selves. Pro Super Smash Bros. rips away all the game’s character and charm to fight with pure game physics on a stark, barren platform. Pro Team Fortress 2 makes a precise, 6-on-6 war sim out of a Looney Tune. Pro Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is an incomprehensible whirlwind of precision strikes and dial-a-combos, with matches that functionally end as soon as the first player makes the first mistake.
Pinball, however, looks exactly the same no matter who’s playing it. There are no standard tricks or game-breaking exploits or self-imposed restrictions. The game is exactly the same no matter who’s at the flippers, and the mark of a professional is simple longevity. This is why, in spite of a sheer disparity of talent and experience, I had a great time playing pinball with Steve and his friends.
Friday night at the Break
- Tino, Keener, and Casualweaponry were around the arcade as well last Friday, and I briefly met them when I was at the pinball table. I would have loved to hang out with them more than I did, but I got caught up in my own bad habits- a local at the arcade approached me needing an emergency ride home, saying he didn’t live far. Now, I’m a total sucker for helping people out, so I figure, what the hell- it’s worth the 30-40 minutes I’d lose to give him a lift. That’s all it would have been, too- if the guy didn’t have a bad sense of direction. The 20-minute ride to his place turned into an hour-long excursion across North Jersey. Eventually, I did get the guy home and get back to the arcade, but by that time it was already 11 PM, and Tino and the others from Dtoid NY were already gone. Sorry I missed you guys- maybe someday I’ll learn better time management.
Next time, cheesesteaks on me.
- I spent the rest of the night exploring the arcade. I messed around on the MAME cabinet, clumsily trying to rekindle some old X-Men vs. Street Fighter magic. I revisited my dual-wielding ways in House of the Dead and got all the way to the second boss before being done in by those damned bats. I played a few rounds of my old obsession, Pump It Up, and for a few brief moments, I felt seven years younger and twenty pounds lighter. I even stopped by the Break’s high-fat, low-price snack bar for a darn fine cheesesteak, some RC Cola, and a few brief words with the owner and some of the locals. On top of everything else, the Break just struck me as a warm, friendly place to be.
I missed you too, Pumpy.
- 8 on the Break is the kind of hangout that every gamer deserves and everyone should visit. The locals are friendly and the place is always moving- the arcade was crawling with people from the time I arrived to the moment I left. I’m looking forward to going back, and I hope I can bring a few people next time. PA Dtoiders, I hope we can try this one again.
Sons of the shovel! Bearers of the mighty rocket launcher! Defenders of America! The time has come to FIGHT! There's a top-secret weapon out there with our names on it, and I swear to G.M. Chrysler I'll be three feet face-down in a swimming hole of haggis before I let those foul-mouthed, bagpipe-playing cyclopses get their grenade-spamming hands on it! If you love America more than your daily bowl of Lucky Charms, you will be right there with me, fighting the good fight!
You see, this war of ours reminds me of a story I once heard. There once was this soldier being chased by a hungry tiger. He pulled off an awesome rocket jump to get away from it, but he overshot, and found himself hanging from a branch on the edge of a cliff. The impact shook all of his weapons off of him. The one dirty, stinking tiger hunched over the top of the cliff. A second dirty, stinking tiger waited at the bottom, gnawing at his accoutrements. Then- he saw a strawberry hanging from a branch nearby. With no option to choose, he reached out to take the strawberry...
and it blew up in his goddamn face!
It wasn't a tasty fruit, it was a fruity bomb! That's how these Scotch people fight, son. They deceive. They use "angles" and "geometry" to kill their prey. They fight from afar, like cowards, each and every one of them hoping they don't have to stain their precious one eye with the sight of a man's liver disintegrating into a purple, gooey mess that they probably would find delicious with some nuts and a good whiskey.
No, we soldiers are cut from a different cloth! First, we have two eyes. That automatically makes us better at seeing things. Things like the jaundice-yellow, dinner-plate sized lone eyeball of a Demoman as the business end of a glowing rocket drills him where the sun don't shine! That's the second thing. We look at the things we kill! We don't just pop off a few caltrops and run away to go get even more drunk- no, we stay for the whole goddamn show! We pull the trigger, and we revel in the sight of the poor bastard as America pulls down his pants and spanks him with a high-explosive tank-piercing paddle!
There's a top-secret weapon out there waiting for us, boys, and whatever it is, it's too good for those skirt-wearing, Scotch-taping wannabes! So let's get out there, and go finish what that Loch Ness Monster started!
Backlogs. Everyone's got 'em, few dare to take them on. For the next few weeks/months/years, I'll be diving into the significant wad of games I've stockpiled over the years and surfacing with reviews, opinions, or whatever else comes to mind. Let's kick things off with a little Rockstar love.
The Game: The Warriors Microsoft Xbox (also released for PS2) Rockstar Games Released: October 2005 Purchased: 2009
The Gist: Rockstar brings its trademark open-world gameplay to this video game adaption of the 1979 cult action flick, The Warriors. Nearly the entire cast of the movie returns for a fresh look at New York's armies of the night.
The Story: Everyone has a handful of titles that stick in the back of their minds, ones that you always promise yourself you're going to buy, but never seem to want to pony up until it's way, way, out of date. This one made that list years ago, when Gamespot, then my game-review drug of choice, gave it a favorable rating, and when I saw this little green box marked down to $7.99 in a supermarket bin one day, I didn't think twice before snapping it up. Yet, it sat unplayed for months afterward, forsaken for nightly sessions of Team Fortress 2 and Guitar Hero 5 throughout the year. It was only one recent weekend, with my resolution to bust through as much of my backlog as possible before Christmas, that I sat down before my black-and-green behemoth and refused to get up until I'd painted the town red.
Here's how it went: The Warriors started life as a stylish, exploitative action flick that only the 70's could have created. It features a dark, dirty pre-Giuliani New York overrun with dozens of colorful street gangs. I don't mean “colorful” as in “one gang wears red, the other wears blue”. I mean, “One gang dresses like mimes, the other dresses in baseball uniforms and Braveheart makeup.” Yeah, it's the 70's, alright.
In this sprawling mess of a city filled with young, identically-dressed street toughs, one man stands above them all. He's Cyrus, leader of the militant Gramercy Riffs, the single most respected man among the some 60,000 soldiers of the night. He's got a plan to unite every last one of them under his groovy fist, overrun the police, and plunge New York City into complete gang rule.
This is not his story.
I guess he couldn't dig it.
Nope, on the night Cyrus attempts his masterstroke, the inevitable happens, and that's where the plot kicks in. The Warriors, an small, ambitious unit from Coney Island, gets the blame for the murder. Their leader gets iced right away, and it's up to Swan, their second-in-command, to get the rest of the crew to the safety of their home turf. Along the way, they battle through skinheads, skater boys, hot chicks, and those baseball-and-Braveheart guys to get there, and pick up a romantic subplot or two along the way.
This is where the creativity ends. The Warriors- most of them, anyway- find their way home, and discover the true killers: the very least interesting gang that the writers could come up with. Like with Cyrus' assassination, we're robbed of a whole world of potential. There's a ton of ramifications that come with a city playing home to dozens of rivaling underground factions. Thankfully, Rockstar Games agreed with me, and built this 93-minute chase flick into a rough approximation of what it should have been: West Side Story and The Godfather thrown into a blender and drenched in neon.
Rockstar's totally the right company to have undertaken this license. They'd already released two games in the GTA3 series and were well on their way to giving us San Andreas. That same world-building ethic they pioneered with that series- the dark humor, the sprawling urban playgrounds, the several days' worth of ambient voice acting- it's all there, as you start from three months before the movie to build the Warriors from a tiny upstart into the kings of Coney. Along the way, you'll engage in open warfare with all of the gangs the flick shamefully overlooked- the pimps, the kung-fu fighters, the hot-headed vatos, and yes, those wonderful killer mimes. The orginal cast of the movie returns to record hours upon hours of new dialogue, and while the characters aren't as enthralling as any you'll find in Rockstar's other titles, the sheer volume of the vocal work, both in the cut-scenes and in the action, grounds the absurd premise firmly in its own reality- another Rockstar trademark. (If there's one character worth remembering, it's the sultry, omniscient DJ, whose smooth, sarcasm-tinged nightly gang-war updates subtly blare through the Warrior's hideout- when they're not taunting you at the Game Over screen.)
Pat Floyd does a remarkable job filling in for Lynne Thigpen's mouth.
It's not quite GTA: Coney Island, however. Shooting and driving are out- very few characters in the Warriors' world pack heat, and the back-alley hideouts of New York's gangs don't lend themselves well to open-road mayhem. In its place, however, is an advanced fighting engine that produces as many organically awesome moments as any joyride through Liberty City. In addition to the basic punches and kicks you get in GTA, your Warriors get a slew of Double-Dragon inspired techniques- grapples, mounts, combinations, wall smashes, special moves, stealth knockouts, and a landscape littered with melee weapons- to use against the hordes of police and rival soldiers you'll come across.
Yer gonna die, clown!
The real fun, however, comes in that you never roll alone. At all times in the adventure, you'll have at least one Warrior covering your back, and in Rockstar's most miraculous feat, your AI-controlled partners are nearly always more useful than annoying. You get six orders to issue to your crew, all of which have their uses. This is where the real magic comes in. When you tell your boys to fight, they don't stop until every one else has stopped moving. When you tell them to scatter, they split up all over the entire neighborhood. When you tell them to follow, you get a legion marching to your every step. This is a game feature that would probably have been horribly broken if given tasked to any other game company, but Rockstar nails it perfectly.
They got your back, no matter what.
There's a lot that I liked about The Warriors, which makes its ending chapters a total letdown. The first three-quarters of the game serves as a direct prequel to the actual movie, with you guiding all nine main characters from a small-time Coney outfit to the baddest brawlers in New York. Make no mistake- the game makes you work your ass off to bring the Warriors to the top, from wiping your turf rivals clean out of existence to tagging your logo across an entire fleet of subway cars. It's a long and difficult road to the top, and it's all so frustrating when it all comes crashing down in the span of one elaborate cutscene.
Just as you bring the Warriors to all-city notoriety, the gameplay grinds to a halt to deliver a shot-by-shot reenactment of the beginning of the actual movie. This scene is breathtaking. It's one of the best uses of engine-rendered FMV of the entire last generation. The whiplash in the actual game experience, however, is palpable, and you're reminded of why most people never heard of the movie in the first place. Gone are most of the gangs you spent all those hours struggling to overcome, relegated to vague mentions and background appearances. Ridiculous side plots and extraneous characters are tacked on. Your own gang members are picked off, one by one, as you struggle to guide your troops back home. Remember Cleon, the gang founder? He doesn't live through the meeting. Ajax, your womanizing brawler, gets cuffed and hauled away out of the clear blue. Poor Fox did all that scouting in Chinatown just to kiss the grill of a speeding subway train. The final chapters are a near-perfect retelling of the movie, but when compared to the rich, nuanced world that Rockstar creates for New York's armies of the night, the movie plot is narrow, poorly-paced, and ultimately unsatisfying. The world Rockstar made for The Warriors, is, to be blunt, simply too good for the movie that spawned it.
The ending to both the game and the movie. Not pictured: Enemies driven before me, women lamenting.
There's a second major letdown, and this one's on Rockstar. When your sadly-reduced gang returns to HQ and the game returns to normal. I had been hoping since well into the single-player campaign for some kind of free-form gang warfare metagame, like in GTA: San Andreas, where you can take on all the other gangs in the city for control of turf. There's plenty of gangs left to fight, there's plenty of boroughs to conquer, and there's an engine versatile enough to make it happen, but Rockstar doesn't quite put two and two together and give your Warriors a chance to conquer the city like C.J.'s crew. Instead, your reward is “Armies of the Night”, a cute but pointless Double-Dragon-style minigame. There's also “rumble mode”, where you can take any of the game's gangs into a series of one-on-one challenges, but this, too feels tacked-on and unfulfilling. There's also a mode where you can play as the Baseball Furies, but unlocking it requires finishing the game on the hardest difficulty.
It's still not as bad as Street Brawl.
There's a lot of potential in this brew of killer mimes, baseball-playing maniacs, pavement-pounding pimps and preppy rollerskaters, and it could have made for a hellacious war, a great game all by itself. I wanted to wrest Chinatown from the Savage Huns. I wanted to drop the curtain on the Hi-Hats in Soho. I wanted to yank every Orphan out of their Tremont ratholes. I wanted to punk the Punks, bop the Boppers, bankrupt the Jones Street Boys, snuff out the the Satan's Mothers, and take on the Gramercy Riffs in a climactic showdown for the whole goddamn city. Sadly, this was not to be, and my time in the Warriors' world has come to a bittersweet conclusion.
The Warriors is a franchise that had been ripe for a video game adaptation since the NES days, and it's a shame that it took this long to get one. Judging from the more recent The Warriors: Street Brawl, however, perhaps it was only with the skeleton of Grand Theft Auto that it'd be anything worthwhile. If you like 70's schlock, open-world crime games, or beating up mimes, you'd do well to recruit this title into your collection.
It is a fact that fish will not live where the water is too clear. But if there is duckweed or something, the fish will hide under its shadow and thrive. Thus, the lower classes will live in tranquility if certain matters are a bit overlooked or left unheard. This fact should be understood with regard to people's conduct.
-Hagakure, the book of the samurai
In yesterday's Guitar Hero 5 review someone who I won't bother naming left in his comment: “wow another reviewer paid off or the organization he works with.”
He has since commented again, and his c-blog is still up and running.
Allow me to italicize.
Someone accused a writer of this site of taking payments for favorable reviews, and Dtoid- and its community- let out a collective yawn. Nick Chester just laughed at him, and that was the end of it. No drama. No theatrics. No “ban-hammer Monday”. Just a little laugh and then on to messing around with a much more persistent troll.
And if something as stupid as that can be posted with barely a whimper, then maybe my half-baked ideas can find a home, too.
I'm going to level with you here. I hadn't been part of a gaming community for a long time between the closing of Antagonist, Inc. in 2001 and my discovery of Dtoid in 2008. The reason? I'm shy. I'm suggestible. I have the emotional maturity of a Sham-Wow. I simply can't handle the ridicule and suspicion that comes with joining your average game community. In most of these places, you walk in on thin ice. You're assumed troll as soon as you walk in, and cracking the social order takes an impossible amount of persistence, luck, and brown-nosing- more work than the reward could ever be worth.
In contrast, It takes a lot to get banned from Dtoid. You have to make yourself famous to get banned from Dtoid. You have to become a stock punchline to get banned from Dtoid. (See: Wiisucks, Bill Holbrook). Much more than any well-meaning lurker or newb could ever inflict. It's no coincidence that Destructoid now has the biggest, most varied, and most creative game community on the web.
When game communities suck, it's never because of the trolls. Trolls can be beaten. Trolls can be ignored. In the case of Antagonist Inc, trolling can even be turned to friendly discourse. When game communities suck, it's because they've closed themselves off to their own elites, freely banning trolls, critics, and other harmless jackasses, and thus creating a chilling effect on anyone new who dares try to add something of value.
Let trolls be trolls. Let newbs be newbs. The former will get bored and leave, the latter will become another grateful, productive member of the community. Let there be room for error, room for stupid, room for ignorance. Much like a flower, you can't expect a community to grow when you keep hitting it with a hammer.