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5:49 PM on 09.19.2012

Papo & Yo: A mirror of my childhood



Struggling against his mass, I gripped onto him as best I could until I was thrown into the metal towel bar. I deflated as it dug into my back...but it was enough for everyone to get away.

Many of the most vivid memories from my childhood, the ones that stick with me, are frightening montages of screaming, yelling, hitting, choking, and horror. My father was terrifying when he drank.

Papo & Yo creator Vander Caballero also suffered similar nightmares from an alcoholic father, and the video game he made to tell that story does a superb job of expressing the feelings and hardships children experience in a horrific life with few escapes.

The game itself is a generic puzzle platformer, but the story elevates it into an important experience. Papo & Yo takes that dire situation of growing up with an alcoholic parent, and explores those memories in parallel to lead character Quico's adventure in South American favelas with his monster.

Papo, or Monster, looks like a cross between a rhino and a gigantic gorilla, both unrecognizable and beyond your control. Similarly, my father came across as a gentle giant when sober. He was an ex-marine, able to bench 300 pounds, with a hulking figure full of love and care. But just like Papo, when a certain substance entered his body, he completely changed into something I couldnít identify, something terrifying and uncontrollable filled with misguided indignation. He seemed like a fictional force that couldnít be stopped by anyone but my fictional childhood heroes.

Quico's world reflects this, too.



The environment represents a childís escape into imagination, full of fanciful details and opportunities for adventure. Itís also very quiet. Outside of the pleasing acoustic music playing in the background, the world itself is almost entirely mute. That's how I felt growing up: alone.

Where Papo and Quico play in South American favelas, I had the woods of Wisconsin...which also had a large number of frogs (Papo's substance-abuse substance) I would poke and prod. Soccer balls sat around with no one to kick them to. The woods -- though full of adventures waiting to be had -- all felt very lonely to me. I looked for something, but I never knew quite what I wanted to find.

While searching those woods, I sometimes needed my father to help me traverse an area. Just like in Papo & Yo, we relied on each other. At times, he would use his strength to help me up a tree. Other times, I tended to him when he passed out on our couch in our tiny trailer home, only for him to return later that night in another drunken rage. He might break a favorite toy that made me feel safe, just like Lula, protagonist Quicoís helpful robot toy. Sometimes my father just broke my dreams. I never knew what would happen that night.

In the end, Papo & Yo becomes about Quico vanquishing his monster. Itís what we all have to do when we grow up with an abusive parent.

I wonder what younger me would think about this game. I doubt I would've taken much interest in it, having already found a good home in role-plaing games and action-packed adventure games. But as an adult, it reminds me of important things, prompts me reflect on the hardships I grew up in, and makes me determined to never put my own children through those horrors.   read


2:20 AM on 08.08.2012

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 Demo Impressions



My knees are close to being useless; the cartilage has all but left me, and arthritis plagues me. Even though the injuries keep me at a lower level than what I used to be at years ago, I can still play a great game of soccer.

Thatís kind of where the Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) series is at. The game is years past its prime (the PlayStation 2 era), but it can still pull out a great performance when it needs to (the current console era). This yearís game seems as though it wonít break the mold -- but that hasnít stopped me from putting together a list of the good, the bad, and the average experienced in the new demo.



Goal!

Being able to press a button to make a player dart into space for you is great in FIFA Soccer 12, but I like what Konamiís offering seems to have -- smarter runs by the computer.

Itís nice to see a darting Wayne Rooney cutting in front of his defender so I can quickly loft a ball in front of him for a chance on goal. Having to control when my players make a run can sometimes use up a precious moment I needed to beat a defender or open a defense.

The smart runs didnít always materialize, but when they did I took notice, and they worked.

Those runs led to goals.

Unlike in the FIFA series, I see a more eclectic mix of goals when I play Pro Evolution.

I scored a bicycle kick and a rocket to the upper right corner in my first game; scored after a snazzy one-two just inside the center of the 18 in the next; and then I fell victim to a game-tying diving header in my third match.

PES used to have a tagline that was something along the lines of, ďYou never score the same goal twice.Ē I firmly believe thatís held up.

Passing is another gameplay element that shines like one of Christiano Ronaldoís new Nike boots. This yearís iteration of Konamiís soccer game keeps the passing game slick, accurate, and useful. The new PES FullControl is a noticeable improvement.

Chief among the changes made with FullControl is how players can trap the ball. Players can actually tap a button to receive a pass with a much more cushioned trap to keep play tidy, or go a different route by flicking a ball as it reaches you to try and round a defender. They may be little things, but the way you trap a ball can decide your very next move, what options are available, and offers new ways to control the speed of play.

In FIFA 12 -- and I know Iím comparing the full release of a year-old game with a new gameís demo, but bear with me -- it seems that through balls, and through balls over the top are the best passes. You can certainly play a great game without them, but more often than not, if I want to rack up some online wins I just play the two types of through balls and lay waste to the competition.

In Pro Evolution 2013 it feels as though the short, long, and mid-passing game is a legitimate way to not just hold possession, but to also weave around the defense and create a scoring opportunity.



Indirect kick

Youíre either going to love or hate the pace of the new title. The game isÖ more action-packed. However, that shouldnít be taken to mean the game is more arcadey. It just doesnít slog along like FIFA 12 sometimes can, and fast players actually feel quick, and professional players turn and control the ball like they should -- on a dime.

Red card

Try as I might, I could not get my keeper to throw a ball far out for a quick counter. Instead, he seemed destined to act like heís from a lower division, and prone to throwing the ball short to a player under pressure no matter where I aimed and how long I charged the throw. This is especially disappointing as Konami claims that Ďkeeper distribution is something theyíve improved upon.

Another item of concern deals with both the menus and graphical prowess of the game. In short: both suck.

FIFAís menus are resplendent, enthrallingÖ and honestly, I could go on with more adjectives and verbs. There were times where I would get caught up checking out the 2010 FIFA World Cup menu more than Iíd play the actual game on the pitch.

Pro Evolution Soccer has had the same boring menus for years. Now, I know that the soccer on the pitch is more important, but putting a little more effort into something so simple would be a nice change of pace.

In terms of graphics, good lord is this game ugly. I like to tell people that I wear snazzy indoor soccer shoes and outdoor cleats because itís really the only thing people are seeing when Iím heading out to a game thatís unique and flashy.

I consider the player models and graphics in a sports game to be similar, as itís really the main thing you see in the game. Thatís why I have to be disappointed with PES 2013. Iím normally not a graphics snob, but when you stare at soccer players for the majority of the game I expect the visuals to be much, much better (though it would be remiss not to add that the likeness to star players such as Ronaldo is accurate, just not always pretty).

Final whistle

This new game of soccer (football if you prefer it that way) doesnít feel that much different compared to last yearís game. The changes arenít as monumental as, say, FIFA 12′s were last year from its previous iteration, but PES 2013 is still a good game.

Itís hard to tell just how good -- or lacking -- the new game is based on such a simple demo. After three matches, however, it seems that if you were a fan of last yearís game, youíll enjoy the new one; and the new FullControl is a genuine improvement. The gameplay on the pitch isnít revolutionary, just another solid outing.

But hey, at least I can still sub in anyone for my Ďkeeper.   read


3:36 PM on 10.11.2011

We need more options to play as women in sports games

NHL 12 does something quite unique that sports games don't normally let you do. It allows you to create female pros.

This doesn't happen too often, and sometimes it's because the leagues the games are made to represent won't allow it -- but the industry can do better.



NHL 12 Created female

Why do we not have the ability to create more female pros in our sports video games? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that plenty of popular women and women's sports could be included in the male-only titles...or in their own.

The FIFA Women's World Cup just finished this past summer. It's insanely popular -- especially in America. People get into the men's team during World Cup time, but is their keeper on Dancing With the Stars? No.



Here we have Hope Solo, one of the greatest female athletes to ever play the sport. She's in FIFA 12 ads, Dancing With the Stars, and all over talk shows during the aftermath of the United States' defeat in the World Cup final.

Hope Solo Video Game

You could argue that she's more popular than any current USA player -- possibly more popular than any male player, ever -- yet she isn't in FIFA 12, even though she makes appearances in commercials for it.

Apparently, at least one development team at EA Sports succeeded at getting women into a hockey game. Developers for other titles should try the same. The United States has a professional women's soccer league (I know I'm focusing a lot on soccer, but that's what I know), and women star in countless other sports around the world.

And though including some women's leagues may present roadblocks, FIFA represents women and equality -- a good reason to try and include the women of the sport in a game.

For all the U.S. women's soccer team has done to popularize the sport, being in a video game -- in however large a role that may be -- seems like a no-brainer. I don't mean for EA to take a huge gamble and have a game just about the Women's Professional Soccer league (though down the line that would be nice if the league doesn't fall apart). But maybe they could just add the women into the men's game, much like indoor soccer was added in FIFA 11.

The option should be there; it's amazing that this doesn't get talked about a lot more often. If I can do something asinine like put my star striker in goal to block shots in Pro Evolution Soccer, I should be able to play as Hope Solo or unlock a classic team starring Mia Hamm in the next release of FIFA.

And although a game like FIFA 12 is all about realism and having the most accurate physics system, video games excel at one thing: allowing us to experience things we normally can't. I would love nothing more than to have a digital Hope Solo line up against the U.S. men's national team in a match to see just how many of Landon Donovan's shots she could block.   read


1:26 AM on 10.06.2011

Gaming as an adult is tough

I spent more than 100 hours playing Borderlands. That's partly because I am obsessed with it.

I now find myself returning to the title once again. This time I'm doing so with an old friend who just discovered the unique shooter after reading about its highly anticipated sequel.



Diving back into Borderlands seemed like a fun enough idea. I'd already played through it twice, reached the level cap with my siren, and completed all the downloadable content.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to revisit Pandora while showing my buddy the ropes.

Although I'm unemployed and trying to become a professional video game journalist, that doesn't mean my also-unemployed friend is in the same boat. He has three kids which means he's super busy.

Feeding, changing, holding, coddling, playing...it's a hectic job, but it needs to be done.

Adulthood has been the biggest obstacle blocking our gaming paths.

And what about those people who do have jobs? Ah yes, the dreaded nine-to-five commitment needed to buy video games, pay rent, and fill the fridge. A job in itself isn't a bad thing, but not everyone works the same hours. Plus, people have other hobbies too.

I'll never find time to manage these little guys like I could in high school.


I'll never find time to manage these little guys like I could in high school.

I prefer playing soccer instead of video games, and I also like to do a plethora of other things that make my free time disappear quickly.

With conflicting hobbies, busy friends, and even busier schedules, turning on a console becomes difficult. And sometimes after a hard day of work, I'm only using my Xbox 360 for Netflix.

When I was younger, I could play outside, do chores, and still pump more than 400 hours into Final Fantasy Tactics. That kind of life is nothing more than a memory now.

How has adult life affected your gaming habits? Let me know in the comments.   read


4:01 AM on 11.09.2010

Interview: Xseed Translator Tom Lipschultz

Tom Lipschultz is Xseedís resident translator for the Japanese developer Falcom, makers of the Ys RPG series, and the newest addition to their localization team. I had a chance to chat with him about what itís like to localize niche role-playing games, how to get a career in making sure a video game never has a line of text that reads ďAll your base are belong to us,Ē and more.



Tom Lipschultz

Louis Garcia: What do you do at Xseed?

Tom Lipschultz: Iím a localization specialist. As Xseed is a fairly small company, I tend to do a bit of everything. We all sort of pitch in and help out with each otherís jobs. You never know what each day is going to be here. My primary job is translation and editing.

LG: What is the localization process like?

TL: One of the things I think a lot of people donít understand is that Xseed is a localization house; weíre not a programming house. So we donít actually do the programming side ourselves, we actually work with the developers of the original game for that.

The first step is to secure the game, get the licensing and get in touch with the developers. Then itís a matter of getting a text dump. For a lot of them itís an Excel fileÖit depends.

Once we have a hold of the text dump, usually one person will translate and one person will edit. Sometimes there will be multiple translators or multiple editors. Sometimes it will just be one person doing both. It depends on the project and the complexity of the dialogue.

Once thatís edited, we send it back to the developer and itís put into the game by their own programmers, and we receive an English ROM that we then get to test and run through QA process to fix up typos and things.


LG: How large is the localization team at Xseed?

TL: (Laughs) Pretty small. Weíre a company thatís barely in the double digits as far as the number of people here. Officially the localization team is three people, but we do often get outside contractors to assist us. We have a few trusted outside contractors and freelance translators that we like to work with.

When three people are not enough -- which is often the case -- we will get some outside assistance from trusted sources.

LG: What is the importance of localization?

TL: The big importance -- especially when it comes from Japanese to English -- is that Japanese and English are notÖtheyíre kind of mutually exclusively as far as nuance goes and natural speak.

If you take a line of Japanese and translate it 100 percent directly into English, itís going to sound stilted, itís going to sound awkward, and it might not even make sense. You really need to know the nuances of the language, and you really need to be able to take something thatís in Japanese and translate the meaning rather than translating the words. You need to basically figure out what is being said in the Japanese and figure out how to express that same idea in English rather than translating it word for word.

If you donít do that, youíre going to have a game thatís kind of difficult to get into because youíre constantly breaking the fourth wall. Youíre constantly aware that your reading something that is translated instead of something that might have originally been in the language.


Ys Seven

LG: What makes a good localization: staying true to the source material or putting in your own pop culture references?

TL: It depends on the source material. The Ys games -- Iíve been working on the Ys games since Iíve been here -- are a really great example.

For instance, Ys Seven does have a few pop culture references, and theyíre subtle ones, but we tried to put a few in there. The game also has a certain tongue-in-cheek kind of humor, and itís because the game lends itself to that; in the original Japanese the text was very simplistic with a few goofy, almost breaking the fourth wall things on purpose. It leant itself to that kind of translation, whereas Ys: The Oath in Felghana -- the game which we will be releasing by the end of this year -- is very much like a stage drama the way the dialogue is done.

Itís very melodramatic and soap opera-esque. As a result, yeah there are a couple humorous interludes in the game, and I do actually have a couple of references I put in the humorous parts of the game, but theyíre kind of few and far between. For the most part itís a very soap opera thing, so I tried to stick to that sort of general feel.


[i]From left: Translator Tom Lipschultz, taskmaster (localization manager) Kenji Hosoi,
and editor Jessica Chavez are totally metal.[/i]

LG: How do you guys go the extra mile to make sure the localization is up the quality youíd like it to be? Do you guys do a lot of research?

TL: If weíre not experts, we try to become experts before we work on the title. Weíll play through the game. Weíll research it. Weíll find out about previous iterations.

For instance, with the Ys series, everybody kind of enjoyed the games, but very few of them knew much about the series, and thatís part of why I was hired, actually. Iím kind of Xseedís resident Falcom expert. I donít know if I can call myself that; I kind of feel weird saying that.

Xseed has a partnership with Falcom as of right now. [Xseed] wanted to make sure they had someone on staff that really knew the material. Part of my job is to go over any advertising material they come up with, any trailers to help out with footage, and look over them and just make sure everything is consistent with the series legacy.

To go back to one of Xseedís earlier releases, Brave Story: New Traveler, was a game based off of a novel in Japan. The novel was also translated separately from Xseed, but we wanted to make sure all the terms in the game and all of the names of locations and such matched what was in the novel. We worked with the novelís translator to ensure there was that sense of continuity between them.


Tom Lipschultz and Jessica Chavez

LG: What are some of the most difficult things you encounter when localizing a game?

TL: The biggest challenge is if youíre not 100 percent sure where a line of dialogue is spoken -- context isnít always there to help you. Japanese can be a very vague language.

You may have heard that Japanese is a language that doesn't really use pronouns, and if you donít know where a line is spoken and there are no pronouns, itís kind of hard to figure out who is being talked about and who is doing the talking. One of the biggest challenges is tracking down the source of those stray lines where you just have no idea what is going on.

LG: What would you tell someone who wants to be a localization writer or editor?

TL: Thatís actually a really good question. I kind of feel like I lucked into the role, but I think part of what did it for me was I have a degree in English and East Asian Studies, which is a good combination for localization. I knew English literature quite well, and Iíve studied Japanese quite extensively.

Iíve also done quite a bit of freelance translation and fan translation in the many, many years before looking into a job at Xseed.

I had a bit of experience I pursued on my own, which I think really helped. It looked good on my resume and to be able to say, Yeah, Iíve done freelance translating, and Iíve done fan translating, and hereís my portfolio" -- it looks good to show that you take initiative like that.

I think if anyone else is looking to become a localization specialist, they should probably start picking out a game or an anime or manga or something and just try translating it. Send a text file around to people; let them see what youíre doing. Try to get on some websites like Translator Cafe where you can register to become a freelance translator and have people pick you out and hire you for things. It helps.   read


1:03 AM on 10.29.2010

Review: FIFA Soccer 11 (Wii)



I haven’t enjoyed a FIFA game this much since the GameCube days. I’ve kept up with the series since then, but have always found it lacking when it came to gameplay. And honestly, FIFA 2011 for Wii plays more like a Major League Soccer side on the pitch than an English Premier League team, but it has a new addition this year that makes it quite street soccer.



Two modes allow you to play street Streets to Stadiums and Hit the Streets.

Streets to Stadiums had me absolutely hooked for its entire five seasons. In it, players create a character who starts out playing soccer on the streets. These five-a-side matches are so fun they should be the template for EA’s next FIFA Street game.

Wall passing to yourself and teammates, constant back heels, crazy volleys in tight space, taking on your man one on one…it’s all in there and it’s all perfect. As someone who enjoys real street soccer   read


1:20 AM on 10.07.2010

Rest in pieces mein Wanzer. We killed you.

Unlike the last three Front Mission releases, I didn't buy the newest title as soon as it hit store shelves.

As far as Iím concerned -- as well as my RPG obsessed friends -- the Front Mission series is dead.

The newest title, Front Mission Evolved, takes the strategic, turn-based mech-on-mech action into third-person shooter territory.

I never -- never -- thought I would type a sentence that had the words front, mission and shooter in it.



Front Mission Evolved looks snazzy, but it seems to be just another ho-hum shooter.


After much bickering about Square-Enix and how they have betrayed fans of politically charged, strategic mech action, I realized something.

We are to blame.

Now, I donít mean Front Mission fans who went out and bought each title and loved customizing their little gun-toting Wanzers (the games version of a giant mech), but the gaming community as a whole.

Most gamers I meet who werenít weaned on the RPG heavy Super Nintendo and PlayStation 1 are most likely first or third-person shooter fans.



Front Mission 3. Part of a very happy childhood.


Heck, sometimes we donít even have a choice. What are some of the most successful games recently in terms of sales and mass market appeal? Call of Duty and Halo.

Role playing games -- turn-based strategy ones specifically -- have taken a hit when it comes to appeal on our shiny red-ringers, fancy blu-ray do-it-alls and arm flailing gaming machines.

Dragon Age: Origins is one old-school RPG I have put over 400 hours into on current gen systems. I thank BioWare endlessly for the game every night before I go to bed. Critics thought it would be too old school, but it worked -- much like anything the developer touches.

Aside from that though, RPGs donít seem to perform so hot unless they have the appeal of Final Fantasy or put in shooter mechanics.



Any game featuring Yoshitaka Amano art is a winner.


According to BioWareís Big Brother-esque stat tracking, most Mass Effect 2 players chose the shooter heavy soldier class when picking apart Collectors in their ďRPGĒ quest. In fact, itís probably the only RPG in any of my shooter loving friendsí collections.

I donít mind that ME2 is like that; I love the game.

If I were Square-Enix, I too would have capitalized on the shooter craze that seems to have defined the current generation of gaming on the Xbox 360 in the West.

Itís economically dangerous to release old-school RPGs on home consoles nowadays -- just look at Valkryia Chronicles.

And honestly, Front Missionís problems began way before the shooter craze.

It should have been kind of obvious that the series was in trouble after the PlayStation 1ís Front Mission 3.

Back in 2004 I bought Front Mission 4 for PlayStation 2 on launch day and bulldozed through it and loved every minute of it.

In just four months -- yes, four months -- I could have bought 10 brand-new copies of the game for the same price of a copy on release day at Best Buy.

Ouch.

After that, gamers missed out on Front Mission 5: Scars of the War for PS2, Front Mission 2089 for DS in addition to a slew of others from earlier in the seriesí lifespan like the all important second game in the series.



If people would have bought Front Mission 4...


In a perfect world, Square-Enix would continue to release "true" titles on the DS or even consider the PSP or digital downloads for new releases. I would even take an iteration of the series on iPhone.

However, when I was in Japan in 2008 for college and saw a cardboard cutout advertisement for 2089, and realized It wasnít even reported on in the U.S., I wondered if America would never see another proper Front Mission game.



C'mon Square! I'll buy 10 copies if this comes to America!


Front Mission Evolved could be another spin-off, and maybe the next real title is on its way. Over the years the series has produced a side scroller, RTS and multiplayer online game. So, all of my tears shed over the thought of an over-the-shoulder shooter ruining Front Mission could be for naught.

If Front Mission Evolved is a good game I might buy it. Iím not holding my breath, though.

Thereís really only two paths this series seems destined for. On the one hand Front Mission Evolved is a success and Square-Enix focuses on the more action-heavy gameplay in future installments and thatís that.

Or, the game tanks and we lose everything Front MissionÖforever.

I guess Iím a bit of a pessimist and resistant when it comes to change, but I want my little mechs on a square grid; there are already enough ho-hum shooters on the Xbox 360.

At least these guys have given gamers like me the happiness Square has denied.   read


11:59 PM on 09.21.2010

Gaming on the iPhone has me Hooked.

As someone who grew up with technology and always had the latest gaming systems (Iíve waited in line during system launches in good olí Wisconsin winter weather) one would think Iíd be a little more accepting of it.

However, Iím more akin to my grandfather when it comes to new technology; Iím very slow to adopt it and try to put it off for as long as possible.

The new tech gadget that I have finally adopted is the iPhone 3GS.



My attitude toward the phone had always been similar to the rise of online gaming for consoles with games such as SOCOM for PlayStation 2--I just donít care for these new things changing my established order in life.

I eventually accepted online gaming with the release of Xbox Live for Xbox 360, and am constantly on there gaming with friends and downloading new games on the Arcade service. Itís a blast and a part of my gaming lifestyle.

Oddly, the iPhone has become a staple in it as well.

Iíve never used a phone for much more than anything besides, well, sending and recieving calls.

Aside from that, my phone seconded as an alarm clock and calculator and I only played one game on a phone before.

The iPhone has changed everything.

I canít stop gaming on it. When Iím done playing big releases such as Dragon Age: Origins or Halo with friends, I like to crawl into bed and take a few moments to engage in a short session of iPhone gaming.

The fact that the platform is a phone is deceiving. I try to make myself believe that games on a phone can only be casual at best and Iíll be bored or done within minutes at most.

Now I get done with these gaming sessions to find my clock to display times well past my bedtime.



Games on the iPhone are cheap, and many of them are well done. One of my favorite games so far is Beneath a Steel SkyĖRemastered. Itís a remake of an adventure PC game from 1994 with art drawn by Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons.

The remastered version with touch controls and the added bonus of portability make the $3 purchase an easy one.

Iíve spent massive amounts of time sifting through iPhone games to find other remastered games, ports or brand new titles to play. Like all systems some are winners and some are stinkers.

Downloads can be free or up to $10. Itís an easy choice to plop down a few bucks for a game I can take anywhere.

And thatís another huge plus about this new gaming platform Iíve embraced.

As a big fan of portable gaming Iíve experienced and owned just about every handheld known to man.

Most of the time I donít even use my handhelds as portable devices on bus rides, plane rides or in during lunch breaks at work like it is intended for.

I usually sit at home and game on my handhelds because I like the games enough to keep my eyes fixated on their tiny screens, but also because I donít think they are that portable.

The Nintendo DS can take a beating, but Iíd still rather not carry it around all the time, case or no case.

The PlayStation Portable is out of the question for brining anywhere for fear of damaging its screen.

The iPhone to me is truly a portable system.

It is a bit larger than some phones, but it is way smaller then Sonyís and Nintendoís handhelds.

I can actually slide the thing into my pant pocket or coat pocket.

The much more sophisticated iPhone cases put my mind at ease if I accidentally drop or bump it into something while occupied with whatever game Iím playing.

Now Iím not saying the iPhone is better than what Sony or Nintendo offer--far from it in fact.

However, having some truly unique games like Trees of Doom coupled with ports of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force is quickly making my iPhone eat up gaming hours usually set aside for the more mainstream systems.

With that in mind, gaming on Appleís device can only get better. Keeping up with the new iterations of the phone, however, is something my checkbook canít embrace just yet!   read


10:17 PM on 09.03.2010

David Gaider Answers Dragon Age 2 Questions at PAX

David Gaider did a little Q&A today at PAX--streamed via Ustream Live on BioWare's website--and showed viewers his eyebrow waggle while answering some burning questions about the sequel to Dragon Age: Origins.



After starting out with an explanation of his Inception like dreams featuring his Dungeons and Dragons characters, Gaider--lead writer for the Dragon Age series--got down to business.

Poster Question/Comment: I'm deadly scared of the new dialogue system.

David Gaider: I can see how thatís a concern. The point is the interface doesnít really change. In Origins there were six entries in any given dialogue. With the new interface itís pretty much the same, just laid out differently. [Writer's note: The new system is similar to the Mass Effect series' dialogue wheel.]

Player VO [voice over] makes it different. Player VO has benefits. If weíre going to do a cinematic game itís best to go all the way and let the person be a personality in the gameÖotherwise you end up as a silent participant.

Weíre allowing you to craft a place in the story like your followers.

P: Will you write any DA2 books?
DG: I sure hope so; I hope I get the chance to write something new.

P: Is this Mass Effect 2 with melee weapons?
DG: Dragon Age: Origins wasnít very responsive.

Weíre not trying to make the action frenetic, but we want the ability for when you press something, it happens. People get nervous by the phrase action RPGÖthey go right to Diablo. There are many variations to that. We still have the same concept that still makes Dragon Age, Dragon Age. Itís about hard choices and characters playing important roles. Itís a dark heroic fantasy; weíre not changing that.

P: Will we get a tool set?
DG: If we do it, and we're not making promises, it's going to be a little bit after release. If it comes it will probably come as an update to the Dragon Age: Origins toolset.

P: What was the deal with the glowing red eyes in the [DA 2] trailer?
DG: Itís blood magic.

P: Is the nudity level bigger or smaller?
DG: I hope you mean more or less. I think itís about the same. But obviously, weíll see. There are some things we are doing that might be considered more risquť.

P: Whatís the deal with Flemeth?
DG: Youíll see Flemeth in DA2 more than once. As to the part that she plays, Iím not going to tell you. If I did that be a spoiler, and I donít spoil my own writing.

P: How long did it take to grow your sweet goatee?
DG: It took a week and a half to grow.

P: How long is DA2?
DG: Longer than Awakening, shorter than DA:O.

P: Will we ever see the Old God baby?
DG: Like I would answer that.

P: Do you have an overall story arc for the DA series?
DG: Yes.

P: Is the empress of Orlais hot?
DG: According to our concept art she is!

P: If Ferelden is medieval Europe, what are the Free Marches [Writer's note: This is where DA2 takes place]?
DG: You could maybe say that they are the Holy Roman Empire--only in the way that it was made up of a lot of states.

P: How significant is Morrigan to the DA universe?
DG: Very significant. So is Flemeth. So is Hawke.

P: Does EA influence the writing in DA?
DG: They say what their goals are, and we implement those goals. In terms of do they come down and say donít use that word or these phrases? No, no.

P: Do you have to use a four-member party?
DG: You can use the naked crazy guy option [Writers note: Gaider said to check the DA forums for what that entails].

P: Will Justice return?
DG: Thatís an excellent question. Maybe.

P: Will we ever find out what happens with Fiona or Maric?
DG: Yes.

P: Will we see our played [Grey] Warden in the future?
DG: [Immediately met with a "canít answer that" from the marketing team ;)] Heíll be involved in the future.

P: Will there be more spells?
DG: Weíre focusing on spells that are upgradeable. Going for a smaller number with greater breadth.

Random Asides

Inon Zur will return to compose Dragon Age 2. As for characters making reappearances, so far Flemeth has been confirmed. Gaider couldn't name anybody else, but he did say Origins, Awakening, and DLC characters would make an appearance.

Your main Grey Warden won't make an appearance in the sequel; however, decisions that affected the world and characters in Origins and Awakening can be imported.

"The effects go from small to large," Gaider said.

Also, it sounded as though Alistair will make an appearance. Spoiler: Gaider mentions he may be a king or he may be a drunk depending on player actions in Origins. Keep in mind however, that was given as an example of what could happen in the sequel from past decisions.

Gaider also did the writing for the next--and final--batch of Origins DLC: Witch Hunt.

He used his poker face to shoot down some girl on girl Hawke romance options.

The new art style aims to give the races a unique look.

"We want races to have a more distinctive look," Gaider said. "Sten for instance, looked human to some. While we are changing the look, we're not throwing away what we have.Ē

There will be blood...err; there will be Dalish. Dalish apparently feature prominently in DA2.

Awakening had a word budget. That is why fans didn't get as much party member dialogue as they would have liked, and also why random objects initiated it.

Anyone with questions for Gaider can follow the biofeed twitter tomorrow for details on how to participate in Saturday's Q&A.   read


3:31 PM on 08.24.2010

Game Rating Tips for Parents



Since there is a meth forum this week to help curtail and hopefully eradicate the use of the drug in my small Alaskan community, I thought Iíd write about something that may be beneficial to parents.

My topic is video game violence. Actually, itís not so much about the violence itself, but how parents can keep their children away from it.

Video games of today are different than they used to be. Little pixels that may or may not look like human beings used to die when falling into pits full of crocodiles or when bumped into by a turtle in a bright red shell.

Most of the time a quirky animation would follow an even quirkier sound signifying a character had fallen and the player must restart a level.

Games today are much more graphic.

An increase in technology along with the average age of gamers has prompted the gaming industry to evolve.

The game Brothers in Arms: Hellís Highway, is about as graphic as Saving Private Ryan. And while it falls short of duplicating the grotesque images in the movie, it does show realistic images of war, features blood and mutilated bodies.

I wouldnít want my child to see Saving Private Ryan at a young age, or play a game with similar images either. However, I constantly sold Mature rated video games to parents of young children during my college years working at Target.

Oftentimes there was a young child and confused mother or father making the purchase. I would explain what the ratings meant, and what would be in the game to the customers, but the child would just roll his eyes and parents out of frustration would buy the game to be done with the whole ordeal.

Parents can avoid this.

I donít have kids, so I donít know what itís like to raise them. I did grow up in some of the best years of gaming however, and I have worked retail enough to see this common mistake parents make.

A lot of parents work from 9 to 5, cook, clean, run errands and who knows what else. Iím sure some of them donít want to be burdened with an unhappy child at the checkout counter in a store while purchasing a game.

Just say no if the gameís intended for a Mature, 17 and older audience if you donít believe your 13-year-old is mature enough to blast aliens apart. But that again is only half the battle.

What do all of those crazy ratings mean?

If your children are gaming on the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or PlayStation 3, the rating that needs to be seriously considered for bad content is the M rating.

The M, means Mature, and is intended for gamers 17 and older. These titles can contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Those descriptions are quite vague. For instance, intense violence can mean realistic depictions of physical conflict, blood, gore, weapons and death. Games such as Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty may carry this tag.

Understanding the ratings is the best way to be an informed shopper and avoid a grumpy kid in the check out lane.

Take some time on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) Web site. The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association.

The body assigns computer and video game content ratings. Parents can go to http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp for a nifty printer-friendly guide to bring along with them while making purchases.

Having this list will make understanding game ratings much easier.

The ESRB also implemented rating summaries for games in July 2008.

Titles released after this date can be searched for on the Web site for more detailed content information.

For example, Halo 3: ODST is accompanied by a couple paragraphs describing the specific types of swear words and gun battles that take place. It also describes how the blood within the game is from both humans and aliens, and is often splattered on walls.

The summaries usually include the most important descriptions of content that the ESRB used to decide a gameís rating.

As a side note, itís not a good idea to rely on a storeís staff when buying games unless it is a specialty store like GameStop. (Even then, I have heard from a friend who works at GameStop that workers will do anything to make a sale...including lying).

If a parent wanders in for some shopping with questions, the clerk may not even understand what content exists in the game Mass Effect 2 as much as the confused, non-gaming parent.

I remember when a Target coworker sold a PlayStation 3 pack-aged with Metal Gear Solid 4 to a kid that looked about 10.

The mother asked if it was a violent or bad game. His response? ďOf course not, itís just a silly game about being a spy.Ē

ÖRight.

I also recommend doing a quick search on YouTube to see gameplay videos. It takes all but five minutes to load up a video and see what content awaits your children.

After being a gamer for years and knowing gamers, I am pretty confident saying violence in games doesnít turn someone into a hate-filled person ready to hurt others.

If that were the case Iíd be a professional soccer player and princess rescuer from all the FIFA and Super Mario I play.

Some children, however, are more impressionable or less mature than others. Itís important to recognize what a child can and cannot play, and understanding what content is in the games you buy.

Dtoid probably isn't the right crowd for this, but maybe this post will help a parent out.   read


4:01 PM on 08.23.2010

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Public Beta Open

This is more of a just letting you guys know type of deal instead of writing it out nicely for you to read. I'm sneaking onto Dtoid at work, and to be honest, if it ain't the Old Republic, I could care less. But maybe some interested folks will want to sign up for this!




Taken from the press release:

WHAT:
Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts are looking for video game enthusiasts of all ages and fans of the Star Warsģ: The Clone Warsô animated television series on Cartoon Network, to be the first to get hands-on in the open BETA testing for Star Warsģ: Clone Wars Adventuresô. Get a sneak peak of the highly anticipated free-to-play online virtual world and provide feedback to help put the finishing touches on the final game scheduled to be released later this year on September 15.

The ultimate virtual destination for a new generation of Star Wars fans, Clone Wars Adventures is an action-packed virtual world where players can go online to experience fun minigames, daily activities, events, rewards, lively social environments and competition. Clone Wars Adventures lets players duel iconic adversaries with their own custom Lightsaber, speed through the galaxy in a custom Starfighter, defeat enemies and take down starships.

Clone Wars Adventures is a free-to-play game, but players who want to take the galactic action to the next level can purchase a monthly Membership subscription for $5.99, while a variety of epic items can also be purchased through Station Cashģ micro-transactions. The Clone Wars Adventures Galactic Passport is scheduled to be available at thousands of retail locations in North America later this fall and will include a 90-day membership, 500 Station Cash, the ability to unlock the Togruta playable character, a Yoda monitor topper, and more.

WHEN:
Clone Wars Adventures BETA registration is open now. Prospective Jedi masters and Clone Troopers can register for BETA and test their Lightsaber skills, helping to fine-tune the game for launch this September!

WHERE:
For the opportunity to participate in the program visit the game website www.clonewarsadventures.com and click on the BETA registration link.   read


11:06 PM on 08.19.2010

Random Musing on the Cheesiness of Monday Night Combat



First off, I fricking love Monday Night Combat. I didn't think I would when I first saw it, but after downloading it the day it hit Xbox Live Arcade and playing until 4 a.m. when I had to be into work at 8 a.m., it's safe to say I'm hooked.

If you haven't picked it up yet, head on over to the reviews section of Dtoid and read Mr. Sterling's review. It is pretty spot on in terms of what the game offers.

However, a lot of reviewers have pointed out the annoying announcer as being a drag. And you know what, he really is.

After visiting the official site for the game I've been thinking about something. The game obviously wants to throw in some humor and premise. Unfortunately, it comes off as cheesy and bare. The announcer is annoying and the mentioning of players being clones in the future is only briefly visited. And don't even get me started on Pitgirl and her blatant "use for sex appeal" marketing bullshit.

But all of that would have been excusable had I not read the great, creative back story and bios on the Uber Entertainment site.

Here's just a sampling to whet your appetite:

MNCís Head of Biomedicine, Dr. Karl Pickering, puts it this way: ďWe at Monday Night Combat believe strongly in the three Cís: character, commitment and cloning. We also believe in the three Bís: breeding, bionics and bioengineering. Possibly the Bís should come first. Whatever, Iím not a goddamn dictionary.Ē

Anywho, I would have loved more of the humor from the site stuck into the game. Sure, it may have bogged down a game that is meant for someone to jump on quickly, blow some shit up and then go to bed, but I think it would have been a great addition.   read


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