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3:18 PM on 06.08.2013

How to Make Achievements BETTER for Next Gen

The changes that Microsoft has in store for the structure of next-gen achievements is an issue that seems to have gotten lost amidst the torrential outpouring of disbelief, dissatisfaction, and…..dicksauce (couldn’t think of another D-word) that occurred in response to the unveiling of the Xbox 360 minus 359.  For me, this issue was one of the more seriously disappointing ones. (I am actually looking forward to my Kinect telling me that it likes my new shirt, becoming self-aware, and threatening to blow up my TV if I don’t buy Halo 5)  

    If you were in a state of Hulkamania rage by that point in the conference (forgivable) or daydreaming about how you suddenly want to watch Minority Report again, then I’ll briefly outline some of the changes that I have heard proposed.

• Developers will be able to add achievements post-release, without DLC.
• Achievements can be made for participation in one-time events, like a special multiplayer weekend
• Video of achievements being unlocked can be captured, uploaded, and shared
• Achievements can be unlocked for doing things other than just playing games.
It bears mentioning quickly that we have a ways to go before the release of the Xbox (B)ONE(R) and who knows what might happen over that time and what changes/backpedals/vague non-statements Microsoft might make in that time.  Hopefully, we’ll know more after E3 and we might actually be given some reasons to be hopeful about the Xbox One (see I didn’t make a joke about the name there because we’re being optimistic). 

Personally, I am kind of on the fence about these changes.   It’s just too early to tell if I will like them or hate them.  After all, I thought the very idea of achievements existing in the first place was stupid when I first got an Xbox 360 and I ended up becoming obsessed with them.  But looking forward towards next-gen, I have a few ideas of my own that I think could change the whole achievement system for the better.  Keep in mind, these suggestions come from the perspective of a gamer that loves achievements, and has spent way too much time in his young life performing mundane tasks in their pursuit.  And from one who, apparently, has spent way too much time considering their merits and weaknesses.  Don’t take any of this too seriously.  I don’t really expect any of it to happen.  And if you’re the type of person who doesn’t really care about achievements, well…….you should probably just stop right here and go read a book, or crochet something, or play your Wii.

1. Make it more realistically possible to get every achievement in any individual game.
- This is really more up to game developers than Microsoft.  But it’s an idea that they seem to be going the opposite direction on, if the reports of new achievements being added monthly or even weekly are to be believed.  The whole draw of achievements is their appeal to the completionist mindset.  If Pikachu has taught us one thing, it’s that the compulsion to catch’em all can be quite powerful.  I can see how frequently adding achievements might sound like a good way to keep players going back to a game weeks after it’s released.  But there exists a tipping point.  From the perspective of an admitted achievement-aholic it would be like running a race where the finish line keeps getting moved farther away as you get closer.  The task of getting perfect achievement completion would become Sisyphean, and people like me would really have no choice but to abandon the quest entirely, or be driven insane.  And in so doing, the goal of making more achievements to keep players playing longer would in reality have the opposite effect, at least for players like me.  In the big picture, this may not be an entirely bad thing.  I have almost forgotten what it was like to play a game simply for the pleasure of playing it, and being able to just be done with it whenever I felt like it.
Going further with the idea of making full achievement completion a more realistic goal, I have two more suggestions.  The first is to cut down on the super-hardcore achievements.  I get the feeling that when designers are creating their achievement lists, they tend to think of their game as the only game you are ever going to play.  Getting full completion should have a certain amount of challenge, so that fulfilling the goal carries with it a payoff.  I’m not saying every game should be like Avatar: The Burning Earth (you can get 1000 gamerpoints in like 5 minutes), but I’m also not going to finish Mega Man 10 without getting hit once or kill 100,000 enemies in Gears of War 2.   The second suggestion is to cut down on multiplayer achievements.  Too often they involve things that are out of your personal control like what map you play on.  And they are virtually impossible to get if you are playing a game that is more than like a year old and has no online community anymore, because everyone has already tried it and gone back to COD.

2. Give you a chance to show off the Achievements you are most proud of
This is the part where I look like a flippity-flopper.  Having just said that I hate those super hardasscore achievements, I am now going to suggest that we gamers be given a chance to display the achievements that we worked our butts off to earn.  Kind of like a troph……err…medal.  I’m not talking about that stupid Facebook thing they do now.  I don’t have Facebook myself, but I imagine seeing somebody’s achievement unlocks would be about as interesting as those douches who post pictures of their food.  Also, I don’t think I’d want all of the girls I went to high school with to see that I just hit level 50 in Skyrim.  What I had in mind would be for each person to choose like 3 to 5 of their favorite achievements, across all games, and have the icons display on their Xbox live profile, somewhere below their profile pic and gamerscore.  Maybe it could replace the Rep stars or the spot where it says your “Zone”, since those are meaningless.  

3. Make Gamerscore mean something
Microsoft recently rolled out a program for Xbox Live Rewards called MyAchievements.  Basically, it rewards you for having a higher gamerscore.  The program is a great idea, but unfortunately, the rewards aren’t really anything to look twice at.  Reaching the programs highest level (25000 gamerpoints) gets you a 2% discount on purchases.  So…..40 cents on a $20.00 purchase.  Hey, it’s better than nothing, but I really think they are missing an opportunity to motivate gamers to spend even more time playing their system.  My first idea would be to just take what they already have and expand it.  Make a 50,000 and a 100,000 level for the super hardcore.  I don’t know what the rewards would be, but it could be something as simple as an exclusive avatar item.  To make it even better though, they could make it something awesome that gamers would actually really want.  
From a business standpoint, this makes complete sense.  Bragging rights are all well and good, but it seems to me that a system where putting in more playing time means getting better rewards out of the experience could be a gold mine.  Raising your gamer score means playing more games, which means buying more games, and playing those games for longer (less likely to trade them in).  It makes sense to me at least, but then who am I to question the razor sharp, rock solid business tactics of Microsoft?  I mean, it’s not like they’ve ever done anything to upset consumers, right? Right?

How about you guys?  Got any ideas for how to improve achievements?   read

3:02 PM on 05.06.2013

45 Great Games for Under $5 Each

Now that Bioshock Infinite has come and (after 4 playthroughs) gone, I found myself looking ahead to the rest of the spring and summer releases.  While there are a few that are looking good, summer can also be a great time to catch up on video game backlogs, and go back and play older games that you may have missed.  If you are looking for a great older game to play while you sit inside with the shades drawn and the air conditioner cranked, then here is a list of 45 games, for current gen consoles (and a few for DS and PSP), that you can own for about the price of a normal game rental.  Or you could, I dunno, go do something outside.  But then you might get sunburned, or attacked by a goat or something. Seems risky.  Oh well.  It’s up to you.

A few points of order, first of all.  First, it should be noted that I am not a PC gamer, although I am aware that there are a great many awesome, cheap gaming deals to be had on digital distribution services like Steam.  Maybe even deals on some these very games that I am going to list below.  For the purposes of this blog, I decided to focus solely on non-downloadable, physical retail games.  Second, the source for all of my prices is, and all titles are pre-owned.  Some of these are available for online purchase, but for others I’m afraid to say that you will have to scour the shelves at your local Gamestop store. Alternately, I’m sure that they can be found at other places (eg: Ebay, Best Buy, Amazon) online but you will have to look and compare prices for yourself.  Most, if not all, of these games, were very well-received.  They all come with my personal recommendation that, for the price, they are worth your time.  And hey, even if you buy it and hate it, you’ve only lost $5.

We’ll start with Xbox 360, but I’ll put a * if the game is also on PS3, for less than $5

 [u]Xbox 360[/u]

Crackdown ($2.99) – Fun superhero-style sandbox game. Also has co op.

*Prince of Persia (2008) - ($2.99)

Prey – ($2.99)

Fable 2 ($2.99) – The best of the Fable games, great action-rpg.

Forza Motorsport 2 – ($2.99)

James Bond: Quantum of Solace ($2.99) – COD clone, but a good one if you like Daniel Craig’s Bond movies

*Duke Nukem Forever ($3.99) – HEAR ME OUT! This is a piece of gaming history that will be remembered for a while.  It is NOT a good game, but you can have $4 worth of fun here just throwing poop around. If you’re feeling bold, you can spring for a new copy for $1 more.  Haha.

*Street Fighter 4 ($4.99) – It doesn’t have the full character roster that the Super version has, but it’s one the best fighting games of this generation.

Turok ($4.99) – It’s a mediocre shooter, but hey it has dinosaurs!

*Unreal Tournament 3 ($4.99) – If you used to love playing Perfect Dark multiplayer against AI bots, then here you go.  Bring friends for classic chaotic multiplayer.

LEGO Indiana Jones ($4.99)

Condemned: Criminal Origins ($4.99)

Condemned 2: Bloodshot ($4.99) - Both of these were great, scary games in their time.  They haven’t aged particularly well, but still worth a look.

*Brutal Legend ($4.99)

Red Faction Guerilla ($4.99)

Red Faction Armageddon ($4.99) – Both of the Red Faction games have a ton of stupid-fun environment destruction.  PS3 versions are a couple bux more.

Gears of War ($4.99)

Gears of War 2 ($4.99) – Both of these are classic Xbox 360 shooters.  Convince a buddy to get them also and enjoy some of the best co op shooter action on the system.

*Star Wars: The Force Unleashed ($4.99) – One of the best Star Wars games out there.  If you have ever had a Jedi power fantasy (who hasn’t?) then this is a no brainer.  Just avoid the terrible sequel.  You can pay more and go for the ultimate edition, but none of the DLC was that great anyway.

*Alpha Protocol ($4.99) – Opinions were mixed on this one, but personally I loved the choice-driven story, weapon customization, and stealth takedowns.  Just be ready for some bugs/glitches.

[u]Playstation 3[/u]

Motorstorm ($1.99)

Resistance: Fall of Man ($2.99)

Fallout 3 ($4.99) – For a few bucks more, you can get the GOTY edition, with all of the DLC.  But still, there is around 100 hours of awesome gameplay here without it. The 360 version is $2 more

Watchmen: The End is Nigh, complete game ($4.99) – An underrated brawler that fans of the graphic novel and/or movie will surely enjoy. 360 version is $2 more

Medal of Honor ($4.99) – As close to COD as anything could possibly be, without a lawsuit.  Except not as good.  Still, worth a play. 360 version is $2 more

[u]Nintendo Wii[/u]
There are around 1 or 2 shitillion terrible, cheap shovelware games for the Wii.  But I did manage to find a few cheapies that are worth playing.

Madworld ($2.99) – Hilarious and violent, it’s worth it just for Greg Proops’(Whose Line is it Anyway) over the top commentary alone

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption ($4.99) – It’s worth playing by itself, if you didn’t play it as part of the (apparently) rare and pricey Metroid Prime Trilogy.

Excite Truck ($4.99)

De Blob ($4.99)

[u]Nintendo DS[/u]
I only found one DS game that I could recommend. Like the Wii, it’s mostly terrible licensed games and shovelware at this price limit.

Brain Age 2 ($4.99)

[u]Playstation Portable[/u]
The PSP got a bad rap, but it is still by far my favorite handheld system ever.  And since the launch of the Vita, many PSP games are dirt cheap. Besides these bargain titles, the systems best games like Metal Gear: Portable Ops and Peace Walker, both God of War titles, FF7: Crisis Core, and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, can be had for less than $20 each.

Patapon ($2.99)

Lumines ($2.99)

Syphon Filter: Dark mirror ($2.99)

Syphon Filter : Logan’s Shadow ($2.99) – Both fun little shooters once you get used to the controls.

Metal Gear Acid ($3.99)

Metal Gear Acid 2 ($3.99) – These two aren’t for everyone, but if you are interested in bizarre, jrpg-ish stories and quirky card-based gameplay, then check them out.

Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 ($4.99)

Puzzle Quest Challenge of the Warlords ($4.99) – This great puzzler is available for practically every platform out there (including IOS) but I’ve always been one to prefer physical copies of my games. Don’t ask me why.

Monster Hunter Freedom ($4.99) – A cheap way to see what all the fuss is about in Japan.

Locoroco 2 ($4.99)

Twisted Metal: Head on ($4.99)

Medievil Resurrection($4.99) – I loved the Medievil games on the original Playstation.

So…..there you have it.  Take my advice and pick up a few cheap titles that you may have overlooked.  Or…….ignore me and save your money for the latest and greatest.  Up to you.  But now you know!  Feel free to suggest some other good, cheap games in the comments section.   read

8:32 PM on 05.04.2013

The 8 Types of Xbox 360 Achievements

After reading Brett Makedonski's excellent article on the rumors surrounding the next Xbox’s achievement system, I found myself considering how achievements have affected my own video game playing habits.  And my conclusion was……..that they have changed the way that I play games a butt load.  Maybe even 3 or 4 butt loads.  I’m not sure, I’ll have to check with the department of weights and measures and get back to you.  The point is, Brett is right.  Achievements have pervaded my video game playing to such a degree that I cannot imagine going back to gaming without them.  And yet, if the rumors are true, that may be exactly what I end up doing. Well, not really WITHOUT them, because they will still be there, but I will likely just stop caring about them.

In light of this pending cataclysm, I will be writing several blogs on the subject of xbox achievements over the next week or two.  If you like this one, then feel free to follow me.  I have a lot to say on this subject.  I am planning some elaborate psychological analyses on Pavlovian classical conditioning involving the “achievement popped” sound, as well some thought experiments on quantum mechanics (I posit that every time you unlock an achievement on Xbox360, an alternate version of you unlocks a trophy on PS3 in a bizarro universe.  Yeah.  Wrap your brain around that).   Just kidding.  But I will be going through some of my most/least favorite specific achievements, games that handle them best/worst, and even toss out some of my ideas for how they could make the achievement system better in the next generation, rather than ruining it.

For starters though, I am going to catalogue and categorize the entire population of Xbox 360 achievements into 8 basic groups/types. I’m like freakin Charles Darwin in the Galapagos.  Except with achievements instead of birds and turtles.  Please don’t call me out on that comparison, just go with it.  Let’s get started.  Bear in mind that this list is neither exhaustive nor definitive, but based on my own gaming experience.  There may be a few achievements that fit into more than one category, and I’m sure there are a few weirdies out there that don’t fit into any category.  Here we go.
Story/Completion Achievements

These are the most basic type of achievements.  You get them just for playing the game normally.  Often times, it’s just a simple matter of completing a chapter or quest, beating a boss, hitting an experience level, or passing an important point in the story.  I won’t even bother providing examples, since almost every game has these.
Specific context, or “Jump Through the Hoop” Achievements

With these achievements, developers set out a specific task to be accomplished.  Go to place x and do y.  These goals can be combat related, occasionally requiring you to employ specific tactics or methods.  Or use weapon x, y times.  Kill x of some certain enemy.   Other times, it really is just as simple as going to a specific place and doing some simple task.  Often times, these are not things you would normally do.
DMC: Devil May Cry, “It’s Only the Rain” – Kill 10 enemies by pushing them into the Hurricane ride
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, “Menace to Society” - Cut off the finial at the top of the pagoda
Bioshock 2: “9 Irony” – Hit the Anrdew Ryan robot in the head with the golf club
Collect the Collectible Achievements

Game developers love to put collectibles in their games.  Especially in sandbox or open world games.  And they are often a ridiculous way to waste a lot of time.  Others feel that they give you an excuse to keep playing a game that you might otherwise be done with.  Did you get all the flags in Assassin’s Creed?  If you did, then…….good Lord……just…wow.  Anyways, these are pretty straightforward.  If you collect’em all, then you get the cheevo.  The collectibles themselves come in many forms.  Weapons, heart pieces, upgrades, or other things can provide a measureable benefit for your character.  And then there are the things that are completely pointless and only exist for you to find them.  For example, flags, feathers, intel,  or in the case of Mafia 2, Playboy magazines.  (On a side note, have you ever thought you just got the last one, but no achievement pops, and then you find out you missed one like 10 chapters ago?  That is the worst.)
Bioshock Infinite: “Infused With Greatness” - Collect every Infusion upgrade in a single game
Assassin’s Creed 2: “In Memory of Petruccio” - Collect all of the feathers
Forza Motorsport 3” “Connoisseur” - Own (at least) one car from every manufacturer
Make a Choice, or “Door #1, #2, or #3” Achievements

If you've ever played a game with a good/evil morality system, then you’ve seen your share of these, I’m sure.  They can come in a few different forms.  Sometimes they are cumulative across the course of the game (eg: renegade/paragon points in Mass Effect), or they can involve choices you made at the very beginning of the game (eg: reach lvl 25 as a warrior/mage/rogue), or they can involve a choice in the narrative (eg: which AI companion to take to poundtown in a bioware game, align with douchebag x or idiot y).  Almost always though, you can choose one and only one…….unless you cheat and reload a save from right before the choice is made.  These cheevies can be quite time consuming to collect when they require separate playthroughs.
Fallout 3: “Reaver/Mercenary/Protector” – Reach lvl 8 with Bad/Neutral/Good karma
Mass Effect: “Paragon/Renegade” – Collect 75% of total Paragon/Renegade points
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Shivering Isles: “Duke Mania/Dementia” – Reach Duke of Mania/Dementia

Multiplayer or “But I don’t like other people” Achievements

These are my least favorite kind of achievements.  These can involve reaching certain ranks in COD-style multiplayer, playing on and/or accomplishing certain goals on certain maps, finishing a campaign in co-op, or they can be similar to the “jump through the hoop” achievements, but with the added poopsauce of requiring the cooperation of other players.  Oh, and good luck earning these if the game is older than like a year and the online community is almost nonexistent.   The Halo franchise deserves special mention for being a dick with these.  A friend and I once got 2 week bans for boosting their multiplayer achievements.  Totally worth it though.
Halo 3: “Two For One” - Score a Double Kill with a single spartan laser shot in a ranked free for all playlist
Gears of War: “Mix it Up” - Win a ranked match in every versus game type
Castle Crashers: “Conscientious Objector” - Complete the barbarian area without attacking once
Use a Feature or “Do this once so you get the points and then never again ”…….Achievements

These may be the dumbest type of achievement.  Often, developers put them in to incentivize you into using specific game features that you might have skipped or ignored otherwise.  They don’t even involve any actual gameplay, and frequently involve tasks like sharing pictures or video clips, or using optional game modes or menus.
Forza Motorsport 4: “Entrepreneur” - Sell a car tuning, paint job, or vinyl group from your storefront
FIFA 13: “Building My Club” - Claim your first FUT Pack
Guitar Hero 2: “Extra Credit Award” – View the credits
Secret or “Look up on the internet” Achievements
I can understand secret achievements when they are story-based, and most of the time that is just what they are.  But it’s a serious WTF moment when you are finished with the game and look at the achievement list and see that there are still like 6 secret achievements.  I’m not sure what developers have in mind when they make these.  Why the hell do they seriously bother making them a secret?  Do they really expect people to stumble upon them?  The thing is, people that don’t care about achievements will never even notice them, and people who DO care about achievements will just look them up online.  So really, it’s just a small annoyance for the achievers among us.
Dead Space 3: “Under a Buck” - Shoot the deer head trophy in the Admiral's Quarters.
Borderlands 2: “What Does it Mean?” – go to the “double rainbow” hidden spot
Star Wars the Force Unleashed: “Worst Day Shift Manager Ever” - Kill 12 Stormtroopers as Vader during the Prologue
“Hardest of the Hardcore” Achievements

Most games have a few achievements that are meant for the most dedicated players.  “Finish the game on the hardest difficulty” and such. But there difficult achievements and then there are “Holy ballsacks did anyone actually DO this?” achievements.  Some of these, I imagine, must require a level of skill and dedication usually only associated with Lionel Messi, Jimi Hendrix, or Bobby Fischer.
Mega Man 10: “Mr. Perfect” - Clear the game without getting damaged
Guitar Hero 3: “Guitar Hero” - Earn 5 stars on all songs on the Expert difficulty
Gears of War 2: “Seriously 2.0” - Kill 100,000 enemies (any mode)

So what do you guys think?  Did I forget any?  Got some more examples?  Be sure to let me know.   read

5:00 PM on 03.07.2013

Thanking Bioware for Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the release of Mass Effect 3. And with the release of the final piece of story DLC a few days ago, this seemed like an appropriate time to look back on a title that will likely be remembered more for it’s highly divisive ending controversy than anything else. And that is just a gosh-darn shame. But hey, we’re gamers. We can be a surly lot. It is a fact that if there were a Gaming Bill of Rights, the first amendment would be the right to go on the internet and complain about stuff. Hell, my last two blogs have basically just been lists of things in gaming that I don’t like.

So, for this outing, I’ve decided to switch things up, and take a completely different mindset and approach, and acknowledge something that Bioware did smashingly, triumphantly, RIGHT.
Like many instinctively skeptical gamers out there, when I first heard that Mass Effect 3 would feature a multiplayer mode, I scoffed. How could a franchise with such an emphasis on creating a personalized, intimate, single player role-playing experience possibly succeed at creating a compelling multiplayer mode? Why did they even need to? How could it be anything other than a tacked-on, derivative mess? After all, I thought the exact same thing when I heard that Bioshock 2 was adding multiplayer (and I was right). But Mass Effect 3 surprised the hell out of me. Even weeks after I had finished the campaign, I found myself going back to the horde mode style multiplayer to earn more credits, to unlock more characters and weapons, and promote and rebuild the characters that I had made (my favorite was my Drell Adept, whom I named “Reavin Steven”).

However, just as the seasons change, so too do my gaming proclivities, and eventually I moved on to other things. Just recently, as the game’s anniversary brought it back to my attention, a friend and I found ourselves loading the game back up during one of our sessions of” X-Beer Live” (if you’re wondering what that is, basically we sit at our respective houses and drink beer while playing video games together on Xbox Live). Upon re-entering the multiplayer arena, I was absolutely shocked and elated at the sheer amount of content that Bioware has released in the last year. In 4 DLC expansions, the playable character roster has been more than doubled, and includes an incredible variety of characters. Ever wanted to play as a Volus? Well, you can now if you want to (sounds awesome and hilarious to me). There are also several new maps, new enemies, new objectives, and a new platinum difficulty level. Clearly, much of this content was developed and released in direct response to fan feedback and requests. The real kicker…..all of it is COMPLETELY FREE. It doesn’t cost you a dime (that's 8 Microsoft Points). Consider that in comparison, Halo 4 wants $10 from you for 3 measly new maps.

The multiplayer mode for Mass Effect 3 could’ve been just fine as it was at release. Bioware could’ve just called it a day and moved on to other things. Most gamers wouldn’t have been surprised or complained, since for most it probably wasn’t a big reason why they bought the game in the first place. Going back to the game now, almost a year later, and seeing how much support they have given to this mode both in terms of their weekend specials, and DLC expansions, I cannot help but be extremely impressed. So on behalf of myself and the rest of Mass Effect 3’s still fairly populous multiplayer community, I would like to extend my thanks and kudos to Bioware. Well done, guys. Well done.

(Now if only I could figure out why I need an online pass to access a service for which I already pay a monthly fee?)

Also........................the ending sucked.

Image borrowed from (   read

7:06 PM on 02.21.2013

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot: The Worst Intros in Gaming

Imagine that you pick up a sexy stranger at the bar, or the mall, or the…..farmer’s market (I don’t know, wherever people hang out these days). Anyways, you’re pretty pumped. You take them home, and you eagerly jump into some canoodling, which is all well and good. Imagine then, however, that your prospective partner stops and says to you, “Hang on there, sugar. Before we move ahead I want you to listen to me talk for three hours about why I don’t get along with my coworkers.” Essentially, that’s exactly what a long, drawn out game tutorial/introduction can feel like. It’s not what you are there for, but you have to bear with it before you can get to the main event. The best game introductions throw you right into the action and hook you right away. God of War 2 and the Colossus of Rhodes comes to mind. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’s Virtuous Mission. The dragon attack on Helgen in Skyrim. The worst game introductions leave you wondering when the hell the fun is going to start. Here, I am going to count down the worst intros I have ever played, rant about them, and mock them as much as I can.

I suppose there are some minor SPOILERS here, so be warned.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Let’s get this one out of the way first, since it is probably the most contentious and debatable of my picks. Let me start by saying that the tanker mission is actually my favorite part of the game. And that’s the problem. The introduction to Metal Gear Solid 2 writes a big, fat Solid Snake-filled check that the rest of the game fails to cash. The problem isn’t the introduction itself, but the contrast with the rest of the game that the introduction creates. It’s probably more accurate to say the worst part is immediately AFTER the introduction, when you start to realize that instead of Solid Snake, (who I will posit is of the coolest video game protagonists ever) you will be playing as some whiny-blonde-pussy-fartdick named Raiden. If they’re gonna pull that kind of baloney, then I would rather just have them put Raiden in the entire game, as weird as that is to say. On a side note, it’s been like ten years and I still have no idea what was going on in that ending. Like, literally no idea.

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords

KotOR 2 opens with your character trapped on a giant empty space station. Your first party member is a nagging old lady. Your second party member is seemingly the result of a writer’s room brainstorm session where the question was asked, “Hey what if we made a guy who acted kinda like Han Solo, but was also a huge douche?” After a few slow-moving hours, you do make it off the space station that you are trapped on, and you are able to finally move on to…….a different space station…….that you are also trapped on. You then travel down to the planet Telos, to do some general gallivanting and hoop-jumping before finally being given control of your ship and allowed to begin your adventure. What makes all of this so much worse, however, is that your character (who is a Jedi, kind of) doesn’t even get a lightsaber until about the 6 hour mark. Six hours!? You could play through the entire campaign of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 during that time (although I’m not sure why you would want to).

Kingdom Hearts 2

I was one of those people that could never get on board with Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. I just could not appreciate the weird card-based combat, or the amnesia-based story. So when Kingdom Hearts 2 came out, I was excited to resume the story and kick some Heartless butt with my bros Donald and Goofy. Instead of that, for the first three hours I got four kids eating sea salt flavored ice cream (Seriously? Sea salt flavor? Do they not have chocolate?) and talking about how they are all such great friends, and how they’ll always be friends, and how friendship is the best. Ad nauseum. That terrible, boring introduction is the main reason why I have only played through this otherwise awesome game once.

Assassin’s Creed 3

I seriously have no idea why Ubisoft thought it would be a good idea to make you wait 4 hours before you get to play as adult Connor and give you your assassin gear. I did not buy this game to play virtual hide-and-seek in the woods with a bunch of kids. I bought it to explore virtual revolution-era Boston and feel like a badass. Hey Ubisoft, you know what’s cool? Hooded assassins stabbing templars with hidden blades. You know what ISN'T cool? Old men with ponytails and triangle hats…..named Haytham.

Final Fantasy XIII

If a good game with a bad intro is like a hot chick that makes you work for her affection, then Final Fantasy XIII is like the most freaking gorgeous chick you’ve ever seen. She makes you work for about 20 or so hours, and even then she doesn’t give you much. If you’re looking for exploration, towns, or a coherent narrative, you will not find them. What you will find are the whiniest characters in video game history, and gameplay that basically amounts to running down one very long hallway, with frequent stops for battles. I believe it was around 25 or so hours in when you finally get to Gran Pulse, and the game opens up and lets you do things like pick your party members, grind out items and experience, and do some exploring. Some may argue that whole period of time can hardly be considered an introduction, but in my opinion it certainly feels like it when that entire first section of the game is so much more restricting than what follows. Even granting that, I’m pretty sure the game had a few solid hours of traditional tutorials at the beginning anyways. And while I don’t remember it being especially terrible, when you look at the overall flow from beginning to end, you cannot say this game didn’t take forever to get going.

So there you have it. What do you guys think? Are there any games out there with worse introductions than these? Did anyone actually like any of these introductions? If so….you’re wrong (just kidding). I encourage you to comment.   read

5:16 PM on 02.05.2013

5 Things Developers Love and Gamers Hate

It must be really difficult to design and develop a video game. There are so many things to take into account. Does it have a good story? How are the graphics? Which character is Nolan North going to do the voice for? It must be tough.

If you're a hardcore gamer, there are certain things you're gonna see all the time. Creativity is time consuming and risky, after all, so many developers tend to just stick to the greatest hits. Red exploding barrels. Deathmatches. Giant spiders. These things are not going away any time soon. But often times, at least in my opinion, things that probably seem like good ideas on paper, end up being some of the most annoying things to experience in a game. I love video games, and if you are reading this then you probably enjoy them as well. There are some truly great experiences to be had in the world of gaming, and game developers will always have my gratitude and admiration for creating them. But, on the other hand, I would really like to tell you guys out there that there are (at least) five things that seriously need to

5. "Horde Mode" style multiplayer

Biggest offenders: Gears of War 2, Halo 3: ODST, Call of Duty: MW3

Correct me of I'm wrong on this one, but I believe it was Gears of War 2 that introduced (or at least popularized) the modern formula for what seems to have become an obligatory inclusion in games with online multiplayer (specifically shooters). Horde mode is basically an evolved version of a very old gaming trope dating back to games like Space Invaders. The idea is to place the players in a situation where the goal is simply to survive as many waves of (sometimes infinite) enemies as possible. Now I'm not saying that these modes can't be fun sometimes, with the right group of friends. But on the occasions when I am able to get a gang together, I would still always rather play standard deathmatch or a cooperative campaign mission. I just think time and resources could be better spent elsewhere. Leave this format over in the tower defense genre where it belongs.

4. Bosses with glowing weak spots

Biggest Offenders: Legend of Zelda series, Resident Evil Series

Some of the best boss fights that I have ever had have been in the Metal Gear Solid games. Pretty sure everyone who has ever played Metal Gear Solid remembers saying "OK seriously what the hell?" the first time they fought Psycho Mantis. Or chasing The End through the jungle in Snake Eater. But for every great experience like those there are seemingly about a billion or so boss fights that can be summarized by the description, "memorize the pattern, attack when the glowing weak spot is revealed". I mean, it's a really lucky thing for us gamers that these guys have these spots in the first place. I can just imagine the scientists in Resident Evil hanging out, growing their giant, gross monsters in those glass tanks, saying to each other, "Ok guys so where should we put the giant herpes postule on this one?" and then the new guy says "Wait, why does it even need to have one of those? If we just don't give it a glowing weak spot then that guy with the 90s haircut won't be able to kill it!" And then they all look at each other.......and shoot him.

I don't think anuses are supposed to look like that.....he should probably see a doctor

3. InstaFail stealth missions

Biggest Offenders: Assassin's Creed series, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dishonored

I'm gonna be honest, I actually love stealthy-assassination-type gameplay. Metal Gear Solid is one of my favorite franchises. I thought the stealth takedown options in Far Cry 3 elevated what was a good game into an awesome game (Stab two dudes in a row, then kill another by throwing the second guys knife, all in a matter of 3 seconds. Revel in your badass-ness). Having said that, we've all groaned our way through a bad stealth mission in a game before. Spend ten minutes slowly creeping your way forward and memorizing enemy movement patterns, only to get spotted at the last possible second and have to redo the entire thing. These segments have never once in gaming history been fun. I have never felt a sense of accomplishment after completing a contrived stealth mission before, only relief and thankfulness that it is over and I can go back to having fun.

2. Choose Your Own Ending

Biggest Offenders: Mass Effect 3, Far Cry 3, Fable 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I can really see how this one might seem like a good idea in theory. Let the player decide how the game ends. After all, the whole experience is about them, right? They are the one that has played the whole game up to this point, right? They've made all the choices so far, right? Makes sense. The problem is that it just doesn't work. A bad ending is a bad ending. It's one thing to watch it and be unsatisfied with how it resolves the narrative. But it is far worse to be forced into causing it yourself with a simple choice of do you want door #1, #2, or #3. And half the time you don't even know what you are choosing. Maybe I didn't want to side with character X, but I didn't know that picking the other option meant killing them! And the whole time we're all just thinking, "So how much do I have to replay and what checkpoint do I have to reload to see the other endings?" Of course the most prominent recent example was Mass Effect 3, but I'll skip over my personal thoughts on why the ending to Mass Effect 3 was terrible for now (which it absolutely was). It's been analyzed to death.

1. Quick Time Events

Biggest Offenders: God of War series, Resident Evil series, Darksiders, too many others to name

In my opinion, this is easily the most stale, trite, overused crutch in modern gaming. I understand the arguments that tout the merits of this mechanic. It's a way of making you pay closer attention to cutscenes. It's a way of making you feel more like you made Kratos do that flying triple flip whilst decapitating harpies, rather than just watching him do it. You know what? I think if they are done right, they can do exactly that. But......they virtually never are.

Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you. You're playing a game. You get to a cutscene. You put the controller down to take a sip of coffee/beer/soda and scratch your butt. All of a sudden, a little "X" in a blue circle pops up on the screen. You frantically try to grab the controller and press the button, but of course it is too late, and your character has died due to some spontaneous calamity. You proceed to exclaim curse words......I'm seeing a lot of hands up, or at least I would be if I could see through the internet (Note to self: new screenplay idea). Or maybe you have experienced the old "tap the button rapidly to escape....oh sorry, not fast enough, now you're dead" maneuver. That one's a classic. But my personal favorite has to be this one: Hit 37 button prompts in a row, only to miss one and then have to rewatch and redo the entire thing all......over.....again.

Come on Krauser, you could at least talk faster.

What do you think guys? Am I right, or am I right, or am I right? right? right? (Props if you understand that movie reference) I wrong? Does anyone out there LIKE any of these things?

Did I forget anything that really annoys you, but game developers love?

Be sure to comment

Didn't make the list, but still annoying: Microtransactions, Day one DLC, having waaay too many collectibles, non-story based secret achievements, bloggers making lists of things   read

3:56 PM on 01.25.2013

Sex: That's what She(pard) said

The world of video games is filled heroes saving princesses, soldiers gunning down aliens, and (most relevantly for the purposes of this blog) scantily clad, large-breasted women. When considering the role of sex in video games, there are a few BIG, ROUND…..issues to consider. Oh, yeah, I also decided to see how many dirty innuendos I could INSERT in here, so…you know...hope you enjoy those.

Once upon a time, LONG ago, I happened to be playing a video game in my apartment with one of my friends. At one point during the game my friend remarked, “Good God dude, the chick in this game is super hot and has huge cans.” Now…do you have any idea which game he was talking about? Of course you don’t! Because it could have been just about any game ever made! And while I neither condone nor CONDOM the proliferation of sex in gaming, I do find it to be an interesting subject. So why is it so HARD to talk about? After all, sex is one of the most natural, normal (at least when you put away your whips and chains) activities in the realm of nature. People everywhere engage in sexual intercourse all the time (some of us more often than others). I’m not going to bother analyzing why sex is so abundant in the world of video games. I think we all know why already. But in case you are unsure, please allow the greatest actor in the history of American cinema to explain why developers design their female characters the way that they do

There are, however, examples of sex in gaming being used tastefully and effectively. It’s not all Leisure Suit Larry and Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball out there. Bioware’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age games have, I think, opened the BACK DOOR for sex to be a part of gaming in a non-porny-jiggly-dirty-cheesy kind of way. I remember playing the original Mass Effect for the first time, and feeling an attachment to a video game character (Liara) in a way that I had never before experienced. Bioware has always been good at creating CUMpelling characters, but the relationship between Shepard and Liara resonated with me in a way that no movie or television relationship ever could. And I think that really shows the true strength of video games as an entertainment medium. So, needless to say, I was pretty pumped when Shepard and Liara finally boned……I just ruined the serious point I was trying to make, didn’t I? Oh well. Guess I BLEW it. Hee hee….wink ;) Thanks for reading………………………BONER……….ok I’m done now.   read

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