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11:52 AM on 08.11.2013

No Graphics Card – Awesomenauts to the Rescue!

For the last six months I’ve had to suffer with a five year old Radeon graphics card that struggles to run even the most basic of software. Previously my old monster g-card had melted itself into a pile of slag and I’ve not replaced it due to expense, laziness, and the ever-present internal argument – Do I spend a little on a component, or a lot on a badass new rig?

In recent months I’ve completed the all Borderlands 2 DLC, aced Tomb Raider and I’m now starting to work my way through the challenges on Arkham Asylum. Needless to say I’m bored to death with my 360 and the last two Games on Gold freebies I’ve played (Assassins Creed 2 and Crackdown) are so dated and unplayable, that I’ve turned again to my PC for my virtual reality thrills.

Thankfully there are plenty of cheap, undemanding titles out there that I can occupy my time with, and Romnio Games’ 2012 Awesomenauts is no exception.

I picked this up for less than the cost of a porn mag (as if I’d pay for porn...) in the recent Steam sale. Recommended by a buddy of mine, he sold it to me as a 2D Space DOTA. And that’s what it is. You command one of three characters on a team whose objective is to destroy the enemy base. In your way are the other team, sentry towers, and other little minions whom you kill for money (and experience).

It’s fun and cheap and very slick. The animation and design is very cartoonish, but smoothly rendered. It looks great, but is totally lightweight; I reckon you could run this thing on a smart phone no problem.

As a game you have a great variety of characters. It veers away from the whole DOTA/LOL fantasy setting and goes for a Bucky O’Hare style future approach. It’s all very boldly coloured and presented. It also maintains the various classes popularised by DOTA; tank, assassins and support, though none feel too specialized or niche.

Currently I am playing as Derpl Zork, a tank class character whom appears as a weird shrimp riding a big robot. He throws cats at his enemies. Yes you read that correctly. My friend: Voltar the omniscient – a brain in a jar who heals people. Rounding out our trio is my other buddy playing Yuri, an assassin monkey riding a jet pack.  

Needless to say this game doesn’t take itself too seriously.

My one regret about the purchase is that I didn’t pick up the complete edition that included the sound track. While it isn’t Hans Zimmer by any stretch of the imagination, it is certainly spunky and reminiscent of old school arcade blasters.   

If I was to search for any problems with the game, I’d definitely say the alternative DLC skins are way too overpriced for what you get (the complete pack is actually more expensive than the game itself). Another gripe is the lack of support characters. Voltar is the only pure healer, and there are only two real tanks. The rest are mainly assassins. 

However, it’s hardly a complex game like DOTA 2, so you can forgive it.

But it does suffer from another issue that pervades LOL and DOTA too – the total reliance on team work. What vexes me about MOBA’s in general is that you cannot solo these games unless you are playing with pros or against total cretins. There is no middle ground. You log on in the middle of the night for a few quick games and you find yourself getting multi-raped game after game. It’s frustrating. But when you do manage to find yourself with a good team, my God is it fun.  

So Awesomenauts is fitting the bill so far. It’s not demanding (performance wise) and each game only takes about 15 minutes, which is perfect for age 30+ gamers with kids and spouses and shit running around interrupting you.

It’s currently on Steam for £6.99, and while that is cheap, I’d still hesitate to pick it up unless a few mates are going to buy it too. Otherwise wait for the next sale. 


10:24 AM on 03.11.2013

Words of Crom Episode 13 - A Video Game of Thrones

Returning to Destructoid after a brief absence, we present Episode 13 of our weekly (ish) podcast of games and geekery.

This episode we go from Season 3 of GoT's to discussing that classic "we've taken your gear and captured you, better not escape and take it all back" game mechanic.

It's full of mega swearing and British accents so listener's better be badasses or you'll end up crying in a corner.

If you enjoy our hour of inane ramblings, please join our Facebook group:

If you do that we'll like some of your meaningless statements or photos of your dog or some shit.
Or follow us on twitter We'll follow you back so you can bloat your followers and impress all the bitches.

Thanks!   read

7:53 AM on 11.03.2012

Words of Crom Episode 2 - Toilet Habits

Had some good feedback from first episode. This episode features a discussion on favourite video game weapons going from Doom, through to Zork, all the way to Portal and COD. Also includes swearing and much argument.

Please give it a listen!   read

3:40 PM on 10.19.2012

Words of Crom

Me and a couple of mates decided to record our ramblings. We talk about our favourite (and most hated) video game sequels, as well as debate the merits of murder, God and everything in between. And all in our cute English accents.

Please give it a listen, and let us know what you think!

Tally Ho!   read

6:22 PM on 09.06.2012

For only a few $$ a month you too can save the galaxy from Bioware Disease

My friends, there is a terrible disease ravaging it’s way across the universe. It is a tragic affliction striking where it is most unwanted.

It sweeps across cities, towns, villages, dungeons, and cool Mos Eisley-themed space cantina night clubs.
The effects of this terrible, terrible malady are felt by all; close friends, loved ones, even perhaps yourself.

I of course speak of the devastating power of Bioware Disease.

What, you may ask, is Bioware Disease? It is simpler to examine the effects than to describe the complex life-cycle of the virus itself.

Imagine, if you will, the setting of the popular 2011 game Dragon Age 2. We are in Kirkwall, described as the “city of chains”, it has been spoken of in hushed whispers by many a world-wearied adventurer. It is apparently, according to the wiki entry, “a major population centre” where “prowling groups of outlaws” hound its lower class denziens.

Venture through Kirkwall though, and you experience something totally different to all that you have been told. Vast areas of silent space. Small groups of what we designate as “none-player characters” (Or NPCs) do stand at random points. Sadly Bioware Disease has rendered even these staunch folk most noticeably silent. Most cannot even move, let alone speak.

Positively Teeming with Life. And chains.

There are no prowling groups. Not even much of a population, thanks to Bioware Disease.

Overall it has destroyed, rendered mute and completely nullified the atmospheric impact of any NPC in Bioware’s multiverse.

Scientists believe the viral strain of Bioware Disease, or BD as we like to call it here at the Centre of NPC Rehabilitation and Reintegration, began to take root in critically acclaimed role-play games in the early 2000’s. Neverwinter Nights is often cited as the progenitor of the disease.

Scoring highly in the ratings of popular review hotspots, the Gamespot and PC Gamer[s], few saw the birth of something that would eventually go on to fester, corrupt and ultimately sour Bioware’s entire catalogue of “RPG” games.

Neverwinter Nights featured an OKAY story. Its setting was also pretty good. It had potential. What it also had was totally faceless, dull and annoying NPCs. Sure it was hardly the dawn of the super techno-age where every NPC had a voice and a family and a bank account or anything. But these NPCs didn’t do anything. Most of them just stood around. Most of them didn’t even speak. They just stood (or sat, or lay) where they were in complete other-world absentia.

This killed the atmosphere for many. The game sounded great. It played well. But the nicely designed tavern, the weapon shops, the armed camps, the courtrooms, all of it seemed horribly static, horribly hollow. Why? Because a place is only as lively (or in this case deathly) as it’s inhabitants.

It slowly started to get worse too. NWN became Knights of the Old Republic, another game lauded by the critics and the players. Another game where greatness was within it’s reach, snatched away only by this terrible malady of poorly written, immobile NPCs.

Now in a future setting you’d expect more people, more activity. People coming and going. People leading their lives. Okay we don’t expect to see them go take a dump in a local toilet (we’ll discuss this in a moment). The game doesn’t even need to have a day and night cycle. But any sense of realism is shattered whenever a city or a town is under-attack and Joe Blacksmith/Jenny Lightsaber Crystal Saleswoman are still stood, calm as Hindu cows, doing NOTHING behind their barely decorated store counters.

The typical reflex is “but but but the Mass Effect characters are some of the deepest, most interesting, coolest guys in video game history ever”. We agree. Save for Kanye West in ME2 and the confused Latino in trois, the main crew of the Normandy feature high on the badass rogue’s gallery of rogue badasses.

But it’s at all the other locations with all the other characters that the game is ultimately let down. Mass Effect 3: The Endening – during the time you go to the hospital on a planet with FUCKING HUGE SPIDER ROBOTS WALKING AROUND ON IT do you ever see a doctor run? Do you see one even move? Do you at any point feel a sense of impending doom, or urgency or panic, or any other sensation you’d feel during a potentially species ending war in the middle of an emergency room?

How about the Afterlife Club in Mass Effect 2? Omega looked great. It looked like the kind of shit-hole that the scum and villainy of the galaxy would be attracted to. Didn’t see many of them on the streets…but that’s not the point. As you approach this massive nightclub on this atmospherically lit hive of nastiness, you spot a miniscule line of NPC not doing anything. That’s cool though. You can almost feel the bass of the club’s generic future electro funk. Holy shit, I thought, this reminds me of going out clubbing when I was 16!

My thoughts are confirmed the moment I get inside. It’s like I really was 16, and like when I was 16, this place is eerily similar to all those places that would happily let in a teenager; it’s fucking empty. This isn’t a party. It’s the 5:00 am coked up remnants of a party.

The aforementioned Dragon Age 2 is the worst culprit of all. Dragon Age: Origins had taken a step in the right direction. Most NPCs were triggered the moment you got close to them. Most if not all had some dialogue, even if it was just a line. There were lots of them. They populated the locations and made the locations feel populated. Yeah they didn’t move around much. But it was progress.

Then comes along this shady, “sneak-a-video-camera-into-a movie-theatre-then-sell-it-on-ebay” knockoff, Dragon Age 2. Not only did Dragon Age 2 abandon everything that made Origins so good (the ambiguity, the open world, the difficulty, the tits), it set a new record in completely sparse settings. Kirkwall was meant to be thronged with poor people when you get there. There was barely anyone there. Most of them didn’t say anything now. Most of them didn’t ever move. Most of them were like static blocks. Dogshit, in a word. Solid non-player dogshit.

Yeah you can say Bioware isn’t squarely to blame. Some of the other giants are pretty shoddy motherfuckers too. Yet Skyrim is forgivable for having utterly forgettable retard NPCs because there is so much other forgettable stuff to do in the game. So when you look back on the 100+ hours you spent playing you can only really remember the inventory screen (which is where 20 of those hours went). Oh maybe that spazzy guy who saves you at the beginning. Maybe, MAYBE one of the lizard men. Fuck anyone else.

World of Warcraft has equally stationary drones. But they are merely the mise en scene of a grand, rich world that you can forgive it. Wow’s environments are so huge, so vibrant, so absurd, and so colourful, that it makes the flat rigidity of Old Republic all the more apparent. Yeah it had the biggest voice cast ever doing the most lines ever. I don’t give a damn if those lines are being read out of a robot that looks and acts like Ferris Bueller’s teacher.

Skyrim and WoW do some things well, some fantastically. Bioware’s RPG titles push themselves on immersive worlds and stories. I mean, let’s face it, their mechanics are hardly anything special. So I do not understand why they scupper themselves by completely neglecting the “other” people in their worlds. It can be done right as these great titles display:

Metal Gear Toilet Man
Okay so I said I didn’t want to see anyone go to the toilet. I lied. MGS may have lots of simple guards wandering around doing simple guard stuff, and are all voiced by one guy. Sue me. They also get spooked, radio in, follow tracks and become significantly more advanced with each and every game. And these are guards. JUST THE GUARDS. Lets not speak of the awesome cast of EVERYONE else, all of whom seem like ACTUAL characters where ACTUAL thought has gone into how they are portrayed and what their purpose is.

Biggs, Wedge and Jesse

You will care…you will…

SPOILER ALERT they all die. About 5 hours in they die. Yet these three are cool as fuck and you are legitimately sad when they are smashed by the floaty city block. Every location in FF7 is filled with movement and life. Whether it’s bikini clad blocks/babes lounging around in the Costa Del Sol, to the skittering patrons of the Gold Saucer. For such an old game it’s replete with character and atmosphere.

Shen Mue
The Godfather of the immersive world. One of the first games where you truly think that each and every character had a place, a role and a life within the world itself.

Assassins Creed
THE CROWDS. Oh my God the crowds. This is how cities should look and feel.

Red Dead/GTA
Again, like Shen Mue, everyone seemed to have a place. Even the crazy little side missions, everyone looked the part, sounded the part. People lived. They gambled, drank, slept, danced and shot through their lives.


No it’s not a roleplay game. It is so utterly thematic though. It nails the mechanics, but also completely nails every other element of gameplay, including the locations, the set pieces and the NPCs. Squads in the distance advance, retreat, fire, flee, and do shit in such a realistic way that you feel part of the action. They are not marching forward in binary derived precision formations. They scramble like real people in a real situation.

So it is possible. Bioware Disease doesn’t have to ethnically cleanse the galaxy of realistic, energetic, and atmosphere-building support characters. I fucking loved Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I’m fond of KotoR. But they could have been better. And the above is just one way how.   read

1:03 PM on 04.27.2010

E is for Effort = Reward? A Cunning Blog presents...

In my last Monthly Musings blog I discussed how sex was used as an offensive and profitable tool in early online games. While the decreased cost of webcams and digital media has nullified some of the more opportunistic and shady online transgender pretenders, another practise has risen to proliferation in its place.

I speak of the heinous cash for gold/silvers/platinum/credits/ISK/characters/ratings/achievement points/ et al. phenomenon.

Harking back again to my Gemstone IV days I recall the very first inkling of $$ 4 Cyber Goods. Rumours were rampant at the time (1997?) that a particularly powerful sorcerer had tired of the game and literally “sold out”. Via a couriered cheque the player had sold his account with all his items for approximately $3,000. Not an inconsiderable chunk of change for lines of text and code.

Soon more characters were being traded for cash or in-game wealth. Something was bound to go wrong. Which it did when a GM also decided to quit, selling his account with various GM related items (such as one that granted infinite silvers and exp) still in his possession. Simutronics, the parent company, caught on to this growing trend, and imposed a $15 surcharge for each character trade.

Soon everything was for sale: silvers, items, characters, even in game-real estate. With the birth of PayPal even international movers and shakers such as myself could get in on the fun.

That’s right, I’ll admit it, I bought and sold various things for cash in the game.

Mainly it was silvers. A character to trade here and there. Even some armour on eBay for $50. Laugh all you want. Call me a nerd who wasted my money. Perhaps I was. But on the flip side I once sold a sword I had acquired for $1000. Your cat-calls of dweeb don’t sound so hilarious now do they?

Gemstone being a small MUD only saw the beginning of this phenomenon. Virtual items have gone under the hammer in nearly every MMO and online game since. In WoW we have gold sellers, levelling services. Eve has its ISK farmers. Even XboX Live has drones offering their services (for a premium) for accomplishing those annoying achievements. Effectively every sand-box world has people willing to grind or develop scripts to grind in order to sell in-game services or currency for real world cash.

Many games, including most browser-based free-to-play games, offer extra items, perks or bonuses via micro-transactions conducted with real life money. Maple Story (the 3rd most successful MMO of 2008), Shanda and Dungeon & Dragons Online all feature this system.

Comparably the paradigm (in PC retail, at least) has shifted now from real life media to virtual data. Is spending your hard earned pennies on an intangible game on Steam any different from buying a flashy new intangible mount for your level 80 in Warcraft?

Consider also how many of the top-end MMOs are pay-to-play. Is buying in-game resources any less peculiar than paying to access a virtual world in the first place?

So is this practise right, wrong, stupid, genius, geeky, cutting-edge?

The typical argument against is that you’d be foolish, nay retarded, to not only risk your credit card details, your account (in games where it is illegal), and your money for items that do not exist in a physical sense. Opposing this philosophy are gamers who insist that they save valuable in-game time, have more fun because of the enhanced options their cash buys, and that, fundamentally, it’s their money to spend on what they want at the end of the day.

Regardless of the argument it all comes down to a simple question that each gamer much consider: does the effort equal the reward?

Does the time it takes to make the money in real life equate to more or less the amount of fun or time-saved in the game you’ll be spending it?

I’ll explain: I’m playing World of Warcraft. It takes me say three hours to grind one thousand gold. That is three hours of mind-numbing questing, ore-node farming, auction-house hugging etc. Also bear in mind that is a best-case scenario. No annoying PKers, no inflated AH etc.

Now consider that it costs me around 12 euros to buy that 1k from a shady gold-seller. Theoretically, even at minimum wage I can spend two hours at work and then purchase my gold with my money.

So the choice: spend time out of game to spend time in the game doing more fun, useful things. Or spend my money on real life things, and then spend an extra three hours in the game earning money to buy in-game things.

There is of course risk. You could get your account banned. You could get scammed.

In that instance it is basic risk versus reward.

Otherwise you must judge whether or not the effort, in & out of the game, is worth the reward in the game.

Is the effort worth the reward?

Like it or hate it, it’s clear that many think the effort of spending a little cash to enhance their gameplay is reward enough for their hard work. They argue that it is no different from spending your money on say a gaming mouse, or a strategy guide, or indeed any hobby that you enjoy.

Regardless or your preference though, it often comes down to whether or not whomever runs the games wish to keep micro-transactions illegal for the most part (such as Blizzard), or support it and gain from it in the style of Gemstone’s $15 character transfer fee.

Blizzard itself has a no-holds-barred policy in regards to such people infringing on their turf, often banning slews of gold-farmers, levellers as well as the people who happen to use their services. Famously their most prominent victory in this arena was against the website Peons4Hire in 2008.

Previously eBay had also put a stop to virtual items sales with a change of policy, but did that or Blizzard’s successful lawsuit diminish the amount of spamming, usage of, or demand for such services?


One could also find incredible irony in the fact that while Blizzard so staunchly rails against third-party micro-transactions, it is all for players spending “extra-curricular” cash on in-game items from its own store. The success of the celestial steed can only herald more similar developer supported DLC.

With Paypal and psychotic Chinese Gold-Farm operations becoming far more accessible and far more lucrative, there is no easy solution to this situation. It is going to continue. Which companies maintain a hardline policy against such activities as apposed to those who will capitulate or soften their approach will be interesting to see in the coming years.

The giants (Blizzard, Activision etc) can afford to be stubborn. But what of the developers of
smaller-scale “freebie” games? Revenue of any type (subscription, advertising, micro-transaction) is crucial in remaining both prominent and afloat, let alone successful.

But ultimately the choice will be ours. It’s our dollar, our cash. And while many will whine and complain that those with the extra money will be getting an “unfair advantage”, isn’t it just as easy to say “life is unfair”? Should the game world be exempt from economic circumstance? That’s a discussion for another time, I suspect.   read

2:14 PM on 03.31.2010

Something About Sex: MSN, Webcams, and the demise of Opportunistic GenderBenders

This is a true story of the primitive birth of online MMOs.

It is also a cautionary example of the iron grip female players hold over their male counterparts, and the financial highs (and ethical lows) one can achieve by impersonating such girl gamers.

This is also a confession.

Let me begin. It’s 1998. The internet is much different to how it is now. 56k is slow. Sloooow. Star Trek: The Motion Picture slow. It’s also all we have. And, depending on your ISP, you’d have to reconnect every 2 hours. This would take about 3 minutes of listening to your modem (which actually sat on the desk OUTSIDE of your computer!) as it made weird alien binary sex noises.

At the tender age of 15 I would sneak into my Dad’s workroom at night and spend upwards of 20 minutes downloading individual 8-bit colour images of Gillian Anderson from FHM’s fledgling website. It was tedious but free. And private.

Good times.

I’d spent a lot of time in chat-rooms, some game related. You didn’t have avatars or pictures though. Oh no. You just had handles. Mine was Nick_One. Clever wasn’t it? But the awesome thing I discovered was that by simply changing your handle you could also change identity. I would often say I was 21, a police officer, living in Leeds, and had a terrier called Neil. No one could prove any different. Webcams were years away. Digital cameras – only the rich had these. The internet was new, and people were naive.

Oh so naive.

Okay I was a geek, so I’d also been to a few Dungeons and Dragons freeform roleplay rooms. But instead of playing as Gruk the gruff-but-loving barbarian, I’d play as Todd McFlarlane’s Spawn. I’d just sit in the corner of the Drunken Unicorn’s barroom, making my cloak twitch. It got boring, so I went looking elsewhere.

After some searching I found a link to what was then called Gemstone 3. GS3 was one of the first ever online roleplaying games. It was a classic MUD that had begun sometime in 1987. It was and is a text-based game, similar to Zork or Adventure, where you’d read a room description, have various exits (such as north, south, up, down etc), which would take you to other “rooms”. Characters and objects would show up as “You also see John and a white guitar”.

Gemstone 3's original Website

It was based in the high-fantasy setting of Elanthia: Elves interacted with dwarves. Dark elves would curse at Halflings, etc. You know the sort.

You could run around attacking monsters, going on quests, finding items, occasionally running into Games-Master controlled merchants who could turn your “reinforced shield” into a “super special shield of awesome”.

Now I’d played similar text games before at school. But what made this game fascinating was that all the other characters were people. We were all locked into this little world of swords, magic, fantasy and intrigue. I fell in love.

So I played avidly for about 3 months before my pay-by-the-minute phone bill caused my Dad to indefinitely cancel the interwebs. Much sadness ensued.

Two years later I’m at University. The internet has gotten slightly better. I’m now the envy of my friends with my lovely 512 speed connection. Gemstone was still around and I had my own credit card (and more importantly, free internet), so I signed up once more.

My old character Malus Ironfang was long since dead (or gone demonic as the players would say). This called for someone new, someone super powerful, someone who’d shake Elanthia to its very core. Someone...female?

Now at 15 I may have been sexually immature but I still recognised the power women held over me and other men. It was even evident in Gemstone. Here I’d be, waiting at the locksmith when Lady Twinkletoes would enter, sashay straight to the front of the line, get her boxes opened, have her star sapphire tip refused, and be told, with a smile, to come again. Would Malus Ironfang get such treatment? Would he fuck.

A female character it would be. Purely to see what kind of different reception I’d receive, I told myself.

And oh, what a difference it made.

Within 20 minutes I’d been welcomed by a male mentor, taken out to hunt giant rats, given a new sword, and even taken on a tour of the starter town by some kindly lord who gave me 2000 silver (no lean amount for a level 1 sorceress, I tell you) after I giggled at one of his inane jokes.

A possible reaction, had he realized the truth

It didn’t stop there. Everyone was keen to help me. I’d get swift rescues were I to get killed. I’d get positive remarks about my sexy sense of inventory fashion. Even the other female players (or were they?) would react well to me. I guess they were tired of other men hitting on them incessantly, and were relieved to just be able to relax around other female players.

But the game was about roleplaying. Something I was very heavily invested in. So obviously as I progressed in the game, the more I began to roleplay. It became easier to pretend that not only was I a woman, but a complex, three-dimensional character within the game world itself. I was more than meets the eye.

Then it began to unravel.

In the two years since I’d last played, the internet had not only sped up, but become much more advanced. Something called AIM was everywhere, and every player used it. So I had to too. I created a fairly innocuous screen name, used a generic non-facial avatar and just got on with things.

It was also at this point when a character took a particular shine to me. This guy was always around when I was. He was 10 levels higher, so he’d make hunting much easier. But he’d make liberal use of the physical verbs. Hug, poke, tickle, rub. Too liberal.

We’d chat on AIM. I’d never lie. He just never asked, you know, if I was a guy.

Reading between the lines, it's kind of obvious I was a guy

I continued the coy act for just over a year before out of game circumstances forced him to quit. He’d return years later. He’s still oblivious to this day.

Anyway, I’d become much more involved with the in-game and out-of-game politics. I’d troll and flame on the forums. I’d go on epic quests. I’d spend hours roleplaying. It’s an American-focused game, so the majority of Games Masters and players would be online around 2:00 AM GMT. I became a night owl.

I also became sort of infamous in the game. Mainly this was for being British, as well as being one of these vocal freaks who endlessly scream “BUFF MY NERFED CLASS FUCKERS” on the forums. World of Warcraft players who bother to read the boards will recognise this as angry teenage moron-type behaviour, and I was no exception in Gemstone.

After several years of play I’d developed a number of close friends in and out of the game. None of them knew who I really was. None, I supposed, suspected either. But it was becoming harder to fake. Digital cameras and webcams had become cheap and common. I just avoided the subject of my personal life. Typical explanations like “busy with uni-work” were commonplace whenever I was asked.

It wasn’t long before I realized that despite the initial bonuses of playing and maintaining a female persona, it was pretty much just like being a guy when it came down to it. Sure I’d still get positive reactions from strangers and such, the odd larger tip and so fourth, but it didn’t really make a difference to the game overall. In fact I kind of missed being a faceless guy. I’m a solitary player by nature, and I’d always be getting invitations to go and do something with someone. It was tiresome.

The drain of fighting losing battles with the staff over class nerfage, coupled with the fact that I was lying to people who had become legitimate friends and the continuous hassle of pretending all the time, forced me to an ultimatum:

I had to kill myself.

Or alternativey I could just leave the game.

So I left . I suicided the character, closed the account and went about my life for a few years. But the lure of CrackStone (4 at it had then become) is strong. I reactivated my account and started anew, this time as a male rogue – something much more akin to the real me.

And here I still am. I’ve mellowed as a gamer. I don’t even read the forums any more. I don’t get involved in crazy storylines or quests. I take extended breaks from the game, typically playing for about six months then leaving for a few years.

A few of my old friends from my sorceress days still play it. I’ve made a good few more as the rogue. All are oblivious to whom I used to be, however. At least, until today that is.

I suppose the point to get across is that YES women, regardless of their intent, regardless if they are female characters or female players, represent sex in video games. Or at least they represent the implication of sex. It could be a line of text on a screen or the elongated sex-limbs of Bayonetta; to men they’re all fields to plough.

A blinkered view perhaps. But the faceless nature of the internet can more easily support perverts and less socially aware individuals. So while we usually reign in our sexual desires in reality, it is far easier to let them unfold online. There are no ramifications. No consequences.

Some (as noted above) can use this to their advantage, and this is often real women themselves. I had a guild leader in WoW who would ask the sole female player to sweet talk grumpy or aggressive players. It was highly effective. In Gemstone you can see female characters try to use their feminine whiles on other less experienced men, JUST LIKE you see confident, good-looking women take advantage of gormless guys in the real world. The only difference is that online, both men and women have a screen to hide behind.

See, Night Elves do serve other purposes...

But it’s much harder to fake it these days, thanks to the likes of MSN, Skype or what have you. It’s only a matter of time before even the most naive of targets will demands a picture or voice clip.

Thankfully the rise of actual female gamers is increasing to meet this demand. And while many will be fat, slobbering emo-children, this quota will probably be no more or less than the fat, slobbering emo-man children that currently stalk the internets.   read

8:34 AM on 04.25.2009

Resident Evil - The (un)Expanded Universe

Resident Evil burst on to the scene just over ten years ago and like the fictional T-Virus that initially zombified the Umbrella mansion-inhabitants, has continued to evolve and prosper. Devouring each new technology as it arrived, Capcom’s classic now features approximately 20 titles over twelve different formats.

The back catalogue of Resident Evil spinoffs and merchandise is also considerable. Three live action movies, an anime, comics, novels, action figures, energy drinks...the list goes on. Factor in all the expanded universe content – from fan fiction to YouTube homages – and you have a truly vast franchise.

Yet to some the extent of RE’s non-game ventures is an unwelcome one; Like all fans, we are precious of that which captures our imagination. And while some enjoy exploring caveats in characterization and story-telling via fan-fiction or cos-play for example, others such as myself only appreciate the purity of the original story and believe non-official endeavours to be typically only an indulgence.

Pondering these divergent philosophies, I spoke to creator of the webs’ most comprehensive and accurate Resident Evil canon timeline, John Nicholson. Featured on leading RE fan-site, the timeline is now over 350 pages long (considerably longer than any of the canon or non-canon novels). Nicholson, in the final phases of uploading all the information gleaned from RE5, happily took a moment to give me his thoughts on the appeal of the RE universe.

(Barry Burton - Whatever happened to thid old Pervert, find out here)

Neek: What is it about the RE universe that captured your imagination (and held it since)?
JN: The characters and scenario of the first games were awesome. They managed to take a B-movie haunted house scenario and turn it into this deep-rooted conspiracy with a huge back story involving this evil corporation. It’s pretty clichéd now but back in 1996 for a video game I thought it was pretty fresh.
It’s been following the fates of those characters since which has kept me interested in the series.

Neek: What made you want to write a timeline focused on the Resident Evil storyline?
JN: Basically I thought the back-story of the games found in various in-game documents were very interesting. It helped you piece together this whole conspiracy around Umbrella. But with some games being remakes, prequels etc it was a little hard to follow the story.

So I began with the release of RE3 Nemesis. With it being set both 24 hours before and after the events of RE2 and covering the Raccoon City disaster I just began to make some notes so I could get the chronological sequence of events for the whole incident correct.

It just sort of followed on from there.

(Evolution of Evil 1)

Neek: Does the timeline include any non-game data? I’m talking books, magazines, films etc.
JN: I have only used material directly from Capcom, so everything is canon. Things such as the live-action films, SD Perry novels and so on are completely disregarded. Beyond the games themselves I used Capcom's source book the Resident Evil Archives, and official documents such as the Wesker Reports which came directly from the Capcom writing staff.

There are plenty of ambiguous events in the RE world, though. Many of the documents found in the games are undated and so you have to make educated guesses. The biggest example is probably the Outbreak games. Between them they have ten scenarios all of which take place in Raccoon City. None of them are dated. I have had to guess where they fit based on the situation of the characters and their environments; the files found in RE2 and 3 helped a lot in this regard.

Neek: What are your thoughts on non-canon or non-direct game related source material such as the novels or fan-fiction, and how did it affect your own writing?
JN: It is the topic of big debate in the RE community. Some people believe the spin-off games such as the Gun Survivor Series and Outbreak are not considered canon whilst many others believe them integral to the overall storyline.

General consensus is though that the films and comics etc are basically an 'alternate' universe and so can be ignored. For example, people who have played RE2/3 will know it is impossible to fit Paul WS Anderson's Resident Evil Apocalypse into the timeline because it contradicts what has gone on in the games themselves.

As for fan-fiction, again, they are interesting to read but what’s important for me are the true facts of what went down. Fan-fiction doesn’t influence my writing at all because I know I won't include them.

Neek: Have you ever considered doing a Resident Evil fan-fiction of your own?
JN: I have always wanted to do a script based on the first Resident Evil. A proper, gritty horror about the STARS team at the infamous mansion, which, if done well I believe could be a genuinely good film. But scripts are very hard to write, so instead I decided that my timeline would be my ultimate contribution to the RE world.

(Evolution of Evil 2)

Neek: What has been your most rewarding and the most disappointing experience writing the timeline?
JN: The most rewarding by far is every time I come to write it I discover something new about the story I never knew before. The research tells you things you can never find in the individual games. For example, using the evidence, you can work out that the T-Virus was created on September 19, 1977. Not one document or character tells you this in any of the games. Playing detective like this is very satisfying.

The most disappointing thing is that I’ve learned you can't please everybody. Everyone has their own opinion and no matter how I write it not everyone will agree with my portrayal of events. I’ve not had any nasty emails or anything, just people pointing out that I may have got an entry wrong or an event mixed up. It’s positive criticism like this which helps me improve on each version. 95% of the people are very positive in their feedback and tell me I have helped them understand the whole universe better, which makes the whole thing worth doing in the first place.   read

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