I am a gamer who likes to write, and I have a desire to be a paid reviewer one of these days, I try to keep a updated blog on Gametrailers so whenever I do a long clean review expect me to post it here as well
I am also a machinima fan who is currently try to get some made
I'm pretty sure most of you out there do not know me, i'm not that active on the D-toid blogs and I have been to the forums like once. I love this site and enjoy the content daily but I do so from a PS3 so it's kinda impossible to blog frequently when I have another blog to keep up with as well on another site.
If you have happened to glance at my bio or previous posts you can probably pic up that I'm a huge nerd that has always wanted to write about games.
Now just updating a blog on a semi-weekly basis is fun and all but it has no purpose to it, I set up the soapbox, get up on in, then just... fizzle out. Nobody's really listening and I have no real drive to do it so my stuff either is too short or too long and overblown.
Last week I was sitting in my room, bored as hell. I'd just sat there listening to Podtoids (I'm a HAWP and Rev Rant fan but I've never sat down and actually done an entire Podtoid in one shot, PS3 doesn't really cater to podcasts cus you cannot just jump to the part you stopped at, you gotta fast forward for half of the time elapsed in the podcast) but now I had just run out of stuff to listen too.
I decided to do something random so I turned on the 360 with the express purpose to go into Halo 3 and forge a huge pile of explosives and set it off... always worth the effort.
Thing Is I never got that far, as soon as the MSN messenger linked to my gamertag signed in a friend of mine from GT popped up.
Can you be in a podcast
I'm starting something called Lo-Ping, "A goodly place for game blog and news"
I asked him why me and he explained he was starting a gaming podcast and he needed guest stars. I felt a abyss in my stomach form, I do not have Skype on the family laptop and my paranoid parents will not allow me to bring it back to my room for fear of me spilling something on it or dropping it (due to the fact I've broken in like 2 mics and a controller in like 3 years that's a bit extreme but seeing as 100% of our income relys on this computer I can see why they'd freak)
I had actually head my head in one hand and said "I'm really sorry man, I mean this is something I would love to do, I've always wanted to do something like this but I just can't be on a podcast. I can write for it or something but I doubt you need a writer for something like that.
Oh, it's got a blog section too, blogs every 2 days and a podcast every friday
Pick any joyus fanfare you can think of and that's essentially my mood right when I saw that.
I went to the laptop and pounded out something for a "Meet and Greet" he was holding as the first blog and there I was, a "Contributing Writer/ Xbox 360"
Funny thing is except for my ODST review and a upcoming article about the Indie Games channel I tend to lean towards whatever news tickles my fancy, not just 360. Best thing is the editor really doesn't care what I write about!
And here's the topper, I may not be able to be there when they record the podcast, but I came up with an idea...
"Hey I got an idea about the podcast"
How about I record something like... random news story of the week and you can just insert it between break segments in the real thing.
For those of you wondering, Lo-Ping is a chinese phrase that (i'm told) translates to "To discuss/ criticise". And seeing as the guy that started it is a PC gamer the obvious Low Ping wordplay is too much to pass up. The next logical step was to pick a mascot, he decided to go with pandas, which I kinda like and I even butchered my old ODST signature to fit into the Lo-Ping style.
So there you have it, not only do I have a reason to get out of bed in the morning as far as writing goes. I've got a news segment in the weekly podcast. This may not be the dream job of being paid to write about games and the culture surrounding it but it's a start.
Yet it still comes off as evil sometimes...
WARNING MINOR PLOT SPOILERS FOR MASS EFFECT IN THIS BLOG For the two of you who read my InFamous moral choice blog, I posted a sister version of the blog on Gametrailers where a nice guy named Shabz left the following comment
Yeah that is pretty interesting and twisted what you did. Moral choices in games should only be there if they actually made a difference in the future. Clearly, Mass Effect is an excellent example and so is the new game Alpha Protocol.
But I get what you mean and it's awesome when a game does that and actually makes you think.
After living with Battlestar Galactica morality (most times not morally right but in the end it's the right thing to do anyway) and then being presented with cases in Mass Effect where the "Good" choice might not considered the right choice. Take this for example:
Yesterday (my first playthrough btw) I was walking through the Citadel lobby when a old man approached me and pleaded Shepard to convince a Alliance coroner to release the body of his dead wife who died in the attack on Eden Prime so he could take her back to Earth and give her a proper burial.
When I approached the coroner he explained that the Geth had used some new energy weapon to kill her and her body is being held so they can examine the wounds and develop new technology to counter this weapon.
In this conversation I only had one goal which was get the body back. There was no way I could get the coroner to convince Shepard that this woman could save people even in death and her husband would have to wait. Instead Shepard spouts some military moral propaganda crap about "Not losing our humanity in the process"
And the worst part is he didn't even convince the coroner. The wimp just finally had it click in his brain that this is THE MacMillan Shepard (yes, I just beat CoD4 again, sue me) and maybe he should do what he says or risk getting fired.
Two things wrong with this scenario.
A) I, having just been exposed to alot of the BSG Moral choices, felt the body being detained for research that could save the lives of thousands of soldiers and colonists outweighed the needs of one grieving husband even though I could get where he was coming from.
B) No matter how goody-two-shoes I got about the situation whatever I did that got me more Paragon points ended in the exactly the same way as if I had threatened the poor kid with the Renegade option. He realised who he is talking too and backed the fuck off. End of story, no moral victory here, you just pull rank on a enlisted man.
And then on the flip side, about two hours later Mass Effect almost made me tear up a bit.
The next time I returned to the Citadel I was reminded of my character's past.
When you load up ME for the first time and make a new character you have to pick between three different backgrounds for Shepard. He's either a rich kid, a Army brat, or a orphan that worked his way up the ranks after his family was raped and killed in front of him on Mindoir.
I picked the Mindoir thing due to the fact it would make the story sound better than "Son of Alliance soldiers grows up to be Alliance Soldier"
Anyway. I dock the Normandy at the Citadel then take a long-ass elevator down to C-Sec Headquarters. As soon as I step off the elevator I get a call from a LT back up at the docks saying there is a Ex-slave hiding behind some shipping containers and he would appreciate me coming up and talking her down.
I was a little pissed that I had to take the damn elevator again but I went up anyway. The dude said she was very distressed and had a gun. Then he handed me a sedative to give her and pointed me the right way.
I walked around the container to find a poor 20-something woman that looked like Natalie Portman near the end of V for Vendetta.
As I talked to her I found out that she was from the same colony on Mindoir that got destroyed by slavers that Shepard is from. The only difference is, Shepard escaped. She did not.
The poor girl had been in slavery since she was six, the slavers had driven her so hard and she had seen things so horrible she had to refer to herself in the third person so she did not have to think about the horrible things directly.
She talked about her parents trying to fight the slavers but "the masters made mom and dad burn with bright light and melt" and mentioned when the Alliance came to save her "More animals came, animals like her, she watched them make masters explode. She tried to put masters back together so they would not be angry with her. She put all the red and purples back in but they would not wake up"
While she's talking about this Shepard is taking steps closer to her and forcing her to think about her parents and her name, Talitha. At then end of the dialog chain I had two options: Give her the sedative or force her to take it.
I gave it to her and what happened next was one of the more touching moments I have seen in gaming. Shepard hands her the pill and says "Here, if you take this you will fall asleep and go somewhere safe."
Talitha took the pill and looked at it for a moment, then took it and asked him "Will she have bad dreams?"
She starts getting woozy and falls forward, Shepard holds her and replies "No, you'll dream of a warm place and when you wake up you'll be at that place with people who can help you"
Then Talitha quietly sobbed into his shoulder and passed out. If I had not been in a Live party with other people and thus got distracted by the real world at that moment I would have teared up right there. And that moment right there shows what is right and wrong with morality and characters in gaming today. There are only 4 other characters in gaming I have cared about as much as this one-use secondary character in Mass Effect.
And to once again be a Anthony fanboy I'll also point out that three of the four of them are characters that the protagonist met at the same time as the player. D.O.G, Clank, and Cortana, the fourth being John 117 because I've read his past.
The fact that there are characters in gaming that have seemingly more power and attractive qualities behind them like Niko in GTA or Dominic's search for his wife in Gears 2 and even still I gave more of a damn about just the simple fact that Clank was stolen from Ratchet for like half an hour in Up Your Arsenal. I got worried about what would happen later down the line in the story to the little backpack buddy and was extremely relieved to find him safe.
Same thing with finding Cortana in Halo 3, the two moments where John and her are alone are the two times where Chief seems more human than ever and the same goes for Cortana.
I have no magic formula on how to make good characters in gaming that you can get attached too, just thought I'd publicly say that in Mass Effect I got so attached to this one poor tortured character more than anyone else in the game so far. Hell if Ashely had dropped dead right then and there the only thing I would feel is regret that I would have to go sweet talk the alien to get the Paramour achievement and the alien takes more elevator time than Ashley on the ship and she can't use guns... that's it
Today I pulled off one of the more evil acts I have ever done in a game today. Not some random event of blowing up a planet or slaughtering a group of innocent civlians with a bad-ass weapon, this time it got personal.
A journalist I follow more than any other (Anthony) has been talking alot about about morality and the amazing situations a game that is (or attempts to be) non-linear can present to a player and what I did this morning made me get off my ass and actually write about something.
So I was playing InFamous earlier, my second playthrough, on Hard and this time I'm setting out to be one evil whore. See I had already gotten about halfway through the game on Hard and being evil when a friend told me I did not follow the correct protocol to set the difficulty and if I finished with that save I would not get squat for my efforts.
I really was just doing the bare minimum to be bad that time but this time around I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about having to restart so I vented via ripping Empire City a new one.
On my way to missions I would punch everyone in my way just 'cus. Now this behavior fits more into the "being a total dick" catagory but It culminated in the torture of a poor woman that had just lost her family out of the docks of the Neon District.
I walked out to the start of a Evil side mission and was met with a 20-something woman with tattered clothes and looked like she'd been through hell since the blast. She looked Cole, a superhuman Conduit with thousands of volts of power running through his vains, in the eye and accused him of killing her family and screamed "You will pay!"
Previously when I had done this mission I just punted her off the dock due to the fact that she throws rocks at you and is a distraction while you deal with the police officer ambush that is waiting right around the corner to rip you a new one. This time I knocked the her down and put binds on her hands and feet so she would stay alive long enough to watch me slaughter the ambushers in front of her face. Then when everyone lay dead or dying I went back to the restrained woman, who had done nothing wrong because in her mind she was doing the right thing in trying to stop this psychotic maniac that has been murdering innocent people in cold blood, and drained every last bit of life out of her body then threw the body into the harbor.
Of course from a gameplay perspective I just Arc Restrainted a civilian and killed some policeman then drained her to regain my health then force-pushed her body into the water. But while I was doing this I considered how this would look to a person who knew nothing about the game was was watching this for the first time.
Like Anthony and many others have said before, InFamous attempts to give good moral choices but falls short of the mark mainly due to the fact that all the choices are black and white, I am happy to show that the game actually succeeded in making at least one person repulsed by his actions. Hell I sat and thought about what I did for a second and quit out of the game for a while.
While it is supposed to be a evil mission from the start it still has a moral choice in it that may not be recognised by the game itself but it can be by the player, There are interesting moral choices everywhere in gaming nowadays.
It's a pity (or not depending on how you look at it) 90% of them are totally by accident or only triggered if the player themself makes it happen.
When I was a lad of 12, sitting in my room with a PS2 and a Xbox... I roam around the cold dark empty multiplayer maps... dreaming... planning... waiting for the glorious day to come when we would get a better connection than Dial-Up and actually be able to play Halo 2 and the Star Wars Battlefront Dualogy and maybe even possibly my beloved Ratchet & Clank: Up You Arsenal ONLINE
You see kids, in a world where youtube is something that is only obtainable from a public library's computer bank every week or so, something like Online Gaming becomes a sort of Shang Gri La, a holy land whereth rainbows and unicorns frolic and dance. I had no intentions of having it but I could still dream.
I tell you this to give you the kind of perspective I have towards online gaming, I am grateful as hell to have it and I try to play the hell out of it at every single moment. And there is no fun to be had alone. Multiplayer gaming used to mean getting four friends gathered around to play Halo 1 co-op or something. You knew each person in real life
Today I know and am good friends with:
A 15 year old scottish guy with a better grasp of quick-scoping than me
A 16 year old from MI that can read C++ programing but types like a four year old and refuses to read my blogs because they are to long (and about five of his real-life friends that also frequent Xbox Live)
Three roommates from canada, I added them just from the fact that when I said I was from Kentucky they all acted out the Family Guy KFC scene verbatum
A Austrialian trophy whore who is like 10 levels above me... damn him
The amazing thing about the PSN and XBL is that if these people had met in real life they would probably not care or avoid each other, but with something like Halo or CoD4 as a icebreaker they formed bonds and grew to know each other. I'm not saying there are any Halo 3 weddings in the planning or anything but when everyone gets on at about the same time most days that is pretty fun
I am a writer, you could probably guess this from the fact that I WRITE BLOGS.. dur... but I actually want to be a writer in the real sense of the word, and as such I love having a good story to tell. Gaming is FULL of these, every random nade that pays off, every errant molotov in L4D, every quick-stab in TF2, is a story waiting to happen. Granted the world of storytelling in gaming is full of lies and exaggerations but the core story remains the same
Well today I got a new story.
First off I gotta say, unless I am pissed off already I try not to be a ass or bully anyone online except under certain conditions, which change from game to game
In Halo 3, I will blow my top if:
There is a kid who is too young to play the game and he's cussing like its something special
You have a clan tag (especially MLG or KSI) In your gamertag and you act high-and-mighty
Most importantly of all:
YOU BOUGHT YOUR LEVEL 50 ACCOUNT
For those not into the Halo culture, some more experinced players create one-month accounts on their 360, play Team Doubles with a friend and get up to level 50 in two days, making that account a general. Then they sell the account for MS Points or XBL subscription cards, or maybe even real money
Me and a bunch of friends were playing some Social Skirmish (CTF and whatnot) in Halo today, and we were matched against a general. Instantly a friend of mine who we consider a old-timer for being there when Halo 2 went online (he turns 16 next week...) called out the magic words
"That 50 sucks more than usual" (He's predjudiced against higher ranks and says 99% of higher ranked people in halo suck, sad thing is most of the time he's right when he calls a easy win for our team)
I looked at his account and he had just barely enough exp to have ranked up and not that many games played to have played anything except one or two playlists. His bio was just a generic name and his gamertag included Yu Gi Oh
I'm not joking, except some random numbers and letters on each side, his gamertag was Yu Gi Oh...
One of my friends started laughing as the game loaded and told us that he had taken the time to type a message to the guy saying "I just stole all your cards, homo"
In unison everyone in the party sent him messages along those lines. I was the last to send one, mine said the following:
All your cards are belong to us, we have already sold them on ebay for 10 cents
Then, to top it off, we had almost won the match when someone said " Aww, look, Yu Gi Oh left the game"
There are times where some people have a switch turn in their heads and they say the exact right thing at the exact right time. Snipe4, a good friend of mine, put on a nerdy voice and said "Bet he went to go look for his cards..."
We were crying after that, it was seriously one of the funniest games of Halo 3 I have ever played
Oh... and.... we won 3 to 0 as well, all the sweeter
You may think our actions were harsh and uncalled for, especially about the name, but when you buy a account with a higher rank than you will most likely achieve by honest standards. You have no right to whine when people that ascend the ranks legit give you hell
So that's just one of my tales of online pwnage and good friends, maybe I'll tell some more down the road, but being a reviewer I actually need to write a REVIEW every now and then
I rarely write a blog on a impulse and get it out within the same hour but I feel this sad news deserves some attention
As you've seen on the front page, UGO has bought out 1UP.com and EGM, and in the process laid off half the 1UP staff and has ended one of the last great gaming magazines EGM
I have never once had a subscription to EGM (I've only subscribed to Tips 'N Tricks, PSM, and PTOM) but I used to read it monthly via the public library. Back before I gave a damn about bias and who was paying who off I realised on my own that my beloved Tips 'N Tricks was dieing, GameInformer was full of ads, and pretty much every console-specific mag sucked except PSM
But right there in the fray was EGM, I loved that mag, it had good writers who were actually funny. They cared about community and as such discussed things gaming-related. Long before I even dreamed of a 360 I was learning the cream of the crop of Forge and dreamed of how glorious it would be to play Pac-Man in Halo. I think I still have that issue that mentioned the best forges stored away somewhere
Now most comments I have seen thus far about the demise of EGM and the podcast are:
"Aww... the podcast is over"
"Print is dead anyway, what's happening to the site?"
From my perspective, someone that only visited 1UP.com once ever and never got the first page to load on the PS3 browser, I never got into the community. I did get into the mag, one thing that makes this news hit me harder than most is I had actually just last week started getting money together to get a EGM subscription going. It feels bad to JUST miss out on something epic like this. I felt the same way about Halo 2's online. I had a disc and I had a Xbox but never got Live...
I very rarely get worked up over stuff like this in the Gaming world. I didn't worry when PSM died because I knew everyone went over to PTOM (and left their only semblance of un-biased reviews behind) I did get worked up the night GTA IV won Game of the Year on the Spike VGAs (actually I was watching it with a friend with a cam in a PS3 chat and when they announced it we cursed the TV and he turned it off) but got over it the next day
This is the death of a gaming icon, the only Gaming award I ever cared about was the Tobias Bruckner award, I saw my first screens of Halo 3 in EGM, If she was still in print I would've read my first pre-view of Halo 3: ODST in EGM
I learned of how the PSN and LIVE worked before having them myself. EGM taught me who Uwe Boll was and why to avoid his movies at all costs.
Say all you want about digital media but I never threw away a copy of EGM or Tips 'N Tricks, I delete week-old bookmarks every day without a second thought
Internet media is... expendable to me, I grew up reading all the time and as such I respect the written word and hoard books. Typing speech is on the same level as writing it, i'm not naive to think any modern writers use anything short of a word-processor theses days.
Web sites and news articles come and go, they can be written and deleted in the blink of an eye. A physical copy of something holds more weight to me, hence why I would pre-fer a mag over Kotaku or somewhere else for vauge rumors pertaining to games. News on the gaming industry is usually correct on the internet, on games themselves not so much.
We have lost a friend, but we will not forget them
Electronic Gaming Monthly was a blast, its been a good ride
Feel free to play appropriate cheesy music and argue with me about OXM and GameInformer being end-all be-all sources of awesomeness in the comment section.
Just do SOMETHING for EGM to mark its passing, perhaps blog about your first issue ever. Discuss their best ever April Fools joke (Lego Halo and the Sega Saturn sale are tied in my opinion)
Okay ladies and gents it is time for little old me to throw in my two cents on one of the big dogs. A "Halo Killer" if you will.
Many a things have been said and done about Gears 2, alot of them negative. But despite my inclination to hate Gears... I was pleasantly suprised with this. And I was also enraged.
Why am I inclined to not like Gears? Well its really childish but when I rented Gears 1 about a month after I got my 360 it was scratched to hell and back and I only ever got to load it up once, I played the tutorial mission and one online match. Then I downloaded all the maps and this made my faulty HDD decide to throw in the towel and I was without at 360 for a week or so and I lost ALL my save data, including alot of machinima footage that took forever to get
This technically isn't Gears' fault but it's still there at the beginning of the chain reaction... you cannot deny this.
Lets talk about the story of this to start off with. Gears is built to be the definition of Badass. It has testosterone seeping from it's pores and it eats it's Chuck Norris for breakfast WITHOUT MILK. Or, at least it tries to be.
The story of Gears 2 is fun and I found the campaign very enjoyable to play through. I went in expecting a bunch of dumb catchphrases and a barely coherent story and I got a coherent story with a whole lotta badassery thrown on.
Ok, I know Anthony Carmine died in Gears 1, so it is about as much as a surprise that that all of a sudden Benjamin Carmine bites the dust (50 bucks says the Carmine thats in Gears 3 has a name that starts with a C) than it is when his ^distant ^cousin^ kicks the bucket
That did not make it any less impacting though. I had grown to like this dumb little soldier without a face, all through the game he was the only COG to revive me. Whenever I was downed Dom never even looked at me, but Carmine always dropped what he was doing an ran for me
That and his last line, Carmine never got the satisfaction of having a hero's death, its just BAM! You've got one lungful of poisonous gas to say what you need to say before the shock takes over. His last line is something along the lines of "I... I Hurt, Sarge... Tell my Mom.... my brothe.... that I... lov.."
It may be a cheesy line, but its a heck of alot more touching than a three minute death scene
A basic summary of the start of Gears 2 is the Locust are getting gutsy, the humans think its because the Lightmass bomb hit them hard enough to make them desperate, and they have begun attacking Jacinto and sinking outlying cities with a as yet un-disclosed method that will make you laugh so hard when Marcus screams it out for the world to hear... trust me.
Underneath the blood and guts and guns with 'frickin chainsaws attached there is a story, not a groundbreaking one but it is fun to watch unfold and there are a couple of touching moments
Gameplay Gears is one of the better TPS games i've ever played, the guns are fun and have very good results when used right (A sniper that makes a enemy's head explode when headshotted? Yes Please!)
One of the few disagreements I have with the public about Gears is the cover system.
Yes, it works, its easy, it is functional. Seeing as Gears 1 was kinda built to be one of course it delivers, but all this talk about "Best Cover in Gaming" fails to impress me, in my opinion Uncharted: Drakes Fortune has a more fluid cover system, the animations are more fluid and Nathan has fewer screw-up moments than Marcus and Dom do
I'm not saying the G2 system is lacking, I just ended up on the wrong side of pillars more times in this than I did in Uncharted
So, you've heard my thoughts on the story and gameplay of the campaign of Gears of War 2. In my opinion it ranks up there very highly in the best campaigns i've ever played
You wanna hear my thoughts about the Matchmaking? Well of course you do.
The Realm of Matchmaking
I don't really know how to say this. I had no real expectation with the multiplayer side of Gears other than the three ZILLION invites I got when the game first came out and everyone I knew that had it love to abuse the Invite All button... That many it's gotta be at least a bit fun
Well, Horde mode is, I played a couple of times and one night we spent two hours going the distance and getting to level 50. The whole rush of the experince is a little bit tapered by the fact that if everyone screws up and dies. There is no real penalty. You just re-start the round that you died on. And since the rounds will last a max of ten minutes when blood starts flying I don't see it as that much of a chore to do one more round again as opposed to the Nazi Zombies system in CoD5 where there is a HUGE penalty for dieing
The Co-Op for the campaign runs smooth, never lagged once in the two weeks I played it
As for competitive...
I think it had potential. And that potential is still there. But it is obscured by lag and bad weapon placement and way to many "No f-ing way" moments. In my first game of territories I had a lag so bad it took me two minutes to go thirty feet. On top of that Epic made what I would usually see as a good decision of not giving you the ability to quit a game unless you actually leave to the dashboard.
When you have a game as badly injured as Gears Matchmaking, having to leave the entire game and go back every time the lag gets unbearable is just too much in my opinion
The other big gripe is the fact that I have to rely on friends with higher ranks than me that can get matches faster due to their higher ranks
How am I supposed to play if they aren't on? I sit and wait for ten to twenty minutes. I have actually left, made a pizza and a root beer, came back, sat down, ate it, and chatted with friends for a while before I actually got a match
And to intercept all the "You're just a plastic rank and you don't have a good connection"
Truth be told I do not have the best connection in the world, I run on DSL, but I have a DECENT one. I have played Halo 3 and Shadowrun and Crackdown and CoD4 and so on with little to no connection issues. So using my connection as a excuse as to why I am not getting matched is a poor one that I don't buy. I was not the host of all of the matches that I experinced lag in. And all my friends did as well.
I could go on and on with excuses but in the end, my Gears 2 Adventure ended today when I mailed it back to Gamefly without finishing the campaign on Insane (and I don't wanna sound like a confrontational ass but I also found Insane to be a piece of cake compared to Call of Duty on Veteran or Left 4 Dead on Expert, not saying I pwn on those settings or find them easy but I've experinced them all)
So, after all these paragraphs of my thoughts what is my score for Gears 2? Well since I've never really liked the numerical scoring system and it's a bit overused I have decided to grade on Yes/Maybe/No
The Matchmaking is a NO but I highly HIGHLY suggest at least renting G2 for the Campaign and Horde Mode
I guess that makes this a Provisional Yes
Hope you enjoyed reading, it's certainly been a fun two hours of writing this.