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About Me:

BA in Animation ( www.SometimesComic.com ) minors in Art History and Photography, Award Winning Animator, Geek Enthusiast, Gaymer, and Defender of Video Games as an Art Form.

Will be attending E3 2010

Attempting to break into any industry, but at the moment focusing on gaming and games journalism/interpretation.

Twitter: SometimesComic
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Paul Barber
3:26 PM on 10.30.2010


 


Don’t worry, he’s not as cool as this makes him look.


Tommy Tronic's, favorite pet dog, Yapz, has been missing for days, and according to the intro screen, Tommy is lost without him. At the same time, monstrous noises are coming from the Gnarly woods nearby. Could the two events be connected? It's up to Tommy, with his trusty, but for the most point worthless, pong shooting gun to find out. This is Interplay Discovery’s second Indy game release and boy does it show.

Let’s get this out of the way, Tommy Tronic is awful. It’s a barely passable platformer with very little imagination. Every part of this game screams student project, from the controls to the sound design. What wasn’t ripped off from a Warner Bros. cartoon was lifted straight out of an old Commander Keen  game. The sales pitch claims that this is a game for the whole family, which is usually a euphemism for “do not play”. Here’s why...


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Don’t worry, he’s not as cool as this makes him look.


Tommy Tronic's, favorite pet dog, Yapz, has been missing for days, and according to the intro screen, Tommy is lost without him. At the same time, monstrous noises are coming from the Gnarly woods nearby. Could the two events be connected? It's up to Tommy, with his trusty, but for the most point worthless, pong shooting gun to find out. This is Interplay Discovery’s second Indy game release and boy does it show.

Let’s get this out of the way, Tommy Tronic is awful. It’s a barely passable platformer with very little imagination. Every part of this game screams student project, from the controls to the sound design. What wasn’t ripped off from a Warner Bros. cartoon was lifted straight out of an old Commander Keen  game. The sales pitch claims that this is a game for the whole family, which is usually a euphemism for “do not play”. Here’s why...


Metaphor for the pummeling your about to take.


First off, the controls are, well let's be polite and say stiff. If we continue with the idea that this is a family game then the controls were made to test children's dexterity. It's almost as if the game is set up on a grid, a slight tap to the right will send Tommy careening around the level, but in very specific intervals, and all of them too much for a lot of the delicate platforming you’ll find in most levels. Have fun dealing with the question block jumps when they show up (of course their question block, this is a platformer made after 1986 after all), and watch out for monsters, take one hit and you'll be knock back and lose control for several seconds.

As for the Levels, there are four level types, Forest, Forest at Night, Ice Mountain and Science Lab. There's a definite sense that there was originally going to be more than twelve levels since the first eight of them are dedicated to the forest theme, with only three of them dedicated to ice mountain and one to the science lab.

The goal of the game is to get to the end of every level. Along the way there's tons of little collectables to collect for points, but for the most part they serve no purpose, your score is deleted at the end of every level, although every thousand points does give you a prize, for the most part it's just more point items, although every once in a while you'll be given a health item or gun.

By the way, make sure you play this game on easy. The fair and hard modes only make enemies take exponentially more ammo, and on the fair setting you be shooting the same creature 30+ times before they go down, and god help you if you're limited to your pong gun, that thing is mostly useless.

There are only two songs in the entire game the menu song and the level song. Thankfully the level music is pretty forgettable so even though it loops I can't for the life of me remember the melody. The best laughs of the game come from Tommy's dialogue. The first time I heard the six year old scream "Booze!" I lost it. On the flip side, the 200th time I heard him yell “Going Down!” I also almost lost it.


Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with the game.


And don’t think glitches are only reserved for the triple A titles, Tommy Tronic has plenty of them. This game may have needed a few more minutes in the testing phase (there’s a name in the credits associated with testing so I assumed it went through some), I had a hard lock in-between the 11th and 12th level. I almost freaked out since the 11th level is the trickiest with an endless loop if you go the wrong direction. Thankfully it saved my progress, so I could restart on level 12 after a reboot. Another game breaking glitch was after the completion of the game, the floors decided to lose their solidity and I went crashing into the infinity before I could watch the credits.


I wouldn't want to spoil the ending for you, but there may or may not be a reunion with a certain canine companion.


There are no bones about it, Tommy Tronic is meant to be a family game, and as with most games labeled for the family it’s not worth the $10 you’ll put down for it ($8 if you buy it during the steam sale). In the end, I respect Interplay for what they're doing. Publishing Indy games is always a gamble; I just wish they'd picked a better game for one of their inaugural titles. I fear it will kill the service before it’s even really started. But who knows, maybe they meant this game as a "see, if this shit can get published, you can too!" type of project.

Score - 3 Don't Buy It.

An Aside - Hint of the Day: Sometimes the puzzle answer is there aren't enough keys in the level.








Still playing Red Dead Redemption but thereís a part of the game thatís really starting to urk me. To the point that I avoid going into cities unless I absolutely have to. Whatís up with all the rape/violence against women in Red Dead?

The first time I went to Armadillo I was given the instance of saving a women from being stabbed to death by her john. I thought, ďThatís kind of coolĒ, pretty heroic thing to do in a western, save the lady. But every time I entered that town, there was a new woman getting attacked by their john. The guy would be straddling the girl in the dirt, holding a knife over her, and if you arenít fast enoughÖ STAB! STAB! STAB!

Itís to the point where now I ignore the screams of women being raped in the game. Is that something that Rockstar wanted us to become indifferent to? At this point Iíve seen more random rape scenes than any other type of instance, four fold. Thereís a statistic out there that states that one in six women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime (www.rainn.org/statistics), which is heinous, but I donít think it should be so casually thrown about as it is in this game.

Itís to the point where I wonder, what the fuck are all these women coming to the west for anyway? Donít they read the flyers? ďWanted: Women to populate the Wild WestÖ expect raping.Ē

And donít even get me started on kidnapping. Men, I implore you, only have sons in the Wild West. At least then theyíre only going to be shot to death in some random dual to see whose penis is longer. What do you think happens to all those ranchersí daughters while theyíre being hidden in some hole in the wall?

Early on there was a gang hide out mission near Armadillo that asked me to save a rancherís daughter from bandits. In the end, if you arenít fast enough, the leader will shoot the girl in the face, causing you to fail the mission. It was so early in the game, that I was not aware of my Dead Eye abilities, so I couldnít figure out how to be fast enough to not get the girl shot. After seeing her die three or four times this way I just gave up on the mission, it had become too disturbing.

Donít get me wrong, I get it. It was a wild time in our history, nobody really gets off easily, and the main plotline women are some of the best characters in the game. But perhaps the ďrandomĒ algorithms should be switched up a bit. I mean, you never see AI people get into duals, thatíd be way more interesting than seeing my 500th rape on the way to the general store.

An Aside: If I werenít at work when I write these Iíd make a video of all the raping in Red Dead set to ďMy Sister KateĒ.








When we watch a movie or read a book, itís not hard to believe the love stories. Weíre given two characters, see them interact, hear bits of back story, and watch them fall in love. Happens all the time, no big deal right?

The capitol ďPĒ Problem with romance in video games comes in when we the player, are expected to love the love interests. All of a sudden weíre one of the characters that are falling into a relationship. And thatís when it all goes to hell.

For the most part we could care less about anything that doesnít involve us getting from Point A to Point B in a spectacular way. When weíre told that along the path thereís a lover, and letís be honest here a big breasted lover, that every once in a while interrupts our travels then we get a little bothered and hope thereís a button to skip the cutscene.

This Problem is doubly confounded if youíre not attracted to the love interest, especially if youíre a girl gamer or gay gamer. All of a sudden you have this character thatís fawning over you, making witty banter (if weíre lucky), and at some point making out/having relations with us and weíre just kind of sitting there, horrified by the spectacle our avatars are going through without our control, or worse yet, with us playing a damned mini-game.

If weíre lucky there will be multiple girls to fall in love with. Several stereotypes that we the player can choose to woo. Although I find that this happens a lot more often in RPG-esque games and less so in the summer blockbuster style ones. I guess role players are more willing to spend time in cutscenes than run and gunners.

Actually, the most endearing love stories in video games come from the damsel in distress genre. When the girl is point B then itís more like theyíre treasure for us to find and not a creature to fall in love with. If you never have to interact with the lover, then itís much easier to identify with the character weíre playing.

In the long run, much like our parents, game developers canít tell us who to fall in love with. Try as they might.

Well, unless they bribe us with treasure.

An Aside: I must be jaded. I had no qualms about burning the weighted companion cube. I caught it winking at one of those turrets when it thought I wasn't looking.








When it comes to morality, there tends to be a distinct dissonance between the real world and video games. For the most part, in video games morality is presented as a series of True or False statements. I can either be good and save the victim from thugs, or I can be evil and join in on the victimization. And thatís if the game is being subtle with its choices.

In reality, morality is based on your actions to thousands of different stimuli, and for the most part is considered grey. But when it comes to programming, the easiest way to present/code anything is to think of it as a series of 1s and 0s, on or off, good or evil. In more recent years, the player is presented a neutral option, but for the most part that comes about through inaction, and usually results in no player rewards. Being all good or all evil results in far more prizes than being indifferent.

The next stage in developing the morality play games would be to introduce more grey into the worlds.

Okay, so hereís my idea for a cyber bullying morality game. Itís a text based game where youíre presented a chat window and an AI and you have a conversation with it. The AI talks as though itís a pre-teen, so slightly annoying/obnoxious and doesnít ever really have its facts straight, but is really interested in keeping the conversation going. The way that you interact with it changes its personality. So if youíre nice itíll be happy, if you try to explain things that it gets wrong it will slowly learn, if youíre mean itíll become depressed. If youíre mean to it long enough it will eventually commit suicide.

The longer you play with the AI the more you learn about its character. Perhaps it comes from a battered home, or is a spoiled brat. Randomized stats could start the AI out as a low self-esteem mid-westerner with an interest in cooking or a rich southerner who has an abundance of friends but needs a pen pal from another state as a class assignment.

The game ends when the conversation(s) end, either by death, disinterest, arrest (sexually flirting with a pre-teen is illegal), loss of internet access, or some randomized event in the characters life. Later installments could include in the randomized chatter creator a feature that the person youíre speaking to is actually a perv or a cop.

The idea would be that instead of having morality on a sliding scale it would be a circular graph, with multiple overlapping sections. There isnít good or evil, just a lot of gray. Although based on your actions, the ending you received could be considered good/evil but for the most part would lead to ambivalence, much like online conversations in real life.

There has been talk of getting rid of the whole morality scale in games and to just allow our actions be the deciding factor, much like real life. I feel like thatís being lazy. Without feedback from the game world, our actions would be meaningless, much like in the real life. I think the further we develop our AI characters, the more important it will be for those characters to have multiple responses to our actions, especially since interaction and versatility are two of the strongest characteristics of this genre of art. And for this to work, at least in this point and time, it will require a value scale of some sort.

In the future, I envision companies who specialize in this sort of middle ware, allowing game developers to focus on setting up a story/world and having it populated by teams of programmers working with sociologists. But for now, I guess weíre stuck with saving or stabbing prostitutes.




An Aside: Morality in multiplayer games is a moot point; everyoneís a dick when it comes to playing with other humans.








My best in show from this E3 was surprisingly Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. The potential seen in this demo sold it for me.

The game plays as half Castlevania half Beat Ďem Up. Youíre given a thirty room castle that you must scale in order to get to the boss fight at the top. There are multiple paths to reach the boss, some requiring the help of another character to complete (see: Elevator Switches). There are monsters, traps, chests and candle sticks to hinder or help along the way. For my play through I picked Alucard to get me to the top since, aside from Soma (who was not playable in the demo), heís the character I know the best from the series, so his attack patterns were familiar and by about halfway through I was able to pull off some pretty nifty combos, be it the extended jumps through mist form, or wolfing my way under enemy attacks. Magic was relegated to Smash Bros. format with one button performing multiple spells based on the direction of the analog stick.

The inventory system took some getting used to. The only time you could change equipment was when you ran into a floating book. I donít think at any point you could pause the game, since this is meant to be played as a brawler with six people, but enemies are pretty confined to their room (most Castlevania enemies donít wander the halls much anyway). As a person who is very familiar with the series, the inability to pick a weapon best suited to the enemy was a little frustrating, but I suppose in the long run it becomes more about strategy. In most of the chests were money bags, so I assume that in between levels there will probably be a shop system that will allow you to upgrade your armor and weapons. Alucard had his five slot defense and two slot weapon system, but this is not standard in every game, so the potential for separate systems for each character is there. Iíd love to see a soul collection tie-in for Soma, and I found a few grappling points for Shanoa that prevented me from going down a completely different path in the map that I played.

The music and sound effects were all classic Castlevania fare, what I could hear of it (E3 is noisy), so I suspect that it will take from previous soundtracks for the most part. And the ability to zoom out of the map to see the entire layout came in handy while I was planning my attack path as well as for avoiding the death laser coming from the boss every twenty seconds or so.

We were only given ten minutes of play time with the demo which I think should be included with the finished product. I probably could have beaten the level in twelve on my own, and with up to six other people playing it could probably be done in ten pretty easily, unless there was a radical upgrade in difficulty. Iím not sure how replayability will factor into this game, I would think that unless there are a lot of levels planned in future DLC that it could get stale pretty quickly. From what I was told by the booth guy (one of about five at the whole convention), there were only going to be ten as of release. With more characters above the starting five planned, letís hope they continue level creation as well.

Of course look at me, the gameís not even out and Iím already hoping for DLC.

An Aside: A level editor for this game would make or break it for me. Itís fairly boxy in itís level design already, just give me the ability to snap together premade rooms and I think youíd add a lot of value to the game.







Paul Barber
12:33 AM on 06.17.2010

Okay, so I know Iím a noob when it come to the whole E3 thing, but from my perspective, the event is not as cool as what I was lead to believe. Sure the 3DS was ridiculous and awesome, but really, thatís been the only thing worth seeing at the convention. I know they kind of killed it with the ďno public allowedĒ persona that they went for three years ago, but come on! Thereís supposed to be 45,000 people here this week and for the life of me, I canít find them.

That probably explains why I was extended an invitation (the one person who actually dished out $400 to go to this event from what Iíve unofficially gathered by the conversations Iíve been having so far).

Hereís the thing, no one plays ďThe Deadliest CatchĒ, so I guess itís no surprise that the Discovery Channelís gaming presence is relegated to just two television monitors hooked up to a support pillar to the right of the entrance way. I watched your video on ďMan vs. NatureĒ the video game, and I can tell you this, I bet I was the only person to bother to sit through the entire 1:30 minute video. The Hello Kitty people had a better turn out, and I bet their MMO is way better than the two generation old tech you were showing off. Iím bad at animation and I bet I could do better.

Also, Bethesda, you want people to hype your game, let them into your fucking theme park. I know itís cool to be mysterious and shit, but you have a t-rex in your booth you sure as hell better let people without a press badge and an appointment see it. Iím sure you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, might as well let it get some use. Also, your reveal in ďBrinkĒ would have been an actual reveal if we knew what the hell was going on. I mean seriously, is that the mages tower from Oblivion? Because otherwise, I have no idea whatís so amazing about about that place.

Kinect? Like the building set? Cause that requires more imagination than the shovelware that will probably come out with that system. I donít need a $150 tabbed browsing system that youíre trying to sell me. Iím sorry, until you can provide the holodeck, youíre not going to be able to take away my controller. Not from my cold dead hands.

And donít even get me started on the Move. You might have been cool three years ago, but at this point, youíre going to have to wait until the PS4 to come out and you bundle that with the system before people start buying that product. The only thing going for it is the two handed capabilities, the Wii mainly focuses on one hand at a time, and if you can corner the two handed motions then maybe, just maybe youíll be useful. Maybe the Sony is banking on the fact that it needs about three years to catch up, so it would always go through this mocking phase, who knows. Come back to me in three years.

I still have one day left for this Con to impress me, but as a layman, who canít get into the interviews in that sea of cubicles, well, youíve lost me. If this is the Gaming Cons to end all Gaming cons, man/woman impress me. Cause so far Iíve gone to bed before midnight and not felt like Iíve missed out on anything.

Peace Out.