I'm 30-something. I play games and sometimes type things. I summon deities and demons, shoot raiders and wish to settle down with another girl for turn-based battles on the beach, chocobo rides and torchlit dinners in ancient Nordic tombs.
When I'm not slaying dragons or saving the galaxy, I'm probably roaming the open world, rolling into a ball to access secret passages and seeing if my Paragon rating is high enough for discounts at the mall.
For other things and stuff about me you can read here, here and here. You will learn of my origins, my trials and tribulations, how I became a superpixie and what games I really, really like!
Okay, so my last post was a bit on the grumpy side about the Xbox One. Let's look at the bright side for a moment:
Those that fight what consumers want will fail and fall to a someone that didn't. A new market leader or familiar face may emerge to embrace what other corporations have been fighting or to establish the new business model those corporations wouldn't. This has happened a fair bit in the last 15 years. Sony has learned this lesson time and time again. I'm not sure they've really learned it or they're just faking like they did learn right now, but whatever the case might be I've learned the lesson.
Microsoft was apparently sleeping in class, though, so let's just review here, shall we?
Sony once banded with other big record labels and the RIAA to fight off the MP3, filesharing sites, the burning of CDs and they did this all because they liked things the way they were. They liked the money they made on CDs and didn't want the revenue to change. Additionally, the very fact that people were downloading and popularizing music by artists the record labels were not pouring millions of marketing dollars into terrified the industry. The recording industry was spending beyond their means.
Sounds a bit familar, doesn't it?
So in the grand scheme of things MP3s, filesharing sites and CD-ripping were scapegoats for the real problem - the recording industry. Rather than change with the times, accept less money through different and additional revenue streams and give the consumer a better deal the record industry chose to fight their strawmen. That's how Apple resurfaced as the force they are now. Apple saw a market the recording industry was neglecting and established the new business model the big record labels would not.
Sony, Hollywood and video streaming? Lather, rinse, repeat. This time many new options surfaced like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Video after Youtube emerged on the scene. And again, overspending and overmarketing were bigger problems that any feature-length movie uploaded to Youtube ever was.
Anyway, Sony's been down the dark road Microsoft apparently wants to walk down. Maybe Sony will walk down it again, but after so many times of having to learn this lesson I would hope they know better at this point. Sony's had plenty of chances to.
Each time corporations fight the consumer and look for scapegoats some old innovator or fresh face has emerged to give consumers what they want - take comfort in that. While the gaming industry proceeds to suppress used game sales and possibly prevent you from putting a great game into the hands of a friend - someone is looking at a better way to get games into the hands of everyone and the company that figures that out will walk away an industry leader.
It could just be as simple as not running your business like a total douchebag. Nintendo, Valve, GoG and Green Man are all pretty awesome in that regard. That's why they'll get my loyalty and business this upcoming generation, so its not going to be all bad news, I think.
Much of what's coming might not be pleasant, but its looking like this industry is condemned to repeat history and that's actually a good thing in the long run.
I would first like to thank faithful Bioware fans that dutifully purchased each Bioware game new (I went with used, personally) because they believed they were "supporting" the developer when that was never true. You were the first among many to support the online pass all because you were gullible enough to believe jobs were at stake. Had you ever paid any attention to how publishers like EA behave, you would have known layoffs after a project's completion are often the norm.
But no, you listened to the pleas of Bioware, Naughty Dog, Volition and acted like they'd be unable to feed their kids if you didn't buy their games new. Well, we all saw how well online passes worked out for THQ, didn't we? Didn't quite stop those layoffs at Bioware and EA at large, either. Thank you for buying your Maddens, FIFAs and Battlefields.
Thank you for Xbox One.
I would also like to thank everyone that dutifully bought any game supporting always-on DRM. You told us this wasn't a big deal, that it "didn't affect you" and, sure, for a time it probably didn't. Maybe it didn't happen to you on your UbiSoft PC games, but damn if the truth didn't rear its ugly head when Diablo III, Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and SimCity came around and then you realized the truth - always-on DRM affects everyone.
Oh, but you couldn't help it - it was the next Diablo, the next Starcraft! As with Bioware, this was Blizzard, a studio that could do no wrong under the corruptive influence of a massive third party publisher. Or so you believed. Maybe you saw Blizzard as separate from Activsion even though you knew that wasn't true - yet you felt we could trust Blizzard's greater wisdom as game developers.
Or maybe you're just some privileged douche that happens to live in the American Northeast where Verizon FiOs is a thing or maybe you're in Kansas City where Google Fiber is. Maybe you're just so spoiled regarding your internet connection you're totally oblivious to how much broadband penetration in America sucks. However, had you actually googled some things about broadband availability maybe your initial "doesn't affect me" would have become an "Oh, wow, now I see the problem here."
Thank you for Xbox One. Even if the online check is just once a day, its one too many. I decide how, when and why my console connects, thanks.
I would also like to thank the people that complained about online passes and always-on DRM, but caved in and regularly bought games that supported them anyway. I don't care about the reason. I don't care if its because you just had to see the story when you could have looked up the cutscenes on Youtube. I don't care if all your friends were playing it.
Thank you for Xbox One. I mean, if everyone else is jumping off a cliff and all, why not join in?
Finally, I would like to thank all the shortsighted hipsters who hate Gamestop for the sake of hating Gamestop. Unable to see the bigger picture you bought games new elsewhere with online passes and other intrusive features all for the sake of sticking it to a store. Never mind the fact the practices you supported would inevitably affect the smaller, independent mom'n'pop stores you visited as well - you didn't care, so long as your petty anger helped push Gamestop toward the abyss.
Thanks for Xbox One. This is the console that everyone above deserves. Enjoy.
Enjoy watching your mom'n'pop game stores close because MS likely won't make the licensing fees for their new used scheme affordable. Thank you for a console that always watches and listens, but never trusts you to do what it deems right. Thank you for Big Brother in a box. Thank you for a console that probably won't work if you live in the boonies.
Actually, scratch that and change all those "thanks" to "fucks," as I have plenty to give.
Because despite the vitriol and rage some people are throwing over Xbox One right now, if you're among the types listed above you may still be on board and remain part of the problem. You may be waiting for the game reveals at E3 to "make sure" its not worth buying but MS's own hot PR mess leaves us with more questions than they'll ever be willing to answer pre-launch. No one should be buying Xbox One to "make sure." The second some of you catch a whiff of something interesting, though, you might be willing to compromise again, like you did countless times before with Diablo III, Bioware games and more.
With so many games out there, with so many options and so many developers and publishers still on the side of gamers and not the boardroom - is it really so hard to break away from these big, panic-ridden AAA publishers and try something new? We even have big publishers that don't do these things because they know its bad for business. Support the people that support gamers, not an investor's obsessive need for control.
But if you can't help yourself, fuck you for Xbox One because you helped shape the future that created it. When I saw these anti-consumer matters arise earlier this generation, I either committed to buying used if they had online passes or not at all if there was an always-on DRM. I didn't miss out on Mass Effect 2 or 3 - I waited and bought them used. I didn't go out and get Diablo III because plenty of alternatives have come up in the last 13 years since Diablo II. Turns out there's no shortage of dungeon hacks out there. Your games are still out there even if they don't share the same names.
For every game out there that's doing something you don't like, there's a game out there that's getting it right by gamers as fans and as consumers. Support that.
I don't have a lot to say about the whole topic of Jessica Rabbit as a mage. While I am very interested in people of various groups represented and treated with respect, the brawler genre - where mayors are fabled to have piledrived sharks - is not the first place I'd go looking for realism.
That's why I'm not really emotionally affected by the big breasted sorceress of Dragon's Crown. I've heard much ado about how this misrepresents women in a game where men are more barrel-chested than Donkey Kong has barrels to throw. Why are we raking caricatures over the coals here? Jessica Rabbit got a new job, that's all that really happened.
Want to see a real monster?
Hint: Its over on the right.
As someone that grew up with gender dysphoria, I'm not above or immune to the glorification and fictionalization of the female body that the media perpetuates. I've had the depression and breakdowns that come from it growing up, feeling like I'd never even get close to any standard of beauty. Not all games strive to make the unreal more realistic, though it happens, but real world's media likes to take the real and turn it into a grand fiction. Not even the models in the photographs can hope to live up to to the doctored photograph itself. That sort of imagery is dangerous to people in that business and society at large.
This CEO apparently wants it that way. He wants kids to be ashamed of their bodies. He wants to promote classism, rejection and depression in a time kids are just starting to figure out who they are. Fuck that.
This is the kind of business where even knees are held to a higher standard. Yes, knees. Did you know Forever 21 photoshops all of the knees of their models? Were they once adventurers? Is that why?
It begs the question what other so-called "imperfections" were modified. Some of these models have eerily similar hands and feet as well. Then there's the women of varying ethnicity that get whitewashed in the photoshopping process, so its not just body shame but a bit of racism going on there as well. Why can't any woman be seen as she is?
I mean, its one thing to photoshop out a pimple or make a lighting adjustment, but why an entire skin tone?
Video games might have their problems with sexism, but something they rarely do is promote body shame. Games are in the business of empowering and treating the player like shit seldom ends well. Games could do a great deal more to promote different body types and we should get on their cases about that, pointing to games like Dragon's Dogma where characters can be made to come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but we don't need to be getting worked up about some voluptuous mage - she's just one of the shapes.
While the Sorceress is a bit unrealistic, there are women that do exist in that ballpark. This is why you need to think before you go into Crusader Mode about sexism and body image - body shame is not cool no matter what the body type is. There was a time I found myself being rather callous about height and engaged in this kind of shame. I once made a joke in a college newspaper editorial about how the person behind our costumed mascot was too short.
It went to print. The next day my academic advisor pulled me into his office and let me have it. He told me just how wrong I was for making that joke. Turns out the short girl inside our mascot costume took great pride in what she did and I knocked her height while i so hypocritically and pridefully promoted school spirit in my editorial. She read that editorial and it made her consider quitting the squad entirely.
My advisor never told me her name, but I felt awful about it and very much deserved to. The following week when I had my next editorial opportunity, I did my best to make amends and say I was sorry, hoping the apology would reach her. I never found out if it did or the extent to which I had affected her, but I promised to myself I'd never treat someone that way again - not even as a joke
I of all people now know too well you have to make the best of what you're born with and not everything about your body can be changed. There are still days it eats at me, especially when I go to the mall. Its often a fleeting frustration, but if its not I play a game until those thoughts go away.
That said, I am hardly worried about Lulu 2.0 up there. If Christina Hendricks the Witch is a good fighter, I'll play her - but I have always, always favored the bow and will probably go with the petite elf ranger.
If anyone's knees end up photoshopped for what she does, I am not responsible.
One of the defining elements of my favorite RPG franchise, Shin Megami Tensei, isn't just the supernatural-cyberpunk post-apocalypse it inhabits but also in how it approaches conflict. In main series SMT entries - and even occasional spin-offs - you will have many random or even triggered encounters which can result in combat - but not always. Sometimes you can just talk to your enemies instead of killing them.
Depending on the situation, your allies, their abilities, the moon phase and sometimes moral alignment there are a number of different ways these quirky conversations can play out. The payoff in these negotiations is commonly the recruitment of a new ally into your ranks - turning an enemy into a friend - but occasionally money, items or healing can also be the reward. Sometimes if the enemy is made aware a member of their clan is in your ranks, they will cease all hostilities toward you and tell you to take care of their friend. However, if that's not the case and you respond to conversation in a way that displeases them, you may just be locked in combat anyway.
Sometimes enemies even approach you out-of-the-blue and offer to join you because you're that awesome.
Given all the opportunities for violence in the series, these conversations provide the player a means to break the monotony of combat and shows us the worlds of SMT are about more than just exchanging blows, but having conversations and making other choices as well,
And I think in a lot of cases, that's a missed opportunity for a lot of video games. Even barring the lack of conversational options, sometimes discretion and non-lethal options are better tools for winning the day.
Nowhere is this better expressed than the Metal Gear Solid. Snake is a killer, but its not like bringing death to others is something he takes great pride in. He dislikes the praise and occasional hero worship he sees purely on the basis that he's taken the lives of enemies, friends and even family to complete a mission. Killing is making a choice and as the MGS series has evolved, the choice to not kill your enemies has become rather integral to the game design of the series.
In MGS3 killing an enemy outright removes the potential to interrogate them and learn new things about the immediate area he might know - or in MGS2 killing at least deprives you of a potential human shield/hostage when you're low on ammo and need to BS your way out of a fight. In many situations a dead body is certainly quieter than a sleeping one, but a sleeping guard laid out in the open would make the enemy think one of their allies is sleeping on the job. That could serve as an extra distraction so Snake can sneak away - meanwhile a dead guard tends to place other guards at full alert if you didn't bother to hide the body.
Factor in MGS: Peace Walker and killing enemies can also mean the loss of potential, kidnappable recruits for your army. These recruits could serve as more than just combatants in your army, too. Some of them might have technical expertise that would better serve your R&D division on Mother Base, add staff to your medical team or maybe you just need a good cook for the mess hall to boost army morale.
In Peace Walker even enemy commanders are fair game for recruitment. It will be a hard fight taking out a tank commander and his troops without killing them, but once his allies are skyhooked off the playing field, you are free to break out the heavy artillery and peel the commander out of his armored shell.
Getting back to talking, in Deus Ex Human Revolution or Fallout New Vegas, we occasionally get the ability to talk our way out of a fight or a situation that could end in needless death. Depending on how you handle these conversations (or what your skills might be, in the case of Fallout), you can avoid needless bloodshed, possibly gain an ally or informant and other rewards.
Or you can attack and kill them. That's still a thing.
Whether its cyberpunk dystopian Detroit or the Mojave Wasteland you're still going to see lots of opportunities for violence, but as with Solid Snake you can make sure Adam Jensen keeps his hands as clean as possible during his journey. The Courier, meanwhile, will still be exploding heads and dismembering limbs in VATS - but The Courier will see their choices reflected in the long run by way of reputation, karma and how they chose to complete quests. History will remember if The Courier was a bloodthirsty monster or a saint, even if war never changes.
Though I hear Solid Snake disagrees with that sentiment about war.
Violence is going to be a thing in games and there's really no way around that, but there is a lot that can be done to make games more than just about violence. Seeing a spark of humanity in an enemy NPC - to see they're just a working Joe, that they have a sense of humor or are having a bad day - may be enough to make a player reconsider violent action and seek out another way.
That said, if we had more opportunities to talk things out in games and occasionally avoid a combat situation entirely, I think that would be good progress, too. There are also other means, other options to explore beyond what is laid out and not all of it needs to be conversational or morally just, either. Games like Dishonored prove that framing, blackmail and public exposure are also non-lethal means by which to dispose of an enemy.
All it takes is putting a little more thought into game design and realizing there's more than one way to give a player a satisfying outcome to a potential confrontation. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go chase down a demon I've been bribing to join my group for the last half hour.
So from the title I suppose you can guess what I've been playing for the last two weeks.
Thomas Was Alone
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers
Jet Set Radio (downloading now, used my PSN $10 voucher from all that Persona stuff I got last month)
Soul Hackers is kind of a monster by itself so I didn't need much else on 3DS, but its been rather nice to offset my RPG focus on the 3DS with different games on the PS Vita. And given the PS Vita does most my main smartphone functions well enough (or better, as Youtube and email goes), i also moved on from an iPhone with Verizon and switched to Virgin mobile's much cheaper plans and a boring old phone
Better games and money saved, though. I'll upgrade to a shiny Android phone sometime.
Guacamelee was good fun, I don't think it was the best Metroidvania I've played, but its one of the better ones and I enjoyed its music along with its boundless love for a number of classic and contemporary retro games - though some platforming sections and trap door bugs made me want to hurl my Vita at times. I may return to this one for speed runs later on.
Well, after my thumb heals, i burnt it bad over the weekend and it was already a great day because this little punk! Iwas watching is my sister's dog this weekend and Boots here loves sneaking away to all the dusty places I can't easily clean, becoming a living dust bunny and then begging to sit in my lap which sets my allergies ablaze.
She thinks she's so damn cute, too. I'm glad she went back home... bitch.
After finishing up Guacamelee, I downloaded Thomas Was Alone off PSN and it was a neat little game. Short, sweet, entertaining and easily possessing one of the best atmospheric soundtracks I've ever heard. David Housden is someone I'm going to have to look out for on the music front.
I also thought it had a neat little and largely unspoken message behind it - that we all come in different shapes, colors and sizes; we can run the risk of getting trapped inside our own problems - but when we get past that and come together we can accomplish great things. No big, fancy budget for graphics or expensive cast of voice actors needed to communicate that idea, either. Just blocks, jumping and a narrator.
It was finished in just a few hours tops, but one of the more memorable experiences I've had in games this year, I'd say.
"Freedom" was probably my favorite track from the game. Here, have a listen:
Soul Hackers is a neat treat. I'm really only starting to hit my groove with the game, learn the quirks of the demons and fiddle with all the apps you can install into your COMP. For a game made back in the late 90s it holds up extremely well even compared to Persona and the Persona 2 games. Its actually rare to see a game like this age so well and get updated just enough to fit into the modern age of RPGs (yes, I did install the new Save Anywhere app, sue me).
I do have to say the "world of tomorrow" facet of the game is so corny I can't help but enjoy it. That and I think Nemissa is starting to be one of my favorite female heroines in the SMT multiverse.
And now Jet Set Radio finished downloading. Its time to get my paint and skate on with the Rudies in Tokyo-to. Kinda bummed knowing not all the music could be relicensed, but its still an old favorite from the Dreamcast. If Sega would port Panzer Dragoon Orta to Vita that would also be awesome.
Anyway, that's where I'm at right now with my games. 3DS is really starting to shine and Vita's getting up from that crawl and starting to walk now. A few more months and I think Vita will come into its own - especially when those other indie gams and some of the summer retail games hit.
Though really, Sony, I'd love it if you'd dropped some memory card prices. Juggling what I have on a 4GB card stinks :P
Tomorrow is the day Soul Hackers finally comes to America.
Sixteen years ago it was released on the Sega Saturn and fourteen years ago it could have been a PSX game but noooooooo, Sony didn't want it because it had no new content. That's all in the past now, though, because just shy of half my lifetime later its coming out.
Providing the world doesn't end today, at least.
And before you Europeans get all bitter and cranky about this, I think Atlus' new publishing dealie with NIS for European releases will be answering when Soul Hackers is coming to Europe so please just let us American SMT fans have our day - we've practically waited just as long as you have on this one.
Devil Summoner is a series that by SMT standards is a bit more campy than the main series and its other spin-offs. The soundtracks are more jazzy, characters more swanky or just plain goofy and this series loves to wear its movie and TV influences on its sleeve. If the Raidou games riff on old 1920s detective noir, then Soul Hackers loves to play up cyberpunk, a "world of tomorrow" vibe and a little bit of the X-Files. Let's just say Spooky looks like Fox Mulder for a reason.
The "world of tomorrow" thing is incidental, though. Back in 1997 we didn't know what shape the internet or technology would take so the portable PCs this game loves to play up almost seem quaint in a time where everyone has a smartphone. Even the kids in Devil Survivor were up-to-date with demon summoning cellphone apps, so its hard for Soul Hackers not to feel just a bit dated in that charming Fallout way..
I'm just glad its finally almost here. I was doing cartwheels when it was announced in December and while it wasn't the last Atlus announcement I freaked out over, it was still a good one.