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Robert Cousineau's blog

1:48 PM on 10.08.2012

Not afraid no more: Survival Horror

I'll go into this rather quickly by saying that I am not the easiest person to "scare". As a rational, intelligent human being games and movies simply don't frighten me. Which is why I like watching irrational, unintelligent human beings scream their little heads off on youtube playing the new resident evil and dead rising games despite how very not scary they tend to be. Creepy? At times yes, but Scary? Hell no.

We owe part of this to the rising level of intelligence in the world. As our minds file things under "not-real" and realize the exact purposes and phenomena involved in the stimulus that is meant to cause fear the brain makes quick judgements on reaction. This is the reason jump-scares and "screamers" have the effect they do, in surprising and confusing the mind. Since the stimuli is sudden and difficult to forsee; someone unfamiliar with such tactics would likely react in fear. A person familiar with skeletons jumping out will be more likely not be too surprised if one does while your standard console shooter player would violently empty his bowels.

Let us take such writers as Edgar Allen Poe. His writings were considered fairly scary in a time where humanity knew very little about the mechanics of the world and what was or was not real. Since we empirically know such creatures as Zombies and Demons are decidedly not real (that we know of) it's fairly easy to regard them as not frightening.

Being unpredictable is a key factor in being frightening. Hence why most people are completely desensitized to the concept of the living dead walking, because of the recent complete explosion in zombie culture. One bite and it is realistically over as the virus shuts down your vital systems and leaves you a husk while many games and TV shows make it seem like if you get bitten you can just squirt some goo on your wound and bandage up. Realizing how deadly your adversary is however is not the same as not considering them a threat. Knowing what I just told/reminded you, would you really want to run out of your house and start running at zombies with nothing but a machete? Well, if you wanted to die, yes.

Just because you know what a creature can do does not mean you can't be scared of it, as anybody that cares for angry flesh eating animals can tell you. The issue of fear comes up once the creature is on the same side of the glass window as you are, and hungry. Which brings into play another important variable.

Part of what made older Survival Horror games frightening was ammunition and weapon availability. You are going to be much more worried about a thing you cannot kill. Nowadays it is heavily frowned upon in games to not give you a steady supply of ammo, or to present creatures too difficult to kill. However, just because you cannot kill something does not make it scary either. If your only option is to just run away every time you see a certain creature you suddenly don't regard it as very scary since you know exactly what to do in order to evade it.

A good example of zombies done right would be Project Zomboid. They are a legitimate threat if they get close to you and bunch up. And they will. yes you can run from them but eventually they will find you again. It's only a matter of time. You can't stop them, only delay the inevitable. If anything that is an interesting conclusion. Roguelike horror games? That is a genre that has quite a lot of potential.

Horror as a genre is not meant to pull punches or "let the good guy win", in many good horror movies the solution is very hard fought to achieve. The enemies are difficult to put down and there is quite a lot at stake. Revitalizing these ideals could prove quite interesting if applied to an roguelike game as Project Zomboid has proven. In roguelikes, your expected to die anyway, in a horror roguelike, that changes to expecting to die a grim, bloody, terrible death. Sign me up.   read

3:09 AM on 09.26.2012

I remember that game: Populous: The Beginning

If there was ever a genre that I had to ask myself why it never caught on, it's god games. I loved the original Black and White, it was a pretty amazing game at the time. But if there was ever a game that was close to my heart, it is Populous 3: The Beginning. I played it throughout my childhood, being a game that was simple enough for me to understand at the time that I really enjoyed yet was not the first real game I beat fairly (DK2 is the first PC game that I remember completely beating) but damnit, there's a reason. That game was not fucking around!

It may look harmless. You may even be thinking that the game resembled the first two populous games in that the majority of the game was terraforming. But there is a catch. You see, unlike the last two games you are actually not a god; you are the Shaman. The one female of the tribe and you alone wield the might of your ancestors. In fact, I could probably argue P3 may be the first RTS with a hero unit.

The Shaman is a spellcaster, and your tribe is composed of Braves, which can gather wood and build structures. You could send the Braves into huts to make Mana for spells or train them to be specialists such as warriors or preachers. That mana is used to prepare charges of various unlocked spells from a simple fireball to unleashing demons from the darkest pits of hell upon the world. Friendly fires on too. You let loose a tornado in a fight and you will see both sides taking flying lessons. There in lies the games difficulty, is that up to four Shamans in a level means four people walk that planet with divine magic.

You could be setting up your village and suddenly be watching it sink into the water. A volcano could erupt under your shamans skirt. Three tornadoes and swarms of locusts could appear magically within your town and once they are there you need to wait them out. Of course, turnabout is fair play. Nothings stopping you besides death itself from waltzing up to their town gate and letting loose the same havoc right on them.

The combat system in populous represents a massive brawl. Characters push and shove eachother in attempts to knock them into the water, Preachers try to convert enemies, and Populous 3 let you have an impressive number of townspeople. And among these huge brawls are the spells both sides of the conflict are letting loose.

Another thing: For a game from the 90's it was pretty. The special effects were flashy, the grass on the terrain died as characters stomped over it, and when you watched two Shamans and their tribes clashing you were instantly sucked into the world as you watched the chaos ensue. Trying to micromanage the fight was impossible, the best you could do was move your shaman around and fling spells as your tribe did what they do best, fighting and tearing apart structures.

People wanted an XCOM remake for so long, yet when they get a good one they cry and complain. Atleast your favorite franchise is getting one dude, Populous is one of those series Bullfrog left in oblivion when they disbanded. There are plenty of great games from the 90's that never got the recognition they deserved. XCOM got a second chance in being picked up by a company that has proven they care about the franchise. Instead of that not-XCOM game made by that company that does the generic shooting games.   read

8:46 PM on 08.24.2012

Not knowing it's own genre: The Battle of Undermountain


As a 90's child I fondly remember Dungeon Keeper 2. DK2 was one of the first games that as a young child armed with cheatcodes I decided to beat fair and square. I was amazingly interested in the game and played it well, because I understood the concepts behind it. A multiplayer game of DK2 revolved around balancing your economy better and actively training your employee's faster than the competition can. This concept tends to go over most "casual" and FPS gamers that are used to playing games without utilizing the tactics and strategy required and having limited problems.

This same principal applies to most base-management strategy games such as Startopia, Dungeons: The Dark Lord, Supreme Commander, Halo Wars and much much more. These games end up resembling a samurai duel, with a quick decisive strike sealing or preventing victory. A intelligent strategy game veteran with any success in playing these games could easily tell you this, or subconsciously understands this ideal. However, the issue arises when the unwashed masses of flash gaming websites get their hands on a strategy title.

The Battle of Undermountain is a Real-Time Strategy Game with implied Tower Defense Elements. While it's hard to ever consider the game a proper Tower Defense title that's easily to the games credit, it does not try to copy/paste a generic tower defense game into the mechanics but uses them like a old traditional RTS would incorporating mechanics you would see in similar dungeon construction titles .

The game also tries to behave like an indirect-control management game such as the Majesty Series and Evil Genius but fails to understand the basic mechanics that make a concept like that actually work, such as individual AI. In Majesty and games of it's like all characters have a defined general set of laws for behavior, for example in Startopia every Alien had jobs only they would do, and behaved with other residents in a certain way, as well as change their behavior according to the individuals current needs.

This is simplified in Undermountain by completely disregarding this basic mechanic and simplifying character AI to either make an instant beeline for the closest reachable enemy, or make a beeline for the closest reachable gold pile/tagged block, or patrol when there is nothing to collect/attack that can be reached. The very second something within the players sight appears every unit that can react will immediately set course to perform it's duty with no individual character or concern for their own safety. It's pretty jarring since the game is clearly in tribute to the great management games of the late 90's.

And that issue is easily where the game's ideas are betrayed by it's application as well as somewhat betrayed by the game's base management design. The only parts of the map that can be dug out are randomly dispersed blocks of clay and gold among impossible to mine rock in it's own chaotic patterns. That's strange considering this game is once again in tribute to games where the main appeal is to create your area as you see fit within a large area instead of being confined to basic linear corridors. The likely reason is because of how base construction works in Undermountain.

Gold Stashes and Farms can be walked over, and serve as points your characters must routinely return to in order to deposit gold or eat. In contrast Bases, and Housing cause squares nearby to turn into "road" tiles in order to limit the areas you can place the building. Towers however do not cause roads to appear and will attack foes two tiles away doing a meager amount of damage. I can also understand the reasoning for this, to keep focus on the characters. However towers end up costing as much as a Dwarf Warrior, having nowhere near the usefulness of one. There are only a couple missions in single-player that actually call for the use of towers, and once again besides serving as defense against enemy miners straying into your base there is almost no reason to actually use them.

The game has both a Multiplayer randomized battle mode of play as well as a short singleplayer campaign designed to teach the player through trial and error how to play the game. Each has a very simple goal and linear solution. The multiplayer maps are all randomized jumbles, with no finesse or logic to the placements of rock and tiles that can be mined where the easiest method of victory is after your initial setup simply spam warriors and decimate the enemy once you meet in battle. Since units can stack on-top of eachother any sense of actual strategy that a game like this usually has in multiplayer is instantly vanished, leaving the game to be boring and without fine thought.

At the end of the day, Undermountains biggest problem as it currently is (1.0.2) is the lack of anything besides the original setup of an indirect control game. The games AI is terrible, the only way to beat many of the games levels is to simply block your castle off and make as many warriors as you can with the limited money available in the map and finally releasing them when you can't find another scrap of coin. According to the games menus it is possible to play as a giant ant colony and as giant worms, however I could not find a way to play as these two factions in either single or multi mode as I believe despite the game using a version number that implies the game is finished the game is not actually done evidenced by the unplayable factions and the "To be continued" upon beating the last mission.

What Undermountain needs is to give each of the games faction unique gameplay as well as giving the individual units some more personality and real AI. A real Dwarf Warrior would not blunder into battle the second he senses a foe but patrol around to collect petty coins. The Ants possibly swarming around and killing wildlife and dwarves for food to afford stronger ants. But all I know is I can never take a game seriously when it suggests giant monsters build their own bases. But the current way the game is very painfully reminds me of how much wasted potential the game has, but as it stands the game is many things but nowhere near actually finished. Unfortunate, for a second I thought we finally had a spiritual sequel to Dungeon Keeper.   read

3:37 PM on 08.13.2012

Evolution of Mechanics: The RTS and Templates

I never quite understood why so many developers are lazy enough to just remake games instead of making new original properties. The last original thing I heard of in the Call of Duty series was introducing First Person Shooter mechanics into the first game. Remaking old games is all Kalypso ever seems to do anymore and Blizzard has not introduced an actual new IP since the 90's.

Thankfully, times are changing. The last few years have marked a change in tides that has been in the works and hopes for a long time; the rise of Indie Gaming. True, Indie Games are nothing new but ten years ago if you were a game designer, you worked for a corporation. Nowadays we have been able to fully break the mold and make the games we never could make before.

The Indie games movement has done what very few companies feel comfortable in doing: Acting like real game developers and coming up with new ideas. Creating amazing new worlds for the imagination with interesting new mechanics to play with. For a long time the RTS scene looked just about dead, with everything coming about as original as the repackaged Call of Modern Gears of Honor games that came one after the other.

It is actually kind of simple. You see, how corporations think is they take an IP and cater it towards a Genre, which is thought of as black and white and cannot be built or expanded upon at all. Real game designers seek out to expand and construct new worlds and mechanics to use. It comes to no surprise how the mass-produced Moba games which we can attribute the online game revolution to are all stolen from an original idea (A indie-made custom map on Warcraft 3).

I find that amazingly interesting however. Remember when the original big name shooters appeared and everybody started copying them in mass? That is basically what is happening to the MOBA genre, only instead of the same three-four games being remade being shooting games they are team action games. Which proves a very important point: A majority of game companies act in trend and are afraid of originating new ideas. This is pretty much the third time something like this has happened. First it happened in the late 90's with RTS games following Starcraft, which infamously ingrained a generic template of RTS games that is obeyed by uninspired designers to this day. Then it happened with shooters ingraining a similar template, and now a template for MOBA games is forming. We must break these templates if we are going to bring back creativity.

The template I am specifically mentioning is the concept of the Tournament RTS, which are strategic games closely based on Blizzard RTS structure and has been copied hundreds of times.

Tournament RTS

*Three Races (All Rounder, Spammer, Powerhouse)
*Resource Fields
*Buildings constructed to unlock new tech and make units
*Population camp raised by supply buildings
*Closely Symmetrical Maps
*Tiered tech tree
*Focus on using unbalanced units and basic tactics(Attacks/Diversions)

The focus of such Tournament games is usually to secure the most resources you can as quickly as possible, attempting to keep stronger units in your possession in order to cripple your foe. These games are normally based on reflexes and require little in the way of actual strategic thought but really requires nothing more than practice and basic understanding of psychology.

This template and genre exists because of how popular the games produced in that genre are to a wide audience. I can understand why MOBA's have become popular because of the mass public's prior shunning of proper strategy games. Though what I don't understand is why we cannot innovate on our own and forge our own genres as Indie Developers. In reality imagination is the only thing required. But the point remains that entertainment should never be reduced to a formula, it must be built upon.

A good example is an old german-made Strategy Simulation named The Guild 2 where you play as a land-owner and set up businesses of both legal and illegal. You need to get married, use goons to trouble other players, and play the political system in order to pull ahead of the competition. While the game itself was actually fairly buggy the concepts it introduced as a strategy game were rather interesting. Competitive diplomacy is what makes games like Civ 5 and 4X games rather interesting in multiplayer as well and made games of Guild 2 intriguing, seeing who would stab your back and when.

My curiosity is seeing a modern take on such a game, controlling mooks and establishing businesses. Sure, games like Gangland existed but due to bugs and poor design choices the games quickly fell into obscurity. These "City Control" games focus on slower, strategic thinking as well as diplomatic control.

City Control RTS
*Each team has HQ, which can be fortified and acts as the players home.
*Each player has an Avatar/Hero character, but may hire additional thugs and goons.
*Characters all possess a Loyalty to a specific side, but some characters can disguise themselves as other teams in order to infiltrate organizations.
*Player avatar can leave HQ and can enter buildings to interact with them, and can interact with other characters
*Plots of land can be purchased and then built upon, buildings attract tenants, staff, and business.
*Characters like groups of thugs or officers can be hired from your buildings if the character is resting there and available for hire.
*Diplomatic ratings with other players and with the local government. Causing firefights and bad press will anger the government and lead to more police hostilities and raids.
* Players can hold Titles of Office, and can apply for titles they meet the requirements for. Titles give political benefits and allow the use of Government resources like police or investigators.
*Characters or Squads(Like Thugs) committing crimes are witnessed automatically by other characters with line of sight, and this can be reported for the authorities.
*Ran on dedicated servers, additional players can join any existing faction or can join as Neutral.

The concept is that by introducing elements the player can choose to navigate around like in-game police presence as well as requiring players to work together diplomatically will help organize the players into their roles easier and promote tactical thinking. There also carries the risk that the next player that joins your team could be an enemy spy leaking your plans and positions, perhaps even an assassin!

While I am not expecting that idea to get too far, the point I am trying to prove is that with a little creative thought its more than possible to come up with a working idea you can expand upon and plug more details into. Something most game designers sincerely lack the ability to do.   read

5:36 PM on 08.04.2012

Five Awesome D20 Base Classes you probably never heard of.

Last time I looked at Prestige Classes, that is to say, classes you can’t take at level one. These five classes are considered Base classes, in that it is possible to start in them. As those that read my last blog know, or that generally know what the Open Gaming License entailed, the era of the OGL was hilarious. Absolutely any way shape and form of life was documented for DnD. Grand adventures into hellish post-apocalyptic mines, Adventures to Constantinople, the ability to make a Kraken save versus death after one attack. As you saw this carried on to the characters careers, in a world where absolutely anything could happen it was perfectly rational that they could do pretty much anything they wanted such as heft harpoons or be fused into a giant mecha as its eternal pilot.

These five classes however represent the new guys. All of these classes are eligible for new players to start a game with. As with the Prestige classes before them, my choices are the ones that your old buddies would never bust out, or your snotty DM would never let you finish your pitch. Leave your logic at the door.

5. Two Fister (Pg 27-28 of Broncosaurus Rex)

In general, some of the classes in Broncosaurus rex are really not that good. The Two Fister however feels like the result of an argument in post production. “What do you mean our classes are not that special?!” “Well... they lack a lot of special rules and the numbers are not..” “Fine! You want special rules and high ass numbers?! I’ll make ya a class alright!” Enter the Two Fister.

As you may guess from the title of the class, the Two Fister does one thing extremely well. He punches people, and is very good at punching people. So good in fact he gets the Improved Unarmed Strike feat for free and by the end of his career does a whopping 1D20 damage per attack, has a BAB of +15/+10/+5, and an Unarmed Attack Bonus of +15/+12/+9/+6/+3 as well as a +30 to Gather Information checks in friendly lands.

And that’s it. Those are the only three interesting aspects of this class, the super high attack bonuses, super high damage output, and amazing skill bonus to one of the more useful skills. The worst part is at the end of the day a traditional Monk of the same level is infinitely better then a two-fister could ever be.

4. Steamborg (Pg 22-26 of Dragonmech Core)

When you have access to mechanized walker technology several things may happen. You might build a gigantic city walker. Or build your dog power-armor. Or as the consequence of getting extremely bored, embed a fist sized steam engine into your stomach and link it to your biological systems. Having chosen the latter you are now a Steamborg! As one, you can do all of the cool cybernetic things such as lopping your arms off in favor of mechanized chainsaw arms or replacing your legs with tank treads.

With this comes a few notable penalties. For one, you are drinking water for two now, you require three times the amount of water a person normally would require. Failure to drink enough causes your engine to futz up, which later in your career will cause various parts you stapled into yourself to stop working. Protip: Don’t replace your heart.

For two, you now have an exhaust pipe spewing waste attached to your body, and that pipe is exit-only. If for whatever reason you were to ignore my advice and submerge yourself in water or any other liquid/debris and got stuff in your engine you gotta unclog it. Anybody that has attended auto shop class or lives in the southern united states knows exactly why getting grit in your engine is a bad thing. But with the bad comes the oh so very good. As you systematically replace parts of weak flesh with perfect mechanized parts your AC and statistics will rise depending on what parts you snip off and replace. These parts also may have special steam powers or chainsaw bits attached to them. Why build a hot rod when you can BE the hot rod?

3. Mute (Pg 80-81 of Deadlands: Lost Colony)

Not all D20 supplements are based in fantasy realms. Deadlands is a far out Horror Wild West setting, and Lost Colony takes the setting to the next logical place. Space. As a Wild West Space person, you clearly need Wild West Spacey powers. So why don’t you sign on this dotted line and sell your sou- I mean... services to Hellstromme Industries.

The Hellstromme Industries Transmutationist, or simply put “Mute”, is the receptacle of millions of small nano-devices that can at will construct objects according to plans that the mute possesses and may create his own schematics by destroying similar objects and analyzing them. Most of these men and women were put into the program by the companies they work for, some were test subjects, and even less still were in the state of mind to do it willingly. These techno-wizards of the far out west are basically the only repairmen around so far out into space with no supplies to be found.
The ability to provide a service to your fellow man is more than a good enough reason to sign up with Hellstromme. Wait, when did you grow claws? What do you mean the class says nothing about it? Eh, it’s probably nothing. Besides, if you just inject some Tannis rock it goes right away see? No no sir, there are no hamster people around.

Deadlands is infamous as a setting for wrapping players in a very interesting but often confusing metaplot to the extent of giving a lot of major NPC’s plot armor in the hopes that GM’s will not try to have their own adventures but play a specific railed campaign in Deadlands. I dislike this practice because Players rarely figure out every single secret in the settings, and there are a LOT of secrets around. Lost Colony is no different. If you didn’t guess it already, being a mute IS too good to be true. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a cost that you may not be prepared to pay. Please, keep drinking your kool-aid.

2. Velociraptor Warrior (Pg 20-21 of Complete Guide to Velociraptors)

Sometimes being a traditional race is for cowards. Why be a soft squishy hyoo-mon when you can be a mutha-truckin dinosaur? At first glance the class looks rather weak, only giving the raptor access to several free feats. That’s until you actually see the feats made for raptors. Then there is the fact that in order to be a proud Velociraptor warrior you must obviously be born of the Velociraptor persuasion which gives you a slew of stat bonuses and extra movement. The rules also treat you as a large creature (Which I call bullshit on) and gives up 4-40 extra HP for being a raptor. (Which I also call BS on)

This book is not Goodman games best work, but the camp value of playing a dinosaur is just too great. I am just sad that the Complete Guide to T-Rexes failed to provide T-Rex race and classes. There needs to be more books that let you play a huge creature that is absolutely broken. Though being a velociraptor is already pretty close second.

If you like being absolutely broken and chewing off the faces of every enemy the group encounters then being a dinosaur may be the right choice for you. If the Warrior does not appeal to you, there is also a Tactician(Stealth) and Shaman(Wooga-Booga) class available to you as a velociraptor, if you get tired of ripping the faces off of people. If you get bored of the raptor classes then your stats are jacked up so high because of your race that you could do basically anything else you wanted that does not include having thumbs. If you thought a raptor warrior was scary, wait until it starts blasting you with necromantic spells. In general Jurassic park would of been much more awesome if the raptors knew sorcery.

“Alright, what class are you picking?” “Velociraptor Shaman” “.....*glare*”

1. Athlete (Pg 135-138 of Xcrawl)

All of these classes do a good job explaining how batshit-insane the world of adventuring really is, with all of its nanobots, steam engines, and wooga booga. But what if the world was more or less exactly as it should be with a few... *ahem* Liberties taken with history. Xcrawl documents a Live TV Show of the same name loved by all of the country (or else) and a driving force behind the country's culture and identity. The Country? America of course! But not as it is now. You see, in Xcrawls story George Washington decided to turn the country into a roman empire-esque dictatorship. As a result we conquered Canada and Mexico in seconds and became the Great North American Empire.

Now we have the world of today with its roman architecture and steep mandates. Xcrawl is a popular dungeon-crawling sport born by the invention of Larping and made headlines when the Larpers accidentally were ambushed by ghouls and slayed them for real. The resulting press declared them heroes and a new death-sport was invented.

The Athlete is essentially a class designed to play sports. The class also specifically states you can choose *any* sport including Xcrawl itself. This means you could actually transplant the Athlete class into any modern game, as sports your character chooses and likes are much easier to play. Also, this represents the only class I have seen that starts with a proficiency in “Sports Weapons”. As in all Athletes are proficient in throwing baseballs, hitting people with aluminum bats, and wielding the mighty.... hockey stick. This is not only mentioned but these are actually all stated a few pages after the class. Underneath those lays the stats for Chainsaws in DnD (Exotic Melee, 3d8 Slashing Damage, x3 crit, weight 15. You’re welcome).

The class itself is actually not that bad, the Athlete gets plenty of bonus feats as well as those aforementioned bonus to all rolls pertaining to sports they play. They also may train a minimum of three hours a day for over six weeks to get a temporary +2 to a physical statistic of their choice as long as they keep their regimen up, which is actually a decent bonus. In a more roleplay heavy Modern game the Athlete could make a great addition to the party.   read

9:32 PM on 08.01.2012

Five Awesome D20 Prestige Classes You Never Heard Of.

For those not experienced with D20/3.5, prestige classes are classes that have requirements and must be taken later in the character's career. The majority of such classes exist in Open Gaming License supplements put out by third party publishers. As a result, there never will be a shortage of classes that most people have never heard of yet are within the rules allowed to be taken by any character that fills the requirements no matter how strong they are.

It's very common practice for such supplements to provide base and prestige classes that are just normal classes fitted specifically for the setting, or producing character classes that are in most aspects not too fun to play or lack any creativity. These five classes presented are interesting enough for me to take interest in, and I would generally suggest any of them to a player wondering what prestige class to take.

5. Sacred Bander (pg 108-109 in Thieves World Player Book)

The Sacred Band are masters of organized tactical combat, and fight in pairs with their oathsworn partner in battle. While most examples of Sacred banders in the novels paint them as homosexual, it's made clear in the Sacred Band class description that this is actually not the case as both males and females may take up such an oath and the pair of banders need not actually be romantically engaged, though examples exist. The most interesting part of this class is that in order to take the class you are actually required to have somebody else in the party also have the Sacred Bander class and be your partner in battle.

The most fun that this class has to offer is the handful of mechanical benefits both Sacred Banders receive. For being adjacent to each other and being of higher levels the banders get bonuses such as being immune to flanking, AC and damage bonuses, even a bonus to medicine on their partner. My big issue with this class besides the fact you need two players, but that is easily the most entertaining aspect of the class as well.

But for a large high-level campaign the class is a perfect addition to the group and ensures that your forces can stand right in the front lines. The issue is besides the small teamwork bonuses, there is not much reason to pursue the high levels of the Sacred band. The last useful ability is gained at level 8, there is nothing too neat laying at level nine and ten.

4. Black Powder Avenger (Pg 20-22 in Ravenloft: Heroes of Light)

Of all of the prestige classes in Heroes of Light, The Avenger catches my eye because of simply how much raw utility power the class can provide. The master of firearms, BPA’s may dedicate a single weapon with his vengeance to give it up to a +3 in attack and damage which likely stacks with any enhancement bonuses the weapon itself may of had already, but does not stack with special ammunition bonuses. In addition to five free firearm feats over his career the BPA also has the ability to fabricate his own ammunition and explosives for rather cheap, later being able to supply his friends with masterwork ammunition.

He eventually gains an apprentice that can carry his explosives and provide support fire as a cohort. Not many classes are given such a follower usually, but it is nice to know you if your powder monkey gets eaten you can train another one and eventually turn your cohort into a fellow full fledged Black Powder Avenger like yourself. The biggest drawback to this class, the requirement of reloading, is negated at level seven as the Avenger learns to reload as a move action. But the absolute best part of being an avenger comes at level nine with the ability to do a massive burst of damage at the expense of temporarily breaking your dedicated weapon. A critical with such a shot is easily enough to send most foes to their graves.

3. Assimilated (Pg 27-29 in Dragonmech Core)

Some mechanics get so deep into their respect to the great machine spirit that they decide to fuse themselves into the mech itself. Effectively, you are a Dreadnaught. The requirements for being Assimilated however are over-restrictive. The main issue is the set of skills you require, 10-15 ranks in four rare setting-specific skills are required, which is absurd for a prestige class. Two are knowledge which are not hard to get but in particular mecha piloting skill is needed at levels too high to be possible by only a rare handful of classes. In 3.5, the only feat I could find that would make this easier was Able Learner in Races of Destiny but if you don’t get it at first level then you are boned.

But that hitch is just a matter of asking your GM if you can be overpowered, or taking levels in Mech Jockey. Then the obvious problem arises like where are you going to get a level 10 techpriest to help you connect you to the mech, and where you are going to get the mech you are going to be fused to. Which I admit is a pretty good way to restrict the class. But the requirement that makes me sad is that Assimilated are true or chaotic neutral and act like an impartial computer, the class itself only states non-lawful but in order to be assimilated you have to suffer from lost humanity and thus be rendered a neutral alignment anyway. It makes me so mad I want to exterminate, EXTERMINATE.

Once fused to your mech, your body shrivels and loses physical ability until you finally are fully in control of the mech you now will pilot for eternity. On the bright side, you also become an absolute monster in combat. It’s hard to argue with +15/+10/+5 as a large living construct. The letdown is once you take the plunge you cannot take levels in classes you cannot physically perform the duties of. This becomes mostly DM opinion, especially because the class claims you cannot be a fighter because you are physically incapable of fighting which I call foul on, your mech is fully capable of being fitted with a sword and shield and going to war in the name of the EMPRAH!

2. Ironbound (pg 32-33 in Hammer & Helm: Guidebook to Dwarves)

Like other powerful classes, it’s way too easy to dismiss the Ironbound by its name and picture. The Ironbound is encased in the best of exotic dwarven armor and excels on the front lines as a defensive fighter. Ironbound get a few great bonuses most classes only dream of, for starters over the course of leveling as an Ironbound you get no less than five free proficiencies in Exotic armor types and an inherent AC bonus that stacks with your armor bonuses.

But what about the large amount of time it would take to sleep? Heavy armor is infamous for the amount of time it takes to get in and out of! Well, at level 3 you get so tired of climbing in and out of it that you learn to just get used to sleeping inside your armored home. At level 7, you get completely used to it. And not only can an Ironbound ready a shield as a free action once per turn but you can even dual wield them at level six. Why just use one tower shield when you can have one in your other hand too! You may waddle at .5 miles per hour but being damn near invincible is worth it.

1. Harpooner (Page 64-65 in Broadsides! Naval Adventuring by Living Imagination)

You are probably thinking the same most people think when finding out about this class. A Harpoon? How much damage could you possibly do with that? Surprisingly the Harpooner is not only the best class in the book but is the most open to interpretation class I have ever seen for one good reason: There is no standard stat-block for Harpoons. However the only hint given is that the Harpooner class requires both Weapon Focus and Exotic Training in Harpoons. The 3.5 Arms and Equipment guide lists it as a large D10 weapon that if pulled from a foe does the same amount of damage as when it went in and assumes the weapon is tied to rope held by the user. The Harpooner class has this same ability but gets a extra bit of backstab esque damage and can pull the harpoon free automatically as a standard action (It's never stated whether or not he can do this at range, but I assume he can). At level 7 the extra withdraw damage becomes a whopping +5D6 on top of effectively doubled initial damage

But it gets better. As any seasoned old school DnD Player will tell you, if the GM is sending you somewhere with water then you are going to be facing terrible gigantic underwater creatures he never gets to use otherwise. The Harpooner was clearly designed with this in mind and gets a +1 attack bonus for each level he has towards aquatic creatures of huge or larger size and at 10th level can spend a day to charge one harpoon with the ability to force any one aquatic beast to save versus death. This is made even more entertaining as the Broadsides book also lists an expensive magical Harpoon that gets the exact same effect and the class does not factor in if his imbuing ability stacks with such an harpoons effects. In short, this class is designed to take down Huge/Gigantic Sea Creatures with extreme prejudice but also operates as a dangerous ranged damage dealer regardless of what he is fighting.

As ten rank prestige classes go, The Harpooner is amazingly powerful and capable of doing immense damage. The classes requirements really are not too steep either, and as exotic weapons go the Harpoon really is not that hard to find in any setting where an ocean exists. Really any character with the right skill set for throwing a Harpoon should consider this class, especially if you know the GM owns lots of bestiaries that are bound to have aquatic monsters in it.   read

1:50 AM on 07.25.2012

A look at Left Behind: Eternal Forces 3 Rise of the Antichrist

There are those that are blissfully unaware of what the title of this game actually means. Left Behind is an christian real time strategy game based on renovating parts of the city to provide resources to equip people you convert to your side by harassing them with disciples and your favorite music until they join you. These core game mechanics are supplemented with a religious naming schema, amazingly bad AI, and a very dated RTS engine.

Without even bringing up the religious values of this game I can point out how bad this game is. That's right, the fact its propaganda is the absolute least of my concerns. By main concern as a diehard RTS player is that this is the third game in the series and they are STILL USING THE SAME ENGINE AS THE FIRST GAME. That's right. The absolute best programmers the christian faith has to offer and they can't be bothered to make the game better between releases. Or use a separate engine.

In fact, there is actually a fourth game in the series that nobody cares about. I got my copy free from a "Please for the love of the lord have our game" promotion they were having in which if you liked their facebook they gave you a copy of LB3 free. I paid way too much for it. On the bright side, since the game uses the exact same engine and resources as the last two games its only fair that Left behind 3 still has all of the content from last offerings. Same 3D models, same campaigns, same AI, everything. Left behind 3 has roughly as much new content as a $2 expansion.

I never bothered too much with the games campaigns. The original games campaign follows a man after what could only be (According to a regular right wing lunatic) the Rapture and proof that we must all repent. So he does what any rational, logical person would not do after the rapture. Fly alone to New York City completely unarmed during what would have to be major rioting, find his fellow right wing lunatic friends, renovate an old church, and convince people god wants them to repent. Then the police do the logical thing and deploy to prevent them from hurting anybody only to be repelled by the power of song.

That brings me to the funniest part of the game. The Tribulation Forces are for some reason referred to as "Good" and the Police are branded "Evil". Forgive me for using logic but when the game feel like an "Occupy Movement" simulator I don't blame the police for wanting to take care of it. The third installment of the game adds the third faction, the Atheists. The Militia are a bunch of nut-jobs. Unlike the religious movements new recruits get a semi automatic rifle and the games tech tree is extremely simplified compared to the other two factions.

Since the militia recruits combat units they absolutely will not hire women while the other two factions have no problem putting them to work as singers and medics but never soldiers. That's right, females are not allowed to use guns in this series. I find it odd the army is immune to religious attacks as well as refuses to utilize females as there is both a long record of greatly honored christian soldiers and female combatants capable of being cited well before the first games release. Oh right, I forgot the games subject matter.

The campaign goes on, and there are also additional campaigns each added by the other versions of the game. The general layout of every mission is "PRAISE DAH LAWD! WE GAHTA GO DO THINGS FOR OUR SAVIAH!" and proceed to riot around the map, invading real-estate to turn into structures dedicated to siphoning the cities resources to a religious militia that if the player chooses can elect to hire soldiers in mass and amidst much praying and shooting simply mow down cops until your religious staff can complete its goal.

There are effectively two kinds of ways to defeat your foes, song and violence. You can either serenade your enemies or shoot them. Of course the game extremely prefers a peaceful approach but only if you are the side of the loonies. The army lacks the ability to be swayed by song and the police can have problems with a military strategy. You see Spirit is rated from 0 to 100, and by music or chanting/swearing the spirit is either raised or lowered depending on your faction. Evil likes low Spirit while Good prefers high. What the game also does not tell you until its too late is that having too many characters with low spirit close to each-other (Like say... a platoon of soldiers) will result in demons manifesting. This is an issue unique to Evil.

Said demons are for some reason not allied with Evil and will begin to wreak great vengeance and furious anger upon the members of the police force that brought it into existence. Quite oddly there are not flaming sword wielding angels that poof into existence to start chopping people apart. This alone requires Evil to play a substantially different way than a Good player can as they need not worry about the penalties of trying to focus on musicians.

Oddly enough, a bunch of hipsters with microphones could not sooth satans thirst for blood

Blatant propaganda fills the dialogue both in the campaigns as well as the voice acting itself. The racist (All recruited characters are bleached white), sexist (Only males can be of any profession), and hostile Tribulation Forces all speak in soft happy voices and their lines are filled with stuff like "Praise the Lord", their units are called nice names like "Worship Leaders". The Peacekeepers on the other hand all resemble the badguys from The Stand, speak in crackly hate-fueled growls, and utilize evil satanic metal music and pop stars. The Army is portrayed as murderous psychotic rednecks with guns. Gee, I wonder who the programmers are rooting for?

But the absolute worst part of the game is not its poor control and graphics. Its not the borderline offensive portrayals of the police and army. Its not the glorification of popping caps for the lord. Its not even the outright negligence in properly designing the game. The worst part of the game is how unplayable skirmish mode is.

The above picture is of an enemy base during a match. In team multiplayer the game's AI freaks out and relies on constantly producing vehicle units. You see the vehicle unit AI is also broken, to this day I have never seen a tank unit be capable of firing its turret. So all the AI will do is crank out units but never actually use them. As a result playing skirmish is pretty much useless. This issue has existed since the first edition as well. Three packaging's of the game and the AI is still broken.

Now to be fair according to the ad-copy of the fourth game many of my gripes have been rectified. Angels, Female Soldiers, and a campaign for the Army. But to be honest the ship has already sailed and the series is a failure in the eyes of true gamers. Never pay a cent for this game, even if you for some reason like the concept of a rts where you obey a invisible deity and openly kill police officers while rioting in his name.

The multiplayer functionality has been turned off for a long time, the stories missions are all the regular uninspired affair of "Build this, do that" with different layouts and enemies faced all the while spouting conspiracy theories. Combined with a functionally useless skirmish AI you have one of the worst RTS games ever made. This game clearly lacked the funding, creative direction, and originality even indie game developers can bring to the table. The Left behind series of games is a terrible plague of bugs and poor design.

Ironically, the core gameplay elements really are not that bad, only half implemented. As evidenced by games like Gangland and Apox the concept of base-expanding while training soldiers is not the problem, the games subject matter is. All of the religious motives of the game greatly bring out the incompetence within and make it all the more painful to sit through.   read

4:47 PM on 07.20.2012

Trion Worlds Censorship (Destructoid can illegally delete your blogs at will)

A few weeks ago I posted long blog message about Trion Worlds bad advertising and alienating its user base with that bad advertising. The post was simply titled "Masters of Bad Advertising: Trion Worlds", I then took pictures of and cited the cases of improper advertising as well as wrote an extremely long essay on it.

In essence I brought up that the Trion Worlds Team thinks its alright to goad thousands of players into refreshing their facebook page all day. Here I have a screenshot of Trion Worlds endlessly posting Beta codes for a game that thousands of players have already signed up to play the Beta for but were not allowed to because only the Facebook codes actually mattered. Therefore you had to waste your entire day refreshing the page in the hopes you would receive a code.

I also brought up that there is (Or was) very shameful advertising (Below) That seems to be claiming because the game has over 30 players its better than every single game on the market. I am no longer just insulted by the fact this advertising exists but that my initial post was removed without any notification by Destructoid.

For those that don't understand what I am talking about, heres the simple format:

1. Rob(Me) got pissy and wrote a post on his manperiod about Trions advertising and how its killing their userbase (And that their game is not that good.... Yes I have played it and actually got another beta code today. All the bad press you ever wanted coming right up)
2. Rob went on vacation to drink Trion out of his mind
3. Trion forces destructiod to ILLEGALLY remove a community blog on their behalf
4. Rob comes back to see ABSOLUTELY NO EMAIL telling him his blog was tampered with
5. Rob does not figure this out for five days

This is all amazingly offensive. Trion Worlds is actively attacking bloggers that bring up how bad of a development company they are! You are not allowed to edit your bad press at all. By trying to stop bad press they are only opening up more and more bad press upon themselves. They do not have the ability to delete blogs on their website that are following their terms of use, as that violates their free speech on the site and would lead to users not wanting to post on their blogs. Their terms of use very clearly states that unless I post nothing but hatred and racism my post should be fine.

Why suddenly does Trion feel its ok that they can delete all their bad press away from running such terrible advertising? Why does destructoid maintain staff that think its ok to delete community made posts without citing their terms of use? They are not allowed to wantonly delete posts just to dodge bad press.   read

12:54 PM on 07.20.2012

Dr. Conflagorians Top 12 Apocalypse Possibilities (Part 2 of 6)

#10: Alien Invasion

Ever since the earliest days of modern media we have had the firm belief there may be additional life in the universe. Whether it be the collectible Mars Attacks cards or The Things, Alien invasions in the media just seem amusing to wonder about. I think it unlikely only because as a famous gentleman once said "Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition." Simply put if aliens do exist and plan to land on earth to unceremoniously wipe out our species it will be hard for us to see it coming.

The concept of non-human space-faring life is not too hard to find perfectly possible as it was even a decade ago. We know now through recent scientific discoveries that not only is the universe gigantic in scale but constantly expanding through means currently perplexing to our greatest minds. In addition with finding the Higgs Boson its also not that hard to suggest that if mankind has the ability to make such scientific progress one can only wonder if there is an older species of sentient humanoids that has already taken such steps and beyond? Did they evolve with the need to be a retarded, religious dick as many of our kind have? How did they progress to the space age? And do they come in peace?

While some of my other theories proposition alien existence, this is the theory that we are to be enslaved or be attacked before developing the technology required to adequately defend ourselves. My younger readers are suggested to read the comics for Mars Attacks for an adequate suggestion of how well that fights probably going to go. I am going to give you a big hint....

Not well.

While movies and media frequently suggest those with the better weapons always win and that human guns are around as useful as throwing rocks at a panzer suggest that humans would be crushed by such an attack, most of these suggestions date back to the 80's. By now, you should just expect that we have hidden weaponry designs that are possible but not capitalized on for one reason or another. We would have around enough firepower in theory to take down at least a few aliens and use their weaponry against them. Anybody that has played Xcom will know this.

*Better Government
Well yeah, they just see us as mindless cattle and kill us for their own amusement but at least the homicidal alien overlords are honest about their wars. Or they may seek to just simply enslave us. In either case, its much better than the Bush Administration.

*The whole "Death to Humans" thing
You better hope they just want to enslave us. If not, then its going to be damn messy. You think Vietnam was bad, wait until you see your friends and family death-ray-'ed by little green men. All hail our glorious alien masters!

*Bottom of the food chain
In the natural order of life, creatures evolve the abilities to mesh with their environment in practical ways. This is reflected on the food chain. If you were to take a great predator such piranha and stick them in a fish-tank; the tank likely lacks the kind of predators required to keep the piranha in check, resulting in nothing being able to stop the creatures from eating their fill and destabilizing the ecosystem. Lets assume for the sake of argument that Humans are at the top of the foodchain (That title actually goes to Jay Leno's chin) and that we assume that aliens with their greater firepower are a superior predator. To place aliens in a predominantly human environment then asks the question of who is more resourceful in the conflict. If human strength is not enough to repel the alien forces than the aliens have taken the role of top predator (And thus, effectively the top sentient beings on earth.)

#9: Dystopian Future

If you have no idea what this is, I suggest you open up a new tab and go watch Bladerunner so you have more or less the general idea of what such a future would look like. A predominant focus on electronics and science. The infrastructure required to maintain it resembling a gigantic computer superstructure building that we all live inside. Markets and bars established besides network nodes in grungy sub-floors. The elite of the world having their lovely condos and penthouses far up in the sky where they can breathe without issue. The strong rule the weak. And there are many of weak people.

The economy of such mega-cities is somewhat vestigial. Those near the top positions that control the government have absolutely no need for immense wealth, they already own everything. They have their wealth purely to avoid the common classes having access to it. Such corporations likely have their fingers in so many pies that only corporations on their level or greater actually matter to them politically. The power of the individual is gone, now we are the consciousness.

With all of this political power and unlimited government ability it is only expect-able that science would make great leaps in questionable capacities. Disinterest in the human condition leaves us to desire to be better than human. Lets face it. Your life sucks. You are nothing more than a petty beggar on floor 54 laying amid your own waste. Suddenly you have the chance to save yourself by signing away your life to the corporation. They rebuilt you. Your muscles interlaced with metal synthweaves. Your eyes can see in every definition and way. If you stand still, you can hear the clicking of your lung filters. You are no longer just a everyday punk. You are cyberpunk

The actual future however is very dim. With power so hopelessly away from the working class its very hard to call the working classes existence truly living. The everyday need to squabble and end other lives would consume the world. With the all-mighty dollar losing much of its empirical value who cares how much scrip you have? As long as you have clothes on your back and a gun in your hand you have everything you need to survive. And some kibble.

*Advanced Technology
As before, without tangible church-sanctioned limits on technology we then work harder and harder towards getting the flying cars they promised us like, two decades ago. Its only natural to assume such a future would actually lead to all that we attribute it to. If not directly cyber-technology than meta-human abilities can be expected. Simply put, without political bodies trying to halt progress, progress shall move forward at an increasing and expanding rate.

*Cultural Melding
When you have billions of people living in a series of mountain-high superstructures littering the earth like gigantic towers, its hard to focus on the colors of people that make up that mass. If a corporation was so high up on the pecking order and control of a city they would likely not care about exterminating any particular race. A great melting pot, ending racial hatred. Though that's only on paper. Stupid people will always find a reason to kill somebody slightly not like them.

*Corporation Control
In past examples of pyramid schemes such as religion or cigarette companies, they have been understandable only because of the size of the pyramid. A better example would be the American governmental pyramid schematic. At the very top are those that control the acting president, with the actual president underneath. To accurately have an idea of the tangled web a mega-corporation would represent now image this pyramid to be copy/pasted ontop of itself several times to form an even bigger pyramid. It suddenly gets very difficult to even understand who actually controls who besides looking directly at the top. As you might imagine, getting communication through such a large mass of competing personalities is slightly difficult.

*Stagnant Economy
The reason modern economies work is supply and demand. If you control all of the supply in the city with no demand than you only half the equation. Clearly this can be sold to another entity for money. Here in lays our problem. In such a future, mega-corporations would be in control. Each of them as powerful as a country but funded like a cigarette company. That is to say its resources are near endless. With the people at the top having so much money they completely control any and all cities that possess. This proves an issue, since all of the worlds money is shared by a handful of private concerns the masses have limited financial ability, leading to squalor. All of the money is right at the top with no money on the ground for the commoners to feed their children. Sure, you could sell your soul to the corporations but do you really want that?   read

3:12 AM on 07.20.2012

Dr. Conflagorians Top 12 Apocalypse Possibilities (Part 1 of 6)

To The Public

Greetings my friends, my peers, my critics. As those that believe in mass mind control claim, the end is indeed nigh. Naturally this world collapse will not be anywhere near the one that you may be considering, or advertised by the brainwashers. Fire and Brimstone? The Coming of "The Four"? The Rapture? All scientifically impossible. Though I think panic would be the last thing we would feel if all of the christians disappeared.

Through various rigorous psychological studies and media research I have been able to narrow the coming end down to twelve possible conclusions. What would exactly become of us I really cannot say. Each of these predictions are ranked by possibility, with those near the top have the most hard science behind the theory. Each theory contains both arguments for and against this conclusion as well as its pro's and cons'. There is always a reaction to any action afterall. Drastically changing the world tends to do that.

Always be vigilant. The End is only of our world, not its inhabitants. Every case of the end I have theorized has laying evidence pointing towards human survival. Our ability to adapt shall always overcome whatever change will occur. Basic Evolution.

#12: Utopian Superfuture

The theory of Utopia can be traced back to the earliest days of science. The theory involves science and technology curing all ailments of society and body. Cancers, Diabetes, even AIDS cured instantly by the miracles of scientific progress. Flying vehicles, all appliances operated by small scale simplistic artificial beings. The reason I consider this scenario most unlikely is simply the amount of sudden changes every single person on planet earth would have to make at the exact same moment.

I say personal change because of what Utopia suggests. A lack of crime, disease, and despair. With the pinnacles of science and human nature combined together to create a bright sustainable future for use all. Good examples of depictions would be the video-game called Anno 2070. For the most part the cities portrayed in the game are all the creation of public organizations dedicated to repopulating the planet with humans. Without the personal change of current human nature this resolution is very unlikely. The urban human being is a bottom feeding parasite that seeks nothing more then destruction and poisonous substances, interlaced with recreational hate fueled sex with brainless orange thug-princesses.

That human nature dooms such a potential future to the much more likely dystopian future that hinges on human society adapting poorly to advanced technology and the continued existence of private governmental conspiracies aimed at keeping the human public misinformed such as the Jewish Faith or the Republicans. While the theory of "The World of Tomorrow" is an inviting one, we must sadly realize that it is outside of possibility without full scale change of human nature. Even if we began to move that way, it would eventually be undone by the simple way people act. The technology would likely be re-purposed towards destruction and control by the government.

*World Peace
Its a comforting thing don't you agree? The thought that one day every man, woman, child, and republican could live without murder, violence, and hatred? Through generations of inbreeding and substance abuse Humankind has been infected with a evolved pack instinct. Human Males with average or better testosterone production usually inhibit feelings of territorial control like most other hunting pack beasts. With this comes the inability to overcome the instinctual anger this behavior promotes. Without that behavior it is very likely mankind could enjoy a scientific utopia.

*Uninhibited Scientific Progress
Religious Groups always seek to hinder free thought and scientific progress, believing we already have all of the knowledge we require. You see, The less knowledge a human being possesses the easier it is to brainwash and control the thought patterns of the being. By blocking intellectual progress, we can be goaded into acts of senseless violence much easier (Example: The Crusades) By removing any and all limits on scientific progress and enacting plans to educate the public we can further improve the quality of the human gene pool.

*Comfortable Existences
Without violence, it is hard to say there is any true conflict. Or even any glory to being human. While humans exhibit a normal predisposition to solving conflicts with violence there is just as much a mental human requirement of high adventure. A built up Utopian society would inherently limit acts of physical and political violence. Our existences would be limited only to what the world itself allows us to do. By that age in technology we no doubt would have a electronic replacement for violence or and outlet, but the underlying problem still exists in the theories current conception. Without a sufficient outlet for human needs, society will change to reflect the lack of fulfillment and sabotage the concept of Utopia.

*Initially Unstable
As stated before, this theory relies on a large series of instant changes in not only human nature but the nature of various political bodies tailored through control and black ops tactics. How would organizations designed to Exterminate, Control, and Confuse act when being forced to suddenly adhere to social guidelines passed to the people in mass? The dominoes would have to fall perfectly, without doubt terrorist attacks staged by American authorities would limit the chances of such a theory coming to existence.

Conclusion: Highly unlikely, but scientifically possible.

#11: Magic Reawakening

That's right. I think everybody becoming peaceful is less possible then magic being a possible force of nature. The concept is essential the thought of what sparked the original legends passed down from years and years of retold stories. What if Orcs, Ogres, and Elves did exist? Flinging spells and curses across great battlefields circled by dragons? But the power was locked away somehow, and I know this may seem cliche but its not hard to know what world religion may be the culprit.

Lets face it. Almost all legends are based on at least some world truth. The yeti may not exist, but there was a hairy man in the woods at some point at the very least. Though acknowledging the existence of possible magic then brings the question of if it is sealed how would it be released? Being a possible force of nature the scientific community by definition cannot comprehend it would be impossible to give a proper suggestion to the steps one would take to achieve such a future.

For all the human public knows the leading men of the world must chant "Magic" and touch their toes together while naked. It is also impossible to properly judge the significance and strength of the magical forces itself. The reason it may of been sealed could very well be its ability to destroy mankind, or it could truly of been for jealous reasoning.

*Cultural Changes
The addition of magics, myths, and spells to everyday to life can do a lot more than you may think. Suddenly every aspect of the day may involve some kind of magic charm or word. Things such as travel and healing would be trivialized by magical means to complete such tasks both easier and cheaper. Common and stronger forms of self defense would likely exist to combat such magical attacks. Rules of modern engagement as well lay completely changed by the inclusion of spells.

With magic existing once more it is only a matter of time until magic brings back whatever accompanies it. All sorts of creatures existed in past legends of ancient times. The possibility of such creatures once again existing linked to magics re-immersion is a valid concept. Therefore it is only understandable that groups of civilians would arise and do battle with such threats, bringing forth a new type of economy and an acceptable change of society.

*The "Fuck Earth" Spell
What if there was a really, really, really good reason Magic was locked away? In the past discovery of a until then alien concept existing linked to one of the greatest destructive powers existing on earth, the A-Bomb. The possibility of Magic possessing an equal or greater destructive power does exist and is a very real concern. Its only a matter of time until some crazy mage tries to summon satan or blow up the world after-all.

*Possible Religious Unrest
The very day the scientific community is thwarted by possible existence of anything in their favorite book even possibly being true is going to be a great blow to logical thought and shift political strength right back to the religious parties. Almost all scientific progress is in immediate threat of destruction by the arrival of the magical world. Its worth considering the drawbacks of letting such a group of individuals have such a advantage of society. So mahy people willing to be controlled in the name of a fictional being.

Conclusion: Entertaining possibility but highly unlikely.

Next time: Theories #10 and #9   read

4:36 PM on 07.04.2012

Blue Giants new game Tryst. SC2 Clone? Well, no.

The American public is rather stupid when it comes to assigning blame. No matter what, if it looks the same; its obviously a clone. This line of thinking has ruined countless original IP's in the past based entirely on graphical style decisions. People are very quick to cry "CLONE!" if the screenshot looks close enough to another game. And my god at first glance Tryst looks like Starcraft 2.

Though that in itself really is not very fair to say. What about it IS alike? The UI and art style. While attributes of a cloned game they are certainly not the only factors involved. If anything the gameplay video released by Blue Giant reminds me of the failed Bulgarian RTS game Worldshift. Worldshift was an RTS with a singleplayer campaign with the concept of unlocking skills and abilities that can be equipped to your units.

Units also have the ability to capture buildings, presumably for resources. The real clincher on what Tryst is emulating will no doubt be the base building system. Both factions seem to have a series of units split into infantry, armor, and air. In the video supplied bases seem to be rather small, and unit limits fairly low to keep action fast and furious. Combined with eight player free for all a full match of tryst must be quite the site. With so many available units however I worry about unit balance.

Strategy games are infamous for only having a few viable units out of their large arsenals. So I worry about such a new company inexperienced with unit balance having such large amounts of unit types. Though that ties in with the item system, which I also worry about considering the companies inexperience.

If anything, it would be much more fair to call Tryst a clone of Worldshift. Equipping unit types with items? Focus on smaller groups of units? Overgrown and natural Sci Fi setting on a strange planet? That's World-shift alright. Though to be fair the uneducated masses only call Tryst a clone because its a Sci Fi RTS with stylized 3D graphics. They could care less about the actual gameplay mechanics (You know, the parts of the game that are the only reason you play the game?).

I admit, Blue Giant is an Indian company trying to cater to American audiences. Their first game was called Apox, the goal of the game was to utilize resources found in the wasteland and destroy your enemies. As a whole, most American gamers hate strategy games. I am really not sure why, but most gamers simply have too short of an attention span to play a real strategic game like Civ 5 and settle for the amazingly easy to play beginner strategy games like Warcraft 3 or Starcraft that require little in the ways of thinking. As such, Apox fell in obscurity only because of its price tag and lack of true advertising. Shooters can get away with a lack of advertising because of the demand, while strategy games need to work hard to entice gamers.

Tryst so far seems to be running in the right direction. The game is very much in closed beta and at its earliest stages in playtesting, and I am curious to see where they take the game. Multiplayer matches are amazingly small at only eight players, and with rumors that Tryst will be free to play that won't do. The game also has two factions, that in itself is a rather brave statement made by Blue Giant in a industry that requires you to add a third faction because three is better than two (Because Starcraft did it).

I myself am very curious to see if Tryst really lives up to its hype. The game is clearly not a Starcraft 2 clone, Tryst actually looks balanced. Keep an eye on this game, its going to blow people away. If the game is truly going to be free to play as rumors have stated than we may have a new national pass-time.   read

11:49 PM on 07.03.2012

SMITE: Depicting gods is bad, mmkay? Truth or BS?

I will admit this up front, I am essentially an atheist. One that has no problem ranting and raving about western religions. I normally mock Christianity and Islam for this, but the idea of whole societies holding the same rare taboo is less unique to the west than you may think. Everybody has heard the Christians rant and rave about well, everything. Everybody has heard about Islam getting somewhat miffed about Muhammad being depicted. But really, as a foundation every society has that one thing that thou shalt not do. For the religious, its either sinning or depicting gods in media.

For those not in the know, SMITE is the upcoming MOBA Tower Defense game depicting gods doing combat in third person. This concept if of course nothing new. One could argue Brutal Legend and Sacrifice did it already (But it has levels, so it's obviously like a million billion times better). There seems to be a large amount of controversy surrounding this. Specifically the Hindu Goddess Kali. She is the Goddess of TIME AND CHANGE. Now, I find this all very interesting because as a non-religious man I simply do not understand why making fun of fictional characters is bad. On a logical level, this should not even actually be a problem.

This essay is more or less a further thought experiment on an existing MMOSite article asking if one is offended by religion in video games which I have participated in the comments section quite a bit. My main question is why is it so bad to update depictions of a mythic figure. On the left is a traditional illustration of the Goddess Kali, complete with blood and gore. On the right we have the same goddess not covered in gore but in 3D. According to the Hindu people the right image is the bad one.

This of course is nothing new. There are tons of instances of the Hindu people asking companies not to portray their god in any sense of the word. There have been beers, mints, and other products depicting Kali that have been protested by the Hindu. The main argument seems to be we're making money off the religion they make money of. And white people are evil. Other than that, I can't see a damn other argument. Kali in SMITE is actually wearing more clothes than the usual depiction of the often naked goddess, so the sexism argument can't apply.

Here are a few quotes from Zed, the leader of the Hindu controversy. This all started last week but Hi-Rez so far has refused to drop Kali as per their demands.

"Moreover, portrayal of goddess Kali, who was highly revered by Hindus, appeared like a porno star in the SMITE version shown on the company website, which was quite distressing for the devotees,"
-Zed, Hindu Leader (About Smite)
"game makers should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects and no faith, larger or smaller, should be plundered. As these games left lasting impact on the minds of highly impressionable children, teens and other young people; it would create more misunderstandings about Hinduism, which was already a highly misunderstood religion in the West."
-Zed, Hindu Leader (Same article)

Ok, we like sex. I won't say you are wrong sir. But honestly Kali's chest in SMITE is only slightly larger than the other image provided in this article by Wikipedia. Every depiction I have seen placed Kali as a rather slender woman, and many images show her nude. The only difference I see is that Kali is in 3D in SMITE, which is hardly controversial. How would Zed want her portrayed? As for leaving impressions on young people, I don't have the heart to tell Zed that in a few decades its likely the west will wake up and renounce organized religion altogether.

Its interesting, and always has been; that people really like picking and choosing when it comes to aged works. The old image is "good" because its old and derived from the original stories but a newer depiction is "bad" because 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth' The Second Commandment. Despite how the new image is just newer yet derived from the original stories. Kali never really wore too much in the ways of clothes, and if she were to exist she would probably look pretty close to SMITE's depiction.

This is the same concept as getting murderous over seeing a image of Muhammad. We can talk about the gods, but not fantasize about their appearance? We can praise them but not portray them in the light of comedy? Why is it such a taboo to re-imagine a god that was originally just imaged into existence in the first place. While we do have proof of several great prophets at some point existed we have no proof they could actually do the things we claim they could.

The bible itself is a collection of stories that to date has been edited by various people over a thousand times. I dare not make any assumptions about the Hindu religion only because Zed would disprove. But so far I see a lot of people claiming that the original pictures are ok because they are old and the new pictures are sacrilegious because they already decided what the goddess looks like. Wheres the part of their book that says that if your picture is drawn past the year 2000 its heretical? Its a double standard common in religious structures. The fact the Hindu are so worked up about this really makes them lose quite a lot of respect in my eyes. Its a 3d model in a video game, a video game made fully in a fictional perspective with non-copyrighted fictional characters that don't actually exist in the mortal realm. Wheres the problem?   read

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