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Robert Cousineau's blog

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

6:11 PM on 07.03.2012

Bulletrun: The Beta Impressions

I hate sniper rifles. By proxy, I hate almost every single mainstream public shooting game ever made. Hate. Let me tell you how much I've come to hate Snipers since I began to live. There are thousands of online games I have tried and played with millions of players sent to the grave by my hands. If the word 'hate' was engraved on each and every gravestone of those hundreds of thousands of players it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate I feel for Snipers at this micro-instant. For them. Hate. Hate.

So far, Bulletrun has revived my faith in online shooters. The premiere focus of Bulletrun is high octane team based action with smaller maps to promote mass carnage. As such, the basic weapon every player is provided is the MP5 SMG, which as starter guns go is actually one of the better than average guns in the game. A skilled MP5 players can easily climb to the top of the scoreboards. I would know, I used one for about seven hours until I could afford the AK47 (Because I bought clothes instead of a gun at first, bite me). So far I have more or less encountered every class of gun in the game, or atleast the low level ones. The higher level weaponry fires faster and hits harder but that can be easily mitigated by tactics.

Unlike most big corporation schlock shooters, Bulletrun utilizes Dedicated Servers. While that is a step in the right direction I am curious about the moderating powers the host has, so far I have not witnessed anybody actually kicked from a match. And to my knowledge I have not actually seen a hacker yet either. Another feature all server based shooters are SUPPOSED TO HAVE that Bulletrun has is drop in functionality (Unlike the infamously terrible Blacklight Retribution). If you stay for the whole match you get bonus points, but beyond that there is no actual penalty for leaving early, you can cash out whenever and shop a bit then come back at any time.

The biggest trend of online shooters that has hit the nation is "Unrealistic Realism", that is to say its amazingly easy to kill people (Realism) but the weapons are obviously in no way firing the way their counterparts would ever behave (Un-Realism). You can see this in games like Renaissance Heroes or Blacklight:R where one shot is usually a kill, leading to endless frustration as server lag creates situation after situation of "WHAT THE FUCK, I HIT HIM!" until you finally delete the fucking game. There's none of that here, true you die very quickly in Bulletrun but recoil very often causes prolonged firefights as both parties spray bullets all over in the slim hope they hit hard enough to take the enemy down with small arms. The larger weapons like shotguns or various rifles kill much faster but only if your aim is true, being even slightly off target will alert your foe and get you shot before you can focus for another shot.

Yes, Sniper Rifles exist in Bulletrun. And yes, they hit hard. You will also notice that nobody high on the scoreboard uses them. There is a very good reason for this, so far there is only one map that truly favors snipers called "Cactus" which features a single climbable water tower on the desert surface that overlooks the entire battlefield. In Dominion matches controlling this tower is a game decider as a sniper on top can easily help defend the other point of the map while his allies protect the tower which is a capture point itself. The map also has a tunnel system that connects the four corners of the map that completely avoids any threat of randomly getting brained by a coward, and the surface is littered with cover for counter-snipers to clear the counter. In a word: Perfect. The map has something for both snipers and the close quarters combat the game is designed for.

All of the games focus is running around the map, preferably with allies close-by, and quickly gunning down who you run into. In the TDM mode, players spawn near allies so at any moment a enemy could flank you if you stop moving. The maps are also well designed for the most part, with any given part of the map having several paths either to move into or siege another part of the map. The only map I have a hard time enjoying is Studio, as most of the time you are running around that map you are thinking "Where the fuck is everybody?" despite how tiny the map actually is. That's the one issue I have with the map design, all of the maps are created to be set-pieces in themselves but not properly meant for legitimate clan battles. They feel like real locations, but are not helping the clan-based combat the game is trying to promote.

The first thought in your head is likely "Why not just all stay close together?". That's a bad idea. The weapons spray and recoil like angry demon mules and rain lead in every which way. There are many times that I have managed to kill up to six people at once by spraying Kalashnikov fire into the crowd and watching money flood into my bank account as they drop due to their very close proximity. The basic skill most players have access to is also the ability to wield a minigun. This minigun makes you very slow but can spray suppressing fire in a wide cone so teammates can move to flank. This weapon has such a wide arc that the weapon if ignored can easily erase an army if they can't kill the gunner fast enough.

This brings me to the unique system Bulletrun utilizes focusing more on you, the player than if you win or lose. You gain Heat points by killing people, and get more points for doing really cool stunts as you do. Killing enemies while airborne or doing a combat slide can easily add up to an impressive kill. Upon getting a kill, you will have a number of points accompanied by up to three stars. If you can successfully pull off a taunt while this value is there you will get an additional point bonus, and for 2-3 stars its more than worth it. Knowing when to taunt is important for when you absolutely have to have all of your skills available. You have four skills that you unlock access to at certain easy to reach intervals of Heat. In the beta there are two skills per tier but in time more will be introduced. You get more heat from killing better players, and less from worse players. This instigates you into hunting the better players when you can, or at least driving you into a kill frenzy. If you for whatever reason die before your heat is put into your account, you only get 75% of that heat.

The other Fad in shooters is customization. Currently, clothes are very expensive and guns are even pricier. Though the amounts are sky-high you can easily be getting around 500 credits a match. While that's pretty low you can at-least make 9000 credits for every 3-4 hours if you work hard enough. Every weapon also has two slots for customized mods that are actually rather cheap. These mods tweak aspects of the gun such as giving it a laser sight, heavier stock, or different barrel for small bonuses in aspects of the guns operation. The game clearly is designed around the concept of players having their own personalized weaponry. There has been at least a few times I praised another players customized weapon (Then shot them in face and looted it).

I like Bulletrun because its daring to do something different. While I dislike the extremely small amount of players per server (Most I have seen allow 16-20 players) I applaud the game for putting a focus on close quarters military engagements instead of the sniping campfests that every other shooting game on the market is composed of. In that respect the game happily reminds me of the original Unreal tournament in the concept of sprinting around these lovely landscapes and splattering enemies across them with the biggest angriest guns you can get your hands on. This is how games like APB or Blacklight should of been designed, instead of focusing so much on sniping. As human beings, we have a primal urge to get right in the face of our foes, shoot them in the kneecap and stab them in the eye with a bowie knife. You exit a two hour session of Bulletrun completely spent of aggression, having used all that aggression in pulse-pounding firefights and establishing the natural pecking order. Sun shines, Birds fly, and bruddah.... I hurt people.   read

5:40 AM on 06.26.2012

Popular Simple Game Syndrome and You

The last decade has brought a new age of behavior, gaming, culture, and nuances to our grasp of technology. Twelve years ago tabletop gaming was still thought of as satanistic, now hundreds of thousands of people in all social circles partake in electronic entertainment originally based on works such as Dungeons and Dragons or Lord of the Rings. As human beings we have the mental capacity to train our minds subconsciously to learn, perform, and practice different tasks of variant difficulty. You may know them as "habits".

Humanity as a whole has problems adapting fully without negative reinforcement. You may of seen evidence in your personal life reflecting this. Without the realization that our behavior is incorrect you cannot make the required mental adjustments in order to refine your behavior. This ties in with a theory on the younger generations. Specifically their methods of behavior during online games. I have named this mental condition "Popular Simple Game Syndrome", and it normally strikes males ages 16 to 30, though cases of both younger and female subjects exist. PSGS can normally be diagnosed by studying the subjects behavior both during and after a multiplayer competitive "match". If the subject is loud, making no sense, and claims to be much better than they actually are there is a 60% chance the subject may have a mild to severe case.

Records surrounding the sickness point to the early 2000's. Leading Experts have theorized that Starcrafts popularity was caused by a similar illness known as "Korean Starcraftmania", but for unknown reasons almost 75% of north Americans were resistant. Unlike other gaming disorders, PSGS does not seem to be limited by nationality, only sometimes by gender. This has led to theories of PSGS being creditable to a hormonal imbalance and therefore curable chemically. Alcohol however has been proven to amplify symptoms of PSGS patients.

PSGS is prevalent in players of the following online multiplayer games: Call of Duty (And all of its stand alone expansions), Starcraft 2, MOBA games (DOTA,Bloodline,LoL,LOCO,ETC), and other team based games. PSGS is becoming a rather large menace to the lulz, but also a minor generator of the lulz by their condition. By investigating this condition we can learn enough to cure it. By curing PSGS, Humanity has effectively gave natural selection a punch in the mouth. At the sacrifice of the lulz potential we can invent even moar technology to troll with.

The longer PSGS is left untreated the worse the condition spreads. PSGS is seen as proper behavior, and one by one cliques succumb to the PSGS patients peer pressure. The condition impairs logic and tricks the subjects brain into rewarding hedonism.

There are ten known symptoms experienced by a subject diagnosed with PSGS. The average subject will exhibit a third, but major cases may show half or even all listed symptoms. Likewise, minor cases of PSGS can exist; but are much easier to cure. Minor cases may exhibit one to five symptoms. Almost all symptoms will be observed during a thirty or more minute session during a fast paced multiplayer game, or directly afterwards as part of gloating.

1. Delusions of Grandeur: Subject will claim to be extremely good at the game, and see's them-self as infallible. Any advice given by them is likely wrong or supported by moonlogic. The player will act cocky, annoying and loud.
2. Over-focusing on Communications: Subject may have tunnel-vision or single concentration and may be an visual learner. This player will require players to alert them of objects on the radar they can plainly see
3. Refusal to comprehend alternate viewpoints: The subject cannot adjust their personal beliefs. Like cultist mind control, this is a basic symptom. This player will make many snide comments that coexist with 1
4. Reliance on cheating: There is no way possible a subject with this symptom can be expected to ever fight fair. The odds are stacked against you. He picked the strongest character, on the map where he has a better advantage, and he possibly hacked the game to give him godmode. More common in MOBA gamers, especially LoL and GunZ
5. Alcoholism/Addiction: Self explanatory. The subject relies on chemically killing their brain cells. And is cool because of it. Prevalent in younger patients.
6. Sexism/Racism: The ability to be a "good" gamer blurs the patients ability to treat all people equal. This is seen as cool by the patient and will be unable to be swayed by logic. Patients can be treated of this symptom by being sold into BDSM slavery. They will thank you for it later, or strangle you.
7. Irrational hatred of police: Commonly says "Fuck the police" or assumes the police are all evil. Patient likely has a criminal record and thinks being an asshole and doing your job are the same thing. Subject is terminally stupid, treatment has a much lower chance of succeeding against the sheer amount of mental blocks that exist in the subjects brain.
8. Lazy: This is one of the later developed symptoms. The patient begins to procrastinate and possibly abuses downer drugs. Some PSGS patients have however been able to cure themselves through meditation and introspection, by realizing they have a problem and sincerely trying to better themselves.
9. Obsession with graphics: Everything has to have better graphics. EVERYTHING. Subject irrationally craves a videogame that looks exactly like real life and is unable to enjoy gaming history. If the patient can understand they have a problem, by forcing themselves to broaden their horizons they can very swiftly aid their recovery.
10. Impatience: Common symptom. Patient is unable to wait a long period of time for gratification. This has a direct link to the subjects immaturity.

Several cures have been reported to work, but due to the flexible nature of the condition the cure must be specialized to the case. Some patients can rationalize their situation and begin to better themselves, while others have succumbed to their condition and are much more difficult to treat. Their brain actively sabotages any attempt to cure the condition, and an intervention may be required.

Over a hundred gamers are diagnosed with PSGS every day. By diagnosing and curing this illness we can work our way to a brighter future. The internet as a whole will be able to have nice things again. The lives of the cured patients would also be improved a great deal, and will go on to better the world.

-Professor Conflarigon, MPhys.D.   read

7:00 PM on 04.24.2012

Shadowrun Returns: Welcome Home.

I put down my money on the Shadowrun Returns kickstarter, have you? For those that somehow have not heard yet Shadowrun's original creator put together a company called Harebrained Schemes which has been grabbing Kickstarter donations for a new installment in the Shadowrun videogame series!

There are currently four days left on the clock for you to get exclusive rewards for supporting the project. But don't look at it as just a donation, pretty much if you back it by at least $15 then you are going to receive a copy of the game in addition to whatever you get for additional money you put in.

Shadowrun is a classic series of tabletop rpgs of the cyberpunk genre and if you don't know what that is then read my review on Cyberpunk 2020. Shadowrun Returns is going to be a tactical turn based rpg game with a focus on contextual roleplaying gameplay with a team of shadowrunners (Deniable assets, more or less) comprised of your character and even characters your friends have created.

$15 for a DRM free copy of the game the day it comes out, and $30 to get some free in-game Doc-wagon death protection and a special power exclusive to backers. Backers also get access to exclusive crossover missions tying up some loose ends from the SNES and Genesis games.


6:07 PM on 04.24.2012

A look at Super Monday Night Combat

Super Monday Night Combat is the sequel to a Xbox Live Arcade game that was later ported to PC with abysmal results. The main issue was the original game simply was not geared for the PC FPS market with its complete reliance on single hit kills from snipers or assassins to get any kills whatsoever, both of which classes that were a joke on its home console but with the ability to use a mouse to aim became very over powered and resulted in snipers dominating the huge open spaces every map was made out of.

At the time the games dev team was amazingly pretentious and wrote off any genuine criticism of their game as a direct attack as well as the community being made up of Xbox shooter fans. Most of that crowd rarely could boast having their balls drop. As other reviewers had pointed out way too much of the game was trying to tell you how awesome it was without really delivering. The PC game play and crowd instantly made me hate a game I originally loved, and its why for the longest time I really didn't want to submit myself to playing its free to play sequel.

The game is heavily inspired from MOBA style games, specifically offshoots of the Warcraft 3 Defense of the Ancients map that have become amazingly popular recently for their action packed and simplistic game play. Both teams have a base, and victory depends on the teams ability to push their robots into the enemy base. Focus was on getting funding quicker then the other team to afford the means to progress into their base.

For starters when you begin to play you will notice that its a unreal engine game as well as nearly demands to be played in widescreen. Expect a ton of lag. The game also has a remarkably shallow metagame based around leveling up allowing you to use more endorsements which give small benefits to your characters as well as grinding coins to afford better endorsements and unlock additional characters.

SMNC focuses now more on tactical tug of war styled combat, as now turrets cannot be constructed and bots have been upgraded to be a great deal stronger. That isn't to say its completely different now, players can still spawn bots, the annihilator still exists, and ejector pads are still around making knowledge of the last game pretty important especially because the games training mode is a blatant lie.

The Annihilator is a large pad in the middle of the arena that usually requires a jump pad to access to normally placed in the totally-not-stolen-from-a-specific-game "Jungle" which from what I can tell seems to be the second floor of the arena. Why can't they at least be slightly original and call it the Canopy then? Upon use, the annihilator blows up every enemy bot and heavily damages enemy players. Lanes also have repulsion pads that can be activated to shove enemies off and heavily damage them. They are also handy for knocking people off ledges or stopping people from running away.

Training mode match-makes a team of noobs against absolutely nobody. Just AI bots and no enemy pros. As a result the actual amount of training received is pretty much none and this mode does nothing to actually educate players. Sure the new very annoying not-real-voice-actors announcers blatantly insult your intelligence and constantly talk about the rules of the game but more often then not you will blink and forget what they said anyway as chip talks about violently raping a hooker with a banana. Seriously, they will blurt out the most jaw dropping weird non-sequiturs. What ever happened to Mickey Cantor?! If they just kept him and hired Greg Proops that would instantly fix that problem, because its pretty obvious how much they are trying to steal Mad Worlds jokes. HEYOOOOOOO!

Every class more or less has a gimmick, a melee and ranged weapon, and three abilities. They also restricted weapon selection to the mouse wheel so have fun looking at the key binds wondering why you can't switch weapons because they sure as hell are not telling you. Even League of Legends took the time to make a tutorial as one of its first releases and bothered to give you the basic rules of the game. There is however a large guide that you have the option of looking through on the main games page but there is so much in the way of blinking lights and buttons there is no way you are going to notice the tiny blue guide text untill you stop and look at the screen for awhile.

The melee system needs work, as like a FPS you need to switch to your melee weapon. You also need to have it out in order to do a grapple maneuver, which is the strongest attack you can throw out to do instant damage with absolutely no counter attack possible whatsoever besides one classes ability. In fact there is a class revolving around this broken mechanic called the Veteran. This gets annoying because only a handful of classes have a decent melee weapon that you have to switch to in order to combat grapplers, who all seem to have the power to instantly charge next to you and have a very small cool down between their attacks.In short, the games controls battle you to the very end, because if you miss your grapple expect to wait several seconds before you get another try.

Turrets can no longer be upgraded or purchased. While its annoying seeing such a cool concept go I can see why, as this extremely shortens the length of matches and is fairly new player friendly. MNC's biggest problem was people just didn't understand the concept of buying turrets or bots. So I can see where simplifying that concept is actually a good move for SMNC. While I do mourn the loss of Gapshots and Longshots, I can also see the logical reason they were removed as well. Turrets seem to have a shield now that protects them from being destroyed without your bots near them in order to prevent the more mobile classes from sneaking in and taking out your defenses. Of course, due to the small range of turrets there are many places where long ranged weapons like the bazooka or mortar can take turrets out from afar but at least they need to be pushed at your base to do it.

As a MOBA, the familiar feel of absolutely sucking for your first hundred or so games is present. Most classes are filler, with terrible damage and abilities with all of the focus being on the Veteran and the Soldier... wait I mean Megabeth. At time of writing Megabeth has the best accuracy and damage in the game leading to her being played in every single match, with another player always playing a Veteran. Most of the classes have terrible damage output due to their requirement to get remarkably close to their enemies in order to hit anything while the two mentioned classes have no problem hitting you afar with fairly fast moving and painful projectiles while if you are lucky you might get them with a stray shot or two. In short, expect to get really good at playing Veteran and Megabeth or fail miserably.

As before, Bot spawn areas have pads that you can spawn special robots for a bit of money. These bots go from damage sponges, gremlins, and more. Another interesting move is that Jackbot XL's, the biggest bot in the game no longer spawn automatically but can be spawned for a large lump of money. This allows teams that get fed too much to instantly end the game by spawning a series of big angry robots to make the enemy regret feeding them so much. I honestly find this preferable to other MOBA's that penalize in the way of making a few enemies super strong through gear.

Gameplay suffers from the original games issue of having a few classes that just don't fit yet are the most popular because of it. As a result you will be seeing a lot of Captain Sparks, Assassins, and Veterans sprinting right into a large amount of enemies just to see them die in mere seconds. Melee simply does not fit, yet the game tries so hard to make it fit much like trying to force a huge circle peg into a triangle spot. It is trying to have team based attrition combat and high octane melee combat all in the same game resulting in a lot of players trying to play the game like a melee combat game when in reality its team based attrition gunplay. Too many of the games classes are geared towards ignoring the concept of pushing bots down lanes resulting in the winning team not having any of these classes or all of them due to their greater damage output then any of the gun wielding classes besides Megabeth.

Thankfully the dev team removed instant kills, one of the major reasons MNC fell pretty quickly into obscurity. The first game was full of wide open areas and arenas that snipers could get instant kill headshots from, and assassins could kill almost anybody in a one hit grapple. These are completely gone from SMNC and the game is oh so much better for it. Knocking people off the arena however is still a instant kill, but harder now at least.

The majority of the original MNC characters are locked at the start and requires thousands of in game coins to unlock core classes of the game. Like other MOBA's you can also pay real money to unlock new weapon skins (Palette swaps), character skins(Mostly palette swaps), and additional taunt animations. Endorsements can cost a few thousand coins as well, rewarding long time players of the game with the ability to fire over 15% faster and more! While not the games worst design decision, it will take a long time to grind out the coins needed to unlock them.

It all boils down to once again a newcomer to the genre trying to get way too fancy with its design without taking the time to structure it in a way that players can understand and trying to make their game look awesome without being awesome at all. No doubt they are going to use the fact they are new to the genre as a constant excuse to make bad games throughout their career like some Uwe Boll of game designers. I do agree that the game graphically looks nice but that's absolutely nothing if anybody with a computer not made in the last three years needs to turn everything down to min in order to play at more then 2fps. And above all the game is just not done yet, there feels like there was no balancing attempted, and it feels like most of the game is not finished yet. Evidenced by the fact that the game was released on accident and rather then realize they still needed to do preliminary beta testing they released it anyway skipping months of valuable time required to polish the game.

While I do like the game better then Loco (And I HATE Loco), there is just way too many bad design choices to make it redeemable and as a new game developer there is no way they are going to listen to any criticism surrounding their perfect masterpiece. I would give it a month or two until the game falls into obscurity unless a total redesign concerning its class system happens. Badly balanced weapons and several classes that have no place in the game are holding back what could of been a pretty good class based competitive tower defense shooter.

If you can put up with the lack of balance testing and mismatched classes then the game really is not that bad, though it still has a great deal of work to be done on it. The melee classes clash way too much with the shooting gameplay, the game just has to pick one or the other or remove the grappling mechanic instead of throwing every single mechanic in and expecting it to just mesh together.


4/24/12   read

4:10 PM on 04.21.2012

Cyberpunk 2020: Where it rose

In the 80's there were two things that were predominantly head and shoulders above the rest when it came to cultural phenomena in media. Science Fiction and Glam Rock. From this the Cyberpunk Genre emerged in books such as Neuromancer then games like Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020. The basic rundown is some sort of government shaking catastrophe occurs leading to a state of near anarchy reducing vast metropolises to a big chaotic free for all while large corporations watch intently.

Now, the first thought you may have as a RPG buff upon seeing this cover is probably that its a rip off of Shadowrun. That is actually a falsehood, as the first edition called Cyberpunk 2013 came out a year earlier then both of them in 1988, while Shadowrun didn't come out until 1989 just as the second edition that I am reviewing came out the same year. I personally liken the two to different strokes for different folks, C:220 has a remarkably lethal combat system and emphasizes more with simple survival and the iconic Mad Max style action hero motif where Shadowrun focuses more on a until recently secretive magic world and how the world has metaphorically ended with a strange new one arising from the ashes of the last and survival in this weird but at the same time oddly familiar new age. In short, you will never see me flat out claiming one is actually better. Both have terribly written later editions and their own interesting takes on how technology can advance.

The very first thing you get in the book is the introduction, but oddly enough there is absolutely zero plot in the first half of the book. Sure, it explains what being a cyberpunk is and why you should mind but it does not really tell you much of why it happened and why you can't just live a safe life. In fact, the closest thing to a log of history is not until page 166 of 221. A quick glance of the timeline is pure sci fi cheesy goodness. Bionic plagues, corporate wars, and in 1996 there was a huge lawyer purge. That's right, they lynched hundreds of lawyers on seemingly a whim. This does mean its very easy to get playing without much thought on back-story. I mean come on, if the game doesn't care why should I?

In addition one of the settings major cities called Night City is also mentioned in this section and the next. Night City is in the center area of the Monteray Bay which is slightly south of San Jose. Now, the only issue I have with where Night City is placed is the fact that even the Night City Book itself (Which I also own) accounts completely for some other small towns near it just like my home town of Santa Cruz, California (Which many of you may know as "Santa Carla, Murder capital of the world") and is mentioned by name as a major city. Except of course, Watsonville; the boring predominantly Hispanic farming hub that Night City is directly built on top of. Night City was founded in 1994 while Watsonville has actually been around since 1868. I know this is a Sci-Fi game and its allowed to omit things but my suspension of disbelief is shattered. In the history blurbs this is never discussed.

Next comes the games character classing system. A role is composed of a special ability in addition to a selection of preferred skills. Looking at it makes you feel like every role is supposed to be played a certain way, which in some cases is the point but most of the time it feels a bit too generic. Solo's for instance are powerful street samurai whose ability gives them a additional stat to put points into in order to act faster in combat. This translates to them being the best fighters in the game usually, though the flip side is they are often heavily cybered up and thus not really... people persons. You see cyber-psychosis is a major issue in today's society.

A big part of developing your character is rolling their backstory. Starting with your clothing style, which goes from punk rocker, , a Gary Glitter jumpsuit, or just walking around naked. Did I mention free love and drug fueled sex is one of the big motifs of the genre? Either rolling for your age or just picking one from age sixteen to twenty-six you roll for what happened each year in a method fairly reminiscent of Traveler. All sorts of stuff can happen from making a big score, getting addicted to synthcoke, to pissing off a corporation. This really helps you flesh out a character and can really help you forge a story.

Right after the blatant combat classes you are also offered plenty of social or problem solving classes like journalists, corporate figures, and the iconic Rockerboy class. Rockerboys are indie glam rockers that rock out amazing illegal concerts and have the ability to sway the crowd to anarchic riots. Every role has a hat, and the book plainly states it has no problem with your group coming up with new roles and even gives you two more roles on top of the ten originally offered (The Actress and Politician, Page 34) technically giving you a total of 12 Roles to chose from initially.

Combat is amazingly lethal in Cyberpunk 2020. For starters, most of the time unless you are a seasoned professional gunslinger there is a good chance you will have a less then 50/50 chance to actually hit anything. Cover really matters and getting hit period brings on the innate chance of just passing out from shock. Solos, Cops and other combat rolls excel here and are usually the ones with the highest body-counts while the more social roles need to just find some big heavy and preferably bulletproof cover though how the combat rolls are set up you can still reasonably score a hit, its just the combat roles do it much easier.

Despite the lack of a overarching plot or much clear reason why the world went bizarre the games culture is very interesting. You see there is a reason ugly people simply don't exist in this game, technology has allowed for cheap and easy reconstructive surgery allowing for relatively easily accessible limb replacements and bodily changes. Plenty of gangs adopt some sort of uniform change with the popular choices being clowns, all having tails, or some sort of exotic look that makes them different. These are called poser-gangs, and probably one of the most fun concepts of the underworld offered.

Like any Sci-Fi game, the most fun of the games character development is the ability to simply spend hours shopping for your character. Weapons, Cyberware, and Vehicles are supplied in mass for you to ponder over as well as a catalog of various drugs for you to get addicted to. In fact, the game supplies rather easy rules and flat out dares you to come up with your own terrifying drugs as well as a list of sample effects including contraceptive and depressive qualities in addition to essentially pointing out how easy it is to just be a drug lord in the game. Pretty spot on for the genre, actually.

Supplementing combat is the netrunning system. These days the internet is a vast world wide web of information that can be decked into personally. Only the Netrunner role has the ability to actually jump in and really do things, but in general netrunning requires different maps and different methods altogether to the point like in other cyberpunk games it tends to just bring the game grinding to a halt as not everybody can actually interact with the net.

Cyberpunk 2020 to this day is a legend among RPGs, having fairly simple but vivid gameplay while Dungeons and Dragons was still dealing with overly lethal and convoluted rulings. The series of books included around 22 titles, covering a wide range of subjects from shopping books to additional city settings. Sadly not all good things could last.

Long discounted as vaporware, a sequel finally arrived in the form of Cyberpunk V3 in 2006. That however, will have to wait until next time. Mike Pondsmith, the author of C:2020 decided to start over his little world and try a different approach.

He chose.... poorly.

4/21/2012   read

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