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Snealiv's blog

12:50 PM on 02.17.2013

Starting Over: How I got "fired" from Press2Reset

Yesterday I was let go from my volunteer writing job at Press2Reset. I know that I probably shouldn't complain about a prior "employer", but my emotions are running high and I needed somewhere to vent.

I want to preface this by saying many of the people I worked with at Press2Reset are wonderful, kind people who I am happy to have worked with and wish the best for them in the future.

I have worked for Press2Reset for the last year, constantly producing news articles, features, interviews and videos. I was the host and founder of a video news show. I attended PAX Prime with Press2Reset and worked my ass off to record 35+ developer interviews for content on their website.

So you can imagine my surprise when yesterday I saw an email in my inbox titled "End of Contract with Press2Reset."

I worked hard to produce content for the site, with my only reward being exposure and the privilege of having my content published to the internet. Which in and of itself is all fine and well, I knew that my work for Press2Reset would be on a volunteer basis when I first started writing for the site. However, this came alongside the promise that staff writers would be paid if ever the company had the ability to do so.

But then the site started to grow. The unique user count grew each week, and the site started to rapidly expand. And as they expanded, they started to get offers from advertising companies. Granted, the amount coming in was likely not even covering the maintenance costs of running a website, but the fact remains the site was generating some form of revenue.

And on top of that, the core staff was very secretive about the site's finances. I asked them several times to reveal specific information about ad revenue and its use to the staff, and they always declined. They did, however, reinforce the point that any revenue was being used to pay for web hosting- for whatever that's worth.

This caused quite a bit of frustration on my end. I was promised that they would make every effort to pay staff if it ever were possible, yet they didn't seem to be making any sort of attempt to fulfill that promise.

On Friday, I read a tweet from Gameranx's Ian Cheong (@Stillgray) that read "Being a "volunteer writer" is like being a "volunteer plumber." You wouldn't unplug toilets for free, so don't write for free."

This was personal frustration of mine that had been slowly mounting lately, so i engaged him in conversation. I asked how he suggest new writers get started then, and explained my situation as a volunteer writer. He said writers should pitch article ideas to sites, and anyone who is writing on a volunteer basis is getting screwed over by the site they are writing for.

To which I sarcastically (or so I thought) responded "Ha, well I guess I'm getting fucked then."

I knew that the tweet was technically public, but given that it was used in a conversation with another person, not mentioning any specific company names, and used in a manner that I thought to be relatively sarcastic I didn't think it would cause any harm.

As it turns out, a higher-up at Press2Reset didn't appreciate the fact that one of their writers was complaining about not getting paid for his work, and refereed to his current volunteer writing situation as "being fucked."

On Saturday I received an email saying that my contract had been terminated because my tweets "made the company look bad." I was let go for complaining about not getting a paid as a hard-working games journalist.

At the moment, I'm not too sure what to think. .

I've devoted my entire University education to becoming a games writer, and it seems that I've just hit an impasse. Through a series that I feel to be unfair, I have lost any power I once had in the industry.

Before Saturday I was going to attend PAX East and cover the event with Press2Reset staff. I'm still attending PAX East, but I have no press contacts, no friends in the industry going, and no real way to network so that I can find a hopefully paying writing gig.

I don't know what to make of it, and at the moment I have no idea how to move forward in my career.

Am I in the wrong here? Were they justified in letting me go?

I just don't know. All I have to go on now are my few takeaways:

1. Twitter is a public forum. Everything you say on Twitter can be viewed by others, and can potentially bite you in the ass.

2. Sarcasm doesn't translate well on the internet.

3. If you don't like something about your working situation, quit your job.   read

4:03 PM on 01.12.2013

Challenges facing the Nvidia Shield

While the internal specs for the new Nvidia Shield are impressive, the device faces a significant uphill battle if it wants to be a worthy contender in the handheld market.

The Shield needs to out sell the Vita...while marketing toward the same target audience.

To succeed in a crowded marketplace a device needs to be better than it's competitors. Business common sense. Since the Shield seems to have the same market strategy as the Vita- a portable console experience- we'll say that the Shield needs to meet or exceed the sales of the Vita (but really it needs to exceed) to be successful. And it needs to do so while marketing toward the same target audience with a lesser-known brand.

Nvidia is using the exact same strategy Sony used with the Vita, but somehow expecting a better result.

With, might I add...

Little third-party support and a lack of in-house development studios.

If Sony can't convince third-party developers to make games for the Vita, then Nvidia doesn't have a chance in hell convincing them to make games for their unknown, unproven handheld.

Also Nvidia can't compete with the first-party support enjoyed by Nintendo and Sony, and as such will have to rely on ports- the majority of which will be controller adaptations (if they're lucky) of touch-control games from the Android marketplace.

Nvidia isn't a household name.

To the average consumer Nvidia sounds like a knock-off brand next to established names like Sony and Nintendo. The brand name alone acts as an exclusionary barrier to an audience outside of Nvidia's narrow target for the shield.

Gamers want to stick with brands they know and trust, and to the gaming mass market (non-PC gamers) the name Nvidia doesn't carry much weight. They would rather have a Sony or a Nintendo than an Nvidia.

There's nothing casual about it.

To the casual audience, controllers are intimidating. Casual consumers use smart phones for gaming because their simple touch interface is easy to understand and provides a simple way to communicate game mechanics.

The controller shape and button layout of the Shield will send Joe Casual cowering into a corner. Mass audiences will want nothing to do with the device.

Which is more significant that it initially sounds, because...

The Shield still has to compete with Tablets and Smartphones.

The majority of people, gamers or otherwise, get their mobile gaming fix from smart phones and tablets. The growing Apple and Android marketplaces accommodate gamers of varying tastes, from the casual games like angry birds to full-on Need for Speed titles. Most people, when on their bus commute or killing time in a movie theater, reach for their phone, where they can enjoy a 15 minute experience for less than $5.

To even try and compete with tablets, the Shield will have to offer smaller games near the $5 price point; which sort of defeats the whole reason to use a Shield in the first place. I'm sure Angry Birds looks great running in 720p on a Tegra 4 processor, but it's overkill for the platform and destructively expensive. To the point where there isn't a compelling reason to take your Shield with you when out and about.

Which you might have a tough time doing anyway, since...

It doesn't fit in your damn pocket.

Take a break from reading this post, and go find a 360 controller (PS3 owners try a Dual Shock, though the dimensions aren't as similar). I'm sure you have one lying around somewhere.

Now take the controller, and try to cram it into one of your pant pockets.

Did it work? Good!

Now try walking more than 10 feet.

This device, as exciting as the internal hardware sounds, isn't very portable. To transport the Shield, you need to be carrying a backpack, messenger bag, purse, or fanny pack (if you do try the last one, please take a picture for historical documentation).

This basically limits the use case for the Shield to commuting time, airplane rides, and home use. Though, since the Shield will have a tough time getting worthwhile exclusives, there isn't much of a reason to play it while lounging around at home.


Good luck Nvidia!

You're going to need it. Come back and see me if your hardware survives long enough to see a second and third iteration- then I might reconsider.

And when you reach the bottom of the handheld well, say hello to the Xperia play for me.   read

11:13 AM on 12.31.2012

Dear Mr. Sports Fan

Dear Mr. Sports Fan,

One of us is weird, the other normal. The same media idolized one and vilifies the other.

You may not know it, but we are just like you.

So please stop treating us like some kind of cultural stain.

Gaming Fans   read

11:40 AM on 12.30.2012

A Year in Pictures

As they say, a picture can tell a thousand words, and each of these pictures tells one of the major gaming stories of 2012.

Picture of Target store shelves at 10 p.m. on WiiU launch day.

Bioware changes game ending after fan outrage.

DayZ proves that we are all terrible, terrible people.

A broken Curt Schilling leaving the courtroom after 38 Studios hearing.

Double Fine proves devoted gamers will put their money where their mouth is.

Resident Evil 6 tries to please everyone; pleases no-one.

Zynga's high tower came crashing down.

Letter from jailed Arma 3 developers.

Sony nails their premium online service.

The Walking Dead proves that games can make people cry.

Despite its best efforts, THQ continues its downward spiral.

If you think I missed something, or feel differently, share your pictures of the year in the comments.   read

1:33 PM on 12.25.2012

Pour One Out: Wasted Potential of Mass Effect 3's Multiplayer

When I originally started the Pour One Out series, my plan was to spotlight various multiplayer games with interesting concepts that failed to find an audience. Multiplayer games or modes that at least tried to make some kind of argument for their existence.

Mass Effect 3 attempts no such arguments. Yet it, through brute force, found a dedicated audience for its multiplayer mode.

An audience that Mass Effect 3, quite frankly, does not deserve.

If you were to hop online in Mass Effect 3 at this moment, queues would be as short as ever. Though Mass Effect 3's user-base is not quite as large as the user-base of a Halo or Call of Duty game, it is equally devoted and equally likely to spend money on multiplayer-specific downloadable content.

Which is to say, the community shows no sign of dying down anytime soon, and Bioware continues to profit.

Fans initially opposed the idea of multiplayer in a Mass Effect game. Bioware's initial announcement was met with fan outrage, with players accusing Bioware of taking away resources from the singleplayer campaign to focus on a multiplayer mode that was widely viewed as unnecessary. They averted these criticisms by farming out the multiplayer mode to their Canadian studio.

Though Bioware can't be blamed for following EA policy, which states that all games must have some form of multiplayer. They followed instructions, and their secondary studio (presumably) created the best product they could given their limitations and instructions.

Which turned out to be a rather uninspired survival mode that pits human controlled characters against waves of AI enemies.

The very same survival mode found in every multiplayer game since the release of Gears of War 2–back in 2008.

The same survival mode found in Halo ODST and Reach, Gears of War 2 and 3, every Treyarch Call of Duty game this generation, the Transformers games, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Uncharted 2 and 3, Saints Row the Third, Resident Evil 5, Starhawk, Dead Island, Resistance 3, Red Faction: Armageddon, Bulletstorm, Fear 3, Borderlands 1 and 2, and Bioshock 2.


To give credit where credit is due, Mass Effect 3 has one major feature that separates it from the games above: a lack of additional multiplayer modes. Which wouldn't be a problem if the survival mode was expansive or unique enough to justify its existence.

But it isn't.

Halo added weapon drops when it created Firefight, Gears of War 3 added in light tower defense mechanics to Horde 2.0, hell even Saints Row the Third added wave mutations that randomly made all the enemies micro-sized or placed them all in rabbit suits.

Mass Effect 3 added microtransactions. It combined a free-to-play model with a retail game.

The Mass Effect 3 survival mode uses RPG mechanics to let players upgrade characters between games. After completing a game, players receive virtual money to spend on random crates and unlock new weapons, characters and upgrades.

Of course those same crates could also be purchased for real money, with the highest-tier Spectre Pack costing $2. Though to get a specific weapon or character, you would likely have to purchase more than one pack.

Though $2 doesn't sound like much, it starts to add up quickly. Buy five specter packs (keep in mind that $5 is the minimum amount you must spend on MS points), and you've spent one-tenth the full price of the retail game on random-chance items.

Instead of making a multiplayer mode that's adds depth to the expansive Mass Effect universe, Bioware created a safe survival mode designed around microtransactions.

Which is a terrible waste of talent and potential.

Many positive things can be said of the Mass Effect series. The characters are engaging, the settings beautiful, etc- but never once has anyone said “My favorite part of Mass Effect is the shooting.”

Shooting controls have always been the weakest mechanic in Mass Effect games. Though the shooting has improved with each entry in the franchise, they are never quite up to the standard set by other third-person shooters. Nor did they need to be.

Mass Effect 3's shooting controls are competent enough to sustain the players interest while they progress the story.

Which the multiplayer mode strips away entirely. It takes away all character interaction and re-hashes locations from the singleplayer game; on the promise that adding more player-controlled characters will make shooting things more fun.

Which then begs the question, why bother playing it at all?

Plenty of other games offer the very same survival experience with better shooting mechanics, and, if you happen to get bored of survival mode, they offer other multiplayer modes to hold your interest. A game with fun shooting on a mechanical level, instead of passable shooting.

Mass Effect 3's multiplayer represents, at its core, wasted potential. With one of the richest fictional universes ever created, the developers squandered the vast possibilities by making a clichéd multiplayer mode that supports microtransactions, and tosses out every element that makes Mass Effect games special.

So gather around, crack open your favorite beverage, and pour one out for the travesty that is Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode.


11:02 AM on 12.19.2012

Concept Cover Art for The War Z


4:46 PM on 12.10.2012

Pour One Out: Super Monday Night Combat

The Game: Super Monday Night Combat

Release Date: April 19 2012

Super Monday Night Combat, sequel to the moderately popular XBLA game Monday Night Combat, was one of the first major attempts to bring first-person-shooter elements into MOBA genre. Cruising off the surprising success of the first game, Super Monday Night Combat instituted major improvements in key areas over the first game. It brought the title over to PC, tightened up gameplay elements and balance issues to make Super MNC viable as an eSport, and adopted the League of Legends free-to-play model.

Considering the first game sold over 300,000 copies on a single platform, combined with the explosive popularity of MOBA games on PC, Ubernet's optimism in Super MNC seemed appropriately placed. Super Monday Night Combat had all the necessary pieces in place for a successful new MOBA game.

And succeed it did; for about two months. Early months seemed promising, as servers regularly saw ~4,000 concurrent players. Though the number seems low,it was actually respectable for a new MOBA game.

However, Ubernet had a tough time keeping players interested in subsequent months. Around June Super MNC started to see a steady decline in users. While not a great sign, the playerbase in new multiplayer games tends to shrink during early months as a game finds its dedicated fan base. So Ubernet started releasing new characters, items, and game types to encourage players to stick around as they waited for the decline in players to level off.

But the numbers kept falling. And falling. And falling.

When the player base finally leveled-off, it became clear that SuperMNC was beyond salvation. Servers queues increased with the drop in players, and it was common for players to wait more than 30 minutes to find a match. Even during peak hours, the number of concurrent players topped-off around 300.

Now a days, Super MNC only makes headlines for its desperate attempts to find an audience across every digital delivery platform imaginable. Super MNC is currently available on Steam, Amazon direct download, and even the new Kongregate download service.

And it still can't break 300 concurrent players.

What went wrong?
It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason for SuperMNC's decline; the developers could not have done much else to help out their game.

Ubernet updated the game every Tuesday with balance fixes and character rotations, par for the course for MOBA games, and they responded to player feedback in a timely manner.

Though Ubernet dropped the ball on the timeliness of their additional content. The first new characters was released in July, three months after Super MNC's launch. But by then just adding a new character was too little, too late. Over the coming months Ubernet added three new arenas and two new gametypes, but they released to the echos of an abandoned player base. The most-recent addition to Super MNC was Hobo Robo, who looks exactly as the name sounds, in October.

In addition to untimely support, Super MNC unfortunately shared some mechanics with other, more-popular games. People who play MOBA games passionately often focus their time on a single game. As a result, Super MNC competed with League of Legends and the Dota 2 beta for player attention. The free-to-play MOBA audience is so entrenched in its current games that they don't feel the need to branch out. League of Legends is a sport, and while Super MNC had eSport potential, the game never gained enough traction to break into the public's eye.

Though Ubernet played a large part in the failure of Super MNC to become an eSport. . There were very few, if any, Super MNC tournaments or special events. When Valve launched the Dota 2 beta, they held a public tournament with a $1,000,000 prize. This tournament helped Dota 2 gain publicity, and cemented its place as an eSports.

The most publicity Super MNC ever received was the occasional Twitch stream, and it was never seen on major eSport streaming channels.

Why does it matter?
Super MNC was a beta test for the First-Person-Shooter/MOBA genre. It had a substantial budget, a committed development team, and an attractive free-to-play marketplace. If Super MNC succeeded, other FPS-MOBA games would have quickly followed suit.

But it didn't. And the MOBA genre remains relatively unchanged, just as it has for the last several years.

And all the while the MOBA genre continues to grow stagnant. Each of the major contenders differs in relatively minor ways, and any newcomers who offer interesting takes on the genre are continually shut out.

Super MNC represented evolution and change in the MOBA genre, and its failure discourages other developers from taking major risks to change the MOBA genre and halts its evolution as a result.

If this lack of evolution continues, MOBA games may very well be on the same path as adventure games in the mid-90s and fighting games in the mid 2000s.

Grab a drink
Super Monday Night Combat was a fun game with an interesting premise, and made a solid attempt to evolve a rather stagnant genre. It's a damn shame that it couldn't find an audience.

Here's to you, Super MNC.

Pour one out is a bi-monthly column where I spotlight great multiplayer games that never found a community. If you have a suggestion for an under-appreciated multiplayer game, leave it in the comments!   read

12:40 PM on 12.06.2012

2012: The Dangers of Exploration [Spelunky]

I skid to a stop inches from a ledge, guided only by the feint glow of my torch. I've been in this section for far too long, the ghost will show up any minute and negate all my progress. It's too late to turn back and look for an alternate route.

I grab a hold of the nearby ledge and peak ever-so-gently downward. It's as dark as Satan's bowels, with no way to judge the depth of the jump. But time is running short. I jump down and pray for a safe lan-


Spikes. Of course it's the spikes. It's always the god-damn spikes.

I don't throw my controller across the room. I don't yell. I don't curse this game and all who made it.

I simply accept my punishment for failure, tap the X button and immediately start over from level 1-1.

See, unlike most other games, Spelunky could not give less of a shit about you. It doesn't care if you had a bad day at work. It doesn't care if you recently walked in on your significant other banging another person. It doesn't care if your dog just died.

Spelunky shows no mercy, and it will punish you for every mistake.

But in this difficulty, Spelunky holds more fun than any other downloadable game this year. Magical moments await in each playthrough. Every small accomplishment brings a feeling of profound joy, while every death comes with a funny story.

Spelunky brings out your inner masochist in all the best ways..

However, as a result of this extreme difficulty, Spelunky is filled with magical moments.

One particularly magical moment started with my friend and I playing Spelunky's co-op mode. In Spelunky's co-op mode, if one player dies they come back as a ghost. This ghost has the ability to affect various objects in the environment by blowing them. Though it seems useful, this feature often causes more harm than good. Thee ghost player can respawn if the other co-op partner comes across a coffin.

After a long 25-minute session, my friend found himself trapped at the very bottom platform in the ice caves arena. Alone.

The ice caves require players to make dangerous jumps from slippery platform to platform. Once players reach a certain depth the platforms stop spawning all-together and any missed jump will drop the player into an endless abyss. Players need to tread carefully to avoid sliding to their death.

Which of course, I didn't.

Earlier in the level, I had been tossed like a shotput by an angry Yeti like straight into an enemy mammoth. Force from the mammoth collision knocked me off the icy platform into the bottomless abyss.

Cut back to my friend, trapped on the last platform the abyss trying to plan his next jump as I circle around him in ghost form doing backflips.

The cave's exit sits only one platform over, but distance between the two platforms is much farther than the character can jump. With no remaining ropes or bombs, my friend has seemingly met his demise.

“Jump. Trust me, and jump,” I told my friend as I smiled. I had given him no prior reason to trust me, and in fact had “accidentally” caused his death multiple times during this playthough, but he had no other choice.

He sprints off the side of the ledge and jumps as far as his little character is able. While he's flying helplessly through the air toward certain death, I attempt to use my ghost's blowing to assist his jump. My small boost propelled him just far enough to reach the exit platform. He landed on his face, mere inches from the ledge of certain death, but very much alive.

We paused the game long enough for a raucous cheer and celebratory high five, and he went through the exit door to the next area.

Only to have his character's skull (and our hearts) crushed seconds later by a giant stone obelisk that fell from the ceiling after he accidentally stepped on a hidden switch.

A magical moment with an entire roller coaster of emotion in a two-minute span.

We were broken, we were defeated, and we immediately started again from Area 1-1 knowing another equally magical moment awaits in the very next playthrough.   read

12:25 PM on 12.03.2012

The Gamer Stereotype

I have this big secret in my life that, up until recently, I’ve never really felt comfortable sharing with others.

I say ‘secret’, but there were definite signs. Glimpses of my lifestyle occasionally slipped through the cracks in everyday conversation, but to the general public my big secret remained intact.

Sure my closest friends knew, and anyone else who picked up on the pieces, but I have always been afraid to share my lifestyle with my friends and co-workers. Afraid that they would judge me and look at my in a different way if they knew what I was hiding.

But today I no longer care. I’m tired of holding this in, so here it goes:

I play a lot of video games.

I know, shocking right? Most of you probably figured this out already (if not then I really don’t want to know what you meant to look up Google that led you here). My radiance probably set off the gamedar of every gamer within a five-mile radius; yet I still felt self-conscious about my hobby. Maybe I am alone in this, and maybe not, but it is something every gamer has to face at some point in their lives.

I remember my high school years during which I constantly repressed this bit of information. If I discussed my hobbies with friends, it was in hushed tones constantly checking over my shoulder for bypassing eavesdroppers that could out me on my dirty little secret.

I mean, sure, you could talk about Halo, Call of Duty, or even Assassin’s Creed to little consequence; but anything further is to commit social suicide.

See, I played RuneScape religiously for the first two years of my high school life. And for those of you unfamiliar with either RuneScape or the emotional state of high schoolers, if other students found out a person played Runescape, they may as well have had smallpox (if you don’t understand the reference, just replace every instance of RuneScape with World of Warcraft).

By nature, RuneScape encouraged discussion with your friends about obtaining items and boss strategies. Such conversations often included scary phrases such as “What level are you?”, “Buy rune armor” and “by killing moss giants”. Phrases that any teenager can pick up on from 70 feet away. To have these conversations with other people you had to first drop small hints in casual conversation that you played RuneScape, then find a way to talk about sneakily.

Personally, I switched all nerdy-sounding names and items to basketball terms. I know, not the best strategy when you still say that that you “made a few three-pointers in my game last night, but then I died and lost all of my basketballs”, but it avoided setting off any buzz-word nerd alarms.

When a person goes public with the fact that they enjoy video games, all other aspects of their life disappear in the eyes of the general public. The person is no longer “on the tennis team” or “the funny guy at the lunch table”; he is simply “that little kid who spends all his time playing video games”.

I would like to say the world changed as I got older, and attribute this judgmental attitude to the simple fact that most high school kids are dumb. But this isn’t the case.

Unless you work in the games industry or chose a field of study largely populated by gamers, these same social constraints still apply. Even a socially active person will be labeled as a basement-dweller the second they come out of the World of Warcraft closet. If you want to get invited to another company party ever again, be careful who you tell about that raid boss you defeated last night.

Because everyone knows that video games are for children right? It’s common knowledge that the largest portion of the largest worldwide entertainment industry only produces products that appeal to immature kids and people with no career aspirations.

Or so the general public believes.

I recently overheard someone say this exact phrase while talking to his friend on the bus, “…or the kind of people who play video games who, let’s face it, have never even touched a girl.”

Ignoring the fact that 38 percent of gamers are female, this man seems to have met enough of these poor terrified creatures to make a widespread claim about the social abilities of 70 percent of the world’s population.

Somewhere along the line, society developed the archaic notion that gamers are an anti-social breed whose very existence revolves around their hobby. These very same people who mock you for knowing the class benefits of rolling an elf mage can tell you the passer rating, workout plan, and favorite colors of every starting QB in the NFL. But they are not nerds, or geeks, or losers; they’re just really into football. Which in case you haven’t heard, is clearly productive to their life and will benefit them in the long run; unlike wasting your life playing video games.

These old dinosaurs make me sick. Video games are a unique medium that can constantly challenge its consumers and expand their minds in ways that no other form of expression can even remotely accomplish. Games challenge political actions, push social boundaries, expand people’s horizons and force players to confront issues and, as a result, grow as people.

But no, society is too afraid to admit these things. Gamers only love violence and chaos; didn’t you hear about the guy who murdered his wife because he played World of Warcraft?

And I say again, these people make me physically ill.

Can we ever change this terrible stereotype? Probably not, since we would have to break a stereotype firmly implanted in the minds of many over a vast span of years, but damn it we can try.

For those of you still doing so, stop hiding in the gaming closet. Don’t be afraid to shout your love for video games from the rooftops (you get bonus points if you record a video of yourself actually shouting your love for video games from the rooftops). Let the world know that you love video games and aren’t ashamed by this fact. It sounds ridiculous, but gamers have to be proud about their hobby. If we own it, then they can’t take that away from us.

So go post about your WoW character on Facebook, show your friends how video games tell engaging stories with compelling themes, and show the world that gamers are not some strange form of second-class citizen.

I’m Sam Neal, and I play video games.   read

1:45 AM on 12.03.2012

Metro 2033 Impressions Journal (In Progress)

I've started a new series of blog entries that I'm going to call Impressions Journals. In these articles, I will keep a faux journal of sorts in a stream of consciousness style as I'm playing through a game. It's very much a living piece, and this article will be updated as I get further into Metro 2033. The goal is to keep a record of how my feelings for a game evolve over time.

Session 1:

Wow. Metro 2033 is a much better game than I was expecting. An absolutely steal for ~$1.20 (five games divided by ~$6).

Metro does a fantastic job cuing you in to gameplay mechanics without having to spell out exactly how the work. The air filters stood out most to me as a “wow” feature. The player must replace air filters in gas masks in order to breathe, and the timer for the gas masks is the player's watch. When a gas mask filter starts to run low, your breathing gets heavier. This heightens the tension of the situation, and serves a practical purpose as it clues the player in to the condition of the gas mask. So far managing the filters hasn't been too much of a problem, but I have a feeling that will change as the game progresses.

Though I will say, the lack of explanation for the physical controls is a bit disapointing. The game tutorial seemingly forgets to cover essential game mechanics, such as how to change ammo types (hold the reload button) and how to replace filters on the gas mask (double-tap the gas mask button). The game's options screen was of little help, and a quick Google search confirmed my suspicions that this failure was not my own fault. One person even used the wrong ammo type for over half the game and as a result wasn't able to purchase any gun upgrades.

That must have been tough, Metro 2033 is difficult enough as is.

Session 2

I recall others saying Metro suffered from a general lack of polish, and jarring glitches. I have not yet run into many of these glitches. The only noticeable glitched I've encountered so far is the death screen, which keeps telling me I was killed by ghosts and paranormal beasts. Uh, no, I'm pretty sure I died because that bandit blew my face off with a shotgun.

Metro uses audio to create an atmosphere in a way few other games can, and I'm enjoying my decision to play with headphones. Every gut-wrenching sound and ear-splitting squeak leaves you constantly on edge, and occasionally questioning your player's sanity. This effect accentuates the environmental differences between the surface and tunnels, though neither one is preferable to the other.

Some may think the heavy Russian accents are a bit hokey, but I think the accents come right up to the border of cheesy without crossing it. The only clue as to the team's restricted budget comes in dialogue that is occasionally too on-the-nose, and loading-screen narration that sounds like it was recorded by one of the programers in their home closet through a webcam mic.

Man. The amount of tension in this game during fights on the surface is incredible. Packs of mutants surround your character and take swipes, as the cracks in your gas mask obstruct vision. If the gas mask fails, the character will take radiation damage until he clears out the enemies and creates an opportunity to put on a fresh gas mask. Times are tough out there.

Session 3

Unless you understand Russian, I wouldn't recommend changing the game language to Russian. It's extremely tempting, and seems like a good idea in theory, but subtitles do not lend themselves well to a survival horror game. Trying to read the bottom of a screen while being chased by mutant bat-creatures and reload a weapon is a bit like trying to read a book while running on a treadmill.

And I wasn't sure whether Metro was a survival horror game until this session, where they introduced ghosts. Which are shadows. That can only be seen with your flashlight on. And you have to manually keep the flashlight charged. And the ghosts kill you if they touch you.

The ghosts are extremely effective in storytelling, and provide an appropriately chilling way of quickly filling you in on the Metro's history.

And they're equally effective at scaring the shit out of you.   read

2:58 PM on 12.02.2012

Video: Why the Bioshock Infinite cover isn't the end of the world.


3:52 PM on 12.01.2012

Colour Bind Video Review

A video review of the Indie puzzle/platformer Colour Bind.

Colour Bind is available on Steam for $9.99.   read

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