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ThatStupidGeek's blog

11:05 AM on 08.15.2010

A serious thought: Games as Art

Art based on game content.

The following is my personal stance on the games not just as art, but as a culture and how people understand the whole thing. It will be passionate and serious. There are also allot of links embedded within.

Mario Brothers, a game which some claim has a visual style which is artwork. The Music is Timeless.

This is a pretty big topic within our community, the whole 'Art' thing. Regardless of what you think, it IS a big deal. Its an important stance on how you view not just video games but art itself. Some minds think when we refer to games asart were talking about the visuals, or the narrative, or the sound design, or the game itself and if interactivity makes it inherently artwork. Certain people say that games never can be art, for various reasons. Some simply don't understand the medium. Others don't want games to be art, because either they have a misrepresentation of what art is, fear change, or don't want to get it. Some people think its just stupid, that the whole concept of art on a whole is pointless. Yet the question itself is so important because it refers to the very heart and soul of our medium. Of our pastime. Of our secret lover whom we have found memories of while we are away on our. You see some people who comment on this question have no love for games. And some do understand the medium and love it. Video games itself is a dynamic medium which divides households on the merit of such things because of misunderstanding on one end, and on the other of a firm profound fondness of the medium. Both sides of course have merit, on one end you see a bunch of children toys and male power fantasies for the most part that can cause as well as violence, and on the other side you see a bunch of trying to what is your pastime, culture, passion, and life in some cases. Regardless of how much you game or are involved in the medium you still care for it and call yourself a gamer, and most of us don't like people coming in and saying that our culture is without merit.

Stary Night by Vincent Van Gogh.

But How do you judge a culture? You judge it by its people, by its pinnacles, by its rituals, and of course by the artwork that surrounds it. You would be hard pressed to argue that games themselves haven't at least spawned artwork. There are paintings and sculptures and so much more dedicated to the characters we have controlled and the worlds we have explored over the years. Books upon books explaining and detailing these lands and heroes. We as a culture gather in events to meet each other and rejoice of the medium we believe in. We have our own language at times. There is a brotherhood among gamers for we have all experienced similar highpoints and low points. There is a culture there. Yet that's not what the games as art question is about, no no its about games themselves being art.

Silent hill 2, often held high as the pinnacle of game narrative and atmosphere.

And they are. You can argue that there not but artwork produces emotion. Anything that produces emotion IS art. Anything that makes you feel, from a film, or a book, or a song, or a painting, or a play. Those are forms of art, and yet part of this argument is that games merely contain those things aren't a unique beast themselves. When you break it down that's what this question refers to. That's what its really about my friends. Are games unique enough to be considered their own art form or are they merely shadows of what they contain, lesser then the sum of their parts?

Portal's still alive. Self Explanatory.

I believe they are so much more then what they contain.

Morrowind, a game based around exploring a living breathing world which no other medium can turly provide

No film do you interactive with other then the art of watching it. No painting has a world that changes outside of the still that has been captured. No book lets you truly interact with the world that it paints within your psyche. The reason why games are so magnificent of an art form is because how personal they can be. How involved you are within the medium itself. Yes, you can be involved with a play; perhaps a dinner theater, yet unless you are acting within one you wont have a role. Games let you experience them by playing a key role. And yet you yourself aren't part of the artwork itself by playing that role. Any other sort of medium which is interactive has the partaker become apart of the show, the demonstration, the living art. Games however, you are simply a passenger experiencing what the designers have laid out fort you to experience. That's where the medium is special, where it shines and where its merit as an art form comes from.

Team Fortress 2, a Living Breathing, Interactive, Cartoon.

That's why games are art.   read

5:44 PM on 08.14.2010

In a Flash: Cluesweeper

So. We have Clue with brooms. Obviously. I mean, I was just as curious as you to see what sort of dastardly murders were committed with the broom. Placed strategically on the second step? Turned into a makeshift spear? Used to choke someone to death? Or perhaps the broom was the murderer all along on some sort of strange sentient inanimate object world. Yes, it was the broom with a bucket of water in the apprentice's chambers (Reference for the thick -Ed). I'm onto you Broom.

Sadly, the sweeper part of the title was actually a reference to another game. Minesweeper. Huzzah.

So thats that then. A game people only play to make the monotony at work more monotonous with a game that has been inspiring acting troupes to ruin dinners for a epochs to come. Brilliant. At least Clue has its own amusing collage humor video as well. But onto the topic at hand, how can grids be used to solve a murder case? To further that question, how do flags come into play? Blank Spots? How do you determine who did what in which room? Clue is a somewhat complicated game of subterfuge while minesweeper is just...simple math with a Smiley Face (Management apologizes for the flash backs- Ed.) Read on to find out in this week's review of In A Flash.

The real mystery is that of the girl in the red dress. Are they real?

Cluesweeper, which can be found at this link is a simple flash game that includes a story mode, a free play mode, and a local multilayer where you and a friend (Or an AI if you don't need real friends -Ed) can take turns trying to solve the case. In story mode you You are one of the top Problem Sleuths err...Private Detectives in the city. Solicitations for your service are numerous in quantity and the compensation you receive is adequate. Only you can solve your way through eleven cases of increasing difficulty (Read increasing board size -Ed) with the assistance of a mysterious dame in a little red dress. Multiplayer has you along with another player trying to solve the case before each other, with each clue unlocked available to both parties. Meanwhile, freeplay is an endless stream of cases before you finally fail and accuse the wrong person and sued into oblivion (The reviewer assumes -Ed). There is also a nifty help option for people who have never had a desk job.

You see the designer of this game has managed to combine the two games in an interesting way. Take the common minesweeper board, and replace the mines with clues. Each clue provides a hint about one of the suspects in the murder case, perhaps if the murderer was not a juvenile delinquent, or if the killer happened to be participating in an affair, or perhaps is a happening cat who is into music. Collect the clues and narrow down your list of suspects, simple. Of course you can only click the board so many times before you have to accuse someone, or try the case again. And the less clicks the better, of course there is a bonus for gathering clues. Yet its not so much of a risk or reward system as it could have been because both playstyles of OCD collecting and trying to beat the turn limit give the same sort of reward. Having just one of those systems in place would have helped the game in a great way, with upping the difficulty of the game for those who wished to peruse it. Also the game itself is simplified because the clues themselves tell you how many clues are in adjacent tiles as well. So it becomes a very easy matter to find as many clues as possible and again, I cant state this enough, hurts the game by being too simple which is perhaps its greatest flaw. There are also specials as well, perhaps a tile that will yield a higher return if you solve the case successfully, or one that will give you a few more clicks onto the board. Then, there are red herrings.

This guy is a red Herring. Also. Shelby Did It. (Uhh...Spoliers?-Ed) Oh Shit Spoilers.

What are these red herrings you ask? Why they my friend are your biggest foe within this game. In context to sleuthing sometimes a lead may not turn out to be on the up and up...or even worth your time at all. Sure, there was cocaine residue all over the corpse, and one of your shadowy underground contacts has a friend who knows a guy who knows where all the drugs come from. Turns out they don't know anything about the case, you just wasted three hundred bucks, a day, and now have a dead hooker in your trunk. That's what we call a Red Herring(Warning the proceeding link will destroy all your free time -Ed).

Now what are these things in the games? They are a game tile which siphon away three of your clicks. No big deal right? Except there is no proceeding warning about where they may be and they utterly break how fair the game feels. Sure, in single player these are rarely a problem, after all you generally have enough clicks left to find what you need. Yet, in freeplay you often stumble across these things looking for a vital clue, and loose simply because you cannot gather enough information in the amount of clicks required. A better system would have been all the clues lead to the number of nearby clues and mis-clicking leads to a red herring. Instead, you have blank squares with the surrounding clue number, clues with the surrounding clues listed, and of course...pointless red herrings that will piss you off. Granted, some clues grant you a few more clicks, or an extra reward but generally those are few and do not add up to anything worthwhile. Yes, you get a paycheck after each mission based on preformence; which is more or less your points, and in story mode you can spend those on various things to make the game easier. But you don't have to, you don't need to, and really it feels redundant. After all what the game needs is more of a real challenge. Sadly, the clues them self and how each suspect is presented also sucks challenge out of the game. Each suspect has three facts, one available automaticly which is their dominate hand, and somehow left handed folk are evil. Perhaps the programmer had a certain left handed clergy member in their life as a child, but I'm not here to make assumptions. Those other two traits are unlocked as you find clues, and other clues reveal which of those traits the killer does or does not have. You use those clues to eliminate the suspects until you know who it is. An intuitive system, yet ultimately flawed due to the lack of traits each suspect can have.

Time= Number of Clicks left, just for the record.

As you can see, aesthetically its rather simple yet stark, leading to something pleasing to stare at. The little suspect icons rotate, between about fifteen of them but there nothing to write home about. The names change as well, such as the ones listed, or the laywer, the theif, the traveler, ect. Special notes go to the final case in story mode being between The Commissioner, The General, The Tycoon , The CEO , and of course The Socialite. I assume they all killed some Dumb Hussy, which spiced the last level up immensely. There are no in game bugs and teh game itself is remarkably stable if not simple. There are a handful of images that pop up depending on which clue you uncover, which your will skip after seeing them all twenty times because you can skim the mouse over each clue and read whats needed, or even check the notebook. The music is a simple piano track that never overstays its welcome, but is not something you will be humming the next day. At least its not annoying enough to put the game on mute however, which is rare to find in a flash game.

All in all I killed about an hour with this serviceable little title that just doesn't believe in its audience. Simply put its not difficult enough and ascetically its not memorable. Is it better then minesweeper? Yes, very much so and its satisfying to a degree and a great twist on what some people claim is a classic. Yet its bogged down by how easy the game tends to be, and can be enranging by its one attempt at difficulty which often becomes infuriating do to its implementation. Perhaps a sequel, one that gives it a better motif perhaps a twenties Lovecraftian horroror an Eighty Five's Lovecraftian horror. With a better implemented system without a niggling spice of difficulty that tastes like bullshit. Overall I give it a...

An interesting take on the minesweeper concept, just not taken far enough in terms of difficulty.

Just follow youtube to watch the rest of the movie.   read

9:12 PM on 08.13.2010

Don't make me Lobotomize You: Morality

Morality. Alignment. The fun little thing thrown into games to give you shiny new powers and dialog options in generally three distinct flavors per game; such as helpy-mc-helperton, casual observer, and massive dick. Generally those lives you have ruined or save will net you a nifty red or blue colored power! Or more dialog options to be a bigger dick or savior. And those of us who believe in neutrality will be fucked over, because main characters NEED to have an extreme alignment (That is preferably mixed with chaotic). Now this is all well and good and fun, and in fact a much needed spice within what would otherwise be a rather bland game; Yet my faithful reader this is not true morality. Morality is about living with yourself after a choice with no good options. Its not about helping a little girl find her parents or selling her to slavery. Its about pulling the plug on a terminally ill patient who's every breath is one of living agony, or walking away because life, no matter how painful is worth living. Its a personal and deep choice that you will live with and wonder about for the rest of your life. Perhaps it will come back and bite you in the ass, and there is an off chance one end of the decision will have a reward, but generally? Its a choice you HAVE to make with the only repercussions being the loss of sleep you will soon suffer.

Perhaps the only sensible choice left at this know...time travel.

You see, In this world good people die just as much as the bad. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray and the road to hell is paved with all sorts of intentions. Its horrifying to think of yourself in a situation like that in real life, but here in a game we can experience something like this situation from the safety of home. Its why we like video games and movies, its pretend and we as a people like to pretend yet to still be safe. Games provide this in spades wonderfully. It allows us to touch dangerous things and ideas without getting scared too deeply. That's where the fun is boys and girls.

Now lets be honest here, generally the choices come down to being a 'Good Guy' and a 'Bad Guy' you know, cosmic Balance and all that. Yes, sometimes a girl but there is always the option to BE a guy as well, and generally its written for a guy anyway with a female in their shoes. Male/Female Diversity will be discussed at another point. It SHOULD be noted however that the Mass Effect Series is a reverse of this, and that the female charterer choice feels more natural, whereupon every other game the female choice feels forced.

Female Shepard still has a shlong the size of a wookie's however.

Back onto the topic at hand however. Modern morality in games generally is based on Tabletop Role Playing games (Ahh where one's moral fibers are truly tested in the name of an enchanted item -Ed). Your character's actions effect what sort of stance he takes morally, generally between two extremes of good and evil, or law and chaos, or perhaps a little of both options. Take an action and your little moral slider will go up or down depending on what sort of alignment choice you used. It should be noted that in Tabletop Games however, your alignment is something you chose during charterer creation and binds you into a certain alignment mindset which can change based on major decisions you take in the world.

Its a relativity nifty system of character advancement. Gaining items unique to your alignment adds replay, as well as the odd item or power that you cant use unless you've unlocked X amount of asshat points. It invests the player in the story, makes them feel like they are having a real meaningful impact on the game's story. That its their narrative, and that everything that happens will be effected by their actions. Naturally, this isn't generally the case, as most decisions are thinly veiled Yay or Nay options that only re-skin a weapon or give you some alignment experience. When the day ends your still be fighting the same boss, going through the same levels, and fighting similarly modeled enemies. Only difference is if your get the bad or good ending based on your decisions.

Simpler times with simpler endings with a distinct lack of morality. Now there is a distinct lack of Burgers in games. A connection?

Its a GOOD gameplay mechanic, and a great hook for getting one involved in the story. Yet, I feel as though were treating gamers as if this is their first choose your own adventure page and the player has countless fingers to flip back to. And every single ending except for two have been cut out.

A game based heavily on its narrative SHOULD have multiple endings strewn across its length. Planescape Torment for instance has multiple endings BEFORE the big ending at the end which rates your morality and your decisions. Not only that, some of these endings have a real and meaningful weight to them leaving you satisfied. The game realizes that this is a story that the player is guiding, and therefore like all user driven narratives has endings at multiple points. Understand that endings are always predestined, but how one stumbles across them and if they accept them differs from person to person. And no, the game over screen is not an ending, unless your a tool.

Or the game is terrabad.

You know which one is horrible and a complete precognitive rip off of the other...right Zach? (Hint, its Alan wake -Ed)

I also want to note that any sort of alignment scale is fine, awesome even. Avatar modification based on this is an even further plus, and something we all love. And yes, some characters should respond to you based on your alignment, that is of course if their able to tell what your alignment happens to be. Note, if you murder anyone who sees you do evil no one should really KNOW your evil because dead men tell no tales. Unless they can see the force or have some plot device to tell you. However if your Infamous or Famous and decide to let that one child from the orphanage live ForTheEvulz (WARNING THE PROCEEDING LINK WILL DESTROY YOUR FREE TIME-Ed) , well expect it to bite you in the ass. The point, however; is that your evil or good score shouldn't WORK on everyone. Some people wont give a rats ass about how big your horns are or how shiny your halo is. To make matters worse tying in the dialog system directly into your moral's system forces one to pick an extreme and stick with it. It becomes a game mechanic that separates itself from the narrative. Yes, your invested into the game but will it come down to 'I need to help those people because no one else will' or will it be 'Oh, looks like I can get a special option because I'm a big enough good guy to circumvent this problem then gain more good guy points. Awesome.' Or someone simply picking an option to further an alignment score. Your scores in a game (that is, if the game has one) Should only be mildly boosted by dialog. Action should be whats important.

Of course, that's a mechanic within the game, and not on the morality of games itself. The fact is that the way its in games treats the subject through the glassy eyed stare of a grade school tyke. Like I said before morality is about LIVING with yourself, not the people you effected. Sure, that plays a big part in matters but at the end of the day these decisions should be so massive, so heavy that you worry about the little digital lives you effected. Yes it requires you to be heavily invested in the game's world, but we ARE at a point where its possible. Its been done. I mean, if enough of you can cry over some stupid broad dying in a PS1 launch title and still piss and moan over CGI from three generations ago then its time to really pull out some tearjerkers.

Yes I went there. She dies. Also, oh shit spoilers. Get over it.

Am I saying every decision should be some massive debacle with the cognitive impact of the African Political environment? No. Only a few should have that a key few while the rest can be the fluff to keep the player invested. But we still need a few, a few adult situations with real weight and emotion. We also need moral decisions where the selfish option is monstrous, and the selfless one an act of martyrdom, and not just at the ending. For instance, lets say you start some new game in a space station and the first hour is you getting to know the people. Especially your bunk mate Jim. An hour later all hell has broken loose and your faced with a decision. Jim or you. There is one escape pod left and this guy, all he has given you is moral support. Unlike you however he doesn't know how to fight, but then again...hes not you. What should you do? Save this man whom you've bounded with or save yourself from his fate?

Hes either going to die in one moment of pure horror screaming your name before his lips mimic a why as his last breath leaves his lips, or you help him on the pod as he screams for you to stop, to not do this, to not sacrifice yourself for him.

And then the tutorial ENDS.

Quick! Guess which one is the Playable charector, a lead NPC and...Jim.

On that note lets look at Mass Effect 2's famous suicide mission. I wont go into details but to actually have Shepard die, and for that matter to have anyone die is extremely difficult to do. Unless you rush through the game and I mean really rush, then everyone is going to be dandy. It reminds me of the Wrex Paradox. If you don't care he will die and thats that. Yet if you do, if you care enough to jump through HIS hoops (or in the sequel's game your cremates hoops) they will live. And as wonderful as that is its unfair emotionally. Your robbed of a payoff, of someone you care about and have spent hours playing with dying and not a damn thing you can do will bring them back, unless you reload a save. What we need, if were talking morality is for people you care about to get cut down even if you do all you can to make sure you live. You wanna know why you cried for Aries? Because nothing in the world could have saved her.

I want to cite that Dragon age, a game that I did not enjoy very much at all had perhaps one of the best companion system I have ever experienced. Depending on your moral decisions, and even decisions not based on morals, your party members may leave, die, or even ATTACK you because they disagree. Just like people would in real life if you decided to...oh...I don't know...defile their religious relics or kill their whole people. Yes men are bad men to have as companions. They are not extensions of the player, rather extensions of the narrative. Just like the world, they need to react to the player's choices.

Sex is often has a destabilizing effect on morality. Morrigan is just a destabilizing element.

Deus Ex also deserves mention, simply because the game (even if its older then ten years-Ed) because the damn game still highlights how morality and consequences should be presented in a mature fashion, even if the main charterer is perhaps the biggest douche bag in the gaming world. JC Denton is NOT a nice man. Here are a few decisions in no particular order. Also, Spoilers.

Killing an unarmed civilian on orders, leaving so your partner can do it, or killing your partner so he may live.

Letting your brother cover your escape as he gets gunned down, or assisting him against impossible odds.

Beating a starving child for the candybar you just provided for security information.

And much much more!

What a shame... (Should be noted there are multiple outcomes for this event that we should be talking about. -Ed)

End spoilers. And okay, the last one was just there for those who like to be an ass.

And there is no persuasion system or alignment system. Its all based on dialog choices, and trust me there are quite a few more within the game without even touching its ending. Its just another way to do those choices.

I also need to highlight how stupid it is to make a morality a gameplay mechanic. Did anyone really care about the little sisters well...being little and of the sisterly gender in Bioshock? It just came down to the numbers in the end, and sadly allot of games DO this, just throw in some stupid moral gimmick in hopes of it being a good hook. Often it is not. Whats worse, are the games that only throw in one or two choices that only effect the ending itself, especially if the decisions are simplistic on a moral scale. Its a cop out, trying to force players to spend more time with the game when youtube is just a URL away. If your going to have me act within the bounds of my morality in game, then please provide challenges that test my code and may even change it. And let it change the game world, let it open up and close levels; change how people react to you turning friends to foes and vice versa. Games are interactive, and the more we interact with the world and the less it changes the less magical the game world becomes. However if every single action we take causes a reaction...

Well, then we would have something special wouldn't we?

Note- Team fortress 2 picture located Here -Ed   read

1:32 PM on 08.13.2010

A Quickie From Work: Video Games V. Toys V. Interactive Media

During my mind numbingly boreing job at work my mind wandered into a train speeding around within the dark recessess of my subconcess. You see it goes like this: Games can Be Toys, but Toys can not be games and people know fuck all with what to do with interactive media. Yeah, even those folks behind heavy rain.

But what does this mean exactly? A game has a clear goal inmind for you, the player. Perhaps its to save the world from some big bad, or collect thirteen items of randomness to open pandora's gate and let the spawn of satan through.

A toy however has no real clear goal inmind for the user. Its just you interacting with a bunch of random objects and data. You play with them, like pokeing an anthill with a stick. There is no goal whatsoever within this environment, other then to amuse the player.

A toy can NEVER have an overeaching goal other then amusement.

Yet, a game can. For instance Just Cause has an actual story one can persue, yet it also provides the player with endless amounts of copious 'fucking around'. The narriatve and overreaching goal of breaking the chains of opression within the small island community is the 'game' part of the game. While the dicking around is a toyish aspect, with no real purpose other then to amuse ones self.

And interactive media? Why, thats a vidolized choose your own adventure novel. Heavy Rain, Mass Effect, you get the idea. They are games, not toys becase there is an over reaching goal within the narriative. However your actions often have little impact on the final outcome of the game. The killer will always be the same and the same people will die in heavy rain, while Shepard will save the universe in Mass effect. Oh shit spoilers. (get over it.) The point being, interactive media needs to be maluable during the gameplay experince with differnt outcomes for it to evolve onto another point.

And thats it, will be edited later at home. Breaks over, back to the machine shop.   read

2:36 PM on 04.15.2010

In A Flash: Infectonator World Dominator

This first edition is dedicated to Infectonator World Dominator, a game that features Santa, mad scientists, Michel Jackson, and of course seal clubbers. And in case you didn't realize my friend every Thursday will birth another edition of In A Flash, where I review a flash game randomly harvested from the internet. So, why did I decide to pick this game for my first review anyway? Is it good? Bad? Holds some special place in my heart? The honest answer to this question is that you will find out after the non existent jump!

(Ahh this will be a running gag I predict.)

Oh, there was an important piece of information that I forgot to mention loyal reader, and that this game also features everyone's favorite meme, the undead. The basic premise of the game is that you are a mad scientist dedicated to furthering your thesis statement for more grant money to glean from some prestigious collage's coffers. I assumed almost all of that statement simply because I crave back story and the thought of some down on his luck scientist doing this for good intentions tickles me. With that grant money he will have enough to fund research for a cure for cancer. You know what they say, gotta break about six billion eggs to make an omelet. In reality your simply a mad scientist who has developed a compound that turns people into raving flash craving zombies. Your only real control during actual gameplay; at least initially, is to drop one bomb in a group of civilians that instantly turns them into zombies. Then, those zombies go forth and do one of two things: 1) Kill every living thing within the environment or 2)Die a horrible second death before the survivors rebuild for you to try again next week. The goal in each level is to kill a certain amount of the living, the mutual destruction of civilization however is not needed to advance onto another stage. Yet if you manage to kill everyone within the environment the level itself is cleared and you gain a substantial cash bonus and the level itself is no longer assessable. You know, abandoned on the count of everyone being mauled by a rabid zombie and now nothing more then a ghost town.

Bonus points if you know where this is.

The ultimate goal of course is to turn the whole world into a massive graveyard filled with nothing but your undead thralls. Like I said before you are awarded a large cash bonus for clearing a level in itself, of course within every level there are other ways to earn your shineys. Civilians that are felled randomly drop large gold coins, and causing collateral damage such as destroying automobiles drop the goods as well. Yet the best way to earn money other then clearing a level is for your undead children to devour an armed solider or even a heroic unit (more on them in abit). Armed solders range from the typical military personal as well as civil service members. The units themselves include your typical armed police man, local militia, UN Peacekeeping, secret agents, and even the top secrete elite zombie hit squad members. Then there are the more exotic units the AI will throw out at your minions, from the Arctic sealclubbers, the shaolin monks, and even the foxy kungfu fem fatals among a plethora of others. There are also six heroic units ranging from a heroic commando, Santa, and even Michel Jackson himself. Each one has their own unique attacks and count as a boss themselves, taking countless blows from your zombies before they too succumb. Each one of these units from the simple solider all the way up to spider man attack the rightful owners of earth like a hot knife through butter. Its up to you to spend your cash wisely so that your children can survive their onslaughts and get to their assailant's juicy brains.

Once there dead there all hookers! -Archer

You see that money you earn throughout your world hopping exploits its funneled back into your unholy creations. You can upgrade the virus itself, making it more virulent to boost its infection rate. Or perhaps you would like it to make your victims stronger once they become zombies so they can tear into flesh all the better. Or do they go down from a simple tap on the back of the head? Then you should upgrade their endurance so they can take a predictor missile. Theres a bevy of upgrades ranging from increasing the initial infection's usefulness (The bomb you drop at the beginning of the level to start a core zombie group) to weapons to outright kill any idiots thats hurting too many of your horde, to upgrading the chemical cocktail itself to make your zombies more efficient.

The upgrade screen I keep babbeling on about.

The levels themselves are a double edged puzzle in themselves. Your zombies must survive the onslaught of the various units as well as navigate through the terrain obstacles so they can quench their undead hunger on ever living thing. Did I mention that after a certain time your zombies die because the virus causes them to burn out? Don't worry you can upgrade that as well so they can keep going and going...until they suffer a fatal gunshot wound to the cranium. Of course if a level is too hard for your current horde you can always select any other stage thats been unlocked from a massive world map covering every corner of the world. There is a bevery of stages, each one focusing on a cerebral mix of puzzles and combat. It can get hard, of course you have one additional bonus besides your standard zombies. Once you fell a hero you unlock a special infected in accordance to each of the respective heroes, and each of your special zombies has various upgrades as well to make them more efferent. Theres the tank, Santa becomes a boomer, and Spiderman becomes the deadly venom. There are layers upon layers of strategy to the game depending on where and how you want to spend your money and how you choose to tackle the levels themselves. My personal favorite though is Michal Jackson, complete with a marvelous rendition of his song rendered in a retro glory. This adds a layer on top of the raging horde allowing you to drop these special zombies to tun the tide of battle, but only if you do it at the right time in strategic locations.

I preferred the werewolf Jackson myself, but thats just me.

Yet there are still problems with this game that I feel I must address. First there is a massive difficulty curve that you hit at certain times forcing repetitive grinding in the lower level towns until you manage to clear them. I remember spending twenty minuets throwing zombies at towns I knew I could never beat simply to gain as many coins as possible so I could upgrade them to a point that I was able to advance. And the way you collect coins in game require you to move your mouse over them where they magnetize towards it and are collected. Personally, I don't care for this system because often the game became a series of collecting the coins before the level ended, usually leaving quite a few on the field. Also it took away from the action itself, Id rather have watched Michel Jackson dance his way over to a squad of delicious soldiers then collecting the coins. The game in itself is a spectacle yet I don't think the creator realized just how much fun it is to simply watch. This is coupled with another problem, which spouts up quite often which is the games biggest folly. Your victims spawn on all four sides of the map which in theory shouldn't be an issue, yet what eventually happens is all four sides become a massive feeding frenzy. This takes any sort of thought or chance out of the game and ceases to be an intelligent event. It becomes something of pure numbers and the spectacle just is too fast and garbalated to watch. Meanwhile you throw your cruiser around the sides of the map to collect as many coins as possible. In fact its quite easy to funnel every living thing to the sides then simply beat the game in that cheap manner.This in itself is not fun, whats fun is watching one lone man run from a horde of zombies as the hunter's unlives tick away. Will the last man on the field survive? Or is he dinner? There are massive battles at times, with thirty or more zombies going against eighty humans as pandemonium breaks out in the larger levels. Its a show, and could have been reminded by having the living spawn within parts of the level, perhaps from a subway entrance or buildings or via helicopter drops. But its there, a glowing glaring flaw that ruins the game at some points and takes any semblance of strategy away from it.

For the record Shaun was a thousand times better then Zombieland.

I could also say the game is repetitive yet...its not. Its charm somehow detracts from that and your always wondering what the next level will look like. Before an attack you get to see everyone enjoying their lives, living a simple life with a peaceful soundtrack playing in the background. Then, when all hell breaks loose the music changes and the people stop talking about what a nice day it is and start screaming about Jesus, how they want to live, and a bevy of other lines that wont stop them from getting killed. Its marvelous and adds so much soul to the game itself and to its strange deadpan offbeat dark humor. And the music is utterly wonderful, a catchy punchy eight bit rendition with over twenty tunes including like I mentioned the best version of thriller my ears have ever been blessed with. The game too looks wonderful, sometimes with over one hundred sprites on screen at once, each one with an adorable amount of detail. The colors pop, the models are crisp, and the animations work in their own simple ways. Aesthetically its amazing and that in itself is what kept me playing this title as well as the amount of fun I was having taking over the world.

Adorable! In a...terrifying and gory way...

Honestly, if you have five minuets or five hours to kill you could spend it in many worse ways then trying out Infectonator World Dominator. If you forced me to score it Id place it at a nice 86% out of one hundred, which would be a solid B.



PC Gamer wrote a story about a game I reviewed months ago. Thought it was worth posting a link Here   read

11:01 PM on 04.13.2010

E For Effort (Or Why There is Crying In Baseball)

When I was seven I played on a little school league known locally as the Peppercorns in my small hometown. I was a bright eyed lad with a healthy outlook on life full of hope and maybe even something to prove to myself. Or maybe it seemed like a good idea to my mother whom wanted an adorable baseball card of myself to show to all of the other hussy's around the water cooler. Oh no, not like my mother was a hussy but I assume the others were to some degree. The point is that our uniforms were maroon and white. We only won four games, and well I never made it the whole way around the bases. I can tell you from experience that a cup does not protect anything entirely no matter how much your parents lie to you. I also spent allot of time out in left field. Far back. Farther then any grade schooler could ever hit, at least back in the day before little league steroids. I didn't quite get the entire affair, like I do with most sports of all variety's; from your fantasy leagues to your true blue EA games and even the sort that require you to get good old fashioned sunlight.

Learn more of what would be considered unamerican back when that picture was 'dicey' after the jump.

(Yes, I know I don't have a jump, I just enjoy making a cheap joke)

Currently as I type this I have four SNES cartridges from my childhood sitting on my desk next to me. Each one pertains to one sport in particular, or at least what could be considered a sport today. Each one ate up hours of my time as a child even though I was utter rubbish at every single one. As you look through the rest of my collection, from the N64 games, the various PS 1 and 2 games, the Xbox and 360 games, as well as my PC titles you can see that each collection contains a few as well. Most of those were gifts and didn't consume any time over a few hours before I realized I did not enjoy myself. Yet for some arcane reason which would perhaps be that bright eyed healthy outlook I mentioned earlier; these six games have countless hours on them. I never remember myself enjoying them, merely it was me trying to glean some sort of insight on their mechanics like most children do when handed something new.

The above screenshot is from Super Tennis, my second game on my first game machine (I don't include the DOS computer that required my grandparents to operate before I could play Doom or shoot Hitler. Ahh grandparents, aren't they the best?) My basic understanding of it at the time was that you simply shot the ball back and forth over the net. I never understood the concept of slicing or the art of setting your partner up in doubles. Its funny to think that I spent a year later playing actual tennis which I surprisingly liked allot more. I always lost at the video game however simply because I never understood the basics of its strange world. Hell, I couldn't even manage serving within the game, the other side always rending a point without hitting the ball. Yet, I sunk hours and hours and hours into the damn thing with no progress whatsoever. Every time I managed to serve was a stroke of pure blind luck mixed with an aftertaste of jubilation that always allowed the AI to score a point afterwards. I didn't care, I enjoyed my minute achievement none the less. I never got any good at the game, and whenever a neighbor kid came over to participate in the game with always ended with them cursing at me because I was a terrible partner; or worse them laughing in glee at my horrific defeat. So I practiced in vain from time to time, idly wasting that recourse in itself. But it would always be the same story once I had another human besides me as we stared at the fuzzy little screen in my room. Even my own mother who knew nothing of electronic whimsy managed to beat me constantly. It was upsetting, and through this game as well as other's of the sports variety tears were shed from the chastising of my peers. I was five after all, years before the tears of pain that was associated with taking a ball to the cup in little league.

The next game in my stack was simply called NCAA Basketball. To be honest its rather funny that the most amount of time Ive spent watching basketball would be within the thirty two bit Technicolor cartridge. I remember always picking the Raptors simply because I was a fan of the massive beasts of lore. I didn't understand any sort of stats, nor did I understand what an offside was or what a three pointer happened to be, or any of that gibberish. I do now, after quite a few pick up games and through my various gym classes throughout my pursuit of lower education. Yet one thing remains similar in both real life and in video games, my own talent of dribbling. Thats it. My passes are intercepted, my shots would not even sail near the backboard, and any sort of defense ending with me on the cold hard wooden ground. I remember spending hours dribbling the ball around the court, not passing or shooting or anything within that damn game... And to answer your question I cant pull off a free throw in either.

At the time I didn't even know who this Madden fellow was. I assumed it was more of a type of football, and the man on the box was just some crazy whacko who really enjoyed the particular strain of the sport. Unlike the other games I never spent that much time with this particular title at all. It was just simply too confusing, to much of a start stop affiar, and every single time I would loose. There were strange screens to pick from with lots of X's and Circles with arrows and lines to pick before each round. Each of these plays as I later learned they were called were picked at random on my own behalf. There was no rhyme, no reason, no...anything to it. doing random acts to understand how the game worked. In real life, I rarely call any plays when we do throw the pigskin around. I play D, as well as the go to guy for short passes and at times I'm the odd one out in a last ditch effort for a long throw when were down. And strangely, I always get lucky in real life when we play. And later in life I would learn that luck applied to video games as well as the rage opponents would feel when I managed to pull a miracle out of my ass. Yet when we go back to the subject of the game itself; I only knew that every so often I would see the strange man on the box or a pixelated cheerleader. Sadly I wasn't old enough to enjoy the latter. (What was even sadder is I was too young to get the lovely ladies in Areosmith's fine game as well. Yes, I own it.) I just... didn't get football at that age. Hell I never really got it at any age.

You know, I never had Mario Cart as a child. Oh no, Instead I had Top Gear a more MANLY vision of the SNES two dimensional racing scene that would have made Mario weep with joy. Complete with manly things such as a one piece jumpsuits! And real cars! And champaign in a single still shot if you won. Yes it was glorious my friends. Anyway, you know how I played that game when I was a child? Ill walk you through it. Play Manuel, then put the car all the way into the last gear, and from that point let it build up speed completely until I was maxed out at one-twenty-something-or-other. This was back before you had any sort of damage model as well on the cars, so...I never beaked at all and simply let the game turn for me. And by that statement I meant I would hit the guardrail which would bring my car around into the proper direction. That, and I never went around a single car. Instead, I bumped into them until they just slid out of my way and I moved in front of them. I never made it past the second circuit. Isn't racing a grand sport? Don't worry, now I'm a decent racer when I choose to be though when given the option I ALWAYS use underhanded tactics so I don't actually have to race (see grand theft auto). Or, if I'm loosing terribly Ill turn around and hammer down the gas, trying my best to hit someone as hard as I can as we pass going different directions. Its fun for me, even if I'm not playing the game 'correctly'.

Yet as I grew older I learned...that I had a few talents when concenring the sports game itself. Maybe I could never win, oh no. Wining in electronic sports was never something I could achinve. But instead I resigned myself to...moments of fleeting glory.

The man above is a disruption to true fans of the sport. Perhaps he never made the team because he refused to shave that glorious mane of hair of his. Or perhaps he was a political activist streaking on behalf of a free Canada; a real hot issue for the day. Regardless though is that this man cares about the sport he is desecrating. If he didn't he could have done it down Broadway, or perhaps during the Kentucky Derby. Chances are though he was dragged kicking and screaming to the game and decided to spice things up. Thats what I do. I'm at a point in my life where any sort of sports game I'm forced to participate in is...well like I said I am forced. I don't mind watching and doing my own mock commentary to add to the fun filled flavor of the games. Its just, there not my thing no matter how hard I try. So when I do try I play things my way. The fun way. The way that will make my defeat at a much more skilled opponent's hands a chore for them. And a wicked game full of glee for myself that will have me snickering and talking smack. Its for all the tears my neighbor kids forced me to suffer for once they left after they kicked my ass at my cherished time sinks I barely understood.

Butch had a point as he left his apartment for the last time in Quintin's second masterpiece. It was a simple statement, one that suggested the only way to beat someone is to use any advantage that you can. If that happened to include shooting a man with his own gun who just finished using the bathroom and didn't have the foresight to take the weapon in with be it. Unlike him however I know in the end I will loose. I don't have a place in mexico to go after I collect my money for NOT throwing a fight. I have to make the next four periods work for me in such a way that I will earn some enjoyment from the game I have no interest in playing. So I resort to cheap tricks. I will throw every ball in basketball at the net in hopes of getting a three pointer from the other side, much to the dismay of my opponent. I will catch a ball just so and then throw it to a baseman with just enough time for my adversary to turn his man around and run to the other. And right before he reaches it? I throw the ball to that baseman. And then that man will turn around and run to the one he was originally going before. That game can go on for hours. And boy, is it a fun game.

You see I don't have anything against these sports games, quite the contrary. I understand the thrill of wrapping your skill around another's supple body and squeezing him into a broken submission over a game of football. I know how much fun it can be to mindlessly loose hours in the squeaky floor of a basketball court. I'm familiar with the thrill of winning a race by a few inches after a series of costly mistakes. Its just...not my bag man. It never was my scene. And may heaven help you if you force me to sit down besides you and play split screen.

Because I will have fun, you however may not.

And you will learn there is crying in baseball. Even if its just tears of rage and furstration.

[embed]170956:29065[/embed]   read

2:30 PM on 04.12.2010


Its a funny thing to think that I'm starting my first real post in this massive cesspit of ideals and opinions about this subject. But I think its needed simply because as nerd culture goes continuity is one of the most important things to us. We like to know that character's experience real growth over the course of a few episodes or even games; instead of a 'See you next week kids!' sitcom esq relationship whereupon once the show/game ends its current iteration everything is reset.

But, video games mostly are contained in a sense of Continuity, are they not? All the Ninja Gaiden games have a clear line as well as the Metroid. The Master Chief's exploits are recorded in three game trillogy that is a continuous story. Its a good thing, to see our charectors as well as worlds they inhabit grow and evolve over time.

You see, thats whats wrong with us as a people of gamers, nerds, dorks, geeks, and every other word we SHOULD wear with pride. Because Continuity is one of the most idiotic things that most of our games suffer from. Learn why after the jump. (Does this even HAVE a jump?)

(Most likely not.)

So why is it a bad thing to have these series of games where we follow our heroes journeys as they complete their various goals and collect every single shiny trinket under the sun? Because it stagnates a story. Stories, at least they should; have a concrete ending not a bevy of goddamn cliffhangers that make me want to attack the writer in a feeble attempt of rage. Yes, I get that the second act in a trilogy much like a story should end in a cliffhanger, thats fine. But don't try and tell me that the story of call of duty two was that much better by being directly tied to the first game. It wasn't, and it was a lazy attempt to pin a story as well to a series of interesting glob-hopping shootouts. And as much as Id like to see episode three, I don't want a Half Life three. You heard me. Gordon freeman's saga needs to end once he has seen the Borealis. Same with Chell's, and as much as it tickles me to learn that were getting a sequel to one of the most positive things to happen to geek culture in years( Note, the more we convert with still alive thats less of the populace that will shove us into lockers) it should have ended.

You see, Continuity in games forces us to experience similar scenarios and characters focused around the character we've grown to know and love. We grow complacent and the story element tends to stagnate from this. We have had TEN games focusing on a certain Lombax and his mechanical friend. Are they still fun? Yes. Interesting? Indeed. Colorful and unique in a world of grey and bland angry faced shooters? You betcha. But the issue is Ratchet has gone through four girlfriends last time I counted. Hes the James Bond of the video game world with a hand tool and a tail. And the issue is, unlike James Bond of old is that we have to take it seriously, at least as seriously as Insomniac wants us to take it.

Lets take a television example for a moment to show why everything needs to end three seasons (or games) ago. You all remember the new Battlestar Galactica right? If you don't you should remedy that right freaking now. This can wait, you need to understand the glory of eye patches. And watchtower remakes.

Now, personally I believe the whole show should have ended when it did, in the depressing downer of an ending. Hell, it should have ended a few seasons before that so long as a certain trail as well as the events leading up to that trail happened. (The whole Cylon's using humans as surrogate mothers as well as the football team events with Starbuck was pointless. Hell, most of the show was fluff with some great moments packed in.) The point I'm trying to make is that as the show dragged on it became mired in its own story. Drowning in a series of plot twists and mythology both of the show and within it. Lost has the same goddamn problem. Heros to is starting to show. Hell, Hero's should have been ONE season when they learned to stop the exploding man. Maybe a miniseries...What ever happened to miniseries by the way? Remember Taken? I do, imagine if that crap was stretched too thin over three seasons. Terrible, right?

And as if the science fiction references weren't already too thick lets look at one of the most beloved nerdy shoes of the past decade. Firefly. You wanna know why we all loved this show so much? Why it persists in our memories and why we all demand more? Because the show had one season that was tightly packed in and of its self without a single thing buried in its own self created lexicon. It ended kicking and screaming against its own will, yes Ill grant that. Yet it gracefully never overstayed its welcome and became some sort of startreck wannabe. Its self contained and short with the movie being a bold exclamation point to it all. There wont be a sequel, at least not with the same cast. What we may get is a continuation within the universe with new faces, something I'm for completely. But firefly was never bloated with its own legacy like so many other shows out there.

Now, back to games. What happens when we hit half life five? Is Barny still going to be around? Will Gordon be on his third girlfriend? Why do we have to suffer through this rich universe with the world's most homicidal mute and his friends. Yes I LOVE the series and think its one of the best examples of interactive storytelling. Yet people, think of how vast the half life universe is. You have countless top secret labs all over the world breaking the rules of the universe and playing god. You have a war where all of humanity is defeated in the course of seven hours by a powerful army of bio mechanical dimension travelers. You have YEARS of time where unimaginable monsters are breaking out all over the world in random locations to cause chaos amongst the populace. You have at least sixteen other cities and I'm sure theres more then one being like gman out there. (In fact, I think they all look and talk the same way.Though I believe theres a slight difference in suitcases.You know, your chrome to my gunmetal grey.) The point is that its a rich universe and w'eve only seen it truly through a few sets of eyes and one type of game play. Cant I ask for more? Shouldn't we demand more?

Why cant we take these rich universes we create and unleash new stories within them. The Final Fantisy series does this almost every time, creating a new story in this universe with similar rules and crossovers. AKA, Chocobos, crystals(mostly), summons, Cid, Airships, and moogles(mostly again). The Grand Theft Auto series does the same thing, each game happening within the same connected world but with a new main character with their own story. Why cant we have a similar thing in the Metroid universe? Cant I learn about some hardboiled space detective going after a rouge outfit of space pirates? Why does the next dead space have to be about Issac? Cant we follow a rag tag group of survivors learning to fight these things before they kill them combining elements of Aliens, Dawn of the Dead and Lovecraftian horror?(Note, Dead space was the best game to do this somehow. Its sad really.) I WANT sequels, but goddamn if I have to follow Marcus Fenix through another grunt-fest instead of some old woman fighting to save her homestead with a makeshift chainsaw from grubs out in some wasteland before she departs for a quest of vengeance I will be pissed.   read

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