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11:46 PM on 09.27.2008


This article was originally published in the Wednesday September 17th edition of the York Excalibur and posted online on September 23th on the Excalibur website.

In case anyone has been living under a rock for three years, or still hasn’t discovered the Internet, let me tell you about Spore, a videogame brought to you by Will Wright, the genius behind SimCity and The Sims. In fact, you might want to think of this game as “SimEverything” – it takes you from microbiology to interstellar space exploration. You create and control a creature through five evolutionary stages: cellular, creature (wild animal), tribal, civilization and space. But how accurate are these stages when compared to evolutionary theory? Anyone with a little bit of education on the subject might argue that there are fundamental elements of evolution that are absent from Spore, such as gradualism and random mutation.
Ironically, the player assumes the role of an intelligent designer in Spore – you choose how your creature will evolve every step of the way. It’s very tempting to say that Darwinism is
entirely absent from Spore. However, the game does serve as an evolutioneducation tool: it’s just not perfect. Is it even possible to simulate evolution perfectly with Spore? The very
nature of videogames goes against traditional evolutionary theory since gamers tend to have more fun when they’re able to control the game and interact with it.

Would Spore be as fun to play if we had no access to the creature creator? What would happen if gradualism and random mutation were included into the game? Random mutation would suck all the fun out of Spore. Imagine if we didn’t get to choose whether our creatures were vegetarian or carnivorous or whether they had an acid-spitting appendage or a giant spike. I mean, this wouldn’t totally ruin things for the player, but the overall experience would deteriorate. Half the fun of Spore is creating a creature that appeals to you. The look
of your creature is just as important as its play style. Random mutation would be much closer to how evolution really works, but it would take away the feeling of control over the
creature. Instead of boasting, “This is what I created,” you would end up reluctantly saying, “The game stuck me with this one.” Evolution is a long and slow process, a fact not reflected in the game. In Spore, for example, a creature with a pincer mouth is able to give birth to a snout-nosed offspring. In the real world, it would take millions of years and numerous generations for the species to change in such a radical way.

The fossil records (if we’re lucky enough for the creatures to have been fossilized at all) might show the kinds of radical jumps that the Spore creature creator allows, but in reality
there would be hundreds or thousands of transitional species that link those two fossils. Spore’s saving grace is that there is some form of natural selection, although it’s not entirely genuine. The player is ultimately the one who is doing the selecting. In the first two stages – where you’re given the ability to add parts to or remove parts from your creature – the player only has to react to the environment. In the cell stage, there are a couple different arms races you may choose to participate in. You may decide to focus on swimming speed
so you can escape from enemies or chase down prey. On the other hand, you may sacrifice mobility for armaments: there are always bigger fish in the ocean.

Unfortunately, the environmental pressures become less and less apparent at each stage. When the player reaches the tribal stage of the game, they’re no longer able to make
physical changes to their creature – physical evolution stops and social evolution becomes the focus. Despite growing an enlarged brain and becoming a more civilized creature, the process is far from Darwinian. In Spore’s defence, Wright makes it clear that his creation is not meant to be a tool for evolution education. It’s only meant to spark curiosity. It’s hard to criticize Spore for that, especially since you’re lucky if you learned anything about evolution in high school. It’s also about a lot more than just evolution and the origin of life. When players reach the space stage of the game, they’ll think about the future of life as well. Perhaps the game’s intelligenceguided evolution is an easy way to avoid controversy. Evolution has not been fully accepted by some people and other theories have emerged to explain a theological presence. Some see Spore’s players fulfilling God’s role in the game’s simulated
history. Spore still makes the assertion that, given time, a simple species can evolve gradually into a very complex species. Maybe the only reason Spore isn’t a perfect “EvolutionSim”
is because the game requires interaction and control. Spore better reflects the concept of intelligent design instead of evolution – but then again, it’s only a videogame.   read

12:47 AM on 09.27.2008

Norse Mythology on Ice

This article was originally published in the Wednesday September 10th edition of the York Excalibur and posted online on September 15th on the Excalibur website.

Have you ever been dragged to the Ice Capades? To me, plays performed on ice are boring and I regrettably, had to endure one many years ago. I was young and thought the idea of watching some people put on a show on ice seemed like an idiotic idea. And it was boring – at first. But when The Simpsons came onto the ice, it caught my attention. Silicon Knights’ Too Human, an action/RPG (think Mass Effect with medieval weapons), recently released for the Xbox 360, reminds me of the Ice Capades. Whenever the main character switches from one target to the next, he glides across the room as if on ice. More importantly, the game, like the Ice Capades, seems boring and dumb at first glance. Too Human is far from perfect, and if you’re not a fan of action games or RPGs, then this game isn’t going to change your mind. However, just like a night at the Ice Capades, it’s possible to have a lot of fun with it.

My first impression may sound harsh, but it’s true. The story relies heavily on Norse mythology in a high-tech future. If you want a synopsis, then all you need to know is that Loki (who else?) is making trouble again, and it’s up to Baldur to stop him. You’ll also learn about Baldur’s mysterious past, but that’s only if you don’t skip past the talking heads in the cut scenes.
Another troublesome aspect of the game is the combat controls; although they may grow on you, they’re never perfect. Unlike most action games where you press a button to attack, all you need to do in Too Human is point the right control stick towards your enemy, and Baldur will automatically attack.

Too Human’s main problem is that the good stuff is buried beneath all the crap.

There are some techniques involved, but the idea was to simplify the combat. It takes some getting used to, and if it worked properly 100 percent of the time it would be a lot of fun. As it is, I was often left swinging at air when I intended to figure skate over to the next target. Unfortunately, combat scenarios rely on adding more and more robots to amp up the difficulty rather than creating any sense of strategy. For the most part, your strategy is going to be the same for every single enemy you encounter. The game allows you to choose whether you would like to stay pure human or accept cybernetic implants, which I found was another unnecessary element. The game makes a big deal about this choice: however, you gain very little from this character shift except new loot drops. What is the significance of keeping your humanity intact? Too Human’s main problem is that the good stuff is buried beneath all the crap. The game is a mere 10-ish hours long, but multiple play-throughs with different classes and epic difficulty changes give it a little more life.

Once you get the ball rolling and start getting cool loot, the game feels a bit like World of Warcraft – you are constantly experimenting with the look of your hero. The game also boasts a two-person co-op feature, and when you play like this, classes take a definite role. You’ll die constantly as a lone berserker, but play co-op with a bioengineer (healing class) and you’ll be laughing all the way to the end boss. Too Human is far from perfect and is probably not worth buying without trying. However, Too Human is definitely worth trying. You never know: you might, like me, find out there might be more to the Ice Capades than you thought.   read

6:13 PM on 08.10.2008

I'm talking about women. You're talking about boobs.

I’ve been listening to a couple podcasts that talk about Soulcalibur IV, most notably the 1up Yours and Giant Bombcast. I’ve been participating in a couple forum threads about the game. Hell, even my friends can’t stop talking about Ivy’s breasts. It’s their chief complaint and the only thing they can focus on. Let’s take a collective minute together; just stare at her massive mams. Maybe Taki is more to your taste? There’s a long list to choose from.

Okay, now that it’s behind us, let’s just stop talking about the breast size as if it’s the final nail in Soulcalibur’s coffin. Over-sized breasts are easy targets; we can all just agree that they’re gratuitous and the conversation degrades from there. Some people say it objectifies women, and that is probably true… but it’s true about a lot of female characters in video games, and Soulcalibur is far from the extreme.

Take Grand Theft Auto IV, where women are actually nothing but an opportunity to have sex with them. Kate stands apart from that crowd, but that’s only one out of several. On the other hand, Ivy has a clear purpose in the game, and despite her outfits has very little sexuality. Ivy is more of a person than most of the girlfriends in GTA, so I don’t really understand why we should be so hung up on the size of their breasts. Maybe their not the shining icon of feminism in gaming, but they’re a step up from most games.   read

8:46 AM on 07.12.2008

A Drunken Discovery: The Good Kind!

In case the title isn't enough to convince you that this isn't a story about hookers, she-males or she-male hookers who I have no relationship with. There is a sultry mistress involved with this story, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The bar that my friends and I go to most regularly has been hurting for a while now. About a year ago they took out Big Buck Hunter, leaving only the golf game and the pinball machine. Pinball is nothing to scoff at, but without Buck Hunter I soon stopped bringing change to the bar at all.

Things had been getting a little better recently, because they got one of those vending machines where you put in a dollar and try to grab a stuffed animal. Which is usually a wasted toonie, but this one is rigged so that you keep trying until you pull something out. The catch is that the big prizes are on the right, and the smaller stuff is on the left. After your first try, you are restricted to the left side. I never keep these stuffed animals, I just pass them off to any lady I'm drinking with that night.

However, I think after last night's trip to the bar it's safe to say that it has restored its pride. Wedged between the Terminator 2 Pinball Machine and the Golf game was Ms. Pac-Man, an icon of retro gaming. I had to play. I've barely played Pac-Man in my twenty four years of life, but I did buy the Championship Edition on XBLA. I actually did very well, and it was when I really started getting the feel of the game that I realized that what I was doing was essentially the same as running away from the cops in GTA IV.

I had tricked the ghosts, and at one point they were all bunched at the bottom of the screen while I was bouncing to the top. They had no chance of catching up to me, and I realized in my drunkenness that if this were GTA IV then I would be escaping their red circle momentarily. It's a similarity that never occurred to me before; the original GTA resembles Pac-Man without the imminent threat of the Ghosts. The perspective has changed in the recent games, but I think the similarity remains unchanged. Are the streets of Liberty City any less of a grid then any particular level of Pac-Man?

This begs the question; is Pac-Man an open world game too?

Which makes me wonder, is Pac-Man an open-world game?   read

2:25 PM on 07.08.2008

E3 Anticipation 2008

Maybe I've been absent minded, but I completely forgot about Electronic Entertainment Expo this summer. Now every video game publication on the internet has reminded me, and who am I to stand out from the crowd?

Before I get too deep into this, let me apologize to those who were tricked into reading spoilers in my post yesterday. Telling you that there was no deception in that post, and then immediately saying that there were no spoilers, was a dirty trick that I felt bad about using. I still got a bit of a laugh out of it all, but I'm sorry all the same.

That being said, this coming E3 doesn't seem all that exciting. Although I expect/hope to be surprised next week when E3 starts, right now I feel like I already know what's coming in the coming months. By Christmas I expect to be playing Spore, Fable 2, Gears of War 2, Rock Band 2, and Left 4 Dead just to name a few. I might even be able to replay Bioshock for a 3rd time on PS3.

Even so, I'm exciting about learning about some of those titles in even more detail during E3. Rock Band 2 is of particular interest to me since I've eagerly downloaded most of the DLC. I wasn't really surprised when they said DLC was going to be backwards compatible, and I wasn't disappointing when they said that music creation wasn't going to be a feature. Frankly I think it's a dumb idea in the first place, a cheap substitution for what the music video game genre genuinely needs. I'm hoping that Rock Band 2 will let us upload our own mp3s and turn them into game data, so we could buy a CD, load it up onto our consoles and play it on Rock Band. Then again, that's a tall order and I won't be surprised if it doesn't happen.

On the Playstation 3's front, I'm afraid we'll see lots of JRPG crap which will probably bore me to death. I don't know if there's much new for me to hope for from Sony, so I guess I can only hope to be surprised. I'd like to know that I'll be playing LittleBig Planet before 2009. I'll also keep a cautious eye on God of War 3. I'm disinterested, bordering on having a mild dislike, for the first two, but if the third looks pretty and doesn't look like more of the same I'd gladly grab that. My one far-fetched wish is to hear about an ambitious project from the people who made Shadow of the Collosus. Oh and a software patch for 40gbs to have backwards compatibility would make me feel warm inside.... my pants.

But warming my pants is easy; the real challenge is thawing my frigidly cold heart. The only machination of man that can really do that is the PC, and I don't really know what to expect for PC players during E3. I've got my eye on Left 4 Dead. It looks like a very different game from what I'm used to playing on PC, and I'm a little worried that not enough of my friends will play it with me. Right now I have four or five friends I play Team Fortress 2 with, but not regularly at the same time. I haven't even gotten the "with friends like these" achievement for that game yet... I cry. Regardless, I'll probably buy that game on day one or earlier if there's any incentive. I guess Starcraft 2 is a bit far away to really get excited about, but some new details would be exciting.
As far as surprises go, here's what I'd like to see... Mass Effect 2. I guess that would go with 360 (or would it?), but I consider it PC since that's where I played Mass Effect.

The final company that will have my attention this E3 is, ofcourse, Nintendo. I don't really know what to expect, but I'll tell you what I absolutely don't want: news of a new DS, or anything like that. I think it's a bit early to make a jump like the jump from GB to GBA or GBA to DS. I might be making broad strokes when I brush aside the PSP and iPhone as competition, but I think in terms of sales (vs psp) and audience (vs iphone, which sells to older kids and adults) the DS is really untouchable right now. I'd appreciate a little more time to get some really great DS titles in before developers focus on creating games for next gen handhelds. We haven't even had a Mario Party DS worth playing (aka: online mario party DS).

So that does it I suppose. I'll be wearing adult diapers just in case there are some huge surprises, but honestly I don't think I need them this year. I think I'm ready to be a big boy.   read

3:40 PM on 07.07.2008

Catch Up With What I've Been Playing!!!

Reading about what total strangers think about games is exciting, isn't it? Maybe, but regardless of whether or not this makes Grade A Quality Toilet Material I thought I'd pool together some of my thoughts about what I've been playing recently.

Before I get into that, I just want to openly admit that the rumour posted on this blog was way off, lol. Okay, so I just made it up, most people got that, but it was fun to write. No deception in this post though. That being said, there are absolutely no spoilers ahead.

To start off, I just got a PS3. My dad got one actually because he wanted a blu-ray player, but I'm the one who actually uses it. When he picked it up I didn't buy any games, despite the perfect timing with Metal Gear Solid 4's release. Instead I rented a couple games, MGS4 and Heavenly Sword.

Metal Gear Solid 4 was not the first Metal Gear I ever picked up, but it was the only one that I beat. Hell, it's the only one I was able to play for more than 30 minutes... and I own Metal Gear solid 1 and 2 (gamecube version). Anyway, this one was easy so I finished it in a couple days and I really enjoyed it. The motorbike scene in Europe was probably my favourite part; it was pretty intense, and when you reloaded or weren't fighting the camera angle made it look fantastic. I really liked the game, but I was glad that I didn't buy it.

I might not put Heavenly Sword on the same level as MGS4 but I think I got just as much enjoyment out of it. I'm not really a fan of God of War or Devil May Cry, but knowing that Heavenly Sword was fairly short inspired me to play all the way through. That being said, all the levels that require careful aiming were infuriating. I don't know how many times I cursed into the night as I tried to take down those stupid catapults.

After those two games were done I started to resume my day to day games, GTAIV and Team Fortress 2. I finally finished off GTAIV; I took the revenge path, killed dimitri and lost kate... and since then i've been focusing on achievements. My friend came over and we passed off the controller, and he managed to get both One Man Army (survive a 6 star wanted level for five minutes) and Chain Reaction (blow up 10 cars in 10 seconds). I also got all the police computer stuff, and by the end of tonight hopefully I'll have met all the random characters, and get a little closer to finishing Brucie's Races.

The only bad part about GTAIV on 360 is that (my) multiplayer sucks. I often can't connect to games... this doesn't happen when I play Halo 3, Rock Band, or Dragonball Z: burst limit... just GTAIV. Luckily, I got the special edition for PS3, and that multiplayer works fine, so I've progressed my rank a bit there. If Rockstar patches trophies into the ps3 version I'm in trouble.

As for Team Fortress 2... I play with a couple friends and sometimes it's amazing how well a little intimate team work can do. My buddy went heavy yesterday, I went medic and before the last person alive could lock the door, we were the top 2 (of 3) mvp players for a couple rounds. Eat it.   read

11:03 AM on 06.27.2008

Rumour: Rock Band 2 renamed “Rock Band: Legends of Rock”, slated for Nov. release!

Inside sources in the video game industry revealed today that Rock Band 2, which is rumoured to be production though there is no confirmation from developer Harmonix, would be making a radical evolution with their new title. Instead of offering the “whole band experience” most fans have come to associate with Rock Band, Rock Band 2 will focus specifically on the guitar and leveraging celebrity recognition in order to generate sales.

According to this video game expert, the loss of drums, bass and vocals will seem insignificant when the players see the increased difficulty of the guitar charts. In an attempt to amend the criticisms that Rock Band was too easy, Harmonix will have more “jewels” (the coloured circles that tell you when to hit a note) than actual notes in the song, so even the slowest song will seem frantic and intense.

Another gameplay feature that is rumoured to be in production is a versus or “battle” mode, where players focus on ending the song as quickly as possible by making their opponents lose. Bonus points may be awarded for making your opponent fail before you get to the really good part of the song.

Put this in the rumour bin, it’s a big stretch from what we know as Rock Band today, but stranger things have happened.   read

11:55 PM on 04.03.2008

Prey: The Skeptic Angel

Last weekend Steam had Prey on sale for 5 bucks, and like any thinking man I grabbed it. A friend of mine played and enjoyed it, but never bothered to pick it up before.I like it so far, even if the visuals are dated by now.

The characters come off pretty cheesy at the beginning, but as soon as you leave Earth (spoilers) the game hooked me. There's a heavy sense of atmosphere as you start exploring the spaceship, and for some reason I was reminded of walking around in a kennel. I guess I was wondering what the aliens would feel like hearing the constant shrieks and cries of the humans they're mysteriously slaughtering/enslaving. Also impressed with the aliens so far, nothing seems overly cliched, which goes a long way.

Here's the thing about the main hero. He's not silent, and all throughout the beginning the story has made a point of reminding you that Cherokee faith plays a big part of the story, and every time someone brings up the cherokee faith this dude growls something about it being bullshit. Fine, fair enough.

But now I'm at the part were I've fallen off a bridge to my doom. Then I woke up in a rocky canyon valley, following a spirit hawk and talking to my dead grandfather. He tells me for the 30th time that I need to embrace my cherokee faith, and here's what gets me. The dude is still calling it bullshit. Dude got a fucking bow and arrow from GOD and he's not convinced.

Seriously, at this point you need to face the facts and get on the cherokee bandwagon.   read

10:52 AM on 03.20.2008

Guitar Hero: Yawn Tour Peripheral Has No Orange Button


I know I said my first meaty post would be about the smash-bros-like trophies in Second Life created by a group a McMaster University, but I also tried to stress that I would be writing impulsively. So when I saw the picture of Guitar Hero: On Tour (Kudos for not using a DS pun like most other games), I couldn't help but think...

Will the DS version of Guitar Hero be a relative breeze for veteran players? Will the game only be as hard as the "medium" difficulty found in all previous games?


Dissecting the video doesn't give us much information. From what we can see, you stroke your stylus across the strings of the guitar, but does it matter which strings you touch? Some parts of the video give that impression but until we get our hands-on it's hard to tell by such small visuals.

One gameplay element that the video displays pretty clearly is what I can only assume is a battle-mode. The guy's guitar bursts into flames, and as he blows into the microphone (presumably to put them out, and not just because he likes looking like a wanker) he looks at her with a "you're going to get it when we get home woman" look in his eye. Frankly I totally disliked the battle mode in Guitar Hero 3 and seeing this makes me weep.

I'm going to wait for them to announce a price before I let my panties twist. I loved Guitar Hero 1 and 2, liked guitar hero 3, but I've moved on to Rock Band; my devotion to GH isn't strong enough to drop more than 50 bucks for a DS version.

PS, 1000 shout outs to power-glove for pointing out the easily visible buttons that I blindly could not find. Thanks!   read

12:46 PM on 03.19.2008

Good Morning

Hi Destructoid,

I hate writing introductions about myself, they always seem forced and what sounds at the time like a funny way of describing your quirky personality often turns out to sound stupid, clich and unimaginative later on. I'm not sure if simply talking about this problem is clich, but it's certainly not as stupid. I suppose it's unimaginative. Fuck you.

Anyway, My name is Bob Forbes but on the internets I go by The Borbes. I'm a 23 year old fledgling game journalist in Toronto. I say fledgling because though I technically meet the criteria of the title (not hard), I'm not actually getting paid to do it yet. But I enjoy it, and I'm always looking for more opportunities. I'm not sure why I didn't join Destructoid before, but last night I was hit by inspiration.

I was wandering around in Second Life (how many horror stories start this way?) when I stumbled upon this:

Kinda reminds you of Smash Bros, with all the trophies eh? That's a tease. My first meaty post that you can sink your teeth into will be all about the second life trophies I found, where they came from and what's their deal.

So, there you go, that's my deal. Say hi if you want, oh, and someone needs to send me the TF2 server info.   read

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