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About
Welcome to my blog about video gaming in Russia!
I'm Tonich, a historian, tour guide and a musician from Nizhniy Novgorod, Russian Federation. And - what do you know! - I'm a gamer, too. Here I'll be dwelling upon what it's like to be a gamer in my home country and maybe just giving some thoughts about video games in general.
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Hello, my friends and fellow Dtoiders!  It's not often that I use the c-blogs for personal gain, but I've been planning on writing this for quite some time. Anyway, this won't take too long.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I'm Tonich, thirty, coming from the Land of Vodka, Bears and PC gaming. :) I've been playing videogames since the NES era (which started rather late here in Russia), but for the most time I've kept to single-player. Rased as an only child, I didn't have a regular partner to play with, and getting gaming parties with my friends was a rare occasion. 

When I grew up and had a gaming PC and a couple of consoles with online capabilities, multiplaying was still out of the question. Partly due to my really poor internet connection at that time, partly because of the ever-prevailing piracy (which was the only way to keep playing without going broke), and partly because of my personality. You see, I'm really shy around new people, so whenever I try playing with complete strangers I get really tense, thus both bringing my gaming performance down and losing any enjoyment from playing. 

But ever since I've joined this community and found out it's full of awesome people, I feel the growing desire to play with you guys - as some of you have already become friends to me, and hopefully there will be many more yet. I've already made my first steps by playing with Luck Required - thanks a lot, dude. you're awesome! - and I invite everyone and anyone who's interested in playing with me to add me on Steam.

My Steam username is Tonich, I'm the guy with a red panda on the userpic. My time zone is Moscow time (GMT+4, PDT+11, EDT+8), so it might be a bit tough getting together with those of you who live in the Americas - but we'll figure something out, right? :)

Now, a few words about the games I'd like to play with you.

 

First and foremost, Borderlands 2

I've completed the game twice (solo) and I'm still loving it - but I've always wanted to try out co-op and clear out those pesky raid bosses with a trusty partner or three. :) My snipy lvl53 Zer0 is always at your service.

 

Russian player, huh?

Let's see if he's any good.

I will be watching.

Sorry, that haiku was done on a whim. :)

Anyway, if you're new to the game I'll gladly start a new character and replay the campaign again with you!

I've got the GOTY Edition, plus the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade 2, but no Headhunter episodes yet. 

 

 

I'm also a (rather casual) fighting game player, so I'm always ready for a bout in Mortal Kombat, Injustiice: Gods Among Us and Skullgirls (waaah, no online support for my favourite BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger!). Just don't expect much of a challenge from me if you're a seasoned fighter, okay?

 

 

Max Payne 3 and Quake Live are also among the games I'd like to see some friendly faces in. And just this weekend I grabbed Payday: The Heist but haven't tried it out yet, so if anyone still plays it (as far as I know quite a number of Dtoiders are into the 2nd game but I'm still on the fence about getting it), and you've got enough patience to play with a complete newbie, take this kid along for the heist, will you? :)

 

And of course I plan on expanding my library, so if you you've got suggestions on what we could play together, just say the word! :) 

So, please add me - and either send me a Steam message or leave a comment in this blog, saying what you'd like to play.

 Yours truly,

  Tonich

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         Fangs for the Memories? Seriously? Ah, what am I saying – it’s Halloween, how can there be anything serious about it? :)

         I love Halloween – I’ve loved it ever since I started listening to a certain German power metal band when I was fifteen. Even though in my homeland it’s deemed a strange and unworthy holiday and is officially banned from celebrating in Russian schools, I don’t mind embarrassing myself by dressing up and going outside looking like this.

 

This cute little witch is doing my bidding. So will YOU mortals!

         And funny thing, just a couple days back I’ve been discussing the scariest moments in video games with a friend – so I won’t be going into this community assignment unprepared. :)

 

         I’m a sucker for a good mystical/horror story, but it’s a rarity that I find a moment in a movie or a videogame that can really scare me. I think I could count all of the experiences like that using fingers on one hand. Well, okay, maybe I’ll throw in an extra thumb. But the moment that definitely took the cake, then smashed it in my face, was the “Room with a Mirror” moment in Silent Hill 3. It was the only time when I was so confused and scared that I ran out of the room (in-game, of course) and had to take quite some time trying to figure out what I had seen – before going back in there just to find… nothing at all. And just because it was a one-time experience for me, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for everyone else, so suck it. You’ll have to play the game yourself. And I’m going to talk about Fatal Frame III: The Tormented, known in Europe as Project Zero 3.

        

 

 

         One of the key elements to scaring the player is surprise. That’s how all the jump-scares work: you’re walking down a dimly lit corridor, everything looks peaceful and the music is soothing – then suddenly you’re face to face with something unnatural or plain disfigured. All of this is usually accompanied by the sound of several violinists having a simultanious heart attack. However if you are aware of the monster and the time of its appearance it will hardly make you jump out of your seat. Same goes for making sudden scares happen too often. But can we make a frightening experience when the player is aware of the monster in the room? Fatal Frame is quite sure we can.

         The Tormented, the third installment in the series puts us in the shoes of Rei Kurosawa – a freelance photographer who is experiencing nightly dreams of being lost in a haunted manor. There she finds a magical camera that can banish ghosts by photographing them. Sounds a bit stupid, doesn’t it? I, however, believe it is one of the most brilliant ideas found in a horror game. What would be your reaction if you were attacked by an angry wraith? I bet it would be turning around and running for your life – and I think no one would blame you. Video games gave us the chance to fight back – but doing so with conventional weapons (even if they are some state-of-the-art experimental gear, they usually still look like weapons) makes the ghost encounter lose its thrill very soon. But it’s a different feeling when you have to stare down the attacking ghost through the viewfinder, focus on it and then take a close-up shot. And here’s what you are going to look at.

        

 

 

         Unfortunately, after a while the impression starts to wear out, and by the end game you'd be routinely snapping pic after pic, concerned more for having a better exp reward than anything. But the first few battles – that would be something else, you can take my word for it.

           Another great thing about Fatal Frame III is how it utilizes controller vibration for building up the suspense. Instead of just rumbling violently – you know, the usual way – the gamepad would gently pulsate in your hands when ghosts are nearby, then give you a single powerful shake as they finally appear. This system is not unlike the famous radio static from the Silent Hill series; both games know just the way to make you feel uneasy without you instantly realizing the reason for it. And that, in my book, is the definition of a good scare.

 

         Also, honorary mentions go to the following gaming moments:

- A statue coming to life and tearing apart its chest in Clive Barker's Unduying

- Encountering a Bloodsucker for the first time in S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl

- The brief, yet poignant Year Walk for making me feel uneasy about staying in a silent and darkened apartment after I've finished the game.

 

Thanks for reading - and happy upcoming Halloween! :)

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Lately, I’ve been noticing that quite a lot of stories in AAA blockbuster games of the past few years play out in almost exactly the same way. Sure, there’s no way of avoiding at least a couple of clichés in stories – and I’m sure as heck not saying it’s a bad thing. We need clichés, we love them (oh, you want to argue? Don’t lie to yourselves) – but in these cases it feels like there’s just a bunch of them being shuffled like a deck of cards, and nothing else.

So I turned on my inner vision and tried to peer into the distance of space and time – and here’s the transcript of a note I’ve found stapled to the wall of a certain undisclosed developer’s writers department (on a side note, my vision was rather blurry, probably because I’ve got myopic astigmia and I can’t wear glasses in my spirit form – so I might have missed or misread some points).

 

Dear Writers!

         According to international surveys, focus tests and publisher commentary, your game script is going to suck if it does not have at least 80 per cent of the following points.

 

1. Characters

 

 

  • A bitchy, crap-talking white male antihero, preferably with a low, gruff voice and a drinking problem (special powers are mandatory!)
  • Wife/lover/family member/stray kid, who dies at the start of the game and later appears in flashbacks
  • A mentor/experienced comrade (bonus points for having them killed mid-game)
  • A comic relief character (must stay alive throughout the game - it's the only exception! Okay, dogs, too)
  • A villain who shares a love/hate relationship with the protagonist
  • A probable love interest who either dies or has other circumstances that prevent her from starting a relationship with the hero

 2. Plot Devices

  • Death of the protagonist’s lover/important family member/whole family for subsequent guilt issues
  • Death of the most likable character (bonus points for making the protagonist kill them)
  • Angst
  • Amnesia
  • Betrayal
  • Conspiracies
  • Revealing the hero’s dark past that he does not know or want to remember, explaining his personality and/or powers
  • Revealing that the protagonist is not who we think he is
  • Revival of a character considered dead
  • A second villain appearing or being disclosed for who they are in the last hour of the game
  • Any other plot twist
  • Ambiguous moral choices

 

3. While Collaborating with Game Planners

NOTE: ALL of the following points are mandatory, your game is not a game but an outdated piece of shit if it has not got them.

  • Shooting
  • Explosions
  • Chases
  • Free running
  • Flashbacks (really good for filling loading times. Use them. Abuse them)
  • Private military companies
  • One-liners
  • Cliffhangers (both figurative AND literal)
  • Turrets with unlimited ammo (if it’s medieval fantasy, catapults of crossbow turrets will do)
  • Fetch quests and other distractions

 

We also regret to inform you that due to our Writing Robot Development department needing additional funds, starting next month your salaries will be cut by fourty per cent. Please understand.

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Yes, that's right. I did it. I killed off my uncle and mother-in-law just to be able to enjoy a video game. While they were around I just couldn't concentrate and have fun - not with them constantly bugging me, saying they're cold and hungry or feeling sick... And I just couldn't both provide food, heat and  medicine for the whole family of four and play my game without thinking back about it all.

So they left me no choice. I went on and denied them medicine when they needed it - fully aware that they were going to die. But I've already lost a family once because I couldn't feed them - and it's not something that makes you enjoy your video games, is it?

Do I regret my crime? Well, yeah, I started to wish I'd kept them alive after I got a little better at my job and started taking bribes - although only small ones. Still, I was able to move to a new apartment, adopted my niece, bought an expensive present for my sickly offspring and was finally able to complete Papers, Please. Yes, now I sometimes wish I could start everything over and look for a better way. Sometimes I just can't fall asleep and keep thinking that...

Oh, sorry, there's someone at the door. Must be the water delivery.


Hello, Mr Tonich. It is so good that you have decided to confess. Makes my job so much easier. I can not guarantee that the Ministry will take your sincere confession into consideration - you are a murderer, after all.
Anyway, please, come with me. GLORY TO ARSTOZKA!
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As far as I can gather, the concept of an antihero has become quite popular in the past decade or so, especially in videogames. Characters ranging from a young delinquent to a (classic) honorable outlaw to a murdering sociopath have made their way to the leading roles, replacing the presumably bland White Knights in Shining Armour (yes, Mr Spellcheck, I like it that way). And while I don't have any problem with the armour-clad messiah-complex guys (and sometimes gals), I don't think the advent of antiheroes is a bad thing. 



I've already discussed this matter in one of my previous blogs and praised Saint's Row IV for creating a both despicable and likable protagonist. What I did not mention is that there is a huge difference between playing an antihero and a total asshole.
There are a number of antihero types that I can recall in movies, games or animation. First of all, there are those who should have clearly become villains but somehow turned out on the side of the good, fighting an even greater evil (think Hellsing's Alucard, or the aforementioned President from Saint's Row IV). Then come guys with troubled past but hearts of gold (I think that's the most numerous type, Nico Bellic (Grand Theft Auto IV) and John Marston (Red Dead Redemption) are the first examples that springs to my mind). There are also bad (or simply unlikable) characters who are either made to regret their ways (Altair from the first Assassin's Creed, or Luke fon Fabre in Tales of the Abyss) or have been thrown into a crisis so dire that we can't help but sympathize with them - no matter how ugly they had been before (like Seth Gecko from the Dusk Till Dawn movie, or James Earl Cash from Manhunt).
Anyway, I believe that the defining trait of an antihero (or any kind of hero) is struggle - both external and internal. We must be shown that without those unlikely heroes everything's going to be real bad. And of course, they should possess a noticeable amount of charisma. But both aren't the case with Sniper Elite V2's leading man.


Oh, and just because I'm a nice guy: SPOILERS for Sniper Elite V2 ahead. Not that there's anything to spoil there, really.


I got this game free on Steam, so one might just say that I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'm just going to be ungrateful and say it was one of the worst games I've played since Final Fantasy X-2. And the worst part in the game is the protagonist. First of all, he is a bad-mouthed, contemptuous bastard who does not have any respect for human life. And while that alone can be okay, given the right circumstance, there's also another thing: there is no struggle to his cause - neither external, nor internal. Just imagine the setting: it's the spring of 1945, the Allied forces are in Berlin, and the outcome of the war is pretty much clear. The German army is mostly wiped out, and we know that by that time the Nazi regime was throwing out everyone they could find in a desperate attempt to defend the capital: teenagers, old men and the like. Yes, they wear Nazi uniforms - but hardly are they capable soldiers, or that devoted to the cause. Is that an enemy one should be proud of defeating? I don't think so.
Then there are the Soviet troops who get shot even more frequently than the Nazis. Sure, the tensions between the USSR and the West are growing, and the unanimous struggle against a common enemy is gone, giving way to a race for the prize (that being Germany). So we can assume that the British secret service trying to make things harder for the USSR is more or less historically accurate. But still, shooting men who are formally your allies feels really wrong - let alone it being a war crime, by any account. Besides, me being a Russian, I just can't force myself to take pleasure in shooting men who are revered as heroes in my homeland. It's just like making a game about shooting my grandpa and asking me whether I enjoyed it.
Anyway, even if we accept this "alternative history" twist and assume that the Russians are indeed the bad guys there. Was it really necessary to let us play as a man who is devoid of any charisma at  all and who treats every human being other than himself with such contempt? Where's the "respect your enemy" formula gone? All that made me feel like I myself was playing as the ultimate bad guy there, and whenever the protagonist was killed I couldn't help saying, "Serves you right, you smug asshole!" I don't believe that's the right attitude to expect from the player.

And, as a NVRG side note, it's been my 30th birthday today. This year it was a bit on a sad side, as my wife is not feeling well these past few days, and my friends from around Moscow who had wanted to come visit me couldn't make it... but hey, I've received Nidhogg as a gift - so it's time to check whether it is really THE sword-fighting game for me. :)
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Tonich
4:49 AM on 07.17.2014

So, there's a new trend going on with top ten games list, and while I was initially reluctant (rather: lazy) to write one and thought of just leaving a comment in the corresponding blog, I finally decided that I wanted my write-up to stay in my blog for me to reread it on long winter nights and feel like I'm worth something. :) I'll make it brief though. Because I'm lazy.
It's so hard to rank my favourite games this way. They are so different, and I love them all so much... but I'll try to do it. And hope that they won't sulk and disappear from my game library forever. :)



1. Shadow of the Colossus. It's beautiful, poignant and really one of a kind. I think this game is the closest we get to a Videogame as Art.  While a lot of other wanna-be-an-art-game titles try to venture into other media's turf (primarily cinema), a lot of them completely miss the point of videogames as a new art form. The point is that interactivity is what distinguishes games from everything else, and if we want to make something bigger than simply an "interactive movie" we must make the gameplay stand out just as much as (if not more than) other, more traditional elements. And, more importantly, it should complement them - and vise versa. And that's what SotC does like no other game.




2. Portal. It's short. It's brilliant. And it's got (arguably) the best ending song in video game history... What else there is to say? Perhaps that it makes you think out of the box... and then it does it again.



3. Valkyrie Profile. It had a most fascinating concept and an excellent, engaging combat system that combined both tactical planning and button-mashing. But it's in the individual stories of the einherjar that the game truly shines. Besides, Lenneth is my idea of a perfect female protagonist. I could fall in love with her... but then again, if I met her that would only mean my inevitable demise is at hand. So maybe that's not such a great idea after all. :)



4. Persona 4. I loved the story. I loved the characters. And the music. It made me laugh like no other game did. Even the dungeon crawling was pretty fun - at least at first playthrough.



5. Batman: Arkham Asylum. Just when about each and every one thought the beat'em'up genre was dead and buried, Rocksteady made a masterpiece that still influences games of very different kinds. Not only it was innovative, it was brilliantly executed and polished to a shine that could make you go temporarily blind. But what elevates this game from being simply a brilliant action game is the fourth-wall breaking "Joker Asylum" sequence that parodies the game's intro and toys with the player. Looks like it's not only in Soviet Russia that the game plays YOU. :)



6. Silent Hill 2. I don't think I even have to say anything. We all know it's timeless classic, right?




7. Final Fantasy VI. Besides having (not arguably) one of the best game music scores, it featured a wonderful cast and a beautifully presented story. By the end I was a bit tired of the combat though... no, scratch that. When I hear these tunes I can't think of any flaws at all. So, where was I? Ah, yes, the music score...




8.  Max Payne. An unexpected pick, even for me myself. It's just that I tried to remember the games that I could replay times and times again, and this one was among them. Apart from excellent atmosphere, fueled by poignant storytelling and fitting music, the game won me over with challenging gameplay where I had to actually plan how I shoot enemies instead of the usual going in guns blazing. And there are also wonderful comic strip sections, including a fourth-wall breaking one. Yes, I am fond of this stuff.




9.  Comix Zone. There were a lot of wonderful games on the Mega Drive/Genesis, but I think this game was the console's calling card. Yes, yes, I know about Sonic. But for me CZ really stole the show. While the story might seem simplistic (the protagonist being trapped in his own comic book and trying to escape back to the real world), the game was exemplar in art design and game planning, and those chiptune guitar riffs were simply majestic.




10.  The Void. As opposed to games I replay constantly, there are some that I never go back to after completing, and yet I just can't get them out of my head. I contemplate on the game's story (for it's cryptic like hell), I tell my friends about it (and fail miserably because it's not a game you can describe in a couple of sentences), I regularly find images and music that remind me of its art and soundtrack. I've even written a fucking song inspired by one of the game's locations! And yet, I can't force myself to replay it, or recommend it to most players, because as a game it is really unfriendly... Yes, I am talking about The Void. Try it sometime. No, better don't. Or maybe... hell, I can't decide.

And there are also honorary mentions for Dark Souls, Final Fantasy VII, Dune II, Gothic II and Deadly Premonition and a number of other games that I'm sure have slipped my mind. They are all amazing, they just didn't make it on my list.
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