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5:29 AM on 12.02.2007

The Zelda CD-i games were GREAT!



Well, Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil, anyway. According to this guy, John Szczepaniak (Possibly the most difficult to spell/pronounce surname ever.), who writes about his fond experiences playing both games, the circumstances surrounding their creation and an interview with the games' creator, Dale DeSharone.

It's actually a very good read and raises some very interesting points, the most prevalent of which, I think, being "3) You have probably not played either game, and if you have, you've possibly not gotten very far."

Now, I have. I'm an absolute raving Zelda fanboy and I made it my business to track down a CD-i for the express purpose of playing these games. I also agree with him, except I'd go a step further. In his article, John mentions that the cinematics are dire. I disagree whole-heartedly. I love their cheesy, late 80's cheap Dragons Lair ripoff style. I love the camp voice acting. Do I think they're fantastic games? No. But I don't think they're bad.

So please, go and give that article a read, if you've got a spare few minutes to kill. It's well worth it and hopefully it might convince a few of you to hunt down a CD-i and... No? Oh, well, alright. Read it anyway.   read


4:28 AM on 12.02.2007

A history of violence: My own personal introspective gaming past.



First of all, this has turned into an insanely long blog post, so if you read it all, that's a credit to your virtue and I thank you. If not, well, I don't blame you. It's just a wordy Sunday morning.

So, after watching that ridiculous Moral Kombat video and reading EternalDeathSlayer's blog, I began thinking about my own gaming experiences and whether or not they influenced the man I've grown up to be. This is what I came up with.

My first console was a NES, when I was about 3. At this point, my mom was intensely into games and I have fond memories of watching her complete Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda (A game I'd later go on to make my personal favourite of all time). I'm sure we all know that back then, graphics were far too basic to ever really be considered a 'threat to society' as they are now. A small pixellated green guy 'hitting' a small pixellated red, multi-armed rock-spitting thing with a small pixellated brown stick isn't going to incite a young kid to go and smash someone's face in.

Then I progressed to a SNES, which was, for the first time, truly 'my' console (As I'd shared the NES with my mom). This opened up a whole new world of games to me and things started to get a little more violent. Things like Street Fighter, Super Smash TV, Killer Instinct etc. But for the most part, I didn't gravitate to them. Infact, the only reason I WANTED a SNES was to play Link to the Past (Incidentally, I'm British, so I didn't get the luxury of playing Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger back then).

Almost simultaneously, I got hold of a Mega Drive. Again, even with prominent titles like Streets of Rage and Road Rash, I moved towards the more colourful, 'game-like' games, like Sonic and Landstalker. I never once, in this period of my life, made any kind of link between supposedly dark, violent games and real life violence.

Only part of this changed when I acquired a Playstation. Originally, things went the same way they had for my life up until that point, as my first game was Crash Bandicoot - Hardly the pastime of a future serial killer. But in that bundle of games I got on that fateful christmas, I also had Mortal Kombat 3, Tekken 2 and Street Fighter Alpha. Gradually, the 'violence' level creeped up.

As we all know, the Playstation was the true era of 3D, when the majority of developers took those first, ugly steps towards dedicated 3D console gaming. Because of this, the saturation of dire 'fantasy' 3D platformers (Jersey Devil, Johnny Bazookatone, Gex 3D and FUCKING CROC) led a lot of developers to move to darker themes for their games. Things like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Nightmare Creatures and that game that was based on a Fighting Fantasy book that I can't remember the name of. And honestly? I loved them. But it wasn't for the violence. I just loved having new worlds to run around in, new skills to learn, new things to do. I've always been like that and I still am today.

I also picked up a Saturn, but over on that ill-fated console, things were different. Aside from picking up the original Tomb Raider (and hating it) on recommendation from friends who were just NOW getting into a hobby that until then had branded me a geek, my Saturn followed the trend of my past. NiGHTS led the charge, along with games like Guardian Heroes, Panzer Dragoon and Shining Force. Fantasy games, essentially.

Eventually I, like I imagine most of Dtoid, picked up the original Grand Theft Auto. I was about 12 and should quite obviously have not been allowed near it, but that's just how things went back then. Now the thing is, after seeing some seriously graphic stuff in Resident Evil (A game I didn't personally own, but had seen played) and the previously mentioned 3D adventure games, I actually saw GTA as MORE fantasy than, I dunno, Crash Bandicoot. I honestly can't see how the style of the game could genuinely translate to real-life violence, at all. I remember a fantastic quote from a magazine at the time, something like "How can anyone be in uproar over this when the people you're killing end up like badly rendered pizzas on the pavement?". My sentiments exactly.

My Nintendo64 was used almost exclusively for first-party games, which again took me into the fantasy worlds I've been used to (I bought it for Ocarina of Time, after all). Games like Mischief Makers, Kid Chameleon and even Body Harvest just seemed like more, admittedly very pretty, completely unbelievable worlds where I could just play.

I suppose the first time I really consciously began to CHOOSE violence was with the ushering in of the PS2. I actually wanted one purely for Devil May Cry at that point, a game which rewards you for being stylish in your execution of hordes of monsters. The PS2 built on the 3D Adventure genre that had really taken off on the original PS1 and with it, the dark themes began to flow, eventually leading to the now immortal GTAIII.

And, as I've progressed through Dreamcast (A console which remained true to my 'fantasy' history) into Xbox360 (Skipping the original Xbox for reasons of finance and... well, not wanting to play Halo) I have to admit that I buy a lot more violent games now than I ever would've as a kid. But isn't that the point? I'm 20 years old. I'm now the target audience for these games, so why shouldn't they be made? I think what people need to realise is that the majority of us playing these games are not 13 year old foul-mouthed sociopathic internet bigboy wannabes who shout the word 'PWNT' at any given opportunity. We're just people who like games.

Maybe I'm an exception. I do, after all, play my Wii far more than my 360 and I'd prefer Zelda over GTA/Call of Duty/Halo any day of the week. Thing is, I don't see games FOR the violence factor. If it helps to create an atmosphere and experience (Survival horror games in general, and what they TRIED to do with Manhunt 2), then I'll see it as such. But when you start making violent games for the sake of it, you end up with 50 Cent Bulletproof and NOBODY wants that.

So I suppose the conclusion I can reach is yes, I've been exposed to violence and yes, these days it's a conscious choice that I make. But it doesn't mean I'm maladjusted; it means I like videogames. All types, all genres, all styles. Violence comes under that, but so does Mario Galaxy.

And so, Destructoid, I ask you. Have any elements of your videogame past influenced how you've grown up, in any way? I'm not too sure mine have, really, but I'm open to the idea.   read


4:34 PM on 11.30.2007

Bioshock Monologue update: A small victory for Games as Art.



So, for those of you following the Bioshock Monologue story from a few posts back, I can now report that today, the dramatic performance of said monologue sort of... fizzled out.

It was revealed that rather than performing my two monologues (The other being a classical piece; Shylock, of Merchant of Venice fame) in an assessment scenario, the whole class will now perform as part of a strange performance where people communicate in the form of monologues. I don't know why. But whatever.

Anyway, the 'small victory' part comes from a conversation I had with my lecturer. As I pitched to him the news that my contemporary piece came not from film, script or novel but from a game, his reaction was what I expected. Awkward. He then proceeded to tell me that he didn't really see the merit of a monologue from a game. Without actually reading it.

Fortunately, my brief yet insightful discussion with xper last night meant I was full of fresh points and arguments for my case and the victory came in the form of being allowed to perform it at all. So a VERY small victory really, but noteworthy in the overall 'saga'.

As this performance won't now take place until January, I intend to perform the monologue solo, some time tomorrow, and record it for your scrutiny and constructive criticism.

If anyone's still interested.

Which I doubt.

A lot.   read


5:08 PM on 11.29.2007

A step further towards Games being viewed as an art form.



Or, an excuse to reference Bioshock in a Drama lesson. Your call.

Anyway, last post, I asked for some suggestions on possible contemporary monologues that I can perform tomorrow. Eventually, Andrew Ryan of Bioshock was brought up and I skimmed WikiQuote to find a suitable array of quotes that could be strung together into a feasible monologue of suitably academic length.

What I ended up with is this (Why the HELL does BBCode sporadically fail?):

---------------------------------------------
A man has a choice. I chose the impossible. I built a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the great would not be constrained by the small, where a scientist would not be bound by petty morality. I chose to build....Rapture. But my city was betrayed by the weak. So I ask you, my friend...if your life's price was to kill the innocent, would you sacrifice your humanity? We all make choices...but in the end, our choices make us. What is the difference between a man and a parasite? A man builds, a parasite asks, 'Where's my share?' A man creates, a parasite says, 'What will the neighbors think?' A man invents, a parasite says, 'Watch out, or you might tread on the toes of God...

I believe in no God, no invisible man in the sky. God did not plant the seeds of this Arcadia. I did. But there is something more powerful in each of us, a combination of our efforts, a great chain of industry that unites us. But it is only when we struggle in our own interests that the chain pulls society in the right direction. The chain is too powerful and too mysterious for any government to guide. Any man who tells you differently either has his hand in your pocket or a pistol to your neck.

I am Andrew Ryan, and I'm here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? 'No!' says the man in Washington, 'It belongs to the poor.' 'No!' says the man in the Vatican, 'It belongs to God.' 'No!' says the man in Moscow, 'It belongs to everyone.' I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose...Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city, as well.

No Gods. No Kings. Only Men.
---------------------------------------------


It might get drastically shortened when I move to actually LEARN the thing, but in theory, that's what I'll be aiming for. A video might be uploaded tomorrow night, depending on if I DO manage to learn it, if I remember to get a friend to record it for me, if my phone functions and if I can find my USB cable.

So probably not.   read


9:37 AM on 11.29.2007

I need your help.



So, as I might've mentioned, I'm a Drama student. Tomorrow, I need to perform a contemporary monologue. Aside from a would-be star of stage and screen, I'm also obviously a gamer, which means procrastination has set in for a week and I've not yet even selected one.

So I come to you, Destructoid.

To keep this post loosely game-related, if anyone has any great monologues from games that instantly spring to mind, please help me out and link to them. That said, I'm also looking for any other epic monologues, be they cinematic, theatrical or literary.

The winning entry will get, I dunno, a video of me performing said monologue, I suppose.   read


8:55 AM on 11.29.2007

Lowest Common Denominator Tabloid Blames Videogames for Childhood Illiteracy



The Sun newspaper, Britain's number one for cowboy builders, dole cheats and racists, has apparently reported today that videogames are responsible for the dramatic decline of the intelligence of kids from this once great nation.

Infact, the opening statement is SO loaded, I'm surprised there isn't already an angry mob with pitchforks and flaming torches waiting to lynch an unsuspecting game devloper.

"“Kids hooked on computer games have sent England plummeting down world league tables for reading,”

Well, that's some GREAT unbiased reporting, there. All this because England's children are now apparently fifteenth in the world for reading ability and an investigation has reportedly discovered that "more than a third of ten-year-olds spend at least three hours a day playing videogames".

So this, really, is more of the same. Yet more fuel to the fires of ignorance that the mainstream media WILL insist on bringing against the gaming industry. Yet again, it's quite obviously a case of the parents not raising their children to take more of an interest in the books they're apparently now snubbing in favour of games. Or at the very least, make them play Morrowind, or something.

I'd just like to stand as living proof against the above theory. I spent far more than three hours a day on videogames when I was younger, much like I do now. I'm also the proud owner of two A*'s at GCSE level for both English Language and Literature, and a B at A-Level (The grade there actually dropped because I was drunk, for most of it). How did I achieve this marvellous miracle when, by all reckoning, I should currently be drinking cider in a bus stop? Simple. I was read to as a young child.

No more than about half an hour a night usually, but through this introduction to language, I picked up literacy a lot earlier than my classmates. That's what these kids need; not to be told that they just can't play games.

Oh and finally, the Sun's really doing itself no favours. If there are no illiterate children growing into illiterate adults, no-one will read their newspaper.

Sourced from Gamer.tm.   read


5:44 PM on 11.28.2007

PS3: Console of choice for Hackers on Steroids



An Australian security consultant has apparently managed to turn the PS3 into the ultimate password cracking tool, through some miracle of wasted ti--...software engineering.

The project, dubbed Crackstation is not, as you might think, a way to use Sony's uber powerful home entertainment system to dispense drugs to the masses but is, infact, an experiment into utilising the power of the Cell processor to drastically speed up the time taken to crack complex passwords.

------------------------------------------------------------
The strength of cryptography implementations is usually based on its cracking time -- how long it would take for someone to sit down and crack it, says Breese. His discovery has demonstrated that the capability of cracking encryption algorithms has multiplied by 100.

Breese's discovery "will unfortunately make cryptography cracking faster", he says. However, he hopes that his research will help drive the need for stronger cryptography to be used, and push for better implementations of cryptography.
------------------------------------------------------------

There's all kinds of technical info at the souce, Australian site GamePro, that I don't understand but I'm sure is very interesting.

Of most interest to me is that the guy started this project as an excuse to get his company to buy him a PS3. Just exactly how much do they cost in Australia to make a man go to THIS much effort?   read


4:46 PM on 11.28.2007

Bah, Humbug. Sodding Christmas.



Maybe it's because it's not even December yet and the shop I work in is already looping "Hammond Organs Of The World Go Christmas Vol 4". Maybe it's because I have to deal with everyone else's screaming brats who are in that festive 'WANTWANTWANT' mood and absolutely MUST HAVE the biscuits on the top shelf that their pregnant teen mother can't possibly reach up to grab in her condition. Maybe it's because I have to spend what little money I GET this month on other people, for no reason other than they've bought me some more sodding aftershave/deodorant/boxer shorts/socks (Delete as appropriate). Maybe it's because I have to yet again wrestle with an anaconda-like coil of potentially dangerous christmas lights from the sixties. Or, maybe it's that having a 4 month old sister has finally made me realise that my Christmases as I knew them are over ("Only child" syndrome at 20. Christ.).

Whatever it is, I'm suddenly harbouring a great dislike for Christmas this year. And, since the main purpose of this blog so far seems to be a rant, I might as well get festive.

...Christmas Cards
Nothing says "I can't be arsed" like a christmas card with a picture of a fucking candle on it. Which I always get, because everyone uses up the 'nice ones' (Read: Penguins) on cutesy girls who love 'that sort of thing'. There's also the massive hassle of feeling obliged to send out the exact same shitty 400-for-a-pound cards, if solely for the redemption factor of sending them the ones with a picture of the three wise men and a camel. Camels aren't festive. So hah.

...Christmas Music
EVERY year, without fail, there's some kind of desperate assault of the pop charts by another talentless, wank one-hit-then-fuck-off-and-die pop 'sensation' that the media raves 'really captures the spirit of christmas'. Ironically, they're right. Manufactured, soulless, and shit. Well done, you.

...The GAMES
So, I watched with some envy as the D-toid Christmas List got posted on the front page. I, as you might've guessed by now, live in England. Here's some highlights of what I've got to look forward to, between now and Christmas:

-- Harvest Moon Magical Melody (Wii)
-- Ultimate Mortal Kombat (DS)
-- Wii Zapper with Link's Crossbow Training (Wii)
-- Pokemon Battle Revolution (Wii)


That's... it. And the Wii Zapper, I'll be buying myself. Sigh.

So there's a few reasons for me to hate the festive period. That said, here's my christmas list (Please note. With the exception of Pokemon, the games on it are already released.):

Wharfedale 9mm In Ear Headphones
Pokemon Battle Revolution
Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles
GAMEware Nintendo Wii Remote Rechargable Battery and Charging Station
Heroes – Complete Season 1 Box Set DVD
TMNT DVD
Transformers DVD
300 DVD

So yeah, overall, for a 20 year old who's supposed to be 'too old for that, now', I probably won't do too badly.

It might just be my job making me feel so damned unfestive, and when the decorations go up and, more importantly, I'm drinking myself merry, I might feel differently.

Till then, bah, humbug, bah, bah, another humbug, one last bah, and a Merry Fuckin' Christmas.   read


5:24 PM on 11.23.2007

British Prime Minister makes decisions based on a game.



Gordon Brown, possibly one of the most boring men alive today and current Prime Minister for Great Britain (sigh) has admitted to being 'inspired' by possibly one of the most boring games due out next year.

Developed by Ascaron Entertainment, 'Politics' (Due out for PC, Feb 2008) lets the player take control of a real world country and make the real, cutting-edge decisions that shape the future of said nation. Sounds quite exciting, doesn't it? Just to piss on your cornflakes, here's a quote which I presume to be from the game itself (BBCode's stopped working, so here's some hyphens):

-----------------------------------------------------
With mounting pressure from the back benchers to review unpopular policy, the PM needs to carefully assess political strategy to gain the largest share of the vote to stay in power. But you won’t be able to keep everyone happy all of the time, so tread cautiously as popular policy may not be in the best interests of the country.

With an unpopular war being waged in the East and financial meltdown coming from the sub prime markets in the West, the UK government needs to take a firm and steady stance to appeal to the mass vote and win through. Tough political decisions lie ahead…

Do you withdraw British troops from Iraq to gain approval from the masses back home but expose the world to the increasing threat of terrorism? Do you maintain the unpopular increase in interest rates to safe guard from recession or opt for the more popular cut in interest rates and risk increasing the level of consumer debt in the UK? Winter bird flu is back on the agenda - do health services need a boost?
-----------------------------------------------------

Snore.

Anyway, all the original article (Via DigitalBattle)
states is that Gordon Brown, after consulting with an ally in the US (Think Georgey-boy, as he's now going to be affectionatley known, got tired of Brain Training?) was 'inspired' by this game. That's it.

Now if only he'd play Doom, or GTA, or Animal Crossing, or Pokemon instead, then this country might not be so bloody dull.   read


4:29 PM on 11.23.2007

People. The NPCs of real life.



So, I work in a small local supermarket, doing the general shelf-stacking/stock rotation/other boring monotonous wank that only a student can really lower himself to. I've been there for about a month and in that short time, I've already come across a fair few strange instances of real people. Tonight, as I was facing up (The process of turning every single item in the shop around to face the front of the shelf. It really is as fun as it sounds), my mind wandered to a point that often gets raised about games, but never really expanded on, or looked at in any real detail: The AI of random NPCs.

Sometimes, A-rated titles (usually sandbox games) get marked down by some people for the random NPCs (Townsfolk, crowd, background characters etc) having little to no 'believable' behavioural patterns. For instance, in San Andreas, the NPCs inside shops will simply stand for eternity, staring at the same beige sweater. As a result of this, there's often a call to ramp up the behaviour of said peripheral characters.

Until tonight, I never understood why.

One of the biggest arguments is that it "Breaks the sense of immersion into the game". Does it? Really? Were you any less immersed into Ocarina of Time because people in towns and villages were content to stand on the spot, spinning with all the grace of a legless ballerina with leprosy whenever you ran rings around them? Or in a more realistic game like Shenmue, did it really bother you that the people you'd see milling around Mr Tomato weren't bundling packets of rice and noodles (Because obviously this is all anyone eats in Shenmue-land... Obviously...) into a shopping basket, then bitching at you for taking too long picking up your Outrun soundtrack? If a highly atmospheric game like Bioshock had some random, non-splicer scientists staring through a microscope at samples of the creepy little sister you just callously harvested for your own material gain, but he then did nothing else, would it genuinely bother you that much?

I don't think so.

Infact, if anything, I'd say the current level of AI is more realistic than people give it credit for. Working in said supermarket, I have actually witnessed a woman spend HALF AN HOUR staring at a wine rack. She didn't pick up a bottle for closer inspection. She didn't seem to be moving her head around to actually look at anything. For all I know she could've been contemplating how to shove the damn thing up her rectum. She just stood. Standing. Staring. Doing nothing. A real life NPC.

I think some of us overestimate the intelligence level of most of the real life equivalent of NPCs. Take, for example, this story that happened tonight, which sparked this whole train of thought in my head.

Having just taken the main grocery delivery of the night, I was out on the shop floor, filling up the crisp (chips, to our American friends) aisle. Next to me, I had a trolley with half a dozen boxes of crisps on, next to a large, wall-mounted rack of said potato snacks. I'd been doing this for about ten minutes, when a woman, about middle-aged but obviously still with most of her mental faculties, approached me with that sort of confused, bewildered look that people get when they want help. The conversation that followed went like this.

Her: "Scuse me, can you tell me where your crisps are?"
--Awkward silence--
Me: --Smiling politely-- "Yeah, they're... here."
--I point at the rack I'm now pressed against, since she'd moved my trolley. Which was full of crisps.--
Her: "Ah, thanks."
--A few seconds pass--
Her: "Is this all you do?"
Me: "Yeah, this is our crisp section."
Her: "Ah"
--Few more seconds--
Her: "So you don't do anymore then?"
Me: --keeping polite smile-- "...No. No we don't. This is it. This is our crisp section."
Her: "Oh, ok. Thanks."
--She walks away--

Now this, coupled with the wine lady and various other small instances I've ALREADY picked up on in a month, have made me realise that the AI some of you think would make games more realistic would actually vastly detract from them.

So no, based on this, I think the case for stronger NPC AI is a bit moot. Well, I did, until tonight. Now, I know exactly why some of you want it.

You want to kill them.

I know this because I agree, now. I want to merrily hack my way (Dead Rising meets Postal style) through a varied mix of loitering chavs, neglectful parents and their screaming, demanding brats, the guy who, try as he might, just can't remember his pin number, unforgivably thick people and yes, even those sweet old grannies who smell of urine and try to buy a pack of mints with postage stamps. I want to destroy them all.

And since the law here prohibits me from doing so in real life, I'm now joining the camp of people who demand higher AI in NPCs, so I can fulfill my bloodlust and feel damn good about it.

But until I develop my Checkout Jockey Supermarket Simulator, it's unlikely to happen, I suppose. I guess I'll just have to stick to putting their eggs on the bottom of the bag, under a big fat slab of meat. HA! Vengeance.   read


6:48 PM on 11.22.2007

Couple of Fragile scans hit the net, and hello, I'm new.

Evenin'.

My first C-Blog, now that I can login. Could someone possibly be so kind as to tell me the formatting stuff for those oh-so-funny captioned pics people have at the top of their blogs? Y'know, just to fit in. Feel free to accompany it with "OMG U SUX!", or something, by way of welcome.

So yes. Fragile. A game we know very little about, but it's an RPG, it's made by Namco Bandai, and it's on the Wii. From these scans, it also looks quite pretty.

Check out Dale North's original article on it, if you don't know what Fragile is, then wait around for a couple of days until the official site goes live.

From NintendoWiiFanboy   read


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