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9:28 PM on 03.17.2009

Maturity in Video Games (Podtoid Question)

I kinda feel a little self conscious writing this because it seems a bit self-referential, but whatever. I knew the question would come out wrong on Podtoid, so allow me to clarify. The question I asked boiled down to:
When or how will there be a videogame equivalent of The Godfather?

I wasn't trying to make a point about meaningful story. What I was trying to say is that developers aren't really gearing games towards adults. They're making them for kids or teens. You can see a world of difference between the audiences that go to see films like Power Rangers and Hotel Rwanda. Compare Halo to Half Life 2 however, and there's no immediate difference between the intended audiences of each game. Adults can still enjoy games made or marketed for/at kids, that’s one of the many strengths of the medium. The problem is that the divide between a kiddie experience and a real iconic mature game is almost negligible. I’m sorry to make the comparison; I really am, because I don’t think games should be “like films”. I’m trying to highlight a possible problem that might have gone unnoticed. We all talk about story and meaning and immersion in games, but I think real mature intellect is something that is mostly overlooked.

Beyond Good & Evil, my personal Best Game Evar is a gaming masterpiece in terms of cinematic quality, but there is no doubting that the story is childishly simple. Mass Effect has an excellent complexity in its characters, scripting such varied emotions such as self doubt, assertiveness, apathy, excitement, discomfort, playfulness, hopelessness, distaste and unease, but it all goes to waste on the senseless and clichéd ending. Even Bioshock had a forgettable, almost cowardly ending, like the developers wimped out of making a powerful or memorable point because it would alienate everyone but the 3 non-teens for whom the game was marketed at.

I could have chosen any number of varied films for comparison, but my example was The Godfather. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious bastard, here’s why. This is the opening scene of The Godfather Part II:


This scene shows the funeral procession for the murdered father of Vito Andolini, the boy who would grow up to become The Godfather; Vito Corleone. What should be a solemn and peaceful scene is interrupted but a gunshot. The eldest son (the brother of Vito) is murdered there and then to prevent him from taking revenge. The petrified mother, who has already lost two of the most important people in her life, begs the Don of the local town to not murder her youngest son. He kills her.

Years later and after much character development, Vito returns to this place to get his revenge, to get the revenge that the audience wants him to have. But after all this time, Don Ciccio is an old man - senile, barely capable of hearing, let alone responding to the bewildering queries of foreign men. He barely remembers the man who is going to kill him. It almost feels like cheating.


This is the kind of maturity I would like to see, not just in video game story writing, but in overall design. I want to see a game that doesn’t play like a baby toy, a game that isn’t designed with a teen demographic in mind - in other words, a game that could make me feel all smart because a teenager wouldn’t get it.

But then again, I am only 20. And a pretentious git. Maybe I should go to bed.   read

1:09 PM on 03.14.2009

One Week Memory: Playstation 2 Rumours

Last time I said that Shit be unreal. Right now, Shit be dipping its toe in the waters of real, wearing gold plated armbands of respect and wearing jewel encrusted goggles of some other hip-hop term I’m not down with. Simply, this one is better than the last one, but not as good as the next one.

Computer and Video Games is up next. From issue #198, May ’98, they write:
Apparently, Sony wants to make the Playstation 2 more than a mere games machine and reports suggest that the PS2 team are working with Microsoft’s Web TV developers to add Internet brosing capabilities to the console.
What’s more, I hear that it can play NES cartridges and circumvent the issue of accelerating to light speed. It can even read future formats, foreseeing the technology that is yet to come and assimilating it into the console’s library, such as the interstellar spaceman format known only as “Bluu Rai”.

Actually, that last one is bollocks. But to its credit, the article does back up its rumour with evidence, going on to mention something about the then-unannounced Emtion engine and Ken Kutaragi’s intentions for the console, so the article isn’t just speculative drivel. Unfortunately, it’s all for bollocks when you look to the left and see a mock up of the GBC, apparently capable of playing Banjo Kazooie.

Journalism!   read

12:22 PM on 03.13.2009

One Week Memory: Left 4 Dead

I don’t like games magazines at all. The price is a major off-put, they are slow - often weeks late with the big news and they are no better written than most online publications. The additional numerous mistakes and typos are like the few specs of rodent droppings on an already out of date, undercooked, over expensive gourmet meal. With magazines, you’re paying for all the ancillary dressing like the feel of the paper or the interesting presentation, even though the substance is significantly less... substantial.

On the other, more comedic hand, presumably a hand that wears pink nail varnish and a sock puppet, this all actually gives them value. It becomes a like a glass-bottomed boat, looking back into the past when people said stupid things to sell subscriptions. The Internet has a notoriously short memory, something that developers and publishers and even retailers use to the best of the ability, but you can’t forget print. It’s always there; a track record of all the ridiculous bollocks that we once believed. Hence the reason why I’m starting this shit with Left 4 Dead.

Games TM is a nice mag. They did a Top 100 Video Games Special that I bought because it had an article about Beyond Good and Evil and no other reason, but then again, that’s the same reason I signed up to Desturctoid. Near the end, there is a “Games of the Future” section with an article about Left 4 Dead. But critically lacking information, the writers had to embellish a little. It reads like this:
Essentially, Left 4 Dead is an MMO Horror game. All four protagonists are controlled by humans, of course, but the zombies can also be controlled by real people.

As many of us know, Left 4 Dead was built on the foundations of Counter Strike: Source. So an MMO from this was a slight stretch of the imagination to say the least, and the game we have today is exclusively a co-op experience that holds only a rudimentary correlation with MMO gaming. A simple but stark portrayal of how print can fuck you over when you tell lies, sure, but shit be nowhere near reals yet. Boy, shit ain’t even simulated.


3:55 PM on 03.08.2009

I think there's a hidden message in all this

(I didn't actually want to post it as a separate blog, but the article has gone over 50 comments and my set up doesn't like the Next 50 Comments button)   read

5:02 PM on 02.14.2009

A Fun Game

Arena Wars is fun, attractive and simple, yet infinitely replayable. Put simply, it’s what Unreal Tournament would be like if it was an RTS. The true depth, however, is something you experience by playing it. It isn’t a Triple A title, but it is budget software at its best - sort of like if XBLA was on a computer, if you could imagine that.

The way with the typical RTS is to use pretty explosions and the unspoken promise of tank rushes to lure in the average gamer, then him them with a steep learning curve that they will feel compelled to master despite the fact that it will take many years. From here, you just keep them coming back for expansion packs and sequels until it’s the only game they ever play. Sometimes, this journey is fun for the player, but there is a small renegade group of RTS games who do things differently, giving the player a small and manageable handful of elements to work with, like throwing a few random household objects at the feet of a small, perplexed child and observing their next move. This can be fun also.

By removing substantial amounts from the classic model, it serves the dual purpose of A) making the development cycle shorter, easier and more realistic, and B) making the game easier and more fun to play (and also, cheaper). These games are a refreshing break from the boredom of your average FPS, yet they still manage to escape the tyranny of more demanding RTSs and find a nice, warm middle ground. Arena Wars fits this category by removing resource collection, base building and storyline and replacing it with FPS elements like Capture the Flag and Bombing Run.

I’ll keep this simple. Here are some things you might like about Arena Wars.
- There is no tech tree, there are no upgrades or promotions, there is no horrible campaign or accompanying voice acting.
- There is only one team, 6 units types and a handful of game modes. But there are still millions of possibilities.
- The AI adapts to your tactics. You will see them attempt to understand your intentions the more you play.
- The soundtrack is great. Well, I think so. If you disagree with me, you can add your own songs to the in game playlist.
- The in-game map editor is as simple as Far Cry’s Ed, yet every dev tool is at your disposal.
- The entire game can be learned in 5 minutes through developer guided tutorials. It placates that feeling of unease you get when you realise you have to put effort in.
- Graphically, it is very scalable. It won’t chug along on your old dead laptop, yet it still looks great on a modern PC.
- The game weighs in at 170 MB; far less than Red Alert 2 even before patches and expansions.
- The entire game loads on startup, which means loading is instant. You choose the map, it loads up faster than a webpage.
- Picture of Bill Bailey to break the monotony (not in game footage).
- You can import your own custom avatar. Just for giggles really, but I liked it.
- All those things you obsessives crave; replays, spectator games, webcam and voice support, all that crap.
- The original game can be purchase dirt cheap from a number of places. Bargain bins, eBay, Goozex - hell, I got mine from Poundland.
- There is a new version of the game out, imaginatively called Arena Wars: Reloaded, if you're interested. Also widely available.

So, there you go. Arena Wars is a game that you can play. This is what we have established. I hope you go away enriched with this knowledge.   read

10:46 AM on 01.12.2009

Seven Ways to Get More Fun Out of Left 4 Dead

A few weeks ago, I was playing through No Mercy on Expert for what was probably the twelfth time, and I realised I wasn’t having any fun any more. This was probably because I had been burning through the same map over and over until my eyes bled and my sperm clawed at the inside of my testes, begging not to condemned to such a sex-starved life.

I’m still playing it, so it’s not like the appeal has worn off just yet, but you may also be feeling the weight of repetition beginning to take its toll, so here are a few completely different things you can do to stave off the stagnation.

1. All 4 Me
Otherwise known as “Left 1 Dead” by people with no imagination. All 4 Me has you start a single player game and immediately kick all three bots from the game using the console. You then have to play, not to win or escape, but literally to see how long you can survive without getting pounced, strangled, tanked, paper-cut, fired for lack of work commitment, fired for inadequate health and safety procedure, fired for startling the witch during office hours (including lunch and break hours) or vomited on by a 7-foot tall, morbidly obese telecommunications operator from Redding.

You can choose to fix the boss infected either by entering the server variable “director_no_bosses 1” or simply changing their abilities or spawn frequency for a little more challenge using commands like “director_special_respawn_interval” or “hunter_pounce_ready_range”, but playing it the hard way is a really amazing experience. It may sound sarcastic if I told you that how awesome it is to be instantaneously pinned by the hunter just seconds after an utterly epic and unbelievable man vs tank battle, but it really is an amazing experience, one that only becomes all the more delicious when you actually do manage to complete the level. This is the loneliest way to play Left 4 Dead, and is a highly refreshing experience.

It’s also hilarious to see the credits roll with only your name for every statistic.

2. Puppet the Director
Be aware with this one. This follows the classic rule that cheating will cheapen the experience. As I kid, the first thing I did after buying a game was to look for cheats, because they would instantly unlock all the fun in one glorious rush, but it would be over very quickly, leaving me with only the intended, conventional levels of fun to tide me over until my next game. Kinda like eating the icing off a slice of cake. You’ve never had so much fun in a game before, but it may cost you further enjoyment of the game if you don’t know what you are doing.

Fortunately, I do know what I’m doing, so allow me to demonstrate the theory. Start up a single player game now and type into the console “sv_cheats 1” and then “bind mwheeldown z_add”. Now roll your mouse wheel back and forward and watch in awe as you see how far you can push the game before it melts your computer. This is just a fraction of the fun you can have when you screw with the game mechanics. You can, of course, pull the infamous witch trick of spawning a million billion witches in a small space while enjoying the benefits of a good noclip, and watch in awe as they balleticly swarm around your feet. There is more than just spawning zombies of course; you can do pretty much anything you like so long as you find the right command, but I’ve learnt that part of the fun is in the discovery, so I’ll leave you to play with that. I promise, you’ll come away grinning like a mad man.

3. Gun for the Hard Achievements
Left 4 Dead has perfect achievements. If anything could be used as conclusive proof that Gamerscore is an arbitrary factor, it would be that the Left 4 Dead achievements are so good and so much fun to get, be they passive or through an investment of effort, that they are more satisfying to get than any of the games I’ve played on the 360.

Gamerscore is good for giving an achievement worth and value; it helps you and others gauge the difficulty of the achievement and thus the amount of effort required and the satisfaction gained. But Left 4 Dead proves that this is a misnomer by designing achievements that are so well intertwined with the gameplay that you know when you or someone else has done something awesome and, without using any words or numbers or multi-coloured rosettes, lets you feel every bit as awesome as you should. I just wish there were more of them.

4. Custom Maps
It seems obvious to say with a source game, but custom maps are already in production for Left 4 Dead before the SDK hasn’t even come out yet. Any existing maps can be easily converted and new maps can be prepped in the existing SDK to be ported over at a later date. Speaking of which and considering how easy the Hammer editor is to use, I strongly suggest making your own. Just start by drawing the path in rough blocks, and add the detail as you go. You want the basic route to be satisfying to run, with plenty of twists and turns and depths of sight before anything else.


The community has always been at the forefront of Valve games, with every single game receiving a plethora of mods, maps, skins, gameplay variants, mutators and conversions, but Left 4 Dead can do more with your map. All those Counter Strike maps on FPSBanana are now worth 10 times as much as they were previously. But if you’re still not sold, just imagine this: Left 4 Dead in Portal, with the portal gun. Give it a month.

5. Director Dissection
Typing in the command “director_show_intensity 1” while in cheat mode brings up a nice little window on the right-hand side of your screen. This shows you how the director monitors your stress levels. Try playing through a game of Blood Harvest and watch the how the little bars react to how you play. Not only does this give you a fair idea of how the director calculates your stress, not only does it provide you with advanced battlefield strategies and knowledge of the synthetic world around you, but it truly is fascinating to watch the game waver to your actions; to see it weave the gameplay experience around you.

Maybe it’s just me and my love for the design aspect of game design, but I reckon you’ll get a kick out of this too. Try combining it with the cheats as well and see it go spastic when you spawn no less than a million-billions of infected in the safe room while crouched in the corner with an auto-shotgun. Bliss.

6. Endurace Mode
This is the most fun you will have with Left 4 Dead. On Act 5 of any level: “director_finale_infinite 1”. Just do it. Incidentally, you might want to bind up “give molotov” to an easily accessed key.

7. Edit: I just Found Another
In a single player game, type "director_no_human_zombies 1" into the console. This allows you to play as the infected against bots offline, which is good for devising tactics and practising your wall jumping skills, sure... But combine it with these previous aspects, for example, the ability to spawn infected at will, the ability to force panic events every 12 seconds, the ability to noclip and the ability to increase the difficulty of the finale by an incalculable degree, and you've got possibly the finest gaming experience ever devised.

I ought to point out that I've found a few problems with this. The game is designed to not start until there are players on both teams, and it can become quite a hassle trying to get it to work. You will need to choose your team with M, but this also ends your round, putting you back on the survivors team, so you need to switch back straight away. You also need start the game with the command "director_force_verses_start", but this won't open the locked safe room door. So far, the only way I've found to fix this is to type "ent_fire checkpoint_exit break" in order to make the safe room door disappear. I'll fix this if I find another way. If you're willing to put the effort into getting around these issues, it's definitely worth your time.

Now, go and have some fun.   read

12:47 PM on 12.21.2008

Why the Coitus is Athiestium still Gamer of the Month?

Testicles in a set off tooth pliers. This is the BIGGEST outrage I have ever been burdened with in ALL MY LIEF. Did the moon suddenly jump back a few thousand miles and slow to a crawl in order to acclimatise to the new "Lauren" month? Maybe it has actually finally happened - I have stayed indoors so long that the whole astrological construct has changed around me and I didn't notice.

The weight of my rage is crushing me. I won't be able to enjoy my weekend now. Thanks you puss-biscuit.   read

11:42 AM on 12.21.2008

Beyond Good and Evil 2 Finally Greenlit

Beyond Good and Evil has been Greenlit after several months of delays and speculation.

It has had a rough ride. The original was released in Q4 of 2003 to massive critical acclaim and poor sales. If you haven't played it, go buy it on Steam, or go get it used for the Gamecube or PS2 (backwards compatibility) and you'll see what all the fuss is about.


Since this trailer debuted at Ubidays in May, the rumourmill has taken a slightly greenish tint with the volume of different nuggets of information that have been unearthed. Shortly after the Ubidays trailer, a community manager at the Ubi forums wrote this:

"I should say that the video is exactly all that has been officially released so far and there's nothing else we can say at this stage. No game, title, information, dates or anything else is yet available, announced or confirmed."

Now the game is greenlit, so we can all sit back and take a breath for the time being.   read

5:11 PM on 12.11.2008


Studies have proven that you are all wanks. But enough about that, let’s talk about something that could help you diminish your wankieness.

Skulltag is an engine-port-mod thing for Doom. I’ve seen a fair few doom mods flying around the Internet such as the Legacy Doom port and a few others, but that’s akin to saying you thought you saw some grass yesterday. Doom mods are ten-a-penny, but not Skulltag. Skulltag is special. Proper special, mind you, not that silly “gifted” nonsense. It does things to Doom that make it more fun than Left 4 Dead. It’s really that good.

I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s Doom, but a million times better, holding the potential for even more on top of that. It really just depends on how far you are willing to push the game, and how much you want to get out of it.

The game is tailored to work with ZDoom. You can put anything in it and it’ll work.

There are two paths you can take based on the following criteria:
1. You own any PC Doom game
2. You don’t own Doom at all

If you own the game, you can simply grab the original iwad - “doom.wad”, download Skulltag and you’re away. If not, either acquire it through some not less than illegal means, or you go download FreeDoom and grab the iwad from that. As usual, I leave you without an excuse not to. The few who refuse are simply left denying themselves free fun. But what can you do? What mysterious wonders are contained within this godly executable?

The addition of extensive multiplayer seems a good start. The entire game has been reworked to play an extremely smooth and incomparably fun online multiplayer game that supersedes the original - and most modern multiplayer games - in every way. Deathmatch is back and better than ever along with 6 other new game modes, but now with the inclusion of bots, more maps, more weapons and pretty much more everything else. Online co-op makes an appearance, drowning in gamemodes and depth of play. Standard co-op, survival and invasion are all present, with every gametype supported for bots, capable of 32 simultaneous players and unlimited replayability.

This is Freedoom, btw.

Talking about online multiplayer, however, doesn’t do it justice. I’ve played the game for ages and rarely played it online. Yet it still offers more fun than most games to date. If I ever want my ears to bleed and my spleen to rupture from unfiltered, raging awesome, I play offline survival while listening to Podtoid. This is why I mostly play Bot Deathmatch instead when listening to Podcasts which whittles down the awesome to safer quantities; ulcers and an ache in my face from all the gleeful smiling.

One of the things that made Doom great was the sense of scale. You get a gun; you kill a man. You get a shotgun; you blast that man to pieces. But then you get an imp, who is harder to take down. Then you get the rocket launcher, and then the gibs happen, and so on. Skulltag continues this formula in various ways by including new weapons, new items and new enemies. Most if not all are based off the old enemies, but every one is designed to complement the game you are playing, as each has a role that you can immediately identify and deal with on the fly.

There is so much content in the game, I just can’t talk about it all. I’d really love to, I’d love to tell you about how the spread power-up combined with the BFG-10,000 (yes) is the pinnacle of human creation. I’d love to talk about how being cornered by hordes and hordes of hellspawn, only to back into a surprised plasma cell and start leaving charred bits of them on the walls surpasses the fun of any Gears of War chainsaw or deliberate online griefing. The game makes me want to tell you about these things, but I can’t. You can’t eloquently justify the phrase “Fucking Awesome.” You just need to experience it yourself.   read

4:02 PM on 12.05.2008

Trine Looks Different and Amazing

It does. Trine is a PSN exclusive from the look of it, which means tough luck for me. But I want to post this trailer because the kind of person who frequents Destructoid should like the look of it. Enjoy!   read

6:19 PM on 11.26.2008

Use Your Pain Pills

If Left 4 Dead had a soundtrack, that would be the title of the album. I will now provide an argument as to why you should put down your med kit and pop some pills instead.

1. 80% of pills go to waste
Just think of those poor pills. They had hopes, dreams, aspirations of helping their dedicated survivors in overcoming the fear and pain of the zombie apocalypse. The Director spawned them, full of glee and anticipation, wandering what their big moment would be like. And you fuckers walked right past them. Worse still, some of you decided to pick them up, only to let them careen through the game with never a glimpse of aid or contribution.

But oh no, that is glorious, that would be an orgasm compared to the neglected pills who are used, only to be negated seconds later as one of you cocks whips out the heroic First Aid kit to claim the day for itself. It’s also tactically silly to waste resources in a survival game, but who gives a shit about that when you can donate money to the newly founded Society for the Forced Consumption of Pills.

2. First Aid kits keep people waiting
Pills on the other hand, are very pace-friendly, allowing you to keep the flow of genocide without having to stop for tea and light recreation every time you want to heal. Sure, that’s fine if the scenario is significant, but most of the time, it is an unnecessary burden on the team. You can even use them during a horde rush; just try doing that with that great messiah of delicious hunter bait, that Med kit.

And they still continue to inexplicably bandage those same two areas over and over again.

3. First Aid kits are more significant items
It has to be said that, despite my previous justifications, Medical kits are better. They can heal more health; they can bring people back from the brink of their “three strikes” incapacitation death, they are rarer and they give you permanent health, as opposed to temporary. But you know this, so why do you use them so quickly?

Smokers and hunters are there to tear away large chunks of your health at opportune moments, and if you get downed by a witch or a tank, it is a given that you will need a medical kit to hand. That is their best use; for emergencies. Don’t use them when you’ve got 47 health, you jittery twits. But really, I wouldn’t be telling you all this for your gain. After all...

4. I have dibs on Pills

And I want to rub it right in.   read

6:11 PM on 11.14.2008

The Valve Effect

Games, like life, cheese and Bill Bailey, are things that I will never really understand, but enjoy anyway while I make haphazard, self-centred guesses at why I love them. Well, not so much life. Right now, I am going to coin a phrase that has applied to me since the first Valve game I played, consistent across every one of their single player releases.

The Valve Effect is like having the Fun punch you through water. I play the game and I know I'm enjoying myself. I know that the game is good, but I don't feel any attachment to the game, like the game is lacking in personality. However, wait a week and the game is suddenly solid gold. Take Portal, a game that I knew I was going to enjoy, a game I was so hyped for that I opened and completed the game the day before Christmas under the guise of "pre-loading it for Christmas morning". I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was very clever, but I didn't feel the thing.

Fast forward to a month or so later, and I've played all the bonus content, all the user maps with all their peaks and valeys, all their flaws and imperfections, and the game is somehow this beacon of artistic excellence. Playing portal the second time through was oddly, not more fun than the first, but still somehow a better experience. Compare that to its Indie doppelgänger Braid and the opposite is true; the game was a whirlwind of mind-melting fun, until I completely finished it and then I had nothing left to do. No user maps, no additional content nothing. It was over. I played it again, but it wasn't the same. I truly love Portal, but that first time, there was just something missing.

Like I said, this isn't exclusive. Half-Life was a brilliant game, but I felt disconnected. I must have gotten no more than 8 hours in and played the opening sequence over 10, 15 times over before I actually sat down at the PC one day and said "Right, I'm going to complete this fucker," and it was a good, rock solid game. Half-Life 2 was worse, due to the addition of mods. We had Smod, the Cinematic mod, the RPG mod, as well as the numerous mini-mods that added a couple of small things to the game, all of which have multiple savegames after no more than a few hours. But here's the thing; once I told myself I wasn't going to get distracted by anything else, I ploughed through HL2, Episode 1, Episode 2 and Lost Coast with a new-found purpose, and they are now very clearly some of the best games I've played. I still have to finish Blue Shift though.

The multiplayer games don't fit this category so much because they are powered by people, but Left 4 Dead is the exception, the example that made me realise this strange correlation. I think today, about 2 hours ago, the fun hit me. Maybe. I mean, I'm not playing a frantic multiplayer game; I'm playing a co-operative single player portion that differs in the fine but irrelevant details, so I'm not sure yet. I think I want to immerse myself in the joy of killing zombies instead of worrying about the monotony of it, and mix that in with more levels and play styles.

Regardless, I like making haphazard, self-centred guesses, so here's what I think. Valve games are designed with such brilliant purity that they are made sterile, without variety, without darks to complement the lights, without flaws to complement the awesome bits. That probably isn't a bad thing, because people love their games. I'm not even suggesting that they deliberately flaw their games to make them less boring, I just wish I saw them the way everyone else did. I've played a lot of games over the years - and no, that is me parading faux credentials - it's me saying that I know when I should be having fun, and the discomfort of not feeling that fun... it is very disconcerting, a feat that only Valve have achieved.   read

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