Zdravstvuj. My name is Valentin Seleznyov and i'm a 26 year old self-employed kitchen designer from London, England.
When i'm not making housewives dreams come true, i work on my space ballet and play video games.
It's like a regular ballet, only instead of traditional instrumentation, it will be performed on electric guitars, drum machines, and the space-aged equivalent of a cannon. A sort of ode to Tchaikovsky, my musical idol.
I read an article on Eurogamer today, claiming that a head writer at BioWare finds the company's forum to be 'increasingly toxic' and that as a result he largely ignores it these days. My first thought was fair enough - Mass Effect has the worst fan-base in all of gaming - but now that i think about it, i believe that BioWare only have themselves to blame.
I think back to that femshep polling fiasco, where we were asked to vote upon a face for the female version of our favourite space marine. As most will remember, a blonde model prevailed and that should have been that. BioWare gave no indication that more votes would be held to refine Shepard's visage.
Yet large numbers of fans took the BSN and Twitter to complain. Apparently the blonde looked as though she was more concerned with her nails than the state of the galaxy, or as though she should be carrying a small dog around in a designer handbag. And BioWare caved.
Imagine the storm such a change to the terms would have caused if the black Shepard character model had won the vote. No doubt BioWare would have had to stick to their guns, but prejudice against blonde women is largely accepted and somewhat institutionalised, i have learned.
Quite rightly, many blonde female players were left feeling a bit let down that BioWare would crack under such pressure, and let prejudiced, borderline-misogynistic whining dictate design policy. BW can claim that more people wanted a non-blonde Shepard (which isn't true - less than half as many people who took part in the first vote did in the second) but when you do such an injustice to a small portion of the fan-base to please the masses you send a message.
It's just not possible to be blonde, attractive, female, and a strong leader.
It's little wonder that any bigot with a keyboard and an interest in their games takes their narrow mind to the BioWare Social Network. It has a toxic atmosphere because BioWare enabled it, and to a certain extent rewarded it in quite a big way.
Forget the recycled environments of DAII, and the ending of ME3 (which i quite liked). This was the moment when BioWare really screwed up, in terms of maintaining some semblance of rationality and decency in its community.
On a lighter note, i'd like to thank them providing me with confirmation that i'll probably end up marrying my current girlfriend. She was looking at some celebrity column a few days ago and saw that Tricia Helfer had posed nude for some calendar.
I said that i don't really like her as a brunette. She agreed, adding that Tricia looks better with her hair as a flexible, bio-mimetic nano-material, cohered into a solid piece.
I've just read an article about how a small Connecticut town has set up a voluntary video game return program, seemingly aimed at collecting violent games. On the surface this seems like a dumb, reactionary response to a recent atrocity... but considering that the School superintendant behind the idea is quoted as saying
'We're suggesting that for parents who have a child or children who play violent video games, to first of all view the games. We're asking parents to better understand what their child is doing. Have a conversation about next steps. If parents are comfortable (with their child's gaming habits), we're comfortable.'
ignoring the fact that the donated games are likely to be burnt, it doesn't actually seem too bad. It does seem to imply that many people see a link between video games and real-life crazy and violent people though. So i've had a little think about how games with an emphasis on violence affected my development.
And the truth is that i have always found that games with really visceral and involved combat often leave me looking for less bloody ways through a quest.
Like in Dragon Age: Origins. I firmly believe that in order to get the most out of any RPG you need to play on a difficulty level that is slightly outside of your comfort zone, because this makes certain choices far more harrowing and important. Like in DA, when you have the option of sacrificing some elven slaves in order to receive a big buff to your health. On easy, it's barely a decision. If i'm playing as a good guy, i don't do it. But on Nightmare, because combat is that much more difficult, even though i was playing as a good guy, i had to consider it. The Wardens say to do whatever is necessary to battle the Blight, after all.
Anyway, there are some really combat-intensive parts of the game, such as in Orzammar and the Deep Roads. Because of this, i ended up letting a lot of petty criminals flee with their lives.
Of course the Darkspawn scum can never be given that option, but i can honestly say that a lot of violent games leave me looking for more peaceful means to resolve an issue. You need to pick your battles and be more discerning when it comes to deciding who really needs to die or be beaten to within an inch of their lives.
To that end, video games echo and enforce real life realities.
When i was at school, unbelievably other children would sometimes make fun of me. I knew that fighting was hard and mana potions were scarce, so wasn't about to engage every hoodlum that mocked me.
I saved my stamina for the big issues, like when some bastard-child nicked my yo-yo. And even then, i knew it was best to not get my hands dirty and instead paid the Cannon brothers two weeks worth of pocket money to beat him up and get it back for me.
After my associates were done with the young rapscallion, he was laying on the grass crying and i was presented with an opportunity to kick him in the head. But i didn't. I not only taught him a lesson about not taking things that don't belong to you, but i also taught him a lesson about mercy. Because as games told me, often you need to take the paragon/light side/way of the open palm path if you want to unlock the best ending.
It really is like games taught me. There is always a better way to solve an issue than with your own fists. And i am happy to report that games like Dragon Age are teaching my 13 year old brother similar lessons.
Also, as there have been a lot of 'top games of 2012 lists' i'd just like to add that my absolute favourite game of the year was Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, which just did an amazing job of bringing back the G1 characteristics of my favourite robots. Risen 2 and Mass Effect 3 run it close.
I went into GAME yesterday to get some Microsoft points so that i could download the Sleeping Dogs DLC, and because as yesterday was obviously Halloween, the employees there were dressed up.
I was browsing the xbox games and some guy who was in a devil costume came over and asked if i needed any help. I told him that i was just looking, but that i kind of wanted to buy Medal of Honour but have been making an effort recently to not buy so many games, and with two that i'm really looking forward to coming over the next fortnight i should probably try to be more responsible and wait.
He basically said that i should ignore all that and just buy the bloody game, but then somebody else told me that i should probably just wait. I recognised the voice as belonging to a girl named Sarah. This is the shop my girlfriend works at too and they're friends, so i said 'maybe' and went to put the game back.
The displays have this sort of reflective surface towards the top, and i never pass up an opportunity to look at myself, so as i was putting the game back i looked up and noticed that Sarah was dressed up as one of those Lynx angels.
It was so bizarre. I had a devil on my right shoulder telling me to ignore my doubts and act irresponsibly, and an angel on my left shoulder telling me to do the good thing.
This kind of made my mind up fully on the matter, and i left the game on the shelf before walking to the checkout to get my Microsoft points. Sarah isn't divine, but because of the occasion the imagery was quite powerful.
I've posted a few blogs already, but as i'm probably going to be sticking around i would like to introduce myself properly. To help do this i'd like to share a story from my day.
I went to see Skyfall today (don't worry; there are no spoilers) and it was fantastic.
Not quite as good as Casino Royale, and the action scenes were a little bit lacking… but it showed a more clever side to James Bond and re-introduced some of the traditional elements associated with 007 films before the reboot. It was very funny too… though one scene included for laughs left me a little confused in regards to continuity.
Also funny is that i went to the first screening of the film, which was in the morning of a weekday, so you can imagine that the other people there were pretty big fans too. While we were waiting for the theatre doors to be opened my girlfriend was reading from a ‘50 years of Bond’ trivia panthlete.
I got every question right, naturally, but as i looked around i could see the other people were answering them in their heads. One guy in particular - a hairy man with a comb-over - had a ‘i answered that quicker’ look in his eye, and eventually he joined in.
I had just been asked ‘which actor played 007 in the most films’ and answered Roger Moore. The guy then said ‘actually, Connery also portrayed Bond 7 times… once in the non-eon Never Say Never Again’, and then gave a smile that seemed a bit menacing like Jaws’.
My girlfriend then pointed out that these only pertained to the official films, and declared me the victor, so i gave a smile very much like the one Moore replied to Jaws with in the Spy Who Loved Me.
Moments like that stay with you. I will never forget the day i beat a jumped up ape at Bond trivia on a technicality in front of at least four other fanatics and their embarrassed-looking wives on the day Skyfall opened to the public.
Some of you may have read my blog about how i read the Drell prayer from Mass Effect 3 at my uncle's funeral, or how i used a Dragon Age analogy to offer some relationship advice to a friend. The point i'm attempting to illustrate is that when something captures my imagination it really pulls me in, and to an almost pathetic degree. Words like 'saddo' and 'anorak' are often used to describe me... but given the amount of enjoyment my passions bring me and how much i can glean from the world through them, i can't say i care.
In addition to James Bond and video games, my big passion is the Moon, and i would like to pose a question if i may.
Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse? And if so, have you ever wondered as to the mathematics that allow this celestial miracle to occur?
Do you not find it weird that the sun and the moon and the earth are just the right size and just the right distance apart to allow this to happen? Because i do find it weird. I also find the fact that none of the major accepted theories on the Moon's origin sufficiently account for the fact that every tested sample of Moon rock has had an identical oxygen isotope signature to that of Earth rock... a fact which demonstrates that both bodies originated at the same distance from the sun, and completely discredits both 'big whack theory' and the idea that the Moon was somehow captured by the Earth's gravity.
This, in conjunction to the complex mathematical message encoded within the Moon and its relationship with the sun and the Earth, has led me to believe that it is an artificial object, built with the intention of acting as an incubator with which to promote intelligent life on Earth.
This is the closest thing i have to a religious belief, and have been writing a 'space ballet' to tell the story. It's like a regular ballet, only instead of traditional instrumentation, i'm using synthesisers, electric guitars, drum machines and the space-age equivalent of a cannon (sort of an ode to Tchaikovsky - my musical idol).
As far as gaming goes, i have been doing it for a long time. My first console was a Sega Master System II (the one that had Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in) and i remember loving Psycho Fox especially, though i would have been very young at the time. My household remained loyal to Sega all the way to the Dreamcast, and games i enjoyed from this time are Fantastic Dizzy, Cosmic Spacehead, Road Avenger, Chu Chu Rocket and Shen Mue.
I had an original xbox, but didn't play it very much. I kind of lost interest in gaming for a while, but was sucked back in 2008 when i bought Mass Effect with a 360. Now some might say i'm a little too into it.
Not least of all my girlfriend, who sometimes dresses up as video game characters and enacts elaborate roleplays. She often makes requests in return though, so we both enjoy it... although the time i was dressed as Samwise Gamgee and got clipped around the ear for not saying 'oooh Miss Frodo' in a convincing enough West Country accent is definitely one of the weirder moments of my life.
A good online friend of mine, who i met on BioWare's Dragon Age forums, confided in me last night. He has been married for ten years, but the relationship has slowly turned cold and he has found himself falling in love with another woman. He's a good man, and doesn't want to hurt his wife but admits that he just isn't in love with her any more. This is what i told him:
The first time i played Dragon Age: Origins, i took an immediate liking to Morrigan. She was hot and wore a cool outfit and as she was the first female to join my party, and the only human member aside from that whiny bitch Alistair, i really got to know her on the way to Lothering. A relationship was forged.
But then, in the Lothering tavern, i saw her. A dual wielding red-headed vixen with an adorable French accent. After butting into a fight and talking me into allowing my foe to flee with his life, she introduced herself as Leliana and joined my party.
The adventure progressed and i continued chatting up both Morrigan and Leliana, and with each 20 point increase in our relationship i was awarded a new ability bonus. Extra cunning for getting on with Leliana and extra magic for getting on with Morrigan.
Things were great. I had Leliana to tell me what a good boy i am and Morrigan on the other side of camp for when i wanted something a little more physical… and because of the ability bonuses, i was kicking more Darkspawn arse than i ever thought possible.
But then Leliana confronted me and said i had to make a choice. Her or Morrigan. The bard or the witch… i wasn't sure who to choose.
I preferred Leliana’s personality, but Morrigan had the looks. I knew that i would lose, like, 50 relationship points with whoever i dumped, and decided that Leliana’s additional cunning would serve me best as i was playing as a warrior. Plus she had the personality. So i decided i’d choose her. I went to Morrigan’s tent to break the bad news, but i just couldn't do it. I’d learned about her tragic upbringing, and how her mother intended to steal her body, and i just couldn't hurt her like that.
So i changed my mind, thinking that Leliana would be just fine without me.
And it was the biggest mistake of my Grey Warden’s life. Not only did Morrigan stop putting out, but as a result of my lost cunning i was getting hit more frequently and taking more damage. I started to resent Morrigan and stopped taking her with me into dungeons.
The moral of this story is that you have to decide what is best for you, and not your partner. Of course you should minimise the hurt you cause her, but you only have one life with which to slay the archdemon and stop the blight, so should choose the love interest that you like more.
I doubt that his decision was based solely on my analogy, but i received an email today thanking me for the talk and letting me know that he has decided to make a go of it with the other woman.
When i bought 007 Legends on Friday, the girl at the checkout asked if i was going to see Skyfall when it comes out. 'Of course' i told her. 'I'm not buying a James Bond game at 9am on its day of release because i'm a fan of second-rate Call of Duty clones'.
I don't like speaking for other people, but i'm fairly sure that no Bond fan does. We buy these games to play with Q's gadgets and to explore exotic locales and fantastical hidden bases... hoping to throw out some dry one-liners in the presence of a stunningly beautiful woman whilst foiling the mad schemes of a criminal mastermind (who probably suffers a physical deformity) along the way. You know, Bond stuff.
With 22 films worth of solid gold to draw inspiration from, it's shocking - positively shocking - that Eurocom failed to deliver on virtually every front. I will never get over how disappointed this game left me, but i have never been the sort of person to point out problems without having an idea or two on how to improve a situation, so would like to share my thoughts.
Films and games are obviously quite different, and you need to make changes in order for a FPS action game to be fun to play, but if you choose the right films you can do this while staying true to the source material. As an example:
Eurocom didn't fail completely. They built a game around the iconic Bond finales of the older films. The villain's personal army, usually in bright outfits, fighting ninjas or the US military or the loyal followers of a likeable Greek smuggler, in a bizarre hidden lair.
The final Moonraker mission was probably the highlight of the game. In zero gravity, Bond, Dr Goodhead and Jaws battle Drax's guard with lasers on a crumbling space station. Then the US army shows up. It was ridiculous, and not at all fitting with the current Bond, but at the same time kind of fantastic. Like much of Moore's tenure as 007.
The spectacular underwater finale of Thunderball, in which the US coast guard fight Largo's men with harpoon guns could work in much the same fashion.
Getting to this point would require drastically reworking parts of the film however. I would make the game's very first level a somewhat-faithful adaptation of the films pre-title sequence.
Bond and his french contact are attending the funeral of Jacques Boitier, A SPECTRE agent responsible for the death of two of James' colleagues. Similar to the opening of Dragon Age II, a short clip would play before the screen faded to black revealing a developer/publisher credit.
-Bond on a balcony overlooking the funeral service-
Contact: You sound disappointed you didn't kill him yourself.
Bond: I am, Jacques Boitier murdered two of my colleagues.
-fade- Activision presents -next shot-
-Bond is now on an outside balcony, overlooking Boitier's widow entering the funeral car-
Contact: Is there anything else the French station can help you with?
Bond: Later perhaps. -notices the widow open the car door and it drive off-
Bond: Like i said, later.
-fade- A Eurocom production -next shot-
-The widow is shown entering her estate. Shuts the door behind her as Bond's silhouette can be made out in a chair in the room-
-fade- 007 Legends -game begins-
James punches the widow, revealing he knows it's actually Boitier in drag, and then a quicktime event fight breaks out. It is important that it's the good kind of QTE, like in Shen Mue and Heavy Rain, where some failure is acceptable but will alter the way the scene plays out. After killing Boitier, his goons arrive and Bond flees, in the jetpack, naturally.
In the film this trip is rather short, but for the sake of gameplay i would make it sort of like the helicopter section of Black Ops. Bond's height is set, but you otherwise control his movements, and would be required to shoot at Boitier's men as you make your way to the Aston Martin. The level ends as the scene in the film did, with Bond using his car's water cannons to knock the goons over. Maybe this could be incorporated into gameplay as a sort of turret section.
I don't think that you can make a game that features Thunderball without including the scenes from the health clinic, but i'm also pretty sure that there isn't enough material to get a whole level out of it. This problem could be overcome with creative use of flashbacks.
The second level would start with James entering the MI6 building and running into Moneypenny, who asks how the health clinic was. Flashback of Pat Fearing strapping Bond onto the traction machine - and of course quipping 'there, first time i've felt safe all day' - which Count Lippe then turns up in an attempt to murder him. Bond then attends the emergency conference called to bring the double-0s up to speed on the stolen nuclear missiles. This would be like one of those cut-scene levels in Call of Duty almost.
At certain points of the conference Bond would flashback to the key moments in the health clinic (Bond's revenge when he locks Lippe in a steam bath, and when he unmasked the dead, bandaged man) until he realises that the events there are connected to the current crisis. He is then sent by M to investigate Domino, the sister of the man murdered at the health clinic.
I know. Not too exciting but all the best FPSs have moments like this to further the story. It is important to know what's going on and i'm a fan of 'playable cut-scenes'.
In the next level Bond spots Domino and follows her to Largo's compound, which he infiltrates. This one will play very much like the usual levels in Bond games, but with an emphasis on stealth. A key part of the level will have Bond sneak past Largo's pool, while he's berating Quist, one of his henchmen. In the film this was for failing to kill Bond, but there wont be time to explain that here. All we know is he messed up, and we witness Largo drop him into the pool which is full of sharks. It's rare for any Bond game to take the time to demonstrate how ruthless the villain is.
During the level Bond finds evidence of Largo's involvement in the stolen nuclear missiles, and at the end follows Domino once again as she leaves the compound and stops at a beach a (very) short way away. As she's preparing to go into the ocean James confronts her, informing her that Largo killed her brother and pleads with her to give him anything that can help locate the stolen missiles. She agrees, but gives a quick gasp at something behind the player. It's Vargas!
The player is given one shot to make sure Largo's man gets the point. A bit of a gimmicky mechanic, but the player needs to get to relive this moment.
With Domino on board, and the location of Largo's base, it's time for the final level. I've already spoken about the underwater battle between the US military frogmen and Emilio's private army, but before that part of the stage i think it important to include something that makes use of one of the films other memorable gadgets: the watch with the built-in Geiger counter. 007 is on the hunt for some stolen nuclear missiles after all.
Perhaps Bond needs to use it to traverse a maze-like warehouse, before being caught by Largo's men. Domino is then taken to Largo while Bond is tied up, though quickly freed by Felix Lieter and his men, who then gear up and dive into the ocean to take on Largo's army.
During the underwater battle Bond would have to make his way to Largo's vessel, the Disco Volante, and kill him. I see this encounter as another QTE, but again, the non-lame kind, like Heavy Rain. With multiple paths and differing outcomes - though if you hit the notes you'll win, just in different way. or example, one route to victory may end up with Domino making the kill with a spear gun, like in the film, but another may end with Bond taking the shot himself.
I don't like to rely on QTEs, but a big part of Connery's period as Bond was the ferocity of unarmed combat. The fight on the train in From Russia With Love was brutal, and there isn't really any other way to recreate that.
Other villains lend themselves to other methods of play. I think that The Man With the Golden Gun would be a fun one to include, for the climactic battle with Scaramanga in his funhouse. I see this as being a bit like Metal Gear Solid's The End battle, with a variety of ways offered to draw Bond's target out, but just as many to give away his position allowing Scaramanga to hit him with a golden bullet.
Anyway, i think that this is a pretty good way to break down one of the best 007 films into 3 and a half levels while conveying the plot, building the key characters and making sure Bond acts like Bond. It has the gadgets, interpretations of the iconic moments and couldn't possibly be any more difficult to make than what we got with Legends.