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12:02 AM on 11.30.2009

Why I Love Assassin's Creed

I've been playing the poop out of Assassin's Creed II lately and I asked myself, "Why do I keep playing this game?" To be more specific, "Why do I find myself completing all these seemingly meaningless side quests like traveling five minutes to synchronize this viewpoint?" Then it all dawned on my like that time a pigeon pooped on my hat when I was at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk a few weeks ago.

I apparently love mundane tasks.

Now, these can't just be any mundane tasks, mind you. It must be a mundane task presented in a way that is somewhat compelling (yes, I understand that "compelling" thus contradicts the term "mundane", but humor me). It's not to just progress the story, but something that matures/betters your character inside the game. It could be in the form of revealing codex pages (i.e. Assassin's Creed II) or adding furniture sets to your home to increase its value. Wait... adding furniture sets to your home to increase its value?

I love Animal Crossing and I realize that it's all probably for the same reason. I go around and deliver presents for Tom Nook because I can ultimately achieve one of a few things: get Bells (to pay off that massive debt), get furniture (in hopes of completing my set), get clothes (because dress-up is fun) or just to build the relationship with that character.

It's just to better your character in this world and, apparently, I love doing this.

Now, it's important to also note that the tasks have to provide a sense of accomplishment in its setting. In the world of Animal Crossing, getting something for free is a massive accomplishment. Even if you don't need the piece of furniture, you can sell it at Tom Nook's store and get some money for it. In the world of Assassin's Creed II, it's being an assassin.

It all really boils down to the same thing: complete this task that isn't that hard and then feel like a total bad ass. Sending me out to gather intel before storming a palace for a fine assassination is just an epic version of delivering a shirt to Daisy.

However, upon even closer examination, there's more to this "revelation" of mine. These aren't tasks to progress the story, per se. You're given a choice. You can do it or not. You can go knock down couriers if you want or you could spend all day punching street performers in the face. You could go cutting down all the trees in the town or just spend hours fishing.

I believe it's these side missions of utter blandness that really get me going. I mean the main story is nice and all, but that's not really the thing that gets me to dive deeply into the game. I wouldn't say I was ever deeply engaged with Uncharted 2, even though I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Anyway, it's this crucial idea that made me understand why I like games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, Fable II, Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble, My Life As King, Little King Story or even Viva Pianata!

It's the optional content that adds so much to the game, but only if you want to explore it. Perhaps games that make the whole game essentially optional are the ones I waste the most time with.   read

1:16 PM on 11.25.2009

ROM CHECK FAIL - Thanksgiving Plans

This is a new comic I'm working on called Rom Check Fail. It will be something I do independently from Robot in the City and I'll be trying to update both regularly.

I've always wanted to do a comic that was video game related, but never had the confidence to do so. I always figured it would just end up being the same as every other video game comic and be brushed to the wayside for its lack of wit and humor. Then I read a comment from Bill Watterson regarding his comic Calvin and Hobbes and it inspired me. It was about the strips where philosophical talk would happen between Calvin and Hobbes. He decided that he'd stick them in the wagon for these strips since talking heads would be boring. That's when I decided to stick normal conversations in video game type situations.

I'm still trying to find the right style and pacing, but I think it's a good start. The site's registered and I should have something there relatively soon.

And for those indie gamers out there: yes, I am well aware of the fantastically made game ROM CHECK FAIL by Farbes. I will link to his game on the comic because I think he deserves much props.   read

3:54 PM on 11.24.2009

That guy on that stage.

Just something I thought about this past weekend. I wonder what it's like to be one of the backgrounds characters, not even an NPC, in those fighting game stages. You're just hanging around, not doing much, and these two people just start brawling in the middle of the streets. Personally, you've never seen a human being shoot fire from their hands before, so all you can do is pump your fist in the air and cheer them on.

It's a weird world.   read

1:37 PM on 11.19.2009

The NPC - Captain Travers from Fossil Fighters

I've been playing Fossil Fighters on the Nintendo DS lately and I must say that it is quite an engaging experience in the same way that you find doing the same thing over and over again as an engaging experience. Honestly, there's something strangely alluring about going around, digging up fossils, cleaning them, turning its genetic code into your dinosaurs, battling and doing that all over again. I highly recommend it, especially if you're looking for your next Pokemon-esque gaming fix.

Now, to the more pressing matter at hand: Captain Travers. This gentleman is the one who captains the ship to and from the dinosaur island. I figure he likes boats and likes to help out when he can. But then something in the story occurs which makes you realize otherwise. When you have to battle your first opponent in the game to qualify for a Fighter's License, the end of the Prelude chapter, you end up facing Captain Travers.

Now, this seems more than just a formality. He trash talks to you, a mere child, and says that he's not going to go easy. From this I can draw the fact that he's in it to win it, essentially hoping to defeat you so he can get his Fighter's License. I mean, really, if you have the license to raise dinosaurs from the grave and pit them against other dinosaurs, why would you be captaining a boat?

He probably does this every time he brings a rookie to the island who is interested in getting their Fighter's License. Imagine how many copies of the game have been sold. That's how many times he's gone to the island with hopes of finally getting that Fighter's License, only to have his dreams crushed and his broken soul swept under the rug.

My coworker Bryon brought up a very intriguing point that it is possible that if you loseto the Captain, you must become the next Captain until you can defeat the next rookie. With that thought in mind, can you imagine how long the Captain's been pining to get a Fighter's License? The guy has to be at least 38 years old and the average participant, or at least of your character, is probably 12.

Jesus. This game is a mid-life crisis victim's worse nightmare. Luckily, I just crossed my quarter-life crisis and I'm feelin' fine, playing video games meant for children.   read

9:36 AM on 03.12.2009

Wheelman Demo Impressions... I'm slowly getting away.

I downloaded and tried the Wheelman demo the other night on my XBOX360. It's an action/racing game that utilizes the 3D likeness of famous actor and bald man, Vin Diesel.

Overall, I was slightly underwhelmed by the entire experience. For a game that desperately relies on tension and a sense of speed, I never really got a feeling for either. I made plenty of mistakes (there's a woman telling you to do certain things to escape the police), but was never punished for them. I might as well have just driven around the city and purchased some gelato on the way as the outcome would've probably been the same. The game also kept telling me I was "speeding" (and thus filling my "Burnout" meter), but it never felt like I was driving any faster than a 100cc race in Mario Kart. I was always just slowly... getting... away.

Speaking of Mario Kart, the game also had this weird game mechanic that felt a lot like Mario Kart: Double Dash. If you double-tapped left or right, your car would shift perpendicular to the road in the respective direction. It's like when you press the L or R buttons Double Dash and ram another opponent. Things like this took away from the over-the-top action feel and ended up just feeling cartoonish and unrealistic.

Granted, it's "just a game", but the presentation is obviously not meant to be interpreted as cartoonish or unrealistic. It turned out the game wasn't even mildly extreme.

I guess I just wished the game had a more exciting feel to it, like the underrated "Stuntman: Ignition". It wasn't the best game in the world, but it really got your blood pumping (out of sheer excitement or frustration) during the last stretch in a long stunt run.

My final thoughts? Hopefully it was just because it was the demo and wanted to be as accessible (often confused with "easy") as possible. The graphics, at least, were nice and the main character sure looked like Vin Diesel. You know, all brooding and fast and furious and furrowing his eyebrows all the time.

Fact: Vin Diesel's greatest role ever was as the Iron Giant in the movie The Iron Giant. He was very convincing. Oh, and then there's that one breakdancing iinstructional video too. That's the most realistic hair I've ever seen.   read

1:13 AM on 03.12.2009

I finally got around to Bioshock...

So, I finally got around to playing a little bit of Bioshock. I'm currently borrowing it from a friend of mine and am finding it, well, an interesting experience. I'm not sure what the main reason is, but I just don't seem compelled to finish the game. I'm roughly four hours into it and I figure Atlas or whatever his name turns out to be kind of plot-driving twist device like... he's an alien or a ghost or my twin. In any case, I enjoyed the manners and politeness of all the enemies as they waited for me to hone my hacking skills on open machines.   read

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