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Real Job : Software Engineer
Favorite Author : G.K. Chesterton
Favorite Book : Starship Troopers
Least Favorite Movie : Starship Troopers
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Picking games to play with your wife is a delicate operation. There are many crucial factors to weigh : do we both think the game would be fun? Do I think I’ll enjoy it? Do I think she’ll enjoy it? Will it be too hard?

I don’t know that I’ve ever picked a really great game that we both liked. But one time about five years ago I at least picked a game that I really liked.



Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank was an unusual pick for us. It was not an RTS or an FPS (my staples then and now) or an RPG or straight platformer (my wife’s favorites). But my wife and I saw a piece on G4 about the game before it was released, as well as the many amusing commercials, and we both said “I’d play it”, so there we were.

I was immediately stupefied by the game and I’ve loved the series ever since. Not only were the big things in the game great – the many varieties of base gameplay, the weapons, the graphics – but the small things were also great. The mini-games were tons of fun, and I had a blast gathering all the skill points and golden bolts after I beat the game the first time. The story was so-so but it was generally humorous. The difficulty level was perfect for me and my wife – hard but achievable.

There’s no greater honor I can bestow on a game than completing it – I have had probably 200 games during my life and I’ve beaten maybe 15. I’ve actually beaten every Ratchet and Clank game I own multiple times, including all the extras. Not a big deal for your average gamer, but a huge deal for me.

The awesomeness of the game is overwhelming me, so let us resort to base enumeration.

Ten Things I Loved About Ratchet And Clank

10. The Gadgets

Ratchet and Clank always had neat gadgets to collect that both advanced the story line and made the game easier. It’s hard to pick a favorite but the neatest was probably the Hydro-Pack, that let you move quickly underwater. It makes you think “Why does every other game in the world make me suffer when I’m underwater?”

9. The Characters and The Enemies

Ratchet and Clank are fun (and funny) characters although in the first game they annoyingly bicker a lot. There’s also Captain Qwark, a celebrity superhero who’s humorous failures provide much of the impetus behind the plot. The enemies are smart and memorable and some of them even fight each other – I don’t know why I love enemies beating the crap out of other but I do.

8. The Levels



Big, beautiful, and well-designed. Every time you complete a branch of a level you discover that you are back at your ship, so the game has practically no backtracking. There are a large varieties of settings for the levels : there are levels in cities, in jungles, underwater, on spaceships, on space stations, in deserts, and even a level in a store. And there are just different types of levels : in some you race against time, some are puzzles, in some there are ongoing battles between NPCs. Some are heavy on platforming, others are heavy on action.

7. The Humor

It’s not incredibly funny, but it’s probably the first game that made me laugh (intentionally).

6. The Collectibles

Earning skill points and gold bolts sustained me when I’d already beaten the game twice.

5. The Many Varieties of Base Gameplay



It seems like every level in the game gave you some twist on the basic action-platformer, which was fun on its own. Some levels would see you without Clank, some (Pikmin-ish) levels without Ratchet. Sometimes you would use a grapple gun to swing through a level, sometimes you would use grind boots to slide (on a rail) through a level. There were levels you swam through, with the help of your trusty hydro-pack which propelled you quickly through the water. There were arenas where you fought giant robots with giant Clank (with Ratchet humorously strapped to your back). There were shooting levels where you manned a giant stationary gun. I’m sure I’m missing something. There’s just so much variety in gameplay mechanics and every one executed well.

4. The Mini-Games



The best varieties of base gameplay were fleshed out into their own mini-games, with arenas, racetracks, and space battles that you could revisit for fame, fortune, and fun.

3. The Action Platforming

Just the very base gameplay – the thing you do most of the time in the game – worked really well. It’s great that all the extras are fun, but a great game has to have a great basic conflict mechanic and Ratchet and Clank had it.

2. The RYNO



One gameplay mechanic that I loved (and so did Insomniac, it’s repeated in subsequent games) is the super-expensive, ultra-powerful weapon. The idea is that you can optionally spend a ton of time collecting bolts for the “ultimate weapon”. And it is truly a ton of time – probably a quarter to a half of the time of the entire rest of the game.

In the first game the RYNO (Rip You a New One) is the super weapon. It is just really cool and incredibly powerful. It fires multiple rockets that lock on individual targets and destroy almost any enemy. When you kill the final boss with the RYNO you will go through, IIRC, around nine of the fifty rounds the gun holds.

It’s just a great idea because it’s a blast to have this God Mode in the game, but the weapon is such a difficult acquisition that you’ll probably beat the game once before you ever get it.

1. The Weapons

The RYNO is king of the many Ratchet and Clank weapons and almost all of them are great. it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’m rather fond of the Suck Cannon, the Glove of Doom (releases helpful, deadly robots), and the Morph-O-Ray, which turns your enemies into chickens. There’s also a single upgrades for every weapon but the Ryno to turn them into the “Gold Weapons”, which do more damage and have more features.

Conclusion

Five years later I still love all these games. After the first, Insomniac released successors in breakneck fashion, releasing a new game every year. The second game, “Going Commando”, was the best, the later games adopting gimmicks that didn’t really pan out.

As for me, I still don’t have a PS3. I have, however, informed the wife that it will be my next big purchase. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but I’m totally willing to blow 500 bucks on the fifth Ratchet and Clank game.








So far this is my third night in a row with no games. I don't know what to do, but nothing is inspiring me to play. It does remind me of my twice-a-decade resolution to quit video games for a week to prove that I can. I don't twitch or have convulsions or anything but I always quit after a day, because without games I just spend my spare time staring into space, or something even less worthwhile (tv).

So I've spent the last three nights mostly just reading about Warhammer Online. I like Warhammer Alliance and the Waaugh Blogh. The first is a forum, the second is (shocker) a blog. Amusingly, it's one of about five Warhammer blogs that somehow have "Waaaugh" in the title.

For some reason I don't quite understand (although possibly because almost nobody is playing the game yet) Warhammer blogs vastly exceed the quality and quantity of WoW blogs. I was always scrounging around for them but never found one I liked -- or that was active.


So let's get down to business, shall we?

Games I'm Currently Not Playing

Company of Heroes (Just Purchased) -- disappointed that it's not as cool as DoW

Dawn of War -- disappointed that CoH isn't as cool as it is.

Team Fortress 2 -- it's been like five months, I'm out of practice and I have no achievements (not even the medic achievements)

Half-Life Source -- vowed to play all the way through before I played HL2. I vowed too soon.

HL2 And Friends -- waiting to finish HL.

Bioshock -- finished first act. All survival-horrored out.

WoW -- subscription lapsed, in no mood for WoW right now

Outpost Kaloki X -- Yes, I've been back to the XBLA well already. The thought of getting all the achievements for this game (20 hours of work for 20 achievement points yaay) does not thrill me, plus my 360 is sputtering. It needs to work or die, the indecision is killing me.

Obviously that's not a complete list of games I'm not playing right now. What are y'all not playing?








So, we need to make a Destructoid WAR guild. So who's planning on playing, and what ruleset/realm do you want to play?


(COMING IN 2011, 40K MMO DESTRUCTOID CHAPTER RECRUITMENT)

Incidentally, the rulesets at the moment are:

Core PvP (RvR) in RvR zones only
Open PvP in RvR zones and PvE zones

The realms (factions), as you hopefully already know, are order and chaos.

Personally, I'm torn on faction -- I'd like to be a dwarf, so part of me leans order, but I also like to be outnumbered, so that part of me leans chaos.

For ruleset I'm not torn -- Core all the way. I'm actually disappointed that they decided to offer an "open" ruleset because it fragments the player base and (ala WoW) is just going to lead to enormous amounts of trash-talking.

Why Core? Well, I play the game to PvP and Core (or PvE/Normal in WoW) gives you more time to PvP. How so? Well, because when you say "I'm going to PvE" you can sit down for an hour and PvE, then finish and PvP.

On PvP servers, when you say "I'm going to PvE", you actually enter this unfun, bastardized PvE-PvP hybrid where you get nothing done. So on a PvP server you actually spend more time doing PvE than on a PvE server.

Plus, while PvP zones are designed to make PvP fun (objectives and such), in PvE zones there are only quests, so what the f*** are your PvP objectives? "Hey, gank that guy so he can't complete his quest and has to log!" "Hey, help me not get ganked so I can finish my quest!" Pointless, Boring and Stupid.

So how are y'all planning to roll?








Someone named Sean Maelstrom (possibly not a real name) wrote a pretty neat essay on gaming called Birdmen and the Casual Fallacy here. I'm always up for serious discussions on gaming and I highly suggest it.

It's interesting, well-written, and mostly serious. The essay makes some good points but mostly misses the mark.

Ideas I agree with

1. old-school video games are today's "Casual Games".
For all the haters ... if you played video games before 1990 you were once a casual gamer.

2. Casual games eventually produce more hardcore gamers
Star Wars, scifi-lite if it's science fiction at all, produces more sci-fi fans. My college comp sci professors hated video games but most of my fellow students came to computers for games (etc.)

3. Blizzard and Nintendo (as developers) are something special in the gaming industry.
Nobody makes consistent blockbusters like these two developers.

4. development methods matter
Most gamers discuss only creativity in big ideas -- having a good game means executing small ideas as well.

Ideas I didn't agree with

1. 95% of the Game Industry are worthless copycats that never compare to the original
This misses two important points. First, a good genre can contain more than one game -- nearly every modern game genre is less than twenty years old and most of them began with one distinguished entry.

Second, one of his water-walking examples, Blizzard, generally does not innovate on a large scale. They take existing ideas, then execute the sh** out of them until all that's left is win.

In fact, I was a little put-out that he didn't compare Nintendo and Blizzard more, and talk about why two developers with vastly different approaches were both so successful.

2. Casual Games should really be called "Downmarket Games"
If you write a serious article about games you must provide a new name for something with a serviceable old name that everybody already knows. It's a law or something.

3. Great Companies Make Great Games And Then There's Everybody Else
Nintendo and Blizzard are juggernauts and make great games -- but there are plenty of smaller, "derivative" developers who make also great games.

You could probably name your own favorites, but Insomniac and Relic come to mind immediately for me. They don't make billions of dollars but they make fantastic games.

Besides, in the volatile world of development studios, I'd say that any game that gets you to the next one is a success.

4. Weird Hate of Specific Development Methods

Mr. Maelstrom really goes off on the Waterfall Model, on which he blames a panoply of woes. The Waterfall Method imagines project development as a sequential process, where requirements writing leads to design, which leads to code (etc.)

He says this leads to "samey" games, but misses how adherence to high-level requirements (or whatever the equivalent may be called) is so important in massive games. World of Warcraft is a fantastic game where a handful of (relatively inflexible) high level ideas govern not only the big mechanics in the world but permeate the small ones as well.

Anyway, I could go on and on about software development. If you haven't, I suggest reading that essay.








10. Churchill, 9. Chamberlain, 8. DoW, 7. More DoW, 6. National Review on GTA IV, 5. OTRSPOD, 4. Iron Man, 3. Indy, 2. Bioshock, 1. ???

10. Reading Old Copies of Old History Books
10. I just finished Book One ("From War to War, 1919-1939") of The Gathering Storm, that Churchill book I mentioned previously. The book chronicles most of the mistakes after the first that helped cause the second, and ends the night before the Germans invaded Poland, starting World War II. Churchill is not yet part of the government, so takes his defense as his own responsibility ...

There were known to be twenty thousand organised German Nazis in England at this time, and it would only have been in accord with their procedure in other friendly countries that the outbreak of war should be preceded by a sharp prelude of sabotage and murder. I had at that time no official protection, and I did not wish to ask for any; but I thought myself sufficiently prominent to take precautions. I had enough information to convince me that Hitler recognised me as a foe. My former Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Thompson, was in retirement. I told him to come along and bring his pistol with him. I got out my own weapons, which were good. While one slept, the other watched. Thus nobody would have a walkover. In these hours I knew that if war came -- and who could doubt its coming? -- a major burden would fall upon me.

The next book starts on the first day of the war.

9. One more thing from the book

Neville Chamberlain often gets a bad rap, even among gamers. He deserves a certain amount of blame but I love this letter he wrote to Hitler shortly before the fighting began ...

It has been alleged that if His Majesty's Government had made their position more clear in 1914, the great catastrophe would have been avoided. Whether or not there is any force in that allegation, His Majesty's Government are resolved that on this occasion there shall be no tragic misunderstanding ... I'm sure you'll all want to read the whole thing

8. Dawn of War

I have fully fumigated and fustigated furiously for four fortnights but I cannot find a game to interest me. Well, OTRSPOD (MORE LATER) interested me for a few days. So it's back to the old faithful -- Dawn of War. Doing the Dark Crusade campaign again, only as Space Marines instead of Imperial Guard. I'm really bad at Space Marines and much better (still awful) as IG. So evidently IG are severely underpowered because I'm blowing through the campaign as SM on hard (not that hard).

You'd think that a game with nine races would be impossible to balance, and evidently you'd be correct.

7. Just when it appeared I had forgotten, More Dawn Of War

This is very, very old. But I had never seen it before. A nice little article on Gamasutra about Dawn of War and why it's not a great competitive game. Who responds but the lead developer on Dawn of War who, surprisingly, concurs :

The design philosophy of Dawn of War was aimed at making a more casual, more fun, less eSports RTS. I personally thought it was foolish to try and outdo Starcraft, because even if you make a better Starcraft, who cares because Starcraft is awesome and no substitute will do! I had no illusions that we could take away Blizzard's audience, I wanted us to find our own audience.

Pretty interesting. And smart. The Whole Article And Comment (Look for Jay Wilson's comment)

6. National Review on GTA IV

I like National Review (a American conservative bi-monthly) but they typically write very little (absolutely nothing) about games. So I was pleased to see a bit about GTA IV in the last issue :

... It is true that we'd rather see young people immersing themselves in the music of Bach or the drama of Shakespeare than in the shenanigans of Niko Bellic, but we are also reminded of noir novelist Mickey Spillane's response to critics who called his work garbage: "But it's good garbage."

LexisNexis Saves Me From Typing The Whole Thing

5. OTRSPOD, or Penny Arcade Adventures : On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness

Good gameplay. Very funny. Fantastic writing from Mr. Holkins. I'm in much less interested in Art than Writing but I found the art quite fascinating as well.

More Please.

4. Iron Man

What is it about Comic Book Movies, that they can just crank great ones out like that? Iron Man just seems lame -- how can the movie be so good?

And when will they start making video games this good? And doesn't it just hurt, that after a hundred bad video-game based movies, that the one movie based on a board game (Clue) and the one movie based on an amusement park ride (Pirates of The Caribbean) are better than all video-game movies put together?

I guess the acting must help, or at least it can't hurt. Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges were in the movie. Jon Favreau directed -- no heavyweight, but Elf is a favorite of mine.

Of course, Mario Brothers had Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, and Katherine Hepburn as a Goomba (uncredited), and that didn't help.

More Please.

3. Indy

This is really long, so let's just agree that a hundred blogs the size of this one could not do the horror of this movie justice.

2. Bioshock

Was stoked about it, bought it, played through the first act, saved the Little Sisters (I'm such a sucker for being the Good Guy in games), then I kind of quit. It's great in every way except lacking that drug-like goodness that makes me finish games.

1. Juno and Spiderman

I watched Juno with the wife tonight. Cool movie. Bizarre but fun music. J.K. Simmons was Juno's dad -- he's also in one of the Law and Orders (shrink) and is Peter Parker's slimy but funny editor in the Spiderman movies.

Probably my favorite part in all the Spiderman movies is in the first when Green Goblin breaks into his office and threatens to kill the editor if he doesn't reveal the location of Spidey's "Pal" Peter Parker. Peter is right there, but even his totally slimy, completely amoral boss risks his life and says he has no idea who Parker is. I just love that the most morally bankrupt person in the movie (outside of the villains) is still truly heroic when push comes to shove.

If you read this far you deserve a prize. I can't believe I didn't get to The Venture Brothers.








I'd like to write a richer, more full-bodied review at some point, but I just want to get this out of the way : the movie is comically bad.

(Before I trash the movie, keep in mind that at least one other Destructoidalite thought it was great.)

It was an absolute franchise-killer. It doesn't even compare to the badness of the Star Wars sequels or the Matrix sequels. You have to go back to Blues Brothers 2000 or X3: X-Men United to find movies that so thoroughly trashed a franchise. The new Indiana Jones movie took a great franchise and repeatedly slammed its hand in a car door, and then relieved itself on the franchise.

I remember when people first heard that X3 was going to be directed by Brett Ratner (of Rush Hour fame). They were like -- "Oh No, Not The Guy Who Did Rush Hour!" Well, the joke was on them -- if only X3 had been as good as a Rush Hour movie.

It's hard to decide on the worst part of the new Indiana Jones movie: it had everything. Cornball reminiscing. Cornball exposition. Cornball family reunions. The locations were less grand, the dungeons less booby-trapped and the enemies (Commies instead of Nazis) a thousand times less fun that what we've come to expect.

My family is out of town so I actually went to see Iron Man as well the day before. I liked it a lot at the time. Now it seems like it was the f****** Seven Samurai. I think Spiderman and Batman have taught us that to make a good comic-book movie you need this fantastic hero -- and Robert Downey Jr. is awesome.

Oh -- and get this. The Mozilla spellchecker has flagged "Spiderman" as misspelled but not "Batman".

Spellchecker guys are evidently shameless DC fanboys.

Also it has flagged "spellchecker".