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About
Nerd. Dork. Geek. Singer. Gamer. DJ. Husband. I'm lots of things.

I've lived 100% of my life in Texas. That year and a half in Oklahoma don't count because, well, it was Oklahoma.

When I'm not working or spending time with the wife, then I'm gaming (unless it's one of those rare occasions that I actually spend some time practicing my djing). I love all types of games except sports games. I especially love RPGs and action games.

I currently do administrative work for a major university, but I hope to eventually get an MBA and work in the game industry on the business side of things.
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It's been a while since I've done a blog post, but I think the most recent Bloggers Wanted is a good chance for me to dip my toe back in to the c-blog waters. Especially since I disappointing game experience very recently. FYI, this is going to be a bit spoiler-y, so if you're wanting to keep the ending to Sonic Generations a surprise, you may want to finish it first and then come back. Don't worry, it won't take you long.



Before Generations, I probably hadn't really played a Sonic game since Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Sure, I had played 3, and even bought 4, but 2 was the only one that I really put a lot of time into. The game was just pure fun. Gameplay was fast and responsive. The levels were varied and interesting. And the music: Oh God, that music. Seriously, I could probably listen to Metropolis Zone on an endless loop for hours. But most importantly, the game was just satisfying. The difficulty progressed at a great pace and you felt accomplished upon finally beating the game.

I never paid attention to the 3D Sonic games, but Sonic 4 caught my attention and resparked my love for the speedy blue hedgehog. Based on that I downloaded the demo for Sonic Generations, which contained the opening level, Green Hill Zone, of both classic and modern Sonic. The classic level was great. It reminded so much of what I loved in the Genesis days. The controls were responsive, the colors were bright, the level was detailed and offered several different routes, and even the music sounded like I was 7 years old again. However, it was the modern version of Green Hill Zone which really caught my eye. I know a lot of people loved the game for the return of the classic gameplay, but it was the speed and newness of the modern levels that really hooked me. What can I say, I'm a sucker for shiny, new things.



So yeah, I loved the game and bought it soon after that. First thing that I learned was this Sonic game had a story. I had always heard of the crappy stories in the new Sonic games, but I had never really experienced one before. And yeah, this one was pretty crap-tacular. Something about Robotnik (or Eggman, whatever) doing something and all of Sonic's friends (who the hell are all these...things...that aren't Tails and Knuckles?) disappearing and a whole lot of whatever. Once I start actually playing the game, I just don't care. I'm Sonic the Hedgehog, the Blue Blur, racing towards the end of each stage.


Seriously, I don't know about 95% of the characters in that picture.

Anyway, the game is great. I'm having a blast in all of the classic and modern levels. The boss battles are great. I even enjoy all the little side missions (except for that fucking crocodile which can just go fuck itself). It's not long before I realize that the goal of the game is to actually get all the Chaos Emeralds. Okay. That's a little weird since it was always a cool little option in the prior games, but whatever, I'm enjoying myself. It turns out that the emeralds are used to unlock the final area. I'm expecting the final area/boss battle to be a two-parter: one with classic Sonic and one with modern Sonic. Nope, instead I get what can only be described as the most boring boss battle of any game that I can remember playing. Ever.



So some stuff happens and both Sonics end up turning into Super Sonics. In my mind, I'm thinking that this is awesome. My thinking is that I'll get to play through two more levels: one as classic Super Sonic and another as modern Super Sonic. Nope. The final level is nothing more than an on rails section in which you move Sonic around a tube, avoiding objects flying at you, and try to run into the giant robo-monster thing that the classic and modern Robotniks (I'm sorry, but Dr. Eggman just sounds stupid to me). You can switch from being modern Sonic to classic on the fly, but all that does is switch you from a 3D over the shoulder perspective to a 2D sidescrolling perspective in which you move up and down in that tube (which is essentially just a big alley in 2D). What's worse is that all of those unknown animal friend things keep shouting the same God-damned things at you over and over and over and over. It basically ruined what was a pretty fun game and turned it into a chore. You can see it for yourself here.
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So the online pass is a thing that's happening, and it seems that there really isn't a thing we can do to stop it. I usually buy my games brand new whenever possible, so the online pass doesn't really affect me that much. However, for older games for the PS2 or Gamecube, I obviously have to buy used. I may not want a certain game right now, but in 5 or 10 years I may say, "Hey, I never tried this one and always heard it was pretty good. I think I'll give it a try." So my fear is what happens when PS3/Wii/360 games are what PS2/Gamecube/Xbox games are now?



The Problem
So, according to all the big publishers like Sony, EA, and Ubisoft, they're just losing too much money from used game sales. While I certainly don't doubt that they lose money from used games, I do find it hard to believe that they're losing as much as they make it seem. I find it especially hard to believe given that Gamestop's new game sales rose last year when their used game sales stayed the same. But don't let something like a fact confuse you. Never you mind that all used games were bought new, or that used games do NOT represent new space being taken up online. EA and Sony are going to go bottom up because used games are practically mugging them of their profits.


Their Solution
The Online Pass (or PS Pass if you're Sony). The publishers simply want to recoup some of their losses from the constant thievery that Gamestop and other used game retailers are performing. There's nothing terrible about that. If you buy a game used, they simply ask that you input a code and that you pay them $10 on top of what you've already paid. Oh, and if you don't pay up and put in that code, they're not going to let you play a major portion of the game that's already on the disk. Hmmm, that's odd. I don't remember reading about that on the back of the box... Wait, who's doing the mugging again?


Better Solutions
First of all, there are better solutions already available. id's new game, Rage, offers a pass that, if bought new, gives the player access to a few extra areas on the map that has extra items like ammo, money, and engineering items. There's nothing major there like some sort of ultra-gun that kills giant mutants in a single shot, and the extra areas not only have to be found, but are also filled with mutants once you find them. They are completely negligible and the game can be played through without even accessing them. Instead of punishing players for buying Rage used, they're actively encouraging players to buy it new.

Another better system is one that's been in place basically since the start of the current generation: paid DLC. When you buy a used game, all you get is what came on the disc. If you like the game, you'll want to play more of it, thus buying some or all of whatever DLC is available on the PSN/Xbox Live. However, in recent years, games that release GOTY editions have been coming with all the DLC on the disc. Perhaps the publishers should stop putting the DLC packs on the disk and instead give the new buyer a pass to download those packs for free. Just be sure to slap a sticker on the shrink wrap (thus being removed by the new buyer and not seen by used buyers) saying that the game comes with a pass to download all the DLC and maybe just casually mention the DLC on the box.


My Solution
I've also been seeing some gamers throw around the idea of packaging the multiplayer portion as completely separate games. While I, personally, think that the idea of packaging a separate retail copy of the multiplayer part of a game is kind of stupid, the seed of this idea isn't that bad. If Sony and EA are going to force used buyers to pay for the multiplayer experience, at least make them pay for something that isn't included on the original disk. To me, being forced to make an additional payment for something I already bought is insulting. Multiplayer is already on the disk, so I shouldn't be forced to pay just to unlock it. However, if multiplayer is akin to DLC, then I wouldn't feel as insulted. The brand new buyer can, once again, have the pass to download the multiplayer for free, and the used buyer can decide whether or not they want to pay to download it. Again, just put a sticker on the shrink wrap of new games saying that they can download that for free. The back of the box should mention something about how multiplayer is downloadable and only takes a small fee. Is it a perfect plan? Of course not. But I do think that it's better and far less insulting than what the publishers are currently offering.
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djnealb
11:19 AM on 10.20.2011

Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought that I would share a rather frightening scene for any gamer. The Backlog. No, I'm not going to be starting my own series of me going through and trying to complete my massive backlog of video games. I just feel like sharing the recent additions/pending additions to my backlog. Also, by no means am I claiming to have the worst backlog in the world.

Let's see: I bought the Ico/SotC HD Collection when it came out, got Dark Souls in the mail the other week because I preordered the Collector's Edition back in June, I'm only about 1/2 way thru White Knight Chronicles 1 on the White Knight Chronicles 2 disc (meaning I still haven't touched 2 yet), I'm currently working on Rage, just bought Arkham City on Tuesday, and plan on getting Uncharted 3, Skyrim, and Zelda: Skyward Sword. All of that, plus all of the older PS2 and Gamecube games that I either haven't finished or even started yet.

Yep, I'd say that my backlog is probably S.O.L. of ever getting completed.

p.s. I'll try to take a picture of all the games that are on the backlog this evening when I get home.







djnealb
10:09 AM on 09.01.2011

I'm not going to bother too much with an intro and just get straight into it. Yes, I will be repeating what a lot of others have said, but that will hopefully help it actually get changed. I'm going to start, however, with something that I haven't noticed anybody mention yet.

Screenshot/Image Galleries

This probably has more to do with all the junk and clutter at the top of each page, but I hate trying to look at new screenshots through Destructoid. Usually, when I notice an article about new screens from an upcoming game, I'll go over to another site to see if they have them. Why? First, they have it in a slideshow format. Therefore, I only have to load the one page instead of having to go to a separate page for each image. Then, if the picture is smaller, I can just expand it from there (you do do this on the Buy/Sell page, but the larger pics tend to go offscreen). Second, I don't have to scroll down half a page just to be able to see the full pic because of all the stuff at the top of the page that I never actually use. When I click on a link to view a picture, I'd like to be able to see the full picture, first thing, on the next page. That is, of course, assuming I can't just scroll to it in a slideshow.



Springboard

There are other "Improvement" blogs that can (and have) explained it much better, but I just want to add my voices to theirs. I will admit that Springboard has gotten a bit better in the last year or so (it doesn't randomly restart my video from the ad if I switch from full screen to normal anymore), but that's akin to saying, "Y'know, this shit doesn't smell quite as bad as it did yesterday." Can you please just stick with Youtube (preferably HD)?

Comments

A few things about comments. First, the ability to edit/delete our own comments would be great. I don't think I really need to explain that one. It's actually quite surprising that it hasn't been implemented sooner.

Second, threaded comments. Instead of having to start a new comment with @so_and_so, I can just hit the "Reply to comment" link and it will make a new comment under the comment I wish to reply to. It would be even better if these threaded comments could be expandable/collapsible. That way, if I'm reading through comments and I see one that I may want to read the replies to, I can just click on the little icon to show the replies/expand the thread. When I'm done, I can click the icon again to collapse that thread and go on with the rest of the comments. This would really clean up the comments section of each article and would allow readers to bypass (or more easily engage in, if they want) the arguments/squabbling and get straight to the comments that actually pertain to the article.

Finally, I don't need to be taken to a new page just to be told that my comment has been posted and shown the comment that was posted. I know what I wrote. Plus, what you show me in the green box does some weird shit with some of the punctuation, like placing a / in front of every apostrophe. I know the comment will be posted as written, but it's still a bit unnerving. Instead of taking me to a new page to tell me the obvious, how about you just reload the page to actually show my posted comment, or, at the very least, take me back to the top of the article/blog that I'm posting under.

Clutter

Oh lord, where to start? As has been said in just about every "Improvement" blog, you've got a whole helluva lot of crap on the page that can, quite frankly, be tossed. Let's start at the top.



For the love of God and all that's holy, get rid of that scrolling monstrosity of old stories. It was neat at first, but now it's just annoying and an eyesore. Not to mention that it pushes all the new stories further down the page. It's also gotten into this strange habit of scrolling uncontrollably from time to time. It needs to be retired.

I've just refreshed the front page and at the top is a link to a Flixist article as well as how many comments are one the article. Refreshing just brings up different articles from different sister sites. I completely understand wanting to promote you sister sites, but a simple link to the site itself should be plenty. And not at the top of the page where you should be focusing on yourself. You're already promoting those same sites at the bottom (which I'll talk about in a minute). Once is enough.

Then there are the ads. I understand that you get your money from selling ad space, but is it really necessary to have 2 ads for the same damn thing right next to each other. It's even worse when you have those two ads PLUS the back drop of the whole page. Worse still is when the 2 ads at the top and side of the page are both showing the trailer to the game at the same damn time (Space Marine is the most recent offender of doing this).

Then there's this thing:



If your mouse even accidentally rolls over that little arrow next to where it says "What's your game?" you get this monstrous pop-up box that nearly takes up the whole damn screen. This needs to be done away with. I understand that you're trying to make looking up popular titles a little faster, but that's what a search bar is for. Know where the search bar is? RIGHT NEXT TO THE DAMN ARROW!

The middle of the page I'm mostly okay with. There is a section on the right with links to a bunch of recently reviewed titles that I don't think is really needed seeing as there's already a link for Reviews at the top, but it's also not terrible.

Let's talk about the bottom of the page now.



Do you really need that many links to your sister sites. In my honest opinion, the links look a bit scammy. I think it would look cleaner and much more professional if you just had one row of links using the sites logo and name. If they have a tagline, then put it underneath the logo and have the link go their main page. Maybe preface the links with something like "Hey, if you like us, check our friend's sites at:" and then the links underneath.

Whew, that was a lot of stuff. I didn't even mention that stupid chat thing or how I sort of wish you would acknowledge the forum community a little more often, but I've only got so much time. I love Destructoid. It is, hands down my favorite website to go to every day. The community here is second to none and I've actually made several friends, both online and IRL, through the site. I know that some of my criticisms may be a bit harsh, but sometimes we have to hurt the ones we love in order to get through to them. I just hope that I and the others writing these blogs can get through to you.
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There comes a time in every adult's life when they need to open their hearts and spread their love. If you're in that situation, then might I suggest adopting a poor, down-on-their-luck, DJ puppy avatar. The avatar is friendly, housebroken, and only wants someone to love him, pet him, and maybe just take him to PAX.



In return, the DJ puppy avatar will be obedient, be in any picture you want him to be in, and, lest we forget, may just help you "get lucky". How, you ask? Well, first of all, he's a dj, and they get it all the time. Secondly, he's also a puppy, hence the PERFECT wingman (because puppy). Need I say more?

For all potential adopters, please keep these things in mind. As a dj, the avatar does enjoy loud environments, preferably with lots of music. While the DJ puppy does prefer electronic dance music (mostly house), he will not be offended if you don't want to listen to it. He has his headphones and will be respectful of your wishes. Also, as a puppy, the avatar will need to be taken on walks around the convention floor. He is also very sociable, so he'll want to meet lots of people. He may also require vast amounts of alcohol. It may seem odd or inhumane to give a puppy alcoholic beverages, but the dj in him practically requires it.

In conclusion, D'AAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWW! It's a puppy wearing dj headphones with the puppy-dog eyes. Please open your heart and adopt this avatar for PAX (and seriously, he'll get you laid if you play it right.)
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I play different games for different reasons, similar to how I like to watch different movies based on my different moods. When I play an action game like Uncharted or Devil May Cry, its usually because I'm in the mood to relieve some stress by causing explosions and killing anything that moves. When I play a platformer like Mario or Ratchet and Clank, its for the environments and silly characters. And when I play a role-playing-game, I go in for the story, just like I would if I were going to see a drama. This is why Eastern RPGs will always be my preference over Western ones.

To me, the main appeal of Japanese RPGs lies in a single word that has, over the last several years, gained a rather negative connotation: linearity. I certainly understand how non-linearity has it's appeal. You get dropped into a virtual sandbox and can do just about whatever the hell you want. That's the great appeal to games like Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls (which I also enjoy). However, in a genre that is supposed to be rather story heavy, I feel that non-linearity is more of a hindrance than a boon. The question is: Why?

Let me go back to my movie analogy for a moment. When you go to see a drama, why are you there? I like to go see dramatic films for the engaging and emotional plots and (here's my key point) the excellent character development. It is exceptionally difficult, if not impossible in most cases, to do that in a Western RPG. Look at a game like Oblivion. Sure, it has a good story, but can you really relate or empathize with any of the characters. More importantly, can you do that with your character. In non-linear, Western RPGs, like Oblivion or Fallout, I would posit that, no, you can't because your character is you. When playing Oblivion, I play as myself (I even get to choose what I look like). I make decisions that I would personally make in whatever situation that it throws me. Even if I try to adopt a persona, like an evil badass or selfless saint in Fallout 3, I'm still playing as myself, just a slightly altered version of myself. Therefore, there is no character, only me.



That's what makes Japanese RPGs more emotional and engaging. When I play a JRPG, I don't play the game and make the decisions that I, myself, would make. I play as the character. How would Squall or Tidus respond to this situation? How will it affect the other characters? One of the most linear RPGs of the current generation was the rather maligned Final Fantasy XIII. Despite it's faults it still has a story that is easy to follow and characters with varying personalities that get fleshed out throughout the course of that story. A much better example would be Valkyria Chronicles. Throughout the campaign, you are playing through a book of historical battles that took place during the fictional world's equivalent to World War 2. The game is so linear that, during your first play-through, you are completely unable to go back to prior levels to attempt better scores or times. I think that was a brilliant decision on Sega's part, forcing the player to go through the story first. This allows the player to see the story and character development completely uninterrupted by sidequests or repeating missions.



I know that there are Western RPGs that probably have much better plot and character development just as there are Japanese RPGs with the opposite. However, when you're playing the next Mass Effect or Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls or White Knight Chronicles (sorry, it took me a bit to think of another JRPG that wasn't SquareEnix), ask yourself a question. Who am I playing as? The character? Or myself?