Hi, I'm 17 years old and live in England, outside London. I grew up in India, and grew up in PC gaming (as well as handheld Nintendo consoles) thanks to my older brother. The games I have fondest memories of were Worms, Counter Strike, Mortal Kombat and Pokemon. And Super Mario 64.
I learned about Winterhold College through a tweet from reverendanthony, saying "Winterhold College is like Hogwarts for adults, yaaaaay". Obviously, I was immediately intrigued. At the time, I spent most of my time in Whiterun, the trading city of Skyrim. Keep in mind, this was fairly early in my game; I hadn't even visited the Greybeards yet, and this being my first Elder Scrolls game, I did not know about the pseudo fast-travel Horse and Carriage system. As a result of this, I manually rode all the way to Winterhold, which, simply put, was a breathtaking serene journey.
So, as soon as I came into Winterhold, which I expected to be a major city, as opposed to a smaller town like Morthal, I found my way to a bridge, where an elvish woman was standing. I engaged in conversation with her, and found out that Winterhold is selection-based. I was told all about the College, it's background, professors and the Five Schools of Magic; I also learned that if I wanted to be a master of the arts, I had to pass a few tests. While I was talking to Faralda, I could hear dragon roars in the background. Since this is a magic school, I thought the dragon was the test I had to face. Naturally, I was pretty scared, this being the second (or first random) dragon that I had seen (or heard) after the initial maingame dragon.
I was pumped, and I was ready for Faralda to give the go ahead to some mage to release the dragon so I could have an epic fight on the bridge to the College. As she continues to talk to me, she is literally set on fire right in front of me (I was experiencing a WTF moment). Surprisingly not dead, she starts to run back to the main part of Winterhold, spell in hand, body still burning. At this point I've realized that this wasn't a glitch, but was in fact, my first random encouter dragon. I quickly scrambled, furiously clicking to get Sparks and Healing in my right and left hand, ready to take it down. Some townspeople had started to don bows and arrows, and inflicted minimal damage. My magic was draining quickly, so I had to take shelter and heal myself from the pursuing dragon. I drank a few magic potions, healed myself, and got back out there. The dragon swooped down, grabbed a man with it's teeth, and threw him out, killing him. It subsequently roared fire, shaking it's head, burning more people. I got my two-handed axe out, ran behind it, where it wouldn't eat me, and started swinging away.
After absorbing it's soul, many walked up to me and said things like "So you're the Dragonborn," or "I can't believe you took it down all by yourself". As I said before, this is my first Elder Scrolls game, and I'm astounded at the amount of work that's put into "side quests", which in my opinion, are so detailed that they can be considered the main story. After the initian Helgen mission, you're free to roam all of Skyrim, and do whatever you want, and call that your main story. Many of my friends haven't touched the main story, doing whatever the hell they want to, which just shows the level of freedom that this game offers. I'm still playing Skyrim, and will be for a long long time, as I'm thoroughly enjoying all that it has to offer. And yes, I am now the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold.
Digital distribution is awesome, or more specifically, Steam is awesome. In this blog I'm going to talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of Steam, and also other platforms of digital distribution, such as XBLA or the PS Store.
No one can say that at least one form of digital distribution is bad. For example, downloading a game demo is one form of digital distribution (try saying THAT five times fast) that benefits us. People often complain of how terrible a game is, or rather how dissapointed they were with the game. Game demos solve that problem - play a slice of the game, and your level of doubt over whether to purchase the game suddenly diminishes.
Having said that, many people (sometimes myself) would be displeased with a digital copy of a game, as they would rather buy a physical copy, with it's glorious brand new smell, manual, box art and all. For many, this seemingly simple factor can be a deal breaker, especially with all the different kinds of collector's/special editions that are available for all major releases today, as well as the physical game-world maps that are included with games like Age of Conan, GTA IV or Red Dead Redemption. On top of that, many franchise fans are filled with anticipation, and to many, counting down the release of a game on Steam isn't as exciting as waiting in line for the midnight release of the "next" game.
One notable disadvantage of digital distribution (or advantage for the developer) is that after having bought and played through a game, you haven't got the option to sell it back to the digital store, which also means you haven't got the option of buying a pre-owned copy for a cheaper price.
Usually on Steam, I'm reluctant to purchase a new multiplatform game when it's released, because even if the game is probably better on PC, and is £10 cheaper, buying the game from Amazon would be a lot cheaper. However, when there's a Steam sale, be it a Summer, Christmas, or Halloween sale, I fall in love with digital distribution all over again - I mean, the prices at which you can buy these games are mind-blowing. In this recent sale, although I didn't buy as many games as I did during the Christmas sale (Mafia II, Mirror's Edge, Super Meat Boy, GTA IV Complete Edition, Left 4 Dead 2), I'm still brimming with joy at the 66%-80% deals on the games I've purchased - Amnesia: the Dark Descent, Aquaria, Bioshock, Bully: Scholarship Edition and Sims 3: Complete Pack.
Personally, the ability to download a game, old or brand new, just makes life easier. I don't own a single physical copy of a PC game, and that's because downloading something off Steam, is easy, quick and generally a lot less bothersome than going out and buying a game from a store, or even ordering a game off Amazon. One reason downloading old games on Steam is such an obvious choice is because they're so cheap - much cheaper than games on services such as Xbox Live's Games on Demand (which is why I buy all retail games for my 360 through GAME or Amazon.
Another major advantage is that digital distribution is a blessing for indie game developers, giving them the tools to spread the word of their game, to easily have access to a large market, and ultimately the potential to have a hit on popular distribution services like Apple's Appstore, the Android Market, XBLA, Steam and the PSN Store. Online markets are huge today, and indie developers are given the opportunity to get their concepts and ideas out to the world, so that it may be ridiculed, or so that it becomes a worldwide phenomenon.
So in conclusion, I believe that digital distribution is amazing, and minor disadvantages shouldn't sway you from what is inevitably the future of gaming. You can't not love Steam Sales, and promotional sales give players further motive to download games. The fact of the matter is that retail copies of games are gonna be around for a very long time, so if you want to get the soundtrack, art book, character figure from the Collector's edition of [insert game name here], you still can for a very long time.
Having only joined Destructoid in May of this year, I’ve been waiting for a fun monthly musing/blogs wanted topic to write about. This week's topic interested me because to me every game has some extent of freedom - the defining trait of a video game is that you have the (sometime limited) freedom to play how you like under the given set of rules. It doesn’t matter that you're always going to save the princess - it’s all about how you do it. Even in the most linear of games you have the ability to choose how you play the game (I myself can’t think of a single game which is as linear as a film, in which you can’t control even the simplest of actions. If there is such a game, please let me know in the comments as I am far too young (15) to have come across a game so ancient that doesn't give the player the simplest level of freedom.))
From my early childhood I remember many great games like Mortal Kombat, Monkey Island, Worms, Sonic, Pokémon, and Counter Strike, as well as all the memories with it, however one game that I remember perhaps too well was the then free to play (on the Indian servers) Korean MMORPG Ragnarok Online. Although Ragnarok is one of the simplest MMO's (not having a quest system), it was one of the first exposures I had to a truly open world with a high level of diversity in the many different regions and major cities. Some people may see it as a grind (because really, the only way to level up is by killing shitloads of monsters over and over again); and although today looking back I wouldn’t be very interested in playing it, years ago, levelling through dungeons and bosses, undergoing tests to "evolve" from a "job" to a secondary higher job (e.g. novice->archer->hunter) and grinding till I heard a “bing!” when I levelled up, I would want to hop back on and play with my friends.
But reminiscing aside, this game was the first ever game I played that I had true freedom. I could be whoever I chose to be. I experienced the bliss of being able to choose how you look, your different base stats and attributes, and the complete and utter freedom to choose in which area you chose to train your character in. Writing this blog reminds me of what I’ve been told of the original Legend of Zelda, which is partially known for the ability to tackle the dungeons in whatever order you like, with no minimal linearity and no overworld map (in the original?).
Today I can say that personally open-world games are the most enjoyable, just because they set you up with a beautiful world (Aquaria, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey) to explore - whether it’s a world which is filled with buzzing urban environments or a world which you can admire solely because of how serene it is. Open world games are one of the most popular genres in today’s gaming scene (shooters are still definitely the most popular), with great games like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Saints Row, Rockstar Games' games (Red Dead, GTA), Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Infamous, as well as smaller but still equally awesome games like Minecraft and Terraria.
Personally, I hope that developers (and publishers) start to look more towards games with higher levels of freedom (because as gamers we milk all the freedom given by developers) in brand new (fictional) locations and periods in time, rather than creating another Call of Duty or Halo. Don’t get me wrong, I love games with great cinematics and amazing set-pieces like Uncharted 2, but I’m honestly looking forward to Arkham City and Skyrim far more than Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3.
I felt like getting my thoughts out, so I decided to write a quick c-blog. Some of my arguments might be contradicting what I said prior - the only excuse I can find for that is that I wasn't thinking methodically and in an organised-fashion when i wrote this. I was originally gonna call it a rant, but it's not very rant-y at all, but anyways... Before I continue, I realized that some of the things I say have little to nothing to do with other things that I say, but here it is:
I hate it when games are spoiled for you. This is one of the things that have put me off a few games that are critically acclaimed which I spoil for myself. Although I can be as angry as I want at others, it's my fault for looking up some information about the game that I'm playing. For me, although gameplay is pretty important, I've always looked at single-player games as a way of telling a good story (although there are shitloads of games I love for gameplay: super meat boy, zeldas, counter strike, metroidvanias, old pokemon and many many more). Now there are games where I'm playing the game more for the story than for the gameplay, or rather, the only thing that's really compelling me to keep on playing is the story (such as Assassins Creed 1). This is a case where the gameplay could either be downright mediocre, or perhaps the gameplay is good, but that's not the reason I'm playing the game.
For example with Bioshock, I liked the gameplay, but not enough to say "I would happily play Bioshock even if the story was terrible and the gameplay was the same." With Bioshock, I had it on my PC, and when my computer crashed I was forced to stop playing Bioshock for around 2-4 weeks. During this period, I played other games, but I was still interested in Bioshock. I wanted to keep myself updated to where I had got up to in regards of the story and the characters, and I was interested in finding Irishman Atlas' last name. By doing this I had discovered his true identity, and I was shocked and I hated myself for looking this up. After reading this, and after getting my computer fixed, I didn't feel like playing Bioshock. It didn't have that same atmosphere. I was like a child being told that Santa isn't real.
Around a year later though, I picked up Bioshock again, and I liked it quite a lot. After making a fuss about the story and gameplay, the thing that I really liked is the atmosphere in Rapture. It's so dreary yet it's so full of life. Much like in Arkham Asylum, the underwater dystopia is filled with audio tapes about the history of Rapture and all the people which helped make it what it is. Furthermore the music and graphics were fantastic and just looking at things like the flow of water down corridors looks beautiful. I'm a music person in games - I always admire great music and for me that's a majority of what makes how great a particular world or level is. For me the music of a game (and for that matter a film as well) brings a place alive, especially in dark sad places like Rapture.
Another thing that was on my mind is Portal 2 - I'm finding it easier than Portal 1. I'm still playing Portal 2 (I know, it's been a little more than three weeks). The truth is I had just upgraded my graphics card so I missed my chance to play Portal 2 up until 2 weeks after launch. I was compelled to buy the game on my Xbox 360 but decided against it. I waited for my computer to be revamped so I could quickly download it from Steam and get started. I was anxiously anticipating Portal 2 and it was made worse by my personal delay.
Once I got my hands on it, I quickly leaped at any spare time I had to play the game, and the first 5 or 6 chapters or so were quite easy (maybe thats because I had already played Portal 1 and was quite used to the mechanics), but after that point it has started to get harder. One thing I've noticed is that unlike Braid and Portal, quite a few of the puzzles are very "Where's Waldo?" in the sense that it's all about looking around the level once you enter it, finding where all the interactions are, and then using them together. For example finding an Aperture weighted cube on a hanging platform, working out how to get up there, and then finding the red switch to put it on. Often its just using the gels with the walls that you identify first as useful, and then shooting out of a diagonal wall with speed by using the propulsion gel to run super fast into the wall. Saying these things might make you think that I'm disappointed with the game, but so far, far from it. Sure, there have been one or two puzzles that I have been quite disappointed with, but for the most part the puzzles are pretty good.
Although I like all the new game mechanics (Propulsion Gel, Repulsion Gel, White Gel, Hard Light Bridge, Thermal Discouragement Beam, Aerial Faith Plate etc.) and how they make you think differently, I think these new mechanics hide how fairly simple and relatively straight-foward the puzzles are (i.e. just combining all these different mechanics to solve the puzzle) in comparison to the first game. In the first game the puzzles had to be harder as there were only a few things you had to think about when solving a puzzle: your Portal gun, the red timer buttons, momentum and the ever-lovable Companion cube. Again it may sound like I'm bashing Portal, but I really loved the puzzles, and what I'm trying to say is that with less gameplay mechanics, the puzzles had to be harder, and they benefited from being harder and more thinking-oriented.
Going back to my original thoughts, Mother 3 is another game that has been spoiled for me (well, partially). I had gone on a holiday so I was interrupted from playing Mother 3, and soon after I had come back I'd lost my game save data. Now, I don't mind starting the game over but I'd rather not be interrupted again by the release of L.A. Noire. Again, there's nothing much else to talk about, as Mother 3 was spoiled to me in a similar manner as Bioshock: the internet told me things that I didn't want to hear. But this time the internet wasn't as blunt about it.
For this spoiler, I don't think I even got it from the internet, rather I got it from not playing the game too much and thinking about what had happened to Claus, and why I'm yet to play as him in the game. My guess: he was found by the Pigmask Army and was mechanised (or brainwashed) like the Drago in the first act. My idea has also been backed up by seeing "brotherly love" somewhere and the cover of Mother 3+ being of Lucas and Claus lying next to each other. This gives me the idea that they love each other but perhaps they have different ideas and approaches to life, giving me the idea that Claus is the final boss and there is a great big emotional plot point. Also when playing as Lucas 3 years later in the new world, travelling across the rail road to find Duster, a Magypsy teaches you how to use the PSI ability "Love", also saying that only 2 people in the world can use "Love". Hmmm, I wonder who that second person is.
I hate myself soooo much for ruining a perfectly good "cult following" game that has been raved about so much on the internet and on this very blog. Although I've pretty much ruined a very big chunk of the game for myself, I still love the music, the characters, the way the chapters are set out (multiple perspectives of same events = dynamism), the simple yet gorgeous graphics, the awesome combat system and the interesting themes looked at such as a simple village becoming a commercial city with its surrounding establishments (Club Titiboo), ideas of technologically advanced peoples brainwashing and changing simple farmer lives, and finally the dramatic scene where Flint (a protaganist) realistically, violently freaks out over the death of his wife - something I thought I would never see in a Nintendo game. Although this specific scene is a beautiful sad moment and I experienced it with its full effect, I feel terrible that I'm going to miss other scenes in later parts of the game all because of spoilers.
I hate spoilers. My word of advice: never look up anything remotely related to a game that you are playing or even have the slightest chance of playing. Because once you spoil a beautiful story-based game, you can't unlearn it. I wish The Haitian was real. So bad.
Braid (XBLA/PS3/PC/Mac) Publisher: XBLA/ Number None, Inc. Developer: Number None, Inc. (XBLA, PC)/Hothead Games (Mac, PS3) Released: August 6, 2008 (XBLA), April 10, 2009 (PC), December 12, 2009 (PS3) Price: 800 Microsoft Points, $10 (PS3, PC, Mac)
Braid is an Xbox Live Arcade Indie puzzle-platformer that has you solving physical puzzles by using the game’s time-based gameplay mechanics that the player-character, Tim, possesses. Throughout the game you have the ability to rewind time but in each world an additional time manipulation mechanic is added, such as the introduction of green-glowing objects that aren’t affected by the manipulation of time or the ability to have a shadow of yourself do the actions of what you just did before you reversed time, or being in possession of a ring that slows down time around it (time moves faster the further away from it). The game puts you in a central hub (a house) which gives access to the six primary worlds, represented by rooms in the house. In each world there are 12 hard-to-reach jigsaw puzzle pieces that you must collect in order to access the final world. The pieces usually involve a hard puzzle that you must solve to acquire the piece, and when you finally do get that piece that’s been tempting you to use a walkthrough but you didn’t, it’s a triumphant moment that you cherish. After getting all twelve pieces, you can now fit these pieces together on a virtual board to create a nice picture.
The puzzles have been devised exceedingly well, and that’s all in thanks of Jonathon Blow’s excellent level design - this small-team indie game has much better levels than a lot of “mainstream” games- each level in Braid has you thinking in completely different ways as the game puts you in different situations; you’ll never feel any repetition at all in the gameplay.
The learning kerb is small as the three basic (and only) buttons you need are movement by analog stick, the ‘action’ button (such as for pushing levers), and the ability to rewind time.
The narrative is done like that of Portal or Left 4 Dead – not shoved down your throat. In fact, there are no cut scenes and you can play through the entire game without being told anything about the story (apart from the end of each world where a fluffy brown dinosaur tells you, “I’m sorry. The princess in another castle.”)
The plot can be easily summarised that Tim is a man searching for a princess who "has been snatched by a horrible and evil monster." His relationship with this princess is vague at best, and the only clear part of this relationship is that Tim has made some sort of mistake which he hopes to rewind and correct, because “if you erase your mistakes, you don’t need to make them”. If you choose to immerse yourself in this twist on the traditional Mario plotline, you will most likely find yourself interested, as the plot itself is given in a non-linear fashion like that of Max Payne 2. There is storyline text to read at the entrance to the levels of each world, presented in green books on pedestals. These chunks of narrative evoke themes of forgiveness, desire, frustration and a hint of violence.
The presentation of the game is beautiful, and anyone who has played the game would agree that the game wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the gorgeous watercolour artwork by David Hellman and the beautiful Celtic Cello strings heard in the euphonious soundtrack by Jami Sieber (even hearing the soundtrack in reverse as you rewind time is a pleasure to your ears).
Braid has received critical acclaim from every reviewer on earth, and for good reason. Even if you hate puzzle games, you owe it to yourself to own this game whether it’s for the music, the graphics, or that this game is recognised as one of the first art games. All in all, Jonathon Blow has given gamers a blessing, and in my opinion, he’s given us one of the best (if not the best) indie games out there.