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ocelot89
4:04 AM on 03.23.2014

It's 5:05 a.m. as I start to write this.

I'm pretty sure I got an hour of sleep around 11 p.m., but then I woke up on the sofa, turned off My Cat From Hell, and went upstairs for real sleep.  But, that didn't happen.  I've been struggling a bit with insomnia lately.  Partially, I suspect that this is because I have noisy neighbors.  Well, not noisy neighbors per se, it's more the case that I have thin walls, so its hard to be mad at them for doing normal things like watching TV and talking on the phone at reasonable volumes.  But still, it keeps me up and it bugs me.

After a couple hours of not sleeping and hatching revenge schemes (what if I move my PC upstairs and play Outlast at full volume while they're trying to sleep?), I came back downstairs and decided to go for the all-nighter.  Why the hell not?  It's Saturday.  If I stay up all night tonight, I'm practically guaranteed to get a good night sleep tomorrow when I really need it, right?  Right?  So, to the coffee machine I went!

Now, what to do with this free time?  Or, rather, which game to play, since what the hell else am I going to do at 3 a.m.?

Well, I'd started playing Persona 4 Golden on my Vita earlier today, er.. yesterday.  I'd played for a couple hours and only done two or three actual battles, making it to the first real dungeon.  God damn, there is a lot of text in this game!  I might have actually given up on it, had it not been for the fact that I was a little tipsy in the afternoon when I was playing it--I had needed the liquid courage to play Outlast and fuck no, I wasn't about to play Outlast at 3 a.m., I'll only touch that game in broad daylight with the comforting sound of birds happily chirping outside--and the prospect of emotionally crippling Nanako by completely disregarding her seemed much more amusing in that state of mind.



So, I'm playing through the first dungeon at this ungodly hour and I'm instantly taken back to a time in my life around age 8 or 9 when I would routinely wake up before the sun (and before my parents) and go to the living room, turn the TV on volume level 1 (so as not to wake anyone up) and play through some JRPGs on the SNES--some favorites being Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy 3 (and by 3, I mean 6, but, you know).  And, as I reflected on this experience, I thought back to other times in my life when I would play games at these predawn hours.  I remember spending a lot of late nights during my high school years playing Advance Wars, Pokemon, and Final Fantasy Tactics on my DS long after everyone else had gone to sleep.

I don't know why, but something about playing JRPGs during these peaceful, tranquil hours of cool solitude just feels right to me.  I've actually gotten a lot better about maintaining a regular, healthy sleep schedule in the past few years.  I've sort of been forced to, now that I'm starting a real career.  But, on nights like this, its fun to relive memories of gaming years gone by.

Now, I've got to hurry up and publish this, so I can get back to Persona 4 before the sun comes up.









My Wii U tells me I played Rayman Legends for 25 hours last week.  That's more time than I'd spend at a part-time job.  I had to save all 700 teensies before Mario 3D Worlds came out.  The weekend before that I went from being on Badge 3 in Pokemon X to beating the Elite Four.  But, here's the thing, that was the first time I'd touched the game since the weekend it came out.

I've always played games in spurts of "binging" and "purging".  I'll go weeks, sometimes months, at a time without even touching a controller.  Then, something clicks.  I get hooked and my life consists of nothing but work and games for a couple weeks.  I find that my binge episodes tend to coincide with increased stress and/or as a reward for the overcoming of said stress.  I do find 2D platformers to be strangely relaxing.  And, I've been known to celebrate the end of finals by hitting up Gamestop or Best Buy first, then the liquor store, and then just playing until I pass out or my eyes bleed.  On the other hand, in the middle of summer, when I've historically had less responsibilities and more free time, tends to produce a frustrating gaming malaise.  I say "frustrating" because this is a time period I also frequently ask myself why I have no motivation for gaming when I have so much free time for it.




I don't really care to change my gaming habits, since I don't feel that they're having a negative effect on my life.  However, I am curious as to what other people do.  Are you like me, playing with every spare minute you've got when the pressure's on and then losing motivation for a few weeks when things cool down?  Or, do you manage to "game responsibly" only 1-2 hours a night, four to five nights a week and never driving afterwards?








(No pics, sorry I'm lazy.  I originally planned to find some, but spent more time writing this than expected.)

The PS4 and X1 are coming out in November!  For the first time ever, I've got a video game console on reserve because I'm planning to buy it Day 1 and worried that it might be sold out.  But, should I be?  A lot of us are thinking of November as the "start" of the 8th generation of consoles, but it really started two years ago with the release of the 3DS.  All three 8th gen consoles currently on the market--the 3DS, the PS Vita, and the Wii U (I'm not sure that it's even fair to count the Ouya)--have had relatively slow starts with regard to sales.  Though the Vita and the Wii U both show a fair amount of promise, I'd say the 3DS is the only one that's been able to pull off a rebound.  I'm positive that the PS4 and X1 will be flying off shelves during the holidays (as did the Wii U last year), but I'd wager that sales start to slow come January due to a lot of the same issues that have plagued the other 8th generation consoles.

[u]1. No Games[/u]


The 3DS had 8 months of N64 remakes.  The PS Vita had a mediocre version of Uncharted, followed by abysmal versions of Resistance and Call of Duty.  The Wii U had a new New Super Mario Bros., a zombie game that I didn't enjoy, some ports of games you could already get on the PS3/360, and then NOTHING until recently.  In all three cases, gamers blamed the lack of sales squarely on the lack of games.  While the 3DS's rebound seems to have coincided with the release of some high profile games, the verdict is still out on whether the Vita and Wii U's recent and upcoming efforts will be enough to do the same.

I'm expecting to get a PS4 at launch.  What am I going to play on it?  Well, I can't remember if Outlast is supposed to be a launch title, but, if so, I definitely want to play that.  There are a couple free-to-play shooters I might mess around with--Warframe and Blacklight: Retribution.  A few "launch window" indie games like Transistor look enticing.  As for AAA games, I might get Killzone and/or Watch Dogs if they're heavily discounted on PS+.  So, we've got a few free-to-play and/or indie games leading the pack.  I'm going to be honest, if my PS3 hadn't gotten YLOD a few months ago, I would not be buying a next-gen console this year.  I'm not as familiar with the X1's launch lineup, but it doesn't appear to offer much more.  You basically replace Killzone with (the gradually becoming more and more appealing) Dead Rising 3 and the f2p games with that dragon game and you have what I would be buying if I had reserved the X1 instead.

Of course, it's hardly a good idea to judge a console entirely by it's launch lineup and I'll address what I consider to be the primary issue both consoles might face in 2014 in the next section.  However, I do want to take a moment to point out that I do think Sony made a smart move by choosing to release Infamous (the PS4 game I am most interested in) in February rather than at launch.  No doubt, this move was at least partly inspired by seeing Nintendo's struggles with its lackluster lineup in early 2013.  It looks like Microsoft is trying to do something similar with Titanfall.

[u]2. No Reason to Upgrade[/u]


When the 3DS came out everyone was busy with Pokemon Black & White on their original DS.  Why play watered-down versions of Uncharted & Resistance on the Vita, when you can just play them on your PS3?  Didn't I just play a New Super Mario Bros. game on my Wii?  None of the 8th generation consoles have offered anything at launch to truly set themselves apart from their predecessors.  I expect the PS4 & X1 to fall into the same predicament.

Most of the games available at launch on both consoles are also available on current gen consoles (they're also mostly published by Ubisoft).  Now, there were a handful of games available on both 6th and 7th gen consoles around the 7th gen launch.  But, I expect games to be produced for both 7th and 8th gens for much longer due to the astronomical cost of game development.  Sony is hoping that the PS4 will move 5 million units by next April.  Even if this lofty goal is achieved, AAA developers still will not be able to make a profit releasing games exclusively for that platform.  

Let's look at Tomb Raider.  Squeenix infamously expected that game to sell 7 million copies across all platforms.  Roughly, the 360 and PS3 had each sold 70 million units at the time of that game's release (likely more).  So, Squeenix only had to reach 5% of gamers who owned either a 360 or PS3 to succeed (they didn't, but that's not the point).  Even assuming that the PS4 & X1 sold 5 million units each by April, Squeenix would have to reach 70% of gamers owning either of those consoles to be successful with a similarly expensive game.  And so, we have Thief being released for 7th and 8th gen consoles.

Will mainstream gamers be willing to upgrade to a PS4 or X1 if Call of Duty 2014 & Assassin's Creed 2014 are being released on 7th gen consoles as well?  Will Microsoft be able to keep up sales of the X1 if it's biggest title, Titanfall, is also available for the 360 and for Windows?  With the cost of AAA development growing exponentially more expensive, how long will cross-gen releases persist?  Will the 7th gen be known as the "the generation that wouldn't die"?  I'm interested to see what happens in February/March of next year.

[u]3.  Collateral Costs[/u]


Can't I just get a DS with better graphics?  Why should I pay for 3D when I'm never going to use it?  A Vita at $250 sounds decent, until you factor in those expensive memory cards that only have room for a couple games.  Wouldn't the Wii U be a lot cheaper without the Gamepad?  Sales of all three 8th gen consoles have been held back by the increased cost of the system due to features that consumers have deemed "unnecessary".  The PS4 and X1 (especially) look to be headed in the same direction.

We all hate Kinect and the fact that it increases the cost of an X1 by $100.  There's nothing more to say on that topic.  It's unclear the extent to which Sony will push that EyeCameraToyThing that is (thankfully) not included on us.  Regardless, Sony fans who aren't used to paying for online play might be a little hesitant to jump onto the PS4 right away, even if PSPlus is a STEAL.

[u]4.  Conclusion[/u]


I don't want to see 8th gen consoles fail or even struggle.  But, based on what I've observed happen so far this gen, I wouldn't be surprised if the PS4 and X1 face some tough times after the holidays.  I think the heart of the problem is the rising cost of game development, which will encourage publishers to drag out the 7th generation longer than necessary, thus preventing the 8th gen from taking off as it should.  I'll be getting my PS4 regardless, but it'll be interesting to see what happens.







ocelot89
6:29 PM on 06.05.2013



I recently played a title by the name of Bit.Trip presents Runner2:  Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.  I really enjoyed the game, but I haven’t seen it get much attention online, so I thought I’d spread the word about this little gem and some of the things I liked about it.  I played the WiiU version, but the game is also available on PS3/360/PC.  The game didn’t utilize the Gamepad uniquely in any way (aside from giving the option of offscreen play), so I doubt my experience was too different from what it would have been had I played it on another platform.



The game stars Commando Video, who’s in the middle of some sort of quest and then gets lost or something... I didn’t pay much attention to the story.  What is important is that Commander Video runs through levels at a predetermined speed and the player’s job is simply to dodge obstacles as they appear.  The fact that the player doesn’t often have to time to think about what they’re doing means that they have to develop a certain rhythm to progress in the game, learning what moves to do at what obstacles on a subconscious level.  Runner2’s difficulty comes from the fact that it can take the player some time to get this rhythm down, but, at the same time, I found myself feeling strangely relaxed as I played the game because I could sort of zone out and rely mostly on subconscious reactions as I played.  This is where I think Runner2 can be distinguished from similar games; it manages to deliver a fun, accessible, and relaxing experience without sacrificing difficulty.

I played through the game on the medium difficulty setting, “Just Right” and I felt that it was just right.  I could expect to mess up a handful of times per level (maybe more), but I never felt that I had encountered an insurmountable obstacle or that the game was being unfairly difficult.  Death is nonexistent; if the player messes up, Commander Video is transported back to the start of the level or the most recent checkpoint and continues on from there.  While sometimes a questionable design choice, I think the elimination of death in Runner2 enhances the gameplay experience because it keeps the player engaged and the rhythm going.



The game has a charming presentation, giving the player 100 levels to sprint through across five unique worlds that feature some pretty catchy tunes. One of my favorite aspects about Runner2 is that it keeps introducing new concepts and obstacles, even in that final world. There are plenty of unlockables to keep players engaged, including new levels, costumes, and characters to play as.  Additionally, 25 “retro” levels are hidden throughout the game’s world, 10 of which I have yet to find.  These retro levels offer the chance to play an 8-bit version of Runner2.  In NES fashion, the player is provided a limited number of lives for these levels, but the player can immediately access the levels again once they’ve been unlocked, so it’s not that much of a hassle.  I don’t want to turn this recommendation into a rant, but it’s a breath of fresh air to play a game that relies so heavily on real unlockables in this era of achievements and DLC.  All in all, the game is a great value for its price, which I believe is $15, although I got it on sale for $11.



If you’re a fan of platformers, Runner2 has a lot to offer.  I thought the game achieved a perfect balance in terms of offering a gameplay experience that is both relaxing and challenging.  If you haven’t given Runner2 a chance yet, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Photo Photo Photo








As I reflected on the topic of sex in games, the quest "Wang Dang Atomic Tango" from Fallout: New Vegas popped into my head. To help out a bar in Freeside, your quest is to find them three new prostitutes.

First, they're seeking a male prostitute, so you find a homeless man who used to work as a male prostitute to get by, but then made a respectable career for himself and swore he'd never return to such degrading work. He's since fallen on hard times and so you convince him to swallow his pride and get back to his old tricks.

Then, you're tasked with seeking out a cowboy ghoul for a customer with a fetish. You find someone meeting these qualifications serving as a guard for the Followers and convince her to give it a go as well.

Finally, another "customer" (possibly one of the co-owners of the bar) has requested you find a sex robot. You find one named Fisto around Freeside and fix him. Then, you're given the opportunity to "test him out". If you're anything like me, you go for it. The screen fades to black and you hear a few construction sounds. Then, you escort Fisto back to the bar and the bartender is quite excited. I mean, just think of the possibilities!



This quest is outrageous and silly and it fits the vibe of Fallout: New Vegas perfectly. Perhaps more serious games should take a more serious approach to the topic of sex. But, for New Vegas, I feel like this was a great way to explore the topic. I've seen a few blogs about how games have gotten the sex thing wrong. I just wanted to share this as an example of a game that, I think, got it right.
Photo








YLOD!

I had been looking forward to another great year with my PS3; I was enjoying Far Cry 3, working on a ghost run on Dishonored, and really excited about Bioshock Infinite and GTA V coming out. And then it happened. Once, twice my PS3 shut off randomly, and before I realized I should back up my data, YLOD!

Frantically, I searched for a solution. I'd had my PS3 for four and a half years. I thought that I would have already gotten YLOD if it was going to happen to me, so I had never really researched what to do about it. After looking at various repair options, it became clear to me that the only sure-fire solution was to buy a Slim. I started looking at prices, but even the cheapest vendors were charging north of $200. At that point I thought "if I'm gonna buy a new console, I might as well buy a new console."

After much deliberation and self-negotiation, I decided to buy a Wii U. I'd missed out on quite a few quality titles since I'd sold my Wii. Since the Wii U is backwards compatible, I'd finally get to play Skyward Sword, DKC Returns, and Mario Galaxy 2 just to name a few. Also, people talk shit about the Wii U's game library, but I honestly don't know what they're talking about. As it stands, the Wii U has 7 games I'm interested in--Mario U, ZombiU, Darksiders 2, Assassin's Creed 3, Batman, Trine 2, and Little Inferno. There are also three games on the horizon that I'm interested in--Rayman Legends, Bayonetta 2, and Pikmin 3. That's 10 games within the first half year of release. I don't think I've ever had five games within the first year of a console's life, let alone 10. Yeah, I'd have to play Bioshock Infinite and GTA V at a friend's house, but I could live with that. And, even if the PS4 shuns backwards compatibility, any soon-to-be-released games will probably (hopefully) be available for digital download real cheap on next gen systems.

So, I went to Target and bought a Wii U and Mario U. It was quite a different experience from when I bought the Wii. I remember going to another Target in February of 2007 and standing in line before the store opened because I'd gotten a tip that the store had just gotten a shipment of Wiis. This time around things were a lot simpler, I walked into the store around 2, asked for a Wii U, picked out the one I wanted, and walked out within 10 minutes. I was a bit concerned that there doesn't seem to be the same craze around the Wii U as there was around the Wii. In fact, I've had a suspicion that the Wii U might end up being Nintendo's Dreamcast. But, I really didn't care. I was mainly looking for something that's going to keep me busy until the PS4 and NextBox are reasonably priced, not something that's necessarily going to last me another 10 years.

So far, I'm really enjoying the Wii U. Mario U is a FANTASTIC title. The game isn't too hard (especially for those of us who have ventured through the Mushroom Kingdom before), but I'm having a lot of fun searching for star coins as I go, which adds quite a bit of challenge. Each level has a unique feel to it and it's really rewarding when you finally find star coins and other secrets. I also like the feature with other people's comments on each level, it's interesting seeing what other people thought when they played through a level and fun thinking up something clever to say after finishing a level. On that note, playing around on MiiVerse is also a lot of fun. I've mainly looked at the Mario U community so far, which is kind of hard to keep up with since that seems to be the most popular game. But, it looks like it could be a more rewarding experience with "quieter" game communities.

A lot of people have complained about the OS being really slow, but I honestly haven't had a problem with it. This might just be because I'm so used to using my SLOW laptop. The apps I've tried work pretty well. YouTube cut out on me once, but I haven't had any problems since. I'm streaming American Dad on HuluPlus right now and it's working fine. I've also heard about the system update taking forever. It took about an hour for me, which was a lot quicker than I had expected. The shop is pretty easy to use and I'm downloading Trine 2 right now. It took me a minute to figure out how to check my download progress, but other than that i haven't had any problems.

It really is tragic that my PS3 failed me because I loved that console. That being said, I really like the Wii U so far. Of course, I've only had it for three days, so there's still plenty of time for me to have a change of heart, but for now I'm looking forward to spending at least a few good years with Nintendo's new console.