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Hi, I'm Shaxam.

Or maybe I'm Max, or Anan; depends on where and when you're from.

Videogames are pretty neat, my favorites are:(in no particular order)

Skyward Sword
Final Fantasy VI
Mother 3
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Thief 2
Doom 2
Twilight Princess

I also like writing about videogames, more specifically about game design.

ABC's of Game ________:
A is for
B is for
C is for Conveyance
D is for
E is for
F is for
G is for
H is for
I is for
J is for
K is for
L is for
M is for
N is for
O is for
P is for
Q is for
R is for Risk
S is for
T is for
U is for
V is for
W is for
X is for
Y is for
Z is for
Following (4)  

So, the thing is, I'm a pretty young guy. I wasn't around for most of the 90's or 80's, so along with bell-bottoms and Pogs, I missed out on the releases of some of the most ground-breaking and revolutionary games of all time. I can't imagine what it must've felt like to discover the gigantic game-world of the original Zelda because, well, I wasn't there. Sure, I could download it on the virtual console or a ROM but it just wouldn't be the same. There's something about playing a game that you know is unlike anything else the world has ever seen, right then and there. That said, I'm not against going back to gaming classics and seeing what all the hubub's about.

So there's this game called Half-Life. It came out in 1998 and was made by a little company named Valve. One of the lead designers was a man named "Gabe Newell". Never heard of him? Huh. Anyways, apparently the game was pretty good because almost everyone who played it fell in love with it. To my understanding, it was renowned for it's atmosphere and it's story which was told almost entirely through gameplay. I guess that back then, with the FPS genre being mostly populated by games like Doom and Quake, a shooter that wasn't all about running and gunning was pretty mind-blowing. But I wouldn't know.

I was just a kid when the original Half-Life came out, and was likely totally unaware of it's existence. As I grew older and got into gaming however, a certain bearded scientist slowly made his way into the back of my mind. When browsing game sites, I saw Half-Life being referenced constantly as the epitome of story-telling in videogames. This "Gordon Freeman" character usually held a spot on lists of people's favorite protagonists, and gamers as a whole exploited every chance they had to bring up the lack of a third Half-Life game. That was it. I wanted to be part of this club. I wanted to theorize about "G-man". I wanted to strike down a headcrab coming at me with my mighty crowbar. So I did.

Except not really. I didn't download Half-Life, but "Black Mesa"; a fan-made mod that recreates the Half-Life experience with improved graphics and gameplay. Or so I'm told. As I've never played the original, I have nothing to compare Black Mesa to, so keep that in mind when you're reading this.

"I'm standing on some kind rail. A voice coming out over the loudspeakers tells me I'm in the "Black Mesa" facility. Something about science and New Mexico but I'm not really listening. There's a newspaper on the corner of the rail. There are words on it. I want to read it. Not sure why. Then I look up. Out the window. People are doing things. Science things. I'm interested but the rail pulls away before they do anything interesting. Now I'm sad. I spend the rest of my ride reading caution signs and listening to the loudspeaker lady."

The rail sequence to Half-Life was super weird for me. It grabbed me almost instantly, but not by throwing me straight into the action. It teased me. Gave me an inkling of the world that I would be inhabiting for the next several hours. I really wanted to stay and observe the scientists for some strange reason, but the game assured me there would be plenty of time for that later and pushed forward. The rail sequence also introduced the rather hostile atmosphere of Half-Life. During one scene, the loudspeaker lady warned me that being exposed to radiation would "have me terminated" or something along those lines. I wasn't really paying attention to be honest, until the rail made it's way over two scientists stuck in a room overflowing with toxic waste. It really reinforced how alone you are in half life. Sure, there are others out there, but none of them stay with you throughout your adventure, leaving you to confront the hellish creatures of Black Mesa by yourself. If that makes sense.

"I'm roaming the hallways of the facilities, aimlessly, unsure of what I'm doing. Old men in lab coats tell me I'm Gordon Freeman and that I'm needed somewhere. I ignore them and find the office kitchen. I blow up something in the microwave. Heh, heh. Eventually I find a locker room and put on a bitchin' orange suit. Music starts playing and I'm feeling good. I make my way to the testing facility and people are mad at me. Then things start going wrong. Equipment is malfunctioning, but they assure me that everything's OK. We're going to try something new today. Oh no. They push me into a chamber, and tell me to press a button. No thanks, but I do it anyway. Lasers. Now push that crystal into... oh... oh no."

I wouldn't really describe Half-LIfe as a "horror" game. I wouldn't describe the original Legend of Zelda as a horror game either, but both games make my heart beat and palms sweat at abnormal rates. You see, I enjoy playing Half-Life, and I want to play Half-Life. But Half-Life asks me to do things that I don't want to do. I didn't want to put the suit on. I can't handle that much responsibility. I didn't want to take the sword in the first Zelda either. Can't I just walk around this safe part of the map forever? Can't I just roam Black Mesa, blowing up things it microwaves until people realize that I am not qualified for this job? No you can't you cowardly fuck. You're going to push that crystal into that laser, and when all hell breaks loose, you're going to be the one that makes it out of Black Mesa alive. Now go.

"Oh good there are others. What? You're not going to come with me? Whatever. Woah laser. Hey guy, laser. Someone manages to crawl his way out of the fire. I back away because he has a stupid head. Accidentally might've killed some people in an elevator. I feel bad. More stupid heads fly through the air and I find a security man. He's pretty nice, but he is way to O.K about all of this. He cracks jokes while he shoots stupid heads and tries to make conversation with me as I try to avoid conflict. He tells me to go on as he tries to make contact with the outside world but I refuse to leave his side. He stares at me for about five minutes with those cold, dead eyes, and I reluctantly find an open air vent to crawl into. There's a crowbar lodged in a door and I grab it. I eye the two stupidheads making their way towards me hungrily. Playtimes over motherfuckers."

For a first person "shooter" Half Life doesn't have you doing much shooting, at least at the beginning of the game. This sequence had you mostly avoiding enemies and taking in the fact that Black Mesa is absolutely screwed. Chaos awaits you at every turn, and the only way you can deal with it is by running away. This brings a feeling of hatred and hostility towards headcrabs and zombies which makes the moment that you receive your first weapon; the crowbar, all the sweeter. This sequence also introduces the buddy mechanic of Half-Life, a strange inclusion considering the lonely atmosphere. It does work well though. Like with the crowbar, finding a buddy to follow you around after being alone for so long is very satisfying. They never stay with you too long though, at least, not what in what I've played, so the lonely atmosphere is still very prominent throughout the game.

And that's all the time I have for Black Mesa now. Hopefully, I'll keep playing, and continue to post my impressions. I really enjoy what I've played so far though, and can understand why the first Half-Life is considered such a classic. Again, I can't really speak to how faithful Black Mesa is to the original, but just by watching gameplay videos and listening to people's thoughts, I have a feeling that it does a really good job at taking what made the old game so great, and building on that foundation. I can't really find much fault with it so far, but some people might be turned off for the slower pace. If you're a gamer that plays FPS for the shooting, you're probably better off looking elsewhere. The atmosphere and pace is what makes the game for me though, along with the attention to detail. I haven't been this immersed and interested in a game world since the original Metroid Prime. If you're having doubts about it, I'd say give it a shot. It's free, and is (in my opinion) one of the strongest examples of tension and atmosphere that you'll find in any game.
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1:02 PM on 10.05.2012

I love video games.
I LOVE videogames.
I LOVE videogames.

Until recently I never really thought about why I spend so much time with my eyes glued to a screen and hands molded in the shape of a controller. There's so much that makes gaming, in my opinion, the superior medium. When utilized to their fullest, video games can tell stories, change the way we think, and even bring people together. Today, I just want to talk about the latter.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve me sitting on a friend's couch or floor with a controller and some junk food. Oddly enough, I can't seem to remember the games that we played; which can probably be attributed to the fact that most of them were pretty awful. I do remember having loads of fun though, even though I realized the game that we were playing wasn't very good. The thing was, having a friend around and overcoming challenges together turned a mediocre game into an enjoyable experience. I've always found that even with single-player titles, videogames are at their best with a friend or family member around. That feeling of discovering a hidden secret, or finally defeating a really hard boss, and having someone to share it with, is one of the things that I love about the medium.

One of my not-as-fond childhood moments involved the emergence of popularity of online multiplayer. Now, don't get me wrong. I actually really enjoy playing games online with my friends and random people on the internet. I even think that online multiplayer can be utilized in some really interesting ways, such as in games like "Journey". It's just that once online multiplayer arrived and became a bullet point in a check-list of "things hat we think games need to sell", local multiplayer started to take a back-seat. More and more, it seemed that people would rather play with you on a connection than on a couch. And I guess I can't really begrudge them for doing so.

There's just some magic that was lost from the switch from local to online multiplayer. It was replaced with another magic, a magic that wasn't necessarily better or worse, just different. It's a feeling I would very much like to have back, but with less and less interest in local play, I can see why publishers and developers choose to omit these features from their games. But maybe it doesn't have to be that way.

With the unveiling of the Wii U, couch co-op and competitive play seems to have had a resurgence with devs. Now, this could just be a coincidence, but I have a feeling that the Wii U gamepad has reinvigorated consumer interest in local multiplayer. The asymmetrical nature in which games like Nintendoland is built around could just be the thing to bring friends and family back together and gaming under the same roof!

Or maybe I'm just dumb. What do you think?
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Hideki Kamiya, the man responsible for the first Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe games, has come under fire recently regarding a statement that he made on Twitter. When asked about what he thought of Sony's upcoming brawler Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royal, Kamiya said that he didn't like it because it was "just a rip-off". Immediately, passionate Sony fans rained down the game designer with reason after reason of why the title wasn't going to be "just a rip off".

This whole issue got me thinking about what makes games "rip-offs". How clear is the line between "inspiration" and plagiarism. I started looking at games differently, making a point to see where they drew their influences from, and how close they were to other titles. And then I realized something. Almost every game has taken something from a game that came before it. This doesn't make them rip-offs. What makes a game a ripoff, to me anyways, is when instead of drawing inspiration from something, and putting your own spin on it, you straight up copy aspects of another game. What makes a game a ripoff to me is when developers put features from other games into their game not because they love those features, but they know that gamers love those features.

Let's look at a game that did it right. A game that was made it's influences clear, but differentiated itself from the games that it was derived from. A game that Hideki Kamiya, himself, worked on. Okami. This 2006 title was a 3D action-adventure game that put players into the shoes, or paws rather, of the Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu in the form of a white wolf. It followed the traditional 3D Zelda formula for the most part, you go through a tutorial, explore the overworld, help the townsfolk, and solve puzzles in dungeons. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Even Kamiya admitted that he was a Zelda fan, and that the game influenced his general game design. What made Okami so memorable though were the things that it did with those typical Zelda conventions. Combat was much different than any action-adventure title up to that point. Gamers were given control of a magic brush that could be used to defeat enemies in many different ways. You could slash enemies, summon bombs to blow them to smithereens, stop them in their tracks by summoning a tree, the possibilities were endless! Instead of being given an item after every dungeon like in most games in the genre, players were given a different brush stroke. Each of these strokes felt much more practical and useful than the items players received in most games, and they were satisfying as hell to pull off. Unlike in Zelda players could also upgrade their abilities using the in-game currency. But the thing that really set it apart from other games was it's style.

It's got an incredibly beautiful cel-shaded graphic style that makes even the dullest of moments a joy to watch. It's pretty much unlike anything I've ever seen before, a cross between a Japanese ink painting and wind waker's fantastic art style. The setting is also pretty interesting, as I've never had played many other games that take place in feudal era Japan. The focus on Japanese myths and gods also make thinks pretty interesting. Makes you wonder why more games don't use the same setting or the focus on Eastern gods.

Now Okami is one of the many examples of games that were derivative without being rip-offs, but there are plenty of games that are derivatives and are rip-offs. The first thing that comes to mind for me are games from the ios studio "Gameloft". Now, Gameloft actually makes some pretty awesome games. The ios version of the Oregon Trail and "Spider-Man: Total Mayhem" are both fantastic titles, but Gameloft has a tendency to make some games that are not-so-fantastic. They take titles that are console exclusives and make games that are border-line copyright infringing. Examples include the "Gangstar" games, pretty blatant GTA clones, and the "Hero of Sparta" series, titles with gameplay that's a bit to close for comfort to another action series starring a certain god. Now there's not much necessarily wrong with these games, they're well made. The problem with them is that they're lacking soul. It doesn't feel like the devs did anything special with the aspects that they took from other games. And that's when I think a game qualifies as a "rip-off".

I can't tell whether or not PAS: BR is a "rip-off" or not, but from what I've seen of the game so far, it looks like it has some pretty interesting mechanics and does enough to differentiate itself from smash bros. Even if it is just a Smash Bros. clone, it's sure to be a well made one. I guess I can't really fault devs for making rip-offs, it certainly makes sense from a business standpoint, but it still makes me kind of sad. I just hope developers don't think that's all gamers want.
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Videogame franchises tend to evolve with every new game. Be it the characters, the gameplay, the graphics, pretty much every game in a given franchise is different. Sometimes the differences are subtle; like in the Pokemon, Modern Warfare, or New Super Mario Bros. series. And sometimes the differences are more pronounced, exemplified by the Zelda, Metroid, and Kid Icarus franchises.
I've always been one that's quite open to change. I love it when developers keep things fresh and give the next game in their series a radical new art style, or totally revamped gameplay. I do understand that a lot people prefer franchises that make smaller, more subtle, tweaks to each game, and I'm totally fine with that to. What I'm not so fine with is when people get upset to an irrational degree when companies make drastic changes to a new game in a series.

Let's talk Spyro. The original came out on the PS1 to commercial and critical success. People seemed to love taking control of the fiery purple dragon and traversing around the whimsical and wonderful world that insomniac had created. In 1999, a sequel was released. Like the original, it was an action-platformer, and like the original, it was pretty darn good. It expanded upon the first game the way that some would argue a sequel should, and made the game bigger and better in just about every respect. The next year the third and final Spyro game for the original Playstation hit store shelves to almost universal praise. This was considered by pretty much everyone to be the greatest Spyro game ever. It gave players a larger world to explore and fine-tuned the established action-platformer gameplay to a polished sheen. It didn't make too many differences, save for the addition of extra playable characters, but it didn't really need to. It's gameplay still felt fresh and new.

Fast forward to 2011, and the Spyro franchise is not as it once was. The purple reptile had starred in a number of games since his PSX days and while not all of them were necessarily bad, they were not nearly as revolutionary or exciting as the original trilogy. This might have had something to do with the fact that Insomniac no longer owned the Spyro license. The series was growing stagnant and needed something new.

In February of 2011 Activision announced Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure; a dungeon crawler RPG that featured collectible models that you could collect in real life and use in the game. It was radically different than any Spyro game before it, and was set to reinvigorate the franchise with a new art style and cast of characters. In fact, the only thing the game had in common with others in the series was that Spyro had his name on the cover. It might have done Activision well to keep their scaly friend out of the picture because the announcement enraged Spyro fans everywhere. They claimed that they had tainted Spyro's name forever and ruined their childhood memories with the original games. Some fans even went as far as to send the developers death threats. It was ridiculous.

The fact that gamers are so attached to franchises to the point where they claim that developers ruined their childhood memories with the original games is kind of disgusting. Those memories that you had with those games are your own. No one is going to take them away from you. If you don't like something that a dev is doing with a new game in a franchise, that's fine, just don't play the game. Don't let yourself ruin those memories.

I've seen similar behavior for fans of the original Devil May Cry series that express dismay that the new DMC is coming out, as well as from fans of the original Tomb Raider. To those people I say just don't buy the new games and don't ruin the old games for yourself. Or maybe you could have an open mind and try the new games out! You might even enjoy them more than the originals... just a thought.

Hey guys! Ever since I was a child I've dreamed of making games, and now that dream is (kind of) a reality. I stumbled upon a program called gamemaker not too long ago, and liked the idea of making a game without having to deal with any coding. So this is what I've got so far:

Web link

The game's called Rainbobot, and it's premise is pretty simple. Your a robot tasked with saving the helpless rainbopeople from the evil gray dudes. Think "de Blob" meets megaman. But not nearly as good. I haven't been working on it for that long, and I've still got a ton to do with the game, but I decided to post it and see if I can get any advice or feedback from anyone. I want to add more levels and make the graphics a lot more appealing because as they stand, they're pretty ugly. The jumping needs fixing and I want to give players more incentive to save all the little people. I've still had a blast making it so far, and I'm hoping that I continue to have fun with it.

Feedback would be greatly appreciated guys!
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The Wii just might be my favorite console of all time. It's got a great library of games, and doesn't have many of the problems that are often associated with the consoles of this generation. Things like constant firmware updates and on-disk DLC are pretty much absent on the Wii. Still, as with any console, it has it's fair share of flaws. Many people have called out Nintendo's system on having a distinct lack of notable third-party releases. Others have questioned the console's graphical shortcomings. And while there's tons of variety in the Wii's library, the first-person-shooter genre is severely under-represented.

Behold: Red Steel 2! A FPS/Brawler hybrid released by Ubisoft with fantastic gameplay and absolutely gorgeous visuals. A game that single-handedly disproves preconceptions that all 3rd party Wii games are just uninspired minigame compilations with sub-par visuals. This was the game that Wii owners were waiting for ever since they purchased the little white box. Finally, a game that fulfilled the fantasy that we as gamers had ever since the console was unveiled in 2005. A game that let you wield a sword and chop up baddies with unprecedented accuracy and immersion. A game that,despite having tons of great features... just didn't sell very well.

Red Steel 2 was the sequel to the first Red Steel. The original game was a launch title for the Wii, and was held up to be the "hardcore" first person shooter/slasher experience that Wii owners were looking for at the time. While the game wasn't horrible, it failed to live up to Ubisoft's lofty claims. The graphics were muddy and unpolished, the gunplay was sub-par, and the sword-fighting amounted up to shaking your Wiimote around like as fast as you could. Needless to say critics weren't enthralled with the title. The game had decent sales though, which were probably a product of Wii owners thirst for first person shooters at the time. Satisfied with the sales, Ubisoft started to work on the sequel in the summer of 2008. The game that followed had very little in common with the first game. Like the original Red Steel, it had a first person view point and gun/sword play, but that was about where the similarities ended. This game had a beautiful cel-shaded art style, and took place in a hybrid eastern/wild-west setting. It also made use of the new "motion plus" technology, allowing more accurate and precise control over the gun-toting, sword-swinging protagonist. Tons of changes were made, and almost all of them were for the better.

After a development period of about two years, Red Steel 2 finally hit store shelves in March of 2010. Eager to play the game I went to my local game store to pick up a copy along with the motion plus add-on. I made my way back to my house, and popped the disk into my system.

The first thing that hit me were the graphics. The cel-shaded art style was something I had seen before in games like Windwaker and Killer 7, but I had never seen it applied to a game as well as it was in Red Steel 2. Everything was so colorful and stylized, it was hard to believe it was running on a Wii. The developers really did make the most of the console's hardware limitations. Like the graphics, the gameplay was also unlike anything I'd ever seen on Wii. The 1:1 swordplay was impressive, and whenever you felt tired of slashing enemies up, you could always obliterate them with your six-shooter or double barrel. You could even use your Katana and your guns in tandem, taking out bad guys with stylish, but effective combos. The game didn't take place in an open-world, but there were still some elements of exploration. I loved that fact that you could always take a break from the main objectives, and take on a sidequest, or just look for cash to upgrade your weapons, and learn more moves. The story was pretty ridiculous, but still immensely entertaining. It reminded my of the cheesy cartoons I used to watch as a kid. The sound design in the game was also extremely well done. The music was memorable, and mixed elements of the soundtracks from old western and samurai films.

The game wasn't perfect, though. It was kind of short, and got a little bit repetitive when I played it for an extended period of time. Some of the moves and combos you learned were a bit overpowered, and others felt underused. The game was still a blast, so I'm pretty sure that the bad sales had anything to do with the quality of the game. I have a feeling that the title might've caused some people to avoid it. Remember, the first Red Steel wasn't exactly a great game. The fact that the game required motion plus, which was a rarity for Wii games at the time, may have also been a factor. Regardless, I hope the bad sales don't deter Ubisoft for releasing a new Red Steel game, or at least some kind of spiritual sequel to Red Steel in the future. It really is a great game, and in my opinion, one of the best that the Wii has to offer.
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