Now I much prefer action RPGs to straight up old school turn based style. I actually think I abhor that style (though respect it for the peeps that dig it). In the demo you can choose to be either Ellen, a girl whose mother has died, or Keats, a writer. I chose Ellen because I had to see what they did with a female character. Ellen goes to the Faery Realm, but Keats goes to some place called Warwica.
So Ellen starts her journey with a delightful expositive conversation with an extremely creepy Scarecrow who informs her that 1) She’s in the Netherworld aka the Land of the Dead aka The Faery Realm, 2) She has Special Powers that magical beings called Folks will respond to and obey her, 3) There is a great evil called the Folklore in the forest that she must fight and 4) She could totally talk to her mom if she can find her.
Ellen is surprised by the info but seems very eager and peppy to continue her journey. So off to the forest she goes with three Folks to help her along the way. The Folks she carries act as her short range attack, long range attack, and defense. You can assign each one to whichever button on the right pad you wish, which is very nice in my opinion. I love personalized button control.
The interesting combat feature is the use of the Sixaxis control. When you are hammering the bad Folks that attack and right before you destroy them a reddish/pinkish glowy thing called Karma appears above their heads. When this happens you press R1 and shake the control up and down rapidly to reel their “Karma” in, which then powers up your own Folks and unlocks more powers and attacks for them. On bigger Folks the Karma will appear green and when it flashes red you jerk the control upwards each time and eventually they get reeled in. Some big Folks you defeat you get to keep for yourself and use so you’re always getting more Folks which bring additional attacks and defensive abilities. Folks have elemental qualities so some use air and some water, etc.
The trouble here for me is I couldn’t narrow down whether I enjoy this gimmicky play or think it’s a waste of time. I can understand both arguments but I actually think I’m leaning towards the former. In every action adventure or RPG it’s standard that when you defeat an enemy you get experience points, potions, or some sort of reward that goes towards making you stronger. This Karma stuff would be there with or without the Sixaxis controller so the only reason shaking the controller about to collect Karma is included is because, well, why the hell not, right? So for a lot of gamers this is going to be a cheap carpel tunnel inducing waste of time. Yet, I kinda liked doing it. Sure it distracts from attacking other Folks when you have to collect some Karma mid battle, but it is kinda fun and (pardon the pun) shook things up a little.
All I know is that despite the creepy Scarecrow and seriously weak script I’d like to play more and see more Folks in action. I need to play for a few hours to see if all that shaking messes with my wrists or actually keeps me loose.
As for the title of this article my one real dislike of the game is how Ellen runs. Her arms flap about in the most silly, aggravating way it makes me want to scream. For serious peeps, I hates it. When I see her run it just sets me off…I have trouble with female characters, I don’t like it when I perceive them to be weak. And maybe I am a sexist myself for thinking girls who run like that are weak…But seriously there is so much sway in that there gait it’s ridiculous.
Sandtrap is this huge, and I mean HUGE outdoor map in the desert with loads of vehicles and all the big guns and turrets you can handle. There are these ruins, like sand coloured stone ruins which is really interesting because usually on the big maps there are always metal Halo ring like ruins. Here it was more like ye olden temple like ruins hence my Stargate affiliation.
After we played Guardian (which I totally sucked at because I was too busy being in awe at everything I saw) we settled into a round of killy kill kill on Sandtrap and that’s when my super Brute Shot powers burst forth.
I loves me the Brute Shot, always have, but this version is much better. I don’t know if they really did tweak it or if it was in my head but when I was standing on one temple rooftop and the blue team guy was waaaay on the other side of this corridor between the two temples I was totally nailing him with the Brute Shot. The explosions looked better too. I love how the physics of that weapon feel…Just really like it.
The Elephant! Oh my god what fun, what fun! I don’t know about storming an enemy stronghold with that since our red team was scattered to the four winds of “oh man this is so awesome look at this look at this!” we didn’t have much in the way of strategy. The blue team, however, was able to get it together to try and move that beast (that beautiful beast) and attack our Warthogs. I totally took out two guys in the rear entrance of the Elephant with grenades and the guy driving didn’t notice (it’s a big vehicle!) and then I shot him from behind. Yeah…sweet. So anyway, I tried driving it but its slow so I dropped down to the front and lo and behold a wee Mongoose was resting there waiting to be scooted away. Unfortunately for the Mongoose my eyes were drawn to the hulking post apocalyptic looking menace that was the Brute Prowler. What a great name. Anyway, that was fun! A bit shaky to drive but then again it’s a crazy piece of machinery but fun to tear through things with.
The weapons! God do I love the weapons. I was so busy in all the vehicles that the only weapons I really played with were the Brute Shot and the Rocket Launcher, which I kept trying to auto lock on with and apparently you can’t do that anymore so I dropped it after a quick bit. These were both for long range though so I had to try some face to face combat and for that I chose the Brute Gravity Hammer. Holy damns that be the fun. I was smashing down and watching guys fly back dead as could be. Many blues died that way…So satisfying. I have always loved the game type of Swords on Foundation in Halo 2 and I can’t wait to use a Gravity Hammer only game on an extra small map for maximum crazy times. It’s gonna be great.
In conclusion, I really like the warm outdoor maps and Sandtrap is now King of them All. It’s such a huge map so I can’t wait to see some intense multiplayer but it’s also great for crazy games like vehicles only or some banshee fights. I’m so satisfied with the maps I’ve seen so far that any more are just bonuses. I can’t wait for Sept 25th. There’s so much to play and do! Not only the single player but I have to explore every single map in detail as soon as possible. Not to mention the Forge aspect and the Saved Films feature. There’s just so much to enjoy!
(Also, anyone wanting to make some Stargate themed Machinima on Sandtrap you have my blessing. Character customizing opens so many doors…)
I also had the chance to get up close and sexy with my beloved Halo 3 yesterday but I refused myself the privilege. You see, I love the multiplayer and I spoiled myself rotten with that lovely beta taste a few months back. The single player experience, however, belongs to my dreams until that fated early morning on Sept 25th. On that day I will embrace the final chapter of the story, the world, the epic that is Halo.
Now alot of people think Halo is just for the standard “male athletic baseball cap wearing frat” gamer. Not so. Sure, Halo 2 is one of the major titles in almost every gaming tournament/league out there today, but, like a fine wine or a multilayered cake, Halo is a complex beast. The single player is one layer of fun, the co-op enhances the experience even more. Then you stumble into multiplayer madness and the fun just doesn’t want to end. There were so many ways for Halo 2 to delight I could go on and on. And yes, it slashed at the very heart of my gamer core when the credits began to roll as Master Chief headed to Earth…that pissed my bawls like nothing else. Yet time heals all wounds..and you can’t play Halo 2 forever.
Back to the point. Halo 3 is not just for jocks. Just because it’s extremely user friendly in the multiplayer aspect that doesn’t mean it’s just a jock game. The Halo story and universe are beautiful, the characters instantly iconic and endearing. It’s not all marketing and fabulous Xbox Live numbers – there’s a soul to Halo. And I know that I am not alone in being touched by that soul. Everyone has their Holy Grail, their Valhalla, their Special Happy Place. For this gamer it is Halo. Jocks can play my game, but they do not now nor will they ever love it as much as I do.
And that dear friends is why I could not let myself be tainted with any sweet Halo preview pleasures…I must wait for that uninterrupted moment at around 12:45 am 09/25/07. Only then can I honestly and truly enjoy it.
I’d like to say I kicked ass in this, but I most certainly did not. Poor old red team lost the first match, which was on Guardian. I’ve heard this map referred to as a Lockout remake, but I didn’t think once of Lockout while playing it. That may very well be because of general disorientation; it did indeed have an open central area with structures surrounding it and corridors underneath.
Our team didn’t stick together at all but I couldn’t blame us – I know I was more interested in looking around and trying out new weapons than actually winning. That’s my story, anyways.
The next map was Sandtrap, which we were winning until half of us had to leave. This one is unlike any Halo / Halo 2 map that I’ve played. It’s a vehicle map, laden with hogs, mongeese, choppers and pretty much everything else. It was my first taste of the enormous Elephant, a moving fort with turrets and enough space to pack other vehicles inside.
It struck me that being on foot in Halo 3 whilst there are vehicles about is no longer the death sentence it was in Halo 2. Perhaps this is because of the design of the level, where there is cover to be had and always a turret on hand; but I’m pretty sure my grenade sent a warthog airborne, which was not something that happened a lot in Halo 2. Then again, I could have thrown a tripmine by mistake, who knows.
This is what I was really excited about. Sure, there have been articles online about all the levels I saw, even the odd bit of shakycam footage. But nothing beats seeing it in person. Not even reading about it, which is what you’re doing, sucka!
The first level we were shown was Sierra 117, an early infantry level (well, the part we saw was all on foot). Steve was playing solo, but the Arbiter comes along anyway – indication that the story involves the two characters’ collaboration. The setting is jungly, with an all-percussion score from, I assume, Mr. O’Donnell. The level begins with a large-scale battle between Pelicans and Phantoms, as well as ground forces. The Chief and Arbiter stay to the edges and flank the enemy.
After a bit Steve quit out and showed us a saved film of what we had just seen. That sounds repetitive, but since you can pause and fly the camera anywhere on the level, it let you see parts of the action you couldn’t while in the first-person view. He dollied right in on a pelican to reveal Sgt. Johnson manning the turret. I’ve already gotten into how important I think this feature might become, so I won’t repeat myself.
Next we saw “The Storm”, from later in the game. It seemed much harder. The mission is to take down a scarab, a Godzilla-sized spidertank. The Arbiter is no longer riding shotgun, but there are many marines about, as well as pelicans etc. It’s yet another setpiece battle. At first, Mr. Scott charged at the scarab solo-style, falling inevitably to the massive green gun that just don’t quit. This was a clever trick to demonstrate how the game allows many possible approaches to a problem, as he next hopped into the driver’s seat of a mongoose, and let a marine hop on the back seat and fire rockets at the scarab’s legs until it fell to its knees, allowing the Chief access to its innards. After conveniently failing again, Steve pointed his Chief at a nearby building, which turns out to be swarming with marines firing at the scarab. You can get up top and walk along some overhanging scaffolding to drop down on the scarab from above, if you time it right. Shortly thereafter, the beast was erupting in a massive explosion.
After that level, we got Tsavo Highway, which I had read about before as the level that introduces vehicular combat. The chief starts off in a destroyed building, must rally the marines and lead them out in a convoy of hogs. You pass through a flare-lit tunnel before emerging into the kind of wide-open space you’d see so often in Halo 1. The remnants of the destroyed space elevator lie in the background, and soon you’re driving through them. Again, the sense of massive scale.
So what was it like? The graphics look better than multiplayer, and much better than the multiplayer beta, with great detail and atmospheric effects, but still not mindblowing. It appears Bungie threw the new horsepower at their disposal into other areas: scale, sound, AI. All three levels communicated that you were taking part in an epic war. Oddly enough, they did this much more than say Call of Duty 2 (I played a bit of this recently so it was fresh in my mind). This actually relates to the graphics: by staying away from pretty but vision-limiting dust clouds and light beams and suchlike, Bungie allows you the viewpoint to see, as it were, the big picture of the unfolding war: huge airships pounding each other, the scarab, the space elevator. So, to me they made the right choice, since all these other elements wind up being immersing you in the world much more than graphics alone could ever do.
The sound blew my mind, and it was just the built-in speakers on the HDTV. The marine dialogue is outstanding. At one point, the Chief threw a grenade that took out a gang of grunts; a nearby marine remarked, “they go quicker that way, don’t they.” There were repeated instances of the marine AI reacting to the gameplay with an unending torrent of dialogue fragments.
Our Bungificent host remarked that it’s not just the dialogue system that has improved, but the marine – and enemy – AI, a statement borne out by what I saw. Brutes, when stuck with a plasma grenade, will lunge forward at you, trying to take you out with them. So the enemies are harder, thus having marines around is even more important. If their winsome remarks don’t make you want to save them, the tactical advantage their presence can give you surely will.
I’m going to post this now and then add some freeform notes later.
UPDATE: Now it’s later! Also, I corrected the text above with Steve’s name.
I didn’t get to see the Forge, the not-really-a-map-editor feature that lets you add (or take away?) weapons, vehicles, and objects to maps, even while playing. When I first heard about it I was all ‘meh’ but really, it could really blow up gameplay into something entirely new. Karim and I were into Crackdown for a while and we’d often just use the “spawn items” feature that was part of the downloadable content to do crazy shit. A favourite was exploding dominos on the freeway with long strings of exploding barrels, or sudden heaps of cars everywhere. To do that in Halo, potentially while engaged in team play, could be super-excellent. Can’t wait to drop a tank on someone’s head!
The Storm level, against the scarab, demonstrated a strength of the mongoose, or rather its only strength: speed. The goose was simply faster than the scarab’s beam, so if you didn’t hit an obstacle or turn too hard, it couldn’t hit you.
Do the rockets auto-lock in Halo 3? They weren’t locking on the scarab, but they may not always work that way. If they never did, that would be a good thing, especially with the vehicles apparently easier to damage / grenade.
you die from long falls!
the brutes have a big jumping melee attack that does substantial damage ( > half shields)
I think that’s it. I’m hoping Nadine will also post her thoughts on the multiplayer as she was on red team, too, and thus must shoulder some of the blame…
The avalanche of Halo 3 media is going to bury us all, and I won’t try to link to all of it, but it’s worth noting that Halo 3 was the surprise final game of the Omegathon at Penny Arcade’s enormous PAX expo – here’s a joysitq writeup. More entertainingly though, there are videos of the gameplay here and here, featuring commentary by Tycho.
I was flabbergasted by what I learned this weekend! I’ve had some experience with pro gamers because of my work at the Space Channel but I had no idea how big it could feel when you were actually surrounded by it. The three leagues there had taken up a good third of the whole Expo floor space and you could hear the crowds cheering for Guitar Hero 2 from the other side of the convention hall! It was madness wrapped in excitement and it warmed the heart of any gamer in the vicinity. It’s not PAX but it’ll frackin do pig, it’ll do! We’ve got some great stuff in store for you from that so stay tuned (and I do mean tuned…)
Even more awesome than my experience with pro gaming was my awakening to another, far older kind of gaming. It was always there in the back of my mind. I knew that maybe I would find it interesting, but holy wow was I underestimating the full power of that armed and fully operational gaming station…Tabletop Gamers. Whoa. My mind exploded through the back of my skull as I spoke with some of these guys. To go from talking to Pro Shooter Gamers (who are always great guys who have cool stuff to say about the genre) and then speak with Tabletop Gamers who are so intrinsically linked with the games they play, I just was so impressed by them! I know NOTHING of tabletop games and the simple queries I put forth were answered with kindness, warmth, enthusiasm, and just this wonderful friendly energy that I couldn’t help but grin. These dudes were awesome and I can’t wait to find out more about this massive world of non-video gaming. I’m going to be exploring this more in the next few weeks so for all of you who want to know more I say, come, walk with me as I discover this brave world of gaming upon the top of a table!
Much more to come in the next few days as I recount this awesome weekend. And I’ll also be checking out the Folklore demo on the PS3 (just as soon as the thing downloads…talk about load me long time, geesh…).
There’s a delicious cover article in the new Wired by Clive Thompson, entitled Halo 3: How Microsoft Labs Invented a New Science of Play. It focuses on the rigorous play testing that has gone into the game, but contains plenty of interest, including admissions from Bungie employees that Halo 2 wasn’t anywhere near what they wanted it to be.
There are a few other bits and pieces, including sidebars, new screens, and a so-called video primer. Of interest to Halo nerds: the number of vehicles has doubled to 16, the brute hammer is a playable weapon, a remade Lockout will be one of the multiplayer maps.
I just want to apologize to everyone who commented recently – the comments were being held in a moderation queue, but no one was being notified that they were there. I just looked and saw a bunch and approved them, and the issue is now resolved. Aka I ticked the right checkbox this time.
There was, of course, the articles about the $150-million payout to Viacom and Viacom’s subsequent switch to HD-DVD exclusive. Then there was a little bit of lash back when Fox reaffirmed that it and MGM’s titles (which are distributed by Fox) will be Blu-Ray exclusive. My theory is that the HD-DVD people knew the Fox announcement was coming and tried to pre-empt it, but I have nothing to base this on.
We know that Blu-Ray is outselling HD-DVD two (or is it three?) to one. So any ‘victories’ for HD-DVD seem like needless prolongation of a war that has already been decided.
That said, I was discussing with a friend the other day whether the war itself is irrelevant and perhaps downloads will win the day. It’s safe to say that downloads will eventually win, it’s a question of when. The interested parties are waging their own war: that of network neutrality. Those who control the pipes can effectively destroy any download business if they so choose with bit caps and bit throttling. Their current plan offerings, at least in Canada, do not really allow for large-scale downloading, say of hours of HD-quality video a night. Bell will rent you a fibre-optic connection for $75 a month, but that comes with a 30 GB bit cap, above which you are charged by the gig. You could get into surcharge territory after six hours of continuous downloading. So a carrier victory in the network war could substantially delay the obsoleting of physical media, at least long enough for us to actually have to pay attention to the tiresome Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD flareout, which sucks.
The demo is out now, the game is out tomorrow, and everyone loves it. More than one reviewer has indicated that they consider it art, i.e. more grist for the “can games be art?” “debate” (it’s only a debate because Ebert is racist against games). Tycho vows to buy an extra copy “exclusively to shove up Roger Ebert’s ass. If Bioshock isn’t “art,” then art is the poorer for it.” Well said.
I’m not sure emotional power is enough to make something art; there tend to be a lot of other checkboxes to tick such as complexity and (practically, cynically speaking) acceptance in the canon. But Bioshock certainly has it, judging by the demo, which presents a failed society, an underwater Xanadu, peopled with lonely madmen and with cracks forming everywhere.
If a game is primarily about exploring space, you could hardly find a more menacingly beautiful space than this. It’s great to see a game referencing things outside the medium that aren’t the usual space and/or monster cliches, such as art deco design and, say, Citizen Kane.
I’ll be buying this fer sure and giving it a good workout, time permitting.
Allegretto – typical manboy hero chock full of aggressive adolescence and arrogance in fight scenes pours from my tv screen like a monsoon. I instantly can’t stand the guy but he has all the most powerful moves.
Beat – typical child prodigy character with a fresh face and can-do attitude. He’s a team player and has fun in a fight, he want so get things started, dudes, a very positive Michelangelo approach to things (think Ninja Turtle, not painter).
Polka – I wanted to smash her pretty cutesy face as soon as I heard her high pitched cries of dismay in my first fight against bouncing pumpkins. But okay, girls can squeal, what about powers? Orange glow is her out of the batting cage showing. Orange glow. Whatever I think it’s a healing spell anyway, I was busy mashing buttons to end her horrid turn. It wasn’t until we fought the blue bird things in the forest that she showed any real bawls but by the time she did some real damage she would APOLOGIZE to the monster she was blasting. She actually says “I’m sorry!” Hated her…
Combat! Well, like I said before I am all about action and ES has an interesting take on RPG combat. You‘ve got the standard running around til you encounter enemies and then get faded into a combat screen. But then there’s this “action gauge” thing where you can spend time during the actual fight deciding what you want to do and then as soon as you move or make an attack the gauge starts to run and you can do as much damage as you can in that time before that character’s turn is over. Interesting because this creates an odd sort of button mashing habit I never would have associated with an RPG. For some fights I just stood in place jamming the Y button as fast I could to get as many special moves (which vary depending on what time of day it is) from Beat and Allegretto as I could in one go.
The button setup was also different because in my experience with RPGs you have to navigate menus during battle. That kind of play is not my cup of tea. I like fighting in real time, not setting up who’s gonna cast what and who’s gonna attack and who’s gonna defend. In this game, however, there’s the button navigation icon on screen during the fight and no menus, just what to press to make stuff happen, which is nice and neat. ES has the Y button as the special move, X to use items which you can scroll through with the left stick, B is guard, and A is plain old attack with whatever weapon you have as many times as you can in the length of the gauge. Another thing that’s nifty is that when you are being attacked you are given chances to guard or counterattack mid fight. This shakes things up sufficiently because you don’t just sit back and wait for the enemy’s attack to be over, you’ve got to be alert to catch those opportunities.
The demo doesn’t give you much story to go on just that you have to kill some big bad in the forest near the village of Tenuto. I gathered beforehand through the Wiki that I was in the pre-death mind of Frédéric Chopin, where he explores a world similar to our own but covered with a great evil and must band together alongside dudes with Musical names and with Musical Magic to defeat said evil.
So, I’m annoyed with the standard everything has to look anime art design in RPGs and this is no exception. I’m also annoyed with female characters that range from the anime “girlish princess” to the hardened “is that a boy or girl” in fantasy RPGs. I’m sick of the boys with spiked hair and hearts of gold (and are emotionally distant), and the child prodigies that always have something heartbustingly positive to say (and wear some sort of elaborate hat). I guess I just look at these games and the stories and characters within them as all the same and I don’t really want to explore those worlds. I can see myself maybe liking the combat if it weren’t for all the one liners and high pitched girly squeaking. I’m sure a lot of people are going to love this game and a good solid RPG is needed on the Xbox 360. I’m just not one of those people and my 360 is fine without it. But playing the demo did unearth a feeling within me…Why isn’t there a Jade Empire 2 yet?
So a lot was going on in the gaming world this past week for me. I played the Bioshock Demo which blew me away and then followed where I had been blasted to and proceeded to kick my ass full of awesome until I exploded into the sky in a burst of chaotic joyful and was left weeping in a huddled mass at the end of one of the best demos I’ve ever played. Am I buying that game? Hells yes.
Now, it’s pretty much safe to say that lots of people are digging on Bioshock and are advising others to pick it up and play it. So me convincing anyone to buy it is pretty much moot. And if you don’t see the merit of this title and think of it as simply “another shooter” (as a co-worker said to me after playing the demo to which I just sat aghast and appalled) then I can only pity you.
Yes, Bioshock is a shooter. But it’s the first shooter I’ve picked up and played and thought NOTHING of the multiplayer aspect in a long while. I never during playing said to myself “wow this combat would be great in multiplayer I wish I could play that instead” because Bioshock is not “just another shooter”. The story is what’s important. There is this awesome alternate world to explore and survive in and try to find out what the hell happened. And while doing so you get to use awesome powers that shoot out of your hand in insane mixtures of torturing delight. Anything that let’s me set someone on fire so that they jump into water to which I then inject with electric mayhem is awesome and I love it solely on the principal. The fact that I get to experience a unique and truly delightful approach to political and scientific freedoms of expression in the 1950’s kicks bawls.
The sound design is intense, the art design is beautiful in its decadence torn apart look, the Big Daddys are a nightmare, and the Little Sisters are the nightmare’s twisted incest skeleton in the closet (when she talks you hear both a sweet young voice AND a husky freaky rumble, it’s awesome!). The fact that I don’t have to save anything and I get revived with no level reset is so cool, I die in a fight then go jump right back in. It’s like the Sands of Time with no pesky sand collection.
I’m just really pleased with the experience and it’s totally in the vein of great games that can fit into genres and comparisons but they have a little something different, something that keeps you wanting to explore further while having a great time doing so. Bioshock does that for me. It makes me curious and gives me enough firecracker awesome fun along the way to keep me wanting more. It’s not just another shooter, it’s a cool story and the way I’m being told this story makes me very, very happy.
Now, moving onto another story that I know I’ll be obsessed with, Heavenly Sword. Last week in the podcast I spoke of my undying love for this title even though the demo was two seconds long. This week I (along with the many gaming masses) was alerted to the presence of the hilarious and ingenious Yahtzee creator of Zero Punctuation on The Escapist.
This guy tickles my fancy to a degree the likes I’ve not felt since my first foray into the Arcades of Copper Delight. I immediately went to watch his reviews of The Darkness and Fable: The Lost Chapters. I love this guy but watching his take on the HS demo made me feeling slightly sad about how giddy and gaga I get over game hype and all things “what I think will be awesome”. I mean, there are plenty of critical people out there who can wittily maim and make fun of things I want to take seriously and I am fine with that. I really just think that people like me, people who like to drift along the waves of hype til game release are a breed who just like to dream of the possibilities, to hope for them.. “I want this game to be awesome therefore it will be” type of thing. See it’s like a suspension of disbelief. Yes, Nariko looks non-Asian but has the Asian name. When I see that kind of oddity I just let it go (unless it’s really, really bad) and accept that in this new age of cross-culture pollination people with various backgrounds are getting together to make games and they all have histories and they all have personal affiliations and these things bleed down into content. That’s just the way it is and it’ll only get worse (or better) as time passes. Global Village meet Global Wok. The “twing-twang” thing: My suspension simply said to me “She either means be a look out, or use a crazy cool combat move with a silly name…or possibly some sort of song…with an instrument…that hopefully can kill with a certain note…”.
So anyway, the point here is I enjoy games and the way games speak to me. I don’t get too nit picky over game mechanics (unless they totally suck) I don’t get all huffy when a game doesn’t change the world for me. Like Fable, I didn’t like it for the longest time, then I just sat and played through it and yes it wasn’t amazing but I had fun while I played it and enjoyed it for what it was. It’s like some times you want to watch Conan The Barbarian but sometimes you have to settle for Conan The Destroyer instead. Yes, The Destroyer is mostly bawls, but seeing Grace Jones with a giant staff and metal head plate? Well, that makes it an iota above unwatchable. Grace Jones kicks tits and if you’ve got a probllem with that then you probably didn’t like the Bioshock Demo either so, again, you have my pity.
To sum up, yes I like hype and yes I get tickled because games let me imagine and adventure and have fun. Do I get excited when I think I’m going on a cool adventure? Hell yeah man. Hell frackin yeah.
I’m gonna be blabbing like this more often from now on hopefully on a daily basis. Basically, I’m only going to talk about stories and things that come up in the gaming world that interest me, not the big headlines because we all know those as soon as they happen anyway. I’m just going to point out some things here and there that I think need a closer look or that spark some sort of idea in my head.
I missed that The Escapist has started a game club and now it’s kinda too late to join in, which is too bad as I have been meaning to play this month’s selection, Psychonauts. Set alarm for september I guess.
There are things you understand very well because you learned them via activities you do all the time. Let’s say, driving a car … There’s a certain feel to what it’s like driving a car, how things accelerate and slow down, how that feels, how turning happens, what the higher-level flow is as traffic lights go green or red, etc… I could write a whole novel full of words about what it feels like to drive a car with 10 years of experience, but those words wouldn’t be very effective at really communicating what it’s like to someone who never did it. It’s just something you have to do. I am going to call this intimate state of familiarity driving-ness, and apply it to other things…
Imagine a future where you have that driving-ness experience for a whole wealth of things — geopolitical negotiations, or marital infidelity and deceit, or calculus. And you didn’t get that by running a bunch of tedious programs in school, but rather, by engaging in activities created by skilled authors, that were compelling in their own right? If everyone had the same intimate understanding of propaganda dissemination as they do of the way buddy cops interact in buddy cop films, would we be at war in Iraq? Who would be President of the USA right now? etc.
This is part of the reason why I feel games can be important. Should be important.
Blow makes many other interesting points, so go read.
So now we have articles from Nadine and Mark going on, the podcast. Quite clearly, the common thread here is games, so we’re going to run with that. To keep the site focused, I’m going to move some of the kinds of things I’d occasionally post over to Smooth Music. I’ll still post “digital culture” stuff here, so writing about facebook etc., but film, politics, and random bullshit will live over there.
As if that’s perfectly clear, there’s still some confusion with the feeds. The links you now see on the sidebar (which are links tagged with angryrobot) are no longer the links you’d get in the combined feed. And if you were to visit Smooth Music, there’d be some duplicates. I’m going to poke around and see if there’s a way to streamline all of this, so that you don’t all get pissed off and stop showing up.
Imagination is the key to gaming. Playing games, designing games, making music for games it all comes from the creative source within us all: our imaginations. Video games have always inspired young players and inventors to push the boundaries of electronic entertainment until one day that elusive interactive holodeck of dreams can be ours. Baby steps towards this universal gaming goal are coming faster and faster these days. Yet, ever since the 80’s marketing menagerie of dashing the hopes of tech wonders actually living up to the hype, game journalists and gamers themselves have become so jaded and so critical of every new gimmick or niche title to come out it’s almost hard to see why these “gamers” even like games anymore.
So, it’s no surprise that when some new promise of re-enacting another nerd fantasy (think the Star Wars claymation chess game of Wookie arm ripping action) gamers will either unite in applause or collectively bash the concept so far and hard into the ground as to release liquid magma into the faces of all who oppose them. I’m talking about the Eye Toy and it’s first major step into wooing the gaming populace The Eye of Judgement
Penny Arcade’s Tycho was positive in his excitement about what this could mean for tabletop gamers and people who are drawn to the idea of placing a card on a table and have its true power and essence explode onto their tv screen in streaming colours and fantastic magic action. And I agree, this is truly amazing! It brings all of us closer to setting our little figurines down and having their animated antics appear for us on the high def fancy screens we’ve all come to know and yearn for.
My only problem with the this new type of gaming is what it means for the younger generation of gamers. I’m referring to the kids who watched the Clone Wars (www.starwars.com/clonewars) animated series before ever seeing A New Hope. These gamers lack the experience of the older generation in terms of dreaming of satisfying games but having to endure decades of painstaking baby steps towards the PS3s, Wiis, and 360s of today. This young generation has the expectation of the shiny and new emblazoned upon them.
So, a game that turns their decks of cards into awesome action on screen comes as no suprise, nay, it’s expected. This is intuitively accepted as “Of course, why didn’t I have this sooner!” The time of using one’s own imagination to enjoy the gaming experience is diminished once again. On one hand young gamers miss more and more of the classic “I have to use my own mind to animate my adventures”. Yet on the other hand, older gamers finally achieve another step towards having their wild imaginatons punch through into reality for all to see. The experience of the game is the same, but the perception of the game’s significance is different. Why does this matter to me?
The real issue I’m so concerned about is the future of gaming and accepting the fact that gaming history doesn’t seem to be as important as the gaming present. That the experiences of that past, the hardships of old are just one of the many sacrifices that technological progress has always had to make. Can I sit here and say people can’t enjoy power windows because they never had to manually roll up a window before? No, that would be ridiculous. Opening and closing the window hasn’t changed, just the way you do it. And the same is true for playing games. Should I sit here and be jealous because when I was a kid I just had three Star Wars movies and kids now a days have six, an animated tv series, an upcoming live-action series, a library of books, handheld and console games, and more worldwide merch than the 2008 and 2010 Olympics combined? Or should I be thankful that I exist in a world where people actually get to enjoy such an abundance of source material for their imaginations? Some people are going to hate gimmick gameplay, some people are going to love it, but at least it’s there, at least it exists. And at least some one, some where will play it.
The fact is, the future is fast approaching and gimmicks or no, new gaming challenges await us all and one of the first to tackle is letting go of the hierarchy of gamers that I myself seem to be locked into. I think we all need to remember that we just play games. No matter how old we are or how long we’ve been doing it, everything comes back to that simple fact. We all use our imaginations to enjoy the stories, enjoy the gimmicky technologies, to enjoy ourselves.
It is okay to be a 36 year old Pokemon player and it’s okay to be a 27 year old Wii master of Cooking Mama. These things are just fine and dandy in the new age of play and should be embraced. You don’t have to play every single Final Fantasy to know you enjoy a good long cinematic RPG. You don’t need to play every single Metroid to know Samus is the hottest alien ass kicker since Ripley. And you can play The Wind Waker and think it’s the best thing ever and never have set foot in Hyrule before. You can just as easily lead a squad of Advanced Warfighters into battle and then turn around and have the most rockin Pinata Garden this side of Azeroth. You can play whatever you want, just as long as you play.
The name Eye of Judgement is far more fitting for this moment in gaming time than at first glance. Because this is the time for us all to take a step back from the hype, move away from the critques and just be thankful that we get to enjoy any of this crazy stuff. We’re all at the forefront of the playable frontier and we get to explore and enjoy new worlds every single day. That’s a really special thing and something we all share. Take a moment to remember that and let go of all the things that are wrong with this or that, who’s “hardcore” or “casual”, and just be happy.
Here’s episode? chapter? 2 of our podcast thing, Nadine and D stylee. The central theme is casual vs. hardcore gaming, with stops along the way at the following topics: the DS, the Wii, Viva Pinata, Marathon: Durandal, Halo, Silent Hill, and Guinness. I managed not to edit the hell out of it this time. I only took out a pause and one instance of me saying, “I guess I’ll edit this out.” Thanks, self!
A wave of nostalgia hits, triggered by the sound effects.
There is also an atmospheric sound effect that makes me think I am constantly earning achievements, or friends are constantly logging in.
There is no score. Not at this point in the game, anyways.
I think water must have been a big selling point at the time, as there’s quite a bit of it around. It seems a touch arbitrary now, like watching an 80s film where every character has a yo-yo.
Maze maze maze. You forget how mazey early FPSes were. A reminder of how innovative Halo was. It didn’t even have a map! You couldn’t play this game without a map. You’d have to be a professional cartographer.
Nonetheless, the maziness makes the game much more about exploring space. I mean, almost every game is about exploring space, but the way Durandal does it, it’s much less linear than Halo. You often see somewhere you want to get, but you can’t get there from your position, so you have to poke around.
I love love love the terminal paradigm. Like halo, you are working for an AI, but in the Marathon series you get all your orders from text on computer terminals. They’re not just for that though; you find other ones that give you back story, which also like Halo involves various warring races of aliens and a mysterious ancient race of beings.
Back in the day I would play this on my Mac, and then Doom on Dave or Matt’s computers. The Marathon games are much more literate than the Doom games.
The pacing is different from Doom, too. Many more changeups. Suddenly you are surrounded by aliens and humans (“bobs”) are warped in to help you, and there is mayhem. Then, just as suddenly, you are alone and must spend 10 minutes figuring out how to escape the maze.
First twinge of motion sickness. Why? This happens sometimes when I’m playing first-person games, and I usually blame a bad frame rate. But this one, I have heard, is a smooth 60 fps.
I cannot visually tell the difference between different frame rates.
Other games that have given me motion sickness: Half Life 2, Call of Juarez, Chronicles of Riddick, Oblivion (sometimes). I did not get it from the 360 Arcade port of Doom. Or ever from Halo.
I never got motion sickness from playing these games on Mac/PC and apparently the original ran at 30 fps and I’m sure my LC475 failed to achieve that. So perhaps my theory is wrong.
love the grenade launcher on the bullet-hose assault rifle.
Here’s an article in the Globe about the Toronto edition of Street Wars, a big game in which participants must “assassinate” other registered players with a watergun, with the entire city as the playing field. It’s an interesting sort of game, and indicates the influence of video games beyond the “video” realm, where the fun of the virtual is injected back into the real. In the words of the game’s creator, Franz Aliquo:
I said: Dude, I’m watching people do interesting things on TV, I’m doing all this awesome stuff in fake worlds in video games, but it would be better for my life if I could get out and do the same types of things.
True dat. Interesting also that cops and mayors tend to object to the game, because of the violent ‘theme’.