Angry Robot

Halo 3 in the Press

Nothing comprehensive here, but I just wanted to mention a trio of good articles about everyone’s favourite hype-fattened juggernaut. This interview with Brian Jarrard of Bungie is mostly about how Bungie was disappointed with Halo 2. Then there are good pieces by Clive Thompson in wired, one about AI in Halo 3, and another on the topic of the game’s level design.

There’s also an interesting interview with Claude Errera, webmaster of, in Online Journalism Review.

The Halo Marathon: The Video

Here’s the complete video of us dorks ODing on Halo on saturday.

The Angry Robot Halo Marathon from Angry Robot on Vimeo.

Big thanks to Chetan, Chris and Steve for taking part. And now back to Halo 3.

Please Welcome…

Hopefully you noticed some new voices around here, with the recent articles by Nigel, GigerHR and Mark. Nigel’s piece is a personal history of a favourite videogame, set against the decline of the arcade. GigerHR comes at Halo 2 from a different angle than, say, Nadine and I take, but argues his points well and definitely provokes thought. And Mark examines moral choice in videogames through the lens of Bioshock. We’re really happy with all their first writings for the robot, and hope to see much more soon.

Angry Robot Sounds 4

Recorded just after we played Halo 3 campaign for the first time, this episode naturally concerns Halo and only Halo. It’s not really a review since we didn’t finish the game, just the thoughts that came to mind.

Angry Robot Sounds #4 (5MB mp3, 10mins)

Subscribe on subscribe in iTunes

Endangered Species

It happened in Bridgetown the capital city of Barbados.
In the center of city they have a large arcade. Actually, in selling beer and smokes it was kinda like a bar too. The best way to describe it would be the “Mos Isley Cantina” out of “Star Wars”.
Wretched hive?
Scum and villainy?
Play some of the best old school arcade games ever created.
Triple check.

So, now that my friend was here in Toronto I thought I would give him a taste of the Canadian Arcade experience. We swung over to Toronto’s arcade headquarters, The Funland Arcade at Younge & Dundas. Upon entering, I noticed the difference almost immediately.

A quarter of the arcade had been transformed into a Mamma’s Pizza and an Internet Café. But even that change was small compared to what awaited us deeper within.

Past the rows of “Initial D” racing games and the seizure inducing lightshow of the numerous “Dance, Dance Revolutions” we came at last to the genre that was once king.

The Fighting Game Section.

Memories of high school came flooding back to me. A time when you couldn’t walk into an arcade or convenience store without seeing a line up of kids and hearing the bellows of “Hadoken” or “Shoryuken” coming from the machine.

There is no doubt that “Street Fighter II” galvanized its own genre. It spawned many other emulating titles, like my coveted “King Of Fighters”, but it also helped to exhilarate the arcade industry as a whole. With this in mind it was kinda of sad to see this “King Of The Arcade”, put out to pasture like a boxer who got too many blows to the head. Still things aren’t all bad. Many of the genre’s titles exist in some home console form or another, but the experience of playing online pales in comparison to the camaraderie of playing amongst like-minded strangers and friends.

As my friend and I continued to play I wondered how long it would be before even these few titles were also gone. Something’s gotta be done people! I mean saving whales, seals and penguins is all well and good, but let’s see any of them critters pull off a 50 hit SUPER COMBO!

We remained in the back of the arcade and kicked electronic ass until we were K.O.’d of quarters. As we left I looked knowingly at group of kids dancing away on the arcades newest craze. “Keep on dancing guys”, I thought to myself. “It won’t be long before your favorite game also becomes and endangered species.”

Halo Marathon

Assault on the Control Room. I had a video uploaded but the aspect ratio was messed.

The Library. We’re definitely not on a speed run here. Nadine had to be ‘relieved’ (playing for 5 hours straight will do that to you) and then two of us who prefer inverted sticks had to play a level non-inverted. Keystone Chiefs here.

Some discussion over whether the flood can be described as “space zombies”. In my view, they can. That makes the little ones “zombie sacs”.

Chris: “Guilty Spark is starting to get on my nerves.”

Flood cra-z-ness. Shit gets laggy in co-op. The mid-to-late levels get repetitive, but it’s all worth it for that flood moment. Also, Guilty Spark. I suppose Chris is right to say he’s a little C3POish, but he has his unique charms. The singing, say.

We’ve eaten Chinese food and I may need to get into the Redbull stash. I’m too lazy to pick up the camera.

The last level – the warthog race against time level. Third try or so, a couple near-misses happened. So it’s taken us 8 hours so far. Not a speed run by any means, but not terribly bad.

Here’s some video we shot earlier, it’s sooo out of date now, but all the video stuff takes a while when there’s halo to be played…

I’ve shot more, and maybe I should be digitizing it soon…

UPDATE the full video is here, and you may prefer to watch it instead of what’s embedded here since it contains most of this first part anyways.


Finally, the first Halo is done!


After a brief break during which we purchased additional energy drinks, it’s on again for Halo 2. We’re really bombing through it: we’re mid-outskirts right now. The tunnels. (Or is that a different level already?)

In my opinion, the cinematics are better in Halo 1. They really add drama to the gameplay, whereas the Halo 2 cinematics don’t do the same thing. Better to use a cinematic to set the stage for an exciting sequence, as Halo’s first cutscene does, rather than have a cinematic take over a stage’s most dramatic moment, like when the Chief guides a bomb into the Covenant ship at the beginning of Halo 2 – and you don’t get to control him.


Delta Halo, towards the end. It does help playing these back to back, in terms of Halo 2’s story making more sense. It does, and I maintain belief that it is a good story.

God bless Marty O’Donnell and his millions of dialogue lines. As always, I’m hearing lines from the marines & covenant that I’ve never heard before.

Pretty sleepy here. Which energy drink, the Redbull, the “monster” or the “rockstar”?


The important thing is, these games are fun. I mean we’ve been playing for quite some time now and we’re still laughing, getting a kick out of firing brute shots at brutes n’ such. I think that’s it for the video for today, we got plenty more footage but it’s too much of a pain in the ass to edit / encode / upload all on the fly like that.

We’re toward the end now, where the Covenant civil war is raging and the Flood are infesting High Charity. The only part I really resent of Halo 2 is the library, it’s just too much of a retread. But at least you don’t have to go through it twice, like parts of Halo. Other than that, some levels are really great – notably Outskirts and Delta Halo.


And with that brutally sudden cliffhanger ending, we’re all done! I’m updating this the following morning because after completing it we all crashed hard. Total runthrough time for both games: approx. 16 hours.

Yes Halo 1 is better than 2 in terms of overall story, quality of levels and (especially) historical significance, but simply because of all the multiplayer, Halo 2 feels like home to me. The gun balancing, the way the vehicles handle, the HUD, all the little details.

We’ve got to push on as we’re off to play a bit of Halo 3 shortly, but we’ll have more updates later today.

Finish the Fight… For Now…

…this single player was brutal. I went in with low expectations, and I was not disappointed. The game play/control was good, I’ll give it that. But A.I.? Level design? Storytelling? Two words: Phoned in. All those things aside, though, it’s the ending that irks me the most. Halo 2 has immortalized itself for me as the only game to give Soul Reaver a run for its money for the worst cop-out-ending-to-make-you-buy-the-next-game ever. Only one thing keeps it out of the top spot: Soul Reaver’s ending actually said “to be continued…”

Is it just me, or are cliff-hanger endings the worst media creation ever? Honestly, there was nothing good about the entire summer we had to endure to find out what would happen next when Picard was turned into Locutus – It was probably the worst summer holiday ever. And nowadays, this torturous practice is commonplace in television; I think every show I watch ended their respective seasons with a “to be continued…” Film is notorious for throwing in an after the credits hook to remind you that, yes, there will be a sequel, and yes, you will pay them to see it. But our videogames, they’re immune to these underhanded marketing ploys, right? No sir, they are not.




Why can’t a game be strong enough on its own that you WANT to buy the next one ‘cause the last one was just so much fun to play? Instead we’re forced to buy the next game to find out how the story ends. Halo 2 is a prime example: it didn’t need to be Empire Strikes Back’d, there’s just not all that deep of a story there. I understand that there are a slew of novels that really delve into the ever expanding “Halo mythos,” but a game shouldn’t need the support of external materials to give us a complete story. In the context of the game, the story is generic, underdeveloped and intentionally truncated. This last move is just to make sure that those of us who aren’t plugged into the H2 multiplayer machine will still buy our copies.

And that’s what frustrates me the most. There are plenty of game series out there that get by without the cliff-hanger and keep us coming back – The Legend of Zelda, Ghost Recon/Rainbow Six, Resident Evil, just to get the list started. You don’t rush out and get the next game in these series’ because you need to know what happens next – that was taken care of in the LAST game! You rush out to grab these games because the last one rocked, and you’re hoping the next one does too.

If my decision whether or not to play Halo 3 was based solely on how much H2’s single player “rocked,” I guarantee it wouldn’t see the inside of my Xbox 360… I doubt I’d even pick up the box to read the back. Sadly, however, their marketing ploy has grabbed me by the nostrils and is now leading me where it wants me to go. I mean, how can I not play H3? I can’t just assume that Master Chief is going to go out there and kick some ass – maybe take a few names – and save the day. I have to play it to find out for sure (and no, I can’t just read about what happens somewhere else – everyone knows that’s just not the same), and that means THEY win. I hate it when they win… Fie!

Fortunately, rumour has it that Bungie has beefed up the single player for round three – I can only hope. But I won’t be at all surprised if my Halo 3 experience ends with the image of Master Chief standing on some rocky outcrop, facing a whole mess o’ the Covenant, and saying, “Okay then! NOW I’m going to finish the fight. And this time, I mean it!”


OMG Halo Marathon Yea

As previously mentioned, this weekend we get all cra-Z and play Halo and Halo 2 all the way through. We will ingest beef jerky and Guinness and meatzas. We will relive fabulous memories, and get pissed off when Nadine charges ahead blindly without telling me.

For what it’s worth, we’ll update throughout the weekend. There’s a delicate balance between doing something and recording the doing of the thing, and we’re not sure how it will play out, but I’d expect some kinds of updates through the day and certainly when the whole affair is done.

And here’s the surprise ending: we’re going to play a few hours of Halo 3 sunday afternoon. Shortly thereafter we’ll provide some thoughts sunday night. Probably in the form of a podcast.

There’s more news. In conjunction with Space, we are doing a Halo 3 tournament, tentatively titled “The Master Chief Challenge”. It’s Team Space vs. Team Angry Robot. We’re shooting it next weekend, and the first of three segments will air on Hypaspace the following friday (the 5th of october). We’ll give you a heads-up before then, though.


Rocket Baseball

So Halo 3 will have a map-tweaking mode, “Forge”, and Bungie has written three articles – one two three – about how it works. But nothing brings it to life like the idea of rocket baseball, which Frankie mentions in this interview, and a poster on this forum speculates how it could work:

Everyone has rockets on D everyone has gravity hammers on offense, and on the pitchers mound is a quickly respawning pack of grenades with really long fuse timers (take a while to explode). The pitches are with grenades, and obviously hit with the gravity hammer. as soon as the grenade, after being hit with the gravity hammer, hits the ground in fair territory, the fielders can start to shoot rockets at the runners.

Each base is protected by a bubble shield with a infinite (or really long) timer so they cant be hit with rockets while “safe” on a base.

Craziness, huh? It’s beautiful to see Bungie enabling fan creativity with both Forge and the saved films, and it’s also beautiful to think of what insane possibilities are yet to be invented. We used to play a homebrew gametype called “Smashy Smashy” on Coagulation that was intended to be an all-vehicle bang-em-up, but it was hampered by our lack of control over vehicle numbers and spawn times. That would no longer be the case. And of course it just sounds pathetically uninspired next to Rocket Baseball. Oh man.

Bargain Bin: Dead Rising

This is the game version of Dawn of the Dead, so much so that there’s a copyright disclaimer on the box cover. But while it deals in survival horror staples – non-cyborg-warrior protagonist, limited ammo, dark and scary – it transcends them with lots of innovations that are more or less nods to realism.

For example, your character is a photographer, so you carry a camera and are rewarded with experience points for taking good photographs. There are many criteria for what constitutes a good photo and they are well explained to you as you take pictures.

As a mall-based zombie infestation game, the goal is to survive until your pickup arrives, 72 hours after you touch down. The game isn’t real-time exactly (72 hours of that would get dull) but the clock is always ticking, and when the sun sets the zombies increase in number and savagery. You are given tasks via radio, some plot-advancing and some not, usually of the ‘find survivors and escort them to safety’ variety. The tasks show up on your screen with a bar indicating how much time you have to complete them.

Most importantly, the game encourages experimentation with weapons. You can find guns, but half of the fun is poking around looking for new, innovative ways to kill zombies. You can check the mall map, note a hardware store, and make your way there… sure enough, lead pipes, sledgehammers, and yes, a truckload of chainsaws! But you might see a propane tank, for example. Sure enough, you can shoot them and clear out a bunch of your staggery friends.

Like any good horror game, weapons don’t last forever, not even the leap pipes and golf clubs. After a number of thwacks they break apart. Coupled that with an extremely limited inventory system – it goes up, but early on you can carry only about 5 items including health powerups – and you start seeing another strength of this game: moreso than even some classic zombie films, it really gives you the sense of menace from the zombies’ only strength, that there are just too many of the damn things. When you’ve just barely survived one section of the mall and you come through the door to see the hall thick with hundreds of them and you’ve only got a bag of chips, a two-by-four and you’re carrying an old lady on your back, you’re going to think twice about teasing them because they’re slow and dumb.

But here’s the game’s problem. It’s just too fucking hard. It’s not only just hard, it’s hard in a variety of different hard ways. It’s hard because it’s just plain challenging. It’s hard because you can’t save anywhere near often enough. It’s hard because it’s just way too hard to shoot. And worst of all, it’s hard because it just doesn’t explain what you’re supposed to do properly. The upshot of all that hardness is that your willingness to finish this game is directly proportionate to your willingness to play the same sequences over and over again.

In this day and age, is there any reason why a game should allow only one save file? Remember those time limits I was mentioning – let’s say you’ve got only a little time left on a story-crucial mission and you save – because well, when’s the next time a save point is going to pop up – and then you discover it’s actually technically impossible to get to the spot you need to get to in the time you have left. Well, you’re going to be starting the game over again, aren’t you shithead? There’s no reloading of levels or checkpoints because there are no levels or checkpoints. So yeah, only one save slot, and also, you can only save in bathrooms or a handful of other spots on the map. At night with the thousands of zombies and the disposable weapons, simply getting to a save spot can deplete your inventory and use up your time so that you will be unable to even complete your next mission. Right but that’s your only save slot! Ironic that your effort to save the game was the very thing that rendered the save slot worthless. Start again bitch!

As if that’s not bad enough, once you are killed you get a screen that gives you two options: “load save game” and “save status and quit”. Save status, eh? So maybe you think that will save where you are in the game and let you come back later? Go ahead, try it. HA! Sucker! You saved your leveled-up character, but you start again from the beginning of the game! With no option to go back to the old game file because hey, only one save slot. Sweet eh?

Another type of hard: shooting things. To aim, you hold the right trigger and enter into an ‘aiming mode’. I guess this is like what used to happen in Resident Evil and suchlike. But it doesn’t auto aim. It makes you stand still. Your movement of your reticule works completely differently from how you move in the normal roaming around mode. Also, if anything hits you, you are thrown out of shooting mode altogether, and must reacquire your target. So imagine yourself facing off in this manner against a fast-moving hummer with a mounted heavy gun that shoots at you every two seconds, whilst zombies swarm about you all the while. Now imagine doing that over and over again.

It’s probably redundant to mention the confusing design. OK I’ll stick to one example. A cutscene finishes and the mission is not yet over – the clock is still ticking down. But I have no idea where to go. I check the map and it has a question mark over a certain area, so I’ll try that. But no matter which floor of the mall I try, I can’t get toward it at all. As it turns out, that question mark on the map was really more of a metaphor, an abstract symbol if you will, not an indication of where to go. End result: trying that part three times. Add in a bunch of “service exits” that show up on the map but are non-functional until you find some mysterious keycard, and the arbitrarily closed-off sections of the mall that show up on the map as places you can get through, and you have a sense of the wheelbarrow full of grief that this game represents.

Dead Rising, I could strangle you.

So this is one of those games I don’t feel I really feel the need to finish before I review it because playing games should be fun and not RAGE! RAGE!

360 "Distant Third" by '09?

So says research group. We’ll see what happens with the PS3 price cut.

Heavenly Sword is Sexy Fine! OR Hey Good Lookin, Why You So Boring?

The cinematics are amazing, engrossing, seriously I want to watch them forever. Some of the facial expressions on the bad guys are slightly over done, but hey, they are traditional over the top baddies and those dudes always have eccentric looks. That being said, everything else is super sweet looking. The dialogue is sometimes a bit…meh, like “I do not pray, the Gods seldom listen…” that kinda line is strictly reserved for Conan and Xena in my book. And this whole gender bender issue kinda pisses me off. Seriously, the whole “The savior is supposed to be a dude oh no wait now it’s a girl what ever shall we do! Shame and a curse upon us!” is lame sexist boring lame. No I mean it; I’m not all King Tut of Feminism here but That. Is. Lame. How about having her part of this sacred tribe that has never and can never spill blood because if they do a plague with strike down their entire line forever. That would be cool. Not “she’s got a vagina oh no only a penis can save us now!” So lame!

Moving away from the beautiful graphics and the semi-bearable plot. The gameplay! Button mashing mania! Awesome! I had to keep myself motivated after wave and wave of fighters would come at me. Just make it to the next cut scene, I said to myself, she’s super hot, it’s worth it! It’s really hard to get excited when you’re just doing the same moves over and over and you know you’ve got like five more minutes of the same thing in each stage. Then the motion control rears its head in the form of projectile weaponry. Any projectile you use is completely ineffective unless you use the handy little press square and guide the missile to its target via waving the controller around. (Note: You can turn this off but at the time I didn’t know so I played two stages through with it) It sucks! I hated doing it because it took me a while to actually do it and I just didn’t know why it was there. Again with the throwing in Wii style play on the MegaMightyMachine PS3. I seriously doubt people bought the PS3 to play Wii on.

Some gamers are complaining about the lack of puzzles, as if they think the title of this game is God of War: Nariko’s Revenge. But it’s not, it was never going to be a puzzle fighter. It is simply a linear 3rd person action rpg. The story is locked and loaded with super charged visuals and a combat system that just doesn’t give you the excitement or variety needed to make you crave to play it like any good game does. God of War had me when I ripped a griffin’s wings off. I was so there, man. All HS has going for it is the fact that Nariko is hot with great voice acting and I’ll play the damned game just to watch the rest of those sexy cut scenes.

Will I ever play it again after that? Probably not, but you never know.

Into the Vale of HD Tears, Part 1

Say hello to my Scarface reference

The TV came first, after many treacherous yet not really very interesting battles with Future Shop delivery people (who either have primitive brains, or simply are not capable of understanding linear time). However, I noticed in dark scenes that there was a large patch of lighter pixels in the center of the screen. My first instinct was to ignore it, but it became like the telltale heart, throbbing at me during every fade to black. Anguish! Was I going to have to fight the delivery idiots again as I arranged for a replacement? Luckily, no. Don’t know exactly how I wound up massaging the screen, but that’s what I did and it fixed the problem. You know how that happens with LCDs, if you put pressure on them the screen temporarily lightens. I guess something about the packing and shipping of the thing put some pressure on it, but it went away.

Generally, this TV is sweet. It has plenty of inputs, including component, HDMI and DVI. Most importantly it has a great picture and it just works. Here are some things I’ve heard from people who have bought cheaper LCDs: the images stick on screen (bad refresh rate). It takes forever to change channels. The blacks are too bright (bad contrast ratio). Avoid all this by doing your research and getting something decent. You want it to last a few years, after all. For example, at this point you probably want a 1080p TV. Check the native resolution of the sets you’re looking at, as some of the 40-plus inchers I was checking out were stuck at 1366×768, which is only 720p. Not to mention that my 15” laptop has better resolution than that.

TV, meet 360

At first, the only device that I could get HD signals from was the 360, so that’s how I rocked it. The picture, on Bioshock and then basically any HD-res video file I could find on Live Marketplace, was very very good. For the games anyway, the difference from my old 27” tube is remarkable and is not only more immersive, it’s useful in a pragmatic way. Since you see things better, you aim improves, you find hidden items etc.

How best to connect the 360 is a confusing issue. There was all that gnashing of teeth about HDMI and the lack thereof on the 360 until the latest revision. But a little bit of AV nerd research reveals that there is no real quality difference between HDMI and component. I hooked up via the default component cables and my TV informed me it was getting a nice, clean 1080p signal, which is all you can ask for. I guess some TVs don’t allow for 1080p through component, but mine does, and I’m all set.

Or am I? The one thing that is sub-optimal in my 360 setup is that DVDs are not being upscaled. They fill the screen and everything, but it’s a 480p signal. Now, in some way upconverting has to be voodoo science since you can’t just magically make pixels out of thin air, but I’m looking for any picture quality increase I can get.

Well, the 360 can upscale DVDs, but only if you connect via VGA. Why the fuck that is, I have no idea. But it’s not much help to me because my TV has no VGA in. I suppose I could find a VGA to DVI or HDMI adapter, but that’s expensive since it has to do analog to digital conversion. Hell, even the Xbox VGA adapter, sold separately, is $46. Seeing as you can get a dedicated upconverting DVD player for $90 at Future Shop right now, it seems like a bit of a waste. Might as well just spring the $200 for the Xbox HD DVD add-on… but that’s a whole other tale of misery that I will take up later.

In summary, HD games: good, cable confusion: bad. Next time: hooking up the computer and the cable box. Thrills! There will be payoff by the end of this, I assure you, in the form of a survey of the state of HD content, and the best way to get said content into your living room.

"Is the dark side stronger?" "No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive."

Maybe it’s because I’m currently spending my days at home playing peekaboo with my seven-month old daughter, but it took me all of about two seconds to go with the rescue-the-adorable-moppet option. Which is odd, because whenever I’ve been given a morally questionable gaming alternative in the past, I’ve leapt to the dark side without a moment’s hesitation. Usually while cackling.

And lately I’ve been given that choice in an awful lot of games. In fact, it seems almost as if the whole good-or-evil branching plotlines approach has spawned an entire mini-genre unto itself. For me, it started back in the golden age of PC RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout. I remember firing up Baldur’s Gate, telling myself as I stared at the (seemingly endless) installation screen that I would venture forth into my new virtual world as a paragon of decency, charity and kindness. Five minutes later, there I was, pilfering gold pieces and leather armor from a friendly innkeeper.

A few years later, the consoles caught up and suddenly the shelves at the local gaming emporium were filling up with black-or-white morality plays such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fable, Jade Empire and Deus Ex. Even the MMO juggernaut World of Warcraft allows you to side with either the nasty Horde or the noble Alliance (again, I chose the dark side, logging many hours as a troll voodoo priest, an undead warlock and an orc hunter).

So what’s the appeal? Obviously, having a “good” storyline and a “bad” storyline in the same game makes for some serious gaming value. Play it once as a helpful sort, then go back and do it all again as a total dick – it’s like getting two games for the price of one!

But I think there’s more to it than simple replay value. Games are at their best when they offer the illusion of freedom and choice. And for most games, this usually consists of little more than the choice between using a shotgun or a sniper rifle. But morality play-esque games take that sense of freedom and apply it to the realm of ethics and decision-making to (ideally) create a substantially more complex world that gives your choices real and meaningful consequences.

Of course, the sad truth is that even within this mini-genre, the choices usually come down to oversimplified nice/nasty duality. You can be a choke-happy Sith Lord, or a zen-like Jedi Master, but that’s it. Nuanced shades of grey have no place in these black or white cookies. That seems to be changing with games like Bioshock and the upcoming Mass Effect, but for now, there’s not a lot of subtle ethical gaming dillemas out there.

Nonetheless, I still find these styles of games vastly more interesting than your average linear offering – if only because they allow your decisions to guide the story and have an impact on the wider universe within the game itself. And it’s this idea of “impact” that really resonates with me. A game like Oblivion offers up a huge amount of surface freedom. You can go where you want and do whatever you want – but I found that the world of Oblivion rarely reacted to my actions, except in very obvious ways. Sure, if I was caught pickpocketing, I’d get tossed in the clink, but the wider game world went about its business in pretty much the same way, no matter what my choices were. On the other hand, Fable – for all its (many!) flaws – managed to give the sense that your actions had reprecussions on those around you, even if it was as simple as having people run in fear when your badass self wandered into town. Maybe this is sheer ego – the idea that my actions should have a impact on everything and everyone around me, but it seems to me that if there’s no discernable widespread reaction to your actions, why bother putting in the effort to either toe the line or step right over it?

But that doesn’t really explain why I like playing the bad guy so much. It could be that the appeal of making a dodgy moral choice is based on the idea that we play games as a way to experience something that we can’t experience in the real world. We spend all day following the rules of society – picking up our garbage and saying “excuse me” – so maybe the ultimate in otherworldly fantasy isn’t dispatching dragons with a fiery bastard sword, but instead, being a rude jerk. In other words, if you can’t indulge your inner asshole in the real world, might as well do it in a vitual galaxy far, far away.

Then again, it might just be that the bad guys always get the best storylines. I’ll guess I go test that theory – it’s time to tackle Bioshock again, and this time, those Little Sisters better not be hoping for any mercy…

Wii Overtakes 360 in Global Sales

Yup. Despite Microsoft’s year-long head start. And lookit poor Sony, with not even half of either competitor’s numbers.


The World Series of Video Games is no more. Bad news for pro gaming or inevitable market consolidation?

Marathon in More Ways Than One

Stephen Tolito plays the entire Halo trilogy. Retronauts writes up Halo and Halo 2 and even the entire Marathon trilogy.

Clearly, Bungie retrospectives are in the air. And we’re getting in on that.

The weekend before Halo 3’s release, Nadine and I are going to rock the preceding Halos co-op style. We’ll ‘cover’ that as best we can… (air quotes because hell, we’re not in Darfur or Kabul, we’re playing videogames. But whatever.) And then onto the third big ring. For which we also have big plans, but more on that later.

And oh yeah… I lied about the podcast. I forgot the mic, so we just played games instead. Tee hee!

Okay For Serious Stop Whining About Halo

If you don’t like watching Halo 3 ads, here’s a wacky thought: DON’T WATCH THEM.

No one complains when a new Final Fantasy comes out and there’s a load of ads and product placement for that. Yes, we’re not in Japan where FF is the mad crazy king of all things, but Halo isn’t popular there, it’s popular in North America so why shouldn’t it be blasted with ads?
Oh, a super-successful franchise is about to release another installment and they want to appeal to both the multiplayer caffienated gamer, the story driven gamer, the hungry for realism gamer, and the don’t mind if it’s cheesy I’m just mad crazy for this ‘verse gamer. There’s something for everyone which just goes to show you how diverse the Halo fans are!
They way this game bashing crap erupts with a bunch of “finally someone said they hate halo so do i and here’s why yeah i’m cool and i hate stuff that i don’t even play” astounds me. Yay gamer intolerance! Way to go on the game bashing dudes, totally awesome of you! “Yeah stuff that a lot of people like is stupid and lame!” “I’m so different and chic to the tits! Look how I have such disdain for what frat gamers like!”

Suck it up, go play whatever you want on whichever console suits your fancy and holy damns just shut it and leave Halo fans alone. You like Metal Gear? Wow, cool awesome wish it made so much money that when a new one came out you got loads of different press, sorry it doesn’t get that though. Oh hey you like Advanced Warfighter? Cool, I dig that too, I prefer fighting aliens to humans though but no worries. Oh really, you enjoy Gears of War? Why isn’t that crazy, so do I! It’s so gritty and violent and way different than Halo, which is why I play it. Wow, look at all the different games out there that suit different tastes. Too bad one makes an assload of money all the time so they promote it more… Oh but maybe because of that, future titles will also get a little more attention in the mainstream consumer eye.

One can hope.

Or dare I say it…Believe.

My Musical Revolution

Now, when I discovered that I couldn’t stop playing Thunderhorse on the fakey coloured button controller of goodness for Guitar Hero II, I actually attempted to pick up a real guitar to try and learn it. I borrowed a friend’s electric guitar and amp and plugged in to see just how weird it would feel. Oh I’ve done it before. Throughout the years I’ve tried every once and a while to play the sounds in my head through the means of wood strung with metal cords. Alas, it never quite works out the way I want it to. I have in my mind’s eye the way I wish my hand would work and the patience I wish I had to learn all the cords and understand the complex nature of music making…but I just can’t emulate that in real life. Enter music emulation games and BAM dream come true!

Jam Sessions takes the ease of play Guitar Hero introduced me to and then added in this wonderful world of creating your own music through touch and recording it back. I just got it yesterday and I’ve been fiddling with it ever since. It comes with a few tracks but I’m always in Free Play mode myself. You can find a run down of the game mechanics somewhere else. I want to talk about how it opens up the inner musician.

The ride on transit to work has been bawls for me since I moved away from the subway line and had to start relying on the streetcar. I dislike streetcars. They’re jam packed, hot, stuffy and just plain bawls to spend any length of time on. So it helps to play something on your cell or PSP or DS to pass the time. I haven’t had anything that passes time for me as quickly as Bejeweled but today I decided I wanted to do some Free Play mode on Jam Sessions.

I was so lost in my own world that I almost missed my stop! And then from the walk up the street to work I was just strumming along the first few notes of a song I was making up. I didn’t know if I was playing A, G, D, or whatever because I was just going by the sound of the button I pressed not the name of the cord I was playing. Very kinetic which works well for me. I was looking ahead, eyes up and I must have looked so odd walking along holding a DS in front of me and obviously playing something with the stylus but I wasn’t looking at it. It’s a far cry from this (the guy in the red is on the back of the box for the North American packaging) but still, it’s weird that I walked a few blocks playing a game I wasn’t even looking at. Even now I keep reaching for my DS to play a few minutes worth of sound that captures the way I’m feeling. Like I said, wee bit addictive…

I’ve never believed I could make music. I can’t do it the analog way or the digital way. Not with all those programs and garage bandy things and stuff like that. Jam Sessions let’s me play with music, not make music. At least, that’s how my brain is accepting it and that makes it easier for me to digest. Daragh and I disagree about my ability to sit down and learn the guitar for realsies. He thinks I can do it if I put my mind to it. I’ve tried that before and I don’t want to do it. Jam Sessions, now that I can do.

In short, I’m going to be playing this for the next little bit, I can feel it in my gaming bones. I’m going to try and do a version of Thunderhorse, which I’ll share if and when I achieve it. Until then you should pick it up and try it for yourself even if you already play the real guitar. It’s easy to learn and sounds great with loads of options for sound effects and lots to tweak. On that note…I’m off to play!

Music Strategy

At Lost Garden, an idea for a combination music creation / strategy game, based on a dream.

I love ideas like this. I like any music game, especially ones that don’t involve mindless “click when I tell you” gameplay, and I love games that combine genres, a la Puzzle Quest. There is beauty in the combination of things.

Street Wars Toronto

Meatspace game Street Wars has been cancelled due to low turnout (only 60 registrations). “I have no idea why this happened,” says organizer Franz Aliquo. I have an idea:

In virtually every previous city where Street Wars has set up shop, police or city authorities have spoken out against the prospect of dozens of water gun-toting assassins running around shooting each other… In Toronto, the trend reversed: police indicated they didn’t see a problem with the shenanigans.

The Toronto police didn’t do free publicity for the game. That’s a little lesson in the economic benefits of controversy.

Let Them (Re)Make Their Game!

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Making the ships look shiny and fixing some explosions is one thing. This is another thing entirely. How does Star Wars tie (hehe tie…) into gaming? Star Wars IS gaming, but that’s another story altogether. I’m saying that these dudes wanted to create the most awesome experience ever for their fellow gamers, but they tried to do so in the 90’s. NOT the optimum time to create the most awesome experience ever for their fellow gamers. It’s just the long and short of it. Tech was getting there but not there yet and it’s only just now even slightly reaching the point where immersive storytelling can really start to flourish the way many gamers want it to.

So what’s so wrong with Bioshock repeating the formula of System Shock II? What’s so wrong with a proven method being refined even further? You already knew the story? Um, Star Wars is the same story we’ve heard over and over again. The Lion King is widely known as Hamlet. Humans are always telling the same stories over and over again, what’s so wrong with games doing the exact same thing? Trying again and again with the same type of story while at the same time trying to perfect the delivery system and when that’s done, maybe new stories will come from that perfect method.

I mean Nintendo’s been doing this for ALL TIME. Remember when I said Star Wars IS gaming? Well, Link/Luke. The Force/TriForce. Zelda/Leia (they even have the same syllable count peeps). I’ve been playing Link/Luke over and over again. I watch the movies over and over again and I’ve seen so many different/exact same villages in Hyrule/Sea over Hyrule/Island near Hyrule/something something Hyrule it’s crazy but I love the experience again and again for a reason. It makes me happy! So what if I’m always playing a young boy who comes of age and must find and wield the master sword (coughlightsabercough) and save the Princess and stop the forces of dark (coughdarksidecough) from taking over? Throughout the different Nintendo consoles and handhelds I’ve played the same story in different ways. Sometimes extremely familiar, but also new enough that I want to keep playing. I mean SNES Link and Minnish Cap (god so cute) Link and the latest motion control Link are all the same, for sure, but also so different that I love each one independently and will play them repeatedly for that reason. It’s like a good book. You want to reread it even if you know how it ends because you like the way it read in the first place.

I think that the tendency to bash repeat game makers is because we want the new, the shiny, the future and we want it now. But we’ve always had to endure creative repetition. In film, books, music, everything is a cycle and a work in progress. Out of these cycles come bursts of creative uniqueness that go on to inspire future generations to greatness as well. I mean how many people did Lucas inspire and who will love him forever but also can never forget the emotional and creative scarring that was Jar-Jar Binks? Bungie did the same thing as Irrational Games (now 2K). From what Daragh tells me Halo IS Marathon. And Metroid is very akin to Marathon. Cycles…

Stories are told and retold, such is the nature of the human method. We learn, we love, we hate, we fear all from stories. When we play we want to experience all of the things we have been taught to expect from creatives and storymakers and world builders. Patience though, that’s something we’re supposed to learn as well. One day, a day far far away no doubt, all games that come to our consoles will be bursting with unique flavour and worlds and satisfying gameplay. Everyone will play immersive stories they’ve never before encountered and stories will feel fresh and new and wonderful. But until that day, can we please remember that we live in a time of tweaking? That our brothers and sisters who painstakingly construct these worlds for us do so out of love for the games and stories they’ve grown so attached to themselves? And that if you had a story you wanted to let others play through, wouldn’t you try to make it better, do it again in a better and more engaging way if you had the chance? I know I probably would.

So Bio/System Shock of old and new alike…I’m happy to play you and if I had played you before I’m sure I would enjoy the redux. Then again, it could just be the instinct of the brand loyal Nintendo player in me…Or the forgiving Lucas fan…Take your pick.

More X'07 Memories – Age of Conan

After talking with Jason and the other rep from Eidos I was just really excited and pleased with their enthusiasm for the material and how they took the original books seriously. One thing Jason and I got to talking about was the success of WoW and how poor little EverQuest just wasn’t cutting it in comparison. We got to talking ice cream actually. If you want vanilla ice cream you’re going to just have the good stuff, why settle for another version of vanilla when you already have one you like? EverQuest is a grainy non-dairy ice cream bar compared to the Hagan Das French Vanilla that is WoW. Any other fantasy action rpg MMO is not gonna be able to go up against WoW. Age of Conan, on the other hand, isn’t vanilla at all. It’s Rocky Road to the extreme. Its loads of blood, sex, gore, freaky ass temples and Stygian creepy tombs. It’s the vicious hard life of the Hyborian age! This isn’t some let’s dance and make kissy face after we successfully raided that dungeon.

Anyway! I’m super excited about Age of Conan because it’s a MMO that I can play on a console with no pesky PC! I can join my PC gaming cousins just a few short months after its release (March 25 2008) on my beloved 360. I can go about my business taking missions from the great King of Aquilonia and maybe meet some fellow Conan fans. Now a note here on fans, I myself only read the original novels. I don’t read the comics and I don’t read the wannabe novels that came afterwards. In many things I am a purist, in some things I am a rampant bastard loving fangirl. In Conan’s case I just can’t read anything that’s not part of the Robert E. Howard oeuvre. So I hope to meet some fans that share that mind set. Ha Set! He he…Yeah.

Hopefully Age of Conan will be able to satisfy my hopes and dreams of a truly Conan experience. If not, well…I can always read the books for the seven millionth time. However, if this game does indeed become legend then I will see you there and maybe fight alongside you. If you are one of the many who does not appreciate Conan…then I won’t see you…and be happier for it.

No Crackdown 2

Says developer Real Time Worlds. That sucks, although this smacks of an ongoing contract negotiation.

Lazy Robot, More Like It

Extremely sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been across the pond in Ireland and the UK eating bangers and rashers. Anyway we have stuff in the works, notably a podcast tomorrow night, the first of as many as three this week. I may write up some trash about Bioshock and I know Nadine has some stuff she’s going to post. After all, she has to make up for not feeding the robot for the past seven days.

Ah, there’s nothing like a good public shaming!