Saturday, December 24, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Pictured Above: Link feels a tad threatened, while the emaciated shopkeep shows off his wares.
Its like, “that’s not what’s happening in that picture…” Anyway, for those of you who have taken to a lifestyle of monasticism, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is welcoming itself to stores in North America on Nov. 20. Yes, that is tomorrow. Yes, I will probably get no sleep tonight. Let’s not make my sleep habits our focus, however. Let me tell you what I know about this game, and why any person with an inkling of a tendency to play video games should dive into this adventure. *takes a deep breath*
Hmmm, perhaps I inhaled too deeply.
Skyward Sword(abbreviated hereon as SS) was initially announced at E3 2010. What wasn’t announced was that Nintendo had been working on SS since the months directly preceding the release of Twilight Princess back in 2006. Now, in 2011, Nintendo has put 5 years of effort into this game. By their own telling, SS is the “biggest Zelda to date”, with a team of over 100 (count ‘em) people working on the title. Nintendo has put an effort into refining what makes their flagship franchise special- but they’ve come back from that effort with a shocking new control scheme that has left most (*coughcoughTOMMCSHEAcough*") reviewers dazzled. However, as one would expect, the team at Nintendo overhauled much more than the control scheme- the entire process of playing Zelda has been streamlined, and, more importantly, rethought. Gone is the progression that you could follow in your sleep. The puzzles, typically reserved for dungeons, have bled into the overworld- thought it should be said that the line between overworld and dungeon has been blurred.
Let’s pay a tad of attention to the control scheme. I’ve embedded a video that should lay bare the ease of the motion control here. There is a duality to the controls- it has a sense of depth, but yet remains fairly simple- you simply choose the direction to swing your sword. Of course, there are a few special moves, but most of the combat revolves around finding the weakness in your enemies defenses, and exploiting it. Well, that and trying to stay alive. The rest of the controls exhibit this same level of pleasure and simplicity.
I could go on. I’ve been following this title closely for months now, and I’m more than excited to finally get my hands on it tomorrow. I could talk about the music, the art direction, the story that has apparently moved players to tears- but I think I’ll just let the game speak for itself tomorrow. If you have a Wii, you owe it to your neglected system to buy yourself a copy of Skyward Sword, and find out why Nintendo pushed for motion control all those years ago.
Also: This morning I stumbled across a talented musical artist, who I will likely do a bigger post relating to soon. This link will take you to his most recent work. Impressive.
Have a great day!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Why yes, I did watch Staying Up All Night.
Gender roles in games have been hit or miss. There have been very few games that attempt to go deeper in character than princess peach.
Perspective is how the player sees things, thinks about problems, and goes about making decisions. It is amazing to think about no matter how a characterized an avatar is after minutes of people start referring the events of in the game and needs of the character as their needs. “It’s killing me!” “I need your help!” “I cannot walk into the item shop!” “He caught me while I was reloading!” “I was walking through the city and being flashed by these flying cameras. I found myself being beckoned to a house and then everything fell apart as police started beating on everybody!” This is called immersion. When the player gets their mind into the events of a game. Until you can literally become part of the game you are projecting yourself onto a controllable part of the games world.
Immersion can be broken by the story, graphical flaws, AI behavior, and demanding a difficult or unsavoury task.
In Duke Nukem you’re Duke, a bulky, strong but intellectually limited, and brutally lethal misogynist. Gordon Freeman is a voiceless mirror on which the player may project themselves. Dom and Marcus are characterized have wives motivations and opinions but they still swear about messing up a reload and respond to EVERYTHING by frowning and grunting.
What happens when a girl plays these games? On the podcast Hey Ash, What’cha Podcast?, star of the web series Hey Ash, What‘cha Playin’?, expressed her experience playing Half Life 2. Where the male player goes through the game and builds an attachment with the support charcter Alex, the designers anticipated this and put several underlying hints to this in the dialogue of the other characters. Males do view Alex as a flirtatious and possibly romantic counter part. Ashley, on the other hand, saw Alex as a cool friend like any other girl-pal and the assumed romantic theme was lost on her.
As social changes start to sink in and the widdening influence of videogames sinks into the female population. I expect the faceless characters to become more vague and more developers tip their hats to the female audience. And I am very curious to see if it spreads to other mediums.
Guys if you live in your parents basement, clean yourself up, learn to tidy, and pick up some house keeping tips from you momLadies, don’t over look a guy that lives in a basement and doesn’t have a job, if you want a career out of life. He is prime house-keeping material.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
There is an Alien Life Form inside Me
I like to think of myself has having a basic grasp on human emotion and empathy. Part of what I love and keeps me going back to books and videogames is the major empathy trips that come with completely seeing the world, or a world, through another person's eyes. Books and to a greater extent videogames not only entertain us but teach us about ourselves. Despite events taking place through the eyes of Gordon Freeman, Link, or John/Jane Shepherd, very rarely will events be recalled other then: "I defeated Gannon and saved Highrule," "I defeated the combine and freed mankind from the alien dominion," "I found the reaper conspiracy and saved the galaxy." Interactivity makes videogames profoundly more about discovering things about ourselves. As opposed to books where we can feel the emotional tension along with the characters but rarely do we personalize them because the actions in books are not our actions. Nothing confused me more than the radical switch in tone that I was subjected to in Duke Nukem forever, despite the fact that I was expecting it.
There are two bimbos on the cover and advertising for DNF (you are supposed to yell all caps letters ALWAYS IN YOUR HEAD) I'm sure they're smart girls they were just in a bobbly mood WHEN THE ALIENS INVADED. But I still formed a certain kind of like for them. It seems they are doing community service or volunteer work humoring a brain damaged war vet. Before playing the game I was reading a review of DNF and in it explained that these two selfless girls die in the game to no concern of Duke at all! Though to the credit of Dukey, the article claimed that not only are the two woman kidnapped, imprisoned, and are infested with alien larva, but on top of all that actually frightening stuff that they blocked a doorway and the only way for you to proceed is to shoot them. Which, on a purely will of the player/will of the character/story expressed in gameplay reasoning REALLY PISSED ME OFF. I don't want to shoot woman that for all intenseive purposes have been raped. This made me so angry that I did not honor my preorder and did not buy the game.
To the games credit, and my disappointment in the article I read, Duke cannot shoot the girls. It is actually impossible to shoot them, instead you have to wait listening to their unanswered questions to reach the point where there words are stifled in their throats and the diminutive aliens attack you from their minced corpses. Alternatively, you can dick around the room because you found a trampoline and not notice the doorway twins popped. How’s that for will of the player shining through? The best things to come out of the whole experience, that is to say better then whatever DNF set out to do, my thoughts where dawn to a deeper understanding of aliens as a metaphor and rape.
Conceptually, I think that aliens are a very adept metaphor for rape. Rhetorical question, what accounts from real people usually say? They are in a familiar but secluded place. Strange lights appear in the sky, but what threat could lights in the sky be? Then lights surround the abductee. Then float. Gravity our constant anchor is gone leaving them powerless. The person is stunned and confused. They find themselves naked and vulnerable as if powerless was not enough. And all they can do is watch as they are embarrassed, used, and probed.
The aliens come to earth unopposed. Humanity doubts their threat. Then they make their attack and all resistance is quelled almost immediately. Any able bodied males where killed with little effort. Women are teleported away in literal blinks of light. The woman are stripped and restrained in an unfamiliar place they are powerless to stop the aliens from defiling their bodies with alien life forms.
This is the point where the game drops the ball where I am concerned. All the women, that the aliens take, die. Duke Nukem saves no one. Think of how powerful a motivator it would be if one of the twins survives, with the loss of a leg or the use of her legs, the loss of her career being a singer/dancer, loss of a chance of desire and ability for physical intimacy and the loss of her twin sister. The emotional force of a character like that would be incredible. Not only for Dukes motivation for revenge but coupled with hope. I would argue that DNF does not have a story because there is no character growth. Every character is unrepentantly stuck in their single trait. Being stuck in one trait means no change. NO change means; no growth.
As much I hate rape I see no reason why it cannot be a serious theme in a game. There are rape simulators, why not being raped? It is foreign? It won’t happen to anyone you know or meet? How about because it wouldn't be fun? Honestly at this point of reading you have metal and I should cut you more credit. The purpose of such a game would be empathy. Rape is serious and horrible. It is terrible and not a fantasy or a joke.
Bringing it back to Duke Nukem. Imagine how powerfully a sequel would be devoid of duke Nukem. Instead we are put in the perspective of a woman whom was taken by the aliens in the previous invasion. As a cruel twist the aliens’ insemination not only strains the host near death but also triggers a huge influx of hormones to feed the parasites. Hormones trigger complete consciousness of the host, adrenaline keeping their minds racing that they dwell on every detail and remember it. She survives only by mutilating herself to purge the glowing parasites from her body. Years later, when the aliens return, she has renewed pain in her scars and continues to deal with postpartum depression. She arms herself as she feels completely alone. Men and the army failed to protect her the first time. She must fight her ghosts, flashbacks, physical pain, and selfishness to help others and find hope for the future.
Duke Nukem was a huge disappointment for everyone. It was not 12 years of game. It was fun at times but over all distasteful and stupid. If we are going to make brash games lets make games that make learn about ourselves under the worst situations and give us hope in our everyday problems. If Duke cannot change let's have the emotion for the story be carried by a companion. If there is going to be terrible subject matter of force impregnation and hopelessness, let us not skirt over it. Let us let duke shut is mouth and let the player reactions do the talking. If we are stuck viewing the world through our own eyes, lets find a way learn to empathize through the mediums given us. Lets skip the rape and abortion jokes and make us feel the repercussions and tragedies of those actions.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
For those of you unfamiliar with the story here's how it goes:
Our story begins with our typical brooding loner wearing a hoodie named David. David is a high school (for lack of a better word) loser who has a thing for a girl in school named Millie. Now I say he is a loser in that he has no friends aside from Millie and all the other kids proceed to pick on him, calling him names and just overall directing him to become a future suicidal depressed desk-worker who drowns his problems in alcohol and spends his precious spare time writing posts about movies for a blog site, or an ax murderer, but hey, anything for a cheap laugh and boosting your own self esteem, right?
David buys Millie a nice snow globe and intends to give it to her, as a gift. But wait, what's this over the horizon? Oh dear! It's douche jock #675, he likes Millie too, and doesn't like David. . . . What's that fiend doing now!? *GASP* He threw the snow globe onto the frozen river! The FIEND! Oh no now Millie will never get it . . .
What? No, David no! That's lunacy! Don't walk onto the frozen ice! That's foolishness! As soon as David grabs the snow globe, make sure you're sitting down for this next part: the ice breaks and he falls through. The funeral was nice, but David's still dead. The End.
Oh, right. Samuel L Jackson has yet to make an appearance. Guess we'd better continue the movie. Hmmmm . . . what if the kid can teleport instantly from one place to another? *Poof*
And thus our main character discovers his power of "Jumping." It turns out certain people in our world are born with the natural ability to teleport anywhere in an instant effortlessly. Teleporting is called "jumping" and those who can do it are called "Jumpers," (college-level stuff I know, but you'll catch up.)
So David disappears for awhile. His dad is not incredibly supportive (We see him do nothing but yell at David for getting the carpet wet for the first 20+ minutes of the movie, despite the fact that his son might be going through hypothermia. (He can tough it out. Builds character.) And with David's mom having *jumped* ship (let the booing commence) when David was 5, David doesn't have much reason to stay home when he can go anywhere.
David now masters his power of jumping and decides to rob a bank. He claims he won't steal much, and even leaves IOUs for the bank and police and Jumper police to track him (but we'll come back to them.)
One decked out penthouse later our loveable David transforms into the scourge of Star Wars himself- no, not Jar-Jar. That's right! It's Anakin Skywalker from Episode II and III. Dear Lord Eject and get your money back now.
David gets Millie in trouble as Roland holds her hostage to get to him (And right after he slept with her, what a **** blocker . . .)
David teams up with another Jumper named Griffin to take down Roland once and for all. (very long story short, but I'm filling alot of pages here)
Jumper is a Doug Liman film (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Borne Identity) that stars Christian Bale (Star Wars II, III and *shudders* the rerelease of VI) and Samuel L. Jackson (every movie ever) based off a 1992 science fiction novel by Diane Lane, who you might remember from Lonesome Dove as Lorena Wood (Never seen it), Murder at 1600 (The Wesley Snipes film. Seen bits and pieces) and as Judge Hershey from Judge Dredd (Never see- wait, WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY!?)
-several quotations of "I am the Laughugh (law)" later-
Sorry, where were we? Holy Crap! Judge Hershey wrote a sci fi book!? This chick is hardcore! But apparently this movie is only loosely based on the book, and was actually re-written right before final production. So how does the movie hold up (keeping in mind that I have never read the book)
Opinions and Review
I felt like the movie started off really strong, with David and Millie having some good chemistry, and actually feeling sympathetic for David. Not that I'm saying the performance was Oscar-worthy by any means, and David is kind of bland, but I think that's what the character is supposed to come across as: Someone with very little social skills, that or Christiansen's blandness rubbed off on the actor playing the younger version of him . . .
The kids at school are calling him Rice Ball throughout the movie when they appear. Why do they call him rice ball? What is the context of that? Is it because he's white and super pale? did he choke on a clump of rice and get ridiculed for it? Why isn't this explained? I feel like this is something that's explained in the book or a deleted scene. Either way, this detracts from my movie watching experience and should've been dumped or explained.
Another instance of this is the fact that David teleports to the library when he first jumps, and one other time in the movie. I feel like there's some explanation here, like David always went to the library to be safe from his dad, when he got abused to much, or maybe he really loved reading . . . but otherwise I feel the only explanation is a poster that says "Escape to your local Library." Weak. Really though, so far we have very few nitpicky problems and overall the movie isn't bad. I feel like the time skip is when everything comes crashing down.
Now one thing you should know about me is I HATE CHRISTIAN BALE. His acting is bland, his characters whiny, and this movie is what really pushed him from dislike to hate status for me.
The first thing (Christiansen) David does is head to England and snog it out with a blonde chick. Classy guys, real classy. I feel like this is just sleazy. Now I'm not completely 100% adverse to having movies imply that sex is going on, but this just feels dirty. Even when he finally gets it on with Millie it doesn't feel right. It feels like a one night stand. I don't know why particularly. Maybe it's the acting, either way, this does NOT feel like a near-perfect chemistry that Ironman displayed between Tony and Pepper. It feels wrong, I felt more chemistry between the high school actors.
Up next we have Roland, the bad guy. This guy is a cool villain, albeit archetypal. His one goal is to kill jumpers. One of his lines is "I hate Jumpers." He is a typical Terminator (as I'll refer them) meaning he won't negotiate, he rarely tires, and will not stop until his goal is accomplished. This makes for a nice bad guy who we can hate, he'll hunt your family, he'll kick your puppy, he'll club a baby seal with a whale and make the bones into a toothpick for fun. Jackson does a good job playing this character, but as always, I'm painfully aware I'm watching Samuel L Jackson. I didn't really ever believe he was someone else despite the white hair . . .
Finally for characters we have Griffin *Wild cheering* played by Jamie Bell (the kid on the ship in Jackson's King Kong) *polite applause* Griffin all around does a great job playing the closed off, lost-my-parents type character and seems to have the most fun in this movie. Also, he's just plain BA. No real complaints here. No real nitpicks, but also no Oscars. Just tons of fun.
And speaking of tons of fun we finally come to the special effects. These are really what made the movie. I'm a huge Nightcrawler fan from x-men and seeing teleporters fighting everyone else makes me salivate out of awesome, pulling off some really cool and creative stuff. For example, the best scene in the movie is when Griffin does a mego teleport punch into Roland's face that makes him go flying. The jumpers are always coming out of jumps with a little momentum, but what of you Portal Gun that momentum and follow that momentum with a punch . . . oooooooooh good stuffs, maynard.
Overall though, even though this movie is a decent B-lister sleeper hit, all I see when I watch it is a ball of wasted potential. It's not bad, but it makes me sad because with decent writing and . . . well pretty much any other actor ever for adult David, this movie would've been phenomenal. as it stands, I would not spend more than $3 (not counting netflix) to see this movie.
Fun, great special effects, phoned-in story, bad acting
Buy it, Borrow it or Bag it:
Borrow this from a friend or rent it, do not buy it for full price (not that you can anymore)
Monday, May 23, 2011
“Is anyone else as absurdly excited as I am about this game?” Seems a difficult question to answer these days. Gamestats.com’s Top 10 Most Popular list puts Skyrim at #8. Their Xbox 360 list ranks it at #3, as does their list for the PC, but the PS3 lags far behind at #24. How odd. Skyrim doesn’t even rank in Gamespot’s Most Popular list.
What on earth is going on? Has anyone even watched this?
It hasn’t been the topic of much discussion, but I’ve noticed the most in these videos is the striking difference in animation quality. Characters move across the ground with real, convincing weight and strides, the action has finally surpassed the robotic rhythm of Morrowind and Oblivion, and even more telling, the fighting is much more interactive and dynamic. I’m thrilled to see that damage looks less like an algebraic equation and more like physics. Everything feels so organic! Heck, I’ll even embed a video of Oblivion for a comparison:
Physics-bashing aside, it is great to see the Elder Scrolls series continuing the standard of excellence it has achieved. Some new elements to note:
- The inclusion of dragons, in case you hadn’t noticed.
- Dragon Shouts! Watch the gameplay video carefully- when the Dragonborn shouts, there’s an actual aura. Apparently it inflicts damage. KEWL
- Real sneak attacks. We’re not talking robotically stabbing an enemy in the back and watching him groan and fall over like a felled tree- throat slices!
Well, that’s all I have to gush about at the moment. Let’s all look forward to killing the Adoring Fan over and over! …Oh, and some dragons.
Before moving on to the next moving, relevant and entirely pertinent topic, I’d like to acknowledge the appearance of a new writer on my blog. TheSugarRay has a tendency to wax philosophical on the more literary areas of entertainment- however, don’t be surprised if he touches on everything and then some. Just make sure not to confuse my writing with his- he gets jealous. Of course, so do I, for the record.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
This being said, games that focus on story better blood well have good ones. Stories do have rules that need to be fallowed in order to qualify. Plot usually accompanied by a theme or several overtone themes. The plot is what happens. The Animaniacs, as the theme song announces, is about crazy siblings escaping from a water tower. Themes sublet and not so subtle are messages and ideas in the plot that are related to the genre of the story. Genre is the job class of movies and can be predictable because they fit the genre archetype. It isn't a horrible thing, being predictable. In Shakespeare's plays he gave away they end in the opening lines and if that wasn't enough constantly foreshadowed the ending. Tragedy, the protagonist dies-sad. Comedy, everyone gets married- happy mood, any sadness or discomfort from of a character is funny. Drama, about personal character conflict heavy handed with emotion- the mood is usually messy. Good stories have complex characters; they are not completely good, evil, smart, stupid, or any extreme. Like in DnD stats the idea is balance. A story can get away with a larger-than-life character if there is a huge glaring weakness. Superman is not a balanced and could only become balanced if his weakness was something more than magical items and kryptonite. The phrases cookie cutter or two dimensional (that I've used) mean that the character balance is stereotypical or there is no balance like the big strong character that is stupid. The protagonist, often referred to as the hero,
Enough of my expectations, to the point of Grand Theft Auto, The first game was focused on the sandbox. Do what you want and the character won't object because he is a mute pipit to your desires. This worked because in order have an character do the crap that we do in GTA they would have to have almost no character like cloud from GTA3, be a egotistical maniac like in Tommy Verceti, be deprived and conditioned like CJ, or be really Fscked up like Niko.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Touching back on my previous post, I'd like to summarize what made Mega Man 2 so great. Just like any good story, a video game requires pacing to keep the player interested. Given the limitations of that era's technology, the Mega Man franchise on the NES excelled in continuously interesting the player with new abilities and not revealing too much at any given time. Generally the player was given a single new ability after defeating each level. Of course, there were other ways of pacing the game to reveal just enough at any given point in time, but for a game like Mega Man that had separate levels within a menu structure, a new ability per level was a natural way to maintain player interest.
Mega Man 2 was also one of the earlier games to exhibit non-linear game progression. As mentioned before, the player was given a variety of levels to choose from in any order they wished. However, defeating a certain boss was usually easier using a certain weapon they were weak against. Navigating levels in Mega Man was not unlike a puzzle- trying different combinations to find the path of least resistance. There is a surprising amount of dpeth to be found in this simplistic structure.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the finest classic examples of fantastic pacing. However the structure is far removed from games like Mega Man. Whereas Mega Man gave you a level menu to choose and rewards you based upon your completion of that level, Zelda gave you an open world- you rely totally on your own exploration skills to find new items and progress. I suppose, in that sense, it is not best to refer to the game's progression as "pacing"- because in reality, the game waits for you to make the decision to progress. A Link to the Past is in my opinion, one of the best Zelda games- because it is a full world, so to speak. At every turn there is new content to interest and engage the player, each new item or event complimenting his overall quest. It never feels broken or disjointed. Rather, the game is an uninterrupted whole from beginning to end in a single, expertly interwoven story. Unless, of course, you can't complete a quest- then you'll run around frantically like a bee with no hive and eventually regress into controller-flinging rage. The temper tantrums are your OCD's fault, though, not Zelda's.
On a related note, is it kosher for me to insult my reader? Oh well, too late.
If you're interested in purchasing a copy of either of these games, you can find both Mega Man 2 and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Wii's Virtual Console. If you're cool, you can also find them on their original consoles.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Between working a shift at my job that cuts out the center of my day like the hole in a donut and spending time with my lovely wife, I don’t play video games as much as I would like. However, seeing as how I am a compulsive, near-obsessive over such things, perhaps that’s for the better. That being said, I have had a little time to shovel into my thick retro video game past, thanks to a sinus infection that has rendered me unable to walk several feet without losing my breath.
No, actually, I’m not talking about Sean Connery- although, while I’m talking about him- that man knows how to age. *ahem* ANYway, I’m referring to many titles from a few generations earlier in this little medium we call video games. These are games that, like Sean Connery, only get better with age. Allow me to enlighten you.
This picture just made a paragraph title superfluous.
Here’s some things you need to know about Mega Man 2:
- Mega Man 2 debuted on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) on December 24th of 1988 in Japan, and was released in mid-1989 in North America.
- This game was the first well-received installment of the Mega Man series. The original did not fare well in sales- as to why, I have no idea. I mean, robots were the SHIZ in the 80’s. *ahem* actually, the first game was incredibly difficult. Mega Man 2 expanded on the gameplay, giving you more weapons, better graphics, and easier levels( for all of you PANSIES).
-Mega Man 2 contains some of the most memorable video game themes of it’s generation.
This game continues to impress with its simple, smooth, challenging gameplay, inspiring music, and colorful art design.
*gasps profusely* I really need to stop getting up for food. I’ll be touching on more classic games later.
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