Friday, September 19, 2008

I got nothing.

I've finally taught myself photoshop. My first actual effort is's a fictional box art for a fictional game that was for an actual contest on Kotaku. I know I won't win because mine is "serious" or whatever. And Kotaku's elite editors will surely go for the totally retarded for the sake of getting attention. That and I have no confidence in my noobishness. Whatever.

Not much to talk about this week, as I haven't really been playing many games. Rock Band 2 is out and happily being enjoyed by what I hope is millions of faux rockers across the nation. Do I have it? Nah, still waiting on MTV to ship me one pro-bono. Money is extremely tight for me, so I'm planning on finishing the games I still have sitting untouched in my game-rack (Mass Effect, Metroid Prime). And I still haven't finished Twilight Princess, and it's been, what, almost two years? Three? I should be ashamed.

Actually, if I really think about it, there's a good chunk of games I haven't finished. And I probably never will. Which is a shame because most of them I've invested many, many hours into already. This is a problem for me, I guess. Others have talked about this-- I'll call it "syndrome"-- before. Maybe it's because of the amount of games I have. Maybe I just lose interest in trying to complete a 20+ hour game (Usually the unfinished ones are RPGs). Who knows.

I seem to go through gaming phases. For bursts of time I'm zeroed in on one particular game, or, in some cases, genre. Two months ago I played Warcraft III constantly. Now I can't remember the last time I touched it. Nine months ago it was Diablo II. Seven months ago, CoD4. These are games I hardly even think about now. But then, after much time has passed, I find myself back in these games' doorways, broken umbrella in my hand and soaked with rain, begging for another chance. Of course, they always accept me, and hold be tight for another stint.

I still to this day wish I had beaten Dragon Quest VIII. That would have been the first real, solid RPG I have ever beaten. I've blasted through countless shooters...but RPGs require real attention. You dedicate a section of your life to those games. Just once, I want to know what it's like to lose that section for something so Hrm.

I don't know. I'll try to play something new this weekend, so that, ya know, I can actually talk about something here next week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On MMO Fun.

I've been playing around in the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning beta and I must say...bit disappointed. Is it like WoW? Well, sure, pretty much any MMORPG from now on will be in some way. And it is interesting...the new skills, the new game mechanics, the new all goes to proclaim that though it is like WoW, it's still its own beast. I personally love the atmosphere. There are no gay-looking elves dancing around giant cow-creatures here. Things are always on fire, screams can constantly be heard bellowing across the seared landscape, and the bad guys really like to watch blood flow like ravenous rivers. One thing this game doesn't lack is tone.

But is it fun? Well, it's still an MMORPG, so, whether you think those are fun will heavily bias your opinion. The quests are all still massive grind fests, albeit with a little more flare. But one thing I noticed in my 5+ hours with the game so far is the extreme lack of human interaction. Now, later in the game I'm sure this will be more rampant, but even at the lower levels I expected to see
some kind of otherly human presence. The chat airwaves are virtually vacant, and even in towns no one is asking for groups, help, directions -- nothing. No one is selling low-level gear. No one sees that you're doing the same quest as they are and offers help. Once, one time, during a public quest someone decided to make an open group for it. And it was cool and all, but everyone was still stark silent -- like an 8th grade dance where everybody is too awkward to talk to each other.

Will this change with the game's official release? Hopefully, yes. I found it a little disheartening that the public quests -- the new MMORPG additions meant to
bring people together -- had little to no effect on doing such a thing outside of slaughtering monsters and waiting for loot. Yes, instances in WoW in can be the same way, but people will at least talk to each other throughout the endeavor. I view MMO's as a different tier of human interaction -- after all, that's essentially what you're paying for with that monthly fee. Sure, the game is kinda fun and all, but really there are other ones out there that offer you more, better, faster, and better-looking rewards for less money. The human interaction is what makes the MMO. Now, this may be somewhat of an "O RLY?!" kind of thing, so just bear with me for a second. Take that same tier, and apply it to other, non-MMO games, and think about which ones are more fun.

Team Fortress 2
, with it's team-based gameplay and diverse array of characters (each with a fantastically developed personality) offers one of the best social-rich planes to interact in. Counterstrike is the same way because death is more than a stat penalty -- it (though temporarily) ends the game. Games that offer the slightest bit of originality to the player will often receive the benefit of being the most fun. Which is almost a shame, because games that, mechanic-wise, are really fun can spiral into nothingness because of this lack of diversity and interaction. Warhawk, for the PS3, suffers with this. I think the game is extremely fun. But, again, you're playing with a whole mess of people with no actual interaction there, and, aside from the paint-job of your Warhawk or clothes, everyone really seems the same. Unless everyone has microphones, of course, but that is rarely the case.

I guess, then, if you're going to make a game based around thousands of people being in the same gamespace at the same time, only to have the people not talk to each other, it's going to be somewhat of a problem. But going a step beyond that bit of obviousness, something that makes this interaction even more important is the MMO's lack of player-importance. Let me clarify what that means. In WAR (or WoW, or any number of games like those), you accept a quest to destroy an enemy camp, and rid a friendly city/town of constant murders, rapes, and desecration. You do this, get some XP (maybe an item) and move along. But, if you were to stick around for 4 more minutes, you would watch all of the enemies you just slain respawn and gear up for the next "hero" to come, save the day, and gain the same rewards. Kinda stupid (and exasperating), isn't it?

Now, many would argue that there is no way to overcome this stupidity because so many people play that same game, and, well, how else are they supposed to level up? How else is the story of the game world supposed to unfurl? Okay, those are valid points. But! If you, the player, are forced to accomplish the same extraordinary tasks that thousands before you have just completed, despite the (misleading) veil of worth being placed on such tasks, what, exactly, makes any of this worth the time? Other people. Doing such monotonous crap over and over by yourself borders the realm self-defamation, because ultimately you're unimportant. But with people, it's having a good time. It's socializing. It's accomplishing something as a team. And again, it's this interaction that you pay that monthly fee for.

I think WAR is trying some new ways to push this sense of worth further. The constant sense of war and forever good/evil changing battlefields certainly makes things feel important. And the public quests, in theory, are a great way to bring people together in order to achieve a common goal. But until people step away from that 8th grade awkwardness, help each other, and talk to strangers, these mechanics aren't going to do much. I remember back when I first played WoW (I don't play it anymore), even at a low level people were offering to help me, extending group invites and pointing me it the right directions. These feelings of interaction, although virtual, speak worlds for these games. It's no surprise that games like TF2 manage to tap into this sense of personal teamwork and succeed so well.

People in these respective gamespaces know each other even if they don't, and that's the kind of stuff that games should be known for. Years from now, most people will remember Warhawk for it being a good time, but not so much as being a social bridge. WoW, despite its soul-capturing abilities, will be mostly known as a social continent. I think so, anyway. Hopefully WAR is fun enough to do the same. We'll see.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Sorry about that. I was distracted by a very, very, shiny object. Considering I don't have ADD, ADHD, or any hallucinogenics to speak of, I hope this helps you understand the substantial glare of this famed object that would cause me to neglect what I can only assume now is next to zero readers. What was this object? I cannot say. For this, I apologize.

Did a lot happen in the past almost-two-months? Sure! Will I be re-capping it all here? Nah, other places did that just fine.

I did go up to New York City back in August to MTV Game's, we'll call it, "headquarters" (one of them, anyway) and got a chance to play Rock Band 2 as well as check out all of its very, very spiffy features. A lot of it has already, of course, been talked about in other places. With their official website proclaiming a ship date of September 14th, this is a soon-to-be-here-no-brainer. I can safely say that this game improves upon the original in every possible way. Suck at drums? Well you can practice now without embarrassing yourself in even the easiest of songs. Want that impeccable re-creation of Trent Reznor you made to play drums instead of guitar? You can do that, too. Online "World Tour Mode"? Yup!

One of the best additions I found was the "no fail" option. While going into practice mode offers the same essential ability, this option extends that same graciousness to a party setting. Let's face it, the chances of getting 4 people that are halfway decent at every component in the game is almost impossible (I'm looking at you Vocals). This ensures, nay, demands, that fun can be had in any party setting, regardless of any amount of delicious, barley-infused beverage that may be consumed.

But enough about Rock Band 2. You know it'll be great, I know it'll be great, now we must simply wait.

I also snagged and and am building my resolve to finish the last level of Bionic Commando: Rearmed. Much has been said on the subject already, but more praise cannot hurt such an achievement as this game, no? The visual style is fucking wondrous compared to other "remakes" that have spiraled out of various woodworkings. This is a game that actually makes you feel cool while playing it -- something many games strive for, but few achieve. Some have complained about the difficulty, and to them I say "grow up." Guess what? Games used to be really fucking hard. Considering this is a remake of a hard game, one would also expect this to be hard, yes? That said, it's still fun as hell. There is an unmistakable moment of sheer clarity towards life that is experienced after beating some of the levels held within this game. Brilliant.

The sountrack is fantastic, too. Find and download it by any means if you can. Hell it's worth it even if you don't own the game -- again, something most other games can't claim.

Because I have returned to my happy place here, expect new postings more frequently. As in, I'll have another one up later this week, and then more in weeks to follow. Rejoice Next-to-Zeroers!