Friday, September 10, 2010

Musical Memories

Funny how listening to a new album when you're reading/playing/experiencing something new will bond the two memories together. I've got a couple to share here.

Fire Emblem + Green Day's "Dookie"

Pretty simple, although I had first heard Dookie literally a decade early on a cassette walkman while visiting Cape Breton so maybe Dookie just bonds with my memories better than it should. Anyways I digress, bought Fire Emblem and Dookie on CD from FutureShop, put the CD in my portable CD player, and put Fire Emblem into my GBA SP, and I just remember playing thru the tutorial to Welcome to Paradise, Basket Case, & Longview. The fact that Fire Emblem remains one of my top 5 favorite series likely helps the memory survive.

Franz Ferdinand's "This Fire" + Horrible Horrible Love Pains + Burnout 3

Okay this one's ugly, And I've deleted every copy of This Fire that I have because of the memory, although I'd probably be okay nowadays it was rough for a bit; talking 'bout eyes swelling bad. Anyways the weird thing is I got the song stuck because Franz Ferdinand was a British band (Maybe just UK?) and this girl had gone off to Europe, and the song was in Burnout 3 which literally had you driving around Europe and somehow my brain connected them all into this. I also can't play Burnout 3, but since Burnout 2 and Paradise are so much better anyways thats no loss. 

Scott Pilgrim Comics + Hawksley Workman's "Milk"

This one is very recently actually, but started reading the Books when I was on a plane to PAX and turned the new Workman album on my MP3 player. They bonded up quite nicely what at least I like to envision that they will continue to stand up in my memory.

Metric's "Live It Out' + Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gently"

Pretty much the same as above, replace plane with city transit and rain and you've got memories for life baby cakes. Good tunes with an... interesting... book. 

MachineHead's "From This Day" + DBZ
I've seen alot of DBZ music videos, but for some reason this one I saw stuck... Okay maybe the Limp Bizkit "Break Stuff" will also occupy the same place but they're both pretty awesome. Also I find it kinda funny that alot of my first exposure to music was via DBZ music videos.

My Chemical Romance + Dad has a Heart Attack
Most people dislike them because they're super pop-rock, and I won't deny that, but to me they'll always be the music I was listening to when I found out my Dad was in the hospital, and left me feeling like a bomb had just gone off in my head and all I could hear was some emo-bullshit about pain and other crap that couldn't even match the real deal.

Tea Party + 9/11
Defining moment of my life. Probably. If there's one thing that constantly reminds me off the fact that the western world's prosperity is built upon the backs of the southern hemisphere these would be it. Sitting around a table in high school, learning that the impossible had just happened. That something I had just casually ignored as a prank that morning on my way to school was in fact, well fact. It was scary, and there was this damn song from my friend's portable CD player and I didn't really get it, I would but not for a few years. 

T.Rex (Pretty any of his songs) + Awesomeness time with Dad

Okay so you're 4 years old, your Dad plays his favorite record's and you proceed to develop a new definition for rock'n horsey. I just assumed that the rocking horse was to be used when listening to rock'n roll music. To better get into the 'rock'. Yea my Dad is all sorts of awesome. Sometimes. 

Slipknot + Teenage Angst 

To be fair I never actually had teenage angst when I was a teenager. I didn't really start with that until my university years when I began to realize just how truly scary life can actually be. Needless to say certain Slipknot songs can really bring out some memories for me and are pretty handy at bringing the tears on, which is handy when you need an outlet.

So now the only question is what music will forever bond me with my new car? Hard to say.

But I'm just gonna toss out Tegan & Sara's new album because I don't have it yet and I really want to get it. It shall be.
Oh yea. I'm back. So yea... Howdy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Please Look Into The Camera More. Please.

See that? See it? It is a nice piece of DVD box art. Which apparently is so rare these days that it isn't even funny. Seriously. I noticed something at work recently. DVD box art is really, really pathetically bad. Of nearly a thousand DVDs, I found, maybe, possibly a dozen that were decent. Almost every single one of involved the exact same formula. What is this formula you ask?

1. Put all your lead actors on the box.

2. Have all your lead actors looking directly out at the shopper as though they are trying to seduce them with their eyes.

3. Alternatively, if it is a Rom-Com you may have the two lovers staring longingly at each other. Also sad movies may have the actors staring up or down with mopey expressions. 

Here's an example: Ironically enough taken the basic version 1 Disc of the Inglorious Basterds, the top image was the special edition. 

So yea, come out DVD picture picker people! You get this job practically done for you. Take a movie's poster. They frequently are already perfectly acceptable, granted many are used, and still follow the rules listed above. Point is I don't care if cheap-o lame brain Rom-Coms have shitty box arts, but I'd like to see something moderately compelling, you know like how Lord of the Rings had a giant ass ring symbol and elvish on it. Of course all the individual releases had shit covers on them, so basically this trend doesnt seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. 


Console Games of '09

Okay you never really asked for it. But you're gonna get it regardless! 
My favorite console games from last year:

Rock Band 2:

Yes, it came out in '08. It still had me turning on my 360 more often throughout the year than any other release in '09.

Resident Evil 5:

It is the Fifth in the series. With a plot that makes no sense, but combat that while being strangely restrictive somehow also has a fairly decent sense of accomplishment and good feel behind it. Arguably weaker in almost every area compared to RE4, it nevertheless is a damn good game. 

Uncharted 2:
Drake is undoubtly a character built specifically to appeal to people, and he does. He is incredibly charming and the graphics are good enough to make you believe that he and his comrades in arms are all living people. The gunplay feels light years ahead of the first game, melee combat is still awesome, sure they removed the puzzles but it is a very fun very rewarding game. 

Demon Souls:
Because if you really shouldnt enjoy playing games. You should have to work your way through them. You should have to learn every precise nuance to every enemies attack style and maybe just maybe you'll have a chance at victory. Doubtful. But hey it could happen. I mean the game doesnt even tell you how to beat the game. It isn't linear, it never tells you where to go. It starts you off and then you don't get so much as "HEY! LISTEN!" It shouldn't exist, I'll never beat it, and a part of me doesnt even like the game, but I can't deny some part of me adores it.  

Shadow Complex:

Its Metroid, in the real world. With a decent enough story to boot. Combat is strangely satisfying for a game that is pretty much auto aimed. Rag dolls be blessed. 

Anddddd... I might just have to do another post just to cover all the handheld games I played. Because there was alot and I will need to glance them over once more to decide which are the worthy ones. 
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Games of '09 PC Games

First lets clear some, there will be no games of the decade, the decade hasnt finished until 10 ends. Bloody people and their inability to read years properly, thereby perpetuating errors to ad infinitum.

So my favorite games? In no particular order whatsoever.

Makes the wait for Diablo 3 just a touch bit better and substantial worse at the same time.

CoD: MW2:

Because sometimes you need to play a game that is just point and shoot kill the other team and who cares if the game has no value for any form of skill whatsoever, it is fun, carnal fun that has you swearing at 1811 using pieces of shit. Oh, but the single player is utter shit; stupid story that has more plot holes than the local hooker's nylons. 

Champions Online:
Because beating up people hasn't been this awesome in quite some time. Sure it doesnt change the MMO at all, but I don't think change is a constant requirement for games, sometimes you just want to jump into a horde of robo-dinosaurs, beat them all up then fly off to beat up frog aliens who are threatening your city. 

Batman AA:
Because Batman is awesome, and this game gets that right. Even if most of the riddles were too easy, the combat was a touch simple, and the boss fights were so console games 3 generations ago; this game exemplifies how a good, nay superb presentation can go a long way to making you overlook otherwise deafening defects. Also the solid story helped a great deal, errr, minus that Joker boss battle bit.

Empire Total War:
Because writing your own history of the world from your chosen nation is just as awesome with musket warfare. Also conquering Canada and making it part of America was somewhat strange for me. Winning a battle with my last dozen Swedish troops to wipe out a faction, only to have his 6 allies declare war on me the next turn. Just what I didn't want, but also precisely what makes me enjoy the game. 

League of Legends:
Okay so you like Defense of the Ancients. But you are getting sick of the Warcraft III interface, and could go for some better graphics. Also you're wondering where else the DotA gameplay can go. Well LoL has some answers. They aren't all the best, but it is there. The game has lots of balancing to work out, needs more modes, maps better stat tracking, but it is a wonderful start. Oh yea and it is free. So like try it.Dragon Age: OriginsUh because it is a Bioware RPG. Go play it now. Just go. You get to kill huge dragons.

Okay it is like Diablo with guns, with more attitude. I throw a bird out that acts like chain lightning. That explodes people. 

Harvest Massive Encounter:
Free-form tower defense that utterly rapes me. But it is utterly simple, brutally tough, and a perfect game to burn through podcasts with. You can make death stars with it.

Defense Grid:

Because Harvest Massive Encounter doesnt have levels or a story or lots of interesting tactics with lots of towers, there is a more traditional tower defense game that was made with lots of care and effort and made me go through the game grabbing every single Steam Achievement, well accept 'Nail Biter' Because I'm just that good.

King's Bounty The Legend:
It came out it 2008? Screw that! I played it this year and it is awesome it gets in my 2009 list. Great art style, great gameplay, challenging and charming. I saved a zombie woman, made her human and married her. Now my kids give me stat bonuses. Also the sheer diversity in how you can form your army is pretty broad. Undead? Archers? Knights? Gryphons? Dragons? Insects? Any mixture of the above, go for it, you can pretty much make it work.  

Plants vs Zombies:
Presentation over everything else. The gameplay isn't better than anything in Defense Grid or Harvest Massive Encounter, but it does prove that being unique and different does count. Oh and the actual strategy is quite solid, if the game is a little too click laden for my taste.

Warhammer Dawn of War 2:
Anything that puts more thinking into strategy games is good with me. Sure the multiplayer just turned into a micro-fest, but Singleplayer let you think over your moves far more than most supposed RTS games let you.

Personal Spite of the Year Award: Demigod
The game that somehow I should have enjoyed, but ended up loathing with a hatred beyond reason, Demigod just did not mesh with me. I can't tell if it was the maps that felt like Quake 3 maps (a previous game of spite for me), the lack of choices in the heroes available, the interface, or the difficultly in getting anything close to a decently matched game going. All I can say now is that it didn't work out, and it might be my fault. I'm sorry Demigod, can we still be friends?

So there you have it. If I get around to I'd like to do a post about console games. We shall see. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Big Business Impacts On Gaming

The recent news that Dante's Inferno the upcoming beat-em up hack 'n slasher has again pulled a PR stunt is shocking to me. PR Stunts are not new to the gaming industry but they usually are limited to one choice stunt at an event and then the game is usually out. But with Dante's Inferno over the past year I can count up several PR stunts that have brought this game to my attention over and over again. Maybe thats precisely what they want, I mean I honestly would not care at all about the game otherwise. But now I'm thinking about the game too much. Such that I'm thinking, if this game needs this much coverage just to attract people to it, what is the real story about this game's development? 

The question I'd like to address is the notion that EA is attempting to beat their competition through pure publicity? At the end of the day Dante's Inferno could be good, or mediocre but will it come close to matching the craze that is God of War III, its key competition. And do not forget there is only a month between the two titles, with Dante this February and Kratos in March, you can bet your dog/cat that EA knows they are taking on the champ in the ring in 2010. But is this how you do it?

There was a point in the gaming industry when you became a best seller by making the best possible game, but is that point long gone now. When Ubisoft brags about how great the Imagine series of DS games sells in spite of the dreadful quality capitalizing upon a  market that can't tell a Mad Dog McCree from a Half-Life? It feels like EA have capitulated to the line that their marketing department fed them: "You can't make a better game than Santa Monica, but we can sell a game better than they can." I mean I cannot understand any other reason why they would waste so much time and effort on cheap (that snag a photo of your act of lust was nothing else) ploys that accomplish nothing beyond proving that there is no such thing as bad advertisement. 

This is a troubling concept to me. Does this mean that in the future more publishers will adopt the attitude of marketing the game harder than the other guy? We know it works in other mediums, otherwise how would trash like Transformers, Robert Langdon novels, Twilight, and the current Disney music act of the week; rise above content that is genuinely moving their mediums forward (or at very least asking questions or their readers/listeners/viewers and making them think about the content before them). Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe the crap I just listed is popular because I am out of sync with quality entertainment today. But then again, I'm pretty sure anyone who has to used marketing ploys to push their game/movie/book is not concerned about pushing a medium forward (hell probably dont even care about keeping it lateral) and just want to make some money. Actually not even make some money, they want to make assloads of money, more than anyone else, they want good reviews also, but not because they want their game to be enjoyable for those who play it, but rather because good reviews are a means to an end. Good reviews = easier to sell the product with a shiny sticker that says "Indigenous Gaming Newts calls it spittle inducing good times!".

Course I could be wrong, and Dante's Inferno was alloted a shit load of cash the developers didn't need, so they authorized crap loads of tacky and blatant PR stunts to burn through that wad of cash. It could happen. 

And in comic book stuff: Rage of the Red Lanterns is pretty awesome, can't wait for Blackest Night when the collections start to come out next year. 
That will be all. See you in a few months.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Play Batman: The Animated Series Theme Music Here

Well, I played Batman: Arkham Asylum. Not to be confused with Batman's AA class, which consists of him punching you in the face until the drinking stops. I jest. Anyways as you've probably heard it is the greatest comic book based game ever made, and I have no desire to disagree. It is an excellent title and fans of good games should try it out. I just wanted to talk about it because it deserves to get more said about it. 

Fans of Batman should also check it out, as it bears little resemblance, beyond Joker taking over Arkham, to the Graphic Novel written by the ever so esoteric Grant Morrison. And fans of good games and Batman have no reason what so ever to not pick it up. Those who might also be interested: Fans of beat-em ups; Fans of stealth games; And fans of games that are just plain old pretty to look at. 

The game is interesting because it exists in a sort of limbo, being moderately placed within the world of the Animated series, but clearly not (the art style and time period of the game are at odds with the show); And yet not existing in the world of the comics either. Perhaps we can expect this to indicate that there will be a separate canon established for Batman's new gaming franchise (which clearly there will be given the amount of praise lavished on it).

And that's all I have to say about it. If you want a full review go check the big boys (or small boys) they've got very nice ones. Hell Yahtzee at The Escapist even enjoyed the bloody game, and he doesnt like anything. The combat is fun and works, the stealth is fun and diverse enough to keep you entertained, the gadgets are gadget-esque and you punch giant muscled giants in the face then ride them around like cattle. What else do you want.

Oh I'll add that the final fight was so out of character and so "gamey" that it almost ruined the entire game for me. The whole event seemed out of character for Joker (GASP HE'S THE END BOSS? what did you think it would be?) but then I suppose you can just argue that the Joker exists as a character who lives to be different. So I'll let it slide. Still "gamey" end boss fights are so friggin' kitschy that I can't bring myself to play the game again. I'll just remember it. 

Oh yea Harley = Pure Hotness.

If I Was Only This Much More Super!

Alright well I've had Champions Online for quite some time now, pushed a character pretty far into the game, level 30, and while I do not feel that I have seen everything the game has to offer, I feel I've seen enough to get a nice impressions/review piece out. Which is interesting because I've put easily 70 hours into the game over the past month and that does not feel like a significant portion of time to offer anything truly concrete about the game beyond impressions.

So lets just dive into it, I enjoy Champions Online. As far as MMOs go it is not trying to change anything, I wouldn't even say that it is trying to perfect what has come before. It is simply trying to exist as an awesome experience for those of us who adore Superheroes and wish we could do that. So put bluntly, if you do not enjoy comic books then you most likely will not enjoy this game. Plain and simple, there is too much service paid to comic book cliches to make it anything else beyond a comic book nerd's fantasy made real. You will venture through cities beating up gangs, you will stop super villains in fantastical bases, you will feign defeat to surprise a villain in their lair. You will find an amazing travel power and most probably beat/slash/incinerate/freeze/mentally assault thousands upon thousands of thugs into what I can only assume is death.

You will have fun. For a time. There is a  problem in that the game tends to keep you in an area just 1-2 hours longer than you would prefer to be. Upon entering a new section there is a euphoric realization of the new sights and sounds before you and how refreshing they are; for me the biggest was the Robot Cowboy section with an amusement park, that just took my breathe away. But then 4-6 hours later the feeling of this grand unique setting was worn off almost entirely as I struggled to make my way through the canyon. Had the game only put me there for 2-3 hours I believe looking back I would only have my Euphoric memories, but now in hindsight I have the two conflicting opinions. One of sheer amazement and the other tedious boredom at wanting to be blown away again. And I was when I did move on, but the cycle continued.

It isn't a horrid scenario but it meshes terribly with the feeling that the amount of content just barely scrapes you along. You need to grab every quest available to push follow the leveling path. Miss one (difficult because you can access a list with all quest givers shown on it which will then highlight them on your map) or worse come across a broken mission and you'll find yourself struggling to keep up with the missions. If they would increase the exp reward (or alternatively lower the leveling requirements) then it would let you leave missions alone giving you different stuff to play through later with alternate characters. 

Luckily the core gameplay is an absolute blast. Combat is a joy, with plenty of options available for you to approach your foes. Do you focus on one at a time and drop them like dominoes one after another. Or do you max your AOE and kill them off in one huge explosion. I honestly cannot tell you which is better, but it keeps things different, sometimes i use my cone attack, other times my single target high damage attack, or my close range flurry of melee attacks, or my sphere aoe to annihilate everything (which also pulls everything in sight to attack me which is dangerous but simultaneously awesome). Combat keeps you paying attention, you have to watch for indicators to block, (which have saved me numerous times from fights I could have lost)  and in general stay on your toes. 
It is true the game requires someone to go over the power set descriptions and delineate everything about them, because often times they have simply left code up that really fails to explain what they do. Thankfully the Powerhouse exists for you go and sample your prospective powers before you are locked in with them (although respecs are possible). So really if you grab a power that doesn't work as you would like it to or expect it to you can only blame yourself for not trying it fully out. 

But how does the game function as an MMO? Well that's interesting because it is true that you will constantly see people, hear their chat logs, and on occasion fight for mission goals. But for the most part, you will be soloing unless you and a friend are constantly grouping (this will also make the game easy as pie for you, as there are very few missions that require more than one person let alone two). The game does not care at all about who last hits or deals the most damage to a target; you hit it once you'll get credit, although actually resources and experience are allotted based on damage dealt. You get credit for your mission just by tagging the target once.
Another unique facet of Champions is how the servers are split into shards, or up to 100 people, this means there is never a need for server transfers, nor will you and your friends ever have to recreate a character because you did not know what servers you were each on.

Of course I really should not end this before discussing the largest perceived problem with the title, the end game drought. I honestly cannot comment on this issue at the present time. I have been busy with plenty of content so far and promises of more content several time a year seems sufficient in my opinion. I will be sure to address this in the future should an issue present itself towards the pro or the con. I will say that playing through with my alts is very tedious. You just do missions you have already done (albeit you do them better the second time around) and aside from playing a radically different powerset (the various powers really do differentiate themselves from each other) there truly is little reason to replay the content beyond utilizing unique powers each go around the proverbial merry-go-round.

Crafting is another issue present within the game. It exists and you can do it, but the main reason is to build very useful healing items and damage shields that can prove their worth in battles that are not going your way. The gear you can craft usually is on par with loot found or earned from missions. The requirement for learning special recipes needs to be explained however, as there appears to be random drops earned from breaking down components. It all adds up to craft system that has some perks but seems more like a bullet point rather than a fully developed feature.  

And I'll end on the positive note. The character creator. It is without a doubt in my mind brilliant. If you can envisage a character concept you can make it pretty damn close to what you want. You will want to make alternate Champs simply because it is a joy flexing the creative potential of the creator and making a robot dragon who uses rocket boots because your nemesis tore your wings off.

I should also comment on the nemesis system. It is very cool. But shows up 10 levels too late. It is very fun building your rival and explaining your feud that led to the nemesis status between them, but the fact that it arrives at level 25 instead of 15 or sooner seems strange. The concept is perhaps the lone unique idea that Champions has and they decide to make you work towards it. I suppose in a game you'll be playing for months to come it will not be a huge impact but I would like to be able to at least form the Nemesis at the same time I make the hero so I can build them around a single, perhaps contrasting, concept. Once you get it though, awesome, nothing like seeing your traitorous brother trying to kill you over and over again.

So in closing. Champion Online. Bring almost nothing new to MMOs. Yet surprisingly still a compelling and unique experience thanks to its central theme of being about superheroes. If you like combat and comics, and are not turned off by the prospect of spending the next year or so playing the same game, then I think you'll find a charming game in Champions. It is clearly not built for everyone, but for those who can find something to relate to. Well they will really enjoy it.