Monday, December 31, 2012

Anyone who keeps a blog or other such similar medium will always have this urge to make a post on New Year's Eve.  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it's to validate their existence, or to give themselves a feeling of completion for the year.  In any case, here is mine.

Let me start by hoping that everyone has a good 2013.  It's going to be an interesting year, I think, and it's quite likely that we'll be starting it all off with a brand new financial crisis.  I can't WAIT to take a pay cut!  Woo!

Worthless politics aside, I'd rather focus on staying positive for the new year.  So, um...well, the snow is pretty.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

Despite how utterly exhausting the holidays tend to be, there's always a part of you that wishes, despite everything, that every day could be like Christmas.  The presents, the happy family times, and best of all, not having any responsibilities whatsoever since all the preparation is finally, finally done.  But then everyone leaves and you stop and think, "Fucking hell, I just want everything back to normal so I can get on with my life!"  

In any case, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and the best for the year 2013.  Provided below are some pictures from my Christmas Day.



I must say that one of the reasons why I'm glad Christmas is over, is because I can now walk around my house without tripping over gifts.


























There's a tradition with holidays.  There's always a picture of Brandon giving the camera the finger.  Go ahead, look for it.  You'll find it.  Also, the funny thing about Christmas this year is that the very next day (today), it seems that the world was trying to tell us, "Hey, y'know what, just stay inside and don't do ANYTHING."  How do I know this, you ask?  Well...






Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Far Cry 3 is my Game of the Year

A heavy armored pirate steps in front of a wall, placing him out of line-of-sight of his equally heavy armored buddy.  I pop off a silenced shot from my suppressor-equipped sniper rifle, splattering his brains on the wall.  Bonus XP for a headshot goes to me, and his buddy is oblivious to what just happened.  I exhale, smirking deviously.

I'm racing down a dirt road in a jeep, speeding towards a bridge that suddenly pulls up.  It's a drawbridge, and the commandos I'm running from raise it.  I speed up and jump the gap, landing safely  on the other side, only to be accosted by mortars incoming from a nearby truck.  I jump into the back of my jeep and man the turret, riddling the offending truck with bullet holes until it explodes.  I drop back into the driver's seat and continue on my way.

I'm walking through a field of illegal drugs with a flamethrower, lighting every plant up in a brilliant haze of orange fire.  I say to myself, "This is fucking awesome!"  Two seconds later, my character yells, "This is fucking awesome!"  Great minds...

These are just three examples of the memorable moments I've had in this game, and a sampling of why this game beat out the likes of Borderlands 2, Guild Wars 2, Dishonored, Mass Effect 3, Serious Sam 3, The Walking Dead, Diablo 3, Max Payne 3, Sleeping Dogs, Black Mesa, and Mists of Pandaria for my favorite game of 2012.  More reasons to follow.

A lot of good games were released this year, and their slight problems were just as integral to their elimination from the top spot as Far Cry 3's positives.  Borderlands 2 was probably the game that came closest to winning.  Honestly, before Far Cry 3 came out, it -was- winning!  But it lost out due to a few different things.  First and foremost was the quest design.  Why the game wouldn't let you track more than one quest at a time is beyond me, really, especially when the game was clearly designed to give you 3-4 quests in the same area to knock out simultaneously.  Additionally, the graphical style, while still very cool, sort of lost its appeal to me since the release of Borderlands 1.  The cel-shaded style now seems almost bland to me.  This could simply be because of how utterly gorgeous Far Cry 3 looks. In fact, that probably is why, if I'm honest.  But can you BLAME me?  The last thing Borderlands 2 did that knocked off points for me was the addition of quests that cannot be completed without a full group of players.  Fuck you for trying to force me to play with others.

Guild Wars 2 has a lot of good things going for it, especially as an MMO.  But in the end, the story just didn't hold my interest over time.  And if I lose the story, I pretty much lose interest in the game.

Dishonored is a brilliant game that didn't make the top spot simply because I didn't have the patience to finish it yet.  It's a game that, to be played properly, must be taken slow.  At least, that's how -I- feel it should be played.  But sadly, I didn't have the patience to stick with it and finish things up.

I'm sorry to say that Mass Effect 3 lost out because of the ending.  I have a desire to play it again, especially after all the DLC has been released.  But then I think of to what end I'll be playing, and I just kind of go...meh.  Obviously the end of a game is hardly the point of playing it, but when you know how it goes, it does sway your decisions to continue.  Especially when such an end is bad.  This really isn't the game's fault at all, but my own.  I hate mortality.  I hate the fact that I, myself, am going to die.  This gets projected into everything.  So when it comes to my entertainment, I prefer my stories to end before my character's do.  Additionally -- re-grind multi-player to get the best ending?  Um, no.  As I said to Borderlands 2:  Fuck you for trying to force me to play with others.  (Edit:  Through patches and DLC, it looks like it may not be required to grind multi-player to get the best ending.)

Serious Sam 3 is my kind of game, but it's also designed to be a silly game with loads of action.  While Far Cry 3's story is hardly inspired or the work of a great novelist, it's still much stronger than anything in Serious Sam.  SS3 is more of an arcade type of shooter.  While I love those dearly, FC3's style is more appealing to me in the long run.

Now, The Walking Dead is quite the interesting little game.  When it comes to story, it's quite superior to FC3's.  And thank goodness for that, since without the story, there really wouldn't be anything to it at all.  There never was much "gaming" to be had in Telltale's adventure games.  The story of The Walking Dead moved me in ways that games haven't moved me before, and not always in a good way either!  Obviously the ending immediately comes to mind when I think of it.  The amputation scene is next, and there are several other moments I could add to the list.  But when it comes down to it, I need to have a certain amount of GAME in my games.  So while I would recommend The Walking Dead to anyone who considers themselves a gamer, I myself would always choose a game like FC3 over it.

Diablo 3 was fun for a while, but once I went through the story once, I really didn't have any incentive to keep going.  I think I've fallen out of love with ARPG's in recent years.  I mean, I played the HELL out of Torchlight.  On and on and on.  Level after level that were exactly the same only slightly different, and never-ending.  And I liked it!  Not so with D3.  One time through and that was enough for me.  Then Torchlight 2 came out, and I got bored in about 15 minutes.  So I think this particular genre of games has lost its appeal to me, for whatever reason.

Now, Max Payne 3.  Why didn't it win?  It has almost everything going for it that Far Cry 3 does:  Amazing graphics.  Solid gameplay.  Relentless action.  Great story.  Great ending.  What gives?  Well, the one thing it doesn't have is exactly the reason why it failed to win, and that is an open world.  This is a tricky statement to make, because one of my favorite games of all time if Half-Life 2, and that is also NOT open world.  What did Half-Life 2 do that Max Payne 3 did not?  This is a very subtle thing to notice, but once you know it's there it becomes obvious.  When I was playing through MP3, I always felt RUSHED.  Someone was always yelling at me to MOVE MOVE MOVE!  Or I was being timed.  Or I was being chased along "rails" and unable to stop.  Or I was on something moving along at high speed.  You always seem to be pushed forward in that game.  In contrast, with HL2 the game seems to WANT you to explore.  While it doesn't flat-out encourage it, it feels like it's doing just that.  So while HL2 is still on "rails", it feels more open.  More friendly to my type of gameplay.  It's something that Dishonored was also BRILLIANT at doing, and I give it many kudos for that.  So, while I absolutely loved MP3, it loses points for trying to rush me.  With FC3, I get this whole island to explore at my leisure, with the option of delaying the main storyline for as long as I damned well please.  And the exploring is rewarding, with secret temples and hidden relics.  There are points in the game where I felt like fucking Indiana Jones!  I love that kind of stuff.

Let's add another wrinkle to the mix, shall we?  Sleeping Dogs basically has EVERYTHING that Far Cry 3 has.  Amazing graphics.  Solid gameplay.  Relentless action.  Great story.  Great ending.  And, yes, an open world.  So, what gives here?  Why isn't it the winner?  Well, the first strike against it is that the controls handle about as well as a drunk lemur riding a cross-eyed yeti.  When I think about Sleeping Dogs, that is sadly what I remember most, and the reason why I won't play it again.  Secondary to that is my slight problem with the story.  I have a hard time feeling like a hero when I'm working for the bad guys, even if I am undercover.  So unlike FC3, or further to that point, Fallout and Skyrim, I don't feel very heroic and therefore don't have as much investment in the story.  And as we all know about me, less investment in the story equals less investment in the game.

I hesitated putting Black Mesa on the list of releases I've played this year, simply because it's not finished.  But let's be honest here:  It's a free transformation of Half-Life 1 into the Source engine.  Can I really consider that to be a "new release"?  I finally decided that yes, it does.  So where would I put it?  Well, it loses points for being a remake.  And it loses points for changing how jumping works from the original game.  Aside from that, the new visuals are stunning, the music is fantastic, and it will probably become the new definitive version of the game.  It's somewhere around fourth or fifth, I'd say.

Last but certainly not least is Mists of Pandaria.  My time playing MMOs, I have learned, is probably over.  At least, playing them to their fullest capacity, that is.  I still play WoW to this day, though lately all I've been doing is tending my farm.  It didn't win because WoW is old and is simply releasing content until enough people stop playing it, or Blizzard ends it on their own.  Do I still like it?  Absolutely.  Do I still want to play it for hours on end?  Not so much.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Scorchers

A little over a year ago, id Software released their first new IP in quite a long time.  It was called Rage, and it was a post-apocalyptic shooter utilizing id's new idTech5 graphics engine.  The game received generally mixed to positive reviews when it came out.  One of the main complaints, if I remember correctly, was the technical problems that the game had when it was first released, especially on the PC.  The other most common complaint was that the game seemed like it was trying to be Borderlands and Fallout, and failed to live up to either.  If you recall my posts about Rage back around October 2011, though, you'll remember that I absolutely loved it.  Take that, majority!

Fast forward to this week.  To everyone's surprise, except perhaps the devs at id, new content for Rage was announced after a long period of utter silence.  And that's what I'm going to be talking about today.

I haven't touched Rage since I finished it back near the end of 2011, but I often found myself using it as a benchmark when it came to graphics.  You can say what you want about the game, but the visuals are stunning.  If you do not agree, you either do not have a rig that is capable of handling the engine, or you are blind, or you are an idiot.  I'm not saying you have the like the STYLE.  But there's nothing opinionated when it comes to the QUALITY.

I had a shaky start with the DLC, because I ran into graphical problems that I don't recall having the last time I played the game a year ago.  This is undoubtedly due to id patching the game and nvidia patching its graphics card drivers.  I had two main issues:  Screen tearing and video stuttering.  The screen tearing was easy to fix.  I turned on vertical sync.  The other problem, while barely noticeable, was a bit more difficult to find.  What I ended up having to do was create new folders on my hard drive in order to give the graphical texture cache a place to be written.  (As opposed to allowing it to simply be stored in memory, I suppose.)  When I read the solution, I really didn't give it much merit, but sure enough, it worked.  After I made these two adjustments, I cranked all the graphical settings up to ultra and the game ran perfectly.

As for the DLC itself, it's $4.99 to buy and it adds quite a bit of content for your money.  I'd say that a normal person would be able to finish it all in roughly four hours, so that's a pretty considerable chunk of gameplay when you consider the price.  The story of the DLC focuses on The Scorchers, who are a group of bandits that seem to be building something called the Firestorm.  Throughout the DLC, you're partnered with a half-naked woman named Sarah and are sent on a quest to find out what Firestorm is and ultimately stop the Scorchers' evil plans.  It's simple and straightforward, and melds perfectly into the main game itself.  So much so that I actually had to go online and look up where the hell I needed to go.  I got the quest as soon as I logged into the game, so that wasn't much of a problem, but I had no idea how to get to the first location.  In retrospect, id should add a mini-map to the non-combat city areas, identical to the one that exists when you're out in the wasteland.  Just a minor nitpick there.

Now, there are a few other new things aside from the Scorchers story and their new levels.  The most notable is a new weapon called the Nail Gun.  You get it fairly early on, of course, and at first I wasn't particularly impressed.  It has nails for ammo and fires like a machine gun.  Ho hum.  But then I realized that it had different ammo types, like most of the other weapons in the game.  I found some rebars, and I was thus more impressed with the gun.  And then I found rails.  Oh, the glorious rails.  It's at this point that the gun becomes this super over-powered killing machine that enables you to see through...and SHOOT THROUGH...walls.  As any rail gun worth its mettle will allow you to do.  It's more fun than watching John try to pet Buyo when the cat's in kill mode.

How about some visuals?


This is what I was greeted with upon entering the first new area of the DLC.  Spooky.  They did a really good job with the ambiance this time around -- I don't recall it being this good in the main game.  There are a lot of subtle noises that really add to the immersion.


It wasn't long before i found bad guys, and I thus remembered something else that I freaking love about Rage but had subsequently forgot about:  Wingsticks.


The black bars around this image is due to it being a cutscene, but I wanted to show Sarah's first arrival in all her scantily-clad...erm...glory?  I didn't much care for her as a character, as it was blatantly obvious they put her there simply to be a sex symbol.  And even though she was a great shot and could handle herself in a fight, I still had to save her in the end.  It was terribly stereotypical.


Like I said:  Stunning.


Even after I got the nail gun, my weapon of choice was the pistol with fatboy slugs.  They make heads go pop.


Speaking of the nail gun...


If it makes their heads go pop, chances are I'll use it.  And giggle about it afterwards.


That couch may have seen better days, but it still looks damned good rendered in the idTech5 engine.  Looking at these shots makes me remember just how far we've come, graphics-wise, in the last ten years or so.


I'm pretty sure in this scene, we're torturing a leprechaun.


I.  HATE.  CLOWNS.


I honestly can't say enough about the level design.  It's not genius-level like Dishonored, obviously.  I'm more talking about the artstyle and and flow, here.


It seems that temples are a theme this month.  I'm finding them everywhere, in every game I play.


I refuse to make any "bigger boat" jokes here.


Okay, I'll admit, I thought the trophy room was a new addition with the DLC.  I don't see it anywhere in the description for the DLC nor on the Wiki page.  So, I guess it was in the main game to begin with!  I never saw it.  I'm thinking that perhaps it unlocks after you finish the game.  Given the ending...or the lack of an ending, if we're totally honest here...I'm not surprised I missed it.  I pretty much left the game after it ended, because I was quite irritated with it.

So, final thoughts on the DLC?  It's a good, solid chunk of content that's well worth the price of admission.  In playing through it all in one sitting (basically), it left we wanting to start the main campaign over again from the beginning.  Any game that is capable of doing that -- that is, making you want to play it again immediately despite the fact that it will all be the same -- to me means that it's an excellent game.  I've said it before, and it bears repeating:  It's the type of shooter that I grew up on, and the type of shooter that I most enjoy.  It may have tried to be more than that, and it admittedly didn't do a very good job of it.  But at its core it's a standard shooter, and a very well made one, at that.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let's have one of those general, talk about anything posts, shall we?  It's been a little while since I've done a good, old-fashioned ramble.

First of all, let's touch upon MLG (Major League Gaming) for a bit.  I believe it's generally accepted that League of Legends has pretty much surpassed Starcraft 2 as far as popularity and overall influence within the MLG world.  This doesn't really affect me all that much, because I don't play either game at all.  I of course HAVE played both, as I try to play just about every game that I can.  (At least the major releases.)  It does make me feel sort of left out that I don't particularly enjoy either game (for differing reasons), especially when I look at how many people do.  LoL is the most popular video game in the world right now.  It's not often that I don't like a game that a majority of people do.  Even when it comes to Call of Duty games, I'm quite sure that if I were to play the single-player campaigns of each, I would enjoy them.  I just don't, because there are better alternatives out there for me that provide a more lengthy and exploration-oriented experience.

The reasons why I don't play SC2 and LoL are quite different.  With SC2, I simply don't want to learn the game.  It doesn't interest me all that much.  With LoL, the reasons are more complex.  I would like to take the time to learn the game, if I could.  But in trying to do so a year or so ago, it became apparent to me that the community had no intentions of letting me.  Every little mistake I made was responded to with hate, exaggerated insults, and verbal abuse.  The official website of the game itself doesn't nothing to teach you the intricate nuances of the game.  The suggested items will result in getting flamed even further if you use them...even though the game is telling you "Hey, use these!"  Many times during a game, I was told to quit and never return by my team mates.  So that's exactly what I did.

The only thing that I find disappointing is that a game that seems to actually nurture a hateful community has become such a popular game with both players and the E-Sport community.  You can argue this point all you want by pointing out the tribunal and the psychologists that Riot Games hired to try and fix their community.  But honestly, with as long as this game has existed, if they really wanted to curb the poisonous mentality of their players, they would have found a good way of doing it by now.

But, as evidenced by the sheer number of people who play LoL, I'm far, far into the minority here.  Perhaps this is due to my age, where I've reached a point in my life where I find satisfaction elsewhere, and therefore have no need to prove my imaginary dominance over other people on the Internet.  Or, perhaps I've satisfied my competitive nature fully and completely many years ago, in the late 1990's, and therefore have no drive to prove myself any further.

Or perhaps I'm just a grumpy cat.

In any case, LoL is a game that I refuse to play, and it will probably remain that way forever.  I hate the camera controls, anyway.

In other news, The War Z was released on Steam yesterday, and it's causing quite the controversy.  A lot of people are suggesting that the developer rushed the game into an early release in order to beat the stand-alone version of DayZ to the starting line.  From the things I've been reading about the game, that certainly appears to be the case.  Apparently, most of the features listed on the Steam store page aren't implemented yet.  Additionally, hacking is apparently widespread throughout the game.  I say apparently a lot here, because I haven't played the game at all.  But given the comments I've read on the RPS article and the posts on the Steam forums, it seems like The War Z is a very, very bad game at the moment.

Also, yesterday I got into a argument with someone on the Internet.  That was a stupid idea, and I really have no idea why I did it.  I'll use my grumpy cat excuse again.  The topic was Borderlands 2.  PC Gamer had posted an article regarding the third of four DLC packs for the game, this one seemingly set to star Sir Hammerlock.  Someone made a comment stating they wouldn't buy the game until it was finished.  This annoyed me because someone was making a sarcastic remark about a game that I very much enjoyed, and my response was childish.  I stated, "So, by that you mean that you are waiting for a GOTY edition that contains the finished game, plus all of the DLC."  They replied, and they started with the word "No".  I probably wouldn't have continued on if they wouldn't have started with that.  But they did.  And that was insinuating that I was wrong.  I certainly couldn't let that stand.  My reply was short and simple, though.  I simply said, "The game is finished.  You just do not like the concept of DLC."  I left the conversation there, and didn't go back to it.  I didn't WANT to go back to it, because I knew I was going to get flamed.  So regardless of what that nitwit decided to say next, I was staying out of it.  In writing about it here, though, my curiosity got the better of me and I went to check on the thread.  He did reply, of course, and said something about being amazed at how shamefully brainwashed we all are, and some other nonsense that I really didn't take the time to read.  He copy/pasted a lost of stuff, I think, that he probably read somewhere else and simply regurgitated like the mindless sheep he is.  I'm not sure if he really believes any of what he says, or if he's just a troll.  It's hard to tell these days.  But that wasn't what surprised me.  It was the fact that a vast majority of the other posters actually did agree with me.  Even though I wasn't insulting him, I wasn't expecting a positive response, especially when you consider the topic.  Usually when a company wants more money, as in the case of DLC, it doesn't matter what you say.  The company is evil and the consumer is being ripped off, end of story, don't try to say otherwise.  It was sort of nice to see a bit of common sense on the Internet for a change.

On a more positive note, Far Cry 3 is still excellent.  As I expected with such a large, open world game, I'm enjoying the side missions and just the general mucking about that I can do, moreso than the main story of the game.  That main story is just kind of there, and I chip away at it every so often.  The highlight of the game for me, though, is all the exploring I can do.  I did take a few screenshots to share last night, but I forgot to hit the publish button in Steam before I went to bed.  I'll have to share those later.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Baking 2012!

Alright, so I mentioned the baking, didn't I?  I should have.  It's been going on for 7 days now.  We took last night off due to it being poker night, of course, but every other night we've been baking away.  Let's have a bit of visualization, then.  



This is Mom and John putting icing on the gingerbread and sugar cookies.  John delved into his artistic side and decorated the gingerbread men (the whole three that he managed to do in two hours) with faces and accessories.  They look brilliant.  No one's allowed to eat his.  They are for display purposes only.



My favorite part about this image is that you can see the icing that he got stuck in his hair.



And here are some finished products.  You can tell which ones I did (where I simply sprinkled the chocolate bits onto the cookies)  and the ones John did (where they actually have proper faces).
 


Sugar cookies with white icing and colored sugar.



Before the icing and sugar.  The one gingerbread cookie in the corner was leftover from the main batch.  We'll send him off to a gingerbread orphanage.  (Which we'll then light on fire.)



Here, the two of them are rolling the jam cookie dough into small balls, and placing them on cookie sheets.



Which I would then take and make the depressions into them...



...and add the jam!



We made John mix the nut cup cookie dough with his hands.  That's really the only way to do that dough, because of its texture.  Flour, butter, and cream cheese just doesn't mix very well with any kind of utensils or mixing appliances.



He did it very well!  You can also see some of the finished jam cookies there on the table, too.  They came out brilliantly.

This weekend we'll be making chocolate dipped peanut butter balls, Hershey kisses cookies, nut cups, and a final pan of chocolate chip bars.  And I think that's everything.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Far Cry 3 has quickly become my favorite game of the year.  I'm getting so much more out of it than I expected, and I'm surprised by how well it has done many things that have been in countless number of games.  For example, I wasn't expecting the game to give me a huge dose of nostalgia, reminding me of old school Lucasarts computer games such as Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.  I also wasn't expecting to start making comparisons to Tomb Raider and Assassin's Creed.  But I have.

The island is so much bigger than I expected, and I am amazed by how much there really is to explore. Obviously, the environments do not change all the much -- you are on the same island the whole time, after all -- but the island looks so GOOD that you really don't care that it's all a tropical landscape.  Besides, who doesn't want to live in the jungle?  Seriously.

The thing that has surprised me the most are the part of the story dealing with the subtle supernatural elements and the adventuring.  I suppose I was expecting a more traditional action game, where I'd be mostly just fighting the bad guys with whatever arsenal the game provided.  I wasn't expecting jumping puzzles, or spelunking into ancient ruins for priceless artifacts.  It was a very nice surprise, and I have to say it was the point in the game where Far Cry 3 surpassed Borderlands 2 as my Game of the Year choice.

One final thought is that a lot of the times when I'm into a game, I often think about it when I'm not playing it.  That's natural.  And usually, when that happens I tend to think, "I'm really looking forward to playing GAMEX again...oh but I do hate FEATUREX."  In the case of Dishonored, for example, I hated how much waiting around in a dark corner I had to do in order to play the game the way that I wanted.  That's not really a fault of the game, but it just comes with the genre.  For Borderlands 2, I hate how much inventory control I had to do, because I have very, very, very limited storage.  (Unlike in, say, Skyrim where you basically have unlimited places to put things.)

When it comes to Far Cry 3, however, there's not a damn thing I don't miss when I'm not playing the game.

Except the dogs.  Fuck those dogs.  

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

It's always nice when you go into a new game with a certain expectation, and those expectations are immediately exceeded.  I feel that lately, the game industry has become rather predictable in a lot of ways, and not just in the fact that there are so, so many sequels to existing IPs these days.  With the gaming media becoming so fast paced, it's quite easy to find out just about everything about a game near-instantaneously, due to how rabid the journalists are to be the first with their review.

Far Cry 3 has ended up being a rather unique situation that I probably won't see again for a very long time.  I saw a few advanced reviews of the game, but I really didn't pay much attention to them.  I saw they were very positive, and that prompted me to preorder the game about a week ago.  But aside from that, I didn't know that much about it.  In addition to that, I wasn't particularly a fan of Far Cry 1 or Far Cry 2.  So, going into this game, I really didn't have any expectations, good or bad.  Since I didn't read much into the game itself, I was pretty much just expecting a rather formulaic shooter, perhaps a bit like Crysis 2, which would be fun for a while but perhaps quickly become boring.

I was wrong.

I saw one review quoted as saying that Far Cry 3 was like "Skyrim with guns".  I scoffed at this.  (And also rebuked, "You dumbasses.  Fallout is Skyrim with guns.")  But now having spent a few hours within the game, I do see the point they were trying to make.  With the large open world, relative freedom to do anything you want (even if you feel like simply ignoring the main storyline), the crafting, the loot, the exploration; yes, I do get their point.  It is like Skyrim with guns.  With that being said, I will also say that everything that Far Cry 3 does, Skyrim does better.  FC3 feels like every feature in the game is a computer interface.  It's immersion breaking.  When I craft something in FC3, I just click buttons and then I have the item in my inventory.  I only have to click buttons in Skyrim too, of course. They are both video games, after all.  But with Skyrim, it actually FEELS like my character is CRAFTING that item.  That's not the case in FC3.  It's things like this that make Skyrim superior.

But those comparisons aside, FC3 is an excellent game.  And since I wasn't going into this game expecting anything like Skyrim, I really don't have any complaints to make in that regard.  Actually, the only thing about the game that I don't like is the fact that it uses Uplay, Ubisoft's proprietary digital distribution software.  At least the game is still on Steam, though, unlike EA's Origin exclusive games.  So, I won't complain TOO loudly.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Milestone

This is my one thousandth blog post.

To mark the occasion, I went back and looked at the very first post I made.  Good lord, why the hell did I think dark red font colors in comic sans was a good idea?  Amazingly, that was over seven years ago now.  What is even more amazing is that seven years sounds like such a long time, until I see that it was 2005.  Wait, what?  2005 was just yesterday!  What the fuck!  And don't get me started on the face that 1992 was twenty years ago.  I don't even want to think about that.  What the fuck!  And it's been over ten years since the first Lord of the Rings movie came out.  What the fuck!

In any case, seven years and one thousand blog posts later, and I still don't have that zombie MMO.  We're getting closer!  The War Z might actually be it.  I'm keeping an eye on that one.  But I really don't have any room to complain with games like The Walking Dead already in existence.  I finished the final episode last night.  It was very good.  Heartbreaking, but good.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Patch 5.1 for WoW was released yesterday.  Or Tuesday, if you're playing on the North American/Oceanic servers.  With it comes the start of the Horde versus Alliance campaign in Pandaria, which equates to the main storyline of the whole expansion.  A lot of people dissed this idea, saying that it was stupid to have that be the main focus of an entire expansion.  After all, every expansion has had a main villain!  Oh...wait!  The original game didn't.  How silly of me.  Wouldn't it be ironic if I was one of those people who complained that the game was better in vanilla and also criticized the lack of a main villain to focus the story upon?  I'm sure there's no one out there silly enough to do that.

In any case, the patch adds main quests, daily quests, and scenarios with which to tell an on-going story detailing the clashes between the Horde and the Alliance as they both land in the Pandaria.  I've done very little of it so far, of course, since it was only day 1 yesterday and a lot of the things are certainly reputation bound.  What I've seen I've enjoyed very much, as tends to be the case any time Blizzard pushes along the main story of Warcraft.  The problem with a game like WoW, meaning an MMO with months between content updates, is that you get the story piecemeal and must wait very long times for a conclusion.  As such, I never get fully invested in it.  It's impossible.  For me, if I get engrossed fully into a story, I want to do it at my own pace.  This requires the story to be complete, and sitting right in front of me for me to consume at the pace in which I want to consume it.  This is why I very rarely watch serial TV shows that aren't yet over or canceled.

Fortunately, Blizzard is very good at the piecemeal method of story telling and does a good job of making it very enjoyable without leaving you with that "Oh-FFS-now-I-have-to-wait-3-months" feeling.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Serious Boss is Serious

Since I've reached bit of a content plateau within Borderlands 2, and since the WoW servers went down early for Patch 5.1's release, I opted to play through the Serious Sam 3 DLC, Jewel of the Nile.  No, not the movie.  Though, if you have seen that movie, you earn a special place among my list of friends.  Actually, no, that's not enough.  Let's see...oh, I got it!  If you've seen Jewel of the Nile -and- you've played Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, THEN you earn a special place among my list of friends.  

ANYWAY.

So the DLC itself was pretty fun.  It's three new levels added on to the game, taking place somewhere in the middle of the main campaign.  It's more of the same, as it damn well should be:  There are a lot of bad guys, and you shoot them.  Or blow them up.  Or shoot them while they're blowing up.  It's a hell of a lot of fun.  One of my favorite bad guys from the first game is back, too, so I was pretty happy about that.  Also, the plasma gun is back too.  I'm doubly happy about that.

As far as difficulty goes, it was pretty much on-par with the rest of the proper game.  I died a few times.  Mostly blowing myself up with C4.  (I tend to do that on those large asshats that can only be killed by C4 to the chest.)

And then I got to the end.

Now, the final boss of the campaign in the main game was pretty difficult.  I actually had to look that one up because I had no idea what I was doing.  I didn't even realize I had a jetpack.  To be fair, the game didn't TELL me I had a jetpack.  But then, the Serious Sam games have always been quite old school in that regard, in that hints are non-existent.  (Please keep it that way.)

With the final boss of the DLC, well, it's pretty obvious what I need to do.  I did check online to ensure I was on the right track, and I am.  It's just a matter of doing it, because it's freaking hard.  The boss has five times more health than the final boss of the main game.  He fires a cannonball volley, and one cannon will one shot you even if you have 100 health and 100 armor.  That's his ranged ability.  In melee range, he has a big hammer.  That will also one shot you.

The tactic is to drop C4 at his feet.  Lots of C4.  While avoiding the hammer, of course.  There are audio prompts that tell you when you need to get the hell out.  What worries me is the pair of adds that come with him.  I'm not sure how to avoid their fireballs at the same time.  I guess I have to kill them first, but I'm not sure how to kill them without taking my eyes off the main boss.  If I do that, I'll get a cannon to the face.  I'll have to think about it.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Neglect

Actually, it hasn't been quite as long as I thought since my last post.  But it's been long enough for me to still prefer to draw attention to it.  It's not that I haven't had much to say recently, but more that I haven't had the desire nor the time to say it.  At least, not here.  And the time excuse is fickle.  I could certainly find the time, I'm sure, just like I find the time to do the things that I want to do.  I find the time to read every night before I go to bed.  I find the time to play video games even though I'm an adult with a demanding job and responsibilities to take care of at home.  So, it's definitely about 80% desire and 20% time.  Though, more accurately, it's probably 82.62% to 17.38%.  Plus or minus 3%.

That changed a few days ago.  Obviously.  Else I wouldn't be sitting here writing something right now, would I?  The inspiration first came from another blogger -- Tim Buckley, the artist for CTRL+ALT+DEL.  If you have never read his webcomics, I suggest that you do.  This is especially true if you enjoy the types of things that I discuss most often -- that being pop culture and video games.  That is also his specialty, and he does a much better job at it than I do since he can draw.  There's one pretty notable difference between him and I, however:  I'm openly saying he's a better source of what I'm good at talking about, and I really don't give a fuck if you go read his shit instead of mine.

In any case, he recently ended his comic.  Or rather, he ended the current incarnation of it.  He has plans for starting over in a different way, and watching it happen and reading his thoughts about it sort of ignited the spark in me to contribute to my own blog again.  Now the desire to do so has risen above the threshold necessary and voila.  You have a blog post.

The other nudge in this direction happened last night, actually, as I was watching Sherlock with John.  (I would be talking about the BBC television show.  Not the movies with Robert Downey Jr.  Which are also very good.  And not the Americanized version of the show called Elementary.  I haven't seen that and I really don't think I want to.) We re-watched the very first episode, since it's been quite some time since we'd seen it.  (It was last Christmas in England when we saw it last, if I'm not mistaken.)  The scenes regarding both Sherlock and Dr. Watson keeping a blog further inspired me to contribute to my own.

So now that we've got my reasons for being back here out of the way, I suppose the most pressing question at hand is whether or not it will become a regular thing as before and not something that happens every two to three weeks or so.  The answer is a vague hopefully.  While it's true that my desire to write had waned there for a bit, it never went away completely.  I still enjoy doing it, and like in the Sherlock series it's a little bit of self-therapy for me.  As it would be for anyone.  It's always good to talk through your problems, even if it's just to yourself.  Though, admittedly (and thankfully) I tend to keep my problems out of this blog.  Because that just wouldn't be interesting at all.  If you want to hear a bunch of people whining about life, go to Facebook.

Now that I'm here, I may as well call attention to the elephant in the room, and the reason why I haven't had the desire to post as much as usual.  Given how completely I am ingrained within the gaming community, I sometimes forget that everything I know isn't necessarily common knowledge.  The desire to write about something is sort of suffocated when you have the feeling that you're not really saying anything that people don't already know.  That's sort of the feeling I've been having lately.

But, I just need to realize it's not always going to be like that, and just talk about whatever the hell it is I feel like talking about.  Pretty simple, really.  So you can expect that, as always.  

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Now that the election is over, I would like to have a bit of optimism that the American government is actually going to make some progress in many of the pressing issues that are currently at hand.  These issues include, but are certainly not limited to, the approaching fiscal cliff, the economy in general, immigration, education, human rights, and the environment.  I think it would be a wonderful thing if the first thing that congress did after this election was sit down, and quickly and efficiently write up a good solution to the fiscal cliff problem before the end of the year.  Do I think it could be that easy?  Sure it could.  Do I think it will be that easy?  Sadly, no.  Despite all the inspirational speeches, and despite both parties stating that they know the people don't want bickering politics but instead just want to get things done...despite all of that, I know that there's going to be bickering, there's going to be fighting, and once again either nothing is going to get done or it's going to take way too long for solutions to be implemented.  Welcome to American politics.

The reason for this, the PROBLEMS, are the extremes on both sides.  I don't want to sound biased, but then, when the hell have I cared about that?  In any case, it's no secret that I'm liberal, but I think I tend to either be center or left of center.  It's the extreme left and extreme right that I have a problem with.  Michael Moore, the documentary movie director, is a good example of extreme left.  And unfortunately, that's the only one I can think of.  The extreme right has a WHOLE ENTIRE POLITICAL PARTY to make fun of.  The Tea Party.  And I can list a whole bunch of right wing nutjobs who I wish would just disappear.  Sarah Palin.  Michele Bachmann.  The Westboro Baptist church.  Victoria Jackson.    Donald Trump.

If you think I'm kidding about how derisive, and DIVISIVE, these people are, just go look at Donald Trump's tweets from election night.  You will be amazed, and probably quite saddened.  What gets to me (And I use that term loosely, mind you.  Nothing Donald Trump does actually "gets to me", because he's nothing more than just a rather loud blowhard.) isn't just that he believes that all left leaning politicians will ruin this country, nor is it about how he called for a revolution after Barack Obama won the presidency.  It's that he'll debase and degrade someone merely because they don't share his (extreme) political views.  An actor on the show Law & Order made a tweet saying he was happy about Obama's victory.  So, Trump tweeted that while Law & Order is a good show, they really need to get rid of that particular actor because he is terrible.

Really?  You're going to criticize someone's CAREER, which has nothing to do with politics, simply because they don't support your own political candidate?  You are THAT petty?

It makes me sad, really, that someone with that much wealth is so clearly miserable with their own existence.  I guess it's true what they say.  Money can't buy happiness.

Ugh.  Enough about that.  Politics gives me a condition.  (It makes me want to stab myself in the face.  Faaaaaaace.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Ah, election day.  I'll be heading to the polls after work.  I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of voting in a presidential election, because of where I live.  This area here is quite a conservative majority, and a vast number of people here are Republican.  So it feels really good to vote Democrat and buck their standards.  Ah, democracy.

For the last month, driving to and from work, all I see are pro-Romney signs.  So yeah -- voting today is going to be incredibly gratifying.  They can stick their propaganda up their well-pressed asses.  

Friday, November 02, 2012

Something strange happened this morning.  I was driving to work, humming along to The Shins, and I noticed something.  It wasn't raining.  I looked up, and lo and behold, I could see blue sky.  So let it be known that on the sixth day after Hurricane Sandy's arrival, the sun shined upon Western Pennsylvania.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Most Trick or Treating around here has been postponed until Saturday, but I'm keeping festive by reading articles about unique costumes and decorations.  Halloween was always something I preferred to observe rather than participate in, anyway.

Besides that, the election is more terrifying than any monster.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I have't floated away yet, nor felt the need to build an ark for that matter, in case you were curious about that.  Fortunately, I'm on the very fringes of this massive storm, and I'm only feeling the affects by the bit of water that's currently seeping into my basement where the wall meets the floor.  It's one of the risks of living underground.  One that I gladly accept for relative safety from a zombie and/or nuclear apocalypse.  And before you start going on about how a basement isn't sufficient protection against a nuclear apocalypse, your logic isn't needed here.  Go troll a gaming or political blog or something and rid me of your rubbish opinions.

It started raining here on Saturday, and it hasn't let up since, giving us now four solid days of steady precipitation.  It's not a downpour, otherwise there would most certainly be flooding around here.  It's basically switching between a steady drizzle and a light rain, enough to make everything wet, cold, and soggy to hell.  The wind picked up today, but so far I don't think it's gotten up to the point they were predicting for my area, which was 30 MPH.  It feels more like 15 at the most, I think.  I had to stop and get gas for my car this morning, so I was standing out in the wind for a few minutes at the pump.  It didn't feel all that strong to me.  I just checked it online, and it's showing 14 MPH.  Damn, I'm pretty good.  They are still predicting the winds will get up to 32 MPH today, however, so it might be a lot different the next time I go outside.  Probably for my drive home.  Driving in wind is a joy.

I read this morning that 7 million people are without electricity.  Hearing that, and hearing that we're getting high winds doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  With the amount of devastation that has occurred on the East Coast, I certainly don't want to lose power due to a fallen tree or anything irritably minor like that.  If we do lose power, I'm quite certain that anyone qualified to fix it has been sent East.  It probably wouldn't get fixed for 7-10 days. 

The rain should stop here by Friday or Saturday.  It'll be nice to see the sun again.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How easy is it to write something that's scary?  That was the question I asked myself this morning as I was driving to work.  In the spirit of Halloween, let's find out!

A faint, electrical thrum sounded in the driveway as a shadow lurched against the wall.  The figure tripped the motion-sensitive light affixed to the wall near the garage door, which spread a crisp, yellow light upon the darkened pavement.  A few moments later, the light clicked back off, once again plunging the surrounding area into an inky darkness.  The scraping sound of several dry leaves rose up above the sighing of the brisk wind as the dead vegetation circled in place near an empty flower box.  All else was quiet in a gloom not even helped by moonlight, as the sky was covered by thick, grey clouds.

Inside his bedroom not far off from the garage, Seth opened his eyes.  He was only partially aware that he was awake.  It was so dark in the room that he wasn't even sure he had his eyes open.  He blinked a few times before sitting up in bed, his head craning to the left to peer at his alarm clock.  He only saw more darkness.  The power was out.

Cursing under his breath, he swept the covers off his body and slid out of bed, his bare feet hitting the soft carpet. Looking down, he was given the illusion of walking over an abyss, and the dark blue floor covering was invisible to him.  It was then he realized that there was actually SOME light filtering through his window, and he peered outside to see that one of the streetlamps near his neighbor's house was still shining.  Peering around at the few houses near him, he noticed that they all appeared to have power.  He frowned.

Navigating by memory and stubbing his toe at least twice, he made his way to his bedroom door and swung it open, walking through the small hallways towards the kitchen.  There was a flashlight in one of the drawers there, though he had no idea if he had any batteries for it.  Finding some was going to be a joy.  With his hands out in front of him like a blind man, which he very nearly was at this point with how dark it was in the house, he found the edge of the wall and stepped into the kitchen.  Here, the light was a little better as his kitchen faced his neighbor's house.  The streetlamp provided the faintest of illumination for him to at least make out the familiar shapes of his kitchen furnishings.

He stopped short as one shape did not look so familiar.

On the other side of the kitchen table between the sink and refrigerator, he saw a strange figure.  It looked like a person.  Seth blinked and rubbed his eyes, figuring he must be seeing things and blaming it on the fact that he'd just been woken up in the dead of night.  He looked again, and the figure moved.  It turned towards him.  And with the faintest amount of icy light coming through the window above the kitchen sink, Seth saw a white, distorted face now looking at him from across the room.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Since we've now established that Dishonored is quite good, I can now talk about the game without worrying about being critical.  The game has its faults as any game does, but they are easily over looked.  And to be honest, this game is such an under-appreciated genre  that I feel it demands my attention.  I also realize that the game is not for everyone, and that some people may be hesitant to try it out.  As such, perhaps my thoughts on the minute details will help sway them.  We'll see.  

The first thing I would like to discuss is the game world itself, to include it's immersion, art style, sound design, and how your character fits into the world.  This is the first thing that came to mind when I want to talk about the positives aspects of game, and this is because it's the most prevalent to me.  When I sit here and think about this game, I think about how wonderful, albeit dark and sinister, a world the devs have created.  Sinister is SUCH a good word to describe it.  I didn't want to use gritty, because that doesn't quite work.  I also didn't want to use the word steampunk, because although it very much has that element, it doesn't have that big of an impact on the story.  The steampunk technology is just there and it's part of the world, and it seems to BELONG there.  That in itself is a testament to how good of a job they've done in creating the world.



For a stealth game, it's very important that you feel as though you belong in the game world.  Otherwise, the illusion that you're sneaking around is broken, and thus the immersion fails.  Dishonored has accomplished the illusion very well from the way you hide bodies in the dark places of the world, to the way you hide out of sight and watch the people around you for opportunities to strike from the shadows.  And most importantly of all, the fact that you can choose from many different paths in order to reach the same goal.  "Gee, I wonder if I could get into his building from over there instead of from where I am now?"  The answer is most likely yes, along with about four or five other paths that you just haven't seen yet.

I think the best way to continue on would be to talk about the screenshots I've taken thus far.  They will help me remember what I want to talk about.



Given how the missions are summarized, I've decided I'm going to play the game as such:

1. Be as sneaky as possible, killing only when necessary or deemed the preferred method of elimination.

2. Always find all the runes and bones.

3. Do not worry about finding all the coins.

4. Choose powers and upgrades that make me sneakier.



I am surprised by the amount of supernatural elements within the game.  I honestly wasn't expecting that.  With a game so focused on sneaking around, realism is pivotal.  Magic can very easily break the immersion, making stealth seem moot or too easy.  Fortunately, the magic within this game is quite subtle and not overpowering.  It's just strong enough to give you a bit of an edge over the other people in the game, but it's not strong enough to make you unstoppable.  If magic existed in the real world, this is how I imagine it would look like.  Very subtle, and not even noticeable if you weren't seeing it directly.  It's the kind of thing where you would see someone on this impossible ledge, and without seeing how they got up there you were left to wonder "How is that even possible?"  It's that type of thing that the magic in this game allows.



The arsenal of gadgets in the game, conversely, did not surprise me.  In a steampunk world based on stealth, it was a given.  The loadouts do not disappoint, and everything is interesting and useful.  My weapon of choice tends to be the mini-crossbow with the sleep dart, and of course the heart so that I can find the runes and bones.  I'm constantly switching between gadgets and magic, and that's a good thing.  One should not be more useful than the other.  That would be boring.

Also, I freaking love this guy.  He's probably my favorite character in the game thus far.  He's got this quirkiness about him that's endearing.  He's basically the steampunk version of a nerd.  You can really feel his passion for his creations, and that he really loves what he does.  I actually feel really bad when I don't have coins to purchase an upgrade from him when I talk to him.  I love the way he talks to you when he's putting on your mask and adjusting it for the first time.  You get this feeling that you're learning from someone with experience that vastly dwarfs that of your own.  It's like the game is saying, "Okay, you are excellent at what you do, but this guy knows how to make you things that will let you be so much better."

And for the record, putting on your mask at the start of each mission is the greatest transition into a loading screen ever.



I love this haunting little tune, so it was pretty cool to find the lyrics to it within the game world.  You also hear people whistling it in game.  On a related note, I love the sharp violin sound that plays when you're spotted by someone.  That thing makes me jump every time.



Successfully hiding from people is very satisfying in the game.  You really feel like you're being sneaky, and it provides you with a great sense of accomplishment when you get through an area filled with people without being seen.  The AI reacts pretty much as you would expect.  There are not many cases where I have been spotted and felt that I should not have been.  Most of the time, I'm spotted when making a rather daring or risky move.  Or when I make a mistake and fall on top of someone.  Yes, that's happened.  I was trying to peer over the pipe to look down at someone, and I fell right off.  What was cool through is that my fall broke some planks, which then hit the guy and knocked him out.



I've got this view of someone quite a lot, given that I almost always opt to be non-lethal.  I don't mind that.  The "kills" tend to be more fabulous in how they look, with head rolling around and blood spraying everywhere and glorious yells of pain and surprise.  But given the OPTION to be non-lethal and have it be just as effective is quite the thing.



I love the menus.  They feel like they're created from concept art, or that they should exist in a comic book.  The slickness of them reminds me of Dragon Age 2, which had lovely menus as well.  OH NO.  I HAVE SAID SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT DA2.  BURN ME AT THE STAKE.


Mm, Sneak-O-Vision.  The fact that you can see WHERE they are looking is oh-so-very useful.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I have played Dishonored in the amount of three digits of minutes, and am fully prepared to present you with words placed in coherent sentences so that you may learn what I think.  I'm also prepared to do so while deftly spoiling nothing at all about the story.  You're welcome.  In case you've been living under a rock for the past six months or so, Dishonored is a stealth-based assassination game set in a steampunk-ish Victorian Era city.  That's all I need to tell you about the story.

Let's start with the thing that I always start with when I talk about a game:  How's it look?  The answer is great, and the only complaint I have about the graphics is that the human characters do not look very good.  Everything else is fantastic.  I do look forward to the day when human beings are rendered within a computer game in a way that is realistic, especially the FACES.  Until then, though, it's not too difficult to overlook such things.  If you're wondering what my problems are with them in this game, there are a few things:  Their bodies are disproportionate in a lot of cases, where their hands are too big, or their heads.  Their hair doesn't look like it's separate from the rest of them, and looks like wax.  And the lip-synching is bad.  Sometimes you can see their entire row of teeth through their face when they're talking.  But, I digress.  In my opinion, aside from LA Noire, no one has rendered a human correctly.  I'm picky.  Chances are, this isn't something you're going to really care about.

As you may or may not know, the lead artist on this game was the lead artist for Half-Life 2.  It shows. The levels very much feel like Half-Life 2 in ways that are subconscious.  It's a feeling you get.  A vibe.  It's in the overall structure, how the debris is scattered about, and how you can climb here and there in a similar manner.  The result is that I immediately feel at home in Dishonored's levels, and that's a very good thing indeed.

Most wonderfully, the controls are excellent and it's clear that the developers took the time to optimize them for the PC.  The mouse is oh-so-smooth, and that makes me very happy.  It's a shame that I'm actually inclined to comment on such simple things that should be a given when it comes to a game, and the fact that I am doing so suggest that far too many games actually botch this up.  It's true.  But thankfully, Dishonored is a wonderful experience when it comes to the controls.

But let's stop talking about these things and get down to the really important things, shall we?  After all, this is a game created by Arkane Studios and backed by Bethesda.  Rage may not have been what you thought it should have been, and it may have had a bumpy start in the graphics department until they patched it, but you have to admit that it was VERY smooth.  And of course Skyrim, also, is VERY smooth.  So perhaps in this particular case, the above commentary was unnecessary.  But you know what they say about making assumptions.

So how good is the stealth, exactly?  The answer is that it is very, very good.

It's all in the little things.  I'll give you two excellent examples of the little things this game does that improves upon the whole idea of sneaking around.  When I go into a bush, it actually feels like I'm in a bush.  As I'm crouched down, before I sneak into the bush I can tell that even while crouched I'm still just a little bit higher than said bush.  But when I go into the bush, my character crouches down EVEN FURTHER to make sure he's quite hidden within the leaves and branches.  Next, I was hiding along the side of a traincar.  To my surprise, the person I was sneaking up behind suddenly turned around and started doubling-back.  As soon as he would round the corner of the traincar, he would see me.  The area underneath the traincar was quite narrow -- I could tell that I wouldn't fit under it even crouched. But still, in a panic I dove for it.  And my character ducked down even lower and slid underneath it, and the guard walked by me without noticing me.  This is brilliance, simply stated.

And these are just the small things.  Some of the things that matter more include:  For once, in a stealth game, it doesn't seem like you get seen when you should not.  It's so easy to make things more difficult simply by making you fail by simply being seen, and increasing that difficulty further by making your easy to be seen.  Dishonored handles this differently, and it's all about choice.  There are several ways to approach any level, and the game even gives you your options the very first time you're faced with such decisions.  Would you like to sneak in from the rooftops?  Or perhaps you'd like to disable the defenses and walk right in the front door?  Or would you like to explore around and find a secret way in?  Hell, you could even possess a rat if you'd like!  So instead of punishing you for not completing a level the way it was intended, you instead are given many avenues of possibility and can choose whichever one you like best.  And if you make a mistake, it's not always fatal.  You can handle a few guards head-on if necessary, and the block-and-counter system is quite good.  It's just not as fun or satisfying as doing it the hard way, and THAT is what makes this game special.

Finally, just let me go on the record and say that I'm in love with the level design of this game.  RPS was absolutely correct when they said that you should definitely and utterly ignore your objectives.  Just don't even look at your goal marker.  Cover it with duct tape if you need to.  If you want to get the full enjoyment out of Dishonored, then follow this advice:  When you enter a level, simply start sneaking around and explore every nook and cranny.  Your primary objective is secondary.  Go do it after you've discovered everything else.

As you can see, I had quite a lot of say about a game that I've spent just a few hours playing thus far.  It's deep and engrossing, it's a style of gameplay that has been rare in recent years, and it's just downright enjoyable and fun.  It's stealth done right, even more right than it was done in Deus Ex.  As long as you go into the game expecting that, knowing what you'll be doing, and knowing that this isn't some run-of-the-mill action game, you're going to love it.  If you go into it and try to COD it, you're going to have a bad time.  

Monday, October 08, 2012

Borderlands 2 pissed me off tonight, so I picked up the Hearthfire DLC for Skyrim.  I needed something relaxing, and it seemed like just the thing.  I'm quite enjoying it, and I'll explain a few reasons why.  It may seem odd for a Skyrim player who plays it on the PC enjoying such a piece of DLC, since everything Hearthfire offers can be done better with the Steam Workshop.  The first reason is that I just never took the time to learn how to use the Steam Workshop nor the modification tools for Skyrim.  It's not my thing, plus I don't have that kind of time.  (I've got games to PLAY, man!)  The second is that fiddling around with the mod tools feels like I'm creating something of my own, and not doing something in the game.  That right there is exactly what draws people to the workshop -- John included.  Creativity, imagination, making something of your own.  I don't particularly need that.  I'd rather just do something in the game, something that has a set of tasks or a path to follow, however vague that path may be in an open world.  So therefore, yes, I quite enjoy what Hearthfire has to offer.

It's been a while since I've played Skyrim, and the first thing I did was utterly forget the controls and accidentally shoot a guard in the face with an arrow.  Oops.  Things went better after that.  After getting the breadcrumbs for the questline, I went and purchased my plot of land.  The first thing that I really liked was being able to create each singular item one at a time for the house, and look at everything in between steps to see how things progressed and were created.  It was really neat to start with a barren piece of land, and watch the foundation, floors, walls, and so on all start to be built and put into place.

I've spend at least an hour tinkering around with this DLC so far, and all I've managed to accomplish is the main house, a hall, and a library.  That's a very small portion of everything you can build, and I haven't even furnished any of it yet.  Except the library.  Naturally, I filled it with bookshelves.  That leads me to the few gripes that I have.  One, the cellar is a separate load screen.  Boo!  Second, you don't have any freedom where you place furniture and shelves, nor how many of what you can build.  It's preset.  Of course, if I wanted that total freedom, I could just use the modification tools, so I'm not going to gripe about that too much.

For the price, I'm getting my money's worth out of it.  For someone that likes working with the modification tools, I'd tell them to give this DLC a pass and not to bother.  But for someone like me who just wants a more "official" way of building a home, complete with new achievements, unlimited resources of clay and stone set next to your land, and new things to purchase from general goods vendors all over Skyrim, this is quite worth the investment.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

At the office, Erik has this thing he does when something comes into our "publishing request e-mail inbox".  Basically, this inbox is where customers send us work requests.  We all have access to it within our work e-mail.  Anytime the box lightly up, indicating a new message, Erik tends to say in a high pitched voice, "What's in the booooox?"

This is, of course, from the movie Seven, where at the end Brad Pitt's character asks Morgan Freeman the same question (several times).

Last night, I was playing Borderlands 2, and I picked up an optional quest.  It was an echo device of this bounty hunter who was off to kill some kind of monster named Henry.  The bounty hunter was recording the message for his mother, saying he had her mother's day present with him.  There are then lots of screams and sounds of ripping flesh as Henry apparently eats the man.  The quest was to go retrieve the mother's day present.  The quest text read, "WHAT'S IN THE BOOOOOOOOOOX?"

This is one of those rare cases where a pop culture movie reference is actually funnier to me than it should have been, given the fact that we use that phrase quite often at work.  I very much enjoyed it.

In other news, I fear that I'm becoming ill.  My throat doesn't feel quite right this morning, though it's quite subtle for the time being.  With the change in weather, I quite expect this to worsen as the day goes on, and probably form into a full fledged cold by tomorrow.  Hopefully it won't affect me too horribly.  I haven't had a cold in about two years now, surprisingly.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Borderlands 2

Borderlands was one of those sleeper hits when it came out.  It wasn't good enough to win many Editor's Choice awards, but it was a solid game that a lot of people played, including myself.  I think the game grew in popularity with the longer it was out.  It was a new IP, after all, and such things have trouble getting started in these tough economic times.  Happily, it worked out for Gearbox and now we have Borderlands 2.

I've logged about 10 hours into the game so far, and for the most part it's pretty much the same game as the original.  So, basically, if you loved the first one you'll love this one.  If you didn't, then don't bother.  There are some differences however.  A few of these, I think, actually hurt the game.

First off, the "Revolver" gun type has been eliminated.  In the first game, there was both Pistol and Revolver weapon types.  Pistols were the rapid fire but low damage type of handgun, while the revolvers were the slow firing but high damage type.  There are only pistols in Borderlands 2, and that makes me very sad indeed.  I enjoy the high damage and accuracy that revolvers provided, and in Borderlands 2 I have to satisfy that play-style by using a sniper rifle, instead.  It's not a big deal, but it was something that disappointed me.

Next, they added many, many, many more varieties of guns.  I feel this also hurts the game, because it seems like they were running out of ideas.  Some of them are annoying.  There are varieties of guns that have a crosshair that moves more erratically than a stripper at happy hour, which then settles down the more you fire the gun.  In the hands of a player like me who loves lining up that first shot and picking someone off quickly, that really sucks.  There are also shields that take away health in exchange for having a high capacity.  I hate trading stats in any game.  I will ignore any items that do it if possible, even if it's truly a better choice.  So again, this is my own choice and my own complaint, but I feel it's necessary to mention these things.

Fortunately, there are so many items in this game and so many varieties, it's very easy to ignore the ones that you don't like.  It's just a shame when you get a gun that has that perfect look to it, or has that perfect magazine size, but you hate using it because it has a feature that pisses you off.

But aside from these minor complaints that I have, I really don't have anything else bad to say about it.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

You never know where you'll end up on the Internet.  Sometimes, I google things at random, with the intent of just relieving a few minutes of boredom rather than for the purpose of finding information.  Such was the case this morning.  I was browsing Steam and looking at all the games that have come out in the past week or so, and also being surprised at just how many people are playing Torchlight 2 right this moment.  (Over 30,000 if you're curious.)  This led me to start thinking about what I would want to say about these new games when I get around to writing about them, which then led me into thinking that I should have some kind of catchphrase for those kinds of posts.  I tried it once before in the past, and made up some ridiculous acronym.  I used it once or twice, and that was about it.  So this morning, I googled the phrase "What I Think".  (It was an attempt to find something similar to RPS' "Wot I Think" posts.)

I didn't really find anything clever, but one of the first results that I got back was a link to a blog entitled "What I Think".  It was just some random guy's blog, and he hasn't made a new post in almost a full year now.  I read a couple of the posts, and it surprised me how easily I could read them.  When it comes to reading, I often think that I'm rather bad at it.  I don't mean that I have trouble reading or anything like that, but rather that I have difficulties getting myself interested in what I'm reading.  I have a hard time sticking with a book if it doesn't grab my interest very quickly, and often times I feel that's a really big shame.  I'm sure there are books that I've tried to read that would have probably ended up being fantastic, but I was just unable to read through them enough to find out.

But back on topic, I was surprised that I was able to read the entire first long post on this blog, especially considering it became apparent that the author was religious.  Usually when someone starts talking about how they're praying or whatever, I'm moving on to read something else faster than light. In this case, however, I kept going.  The blog post about about the author's uncle, who had been diagnosed with cancer.  So on top of the fact that the post was lined with religion, it was also a depressing story.  As I read it, the style and tone of it reminded me very much of myself, and that's why I think I was able to continue reading it so easily.

And this fact got me thinking.  It was apparent that this author didn't have many people who read his blog.  In one post, he mentioned he had 2-3 readers.  It got me wondering how interesting or easy-to-read other people find my blog posts.  For me, I never really think about it on those terms.  I have a desire to write, and so I write words here.  I enjoy looking at a blank page and then filling it up with words.  I really never consider if what I'm writing would be enjoyed by other people.  It seems to me that this other blogger didn't really care about that either.  Interestingly enough, I think that's one of the reasons why I found his posts so approachable and readable.  News articles, professional reviews, and other such writings on the Internet tend to be stuffy to read.  Sometimes even boring.  And that, I think, is a result of trying to appeal to too many people at once.  I'm sure a lot of that kind of thing is taught in professional writing courses, which I've never had.  I'm sure my posts are littered with grammatical inaccuracies.

On a related note, I sometimes feel that I try too hard to have a solid topic to discuss when I come here.  That sometimes is counter-productive to the whole purpose of the blog, which is to simply provide myself with a medium for which to mindlessly ramble.  This post, thankfully, is a lovely example of rambling.  

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Holy smokes.  The last post I wrote for this blog was on October 18, 2017.  Through the little more than  two years since, this blog has be...