Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Quite honestly, I hate getting excited about a game.  The reason for this is because I do have a rather vivid and creative imagination, despite what might be apparent when talking to me, and therefore it makes it nearly impossible for my expectations for any game to be fully realized.  I don't blame game developers for this nonsense.  It's just the way things are.

For example, my expectations for Krater can be summed up basically as such: "A top-down, co-op Fallout ARPG."  That's hardly the case.

So when I read about all these games that are coming out in the near future from now until that dreaded holiday season, I find my inner-voice yelling at me, telling me to stop getting so damned excited.  I hate that voice.  Logic and reason are sometimes a pain in my ass, despite how much I rely on them.

How about I give you a few examples of some games that are coming out soon, and we'll see how things pan out in a couple of months.

The one largest in my mind's eye at this point in time is a little indie game called Endless Space.  It's coming out very soon.  July 4th soon, to be exact. a Wednesday.  Dafuq is that about?  In any case, there are a few reasons why I'm very interested in this game.  Mostly, it's because if it's done correctly, it will be "Civilization in Space".  That phrase alone makes this game have my nearly undivided attention.  The idea of having a game like Civ set in a galaxy full of explorable planets has a tremendous appeal for me, and I really, really, really hope this game is done properly.  I'm skeptical, because it's an indie game.  The funds to make it look fantastic might just not be there, and that would be a terrible shame.  But I will hope.

The other one that I just found out about today is the new Spider-Man game. This one has me HIGHLY skeptical, because games tied into their movies are always, ALWAYS horrible.  I saw footage of the game, and I learned a little bit about it.  I saw such good things.  It's open world.  It has randomized "events" like people getting mugged in the streets.  It looks good.  The combat looks like Arkham City.  WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO GET MY HOPES UP, YOU STUPID MOVIE TIE-IN?!


In any case, check back with me in half a year to find out if these games ended up dashing my hopes faster than a sawblade in Super Meat Boy.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

I don't like leaving a considerable amount of time in between my posts here.  Anything more than a week, I feel, is unacceptable.  That's been happening more often for a number of reasons, though.  The biggest is simply that the amount of time I have for such things is at an all time low.  Work has been a consistent and irritating thing lately, and demanding more and more of my already precious time.  There's nothing for it.  We're talking first world problems here.  What do you do when the alternative is unemployment and financial troubles?  You grin and bear it, of course.  This is me grinning.

The other and admittedly more minor reason for the sparseness of my posts here is simply the fact that I don't have much to say these days.  There are plenty of things I -could- talk about, of course.  But I've got a major case of CBA.

One of the things I've noticed is that more and more, it seems like my ideas, my opinions, whatever you want to call them, seem to be drifting further and further into the minority.  So I guess I'm starting to wonder why I should even care to share what I think at all.  I look at Diablo 3 and see a very good game, while the rest of the world hates it.  I look at Day Z and see a terrible mod, and the rest of the world won't stop talking about how great it is.  I feel like the senile old man in the coffee shop muttering about how things were better in his day.

I don't really care.  I'm still going to play my games that everyone hates, listen to my music that no one likes, enjoy my movies that people think are bad, and partake in my hobbies that people find boring.

Because I don't give a fuck what anyone thinks!

Friday, June 08, 2012

My Problem with Mods

An ongoing discussion that I've had with both myself and John is the topic of modifications to games.  Basically, I'd been at a loss for reasons to explain why I don't like mods.  It's a very odd opinion to have, because the ability to modify a game is a pretty central and important part of PC gaming.  It's probably the second most defining trait of the platform, and the second most important thing that makes PC gaming superior to console gaming.  (The first, naturally, is the ability to use the most state-of-the-art technology for far superior graphics and performance.)

I believe I have finally nailed down my distaste for mods.  And it happened today as I was reading an article about Day Z.

In a nutshell, the BIGGEST problem I have with mods when they change a game so completely that it becomes a totally different game.  And it's not that actual evolution that bothers me, but the problems that come with it.  Day Z is a perfect example, and as such, it's necessary that I explain just what Day Z is first before I delve into the problems that I have with it.

Day Z is a modification to ArmA II.  It is an open-world map infested with zombies.  You start a character on a beach, and there's no goal other than to scavenge for supplies in order to survive.  You can do this any number of ways, including killing other players.  It's what is called a "full modification", because it completely changes the original game.

That's the mod in a nutshell.  For the gameplay, here's what you need to know: When you start a character, you're on a beach with nothing.  It's up to you to explore and find what you need to survive.  The problem, of course, is that there are zombies around.  You need to avoid them until you have the means to kill them.  Additionally, there are bandits.  These are real players who simply go around killing everyone.  They can travel alone, or in groups.  That goes the same for you.  You can either go it alone, get your friends to play with you, or try to find other survivors in-game to stay with.

So now that you understand what this mod is, I'm going to tell you why I have a problem with it.  It's a simple case of wanting the support, polish, and generally good programming that comes from professionals.  That's where modding fails me.  I love that someone with a good idea can try and make it a reality through modding.  People who work for game developers are not the only people who can think up new, interesting, and most importantly GOOD ideas for games.  And while Day Z is a pretty amazing achievement for one person to accomplish as a side project, as a game it is a half-assed product at best.

That may seem harsh of me, right?  Allow me to explain to you why it's not.

For the last month, I've been listening to PC Gaming sites telling me how this mod is revolutionary.  How it provides an experience that hasn't been done in games before.  More interesting, however, is how people have been comparing it to actual games.  I've been listening to people talking about how it IS a game.  A stand-alone game.  And you know what?  Sure, it's a stand-alone game for the most part.  I've already said it's a full modification.  That basically says "New Game".  Hell, Counter-Strike started out that way.  Look where it is now.

The problem is, these same people who treat this mod as a stand-alone game and praise it for being so great and different then turn around and make light of the MAJOR problems the mod has by saying "Oh, it's only mod, so that's okay!"

No.  It is most certainly not okay.

You cannot treat a mod as a game without holding it to the standard of quality that you would expect from a game.  Sure, I understand that it's to be expected.  That's exactly why I have a problem with mods.  If you're going to tell me a game is really good, then for the love of Crom, that better be the case!  Telling me Day Z is really good with the issues that it currently has is a blatant lie. It's good...for a one man team.  And that is not good enough for me.

The bottom line is this:  When I play a game, I want it to work.  Simple, right?  If it doesn't work, I'm not going to play it, which is exactly the mentality I'm using for Day Z right now.  So, because it's been talked about so much recently, I think my irritation of constantly hearing about it is pretty warranted.  Release it as a game and I'll be on board with that.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Sometimes, all you can do is chuckle and move on with your day.  I haven't had the best of days, but I'm sitting here with a smile on my face regardless.  It really wasn't all that bad until I got a meeting invite at work for 4:30 PM.  This irritated me because, well, that's when I -leave- the office for the day.  My day is over at 4:30 PM.

The meeting was really short, but the consequences of it kept me at the office for another hour and a half.  The fact that I had to do work wasn't was irritated me, though, it was the question of why it had taken until the end of the day to give me this work.  And the answer of course is simple:  Everyone's in a fucking rush to get the software release out on time.  It amazes me, because QA isn't even my job.  Funny that.

Things went from bad to worse when I got home.  I walk through the door and my mother is crying excessively.  Apparently there was a bird in the house, which apparently is bad luck, which apparently meant that I was most certainly dead rather than working late.  I then had to temporarily fix the hole where the bird came in.  (It got in through the old fireplace.  Came down the chimney, I suppose.)

So that was my day, in a nutshell.  Brilliant, no?  But you know what's good about it?  Since I'm here telling you all about it, that means it's OVER.  

Monday, June 04, 2012

I had an incredibly horrific dream the other night.  My teeth were falling out.  And sadly, it wasn't just a case of them falling out.  Naturally, my brain had to go into the most visceral amount of detail that it possibly could.  The first tooth to go was my top left canine.  I reached up, wiggled it, and pulled it right out.  Blood began to gush.  The opposite top canine was next, but it broke off.  I distinctly remember digging the rest of it out with a fingernail.  I then remember pulling my cheek out a bit, and being able to see right down to my jawbone.  

Needless to say, I was quite happy to wake up.  

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Let It Grow, Let It Grow, Let It Grow!

First and foremost, I apologize for that title.  Depending on what kind of person you are, it was either a lame parody of a classic Christmas song or a very bad penis joke.

I spent a little bit of time outside this afternoon, and while I was out there I decided to take a few pictures of the current state of the garden.  It was a bit funny, too, because today is a partly cloudy day.  I was running around trying to snap pictures every time the sun would peek out from the clouds, so that the lighting would be correct.  

In any case, I took these pictures more for my own benefit because I enjoy looking back and seeing just how far things have come from the time I planted everything up to when things are in full bloom.  But I figured there's no harm in sharing the images.  Hopefully if I remember to do so, I'll take more shots in the summer when things should be at their height.  (Again, stop with the penis jokes.)

This first image is an interesting little flower that I found while purchasing my normal inventory of annuals.  I have no idea what it's called.  I simply refer to it as that orange daisy-like thing.


The purple flower in the next image are really cool because you can put them in direct sunlight without worrying about it affecting them negatively.  Impatiens like the shade (they'd grow amazingly well in England), and it's hard to find Petunias in purple.  So these things fill that void quite nicely.

Additionally, do you notice those light brown bits in the mulch?  Those are seedlings from the nearby maple trees.  I have probably yanked out a hundred maple tree saplings out of the garden so far this year.  I am pretty sure that I'm the only person standing between the maple trees and their full domination of the universe.


The flower on the right is a Marigold, and I'm pretty happy over the fact that it's blooming.  A week or so ago when we had the slug problem, that was their favorite treat.  They gorged themselves on every marigold I had.  But here it is a week later, and they're all blooming again (minus the slugs).  That goes to show how hardy they are.

This next image is an overview of the flowerbed between the garage and the porch.  The little plant in the bottom center is actually a blueberry bush that I planted just this year.  It's got little white flowers on it already, so I assume I can take that as a sign of it doing well.

The next shot is the flowerbed directly opposite the previous one.  The really tall things are Gladiolus.  They won't bloom until mid-summer.

This next shot is at the front of the house.  After I took this picture, I re-applied mulch all around that particular flower bed, so it looks even nicer now.  The sun was on an indefinite hiatus after I'd finished though, so I didn't bother taking another picture.

This next image is the flowerbed across from the bed in the picture two images back.  The strawberry bush is on the far corner, but you can't see it here.  It's not that interesting anyway, though it did flower this year.

And this is the vegetable garden.  Prominently in the front are the tomatoes and peppers.  In the back are beans and pumpkins.

This is a Lily.  Well, more specifically, it's a Summer Lily.  Blooming in Spring, mind you.  I love these things, so I put them everywhere.  No, really I did.  I must have planted a dozen of them this year.

Last but certainly not least, a large pot of Petunias.  Oh look, I found purple ones!

Maximum Payne

The original Max Payne came out in 2001, and it was something special.  I remember getting the game in the store.  A hard copy of it, of course.  It came in a DVD case, and it was one of the first games that I'd ever seen ship that way.  It was poetic justice, I think, given how much the game made you feel like you were playing a movie.  That was 11 years ago.

The reason why I knew this game was special was because of how often I replayed it.  Obviously I didn't play it for as many hours as, say, Fallout or Skyrim.  But then, it's not that type of game, now is it?  Fallout and Skyrim are designed to give you a HUGE, STAGGERING amount of content.  I've only started from the beginning in Skyrim twice.  For Fallout, I've started a new character maybe three times.  I've played through all of the original Max Payne at least a dozen times.  For a game that is exactly the same every time you play it, that is really saying something.  I've probably only replayed one game more than that, and that's Half-Life 2.

So what made this game so special?  Aside from the first point I've already mentioned, for me it's a bit hard to explain.  It's personal.  I guess the easiest way to describe it is to just say that the game catered to a style that for me is better than anything you could do with an action game.  In simplest terms?  I fucking love noir.  

Let's leave the past, shall we?  Max Payne 3 is out, and before release I was left staring at it with the same cynical attitude towards it that made Max Payne what he is.  Remedy is out of the picture this time as the developer, and it's been 11 years since that first game came out.  My hopes for a game that captured the same style were not quite nil but certainly within the category of slim.  But how could I not be excited all the same?  This is my genre.  I live on this stuff.

So just how good is Max Payne 3?  Well, tell me something, all you Max Payne fans:  Does this look familiar to you?


I'm four hours into the game, and I'm prepared to tell you a little bit about what I think.


Let's start with things that are the same.  First of all, my biggest fear was that the angsty, cynical, dripping-with-noir story and dialogue would either be missing completely or watered down to near non-existence.  That isn't the case, thank Crom.  It's all there, and Max's voice is the same actor from the first two games.  It's like homecoming.

Next, bullet time is back.  If you would like to know just how ingrained the first two games are in my soul, it took me forever to teach myself the shoot-dodge was the SPACEBAR, and not the right-mouse button like it was in those first two games.  I actually still have trouble with it sometimes.


Most importantly, the FEEL is the same.  You know what I mean by that.  The FEEL.  Picking up this game and playing it has a familiarity to me, and a really GOOD one.  It is truly like playing an updated version of an old favorite.  It's newer, it's got some things different about it, but it's the same kind of glorious fun.  So just what is new?  Let's have a look at that, shall we?


Obviously, the graphics are new.  DUH.  New and fantastic.  The environments are gorgeous, from dreary New Jersey to sunny Sao Paulo and the dingy slums that reside within.  Everything about this game looks pretty, and the amount of detail is mind blowing.  You can see the sweat running down Max's face.  You can see each individual bullet that you fire and the trajectory it's taking, especially if you have bullet time on or are doing a shoot-dodge at that particular moment.  Blood flies, sprays, and spurts from gaping gunshot wounds.  Debris flies everywhere when a grenade detonates near you.

The game mechanics have changed a bit in 11 years, unsurprisingly.  First, let's review the bad.  Quick saving is gone and replaced by checkpoint saves.  Not surprising.  To sum up my feelings about it:  Fuck a yeti.  The other bad thing is making weapon inventory realistic to what a normal person can carry.  Yes, I get it, people like realism.  Me?  I like to play a video game.  Let me carry as many fucking weapons as I want, and thank you very fucking much.

I will segue this off into a positive discussion about the inventory, however.  At first, I was really confused about how Max was carrying his weapons around.  One thing that I didn't really pay much attention to was the fact that Max can be seen carrying his machine gun in one hand when I have my pistol equipped.  Then, when I wanted to dual wield pistols, he would drop the machine gun, and I was confused beyond anything as to why this was happening.  Then, naturally, it hit me.

Max can't carry a machine gun if he's got a pistol in each hand.

It's so ridiculously simple, and so ridiculously REAL, that it never occurred to me at first.  The unrealistic nature of carrying things in video games is so embedded into my brain that the overly realistic nature of something as simple as carrying weapons had me utterly baffled.  I give the game kudos for doing it this way.


The next thing that surprised me about Max Payne 3 was how visceral it is compared to its predecessors.  It's quite obvious that Rockstar took over the development -- they've never been ones to pull punches when it comes to violence.  I've actually been reminded of Soldier of Fortune 2 a little bit when it comes to how realistic the violence is.  Blood doesn't just spray when you shoot someone.  It GUSHES.  It SPURTS.  It pools on the floor; it runs into niches and cracks.  The people you shoot reach for the wound and try to cover it up.  Their bodies convulse when you shoot them multiple times.  There are gaping holes in them where the bullets exit.  It's a gruesome display of realism that will have conservatives everywhere up in arms and renewing their battle on the industry.  It's GLORIOUS.


The gunfights are orchestrated to cinematic perfection, demanding split second decisions from the player and punishing them with a bullet to the head if they hesitate for too long.  You're diving around a setpiece of bullet hell to a driving soundtrack that has you leaning forward and bobbing your head to the beat.  They are also freaking exhausting!  The gunfights in this game are the longest I have ever played through.  My wrist is killing me from gripping my mouse in a mixture of exhilaration and utter terror of catching a bullet in the side of the head.

As for difficulty, I wouldn't say that I'm a great player of video games.  Not even a great player of shooters, which is my genre.  But this game is fucking hard!  I'm playing on medium difficulty, and I'm having to resist the temptation of wussing out and turning it down to easy.  Depending on where I get hit or, I suppose, just dumb luck, I get owned in one shot at random.  Sometimes I don't even see where the shot came from.  This makes the checkpoint save system all the more INFURIATING.  There have been a few times where I'd get my ass shot to death, and literally yell "I'M WAY THE FUCK BACK HERE?!" at my screen.

Just in case no one heard me yet:  QUICK SAVES.  INCLUDE THEM.


So what's the story all about anyway?

Well, it seems that Max has headed for the sunny and tropical Sao Paulo to sort of escape his dreary and depressing reality in America.  As usual, he ends up in over his head and sets out to figure out just what in batshit is going on. Story has always been a strong point in the Max Payne games.  They were good enough to warrant a movie being made out of the series, after all.  Please, let's not talk about the movie.

I wouldn't necessary call the story in Max Payne 3 brilliant, but it's good.  To me, it started out very slow.  It wasn't until the first flashback that really got me into it, because after that I understood things better.  I understood why Max was where he was, and I understood the people around him better.  This made me enjoy things more.  This added WEIGHT to the story.

What I find more interesting is the actual storytelling itself.  The graphic novel intermissions are gone, which I'm sort of sad about.  Instead, we're presented with real cut-scenes with a very unique style to them.  A sample, below.

What you get is one scene freezing into a still frame with the other half of your screen picking up the cut scene itself.  It's a really interesting way of presenting the story, and I really like it.  I'm a sucker for graphic novels, of course, so I do miss the original presentation that was in the first two games.  But this is very good stuff.

I have a few gripes, aside from what I've already mentioned.

There seems to be a bit of a bug with cut scenes.  They seem to make me switch weapons.  I'll go into a room wielding my machine gun, and I'll trigger a cut scene.  When the cut scene is over, I'm now wielding a pistol.  That's a bit rubbish.  I also had a sound glitch once -- I think I moved forward too quickly and Max talked over himself.  It was a one time thing and hasn't happened again yet.

Lastly...and this isn't really a bona-fide complaint...medium difficulty is HAAAAAARD!


One last thing for the gripe box, and this is a tip for all game developers everywhere:  If you are going to add hidden collectibles into your game, do NOT also make the levels contain any of the following:  1) NPCs who continuously tell you to hurry up.  2) Time limits on the level.  3) No breaks in the action for the entire level.

For the love of Sweet Zombie Jesus, please stop fucking that up!


That's all the gripes that I have.  I can think of some things that other people would complain about.  The biggest one will probably be the sheer amount of cut scenes, and the overall length of them.  You do spend a good amount of time just watching things.  One good thing, though, is that any time there's action in a cut scene, you get control of Max to perform the stunt yourself.  I found that to be really good.

Also, I just need to say again how impressive this game looks.  There are certain times in the cut scenes where I needed to blink because it looked so DAMNED close to being live action.  But maybe that's just my eyes starting to implode from going through so many slow motion gunfights.  Who's to say?

So what should you expect?

Fans of Max Payne will find a worthy addition to the series.  Max is a little older now, but he's still the Max we want.  And the Max we deserve.

Yeah.  Sorry about that.  Sometimes those cliched lines just sort of force their way into my posts.

Fans of action games will find an incredibly high octane experience.  You'll be treated to amazing stunts, like Max holding onto a chain and being lifted up into the air while slow-motion-shooting everyone in a room, or Max shooting four boats full of terrorists while his boat is crashing through the wall of a shack.  All the while, Max makes cynical, dry-humored wisecracks.  It's certainly ridiculous, occasionally over-the-top, and always, ALWAYS brilliant fun.  


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...