Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bioshock Infinite, Night Three!

So, since I found Elizabeth, it's been pretty much all about her.  And while a lot of the standard concepts of an NPC companion are here, a lot are enhanced greatly.  For example, you never have to worry about her in a fight.  She's invincible.  She also doesn't fight.  So therein are two annoyances of companions eliminated:  Worrying about failing a mission because they die, or getting pissed because they're killing everything before you.

And, when there's no fighting going on, Elizabeth is wandering around, exploring, finding things.  She's never underfoot and never getting in the way.  And oftentimes, she will point out things of interest.  Additionally, she'll find coins and toss them to you.  I love that interaction.  More surprisingly, during one fight scene she was actually finding weapons for me and tossing them my way while I took cover.  It was brilliant.

Aside from these things, I don't have much else to report that isn't spoilery.  The game is moving along at a good pace, and I'm never finding myself bored.  It's fun as hell.  I just want to keep going, keep exploring, keep finding more out about both of these characters.  It's really interesting to me to notice that Elizabeth has single-handedly transformed this game into something different.  The rest of it is all by the numbers for a shooter.  Or, I suppose, by the numbers for a Bioshock game.  Throwing her into the formula changed the dynamic, and all for the better.

I expect, as I progress further, that I'm going to have less and less to say until the very end.  The only things I haven't touched on deal with the story, and I won't do that here.  So, don't take my brevity to mean I have nothing good to say.  Take it to mean that I have nothing I -can- say, because otherwise I'd be spoiling major parts of the game.  For the simple question of, "Is the story good?", the answer is so far, a resounding yes.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bioshock Infinite, Night Two

I played tonight with but one goal in mind:  To get to Elizabeth.  I wanted to finally find her and see what all the fuss was about.  I didn't think I was going to make it -- I didn't want to stay up too late this evening and it seemed like I was on the run through the city forever.  (Though, I don't mean that to sound like it wasn't enjoyable, because it was.)  But at last, I found her.  So what did I think?  Well, let's get there first, shall we?

First things first.  It seems that last night I stopped right before the first boss.  So, I had that to deal with pretty much first thing.  It wasn't much, really, and quite easy.  But, as with any game worth its time to play, killing the boss yielded its power!  Which I now have.  It's fire.  And the ability to set people on fire.  The introductory animation to this vigor was so cool.  Have a look for yourself.

Pretty cool, eh?  What followed was a lot of running from the police through the streets, houses, rooftops, and even the sky itself.  It's pretty standard fare for a first-person shooter.  First you have your introduction where you get accustomed to your world and the movements within it, then you get your first weapon, and then what follows after that is your standard few hours of getting used to the combat.  The game usually throws in new abilities during this time, and BI is no exception.  I have a pistol and a machine gun, now, along with three vigors.

It was during this time that I began to notice a couple of strange things, gamewise.  First of all, remember when I said that the game isn't open world?  That may not have been entirely accurate.  There are at least some small open world elements to it, in that you do get optional side missions and you can return to just about any area at any time.  Within reason.  It very much reminds me of how Dead Space 3 handled things.  BI even has the little "follow the light" system that the Dead Space series has.  Press "N", and it appears on the ground briefly, pointing the way.  For the most part, it's executed well.  The only problem I had with it was that there are audio cues for your character strewn about in random places.  I found myself setting these off at inappropriate times.  So, for example, I was getting shot at by a whole group of police officers while Booker is nonchalantly saying, "Hm, I need to get to higher ground to reach that skyrail."  And then two seconds later, he's yelling at the antagonist.  It was a bit jarring, but this is a minor complaint.

Up until this point, what I've been liking most of all is how mysterious Columbia is.  This is both good and bad.  The good being that I'm frickin' loving it right now.  The bad being that once I know the mystery, that's going to make replaying the game a bit less enjoyable.  And that's a shame, because the game is so well done, so smooth, and so fun to play that it deserves multiple playthroughs.

Before meeting Elizabeth, my favorite part so far was my time spent maneuvering through a building that seemed to be the home to some kind of cult worshiping John Wilkes Booth.  The game takes place in 1912, which is 48 years after Booth murdered Abraham Lincoln.  Given the racist undertones of the denizens of Columbia that I briefly mentioned, and without spoiling any of the story, given what Lincoln accomplished during his presidency it's no surprise these people worship Booth.  There was also some pretty fucked up baby back bullshit going on there.  As you can see.

Now, I mentioned open world elements, didn't I?  So, if you are a veteran to such things, you may be wondering if there is a fast travel system.  Well, kind of.  All around the city are hooks attached to buildings, and also skyrails that wind around all the buildings.  Remember the hook I mentioned from the beginning of the game?  Oh, probably not, because my description of it was nothing more than "WHERE DID THAT MAN'S HEAD GO?!"  Yeah, well, that thing I used to decapitate the man looks like this:

It's magnetic, too.  So, when you jump towards a hook or a rail, it pulls you to it.  The hooks are used to get to higher buildings or to jump long gaps.  The rails you can ride, at very high speed, around the city.  It's quite the rush, really!

Now, this below shot shows a loot of good stuff.  If you look in the background, you can see a green aura around the two vending machines.  I used Possession on them.  When you use that vigor on a vending machine it gives you some free stuff.  Usually coins.  Using it on a turret is better though, because that makes it attack your enemies and ignore you.  You can also see my Murder of Crows in this shot.  The yellow bar at the top is my shield, red is obviously health, and the bottom left bar is Salts.  Salt is mana, pretty much.  You can have two vigors on your bar at once, and can switch between them at any time.  You can also hold down the vigor-switch key to pick ANY of your vigors at any time.  So you're not fully limited to just two.  You simply pick the two you want to be able to quickly use.  The rest are all still available to you, which I really like.

Okay.  Now with that out of the way, let's move on to Elizabeth, shall we?

I was surprised when I read that the game was delayed for an entire year solely because of her.  They wanted to make her character right, and I can certainly appreciate that.  Given this knowledge, and given the praise that I have seen critics give her, I was very much looking forward to this.

I wasn't disappointed.

A few very important things changed about Bioshock Infinite the moment I met her.  Up until this point, the game has been about me.  About MY character, Booker DeWitt.  I wanted to know who sent him, why he was there, why he was there, and how the antagonist knows so much about him.  I wanted to know his history. The meaning of his nightmares.  The source of that demonic sounding voice speaking to him.  After meeting Elizabeth, I still want to know these things, but they are now secondary.  Now, my focus is on HER.  It completely and irrevocably changed the dynamic of the game for me in the greatest of ways.

When it comes to companion characters in games, especially shooters, I rarely take them along willingly.  I send my companions in Skyrim and Fallout packing as soon as I can.  I don't like them, I don't want them, and they get in my fucking way.  Alyx in Half-Life 2 was probably the only exception to this rule.  Until now.  I'm going to be pissed if/when the game separates Booker and Elizabeth.  So the question is, what is BI doing correctly to make me feel this way?

First, she's not intrusive.  I'm not tripping over her, I don't have to move her out of the way to fit through a doorway, etc.  Second, she's fascinating.  She is a mystery in and of herself.  But I think most importantly is the fact that they have succeeded in giving her a personality.  Her voice acting is stellar.  But more than that, her facial animations are utterly amazing.  They are successfully portraying emotions with only her facial expressions.  She eyes me suspiciously when I won't give her a straight answer.  She rolls her eyes when I say something silly.  The corners of her mouth tilt up in a grin when she sees something she likes.  It's borderline uncanny.

I read somewhere that her design would actually be so close to human that it would have been creepy had the game been developed with a more realistic graphical style.  I can see their point.  It may have actually crossed the line into creepyville if the graphical style wasn't so whimsical.  But as it is now, it's perfect.  I can see the results of them putting the extra time into perfecting her.

I look forward to the day when developers have the tools they need to make EVERY character in a video game as alive and wonderful as Elizabeth.  It would take years, maybe even a decade or more, to do such a thing today.  But I think that BI has really moved the ball down the court in that regard with this character.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bioshock Infinite, In Progress!

I'm sitting here about to start playing my early birthday present from John, that amazing mon that he is, and I'm currently on step 3 of 4 in regards to the first-time launch process.  That is, about to play Bioshock Infinite.  I've been looking forward to this game for quite some time, but was actually balking at purchasing it due to the publisher deciding they were going to give Americans a huge middle finger and charge them a full $15 more for the game than the rest of the world.  Not only did John solve this dilemma by getting it for me as a present, he also got it in his home country of jolly 'ol England, meaning it was cheaper.  So he just wins in every regard.  As usual.  

This is going to be a review in progress as I go through the game.  I'm currently on the start screen and tabbed out to ensure the game doesn't explode when you do that.  It doesn't.  It also defaulted to my native resolution, so it's certainly off to a good start.  I will timestamp the rest of my entries below, so you'll basically be following right along with me.  And heeeeere we go.

9:12 PM:  Okay, so for starters the style of the game is really interesting.  I heard that they weren't going for a realistic look to the game, and that is true.  It feels very much like a fantasy, and I like it.  It's very cool.  The start of the game is very reminiscent of older first-person shooters like Half-Life 2, where you are basically just thrown into the game and not told anything.  I like that, obviously.  It has a checkpoint save system, though.  Boo!  But I'll survive.  Also, it alt-tabs like a frickin' pro!  Very well optimized and smooth in every regard so far.  Hey look, a lighthouse!  Also, the bible/religious references start almost immediately.

9:15 PM:  I wonder what this blood is from?  I got my first glimpse of how violent the game is going to be.  Image with held to avoid spoilers!  It's probably safe but I won't take the chance.

9:23 PM:  Suddenly, I'm in Columbia.  That was pretty frickin' awesome.  The music here is a bit creepy. It almost sounds like it's "Amazing Grace", but it's not.  Here's my first view of the city, from within my transportation.

9:36 PM:  So many bible references.  Holy hell.  (Pun intended.)  Note:  45 minutes in and I still don't have a weapon.  I love that.

9:43 PM:  I ate a hotdog and now I'm hungry.  BRB.  Yes, this is an in-game screenshot.

9:50 PM:  Okay, so seeing huge buildings moving around and sliding back and forth between each other is quite amazing and disorienting.  That's going to take some getting used to.  Also, MOST DESCRIPTIVE MANHOLE COVER EVER.  Below that, the one thing I love about Columbia is that everywhere you look, things just seem WRONG.  You see normal stuff like this, but it's WRONG!  WHAT IS WITH THAT HORSE?!

10:03 PM:  That...was a barbershop quartet that just floated by me.


10:20 PM:  The fair is a very clever way of the game introducing several things at once.  First, it lets you get accustomed to the shooting aspects of the game with the air rifle shooting gallery, before giving you a proper weapon.  Second, I'm -guessing- that I'm seeing at least one enemy that I'll be fighting later on, in the Freak Show.   And lastly, I got my first power.  THAT was weird.


10:53 PM:  Okay, so the story is starting to surprise me in a number of ways.  I'm quite shocked that I haven't heard about all the things I'm seeing, because they are, in my opinion, very controversial.  Either I did a really good job at avoiding spoilers going into this game, or everyone else is getting as floored as I am.  And I'm not just talking about violence here.  This game is touching upon topics that games usually avoid like the plague, such as sexism, racism, and religious fanaticism.  And, yes, the game is very violent, too.  Moreso than I even imagined.

I'm calling it quits for the evening, having played just a little over two hours.  So far, I'm immensely happy with the game.  One of the best things that I can say about it right now is that it doesn't feel rushed, and for this I have a double meaning.  First that the game is polished and it feels like they put all the love into it that they wanted to do.  But second, the game itself isn't rushing me.  I'm not being pushed from objective to objective.  It's not open world, either.  It's taking Half-Life 2's approach, where you have a clear path that you need to take, but you know, you don't have to go right for it right away.  Have a look around.  Take in the sights.  Explore.  Get rewarded for exploring.  That's the type of closed world game that I want.  And that's exactly what I got.  So kudos to them for getting that very important part of it correct.


Oh alright, just one more thing.  This isn't THAT much of a spoiler.  See that man below?  He's beating himself to death with his own baton because I made him.  It's a power.  A pretty fucked up power, I'll admit, but there you go.  Don't want to kill an enemy yourself?  No problem!  Just make them do it for you.  Choices.

Okay, so a lot of the stuff I encountered at the end of my evening of playing was pretty fucked up.  The game just opened up, so it will be interesting to see where things go from here.  We haven't even met Elizabeth yet.  I so cannot wait to see where this game takes me.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's always tricky to do any sort of writing while I'm also doing some reading, because I risk being overly influenced by the stuff I'm reading.  Drawing inspiration from existing material isn't necessarily a bad thing, however I tend to go a bit too far with it.  For example, I feel my story Kobel has a bit too much of Naruto's influence in it.  This doesn't surprise me, because the whole reason I started writing that story was to create something that had the feel of Naruto, but where things actually went the way I wanted them to go.  Most of Naruto's stories left me dissatisfied, either because they ended poorly, or didn't end at all.  For that story, it probably would have been wiser for me to go the fanfiction route.  Instead I created a whole new universe of characters and cultures.  I'm not really sure how well I pulled it off.

That is often the case with my writing.  I do it to fill a void; to make up for the weaknesses in stories I've already read.  It's a bit egotistical when you think about it, isn't it?

I'm keeping all this in mind as I whittle away at the current project I've been writing.  Part of the inspiration of the story is Stephen King's Dark Tower series, so I find it as no coincidence that I started reading "The Road to the Dark Tower" a few night ago.  I have to be careful.

That being said, I offer a link to the first chapter of this story below, if you are inclined to read it.  It is not contained on my FictionPress page, for two reasons:  One, I have grown tired of fighting with their publishing module and having to reformat everything each time I post text.  Two, after someone tried to scam me by pretending to be a "publisher" wanting to publish my work, I don't particularly feel inclined to post my things there.

Have a read if you'd like.  Depending on how satisfied I am with my future progress on the story as a whole, I may post more chapters here in the foreseeable future.  It's hard to say, really.  If you are so inclined to provide feedback, you can do so via e-mail.  I'd be happy to hear from you.

When it comes to a story, I've always liked Stephen King's method of getting an idea.  He always would ask, "What if X happened?"  I love the simplicity of that.  "What if a car came to life and murdered people?"  "What if a superflu wiped out America?"  "What if a clown in a stormdrain murdered children?"

That's what I did before I started writing this story.  Of course, I cannot tell you my "What if...?" question.  Not yet.  Spoilers.

Chapter One.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Final Dead Space 3 Thoughts

This was, overall, a good game.  A lot of the things that I thought I would have a problem with ended up being non-issues.  Such as:

The micro-transactions.  These were very transparent and easily avoidable.  I give the developer kudos  for their design on this.  If the publisher is going to demand that you put micro-transaction in your game, this is definitely the way to go about it.  

The "bare bones port".  Game ran fine, looked great, and controlled well.  No issues.  I don't think the developer understands how "bare" a console port can be.  (I'm looking at you, Dark Souls.)

The focus on action over horror.  If the game wasn't co-op, this probably would have been an issue for me.  But since I was able to play through it all with John, I really didn't care.  It was a fun game for the both of us, and that left the horror aspect as a moot point.

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean the game is perfect.  It's actually far from it, and I discovered a whole bunch of new issues that I wasn't expecting.  These I will now share with you, in case you were still on the fence when it comes to playing the game.

1. The game is repetitive when not playing it co-op.  I'll be honest with you that I haven't played the game solo.  But, it's easy to come to this conclusion.  Without having a partner through the whole thing, the game would be boring, repetitive, and quite lonely.  And without the larger focus on horror to distract you from that, you're left with a rather bland experience.  

2. Backtracking, ho!  There's a lot of backtracking, especially near the end.  Sometimes new monsters pop up in areas you've already cleared, sometimes they're empty.  But either way, backtracking is bad and it's boring.  There's way too much of it in Dead Space 3.  

3.  Accuracy?  We don't need to stinkin' accuracy.  You can craft weapons that are very powerful, to the point where you can just shoot a necromorph in the chest and it'll die.  This breaks tradition with the whole concept of Dead Space, where you surgically aim for the limbs to dismember them.  I didn't like it.  I enjoyed having to be accurate.  

4. DLC.  Okay, look, I'm not always against DLC.  I'll give you some examples of good DLC:  Skryim's Dawnguard and Dragonborn.  Borderlands 2's Booty, Wild Hunt, and Torgue packs.  Dishonored's upcoming DLC pack.  I like these DLC packs because they are more content for a game a love, but NOT part of the main story.  They are all stand-alone things.  DLC that is an add-on to the main story or even an extension of it is bad.  I don't want a game given to me piecemeal.  That ruins it.  Unfortunately, for a game like Dead Space 3, which is very linear, you can't really make a story based DLC for it unless you don't focus on the main character or make it a flashback or something.  And the DLC coming out for Dead Space 3 doesn't do that.  So, that's another strike against it.

So there you have it.  Use this information to your advantage so that you are a smart, well informed and responsible consumer.


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...