Monday, September 17, 2012

The Right Kind of Attitude.

With the release of Borderlands 2, Gearbox has proclaimed my heart and soul as their own. That is about as far as this article will get into the awesome series known as Borderlands, though. The reason this article exists is not only because they know how to treat a game; they know how to treat their fans. Don't believe me? Let's take a look.

On Sunday, 2K and Gearbox held their Gearbox Community Day 2012, and it was all about Borderlands 2. had a live broadcast of the event at this link, and even though all the details may be old news, it still might be worth watching. The whole thing was a blast to watch, even a couple days late, but there was one thing in particular I urge you to watch. As someone who is an aspiring Game Designer/Developer, Developer Panels are nothing short of a godsend. You get to hear straight from the people who make the products that people like me live by. This was different, though.

Gearbox is probably know for their Commander-in-Chief Randy Pitchford just as much as they are known for their games, and that is not a bad thing. In recent years, his presence has been felt more and more in the community, with the release of the original Borderlands, Duke Nukem Forever, and so forth. Borderlands 2 has brought out a giddy and excited side of Randy that people may not be familiar with, but we certainly welcome it with open arms. He is always so eager to talk about this game, and even more so excited to give out small previews and hints at stuff the company hasn't talked about before. So when he gets asked a question, you want to listen, as everyone in the room at the panel did when they opened up for Q&A. The first question, and it's heartfelt response, are something I will never forget.

If you aren't aware of Gearbox's love for their community, I believe a small back story is required. Clap-Trap, arguably the craziest and most memorable characters in the Borderlands series, has been known to be found celebrating the new life of Ben and Tora, or celebrating the life of a lost community member, Michael John Mamaril. Both occasions show how the game has touched all of their fans, and how Gearbox lives for their community. If you haven't seen these videos, I urge you to watch them before watching the Q&A section of the panel.

Starting at the 2:46:40 mark, things get emotional. A fan asks the panel why do they bother with all their fans, because it's not something common for game companies. Randy takes over, and you can feel the happiness in pain as he replies. I'll give you a couple minutes to watch.
Done? How often do you hear that? Never, really, and I applaud and respect Gearbox for taking the industry in the right direction, even if not many developers have followed suit. Going back to the answer Randy gave, you can see how his voice and the look on his face looks like he is about to breakdown. We need more developers like this. This is what it is all about.

In the time leading u to the release for Borderlands2, I urge you to read this so that when you play the game, you can understand the heart and soul that these people pour into the game. Do it.

Leave your comments, concerns, and suggestions for future topics in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading, stay tuned, and stay sweet! :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Thoughts On - Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

The original Counter-Strike, which started out as a mod for the original Half-Life, is a game that is synonymous with PC gaming itself.; It is regarded by many to be the most popular PC action title ever. The main addictive formula has changed very little over its 12 year life span, and really, that's not a bad thing. The game revolves around a series of intensely competitive rounds, which pits a pits a team of terrorists (T) against a team of counter-terrorists (CT), where each round is won by either completing an objective, or eliminating the opposing team. You are given a monetary reward with a win, loss (obviously significantly less), kill, or completing an objective, which you can then use to purchase new guns and equipment (such as grenades, a taser, or body armor) to use in the next round. 

The series has seen a couple different entries, such as Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Source, and the most recent addition, Global Offensive. Both the original Counter-Strike (or CS for short) and CS: Source (CS:S) have gained a religious-like following, and have both become a staple game in the competitive game scene. Global Offensive (GO for short) was the first major update/overhaul of the game since CS:S in 2004, boasting high resolution graphics, updated gameplay, more guns and equipment, and much more. Valve stated that they wanted to bring both followings together in one game, and they hoped that GO would be that game, but whether or not that worked for them is yet to be seen.

A comparison between an original CS map and the remake in CS:GO.
I myself, I guess, would be considered a CS:S migrant, even though I've only been playing CS for the past 2 or so years. Feelings have been mixed from what I can tell, and it might just be the fact that I'm relatively new to the series, but I feel like Valve took a step in the right direction with GO. If you have played Left 4 Dead, you've kind of gotten a feel for what CS:GO is like. The graphics look great, the models and animations are smooth, the gameplay is tight, and it is overall a great experience...unless you suck, like me. Jokes aside, it is still a fun experience, but this is not a game for someone who is new to shooters. Like any CS game, you've got the Alpha dogs running and gunning, executing ridiculous headshots and other kills, which can be frustrating. If you rage easily, this may not be the game for you.

There are some new additions to CS:GO, but if you aren't familiar with CS, I might as well do an overview. You are given 4 different game modes; Arms Race, Demolition, Casual Classic, and Competitive Classic. There are also to main missions players will experience in Casual and Competitive; Bomb Defusal (think Search and Destroy for Call of Duty) and Hostage Rescue. For the experienced CS players, the first two modes are spin-offs of the popular mod Gun Game, which rewards you with a different gun for each kill, either immediately (in Arms Race) or at the beginning of the next round (Demolition). Arms Race is pretty much a Team Deathmatch game with a Free For All vibe. What I mean is that even though you are split into the two teams, each player gets their own score for each kill, and whoever gets a knife kill (which is the last weapon you receive) wins the game for their team. Demolition is a bomb defusal game, where the T team are to plant a bomb at a bomb site, and it is the CT's job to stop them. Each time you get a kill, you are reward with a new gun or piece of equipment at the start of the next round. The rounds in Demolition or extremely short due to the smaller map sizes.

Molotovs Cocktail. One of the new, and fun, additions to the series.

Casual and Competitive Classic is where the meat of the game lies, though. Both game modes revolve around either hostage rescue or bomb defusal missions. In a hostage situation, the CTs must find the T's hostages and bring them back to safety. That, or kill the opposing team, whichever comes first (the same can be said for the bomb defusal missions). At the beginning of each round, you are given the opportunity to purchase weapons and equipment. In Casual, you are already given body armor and, if you are a CT, a bomb defusal kit (which speeds up the defusing process), unlike Competitive, where you must buy them yourself. The difference between the two, at least from what I can tell, is describe perfectly by their names. Casual is where you can find people trying out new weapons, strategies, and just having a decent time playing. Competitive is where the big dogs hang, so I wouldn't suggest trying that mode unless you are very confident in your skills.

CS:GO also brings in two new options for players who are new to the series; a Weapons Course tutorial, and AI Bots. The Weapons Course gives players an all-around idea of what they will experience in the game, so it's a must for new players. AI Bots are always welcome in First-person shooters, in my opinion, so it is nice to see them in CS:GO. After you finished your Weapons Course training, I suggest you play a couple rounds offline with AI Bots to get a better feel of the game, and what to kind of expect from actual players. Hell, I still play against bots every once in awhile just to feel better about myself. Bots will also show up in actual online games if there aren't enough people in the server to play.

Resting on the job?! This guy must be new here...
Now that you've gotten a good idea of what to expect in CS:GO, would I recommend it? Well, of course I would, but only if I'm not liable for anything you break while raging. It's a great reason to get back into CS, with great graphics, tightened controls, new weapons and more, there isn't a reason not to try this. I guess if I had to give some cons on the game, it would have to be mostly for the lack in maps for Arms Race, but the game more than makes up for it with all the other game types. I also feel like where I think and see my bullets go is not actually where they end up going. I've released whole clips of ammo into an enemy, only to be killed and to realize I did almost nothing to his health. Maybe I just suck that bad though. None of these cons are worth putting CS:GO down, and as always with Valve, the game will be continuously updated to fix bugs and issues. I've put 12 hours into the game as of this post, and I expect to put many more into it. If you are on the edge of buying it, I see no reason not to.

Leave your comments, concerns, and suggestions for future topics in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading, stay tuned, and stay sweet! :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Achievements vs. Trophies: A Personal Story

An unfortunate side affect of having the three main consoles we do, is that everyone chooses a side. That alone doesn't cause any harm though; it's when people try to say that their console is the best, and the rest suck. I will be the first to tell you that I have been on all four sides of this Console War, and by that I mean the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, and the side that watches everyone else in disbelief at how stupid the bickering really is. I assure you that I will cover this in great detail sooner or later (I'm sure it will be easy to guess which series it would fall under), but today I want to talk about one of the stupidest arguments out there, and which side I chose.

My first current generation console was a Nintendo Wii. Yes, I know, but please refrain from leaving comments about what you might think was a bad decision. This was the first new console I had ever really owned; everything up to that point had been hand-me-downs from my older brother. I was so excited at the prospect of owning a Wii, and I was damn sure that everything sucked in comparison. I tell you this, not to give you an aspect of the Console War as a whole, but to give you a reference to where I was coming from once I had actually purchased both an Xbox 360 and PS3. I loved playing games on the Wii, and that was all I needed.
Nintendo added something like Achievements later...I think...sorry Nintendo.
Then I bought a 360, after spending a summer break at my cousin's house playing Halo 3 to death, and being shown Call of Duty 4 for the first time at a friends house. Those were the first two games I bought back on that fateful day in 2008, and boy was I blown away. I was getting new-fangled "Achievements" left and right,  and building up my puny gamerscore was all that mattered. CoD4 was the first, and one of the few, games I completed 100% (don't judge me). I loved getting that notification, that satisfaction knowing that someone was kind enough to program a response to me doing something I would normally take for granted, albeit most were for just completing a level. Once again, I was happy with playing my games on the 360, and I was damn sure everything else sucked. Until my birthday, 2011.

No caption needed.
I decided that, after seeing the new slim PS3, and the slew of new and awesome looking games on the system, I wanted to treat myself for being one year older. I bought the Killzone 3 PS3 combo for a nice deal, and I loved it. I had bought so many games that I had missed in the past; Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid 4, God of War, Killzone, Resistance, and the list goes on. I was aware of trophies by this point, but it wasn't the same. I guess that, since Sony had put less of a focus on the trophies as a part your online personality (at least it felt that way to me), I had more time to focus just on the games I was actually playing, which is something I feel like a lot of people miss. It made me look back at Achievements, and even though I still love them to death, it seemed like it had become an addiction for some people, who are lovingly referred to as "Achievement Whores".

They've got a nice shine to them, at least.
Trophies, for me, didn't have the same zing, but by that point, I had realized that none of it really mattered. A game shouldn't come down to silly online medals or points. Did you have fun playing it? Yes? Well that's awesome, and that should be the only thing that matters. Speaking of medals, if I was a billionaire, I would personally hand deliver medals that stated "I'm a fucking loser. Go Me!" to any of those fanboys whoever uttered anything along the lines of "Yo PS3 is dum as shit and Wii 2 Xbox all the way COD!!!" You know you've seen these comments and wanted to strangle them, too.

In the end, if the amount of Trophies or Achievements you have is all you are worried about, you are completely missing the point in my book.  Games are about having fun and enjoying the experience, not mass hoarding a bunch of non-existent points or pictures. But hey, maybe my book doesn't matter to you, but you are the one reading this.

Leave your comments, concerns, and suggestions for future topics in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading, stay tuned, and stay sweet! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stepping Into The Game: The Oculus Rift

We are living in the future, ladies and gentlemen. It's getting harder and harder to look at futuristic movies and say "Ah, that will never happen." Think about it, our phones are ridiculously more powerful than computers were years ago, and also ridiculously smaller. Touch screens and 3D TVs have taken over, and as an industry which revolves around technology, gaming has felt the impact. Kinect, Move, and Wii-Motes are all results of an industry looking for new ways to interact. Virtual reality, though, is something we all strive for, but has yet to be accomplished.  Well, I'm here to tell you that, if all the chatter is true, we are on the verge of a game changing product (pardon the pun).

If you are truly interested in the forefront of gaming tech and theory, the name John Carmack is one you should know. This man is literally a genius beyond this can thrive by being consumer funded. Virtual reality (or VR for short), for those of you who aren't tech savvy, is a technology that allows us to perceive an environment as if it were a 3D world, with the help of a nice headset. There are plenty of headsets on the market, but they are either ridiculously expensive (up in comprehension of mere mortals like myself, so if he gets behind a project, there is a reason. In comes the Oculus Rift, the newest Virtual Reality headset. The Kickstarter, which can be found here, is a good reminder of how amazing projects like the $10k range), or they just can't give VR the attention to detail it deserves.

For those of us who have been keeping our eyes out in the gaming scene, you may remember a lot of buzz around Mr. Carmack and a makeshift VR headset not too long ago. The video above shows Carmack and a reporter fiddling with what seems to be a pair of skiing goggles with some stuff duct tapped unto it. People had nothing but good things to say after they tried it though. I guess I should mention that the reason Carmack is involved in this is because the one game that is going to be Rift ready at launch is Doom 3: BFG edition.

I'm excited to see where this technology goes. The SDK that is included, if you pledge a certain amount of money to the Kickstarter mentioned above, is supposed to be easy to get into, with "well-documented  code, samples and tutorials", and they say they are working on an out-of-the-box integration with engines like Unreal and Unity. The fact you are going to look down-right stupid while wearing it won't be a problem for you, because I'm sure you will be too immersed to care.

Leave your comments, concerns, and suggestions for future topics in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading, stay tuned, and stay sweet! :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Death of Video Games: Part II - Competition and Community

So, with the next installment of my "The Death of Video Games" posts, I wanted to touch on something that isn't necessarily part of a video game, but something that is way to important to leave out. I'm not saying communities suck, so just read on and listen to my thoughts; you may see something in a new light.

Community: Noun
  1. A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
The above definition is brought to you by, and it paints a portrait of a group of people who are together for whatever reason, sharing goals, ideals, and history with one another. While the word community itself is one that we usually look at with great pride, in both gaming and reality, there are communities that we tend to want to stay away from. In the gaming world, communities pop up around games after they had been released, and are really only prevalent in games that support online interactivity, although it could be argued that single-player games, too, have communities that consist of fans and haters alike. No matter which way you look at it, communities have powers beyond comparison, which can be good or bad. Not to mention how the competitive nature of online multiplayer forces you to interact with all different types of people, and I can guarantee you will not get along with a lot of them. This, in turn, will affect you overall feel for the game. If you've ever had played League of Legends or Call of Duty.

"If you play with trolls, you're gunna have a bad time."
Now, I've played a decent amount of both games, and I'm not here to tell you whether they are good or not. I will tell you, though, that a game like LoL is not an easy game to get into at all, especially if you have no prior experience with such an odd style of game. You can read all the tutorials and watch all the videos you want, but once you are playing, shit gets real, and with my experience, a good amount of people don't really care if you have played for 1 hour or 1 year; they will not let off on how bad you may be doing. That, coupled with the steep learning curve, is not something I look forward to in a game. I guess my argument only holds a certain amount of weight, considering LoL just passed WoW as the most played online game.  I'm not saying I don't understand their frustration; I know I've gotten really angry when my team as a whole is lacking, but I've never been as vocal as some people.

I don't know what makes us torture ourselves like this.
CoD has the same problem, for sure. I played the shit out of CoD4, and I wasn't too shabby. Even back then, way before the second one came out, the players weren't always very friendly. It was more that they were all just a bunch of ignorant dill-holes, looking to have the highest killstreak. There is only so much fun you can have while everyone on their mics are calling everyone else very racist and vulgar names. One of the many reasons that the first thing I do in game is mute everyone. Now, I know this doesn't apply for everyone playing the game, and I don't mean to say that just because people are competitive, it's killing a game. All I wanted to point out is that by having this attitude while playing with people online, you are ruining the experience for others, and who really wants to play a game like that?

I've also played a lot of games where the community was actually pretty nice. The best example of this would have to be Team Fortress 2. Not that it isn't without its trolls and assholes. but I usually have a pretty good time communicating with everyone there. TF2 even has an option to become a tutor for new players. I don't know how it works since I've never tried, but just the thought that people might be willing to help people out is awesome. I think that if everyone could get together with an understanding that we are all here to enjoy this game, it wouldn't be so frustrating. An attitude like that could change the world, so pass along the good feelings, because karma will come full circle.

I know this was a shorter post than what I usually do, but It's just a quick thought. Please, don't troll; It's not as funny as you think it is. Leave your comments, concerns, and suggestions for future topics in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading, stay tuned, and stay sweet! :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Because People Still Think Graphics Mean Everything...

First, I want to apologize for not posting lately. I've been really busy, but I promise that more content will be coming soon. Now, on to the topic.

Think of every game that is slated to be released in the near future; they are all related. How, you might ask? Elementary, my dear readers; graphics. Each game looks better than the next, and that's amazing. It wasn't long ago that imagination played a big part in experiencing games, but now we are being hand fed senses like crazy. Epic score and photo realistic graphics, to name the big ones. I think these graphics are awesome, but  I don't believe they are our saviors from shitty games. If anything, games are now allowed to be shittier, due to the focus on photo realistic graphics. "Well, at least it looked good." Um, no. I'm a firm believer that graphics aren't everything, and I'm not afraid to tell you. In an interview with GamesIndustry, 2K Games boss Christoph Hartmann was quoted saying real-life graphics are necessary, and that "To dramatically change the industry to where we can insert a whole range of emotions, I feel it will only happen when we reach a point that games are photorealistic." The interview, which can be found here, delves into many other topics, but this one line caught my interest.

"You get 'em, kid."

I'll just state right now that I believe you can only find emotions in video games if they are there to begin with. Emotional stories are a very delicate product, that are hard to make, and even harder to make right. Many games made connections just fine, without these photorealistic graphics. Bastion, Braid, Journey, Final Fantasy VI, and VII, and Limbo, just to name a few that I have had experience with, and I can say that all of them have given me more story and emotions than many new AAA titles can't hold a candle to. That being said, there are also some great AAA games that deliver very awesome emotional moments. Red Dead Redemption, anyone? Bioshock, HL2: Episode 2, Metal Gear Solid 3 and 4's endings, Shadow of the Colossus, The Darkness, Prey; you get the point.

Native Americans have feelings too, you know.

That's not even to mention how generations of people thrived on things we now disregard as old and stupid. Stuff like table top games and text adventures, in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons and the like, where all you have are some figurines and your imagination. I can't say much about it myself (I've only played a couple hours of a DnD game), but they've obviously lasted this long for a reason. People invest everything into the characters, stories, and worlds that they have been a part of for who knows how long. They have a reason to care about the characters they play, and the people around them. If that doesn't take an emotional toll on you at some point, I don't know what will. The same goes for text adventures, in a time before graphics were actually possible. Many people hold these games in high regards by sending them through stories that required logic and imagination to travel a world created only by text; not too much unlike a book (you may have read one of those before, right?)

Ok, you need to try it before judging it.

Now, from the standpoint of the business of games, I understand where he is coming from. We've gotten to a point where we are striving to make games that replicate Hollywood blockbusters, and as unfortunate as that really is, we can't stop it. It's all about flashy visuals, realistic characters, blah-blah-blah. I'm not going to say he is wrong, because he isn't. It's his business to make games that depend on things such as photorealism. At the same time, though, he is wrong. You can't expect your emotional story limitations to be broken through just because we have better graphics. With that kind of thinking, I don't feel like we are advancing our craft as storytellers. Games have this awesome potential to be more than any book or movie could ever dream to be, but we are holding ourselves back by trying to be something else entirely, something that has already been done before.

I guess what I really wanted to get across in this post is that graphics aren't everything, so don't be fooled. Graphics aren't the enemy, though, but a product of our continuing search to be have greater...well anything, really. We just put graphics on this mantle and act like nothing matters, but they are only part of what makes a game. To understand that, is to understand another portion of what I believe makes a true gamer.

Leave your comments, concerns, and suggestions for future topics in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading, stay tuned, and stay sweet! :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Death of Video Games: Part 1 - DLC

As the title suggests, this is part one of a series that details some of the flaws in mainstream gaming today. As long as there will be flaws, there will be articles.

Today, I discuss Downloadable Content, or DLC for short. Unless you have been under a rock for this whole console generation, this should ring a bell, whether or not you've purchased some. The idea behind DLC is to give customers more game content, such as extra multiplayer maps, more campaigns, different costumes, etc. I've personally bought some DLC, I'm not going to lie. What's wrong with giving players another reason to play your game? Well, in theory, nothing; In practice however, things have gone awry.

DLC seems to have come from developers not having enough time to implement certain features and content in the game before it's release date. That's what we are told at least. The unfortunate part about DLC is that it's become commonplace. Go to any Gamestop, and watch the advertisements for new games. I guarantee you will see maybe one that doesn't include it. I remember a time where DLC wasn't necessary to enjoy a game for long periods of time. Now all they seem to do is wave pretty pictures in our face while the slide their hands into our wallets, and we keep letting them do it. Now, there a couple different types of DLC you should keep your eyes out for:
  1. On Disk 
  2. Retailer Exclusive 
  3. "Season Pass" 
On Disk DLC has got to be one of the hottest subjects at the moment, and there is a reason for it. If the name didn't give it away, On Disk DLC is not actual DLC, but is a "key" that is bought that will unlock content that can be found on the disk to begin with, it just isn't accessible. Why should we have to pay for content that was already on the disk we just purchased? Better yet, if the content was already finished, why not just implement it into the game? Capcom was a big offender in the On Disk DLC. For instance, with their release of Street Fighter X Tekken, 12 characters were locked on the console disk until the PSVita version came out months later. Capcom has stated they are re-evaluation their DLC policy, but we have to wait to see what they end up doing. Others have offended, but you get my point. It's dumb.

Capcom X Customers. FIGHT!

Retailer Exclusive DLC is an interesting marketing trick. Depending on where you buy your game, you will receive a different set of DLC whenever it is available, usually for free. I believe it was Batman: Arkham City that had a butt-load of exclusive content, such as; early access to the Robin DLC if you pre-order with Best Buy, or the "Sinestro Corps" costume that you could only get by purchasing the extended edition of The Green Lantern movie, to name a few. There is an upside to this, i guess you could call it. The "exclusive" DLC usually finds itself available to all users after a short period of time, but does that really make it any better?

He needs to pay for these suits somehow.

The last major player in the DLC pack is the "Season Pass". You can purchase on of these passes, and it will give you access to all DLC, present and future, for a certain time period (depending on how much DLC they plan to release. This one is odd, to me at least, because you are being told, upfront, that this much DLC will be released. Two examples of this are Uncharted 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Uncharted 3 offered all of its planned DLC at launch, for a discounted price, of course. CoD offers its DLC either individually, or with a yearly subscription.

"This ring will do nicely for all the extra work I put in."

It's not the DLC that I hate, really; It's how everything is marketed and sold. They know all too well they make more money off of this extra content, and sometimes it's like they aren't even trying to hide that fact. I didn't even mention the outrageous prices some publishes offer their content at. CoD: Modern Warfare 2 sold its DLC packs, which usually contained only 4 multiplayer maps (two of which were usually remakes of old maps) for $15, 1/4 of the original games price. 

It's really up to you on how you feel about DLC, but if you ask me, we shouldn't be treated like lambs being led to slaughter. It's hard to appreciate your product if you don't appreciate it either. 

I want apologize for the amount for times I wrote DLC (now at 26), and I hope you will forgive me. Leave your comments, concerns, and suggestions for future topics in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading, stay tuned, and stay sweet! :)

DLC (27 :D)