25 September 2012

87 Bazillion Guns to Kill a Bad Guy

The cast of Borderlands 2
I was going to write a post about Borderlands 2 the other day, and frankly I'm glad I didn't because it wasn't going to bode too excitingly.

But now that I've gotten further through, I've been shocked and surprised at the bad guy in the game.  BECAUSE HE'S A BAD GUY.

I won't say why, because I would rather let others find the surprise that I have, but anyone who has felt a little lack lustered by the story, or the excitement of the game at all, push on through.  By about Chapter 15, you'll be motivated to kill Jack.  Not because he's an egotistic asshole with delusions of being everyone's hero to look up to him, but because he's a Bad Guy.  A Real Bad Guy.

And that shocked me.  He attacks other characters on a personal level, and you can almost see the heart wrenching those characters go through, and even a new perspective on other characters suffering.

Granted, throughout the rest of the game Jack is contacting you and being very flippant about the things he says and does.  You can't take him seriously because he's excessively descriptive of what he wants to do to you, and I've never been able to take anyone seriously when they're like that.

But slowly as I got further and further through the game, it came to me that he actually would do those things that he says, no matter how graphic or ridiculous they are.

And that makes me excited to play the game more.

19 September 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Sega's Finest of the '90s
I was going through the Playstation Network the other night, just window shopping all the various games that I want, don't want, and simply can't afford, when I came across an odd entry: Wonder Boy In Monster Land.

Now I like Wonder Boy.  Especially the Monster Land versions, they are great fun.  I have played that game almost to it's death along with its sequel "The Dragons Trap".  I think I even got Mum to buy it on her Wii many moons ago just so I could play it again.

But when I saw it sitting in amongst the W-Z section of the PS3 Downloads, it hit me.  We still live in the 80's and 90's.

It's been over 2 decades since they released the Sega Master System.  Two Decades.  Video games have grown exponentially since then.  They no longer have cartridges or wired controllers with two buttons and a D-pad.  They aren't limited to 16 Colours and a resolution that's smaller than what my phone can produce.

Yet I can still pick up for $7.50 a game that I played as a child. (And didn't finish until I was in my 20's, on the same console no less)

Then I look at some of the other games I have.  They're fairly big games, like Crysis 2, Little Big Planet, Skylanders.  They're all fairly intricate games in their own rights, and are siginificantly prettier than a game like Wonder Boy.  Probably much better too, even though it doesn't have basic amenities that games have today, such as an Auto-save.  Mind you, the game could be completed in 20 minutes given a perfect run, so no need to worry about it.

It was then that I remembered a recend release, Penny Arcade Adventures: On the rain slice precipice of Darkness Episode 3.  This iteration of the game was released in an old 16-bit V-RPG format, a throwback to games like Final Fantasy, and a need to actually strategise when you enter a battle.

I was somewhat disappointed that the guys at Penny Arcade didn't make a competition with a prize of a remade Sega Mega Drive and a Cartridge with the game on it.  Maybe it's an idea for them in the future.  Like PAX Aus.  Though I suppose it doesn't stop others from porting it.

Anyone looking through digital distributors would find more and more games released in 16-bit formats.  And I can't help but look at it and think how ironic it is that even though we're at a point where a game can be as immense and intricate as your own city, yet there is still a place in the world for a world that could be drawn with Lego.

Does the world really need games like World of Warcraft when you could be playing a Final Fantasy MMO with a toon no more intricate than your desktop icons?

Well apparently not.  Introducing Minecraft.  While it incorporates the 3D sort of scale of a modern game environment, it has the graphical application of Pitfall.  Okay, I exagerrate a little, but it's only a little.  It's still not the most glamorous of games.  Yet it's still one of the most popular because of what you do in it.

What do you do?  Well you mine and you use various levels of cubes to create your very own personalised island of insanity in between mining for certain cubes and fending off monsters during the night.

While the game may sound as simple as the bitmap images for the cubes, it has brought forth many creative results.  So it's not all bad for those who are either determined, or have enough spare time to do these sorts of things.

So while there is a place in the world for high resolution and detailed scenery, it still makes you wonder how much worth blockbuster games will provide in the end.

16 September 2012

Board to Video Translations

Every Tuesday Night, I go to a Local Game Store (LGS) and play a board game of whatever sort crops up.

I also like to play Video games, and there have been a good history of board games translating over to Video games quite well. Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassone, Risk: Factions and even Blood Bowl are good examples. They all have their own special features but they can still be played as the Base Board Game, with the added feature of playing across the internet.

One game that I would like to see a translation of is Talisman. Talisman is a massive board game, with many different characters and encounters, and variants as well! While it's all well and good to play it on a clear table, with drinks and food afoot, the same can be said for those mentioned before.

The thing about Talisman is that one can't be happy with just a basic set. You wouldn't necessarily want to play the same game again and again, which is why Fantasy Flight Games creates expansions for it, to provide a refreshing and expanded experience.

So can the same be said about the Video Games above? I own a copy of Risk: factions and Catan on my Xbox, both of which are very entertaining for what they're worth. They provide a handful of options, for example Risk: Factions allows you to play with objectives, or just World Domination, ala base Risk.

There are more options to Risk than what are provided though. And one feature I would like to see in Risk Factions is a long term Campaign, ala: Risk Legacy. Why? Because it has gotten a bit stale playing the various unique levels over and over again, no matter how much we mix it up, and a proper campaign setting, where you can influence your future actions, rather than play a new game on a larger map with more players, up to a total of 5 games.

But is there anything in sight?  Only if you're playing on Facebook.  And I feel that's unfair.  I bought Risk: Factions on my Playstation thinking it'd be hours of fun.  But I was disappointed to find that it wasn't.  I've hardly played it in months simply because I've gotten over the novelty and the lack of expansion in it.  And the Facebook game is nothing more than a town building game that I can spend money on if I had a diarrhetic stream of cash if I wanted to get anywhere quickly, or just sit there waiting for my Marching Grounds to refresh so I can get more troops.

However I can always just play one of the variants of Board Game, from various video game licenses to even their own variations that include conquering the moon.  They're all interesting and change the same in their own ways.  And that's what I would like to see in Board Game Translations.  Expansions and Variation.

If I wanted to play Settlers of Catan, I could play with the River, or with Seafarers, or I could even jump off into the future with Starfarers of Catan.  But I don't see the Video game providing such a variance.

So it saddens me to see interesting games like these going unappreciated as they are.  I hope that one day, just one day, a developer will translate to a Video game and expand on it just as any other Board Game developer would.

14 September 2012

Crossing the Platform Barrier

I like to play games with my friends. However, there's always a problem with conflicting preferences. One likes Console X, while another prefers Desktop A, and another only has Console Y available. It's a difficult conflict when we all want to play the same game together, such as Borderlands 2 where two of my three friends follow the same situation.

So what's stopping Developers from crossing the Platform Barrier? Is it a compatibility issue with the programming? Is it business conflicts between the actual Platform Developers? Or is a big delivery of Wussy Pants to their front door and issued to all employees?

Insofar there is one game that can actually cross platforms, Portal 2 with the help of Steam, and it crosses the PC over with the Playstation 3. This was convenient for me and Scotty who wanted to play the Cooperation Mode.

What Problems did we have?
Voice Communication is a fairly important thing, especially when trying to solve puzzles.  The game panders to that by providing a waypoint feature for everyone involved to look at, but it was certainly no Voice Com, which is why we spent quite a good half hour talking on the phone until we got a grasp of what we were trying to convey with our pointing at random panels and devices through the game.

That was about it.  The game ran smoothly, the game ran well, and we didn't have any problem picking up the game.

So why don't we see this more often?  I could think of other games that would do well playing across platforms.  Your carbon copy sports and shooter games could do well, like Madden and Battlefield.  Granted, the PC players will have an advantage over the Console players (What with the snap firing) but that's where Survival Modes come in, I suppose.

I've got a game called Bloodbowl.  Now I love it, it's great fun.  But could I play it with my friend who has it on his Xbox?  No.  Even though they are basically the same game.

The most innovative application of Cross-Platform gaming I've seen is Skylanders.  Because regardless of what console you've got, so long as you have the figures then you can always play it on a different console.  Whether it's on your PC, your Xbox, your DS or even your Toaster.  It will play.

Only time will tell whether Cross-Platform gaming will boom, but frankly if I can get onto my Playstation and start playing the same game with my friend playing the same game on their Xbox, then I would be happy as a pig in shit.

13 September 2012

Advertising Strategies

I've been very excited about Borderlands 2.  So excited that I time how quickly I poo my pants after I say it's name.  3.3 seconds, so far.

But a thought occurred to me and it was a thought that I didn't quite see coming because every thought I have about Borderlands are the various skills and weapons I'll have to play with through the game.  I'd even heard that since I'll be playing Axton, I may have an awesome looking Turret that not only makes it's mark on the battlefield, but may also move with me.

The thought however was about the advertising and the symbolism they make on the cover art of it.  It hadn't occurred to me that seeing a man in a gimp mask, of sorts, holding a pair of finger pistols to his chin and making double the mess across the backdrop might be offensive to some people.

I know that there are a lot of things that Americans take offense to, such as the Australian KFC Ad that was not taken as a racial stereotype where it was advertised, but I thought there would be some sort of problem with the image being on the side of a Bus, or even the previous cover art as well.

I base this on my piss poor knowledge of gang symbols, how various contortioning of the phalanges can mean either someone is part of a particular gang, or that arthritis has taken grasp.  Something I've seen in various shows and movies set in Detroit, crime capital of the world, was placing a finger pistol to someones head, supposedly meaning they're going to kill them sooner or later, possibly after they send a Youtube clip to Australian Advertising companies about their apparently racist overtones.

I'm pretty well aware that over here the finger pistols will mean two things, diddily and squat, but is it thought provoking enough to say "Hey, that might be taking it a bit far. Can you tone it down a little?"

Jennicki in Brissy - Day 3 - 29 May

"My first Go Card."
Oh Tuesday.  It's a day after that wretched bastard Monday, and a day before the lady lumps of Wednesday.  And where I started showing off my sexy girlfriend.

Again, we rose late, but not too late.  It wasn't quite midday when we got out of bed, but it wasn't far off, and we planned on making the long bus ride over to Windsor for Lunch.

Now normally for me to get to my work, I have to take two busses.  First to the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital, then another one around the corner which drops me practically on the door front of work.

Rather than take a second bus and risk stirring up Jennys motion sickness, I suggested we walk.  It's not a far distance, probably about ten minutes saunter, and it showed off some of the more interesting side of Windsor.  Like the Organic Nursery just around the corner from Hungry Jacks, and the nice houses along the street we walked up.  She was in awe at how if given a bit of elevation, you can see some of the Hills of Brisbane, and even the mountains in the distance.  Even with the rather muggy weather.

But we were getting hungry, and Harrys Diner was just around the corner.  And right outside my work, too.

Jenny has laughed at Harrys Diner before today, and she still laughs at it now just a little, but she was excited to see it.  "An American Themed Restaurant?  This will be hilarious!" she cried.  "I must laugh at their attempts at impersonating my own dear restaurants!"  That opinion changed very quickly.  I had a Rib Fillet Burger, an old favourite, but Jenny ordered a signature dish: The Harry Dog.

"Omg, this hot dog was amazing!
It even had bacon on it."
Jenny loves her hot dogs, she even got excited when I asked to get some hot dogs and root beer from that little place across the 'Zoo (I forgot the name of it, sorry dear).  And frankly, they weren't quite what I was expecting.  They were smaller, to start.  Compact, even.  Onion was diced, which was nice.  The cheese was a sauce, which boggled my mind.  And there was a bit of tomato sauce in there too.

Hot Dogs at Harrys were different.  The buns and sausages were larger; the onion wasn't dice, it was also fried; the cheese wasn't like a sauce, and it was warm and melted over the hot dog itself; and it had bacon bits in it too, to top it off; And naturally it had a lovely zig zag of tomato sauce and mustard.

By the end of lunch Jenny had to say to James, the owner, that it reminded her of home.  Needless to say, James is very happy to have Jenny back.

Then it was time to introduce her to my Work.  I was a bit nervous, as I wasn't sure what kind of questions they'd ask.  But really, what were they going to ask?  Whether I was any good in bed?

But no, we plowed through the questions they had, and Jenny told how excited she was to be there and everything.  A few weird questions were asked, like something about "Nightmare before Xmas", but otherwise it was great and we began our walk to Windsor Station for our last couple of stops at Toombul and Nundah.

Now surely Jenny wasn't going to get sick taking the Train.  There aren't any hills, pot holes, or even round-abouts to get thrown about in.  So luckily that's not what happened!  It wasn't until we reached Toombul that she pulled out the camera again to take a happy snappy of a bunch of kids who had just finished school.  "It's like Hogwarts!" she said.

Now today was the day that Jenny was going to see an Australian Target.  A long walk around and check it out, we would catch up with one of my friends "Del", who requested we see her Target store rather than the despicable Chermside store, before continuing on to browse the rest of Toombul.

To summarise, Jenny popped her Target Cherry with my friend.  Now where's that Rimshot.

As we enjoyed the afterglow, Jenny and I did a hunt for DVD's.  Jenny has wanted to see Australian shows for ages, and the only thing she has been able to get her hands on is Outrageous Fortune which I procured and provided to her.  So this was her best chance at getting something.

We hunted for what seemed like minutes to find names to remember until a time closer to Jennys departure.  But we settled on Underbelly, one recommended to her by many friends, and Packed to the Rafters, a show I thought she might like.  I had seen an episode or two and thought it was something she would enjoy.  So why not.

After our somewhat poor attempt at hunting, we moved on to our next destination in the next suburb over: Nundah Village.  I have a friend there, Paul, and on Tuesday Nights I go to visit Paul at his shop and play Board games and Card games.  Tonight was no exception, but had the inclusion of Jenny.  But before that, we had to have dinner.  And I knew just the thing to have.

Jenny laughed at me when I first said Kebab.  Then she asked me to say it again and she laughed harder.
"What?  What's so funny?"
"It's Kabob"
"No it's not."
"Yes it is."
"Wait, hold the phone.  We might be talking about something completely different."
Turns out we were.  And it's a good thing too, because Jenny had never had a Kebab before.  So just a small chicken one sufficed her for this new experience.  Twas good, was her response.  And I smiled, because if we ever go out on a bar crawl, I can know that she will enjoy a kebab with me, along with sexy kebab kisses afterwards.

Twas after that we caught up with one of my workmates and moved over to Fastbreak, aka: Paul's Shop.

Even the greatest super heros
have trouble with hygiene.
Jenny knows of this place as a Nerd Hole, a place where nerdy things happen.  And it's true.  I can't deny that.  Because we were going to play strange board games and card games for the night.  She was entertained at our eclectic group as well, ranging from an 8 year old boy with Arthritis in his ankle, to a sixty year old ex-army man, and everything in between.  Including a Pseuper Hero.  (That's me trying to be clever.)

I had asked Mentos man to attend tonight because... Well you can't get the real impact of him until you see him in person.  And crimeny Jenny enjoyed it.  Mentos man even brought along a few new additions, such as the belt buckle and the bandolier pictured, and a wrist launcher which he fashioned out of tubes, springs and a gauntlet from somewhere within Bargain City.

Jenny couldn't stop laughing.  Except for when a tube of Mentos were shot across the room at me.  That was when she got shocked before laughing again.

By nine O'clock, Jenny had had enough.  We had gamed the night away, with a few board games and a many rounds of Viewpoint, Jenny was starting to loll her head around from exhaustion, and we made a break for home.

And we had to go home early anyway.  Tomorrow was Australia Zoo day.