The Dream Achieved?

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Nintendo thinks portable gaming looks like this

I was going to write about how Dark Souls is a programmer’s attempt at creating the Lament Configuration, but then something amazing happened, I had fun. No, not with the exploration of BDSM that is Dark Souls. This kind of fun sprang from a happenstance event that Nintendo has always promised would happen, but never did until now.

I played a pick up game of Super Smash Bros. 4 with some random people.
That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to understand this astounding moment, allow me to offer a bit of exposition for my excitement. For years Nintendo has always made a point of encouraging players to play together. Two player controller ports were only the beginning. When Pokémon released, Nintendo made me realize a new fantasy. Going around and challenging people to Pokémon Battles. This seemed like the next step in multiplayer videogames, but it didn’t play out like that. Most times, you played with people you already knew, and the setup to connect two players required link cables, virtual lobbies, and waiting. The process wasn’t smooth, but it was functional. Functional enough so that from then on, I wanted to go on my own journey and face new challenges. That journey was my everyday life, those challenges would be other players inhabiting it.
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It really looks like this. (PAX Australia – Handheld Lounge)
Flash forward to 2017 and I could count the number of times I’ve encountered another player in the wild on two fingers. One time at Videogames NY and another time at the World Trade Center. I don’t frequent conventions, nor do I find myself at random Super Smash Bros. tournaments, so the opportunity to run into other players are memorable. The first time it happened, I was at Videogames NY looking for a Gameboy Micro, when I spotted a person playing a 3DS in the same section. The game looked like a random JRPG, but the spectacular array of flashing colors attracted me. I asked if he played Smash. He responded with a resounding yes. My 3DS whipped out like a gun fighter’s pistol, and a SSB4 match broke out in the store. The moment was exciting, and cemented my love of portable gaming.
The second time I ran into other 3DS players happened on my way home from work. Taking the John St. entrance at Fulton Station, and making my way down the escalator towards the World Trade Center PATH Train is my standard after office ritual. But as I walked down the underground corridor leading to my terminal, and leered at the candy display at a random kiosk, I spied two guys playing a game on 3DS. Curiosity inclined me to hang around and see what they were playing, when that familiar character select music struck a reflexive nerve.
“Are you guys playing Smash?”
“Yeah, do you play?” He inquired
“I want in.” I replied. It was a statement of fact rather than it was a request.
“See what you started?” Said a woman tending to the counter. “You all have to move over, this is STILL a place of business you know.”
The snow fall that Thursday encouraged a lot of people to work from home, so the frantic rush hour foot traffic was more relaxed. The placid commute drew a small crowd of curious onlookers wondering why three grown men were staring at these colorful handheld devices. We were having a five stock, three player, battle royale, with some of videogame’s most recognized icons. In short, it was a brawl.
This rare instance of organic social gameplay is the experience that Nintendo has been developing with the 3DS, which you can see in social features like the Streetpass system. When two 3DSs come into NFC range, (Near Field Communication) they exchange basic information about the games they were playing. Streetpassing (.v) adds a passive social element to the games that support the function by offering dynamic content accessible only by exploring the world around you. Nintendo managed to not only ensure 3DS owners carried the console with them at all times, but even made player interaction desirable.
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I have to resort to approaching people with no reason

My adventures in portable gaming  made me think about the latest Nintendo console, the Nintendo Switch. It looks to merge their console and portable worlds together. I’m so excited about the idea that I pre-ordered the system and lurk on the subreddit daily. Yet, Nintendo of America’s David Young announced that the switch will not support Streetpass or Miiverse (Nintendo’s social media platform).

Lack of  Streetpass compatibility begs to question whether a new Switch alternative is in the works. Nintendo’s reasons point to disassociating the Switch as the next portable system, but why not? Doubling down on the Nintendo Switch as the one unifying platform between the console and portable businesses can only lead to stronger sales, and a clearer game plan. I can see that Nintendo runs the risk of alienating an established platform like the New Nintendo 3DS, which is the latest iteration of the Dual Screen platform, but I think there’s no room both systems to exist.

What do you think, can the New 3DS and the Nintendo Switch co-exist, or do they cannibalize each other’s markets? Some argue that the Nintendo Switch doesn’t function well as a dedicated portable device, and some just see it as Nintendo being safe. Let me know in the comments below.

 

Blog / Library / General Updates

I know you really come here for the progression update. So far, the year is starting off pretty good with 70 hours into Dark Souls under my belt. I’ve always wanted to beat this game, but never got close. Originally, I played it on the XBOX 360, but it was left behind all those years ago. I think I’m finally where I was the last time I left off. Should be smooth sailing from here on out. At least I know what I’m doing this time around. As for the Dark Souls related write up, I’m really thinking about Dark Souls and the Hellraiser puzzle box. The analogy is just too sweet to pass up.

Other than that, the Nintendo Switch has been on my mind lately, among other things that I can hopefully write about next time. I’m just counting down the days till my pre-order arrives in the mail. Thanks Amazon, waiting in line sucks during an American North Eastern North Eastern winter. Some say you gotta earn that pre-order, but I don’t have to be the guy that shows up first all the time. Imagine being that guy? That means you have to show up ALL THE TIME. Ain’t no one got time for that really.

 

COMPLETED

  • Ugh… Not Dark Souls…

ACQUIRED

  • YAY NOTHING!

Till next time!

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Let’s Make Some Memories

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I can’t speak for the rest of humanity, but it’s rare that I give my memories a second thought. Most events that present a significant degree of adversity in my life, are handled without much effort. I tuck them away in a dead place in the recesses of the darkest corners of my heart. Yet, every so often, the visceral ones resurface. You know the ones I’m talking about: the big heart break, an extreme physical trauma, or an event of abject horror; they are the memories that live in the recesses of our minds we hope never come back up. For reasons I can’t explain, sometimes I’ll bring back the terror of being struck by a car while riding a bicycle from university. On darker nights, I can recall the metal of a prop-gun pressed behind my head as someone tried to mug me, and the pent up rage when I fought back. I find myself pretty lucky that these memories seldom come back. Others can’t help but relive their trauma every time they close their eyes. Like I said before, I never gave my memories a second thought, that is; until I played Transistor.

At its core, Transistor is all about memories. When players travel through each level, the disembodied voice of the narrator regards certain places with a hint of nostalgia. When the game wants to take a break from the plot, a random door appears and takes you to Red’s Beach, a place for players to engage in various challenges that help digest the enemies they encountered and practice skill they’ve acquired. Heck, there’s even a hammock that fills the screen with a virtual sunset while the music of previous stages plays in the back ground. Throw in a pack of Coronas, and you’ve got yourself a commercial.

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You know, just to let everything soak in.

It’s safe to say that Transistor wants you to revel in memories, and it accomplishes this by treating memories as a modular resource, but what does that mean? Let’s look at the general gist of the game. Transistor follows the revenge story of Red, a singer with a stolen voice, sealed away in a sword called Transistor, which just happens to take the imprint traces of the recently deceased, weaponizing them into abilities called Functions. The abilities Red gains usually relates to the sum culmination of the soul’s life experiences. For example, if Red finds the soul of a magician and uses it, she disappears from combat. The more functions Red adds to her arsenal, the more the player can mix and match the different powers to invent a unique player style. How unique? In total, there are 22,283,705,698,113 combinations of Transistor Functions. That’s a lot of customization, but there’s a bold statement behind that fact, which is punctuated by the end of the game. The true nature of the weapon, the enemy, and the plot of the game, all which I won’t spoil, seem suggest that I should treat my memories even the sad ones, as tools rather than the crippling bouts of sadness that used wash over me.

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To label this approach as “thinking positive” would be disservice to some of those memories, and to the general message the game sent to me. Instead, Transistor makes me want to accept those memories as part of who I am to fuel my ambitions in a different way. A friend of my once said, “Transistor is about the souls of the dead, protecting those that are alive” and in a way, he’s right. My memories aren’t there to torture me, but can be used to make me smarter, stronger, and more determined to complete a new year of resolutions.

Blog / Library / General Updates

I know I’m late to the party, but HAPPY NEW  YEARS GUYS!  Like every new trip around the sun, I lend myself to continue the age old tradition of making a resolution. This year, I resolve to play more video games. Maybe it’s a weird thing to say, but I could count the number of games I finished this year on both hands:

  • Alan Wake
  • Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (didn’t finish, but put a lot of hours into it)
  • Never Alone
  • Shovel Knight
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  • The Typing of The Dead: Overkill
  • Transistor

Along with the games I’m always playing because I have a problem

  • Overwatch
  • Clash Royale

Since more gaming means more writing, I’m more than happy to indulge.

I’m also glad I got to finish Transistor, which was just so full of depth that I had way too much to write about. Here’s some of the ideas I came up with:

  • ·         Memories, Music, and the Mind: How Transistor teaches us the value of existence.
  • ·         Transistor: Digital life in the post-human apocalypse.
  • ·         How the best story is the one that’s never told.

In general, there was so much to write about for a game that I finished in a couple of weekends. My total playing time with Transistor clocked in at about 16 hours, two of which I spent in a New Game Plus mode just to come up with more writing ideas. In the end, I thought it was best to write about how the game changed the way I approached my darker memories.

Now that that’s out of the way…

COMPLETED

  • The Typing of The Dead: Overkill
  • Transistor

ACQUIRED (Fuck you Winter Sale)

  • Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
  • Dark Souls II
  • Invisible Inc.
  • Nidhogg

Already started Dark Souls, since I plan to finally beat this game. So far, let’s just say Dark Soul’s is so meta, installing it is probably part of the game.

Till next time!

 

Stuck With the Shit Work

If you’re anything like me, and you’ve experimented with some survival horror in the last five years, then Alien: Isolation’s going to hit you with some déjà vu. In fact, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I’ve engineered my way out of a Japanese named space station which happened to be under siege by an intergalactic scourge somewhere before. While I can’t say that I hated my time playing Alien: Isolation, it was certainly an endeavor to finish. Yes, the atmospheric tension was thick enough to slice through, and seeing the Alien made me hit the pause button so I could nope out for a few seconds before diving back in, but that’s not what really made me put the controller down for extended hiatuses. Somewhere between restoring a communication tower to signal for help, and luring the Alien away from a cargo bay, I realized that I was Sevastopol’s wrench slave. Reality was hitting a little to close to home.

Since blogging doesn’t really pay the bills, I work in IT support by trade. So like Amanda Ripley, I’m constantly fixing things around the office. In fact, I fix things I’m not supposed to even be fixing like drop down projector screens, and firecom alerting modules. You know it’s kind of a mundane existence when someone asks about the lights when you’re actually the computer guy. In short, engineers have the power to create, maintain, and destroy. As with most engineers in gaming, Amanda Ripley literally holds the fate of each person in Sevastopol in her capable hands. That communication beacon ain’t gonna calibrate itself after all. With so much power, why does anyone tell Ripley what to do? Sure, there’s that part in the end where each alpha male in the story eventually gets owned and Ripley takes control, but before that, she’s at the whim of this lame security boss directing her actions. In the end, he tries to jettison you off the station with the Alien, but not after running you ragged getting the whole damn operation up and running.

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See that guy? Yeah, fuck that guy. I ain’t doing shit till I get some benefits.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen to a good engineer. I’m constantly seeing my occupational kin get roped into ridiculous situations they know damn well would never work, but the people in charge had “other” plans. Isaac Clarke single-handily fixed the entire USG Ishimura, while everyone was chilling in the safe zone. At some point, they just needed to turn something off and on again, so they sent the single most important guy on the ship into a room full of hell creatures. Yeah, best idea ever. Even The Duct Tape Daredevil himself, Chuck Greene, spends his time between major events, taking ridiculous requests from survivors who don’t heed his words of wisdom. This man can make a Darth Maul staff out of two chainsaws that are so balanced it can be used as a weapon. Let me repeat this, HE CAN MAKE A DUAL CHAINSAW STAFF. Clearly this man is one of the most qualified people to survive a zombie apocalypse. Why would you not listen to him; he probably knows a thing or two about what’s going on.

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They don’t deserve your genius, Chuck.

I think the concept of engineering, or more specifically, the idea of crafting within videogames, is a gameplay avenue that hasn’t been fully explored yet. When given an opportunity to play an engineer in a video game, players given two flavors: An open world where you can create a whole bunch of stuff, but have no context to use them in, or a situational world where the things you can make are severely limited. My question is, why can’t we have both?

Part of the reason why I find The Dead Rising series so engaging is because the crafting system gives me the fantasy of using creativity to solve problems, even if it’s just finding the easiest way to dispatch a horde of zombies blocking an alleyway. It’s not perfect, but maybe that’s what we have to strive for. I didn’t user half the things Ripley was able to make in Alien: Isolation. Smoke bombs, flash grenades, noisemakers, I made three of each and just hoarded them.  I got by just fine with a bunch of flares and a few Molotovs.

Game developers, stop giving engineers the shit work. If we can build, we can thrive.

Blog / Library / General Updates

If you’re reading this, thanks. I always appreciate any feedback on the things that I write. Alien was a really long game, which clocked in at about 40 hours of solid gameplay. The length of it, made if difficult for me to capture the entire experience in gameplay video. At some point, I just wanted to get the game done. I’m just glad I can move on. While I’m still stuck on the games of yesteryear, others have been playing the ridiculous Civilization VI. My girlfriend in particular, fiends for one more turn. I can’t blame her though, world domination is always a fun thing to do. I don’t know what I’m going to play for my next game. I definitely don’t want to play another horror game, even though I picked a few up for the Halloween sale. I’m thinking XCOM…

COMPLETED

  • Alien: Isolation (finally)
  • Legend of Zelda: A link between worlds (Non-Steam, but I finished it ANYWAY)
  • Shovel Knight (See appended note above.)

AQUIRED

  • SUPERHOT
  • I Am Alive
  • Typing of the Dead: Overkill
  • Dishonored

I need to stop buying games, or I’ll never finish this list.

Fuck you Overwatch: The Addiction of Competitive Gaming

Who really spends money on this shit? Someone with a problem, like me.

The Endless Cycle

I know I haven’t updated all summer, but that’s because my Steam progress was marred by the black hole that is Overwatch. So fuck you Overwatch, you addictive team based-son-of-a-bitch, for derailing my quest to complete my Steam Library.

With that said, I started to wonder about games like Overwatch or League of Legends, and why I get sucked into those experiences. It’s almost like a check list that my subconscious starts marking off when it wants to numb itself from societal responsibility.

  • [√]: Is it skill based?
  • [√]: Can I beat someone’s ass in it?
  • [√]: Can it be played in a reasonable amount of time?
  • [√]: Is there a progression bar I can raise some how?
  • [√]: Is there a chance my ego will alter my self perception of my actual skill level

Great, let’s play!

I’d like to say the passion started with Street Fighter, like every other competitive gamer out there, but my obsession for these types of games started with Magic: The Gathering. Hours were spent researching and play testing different decks to see which cards in my collection worked and which ones did not. If worst came to worst, you hustled for the really rare but incredibly strong cards for a bigger edge. The prize for such diligence was a sip a from the cup of victory. Mostly though, I got served a face full of defeat.

Defeat tastes like shit, but victory… oh god sweet victory…

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Getting “Play of the Game” makes all the pain worth it.

It’s difficult to explain how much I like to win, but there are a few articles floating on the internet about the psychology of winning, specifically the dopamine release that’s associated with competition. Angela Grippo, wrote an article for Psychology today on “why the brain likes a winner”

An important brain chemical that plays a role in our experience of positive emotions is dopamine. This chemical mediates various emotions, such as pleasure, happiness, and excitement, due in part to its actions in a brain area called the nucleus accumbens. This brain region is activated in several circumstances involving positive emotions and pleasure, and can influence the thrill that one feels after a victory.

Looking at my gaming habits from this point of view makes me feel like a crack head, but it’s not far from the truth. A majority of my college years were spent playing hours of Tekken, Street Fighter, and Soul Caliber just to take my skills to Chinatown Fair so that I could get someone to waste a quarter playing against me. Did I just beat some rando down the winding roads of Mt. Akina? You bet I spent hundreds of dollars learning those corners to do so. Improvement and training were only side effects of on my quest for my next hit of triumph.

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Vote for me you salty sons of bitches!

“But PaJamieez,” one might say, “Arcades are dead. No one makes games like that any more.” Oh but they do, imaginary inquirer, they just got smarter with it. I find that in my older age games have to compete not only for my wallet, but for my time. For example, in a typical 24 hour day I spend seven of it sleeping, forty-five minutes of it getting ready for work, nine of it actually working ,and two of it commuting back and forth. That leaves six hours for going to the gym, making dinner, cleaning the apartment, and maybe squeezing in a game session. Suddenly, a sprawling adventure game doesn’t seem as attractive as eking out a quick win  for an endorphin rush.

These micro-games, as I informally call them for lack of a better term, are everywhere looking to steal bits of precious time. How bad is my addiction? I have Overwatch installed on my PC, along with League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm just waiting to get played. On my mobile phone, Clash Royal lets me get my victory fix while on the train. All the while, imaginary progress bars go up and I’m feeling more accomplished than if I played some Alien: Isolation for half an hour just to lose all my progress after a cheap Alien kill.

PLAY SOMETHING ELSE.

I always have to repeat the mantra when I get sucked into the competitive side of videogames. Last time, the Guild Wars 2 PVP scene completely tarnished my love for that game. It happened twice, the first time happened after the fall of the guild I joined, I some how managed to become a homeless despot of The Mists. After getting sick of the meta, I rediscovered it years later with my current girlfriend, but eventually The Mists took hold of me again once the new content ran dry. It was then that I realized I spent a year and half playing one game.

The trick I deduced was just to catch myself right before going over the edge. Regular people can play these games and easily switch to something else. The rush of the win isn’t everything, and there’s more to videogames than just defeating another player in the honorable arena of combat. With Overwatch, I just caught myself  delving into the madness of getting better, taking random matches too seriously, and just stopped having fun when I didn’t get my win. I simply had to just play something else.

Now I’m back to playing Alien: Isolation, and have gotten a lot further than my initial play through. The story’s starting to ramp up and the tension is running high, but that fun is for another post…

Blog / Library / General Updates

Thanks for giving this a read guys! So while I have been Overwatching over the summer, I did get to spend some time with a few of my Steam games. Right now a lot of focus is going into Alien: Isolation, which you’ll learn more about as I progress through the game. However, I also experienced two player RPG mayhem with the wonderful Rizza Silverbow, in the way couples can only enjoy themselves: constant bickering and random adventures. Hint: We’ve been playing Divinity: Original Sin. Though we’ve hit a spot where we’ve kind of run into a wall. (Perhaps a restart is in order.)

I’ve also got a chance to play I am Setsuna, the Tokyo Factory RPG from Square Enix, and have recently hit a brick wall with that game as well. With all the new games floating about, I buckled down and stuck with one of them. Here’s the current update

Completion:

  • None (Womp Womp)

Acquired:

  • I am Setsuna
  • Divinity: Original Sin

Till next time, everyone! PLAY OTHER GAMES!

 

 

 

 

The Game of Theseus

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Am I really playing Skyrim?

I had to let that question sink in for a moment because there’s an off chance that I’m not… Even though I am, at least I think I am.

Don’t go, let me explain.

There’s a thought experiment concerning logical paradoxes on Jake Roper’s channel Vsauce3, in which he briefly discusses The Ship of Theseus Paradox. Essentially, the experiment questions the authenticity of an object that has had its individuals parts replaced over time. The classic example uses a ship sailing around the world whose various parts are slowly replaced due to the inevitable wear and tear of circling the globe.
Ultimately, the question is asked whether or not the journey ends with the original ship even after ever part has been replaced or repaired.

Now take that ship, and switch it with Skyrim.

Mind Blown.

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Before Mods

Instead of broken sails, and damaged rudders, the Skyrim modding community dishes out bug fixes and improved character models. Even the passage of time, which had been known to sour the graphical presentation of even the best games, is given a face lift thanks to community mod support. It’s hard to believe that the game I’m playing now is the same one that I picked up on an impulse buy at a Steam sale. To be honest, I only played “vanilla” Skyrim for about an hour or so with the official HD patch before I got my feet wet with the Climates of Tamriel mod, so my perspective on “what was” might be skewed. I’m glad I had a picture before hand though, because things have certainly changed.

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S.T.E.P. it up

Pictured above is a glimpse at how many mods I installed to change the game of Skyrim. To be exact, I’m running  103 installed mods of which 100 of them are currently active. There are guides for this sort of thing, but it’s not for the faint heart. A full installation of the Core S.T.E.P. took me a better half of the weekend to finish. There were mods that covered everything the average player wouldn’t think of improving, but surprisingly I think that original game is still intact somewhere. According to an excerpt from the S.T.E.P. Guide:

Skyrim was originally created for the console, and while Bethesda has released official texture packs and patches to correct for the PC platform, they missed a great deal. Core STEP comprehensively enhances vanilla Skyrim for the PCin order to properly finish what Bethesda attempted – wiki.step-project.com

The changes were certainly worth it. Textures look fuller, the land looks less barren and more alive than the vanilla version of the game. SkyUI gives me a better look at the menus and the quests objectives are less cryptic. Weather feels real enough to desire shelter, and patches of forests untouched by snow have a lusher feel. Even Pajamicus is showing much more detail these days on his face and armor.

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After Mods

 

True to Bethesda fashion, I’ve wandered away from the primary quest. It wasn’t my fault though, a drinking contest with one of the locals at Whiterun turned into a drunken bender with a Daedric god of mischief. The morning after was an affectionate retelling of The Hangover, complete with the sale of a stolen goat to a local giant. So far, the only think I know is that I can suck out the souls of dragon, while my voice can blow the limbs off a person if enough dust gets into my reptilian nose. I’m 50 hours into the game, and I’m still side tracked.

With all the mods aside, the learning curve for this game is moderately difficult, but unfolds quite naturally. Even as I randomly traversed the game, following my every whim while blatantly ignoring the main quest, I found myself slowly learning the system of the game. Items such as soul gems, of which I had no initial use of, has a much clearer purpose with the discovery of a Staff of Souls (soul trap) and the exhaustion of magical charges on weapons. Even the crafting system becomes comprehensive over time, and I normally skip crafting. The real difficulty for me seems to be keeping on top of the primary quests. I’ll have to play more to find out.

Blog / Library / General Updates

Hey Guys! Sorry for the lack of an update. Skyrim is a really hard game to pin down, especially since I didn’t finish it yet. I’m wondering if I should I continue the game or not since I’m no where near the end but I have 50 hours invested in the game. Skyrim seems so huge that I could be missing out on some games. Speaking of which, let’s get that out of the way now.

Completion:

  • None (Sadness)

Acquired:

  • The Age of Decadence – Full price! (><)
  • ZOMBI – On Sale for less than 10 bucks

Surprisingly enough, I skipped out on Invisible Inc. which means I totally fucked up somewhere this month. I did manage to play other games outside of Skyrim such as Superhot (Thanks PezTheReaper) and The Age of Decadence (Thanks for the tip CaptainTaco) I’ll probably still be playing Skyrim, and I’ll try to stick to the story this time to get better impressions. Some day soon, when I’m not bombarded with work, I can play more Alien Isolation for everyone.

I’ll leave you with this rant I went on about in a Slack chat at work. It’s about The Age of Decadence:

“I guess just so I can get my thoughts more organized, I can go into some impressions since this is the kind of game that should be written about. Everything about this game sucks.

I’ll state that right now

Camera is bad, graphics are kind of boring, no impressive sound, walls of text. archaic menu structures. Everything (about the game) boils down to bare-bones functionality. On paper, this game is TERRIBLE. 

But as most particle physicists agree, it’s possible to be greater than the sum of it’s parts, and this game some how manages to be that. At least for me, the beauty of the game is what would eventually be the breaking point for most video game players, which is the sheer difficulty in mastering its systems. Specifically, understanding how vulnerable the player is in combat.

The other bright point for me is the use of non-combat character traits. I’m the kind of a guy that makes a player in Fallout and puts all the points in luck till luck maxes out just to see how the game would handle me.

Often times, the roleplaying aspect of traits in RPGs are an after thought, but this game seems to really dig in and give players more opportunities to use them.  That makes me not feel bad allocating a point or two in trading since it could come in handy one day.

Right now, Age of Decadance is like a durian fruit. It looks inedible, even more so when crack it open, but after you brave through the stench of death the fruit is known to famously have and eat a few pieces, you realize that the fruit is actually pretty damned good. You can tell other people that it’s great, but only a few would actually come near you to try it out. Most will run at the first whiff of it.”

 

 

The Single Player Saga

Contrary to popular belief, online gaming did not begin with the Dreamcast, nor was it first popularized by the XBox 360. In the looming shadow of the 1990’s games industry, PC users enjoyed the world of online gaming when Prodigy and AOL CDs were a thing. These days, players wouldn’t need to look very hard if they wanted to play with other people, and developers go out of their way to make this connection. Yet, while the world scrambles to connect every living gamer on the planet, there are still games that explore the single player saga. I played some games last weekend that made me think of just that.

Leave me alone!

Alien: Isolation is a game I recently started playing that could only be possible as a single player experience. The player takes the roll of Ripley, an engineer that is stranded on the space station Sevastopol, with an Alien monster that hunts everyone inside, but unlike the plot of all three Dead Space games, there is only one monster roaming these halls. The rest of the danger comes from people dealing with small scale societal breakdown. Outsiders are dangerous, whether they be Alien, android, or human. Isolation becomes a desperate search comfort that only servers to let the player stew in a moody atmosphere of horror and solitude. Most of the time, you end up scaring yourself:

I Feel So Alone…

While some games are meant to be played alone, others simply offer a single player mode as an option. As Nuna, you traverse the wilderness of the arctic searching for the origin of a never ending blizzard with a spirit fox that saves you from a polar bear. At first, the fox’s company filled a void of emptiness that can only be felt when one runs from a relentless polar bear looking to fatten up for the winter.  Yet, as Nuna continued her journey to the right, the fox’s utility became more scarce and the switching became more difficult. As soon as the climax of the game finishes for the start of the fourth act, I soon realized that these puzzles were made for two people in mind.

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Hitting the polar bear with a rock only makes him madder.

I eventually finished the last 5% of the game with the help of another player, as the puzzles required more of a tighter execution than actual problem solving ability. Never Alone taught me two things about game design were once a part of my gamer sensibilities.

  1. When a game gives you the option to play it as a single player experience, you might want to grab a friend, as you can miss the entire point of playing the game.
  2. When a puzzle seems unsolvable, maybe it’s a bug.

I Don’t Want to be Alone

Skyrim rounds out this list in a way where the player is given a huge world to interact with. Immersive is one of the frequent words thrown around when describing this game, and I’m no different. I made a really cool lizard man named Pajamicus, whom people seem to treat as normally as anyone else. Since Pajamicus didn’t come with a backstory I made one up for him instead.

“Pajamicus was an unassuming Argonian looking for work in the next town, but was taken prisoner by a wandering military guard. Mistaking him for an enemy spy, the militants sent him to execution till a dragon attacked the camp. Taking the opportunity to flee, Pajamicus wanders the world of Skyrim, hoping to forge a new dawn.”

2016-03-06_00001
It’s wearing clothes! Aww it thinks it’s people.

With only 3 hours into the game, I found myself ignoring the first quest altogether to see if this game fit the mold of Bethesda’s Fallout. Sure enough, I was able to stumble a random town, pick up a few quests, and explore a dungeons all with their own independent plot points to drive exploration. In terms of the single player experience, it’s one of the games where I’d wish I could share with a friends. Can’t wait to dive back in.

Blog / Library / General Updates

Completion:

  • Never Alone

Games Started

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Alien: Isolation

Finally got to live stream some Alien: Isoloation, and worked with Lightworks on some video editing. I think I need a little more practice, but the software is working great. A large part of me is falling into all that Division hype train that’s floating around the internet. The more I learn about it, the more I just want to invest. As usual though, I’m waiting for that almighty Steam sale to break my constitution and add itself to the pile of shame.

As for streaming, I’m thinking of making my Alien Isolation play through a completely recorded experience. I feel that maybe something episodic would be better. If you’re interested in the raw footage, it can be found HERE.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult this post was for me to write, so I’ll just leave you all with this one last appendices before I wrap it up: One week’s 24 hour on-call does not help the production of writing!

Next Time: Further Journeys Into Skyrim.

Not about Tomb Raider

I had every intention of writing about Tomb Raider this week, because the deed is done; another target plinks down from the proverbial shooting gallery. You were a fun time Tomb Raider, but occasionally frustrating. Of course I choose the hardest combat option where every enemy throws grenades like Tom Brady, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW SURVIVORS ARE MADE DAMN IT, AND I’M A GOD DAMNED SURVIVOR!

*ahem*

Instead I thought it would be cool to go over this week’s attempt to finish the next game on my agenda, which also ended up on the back burner for Street Fighter V. I tried not to get hype about it, but after PezTheReaper picked it up, I had to fall in line.  Some sites gave it mixed reviews, while other sites like Shoryuken.com said it has a lot of potential. I couldn’t tell ya though, since I’ve spent launch day optimizing how it runs on my set.

For reference, here’s my current gaming set up:

  • Television: Samsung 50″ Class 4k Ultra HD Series 6 UN50JU6500
  • Steam Link (Wired)
  • Steam Controller / Hori: Real Arcade Pro EX Arcade Stick
  •  GAMING PC:
    • Motherboard: ASUS P8 Z68-V/GEN 3
    • Processor: Intel Core i5-2500k (unlocked if you don’t know what the K stands for) (OC. 3.8 Ghz)
    • RAM: Kingston Hyper X 16gb Memory DDR3 – 1600 (OC. 2100)
    • Graphics Card: Nvidia GTX 970 8gb Ram
    • Powersupply: Corsair TX850w
    • Hard Drive: 1 Crucial 64gb. SSD
    • Hard Drive: Western Digital Mechanical  80gb 7200 RPM

INPUT LAG: THE PHANTOM MENACE

I knew there would be some tweaking done before I actually got to enjoy playing Street Fighter V, but getting optimal performance out of it was a meta game all on its own. Initially, I felt the game too slow, as if someone at Capcom decided that slowing down the pace of the game would appeal to a larger audience. Since Steam Link was showing a steady 60fps, I had no reason to think otherwise… Until I lost a ton of matches.

After about an hour of internal deliberating, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t me it was my configuration. A tough call to be sure since ego is definitely a factor in making that decision. Street Fighter V doesn’t have any in game options for smother play save for lowering the graphical quality of the game. Since we’re rocking a 970, I sought other means for a performance increase.Turns out that television have a game mode which drastically improves the amount of input lag between controller and device. Just to make sure that I got as close to a 1 to 1 fidelity as possible I changed the in-home streaming options from beautiful to balanced.

ARCADE STICK NOT INCLUDED

Another hurdle keeping me from getting my  Street Fighter on was the game’s inability to detect the left and right trigger buttons on my arcade stick while using the Steam Link. Most likely, this is a problem with Steam Link than the actual game, since when connected to my computer, the stick works perfectly, but when connected to the Steam link, LT/RT become the Start/Back buttons. So what does a reasonable person do? Why, he breaks open the arcade stick and switches the leads of course! I followed this guy’s tutorial while watching Kung Fu Panda, so it’s not an intensive procedure. Careful with those leads though, the guy recommends using your fingers but I just used a flat edge screw driver to pry them from the base.

Blog / Library / General Updates

Thanks PezTheReaper and Captain Taco for adding more games to my list for making my goal much easier. I know it’s early into the project, but five more games came into my library this past week, and only one completion:

Completion:

  • Tomb Raider (2013)

Acquired:

  • Street Fighter V  (Obviously)
  • Robot Roller-Dervy Disco Dodgeball (Damn you Captain Taco.)
  • Jet Set Raido (Damn you Sega)
  • Sega Genesis & Mega Drive Classics (Came with Jet Set Radio)
  • Hell Yeah! (ALSO came with Jet Set Radio)

The over all website is coming around. If you haven’t noticed yet, PlayAllTheGames.me is now it’s own domain. Moving the site to wordpress just seems more professional. I’ve also added a link to my steam calculator profile so anyone can check out my progress or check out your own.

I’m also trying get some video on the site since people tend to watch more than read, and that’s where OBS or Open Broadcasting Software comes in handy. While the recording software is pretty good, I’m still looking for a great video editing program, and possibly another 1 terabyte hard drive to store them on.

Tomb Raider isn’t lost to the wind though. There’s a write up happening as you read this, which will go to a games completed section. Currently playing some Alan Wake between Street Fighter rounds (That should be reversed, I know.) As always, let me know what you think in the comments below.