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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’s American Nightmare
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (didn’t finish, but put a lot of hours into it)
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…
The Typing of The Dead: Overkill
ACQUIRED (Fuck you Winter Sale)
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
Dark Souls II
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.
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.
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 Clarkesingle-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.
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…
Alien: Isolation (finally)
Legend of Zelda: A link between worlds (Non-Steam, but I finished it ANYWAY)
Shovel Knight (See appended note above.)
I Am Alive
Typing of the Dead: Overkill
I need to stop buying games, or I’ll never finish this list.
“… PaJamieez completes the entirety of Alan Wake and knocks another game off his list. But even as another weight is loosed from his shoulders, other worlds wait on the horizon. Before the he embarks on his next journey, PaJamieez contemplates his latest trial…”
You’d Love This Game, You’re a Writer
Friends have told me to play Alan Wake because I’m a writer. Joke’s on them; I’m only a writer when someone pays me for my work. So when I started playing Alan Wake, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to identify with this character, and I was mostly right. The New York apartment, the critical success, the blowing off of loved ones to get a written piece done- the life of Alan Wake is something I couldn’t identify with. No, Alan Wake the writer wasn’t as relatable as Alan Wake the man. His insecurities were my own, and when those insecurities manifested later in the game- let’s just say I’d be lying if a few of those one liners hit a little close to home.
Next Time on Alan Wake…
Never the less, Alan Wake’s character development is an engaging balance of failure through successes. Sometimes, in between the running, puzzle solving, and fighting for your life, the player gets a glimpse into his relationship between his wife and his best friend. Alan’s always trying to do the right thing, but sometimes it comes at the expense of others. Alan Wake (the game) always knows that there’s time for drama, but it isn’t afraid to express its comedic moments along side its mysteries. Some would say that the game is actually a parody of prime time television shows like Twin Peaks. If the Night Springs collectible story items didn’t give it away, the game’s pacing surely makes that impression known.
The narrative moves like a television mini series. Each chapter begins with a “Last time, on Alan wake” montage, and ends with a different 90’s inspired band playing out the credits. Those end cards are a really great change of pace from all the nonstop action of games like Tomb Raider, as I felt there was never a good time to just take a break since the sense of urgency was constant. Alan Wake however, gives the player time to think about the last chapter. Truth be told, I welcomed it.
Night Springs and Things
The weird stuff really comes out in the DLC and expansion, both of which take place after Alan Wake (the game) ends. If you haven’t played Alan Wake by now. Spoiler Alert: Alan survives Bright Falls. The downloadable DLC covers this journey as two additional episodes and the game starts getting weird. I mean REALLY weird:
The DLC offers a great back drop for the expansion and even cleans up some loose ends of the plot, while introducing newer plot lines, including the inevitable introduction of Mr. Scratch, the psychopathic manifestation of people’s public perception of Alan Wake, twisted into reality with by the power of Calderon Lake. In fact, American Nightmare is all about the hunt forMr. Scratch, as you try to break out of his Groundhog’s Day like trap.
While American Nightmare’s story is certainly a protraction of the first game, it can certainly stand alone. The introduction gives enough context for it to exist in its own vacuum. The expansion offers a tightening up of the combat system, which was a bit clunky in the original, is now on par with Resident Evil 4. I know it’s a bold statement that is likely to draw ire, but the combat was so satisfying, I didn’t mind diving into the arcade mode; a big deal when you’re trying to get to the next game. Each weapon feels weighty, and effective; even enemies that were designed to be bullet sponges took just enough effort to be satisfying. Dodging is tighter, the flash light doesn’t take long to recharge, and new types of enemy are thrown at you.
Overall, the experience of playing Alan Wake was pretty satisfying. It was my second, third-person-action-adventure game that I played within a month’s time, and was a good follow up from Tomb Raider. It definitely sets me up for the change in pace my next game is going to be.
Blog / Library / General Updates
Alan Wake DLC
Alan Wake: American Nightmare
Hey Guys! Thanks for following me along my Steam journey, I’ve been having a great time exploring the games in my Steam Library. (It gives me something to write home abouIt’s honestly a great change of pace since I got off my Guild Wars 2 addiction. t.) I basically get to play games and make stuff at the same time. Speaking of which, I started messing around with video capturing and editing software. I downloaded Lightworks over the weekend and recorded some Alan Wake game play. I’ll post it on youtube when I have edited to be as hilarious as possible.
The Steam Library didn’t get updated: (Thank goodness) but I did manage to get into the Gigantic beta. I don’t know what I can talk about regarding that game’s NDA, but I can probably tell you that the installation requires Microsoft/Xbox account. You should already have one if you’ve ever been on Xbox Live, but for those that don’t, you will have to add another password to your key ring. I played the intro and man, it’s pretty neat. I’m still fighting with the controls though, since I usually play my PC games with one of these.
Over all, I think I’m hitting a groove. I still get my day to day activities done (Make dinner, clean the apartment, laundry.) and I’ve started going to the gym again. Though, my social life has taken a large hit. All for the sake of progress!