The Magic of Bradbury

•June 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment
I was a rosy-cheeked five-year-old when Kurt Cobain died and had no idea who he was until another five years later; I was too young to really be staggered by the death of Michael Jackson recently, who’s career had already wound to its ruin when I was young. I’ve never been greatly affected or traumatized by death and it made me feel like a cold, heartless beast- or possible just a naive, innocent to make myself sound less demonized- until recently when Ray Bradbury left us last week. This was a man who I honestly expected to live forever. And, with him gone, I felt a ripple shake through the literary world like the collapsing of a dying star.Growing up I was never really exposed to literature all too often. My parents didn’t read much, but maintained a small collection of books mostly as decor (a tradition that hasn’t changed as I swipe their copy of East of Eden from their aesthetics and add it to my collection). Knowledge of books came to me through the television and thus I only read Goosebumps and the like till the Harry Potter explosion. Because of my living under a rock in this way, I had never heard of Bradbury till my teacher tossed me a nice, new crisp copy of Fahrenheit 451 in my sophomore year of high school. It’s embarrassing, but true, I relied on the education system to kickstart my literary interests and thus came to this book much later than I should have, but my only wish now was that I knew of him so many years earlier.I read it voraciously, miles ahead of my class and re-reading certain parts again (I love the character Clarisse McClellan). Throughout my life I’ve probably read it five times. I later got a copy of The Martian Chronicles and read it with the same vigor. Bradbury touched on so many things I loved with such casual wisdom that I had never read before in any book (by that time I had a sound knowledge of fantasy, but hardly any science fiction). Bradbury, put simply, is magic. This was a man you wish your grandfather could be. His settings in small-town America just made him the most typically “American” of science-fiction authors to me, he represented the things I found fantastic and made the paved streets of suburbia twinkle with mystery, intrigue, magic, and even terror.

Hallowe’en is my favorite time of year. I absolutely love the feel in the air of chills, fears, riddles and secrets. Ray Bradbury perfectly encapsulates these same feelings in his words, for there is no one more Hallowe’en than Bradbury. From The Halloween Tree to The October Country this is a man who understands the childlike fascination with this time of year. His books are full of delightful kids who make you long for your childhood like no one else and gives them the grandest adventures through dark, moonlit streets and fields, to the frightening carnival just outside of town, with monsters, ghosts, phantoms, aliens and every time of creature you can think of. His details made everything feel electric and all too real; it felt as if were actually there and dictating it to you while you read. It felt too perfect, too pristine.

It was a goal of mine, till recently, to one day meet Bradbury and just thank him for everything. I’ve wanted to be an author for years now, since before I’d read Fahrenheit but his contribution has had a pronounced affect on me and my writing that I owe to him. For years now I hoped that Mr. Electrico, a carnival entertainer who greatly influenced Bradbury at a young age, touching him on the nose with an electrified sword and muttered, “Live forever,” had honestly worked some great form of magic and that he would live long enough for me to meet this great man. Sadly, I never will now; but I still have his books, his characters, and a gentle sound of thunder.

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DRM, Publishers, and Pirates

•June 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Lately there have been some games being released that offer a single-player mode as well as a multiplayer option, but both only work if the owner of said game is connected to the internet. Some people can’t see what the big deal is, but to others it’s a scandalous idea and places them in quite a predicament. Not to mention, should gamers accept these terms?

This isn’t a new idea, it’s been around for perhaps a year and the concept of online passes being slipped into games like Mortal Kombat 9 has become fairly popular in an attempt to quash the used game market. But the constant internet connection needed to play games has been around since before Spore a popular game by Sims creator Will Wright and the first really popular game to be released with the same design. This was, of course, to combat piracy which has become a steadily growing problem for some gaming companies (the Nintendo Gamecube supposedly used small mini-discs to decrease the chances of piracy). Since one has to be online and register a game, the old CD-Key wasn’t as necessary, but of course there are accounts, names and passwords everywhere instead and playing a videogame feels more like selling your soul these days. It was nice not having to need a lawyer present every time I wanted to pop in Donkey Kong Country. Again, though, what’s the big deal? So you have an account and have to maintain a connection to the internet? Well, there’s more to it than that.

Let’s say you just want to play the game alone- no one but you, your mouse and your cheetos- you still have to maintain that connection to play single-player . That’s fairly absurd, especially to the likes of me who tends to have internet connectivity issues frequently. That’s just unnecessary. But, beyond that, you still have to stick to the code and rules of the game even if you’re not playing with other people. In the recently released and highly anticipated Diablo 3, this restricts your name completely (no curse words, duplicates or names of characters in other Blizzard games as well as apparently religious themed names like Atheist, Christian and Jew-not terribly awful unless your name is Christian ) and that can be really infuriating to your casual player who just wants to pop it in and go. But who cares if you can’t name your character Analfist the Barbarian, you can just be “CloudStryfe4” and carry on, whatever, or at least you would if you could connect to the server.

You checked your connection, it’s fine; restarted the router, nothing wrong there either. But you re-read it and it’s Blizzard’s server that is off. For maintenance. Patching World of Warcraft. But you still can’t play Diablo 3 (again assuming you just want to play your single player game that you already paid $60 for as well as your on-going $20 a month internet connection and you just want to kick Satan’s ass). How frustrating is that? You paid for a game that you can’t even play and it’s not your fault. What happened? Why has gaming come to this? No one should have to reschedule their day around something like that, especially whenever they already coughed up the money for it, it makes you wonder if they ever really bought it at all. I’m not going to get angry over their having to do patches or maintenance, I completely understand, again it boils down to not being able to enjoy the single-player at the owner’s leisure.

Last year I bought two games through Steam that had to be played through Games for Windows Live, another bit of tedium involving accounts, emails, passwords, etc. Steam has DRM, sure, you have to be able to sign on and your games are linked to your account, but considering the safety of your account, the usefulness of Steam, and the constant sales; I’m not going to complain about them. But having to use Steam to launch Games for Windows Live to launch Dead Rising 2  is a bit overkill. How many doors did I need to unlock to get through to my game? It won’t even save if I don’t log in to Windows Live, making it an absolutely necessary evil. But earlier this month I reinstalled it- wanting another go at getting that sweet Arthur armor- but no, I had forgotten my Windows Live account. I fiddled about with Microsoft’s account deal thing, trying to remember my myriad of Microsoft accounts (though I could’ve sworn I combined them all into one, since Microsoft is so fond of that) and logged in to find out…apparently the game wasn’t registered with that account. I don’t understand how, it was definitely my Windows Live account, or at least I’m 90% positive. Regardless I couldn’t be allowed to save my game or progress, thus leaving me with one alternative: not to play the game and to write an angry letter in response to Microsoft about the DRM involved with the game and how frustrating it was. Despite having legitimately paid for the game, I was impeded by software and security precautions designed to stop those who hadn’t. Is that fair?

Piracy is seriously a problem. Remember when I brought up Spore? This was a game that was very anticipated and it’s release was marked on many people’s calendars. But apparently it also bred a degree of skepticism since it was pirated 1.7 million times in its first three months following release and sold only 2 million copies in the same amount of time, making it the most pirated game of 2008. Will Wright’s The Sims 2 was the second. This was a direct response to EA’s announcement that Spore would have a limited number of activations, preventing the games from being installed more than three separate times and destroying the potential of it being sold second-hand. This was the first real strike and beginning of the war of videogame piracy.

After that it’s been a constant “one-upping” to see who could win. The publishers of  videogames have tossed more and more DRM and anti-piracy software at gamers and many of circumvented it anyways and pirated it, some out of spite and others because of the growing hassle buying and playing videogames had become. And the war doesn’t seem like it’s going to die out anytime soon. It’s just become such a simple thing to do and most do it with no care of the actual battle between gamer and publisher.

The Humble Indie Bundle was released a couple years ago with a “pay what you want” format including a number of independently developed and released PC games, the first pack with a cumulative price of $80. Sure there were some people that paid a penny and there were others who paid upwards to a thousand- that’s to be expected, but there was also a large amount of pirating. Keep in mind, the Humble Indie Bundle is completely DRM-free, you pay it, you own it, do what you want with it, take it where ever you want, but some pirates couldn’t be bothered to pay the one cent minimum price tag for a pack of five games. That just makes them assholes, that’s really all I can say. Some of the price goes to the developers or to charities like Child’s Play but nooooo, that’s not a good enough cause.

There is the argument, however, that piracy makes up for the lack of a demo in game releases. This, I admit, is a sound argument considering the current price of videogames is incredibly steep- and who doesn’t want to know what they’re getting into before they shell out that kinda cash?- but I’m not exactly sure I can trust that it doesn’t go beyond that. There’s no way of ascertaining whether or not pirates are playing the first couple of levels or the whole thing once they’re in possession of it.

I feel that it’s an action that gets simpler the more often one does it and that it becomes less and less of an issue. After-all piracy isn’t just limited to videogames and I’m sure everyone has or knows of someone who has downloaded music or films. You eventually stop caring about your original intentions and what used to be trying out games could become outright downloading and taking them. Though it’s not the same for some and some developers believe that piracy can honestly help and not hinder them.

Now, it could be the fact that Minecraft has brought in over 9 million dollars already, but Markus “Notch” Persson has jumped to the defense of piracy and says that he see’s pirates as, not thieves, but potential customers– a similar idea utilized by science fiction author and liberal copyrights activist Cory Doctorow. He mentioned in reaction to , “Just pirate it. If you still like it when you can afford it in the future, buy it then.” I appreciate the sentiment and I would generally agree were it not having these wide-reaching effects across the market.

Since the DRM has become so out of hand, it’s leading more people than ever to take to torrenting websites in waves to track down the newest releases. It’s not like I can blame them now, there’s many reasons to, but it’s making the war worse and escalating it by being a part of the problem. In a way it’s justifying EA and Blizzard’s actions, regardless of intentions.

Pirates can discuss that they’re not stealing the game all they want, that’s fine and true, sure. But they ARE stealing potential money from people who could honestly use it. And because of them, they are making the gaming industry Hell for people who just honestly pay for games and want to play them without being hassled about for accounts, cd keys, limited activations, ridiculous DRM, etc. The market is changing right now and the rest of the world just honestly isn’t ready for these new trends and the progression is going to be hard. Programs like Steam have most definitely helped slow piracy by offering so many games simply and at an affordable price. This marketing plan is how most things will probably turn to be in the future and pirates are possibly just wanting this convenience in an even more streamlined way. Are pirates the death of gaming? No. But the beehive of publishers that they prod with a nice jousting lance are.

“And after this I can play Mass Effect 3 without Origins, right?!”

Reggie’s Body is Ready Now

•June 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Today Reggie said his body was ready. That’s really all I gotta say, honestly. Reggie was talking about the Wii Fit U (it’s an improvement for people who loved the Wii Fit) and he said, “My body wasn’t ready” but now he is, apparently. This is already a vast improvement over the past five years of Wii-dom. As clearly, last year, he was not, but now he is. This means Nintendo won E3. That’s all I can and will say because nothing else needs to be said.

Nah, Miyamoto came out and he was still the charming little manchild he always is an I love him for it. He spoke broken English about Pikmin (which really made me think, why isn’t he fluent in English yet? You’d think owning such a large and wealthy company he would work on the lingua franca. I know it’s hard, but I’m learning Japanese myself; you’d just assume he would be more interested, but that’s why we have Reggie) and was all adorable before unveiling the grandness that was PIKMIN 3.
Sure they announced it last year, but still, it was great to see them fulfill their promises- Nintendo almost always does. Pikmin 3 looks like a great improvement, 4 leaders, a new Rock Pikmin, a ton of strategy and utilizing the Wii U…tablet thingy as a map and ass a more strategic form of playing it. It looked definitely interesting and I can tell it’s not going to be an easy game (the first was one of the harder games I played).
They showed ways the Wii U can be played and it does seem kinda interesting to be able to take the game off the screen and all and I’m sure they’ll find some ways to further use it and the like. Zombi U is a Ubisoft game coming out soon that completely uses the controller and features a variety of ways to use it during the zombie apocalypse. Scanning for zombies, hacking a door, fighting off an undead, brain eating corpse, all those things. Plus Reggie was a zombie and told us he would eat us. Oh Reggie.
A new New Super Mario Bros game is coming out, this one with the uncanny title of New Super Mario Bros U, and will feature similar game play to the one on Wii. 4 player fun is back that will surely make sure your friends hate you by the end, but the Tanooki suit is back along with baby Yoshis for everyone to shoot bubbles with or use to float about or some such. It’s cute, trust me, but I can’t help but want Galaxy 3 or some such. I love Mario games, sure, but the New ones don’t really feel new anymore.
Luigi’s Mansion Dark Shadows is the 3DS game most have been waiting for since the announcement last year and, guess what, we got to see it. New ghosts, multiple mansions, all sorts of awesome stuff for Luigi. I’m all bout it. Apparently there’s a separate showcasing for the 3DS alone tomorrow night, and that’s awesome because I wanted a 3DS to have a good library over the past year and it looks as if it may finally get one.
By this time Nintendo had already unveiled more games than Microsoft and Sony combined before releasing a slew of third party games including a new edition of Batman: Arkham City (Armored Edition) that will use the Wii U controller. It looks as if it won’t add much to the game, honestly, you can control the remote batarang, woohoo. Only a purchase for people who haven’t played it yet, really. A new Ninja Gaiden, Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed 3, etc.
They also released info about a new Scribblenauts which looks adorable and has more potential than any other since it’s on a full console (with a small port on 3DS). Looks fun and wants to expand on the plot of the earlier games, I didn’t know they had a plot really, and that’s cool, but at the same time it’s mostly just more of the same.
New Wii Fit, yay.
Nintendoland seems to be some sort of…Playstation Home, minigame extravaganza. Now, when I heard about Nintendoland, I was ready for a real-life theme park. Cause, seriously, I’ve wanted this for years (the Hey Ash episode was like reading my mind) and it’s the best fucking company and franchise for this. It’s just the best opportunity in the world and that Nintendo hasn’t done it yet is ridiculous. Anyways, its a series of minigames featuring your Mii. That’s bout it.
Nintendo fulfilled their promises and released pretty much what you’d expect from Nintendo. No new IPs and no huge blockbusters in their franchises (aside from Pikmin 3) and it sucks to see that they’re not creative enough to really try and utilize the potential hardware of the Wii U. A new addition to the pantheon is a must-have now. Sure Pikmin was added a myriad of years ago, but I think we all want more. Atleast now with this new power. As launch titles go, these aren’t awful and seem to be better than what the Wii had at launch, but I would definitely like to see more. Then again, next year there will undoubtedly be new consoles unveiled from one, if not both, of the other two in the Big Three and Nintendo will need as much ammo as they can get to hype things up. And I think a new Smash Bros. will definitely do that.
And maybe a Metroid, F-Zero, Galaxy 3, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3, Mother 4. I would say a new Zelda like most people seem to be clamoring over, but we just got Skyward Sword and I want others to be given a chance.  Image

Microsoft Press Conference E3 2012

•June 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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Another Microsoft press conference and I missed out on the beginning, but I tuned into the Kinect games so I’m fairly certain I didn’t miss anything of importance (aside from the opening of Halo 4 but…what do I care?). Kinect is, of course, again the name of the game this time as they released some Nike+ deal thing that can help you get in shape, something completely new to the videogaming industry as a whole-that whole fitness thing, then a nice new Dance Central game that they actually brought Usher out to dance about for. So, yeah, Kinect.
They advertised some…tablet? I think? Or maybe its just a program called Smart Glass that pretty much links all your devices together so while you’re watching a show, your tablet or phone can keep you up-to-date on what you’re watching and the like. Which to me sounds completely unnecessary. Just take a break and go look at your computer or something. Or look it up on your phone. I guess it’s a nice convenience, but it seems so unnecessary. But if it’s just a program, sure, whatever, it’s nice enough. Apparently you can look at something in the NEW AWESOME HALO game and unlock information that is sent to you through your phone. I guess it adds some immersion, I’m not sure. To me it’s just Microsoft’s WiiU tablet deal thingy. Has it’s uses, but a total gimmick.
The new Tomb Raider looks FANTASTIC and reminds me that I haven’t ever really played a Tomb Raider game in forever (aside from the gloriously fun Guardian of Light that I adored) and that I’d really like to try these new ones and see what those changes are since they wanted to make it more gritty and realistic (Lara actually gets dirty, bloody, hurt and possibly mangled instead of just being good to go all the time, she’s an adventurer not a super hero). But yeah, I’d like to get around to those sometime, the older ones suffered from those atrocious survival horror “only run forward” controls. This newest one definitely looks very Uncharted-esque, another game I’d love to play if I ever get the chance.
Resident Evil 6, Capcom’s upcoming sequel to the titular franchise, looks…about the same as always. It’s great to have them back in the city, as much as I loved RE4 (never got around to 5, though I should…) it’s great to have that old atmosphere of RE2 and 3. Leon Kennedy is back, but looking like Stephen Baldwin, it’s awful. Aside from that, it has few things that are different. You can look around corners and be more stealthy? But maybe that was in 5, Im not sure. Regardless, it could just be called “Quick Time Event: The Game” and it’d work.
They showed a nice trailer for the South Park RPG they’ve worked on for a year now. I didn’t expect the game to be this big, but it’s honestly looking great. The animation looks just like the show and everything, it’s amazingly impressive. Not to mention Trey Parker took a nice stab at the silly Microsoft device gimmicks before they rushed off stage.
The closing was an absurdly lengthy bit of single player gameplay from the newest in the Call of Duty series: Black Ops 2. It doesn’t look bad or awful or anything, they probably added in a couple new things too, but it just kinda looks like more of the same. Which is good for them, they depend on that formula to get the attention of their audience. Guns, stealth, bigger guns, headshots, seeing through walls, guns, explosions, crashes, etc. It’s not that I hate first-person-shooters or anything, I honestly usually like them, but I hate the audience it caters to for the most part. These people 90% of the time don’t care about a decent single player or the plot what-so-ever. They just run-and-gun like Contra. Shoot this, shoot that, so I can unlock this and use it to shoot my friends later while yell racial and homosexual slurs at them. Not that that is everyone or even most of the people who play these games, sure it’s just a bad stereotype but can you blame me? They just get the newest game to kill their friends in, doesn’t matter if it sucks or the previous was better, they’re still going to play it because that’s the current one. So they deal with it and stab, tomahawk, fellate their enemies to unlock whatever and buy more maps and eventually sink over $100 into one single game. Then again, I’m just bitter and want more variety in games, that’s really all. But atleast I admit it. I want more variety in FPSs in general, I loved the narrative style in L4D that most people completely look over (it has amazing characterization with no cutscenes, no cinematics, no dialogue aside from random quips said by characters during gameplay and you learn everything you need to know about them through that). Not to mention the greatness of Bioshock. I know there’s great potential in the genre; I just don’t want it squandered on muscle-headed competitive shooters anymore.
Well that was Microsoft’s press conference for 2012. They could’ve honestly just shown last years and no one would have noticed.

The Secret World BETA Preview

•May 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The Secret World is a game I’ve honestly been looking forward to for a very long time. Ever since Funcom hinted at a modern MMORPG a year ago it had my attention. And it kept escalating in its depth and its atmosphere to be everything I would want it to be. This game is  directed to a very niche audience, but luckily I’m right in the middle of that target.  In a world where MMOs have become so common place that only a pinch of them can afford to keep subscriptions and paying customers as a regular thing without sinking into the free-to-play system, it’s daring to try plugging a game into a market this dried up. Luckily for us, and possibly Funcom, this game is extremely refreshing in comparison to the usual high-fantasy realm we’re used to from the genre.

Funcom has had a history of being different or, in some way, edgy and innovative with their releases. Anarchy Online launched a decade ago and featured a cyberpunk world with intensive stat mechanics. Age of Conan launched a few years ago to introduce a more basic fantasy world to combat the success of World of Warcraft which had already garnered the fame and fanbase that it has today. Sadly both of them did not launch as successfully as they would have liked. But their games tend to resonate within some that carry a loyal cult following. Though there hasn’t been an expansion in years, Anarchy Online continues to have a devout number of players, carried over more than likely due to its free-to-play status and one of the first MMOs to kick-start that trend to save the franchise. The Secret World seems to be heading in this direction, but through no fault of its own, as this game is well-deserving of a fanbase rivaling WoW’s ravenous crowd.

The Secret World is a game set in modern day streets that have taken a turn for the creepy and alternative. The rival factions in this game are power hungry organizations hell-bent on conquering the world with their own ideologies. The Illuminati want to rule for power and control’s sake, the Templars want to raise up an empire for the righteous, and the Dragon want the world to soak in chaos and discord. So the best you can hope for is an anti-hero role, even the most moral character is power hungry at heart, and I love that aspect. The system is unique in that there are no governing classes like most role-playing games and, instead, a weapon can be picked up and learned at any time. Certain weapons carry with them a certain role in their abilities (pistols, blood magic, and fists heal, chaos and hammers can tank) but there’s nothing governing what you can do with leveling, it’s the most free-flowing level system I’ve ever known. You do not increase in level, nor get “stronger” at all, but you get anima (think ability) points and skill points along the way. Anima points can be used to purchase weapon based abilities and passive abilities- seven of which can be equipped at any one time regardless of how many weapons you can use or how many you have currently equipped, and skill points are used for personal character benefits and allows you to equip better quality gear.

Currently the character creation is incredibly weak, but it’s in beta so we’ll cut them some slack, but the introduction to the game is fairly fun. You immediately start off with a cinematic of your character getting into some trouble with their new-found magic powers and then getting recruited by the faction you chose at the beginning. Get used to these cinematics as every mission is told to you through them (a new facet that I absolutely adore as it greatly increases the immersion and the voice acting is fantastic). You are swept away to learn about your group and their goal and then tossed into the world. It’s a bit anti-climactic, it’s just sorta, “Hey, you’re with the Illuminati now, go check out this town in New England and tell us about it.” and you’re off.

The system of traveling from New York to London from Kingsmouth to Egypt is through, of course, the hollow Earth of Agartha. The Tree of Life stretches its limbs all across it and you can be warped all across the globe, how cool.

The game’s missions aren’t necessarily very different from your average MMO fetch and kill quests, but the way they’re introduced and played out just feel different. There’s a lot more detective work in The Secret World- so much so that they included an in-game browser that they expect you to use to look up everything from old artists that could have had ties to the Illuminati to composers in order to progress through missions. This adds a glorious air of mystery to the whole world and is incredibly fun.

The world just looks dark and dingy, as if it’s always just reviving from the worst thunderstorm it’s ever seen. And I love it. It’s a bit reminiscent of Troika’s Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and I don’t use that comparison easily, but this game is easily deserving of it. Everything is dark and spooky, everything is uncertain and this atmosphere is hard to replicate in an MMORPG setting, but they’ve done a wonderful job of rendering it. The zombie apocalypse harbor town of Kingsmouth just looks fantastic. The central hubs of London, Seoul and New York are mostly incomplete as of now, but I can definitely see them looking really cool in the future.

The music is great and also reflects the air of fear. It’s soft and somber for the most part and then it bursts into a manic frenzy when a group of zombies spot you and chase you down the street. Not to mention the voice acting is superb. Meeting the sheriff of Kingsmouth made me smile just because of that great accent alone, it just really worked well and immersed me right into New England.

Because of the lack of a leveling system it can be hard to really determine what a challenge can be, usually determined in other games by their level or some colour variation or what have you. In The Secret World there isn’t any such thing implemented just yet so you simply have to try your hardest or run. I recommend keeping an eye on their health, that’s a good indicator. Or if they’re just really too scary that’s a good reason to keep running too.

I’ve only taken part in one “dungeon” type mission, and that turned out to be one of the most challenging things I’ve done in this game easily. After being dropped off on a remote shoreline by helicopter we fought off one group, me acting as their tank, of simple zombie minions. And immediately afterward we were faced with a boss in an electrocuted lake with us hugging the shoreline  and wall while pummeling a Resident Evil-like Tyrant creature.  Just after that we went to another and another boss fight each getting harder and tougher till we just couldn’t beat one. These aren’t necessarily your usual tank-n-spank tactics here, as it’s hard to get these things to even focus on you anyway, so chasing them about is a must and each seems to have their own strategy to figure out, which is fun though frustrating when the group wipes instantly because of the trial-and-error nature.  Maybe I just wasn’t prepared, but it would have been nice to know, “Hey, you shouldn’t try this yet.”

As much as I want this game to take off and do well, there are definitely things lacking in it that almost worry me unless they immediately get to work to make sure it’s all done and ready for launch in the next month. The animations for some actions simply don’t flow well and I’ve had several problems with climbing ladders where it just simply won’t let me because it puts me on there at an odd angle. The mechanics of tanking is just insanely hard too. It’s hard to get enemies to focus their attention on you while the rest of your team is scattering about trying to chase you and the boss at the same time and the like. Some puzzle quests are just honestly too hard and expect too much before you just end up having to ask in the general chat, which may or may not understand that it’s actually becoming a negative experience to your personal gaming experience despite what you say. It looks great but I hope that they just didn’t release as much as they honestly have done for the beta and that there is a myriad of clothes , character creation options and a fully-fleshed out plan for the faction central hubs all tucked away for launch day. I love the game, but I do worry that they may be releasing the game too early without having these things ready. And nothing bothers me more than a game that thinks it’s ok to launch the game to weak success and then try and fix it up afterward (first impressions are important, guys!).

[May 31, about two weeks later]

Funcom released a patch recently rectifying a few problems, namely the ladder animations and released a more polished product that seems to work better.  No longer can you jump 8 feet in the air (dammit), but sprinting is finally faster than the steady jog that it used to be. They’ve also further implemented a color coded difficulty against certain enemies that I haven’t QUITE figured out just yet, but all missions now mention whether or not the mission will be simple, normal, hard, or challenging for your character. How that’s determined I’m not exactly sure, but it’s really useful.

I’ve finished a couple investigation missions,  The Kingsmouth Code and The Vision being the most interesting. Code gets a lot of praise for being insanely hard for a quest so early in the game, and for good reason, it’s definitely hard, but for all the wrong reasons  I feel.  I love a good challenge, trust me I’ve logged far too many hours in The Binding of Isaac than is normal, but this was just frustrating. It was easy to over-think clues or just have them lead you all around to small little places (the plaque at the beginning? Really?) and it just wasn’t clever. It wasn’t hard, it was just stupid. It didn’t even make me feel dumb, it just made the game seem tedious. I’m not dumb, or so I like to think, I knew what to look up and I had no problem with choosing the correct painting, but that I found the keypad afterward was just luck and I had caught the code early on from the chat room and it just hadn’t washed away so that was ruined for me. But it just wasn’t fun. And of course everyone wants to pretend it’s insanely simple or some-such, a claim I just can’t believe but to each their own.

The Vision was much more fun and was just following vague clues to destinations throughout Kingsmouth. That was it, fun exploration and it still took me about 15-20 minutes to complete. Much better executed.

I visited the next area for a bit, but it turns out that I’m still not entirely ready for The Savage Coast just yet (despite my feeling as if I can handle swarms of zombies). From what I can tell there isn’t nearly as much a problem there with zombies as demons. Checking the achievements for the game it looks like there’s eventually going to be vampires and werewolves and the like and, as much as I would love to go hunt some down, I know I’m not ready and I doubt I’ll get much further in the game. It’s fun, but it carries with it one huge problem: it’s a multiplayer videogame.

I don’t want to sound too bitter, but I hate playing videogames online with others most of the time. The state of gamers these days leads to the most whiny, bratty, self-entitled bunch ever, if you haven’t noticed. The same reason I stopped playing World of Warcraft wasn’t necessarily because of the gameplay (though I definitely had problems with that eventually, too) but just the people who played it. The chatroom is constantly flooded with every complaint possible and demanding perfection all the time, it’s absurd. I used to really enjoy playing League of Legends, but that was more of the same. Other players getting angry and frustrated with how you’re playing and constantly feeling holier-than-thou or vice-versa when you are struggling with someone who is doing miserably and when you offer some form of help they get very defensive. Playing games online is just a constant warzone, and it’s not different with The Secret World. There has been constant bickering in every chat channel, there were arugments when my team was grouped, it’s constant. But it’s not like you can just ignore them or anything, it’s a MULTIPLAYER game for a reason. You depend on them. But this is getting off-topic from the game itself and a rant that will have to wait for another time.

The Secret World is a great, intriguing look at a genre that we don’t see too much in videogames in general, let alone in an MMO RPG environment. It offers a lot of potential and variance that I adore and I only  hope for the best for it down the road. Sadly it suffers from the usual stings and setbacks that adorn most MMO games, but looks to overcome them in an effort to bring a more interesting dish to the stale and rotten dinner table of the genre.

Me hangin out near the Hallowe’en Tree in the Wispwood of Kingsmouth

Brick

•August 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Brick is a unique spin on the classic noir archetype. It’s young, it’s hip and cool, but maintains that suave sense of mystery. It’s almost cartoonish in this design as you watch these teenagers tackle the problems of murder and drug trade amongst the students of their high school, but the feeling is so fleeting you’re right back into one of the most intense crime thrillers I’ve seen in years.

The movie stars a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who acts debonaire as always, but in this film he comes off as incredibly flawed and troubled, unstable at times. He’s our hero, amateur detective Brendan Frye searching for what became of his ex-girlfriend Emily Kostich. When he finds her dead this sets him off on the hunt to find the murderer in class “whodunnit” style. Brendan uses his contacts within the upper-echelon of students to point fingers at eachother and what follows is an intricate tale woven by various stories culminating in the final dramatic story. He navigates to the head of a heroin-ring, the Pin (Lukas Haas), and his assistant Tugger who exposes him to a whole world of pain throughout the film. But one thing unites everyone; the Pin, Tug, the socialite Laura, and the thespian Kara- the disappearance of Emily.

Gordon-Levitt does a fantastic job in the lead role. He is sympathetic, cool, interesting, and brilliant; but, like most geniuses, he is emotionally dissociated, more objective, even his relationship with Emily really did seem to be unhealthy when you see it in flashbacks. Whether or not it was abusive is still up-in-the-air. All this kinda balances Brendan precariously as to whether or not he really represents a good hero or not. He acts confused and distraught, caring only for the truth of what happened. And he does a great job of dragging the audience with him.

Lukas Haas was a great crime lord, a totally unexpected role that I didn’t really anticipate the movie to throw at me (again, it’s set in high school, I didn’t think heroin rings would really be involved despite the title). He, as well, acts fairly ambiguous- somewhere between villain and partner. He seems to work out of his own self-interest, but also selflessly towards his interest in the where-abouts of Emily, if only out of concern for Tug who you discover dated her. He was a very interesting character and I’d like to see what else Haas is capable of doing.

The film is best at just being deliciously filmed eye candy. The cinematography is fantastic. There were so many brilliant shots that I just couldn’t help but grin at how great they were (the countdown to midnight and the murder of Dode being ones that I remembered vividly).  It took me a few hours to watch it because, as I was constantly distracted by other things most of all my own thoughts, I had to go back or pause it because I didn’t want to miss anything. Its shot with emphasis in the details, we see what Brendan sees. It’s clever and let’s us play along and try to figure it out with him. It was these clues that I didn’t want to miss while watching and it kept me glued. Sometimes the camera would remain fixed while action would criss-cross infront of it (when Brendan fights the jock) and that was just enormously good and again kinda cartoony. The cameraman was extremely ambitious and their experimentation paid off.

Brick is a great noir story with fantastic Raymond Chandler-esque dialogue, but really does retain this feeling of chidlike innocence somehow. Every character feels short-sighted and naive, like high school children are, and unable to really do or handle what they need to do.  But the story is gripping none-the-less and with some of the most beautifully intricate scenes I’ve ever seen laid out, it all comes together as a very well-done film and I enjoyed it immensely.