We Have to Be Better Than This

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There is a remarkable beauty within the games we play, hidden by a simple process that nearly all of us take for granted. To reload from our last save would be an invaluable tool in our waking lives. Some would undoubtedly use it to win bets and lotteries, but most would simply correct those things we wish we could take back.

Just a few days ago now, one such incident exploded outward from a brief rant on Invisible Walls from Marcus Beer, directed at Phil Fish and Johnathan Blow. Regarding the recent news of self publishing from the Xbox One, Phil Fish, creator of Fez and Johnathan Blow, best known for Braid declined comment (to Game Informer specifically) on the matter, deciding instead to wait for more details to surface. 

The particular comments that Beer called out on Invisible Walls do not appear on Game Informer's site, but may stem from a few tweets from Johnathan Blow and Phil Fish alluding to the deluge of requests for comment he'd received. The rest is hearsay and history. Beer called Fish in particular a "toss-pot," "hipster," and a "fucking asshole." 

Self Publishing on Xbox One; Too Good to be True?

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Yesterday, Microsoft confirmed rumours that the Xbox One will allow any of it's user to make their own games. Essentially giving players a devkit for their own projects seems to be a great boon for the much beleaguered console. There's more to this news than most are mentioning. It isn't all good news either. Take a moment, once again, to step back from the exciting news and take a broader perspective. We have questions.

Alone at Arm's Length

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From classic board games to early arcades and consoles, people have sat or stood side by side to play together. The advent of the personal computer and the internet, games have shifted away from this model, largely to one supporting only online multiplayer. This has always been a thorn in my side, and one that often seems to fall on deaf ears within the gaming community.

Games are meant to be played in the company of others. Yes, many are built with a single player in mind, but often these are more enjoyable in tandem with friends and family; watching over the shoulder, pointing out items, offering advice and sometimes just helping to share the weight of particularly emotional moments. I wasn't able to finish The Last of Us without my wife there to experience it with me. 

I love single player campaigns. I rarely buy a game for it's multiplayer alone. Even when I have, it's been to share that game with friends either across the country or across the couch. That's why I am so apprehensive about the loss of local multiplayer. 

Rush Bros, Asynchronous Play

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I have always been a fan of music integral to the function of a game. Loom, Chime, and Ocarina of Time are some of my favorites where music is an active element, rather than a passive one.

There have been many times when I depended on the pulsing rhythms of a personally chosen soundtrack to help psych me up and fine tune my performance while playing an FPS. This technique would always work well until I found myself at a point where my typically four-on-the-floor songs and game functions fell out of sync, a hard misstep to overcome once I was "in the zone."

Saints Row Has Won Me Over

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Some years ago I played a game that tried too hard to be Grand Theft Auto. Saints Row was overwrought, it's humor fell flat, and the game had so many bugs, it got it's own musical. The game was loaded with direct copies of GTA mechanics, the graphics were seemingly unfinished; in short, I didn't like it.

When Saints Row 2 was announced, I rolled my eyes at the septic truck ad and the utterly over the top direction the game took. Being an overly pretentious gamer, I wrote the series off, determined that it just didn't have "enough depth." I railed against the game, said that they missed the boat and could never match the tongue in cheek humor of GTA. 

Last week, I downloaded Saint's Row: The Third from PlayStation Plus. After all, it was free. I figured I had nothing to lose. Within the first half an hour, I realized how wrong I had been about the series.  

Saint's Row may have started as a GTA clone, but the series became something so much more than that. The "trying too hard" humor that many critics (myself included) lambasted was taken into the realm of ridiculous. I've heard Saint's Row described as "Gonzo." I think the term, in keeping with it's roots in the work of Hunter S. Thompson is perfectly accurate in describing Saint's Row. 

 The Saint's Row series took the tropes and traditional schemes omnipresent in video games and threw them out. Those tropes that weren't outright tossed were blown into such preposterous proportion to make them obvious targets to poke fun at. 

Most games I've played that laid claim to an open world still forced me into a single character, or gave me variations on the white washed  theme to choose from. Even options meant to convey heavier characters are really nothing more than swollen versions of the lean, muscular models. Saint's Row allowed me to make an obese, green skinned woman with iridescent purple hair. 

Even without robust character creation, Saints Row has brought player freedom new meaning. I spent fifteen minutes intentionally crashing cars into  a large concrete barrier to propel my character through the windshield and off a cliff, just so I could pull my parachute and glide through the city. 

Perhaps I wasn't ready for Saints Row before now. When I first played Saint's Row, I was assured that games should do nothing short of stun and amaze me with their depth and meaning. Over the years I've come to realize that, much like any art form, there is a game for every mood and context. Saint's Row is to video games what Gamma World is to tabletop games; an entertaining and over the top escape. 

Having just finished The Last of Us, I found Saint's Row to be a perfect antidote to the parade of seriousness and sorrow my current playlist had brought round. I'm now an unabashed fan of Saints Row and look forward to the upcoming fourth game in the series. In the meantime, I have mind controlling octopi to shoot at gangsters. 

An Interview with Anthony Montgomery, Creator of Miles Away

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Many of you may have seen our review of Miles Away, the new graphic created by Anthony Montgomery. Anthony was kind enough to take some time away from his busy tour and talk to us about where Miles Away came from and where it's headed. We were very impressed with the graphic novel, and after our conversation with Anthony, we're all the more curious about where the series will take us next. Here's what Mr. Montgomery had to say.

An Overdose of Nostalgia

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
There is an old school up the road from my parents place that I remember as the first place I played video games. I remember the Nintendo, seeing people blow on the cartridges as though it were some kind of ritual. Punchout was the first console game I ever played, and I played it there, in front of a wooden cabinet TV. I also remember sitting in the office with my dad playing Scorched Earth and how excited I was when I figured out how the shields worked.

Not long after this we got our first PC at home, a Packard Bell with a 28.8 modem and an amazing 250 MB hard drive. SO much space that we'd never fill it all. I spent all my allowance on games. Space Quest, Syndicate, Dune 2000, Warcraft, Doom, X-COM; my shelves filled with games as fast as I could buy them.

More than just the place I played games, the school was where I first discovered Led Zepplin, the Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and all manner of things incredibly awesome to a child in the early 90's.

That school shut down while I was still in elementary school, but it stood there for years after, a constant reminder of where I'd gotten my start. A few years ago, someone bought the property and moved in. I didn't think too much of it, other than being perturbed that I couldn't use the dock there to swim anymore.

Three weeks ago they started tearing down the main building. I stopped my car the first time I saw it gutted. The roof gone, all the siding and insulation heaped in a giant dumpster, sledgehammer leaning against an exposed beam. It's been hard looking at that every time I drive out to visit my family. As though some part of my past I thought immovable has been stolen away. In more irrational moments I've wondered how callous the current owners must be to destroy such an important part of my childhood.

In the midst of this, my family has been clearing out old things from their house, and two nights ago, while throwing out old, crumbling Star Wars models, I came across something that nearly turned me into a six year old again. Observe...

Destiny Awaits

Thursday, July 4, 2013
I have closely followed Bungie for a very long time. Their games have been atop my playlists ever since I first saw Marathon. I remember Myth quite fondly as one of my first multiplayer experiences, and loved Oni from the start. The Halo series has been a longtime favorite of mine (Along with practically everyone else). Now the big blip on everybody's radar is Destiny.

If you haven't watched it already, the presentation given by Bungie at this years GDC is a great window into the world of Destiny. It gives us far more in depth information than any other video or trailer out there so far, getting as deep as classes and playable races.

Early off the Blocks; Why the Xbox One-80 Was the Right Choice

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Many of us are still riding the rage bus fueled by Microsoft's E3 conference this year. While Xbox hate is trending, even after the reversal of the DRM and digitally focused model they presented  on stage, I'd like to take a moment to ask us all to take a step back, if you can. I want to make it clear that what follows is the opinion of this writer and should not be taken as inside information or literal fact.