Archive for the Games Category

Finally Made It

Posted in FFXI with tags , , on August 19, 2009 by zolthanite

After a year of off and on again leveling, waiting for parties, and general lack of play, I have officially hit 75 Puppetmaster. The first thing I did was merit Role Reversal and Ventriloquy. So now comes the inevitable joy that is capping out my merits for the only three jobs I play.

Fortunately I have wonderful friends that helped me level. So naturally I have to pay it forward to other PUPs in my linkshell. Of course there’s always one wise ass out of the group:

Me: I hit PUP75/WAR37!
SD: Congrats. You are now officially useless.

I love you too.

I am still lacking my last few parts, but I have time before they need to be addressed:

Turbo Charger

The War on Gaming

Posted in Games, Politics on August 10, 2009 by zolthanite

The ESA was recently in the news for criticizing Obama over his repeated anti-Xbox rhetoric with regards to people getting their kids off of the TV and the games and outside doing constructive things. Many gamers took the mantle of self-righteousness claiming Obama will take away our video games and with it our Second Amendment rights. Really? Guys, you spend more than ample time obsessing over he latest news and gaming gossip on Kotaku yet you fail to realize that the “Get off your fat ass kids and go outside” message is actually a legitimate concern?

Thankfully Andy Chalk at The Escapist penned an absolutely brilliant rebuttal to the rabid gaming left, chastising both Obama for sweeping generalization as well as gamers for putting on blinders to the reality of the situation of how gaming affects our lives.

I recently finished watching Second Skin. It’s a brilliant piece of cinematography and believe it should be a baseline for anyone attempting to weigh in on either side of the debate. The most poignant thing about the film is the juxtaposition of functioning happy couples with single men who, for lack of a better way to put it, live like drug addicts. Because that’s what video games are: a drug. In moderation we can use them as simple diversions or as catalysts to life-defining soial experiences that can lead us to the greatest of happinesses. Or we can abuse them and let them lead us down the path to a waking hell as we lose all we hold dear, jobs, family, finances, to a nearly free (depending on your game) substance for an increasingly insatiable hunger.

Resident Evil 5 Isn’t Racist, But You Probably Are

Posted in Games with tags , , , , on March 18, 2009 by zolthanite

Intentionally inflammatory title for what I perceive as a completely ludicrous subject.  It’s like they have no idea what Resident Evil is about, nor keep it in context.

This was cross-posted at Twenty Sided in response to Shamus’ original article.


I’m going to paraphrase a story that one of my old bosses, Robert, told me. Regardless of veracity, it holds particular weight with this whole debate.

There was a time, long long ago, when Colin Powell was being interviewed as an up and coming African American in the Army (I believe this was before he became a general). One of the questions asked of him was, roughly: “What is your feeling about racism in the Armed Forces?”

His response: “I have not had a problem with racism in the Army.”

After the press conference, Robert was in Powell’s office, as he was Robert’s commanding officer, on unrelated business. But it was fairly obvious the interview didn’t sit well with him, and as he was leaving Powell stopped him and said, “Did you have a problem with what I said?” in reference to Powell’s response.

“Sir, I think that to say that racism has not been a problem in your career is quite honestly a lie. I don’t think any black person in the Army, myself included, would agree with you on that point.”

“Robert, racism is not something I have a problem with because I am not racist. The people who have a problem with racism are racist themselves. Racism is their problem, not mine.”

Bottom line is: Personal bias for the person playing the game is irrelevant, especially if they are hyper-sensitive to such issues. The baseline for racism is purely about intent, not about perspective.

As far as the intent goes, I would almost claim that because the game is devoid of artistic merit it doesn’t have to deal with the problem of racism or not. Birth of a Nation is not purely derivative entertainment, and actually is blatantly racist as it goes out of its way to elevate white people at the cost of black people. Using blackface, in most capacities (beyond a production of Othello or historical reenactment.  It’s a matter of context), actually is racist because someone actively is making race an issue.

Resident Evil 5 takes the zombie menace, and puts it in Africa. Unless it’s taking place in South Africa with tons of Dutch around, arguing about black zombies is ridiculous. Every Resident Evil has taken place, in some capacity, in the middle of nowhere. Raccoon City was a middle of nowhere town. The first RE (I believe) was in a middle-of-nowhere mansion. RE4 was in the unnamed, generic isolated Spanish countryside. RE5 is in Africa somewhere. What other ethnic group would you expect to find? This is dictated by setting, not because someone said “Oh we need to mow down some black people. We can’t do Harlem, so let’s go to Africa. I hear they have loads of  <insert racial slur in plural form>.”

As far as racist imagery, I don’t see pearly white smiles. I don’t see large lips and shuffle dancing. I don’t see anything that would indicate historically offensive paradigms, especially for the US, that’s no worse than your average box of Uncle Ben’s rice or Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix. To be frank, I don’t see anything different from Resident Evil 4 beyond a meaningful change in scenery appropriate for the setting. More importantly, for such a White Is Right game, why is the female lead not also white? Shouldn’t she also be lily fresh, blonde, and sexy to make the battle for white supremacy complete? She isn’t Asian, that’s for sure.

If anything, one could look at Japanese games as a whole and wonder, if they have any fault at all, why they elevate Western European features as a form of beauty as they do. Ken from SFIV is actually Japanese-origin, but wants to be American to the point where he bleaches his hair. I don’t remember playing a single RE where an Asian features prominently anywhere, except for Ada Wong, who isn’t exactly a positive role model for heroism. Is she a symbol of Japanese self-loathing? It would be a much more fruitful discussion. Cherry-picking RE5 for being racist out of the entire series is irresponsible for any real discussion.

It Has Begun

Posted in Games with tags on February 21, 2009 by zolthanite

So I did something I should never do, and I installed Dwarf Fortress.  

The biggest reason for this, is that there is enough engineering involved in the game to keep me busy for a long time.  And it doesn’t end.  The nuance to detail, randomness, and having to pay attention to all kinds of stuff, even in an easy starting area, is amazing.  Part of me wants to restart in an glacial biome just to see what would happen if I had ice mechanics to deal with, but I would die in mere minutes.

Today one of my dwarves decided to build a legendary artifact.  Naturally, I’m all excited.  What could it possibly be?  So far I’ve gotten a length of chain, a cabinet, a ring (which I guess is all about bragging rights, no?), a war hammer, and a bracelet.  More jewels?  A new, neat weapon?

Nope.  Cloth socks.

I am at a loss for words.

Where Our Hero Is Slain

Posted in Games with tags on February 17, 2009 by zolthanite

I have no idea why, but I’m going to finish Gears of War.  I really don’t like the game all that much (Well, campaign anyway) and the way you just seem to die constantly from torque bow shots and boomers is just… wow.

I think it’s preparing me for braving the horrors of Fallout 3 again.  I just hope I can get my save for the PC again.

RTS on a Console

Posted in Games with tags , , , , on February 17, 2009 by zolthanite

I played some of Halo Wars demo yesterday and found the controls to be decently intuitive.  A few things missing, but I figured I could live without them.  But as I always do I started thinking of ways to try and improve upon them.  What did other games do?  How did it function?  Fortunately, my roommate has a copy of Command and Conquer 3 for the 360, so I decided to give that a whirl.  Pending giving LotR: Battle for Middle Earth a go, this is as good as I’m going to get for free.  So, on to the controls*.

*I want to write this down now, before I forget.  I’ll probably write a little bit more of what I thought about the rest of the game later, but this is a big one for me as part of the “RTS and FPS, PC4LYFE” crowd.


Play Experience

Halo Wars:  Since I was playing the demo, I went through the first two missions of the campaign and did a skirmish with each side (USMC and Covenant), replaying the second mission and setting the second skirmish on Heroic (Hard) difficulty.

CnC3: I have already beaten the GDI and Nod campaigns on PC, so I’m not likely to repeat that.  Still, I sat through the tutorial (Hi, Cameron!) and did a simple 1v1 skirmish using GDI.  To be fair, I did do the skirmish first, but it doesn’t affect the outcome of what I’m about to say so much.


Unit Control and Selection

As far as unit control they both pretty much swing the same way.  ‘A’ selects units.  Then there’s a button for moving, a button to cancel, and that sums it up.  Similarities end there though.

Multiple Units:  CnC doesn’t get the drag boxes.  Instead, the shoulder triggers are dedicated to “select all onscreen units of this type” and “select all onscreen combat units”.  Halo Wars gets a “select all onscreen units of this type”, “select all units globally” and a “select all units onscreen”, but also has a semi-hidden, drag-box function.  Basically, you get a small circular area in the center of the screen that will add units to your control as it overlaps them (Moving the circle off of the unit keeps them selected, however).  I say semi-hidden because the game doesn’t tell you about it and in order to get the circle you hold down ‘A’, instead of a normal button press.  It’s nice, but you don’t really need it for reasons further below.

Neither seems to have a group-append similar to Shift+Select on PC games.

Control Groups: Halo Wars has no squad control in the sense any RTS fan is used to, which is in stark contrast to CnC’s number groups.  After playing it for a bit, I’m fairly certain that’s because it largely doesn’t need to.  Most of the game is extremely low unit count activity, so control groups are wasted in effectiveness.  Even with a 40-unit count, you’re using a lot of that in vehicles, of  which you would only have a max of 20 if you did a single-unit built.  

What it does do, however, is give you the ability to select all of your units on the screen globally and locally, while giving a button to select the subtypes of units (Similar to how most PC games allow you to tab through unit types).  Unlike PC RTS, giving unit move and attack commands in this mode only applies it to that unit type.  It also lets you cycle through implied groups based on army region (So if you have split your forces to 3 different map locales, you can cycle through all three, selecting each as it’s own “group”.  It’s really as much granularity as the game needs.

CnC3 has the group tabs mechanic, which is, for lack of a better word, horrible.  However, it is completely and 100% saved by the ability to have the game auto-assign a group number to your selected units AND cycle through them with button presses, so you never have to use the godawful interface tabs if you so choose.

Movement: CnC still has the Forced/Attack Move distinction, by single or double tapping the Move command respectively.  Halo Wars doesn’t have the ability to make the distinction, and does not seem to do Attack Moves (Testing it with USMC marines at the moment).

Special Commands:  Most(All?) units in Halo Wars have secondary abilities.  These are activated by simply hitting ‘Y’.  CnC requires the use of the interface tabs on the unit, which means the following:

  1. Hold R
  2. Move your hand from the Camera Pan stick to the D-Pad
  3. Move over to the desired ability
  4. Move back to the Camera Pan
  5. Hit A

In short, I hate it.


Base Management

Resources: CnC-style refineries vs. the Dawn of War requisition method.  Both have a single unit for currency, not much else to say.

Building Placement:  For people who are used to placing buildings with a mouse, consoles are as bad as you think they are.  CnC still has the same placement strategies as before, with building rotation performed via camera.  Halo Wars opts for the highly simplified, yet much easier “Pod Base” construct, where your base has limited slot expansion, but can build anything you have access to in those slots.  

Building Buildings/Units: Halo Wars is a simple “Select, Point, ‘A'” which ensures that anything you want to build is only three button presses away.  CnC  uses the tab interface which activates by holding the trigger, but requires you to manually select things using the D-pad on a linear list of constructions.  For the construction yard, you’re doing a lot of mousing.  Building a crane also requires you select the crane from the map, preventing you from doing any form of queuing.  And that’s assuming you don’t need to reposition, which requires additional camera rotation.

In short, it’s annoying as hell, and I’m not sure if any amount of practice would make it any more intuitive for me.

The interface DOES allow you to queue units without going back to the base, unlike Halo Wars.  But Halo Wars gets around that by allowing the cycle-army-base buttons to move you camera as you go.

Waypoints:  CnC maintains the “waypoints per production building” mechanic, with the ability to set the default production structure for interface-based construction (That probably means the multi-building unit queues are not in the game.  Shame, really, since that was the best thing to have).  Halo Wars has a single waypoint per base, so no separating based on unit type.  It also gives you the ability to set global waypoints so all bases send units to a specific part of the map.  Awesome?



Halo Wars has an advantage in being able to tailor the game mechanics to fit a console, and get rid of a lot of the stuff that plagues Command and Conquer as a result of being a PC-port.  What’s annoying is that the Halo Wars control scheme could be adapted to CnC fairly well, and would improve a lot of the problems I had with it.  It has a fairly simple control scheme suitable for the game.  CnC is a nice effort, but it loses out on some key PC distinctions that make playing the game no where near as enjoyable.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Halo Wars is a must-buy for anyone.

Wow, that was fast

Posted in Games with tags , , on February 12, 2009 by zolthanite

So in my Mass Effect review I wrote that it would have been more enjoyable to break ME up into two games, since: 

The sheer variety in deciding your character’s backstory at the very beginning implies there is a lot more room to have those details fleshed out in the course of a CRPG-like campaign, which would really give a shot of player attachment right into the arm.  The other bonus, possibly the more important one, is that in serving as a soldier, you are effectively experiencing the world at large directly, without the need for plot-driving set pieces for the epic story.  

I think someone must have had the same thoughts that I did.