Tag Archives: video games

Diablo III is a hellish disappointment

20 May

Growing up I loved the Diablo series. Diablo II is actually where my name “Godless Paladin” Comes from. The paladin in Diablo II was holy warrior-super knight, clad in heavy armor, that waded into combat laying waste to hordes of minions.

I had an affinity for tank like characters, and so I picked him. Years later when I became an atheist and started this blog, I still was into medieval stuff, had a suit of armor of my own, and still loved the paladin, yet was now godless. The image of a righteous paladin without gods and masters came to mind. It was the best thing I could think of at the time, and so I ran with it.

But back to the game.

Diablo III was a game 11 years in the making. Production started in 2001, while Diablo II was still in the market. I have a theory that after a game’s development time passes around the 3-4 year mark, it’s going to be a really shitty game. Why? Well because it’s at that point that I imagine most of the delays to be originating from too much producer and executive input.

Creative people and programmers can come up with an idea and put it together. The speed at which they do that depends heavily on how much resources the company can allocate to the project. Blizzard is a massive company with almost no end in funds, with an extremely solid production history, so why the hell did it take 11 years?

I can only imagine that the producers kept trying to control how the game turned out, instead of giving the creative people room to be creative. That’s at least how the game feels.

The first thing that sticks out are the graphics. To some people, graphics don’t matter, they let their imagination do the work, but to people like me, they matter a lot. A beautiful game is really important to creating a feeling of immersion, the sensation that you’re there, and after all, that’s what gaming is all about.

At the time of writing this, Battlefield III is one of the PC gaming industry’s graphical benchmarks for excellent graphics.

Diablo III’s graphics look like they’re stuck in 2006. I know that Battlefield III and Diablo III are fundamentally different games, being played from different view points, but the issue that I’m trying to get at here is that the technology exists for Diablo III to make use of much better lighting, shading, shadows, textures, and particle affects. Instead we get something that looks cartoonish and borrows heavily from Blizzard’s other flagship series, World of Warcraft.

In the process of doing so, Diablo III loses a lot of the gritty, gory, hellish feel to it that Diablo II had. That loss really cuts at the essence of what this game is supposed to embody. Further example, examine these two screenshots. First from Diablo II, then Diablo III.

The next thing that struck me as a let down in Diablo III occured to me after I realized I had just played the first three hours of the game single handed. That’s right. The entire time I was playing, I was playing and winning with only my mouse hand, and winning easily. I feel Diablo III lost a lot of the challenge and strategy that was in Diablo II, that the game had been dumbed down. As I’ve been playing more, I’ve started to use the hotkeys on the keyboard, but only sparingly.

The game feels like I’m just clicking on things until they die, and they always do because as a witch doctor with a rapid fire long range blowgun, I mow enemies down before me with a few rapid clicks.

On the bright side, at least I can hold my drink in my other hand while playing.

Over the past few years, voice acting has taken on a much greater prominence in gaming. Games tell a story after all, and it is important that they tell that story well. Bethesda Studios is famous for their voice acting, and so is Bioware. Both studios put a lot of effort into crafting a good story, and then having good actors give voice to those characters.

Blizzard fell short with Diablo III. The voice acting is cheesy and the lines are cheesy. I feel like the characters have the minds of 13 year old kids. Their attitudes towards fighting, glory, valor, evil, and fear are all very naive and innocent. To make matters worse, it is as if they recorded six lines of dialogue for each character, and I keep hearing them over and over again. The attack noises are pretty annoying as well. One attack, for the witch doctor, involves flinging frogs at the enemy. The frogs so far have proved useless, but the thing that is most annoying is the sound the witch doctor makes when you fling them. It’s like shocking a cat with a taser. When you’re rapid clicking in order to spam frogs, it’s extremely annoying.

I ended up just muting the game and listening to my audio book while clicking through one handed. Not a good sign.

The next major issue I wanted to discuss was character customization.

Diablo III is supposed to be a Role Playing Game (RPG). In a RPG, you create a character and then customize and improve them throughout the game. The majority of the excitement comes from getting new items to improve your character how you want, trying new strategies, and altering the look of your character.

Blizzard takes all of this away in Diablo III, and it’s a deal breaker.

When you “level up” in Diablo III, the game unlocks new abilities, but you have no say in what abilities it unlocks. Blizzard decides for you. This leaves every character more or less the same in spell abilities. A level 10 witch doctor is going to have X spells. A level 15, X, Y spells. A level 20, X, Y, Z spells. The only possible difference is the equipment, but even that has flaws which I’ll get to later.

Your character is no longer your character. You have no say in how they evolve, what areas they focus on. It’s all decided for you and it destroys the fun.

I mention that equipment differed slightly, but not really. While equipment might have certain small affects on your abilities here and there, you have no way of customizing the look of your character. You will inevitably go for whatever equipment gives you the better boost, regardless of how it looks. The end result is something akin to a color blind toddler trying to dress themselves from a random barrel of clothes. You look disjointed and like an idiot.

This is further compounded by the “Pay to win” system Blizzard has implemented in the “Real money auction house.”

Blizzard legalized a system for using real money to buy better equipment in game. This means that those who spend more than the original $60 will have an easier time beating the game, and will have an even easier time killing other players who can’t afford to shell out more money for better items.

The other fun part of the fun of an RPG besides customizing your character is finding cool equipment to customize your character with. What’s the point if I can just buy the best equipment and walk straight through the game, ignoring every chest and dead enemy, knowing I already have the best equipment? This further hollows out the game.

The final issue I want to address is the copy right protection on Diablo III. Instead of making a better product and hoping people buy it, and instead of crying over “lost sales” from people who pirate because they don’t have the money to buy in the first place, game developers are more and more moving to make paying customers jump through ever increasing hoops to play the game they bought.

This only serves to increase player frustration and spur on piracy. It’s bad enough that the game you own isn’t really “yours” to do with as you like (ex: some games can only be installed on certain computers, and only a certain number of times), but now Blizzard has set the precedent of requiring constantly on internet connection. The idea is, while it’s easy to crack the protection on a game that doesn’t require internet, it’s not easy to hack Blizzard’s servers and play an illegal copy of the game.

Yes, just about everybody has internet now, but at different speeds, and at different prices. I have discovered that lag is a significant issue. If your internet connection is slow, the game will often lag, causing your character and the enemies to jump all over the map, or for you to suddenly die because you were being attacked and couldn’t move. Whenever this happens it makes the game uplayable and I end up just quitting till the internet improves.

The launch of Diablo III exposed another major flaw in “always online” gaming: it relies on servers.

Diablo III was supposed to go live at 3am EST on May 15. I, along with thousands of other loyal fans who had grown up with the series, stayed up late to play.

But the servers crashed.

It would be one thing if this was some other company, but Blizzard is the company behind World of Warcraft, a massive multiplayer online RPG. Servers should be their bread and butter.

People couldn’t log into their games. People who did were kicked off the servers. It was a grade A clusterfuck. When the servers finally did slowly come one line, others were forced to wait in queues in order to play the game they bought. I ended up just going to bed. 14 hours later and the game was still having issues letting people on.

The whole launch night experience is summed up very nicely in this short video:

I’ve been able to get on since, but the precedent is unnerving. There has been a trend in the technology and gaming industry over the past several years, a trend towards not allowing customers ownership and control over the things they buy. You’re not so much buying a product like you would buy a house, you’re buying a license to use a controlled product, one not controlled by you.

Diablo III reeks of this loss of control.

The creative people lost control of the product to producers and executives seeking to cash in on a beloved franchise after 11 years.

The player lost control over the development of their character, how they play, and when they play.

The game lost its soul of dark demonic combat and the thrill of exploration.

The whole thing is just a sad let down.

Bechdel Test for Video Games?

19 Dec

The other day I read an interesting review of the new Tron movie by Ashley F Miller. In her review Ashley mentioned the Bechdel test. What is the Bechdel test you ask? It’s simple:

This got me thinking, what about a Bechdel test for video games? I searched around but couldn’t find anything much besides this blog post by .tiff.

My question is this: how would the Behdel test apply to video games? Would it need to be modified? .tiff points out that one of the biggest ways video games differ from movies is in the player’s control of the character. Whereas in a movie we can only sit and wait for two women to talk to each other about something other than a man, in a video game it’s up to the player to make that interaction happen. This then brings up the issue of whether or not the game developers make it necessary to talk to a named woman about something other than a man in order to advance the story, or not.

Someone in the comments of .tiff’s blog post also brought up the point that many video games don’t have much talking at all, at least not by the main protagonist. How would this affect the Bechdel test when applied to video games?

What about video games that have female main characters? How would this affect the test if you had the ability to choose to play as a female or if you were required to play as a female? RPGs like Oblivion, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age let you choose to play as a woman, whereas other games like Portal, Bayonetta, and Mirror’s Edge require you to play a woman. Should these be counted differently? Should one be weighted more heavily than the other?

I think it’s important to keep in mind that the Bechdel test is only about gauging the involvement of women, not about the portrayal of women. I’m tempted to ask questions about how the video game has women dressed, how their bodies are built (are they normal people or super sexualized?) and whether or not they need rescuing in some capacity. (sidenote, if you play as a female in the Mass Effect series, there are a lot of times you have to rescue the helpless male, which I find extremely refreshing)

I think recent RPGs have really been doing a good job as far as including women goes. Games like the ones I mentioned above have a lot of female characters in them, with a bunch of quest important named females. (Not to mention the fact that you can play as a female, and in the newer RPGs can engage in relations with NPCs without regard to the gender binary) However, this still brings us back to the question of whether or not the bar should be at different levels for different genres of games. RPGs need a good amount of women in them to create a realistic world feel. (Because, surprise, women make up half the population in the real world) Should a game like that really be weighted the same as say an FPS that has a large female presence? Should the game developers of an FPS get more credit for including women in a genre largely devoid of them? (Whereas women are standard in RGPs)

Thoughts?

Do you live life like a game/movie?

13 Nov

Earlier today I was watching a short lecture clip discussing media’s impact on sexual fantasy. The hosts were discussing how the advent of images and film changed how we think about sex. One of the hosts pointed out that our very language is stuck on the technology: “The movie in my head” or “the sex tape.”

I’m not exactly sure how my brain made the transition, but this got me thinking about how computer games, along with movies, affect how I view the world. It didn’t take long for me to think of all the instances in which games and movies directly affect the way I think. This isn’t surprising. I grew up with video games. The first video game I ever got seriously into was Age of Empires. I was in the 4th grade and I became addicted to this real-time empire building strategy game. I played it constantly. When I wasn’t playing it I was imagining I was playing it. I distinctly remember having dreams that I was playing, only to wake up and realize I was simply dreaming…and I was doing so well! It was not until the second Age of Empires game came out, Age of Kings, that my life was changed. Age of Kings was set in the medieval era. I fell in love with the time period, joined a medieval re-enactment group at age 12, built a trebuchet, my own suit of armor, learned how to fight with a longsword, and went to college to major in history…all because of a game. (Well, no, the game was the gateway, I became interested in everything despite the game, but still, the game was the gate way)

Those strategy games influenced how I thought about the world. I guess I was frustrated at times growing up because the world’s mechanics didn’t match the game’s.

At the same time I was discovering games, I was discovering film. Throughout my teen years my friends and I were constantly working on film projects. I started to think of life like a movie. I started to look at things as “scenes” and people as actors. I wanted my life to be a perfect script. This was most evident in my romantic life. I my dates to be picture perfect. I’d work for hours before she came over to fix up the house, to make sure everything was set just right. I wanted what I said in romantic moments to be movie perfect too, like I was reading from a script, yet genuinely felt what I was saying.

For the longest time I viewed myself as an actor in a play. I was very upset because I felt that the story of my life was being told as if I was a secondary character in someone else’s  story. I always felt everything was about other people, never me; that they were all staring in their own movies and I was just an extra. I felt powerless to change this. I didn’t know how to wrestle the spotlight away from them so my life could be about me for a change. (I don’t mean that I wanted attention, I’ve never liked being the center of attention; I just felt I was always doing things for others, never for myself. I never did anything because I wanted to do it. Whenever I was in a group with my friends, we always did what my friends wanted to do.) Thankfully I’ve grown out of both this and the romantic movie scripting, but games and movies still affect my life in other ways.

One of the perhaps more normal ways they affect my life is with music. I love going places or doing things with my ipod. My ipod allows me to put a soundtract to my life. In fact, when I think back through the history of my life, I have a play list with a song for each period of struggle or triumph. My ipod lets me pick a soundtrack depending on my mood. When I don’t have it with me, I still play songs in my head.

I had a restaurant job as a teenager clearing tables and bringing waiters their food. I absolutely hated it, but one of the ways I made it somewhat fun was to imagine it as a game, or a movie. As dorky as this sounds, I used to imagine that we, the staff of the restaurant, were fighter pilots locked in deadly combat with the food and customers. We were constantly rushing around, weaving in and out of tables, swooping down to clear tables, running to refill drinks. Sometimes a waiter would be overwhelmed and would call for backup, at which point we would dive in to the rescue. Set to a high-energy soundtrack in my head, it was actually thrilling.

This fighter pilot game imagery carries over to other aspects of my life. Growing up in a navy town, on a street full of fighter pilots, I really wanted to be one as a kid, but my fear of heights, the falling sensation in my stomach, and my poor eyesight means the closet I will ever get is driving my car.

Driving is another activity that has really been affected by movies and games for me. Again, this might sound really dorky, but sometimes I like to imagine a fighter jet/terminator style HUD display when driving. Instead of a weapons targeting system, I’m tracking the curves of the road, the other cars, people on the sidewalk. When I come to a yellow light and I can make it in time, I imagine Peppy Hare from Star Fox telling me “Use the boost to get through!” (I know it’s silly, but it’s the little things in life…)

I also like to think of the car as an extension of my body, just like a character in a video game is an extension of myself. If you think about it, it’s just another layer for your brain to transmit information through. Normally when moving your body your brain sends the signal to the muscles which move you. In a game or driving you simply add the layer of physical controls, be it the mouse, controller, or steering wheel. When you are really in tuned with a game, or driving, you lose sense of your limbs interacting with the controls to make the character do something. You become that character or that car. You think and it moves, just like your body normally would. It’s an amazing feeling, especially in a car on the highway. To have the car as your body, to pull out into a lane, hit the accelerator,  feel the thrust as you lunge past another car, it’s exhilarating.

The last way gaming really effects how I think deals with objects and interacting with people. ( I know that sounds really vague, I’ll explain)

I think about things I have the same way I think of a role playing equipment list. Picking equipment has always been a favorite activity of mine since I first played Oregon Trail as a kid, having to pick what supplies to buy for the journey. I always like to be prepared. In college I viewed my dorm room as a colony from my home. I wanted to be self-sufficient, so I brought a lot of things with me. Whenever my housemates needed something that they didn’t think to bring, I usually had 3 of it. (You’re not going for a weekend sleep-over, you’re living there!)

In my car I would pack a variety of equipment I might need: an extra pair of clothes, a towel, a crow bar, 50ft of rope, a flash light, medical supplies, blankets, a fire extinguisher, emergency food rations, and my longsword. (I don’t know what events I had in mind, but I wanted to be ready for anything)

I also like to think of things in terms of abilities and spheres of influence the same way a character in an RPG would have abilities and spheres of influence. Again, it might sound silly to use game terms to describe it, but I have a repair ability, a research ability, a cooking ability, and a longsword ability. ~_^  (among others) I like to think of other people’s talents and skills in the same way you would an RPG character.

As for spheres of influence:  Your sphere of influence is you immediate surroundings along with as far as you can travel. For example, if I saw a stranger being attacked I’d help them in a heartbeat. My ability to help is obviously limited to my immediate line of sight, or sphere of influence. The people who I see while walking on the street don’t know that while they’re in my sphere of influence I would come to their aid if they were in distress, but nonetheless they would be helped. My secondary sphere of influence is as far as I can get in my car with the money I have for gas.

I realize I’ve kinda meandered all over the place. I hope this makes sense. Does anyone do something similar? Or should I check myself into a mental hospital? ^_^

Making games more like life

15 Sep

Lately I’ve been playing this game, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, which is the last in the trilogy of STALKER games. The graphics are pretty nice, but the interesting thing about this game is how it tries to mimic real life, not only in terms of looks, but in terms of play. Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation gave a nice review of the first game in the series “Clear Sky” where he pointed out that while ” in most FPSs the player is some kind of hybrid of man and refrigerator, able to take entire munition dumps to the face, while the enemies all have armor made out of whipped cream and skulls made of cake, it seems going into this game everyone got their character sheets mixed up…” You see, in the STALKER series there are several mechanics that attempt to make the game more life-like, despite the horrific radioactive, monster filled setting. When you look through the scope of a weapon, your weapon wobbles slightly, as you fire on full auto, the gun kicks up, you become exhausted very quickly after running for a long time and need to stop to take a breather, you get hungry if you don’t eat for a while (which depending on how long you’ve gone without food, will greatly affect your energy regeneration), when you get shot, not only do you really get hurt, but there is bleeding to worry about, (same with all wounds, you need bandages to stop the bleeding that will slowly sap your health), weapons wear down quickly and start to jam more and more often, NPCs don’t like it when you walk around brandishing your weapon, and most importantly: the environment will quickly kill you if you don’t pay attention to your Geiger counter. I would argue that it’s mechanics like this that really make a game more immersive than just graphics alone, but graphics have come a long way. Check out this demo for the CryEngine 2 from Crytek. The graphics are three years outdated now, and the engine is being replaced with a more advanced cryengine 3, but it’s still amazing and highlights some of the graphic advances that go into making a game more immersive:

Now I enjoy that and I wish I had a computer that could run that, but it got me thinking. If the goal of game developers is to make games more and more lifelike, theoretically we’re eventually going to get to a point where video game graphics and game mechanics are indistinguishable from real life. How does that fit with the idea that games are an escape from real life? Will real life lose it’s appeal?

As I’m writing this I’m starting to have second thoughts about what I originally set out to write. I don’t think the fact that games are becoming more and more lifelike will eventually become counter intuitive. After all, while the mechanics and immersion will start to bring games closer and closer to the world we’re trying to escape, at the same time the settings and events played out in those games will still allow us to transport ourselves from our current reality.

Unlike some Sci-fi I don’t foresee a world where everyone abandons real life in order to play video games. I feel this way for a host of reasons but mainly because some people will just not be interested, and other will be too busy with life, like feeding their families, to be able to indulge in devoting large amounts of time to virtual space. Plus, I think there will always be a niche of people who like to play “old school” games, regardless of the medium. I realize I didn’t really take a position here in this post, or discuss in detail the deep philosophical questions, but I guess that’s because I’m still unsure myself. If this topic interests you, I highly recommend you take 20 minutes out of your day and listen to this talk given at TED. It’s pretty thought provoking.

Video games are unproductive?

27 Jul

I’ve heard some people complain that video games are unproductive, a waste of time, rot your brain, etc… Usually these people never really played video games so they don’t understand the allure. To them the term “video games” probably evokes images of a child making Mario hop around a fantasy land doing abstract things that don’t really make sense. From that reference frame, yeah, watching somebody sit in front of a screen for hours doing something you imagine only children do would seem useless and unproductive.

A person like this might say “go read a book, because at least then you learn something.” Well, not all books are non-fiction. Would this person have the same objection to reading a fiction novel, be it romance, mystery, horror, etc? What about watching a movie? Even sports could be considered unproductive is this strain of “logic” is followed. The problem is, the person never really defines what “productive” is.

When asked they might say something like “cut the grass, or building furniture, or painting the fence”, or any number of errands or chores that need to be done. In effect, being productive is anything that achieves an end. In the case of the above listed activities, they are productive in the sense that they take care of things that need to get done. But what if those things are already done? What if the end goal you’re trying to achieve is relaxation, entertainment, enjoyment, or exploration? Well, in that case movies, books, and video games are very productive.

Another problem our hypothetical nay sayer has is that they don’t really understand what video games do. They look at video games in the most superficial sense; they only see colors and mindless motions. What they fail to realize is that the majority of video games are mentally engaging, more so than books or movies. Other types of media are passively consumed, video games on the other hand, require active participation. Often players encounter puzzles or challenges they must think their way through. It’s like the nay sayer’s morning crossword puzzle, but on steroids.

Take the Tomb Raider games for instance:

While on the surface these games might look like just a hot woman jumping around and shooting things, they are actual about puzzle solving. In each level the player must figure out what sequence of actions to complete in order to finish the level. It might require jumping, climbing, pull lever, and fending off an attacker. A player does all this to advance the next bit of story.

Take another genre game, the Real Time Strategy game:

While on the surface it might just look like mindless battles, Real Time Strategy games are all about mastering resource management. Players have to figure out how to gather and spend resources efficiently while trying to attack and fend off other players.

Even shooter games have a mental side to them. While they may just seem like games about shooting things, take Valve’s Half-life series for instance:

A large part of Valve’s Half life series is puzzle solving.  Players have to manipulate objects in order to proceed. In this picture the puzzle is a see-saw. The player has to move heavy blocks to one side of the plank in order to get up on the ledge.  But even some more action based shooters are not completely without mental challenge:

While these games are primarily about quick reactions and steady fingers, it is important to know what equipment is good against what and what weapons to use for various situations.

Our hypothetical naysayer might also feel that video games are very anti-social, that they lock people up in a room alone for hours on end. This might have been true in days before the internet, but it is no longer so. While there are plenty of games out there that are single player only, there is an ever growing list of games that are multi-player. Gaming is now a very social experience. Rock band is the classic example:

Get a bunch of friends together and rock out. The internet has turned games that might physically be played alone and made them social experiences. Any game with an online multiplayer option lets players connect from all over the world and play together. While I was playing Age of Empires 3, I would often get online, meet people, and play with them. We would do this often and some of us even became friends outside of the game, despite never meeting each other in real life. It was amazing; through the game I was able to interact with people from thousands of miles away, people who lived in different countries, spoke different languages, and yet we came together to relax and have some fun. But that’s not something our naysayer considers.

But perhaps the biggest allure to video games is the escape. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in another world for a while; but unlike a book or a movie, or anything else you passively consume, video games allow you to take an active role in that other world, shaping it, living in it. They let you engage with that world in a way nothing else can. (except for perhaps for roleplaying games) They also give you the satisfaction of instant results. You see immediately if what you’re doing works or does not. You get the feeling of importance, or making a difference, of being somebody special. Yeah it’s an illusion, but at the end of the day it’s a great escape from life as usual.

We’re just entertaining ourselves

11 Jul

This is just an observation. We’re revolving around the sun, stuck on this planet, entertaining ourselves. What do I mean by that? Well sports are a prime example. Today is the world cup final. The winner will be decided until the next world cup final in four years. All sports are like this. Every season teams are put together and they battle it out to decide the champion, then they do it again. It’s like two prison inmates playing a game of checkers over and over again, each one declaring themselves the “world champion” at the end of every game. Ok, so that’s a crude example. Actual sports are a lot more complex with statistics, strategy, etc, but I hope you get what I mean. Basically we create drama as a way of keeping ourselves entertained. Sports are one way to create drama. One could say that sports are ultimately pointless (and as a nerd with no physical ability, I’m tempted to do this) but that would be misunderstanding the point of sports. It’s not to determine the champions, it’s to create artificial drama as a way of keeping us busy.

When we’re not busy with sports drama, we’re busy with war drama. Yes, wars are horrible things and they’re fought for a number of real reasons; but as bad as they are they keep us entertained. (And by “entertained” I don’t mean “oh wow, this is fun!”) War creates drama, something to do, something to struggle against with an end goal in mind. Then at the end of the war we make movies retelling the drama experienced by people in that situation. Every war gives writers, movie makers, and video game producers new material.

When real stories are not enough we invent new ones. We take elements of the real world, mix them up, alter them, and create new stories. The sci-fi genre comes to mind. How many video games/movies are there about saving the world, or saving the universe? They’re fun an all, but the themes start to get repetitive.  You, the lone hero, must battle against impossible odds to save the universe from some looming threat, yada yada yada.

So this is the perfect reason why we need to drastically increase the budget for NASA. We need to leave our solar system, meet other species, and kill them.

Just kidding, though space isn’t called the “last frontier” for nothing. It would certainly give us more material.

Well I can’t think of anything more to say on this topic, so I guess I’ll end here. Again, this was just an observation of the big picture, not a judgement. Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the stories we come up with. (Well, not Twilight) The human imagination is extremely powerful, and we create some great stuff. I guess I was just elaborating on that saying “there’s nothing new under the sun.”

All the more reason we should leave our solar system and conquer! For the emperor!!!

Atheist game quirks

4 Jun

This is kinda silly, but my atheism affects my gaming habits. How so? Well when I’m playing a game such at Total War, Age of Empires, or Civilization I will try and make my empire as atheistic as possible. In the Total War games I delete all the churches and instead build schools and universities. If I can’t dismiss or assassinate my own religious leaders, I send them off to the very corner of the map. In the Civilization games I refuse to adopt any religion when it is invented, and try my best to avoid researching religious techs. As for Age of Empires, I build the church grudgingly to get the technologies, and then delete it the moment I’m done. (When I played I usually played online and there are other non-religious techs available at the church, so I needed them to play my best against other people) Again, this is all really silly and I know that it’s just a mechanic of the game, but I like to imagine that somewhere, in an alternate universe, my little nation exists. It’s for this same stupid reason I hate to delete units. :-( I can just imagine the NPCs kissing their families and children goodbye before being executed, all at my command to make room for another 20 heavy infantry. (If I absolutely have to kill off villagers in AoE I delete the male villagers. Beautiful women being killed is a major pet peeve of mine) I know they’re just 1s and 0s, but I care….

The art of screen looking

12 Feb

“Screen looking” is the act of looking at another player’s potion of the TV when playing multiplayer console games with your friends. The act of screen looking is highly frowned upon, for it is a form of cheating. Playing on-line or on the computer eliminates screen looking, but this is not possible for local multiplayer gaming. (Unless you want to go so far as to tape cardboard blinders to your TV, but come on…)

I think everyone screen looks. I try very hard not to, but I sometimes catch myself doing it here and there without thinking. When it comes to screen looking, there are two ways to do it, the right way and the wrong way. Very few people screen look the right way.

Here is how NOT to screen look: You see that your enemy is sneaking up on you from behind, you spin around and shoot them. This then makes it obvious that you were screen looking.

Here is how to CORRECTLY screen look: Check the screen time to time to see where the other players are on the map. If one of them sneaks up behind you and you would not have noticed if you were not screen looking, let them kill you! By doing this you cover your tracks and can claim that you were not screen looking. Plus, you’re not cheating as badly as if you turned around and shot them.

Dante’s inferno, a comparison

9 Feb

EA and Visceral games are putting out a new game, Dante’s Inferno, supposedly based on the work “Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri. In the game you play as Dante, on a mission through hell to rescue your hot wife Beatrice Portinari. So how does the game match up with the actual Dante’s Inferno?

Take Dante in the game:

He’s a hardcore soldier with a giant battle scythe, covered head to toe in stylized plate armor.

Dante in real life:

He’s a hardcore poet with a giant battle quill, covered head to toe in…well…pajamas.

What about hell?

In the game hell is an action packed demon strong hold, full of bad guys that stand between you and your love.

In Dante’s book, hell is more like a scary guided tour given at Disney on Halloween.

And your love, Beatrice?

In game:

In real life:

Lastly, what about story wise?

Well here the game and the book continue to radically differ. In the book Dante starts off in a forest and is given a tour of hell by Virgil. He goes down, sees the 9 circles of hell, sees various famous people, and then climbs out the other end and into the second book, Purgatorio. There is no fighting and no Beatrice. The most dramatic seat of you pants thing that happens to him is he faints. (Don’t go to hell if you have low blood sugar) She shows up in the second book. Also Beatrice was never Dante’s wife. He first meet her when she was 8 and fell in love with her, but she married some other dude and died at the age of 24.

Here is what the game has to say for itself:

“At the midpoint on the journey of life, I found myself in a dark forest, for the clear path was lost” (opening line of The Divine Comedy). In the game, Dante goes on a spectacular journey through the afterlife to save his beloved Beatrice from the clutches of evil. But what starts out as a rescue mission quickly changes into a redemption story, where Dante must confront his own dark past and the sins he carries with him into Hell. He faces the epic inhospitable terrain of the underworld, huge monsters and guardians, sinister demons, the people and sins of his past, and the ultimate traitor: Lucifer himself.”

Sounds cool. A little heavy on the “go save the helpless white woman”, but still cool none the less. The game developers also have this to say:

“Inspired by the real Dante Alighieri, but adapted for a new generation and a new medium, the hero of the game is a soldier who defies death and fights for love against impossible odds. The Italian mercenary Dante returns home from the wars to find that his beloved Beatrice has been murdered, and her soul pulled down into Hell by a dark force. He gives chase, and vows to get her back. For weapons, he wields Death’s soul-reaping scythe, and commands holy powers of the cross, given to him by Beatrice.”

If by “inspired” they mean “hey, we took his name” then yeah it’s inspired, because that’s about it. Everything else but the names is changed, including the plot and characters. As for the “for a new generation” yeah, we play video games much more than we read, but if you ever get the time, check out the books, they are pretty cool. Maybe Riddley Scott could make a movie about it :-p

Nerds are the only ones alive

25 Jan

The oh so reputable wikipedia defines nerd as: “Nerd is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests that are age-inappropriate rather than engaging in more social or popular activities.”

That usually conjures up the image of something like this:

I would disagree with wikipedia on the issue of age-inappropriate, since this assumes that all nerds are into video games, or trading cards.

I would define nerd as anyone who had a passion or interest for any specific thing. One can easily be a video game nerd just as easily as a car nerd, or a basketball nerd. As long as you love something and research it.

I would argue that these “nerds” are the only people who are actually alive, the only ones who actually matter. The exact opposite of the nerd is the conformist. I don’t mean to sound highschoolish about this. The conformist to me is the person who is jack of all trades, master of none when it comes to hobbies. These people can easily be identified on myspace of facebook. They usually list a lot of generic interests, without overly emphasizing any of them.

These people like a couple of mainstream bands, but aren’t overly into any of them, they don’t analyze the music, or anything. They usually list some generic mainstream sports, like basketball or football, might like a particular team, but don’t really care much beyond that.

Now I don’t overly like sports, but I can respect a sports nerd. Someone who is very passionate about a game, someone who analyzes teams, plays, and players. They have a passion. Those conformists, they’re just mindless sheep that float through life, going with the flow, blending in with whatever is popular. They’re a dime a dozen. Not saying they’re worthless people, they’re still human beings, but they’re not interesting. There is nothing unique or special about them.

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