#egmr » Jake http://egmr.net Let's Talk Games — Videogame News, Reviews & Opinions Fri, 26 Sep 2014 15:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Gaming Like A Sir: All This Talk Of BioShock Infinite Could Ruin The Magic http://egmr.net/2013/03/gaming-like-a-sir-all-this-talk-of-bioshock-infinite-could-ruin-the-magic/ http://egmr.net/2013/03/gaming-like-a-sir-all-this-talk-of-bioshock-infinite-could-ruin-the-magic/#comments Fri, 29 Mar 2013 09:00:48 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=119109 Wait, obviously I don’t mean what it seems I mean. Although when you see what I actually mean, despite what it seems, my meaning seems to fit. Life is good […]

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Wait, obviously I don’t mean what it seems I mean. Although when you see what I actually mean, despite what it seems, my meaning seems to fit.

Life is good at the moment. I haven’t finished Tomb Raider, even though it’s excellent. I’ve got Heart Of The Swarm beckoning and teasing like the luscious vixen she is, while  BioShock Infinte wear’s a low-cut dress, heady perfume, and an infuriating smile. I did what any man must do when faced with too much of a good thing, I played Sonic.

Sonic (9gag) - Gaming Like A Sir 28-03-13

Maybe it’s because Sonic 1 & 2 were my first and favourite games as a kid, but that picture makes me laugh. From my belly.

I joke but it’s a serious issue, I have three awesome games to play and yet here I am with Sonic. It’s sad really. So I started thinking about it, not judgementally but academically, why am I happier playing Sonic than playing any one of the other awesome games I’ve been waiting years to play? Honestly I was a little stumped at first. I thought it might have something to do with relaxation. Something old and familiar is probably more comforting and ultimately relaxing than any new triple A extravaganza I have waiting to be played. In part it probably is that, but there is something else I’m glad I isolated. It was in my cowering stupor, half-way through Wing Fortress in Sonic 2, I understood something strange.

Talking, discussing, and popular opinion are ruining my fun. In part, a large part, the reason I was avoiding playing games was because I knew people were going to want to discuss them with me. I’m nervous about playing BioShock because after all the praise, where is the chance to form an opinion? Imagine playing StarCraft and instead of finding the dialogue cheesy maybe you find it dramatic and awesome. Maybe the way Lara adapts and emotes seems realistic. Maybe some other criticism of BioShock I honestly can’t think of. What now? Either I have to gather enough evidence to hold my own against the horde of popular opinion, or I have to smile and nod through fake, toothy smiles that High School pretty girls would be proud of.

Pretty Ugly - Gaming Like A Sir 28-03-13

It’s a kak situation. For the non-South African, kak = pronounced kuk = shitty. It’s a good word though, because shitty doesn’t quite encompass the specific flavour of irritation that kak seems to imply. Parking across two parking bays is shitty, stubbing your toe is shitty, forgetting how to be happy is kak. Melodrama aside, it’s strange to think that because something is popular it is harder to enjoy objectively. Then I thought about it some more and it becomes blindingly obvious.

Of course popularity implies peer pressure. It shouldn’t make you more or less likely to do or believe something just because you know others think or do the same. It really shouldn’t, but it does. I don’t want to be the only person who doesn’t appreciate something’s brilliance nor do I want to enjoy something others find idiotic. This brings some dangerous issues, objectivity is hard to maintain especially when it is so easy to agree and gain immediate acceptance.

As with most things, there is a middle ground, an appropriate intersection of keeping the magic alive and being realistic. Stop talking. Stop reading, stop looking, and stop seeking in general, anything other than the truth of your own reaction. The joy of growing must be the thrill of self-discovery. I want to react honestly, unfettered by preconception or worry of opinions I should hold.

There is value in discussion, obviously, but it comes at the price of the magic. The more a game or a world is discussed and analysed, the less mystery and magic imbues its fiction. So now I have a middle ground. I discuss some and hold personal others. I don’t mind discussing Tomb Raider or Heart of the Swarm because although they are outstanding and hold great value, they aren’t especially tarnished by discussion or rumination. In fact their fiction might be helped by sharing opinions, maybe every game is helped by sharing ideas. To me it isn’t the case. Sometimes something comes along that needs to be experienced alone. When there is a chance to do or feel something special, it must be your own welfare that comes first.

Whether I’m right or not, BioShock Infinite is one of those games. Ken Levine was responsible for the first and it gave me many feelings and experiences I hold eternally dear.

So far Infinite is doing the same. Discussion might aid my understanding of what I experience, but it will strip the magic from how I feel.

So I say again that BioShock Infinite is not worth discussing. There is nothing to be gained when the experience should be at least for now, private.

It is a personal journey through the clouds of Columbia and an adventure that will haunt me forever.

I hope the same for you.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Is It Better To Be Realistic Or Happy? http://egmr.net/2013/03/gaming-like-a-sir-is-it-better-to-be-realistic-or-happy/ http://egmr.net/2013/03/gaming-like-a-sir-is-it-better-to-be-realistic-or-happy/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 09:00:29 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=117381 Although they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, not many realistic people are happy and fewer still happy people are realistic. We are a people looking for escape. Even if only briefly, […]

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Although they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, not many realistic people are happy and fewer still happy people are realistic.

We are a people looking for escape. Even if only briefly, and certainly not entirely, but we crave it nonetheless. Some of the largest and historically most recession-proof industries in the world are the entertainment industries. Movies, books, games, television and theatre all thrive even when times are hard. When luxury goods start to sit on shelves, and even when people are struggling to get the bare essentials, still they find ways to get entertained.

To me it says something lovely about humanity. Even in times of hardship, when life is a fight and achievements are few and small, even then people dream and hope and wish for better days. It is part of the magic of any medium of entertainment, to let the audience escape their world, and their troubles. Even if it’s only for a little while. It’s an obvious link but one worth noting anyway, to some extent escapism is essential to be entertained. In the gaming industry they call it immersion.

Dragon Age DLC - Gaming Like A Sir

But really, what reviewers are so desperately seeking is a good stroking of their throbbing nostalgia glands. Just take a look at Gametrailers 2012 Game of the Year awards. It was actually embarrassing to watch, and it’s far from the first time that I’ve seen nostalgic pulses override common sense. The issue is immersion. It is paramount to the enjoyment of a game, and there is nothing more immersive than a sense of nostalgia.

Even though I don’t like what Blizzard are doing, who they’ve become, who their friends are, and what they now consider acceptable, I’ll still buy Heart of the Swarm, because I loved the series as a child. I hate myself for it, but I still love the StarCraft universe. Even though I recognise it, nostalgia tricks my brain into feeling immersed in the world of the game. Immersion is all I can ask from a game, but it’s a tall enough order.

Heart Of The Swarm - Gaming Like A Sir

Immersion is the synthesis of all that a game is trying to achieve. Above all, for at least some time, a game must absorb you. It must be so enticing and its world and gameplay so skillfully wrought and deftly assembled that the barrier between fantasy and reality begins to blur. When this happens, and it actually happens often, the characters and the world no longer exist only as fiction. They become real to each person who has experienced them, and so long as those experiences elicit an emotional response, those worlds and those characters exist in at least some way and have value for each player.

It is subtle, and slow-building, and most importantly it is distinctly personal. Entertainment is the vessel for our own emotions,  it is the exploration of fantastical possibilities and it is the chance to explore the depths of human achievement, culture, and suffering. Most of all, it is a chance to test the limits of human imagination.

Which is awesome, but only if you’re willing to try. Ultimately, our level of immersion and therefore how much we actually care about a game and its world is directly tied to our willingness to suspend disbelief. If a game is good, it gets us to hold back the savage hounds of logic, reason, and rationality. If it’s excellent, we forget we’re even holding the leash.  And only when a game is magnificently awe inspiring can you truly let the dogs out, and watch as they try in vain to find a way to break the immersion the developers have built so expertly.

The issue is that you cannot let the dogs out on every title. It will only end in disappointment and frustration as inevitably your hounds find a way to destroy what was carefully albeit imperfectly built. There may be some satisfaction from the strength of your dogs and how efficiently they found the weakness or impurity but the reality is that the man with the lazy dogs who lounge in the sun and pant the day away, he is happier than the man with the huge and snarling creatures.

It’s the oldest argument there is, would you rather be smart or happy? Realistic or happy? Logical, reasonable, impervious to misdirection, and acutely aware of manipulation, or would you rather be happy?

I’m not saying they are mutually exclusive, but they do seem to sometimes conflict. If you want to be taken on a ride, a journey, or an adventure, there has to be some internal acceptance that there needs to exist some level of gullibility. Most importantly, it’s about giving yourself permission to be unassuming, and unaware, and ultimately accepting of the world you’re presented with.

I’m playing Tomb Raider and I love it. It’s not perfect, or even near to it. But it’s been made with such love and care that I choose to accept everything and gain something rather than lamenting the lack of everything and instead enjoying nothing.

It’s refreshing to expect nothing and thus to get excited when you find anything. It is better to do this rather than demanding everything and becoming frustrated when you only get something. The truth is that something can come from anything, and even though something will always start out worse than everything, something from anything could eventually become everything. So to enjoy anything, you have to accept that although we always want everything, it is better to appreciate something than to be disappointed because you can never have everything.

There is a place I go inside my head when I play a game for the first time. Inside this space there is no judgement, no context, and no opinion. There is only me, and my desires and my impulses. It is a volatile and moody place, but one that lets me do something important.

It lets me enjoy the world even when I have issue with it. It’s a place that helps me understand that perfection is a myth and that it also exists in the moment.

Take the good, leave the bad, be happy.

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Gaming Like A Sir: What Gives You The Next-Gen Tingles? http://egmr.net/2013/03/gaming-like-a-sir-what-gives-you-the-next-gen-tingles/ http://egmr.net/2013/03/gaming-like-a-sir-what-gives-you-the-next-gen-tingles/#comments Fri, 01 Mar 2013 09:00:31 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=115743 I remember feeling awed in 2007, I hope I’m about to be thrilled again. Gears Of War, Kameo, Modern Warfare, Crysis, and Half-Life 2: Episode 2. That’s what pops up […]

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I remember feeling awed in 2007, I hope I’m about to be thrilled again.

Gears Of War, Kameo, Modern Warfare, Crysis, and Half-Life 2: Episode 2. That’s what pops up in my head when I think about the proverbial “Next-Gen”. I have a story about each game and how it wowed me, but mostly it was that each game did something I had never experienced before. When each was over I felt a genuine sadness at the ending of our time together. I know I was younger, and I recognise that things shouldn’t be the same as you progress and mature, but I’d still like to feel it again.

Inner Child - Gaming Like A Sir The PS4 has been announced, the Xbox isn’t far behind and we as an industry sit on the precipice of an exciting and evolutionary time.

Gamers get to experience a unique cycle in the progression of our art. Every few years, once technology has boomed ahead, a new generation of consoles ushers in the new era in gaming.

I might be romanticising the experience but the truth is that I was too young to appreciate its significance on an industry-wide level when I was younger, and I enjoy looking around at the slowly changing landscape and savouring the ride. This is exciting stuff, I have no idea what the future holds.

In no other industry is there such a defined leap forward every few years. Film effects get better and 3D claws its way into public acceptance but the experiences remain fairly static.

It might be the rampant fanboy inside but I do believe gaming experiences a far greater shift forward every cycle than other art forms. It is one of the few benefits of being a relatively young industry.

The result is that as we get closer to the end of the year, and nearer to the release of the PS4 and Xbox 720, we collectively hold our breaths for what the future brings. Which got me thinking… what am I actually hoping for?

The thought actually gave me pause, what do I want? I know it seems awfully mid-life-crisissy to have these thoughts but it’s an interesting mental exercise. I want better graphics, kinda. Frankly I’m impressed with current generation hardware, taking into account that I game on a DirectX11-capable PC. New hardware holds very little appeal to me.

So with hardware perks set aside, what do the new consoles offer me? So, my thoughts turned to games…

Console Discussion - Gaming Like A Sir Maybe the hardware will simply allow new experiences? Then I thought about BioShock Infinite, and how fresh and exciting its world feels. I thought about the combat and the story and Elizabeth, then I blacked out and woke up holding a cuddly, furry and adorable baby animal. Half in each hand.

So insanity aside, I’m sufficiently excited for current generation games that I find it difficult to assume everything will get better once we have new hardware.

I don’t particularly care for the new Share button on the PS4, although I’m sure it appeals to many streamers and YouTube Nifflers. So again, what am I waiting for?

I went online and read a few feuds between fanboys. I enjoy watching fanboys fight. It’s like watching sport. I pretend that I care about the “fairness” of the game and that I’m all for good sportmanship and dignity, but when somebody gives concise, vicious and altogether brilliant trollogic, on the outside I remain stoic, but on the inside I feel more like:

BOOOYAH! In. The. Face.

It’s a cool feeling. It’s nice to feel like part of a group, even if it is a meaningless thing and admittedly at the expense of others, it gives a sense of camaraderie.

So at this point I paint a bleak picture of the future, there is little to look forward to except perhaps the experience of looking forward to it with other like-minded people. Depressing.

But consoles are ultimately tools for developers to use, and it will be the creativity and artistry of the developers that determine a generations success. So I looked more closely at the games that are being teased, I read and watched and somewhere along the way I started to feel the tingle. It was gentle, but it was there. The tingle of infinite possibility and the butterfly’s of excitement. It’s basically the flu, but a good kind of flu. Like being in love.

George R R - Gaming Like A Sir So yes, in the games I found at least the beginning of excitement. Cyberpunk 2077, sci-fi, open-world, mature- themed RPG made by the people who made The Witcher 2. I’ve known about it for ages, obviously, but I looked at it again and realised my mistake. It is not the console that matters, it is entirely the experiences crafted for it that creates its value.

The developers are using the improved technology to craft something we’ve never had before – density. The previous generation was all about the size; bigger, better and more badass. The technology let us go big so we went big. And admittedly, it was largely fantastic. *ba dum tss*

Now however, like with nuclear power, our reach exceeds our grasp. We have more than enough power so now the focus must come down to the manipulation of that power. Mastery over a craft rather than crafting bigger and more bloated experiences. I turn a silent, disappointed and heartbroken eye to Assassin’s Creed III, who can’t return my gaze and is fidgeting constantly. Like a Ritalin-fueled child whose gone off his meds.

Assassin’s Creed III does give me the perfect example of the kind of end-of-generation bloat that I’m tired of. A game like Sleeping Dogs is another perfect example. We have grown so comfortable in our current generation and so adept at pulling together what have become “standard features” in games that games like Sleeping Dogs become possible. It is just a porridge. A well-cooked, deliciously spiced, but ultimately unremarkable in its sheer blandness. Still it says something positive about the industry, when our less hyped or overlooked games can be so big, so polished and so tight, we know we’ve finally come to the end.

It is time for the new, and in the new I hope for progress in an area outside of simply graphics or gameplay. I want some density.

It is the density of the worlds in Arkham City or The Witcher 2 that brings them to life. Not their size. This led me to my mini-epiphany. I’m not supposed to be excited yet. If you get excited too soon it can only lead to disappointment because that excitement is based on unwitting and ill-informed misconceptions. Only when the consoles are in hand, and game releases are around the corner, will I get excited.

When Cyberpunk and Watch Dogs are almost upon me, I will feel the tingle. When games are announced that do things I’ve never seen before, and when the worlds I presented with are deeper than anything I’ve seen, then I will catch the fever.

Until then I’m going to close my eyes, dream of big things, and enjoy what is already on the way. Bioshock Infinite, Starcraft Heart of the Swarm and Tomb Raider are coming.

I need not think about the future until I have conquered the present.

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Preview: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 http://egmr.net/2013/02/preview-sniper-ghost-warrior-2/ http://egmr.net/2013/02/preview-sniper-ghost-warrior-2/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 11:00:02 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=114361 Boom! Headshot. I am the the ultimate predator. That is the fantasy of sniping, at least to me. I get the Agent 47 and the Sam Fischer stuff as well. […]

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Boom! Headshot.

I am the the ultimate predator. That is the fantasy of sniping, at least to me. I get the Agent 47 and the Sam Fischer stuff as well. That’s all here too, but sniping is the star. The first one promised to glorify the woefully under-appreciated mechanic that is sniping. Sadly it was ultimately let down by its rough edges, poor technology, and heinous firefights.

Still I enjoyed the opening couple hours and it really is an interesting idea, to specialise and flesh out a single gameplay mechanic. I like the idea of a game based around an often sidelined aspect or feature of bigger games. If done right it could be a chance to explore something often touched but never properly developed. a delicious concept. City Interactive seem to believe there is some magic to be had, and if nothing else they are determined. Also there are multiplayer sniping duels, which could be something superb, if they pull it off properly.

Their first try wasn’t great, but it had grains of brilliance marred and ultimately overcome by bugs. Unperturbed and with a small cult following they’re trying again, but awesomer.

Name: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2
Genre: First Person Shooter\Headshot Simulation Game
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Developers: City Interactive
Publishers: City Interactive/ Namco Bandai Games
Expected Price: R455 (Pc) R619 (Ps3, Xbox360)
Release Date: 12 March 2013

Asian Buildings - Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 Preview

City Interactive are tenacious. They’ve swapped engines to the CryEngine 3, the fuel behind Crysis 3. Although neither game is out, I think it’s fair to say there is some serious oomph under the hood. If it were a real engine it would have one of those purring growls that you can just feel, in the quivering of the hairs on your chest, is hiding some serious power.

What they do with that power though, is another story. In all fairness, they did blame a lot of their technical issues last time on the limitations of their engine. They used the engine that powered Call of Juarez Bound in Blood. The only good Call of Juarez. Also, a living testament to the legitimacy of City Interactive’s complaints.  Strange stuff happened. Just odd things that gave me the impression of rickety underlying technology. The way that Far Cry 3 felt, all robust and packed with glorious things. Not like that.

This time though, they say everything is fantastic and the engine is powerful. They promise good things, and I’m starting to believe.

Tibet - Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 Preview

Sniping is an interesting aspect of gaming, generally it’s just an extension of the normal gun-play but in reality its an entirely different beast. The issue is that the realities of sniping don’t make for glorious gameplay experiences, at least they haven’t yet.

The issue is that the way I feel about sniping is similar to the way I feel about pedestrian traffic laws. Depending almost 100% on which side I’m on, I hold to be self evident an entirely different and fundamentally opposed set of truths.

When I’m walking on the street I believe with all my heart that cars ruin the natural beauty of things, are dangerous, and rush around with no regard for human life. Not ten minutes later, behind the wheel, I find myself planning vivid and elaborate car-related murders for all the dumb, slack-jawed, respect devoid pedestrians that infest the streets.

Sniping is no different. Picking off target after target from miles away like a silent god of death is exhilarating. Dying instantly and without warning by the hand of some unseen, cowardly rat hiding in the dark half the map away is equally rage and frustration inducing.

This strikes me as risky territory for a game, but I do see the upside. The exhilaration is hard to match. Memories of the Ghillie Suit mission from the original Modern Warfare are vivid to this day. Even though I never played it, I’ve watched the Meet the Sniper video too many times, dreaming of a game based on the art of the assassin.

And here it is, at least by its own herald. Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 has you in the jungle, in the cities and in snowy Tibet. The technology is solid and the developers are the publishers, with everyone involved being passionate and determined.

I have expectations, I have misgivings and I have evidence to prove any eventual truth.

So now all that matters is hope. And it is a large hope indeed.

 

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Gaming Like A Sir: Don’t Do Drugs, Just Play Games http://egmr.net/2013/02/gaming-like-a-sir-dear-publishers-im-sorry-for-the-way-ive-treated-you-imma-be-happy-from-now-on/ http://egmr.net/2013/02/gaming-like-a-sir-dear-publishers-im-sorry-for-the-way-ive-treated-you-imma-be-happy-from-now-on/#comments Fri, 15 Feb 2013 09:00:44 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=113954 Shhhhhh….Don’t speak. Let’s not get stuck on who called whom what and instead let’s just focus on moving forward. Said no innocent person ever. So last time was intense. The […]

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Shhhhhh….Don’t speak. Let’s not get stuck on who called whom what and instead let’s just focus on moving forward. Said no innocent person ever.

So last time was intense. The more time that’s gone by and the more I’ve had a chance to think about and re-re-read my glorious eruption of molten truth, the more I’ve come to realise that I was missing something last week. My argument was definitely emotive, and exaggerated, and a little cray cray, but otherwise it was a good point.

So why was I uncomfortable? Why did I read my own work and get uneasy. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m walking out of an exam, worrying about a question I didn’t quite understand. It’s that empty, sinking feeling that somehow manages to feel heavy as well. Lurching around in the deepest part of your stomach, and hiding in the coldest corner of your heart. It is dread. The foreshadowing of disaster and failure.

It’s the feeling that you made a mistake. Or missed something.

What Changes - Gaming Like A Sir 15 Feb 2013

You look for it, and you look hard. But you find nothing, which satisfies and comforts you a little. So you put it out of your mind.

Then, when it’s inconvenient and impractical, you remember where you didn’t look or what you didn’t check. So you look again, and you look frantically.

And every second that goes by, every moment that you keep on looking, brings you closer to believing that maybe you weren’t wrong. If it isn’t here, it isn’t anywhere. Maybe you were right. Maybe, you guessed or behaved appropriately. Maybe you were smarter or better than you thought. After all this time, did you get lucky? Maybe you did. I think you did. I’m pretty sure you were right.

In fact, when I think about it, you were definitely…ahh…no. No no. I see it. There it is. There’s your mistake. Definitely your fault. Nice going. Completely embarrassing.

Retard.

I shouted and fumed that publishers were destroying the sanctity of gaming. That money grubbing and consumer milking tactics, almost exclusively pushed by the big publishers, are a cancer in the healthy, lithe and sexy body that is gaming. And I am right.

But not completely.

I forgot, in my blind rage, that publishers are also responsible for everything that this industry was, is and will become. Whether I like it or not, I have to admit that the large publishers, evil denizens of the black abyss that they are, are also responsible for helping gaming to become mainstream. They certainly don’t hold all of the power but they do sadly hold most of it.

Although I don’t agree with their methods, and I certainly couldn’t see their side of things last time I sat down to write, I can at least tip my hat where it’s due, now that I see things a little differently.

Even though every tachyon of my soul screams otherwise, I must admit that publishers could be right. They really probably aren’t, and even if they are, there are better ways to do the things they’re doing. Ways that don’t make me feel like I need to cry in the shower, ways that don’t make me feel like I was just milked every time I buy something.

Getting Milked - Gaming Like A Sir 15 Feb 2013

I spoke to a few younger kids recently. I wasn’t actively seeking it out, but I am a high school tutor and I do get a chance to chat to kids that are a fair bit younger than me. Also I have siblings.

What came out was something strange, frightening and just a little bit heartbreaking. They are as excited, and as pumped up about the games they’re playing and the games they want as I used to be. They have no reservations or cynicism. Sheer, unbridled, naive, optimism. Actual excitement even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

It is as beautiful and pure and cleansing as it is annoying, tiring, and plainly unrealistic. But that’s the point. It is not a logical argument, it is an emotional one. If these kids can be as excited and happy with the games of today as I was when I was younger, then I have to admit a fair amount of cynicism has developed within me.

Not on purpose and in fact despite my active efforts to stay untainted, I have become slightly cynical.

It is a sad thing, and it gave me genuine pause the first time it occurred to me so strongly. I am not the starry eyed kid I used to be, I am not as easily excited and what satisfied me so completely before doesn’t even scratch the itch now. I don’t miss the games I played as a kid, I miss being a kid and getting to play games.

This may seem sombre but it is actually a good step on the road to recovery. The first step. When I think about it more, I don’t see my development of cynicism as a negative thing, I see it as an inevitable one. Sooner or later it was going to happen and I was going to start down the path of the Negative Nancy. But now that I have recognised it, I can wage war.

I’m going to play games forever. It’s a frightening statement but one that I feel is a pretty good bet. In whatever incarnation gaming eventually takes, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be there over-thinking some aspect of gaming most people take for granted. What this means to me is that I need a way to fight the darkness, to keep the childlike wonder and hope against all hope.

And I think I found a way:

Drugs.

Play.

Just play. Don’t over-think, don’t expect and don’t evaluate. Just try to enjoy what is on offer and suspend all else. It doesn’t matter if you play badly, or don’t see a twist coming, or get a fright, or lose. Just enjoy yourself.

Afterwards, when the dust and orgasms settle, then start nit-picking and whining.

But at least initially, just try to have fun.

It’s a noble goal if nothing else.

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Gaming Like A Sir: If A True Gamer Could Talk To The Big Publishers For Like 5 Minutes http://egmr.net/2013/02/gaming-like-a-sir-if-a-true-gamer-could-talk-to-the-big-publishers-for-like-5-minutes/ http://egmr.net/2013/02/gaming-like-a-sir-if-a-true-gamer-could-talk-to-the-big-publishers-for-like-5-minutes/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 09:00:44 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=111232 I don’t know how things are going to end. I wish I could tell you that everything worked out, and that we all got to drink cold beers together again. […]

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I don’t know how things are going to end. I wish I could tell you that everything worked out, and that we all got to drink cold beers together again. I wish I could tell you that, but we know each other better. And I owe you the truth. I can’t tell you what will happen in that room. Don’t think anybody can. What will go on between all the CEOs and that Gamer, well, that’s the stuff that’ll make you dream things you convinced yourself weren’t worth dreaming about anymore. And even though it may take time before we all feel the changes that man will bring, what I can tell you is that after that Gamer is done shouting at the CEOs, when the door closes behind him and those men are left to think. Well when they get done thinking, we’ll all be living in a very different, fairytale world.

Morgan Freeman - Gaming Like A Sir 31 Jan 2013

You read it in Morgan Freeman voice. At least, you should have. Even though I apparently still do childish things, today starts like this:

I’m growing up. Not because I’m more mature, or more realistic about things, or have hair on me chest, or because teaspoons are actually too small for me, or because I play violent video games.

No, I’m growing up because I blame people.

I mean… that’s not really fair. I don’t blame everyone, or even most people. I blame people who wrong me but it’s never a lasting feeling. Most of the time it’s a mistake, or just stupid, or they meant well. Truly douchetastic people also don’t get much heat from me, they just aren’t worth losing your erection over.

I guess… if I have to narrow it down…

I blame publishers.

They may not be jewellery network hosts. But damn they come close.

The issue is accountability. There is none. At least not to us, the gamers. The accountability is to people who don’t give a tinker’s cuss about the actual quality of a game, or its artistic integrity, or even that a game can possesses artistic integrity. It makes me angry. And I can’t even blame anyone. Not really.

Blame - Gaming Like A Sir 31 Jan 2013

It’s not the publisher’s fault, at least not logically speaking. They’re businesses and they have responsibilities. It is their function to behave the way they do.

I think my anger is that justice is somehow being shirked. There is a wrongness and I cannot grok its source or purpose.

I know it sounds obvious, I’m unhappy that legal soundness and apparent unfairness exist together. I’m sad because big companies don’t care about internal artistic coherence or creative vision.

But this isn’t that. This isn’t logical or based on the evidence of truth. This is a personal thing, I actually blame publishers for my unhappiness. I’m talking about an emotional response I have that I didn’t have when I was younger. Something that I feel in my fibers. The place where you feel things, even though your mind, society and every other voice yells at you not to. I imagine its the place inside me where I would admit horrible secrets to myself. It is a place inside that is free from judgements. It’s like a zoo. My emotions and true opinions run wild and unchecked, just so I can observe them and try to understand them.

Academically and developmentally speaking, we start blaming as soon as we can point with one hand and string insults together. But it’s fleeting and shallow. It’s your fault but tomorrow or in an hour or in a couple minutes, we’ll be cool.

Normally that is a great thing. Forgiveness is the shit.

But childhood blame is not considered, or deep. Adult blame is stronger stuff. And it needs to be, because sometimes things are not okay. Sometimes, when you are surer of things and when your gut tells you something your brain agrees with, sometimes you have to say, “Who the hell is responsible for this? What kind of retarded abomination monster-ape of idiotic stupefaction would do this? Find them and sell them to the Numbers Gangs in Pollsmoor, and then use that money to hire hit-men for the accomplices.”

Publishers Are Evil - Gaming Like A Sir 31 Jan 2013

Never heard of Pollsmoor?

Firstly, hi. Welcome to South Africa.

Secondly, here:

Totally not disgusting.

The craziest part is that when you click the link and realise it really isn’t anything disgusting, you’ll be a little disappointed. You were hoping for something gross, you filthy gremlin.

Now before we continue, I know I’m generalising. I know publisher involvement is not the cause of every botched game or shoddy feature, nor is publisher involvement always indicative of imminent loss of quality, and truly there are many cases of publisher support being a valuable asset and maybe even a boon to struggling creators. I know stereotypes are not always right.

But damn they’ve been right a lot lately.

I have this habit that I somehow assumed everyone shares. Baseless though that assumption was, is and will always be, I still get surprised when I meet someone who doesn’t share it.

Whenever I see something idiotic, I dream about the exact moment when the idea for that particular piece of nincompoopery was given the go-ahead by presumably some relatively powerful men who probably take their jobs really seriously.

I imagine a room, filled with executives, and a single guy giving a presentation. He finishes his presentation and then there is a moment, a moment when all the higher-ups aren’t sure what they think, and all the lower higher-ups are waiting for the higher higher-ups to decide first so they don’t choose the wrong opinion.

I imagine this world, this petty squabbling of dickless men and it frightens me that they have so much power over things they truly know and care so little about.

I’m left slack-jawed in a moment of child-like terror. To wield so much power so unwittingly.

I don’t fear evil, I fear ignorance.

Ignorance - Gaming Like A Sir 21 Jan 2013

How is it possible that some things happen the way they do? Was there really no one standing up for reason?

It would take a speech. Only one man and the right speech to make the difference. I do believe that. I want to know why artistic integrity isn’t also important. I want to know why making the most at any cost is more important than making enough but with dignity.

I don’t know or care if I’m the right person to speak to the publishers, but it is enough of their nonsense, and I want to say something.

If I had five minutes with these guys. If I could just get them alone, in a safe space where I could just look into their eyes and say,

“Holy shit man! Look at yourself. Stop and just think about who you are and what you’re doing. Take a moment. Pause and take stock.

“You have so much power and control so much.  Do you not aspire to anything more? More than financial success? Is it really the most important thing to you? Is your life so empty and so devoid of meaning that nothing is sacred? When you were a child, what did you dream of doing or creating? Didn’t you hate people like you? Or is this truly what you sought?

“Did you want nothing else from life? You choose any of life’s delicacies and it is prepared for you perfectly as often as you want. You choose where, when, and how you sleep. You wear the clothes you want, always. For god sake you have more than plenty in all things. What else do you want? Life is supposed to be happy. What gives you pleasure in life? When did being the biggest become more important than being the best?

“Change something dammit! The power is yours. The rest of us watch and dream of the magnificent things we could do with your power. We watch and dream and are overcome with the putrid dismay of men who see beautiful things sullied and rotted by greed. You can do so much and make so many changes. Care about more! Care about anything. But just care about more than only money!”

I’d calm down after that. Maybe apologise for shouting and getting a little crazy. But I’d hope my point was made. I’d hope that somewhere an idea had been planted in the minds of the men who control so many beautiful things. What stops us from choosing a dignified direction for the industry? Why can we not implement a set of quality standards? Why can we not treat customers like friends instead of meat-fences hoarding our money? Why stops us from choosing to value success more holistically? What stops us from trying to be happy?

Nothing.

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Gaming Like A Sir: 2013 Is A Year To Get Excited About (And Maybe A Little Sad) http://egmr.net/2013/01/gaming-like-a-sir-2013-is-a-year-to-get-excited-about-and-maybe-a-little-sad/ http://egmr.net/2013/01/gaming-like-a-sir-2013-is-a-year-to-get-excited-about-and-maybe-a-little-sad/#comments Fri, 18 Jan 2013 09:00:02 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=109692 2013 is a supernova. Glorious, resplendent and immeasurably beautiful. Also it’s a dying star. I ain’t gonna lie, this is not a column friendly to the uninformed. I want to […]

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2013 is a supernova. Glorious, resplendent and immeasurably beautiful. Also it’s a dying star.

I ain’t gonna lie, this is not a column friendly to the uninformed. I want to have a discussion. I want to discuss the industry, the glorious interactive arts, and I’m going to assume that all of you know your gaming history a bit. It makes for a more intelligent debate, a deeper exploration of the issues and frankly, without making a challenge or starting a dick measuring contest – we all know our industry much better than we admit.

It’s cool, I understand – you want to get laid so you tone it down a little. You pretend that you don’t intimately know every single reason why Mass Effect 2 ruined the franchise, why Mirror’s Edge needs a sequel so badly it hurts to think about, or why Arkham City is so much more than just a Batman game. I lived in isolation for many years. I lived on farms, moved all over the country and only settled much later. It meant something strange about my upbringing – I thought everything I liked and how much I liked it wasn’t socially acceptable. Sadly it was the truth then. Happily, very fist-pumpingly, pelvis-thrustingly happily, it is not the truth now. Now we accept each other much more. Unfortunately, those same feelings of wanting to hide the hardcore are still strong. This is my way of working on that.

I know… I know…

So Hardcore - Gaming Like A Sir 17 Jan 2013

It’s not like this is going to be all obscure references, just maybe catch up on the last thirty years of human culture – in case you missed something.

This generation is nearly over, and there are some sexy things on the horizon, but it will not let go without a final pièce de résistance. Translated, shit is going to be craycray. It will be magnificent in its final days. The most polished, refined and complete games always release at the end of a console cycle. And for obvious reasons, developers know their shit now. They’re experienced and they have huge stores of work from previous games running on the same hardware to leech and learn from.

The result of this comfortable relationship is that games become more ambitious, but less innovative. Developers know what works and now they want to do as much of it as possible. Give a quick wave to Mass Effect 3, Diablo III, Assassin’s Creed 3, Dead Space 2, Sleeping Dogs and Borderlands 2. All recent examples and chosen quite deliberately. These games are all excellent, and they’re all disappointing at the same time. Except maybe Borderlands 2, which is just so great. There is very little surprising in these games. Almost nothing innovative. There is only evolution, refinement and careful artistry. The focus is on how much they can cram in, how interesting it can be made, and how many different things can fit together.

If released at the beginning of the console generation, they would have been overwhelming. Even though these games do everything we would have wanted just a few years ago. Even though there is so much that is right. Now we play and can’t help feel, at least in some areas, some disappointment.

Disappointment - Gaming Like A Sir 17 Jan 2013

I’m not excusing some of the genuine idiocy on the part of the developers, but I am saying that for what it’s worth – we are far harder to please than we used to be. This is a good thing, it forces excellence and demands innovation. We press ever onward and march ever forward. We expect ever more and so we accomplish greater and more magnificent things.

It’s called progressive. And it’s what makes humanity great.

But what happens when we don’t make progress? Or if our progress slows down? My personal prediction, not that its a difficult one to make, is that the new console generation is going to be woefully underwhelming. Enthralling maybe, but devoid of that child-like wonder that I felt when I first saw Gears of War, or Mass Effect, or Modern Warfare, or BioShock, or Oblivion. I will be impressed, for sure, but not shocked.

I hope I’m wrong, but here’s why I’m not.

I have only lived through one console generation. It’s a strange thought.

Of course I had a GameBoy, and I had a Sega Genesis but I was a young kid back then. I didn’t play games for the story, or the graphics or the level design, or the gameplay even. I played them because they were the most fun I knew how to have by myself with my pants on.

I slowly shifted to the more hardcore side of gaming from PC games like StarCraft and Age of Empires. Fundamentally though, I only became a serious gamer when I got my PS2. That was the first time I ever played games that weren’t strategy games or kids games. I played God of War, Mortal Kombat, Ratchet and Clank, Crash Bandicoot, SSX Tricky. These are the games which began my lifelong love affair with gaming. Throughout my PS2 gaming, I slowly upgraded my PC and began to play more and more on it.

Then I bought a gaming PC, a real one. One that growls at lesser computers making them spray terrified battery fluid everywhere. So I caught up on the greatest that PC gaming had to offer. All the classics and all the new stuff. It was my first taste of the HD world. The current generation. It was a huge leap, at least a far more obvious one. Everything was exciting and utterly unexplored. This happened in 2007, six years ago.

2007 was, is and will ever be the year gaming changed. In 2007 we got BioShock, Modern Warfare, Crysis, Peggle, God of War 2, Halo 3, Mass Effect and the Orange Box, just to name a few. Seriously, 2007 was bananas, without their pajamas, on meth. It also did something strange, it showed us the true meaning of graphical beauty.

The industry didn’t know what the hell to do and so it tried everything. From Crysis to BioShock to Peggle. And errrverything in between. As people realised that we had gaming systems powerful enough to create objectively beautiful worlds, graphics became secondary. Have you noticed how few of the games in the post 2007 world used graphics as a selling point? All of them? Yes, I know every game will push how it looks as a plus but I mean how many games used the way they look as a primary draw for gamers. Some maybe, but I argue that even then they had to do more to get recognised. Who is to say Crysis looked better than any game I’ve named? The world of gaming had turned away from the frantic rush toward visual fidelity and onto the mesmerising and truly beautiful artistic side of things.

Beauty - Gaming Like A Sir 18 Jan 2013

It was an important moment. We decided graphical horsepower comes second to artistic brilliance.

That’s what happened. So what happens now? Well, innovation. The new console generation will usher in an age of innovation above refinement. New and unstable above tested and reliable. We get new IPs and developers take more chances. Maybe even a Mirror’s Edge 2.

But we also lose something in the process. We lose the completeness of our current games. We lose the certainty and the scope. Now we try new things and wait for the refinements to come that will make the game truly great.

Crysis 3 or Dead Space 3 or BioShock Infinite would not be better games if they ran on much more powerful hardware. Whatever Cyberpunk 2077 ends up looking like, in a world where the Witcher 2 exists it’s going to take a lot before my jaw drops.

I am glad the new consoles will usher in some innovation. We lack new triple A IPs and we could use some more risky games from developers.

That said, I think and hope that the new consoles do not revolutionise. I hope they refine.

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Gaming Like A Sir: No Quick-Save Is Making Me Hate Far Cry 3 http://egmr.net/2012/12/gaming-like-a-sir-no-quick-save-is-making-me-hate-far-cry-3/ http://egmr.net/2012/12/gaming-like-a-sir-no-quick-save-is-making-me-hate-far-cry-3/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 09:00:17 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=105308 Sometimes I hit F5 hoping it’s all just a bad dream. I end up staring at my Survival Guide, hoping it can tell me how to survive a broken heart. […]

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Sometimes I hit F5 hoping it’s all just a bad dream. I end up staring at my Survival Guide, hoping it can tell me how to survive a broken heart.

Melodramatic nonsense aside, Far Cry 3 is almost the perfect woman. She’s a gorgeous lass, a true natural beauty. We like all the same things, and maybe more importantly, we hate all the same things. She makes me laugh, distracts me when I’m down and pretty much satisfies all my… gaming… needs.

Except for one thing… where her genitals should be, where all of my hopes for a fulfilled relationship and a family should be, instead there is a blank patch of skin. It kinda makes all the plans we had to build a life together a little pointless.

Sure there’s plenty to love, and plenty I do still love, but there’s always that niggling feeling that things could be so much better. If you’re primarily a console gamer, this whole article is going to seem like a whiny PC gamer being all whiny because everyone else doesn’t understand just how great PC gaming is. Ignorance is bliss, and I don’t mean that condescendingly. If you enjoy playing open world games without quick-save, don’t let me taint your good times.

Stop reading and go buy Far Cry 3, ’tis awesome stuff. The issue is that much like a cocaine addict, I’ve tasted the sweet nectar of freedom, I’ve enjoyed the bounty of the quick-save. Now everything else seems pale and boring.

So, if on the other hand you also desperately love all the magnificent freedom quick-save gives you, read a little further as I present, for your consideration all the ways I’m trying to get over my loss. It might not be exactly what I wanted, but its going to be something different. And doing something different is good, it’s how you know you aren’t an old person yet.

You could always go and watch every episode of Archer three times to make you fell better. I know I have, am and will continue to do. I really dig that show.

On the off chance some person who could make a difference reads this, here is my reasoning for the inclusion of a Quicksave in every single open-world game that is ever released. It is an entire gameplay element unto itself. The first time I ever got to use quick-save, Half Life 2, it was an eye opening experience. There is nothing in real life that even comes close to the freedom of the Quicksave. It means you can experiment, take risks, do stupid shit and all without any consequence.

The quick-save single-handedly made games like Crysis and Far Cry 2 fun. I was totally free in those games. I like to play stealthy and I enjoy pulling off ingenious plans and bad ass ninja-like manoeuvres. I enjoy doing it in games because until some serious revisions of the law take place along with a massive price drop in military weaponry and gadgets, I’m not going to get to do it in real life. And even if I was to be given a free-for-all license to kill along with an unlimited supply of weapons, I would have to be careful because in real life there are no do-overs.

Get shot, hide behind a chest high wall, wait for health to regenerate, bleed to death instead. Not fun. Gaming is all about the fun. Sometimes games get so real and so excellent that I forget that this piece of media is supposed to be fun above all else.

You know what’s fun to me? Freedom.

Look at that situation. Two guys and a dog with little old me and a silenced hand gun. It will take some serious talent to head-shot all three before they can raise the alarm. So I quick-save, I try and I fail. Quick-load, and try again. Maybe I fail a few more times. Then I try a new strategy. Maybe throw a rock to distract them and then take-down one and headshot the other two. Cool, I’ll try that.

Freedom. I have total, consequence-free freedom to play the game however I want to. The challenge of the game has been preserved, each achievement is no less meaningful, in fact they are hard earned perfect pieces of execution. Maybe I retry twelve times, maybe I give-up and shotgun my way through, but the decision is always mine.

That is fun to me, the game becomes a strategic thing. A series of puzzles to be solved however I most fancy at the time. That is what Crysis was, at least after I forged an Adamantium computer capable of running it. I replayed some of it in anticipation of Far Cry 3 and dreaming of the awesome adventures I was going to have.

Now I find myself continuing a replay of Crysis and ignoring Far Cry 3. And that is a real shame.

Take the same scenario above, but without quick-save. I try to do something cool and fail. So every alarm goes off and suddenly I’m playing Call of Duty in the jungle. Eventually I slaughter everyone in a frantic mess of jump-shots and grenades. It was good fun I admit. Then it’s over, and I look around at the carnage and feel ashamed. I meant to be so much more graceful than this. I wanted to be more delicate, and the game wouldn’t let me. Or more accurately, it only gave me a single chance to try.

You could argue that I should just get better at playing, that being graceful is now something to strive for. You’d be right, I should be better and pulling off a stealthy take-down of a whole camp will be more valuable as a result. My problem is that they haven’t given me the choice. They took away my freedom so that I would play the game the way they intended and not the way I want to play.

Borderlands 2 didn’t have a quick-save and I still loved it, so why here am I so angry? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because this is much more of an RPG and there is a lot more character progression. Maybe it’s because it takes itself more seriously and as a result, so do I.

It got me thinking, if I can enjoy Borderlands 2 for what it was, why not Far Cry 3. It’s not the game I wanted and it’s not going to give me the open world freedom to experiment and test things that I expected. Instead its a game about survival. A chance to do whatever I can for a purpose. The means justify the ends.

So now I play the game like a survivor, what is fastest, most efficient and safest. How would I, as Jake, handle this situation if I was put into it – with all the possibility of failure that reality so lovingly provides.

Now I’m enjoying myself again. I do things now with the knowledge that I have to be prepared for failure and that I’m going to have to adjust on the fly. It’s not what I wanted, it’s not what I’m used to and it certainly isn’t something I would want in all future games.

I changed my attitude, I decided to expect something different from the game, something I know the game can deliver in fine fashion.

And suddenly, I’m having a really good time.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Score-Based Reviews Are Like Crack To Us http://egmr.net/2012/11/gaming-like-a-sir-score-based-reviews-are-like-crack-to-us/ http://egmr.net/2012/11/gaming-like-a-sir-score-based-reviews-are-like-crack-to-us/#comments Fri, 23 Nov 2012 09:00:43 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=104007 I don’t mean fun, have-a-good-time crack. I mean hardcore Requiem For A Dream crack. Seriously, watch that movie. But do it with the lights on, during the day, cuddling a […]

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I don’t mean fun, have-a-good-time crack. I mean hardcore Requiem For A Dream crack.

Seriously, watch that movie. But do it with the lights on, during the day, cuddling a favourite teddy-bear.

I have been away for some time. I am back. Stronger and more awesomer than ever. Like divorced parents will always tell their children, this has nothing to do with you. I love you, it’s just that your mom and I are having trouble. In this case, your mom is the mad, passionate, borderline psychotic….end of the year mad rush of exams and work culminating in my being in America for two months. So ya. Hectic.

Now that the damage is done and I’m walking through the unrecognisable wreckage that was the last few months, I’ve noticed something. Reviews of all my most anticipated games have varied so wildly and been so inconsistent that were I not a more sensitive man I would make a PMS joke. I didn’t make one and I’m not going to. I ProMiSe.

This left me to wonder…what the broody herr happened? Where is the voice of certainty, the consensus? How am I supposed to know what to think? Then I realised I was going to have to put in effort before dismissing games based on superficial things. So I had a panic attack. It was so bad I had to go and lie down in an iStore, close my eyes and just let other people with no discernible qualifications tell me what to think and feel. It was glorious. I just gave them my bank account details and asked when the super compact iPad Mini is coming out. He said it already is out and sold me an iPhone.

I’m being facetious. But only a little. Also I don’t mean eGamer’s reviews, in fact a clever person might realise this entire column is pretty much going to outline in painful detail why eGamer’s reviews are doing things right. Even then, there are some excellent writers and journalists out there who do their damnedest to write informative discussions on games. They are forced to slap a number on at the end because the raging mass of COD-tards out there, like past-Jake, put a whole lot of weight on that number. It is poppycock to believe a complex and multifaceted piece of interactive art and all of its intrinsic value can be summarised by a number.

Welcome to an analysis of score based reviews and why they’re shite.

I genuinely used to love review scores. I would get bummed when a site I trusted gave a game anything less than an eight or higher. My world got shattered when Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, a game I apparently can’t stop referencing at every available half-opportunity, turned out to be excellent despite getting scores of middle sixes. That’s when I had the little epiphany that made me the extremely humble, all-knowing, bastion of enlightenment I am today.

No matter what numeric system we use, we will end up only paying attention to games that score in the top 30% or so. So why is the number necessary? Why not just say, in as many words, whether the game is worth looking at or not. That’s all the review score tells us anyway. Less than 7 – GTFO. 9 or 10 – buy almost without thinking.

Enter the great eGamer way. Let’s look at Hitman: Absolution. This is a game that got a throbbing 9 from IGN and a piddling 6.9 from GameTrailers. If that confuses you… good.

It neatly summarises why scores are ridiculous. You probably won’t concentrate while watching the GT review, if you bother to watch at all, and we both know neither of us will read the IGN one unless we’re really interested. And yet, I walk around thinking I know what those reviewers thought of the game because I know the number they assigned it.

Look now at the eGamer way – the Quick Rating. In almost as many seconds as it takes to read a review score, I can get a much better understanding of whether the game is worthwhile or not.

Do you see how much better this is? Whether I read the rest of the review or not (and I should) at least I have something of Azhar’s opinion starting to form in my head.

As usual with my discussions, I’m asking that we change our expectations. Accept that regardless of the game, we are going to have to actually read a little to begin forming our own thoughts.

What would a score do here except cloud the thoughtful opinion Azhar wants to convey. Nothing. It would help not at all and would only make you forget what Azhar actually thinks.

I only remember that people hated Mass Effect 3’s ending, I don’t remember what they said and I remember this only because of the numbers. I know Far Cry 3 is looking like a bad-ass and I know this because of the numbers instead of what the game actually is. Even though numbers are nice and easy, I want an elevation of our basic level of discourse.

Discuss the game and its content, not the random culmination of one reviewers rudimentary grasp of numeric scoring.

Now go read the rest of eGamer’s reviews. I have.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Suffocating Under An Avalanche Of Gaming’s Bosom, And It Feels Great http://egmr.net/2012/10/gaming-like-a-sir-suffocating-under-an-avalanche-of-gamings-bosom-and-it-feels-great/ http://egmr.net/2012/10/gaming-like-a-sir-suffocating-under-an-avalanche-of-gamings-bosom-and-it-feels-great/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2012 09:00:16 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=100105 An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Of Gaming Splendour You, random citizen, put that new game down. You have three games pre-ordered, your Steam library is brimming and the Indie scene is exploding. […]

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An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Of Gaming Splendour

You, random citizen, put that new game down. You have three games pre-ordered, your Steam library is brimming and the Indie scene is exploding. I know that game you’re holding looks good, it’s shiny and smells like new game and the pictures on the box are totally sweet. I know this, but don’t be fooled by the slick marketing or the protestations of the puppy-dog-esque pseudo-humble developers. Don’t be fooled, I berieve in you!

Wai…You did it! You put the game down. I can’t believe it. Look around, gaze upon the world anew. Breathe deeply the clear and icy air. Smile and feel invigorated, you made a great decision today. You escaped the clutches of evil and remain whole.

This is cause for celebration. Call your friends and family, today will be special. Before you leave, I have one more thing for you. A gift, to commemorate your immense discipline. Here, it’s a copy of my game, for 20% off.

I have made no secret of my boredom in recent months as well as my expectations for this lovely holiday season. I have desperately been awaiting the return of the truly triple A and it has been a rough wait. Like when your dentist leaves the room and you’re lying there with several contraptions in your face and weird smells wafting around.

The nurse / assistant lady smiles, not bothering to talk to you knowing you would only be able to make uncomfortable, incomprehensible gurgles anyway. When she thinks you can’t see her, her smile fades and her eyes deaden. She’s in her own world.

You lie there helpless, waiting for something to come along and break the oppressive monotony. Then, shortly before you snap and murder everyone, patterns on the ceiling become interesting. The way things feel and look become a little bit more attention worthy. You start to imagine things and think big thoughts. You daydream.

Then, at the ultimate moment of raw awesome. When the most interesting thought occurs and when you have realised several very important things about the universe, life, and women, the dentist returns.

In a poof, everything you did to occupy yourself seems pale and unhealthy, like Steve Buscemi. No one knows what stupid crap you were doing or thinking. Somehow though it feels like they know and are judging you.

You’re undeniably happier now that things are back to the way they should be, but a small part of you knows that if the dentist had stayed away for just a few moments longer, you would have experienced something quite epic. In that small, dark part of your mind that just wants to be loved, you realise that Steve Buscemi is actually a magnificent actor if you give him the chance.

If you’re paying attention to this extended metaphor, you’ll realise I’m talking about all the great but not perfect or mind-blowing games that come out each year. We ignore them when they release, overshadowed by games we want more.

Then the quiet months come around, and as we sit in our proverbial dentist’s chair, we start to see the value of the experiences we so flippantly disregarded. Case in point, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. I disregarded the game as so much bum-fluff on the manly beard of truly great gaming. I played it a bit but never got very far and was immensely bored.

Then, when I had nothing else to play, I went back and tried again. I don’t often admit this, but I was wrong. It’s actually a very good game. I got so caught up in the hype that I only focused on what Revelations brought that was new. I forgot completely that beneath the admittedly slim new offerings lies the spine of a huge and glorious franchise. I haven’t had any Assassin’s Creed fun since playing a little of Brotherhood way back in 2010.

Revisiting the game now, suddenly it was all fresh again. Not only fresh but with the benefit of years of polish to the core aspects of the game with some hefty extensions. At least they are hefty compared to the vanilla AC2 which is the last game in the franchise I properly played.

I was having a good time, it was like being with an ex-girlfriend. We understand we each have flaws and were more forgiving as a result. I know her weaknesses and she knows mine. Mutually assured destruction. Instead of getting MAD, we simply enjoy what we can without judgement.

Then Dishonored came out.

Now when I look at Revelations, all I see is the harpy witch I left. I look but the magic is gone and all that remains are the scars. She hasn’t changed, I have.

It’s a sad story, if I was stronger and more accepting I could still have a lot of happiness. But I want ever more, and so I disregard the less than perfect. It is an attitude which breeds excellence perhaps, but one filled with cruelty nonetheless.

In honour of this, I decided not to start Dishonored even though I’ve written many articles on it. Instead I went back to Borderlands 2. I’ve decided that I should appreciate what I have, before I demand something more.

In a week or so, when I’m well and truly tired of Borderlands, I will take up a sordid affair with Dishonored.

I want to be a deliberate gamer, to choose actively when and what I play. A game is more magnificent because it was my choice to play it.

So, Dishonored, you lithe and lovely midnight flower, remove the stain of thy shadow from my threshold vile temptress. Be gone! I will call when I have need of you.

 

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Gaming Like A Sir: Buy Borderlands 2 — An Article Not Secretly Paid For By Gearbox http://egmr.net/2012/09/gaming-like-a-sir-buy-borderlands-2-an-article-not-secretly-paid-for-by-gearbox/ http://egmr.net/2012/09/gaming-like-a-sir-buy-borderlands-2-an-article-not-secretly-paid-for-by-gearbox/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2012 09:00:47 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=97961 Seriously, I paid for my own copy of Borderlands 2 and Gearbox had nothing to do with the complimentary Porsche it came in. Now normally I start these things with […]

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Seriously, I paid for my own copy of Borderlands 2 and Gearbox had nothing to do with the complimentary Porsche it came in.

Now normally I start these things with a story. And today is no different. I’m a man of the people.

Imagine a cherub-cheeked farm-boy. Imagine he has three freckles on each cheek and big storm-blue eyes. His teeth are a little too big for his little mouth and the one sticks out a little bit. He’s a happy little boy and he loves his friends and his family. He is also lonely, he wants to explore the world and have adventure. His little brother is good for some adventure but sometimes he gets overtired or grumpy and the farm boy has to take him home. It is fun though, the farm boy teaches his brother how to make a sling and throw stones and they spend hours together flinging rocks at cans and trees. Other times the farm boy’s neighbours visit and teach him things. Often the things he learns help him and make him stronger. Other time the things upset him and make him aware of the harshness around him. These things also make him stronger. Things go like this for a while and it is good.

Then one day his farm is attacked by evil demons. Monstrous, slavering creatures fresh from the deepest vats of the most twisted scientists in hell. One creature could kill ten men and hundreds attack the farm. Only the little farm boy, his ailing mother, and his little simpering brother are there. They hide in a bedroom but the abominations snuffle at the door and pant at the window. The farm boy can hear them scratching on the wooden door and snarling against the window panes. He looks around and finds only a lighter, a can of inflammable solvent, and his mother’s gun. The thing is old and rusty and only three of the bullets are usable. The little boy loads them into the gun and cocks it just as the first creature slams its body into the door.

The wood creaks, the house thrums and a little dust is dislodged from the walls and ceiling. Again another hit and the door cracks. The farm boy looks down at the gun, the solvent and the lighter. The beast at the window shatters the glass and scrabbles against the burglars bars. The screws are rustier than the gun and already one corner is loosening. The farm boy sprays the inflammable solvent onto the creatures face and a noxious cloud of chemicals clings to the thing’s fur and skin. When the boy flicks on the lighter, the air itself ignites and sets the beast ablaze.

Outside, the sound of bandit screams mix with gunfire. Shouting men and shrieking beasts fill the air. The burning monster sets the grass and buildings alight. Some of the bandits get scorched and it brings a smile to the little boy’s face even as the room begins to burn. His family move into the middle of the room, trying to escape the heat and billowing smoke. Then one abomination breaks through the door and tumbles into the acrid, burning room. Disorientated for a moment by the overpowering smell of fire, the beast re-assesses quickly and leaps at the farm boy, silhouetted against the blaze of his family home and horror of death beyond.

You think you know what happens now? You think you have some idea of the story of the little farm boy who’s forced to become a man. Even as you read this, skimming for signs that I’ve started finishing my story, you start to wonder and hope for one outcome or another. Maybe you like the boy’s brother and mother, maybe you sympathise with the starving monsters who only want a meal to survive, maybe you pity the handicapped bandits and their desperate struggle to live in a world of corporations and harsh monsters. Perhaps you’ve even grown fond of the little cherub-esque boy with the stormy eyes.

You know desperately what you want, and if I ever gave it to you, you’d hate me for ruining the mystery. In the harsh light of explanation, the mists of magic are often burned away. But it is a risk worth taking, just in case you get it right.

Welcome to the world of sequels, a land of entitlement and horror. A place filled with inflated expectation and warped measures of progress. A difficult place to be sure, but with determination, faith and a little luck, it is definitely the best place for loot.

A sequel is a magical opportunity. The foundations are laid and the audience is primed. The engine is warm, the hinges are greased and we’re cooking with gas. It is time to deliver. This is why the best experiences must come from sequels. Maybe they’re not as expertly paced or perhaps they lack some of the unique soul of their predecessors — but they are undeniably more polished and simply grander. In scope, feel, and execution.

Borderlands 2 is one such magnificent beast. It has done what no game since Arkham City has done, exceeded my expectations. How did it do this? By understanding story structure and expectations. How do you go big and bold while keeping some kind of restraint and tension? How do you explain while still keeping the mystery protected?

By giving us what we want, in a way we didn’t expect.

The beast leaps for the young boy’s face and he sprays solvent, drenching the animal. He fumbles with the lighter but the piece of junk doesn’t so much as spark. Realising his fate, the boy lifts the gun to his face. As the creature’s jaws snap onto the boy’s neck, he fires the rusty gun into his mouth.

The gun backfires and ignites the beast who screams in pain, never snapping his jaws down. The creature bursts through the window, tearing the bars from the hinges.

There is silence outside, except for the shrieking, immolated creature, there is nothing. The desperate wails of the monster seem to echo ominously. Slowly, with deft assurance, the farm boy peaks out of the window.

And gets sniped. Headshot.

The boy’s family are silent. The mother has been dead for fifteen years.

His little brother is shocked and stares at the corpse of his tormentor.

He runs outside into the arms of his father, who has searched for him across the wasteland. His feral monsters tracking the crazy farm boy with endless determination. Many were killed but the father doesn’t care, he has his boy back.

On their ride home, they are attacked by a rival gang. The gang knows that they are weakened and the young boy’s father is outmatched. The young boy takes out his sling and hurls a rock just like the farm boy taught him. He gets a little lucky and hits the gang-leader on the temple, cracking his skull and killing him instantly. The others scatter at the loss of their invincible leader.

The father holds the boy while he cries.

He cries until he falls asleep.

 

It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a world and a story as thoroughly as Borderlands 2. It is a privilege to play the game, and I’m going to go play more now.

 

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Gaming Like A Sir: Preparing For The Summer Rush http://egmr.net/2012/09/gaming-like-a-sir-preparing-for-the-summer-rush/ http://egmr.net/2012/09/gaming-like-a-sir-preparing-for-the-summer-rush/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2012 09:00:21 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=96298 Brace yourselves, we are about to change from beggars to kings. Financially we do the opposite, but who cares? I’ll be playing Dishonored. Recently I saw a story that shook […]

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Brace yourselves, we are about to change from beggars to kings. Financially we do the opposite, but who cares? I’ll be playing Dishonored.

Recently I saw a story that shook my confidence in gamers. A story published right here on eGamer. The article is short but it has been haunting me. The TL;DR version is that there is this glorious thing called the Humble Indie Bundle. It is a collection of generally excellent indie games all bundled together for a one time fee of anything you care to donate. Pay what you want, to whoever you want. The games are DRM free, redeemable on Steam and a portion of the money goes to charity. You want all the money to go to charity? Cool. Just slide the little slider and it is so. The Humble Bundle is a shining example of a new way of treating consumers. The very best of new age thinking.

And it is still being pirated.

I live my life with one simple idea: that people are fundamentally good and honest. Opportunistic and greedy? Definitely, but that doesn’t in itself discount inherent goodness. A person will take as much as they can, whenever they can. Some are better at controlling their hedonism than others but I believe that every person has a line in the sand. A limit. A moral core.

Imagine some jackass steals a parking from you, flips you off and then continues a loud cellphone conversation that starts with, “Bro I boned her so hard she had to limp home. No, ‘course not. I called her a taxi”. If twenty bucks fell out of his jacket as he walked away in a cloud of cigarette stink and cheap cologne, what would you do?

If you answer that you’d pick up the money and chase after him to give it back, then we need to have a talk about self-esteem. You should also break up with your significant other since they’re probably abusing you. Unless you like that sort of thing. No judgement, to each their filthy, depraved own.

If, on the other hand, you picked it up and returned it to the man by shoving the cash shoulder deep into his rectum, please contact me for some free money wrapped in a list of people I don’t like.

If you’re a little more normal, I would personally forgive you if you picked it up, looked around and then gave it to the blind beggar sitting nearby playing on a broken ukulele singing cheerful songs despite a largely toothless mouth.

Maybe you just decide to keep it and justify it as a douche bag tax. Less okay but I wouldn’t call off the wedding just yet. Calling someone an opportunist used to be an insult, now that the world is so saturated it’s become something to be proud of. I don’t condone stealing, but in this case I’d be hard pressed to run off and defend that loud, smelly, arrogant ape-monster.

In case you’re wondering where this is going, that man is every evil game publisher. He is any company that has ever treated its consumers like trash. The beggar is the indie world, full of hopes and dreams but sadly lacking in resources and front teeth.

I stuck my neck out for gamers, I think that the piracy situation is quite simple. Give paying customers the best version of a product. Make it easier and more rewarding than piracy and treat us with love. Do that, and we’ll show you the money.

So what does this have to do with the end of year rush? Well this is more of a pep talk, a little inspiration. The temptation is high, very high, to buy the couple of great games that come out and to pirate the rest.

We’ve just been through the drought months, a time of lean. Now that a buffet is being wheeled before us laden with the richest and most awesome delicacies the industry has to offer. It is a harem of virgin beauties, each one beckoning with coy smiles and subtle pelvic thrusts.

It is glorious and we feel like kings. We go from being beggars with no choice to kings with the world’s most succulent entertainment vying for our money. We want it all.

All of life is only important because it is finite. When there is a limit to what you can have, each thing becomes more important if only because it carries the full weight of what you could have bought instead. Water is the sweetest nectar to a dehydrated man, and likewise a game is more special precisely because it is a purchase made carefully.

So this holiday, when there is a hail of games, buy one or two and ignore the rest. Appreciate fully the years of time and effort put into them. Play the rest next year during the drought.

Joseph convinced the Pharaoh to save a little for lean time based on a drug addled series of crazy dreams.

I am Jacob, behold my wisdom.

 

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Preview: Dishonored http://egmr.net/2012/08/preview-dishonored/ http://egmr.net/2012/08/preview-dishonored/#comments Fri, 24 Aug 2012 10:30:49 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=93493 Now I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you don’t want this game, but you probably enjoy bad things and like bad people and can at times appear to […]

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Now I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you don’t want this game, but you probably enjoy bad things and like bad people and can at times appear to be bad. Also you most likely fear the daylight, eat babies and enjoy bullfighting while defending it as a legitimate sport.

Dishonored, made by Arkane Studios (they made Dark Messiah which is the most under-appreciated thing since women), is going to be sweet. Now don’t get worked up and start to argue with me. Hush if you’re unconvinced, calm yourself and clear your mind. Here, have this drink and sip it. When you’ve calmed down, I’m going to show you why you should pitch a tent every time you think about this game. For the ladies and the innocent, pitching a tent is getting an erection while wearing a pajama pants. If the man in question is not an excuse to my gender the central pole of the tent will be his…y’know. Okay, feeling better? Finished your dizzy juice? Now get into my van and let me show you the world….

… of Dunwall

Name: Dishonored
Genre: Action \ Adventure \ Platformer \ Adventure \ Magical Mumbo Jumbo \ Possess a Rat
Players: 1
Multiplayer: None
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Developers: Arkane Studios
Publishers: Bethesda
Release Date: 9 October 2012

You probably know about my ridiculous love affair with Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. For the next paragraph I’m going to re-explain why I love this game, and why it is a travesty so few people have played it. Especially developers. Sit your asses down and take a lesson from the masters. The Arkane masters. If you already know or agree with me, here’s a creative kills video. Just absorb it.

 

Right, go read this. That is the part one of today’s sermon. Dark Messiah was a revelation for its time and a continued example of what happens when developers want their players to be smart and creative. I’ve been watching recent games, I’ve been following as these corridor shooters trudge along, always with the attitude that my desire to explore and my attempts to manipulate the game mechanics are wrong. I’m tired of being punished for trying something different or straying from the path. I’m growing up, it’s true. I’m not old, but I’m no pisher either. They said I’d never be able to squeeze a Yiddish colloquialism like “pisher” into my column, they were wrong. That is the theme of today’s little preview; people can be wrong. Like take the last time I stuck my neck out for a game. It turned out to be a disappointing affair. Like I said, I’m older now and although I’m by no means old, in terms of gaming I’m a connoisseur. I tolerate less and want more. I’m not going to ask permission to explore or experiment. If a game is developed with that open mindset, I’ll stay. If not, I won’t. In real terms, this means that the little things matter.

Quantum Conundrum wasn’t bad, but it lacked the heart and soul, that little bit of warmth, that makes a game truly shine. Every little issue, or slightly off piece of humour, or mildly frustrating puzzle became annoying enough that I still haven’t finished the game.

So, as I always do when I uninstall a game, I ponder exactly why I’ve decided to say goodbye. Was it bad? Was it boring? Am I being unfair? Have I given it a proper chance to woo me? What makes me love a game? The answer to that final question is why I am excited.

The last game that truly “got” me was Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Every little thing about it was enjoyable. The variety, art-style, story and gameplay were all tailored to me. The things I cared about received the attention and the shit I couldn’t care less about was done well but not with wasted effort. In short, they are my style. They have the right mindset, the right attitude.

Call it what you will but Arkane studios look like they get what makes a game fun. They understand where to spend their time and what to give us and what to tease us with. It is a remarkable talent. It is subtle. Take these videos, just one mission from the game but played with two different styles.

One stealthy.

 

And one violent.

 

A simple marketing ploy, show the use of diversity in the game. It’s been done before and that ironically is why it wasn’t noticed here. The difference of experience between these two play-throughs is remarkable. The creativity in their execution and the fact that there are still more unexplored methods is what will make this game special. I don’t just want to win, I want to outsmart my enemies. I want to be creative and get rewarded for my tenacity.

If Arkane are still the developer I remember, they welcome player tenacity and ingenious solutions to problems. They’ve even admitted that some of their ideas have come from play testers using the game mechanics in ways they hadn’t considered. It is a testament to their attitude in development that they built a game that had mechanics they hadn’t even intended.

A tester used the telekinesis spell to fire some rocket-bomb things back at the machines that were attacking them. Beautiful. To be open enough, and good natured enough to simply welcome players abusing your system is a rare personality trait. It manifests in interesting ways with a tight, well crafted world that simply beckons, “come explore me”.

If that sounded sexual, then good. You should be pitching a tent anyway.

Is it cool? Definitely. Am I excited for a first person bad ass action adventure set in a pseudo 1800s England? You bet your sweet crumpets and tea I am. Mostly though, I want to play a game made by people who understand what I love and want to give me the freedom to do as I wish and reward me for it.

Am I just one man, or one among many?

We will see October 9th.

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Gaming Like A Sir: We Are Gamer, Hear Us Roar http://egmr.net/2012/08/gaming-like-a-sir-we-are-gamer-hear-us-roar/ http://egmr.net/2012/08/gaming-like-a-sir-we-are-gamer-hear-us-roar/#comments Thu, 16 Aug 2012 09:00:42 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=92876 A man defending feminism, I must be on my period.   If you give me a few moments of your time, I’m going to make you hate yourself. Borderlands 2 […]

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A man defending feminism, I must be on my period.

 
If you give me a few moments of your time, I’m going to make you hate yourself. Borderlands 2 developer, Gearbox caused a few waves recently by joking about some sexist things. To succinctly sum up the situation, a Gearbox employee said that there would be a new character skill tree aimed at “girlfriends”. Basically a retard mode so that the manatees we have in our lives can try join in on the sophisticated fun us gamers have.

As I started writing my iPod shuffled to Mandy by Barry Manilow. The mood is right. Now gather around in delectation and delight as I show you the precipice we stand on. We have a decision to make, either way is fine, but we must make this decision consciously.

Feminism is awful. There’s a lot of sisterhoods, cropped hair, ill-fitting jeans, double standards and unwanted body hair. You think you might be a feminist, but if you’re a normal human being who wants equality for all you’re an equalitarian. Feminism has been widely used to describe two conflicting things and it’s time we separated them.

When most men think of a feminist, they think of something awful. We think of a she-beast who wants only to make us feel bad for who we are. Men are too sexist and controlling, girls conform to archetypes and don’t fight for what they deserve. The feminist looks at you and sees either a monstrosity or weakness. These people serve only to make us hate ourselves and they need to go.

Most women I know, at least the ones I’m proud to have in my life, want equality. Chivalry is neither mandatory nor is it condescending, it’s nice. A woman can get a job or take care of the home, either is equally acceptable. There seems to be this idea in feminism that when a woman needs a man, she is weak.

Bullshit, we need each other. It’s a partnership. Gender will always be a universally divisive metric. Feminism refuses to admit those differences while misogyny takes those differences and calls them inferiorities. Equal in their wrongness.

I am a man, you are a woman. Let’s be friends.

Now I don’t want to actually talk about Gearbox and its foot in mouth moment. It was a single comment by one man on a huge team and the sad reality is that the majority of the girlfriends in the world couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the games we play. In an odd move, the mode is a really nice one.

I can think of a half dozen different scenarios in which a mode for inexperienced gamers will be cool. What I want to discuss today though, is the industry reaction to this nonsense. Whenever a new “controversy” comes along, the entire observing internet splits in half. Half are suddenly hardcore lesbians, and the other half become misogynistic pre-rapists.

Now I have an offensive sense of humour. I’ve used pornography to describe piracy and I’ve compared the qualities I look for in games to the characteristics of the perfect woman. I love wildly inappropriate jokes and all things brimming with offensiveness are funny. It’s fashionable to be so liberal you can make racist or sexist jokes and take it in good humour. Sometimes we take it too far, like when I told my Asian friend to stop squinting at me, or when I took a camera to the kitchen and made a wildlife documentary about a female friend in her “natural habitat” as she cooked.

I am unashamed of my humour and apologise to no one because I do it consciously, deliberately and carefully. The gaming industry does not yet have that privilege.

Gaming is a notoriously male dominated industry. Chalk it up to some of those gender differences I mentioned, but gaming in its earliest form was the domain of only the most buck-toothed, glasses wearing, pants worn around the nipples, never had a girlfriend kind of nerds.

Then we matured, we became a frat-house. The image of a gamer became a guy doing a chick doggy-style, resting a beer and some chips on her back while playing Call of Duty. As much as that might sound good in a dark part of your heart, most of us know the difference between fantasy and reality. The same way our women can dream of Ryan Gosling but still love our sorry asses.

This brings us to the precipice, gaming is now main stream. Even the CoD-tards are looking to deeper and more thoughtful experiences as they mature. Gaming is opening up to the ladies and it’s exciting, but also terrifying.

For many men, gaming was their haven. A place and an activity for men to be men, to indulge our most unrealistic fantasies. It was the modern day equivalent of a gentleman’s club. Now suddenly our sisters are playing games, our wives and girlfriends want to learn, and even our mothers lose their pensions on Farmville or can thrash you in Peggle.

It is scary for us men, in a world where men need to curb their natural, unclean bastardness, we’re losing a haven of that immaturity. It makes us nervous but it’s healthy, it’s time for us to let go, grow up and become better men.

I want to one day play games with my wife and have it be as normal as watching a movie together. This will only happen if we demand a change. Make sexist jokes, be a bastard, but let’s move it away from gaming. It stings too close to the truth when we joke about misogyny in our little industry, at least for now.

So next time there is sexism in a game, next time a friend jokes about how retarded a girl is at a game, punch them in the face. Punch them verbally, emotionally, and physically. Shut that shit down.

We are losing something, we’re losing a place to be with only men and to feel comfortable just being savages. It’s okay to admit that you’re going to miss it, but there will be other way to do that. Go camping, play pool in a bar, play a sport. I want gaming to grow up. It’s time to make that decision consciously, never apologise for what we loved, but be man enough to move on.

Unless you’re a bitch?

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Gaming Like A Sir: A New Breed, A Hybrid: The Casual Hardcore Gamer http://egmr.net/2012/08/gaming-like-a-sir-a-new-breed-a-hybrid-the-casual-hardcore-gamer/ http://egmr.net/2012/08/gaming-like-a-sir-a-new-breed-a-hybrid-the-casual-hardcore-gamer/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 09:00:48 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=91470 Casual games have done something wonderful. No. Seriously. It is cold and wet and rainy. I am inside and it is night. The week is ending, varsity is under control […]

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Casual games have done something wonderful. No. Seriously.

It is cold and wet and rainy. I am inside and it is night. The week is ending, varsity is under control and for a brief moment, I feel at peace. I enrobe myself in my favourite hoody and my warmest pants, I prepare the most glorious cup of tea and then nestle in front of my computer.

My chair creaks, my desktop hums and whirrs, crickets start a choir. Silence.

I am staring at my computer like a drooling fool. Not a single game I want to play. Now I know where you think this article is going. You think I’m about to tell you a story of how I picked up some casual Facebook turd of a game and had a great time. If you’ve been paying attention and not half reading while whatever porn you were watching buffers, then you probably think that I’m about to start talking about casual games and their value to society.

I’m not. I’m so serious, I’m not even going to undercut this a joke.

I know that saying that is itself a kind of joke in a very comedic Inception-like conundrum of linguistic science, but I’m serious. Very serious, super Saiyan serious.

Casual games broke me. I broke through being a gaming monster and have become a connoisseur. I used to enjoy gaming for the newness of the experience. New mechanics, new story, new artstyle, new, new, new. Everything was shiny and glossy and had that new game smell. It was exhilarating.

Then I got my shiny Android. Suddenly every bus and every boring lecture was an opportunity to game. Cut the Rope, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and even Dead Space. They were mostly casual games. Aimed at moms, children and “ironic” varsity students. I didn’t care, I was having fun and frankly it’s nobody’s business what I play. For a time, it was good.

Then something snapped inside me. I just suddenly didn’t care anymore. There was no buildup and no warning. I didn’t suddenly run out of things to do nor did I stop having a good time. I just suddenly couldn’t be bothered to play. I started listening in lectures, jamming to music on the bus and staring into space lost in thought in my spare moments.

This stretched from my normal routine right into my hardcore gaming life. All those games that I’d been meaning to play or finish. The hoard of forgotten titles, of marred gems, the whole squatting lot of AA titles and misunderstood masterpieces suddenly paled in comparison to almost anything else.

What happened? Was I hit by some kind of ray or beam?

I don’t have an answer. I have some theories. Probably the combination of several things but mostly I think I’ve just moved on. I now demand a higher level of experience from my spare time. Maybe it’s because I’m busy with friends or perhaps varsity and business take their toll but I now find myself unwilling to forgive flaws in gaming.

I am still obnoxiously excited for games like Dishonored and BioShock Infinite, I am still waiting for a nice long weekend to replay the Witcher 2, I just think I’m fine not playing anything until then. This puts me in an odd position. Have I really become such a casual gamer? Only a few choice games and franchises and the rest can piss off? I think I have. I still follow gaming news religiously, I watch trailers, read articles and follow rumours. I’m just not interested in investing time and money into anything less than the best.

Maybe it’s Olympic fever, maybe after seeing it, I crave only excellence and all else is bland by comparison. I want gold and not silver.

Maybe I’m just a casual gamer then, maybe I’ve just progressed to a point where gaming has taken a backseat. But that’s not right either. Gaming is near and dear to my heart. I love the gaming industry like it’s a part of me. Indeed, many magnificent gaming experiences have shaped my view on the world. I can’t be lumped in with Farmville toting, Instagram whoring wannabe, hipster, normal people. I won’t accept it.

Beat me in an argument on the intricacies of game design and storytelling and I’ll hand over my gun and badge without a word. Until then, I claim the right to be a causal hardcore gamer. A connoisseur. I play games for the same reason I read books and watch films, for the magnificence of the human mind. Story, character, world, universe and imagination.

I want to experience BioShock’s floating cities and Dishonored’s nimble stealth. I am excited and curious about Far Cry 3 and Borderlands 2 and Tomb Raider. If they’re great and if their creators were careful, I will explore every corner of their worlds and every aspect of their conception.

I feel some version of this each year in the months of release drought. Each year I’ve renounced gaming and each year during the release storm, old habits return. Not this time though. I do feel more strongly and am sure with greater surety. Will I prove the truth of my conviction?

Like I said last time, only time will tell.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Games Are For Stupid People, Not Us http://egmr.net/2012/07/gaming-like-a-sir-games-are-for-stupid-people-not-us/ http://egmr.net/2012/07/gaming-like-a-sir-games-are-for-stupid-people-not-us/#comments Fri, 20 Jul 2012 09:00:18 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=90788 Blessed are the morons, for they will inherit the earth We are not the majority, it is a frightening thought – all the interactions we have, all the people we […]

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Blessed are the morons, for they will inherit the earth

We are not the majority, it is a frightening thought – all the interactions we have, all the people we come in contact with and all the hours we spend jacked into the web; we are only a small part of the world. Sometimes we forget that, at least I do.

How come, despite internet-wide uproar, very little seems to change within the industry? Why is it only rarely that a petition or community action has any effect on companies? Because despite the hundreds of thousands of voices all crying in unison – it is still not enough to warrant action. We, the people who frequent gaming websites and who read gaming news, we are not the target audience. A weird feeling, but take it from a left-handed, curly haired, blue-eyed, Jewish vegetarian – I know what it’s like to not be the target audience. The trailers we see and the press-releases we devour seem to target us, in fact some of these bits of marketing ARE designed for us, but that doesn’t change that the games are not.

The ultimate goal of pretty much any developer is to make mountains of money, with the least amount of effort. That means Call of Duty. COD is the ultimate product, in almost any industry. As a guy studying a nice, juicy business degree (with five years of economics education) I can claim to at least understand the basics of how this stuff works. It’s not difficult, hang in there. What makes COD the ultimate product? It’s a protected brand, making it a de facto monopoly. The games are blisteringly quick to make, requiring little to no work beyond improving features and some newish assets. The games are cheap to fund as a result, I know the budget is far from small but in terms of the return on investment, it’s a pittance. And finally we have that the target audience are basically sheep. I refuse to use the word sheeple because these people are not like sheep, they ARE sheep.

Give me a well-trained Collie and I’ll herd them into a coral for you. Now before I get ahead of myself, I need to make something clear – I do not hate these people. I have no right to hate them and neither do you. Nothing they do is malicious and what three or four thoughts they have each day are not focused on the games they play. You don’t hate a baboon for stealing, you just lock your doors and windows.

The point is that even though we can’t hate them, we can learn to defend against the evil hordes. Likewise, we can’t hate the mega-publishers despite their repeated raping of our favourite franchises. They are not demons or monsters, at least for the most part, they are just fuelled by money.

Business is not complicated; companies do what earns them the most money. Simple, easy, horrifying. There are occasions, that occur quite frequently, when a company’s actions actually seem evil. Not just profiteering or heartless, but actually mean. I’m not going to mention EA by name because frankly, I could single them out but this is an industry-wide problem.

Well this is mightily depressing, the picture I’ve painted so far is one where we have no control over what gets produced since we’re not the target audience and where publishers wouldn’t deign to so much as spit on us because we are still the minority. Frankly we’re the third wheel, the retards and the money suckers are kind enough to let us watch awkwardly and participate a little, but we should really be looking for our love elsewhere.

There is plenty of love to be had from the indie market, sadly though as soon as anything truly outstanding is produced, it normally gets snatched up by some omnom publisher who ruins its integrity.

I don’t have much of a point today, it’s just an observation. I was thinking one day, why I’m so dissatisfied with a lot of sequels these days and this sort of explains a lot. Then another much more hopeful idea sprouted. How come films manage to produce some genuinely fantastic material without too much producer intervention? Sure there are always going to be the COD-esque type of film, but these seem to actually be doing worse these days. Look at something like the Avengers which grossed grossly (fun wordplay is fun) and in comparison the crappier movies bombed.

It shows some hope, maybe people are smartening a little. What is most evident though, is the difference in the production of movies compared with the development of games. Plainly said, for reasons too numerous to list, films allow for the creative control of an individual far more than a game does.

Plainly said, a small excellent group of people can be the deciding factor in its success. Whereas looking at games, although there are a definite few powerhouse personalities out there, it is much more entangled for the work of the individual to shine through. Games are far more fragile, if one component is subpar or lacking, the entire experience can be ruined. Especially on the technical side.

The huge technical barrier to entry is the leading reason behind the rapeification of our most beloved franchises. When the people with the money, rather than the people with talent, make the final say in a creative project, I cannot see the creative flame surviving.

One day, when gaming engines and technology have become standardised – we may see the rise of gaming’s superstar celebrities; the people whose presence and weight of opinion could be of so much value as to outstrip the publishers’ deep pockets.

Look at the Dark Knight Rises and Christopher Nolan (the director\writer\producer of the trilogy). Here is a man who is not only wealthy and talented enough, but seriously powerful enough to make films the way he wants to. He is a rare example but there are many more. We have the beginnings of this in gaming – there are definitely some name brands out there, but sadly none powerful enough to demand artistic integrity.

The day is fast approaching when the perfect artistic world I speak of will be a reality. The rise of the indie market is the fledgling beginning of this. These are the people that will change the industry by shedding the shackles of the publisher. Already now they are rising and soon they will compete with the megacorporation and his evil.

I have a dream that one day the publisher will lie broken on the ground. I have a dream that the artist might one day work and share his gift without the man in his suit stopping him. I have dreamt of a time when the minds and imaginations of the artists will be his only limitation. I dream of a place where exclusivity is dead and there is freedom.

I dream of a holy place where humanity is left to explore itself without greed and evil finding its way in.

I have a dream today.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Fan Vs Fanatic http://egmr.net/2012/07/gaming-like-a-sir-fans-vs-fanatacism/ http://egmr.net/2012/07/gaming-like-a-sir-fans-vs-fanatacism/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 09:00:56 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=89284 I have cool friends. I realised this in the last few weeks. I know that it seems weirdly recent to realise that I admire the people I love, but it […]

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I have cool friends. I realised this in the last few weeks. I know that it seems weirdly recent to realise that I admire the people I love, but it happened anyway. I’ve always known they were nice and friendly, that we share similar interests and that they’re generally what I consider to be some of the better quality slime in the septic tank that is humanity, but I never stood back and wondered if they were cool. They are.

So what do I mean by cool? Well, I hosted a few events over the last few weeks, I’ve been to a few parties — normal holiday stuff. You can know someone for a long time but one day you study their faces, I mean really look, and you see things you never noticed before. You see them the way that someone meeting them now would see them. For that brief moment, they become people other than your friends or family and you can see them through fresh eyes. It was at these parties, in those quiet moments when other people are talking and smiling, when everyone is relaxed, couples are holding hands or cuddling, we are simply enjoying each others company. In these moments I began to really see my friends for the people they are.

Maybe I was just in a good mood or maybe it was the daze of being surrounded by loved ones, or maybe it was because I was warm and full of booze, food and… sandwiches (watch seven  seasons of How I Met Your Mother and somewhere along the line you’ll understand that reference) but I was suddenly really proud of being a member of my friend group.

I swelled with pride. My friends will tell a story where I was so drunk I just grinned like an idiot, arched my back and held my breath but I know the truth — I was just full of pride. Each person in my friend circle is a separate, unique but no less awesome individual and I realised how lucky I was to have found them. Of all the people in all the world, of the different schools or seventeen houses I’ve lived in (I wish that number was an exaggeration), how did I come to be a part of a group of people way more awesome than me?

I don’t know. I keep expecting someone to suddenly look up at me and say, “Hey, who are you? Why are you here?” and I’ll just back away slowly. I never figured out how I cheated my way in but at this point I’m just kinda trying to keep my head down and hope that no one notices who I really am.  Irrationally, I started to think about other people and their friend groups. I started to think about how mine was better and how those people didn’t really understand what having really cools friends was actually like.

It started to make me angry that those people walked around pretending to have cool friends but they were just lying to themselves…..

….suddenly I stopped. Even in my highly drunken stupor, I recognised how dumb I was being. Mostly though, I had a sudden insight into what it meant to be a fanboy. It was terrifying, all that baseless insecurity and the need to defend something that shouldn’t be and doesn’t need defending.

Think back on your own history of fandom. What have you loved most and why do you love it? Would you need to defend it if mocked? Definitely. Do comparisons between it and other, worse things devalue its specialness? Well, this is where we start to tread that fine line between fandom and fanaticism.

I know that “fan” is technically just the abbreviated form of fanatic but in modern culture a “fan” is something else entirely. If you love something, you identify with it and want more of it, you are a fan. If you name your children after it and tattoo identifying marks onto your cheeks, we’ve crossed into the realm of the fanatic.

Why the distinction? I want to make a point here, fans are good. Fandom is love. Large, voluptuous, scream it from the rooftops love. True fans only want to spread the love. Fans create amazing artwork, write stories, become inspired to create their own work and just generally add a great deal of joy.

On the other hand we have the fanatic, the fanboy. This beast is known to feed on the misery of others and enjoys hurling around slurs like fag, bitch and yo’ mamma jokes. All of these vermin hate women but want nothing more than to eat sandwiches made by them. They have all done unspeakable things to your mom regardless of her age, attractiveness or indeed if she is living or dead. Finally these monsters cannot allow any other thing in the world to be loved more than their own little “precious”. Love intimidates and threatens them. If people do not love their precious, or love something else, these parasites are worked into a frenzy which can lead to cannibalism and the accusation that you are simply below filth and will be dubbed “noob”, or in extreme cases, gayhomofag.

I know I’ve gone a bit insane here, but it has purpose. I hung out with my aforementioned friends and experienced, perhaps for the first time, true openness in a group. All opinions were valid and all discussions and arguments were respectful. That doesn’t mean passionless, but respectful, a genuine attempt to gain knowledge and to understand a new point of view or at least gain insight into another way of thinking. It was marvelous to behold and I still think about the conversation as though it had some serious bloom effects and angels were singing in the background.

Then, some time later I was with a few acquaintances and had a similar conversation that ended with unhappiness, only because a select few behaved like fanatics and not fans.Instead of allowing other people their opinions, they were threatened by them. A dumb opinion may be dumb, but it is not up to us to humiliate and mock them. To each their own. Now I’m not saying the prequels are better than the original trilogy but if someone tells me they kinda liked the prequels, I’m not going to tear them apart and feast on their bones either.

I suppose my message today comes for a poignant experience I had, two different conversations resulting in two very different feelings. On one hand, sadness, unhappiness and vague feelings of insecurity and resentments. On the other hand, warm gooey happiness with a nut caramel crumble of delicious satisfaction and validation.

In short, be humble, stay classy and tread lightly.

I hope that all of you experience a conversation like the one I had with people I love, it is a glorious thing to be a part of.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go chill with my friends.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Good Games Are Like Good Women http://egmr.net/2012/06/gaming-like-a-sir-good-games-are-like-good-women/ http://egmr.net/2012/06/gaming-like-a-sir-good-games-are-like-good-women/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2012 09:00:30 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=88177 Comparing the games you love to the kind of women you wish would love you. No, I don’t like cooking sims, Farmville, Barbie games, or anything with the word “sim” […]

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Comparing the games you love to the kind of women you wish would love you.

No, I don’t like cooking sims, Farmville, Barbie games, or anything with the word “sim” in the title for that matter. I will not talk about the kitchen, or bitches and hoes (those being female dogs and an essential farming tool), or sandwiches.

I am making some genuine observations about the remarkably particular preferences I seem to have for a very specific set of features in games, and how this closely parallels the greatest women in my life. While this specific list will not be the same for you, the idea behind its selection still applies.

In case you’re wondering who the girl in the header image is, it’s Dodger. She is a great YouTube gaming news celebrity thing. She’s awesome, check out one of her videos. Go because she’s hot, stay because she’s actually really entertaining and smart. For really reals. She basically personifies the synthesis of gaming and hotness. The perfect storm.

Now, unlike with the porn, I’m not lying to you this time. I want you to open up your memories and ruminate for a few moments on the games you have played the most. Not necessarily the games that you loved the most or that were the best, but instead the games that you just kept going back to. The ones that you found yourself turning on when you were bored, or tired, or sick. The games that, for whatever unfathomable reason, keep drawing you back.

Got your list? Good, now hold onto it for a second. When I though of my list, I couldn’t find a single unifying factor. Different genres, gameplay, styles, stories, worlds, time-periods, pretty much any metric you would normally group. I have long been wondering what weird and glorious power these games hold over me that keeps me coming back.

The oddest part about this list is that it has nearly none of what would go on my “all time best games ever” list. So what the broody herr did I get from these games?

If you are confused by the “broody herr” do not be alarmed, know that it is only the a sign that you are still not racist. Or haven’t seen the Zero Punctuation review of Crysis.

The answer, in a word, is freedom. I love freedom. Seems obvious right, we all love freedom? With me, it goes deeper than that. I want my characters to be able to jump, grapple, fly and cartwheel around the battlefield. I want open space, horizons, blue sky, the sound of wind rushing around me. I love to feel free. Free to explore the greatest depths and the most terrifying heights, the capability to nimbly dance around my opponents and to make an escape.

I keep playing Dark Messiah: Might and Magic, Mirror’s Edge, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Assassin’s Creed (although I am frankly sick of the series at this point) and Batman: Arkham City. The game that I am looking forward to most this year is Dishonored. Why? Of all the games set to release at year’s end, Dishonored looks to let you be the most nimble. Assassin’s Creed III is promising and Bioshock: Infinite has that whole grapple-pulley thing, but only Dishonored looks like it really lets you bounce around and generally make the environment your jungle-gym.

I know that this might just be me, maybe years of living on farms and being out of the city have made some part of me yearn for the freedom of those wide spaces, whatever the reason — I have finally noticed it. Now that I have, suddenly a lot of things fall into place. Why have I played through Dark Messiah many times but I’ve only just sampled a game like Alan Wake? Why do I love Mirror’s Edge but not Diablo 3? Why did I spend hours just soaring around Arkham City, pouncing on people just for the hell of it?

Freedom. True, exhilarating freedom.

Once noticed, I dug a little deeper — how badly is my view of games skewed by this desire to see the open sky, clear space and hear the wind? A lot apparently. Browns and greys just don’t get me excited anymore, not even a little. Even Skyrim, for all its open freedom, is largely snowy wasteland and dark dungeons. I loved Fallout 3 much more (when I wasn’t in the subway system) purely because I was in the open wasteland with the bright sun overhead, the yonder horizon beckoning. There was more opportunity for acrobatics in Fallout as well, hopping railing or scaling building was far more doable than in Bethesda’s most recent beast.

Even a glorious master piece like the Witcher 2 has only seen one full playthrough from me because despite my still calling it the greatest piece of art in recent memory, it is quite clunky to navigate the Witcher himself around the towns and open spaces. The game is still largely open vistas, bright sunshine and in combat, suddenly a diving leap is unlocked and I find myself having much more fun.

Then, after having this minor revelation, I started thinking about the various affairs, relationships and scandalous dalliances I’ve had and at what point I decided to end them. It may sound like I’m about to condemn clingy or needy women or co-dependent relationships, I’m not, I’ve had a few of these and there can still be a sense of freedom in them. Discovering new things together, learning about each other, opening yourself to someone — it’s an exhilarating adventure.

It is at the point that I’ve felt hindered or trapped, that I start to feel afraid of losing that freedom. A great companion should free you, not slow you down. To borrow a phrase, if you feel trapped, it’s time to rage quit.

These are just some ideas I had while I wait for the Quantum Conundrum pre-order to unlock, I think all games are made better, and are easier to appreciate when we are allowed to explore the environments fully. I play games to feel more nimble, faster and stronger than in real life. Maybe it’s just me, maybe other people look for different things in their games.

One thing remains certain however, I would not have been able to make these revelations or illuminate the dark halls of the mystic with the shining light of my thoughts if your mom hadn’t taken a break from Farmville to go to the kitchen and make me a sandwich while I was owning your bitch-ass in Starcraft II.

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Preview: Quantum Conundrum http://egmr.net/2012/06/preview-quantum-conundrum/ http://egmr.net/2012/06/preview-quantum-conundrum/#comments Wed, 13 Jun 2012 09:00:24 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=87262 A puzzle platformer with adorable characters and multidimensional shenanigans? Slowing time, reversing gravity and the fluffy dimension? Yes. Yes please ma’am. You know Portal? Remember how you felt the first […]

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A puzzle platformer with adorable characters and multidimensional shenanigans? Slowing time, reversing gravity and the fluffy dimension? Yes. Yes please ma’am.

You know Portal? Remember how you felt the first time you played it? Well that mindless joy that you’ve never since been able to re-create with petty human relationships and narcotics was in part due to a lady named Kim Swift, co-creator of Portal. That’s it. That’s all I need to say about her. Here are the deets;

Name: Quantum Conundrum
Genre: Puzzle \ Platformer \ Adventure \ Thingy
Players: 1
Multiplayer: None
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Developers: Airtight Games
Publishers: Square Enix
Release Date: 21 June 2012 on PC, later in the year for PS3 and Xbox 360

Okay, I will say one more thing… in picture form:

Don’t think too hard about the biology involved, it gets… confusing. Instead watch the trailer above and then, with mild but pleasant confusion, continue reading.

Quantum Conundrum is the upcoming indie puzzle \ platformer thing coming from Portal’s co-creator, Kim Swift. The game looks adorable and fluffy and funny and charming and not involving the military in any way and is basically the breath of fresh air you didn’t know you were craving.

You are a guy, young kid, a dude if you will, who is dropped off at his crazy inventor grandfather’s house for a visit. He doesn’t greet you, he isn’t there to welcome you and now it’s up to you to find out why he’s gone, where he is, and why his inventions haven’t made him the richest man alive — several times over.

You pick up one of his most recent pieces of technological ass: the Interdimensional Shift Device, the IDS. This device lets you move between the different dimensions at will, letting you navigate through the mansion solving puzzles with explosions going off behind you in slow motion while The Who plays really loudly. Seriously, there’s a slow time dimension. These dimensions are all replications of our normal world but with specific twists. There is the aforementioned bullet-time dimension, there is a reverse gravity dimension, and there is a fluffy dimension. There are more but we’re going to try and be relatively spoiler free here, but to illustrate the wonderful humour of the game, here is a comparison of one of the in game paintings between the normal and the fluffy dimensions.

That’s right, bunny costume.

There are a few important things going for Quantum Conundrum. Firstly, the aforementioned talent behind the game combined with the potential on display is nothing if not promising. The game is completely unique and off the beaten path. I’m looking forward to all the AAA titles coming along at the end of the year but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s really nice to play something completely different. There is a reason I re-play Mirror’s Edge every so often. There is nothing quite like it. Then we have the fact that the game is coming out during the normal dry spell of the year: 21st of June (like 8 days away for those of you reading this in an intoxicated state or who are just too lazy to do math, don’t worry, I had my brother check my calculations) which is awesome. Finally there is the price: a lowly $15.00 or R127.00 on Steam. If you pre-order, you get a further 10% off.

The game is charming, funny and genuinely interesting and is largely still a mystery. If the low price and the little seen here are not enough to convince you I think they aren’t going to force the situation. The mystery is part of the appeal. What are the other dimensions? Who and where is my grandfather? What new little piece of humour is waiting around the bend? I am going through my usual mid-year spat of boredom with standard gaming, something that always dissipates as the AAA titles start to release at year’s end, but for now this piece of unique gaming pie is exactly what I’m hungry for.

The guys over at IGN made a preview of the game that explains its dynamics while letting you see the thing in motion which is, after all, the greatest deciding factor before a purchase.

I’ve been burned before, just looking at my Risen 2 preview we can see how easy it is to believe and then be disappointed by the finished product but when we stop believing, we die inside. Blind hope and optimism should never die, they should just become tempered with experience and wisdom as we gain it.

I do not believe all games will be good, but I believe this one will be. At the very least, it will be an entertaining few hours of fun — for the price tag I don’t need any more. I know Pascal’s wager, I understand that it is safer and more logical to assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised. If I were a robot that’s exactly what I’d do, but I’m not. I’m a human being, a fleshy, squishy meatsack of emotions. I live and love with irrational passion and mindless, illogical hope.

I pre-ordered happily.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Where Are My Winter Games? http://egmr.net/2012/06/gaming-like-a-sir-where-are-my-winter-games/ http://egmr.net/2012/06/gaming-like-a-sir-where-are-my-winter-games/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2012 13:30:50 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=86839 It is cold, wet, miserable and my toe hurts. After many a sleepless night of worry, exams are finally over and like Neo and Trinity breaking through the clouds in […]

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It is cold, wet, miserable and my toe hurts. After many a sleepless night of worry, exams are finally over and like Neo and Trinity breaking through the clouds in The Matrix Revolutions, I have a few glorious moments of sunny happiness… then god peed on me.

Now that exams are over, trollgod, as I have affectionately named the bastard, has not only made it wet, rainy and so cold that for the first time since hair started growing on my chest and I started to sound like a dude instead of an androgynous pipsqueak, I took a bath.

To my lady readers, I know you bath all the time, and that is fine. You’re all lovely, glorious, gorgeous specimens of sexiness, you smell nice and look pretty and bathing seems to be the best way of keeping yourselves that way. I’m not judging…

Coming back to trollgod, the best way for me to describe how my first day of holidays went is to put it in sarcastic question form, enjoy:

What’s that Mr Podiatrist? You only have one free appointment and it’s today before the sun rises in the middle of a storm? Cool. The only way to get to you is to walk 300m without cover in sideways rain? No problem. After you maul my foot I can’t get it wet so I have to wrap a plastic bag around it and limp back to my car like a hobo? You forgot to mention that it’s going to hurt like a bitch and I shouldn’t be driving myself anyway? Of course you did, it’s completely understandable. You’ve had a hard morning.

I should also mention my gaming PC broke and I had to clear my bank account and sell my and some good friend’s kidneys just to get it back, my internet cuts out every time someone calls my home phone, and the book I was excited for finally arrived and is shit.

This brings me to today’s wonderful gripe: where are all the games that should be easing my pain? I know that sometimes, a bored and I imagine manic-depressive god has to dump some place and this place happens to be onto my upturned, hopeful, wide-eyed, open mouthed, cherub-cheeked face; which is why I normally have a game or two to ease the pain of re-enacting the shower scene from American History X with an all-powerful divinity.

It is at times like this that I am acutely aware that the gaming industry, and the entertainment world in general for that matter, is not aimed at me. My demographic? Males age 18-24? Sure. But South African Males age 18-24? South Who?

See if I were an American boy, spelling words with Z’s instead of S’s, pretending the letter U doesn’t exist and generally going on a Jihad against the English language, game releases would line up with my free time and seasons in TV show would actually link up to my life. Can you imagine such a thing? When it was my winter break (they don’t use the word holiday for some reason probably relating to 9\11 or terrorists or McDonalds or some shit), games would release in time for the cold, wet, stay at home and carve a bum shaped indent into the couch season.

Instead, as a South African, my winter holiday is completely devoid of any good games and I’m left to huddle underneath blankets with a hot-water bottle, dreaming of a different, awesomer world. A world where people are happy, there is no bigotry or hate, games are released when I can actually enjoy the things at my leisure and that I could read an article or watch a video on Facebook without installing another F***ING app.

I can dream. At least I have that. Well, until Activision trademarks it and I have to pay a monthly subscription for free thought. When it happens, I called it.

I know that this week’s offering is disappointingly brief and whiny, and if you are angry feel free to list all the ways in which I should copulate with myself.

The girl in that picture represents me, the shield represents the alcohol and drugs which I take daily to ease the pain. I am on holiday now. This means I will be making articles as much as 24 hours in advance with increases of 2 or 3 hundred percent in content output.

It will be bigger, it will be better, and I will not quote Cliff Bleszinski because he is a tool.

I love you all. See you soon. I’m going to get warm and re-watch South Park and American Dad episodes.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Piracy And Porn http://egmr.net/2012/05/gaming-like-a-sir-piracy-and-porn/ http://egmr.net/2012/05/gaming-like-a-sir-piracy-and-porn/#comments Fri, 18 May 2012 09:00:59 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=84121 An Assessment Of Piracy And DRM Through The Use Of Pornography. I know you’re here for the porn. But now that I have you I’m going to present one idea […]

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An Assessment Of Piracy And DRM Through The Use Of Pornography.

I know you’re here for the porn. But now that I have you I’m going to present one idea about piracy first. Misleading you with promises of sexy fap-time and then forcing you to listen to my nonsense. In the real world it’s lying. On the internet, it’s good advertising.

Recently there have been a few cases of games releasing only to have launch day DRM problems. I’m not going to name names, that’s childish. Very childish. Not as childish as Diablo III though, he’s the mostest childishest. Since presumably 300% of my readers will be playing Diablo while half-reading this, ignore the next paragraph if you are familiar with Diablo’s first time jitters. No wait, actually don’t skip it. To make it fun, I’m going to hide one misspelled word in the next paragraph. See if you can find it.

Diablo 3 released after 500 years of waiting and everyone was so excited that special medication was bundled with the game for people who have erections the entire time they play. Release time came… and went. One of the most controversial exclusions from the game is an offline mode. It is all online, all the time. Even StarCraft 2 came with an offline mode, sure it limited you severely but at least it was still there in case a squirrel decided to mate with your local internet exchange creating an explosion in both the exchange and the squirrel’s pants. It was a token gesture on Blizzard’s part but at least it existed. Not the case with Diablo 3, if you ever want to play you better be running a stable and fairly quick internet line. On release day, servers crashed, the infamous Error 37 got shown, tables were flipped, forums exploded with creative exaggerations of suffering and generally we showed the world why gaming is still occasionally mocked as an immature hobby.

Are you still looking for the misspelled word? It isn’t there. I lied. It feels shitty right, to be lied to so blatantly and obviously to make you read more of my article. You feel used, like just a piece of meat. Congratulations, you now feel like every hot girl after a one-night-stand. Looking back, all the signs were there. All the clues look like pimples on the tip of your nose they’re so obvious. You swear, like we all have, that we won’t be taken in again.

This is before we’ve even gotten to playing the game, we are already annoyed and frustrated. Not a mindset most developers are aiming at. Gaming is about fun, and always will be. The primary directive of any developer, general as it may sound, is to make its customers happy. In some way.

If there is some kind of dissatisfaction stemming from the purchase of a game, we won’t buy it. That’s what five years of Economics education has taught me. The same thing a five-year old understands intuitively.

This brings me to my epiphany. Piracy happens when developers go against the force of demand. Demand is simple; we want the best product for the lowest price. In a DRM-free world, piracy offers the same product but for free. The cost is that it is illegal and wrong. Companies believe appealing to consumers to “do the right thing” or to understand that what they’re doing is functionally no different from stealing is the way to curb piracy.

No. There are underlying issues here. The first problem is the idea that piracy can be stamped out. There will always be pirates. Many people claim they would NEVER buy the game if they didn’t pirate it. This is largely crap. Most would eventually buy it. However, there are a select few, a tiny subsection of this group who actually mean it. If they have to pay, they won’t play. Companies are infuriated by this. This is where the growing up needs to happen.

Companies have tantrums. Executives watch with bulging eyes and slobbering terror as their game is taken and all they see with their greedy, beady, little pig-eyes is lost profit. The sooner they understand that this group, the small group of what I have affectionately called fish, are not customers. They will never be. They are denizens of the pirate sea. They do not exist on dry land. All that they can be used for is free marketing, a loyal fanbase and some modding. That’s it.

Then we move onto the second issue. Looking back at the idea of demand, people can only be swayed away from piracy if in their minds, the product they are pirating is the SAME product as the legitimate version.

Piracy happens because this isn’t the case. Do you want the best experience of Mass Effect 3? Pirate it. No Origin service to worry about. All the pre-order content and Collector’s Edition exclusives are included and it never needs the internet to authenticate. It is a superior product. I have the Collector’s Edition staring down at me from my shelf, yet I’ve cracked my game. This is ludicrous. Buying a game is already scary, it’s a lot of money. It doesn’t help if developers keep locking their beautiful, virgin creations behind a chastity belt. Especially when the internet is still 90% free porn.

It is a hard enough sell to ask consumers to pay for something they can get for free without leaving their homes. It is near impossible to tell people to do the same thing, but for a worse product. This will never change.

When I buy a game and watch as the great pirates of yonder ocean have a better experience than me, it can only mean I regret my purchase. When companies realise that locking away game content behind DRM only makes piracy an easier choice for most, we might see some progress. Otherwise companies can continue to scream at the heavens, never understanding why good, honest people elect to follow the laws of demand.

I lied about the pornography, you should have guessed this by now. I know you feel betrayed and hurt. If this were the real world not only would we not be friends but you wouldn’t even say excuse me if you farted in front of me. In fact you might designate my personal living space and breathing air as the perfect place to fire your bum-cannon.

It’s okay. Be angry with me for lying about using porn, but that doesn’t give you the right to steal the porn I AM actually selling to you for a small additional fee.

I’ve treated you badly today. I know this. Come back in two weeks anyway.

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Gaming Like A Sir: Excited For Black Ops 2, The Modern Warfare Effect http://egmr.net/2012/05/gaming-like-a-sir-excited-for-black-ops-2-the-modern-warfare-effect/ http://egmr.net/2012/05/gaming-like-a-sir-excited-for-black-ops-2-the-modern-warfare-effect/#comments Fri, 04 May 2012 09:00:27 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=82711 I’ve been feeling nostalgic of late. Maybe it’s the cold, wet weather of contemplation or perhaps it’s the long lonely, music filled bus rides of late or perhaps it’s my […]

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I’ve been feeling nostalgic of late. Maybe it’s the cold, wet weather of contemplation or perhaps it’s the long lonely, music filled bus rides of late or perhaps it’s my impending 21st birthday but for some reason I find myself being all wistful about my past. Suddenly everything reminds me of something else. The cold misty rain and my near constant listening to music have given things a vaguely ethereal quality.

Some people might say I’m too young to be nostalgic. Go out, get drunk, mack a girl, fight a douche, live a little. To those people I say this:

People were never so rude back in my day.

My weirdness aside, this recent plunge into the nostalgic got me thinking about the times I used to share a room with my younger brother. Close as we are, we discussed every possible topic imaginable – well beyond our given bed time, beyond our needed bedtime and once beyond possible bed time.

Naturally gaming was a dominant topic of this chubby-cheeked, red-faced, enthusiastic, prepubescent, escapade of psychological gold. I remember early 2008 most clearly.

Riding on the back of a ridiculous 2007, we seemed to discuss Modern Warfare most frequently. Thinking back now I still believe it was the herald of the singleplayer, linear, explosion-filled jizzfest that ultimately moulded the styles and expectations of most modern greats.

It was the first time, for me anyway, that I truly felt at the center of a massive adventure; non-stop, larger than life, beyond gargantuan action. What’s more it introduced us to near perfect pacing. Just enough quiet and calm to make the climax that much more poignant. For every epic battle, every explosion, there was a moment of calm awe, a chance for us to marvel – something later games have lost. Even watching the electrical tower fall into the ravine after blowing it up – it was actually a calm moment. There was no chase, no screaming, just the falling of a tower. Or even the harrowing but action-free opening. It gave me chills.

Then of course we have the ghillie suit mission that basically became the yard stick by which all stealth sections in action games are measured. Then finally the infamous nuclear blast, a moment I will never forget. An experience once again made frighteningly epic by our struggle to stop its launch, by our calm moment of defeat watching the missile climb slowly into the sky and then our eventual horror at being inside the head of a dying man.

I have made no secret of my status as a singeplayer gamer – I know that the COD series is mostly multiplayer based but what I’m speaking of here is what makes people love the game. Balance is an issue, sure, but more than balance is the feel of the game – one of the biggest factors in Modern Warfare’s monstrous success – its right there in the name. Modern Warfare was the first Call of Duty to leave the past behind and bring us to the present. There was something exciting about it, something magical about using modern weaponry, using the very best technology. It made it real and dangerous.

For a very long time, Infinity Ward, the makers of the Modern Warfare series, were the premium developers. Treyarch and their games were the filler between Infinity Ward games. Then Modern Warfare 2 came out and what we got was, to quote a magnificent writer, the conspiracy ravings of a homeless man wearing a tinfoil hat who blinks his eyes independently. It was bad. Plain and simple.

So we turned our gaze to Treyarch, albeit a skeptical, reluctant and disapproving gaze. We got Black Ops, my favourite Call of Duty since the original Modern Warfare. Not perfect by any means but still one hell of a good time. Sure it was still a little too focused on wars no one cares about anymore (especially outside of the US) and yes it did stick uncomfortably close to an almost stereotypical “twist ending” type of story but it sucked me in and I had a good time.

Then there was Modern Warfare 3, set to take back the throne of COD. The almighty, beer soaked, 11-year-old boy populated land of almighty “noobs”, “fags” and people who exclusively sleep with each other’s mothers….

…..aaaaannnnnndddddd no. It didn’t. Modern Warfare 3 was better than its predecessor but actually worse than Black Ops.

This brings me to today, and Black Ops 2 – the stage is set and the audience primed. Infinity Ward have all but disbanded, the head honchos moving off into the sunset amidst legal battles with parent publisher Activision Hitler (creative license may have been employed with publisher names, maybe) leaving Treyarch with one shot, one opportunity, they better not blow it, they need to own it, the moment, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime…

What made Modern Warfare so compelling was its freshness, in a franchise as stale as COD, freshness was like, well, a breath of fresh air. Ba Dum Tss.

That was 5 years ago, 5 games ago, 5 horse beatings ago – they now have the chance to do something COD needs: something new.

If Treyarch play their cards right, they could make me and a whole host of bored, jaded COD players care again. The ball is in your court, call has been made, will you answer?

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Gaming Like A Sir: Marketing Games Properly http://egmr.net/2012/04/gaming-like-a-sir-marketing-games-properly/ http://egmr.net/2012/04/gaming-like-a-sir-marketing-games-properly/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2012 09:00:30 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=80899 My new column, NOW WITH WORDS! Immersion is an odd thing. Developers toss and overwork the word as if each use directly correlates to another sold copy of their game. […]

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My new column, NOW WITH WORDS!

Immersion is an odd thing. Developers toss and overwork the word as if each use directly correlates to another sold copy of their game.

As a child I believed it. As an angsty teen everything was a lie. Now as an adult, the world is the appropriate shade of murky grey. Some things are lies and other things are near truths.

What amazes me is that there seems to be almost no correlation between what marketing teams say and what the game actually is. I know that there is some logic behind this, no marketing douche is going to admit the faults of the crap he’s peddling, I understand that, respect it even. Marketing departments and companies make their living finding the best in what they sell. At least that’s the most romantic way I can think to put it. They emphasize the good and hide the bad. Welcome to the real world.

What I don’t understand is when they just lie. I get that exaggeration plays a part in any bit of advertising; it’s understood by all and accepted as fair play. When we pick up a product and its features are a little less shiny than the Stepford-esque zombies flogging it would have you believe, we aren’t too surprised. At least we shouldn’t be.

The idea, I’ve always assumed, is to take a nugget of truth and to expand and embellish it. What I don’t understand is when a company prances the marketing dance, but without even that nugget of truth to hang its web of silky fabrications on.

It seems to me that marketers would be better suited emphasizing and selling the good aspects of a product rather than trying to make it compete in categories where it is obviously and laughably inferior.

Let’s take one of the most stalwart buzz words of our time: immersion.

The routine is always the same;

“We’re cranking up the immersion.”

“We have many immersive elements.”

“Immersion is a key feature\priority\design philosophy\aspect of our game.”

Not every game can be and have everything and I don’t understand why marketing monsters try to make us believe otherwise. Does it actually work?

Does this actually convince anyone? Is my understanding of the collective minimum intellect of our fair ape-race so off base that this is actually an effective way to part man from his money? I have gotten to the point where I barely even hear this kind of drivel. I base my purchasing decisions entirely on gameplay footage, trailers, and hard facts about features.

Don’t misunderstand, if a company tells me they’re going for immersion by creating or using a core, large new feature – awesome. Show me some gameplay and I might be convinced. When I hear that a game now comes with “amazing, cutting-edge, artistically beautiful graphics to help immerse players” all I think is are there so few actually impressive features with your game that this is what you have to resort to?

To the ladies out there, if a man approached you and said he had an impressive two hands with a matching pair of feet would you be impressed or would you wonder what the hell was wrong with his brain?

The sad part is that I know where this trend of over marketing comes from – the blinding harsh reality of game development. We might expect a series of impressive, standard features to accompany any game and for the AAA titles out there, they generally do. For the smaller companies, the indie darlings and the garage start-ups out there, this makes breaking into the industry all the more difficult.

For the penniless developer, every single little feature represents a good portion of their budget and considerably more risk than even an entire game for a huge publisher. This makes it very tempting to suddenly start advertising every little thing they’ve ever done.

All I can say is that I hope they don’t. Even when they mean well, they just come across as tacky. Maintain some dignity and make it look easy. I understand struggling and fighting to be one of the big boys. We’ve all had that feeling. Some people out there seem to make it look so easy, seem so effortless, and they have so much.

Even when you’re a part of the group, one of the blokes, and happily one of the cool kids, there is always going to be that insecurity. What if I’m not good enough?

This extended high school metaphor is no different for game developers, big and small. Games are immensely difficult, expensive and time consuming to make. It requires a level of passion, dedication and sheer balls than most things to go out there and create an experience for the entire, nasty world to judge.

You know what? Have faith. Nothing makes a game look cooler than when its developers clearly love and are genuinely proud of it. You want a great marketing campaign? Give me a 5 minute video with random artist drone #47 and show me the level of passion and care that has gone into making a weapon look cool, or a character animate properly, or a shoe lace flutter just right.

You want to make me appreciate your game? Show me what goes into it and then show me the best of its features. Shame creates shame, when a gamer smells a cover up, we become like blood hounds. The same is true for love.

Show me the love and I’ll show you the money.

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Preview: Risen 2: Dark Water http://egmr.net/2012/03/preview-risen-2-dark-water/ http://egmr.net/2012/03/preview-risen-2-dark-water/#comments Wed, 28 Mar 2012 09:00:19 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=77988 It’s going to be an all-out pirate extravaganzaaaarrrggghhhh This year is once again going to be another great one for the action RPG. Right on the heels of Mass Effect […]

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It’s going to be an all-out pirate extravaganzaaaarrrggghhhh

This year is once again going to be another great one for the action RPG. Right on the heels of Mass Effect 3 we have the sequel to the under-appreciated gem, Risen.

Name: Risen 2: Dark Waters
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Multiplayer: None
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Developers: Piranha Bytes (PC) / Wizarbox (Xbox 360, PS3)
Publishers: Deep Silver
Release Date: April 27 (PC) / May 25 (Xbox 360, PS3)

Risen was one of those games that you either loved or merely didn’t like. No one hated it.

For those who disliked it, they found a well-crafted but unfriendly third-person, fantasy themed, action RPG. With a shoddy tutorial and little in the way of in-game explanation, this was a game that didn’t hold hands and wasn’t trying to make you like it.

Not helped by the relatively slow and boring opening, if you weren’t willing to give Risen a serious chance, it was happy to let you pass on by.

To those who did persevere past the opening, they found something quite magical; Risen boasted one of the most real, authentic and genuinely interesting game worlds to explore. Characters had complex pasts, layered motivations and the player was left with a web of relationships to untangle.

This was the very best of Risen. A beautiful and atmospheric soundtrack, well written and voiced dialogue, intense, if a little repetitive combat, all served to accentuate an excellent (if a little withdrawn) game world.

Even after all the other AAA games that I’ve sampled since Risen’s release in 2009, there are scenes, characters and music that I still remember with keen clarity to this day

Now in steps Risen 2: Dark Waters. Developed by the same German studio Piranha Bytes, the sequel promises to give players the same wonderful sense of authenticity while vastly improving usability and the overall accessibility of the game; bigger, better and more awesome.

Oh, and it’s pirate themed. PIRATES people!

In a stunning move of stunningness, Piranha Bytes have elected to drop the interesting but generic fantasy setting of the original for a full on, no foolin’ pirate setting.

Although there will be no sailing or any kind of on sea privateering; the new theme, voodoo magic system and deep, awesome world Piranha Bytes promise are enough to pique my interest.

There are sparse few details on the actual game itself, save for a few trailers. A game like this, however, is all about the detail.

Is the story good? Are the characters and side quests as multi-layered as the predecessor? Have the rough edges been smoothed? Can I really make voodoo on my enemies?

Unless the setting and idea have sold you completely, wait for reviews, but wait eagerly. If the normal slew of scores and reviewings paint even a slightly rosy picture — buy this game immediately.

Risen 2 has releases on April 27th for the PC and May 25th for consoles.

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It’s Your Fault You Get Disappointed By Games http://egmr.net/2012/03/its-your-fault-you-get-disappointed-by-games/ http://egmr.net/2012/03/its-your-fault-you-get-disappointed-by-games/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 11:15:38 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=77701 Life has gotten busy. Busy, busy, busy. Almost everything I do, I do fast. Speed has become necessary if you want to function in a rapidly accelerating modern world. There […]

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Life has gotten busy. Busy, busy, busy.

Almost everything I do, I do fast. Speed has become necessary if you want to function in a rapidly accelerating modern world.

There is so much content, so much to do, read, watch, see, experience, talk about, blog about, and tweet about that there is less and less time to actually savour the joy of life. Games haven’t gotten worse at entertaining us, we’ve become terrible at appreciating them. There’s a reason we remember our childhood games so fondly. We spent hours playing them, exploring their secrets and absorbing every byte of entertainment.

That was only a portion of our experience. For every game of Mortal Kombat I played, I spent hours more in wide-eyed, imagination fueled excitement, creating worlds and scenes in my head. I acted out fantasies with my brother with sticks and blankets for capes. I dreamed of the world with me in it, at the center of it, the most important part of it.

Even as a child, gaming wasn’t only about what there was – it was about all it could be.

Then I hit puberty. I grew up. I started using shaving cream to actually shave instead of spraying it into my hands and squelching it between my fingers. I matured, and with maturity sadly comes the death of innocence.

Connotations, double entendres, pop culture references, subtle inconsistencies and plot holes started to pockmark my lovely games. It’s a sad natural part being all grown up.

Noticing these things didn’t destroy my love, not at first anyway, it just sort of tainted it. My immersion started having hairline fractures, like a chipped coffee mug – just not quite what it should be.

And you know what? It’s my fault that it did.

Instead of immersing myself, accepting the worlds and their fantastical imaginations, I started looking for the holes and inconsistencies. It was like running your hand over sticky tape to find the edge.

Everything became about that fourth wall and what the developers had to do to hide it. Cut scenes became loading times. Sky boxes or invisible walls started making me angry instead of just accepting the playable space and limits of the technology.

Instead of accepting the world I started looking for ways to break it.

I used to complain about the state of games. I complained that creativity was dead and that big publishers are ruining the industry.

Don’t get me wrong, it is and they are but there is still magnificence to be had. In many ways games now are better and more complex than they ever were before and they are technologically capable of doing things that should leave us in awe.

Hundreds of hard working, passionate, talented people; millions of dollars; years of development.

Games are not small endeavors, and for almost any triple A release, there is magic to be had.

The trick lies within us. Anger is a hard thing to quash, disappointment even more so.

StarCraft 2 still makes me furious but I’ve learned my lesson.

Do not excuse laziness, blatant cash-ins or corner cutting. Definitely not. Accept, however, that perfection does not exist. It is a rhetorical goal. It is up to us to try and enjoy a game for what it is. There is always some good to be had from any product that had loving, talented, hard working creators (which is most decent games), be a wise man and learn from the fool.

In the end it comes down to expectation. Expectations are a curious thing.

At best, expectation can become anticipation which provides us with the much needed excitement and emotional rollercoasterings that makes life interesting and fun.

That said.

Expectations, equally often, are made too high, correspondingly making it harder to enjoy your anticipated pleasure because you want more from it before you are happy.

Take StarCraft 2 as an ancient example. My brother and I, sharing a room as we did, often had late night talks about our future plans, aspirations and most anticipated games. StarCraft 2 was discussed ad nauseam and naturally we began to anticipate the next “greatest thing evar!”

It arrived, and, pardon my upbringing, it was F##KING TERRIBLE! All I was hoping for was a storyline-erific action packed single player campaign. What I got was one was a watered down angsty teenagers version of melodrama with absolutely no point, purpose, fulfillment or intelligence. The story was reduced to a singular plot with meaningless waffle filling in the majority of the missions before the whole affair ended in one of gamings most mindrapingly terrible deus ex machinae that didn’t even take the story in the right direction.

Also it was a cliffhanger.

And poorly written.

And it was, despite what every whinging ass is going to tell me, one third of a full game. Giving me one third of the perspective, one third of the story, one third of the pleasure and a compounded one twenty seventh of the satisfaction.

Okay, I’m cool… I’m just going to close my eyes and think of paradise for a moment…

By comparison take Red Faction Guerrilla, I had never heard of it, knew nothing about it and tried it with a blank slate. I ended up loving it. The game is pure functionality and fun, albeit nothing special if you’re looking for the next AAA release, but fun nonetheless.

My lack of expectation led me to having fun, whatever my twisted logic. Human beings are hedonistic by nature, so I see no reason to sabotage myself with unnecessary expectations.

So here is my message for the day, expect sparingly. I don’t mean lower expectations but choose carefully when to begin making them.

A connoisseur will tell you that having your expectations fulfilled is better than being “pleasantly surprised” by a hundred experiences.

While nothing can beat the feeling of having an experience meet or exceed expectations it also means that for every one of those feelings of pure fulfillment there are many more occasions of disappointment.

Expect sparingly and have the best of both.

If BioShock Infinite and Borderlands 2 are not the single greatest contributions to culture since the Mona Lisa, I will personally find and violate its makers.

I will also be pleasantly surprised (hopefully) by Risen 2 and Assassins Creed 3.

As my grandfather always said:

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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5 Anticipated Story Driven Games In 2012 http://egmr.net/2012/03/5-anticipated-story-driven-games-in-2012/ http://egmr.net/2012/03/5-anticipated-story-driven-games-in-2012/#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2012 11:15:55 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=76992 Love it or hate it, Mass Effect 3 has come. My personal feelings for the final chapter in Shepard’s tale will be discussed at some point after I finish the […]

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Love it or hate it, Mass Effect 3 has come. My personal feelings for the final chapter in Shepard’s tale will be discussed at some point after I finish the game – university can be quite demanding apparently. I feel quite angry that Van Wilder lied to me as a child. I expected my time at university to be spent with the triple B of awesome: Babes, Booze, and Bros.

Also Tara Reid. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and my tiny 10 year old brain didn’t know what to do with those feelings except to try and one day go to university and live in a whirlwind of vodka soaked women and good mates.

Then I got to university. There’s a lot more icky learning than you would think. I wanted to sue Van Wilder at first but sadly one of my courses is a Law course which taught me, with callous, brutal efficiency just how powerless we all are.

I have looked forward to playing Mass Effect 3 for along time now. A very, embarrassingly long time and here I find myself not having the time necessary to devote to it.

This got me thinking, with time becoming increasingly strained by “real world” problems; and with games becoming longer and longer – I’m looking at you Kingdoms of Amalur, you bloated, unwieldy behemoth – what will I actually have the time to play?

Naturally I started mentally making a list of the games that, like Mass Effect 3, I will make sure to find the time to play – even if I have to wait for an ebb in the sea of work I find myself drowning in.

My brother, taking a quick break from one of his girlfriends to refill the cocaine dispenser, suggested I write what I think into my article. Then with a resigned sigh my 17-year-old brother returned to the super model triplets waiting for him in his room.

My brother is basically Van Wilder.

It’s fun to watch.

As it turns out, my brothers prophecy is coming true.

 
A Disclaimer On The Choices

I am a singleplayer gamer. I’m not going to bash multiplayer, we occasionally go out for drinks and we have a good time when we do, but we don’t have the same circle of friends. The picks are chosen for their singleplayer offerings only.

The games will also be multi-platform. I like to ignore exclusives most of the time. They are a factor when you buy your console but for the rest of us – multi-platform titles are the bread and butter we live on.

Some hard cuts had to be made. These are my top 5, some or all of your top 5 will not be on the list – casualties of war. Sad casualties of war.

 

Assassin’s Creed 3

I don’t know why but I’m excited for the final Assassin’s Creed.

I shouldn’t be – Ubisoft have tried really hard to destroy the love I had for the franchise. They milked the premise, added layers and layers of fluff and mercilessly dragged out every piece of exposition possible. Knowing them, Assassin’s Creed 3 will probably be the first in a trilogy.

I will hate them for every moment I play the game. I shouldn’t give the faintest flying ffffffudge about this game, but make no mistake, I will play it.

Love conquers all.

I want to sneak through the snowy settlements. Assassinate the Red Coats, who are really the British but everyone seems to gloss over this slightly uncomfortable fact, I want to sneak into the colonies and truly help bring the current world power to independence.

It sounds like an adventure I want to have.

The ball is in your court Ubisoft – give me a reason to love you again.

 

Far Cry 3

I loved Far Cry 2. As a South African, it was eerily enjoyable to run around in a landscape full of the noises and sight I remember from my childhood. The music, the aesthetic and even the gun-play were all top notch.

Did it have problems? Large, bucktoothed, inbred, dumb-as-a-plank problems? You betcha sweet behind it did. It was so close to true greatness, and yet so far.

Games are personal and long. Little annoyances and minor gripes become infested thorns in our sides by the end. There is no give, no leeway and no sympathy.

In many ways we are a cruel and unforgiving people.

Yet in others we are a wonderfully simple group.

Give us stability, give us freedom, give us beauty, and give us fun, and we will be happy.

 

Borderlands 2

I never expected to play Borderlands. Review scores were good but not great. From everything I’d read, it seemed like it was a little grindy and repetitive for my liking.

Then I played it.

There was something magical about Borderlands. I don’t know if it was the humour,the music or just the style of it but somewhere in the great sea of binary that make up its code, the captured something special. The artstyle left me filled with wonder. The humour kept me grinning and the zany guns kept me entertained. I never even played it co-op until a second playthrough.

It seems odd to put a primarily co-op game on this list but I truly enjoyed my time with Borderlands, alone as I was.

Gearbox seem to be fixing every problem I had with the original – injecting more animated and lifelike characters, making a more involved, deeper story – the future looks bright.

Of course my expectations are higher now as well but the sequel looks to better is predecessor in every way and I can’t wait.

 

Risen 2

Not many people played Risen. I can’t blame them. That game is hardcore.

It demands you pay attention and work for your reward. It’s not necessarily a bad attitude, some might even argue that modern games need a little more of this, but it does mean the audience for the game shrinks down.

It’s a real shame because Risen is one of the most carefully crafted, authentic, and magically atmospheric games I have ever played. Like Borderlands, there was something magical in what this game ended up being. The NPC interactions and dialogue were so uncharacteristically human that the characters came to life.

Little squabbles and minor conflicts felt that much more poignant because of the extensiveness of the world and it’s characters.

Now steps in Risen 2, a game set to polish up the original’s overly sharp corners while still maintaining the engrossing, deep world that marks the Risen franchise as something truly special.

Also it’s pirate themed. How many good pirate RPGs have you played recently?

This one is already coming out in April for the PC which makes the potential it brings all the more enticing.

 

BioShock: Infinite

I know that harping on about BioShock: Infinite is nothing new, I know that at this point every man, woman, child and animal with opposing thumbs is excited for this game.

I am too.

I play games for their worlds, their stories and characters, that feeling of awesome accomplishment and sense of wonder that comes from being a hero in a magical land. Delving down into the scariest corners of my mind, making me care, making me angry, making me think. These are all the things I love about gaming. Unlike any other medium, games let you actually be a part something bigger, something greater than the world we’re in or the problems we typically face.

Games aren’t supposed to take you away from the “real world” they’re supposed to make you excited to be alive.

BioShock gave us a world and opened our minds.

BioShock Infinite looks to do the same, it is rich and mysterious, full of wonder, unanswered questions and answers to questions we didn’t know we had.

It is a world, an idea, a universe all its own. I look forward to untangling its secrets.

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A Game With That Special Sheen http://egmr.net/2012/03/a-game-with-that-special-sheen/ http://egmr.net/2012/03/a-game-with-that-special-sheen/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2012 11:15:47 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=76214 Emerging from the wreckage of your craft, bleeding, bruised and dazed, you shield your eyes from the piercing sunlight as your eyes slowly adjust to the beauty. Amidst the wreckage, […]

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Emerging from the wreckage of your craft, bleeding, bruised and dazed, you shield your eyes from the piercing sunlight as your eyes slowly adjust to the beauty. Amidst the wreckage, on a hill, the land stretches across the horizon – green, luscious and magnificent. Birds tweet. Water slushes. Grasses and flowers sway. Naked women frolic in groups. Awed, they approach you timidly but unashamed of their naked splendour. Tall and handsome, strong of mind, body and libido; you are a god to them. Paradise. In a land of perfection, you are king.

A woman brings you undercooked meat. The sun begins to burn. The grass begins to itch. The water starts to overflow and flood the rivers, crashing towards you. You begin to see deformed creatures and hideous nightmares. The birds that tweeted now dive at you screeching, trying to claw at your face. Your once strong body is thin and haggard and you struggle to even escape. Desperately you try but eventually, like waking up to a hangover – the worlds crumbles into pain. Blackness.

Then you wake up. Everything hurts. Nauseous and starving, head throbbing, eyes watering, sweaty and sticky; you look around the small room. A dead woman covered in a light dusting of cocaine; an old ceiling fan making a creaky breeze, spreading the wintery powder around the room in gentle swirls.

You are Charlie Sheen. A man being framed. You remember everything. The drinking, the party, the women. You remember the passion, the warmth and falling asleep with her curled next to you. She was alive. Now she isn’t. Looking at the fluttering curtains, dawn is seeping in. Touching nothing, you leave to find a place to think; to plan how to prove your innocence.

*             *             *

This is the opening to my game. The game I would make if money flowed like drugs and Charlie Sheen was the star. My initial reaction was to just re-create Heroine Hero from South Park. All you do is shoot heroine and chase the magic dragon, but you never catch the dragon. Or I could make The Sims: Drugs Galore. Add an extra bar for current drug level. Downgrade the textures of the houses and make performing sexual acts a viable job.

Then I dug a little deeper. This is what I came up with. The opening is as I’ve described. Charlie’s been framed for a murder he probably didn’t commit. It’s an open world, mystery action adventure extravaganza.

Charlie has to outrun the cops and score enough blow to go back into the drug induced paradise and find out why the land of Narcotica is dying. Why are the naked women suddenly old, deformed and ugly? Why are the serene waters and happy sunshine turning hot and horrible? Why has your body stopped working like it should? While in Narcotica you have to desperately explore and figure out what is making the land turn feral. You can stay in Narcotica only while Charlie’s blow meter remains full. Run out and you’re back in the alley, slum or abandoned house where you slid to the ground.

When that happens, you have a nice bit of a stealth section: avoiding cops, pick-pocketing citizens for money and selling stolen goods. You fight drug lords and their army of dealers, take alliances with certain factions and help them gain territory in return for better stockpiles of blow. When you succeed, you can return to Narcotica to try and find the answers you desperately seek.

For general exploring there is almost no time limit but when you take a mission or a quest in Narcotica it takes some of your stockpiled blow. Complete it with enough skill and you can earn some back.

You fight by levelling up your hand to hand and knife skills while performing a jingle gives you a temporary stat boost. Like potions except instead of ingredients you get lyrics and melodies. Eventually you can earn companions: a small, dumb boy to tank the damage or a thin, wispy man to distract your enemies or whine them to death.

As you delve deeper and deeper, you start to realise that Narcotica gets worse whenever you are there. With this slow realisation it becomes clear – you are killing the land. Your presence changes the land and its inhabitants for the worse.

At this point the warring drug factions have come to a climax and you can tip the balance. On one hand, helping them will result in you having as much blow as you’ll ever need. They will protect you and hide you – letting you live out your days in Narcotica. On the other hand, if you let them kill each other, the police will let you go for helping bring down the drug trade. You are left with nothing but your freedom.

Herein lies the question…help the police, earn your freedom but live in a greying and boring world; or do you save yourself and live out your days in Narcotica which will ultimately kill it.

I will admit that a drug related game has always fascinated me. All substances, be it alcohol, weed or something dumber, make you go into your own little world. It can be fantastic, or it can be harmful. Certainly, going there too often or for too long will cause problems. In comparison, however, the world can feel dim and grey sometimes.

Is life worth living if you’re unhappy? What if what makes you happy also kills you? Better to live short and die happy. It seems like any healthy person wouldn’t ever have to make this choice. In a perfect world what makes you happy keeps you healthy. Still I ponder it sometimes when I should be working and instead I’m contemplating throwing it all away for a night of ridiculous partying.

I think there would be one secret ending to the game. Charlie helps the police and ends the drug war. He says good bye to Narcotica forever. Then while sitting on a grey lifeless street, right before the game finishes, in the corner there is an old piano.

The astute gamer would see it and walk over to it. Charlie sits down and starts to play.

While he plays the real worlds starts to get some colour and slowly, paradise becomes the world he’s in.

I try to enjoy my work. If you enjoy what makes you stronger, you’re going to get pretty damn strong.

True happiness is in loving what you do, not doing what you love.

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Top 5 Action RPGs Before Mass Effect 3 http://egmr.net/2012/03/top-5-action-rpgs-before-mass-effect-3/ http://egmr.net/2012/03/top-5-action-rpgs-before-mass-effect-3/#comments Mon, 05 Mar 2012 11:15:21 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=75277 With a few days before release, here are the 5 games Mass effect 3 needs to beat to be the very best. Like no one ever was. Mass Effect 3 […]

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With a few days before release, here are the 5 games Mass effect 3 needs to beat to be the very best. Like no one ever was.

Mass Effect 3 is only days away and after last week’s paranoid but probably realistic rant we take a look at the 5 games that currently sit at the top of the pile.

Each game on this list is an excellent nugget of gaming fun and should be tapped at your earliest convenience, and you should call the next morning as well.

They are not perfect though. All great games will have many facets of brilliance but here we’re looking at each game for a particular feature or two. Something that game did better than any other that has come before.

In the bar of Action RPGs these guys have a reserved table at the back and the cutest waitress gets assigned to them. No one looks them directly in the eye.

 

5. Kingdoms of Amalur – Having It All

In case you haven’t heard, you should play this game.

Probably the first RPG to have truly engaging, fluid and tactical combat. Kingdoms of Amalur manages to be both visceral while not sacrificing any of the RPG in-depth goodness we love.

This game is new, and the guys over at Bioware couldn’t have learnt from it during the development of Mass Effect 3 but it is still a worthwhile example of a game doing it all.

It may lack a little polish here and there but they nail the important stuff.

They managed to create a huge varied game world with more content than some MMOs all while having combat that is actually satisfying.

Mass Effect 1 had the world and variety, Mass Effect 2 had the combat but they lost a lot of the exploration, freedom and RPG elements I loved.

I hope Mass Effect 3 does it all.

4. Mass Effect 1 – Completeness

It is no small thing to be the final chapter in a trilogy as outstanding as Mass Effects.

These games, for all my nit-picks and griping, are still among my favourites ever played. They represent a beautiful mix of story, characterisation, sci-fi awesome, and true emotional engagement wrapped in a chocolate shell of power riddled third person shooting.

I get excited just remembering them, not just in my pants but emotionally as well.

I enjoy exploring every aspect of the world, its inhabitants and the characters I’ve come to love.

This is why the game needs to be complete. Fully complete.

The original Mass Effect had this down. There were problems, sure, but it still had a completeness about it that I really did miss in its sequel.

Stories were started and finished, new characters were fleshed out, and game mechanics were really stretched into a wide variety of environments and situations.

Come to Mass Effect 2 and we have much improved combat but at the expense of a large number of elements from the first game.

Vehicles were DLC. The tie in with the beginning of Mass Effect 3 was DLC. One of the few unique missions in the game, Kasumi’s loyalty mission, was DLC. Even the resolution of the Shadow Broker’s story (something I was very excited for from Mass Effect 1) was DLC.

This is nonsense. DLC is supposed to expand a games world. Let you explore characters and new lands. DLC should flesh out and dig into the world. It should expand sideways and not forwards, if that makes any sense.

The original Mass Effect did this well, there was very little DLC because the game was so complete already. In Mass Effect 2 they got this wrong.

DLC should be big and expansive. It should provide opportunities to explore and give you insight into the world and its background.

DLC should die and we should get back the expansion.

It is the correct mind-set to have. A game should be complete; any extra content released should be complete as well.

Luckily this is the end of the series, there is nowhere to hide – hopefully.

3. Bastion – Story Telling & Tone

If experience has taught me anything it is that popular opinion can be wildly different to my own.

I loved Bastion. Its art style, graphics, music and gameplay were outstanding. I would have been satisfied with that.

Bastion wasn’t out to satisfy me, no sir. Bastion was out to blow my mind.

Bastion’s story, and its unique way of telling it is among the best I have experienced to date.

Every piece of art, music and gameplay is in service to its beautiful world and the story it is telling.

The story is unique and personal while we still fight for larger answers and to save the world. The characters have their own motivations and personalities and most importantly – the tone is perfect.

Tone is still my biggest worry with Mass Effect 3. The original had you doing a variety of things ranging from light-hearted, to heart-warming, to dark and sinister and then ending with some serious determination and hope.

Mass Effect 2 had not much light-hearted. I know it’s a serious world and the threats we face are serious. The characters are all determined and serious (flirtatious does not count as light hearted). Everything is serious. Seriously serious.

I understand the desire to inject meaning and gravity into a situation but humour is one of those magical human qualities that differentiates us from the animals. Adding some lighter interactions would not make me care less.

The exact opposite in fact – I would care more. It would highlight the significance of my battle and make me truly care about what I’m fighting for.

Make me angry and I will fight. Make me happy and I will fight to the death.

2. Skyrim – Exploration

Many people will argue that Skyrim and the Mass Effect trilogy are too different to be compared. They fundamentally have different design philosophies and cater to different crowds.

They would be right.

I don’t want Skyrim in my Mass Effect, I have Skyrim if I want some Skyrim.

What I do want, however, is the freedom and most importantly exploration that Skyrim gives you.

Running around in a country sized piece of land is filled with more wonder and moments of discovery and exploration that jetting around an entire galaxy of planets in a space ship.

That is male-cow faeces is what that is.

When the original Mass Effect came out, at least it tried to give planetary exploration with the Mako. Most people were happy to see it go for the sequel but I was sad to see them give us nothing in return (the planetary scanning crap doesn’t count).

Instead of fighting to give me the sense of exploration I craved they just gave up.

I want to explore the galaxy.

1. The Witcher 2 – Maturity

The Witcher 2 has ruined me for other games.

Before I was happy with characterisation that didn’t feel quite real; I could tolerate simplistic story and 1-dimentional character motivation; I could understand my choice having only cosmetic effects; I could even understand a lack of environmental beauty – not anymore.

The Witcher 2 changed how I see RPGs and their potential. There were certainly clunky parts to the game but most of it is so far above the bar set by the rest of the industry that it makes me wonder if I can feel anything but disappointment at the rest of the genre.

I will love Mass Effect 3, I can say that with near certainty, but at the back of my mind there will always be this niggling little feeling that the characterisation, the motivations of the characters, the black and white decision making, the poor morality system (even with its new overhaul), all of it is going to feel like so much fast food.

Delicious and a treat, but ultimately unsatisfying and unhealthy.

With time comes maturity, The Witcher 2 is a truly mature game. Not gratuitous or overtly sexualised, just mature, in the truest sense of the word.

I have spoken at length about my feelings on the Witcher 2. At present, it is only available on pc which means most people haven’t played it.

It’s a shame, a real shame.

It is getting an Xbox release in April and I predict now, for all the world to see, that when you compare Mass Effect 3 to The Witcher 2, people will be hard pressed to tell me which is better.

Final Thoughts

I have been a fan of the Mass Effect series since it released. I hold it close and dear to my heart.

I am excited beyond what is probably healthy for the final chapter of the epic tale.

I am not the boy I was when the first game released, I have played a lot and done a lot, I have changed.

In fear I worry that I have left Bioware behind.

In faith remember how much love I have for the series and blindly hope for the best.

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5 Things Mass Effect 3 Must Do So I Don’t Firebomb BioWare http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-things-mass-effect-3-must-do-so-i-dont-firebomb-bioware/ http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-things-mass-effect-3-must-do-so-i-dont-firebomb-bioware/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2012 11:15:35 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=74291 The harder we love, the more viciously we hate. I love hard. Mass Effect 3 is only two weeks away. Fourteen days. 1 209 600 agonising seconds. I wish I could […]

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The harder we love, the more viciously we hate. I love hard.

Mass Effect 3 is only two weeks away. Fourteen days. 1 209 600 agonising seconds.

I wish I could freeze myself and wake up when my delivery arrives.

I can’t.

So I’m left to wonder, ponder, brood and endlessly, mind-numbingly ruminate on all the promises Mass Effect 3 may fulfil; and what hellish shower of fiery pain I will rain down upon BioWare should they disappoint me.

It all comes down to this. There can be no cliff-hanger, no threads un-tied, no mystery left unsolved, no arc left un-arced.

It is terrifying. In the unknown there is hope. In reality there is both disappointment and only the possibility of fulfillment.

We risk unhappiness for the chance of satisfaction.

At this moment, before we cross from the threshold of hope into the starkness of reality, here are 5 things Mass Effect 3 must do so that I don’t firebomb BioWare’s head office.

Read quickly, the end approaches.

 

5. Creating And Solving Problems Within The Same Game

This is the quintessential problem I had with Mass Effect 2. The clean slate. The fresh start. It was a slap to me and my Mass Effect 1 hours of playtime.

It seems like every time a sequel to a story driven game is released, some marketing donkey is up and braying about how newcomers to the series are welcome and catered for.

When a guy says accessible my Spidey-sense tingles. It is simple, unarguable logic – if I spent thirty hours getting to know a world, its characters and their motivations along with the subtle web of relationships that go with it then any subsequent story cannot be accessible to a new player.

If it is, why the hell did I waste thirty hours of my life? What I mean by this is that by assuming I’ve played previous games developers would be free to create truly deep content. The stuff gaming nirvana is made of.

Instead, what most games do is what I’ve said in the title: they create new, never before heard of, referenced or even hinted at issues and then they solve those problems and call it progress.

It is not progress, it is a detour. Not a very good detour at that, it’s a circle.

What Mass Effect 2 did was to lightly coat all the new problems with undertones of Reapery goodness, ending with a little bit of real progress and then called it a game.

Enough.

Release the previous games for free, or at least cheap and then make a sequel that assumes I’m not a cross-eyed chipmunk.

Why not make a game aimed at the fans, you know, the diehard people who make your lives and jobs possible.

I want real, genuine progress in Mass Effect 3.

Give me progress or give me death. BioWare’s death.

4. Don’t Make Shepard A Bland, Crew Cut Vanilla American Boy

Shepard is a character. To me, Shepard is a handsome man of goodness. He is the last thing of sanity in a world gone mad.

He defends the weak by being strong.

Your Shepard may be different. That’s the beauty.

Nothing will pull me out of my state of immersion than with Shepard behaving like an all-America boy.

Already we started to get that football playing jock in Mass Effect 2, and it stank. There was little emotion, no worry or sadness. There was maybe one line of dialogue, at the end of the game shortly before I had my way with Miranda, where Shepard shows a hint of humanity.

A part where he lies awake at night wondering if he’s worthy of the universes trust.

I don’t want him to become a whiny bitch but at the same time I’d like a bit more reaction to the atrocities around him. When people died he shrugged it off, always in control, calming other people down.

I’d like to see him lose it. Lose his temper.

Over-react. Better yet, show me something besides anger and determination.

That’s what is human, what is relatable.

I don’t only need grizzled manliness, I want to see some humanity.

You want me to worry about the Reapers? To truly wonder if we can win the war?

Show me Shepard doing it. Show me Shepard breaking down in a moment of privacy. Show me a crew member, a friend consoling him.

Then I’ll care.

I’ll care plenty.

3. Do Not Substitute Climatic Story Moments With Climactic Battles

Clearly BioWare are trying to make an action game. It’s not a bad thing. Imagine the nailbiting satisfying action of something like Gears of War combined with the depth and RPG awesome of Mass Effect 1 and 2.

That’s the goal in Mass Effect 3. Quite clearly, that is the goal. It’s a good goal, an admirable one.

But do not forget what makes Mass Effect special: the world, the story and characters, the final frontier – aliens and a society not our own; the jaw dropping magnificence of new worlds, new planets and species, new technology.

Give me a mission with no combat. Give me a stealth mission and give me resolution of story.

I don’t want to fight eleven Reapers, I want to find out how they were made, what drives them, who are the Protheans?

Answering these question will be as, if not more compelling than any huge climactic battle and I just hope BioWare understands this.

Battle is not the only way to make me feel awesome.

Let me meet the families of my crew. Let me see Garrus fall in love.

Let me be a wingman for Wrex or Grunt as they court a sexy Krogan.

These will make me shake my head in wonder. The battles are important, but no less than this.

2. Tone. Stop Making Me Re-Live Angsty Puberty

What makes Sci-Fi special? Why is the lure of space, of worlds unknown so inviting?

The wonder of it. The sheer unbridled unknown is inviting because it holds possibilities.

Somewhere along the way everything became serious political upheaval. The end of the world.

Bummer.

The climax is always going to be less mysterious and less about wonder than what came before. We understand the world and the cause now let’s fight. Understandable in a sense but that’s not why I’m here.

The fight for survival is a primal thing. It’s why we do amazing things when our existence is threatened. To those who even played Mass Effect 1 will remember that survival, a place in the universe is why we’re here fighting.

Sci-Fi is about the beauty of exploration, the thrill of the unexplored and discovery. The alien, life and otherwise.

I want that quiet wonder, those moments of exquisite, lonely quiet that makes the battles all the more empowering. Perspective can be powerful. It’s why we all go quiet when we stand next to huge statues or see pictures of the sun compared to Earth.

I want that calm and that wonderment so that my fight and my struggle are all the more poignant.

Give me that magic that makes me want to explore the heavens and unearth its secrets.

1. Do Not Make Earth The Focus Of The War

Earth is not my home. Not in the world of Mass Effect. To Shepard, the closest thing he has to a home is the Normandy, his family is his crew.

Earth is supposed to be an idea, a small important symbol of hope and home. We’re struggling for a place in the universe, a way for humanity to become a part of a greater civilisation and society.

Watching Earth get destroyed, watching cities and countries not my own at war is nothing new. It is nothing special and it is nothing meaningful.

Blow up the Citadel. The place I spent hours exploring and the people I spent hours getting to know. Destroy even one wing of the Citadel, then I’ll feel something.

All too quickly, Sci-Fi series and writers return to Earth as the obvious soft spot. The thing we all want to defend, whose destruction has the most impact.

I don’t give a tinkers cuss about Earth and it’s sweaty apelike inhabitants. We’ve never explored or even visited Earth. It should remain an important symbol.

Now I know that exactly 119% of BioWares sales are in America. I know that to anyone living in North America the destruction of America is the greatest tragedy ever. It’s not a bad thing, I wish I had more patriotism and more pride but I don’t. I’m proud, sure but watching another country get destroyed, fighting levels in foreign cities is not immersive to me.

Fighting on other worlds, defending human and alien alike, that is immersive.

If we got to watch the Earth get destroyed in the first few minutes of the game, then we’d have something.

Take away our home and force us to defend the Citadel because it’s all we have left.

Now we’re talking about compelling narrative.

I’ve come to care about the alien races. I enjoy the idea of a mixed society, where all races must learn to live together.

That is why the Citadel is so important. It represents just that. I want to defend that more than our little blue marble.

I just hope that BioWare understand how powerful they are. In only a few hours of playtimes, spread over a few years I already care more about their world than my own.

It sounds odd to say but it’s the truth. The destruction of Earth is too ridiculous; it’s too foreign and crazy an idea for me to ever accept it fully.

If the war is kept firmly lodged in the ethos and world of Mass Effect I will be happy, if it all comes down to Earth I will feel nothing.

 

The Conclusion

I love the Mass Effect franchise. It is a space opera. I saw its inception and I’ve watched it grow into the thing it is today.

The world of Mass Effect is a far bigger place than only three games can hold, and we know there will be more.

But as the end of the trilogy, I hope BioWare do us proud. I’d like to believe. I want to believe that things will be okay.

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5 Great Features In Average Games http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-great-features-in-average-games/ http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-great-features-in-average-games/#comments Mon, 20 Feb 2012 11:15:19 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=73319 A diamond in the rough. Because the Aladdin in us never dies. Have you played my favourite game? Do you agree with my choice of console? Masterchief or Kratos? No?! […]

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A diamond in the rough. Because the Aladdin in us never dies.

Have you played my favourite game? Do you agree with my choice of console? Masterchief or Kratos?

No?!

Death to you, your parents, your unborn children and any person who has willingly, unwillingly or unwittingly helped you.

Also I’ll pee on your lawn and shave my initials onto your dog.

Intolerance.

We all know it, we all understand it and hate it. We all propagate it, in some way or another.

We’re all small blonde girls on the inside. That Powerpuff looking thing we call confidence is really quite fragile and the result is that we crave validation.

Every time we meet a like-minded individual, who loves what we love, Bubbles gets a little stronger. When we fight intolerance, ignorance or just plain cruelty, it gets a little smaller.

Where is this hippie speech leading?

To a single quote:

A wise man can learn more from a fool than a fool from a wise man.

Life is almost never black and white. Right and wrong are ideas taught to us as children, when we knew nothing. At this stage we were barely better than retarded and the natural inclination to dichotomise makes us accept this idea unquestioningly.

Stop it. Just stop it.

Of course there are some clear evils and some clear goods in this world but they are far rarer than we think. Almost everything is a matter of perspective.

The above quote is a very powerful idea. The stupid, close-minded, prejudiced morons of this world cannot broaden their horizons; they cannot accept new ideas or fathom other perspectives.

The best of us can and do just that. Every scientist, artist and business man will tell you that failure is as valuable as success. Not to the person failing obviously, but as a broader concept.

We immediately dismiss most things. We live in an age of information downpour; so much, all the time, on every topic. Brain explode. Given this society, dismissive behaviour is understandable, a natural development and almost unavoidable. That doesn’t make it right.

Sometimes it’s worth looking at the average and the bad to find some insight into the good. If we learn from the past we can improve our futures.

That’s what we’re doing here today. As a follow up to last week’s 5 Terrible Features In Great Games here are 5 great features in average or unpopular games.

Some of these games are good. Others are not. All of them have some excellence brought down by bits of mediocrity.

We can still learn from them, because we are wise men.
 

5. Alice Madness Returns – Imagination

The game was solid but repetitive. The structure workmanlike and the platforming never made it past “quite fun”. Even the combat was only good up for a couple of hours before it got boring.

I only noticed all of this after 6 \ 7 hours of play time. I am a nitpicky, anal gamer. Little things bug the hell out of me if they’re not done at least adequately.

Not all of these relatively glaring flaws were noticeable because of the sheer amount of imagination in the game’s setting, world, style and characters.

When I look at Skyrim, a small part of me dies at the blandness of the world. Where is the colour? The life? The imagination?

We could all learn a bit from Alice.

4. Alpha Protocol – Dialogue Structure

Mass Effect popularised the dialogue wheel. Letting us the know the gist of what was going to be said without actually ruining the dialogue Shepard will say a nanosecond later.

This worked well and many games copied it, some well others not.

Meet Alpha Protocol; a largely broken game from Sega that failed spectacularly. Yet I remember it. I remember some missions with the same fondness that I remember some of the best gaming moments.

In Alpha Protocol the dialogue sequences and discussions were turned into a whole game in itself. Just by adding a timer to the dialogue I was forced to make decisions on the fly – making the whole experience far more intense and rewarding. It also flowed a lot better.

Then, there was their whole character system where certain characters responded to certain behaviour well and other behaviour poorly. The implementation was sometimes lacking and clunky but when it worked, damn it felt cool to say things and manipulate characters.

Alpha Protocol made me excited for dialogue and non-combat scenarios in a way few other games have. There are entire missions in Alpha Protocol that are primarily about a stake out or recognisance. They were the most compelling missions, and that is saying something.

If you’re in a gaming noir mood, grab a copy of the game. It will cost you like a buck at this point and if you view the exercise as a case study, you’ll have a good time.

3. Zeno Clash – World Building

At a guess, most people will not have played this game.

I played it when it released and it haunts me still.

What can only be described as a first person, melee brawler running on Valve’s Source engine, this game is something ridiculously unique. The weirdness and imagination of the world will hit you immediately. This is a game that shows us its world without shame.

If you can accept its premise and its eeriness, there is a warm, interesting and fully realised world beneath the relatively short game. The society has its own sects and the interactions between characters are weirdly real for such a fantastical game.

The characters behave like their world is the only one there is. Their way is the only logical one. They take for granted you understand political and personal motivations that web the story while still explaining them so you’re never lost.

With more environment variation than most triple A games the whole art style was a contender for the imagination award as well.

What set Zeno Clash apart was just how well realised the world was. By the end of the game, the world had carved its own niche in my mind.

It’s a magnificent place to inhabit if you can appreciate the weirdness.

Full of mystery and questions, itching to explore more and to experience everything, please dear lord let there be a sequel soon.

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If Two Gamers Have A Baby, Who Gets An Achievement? http://egmr.net/2012/02/if-two-gamers-have-a-baby-who-gets-an-achievement/ http://egmr.net/2012/02/if-two-gamers-have-a-baby-who-gets-an-achievement/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2012 09:00:39 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=72216 A guide to finding that perfect co-op partner to the game of life. Finding the perfect partner is hard. Even making friends can be hard. This is why we have […]

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A guide to finding that perfect co-op partner to the game of life.

Finding the perfect partner is hard. Even making friends can be hard. This is why we have hobbies. We pursue our interests in the hopes that we will meet people who like what we like, which makes us like each other. Have a similar hobby to me? Enjoy the same movies, books, music or games? Also hate Ethan Hawke’s pathetic, whiny, snot-face? Let’s be friends. Attractive member of the opposite sex? Marry me.

I will give you an exclusive look into one, uneducated man’s baseless opinion on why dating a gamer is like having a happiness cheat code for relationship and how to pick out a gamer in a crowd with one cheesy pickup line.

This article was originally titled: How My Pickup Line Is Designed To Weed Out Non-Gamer Muggles Leaving Me With The Gorgeous, New Breed of Super Lady Known as the Gaming Whoman. Please note the “h” in “woman”. It is not meant to be read as who-man; it is to be read like an old, hawk-eyed, sour-mouthed English teacher would make you say “whale” or “whip”. It gives some nice emphasis so that we can all be on the same page here. These ladies are something special.

In case you’re wondering, that whole previous paragraph was a Family Guy reference. It was long and laborious but we got there in the end. I regret nothing.

I am not speaking of girls who plays games to impress guys or because they know that “quirky” hobbies make them hotter; no. I am talking about those special ladies who play games because they genuinely love them. So basically what Olivia Munn would have you believe she is. I’m not sure if it’s true but study this picture anyway, for science.

Study that picture hard. As a side note, that four word sentence is a work of double entendre genius. My literary skills aside, I am talking about women who play because gaming is unlike anything else in this world. It is escapism and artistic while still needing skill, your brain and active input.

I love gaming. I am a guy. This is nothing new. For whatever reasons, gaming was and largely still is the domain of men. With new technology and (let’s face it) better games, this one sided industry has started to change. Gaming as an art-form is still in its infancy; but that does not mean that is has not changed how society functions. These magnificent women are the first products of that changing world. As taboo as it was to be an adult gamer years ago, it was worse for women. Gaming wasn’t just taboo, it was a man’s hobby and it was taboo to boot. They have fought through the stigma and the ignorance and now they are blossoming into the massively desirable people they are. She and her ilk will inherit the earth, and they are far from meek.

I am clearly infatuated, this much is obvious. Whether I have convinced you to be the same depends on your personal level of susceptibility to the opinions of people you’ve never met. I might be talking total nonsense and I might be dropping pearls of wisdom; bearing in mind that pearls are only started by a grain of filth inside of an oyster.

I need more from my woman than just a pretty face and a rockin’ bod. Beauty is important, sure, but without a strong personality to go with it, beauty is meaningless. Just ask Crysis 2.

This is where gaming comes in. I am yet to meet a stupid gamer. Even the knuckle-dragging, beer drinking, misogynistic, ape-like Neanderthals who exclusively play Call of Duty are faster and smarter than the other ape monsters out there. Gaming requires, at the very least, a sharpness of mind that is not a requirement for other activities. You have to learn, adapt and quickly make intelligent decisions.

Even casual gaming has its merits. Take Plants vs Zombies; amazing fun and outstandingly simple in concept, and yet there is a pretty hard-core tower defence game underneath. Gaming requires brains, pure and simple. If you can memorise all 646 Pokemon and their evolution chains but can’t remember the capitals of major countries, you’re not stupid or learning impaired, you’re lazy. Now you might be thinking I’m talking crap. You’d be right. There are only 151 good Pokemon.

The bullet point of my presentation is that gamers are sharp people. But wait, there’s more… order your gamer girl today and get these extra features absolutely free. Since gaming is still largely misunderstood by the mainstream, being a gamer means that you will run into that ignorant “gaming is only for sad, depressed children” attitude that old, joyless people seem to have.

Maybe it’s because happiness offends them or maybe they are angry that they grew up without internet porn. Regardless, there is little you can do to convince these people of anything other than their complete correctness in all things in the universe. This means that as gamers, we have to learn how to accept ourselves and our interests. This makes for people who are simultaneously tolerant of other people’s quirks and weird hobbies while hopefully not feeling too insecure about their own interests. Whether you have first-hand experience or not, take these words of wisdom: being accepting and encouraging, both of yourself and of your partner is good relationshippy behaviour.

Now that you are thoroughly convinced of the awesomeness of gaming people, I will explain my genius. All of the desirable characteristics that gaming folk have don’t make them easy to recognise. Unless gamers start having to wear identifying marks, this is not going to change any time soon. So how then, in the space of several seconds, do you identify which women are made of the right stuff?

Remember earlier how I said gaming is still male dominated? The aforementioned misogynistic hoard of virgin boys who play games because they like to make bang with gun? These are the people that any woman who plays games will come into contact with. They do not like the behaviour. They do not always find it funny when you tell them to go back to the kitchen. They do however get used to it.

This dear gentlemen, is the key. Any person who has had any contact with the scummy part of male gaming understands what happens. If you’ll forgive the following extended metaphor, men like to ship-talk.

We compare masts, talk about sea-men, gloat at men who only sail solo and, we like to discuss how many things we’ve rammed. Women who play games either stop playing games or they get used to this.

Standing in line at a bookstore, bar, movie, theatre. You see a lady who interests you. You stand near her paying her no attention until she’s not watching you. Then you come up behind her…

And… Say the following:

“Excuse me but you’re ah…standing on my penis”

One of two things happens.

She gets offended and leaves. No significant harm done.

Or, she chuckles.

If she chuckles, you’re in luck. You are dealing with a woman who has been around men who shiptalk a lot and has developed some kind of tolerance. She may not be a gamer, she may genuinely find it funny which means you’ve found a woman with a great sense of humour – always a good thing. Or she just might have six older brothers who will beat you for hitting on their baby sister. You have to take that chance.

More often than you would think, it’s a gamer. Any woman who has had to filter out the many billions of poorly executed come-on’s by horny virgins will chuckle at this relatively tame pickup.

Smile, apologise for the line and tell her the story of where you heard it. Endear yourself.

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5 Terrible Features In Great Games http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-terrible-features-in-great-games/ http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-terrible-features-in-great-games/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2012 11:15:51 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=72292 May you find what you are looking for. The above line is an old Chinese curse. The disparity between Western and Eastern culture is never more evident than in their […]

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May you find what you are looking for.

The above line is an old Chinese curse. The disparity between Western and Eastern culture is never more evident than in their way of insulting each other.

Our insults start with something like “your momma so fat…” Eastern insults start more along the lines of “venerable sir, may I have a moment of your time?”

This barbaric line might then be followed with “may you find what you are looking for”. If you are a douche you might interpret anything anybody says ever as an insult. In which case you’d throw your arms back and scream “Come at me bro!” while arching your shoulders and trying not to pee yourself.

If you were more reasonable you’d probably think it’s a sweet thing to say. Yes, I do hope I find what I’m looking for. You have yourself a nice day mister Miyagi (or Jackie Chan depending on your specific level of Asian racism).

In reality, the man has indeed insulted you so I guess the douche was actually more accurate this time. Then again, the douche challenged his own reflection to come at him, and lost.

It is an amazing piece of philosophical manoeuvring to think that actually finding what you want would be a bad thing. Yet it’s true. Not always, and certainly not with the small material things. My life is indeed better with that cool shirt or those kickass speakers but it becomes easier to understand when you think about it more abstractly.

If I actually achieved world dominance I’d be happy for a while, sure, but what happens after I finish recreating gladiatorial battles and making it illegal to say “mine”?

I’d be empty. Without purpose. As much as I want many things, I want them more as ideas.

The funny thing is that this should never stop us from trying to achieve success. Anything artistic, gaming included, is the ultimate frontier. With unlimited time and money we could still never achieve perfection.

Perfection doesn’t exist. It’s a good thing. It leaves us free to try as hard as we can. Knowing failure is certain means you don’t have to worry about it.

We can objectively assess any product, great or small, good or bad and assess it without emotion getting in the way. Nothing is perfect. So criticism is always allowed.

This is possibly the greatest modern societal achievement. We’ve maybe lost some of the sacredness that used to pervade society, but we’ve gained openness, humbleness in our artists and the expectation that we must always strive to improve ourselves and what we do.

Fair trade.

These are five games which were great in many ways. Not so much in others. Gaming is collaborative. The nature of this means that we can get the excellent mixed in with the average. More so than in other mediums we can forgive some areas to experience transcendence in others.

These games pushed the limit.

They’re not bad, they just did a bad thing.

We love them but we want to change them.

 

5. Story In Modern Warfare 2 and 3

Some will say story is not the point. Some will say that the multiplayer is all that matters. Some should crawl back into their mother’s wombs and un-conceive themselves.

There are many great things about the Modern Warfare series. The original Modern Warfare is, was and will always be a turning point for the Call of Duty series and the gaming industry as a whole.

That does not excuse the level of nonsense in the following two games.

At the top of the drawing boards, written in huge neon letters with its own back generator should be coherency. A story is worthless if it’s not easy to follow, at least on its most fundamental level.

Boring, lacklustre, incomprehensible – the story managed to be all of these things. We just needed a bad guy and a reason to chase; maybe some nice subplots or side characters.

What we got was the conspiracy ravings of a homeless man wearing a tinfoil hat who blinks his eyes independently.

4. Everything New in Assassin’s Creed Revelations

…except the story.

I loved the original Assassin’s Creed. Warts and all. Then the sequel came along and tightened all the soft bits and accentuated the pretty bits. I loved it too.

Then we had Brotherhood. More great story but ultimately a lot of fluff. There was still enough new, interesting content to warrant the purchase, but it was a weary purchase and I found myself often thinking “Yeah, there really is a lot of stuff here. It was worth buying”. I shouldn’t be having those thoughts.

The quality and quantity of what is added to a series to warrant a full price tag should be self-evident. It shouldn’t keep crossing my mind.

Then we have Revelations. The storyline was great and added a lot more. Given that Ubisoft have said that Assassin’s Creed 3 will feature a new protagonist, this is the final game in the Assassin’s Creed 2 trilogy. I know. It makes no sense.

Apart from the story and character, every new feature actually detracted from the core experience. A good core experience, which should be obvious – it’s untouched since Assassin’s Creed 2. The hook blade is a fun gimmick but everything else is just so much salad obscuring the steak underneath.

There was a time when a hook blade would have been cheap DLC. Now it’s a core feature on a sequel. Who cares about bombs? You have a gun, throwing knives, smoke bombs, poison blades, a cross bow, a sword, a smaller sword, two hidden blades and an army of other similarly equipped lackeys at your disposal, who gives a tinker’s cuss about bombs.

This is a stealth based assassination game. BOMBS?

Assassin’s Creed 3 better blow my hair into a Super Saiyan.

3. Kratos’ Character Arc in God Of War 3

Did the graphics melt my face?

Into a puddle.

 

Did the epicness divert blood flow from my brain?

Pants tighteningly so.

 

Then what the hell happened to Kratos? He went from lovable badass who is filled with pain we understand to just being a douche. He was like an angsty petulant child who happens to be able to smash things.

It’s not often that I see things that really capture my feelings completely. These guys did. Watch what they have to say and you’ll understand fully why I actually wish God of War 3 had been cancelled.

2. Lip Syncing in Kingodms of Amalur

This is more of a gripe than anything else but seriously; it’s like watching a fish talk while sounds come from somewhere.

The rest of the games is really very good and the writing is even excellent as is the voice acting, which is why this is such a shame.

I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing that can be patched but I just wonder how this got past the QA team. It feels like the first thing you’d jot down when you pick up the game to test it.

The funny thing is that it gets less noticeable since you end up reading the dialogue subtitles most of the time. There is no way to turn them off and it’s really hard to ignore onscreen text.

Maybe they did that on purpose…

1. Combat in Skyrim Just So Poor

This follows directly from playing Kingdoms of Amalur. I haven’t finished Skyrim, I don’t think it’s possible to finish Skyrim but net result is that both games are sitting on my hard drive.

Picking up Skyrim, the awesomeness of the world and storyline is evident. Distracting even.

It took me several hours of playing Skyrim (as a mage\one handed weapons guy) before I paused the game and realised the combat was just not fun.

There is no feedback, enemies barely react and I don’t feel smart, powerful or skilled.

It fails in every category of RPG gameplay.

Given what else is on display I forgave the combat as a necessary evil to get a world as big and alive as Skyrims.

Then I played Kingdoms of Amalur. Lip syncing problems aside, the world is big, beautiful and alive. There is more location variety than in Skyrim. A lot of the locations are just more epic in scope than Skyrims and there is actually colour and vibrancy to the world.

The side quests are more interesting and the storyline is more unique. All this and I haven’t even mentioned the combat.

From within the first couple of hours I was already spoilt for choice, felt awesomely powerful while still needing to fight hard to survive. I also felt tactically in control.

Dodging around attacks, firing spells, secondary weapons, and swinging a huge fiery hammer I felt great.

I tried to play Skyrim again. I don’t think I can.

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5 Popular Games That Won’t Be Remembered http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-popular-games-that-wont-be-remembered/ http://egmr.net/2012/02/5-popular-games-that-wont-be-remembered/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2012 11:15:43 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=71133 Fan favourites that no one will remember when something better comes alo…ooohh look! Something shiny. We have all started to use the word memorable to mean fun or enjoyable. I’ve […]

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Fan favourites that no one will remember when something better comes alo…ooohh look! Something shiny.

We have all started to use the word memorable to mean fun or enjoyable. I’ve been slapped by a woman before and it was neither fun nor enjoyable but it was pretty memorable.

This is the distinction I’m making. Memorable does not mean good or fun, it doesn’t even mean intense or shocking. It’s far more personal than that. What is memorable to one person might be completely forgettable to another.

What we find memorable is what touches us. Something about the world, story or gameplay somehow becomes linked with powerful emotion. Certain songs remind me of ex-girlfriends, some books are so vivid in my memory I still can’t believe they aren’t real, and some games I will remember forever.

Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. The first is a masterpiece, the second is arguable the first game to ever seriously grab you by the scrotum and pull you on a wild globe-trotting adventure so spectacular you’re left almost feeling sexually satisfied, but what about the third? Releasing to positive but not spectacular reviews, why do I lump that piece of coal in with those other gems? It’s personal. The game lets you choose which of the two brothers to play as and their interactions and dynamic were so similar to my own relationship with my brother that I genuinely loved the characters. I will remember them forever and I cannot defend the game as anything more than good. Memorable is personal.

Last week I wrote an article on 5 Games We’ll Remember In 20 Years. Those were the select few games from the last year or so that gave experiences that lead to a profound feeling of inner growth. They all had those “OMG!!” moments but what made them special was what you got left with afterwards.

The games on this list are the one night stands. Fun, special, one hell of a good time, and they make you smile when you think about them but I won’t remember them when their sequels release or bigger things come along.

I’m not speaking about recollection. Any normal person who has their morning coffee without whisky and leaves cocaine on toast only for special occasions will hopefully be able to recollect most of the good games they’ve played. They should even have some fond memories and when the ice caps melt, our grandchildren are plentiful and Half Life 3 is a folk legend, we should still be able to do a healthy bit of reminiscing while sitting in a nuclear-powered rocking chair, but they won’t make us fall silent. In our private moments we won’t suddenly remember them and get a warm sensation in our bellies.

5 games from the last 24 months that took the world by storm but that I won’t remember come the sunshine. These games burn bright and fiercely but when I put the down the controller, once the initial awe and excitement has died down, I’m left satisfied but I’m not in love.
 
 

5. Call of Duty. Anything After 4.

This may seem obvious but it’s being said anyway. This is the epitome of what I’m talking about here. Fun, well made and maybe even awe-inspiring, until the sequel comes along. These games are fast food, cheap wine and the easy, drunk chick at the party.

There’s fun to be had and lots of it too, but these game won’t stick with me. I barely understand their stories and the action starts to meld together into one big ‘splosion of Scottish, bearded, magnificent mustached, action.

I’ll probably continue to play them every year. The same way I’ll watch the new Transformers movies.

Pretty things and things that go boom.

Not everything has to be profound and that’s completely fine.

I love Blue Mountain State – who doesn’t?
 
 

4. Batman: Arkham City

Yes, I know – this was an outstanding game. Certainly the best Batman experience you can have short of actually eating gravel and becoming Batman.

Fluid, well designed combat, fun gadgets and even a memorable story.

Nothing new enough.

After Arkham Asylum swept me off my feet Arkham City was going to have to work really hard to impress me. It did to an extent but the problems start right at the conceptual level.

Arkham Asylum but bigger and more open world. If the game wasn’t so big and fleshed out this could have passed for an expansion.

As it stands, I remember the feeling I got when I first ran around feeling like Batman – in Arkham Asylum. Now I have a lot of fun but this just feels like an expanded game without any serious innovation or hooks to make me remember Arkham City over Asylum.

Rocksteady are talented developers and I’m excited for whatever they do next.

I’ll remember the first time I silently took out a room of thugs using my bad-assery. It was in Arkham Asylum.
 
 

3. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

I know I’m not alone here. In fact my distinguished colleague wrote an entire article on why the Assassin’s Creed franchise has become that weird slightly over 40 woman at the teenage party.

In fact I’m going to quote him directly and link to his article because there is nothing left to say that he hasn’t already said.

Firstly, and amongst the biggest issues with the game, is that it showed me how exhausted the gameplay was. With barely anything worth writing home about added to the game, and an identical formula to its predecessors, Revelations couldn’t bring back the excitement of past games. Variety was a lot less, and things like the renovating system and slow pace often made playing it a serious chore. The game relied heavily on its previous successes, and failed to really build from its predecessors in any significant way.

Azhar’s Full Article. Go read it and then send a letter to Ubisoft.
 
 
Find the next two entries on the following page.

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5 Games We’ll Remember In 20 Years http://egmr.net/2012/01/5-games-well-remember-in-20-years/ http://egmr.net/2012/01/5-games-well-remember-in-20-years/#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2012 11:15:06 +0000 http://egmr.net/?p=70212 The games that we’ll make our kids play while they’re taking a break from virtual reality porn. Let’s be clear, these games are those special experiences that brought something so […]

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The games that we’ll make our kids play while they’re taking a break from virtual reality porn.

Let’s be clear, these games are those special experiences that brought something so unique, polished or wonderful that they become timeless. They are far from perfect but like any man in love will tell you, the imperfections just makes her that much more special.

To make things more interesting we’re also trying to stick to newer games. Bioshock, Call of Duty 4 and Half Life 2 are already classics in their own right so we’re not going to suck them off again.

Without further mumbling here are five games that, like it or not, changed the course of gaming for the better. Graphics will improve and consoles will change but these five games should be played by every generation until the sun burns out or Half Life 3 is released, whichever comes sooner.

Never let the length of an entry or even its position on this list sway you from immediately playing the game mentioned. The quality of each game is undeniable so the order of the list is numbered for ease, but still random. The length of the entry depends on the type of game mentioned. Some bring new ideas and complex gameplay systems that need long in-depth explanation while others need fewer words to express the magnificence they bring.

Play them all because one day, it will be the law anyway.

 
 

5. Deus Ex Human Revolution

This game is like if badass and choice made a love child. Everything is cool, slick and well groomed without sacrificing player freedom or choice.

Released last year, it is the prequel to the original Deus Ex. A smart move since many people haven’t played or don’t remember the original; but that wasn’t the only benefit. The far greater intelligence behind the decision was to let the game be set in the not-too-distant-future; far enough to be plausible and exciting but near enough to really hit home with a very real issue. What happens when machines are better than humans?

This is an idea explored many times in science fiction’s long and colourful history but few can rival the deftness and detail shown in Deus Ex. The game revolves around augmentation, mechanical prosthetics. In the fiction of the game machines are being used to replace human limbs, organs or being added to give new abilities altogether.

Initially, as you would expect, these were used purely for medical purposes. Let the crippled walk and the blind see. Magnificent! Miracle! Now what happens when those same augmentations allow the blind to see better than any natural person? The crippled man can now run faster and longer than any human leg could ever hope to match.

Ethically, should the healthy be allowed elective surgery even if it’s unnecessary? Do the augmented count as humans and should they be allowed to compete in sporting events? In a world where your competitor might be augmenting their employees, athletes or army, how can you afford not to?

Moreover, the costs involved mean that the rich are now markedly, and immeasurably better than the poor. They live longer, look better, and can do things that the we would never have thought possible. Holy shit. These questions swirl around the games populace and waft around the games meticulous world.

Mash into this world a conspiracy and some seriously well written dialogue all with the chocolate covered goodness of genuinely intricate player-choice driven gameplay and you have a game that raises many valuable questions with a rare deftness and sensitivity that is rarely seen in any medium, let alone gaming.

 
 
 

4. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Adventure. Exciting, unknown and full of the promises of potential; we crave it because we have always dreamt of the magnificent things in life. To be bold, shameless in your lust for life and to experience the wonders of this world while still fighting for the ultimate treasure, for fame or glory, or a cause.

There is no greater joy than in fighting for what you believe in, exploring the unknown and appreciating the beauty in life.

The Uncharted series understand adventure. The wild ride. Needless to say, as can be said for any game on this list, there is more than just what is written here but what can be said is that the graphics are among the best ever made. From animations to scenery, lighting to level design, the experience of playing Uncharted is like watching fireworks. There is too much to take in and so much happening that you need to experience it again and again; with open mouthed, slack jawed amazement.

Uncharted 1 is very good but not transcendent and likewise Uncharted 3 is a fitting finale with as much amazement but it does not compare to the very deliberate pace of the middle child.

The moments of quiet wonder and puzzle solving are carefully positioned around the action so that the experience feels organic and continually fresh.

If there was one problem with Indiana Jones and any film of its type, it was that the adventure was removed from you. We could experience the thrills by proxy but never actively a part of the magnificent journey.

Now we can.

 
 
 

3. Mass Effect Trilogy

Sure, this is cheating a bit. The original Mass Effect came out at the same time as Bioshock and Call Of Duty 4 and the third game hasn’t even released yet.

So why, you might be wondering in the brief nano-second before you close the browser, is this entry here? Why are three games counting as one entry? Why is this list comprised exclusively of singleplayer focused, storyline driven games? Why was Firefly cancelled while the like of Two and a Half Men continue?

In order, the Mass Effect franchise as a whole is a very important step forward for gaming and represents a massive and outstandingly fun achievement. Tantamount to the series enjoyment is the playing of all three games in order so they kinda count as one experience. Singleplayer gaming is, was, and will always be the core of gaming’s purpose: to entertain through interactive experience. Multiplayer is great too, and is increasingly implanted in ingenious ways, but singleplayer and storyline remain the greatest experiences to be had from the gaming industry.

Finally, the answer to the last question is that either god does not exist or he\she\it is dead. If Firefly comes back and the entire cast of Two and a Half Men get genital warts from each other then this statement will be revised.

Back to Mass Effect. The games are cinematic, outstandingly written, massive in scope, awesome in concept and mouth dropping in execution. Given Bioware’s status as a developer and given what we have seen of Mass Effect 3, it is a reasonable assumption to say that the trilogy will end properly.

When it does, one can stand by the statement that the series will be a shining example of determination and artistic achievement. The company has held a vision for nearly a decade and across three games to see fruition. The series represents the only modern franchise that actually tracks decisions across all three games and is also one of the very few series in history to start and end on a single generation of hardware, with a single developer at its helm. One company, one vision, one epic story, three games.


 
 
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