Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Random Shots: The War In Ferguson, Missouri

  • Being a gamer, I cannot help but examine the situation in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, from a design perspective. What are the sides? What are the rules? What are the win conditions? On one side, you have the police, tasked with keeping the peace and protecting their power, primarily through the threat of their military arsenal. On the opposite side you have the agitators, attempting to stir up chaos through property damage and violence. And in the middle you have the protesters, the people of the town how are fed up with being terrorized, putting themselves between two terrorist groups to prove their point. But since the police and the agitators have no problem putting the protesters in the meat grinder to further their cause, their only win condition is to survive.

  • There have been several times over the course of the week that I have tried and failed to get a grip on what is happening. The police absolutely have to insure the safety of the community. And since the night time protests act have cover for black bloc agitators to assault the police, vandalize, and loot, the police do their very favorite thing: wield indiscriminate power against the citizenry. The police rule not through trust, but through intimidation, and that is what they are doing every night.

  • The agitators' end game is more nebulous. Who knows if they want an uprising or if they just want to see the world burn? So although many think they want a straight up confrontation with the police, I fear there is something more sinister. I fear that what they really want is for the police to expose the depths of their violence and start killing the protesters.

  • My wife asked me why, with all of this going on, do the protesters keep doing it? I couldn't answer her then, but I know now. As soon as the protests stop, the eyes of the world turn away. The police get to sweep this all under the carpet, no one is ever charged in the killing, and life returns to normal, as horrible as normal is to the people of Ferguson. And then Michael Brown is nothing but a footnote in a history book America would rather forget anyway.

  • This is too important to forget.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

News Filter: The Latest from Gamescom 2014

  • There has been some interesting news coming out of Cologne for 2014's Gamescom.

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider becomes an Xbox exclusive - I woke up yesterday to a twitter feed full of incredulous reports that Tomb Raider had gone exclusive. Of course, the word "exclusive" has been twisted to so many dark purposes that no one understood what just how exclusive this exclusive was. Of course, it's not Phil Spencer's job to explain what other platforms the game might launch on. And Crystal Dynamics doesn't want to undercut the deal they made to launch on Xbox by confirming they would eventually launch on other platforms. Since then, the Xbox team did reveal that the exclusivity was for a fixed duration, but the internet is already on fire. About a game that won't be out for more than a year. Yay.

  • Bloodborne hands-on demo - If there is any game on the horizon that makes me glad I chose the PSR over the XB1, it is Bloodborne. There are people playing it right now and I'm not one of them. I am so jealous! Even though I can't be there, it has been exciting to read about how it differs from the Souls games.

  • The announcement of Silent Hills - Hideo Kojima. Guillermo Del Toro. Norman Reedus. A playable teaser demo under the name "P.T." to reveal the return of Silent Hill. We don't get very many surprises in the video game world. I'm so happy they pulled this off. I've never played a Silent Hill game, but I almost want to buy this to reward their audacity. Maybe I'll try that demo first and see if I survive...

  • In the middle of a pretty horrific week, it is good to have something to reminding that not everything is terrible. Did you hear anything from Gamescom that got you excited?

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Played Lately: Tomb Raider (2013)

  • It has been a windy road that lead me to finally playing Tomb Raider, the modern, gritty reboot of the classic franchise. I first played the opening hours when my brother brought his Xbox 360 copy along for a visit. I liked it, right up until I screwed up several quick time events. Eventually, I put the game in my Amazon wish list because I thought it would fun to play on my new PS4. Then around my birthday, I bought a new computer and started reinstalling Steam games. As I was combing through my library, I discovered that past me had the foresight to pick up a copy during some sale. I thanked past me for looking out for me and installed the game.

  • I'm not one of those people who are sick of gritty reboots. In the hands of a deft storyteller, I like the new Lara. I like how she overcomes her challenges because she knows she is the only one who can. I like watching this woman discover that she is extraordinary. (I don't like the much too real death animations, but they don't seem to linger as much as I remember.) It hit me when we (Lara and I) reached the top of the radio tower. This woman does not believe in herself, but she's willing to do the hard work anyway. And as she goes along, she builds in confidence until she is ready to take charge of her situation. It's actually a very subtle change that happens over the course of many hours.

  • One concession to playability I made was to turn the combat difficulty down to easy. The last thing I want to do is replay multiple firefights when the exploration and story are what I'm really looking for. I cursed that there was no difficulty setting for the quick time events, but they seemed a little easier in this PC version. At least, I only died needlessly several times instead of the relentless cavalcade of horrific murders my slow fingers committed over and over again.

  • When it's at its best, Tomb Raider makes you feel like you are exploring a neatly crafted, if fairly linear, puzzle-like world. The back story establishes why the enviroment can differ so much from level to level. Unlike the Assassin's Creed games where you hold your stick in a direction and your avatar climbs, traversal feels like an active process. Various clues inform you of which actions to perform without flashing button prompts on the screen.

  • I did not one hundred percent the game, but I came away satisfied. The ending was intense, and there was no massive boss monster to overcome. Tomb Raider is likely to be one of my favorite games of the year.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Five: Articles About Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines

  • Usually I write these blog posts because I want to share my thoughts with the world. Not so much this one. I just want a place to keep links to all of these great articles about Bloodlines. You should read them, but this one is all for me.

  • Vampire: Bloodlines – Heather and Me by Kieron Gillen, April 9, 2008 - Kieron Gillen reminisces on his interactions with one NPC in the game and how it made him evaluate how far he would go in becoming a creature of the night.

  • Forever Young, The Tragedy Of Bloodlines by Jim Rossignol, February 11, 2009 - Jim Rossignol discusses how this massive game went wrong and why it is worth playing anyway.

  • Retrospective: Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines by Lewis Denby, July 4, 2009 - Lewis Denby reassesses Bloodlines, making a case for why this broken masterwork is still worth experiencing.

  • Reanimated: The story of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines by Rick Lane, July 10, 2013 - Rick Lane discusses Bloodlines' troubled development and what the extraordinary lengths the community has done to patch the holes as best it can.

  • S.EXE: Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines Part 1 by Cara Ellison, June 20, 2014 - Cara Ellison tackles the sexuality inherent to the vampire mythology and who it is represented in Bloodlines.

  • Is anyone else weirded out that all of these articles come from the UK?

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Played Lately: Catch-Up Day!

  • Warning: I am about the bend the definition of "Played Lately" far beyond to bounds of our reality. Please wear proper eye and respiratory protection while in contact with this blog post.

  • Dark Souls - I finally completed Dark Souls on February 7, 2014, twenty-eight months after it was released. Were I to name a "Game of the Generation" (which I'm really thinking about doing), it would be a contender for the top spot. Dark Souls does not waste any time explaining itself. You get a tutorial about how to use the controls, and then they throw a giant demon at you. That sink-or-swim attitude drove many people away. But the positive word of mouth that made the game a phenomenon is not wrong. It rewards patience and planning, not reflexes and button mashing. Combat is not fast paced. It is thoughtful and deliberate. You can't bend the game to play like you would any other. It teaches you to play its way or not at all.

    I love that each combat is deadly. There are no filler encounters. You take each fight seriously or you will die.

    Of course, I did play it wrong. I had the wikis and maps to guide me through. But even with their assistance, I had to make my way through the game. I had to fight the bosses and I had to win the game. I was a gaming experience I will not soon forget.

  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - What better way to follow up one of the most intense fantasy gaming experience of the decade than with a flashy, action intense epic like Reckoning. While a good game, it didn't blow the world away. It very much feels like a cross between The Elder Scrolls and World of Warcraft. It's a big, single player MMO and it looks beautiful. I can't get over how pretty everything is. Of course, I had other things to do so I put it down and moved on. But it actually is a neat game.

  • Disney Magical World - Have you ever played Animal Crossing but wished it was an actual game? That's what Disney Magical World is. At the start of the game, you receive an invitation to Castleton, a magical crossroads for various Disney worlds. Upon arrival, you learn how to shop, dress, fish, harvest, craft items, and run a cafe. Then once the tutorial is over, you are sent to one of the other lands to defeat the ghosts who have overrun them. Progression is gated by achievements via the sticker book, so there is always guidance for how to advance though the game. If you are a Disney fan, this a cute, fun adventure.

  • Dark Souls II - Then I put everything else down to play Dark Souls II. There is a lot to recommend this game. The: combat is intense and the world is expansive and full of reward. But it does not have the same spark that Dark Souls did. I don't know whether to blame me or the game. But I did not find the same awe I found in the first game.

  • I appreciate anyone who happens to read this post. It has been a while since I last wrote for real and I've been missing it.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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