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Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Hiatus

I apologize for the lack of posts here recently. BlackHood has been keeping up with his posts, which is good for those of you who are interested in them, but I have not.

Life has been getting pretty busy and I haven't been able to give this blog the proper attention that it deserves. I am not leaving nor will I be closing/ending this blog forever, but I will be seen less in the next few months. I hope by next year that I will have more time but that depends on some things in my personal life.

You will see posts from me here and there like you have, but nothing like writing every single day or week.

I hope to cover some of the news when the iPhone 6 is announced and released as well as maybe even releasing a video if and when I upgrade to it, but we shall see when that time comes.

A friend of mine and myself will be working together on a separate project which will require more of my time than I have been able to give. If all goes according to plan, we anticipate that we will have much more free time in a few weeks to months. That means more time for this blog and possibly even upgrading to an actual website and hiring new writers and reporters. But, as I said, we shall see in due time.

In the meantime, I would like to thank each and every one of you who has supported us by reading our entries and sharing with friends. The exposure and popularity has been exciting for us and we look forward to continuing in the path that we have made with you guys. Your support for us is tremendously appreciated.

This hiatus seems necessary in some ways so that I can pursue what I ultimately want which, I believe, will be best for WIFLI in the future.

Stay tuned, and thanks!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Super Time Force Ultra PC Review - 8/10

So I will admit that I am not the target audience for this game. I am not a person who enjoys puzzles nor timed games in the slightest. I was always that person who never played a game for a specific, weird and somewhat trivial reason. I don't play any of the retro Sonic games because I would never want to go to one of the water levels. When it comes to puzzle games, I'm the first person to go onto a gaming site just to get the solution rather than use my brain to figure things out. While I do enjoy the Professor Layton games, there's always one of those puzzles where I waste all of my coins on a simple thing that I slap myself for not realizing it sooner. In other words, I'm not a patient man. When I heard about this game, the premise wasn't bad. I liked it but then just groaned heavily at the thought of a timed game, and sixty seconds at that to clear an entire level. Though I must say this game isn't terrible. Worth the fourteen bucks?

The Good:
I say this a lot but I love minimalistic graphics. Pixelated, cell shaded. It helps my computer run smoothly and the game's visuals will age well later on. If you've played Risk of Rain, think of that but with a lot more color and closer up.
I'm kind of sorry I skipped through all the dialogue at the beginning because this game is actually pretty funny. Some games are so bland they rival the flavor of stale bread while others just can't contain how little the story matters through a barrage of jokes. Lets just say I'd rather have the second to the first and this game is somewhere in between. Its a ridiculous premise right off the bat and it doesn't care.
Some games have never really mastered firing in all directions, which makes them more of a pain than they should be. Not this game. You can fire in eight different directions which comes in handy with one of the characters who can shoot through objects. This makes the game flow more freely and gives you the ability to get past a pesky enemy who the other heroes can't as easily.
Like in Bro Force, you have a few characters to chose from and unlock them throughout the game, each with their own specialty and strengths. You start off with three: a chain gun hero who's charge attack can fire in three directions like the Spreader Gun from Contra, a woman who's gun can shoot through walls when charged up, and a guy who can bash people with his shield and who's charge attack creates a force field for a time. Each character plays differently in their own way but are all easy to handle.
The time aspect is annoying but what I do like is the approach to it. There is a sixty second timer for you to get through the level with a few time lengthen pick ups on the way. Dying is not much of a problem since once you do, you can rewind time back like in Prince of Persia. Only this time, you leave behind an after effect for the last hero. Should you save that hero from death, you get an extra hit before you die. Not only that, but you also get all the shots the hero fired which comes in handy a lot. I had some trouble with a boss and died a bunch of times because time ran out. The after effect really came in handy for me to at least get a bit more time to keep going since all the past characters were firing and doing damage to the boss. So instead of a boss I couldn't beat, therefore forcing me to go back to the beginning, I stacked up a bunch of heroes and found my own way.

The Meh:
I cannot stress how much I dislike timed activities. Its part of the reason I never used the safari in the Pokemon games because I could never catch what I wanted before time ran out. Nevertheless, this isn't a bad mechanic. Its in a way that I don't like it but I can't exactly fault it either. What it comes down to is a mechanic that can be mastered, like fighting in Dark Souls or even getting better at a FPS. I can't exactly fault it because I know that people can use it to their advantage and find alternative routes. What would have made it bad is if the mechanic for it or the mechanic itself was somewhat broken or unappealing. Basically, it works so I can't fault it for that.

So, all in all, not a bad game. Was it worth the 14 bucks? Maybe. Personally, its not a game I feel I need to play again if only for the somewhat frustrating parts, but in the end I'm not going to Steam's website trying to get a refund (yes I have tried that for another game before and it didn't work). Its one of those titles that I may download again considering the low amount of space it takes up on my computer. If this sounds like your kind of game, then have fun. There's a special deal on Steam right now where its 10% off till September 1st.

Monday, August 18, 2014

[Tutorial] Picking the Right Password

Unfortunately, picking a password isn't as easy or secure as it was a decade ago. Back in the late 90's, it was okay to have a password that was 1234. Nowadays, kids can get their hands on software that can crack passwords within 24 hours with no issues. Companies in charge of accounts that deal with passwords aren't taking any chances either and are requiring passwords with certain rules and a change in password every so often.

Many of us are left stuck when we are forced to change our password. It becomes a drag on our time because now we have to remember something that we never wanted to change in the first place. Services like Yahoo! require password changes regularly because their servers are constantly being attacked. With that, they make it near impossible to keep a password for a while because they won't allow you to use old passwords.

So now you need to think of a new password, but you're not sure where to start. In this blog, I wanted to give you guys some tips on how to make some great passwords that are not only difficult to crack but also easy to remember.

First, I think it's important that you guys understand how password cracking is usually done. The most common method can take hours or days to do. Basically, it is a program that will go through every possible password that can be done. The idea of creating a good password is one that cannot be easily decoded by this device. To understand how to make a good password, you should know how a lot of these programs begin. Picking a password that contains all sorts of characters will force the machine to take even longer and perhaps even damage it as a bonus ;)

The machines usually start by choosing the letter A or the number 1. If the attempt to use that password failed, then they choose B then C then D until they get to Z. At this point, they may try numbers, or a combination of letters starting with AA, AB, etc. then AAB, AAC, etc.

Knowing this, it should make you cautious of using a password that begins with the combination ABC or 123 even if it ends in something else because this is what the program likely starts with.

To have a great password that is near unbreakable, you should have lots of seemingly random numbers, capital and lower case letters, as well as special characters like the ones above your numbers at the top of the keyboard (!@#$%^&*()).

Choosing something like this doesn't mean that the program will not find your password, it just means that it can take a very long time. The more weird and unusual characters you have, the longer it takes for the program to solve the password combination. If it takes more than 2 weeks, which some passwords can take that long to crack, a hacker may just say forget it and move on to another person to crack.

When I say seemingly random, I mean numbers that are not directly beside one another or aren't usually combined. Also, try not to pick numbers that repeat such as 666 or 777 even if they are at the back such as "ndh777". What can seem random to a computer may be something like your birthday. If your birthday is July 27, 1975, you could use the combination 07271975. To a computer, they wouldn't know where that code came from and it seems so random that they would have a difficult time finding it.

However, if a hacker finds out your birthday, they could feed it to the program and the program would begin by searching for numbers with your birthday included. To prevent it from figuring it out too soon, add some extra numbers and letters before and after your birthday.

One of the best combinations you can do is add numbers and letters that are personal to you and things that are not likely on a government or official file such as your favorite number or maybe a serial number to a favorite device of yours or maybe even the birth date, wedding, etc. of a friend. This would throw off the computer because this number has no direct relation to you. The only real downside to this is that it'd be a bit harder to remember if you ever forget. But if you memorize it, which you will if you constantly have to input it, you shouldn't have to worry about this.

For an example, let's make up somebody and give them a password. Their name is John Doe, they live on 74537 Main St. USA, their birthday is July 27, 2072, their social security number is 048276253, their wedding anniversary is December 31, 2094, and their favorite number is 38. We have so many numbers to choose from here to create our password. Let's try some combinations that you can see how they come from it and can be easy to remember if this is information about you.
j3072720728D: This password looks so odd and off the wall that anyone who sees it probably won't remember. This is also another good reason for using a password with so many numbers. People can remember names and words even if they make no sense because they sound it out. But how do you remember 3,072,720,728 especially when it doesn't have any commas? And, it also contains two letters which really throws people off! But if you are this John Doe, and you see this, you can remember it because it's easy to see which numbers are which.

I put a lower case j in the front because his first name is John. Thinking about it now, you could make it even more secure by adding the j at the end to really throw someone off. But this way is fine too. The first 3 comes from the 38 in his favorite number. The second number is altogether 07272072. This is his birthday exactly as it is written. 07-July; 27-day; 2072-year. The last number 8 comes from his favorite number 38. And the capital D at the end is for his last name Doe.

Do you see how easy it can be to remember a password like that for yourself? Put in your details and create a password like that and you'll be set! Don't be afraid to use other numbers too like your address, social, etc. However, be cautious when adding things like your social. Social Security Numbers have a certain look to them that can be picked up on.

Let's say a hacker was able to crack your impenetrable password and now can see exactly what you wrote. By knowing how other socials look, he/she can be able to identify that this too is a SSN and learn even more information about you! Instead, try to scramble the numbers, add fake numbers to the sequence, or only use a piece of the numbers like just the first and last numbers or whatever is mostly commonly used in it.

Once you've created a password, it's a good idea to write it down somewhere. The first few times of inputting it may be difficult and you might need to look back at it for reference. Keep it somewhere safe that only you know where it is. Also, if you do happen to write it down, just leave the number and don't write anything else on it such as "Password=73892732". If someone finds your note and all it says is "732984732", they might not be able to determine what the number is used for.

When it comes to online accounts, they become more tricky to pick. A hacker usually cannot use this same method above to determine your password as accounts will only allow X number of attempts before locking your account. The hacker will only have 3-5 chances before striking out.

So you may now be wondering how they can crack an account. Usually it's because you use the same password for multiples places (your Facebook password is the same as your Yahoo! Mail password), the hacker has hacked into a server (for Facebook or Yahoo!) and it lists everyone's e-mail and password to unlock the account, or they picked up on it through information you sent over the internet.

One of the worst places is at a public hotspot like Starbucks. My cousin showed me a program he obtained somewhere that allows him to pick up anything sent out by computers at these places and find out what websites they are visiting and any passwords and e-mails they are using to log in. Knowing this, you should limit the amount of time you spend online at these places, consider using your phone's WiFi hotspot feature instead, or not visit and log into websites like your bank account with Chase.

If the hacker has hacked into the actual server at Facebook, Yahoo!, etc., the company will usually inform you of this breach or you'll hear about it on the news. They will likely force you to change your password. There is no real way to protect yourself from these attacks except just finding a newer, better password to change to.

Try not using the same passwords for every account you have. I know it becomes difficult when you have 5 e-mail accounts, 1 Facebook, 1 MySpace, 1 Hulu, 1 Netflix, etc. but you'll be glad you did when your account is compromised. If someone figures out your Facebook password, they can now get into your e-mail if the passwords are the same. Once this is done, there will be no way for you to regain control of your Facebook account. Try having as many different passwords as you can.

Also, be extremely cautious of who you lend your password to. Keep a record of who you've given it to. In case of a fall out with this person, it would be a good idea to change your password that they know so they can't use it maliciously. It's even better to not share your password at all with anyone to limit the people who have access to your account.

By following the steps above, I hope you've been able to find the right password combination that works for you. Don't be discouraged when you are required to make a new password. Just follow the steps above again to pick a new password.

So far, my success has been great. I have had a few accounts compromised, but not as many as others. My password techniques seem to be helpful in eliminating the ease for someone to cause harm to me by figuring out an easy password. Just remember that this system, or any other, for that matter, are not infallible. You will still be prone to attacks. Picking the right password just makes it more difficult for someone to crack.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Microsoft and their Exclusives

"Ryse and Dead Rising 3 will be exclusive to the Xbox One". This is what I was told some time ago when the Xbox One made its debut. Now, that has been repealed. Both these games will be ported to Steam for users to be able to play it on their computers.
"Fable Anniversary edition will be exclusive to Xbox 360 and will not be able to be played on any other platform". Guess what got repealed?

I'm going to go out here and say this. I was ultra pissed that Fable Anniversary was only going to be on 360. I still have an Xbox 360, I was just mad considering the nostalgic value I had for the game wasn't going to be with me for whenever I wanted. I knew Ryse wasn't going to be a good game and I've never been a Dead Rising fan myself. I only played the first game and felt it was okay, then bought the second game on Steam, had to deal with that Games for Windows crap and when I found out I couldn't use my controller I never touched it again. I've had sort of a love hate relationship with Microsoft. The first major console I owned that was still churning out games was the original Xbox. I always thought that Live was a really dumb idea even at a young age, but I was glad it was in the back round and didn't force me to have it. Then the 360 came around and pissed me off. Forcing you to have this subscription to something I never used or wanted to use and I forced myself to like it in any way. I still don't like it.
Its not a stretch to say that Microsoft has taken the biggest 180 of a company I've ever seen and for a change its been a good 180. The direction of the Xbox One took less of an extra tv box for your living room and turned back into a more gaming oriented system, without having to cut down on any of the things they previously promised. You know that annoying Live system where you can't use Netflix and other stuff like that? Gone. You can now use it even without paying a monthly subscription. Its an awesome concept where I can use what I've purchased without some stupid pay wall.
So what about this talk of exclusives? I still kind of have some hate for Microsoft. See, I actually do like Fable. For all of its faults and missteps, its actually a great series. Funny, the combat is pretty decent and I like playing it. Imagine my disappointment when some of the games were pulled from Steam... and no one said anything. Sure, fan outcry and people mad they didn't get any refund of any kind. One day I felt like purchasing Fable 2 but I felt like maybe later. I come back later and its just gone. Fable 3 is on there and I actually liked it but again, didn't purchase it. Now its gone. Despite my better judgments, I purchased the first Fable a few months before I noticed the Anniversary edition is going to be on Steam and this thought reoccurred to me. How they just took the games away from people without a single word. Being of sound mind and intelligence I can say this sucks but there are a plethora of reasons why this could have happened, so I'm not too keen on dogging on things I don't have all the facts on. In fact, I wasn't too surprised really. They'd done the same thing with me before on my 360. I had Jade Empire and Stubbs the Zombie installed on my hard drive. I only had a 20 gig brick so I had to delete them for another game. Once I decided I wanted them back, GONE. Both games just gone. Not in my library, not in the store. Gone. I checked online and saw no trace of them. No refund, no notification that they would be taken off. Just gone.
Whenever I hear about exclusives, my mind thinks about Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft is still kind of weird about their exclusives. While they've taken a better turn, I'm still wary of them. There's a lot of things I'd like to fix about them, but they are the least on my list of video game problems. Up there is getting video games to be treated as art not just by others but also by the developers themselves so they stop pushing generic schlock out there. Getting EA to stop messing with us. Hell, buy Capcom and make the games they haven't (new Mega-Man maybe, get Dragon's Dogma 2 rolling along and bring Resident Evil back into horror).
Honestly, I'm glad that we get these previously 'unavailables' out there. The developers get more money, thereby making it so good games get the recognition they deserve (not Ryse), and a wider audience gets to experience these games. I would like to say this is going to be Microsoft's norm... but its not. Exclusives rake in the console sales and that's fine. I'm just saying throw the PC guys a bone for a change. You do make computers so it wouldn't be the weirdest concept to port some games to PC. Just... get rid of Windows Live for good, please?

"So, what's the deal with two Assassin's Creed games?"

"Ugh! Ubisoft is just trying to take more of our money!" you might say. "At least one of these games will suck since they were both made by the same company, so one obviously got more work on it than the other!" others may say. This is me adding my two cents on why there are two Assassin's games this time around.

First of all, yes. Ubisoft does want your money. They are a corporation. They make money to provide for their employees and continue business. Nuff said. Though to say that either game is a simple cash grab is far from the truth. Whereas Revelations could be considered the cash grab in the series, every other game is (kind of different). With the exception of all the Ezio games, Assassin's Creed isn't going the way of Call of Duty just churning out whatever. As much as I dislike Ubisoft's business practices, I have nothing against their games... save for the fact I still have to use Uplay on my computer if I ever want to play just about any Ubisoft game.
Lastly, no. The fact that the same company has worked on two games at once does not always mean at least one game will suffer from the lack of attention being divided. If I may use an example, I am a fan of Dark Souls. When I heard Bloodborne was coming out from the same developer, using my common sense and eyes, I noticed that the game was near complete. A thought popped into my head. Since Dark Souls 2 had come out not too long after this footage was released, I surmised that the game was in development during Dark Souls 2. I was... less than ecstatic which I regret now. I also thought that one game would have suffered from the division of team support at the company. And considering From Software's staff is pretty sparse compared to other companies, I was... slightly justified in thinking so. However, I forgot that each game in the 'Souls' series has had its own team tied to it, with very few overlappings in between of staff. Each game was given the attention it needed by a specific group of people and the games were released. How does that apply here? AC is Ubisoft's big money maker. It comes out around every two years and is the way they pretty much pay their bills. To think they'd give any less than their all on what is essentially the lump of their proverbial paycheck for the year is absurd.
So what does this actually mean? Why are they releasing two AAA main titles at relatively the same time? Each game is tailored to a different player. For me, I'm going Rouge (the game not... the other thing). Each game is surprisingly different. Rouge is extremely close to what the other games have been while Unity is the new kid on the block. Unity is meant to show you what the big title for AC will be from now on. New pretty much everything. Its like the next Call of Duty trying to show up the previous title. Whereas Rogue is going to be fresh while still grounded. Rouge is going to follow a story that is almost completely far removed from the others, making sure its a different experience for story telling aspects while giving the player the things we've come to love. Unity is like the rebellious son trying to get away from his dad, being almost totally different and doing his own thing. Ubisoft talked about how they are going to split up the two titles so this is more of an appetizer for what is to come. Rouge will split off into ship combat while Unity splits into new stuff. If I had to choose, it would be Rouge. It seems like whoever is working on the game, seems to want to look at the stories of the past to enrich the one they're making. Flipping our ideals and making us play as what we've come to know as the bad guy. Thereby developing a new narrative focus on the two spectrums instead of the Templars just being "evil cause they're evil". Apart from that they're doing away with the forced multiplayer I've always hated in the series so I'm glad with that.
Its not to say I won't play Unity, just if I had to choose between just one I would pick the one that caters to me. I'm always a 'having fun is better than pretty graphics' type person. The game could look worse than a pile of crap but as long as I'm having fun, I'm having fun. Kind of like someone asking me if I prefer Saints Row or Grand Theft Auto. They're both two different games with different vibes. While GTA is more about satire and world events, Saints Row goes for the big one and just has fun with itself. Neither game is superior, they just give me different feelings and neither will satisfy the same feeling.
In short, two AC games is the divergent we may be seeing more of. Differences in similarities that each cater to one specific group while not necessarily alienating the other.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How Much Does All of the Sims 3 DLC Cost Together? [/rant]

In preparation and excitement for the newest release in The Sims series, The Sims 4, I have been playing with The Sims 3 over the past couple of weeks. It's been exciting to play what I once played day after day on my Xbox 360 now on my computer.

Electronic Arts has been feeling a bit more generous with their older titles on Origin and has been giving them away for free or for very low prices. I received my copy on Origin for $4.99 a few months ago (had a disc based version first) when it normally costs around $19.99.

Over the past few weeks of playing, I've been wondering about what DLC I should purchase to add on to my Sim's collection. Many games that have DLCs launch a version a year or two after its release usually entitled "The Sims Game of the Year Edition" that contains not only the game but also all of the DLC that was included after launch. At this point, the game, by itself, will cost around $19.99 or sometimes even $29.99 and the GOTY version will cost $59.99.

I had never heard of any Sims game being released with GOTY edition before but I wondered if one even existed. EA has released other games with GOTY editions (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, etc.) so it's not as if the publisher is ignorant to the idea.

The Sims is probably one of the only games out there that has as many DLCs as it does for each game. Each DLC costs $29.99 at launch and usually lowers down to $19.99.

So I did a little searching and found no such thing as a GOTY edition. Instead of that, I added all of the DLC that I could find in Origin and Steam to a cart for purchase to see how much it would all total up to.

On Origin, I found 24 DLCs and here's how much they would cost:


To buy all 24 DLC from Origin for The Sims 3, it would cost you $479.76. This is at the price of $19.99 for each DLC. Remember that DLCs are more expensive at launch so this number would be higher a few years ago.

On Steam, I found 18 DLCs and here's how much they would cost:


To buy all 18 DLC from Steam for The Sims 3, it would cost you $359.82. Again, remember that this is at the current price of $19.99. You can save $9 if you purchase some special edition packs like "The Sims 3 Plus Pets" which includes both The Sims 3 and The Sims 3 Pets together. However, this is only for people who do not already own The Sims 3 standalone. Also, there is sales tax for Steam customers who live in Washington state which is 6.5% and can be as much as 9.5%. With that said, add an additional $23.39 at 6.5% or $34.18 at 9.5%.

This is quite ridiculous when you get down to it. What makes it even more infuriating for gamers, like myself, who enjoy game after game in the Sims series, is that DLCs are supposed to be ways for developers to release content that they thought about after the game has already been released or is in its final moments prior to release. Instead, companies like EA have decided that they'd rather take advantage of this system to milk their customers for all that they've got.

When the original The Sims game was released, it was fun for players but it was missing some things such as pets for their Sims to play with. EA got the idea to release extra content to gamers through The Sims: Unleashed which was basically DLC for its time, although not available for download, through an extra disc that had to be purchased like it is now. (The term "DLC" stands for downloadable content.) At that time, it was okay in customers' eyes for them to do this as it's easy to give them the benefit of the doubt that, "Well, they might not have thought of the idea of pets at the time in development, so they released it later for us to use."

However, this was certainly not the case as they did it again when The Sims 2 was released and then again when The Sims 3 was released! After the first game, its evident that this should have been added into the game. The only reason for making it available as a DLC after the fact, is that they wanted to maximize their profits by stripping the game of what should have already been.

For some DLC, mainly the special edition packs like Diesel clothing line for Sims, I can see these being added after the game has already been released. For one, not every Sims 1, 2, 3, or 4 customer will use these clothing for their Sims so it's a waste for the developer to pay royalties to the Diesel brand for being used in their game...that is, if they are the ones paying royalty.

If Diesel pays EA to have their merchandise featured in the Sims, it doesn't quite make sense for EA to then charge customers for the same content. In EA's defense, they have given free content to users with company's products and logos. A Ford Focus and Fiesta were officially added into The Sims 3 and given to users as a free download. Perhaps, Ford's deal with EA was that Ford pays to have the car put into the game as a way of promoting their product while Diesel was paid by EA to be featured. That would explain why they would charge for one and not the other. But, if EA was paid by Diesel, it would be unfair to charge as it would be double dipping into profits. In the end, it's their deal and they can do what they want. All I'm saying is that it's unfair to consumers to charge us for something that is meant for promotional, commercial purposes.

When searching online for a GOTY edition, I came across a forum where people were discussing the prices of the DLC and a GOTY edition. One user made an interesting point, and that was that EA wouldn't release a GOTY edition for a game like this because players are less likely to shell out hundreds of dollars for the entire pack than they are to just buying each DLC separately. It's true, for many gamers, they may stay away from a GOTY edition and it may even cause them to realize how much they really spent on their game in whole.

Typically, when big sales happen like this, especially on Steam, players are given a discounted rate. Rather than pay the $350+ for all of the DLC, players might only be required to pay less than $350 which would give them one or two of the DLCs at $0. This is certainly the case for many titles on Steam, such as the Valve Complete Pack that gives customers access to every Valve game for $99. By buying this pack, rather than each game individually, Steam tells you how much you will save.


Normally, the price would cost you $205.80 but buying the pack will save you $105.81! Doing the math based on how much each game costs will tell you how many games you would receive virtually free.

Knowing all this, it seems that EA doesn't want to give users a deal. It would cut too much into their foreseen profits by continuing to charge people per DLC than for all of them at once at a slightly discounted price. Not only that, they probably realize how much better it is for them to keep charging these prices than all at once as it doesn't really occur to people how much they truly spend.

Then again, buying DLCs individually could be best for the consumer. As I was looking through the various DLC packages available, I kept thinking to myself, "That one isn't really appealing." Only a few caught my eye such as the Pets and University packs. But I don't really care about the future one, the car pack, or many of the clothing packs. Perhaps, if I only got what I wanted, I'd probably spend a little less than $100 in DLC purchases. Although, who knows? I might actually end up enjoying the other DLCs.

In your opinion, what do you think of DLCs in general? Do you think that they're a good idea or are they just a way for companies to make some extra bucks on us even though we've already paid for the game? Did the total amount for the DLCs surprise you or did you have a feeling that it would be that expensive?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Mass Effect 4 Can Succeed (By Learning)

Games are sparse and my wallet is thoroughly empty after the ensuing Steam Sale and approaching Fall semester of college. You may have heard me audibly groan through the computer, and perhaps time depending upon when you're reading this. Instead of simply doing nothing and wasting away, I felt I'd put my two cents into the Mass Effect news... or lack thereof. Seriously, Bioware! As soon as I think you've cut the shackles of EA you show how much the indoctrination has seeped into your company. All joking aside, Bioware is at least third on my favorite game companies list, tied with Rockstar which is a respectable company to be paired with. Each make incredible games and I generally don't have a problem with the way they handle themselves internally. Even with their games that everyone and their grandmother can say was their worst they actually do an admirable job at it being leagues above other games.
I've been playing the Mass Effect series over because I wasn't sure Tali and I had the most stable relationship ever. Admittedly its been kind of bland or otherwise barren as far as new game releases go. E3 is usually, and ironically, the time which games come to a slump and rightfully so because developers have either been polishing their games for E3 or the crap has come to wade in the pool of the market to dirty it up before the triple A developers get angry and bring out the cleaning supplies.
There were a few things I remembered and found out by replaying all three games and felt I'd share it with you... because Bioware isn't taking my calls... again. Namely how Mass Effect 4 can be a good game.

-First off, don't call it Mass Effect 4. Okay that's a minor gripe but the whole thing is that its a new game, new protagonist and pretty much new everything. But on the subject of the '4' title there's something I've always wanted: my own character. So Shepherd wasn't a bad guy/gal right? I suppose, albeit very bland really. Its the classic 'Keanu Reaves is the perfect action hero' in the sense that you take a somewhat boring person to make them relateable to the target audience. Neo was to the 90's was disenfranchised kids felt like back then. Made you feel special, powerful and like you actually mattered. Neo was perfect because he was pretty much the typical male save strip out a lot of character defining factors so we could pretend to be him. And ultimately it worked. Though I think we can go in a different route. My biggest thought on how to make the game great is a simple RPG staple that I think they've seemed to have forgotten with the very first Dragon Age. See you could be one of three different races and within those races were subtle openings from which you were introduced into the story. Say if I was an elf I could either be the boring but nicely not screwed over with ridiculous tattoos on my face like Mike Tyson or I could be the Tyson-esque elf who got into Dalish camps more easily. It was pretty much cosmetic but it was nice the way characters and enemies interacted with me whether giving me a harder or easier time. They did the same thing with the first Mass Effect, but the choices were so bare and they only reared in the sequel never to pop up again. Yes never. They do nothing other than to simply introduce the character of Shepherd as being one of nine possible choices... and then nothing. Nothing came of it other than a simple dialogue conversation between two characters... TWICE. It would be nice if these choices meant anything. Like if I went to a colony as a colonist back story, people may notice me or even someone would comment on it. Mass Effect 2 did sort of more with it as well as 3. Go up to a random news kiosk and listen to it on your way to buying more guns and you'd just hear a small snip it of what your Shepherd was. For me I was a biotic who was a colonist. They gave grants to school kids inside the game. I hope those invisible kids got something out of it cause all I got was a "Huh" from myself. Apart from actually having some story implications, the best thing they can do is add bonuses. Say if I joined the Alliance Navy I could do more damage with a certain type of gun. Or perhaps I could have some extra training with weapons. Or better yet, since I always pick I biotic, it would be nice to have gone to a biotic school or something, giving me more training in the stuff out of the gate. The one thing Dragon Age 2 also got right was the dialogue tree right. I could choose between three different responses: Boring good guy, evil dick head and joker. I. WANT. THIS. BACK. New guy/gal can be a cocky space captain. Shooting first and asking questions NEVER. I can be the guy who's always joking in a situation whether it calls for it or not. Gives my character personality rather than just being 'the boring dude who is going to save us all'. Main problem I had with Shepherd is apart from making decisions and making him look almost exactly like me, he never felt like me. There was no cocky attitude I could take, not snarky comments when I felt it was fun. Sure, he did it every so often, but it was so random I could never really tell what tree choice would make it until I played through it and reloaded it. On a side note, EA: MAKE A GAME WHERE I CAN PLAY AS HAN SOLO. Open world sandbox where I can fly around and do as I please. That's all I ask!... among the other things I ask for.

-Appeal to the fans, not to new players. Small gripe but I'm going to tell you exactly why everyone didn't like ME 3 to the unarguably better ME 2: it was a movie. So not literally but you can kind of see what I mean when I write this. The opening scene says it all. This is basically a war movie with a dash of scifi added to the mix. You run out and things EXPLODE. GUNS. FIGHT STUFF. NO TIME FOR PLOT DEVELOPMENT OTHER THAN STUFF THEY DO IN MOVIES. ME 2 did this best. The beginning is still one of the most breath taking scenes in all of gaming for me. I screwed up with my character in the game so I restarted and I still got the butterflies in my stomach feeling when the moment came back. See that's what 2 did best. It made an almost perfect marriage of combat and RPG when the returning game did its best to make combat up front. Which isn't totally bad but Mass Effect is an RPG first. RPG in the sense I get a feeling I can skirt around certain things like plot and other boring things that end the game faster. They took out all of the sections where you can land on almost any planet and added annoying little sections you thought were good but just ended up being another time waster. I spent most of my time dicking around in ME 3 just trying to avoid the plot... and then I came across possibly the greatest jewel of the game... which I'm ashamed to admit.

-BRING. BACK. THE MULTIPLAYER. God that was painful... I absolutely HATE multiplayer in games. In Dark Souls, it at least felt I had some ability to use it but it was annoying when I got killed by players far better than me and made me feel even worse when I had to compromise between dying by other players but having the ability to summon other players for boss fights or go it solo... which always ended badly. I first played ME 3 on my Xbox and the first time I saw the galactic readiness rating NOT go up, I was furiously pissed. They shoe horned in this little ridiculous thing my anti social personality did not want to play. But for sake of completing the entire game I gave it a shot. Here's my experience: "Kicked from game. Kicked from game. Kicked from game. ETC". Immediately I gave up on the game then and there but when I bought it on Steam I decided to play it. It was actually extremely enjoyable. Yes I was still terrible, but it felt awesome. It actually did something in the game and once I'd gotten to 100% readiness... I kept playing. Unlocking new characters, skills and even weapons was extremely satisfying. Almost insanely so. It didn't have the trappings of a normal EA shooter either. Enemies were controlled by the AI and were difficult in their own right. The AI was intelligent and dangerous at times. Every skirmish was somewhat life and death and it was just awesome. Unlocking new weapons was done with in game cash. Cash that was easily earned through simply finishing a level. Do well and get more cash. Even when my entire team failed, I still got a lot of cash. I never found myself unable to buy one of the replenish-able packs after a match was done. Still... I have my gripes. The galactic readiness rating being the main one as well as it's greatest support. See single player and multiplayer can merge a beautiful relationship and sadly this was the closest I've ever seen. Once I was done with multiplayer, single player had little to do with it. The in game cash I accumulated could have been transferred to my single player character if I chose so. I always found myself scrounging for credits while my multiplayer self was practically burning it just because. I'm not saying the multiplayer should be horned in, far from it. I'm saying when both are amazing and they compliment each other its a beautiful thing. Like if I unlock a gun in single player I can use it in multi. Sounds nice right?

Thanks for reading this little chunk of stuff. Its always nice to know I've got people who are still reading my material. Hope you have a pleasant morning/afternoon/evening/night.

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