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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Anita Sarkeesian is Saving Gaming (By Being A Terrible Person)

Being a video gamer comes with a degree of defensiveness like liking anime or really anything society wouldn't consider the norm. On the one hand you love this thing and want others to love it too while on the other you know people will outright dismiss what you love and that can come with some mixed emotions. While detaching yourself to be able to take 'criticisms' is the best option its difficult to maintain. My mom and I disagree on this wholly. I use my time to play games while she says that I should be improving myself. I want to unwind and she wants me to do work. As hard as I try, sometimes I just snap back if only to end the conversation quicker.
But this isn't about me, rather a figure more caustic than my mom when it comes to the subject of video games. Anita Sarkeesian is pretty well known by this point but basically her story is that she became internet famous for 'discussing' women in video games. She blew up a few years ago and has kind of died down since. The White Knights of the internet have stopped defending her after more about her was revealed, specifically how she doesn't play games at all yet feels she can commentate on them. While I will hold my peace on her, at least for now, her videos are actually pretty intelligent and touch on some things I would consider to be good topics. While women in video games isn't a new concept their presence could use a bit of an update. While we have our now fair share of action heroines and complex female characters not simply there for sexual purposes we still have a bit of a ways to go.
The last thing I heard about her was before the release of Overwatch. She complained that there weren't enough females with diverse body types. Blizzard responded with the news that Zarya would be added to the roster and thanked her for her comment in so many words. Zarya is a... full figured woman. She's bad ass, strong and not overly sexualized. While I'm entirely sure she was planned to be launched with the game at the beginning Blizzard's response was spot on, which brings me to what I'm actually talking about. Demagogues (the people who speak the loudest) unfortunately will always be heard. Using what little fame she had she directed it to a problem and the problem was... 'solved'. This kind of thinking is like if you yell at a politician long enough they'll have to listen to you and solve your problem. The more people who join in the better.
Since Ms. Sarkeesian has been introduced to the world there has been a steady albeit slow up rise in female characters being put front and center or at least nearby their male counterparts in some equal capacity. Call of Duty Black Ops 3 released with the idea you could create your own character, male or female, to play in the world they had created. I just got an issue of Game Informer magazine in the mail not too long ago and the cover was for the new Call of Duty with both a male and female character each sharing a proportionate amount of space together. No one being greater or lesser than the other. While its not entirely thanks to her the market has now become more inclusive of the opposite sex when it comes to featuring roles, at the very least on the surface level. The new Mass Effect trailer released with, presumably, the female default character and no main male character. At least none that has been confirmed. This is a step forward from Mass Effect 3's cover which had a flip able cover between the two faces of Shepherd but featured Male Shep in all of the ads.
Part of the criticisms against gaming is the lack of complex female characters. While we haven't seen much of female villains (I believe the villain in the new Doom game is a lady) we're still taking great steps in the right direction. Each new step we take cuts down another one of these arguments that people use to cut down gaming as a whole. Not every game is a violent shooter, games can have complex narratives and now a balancing point for each gender is being struck. The new TellTale Walking Dead game is set to come out soon with Clementine still as the main character like the previous game. As little as you may like the woman she has brought forth a pretty decent dialogue. While places like Japan do have their own female driven games in greater supply than pretty much everywhere else (despite the sexual content they may contain) now American developers are getting in the groove with this. I remember not too long ago Ubisoft said there wouldn't be any female co-op characters in Assassin's Creed Unity because they "-couldn't get the character models to work with a feminine figure" (which is total bs btw) and then they released Assassin's Creed Syndicate which featured a brother and sister duo who were both playable from the start and the female twin, Evie, was almost completely non sexualized in favor of creating an interesting character.
To make an antivenom first you need the venom. Something caustic and pretty bad, but what can come out of it will be more beneficial than was before the venom itself.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mighty No. 9 PC Review - 6/10

I'm going to start off by saying that firstly if you came here to see me absolutely destroy this game then you'll be disappointed. Second, I'm going to be reviewing this based on the game, rather than the time cycle that it took to make it as well as how much money was given to make this. A bad game is a bad game regardless of the people behind it, the intentions or even how long it took to make/how much the product actually is. With that being said...
Mighty No. 9 (or Mighty Number 9) is a game made by the original creator of MegaMan. The game is clearly influenced by it intentionally as the creator felt his original game was underutilized by the company that now owns the rights so he formed his own studio to make essentially the same game minus the name and brand recognition. Its a platformer and a sidescroller.

The Good:
I do like the concept designs for all of the robots to say the very least. They're interesting and make sense based on their powers and such.
The game runs pretty well on my PC. I always hate it when I purchase a new game and its choppy or doesn't run well. So at least there's that.

The Bad:
Honestly this game is super floaty. Platformers should feel direct and purposeful. Its hard to explain in words but basically the main function of the game to go from left to right and get over obstacles is not as well as it should be. I finally stopped playing after I couldn't figure out how to get up on top of a platform as I tried to walk across a conveyor belt as boxes fell on my head. Maybe this would have told me I needed to go fight the other robot masters, or Mighty Numbers as this game calls them, to gain a new ability but just about every single MegaMan game before this allowed you to progress regardless of what abilities you gained at least the original games. The powers should enhance the experience rather than be a necessity.
The majority of the sprites just look awful. Beck's initial design was pretty decent but his in game sprite is just awful. Sprite refers to a model in the game that usually can move. Kind of like Pokemon as they just stand there or move. Its not the design rather the fact they decided to go with a 3D style for the graphics. 2D would have been much more welcome as well as been better for processing and for the general look of the game. My favorite MegaMan games have been on the DS and they were all in 2D and looked awesome. It really just doesn't make any sense to me why they went with this style other than the idea that it was done to make the game more modern looking. Though that's just my personal thought. Though this doesn't just go for character models but... well, everything else. Explosions look terrible, the backgrounds look bland. The only thing I can actually say looks decent are the human models and even then Dr. White just proves to be the exception.
The voice acting is just so... hit and miss. While there's not an abundance of bad there's definitely a lack of good, if that makes any sense. Look, actors are probably expensive to hire but I honestly could have done a better job that most of these people. The mighty numbers aren't terrible but I'd be reaching pretty far just to make that comparison. The actress (I presume, I'm not going to look it up) for Call speaks all her lines in monotone. You have no idea how annoying that is to constantly hear that all the time. Dr. White is probably the best considering he sounds pretty bubbly about everything and optimistic. Again, far reaching.

My scoring might be a little generous but honestly its really just a "You could have been worse" type thing. This isn't the worst game I've played and it isn't even the second. 6 for me is Mediocre. Its just sort of... there. Honestly it doesn't even seem to have its own identity. The intention behind the game is noble at the very least to the fans who wanted more from MegaMan and I've seen worse reasonings for making a game. If you want a decent MegaMan clone try Gunstriker Gunvolt. Its probably cheaper than this game.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ways They Can Make Assassin's Creed Awesome Again

As E3 has rolled around and left once more I did my best to not notice the cool new games coming out that I can't afford or the games coming out on systems I don't have and certainly can't afford. In my spare time I picked up Assassin's Creed Unity knowing full well how bad people said it was. Why? Well at heart I'm a masochist when it comes to games (I bought the same terrible, terrible game three times and each time I said, "It couldn't have been that bad!") and I saw it on sale for eight bucks. Cheap and stupid!
I kid really. Personally I wanted to see what the problems were about it. I've been a fan of the series ever since it came out though my love died out a little when Revelations came out. Yes I know Brotherhood was one of the best games in the series but did we really need to see Ezio again? But while Revelations was just... kind of boring in a way with some redeeming qualities, I can see why Unity was so poorly received X amount of time since it was released (I'm not going to spend the energy looking up when). I picked up Syndicate a while ago and was happily surprised to see it was actually pretty good. The two main characters were both cool in their own ways while not being faultless, the scope was grand enough, there was plenty to do and the toys. Oh the toys! Seriously, I need a grappling hook in every AC game from now on. So, while I wait until my next paycheck to see if I can finally buy a new game at all I thought, why not make a list?

1. Grappling Hook (I was not joking)
"But part of the fun of these games is the climbing!" No! No one likes the climbing! Well... okay maybe a little. But I don't want to climb all the time. Its a simple addition and it really works... sometimes. And who doesn't want to feel like Batman. Throw down a smoke bomb and then zip away. This addition, while simple, changes up the game in a nice way. I suggest adding the ability to freely control it like aiming it like a gun and having some uses in combat like the rope line did in AC 3. I would definitely pick that game up again just to hang some British red coats from trees just to frighten a guy. So awesome!

2. Alright, enough Europe
I say this not as an American but also as a tired gamer. I would list off how many games in the series go to some place in Europe but it'd be easier if I just counted the ones that don't take place there on my finger. Seriously, I know its a big place and most of the stuff in the world happened there but I don't need to see anymore. If you really feel the need to stay there, go to a time period extremely early. Or...

3. The World Wars
Yes it was bound to happen. In Syndicate, you can actually visit the World War 2 time period through a descendant of the Frye twins. While brief, it really shows how awesome the concept could be. WW2 is a bit... controversial, but the first war could actually work. Not a lot of people know it off their head so it would make for an interesting setting. Unity also had a World War type segment but Unity is annoying so I'm not counting it. Side note: yes this game needs more guns. I know that would kind of ruin the pacing when it comes to automatic guns but honestly guns are a cool idea to keep up with. Especially if we get to play as an Assassin who is also a sniper. YES. Maybe... maybe even some cars? Hm? Maybe a tank?

4. The Assassins need to be assholes and the Templar can be good
A glaring plot hole in the series is how Abstergo, the Templar front, shows the Assassins as being these altruistic bad asses who are also super handsome and get all the ladies while their Templar counterparts are weedy creepy weirdos who eat babies and kick puppies. If you want to be seen as the good guys then show us some stupid Assassins and awesome Templars. It makes even less sense now that Desmond is dead and we've got faceless protagonist living out these memories. They're making it like a VR game to show to the public like some type of game. Alright, ya the Templars are trying to rule the world, but its a whole lot easier if you make your one enemy look like a bunch of tools. Barring that, why can't we have an idealistic and noble Templar? "If the world is to be saved, great men and women must rule it!" See?

5. We need more present day
This may be just me but come on, I need more story! The games have been set in the present day... but we focus about 90% on the past. Ya, I get that we're looking for clues in the past so we can find them in the future but my biggest problem with the titles is that they're very linear. If you've played the game once you've played it enough. There's no choice whatsoever under the guise "Well that didn't happen in the past." Ya. And you keep telling me this ancestor didn't kill civilians. I get it, but that doesn't change the fact that I am doing it now! Look we've all done it. Anyone who's played a Grand Theft Auto game has gone on an insane rampage only to be gunned down by the police or killed via gravity and every single person who's played AC has gone on a melee rampage on those annoying ass civilians. Now, I'm not saying that would be the whole game. Of course your assassin buddies wouldn't be super open to you killing randos left and right but I mean choice like as in killing an enemy or letting them live. Does this Templar agent really need to die? Or perhaps I see the villain early on and I kill them and the game has to play around that. That would be awesome! Is this main villain dead? Or was it a robot? So many possibilities!
As a side note, I want my own assassin character. This new present day assassin would resemble me and I would control them as they rise in the order. Killing Templar agents, buying new gear, actively shaping the future. I NEED THIS.

Come on! The one place where THE MOST FAMOUS group of REAL ASSASSINS and you choose NOT to go there? WHY?! I'm not saying every ninja NEEDS to be a member of the order. Maybe the order was trying to fight against some samurai the Templars were working with and the ninja rose from that. They helped the disenfranchised farmers pick up their tools and use guerrilla warfare to quell a rising threat. And I'm not making this up! Most of it anyway... The ninja were farmers and the lower class put down upon by their samurai masters as they stood above them on the scale of class. While not being stupid pompous weak noblemen of Europe, they were trained warriors skilled in the art of killing. Knowing this they took up their farming tools and made makeshift weapons and items that allowed them to kill silently like they were ghosts. They even developed their own poisons and smoke powders to convince people into believing they had magical powers. They built their own villages filled with ninja operatives who would go and carry out spy and assassination missions. They were contracted killers and dO YOU SEE WHERE I'M GOING WITH THIS???
I feel like Ubisoft is just screwing with me at this point. China. China gets it before Japan does. I'm not saying China isn't great but... I swear if they make Assassin's Creed: Korea next I will literally never play another game in the series. So much potential!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Watch_Dogs 2's Lofty Goals: Can it actually work?

So... damn. Ya, I'm actually kind of looking forward to Watch_Dogs 2. My brother asked me if I wanted it and I gave him a disgusted "No!" We both played the game and it was... bland. Sure a lot of the ideas there were pretty novel and decent but the game ended up being 'do this, do that' and not much else. It was really evident it was trying to be a Grand Theft Auto killer (which ALWAYS goes well) or at the very least in the vein of GTA with a different spice. The story fell flat, they tried to make a completely boring character the main focal point with his own entire DLC where I latched onto another character who was killed off unceremoniously at the end of the game. Alright, I've gotta keep an open mind on this.
So watching the trailer I saw a lot of things they wanted to do and wondered if it was actually possible. I'm going to say it right off the bat, ya the game isn't going to look like that. Don't even bother. Its less about the game being able to look like that, rather how well the game will run. As a person who still unfortunately has a potato for a PC I have to look into the specs of a game before I buy it or risk having a choppy mess or something that just is straight up unplayable. Xbox One and PS4 are pretty relatively powerful when it comes into comparison with PCs. Of course a hyper modified PC with all the latest specs and tech will absolutely annihilate any console but that's pretty standard. You have a lot of freedom to modify a PC at will, though at great cost to you, and consoles are very set in their specs. Even when they are first released it doesn't take too much to overpass the current capabilities. So that's a scratch on the graphics department. Its not going to look like that. Try thinking GTA 5 and you'd get a pretty good ball park on how the game will end up looking.
Watch_Dogs was very rigid when it came to... most things. The hacking was one note at best, albeit functional, and the driving mechanics left much to be desired in terms of its competition. The places where it really shined was combat. Enemies seemed fluid and, unlike GTA, they didn't immediately know where you were if you engaged in combat. On a personal rant for a moment: What is the purpose of silent weapons and silencers in GTA if they immediately know where you are and react as if they weren't silent??? So stealth is a possibility in that the first game actually had it. I'm not going to get into too much of the specifics but expect the sequel to function similar to the first in terms of combat and movement. Though usually given the rule of sequels they will probably add a few new features that might not be immediately noticeable/enhancing what has already been established.
The one feature I'm actually pretty excited to see is the drones. Now you have a two wheeled hopping RC car with some minor functions and a portable RC helicopter drone. From what they showed you could simply pull these items from seemingly nowhere and they began to function. They also seemed to have some racing mechanic with the helicopter so that's probably going to be a new game mode of some kind.
If I had to say the two biggest iffy things for me were the idea of 3D printing and how the world simply acts without player agency or input. These two were really the reason I wrote this article. 3D printing weapons (and hopefully gadgets) sounds like a really awesome idea and you might even be able to mod them. The problem I have with this is its probably going to be a bit rigid in the sense that you can craft a few things like weapons and possibly gear and that's it. The big problem being that once the game is finished that this tool isn't going to have much functionality other than "You made this and that's it". To give an example it would be like in Skyrim if you could only craft one of each weapon and they didn't get better or worse via player input, they were just static items and there was a clear better versus worse item. You only need one Iron Dagger and that's it. If this is the case that would be terrible and I really hope you can do a bit more. The world reacting is also a big problem in some ways. Speaking of the Elder Scrolls again, Oblivion had this really interesting way of making the world feel alive. The game ran scripts that gave the NPCs their own tasks to do throughout the day which made it seem like they were actually doing things instead of just being there for the player to see and talk to. The problem arose in where a few bugs occurred though that's not really the problem here. The problem would be in the sense that by its very nature a program is somewhat set in stone. What I mean is if you haven't programmed something in the program just won't do it. The idea behind artificial intelligence is that it can learn from experiences and form new ideas from simply learning. Video games, unfortunately, can't do that now. So its really a matter of "Yes this is possible but where will the cracks show up?" Will we see the same interactions being repeated through the game? Will these interactions actually affect anything, say if someone has an argument with someone and attacks them will the other NPCs react in a sensible way or not? I would say the technology is kind of there. Rockstar has proven that GTA 5 can do this to a degree though they spent years and years on their game, though its entirely possible most of that time was spent perfecting the engine.
Really its more of an idea of how great is the scope of the team behind Watch_Dogs 2? All of these can be implemented into the game, though with varying degrees of success. I'd say wait for more info on the game. I'd probably like to pick it up when it comes out though time will tell in the sense of how the development progresses. If I had to guess I'd say the game was in pre-Alpha right now, though definitely not in a playable version, at least to the public. What that basically means is the game isn't completely finished and given that there's about an almost half a month gap till the game (presumably) releases we have some time to learn more.
Thanks for reading and I'm definitely looking to hear more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Sims 4: Inclusion Add On

Hey, sorry guys. Its been a long time since I've posted anything. I've been pretty broke the last few weeks so I haven't picked up any super new games as well as too busy to get into them.
There was a recent update to The Sims 4 which added in the ability to have transgendered characters, or at the very least gender nonspecific characters. It was enough to make me redownload the game again. While I don't feel Sims 4 is a particularly bad game whenever a new title comes out I feel its a bit bland at the very least in comparison to the previous game. While the cycle shifts down and the new game is about to be released the previous title has a massive amount of DLC content and stupid little packs which add a whole bunch to the game so the new game will feel watered down in a way. Though Sims 4 was a bit more considering that they left out some content that 3 had to begin with.
However, this isn't about that but rather the new add on so I'll keep those opinions to myself. Its definitely a hot button topic right now, especially with the bathroom laws allowing transgendered people to enter the bathroom they most identify with. I'm not going to share my views on this in detail but I will say that moving forward has always been my personal view. That the freedoms of people ultimately shape the society we live in for better or worse.
From a purely economic standpoint, EA really hit the nail on this one. At the very least adding in a new and free update to get people to talk about the game for the first time in a while and might even get in some potential customers who were less than overjoyed by the lack of gender options for their personal identity. On a technical standpoint... this is where I kind of drop off. So the way to access this is in the character creation. You need to choose a binary set of standards. "Can this sim use the bathroom standing up?" "Can this sim get pregnant or get others pregnant?" Stuff like that. The main problem isn't those first three rather the fact that you ARE however limited to wearing female or male clothes. I created a new character as best to my likeness and started messing around with the outfits only to see that all the female outfits (I'm a male) were blocked out for me. I thought it was weird to say the least. While I'm not transgendered or even a person who wears clothes that wouldn't necessarily be classically be for a person like me, the idea that you have to limit yourself doesn't really seem all that... sensible. I'm not trying to start something but I personally feel the option should be left open and the player is the one who decides. Sims don't choose clothes at random like we do. The player sets their outfits and they just alternate based on the situation like everyday to swim wear and to work out clothes. Unless you change them, your sim will wear those until they die or until you decide to stop playing. So I'm kind of wondering why my sim can't wear classically male clothes for everyday life and then a dress on formal occasions? Maybe I want to do it to make it funnier or maybe that's how a person acts in their normal life. Maybe they stay home and dress as a man but when they go out they prefer to be seen as a woman. Again, I'm not the right person to be addressing these things as I do not identify as them.
I'm not saying EA screwed up but its definitely going in the right direction. I often joke with myself, usually on hot days, wishing I could wear a skirt. Its not really a gender thing I just think the freedom on certain days would be nice. Rather than have a slider that says I can or can't wear it, why not just allow me to choose as I please? Another interesting thing I noticed is that you can have a masculine or feminine body type as well as change your voice to be more feminine or masculine. The first is new but I always thought the second was pretty standard for the beginning release of the game. Sims had (and still have) a slider to make their voices higher or lower in pitch. It didn't really seem like the feature was necessary to be added in, though its not a big deal personally. I'll just end saying that I hope this stays a thing and every other Sim game from now on keeps it as a standard feature and (maybe) other games adopt the idea. Its less of a human rights thing just more of a way to help people identify better with the characters they create to give them greater immersion.