Archive for December, 2010

Lose yourself (in virtual legos)

No, I am not talking about the song from Eminem.  I am talking about Minecraft.  To start off though, one must ask, what is minecraft?  To which I would respond, what do you want it to be?  Minecraft can be alot of things.  However, at its core, its an explore and survive game with no end.  You start off with absolutely nothing in a brand new world and only have your crafting screen and bare hands to start with.  To make things worse, the baddies come out at night.

When a game such as this just throws you into a new world without one line of narration plot, one must wonder, what now….what do you do?  I asked myself this, until I realized, what is possible.  To better understand, look to say, a lego set without a theme.  When you give a kid a lego set, do you tell him/her to only build one thing, or do you let them decide what to do.  Minecraft is my adult lego set.  I get to build many materials to build a house, craft tools/weapons, create oddities and monstrosities that come to me only in dreams.

With time, any rendition can be created.

Maybe a blank canvas is a bit daunting for one.  It was for me at first.  Without an objective, one can easily hole themselves up in a hole and essentially win the game.  Another factor of replay-ability to the game is that it is truly a game for the people.  Modifications created from the community can give the game a whole new meaning.  Multiplayer servers hold their own creative tracks.  One server can be a Dungeons and Dragons game where a group must navigate one of the games dungeons and must slay the baddies.  Another server could be purely for creativity, where one could walk for miles and come across pieces of art ranging from minuscule and humongous.

Its quick becoming a cult hit/phenomenon.  A game so good yet it tells you nothing.  For more activities one can acomplish in the game, one only needs to look to Google and Youtube.  Many videos and pictures show off exactly whats possible in this game (from creating a 1:1 scale model of the Starship Enterprise, to minigames that include outrunning lava).  So now I must ask, next time a game doesn’t tell you what to do, ask yourself, what can’t I do.  You might find yourself have much more fun in a way you never thought possible.

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Should You Pre-Order DC Universe Online?

Heros in DC Universe Online

The nerd in me gets all warm and fuzzy. The penny pinching ass...not so much

Plenty of kids out there grow up in life wanting to be a superhero. Maybe its the tights, maybe its the cape, or maybe its the desire to save those in need but people are drawn to the superhero lifestyle. There are video games out there that let you take over the life of some other superhero, or even MMOs that let you create your own in a living breathing world and they range from great to simply god awful. Based on the beta DC Universe Online is looking to hit that meaty part of the curve also known as ‘meh’. Keep in mind all opinions below are based off a beta version.

In DC Universe Online you are first asked to create either a hero or a villain based off of a limited selection of the DC Universe or create your own. From here you pick your clothes, gear, powers, etc. Nothing that really stands out too much. I have attempted to create five characters and while its always fun to show your creative side it froze my PS3 once and glitched on me to the point that I had to quit two other times. When a customization menu fails to let you customize it pretty much loses its name. It becomes an “it is what it is menu”.

Once you get into the game you get an environment that is attractive however it’s not completely awe inspiring. Myself I have always been a Batman fan so selecting him as my mentor was a no brainer. I now fly around Gotham stopping crimes (so to speak) and generally seeing what’s out there. As far as stories go this is a simple MMO. You have assignments of “beat X enemies” or “collect Y objects” with nothing innovative that really blows your hair back.

What takes away from it are more bugs. I see mission critical NPCs on my map but nowhere to be found. It makes ending or starting a mission pretty difficult. Also you periodically see nefarious individuals up to no good, whether it’s breaking into a building or wanna be villains picking a fight with the cops. The problem I’ve been having is that 95% of the time I am totally unable to interact with them to stop them.  I can saunter up to them. Watch them. Bump into them. But never really stop them.

This is not to say it isn’t fun. DC Universe Online is a fun game. I have been enjoying my time with it. I have been really enjoying my time. It’s why I make multiple characters. I want to see what else is available to me. Like I said at the start or this post, this is a beta. These are all problems that could easily be corrected by the time the game goes live. These are not Final Fantasy XIV level flaws.

But what is deal breaking flaw is the price point. For me, I work a full time job, have a family, and take care of Polish the Console. The time I would play DC Universe Online is maybe a few hours a week at most. There are other games out there that I want to play, review, write about and can’t devote my time to an MMO. While I would love to have it in my list of games I can throw in and play when the urge strikes this is where we have the problem. The video game itself costs $60.00 on the PS3 ($50 on the PC). This is standard but then there is the matter of the DC Universe Online monthly subscription fee set at $15.00. Yes that is each month. For something rather “meh”.

So think of it this way. I will find myself obsessed with this game for (at most) two months. After that obsession has passed I will move on to some other video game thinking back fondly at my time with DC Universe Online. For my two month obsession it will cost me almost $100 for a video game that in order to play again when I get the whim, I will have to pay for. Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not saying you shouldn’t preorder it, but I am saying that for me. While the cost isn’t outside of the realm of doable, I expect more.

EDIT (because I apparently didn’t make my point clear, my bad):

This is not to say that (as stated in the comment section) I want something for free. What I said was I want a better offering for my money. However the  TheL1T1G4T0R is 100% correct. We are playing with copyrighted characters. We are playing with something that should be absolutely epic. What makes it “meh” is that everything I’ve seen falls so far short its laughable. What I expect is actual value. Something that delivers on a level commensurate with the history, mythos, and overall fan dedication that it deserves.

Instead we’re given “Bane’s henchmen are taking Venom. Go beat them up. Now go beat up Bane. Oh yeah, Batman is going to talk to you.” It becomes an underwhelming tacked on pile of banality that falls short even in beta. The integration into the DC Universe is tantamount to a cameo appearance by your favorite costumed hero patting you on the back and saying good job.

But I’ll be damned if it isn’t a tacked on pile of banality that’s pretty fun to play.

Now we would be remiss if we didn’t touch upon the pre-order bonus. If you order you recieve a copy of DC Comics Legends Issue #0 DC Universe Online comic and you can play as Batman in a 2-on-2 battle arena.

If you want to pre-order DC Universe Online for PC or PS3 or just check it out do so below.

GameStop:   DC Universe Online – PC |     DC Universe Online – PS3

Amazon:   DC Universe Online – PC |     DC Universe Online – PS3

Best Buy:   DC Universe Online – PC |     DC Universe Online – PS3

Target:   DC Universe Online – PC |     DC Universe Online – PS3

Walmart:   DC Universe Online – PC |     DC Universe Online – PS3

DC Universe Online Logo

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The Waiting Game

We all know the feeling.

Stressed Cat

This cat is waiting anxiously for a game. It just heard a truck outside. Actually, this cat could be me.

You order a game online, but then for some reason it doesn’t allow you to choose release date shipping.  Not only that, but while everyone gets their game (in the mail, in stores) and proceeds to exclaim how wonderful it is, you’re left with an excruciating urge to play.  The lump in your throat grows larger and larger.  You log in multiple times a day to check the tracking number, and shout profanities when the information hasn’t been updated since yesterday.  Perhaps you even wait anxiously with one ear turned to the door, hoping to hear some shuffling footsteps or even a large truck of some time, in which case you will run to the door and peek out cautiously.  Of course, if the game ISN’T there, you don’t want to look like a fool.  Nor do you want to get your hopes crushed.

This recently happened to me with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.  Yes, I do have the game now.  But waiting was horrific.  When I placed the order through Amazon, I somehow missed the ‘Release Date Delivery’ for 99 cents.  I was really excited to get with Ezio again, and to see if Ezio would act more like a womanizer this time.  (He does.  Great job, Corey May!!) I stressed, couldn’t think of anything else but the game, and would jump up and race to the door whenever I heard some semblance of a large truck passing by.  I almost mobbed the mail truck one day, when my package didn’t arrive the date it was supposed to.  I thought about showing him my boobs (and even if it was a mailWOMAN, I thought about it)… because what if he was holding my Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood?!

Ninja

I bet this ninja is excellent at checking to see if the game arrived without anyone seeing.

And now, with Christmas just around the corner, there’s another waiting game to play.  This time, you see the pile of presents under the Christmas tree and the one you’re almost positive is the game you’re looking for.  Or maybe your parent or significant other is sneaky and hides what you want in a large box…which is even more difficult because then you get extremely disappointed thinking they didn’t get it!

So now the question is… what do you do while you’re playing the waiting game?  Be sure to leave what game you’re waiting for in the comments!

-Kat

 

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When Background Stories in Video Games are Better than the Actual Story

Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain = Epic Story

There are video games with stories and then there are video games with great stories. I’m told Dynasty Warriors has a story, but lets be honest I have never really payed attention? I do know there are things I always skip between battles. Dynasty Warriors is all about laying waste to large groups or people and cutting a bloody swath through a battlefield while yelling “musou” when you unleash the fury. For most of us the story is not what drives the game in Dynasty Warriors. It’s fun because its so simply delightful in its battles.

Heavy Rain has a great story. Right away you are drawn into a rich deep story wrought with passionate and interesting characters as you attempt to untangle a mystery to save the life of a small boy trapped in a storm drain filling up as it rains. Aside from a few key moments the gameplay isn’t action driven, fast paced, or heart pounding. It is sometimes all that and more but on the whole it’s interesting, unique, but a lot of fraction of a second decisions. Deep down its the rich and well mapped out and executed story that drives this game along.

As I play through Assassins Creed: Brotherhood I find myself dropping everything when I see a broken heart map icon appear. Though Assassins Creed: Brotherhood has a wonderful story that is almost perfect in almost every instance this small icon seems to be consuming all my attention. As a spoiler free description, it’s Ezio’s tale of lost

Resistance 2 - Chimera

This guy loves a good story. Preferably before bed time.

love (hence the broken heart). Why is it that I find myself drawn so heavily into something that can’t even be considered a secondary story? At most its a tertiary optional story that you really don’t have to do if you don’t want to. Originally I wanted to talk about games that had a secondary story that surpassed the main story but as I thought about it my thoughts came down to one game that (to me) had such an amazing story going on outside of the main tale that it stands head and shoulders over any other video game I could think of.

If you are familiar with the tale of Henry Stillman you will most likely be standing up shouting “oh hell yes that was awesome!” If you aren’t let me break it down for you. In the PS3 exclusive Resistance 2 from time to time you would find yourself near a broadcasting radio. Coming over the airwaves or a war torn United States being overrun with Chimera was the voice of Henry Stillman. He’s holding strong in a radio booth watching the world around him die out and be replaced with something alien. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, lets allow Henry himself to let you know what’s going on:

So here he is stuck in Philadelphia calling out to anyone who can hear him to take care of themselves and stay safe and secure. The first time you hear this you aren’t overwhelmed or really think too much of it. It’s somewhat early in the game and you’re currently amped up to start shooting some gray bug eyed Chimera because frankly…its fun to watch ’em fall.

Henry starts to become more human. You hear the desperation in his voice. This is when you begin to take note that there’s something interesting going on behind the scenes. Most first person shooters aren’t known for their eipc stories. While this isn’t part of the main story or even something you have to listen to it still begins to draw you in.

We often forget there is a world outside of what we have in the targeting reticle in game. Resistance throws this world at us in these radio broadcasts. Philadelphia is still there and has problems of it’s own. It doesn’t have a Nathan Hale taking down Chimera like hot dogs on dollar dog night at the ballpark. There are more lives at steak. Most have been lost like Beverly who apparently enjoyed her vegetables. People who have died horrible painful deaths and people who have yet to experience the horror but are about to…

It’s this one in particular that really got stuck with me. As a fight was raging around me I was getting pissed that I couldn’t listen to the radio. The tale of father and son being overrun by Chimera as one man sat up in a radio booth and watched helplessly. As Chimera attempt to overrun my position I’m huddled near a radio firing and cursing each and every muzzle flash because the accompanying noise just takes away from the radio. I have to know what’s going on. I need to know. I am fully invested in the life of Henry Stillman. I want to kick in his door and show him the way to freedom to help him live on with his life.

Henry becomes even more human to us as he begins to attempt to cope with the new world. Henry does what many people probably would. He drinks. He gets drunk. He gets really, really drunk. Henry admits he doesn’t even know if anyone is out there listening to him. He’s just talking to talk. It’s here that we begin to find ourselves wondering if there in fact is anyone out there listening. Are we the only ones hearing him? Are there others like us out there hearing Henry’s drunken ramblings? I can’t help but wonder what we’ve missed. What else has Henry seen or attempted to do? Has he ever tried to leave the booth?

One of the many questions about Henry have been answered. He did in fact leave for a moment. At this point he must view that booth as his only place of peace and safety. It’s his fortress of solitude where nothing can touch him. We’ve gone through this journey with him. What Henry does outstandingly well is not only give insight into the world crumbling around the player but fully immerse the player into the video game itself. He helps to create a living breathing world around us with full of life and hopes and fears. We don’t just see the normal soldier or short lived experience with an NPC. We really get to know Henry Stillman. We’ve learned about Henry and the kind of person that he is. What’s more is that even though you’re playing as some Chimera infused bad-ass in reality that’s not who we really are. Henry forces us to think what type of person we would be were we to be placed in a situation like Henry. We may call him a coward but if you were safe in a radio booth would you risk life and limb to save someone you didn’t know? Would you take matters into your own hands or would you wait for the inevitable end. Before I leave you with our last known broadcast from Henry let me just encourage you to comment below and let us know what your favorite background or secondary story has been in gaming. Is it good ol’ Henry, or is it something else? And now to find out what happens with Henry Stillman:

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A new console writer enters the fray.

Hello PtC readers.  My name is ChuckLez and I will be bringing the PC aspect of this gaming love.  However, an introduction is in order.

Granted, my love for video games started when I was 2 years old (when I got my first console, an NES), the days when soundtracks consisted of different beeps and boops.  I was mostly into RPG games.  The first game I fell absolutely in love with was Final Fantasy 6 (3 for that american release).  I would print out walkthroughs and cheat codes when I didn’t even own the game yet.  After things died down a bit, I noticed another console, one that would make horrible noises before playing “Welcome…..You’ve Got Mail”.  It was love at first sight.

The first game I played on the PC was Starcraft.  It was the first time I played an online multiplayer game.  I loved going up against people and getting help from others in the custom maps the game had to offer.

As time went one and the PC as a gaming platform blossomed, I would loose myself in more and more games;  Kings Quest, Call of Duty, Day of Defeat, Nascar, Runescape, and many others.  I found my so called “gaming home”.  Ever since, I look to the games of the future and look to find those captivating moments once again.

If you want to contact me (send me a love note, hate letter, ransom note), you can send it to Chucklez@polishtheconsole.com.

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