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Customary opening picture to let you know what I am really writing about. Picture includes insignificant cameos.
Now, I have to admit something here, if you haven't heard this already: I am very jaded about film-watching.
Perhaps I had been watching one too many films that I had once found awesome that everything else that came later felt bland to me - such as Brave, which I find to be filled with one too many story devices that I have seen before.
However, I am personally glad that once in a while there is a movie that slaps me silly for thinking that I have seen everything to see in movies. It so happens that the latest one is a game concerning movies.
I mean movie concerning games. I am not going to edit this out.
CLOSE-TO-MISLEADING MARKETING FOR WRECK-IT RALPH
I have to admit here too that I am one of those people whose first thought that comes to mine when they hear about game-related movies is an expletive. I certainly have thought the same about Wreck-It Ralph. I suppose that I don't have to tell you much about movies with video game licenses that give the impression that they are only there to feed off their license sources' popularity.
The irony that Fix-It Felix Jr. and many other games mentioned in the film are almost completely fictional could have made me less suspicious of Disney's product, but that Disney is jumping on the bandwagon of the dubious marketing stunt that is faking things about entertainment products of the past did not make me any less skeptical and cynical towards this film.
Here's another thing that I have to admit: I had immediately despised Wreck-It Ralph when I heard that it "celebrates" games and video game characters. Such cameos seemed like yet more frivolous promotion and popularity-exploitation to me, and I would say that my impression of these cameos did not change after having watched the film.
That gaming is now starting to become accepted culture (and thus profitable for the likes of Disney), barring attempts by some parties that are trying to demonize it, made me even more leery of this film.
All of the above prejudiced me enough to forget about Wreck-It Ralph after I learned about it.
SIDE NOTE: "SO HOW DID I COME ABOUT TO WATCHING IT?"
Some almost-expiring 75%-discount coupons for a cinema franchise had me picking months-old Wreck-It Ralph out of the rest that the occasional anti-hipster in me could care less to name.
I did not pick 3-D of course. To me, that's still a fad, though I suppose that some time into the future, there may be an astoundingly refreshing 3-D film that slaps me silly for thinking of it as a fad. This is not a joke, by the way.
Another thing that I have to admit here is my bias towards animated films. I really don't want to see familiar faces in films anymore, as much as I like certain actors/actresses; familiar voices are alright to me. That is why I tend to pick animated films instead of the rest as they tend not to have characters looking like their voice talents.
Yet there are exceptions.
On a near-related matter, I have to say here that film-makers who are making films with game licenses don't seem to consider that some actors/actresses could never even come close to looking like the game characters that they are portraying. They tend to make live-action films anyway, and that irks me a lot.
THE (REST OF THE) MOVIE SANS TWO POIGNANT MOMENTS (MORE ON THESE LATER)
Most of the movie was dull to me; it was trope after trope.
There is yet another "anonymous group" of conflicted people sitting on chairs in a circle. Fictional characters living in digital worlds that are visualized as facsimiles of the real one was done yet again in this film.
Ralph was yet another initially villainous character turn jaded, and this coming a few years after a certain other animated movie.
The appearances of cameo characters were ultimately inconsequential and at best little more than gags and nostalgia-bait. I certainly did not bother to spot this-and-that game character in the movie's scenes.
The true antagonist of the film was perhaps easy for experienced movie-goers to pick out even before said villain was revealed due to the inclusion of a certain speed-related (and hazardous) past-time as a story element.
The elements about the film that I appreciate the least are the inclusion of a femme fatale and her unlikely love interest and yet more savagely destructive bugs. I find these tropes very tiresome.
Then, there are perhaps some pokes at gaming culture and its Internet-based half, specifically when one character misheard/mispronounced "Duty" as "Doodie". This is perhaps not a coincidence, and if it is indeed a poke at Activision's money-printing franchise as I suspect, I do not appreciate it as such poking is yet another tiresome, juvenile fad in the gaming community.
I find it disappointing that the rest of the movie is so run-of-the-mill when compared to the two moments that will be explained shortly.
THAT TWO POIGNANT MOMENTS
I don't know who is credited with these two moments. However, I doubt it is Rich Moore as he is mainly an animator; Moore's student, Jim Reardon, is the kind that makes parodies out of popular works of fiction; I don't know who Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee is.
If none of them can be credited with these two scenes, that would leave Clark Spencer, who is known for having been a producer for some animated films that would have been thoroughly run-of-the-mill if not for certain similarly heart-wrenching moments. Of course, it can be argued that the contribution of producers to their films are hard to trace.
Now, if only the rest of the movie can be written in such ways.
TAKE-AWAY: I wish that film-makers will just shed the tendency to exploit that other entertainment industry and focus more on what they do best: making films. Specifically, they should throw any tendency to make use of their licenses to market their films, and instead focus on creating what they believe would be particularly memorable moments - just like they would do for any other film, if they have the calibre to keep this in mind all the time.
Whoever that thought of those two scenes in Wreck-It Ralph certainly had, and I would say that the sub-segment of films that concern video games is a lot better off with the likes of this movie being in it.
P.S. I am aware that I haven't made a blog post for a long time; that is because I feel that it is pointless to do one when I cannot reply to any responses, which in turn is due to a glitch that prevents my posts from appearing in LiveFyre threads, including the one that you might write a post into below. However, I suppose that I was impressed quite a lot by these two moments in Wreck-It-Ralph that I was inspired to write this anyway.
P.P.S. I recall that a certain GameSpot editor wrote an editorial about Wreck-It Ralph. Can anyone recall it exactly?
Cover Shot (Exact original image source uncertain)
(Note: I am aware that the picture may well be the result of some person's imagination.)
Firstly, I am not a frequent consumer of console hardware or console games. However, I do acknowledge their appeals though, especially that of consoles being mainly dedicated gaming hardware.
Personally, I am wary of the proprietary restrictions that come with being a (legitimate) consumer of console products, but I do recognize the conveniences that are provided by these, such as being able to send faulty hardware for refurbishment (albeit for a fee), as well as the ease of design that developers get from having to work with systems with specific (albeit somewhat limited) technical designs.
I also find this very convenient for moving a player character about a 2D plane.
In other words, I am a lot more open to console gaming than you would think.
A HOPE FOR MORE VARIETY IN GAME PRODUCTS
First things first: the technical designs of console machines will make it likely that game designs eventually hit a technological barrier. When this may happen is debatable, of course, but it is difficult to argue that it won't happen for certain. Besides, there had been generations of console machines that are more sophisticated than their forebearers that came along to usurp their predecessors as the dominant products in the console hardware markets, thus making it difficult to refute this claim.
Non-game products are intended to extend the life cycle of console machines.
Of course, I am aware that console-makers are resorting to adding non-game-related functionalities to the console machines. However, this effectively turns them into general home entertainment devices, away from their roots as dedicated gaming machines. This may not be pleasing to puritan gamers of course, but any wise person would realize that these people are no longer the target customers of console-makers.
Personally, I am in favor of these decisions of the console-makers, as the console machines have the technical prowess to support applications other than just gaming. I find it wasteful if all those electronics are dedicated to only segment of digital entertainment. Yet, even these non-gaming applications will hit the aforementioned design barrier eventually.
That said, returning to the matter of next-generation consoles, having consoles that are more advanced than the current-generation ones would allow for even more applications, which of course means more variety of entertainment options to be had for the customer.
Perhaps more importantly, more advanced technology allows for more sophistication in the games that would be designed for these machines. Of course, this statement is ultimately just a forecast, based on examination of previous generation consoles and their games. One could argue that the only improvements so far have only been aesthetics, though another can argue that games that were once limited to the computer platforms are already appearing on the consoles, namely the shooters, the simpler ones of the real-time strategy genre and of course turn-based strategy games.
On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether consoles would be just playing catch-up with the computer platforms or not when it comes to offering variety in games.
It would be easy to presume that next-generation consoles will be more technologically sophisticated in order to offer more variety in games and non-game products. However, there is the doubt that there are ...
UNCERTAINTIES IN DESIGNS AND OFFERING OF GAMES ...
Now, I am not one to have no skepticism and be all "glass half-full" - or "all-full", if I would be deluded enough to think that there cannot possibly be any issues when I do not have any information or guarantee that nothing could go wrong.
(Yes, there are people like these - namely those that say that "console-makers have learned lessons from the past" or that "the next-gen consoles won't be expensive" when they do not have any concrete data to support these claims.)
The only way to clear these doubts is by having more information on these next-generation consoles, but all there are to be had seem to be merely unverifiable statements and images that may or may not even be true.
Hopefully, the differences that next-generation consoles have compared to their predecessors are not just only aesthetic. (Orbis is not entirely confirmed to be the PS4.)
There is little if anything concrete on the designs and specifications of the next-generation consoles that Sony Entertainment and Microsoft Games are developing, and whatever claims there are, if they are true, only pertain to designs that are still on the figurative drawing board.
Then, there are the games that would come in the wake of these would-be new consoles. Looking back at the history of past generation of consoles, console-makers made use of launch line-ups of games that are convincingly different from those for previous-generation ones to market their new consoles with.
The Wii U, if it can be considered a next-generation console (and there are many opinions that express doubt at this or even outright denial), could be seen as having failed to do this.
After all, the confirmed titles for the Wii U include many games that have already debuted on other platforms, or are continuations of franchises that have been around for a long time.
There is a silver lining to the Wii U's line-up of games, of course, such as ZombiU, which has a control option that I find somewhat refreshing, namely moving the Wii-U gamepad around for finer aiming, as opposed to using only analog sticks (which I do not consider to be practical enough for this purpose). Moreover, the usual control options for console games are still there on the gamepad, e.g. the usual D-pad layouts and analog sticks.
The use of two screens (one on the TV and the other on the gamepad) may allow for features that are infrequently seen in video games, like tracking and manipulating two objects of interest separately and independently of each other (which is a feature that some games for Nintendo's current handhelds have done already, I am aware, and perhaps which the VITA and PS3 would do).
I am very much aware of the jeers that these are just "gimmicks", if you are thinking that I do not. However, I would say here that if not for these gimmicks, console machines would just be playing catch-up with the computer platforms, as suggested earlier. (I am also aware that the more snobbish of PC elitists would love to keep claiming this.)
Without these gimmicks, there would be nothing to differentiate games on console platforms from those on the computer platforms. Of course, others (likely the same snobbish PC elitists) can argue that whatever the console platforms can do, the computer platforms can do, but I am not seeing any concerted effort by hardware- and game-makers to develop the same gimmicks for the computer games market (for which the same snobs would say that these gimmicks are not wanted, of course).
(Side note: Much of what the more outspoken of PC elitists say are bitter, sanctimonious and exaggerated arguments that are often not substantiated by hard data and unarguably relevant facts, by the way.)
It remains to be seen if Nintendo and its game-making partners would utilize the potential behind the Wii U's gimmicks, but if Nintendo wants the Wii U to be as successful as its predecessors, it had better provide support for game-makers who have ideas for the Wii U, and not just help them port existing IPs over to the platform.
... AND UNCERTAINTY IN COST INFLUENCES ON DESIGN AND PRICING
With more advanced technology, the new consoles would be more expensive than previous consoles which use older technology. This is a difficult-to-deny statement.
Of course, one can argue that the next-generation consoles would likely use technology that had debuted years earlier to cut costs, much like what had been done for the current-generation ones, but they would still likely have price tags that are higher than the current price tags of current-generation consoles (which have since dropped in asking price since their launch, by the way).
If this is so, this will ever pose a hurdle in getting consumers who are used to the current-generation consoles' prices to buy the next-generation ones.
A (rather naive) person could say that console-makers would sell the next-generation consoles at a loss to cut down its asking price and spur sales, while compensating by making money off the software products for the consoles. The same person would point to the past (again) to bolster this claim.
But here's a catch (I like saying this, I admit): the next-generation consoles have to offer products that have not been offered for previous- and current-generation consoles in order to be seen as offering something new. Otherwise, it would be seen as just recycling things that have already been done before.
Another catch is that investors may not allow this to happen. The likes of Sony Entertainment have sold some of their consoles at losses, promising investors that there would be pay-offs down the line from having a wider customer base for its software products. Although this move certainly did not turn out disastrous (at least for the PS3), the pay-offs have not been consistently substantial either, upon examination of Sony's yearly financial statements and the segments on its Sony Entertainment subsidiary.
Of course, if one is to look at somewhat-related facts, Nintendo appeared to have persuaded its investors to allow it to do this for the Wii U, citing the same promise of compensating by software sales (albeit this was reworded as "combining sales of hardware and software"). However, it remains to be seen if Sony and Microsoft can do the same without investors baulking and thinking that their executives have gone bananas.
On a not-entirely-unrelated note, this is popularly thought to be a hint at Donkey Kong, but the kanji above him (which Iwata said is a reference to Nintendo's work culture that is oriented around "creating something unique" - and another Donkey Kong game is certainly not "unique") may suggest that this is a sarcastic jab by Nintendo's leadership at its skeptics.
... AND DOUBTS OVER WHAT REALLY IS "NEXT-GENERATION"
I believe that the worst outcome that could happen is that the next-generation consoles are not really more technologically advanced. They might turn out to be just repackaging and restructuring of existing console technology in some new shell.
(Having gimmicks in addition is not the worst outcome to me. At least the gimmicks make the console remarkable, for better or worse; this is still better than recycling, which would be boring.)
I know, it is quite difficult to believe that this can happen for Sony's or Microsoft's next-generation consoles - but we do not have any guarantee that this would not happen, do we?
Using the example of the Wii U again, it has been argued, such as by the likes of Bitmob, that the Wii U is only "next-generation" because it is a successor to the Wii, and does not have other "qualifications" of being next-generation, such as having convincingly "better" technical specs than the PS3 or Xbox 360, and that its main difference is it having gimmicks in its control options.
Then, there are counter-arguments - usually by Nintendo's supporters, such as Nintendo Life - that the next-generation is "about the experience", that is, the utilization of gimmicks for gaming experiences that are more than just a single lonely gamer holding a conventional controller in one's hands and sitting on a couch.
I am using a lot of quotation marks here, because those who are putting forth these arguments do not seem to be aware that there is no empiric definition of what is "next-generation", much less any consensus. They are making unilateral definitions of what is "next-generation" as they see fit.
That there are all sorts of outlandish concept art for the next-generation is, to me, another indicator that people don't really know what "next-generation" really is, if it is anything other than a loosely-coined term.
ANOTHER HOPE: MORE OPTIONS AND FREEDOM FOR CONSUMERS
Personally, I consider consumer-friendliness to be the most important aspect of any product.
Unfortunately, this aspect is also the reason that I am not too eager to peruse some console-makers' products - specifically Microsoft Games' and Sony Entertainment's. (You may want to notice that I am referring to specific subsidiaries of the corporations that are Microsoft and Sony.)
Neither of them has gained my confidence. The legal agreements that customers have to accede to in order to receive services from either of them require customers to use their products in ways that are only sanctioned by Sony Entertainment or Microsoft Games, or else lose privileges for customer support and online services (i.e. Sony's PSN and Microsoft's Xbox LIVE), as well as face possible lawsuits if they publicly reveal ways to use their consoles that are not condoned by either console-maker.
I cannot stomach these (especially the lawsuits), and therefore when I was faced with the "take-it-or-leave-it" deals that they have, I leave. That is not to say that I haven't used their products before though - I thank my friends for letting me mooch off them for an hour or two with some console games that caught my interest.
Therefore, it is my hope that Sony Entertainment and Microsoft Games would at the very least, be like Nintendo when it comes to relationships between customers and them, i.e. being laid-back, having their figurative hands off the customer and letting the customer do whatever he/she wants with the console machines.
Otherwise, the likes of Ouya can always claim to be "better" than what they can offer, despite criticisms that arise from Ouya's requirements that its games be either "free-to-play" or demos, to cite just one perceived setback (which I do not personally see as a problem, but I know some other people do).
After all, Ouya is having collaborations with open-source organizations like XBMC and Google Android - something that remains unheard of for Sony Entertainment's and Microsoft Games' consoles (or at least not that I know of; I am having difficulty finding info for any such collaborative project for the Xbox or Playstation).
These two mascots might never appear next to the logos for the Xbox or Playstation.
I am not saying that I would be supporting Ouya whole-heartedly and without reservations; besides, I didn't contribute to its Kickstarter project. However, I can say that I have far less aversion to Ouya than I would PS4/Orbis or the XBox 720/Durango, which I expect Sony Entertainment and Microsoft Games to shackle with stifling legal agreements.
That's all that I would write for now. I may update this blog post with more things if you would leave a suggestion. That said, happy Thanksgiving, Deepavali and Muharram for anyone who are celebrating/observing them!
MODERN COMBAT SHOOTERS WILL NEVER BE "REAL"
I suppose that this would be a continuation of a previous blog post of mine, and I confidently say that I have a very strong fact that backs the above statement: whatever is in video games will never be tangibly real, and this extends to modern combat shooters.
(For those of you who are pedantic, yes, I am aware that whatever that is in a video game is technically real, i.e. they are the results of programming and software design, both of which are undeniably very real. The content and gameplay will never be tangible though - nothing can change this.)
The likes of Greg Goodrich (who is the lead producer for the rebooted Medal of Honor games) do seem to realize this, but their solution to address this is only semantic: they switched from using the phrase that is "realistic" over to "authentic", and focused more on the settings of the game instead of the gameplay (which has many, many designs that would remind a more conscious player that they are playing a video game, and one in a subgenre of shooters that is stagnating in design).
Perhaps the game-makers can highlight plenty of interviews with identity-obscured consultants to present themselves as being serious in making their modern combat shooters, and I have no reason to doubt this, nor the beliefs of their consultants. I am not one to pour so much scorn readily.
However, I am one to take things at just face value - and the face value of these consultations is that whoever the game-makers' consultants are, their identities are not immediately publicly identifiable, at least until cases such as the American consultants being (somewhat) revealed through events out of the game-makers' control occur.
As long as the identity of whichever consultants that are referred to during the development of the game are not verifiable, the game-makers will never allay suspicions - or rather, conspiracy theories - that these consultants are made up. Consequently, it will never allay presumptions that hyped-up modern combat shooters are not designed with heart and sincerity.
To cut the likes of Greg Goodrich and other modern combat shooter producers some slack, they do appear to believe in their products - this is very important for any product-makers trying to sell their products.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are people like Tom McShea who couldn't take most modern combat shooters at face value: that he has no less than two articles on Medal of Honor strongly suggests that he does not merely stop at considering modern combat shooters as yet more entertainment products that exploit the settings of real-life conflict.
Some of you would like to think that Greg Goodrich has the upper hand in this back-and-forth, but the wiser of us know that neither does. Both are stubborn, and there is no bridge of compromise between them.
Unfortunately, as vehement as he is, Tom McShea has yet to utter that word frequently: "boycott". He has mentioned phrases like "putting money where my mouth is" (which would make him poorly suited to review most modern combat shooters), but he has yet to adopt that word.
(I am aware that uttering that word is a very, very strong suggestion of bias on a part of a journalist - far more than just writing ranting editorials.)
As a side note, the likes of Tom McShea do appear to appreciate modern combat shooters like Spec Ops: The Line that provides darker views on modern conflict fiction. (Yes, I used that word - "fiction". As gritty and nasty as that game's plot development is, it is still fiction.)
Summary of the above: There would be more peace of mind all-around if everyone can accept that modern combat shooters, being a subset of video games, are not "real" and never will be, and don't go beyond thinking this.
THEY HAVE PRICE TAGS
Modern combat shooter titles, with the exception of America's Army, have asking prices. This is a fact, and nothing can change the reality that game-makers generally ask for money in return for playing their games.
Not to mention the collaborative deals that game-makers make with other product-makers.
Of course, without a breakdown of where the proceeds from a unit sale would go to, no one but the game-makers themselves would know whether they are driven by profits or that they are really sincere in making their games for people to play and only want to cover costs, or anything in between.
However, as long as the price tags are there, and the utilization of the proceeds from sales remain opaque to consumers, the suspicions and presumptions of greed will always be there.
Take-away: If game-makers are actually conscious about the complaints, flaming, rants and criticisms about them being driven by greed, they can well address this matter by divulging more details on where each cent from a unit sale would be going to.
(That is not to say that free modern combat shooters are free from bashing of course; America's Army has its share of cold water).
The cynical would say, with a mix of scorn and amusement, that America's Army is the only "sincere" modern combat shooter.
GAMEPLAY LIMITED BY SETTINGS
I will tell you about one of my peeves about modern combat shooters, which also happen to be the main reason that I have not had significant interest in modern combat shooters since Half-Life: Counterstrike.
The biggest obstacle that this subgenre of shooters faces now is the limitations on gameplay brought about by their settings, which concern real-life armed conflict. The need for believable facsimiles of modern combat made the gameplay of these games difficult to discern from each other, and also renders their designs very predictable.
There's ALWAYS at least one Kalashnikov in every modern combat shooter.
There had been attempts to shake up the gameplay, such as the transition from merciless one-way-trip-to-zero health system seen in Counterstrike to the very forgiving regenerative health system in present-day modern combat shooters (neither of which I personally find believable), but game-makers can only do so much before the more observant of critics (and cynics) point out that they are losing "authenticity".
The most sophisticated modern combat shooter game thus far is the latest in the ArmA franchise, which not only has players taking on many roles such as artillery commanders or even marine forces taking underwater routes, and then waging battles across vast battlefields, maneuvering by air, water or good ol' land. However, even such sophistication would hit a wall soon. After all, the requirements of the settings will limit the gameplay to what can be considered believable.
Despite the relative smoothness of this demo of ArmA III, you can expect bugs in Bohemia's products.
I am not certain how this subgenre could ever evolve, though I am sure that sooner or later, even the most ardent modern combat shooter fans would notice that the gameplay in them has not changed by much. It could take a direction similar to that of Spec Ops: The Line, but this is a thematically-oriented game design, and how easy it is to sell is uncertain, not to mention that it could not be woven into competitive multiplayer gameplay, which appears to be the main selling point of the AAA modern combat shooters.
Alternatively, there had been game-makers that are trying to move into near-future combat settings, which offer more flexibility in gameplay designs, though the aforementioned criticisms of loss of "authencity" remain and perhaps more so, as such games would not be modern-combat shooters anymore; they already have sci-fi elements, as some of the technology shown in them have yet to go beyond prototype or even conceptual stage, or are actually extrapolations of existing near-future technology.
The Warhound being one of the latter.
Another alternative is that they adopt sandbox-like gameplay, not unlike what is being done for the Far Cry franchise. However, a modern combat shooter would start to lose its identity too. In fact, it would be difficult for anyone to consider that the Far Cry games are modern combat shooters, other than similarities like the presence of firearms and other fundamentals of what makes a shooter.
Take a hard look at this and say - without flinching, cringing or any other expression of doubt and disbelief - that this is a modern combat shooter.
In other words: Modern combat shooters are more than likely doomed to stagnation in gameplay designs because of their need to adhere to their settings.
That's what I would write for this blog post. The matters mentioned above may seem obvious to some of you, but any down-to-earth reminders about modern combat shooters should do you some good.
Also, do keep this in mind: If you like modern combat shooters and don't mind paying to play them, then don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you don't like modern combat shooters and despise them, you may want to keep your despise to just these games and not extend it to people who like them; it's their money and time - not yours.
Firstly, I have to mention the reasons for my picking of the subject matter of memes for this Chalk Talk assignment.
I am aware that gaming culture has flourished a lot since, say, a decade ago. General society has come to recognize that gaming is now part of modern life and that the games industry is a viable money-making and job-creating industry (and that's being very positive about it - I am aware of people that would rather pour cold water on this statement, thank you very much).
However, I have little interest in gaming culture and the gaming industry beyond being a consumer of entertainment. Therefore, it is for this reason that I pick memes as the subject matter, as they amuse me, and because it is hard to deny that memes are an aspect of gaming culture, albeit not a very serious one.
GAME MEMES GO WAY BACK
Yes, I know that some of you are going to cringe when I remind you of an infamous meme that you would rather see buried as the short-lived, grammar-destroying fad that it was way back in 1998.
ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.
Now, as painfully silly as it is, this meme was remarkable for its (dubious) achievement of having been able to penetrate into circles of society beyond just the gaming one. The earliest known and verifiable recognition of it was Fox News' coverage of it back in 2006 (though Fox News did pour some cold water on it, as is typical of Fox News).
The rest are supposedly actions by a bunch of anarchists, which are difficult to verify.
In other words, long before gaming culture was (somewhat) accepted as the norm, the foundations for this change in general society's perception of gaming culture may have already been laid by the likes of memes such as "All Your Base Are Belong to Us".
Of course, fads like this do not put gaming culture in a good light, but they still highlight it anyway and get non-gaming people interested, and more importantly, offer the opportunity to have these people looking at the bright side of gaming culture. After all, people can't see the "good" in things if they are not even looking at them.
GAME MEMES, LIKE ALL MEMES, ARE FADS AND THEY NEED HYPE TO PERSIST
I will make use of the "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" meme again for this section.
It should be obvious that the main draw of this fad was the contrast between the silliness of the bad grammar of Zero Wing's intro-cutscene and the very serious occurrences in it. It is for similar "reasons" that some later game-related memes/fads would become popular, such as "A Winner is You".
However, this reason alone is not enough to make it popular, because as with all fads, it needs hype to become one.
In the case of "All Your Base Are Belong to Us", it was the efforts of heavily frequented sites like Newsgrounds that provided the hype for it. These efforts typically emphasize the main appeal of the fad to hilarious heights, such as Newsgrounds' use of vocalizers and remixing of music, and, of course, Fox News' highlighting of it.
(Some people do watch Fox News for purposes of entertainment, by the way - not that Fox News would care as long as it's bringing in views. )
Of course, ultimately, fads die over time, as are to be expected of anything hype-driven. They will become stale over prolonged use, are forgotten and are eventually replaced by something else. (Incidentally, the Fox News coverage also hinted at this.)
However, there is one mistake that people who want fads to die tend to make; they unwittingly remind others of it.
GAME MEMES ARE NOT NECESSARILY BORNE FROM DESIGN MISHAPS
But they still originate from dubious design decisions. A particular noteworthy example is the "I am Error" meme, which was caused by peculiar decisions by Nintendo's designers on the writing for Zelda II: Adventures of Link.
They are a lot of speculation over how this writing came to be; one of them is that some of the programmers may have been exasperated over problems that were encountered during the game's development, and that this frustration influenced the writer.
(A more recent and somewhat better documented occurrence of this is the writer for Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! supposedly becoming increasingly inane as the development of the game wore on.)
Of course, this will get noticed by players and made fun of.
IN-GAME JOKES ARE NOT NECESSARILY MEMES
It has to be cautioned here that some game-related fads are not Internet memes, or have yet to be so. This is mainly because the main appeal of these fads are only immediately obvious to followers of the associated games. These are, at best, in-game jokes. Thus far, the most polite word to describe the proliferation of these in-game jokes is "subculture"; those who are less kind would use unsavory epithets to describe the infatuation of the fans of these games.
As an example, Team Fortress 2 are full of these in-game jokes. Granted, some of them have managed to go beyond the Team Fortress 2 community, but many remain only recognizable to Team Fortress 2 fans.
Jokes about the Heavy's sometimes-creepy love for sandwiches
are jokes that still remain only funny to fans of Team Fortress 2.
Of course, all it takes to upgrade an in-game joke to an Internet meme is one particularly witty string of images or video that makes use of the in-game joke to describe something else entirely.
This is what happened to the "Gentlemen" in-game joke, of which the main appeal is (fictional) characters stuffing their mouths full of things that are not necessarily edible. However, when it is used to parody things other than Team Fortress 2 characters, the significance of the joke may not be immediately apparent to anyone who is not already familiar with the in-game jokes of Team Fortress 2.
I find it doubtful that Touhou fans who do not know about Team Fortress 2 would understand the joke behind this image.
In other words, an in-game joke is not a meme if its gist is not immediately apparent to everyone. Uttering it may well mark one out as inane, or worse.
That is all that I can write for now. If you know of some super-silly video or image (that are not NSFW, of course) that concerns a game meme, do tell me of it!
Firstly, I have to mention here that this blog post is a revisiting of a previous one of mine, which was rather long-winded and had more than a few subject matters. This time, I am citing just one, and deliberately because of the launch of a certain remake of a notable id Software game and the coming Halloween holiday.
That said, here's the title of the subject matter, which I hope is more succinct than its predecessor.
"A SCARY GAME IS NOT SCARY WHEN YOU CAN WALK SOFTLY AND CARRY A BIG GUN."
The quote above is of course a spin on a well-known quote. People who have experience with Warhammer 40K products may well remember this too, though it has to be mentioned here that the phrase "walk softly and carry a big gun" may have originated in the Space Hulk spin-off of Warhammer 40K, which had its first video game incarnation in March 1993.
Doom (released in December 1993) wasn't the first game to feature marines fighting inhuman things in tight corridors.
This brings me to shooter titles with themes of horror, i.e. games that have the player shooting away at horrible enemies that are hell-bent (pun not intended) on killing the player character.
In the past, these games resorted to giving enemies strength of numbers to dishevel the player, whose player character is almost always all alone against the hordes. Either that, or giving enemies the advantage of constant respawns to grind the player characters down in a battle of attrition (namely Space Hulk).
Otherwise, the player would not find it hard to defeat the typically stupid enemies that are coming his/her way. On the other hand, this artificially introduced difficulty (especially respawning enemies) does contribute to a sense of urgency, which is one of the factors needed to instill horror in the player.
Nowadays, with better graphics technology, such games resort to horrible imageries and happenings, otherwise known as "scare tactics". Of course, I have to admit that some of them are effective enough to have the player suddenly shifting his/her seat (if hes/she is seated) and perhaps uttering an expletive or two.
However, here's the caveat: scare tactics tend to only work once - and especially so for shooters, which give the player the means to eliminate whatever had scared him/her.
The most convenient example that I would cite is of course Doom 3, which depends a lot on seat-shifting scares. I doubt that the BFG remake would do anything different.
There are a lot of images of ugly creatures for Doom 3, but I believe that this one is the most iconic of that game. Horrific-looking and definitely dangerous - but only if you let it be so.
Doom 3 and its predecessors use the well-worn premise of an otherworldly invasion by inhuman things that corrupt the mortal realm and its inhabitants, though Doom 3 wisely made better use of this theme to include enemies that are convincingly formerly human, especially the player character's former colleagues who retain their military training (somewhat).
To give Doom 3 some credit, I remember Doom 3 for its surprisingly foreboding and ominous environment designs that can elicit dread. On the other hand, Doom 3 resorted to many, many scare tactics, which may eventually get old, especially on further playthroughs after the first.
In fact, after a while, hearing some loud ghastly noise becomes a cue for the player to whip his/her character around and look at where he was not looking earlier, as enemies tend to spawn where the player isn't looking - very so often that this becomes predictable.
More importantly, the player may realize sooner or later that as ugly and murderous as the inhuman things coming at the player characters are, they can be shot to bits with his big, effective guns. That the otherworldly creatures appear to be vulnerable to human-made weaponry would also not be lost on the player.
High-caliber rotary autocannons solve demonic problems quite handily.
BUT... IT'S NOT ALL UNREMARKABLE
In my previous blog post, I had not noted what id Software had done well, at least in my eyes. Some of the designs in Doom 3's story mode do go a long way to encourage a sense of aversion to harm in the player, and aversion to harm is one of the most crucial factors in instilling horror in a player.
One of these designs has the player character being smacked around upon getting hurt, making it harder to fend off enemies and thus discouraging the player from getting hurt in the first place. Fortunately, getting hurt does not impair the player character permanently until he gets some medical attention (unlike a certain other, very punishing horror shooter).
And then there are all those bright, blinding lights from enemies' projectiles.
id Software also included some scripting that randomizes the spawn locations of enemies. They may not come out of the same floor panel, vent on the ceiling or hatch in the wall every time, though all of them can still be shot to bits all the same (and they are not invulnerable when performing their entry animations either). This somewhat reduces the predictability of enemies in the game.
However, it is still not enough to eliminate the predictability of enemies and thus not enough to foment the sense that things are not within the control of the player, which is yet another factor that is needed to instill horror.
On the other hand, Doom 3 had done one thing very well, which is hide enemies from the player's sight. There are light sources in the game, but they are not bright enough to illuminate everything and enemies are often only partially lit up, making them appear a lot more sinister and harder to shoot at.
It's very dark.
It may seem like cheap difficulty, but the game makes it fairer by having enemies that shoot crap at the player character illuminate themselves when they attack, or enemies that had gotten too close making a lot of noise when they attack, so the player would have plenty of warning.
However, I am not so certain that the BFG edition may be able to retain this design. The lighting and shadowing are sharper, but the BFG edition may have looked less gloomy as a result. There is this, and some other technical issues that the BFG edition has.
Personally, I would wait for others to play it so I may not have to.
As in my previous blog post last year, I would like to end this blog post with some fictional inhuman lady eating something, as my own way of honoring the upcoming Halloween holiday.
Cake is better than pie - if there's more cake than pie around.
I should start by saying that product value is ultimately a form of perception. It is different from person to person, and there are no industrial standards whatsoever for the empirical measurement of value - even for products other than video games. In other words, value is subjective, and it would be rare indeed for everyone to see eye-to-eye on this matter.
Now, on to the subject matter of DLC.
FORMERLY EXPANSION PACKS
The way I see it, DLC packages are the evolution of expansion packs of yore. They do practically do the same thing: add content to an existing game, albeit with an asking price. Previously, expansion packs are sold as physical packages that are quite useless without the original - sometimes even the disc from the original package is needed (and not just the installation of the original game), if the installer has some particularly irksome copy protection measures.
DLC has not changed this by much.
At least ugly and vague checklists are gone from the range of promotion methods for DLCs.
In other words, DLC packages still need the original game to play (apparently), and therefore, if there is any value to be seen, it can only be seen by those who already have licenses for the original game packages.
Anybody else may just see it as nickel-and-diming of those who have the licenses.
DLC MUST ADDS SOMETHING THAT IS NOT THERE
Regardless of whether these "additions" are seen as convincing additions or ripping out of content from the original package, they are still technically additions to the basic package for the game. By the same note, this must be what DLC does - technically adding something to the existing package.
In other words, DLC packages that unlock what is already there in the existing package are of very questionable value indeed. Capcom, as a particular example of a game-maker that makes DLCs, could not adhere to this technical view of DLC.
Capcom deserves all bashing that comes it way.
Of about the same contention is content that is believed to have been intended for the original package, but apparently is not there in any way but had been packaged as DLC. This belief arises from the perception that the content that the DLC brings could have been integrated into the original package in such a manner that they would not have seemed like an expansion, i.e. they appear to very much belong to the original package and would not seem out of place.
One of the games that may have this issue is the first Dragon Age game and its Stone Prisoner DLC. Shale is a surprisingly well-conceived character, with many lines and interjections throughout the game, even at the very beginning. Personally, I have a very strong impression that Shale was intended to be part of the vanilla package of the game (similar to how HK-47 was for Knights of the Old Republic, who is thought to be the inspiration for Shale's character designs).
Guess the odd one out.
Other than the disjointed segue for the quest that introduces Shale, Shale seemed to fit into the vanilla package of Dragon Age: Origins very well - suspiciously well.
FREE IS THE BEST WORTH
Expansion packs of yore had the excuse of having to be packaged and shipped over to customers, thus ever requiring the consumer to pay for them. DLC does not have the excuse of having to be physically packaged.
Of course, one can argue that there are development costs as well as hosting and distribution fees charged by their digital distribution partners to be covered. But here are the caveats: when will development costs be broken even, and what if there are no substantial fees to be paid on a gradual basis?
The segment to the right of the break-even point is just too lucrative for DLC makers.
The only ones who would know are the game-makers and their distribution partners of course, but what is going to stop game-makers and their distributors from continuing to charge even after the development and distribution costs of the DLC have been broken even? The cost breakdowns are opaque to consumers, who won't know where their money would be going to if they buy them.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 DLC packages come to mind, such as Resurgence, which is still US$15, despite having being around for a couple of years.
Therefore, the worth of a DLC package will always be questionable and never certain, whatever the price, as long as there is one and the decisions that went into its pricing is kept private and unknown to the consumer.
Free DLC, on the other hand, has a much less questionable worth. Of course, one can argue that the game-makers and digital distributors may incur losses from this, but it will be hard to argue that 'free' is not the best value that a customer can have for a DLC package.
AND NOW - PLEASE AFFORD ME SOME GRIPING
No, I am not going to gripe about how DLCs are evil and such. In fact, I am quite receptive of DLC - especially if they are free. Also, do keep in mind what I have said about value being a subjective perception.
Instead, what I will gripe about is how indie game-makers themselves are warming up to premium DLC packages. Considering that they are not supposed to be like corporate game-makers, I find it very disappointing that some of them are doing the same thing that the latter are doing, only with lower prices.
Trendy Entertainment is one of the worst of them.
Of course, most of them offer free content updates, but not all of them kept doing so - Edmund McMillen comes to mind as a disappointing example for having attached a price tag on Wrath of the Lamb, which is a DLC for Binding of Isaac.
I don't like DLC very much, but I do believe that it is a convenient way of bringing content updates to games and increasing their value. I can only wish that game-makers would consider adding more value to customers than always trying to cover costs - that's just one step away from seeing customers as just mere sources of income.
Also, as I have said before in earlier blog posts of mine, if I don't like what a game-maker is doing, I don't peruse their products - simple as that.
We have seen these meta-game elements before; achievements, trophies, accolades, whatever their names are, are meant to introduce some gameplay element outside of the game proper, if only to artificially lengthen the experience of the game, or to pad the "credentials" of some gamer's account on a proprietary service.
Personally, I find most of them to be superfluous, but some stand out as being particular noteworthy as they highlight some tricky things about a game, and/or nuances in its gameplay. However, to emphasize how much more entertaining these are compared to the other kinds of achievements, the others would have to be described first, if only for a sense of contrast.
These are the most unremarkable and most lazily-designed achievements. Typically, these require the player to be involved in some fundamental element of the gameplay, e.g. repeating certain actions over and over until a threshold is achieved.
One example of these kinds of achievements is the On-Call Badge in Tribes: Ascend.
Ask any Tribes veteran how they feel about this badge and they would likely say "easy" - but it would be doubtful that they would say "fun".
Repairing things in Tribes: Ascend, especially in Capture-The-Flag mode, is quite essential to winning in a match, as it helps the team defend objectives more easily. Unfortunately, repairing (without the convenience of repair kits) generally requires the player character to stay in one place for quite a while, which is very much against the signature gameplay of Tribes and also makes the player character more vulnerable to ambushes than he/she would be when moving about.
Then, there is the need to keep looking at some static building to repair, which can be quite dull (if there are no immediately apparent threats in the area).
Of course, the most efficient and fun way to achieve this badge is to unlock the Technician and unlock his Repair Kit, though at this time of writing, there are problems with the Repair Kit that had been caused by a recent patch that nerfed some of its exploits.
THE FICKLE ONES
Next, there are achievements that can only be achieved with much luck - or lack of it. There is little that the player can do, other than to just wait and hope for RNGs or other kinds of digital dice to roll in his/her favor.
The first example of these that I would cite is an achievement that is associated with the Soldier of Team Fortress 2; this achievement is a cheeky response by Valve Australia to complaints that the luck-dependent critical hit mechanism favors the Soldier a lot more than the other player characters, as he (still) has some of the fastest-firing explosive weapons in the game.
(His chances at getting crits may have been affected by recent nerfs to the critical hit system that had lowered chances of critical shots to just a ceiling of 12% to every character, but no nerfs can ever change the fickleness of luck.)
You will never get this achievement on a "no random crit" server.
Another more recent example requires the player to have very terrible luck. This example is "Astronomically Low Odds" from FTL: Faster Than Light. It may seem amusing, but it is a stark reminder that luck-based game mechanisms are in the game, and the player has next-to-no control over this.
These achievements may reflect the tremendous skill and determination of whoever achieved them - but they also suggest something less kind about those who achieved them. I won't elaborate on this, but if you want to know what I mean, just find some blog or forum thread that some game fan started just to tell others that he/she has achieved a very difficult achievement - and then look for the negative responses.
Examples that I would cite include the rarer of achievements for Super Meat Boy, especially the ones where the player character has to complete the Dark World levels without dying.
Ironically, the effort that Team Meat invested into making these achievement pictures, which are mostly variations of each other, is not as much as the effort that a player would put into getting these achievements.
Another example of such an achievement (that is slightly less difficult) is Torchlight's achievements that are associated with the completion of adventures in Hardcore mode, and of course those of its sequel.
More weeping for completionists in Torchlight 2.
Now, I know of the accusation that people who are apprehensive of such achievements may be jealous or what-not, but I should note that not all players who achieved them would feel proud - myself being one of those that did not.
I will describe my experience with Torchlight's "Hardcore God" achievement here. I am not one that is brash enough to attempt that without some major research and looking up guides for it. Unfortunately it is through this research that I found about some flaws with the game, namely some issues with patches that made an enemy more than a bit powerful, and that any preparation that I may make would be scuttled by how fickle the game can be in populating dungeons with enemies.
Now, I have to say here that I had prepared for this creature too; having loads of lightning resistance through items, for one, as well as picking and developing the character with the skills that allow me to slay her before she even spots me - but this did not prepare me for the levels that are unlocked through portal maps.
These maps may immediately have the player character well within the reach of these creatures, who may be spawned a little too close to the entrance portal (which is a consequence of the fickle procedural map-generating mechanism of the game). I lost a Very Hard Hardcore character this way - and then another, to the same creature.
After I have gotten the achievement - through sheer luck of not having to face too many of these creatures and a lot of cowardly retreats - the only feeling that I have is regret. Doing another hardcore character again, with a mod that nerfs the Dark Zealot, made the impression that I have wasted my time even stronger.
THE CLEVER ONES
I call the achievements that are obtained through skill and plaining the "clever" ones, for lack of a better word. These achievements either challenges the player's familiarity with the game's mechanisms, or provides hints about nuances in the gameplay to the player.
The examples that I would cite are some of those in the first Orcs Must Die! game, such as Deck the Halls and Ogre Bisque. These require the player to figure out the benefits of some trap upgrades and analyze the layouts for the levels that are best for obtaining these achievements.
(Most of the other achievements in Orcs Must Die! are grinders, unfortunately.)
Other examples include most of the achievements in the Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, though many of these are actually spoilers too. On the other hand, they do highlight some options that the player have for dealing with obstacles in the progress of the story and the consequences of the solutions.
This achievement may be easy and short, but it is way more fun than killing 500 foes.
Now, I have to acknowledge and insist on something here: despite my disdain for the majority of achievements in the meta-game aspects of present-day games, which are mostly of the "not-clever" varieties as described above, I say that achievements have come into game designs and they are there to stay, and they should, if only to have them evolve into something more meaningful than they are now.
The first step is of course to design achievements of the "clever" sort.
Japanese game designers may have some of the most outrageous ideas for games, which may be a blessing in the eyes of jaded game consumers. However, the actual realization of these ideas may not make for a worthwhile consumer product.
We have heard many complaints about Japanese designers before, one of the loudest being an alleged disconnect between them and market reality (which may have contributed to their ability to come up with outrageous ideas anyway). There had also been other complaints, like lack of interest in the computer games market beyond MMOs, "visual novels" and other genres that had become (rather awful) stereotypes. Then, there is their neglect of markets outside of Japan.
However, through my years of observing them and their products, it is difficult to deny that they have one kind of thing in abundance: ideas.
The Japanese game designers can think of ideas that no one else would ever think of conceiving - largely because their ideas are quite outrageous.
One of the oldest examples is Shigeru Miyamoto's original Donkey Kong. Who else would have conceived the idea of a blue-collar worker risking his life to save a damsel in distress from an oversized gorilla chucking barrels down rickety construction projects?
(Perhaps Merian C. Cooper, if he had knowledge of electronics and access to the necessary technology during this time - but I doubt even he would have considered an Italian plumber as the protagonist.)
I have to say here that if there are any game-makers that can raise my eyebrows in amusement these days, they would be the Japanese ones.
... BUT SLIGHTLY "INSPIRED" IDEAS
Ultimately, their ideas still have to come from somewhere. I will cite an obscure Japanese game as an example here: Gungrave. This game has a protagonist that lugs around a coffin, drawing weapons from it when necessary; this concept was quite outrageous during its time.
However, the inspirations for the character design should be quite apparent to fans of Japanese anime (especially the not-kid-friendly ones), and the concept of a protagonist that lugs around a container that is cumbersomely huge should not be so difficult to figure out either.
(Of course, I am aware that the sources of inspiration themselves may in turn be inspired by even older works of fiction. If you know of this, do tell me.)
On the other hand, perhaps to their credit, the Japanese game designers are generally candid and frank about where their ideas came from. The most prominent example is Shigeru Miyamoto (who described his pastimes as his sources of inspiration), and another younger (and more inane) example is Suda Goichi. I personally find this honesty refreshing, and that it goes a long way towards allaying suspicions of plagiarism.
SOMETIMES BAD IMPLEMENTATION
That is not saying that all of their ideas are good though. The concepts behind them may be fresh, but the implementation can be awfully frustrating, lack polish or have little value, or all of that. The aforementioned Gungrave is one such example, having wasted its potential on unremarkable gunplay.
More recent examples include arguably shallow games that try to sell themselves on their premise and concept. Granted, the outrageousness of these games may be enough to sway some game consumers, but for the harsher ones, the value is not there.
I should mention here that I had known of this game for a long while, and while I looked forward to it, I do not have expectations of it being good.
Then, there are also well-conceived games but which happen to have very poor considerations of the consumer's needs, such as Dark Souls: Prepare to Die, which had very lazy designs for its keyboard/mouse controls and which would certainly have alienated those who insist on playing with such controls.
WESTERN INFLUENCE: GOOD OR BAD?
If one who prefers the older Resident Evil games looks at Capcom now, he/she is likely to say "bad".
Unfortunately, or not, the reality is that corporations like Capcom and Square Enix are now becoming more multinational than completely and ideologically Japanese, as they open up their stocks and board of directors to investors from nations other than Japan. A couple of consequences of this are that they take less risks, and will takeinternational markets into consideration when conceiving the ideas for their games.
These are not necessarily bad changes of course, but the benefits would not certainly be apparent to those who wish for more surprising innovation from them, especially Capcom.
Next, there are the changes in their business practices of course. However, to cut Japanese game-makers some slack, the changes have varying consequences on consumer friendliness, and may not have been due to Western influence. However, that these changes mostly happened after they have opened themselves up to investors outside of Japan is difficult to overlook.
Personally, I wish that the Japanese game-makers do not stop conceiving zany ideas for their games. To me, zany ideas always make for entertaining games, though not necessarily high-value ones; to achieve this, the games need to have satisfactory polish, variety in designs and plenty of content. I believe that Japanese game-makers can achieve these too, if they are willing to learn from feedback by customers and critics.
Side Note: "Ludic" is not a typo of "lucid" - in fact, the two words may well be anathema to each other.
As all of us participating in this Chalk-Talk would already know, there are plenty of controversies surrounding the issue of violence in video games. However, I am not going to talk about these, for reasons that will be elaborated below.
ULTIMATELY WORKS OF FICTION
It should be realized here that these controversies arose over what are no more than works of fiction. Everything that happens in a video game, even if it is "inspired" by real-world occurrences, is ultimately not real. It is little more than a digital manifestation of the imagination of game designers, either completely fictitious, or described to them by their consultants. Even the fine-print and "legalese" that is in the game's documentation, specifically its disclaimers, would already suggest this.
Therefore, cooking up controversies over the realization of someone's imagination in the form of a video game is quite a silly endeavour. Of course, I am aware of all those suggestions of conspiracies by anti-game lobbies against video games and such, but this is a waste of time as well.
MORE HYPE FOR CONTROVERSIAL GAMES
Unfortunately, not everyone can be dismissive enough of such controversies - and certainly not the game-makers, not when there is an opportunity to raise publicity by responding to any group that is bashing their game.
Team Meat's response is certainly candid in its admission that PETA's outcry is helping its efforts to promote the game; one can even say that PETA used Super Meat Boy to promote its own knock-off (albeit a free Flash-based browser one). I personally do not find Team Meat's honesty to be admirable, but I certainly find it refreshing that Team Meat would be straight-forward and cynical in its response, as opposed to some other game-makers that try to play the victim and such.
(Team Meat conveniently described Meat Boy as a boy without skin - despite a slightly creepy promo trailer by Area 5 that strongly suggests that he is a sentient slab of meat - a trailer sanctioned by Team Meat, mind you.)
Although how much Team Meat - and any other game-maker for that matter - benefited from such outcry by NGOs and politicians is uncertain, they certainly had. After all, not everyone would bite what NGOs and politicians say, but they would have known about the games through them anyway. Taking sides in these controversies help promote the games even more, giving them quite a lot of free publicity.
DESENSITIZATION TO NASTY FICTION IN VIDEO GAMES
I have to say here that I do acknowledge that not everyone can be dismissive of graphically and aurally nasty things that happen in video games, even if they are not real. However, I insist here that everyone should keep the thought "it is not real" in mind, first and foremost.
Of course, I am aware that if one can keep this in mind often enough, one eventually can dismiss terrible things that happen in video games, and likely be desensitized to real violence too, or at least its visual appearance. However, I would argue here that desensitization is not necessarily bad, and it should not be associated with violent tendencies too; there is no study that conclusively correlates these two together.
Sure, one can argue that being shocked at terrible things is the "right" response - but shocks are not exactly healthy.
What is more important than being shocked over real terrible things is the realization that real people can do terrible things to other real people, and the realization that one should be doing more to prevent these from happening instead of being shocked over them when they do happen.
Unfortunately, video games cannot really help one move towards those realizations; they are, after all, works of fiction and more importantly, entertainment products. They are not primarily intended for food-for-thought, and neither are they intended to be tools of education from the on-set.
(Side note: I suggest reading op-eds and editorials about real-world violence to reach these realizations instead of playing video games.)
That's all that I want to say about video game violence. It's not much, but I would like to make a point here that there are people who see an issue in making issues about nasty but ultimately fictional things - especially when it plays into the hands of NGOs/politicians who want to be seen and heard and game-makers who are out to highlight their game.
Music can greatly enhance the experience of a game, as those of you who are reading this article may know already. However, this article is not exactly about to suggest that games with great music are automatically good; music can disguise flaws or shortfalls in a game, or make a game seem to be more than what its gameplay sets it out to be.
For the game consumer that considers himself/herself wise, he/she should consider the music separately from the rest of the game. After all, aural aesthetics are just an element that is complementary to the core of the game, which is the gameplay.
MUSIC AS A PROMOTIONAL TOOL
Jake Kaufmann's work is better than the game itself, I would say.
Great music is often used to sell a game with, such that almost every trailer would have said music playing in the background to make the trailer seem more awesome. An example is WayForward's Mighty Switch Force 3DS game, the trailer for which is shown here.
Mighty Switch Force, at its core, is yet another 2-D side-scrolling action-platformer, but with the titular switching game mechanism that has the player manipulating objects in the environment to get past obstacles and solve puzzles. However, said mechanism is nothing new in video games, and the combination of run-and-gun shooting and manipulation of the environment had been around as far back as the first Metroid (which has some good 8-bit music) and, for the sake of computer users, Abuse.
Returning to said trailer again, the brief description of the gameplay of Mighty Switch Force would not be so immediately apparent from the trailer, as its aesthetics, namely its exciting music, would be the foremost aspect of the trailer that reaches out to the viewer.
This gives Mighty Switch Force an edge over other 2-D side-scrolling platformers aat the time that have just as much media exposure as it has (which is not much). That is not to say that Mighty Switch Force is not a game worth playing: its puzzle-solving element certainly comes to the fore in the later levels, where puzzles are more complex. However, its trailer certainly does not present these later parts of the game in appreciably significant ways.
If one is wise enough to be skeptical of any sense of excitement after having watched an awesome trailer or promotional video, he/she should consider watching it again with the audio turned off, so as to be able to observe any snippets of gameplay shown.
Especially when a trailer tries to be cinematic.
MUSIC AS A GAME LEGACY
The experience from actually playing a game should be considered separately from actually listening to it in action. Yet, sometimes, a game is better remembered for one of its aspects, which may not even be its gameplay. This ensures that the game, or at least its title, lives on in different incarnations.
One of the best examples of this is The Great Giana Sisters.
Designed by Armin Gessert and Manfred Trenz, the game was almost immediately criticized as being a knock-off of Super Mario Bros, and subsequently faced legal pressure from Nintendo. Despite being all too similar to Super Mario Bros, the game achieved some hype due to its portrayal of being a victim of corporate pressure.
This hype has gone away over time, of course. This game would have been relegated to annals of history that are forgotten by all but Commodore 64 fans and enthusiasts of old gaming platforms. However, its music, which was designed and composed by the talented Chris Huelsbeck, ensured that the name of the game would be perpetuated decades after its debut (though this game would forever be a dubious inclusion in the portfolio of the artiste.
In present times, the Great Giana Sisters are not even about a pair of sisters (Giana and Maria) anymore - it's about a girl with bipolar disorder. The signature tunes of the franchise is still there though (but in rock).
Because rock makes a game's music more up-to-date.
MUSIC TO AUGMENT GAME EXPERIENCE - OR DISTRACT FROM IT
Although music can add to the fun of playing a game, it also distracts the player away from the crux of a game: its gameplay. Timely playbacks of exciting music can be distracting during moments in a game which an otherwise discerning player would note for unremarkable gameplay.
One example of this is Aquaria. Now, I am not saying that Aquaria has bad gameplay throughout - but it certainly benefits from fantastic aesthetics that disguises its level designs, which are unremarkable from a practical stand-point.
This is not the first time that I made a shameless plug for Alec Holowka's work.
The game has a theme of exploration, and the soundtracks certainly do a great job of expressing this with wonderful tunes and compositions. However, the levels that the player would navigate through are not exactly more sophisticated than those that have been seen in earlier 2-D games that emphasize exploration.
There are respawning creatures, areas with secrets that can only be accessed with the right power, tunnels with entrances that are obscured by objects in the foreground and such other designs that have been done before in games. Aquaria does the same, except with very luxurious artwork and splendid soundtracks from Alec Holowka. These two aspects of the game make for very enchanting - and distracting - aesthetics.
In fact, Aquaria is so much better remembered for its enchanting experience than its lesser aspects, such as combat that usually involves only the use of one offensive power (which happens to be more reliable than the others).
There are other games that make use of music to make themselves seem more impressive, such as Offspring Fling (which Alex Holowka contributed to as well) and Dustforce (which Lifeformed contributed to).
Presentation (i.e. great music and artstyle) and themes (i.e. outrageously skilled janitors) aside, this game is about racking up performance records and 'collecting' stuff (the cleaning disguises this aspect of gameplay) - it's not much different from so many other platformers.
The passages above are intended to convey the notion that one should be wary of the inclusion of good music in a game. It may be complementary to the gameplay, which may already be superb enough on its own, or it may be intended to disguise otherwise unremarkable gameplay (though it can never disguise poorly designed gameplay, of course), or just to promote a game and build up hype for it.
With all that said, there are a few ways that one can exercise such caution, for the sake of those who are wary of being suckered into liking a game because of the music:
- Play a game without its music turned on for a while. This allows one to focus on the gameplay and other aspects of the sound designs.
- Track down the original soundtrack albums of the games, preferably through free and legal channels like Bandcamp. This lets oneself get used to very exhilarating music before actually playing the game itself.
P.S. Embedding videos only work with GameSpot-sanctioned videos, e.g. those on GameSpot itself, its YouTube channel and its Twitch channel. Why? Because CBS Interactive and its SOPA-loving backside.
Firstly, thanks for spending the time to visit this page. Now, onwards to my two-cents on e-Sports.
IT'S ABOUT THE HYPE
e-Sports is ultimately a product of hype - specifically one that feeds off the popularity of high-profile games with competitive gameplay. It has always been so when the first "league" or "club" was formed (usually from the more insular "clans") so that matches between seasoned players can be broadcasted over the Internet just to show how awesome a game (or its most ardent players) can be, even though what is shown is highly advanced play and is far from the experience that newcomers to the game would have.
You know that e-Sports managers are thick-skinned when Hype Energy gets to advertise in their medium.
As the viewership caught up, so did the more opportunistic of businessmen. Usually, those businesspersons who work in the games industry itself are the first to realize the opportunity, such as those who once managed the original Atari and Nintendo way back in the 1980s.
Back then, the goal was to enlist the help of fans of their games to fan the hype around their games further. The competitions that were held did not exactly have players directly competing with each other; criteria for competitions mostly involved achievements like speed runs or high scores, such as Nintendo PowerFest '94.
Third-party leagues were formed later, which is perhaps a slightly better improvement as they were formed and managed by people who love the games themselves, and not those who have an obvious interest in promoting their products for commercial gain.
Yet, it did not take long for game-makers to co-opt them and give them technical support, as these leagues appear to be able to attract viewership more easily than the events that are organized by game-makers themselves. This is likely because they are perceived as less tainted by commercial interest. Either way, the game-makers would get what they want: the highlighting of their games.
IS IT SPORTS?
To me, yes - if money is involved.
Now, I am not going to rant about e-sports not being real sports and such other hoo-ha like physical exertion and crap. In fact, I am much more harsh on e-sports than you think, because I am just as harsh on "real" sports.
Replace the baseball with a computer mouse or controller and the message of this picture won't become any different.
To me, as long as money is involved in any manner, the spirit of sports as pioneered by the ancient Greeks is tainted. I consider this to apply to just about any real sport, especially the official sports "leagues" around the world that take a cut from advertising money - or worse, are involved in match-fixing.
That means that e-sports, as represented by the various leagues like NASL and MLG, automatically fall into this kind - nay, brand - of sports. After all, their broadcasting is sponsored and supported by a hell lot of ads, and winners are treated to prize money. Therefore, you may expect me to treat it with as much despise as I do "real" sports leagues.
The only kind of sports that I recognize and hold in high regard is sports that are wholly performed in the name of competition. In the case of e-Sports, that would be competitions held for the sake of fun and nothing else.
This was originally the case for many leagues, but broadcasting is not free. Furthermore, although the most passionate and high-profile of gamers can be expected to keep themselves in the limelight, leagues have to offer prizes to entice them to choose their limelight instead of the rest. Inevitably, monetary concerns infiltrated e-sports.
Perhaps it was an attempt to show that e-sports can be lucrative to participants and that a career of professional gaming can put food on the table, but this only increased the amount of funding needed for e-sports, thus having money becoming an even bigger factor.
Unfortunately, the history of "professional" "real" sports before e-sports has already shown that while money is a necessary "evil" to have sports affairs running, it is still a source of "evil" that encourages very unsporting (pun not intended) practices and decisions.
That said, I will place a warning here, for the sake of people who believe earnestly in e-sports: sooner or later, there would be a serious and shameful scandal involving money in e-sports leagues, when passion for gaming is overcome by greed, if there is not one that has happened already. The signs are already there, such as a participant complaining about prize offers being changed without earlier notification, which not only suggested greed on the part of participants but also less-than-scrupulous practices by organizers.
(In fact, recently, there is a scandal involving two finalist teams that had colluded in a MLG-sponsored League of Legends competition to share the prize money, regardless of who won. I find this even worse than match-fixing.)
THE GAME IS NOT FULLY REPRESENTED
Another perennial problem with e-Sports is that competitions often have rules that prevent the entirety of a game from being featured. The very early competitions that Atari and Nintendo once organized had already shown this, when the onus was on getting high scores and such instead of portraying the game as their designers had envisioned.
The problem has only gotten worse over time, as games become more sophisticated. As an example, many competitions involving shooter games ban specific features of a game from being used, such as a past NASL tournament for Tribes: Ascend that banned certain in-game guns and munitions. There are plenty of reasons for such restrictions of course, but the fact that the competition does not portray the entirety of the game is still there and remains undeniable.
What is shown in the broadcasts is very, very far removed from what newcomers to the game will experience, as mentioned earlier. Even if one is not a newcomer but just a player of the game, he/she would soon realize that the "professional" gameplay that is shown in league-sponsored competitions is nowhere near what is encountered in regular matches.
That there are elitist notions of "pubs" (players who play in usually public circles with little to no restrictions) and "pros" (players who play in private circles that adhere to tournament rules for purposes of practice) only worsened the problem.
Fortunately, some communities can take such differences in a light-hearted - and amusing - manner.
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising twist to this issue is that the game-makers condone these restrictions. They swallow the league organizers' reasons for the restrictions without much protest, despite these restrictions putting some of their game designs in a bad light - designs that they very likely personally believe in, mind you.
Of course, one can say that they are "supporting the fans' love for the game" and such other florid reasons, but one cannot deny that they would prefer to have e-sports leagues highlighting their games than not.
ENCOURAGING SPECIFIC DESIGNS AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS
All of the above problems would not have been much of a bother to players who are not looking for a career in professional gaming. Unfortunately, the increasingly prominent scene of professional gaming and gaming leagues has caused some game-makers to focus more on designs for competitive gameplay, at the expense of any other aspect that their game franchises may have stood for or may have potential for.
The Tribes franchise is one such example. Its backstory had roots in the MetalTech franchise, which despite being a BattleTech knock-off, had more potential than just having murderous warriors zipping around on hoverboots and jetpacks. Unfortunately, its roots have been forgotten, and the franchise is now little than just another facet of the competitive multiplayer gaming scene. This can be disappointing to those who had appreciated that Tribes: Vengeance had tried to make use of its backstory to deliver a worthwhile tale.
In contrast, Tribes: Ascend ditched the roots of the franchise altogether. If they are utilized, then Hi-Rez only uses them as excuses to introduce new content now and then - namely cosmetic content that can only be obtained via micro-transactions.
Another example is the MechWarrior franchise, which has been reduced to a competitive multiplayer experience in the form of MechWarrior Online. BattleTech, which is what MechWarrior is based on, no longer has any significance beyond the original tabletop game. If it is featured in the latest MechWarrior game, then like Tribes: Ascend, it is utilized as little more than an excuse to introduce new gameplay content - namely more Mech parts that have to be unlocked before they can be used.
Yes, there were more than just giant robots in MechWarrior.
Game consumers who prefer immersive single-player experiences would be the ones to lose the most from such a change in the direction of game designs. That some of them would vehemently malign the e-Sports scene because of this would be quite understandable.
After having written all of the above, you may have the impression that I am against e-Sports. You would be somewhat right, but I would say here that e-sports should stay, if only for the sake of promoting gaming until it has become part-and-parcel of "normal" life. I only wish that it could stay without the influence of money and the lust for hype.
It is a tall order of course, but it can be done, as long as everyone that is involved keeps in mind that it is his/her passion about gaming that is most important in e-sports. He/She should not be exploiting e-Sports to make money off advertising or using it as a substitute for jobs with more stable incomes, e.g. salaries.
As for anyone else who would rather not have anything to do with e-sports and wish it to go away, then I would suggest this: don't bite the hype.
Digital distribution started out with a benevolent enough intent, or at least that is what the marketing divisions of companies that can afford such operations had said.
Being able to reach many customers across the world as long as they have a viable internet connection is said to be beneficial to both product-makers and consumers. At first glance, the convenience of being able to download packages for games around the clock would have been quite irresistible.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the convenience that could have been granted to the consumer has been curtailed by many restrictions, many of which are quite understandable but are ultimately to the detriment of consumer freedom and, ironically, convenience.
Before elaborating on this, it has to be said here first that digital distribution is not a recent endeavour. It had been around for a long while - in fact as long as there had been telecommunication infrastructure, and not just for the Internet. For example, there was GameLine, which offered consumers opportunities to download games into a cartridge to be played on old consoles like the Atari 2600.
The proliferation of broadband Internet connections over the past decade made digital distribution very much possible, but the problems that are associated with digital distribution came to light almost as soon as they took off.
PROBLEM #1: USAGE RESTRICTION VIA LOADER CLIENTS
It has to be said here first that the likes of CVC had at least the foresight to have digitally downloaded games stored in portable cartridges that can be used by anyone with a machine that can read the cartridge, or even duplicated if the consumer is unscrupulous enough to do so.
Unfortunately, latter-day games are just too big to fit into most portable storage devices; instead, they have to sit on hard disks. Of course, there are portable hard disks, and consumers who don't mind the hassle can attempt to transfer fixed hard disks around, but there are also restrictions in place to prevent sharing of games.
These restrictions are of course the requirement for user accounts, without which a digital game package cannot be used - at least not legally. These restrictions are implemented via client software that is required to be executed before the digital game package can be accessed, e.g. Valve's Steam client. The client software requires the user to log into his/her user account in order to access all possible options to interact with the game package.
Refusal/Failure to log into a user account causes some of these options to be rendered unavailable, the most significant of which is the inability to receive updates and patches for the game package.
This requirement was of course put in place to prevent the shared use of digital game packages. This requirement is not exactly unlawful as it is supported by the concept of copyrights and rights of use (which are the products that are being sold by game-makers, and not the game packages themselves).
Unfortunately, the insistence on loader clients has introduced a hassle that consumers did not have to deal with before, namely having to log into user accounts. Granted, the clients can automatically perform what once required the download and application of patch installers, additional files and such (for purposes of updates and patching) or even complete reinstallation (to fix corrupted installations). However, before loader clients, all the consumer needed to do in order to play the game was to launch an executable - the launching of client software that lurks in the background is not needed.
In fact, the implementation of loader clients has gone beyond digitally downloaded game packages, as early as Half-Life 2. Physically stored game packages, like those bought at retailers, and especially those for computer games, often require activation via loader clients, after which the physical storage device in the package becomes no more than what it is: a storage device. The license that came with the package has been tied to the user account instead of the storage device itself.
This simple window turns your disc into a next-to-worthless piece of silicon.
PROBLEM #2: NON-TRANSFERABLE LICENSES
Licenses that are contained within storage devices and not user accounts had posed a problem to game-makers who insist on being paid for giving away the right to play their games. Their problem is, of course, the proliferation of "used games", namely the trading-in of game packages that can otherwise be played on another machine without much of a problem.
While the consumers of the console markets do not have to worry about game licenses being decoupled from storage devices and linked to user accounts yet, this has already been so for the computer game markets, in no small part due to Valve Corp showing that this can be done without much business-diminishing repercussions.
Most importantly, having licenses tied to user accounts allows digital distributors to enact another restriction, namely preventing the transfer of licenses between accounts or to accounts under other distributors.
This can happen without much legal challenge, as the consumer is not exactly purchasing a game licence directly; this is technically done through the aforementioned user account instead. Even the installation of games via retail packages require the user to log into a user account to activate the installation. Therefore, technically, said game licences are little more than "enhancements" and "additional features" for a user account.
In turn, these accounts come under the purview of service-based products, and not goods. In other words, the user account can be revoked in its entirety if the customer is found to be infringing on the Terms of Service governing the use and management of the account.
One of these terms is that licenses are not transferable, thus effectively turning the purchase of a license into a permanent lifetime, non-returnable rental with a one-off fee. This is of course far removed from the notion of game licenses being commercial goods.
PROBLEM #3: REGIONAL RESTRICTIONS
This is the worst problem with digital distribution, and one that flies into the faces of its proponents. It is also the least intractable, which makes it all the more deplorable.
Being able to directly control distribution allows digital distributors to lock digital game packages away from consumers of certain regions of the world, for whatever reason (usually due to agreements with the trademark-holder). The most recent example of this is Dark Souls for the PC, which is not available in certain regions of the world for digital download.
If this link to Dark Souls' Steam page doesn't lead you to a dead-end, then you are lucky to be sitting in the right place in the world at the right time.
I acknowledge that this may be due to some technical problems with regional servers, but I am not about to rule out that this is the result of commercial policies.
"SO WHY BOTHER?"
That is what a consumer that is very disgruntled with digital distribution would say.
However, the potential benefits of digital distribution remain very much achievable; the only obstacles in the way are game-makers', publishers' and distributors' attempts at controlling usage of their products, if only to ensure that rights to copyrights and grants of the rights of usage are observed. Unfortunately, many of them are not willing to address issues that customers face from their insistence on imposing restrictions.
Personally, I wouldn't want to peruse any digital distribution service that does not address these issues, but I acknowledge that it is difficult to keep these grievances in mind when a service offers something that is very agreeable with me.
As an example, Steam's recent attempts at engaging the help of users in its decisions on which games to select for discount sales and for distribution on Steam are commendable, even though I am aware that these are market research schemes in disguise as much as they are attempts at encouraging customer participation in decision-making.
Another example is Green Man Gaming's trade-in feature, which allows users to relinquish licenses that have been bought for some Capsule credit. However, I am also well aware that this is still far from the implementation of transferrable licenses.
And there's of course Good Old Games, which does not impose the use of loader clients, but which has hesitated in its response to the European Union Court, which recently ruled that digital game licenses should be transferable.
However, I still hold hopes that one of the digital distributors would accede and give more freedom to the consumers; in my mind, CD Projekt is the likeliest, though I am disappointed at its hesitation.
But until that happens, I know what I would do: I hold back my money.
Now, I have to say here first that I see video games as works of entertainment, and the stories in them as little more than works of fiction, regardless of how believable they are. If a game's story and settings are not real, and they are meant for leisure (and commercial gain), then they are no more than toys to me.
But there is still value and worth in toys, namely how well they captivate and entertain, and some video game literature happen to be able to do that more than most.
However, please do not be expecting me to heap praise all the time on the examples that I would raise as particularly captivating video game literature. I am ultimately not a fan of any writing, no matter how much I like it.
FUNCTION OF VIDEO GAME LITERATURE
Perhaps the most important contribution of the story-writing and setting designs for a game is to give the game a premise. The more experienced of you would be able to recognize a premise when you see one, the most common being the protagonist given a reason to go a quest/adventure/mission, etc. to achieve something (typically to right some perceived wrong).
Of course, this is done to elicit some empathy on the part of the player, as the first of methods to rope the player in. Most of the time, this works, especially if the protagonist is not exactly a cookie-cutter character or there are a lot of hints to suggest that everything is not as it seems.
What appear to be Chris and Jill pointing guns at each other was certainly quite refreshing to me - at first glance.
On the other hand, it won't work on those who have seen one too many premises - especially when whatever that was shown about the premise turns out to be just a marketing trick. Worse, the actual premise could be underdeveloped, or hampered by haphazard writing, thus giving an impression that it was little more than an excuse to have the protagonist(s) romping here and there.
Resident Evil: Revelations is a particularly disappointing example of the above, I would say, and would say no more, as this is spoiler territory.
Of course, a premise is technically an excuse for the gist of the game, but there is such a flaw known as "wasted potential".
GAME LITERATURE AS CANON FODDER
Firstly, "Canon Fodder" is a deliberately written phrase. It is not a typo.
Story-writers who write stories for games of any kind, be they digital, table-top and others, know that what they write and design is to be ultimately used as a library for the inspiration of their other colleagues in other departments of game design (especially the concept artists). This can be best described using one of the oldest franchises around in the table-top scene, Warhammer Fantasy (which is itself inspired by Tolkien, I am well aware).
Now, I know that Warhammer Fantasy is more associated with table-tops than video games, but the other alternative example would be Warcraft - which is inspired by the former.
Warhammer Fantasy appears to have started out with a simple goal: make a much grittier and darker variant of Tolkien-esque high fantasy. The first step was to create a faction within the Warhammer Fantasy universe that is all bad, through-and-through (and that would be Chaos), while having everyone else being guilty of something "evil" to various degrees.
Aspiring Chaos Warrior: " 'Evil' is but a word the weak use to disguise their fear and envy of those who are worthy of lording over them."
And that is how Warhammer Fantasy roped in its fans - by offering something different from the rest to those interested in high/medieval fantasy molded in Tolkien's imagination.
Over time, the fictional settings of such a franchise would be expanded, eventually evolving into what is known as "canon". This is built upon, drawn upon or just used as the backdrop for the purpose of cranking out product after product - as followers of the venerable tabletop franchises would know all too well when they recognize words such as "sourcebook".
This can be extended to video games, with high-profile examples being the products that BioWare makes, especially Mass Effect, the sci-fi settings of which allowed BioWare's story-writers and programmers to alter/introduce designs and justify them within the next entry for the franchise as they see fit.
One new innovation in the sci-fi backstory, and then one new product to entice the ardent fan to part with his/her money.
VIDEO GAME STORY-WRITING STARTING (FICTIONAL) CONVENTIONS/TROPES/MEMES
This is perhaps the most convincingly entertaining aspect of video game literature (and the least influenced by commercial motives). In fact, the franchises that have been stated as examples in this article thus far can be used again as examples for this segment.
Bad writing in video games does not always go down the proverbial drain. Most will, especially the more obscure video games, but some actually end up becoming something more than the story-writers intended. Foremost of these are memes which had arisen from especially campy and lousy writing - especially lines that actors can say out loud without so much of a guffaw.
Barry Burton will forever be known for all the wrong things.
(P.S. Link above is Safe-For-Work at this time of writing.)
Then, there are conventions that some video games have helped to cement. One of the most prevalent of these is that Orcs are green. Oh, I know that Warhammer Fantasy was the one that started this convention in what may or may not have been a poke at the Irish - or Scottish.
This convention would have stayed in Warhammer Fantasy only, if not for Blizzard's popular Warcraft franchise that propagated it, thus making the common perception of "orcs" in high-fantasy fiction being far, far removed from what Tolkien envisioned.
Just to elaborate, the green Orcs are typically barbaric, savage and too stubborn to progress beyond brutish tendencies, but they are ultimately a race of their own; Tolkien's Orcs are envisioned to be deliberate mockeries of Tolkien's elegant (and human-sized) Elves, made by those who have spite for the latter.
Of course, the differences are merely subtle in this case; they practically behave in almost the same manner. That is not to say that some story-writers have tried to diverge from this rather crude and unwholesome representation of Orcs; Blizzard's Orcs are a good example of an attempt to make them seem more noble and honorable, introducing a warrior's code (of sorts) into Orc society.
And there are also flimsy attempts at trying to make Orcs that are different from the usual green ones.
These conventions serve as focal points for efforts by story-writers to present something new or at least not seen much before in games. An example is the upcoming Of Orcs and Men, which appears to be selling itself on the premise that the game would have a different take on the usual tropes of high-fantasy Orcs and Goblins (or at least a slightly different take, as in having otherwise savage Greenskins as the protagonists struggling against a corrupt human regime).
That is all that I could think of for this topic about video game literature. Do check out any other Chalk-Talk articles on video game literature, whether they are featured by the GameSpot Community Managers or not.
UNDERDOG HYPE IS STILL HYPE
You may have seen and heard plenty of promoting and highlighting of AAA games before; there be plenty of advertisements, press releases, offers of interviews by the game-makers, invitations for conferences, etc., most of which are instigated by the game-makers (especially those who are flush with financial resources) and then propagated by fans who don't seem to acknowledge any other games.
So some of you sneer at these games and their fans, labeling the former "trash" and "garbage", the latter plenty of labels that suggest that they are less than human.
When you are not doing that, you may be looking up information on games that you like - games that happen to be of far lower profile than the AAA tripe. Then you go around the Internet highlighting these games with videos and forum posts, or using the various social networking tools to spread word of said games. Or you may gripe through posts and comments on sites with high Internet traffic that the games that you like are underrated and not receiving enough attention because the AAA's are hogging the limelight and have more money for promotion and such other sh*t.
Well, by doing what you do, the underdog games that you like are getting the same thing that the AAA's are getting: HYPE.
...And Hype Sells Games - Indie, AAA or anything in between. Did I mention Indies?
Now, I have to admit here that I have fallen for the hype surrounding some games with underdog reputation, though for some of them, I have the excuse of not having bitten into the hype until after quite a long time since their official release - an excuse that I learned to exercise more often after having found quite a lot of them underwhelming and not really up to the hype.
Ultimately, these are mistakes on my part; I happen to realize this, and this consequently has made me very hostile to hype of any kind. They have also made me far, far less willing to give any game the benefit of the doubt.
And no, I am not bashing your own preferences. It's your money and time, and up to you to decide what to do with them, as it should and always be. As for me, I have long sworn never to be a fan of any game and will forever be skeptical of any game, regardless of its reputation among the masses, underdog or no.
WHAT IS REALLY ASTONISHING WITH METRO 2033, REALLY?
After Metro 2033 was released, I was made aware of the hype surrounding the game - something about it being very faithful to the book, very atmospheric, etc. The loudest of the hyping is the comparisons with contemporary shooters, about it being better and such and such.
Now, at the time, I was already quite averse to hype (and shooters), I was (and still am) not a fan of THQ and I despised the fact that the PC version of the game has to be tied to Valve's clunker of a service client. I swore that as long as THQ doesn't get into my s***list, I would only play the game when its price falls under US$5, and it did, a few years after release and in a Steam sale.
So I bought and played the game. I actually wondered aloud - "what is all the hype about?"
I sometimes felt like these two dudes - including in this scene.
Is it because of the popularity of the well-received book? If it is so, then this game surely benefited from the hype of association. Of course, a fan can say that the game deserves kudos for portraying the book well, but I am not playing this game to see how well the game pays tribute to the book. I am playing it because I want to be impressed by the game's designs.
And I am not very impressed.
I am made quite aware of the game's rather linear storyline quite quickly, and personally I have no problems with linear storylines, as long as they are entertaining the first time around. However, if they get in the way the second time I play the game, I would be quite irked.
Metro 2033 did just that, and I happen to realize this when I reloaded a level to replay it. A particular scene that had me grinning in glee and amusement the first time around is now a hindrance to my attempt to replay the level; some cutscenes just cannot be skipped, despite my best efforts to find the button or key that would skip them. They gave me the impression that they were there to hide loading times.
Then there's the hoorah about Metro 2033 being pretty and such. I do agree; the game is quite slick in producing its graphics, especially the current build of the PC version. However, I will say that Metro 2033 for the PC is still a halfway-there console port, and the reason is that the PC version still relies on annoying checkpoints.
I am a player who tries to have the player character going to every nook and cranny in every level, just to see if there is anything to be had, e.g. hidden goodies, script triggers, even collision glitches. In Metro 2033, curiosity often leads to death.
Although I am amused by having caused the death of Artyom by just having him look somewhere he shouldn't, I am not amused by having to replay stretches of a level, especially when I know that the developers could have spent some of the time that was spent porting the game to actually develop a save-everywhere system that a shooter title on the PC should have.
And of course there is the game mechanism about bullets being used as a form of currency. However, I so far have not much of an incentive to use the military-grade bullets; more often than not, just keeping on the move or making use of a conveniently nearby solution is enough to tackle most enemies. Other than splashing these (somewhat) pristine bullets on some upgraded variants of weapons (which I found in later levels), I hoarded them more than I spent them.
They are very nice to look at though.
As for the theme behind this mechanism, I would repeat that I am not playing this game for the story. If I had wanted a good story about societies that use bullets as currency, I would have read the book instead.
Next, there's all that talk about having guns that work differently from the guns in other shooters. The way I see them, they do things that I have seen many times before: the usual hitting of things that have hit-point statistics to inflict damage, hitting some environmental hazard to kill something, knock out lights, etc. Nothing really new to me, as far as the shooting goes.
Perhaps there could be something refreshing to be had with the equipment that could be charged, but again, I am not a stranger to such weapon designs; the concept behind these designs had been in earlier games, especially the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. The player is essentially making sure that the gun is in an optimal condition so that ammunition expenditure is efficient. The only difference is aesthetic: the gas charge meter could well have been replaced with weapon condition, and the pumping could have been replaced with repairing actions without much of a fundamental change.
Pumping stuff at awkward times can be amusing though.
Perhaps what I found most disappointing is that Metro 2033 still does what shooters at the time does - have annoying quick-time events (which I am very, very tired of) and rail-shooting moments. The segments involving travel on the train tracks are especially so. Of course, one can argue that these are obviously on rails, but the player character is still stuck on some vehicle out of his control and has to act as little more than a turret. Thematically appropriate or no, it is still more of the kind of gameplay that I am already quite tired of.
I am still playing the game of course, but there had better be some fantastically splendid moments later in the game - and I want them to concern gameplay, not story. Otherwise, I am not likely to see this game as nothing more than especially trumped up by underdog hyping. (Even the fact that I had spent only US$5 on this game would not be a consolation.)
YOUR GAME IS SHACKLED TO STEAM? SCREW IT. (AT LEAST UNTIL IT IS UNDER US$5)
Nowadays, I baulk at games very easily, and refuse to play them for many reasons/excuses. Issues with the product offers, any annoying DRM (including Steam), DLC schemes that I find unfavorable, any legal dispute etc. turn me away from a game very easily.
But being super-cheap is a pull that only factors that especially infuriate me would negate. As long as a game-maker hasn't ended on my boycott list and it doesn't require any annoying DRM (the worst of which would have gotten the game-maker on my boycott list anyway), I would still consider its game if it is under US$5 even if it has any aspect or associated issue that I dislike.
And if it is a game title whose PC version is strictly available only through Steam, I very much insist on the minimum that it is priced under US$5 before I would even consider playing it. An example would be Hard Reset, whose PC version was initially available only on Steam, and which I avoided for that reason, among others.
(I especially despised the way that Flying Wild Hog promoted it among the gaming press, e.g. GameSpot. It reeked of so much exploitation of discontent with contemporary shooters.)
So now, my proverbial dam of contempt - in place to prevent me from going on buying binges and spending too much time on playing games - has had holes put into it by the just-announced Steam Summer Sale.
I am currently mulling over some choices. I would appreciate some recommendations, but I would remind you here that I am not kidding when I said that I am very hostile to hype; I, for one, ignored Portal 2 even when it had been offered with discounts a few times before this, just because I don't like the hype surrounding this Valve title.
I can't hold food with as much contempt as I do with games, I have to admit. However, my worries for my health and physique do hold me back, as well as my very strong adherence to Apuleius' words, which I found to be quite handy in preventing me from just becoming yet one more of the ever-consuming masses.
However, it would appear that food has an advantage of being easier to innovate than video games, especially those with plenty of flavours and textures. Ice-cream is one of them.
And so this brings me to my way of paying tribute to ice-cream. And Ronald Reagan. He is also known for something else that is "cold" in addition to his tribute to this cold dessert, by the way. (Dry pun intended.)
If you are a fictional character, call her fat at your own risk. (Hint: She will BEAT you up.)
In my previous blog post, I described how best to play the Doombringer and the Juggernaut in Tribes: Ascend, and that involved playing in otherwise legitimate manners but which frustrate/infuriate other players.
The Brute gets all of this blog post, because he is the most general-purpose Heavy and that he is potentially the most infuriating Heavy to have as an enemy.
Perhaps there should be more cautious elaboration on that statement about the Brute being the most general-purpose. At first glance, he would appear to be so because of his default selection of weapons and his default pack.
When in doubt on how to improve guns, make them bigger.
The Heavy Spinfusor (recently buffed) appears to be one of the Tribes franchise's trademark weapons, and indeed it is. While it is definitely the biggest Spinfusor around, it appears to have a miniscule advantage in splash radius compared to the regular Spinfusor, meaning that the player needs to have a bit more finesse when playing the Brute than when playing the Juggernaut.
Against the lighter characters that also pack spinfusors, the Brute has the disadvantages of having larger hitboxes for his model and slower movement - disadvantages that I consider not well compensated for by the Brute's large amount of hitpoints and the Spinfusor's higher damage, especially if the Brute has to fight in open spaces.
Indoors though, the Heavy Spinfusor's higher damage gives the Brute a major advantage, but luring players who are rolling lighter classes is an opportunity that gets rarer over time as players learn that fighting Heavies in enclosed spaces is a very bad prospect.
However, this doesn't mean that the player that is rolling the Brute has to stick indoors most of the time. He still can fight outdoors, as long as he keeps close to the tops of hills or any other environmental feature that has slopes. This does not mean that the player should be shooting down slopes or hills, or - even worse - up them. Firing discs along slopes has never led to anything much, and the Heavy Spinfusor is no different.
Of course, perching on top of slopes to watch for incoming enemies is a tactic common to any character that uses explosive weapons.
Instead, the player should consider standing at the top of these slopes, so as to be able to see anyone approaching the slopes and also advertise the presence of his/her Brute. Rather than waiting for enemies to crest the slope, the player bolting off from and over the slope as enemies are attempting to jetpack up it so that they are silhouetted against the slope. Hopefully, if they haven't realized what the player is up to already, the player can land some shots, using the splash damage reflecting from the slope to hit the target.
Of course, this trick only works once against an unsuspecting player (or a few times if he/she is a bit slow). Sooner or later, the Brute has to land, and this is when he is likely to suffer some payback. (I recommend landing on the slope instead of going down it, to prevent the opponent from having a height advantage if the player didn't manage to score a kill.)
It has to be mentioned here that despite having projectiles that look different from those of other spinfusors, the Heavy Spinfusor does not have larger hitboxes for its projectiles. While this means that scoring mid-air hits is just as difficult as with other Spinfusors, the higher damage (especially with the most recent update) does mean that mid-air hits are more likely to kill. Players who are skilled enough to do so consistently should consider rolling the Brute.
SIDE NOTE: It is important to keep in mind that the Heavy Spinfusor, like other weapons that have to be reloaded after each shot, remains unloaded if the player switches to another weapon or performs some other action. Thus, it is good practice to reload it before switching guns (unless the situation is too urgent for this). If the player fails to reload, the weapon would eventually be automatically reloaded due to the "inactive reload" mechanic, which loads a weapon after several seconds of it being stowed away.
Shotgun-rushing for the noobish win!
Prior to an update that fixed an exploit with shotguns, shotguns were an infuriating category of weapons. The Automatic Shotgun remains an infuriating weapon, exploit or no.
The automatic shotgun is the Brute's other default weapon and is the fastest-firing shotgun in the game. The Heavy Spinfusor may be tolerated by many players, especially fans of Tribes, but this shotgun would have quite a lot of players fuming, because of how it encourages an infamous "tactic" that is often associated with reckless players, or "noobs", if pouting players are wont to stick labels. Ultimately, it is meant for such a tactic, which is charging at enemies with the shotgun blasting away in the general direction of the target.
That is not to say that it works all the time; it only works when the player times it right. Personally, I only shotgun-rush a dude who didn't see me coming; doing otherwise tends to result in ugly deaths. However, if the terrain happens to be very convenient, e.g. a lot of bumps that can catch incoming spinfusor discs or otherwise obscure the Brute from being aimed at with splash-damage weapons, an up-front charge can still work (and likely get the other player fuming even more).
Of course, if any other player with a lighter character attempts to engage in a shotgun trade, the Brute would probably prevail. I have noticed that such a player will often attempt to fly up above the Brute to reduce his/her character's profile, as well as to retain the opportunity to switch to and fire any splash-damage weapon. They have to land sooner or later though, so a player rolling the Brute may want to reserve a bit of energy to lift off a bit before they land, if only to assist aiming with the Heavy Spinfusor.
(Yes, switching to the Heavy Spinfusor during a shotgun trade is a legitimate tactic - even if it seems cheaply convenient. Remember to make sure it is loaded, as mentioned in an earlier side note.)
The Automatic Shotgun is obviously a hit-scan gun, which means that its shots hit anything immediately. To balance its number of shots, it is subjected to scripts for scattering and a cut-off range, as can be seen from this YouTube demonstration video.
However, its scattering scripts means that luck is a factor when scoring hits at the extreme ranges of the gun. At these ranges, a player may score next to no hits (which is understandable), or may score one to three, each doing 50 points of damage. This can be infuriating to the victim, especially if he/she is trying to get his/her character away after having been damaged.
Therefore, if a player is rolling Brute but the Heavy Spinfusor is not suitable for catching an enemy that is running away (and it is often not; fleeing enemies are harder to hit with Spinfusors than those coming at the player), gambling with the Automatic Shotgun can sometimes yield results. I don't recommend pursuing too far though.
Best for l337-twitch Brute players.
I haven't had much first-hand experience with the Nova Colt, but I have had much experience getting shot by it.
Much like the other hit-scan pistols, the revolver has scripts that cause greater scattering with every shot fired in quick succession. This makes the gun most useful at close ranges, but the Automatic Shotgun is ultimately superior in this situation. The first shot that the gun fires always hit where it lands though, so it can be used to snipe enemies, especially those that are badly hurt and are trying to retreat.
Accuracy is not something most players associate with the Brute, so it can be terrifically aggravating to be killed by a Nova Colt at ranges where players believe they are safe from the Brute.
All Heavies have big guns, and considering what has been written thus far, the Brute appears to be no different; after all, all of the weapons mentioned are amplified versions of weapons that the lighter classes have. However, the other gear in the Brute's repertoire differentiates him a lot from other Heavies.
Remember: pack items don't appear on a character model.
Firstly, he's the only Heavy with an Energy Pack. This gives him an advantage in mobility - practically an upgrade over the other Heavies, if moving about while wielding big guns is the main desire of a player. It also makes the Brute a much more troublesome opponent for lighter classes at close- to mid-range combat.
Secondly, he has the Heavy Shield Pack, giving him more staying power than even the Juggernaut. However, the player will have to juggle energy between using it to power shields and for jet-boosting, so it is best used indoors where space is a luxury and combat is reduced to damage-trading. (And since it is an unlockable, it can cause some players to grate their teeth if the Brute managed to outlast their characters.)
The most important difference between the Brute and the other Heavies - in fact, the other characters - is his default belt item, the Fractal Grenade.
Weaponized Portable Disco Ball.
This may well be the weapon that gets the most players fuming - even after it has been nerfed, many times. Its current version, like all grenades, has a timed fuse, but its longer fuse meant that it can be used for area denial a bit longer. Like other grenades, it has tell-tale signs that it has been thrown, but instead of a smoke trail like some grenades have, it blinks green instead.
These blinks can be difficult to see, depending on the graphics capabilities of a player's machine. Of course, once it starts firing its lasers and making its signature zinging noises, its presence becomes plenty obvious. On the other hand, the period between it being thrown and its "detonation" is silent by comparison.
A less obvious property of the grenade is that every hit by a laser pulse has knockback, likely a glitchy legacy from its evolution from a template grenade into what it is now. While the knockback is not as impressive as the other grenades', a victim can be hit by multiple pulses, which can be frustrating. This property of the Fractal Grenade contributes most to the weapon's area denial capabilities.
However, because it is not a truly explosive grenade, it suffers from the application of scattering scripts. The Brute can attempt to compensate by using more than one grenade to saturate an area, but the randomness of the scripts means that a lucky player can still attempt to jump into the barrage to reach a target (and there are reasons to do so, as will be mentioned shortly).
Then, there is the Light Sticky Grenade, though I have to admit that I don't have much experience using this grenade. Hi-Rez has been trying to encourage its use by buffing it, but I haven't seen a lot of people using it over the Fractal Grenade.
Coming up shortly, the typical ways that a Brute can annoy the heck out of enemies and still be a credit to the team:
Before leaving for the enemy's base, leave a little parting gift - just in case a flag runner ganks the flag.
Capture-The-Flag: The Brute seems to be the odd-one-out among the Heavies in Capture-The-Flag. As a result, the dude is rarely rolled, which also means that enemies are usually not prepared for his tricks if they didn't see him coming. I find that he is best used on the offensive, because no other weapon is more convenient and straight-forward to use against base buildings than the Heavy Spinfusor.
However, the Brute can cause the most trouble by digging into the enemy's generator room, so shooting out base buildings gives his presence away. It would take a long detour to get into the enemy's base; if this is the case, I often just switch to another Heavy (usually the Juggernaut) quickly, if I can get an Inventory Station called in.
On the other hand, if the Brute can get into the enemy's generator rooms, he can be a handful to remove.
The Brute can also attempt to protect a friendly flag runner on the way back by intercepting him and dumping some Fractal Grenades in the latter's path; I suggest throwing them onto hills that pursuers have to crest.
Team Deathmatch: Normally, people don't expect a Brute in Team Deathmatch, because he doesn't have weapons that are especially suited to shooting down highly mobile targets. This also means that a lot of players won't be familiar with the dirty tricks that a Brute can use.
Generally, I use him if my team is the one with the flag. I have the Brute trail the flag runner, and spam Fractal Grenades near the flag if he happens to drop it (usually through being killed). There are dudes who attempt to tempt fate by going into the laser barrage; if they don't die from the laser pulses, a Heavy Spinfusor disc usually finishes them off.
Most enemies are too wise to approach the flag, however, though this means that a team-mate has an opportunity to snatch the flag; either way, it aggravates the enemy and the Brute still gets to help the team. (The Brute will become a focus of the enemy's anger though.)
If the flag runner decides to stand his ground (this can occur if there is no Pathfinder to help keep the flag away from enemies), a Brute makes a good bodyguard, especially if close to an Inventory Station, which helps restock Fractal Grenades. Most enemies who are aware of the presence of the Brute will attempt to jump higher than him to make it difficult for the Brute to use his default weapons, but if there is a character with hitscan pistols and rapid-fire guns, this works in their favor.
You can consider chances of victory in a Capture-and-Hold match to be proportional to the number of Brutes in your team.
Capture-and-Hold: This is the domain of the Brute; it will be rare indeed not to have a Brute in a match of such type.
The Brute's default load-out is plenty suitable for Capture-and-Hold. Either gun is handy for taking potshots, the Heavy Spinfusor can get rid of the weak buildings around points and the Energy Pack gives the energy needed to boost around to continuously capture points (which is key to victory in this mode - not holding them).
However, his trump card is the Fractal Grenade: more so than in any other game mode, a lot of players are willing to tempt fate by attempting to zip across an objective being saturated by randomly fired lasers. Most players learn the hard way that this is a bad idea, but with the pressure of time, staying away to wait for the lasers to die down is not an option for many.
Furthermore, every map has one hotly contested point - usually the one that is least defended by Base Turrets and covered by Base Radars. This point also happens to be easy to capture, simply by zooming past it. This means that there would be a lot of players that would be eager to approach them, which in turn means that this point is especially juicy for spamming Fractal Grenades.
That's all about playing Heavies in cheap but legitimate manners. That said, here's a silly YouTube video by Tribes: Ascend fans with plenty of time.
P.S. Having a heck lot of trouble trying to dupe the editor with YouTube videos, despite following Sidburn19's instructions. They don't seem to work with non-GameSpot sponsored videos.
If you have been playing Tribes: Ascend, you may have realized, or may soon realize the most important thing about playing Heavies:
To be really good with Heavies, you have to be a jerk - preferably with very good aim (though very good aim is always good for anyone).
If you are playing the Heavy on the left in this situation above, you FAIL.
Being significantly slower than other player characters means having less capability to dodge incoming fire and being bigger (and thus having a bigger hitbox) means being easier to hit than lighter opponents. Sure, Heavies have comparatively bigger guns and munitions, but even having fantastic aim is somewhat spoiled by how slow and obvious-looking they are. Therefore, players rolling Heavies are going to have to dupe or otherwise force enemies that are of lighter variants into getting close to their painful stuff.
And if you haven't noticed already, there are a lot of unhappy dudes that often rage when other players who are skilled at playing get a lot of kills; while I would agree that the Heavies' weapons are rather powerful and convenient compared to those of lighter characters, these are all they have against the much more agile lighter characters. However, it would be hard for them to deny that they had been playing rather sneakily and ruthlessly.
I happen to have learned how to play in almost the same manners, and am going to write about so in this blog post. Nothing illegal or exploitative about this, of course; it's all legitimate!
With very explosive default weapons, the Juggernaut doesn't require splendid aim from the player so as to provide adequate contribution to the team. Any Juggernaut veteran that says otherwise is lying, or should have kept in mind that where the Juggernaut is aiming is more important than how well the player can lead with shells and shots.
That is not to say that a player can fire anywhere and get a kill; the player characters in this game are often moving very fast, and only great luck will have a player scoring a kill through random bombardment.
In fact, even an estimated shot will have trouble hitting things, due to the generally uneven terrain found in all maps that obscure the point of impact (unless the Juggernaut happens to be on very high ground, in which case this is just begging to be sniped by Sentinels or attacked by Shrikes). Of course, eventually a very experienced Juggernaut can get Artillery Strike accolades with commendable regularity, but this is still not efficient use of the Juggernaut's explosives because it is doubtful that every shell lobbed into the air would hit a player.
If you score this a lot, you should have a career in physics or ballistic simulation.
On the other hand, if you believe that you can surprise someone with a mortar or MIRV strike, then go ahead! The victim is likely to exclaim something amusing.
To be more efficient, I recommend using the Juggernaut indoors, especially when shooting up or down elevations. The Fusion Mortar is especially handy for this purpose, as it bounces. The idea here is that being indoors negate some of the artillery weapons' drawbacks, namely having very obvious visuals that can be easily seen if they are used outdoors.
Of course, the noises that they make cannot be negated, but not being able to see incoming shots until they are rather near can still be very infuriating to the other players. This is more so if the indoors section being explosively flushed is rather lacking in room (like the ones in Drydock).
Also, do keep in mind that until now, there are no means to push away explosives. This means that there is little that anyone defending a room from entry by the Juggernaut can do to prevent a shell that has been lobbed into the room from detonating, other than to come after the Juggernaut to stop him from firing any more rounds.
Sure, generators can have inconvenient pits to have shells plummeting uselessly into, but discs always work.
Indoors is also where the Juggernaut's Spinfusor MkD is most potent (if a bit riskier). This is especially useful against enemies that are using explosive weapons, especially the lighter character types; they are very likely to keep their distance, but with every dodge out of the way possibly bringing them close to a wall, ceiling or floor, hurting them with the MkD's relatively big explosive radius (compared to those of other Spinfusors) can reduce the fight into a damage trade (which Heavies have an advantage at) and annoy them at the same time.
Most Heavies are not able to run away from enemies or chase them, even other Heavies. However, the Juggernaut has a slight advantage compared to other Heavies if his enemies are still some distance away; he can always dump an artillery round on the ground to deter pursuers, or to deny that ground to enemies (and most are wise enough to get out of the way). As for those who dodged said round, how far that they have to swerve around the shell's explosive radius can make it easier for them to be caught by the Juggernaut's other trick: his grenades.
A lot of players tend to forget that the Juggernaut does have grenades, even if they seem to be overkill for a character type that is already so loaded with explosives by default. More importantly, firing and reloading animations for the Juggernaut's primary weapons can be interrupted at any time with a grenade throw, meaning that a Juggernaut can catch unobservant players with a grenade blast if they dodged his artillery shell.
Timing the grenade throw and the firing of the shell does take some finesse, but if the player can succeed in that, anmy ranting from the victim about how unnecessary any aiming is for the Juggernaut may well be worth the practice.
That all said, here are some ways to be a jerk in some of the game modes thus far:
Team Deathmatch: It is a bit difficult to use artillery weapons against individual targets in this game mode, but to be really annoying with these, spamming rounds into heated close-range fights between team-mates and the opposing team can be very effective. Unfortunately, because the game still does not implement enough visual indications that rounds fired by a team-mate is harmless to another, the Juggernaut stymies his team as much as the other. However, the most infuriating way to use artillery weapons is to spam shots after a team-mate that is running away with the flag; that can catch any pursuing enemies.
Of course, the price of being annoying in Team Deathmatch is that sooner or later, someone from the other team is going to come after the Juggernaut. Also, it has to be noted here that the Juggernaut is not utilizing his high health (as a Heavy) if he is bombarding away and not in the thick of fighting; he is more often than not caught all alone if he is doing this too, and a lonely Heavy is often a dead Heavy in Team Deathmatch.
Spam them defenses silly!
Capture the Flag: Flags are often always situated in the wide open, or at least in open air. This means that bombarding the enemy's flag posts is easy to do - and often needed if the other team is setting up defenses to block the flag runners on the Juggernaut's team. This will, of course, annoy the other team's defenders to no end, especially the Doombringer, ironically another Heavy that is very frustrating to deal with in this game mode.
Of course, eventually, the Juggernaut is going to get singled out, especially by Infiltrators who are more than happy to stick bombs onto his wide, big ass. Therefore, to be even more of an annoyance, the Juggernaut player should keep in mind a certain lesson that all artillerists should know: fire and relocate.
I would add that before relocating after having cleared the enemy's flag post, the Juggernaut may want to send one more round a short while after having decided to relocate, just to catch any enemy player that is trying to replenish the defenses on the flag post. (This would make it easier to figure out where the Juggernaut is going to relocate to though.)
Alternatively, the Juggernaut can attempt to hole up in the enemy's Generator room, or preferably, nearby, while attempting to utilize his Regeneration abilities to last as long as possible. There will be always be the risk of exploding oneself in such close quarters though, and the Survivalist perk clashes with the Egocentric perk (though I personally prefer the former over the latter when playing Heavies).
Capture and Hold: Spamming artillery rounds into the rooms or outdoors areas containing the points can frustrate enemies just as much as spamming onto flag posts in Capture-the-Flag. However, due to the gameplay designs of Capture and Hold, there tends to be fewer players and defenses guarding a point compared to the amounts encountered in Capture the Flag. However, some maps do have hotly contested points, and spamming artillery rounds on them can lead to some cheap kills and a lot of insults (and vengeance) coming the way of the Juggernaut.
BRING DOOM BY SITTING PRETTY
The Doombringer is perhaps most effective - and most annoying - in Capture the Flag, due to his gear. However, he does have some general-purpose gear that other players would find frustrating to deal with.
One of them is, of course, his Chain Gun; taking shots from a box magazine without having to reload is a great advantage over other character types with rapid-firing weapons. The wind-up time is not much of a balancing drawback if the player makes it a habit to tap the attack button to rev the gun a bit even when not in battle (though this can lead to repetitive stress injuries very quickly); after all, there does not appear to be any appreciable drawback to firing the Chain Gun (as compared to, for example, the Heavy's guns in Team Fortress 2).
However, I should add here that the Chain Gun, like the other weapons that create projectiles that are governed server-side and not client-side, can be quite difficult to use if the player has ping greater than 200 milliseconds. Players with this problem will have little choice but to unlock the Heavy Bolt Launcher. Yet, that is not to say that the Heavy Bolt Launcher is a weapon of last resort, or any less useful than the Chain Gun; more importantly, it is no less annoying to other players.
The Heavy Bolt Launcher does have the drawback of having a very, very visually obvious projectile; it's difficult not to spot an incoming ball of lightning. However, this does little to mitigate its main strength: giving the Doombringer quite a reliable explosive weapon with projectiles that have trajectories that are harder for enemies to track, as compared to those of the Chain Gun.
Both weapons would have players fuming, if the player has the skills and the ping to use them right.
With its drawbacks, it is very difficult to get kills with the Saber Launcher on players who see the missiles coming. I would say here that this is a situational weapon, meant more to help one's team instead of getting kills. After all, having an incoming missile that is painted with icons right onto the player's HUD is one more worry for any player that has been successfully painted. If the player can tag an enemy that is busy fighting with an incoming missile, said enemy has to consider dividing attention between handling nearby threats and anticipating the missile. Still, being able to fire a missile after an enemy player character is a rare occurence.
It should not be a surprise to any experienced player that to be effective in most game modes, the Doombringer will have to either sit on objectives or vantage points, or at least linger near them.
Team Deathmatch: The Doombringer is a very poor Heavy to consider for use in Team Deathmatch, what with his pack and belt items being either useless or underpowered for this game mode. However, if a player insists on using him, he is best used against the other team's flag runner - and this will likely annoy the heck out of the latter.
The other team's flag runner will have to jet and soar around a lot to escape pursuers, so following him around with a Saber Launcher and having him worry about a missile lock-on can help the Doombringer's team run him down. However, to do so, the Doombringer has to get to and sit on the highest vantage point in the map, and once he does, he is very likely to be spotted, as is to be expected of the inherent drawback of such locations.
Capture-and-Hold: Like Capture the Flag, the Doombringer's Force Fields and Mines can be handy in booby-trapping points, though Force Fields are more useful for points that are more exposed or have narrow passageways leading to them. However, the use of Force Fields means that the Doombringer would be playing a defensive role, which is not that much effective (or appreciated) in Capture and Hold.
Mines offer more versatility though. There are many unsuspecting players in Capture and Hold, often very eager to retake a point by touching it as soon as possible; this is where the Doombringer can be a huge jerk. I find that dumping mines on the point is not often effective, as wiser players always spam the point with something explosive to detonate the mines, but rather I place them on the paths leading to the point.
Only the most wary of players would bother to check these in addition to the point itself.
Flag-runners hate the Doombringer.
Capture the Flag: Theoretically, if the other team isn't very organized, a player rolling Doombringer doesn't even need to roam beyond more than a tenth of the map, namely the team's base. This is a rare occurrence that gets rarer over time, but when it happens, it shows just how much of a cheap bastard the Doombringer can be.
To unlock his full potential as a cheap bastard, the player will have to unlock Mines, Safety Third and Super Heavy, and fully upgrade upgrade all these (though maybe not mines; its first upgrade is more useful than the subsequent ones) and the Force Field.
During the starting minute of CTF match, there is a high chance that the Doombringer can get the First Blood accolade, if the other team has very eager flag-runners. The Doombringer has to get to the flag as soon as possible and plant a mine, or at least set up a Force Field.
However, this kind of ambush may not work well against a very experienced flag-runner, who will have learned a lot of things about Doombringers (often the hard way). These are often careful enough to send explosives down on the flag post to detonate mines, and more often than not scout out the flag post for Force Fields, which are visually obvious. I find that hiding the Doombringer behind cover while in third-person mode and coming out at the last few moments to body-block the flag is the least unreliable way to block these kinds of flag-runners.
Later into the match, if he is not busy replenishing Force Fields and Mines, the Doombringer will have to be physically there on the flag post, looking out into the horizon to see if flag-runners are approaching. Although most maps have a lot of blind spots if the player is looking from the flag post, the player can still exploit these if he/she believes that an enemy flag-runner might approach the flag post from these spots. Yet, covering every possible path is difficult, especially if the Doombringer is on his lonesome.
In other words, the Doombringer works best with the other character types, especially the Technician and Sentinel (two other characters that have little reason to roam around the map in CTF matches).
Team cooperation for optimal spoiling of flag runners!
These are optional, but if there are a lot of rookie flag runners, why not?
While most defensive deployables and mines are often visually obvious, the Doombringer's Mines are the most difficult to spot, as they emit next to no light and their textures aren't too high contrast. Therefore, a wily Doombringer can dump mines where players can't easily spot them, like edges and around corners. Most importantly, they do not suffer the proximity restrictions and generator-dependency of deployables.
It should be mentioned here that it is a bad idea to place Mines too close to Force Fields. Force Fields are easier to hit, and flag runners often have explosive weapons that will detonate the mines.
One very important matter before moving past the Doombringer: Players on the other team will attempt to clear the flag post with tactical or orbital strikes, so make sure to take cover when those tell-tale audio cues play; more often than not, there would be a flag runner zipping across afterwards. Mines - either the Doombringer's or the Sentinel's - are the quickest to be replaced on the flag-post.
(As a side note, if you are playing any other characters, you may want to spam grenades or other explosives in the direction of the team's flag post just when it was being hit by strikes; strikes cannot remove grenades like it can mines.)
That's all that I can write for now. I will write about the Brute some other time, as I am still drafting up passages for some cheap Brute tricks - and I have hit the tiresome 20000 character limit.
The next bit is not exactly relevant to this blog post, so I am dumping it into a spoiler tag to make it optional to read.
Returning to this blog post, it is about the variants of a virtual weapon in shooter games that had been around for a long time. Its gameplay design (that is, a weapon that fires flying explosive munitions that detonate with a radius of effect and are not affected by gravity) have been around before Doom's time, but the name for this weapon archetype was coined in that game.
Doom is also the first shooter where players discover that firing rockets at point-blank range hurts oneself too. Shocking!
Coincidentally, Doom's Rocket Launcher is the first in the shooter genre to have some homing property, due to Doom's use of the forebearers of aim-assist scripts (which in turn originated in an even older id Software game, Catacomb 3-D). Over the decades, game designers have developed several variants of the Rocket Launcher. These will be the main content of this blog post.
Do note that the following elaboration of these mainly concern sci-fi versions of this digital weapon.
Variant No. 1: The Overpowered
It is unfortunate that the more gameplay-conducive variants of this weapon were designed with lessons from earlier mistakes in mind. Many of those said mistakes can be traced to id Software itself, which went overboard with their designs of the Rocket Launcher in the first Quake. (I blame the other John in id Software's founding team.)
The only convincingly positive contribution of Quake's Rocket Launcher to the shooter genre is its particle effects. And gibs!
While this variant is no longer around, it is still notable for being a good example of how a very powerful weapon can break a game. Using Quake as the example again, I do recall having played multiplayer matches of the game where there is little reason to use any other weapon, with the exception of the equally overpowered Lightning Gun. The rockets are so fast, the weapon fires so fast, the blast of the explosions is massive and it has the same homing capabilities that Doom's Rocket Launcher has.
Strategies that I used early in a match often involve planning a route to the Rocket Launcher spawn-point, while picking up any weapon along the way to pick off other dudes heading to the same Rocket Launcher. Strategies that I used while I have a Rocket Launcher involve hogging its spawn point to deny it to others and blowing their no-Rocket-Launcher-equipped asses up. Strategies that I used upon having respawned after being killed involve ambushing dudes with Rocket Launchers so that I can steal their rockets, and timing a run towards the Rocket Launcher spawn point while others are distracted.
In other words, such a variant of the Rocket Launcher archetype rewards jerks.
Variant No. 2: The Dumb-Fire
I know, I am borrowing some terms from other genres (namely sci-fi simulators) here - because "straight-fire" is too plain and so not catchy.
As far as I can recall, this one has its roots in Quake II, which is one of the earliest games to adopt actual crosshairs and have weapons-fire dropping exactly at where said crosshairs pointed. As its name suggests, the Dumb-fire launches a rocket that is guaranteed to land where the crosshairs are pointed at - sooner or later. The bulk of sci-fi (or outrageously themed) shooters that are inspired by id Software's own shooters often have these. The example that I would point out here is the one that the Soldier uses in Team Fortress 2.
Picture above deliberately chosen to suggest yet another complaint at Valve Australia about the Soldier.
It should be pointed out here that while this variant of the Rocket Launcher is generally not overpowered, its weaker damage output has made that tactic known as rocket-jumping (or more precisely, the exploitation of virtual explosion physics) a lot easier and with less risk, compared to the use of Quake's Rocket Launcher - for better or worse.
I say "for the better", if one is looking for entertainment. Watching dudes blow themselves up in bodged rocket-jumps can be hilarious, and watching dudes hurtle through the air can be exhilarating; these experiences are amplified if oneself is doing the same.
I say "for the worse", because rocket-jumping lets players circumvent limitations of their player characters. Rocket-jumping lets player characters reach places others not armed with rockets can't, or reach certain places faster than others who are armed with explosives that are slower to deploy and detonate. This has always been an issue in Team Fortress 2, where poorly designed levels can mean that the Soldier thoroughly dominates. (The Demo-man can too, but usually it's the Soldier as he can "ka-boom" himself to someplace a lot faster).
Of course, this still comes with risk, but mobility of the explosive kind is an advantage that is very hard to balance against.
Variant No. 3: The Spinfusor
This is actually a sub-variant of the Dumb-fire. As far as I can recall, I do not remember any other sci-fi shooter franchise that uses such a sub-variant of the Rocket Launcher as Tribes did.
"Shazbot!", some of you Tribes fans would say at my branding of the Spinfusor as belonging to the Rocket Launcher archetype - but it practically is. Those discs that explode into shrapnel? That magnetic rail on the Spinfusor that accelerates the discs? All these are differences of the aesthetic sort.
Even if it launches explosive donuts, it's still a Rocket Launcher archetype.
Anyway, the Spinfusor fires a projectile that is generally faster but has a smaller explosion than those fired by the regular Dumb-Fire. (Some of you Team Fortress 2 players may point out that the Direct Hit is an example, but I haven't seen another shooter franchise that uses this sub-variant as much as Tribes did - so I am calling this archetype the Spinfusor.)
Such designs encourage the player to score, well, direct hits, while still giving the player an option to use the splash damage to indirectly damage enemies. One can argue that such a sub-variant is like a jack-of-all-trades that does neither direct-hit attacks well due to its still-slow projectile nor bombardment due to its reduced explosive radius, but it's difficult to deny that such a difficult-to-use weapon rewards finesse.
And rewards finesse it does - perhaps too well. Do notice the nerfing of the Direct Hit, and the segregration of the regular Spinfusor into an unlockable weapon from its by-default availability in Tribes: Ascend.
If you effortlessly score many of these in Tribes: Ascend, you are a very ardent - and old - Tribes fan.
Variant No. 4: The Lock-On
This debuted some time after game designers figured out how to implement true path-finding scripts on projectiles in shooters beyond the aim-assist scripts used in the Doom games.
I suppose the earliest shooter game that I can recall that does rockets with path-finding scripts is the first Unreal game (followed closely by Half-Life), which perhaps pioneered and/or popularized the largest number of sci-fi weapon designs in the history of shooters.
Unreal also pioneered amusingly wonky names for weapons, like the "Eightball".
Generally, the player has to hover the targeting crosshairs over a target for a short period of time for a lock-on to be achieved, after which the player just launches a rocket and forget about it. (Incidentally, this variant is also loosely known as the Fire-and-Forget.)
Of course, such a weapon would have been rather overpowered if the Rocket can chase targets like the Alien Hornets of Half-Life's Hivehand, e.g. go around corners and navigate around other obstacles. Therefore, most of the rockets fired by this variant follow the shortest routes that they map moment-to-moment towards the target, regardless of any obstacles in the way. Therefore, a victim can still attempt to hide behind cover, or dodge at the last moment so that the rocket whizzes past.
(That is not to say that there had not been rocket designs that have advanced path-finding capabilities, but these are so rare and are found in now-obscure shooter games that are best left figuratively buried.)
It can be argued here that the need to spend time to lock onto targets severely reduces the damage-per-second potential of the weapon, but it can also be argued that if there had been no time requirement, the weapon would have been quite overpowered; Quake's Rocket Launcher was almost that. Therefore, competently designed Lock-On Rocket Launchers usually have tremendously greater damage output per hit to compensate.
In other words, such a weapon is designed for situational purposes, specifically situations where the target is not immediately able to retaliate against whoever is wielding this Rocket Launcher variant. Contemporary examples include the many, many anti-armor rocket launchers found in latter-day sci-fi shooters.
Variant No. 5: The Guided
This debuted at almost the same time as the Lock-On. Whereas the Lock-On allows the player to forget about the path of the rocket after launch because the target had already been specified for the Rocket's path-finding scripts, the Guided variant requires continued monitoring and controlling on the part of the player. The HECU RPG in the first Half-Life is the earliest weapon that does this, as far as I can recall.
It is also the first Rocket Launcher to have a useless display screen in its model.
Of course, the player will need some method to direct the rocket to where it should land; guiding lasers are the usual solution, as popularized by Half-Life (though, of course, this design was inspired by real-life laser-guided missile launchers).
At first glance, it would seem that the need to guide rockets onto the target requires finesse, and so the weapon would have seemed acceptably balanced.
That was, until clever players discovered that guided rockets can make an about-turn to hit enemies where they least expect them. This was the case in Half-Life, when players with the HECU RPG would fire rockets seemingly past enemies and use the guiding laser to hit enemies from behind (when there is a lot of horizontal room), or firing into the air and having the rocket come down from above (when there is a lot of vertical room). Guided Rockets can also be forced to arc around corners to inflict splash damage more efficiently than Dumb-Fire ones.
Later games with such designs placed limitations to prevent this exploit, such as having the rocket detonate after a certain amount of time. This became exploited too, as clever players used this design to score air-burst kills. (There were designs that have the rocket simply fizzling out, but these were so unamusingly "balanced" such that they became unpopular enough to be dropped out of the shooter genre altogether.)
However, the most infamous of the Guided variant would be the Redeemer in the Unreal Tournament series. Before elaborating on this one, it should be noted here that like the Lock-On, the Guided needs to have high damage-per-hit to compensate for the loss in damage-per-second. The Redeemer takes this "compensation" to the next level by being a mini-nuke.
There were many who called this a "noob" weapon - understandably enough.
Of course, there were attempts to balance the Redeemer, such as making it capable of being shot down and not detonating at all if it was (and this was perhaps the first case of a Guided Rocket being susceptible to weapons-fire), but clever players would have known the best routes for a Redeemer and the most experienced can even steer it through indoors areas to provide cover for the nuke.
(Then, there is the disadvantage of having the player character quite helpless while steering the nuke, but most players would be hiding somewhere safe - and spacious - before launching it.)
Despite the many dastardly exploits that particularly experienced and clever players can abuse, the Guided Rocket Launcher is still around in many shooters - especially modern military ones. However, game-makers who are more conscious about game-balance (namely those who pioneered such designs for the Rocket Launcher family) has wisely excised this variant from the virtual arsenal of their shooters.
Variant No. 6: The Hybrid
Coincidentally, the very pioneers of the Lock-On and Guided Rocket Launchers are also examples of this variant of the Rocket Launcher archetype, such as Half-Life's HECU RPG and Unreal's Rocket Launcher. Looking from the perspective of the histories of the franchises that these weapons belong to, it may seem understandable that they still have Dumb-Fire properties as they are an evolution of the Dumb-Fire.
However, the additional versatility has made the Hybrid a lot more potent than their designers intended. Attempts to balance this were mainly oriented around giving the other weapons comparable versatility - but this of course led to a lot more unintended exploits. Consequently, there are few of such Rocket Launchers around now, as a result.
There may be more variants to the Rocket Launcher archetype, but these are the ones that I find most common. Do please tell me if you have any in mind.
That said, here is the full image for my current profile pic.