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Archive for October, 2009

Hype and Impressions: World Building in Dragon Age

Posted by deckard47 on October 30, 2009

My love for the soon-to-be-released Dragon Age has not gone undocumented on this blog. The same can be said for Mass Effect (although I’ll grant  you that the latter is perhaps a more well-founded love). I loved many things about Mass Effect, but the things I loved most and spent the most time with (as my housemate can attest to) were the copious log entries and encyclopedia entries. Bioware built an entire sci-fi world, using mostly familiar parts, that I still found convincing, vaguely foreign, and fun.

Of course, I’ve been anticipating much more of the same for Dragon Age. After all, these people built my beloved Baldur’s Gate, and although they came to a world already fully formed, it wouldn’t have been a fun, exciting world if they hadn’t wonderfully intermingled the game story and the IP itself. Dragon Age is getting great reviews, though people seem less than thrilled with the “dark” fantasy world Bioware has created. I can’t say I felt one way or the other about it, up until today. I’m fine with waring houses, backstabbing, inter-species intolerance, oppression, and magical intrigue and legislation. That all sounds rather exciting to me, but maybe I’m just easy that way.

My excitement level is no noticeably higher than it used to be. I decided I would visit the official Bioware Wiki for Dragon Age, which contains a lot of lore, backstory, and other cool stuff. I’m sure (I hope) that they’re saving the really in-depth stuff for the game, but it’s nice to read some descriptions and passages. I was especially taken with the character bios. Some are simple descriptive passages, but the one for Alistair is especially fun. It is done in the style of a recounting of certain events (Alistair’s recruitment into the Grey Wardens), as written by some sort of historian or record-keeper. Let me just say, this shit scratches my peculiar itch like no other. I’m not sure if it’s well-written, seeing as I’ve ingested enough fantasy nonsense over the years to become inured to its flaws (but not its charms, I’m happy to say), but I thought it was fun and interesting.

I suspect I’ll be spending the rest of the day there, reading up on people and places. I hope there are more fake historical passages like this. They really make the world seem more real, in a simple, uncomplicated way that I like. This is the kind of thing I think would be fun to do. I envy the writers at Bioware, spending their days writing and editing stuff like this. Obviously, that is where I need to end up. Now starts my dark campaign to convince people to hire me for such purposes despite a complete lack of professional fiction writing history!

PS: Borderlands has taken ahold of me, in an unhealthy, vicious way. I’ve played tens of hours of that game in the last 4 days. I wonder when it will release me.

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Impressions: Anticipation in Borderlands and Torchlight

Posted by deckard47 on October 29, 2009

For games like Borderlands and Torchlight, the fun and great experiences produced by their combat, skills, and spells works hand in hand with their respective loot/item systems. Sure, it is a lot of fun to plan your build, try out new powers, and experiment with how to mix and match abilities, but it’s just as fun to find, buy, gamble, or trade for new, cool items (and they often augment your skills, so everyone wins).

I was thinking about the different ways that Borderlands and Torchlight go about drumming up excitement for new weapons. Borderlands actually has its little robot tutorial guy, Claptrap, explain the more essential new items and abilities as you find them (augments, elemental damage, artifacts, etc.). Torchlight, for the most part, stays out of your way. After the first hour or two it lets you learn about stuff naturally, aside from a few necessary tips. This is because the game introduces all of the non-PC interactions (selling, buying, augmenting, portaling, gambling, etc.) from the start, and then lets you play around with them for the rest of the game.

Borderlands is much less generous, initially, and chooses to doll out its bonuses, new items and options, and other add ons and goodies in small, evenly paced doses. Of course, both games play around with these precedents: Borderlands never hides how good or bad an item is. In fact, you can see the gun’s stats as it lies on the ground, and compare it to any gun you hold. It means that, unless the gun is very similar to your present weapon (or you need cash), you never pick up an item you don’t need. In Torchlight you pick up gold automatically, and you can’t tell how good magical items are when you first pick them up. By making the “Identify” spell the only method of figuring out an item’s true power, Torchlight makes ever weapon drop a potentially rewarding, exciting experience. We know the item won’t be that good (unless it’s green or purple, but more on that later), but we still want, really badly, to identify the item. You never know.

Which is really what drives these two games. They both share the color-coded weapon/item mechanic, so that a green, purple, or orange drop instantly piques the player’s attention. You know it’s good, but how good is it? You want to pick it up, even if you’re a Siren and it’s a rocket launcher. You can’t help yourself.

Strangely, this is one place where Borderlands has a bit of a leg up on Torchlight. They use many of the same techniques, but their approach to chests (terribly important fixtures of Action RPGs) is different. In Torchlight, there are chests, and then there are chests. The latter are bigger, often near a boss or two, and are guaranteed to hold a little extra money, or a better item than usual.

Borderlands goes even further, designing ammo chests to look significantly different from item/gun chests, and item/gun chests to look different from the best chests, huge, heavily locked boxes. The great thing about the latter two chests is that when you open them they don’t just open. They twirl, slide, and unlock, like a giant clockwork PSP Go. It takes about 5 seconds for this to happen, whereas regular ammo chests swing open instantly. Those 5 seconds are pretty damn exciting. You know you might be on the verge of finding new pistols, shields, or grenades, and ou just don’t know whether they’ll be good enough for you or not. It’s a wonderful sensation, and it means that when you see one of the weapon chests, you actually start thinking about its contents long before you open the chest, prolonging you anxious wonderings. It’s a long stretch of seconds (possibly minutes, if you see the chest, but are then attacked by Raiders), and it is measurably more exciting than the near-instantaneous act of seeing a  green, orange, or purple gun, using the interface to compare it to your present gun, and making your decision.

So while Torchlight might have better (and more, way more) options and items, Borderlands makes me antsy, every time I see those chests. For a game that is often focused on instant gratification (your new gun blows people up and electrocutes them!), every chest and lockbox is a strangely, wonderfully drawn out encounter. Just don’t be too disappointed when the chest unfurls its metal arms, only to reveal a mundane shotgun and a pistol for another character. There are always more chests.

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The Blog: This is a small post about Torchlight

Posted by deckard47 on October 28, 2009

Ok, that’s it, I’m going to have to go down to the Post Titles department and have a word or two with those people. They’re slacking off way too much.

I am very happy to announce that the people who have searched for (and mysteriously arrived at) my blog today have mostly been searching for Torchlight, and the Torchlight interview I did. This makes me happy, because Torchlight is just a sweet, fun game, and no matter which way you slice it (and espcially if you slice it with the twenty dollars the game will cost you), you should try it out. So, in honor of Torchlight, here is a link to that interview, and here is a link to the game’s nicely designed website (which might have trouble loading, because they are getting a lot of traffic.

There really will be a longer Torchlight post, later, but for now, I really think you should check out the demo, which can be found on Steam.

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Impressions: Borderlands and Torchlight

Posted by deckard47 on October 28, 2009

That’s an awfully boring, simple post title. I bet you’re all so put out.

Torchlight deserves a lot more time here, a lot more thought, but right now I’m busy playing it, and busy playing Borderlands. And today is a day for writing about Borderlands.

It is an excessively pretty game. It bypasses the ugly, plastic look of Unreal 3, the one that has turned so many action games and Japanese RPGs into hideous gobs of gray and “amazing” architecture. The people who designed the art for this game are fucking brilliant. Rocks are pretty. Remember Crysis? Go look at a rock in that game. It looks like it stepped out of Trespasser. Rocks in Borderlands are pretty, varied, and really a joy to look at. The same can be said for the characters, enemies, and environments. None of them are brilliant or super “new,” but they really convey the feel of what they are. The skags are dirty and dog-like and horribly pointy, like the monster from Pacte des Loups. In fact, the character design is like a dirty, Mirror Universe version of Team Fortress 2‘s art. The colors are strong, the lines are stronger, and each character conveys who and what it is perfectly.

The weapons are something else entirely. Every new gun is a wonder to look at, let alone fire. Picking up new guns, even bad ones, can be exciting. Guns have tons of odd protuberances and parts, parts that get switched out and added in, so your shotgun looks like an MP5 and your assault rifle looks like a green Stormtrooper carbine. It’s endlessly entertaining, much like the shooting. Note to all FPS/RPG designers. This is how you do it! This is how you design a game with guns, that you spend time shooting. Don’t make gunfire a boring animation or cinematic or something that has no tangible relation to the playing of the actual game (hey Fallout 3!). Make it integral to the game in a physical, enjoyable, inescapable way.

The missions are all fetch/assassinations, and the main story is instantly and advisably forgettable. The little robot guys sings way too much, and he sings whenever he sees you! Strangely and wonderfully, there are audio diaries that are often the subject of non-critical, smaller side quests. I say wonderfully because they are really quite well written and acted. Unlike the silly floaty computer woman who whispers in your ear, these audio diaries tell small, unconnected stories that are fun to listen to. I’ve only listened to the first set (about a scientist acclimating to Pandora’s barren landscape) in its entirety, but the writing (and the woman voicing the part) were very convincing and interesting. This is how you do audio diaries, people. You don’t pretend that they can stand in for real, ingame storytelling and character interaction or environmental narrative. You use them to add “unnecessary,” fun, interesting stories to the world.

Finally, you probably will want to make sure your friends are interested in this game before you buy it. As a single player experience it is a long, boring slog. In 2 player co-op it is pretty fun. In 3 player co-op it is completely and entirely fun. There is nothing else I can compare it to. Not Diablo (and that’s a bad comparison, in many ways), and not one of the tens of other 4 player co-op games out there. The dungeons alone are worth the price of the game. Believe me, I was surprised at this. I hate dungeons. They signal the arrival of bad design, bad AI, bad stories, and bad gameplay experiences, in everything but Diablo (and maybe Dungeon Siege). In Borderlands, they force you to play the game in a different way. It is more immediate, more deadly, and wonderfully hectic. You will die much more, and revive yourself and others much more, and it will be extraordinarily fun and exhilarating.

Owen, Henry (that is his spy name) and I played a lot of it yesterday, and then Owen and I played a ton of our own campaign. I have three level 11ish characters now. A Siren, a Brick, and a Soldier. The soldier is my SP guy, and is thus less fun. The Siren is really a lot of fun, although I’m worried I broke her build-wise. Luckily, you can re-roll for a fee (also, developers, always let me re-roll in this kind of game). My 3P character, Brick, is interesting. I don’t like Berserk. It is kind of boring. On the other hand, I love rocket launchers. Can a I make a rocket launcher build, with supporting powers, and no berserker powers whatsoever? We’ll see.

I’m trying to figure out how to explain my excitement and delight here. This game, like Torchlight, taps into the part of me that loves to collect, hord, spend, and upgrade. It also taps into the part of me that loves shooters, colorful worlds, and playing great multiplayer games (for now, it outstrips Torchlight in that area). I’m going to discuss (briefly) the game’s absolutely atrocious PC launch. Aside from the people angry with the differing US and foreign release dates (ha!), the game started with almost completely broken multiplayer. To even host a game online (LAN is pretty bug-free), you have to forward a bunch of ports and fiddle with your router and computer. It’s not too hard, but it is extremely dumb, especially when you take into account the fact that the Borderlands readme has the info for the port forwarding. So basically, they broke their multiplayer for everyone, and then expect us to fix it. That’s utterly incomprehensible to me.

So I love this game, and even the first 24 hours of deep rage it inspired in me cannot quell my love. I’m willing to forgive their unskippable opening movies (about 2 minutes worth), horrible mouse/keyboard menu navigation, and its bad in-game voice chat.  The second point there especially enrages me. If you start a process, like buying something, with the mouse, you must complete it with the mouse. You cannot use keys to complete it. Like the Enter key. You can often only navigate menus and the like using page down, and it is really difficult to select, drop, or compare items. This is so strange, coming from a company that grew up on PC games. When all of my menu options still have the console word associations (Really? Enter=select, and Esc=back? No shit), I know that someone couldn’t decide whether to completely redesign the UI for the PC and mouse. Even worse, what if they did decide, and picked this UI? What if this is their half-assed, increasingly confusing and cluttered idea of a good way to use the mouse and keyboard together?

Again, when I play the game with three people, all is forgiven. The game is so good that I forgive its many egregious sins, and enjoy myself anyway.

I’m done for now, but think about this: Torchlight, a game made on a much smaller budget than Borderlands, plays flawlessly. There isn’t a bad, unintuitive, incomprehensible bone in its body. It plops you into its world and then gives you the tools to enjoy that world, without a hiccup or mistake along the way. It is a joy to play, in every sense of the word. Borderlands may be a better multiplayer game, but Torchlight makes it look like a high school science project, from a design/comprehensibility standpoint, and that’s not because of Borderlands super-duper complexity. It’s because somewhere along the way, the Gearbox people decided to break their game in multiple ways, in multiple places. And then they told us to fix it.

I can only imagine that when Runic ships the free-to-play MMO Torchlight in a year, it is going to be an incredibly well-designed game, and it will put a lot of other games to shame, including Borderlands.

The moral to this story is: Tom is a really mean guy, but he totally loves Borderlands and Torchlight, and so should you!

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Impressions: Waiting in the Torchlight

Posted by deckard47 on October 26, 2009

The first and most important order of business involves our guy Mal. This video from Castle (not great) of Nathan Fillion (great!) dressed up as Mal breaks my little heart. Shit, he even walks like Mal here. It’s almost cruel.

I don’t know why I write those “Clever” titles up there. It’s the kind of thing a horrible Yale graduate working for the NYT gets paid way too much money to do for a certain kind of article. Oh well.

This weekend belonged to two games, Torchlight and Tropico 3. Tropico 3 because I am really bad at it. I played the same scenario (the first mission of the campaign) for hours, suffering from bankruptcy, political defeat, and other indignities. Finally, I created a stable economy (more focus on cash crops and less on plain old food) and managed to start kicking ass. We’ll see how the next scenario goes. As it goes, here are my thoughts, so far: it is extremely pretty, the music is catchy, and I like the building/gameplay UI and interface. On the other hand, it is offensive in a reductive, Othering way, and as a result all of the voices/writing are kind of racist. I suppose when a game is called Tropico and has a bearded “Generalissimo” on the front you should expect this kind of shit.

Torchlight, on the other hand, I love and adore unabashedly. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it. It’s as if Diablo II got very pretty and lush and almost Borderlands-y (with a bit of WoW), got rid of those dour riffing guitars and replaced them with slightly more instrumental stuff (the music is still beautiful though, and done by the guy who did the music for Diablo II, I think), and added in a ton of cool little things that make the whole game a jaunty, familiar, sublime experience.

I mean, you have a cat companion! She can take your items back to town and sell them for you, bringing up the question: how do they communicate with the vendors? Perhaps, as I’ve always suspected, they ask the the Question of the Animal. Which translates to “will you buy these Sabatons?” There, I just saved you all the trouble of reading any fucking Derrida. Win.

You can fish for fish (which turn your cat into spiders, elementals, and more), you can learn, cast, and level up spells, you can dual wield with anybody, and specialize with in any weapon skill with anybody. My Alchemist dual wields a wand and a hammer, my Vanquisher (lvl 20, I think) rocks it with two pistols, and my Destroyer is still getting off the ground. The enemies are all cool-looking and interesting (I think these are the prettiest blobs ever to slime RPG players), and there are a fair number of fun little “puzzles” and secrets. Enchanting and socketing is really fun, as are the awesome mini-dungeons you can buy from vendors. They sell you a map, which when used teleports you to a small 2-level dungeon. You can’t TP out, so you’re stuck there with your potions and items, and you have to get to the end to escape. It makes things much more tense.

Really, it’s Diablo, without some of the more “hardcore,” needlessly gamer-y elements. It isn’t about punishing you for dying (you have three different options when it comes to resurection, and they all make sense), or leveling wrong, or buying the wrong thing. It’s about letting you have fun, and then getting the hell out of your way. And the music really is amazing. Check it out, over at the cool Torchlight site.

Really, I’m completely taken with this game. I played from 9:30am to 5pm yesterday, and built three characters. Most of my time went into my Vanquisher, who is really fun to play. She uses guns and traps, and my cat (named “Battle Cat,” of course) helps out a lot, when I haven’t turned her into an Ent. Playing it is an effortlessly  enjoyable experience. It’s like playing the new Prince of Persia. You have so much fun, and you do it in an enthralling world whose goal is to subtly trick you into having even more fun. I can’t imagine Dragon Age or Borderlands will be able to attain this level of easy fun. I think Borderlands will come close, but it’s going to be a bit more intense, a bit more tricksy. I feel like this two-week period is a great time for PC RPG players (honestly, screw the console versions of Dragon Age and Borderlands). We’re being treated to three great Western RPGs, and they’re each quite different from each other. Lucky us.

Still very excited for Borderlands though. These two are going to suck away all of my time. I lead a rough life.

Posted in Impressions, Videos | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Dragon Age: Supplemental

Posted by deckard47 on October 23, 2009

Dragon Date: something in a horrible Eldritch language you can’t even pronounce.

Last night, after performing my various editorial duties, I realized (with Owen’s help) that I had forgotten to include every possible character permutation in my Dragon Age characters. Now, I’m not going to create one for every gender and every class, but I want to explore every background for every race. This means two humans (mage and noble), two dwarfs (noble and commoner), and three elves (city, wood, and mage).

Of course, after going back in and adding my one new character, I realized that I had to make a bunch of physical changes to the characters I already had. In so doing, several things became abundantly clear:

They’re still getting that hair thing down It’s better than any other game I’ve seen, especially when it comes to longer hair. But, all of the hair is very, um, “European.” Likewise, all of the darker skin options don’t actually look nonwhite. They look like the white people I went to high school with, the ones who discovered what rub-on tan was one day and never looked back. Was it so hard to include skin tones that people who didn’t look “tan” (or that people who were white, or some non-existent version of brown) might want to play as? As it is, it looks like the cast of the OC (when you try to make characters who aren’t super-white). This is compounded by the hair. I think there is one option (for human dudes, not for elves or dwarfs) for dreadlocks, ans the rest is straight Euro/East Asian hair. Which is not terrible (that’s my hair!). It’s just incredibly noninclusive.

Aside from that, I wish they’d given me some better facial expression options. You can be dour, smirky, or totally high. There are places in between, but those are the recognizable portrait expressions. Likewise, it’s annoying that female characters get a ludicrous number of color and skin options, while guys get skin and tattoo options. On the other hand, women also don’t get to play around with all of the sweet beards (there are some sweet beards, and I say this as a beard and mustache hater). In fact, when I realized I couldn’t give my wood elf guy a sweet beard, I was very disappointed. Why we can’t have makeup options for our fantasy dudes is a mystery to me (I especially like the option for women to make your lips green, a la Jade).

Which is all to say that the game gives you an outrageous number of customization options. I just wish they gave me more! So I’m a complainer, as always. Although (and I can’t remember where I read this, I think it was someone quoting PC Gamer UK’s review of the game), apparently if you create a darker-skinned character, your parents (if they exist ingame) will still be white. OOOPSIES! Bioware, you might want to fix that before launch. Although, let’s be honest, what company would fix that, or see it as a “fix” that was needed at all? Would it really have been that hard (when they were making the game) to make it so your relatives’ skin tones matched yours? In my (non-game designer) head, that seems like a simple, mandatory “feature.” Right?

Oh, and the lack of Borderlands is killing me. 3 days. I’ve preloaded it, so I should be able to play it Monday night at midnight, right?

Oh, and while I’m here complaining about everything (about a game I will love forver and ever), Bioware, I want full-body tattoos. Don’t let Fable 2 upstage you!

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Straight Out of New Haven

Posted by deckard47 on October 22, 2009

Or, as the local residents (and most Connecticut residents) hilariously call it, New Hayv-en. It’s as if someone taught an entire generation of people to emphasize stuff wackily.

By all this, I mean to say that I think it is awesome that (apparently) the main hub in Borderlands is called New Haven. When Owen and I roll out of here, killing mutants and wasteland goons, it is going to be significant on a whole other level. In just as exciting news, apparently Owen’s new laptop runs Borderlands wonderfully. Delicious.

I’ve been frantically playing games I want to play, games I am obliged to play, and those that qualify as both. Risen still (strangely) has its hooks in me. My hideously plain, white, unchangeable avatar has voiced so many badly emoted lines of dialogue, I can’t believe I’m still playing. One thing I know: no other game besides Demon’s Souls makes you feel so small and afraid. At least in Demon’s Souls you can win by hook and by crook. In Risen, you know you’ll die, even if you try really hard. As Owen repeatedly tells me, this game just doesn’t sound fun. I know.

Aside from that, I’m enduring various games, and enjoying them, occasionally. Torchlight lurks on the horizon, still, waiting to claim me. I expect (again to Owen’s surprise) to enjoy Tropico 3, somewhat (despite never having played any of the previous titles), and then, of course, Borderlands will consume us both, come next week. It’s going to be a crowded few weeks , and then, of course, Dragon Age will hit us like a ton of bricks. Bricks full of dragons, that is. It’s a busy time to be playing games, and a busy time to be reviewing them. Good times, hopefully. See you, hopefully, in Uncharted 2. Goodnight.

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Borderlaaaaands!!!

Posted by deckard47 on October 20, 2009

Just pretend I’m a star ship captain marooned deep beneath the surface of a dying planet, and that I can’t play the PC version of Borderlands till next week. Then weep for me.

Although, you don’t have to weep that hard, because Among Thieves and Torchlight will keep me company until then. The single player campaign of Among Thieves finished, I have now turned to multiplayer. This doesn’t mean I haven’t forgotten the SP though. On the contrary, a new (“Grueling?”) campaign has already commenced. I expect to relish every line of dialogue and every cutscene twice as much. That’s right. I bet you thought I couldn’t relish anything that much. You were wrong. Silly you!

On a less self-congratulatory note, Torchlight may be available to me tonight (or tomorrow, you know how Steam lies about release dates). I’m quite excited to play it, as my time with it at E3 was both fun and far too brief. Now that I think about it, the game’s art and style are actually quite similar to Borderlands. It’s fitting that two games happy to sport bright, extravagant art should drop within a weak of each other. Excellent. I suspect I’ll be playing the steampunk-y alchemist or the gun-toting Vanquisher. And I will absolutely have a little kitty cat companion. I am overly excited about that last bit, of course. Cat!

Oh, and I would be remiss (God, I say that too much) if I didn’t mention this: I played my first co-op Among Thieves last night, and it was amazing. Brinstar, Simon, and I played Gold rush, Onslaught (or whatever it’s called), and the more story-like co-op. It was incredibly fun. I hope I can entice them back for the same soon, along with others. It is really quite fun, especially Gold Rush. Those damn soldiers keep choking me to death though! I especially appreciate the choking/death indicators. They’re like Left for Dead‘s damage indicators, only Uncharted-y. Awesome.

Oh, and can I say that I enjoy the mini-stories in the co-op missions? They’re awesome! I mean, the stories are alright, but there’s more of the banter. Also I love how Elena yells that she’s “GOT THE TREASURE!” I have no idea why she is so excited. I guess it’s treasure, right?

Also, look, a new link up there with the links! It’s called Tap-Repeatedly, and I’ve only read a few posts back, but I think I like it.

Finally, this post is dedicated to Owen, who can’t play Among Thieves right now (haw haw!) and is instead playing KotoR. I’m so proud of him!

Posted in Impressions, News | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

Hey, Bro!

Posted by deckard47 on October 19, 2009

You know, normally I wouldn’t post this, but I just got an excellent comment on the blog. Enjoy:

Hi Bro,

Good site. Some useful and knowlegeable comments man :) I know, I am creeping,lol. Hopefully I can produce something like this myself. Where did you buy your templates from? Hopefully some of you folks might possibly help me out a little here. I am hoping to find someone who I was informed told was a member here. They used to use the name ‘wizardwebthree’.

You see I am trying to start my own site on cosmetics type goods for products such as: professional teeth whitener (hence the where did you get your templates from,lol) but am having realllll difficulty getting hold of dropshippers for these goods. I had been in touch with this guy but my PC got stolen and unfortunately had all my contact details on it (I know, I know, should have backed it up :( ). So if you guys have heard or seen anything of him could you let me know please? Failing that maybe one of you folks knows someone?

Also, which hosting do you use as I keep hearing bad tales about the host I am considering of placing my site with. And any other helpful tips you can give re starting up my website would be most useful and much appreciated. I do hope that someone has useful knowledge about this

Thanks Bro

No. Thank you, Bro. Real post soon!

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Take A Little Walk to the Edge of Town…

Posted by deckard47 on October 15, 2009

Where the viaduct looms like  bird of doom, as it shifts, and cracks.

Which totally relates to Borderlands! Because it sounds like Nick could be singing about  borderlands, somewhere. Maybe. I think about 3 of you enjoyed that. Including me. Sorry.

On a more relevant note, Owen demanded that I post the Borderlands skill trees, for easy access. Look no further: mage-fighter Lilith, sniping Blood Crow-owning Mordecai (the blood crow alone might mike him my guy when I pick this up), the heavy-hitting Brick, and the warrior/healer Roland. I did steal all of those links from RPS, by the way.

I’m getting kind of excited for this game. Among Thieves is wending its way toward a grand finale, I feel, and while multiplayer will doubtlessly keep me going a while (as will a host of review games, including the interesting Cities XL, and soon, Magna Carta 2), I’m really looking forward to playing co-op Borderlands on the PC, where I can aim my guns like a real boy. Sorry, console types, but I’m bad enough at online games. I don’t need to hop onto a console and use analog sticks to badly aim at enemies: it’s like I’m using a divining rod to fire bullets.

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Dragon Age Creation!

Posted by deckard47 on October 14, 2009

Yes, I have just downloaded the character creator, and I plan on making several different characters, that way I have some good choices when I start the game in a month. I’m thinking mage, thief, fighter, of course, but I’m also thinking Dwarven Commoner (female), City Elf (female) and Woodland Elf (male). I’m such a huge dork. Join me!

Posted in Random | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Good Games Journalism?

Posted by deckard47 on October 14, 2009

I have several posts brewing: an Among Thieves post that goes something like “Whooooooooooo!” is the one I’ve repeatedly stopped myself from writing. Of course, there is that oft-delayed Elika/PoP article that no one really misses. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to escape for long. Finally, there is a long post about Risen and the series that RPS is doing on it.

For now, I wanted to link to a blog that I’ve never read before, for some reason or other. Lewis Denby writes for a lot of different places, but this is his blog. He has a series of posts where he discusses and frets over how to be a good “games journalist” (and finds the term to be as prickly and popularly il-defined as I find it to be). They’re interesting, and here is the most recent one. It’s a great blog, and even if you don’t agree with him, realy worth reading.

I really do want to write about Risen, especially after learning about the whole vocal Gothic fanbase/Eurogamer review kerfuffle. I am, as always, secretly and reservedly jealous of those who can engage/dabble in that peculiar new writing format, “New Games Journalism.” It’s an iffy term, if you ask me, and will hopefully be augmented (New? Really, how “new”? New since when?), but the combination of in medias res/pseudo stream of consciousness theatricality is one I’m fascinated by.

I’d actually like to do one for Risen, mostly because I’d like to test myself and see what the hideous results would look like. It might not even go up on the blog, especially if it is actually terrible. I think it will require a degree of self-knowledge and unselfconsciousness that I have never possess. Mostly, I expect that after every sentence I’ll stop typing and think “but you didn’t really think about it that way. You thought about it in a more game-y way.” Anyway, if you want to read an interesting series of articles in what I’d describe as an almost NGJ style, check out Alec Meer’s series over at RPS.

Also, I’m close to beating Among Thieves. It is wondrous, and al naysayers will be banished.

Posted in Bloggers, Impressions | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Elena is Back!

Posted by deckard47 on October 13, 2009

I was planning on posting about this after the first hour, and after the second hour. We’re on hour 7 now. This will not be much of a post at all. I need to get a minimum of work done so that my coworkers don’t get angry at me, and then I need to play more of this game. It is absolutely amazing. I may be able to think of bad things to say, if I look very carefully, but I’m not stupid enough to look for them now. Now it is time to sit back and play the smoothest, most beautiful, most well-written action game I have ever played. Nothing else compares. I suspect I may have to play multiplayer, just to keep myself from binging on The Drake. It’s an incredibly tempting, exciting offering, and it shows you just how solid the movement and fighting mechanics are. Off I go.

Oh, and the look has changed a bit. Thought I’d see how it looked this way. It will fluctuate, I assume. Also, there are tons of new articles up in the articles section, if that’s your thing. It should really be your thing. I’ve also linked to a cool blog, Binary Swan. Check it out.

Oh, and Elena’s back! Again!

Posted in Impressions | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Among Thieving Demon’s Souls

Posted by deckard47 on October 7, 2009

Yes, that title makes no sense, but it does combine my two favorite distractions (Dead Space and PoP have taken a momentary backseat. Did I ever say I was fickle?) these days. Simon just picked up Demon’s Souls, and is, of course, way the hell ahead of me already. Apparently his super awesome Royal starts out with a wand (I think I started and scrapped a Royal build back in the beginning). Bully for him. He can help me kill the giant knight. Except maybe he can’t. The Wiki says that Asian import and US versions won’t work, unless their servers are updated to the same version…. I think. So we might not be able to play. Which would really piss me off. Hey people reading. Any of you work for a site (that I don’t already work for) that needs the US Demon’s Souls reviewed? I will do it. So fast.

Next up, the Among Thieves multiplayer demo finished downloading last night. I dig it a lot. Movement-wise, it feels just as right as the first one did. The same goes for gunplay, although I’m still getting used to how this game punishes you for going full auto. It’s all about the controlled bursts, as the deadly people online show me, over and over. I think this may be new (as in, it’s only in Among Thieves), but I love the way people leap. They go all spread-eagled, like flying squirrels. It really sells how much they are throwing themselves into the jump. And by that, I mean it sells how Drake throws himself int oeverything. Because the reason all of these animations look so amazing is because they’re based on Drake’s animations.

The two maps I’ve played (Temple and Ice Cave) are excellent, as are the weapons. I’m still getting the hang of melee. Often, another character and I will somehow manage to punch each other to death simultaneously. Not ideal. I’m sure I’ll play a lot of it tonight, when I’m not hoping against hope that Demon’s Souls will let me play with you American types. Also, I hope any of you with PS3s (who are planning on picking up either of these games) message me your user names. It would be awesome to get some 3 player Demon’s Souls or co-op/adversarial matches of Among Thieves going.

At this rate I’ll never do that PoP post. I bet you’re all so sorry.

Posted in Impressions, Random | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Simon Saves you From Elika and the Prince

Posted by deckard47 on October 6, 2009

So this was going to be another post about Prince of Persia, Elika, dialogue, and exploring the game story as opposed to exploring the game world. But, luckily for you, Simon is here to save you (and here I am, without any good car jokes).

To make a long story (that is in fact short) short, Simon Ferrari, the purveyor of Chunking Espresso and News Games delights, is now an Associate Editor at Sleeper Hit. This is awesome for Simon, because he’ll be reviewing totally sweet games and writing about them, so we all win. It’s good for me, because I get to work with him. This may actually force me to inject a degree of professionalism and restraint into my writing (out of sheer embarrassment) , which I think we can all agree might be a good thing. Until it goes too far and I turn into a cruel, precise writing machine, that is.

In almost as awesome news, Simon called me a narratologist. I’m pretty sure that’s partly a code word for badass. To punish him for this slight, I’m going to make my next post about narrative and PoP (although it was already going to be that, so…), and nothing else. I promise you, strangely loyal readers, the PoP onslought will end soon. Probably with the arrival of Among Thieves, actually.

On a completely unrelated note, what versions of Borderlands will you all be getting? Are you all going the 360 route? It would be really sad if I picked up the PC version and had to play with random assholes on the internet.

Posted in Random | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »