Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Archive for December, 2009

News and Hype: Mass Effect 2 and Save Games

Posted by deckard47 on December 29, 2009

Because I know you are all waiting, breathless, your save games clutched to your chests. You had better be.

This here (linky) is a long post on the Mass Effect 2 forums concerning what will and what will not carry over when you transfer your old Mass Effect saves into the new game. It is both practical (how do PC users do it, etc.) and exciting. It tells you about all of the little things that your previous playthrough will affect, from starting alignment and money, to slightly plot-related things. It’s not much of a thread (after the initial post, it degrades into those Internet people being rude), so I guess I’ll throw this Gametrailers ME 2 page in for good measure. It has a ton of trailers (one which I had not seen when I first linked to it, amazingly), and hopefully it will make the next 4 weeks pass less fretfully.

For everyone else (and me!), there are ME playthroughs to complete. I may not be in love with the voice of male Shepard, but I feel like I should have a character to take into ME 2 that is both a renegade (all of me women renegades are on the hideous 360 version. Bah) and a dude. As always, I’ll probably spend hours trying to create a guy (who doesn’t look like their stubbly villain) who looks like a human. This is how far I’ll go for my Mass Effect love!

Somehow, I’d managed to stay away from the Mass Effect 2 site until tonight. I’m not sure how that is even possible. As you all know, in the weeks and days preceding Dragon Age‘s release, I was almost intolerably obsessed with the site and its codex. Now, I discover a similar trove (an evil trove) of delights on the ME 2 page. Here, for instance, is a link to Tali’s page (with, of course, a video). No need to thank me. Slightly less exciting (but still exciting) than Tali’s page is the page on the Vorcha, one of ME 2‘s new races. Not only do they look cool and scary, but their name also sounds quite similar to a certain class of Kilngon warship.

Maybe I should stop now. There’s a whole page detailing the Mass Effect 2 armory, but what I really want are lore entries. Of course, most of the lore is already in place, thanks to Mass Effect. Still, there are new races and enemies, weapons and vehicles, so I hope they reveal some of that stuff closer to the drop date (January 26th). That’s a long way off, but I’m sure that commander Tom Shepard (it’s actually really weird to give a character your own name, I’ve discovered) can keep me company until then.

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Impressions and Articles: Left 4 Dead 2, Archetypes, and “Larger-than-Life” Personalities

Posted by deckard47 on December 24, 2009

I’ve been reading a lot of articles on Left 4 Dead 2, Ben Abraham’s post on the reasons why (initially, he hasn’t done a follow-up yet) he found the second game less compelling than the first. He has many reasons for thinking this. He singles out the new game’s failure in the area of education: more options are thrown at you than before, ill-explained options. As any newcomer to L4D2 could attest, he’s right about this. Even for a L4D1 veteran, this game is hard (at first), and I’m still working my way up to the harder difficulties. While I don’t think this is a horrible thing (I’m happy that you have to relearn the game. It makes it feel like its own thing, a separate identity from the first, unlike so many MP-centric sequels), he’s right that Valve doesn’t teach you as brilliantly and quickly as they did the first time around.

Still, I’d like to point out that a friend of mine who never played the first game picked it up 3 days ago. Under the dubious tutelage of myself and Owen, he learned quickly, and over the past three days he’s grown as a player. He isn’t as good as we are today (nor is he as good as those people online who can determine the exact location of all enemies by sound alone), but he can hold his own. That’s not bad, for a game as complicated and intricate as Left 4 Dead 2. While most games require you to learn how to shoot and how to follow different rulesets, Left 4 Dead 2 requires you to learn to entirely different skill sets: the mechanics of play against the computer, the mechanics of play against humans, and the mechanics of play with humans. When you think about it, that’s more than most shooters, and you still learn pretty fast. Really, why I started writing this post was to address his issues with the cast of Left 4 Dead 2. I’ll let him speak for himself, and then start blabbing:

Lastly on my list of gripes, and my major concern, is the four new characters. This is entering the realms of personal preference and taste, but to me it seems that Nick, Ellis, Rochelle and Coach aren’t as memorable as the original quartet. Perhaps it’s because they are less obvious archetypes. Coach seems the closest to a recognisable archetype and for his larger-than-life personality he remains my personal favourite. Nick and Ellis both feel too similar – Nick, I know from the pre-release publicity, is ostensibly a conman but he’s much too nice and average. That aspect of his character is struggling to shine through, however and the only quote of his that has stood out for me is most revealing of that aspect of his character.

In a game recently I heard him admonish someone for shooting him, saying “You did not just shoot the man in the three-thousand dollar suit!” Nick needs to be talking about his suit way more, and Ellis needs something to give his character a similar focus. Valve has said that they wanted him to be “southern” and innocent and naive, while avoiding representing him as a stereotypical hick. While this effort is laudable for wanting to portray southern American culture in a mature light, I wonder if the character suffers for it.

Perhaps Nick’s character too suffers for being in a game as devoted to cooperation as Left 4 Dead 2. Thinking on it, it’s possible that a sharkskin-suited conman could still be an appropriate character for L4D, as he could easily be cast as The Reluctant Help, much like Francis in the original. Francis was a grouch, but he was a lovablegrouch, and it was always communicated that his character had your back. But how does one pull off “the lovable conman?” I guess what I’m suggesting is that Nick is not wisecracking enough for it; he’s not even sarcastic enough.

Regardless of personal preference, it is obvious that the characters are slightly different than they were in L4D1 (aside from the obvious differences). As he says, Coach is the one with the “larger-than-life” personality. I suppose this makes him more relatable, for some. What I think it does is make Coach the least interesting of all of the characters. Regardless of taste (I think a large portion of the things Coch says are amusing, and I can easily discern what his “character” is supposed to be), Coach is the easy way out, he’s almost the opposite of good characterization; he’s a shortcut, a cop-out (a minor one, to be sure), compared to his companions. Ellis, Nick, and Rochelle all have personalities, and they all have interesting and funny things to say about their surroundings. Coach talks through most of the Dark Carnival (about funnel cake, among many things), but everyone (as before) has enough quips and banter to keep things flowing. Everyone who has played Dark Carnival knows about the “Tunnel of Love,” since Nick spends a good deal of time talking about it.

Abraham’s issue with Ellis also seems unfortunate. I don’t think that “While this effort is laudable for wanting to portray southern American culture in a mature light, I wonder if the character suffers for it.” I don’t think Ellis suffers for it. Yes, he could have been like Jason Stackhouse. He could have been a badly written stock character, a southern hick with charm to spare and not a thought in his head. Instead, he’s (along with Coach) a Midnight Riders enthusiast, a devoted follower of Jimmy Gibbs Jr. (his love speech to the abandoned car is excellent), and he’s nota huge fan of swamp people. Likewise, Nick may seem somewhat average at the start, but he’s quickly become my favorite character. His sarcastic complaining is always amusing, as are his and Coach’s Love Tunnel conversations (how many experiences have you had?). In fact, he’s the easiest to like: he’s that smart ass, the loner (to Abraham’s chagrin), the man who wants to tell everyone else how much everything annoys him. In fact, he’s a lot like Francis, in some respects, the man who “hates” everything. The difference is, Nick is angry. He’s scared, and he deals with it by snarking on everything. It means he can’t just say “I hate _____” and get a laugh. It means the writers write better dialogue, and more of it. They have to think of how a person would say one thing, and then think how a different person would say the same thing.

Now that I think about it, all of the characters strike me that way. They all have hidden depths, you have to get to know them to see those hidden depths, but they are there. Part of the disconnect between Ben and me may be Left 4 Dead 2‘s fault. If you don’t play campaign or SP, you will never hear any of this incidental dialogue. In Versus, Scavenge, and Survival modes, you won’t hear much banter. Playing a SP game on easy, I was delighted and surprised to hear my characters talk to each to and about each other, or the environment, or the zombies. Just today I heard Rochelle apologize to the swamp people zombies that she had to kill them.

Why is this a bad thing? It is not a bad thing that a major company has decided (mostly) to create new characters for its sequel who aren’t (as obviously or as completely) tired stereotypes. I still like Coach, but I like Nick and Rochell more. They aren’t obviously, annoyingly stereotyped. They aren’t The _____ White Conman, and The _____ Black Woman. Coach almost is. Is that what it means to be “larger-than-life?” I’ll skip that, thank you very much. Broad, “relatable” characters might be more easily relatable, but they’re almost always weaker. They’re uneasily infused with nuance and heft. They’re annoyingly flat.

You have to watch, listen, and learn with everyone, even Coach. They have their squabbles, and their triumphs, and they can’t (thank God!) be boiled down to “Francis hates something again,” or “Bill made another war joke.” I like it when my characters are written in a way that makes me stop and listen, that tricks me into thinking they have more than one tic or joke. I wish more companies did it, and I hope that when Valve makes Left 4 Dead 3 (might I recommend an exciting Non-American locale? Hell, I’d love Left 4 Dead: Alpine Edition), every one of the characters is the opposite of the Snarky College Girl, or the “Lovable,” Heart of Gold Biker. It would be really nice, actually.

Posted in Articles, Impressions | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Grab Bag: Zombies and Ghosts

Posted by deckard47 on December 20, 2009

The holiday season has intervened between you and me, reader, and I have just now fought my way back to you (and to the blog, which misses me). Luckily, something besides the bighting, dangerous cold (left safely behind in New Haven) has been keeping me busy. Away from my computer (the powerful one, that is) I have sunk myself back into Left 4 Dead 2. Owen, Henry, and I play almost every night now, and it’s a welcome escape from the exciting familial homestead and all of its attending wonders.

I’ve also delved briefly into The Blackwell Legacy, an independent adventure game That stars Rosangela, a young writer in New York who discovers that she is a medium. It’s pretty fun so far. The music ranges from vaguely moody appropriately (for the various settings) mysterious tunes to some strangely appropriate techno beats. The main actress takes a little getting used to, but after a while, she and the rest of the voice cast quietly, modestly sell their world.

By far the most interesting part of the game so far (aside from the story, which I very much like) is the puzzle format surrounding Rosangela’s notebook. There, she makes note of people and places that are important to her present investigation. Thus, while reporting on the death of a college student (or learning more about your aunt’s death), you can click on each topic and hear Rosangela’s thoughts. This is nothing new. What is new is the fact that getting her to go over something in her head will often reveal a new idea or topic and add it to the notebook. In this way, a normally standard item mechanic (using items on each other or examining items to take them apart or find hidden information) is transformed into a kind of verbal archaeology. As the player, you must explore Rosangela’s thoughts and opinions on the situation at hand to solve several puzzles (I’m sure there will be more than the few I have encountered).

It feels great to explore Rosangela’s thoughts and find the answers to problems inside your own head. It has a great Blade Runner feel to it, actually (the game, that is), calling to mind the deep codex trees and investigative photo work done in that great adventure game. There a few other games asking me for some of my time, but only LittleBigPlanet (on the PSP) is getting any of it. I never played the original game, so I’m new to the catchy music (half of it seemingly cribbed from Thievery Corporation. Ironic, right?), weird levels, and the pleasant voice of Stephen Fry. I enjoy the game, for what it is, but I wish Fry had something to say about every level. I’m in Africa now (I think?), and he’s been silent for a while. Hopefully that will change soon.

Posted in Grab Bag, Impressions | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Diamond in the Rough Column: Nervousness

Posted by deckard47 on December 12, 2009

My latest GSW article is up right here. It’s the second part in a soon-to-be three part series of articles on sexuality in games, but specifically in the not-so-new Prince of Persia and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This one serves as a bridge between the first and third articles (oddly enough) and focuses more generally on sex in games. For a lot of you readers, it may seem kind of unambitious and obvious, but it felt like it belonged in this series, so that’s that. Here is an excerpt from the article, as always, to entice those not already convinced of the article’s excellence by its Aladdin-based moniker. Enjoy:

Video game designers, PR companies, and gamers are deeply worried about sex.

Now hear me out: the average “mainstream” game is both obsessed with a peculiarly fragmented (but extremely popular in mainstream culture) version of hypersexuality, and deathly afraid of more realistic, meaningful sexual connection. There’s a reason our games are filled with snarling, emotionless (aside from their totally straight love for their buddies) bros and women being crushed under the weight of their hypersexualized characterization.

People are very worried about sex. The worry may vary in its shape, orientation, and direction, but it is still something that makes a lot of people very nervous. They’re very worried about thinking about sex. They’re worried that thinking about sex, or consuming certain representations of sex will show them to be any of a number of deviant, unpopular, stigmatized representations of sexuality (or worse, to be party to those sexualities themselves).

Video games culture (at its most “hardcore”) is, after all, already a shunned, de-masculinized (in the public eye) subset of white guy culture. White men who are dorks or gamers have struggled to build up some new brand of masculinity (which will never be as good, white, and manly as proper mainstream masculinity, and white guy geeks know this) around their deplored hobby, and, as always, once they solidified that identity, they needed a new Other, a new group to define as being less than and harmful to the grand, old tradition of white male gaming. In the kingdom of the white gamer, anyone obviously not white and/or male, or anyone professing to enjoy sexuality not strictly in line with white heterosexuality is both a worry and a threat.

Already I see things I wish I’d written differently or changed (for instance, “anyone professing to enjoy sexuality” should be “anyone professing to enjoy or regularly partake in,” or anyone who is suspected of enjoying and partaking in,” obviously), so forgive me if it fails in places. I am ever endeavoring to mend my ways. Until the next post.

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Non-Gaming Related: Travel!

Posted by deckard47 on December 8, 2009

I recently (this morning, that is) relocated (temporarily) to Santa Barbara. I’m here for 3 weeks to get as much (or as little) work done as possible. To help me out, SB had a crappy little rainstorm that made New Haven look welcoming by comparison. Excellent. As we speak, Left 4 Dead 2 is downloading to my MBP (an older version, which will, I suspect, necessitate super-low graphical settings. Sigh) at the blistering speed of 200 k/s. That might not sound that fast to you lot (especially anybody reading this from another country, where they don’t have draconian rules about bandwidth and how much you can draw down, grumble, grumble, grumble), but for a person struggling under the heel of perpetually erratic, 150 k/s if you’re lucky AT&T “service,” this shit is a godsend.

But I’m here to talk about Travel. I’d forgotten that many of the simple, amazing experiences in life can only be had when traveling. You forget about these little joys until a bout of travel inextricably pounds them back into your memory. This particular journey was especially memorable. So, in absolutely no discernible order, the great things about catching a 6:30 am flight from JFK to LAX (and connecting from there to SB):

The New York Subway System hating my face. Trying to catch the 1 downtown, after one stop (we only needed one more to switch over!) the guy comes on the PA and says due to obstructions, we are taking the express route and going all the way to Staten Island or some shit. Then we get off, and have to change trains 3 more times just to get back to the C (I think), just so we can get up to the E. Win! This is why I did not sleep, but instead spent the hours between 1230 and 330 AM fighting off my friend’s amorous cat while writing a King Arthur: The Role Playing Wargame (actually quite good) review. This is why I leave 3 hellish hours before my flight is supposed to leave. It’s all for you, MTA.

Horrible Red-faced Middle Aged White Business Guys. You know that new movie with George Clooney where he plays a charming, hi-larious racist consultant? If any of the business guys I have to travel with (every time I fly) were like him, the world would be slightly less bad. He would be a major improvement. He is (supposedly) funny. He does not breath heavily into your face, in some strange attempt to get you to load your backpack into the tiny overhead compartment faster. He does not, as they do, clip all 10 of his hilarious cell phone holsters to the seatback pocket, in case someone sends him an impossible fucking phone call. He does not, I would hope, fume and mutter, as his much luckier companions go ahead of him, thanks to their First-Class, Executive, Emperor, Platinum, or (of course) Latinum level flier status. [On a side note, I love the Emperor Class fliers. They take it to the limit every time, rushing to get to the spots they have already paid for, negating the need for the rush. Never change, Imperators]. It’s funny, because if his company were bigger, or he was a better salesguy (or refrigerator negotiator, or dog food research litigator, or whatever), he would be in the Admiral’s Club! Oh, the humanity.

United Airlines, for being just plain awesome. I love that, after mysteriously delaying my first flight, they send me a phone message (which I cannot receive until after I land!) informing me that, thanks to their delay, I will miss my connection, and they have moved me to a flight that takes off 9 hours later. So when I arrive (1 minute after my flight is supposed to have left), I receive their “Rapid Flight Change Update Notification Message” (no fucking kidding) about the flight they just made me miss (except Owen and I sprinted for the plain and caught it, because we rock). I love you guys. Keep on filling your flights with the smell of desiccated, rotting alien flesh, an I’ll keep on flying with you (also, keep on selling “sandwich packs” that can kill with a look, for only $9)!

Posted in Non-Gaming Related, Rant | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Heads Up: Child’s Play at Sleeper Hit

Posted by deckard47 on December 3, 2009

So I’ve been remiss in my Editorial duties. Forgive me, Internet, and people who work at my site. If you will.

So the place where I edit, Sleeper Hit, is having a Child’s Play Charity and Collection (here’s a link to the charity). You can donate money or games (or gaming accessories! Think how important new Guitar Hero guitars are… Right?), and you can do it here, at this link. I’ll let Ron and Melinda (the people behind our small branch of collections for this charity) explain what’s going on:

If you’ve not heard of Child’s Play, visit their site first. Then to see the effects of the charity,check this article out on Kotaku.

It’s not just gamers that can make a difference, it’s everyone. These kids didn’t ask to be sick and likely many are young enough to not really have gotten to experience life to the fullest. So giving them the gift of fun times seems like the smallest thing we can do. That being said, if helping sick kids wasn’t enough of a reason, we’re also trying to reward the generosity with some cool prizes.

So please, check out the Prize page to see the cool things you can win. Then head to the Donate page to send some money to a good charity and possibly win some cool stuff.

So there you have it. Donate some stuff. Cool stuff! Secret stuff. Donate it by going here! It’s a cool charity that gives to kids in crappy hospital-based situations who need a little help to make their situations less crappy. But if you have time/money/inclination please head over there and check it out. We’ll resume our regular broadcasting soon. Until then.

Posted in Heads Up, News | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »