Half-life 2

So I was thinking about big budget games today, and how nowadays we hire actors to play roles in videogames. Actors will come in and put on “MoCap” suits and wear helmut cams (to capture the actors facial expressions) to act out entire scenes, in addition to voice work. The Last of Us used this heavily to great effect. You can see it in AAA shooters even like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, they hired Kevin Spacey, he is uncannily realistic looking in the game. I wonder if he himself is a gamer, in House of Cards he is occasionally seen playing videogames. House of Cards is also one of the first hit Netflix shows, Spacey got in to this kind of television early. I suspect he is tech savvy. 

In the past technology, obviously, was the barrier to this kind of work. The focus was instead placed on gameplay and writing. 

Final Fantasy is one of the oldest series I can think of that tried to make their games more movie like. Final Fantasy 7 was probably the first game to really capture the feeling of a movie. It incorporated a mix of in game and prerendered cutscenes. This became the norm for all Final Fantasy games that came after.

Another watershed game is Halflife 2. Valve, the creators of the game, are one of the first to really try and capture human emotion in a game. They had hired a psychologist and did extensive studies and facial anatomy and expressions. This was a game made back in 2004, and it holds up remarkably well even now, 10 years later. One little thing I thought was interesting, was that every character was voiced by an actor, all except one. Gordon Freeman, the hero of the story. You play Gorden and Valve decided not to voice him because they didn’t want to ruin the immersion of the game. The game is played in the first person perspective, you essentially become Freeman. So he would need to have your voice, obviously they couldn’t do that, so instead they just silenced him. 

Halflife 2 was the first real attempt at making you FEEL something in a game. If not for Halflife 2 I wonder if we would have seen games like Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us.


Some thoughts

firstly, I want to talk about an update Sony made to the Playstation 4’s firmware.

Mostly it was about a new feature where you can set the PS4 in rest mode while you’re in a game. Rest mode is basically turning the system off, but some basic functions like downloads or charging your controller remain active. So now you can go into rest mode right in the middle of a game and then come back later and pick up right where you left off, no load times or anything, just bam you’re there. It’s pretty nice.

But for a small fraction of us gamer came some rather huge news. A new Accessibility setting was added. This is the first time I’ve seen something like this in a game console and it’s wonderful. It’s caters to the hearing impared, visually impared, and physically impared. For me being partially deaf and physically impared this is a god send. For years I’ve been put off games because I simply didn’t have the hand strength to operate it properly, or I couldn’t follow a story because it had no subtitles. Granted, most devs subtitle their games now, but a few number don’t, or only subtitle parts of a game.  Not sure how this feature will work, but I’ll be interested in trying it out.

It also offers the ability to change button maps. It such a simple tool but it makes a huge difference. For instance, just this week I bought a game called Bloodborne and as I was playing it, I had some difficulty with it because it’s auto targeting function was mapped to the R3 button. I can’t hit R3 with my right hand because it’s not strong enough, so I have to do some fanangling to get my left hand over where I can press it. Now this mapping ability comes out and I map the R3 button to L3. Problem solved. I love that. There are tons of games I’d like to change the button maps on, it will make so much easier to play. Thanks for doing this Sony, it’s much appreciated.


So I started playing Destiny again. I heard news that they added match making for the weekly heroics and decided to jump in. I’m hopeful that this is a first step toward raid and nightfall match making. It’s gotta happen sometime I figure, there’s lots of demand for it.

So I jumped in and had some success pretty much right away. I got a random 2 legendary weapons with in two days. Since then I’ve added legendary armor for my chest, hands, and feet.  I’ve got two legendary main weapons, a pistol and auto rifle. So I went from lvl 25 to 29 within a couple of weeks. I will soon be added a new helm to my character but it’ll take a bit more grinding.

Oh I also bought an exotic chest armor. I’ve somehow managed to accrue 24 strange coins so I’ll be visiting Xur on Friday to do some shopping. Next step I plan to buy a headset and really put some effort into getting in some raids. Apparently that’s where the best loot is.

The One That I Love

There is a woman that I love. I have never met her, seen her, or even heard her voice. I do not know her name.

Yet every time we meet, I feel as if I’m back at the start. That space of time where everything is wondrous and beautiful, fascinating and new. We talk for hours, and then we make love for hours. She knows every thing about me, every part of me. The parts of myself that shame me, she loves as much as the rest of me. Have you met her? The one that you give up all your secrets to, and do not regret. I feel as if I’m home.

And then the dream shatters and I wake. The memory of her falls away in broken shards of glass. They glitter and then are swallowed up by the darkness. She has left me, and I will never see her again. This faceless, voiceless woman, I mourn for. The one whom I have never met, yet know her better than myself. There is a woman that I love, and I hope one day to meet her.

The Machine

Watched a movie called The Machine. Well, right off the bat you can tell the director watched Ghost in the Machine and loved the fuck out of it. And what’s not to love, Ghost in the Machine is an amazing movie. So much of this movie takes bits and pieces of GotS and plugs them in. I don’t mind that really, everybody steals from everybody, that’s always how it’s been. That’s not to say this movie wasn’t entirely without it’s own devices, and I’ll get into that in a bit.

They kick it off with a couple plot threads that are pretty interesting. A mysterious doctor who’s motives are unclear, soldiers that seem to be being held as prisoners, and guards that speak some sort of computer language, and lastly a fully realized cybernetic being.

They are all interesting concepts that I was invested in, which is why the movie was such a disappointment. None of the story threads are ever really closed or explained. It’s like they just forgot about them or ran out of money so they couldn’t finish it. The ones that are done seemingly like an after thought. The biggest one being the cyborg. Her actions at the end of the movie make absolutely no sense.

She’s born with a self awareness and has emotions. She loves her creator and is fiercely loyal to him, it’s kinda sweet in a way. Of course this wont do for the Military, who’s been funding the whole thing, they want a cyborg killing machine. So they blackmail the doc into cutting out her humanity, basically killing her and turning into just a machine. Which he does, and she is just what the military want. Suddenly she turns on them, and starts killing everybody. They make it seem like it was a trick, the doc did something that left her intact. But what he did is never explained, and the cyborg never regains its humanity, even though the doctor could put it back if he wanted. It’s just so convoluted and half assed.

It’s one of those movies that could have been great! It had all the tools for an excellent movie and then it just all falls apart.

There’s a live action Ghost in the Shell being made, I don’t see it being better than the animated version. It’s like when they decided to remake Psycho. It was ok, but a totally unnecessary movie.

Dying Light and other things

So I had a chance to observe someone play Dying Light, it’s a new zombie apocalypse game. It’s got an interesting twist though compared to the others, and that’s the day night cycle. During the day zombies are your stereotypical slow and clumsy variety, but when night comes around they sort of wake up and are suddenly very dangerous, and very fast.

So a lot of the gameplay revolves around this mechanic. The game is open ended, much the same way GTA games are, or perhaps more closely resembling the recent Far Cry games. You have a large area to explore and there are missions and side missions scattered about. Taking on the missions is where the day night cycle comes in to play. For instance, in one mission you might be asked to retrieve medicine for survivors on the other side of the map. Getting there might just be a walk in the park, but take too long and getting back will be a mad dash through the dark with blood thirsty zombies chasing after you. There’s multiplayer too but I didn’t have a chance to see it in action. I’ll be interested in trying this one out, it’ll be released in just a couple days.

On other things, I was chatting with a group of gamers about Dying Light and some how the discussion was turned to a different game that will come out at the end of February.

The Order:1886 is a sort of steam punk revision of Victorian London. The style is quite interesting and the visuals have received a lot of praise, some journalist saying it’s the best looking game on the PS4. It has received some criticism for being “Too Linear.” I have never understood what this means. What is the difference between too linear and just linear enough. Isn’t the goal of a story to get from point A to point B? What does it matter how they get there as long as it’s done well?

One of the gamers I chatted with today said The Order was nothing more than an interactive movie, as if this were a slight. I beg to differ, I love games that have a strong emphasis on story telling. Telltale Games have made their name on games that are specifically made to tell great stories, gameplay is in the form of choosing actions or dialog options. Why can’t a game like The Order tell their story with gameplay coming by way of combat? Not all games need to be open ended with huge maps, that doesn’t automatically make a game better than a linear one. The Last of Us is a very linear game and has one of the most compelling and moving stories I’ve ever seen in any medium, to say it is inferior to a non linear game like Grand Theft Auto 5 is a huge mistake.

I don’t care if The Order is linear and the gameplay is limited to combat, tell me a great story and make me enjoy the ride. That’s what entertainment is all about.

Writing and a pet peeve

I’ve been making an effort to try and write more here, but it’s difficult when sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say. I read some Penny-Arcade today, for the uninitiated that is a popular webcomic who’s central topic is usually video games. The writer of the comic always writes something to accompany the comic, and I wonder how they do it, 3 days a week, year round. So I figure I just need to stick with it, and I’ll get better at it as I go.

So, as often times my subject is games, today should come as no surprise, we’ve been here before, and we’ll be here many many more times to come.

Today marks the release of the not entirely anticipated re-re-release of a decades old game called Resident Evil. This is definitive version of the game, until the next definitive version is released. This new version of the game is taken from a remake of the original game. The remake came out on the GameCube, way back when. At the time the visuals were mind blowing, and even now it still looks pretty good. Now with the new version we have the same game as the GameCube’s but with minor graphical enhancement, HD graphics, some touched up character models and textures. But honestly they are so minor, if you’ve played it on the GameCube there’s no reason to play this one. Unless you just really want to play it again, I imagine most of you no longer have the GameCube hooked up the TV, this way you can play on your current console.

But back to the part about my peeve. I can’t count how many of these HD re-releases are being made. Let’s see, we’ve got Final Fantasy 10-11-12-13. Seriously. We’ve got Halo 1-2-3-4. Honestly. And that’s just off the top of my head. It’s getting to be pretty ridiculous, but they keep making them, which means people must be buying them. Now, I’ll admit to buying one of these myself, The Last of Us, but I get a pass on that because that game is probably the greatest example of interactive story telling ever made. It’s worrying that people want to keep playing these old games, and yet complain about how the industry isn’t moving the medium forward. It just confirms to publishers, playing it safe is the best way to make money.

There are a host of new games doing radical new things that have never been done before, and they aren’t selling. These are what gamers should be buying, these risk takers are the only ones trying to make something new and original, and their efforts are not being rewarded. So they next time, don’t buy a HD release of a game you played 10 years ago, jump into the Xbox’s Live Arcade or Indy section of the Playstation Store, or even better yet, Steam on the PC. They’ve got hundreds of these games, and some of em will blow your mind.