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Tycho / 6 days ago

Gabriel and I are largely CoD adjacent.  We purchase them, like them, and play them, but they rarely become a lifestyle.  Black Ops II - “blops” - was the exception, at least for him, when he discovered that playing it via the Wii U’s remote screen allowed him to play it more or less constantly.  He plays the new one with Keek sometimes and experienced some of the classic concerns, but he’s got a bad cold that has placed him betwixt life and death.  I think he got it from Australia; it’s essentially a bioweapon.  He probably should have declared it on that sheet they give you at the airport.  I haven’t been able to play with them as much as I’d like.  Barely at all.

People are playing on the new Summoner’s Rift, also; it’s doesn’t have every change they’re introducing yet, and there are a lot, but if I hook a creep when I am trying to grab a champion, it’s a different kind of creep.  And they’re up close, now, so I can really appreciate the distinctions.  I’m not in a position to commit, though.  It in an Inquisition thing.

I have to admit to being a little confused by this game.  I like Dragon Age because I’m a dork, and I gotta like it.  I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad with that statement; there are matters of execution that can determine the degree of success, can carve out and own part of a person’s mind.  But you get a bonus to that roll, right?  I said when comparing the series to The Witcher that it didn’t feel like hard fantasy to me; there was no ground floor.  But The Keep implies a different kind of foundation, a substrate created by the compounded decisions of two previous games.  That ain’t nothing.  Here’s what’s up: I think Dragon Age: Inquisition might actually be great.  And not great because it is a shambling pile of fucking nerd shibboleths.  Which I’m totally okay with something being, believe me.  But, yes.  What constellation governed the development of this game?  Was Inquisition their “Final Fantasy” - their last shot for the franchise?  Because sweat stands on its brow; it has a manic quality.

I’m playing it on a PC that was hot shit two years ago.  I firmly believe that Ludacris would play it on PC also, and everything I have done in my life thus far has been with Ludacris as my North Star.  “Good Graphics” to someone who doesn’t really play games often has to do with fidelity: does it look like the world they know?  So, to Brenna, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is startling because she’s seeing individual stitches on shit where the stitches would be.  I can show her “my Inquisition character,” as I did “last night,” and she doesn’t give a shit.  You will see some things even early on that will stir the blood, though; giving this crew Frostbite lets them casually overwhelm players with scale.  But if DAII set the tone with Kirkwall, they’ve managed to unfold it and lay it over a globe in a way that says “this is what we meant last time” and you believe them.  You are increasingly travelling through a place of ideas taken shape.  I feel like they’ve done something polite for me when I step into, say, a coast pierced by basalt columns.  Like they opened a door, and I stepped through.  I feel like I should thank someone.

There is a part of the Dragon Age team that really doesn’t understand helmets.  They understand heads, certainly.  That’s where all their writing comes out of, so those have to be executed at a certain level.  The profound investment they have in faces makes them try to do these open helmets that never quite look right, their ratios seem goofed, or they’re made of weird metals that exist nowhere in nature or anywhere else in the game.  These are somehow better than the helmets that don’t show faces, and look like no person could ever actually wear them.  As though they would crush the head within; as though the helmet were, itself, a form of medieval punishment.  Oh!  And when I use the Search command to highlight interactables near me, sometimes the location of these things is ambiguous.  And the overhead “Tactical View” has a very challenging time with anything but a uniform savanna.  There, that’s everything I hate.  Seriously, that’s all of it.  If you can make your peace with those, then get in here.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 1 week ago

Gabriel’s Sonic Boom Verdict was similar to other Sonic Verdicts and ultimately resulted in us wondering to what extent we had manufactured the Sonic that we liked from whole cloth, and then just draped that engineered affection over new titles as they came out.  I don’t really believe it yet.  I feel like I remember having fun.  Maybe not everyone is.  I feel like there’s a gruesome career retrospective coming for this beleaguered hedgehog, one with heartfelt interviews interleaved with black and white reenactments.  I think he’s in a bad place.

Outside of the scores, I haven’t read any Dragon Age: Inquisition reviews.  So maybe what I’m going to tell you about my experience with the PC version now is all stuff the DA stalwart has read before.  I’m gonna do it anyway, I think.  They’re coming out fucking swinging on this one.  They know that have an uphill climb after Dragon Age II; that they need to be engaged in a process of active repair on player trust.  I would that that is “happening.”

I wouldn’t call the game “open world,” as I have often heard it said.  I think that’s not correct.  Some zones are so large, though, that they deliver the feel of that type of play while still retaining control.  It’s sort of like how Tolkien will tell you about how far they walked or whatever and then “narrative resolution” increases when they reach certain points.  I think of Open World as meaning there is a full world simulation where I can travel across a unified map, like Elder Scrolls or the new Witcher.  And it would matter if the game felt small.  That is not a problem this game has.

Your War Room - think about a vastly more detailed Galaxy Map from Mass Effect - is where you see the big picture.  It has missions you can task your agents with, leveraging three types of influence, for some reward.  But you also use a resource called Power - something Gabe used when his campaign went “open world” also, except we called it Resolve - to unlock missions and get shit done.  I guess at some level it is a menu, but it is the most engrossing menu of this kind I have ever seen.  The Inquisition itself levels up, and it has its own trees tied into the influence types I mentioned before and granting global benefits.

Games this big tend to lose me in the minutiae.  There are a lot of little activities here and there generally and they all do something but they don’t always feed back into the top of the structure.  Not so, here.  I can explore.  It’s the Galactic Readiness concept from ME completely blown out, and it’s bad.  It’s so bad.  Usually I’d get squirreled away in some corner and feel guilty in this type of game until I quit.  Now, I do what I feel like doing and I’m always furthering the ur-goals.

Even the most rote, by the numbers fedex quest hooks into the Inquisition’s campaign in this way.  I killed ten rams and it felt epic.  What is happening here.

(CW)TB out.

Child’s Play 2014

Child’s Play has become a year round event but things definitely pick up around the holidays. One of the things I look forward to every year is the dinner auction that we put on here in Seattle. As of right now it’s about 80% sold out but you can still grab tickets if you act fast. Once a year it’s nice to ditch the black t-shirt for a black tux and get a little fancy. As usual we will have tons of incredible items from the videogame industry to bid on. It’s in amazing night and it’s all for a good cause so go grab your tickets today.

Also the annual Desert Bus for Hope starts today. This year we sent up a contingent of Penny Arcaders including Robert, Jamie and Kristin. Hit the stream and watch for them to take a turn at the wheel.

Since we started this charity back in 2003, gamers have managed to raise over 25 million dollars to help children all over the world through the power of play. I was going to write out the exact amount we have raised listed on the Child’s Play site but then I realized it was actually a live ticker that was constantly updating. In the time it took me to write the number here in my post and then go back to double check it, you all had donated another four hundred dollars. I know I say it every year but I will never stop being amazed at the incredible generosity of the gaming community. Thank you so much for supporting Child’s Play.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 2 weeks ago

There are only a few series I “run a scam” to get advance copies of.  Assassin’s Creed is one of them.  I’d beaten the game by the time it came out proper, through frenzied play, so I felt like I was missing something.  Except I still am.  I am either missing it, or it isn’t there.

Let me say the nice thing first, because this isn’t a nice post: the visuals are bonkers.  Graphics need to be pretty fucking out there for Brenna to notice, and she brought the graphics up in a conversation with her parents.  As a seamstress, she likes what I do, only she has the credentials to appreciate it: if there is better art in design or execution for character garb, I don’t know about it.  The environments are “unbelievable,” which is to say that they are completely believable as places.  Indeed, they are so amazing that some people are barely able to run them.  I played it on the Xbox One, conscious that I was probably playing the roughest framerate out there, but apparently it’s a mess on PS4 also and is sometimes worse over there.  There was a single assassination that ran brutally for me, because there were more people on the screen than I’d ever seen before, but it was “fine” for the most part.  The PC version I tried to retreat to had such a pronounced stutter that my inputs were interpreted in bizarre ways.  So, no.  We’re talking about a situation where my compliments couldn’t even survive the first paragraph.

The first thing I do in these games is get as much fucking money as I can, so I don’t have to think about it ever.  Everything else is on hold.  I stay getting them francs with my line of immaculately refurbished Parisian cafes.  I probably pull sixty thousand an hour.  But that’s only one of the game’s four currencies: there are also Sync Points, granted through missions and used to buy skills.  Creed Points are earned every time you do any Goddamned thing, you rake them in like leaves.  You use these to upgrade equipment.  There are also Helix Credits, a Freemium currency, which you can use to save yourself time doing the other things.  I never needed them, because I don’t mind spending my time playing videogames.  I don’t need to “save” it, I’m already spending it how I want.  Leave me alone.

The Helix Credits are a conceit tied into the new underlying hook: you are playing the game on a kind of gaming system (“Helix”) designed by the setting’s “villains” to crowdsource historical exploration.  The “Real World” aspects of the series - either working at Google as in Black Flag, or as Desmond Miles - are so sidelined as to be excised completely.  I wasn’t a fan of the Black Flag approach, but the importance of the past to the present or the future is a core part of what makes Assassin’s Creed what it is.  They need to figure this out.

The companion app is mostly a creature of the Bar Filler genre, with a few points of feedback into the game proper; the cafes I mentioned before also generate a resource called Nomad Points in the app I can use to fill out the roster of Assassins you can assign to missions.  You also solve Hidden Object puzzles which I found pretty engaging, in the service of unlocking more missions for these violent men and women.  They’ll try to get you to spend Nomad Points on these when you fail, but you can retry for free and it’s more fun that way.  When completed, these missions are supposed to grant you chests in the actual game.  But when I did unlock a chest, Arno still couldn’t open it.  It made me feel like a mark, honestly.  There’s a third type of chest you can’t open without some kind of incentivised gesticulation.  There’s so much of this sort of thing that I wonder if some of the “performance” stuff other people are seeing is tied into this overgrowth of network aware interactibles.

One of the coolest parts about the Ezio trilogy was how Italian it was.  It may be that actual Italians hated it, I don’t know.  But chalking up the huge tracts of Italian to an error in the Animus translation software meant they could freight a tremendous amount of atmophere.  Everyone in Unity’s Revolutionary France is apparently British.  I guess what I’m saying is that I wanted way more French, in France.  From a French company.  Where a lot of people speak French.  I even changed the audio language to French, but a lot of the incidental dialogue just walking around had no translations so I changed it back.  This is a weird one, guys.

Assassin’s Creed III was great - yes, great - because even with the truly, authentically evil chase scene at the end, it’s the first time you realize that everything you know is essentially Assassin propaganda.  Black Flag plays with this, too.  “Unity” could have taken this so much farther, but they didn’t, and I don’t know why.  I’m genuinely confused by it, so confused by the negative space here that I’m trying to convince myself that it’s actually the hazy outline of Chekhov’s Gun.  Black Flag was built on mature technology, and the teething here on Unity flattened the experience considerably.  When my friends have caught up to me, maybe I can try some of these co-op heists they’ve got.  I’m geared as fuck.  But, man.  Gabe liked his boat.  I liked my competitive multi.  And you miss it, like a tooth.

The AC fan, and I count myself among their number, can overlook a lot.  And they will, they’ll get through; they’ll find things they like.  But, I don’t know.  I thought they were specifically saving the French Revolution as a setting to do it right; The DaVinci Code rendered through the lens of Dumas.  Narrative-wise I didn’t feel paid as a player; they didn’t move the ball very far.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to invest in Arno - will he be back?  They barely give you a chance to like him before the campaign wraps.  I named the strip what I named it for many reasons.  Not just because there’s no boat!  You might have heard; I’m a professional writer.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 2 weeks ago

It’s so lightly euphemized in the strip that it might as well be documentary footage: we are dealing with platform rancor the likes of which I haven’t seen since junior high, only it’s made a thousand times worse, because back then we could like whatever we liked in our own basements.  Now, if you aren’t wholly synchronized with this or that cult, the investment you have made in a piece of hardware is severely deprecated.  With every friend who goes the other way, it becomes more lonely and strange.

The reversal in fortunes has dug a deep furrow in the retail price of the Xbox One, and their aggressive death march of monthly updates has seen real improvements.  I would say the d-pad menu you get when pressing the Xbox button is probably the most substantial, functional, and humane of these but your mileage may vary.  Sunset Overdrive and The Master Chief Collection are bright spots.  The reality though is that a lot of the space in people’s heads is already invested.  Attempt to parse Gabriel’s braying; try to envision him ever again as a bannerman to Lord Redmond.  Sony made an unapologetic game console after we heard repeatedly that the game console was dead, off a generation that didn’t entirely go their way, and they have won renown thereby.

There is a point in this continuum where the fractious stew they are boiling here gives me the excuse I need to just play everything on computers again.  If no choice is a good choice, at least it can be my choice; resolution is all well and good, but if you’re curious what a the PS5 might get up it’s something you can know today on the PC, upon the black anvil of our fathers.

Some of the war is habit, independent of fact; we always played Call of Duty on an Xbox, and Kiko plays the most Call of Duty, and that’s where he plays it.  That’s the loop.  I have stuff like that too.  I had an offer for a console review copy of Dragon Age, the game I’m most excited for in the short term, but I can’t get down like that.  Even with Dragon Age Keep to ferry all my old data across the River Styx.  I made a decision a long time ago that Dragon Age was just what we were calling Baldur’s Gate now, and you play this game drunk, thumb e’er poised over the space bar.  I saw it at a press event on a bank of PS4s, and I had to admit that it did me no harm to look at it; it was fair.  Not fair like “decent,” fair like “maiden fair.”  But until consoles have a space bar, I cannot perform the ritual.

(CW)TB out.




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