Archive for October, 2011

October 29, 2011

5 Things My 7th Grade Self Would Notice About Today’s FPSs


Back in the day I played a little Doom here and there, but my first real experience with first person shooters came in the form of Goldeneye 64.  I remember running around the Temple level with my trusty KF7 Soviet and being blown away at this new type of video game experience; one far more real and intense than the Marios and SimCitys of my past.  So while engaged in some serious fighting last night in Battlefield 3, I wondered what that 7th grade self of mine would think if he was to play some of today’s FPSs.  What would he notice as the big differences?  Graphics are an obvious improvement, but there are some other changes that have occurred in the genre as a whole that I think would stand out to that kid from that era they call the 90s.

Split-screen multiplayer is dead

I used to be pretty damn good at Goldeneye, and Jimmy Paperboy and I constantly vied for the title of best Goldeneye/Perfect Dark player around.  One of the biggest assets in my arsenal wasn’t a weapon, but my ability to watch other player’s screens and anticipate their movements.  Sure, everyone did it to varying extents, but I worked hard to make it an art form.  But like a kid going from T-ball to kid pitch, with the advent of online FPS, I was intimidated and lost.  Without the ability to see where other people were and what weapons they had, I could no longer plan accordingly and play against other people’s weaknesses.  Screen watching was so huge to me back then that it seemed an integral part of the shooter experience.  I hopelessly clung to it as technology deemed it no longer relevant, and found myself using outdated techniques in this new era.  Where I once found comfort in being one of best, I was now in a world where I constantly died and lost.  Today some games may still offer some semblance of split-screen multiplayer, but anyone finding themselves playing a one-on-one match in Call of Duty either still uses AOL dial-up or may be a closeted Amish.  7th grade me would be shocked to see the local competition dead, succumbing to a far larger online world where you’re match sizes are no longer restrained by how many friends you can get to spend then night.

Grenades are no longer stand-alone weapons

This one is simple.  A lot of games way back when had weapons slots, and a weapon would have to occupy one of those slots.  So to throw a grenade, you would have to equip it as your main weapon, throw it, and then switch back to whatever gun you were using.  Basically, if you were to use grenades, then that would be the weapon you were using.  In other words, they hadn’t yet become the secondary thing that they are today.

In almost all games these days, there is an entirely separate button for grenades, and you toss them while your main weapon remains whatever gun you are using.  But 7th grade me would have to choose whether to use grenades, or mines, or guns.  It was an either-or option, not an addition to whatever your main weapon is, like it is today.  This came with the advent of loadouts, which leads us to:

Weapon spawning is dead

Maybe a few games still use weapon spawning today, maybe either out of nostalgia or to recreate a retro feel.  But back in the day, it was common practice for a level to have designated areas where better weapons would spawn.  You started with something terrible, and had to make a mad dash to the spot where you could upgrade.  This led to widespread camping, to protect the best weapon on the map from those with lesser guns.  7th grade me would be shocked to see that today we choose our weapons before the game starts, and typically hang on to those weapons until we die.  Weapons now are no longer simply a consideration of which one is better than the others, but instead which one is better for specific scenarios or play styles.  To revisit Goldeneye for this example, the RCP90 was typically the best gun in the map, and it was an achievement to obtain it.  Now days you can start out with that type of gun from the get go, and have to balance its weaknesses with its strengths against other considerations like the map and how you plan on playing.  Loadouts changed FPS gaming in a subtle yet substantial way.

Why go to war prepared when you can just pick up all your equipment right off the ground

The maps have changed

Well no shit the maps have changed you say to yourself.  But what I’m talking about is something more fundamental.  The maps in old FPS games were almost always indoors, in big rooms designed for optimal multiplayer goodness.  Sometimes they were based in reality, a big industrial facility or an office or something.  Sometimes they were just big complicated rooms, not really anything you would see in real life, just a room designed for people to run around and shoot at each other in.  But today we see a paradigm shift towards the outdoors.  Sure, maps today still contain indoor areas and buildings.  But the difference here is that we’ve shifted from levels to maps.  A level evokes a sense that the area was designed in a bubble, cordoned off from anything outside of it.  A map, on the other hand, is a spot in the real world.  The maps today are real areas, or at least made to look like one, where you can traverse the outside of the buildings as well as inside of them.  Sure, some FPS games of old made use of this.  Think back to the sniper level on Conker’s Bad Fur Day.  But see, that was revolutionary.  Ditches, trenches, bridges, hills and bunkers added to the variety and complexity of that map.  But levels like Stacks or Complex in Goldeneye, or the G5 Building in Perfect Dark, though some of my all time favorite levels ever, were still ultimately made for multiplayer.  What I mean is, it seems like the people who built those buildings built them specifically for people to later have shootouts in.  Today we see levels that look as though they were designed for other purposes, like what buildings in real life would be designed for, and you just happen to end up having shootouts there.  This adds to the level of realism that graphics alone can’t account for, and my old self would be pumped to be having a shootout in a map like the actual city of Paris, and not just another maze level with rooms and bridges that don’t have any outside significance.  But this shift to realism is probably influenced by outside factors that have actually taken place over the past decade or so.

What is this? Someone's basement?

The wars influence our shooters

The 90’s were a pretty peaceful time overall, especially compared to the 2000’s (still awkward to say) as far as America is concerned.  See, 7th grade me lived in a time where we weren’t involved in any wars, and so shooters were basically developed either to be historical, based on movies, or to tell stories of their own.  But after our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, our daily lives were inundated by the wars.  This inevitably influenced our national consciousnesses and had an impact on our shooter games.  Genres that had typically focused on World War 2 soon found themselves making more modern shooters, setting us in the Middle East with modern and DARPA weapons instead of historical or fictional weapons.  In an attempt to make the games somewhat fictional, they almost always involve Russians, which could be due to any number of reasons, most likely because a purely accurate and nonfictional depiction might be offensive and because developers want to make their own story, to make their game “theirs” instead of a documentary.  Regardless, with many developers now consulting with returning veterans to make these games, the feel has becomes far more hardened, gritty, and realistic.  What was once a fun, action packed genre has now evolved into an intense, violent and chaotic genre that focuses on realism and immersion more than anything else.  My time traveling self would find this new shift fascinating , as the changes in our world have had a direct impact on the games we play.

We've got Oddjob camping on the remote mines, and Boris is downstairs in the Archives.

In the end, there are tons of changes that the FPS genre has undergone over the years.  Some is based on technological advances that would have inevitably arisen, some is based upon more popular innovative ideas that other franchises have latched on to, and some is influence by the changing world around us.  I would love to play some Battlefield with my middle school self, if only to see the full extent of his amazement at what has come about.  I’m sure there would be some crazy things he would notice.  I remember playing Goldeneye for the first time, and being amazed at the technological advancement in the game at the time.  Now it is aged and old, and whats new seems the norm.  But with the fast paced advancement of gaming technology, I can’t wait to see what 36 year old me is playing in 10 years.  I’m sure it will make Battlefield 3 look outdated and cartoonish.

October 27, 2011

What Weapon Would You Choose For A Zombie Uprising?


Jimmy Paperboy

Life Sucks.  There are countless things to worry about.  How am I going to eat?  What do I want to do as a career?  If the toilet paper doesn’t have anything on it, should I quit wiping?  These are problems that we all face everyday, and we at some point must address them.  But, if a zombie outbreak happened we wouldn’t have to.  What’s that you say?  You say that we still must fight for our lives, and that only exacerbates the problems that humans have?  Well I don’t wanna be human.  That’s right. As soon as word of an outbreak happened I would lie down in the middle of the street like a virgin sacrifice and just let them go at me.  That is assuming that I would be turned into a zombie instead of suffering a horrible death for nothing.  The life of a zombie is much more appealing than that of a rat human trying to cling on to what they call “life.”  As a zombie you have one thing to worry about.  BRAAAINNNS.  There are no societal norms for zombies, no competition, and absolutely nothing is expected from you by your zombie brethren.  I could have my entrails dragging the ground and an eye out of socket and I would be on the same social strata as a zombified Barak Obama.  So, as a zombie what would be my optimal weapon?  A zombie’s most important part of him would be his teeth.  A zombie can have no appendages, as long as he can roll around as a torso and try to latch on to pinky human flesh.  Since teeth are the most important part of the zombie anatomy I would have vampire teeth installed.  I am not talking about those plastic ones that you wear for Halloween that are too small and make your gums bleed.  I would get Bond Villain quality metal ones.  Since complex things such as surgery would not be able to be performed by zombies, I would have to get my teeth prior to turning.  I would still be human with the metal vampire teeth, so in order to not get confused with the Twilight or True Blood crowd I would have to get my teeth UPON word of the outbreak.  Feeding for a zombie is a weakness.  When zombies are innocently catching a bite to eat, humans are always trying to put a bullet or a blunt object to their head.  Although the stationary feast is a great pleasure for a zombie, it leaves them open and makes them vulnerable.  With metal vampire teeth I would no longer have to sit there and hopelessly grind human flesh with those dull default teeth.  I would now be able to make a clean bite, walk away, and saunter on to a place that is less populated with those murderous humans.

DorisfromNoris

Even though my friend Jimmy Paperboy thinks he is the alpha male when it comes to surviving a zombie apocalypse, I know for a fact that I could outlast his pussy ass any day.  Jimmy would most likely spend his last days using Rufilin™ as his primary defense and taking advantage of some innocent zombos while Bill Murray jacks off in the corner.  All of the meanwhile I will be cruising around in my black station wagon with a white number 3 painted on the sides in remembrance of the late Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson).  To pick a weapon to fend off those little bastard zombies, I would use a P90 not only because Mortar and Pistol is obsessed with it, but also because of its lethalness and ammo capacity.  While most guns may get the job done when it comes to blowing off some heads, the rate of fire in the P90 would make a zombie look like it got stuffed into my Vitamax 2 horsepower blender.  Furthermore, if any zombies turn out to be the flack jacket or the heavy armory type, (which trust me, they are from time to time) the P90 would not be hindered by these little annoyances due to its armor piercing capabilities.

I googled P90 and this came up...so yeah

MortarnPistol

All too often I find myself minding my own business when out of nowhere someone comes knocking on the door.  Maybe its a girl scout, a dejected man selling magazines, my landlord, or the police asking about where I was the other night when I totally wasn’t drinking lighter fluid and firing live rounds at the moon.  These may be minor inconveniences anyone can expect from living in polite society, but in every man’s life there comes a time when the knocking at the door is caused by a zombie uprising.  I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t consider a game of Russian Roulette with a hand grenade, but I’m no longer a young man without a care in the world.  No, I have responsibilities including a dog and some friends that never call.  And thus I must survive.  The perfect zombie weapon for me?  Well, the AK-47 of course.  Its durable and won’t get clogged up by drying blood, and it makes for great Facebook pictures to pose with one while throwing a peace sign.  See, these zombies aren’t simply undead masses out looking for their next meal.  They’re undead rude masses ruining my evening by bothering me and everyone I know.  The AK is terribly inaccurate, which works well for crowd dispersal and adrenaline-fueled behind-the-back run and gun scenarios.  Its loud, which lets the zombies know where I am and just how many fucks I don’t give.  And its heavy, which makes for a great melee weapon after I inevitably run out of bullets and have to resort to beating them, moments before I succumb.  We all too often see folks choose baseball bats and golf clubs to fight the hoard, but in my opinion sports are too much work, and I don’t want to exercise while fending off crowd after crowd of people that even the cemetery couldn’t keep.  Sure, they’ll eventually get my brains.  I don’t have much endurance and I lose interest quickly, and sooner or later I’ll give in out of sheer laziness.  But while I’ve still got some fight in me, nothing beats popping off a few rounds from my Soviet sidekick to (if nothing else) inconvenience the wave of zombies from getting their food like a rude hostess at the local Chilis.

Like

Jsixgun

Imagine this, a glowing orange sun rises over the evergreen’s on a cool fall morning. You step outside and stretch you arms with a loud boisterous yawn, your breath steaming on the southern air. In the distance you hear sirens and see wisps of flowing smoke dancing into the pale blue sky. You take notice but give it nothing more than a bout of curiosity in your mind and then you notice your neighbor limping around in their front yard seemingly mumbling or growling; you can’t be certain. You cock you head in a gesture of confusion, “what exactly are they up too?” you ask your self- rhetorically of course. Then they see you, and you notice that’s not dirt on their morning gown, its blood. They begin to shuffle your way with a beguiling intensity, it’s not fast but it is certainly an attempt to get to you quick. It dawns on you in a second of horror and realization…your neighbor is a zombie and you forgot to return their gosh danged hedge trimmers.
In any Zombie apocalypse the key to survival is a trusty weapon and a motley crew consisting of at least one older/ wizened character, one female, a tough black guy, and a good looking heroic white guy. While I won’t break down who would be the best motley crew (older/ wizened character = Gandolph, female = Sarah Palin, Tough black guy = Michael Vick, and heroic white guy = ), or I will- whatever. I will tell you this for certain, a 12 gauge shotgun is the must have weapon for survival. “Why nots an AK dawg so u can rape those flesh eater’s like their noobz,” you ask? Well for one I have a college degree, and two I realize a little known fact which I will share with you; the AK-47 (or any assault weapon for that matter) is not going to have ammo just lying around for you to pillage like it’s an RPG with gold hidden in barrels. It’s the real world mother trucker, and you better get serious. Honestly, I mean if you need a gun for a zombie apocalypse, you need to be able to waltz right into any Walmart and load up on the boom booms like you’re Jeff Foxworthy. This is not to mention all the old timer houses you’ll come upon where once you’ve taken out the creepy geezer zombies, will be stocked full of goodies (among them a plethora of shotgun ammo). So get that shotgun, boy head, and send the dead to rest with holes in their chest.

Where them zombers at?

October 27, 2011

Battlefield 3 First Impressions


I don’t usually apologize because I’m not usually wrong, but I have to make an exception here.  Having played Battlefield 3 for the past few days, I can say with all certainty that this game has far exceeded my expectations.  And to be honest, the more I play the online multiplayer, the harder time I have believing that Modern Warfare 3 can keep up with the competition.  So without further delay, let me begin my apologetic love letter to all things Battlefield 3…

I got Gulf War Syndrome just from looking at this.

I’ve only played about a half hour of the campaign, and I can’t really speak to if its good or bad, though I haven’t heard great things.  But we all know that’s not the main reason for buying such a game.  No, the real reason people get Battlefield is to engage in huge multiplayer games.  And that is what I have done.  I complained in a previous post that the uber-realism of the game would probably turn me off (on account of dying all the time and all) but it has had the complete opposite effect.  The utter realism of the game is engaging, intense, and immersive.  I tend to sit as close to the TV as possible, white knuckling a Mountain Dew while I ride into town in the armored transport carriers, listening to the crackle and deep thuds of combat in the distance.

The game is unique in that you actually level up not only your person but your guns as well, earning ACOG sights, grips, underbarrel grenade launchers and flashlights along the way, and its deeply satisfying to see that you’ve earned some new equipment.  The vehicle combat is simulated perfectly, and adds to the chaotic nature of war.  I found myself last night picking people off from a first floor window when an explosion rocked the building, knocking down the wall I was hiding behind.  I was nearly dead and dropped to prone, knowing there was a tank merely feet from me and was looking for the guy taking out his teammates.  There was no escape.

Aaaaaaand scene

That is specifically what makes this game so great.  You will remember your multiplayer matches.  I’ve done good in some games, great in few, but overall, you remember the experiences.  The maps are so big and so varied that the matches never play out the same twice.  As much as I loved Black Ops, and I most certainly loved it, you can’t deny that most games on Nuketown were basically the same game.  Not here.  Mixed with the fantastic sound effects that make the warfare in your face and as real as possible, graphics that are as good as any FPS on the market today, and the whispered orders of your comrades as you hide in the streets of Paris while a tank of your opponents drive past unaware, this game creates a real battle experience for you.  Not a game or a match, but an experience.  Everyone will have unique experiences, and they will be made all the more awesome if you have friends to play online with.

It was late last night and so I was just kind of exploring on a larger map when I saw an enormously tall crane towards the edge of the level.  I climbed, and it took forever, to the top of the crane and could survey the entire level.  However, I wasn’t a sniper and I only had a non-scoped M4A1, so there was no real tactical reason for what I did, I just wanted to get up there.  Faced with the boring alternative of climbing back down, I took the awesome path of just sprinting to the end and leaping off, parachuting to the ground.  When I landed, I found three enemies laying prone, about 4 feet in front of me, blissfully unaware of my presence while sniping my own guys.  So I wiped them out, and immediately the game ended.  I was almost out of breath when the scores were tallied and I was smiling ear to ear.

The game certainly isn’t perfect.  Getting a server can be a pain in the ass. I guess DICE, while busy hyping their game as the COD-killer, forgot to, you know, prepare for what would happen if a lot of people actually bought the game.  Lag isn’t really an issue except on the Tehran map, which oddly always has lag (at least in my experience).  DorisfromNoris got the game on launch day like I did, but we still haven’t played a single match together because of server failures, which is a gaping flaw in my opinion.  But hopefully patches or additional servers can fix this issue soon so that the full game, which is already great, can be fully enjoyed.  But in the end, while I’m discussing ERISA 401(k) plans all morning, really what I can’t quit thinking about is that time we successfully held the entrance to the subway, blinded by flashlights and laser sights, by blind-firing into the escalator bottleneck before us.

October 25, 2011

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review


I never really got into Batman when I was a kid.  Superheros just never interested me.  While my friends were watching the X-Men and Power Rangers, my dad was renting Rambo and James Bond for us to watch together.  But after seeing Nolan’s Batman movies I realized that Batman is something different than my perception of superheros.  Superman as a concept is stupid; someone who is nearly invincible and 100% good isn’t someone who is going to interest me and Spiderman makes me yawn.  But what I like about Batman is the noir aspect of it all.  Gotham City is dark, Batman is an imperfect hero, and the villains are actually sinister and not silly.  Of course that hasn’t always been the  case, so I can’t say I’m a fan of all things Batman.  But I certainly am a fan of this modern interpretation that makes it more grounded in gritty, dark realism.  As opposed to this:

Then again, everyone in the 60s was on acid, so this might have been amazing

Regardless, I had heard great things about Arkham Asylum and in the hype surrounding the release of Arkham City I decided I had to play the first one first.  My friend was good enough to let me borrow Arkham Asylum, and I have to say, it has exceeded my expectations and then some.  All the hype this game has received is well founded and well deserved.

The game mechanics work great.  The fighting system is smooth and easy to figure out, though difficult to master.  As many of you may have heard, the game was originally going to be a rhythm game, not unlike Guitar Hero.  Thankfully that idea was scrapped, but the combat system is still based upon timing and getting the rhythm of the fight down.  It works well.  The fights can be challenging at times, and satisfying when you ultimately win.  The boss fights, usually involving one of the supervillians of the Batman mythos, are typically a throwback to boss battles of old, and as I’ve stated before, I love that.  There are a good deal of problem solving puzzles in the game too, ranging from figuring out how to get from point A to B to more intricate and intense moments like trying to figure out how to silently clear a room of armed  guards.  And you must be careful about it, for like Deus Ex, enemy gunfire can take you down almost immediately, so care and forethought are a must.  All this blends together to give a great varied feel to the game, changing up the gameplay to keep you engaged and always wanting more.

And that’s the best part of this game.  You can’t put it down.  The story is compelling and keeps driving you forward, you keep going to find out more about the characters’ back stories, to see what is around the corner, to stop whatever plot is currently underway.  Aided by great graphics and some pretty good voice acting, the game feels like you’re controlling a movie.  A good movie at that.  Sure, the voice acting may be a little over the top and the game is certainly not as dark as Nolan’s films, but its also far darker than most Batman interpretations.  And for people like me, people who aren’t intimately familiar with every aspect of the Batman universe, it is accessible while still offering tons of nods to those who are addicted to everything Bats.

Arkham Asylum is simply a fantastic game, and one you’ll definitely want to pick up even if you don’t know much about Batman or have played other Batman games and had a bad experience.  The reason is simple, this one is different.  And it offers such a variety of gameplay and such a great story, it is certainly not one to be missed.  It offers an atmosphere that is all too often absent from other games, an all encompassing mood that draws you into and doesn’t want to let go.  Now its time to grab Arkham City, which I’ve heard is even better than the first game.  I’m certainly excited.

October 24, 2011

Why I Want MW3 More Than BF3


The Battlefield/Call of Duty debate rages on as both franchises are set to release their latest installment in a matter of hours/days, respectively.  Both companies have handled this competition respectfully and professionally, and by that I mean they have acted like children trying to one up each other in the battle for FPS dominance.  While name calling between businesses doesn’t exactly endear me to them, anything that has been said between them pales in comparison to what is debated in the forums online.  What has amazed me the most is the sheer enthusiasm of Battlefield players, and the overarching contention that Battlefield takes skill and is the epitome of realism, while Call of Duty is nothing but a haven for Ritalin-junkie prepubescents to practice their racial slurs.  For a fun example, take a look at a screengrab I got from a debate, where people are actually using their Facebook logins to debate the merits of two video games.

If you buy Call of Duty, the terrorists win

While his arguments make good use of “alternative” grammar structure, what may worry me the most is that he’s a security guard, which presumably means he carries a gun.  At least we know that he’s developing real skills to use in a war game, instead of such non-essential skills like “running and shooting”.  But I don’t want to spend my time ragging on some poor weirdo, especially because there are just so many more hilarious posts out there supporting their respective franchises.  The basic trend I’ve noticed though is that Battlefield, at least in the gaming forum community, has far more adamant supporters, spending almost as much time supporting their game as they bash Call of Duty.  And that’s fine.  If it was 1997 and people were shitting on Goldeneye because they thought Turok was better, I’d certainly be jumping into the fray to tell them how stupid they were.  But something seems different this time.

Nothing can compare

First of all, in the overarching scheme of things, the games really aren’t that different.  I know I may get some flack for that, but seriously.  BF3 and MW3 are both first person shooters, set in the modern day, striving for hyper-realism and the top spot in the uber competitive e-sport category.  Because of this, they will both inevitably feature similar weapons, in similar locales, with similar physics.  Now, I realize there are some significant differences in the games, and those will ultimately determine not only which game you get, if you don’t end up getting both, and also which ends up selling better.  But I think the debate that is currently ongoing, over which franchise is actually superior, is frankly a little bit silly.  The games both cater to a very specific demographic, those that like war games and competitive online multiplayer.  That needs to be understood by everyone.  It is not like there are two different demographics that each game specifically is geared towards.  To an outsider, they would be perceived as basically the exact same game.  So the major difference is subtle preferences of those within a set and well defined demographic, and that will ultimately determine who buys what.  And for me personally, that will be Modern Warfare 3.  I had originally planned on getting both, but after playing Bad Company 2 and the BF3 Beta, as well as the sheer amount of games around the corner, I will only have one slot available for my FPS category, and that will be occupied by Call of Duty.  Allow me to explain:

The debate really boils down to whether you prefer to shoot AK47s in the desert, or if you'd rather shoot AK47s in the desert.

First, I am not in the least attempting to say that BF3 is or will be a bad game.  Not in the least.  In fact, it looks like it will be simply amazing.  But it doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons.  First, it is too realistic.  I die way too easily.  Call me a n00b all day long if you need to, but I’m 26 and for some reason I just can’t keep up with 18 year-olds with that trigger twitch anymore.  Also, I absolutely love to run and gun.  And if I get killed every time I step out into the open, I’m going to get frustrated.  In Bad Company I died constantly, it was an exercise in respawning, running towards the action, instantly dying, and then doing it all over again.  It got tiresome.  Maybe those BF3 supporters are right, and maybe it does take more skill.  But it also requires something else, something I just don’t have, and that’s patience.  I’m not a patient person, and when I’m required to hide, like real life, for a long time in order to do well, I end up just getting bored.  Not to mention that on top of all that, I’m just not a team player.  I don’t typically like other people, and I don’t typically see myself as some vital cog in the machine.  I see my online personality as a lone vigilante, and my main competitors are my teammates, stealing all those precious kills.  To force me to work together with people, after a long day at work, working together with people, is too much to ask of someone like me.  See, unlike anyone who’s ever drank the mercury that is online forum debating, which magically makes people stupid, I don’t think that because I will prefer Call of Duty that that somehow makes BF3 a bad game.  Its a great game for a certain subset of the demographic, but I’m not a part of that demographic, and I don’t think I ever will be.

Get out of my way you idiots!

I am the type of person that wants instant action, overwhelming, Mountain Dew overdosing action.  Both games have tons of action, to be sure, but I’m the type that wants to run constantly towards the action like some sort of suicidal maniac with a death wish, just wanting to take out as many people as I can before I inevitably die.  (In hindsight, maybe the poster above has a point about COD = Insurgents).  Regardless, I don’t want to die instantly.  I don’t want to have to hide and wait all day.  I want smaller maps, I want modes where I can run, gun, and say to hell with cooperation.  I was shorter matches where I don’t have to commit tons of time to just one game.  Furthermore, COD is what I’m familiar with.  I’ve been playing that franchises’ games for years.  Its what I know, its what I’m used to.  I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone, and there is nothing unusual about that, in video games or anything else.  The most important factor here is that I have fun playing COD games, and that’s why I buy video games in the first place.  See, I had a great time with Deus Ex, I raved about Rage, I can’t put down Batman, and I loved Resistance 3, but there are only two games this year that had me playing, without significant down time, for most of the year.  That was Mortal Kombat and Black Ops.  And if nothing else, I know myself, and if I bought both BF3 and MW3, I would beat both games’ campaigns, and then be forced into a position of wanting to level up my character as much as possible.  I either divide my time evenly between the two games, thus wasting half of my energy playing whichever game I inevitably find less enthralling, or I only play one games’ multiplayer in order to keep as much XP in one place as possible.  And because I’ve experienced both styles of gameplay, I can safely say that I would end up choosing COD over Battlefield.  And because of that, I personally will pass on Battlefield 3 and wait until November 8th for Modern Warfare.

That all said, I’d love to hear your thoughts on BF3, those of you getting it tomorrow.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

October 22, 2011

Video Game Sci-fi that might not be Fictional Soon, by Jsixgun


Virtual/Interactive Reality

I would argue that video games are as effective as any medium today in exploring the realm of science fiction, and blurring that line between it and reality. Anyone who has a hankering for science fiction can easily name drop some of the obvious science fiction tech in movies that scientists today are really working on. I mean Gene Roddenberry himself has described his vision of Star Trek being almost wholly based on real science theory. While we haven’t yet achieved the same results, nor have we been able to punch Klingon’s in their pruned faces yet, we are in fact chasing the core principles to one day develop those same results. Maybe one day you too can have a green alien / lingerie model in your bed, besides intergalactic pimping is going to be a legitimate business one day soon (at least I hope or I’ve been seriously duped from that e-mail I got once into investing in to that Nigerian savings fund for a start up in that field).

The purpose of this series, however, is not to give you solid investing advice. The purpose is to highlight some technological advancements and compare them to their video game brethren so we can see just how close we really are to some very interesting tech. Shall we continue?

"So all I do is tap my wrist for this virtual computer thing?”

One of my favorite in game examples of this concept is Commander Shephard’s Omni-tool and from the looks of the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 it’s going to get a throat slashing, belly ripping, completely awesome upgrade. But the idea is certainly not unique to Mass Effect. Another of the many culprits to use this gimmick is Heavy Rain. When you play as FBI agent Norman Jayden, you have to interact with the clues you’ve collected to try and formulate a case in a virtual and interactive world called ARI. You do this with the help of a glove and some very slick looking shades that operate cohesively to make the virtual world a quasi-reality. Take a look at in action here:

If you weren’t rebellious and watched the video you’ll notice Agent Jayden interacting with spheres, files in a filing cabinet, a pull down map, etc. (except he does this all in a virtual world). Well the idea of interacting with virtual objects isn’t so crazy any more. Microsoft’s research department has used none other than the Kinect to create something they call the “Holodesk.” Compare it to the former clip:

Now if you’re thinking the two clips showcase very different technology, than I would like to remind you that the Wright brother’s probably didn’t anticipate their flying machine to one day turn into jet propelled, sound barrier breaking, hunks of pure flying death. Considering the rapid advancement in scientific theory, circuitry, and computing; it is in no way out of the realm of possibility to see the idea’s emerging into the same concept possibly in our own lifetimes. Besides, perhaps if we find out there are not indeed green alien/ lingerie models waiting in the cosmos for us we can bring them to us in virtual reality. And don’t be a perv about it, it’s strictly plutonic.

Till next time, when we will look at some Fallout tech that is seeing a real world counterpart.

October 18, 2011

What Should be on Your Calendars after Skyrim – Jsixgun


If you’re like me, you have an app on your phone that counts down to Skyrim’s release date. If you’re not like me, trust me, you want to be. I’m cool. Anyways, much of the gaming world is on edge waiting for the release of Bethesda’s new Elder Scrolls game, while in Russia, Putin is demanding it early; as he has a penchant to do. After all, he really is very finicky when it comes to release dates for video games and twilight movies, because every one knows you can’t keep the Kremlin down. In lieu of his incessant whining he absolutely reminds me of Chavez when he acts like that, and don’t even get me started about his views on the Roman calendar! However, unless you’re that Kim Jong character in North Korea, you’re going to have to wait for 11-11-11 like the rest of us.

“I dragon, I no wait for dragon game.”

And after that fateful day, 100+ hours into the game when you finally beat it, what will you have to look forward to then? Of course you could take up a hobby; I hear underwater Polo is nice towards the end of the Winter Solstice. Perhaps, you could even study Iranian Fashion and write a dissertation on why Ahmadinejad never wears a neck tie. Or you could look into the following three games which look to be awesome in their own right. While I would certainly lean towards the second choice, the third choice is the most viable. So get you specks on, and let’s take a look.

#1 Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning

Have you ever heard of Curt Schilling? Well, he pitched for the Boston Red Socks and bled through his sock once. I think he also won a World Series, so he had moderate to average talent for sure. After all that was done he decided he wanted to open up a video game studio and did just that. His studio goes by the name of 38 Studios and they are working on what appears to be an awesome new fantasy game. Don’t believe me? Well lets just say he drafted an all-star team (A sports pun! A sports pun!).

First to bat (I did it again!) we have Ken Rolston. “Holy Crap!” you say? …No?… Okay you may not immediately recognize his name but you will recognize his games. Mr. Rolston, was the executive developers of both Morrowind and Oblivion; so it’s safe to say he is good at open world RPG’s, but that’s just the beginning. Joining him you have R.A. Salvatore pinning not only the story, but 10,000 years of lore to accompany the game. R.A. Salvatore is the guy who has more New York Times best selling novels than Lady Ga Ga has outfits. If that wasn’t enough, then enter another big hitter, Tod McFarlane. Yes, Tod McFarlane, the guy who created Spawn, will be leading the art direction for the game. Call me a sucker, but I’m already hooked. Take a look at the trailer below.

#2 Dishonored

Dishonored is being developed by Arkane Studios, recently purchased by none other than Bethesda. While not a whole lot has been released on this game so far, what has been released has my RPG senses tingling. It’s been described as a multi path game like Deus Ex mixed with combat variety reminiscent of Bioshock. Every action you take, every way you tackle a mission feeds into a chaos system which will measure and change progression of the story considerably. According to Arkane, the game will be built on choice after choice, all of which will have an impending and real effect on the world.

I strongly urge you to read more into this game, as all we have at this point are a few articles. However, despite the lack of info so far this game is on my radar.

The best part about it is the interesting mix of settings. They have instilled a fantasy game where magic does in fact exist into a mid 1800’s London feel. Furthermore, they have really created an interesting dynamic with a plague taking over the city from swarms of rats; rats which you can control or possibly even become if that’s the way you level your character up (Seriously it’s been confirmed that one of the powers you can delve into is controlling swarms of rats and sicking them on your enemies). Perhaps you want to be a thief, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, picking locks and shanking fools with a dagger? Maybe you want to be a small arms expert as the game does have period firearms as well. It’s another game where you get to choose how you play, and what effect you have on the world- so sign me up. Besides, its owned by Bethesda now, and I’m sure they will lead it in the right direction.

#3 Dragon’s Dogma

Out of the three this is the one I’m most skeptical of. Don’t get me wrong, I am very interested, but it’s being made by Capcom which makes me uncomfortable. Nothing against Capcom, but this isn’t Mega Man or Street Fighter; it’s an open world fantasy RPG which is something they have never conquered before. However, it could be simply amazing and is looking like it just might be, so I will wait with eager skepticism while keeping my fingers crossed.

One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the party system. You will be a member a four man team including your fully customizable character as well as one pawn which is also fully customizable. Stop right there, the fact that you can create a companion character to your likings is a very cool idea. Say you decide to be a tanking knight, well you can create a magic-using buddy to offset your skills in an effective way. That’s pretty interesting and unique. Moreover, the other two pawns are character’s other player’s have created. In fact, there is supposed to be some game dynamic which works to your benefit if you send your player’s pawn out into the world to help others. Perhaps he comes back with monies, or weapons, or lasses in tight skirts. Who knows? Suffice it to say this game could be a lot of fun. Check it out below:

Warning: climbing Griffons looks awesome.

October 18, 2011

The 6 Most Famous Guns in History


Smith & Wesson Bodyguard

The S&W Bodyguard is a .38 caliber, 5 shot snub-nosed revolver that was introduced in the late 1950’s.  It became famous for its use in a famous and highly controversial photograph taken during the Vietnam war, depicting  General Nguyễn Ngọc executing a Viet Cong soldier.  The photographer won a Pulitzer Prize and his photo was influential in turning the public against the Vietnam war.  The S&W Bodyguard remains a popular personal defense weapon to this day, in part due to its high power and small size.  Though which model weapon is depicted is by far the least significant aspect of this photograph, the Bodyguard undeniably played a role in the growing American sentiment against this country’s most unpopular war.

The Philadelphia Deringer

On April 14th, 1865, a play was underway at Ford’s Theater.  It was a comedy, and laughter was to be expected.  According to 1865 standards, one of the funniest lines in the play would be “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh?  Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal.”  It was no gem, but then again Arrested Development was more than a century away.  When the character on stage said the line, laughter erupted, enough to cover even the sound of a gunshot.  John Wilkes Booth rushed behind Lincoln, pointed his Deringer at the back of his head, and history was made.  The gun is a .44 caliber bore pistol, single shot, and used the percussion cap system.  Booth was later shot in the neck in a barn engulfed in flames, and his pistol remains to this day in the Ford’s Theater, which is now a museum.

Carcano Model 91/38 Rifle

Purchased by mail using an alias, Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle became famous as the instrument used to assassinate John F. Kennedy.  He paid $19.95 for the rifle, including postage and handling.  He smuggled it into the Texas School Book Depository wrapped in brown paper and claimed to be delivering curtain rods.  Equipped with a telescopic sight and firing 6.5×52 mm rounds, he fired 3 shots, one of which would kill the president.  The rifle was found hidden behind boxes behind the window he sniped from, and Oswald himself was found hiding in the Texas Theater, having snuck into the film War is Hell.  He was later killed by Jack Ruby, using a Colt Cobra .38.

FN Model 1910

Leading up to World War 1, a complex series of alliances had been developed amonst the European states.  This system of treaties and alliances was extraordinarily fragile and as 1914 approached, those countries were teetering on the brink of war.  If one country was attacked, their allies were obligated to join in, setting off a domino-like effect that would drag country after country into the deadliest conflict the world had ever seen.  Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, thus decided to say to hell with it and assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.  His original plans had failed, but by complete accident, he found himself on the same street as the Archduke, just as the Archduke’s car had stalled.  Seizing upon this opportunity, Princip pistol whipped a pedestrian (just to be a dick) and then fired upon the Austrian’s vehicle, killing him and his wife.  This act is often referred to the shot heard round the world, a phrase also used to describe the opening shots of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolutionary War.  Austria invaded Serbia after the assassination, the situation devolving into a war that accomplished nothing but killed millions, and laid the ground work for the second World War.  Princip used the FN Model 1910 which used a .380 ACP, the same round used in Mac-11s, and the same round used in the Walther PPK.  Princip was of course executed, but the fact remains that one single pull of the trigger could escalate into two World Wars.  It is an odd reality, one that hopefully remains solely a reality of the past.

Walther PPK

The Walther PPK is of course the ubiquitous weapon of British secret agent James Bond, but its role in history reaches far beyond the bonds of cinema.  As certain defeat loomed on the horizon for the Germans in World War II, Hitler and his new bride, Eva Braun, holed up in their bunker, the Soviets not far from capturing Berlin.  They said their farewells to those around them, and then closed themselves off in Hitler’s personal study.  Moments later, a single gunshot was heard, and Hitler’s valet entered to see what is probably the most famous suicide scene in history.  The air smelt of burnt almonds, a dead giveaway that cyanide had been used.  Eva Braun showed no signs of phsyical trauma on her lifeless body, curled into the fetal position upon a couch.  Beside her lay dead and slumped over, Adolf Hitler.  He had a single gunshot wound to the right temple and blood had poured out, covering the arm of the couch and the floor.  A coward, he committed suicide on the brink of defeat, a man who ordered the deaths of millions dead by his own hand, a .380 ACP round lodged in his brain.  He was drug from the bunker, thrown in a bomb crater, doused in gasoline and set alight.  His body has never been definitively found.

Heckler & Koch HK416

And thus we arrive at the most recent weapon on the list, and thus most relevant to today.  On May 2, 2011, Operation Neptune Star was executed by DEVGRU (informally known as SEAL Team Six) at a compound in the suburbs of Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Seventy-nine commandos stormed the building  that held Osama bin Laden after entering the country under the cover of night.  Upon entry, they were faced with a number of men, women and children.  Three men and a woman were initially killed and a small firefight erupted between the SEALs and bin Laden’s courier.  The courier was killed, and the commandos proceeded through the building.  Bin Laden rushed upstairs, where he fled to a room containing two of his wives.  As the commandos rushed in, one of the women charged the SEALs, was promptly shot in the leg, and both women were pushed aside.  An AK-47 and a Makarov pistol were near bin Laden, but he was shot before he could reach the weapons.  Though it has not be conclusively confirmed which exact weapon was used to kill him, nor which specific soldier pulled the trigger, it is known that this unit is typically equipped with the HK416.  Furthermore, this weapon is optimal for the double tap firing technique, in which two shots are fired in quick succession without taking time to reacquire sights in between shots, and it is known that this is the method in which OBL was killed.  The first shot hit him in the chest, the second in the face.  The bullets were 5.56x45mm NATO rounds, known for their tendency to fragment upon impact.  This had the unique effect of making Osama bin Laden’s brain, in pedestrian terms, explode.  And well, good riddance.

October 16, 2011

The Future of Ray Guns


Is there anything that screams futuristic more than ray guns?  I mean, lets face it, the dream of having flying cars is dead.  But who needs new transportation technology when we have so much potential for new weapons, laying right at our finger tips?  Ray guns, laser guns, plasma rifles, these are the inevitable products of the future right?  Where bullets will be relegated to the dustbin of history, along with beards on presidents and the Virtual Boy.  I do have a dream, and its a dream where the chimes of casings falling to the ground will be as quaint as the gift shop of a Cracker Barrel.

Dad, what caliber lasers did they shoot deer with back in your day?

But ray guns are nothing more than silly dreams thought up by science fiction writers, right?  Well, actually, they may become a reality sooner than we think.  For instance, take a look at the Active Denial System, a device that uses technology similar to that in microwave ovens to disperse crowds.  It’s currently a non-lethal technology whose effects make the victims targets feel as though they are burning alive, by exciting the water molecules in the skin.  So far it has seen no use in combat, and less than .1% of those affected have seen actual blisters occur on the skin.  Of course, they use a very specific amount of energy with the ADS, and there is nothing to say they could not ramp up those GHz to a lethal level.  That would be the easy part.  The more difficult aspect, it would seem, would be reducing the weapon from a cartoonishly sized ACME product to something that could be used on an individual level, i.e. a ray gun.

Preliminary tests show it is very difficult to carry without the help of a Humvee.

Attempts to move past conventional bullet-based weapons isn’t anything new, and there are numerous conspiracies, some based upon sparse and controversial factual evidence, that support the idea that the Nazis toyed with ray gun technology towards the end of World War II.  This class of weapons, not all of which were energy weapons, were deemed the Wunderwaffe (wonder weapons).  The most outrageous example of which would be the German WWII Sonic Cannon, a type of Long Range Acoustic Device that had the effect of shaking apart the enemy from the inside, and claimed to be able to rupture vital internal organs within a set distance by focusing sound waves like a magnifying glass does to sunlight.  It was never effective, nor widely used, because any blasts (which, strangely, are quite common on the battlefield) disrupted the sound waves.

This was also the best defense to such a weapon

It’s believed that Nikola Tesla was possibly the first to attempt to develop an energy based weapon, and he outright claimed to have invented a death ray.  Robert Watson-Watt initially looked at developments in radio to develop a ray gun, but instead used his knowledge to develop something called radar.  Nowdays, DARPA has developed something called the PHaSR Rifle (Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response Rifle), which is non-lethal and used to blind and disorient enemies.  In an attempt to make it as cartoonishly awesome as possible, they designed it to look exactly like this:

Which, while cool to me, I still can’t help but think that without the ability to defend himself, a person armed with this gun is pretty similar to the guy tasked with playing the flute during old school battles.  It may have been fun as hell, but it still doesn’t mean you get to live.  Nevertheless, Directed-Energy Weapons seem to be getting tons of that substantial DARPA money, and I can’t help but believe that within a few decades we’ll see substantial use of ray guns and plasma rifles on the battlefield.  The benefits are obvious.  With projectiles that move at the speed of light, accuracy is greatly enhanced.  Because there is no combustion, recoil would be eliminated.  Without having to carry ammunition, soldiers won’t have to carry as much weight on the battlefield.  And last but certainly not least, the fact that shooting lasers in a war is awesome is something we, as a people, can all agree on.  And those that disagree will have to fight us with outdated bullets, bullets that I assume will only be used in the future to bead those massage chairs.  The major problems in developing these weapons seems to be the blooming effect, where as the energy travels across a distance, it begins to widen and dissipate, thus reducing its effectiveness to a short range.  These problems, of course, are not insurmountable, and it will be interesting to see if the military embraces such a revolutionary change such as the replacement of munitions as the technology becomes viable.

October 12, 2011

MechWarrior: Then and Now


Back in middle school, a friend and I were able to obtain copies of one of my favorite games of all time, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat.  For those who don’t know, the game allows you to pilot a Mech, which is basically a big walking tank.  There were tons of different ones to choose from, ranging from the light, weak, and quick, to the large, powerful, and painfully slow.  As a 7th grader in the mid-90s, I thought the graphics were top notch, and for the time they were.  The landscapes were great, and I loved exploring everything from the desert planets to those that were lush with beautifully rendered skies above.  I can’t remember if I focused on the story or what exactly the story might have been; I recall that there was some vague notion of a war going on between two groups, and there was always a reference to the Inner Sphere.  But I played this game all the time.  But that’s not the only thing that makes this game unique in my experience.  What makes it unique is that it was the very first video game that I played online.

I couldn’t talk to my friends while we played together, mind you, because the land line wouldn’t work when we were connected to the internet.  But we’d also talk to each other constantly while playing single player, and it was amazing fun for two dorks that had years before they would discover beer.  You could customize your Mech, earn armor upgrades or better weapons, and in between missions it would return you to your loading area, an airport-like place where you could do such upgrading.  I remembered that the music in the game was better than any I’d ever heard before, and am listening to it now while writing this.  I used to put the game disc in a CD player and listen to the soundtrack while doing homework.  I must say, it remains some of the best orchestral music in a game out there (or I could be simply drowning in nostalgia).  Either way, MechWarrior and its progeny had a tremendous impact on me as a kid and influenced the way I feel about video games to this day.  When a game can give me that sense of awe like MechWarrior did, I know I’ve stumbled onto something I’m going to really enjoy.

One thing to note is the way the graphics actually were, and the way I perceived the graphics to be.  The above picture is from the upgrade area between missions, but it’s merely a background to the in-game selection menu.  It’s not a a gameplay graphic, not even close.  See, this was an in-game graphic:

But I had something no graphics card could match at that time, and that was a kid’s imagination.  It also helped that I wasn’t looking at these graphics through 2011 eyes, having seen so many better graphics in the interim.  In my mind, these graphics were as real as graphics could get, and with the music and the ability to play with friends, this game and its subsequent expansion packs gave us something to look forward to after school for a couple of years.  Now, as I write this, it amazes me the amount of information I actually remember about the game.  I totally remember Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon, I totally remember the jump jets, and I totally remember something even better, MechWarrior 3.

Not only were the graphics way better, but you could actually step on the soldiers and bomb whole groups of them.  It was an incredible upgrade.  Sadly, it came at a time when my MechWarrior lust was fading.  I was entering high school, I had a N64 and Goldeneye to worry about, not to mention discovering cigarettes my ability to barely grow a mustache.  Yes, the times they were a changin’.  And so MechWarrior fell into the dustbin of memories, forever serving as a nostalgic reminder of when my imagination could make a game more than the sum of its limits.  Now, I judge a game solely on its limits, and play it for a week or two before growing bored.  Thinking back to the MechWarrior days is akin to thinking back to my childhood, and I look upon it fondly.  That’s why, when I began thinking about writing something about MechWarrior, a friendly fellow pointed out to me over the Twitter that they were rebooting the franchise, and it was supposedly to be released soon.  I was excitedly skeptical.  But I looked into it, and it appears to be true.

Of course like all good things, it looks like the development of the game is beset with copyright issues and other things that are destined to plague any 20 year old franchise, with the rights sold and resold to countless companies between the original and today.  It appears development began in 2008, but how far they’ve come now, and whether this will remain in development hell like Duke Nukem remains to be seen.  I must say I remain skeptical, not only because reboots of 20 year old franchises usually suck (Mortal Kombat being the very, very big exception) but also because I’m sure at least some of what made the game great for me was its originality at that time, and the fact that I played it at the age that I did.  This is not to say its a kids’ game, but rather that a kid may be more forgiving of a less-than-exceptional game.  Regardless, I can say with all certainty that if I’m alive and have yet to succumb to homelessness by the time it’s released, I’ll be buying the new MechWarrior.  I’ll have to give that old friend from middle school a call when I do, too.