Saturday, December 28, 2013

Halo 4's Biggest Design Problems

This article will probably be of no interest to you if you are not an avid fan of the Halo series. I'd probably be willing to bet that unless you're on r/halo, you probably won't understand or care about this article. There will be spoilers of the previous Halo games and some severe 'nerding out' as some may call it. If you're not a Halo fan, or you are and haven't played some previous games, click away from this article.

***Alright, Let's Go***

I'm in the minority here, but I actually really liked Halo 4. It wasn't quite on par with the rest of the series, but it was an amazing game for a studio that had never made a game before. The gameplay was pretty nice, though a little clunky, the soundtrack was decent, and the multiplayer was a nice change of pace although I'll admit it could have been better. The story, I felt was Halo 4's strongest asset. It was awesomely constructed and surprisingly powerful. However, it was not without fault. 

I will address the biggest problems of Halo 4's campaign. By addressing these issues, we will know exactly what we want from the next Halo game.

Quicktime Events

To the credit of 343i, the use of quicktime events in Halo 4 was fairly limited, but I still don't think it was necessary. There's a belief in the game industry that quicktime events serve to immerse the player in the game because it allows the player to take part in cinematic events that couldn't be achieved through the basic skeleton of the main game design. When we see button prompts on screen during a dramatic scene, we're not focusing on what's happening. Instead we are focussing on the buttons. This works well for DDR or guitar Guitar Hero because music is sequential and it doesn't tell a narrative or pull you into action scenes. With FPS games, it just takes you out of the game. In the beginning of Halo 4 there's a section where you climb an elevator shaft and when you reach the top, an Elite grabs you. The game tells you "Press RB to kill Elite." The problem with this scene is that it's awkward and out of place. Climbing the elevator shaft is extremely clunky and awkward and the struggle isn't satisfying. 

In Halo: Reach, Bungie had a similar scene in which a Zealot Class Elite get's the jump on Noble Team. The difference here is that the scene isn't interrupted by button prompts. It's not a quicktime event, it's a cutscene that allows you to fully appreciate the sequence and it flows seamlessly back into gameplay.

The same goes for the end of Halo 4 in which Master Chief defeats the Didact solely in a quicktime event. It's not satisfying and it feels disconnected. Imagine the Warthog run at the end of Halo 3 being a quicktime event instead of an in game play space. It wouldn't be nearly as satisfying. Part of what makes games great is our ability to directly participate in these epic scenarios. Taking down Scarabs in Halo 2 and Halo 3 were fun and satisfying because we could do it ourselves using the tools the game's sandbox gives us or whatever tools we choose to use. 

We could use the Hornets to fly above the Scarab to board it or drive off a natural ridge onto the top. Maybe use a rocket launcher or a Gauss Hog to take out the limbs so we can get in on foot. We have all these choices that are eliminated in quicktime events. Just press RB and watch the same scene every time.

This sequence is so fun, I play it more than GTA V.

We need variety not only in gameplay, but in choices. When we play Halo 5 there needs to be a variety of different ways to achieve one goal, several different paths. Halo 4 did this okay throughout the game, but we need more and we need to get rid of quicktime events. They don't serve a purpose that benefits the game. If 343 finds a way to utilize quicktime events in a unique way, by all means try it, but at least give it to us in a beta where we can decide wether or not it's actually beneficial. 


Forerunner architecture in the Halo universe is usually symmetrical. I understand that, but there needs to be some variation. There were so many points in Halo 4 where I felt like they made half a level and mirrored it. The levels, particularly the Forerunner sections felt very ... designed. In the previous Halo games, Forerunner architecture was symmetrical in their base form, but often added asymmetrical elements to design. 

Construct, a multiplayer map from Halo 3.

Construct from Halo 3's Multiplayer mode was a Forerunner map and was largely symmetrical, but offered distinct discrepancies to give the illusion of symmetry while also offering the variety of asymmetric level design. 

The component of asymmetrical/symmetrical symbiosis was entirely missing from Halo 4 in both Campaign and Multiplayer. Maps were either entirely asymmetrical or completely mirrored and it lead to an unintentional feeling dread whenever players would enter a Forerunner space because they knew it was going to be another boring level. And ironically enough, even the asymmetrical levels were often used twice and to make them feel like separate places they added an air vehicle in one of them.

Leave the rampant level prefabrication out of Halo 5. We don't want to play in the same spaces over and over again. We want new spaces to explore and we certainly don't want to explore the same place twice in the same game unless there are differences that effect the game in a beneficial way. It can be done well. Take the Storm and Floodgate from Halo 3.

The Storm


These are two separate levels in Halo 3, but both levels take place in the same environment. You probably wouldn't even notice that they are the same place unless you're paying attention, but that's the point. We shouldn't be obviously aware of the corners you're cutting. 


There are more buttons in this game than in the entirety of the series before it. Buttons aren't necessarily a band thing, but when combined with RAMPANT LEVEL PREFABRICATION it becomes a nuisance. Having to press a button on two sides of a symmetrical room basically means we have to play through the same sequence twice when once would have made enough sense. There are many times where you'll need to press buttons multiple times, but what's weird about it is that it's not always consistent. In the older Halo games, pressing a button just meant you pressed a button and the door would open or the bridge would activate, but in Halo 4 there's an animation for Master Chief actually pushing the button ... but only sometimes. Some buttons I guess aren't important enough to warrant animations. It's a weird inconsistency. The buttons wouldn't even be so bad if they just didn't duplicate them and make us sit through an animation. It's the tediousness of it that makes it annoying. These decisions are obviously made to pad out the run time of the game, but consequently, it only prolongs the least interesting parts of the game.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Top 10 Best Games of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, it's time we evaluate the gaming landscape as it's changed in the last 12 months. The next generation went from rumor and speculation to in our homes, Early Access became more popular than ever, and the games were fantastic. These are my personal choices for top 10 games of 2013.

10: The Stanley Parable - PC

The Stanley Parable plays with the idea of choice, acting as a critique of both closed and open ended game design and narrative structure. An interactive story that acts as an in depth analysis on game design with a fantastic sense of humor, an awesome narrator, and moments of genuine awe. This game is truly something that needs to be played to appreciate. It's not The Last of Us where you can marvel at the visuals. You need to experience this. There is a free demo available on Steam right now for you to play at no charge. It has little to do with the main game, but it gets the idea across flawlessly. It's not action packed, it's not fast paced, and it's not a graphical titan, but it's definitely one of the most unique games to come out this year, and I'd even say the last 10 years. 

9: State of Decay - Xbox 360, PC

Originally designed to be a multiplayer online zombie title, State of Decay was reduced in size and scope and released as an Xbox Live arcade title. Since it was originally planned to be much bigger than it turned out, the game was surprisingly ripe with detail and genuinely awesome moments. This game is a story about you. How will you survive the zombie apocalypse? How will you manage your resources, conserve your ammo, scavenge? How will you survive. It's fun, immersive, and simple and complex in all the right places. Though the story is lackluster and the gameplay can be clunky at times, the level of detail within it astounds and for the price of an arcade title, you can't go wrong. Don't expect a vibrant story. Expect a great survival game.

8: Battlefield 4 - Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC

Let me preface this by laying out a few facts. Battlefield 4 has one of the most uninteresting single player campaigns to ever exist in the FPS genre. Battlefield 4 has several bugs and glitches. Battlefield 4 is very much 'just another shooter.' All that aside, when Battlefield 4 is fun, it's really fun. The maps are nice, the gameplay is ridiculously fluid, and the little nuances in combat are satisfying. There were many times when I was playing that I thought "This is awesome." Nothing says "FUN" like ejecting from a jet onto a rooftop and shoving a knife in the back of an unsuspecting player immediately upon landing, only to continue to dive off the building and parachute through a skylight with a grenade launcher to decimate the enemy team from above. It's a satisfying game, and that's really all it is, and all it needs to be. The single player sucks, and the multiplayer needs work, but when it works, it's the best MMS around.  

7: Metro: Last Light - Xbox 360, PS3, PC

It's a post apocalyptic FPS set in the universe of a series of Russian novels, blending horror, action, and stealth into a great game with the best graphics I've seen this generation (especially on PC.) If you appreciate solid gameplay, sweet art design, and some powerful and emotionally charged scenes, you should play this. It's an under-appreciated series and one that is deserving of your play time.

6: Tomb Raider - Xbox 360, PS3, PC

This was a surprise to everyone. Given just how far Lara (not Laura dammit) Croft has fallen from grace, it was a miracle that this reboot turned out pretty great. Tomb Raider turned out to be a fantastic take on the established franchise. Offering a great story, some satisfying gameplay, and some seriously gritty moments that I felt genuinely uncomfortable watching. It pushed the boundaries of what a great Tomb Raider game can be. Though the game isn't perfect, it sure is a promising start to the next generation of Tomb Raider.

5: Gone Home - PC

This is a wild card. It's not technically a game, but I rather enjoyed it from a narrative perspective. Traditionally, this is one none of you will like. I happened to enjoy it because it was different, but really that's why I enjoyed it.

4: Grand Theft Auto V - Xbox 360, PS3

This game is awesome. The world of Los Santos is fun to explore, the characters are all well written, the story is well constructed, the acting is fantastic, the gameplay is satisfying, the world has variety in characters, locations, vehicles, scenarios, and missions. You can engage in heists and you can take your blood thirst into multiplayer. This game has so much in it that it would have been my number one game. The only reason it isn't is because of the multiplayer mode: GTA Online. It's broken, unstable, unbalanced, poorly maintained, and it really is just a mess. When it's fun, it's really fun, but when it's not fun, it's really not fun. It's the opposite of Battlefield 4. The single player here is much better that the multiplayer, but the multiplayer has the most replay value. Aside from the online, it's a fantastic game that simply needs work. Still, a great game if I ever played one.

3: Gunpoint - PC

Combine a pleasing art style with deep gameplay, multiplied by a wonderful sense of humor and satisfying controls and you have Gunpoint. The game is short and it won't be winning any 'Best Graphics' awards, but I love it. It's one of those games you don't need to be in the mood to play to enjoy it. It's equal parts satisfying and fun. 

2: The Last of Us - PS3

I've written a few articles on why I loved The Last of Us already so let's break it down. The Last of Us takes a genre that has been done to death and breathes new life into it. A unique take on zombies, a stellar crafting system, gameplay that reflects the tone, and a fantastic locale and even more impressive voice talent and presentation. The game is an amazing experience and though the multiplayer is lackluster and very unnecessary, the game is a masterpiece. If you own a PS3, there's no reason for you not to play this. 

1: BioShock Infinite - Xbox 360, PS3, PC

What can I say about this game that I haven't already said? The story is remarkable, the acting is amazing, the music is outstanding, the world and the lore are immersive, the gameplay is fresh yet familiar, the combat is varied, the characters are great, everything is just 100% solid. This is my game of the year. BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us are the games I point to when I point to examples of video games as art and they are without a doubt the games that defined 2013. For a more in depth reason for BioShock Infinite being my personal game of the year click here and here.

Amazing to think that with the next gen already taking the spotlight it's the last gen games that remain more impressive. This proves that gameplay and story are more important than graphical fidelity. A good story, a compelling narrative, great gameplay, nuanced mechanics, and a great presentation. All of these games had one, a few, or all of these things and they are all worthy of your time. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Analyzing the Xbox One and Predicting the Next Gen

It's no surprise that the Xbox One has faced some stark criticism since it's unveiling in May. Since then we've learned a lot about the console, what it does, and what it can do. That has either pushed fans away or brought them back in. Let's look at the more recent problems facing the system.


The big talk around the internet now is a little problem known unofficially as "Resolutiongate." Turns out that games that are currently running at 1080p on the PS4 are only running at 720p on the Xbox One. As a console gamer I find this whole thing beyond hilarious. We've known for several years now that you can build a PC for less than a new console and get better resolution BEYOND 1080p on games natively on that platform. Since when did resolution become a console gaming problem. It's also not that the Xbox One can't run at 1080p. Forza 5 is running at native 1080p and 60 fps, it's the complexity of the hardware. The Xbox One, much like the PS3 before it, is harder to develop for and it'll be a while before we see the full potential of either console. I'll make a bet right now that games one or two years down the line will be running at 1080p on both systems. Though, to further illustrate my point, I'd like to point out the last generation of consoles.

The original Xbox was running at a higher resolution than the PlayStation 2, and it was even able to achieve 720x1080 when upscaled. Seriously, play an original Xbox game on an HDTV. The graphics are obviously dated, but it looks great. The PS2, however, could not reach the max resolution the original Xbox could. Do we remember which system won that console generation? I don't even think I need to tell you, but it's the internet so I might as well: Yes. The PlayStation 2 was the clear winner of the last generation.

In fact ... let's go even further. 

Between the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, what happened last generation? The PlayStation 3 could achieve 1080p on *some* games where the 360 could not. In fact, Halo 3; the KILLER APP for the Xbox 360 didn't even run at native 720p (fun fact), but that didn't really seem to matter. The Xbox 360 was in the lead almost all of the current generation and only recently did the PS3 outsell 360 consoles, likely to The Last of Us and GTA V console bundles. 

The SNES and the Genesis. The Genesis outperformed the SNES in almost every way, yet the Super Nintendo won by a landslide. 

What does this tell us? The power behind consoles, be it in their graphical fidelity or the native resolution of it's games, don't determine the better console. It's the games. The PlayStation 2 had Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, and so on. The Xbox 360 had Halo, Gears, and the support of independent developers like The Behemoth and Twisted Pixel, not to mention exclusive Valve titles. The games determine the king. Again, if your main reason for buying a next generation console is for the resolution, get a PC. Seriously. It's cheaper. 


What defines the next generation if it's not resolution? There are three things in my opinion that define the next generation. ONE: It offers experiences not available and not possible on the previous generation. TWO: It offers better looking games and richer worlds. THREE: The destruction of an annoyance that plagued the previous generation. Let's go over these one by one and why both the PS4 and Xbox One are beyond deserving of the next generation label despite the hilariously overblown Resolutiongate. 


Both the Xbox One and PS4 accomplish this. The PlayStation 4 has integrated a touch pad into it's controller which will likely add to the experience of playing games, especially if the games utilize it in a way that's unique. This isn't something that was available and I'd probably even say wasn't possible in the last generation. The Xbox One utilizes not only new impulse triggers but a Kinect camera that actually seems like it could add some great depth to next generation games without becoming intrusive. No absurd gesture controls that are tacked on to games like in the last generation, but a more natural use like pushing zombies off in Dead Rising 3. Both PS4 and Xbox One offer game DVR which was straight up IMPOSSIBLE in the last generation. Though the Xbox One seems to be pushing it a bit further what with having an HDMI In port and the Kinect 2.0 having it's own processor, both consoles are pushing the limits to what was available last time around.


Loading ... Loading ... Loading

The loading screen menace seems like it's exhaled it's final breath this generation. The next generation promises to see the end of the loading screen and I won't miss it. It remains to be seen wether or not developers will follow up on that promise, but Dead Rising 3 and a few other next gen titles have claimed to have abolished loading screens, but this comes back to a point I made earlier.


I'm pretty good at making predictions when it comes to the games industry (not to brag) so I'll offer a few predictions today and I'll check back to see if they were indeed accurate, which I'm pretty confident they will be. Three predictions.

Prediction I
The PlayStation 4, much like the Xbox 360 before it, will attract the most third party developer support. The Xbox One ports of multiplatform games will be slightly inferior on the Xbox One as they were on PS3 last time. However, since the hardware for both consoles is exponentially better than last generation, the lead that PlayStation 4 has will last (I'm guessing) until 2015.

Prediction II
First party developers will take the helm on the Xbox One front, much like Naughty Dog, Media Molecule, and SuckerPunch did with the PlayStation 3. We will see many new IPs on Xbox One due to the lesser extent of third party support on the platform.

Prediction III
I honestly think the Xbox One will surprise us. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not tomorrow. But at some point, I think the Xbox One will have something that will blow peoples minds. 

Prediction III is a vague one, I know. We'll see. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Top 5 Best Video Game Trilogies of All TIme (1985-2013)

Let's just get a few things out of the way first. This list applies only to the trilogies that I have played completely. So games like Metal Gear Solid and Kingdom Hearts (though that one technically doesn't count) will not be included. This does not say anything about the quality of those games, I simply haven't experienced them. Also, for a game to qualify, each game in the trilogy needs to have expanded upon and improved upon the previous in countless ways, which is why you'll see no mention of the Gears of War or Call of Duty series on this list, and last but not least, this is simply my humble opinion. So let's get the ball rolling, yeah?

V: The Super Mario Brothers Trilogy (NES)

It's virtually impossible to have a list of best games ever and not have Mario mentioned at least once, and in terms of the original trilogy released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, these games were ace. Super Mario Brothers was a classic and is still ripe with impeccable design choices, Super Mario Brothers 2 changed the formula entirely and really took us by surprise, and the holy grail of gaming that was Super Mario Brothers 3 had a fantastic art style, a killer sound track, and some of the most memorable gameplay in the trilogy. Each game expanded upon the last one in massive ways and that's really the main reason it's on this list. Each game was great and each game felt different from the other ones. Simply masterful.

While Super Mario Brothers 2 has some valid criticisms about it, it's still a fun game to play, and with SMB 3 being as universally cherished as bacon, it's no surprise to see the original Super Mario Brothers trilogy on this list.

IV: The Spyro Trilogy (PS1)

Developed by Insomniac Games for the PlayStation, Spyro The Dragon was a charming 3D platformer that had collect-a-thon elements from Banjo Kazooie and some of the finest "open world" platforming on the PS1. Beyond the slick controls, cheerful art design, and fantastic music, the Spyro games never failed to improve upon the previous iteration during the PlayStation's life cycle. (We don't talk about the other ones. This is a happy place.) The sequel, Spyro: Ripto's Rage opened the world up and refined the platforming, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon perfected everything and allowed players to not only control Spyro, but several other character's in his gang of allies including a badass military penguin and a snarky Kangaroo all with their own unique gameplay styles and abilities. 

This is one of the most engrossing video games on PS1 and it's still one of the most immersive games on any platform. The art, the characters, the gameplay, the world. Everything in the game makes you want to spend time playing it and there's never a dull moment. While I may be more nostalgically attached to Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, there's no shadow of a doubt that the series only got better over time, by refining the gameplay and the wondrous atmosphere Spyro had offered in the beginning. While the game isn't particularly challenging, it's certainly one of the finest trilogies in existence.

III: The Splinter Cell Trilogy (Xbox)

I had very little experience with Metal Gear Solid, and I know most people prefer that series to this series, especially considering they're both stealth oriented, but there was always something about the Splinter Cell series that made me feel uncomfortable while playing it. It feels incredibly stealthy and your heart beat really get's pumping in some areas and the each game is legitimately challenging. Absurdly difficult. Each game offered more tools, more story, and even more modes as the trilogy moved forward. The first one offered a solid stealth experience, the second one offered slicker controls and more intuitive locales, and the third one refined it all with the addition of one of the most interesting multiplayer modes ever seen in gaming with spies versus mercs, in which one team played in first person with heavy fire power, equipment, and limited mobility and the other played in third person with better level traversal, more methods of hiding, and special equipment suited for stealth.

Now, I'll readily admit, this franchise isn't for everyone in the same vein Metal Gear might not be for everyone, but it's ace. Quality increased with each sequel, a memorable voice for the lead protagonist, and very challenging and engaging gameplay puts this series firmly at number three.

II: The Halo Trilogy (Xbox - Xbox 360)

I've gushed about this franchise for years, and I've already written several articles about why I love these games, but I'll run through them here so there's a general idea and if you'd like more in depth analysis click THIS LINK to read it. Each game drastically improved upon the last in every way imaginable. Halo CE gave us a great story, solid controls, impeccable physics, and some addicting gameplay. Halo 2 made the story even bigger with more missions with more variety, a more robust multiplayer suite, more customization, and it started a multiplayer revolution by laying the foundation for the future of multiplayer games on the console platform. Halo 3 refined everything, tied up a fantastic story in a rich universe, gave us the most options we've ever had with customization and multiplayer, more modes including the first ever inclusion of a comprehensive theater mode, and the addition of a map editor when in combination with the heavily customizable custom games settings allowed for players to create their own gametypes on their own play spaces. This series progressed so gracefully, I can hardly believe it and it truly is the franchise that is most near and dear to my heart ... so why is it at number 2? ... Well ...

I: The Crash Bandicoot Trilogy (PS1)

I know, this is surprising. Especially coming from me considering how much I adore the Halo series, and I was honestly going to pull a real jackass move and put both Halo and Crash Bandicoot at the number one spot. The thing to remember here though is that although the Halo series is really fun, really fantastically well made, and just overall great, Crash Bandicoot has it beat in one category and one category only: It can be played at any time. Halo is a somewhat serious First Person Shooter and you usually have to be in the mood for that kind of thing to play it, but Crash Bandicoot? Happy, sad, tired, excited, angry, apathetic, this trilogy can be played at any time. Although I love the Halo series to death, a lot of the replayability comes from the multiplayer, which Crash Bandicoot doesn't have so by default it doesn't need to rely on it. Each game just gets better, the music boosts in quality, the controls get tighter, the levels get more and more varied, the visuals improve, the themes change gradually and in ways that feel well paced, the story is kooky and good fun, the animations and characters get more established, the humor finds it's footing, and the gameplay is simple and top notch. 

But in addition to all that, it's got a charm to it that comes from being on the original PlayStation that makes it feel like it's got it's own personality. Not to mention each of these games were made within one year of each other. Considering the huge jump in quality between these three games in the short amount of time the developers had to work on them, that's massively impressive, and Naughty Dog is still pumping out fantastic games today. 

It was a hard choice to make, but I think all these contributing factors place Crash Bandicoot at number one for me. It's simple, it's fun, it's challenging, it's unique, and more importantly it is (in my humble opinion) the best platform game ever made across all platforms.

The Mass Effect Trilogy

This game series is bursting with content ... but the third one didn't really do much to improve upon Mass Effect 2. Which is a shame because if I made a list of best sequels, Mass Effect 2 would definitely be on there. The third game in the franchise felt empty in comparison and although I had a blast playing through these games, there are far too many problems with it. (Like how horrendously boring the first one was.)

The BioShock "Trilogy"

BioShock is probably my favorite stand alone FPS of all time. The story and the atmosphere were magnificent and though the gameplay was clunky, it fit well with the tone of the game. BioShock Infinite is my favorite game of 2013 so far including The Last of Us. BioShock 2 ... isn't. BioShock 2 really didn't bring much to the table aside from a new protagonist and a tacked on multiplayer mode. Even though BioShock 2 is the odd man out, I still felt I couldn't put this in because it didn't feel like a trilogy to me because BioShock 2 was just so forgettable. 

The Destroy All Humans! "Trilogy"

The first one was fantastic. The second one was a great improvement. The stars were aligned for an even better sequel, and not only that, but on the next generation of consoles; PS3 and Xbox 360 ... and they FUCKED it up. EA shut down Pandemic studios and Destroy All Humans! 3 never happened. Instead we got Path of the Furon. I seriously get sad just thinking about the potential this game could have had. Thanks EA.

"Electronic Arts. Because your dreams are ours to destroy."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Random Things Linked to the Halo Series in Completely Random Ways

This entire article is born from boredom. With that out there, I'll be linking the Halo series to several seemingly irrelevant bands, figures, companies, movies, and television shows. Why? I don't fucking know. 

Let's go. 
Queen (Band)

-Queen's song "Radio Ga Ga" was used in a promotional ad for Grand Theft Auto V.
-Grand Theft Auto V was developed by Rockstar Games.
-Rockstar Games published Oni in 2001.
-Oni was developed by Bungie.
-Bungie went on to create the Halo series.

The Muppets (Movie)

-The latest Muppets movie released in 2011 with actor, Jason Segel in one of the lead roles.
-Jason Segel also stars in "How I Met Your Mother" with Niel Patrick Harris and others.
-Niel Patrick Harris starred in "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" with Nathan Fillion.
-Nathan Fillion is the voice of Gunnery Sgt. Edward Buck in Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach.

Rise Against (Band)

-On their latest album "Long Forgotten Songs", Rise Against covered "The Ghost of Tom Joad."
-The Ghost of Tom Joad was also covered by Junip.
-Junip wrote "Line of Fire," a song that played during promos for the final season of Breaking Bad. 
-Giancarlo Esposito played a major character in Breaking Bad by the name of Gustavo Fring.
-Giancarlo was in the first (and currently only) live acton trailer for Destiny.
-Destiny is being developed by Bungie Studios.
-Bungie Studios created the Halo series.

That 70's Show (TV Show)

-That 70's Show starred Topher Grace with others, including Ashton Kutcher.
-Ashton Kutcher played Steve Jobs in "Jobs" a movie about the life of Steve Jobs (duh).
-Steve Jobs of course founded Apple and created brands like Macintosh, iPod, and others. 
-Steve Jobs unveiled the Halo series to the world at Mac World 1999.

Miley Cyrus (Public Laughingstock)

-Miley Cyrus covered "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana at a live concert. 
-Smells Like Teen Spirit was parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic. 
-"Weird Al" Yankovic wrote and starred in a movie called "UHF."
-Among the cast of this film was Michael Richards.
-Michael Richards went on to play Cosmo Kramer in the hit 90s sitcom "Seinfeld."
-Among the many characters on Seinfeld was Newman, played by Wayne Knight.
-Wayne Knight played Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park alongside Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill.
-Jurassic Park was directed by none other than Steven Spielberg.
-Spielberg is currently working on a Halo TV series.

Spider-Man (Marvel Comics Superhero)

-The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is currently being filmed and will release in 2014.
-Jamie Foxx is playing Electro, the main villain. 
-Jamie Foxx also played Django Freeman in "Django Unchained."
-Django Unchained was directed by Quentin Tarantino.
-Quentin Tarantino has frequently casted Samuel L. Jackson in his movies. 
-Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury in The Avengers. 
-Iron Man is a central character in The Avengers and he is played by Robert Downey Junior.
-Robert Downey Junior also played Sherlock Holmes in the most recent Sherlock films. 
-Gavin Free of the "Slo Mo Guys" did the slow motion effects for the second Sherlock Holmes. 
-Gavin Free currently works at Rooster Teeth.
-Rooster Teeth became successful through their machinima series Red vs Blue.
-Red vs Blue is a Halo machinima series. 

Was this article completely stupid and pointless? Absolutely. It did, however, amuse me to know end to write it. There are several other connections within these connections, such as Joss Whedon directing both The Avengers and creating FIrefly, which starred Nathan Fillion, but I digress. It's interesting to link things together although they may seem completely unrelated. 

That's all. I was bored.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Regarding Joe Staten's Departure from Bungie Studios

As a seasoned member of the Bungie community, I feel the need to put in my two cents about Joe Staten leaving Bungie. The news came to us on September 24th of 2013, a day before the anniversary of Halo 3's launch. With Destiny in full production and Bungie in full swing to meet the game's launch date, the timing here seems strange.

"Dear community friends,
After fifteen great years at Bungie, from the battlefields of Myth to the mysteries of Halo and beyond, I'm leaving to tackle new creative challenges. While this may come as a surprise, fear not. It's been my pleasure building Destiny these past four years, and after the big reveal this Summer, our hugely talented team is on track for greatness. I'll be cheering all of them, with all of you, when the game launches next year. Thank you for your support of me, and your continued support of Bungie. We couldn't have done it without you.

Per Audacia Ad Astra!
Joseph Staten"

This was Staten's official statement on It's saddening, yet strangely uplifting. Here's why.

Bungie has always been about the community. Yes, they are game developers, they are story tellers, they are world builders, they are artists, but before all of that they are community creators. What's beautiful about this is that it's just so rare. That so many people are inspired by the men and women behind these walls is an amazing thing, and the same can't be said for many developers. 

Bungie is more than just a collection of talented people; it's an idea. The idea that the community will take what the studio creates and forge something fantastic out of it, something beyond the wildest dreams of the developers. We've heard this from Bungie themselves. "The universe will become the fan's just as much as it is ours." We've seen the creativity of the community shine through the Halo series and we'll see it again with Destiny, and this is why Joe Staten's departure should not be lamented.

Joe Staten is part of the Bungie community now. We have to remember that not everyone will be able to be at Bungie forever; not even Jason Jones and that's beautiful. Because the community cycles into the studio and the studio cycles into the community. The grizzled ancients of Bungie's past will become seasoned members of the community and those inspired by Bungie's games and universes will join the studio, taking inspiration from those who've gone on to other ventures. 

This is not the end, it's a new beginning and I wish Joe Staten the best of luck. I know that when Bungie finally achieves their goal of world domination, Joe Staten will have a special seat waiting for him by the slingshot, and I look forward to meeting you all there as well. 

Per Audacia Ad Astra. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

America vs Video Games: Enough is Enough

In the wake of the Navy Yard shooting that occurred two days ago, news outlets are happily bathing in the opportunity to place blame. I love video games. I'm passionate about the people who make them and the ways in which they bring us together. Obviously, I am enraged. I'm disgusted at the agendas these news organizations bring forward to try and blame video games for every single problem that has ever happened. Too often are we portrayed as villains and it's about time we stood up. Let's get started.

"These crimes have never happened in human history."

So this 'expert' suggests that crimes such as Sandy Hook have never happened throughout human history. I'll go on to destroy the rest of his arguments later, but let's focus here for a moment. What happened at Sandy Hook? A man who was bullied, who didn't fit in, who exiled himself from society, who had access to weapons went and killed several children in an elementary school.

Apparently, Sargent Cunt isn't aware of the history of school shootings because the very first school shooting happened on July 26th, 1764; The Pontiac's Rebellion School Massacre. As many as ten children were killed along with the school master. From 1764 to 1985 (The year video games began to take off) there have been over 155 school shootings in American history averaging about 3 per year. These individuals didn't have access to Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, or Hitman. They were simply insane. 

In actuality, the frequency of school shootings since 1985 have not increased but have stayed at the static frequency they began to achieve in the 1930's. "These crimes have never happened in human history?" On the contrary. In fact, I seem to remember even more children being slain in a little thing called the Holocaust. SIDENOTE: The Holocaust Museum was shot up by a 88 year old white supremacist who was a frequent watcher ... of Fox News. 
Interesting. Moving on.

Why do we hear so much about school shootings now? Because we have access to information. Now we know about an incident the second after it happens, firearms today are more powerful and effective than they have ever been, but more importantly, now we have people trying to achieve political goals like Sargent Cunt in the video above.

Now, on to the Navy Yard shooting.

Even MSNBC is filled with ignorant reporters.

Look at how straight up fear mongering this is. This is the textbook definition of fear mongering. Everything from his words to his inflections. Now, let's educate this impressively dim individual.

"This is the latest Xbox 360 that cost over 250 Million Dollars to Produce."

You know you're not qualified to talk about video games at all when you refer to a video game case as the latest Xbox 360. No, Ed. That is a video game. The Xbox 360 is the system that that particular game runs on, and it's available for PS3. 

This is a lot like me holding up a copy of Django Unchained and saying, "This is the latest DVD player that cost blah blah blah." It's a game. Not a console. Learn words.

"It's got stealing cars, shooting people, and beating up hookers."

That's not the central focus of the game. The game is a satire of the current American lifestyle, a lifestyle that Fox News has had a large role in creating. Also, Ed, are you implying that if something contains bad material, it's not worth engaging in? What about life itself, Ed. Life has stolen cars, shooting, hookers, drugs, wars, and so on. So, to prevent it, should we all just kill ourselves?

"If you let your child watch this, even if they're beyond 18 years old, you're a lousy parent in my opinion."

Look out, parents. The mighty and ingenious Ed Schultz thinks you're a lousy parent. Coming from a person who is likely a lousy parent himself, this is hilariously ironic. Also, it's a game, Ed. You don't watch it, you play it. 

"We're so concerned about the second amendment? This is the FIRST amendment."

This is the point in the video where Ed Schultz becomes a loathsome human being. What has every shooting since the 1760s had in common, Mr. Schultz? I'll give you a clue. It isn't video games, it isn't movies, and it isn't Fox News. It's freaking guns. These shootings happens not because we have access to video games, but because we have access to guns.

Some people will say, "Oh, well those people get guns illegally." That's not the point. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter stole his weapons from his mother. How did his mother get those guns? Legally. The point is, when we all legally have guns, it's easier to illegally get guns. It's a simple fact of life. If things are easy to obtain and in abundance, they will be used. 

"Oh, and the guy who did the shooting yesterday? He was big fan of this kind of stuff."

As are hundreds of millions of people around the world. As are the parents of upstanding children, as are the professors of successful students, as are the workers of the lowest tiers, as are the managers of the highest places. If we're going to find one common influence in the minds of shooters and ignore the obvious evidence that 100% of them are clinically insane, then it's a two way street.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Forgotten Franchises of Video Game History

I look on the shelves at any GameStop or the libraries of any online retailer and think to myself, "What happened to the franchises that didn't last?" What happened to the games we enjoyed as kids that are now nowhere to be found? Did they die? Where they even given a fair chance? Today is dedicated to the games that died young. Let us pay our respects.

The Oddworld Series

This is the only game I've ever played that's ever given me an Oddworld feeling. Let me elaborate. The atmosphere in this game is incredibly unique. It was funny, endearing, and yet dreadful, frightening, and uneasy. It's the only game I've ever come across to give me that feeling, which is why I consider it "The Oddworld Effect."

There's something about the art, something about the voice acting, the character design, the writing, the atmosphere, and the ambience that Oddworld owns. It's a series that is near and dear to my heart and it's something that never really got a fair shot. It died in the Xbox/PS2 generation with Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, despite having a general consensus that the game was an instant classic. I never played Stranger's Wrath, but I have to wonder why something so well received died so silently. 

We've seen demand for Oddworld games in HD a lot recently, so maybe, just maybe, they'll get the revival they so rightfully deserve. 

The Destroy All Humans! Series

Pandemic Studios was a gaming powerhouse. They built some of the most defining games of my childhood. While I remember them most for Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans!, most people remember them for Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefront 2. Unfortunately, as of 2009, Pandemic Studios has been shut down by EA. This is my main reason for harboring somewhat negative feelings towards EA, but that's a story from another time.

Destroy All Humans! was the first game I played that put the players in the alien's perspective while being as fun as it could possibly be. Inspired by the science fiction craze of the 1950's feeding off of cinematic classics like Plan 9 and the legends of it's time (Roswell New Mexico,) the game felt like it had a personality of it's own. It was funny, well written, and epic in it's own unique ways and to this day it remains my absolute favorite science fiction game on the PlayStation 2. The comedy, the gameplay, and the physics make this game stand out from most other science fiction games at the time. The sequel, Destroy All Humans! 2 was not only a great sequel, but it improved on many of it's predecessor's elements, while also staying true to the theme of the game's personality. 

So, how did it die? Well, Electronic Arts drove Pandemic Studios into bankruptcy, and while Pandemic did later release Mercenaries 2 and The Saboteur on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, EA gave the Destroy All Humans! franchise to a different developer before shutting Pandemic down for good.

Sandblast Games were the heads of the next game in the Destroy All Humans! franchise: Destroy All Humans! Path of the Furon. With the creative team that made the originals what they were gone, we were left with a team trying to impersonate what Pandemic did, and the game turned out, buggy, repetitive, boring, unpolished and uninspired. The game failed tremendously with Pandemic's absence and the franchise was left to die.

I still hope that one day, I'll get that continuation, the Destroy All Humans! 3 that never was. It's unlikely, maybe even impossible, but I can dream. 

The Bloody Roar Series

Nobody remembers this game. Nobody. I have yet to find one person to sympathize with on this, but goddamn, is this good. Bloody Roar was a fighting game on the original PlayStation. Unfortunately, this is one of those games who's brilliance I'm not sure I'll be able to convey. You could transform from human characters to human/animal hybrid and it was FUCKING ENTHRALLING. The animations were fluid, the attacks felt powerful, and the fighting styles were unique. The music was adrenaline pumping, the characters had awesome special attacks. I just don't know, this is something you'll have to play to understand where I'm coming from on this. This franchise needs to come back. Killer Instinct on Xbox One? NO! BLOODY ROAR!

If you can get your hands on this game, play it. I recommend Bloody Roar 2, it's the first one I played, and I fell in love with it.

The Legacy of Kain Series

I admit. I was really young when I played this game and the only game I played was The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but I'll say this. The atmosphere in this game was awesome. It was an adventure game about vampires (that's such a simplified synopsis that I feel bad about it) and it had such a feeling of dread about it. It was awesome. In the same way Oddworld had a unique feeling about it, the Legacy of Kain also had something about it that I can't put my finger on.

You could use weapons in interesting ways, the sound design was top notch, and the characters were awesome. I'd love to see this game come back. 

Shadow of the Colossus 

A sequel. Seriously, get right on this.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Destiny: Bungie's New Adventure (Why I'm Beyond Excited)

If any of you either know me personally of have followed this blog for a decent amount of time, it will come as no surprise to you that I have an impossibly large amount of love for Bungie and the universes that they weave. I wanted to write this article several months ago, but there was so little information known about the game that doing so seemed very counter productive to the point. Now, with the release of several Bungie ViDocs (Video Documentaries) there exists concrete information about the studios next adventure. The game is still in alpha and comparatively there is still very little known about the game, but still I think now's the right time to geek out about it.

A living universe to explore with art design straight from the gods.

This game is built for immersion from the ground up. The philosophy behind Destiny is for players to venture out into the world and tell their own stories, build their own legends. I love exploration in games, and it's something Bungie does very well. Even in the later more linear Halo titles, there were days where I would meander off the path and explore the expansive levels on my own. 

Not only is the game built from the ground up to be explored, it's built from the ground up to be played with friends, cooperatively. Let me paint a picture.

Post apocalyptic, yet beautiful and hopeful. 

You are on traversing the ruins of Old Russia on planet earth, you come across a great wall enclosing the abandoned city behind it. As you approach the ruins of the great wall, you see something in the sky.  A spacecraft flying towards you, breaking the invisible curtain of space. The craft curves upwards and someone beams down beside you from the ship. A friend. You venture together in the great wall and defeat the foul creatures who had claimed it. As you head out the other side of the wall you see something in the distance; an alien ship of unknown origin is headed right for the city. From all around the area, you see other players running to join the fight. No matchmaking, no menus, no lobbies. 

You will come across other players as naturally and as seamlessly as you would come across other people in your day to day life. This is something that excites me. To be able to be on my own journey and meet others and unite with other players for a common goal without loading screens or lobbies.

Anywhere you can see, you can go.

Let's say you're on your way to do a story mission, but something catches your attention, maybe you notice a fleet of other guardians ships flying to a particular location and decide you want to go where they're going. You can. A mountain in the distance that would in our current generation would be a 2 dimensional piece of background art? Nope. All playable space. I imagine that there are some boundaries eventually. The game can't go on forever, even with the next gens boost in power, but there's no question that Destiny's landscapes will be large and diverse. 

In Destiny we can customize our characters to our hearts content from our armor and weapons to our gender, class, race, and faction. We can customize our own personal aircrafts (although no word on wether or not we can fly them, but I'm gonna assume we can.) We can join in on public events, play raids, strikes, campaign, competitive multiplayer, or simply play in the sandbox of the games living and breathing world. 

While details on these other game modes are currently still under wraps, it should be expected that they will be every bit as fun as we can hope for them to be. While Destiny isn't exactly an MMO, it does have elements of it, which means the game needs to be connected to the internet to play it, which makes sense considering the game is designed so you run into people and public events are a large part of the game. Though you need an internet connection to play, no subscription fee will be needed, so fear not ye MMO faithful.

Mythic Science Fiction.

Bungie is fantastic at creating fascinating lore and rich sci-fi universes. So to see them drift a little into the realm of fantasy, makes me extraordinary excited. It's science-fantasy isn't something explored in many games, and hardly in any first person shooters, so the fact that Bungie is not only working with something familiar with but with something different, is a great thing. Destiny's universe looks to be something I could lose myself in for hours on end, and I look forward to doing exactly that when the game releases for Xbox One and PS4 sometime early next year. (My money's on a spring/summer release.)

I wish I could write more, but again, the game is still in pre-alpha, so Bungie is being very conservative with the things they bring to the public. However, since Bungie has stated so many of their promises with confidence, and they never break promises, it's safe to say that what is true today will be true when the game launches. They've been working on Destiny internally for about 6 years already, and they've been working on it on paper for about 9. A lot of planning is going into this game and it's looking better and better every time I see new information about it. 

This is in Halo 3: ODST which released in 2009.
Fun fact: this game will be amazing.