Gaming Log: The Division 2, Knack 2, and The Crew 2

Black Sony Playstation 4 Pro with a black controller laying against it on a beige table with a gray background.
Image Source: https://www.digitaltrends.com/video-game-system-reviews/sony-playstation-4-pro-review/

Over the “Lockdown” period, I’ve played quite a few games (although not as many or as much as one might think). I’ve converted my class to “Distance Education,” so much of my time has been devoted to that–grading, checking email, and the like. However, I managed to finish 3 games over the period (all strangely sequels with the number “2” in the title–go figure), so I thought I’d briefly talk about them.

The Division 2

This is a game that I finished during the Covid-19 Pandemic and “quarantine.” It is a game about reforging America (specifically during Washington DC) during a Pandemic. So, to use the current term for this one, it was so “meta.” I was playing a game that had elements of what was happening in the real world. Now, to be clear, the pandemic in the game is mostly over and you’re using your “military” training to “rebuild” the city from roving “factions.” In a way, this is a power fantasy of good over evil, or what I wish both Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead had been instead of the “man’s inhumanity to man” plot lines that inhabit most of both shows’ runs. I finished the “main” game and saw the “ending” cinematic, before the game “reset” and tasked you to redo the most of the game over again–just on a harder difficulty (won’t go into more detain due to spoilers on how that happens in the game). I finished the “main” story-line and I’m happy with the resolution of the game, so I will be moving on to other games. I thought it was worth the purchase price (I got it on sale), and enjoyed my time with it. GRADE: B

Knack 2

Okay, so Knack 2 is something that only I like. It (along with the first game in the series) is roundly criticized as a game that should not exist. It is an “old” design, repetitive, and the story is too “traditional” as it is “good vs evil.” Or, at least that is the critical and popular opinion. However, Knack 2 is definitely a game for one person–me! I love the series. Knack has its issues, don’t get me wrong. It is no Grand Theft Auto (GTA) by any means, but that’s not a bad thing. Gamers decry the fact that there’s no variety in the game offerings any more, but just as I am NOT the target audience for The Hunger Games, so too are most gamers NOT the target audience for this series and it seems to make them angry–just look at the level of vitriol because this series exists. However, the game is an action platformer that I can put my brain on cruise control as I play. It does have some weird difficulty spikes, but for the most part, is simply mindless fun–something that I want after a hard week of reading, writing, and grading papers. Over the break, I’ve finished the “main” story and I’m going back and replaying it to try to get all the trophies (100%) for the game. Again, although no one else likes its combat and platforming, I really do and I hope they keep making them despite the gamer “rage” that it seems to inspire. Grade: B

The Crew 2

This is a racing game that I finished recently. It is set in a (truncated) open world version of America and let’s you travel to various places in America while taking parts in different race types. You can either race in various events scattered throughout the map or you can drive the open world and explore. They have many U.S. cities (although outside of New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake, and maybe Seattle, as well, the smaller cities don’t have any correlation to what they look like in real life. They even have a version of Chattanooga & Nashville (areas where I live/work as Murfreesboro is about a 30 minute drive from Nashville) in the game. Surprisingly, no Atlanta or Boston–two cities that are more populous/well known than Chattanooga or Nashville, but hey, I’ll take it. I finished the game and all the event types and I’ve done every trophy except for two. Unfortuntely, both are multiplayer trophies and depend on getting someone else online to do those two activities with you. I tried over the weekend, but no one wanted to “join” me, so it’ll be a matter of luck to get those now–when the game was “young,” tons of people wanted to do those trophies–now, not so much.

It’s a shame, really, as the game was technically a Christmas gift. I’d really like to get those two trophies to get 100% to show that I really enjoyed the game and my time with it. A mini-rant: game designers–please, please, please STOP putting multiplayer trophies in your games. They work “early” in the game’s life-cycle (sometimes), but are almost always impossible to get without “boosting” or “cheating” in some way later on. Yes, we know you’d like us to do your marketing for you by convincing our friends to buy your game. No, we’re not going to do this (in most cases), so please stop. Also, while you’re at it, please stop with the “Drifting and drift events.” They’re not good in this game and they’re rarely ever good in racing games, in general. Thank you. Mini-rant over.

Outside of the fact that I’ll probably be stuck at 96% completion for the rest of my time with the game, I enjoyed it. I hope they bring out a sequel for the next generation consoles (without multiplayer trophies this time).

Edit: I was able to find a player who wanted to “partner” up and I got one of the two trophies that I needed. So now, I’m currently at 98%. It was super-lucky that the player wanted to partner up — this player just wanted to drive around (which is fine–that’s mostly what I do in this game which is why it has taken me so long to get all the activities done), so I wasn’t able to get the other trophy done — which is to “team up” to do an event, and this player didn’t seem to want to do this. Still, I was happy and surprised to knock out one of these two trophies.

Grade B.

Sidney


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The YouTuber vs The Director: Why Hollywood Needs to Stop Being a “Closed” System

Gameplay capture from a “modded” version of Empire at War (Star Wars Fleet Battle Strategy Game)

Hi Everyone,

So sorry for taking an extended break from the blog. There are reasons, which I will articulate, but probably in a post sometime in the New Year. Right now, I just want to say thank you to those who have stuck with the blog by reading older (and liking) many of the older posts here. I will be posting more regularly here (I haven’t gone away from blogging; I just needed to take a break–again, I’ll go into those reasons later). Again, a big thank you for sticking with the blog!

Right now, however, I really want to talk about Star Wars for a moment, now that the newest movie has released. Now, I’ve NOT seen Rise of Skywalker as of yet. Will I see it (at the theaters)? I’m not sure–so far, the reviews that I’ve seen have been mixed. I think I will probably email a professor that I know who is an ardent Star Wars fan to see what their reaction is and, if the professor likes it, I’ll probably attend a matinee showing in January before the new semester starts again. However, while watching a YouTube video, I discovered another reason why the previous movie (w/Rian Johnson at the helm) didn’t work for me and that has to do with an “amateur” (as Hollywood would see them) seeming to know and care more about the Star Wars universe than the director (and “professional” as Hollywood would brand them) does based on the content that both have “created.”

The Case Against Rian Johnson (and the script of The Last Jedi)

So, I’m probably “blacklisting” myself as I have designs of writing screenplays in the future, but in watching the YouTube video that I linked to above (don’t worry–at over 50 minutes I don’t expect anyone to watch the whole thing, but watching 10 mins or so, especially in the middle, should make it clear to readers why I chose to include the video). Now, before I lay out my major argument, let me be clear: while I respect Rian Johnson as both a person and director (I’ve never met the guy, so I have no opinion on him outside of his work–for me, it is the “content of one’s character”) in ALL situations), I’m not a fan of his science fiction efforts. Looper was something thing I couldn’t even finish, while The Last Jedi was disappointing to me as a lifelong Star Wars fan. While I understand the need to distance the old characters and invite the new characters, I felt that there were so many better ways that this could have been accomplished. Going against conventions just to be “radical and new” doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good. And that’s the main problem that I saw with The Last Jedi: its desire to show the main protagonists in the story in a different light that had already been explored. I won’t go into a long diatribe about it, but will ask all those who liked Knives Out–his currently critically acclaimed movie–a question: what if I took the characters in that movie and wrote a sequel in which none of them acted liked they had in the first movie and rewrote the ending so that none of it happened the way the first movie made it appear? (Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers as I’ve yet to see the movie) .Would you then think that this new movie was “cool and unique?” Chances are good that you would hate my script because neither the characters nor the world had anything that made them who they were–just changing them “to subvert expectations” would likely appear arbitrary, capricious, and dare I say, stupid (for an exercise, I may just write that script whenever I do see Knives Out just to show how subverting expectations isn’t really “clever” when it is done to something that someone else likes–when the person doing that subverting doesn’t really like it themselves–assuming, of course that I don’t like Knives Out).

Why Does a YouTuber Display More Reverence for Star Wars Than a Director (or Producer)?

Yet, for all my whinging on about Rian Johnson (and by extension, the producers of the newest trilogy), there are many people who are passionate about the series–but more importantly, who are knowledgeable about the Star Wars universe. In some ways, it seems like there are fans who know (and care) more about the property than the creators of that series. Now, there is a YouTuber who goes by the handle of TheXPGamers who produces quite a bit of Star Wars content. In this particular case (for the video that I linked above), he is playing a Star Wars game published by Lucasarts Games before the Disney buyout that deals with giant spaceship fleet battles between the forces of the Empire and the Rebels. Even though he is playing a “modded” copy (meaning that another software author has created a patch that changes the look, feel, and gameplay elements) of the original/base game, just from viewing a short portion of the video, one can see two things are evident: 1) his passion and 2) his knowledge about the SW universe. First, his passion is clear–he loves this series and learning more about it and he’s clearly invested in the lore. Second, he has both knowledge of the lore, but also strategy and how it applies to the SW universe. He is clearly a master of the game and of the tactics used to win.

And here’s my ultimate point: Rian Johnson got criticized for many things, but one of the major things that people called “BS” on was his fleet interactions. Now look, I know how hard writing is, but this where being a “closed” system hurts Hollywood. How hard would it have been to call in TheXPGamers as a “consultant” or even as a reader to help “punch up” the scenes dealing with the fleet? And if he did a good job there, then perhaps touch on characterization and other things in order to improve the script? Oh, but that’s not the way Hollywood does things–they don’t want to be sued for “stealing ideas.” Granted, that is a thing, but Hollywood wants a hit, but isn’t always sure what will deliver one. In dealing with art, the only time they seem to want to take risks is when they already have an established property (a la SW) that has a built in fanbase–but to actually open themselves up to 1) original properties/screenplays or 2) allow outsiders to come in and help shape there projects–no, that is NOT allowed. Yes, I’m aware of the “guild” structure and the like, but my point remains: if you have resources at your disposal to help you and you chose not to use them, then you cannot very well become upset when the fans call “BS” on a story/story elements. The “chase” in The Last Jedi was central to the storyline, but based on what was written in the script and presented onscreen, the director knew little-to-nothing about the “boring” ship-to-ship battles in the SW universe, so let’s make it “exciting” with a “chase” sequence (because “chase” scenes = tension, see Bullitt). However, as linked in the video, TheXPGamers knows how large fleet warfare works in SW, can describe it effectively, and can illustrate the reasons and rationales for certain decisions to be made, so why not use him as a resource as well, not to mention Lucas and any other SW alumns who are still working with (Filoni, Chow, or even other SW directors/artists/conceptual designers, even actors) come quickly to mind. And that doesn’t even count the legion of fans who have produced content (via the internet or in other forms) who have massive amounts of knowledge as well (but because they aren’t “professional”–i.e., known in Hollywood industry circles–their opinions and knowledge doesn’t count). Look, I get it, we all have to “pay our dues” if we want something, but not all “dues paying” looks exactly the same. If some pay there dues through YouTube videos, some through extensive reading and writing, and some by directing, shouldn’t that count for the same? Why does directing a moderately successful Sci-Fi movie give you access to the reins of the biggest, most important Sci-Fi franchise out there, but producing content (in the form of YouTube videos) on that very same large, successful franchise earn you nothing but contempt and being ignored by the very movie studio/entity producing that franchise?

Until Hollywood realizes that not everyone who isn’t “in” the industry is not the enemy, I predict there will be more fan/community backlash to Hollywood’s seemingly increasing arbitrary decisions to their franchises. Instead of more control, it might be better in the long run to relinquish the tight grip on their franchises and bring in fans (especially fan-based experts) to help craft the stories and shape the ultimate direction of the narratives. Otherwise, like Princess Leia predicted to Grand Moff Tarkin: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

P. S. Alien 3 and Me

And lest I be called a Rian Johnson hater (as I am pretty harsh about him in this entry), I’ve already had my moment with “fandom” with the release of Alien 3 and that is when I learned how horribly wrong a sci-fi movie can go in the hands of an “avant garde” director. Alien and Aliens were my favorite films outside of the SW universe and I was ecstatic when A3 was announced. I went to a showing at U.T. Knoxville, where I was a sophomore at the time. Words cannot express my disappointment in the film. As there was no internet at the time (not in the way there is now–AOL was just beginning to be a thing . . . I think, but it may have been a couple of years before even that if I remember correctly), there was no “fan outrage” that happened. However, I never saw another David Fincher film (I made sure to note the director of that travesty) and after the lukewarm Alien Ressurection, I’ve basically sworn off the Aliens franchise until the reviews indicate that they (the filmmakers) truly intend to make good movies again (so, no I’ve not seen Prometheus, nor Alien Covenant, nor the AvP films, nor do I intend to). So you see, I don’t hate on directors or franchises when they disappoint–I just deny them my business. That’s why Leia’s quote is so appropriate–a closed system means that you (the filmmakers) have no margin for error, so the director/writer/producer had better love the franchise as much as the fans because, like The Last Jedi (and Alien 3) shows, it is painfully obvious when they don’t.

Sidney


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Game Day: The Confluence of Gaming and Writing

Man typing outside at a table with his laptop, coffee, plant, water, and writing journal
Image Source: https://medium.com/read-watch-write-repeat/pursue-your-writing-projects-on-the-weekend-6fcee00848dc

Fall is here and I’m back. I’m in the midst of a flurry of last minute reading for my test on Friday. I don’t really feel all that confident about it, but it is what it is. I wish that I had perfect recall–at least on names. I really want to mention theorists and scholars as a lot of the test depends on “name dropping,” but, except for the biggest names in the field, most names are gone the moment I close/put down the book. Sigh.

Anyway, I’m back after a nearly two week drought. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to write, but between grading and reading, I just don’t seem to find an hour in the day anymore to write. However, I get discourage when my favorite YouTubers don’t post on time, or go long periods without putting up new videos, and here I am, doing the same. So, not to be hypocritical, I thought I’d take a quick “study break” and dash out a blog post before reading some more and then going to bed.

Saturday is “Game Day”

So, Americans will get this pun as, I feel, will a lot of Europeans. In both countries, Saturday is a prime “sports day.” For Americans, at this time of year, it is “college football,” which is American football played among various university teams in which there are long-standing rivalries. In Europe, a lot of “football” matches (soccer) takes place, again with long-standing rivalries.

However, for me, Saturdays are my primary “gaming” days. Friday evenings are usually too draining, so I don’t usually start my gaming until Saturdays. While I use to bounce from game to game, what I’ve been doing these past couple of years is really investing in one game every week and really digging into it and making myself a “master” at the game (Assassin’s Creed Origins, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, and Gravel are all games in which I earned the maximum achievement for–the Platinum Trophy–in terms of achievement.

My “backlog” of games to be finished, however, continues to grow, so much so that I’ve come to despair of ever finishing them all before the next “generation” of consoles (i.e., the PS5) arrives Holiday 2020. Recently, however, I found myself switching between two games (God of War and Rise of the Tomb Raider, 20th Anniversary Edition) on a biweekly basis–one week I play GoW and the next week I play RotTR. One game is a Physical game and the other is a Digital Game. When I finish either of these two games, my plan is to simply pick another in the respective genre and start playing. In this manner, I hope to bring my “backlog” down to a reasonable size.

Saturday Morning = Needs to be “Writing Game Day”

My goal is to get to where I can do the same on Saturdays for my writing. Usually Saturday mornings are when I’m just starting to recover from the week, and while I don’t feel fully creative (that’s actually Saturday evenings when I’m usually watching a movie), I do feel much more more creative.

While I can “write” during that time (draft), what I’d like to be able to do is to work on Rough Drafts during that time. I feel that I can probably write (draft) on the current story that I’m working on during the week by creating scenic “milestones” to get to for that week. However, like my gaming, I’d like to have a second project in the wings that I could write out (longhand with a pen/pencil) every weekend and then when I finish the “weekday” draft, I’d move the weekend draft to that spot, start writing (drafting) it, and then move in new Rough Draft during the weekend spot.

I wanted to start that this previous weekend, but was enamored with “cleaning,” that I, of course, procrastinated until it was too late. I’m going to try it again this upcoming weekend and I hope by putting it up on the blog, I will be able to hold myself accountable for actually getting it done. I’m pretty sure two projects in writing, just like gaming, is probably going to be my limit, but, just like gaming, my goal is to shrink my “backlog” of games and writing projects down and get them finished, so any strategy that I find that I can use to do that successfully is one that I plan to implement (& hopefully use it to thrive as a writer).

Sidney


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It’s All About the Games, EA!

Image Source: https://www.dexerto.com/business/ea-shares-plummet-after-battlefield-v-delay-announcement-151830

Recently, Andrew Wilson, the current CEO of EA said some things in an investor call that illustrate why I no longer purchase EA games until they are severely discounted, if at all. His comments underscore a deeper problem with EA. It, as a company, is far too invested in what its investors want and not enough invested in what its customers want.

The Customer is Always Right

“The customer is always right” is the primary adage in the business world–that is, until you reach a certain size (Megacorporation size, is what I term it) where the customer no longer becomes the focus (or core) of your business. EA is a gaming company–it creates video games and sells them to people (customers) who enjoy playing them as a diversion or hobby. Like all entertainment media, there is a risk involved that the buying public will not like the product and you will lose money. It is in EA’s interests to minimize this as best they can in order to make a profit, stay in business, and grow as company.

The problem is that based on Andrew Wilson’s comments in the investor call, (and I’m paraphrasing here), he seems to think that most of the problem is a presentation one and that the old ways of marketing don’t work and the company needs to have a conversation with its fans.

Andrew, no. Just no.

I’ve been a “gamer” since 1984 and I saw the rise of EA (then Electronic Arts) from a small game publisher of unique titles (Starflight, Skyfox, The Bard’s Tale series) to their growth with sports titles, into the megacorporation they are now. In their early years, they were focused on compelling content and the selling of games.

Now they are too focused on the idea of services, gimmicks, and the latest gaming crazes put into their games to increase their revenue, whether or not it makes sense to their games (loot boxes anyone?) How does this serve consumer (and please don’t give me the laughable line about “added value”–which is corporate doublespeak for pay us now for the game and pay us later for additional stuff we created in the hopes you’ll give us more money for the same product so we don’t have to take a risk and develop a new product you, as consumers, might not buy from us because its not very good).

The Investor Wants a Quick and Maximum Return on Their Investment

While not wrong, investors don’t really care about games as “art” (good experiences for their company’s customers). They want to get a much money back from their original investment as possible in as short amount of time as possible. Their goals are almost antithetical to that of the company in which they invest (in most cases). They look for the quickest, easiest way of getting money, whether or not that makes sense for the business in question. Don’t believe me, well when EA’s prime competitor Activision, fell on hard times recently, an unnamed investor apparently wondered why Activision didn’t have a game like EA’s suddenly (& surprisingly) successful Apex Legends in its portfolio–or so the story goes–again paraphrasing from sources.

Say what? EA itself didn’t know it was going to be a hit, so how could Activision have known? And now that they do know, what is Activision supposed to do? Make an Apex Legend “clone?” But wait, we already have Apex Legend, why do we need another?

In that particular investor’s mind (which I’m going to extend to cover to most megacorp investors), that thing “over there” is successful and “printing money,” so go do that thing and then we’ll be just as successful and printing money too. The problem is, that in most cases, especially entertainment, that’s not how success works. It has to be both very good and, at the very least, at least mildly original (but usually highly so, or at least original enough within a fairly established genre–which is what Apex Legends was, a “new” & “fresh” take on the Battle Royal genre). Derivatives rarely fare as well as the original, but try telling that to an investor–good luck with that!

Simply put, EA won’t get itself under control (and no other gaming company will either) until it remembers that investors are not its focus–its customers are. Stop trying to “monetize” customers with gimmicks and services and the like for your investors and return to creating compelling content that customers crave and cannot bear to be without and you’ll find that customers will buy your products and your quarters will be (mostly) safe.

In other words, you know those “games” that you think are “old fashioned?” They’re actually what we, your customers, are looking for. Please stop treating us a “resource” to be exploited, but as customers looking for a great product with great value at a reasonable price. If your investors don’t like it, then I humbly submit, that may very well be where your problem, as a megacorporation, actually lies.

Sidney

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Weekend Round Up #15

Image Source: https://www.rocketcitymom.com/weekend-roundup-november-8-11/

This blog entry is me formalizing a format that I started earlier in the year of just giving a quick rundown of some of the highlights of my weekend. As I tend to do most of my writing, gaming, and media consumption on the weekends, it makes sense to give a brief summary/overview of some of the more important aspects of my weekend life, considering they all have relevance to my life in general, and the blog, in particular.

Gaming

Nothing major to note. I got closer to finishing the driving game Gravel. Actually, I’ve already finished it (seen the credits roll after completing the main campaign, but I’m hopeful that I can earn the ultimate reward for my dedication, a Platinum Trophy, in which I complete all the required conditions. I’m currently sitting at 97% complete on the game–needing only 2 online trophies to finish the game. However, that might be a hard task based on the fact that no one is really playing the game online anymore that I can see (on the PS4 anyway). We’ll continue to see, however.

Writing

Managed to send off a story (reprint–Faerie Knight) to a YA podcast looking for Halloween, Christmas, and Dinosaur stories (Faerie Knight falls firmly in the Halloween category). I’ve had very little luck (none at all, if I’m honest) in the reprint category–none of my stories have ever been reprinted in a different magazine from their original publication, but since FA was a Halloween story (it takes place on Halloween night), I thought I’d give it a try. In other news, I started planning a short-story “duology” over the weekend. I’ve actually already written the first story (I, Magi) and I now have a “sequel” for it in mind. I will be working with it over the week to get a “rough draft” down on paper and then put it on hold until I finish Project Dog, Project Skye, and Project Independent. I feel as if I have too many outstanding projects and I really need to finish some of them off before moving on to others.

Media

Not much to see here this week. Not into Game of Thrones. I hate the whole “Bad things happen to Good people” sub-genre, no matter the genre (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), so I refuse to be a part of the cultural conversation here. I did start the Amazon Prime show Hanna, but didn’t actually finish the first episode–although I will. I don’t think it would be right for me to give my impressions until I do, however.

School

So, this is where the bulk of my writing time went this weekend. I had a school assignment due at 11:00 pm Sunday night for my Victorian Literature class (on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). I finished it right around that time (after working on it since approx. 7pm). I really feel the Sunday night time-frame is a good writing time (when I’m not writing until 11:00pm or 12:00am), so as soon as school’s out (i.e., I’m finished with my classes, I would like to use this time-frame to actually work on some of my (many) “Projects.”

Well, that’s my weekend for this week–hope this week is a good one for both you and me!

Sidney

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7 Games that Influenced Me: Golden Axe

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Okay, so this blog post was inspired by a video on Playstation Access that talks about 7 different games that inspired the staff at Playstation Access.  Gaming, along with reading and writing, and watching movies and television shows, make up a large part of my free time, so I thought that I would also do a blog post that covers seven influential games for me.  I will revisit this post several different times, each time updating it with a new game.

Here are mine are in no particular order:

Golden Axe

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So, I puzzled and puzzed until my puzzler was sore for what I should do for my last game for this post.  I have so many games that I’ve played that have had an influence of on me.  I had to really think about a game that affected me and I finally settled on Golden Axe.  As a beat’em-up much like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, where you take control of a character and use the controller to “beat up” your opponents.  While inevitably violent, most of these were never really bloody in the way a “slasher” film might be–the violence (to me) was always cartoony (a la Tom & Jerry).  Essentially, Golden Axe is a side-scrolling game you move from right to left defeating monsters and creatures.  You choose from one of three characters and you can play it alone or cooperatively with a 2nd player.  In the late 1980s, Golden Axe was the closest thing to fantasy movies like Conan the Barbarian and fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings.  There is even a magic system using gnomes and jars that added variety to the game.  I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve played this game or how many times that I’ve enjoyed going all the way though it, either by myself or with my uncle.  This game is one that I played all through my teenaga years.

Street Fighter 2

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Street Fighter 2 is a game that I discovered while I was in college.  It became super popular  during my second year at UT Knoxville.  As a fighting game, it allowed one player to challenge the computer or 2 players to challenge each other.  It became all of the craze at the Gameroom at the University Center and in the “arcades” that lingered on “The Strip” (the road just off of campus that divided the campus from the off-campus apartments and led into downtown Knoxville).  The game was intense and even though there were only 8 characters at the time, they were so different that it was easy to pick a favorite and learn all their moves and then challenge others (strangers or friends).  I remember that my best friend from high school came up to UT Knoxville during my 2nd year there and we used to have epic battles on this game.  My main character was Chun Li because I loved her speed and agility and her move set (especially the Lightning Kick and the Spinning Bird Kick).  My friend played Bison (aka M Bison) because of his power and powerful moves.  I was so in love with the game, that I asked for a Super Nintendo just to get an arcade perfect port of the game (I didn’t need to because a later edition also came to the Sega Genesis a little later on with the ability to fight against the same character that you were playing).  This is one that my uncle and I had loads of fun playing, although I think he was a little disappointed that it was just a “fighter” and didn’t have more depth.  For me, however, I was enraptured.  Once I learned Chun Li’s moves, it became a mini-game to see how I could beat opponents with as many of the different moves as possible.  This game to this day, still is one that when the latest iteration comes out, I will at least give it a look/play, even when it steps away from the core gameplay.  SFII as it is affectionately known by fans is a game that truly had an effect on me as a gamer.

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The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight

So this game is one that I played religiously during my childhood.  I got into D&D through the boardgame Dungeon! and bought quite a few D&D and AD&D rulebooks and supplements.  I saw an ad for this in a magazine (I think) and I got it for a birthday (or Christmas) present.  Rolling a character and creating a party was immensely fun for me as was adventuring in the town of Skara Brae.  I, along with my uncle, scouraded the land and the dungeons.  I seem to remember that there were seven dungeons (not including the “starter” dungeon in the world.  We managed to map out and beat the first two dungeons (if I remember correctly), but not the “starter” dungeon, weirdly enough.  I think we might have gotten one finished, but I’m not really sure at this point.  I remember the puzzle that stopped us, “What is No. 9’s favorite wine?”  I’m assuming there was a clue that we missed somewhere because I think this was in Dungeon 4 (???), but where ever, it stopped our progress.  Even though we didn’t technically finish/beat the game, we spent hours and hours on the game, and even invested in graph paper to map out the dungeons and the game world (before “automapping” was a thing.  Even without finishing, the experience of the playing the game and creating characters still helps to inform me as a writer today and that’s why this game is one of the influential games of my childhood.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

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So, Call of Duty was a franchise that I knew a lot about, but didn’t actually pick up until Treyarch’s World War II game, Call of Duty 3, and I really liked the game, but shortly thereafter Infinity Ward announced that they were moving out of the WWII arena and moving the game into the modern era.  I really found this to be provocative and I followed the development with considerable interest.  When the game released, the campaign just blew my mind.  It was tense, fun, and graphically well done and I found it to be one of the best stories that I’ve experienced in any medium.  The online component also sucked me in after I finished main campaign several times.  It extended my enjoyment of the game and I played the online portion religiously for the better part of two years.  Modern Warfare is a game that not just influenced me, but also influenced the entire gaming industry for the better part of 8-10 years.

 

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Galaga/Galaxian

Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit on this entry as technically, Galaga and Galaxian are two separate games.  However, they came out at about the same time, they play so similar, and they are ones where I played either of them no matter what, depending on the location–some places would have one, other places would have the other, and I personally had no preference between the two.  Basically, these two games are what’s known in the gamer community as “top down shooters.”  You shoot aliens as they move though space, but your view is from the top as if you were looking down on your own ship and the aliens.  Much like the classic game Space Invaders you find your ship confined to the bottom of the screen, but instead of aliens coming down in straight lines, they swirl around the play area, making your job of hitting them, much harder.  On Galaga,  there is an extra wrinkle in that some ships are able to send out a tractor beam and capture your ship.  If it was your last ship, then the game is over, but if you have another ship and can hit the alien that has captured your ship, you have the chance of getting it back and doubling your firepower.  It has a great risk/reward system in place with that mechanic.  Galaxian is essentially the exact same game minus the alien ship with its tractor beam.  These two games were favorites of mine and earned my quarters every time I saw them in an arcade, or where ever they might have been located.

Tomb Raider 2

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This is probably the most influential game for me in the “modern” era of gaming in that it was the one game that I played when I still had my entire family available to me (my uncle, my grandmother, and my grandfather), so there is a nostalgia factor with this game.  Most people, scholars/journalists will cite the rise of Lara Croft as this feminist icon in video games, and while this is true, TRII is most notable to me because of its proto-narrative structure.  From the introductory cutscene, all through the in-game dialogue, you can see a narrative trying to be told by the game designers.  While not nearly as polished as a movie, you can see early attempts at dramatic irony, a sarcastic heroine, and a narrative structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution), all wrapped around a larger-than-life character in Lara Croft.  There was also an element of “world-hopping” similar to the best adventure movies with the game taking place in various real-world settings–from Venice, to Nepal, to other exotic locals.  However, what I remember most about the game were the puzzles.  The puzzles were clever and inventive.  I remember, up until that point, I hated games with heavy puzzle elements because I felt that I just wasn’t very good with them–however, TR II, helped to change that for me.  With help from my uncle, I began to be more patient with puzzles and began to really enjoy the challenge of trying to figure them out.  We had the “cluebook,” and used it early on in the game, but later in the game, it became a secondary challenge, a mark of distinction, and a badge of honor, to see if we could figure out the puzzle without the cluebook.  I credit this game with helping me become a better “library assistant” as it came out during the first two years of my time at the CPL.  This game had a profound effect on me during my mid-20s and is still one of my favorite games of all time.

Pacman (Arcade and Atari 2600 editions)

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Image Source: https://www.retrogames.cz/play_017-Atari2600.php

So, Pacman had a profound effect on me.  While it was the most popular of the 1980s “first wave” of video games, it was also influential on me in that it was a game that helped to cement my  love of video games at that particular time period.  It wasn’t the first video game I played (no, that honor goes to Galaga), but it was the game (along with Galaga, Galaxian, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Turbo, Spyhunter, and Missle Command) that set me firmly in the camp of a gamer.  While I was never really very good at the game–I never wanted to memorize patterns–I always just wanted to “play” it, it still was something that I would always gravitate to and want to play.  If I (or my parents) ever had spare quarters, they would end up in the cabinet at some point before the night was over.  When the game came home, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t exactly match the arcade version, but I can still remember hearing the “dun-na-na-dunm” of the start-up screen as Santa’s elves set it up on Christmas Eve.   For a game version that I was mildly disappointed with initially, I have to say I spent an inordinate amount of time playing it.  I really liked the game and it was very influential for me as both a child and a gamer.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

Weekend Gamer–September 30, 2018 Edition

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Image Source: https://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-weekend-gamer-on/

So, I’ll keep these gamer updates on the smaller side as they are some of the least popular posts on the blog.  I’m not really sure why as video games have become as intricate and as narrative-based as any movie or novel.  For me, they represent the “third pillar” of the trifecta of popular culture/entertainment.  Sure, the controller looks complicated and adds a layer of abstraction that many non-gamers find daunting, but truly, many of the abstractions in the video game world exist elsewhere–we just choose to ignore them because they fit our paradigm (dice and playing pieces in board games and role-playing games, complicated rules and exceptions for card-based games). Oh well, to each his or her own–if video games aren’t really to the taste of the mainstream, then I’ll just continue to play them and talk about them, but not evangelize them.

This week, a couple of smaller games went on sale that I’ve desperately been wanting after seeing them profiled on YouTube in various places.  I’ll only talk about them briefly and save a full discussion of them for a full blog post.  Both games are ones that hope will help me with writing projects down the line, so not only do I hope they will be fun, but also inspiring.

Sine More EX

This is an arcade shooter (in the same vein of the old school game DEFENDER) and is one that I hope will help me define the setting of Project Skye a little bit better.  You take the controls of a pilot of a retro-futuristic plane out for revenge.  You blast your way through wildly inventive levels with unique and varied bosses.  I only managed to get through the first level and part of the second so far, but I found it to be a fun romp so far (if a bit serious and heavy-handed in terms of the plot–a WWII analogy with dropping a nuclear bomb on a civilization in an arcade shooter).  Still, this is one I’m playing mostly for the setting inspiration than actually playing for the plot.

 

Battlechasers: Nightwar

This is a game based on the graphic novel series, Battlechasers which I happened to pick up a local used bookstore.  I really liked the graphic novel and I’ve been a fan of the artist Joe Madureia every since I picked up a random issue of his work on the Uncanny X-Men several years ago by chance.  I’ve been following the development of this game since its announcement and really wanted to get it on its release, but discovered that it would probably be better suited for a sale.  The game has actually gone on sale several times already since its release earlier this year (as recent as about 2-3 weeks ago), but something would always come up and I wouldn’t be able to get a voucher code to add funds in time before the sale went away.  I recently decided that I should just do that every time my balance dropped below a certain amount, and lo and behold it is was back on sale this week, so I snatched it up.  It is a turn-based RPG in the style of the older Final Fantasy games, but so far, I’m really enjoying it.  Playing characters based on a graphic novel that I like really helps, although their voices don’t quite match the vision that I had in my head, but that’s really a small complaint.

Well, again, keeping is short as people don’t really read the gamer updates, that’s all for today.  Have a good one!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

Game Mode On: Weekend Gaming (3 Aug. 2018)

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Man with a Playstation 4 controller in his hand looking at a Playstation 4 Menu Screen. Image Source: YouTube.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MZ1Hn260SQ)

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 23 (+1)
    Goal = 3 Pages a week. 20/20 Pages (for artist). 23/32 pages (for completion of 1st issue)
    Actual = 2/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Wrote a story page last night. Reorganized the project so that it shows Issue 1. Also started putting down Acts and Scenes for a Screenplay version of the story.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

So, this weekend I’m hoping to do a little gaming (fingers crossed), but before I do, I wanted to update you all on my gaming efforts last week. Before I do that, however, I also want to note that this is the first Saturday of the month.  I will be sending my artist the comic book script pages that I’ve done so far and will be sending it to him (along with a collaboration agreement which he asked for–although he did ask for it after we send the proposal to the publisher but I found one that I really like). And now, on to the games:

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So I didn’t really get very far on this one–I was able to do a couple of “Main Story missions, but didn’t really get to do much in the way of the “side missions.” I have one “main” mission remaining and then it is only the side missions for that province and then I should be finished with that particular province.  I estimate that I’ll have about 5-6 more provinces (all 5 star difficulty) remaining, but unfortunately, only playing once a week, there’s only so much that I can get done on such a large (& long) game.

Final Fantasy XV

It really is true–when I get stuck on a game, that’s my brain’s way of telling me to take a break. I failed the mission that had me stumped a couple of more times (mostly due to boneheaded mistakes on my part & relearning the game’s controls), but I was able to get past that mission and back into the open world. There was another fairly long “side” mission that became available and I almost took it, but decided that I’d been away from the story long enough, so I wanted to do the story and (hopefully) come back to it a little later. I was surprised because I spent the better part of a day trying to get past that mission the last time I played.

Call of Duty WWII

Finished this game (single player) a while back, but I try to dip into the multiplayer (Team Deathmatch) once a week just to try to keep up my CoD skills. I’m probably going to be playing this game for a while because I’m not planning on buying Call of Duty: Black Ops IV (I refuse to use Treyarch’s inane numbering IIII for IV. Not only is it moronic, it also confuses the issue–I’ll probably use 4 from now on when referring to it). I’m not buying the new CoD because I’m not buying multiplayer only games anymore–it must have a single player component to rate a purchase and this one is foregoing the single player mode.

Costume Quest 2

So, I made significant progress on this game. I keep feeling that I’m close to the end on this game. It is actually a larger game than it seems. I now have a “younger version” of the antagonist in my party and I assume the younger version will have a hand in reclaiming/defeating the older version, but I’m not sure when that’s going to happen in terms of the narrative, so I’ll just keep trucking along until I see the End Credits screen. Hopefully I close, but if not, it is an enjoyable game and not a slog, unlike Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.

Well, that’s all I have time for right now, so I’ll talk to you next week! Have a good weekend and happy gaming/writing!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Game Mode On: What’s On Tap for this Weekend

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Game Mode On. Image Source: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY2jy8AzUzk

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 20 (+1)
    Goal = 5 Pages a week.
    Actual = 4/5 Pages done so far this week. I added a page to the 1st issue last night.

  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, No Writing so far)

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: FINISHED!
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Quick Update

So this is a fairly short blog post on the quick update on what I’m planning on playing this weekend. It may be a shortened gaming weekend, but I’ll try to update you next week on what I actually managed to get through.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

I was able to clear a “province” last week, meaning that all 4 star difficulty provinces are completely done. I only have 5 star difficulty provinces left (and one that has no rating, but due to its difficulty and number bases, might as well be a five star difficulty region). I still estimate that I have a month or two of playing on this one before I get to the “final” boss. I’ll probably “rant” about open world games in a future blog post, but while I like value for content, I feel this one is a massive game extension type of open world that isn’t necessarily respectful to the player’s time.

Ratchet and Clank (2016)

So, I’ve already covered this in another blog entry, but I managed to finish this game this past weekend.  It was a fun reboot/reimagining of the series.  I did forget to give it a grade in the blog entry so for anyone who may be wondering, I give it an A.  I am very intrigued by what they will do with the upcoming Spider-man game.

Costume Quest 2

I was able to make progress on this game and to move the story along significantly.  I’m currently in a “hub” world of sorts where I need to clear out various structures in the world before the next major section opens up. It feels like I’m coming up to the resolution fairly soon, but I can’t quite tell just yet.

Final Fantasy XV

So, re-installed this one on to the hard drive, and am looking forward to trying to make progress on it.  I’ve gotten stuck on a section that involves stealth and I keep getting seen and failing the mission.  I’ll try it a couple of more times before resorting to a guide or YouTube walkthrough to get past this difficult bit. Yes, I like trying to get past barriers on my own, but I don’t think I’ve played this one since February or early March because of this mission and I like to think that I was getting fairly good at it.

Well, that’s all I have for now–will (hopefully) return next week with another gaming update.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Finished Ratchet and Clank (2016): How It “Re-Visions” the Original Game

 

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Ratchet & Clank (2016) Box Cover Art with Ratchet and Clank standing on a planetoid. Image Source: Amazon.com 

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 19 (+2)
    Goal = 5 Pages a week.
    Actual = 3/5 Pages done so far this week. I added a page to the 1st issue last night.

  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, No Writing so far)

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: FINISHED!
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Insomniac Games and the Ratchet and Clank Universe

Last Saturday, while I was feverishly trying to find and coral a “structure” for my paper that I needed to turn in Sunday, I finished a game called Ratchet and Clank. While it is for the PlayStation 4, it is a “re-imagining” of the original game which debuted on PlayStation 2. I actually could have finished it the week prior, but held off on the final boss fight as it looked fairly complex and I’d already been playing for a while and was starting to get frustrated by the boss fight. I’m glad I took a break because the boss fight was nearly as hard as I’d first envisioned and I beat it after about half an hour.

Re-imaging = Re-visioning

So, one of the reasons why I wanted to talk about this here and now was because of my previous post on drafts and revisions. Ratchet and Clank (2016), (which will be referred to now on as R&C 2016) represents one way (a great way, in my opinion) of “re-seeing” a work to make it much better. There was a R&C animated movie that debuted with this game and while this game was released to take advantage of the movie, it still was very much its own creation. One of the things that I liked that the designers did was “translate” the game for modern audiences (gamers). Games, their systems, and what gamers expected in 2016 is markedly different than what they expected in 2002 when the first R&C was released. Insomniac, the makers of the R&C series, understood this and revised their game to bring it in line with modern expectations of gaming. In essence, they looked at the advantages of the new technologies they had available to them and used those to their advantage when shaping the new game. The core storyline of the R&C 2016 game is the same as the original R&C game, but the controls, graphics, effects, and music & sounds have all been upgraded to such a level that it doesn’t feel like a “remaster,” but an entirely new game.

Re-visioning Leads the Way

This is what I hope to accomplish with my writing projects and my new process of going through the outline/rough draft, 1st draft, & revision draft stages. Something that remains true to the original vision of the story that I had in mind and that excited me when I originally wrote it, but that, by using techniques and experiences that I learned/engaged with since the original story was written, I can create something that retains the flavor of the old, but is light years beyond the old. Re-visioning, or simply revision has that power. Through revision, one can shape a story and mold it into something beautiful. The problem with revision is that it can be ever on-going. There has to be a point when it comes to a stop so that one can market it and move on to other projects and ideas. For me, I’ve stopped the process too soon, ending at the first draft stage and not really going back to “re-vision”/revise the project as deeply as I could. I’m hoping that 3 really strong passes at a story will help me 1) get past the 1st draft on the market syndrome that I’ve fallen into in the recent years, and 2) not get stuck in the mode of continuous revisions, however, where I keep picking at it and picking at it, while not actually submitting the stories.

Sorry for such a long blog entry–perhaps it will make up for the one I missed yesterday. Will try to get back on a regular schedule as soon as my schedule becomes a little more regular.  Have a good day.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

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