Game Mode On: Artificial Game Extension

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Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Wildlands Tier 1 Mode. Image Source: Gamespot

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 121 words (5000 words by July 1).  Currently at approximately, 4800 words
Actual = 500 words Monday & Wednesday morning/.  So, Monday night I managed to hit my Scrivener goal of 127 words, but didn’t make my 250 word goal.  I was too tired to work on this Tuesday night, but did work on it 4th of July (morning) and got about 

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

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
    Finished this last night.  I’ll write up my impressions of this title and post it for a blog entry next week.  Look out for it.
    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:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.  Finished a Book Review for it on Friday for class.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   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.

Games Played on June 30th

Hello, and welcome to my inaugural weekly post on the games that I’m playing on the weekend (really Saturdays as I don’t really have time in graduate school to devote the entire weekend to gaming).  I’m going to try to position this as a “bonus” post that goes up on a Saturdays in order to fill out my goal of posting six (6) days a week.  This post will 1) highlight some of the games I’m (currently) working my way through (i.e., playing), 2) offer criticisms and trends that I see based on the actual gameplay and 3) highlight avenues of scholarship that I’m currently pursuing as a rhetoric scholar in video games.  Yes, I know the last one if fairly “nerdy,” but it may spark other rhetoricians to cover games that I’m not going to cover (for instance, while I might get a Switch and cover Nintendo games at some point, I don’t intend to ever own a Microsoft console and will not be covering/featuring Microsoft games (not until they completely overhaul their corporate culture, at any rate, something that I don’t see happening in the near or far future, but I digress).  Most of the games I will be focusing on will be Sony exclusive games or 3rd party games that are on the PlayStation format.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So, this one is vexing to me.  I like this game, but I feel that it has gone on waaaaayyyy too long.  It is an open world game and it has this conceit that you have to take down Sicarios in the open world to get to the main villain.  However, what it does to extend gameplay is that it has a rating of up to 5 levels for each region and each region is rated 1 to 5.  I’ve worked by way through the game and I’m currently in the last of the ⅘ difficulty regions, and will be moving on to the 5/5 regions soon.  The problem is that not only does the difficulty spike, but the game adds in an external Tier system that forces the game’s difficulty even higher if you want to move up to the highest “level” so not only do the regions become harder, but so too does the game itself.  This slows down progress immensely and makes it difficult to progress through the game.  I’ve been playing this one since February and it has delayed me from getting back to Horizon Zero Dawn, The Witcher 3, and into another Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs 2.  I don’t mind a “meaty” game, but this trend towards extending gameplay just to keep players from playing other games is annoying a best.

Until Dawn

So, let’s establish something right from the outset: I don’t really like horror.  I like tension, I like action, I like drama, but I don’t really like horror.  Yes, I will sometimes dabble in that genre, but usually it has to be fairly mild, the original TV version of Stephen King’s It, and of James Herbert’s novels, some of Dan Simmons novels (specifically the “horror” ones) among others are somethings that I enjoy.  Right now, I’m playing Until Dawn by Supermassive Games for the Playstation 4 (PS4 Exclusive), and it is seriously creeping me out.  It uses ALL of the horror movie “tropes” to try to elicit “jump scares” from the player (and with me it is succeeding big time!).  Stingers, dark environments, limited viewpoints, etc., they’re all there.  If horror is your thing, then you have to try this game.

Basically, the story revolves around these teens who reunite after a tragedy occurred one year ago.  Like an 80’s horror movie, you’re tasked with controlling one or two of the teens and trying to make story decisions that will keep them alive.  Well, I’m not doing so great.  The character that I have just got surprised by a wolf/large dog after having to have his fingers amputated to get out a trap.  I’ve lost at least two teens so far (and if the wolf is any indication, its about to be three!).  The graphics are very well done–while there are times when “uncanny valley” does affect the character models, but only slightly and not enough to take me out of the game (just enough to notice it).

I’d really like to put this game in conversation with Scream.  While older, the Scream series has many of the same tropes, but Scream is self-aware in a way that Until Dawn isn’t, even though UD is a newer game.  I’d really like to examine both how those tropes play out in the two works and why the game’s developer, Supermassive chose to minimize/ignore some of the newer, self-awareness of the conventions of the horror genre.  Right now, horror as a genre, is making a resurgence, and I might even (if I have the courage) to add in more and newer examples in the horror genre (ItGet Out, and even A Quiet Place–as much as I’ve railed against it) to examine the rhetorical nature of UD.

Costume Quest 2

This a smaller title and it is a one that is based on monsters taking over halloween.  It features simplified combat and a fun art style.  The story is also pretty good as well.  It doesn’t look like it will be a very long game, but it does look like it will be a quality game. I’m trying to get through some of the “free” games that I’ve acquired through Playstation Plus.  I’ve got about 30 smaller games that I’ve downloaded over the past three years and I’ve not really played them, so this is my attempt to try to eliminate my backlog of games.  I’m about halfway through (as best I can tell) and I’m having fun with it even though it is starting to get challenging.  Looking forward to seeing how it ends.

Well, that’s all for this week–have a good weekend!

Sidney




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

 

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E3 2018 Conferences Review

E3

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3365 (+324)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Changed the way I write.  I moved back to Scrivener in order to utilize the word count tracking feature in the program.  I tried to find a web version (& I did), but it seemed silly to try to wrangle three different websites when I have an all-in-one solution in Scrivener.  Once I did, I was able to to get writing done.  I also reconfigured my workspace so let’s see if that helps.

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

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 700s in terms of page count–more than half way finished.)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’slibrary and I’m reading it now.   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.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.

    Still working my way through–I’m trying to clear out a province a week, but because I’m catching up from E3 so I only got to clear about ½ of the province I’m currently working on.  I was planning on finishing that province today, but I have far too much to do today, so I’m not going to get to play it next week.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”I got further along, but now I have a decision to make: do I let the “creepy” best friend die, or do I let the character’s potential girlfriend die.  I decided to stop right there.

Bethesda

Fairly disappointed in Bethesda’s conference as the games that I really want to play are Starfield and the next Elder Scrolls game, Elder Scrolls VI.  Both were teased with basically an environment and a logo, but did not show anything even remotely like a cinematic or gameplay.  They are also at least another year, probably two years away.  Their main game this year was Fallout 76, an online game in the Fallout universe.  That means that there have been (or will be when F76 comes out) two games in the Fallout universe this generation and none in the Elder Scrolls universe.  While I don’t begrudge other players their Fallout high, I’m not really a Fallout player.  I’m intrigued by Starfield as it is a new IP in what seems to be a Sci-Fi (spacefaring) setting, but as it is an unknown quantity, it is hard to get too excited for it.

C

6/19/18 Edit: I forgot that Bethesda also released a trailer and gameplay for the game Rage 2.  Having played the first Rage, I found it fairly interesting so I’m looking forward to this game, so I’m raising the score from its original C- to C.

Square Enix

So, the new Tomb Raider game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks pretty good as did the trailer for a new IP called The Quiet Man.  I’m also interested in the new Dragon Quest game as I’ve not yet played a game in that series.  Still, it was a short conference (half and hour) and its main claim to fame, Kingdom Hearts III, already had a trailer to drop before E3 started, so it was a bit of a let down.

C

Ubisoft

I though Ubisoft had a particularly good showing.  Their conference was fun and had a lot of energy and they had a mix of games that I’m interested in playing among the ones that I’m not all that interested in.  The Division 2, The Crew 2, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are all games that I’m looking forward to playing, although I’m one Assassin’s Creed game behind and I need to catch up.

B+

Sony

So, Sony showed the best games and gave the most detailed look at their upcoming portfolio for their various studios/projects, but they only went into detail about four games: The Last of Us, Part 2, Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushumia, and Spider-Man.  Each of these projects got an extended look and they all look fantastic.  The problem is that Sony only showed these four major games (in addition to several lesser trailers with Control being the highlight of these trailers).  None of these games are listed as coming later than 2019 (although a couple had no date whatsoever, but I have a feeling they will also be 2019 games).

I’m guessing (and ONLY guessing) that Sony’s strange conference is due to the fact they will probably be “reloading” in 2020 with “next generation” games (perhaps even hardware–aka the “PS5”–as the system will be six years old in 2019 and seven years old in 2020).  My best guess is that 2019 will be the last major “swan song” for major releases for the PS4.  Bold prediction, perhaps, but that is the only thing that makes sense given both the age of the console and the paucity of gaming announcements at Sony’s conference.

B- (A- for the in-depth look at the games, but C for the overall showcase in general).

Winner

Ubisoft–while I didn’t like all the games Ubisoft debuted, they had the most eclectic mix, the strongest conference, and provided the most fun out of all the E3 Press Conferences that I watched.  Hopefully, Sony will get there act together next year (hopefully, with next generation games/hardware)

Sidney




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The Crew 2: Beta Impressions

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The Crew 2 Cover Art (Racer with car, boat, and motorcycles with U.S. landscapes in the background).  Image Source: Steamcommunity.com

Word Count

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 (+613)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So I managed a whopping 613 (!) words today.  I wrote for longer than I planned (about 20 mins longer than I planned), but I got into a real groove once I got the ship names down.  This is a first draft, but right now, I really like the way it is coming together.  Now, I need to stop and read for school.  

Currently Reading

  • For Fun: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novella)
  • For School: Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
  • For Research/Personal Development: Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  It’s a book that I have to read for my History of Rhetoric class.  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.

First Impressions

After getting into and playing The Crew 2 Beta this weekend, I thought I’d give some general, overall impressions–nothing major as it is still a Beta after all and things could conceivably change (not likely, as the game is due to release in under a month and it still has to be “locked down” to be manufactured on the disc).  Still, as longtime readers will know that The Crew 2 is one of the games that I was most looking forward to at last year’s E3.  I really liked the original game even though it only got mediocre reviews (mostly due to the average “revenge” story and not necessarily next-gen graphics) and I find myself “tooling” around the “open world” of the U.S. map on a regular basis.

The Crew, Upgraded

Long story short, I liked the Beta.  Basically, this seems like a really upgraded version of the original game.  Strange to hear it described this way, perhaps, as it is a sequel, but the game plays much more like the first game, but with the added disciplines of air racing and boat racing.  The air racing sections means that you can fly over the entire map of the highly condensed map of the U.S. and they’ve taken creative liberties with the American waterway system so that you can essentially boat the length of the U.S. just as you can drive it, so essentially you can drive, fly, or boat in their sandbox.  It effectively triples the “sandbox” in which you play the game–instead of just driving, now you can drive, boat, or fly around the map.

Not Perfect, However

So, I was planning on buying this one as a “reward” for myself for getting through my June classes as it releases on June 29th and my classes end on July 6.  I may still get it, but after playing the Beta it isn’t a slam dunk as it was before for this reason: The Map is EXACTLY the same!  After playing the original game for so long, I have the majority of the map memorized, so I can tell that they’ve not changed their original road structure significantly based on my time with the beta.  Now, to be honest, they revealed this when they revealed the game, but it seemed like they were upgrading the map (roads) for the additional modes, so I thought they’d change the road system and add new cities, but that’s not what they’ve done.  They did upgrade the graphics and added in a more robust river system (& it looks like the events are greatly expanded), but the road systemcities are exactly the same as the first game.  I was hoping to visit new cities and drive on new roads–for instance, a greatly truncated Nashville, Tennessee and Chattanooga Tennessee are in the game, but not Atlanta, Georgia.  Now, I’m all about my home city (Chattanooga) being in the game, but realistically, Atlanta is a major metropolitan area that rivals New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Dallas as a major component in the country.  It is essentially the “New York” of the South and deserves to be in the game.  However, The Crew 2 still does enough new things that I’m excited to see the new interpretations of the places that I’ve already seen a ton of times in the original game.  I’m just not sure if it is worth full price based on the fact that the road system is pretty much the same–still, I will be getting this game, but I have to decide if it is worth an immediate summer purchase, or if it would be better as a “Christmas” game.

Sidney




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

“Ubification” of Ubisoft Games

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Several popular Ubisoft game characters.  Image Source: WhatCulture

So, as I sit here waiting patiently to register for classes for the upcoming Summer and Fall terms, I find myself reflecting back on the game that I was playing over the Easter Holiday weekend, Ghost Recon: Wildlands (GRW).  Not really the most appropriate game for such a religious holiday, but I’m about half-way through it and I really want to finish it.  It is both fun and a slog.  How can that be, you might ask.  A game is either fun or it isn’t.  Well, it is much like Mass Effect Andromeda, fun in spurts, but far too long.

Jim Sterling on the “Ubification” of Games

Now, there is a video game personality, Jim Sterling, who talks about games and game companies’ practices on a regular basis.  He is something of a legend in the video game community, a pundit who is at times lauded and hated.  I don’t usually watch pundits, but every now and again, Jim calls out a segment of the video game industry that video game companies would prefer you not to notice.  Today, he chose to point out some of the things that Ubisoft is doing with their games, and since GRW is published by Ubisoft, I thought I’d watch.  Here’s the YouTube video if you’re interested–WARNING: NSFW (Harsh Language–unfortunately, Jim Sterling is in love with the F-Bomb and Crap word).

Now, Jim noticed this trend of Ubisoft’s games looking similar to one another with the release of Far Cry 5 last week, but as a player of quite a few of Ubisoft’s catalog (The Crew, all major in-line Assassin’s Creed releases, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and now Ghost Recon: Wildlands), I’ve been noticing that loop myself for a while.  Ubisoft actually has a gameplay mechanic that has been mocked and parodied in the gaming community for a while now– the unlocking of more of the game “map” by visiting some sort of “tower.”

Making it Relevant to Scholarship

One of the things that I’ve wanted to do for a while is to find a way to make what ever I’m currently playing relevant to scholarship.  While games, game theory, and video gaming is being studied in academia, it is still a very niche idea with too many scholars not understanding that many of the talented individuals who would be writing literature (books) or crafting cinema (movies) are actually working in the gaming arena.  What some scholars dismiss as mere “fluff” or have the idea that games that are not relevant to the greater society of the whole are missing a whole wider world in which subculture, especially gaming culture, is influencing and being influenced by the culture of gaming (don’t believe me–trace the backlash against Anita Sarkeesian and the GamerGate controversy with the backlash against Leslie Jones and the Ghostbusters (2016)–they are quite similar in reaction/rationale all happening “approximately” the same time).  My hope is that I can somehow use GRW to talk about video games in scholastic context.  I’m still formulating how I want to approach it (perhaps talking about Open World games in general).  We’ll see, but video game rhetoric is still such a new topic that the field is still fairly wide open as to what I can analyze, so there are many opportunities for scholarship from this one game.  I just need to figure out how to approach it.

Well, that’s it for now.  Have a great day!

Sidney



E3 and me: The Crew 2

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Image Source: Rayman-Fanpage.de

This time I want to talk about another racing game that’s caught my eye: The Crew 2 (TC2).  This game is a sequel to The Crew by Ubisoft.  The Crew’s claim to fame is that it offers an open world map of the United States for players to drive through.  Players can start in New York on the East Coast and drive seamlessly though the game’s roads, highways, or even off-road and travel to Los Angeles or San Fransisco on the West Coast.  Now, while the map is highly condensed, it can still take anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes to travel the length of the map and there are quite a few unique elements to the game that I really enjoyed such as road discovery, landmark discovery, modifying vehicles, and a mostly satisfying in-game soundtrack delivered via radio stations.  The Crew was denigrated for its story and many reviews thought that the game’s visual’s were not up to “next generation” standards (which the devs. addressed by “up-rezzing” the graphics as part of a later patch) and they supported the game rather well, I thought.

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Image Source: Techno Buffalo

TC2 seems to up the graphical fidelity even more and it looks like from the gameplay trailers that the map may be even larger than the previous game (and if not, it certainly looks more diverse).  It appears that they might be dropping the “story” mode to the game and going with more of a festival/win at all the various disciplines approach to the game.  Speaking of disciplines, the game is devoted into 4 main areas: Street Racing, Off-road racing, speed boat racing, and air racing.  It also looks like you can jump seamlessly between the various modes even in mid-race, although I’ll have to see how that plays in game to see if that is going to be as cool as it sounds.

The Crew’s large open world, its (in my opinion) inoffensive story, and its great game play made it a mainstay for me and helped me to keep my sanity during my second year of teaching middle school.  I’m hoping that The Crew 2 helps do much same now.  I’m cautiously optimistic about this game as well.

Here is the reveal trailer for The Crew 2.

Sidney



Black Panther, E3 and Me

 

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Image Source: YouTube.com

So, this blog was going to be about E3 (the video game and computer game conference happening on the West Coast this weekend), but Marvel released a teaser trailer for the Black Panther movie coming in 2018.  You can find the teaser trailer here: Black Panther Teaser Trailer.

I’m very interested in this movie as I was introduced to the Black Panther via a Marvel Comic that talked about the various gadgets and costumes of Marvel heroes in the early to mid 80s (it was the same comic that described the Mandarin’s rings and Falcon’s  wings/jet propulsion system) and mini-series done about the character when I was in High School in the late 80s/early 90s.  However, I discovered that the movie will debut next year close to my birthday, so I feel that it will be a great movie to see as a present to myself, so I’m already “sticking a pin in it” as the expression goes.  I hope it turns out as well for Marvel and the creators as well as Wonder Woman has turned out for DC this year.  I will keep it on my radar.

E3

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This weekend marks the kickoff to the E3 Conference.  I am a very big fan of video games and video game narratives, and this is where the newest games and technologies are mostly announced for the upcoming year.  E3 used to be about selling games and software for Christmas, and while it still has some of that element, mostly its about things that will be coming out in the next year and building anticipation for things even further out (a year and a half to two years).  Electronic Arts’s Press Conference kicks things off later today, and then tomorrow will be Bethesda.  Ubisoft and Sony will round out Monday’s coverage and then the show will begin in earnest with games out on the show floor.  EA’s press conference (or EA Play Event as they technically aren’t doing “Press Conferences per se since last year) is scheduled to kick off at 1pm Eastern time (9am Pacific Time) and I plan on watching that before digging into some yard work that I’ve put off for too long.  If there’s anything fun and relevant to the blog, I’ll probably talk about the things that were announced that I find most interesting (games are doing some pretty neat and novel things in the narrative space these days).  In between the conferences, I hope to get some writing done over this weekend as well.

Have a great weekend!

Sidney




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