30 September, 2008

Game Journal: Yakuza


There. That's probably easier than trying to decide which items are okay to talk about and which ones aren't.

As I said previously, Chapter 4 was a delight. Anything could happen and usually did. In many games, this honeymoon phase is often followed by a big letdown as nothing remotely new happens. I'm glad to say this in not the case with Yakuza. Sure, there are still random mooks to beat up. But there are also the bizarre events that could only happen in this game.

A shady looking guy had me procure a package that contained dirty underwear. I helped some thugs who had tried to beat me up earlier defend themselves against some pretty skilled Yakuza thugs. I helped Detective Date (pronounced DAH-tay) with his daughter, who I first met when she offered to do me for money. "No rough stuff, okay?" O_o

You remember that reporter I helped out? I've seen her two or three times since then, rescuing her from Yakuza at least once. It's pretty bizarre how much time I spend beating up Yakuza, considering I used to be one. I even helped some thugs who had tried to beat me up earlier against some Yakuza. For me, it's all XP, really.

I met a match girl. A match girl is just a girl selling matches on the street for a bit too much money. It's a step up from begging, I suppose. Anyway, she wasn't charging much, and I haven't found much in this game worth spending money on, so I helped her out. I ran into her again later. She told me her boyfriend had run out on her and gave me some cologne she had got for him as a holiday gift. Then she took off. I felt bad for her.

Speaking of feeling bad, let's talk about bum town. That's not what it's called, but that's what it is. Even in "the hood", San Andreas never felt as abject as this tent city does. For as much as the GTA games lampoon America, their plots are usually pure Horatio Alger. Social conditions are only temporary in that world. They don't feel that way in Yakuza. I don't remember ever seeing poverty like this in games. Sure, slums or ghettos would occasionally be the backdrop in some games. But they were rarely as pathetic as this tent city, and I don't think they ever had this many homeless people around them, just standing or sitting around, looking like they would probably never leave.

I met an older martial artist there who taught me a valuable fighting technique. I met a former author there and gave him a painting that helped him recover his muse. It's good that bum town wasn't just for show. And it's even better that I can't really do much for the vast majority of the people there. Poverty doesn't work that way, and it's always ridiculous when games imply that social issues can be solved through violence.

I also met a dead man in bum town. Or at least I thought he was dead. It turns out the crime reporter who died while I was in prison actually just went into hiding and is still investigating the underworld. I'm guessing he'll turn up somewhere interesting in the future.

As for the main plot, well, let's just say there haven't been too many surprises lately. The plot is moving forward pretty slowly, really. The girl I rescued has a locket which is somehow the key to a fortune stolen from my old clan. Her mother was killed by my former friend, but I knew he was evil a very long time ago. And I don't think we've got any leads on Yumi still. Meh. The plot is okay, but the crazy side stuff is still where it's at.

A guy on the street was having problems with vandals and asked me to stand watch. I chased down a punk who turned out to be his son, who was vandalizing his father's store to protest his dad trying to force him into the family business when he wanted to pursue art.

Did I mention a guy had me conduct a shady transaction for what turned out to be dirty panties? Yep. It's Japanese alright.

Also, some random moron attacked me on the street to test if I was good enough to be his mentor. I told him to get lost, but he said he'd made up his mind and ran off. That jerk's gonna be trouble.

The mechanics of the game are about the same. Bosses still never drop their weapons, making them a chore to fight. Opponents are dodging a lot more now, which generally isn't fun. I can compensate by picking up more weapons, but I prefer using my fists, and taking the time to run and grab something depletes my heat meter. And I've really started having fun with the heat moves.

Kazuma has tons of different heat attacks. Plus there are follow up attacks now. I don't just smash a guy against the wall. If I press a button just as he hits the ground, I follow up with a stomp. In one fight, I tackled a guy and mashed on the square button to wail away on his face. And Kazuma did some crazy move with an umbrella I couldn't even follow, much less describe. I need to learn where the taunt button is in this game so I can keep my heat level up. At first I dismissed heat moves as not doing enough damage. But now that I've unlocked ones that look cool and have follow up attacks, they're becoming my favorite part of combat.

Keepalive: Half-Life Decay, Audiosurf, Mercenaries 2, Yakuza

A very long time ago, I picked up Half-Life for the PS2. I loved what Gearbox had done with Blue Shift and Opposing Force, and am always on the lookout for a good co-op game. For the longest time, it just sat there. I have a history of buying co-op games and extra controllers in the vain hope of having anyone to play with. But eventually I got my brother to co-op through the game with me. It was a special experience.

If you've played through any of the other Gearbox expansions, you know that they tell stories parallel to Gordon Freeman's, often referencing or giving a different perspective on memorable moments in the original game. Decay is no exception. I felt very lucky to have played through such a unique piece of Half-Life history, not that the game itself was perfect. The PS2 controls were pretty unpleasant. And there's that one level that's long and difficult and forces the players to wait through a chunk of narration every time it restarts. Yeah. That level sucks. It still sucks, even with mouselook.

The reason I know this is because some modders extracted the resources from the game and made a Half-Life mod out of it. I played through it with Matthew on Sunday night. It's mostly easy with proper controls, and there are a few bugs in the mod, but it's still fun. Games with combat and puzzles designed explicitly for two person co-op are pretty darn rare. When it's done well, the feeling of working as a well tuned team is very gratifying. Once in a great while, I'd find a TF2 team that gave a similar feeling. But that was even rare during the beta, when the most serious players were playing. And Left 4 Dead is designed to feel out of control, so it probably won't do it either. If anyone else wants to play through Decay, just drop me a line.

In another brother related gaming incident, I ripped the CD of one of his bands (Radio Orangevale) and played through it in Audiosurf. I'm the only person in the world who has, I believe. Once again, my brother delivers the most esoteric gaming experiences. :)

I enjoyed the original Mercenaries. Some of the missions were a pain, but mostly it was fun to shoot guys, sneak through enemy territory by stealing vehicles, and blow up buildings by calling in air strikes. The demo for Mercs 2 on PC is a bit of a mixed bag. Explosive weapons have crazy blast radii, which makes dealing with enemies that use them a pain in the patoot.

You can't carry much RPG ammo, making the RPG good for dealing with a few enemy vehicles and not much more. This is compounded by the fact that you don't automatically pick up ammo you run over. In a game that plays so fast and loose with reality, forcing the player to manually scrounge ammo is a pretty bizarre choice. You also can't carry much in the way of demolitions, so you have to call for an air strike or an air drop of C4 with every building you want to take out. Plus the enemies never drop C4. Long story short, there's a lot of stuff that slows down the game. And the controls are pretty terrible. Mostly it's just that the game is obviously designed for thumbsticks and feels painfully clunky with a mouse.

All those niggles (and more) aside, it's hard to go wrong with co-op exploding things. I don't think the game is worth full retail, but I look forward to someday playing through it with someone. I'll get in a car and pretend to be a harmless civilian. Then you distract them while I run them over. :)

While I don't think anything will top the thrill of discovery of Chapter 4, Yakuza continues to deliver interesting experiences. I'll write them up in another journal entry.

29 September, 2008

This Instrument Can Teach

At the end of my last Yakuza game journal, I posed a question, "why am I enthralled by a Virtual Tokyo Travel Guide where I pretend to be a criminal and beat people up?"

Looking at it now though, it seems scarily self evident. It's escapism. It's interesting (or just plain odd) mores, aesthetics, shopping, food, and activities. It's beating people up.

I now want this game for every city with interesting crime, culture, music, etc.

Brawl your way through Moscow. Brawl your way through Rio de Janeiro. Brawl your way through Mumbai.

Sure, you can just read some books, but reading about it isn't like seeing it. And it certainly isn't like doing it.

Edward R. Murrow famously said of television, "This instrument can teach."

Yakuza isn't even trying to teach that much about Tokyo. It's just trying to tell a story in that culture. Without really being intended as a teaching tool, the game teaches a lot. It's opened my eyes to how much we're missing in games.

Some things we're missing because of censorship. We can have a movie like City of God (about shocking violence, often perpetrated by and against children in Rio), but a game with the same content would be rated AO. No console manufacturer would allow it to run on their machine, and no retailer would stock it for PC.

Some things we're missing because simulation costs more than fantasy. Games like Cooking Mama and Trauma Center are shadows of what they could be. But it would cost time and money to make them more accurate and labeling them as educational could just as easily hurt sales as help them.

When Murrow, Fred Friendly, and everyone else who worked on See It Now brought down McCarthyism. Their reward was losing their sponsor and CBS phasing out the show. Their value to the nation, to the people they saved from the witch hunt, meant nothing. It was about the money. It still is.

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire, but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."

New DS Information / Speculation

Wired ran an article today (yesterday, technically).

Nikkei Net, the online arm of Japan's foremost economic newspaper, reports that the new model [of the Nintendo DS] will launch this year in Japan and include a camera and music playback.

This makes sense for Japan, train commuter capital of the world. Take your upskirt photos and listen to music. And the fact that this would indicate some form of storage on the DS (possibly an SD slot) could be good. Games and applications (mostly applications) could take advantage of that. And if the article is right, this DS will only cost $30 more. So why don't I care?

I guess it has to do with all the things I'm still not seeing from Nintendo.

Nintendo is not connected. They have no community like Steam, Xbox Live, or PSN. They're not putting VoIP on the DS. The DS web browser is long out of print. What would people want from a portable device more than the ability to remain connected?

They have no intention of being middlemen for the entertainment industry, with music marketplaces, video on demand, and suchnot. Music is nice, but it's pretty old news, now. Plus if it's like previous DS mp3 players, it will require purchasing an SD card, purchasing an SD card reader, and moving over mp3 files manually from a PC. If you're law abiding, add in the lengthy process of ripping your CDs to that PC. If you're not, add in download time. Yawn.

But I'm looking at this from an adult perspective. What about the kid that's too young for a cell phone, but just the right age for a DS? Kids are savvy. They've got enough time on their hands to rip CDs (or torrent, more likely). They want cameras. Maybe this is a relatively cheap way for parents to give their kids a bunch of toys at once?

Meh. What's a core gamer trying to do figuring out what Nintendo's up to in the first place? :P

28 September, 2008

Keepalive: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, GTA, Yakuza

In my continuing laziness, I'm going to give Dark Messiah a 4 out of 5. I might want to go back and play through as a mage at some point. But for now, I'm happy to bask in the afterglow of all the brawling I got to do. And for $10 on Steam, that thing's a steal. It's too bad the original release was so buggy, making the game no fun for reviewers and most gamers. :P

Even though I haven't played any GTA since I took yesterday's screenshots, I want to. This surprises me. Why would I want to replay old games, when I haven't even played through Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories? Mouselook, for one thing. I can actually shoot guys! It's awesome! But also San Andreas is so big. I feel like I've forgotten most of it. But just the fact that I actually finish GTA games makes me an oddity, so I probably shouldn't start finishing them twice.

I've played some more Yakuza. More crazy stuff has happened. Combat has gotten more difficult, and I'm not thrilled with it. I faced a couple boss characters that had real BS moves. Every character in the game (including me) drops their weapon when you knock them down. These bosses don't, and that's pretty lame. Also firearms have reared their ugly head. I haven't used any yet, just fought one boss who shot me, so we'll see if they end up being a welcome addition to the combat system, or just an annoyance.

Regardless, as long as I still get missions as ridiculous as "Save the Puppy!", I'll be happy.

27 September, 2008

Game Journal: Yakuza

I keep wandering around Tokyo. According to Japanophile James Mielke on a recent 1UP Show, the geography of the part of Tokyo presented is very authentic. Trying not to be outdone by the art team, the designers kept coming up with interesting events to have happen on the streets of Tokyo.

After leaving a local bar, I met a Yakuza from a hostile faction. But he just warned me that others would be after me. He came across as a cool guy. Another Yakuza from that faction was polite because he knew he didn't stand a chance in combat. It's a rare brawler where people avoid violence, and for various reasons.

If you want to see more examples, just highlight the hidden text below (or just read it if you're reading in an RSS reader or other browser that doesn't consider HTML colors). I should probably also mention that these encounters are only from chapter four.

**SPOILERS** (highlight to read)
The owner of a small club asked me to guard the door for a bit while she stepped away. A thug came up and started trouble. I beat him up. He came back with a friend. I beat them up. They came back with a large friend. I beat them all up. They gave up. Then the lady came back and gave me some money.

Yes. That story is stupid. But at a certain level it's real. The guy who's dumb enough to start trouble with the Yakuza bouncer is also the guy who's dumb enough to keep coming back with his dumb friends to start more trouble.

I ran into a lady who misplaced her office work. After finding it and bringing it back to her, she told me she's the crime reporter for a local news organization. I'll definitely be seeing her again. And why didn't she recognize me? I guess having been in prison for ten years, I'm from before her time. And she apparently didn't hear about me being accused of shooting Fuma yet. :P

Another lady asked me to help her with a punk kid who was stalking her. I went over to him. He said he knew Yakuza and would call them. I said to go ahead and call and waited for his buddy to show up before trashing them both.

I went to some batting cages and paid to hit a few balls. I wasn't good enough to get a prize, but I could tell that I could probably improve enough to win something if I had the time.

A Yakuza was trying to extort money from a restaurant by standing outside yelling about finding a roach in his food and saying he'd stop if they paid him. I beat him up.

A bum in an alley wanted sake. I gave him some. He asked me to drink with him. I did, and it made him happy.

Just wandering around, I found these underground stairs. Down and down I go into a giant dance club. Nothing was going on there, in game terms. I can't make my character dance or interact with anyone there. But knowing they went to the trouble to make it probably means it will be. And the fact that it's real, that I might be able to go to Tokyo and find it, is cool.

Three jerks were striding down an alley in colorful suits, taking up most of the street. I could have gone around, but their swaggering offended me. All I had to do was stand in front of them. They ran into me. One dialog option later, a fight broke out and I beat them up.

A bum told me about a hostess who carried him to the hospital when he was injured and everyone on the street was just passing him by. I went to the hostess club and spent some money on her to reward her good behavior. There were even dialog choices that let me talk to her about the bum and how grateful he was. Also, she told me about a ramen place where if you make a particular order, something special happens. It turns out there's a really nice casino under the restaurant. It's got proper gambling, unlike all the slot machines, crane games, and other scams in most of the city.


So there's not just gambling, there are many kinds. I'm surprised I haven't run into the back alley games (with the predictable brawl that breaks out when someone is caught cheating).

A hostess club is a place where you pay ridiculous sums simply to sit and talk to a woman. They're all over Tokyo, apparently. They seem like a huge waste of money, but I've never been loose with a buck. Anyway, I'd occasionally run into people on the street who knew or wanted to know one of the hostesses and would tell me things about them (generally what sorts of gifts to give them). And yes, there is at least one host club in the game for the ladies.

Plus you can eventually woo the hostesses. Putting a dating sim in a brawler. Yep. It's Japanese alright.

Putting all this stuff together just makes for an amazing texture. I mean sure, it's just fighting and fetch quests, but the different types of people and situations are really impressive. I mean it as high praise when I say the game reminds me a lot of Bully. In one way, it's even better. Bully had variety, but a very artificial mission structure. Many of the situations I run into in Yakuza are purely by accident. Sometimes the person may say something in passing to clue the player in that they have a mission, but many people say something in passing that have no mission. And sometimes the person has no indicator at all that they had a mission to give. To the extent it rewards randomly running into people, it's goofy. But to the extent it makes the place seem alive, it's awesome.

And unlike day three, there are more real missions, not just random punks. If I like random punks, I can still fight them. I just have to get drunk. When I'm drunk, people come out of the woodwork to try and beat me up. How perfect is that? If you want to get in a fight, go get drunk and wander through downtown Tokyo. :D And the level of attention paid to alcohol in this game is frightening.

I went to a hole in the wall bar in the ironically named Champion District. They had over a dozen types of alcohol, at many different price ranges, and told me way more than I ever expected to find out about them in a video game. I drank a 17 year old Ballantine's Scotch. It was made from 40 types of Scotch. If I paid more attention I might be able to tell you something about the region it's made in or how many malts or something that would mean something to Scotch drinkers. It told me at least one detail not present on the Ballantine's web site. Seriously!

The fighting is as basic as ever. But exploring the environment has enough surprises that I don't really care. How much more stuff could they have fit in this game? I'm crossing over from being impressed to being awed, which isn't as hard as you might think. Finding new situations and places in Yakuza is like finding ridiculous exploits was in Joint Ops. There can't possibly be more, can there? Wow! There is more! After that cycle repeats three or four times, the evidence that the game can do anything is overwhelming, and the game becomes legendary. I guess for most people, Grand Theft Auto 3 would be the best example.

But I keep thinking about how basic the fighting in Yakuza is, and how much of this content is stuff that I don't care about in other mediums. Why am I enthralled by a Virtual Tokyo Travel Guide where I pretend to be a criminal and beat people up?

Keepalive: Fallout, Grand Theft Auto

I have no new Fallout news to report... except that it is now free to play on Gametap. You're welcome.

In similar market type news, The Grand Theft Auto collection on Steam (GTA, GTA2, GTA3, Vice City, and San Andreas) is $15 on Steam this weekend. Unfortunately, it appears that the San Andreas Multiplayer mod doesn't work on the Steam version. :( Some people are saying you can get around that if you can find a 1.0 version of the exe to use. Maybe I'll fool around with that later. In the meantime, it's interesting to see what the game looks like at 1280x1024 with the draw distance turned all the way up.

Yeah, the high res makes the polygonal curbs stand out more, but being able to see billboards from the freeway is pretty sweet.

Vice City's looking pretty good, too.

Just the time I spent getting those screen shots was pretty weird. The control settings for the two games are significantly different. Heck, Vice City doesn't even have a walk button. I love walk buttons in games like this. Lets me strut. :)

Also the complete lack of mouselook while in vehicles in Vice City was an unpleasant surprise. :(

But that's just screwin' around. Mostly I've been playing Yakuza. Technically that's also just screwing around, but it's more interesting. It also deserves it's own entry. :P

26 September, 2008

Mechanics: Yakuza (Controls)

Many times I'll criticize a game's combat as unrewarding or simplistic. I'd like to be more specific in the future. Towards that end, I'm going to break down the brawling mechanics in Yakuza. Like the neuropsychology articles, this will be me casting about in the darkness of my own ignorance, so feel free to skip it.

For those of you still here, we'll start simple, by listing the tools the player receives. I'm going to assume you know the names of the buttons on the Playstation controller. Also, I use only male pronouns. So far, no females are combatants in Yakuza.

Blocking is on the L1 button. You can only block the way you're facing. You probably also can't block grabs, but I haven't encountered grappling enemies yet.

If you want to lock yourself into the direction you're facing, hold the R1 button. You can only shuffle back and forth, not run, but you can use the X button for quick shifts. This is good for sidesteps or getting in and out of range. Well, that's what they say it's good for. Considering how many times my combos lose their target, staying pointed in one direction doesn't strike me as useful. Quite the opposite. Plus the quick shifts are too short to be useful for dodging. I've upgraded them once, so maybe they're worth something now, but I'm guessing it will take one or two more upgrades.

The triangle button (once you've upgraded a bit) is the crouching charge kick. Hold it to charge, release to kick. You can't change directions once you start charging, so it's a high risk move.

The circle button is for grabbing. You can grab items to use as weapons. You can grab people to pummel or throw them. Throwing is great for getting breathing room because you can throw the guy in any direction, knocking down both him and his buddies. Large guys can't be thrown reliably, often falling on top of you, but can still be punched while held. You can use the triangle button to do a one punch knockdown, or you can use the square button to tenderize them a bit first. But like the charge kick, this is high risk. You're probably gonna get punched in the back if you don't end it quick.

The square button is for starting combos. Once a combo is started you can keep hitting square for more attacks or press triangle to do a knockdown finish (or press circle to grab your opponent if they're still standing). The interesting part about this system is that each finish is different.

- One combo attack and a finish throws a quick haymaker which knocks the opponent back.
- Two combo attacks and a finish throws a kidney punch which knocks the opponent to his knees, where they wheeze for a bit before collapsing. This is my favorite attack because you can still hit them while they're wheezing, effectively making an infinite combo (also called an infinite juggle).
- I think three combo attacks and a finish throws an uppercut, but I usually don't bother stopping at three.
- If I'm not doing the infinite combo, I go straight to four combo attacks and a finish (the longest combo I can currently do) which ends with some flashy kicks. But I don't use that too much. It's mostly throws and juggles. It's not a street fight. It's a circus act. :)

That covers the basics of the controls. You can also stomp on fallen foes (causing them to get back up faster) and if you've done enough successful attacks to get your "heat meter" up, you can grab a guy and press the triangle button near a table or wall to smack him into it. But those moves don't really do a ton of damage and reset the heat meter, making all attacks less powerful until it's back up again.

Next up, priorities.

Game Journal: Yakuza

I'm about three hours into Yakuza, at the start of chapter four. The atmosphere of the game is still the strongest point.

The fighting is fun, don't get me wrong. It's generally four or more against one, and even though they rarely pose a real threat, the variety of tools available to dispatch them with is gratifying. Throw a guy. Punch a guy in the breadbasket and watch him fall to his knees gasping before completely collapsing. Pick up a small bicycle parked on the street and clobber a guy with it. Grab a guy next to a wall, desk, or other appropriate object and smack him into it. Anticipate a guy getting up from a fall or running at you with a crouching charge kick. It's mean, but they started it. :P

But at the end of a bout, it generally feels pretty empty. The main reason I did well was because the opponents aren't attacking much yet. I can only block to the front, and I can't change facing when I block. The facing is so bad that I'll often land two or three blows on a guy, then find my combo is continuing straight into thin air while the guy I was punching is now beside me. That's frustrating. And it's only a matter of time before the opponents don't just stand there and it becomes a serious pain.

25 September, 2008

Game Journal: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

Don't despair, townsperson. Somewhere, out there, Kicky McBoots is kicking goblins into campfires.

Actually, this guy got up, danced around on fire, then ran away. I didn't want to deal with him later, so I chased him down and killed him. I felt like a #*$&. As Tycho from Penny Arcade said about the grunts in Halo, these little guys need compelling afterschool activities to keep them out of trouble, not hot ugly death.

I've played past the "twist" in the game. It's telegraphed so far in advance and so often that I can't really consider it an twist. I actually figured the game would end at that point and set up a sequel. I suppose I should have realized that I had so few skill points there must be more to go.

I also now have an indestructible shield. For some reason, shields are the only thing in the game with durability. I can carry dozens of glass potion jars, take a dozen hits, and never break one, but those shields just fall apart constantly. :P Plus, one of my shields went into negative durability and can neither be equipped nor dropped. It's just wasting space in my inventory. But now that I have a proper shield, I'm blocking projectiles like crazy and shield bashing opponents to create some breathing room to charge up my power strikes. I said it before, and I'll say it again. There hasn't been first person melee better than this.

The graphics are very pretty in spots, too.

Although why this numbskull with a bow is rushing a guy with a longsword and shield, I couldn't tell you.

A lot of the game is dark, though. Really dark.

But they give you night vision.

The game uses the Source Engine's High Dynamic Range lighting so that your eyes have to adjust when going from light to dark. There is a lot of contrast in the game, and sometimes I'm flipping between the two modes a lot. When I'm exploring ruins, it's cool. I'm using magic to see what is hidden. But when I'm moving down a corridor in the fortress of a wizard who was apparently too cheap to spring for enough torches, it's ridiculous. I suppose they designed it that way to give sneaky characters more places to hide, but they probably could have used lighter shadows and still gotten the point across.

24 September, 2008

Game Journal: Aliens Vs. Predator (Marine Campaign)

As I remembered it, the marine campaign was the weakest in the game. People criticized Doom 3 for having nonsensical closets that monsters would jump out of. That's probably fair as Doom 3 was built long after that sort of design went out of fashion. But people with rosy memories of AvP2's marine campaign should probably bite their tongues when that subject comes up. There are actually spots where I could see the aliens spawning out of thin air.

Also, there's not nearly as much tension in the marine campaign as there could be because the presence of aliens is almost always telegraphed by action music kicking up. The only reason the game is difficult is because the aliens are so fast. From the time you see them to the time they're on top of you felt like it was generally around three seconds. And frequently they'll use their tail attack which paralyzes you as they rip you apart with their claws. And let's not forget that if you kill them with ballistic weapons at that range, the acid cloud (pictured below) will do further damage.

This is a coup de grĂ¢ce delivered with a shotgun from a safe distance by a trained professional. Do not attempt. If you wish to fight aliens in close combat, try a flame thrower instead.

Mmm. Chitinous.

The atmosphere is still cool. The motion tracker, the aliens and alien infested areas, and the classic weapons make the experience worthwhile. I was overly conservative with my ammo, but when I did use the smartgun, the distinctive grip and sound (combined with the already classic fingerless gloves) brought back good memories.

Let's Ro>>>>ck!

Predators are barely present in the marine campaign, mostly just being ominous and and taking potshots from the shadows. When you finally do fight one, it's a complete letdown. The predator is short and sad looking and its tactics are laughable. The initial stalking bit, where you have to stay underneath it so it can't shoot you, is cool, but once it jumps down and the real fight begins, it's pretty sad.

I'm thinking I should leave the game alone for now and get back to Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

Game Journal: Fallout 1

Welcome to the story of Spacek, the sissy. It's my first time through Fallout and I'm playing a character with zero combat ability. That's almost literal. Her strength and endurance are both 1, and her agility is 2. On the plus side, her perception is 8, her charisma and intelligence are 9, and her luck is 10. I figured trying to get by in an irradiated wasteland full of monsters on her public speaking skills was going to require a lot of luck.

Her beginnings were... not promising. She was killed by the first rat outside of Vault 13. It really doesn't get worse than that, does it. Once I'd successfully escape the vault, though, things were a little better. I got to run away from bigger monsters.

I also discovered a nearby town and junk yard on the way to Vault 15. Everyone in town said to go talk to the town leader, but I could never find the guy. Maybe he only comes out during the daytime. I continued on to Vault 15. There was a mutant wombat guarding the place, so I ran away. The people in town had told me about some other towns, so I went exploring. This was where my luck paid off. I had a random encounter, but this time, with no monsters. Instead there was a crushed guy in a Godzilla footprint. He was carrying an invisibility device. Moving on to Junk Town I used my superior intellect to get the local crime boss to admit to an attempt on the sheriff's life. (It was totally entrapment, but this is Junk Town justice. :) Then, using the invisibility device, I got out of the way while the sheriff and his deputy cleaned up the crime boss and his henchman. All of this got me enough XP to advance to level 2.

So far, the brain over brawn path seems viable. I'll keep you apprised.

And yes, Wayne, I'm playing with Bloody Mess. :)

Saying Goodbye and Thoughts on Podcasting

The enthusiast press always has turnover. Often, it's people going to work for game companies. Luke Smith went to Bungie. Bryan Intihar went to Insomniac. Alex Navarro went to Harmonix.

Most recently Jeff Green and Shawn Elliot left the enthusiast press for jobs with EA and 2K Games, respectively. Because they were good at their jobs and because they shared their thoughts and feelings and humor with us via the more personal medium of podcasts, they are much missed. Luckily Jeff has a new blog (which contains profanity) and Shawn has his twitter (which contains even worse things, at times), so their fans can stalk them online. :) I wouldn't miss people who hadn't been on podcasts, though. It makes me think about podcasts versus articles.

Podcasts are good for the press because they can spend more time on what they want to talk about as opposed to what they've been assigned. And it makes them public figures, although that can be a mixed blessing.

Podcasts are good for the audience because it makes what people write easier to understand. I know what Garnett Lee's been playing. I know what he does and doesn't like about what he's been playing. I know some of what he thinks about the industry. I know his sense of humor. You could pull almost all of these things out of text, too, but podcasts make it easier, more natural. I guess that's just the nature of the medium.

I'm beginning to think that podcasts (especially ones which have more than one person so that there's someone like Garnett to play devil's advocate) may be the best possible format for reviews.

23 September, 2008

Challenge: Neuropsychology (Problem Solving)

Welcome back to my attempt to define how games challenge us by looking at the areas of brain function listed on the Wikipedia entry for Neuropsychology and seeing which ones games test.

This will be the last article in the "original series". I'm skipping Planning (as a subset of this article) and Thought (as a superset of previous articles). I'll do one more post to attempt a summation, hopefully bringing a few insights out of the effort, even though I lost my way halfway through. :P

What is problem solving?
Problem solving is what happens when an intelligence does not know how get from a current state to a desired state.

What types of problems are there?
The article on Wikipedia lists four main characteristics of difficult problems.

  1. lack of information

  2. multiple goals

  3. complexity (lots of stuff to keep track of)

  4. time considerations

For a game to be worth playing, it has to turn these sliders up enough to keep the player challenged, otherwise, what's the point? A platform game like Super Mario Brothers may not be complex at all, but will probably demand impeccable timing on very short notice. A turn based strategy game like Civilization may wait for player input until the computer ceases to function, but will probably be complex enough that the player will need to spend five or more minutes just to fully review their status (build queues, military strength, research progress, civil unrest), much less decide what to do next.

For a game to be playable, it generally needs to allow users ways to decide what level of difficulty is right for them. In some games, that's simply a menu option which changes some variables in the game (e.g. how much damage the player's weapons do). In others - most RPGs, for example - you can do a lot of planning to use the right weapons, right characters, and right attacks to defeat a tough monster, or you can just level up by fighting weaker monsters until you're tougher than the tough monster.

How are problems solved?
The Wikipedia article currently lists 28 different techniques. Many of which lead to pages with other lists. In the interest of brevity, I'll try and pick a few examples that jump out as worth discussing.

  • Trial and Error is a technique I've talked about a few times before. When the penalty for error feels steep, and the information given to make decisions feels insufficient, trial and error is very frustrating. But if a game has doesn't penalize too stiffly and makes failure entertaining, trial and error can be part of the fun. Lemmings is probably the most classic example of this.

  • Lateral Thinking is solving a problem, by changing one's own perceptions. Games play with this all the time, especially adventure games. "There's a key stuck to the ceiling. The broom won't reach. I can't knock it down with the football. What if force isn't the answer? What if I can use other properties of the items involved? What if I set the broom on fire and try to melt the glue?"

  • Research (often known as cheating) is finding out how other people solved the problem (or one like it). This is another way players decide what level of challenge they want to tackle. But there's often legitimate research in games, too, accessible from help menus, in game books, and non-player characters.

So what's the takeaway?
There are a lot of problem solving tools players bring to bear in gaming. Designers need to understand them, and how the tools they give players interact with them, to make challenges that feel worthwhile.

21 September, 2008

Keepalive: My Big Mouth Shuts, Yakuza, Republic Commando

Sorry for the slow updates. I've been spending some time with family I don't get to see very often.

I gave up on doing any good by arguing on the internet. I tried to be fair. I tried to stick to the point. I tried to overcome prejudice. I failed utterly.

Because the people I talked to had seen a lot of selfish, arrogant people on the other side of the D3 debate, they paint everyone who isn't "on their side" with that brush. It's prejudice. Just like racism, religious intolerance, and partisan politics. In the end, it hurts everyone.

And this is only toy prejudice. Nothing worse than a little stress has been caused here, and it's our own faults for taking ourselves too seriously.

And I'm caught in the paradox of what's at stake. Shouldn't the fact that there's so little at stake make this easy to resolve? But maybe it's the opposite, and with so little at stake, it's not worth the pain of eating our words and apologizing.

Enjoy the rush of anger. Be engaged in the challenge of trading insults. Be thrilled when you say something clever. It's just some self inflicted stress and an engaging waste of time. Geez, sounds like gaming, doesn't it?

Speaking of gaming, :) Yakuza and Yakuza 2 came in the mail. I'm actually surprised how similar the first game is to the demo I played of the second one. There's more fighting in the original. It's pretty annoying actually. You can't go two blocks without some hoodlums trying to accost you. At least they've got a little variety. Sometimes it's Yakuza. Sometimes it's common hoodlums. One time a gal yelled that I touched her butt, and her giant "boyfriend" said he'd let me go if I paid him.

Actually seeing a coordinated con in a video game was cool. It was just window dressing, really. There was only the binary choice of fighting or paying, but it was something different.

Because all my internet heroism was falling flat, I went for the comforting, familiar heroism of Republic Commando. I've learned to run rings around most of the bad guys, but that's part of the appeal of the title as "comfort gaming". I still love when the music comes up, exhorting me to play extra hard.

But sometimes I feel weird about that. These are the soldiers who will eventually serve the empire. We're the bad guys. It's like saluting a swastika. Sure, were fighting bad guys (trade federation aggressors, thieves, and slavers), but with that patriotic music always playing, I don't get the impression we're going to start disobeying once the orders to kill good guys start coming in. I should read the Karen Traviss Republic Commando books and see what happens after the game.

In the meantime, I've got thugs to pummel and battle droids to wreck. :)

17 September, 2008

Keepalive: My Big Mouth Rages On

The responses to my Diablo 3 posts were not well received. I'm still in there swinging, though. If you care, read it quick before they ban me. :)

I'm posting that link as a keepalive article because it's basically my article for the day. It was more writing and rewriting than I'd like to admit, and more than enough for one day.

16 September, 2008

Keepalive: My Big Mouth Keeps Flapping, Kicky McBoots Pictures

Yeah. Someone posted a movie of how Diablo 3 could look more like older Diablo games. Yeah. Someone in the enthusiast press was a *%^$ to them. Yeah. I got mad and flamed the $&*#. I should care about other things.

But at least I have another outlet for my wrath: kicking things in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. With how terrible the reviews were, I thought even ten dollars might have been overpaying. But so far the experience has been largely positive. Well, it's been positive for me.

It's been less positive for people standing near ledges

and for crates

and for cheesy barricades

For them, these are the end times.

There was actually one pretty cool fight where three goblins were trying to surround me. I saw a narrow bridge and ran onto it. I used charged up horizontal slashes and vicious bootings to hurl them to their dooms. As the last one fell, Another three goblins attacked me from behind and got the same treatment. First person melee still stinks, but this is the best experience I've ever had with it. Well, technically I've had knife runs in Joint Ops I've enjoyed more because of how ridiculous they were, but this actually felt like something approaching tactical melee in first person. It just isn't done.

12 September, 2008

Keepalive: God of War 2, Kingdom of Loathing, Aliens vs Predator 2, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Yakuza 2

Okay, so I've only got one more psych article to write, but I'm actually enjoying games again. For a week after PAX, I had no interest in touching a game. Well, technically I was interested in Mercenaries 2, but user HotSake on the PA boards told me the PC version was pretty terrible, so it'll wait until I get a 360. This means I will probably pick it up for $20 much later on. It can join EDF, Crackdown, and Dead Rising as guilty pleasures for the 360.

In the meantime, I got sidetracked from blogging to play through God of War 2 finally. I don't feel like writing up a full review. It had nice production values but not so nice gameplay. Difficulty was very uneven, resulting in really difficult bits followed by pushover bosses. Techniques didn't build on each other, so the game never really felt like a progression. Some of the puzzles made no sense and killed the momentum. And as the second in a trilogy, the ending was lame by design. 3 of 5.

The more important milestone came as I finally wore out my original PS2 controller (namely the L1 and L2 buttons). That controller served me faithfully for so many years, through so many games. It will be missed.

I decided to wander over to Kingdom of Loathing. I was pretty impressed with the amount of extra content in the game. I think the main thing missing now is a way to manage it. My character's inventory is pages long. I always have the walkthrough wiki up in another window because with only so many turns per day, if I fight five fights and don't make any progress towards my goal, I want to make sure I'm not wasting my day. I'm kind of dreading the final confrontation in the game. It was ridiculously arduous and long when I first beat it. I shudder to think how much longer it's gotten.

For no good reason (or possibly because of the upcoming Aliens game being developed by Gearbox), I reinstalled Aliens vs Predator 2. I enjoy that game. There are some minor graphical glitches, which isn't unexpected on a game that old trying to run on modern hardware and drivers. But it plays fine. I think this will be my third time through the game. Once per PC, and trust me, that first PC was not equipped. Of course, by modern standards the environments are often pretty barren, but the second the motion tracker picks up movement, it doesn't matter what anything looks like. There's nothing but fear and firepower, in the marine campaign anyway.

My favorite is actually the Predator campaign. It has the best toys to play with, by which I mean the marines. Playing hit and run with them never got old for me. Fighting the aliens generally sucked as it was mostly just the same thing as in the marine campaign, by which I mean running backwards and shooting.

The alien campaign is really great the first time, but the opening stealth bits felt a bit tedious the second time through, so I'm guessing they won't be very interesting this time around either. But in general being able to run up walls and pounce on people from fifteen meters away is pretty fun. And you get health back by eating brains. Who doesn't love that?

I also ran through the demo for Dark Messiah of Might and Magic a few times. I'd heard the way to play the game was to simply kick every adversary into conveniently place spikes and off of ubiquitous cliffs. That appealed to me and the demo delivered. It may be worth the ten bucks they're asking for it on Steam just to enjoy kicking people in more varied environments. Kicky McBoots in the Land of Cliffs and Spikes. :)

Also, I'm thinking about picking up Yakuza 2. There's only one review posted thus far (and from IGN :P ), so I'll probably hold off for another week, but barring any giant red flags, I'll probably pick it up. In the short time I had with it at PAX, I was impressed with the atmosphere. Learning that it includes the Japanese voiceovers and is coming out for PS2 at $30, well, it's the kind of effort I like to support. Yay! I'm an art house gamer!

08 September, 2008

Challenge: Neuropsychology (Perception)

Welcome back to my attempt to define how games challenge us by looking at the areas of brain function listed on the Wikipedia entry for Neuropsychology and seeing which ones games test.

I'm skipping Memory as a subset of Learning. I'm skipping Motor Coordination as the use of fine motor skills in most games (and gross motor skills in certain rhythm games) don't require any in depth explanations. The same could be said of this article's subjet, Perception, but it had a couple concepts I found worth mentioning.

What is perception?
Perception (specifically sensory perception) it how the brain turns electrical signals from sense organs into "information". It crosses over with arousal because it's often about which sensory input is deemed important enough to pay attention to.

What types of perception are there?
For gaming, mostly sight and sound are used. Some games also use the relatively crude mechanism of rumble or force feedback to use the sense of touch to convey information.

How does perception work?
We don't really know. But we do know that a lot of factors go into determining whether a stimulus is perceived: intensity, duration, the abilities and limitations of the relevant sense organ (see also: colorblindness in color matching puzzle games), number of competing stimuli; priorities of the perceiver.

How is perception fun?
I wouldn't call perception fun. I'd call it stimulating or engaging. Take the first boss fight in God of War. On the deck of a ship during a storm, the protagonist fights a giant three headed monster. The rain is pouring, the monster is attacking, the music is blaring. It fills the senses to bursting. Then take a horror game. Often times they deprive players of sensory input, letting them guess what might be waiting for them in the silent shadows, making every movement and sound, no matter how brief, no matter how small, cause for concern.

How is perception not fun?
When the the important stimuli are too difficult to distinguish, it can be very frustrating.

Since I haven't mentioned this before, chunking (or learning to group incoming data into meaningful groups) is an important part of perception (and learning and memory). Many games tend to have recurring patterns that, once learned, make perception much easier. Instead of seeing a stream of "notes" in a rhythm game, the player sees familiar patterns (something like learning to see arpeggios or chords in sheet music). Much as we learn to see words instead of the letters that comprise them, chunking is how we gain "fluency" in a game's language. It's gratifying to achieve, if the language is an interesting one.

I'll leave the question of what constitutes an interesting language for later.

So what's the takeaway?
While the process of perception may be fairly automatic, any game designer who doesn't understand human perception is probably going to make confusing, unpleasant, and uninteresting games.

07 September, 2008

Challenge: Neuropsychology (Learning)

Welcome back to my attempt to define how games challenge us by looking at the areas of brain function listed on the Wikipedia entry for Neuropsychology and seeing which ones games test.

The last article, on Decision Making, sucked. I'll return to the topic later, provided subsequent topics (like planning and problem solving) don't cover what I wanted decision making to cover. But in the meantime, on with learning.

What is learning?
Learning, like decision making, covers a lot of ground. Fundamentally, it's the acquiring of knowledge. There is conscious learning and unconscious learning. Conscious learning is intentional, motivated. (How do I get past the troll?) Unconscious learning is done when we form responses to stimuli without thinking about them. (A ding sound usually means money or some other good thing.) Games are generally very goal oriented, so they tend to test conscious learning.

What tools do players get for learning?
Some games give the player help text (in a manual, in the game's help screen, in dialog, in context sensitive pop ups) and challenge the player to apply the knowledge contained therein. Some games give opportunities for observation. Some games rely on trial and error. All of these can be done well (even trial and error, though I usually hate it). And all can be done poorly.

How is learning fun?
Being able to make sense of something that didn't make sense before can give feelings of mastery and accomplishment.

How is learning not fun?
Many times learning is a letdown. When it turns out there is less under the surface than I thought, or when I find a boring dominant strategy, that's when learning can wreck a game.

Learning can only happen when a proper foundation has been laid. If a game assumes players understand Schenkerian analysis going in, that game is going to be very frustrating for most people. While that's an extreme example, games have required knowledge of counting systems outside of base ten, knowledge of the properties of light, and knowledge of how gas and fluid pressure work.

Motivation is a key part of conscious learning. Sure, I could spend a lot of time figuring out the best possible configuration of magic gems in my sword, but if the game's not hard to begin with, why bother?

So what's the takeaway?
From play mechanics to the way information is displayed to the controls, even the simplest games can require a lot of learning.

04 September, 2008

Challenge: Neuropsychology (Decision Making)

Welcome back to my attempt to define how games challenge us by looking at the areas of brain function listed on the Wikipedia entry for Neuropsychology and seeing which ones games test.

I'm skipping consciousness. No game tries to literally knock you unconscious. Some are boring enough or addictive enough to put you to or keep you from sleep, but that's generally not what the game itself is supposed to be testing.

Decision Making
Much like attention, decision making is a broad area of study. But basically, it's about making choices. Sid Meier (of Civilization fame) said, "A game is a series of interesting choices."

Most games give the player a goal, information, and actions they can perform, then let the player make the decision. In a strategy game like Civilization the goal is generally conquest. The information the player receives comes in the form of world maps and city information screens. They have to make decisions like what to build and where to send troops. These decisions are often made minutes apart. In an action game like Devil May Cry, the goal is usually winning in personal combat. The information comes from enemy appearance and animations. Decisions generally revolve around positioning, attacking, and defending. Dozens of decisions must be made in any given minute, without hesitation.

Many games have multiple levels of decision making. Take the average RPG. How should I arrange the characters in my group? What equipment do I buy them? When they gain levels, how do I allocate their skill / attribute points? What spells should they learn? While these decisions all have an impact on combat, they are not the same types of decisions that must be made in combat. Some of these decisions are risk management. Some are economics. Some are aesthetic choices. Some are straight algebra.

Long story short, Sid Meier was right. Games are all about decisions.

P.S. There are definitely more articles worth writing in this space. I kept starting off down tangents and having to rein this thing back in. I'm not particularly happy with the result. I don't feel this article says anything I didn't already know and know well. But the foundation needed to be laid.

PAX 2008: The Games

Hands on

PAX was crowded. This was a problem for some games.

Left 4 Dead had two banks of four systems. I heard that people from the aisles were sitting down at them, essentially cutting the line. I'm not blaming them. It could have been an honest mistake. But the fact that I stood in line for an hour and a half and we rocked through the demo level in what felt like seven minutes did not leave me happy. The game itself was solid. We'll enjoy it at our LAN parties.

Little Big Planet had one station when I was there. 58,500 PAX attendees and one Little Big Planet Station. Yeah. Sony has faith in this game being a system seller. And I have a bridge you might want to buy.

The guy running it was giving thirty minute demos. Then when I got my turn a competent woman started running it. Man, @%*& that first guy (and the Escapist writer who came back for multiple demos). I waited two hours and ten minutes for a ten minute demo.

And to top it all off, my fears about Little Big Planet were very much on target. It's fun to goof around with four people causing trouble. But I don't think the game will be strong enough to pull off single player. The jump button only seemed to work half the time, and the physics were exactly the kind of floaty imprecision I've come to expect from physics based platformers (except for N, which is really awesome except for the fact that there's nothing to do but jump and dodge, so I get bored).

On the plus side, you'll never have to hear me talk about the game again unless it starts doing phenomenal sales.

So, I've already described nearly four hours worth of expo hall time and have only seen two games. Eventually, I got around to seeing games with less demand and more stations.

I'm afraid for the new Destroy All Humans. It was a little choppy, which is weird because Mercenaries 2 which is from the same studio and is already out, looked and felt really nice. I'll be looking for a good price on Mercs 2 when the PC version hits.

Simply because it had no line, I took a test drive of Yakuza 2. I have never heard anyone say that Yakuza is like the Shenmue game SEGA never talks about. But that's what it felt like to me, as I wandered down Japanese streets, reading snippets of random conversations, wandering in and out of stores; fighting off a band of street punks. I'll be very interested to read some reviews when it hits the PS2. The rich feel of the environment also reminded me of Bully. That is a good thing.

I also got hands on with some older games.

Ratchet and Clank for the PS2 was my favorite franchise. On the PS3, I was less impressed. The install process and load times were slow, the frame rate was a little hitchy, and the graphics were nowhere near the Pixar quality that had been touted by various outlets. The pace of the game also felt sluggish. I kept wondering when something awesome would happen, but all the moments that were intended to be awesome felt scripted and dull. I'll probably still enjoy the game someday, but one of my major reasons for even considering a PS3 just went poof.

Earth Defense Force 2017 is now ordered. It will be sitting in wait for the glorious day when there is a cheap, reliable 360 to play it on. Or possibly a backwards compatible Xbox 720. :P While I'm sure Destroy All Humans 2 on the original Xbox will remain the sci-fi blasting game of choice, I will still force my weekly co-op partner to partake in the joy that is EDF. (Hi partner!)

Eyes on

Red Faction: Guerrilla didn't look like the greatest game (The demo was just deathmatch, and the feedback upon shooting someone seemed lacking.), but watching a guy break through a concrete wall with a sledgehammer then leap through the hole and ragdoll a guy with a follow up swing was cool.

Mirror's Edge looked like every other online video I've seen of it. I still don't feel I've seen enough to know if there's a game there, or if it's just another Assassin's Creed (probably not enough variety to keep it interesting).

BioWare's Sonic the Hedgehog RPG for the Nintendo DS looked solid. I thought the combat system mostly looked like Paper Mario except instead of using timed button presses to get extra damage and defend yourself, it used stylus taps and rolls like in Elite Beat Agents. It will almost certainly be the best Sonic game since forever.

StarCraft 2 looked like StarCraft.

Legendary looked Average.

Three days later, nothing else is coming to mind as worth writing about. I'm sure if the public at large actually read this they'd all be screaming about games I overlooked, but the truth is the convention floor was packed and noisy and full of lines. I didn't really want to be there much.

Epic Fail

There was no Wii Motion Plus at the show. Wii Music, the symbol of everything that was wrong with Nintendo at E3, had multiple stations, of course.

I didn't even know Dead Space was playable. I would have like to have at least seen it.

01 September, 2008

PAX 2008: The People

PAX is dead. Long live PAX.

For me personally, PAX actually wasn't as fun as last year. It was still very good, but last year was more valuable to me because I'd forgotten how good spending time with gamers was. And even though I went in expecting a lot from my fellow gamers this year, the people of PAX did not disappoint.

The Gamers
Astayonix and Electric Turtle's Pre-PAX dinner was an event I was happy to attend (and help clean up after). I wish Chris Taylor had speechified less so that he, the BioWare folks, and the Valve folks could have all held court separately.

Atlus Parker did a fine job of running the Harry Potter themed "Triwizard Drinking Tournament". Drunk nerds high fiving passersby, chanting, and singing are generally quite fun. I might have had more fun at the Shorty's and IRC gatherings, but I was glad to help wrangle the wizards.

Breakfast with Mr. T and B:L (These are forum handles, obviously) was also very pleasant, and I regretted being unable to catch up with Mr. T for console freeplay later in the show. I did get to play EDF 2017 (a co-op third person shooter with a fifties kind of vibe and lots of buildings to knock down) with Gerard from Cambridge, England who I had never seen before and will likely never see again. He was nice.

HotSake was very friendly and invited me to play Mechaton (LEGO wargaming) with him, redhalo, PeasantDave, and a couple other guys I don't remember. He also coordinated some epic win by surprising Felicia Day with a letter from Bad Horse (from Dr. Horrible). She was apparently so tickled she asked them to autograph the letter for her. I reiterate: epic win.

These are only the gamers from day zero (Pre PAX) and day one. And I even skipped some people. (Hey Anngaricus. :)

Piles of random PAX pics. (WARNING: Some alcohol abuse depicted.)

The Press
Walking in on the first day, I got to walk next to Shawn Elliot from 1UP. I asked if he was going to the 1UP panel. No. The Dawn of War panel. Maybe. Then I was going to tell him I was interested to see Left 4 Dead, but realized he'd already played it on PC, so what did he care? In the end, I was kind of sorry for the press at PAX. It's a party for us. But they're expected to write articles to justify their plane fare. Yikes.

Since Ryan O'Donnell was injured and unable to attend PAX, David Ellis was kind enough to pass on my Blaster Master buttons to him. Yay David Ellis!

The Industry Folk
I didn't have much interaction with the industry folk at the show. A guy at the Sony booth was saying how they didn't have Little Big Planet bags at the moment. I was waiting in the Little Big Planet line next to a huge pile of the bags, so I grabbed a dozen and took them over. The guy saying that was gone, but apparently some other Sony people who saw me do it told him about it, and he sought me out in the line to give me a Resistance 2 shirt. That's pretty classy.

On the way home I got to sit next to an artist for the Command and Conquer series. He told me that the delays for Tiberium were the normal "it's not done yet" delays. Good job EA for not releasing an unfun game. Here's hoping the extra time and money the company is putting in can make the difference.

I also got to sit next to a PR rep for a pile of different MMOs. I don't much care for MMOs. And he confirmed that for someone into action games like myself, there really aren't any MMOs out there. That guy travels like crazy: China, Korea, the US; Europe. He talked about how trying to move Chinese MMOs to the US and vice versa isn't working at all. He talked about how Chinese culture makes free to play much more viable there. (I couldn't quite hear his explanation, though. It had something to do with how they view heroism.) Anyway, I probably should have taken notes. He knows a lot.

All in all, there were tons of awesome people to meet and talk to at PAX. Now, on to the lesser elements of the show.