Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lolipops and SUNSHINE!

Okay. I realize I’m a pretty Negative Nancy on the site here, and it can be a drag reading me piss and moan about everything day in and day out. I try to keep a fresh load of steaming CONTENT on the front page for you guys to get yer lulz, but yeah… I tend to write in a pretty negative fashion. Not today! Today I will hereby present to you the Internet List of Things That Make Iso Happy. It might be short, but may give you insight into my tiny mind and what makes me hate everything else not on the list.

Woo, let's get this started!

I love toys. This can be taken in pretty much any way you can think of, and still be correct. I love little plastic action figure crap, although I don’t really play with them myself anymore. Whenever I see my nephews or neighbor’s kids with something cool, though, I can geek out with them on how awesome it is, and be totally genuine. No, I don’t have 10 zillion anime character figurines on my desk. I actually worked at an anime shop in Berkeley for a while, and totally blew that fuse in my head. It was intense while it lasted, but that portion of my life is over.

This toy thing carries over into gaming, though, and I think everyone that games is kinda on the same page in this respect. I doubt there’s anyone out there that wants to play through a game without getting new guns or devices to play with. Games like Ratchet and Clank, where you end up with 20+ weapons or whatever over the course of the game are good solid fun. I love hopping classes in the middle of a Team Fortress match depending on how the match is swaying. I especially enjoy playing that class in an FPS that gets C4 packs, running through a door, slapping a few on the wall around the door itself and just crouching and waiting with my finger on the detonator for someone to pass through, or (even better) getting someone’s attention from across the map, and having them chase me into a trap I laid. Even if I blow myself up in the process, hitting that detonator switch and catching them in the explosion is fun. I love that kinda shit.

On the flip side of that same coin, I love using a vanilla weapon effectively. Staying with the FPS thing, I used to play Rainbow Six way back before they went to Vegas or whatever. I think that may have been my first exposure to the MP5, or its cousin the UMP. These two guns are my go-to guns in any game that allows me to use them. Often, they suck (especially the UMP), compared to ‘better’ guns like the G3 or whatever. While everyone else is running around with golden Desert Eagles, I’m staying with the default 9mm. I die more than other people, but maybe I have more fun doing it?

The vanilla thing extends to other games as well. I play Ken almost exclusively in Street Fighter, with a dash of Chun-Li if I want to mix it up. My warrior in WoW was prot, my druid resto, my warlock affliction. I tried to make daggers work for my rogue until I was told specifically by the guild to just go fucking swords and get it over with. I feel like mages should be using a staff. Paladins should be using some kind of hammer.

I like well lit, colorful environments. There’s this whole genre of games that employs the flickering fluorescent bulb as a mood element, and I hate it. This article isn’t about what I hate, though! I like being able to see everything around me, and the further I can see (and still walk to) the better. Age of Conan’s Conall Valley had this nailed. It’s a valley (duh), but you can climb up one side, spin the camera around, and really get a feel of the scope of the area. Riding down into Un’goro Crater for the first time gives you a sense of wonder. Ratchet and Clank have gorgeous environments, too, but about 75% of what you see on the screen at any given moment is just background. You can’t actually jump over to that other building. Having a huge playfield that you can actually engage in is awesome.

I live and die for Co-op. I can’t remember the first co-op game I played off the top of my head, but I can think of a few early ones that I loved to play. Gauntlet, Joust, Smash TV, NARC, Forgotten Worlds, or any of the many early Commando / Ikari Warriors clones. The previously mentioned Rainbow Six series offered a co-op Terrorist Hunt mode where you and friends online could creep through a 747 taking out terrorists and rescuing hostages. While Counterstrike and Call of Duty 4 allow for some good ‘I’ll cover you, plant the bomb’ scenarios, they don’t seem to capture the same essence of Diablo or Toejam and Earl, where you’re actually playing the level in tandem. Any RTS game normally gets glossed over by me, unless I have a roommate or friend in vent and we’re on the same team. I can play RTSes against the computer with a friend all day long, but if I’m alone I just don’t really bother. Likewise, playing an RTS against someone else usually results in me having my ass handed to me, and generally isn’t very enjoyable.

I think this is one of the reasons why the MMO market is so huge. MMOs are just really big co-op games. In WoW, while it’s technically possible to reach the level cap alone, it generally lends itself to playing together with friends or guild mates. Games like LotRO might have even tighter communities; the guild I was in during my trial of the game seemed to take a certain pride in the fact they weren’t playing WoW, and it was a bond that brought them closer, if that makes sense. You won’t last long at all in EVE without a corporation to watch over you. The mechanic is put into place to meet new people, and the content is there to go run together. Even when you’ve run Kara till your eyes bleed, some of the best times I’ve had in WoW were doing sloppy Kara PUGs in vent with an Australian friend of mine who I’ll likely never meet face to face.

Innovation is a word that’s thrown around as the holy grail of gaming, but to an extent, it really isn’t as big a deal as polish. There’s this whole hullabulloo about Alone in the Dark going on right now. It’s supposedly this great idea of a game that’s marred by horrible execution. Here’s my review, right in the middle of this other article:

Alone in the Dark, a review by Iso

I started the game, set up my save file, and found myself barely conscious, with mysterious people cursing in a room with blood on the floor. I found I had to push down on the Wii’s dpad to blink every once in a while. By the fifth or sixth blink, I was already wondering if this was going to last the entire game. I walked down a hallway excruciatingly slowly, and someone died or something. I think I missed it blinking. Then I was in some elevator shaft, and some lady was screaming for me to help her. I grabbed a firehose, and began to swing around on it until I fell off and died. Then I ejected the disc from my Wii and will probably never put it back in again. At least I didn’t pay 60 bucks for it? The End.

This whole “what do I like” article was inspired by an anonymous comment in my last article, where they asked “Do you like anything about gaming? By your weekly articles it doesn't seem so. My question is, why continue in it if it is such a negative bother in your life?”

In many cases, I just don’t. In a game like Alone in the Dark, I can realize in the first five minutes of gameplay that the rest of the game isn’t going to redeem itself and suddenly become ‘fun’. The elevator shaft was dark and the hallway leading to it were both ‘oh boy it’s dark isn’t that spooky’. I subsequently found myself on a foot wide catwalk that offered no exploration options other than to walk ‘straight towards the firehose which tells you to press A when you get close enough’, and even then, I wasn’t sure why I wanted to climb the firehose anyway. Some bitch I had never met was already demanding I assist her when it would seem I had bigger fish to fry at the moment, and I couldn’t even tell where she was yelling at me from, since I couldn’t move the camera around to see. When I pressed the previously unlabeled ‘let go of the firehose and plummet to your death’ button, it pretty much sealed the deal, and was enough to know this wasn’t the game for me.

I bide my gaming time with WoW, while trying out different things that come along, but honestly I don’t suffer through them more than necessary. In many cases, many games offer something different, but while the premise might exist in one form or another, the delivery of said implementation is so ham handed that it just isn’t worth suffering through. Conan’s innovative combat system lacked polish. Yes, it was certainly different, but it wasn’t very fun. Or maybe it was fun for a little while, but I can’t imagine myself doing the Salvo Combo on my ranger for 2 years and not having it wear thin.

If my articles seem like I’m just griping over and over, take it with a grain of salt, and remember we complain most loudly about subjects we love. I love gaming; it’s pretty much my big hobby. Film critics also crap all over shitty movies. The thing to realize though, is that I complain most because usually the company ALMOST got it, then they let money get in the way, and they dropped the ball. Conan should not be on sale yet. The iPhone should not demand that I pay another 70 dollars a month for some crappy 3G internet connection when I pay for faster broadband internet at home, especially if I don't give a toss about surfing Google in parking lots. You shouldn’t have to grind spiders over and over and over in the Bone Wastes in WoW to pay for the right to raid (flask costs, etc). When something good comes along, I do my part and say all the right good things. It’s just that recently, the system has been in a slump of suckage. Just look at this year’s E3; while it used to be Christmas day for the gaming public, the entire gaming press is crapping all over it this year because there’s nothing there to report on.

To end this on a somewhat unrelated side note, I read the same gaming sites you guys do, and for all intents and purposes, we’re on the same level news-wise. No game companies send us exclusive builds of betas or press releases for upcoming stuff. I troll the boards looking for stuff to relay back, but a lot of what I find is pretty disappointing and so that’s what makes it back. I you have any gems, feel free to drop me a line, and let’s get more unicorns and dandelions on the front page together!


1 comment:

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