Besides being a fanatic gamer, one of my other hobbies (other than tearing up the drums) is being an avid reader. I’ve been in and out of it the past few years, but recently I’ve begun to pick up books again. One of my favorite authors at the moment is Karen Traviss, who you might know from her successful Republic Commando novels (which themselves were based off of a video game). Recently, Karen has been doing the writing duties on both the Gears of War novels and the third game, but she’s also announced that she’s taking up the mantel of Halo after Greg Bear is done with his Forerunner trilogy. Novel tie-ins are becoming more and more pronounced in the games industry, so I pose this question to you guys: have you ever read a video game book?
So, StarCraft 2 is finally out as of last week. You’ve been playing it, I’ve been playing it, and Eddy wishes he’s been playing it. Now that we’ve had a good amount of time to digest Blizzard’s long-in-the-making sci-fi RTS follow up, I thought I’d start a little topic where we could discuss our thoughts on the single and multiplayer portions and maybe start a little Battle.net group so you can wail on me as often as you like.
Starting with the single player, I have to say that the game is very, very solid in its design. Blizzard has been tweaking and polishing the balance on all of their games for a long time, and it really shows in the tightness of the units and how they counter-act against each other. While you do get access to a wider variety of troops in the single player game, they’ve all been assigned a specific role much like their multiplayer counter-parts. There are no “god-units” here, just one that might happen to do better in a given mission. While so far the designs of the missions themselves haven’t really stood out, I’ve been able to do fairly well and I haven’t become frustrated with impossible goals or cheap AI tactics.
Between missions, you can explore Jim Raynor’s battlecruiser The Hyperion. Along the way, you’ll stock the ship with various characters who will aid you in your quest or provide you with missions and upgrades. Exploring your ship is a cross between Mass Effect and an old-school point and click adventure game in that you can talk to or click on anyone and anything, but it’s all done without ever taking direct control of Jim. I liked this part of the game a lot as it added a lot of personality to characters we’re used to seeing from a top-down view. The ability to augment units with Protoss and Zerg tech is also a welcome addition because of how it changes the dynamic of the units. Again, it won’t make any one unit over-powered but the upgrades do give you a nice edge. Like I’ve mentioned before I’m finding the mission design a little samey, but it is improving the farther I get into the game. Once the story starts rolling, you get hooked pretty easily.
Now, I’m going to let you guys go to town on multiplayer, because StarCraft has always had a steep learning curve. I’m not exactly terrible at the game, but a competent player could wipe the floor with me easily. I’ve been doing a few comp stomps with a buddy, and those have been great fun in addition to letting me practice my build orders and hotkey commands. So what do you guys think of StarCraft 2?
Over the weekend, I’ve been dabbling a bit in a couple of newly release titles. One is, obviously, StarCraft 2, but the other is Limbo, newly up for purchase as part of X-Box LIVE’s Summer of Arcade. I didn’t really follow the story of Limbo that closely, but I knew it was a side-scrolling platformer with a unique look. I tried the demo and immediately bought the full game, mostly because of how much the art style appeal to me. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Limbo, check out the trailer. Among other cliched terms, I’d call it hauntingly beautiful and very atmospheric. In addition to looking as gorgeous as a game that dark can it also features some slick puzzles and grotesque punishments for failure (seriously, you get messed up).
The game’s visual presentation got me thinking, though. The farther into the future we get with game consoles, the closer to life everyone seems to want their graphics. While some big-budget titles stretch the limit of what is acceptable by our real-life standards (Gears of War’s improbably bulky protagonists come to mind), video games are getting closer and closer to emulating what we perceive through our own two eyes. Games like Limbo, Braid and many similar titles show us that we don’t have to constrain everything to an Earth-bound package. Perhaps one of the barriers to the “games as art” argument is that this visual medium doesn’t add anything that movies have already done in this respect. That’s probably why Braid got tossed around a lot when this issue got brought up the first time; it looks like a painting come to life, much like Limbo. So I ask you guys this: do you want more games to stretch the graphical barrier and start using different ways to interpret what we see? Or do you think that sort of experimentation is confined to downloadable titles? Fire away!
Starcraft II. It’s out. It’s been clamored for since last decade. And now everybody and their mom seems to be playing it. Well, everybody that is, except me. You see, I’ve found myself in a bit of a pickle over Starcraft II’s epic release.
Here’s the rundown: it’s been almost 5 years since I upgraded my PC. I think I did it the year I got married, which was all the way back in 2005, before the days of Leet World. In fact, TLW was part of the reason that I upgraded in the first place, in order to get ready for that kind of work. As such, my PC can just barely play SCII, much to my sadness.
So, I’m left with a bit of a choice. I was hoping to upgrade sometime in the next 5-6 months, which will make my PC able to easily tackle this grand RTS. However, I still want to play it, and play it now, because I feel like I’m missing out on all the fun. The problem is, on my crappy system, I’m not sure how much fun it will actually be.
What would you guys do if you were in my shoes? I thought I’d put it to a vote. Go!
One thing that can put a damper on a good night of fun in the online world of gaming would have to be the advent of rage quitting, something that plagues even the most congenial of multiplayer matches. It’s hard to escape, really. As long as there are people playing games, there will be people that grief and people that quit.
And this is something that Bungie hopes to put a stop to. In a recent chat with Xbox360 Achievements, Bungie community director Brian Jarrard had a few things to say about a new system they’re implementing into Halo: Reach to help weed out the rage quitters from the rest of the population. The idea is that these people will be penalized in order to keep the overall experience more enjoyable.
We’ve talked about the idea of when to quit online matches, but I still thought I’d bring this up. What do you guys think of punishing people that habitually quit games? Personally, I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I think it does indeed ruin the experience for other people in some ways. But on the other, if I pay 60 bucks for a game, I feel like it’s almost my right to enjoy it how I please, and that doesn’t include letting someone grief me for an entire match or playing a really hated gametype. Obviously, it’s a tricky ground to navigate, but my advice would be to find better ways to penalize griefers before penalizing quitters, but that’s just me.
So what do you guys think about quitting online games? Do you agree with Bungie’s new proposed tactic? Go!
Before I head off to commit genocide, I run back into the local tavern to gather some info. Nothing too exciting going on, but I did find a Heckran Bone. Remember that pink dog? *Sigh* I guess I will go ahead and have him join my party. You know, for posterity. What follows is a transcript of exactly what Poshul says when you offer him the Heckran Bone: “Sergiepoo? A p-p-pretenth!? F-F-or I!?” Already, I am regretting this decision and wondering if I can somehow boot him from the team. The music that plays when the game tells you that Poshul has joined you is directly from Chrono Trigger, so I guess all is forgiven. Maybe these Square guys know what they’re doing after all.
I travel just a little bit south to Lizard Rock, a jungle/beach area that has not aged well in the last decade, thanks to decaying polygons. The enemies here are no match for my New Game +, so fret not, dear readers. The real challenge is sneaking up on the Komodo Dragon Pups. The little bastards see you coming a mile away and run off at the first sign of trouble. I’ve had a change of heart and decided they all need to die for this. I manage to trap one in a cave and it’s time to fight! A few quick hits later and that kick ass music from Chrono Trigger is playing again! That sure hits the sweet spot.
Okay, one scale down, two to go. The second one leads me on a merry chase, but fares no better than the first once I catch it. One more to go! This is a little too easy. I might be feeling guilty about this again…NOT! The third Pup goes down faster than Paris Hilton and my quest is complete.
Continue reading Chrono Cross Game Blog Part II: Pink Puppies and Rejection