Friday, June 29, 2012

The Steamworks: So You Want F2P Games?


Hey Gang,

For the past five years or so, there's been a huge amount of debate and discussion in the gaming community circling F2P, or Free to Play, video games. One of the most popular questions concerning F2P is "How does a company make money off F2P games?" and, by further extension, "What does it mean for a game to go from a fee model to a F2P model?" Today, I'd like to explain why F2P might not be the best option not only for game companies but for gamers themselves.

Let's start by looking at benefits of F2P games; obviously, for the customer, there is (usually) no money involved to utilize the product, which, come on, who doesn't like free stuff? Since people like free stuff, more people will likely check out the product, which is good for gaming companies; more people makes you as a company look like you're doing something right. Well, one might ask why more people a good thing. The more players you have, the more people will likely be on your website; therefore, many other companies will want to pay your company huge loads of cash to advertise on your site.

So, by that description, F2P games shouldn't be a bad thing at all, or at least one would think so.Yet this is not how it always turns out, and it also has an effect on many other MMOs*. With F2P games all around the internet, many people just don't see the sense in paying for a subscription based game; as if it wasn't already semi-challenging for companies to coerce people into playing monthly. Now companies have to deal with talking people into buying a product versus using another one that's completely free. When people see the word free, they're sold; they'll usually take it and at the very least sample it. This competition has caused famous AAA** MMOs such as World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and even newer titles such as Star Wars: the Old Republic and Rift to integrate some sort of F2P model (such as free to play areas or free access up to a certain level). A game that I recently had this frustration with is DCUO; over the past few months, they restricted the F2P members to a level cap of 30 because they weren't making the money they thought they were going to with their new model.

I think it's also fair to say that companies with F2P games usually don't care as much about maintaining their games. Many F2P companies don't update their games with new content or fix bugs that annoy the hell out of people for quite some time, and this can be very frustrating. A perfect example of this is the difference between PSN and XBL. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against either, but the quality difference between the two online gaming networks is very noticable; because users pay for Xbox Live, the devs take care of it more and patch the bugs that appear every once in a while. With PSN, not only does the connection often get messed up, but there are a lot of bugs that just never get fixed. Basically, F2P can make for an uncared for game.

Because this new F2P category is slowly devolving the gaming industry (while others may disagree, this is my personal view), I have been forced to dislike the F2P category. Even if this weren't true, most F2P games have awful graphics and are scams of some other game that you need to pay for. However, I don't think F2P has it's place. There's really only a few games that I've seen that have F2P policies that I agree with; one of them is Wizard101. Now this isn't me just cheering for my home team (especially because I don't play anymore anyway); but hear me out. W101 allows zero outside advertisements on their site, meaning you wont be prompted by an outside site to buy a 10 pack of toilet paper when registering an account, so they make no money off of advertising (Note: This isn't saying that they don't advertise, it's saying that they don't accept money from companies wanting to advertise). That aside, I would like to point out that they do false advertise in a way; W101 is not a F2P, however there is an unlimited free trial. That said, W101 makes all their money off members buying in-game currency (Crowns) and member subscriptions, which I find admirable. And the surprising thing is, KingsIsle is soaring right now; their business is growing astoundingly.

I find that allowing people to have an unlimited free trial to an MMO is a great thing; in fact, I'd like to point out that WoW recently installed an unlimited free trial up to level 20. In my opinion, this is a much more honorable move on a gaming company's part than selling their website to the evil of advertisements and making all the best items in the game cost real money. In this scenario, both the customer and the developers truly win; it gives people something free, earns developers money, and allows for more money to be compiled to build newer, better games. In my opinion, unlimited free trials are the way to go. So the next time you're complaining about having to pay your SWTOR subscription or the next time you're complaining about how LOTRO has declined so much since it went F2P, just remember; anything in moderation is a good thing. If everything went F2P, there'd be no amazing games out there.



Peter, The Steamworks

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* I say MMOs because that's largely where the issue of F2P versus subscriptions lies. While there are all sorts of F2P games, it seems to be the major battle is being fought over online games.

** There's a lot of talk as to what a AAA game is, so if you're looking for an exact definition, I can't really help you. What I can tell you is that most people would agree that a AAA game is a game with amazing graphics, an enormous map to explore, and top quality story; so basically a really great game. Further details are just personal opinions. To hear more on AAA games, visit this link. Beau Hindman is a writer for Massively, whom I've mentioned before, and his article on AAA games is amazing. I highly recommend reading it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Shatterblog!: Smithsonian Institute's "The Art of Video Games" Exhibit

Hey folks, as you may know from my recent post, I visited the Smithsonian Institutes The Art of Video Games limited time exhibit. It was truly amazing and inspiring, and I tremendously enjoyed it.

The exhibit selected 4 games from each system of each "era", and displayed them with the option to watch videos of each game on the system's display.

You can check out a list of all the selected games here, and see if your favorite made it. It's hard to argue with a lot of their selections.

I've added all the pictures to a Photobucket account for your convenience.
You can find my photos here.
All the videos are posted here.

Sorry this post isn't terribly visually exciting, but I assure you the content is very interesting.

Shatterblog!: Press Release: Meet the Pyro Finally Released!

Hey everyone! Today, after a very long wait, Valve finally released the much anticipated Meet the Pyro video, the final in the Meet the _______ series. Let me say, the wait was well worth it. This is by far the most absurd and hilarious video in the series.

It's great to finally have all of these videos, and this will make playing the Pyro about 15x more hilarious for me from now on. Hope you all enjoy this is much as we all did! Fun fact: For the first time in forever, 3 of us are sitting in the same room!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Steamworks: Ten Best Gaming Heroes of All Time


Hey Gang,

So I'm going to try something different than I usually do on my side of the blog. Tonight, I'll be making a list of my personal favorite heroes from video gam history. Believe it or not, there was a lot of thinking in deciding who was going to make it into my top 15, not to mention my top 10. There's so many characters that were historic to innovative to flat-out awesome. So without further adieu, let's get started


 10. Mario (Various Mario Games): Let's face facts; if Mario isn't at least in your top ten list, you're doing it wrong. Even if you can't stand Nintendo or Mario or both, there's no denying that Mario has had a dramatic impact on the potential of video games. From Mario Party 15 (kidding) to Mario64, this classic Italian plumber has dragged us on numerous adventures that consisted of chasing down Bowser (and occasionally Donkey Kong) to release his beautiful Princess Peach. Although there's some controversy as to whether or not recent Mario games have been "good" to say the least, Mario's world has definitely left its mark on the gaming industry, earning him a rank on the Top 10.


9. Sonic (Various Sonic Games): While I'm no longer a fan of the Sonic games (or at least the recent ones), Sonic is a must-have on my list. The first video game I ever played was Sonic Adventure DX. If you look back on it now, it looks like a piece of crap. But back then it was the some of the best technology the world had to offer, and was viewed at as an amazing piece of work. Again, while in my opinion the Sonic games have declined in quality, it wouldn't make sense to not include the first gaming hero I knew and grew close to on my list.


8. Star Fox (Various Star Fox Games): Oh Star Fox. Another classic gaming hero. I remember playing StarFox64 and being completely horrible at it. While Star Fox games may not be for everyone, you have to at least admit he looks pretty cool. His classic laser gun has been putting a stop to Wolf and his evil allies for ages. His various appearances in Super Smash Bros. games have also earned him spots in many gamers lives as well.


7. Ratchet (Ratchet and Clank): Yet again, another hero I grew up with makes his appearance on my list. I grew up with Ratchet and Clank. While I was never really a fan of the first Ratchet and Clank game, it's sequels we're amazing; my favorite one is Ratchet: Deadlocked. Ratchet is a relatable hero who isn't perfect, which balances him out and makes him a great hero.


6. Steve (Minecraft): Ok, so I know it might seem ridiculous to put Steve here at number six, but while I was talking with JD from Slightly Redder Red and a friend of mine named Eric last night, I was talked into putting him on this list. But what is there to be said about this mysterious character from Minecraft? Steve inspires innovation, world peace, and love! He's practically the icon of Minecraft! WE SHOULD ALL ASPIRE TO BE STEVE! Think long and hard about this hero ... and you'll understand why he's on my Top 10.


5. Jak (Jak II and III): I've actually recently started to re-play the Jak games. If you've never played Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II, or Jak III, you probably don't know who this mysterious hero is, or even why he's on the list. Maybe I'm biased because I grew up with the Jak series, but these games are amazing. While Jak and Daxter isn't necessarily the best game out there, NaughtyDog picked up the slack with Jak II; the characters develop, the plot gets extremely detailed, and Jak actually ranks a voice! After playing Jak II, I would have felt completely at peace if NaughtyDog stopped there, but instead they made yet another sequel that was even better than its predecessor. With new Light Eco powers, awesome Dune Buggies, and an even better plot than the last game, this trilogy just knocked my socks off. I'll be sure to make my kids play these games. You'd be crazy not to put Jak in your top five.


4. Sora (Various Kingdom Hearts Games): I'm pretty sure everyone knows who Sora is, and if you don't, you need to go to GameStop or Funcoland or wherever you buy your games and buy Kingdom Hearts I and II. While I don't play the ones that trail off from the main plot, I still love the Kingdom Hearts universe. Although to some at first glance the game my look juvenile and "just a mash-up of Disney games", you'll find the deep plot that begins to set in and an immediate love for characters like Sora, Kairi, and Riku. While I'm not really someone who likes Anime and Manga type things (don't ask), Square Enix really has my heart sold on Sora. Sora is someone almost anyone can look up to; he's courageous, loving, and relatable. Sora sees the good in everything, making him a great gaming hero.


3. Chell (Portal): So I think most people would agree that Chell definitely deserves a spot as one of the best gaming heroes of all time. While again the list is hosting a mute character, Chell brings us into Aperture Laboratories, and ultimately introduces us to one of (if not the best) villans of all time; GLaDOS. Chell's dangerous testing with GLaDOS proves for a great time and a hilarious adventure. Chell's been through it all, reserving spot number 3 on the list for herself.


2. Master Chief (Halo): Come on, guys. It's the Chief we're talking about here. He's just straight up bad ass. If further explanation is needed, the Halo games are a sort of "Gamer Central Hub. While I grew up more with Nintendo and Playstation (aka Sony) versus Bungie and Xbox (aka Microsoft), I was introduced to the chief when I was maybe 12 or 13, a little bit before Halo 3 came out (if I recall correctly). I'd like to point out that before I played the Halo games, I could not stand any type of shooter games (well, unless you count Jak II, III, and the Ratchet and Clank games ... ok so I liked some, but not many). The Chief was my introductory guide into the world of shooter games, and for that I cannot thank him enough. He was almost like my guide to gaming maturity, if you will; like he showed me the way to more mature games with deeper plots and games that required skill. The Chief introduced me to many games that I thought were dumb, and showed me the true nature behind them, ranking him number two on my list.


1. Link (Various Zelda Games): So some of you may be wondering why I put Link as number one. Sure, he's a great hero, but aren't there so many other better ones? He can't even talk! While all of this may be true, Link WAS the first gaming hero. That's right, you heard correctly; created by Nintendo, Link was the first hero of gaming. How much more innovation on the gaming industry can a gaming hero have other than starting the category of having gaming heroes? Link many of the games I've talked about above, I grew up with The Legend of Zelda games. I remember playing The Ocarina of Time when it was recently released, and it was awesome then too (so I was 3, big deal). Ocarina of Time is probably one of my favorite games of all time. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was another recent Zelda game that was phenomenal. In my eyes, Link truly deserves the title of The Best Gaming Hero of All Time. Thank you for innovating the gaming industry for 26 years and counting!

So there you have it! Those are my favorite video game heroes of all time. Feel free to sound off your lists in the comments below. Hope you enjoyed it, and be sure to stop by for more news, reviews, and updates.

Peter, The SteamWorks

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Resident Troll: How to Survive Comic Con

I was working on this post and left the title very vague because I got distracted discussing PBD type things with Peter. I come back and find this. WHOEVER DID IT IS AN ASSHOLE. But clever. I tip my hat toward you, good sir.

Onto the substance of the post.


I would very quickly tell you that I am not a comic con expert. I've only been to one (New York Comic Con) and some of the journey is highlighted in Peter's post a few months ago here. It was certainly not everything I expected, and quite honestly, I stepped into it wholly unprepared. I was under the impression that they just let you into panels, after all. Still, I had a pretty decent gang around to help me out with that.

So, I know a little bit, at least. Let me tell you how to survive this apocalypse of awesome. I know San Diego Comic Con is coming up (and if you are going, I am very jealous), so this may help a few. Here are some of the basics:

HOW TO NAVIGATE THE FLOOR

1. PUSH, MOTHERFUCKER, PUSH. 
Don’t be shy.

2. WALK WITH PURPOSE.
You will get nowhere otherwise. If you do not have this ability, find a friend who does and latch onto their shoulder/hand/bag.

3. DO NOT MAKE SUDDEN STOPS.
Friends latching onto you will cause a train crash/you will block the isle/someone will smack you in the head with a keyblade.


HOW TO ATTEND PANELS:

1. SHOW UP EARLY.
I mean, really early. I waited in line for about five or six panels, but probably saw only two. One included sitting behind a pillar, so really, one and a half. You will be turned away at the door. At NYCC they also do not clear out the rooms, so if you reallyreallyreally want to get into a panel, get into the one before it.

2. PREPARE FOR DISAPPOINTMENT.
You won’t get into every panel you want unless they all happen to be in the same room, you show up early, and you don’t leave that room for the entire day.

3. BRING SNACKS/FRIENDS.
You’ll get hungry. And bored.

4. SHUT THE HELL UP.
Don’t talk once in the panel, okay? Someone might hit you with an actual sword.

Don’t buy food at the con. Just don’t. I made the mistake of getting hungry while waiting in line for a panel I didn’t get into, and ended up wasting twelve dollars on candy. Not even a lot of candy. And I almost got charged five dollars for two sodas. Peter and I shared a coke, thank you. The best bet is to scout the area beforehand and fine a place you want to eat.


Things you can do: ask people for pictures of their cosplay, buy awesome things, scream RAVENCLAW FOR THE WIN at someone wearing a Gryffindor robe, get free stuff, wait in line with no purpose, roam the halls, have free gum thrown at you.

Things you cannot do: touch people without permission (unless you’re moving them. Then trek on, Spartan),  cut in line (unless you have friends), argue with the volunteers, lick someone you don’t know, step in front of photos, and be a general asshole. Those are rules of life, though.

Also, make sure you do your research. Nobody wants to hear you complain about missing a panel that you didn't know about until after it happened. These things can be avoided, my friend.


Shatterblog!: Let's All Just Take A Minute...

...and appreciate Aubrey Plaza. Those of you who read Pete's Parks and Rec Review know that Aubrey Plaza is in fact my spirit animal. Today during a 4 hour layover in the airport, I discovered a truly beautiful thing. An unfit-for-TV World of Warcraft commercial starring Aubrey Plaza. I laughed so hard the Indian folks sitting across from me muttered in foreignese and walked away,


Honestly, this beats the Vern Troyer commercial, the Mr. T. commercial, and the Chuck Norris commercial. Combined. It's so good.

Continue on with your lives.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Steamworks: Press Release: New Impressive Wizard101 Commercial From KingsIsle

Hey Gang,

So I was trolling the internet today when my friend Cassandra from Wizard101 Skypes me a YouTube link. Naturally, I click on it. This is what comes up:



Wow. In my opinion, this is truly unbelievable. The graphics. They make me happy.

Joking aside, this is a huge step up from KingsIsle. Not only does this commercial make Wizard101 look like a game with awesome graphics, but it also gives the game a more adult-like feel. Basically, what I'm getting at is that older people like amazing graphics; therefore, adults, teens, and older players would naturally be drawn to this commercial.  Good job, KingsIsle. Keep aiming to impress.

Wizard101 is a free to play MMORPG by KingsIsle for ages 10+. For more information on Wizard101, visit http://www.wizard101.com.

Peter, The SteamWorks

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shatterblog!: The 10 Best Batman Stories

In excitement for comic-con, and having just read about 20 Batman trade paperbacks, I want to do a countdown of my very favorites. I chose "stories" because some of them take place across a couple books, and I don't feel right separating them. I'd like to note that the top 3 on this list are well above number 4, not because the quality of 4-10 is bad but because these are truly amazing examples of what Batman can and should be.

10) Death in the Family

The concept of A Death in the Family is a really cool one. This is the comic in which the second Robin, Jason Todd, dies. That may seem like a major spoiler, but you can see by the cover exactly what's going to happen. It was determined by fan vote that Jason Todd should be killed by the Joker. The story is fairly good, but both the art and the writing are sort of dated, it being from the '80's and all. Still, the fact that it made this list mean's, in my opinion, it's worth a read.












9) Arkham Asylum: A Serious Place on Serious Earth
This comic is very cool and unique. For one, the art style is fantastic, eerie and painted-looking, completely unlike the art of any other Batman stuff I've come across. It was sort of the basis for the hit video game, but only loosely. It tells a story of the Bat trapped within Arkham with the prisoners controlling it. It also tells the story of the founder, Amadeus Arkham. I recommend this for the art style alone, but the backstory to the Asylum is fantastic, as well as the actual story going on. The look at the method of "treatment" for Two-Face may be my favorite moment in the whole book, and that's saying something. It's just brilliant.








8) All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder
This book takes a lot of crap because of what a dick Batman is to Robin at the beginning. However, the writer has defended it (including the infamous "I'm the goddamn Batman" line) as making sense because this is early in the Bat's career. He's still cocky. He's not fully settled into all the responsibilities, and he's definitely still coping with the loss of his parents in a major way. The story is great, especially keeping that bit of information in mind. This is the book that turned me from a die-hard Robin hater to a genuine fan of the Boy Wonder. The art is Jim Lee, which automatically means it's pretty awesome. The scene with Bats. Robin, and Green Lantern is truly spectacular. I love it. 










7) Cacophony



To anyone who knows me, it'll come as no surprise to see a Batman comic written by Kevin Smith make the list. I'm a huge fan of Kevin Smith and all his works. That said, I want to clarify that me liking him didn't affect my decision to put this story on here. It's just fantastic. The interaction between B-Man and the Joker, especially toward the end, is some of the best dialogue I've ever read. The opening is really cool and actiony, and the new (new to me anyway. Maybe he's been in other books?) villain, Onomatopoeia, is fantastic. No idea why, but I became attached to him pretty quickly. He's just damn cool. Kevin Smith says in the intro that his next Batman book, Widening Gyre, will be better. However the second volume STILL isn't out, so I have refused to read the first. I sorta doubt it can top this story, but we shall see.








6) Long Halloween


Anyone who's seen The Dark Knight has seen bits and pieces of The Long Halloween. It's Two-Face's origin story, and a decent amount of inspiration was pulled from it. However, it is very different from the movie and I definitely recommend reading it. The main story is about Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Dent trying to catch a killer, dubbed Holiday, who murders members of one of Gotham's crime families on every holiday. The second half of the book has a bit more to do with Two-Face, but the whole story is great. The ending is really fantastic, I had no idea at all what was coming. The art on this one takes a bit of getting used to, but it's nowhere near as out there as some others. Long Halloween might have my favorite Catwoman costume, although I'm sure there's a lot of disagreement in that department. Unfortunately, it's also my least favorite rendering of the Joker. His teeth are too big and his face looks stupid.








5) Killing Joke
This one's definitely a classic. Having both the Joker's origin story (or at least one of them), as well as the crippling of Batgirl (that's not a spoiler, you should know she becomes Oracle), this is an absolute must read.   Truly the Joker's character comes out in the best possible way here. He delivers a lot of his most memorable lines, and this is my favorite iteration of the Joker artistically. Seeing Batman and Jim Gordon deal with Barbara's horrific injury is a great insight into the characters, but honestly everything plays second fiddle to the Joker's marvelous performance. Really, this is the best Joker-centric story I've read (topping Death in the Family, The Man Who Laughs, and Brian Azarello's Joker). 




4) Knightfall (Broken Bat, Who Rules the Night, Knightsend)

Knightfall is another classic must read. This is the story of Batman's defeat by Bane and all the insanity that goes on after. I won't go into detail, but the basic premise is Bane frees all the prisoners of Arkham, defeats Batman by breaking his spine, and takes over Gotham. Bruce selects a successor while he seeks treatment, but things get rather out of hand in the second volume, Who Rules the Night, so the third volume is B-man fixing the situation. Lots of great psychological stuff for Batman, which offers a lot of insight into his character. Bane is a really cool villain, and I can't wait to see what they do with him in The Dark Knight Rises. This one's a bit old and the art is dated, but it looks good and it's nowhere near as bad as Death in the Family










3) Dark Knight Returns and Dark Knight Strikes Again


These two I couldn't get through fast enough. The premise is that Batman is retired, and Bruce Wayne is sixty years old. He come's out of retirement in a grand fashion, and the story from there out is amazing. The opening page is extremely memorable, and sucks you right in with one of Bruce's better lines ("This would be a good death. But not good enough."). The art on this one is a bit weird, but I found myself liking it after a couple pages. The dialogue of the street gang, the Mutants, is really weird and full of odd slang, but not knowing exactly what they're saying isn't a big deal. This is one of the few Batman stories to incorporate humor in a form other than the Joker (although the Joker's part in these is just amazing). I can't go into any specifics about what makes this story so great without ruining it, but every page is just fantastic. Even if these aren't technically considered Batman canon (I believe the canonical story of Bruce as an old man is Batman: Beyond), these two large trade paperbacks are well worth reading. There are a few really off moments (I will never understand Dick Grayson's appearance in Dark Knight Strikes Again.), but the overall plot is unbelievably good.




2) Court of Owls


It came as a bit of a surprise to me that the first seven issues of the New 52 relaunch of Batman would topple classics to climb so high on the list. However, Court of Owls really is one of the best Batman stories ever told. It deals with Bruce Wayne being targeted by a secret society, the Court of Owls, and their assassin the Talon. The Court is an old fairy tale in Gotham, and Batman has trouble believing at first. This is a real treat for both established Batman fans and those just getting into the New 52, and I can't recommend it highly enough. There are great twists and turns, well written dialogue, and my second favorite art overall, toppled only by Jim Lee (All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder, Hush). Side note: I have yet to read them, and due to their cross over nature I can't include them on this list, but for further reading check out the Night of the Owls crossover event. It takes place in Batman, Batwing, Batgirl, Catwoman, Red Hood, and even an All Star Western comic. A trade hardback may be incoming.




1) Hush



Most Batman fans will be unsurprised to see Hush topping a list. Easily one of the greatest, if not THE greatest Batman stories ever told, with Jim Lee's incredible art to boot. Hush deals with Batman being tormented by a mysterious new villain with a bandaged face. Again, any specifics on the story could ruin it, so I'll keep this very vague and brief. Every villain's parts in the overall story is well planned, and the twist at the end, especially some of Batman's lines, is unbelievably well written. Batman's mixed feelings for Catwoman come out really well here, and got me, who generally feels like romances dull the plot, really interested in how things between them would turn out. The book(s) keep you really sucked in, and I definitely think that Hush is the ultimate Batman story. 






I just couldn't resist showing off the incredible art for Hush a little more. Being number one on the list, I feel justified in giving it a second picture. 


So there you have it. My very favorite Batman tales. Protip: To increase enjoyment of all Batman stories by 500%, read all Batman's lines in Kevin Conroy's voice, all Bruce Wayne lines in Christian Bale's voice, and all Joker lines in Mark Hamill's voice. If you don't know these voices, watch Batman Begins for Bruce Wayne, and an episode of an animated Batman series for the other two (Arkham Asylum and Arkham City  are also acceptable for Bats and Joker). The only exception to this rule is Brian Azarello's Joker (honorable mention), which should be read in Heath Ledger's voice. 
If you have any questions, or disagree with any of my ratings, drop us a comment or send me an email!

By Chazz, of Shatterblog!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Steamworks: Parks and Recreation (Season One) Review



Hey Gang,

So today I'll be reviewing the show Parks and Recreation Season One. Just to give a little bit of background information before I start, Parks and Recreation is a comedy show that takes place in the (fake) town of Pawnee, Indiana. It circles around the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, following particularly Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Deputy Director of the Parks Department, and her experiences in local government. The show is a lot like the Office, yet it separates itself in an odd way (it was actually created to be a spin off of the office). So now that you know the basics, let's get started:

To be honest, these first few episodes are a bit dry. Leslie Knope, at this first glance, seems a bit ditsy and not what she's meant to portray, which is the image of an intelligent female political enthusiast. We're introduced to Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider), and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt). Ron Swanson is an immediate hit for almost everyone, as well as April Ludgate. Their dry personalities and "I-hate-my-job" attitudes completely contrast to Leslie Knope's personality, and have a great part in the bits of Season One that are actually funny (Fun Better Dolphin trivia, Aubrey Plaza is Chazz's spirit animal!). While Andy sometimes has his funny moments, the other characters can be a bit annoying. Ann is a really flat character to begin with; she's just really boring and doesn't contribute much to the show. Tom, like Andy, has a few funny moments, but other than that he's pretty flat; he's a guy who thinks he's cool but isn't really. Mark is extremely boring, although he does have a few funny moments. It just seems like the humor just wasn't quite there.

I have mixed emotions about Leslie Knope's appearance in Season One. While it did seem she was a bit out of her right character, it wasn't completely off too. She had an immense admiration for dumb things in town that didn't really matter, which stays true to her personality. In one episode mid-season, she goes to a local men's barbershop in preparation for a banquet that's held in honor of her mother. She goes on to talk about how every great politician of Pawnee has gotten their haircut there. Meanwhile, the people around her just couldn't care less. And then when she shows up at the banquet, her hair is ridiculously masculine, and people mistake her and Ann for lesbians.

The first time I watched Season One of Parks and Recreation was Prom Night. We came home from Prom, all pumped up to party and game and such, and Chazz turned this on. I fell asleep. It was so boring.There were a few moments here and there that made me chuckle, but it made for a horribly dry Prom Night. I cannot stress enough how utterly boring this first season is. BUT, I still suggest watching it because Seasons Two and Three are hysterical (I can't speak for Season Four because I haven't gotten to watching it yet). After the first season, this show really takes action and makes itself amazing. Sadly, I'm not scoring the show as a whole, but solely Season One, which makes for a not-so-good score. Thanks for reading!

5/10

Peter, The Steamworks

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Resident Troll: The Fault in Our Stars Review


To some it's a surprise that I have the ability to emote, but I just got finished crying over the last fifty or so pages of The Fault in Our Stars. My first words on the matter? I wish I'd read the book sooner, especially with the knowledge that John Green was signing about 150k pre-orders. To be quite honest, I bought the book because I follow the Vlogbrothers. (I really have a thing for Youtube channels, okay? Don't judge.) I also heard fantastic things about it. I may consider writing a review on Looking for Alaska, but I'll be honest. I think TFiOS is superior to Green's first published work.

So, onto the actual review.

The Fault in Our Stars is, at it's core, about two kids who have cancer. It's narrated by Hazel Lancaster, dealing with thyroid cancer. She doesn't have a very optimistic view on life, realizing that it's very, very temporary. Her mother makes her go to a cancer support group because she fears her daughter is suffering from depression, which Hazel says is a side effect of dying. Most of the time she rolls her eyes as the testicle-less leader of the group, and the various ways of recounting fights towards remission or cure.

She meets Augustus Waters, who will go on to be 'the great love of her life', but anyone who's smart enough to pick up the book could figure that out from his first appearance. Don't yell at me about spoilers. He invites her over and their friendship begins from there. He's an amputee (thanks, cancer) and is seemingly healthy for the majority of the book. The ending is bittersweet.

Hazel's voice is very strong, which you have to admire. She's an interesting character--not completely strong, not completely weak. Augustus is ridiculously honest, not once hiding his intentions throughout the novel. I really do believe this is Green's best work that I've read, and I'm shelving it among my favorite books. I love it so much, but words are kind of lost on me about why and how. TFiOS just is. It exists, and it might hurt you, but in the end you smile. I give it a 9/10.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Steamworks: The Walking Dead Volume One: Days Gone Bye Review



Hey Gang,

So as I talked about not too long ago, I've been getting into a lot of TV shows, one being The Walking Dead in particular. I love the characters of the show, the plot, and the moral issues that the show puts these unlucky survivors through. Of course, once I saw season one of the show (which I will be reviewing in the near future), I had a natural urge to try to reading the comics. So today I'll be reviewing The Walking Dead Volume One: Days Gone Bye which contains Issues one to six of the comic. For those that don't know, The Walking Dead is a comic about the zombie apocalypse that is issued monthly. Each volume contains roughly six Issues.

Let me start off by saying thank you to Robert Kirkman for thinking of making volumes of the collected Issues. I'm not quite sure which comics have done this in the past or if it is a popular occurrence in comics, but making the material so that it comes in both traditional and graphic novel format makes it so much more accessible for everyone. While some people may love the original format of comics, I'm just not one for the flimsy build. I need something that is more durable and doesn't easily tear, like a novel or a regular chapter book (even paperback books will do). It's nothing personal; I just tend to accidentally beat up my books. I'm also not a big fan of paying a dollar or two for a comic that only has about ten to twenty pages, if that. Again, not that anything is wrong with that, I just don't prefer it. I'd rather just pay $20 every half year and get all of them in one book. They're ALSO now allowing people to buy them on their smart phones via The Walking Dead App, making this series even MORE accessible to people who prefer a digital version. This comic is literally accessible to almost everyone, which gives this comic series a decent amount of points right off the bat.

So let's get down to the quality of the story. The story starts with a police officer named Rick Grimes and his partner, Shane Walsh, attempting to stop a few criminals. The criminals start shooting, and eventually Rick is shot. He's put into a coma, but doesn't wake up until a few weeks after the zombie apocalypse has already started. From there, he sets out to find his wife, Lori Grimes, and his son, Carl Grimes. The zombies in The Walking Dead are your typical Dawn of the Dead zombies; they reanimate anywhere from 3 minutes to a few hours after they die. They can't run or climb walls or really do anything other than walk, scratch, and bite. They also need a blow to the head to be killed, meaning even decapitation wont kill them.

Rick Grimes starts off as one of those classic horror movie idiots that just so happened to survive. When he first wakes up, he seems completely clueless that these zombies can actually kill him. The only thing really keeping him from interacting with them is simply the fact that he's afraid of them. For example, in Issue Two, Rick goes into Atlanta to search for his wife and son; everyone who has half a brain knows not to go into a city during a zombie apocalypse for a multitude of reasons. While this is at first frustrating, his character evolves quickly to realize that he needs to wise up if he's going to survive. He very quickly becomes a likable character that you can relate to.

Now I'm going to start talking about some spoilers only because I plan to review the other volumes as well, and for that I'm going to need to go into story detail. SO, if you're planning on reading this comic, I wouldn't read past this point:

So Rick goes into the city and is almost zombie dinner when a kid need Glenn saves him from the horde. He brings him back to a camp of other survivors, where it just so happens Shane, Lori, and Carl also took refuge. However, an interesting romance aspect comes into play; since Shane and Lori thought Rick was dead, they began to start a romantic relationship. This soon becomes a delima because, now that Rick is back and alive, Lori wants nothing to do with Shane. Shane quickly becomes jealous, and eventually is killed by Carl. Along with all this drama, we're introduced to several other characters including Dale, Andrea, Carol and her daughter Sophia, Allen, his wife Donna, and their twins Billy and Ben. There are others that are also introduced, but I did not include them because they do not continue past Issue 6.

In short, this comic is dynamic, original, and intriguing. It kept me interested in reading more, and ending with cliffhangers were constantly present. It definitely has reconfigured my moral compass and what I view as right and wrong. The art is great, graphic, and extremely detail. Anyone who enjoys zombies will love this comic. Good work Robert Krikman (Author) and  Tony Moore (Illustrator)! Keep pumping them out!

9/10

Peter, The Steamworks

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shatterblog!: Triple Threat Artsy Game Review!

As promised in Pete's update, I do in face have a review planned. I recently visited the Smithsonian Institute's Art of Video Games exhibit (which I intent to cover with picture/video content once I finish sorting through my camera), and played a demo of Flower. I also wrote my final paper in English on whether or not video games could be considered art. This inspired me to take a day to experience 3 artistic, unconventional games, which will each get a mini-review here. Each clocked in around 2 hours, so I figured dropping all 3 in one post would make a decent length.

First off, Flower. This was definitely my favorite of the three. In it, you control a spirit of wind, or the wind, or something. You fly around using the PS3's SixAxis motion controls, collecting flower petals and affecting the environment. The controls are odd to get used to, but the motion controls feel natural very quickly, and are perfectly showcased. While I wouldn't call it a story, the progression from one level to another is very cool, with environments ranging from a beautiful meadow to a twisted city. The music is very relaxing, and the notes that play with each flower you touch are an amazing touch. The art is downright unbelievable, especially for a $10 title from a small team. All in all, no major complaints, it's a great game. It's different from anything I've played before, and innovation is always good. 9.5/10.


Second, thatgamecompany's other downloadable title, Journey. Players control a hooded figure on a (you guessed it) journey toward a mysterious glowing mountain. After a short walk players are granted a scarf. The scarf allows you to fly short distances, and through exploration it is possible to find glowing symbols which extend the length of the scarf, and also your flight time. To call it a platformer wouldn't be fair, but it is kind of a 3D platformer with puzzles scattered in. It's most interesting feature is the "multiplayer". The game requires you to always be online, and as you wander through deserts and monasteries and mountains, other hooded figures at the same point in their journeys will appear randomly. I bumped into about 7 different players, and at the end of the game before the credits roll it tell you their online handles. During gameplay, you are distinguished only by a symbol that pops up over your head when you hit O. This creates a small bubble around you for a split second and a musical chime. Any of the "animals", creatures made of the same material as your scarf, touched by the bubble will react and help you, and any players touched by it will have their scarf recharged slightly. Working together with others is a lot of fun, making flying more common as you charge each other up. Again the art is amazing, although the snow just looks like white sand, and the texture of sand doesn't really look like snow very much. Still a good game, but not as incredible as Flower. 7.5/10.


Finally, a very interesting thing called Dear Esther. It is difficult to even call it a game, as there isn't any real gameplay, in the traditional sense. You control a narrator on an island. You can walk, and holding left mouse allows you to zoom to see things more clearly. You are given no instructions, you just wander the island as bits and pieces of a narrative are read to you in a randomly generated order. You simply enjoy the view and the story, and are led inexorably to a certain point in the island where the story ends. There are many paths to take, mostly dead ends, but exploration seems to be rewarded with further tidbits of story. From the beginning I was wrapped up in the mystery of it all, wanting to know every bit of the rather tragic story. Music matched the tone of different areas perfectly, drawing me further in. The art was amazing, based on the Source engine (the game began as a free mod for Source), but so beautiful that literally every screenshot I took has been added to my wallpaper folder. The games confusing (in a good way) story and minimal player interaction mean it's not for everyone, but I really loved it. 9/10.

I actually took this screenshot, no other pictures are mine. 
All three games are a wonderful and refreshing break from the current game market which seems increasingly clogged with Call of Knockoff 300: The Shootening. While unconventional titles like these are not for everyone, I highly recommend giving them a try. Flower is PS3 exclusive, Journey is on PS3 and made its way to PC, and Dear Esther is PC only. These games have definitely widened my gaming horizons, and expect to see more artsy games reviewed as I discover them.

PS: To keep JD happy let me make this clear. I tagged this post as "indie" due to Dear Esther. Both of thatgamecompany's games, while unusual, are published by Sony, and therefore are not defined as indie.

By Chazz, of Shatterblog!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The SteamWorks: Personal Update 6/12/12

Hey Gang,

So I know I've been absent for a while. Tennis kinda took over my life, and for a while I just couldn't stand playing video games. Honestly I think that was just my subconscious telling me I needed a bit of a break from games to explore some other facets of life that the world has to offer. I met a lot of new people, learned a lot of new things about myself, and advanced in some new skills. So with that, I'd like to just update you on some things that I've been going through.

~ So my family just got Netflix, and let me tell you, I'm loving it. I don't really like to stay up till 11:00 P.M. on a Wednesday night to watch an hour show on TV, so being able to access a bunch of TV shows that I've found interesting whenever I want has been a great experience. I've watched Season One of The Walking Dead, Seasons One, Two, and Three of Parks and Recreation, and Seasons One and Two of The Colony so far, so I have a ton of reviews to do. I'm not too thrilled with their movie selection, but at the same time it's not awful.

~ I recently decided to check in with Wizard101 and the new world of Avalon. While I won't be doing a full review on Avalon (at least, I don't plan to), I'll probably be updating you on my progress and certain things I like or dislike about the new area. By the way, I just want to make it completely clear that I'm super against the new Pirate101 (KingsIsle, I understand it's supposed to be a sequel to Wizard101, but seriously? Horrible name choice...), BUT I still applied for the Beta 1) Because it'll give me something to review on the blog and 2) Because you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

~ Back a month or two ago, I canceled my SWTOR account. The game was just getting immensely boring to me, and I guess I sorta burned myself out passively. That tends to happen with me and AAA MMOs. It just seemed that no matter what "projects" I took on, nothing was working out for me. It just made the game even more boring.

~ New York Comic Con is coming up in about 4 months!! I can't believe it's finally getting closer and closer;; it feels like forever since it last happened. I know everyone on the Project: Better Dolphin team is really pumped, and we're trying to how we should dress. Another bit of exciting news, New York Comic Con is opening press pass registration this Friday, and we're hoping to get our hands on some. So wish us luck!

That's pretty much everything interesting that's been going on recently. I know Chazz said he has a review coming up sometime later today, so stay tuned for that! It's good to be back! :)

Peter, The SteamWorks