Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shatterblog!: A Story About My Uncle Review

For once, all screenshots in this article were taken by me!

As most of you know by now, I'm a big supporter of indie games. I've been trying to review more of them whenever possible, and definitely expect a few more coming up. Today I'll be reviewing A Story About My Uncle. 
A Story About My Uncle is a platformer with a grappling hook glove. It runs on Unreal Engine 3, so the environments are really graphically impressive. Generally the game looks great and runs very well. A couple minor issues are the fingers on your hand looking awkward at times, and the inability to change graphical settings means the resolution may not fit your screen as well as it could. However, even with incorrect resolutions it looks better than a lot of other indie games I've seen. The graphics are nearly on par with Dear Esther, which is one of the best looking indie games I've played. The environments are all very detailed, and while the game is linear there is some room to explore. I spent some time seeing where I could grapple to just for fun.
The story opens with a daughter asking her father to tell her a story about Uncle Fred. From there you are launched into a cave where the game takes place. The writing for the narration and dialogue is very good and drew me in, although the voice acting has a couple rocky moments. Overall the story stays engaging through the whole game. I started the game a couple times and noticed that the dialogue of the daughter asking for the story is random, which weirdly made me extremely happy. For whatever reason the idea that she doesn't ask the same way every time made me smile and restart the game a couple times.
The gameplay has a few simple elements. You can sprint, jump, and hold right click to charge a power jump. If you sprint and power jump, you launch forward. You then get the grapple gun battery. Initially you get one grapple, which recharges when you touch the ground. The limit to works very well. With Journey, having to constantly recharge my jump was a pain. With A Story About My Uncle I never got annoyed having to find a recharge point, but you can't infinitely grapple to win. It does take good timing and aim, and quick reflexes on your mouse hand. The game is fantastic, with the physics while swinging staying as accurate as grapple-beam physics can be. Momentum is a factor, and takes a bit of getting used to. Once you get the hang of it, the game gets even more fun. My swinging and leaping went from awkward crashing into walls idiocy to Spiderman smooth swinging and jumping.
The platforming is somewhat challenging, but is rarely frustrating. I never felt like my death was the games fault, I could usually tell that it was directly my fault for doing something stupid or reckless. The very last segment is a bit more difficult, but it's a cool twist and I would've loved to see more of it. Another factor about the gameplay I liked was that the path ahead wasn't absurdly shrouded (you could see where Uncle Fred had grappled, giving you an idea of where you should), but there were places where I could go off the path Uncle Fred took and progress my own way. At one point you have to get to the top of a mountain, and I wasted a bunch of time trying to find absurd ways to climb it instead of just grappling up. While you probably won't struggle too much to complete the game, it's never boringly easy.
This game is a real indie gem, and it was made by students to compete at the Swedish Game Expo. As you can see on their site, the game was made in only 11 weeks and is completely free to download and play. That absolutely blows my mind. I somewhat recently spent $20 on what turned out to be a bad Prince of Persia clone that will remain nameless. I saw A Story About My Uncle in an IGN article and within 10 minutes was playing it. This game was clearly made by a very talented team, and I personally can't wait to see the next steps in their careers. While the game has a few flaws, it is an amazing product from a dedicated team. There are AAA titles I've enjoyed less than this *cough Alien vs Predator cough* that I paid a lot more for. There should be nothing keeping you from playing this great little game. You can get in on the site linked above, and I urge you to use the torrent (as the developers requested on their site) and leave it seeding for a few days at minimum. The argument against seeding is generally that you can be caught if you're pirating something (which I'm sure none of you wonderful law-abiding readers do), but this torrent is put out by the developers to save on bandwidth. Help them out guys! Anyway, stop reading this and go download A Story About My Uncle. I give it an 8.5/10.
A quick side note to the development team, I would love to see a Donate option in the future, or a "pay what you want" in the vein of the many popular indie bundles.
Thanks for reading guys!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Steamworks: A Death in The Family

Hey Gang,

So as you might have guessed from the title of the post, I'll mainly be talking about Batman. Now I have to be quick because I don't have much time:

For those of you who don't know, there was a mass shooting at a Batman premier in Colorado by a man who claims to be a real life Joker. The guy's a damn nut case, but I have to admit, he's barking brilliant. From what I heard, he had this plan where he left his apartment with loud music on so his neighbors would complain and call the cops. When the cops came, they found a booby-trapped apartment full of explosives. So naturally, a large chunk of the police force and some ambulance trucks go to the scene in case anyone's hurt. Well this guy goes into the movie and coordinates his shooting with a part in the Dark Knight Rises movie where there are explosives going off and guns being fired.

Could you imagine how scary that would have been? I was thinking what I would have done had I been there, and I realized that, until I actually saw people getting shot, I would have taken it as some actor coming in and giving us a special appearance or something. Hell, I might have even cheered him on ... at least until I saw there were actual bullets coming out of his gun ... if I even had time to figure out what was going on. Apparently it took the police a while to even find any records on this guy, and like I said he referred to himself as the Joker. Because of this, the Dark Knight Rises Paris Premier was actually canceled.

***NOTE: I understand everyone's hearing different stories about what happened exactly; when something big like this hits the news, things tend to get mixed up. In any case, this is the story I heard, and regardless the guy's still crazy and wrong for what he did.***

So down to the cool part; apparently, there's this Facebook campaign to get Christian Bale to dress up AS the Batman and visit the victims in the hospital. The purpose of him dressing up as the Batman is symbolic in the fact that while real villains may exist, real heroes can exist too. Personally, I'm completely on board and I think the idea is spectacular. I really hope the campaign finds its way to Bale and he agrees; it would make me cry to see the victims so happy to see their hero. And simply how awesome is that?! Not only do they get to meet Christian Bale, THEY GET TO MEET THE BATMAN. Not many people can say they got to meet the real Batman (or as far as real gets anyway).

Anyway, like I said, I totally agree with the cause. If you agree, I urge you to check it out, make your friends aware, and spread the word as best you can.

Thanks for tuning in,

Peter, The Steamworks

Friday, July 20, 2012

The SteamWorks: The Dark Knight Rises Review

Hey Gang,

So last night, JD, Chazz, and I all attended the Dark Knight Trilogy Premier, where the theater played all three Batman movies.We had a great time and ran into some ... more than interesting people. While I'm sure Chazz will hop on this review eventually since all things Batman are him, I wanted to get a review out on the internet while my memory is fresh and the news is still hot (Chazz is attending the Firefly Music Festival this weekend, so I'm not sure when the next time he can post is). So, here's a Dark Knight Rises review by the Steamworks:

One of the first things I like about this movie is that it picks up exactly where it left off; with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) giving a speech about the death of Two Face, or Harvey Dent. After a whole movie, the Wayne Mansion is finally rebuilt. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired from Batman due to a peaceful lull of crime that's lasted almost a decade, and Mr. Wayne has become a recluse. We're also introduced to the main villain of the movie, Bane (Tom Hardey), and the half-good, half-evil ally of Batman, Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). We're also introduced to a Robin-esque character John Blake (Joesph Gordon-Levitt). Also, in case you couldn't figure it out, the movie is based off of the Knightfall Batman comics. (Oh, and just another fun fact about the film, Anne Hathaway's stunt double crashed into one of the only IMAX cameras in the world and totaled it. Ten points!)

Coming from a average Batman fan (meaning Batman is not my favorite super hero, but I still think he's pretty cool), the movie was utterly fantastic. I was half asleep for most of the beginning of the movie because I was tired, but even still I was able to understand what was going on. Although other critics claim it's a hard story to follow, I disagree; at least, if you've recently seen the past two movies, you'd easily get what's going on. The actors were great. When I first went in, I wasn't so sure how good of a Catwoman Anne Hathaway could be. By the end of the movie, I was completely sold. Christian Bale did a great job acting old and scarred. Gary Oldman also did a great job as Gordon, per usual. I like the fact that while Bane was extremely muscular, it didn't make him an idiot.

In my opinion, the overall story was great. I thought Batman went out with a bang, and I thought it was better than The Dark Knight. I don't really have any complaints other than small little things that I can't really share because they're spoilers, and I'm trying to keep this review spoil free, which is actually very difficult. Final verdict: Acting was great, costumes were original and interesting, story was phenomenal, and (obviously) visual effects were fantastic. Be sure to check out Chazz's review if you want a more in-depth review, as I'm sure he'll want to talk about it thoroughly.


Peter, The Steamworks

***On an added note, my best wishes go out to the families of those who were effected by the terrorist shooting at the premier of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado. I hope for a speedy recovery for those injured and may those that died rest in peace.***


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shatterblog!: Piggybacking on Pete's Post...

I would guess many of you have read Pete's most recent post, and I would like to just add a couple of things here.
As you may have seen in the comments section of my last post, JD and I disagree about the OUYA. So, if that's something you want debated out, comment and stuff. 
Secondly, Pete's review of Dear Esther contains a MAJOR SPOILER OF THE ENDING OF THE GAME! Read that shit at your own risk. While the ending is not particularly hard to see coming, if you want to truly experience Dear Esther you should NOT read his review. Read my spoiler free one here, or just go into it blind. It's a wonderful game.


***Update: Fixed; Thanks Chazz! -Pete***

Thanks for your time folks. 

The SteamWorks: Steam Summer Sale and Dear Esther Mini Review

Hey Gang,

Wow, can you believe we're already halfway through the summer?! I hope those of you who are off are having a good time! We've been very busy here at Project: Better Dolphin as we prep for NYCC, play some awesome games to review for you guys, and get the latest scoops in the gaming industry. Today I'm going to tell you guys about Steam's Summer Sale and Dear Esther:

~Steam Summer Sale: So for those of you living under a rock, there's this awesome free gaming network run by Valve called Steam that gamers use to connect with their friends and purchase games online. Well, from July 12th to July 22nd, Steam is running an annual Summer Sale where you can get great games for pretty cheap prices. There are all sorts of cool deals such as flash deals, which are sweet deals that last for about 12 hours, and the community vote, which is where everyone votes on a popular game to discount (Today was -50% off Skyrim). People such as Chazz and I myself have already reaped the benefits of the sale already; I've bought Dear Esther, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Dead Island, Bioshock, Bioshock II, Half Life, and Half Life II. I have only spent around $35, so that's pretty awesome because normally Bioshock II alone would probably run me around $15-$20. So, if you have the resources to take advantage of these amazing deals, you really need to.

***Note: Upcoming Review contains spoilers***

~ Dear Esther: So as I said above, I played Dear Esther yesterday, really only because Chazz recommended it and I got it for like $2. Now I know Chazz already talked about Dear Esther at Shatterblog!, but I'd like to talk to you about my experience, because as I'll get to later, each person's is different. When I started playing, I was already in a glum mood and was kinda upset. This game made me want to crawl in a hole and die. I don't mean that as "the game was awful," what I mean was that the game was extremely depressing. It was also really confusing. I didn't quite get what the point was. It was very ... boring. I couldn't stand how slow the player walked. This mysterious narrator kept talking to me about his journey on this island looking for a hermit, and the whole time I was trying to connect the dots but couldn't. Then I committed suicide off the top of the radio tower. Now I must admit the graphics were phenomenal. But when I left the game I felt almost incomplete.

So I searched on the Google: "Didn't get Dear Esther". My result was this blog post. This man is a genius. Basically what he's saying is that there's really no point to Dear Esther (like Minecraft), and everyone finds what they want to in it. For him, there was no plot to be discovered, but it was like a simulated walk on the beach at night. It simulated that feeling of loneliness and emptiness but also the beauty that comes with that emptiness. Through this post I found faith in Dear Esther. Everything sort of wrapped together. I realized that I had found something in that game already and didn't realize it until after I read this post. He also explained that you should play the game with all distractions put aside, lights off, at night.

Although there's lots of debate on whether the game should (normally) be priced at $10 because it's only a 90 minute game with almost no re-playable value, it's almost the same as a movie. We pay $10 to see movies that are around an hour and a half long, why isn't it the same with gaming? Is it because we seek some re-playable value? Final verdict: While it's a bit hard to process Dear Esther at first, it's a great awakening experience that brings out serious emotions.

Score: 7.5/10

Also, before I take my leave, I'd like to submit an idea to our audience. If you haven't noticed yet, there's a poll on the right hand side of our blog; I'd like to know if you guys think it'd be a good idea for two PBD team members to pair up and have a written debate over a certain gaming/movie/media topic. I invite you to participate in the poll and feel free to let us know in the comments section of our blog some of the topics you'd like to see debated.

Peter, The SteamWorks

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Steamworks: Planning Your Comic Con Cosplay

Hey Gang,

So with San Diego Comic Con playing out and New York Comic Con approaching, I wanted to talk to you guys about planning out your cosplay or costume. So...

Forgive me for the hard-to-see colors; it was the best I could get it (look at me, trying so hard for you guys). Usually Gabby's the one that does the photo editing ...

Anyway, let's get started!

1. Find a character: This step's pretty simple and self explanatory; find a character that you like. They can be a from a video game, manga, comic book, movie, TV show; the possibilities are endless. However, just a protip: if you're going to a COMIC CON, you might want to dress as someone ... relevant? That means no going as Snooki from Jersey Shore or something dumb like that. Once you find a character, stick with it. If you noticed, in the past year, I've bounced from Jedi to Ellis to now Drake. Now the easiest way to do this is to find a character that looks somewhat similar to you. While finding such a character might be a challenge for some, preparing the costume will be a lot less stress. For example, it would be a lot easier for me to dress up as Nate Drake from Uncharted than Romona from Scott Pilgrim:

Me cosplaying as Drake: Not bad, definitely do-able

Me cosplaying as Romona: Nothing good can come from this...

2. MAKE A LIST AND RESEARCH: This would probably be Leslie Knope's favorite step. Make a list of all the costume pieces you need. Now if you want a convincing costume, make sure to take note of every piece of clothing your character normally wears. The length of your list will help determine the quality of your costume. The more you can replicate the character, the more convincing your costume will be; in other words, if your list contains only a shirt, hat, and pants, it's not going to be very good. You're also going to want to research prices on how much all these items are going to cost and where you can purchase them. A protip for your list would be to write the prices next to their respective items and include links to where you will be buying it. This is my list for my Drake costume:

It's still a bit incomplete, but it's getting there. But that's a good example of a decent list.

3. Finance: Now obviously all these props are going to cost money. That means you're going to need to know exactly how much you're going to spend on this costume. Now usually a rule of thumb is: the more expensive your costume is, it will likely have a better quality (if I need to explain why, you've never went shopping for anything before). However, if you're spending more than $200, you might want to look for either a cheaper character or cheaper props. if you look back to my list, my total is a little less than $150.00, which isn't too bad. You might be able to see now why it might be a good idea to get your list made early; this way, you have enough time to decide what you want to dress up as, make the list of props, and save up money. Otherwise, you might be rushing to make those last few dollars and getting those prop items.

4. Make Sure You're Ready: Now this step comes in about a week or two away from when you're leaving for the con. Try on your costume, make sure everything fits. Make sure nothing's broken. If something is itchy or uncomfortable, fix it. Take some pictures and see what your friends think. Ask them if there's anything they think you should add or remove. This is basically your last step in prepping for the con.

5. Go Show Off Your Awesome Cosplaying Skills: Lastly, go to the con and have a good time. A good rule of thumb for telling if your costume was pretty good is if people ask to take a picture with you, or even the subtle "Nice costume man!" The more time, money, and effort you put into your costume, the better it'll turn out. And, let's face it, it'll be a cool story to tell your kids.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this guide. To those of you at San Diego, I envy you. To those of you planning for NYCC, good luck; this would be a great time to start planning! See ya there!

Peter, The SteamWorks

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Shatterblog!: The OUYA Revolution!

As many of you probably know, Kickstarter is a wonderful site where artists, musicians, game developers, or anyone else can create fundraisers for their projects. Kickstarter hit the news when Double Fine games used it to crowdsource the money to develop an old-school adventure game. 
A few days ago, a Kickstarter began for a product called OUYA. OUYA is an Android based, completely hackable console. It will allow indie developers to publish easily onto it, and due to the console's open nature, no expensive development kit will be needed for purchase. The Kickstarter had a funding goal of $950 thousand in one month. As I sit here, writing this, with 27 days remaining this project has already racked up over $4 MILLION. It has set several records in rapidness of funding, and will have big ripples on the gaming world regardless of what happens next. 

I have seen some positive and negative comments about the OUYA, and I decided to put my two-cents in, as well as give you, our viewers, an idea of this huge event. 
Let me start by talking about the OUYA's specs, which I will pull directly from its Kickstarter page (you will find a link to that of course, at the bottom). 
  • Tegra3 quad-core processor 
  • 1GB RAM 
  • 8GB of internal flash storage
  • HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD 
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n 
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0 
  • USB 2.0 (one) 
  • Wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button), a touchpad 
  • Android 4.0 
Let's look at those for a second. The processor, while designed for mobile devices and not hardcore gaming, is impressive. 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage are fairly impressive, although a larger hard drive wouldn't go amiss. However, considering the size of most mobile friendly games, it will be adequate. HDMI/1080p support is phenomenal, and while it can't compete with the Xbox or PS3 graphically, the OUYA won't look ugly on screen. The controller is perhaps the best part. It looks like an Xbox controller... with a touchpad in the middle! While many groan at the WiiU's touchpad, I think this one will be spectacular. The transition from mobile-Android title to OUYA-Android title will be made much easier and more fun by the use of a small touchpad in the controller. 
Just look at it. The picture isn't the best (it's the only one out there right now basically), but it looks comfortable. The touch screen is small enough that the controller isn't big and absurd (looking at you WiiU) but large enough to be functional. The overall look and feel is very similar to an Xbox controller, which in this blogger/gamer's humble opinion is vastly superior to the PS3. 
But you're a gamer! You already have a console. What can this give you that an Xbox/PS3/Wii can't? For one, its only $99. That's quite a bit less than other current gen consoles, even cheaper than the family/budget friendly Wii. And OUYA requires ALL GAMES to have some free content. It could be a demo, or the whole game supported by microtransactions like League of Legends or DCUO. Our very own Peter of the SteamWorks recently spoke out against free-to-play games, however I think this is a very different case. Even as a passionate gamer, I have to say the market is getting absurd. Every new release priced at $60 seems a bit steep to me. While I understand development team sizes have gone up, overhead costs have increased, and competition is fierce, I hate shelling out so much for every single new release. While that is a whole separate issue I won't try to tackle here, just think about this. Asura's Wrath has a 5-6 hour campaign. Arkham City has an over-40-hour campaign. Why should they be equally priced? Allowing gamers to demo all games, as well as the inherent inexpensiveness (any developer with the console has all the tools they need to publish. No expensive dev kit. No greedy corporation publishing like EA). 
A developer I happen to like has spoken out against the OUYA as naive. As an open and hackable console, piracy will be far from challenging. This will of course make some developers leery of putting time, effort, and funds into a game anyone can steal easily. However, as the Kickstarter has shown, gamers want this console to exist. They support the idea of it. I tend not to see the good in people, but I think many users, myself included, won't pirate simply because it will screw them later on. If piracy reaches absurd levels, new games will happen less often. Less developers will get on board. Who would want that?
I am very adamantly against the increasing transition from home consoles to "bite-sized" mobile games like Angry Birds. I believe both have a place, but the speculation that consoles are dying gets me angry. While the biggest boost to consoles will certainly be the next generation, I think the OUYA fills a real gap in the industry. I fully intend to follow its development and will most likely be pledging the $99 to get one. If you want to know more about OUYA, or if you're sold on it and want to pledge money now, check out their Kickstarter.

The Steamworks: Press Release: New Wizard101 Commercial

Hey Gang,

So I'm catching up with my peeps on Twitter when I see this new commercial, hot off the presses:

Again, I'm amazed. This commercial is particularly cool because a lot of people (including myself) were talking about how they wanted to see the rest of the fight with the awesome graphics. I love it. Keep up the good work, KingsIsle.

Peter, The Steamworks

***EDIT: Sorry about the video problems, KingsIsle removed the video because they wanted to fix some quality issues and I just got to updating it. Thanks guys!***

The Steamworks: Quick Update

Hey Gang,

So when I say this will be a quick update, I mean really quick. I just wanted to say hello to everyone because I just got back from my trip to Germany and France! I've been there for the past week and it's great to be home. I'll continue posting again shortly.

See ya round,

Peter, The Steamworks

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Resident Troll: Ask Tumblrs

Despite what Peter may say, Tumblr can be a fantastic place. While mine mostly consists of editorial photos and the occasional Zelda or anime post, there's so much more to offer. And no, I'm not talking about the porn that occasionally pops up on dashboards all over the world. One of my favorite things about Tumblr has to be the ask Tumblrs.

Ask Tumblrs are basically where artists adapt the persona of a character from a fandom and takes questions. Afterwards, they'll make art to portray the character's reaction. They can be hilarious if done right, and a little depressing if done wrong. Still--you can't deny how fun fandom can get sometimes.

Some of my favorites: Ask Jilly (James and Lily Potter), Ask Ghirahim, and Notes Passed by the Maruaders.

Don't forget to follow Project: Better Dolphin on Tumblr! You can find it here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Shatterblog! and Slightly Redder Red Super Crossover Edition!- Teen Titans Fanfic Dramatic Reading

So JD from Slightly Redder Red is currently staying here in the dungeon basement here at Shatterblog! and after 4 seasons of Teen Titans and an immeasurable number of Dark Knight Mountain Dews, we got the idea to have him do a dramatic reading of a fan fiction. We settled on Thump, by Hero07. It features Raven and Beast Boy. For our sensitive readers (listeners?) fear not! It is in no way inappropriate, definitely rated G. For those of you who want ot check out the original posting, check it out here. We do not own the story, we merely enjoyed reading it, and we certainly don't own Teen Titans. We sincerely hope you enjoy JD's performance.

"Thump", by Hero07

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Steamworks: Street Team Issue #0 Review

Hey Gang,

So I know it's been awhile since I've posted. In case you didn't see on the news somewhere (or in case you simply don't care about the news), there was a huge surprise thunderstorm on the northeast coast. Long story short, I was left with no power for two and a half days.

Getting onto business, JD, Chazz, and I headed out to a small Philadelphia Comic Con for local comic vendors to sell some products and make some nice profit. They had a bunch of really cool stuff, and each of us even got 5 free comics just for being within the first one hundred people to pay admission (although I gave most of those to JD). I got three really awesome posters that I plan to hang in my room (one of Nightwing, one of Spiderman, and one of Batman; I was going to post pictures on this post, but I couldn't find any good ones on the internet and I didn't feel like unraveling them yet again, so I'll post pictures when I hang them). So while we're walking around the room, we stumble across a cool guy named Shawn Alleyne. Alleyne and a team of 3 other artists (Stanley Weaver, Joesph Currie, and James Mason) brought toogether their heroes that they draw solo and made The Street Team, which consists of Stalker and his dog Bear, Aaron, Tiger, Blackbird, and Dodger. For a great bundle price, I picked up this comic, a poster of the front cover, a concept art post of The Street Team together, and a signed picture of Aaron, Alleyne's character. So today I'll be reviewing Street Team Issue #0.

Honestly, there aren't many things I dislike about the comic, but the opening is a little cliche and annoying simply because it's just like every comic. A "Breaking News" message flashes on a news channel as we tune into an anchor reporting on an attack of a police station. If the producers/writers/artists/team of people that make The Street Team is reading this, I'd like to ask that you please take this as constructive criticism before I go further. If you're introducing a brand new set of heroes (ok, so they may not be brand new, but they certainly are for mainstream readers), you have to make your comic stand out from all the other ones out there. Don't open with a cliche and overused intro, because that only bores your readers because they've heard it all before (the same goes for books, movies, music, and any other outlet of media). A good example of a "different" and unique intro is in Batman: The Dark Knight; the opening bank robbing scene is fantastic. While it may be common to open with spotlighting the villain, we saw it from a different perspective; we followed the villain through his crime. While it wasn't the first time this has ever been done, it was certainly different than most hero movies.

The intro to the comic does pick up the slack though, particularly when things start to explode, and when the main villain, Oguun, wrecks havoc in the city. I found this to be a particularly exciting scene. I did not like the introduction to the heroes. The heroes are introduced taking care of shit in their own cities, getting a call, and taking off from whatever they were doing. These scenes are being narrated by Stalker, but Tiger was the first of them shown, so the whole time I was imagining Tiger narrating until I realized it had to be Stalker when he came last. The whole setup is also a bit cliche, however I must say I do like the tiny bit of back story between Dodger and Stalker and the inter-conflicts between the two.

So the heroes all meet up and decide they need stop Oguun before he destroys all of their cities together (Oh, I forgot to mention the fact that Oguun teamed up with the regular arch nemeses of the heroes. That happened), they decide to infiltrate the sewers, and the first issue ends. Some notes on the characters; I find Aaron to basically be Batman, which I don't like. Not to say I don't like Batman, but if someone could confidently say your character reminds them of someone else's, you should change them. In fact, it seems all of these characters have a bit of Batman in them. Stalker's description is: "By day he's a well-known businessman, investor, and philanthropist. By night, he's a highly trained bounty hunter armed with the latest high-tech software. Blackbird's is: "Blackbird's only family member was killed in a random act of gang violence when he was a young boy. After years of Kung Fu training under the tutelage of his adoptive guardian, Blackbird has dedicated his life to bringing justice to the mean streets of Grimsburg as a crime fighting avenger." Going back to Aaron, his best friend was murdered, so he ran away and was taught to "find himself" by a Master of a secret clan who took him in. He then used this power and anger to fight crime "using his own unorthodox techniques". Dodger also seems to be like Batman in the fact that he likes to work alone. All of these seem to be a whole lot like Batman, and I don't think it'd be a bad idea to try and derail from that path. Just another note, I felt that Blackbird's presence was barely there.

It seems like I've just been taking shots at this comic when really there's a lot of good here that should be shown. I am in love with the art used in Street Team. It's very unique and there's just something about it that makes me love it. I love the design of the characters. I think each of their costumes is sick and pretty original. I also am a fan of the general story arc. While this comic isn't perfect, it's definitely a good start; piloting any type of media is a hard thing to do, and no one's perfect at it. There were a decent amount of "first time" mistakes including grammatical errors and cliches, but I'm confident the writers of Street Team will find their own path. As I said before (to the writers): please don't be offended by this post. Take this as some advice to make your comic even better than it is currently. Good luck to the writers, and I hope you enjoyed this review.


Peter Venuti, the Steamworks

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Slightly Redder Red: Difficulty

        While playing through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 just to see how fast I could do it, I realized how terrible the "Juggernaut" enemy type is. Easily recognizable by the heavy, astronaut like suits and the "get sum" codpiece, the game became annoying whenever they appeared. It was nice to have a bit of a variety in the enemy types in the campaign, which in CoD is a godsend, but they were a hassle. They made the game less fun. They were so easy to kill, but they took so long to do it, I had to crouch, stand up, empty a clip into their heads, repeat. Some may argue that that's the entire formula in a first person shooter game, but it's more fast paced when you kill four or five enemies per rotation. With the juggernauts, it slows the pacing of the game, and that's the artificial difficulty at work.
        There's a huge difference between Artificial Difficulty and actual Difficulty in video games. Both are methods of extending the time you spend on a game, but one requires skill and training to master, while the other is a lazy way of making you spend even more time on the game than needed. Artificial Difficulty usually relies on higher health or higher defense ratings for an enemy, actual difficulty usually relies on timing and precision. 
        One notable instance of Artificial Difficulty in an otherwise excellent game is the higher level Draugr in Skyrim. These Draugr literally have no change in their attack pattern, barely any change in their looks, yet they have their health bumped up to extremes to make you spend more time in the dungeons. Draugr bosses are an exception, Bethesda gave them shout abilities like Disarm and Unrelenting Force. I was extremely annoyed to the point of almost shutting the game down when I was doing the dungeon to kill the dragon priest Rahgot  at around level forty. When I got into his room, he spawned, and almost twelve Draugr Deathlords came out of the coffins ready to defend him. They did little to no damage to me, decked out in the best armor I could get my hands on, and although I did high amounts of damage to them, they had health levels rivaling Elder Dragons and were outlasting me. It took almost fifteen minutes to get rid of all them to focus on Rahgot, and by then the pacing of the game was completely ruined, I was just.... annoyed. Extremely annoyed. 
        Skyrim's vanilla dungeons keep the mindset that the higher the enemy health is, the more difficult the fights are. I've found plenty of mods that abandon that idea, instead pandering to using your character's skillset to stay alive in fights. Plenty of dungeon mods have enemies with an average amount of health, yet do high amounts of damage, requiring experience with parrying, using spells to retain the upper hand, or staying undetected in the shadows to succeed. An entire game that's built on the ideal of skillful combat is Dark Souls. You can't sit there and tank damage with your shield like a heavily armored Argonian with a large amount of potions, you need to roll under the Taurus Demon's crotch or parry Gwyn, Lord of Cinders' attacks to succeed. It's difficult without being annoying. It makes the game great.
        Artificial Difficulty is so rampant nowadays, though. I can't stand Terraria because I just need to back up and shoot to succeed, which ends up taking much longer than it needs to be due to the bosses having such high amounts of health. Don't even get me started on the amoeba level in Metro 2033, I've abandoned my Ranger Easy playthrough because that section is so goddamned hard to complete with the amoebas killing me in one shot. And riot gear enemies from Uncharted? Forget about it. They ruin the pacing. Increasing enemy health does not equal difficulty, which is why I think the Ranger Easy/Hard difficulties in Metro 2033 are so great (despite the terrible, agonizingly hard amoeba section). They lower the enemy's health and your health as well, requiring a lot of strategy to get through the game, making it more realistic and less masochistic. If I went and tried to play Veteran difficulty on CoD, my health stays the same, but the enemies become bullet sponges. That's not fun, it's tedious. At least if I went to play Legendary on Halo or turned the difficulty up on STALKER the enemies have better AI and things of the like, making the game harder without giving them iron skin. 
        Realism is the best kind of difficulty, in my opinion. ARMA2 is extremely fun due to that. One bullet and I'm down for the count, same goes for my enemy. It makes the combat more frantic and exciting. Fallout: New Vegas had hardcore difficulty, which made the game extremely enjoyable. STALKER is incredibly fun due to the need to manage your inventory and stay healthy. This is a matter of taste, however. Game developers don't always try to apply the need for skill in games nowadays, look at Mass Effect 3's casual difficulty. You literally take no damage whatsoever. It baffles me why they would even add that to their game, are they so prideful about players wanting to experience their story to even think about the need for gameplay in a video game? Bioware should have made a goddamned movie or wrote a goddamned book for the players who just wanted their story. Deus Ex: Human Revolutions had a story leagues better than Mass Effect's (opinions), but they didn't offer a "no damage" mode for people just interested in the story. You had to play the game. No "killallhostiles" allowed.
        Are gamers even allowed to be challenged nowadays? From Software had to dumb down the difficulty on Dark Souls due to the mainstream opinion that the game was too damn hard. Mass Effect 3's casual difficulty was met positively by most people. And it absolutely kills me how many people go onto Rockstar's forums and complain about the free-look mode that they carried over from Max Payne 1/2 into Max Payne 3, in favor of being able to snap to enemies after aiming like in Grand Theft Auto or other popular third person shooters. I appreciate the need for skill in video games, gameplay is one of the most important things I look for in a game. It kills me that the mainstream audience loves to be babied and carried through the story mode with brightly colored enemies showing up on the minimap or craptons of ammo being divvied out in loads after every single kill. 
       As BioWare once said, "we want the Call of Duty audience." Now if you'll excuse me, I have to spend the next twenty minutes dumbing this article down into two sentences because Project: Better Dolphin wants the Twitter audience.