Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Slightly Redder Red: Empty Chairs and Empty Tables

I haven't posted anything in forever and I feel like I should do a life post. My very media focused life is finally surfacing again and I have things I can kind of talk about.

So around halfway through my junior year of high school I started fucking things up really bad for myself and was basically bitchwhipped into doing better by my parents, but now I'm back to normal primarily because I've kept working all summer and that I'm seeing a therapist. Turns out I actually have problems. 

Working has consisted of teaching children to play guitar in the morning and being in a production of Les Miserables at night, both things of which I've been enjoying. The show premiers on Thursday and runs until Sunday, so I'm pumped for it. I've felt at home on the stage as of recent times mostly do to the fact I'm out of the house and breathing.

Games... I only recently started playing video games again and the ones I'm playing a lot are Dark Souls, Sonic & Allstars Racing Transformed, Saint's Row 3, and hopefully Borderlands 2. I can't quit Dark Souls ever. It's a lethal disease.

I started actually following recent shows when it comes to anime. I fell in love with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and am anxiously awaiting Stardust Crusaders, and as of about two weeks ago Tomoko Kuroki is mai waifu. Watamote is really the only good thing I've seen so far this season, since that FOTNS chibi show ended up being bad and Hyperdimension Neptunia Animated ended up being cute girls doing cute things instead of anything remotely enjoyable. Attack on Titan is really just me needing a show while JoJo is missing from my life. If anyone has any recommendations for me, be my guest. My other favorite show besides JoJo is Persona 4 Animated, so anything along that vein. 

The third Berserk movie was amazing, although I'm really sad that they left out the Black Dog fight. The show did it too, I just expected them to take advantage of it to showcase how future fights with Guts squaring off against huge opponents might look like. 

Deadman Wonderland was pretty good. The ending was kinda meh, but you sorta expected it. I'm also reading JoJo, Sun Ken-Rock, and Berserk when it gets new chapters. 

Fucking Bravest Warriors is hilarious. 

That's about it. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shatterblog!: The State of Games

I should warn everyone that this is an "opinion" piece which means A) I will rant some and B) you may also have opinions that either align or do not align with mine and I would be happy to hear them in the comments.

I keep seeing articles all over the internet about how awful gamers are, and I always feel a certain amount of personal offense. "Hey!" I think to myself "We're just like any other group. All these stereotypes are unfair." While stereotypes for gamers are in no way as bad as those facing other minority groups, it's impossible to deny that there are a lot of negative images associated with gamers. We are constantly assumed to be whiny, entitled, violent, overweight, unwashed, pre-sociopathic shut-ins. Sure, gaming is entering the main stream, but we still have a bad wrap.

But you know what? I see where it's coming from. Looking only at a few recent events you can see why people feel this way.

Exhibit A: David Vonderhaar

David Vonderhaar is a developer on Call of Duty: Black Ops II whose job is to make sure the game remains fair and balanced. After rolling out a patch and posting the patch notes on Twitter, Vonderhaar received countless threats of violence for "messing up" weapons by the gamers who claim to love the game. So many in fact that a community manager had to write an editorial asking for this to stop. Now I've had my favorite class or my favorite gun changed up or even nerfed before. I know it's frustrating and I know it can feel unfair. But think about it for a second. How unfair does it feel before the nerf when your class is outperforming someone else no matter what he does because of a buggy mechanic? I raided competitively in World of Warcraft for a while. There was a period where Rogues just did way too much damage. When they got balanced, or as Rogue players liked to say "ruined" it put them back to having to compete for the top DPS slot. That's fair. Skill and gear should be major deciding factors in top damage, not unbalanced mechanics.
You can actually see the blog post here and see exactly how the guns have been modified. It really doesn't seem that bad, but I don't play CoD so I wouldn't know. Still, lets assume these guns are now unusably bad. They're so unfairly underpowered that anyone using them will lose every game regardless of skill. Are two imaginary guns in a video game worth threatening bodily harm on a man and his family? It's absurd that the minority (and it is a minority) of gamers, who are threatening developers can be so loud. It's not okay. We love these games. We're passionate. But as Romeo and Juliet and game dev's Twitter feeds show, passion can be a bad thing. It's wrong to harass and threaten people for trying to do their jobs and ensure the quality of the product we want to enjoy. This kind of behavior has real consequences.

Exhibit B: Phil Fish

Speaking of consequences, let's take a look at another recent event: the cancelling of Fez II. Phil Fish is a guy everybody loves to hate. I'll be honest, I'm not his biggest fan. I think that his voting against Ed McMillen was a little rude (Obviously McMillen was hurt about it based on Judas in Binding of Isaac wearing a Fez) and I don't always agree with his very outspoken opinions. But people are insanely mean to him. Not everyone likes Fez but it's a good game. Anyone who has seen Indie Game: the Movie knows Phil put his heart and soul into that game, and he struggled to get it to be the quality he wanted. The multiple release delays of Fez netted Fish loads of death threats and insults. I may not be the man's biggest fan, but I respect a lot of what he's done. He cancelled Fez II due to the "long bloody campaign" and because he wants to "get out of games". A man who is incredibly passionate about gaming and game design is quitting and getting out of the business because of how the people who are supposed to love video games treated him. Obviously something is wrong with the gaming community. I took a look at Fish's blog post because I couldn't believe the man from Indie Game: the Movie who slaved over his project, his baby, would quit. Then I scrolled down and took a look at the comments.
We've got all kinds of negativity here, even racism towards him for being from Quebec. Who the hell is racist against Canadians? I could literally post 10 more screencaps just like that one, negative comments all in a row. Attacking Phil's personality, his work, telling him to kill himself, all manner of inappropriate sexual threats. Why would this man continue to make games for us? To the people who tell him to toughen up, how could anyone continue to work on something when all they get for their slavish work is hatred and threats? The fact that he managed to release Fez is a miracle. This is not okay. Those of us who really love games and support developers need to do something. We can't just sit back and say "Well I never threaten anyone" anymore. A game that many people were excited for is not going to be created because of how horribly the developer has been treated. Even if Phil Fish is the world's biggest asshole (SPOILER: he isn't) nobody deserves to be treated as less than human. It costs us nothing to leave a positive comment. To paraphrase Kevin Smith, artists give us all the things we love, from games to movies to books and absolutely everything in between. It takes so little to encourage the person who may someday writes the book that gets us through the death of a loved one, or makes the game that helps you bond with a friend who will one day be the best man at your wedding. Artists should be treated better than average, not worse. Game development is and art, these devs are people. We insult them, attack them, and buy used games to save a couple bucks while they get nothing out of it. Don't get me wrong, I love used games. The ability to trade games allows me to afford new games that support the devs. I'm not saying you should never buy another used game, or that GameStop is the devil, or that AAA games are inherently bad. We just all need to reconsider the way we reward the people who make our very favorite games. As always, sound off in the comments. I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'd love to hear you say it.

EDIT: During the writing of this article I got into it with some people on the Polytron comment board. This community needs a lot of work. I hope we treat devs and each other better soon.
EDIT 2: I should make it clear Fish responds with a lot of immature stuff, even telling one of his abusers to kill himself. That's shitty, but he's pushed to the edge. That excuses nothing, but I have trouble blaming the guy for getting mad after everything that's happened.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Steamworks: Comic Roundup 07/24/2013

Hey Gang,

It's comic day again! For new visitors, I'll be rounding up comics I pull and talking a bit about things I liked, loved, hated, and didn't enjoy. Today on my list, we have: Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1, The Superior Spider-Man #14, Batman Superman #2, and Aquaman #22. For a list of all the comics, variants, and figures that came out today (July 24th, 2013), click on this link. Let's get started!


Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1:

I was particularly excited for this comic because a) it was the first issue, which is always exciting, b) it's "Superior Spider-Month", and after reading Superior Carnage #1 I'm super pumped, and c) I really wanted to read something Spider-Man other than The Superior Spider-Man (Pretty much anyone other than Dan Slott can actually write Spider-Man well, and well I want that). Firstly, I really like the art in SSMTU. I don't really know what it is, but it's pleasing to the eye and gets enough detail in to make it look good but not overwhelming or like it's trying to be in your face. That said, the comic overall was slightly above the level of "meh" (most people use the word "okay" here). I really like that Chris Yost actually writes a bit of humor into Spider-Man (a basic component of writing a good SM book). The majority of the book focuses on Spider-Man's (more specifically Doc Oc's) probation that was placed by the Avengers a while ago (The Superior Spider-Man #7) that was never really addressed ever again by Slott (can you tell I'm bitter at Slott and his raping of the Spider-Man saga? Cause I am...). Another great feature of this book is just how the plot plays out; I love the whole layout where the reader is meant to think Doc Oc is starting to blow his cover as Spider-Man. I don't necessarily, however, believe Cap would dismiss any doubt of Spider-Man still needing probation like he does after this issue. As for a smaller point, I love hearing from the huge variety of Avengers this issue had to offer. We saw Cloak and Dagger, Sun Girl, Dare Devil, and even The Fantastic Four (Or isn't it something like 13 now? I don't keep tabs on them...). Overall, the book is okay. Maybe even good. It's a bit early in the game to say much, but I am excited to see more of where Yost will be taking this.

*Sidenote: The Superior Spider-Man #14 chronologically comes before this issue, just as an FYI.*

Rating: 7.0/10


The Superior Spider-Man #14:

We're going to get all of the Spider-Man out of the way right now. There are two positive things I have to say, the first being I really like the art in this comic. Humberto Ramos (Penciler), Victor Olazaba (Inker), and Edgar Delgado (Color Artist) all did a fantastic job with illustrating this issue. Secondly, I like where the story's going with both Hobgoblin and Green Goblin. Both Goblins are two of my favorite villains, and honestly I'm more than excited to see where Slott goes with this. However, everything else is just bad. I don't like the way King Pin is written (seems too passive in my humble opinion, like he's too willing to throw in the towel for the battle). I don't like Slott adding a Spidey-Army, or a Spidey-Tank, or Spidey-Arms (Okay, let's just think about this... many people know Spider-Man isn't acting like he usually does, and now he has FUCKING ARMS COMING OUT OF HIS BACK LIKE DOCTOR OCTOPUS. NO THIS CAN'T BE SUSPICIOUS AT ALL.) I really just need Peter Parker back. Just not Doc Oc. Gimme some humor, gimme some Peter, and gimme Peter's bitches back while you're at it too.

Rating: 5.0\10


Batman Superman #2:

As a disclaimer, I've not yet read the #1 for this line yet. With that said, it was kinda hard to get into the grove at first, but after a while, I got the lead that it took place in a universe or timeline where both Batman and Superman are fairly young and are just meeting each other. I can't really decide if I like the art or hate it, to be quite honest. I really like how Batman is drawn, frankly. He looks very mysterious and shadowy, which is how I imagine Batman to look. Meanwhile, I can't stand how Clark is drawn, and I know that for a fact. It also looks in some panels like the art is lazy, and sometimes there isn't much of an environment as there ought to be. Overall the story is very captivating and I have to admit I was very impressed. I'm now in full support of this comic.

Rating: 8.0/10


Aquaman #22:

Geoff Johns... I love you. With all my heart. I've really been excited to get my hands in this comic, but sadly, like The Walking Dead, it only comes out on a once-a-month basis. This has quenched my thirst for a kick-ass issue. Everything about this comic is so well done, from the pristine art, to the clever story-telling, to the touch of humor, and ending with the very suspenseful ending. I have to say, I really have loved the "Death of a King" story arc that's been going on since about February or so. The First King of Atlatnis is such an interesting character, and learning more about his past in this issue really opened up my eyes as to where he's been and he doesn't really seem like a villain anymore (granted, not a good guy, but not a villain by my standards). Personally, I think that's what's made Aquaman so interesting and captivating for the past ten or so issues; Aquaman doesn't really have any "villains". He encounters bad people who brew up some bad scenarios, and Aquaman has to deal with it. And then, sadly, his life is all messed up. I'm pumped to see what I'm sure will be a stunning conclusion to the arc. Keep writing, Mr. Johns!

Rating: 9.0/10

Well, that's all I have for you fine, handsome folks today. I hope you enjoyed my roundup of comics, and I hope you enjoy whatever comics you pulled this week. You're more than welcome to leave your opinions of comics covered in this article here or any comics this week in the comments section down below.

I'll see ya folks later!

Peter, The Steamworks

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Steamworks: The Walking Dead: 400 Days DLC Review

Hey Gang,

So today I was hanging in enjoying my day off work and figured, "Shit, why not buy the new Walking Dead DLC? It's only $5." And so, I went to the Steam shop, bought the DLC, installed it, and began to play. I would like to say, before the official review begins, that I will be doing a no spoiler review for those who have not played it, and for those who haven't gotten to finish through the main story yet, I wanted to add there are absolutely no spoilers in the actual DLC that might ruin the game for you. While there are many landmarks and references to the main story (AKA Season One), it's a completely separate story that really has nothing to do with Clementine and Lee.

With that said, let's head into a bit of background information about the DLC. 400 Days takes place in a small town in Georgia roughly around the same place the main story does in Season One. When you enter the game, you will be presented with 5 different pictures of people (Vince, Bonnie, Wyatt, Russel, and Shel), and will proceed to learn more about each individual by clicking on each picture to be immersed a bit into his or her story as a survivor. Each survivor is with a different group of people varying in sizes, and each small narrative takes place at different points in time, each taking place within a matter of 400 days (hence the title "400 Days"). While there is a temporal chronological order one could follow (starting with Vince and roughly ending with Shel (her story spans multiple days, however her short narrative concludes on Day 259), the player may browse the stories through any order they desire. For me personally, my order was: Bonnie, Russel, Shel, Wyatt, and Vince.

I have to say, one of the greatest things about this DLC is just getting attached to these completely new characters. Those of you who have read my mini-review of The Walking Dead Review know that I wasn't a huge fan of the game, but thought it was generally good. However, I believe Telltale Games has made the perfect move with the DLC. What I mean is, I love how we got more of the universe instead of more lead-up to Season Two. When it comes to any form of media, spin-off, DLC, or otherwise, there's one pet peeve I have that Telltale has bypassed with perfection; if someone picked up this game (meaning The Walking Dead Season One), he/she should be able to play through the game and understand it completely without having to pick up any bonus material (save the upcoming sequel, but sequels don't count in my opinion because it's a continuation of the main plot or the main characters of a story. To be clear here, I'm talking true sequels, like Half Life which then proceeds to Half Life 2, not like Left 4 Dead and then Left 4 Dead 2. While there's some continuity of characters and stories in the L4D universe, it doesn't quite carry over in the games). He/she shouldn't need 400 Days to understand what's going to happen in the sequel or to fully understand the plot of Season One.

It drives me crazy when companies decide to throw out DLC, spin-offs, etc. into the market that you MUST play to understand the main story of the main games (sadly, this has happened to many of my favorite games, including King Hearts. I've only ever played 1 and 2 because until recently I didn't have a device to play the mobiles on, so I don't know what the fuck is going on most the time). I don't care how many "flashbacks" you throw at me from the side content, even if the cut-scene you're showing me is pulled directly from the game itself and is not altered in any way. I know to most people it's not a big deal, but in my opinion not only does it make companies look like all they care about are cashing in on their games ("Hey guys! We want to make sure you purchase this and if you don't, you'll miss some parts of the story!"), it makes plot confusing and it makes the company look like they're not willing to take any risks. In a statement: I believe ANY sort of side-content should only expand on the universe and should only serve the purpose of heightening the players experience so they can appreciate tie-ins, cameos, etc. more deeply.

All in all, 400 Days was a perfect DLC. I enjoyed playing it, it had a great story(ies), and it was so worth the $4.99.

TL;DR: 400 Days is great because, aside from the great story(ies) told, Telltale Games stays away from the main plot.

8.5/10

Peter, The Steamworks