I seriously love the PS4’s ability to snap photos at any time. It’s a godsend to have it capture footage or just a quick screenshot whenever I need to.
The joke was made time and time again. Mostly by my friends in the gaming industry. Or at least, the question was given more times than I could count. “Hey, played that game yet?” Panzer Dragoon Orta. And no, I haven’t played it. I’ve never owned an Xbox. Until recently. Hello there, namesake. Used, on amazon, like new. Sweet.
Every tie some video game has been optioned off for a movie, there is a flurry of activity among the video game community- one of either hope or pessimism (currently, the latter is being used more often than not) for the project. Unfortunately, the film projects have one of two results- either the film languishes in development hell for one reason or another (see the film projects for Bioshock or Metal Gear Solid for two films stuck in movie development hell.) while others come out to somewhat mediocre results-see every video game movie ever made. Seriously. There was a Tekken film. No one remembers it because it went direct to DVD. I saw it and I slightly hate myself for doing so, even if it was just to see how weird it was to have people in those silly outfits. Seriously though, a woman wouldn’t even dare try to fight in assless cha-okay, you get the idea. Mass Effect has just been optioned for a film with Legendary Pictures. This is a unique new opportunity for video game movies- giving the original creators some input into the creation of the film. I doubt Shinji Mikami or anyone at Capcom were given key roles or consulting opportunities when it came for Resident Evil films, for example. I do believe that to make a video game movie work properly, there needs to be a balance set- one between that of the original game designers and that of the creative team of the film- screenwriter, director, et. al. It’s a tricky tightrope to follow, but even with some creative input from those who originally created the story, balanced with the creative team behind the movie, magic could be made. But besides that- what fascinates me most is the possibilities for the Mass Effect movie- what could come of it if it came to fruition. The game was open ended, and gamers came together with different tales of their Mass Effect experience. I would like to submit my own idea to where the Mass Effect movie should go- something in my own part of the Mass Effect experience. Shepard (the main character), should be a woman. Okay, so it’s not entirely unheard of- I understand that. And the majority of the advertising for both games feature the standard male Shepard (or maleshep, as a couple of ME fan friends of mine have informed me to the lingo of the fans), and the adversity the character presents in having to save the world. So why this femshep?
The world of science fiction films is crowded with the idea of the one male hero fighting adversity for the good of their respective “universe” so to say- everyone from Captain Malcolm Reynolds(Serenity, Firefly) to older classics like George Taylor (from Planet of the Apes). The male hero fighting for good in the face of so much adversity is a world to which comes natural to the science fiction genre in films. Let’s mix it up a bit and place a female Shepard into the role. After all, when you think of a female hero in science fiction, most minds turn immediately to Ellen Ripley of the Alien films. And that character is almost thirty years old at this point- have there been no other real sci-fi super heroines. Okay, maybe Buffy, but she was more fantasy character than sci-fi. Some of the Firefly characters were quite strong, but they weren’t the main character- only playing second fiddle to Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds.
Why not allow the female Shepard not only face adversity as being the only human ever to become Spectre (an event that occurs early in the first game)- facing adversity not only to her race- but her sex- thus facing adversity within her own people. Make that battle to gain acceptance and understanding from those in the Citadel- and in that universe- that much harder to accomplish.
It would be a difficult sell, yes, perhaps, then going safe and filling the tropes of science fiction films to a strong male lead, but to challenge the audience to respect this Shepard would indeed shake things up.
The Mass Effect experience was the ability to shake things up- to allow players to choose their own path and make their own moral experience. Why not shake it up and allow the central character- the protagonist to which Ashley, Liara, and Garrus and the other secondary characters- rally behind to save the universe with- be that of the fairer sex? To have a female character that not only has the distinct problems to attempting to save the galaxy already discriminated as a human (a already looked down upon group within the Mass Effect mythos, as humans are relative newcomers to the galactic political-sphere), but to receive further discrimination from those within her race as a woman– if done correctly, could create a rallying character to which is sorely missing from the realm of science fiction. The story was written in such a way that playing as either sex would feel natural to the player. The same could be said of the movie- having a female lead may be difficult- especially for those who were used to playing through the Mass Effect with the male Shepard.
Unfortunately, that can’t be the case anymore. At Comic Con, Bioware had a panel for the film, in which they confirmed that the movie will be about the origin story of a male Shepard. Now to go and say that this plan is a bad one is a foolhardy move on my part- who knows, the film may be an amazing success. I would have just liked it if there was a challenge on the behalf of those involved to create a new science fiction heroine in their already vivid, expansive universe, basing it on a story already known by the fan base created so far. But that’s just my thought as a writer, just a compilation and musings of someone who would like to see the Mass Effect story make the jump to the silver screen effectively, by challenging itself to become the next great sci-fi universe in film.
With the latest generation of video games, the ability to create virtual avatars have become commonplace. The Xbox 360 has its avatars. The Wii has its Miis. And the PS3… well, it has its Home Avatars (that’s almost a second thought behind the first two). All of these avatar creation systems have the same damn problem. Curly hair. They can’t do curly hair. Not one goddamn bit. I have natural curly hair- a byproduct of my Mexican heritage. It’s always something I’ve been proud of. I would drive my straight haired mother crazy as i would show off the locks as they naturally occur (I’ve only straightened my hair only once, and that was for my sisters amusement. I love my curls, and never want to do it again, but knowing my sister, I’ll probably have it straightened again for her joy.) My mother would curse me as I’d put heavy amounts of gel in my hair in the morning to shape said curls perfectly. This hairstyle is one thing I’m rather proud of, but unfortunately, It isn’t very well quite reflected in these virtual avatar creation systems. In fact, trying to find any curly hair style (outside of an afro) is virtually nonexistent. And god only knows how I’ve tried. Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, The Sims, The Sims 2 (although that might have been the exemption, I remember being quite happy with the results there), Saints Row 2… the list seems to roll on and on, finding myself frustrated with the lack of curly hair and ending up creating something completely crazy instead. Go to your favorite game with a create a character system. Go on, do it. The choices are utterly normal or crazy, with nary a curl in sight, to the dismay of myself and my curly haired compatriots. In the meantime, I’ve found a worthwhile substitute for Playstation Home and Xbox Live.
Every year, I have looked forward to E3- not to the show itself, but to meet with friends who come in to the city for the show and hang out with them- it’s been the tradition for close to four years now. But this year- I got the chance to go to the show itself, to check out the games inside. While I’ve been to plenty of other conventions (Comic-Con, for example), E3 is an entirely different beast. The sensory assault on every last one of your senses can be overwhelming, even maddening- from the blaring sounds of the music from each booth, to the giant panel screens to the overall electricity that filled the west and south halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Even some of the… smells can be rather… rancid, but that’s due to the fact that some nerds have never heard of deodorant. (As for taste- I made a mistake to eat some of the overpriced food at one of the stands there. Never. Ever. Again. I was desperate! And hungry).
I figure this would be a good place, if any, to talk about some of the games I saw, including some of my favorites.
The best (that I played.)
1. Uncharted 3: So… I was looking forward to this game already. I’m jonesing for it like a bad addict- I need me my adventure game. I’ve beaten Uncharted soundly, and I’m incredibly close to beating the sequel 100%. The multiplayer was the only part of the game that was being on the show floor- parts of the single player was being shown to the press only. That was only slightly disappointing to me at first, because I wanted my time at playing the single player element of the game, the strongest point of the whole Uncharted experience. But the multiplayer shows a distinct level of polish I hadn’t expected- the maps shown, were impressively detailed. One took place in some sort of broken down church- parts of it were on fire. Running through the map, I had gone into part of the church, only to have the fire break the wooden floor underneath me in the middle of a firefight. There’s even a map (I didn’t get to play it, but I wish i did) taking place on a plane trying to take off- one team starting on the plane, the other, on trucks driving alongside the plane. I don’t do it justice, to be honest- watch some of the on the floor videos to see for yourself.
2. Aliens: Colonial Marines: I went to this line originally because I was trying to find someplace comfy to sit (shuttup, I was walking ALL DAY)- and being an Aliens fan, I wanted to give this game the benefit of the doubt- being burned by the mediocre performance shown by Aliens vs. Predator last year, I was reticent to accept anything in this license overall.
And jeebus chrieeest, I was so wrong. Fans were packed into a small room for a demo of the game, given by a visibly nervous producer- He stuttered from time to time as he professed the fandom the developer, Gearbox Software, had on the game as a company. He presented the game as a labor of love, and it shows. Presenting what seems to be the opening of the game, the player takes control of a silent space marine sent to investigate the ruins of LV-246, the planet to which Aliens was set upon. When the control center from the original film appeared- half exploded and derelict- that labor of love showed. The game played without a HUD- relying on items in game to provide what once littered the player’s screen. The pulse rifle has the ammo count in an LED on its side (true to the mythos), and the player pulls out a motion detector, almost like the flashlight from Doom 3, to find the aliens quickly approaching the once quiet marines as one by one, the other marines were picked off around you.
The team also showed off drop in, drop out co-op as another member of the team joined in to a maddening firefight within a large warehouse, ending in the main character being picked up by a giant xenomorph before cutting to darkness.
It captured the atmosphere perfectly- I had my doubts, but this game has now become one of the games I look forward to next year.
Weird note: The producer also mentioned that the game was already running on the development systems available for the Wii U. The producer brought this fact up on his own- no one asked- divulging that information voluntarily. He then hesitated bringing up why that version wasn’t shown- he made it seem that Nintendo didn’t want to show it off just yet, and proceeded to ask for no more questions to be brought up on it.
3. Starhawk: In the same small block where Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3 had its multiplayer, the team from Starhawk was presenting a game of capture the flag. I had been a fan of Warhawk, so I had to see if this game had continued the style of the original. Controls remain largely the same, as well as the overall… feel of movement, design, etc. New to the Battlefield-esque gameplay was an RTS element- players in field were able to create walls, turrets, and buildings out of “rift” energy- basically, materials they could collect by hanging out at their base, completing objectives, or killing enemies. Being able to build a couple of walls, turrets, and then a garage for jeeps, it became apparent on how much team effort would have to go to defences. As buildings were dropped out of the sky, dev team members present commented on the ability to kill enemies by simply dropping buildings on them. There’s a definite influence from Section 8 here- even using dropods to enter the map. I want to see what the development team can pull off in terms of story, however- as much fun as warhawk was, I’d love to see how much fun a single-player campaign is with these mechanics.
4. Saints Row The Third: Another game I dismissed, shook off for being a GTA clone. Their prescence at the show was everywhere– ads all over the convention were always around the corner, and there was a free car wash and parking by scantily clad girls advertising the game across the convention hall ( I, for one, was uh… hesitant to do it. I parked around the corner, my wallet lighter, but uh… some of my dignity still intact.). Either way, I hadn’t had much hopes for the game, but after seeing the hands off demo of the game, I immediately bought Saint’s Row 2 off of the Xbox marketplace in anticipation of this game. I have beamoaned before the loss of Grand Theft Auto’s humor, giving in to a more serious storyline.
Saint’s Row already looks like what the successor of the PS2 GTA games should have been, while not taking itself too seriously. The standard animation for the playable character to enter into a car is jumping with both feet in through the window. It looks ridiculous- almost insane to how much of the game is designed. I watched the demo with glee, cackling like a little schoolboy when someone was punched in the nuts, distracting my friend Dali from Sidequesting. The same demo shown at the show was given to the people over at IGN- <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecQXBq06t4s” ontarget=”_blank”>See it for yourself!
Saint’s Row the third is being advertised as a “guilty pleasure”. And I’m looking forward to it. There were some disappointments, however. I honestly wanted to see something interesting to be done with the remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on 3DS. It would actually give me a game I would want to buy for the handheld. I got to play it for about thirty minutes, which I spent mostly trying to figure out the controls. It suffers from the same fate many of those PSP first-person shooters had- the lack of that second joystick kills you. Having to aim with just your face buttons was an excercise in utter frustration, especially when there are people shooting at you in the midst of many alarms I tripped as I referred to the sign showing the controls to figure out which button let me crouch (it was up on the d-pad, I think.). Maybe. something could be made of this game before its release- but at this point, that excitement I once had for the game has now dried up. Another game I was just…. ambivalent about was the new Need For Speed game- Need For Speed: The Run. Now I applaud EA for trying something new for this game series- it’s been in a cycle that it hasn’t been able to shake itself from, the fatigue of sequelitis bringing fans like myself to pure frustration. I really did hope they could have pulled something off in terms of story here, but it feels… flat. At least from what I saw. There’s apparently parts of the game that took place on foot- one to which a producer quickly… pulled back by saying “Don’t worry, it’s only like, 10% of the game!”. The game itself runs on Frostbite 2, which makes it look spectacular, but apart from that, the story just kept me… ambivalent. The story is about some guy named… Jack? He’s on the run for doing… something. (They didn’t specify what was going on when we played it). And the mafia has a helicopter chasing you for some reason. Do I want something better? Yes, of course- I’ll hold off judgement until the game comes out. But for the most part, it feels like NFS is getting a new shine on the series by a tepid story campaign filled with a linear story and Heavy Rain-esque QTE moments. There was a variety of other games that probably escape me, or have been espoused time and time again on various sites on their quality. For me, I’m happy to see the videogaming industry pumping out more quality games for everyone to enjoy. If you want more coverage, I’d recommend checking out SideQuesting.com or Joystiq.com for complete coverage from what I consider to be the best journalists in the biz.
Although I am slightly biased on that.
The best presents are those made just for you- those that people go out of their way to make sure it’s utterly right for you in every sense of the word. Everyone has had one of these, at least. One present I received this previous christmas could fall into this category- an utterly geeky present I received from a friend I only knew through the internet. Rebecca “Soap” Gunther is a talented artist, the artist behind multiple webcomics, most recently including Anathema and Amya. We became friends during my long winded stint as a webcomics reviewer, conversing with many artists on the Comic Genesis forums- where she started out her first couple of webcomics. She’s improved almost constantly on her artwork over the years and years that I’ve known her. You owe it to yourself to her work and see what I mean. Even after I had quietly left the webcomics scene (it wasn’t so much of a leaving of the scene- more of fading out from the whole usual hubbub and drama that surrounded many of the webcomics communities I frequented), we continued our friendship, mostly on twitter and other social networking sites of its ilk. There isn’t a site that I’m on that I’m sure I’ll find Soap close by (seriously, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter… we’re friends on most of ’em). This line of communication continued through the holidays, when Rebecca would send out Christmas cards to all sorts of people she knew online. It was a tradition she did year after year, and I was fortunate to receive them time and time again, year after year during the holidays. One year, Soap included a picture she drew and colored herself- a picture of my old online persona as a Sackboy from Little Big Planet (the character was originally Kon, a little stuffed lion toy from the manga Bleach. I have appeared as this character cameoed in multiple comics) . I loved the picture so much I had it on the wall above my desk. In response, I sent her a poster I got from a Resident Evil 5 release blood drive held in LA, knowing that Soap was a huge fan of the RE horror games. It was perfect for her- she responded in glee on Twitter, espousing words of thanks that I was more than happy to receive. This year, she expanded upon the gift even further. She made what was once a drawing into an actual sackboy (or sacklion, really) into an actual sackboy. It arrived during a freak string of rainy weather here in Los Angeles, which had soaked my room with water so much so that I had started moving myself out of the room. I was stressed from moving (and work) that I almost didn’t notice the box on my doorstep, soaked completely to the core. I was able to tear the box apart with my fingers to expose the small present within. I knew what it was the moment I saw just the arm sticking out of its packaging. I giggled in joy, and showed it to my sister, who admitted that while it was a great present, it was “still pretty nerdy” (living with a nerd, she’s become used to the random things that give me joy that she just doesn’t really “get”) But I didn’t care. It was a present perfect for me, perfect for what I was all about. I bounded off to work with a spring in my step. And when It came time for me to move everything out of my room, the original picture and the sacklion were the first to be packed. They were the first things I unpacked when I moved right back into my room- resting beside my game consoles. They were the best geeky little present ever. Thank you, Soap.
After this talk of Tron Evolution has dominated film and nerd sites for the past couple of months, I thought it would be more than prudent to share a story of Tron fandom- well before the madness over Tron Evolution came around and the overall revival of the Tron franchise as it stands today. I was attending the Video Games Live concert at the Hollywood Bowl (the very same one I attended with my friend Taylor)- a nerdy enough event within itself- people dressed up as random video game characters wandering about the Bowl before the event started (I remember seeing a giant Pac Man guy walking around quite happily in the seats behind me). We had good seats, too- a booth pretty close to the stage. Nothing prepared me, however, for the sheer madness that I shared with the neighboring booth. The booth was filled with a family of asian males, perhaps Korean or Japanese in descent (to recall the specifics is quite hard at this point)- all completely decked out in Tron merchandising. Head to toe. Sports jackets all very worn down, twenty or so years old perhaps as they talked amongst themselves. I pointed them out to those in my booth, and we all had little individual scoffs as we took turns glancing at the men and their ridiculous attire. But they were pretty nice- we would share a nod and a glance after every song or so. But it finally came to the moment they were waiting for at the concert- a piece from Tron . All four men in the booth rose to their feet cheering quite madly, even a bit more than I had expected. My entire party looked over at them, bewildered to the energy that seemed to have exploded once they heard the music. Once I turned my head, the lunacy escalated- they held up Tron shoes among them- two pairs, each shoe cradled in the hands of each one of the men as they screamed and hollered for the music to continue. Everyone in my booth was… well speechless. We didn’t know fandom could go so far, even for a movie that was about twenty or so years old at this point. Once the song ended, the men clapped louder than anyone else there, congratulating one another as they finally took their seats. I quite remember just staring at them and thinking “Christ, like anyone else would ever think about Tron after this.” Oh how wrong I was. I thought about those crazy fans again recently, every time a ad or some news article on the movie pops up, thinking how happy they must be to see their beloved franchise returning to the big screen. And how foolish i felt misjudging what I had thought was a dead franchise to come back to life. I was totally wrong about Tron. Oh well.
Why isn’t there more of news reports in the Pokemon world have reports of children dying? Think about it. there are probably thousands (maybe millions) of kids running about with pokemon fighting against one another. Unsupervised. Often bullied by grown men waiting in the low grass, stalking them and waiting for them to pop up before challenging them to a duel. These same children fight with pokemon that more often than not, battle with flame, electricity, and poison. Why don’t the kids take more pre-emptive measures to protect themselves during the battles instead of standing on the sidelines like nincompoops? There’s no good parenting in the Pokemon world. Or pedophiles, I guess. I really need to stop letting my mind going off on these random tangents.