Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rant: Youtube Part 2

Well, Google has officially become my most hated corporate company, bypassing Apple by only a slight margin. For one, they've taken YouTube and shoved a big ole' wooden stake through its heart... and legs, and chest, and head, and crotch, and.... everything, really. They've taken their piss-poor Google+ that nobody likes or gives half a crap to use, and they've forced it upon every YouTube and Gmail user out there. It doesn't matter if you want it or not, there's no way to get rid of the damn thing. If you're saying something along the lines of, "Well, it is a free service, after all..." Go home. Just leave. Or stay, whatever. Google makes more off of pushing ads in your face than they could ever hope to make by forcing you to pay for their services.  Think about it... would you be willing to shell out, I dunno... $10-$15 dollars a month to use the YouTube service to upload and watch videos? Maybe, but a large number of people likely would not. Anyways, Google already makes tons more than that off of you monthly, anyways, via ads. So don't ever tell me that by it being a "free" service, I have no right to complain.

And in regards to this Content ID scandal GoogleTube's gotten themselves knee deep in, I highly doubt it'll ever be resolved. Google's a freaking shady company. They make billions of dollars a year, and they frankly don't give a crap if some YouTube uploaders are experiencing problems. All of us are still going to use Google services... All of us are still going to be giving Google Ad money, and if Google can get even more money on the side, by making this heartless robot flag videos for other corporate companies, then they sure as hell will, and they aren't going to stop.

Ya know what's ironic? This very blog is powered by Google...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Raven's Cry- Why you should be interested.

I've been keeping an eye on this game for quite a while now. Raven's Cry, initially announced in 2011, is set to be a very dark and mature "Pirate" open world game, with RPG elements. When first announced, the game was slated to have a level design, with a nonlinear structure, so as to let the player decide the outcome to various events. After being set back a couple times, the game slipped off my radar, and I kinda forgot about it. However, not long ago, Topware Interactive (the initial developer/publisher) announced that the game would be sent to Reality Pump game studios to finish it out. This little announcement made Raven's Cry jump back to the forefront of my watch-list.

Reality Pump is the studio behind the (in my opinion) excellent RPGs Two Worlds and Two Worlds 2. I've reviewed both games on my blog, and have easily sunk 100 to 150+ hours into each. The fact of the matter is, Reality Pump may not be as well known as Bethesda Softworks, or CD Projekt RED, but they're sure as hell good developers, and know how to keep the player entertained. The Reality of what got me Pump'd (hehe) is that in the announcement they mentioned the fact that Reality Pump would be implementing an open world into the game.

An open world can be a valuable asset to any game. I say "can" because there are situations when free roaming can distract from the story, or make gameplay confusing, however, in this situation, I believe it will be a huge positive addition to Raven's Cry. Being a pirate game set in the Caribbean, the ability to free roam will almost be vital for the longevity of the game. I've played a little of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed IV, and I really did have fun, but the game felt very lighthearted. Dark and gritty pirate stuff didn't really happen. (From the little I did play) I was never forced between bad and evil, and I never thought twice about pirating a merchant's ship and ruining his career, and possibly his life. From the get-go, Raven's Cry has been described as a very dark and gritty adventure. It's a revenge story, and you play as a man who, well, is getting that revenge. You're more or less going to be the bad guy.

Too often, games tend to take a mild route when it comes to violence and player choices. Yes, there might be explicit detail regarding violence and gore, and I'm ok with that, but the violence generally tends to be mindless slaughtering. "HEY LOOK! BAD GUYS! TAKE THIS, YOU LITTLE ************* *****!" There is rarely any weight or consequence to the actions/killing you do in video games, and although a light stance on the issue can make for an amazing game, having darker characters and heavier approaches to the player's actions make for a much deeper playing experience.

Now they haven't said much on the line of naval battles, but the general opinion has been that, yes, they're going to be in there. Whether or not this means that ACIV-esque ship sailing is going to be in there, or if this will just be a scripted type of battle remains to be seen, however the fact that it's in there at all is definitely a plus. Being an open world, I'd say the game would greatly benefit from real-time sailing, but we really just don't know how it's going to be. What I do know is that Reality Pump can implement it. Two Worlds 2 had a very fun and simple sailing mechanic, and I don't see why it wouldn't work on a slightly larger scale.

So all in all, I'm very excited for the release of Raven's Cry. Slated to come out in May, 2014, the developers have plenty of time to get it wrapped up and out the door, and hopefully this game will push Reality Pump's name and popularity up there with the big ones.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Two Worlds 2 - Observations\Review

I suppose it's time to get back to this blog... and since the last game I talked about was Two Worlds, I figured it was time for its little brother to get looked at. First of all, I like Two Worlds 1 better than Two Worlds 2. Most people look at me like I've got fungus growing out of my ears when I say that, but the fact remains the same. I view Two Worlds 1 as a better game, mainly due to the overall experience. Be that as it may, Two Worlds 2 is still a fantastic game, and here's why.

The gameplay in Two Worlds 2 is very similar to Two Worlds, but some areas have been improved. In Two Worlds 1, you preformed combat maneuvers by mainly just rapidly clicking. Two Worlds 2 throws some extra features in the mix, however, and lets you fight by not only just swinging your sword, but by giving you special moves that charge up. Kicking at your enemy will let you break their defense and deal some damage, while doing a 360° will let you attack enemies on all sides. Other attacks include slamming your sword overhead at the enemy, which deals some extra damage, and thrusting your sword straight at your enemy. When you level up, you can put points into these attacks and get some pretty powerful combat going. Played right, you can usually finish off a small group of enemies pretty quickly by simply chaining up and alternating between the special attacks. Bottom line, the combat in Two Worlds 2 is vastly superior to Two Worlds 1, and many other RPGs out there. I found combat situations to be challenging, but also very satisfying.

So the combat is good, but what of the rest of the gameplay features? Well, I guess the next logical thing to cover would be the Magic system. Magic in Two Worlds 2 is phenomenal. No other game, ever, has come close to it in terms of flexibility and advancement. Various effects can be applied to a spell via cards you collect throughout the world. A spell I particularly liked "Tornado" picks up objects around you and spins them around your character, making for a makeshift shield effect. Rocks, dead bodies, barrels, and anything with physics applied will be sucked into the shield. But this was just one of possibly infinite spells available for creation. I'm a combat/stealth heavy player myself, so magic is never something I try to spend a lot of time figuring out, but I can tell you that the magic in Two Worlds 2 is unmatched by any other game I've yet played, and I'm sure others will tell you the same.

Stealth in Two Worlds 2 is very basic. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's bad, but it's not something Two Worlds 2 excels at. Basically, it works. Used right, you can clear out a whole area of enemies just by backstabbing them, but that's about as far as it gets. I'm glad it was an included part of the game, but it's not something Topware can toot any horns about. And I guess after stealth, would come lock-picking, which is a nice, and very usable feature. Lock-picking is essentially just waiting for cylindrical "Tumblers"(?) or whatnot to line up and clicking when they do, so at the end, you've got all of them lined up before the time runs out and your lock-pick breaks. It's easy to master rather fast, and skill points can be spent to give you more time.

Crafting is another area in which Two Worlds 2 excels at. Nearly everything you come across can be broken down into its most basic elements; Wood, Iron, Cloth, etc. This system makes nearly every item in the game worth looting. After you've got so much wood, iron, and such together, you can use it to level up items you own. As you'd expect, leveling up armors makes them more resilient and protective, and leveling up weapons makes them deal more damage. There are also skills associated with leveling up items. For example, after leveling up a sword so far, you'll have to put more skill points into smithing to have the ability to keep leveling it up. The Crafting system in Two Worlds 2 is another phenomenal feature, and makes it hard to pass up fallen foes and their items, because no matter how crappy their loot is, it's still got the ability to advance whatever you have.

So, there is a lot of good, solid, satisfying stuff in Two Worlds 2. In the areas I just talked about, it more than triumphs over Two Worlds 1. But to me, the most important aspect in an RPG is the freedom you're given. Also, the ability to really see the change you're bringing into a world is a must-have in my mind, and in these areas, Two Worlds 2 sucks!

Freedom is very much lacking in Two Worlds 2. Sure, you've got some large open areas to explore, and a whole ocean to ride your little boat around in, but most of the land area is simply cut off! And by cut off, I mean, you'll never, ever be able to visit it.
See that giant island at the top of the map? Only about 10-15% is actually explorable. And it's a darn shame. I spent most of the game expecting to be able to go there and discover towns and cities and forests and all that, but nope. The NPCs in the game talk about it, but upon actually entering the main part of the island ( I used a cheat mod to disable invisible barriers), it's completely empty and unfinished. There are occasional trees and textured paths lead through the whole thing, but there's just nothing there. It looks like they initially meant to have it included in the game, but ran out of time/money and just decided to not talk about it. Again, it's a shame, because the size of that island is easily the size of Skyrim or Oblivion, if not bigger. It took me a very, very, very long time to ride full gallop across the island, and I'm inclined to say it probably took less than half the time to ride from one end to the other of Skyrim. The fact that I couldn't get in initially was very immersion breaking, and downright frustrating. It seemed like a cheap, low-quality thing to pull, and I hope they don't do something similar with Two Worlds 3.

And the final thing to talk about is the effect the player has on the world, or rather, the effect the player doesn't have on the world. At all. In one particular quest, you are teleported into a small village in the center of a zombie infested swamp. The townsfolk are "Trapped" in this village, (they all kept mentioning a "barrier" I never encounted....) and need my help to free them from the swamp and to end the curse of zombies. After I finished the quest line, I ran out of the dungeon, happy that I had ended the plague and that these people wouldn't have to worry about staying here and being tormented by the zombies, which should all be dead, right? I mean, they keep telling me that there are no more zombies, but lo and behold, I exit the little town, and the zombies still chase me through the swamp with a vengeance. Oh, and none of the townsfolk ever leave. They made me go through all this trouble just to say "yay, It worked!" (no, it didn't), and for nothing to happen. Thankfully, I was able to use a teleport, (Maybe that was the "barrier") and leave that accursed place full of the undead and mentally dead. Another time (spoilers) near the end of the game, you fight your way up to the evil castle through hoards of evil monsters. You get to the castle, kill the evil dragon, your sister becomes empress of the land, and everybody is happy, right? Apparently not. After the credits roll, you're able to keep playing. So naturally, I wanted to go see how my sis was doing, so I teleported back to the castle, and..... all those monsters were still there.... the castle was still shrouded in perpetual darkness, but the doors were locked... so from what I gather, my sister was just secretly evil the whole time... I think. Either that or the devs were just too lazy to try to make the world react to your actions. Basically everything you do, whether it included raising an army of crystal golems, or helping townspeople over their fear of Zombies, does nothing in the long run. The general feeling is that of a very budgeted, and lazily produced game.

Ok, I've ranted long enough. I guess getting back to my original "Journey, not destination" idea, Two Worlds 2 is a fantastic game. It excels in the areas of crafting, magic, and combat, but fails in the areas of immersion, exploration, and impact. After playing the game, it's not going to stick with you. The story is garbage, the character interactions are weak, and the overall plot is just silly. But again, this is a game based around the fun of just playing it. Two Worlds 2 is a fantastic ride, and I do highly recommend it. The "Velvet" GOTY edition is only $19.99 at and is completely worth that price, but maybe not much more. Again, if you're in for a fantastic ride, some of the best mechanics I've yet seen, and a lot of fun, Get it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nvidia's Shield

I've been keeping my eye on Nvdia's Shield for months now. At first glance, you might think that the Shield is just another portable gaming device, akin to the Vita or 3DS. In reality, however, it is much, much more -- in a way. The Shield runs on the Jelly Bean version of Android, packs an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor (the fastest processor on the mobile market), and a whopping 2 gigabytes of RAM. It's got a 5 inch 720p touchscreen display and a full-sized Xbox-360 style (with a button layout similar to a PS3) controller. Nvidia's Shield is an impressive piece of mobile hardware, leaving Sony's Vita and Nintendo's 3DS in the dust. All things considered, if the hardware found in the Shield were to be put inside any other off-contract Android phone, it'd sell at much, much more than the current asking price of $350.

Though the hardware is impressive, the Shield also packs in features not currently found in any other portable gaming device or Android phone. Along with the ability to play the current massive library of Android games, the Shield can also stream Steam games from any PC (with an Nvidia GTX 650Ti or above) to itself, or even on to an HDMI equipped television.

Personally, I love the idea of Nvidia's Shield. The ability to be able to stream PC games to it is fantastic, and a feature that hasn't really caught on in the mobile gaming world. But despite the features presented with the Shield, it isn't without its fair share of flaws. I personally don't see Shield becoming a very popular platform. At its very roots, the Shield is just another Android device. A very fancy, feature packed, powerful, game-centric device, but nonetheless, it's just another Android phone, only without the phone part. The Shield won't have dedicated games (other than generic TegraZone games), it doesn't have any physical media "game cartridge" ports, and at $350, it's just expensive (only $50 less than the PS4's launching price). A download-only system really isn't the best idea for a mobile gaming platform, as seen with Sony's PSPgo. I sincerely hope that Nvidia can really do well with the Shield, and manage to make it a hit, but I honestly can't foresee them being able to do much with it. With Nvidia basically selling a powerful Android phone as a gaming device, will people really want to shell out $350 for it? I personally think not.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two Worlds - Observations\Review

     The Two Worlds games are some of the best RPGs I've played. Though a lot of people hated Two Worlds 1, and most people view Two Worlds 2 as an "Meh" kind of game, I find them most enjoyable. The whole idea (at least from what I gather) is that Two Worlds games are not so much about the destination, but are rather focused on the journey there.
     The first Two Worlds game is fun in a way that's hard to describe. I suppose you could say it's addictive, but it's a little deeper than that. At the time of its release, many criticized it for the voice acting, the poorly structured plot line, the terrible mount controls, some useless perks, and some notably overpowered enemies. Oh, and the fact that the most attractive female in the game is...... the Hero's sister. Although hated by many Oblivion fans, I found that most, if not all, of these "issues" really enhanced the game, though not in the traditional way. For starters, the voice acting is pretty horrible. It pretty much circles all the way through every amount of terrible, and comes right back to being good. "So bad it's good", is an apt way to describe it. Though it could be game breaking for some people, I found that after a while, it wasn't really that bad, once I'd gotten used to it and grew to accept it. The poor story line didn't bother me too badly either. Again, for a game that focuses on the journey, and not the destination, it's not as bad as it could be, and is mostly an enjoyable "extra feature"-esque addition to the game. The mount controls weren't that bad either. In Two Worlds, the horse doesn't like scraping its side up against a rock or a tree, and for that matter, real life Horses don't like that either. And again, horses in Two Worlds don't like going up or down steep hills, and real don't either. The controls and behavior of the horses was annoying and downright frustrating at times, but they were realistic and were easy to master once I'd played enough to be able to pick out my paths more carefully. The useless perks were just that, useless. You could spend your perk points on "Un-horsing" enemies, but there were no mounted enemies, at all. Which made the skill useless, unless you were going to use it in Multiplayer. The overpowered enemies weren't so much an issue to me as they were a challenge. If you thought you could just waltz into a new area and kick the butt of every creature you came across, you were downright crazy. The enemies in new areas never "Level up" with your skill, so if you want to start exploring in a new area, you have to explore the current area and do a lot of grinding and loot collecting to keep going to the next. It's not so much of a burden as it is an incentive to keep playing and pushing yourself onwards. It's all part of the "Journey" and I think it's very well done.
       There's no real "Crafting" system in Two Worlds, but there's a very good weapon and armor upgrading system in its place. If you find two of the same weapon (eg, two "Destroyer" maces) you can combine them to make an even more powerful weapon of the same type. Weapons are ranked in "Classes" so if you combine two "Class 1" "Orc Slayer" Swords, you'll create a "Class 2" "Orc Slayer" sword. Enchanting these weapons is as easy. In the world, you can find enchanting crystals that do various damages, such as fire, ice, poison, or spirit damage. Combining these crystals with your current weapon adds that new type of damage to your weapon. So you can have a sword with 50 slash damage, and 50 fire damage, leading to some pretty powerful hits. Though nothing new, the system is very well done, and makes looting a very valuable part of the game.
    Yet another well-executed aspect of the game is the exploration. The game world is completely open, and it's massive. Instead of a system of fast travel, each town has a Teleport that has to be activated before you can use it. There are also Personal Teleports that can be obtained, so if you find yourself in a pinch needing to head back to a town to pick up some potions, you can just lay down a personal teleport to instantly travel back to a town with a teleport that you've activated in the past. I'm no fan of fast travel, but the system presented in Two Worlds leaves little to be desired. It's more or less a perfect hybrid between fast travel and traditional travel.
     The combat in Two Worlds isn't bad either. There's very little variation between combat animations and the combat isn't near realistic, but it's fun nonetheless. Leveling up and searching dead bodies and chests really doesn't get old, and I soon found myself one-hit-killing most of the creatures that beat the snot out of me early on. There was something overwhelmingly satisfying about finding an axe that did some real damage to those Orc bandits, and then a few hours and levels later, finding an even better weapon that one hit killed em. There are also some enemies are are immune to certain types of weapons. The Stone Golem was barely scratched by a sword that could beat the living daylights out of Cyclops, but could have his butt handed to him by a decent hammer or mace. This made the game feel even more realistic, in a way, and even makes sense (hitting a sword against a rock doesn't do much more than dull the sword).
      There's so much more to say about it, but the best way to explain it is for you to pick it up yourself. Two Worlds 1 isn't perfect by a far stretch, but it's incredibly addictive and fun in a very deep way. I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to someone looking for a good 40-50 hours (if not more) of fun. And right now, it's only $1.50 on

Monday, May 27, 2013

Rant: Youtube

What on earth was Google thinking when they acquired Youtube? I'll tell ya what. They were thinking of all that ad revenue they were gonna channel (heh heh) their way, and in addition to that, how to cut costs for them overall with the new service. So what'd they do? Lots of stuff, but I'm just gonna focus on the one change that TICKS me off the most: The Rendering.
    I remember (back when all I had was Dial-up) being able to start a Youtube video at night, letting it render overnight, and then playing it the next day. I'd have to pick which one I wanted to see, and was always excited about seeing it the next day ( though I don't recall why I couldn't do two or more...). Now, however, Google's Youtube Only lets the video render something like 30 seconds ahead of you. So if you were planning on letting it render before you watched, you're out of luck. But another thing that perhaps makes me even more furious is that once you've watched it, you cannot go back and watch it again without it re-rendering! And for that matter, you can't even skip back 2 seconds without it requiring a re-render! What the heck, Google?! The 30 second limit I can maybe understand... from the little I understand about web technologies, only rendering 30 seconds of video may cut the payload on their servers, and for people only planning on watching 5 seconds in a video walkthrough or something, it may work out nice, while saving Google's servers the hassle of letting you download more than what you "need". But re-rendering what you just waited to have rendered? That doesn't make any sense whatsoever! For one, it means you have to wait all over again to have it render, and it means that Google's servers have to work once again to let you download it, but more importantly, it means that anyone with a download cap is definitely going to suffer.
     So in a nutshell, this whole deal with Google limiting and cutting off renders isn't good for any of their users, but I don't know how it could be helping them as well. Time'll tell if this "Issue" is ever solved, but from what I've seen of Google, if it requires very much cash or time to fix, they'll be all to happy to let it remain unsolved.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

REDkit -- My Experience (So far)

      REDkit is a modding tool that kinda got me pumped for its public release. It's creator, CD Projekt RED, is one of my (if not my single) favorite game development companies. They hold a very strong opposing viewpoint of any form of DRM, and launched a completely DRM-free game purchasing website, They're the creator of both the Witcher and the Witcher 2, and are set to release the Witcher 3 sometime in 2014. When I heard that RED was planning to release the tools that they used to create the Witcher 2, I was pumped. The very idea that a game dev company would release their tools is pretty awesome, so when REDkit was finally released to the public, I set it to download overnight, and went to bed pretty hyped. What I found the next day, however, really shoved my spirits down. In all honesty, I went to the program expecting a Skyrim Creation Kit like experience, with most everything already set up, and an open world to play around with and mod. REDkit isn't like that at all though, rather than the world already set up, you simply get a black screen in the "Render" window. I was stuck for a while before any tutorials surfaced to give me some general pointers into how to proceed.
        What it boils down to, is that REDkit offers much, much more versatility and customization than Skyrim or Morrowind offer in their CK and CS's. Rather than most everything being set up and easy to use, REDkit allows you to craft your world and tweak every detail while doing so. You have to start off by actually picking how large you'd like your world mass to be, and by setting some options that were rather foreign to me (hence me just doing what the Youtube Tut did, and not worrying about them). Once your world mass is created, you have to set the Skybox you'd like to use, and the lighting/sun conditions thereof. So where most stuff is already set up in Skyrim's CK, it has to be set up manually in REDkit. But from there, it gets even more complicated.
       After my world was set up, I was directed to the terrain tools. When you set up your world mass, it appears as a big white square. Terrain tools fix that. You can set the default ground texture, so instead of the default ground being white (or dirt, in the case of Morrowind's CS), you can set it to be grass, moss, or any other texture, thereby potentially saving you a lot of ground texturing time. There's also many options for terrain elevation. Where Skyrim/Morrowind only allow you the options of dragging ground up or down, REDkit allows you to paint cliffs or valleys (similar to the system used in Zoo Tycoon 2, if you've played that....), without dragging ground around. The system used is quite advanced, but it just takes so much time to set up to use, which leads me to my next point...
       The static object system is just messed up... Up to this point, I was really ready to forgive the extremely long set up time and complex system to prepare a level. Sure, everything takes time, but it allows for incredibly detailed options, right? Yeah... following the tutorial, I placed a bridge between two cliffs I'd set up. Placing the bridge was easy, but I wasn't prepared for what was going to happen next. The character couldn't even walk on it. Apparently there are separate options for each mesh when you put them in the level, one of which determines if the character can walk on the mesh -- oh, and that option is disabled by default. So in a nutshell, every single mesh that you're planning on coming into contact with needs to have that option enabled manually.
        The last straw that REDkit pulled with me was the "areas". If you want the character to be able to walk anywhere, you have to specifically place a big box (area) over where you want him to be able to walk; but you can't make the box too big. So if you want the character to go very far, you have to have a number of boxes. This is when I stopped, saved my work, and closed down the program. In the fantastic trailer RED released regarding REDkit, they talked about building worlds. To me, a world (at least in gaming standards) is something that you're free to run around in, and do whatever you want to do in, Not, a connected grid of overlapping boxes. This isn't to say that REDkit is a bad piece of software, it's just not for me.
        As a recap, I'm still very glad that RED went ahead and released REDkit. It's a fantastic modding tool that allows for a far greater scope of detail than even Skyrim can offer. I'm really excited about the potential for new mods and stories that are bound to start being published with this new tool, and it'll be interesting to see just how far some of the more advanced modders can push the boundaries of REDkit. And I guess that's just it. REDkit isn't really meant for mod-dabbling people like myself; it's for the hardcore modders -- the guys who are passionate about what they create. I guess I could keep trying to learn REDkit, but I don't think I will. For most of the simple stuff my brain is capable of, Morrowind's CS works just fine.