Thursday, October 28, 2010

Look at the pretty explosions!!!

People often ask me why I don't play TF2 anymore. I don't dislike the game at all. It is what it is, a fun, relatively easy to get into multi-player game that really should appeal to all FPS fans. I played the shit out of it when I first got it in the Orange Box several years ago now. I did have fun and played a wicked Pyro and Soldier at times.

But it didn't keep my attention forever and certainly not as long as some of my friends. As balanced and stylised as the game was, I always felt there was something missing, especially compared to TFC (the only TF game I played besides the Wolfenstein version). On first analysis you would simply say it is lacking two things:

a) A good chunk of game speed
b) Grenades.

Now that doesn't seem like much, right? The truth is, it really is. Game speed, whether it be movement (bunny hopping) or even projectile speed play a good part in what you can and cant do. If projectiles are fast but you are slow (even for a Soldier/Heavy) then your options for avoiding incoming damage are limited. You also traverse the map slower and the gameplay (in general) is not as ... frenetic (or something). Moving slowly, even for a Scout or Medic, is not as pacing if only other Scouts or Medics can do it. Simply put, choosing your class in TF2 really locks you into a definitive role where your strengths and weaknesses are incredibly obvious. Some may call this balance and excellent design, and I would have to agree. It is also ... a bit boring.

Grenades. You used to throw them and they would explode. You had your standard grenade, a really big mofo grenade (carried by the Heavy), concussion grenades and even nail spitting grenades (to name a few). I think the Medic and Pyro may have had some other interesting tools too, but whatever. They changed the dynamic of the game in ways you cannot imagine (unless you played it). Concussion grenade jumping was considered a skillful exploitation of game physics, pretty much allowing people to fly. Other classes could do this too, just not as well and not in such a ... conservative fashion (grenade jumping with a proper grenade is not really healthy). Nevertheless, you would sometimes see a bunny hopping Heavy go flying across the screen from a 'big mofo' grenade jump. It was awesome, hilarious ...

... and insane. This is probably what I miss the most about TF2. TFC was absolutely ridiculous. So much random crap happening with people flying and dying everywhere that it was almost impossible to not enjoy yourself. Hell, even dying was freaking awesome sometimes! I'm probably just a sucker for any game that has gratuitous amounts of nonsensical violence occuring so I may need to excuse myself when it comes to areas of apparent 'fun'. But hot damn, the memories of games that would turn into explosion clusterfucks, trying to push a flag through a crowded corridor one metre at a time were incredibly entertaining. Which reminds me! There is one aspect of TF2 that is sorely missing, something they never should have got rid of. Check this out:

Your hear that? You hear that beautiful music? That constant cacophony of explosions and bullets? That's normal in TFC! Sure, that video was a little over the top, but the lack of those explosions and heavy weapons fire is considered unnatual in TFC. People would laugh and say "wtf!?" when it stopped! I could sleep to that noise. All in all, I think that is what I miss about TF2 the most.

Oh I feel like another "State of FPS games" post is coming. Better put my ranting hat on again.

Note: Title of post is a quote from the character Tristana from League of Legends.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Unleashing the Beast

As someone who is a fan of most competitive games and generally concerned about balance related issues in them, I often search out and watch e-sport type videos scattered on the realms of the net. At the moment they are usually concerned with fighting games, first person shooters and a little game called 'LoL', but there was a time when I would look for videos concerning other game types too (e.g. RTS, racing etc). I am not the sort of person that will meticulously analyse these videos as a method of improving my game as, to be honest, I don't really take gaming THAT seriously. It's a fun hobby which just happens to be related to my chosen career path, one that is looking more bleak every day in this country. If I learn a tip or two then sweet. Otherwise, my reasons for looking for these types of videos are purely for their entertainment value.

Fighting games currently take the cake for being the most entertaining as they show the most direct, in your face PvP action a game can offer. Once you understand the basic mechanics of a game like SFIV, its not hard to get excited about what is happening on screen as well.

The following video is time formatted to show only the relevant section (i.e. not 10+ mins).

Daigo Umehara, the fellow sitting on the left-hand side playing as Ryu, is considered Japan's best player. For those of you who don't understand what happened, he basically used Dhalsim's (stretchy arm dude) greater range to his own advantage, uppercutting his arms at max range and buffering into a super. Incredibly tricky and risky stuff. He is constantly pulling shit like this in these sort of tournaments, surprising (mainly) the western scene with moves people never even thought of. Also while of course, in typical Daigo fashion, remaining perfectly calm about it (-_-). His best example would be his fight against Justin Wong at Evo 2004, parrying a full Chun-li Super at 1 hitpoint. Most people nowadays have already seen this video, as it is considered a legendary moment in gaming, referenced (jokingly) on shows like Pure Pwnage and the like. If you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend looking it up.

Yes, this is an 'awesome sauce' post.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Critiquing the critic

As I have probably stated before at some point, I have never been a fan of media critics. They are useful in a broader sense in terms of gauging the general popularity of something, but when it comes down to it, a critics opinion is simply that: an opinion. Just because they brand themselves as and like to think themselves as a critic does not mean that their opinion of something is of greater value than someone else's. Sure, they may have a much more educated analysis of something than the average person, but that is to be expected. It's their job. A job which, as the name suggests, purposefully draws upon the negative aspects of something with greater weight than those of merit. What is a critic if they do not criticise, afterall?

There is also the fact that certain critics already will have a point of view prior to reviewing something anyway. As we are all human, favouring certain genres of film, music or games is something we cannot avoid. Do you expect that say ... a critical review of a fighting game to be of significant quality if the reviewer is not a fighting game fan? What if you did want a less experienced reviewer to give their opinions? Should their negative or positive experiences have any sway over your own thoughts and opinions? The answer should be no. As a free willed conscious entity, you have the right to make your own decisions about things. As you should do whenever possible.

Even the popular Zero Punctuation critical game reviews should not be taken seriously, if at all. Mr Croshaw's approach in his video reviews are meant to be for a particular purpose: entertainment. Without his witty, nihilistic approach to poking at what he perceives to be flaws in games and the gaming industry, I doubt anyone would find them particularly funny. While I do find the majority of them to be entertaining and may even agree with the fellow on various points, there are things that I do think he is wrong about. Which is fine. I have opinions about things, many of which I bring up in this blog. However I don't expect you to agree with me at all, nor would I care if you didn't.

I was originally going to steer this post towards the whole 'entertainment as art' side of things, especially how games are not seen to be, but I don't think I will anymore. The simple reason being is that, having thought about it, I don't really care. If games are not considered art, not even the individual components that make up a game (models, music, textures etc), then so what? It is not like it is a bump in the road the gaming community needs to convince of either fixing or of its general existence. Games are about fun, and if art does not equal fun than I couldn't care less about it. Whether it is someone's opinion whether they are or aren't shouldn't affect how or why you play them.

What originally did inspire me to make this post was having just watched the movie Centurion, a recent film that was not granted much attention. Without giving away the plot, everyone I had talked to who had seen it (not many) said it was average, and reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB would have you agree. While I won't admit it was the best film I have ever seen, it was definetly better than other films which scored higher on these websites (e.g. Robin Hood). In my opinion, anyway. While it had your stereotypical evil and betrayal dudes/dudettes and a very predictable storyline full of ... average dialogue, it wasn't the sort of film that took itself overly seriously. Some parts were even funny in a terrible sort of way. Plus, it had Imogen Poots in it for a few minutes. I've always had a thing for blondes, but after seeing her in 28 weeks later I have definitely been keeping this actress under my radar.


So I guess the idea of this post is that, generally speaking, you shouldn't blindly take anyone's advice on something. Particularly if it is something you already have a strong gut feeling about. You can't truly form an opinion about something until you try it for yourself and until then, your opinion is kind of void. However, even after having formed a solid opinion, your beliefs don't and shouldn't override someone elses. They are your ideas, and as long as you came upon them via your own means (and not someone elses) then you can voice them as strongly as any 'critic' should. They can't tell you what you do and don't enjoy.

But hey, don't take my word for it. Make up your own mind!