gluttony

1. Good news:  I may have figured out how to finish my album!  Let me rephrase that:  I may have figured out how to get myself properly motivated and energized so that I can finish this album.  Until I actually do get re-started, though, there’s nothing really here to discuss, and I get that.  But it’s gonna happen.  I’ve signed up for the RPM Challenge, again, but this time I actually have: (a) a plan, (b) some actual material to work with, and (c) 10 cover songs to work on in case something goes wrong.  Considering that the last RPM Challenge I signed up for is the one that started this album in the first place, there’s a pleasing symmetry in the idea that I could finish this where it all began.

2. I don’t necessarily like to spend my time shitting on things I don’t like – at least, not as much as I used to – but I do feel obligated to mention that I just finished reading one of the worst books I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a few Dan Brown books.  I bring up Dan Brown because the book in question, Kubrick’s Game, is basically a Dan Brown book, but for Stanley Kubrick film nerds.  I am a Kubrick nerd, and I’m also a sucker for secret society nonsense.  In any event, I read this i09 review, saw that it was available for $1.99, and downloaded it immediately.  And I feel compelled to warn you, now, to save your money and avoid this piece of shit at all costs.  What a colossally stupid waste of time.   Everything about it is dumb and contrived and poorly written and just… ugh, I don’t want to talk about it any more.  Avoid it.

3. Speaking of bummers, I just want to point out that in this 2nd week of 2017 – in these fragile days before possible nuclear apocalypse because someone said a mean thing about Donald Trump – I am now 0-for-2 in terms of finding keepers from Spotify’s weekly Discovery playlist.  Considering that last year’s Discovery playlists caused me to fall madly in love with 140 songs from bands that I’d never even heard of before, this does not bode well.

4.  Can we talk about this new season of Sherlock?  And how, while it’s still problematic in certain ways, it’s far more watchable than anything that happened in Season 3?  And that last night’s episode was, for lack of a better word, fucking insane, with an epilogue that legitimately caught me completely off guard?

5.  As mentioned previously, I went on a bit of a gaming-purchase bender in mid-December.  I bought a whole bunch of new stuff, I bought even more stuff that I’ve already played (and beaten) on other consoles, and then I somehow managed to score a PSVR unit and then felt obligated to buy a whole bunch of shit for that.  This is all to say that I now have a bit of a backlog – which is fine, considering that there only probably only 2 games that I can think of off the top of my head that are definitely coming out in 2017 that I legitimately give a shit about (e.g.Mass Effect Andromeda and Red Dead Redemption 2).

I bring this up because I spent last week replaying Diablo 3 for a 3rd time.  I played as a female Monk, for the third time.  And I had a fucking blast with it, and I find it maybe a little odd that I found it as enjoyable as I did.  I don’t know what the current critical consensus is w/r/t Diablo 3 – I know that for me, when I first played it on PC, it took a loooooong time before it started to click with me, whereas I clicked with the PS4 version nearly immediately.  I will admit that I bought it for the Xbox One purely because it was on sale and because of the ‘cheevos, but I also found myself drawn to it far more than a bunch of new games that I’ve not yet finished (i.e., Watch Dogs 2Dishonored 2Final Fantasy XV).

This could be because I’m pretty goddamned great as a Monk in Diablo 3.  It’s interesting (to me, at any rate); normally whenever I play a game – regardless of genre – if I walk into a room full of baddies, I tend to pause and consider what to do.  Not so in D3 – if I’m wandering around and see dozens of bad guys in the corner, I will buff my shit up and saunter over there and just straight-up wreck shit quickly, and it’s incredibly satisfying and it doesn’t even matter if anything good drops.  There is something so very pleasing about landing a gigantic kill combo that just won’t stop because my monk is quick enough to draw other mobs towards me before the combo meter collapses.  I have a strategy, and that strategy works, and even after a 3rd playthrough it’s still fun as hell.

Not all games work this way, as it happens.  I also bought some other older games that were on sale that I thought I might replay and get some ‘cheevos out of, and some of those games are much more difficult to re-enjoy.  Case in point:  Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which I very much enjoyed on PS4.  Coming back to it now on Xbox One, it feels… antiquated?  And it’s not even really that old, honestly.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve switched between ACS and Watch Dogs 2 of late, and they both have just enough shared DNA that make it a bit more difficult to jump back and forth.  It’s not as easy for me to go back and revisit as Diablo 3, I guess.

I’m not ashamed of this, by the way; I have bought movies in multiple formats, and I’ve re-bought books in Kindle form when I already own the physical copy and I’m just too lazy to haul it around with me everywhere I go.  (Believe me, Infinite Jest is much more manageable on a Kindle.)  I’ve bought plenty of games on multiple consoles (I think I own Portal 2 for literally everything it ever appeared on), and it’s fun to experience things in slightly different contexts (or, at the very least, with more comfortable controllers).  It might not be the most cost-efficient way of doing things, but I’ve never claimed to be smart when it comes to money.

Anyway: I’m presenting my December backlog, because it’s insane, and because if I ever complain about not having anything to play I’m hoping that one of you will bookmark this blogpost and shove it in my face.

  • Xbox One sale (to play)
    • Dishonored 2
    • Watch Dogs 2
    • Gears of War 4
    • FFXV
    • ReCore
    • Sky Force Reloaded
    • Westerado
    • Stardew Valley
    • Oxenfree
    • Mafia 3
    • Battlefield 1
    • Steep
  • Xbox One sale (to replay for ‘cheevos)
    • Diablo 3  
    • Doom
    • Batman: Arkham Revisited
    • Saints Row 4 / Gat out of Hell
    • Metro Doublepack
    • Rayman Legends
    • Darksiders 2 HD
    • GTA V
    • Deus Ex MD
    • Far Cry 4
    • AC: Syndicate
    • Witcher 3
    • Skyrim HD (why????  why did I do this?)
  • PSVR and PS4 stuff:
    • Thumper
    • Rez Infinite
    • Batman VR
    • Rise of the Tomb Raider
    • The Last Guardian  (I am kinda-sorta waiting for a patch for this one before I get back to it; I am fascinated by it but the controls and camera are distressingly and distractingly bad, and I’d prefer to play it if they actually make it more playable)

the other side

Let’s see how I did with my 2016 Resolutions and Reminders:

1. Do not pre-order.  I did pretty good at this, actually.

2. Don’t buy everything.  Remember that you have an active Gamefly account.  I started out doing really well at this.  But I also kinda went a little bananas during the Xbox holiday sale, which I’ll get to in a little bit.

3.  It’s OK to not finish stuff.  It’s OK to not start stuff.  It’s OK to not want to feel like you’re wasting your time.  Recall #1 and #2 above.  I finished most of what I started last year, and while I’m in a bit of a backlog logjam at the moment, I did relatively OK at this.

4.  Don’t worry about “missing out on the conversation.”  […]   This will always be an issue for me.  But I’m also becoming a bit more comfortable with the realization that nobody really cares.

5. Write when you can write;  read when you can read; listen when you can listen.  Enjoy what you can, and don’t fret about what you can’t.  Try not to be idle, unless you’re looking to achieve stillness, which is another matter entirely.  I think I did OK at this, all things considered.  I would’ve liked to have written more – and we’ll get to #7 shortly – but I enjoyed most of the media I consumed last year because I allowed myself the time to properly experience it.

6.  Set reasonable goals.  You wanted to read 30 books in 2015, you ended up with 41.  Don’t challenge yourself to read 45 books in 2016 when you already know that’s impossible.  This apparently applied specifically to my book-reading habits; as it happens, I ended up reading 51 books last year, so, go me.  But the pressure to hit my Goodreads number drove me insane.  I purposefully set a lower number this year (30) only because I like how Goodreads lays all this stuff out.  I plan on blowing past it.  There’s also a ton of exciting books coming down the road pretty soon, and I already splurged on a bunch of wish-listed items at year’s end, so I’ve got plenty to read in the meantime.

7.  GET BACK TO MAKING MUSIC AGAIN.  Don’t procrastinate by playing games you’re not even enjoying.  You like making music; you always have; if you need to fancy up the studio area, do it, but the work is the work is the work, and if you’re not working, there is no work.  I failed at this, big time, and it’s my primary regret of 2016.  I aim to turn this around.

8.  Make regular doctor appointments.  On it.

9.  Hug and kiss your family every day.  Don’t go to bed angry.  Communicate always.  On it.  This one’s easy.

10.  Be good to yourself.  On it.


I spoke with my therapist this past weekend; he asked me if I’m a New Year’s resolution kind of guy.  I’m not, generally speaking.  I know I need to lose weight, I know I need to eat better, I know I need to get to work on my credit card debt again, I know I need to get back into a creative routine and finish that album.  But let’s be honest here:  Donald Trump is going to be President of the United States in less than a month and I’m starting to have recurring nightmares about nuclear war again, which is a thing that I only finally stopped having when I was 9 or so.  Life in this country is about to become so thoroughly surreal that I don’t even know how to properly process it.  I suppose I should be grateful for being properly medicated, because at least I can still leave the house.

To that end, I’m not going to make any resolutions this year, beyond (a) taking proper care of myself, both physically and mentally; (b) spending quality time with my family, who I love more than anything; and (c) getting back into a creative routine, because I miss it and I need it.  That’s all I have control over, at any rate.

Mounting a proper resistance to Trump is another matter entirely, and that will take shape in due course.


As noted in #2 above, I did go bananas during the Xbox holiday sale.  Truth be told, now that I’ve spent a bunch of time with it in my mad quest for Achievements, I’ve started to realize that I like the Xbox One a bit more than the PS4, even if the PS4 is a more powerful machine.  And so part of the aforementioned banana-going was to buy a whole bunch of heavily discounted games that I’ve already bought and beaten on PS4.  And you know what?  That’s fine.  I was sorta enjoying Dishonored 2 and Watch Dogs 2 and I needed to get back into Final Fantasy XV, but the thing I’ve been playing the most over the last week has actually been Diablo 3, of all things.  I’m playing a female Monk, from scratch, yet again, and I’m still having as much fun as I ever did.

I, uh, also managed to score a PSVR unit, which arrived yesterday.  And, um, it’s amazing?  Sure, the graphics are a little lo-res compared to what one wants, but the experience is nothing short of astounding.  I gave my wife the shark-tank tour last night, and she was amazed – I even gave my 3-year-old a few minutes with it, and he lost his mind.

img_4745

I spent the bulk of my time messing with Thumper and Rez Infinite, both of which are simply astonishing in VR.  I also gave Batman VR a quick spin – just enough to say, yeah, I should probably carve out a few hours with it and use the Move controllers instead of the Dualshock 4.  But even the tech demos in the VR Worlds collection are impressive; for people who come over and have never used VR before, it’s a perfect introduction.  I’m still in the baby stages, of course, and so I don’t necessarily need a full-fledged game just yet, but I’m already looking forward to seeing what fun stuff will emerge from the indie space.

Random Ramblings: October edition

1.  What I’m about to write may very well turn you off from reading this site for the rest of your internet-using life, but it’s the honest-to-goodness truth:  I have never been a fan of Halloween.  I love fall foliage, I love the baseball playoffs, I love wearing warm sweaters, I love that it’s finally decorative gourd season, I really love candy, and I am hopeful that I will finally find a halfway decent gluten-free pumpkin pie this year.  But Halloween has never been my bag.

There are two reasons for this.  The first is that the older kids in my suburban neighborhood really got into the pre-Halloween vandalism routine, and even as a little kid it kinda pissed me off to find eggs and toilet paper all over the trees, driveways and mailboxes of my street.  Halloween is “scary”, sure, but this felt legitimately dangerous and personal.  This eventually put me off trick-or-treating altogether, and the honest truth is that I was happier handing candy out than I was going out and begging for it.

The second is that I was terrible at costumes.  Had no brain for it, no passion for it, and while my mom tried her darnedest, I never quite got the hang of it.

333546_10151202549480865_382061926_o 460499_10151202557695865_263349560_o

All this being said, I am determined to prevent my curmudgeonly attitude from rubbing off on my kid.  If he wants to enjoy Halloween, I will put my big-boy pants on and make sure he has as much fun as he can.

2.  I got impatient and decided to buy the digital download version of Shadow of Mordor yesterday afternoon, but it had only downloaded about 68% of itself when I finally got a chance to turn on my PS4.  This ultimately meant that I could only play the first 10 minutes – the early tutorial, right up to the delayed title screen – before the game kicked me back to the main menu.  Obviously I can’t offer much in the way of impressions, though I will echo Carolyn Petit’s annoyed and astute observation that, yet again, a woman has to die so that the (male) hero has something to do.  Someone else on twitter also pointed out (and I’m sorry I can’t remember who) that it’s only the wife whose death is shown on screen – the camera moves away from the necks of the son and the father.

3.  So I ended up going back to Destiny, where I puttered around for an hour or two; ran some patrols, cashed in quite a few bounties, and finally started 2 exotic weapon quests.  (One quest requires me to visit the weekend merchant; as I’m away this weekend, that’ll have to be postponed for another week.)  As it’d been a while since my last visit, I wasn’t consumed with any particular feeling towards it (beyond impatience at SoM’s slow download progress – and I’m sure that being online in Destiny held up the works considerably, too), and so I was able to turn off my brain for a bit and just shoot things to death.  Destiny is a much better experience when you have no expectations and don’t care that nothing makes any narrative, logical sense.  Indeed, this is why it can be pleasurable to zone out to Diablo 3, too; you relax and elect to simply concentrate on your mechanics and technique and before you know it a few hours have gone by.  The bummer of it all is that even after the few hours I sunk in, I still didn’t pick up any gear with keeping, which is why it can be hard to not feel like I’m literally killing time.

4.  Speaking of mindless grinding and killing time, it’s been 3 days and I am fully addicted to Clicker Heroes, this year’s edition of Cookie Clicker.  I urge you to be careful of clicking that link.   If you have already clicked that link and are in the throes of paralysis as I am, well:  I’ve gotten to level 100 and ascended, and now I’m already up to level 50 on my second run, and the whole goddamned thing is absurd and I don’t understand why it’s so compelling and I need to switch my tab over to make sure I’m properly leveled up please god help

On The Outside, Looking In

far side dog

I’m in a weird head space today, where I’m wanting to write about games and such but I haven’t turned on any of my consoles since the middle of last week.  It’s not just that I’ve been busy, or out of town (both of which are true); it’s also simply that I’ve been exhausted.  I’d thought about popping in Destiny for a little while last night, but the day had already run pretty long by the time I had access to the TV, and I ended up passing out before 9:00 pm.  (Here’s an oft-repeated but still you-don’t-understand-until-it-happens-to-you truth about parenting:  there is no such thing as sleeping in.  At this point, I’d honestly consider waking up at 7:00 am a goddamned tropical vacation.)

And truth be told, I’m still in a weird head space about Destiny, too.  I’m stuck at level 21 and by this point I’d imagine that most of the people on my PSN friends list are way beyond me; I was already 2-3 levels behind when I was playing on a regular basis, and by now I’m sure they’re at 27-29, which means that I can’t run strikes with them with any hope of being effective, and I’m afraid that they won’t bother running strikes with me unless they’re feeling extra generous with their time; I mean, why bother doing level 20 strikes when you can get better gear playing at your own level?  This is why Destiny’s post-20 leveling system bums me out, at least when compared to Diablo 3 – I can take my level 70 Monk into a friend’s low-level game and still pick up decent gear at a steady clip (even if it’s all ultimately salvage), whereas in Destiny, even shooting at a Loot Cave for an hour doesn’t necessarily give you a strong return on your time investment.

And yet, given the absence of something else to play right now*, I still kinda want to jump in and play.  Before I left this past weekend I’d manage to finish 2 of those limited-time Queen bounties, and I’d like to be able to do a few more (and maybe even cash in a Queen Mission) before the event closes.  Even if I can’t get that far, though, there’s still a part of me that would like to be able to do a few strikes, hopefully get lucky with some drops, and gain a level or two before finally giving up in favor of the rest of the fall release schedule.  There’s just enough in Destiny’s post-cap endgame that makes me want to stay engaged.

That said, a larger part of this pull I’m feeling is that Destiny is still what most of my gaming friends and the community at large are talking about.  For better and/or worse, it’s dominated the Twitterverse ever since its release, and with each passing hour that I’m offline, I’m feeling further and further removed from the conversation.

As Patrick Klepek wrote in this weekend’s GB column, “Social Gaming and the Fear of Missing Out“:

With an hour to spare last week, I hopped online and started completing some bounties, one of the easiest ways to stack experience while playing. Two friends joined up, and helped me grind through what amounted to little more than fetch quests and shooting galleries for an hour. Even though our actions were hardly engaging, the act of doing them together was tremendous fun, if only a glorified chat room.

Once the bounties were cashed in, though, my friends were debating the next move. All of them were well past level 20, though, which meant the content I was playing through couldn’t help them meaningfully advance their equipment. Even though I was the party leader, I was the one who had to leave, forced to venture out on my own again. I hopped into a nearby strike, got myself assigned to a few random players, and went to it. We won. Some stuff dropped. But it wasn’t the same. There was only silence.

Granted, none of this is Destiny’s fault. To the contrary, it’s what Bungie wants, what these games thrive on. You could argue the existence of a loot vault, a void in which players shot mindlessly for hours, says more about what Destiny gets wrong than what it gets right. But that would be missing the point. These collective experiences, even when driven by exploitations of code, are entirely the point. These marks in time wouldn’t be possible in single-player. Individualized watercooler moments from the night discussed at the office the next day become shared experiences given more power from the group ownership.

I’ve been struggling with managing this Fear of Missing Out for a long time, I think.  It’s probably the primary force behind this blog; if I can’t get paid to write about the games I play, well, I still want to play as much as I can and write about it and talk about it with other people who are in on the conversation.  I love games, I love thinking about games, and when a game this huge is out and occupying so much of our collective brains, I want to be able to dive in to the conversation and contribute in a meaningful way.  It’s no fun being on the outside looking in.

Ironically, it’s this same Fear of Missing Out that will make it a bit easier for me to pull myself away from Destiny once I get my hands on Shadow of Mordor, even if, due to Gamefly’s mailing schedule, I won’t get my hands on it until Thursday (and, because of family stuff, won’t get any meaningful playtime with it until next Monday night, post-Gotham).  Hell, I’m even tempted to just say fuck it and order the digital version of SoM so I can at least get some quality time with it before I leave town this weekend.

It is what it is, I suppose.  In the meantime I’ve got Clicker Heroes running in the background and I suppose the less said about that the better.


*  Even given my aforementioned lack of free time and a relative shortage of expendable income, I nearly pulled the trigger on The Vanishing of Ethan Carter yesterday.  But then I learned that there’s a PS4 version due next year.  Now, my PC is a few years old and can make certain games look quite nice – and it passes the minimum specs according to Can You Run It? – but everything I’ve heard about VoEC is that it’s one of the most gorgeous games ever made.  So as much as it hurts to wait, I’m tempted to hold out for the PS4 version, which I know will look better than what my PC can currently do.  There’s no current date on the PS4 version beyond a vague “some point in 2015“, though, so you can probably guess that this will come down to a rigged coin flip.

The Last Few Hours: Destiny

Current Status:  Story complete; level 21.


Destiny_BG

I finished Destiny‘s story and hit level 20 on Thursday night, and then sloooooooowly grinded my way up to level 21 by Sunday night.  Did a lot of strikes, co-op missions/patrols, a few rounds in the Crucible.   (I am terrible at the Crucible.)  I’ll even cop to spending 20-30 minutes shooting at the Cave of Loot (though I didn’t get all that much for my efforts).

I am more or less done with it, though, I think.  While it’s true that the next big game doesn’t come out until 9/30 (Shadow of Mordor), I’m not really feeling the pull to keep coming back.  Destiny’s endgame is similar to Diablo III in many respects – you’re basically just doing the exact same stuff over and over and over again, grinding away for better gear, BUT Diablo III has several big advantages over Destiny, even if it’s similarly tedious after a while:  there’s far more to do in Diablo right now, the loot is far more generous, and you can also hit the pause button if you need to take a bathroom break or if your kid is crying or if your aging TV decides to suddenly switch itself off.

Now, to be fair, the launch version of Diablo III on PC had a similarly lackluster endgame and barely resembles its current form.  And as Bungie has repeatedly said that they’re playing the long game with Destiny, I fully expect new content to roll out over the next few months, and I might even come back to check it out every once in a while (though I expect I’ll be woefully outclassed when I do).

But even as Destiny’s gameplay remains mechanically solid – and it is, there’s no question about it – there’s almost nothing else that’s compelling me to stick with it.  Leveling past 20 is arduous and arbitrary (as @LegendaryEngram is so cruelly brilliant in pointing out).  The Strike playlist consists of maybe 4 missions – maybe there’s more, but it certainly feels like there’s only 4 – and I’ve done them all to death.  I’m done with final bosses that sponge up 15 minutes’ worth of shooting, and I’m even more done with final bosses that are bullet sponges AND teleport, because teleporting is bullshit.  Few things feel as cheap as when you only get one grenade that takes minutes to recharge, and then the boss vanishes mid-throw.

I’ve said before that it can be a bit of a critical cop-out to compare one game to another, and so it would be hypocritical of me to compare Destiny to its most obvious influences and contemporary titles – Mass EffectBorderlandsDiablo III, Halo.  But if I’m being honest with myself – and therefore with you – I have to admit that the game that Destiny most reminded me of is this year’s Watch Dogs.  Both games were hyped beyond all rational measure, and they both appeared to look like phenomenal games during their preview stretch.  And then they came out… and left so much to be desired.  Both games featured solidly designed mechanics and impressive-looking graphics, both games eventually grew somewhat tedious and tiresome and repetitive, and both were saddled with dreadfully poor writing and voice performances (though it should be noted that each game’s writing is bad for much different reasons).  I think there’s obviously still plenty of time for Destiny to right the ship, and as said above Bungie’s playing the long game here, but as of right now, these two games are battling for my Biggest Disappointment of 2014 award.

Hypothetical: The Inevitable HD Remake List

My digital copy of Destiny finished pre-loading over the weekend.  I have a thing tomorrow night, though, and I’m not sure if I’ll be awake enough when I get home to do much more than create a character and go through the first 1-2 levels before hitting the hay; therefore, being that anyone reading this will likely have already played through what I wouldn’t get to until Wednesday at the earliest, there probably won’t be a “First Few Hours” post.  And, ultimately, I expect the opening hours to be more or less what we played in the beta, albeit with some additional graphical spit-shining (and (hopefully) some new Dinklage VO).

In the meantime, I think I’ve burned myself out on Diablo III.  (Speaking of which:  if you haven’t yet read Carolyn Petit’s take on Diablo 3 and Dark Souls 2, you should fix that ASAP.)  I find that, these days, I can really only play it for about 30-45 minutes these days before feeling restless and bored; coincidentally, 30-45 minutes is actually just enough time to run some bounties and/or run a Nephalem Rift, get some new gear, and log out.   The bounties don’t seem to change, though; every time I log in it’s the same stuff.  Do I have to finish all 5 bounties in all 5 Acts before they refresh?  That seems… kinda dumb.

So, in order to keep the ol’ wheels turning here at SFTC, and because I’m in a somewhat cynical mood, I’ve spent the last few days guessing what the next inevitable HD remakes are going to be.

We already know about these AAA re-releases, which have either already come out or have been announced as forthcoming.

  • Tomb Raider
  • The Last of Us
  • Metro Redux
  • GTA V
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Saints Row 4
  • Halo 1-4 box set

By the way, the AAA designation is specific and necessary to this discussion.  I’m well aware of stuff like Fez,  Minecraft, Abe’s Oddysee, Hotline Miami, Journey/Flow/Flower and other such indies getting ported to the new consoles; I’m also going to be the first person to buy the Grim Fandango restoration as soon as it’s released.  But I’m specifically talking about AAA titles from the 360/PS3 generation, as those games seem to generate the most press from the big sites – and porting those games also serves as valuable experience for the developers in terms of learning how their existing tech works on the new systems.  (I believe Naughty Dog talked about this specific idea when they ported The Last of Us to PS4 – it helped them learn how to best tweak their engine before getting Uncharted 4 off the ground.)

So, then, what other AAA franchises from the last console era might we expect to see in the future?

  • Beyond: Two Souls is almost certainly getting a PS4 port, according to a number of sources (1, 2, 3).
  • Mass Effect trilogy.  I’ve heard this rumored more than a few times, and it’s not necessarily a bad idea (though it’s asking quite a lot for people who sunk hundreds of hours already to do it again in a higher resolution).  That being said, the boring bits in ME1 would still be boring in 1080p, and the ending in ME3 would still be the ending.  I don’t think Bioware would spend the energy tweaking that stuff when they’d rather work on the new ME game.
  • Bioshock 1, 2, Infinite.  The more I think about it, this seems like a no-brainer.  Consider: the recent iOS port of Bioshock 1; Irrational Studios is all but shut down; TakeTwo surely considers Bioshock a formidable IP that they don’t want to lose.  Just imagine what Bioshock 1 would look like on new hardware.
  • Uncharted 1-3.  Probably a long shot, given that Naughty Dog is already working on Uncharted 4 (and that, as said above, that they learned what they needed to learn about their engine through porting The Last of Us), but it wouldn’t surprise me if Sony outsourced this to another dev house.  Sony’s stated reason for re-releasing last year’s TLOU was because a lot of people who bought a PS4 never owned a PS3; it stands to reason that those same people have never played what is arguably Sony’s biggest exclusive franchise.
  • Gears of War 1-3.  Probably less of a long shot, given that Microsoft needs anything they can get their hands on to get the Xbox One into more living rooms, and given that the Halo box set is a thing that’s already happening.  But this might depend more on Epic and Unreal Engine 4.
  • This most certainly won’t happen, but I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Rockstar come out with their own Orange Box, with Max Payne 3, L.A. Noire, and Red Dead Redemption in one HD package.  For me, personally, that would be my birthday and Christmas every day for the rest of my life.  Hell, I’d just be happy with Red Dead.  It will be a sad day when my 360 dies; RDR is the only reason why I haven’t yet pulled the plug myself.
  • Similarly, I would be very, very surprised to see Bethesda do ports of OblivionSkyrim or Fallout 3/New Vegas.  I’d be inclined to check those out, certainly, but the amount of work necessary to properly port those games seems far too excessive, and it’s all but certain that work on Elder Scrolls VI and Fallout 4 are well underway already.  (And, of course, the PC modding community is also doing a bang-up job as far as those games are concerned.)

What would you like to see?  Or are you done with HD remasters?

The First Few Hours (Again): Diablo 3 on PS4

Author’s Note:  What I really want to do is talk about #GamerGate and the attendant bullshit that surrounds it, but for reasons you’ll see below I hadn’t written anything in a week (until yesterday, when I decided to dip my toes into Twitter).  Basically, I’m super-rusty with words right now, and I’d rather talk about that stuff when I’ve regained some balance in my writing legs.  I mean, I’ve started and restarted this post about a dozen times since yesterday, and if you’re reading this at all it’s probably because of a coin flip.

I should also say that it’s also super-weird to be back in full-on internet mode.  It was kinda nice to be away from the constant distraction of social media, even if I was feeling like total shit.

Regarding #GamerGate, though:  I think it’s kind of amazing that I used the hashtag literally once and immediately got flooded with Twitter mentions and one person even telling me that I “was part of the problem.”  To be fair, I was curious to see if they’d come after me, and they did not disappoint.  Interestingly, I then went on a bit of a mini-rant and ended up writing what has turned out to be my most popular tweet:

So, then, what follows are some ramblings that I’ve pieced together over the last week (before getting sick, and after) on the PS4 version of Diablo 3.


OK, so:  I was going to put up a First Few Hours post about Diablo 3 last Monday.  For a number of reasons, that didn’t end up happening.  I was also feeling a bit under the weather, and took off Tuesday from work.  I went to the doctor on Wednesday, where I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and so I’ve been stuck at home ever since.  [Author’s note:  until today, that is.]

As it turns out, being home alone and feeling miserable is a perfect way to play Diablo 3; and so this will not be a First Few Hours post, because I ended up beating the game AND hitting the level cap and getting up to (at least) Paragon level 25 by the time this post goes up.

Considering that it took me at least a month or two to hit level 60 on the PC version – and that it took me less than a week to hit level 70 on the PS4 version (while starting from scratch), the short version of what I’m about to write boils down to this:  the PS4 version is so vastly superior that I might as well uninstall the PC version, as the PS4 version is the only version of Diablo 3 that I’ll play from this point forward, and I may very well end up continuing to play it a lot.  It will certainly be holding my attention until Destiny arrives, that’s for sure.

Let me back up, though.

I did not ever expect to be writing about Diablo 3 again.  Actually, let me rephrase that:  I did not expect that I’d want to write about Diablo 3 again.  I’d already played it to death on the PC, and only considered renting the PS4 version if the summer release calendar was slow enough; and even then, considering that I couldn’t transfer my PC characters over to the console, I wasn’t exactly excited to start over from scratch.  But my buddy Greg was about to start playing it for the first time, and the reviews started coming out saying that the PS4 version was, in fact, the best version of the game, and my curiosity got the better of me, and before I knew it I’d bought the digital version.

And now here I am, a week later, having blasted through the campaign, smashing through the level cap and still feeling compelled to come back.

level70

I’m hard-pressed to determine why my console experience has been so much better than my time with the PC version, though my time spent with the Reaper of Souls DLC earlier this year (on PC) was indicative that the game had changed significantly for the better since the last time I’d touched it, and the PS4 version incorporates those changes.  I debated changing classes for my PS4 campaign, but at the end of the day I really liked playing as a Monk; this time, though, I knew how to properly build and develop her, and I ended up finishing the game on Hard without really dying much at all.  Hell, I’m doing all the bounties now on Master difficulty, and I’m running into very little resistance.  Which is kind of awesome, I think; it means I built my PS4 Monk the right way, whereas during my PC campaign I had no idea what I was doing.

Maybe it’s just that playing with a controller feels better than mouse clicking, though.  Sure, I’m still pressing the attack button an awful lot, but it feels more visceral.  Pulling the R2 trigger and unleashing an electric column of pain on swarms of enemies feels infinitely more satisfying than hitting the 6 key.

Maybe it’s also that the endgame is better designed (or, really, designed at all).  When I beat the game on PC, my only real option was to play it again on a higher difficulty, and so on and so forth.  My keep/sell ratio of loot saw only marginal improvements during each playthrough, and most of my best gear was acquired through the Auction House.  On PS4, though, I’ve acquired great loot pretty much from the get-go, and it keeps getting better and better.

Maybe it’s simply that I was able to keep playing during that DDoS attack on Sony’s servers last weekend.  Considering that I could barely maintain a stable connection when the PC game launched (and for a few weeks afterward), this felt like a minor miracle.

The larger point of this post, though, is that the Diablo 3 “action RPG hack-and-slash” experience makes a tremendous amount of sense in a console context, and I’m at somewhat of a loss to figure out why there haven’t been more Diablo-esque console games.  Off the top of my head, I can think of only three that I’ve played and enjoyed:  Baldur’s Gate: Dark AllianceMarvel Ultimate Alliance (only the first one, b/c the second one was garbage), and Torchlight on XBLA.  In any event, the game feels a lot less monotonous when played on a controller as opposed to mouse/keyboard; Diablo 3’s controller layout is intelligent, thoughtfully designed, and (most importantly) feels more viscerally connected to the action on screen than the artless and endless left- and right-clicking.

Anyway, as noted above, I’m going to keep playing until Destiny is released, and I’ve yet to try any co-op.  If you’re online and on a PS4, hit me up:  JervoNYC.

 

7 idle thoughts

I took some melatonin last night to help me sleep, and it worked – I did sleep – but I’m having a gawdawful time waking up, the sort of awful zombie nightmare hangover that no amount of coffee can rescue me from.  Which is not to say I won’t continue drinking obscene amounts of coffee; I’m just acknowledging how futile everything feels right now.

What follows are some random thoughts – because that’s all I’ve got right now – that are either too long for Twitter, or are adapted from IM conversations I’ve been having with my buddy (and long-ago SFTC contributor) Greg.

1.  King games – Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, Pet Rescue, and my current nemesis, Bubble Witch 2 – are fucking bullshit, and I hate them, and I hate that I’m still suckered into playing them when they’re objectively and obviously horrible.  The games ultimately feel like carnival contests, rigged against you from the moment you get started unless you pay for power-ups.  Skill is helpful but ultimately useless; I fail most levels not because I’ve messed up, but because the algorithm that governs the randomness of the tools at my disposal makes sure that I can’t win – unless I decide to purchase special powerups (at obscene prices).  I refuse to spend money, though, and so I’m stuck banging my head against the wall.  Ironically, the 30-minute wait to refill one (1) life is actually a godsend, because it means that when I run out of lives I don’t have to reload the page for another 2.5 hours, and I can do something meaningful with my life.

2.  I cannot explain why I’m willing to wait for a game like Divinity: Original Sin to appear in a Steam Sale, and yet I’m actually contemplating buying the PS4 version of Diablo III at full price – a game that I’ve already sunk 100+ hours into on PC, and where I can’t transfer those PC characters to my console.  The aforementioned Greg is playing it for the first time, and he appears to be enjoying himself, and I’d love to play co-op with him, and all the big sites seem to indicate that this PS4 edition is the perfect place to play D3, and that it’s worth coming back to.  I did not want to hear this news.

3.  What the hell ever happened to the Steam Box?  I keep hemming and hawing over the Xbox One but if they announced a Steam Box with decent specs (i.e., better than my 4-year-old PC) at a decent price (up to $700), I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

4.  It’s a goddamned shame that the Burnout franchise appears to be dead.  It’s even more of shame that it had to die so that Need For Speed could live.  I suppose I’m bummed that I’ll miss out on Forza Horizon 2; I can only hope that DriveClub and/or The Crew manages to capably scratch my arcade racing itch.

5.  Likewise, I’m ready for a new PS4 DiRT game.  And if Microsoft wants to woo me back, they could certainly find a way to revive the Project Gotham franchise.

6.  Speaking of arcade racers:  as long as they’re making HD remasters of last-gen games, my buddy Greg and I feel very strongly that Split/Second should get a remastered treatment.  That was a criminally underrated (and undersold) game with a ridiculously fun multiplayer side.

7.  I am not necessarily as down on CounterSpy as my friend Carolyn is, but I see her points.  Truth is, the game was never really described all that well; it’s marketed as a stealth game, and it looks like a Metroidvania game, but neither of those impressions are actually true.  For one, stealth is damned-near impossible – you have to kill everyone you see if you hope to find anything of value before exiting the level.  For another, each level is short and procedurally generated, which ostensibly means that no two levels are alike (even though you’ll start to recognize how the different parts repeat and align).  I also wish it performed better on the Vita than it does, because it’s a perfect mobile title – each level takes around 20 minutes to finish, which is a perfect time for a commute – but the load times are horrendous, and the performance is spotty at best.  It plays much smoother on the PS4, but that’s not where I’d prefer to play it – if I do indeed continue to play it at all.

 

Hello Goodbye

1.  The short version is that I have decided to stop writing for Gamemoir, for the foreseeable future.  It’s not them, though; it’s me.

The tl;dr version is that I’ve been stressing out about each column for months, frantically trying to find time to concentrate and write something that isn’t terrible, all the while knowing that with one or two exceptions, most of my posts pretty much died on the vine.  I was home sick yesterday, and I hadn’t yet pitched a column for this coming Monday, and I couldn’t think of anything, and I realized that I was going to be super-busy this weekend, and so unless I was able to pull it together under less than ideal circumstances in the few free hours I had, I wasn’t going to get anything handed in.  And I ultimately came to the realization that while I do tend to like the pressure of deadlines, there’s only so much pressure I can take before I feel defeated by simply looking at an empty page.

It’s easier for me to post here, because I can just sit down and stay in my own voice and not be so preoccupied with traffic-grabbing headlines and topics and stuff.  And I think that I’ll probably be able to post a little bit more here, actually, since I won’t feel like I need to “save” anything.  (Indeed, this post ended up at almost 900 words and it only took about 45 minutes to write.)

It’s also a kick in the ass, though.  If I’m ever going to get regular freelance work – and I still feel like I’m a ways off in terms of having the sort of chops that can compete in an over-saturated freelance pool – I need to be able to concentrate, and be able to carve out writing time without losing too much family time (and/or getting in trouble at my day job), and so even just learning what I have to do just to get an 800-1000 word column up every week is an eye-opening experience, to say the very least.

I still plan on trying to pitch to other sites, but only when I feel that I have something good to pitch.

I’m eternally grateful for the patience, the support, and the invaluable experience that the Gamemoir crew gave me in my too-short stay there.

2.  Much to my surprise, I’ve been getting sucked back into The Last of Us Remastered, even though I felt pretty resolute in my decision to bail.  Part of this is almost certainly due to the fact that I’m playing it on Easy, right from the get-go.  It’s still challenging, but it’s not nearly as frustrating as it is on Normal, and so I’m able to explore and move the story forward without getting bogged down in repetitive combat scenarios that lose their effectiveness with every restart.

I’m also surprised as to how much of the game I remember.  True, I’d just played it last year, but I was also playing it under newborn-baby sleep-deprived circumstances.

It’s hard for me to tell if there’s really that much of a graphical difference between the PS3 and PS4 versions.  With other 2014 HD remasters of 2013 games (Tomb Raider immediately comes to mind), the difference between last- and current-gen was actually quite pronounced.  That being said, the PS3 version of TLOU was the best-looking game on that system (and possibly of the entire console generation), and so the PS4 version basically feels slightly more rich, if that makes sense.  Beyond that, I think the only way I’d be able to tell the difference is that the PS4 controller makes the game a lot easier to deal with.

3.  I am really, really, really enjoying The Swapper on Vita.  I liked it on the PC but didn’t get all that far into it and eventually lost interest, but it feels absolutely perfect in my hands (even if I’m currently stuck on 2 different puzzle rooms). I’m especially loving the cross-save support, in that I was able to pick up some orbs on the PS4 (because I wanted to see what it looked like on my TV), and then move that save to the Vita so that I didn’t lose anything.  Cross-save support is the best.  As far as I’m concerned, Sony’s cross-save system might just be the biggest ace up its sleeve in the console war with the Xbox One; having indie games that I can play at home or on the go without losing progress is too good an offer to walk away from.

4.  Speaking of cross-save, I must admit to being a little bummed that I can’t get my PC save of Diablo III over to my PS4.  Blizzard’s doing a hell of a job letting you import console saves from different generations AND different manufacturers, and that’s certainly commendable, but I’m not about to lose over 100 hours of PC playtime just so that I can start over from scratch in my living room.

5.  I am an idiot.  I took a screenshot from The Last Of Us Remastered yesterday and a Twitter pal asked if it would make for a new SFTC mascot, and OF COURSE it would, and now I’m wondering why I haven’t been taking screenshots of couches in every game I’ve played for the last 4 years.

The Year (So Far) In Games

A bunch of sites have been putting up “Best Games of the Half-Year” posts this week, and I was tempted to follow suit, but after looking at my Games Played spreadsheet I found myself wondering how I could spin Wolfenstein: The New Order and South Park: The Stick of Truth into 800 words; it’s just not happening.  Those are two surprisingly terrific games, and they’ll most likely end up in my year-end list, and you should play them if you haven’t already.  Beyond that, it’s a bit of a reach.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call the first half of 2014 a disappointment; I expected this transition period between last-gen and current-gen to be a little weird and underwhelming.  That being said, a lot of the year’s biggest-hyped games fell relatively flat for me.  I was certainly impressed with the tech in Infamous: Second Son, but I hardly gave it a second thought after easily getting to 100% completion.  Similarly, there are certainly quite a few things to like about Watch Dogs, but if I think about that game for more than 5 seconds I get irrationally angry.  And Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is what it is, I guess, though I haven’t felt compelled to pick it back up since I finished it the first time.

I could continue on in this vein – there’s plenty of bummers on my Games Played spreadsheet (*cough* Thief *cough* Mario Golf World Tour *cough*) – but I’d prefer to keep the rest of this somewhat positive.

Jazzpunk!  That’s a spicy meatball if there ever was one.

I enjoyed playing Tomb Raider again on the PS4 and my HDTV, although I suppose its retail success is partially to blame for the HD double-dips that are in our immediate future as we wait for the real next-gen stuff to appear, i.e.The Last of UsGTA VDiablo III, to name a few off the top of my head.  And I’m planning on at least renting all of those games, too, so I suppose I’m partially to blame as well.

Speaking of Diablo III, I suppose I should heap a little bit of praise on its Reaper of Souls DLC and the additional patching that game’s received in the year since I last turned it on; the DLC managed to suck another dozen hours of my life after I’d sworn I was finished with it forever, and the daily missions and objectives are an intriguing carrot that I still consider chasing after.

I really enjoyed Bravely Default right up until I realized that I was going to have to play the entire game a second time; and then I read some walkthroughs that revealed that I’d actually have to play the whole thing 3-4 times before getting to the final ending.  This will not do.

What else, what else… I’ve not yet had that much time to actually play anything in depth on my PS Vita, and yet I keep downloading free games on it.  I’m very happy to finally own it, though.  The port of Fez is great – I just love having it in portable form – and Luftrausers is excellent and I need to get back to it, and Olli Olli hurts my brain but is also really good.

I was also going to include my favorite bits of gaming journalism and criticism, but it’s a gigantic list so far, and it’s also full of rather depressing stories of how toxic this industry is.  Still, if you’d like to check it out, I’ve made it publicly available as a Google Doc.

This weekend I’ll be away with the family, so I’m not sure what gaming there’ll be.  I’m currently playing A Story About My Uncle, which is both exhilarating and frustrating, sometimes simultaneously; I’d like to try and finish it tonight, since I’m not taking my PC with me.  I picked up Civ Rev 2 for my iPhone this morning; it’s not quite as graphically interesting as the 360 version from a few years back, but it’s leaps and bounds better-looking than the previous iOS version, and the touch controls are a lot more intuitive.  I’m still way over my head most of the time, but such is life.  And I guess I’ll bring the Vita along, too, and maybe keep plugging away at Tearaway and also perhaps one of the 6 Final Fantasy games I’ve got on there.  (The voting was inconclusive.  I might go with 8 or 9, since I’ve never touched those before.)

Have a happy and safe 4th, everyone.