I just finished playing Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, or as I like to call it, Prince of Persia: Pottery Hater. This game was a pretty lame entry in the Prince of Persia franchise. Despite the often ridiculous wall running, environment manipulating puzzles I beat it in two days. I spent much of that time swearing at the tv due to the time sensitive nature of several of said puzzles. What about the enemies, you ask? Sand zombies spawned by a demonic Djinn. That’s a genie. Think the Jafar genie from Disney’s Aladdin, but really angry with glowing eyes, at least 6 horns curling out of his head, and cursing you in a language you won’t understand.

The best part of the game for me was the pottery smashing and the story I created for the prince and his compulsive need to break every fancy vase he saw. It was the games fault really. The pottery often contained health and magic power orbs, so it was useful to break them occasionally, I just took it too far. I was compelled to smash every vase I saw, I couldn’t resist. I went out of my way to smash them. I found myself saying “Fuck yo pots!” while chuckling with glee. During encounters with large groups of enemies I would run away to smash pots. “Hold on guys, just let me break these first. I’ll be right with you. Hey, stop hitting me. Why do you even care? It’s not like these are YOUR pots, so back off! No it’s cool, really. These are my brother’s pots and he said to go for it. He’s got too many. They’re springing up like weeds, it’s a real problem. I don’t even have to worry about cleaning up the pieces, that’s what he has servants for.”  Pure joy.

Another thing about this game that stuck out to me is that you never seemed to be on the ground floor. There was  a moment in the intro movie, and then during the final boss fight, but that’s it. The entire rest of the game, no matter where you were standing, you were only a few steps or swings away from falling to your death. I never had any sense of where “the ground” actually was. I found it unsettling. In the back of my mind I was always trying to figure out where I was relative to ground level. When you’re wall running and trying to make precise jumps from one beam to another in a death defying fashion you really don’t need that extra distraction gnawing at you.

In closing, if you want to play a good Prince of Persia game from this console generation, choose the cell shaded one.

~Penguin

Wow, it’s been awhile

September 17, 2012

Time sure flies when you’re shooting digital monsters to avoid thinking about the real life ones doesn’t it? But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, my words shall once again arise from the rapidly firing synapses of my brain to delight and amaze you.

What could bring me to dust this blog off and start anew? Why Halo of course! The upcoming release of Halo 4 got me thinking about the datapads from Halo: Reach, or more specifically, how I never found them all. So I began searching the web for them so as not to leave any stone unturned for story bits that might become relevant in the upcoming campaign.

Before I get started I’d like to thank www.forwarduntodawn.com and their contributor ‘Slightly Live’ for his collection and incredibly insightful breakdowns of said datapads. He successfully shed light on a dark corner of the Halo Universe that even I had not discovered. Sure there are other sites that have collected these texts, but I learned much more through Slightly Live’s breakdowns than I did on any of those other sites. What follows is a list of things that Slightly Live pointed out that I didn’t know.

For starters, it seems that our AIs banded together into some kind of consortium called “The Committee of Minds for Security” to help humanity prepare for the potential of aggressive aliens, and  through deceit and deception, slowly guided our advancements to increase our odds of survival. What really blows me away is that this congress of AI had discovered the existence of forerunner tech back in 2491. And the war with the Covenant didn’t even start until 2525. The AI decided to hide it from us; misplace the satellite/probe info as it were; because they were afraid we would use this alien technology to destroy ourselves. They compared it to giving a monkey a hand grenade.

There’s also a revelation about the Orion Project which, as you may or may not know, was the progenitor of the Spartan-II project. The Spartan-II program was responsible for the creation of our beloved Master Chief, Spartan 117. The Orion project apparently had TWO runs, both of which were a response to internal human conflicts during the colony wars, when our colony worlds rose up against their Earth centric governance, who they felt were out of touch and ill equipped to make laws governing life on the worlds they inhabited many light years away.

For me this begs the question, which iteration of the Orion project was Sgt. Avery Johnson a part of? The only reason that man survived the Flood in Halo 1 was due to the fact that, basically, the Flood didn’t like the way his blood tasted because of the tweaks he received through Project Orion. While that question goes unanswered, what IS clear is that these projects are deemed failures by the AI Minority Assembly due to the compassion of the humans in charge of the projects. Conversely, they praise Dr. Katherine Halsey’s "ruthlessness" (and possible chemical imbalance, as they put it) for the success of what then became the Spartan-II project. Halsey has always prescribed to the “can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” school of thought. She was willing to sacrifice a few, breaking several laws and ethical codes in the process, for the greater good of all humanity.

Datapads 8 and 9 are time stamped 2525, the year of first contact with the Covenant on the planet Harvest; as chronicled in the excellent novel Contact: Harvest by Joseph Staten, longtime employee of Bungie and contributor to a large portion of the Halo games’ stories. 8 relays a tribunal meeting in which the Committee of Minds are trying a rebel AI who went against the Council’s decision to steer humanity away from any alien contact. This supposes that this rebel is somehow responsible for a Kig-Yar (Jackal) trading vessel finding and raiding two human transport ships. The sacrificing of human lives so that humanity as a whole might become aware of the Covenant threat.

That harsh fact, combined with a reference in datapad 9 which refers to the AI Assembly as “Gods and Demons” leads me to believe that Cortana was the rebel AI responsible. Remember her quote from Halo3? “I have defied Gods and Demons. I am your shield; I am your sword. I know you; your past, your future. This is the way the world ends.” Consider that Cortana was created from a flash clone of Dr. Halsey’s brain, someone the Council themselves praised for her ruthless nature. Her willingness to sacrifice the few for the greater good of all by going through with the crazy biological experiments on children that produced the Spartan II’s did not succeed 100%. There were casualties. Casualties which Halsey herself deemed tragic but acceptable. Also consider that Cortana is one of the most free thinking and unshackled AI’s by design and necessity. She is willing to sacrifice lives if need be, but is fiercely protective of the Spartans, Master Chief in particular. The rebel almost HAS to be Cortana.

Yet another fact that I’ve never heard mentioned in ANY OTHER Halo fiction (and I’ve read it ALL) is the Committee of Minds for Security’s assessment of the actual threat of "glassing" a world. They mathematically determine that, assuming that the covenant have a fleet of equal size to the UNSC fleet, it would take their full fleet 30+ years of continuous plasma bombardment to COMPLETELY glass an Earth-like world. The Committee then agree to hide this fact from us in order to better galvanize our resolve and determination through fear. I find this information incredibly interesting, even though they consent that this calculation is the result of insufficient data.

The last third of the datapads haven’t been analyzed and posted by Slightly Live yet, so I don’t know if he has any interesting takes on them, but I didn’t discover anything new or mind blowing in the datapad content itself. If he brings up any interesting points I may comment on them later, but for now all I can do is twiddle my thumbs frantically till Karen Traviss’ new book “Halo: The Thursday War” comes out on October 2nd.

~Penguin

Midnight Releases

November 10, 2011

It’s interesting to see the different brands of dork who show up for the midnight releases for videogames of different genres. The type of people who show up for RPG’s for instance, are largely different than the crowds for sports games. But that statement should be obvious to anyone who’s reading this.

What got me on this train of thought was my preorder of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The vast majority of the people that showed up for the local midnight release looked like grimy cave trolls that had crawled out of their grandmother’s basement just long enough to snag themselves a copy. Unaccustomed to the way light slides off flesh that hasn’t been washed in a week, long shaggy hair, and scraggly beards which threaten to rebelliously overtake the faces of those who’ve neglected them for ages. It looked to me as though some of them were doing their best to mimic the creatures of the fantasy world they so covet. If I stumble into a familiar looking dwarf/Walmart cashier inside Skyrim’s vast world I won’t be a bit surprised. Skeeved out maybe, but not surprised.

Alas, fair reader, I must depart. I long to embark on my great journey. To see foreign skies; to place my naked feet in ancient grasslands; to drink from forbidden fountains; and smite familiar looking dwarves.

~Penguin

"Made for TV Movie" and "Based on a Videogame" are two things that a gamer never wants to hear. Chills run down the spine; the mind reels with conspiracy theories of mainstream media’s attempts to undermine what I and many like me hold sacred. Well fear not, for the SyFy channel seems to understand these fears. Yes, Red Faction: Origins is a made for tv movie. Yes, it aired saturday (6/4) in an attempt to build up buzz for the next game in the franchise which releases on tuesday (6/7). And YES, I liked it anyway. :) Check your favorite torrent download haunts, you’ll find it.

“Down in a hole…”

August 24, 2010

And I’ve given up on breaking free.

They say that misery loves company, and I believe they’re right. Sadly I have tons of the former, and none of the latter. I’ve been caught in a depressed funk since being released from captivity back in December. It eased off a bit after I found a couple jobs, but money has never been my ONLY problem. Being able to feed and shelter myself just allows everything else to jump to the forefront.

I hate being alone. But then, everyone relies on the comfort of others to some degree. Humans are social creatures, pack animals. But it still feels like I’m failing myself, like I should be stronger than I am.

Depression is boring, and I grow tired of it. I wonder what it would be like to loosen a few screws, allow myself to come undone, slip a little. Dip my toe into the waters of insanity, if only for variety.

I’m a transient, a wanderer; and I’ve been here too long. I’m stagnating. Degrading into the filth I see all around me. I’m bored by the people around me. It’s too easy to label them all as stupid and worthless… but they lack creativity. They lack the ability to think abstractly, probably as a result of being raised simply. Raised to believe that the world is black and white, right and wrong, good and evil; and nothing more. They can’t think outside the box because they don’t realize the box exists. And they seem happier that way. I find myself both jealous and disgusted at the same time.

Ugh, whatever. I could go on like this forever, but even I’M starting to get sick of listening to me.

~Penguin Out

 

Maybe it’s just me, but I commonly get into arguments with myself. My “inner voice” splits into several pieces and each takes a side.

Don’t get me wrong, I mean I know it sounds a little… “unhinged”, but it CAN be helpful. It’s useful when planning out important conversations I want to have with people, another voice will step up and start thinking through every possible response to my planned talking points. Help plan for every contingency, especially when dancing around difficult subjects.

But sometimes these alternates just like to bicker amongst themselves. Over the most random shit too. Like, I’ll be walking through the local Wal-Mart, and I’ll see a small flock of the local Mennonite women. My initial reaction is confrontational disgust. Then a second voice tries to instill understanding and acceptance. It plays out a bit like this:

V1: “Freaks…”

V2: “They aren’t that bad.”

V1: “Oh come on! They’re all a bunch of techno hating cultists!”

V2: “They, as a people, have contributed a great deal to this country.”

V1: “Give me a break.”

V2: “No really. They’ve been a positive force here since America’s founding.”

V1: “Yeah yeah. They’re very hands on, making all their own shit.”

V2: “They really are quite good at that.”

V1: “Sure, they can make their own clothes, but their fashion sense is atrocious! I mean, if you’re going through all of that effort, why not make something that’s actually WORTH WEARING?”

V2: ”…Ok. You got me there.”

This is about when a third voice will step in, say “Shut the fuck up” and corral them back into a singular voice. The voice of Me.

Does anyone else have this experience? Is this something that I should be concerned about? Is it a problem or an answer? And how does one tell the difference?

 

~Penguin

I gleaned some rather interesting info from a conversation in Gamestop yesterday. I finally decided to get off my ass and preorder the “Legendary” version of Halo: Reach, so I took a trip down to the local Gamestop. Don’t look at me like that, they’re the only place in town that does midnight releases. Anyways, I was chatting it up with the guys when I noticed a sign that said “Preorder Reach and get a free gift.” I idly asked what the free gift was, expecting it to be lame… but the response I got kinda blew me away.

I was told that for preordering Halo: Reach at Gamestop you get a download code for a unique piece of armor. Now we all know that this kind of thing has become standard fare in the industry, but then they told me what it DOES. Apparently this piece of armor will decrease the recharge time of all armor lock abilities!

Up until now I had been under the assumption that all armor pieces were purely cosmetic, meant only to offer the player the ability to stand out, to make this spartan their own. I sure don’t remember having read anything on this topic in any bungie.net post. But if this Gamestop idiot was right, then this changes the whole game!

Think of it this way. Gamestop, as a company, isn’t special enough to warrant having the ONLY piece of armor that has the ability to tweak game play. It wouldn’t be fair to those who didn’t buy the game at Gamestop, and under normal circumstances I would BE one of those people. And I would be SUPER PISSED to learn that someone else was given a game breaking upgrade just for licking Gamestop’s massive corporate asshole.

So at this point it’s a very small leap to assume that most, if not ALL, of the armor pieces will offer some kind of tweak to your character. For instance, in the beta one of the helmets had a little camera device that attached to the side of it. And if you paid attention you would also have noticed that there was a side note in one of the menus that told us how to activate a night vision mode, though it wasn’t actually available in the demo. Coincidence??

But before you start flaming the Bungie forums, take a breath and consider this. If done right, this might not be a bad thing. I mean, it wouldn’t be any different than letting us choose which load out we want before each respawn. It would just make our characters more like the “actual spartans”. They’re all bad ass, genetically altered super soldiers, but each one has different stats and specialties. What made John (Spartan 117) unique and ultimately lead to him being given the title “Master Chief” was his extraordinary luck. Try defining THAT into a quantity that can be added to a character’s chest piece! Each spartan is a beautiful and unique snowflake… of PURE DESTRUCTION. And soon we will be too. I can’t wait to put on my +10 “Sexy” pants!

~Penguin

Finally A.Wake!

May 19, 2010

A game that’s been in development since 2005. A game I have been personally craving since I first heard about it at E3 2006. Alan Wake is FINALLY here! Dark, spooky, and excellent! With an atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a knife, Alan Wake is EVERYTHING I hoped it could be. Finally a creepy game, with an excellent story, that doesn’t involve zombies. A psychological thrill ride who’s story isn’t bogged down with obtuse plot strands involving huge scientific umbrella corporations with evil intentions.

A welcome breathe of chilling air breathing life into a stagnating genre, Alan Wake successfully brings unique camera and game play elements to the 360. Using light as a weapon and safe haven from characters entangled and controlled by a malevolent shadow force. Cleverly providing the player with just enough conventional ammo to make it to the next check point while forcing them to think outside the box enough to stretch that ammo.

Perhaps describing a common moment from the game would better illustrate it’s appeal:

I’m in a thick north western forest. It’s dark, the moon does little to light my way. If I don’t find a way to reach (insert objective here) I’m a dead man. I have my trusty flashlight, a revolver, and a handful of bullets. Should I stay on the hiking trail, with it’s illusion of safety, and pray I find a few bullets and flashlight batteries on my way? Or should I venture out into the underbrush in hopes of finding a hidden ammo cache and maybe a manuscript page if I’m lucky? If I go out there and get surrounded, my 6 bullets won’t be enough. The flares will buy me some breathing room sure, but if it comes down to that the shadowy creatures can outrun me. Heart racing I curse, bite my bottom lip, and wade into the darkness. I manage to find a thermos by an abandoned tent, but no ammo. Shit, what was that? I thought I heard something… The camera pans out in slow motion to reveal a shadowy figure lurking in the trees behind me. The axe in his hands says he isn’t interested in making smores. I turn around quickly and discover he brought two friends. I wait for them to get a bit closer before lighting a flare and dropping it at my feet. The light hurts them, burns away the darkness. I release the breath I didn’t know I was holding, focus my flashlight on the closest guy, and fire a couple of rounds into his torso. He drops to the ground, then a second one. I turn the flashlight to the final guy, and pull the pistol’s trigger only to realize that I’m out of ammo. Panicking now, I strike my last flare and hold it over my head as I fumble desperately towards the next checkpoint beacon. I can hear it’s crazy grumblings close in on me as I run. I don’t dare look behind me, I don’t want to know how close he is as my last flare sputters and dies out. Still running, I see a flash of light through the trees. Salvation! If only I can reach it before that cursed, shadowy THING reaches me…

If that scenario gets your heart racing, then Alan Wake is DEFINITELY a game you should pick up.

~Penguin out

Ok, if I die in my sleep tonight I want you all to know that it was due to a flickery, old time film grain effect applied to the Xbox360 game “WET”. Great game though, ALMOST worth it. The whole thing plays out like a fast and furious Quentin Tarantino film. The game came out last September, and was quickly overlooked by EVERYONE. New copies go for only $30 now, so if you’re interested in an over-the-top 3rd person shooter it might be time to check it out!

It’s official, I am one hell of a bad ass gamer! On February 25, 2010 I reached 50,005 gamerscore points. At which point the gaming gods came down from on high and totally gave me a big, group high five. It was “righteous”! Haha.

Now tell me, does anything say “This guy’s hardcore” like having a gamerscore that exceeds 50,000 points? I think not. I can now safely count myself among “The Elite” without feeling like a pompous jack ass. This must be what it feels like to be Stephan Colbert. ;) That guy kicks some serious ass by the way. I sent a message to all of my gamer friends last night that was all like “Behold, I hath conquered the 50,000 barrier! Gaze upon my gamerscore and weep heartily with joy for it’s greatness…” I wish I had thought to save a copy of it to post here later, cause it was brilliant. Oh well. Maybe I’ll remember when (and IF) I break the 100,000 barrier.

Seriously though, I think Microsoft should mail out shirts or something to people who break huge milestones like this. Cause we obviously paid for and played a shit ton of their games to get where we are. And what’s a couple hundred cheap and cheesy t-shirts to a company that has as much money as “The Big M”? Just a thought… do with it what you will.

~Uber Penguin out!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.