Friday, January 31, 2014

3 days of...Hack, Slash, Loot!

The Humble Rogue-like Bundle: Game 1


I'm a big fan of both Rogue-likes and charity. So when I read that The Humble Bundle store would be supporting both this week, I was on board 110%. I picked up the 5 games: Hack, Slash, Loot!, Paranautical Activity, Binding of Isaac, Sword of the Stars: The Pit, and Dungeons of Dredmor.

So this week, I'll be picking a different one of those games to play. If I weren't so busy I would have played and reviewed all of them so you could pick the package up for yourself. Unfortunately, I don't have that amount of time on my hands, so I'll just be doing the next best thing, reviewing them, and giving my suggestion on which of them are worth paying full price for (definitely 3 out of the 5 I can tell you now).

Hack, Slash, Loot!


When I pulled Hack, Slash, Loot! up from Steam, the first thing that greeted me was the 8 bit sound effect of a sword slash and then a wonderfully epic composition that was made for this game. I enjoyed the music quite a bit, when it was playing, which isn't all the time during your dungeon crawl. The sound effects in-game aren't quite as resounding as I'd like them to be, especially considering the cavernous environments the game gives you. However they do conform to the 8-bit character design that plagued this last 5 years (when everyone does 8-bit it's not indie-retro, it's just lazy). I just wish there was more than the boorish sound effects after the single song plays its course and then abruptly stops.


This happened more often than it should have.
The character selection screen gives you a chance to choose between 3 classes and several missions. Gladly the characters all start with different abilities, and the levels are all quite different as well, including different enemies. The characters look as clean and well designed as 8 bit characters can look, and the UI is easy to understand, and user friendly. It exudes quick-play sessions at it's core, and encourages you to pick up and let go of it easily.

My problems with Hack, Slash, Loot! arise when I pick it up, and then immediately am slaughtered by a horde of goblins in the next room from the starting room. I don't understand or seem to be able to differentiate whether or not one mission is more difficult than another, but it seems that rats and zombies in the tombs are much easier to survive than a single dwarf in the mountain mission. Finding the first piece of equipment or enchantment to keep you alive is vital, and I found myself dying many times before I was able to gain a foothold and push past even the first level.

Enchantments and Equipment, that is what determines your ability to survive, not your cunning. I say this because you only have 2 things you can do, attack and move. Moving is a single square/turn effort, and attacking depends on your weapon, but there aren't any special abilities to handle large groups or increase your survivability. This is especially troublesome with the wizard, as you can essentially die after 3 hits from any enemy. I might have enjoyed a secondary ability for each character that made combat more interesting, or just something else to do besides move and shoot.


This character is the only one
that got past level 1
Hack, Slash, Loot! reminds me of dungeon-crawling games past, where you push your way through a randomized rooms full of perils, and rely on your determination and quick-thinking to make it through. Unfortunately many of the things that made great rogue-likes (ie, Nethack, Moria, Rogue, Dwarf Fortress) have been stripped down to their most basic functions, to create a game that ultimately feels unfinished. This could have been an early alpha awaiting features for what could end up to be a great rogue-like, unfortunately it falls short and becomes more of a chore than a game.

You'll like this game if: You enjoyed old school rogue-likes, but desired a friendly user-interface and dumbed down mechanics.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

3 days of...Deponia!

I've never felt like more of a dick.

This is Rufus, trying to fix problems he created.
There hasn't been a game lately, that has made me feel like more of a dick than Deponia by Daedelic Entertainment. I played the first game of their Deponia series today, an adventure game along the lines of the old Lucasarts and Sierra legacies from the 90's. Strongly nostalgic, Deponia follows all the old idioms and intricacies of its predecessors, lacking some polish, but making up for it in commentary.
At first glance, you play a man on a world of trash, heaps of it everywhere. My first thought was of all the different things that I could rummage out of the mountainous heaps everywhere. Unfortunately Deponia is very scripted, and only lets you take specific things from the landscape, letting you know full well that you'll need these items later, until they're taken away from you by another scripted event. That I can manage, I can understand the need to keep clutter at a minimum, and give the player some direction, but Deponia takes this to a whole new level. There are choices where it seems as though the main character is asking himself what to do next, and instead of giving you choice, they take that away with more scripted lines. Carefully directing you through every choice, ironically taking away your choice completely.

This direction I can forgive, since I played those old adventure games, and I understand how hard it is to make a balanced branched plot system. The problem later on is that you need to do certain things in order to accomplish a goal, and though the goal is clear, where to go to get the tools that you need is not obvious. I found myself mindlessly clicking on every object I came across and attempting to combine every item in my inventory in a vain attempt to progress to the next illogical puzzle. Some item combinations are nonsensical and unapparent even to abstract thought. I had to give up and look to a guide to help me figure out what to do, since the npc's the game were no help.

Discovering my girlfriend was cheating wasn't a surprise.
That's what I truly enjoyed about the game though, everyone absolutely despises the main character, Rufus, who you play. And as the game points out, it's well deserved. Rufus runs around pillaging and taking everything in sight, because he needs it in puzzles later on. These puzzles often include forcing people into locked closets, flooding basements, and causing blast alarms to go off in neighbors homes to cause chaos. Rufus, and you by extension, do this in the name of saving a damsel in distress, even though you're the one that put her there. All this animosity is great for pointing out the flaw in adventure games. Most of the time you can rifle through possessions that aren't yours, and still end up on the right side of the law. In Deponia, they point out that you do these things because you're the asshole, and just can't seem to trust other people, taking things into your own hands.

Rufus says things like "I make my own destiny!" then continues to destroy everyone's lives around him to do so. I felt like such a tool believing the things that he told himself, the same things that every hero archetype says, and then watching my village fall apart because I had to lay ruin in my wake to get there. The lack of choice in the game, and structured nature, help feed into this commentary on games, and heroes in general. If it were just his story, Rufus would be the anti-hero, coming around to save the day. As Deponia points out though, he may just be sacrificing the lives of many to fulfill his own desires, bringing into question the entire philosophy of how we feel as the hero when we play these games.

After a few hours I honestly deserved to be here.


The game is quite humorous, treating this hatred of you lightheartedly, even though the other characters are quite persistent at it. You start out laughing at the beginning, realizing how despicable your character is. Then you start assisting in ruining lives and causing chaos, and the laughter begins to die out as you begin to see that you may not be such a hero, or even a good guy, after all. Though still, the humor is well placed and understated, which helps in it's tone as dry humor.

I enjoyed seeing this commentary on heroes, through the beginning of the game. But I might not finish Deponia right away. It's worn on me with frustrating puzzles, and the consistent disparaging remarks. So I'll have to put it away until I can come back with a refreshed outlook, preferably with a guide right next to me.

You'll like this game if: You enjoy frustrating adventure games, with sarcasm and dry humor abound. Just don't forget to pack your Prozac, and a VERY open mind about puzzles.

(If you had a different experience or a new video game to suggest, leave a comment below!)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gaming this week: Bad Corporate Decisions

Where is the world of gaming going?

Following the news this week, and seeing some of the new things coming out, I'm acutely aware that Shadows of Mordor looks like Assasins Creed II. And it definitely does. I don't have a problem with more games like Assassins Creed honestly. If they can make the formula fresh, or put that code that made that game into another universe, I'd be happy with that.

Assassins Creed: Lord of the Rings. You can't unsee it can you?

What I don't like to see is nearly a blatant copy of the mechanics, with just different skins to push out a demo to garner interest in a game. I understand that many games in this generation are derivative of other engines, or code. But I see the gameplay demo in this Machinima video and I honestly can see just a world re-skinned to meet the demands of a director that wants to push out a demo.
We as a community have to encourage balanced derivative design, which is inevitable, with original mechanics and art. They have the art down fine in this game, it genuinely looks like the Lord of the Rings franchise. The mechanics however seem ripped directly from another franchise, which then just makes your game a Frankensteinian invention. This is why large game factory companies like EA get bad reputations but still make money, because they demand speed and results rather than innovation. So we end up with this style of game. Just to meet the demands of the public. So honestly if we want mechanics and art that are original, we as the public have to stop paying out for games that are just the result of game-mills.
Image from Kotaku.com
In other news, I saw the Candy Crush Saga developer King, and their lawsuit against The Banner Saga. The best opinion I've read so far is from this article from Tycho on Penny-Arcade. He hits the nail on the head. King has moved over the course of this lawsuit from saying that it's not the "word" they've copyrighted, it's that people may confuse "The Banner Saga" with "Candy Crush Saga". I'll say this, that if you're playing either one and don't know the difference with purely a visual, then you probably shouldn't be playing them. Not to mention that most of Candy Crush business isn't in the same market as The Banner Saga. It's not even on the Steam Store, which is where I'm sure The Banner Saga sold most of their copies of the game. Either way, I would hope that the courts have enough common sense to crush this at the lowest level possible. Then again, games have this enigma about them when it comes to courts, so I may just give up on believing the courts can handle this.

These two stories have something in common, we have to stop rewarding bad corporations for bad business decisions, and poorly designed games. My wife doesn't call herself a "Gamer" but I catch her on her phone crushing away long into the night. So what does that say about the culture of gamers? It's expanding, and we need to ensure that games like The Banner Saga have their place, and can't be pushed out of the way by companies that cater to "non-gamers" like my wife. I'm not saying that we need to stop King from publishing any more games in the future, I appreciate the addictive nature of their game and the ability it has to indoctrinate people who would otherwise not pick up a controller. We have to find a way for all these companies to co-exist, and maybe if gamers become shareholders, we can oust the CEO's that make poor decisions for the market as a whole, and install people that synergize with this new world culture of gamers.

That's how I want to believe the world will end up. Companies that communicate and listen to the masses, and honestly create good games for their loyal customers. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

3 days of...Team Fortress 2!

Not much to say besides what's with the hats?

I didn't get to play much of the game of choice this week. Maybe I'll go back to it here soon. This happens to be one of the weeks where I'm extremely busy with work, school, and family. There wasn't enough time in the week to get everything done and then my car broke down. Great.


I'm going to burn everything!!!
Anyway, I got to go through TF2 for the first time in, oh I don't know, 2 years. I hadn't played much beyond when it first came out and I had a lot of fun. Since then it's gone free to play, and I don't quite know if I agree with the business model. I already paid for it, so valve got my money. I think I would invest in a new weapon, that gave me a different ability too.

The hats though, apparently that's where it's at. Personality is in the hats. Everyone was wearing them! I don't even know where they got them all. Do they get unlocked in free play mode? Or do I really have to pay $2.50 and up for a different and new hat? They don't even do anything really though. This is the first time I remember a game having you pay for something entirely cosmetic, and people actually going nuts over it. There are tons of them now, and I haven't gotten to try any of them out.
Too cool to be on fire in that fedora.

Seriously though, that and a ton of new achievements, have got me wanting to play this more than ever now. The violent cartoony goodness is just too much to resist. I just need to find out whether or not achievements are congruent with new unlocks, or if I really just need to unload my wallet to get new stuff. Either way, I'm a big fan of the series and I'll definitely keep playing, as a matter of fact, I'll probably play some more right now.

You'll like this game if: As a kid, you wanted to give Saturday morning cartoons guns, and throw them in an arena death match.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In-Between Discussion: What I like in a game.

This won't be long...

I just want to get out there what I like in my chosen medium of entertainment, namely video games. I'm no developer or programmer, and I've not played every classic dating back to the mesozoic era. I don't spend each and every day picking and choosing what title to play to completion. Since I have limited time on my hands, I've got to choose wisely. 

Just a tad more challenging...
Most of the things I enjoy are golden standards in the industry. Proper progression is probably my biggest initial marker to help me decide if I'll keep playing. If at its core the gameplay is mindless action sequences that stagnate; where there are no challenges that progress to create a larger sense of achievement, I tend to lose interest quickly. Story isn't enough. I'm not waiting for the next cut scene as a reward, seeing the results of my direct input, and finding the path progressively more difficult is something I need. Otherwise I feel like I've wasted my time and haven't challenged myself. 
 
Just a little darker...
Yes, I find a challenge entertaining, and relaxing if it's done right. Like a good workout at the gym can give you the sense of released tension, but for my mind. This leads me to my second flag for a game I'll enjoy, a well balanced beginners curve. If the tutorial is too long, or involved, or there are so many mechanics that the game doesn't explain how to do everything, I'll probably drop it. If I'm still discovering the way the game works 3 hours into the game, then there's something wrong. I'm  not talking about a metroid-vania style power progression. I'm talking keeping vital controls and functions of a game secret, until I stumble on them by throwing my controller against the wall. At the same time, don't lead me to proverbial water each time I have to do ANYTHING. That's just as averting as unexplained meters or terms. 

When I've found those two things, I'll look to the artistic style of the game. There is a certain look that I enjoy in a game. It's usually chibi outlandish looking characters, and preferably a dark theme. I like the feeling of hopelessness and dread, and overcoming it. That or ridiculous action with tons of other strangers I don't know. What I don't enjoy, and this is entirely subjective, is "realistic" looking art. Attempting to make something look as real as possible, or close to life as possible, just reminds me that I'm in the real world and just not there. Whereas a false looking world can make me zone out and suspend the reality around me. Odd I know, but that's just the freaky stuff I'm into.

And that's perfect, we've arrived.
And honestly, thinking about it, that's about all I need to make me a happy man. Follow the prescribed formula, throw in some mechanics of some kind, and a common sense approach to your game and I'll probably play it and enjoy it. Most of the games I enjoy are non-reality inducing, unconventional, and don't remind me of the world where I've got to go to work in the morning. GTA, I'm looking at you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

3 days of...Path of Exile!

Catching my interest from the get go.

I seem to be on a Free to Play run lately. After playing Rift for a few days, I wanted to see if any other similar models could convey quality and zero investment. It has got to be difficult to balance that model, and there are a very few that get it right. Based on what I've read and finally getting the chance to play, Path of Exile by Grinding Gear exhibits the ability to strike that balance well.
 
Despite the poor reputation of Free to Play games, Path of Exile is immensely enjoyable. The Diablo formula of the isometric dark adventure definitely influenced the game, but it takes it's own spin just enough to make it fresh. I daresay they improved on the formula, much in the opposite direction that Diablo III seemed to take.
 
Each new area looks amazing, interesting,
 and different than other areas.
Path of Exile is designed to the smallest detail to generate a constant interest in consistent play, and keeping the player in their seat for as long as possible. There are regenerating flasks that keep your character steam rolling through enemies, and nearly no preparation before a large battle keeps down time to a minimum. This lack of preparation time isn't a bad thing either. It keeps you playing and exploring, enjoying each new turn or mob of enemies until you check the clock and you've suddenly lost hours of your life.
 
I experienced this plenty of times through the last 3 days. It seems that Grinding Gear has created a time machine, if only in one direction. This isn't a bad thing however, because each moment is memorable, and each new area of the world is different and new. When you perish, the levels are generated randomly so each time you return it is a slightly different map.  Fresh enemies litter the landscape at each stop, and way stones let you travel quickly in case of a full backpack or death.
 
On the topic of selling items, gone is the days of gold and silver. Now when you sell items you trade instead for rare stones or shards that eventually add up to become a useful item to change your equipment. So if you get that rare item that doesn't quite have the right gem slots, you may want to keep it until you can sell enough trash to re-equip it with a rare stone you've assembled.
 
Losing health means that this light bubble
gradually goes away in the dark. Nice touch!
This adds complexity to the stone system that installs gems that give your character his/her skills. Skills are entirely removable, so your set of armor and it's capabilities becomes important because if you don't have your skills equipped properly, they won't improve. So you may have to pass on that unique item if it doesn't have the two gem slots you need instead opting for a statistically less useful pair of boots or belt.
 
Deeper still is the spider-web inspired skill tree that allows you many different directions in which to customize your character. These skills however are entirely passive. You earn nothing from them that activates an ability, but they greatly change the way in which you should play each character.
 

The quest hub is also a multiplayer area, where
as the combat areas are instanced.

If you're like me at all, you enjoy this desperate balancing act at each turn, and the character screen luckily has statistics on your equipment to help you optimize your build. Just this aspect alone keeps me coming back, as I know that each new helmet or shield can add to or take away from the synergy of what may be a balanced set I currently have.
 
All this makes the Path of Exile addictive, and because of this I wanted to invest in the time that the developers have put into it through their in-game store. But when I turned to the store I saw that most items, even though many of them were aesthetic, cost upward of $15 for a single item, to $50 for a set of them in a supporter package. Many of those were single use, so I didn't want to waste that investment on a low level character after 3 days. Later, after I've pushed my character to a higher more proficient level, I might invest in these items, I just wish the store was a little more immediately accessible for casual players.
Overall though, I will come back to Path of Exile. Partly because it's one of the only isometric adventures that I truly enjoyed, but mostly because of it's deep character building and unique continuous gameplay elements. There are so many other subtleties that I didn't cover that make this title worth looking into, especially since it's free.
 
You'll like this game if: You always wanted to combine Lego's and statistical analysis. Or if you enjoyed the Diablo-style market and want to see if a Free to Play can pull it off right.
 
(If you had a different experience or a new video game to suggest, leave a comment below!)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

In-Between Discussion: How Micro-Transactions can be good for everyone.

Customizing your experience, and owning it!

Microtransactions
Hats are always a good business model for FTP.
After recently playing Rift (an MMO with a FTP model and a wonderful Micro-transaction Store) I am taking a more in-depth look at how micro-transactions are affecting the world of gaming, and where they are headed as demand changes. I personally am a huge fan of the well developed models. Rift, being my prime example, allows customization of experience, not just a place to buy equipment. They give the player many different colored and textured models for pets, mounts, cosmetic equipment, and UI upgrades. Much of this has nothing to do with the core mechanics, but it still gives you the incentive to spend your hard earned money to increase your experience.

When you spend your money, you are seeing definitive and immediate results. Not stat increases or abstract concepts. You can see the wild animal that you're riding on, or the dragon follower that interacts with you as you adventure. These things become a part of your experience, and everyone will have a different experience depending on what they want to spend their money on. 

Now my first exposure to the micro-transaction scene was years ago, in mobile gaming. It's been around the android store for so long I don't even know when it started. The well made games operated around the same concept, hook the player with good mechanics, and then if they want to increase their investment in the game, the game increases interactivity and customization. They are ways for the player to have fun and help in giving the game a touch of their style. 

Then games began releasing the "Pay to Win" model. Star Wars Angry Birds is the perfect example of this; paying money to be able to win much more easily. Buying up extra super-power birds so you can surpass levels or earn the ever-elusive 3 stars on each level. This in turn earning you more power ups than the player can earn normally without the purchase of in-game money. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy supporting a developer when they've put good hard work into a game, just not when the game demands it of me to play well.

Does the consumer deserve to be hit with a brick wall when they can't do anything more with your free-to-play model? Is this really the right course to take, imply that they can't move further without investing money? Essentially I see this as a form of entertainment blackmail, and not something I want to further invest my money into.

DOTA 2 does it right when it comes to FTP.
I buy games in early access and support crowd funded campaigns that I want to see succeed. In the same way I'll invest into a FTP model, once I've been convinced (and it doesn't take that much) that the experience I'm paying for will be enriched. I will not however throw cash down for micro-transactions in a game that naturally feels cheap until I pay.

I like the Free to Play model honestly. I believe that in time, I will invest more in a game if I'm allowed to enjoy it freely to reward attention to details than I would just buying it right off the shelf. A game might enthrall me if I'm allowed to play it for a while for free, but I might never touch it if there is a large initial cost. Hopefully the FTP market is guided by popular demand and pushed toward this new, wonderfully inspired model of symbiotic enjoyment; and not just video-game blackmail.

Friday, January 17, 2014

3 days of...Rift!

First foray into FTP MMOs

Rift, the FTP MMO by Trion Worlds, was released late last year. Since it's inception I've heard some very good things about it, and their free to play model is nearly worshiped by the exposed masses that are tired of the standard play to win model. The idea of a Free To Play MMO may inspire a hopelessness to the participant unwilling to invest, but the trade of money for goods by the Developer is fair and balanced as I've seen it. 

From start to finish of 3 days of play, Rift is exciting and quick paced. Right from the start you're exposed to portals, time travel, inter-dimensional demi-gods, and spiritual ressurection. They introduce quite a lot of lore very quickly, however the ideas behind the societies, races, and factions are familiar. Technology vs. Religion, Good vs. Evil, these struggles allow the player to identify quickly with the story, and so the lore is deep, but also easily understood. Complex politics and philosophy are left behind, or not immediately introduced, and enemies are iconic and easily identified.
The opening video paints a very clear picture of a world in chaos. With dragons!
Creating a character is easy, and the classes are explained well. Even to give you a sense of how they'll be played throughout. Warnings are given early explaining how difficult changing classes, or equipment, will be later on. This is appreciated very much, especially considering that you may have to re-spec multiple times to meet a party or raids needs.

There are multiple sizes of party events, including single man instances, 5 man parties, and raids. I never got to experience each of those individually, however the instructions for the groups are easy to understand and most instances scale with party size and level from what the game tells me. This is a well considered feature, especially when you may not be able to find a 5th man that is dependable, taking 4 dependable team mates and allowing the mobs to scale lower might be preferable.

All these concepts are introduced early on, and especially right when you may need the information. I was curious about how a concept worked, and sure enough, the next quest was specifically about that concept, or allowed me access to a previously inaccessible portion of the game. The only thing that wasn't introduced quickly was the skill tree, and it's quite complex.

This is Rifts steam punk version of Big Daddy!
Coming from World of Warcraft 5 years ago, I am used to the basic skill tree that is used in most MMOs. However, Rift uses 3 skill trees at once, all independently interchangeable depending on your preset class, and skill choice. You can also forgo presets, and customize your 3 trees independently, to create a class that is entirely your combination. The only restriction is that each of the 4 main classes has their own specific trees and abilities that are specialized to their class (ie. you can't use rogue trees as a cleric). It sounds complex, but once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless, and customization is one of the preferable traits I look for in an MMO.

The last unique trait to Rift are quite namely, the rift events. They are tears in the sky, that cause local public groups to form. Players in the area can band together at a moments notice, and identifying the sky marker, rush to raid on an invading enemy from another dimension. These groups are quick, fun, and rewarding, and add to the excitement of playing. Knowing that at any moment a rift can open nearby and a small war can start keeps you actively interested in your surroundings.

The world is constantly tearing itself to pieces around you.
After about 5 hours invested, I decided to drop five dollars into the store to see what I could buy. Adding credit is easy, as the game quickly links to your steam wallet. Items in the shop are mostly cosmetic, or useful items that you can use to customize your experience. I paid about $2.00 for a rare set of equipment and a cheap mount that I could use at level 10. This is nice, as it allowed me to travel and fight quicker. There are even more rewards for regularly paying customers to speed their experience, but I saw nothing that would allow anyone to pay excessive amounts of money to break the game. This is a relief from the modern affliction of pay-to-win games that we see often on the market. Most players ended up with a specialized unique looking follower/pet, or a very colorful variant of a mount.

Overall, I enjoyed my few days with Rift, and if I decide to dedicate my time to an MMO, it will likely be my game of choice. I enjoyed the different aesthetic that it brought to the table, and the pay to "customize" model that allowed me to spend my money to change my experience how I liked. The character building was fun, and could be exciting to mess around with to create an optimized character for a role. I just hope that as I progress the game becomes more challenging, because I found it quite easy for about the first 15 levels. 

You might like this game if you like:
MMO's with a unique take on skill trees, solid game play mechanics, and a well crafted free to play model that lets you spend your money how you desire to change your experience. Now with sky rending inter-dimensional tentacles!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

3 Days of...Shellshock 2: Blood Trails

Horror has a whole new meaning

3 days ago, I gave my word to give this game a fair shot. I couldn't even bring myself to finish it, because it was genuinely not fun. At least the graphic design was decent, for 2008 anyway. For some reference, this is the same year that Left 4 Dead (the original), and Crysis 2 came out.

This really looks pretty good for 2008.
Let me say first of all that the game had excellent visual design, and the graphic art was actually quite enthralling. It's the only thing that I really wanted to post during this article because it truly was the best part and deserves recognition. There were segments of the game that had truly horrific scenes, and were very well placed. The backdrops and lighting were done very well, even if they didn't fit the current mood of the level. 

Now that I've said my peace about the only thing I enjoyed, I'll get to the rest.

Essentially, this is a game that has all the elements that could have made up a proper dark atmospheric FPS. Instead, some poor design choices ruined what could have otherwise been a proper game. The problem is that every element was misplaced, as if they were put in a deck of cards and shuffled. 
Will this guy Zombify and come after you? Nope, he won't.
Many reviewers have said lots of things about the game, and how it was just horrible because of the lack of story, or the poor mechanics. You can definitely notice these things when the game jerks you to a stop to either do a quick time event or to stand in a spot and shoot at hordes of enemies. That's entirely true, but many games have quick time events and arcade-like shooting segments. 

The real problem that I had was the disjointed planning that was apparent every step of the way. There were entirely empty rooms that you pass many times while playing, that could be used to set the scene, but they were barren. The story was instead told in a pie-in-your-face format at the beginning and end of every level. 

The men you fight with during this period (Vietnam War) should be outspoken, and have plenty to say. They should give you a sense of camaraderie, instead they give you the sense that they're targets that fall ineffective for no apparent reason. If only they were as hardy as your character who could sit in an ambush at the base of a gully surrounded by 5 Vietcong and absorb all the bullets from their AK's until you prevail.

You might think this is a Zombie right? Nope, it's not.
During portions of the game, you were pushed into crawling down cramped corridors, and dark portions of the city. It was during this time I expected zombies to attack, as they would later. Indeed I even felt the foreboding sense that something was coming. And then nothing did. Instead the Zombies infected by something called "White Knight" came in the middle of walking down friendly trenches, and then later at an open beach after a dark jungle segment. 

I could monologue about how the zombies should have appeared with the corpses of the tortured and murdered soldiers as an allegory of the inhumanity that we inflict on ourselves. That might have been to much to ask though. The developers were probably busy working on the non-existent HUD, or the 7 weapons total that I counted in the game in the first 5 hours. Maybe they were on developing the audio. The M16's that sounded like sputtering ketchup bottles, or the drum of constant artillery, that was unwarranted and constantly the same distance and rhythm.

The sound, plot, and mechanics all seemed to be fillers while playing. In between the horrifying scenes and magnificent backdrops, lies a poor shooter that seemed to make every design choice in order to be as awkward as possible. In other words this game makes for a wonderful lesson on how NOT to make a suspenseful shooter. Which is unfortunately exactly what it is.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

In Between Discussion: Graphics vs Aesthetics

If the next generation can learn anything from the last, it's this.

The feature video below is "Graphics vs. Aesthetics" posted by Extra Credits on their youtube channel here. The video gives a simple concept that lots of gamers don't consciously think about a simple format for discussion. This happens to also be one of my favorite concepts when it comes to judging and ultimately enjoying games.



See, I'm a big proponent that Aesthetics can make a game look and feel amazing no matter what graphic quality it touts. When I see games that have great graphics, but environments that clash with other elements in the game, I question whether or not I want to spend my preciously earned money to see how the story and gameplay flush out.

 Modern day graphics in consoles and especially on PC are amazing, and I enjoy having a machine that can render life-like scenes in front of me. But I don't want to waste half a day in a game that just takes a smattering of design choices without attention to what meshes well. Clashing colors, towns that don't seem to work well because they're underpopulated. Design choices in characters that don't make sense. These little things aren't directly apparent, but they can ruin the experience in a game as bad as the worst of bugs.

So to me, Aesthetics are possibly the most important aspects of a game. If I don't see proper aesthetic design choices, I know that I won't believe that this world I'm involving my time in will be enjoyable. If I don't enjoy it because of poor aesthetic, then it isn't entertaining like it should be. And sometimes it just comes down to a decent overall palette that matches the tone. If I could change one thing about the games industry, it would be to put more focus on this, and less to pure graphic hogging.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

3 days of...Don't Starve!

Winter is coming, you must prepare

The loading screen doesn't inspire confidence.
I've got a long standing love for dungeon crawlers and survival games with perma-death. So when I booted up Don't Starve by Klei games for the first time I was excited to see what challenges awaited me. The thrill of constantly being on your last life and losing every bit of progress gives me a sense of thrill quickly, and doesn't stop until the bitter end.

With my limited time each night, I was only able to survive until the first winter. And after 3 days of cruel temperatures and constant attacks by new walrus beasts that had moved in next door my avatar gave in to the cruel nature of his plight. His memory lives on in the scoreboard that lists that he was killed by a Walrus' dartgun.

He may have failed but this game succeeds in delivering lots of fun experiences with the very limited time that much of us have. I don't have to remember where I'm at or what I was in the middle of doing. The Map is very detailed, and allows me to quickly assess my current situation and next course of action. There are lots of supplies to be collected and different things to craft to use to survive. Skeletonized explorers litter the countryside with their used supplies and give a sense of foreboding and dispair. Though their equipment often makes your survival easier, for a time. 
Those eyes aren't real...are they?
The constant death and re-birth of a new character may sound repetitive. For about the first 5 days it is approximately the same for each character. Searching for an appropriate place to establish a base, and picking up sticks, grass, rocks, and the like. Each character that you unlock though, has different abilities, and will change the way you play. The randomly generated worlds with differing locations and resources keeps exploring interesting. The art style, and sound is subtle yet captivating. So each life becomes a time of new discovery, even though the chores may be the same, the world and the way you approach it changes each time. 

The hand drawn art is reminiscent of Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas, and that dark style of stop motion animation. Characters are crisply drawn, and they are voiced by wind/brass instruments to accompany text comments that differ for each item in the game. The characters all have a different sense of humor, and the dark but witty lines that they deliver are fitting to the world. They made me chuckle many times before I realized I was about to be swallowed by the dark, or attacked by my characters insanity induced hallucinations (which are quite deadly). 

All these spiders want are a friend in this unfriendly world.
There are some parts of the game that can become monotonous. The first few days are nearly exactly the same each game. This first portion of scavenging can take up to 15 minutes, and feels after 3 or 4 games in a row like it's wasting your time. I wish that I could enter the world with some small amount of resources already in a pack, even if it was just to get me past this first stage. 

After this firsts stage though, and surviving the night and wolf attacks, you are treated to a world that opens up, and offers limitless situations. I have yet to face the first large boss style creature, or travel underground, and each games feels fresh, new, and fun. It never feels like a waste of time, and I can relax and enjoy the art and sound infinitely it seems. No other game delivers the same experience for me. 

I have heard that after you are established and have done everything the game can become predictable and boring. Though there are sliders that can alter the conditions of the world you start in, and a story mode that is many times more challenging than just surviving. So there is definitely enough content for the moderate or casual gamer to enjoy, while still offering a challenge that will not keep you up all night. 

This is how my survival station ended up looking before winter took it's toll.
For the price in the Steam Store, I definitely recommend this to anyone that likes: survival games, artistic stylized graphics, dark aesthetics. I especially recommend this to people with little time on their hands that still want to enjoy a survival games. 

Next week: I'll play the game with the lowest meta-score (40) on my Steam List! Shellshock 2: Blood Trails! Let's hope that I survive the experience and come back with some truly horrific experiences. 

Have feed back or a suggestion on what I should try next? Leave a comment and I'll respond and (possibly) play the game you suggest!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

3 days of...Bioshock Infinite!

Who's story is this anyway?

(No spoilers, I promise)

Bioshock Infinite, by developer Irrational Games is by far one of the most engrossing experiences I had in 2013. The narrative, philosophical implications, character and level design, voice acting, and setting were all top-notch. This game delivers a seamless world, that drives a consistent feeling of immersion to a whole new level. Bringing so many elements together so precisely, and excellently, seemingly makes this more than a game. It transforms my computer screen into a window to a new world that speaks back to me through it.

Moments like this show me exactly what games are capable of.
Now as I'm sure if you're reading this you've probably read other reviews, I don't want to delve into what is be a minefield of opinion on what may be the best or worst features of this game and why it deserves shelf space on my list of top games of 2013. The mechanics and topics in this game have been talked half to death, but there was something that caught my attention on my second play through (and giving credit where it is due, was pointed out by my wife in an offhanded comment.)

Then character you play, Booker Dewitt, is NOT the protagonist.

There, I said it. Now you can finish the article to see what I mean. You can shatter your illusions of the game, or walk away and completely ignore my opinion and observations. That's fine, I respect that. I think though, that this element of the plot that most people ignore, enhances points made later on in the story.

By protagonist, I don't mean that Dewitt is generally a bad person, and is an anti-hero. He's not really the best role model for your children, but he's trying to save a girl, and there's some honor in that. The epiphany comes when you realize that he's a main character but not THE main character.

The story of Bioshock is a story of Rebirth. Everything is driven by this theme over and over again. Redemption, escape, rebirth, and renewal are all themes that powerfully drive the story of Bioshock. They are plastered on the walls, and delivered to our faces in obvious ways.

The problem playing the game at this point is that Booker refuses the rebirth at his first opportunity. He operates on a sole mantra of "Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt". Booker has a roguish history, and we see a glimmer of that as the story progresses, but as a character Booker Dewitt never progresses himself.

First impressions are always so important, don't you think? 
How as a main character, can he have no character development? Or growth? Prior to the last hour of the game, he moves and shoots on this simple ideal. One rule that determines every decision that he makes. We essentially play a robot, and our prime directive is to drive the plot. Dewitt is a plot device.

The center of this plot of course is Elizabeth. She is the protagonist. The child of rebirth, from her escape to her eventual return to glory, and growth to new power. She develops new personality quirks, and we see her face age and grow wise with time as she witnesses and assists this unnatural force that you embody while playing. She can see the destruction that she has aided in, and it makes her change.

I wish I had reception like that. 
The story is not yours. You don't even see your face. There is barely a broken up reflection of you in a pool of water in the game. The personal revelations that we learn about Bookers past only explain his skill with weapons and fighting. There is absolutely nothing about his character to identify with besides killing endless waves of minions as your personal puppet. The true glory of this story is to watch Elizabeth's transformation through his eyes.

This has implications with the story that when revealed change things slightly. The entire episode is a machination by a duo of personalities, and you become their tool to meet a grand objective. As a matter of fact, Booker Dewitt is used by practically every other protagonist or antagonist as a tool to meet an end. Unwittingly and unknowingly, when you begin this game, every possible iteration of your character will meet the same end. Every action you take is practically pre-determined, and you are nothing more than a carefully cared for and calibrated wrench used to turn the final bolt in a long awaited machine. You are a plot driver, carefully twisting the last screw into place so that the protagonist can become whole.
Those eyes have seen horrible things.
Elizabeth stole this story from the very beginning. When we first saw her through that window, catching us with roses (in the official trailer released in 2012) we know she was special. When we saw her for the first time, missing a pinkie, and holding a book on theoretical physics, we knew she would make everything different. This isn't because she makes the perfect escort partner, it's because we are telling her story through the eyes of a machine, that was created to perfectly tell her tale.

The tale of a girl, and her man-machine, and saving the world.


Monday, January 6, 2014

In-Between Discussion: Are Videogames a waste of time?

How Games have affected my life

I've been playing games for as long as I can remember, video, board, or card -- and for as long as I can remember they've been my favorite past time. I remember many times when I was a kid flipping boards of chess and scrabble because I was so invested in them. I remember learning some very hard life lessons about humility and the value of being an honest winner and loser, no matter what happens. 

Lots of people see games as a waste of time, sometimes even myself. I wonder often whether or not I'm whiling away valuable time that could be used learning a new skill, or honing ones I have to mastery. I wonder whether I could spend every waking moment pursuing valuable hobbies that enrich my life in other ways. 

That all sounds just so exhausting though doesn't it? 

Exhausted? Time to pick up a controller!
I play games to recharge myself and relax. They're just as cathartic, therapeutic, and fun to me as I'm sure other activities are to other people. I've tried painting, drawing, woodcarving (thank you boy scouts), cooking, baking, playing instruments (which I still thoroughly enjoy) and other various hobbies. Nothing quite gives me the exhilaration of starting up a new game and watching the levels fly by. 

I could say that it's justified by the fact that I work all day, work on any papers I need to write for school, take care of my son, and then play the loving husband. I could use this to justify my time playing games, but it goes deeper than that. 

Games act as a mental exercise in problem solving, critical thinking, twitch reflexes, and reasoning. Often the story lines in games act as a means to question the world around me in a philosophical way, and change my perspective on how I see the world. These are aptitudes that allow me to develop other skills faster. In turn allowing me to be better, faster at other engaging activities. 

I'm not saying that others reflect on this the same as I do. Often the only thing that people gain from games are a poor vernacular and penchant for swearing worse than any sailor I've heard while I was in the Marines. Hopefully in the future, as this new facet of the media industry ages, this devolved behavior will discontinue and people will see there are things to value about video games more than just entertainment value. 

This is precisely the attitude I'm not a fan of.
For me though, games helped me through hard times, acting as a type of therapy. They helped me gain confidence when I needed it most, and gave me focus to see paths that I needed to take to improve my life. Games helped me be a better leader, student, and employee. They help me solve puzzles and keep my cool when life throws me curve-balls. 

There are lots of people out there that write off video-games as a waste of time. Something to be shamed and chided. The lesson here is not to avoid anything at all, instead to treat games with the same amount of moderation that a person should apply to everything in their life. Games can be just as useful as any time consuming hobby, and treated as a mental exercise can enhance other facets of your life. 

One warning: Just like any hobby without moderation, there is a point at which it becomes counter-productive. I love reading articles about how much to play, and I temper my time carefully between all productive facets of my life. Thus the 3 days rule I've imposed on my blog, and the reason that I'll most likely not finish most games that I am currently playing. That's alright though, since I enjoy the challenge infinitely more than completion. 

(For more information I enjoy reading articles by Forbes on the subject.)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

3 days of... The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

You might just be missing the best part.

3 days of limited game time as a father with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is not enough. I could most likely write 3 days worth of material on this game. Bethesda did such an amazing job creating a complete world to explore, it feels like there is no end to it. The best part about this game though, is the perceived breadth increases exponentially when you add mods.

One of the first scenes I was treated to. And one of the best opening areas of any game I've ever played.
6 months ago, I would have told you that I didn't play with mods in games. I preferred games as the developers intended. And about 6 months ago I had completed Skyrim for the first time without any DLC or mods and I had a great time. This time however, I decided to try a lot of the best mods on the Steam Workshop for Skyrim. Without a doubt, a careful selection of mods can only enhance your gaming -- and playing through Skyrim with 70+ mods educated me in the experience, and fun of modding your favorite games.

Mods made this town look so much more lush, and complete,
it became a pleasure to visit. 
That's another discussion though, and one that I'll address later in an in-between segment. 

For the last 3 days I've played through a great deal of Skyrim, and seeing how the lands have changed with each mod that I've added, is like discovering the next iteration of the Elder Scrolls series. Not only that the added content from the DLC delivers from moment one of the game. Added skill trees for Werewolves, random attacks from vampires, and general attention from the digital population increasing with your fame lets you know that the world has changed since the vanilla version -- and only for the better. 

Often I saw myself flying from destination to destination and quickly completing quests, however when I had the chance to slow down, I could observe the best part of Skyrim; the world building. Bethesda has created such a wholly engrossing world full of details that it's impossible to imagine the amount of time each person spent creating a visual history for each character in the game. Many of the NPC's have their own homes with thier own histories, books scattered that are currently being read, or herbs used for potions or tea. People carry their most prized possessions, and often you can read letters they were carrying for loved ones, or for their duties. Stopping to observe the whole world as it lies in front of you is the best part of Skyrim.

The feeling when this point is reached in the story is never diminished or lost.
Walking slowly through the dungeons and over-world you can see how the level developers created ways to observe and plan attacks at each stop. Carefully crafted adventuring areas instinctively deliver a sense of foreboding or give you to gain a sense of wonderment. Overlook points are naturally occurring to give you a sense of tactical decision or just to give you a view of excellent panoramas of forests, plains, and mountain ranges. This world is best taken in at a walk, not a sprint.

Unfortunately the quests and the capabilities (ie. fast-travel) allow you to skip past most of this nuance, which is the better part of the experience. Missing out on all this content after paying full price is missing out on $40 of your money. The quest system doesn't give you the sense that you NEED to explore to accomplish anything, and it instead rushes you past the vistas, world building, and incredible amount of stories of the history, and people. 

This 3rd person kill-cam is very rewarding,
and can often convince me to try to play Skyrim like a
poor mans Dark Souls.
The synergistic problem with rushing through quests is the combat. I like to play my games in 3rd person perspective, however when I play Skyrim, that isn't rewarding. We've all played those fun, and intense 3rd person action RPG's. The ones that had great combat, and gave you the feeling of triumphant victory when passing through a dangerous area. Skyrim shouldn't be played like that, or even lumped into the same category. The combat isn't meant to be fast paced, or edge of your seat intense. It's meant to be enjoyed like the rest of the game -- slowly, carefully, and in 1st person view.
One thing the Elder Scrolls did right, Skeletons


That's right, when I found myself in first person view, I took each room and encounter as if I were there myself, slowly approaching and allowing myself to take in the situation, and work out a plan of attack. Each hit of the enemy coming right into my screen gave me the greater sense of danger that I was looking for. Every swipe my character took was disorienting and uncomfortable, just like how swinging a 2-handed 4-foot blade should feel. When you engage the game in this way, and bring yourself to the table open to playing the game the way the developers intended (instead of how you want to) it delivers a much more fulfilling experience.


Bethesda definitely has a niche that they've dug out of the Action RPG market, and it's worth exploring. Just remember that's the best way to experience their games if you like Action RPGs. It's best to EXPLORE, take your time, and give the game the chance to amaze you with the time consuming details. Don't cheat yourself out of the money that you've invested. Give the game the chance to deliver you the full dollar amount of your purchase, and you won't be sorry. 

I actually stopped for the first time in this temple to take a picture,
It juxtaposes wonderfully with the run down ruins of a similar order that you visit.
In short, take the time to smell the roses, and along the way don't forget to bash in some Draugr heads. (Those death-lords are the worst)

Next Time: I've got my first request for a game to play. It so happens to be on my list. So next time I'll take on the dystopia of Bioshock Infinite. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

In-Between Discussion: "Is it worth it playing old games?"

Why haven't you gotten with the times?

I am often asked by friends "Why are you playing that OLDER version of the "X" franchise? Can't you see that the next generation of graphics and gameplay have so much more to offer?" And my response to them is mostly to bugger off, and fiddle with their online multiplayer that's full of over hyped 12 year olds eager to prove that they are the king of the proverbial mountain. I don't enjoy games as they come out often, and when I do want the next iteration, I often don't have the time.
 
Now this is some action I can get with.

Being a father and a working adult comes with it's fair share of responsibilities, as I'm sure many of you realize. This leaves little time for gaming when you have a wife, child, career, and education to attend to. So when the latest Military Shooter or Japanese RPG comes out and I have to choose between dropping $60 on this version or going with the 1 year old shelved version (with a bit of dust on the cover) I tend to save my money, and spend it instead on books, flowers, toys (for my kid) or any number of other things that may need my attention in my daily life.
 
This means that unfortunately I won't get to that latest release of Car Theft Madness 5, or Battlefork 4 but it will mean that the rest of the people around me are happy, which means I can continue to bash my head against the computer screen as last years releases are streaming through my gaming machine. Some people may call that being cheap, I call it biding my time, and maximizing gain by watching market prices drop.
 
Geico's got nothing on my waiting game.
What that also means is that I'm behind the discussion curve, and if I've read about a release from a year ago, I've most likely forgotten it. I'm playing blind. If you don't know the term "playing blind", then I don't know if you're really a gamer but let me explain.
 
I get to experience games as if they were released directly to me, and without influence from the outside world. I get to see what the developers intended me to see, without spoilers (that I can remember) or anything to mar the intended effect from the artisan to the consumer. I have nearly no predisposed attitudes toward games I play, apart from knowing my preferences. Every game has the same chance to amaze me from start to finish.
I didn't mean this old.
When I see older games, I don't see undesirable copies that ended up being pushed to the back of top 10 lists, or being re-released as anthologies to make up for a lack of sales. I see a classic, a work of art. I see the sweat and tears spent by countless artists, programmers, and developers, to bring their dream to reality, so that people from many generations can experience an entirely new world that was created from 0's and 1's. Does it matter if it was made 1 or 5 years ago? Not to me.
 
Literary enthusiasts still read Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen, and the history of most classics extend beyond a century. I say that re-visiting and enjoying games that are 5 years old, is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if it is, then I'll enjoy my classics, and leave those new fangled expensive releases to my son when he grows up. Until then, I'll keep on playing and discussing games that I want to spend my precious limited time on, regardless of their aged nature. 
 






Thursday, January 2, 2014

3 days with...Kerbal Space Program!

First stop on my Steam Library

When I first started up Kerbal Space Program, I was greeted at the menu by a Kerbal trapped on the "Mun" with his space capsule in the distance tipped and half-buried in the Mun dust. I should have known that this was foreshadowing at it's best in video games.
I must have stranded 8 Kerbals on the Mun before I landed a capsule properly. I can only imagine they were playing cards and hopping around low-gravity waiting for rescue. It never came.
It's moments like this that KSP is all about.

It was through their sacrifice, sitting alone quietly above the heavens, that allowed me to experience one of the most unique and truly rewarding games that is currently in early-access on steam. I happened upon the game after a massive update, and got to experience a newly implemented Career Mode during version 0.24. This game has been a great pleasure to play, and just as frustrating at times during the last 3 days.

I began attempting to build Kerbal spacecraft with no real knowledge of rocketry or planetary travel, and the physics involved in them. After about 25 hours worth of solid play, I have armed myself with a rudamentary knowledge of physics when dealing with rockets, and the proper structure of a staged interstellar rocket. Not to mention some of the vernacular common to NASA engineers.

Seeing as how most modern video games are for mindless pleasure and not for education, having a fun game that makes me seek out knowledge outside of the game, is truly unique. That's right, I willingly shut this game down to learn about rocketry, staging, and physics so I could start it up again and make better rockets. That's not even to mention getting into making space planes, which is exponentially more complex (read: Aerodynamics are a B#$%&).

Jebediah might have gone for a spacewalk a bit too soon after launch.

The game doesn't give defined goals, or specific markers. It has a tech tree and instead of having waypoints or markers to beat, it lets you go and rewards you for trying newer and crazier things every time you launch. It's things like this that make you want to try traveling to the two moons of Kerbal, or to the next nearest planet for a science mission. The rewards are increased for the distance the target is from Kerbin (your home planet) and whether or not you can make it back or get stranded in space.

The game is still in Beta, and from the moment you start playing it's clear that there is still some major work to be done on the part of the developers. This doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of fun to be had at the expense of some little green men attempting ot reach for the stars. Moments of rapture and greivance are aplenty when playing KSP. At many times it may have you feeling emontionally drained when that last flight to Duna (Kerbins version of Mars) went horribly awry and you need to spend the next 30 minutes aligning a rescue craft for your Kerbal who is now lost in space.


Finally made it! Unfortunately this Kerbal didn't quite make it back


I have had a blast (see what I did there?) playing this game, and I can say with some amount of confidence that anyone who enjoys simulators, or games requiring creativity and critical thinking, will love this game. I know I did, and even my 2 year old son loved watching the rockets fall to pieces in the atmosphere as I launched Kerbal after Kerbal out of orbit. Props to Squad for making a game that made me a better person, and entertained me lots.

Next time: I explore the world of Skyrim with 70+ Steam Workshop mods involved and all DLC. I have experience with the vanilla version, so I'm excited.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year of Steam



Hello, how's it going?

I'll make this quick as it will be my first blog post, and I'm eager to get into the juicy stuff. I'm a Father, Husband, Former Marine, I work full time, and I'm a full time student. So life is pretty hectic for me.

The one thing that I enjoy doing on my free time (whatever it is that I get) is to play video games, un-repentantly. I play them whenever I get the time. In between projects, before dinner, while my son is sleeping. After my son has gone to sleep and I've spent some time with the wife. There isn't a time where I'm not looking forward to the to playing the next game on my to-do list.

This leads me to my other problem. I'm actively addicted to the Steam Seasonal Sales. They're amazing, and the culture that the online shopping medum has cultivated is my biggest indulgence. My wife hates it, but the fact of the matter is that I just can't stop myself from purchasing a game at 75% to 85% off, and knowing that I'll get every cent back at a later date.

Now mind you I don't just spend money on any game. Just like seeking out a member of the opposite sex, I have a type. Strategy, platformers, rpgs...I'll be honest my types extend over a wide variety of the genres. I could be called promisucuous when it comes to interactive media.

The problem really comes to bear when I find myself stacking game upon game on my list, and don't seem to come across the time to make a positive impact on that list. Instead I somehow end up spending $5 here and there to add another game which will give me 8 or more hours of enjoyment, which I may never find before the apocalypse.

So now begins my journey. On January 1st 2014, I've begun to play and review as many games as possible on my Steam Library (and possibly consoles). I'm going to try to play and review a game every 3 days or so. I may not get around to beating the games, but I can at least talk about the mechanics, my experiences, and an incomplete opinion of each game as I play them.

If this gets enough attention I may even get to playing some games that the community suggests. Don't hold your breath though, I've got a years worth of games to play.

Let's hope my Steam doesn't run out.

(That wasn't quick at all. Dammit.)

In case you want to connect on Steam, my game name is Divine Intervention.