Category: Miscellaneous


Alright kids, time for me to get a bit “technical,” as it were. This is one of these posts where I’m gonna talk briefly about a game mechanic and how it actually benefits the player subtly. For those who came here for other stuff, come back in a few days.

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it's underutilized.

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it’s underutilized.

I recently beat id Software’s Rage, a solid first-person shooter/driving game hybrid. I was looking to play something after trying to beat Modern Combat 5, and this seemed like a prime candidate. Earlier in the year, I had ran through Doom 3 again, just to see if it was bad as I remembered it. It actually wasn’t awful, and is a pretty good game. Hasn’t aged gracefully in the graphics department, but what has?

Anyway, Rage has two mechanics that aren’t mentioned, but really help out the player. Most first-person shooters have it so when you reload, you can’t cancel out of the reload, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Secondly, the reload animation has to play out fully before you can fire again. Again, putting you at risk of taking damage, and in a fast-paced shooter, it can be frustrating to have to wait for your dude to slowly slap a magazine into their assault rifle and pull the charging handle before shooting again.

Rage doesn’t do either of these. If you start reloading mid-magazine and hold down the fire button, the reload is immediately canceled so you can expend the rest of the magazine. Secondly, if you’re reloading from an empty magazine, you can skip the rest of the reload and get back to shooting quickly. You can see this in the video I shot from one of the Sewer levels, and is more noticeable if you skip ahead to 1:53.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge help. Rage has you fighting between the quick and melee-heavy mutants, common grunts, and big boss monsters. The last thing you want is to have to watch a painstaking long reload sequence and die because of it.

Imagine having to wait for your dude to slap the magazine into his pseudo-AK while this monster blows you to bits. Hardly fun, right?

Imagine having to wait for your dude to slap the magazine into his pseudo-AK while this monster blows you to bits. Hardly fun, right?

Honestly, I think reload canceling and skipping long reloads need to start being a thing that’s not reserved as some kind of skill or perk. A lot of FPS games take a simple concept – reloading a firearm – and don’t do much with it. Outside of games like Receiver, which take the concept of firearms and expand on it, most games just take reloading for granted. Think of many other games that were released in the same year as Rage, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Bulletstorm, and Homefront (ugh). None of these don’t give you this same advantage. At most, tweaking a reload involves an exploit such as a melee attack, and in most cases just restarts the reload sequence, taking you much longer to get back in the fight, leading to some frustrating deaths online and off.

Is Rage’s way of handling reloads unrealistic? Yeah. Is it some revelatory thing? Not really. But I think had id not done this, Rage would’ve been a more aggravating experience. Their last major game, Doom 3, had lengthy reload times, but that game has a slower pace to it. Imagine that slower reload on Rage, it would’ve been an absolute mess.

As for Rage itself, it’s worth playing. The wasteland concept is a bit played out – especially since this game came out two years after Borderlands was a hit – but the action and driving’s pretty good. Not only that, you get to take missions from John Goodman and Steve Motherfuckin’ Blum. Can’t get any better than that, can it?

Oh, and this guy, who's voiced by Paul Eiding. Better known as Colonel Campbell. I'll give someone credit for going for notable VOs as opposed to famous people all the time.

Oh, and this guy, who’s voiced by Paul Eiding. Better known as Colonel Campbell. I’ll give someone credit for going for notable VOs as opposed to just getting Hollywood actors for everything.

One day, I was checking out some YouTube videos, until I had stumbled upon this one by RottKing/Pordontae:

I was gonna write something about that Doom level set featured in the video, but I realized there wasn’t anything particularly unique about it. Some of the levels feel bland and featureless, other levels don’t have a sense of balance, that sort of thing — E2M9 has a fight between one spider mastermind and three cyberdemons, for crying out loud! — This is the epitome of a 1994 level. But that’s not the main reason why I liked this level set. It was the random sounds that the creator replaced.

Playing this level made me realize how amazing the Doom mod scene was during the mid-to-late ’90s.

Modifying an existing game wasn’t really new, but Doom was one of the few to openly embrace it in its early days. This lead to many creative levels, some made by people who’d later become famous in their own right.

Though this wasn’t always the case. Since the tools were fairly new, most people were making fairly dreadful levels, usually plagiarizing parts of the original Doom levels, or in some cases created tutorial levels.

(video from rybacksda on YouTube, playing through it with all secrets and all kills on Ultra-Violence, aka “UV-Max.”)

This above is an example of what most people had to offer. For 1994 standards, it was great to have another level to play, but it’s very tough to play today unless you’re like me and have a liking for crap. 😛

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A few days ago I had found out a memory from my PC gaming past was going away. Xfire, a game chat client, was shutting down its client and account services. This news saddened me, as Xfire and me go way back.

Memories...

Memories…

To describe Xfire, it was part instant messenger, part server browser. It was a lighter, sleeker Gamespy Arcade, or for a more recent example, AMD’s Raptr client. While Steam has basically taken over that landscape, for a long time having a complimentary client like Xfire was sometimes mandatory, almost to a point where it was bundled with some games, even being used in console games like Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, something that Sony Online Entertainment thought was fit for a press release.

Wasn't it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn't play it? Such dark times...

Wasn’t it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn’t play it? Such dark times…

For those who weren’t around in Steam’s early days, Steam was mostly garbage. Games didn’t run, you had to wait hours to install games (and there was no guarantee you’d get to play it right away!), and the most important feature, the Friends/Community, was perpetually broken and unusable. This is where Xfire excelled: It was a great chat client program to keep up with your gaming friends. Though it wasn’t just for Steam games, but other games where the server browser was cumbersome, like Soldier of Fortune II, or Battlefield 2, were also helpful for finding games back before peer-to-peer multiplayer was more common.

The Xfire website — which still exists, but only in a fragile shell nowadays — also had a fairly cool profile system setup. Here you could make friends, keep your favorite game servers for convenience, even take screenshots and video. All of these were considered pretty impressive for the mid-2000s, and paved the way for competitors to adapt that into their social features.

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Ah, the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio for the next three and a half decades. But this time, we’re looking at a small portion of that audio standard.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were working on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs held up to 700MB, and developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips, musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation). A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch these days, but it was a god damn revelation if you were around back then.

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A few days ago, I had snagged this wonderful gem:

Streets of Rage 2, a Sega Genesis classic, for $5. Initially I passed on this, but then I realized it’s Streets of Rage 2, a freakin’ Genesis classic. That Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack! Who could pass that up? The dummy writing this. Thankfully, I was able to correct my mistake and grab it as a wonderful addition to my Genesis collection, along with a Sonic cartridge compilation called Sonic Classics.

Granted, it’s just a cartridge copy and it isn’t in the best of shape, but it’s nice to have. There’s something special about this cartridge: The giant “NOT FOR RESALE” label on it. Anyone who’s into collecting Sega Genesis stuff may have also seen the big “NOT FOR RESALE” stickers on copies of Sonic the Hedgehog. My Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came with my Sega Genesis long ago also with a “Not for Resale” sticker on it. Many pack-in games on the Genesis also came with the “not for resale” sticker on them. It made me wonder: Why is this ugly text on there, and what was its purpose?

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I’ve been in a funk lately. I’ve had no drive to write any new entries or make new videos. Since I come from a pack rat family, There’s bound to be something in my room that’s worth talking about. Hold on, what’s this?

Oh boy, it’s a Super Power Supplies catalog! From 1999! Everybody loves old catalogs, right? I do, at least.

I honestly don’t know how I got this, but judging how it’s from Nintendo Power, I likely got it when I had a subscription to the magazine from 1998-2000. That was an interesting time: Pokemon was becoming a big thing, the Nintendo 64 was winding down, the Game Boy Color was a new and colorful way to play handheld games, and there were magazine covers dedicated to stuff like Tonic Trouble. This makes me realize we’ll never see anything cool like this again, now that Nintendo Power’s gone.

By this time in my gaming career, I was still a hardcore Nintendo nut, but my interest in the Big N started to fade, looking at the cool Sega Dreamcast, and later, the PlayStation 2. I still respect Nintendo, they make good stuff on occasion, even if my mom uses the Wii more than I do. But enough waxing nostalgic about Nintendo, let’s crack open this catalog.

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I normally don’t do posts like these, but in this case, it needs to be said. If you’re an avid Steam follower, you may have noticed that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is having another free weekend on Steam, where the entire multiplayer component is free to play from now ’til Monday morning. I’m gonna make a public service announcement about this: DO NOT BUY CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3. At least, not on PC, anyhow. I don’t care if you play it through the free weekend, but do not add it to your Steam collection, your $30 is best spent elsewhere.

I should back up a bit. I’m not one of those pretentious jerkasses who bemoan that “Call of Duty is killing video gaming” while jerking off to the newest pixel art indie game that some person made in a week with the littlest of effort. (Okay, I’ll give an exception: McPixel looks pretty awesome.) In fact, until a few years ago, I was a Call of Duty nut. I owned practically every game in the series. I played the multiplayer a lot — perhaps not as much as the maximum level Prestige 10 level 70 players, but enough to have a blast playing it — and enjoyed the campaigns of each. Hell, I even made this dumb video when Modern Warfare 2 came out, which I sat in a mall GameStop after college classes to get:

Man, I was so excited for this back then.

But when I played Modern Warfare 2, I came to a realization. It wasn’t as great as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was. Treyarch’s World at War was better. The story made no god damn sense. It was more on explosive set pieces. The multiplayer was not very well balanced and prone to bizarre bugs like the “Javelin glitch” — where you could prime a Semtex grenade, cancel it by switching to the javelin, and cause a massive explosion when you died — and even accidentally joining hacked lobbies of 16-player Rust where the only winning outcome was the game-winning Tactical Nuke. Coupled with the heavy balance issues, meant that Infinity Ward didn’t seem to care as much as they did. Then that thing happened in 2010 where about half the team left, and then it all makes sense. That was when I started losing interest in Call of Duty: I didn’t pick up Black Ops until earlier this year, and I still don’t own Modern Warfare 3. After replaying the multiplayer again — this is the third “free weekend” the game has had since launch — I realized why.

I loved Black Ops mechanics on how it handled multiplayer: You had to buy guns with in-game credits, which you’d get for completing objectives, contracts and generally during play. You could customize the ever-loving hell out of everything, from gun skins to your in-game emblem. You could dive to prone. It just feels better. Modern Warfare 3‘s answer to that? “Screw all that, let’s keep what was in Modern Warfare 2 except with MORE RIDICULOUSNESS AND EXPLOSIONS!” Terry Crews would be proud.

While there are a few new things, such as the small skirmish Face-Off mode and Kill Confirmed — grabbing tags off of dead players — it’s the same multiplayer stuff that’s been in past games. This time the maximum level goes from 70 in Modern Warfare 2 to 80, and now has a whopping 20 prestige levels! Wow! There’s new guns, new killstreaks, the whole nine yards. Just what you expect from a Call of Duty multiplayer experience. There’s a big problem, though: Much like Modern Warfare 2 had balance issues, MW3 has those same problems. Wanna kick ass and take names easily? Once you acquire the FMG9 machine pistol in multiplayer, equip it on a loadout. Level it up ’til you unlock the akimbo attachment. Combine it with Steady Aim and you have a bullet-spewing death machine. If you wanna slog further through the experience system, add an MP7 as your primary weapon to further annoy your enemies. Granted, they eventually balanced them… on the 360 and PS3. That’s right, Modern Warfare 3 never got those hotfixes on the PC, meaning these guns are still broken like they were at launch. Not surprising that I saw dozens of players use that.

It gets worse: It uses matchmaking instead of dedicated servers, uses host migration, has no mod or custom map support, and if you wanna play the goofy special modes like Gun Game, you need to go to an unranked server browser to play them, for no XP or rewards whatsoever. Coupled with the awful networking code — when I played this back, it gave my NAT level as “poor” when it’s usually excellent in every other game I’ve played that wasn’t a Call of Duty game — and the abundance of hackers with no way to report them, makes it feel like they phoned this port in.

Compare to the experience I briefly had playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on a different Steam free weekend: Server browser, dedicated servers, no host migration BS, a “report player” feature and all the customization features as its console brethren. Granted, the PC Black Ops felt chuggy compared to MW2/MW3, but my PC is old as dirt anyhow.

I can’t vouch if the console versions of Modern Warfare 3 are any better, but if it’s any indication, it’s probably the same stuff as it is here. In fact, it feels like Modern Warfare 2 with more stuff. It’s more than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, it’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Plus! (Hooray for obscure game show references.)

Expect something less full of bile in the coming days.

So I’m sitting here, browsing the internet and looking at goofy forum posts, when I get an email from GameStop. Usually they’re for dumb deals where you can save $5 off a copy of some used game from six months ago or something. But this one caught my eye.

I’m like, “FREE GAME?! SIGN ME THE HELL UP!” So I buy a few games at a store just to use up another coupon I had — Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition for PS3 and Die Hard: Vendetta for the Gamecube, since they’re gonna stop selling GC games in a few months — and get home and go through the entertaining sequence of events, including having to register for GameStop’s Impulse service, and then tried this Stoneloops of Jurassica. It wasn’t until I tried the game did I realize something was up.

It’s a bloody clone of Zuma, which in itself is a ripoff of Puzz Loop! (or Magnetica/Ballistic, if you prefer.) Not only that, this game seems to play more like Luxor, which had you shooting balls from below rather than a 360 angle like Zuma and Puzz Loop do, plus it had random powerups. Needless to say I wasn’t surprised I basically got a $10 knockoff game for free, but couldn’t it at least have been a Bejeweled clone instead?

This game was made by a company called Codeminion, based out of Poland. Yeah, this game definitely has a European feel to it, it even comes with a bizarre announcer yelling words like “AVALANCHE!” when you’ve done great combos. Guy could give the Unreal Tournament announcer a run for his money.

…I know way too much about casual games. I’m gonna go play some more Batman so I can feel like a hardcore gamer again.

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