Monthly Archives: June 2013

Putting Your Game Face On: What Techonology Changes Do for (or against) Gaming

Technology is a glorious, beastly thing. If it weren’t for technological advances, I would not be typing this to you, out to the world of the Interwebs. In fact, I’d probably be outside chasing a gopher, with a rock, in something resembling undies.

I do enjoy chasing gophers in my privies, but that isn’t why I brought you here.

In this updraft of tech change, we are constantly bombarded by NEW. NOW. NEXT. From TVs, to cell phones, to Bill Gates’ freaky auto-temp-house, things get upgraded time and time again, as we, little squirrely humans, attempt to get the best out of our tech-drunken civilization.

Being near the heart of this change is, of course, video gaming. Every year, every generation, we see something that we couldn’t even encapsulate in our greatest dreams before. And it’s schnazzy! Humans start to look so realistic that we can hardly separate fact from fiction; textures pop in front of our eyes and simulate light, depth, and realism to the highest ability; the world itself becomes larger, grander, more colorful and beautiful.

But sometimes…. technology makes it weird.

In our conquest for greatness, sometimes what matters most is left behind. In this case, it’s the attachment to the way certain things look, or how we know them to be. This can disrupt our entire experience, forcing our suspension of disbelief back into its hidey-hole until you can coax it out again. To make the most sense of what I’m telling you, I’ll dissect of my absolute favorite game series: Assassin’s Creed.

(The scope in which I write this is from a visual standpoint. I love the whacked-out story, the lines all blurring together into one weird lump of history- I’m not here to debate that part, lovies.)

Part One: Desmond Miles
Being a massive part of the AC Universe– rather, the conduit by which it all happens– Desmond is quite the important guy. The span of time from his first adventure, Assassin’s Creed, to his last, Assassin’s Creed 3, is all within one year- 2012. His body does change, as indicated by supporting characters throughout these games; he is mentioned looking emaciated, weaker, etc. as his trials go on. But if anyone can please show me how THIS change works, I’d love to hear it:

Assassin’s Creed 1 – 2 – Brotherhood – Revelations – 3
Click for a better view.

Biggest Note: REVELATIONS. I will tell you- everything is fucked up about the visuals in Revelations. I loved the story, as I’m quite attached to Altair and Ezio, but WHAT THE HELL? Assassin’s Creed: Revelations completely broke my suspension of disbelief. Suddenly, the men that had become a part of my life looked like freaky dopplegangers who were bad at their sole job. Desmond Miles, a once-chiseled young man, somehow looks like a dark-skinned Adam Sandler with no strong cheek definition and a pudgy jaw His eyebrows also magically got shorter on the sides, with a different browline! At times in the game, when lighting hits just right, he kind of looks like his former self with a beard.

The rest of the time? Assassin Adam Sandler.

Part Two: Ezio Auditore

Assassin’s Creed 2 – Brotherhood – Revelations – Embers
Click for a better view.

Ezio has apparently had something crack his face right open, so that it sinks in everywhere but his chin. Oh! And I can’t forget his monkey lips:

Click for a better view.

The closest Ezio truly comes to looking like himself is this face, and it’s simply because he’s made it a million times since he was a teen:

Even then, it’s only the facial gesture, not the character himself. His eyes are clearly the wrong color as well, though that’s been a toss-up as an oversight in lighting. I say that is garbage. His eyes are clearly amber in Revelations, and so are Altair’s! Where did regular brown go? This Ezio is not the man I watched grow up, wither, and leave behind a legacy.

All of this is supposedly the might (READ: fault) of new technology. According to Ubisoft, it was a redefined Anvil engine, and the models were supposedly still rendered from the same guy as before, namely Francisco Randez:

If you promised me that the mighty computer flurrped out Ezio in Revelations as looking like this guy in the future and you swore it was him, I’d still kill you. Age tests were rendered with Randez, and the characters still look nothing like them:

Let’s not forget Altair! Not only is his face mapping different, but his voice actor was changed also. I can admit that when I played the first Assassin’s Creed, I questioned why Altair spoke with no accent compared to the rest of the characters in Masyaf; I chalked it up to the Animus, and the fact that Desmond was linked, thus adapting speech. In Revelations, he has an accent… and has most of the same vocal inflections. This doesn’t bother me as much as the face swaps, but putting a voice change that far into a series is a brave decision.

Altair in Revelations.

Throughout all of Revelations, I found myself watching anything else on the screen when it came to cutscenes, else I could not believe in the world presented to me. Altair looked younger at 62 than Ezio did at 53, and the aging only gets worse. In Assassin’s Creed: Embers (which is Ezio’s final foray in the series, and SO WORTH WATCHING), Ezio is an elderly man, who still looks nothing like his younger self. His nose is more defined, which is great, but the rest still slips. It’s like gravity to a special liking to Ezio’s face after his 40s.

A serious problem within all of this is that the support characters in Revelations look amazing! Their movements are graceful and articulate, their facial gestures are spot-on, and they are polished to a sparkly shine. So why are the main people who make up the game’s purpose the ones left in the funky parallel universe of Uglyland?! I just don’t understand it. I honestly feel as though they put all their oomph into everything else, then ran out of time for the Main Event. I mean, they release once a year… they’re good, but I’m sure that puts a wrench in the works. I know they tend to start developing further in advance, but even so, something has to give. You can’t give me a dog who rides a small pony while wearing a sombrero, and tell me it’s a cat who assassinates people surprisingly well.

When technology is on the upswing, the world is a magical place. I can appreciate the details in terrain and the gorgeous flourish of my cape. I can immerse myself in the universe you create, given the tools. When the engine is more respected than the characters you’ve brought to life, you’re asking for trouble and heartbreak. I adore that Ubisoft wanted a game to look better for the fans, and without the characters, it does! Unfortunately, the characters ruin the realism of the game. We built worlds within ourselves, composed of these people- you can’t just pretend they are the same as they were before because your “engine is better.” If making the game better means changing it to nearly unrecognizable status, I’m not sure I want better.

(Heya, if you want more comparison pictures, and a few LULZ, here are more for your perusal:)

(Above image belongs to Alan Edwards)

(Above image belongs to

(Above image belongs to GamesRadar.)


Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep: SHENANIGANS, HOOOO!

The last DLC for Borderlands 2, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep, came out yesterday! Now, everyone knows, I’m a little biased towards this little lady, with her being my second favorite girl in the Borderlands world.. but her DLC definitely puts her at the top!

First, a little tech talk:
→ New compatibility pack download required for online play
→ Download size on XBOX 360 is 1.77GB; PC looks like 1.5GB; PS3 is 1.7GB
→ Cost: $9.99 or 800 Microsoft Points- if you bought the Season Pass, make sure you download this from inside the game! Otherwise you will end up purchasing something you’ve already paid for.

Assault on Dragon’s Keep has a lot of bang for your buck- you’ve got new vending machines that take Eridium for special loot, fantasy-styled old skool vending machines with some new items, Tina Tina slot machines (called Wut-Wuuuuuuut machines, of course), and a new chest, aptly called a Dice Chest, where you roll two D20 die for 5 Eridium to obtain rare/legenday loot. But this stuff isn’t even the best part!

The most special of special gifts you’ll get from this DLC is the story itself. Mordecai, Brick, and Lilith are playing Tiny Tina’s favorite table-top game, Bunkers & Badasses, and *oh boy* Tiny Tina is the Bunkermaster.

You can imagine the types of wildness that ensues from this- everything is fantasy-themed, from the language to costumes to landscape; environments will totally change on the fly; NPCs will come and go; names and maps of areas will change, just because Tina says so.

Moxxi will still keep ya company, Sugar.

The original Vault Hunters and Miss Tiny herself narrate the entire storyline in active time, alla Marcus style, along with your actual character adding in commentary. This. Is. Hilarious. As they state their intentions and next direction/action (D&D style), your world transforms and the next mission becomes clear, at least until a detail doesn’t fit and Tina changes it. SO AWESOME. Now, I’ll leave out the spoilers since this just came out yesterday.. but the secondary idea of this DLC is that Tiny Tina is using the game as a grief mechanism, to help deal with the death of a friend. If you’ve played the main storyline thoroughly and paid attention, you know who this friend is. SAD FACES EVERYWHERE. 😦

This DLC also boasts tons of new enemies- not all recolored/revamped old enemies. These include, but are not limited to, your traditional Orcs, Wizards, Spiders, Skeletons, Treants and Dragons. WHOO, it’s a ride. Take this little guy, for example:

He replaces an impossible-to-kill dragon that Tina placed as the first boss! Yay!

There are also new Class Mods, each pertaining to a classic.. well, class… of Fantasty- Cleric, Monk, Rogue, and the like. And the weapons. OH GAWD, THE WEAPONS. To quote Borderlands 2 writer Anthony Birch,

“We have guns that shoot exploding swords. We’ve got these grenade mods that are reworked into being magic spells. There are these new grenades that wizards drop that are fire balls, magic missiles and lightning blots.”

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! If not, something is wrong with you that I can’t fix.

Myself and two other mighty mighty Vault Hunters stayed up until the wee hours playing this, until two of us dozed off. Ah, my favorite American Dad quote, “I just picked a whole bouquet of Oopsie-Daisies.” Thankfully we were all in a party on XBL with headsets on, so that Krieg could wake us by talking about opening veins.. Gotta love him. Anyway! The point in all this magicalness is for me to say, THIS. IS. FUCKING. AWESOME. If you have yet to play ANY Borderlands 2 DLC, I won’t be mad as long as you play this first. And pronto. The other DLC, at least in my eyes, pale in comparison (sorry, Captain Scarlet. I loved you, but your DLC was BORING!) Gearbox certainly saved the best for last with Tiny Tina’s Assault of Dragon’s Keep.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Beta Phase 3 Impressions

I recently (and quite squeefully, I might add) received my Phase 3 beta key for PC/PS3 for FFXIV: A Realm Reborn!

FFXIV and I have a history… (hell, Final Fantasy and I have a history, but I’m sure you’ll hear about that later..) FFXIV is a game I believed wholeheartedly in- The Husband and I pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition of the original release, played it, watched every move in the community, and we still have Certificates of Nation Allegiance in frames from Gridania. Unfortunately, like most others from the Original Era, we came to find that the game was utterly and wholly flawed, lacked refinement, and baajezus, your EXP flow SUUUUUCKED after 30. I had no clue where the game was headed, besides down. I hated saying that, too. I have been a fan of all things Final Fantasy for many, many years; I’ve collected them all, played *most* of them (remakes of remakes of remakes, not), and clung to FFXI for 8 years before hanging it up in lieu of a private server. I still have all of my old adventures archived here.

Oh, that’s all free– history normally is.

In all the time since then (I left XIV in May 2012), I’ve watched the structure be reworked, employees be swapped out, a lot of folks in hot water, and a Producer, Naoki Yoshida, who didn’t want to see this game die. And today, I saw a serious vision of what they have worked so hard for.

The Phase 3 beta introduces our original characters back into the game, with all previous leveling & items intact. Well, except that your Gil will be missing a digit– I had 2.62 million gil when I left, and now I have 262,000. A lot of folks are crazy pissed about losing millions, but I see exactly why they made that decision; if they’re rebooting the game, you seriously don’t need that much money, and you’d end up with a jacked-up economy like in FFXI circa 2007. Plus, gil flows easily from the quests and missions in this version, so you’re not broke! All of the City-States are available in this Phase as well, with a big change to the citizenry alignment; you no longer choose your allegiance, you simply choose your preferred starting job and it places you in the City-State with that guild. Again, this change makes total sense, even if it takes some of my freedom of being a wild one away. When I started the first time, I was level 20~ before I joined my Class Guild, because it was in Ul’Dah while I was from Gridania. With this change, you can work with your Guild right from the start.

The first of major differences is the UI layout and functionality. Everything is much more streamlined than in 1.0, with a few nods to WoW and other MMOs in matter of mini-key menus and the menu order. The Inventory system is freaking wonderful now- they have been taking items out since the 1.0 shutdown, making it MUCH easier on crafting and space. Also, armor that you are wearing no longer takes up inventory space, and you have direct access to your Armory Chest from anywhere at anytime! WOO! No more carrying around 4 jobs worth of gear for me!

Now, time for a super serious important update- YOU CAN JUMP.

Vacious looks absolutely terrified, and rightly so- we Lalafell~arus have a very low center of gravity. But! Those giant cliffs with the invisible border you couldn’t fall from? BOOM! Gone. You can take fall damage, so choose your hops carefully.

Now that the earth-shattering part is out of the way, we can continue. 😛 *my /sarcasm is ALWAYS ON.*

The landscape of Eorzea has changed drastically. (If you don’t know why it might have, please watch this. In this particular post & beta weekend, I’ll be focusing on Gridania, so here are some updated screenshots:

As you can see, the terrain actually varies throughout The Black Shroud now. While you might say, “Uh, it’s a ton of trees?” and I’d have to say you’re right, The Black Shroud in 1.0 was literally repeats of the same few circles over and over, with the same colors, same trees, no variation. Now, there are clearly different types of trees, NONE OF THE DAMNED CIRCLES SO FAR (ramps that lead up and down over and again), and the landscape isn’t so flat, in terms of color.

One of my favorites:

This particular area existed in 1.0- Lifemend Stump. It was gorgeous, albeit plain, in 1.0, and it’s even more gorgeous now.

I’ve cycled through the pretties so far- let’s get to the meat and biscuits!

The story is, of course, completely different now. The main scenarios (at least mine so far) are completely updated to the Seventh Umbral Era, and the NPCs with them. Everyone actually talks about the past and what happened, instead of pretending this is just a blank slate startover. You’d always hope that a gaming company would take this route, but let’s face it- they rarely do. They go, “Oh man that game sucked. Let’s redo it, and act like that whole mess never happened!” This is exactly why I’m so proud of version 2.0 and the direction Square Enix is taking it. If you have an old character, or were lucky enough to not get boned out of Legacy Status (I’m so jaded), the characters you interacted with previously will have a glimmer of recognition of you:

Wait. There is something familiar about you. Could it be that you are…?

I adore things like this in games. It gives a sense of realism, an awareness that is often missed.

I truly feel (so far, anyway) that Square Enix and Mr. Yoshida are trying their best to take care of us now, and really listening to what we have to say. I have yet to have one of those moment where I curse the name of the creator and their lack of foresight on _____, which is shocking. SO YAY! As I play more of the beta, I’ll give more in-depth articles and lots of screenshots. What do you think of FFXIV: ARR? Are you in the boat, or did you run ashore years ago, swearing to never return?

You stay classy, Eorzea.


Ahh. The day is nigh. Microsoft, particularly the formerly ass-headed Don Mattrick, has decided to eat their collective words, and FIX THE DAMNED XBOX ONE. Here’s what we know so far:

There will be a ONE-TIME required internet connection to set the system up. After that, you’ll never have to connect again if you don’t want to. Official wordiness: “After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.”

Microsoft has also flipped their script on used games, stating that NOW there will be ZERO RESTRICTIONS on used titles. They’ll work just like Xbox 360 titles do- discs can be swapped, but downloaded titles are yours alone. Flip ’em, trip ’em, trick ’em, swap ’em…. just don’t touch them in bad places, and you can do whatever!

The Xbox ONE is also no longer region locked. Game titles, both downloadable and disc, will be available day one of launch.

“Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback,” Don Mattrick says. “I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One. You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

“These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One,” Mattrick is careful to point out. “The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold.”

“We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.”

Well, this just changes ALL the buttons on your fight stick. It’s not quite Everything is Peachy Land, but it’s one hell of a start. What do you think? Does this change your perspective on their system, or are you Sony-core 4EVZ?!