Note to Self: Do Not Befriend the Winchesters

So Supernatural (episode Death Takes a Holiday) just killed off another friend/cohort of Sam and Dean Winchester.  I’m sure Bobby will be dead by the end of the season.

You’d think the psychic would have wanted nothing to do with them after the angel Castiel blew her eyes out. (And why couldn’t Castiel have protected her as payback for blinding her?).

But no, like the good-hearted, anonymous Star Trek ensign, Winchester pals just can’t get enough.  Until they’re dead.

star-trek

An expendable ensign on Supernatural.  Die ensign, die!:

supernatural

Show Me the Money!

I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised by many PS3 game developers’ lack of business acumen.

For instance, I play Resistance 2 co-op.  A lot.  They are making no money on me for monthly fees, but they must be incurring significant server costs to host an ever-expanding (hopefully) player base.  So sure, they are making money off new sales (though not secondary sales), but they could be making more.

So why aren’t they selling the advanced weapons/upgrades in the Playstation Store?  You could still let others earn them through experience, but gamers w/ disposable income and limited time like myself aren’t that impressed with “earning” things.  I’m too old for that shit.  I like to buy things I want and have them now.  That’s why I went to law school

Dead Space took advantage of this by allowing you to purchase, for a nominal fee, some great suits of armor and upgraded weapons.  It was a win-win-win.  1st, purists could choose not to buy this stuff and earn similar weapons/armor through their superior gameplay (and their superiour time-commitment).    2nd, people like me could get their rocks off by paying for it and fast-tracking ourselves through gameplay, thus maximizing our gameplay efficiency while concurrently keeping our wives happy by minimizing playing time (a joyous paradox).

Little Big Planet has made an art form of these minor add-on costs with their ever-growing catalog of outfits.  And you know what?  People buy them.  In droves.

If I were an investor at Insomniac (Resistance 2), I’d actually be pretty pissed.  Why aren’t they offering (and charging for) additional co-op player uniforms/clothing (or allowing you to buy the numerous physical/clothing character upgrades that you can earn through competitive)?

Why aren’t they selling specialized weapons, even if the alteration is merely cosmetic (e.g. a cooler looking Wraith, Marksman)?   These are simple to program and offer.

I’m sure they are busy building new maps that will be for sale (I can’t wait), but still, why aren’t they making even MORE money in the meantime?

There will be a lot of gamers out there who will think I’m an a-hole for suggesting this, but the more these companies make on these games, the more money they have to make more updates/levels for a specific game and more games in general (at least that’s what I’d hope).  Not to mention, it’s just bad business to not be creatively thinking about ways to maximize profits.

Demo Daze

I’ve been loving these free PS3 demos if only because they tend more often to convince me NOT to spend $60 on a game that in concept seems perfect for me, but in execution, fails.

Resident Evil 5:

There is just too much going on in this game.  RE has slowly been evolving from a suspense-based series to an action-based series.  Unfortunately, it isn’t working for me.  The designers of RE5 have not changed the gameplay mechanics much, but they have thrown more enemies at you.  This makes the game more difficult and challenging, but not better.

The anachronistic controls can’t compensate for this type of gameplay.  To aim and shoot your gun, you must be stationary (ridiculous).  There is no shooting on the fly/strafing while firing.  Secondly, the targeting is clunky.  If you want to make RE5 competitive as a shooter (e.g. Metal Gear Solid 4, Resistance 2, CoD World at War) you have to update the mechanics.  Making characters in an action-based game stand on a stationary vertical axis to shoot in this day and age is not just unacceptable, it’s lazy game design.

Thanks Rez Evil 5 developers!  You saved me $60 but ruined my all-time favorite franchise by refusing to modernize!

Lord of the Rings: Conquest:

This game is awesome–if it was meant for the PS2.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t measure up to the PS3 platform.  Another great concept that fails in execution.  The fighting is clunky and confusing.  The pixelated characters can’t stand up against the great graphics of the great games on PS3 (MGS4, CoD World at War, Fallout, Heavenly Sword).

It’s too bad, as the character classes (warrior, mage, scout, archer, and unlockable “heroes”) would make for interesting gameplay, if the gameplay itself didn’t suck.

The Demo doesn’t allow for it, but you can play as good guys (elves, men, ents, dwarves) or the bad guys (Sauron, Ring-Wraiths, Orcs).  Again, good concept.  I think I’ll replay Heavenly Sword instead of buying this.

*Note to developers:  Stop Releasing Half-Baked Games.  Take the time to make a good, polished, finished product.

Supernatural: Flowers Under the Deliverance Stairs

The following is an exchange about the Supernatural (one of our favorite shows) episode 4.11, “Family Remains.”

—–Original Message—–

From: Gregor
To:Eugene
Sent: Sat, 17 Jan 2009 5:56 pm
Subject: Re: Flowers Under the Deliverance Stairs

I thought it was really bad. Except for the very beginning and the end, it didn’t even matter that the main characters were Dean and Sam. They were so generically written that it could have been any crappy horror movie or TV show.

The plot was so predictable. Of course the uncle was going to die, and of course the father would have to kill one of the baddies to be a hero to his family. And some of the crap just made no sense. How do these grown-up animal kids know how to spell, and why would they know to search and empty the trunk of the car of all weapons (but not the flashlights)?

All in all, a very sloppily written episode. And I also think the retconning of Dean — “I didn’t just torture because I had to; I liked it!” — is a lame, lazy direction to take the character. It felt like an outside writer wrote this episode, so I hope it’s quickly forgotten and ignored by the rest of the writing staff.

I heard Smallville was actually pretty good. Guess it was opposite night on Thursday.

Tonight’s BSG night. Last night’s episode is at OnDemand for free, so we’ll be checking it out.

From: Eugene

To: Gregor

Subject: Re: Flowers Under the Deliverance Stairs

I found it to be tense, but stupid.  It was like a low budget slasher flick.  And how come those kids could move without making any noise (when the uncle was killed) through narrow crawlspaces–they didn’t have supernatural (pun intended) stalking powers, they were just human tunnel rats.
The trunk weapon theft pissed me off too.  First off, they had only a few minutes to steal everything, right?  That’s a lot of stuff to take.  And Sam and Dean’s stash is in a hidden compartment in the trunk…how’d feral tunnel rat(s) know that?!?!  Good catch on the spelling…what school did those freaks go to?

And the family seemed particularly blase at the end of the episode.  They were just hanging out at the house where their brother/uncle was MURDERED a few hours before.  Any other family would have been like, “Let’s get the F out of here now!”  It seemed the episode implied they were going to stay at that house…are you kidding me?!?!  And how were they going to explain the dead uncle to the authorities?

Throwaway episode.  I too hated Dean’s “I loved torturing” line.  What was that?  Totally out of character and unnecessary, especially considering he already opened up about Hell.  Are we going to have a new revelation every week?

Guitar Hero World Bore

I got GH World Tour for Xmas (guitar only, not full band).  It’s a great game to play with friends (we bought an extra guitar to play cooperatively and head to head).  What a blast!  My wife, who hates videogames, and was making fun of us while we faux-guitared ourselves to exhaustion, actually tried it out an loved it.  She’s played several more sessions with me in my basement gaming/video dungeon over the past week.

However, the “World Tour” career option is  pretty boring and redundant to play through.  Every successful gig ends with that same “You Rock!” signal and there’s no set up, personality, or variance between gigs.  Sure, you can customize your character but that doesn’t do too much for me, since she’s still just a voiceless cardboard (albeit blue-skinned and pretty) cutout.  There are no groupies, no puking backstage, no rock ‘n roll antics, no egomaniacal clashes between band members in between sets.  It’s just random gig at random place after random gig at random place.  No character development whatsoever.

Again, the set lists at gigs are so random as to be ridiculous…you’re going to end up playing lame songs you hate (Band on the Run and Steely Dan for me) along with the ones you like (Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins).

I’m definitely having more fun just setting my own playlists and creating my own gigs.  I’m a metal guy, I don’t have time for lame-ass Steely Dan flute rock (oh, wait, that’s Jethro Tull…well, they both suck).

Finally, the fact that most of the songs are not available to you when you purchase the game (you have to unlock them through play) is unacceptable.  I bought this game, which means I bought the music, and I want to play it RIGHT NOW!

Yes, I know there is a cheat code to unlock these songs, but this goes back to Gregor’s point that “You Bought That Game But You Don’t Own It.”

Dead Space: A Conversation

The following is a series of emails between Gregor and myself discussing Dead Space. [WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS]

Eugene says:

I played like 6 hours of Dead Space yesterday.  I’m really enjoying the game.  Sure, the store is dumb, and necromorphs dropping cash money and plasma packets is lame, but I can get over those plot conveniences.  I ended my night last night by blowing up the huge boss in the zero g tube in horticulture.  That chapter was kind of annoying, what with all the running back and forth to blow up the necromorphs who had flatulent backsides.

I love the zero g launching (it can get confusing!).  And thank god for stasis cheats, or I’d have died a lot more.

My favorite gun is one I downloaded…it’s called the Big Force Gun.  I’ve powered it up a bit.  At close range it just shatters the necros into pieces, though it’s useless at long range.

It is tough to choose what gear to use your power nodes on, that is for sure.  I wish there were a few more laying around to make it a bit easier.  Heck, I even used a cheat to get 10 extra nodes and still wish I had some more.

The little things I enjoy are the vid screen when your buddies talk to you and the video logs.  It’s cool how they are just a mini green screen in front of you and you can still interact w/ the main game while they play.  It’s also jarring sometimes when they first call you up…the static from the initial comlink sounds disturbingly (I’m sure this is intentional) like a monster sneaking up behind you.

It’s also freaky how the necros appear out of nowhere.   My default maneuver in shooters is to walk backwards while strafing and shooting baddies coming at me…but often in DS they are right behind me too!  Yikes!

Gregor says:

A powered up Force Gun would be pretty unstoppable, at least at close range. I used the Line Gun most of the time, after noding it up all the way. But I liked having the Force Gun as my readied gun, most of the time. So if something jumped out right next to me, I could demolish it without worrying too much about aiming — or wasting my line racks.

The Contact Beam and Pulse Rifle were useless to me. And I never even tried the Ripper, though I heard it’s fun.

How did you like the Regenerator guy in Chapter 5? Personally, I hated him, at least while I was in the pitch black lab where I had to kill the other guys, too, before Kendra could unlock the door. The cryogenics lab was more fun. But I just didn’t like that there’s a monster that’s indestructable, by normal measures. It changes the game’s tacit agreement with the player: monsters get to scare you, and you get to kill them. Then again, that was probably the point, letting you know that there are no hard and fast rules, so you always have to be worried. I know a lot of people love him.

I actually enjoyed the hydroponics area, if only because it was a change from fetching items. I guess fetching noxious fart monsters isn’t really any different, but it changed how I played, for some reason. I decided not to use the right stick to clue me in on where to go next (which I did compulsively the rest of the game). Instead, I just explored every inch of that level to find the guys. It was like hide and seek. There are are no other levels like that though, so you’re safe in that regard.

The game’s interface — the pop-up with the menus, videos, and map — really is fantastic. I hope other games start to use something similar, so you don’t always have to have a HUD onscreen. I also like that time doesn’t stop when you’re browsing that stuff, so you feel just a bit of tension, in case something jumps out at you.

The zero-g sections are the best. I could’ve spent most of the game in zero-g.

And yeah, I did the stasis cheat all the time. I wasn’t above giving myself extra oxygen, too.

Node management is tough. I spent every spare cent on nodes, even if it meant having to use the plasma cutter more than I wanted, to conserve my other ammo and keep me from buying any.

Eugene says:

I’m glad you mentioned the indestructible monster!  I almost brought that up in my email to you.  It pissed me off.  I mean, I had already largely suspending my disbelief for this game, but I have liked how the necros are created by feeding off dead persons flesh, or how the huge one is using the hydroponics lab to grow.  But one thing that always bothers me about these types of games is how they throw out the law of conservation of mass…If I blew that creature’s arms and legs off, he cannot regenerate new limbs w/o a significant amount of “new” (well dead) flesh to regenerate new ones.  Now, if he was crawling around reattaching the ones I blew off, that might be ok.  But I don’t think he was.  If he’d done that, it woulda been cool if you had to obliterate him, or separate his limbs into different rooms, or burn him.   Anything but spontaneous regeneration w/o new organic inputs.  That always irked me about Res Evil 4…one of the bad guys (if you played it, you’ll remember), was this Napoleonic little freakshow.  He then grew (like Apache Chief from Superfriends) into a 50 foot monster out of a human body.  Now, if these games were about magic, I’d give it to them, but they try to be science-based.  The necromorphs are an alien race, as far as I can tell, not a magical faerie species.

Now, the cryogenic freezing of his ass was a cool solution, I’ll admit, but I’m pissed I didn’t get to shatter him.  I’m assuming he shows up again later….

The pulse rifle was useful on the boss, that’s about it.  It probably makes sense to power up the plasma cutter, since the ammo’s so readily available, but it just gets boring.

I like the mines on the Line Gun, but it’s too slow for me and the ammo is pretty darn scarce..  I used the saw gun and found it confusing and not to my liking.  I don’t even have the contact beam yet.

I really enjoyed that one of the gas bags was hiding underneath the feeding platform in the hyrdroponics area, and that you had to activate the food-jug lift, stasis, look down and shoot the guy.  I stood there for a minute and kept loading food jugs before I realized there was a dude down there!  I was like, “Pretty sneaky sis!”

Oh, and the shoot the asteroids mini-game….stupid.

Gregor says:

[Eugene said]: But one thing that always bothers me about these types of games is how they throw out the law of conservation of mass.

Thank you! That bugged me about him, too.

[Eugene said]:  I really enjoyed that one of the gas bags was hiding underneath the feeding platform in the hydroponics area

That was cool. Kathy actually spotted him, early on in that level. God knows how long I would been hunting him, otherwise.

[Eugene said]:  Oh, and the shoot the asteroids mini-game….stupid.

Ugh. I hate when games add mini-games that are requirements to go onward. A lot of people have gotten stuck at that part, because the skills you need to get past it have nothing to do with the rest of the game. Okami had some mini-games that actually prompted us to quit it. We just got sick of fishing and other crap

Eugene says:

On Dead Space, I watched Yahtzee’s review last night.  I agreed w/ it to a degree, but I don’t think the game was trying to be all that original, and I clearly enjoyed it more than he.  I do agree w/ him that unsympathetic, robot characters, do not a good game make. By not having Isaac speak, we don’t give that much of a shit about his existence.  He’s just a suited up killing machine.  Upon reflection, how great would it have been to have Isaac be scared shitless (as any normal person would have been), and have him freaking out, hiding in corners during cut scenes.  I mean, the non-reaction when faced w/ bloody people smashing their heads into walls was too little, not too much.  I don’t know why games do things like this–create a cardboard character.  Resistance’s main character is the same, no talking.  Developers must think they are being creative and original by doing this, when it really just makes the game unemotional (a mistake in my view).  It’s a nice conceit for a one hour game, but not for the development of a franchise.  I mean, wasn’t the main character the one of the best parts of Uncharted, Ratchet, MGS, etc? Why make a game w/ a character people don’t care about?  Big mistake.

Eugene says:

Yes, finished Dead Space.  I enjoyed that game for what it was.  Sure, I had my quibbles (how could anyone mistake these necromorphs and their hive-mind for “God”?!?!?! What was the chick I went into the mission with doing stealing the Marker…that made no sense when she saw the clear results of rapid necromorph infestation (imagine if these things spread to more ships). And why did I have to drag that dumb Marker all over in the anti-climactic final stage?).  Then the big, dumb, stupid, monstrous last boss.  But danged if I didn’t love just being creeped out!

Gregor says:

I totally agree with your assessment of Dead Space. The religious aspect was silly, the plot twist of my traitorous crewmate was stupid, and the marker dragging made no sense. But I really liked it for what it was, too. I beat the final boss on my second try, using nothing but the plasma cutter. (I died the first time when he grabbed me and ate me.)

Election Day Surprise–Resistance 2 in the Mail!

Sweet.  I’ve been waiting for this game to come out since I finished the amazing Resistance 1.  My bro got this for me for my B-Day and it came today.  Wasn’t expecting it until tomorrow.

One thing that I’m mad about is that you can only carry two guns in R2.  I understand they want you to make strategic decisions and this makes the game more “realistic” as you couldn’t carry four huge guns at once, but I hate this much realism.  I would’ve at least liked the choice of 3 weapons.  I know in R1 I LOVED the sniper rifle, but w/ only two weapon slots, I doubt it makes sense to hang onto that option much if they have it in R2.

I’ll be interested to see what I think about the limited weapon slots….I’m willing to be open to it, but can’t say I’m happy about it now.