Saturday, February 28, 2015

Impressions #26: Final Fantasy VI

Like many gamers in my age group, Final Fantasy served as my entrance into the JRPG genre. Before my initial playthrough of Final Fantasy X at a cousin's house, I had never really given them much thought. Since then, I have been gradually playing the other Final Fantasy games whenever the opportunity arises. With my new-found mass of free time, I decided to use this chance to play through the 6th of the franchise's numbered entries. Aside from the 3rd, it was, until recently, the only non-MMO main-entry that I had yet to play. Because of many of the old school fan-base call it the best game in the entire series, I was more than interested.
Released in 1994, Final Fantasy VI was originally released for the SNES in both Japan and the United States. Back when the US first got the game, it was the third Final Fantasy game released in the region, so it was titled “Final Fantasy 3”. To this day, there is still a degree of confusion born as a result. However, subsequent releases have attempted to correct these errors by giving the game its proper title, now that Final Fantasy has become so well-known throughout the world. The version I played for this article is the version for the original PlayStation, obtained from the PlayStation Store and played on my PlayStation 3.

What I found most interesting about Final Fantasy VI is how much darker in tone the story was compared to previous entries. This is especially true since the 5th entry in the franchise is known to be one of the most light-hearted by far. The game is not shy about killing off very prominent story characters (but no one in the main party). In fact, the protagonists learn magic by holding onto the corpses of magical beings called Espers, turned into gemstones called Magicite. The villain is also one of the most well-known for being the only Final Fantasy villain to ever succeed at destroying the world. Though it may not be the darkest game in the franchise, it is definitely one of them.

And of course, the tale would not be anywhere near as good if it did not have a excellent cast of characters. This is something that Final Fantasy VI has in spades. The game is interesting because it is one of the few in the series that does not have a true protagonist. Some of the party members are less vital to the story than others are, but none can be truly said to be the driving force of events by themselves. The story is more about how all of these characters, from different regions and with their own unique backstories, gather together under a common banner to fight the evil empire.
As villains, the Gesthal empire serves its purpose well. Particularly, Kefka is one of the franchises most infamous villains. In a nutshell, he is what one would get when combining the joker with the resources of an organized military and immense magical power. Callously destroying many villages and ending countless lives, Kefka serves as a great motivation for players to keep playing. Furthermore, thanks to the superb translation, his dialog throughout the story will just as often entertain as much as it will horrify. He has so many memorable quotes that there are pages dedicated to them. The cast of characters work, and are a massive part of why the game is so well-loved.

The other reason the game is notable is because of what it did it terms of design. In the beginning, Final Fantasy VI plays like any other Final Fantasy before. Though the map is large an open, players traverse it in a linear fashion, from point A to point B. Later on, after an extremely important plot event, the party gets separated. From then on, the world is much less restrictive. Taking the role of one particular player character, the goal shifts to gathering up the party in preparation to challenge the final boss. It is made clear at this point that who the final boss is and where they are hiding. At this point, it is possible, though difficult, to skip the rest of the game, head directly to the end, and finish it.
Alternatively, players can try to find and retrieve all of the old party members, deal with their baggage, and prepare them to come together to tackle this challenge. In essence, all of the content aside from the last dungeon at this point consists of side-quests. Those missions are about 15 hours of the game's roughly 40 hour playtime. Fans of modern-day RPGs like Skyrim and Mass Effect 2 probably will not be too impressed by that. However, since this game originally came out on the SNES, this was an extremely bold and revolutionary move at the time. Honestly, it is a little surprising that this style of RPG took so long to become mainstream. The transition from linear JRPG-style play to that more familiar to us in the west was handled smoothly, and the game is better for it.

Despite how much I enjoyed it, the game does have some noteable blemishes. Unfortunately, these flaws have much more to do with circumstances than any real measure of quality. First, at least on the PlayStation version, I noticed an issue with loading times. About 2 or 3 seconds are required to transition between scenes or to go to the menu to use items or manage characters. While that does not sound like much, having this same slowdown compounded over the hundreds of times these events will happen in a given playthrough can become a major nuisance. Since I had this same problem with the PlayStation versions of other sprite based RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy V, I suspect it had more to do with technology than anything else. It is nothing Square could help, but it is nonetheless a source of frustration.
The other issue, at least for me, comes from the time in which Final Fantasy VI was originally designed. Back then, random encounters were seen as one of the best, and most well-known, ways to make sure that players always have the opportunity to strengthen their party before a boss fight. Given how much game design has evolved since then, I can no longer subscribe to the thinking that random encounters are a good game design decision. Personally, I find them quite frustrating, especially when I am in the middle of navigating a dungeon, among many other grievances the typical method in which they are implemented. Again, it is hard to blame an SNES game from 1994 for following standard genre conventions of the time (especially when it challenges others), but it can be a detractor for people who subscribe to modes of thinking similar to my own.

As a total package, Final Fantasy VI is a classic game that is definitely worth completing at least once if you have even a cursory interest in the genre. There is good reason to consider it one of the best entries in the Final Fantasy franchise. In some ways, it can be seen as an experimental game, and a precursor to the more open-worlds we see in video games today. Even from a modern perspective, it aged more gracefully than many of its contemporaries, serving as a good example which budding game designers can learn from. In all, it has earned its place among the pantheon of legend RPGs, but you are probably not surprised by that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Texture Pop: Episode 29: It's Tic-Tacs You [Redacted]

This week, I'm the only one who played video games. Well, in between our usual shenanigans.

0:01:00 Viewer Questions.
"Do you think that The Order: 1886 is a symptom of a trend among AAA developers to makes games more like movies, even if it means sacrificing gameplay in order to achieve it? Is the race for cutting-edge, movie-like graphics ultimately doing a disservice to AAA gaming and gaming in general?"

In short: No, and likely.
I don't believe that The Order did not try to be more like movies at first. What I hypothesize is that they simply used that as an excuse to justify 30 FPS and letter-boxing. I would further speculate that the true reason is that lower frame-rates and letter-boxing is easier on the system, allowing them to do more for graphical fidelity.
Considering how many delays it had, I would not consider The Order to be a rushed title. But what likely happened is that after investing so much time and money into the game and seeing no return, Sony cracked the whip and said "You have to release SOMETHING!?" We talked earlier about Peter Molyneux and what a train-wreak Godus was without a publisher. Ready At Dawn likely just wasn't prepared to make a AAA game on current-gen consoles, and this was the result of their unpreparedness. They needed graphical fidelity, but lacked the skill to pull it off.
The Forbes article that I mentioned is this one.

"How awesome is Kamala Khan?"

Boy, am I glad Chris and Sam were here to answer this question.

Now, Adonisus got his questions answered. If you would like us to answer your question about life, love, and video games, feel free to send us an e-mail at

0:12:05 Gaming News
Assassin's Creed: Unity no longer needs the Companion App or Initiates
If you'll recall my initial thoughts on Assassin's Creed: Unity, this was a major problem for me. Now that this latest update fixes that problem, I think the game is significantly stronger for it. Unity handled both of these services the wrong way, and they need to rethink it for the next game.

Invader Zim returns in comic form.
Though I can't remember it too well, I distinctly recall watching Invader Zim with as much excitement as I watched Courage the Cowardly Dog as a child. If memory serves, I had a great time watching it, but specific jokes and episodes elude me. Still, I am excited to see it return.

Dawn of Justice's Aquaman is revealed.
When Sam said that this guy looked like the Prince from Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (the only game from the Sands of Time that I could not bring myself to finish), I reacted strongly. This is because the went so far into "dark and gritty" that it honestly became completely insufferable. If that's any indication, DC fans should stay away from this movie.

0:31:05 Sam didn't do anything this week.
Working, editing videos, and applying to internships took up all of his time.

But him and I did finish the Far Cry 3 season of Interactive Friction, and we're excited to show you the next season.

0:36:00 Garrett is live-tweeting the Oscars.
And I don't know movies... so I can't comment on much beyond my limited knowledge of the Baldwin siblings.
This stuff is more Garrett's area of expertise, so I'll just let it stand on its own. This conversation changed from one about the Oscar's to one about movies in general anyway, so why not?

The IMDB page for Voice of a Distant Star, the movie Sam mentioned in this segment, here.

0:41:30 Garrett had no school due to the weather.
So we talk about both weather and the book that Garrett bought to pass the time: Good Omens.
And of course, Garrett played League of Legends. The novelty there is that for once, he just played "for fun." I find the need to specify that one plays a game "for fun" to be very disturbing.
For the record, Garrett was right in that Birdman won Best Picture. His prediction was right.

0:52:50 Garrett wanted to talk about Kitty0706's death.
Garrett took it particularly rough, so I'm glad he was able to get it off his chest. It sounded like he needed to.

0:57:40 Chris did a little "thrifting".
And we discuss the haul that we obtained through this practice.
That's pretty much this whole segment.

1:12:30 Chris rants about gaming controllers.
And we talk about several bad, or way too expensive controllers.

1:20:30 I have been playing Far Cry 4.
It'll be interesting to contrast this with its previous game. There's a lot to like, and there are huge improvements in both the story and the gameplay. If you like Far Cry 3, you'll like Far Cry 4.

1:30:00 I also played a bit of Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition in co-op.
It's not bad, but it's not good either. It's somewhere in the middle.
If you don't expect to be scared, have a partner, and enjoy some action, then you'll enjoy it.

1:38:10 I played one of the DLC modules for Muramasa: Rebirth.
And it's pretty good DLC. If the module I played is any indication, they are all exactly as long as it needs to be, and no more/less.
Sam also just learned that Nekomatas are actual things in Japanese mythology.
We even get into a more general discussion regarding DLC/expansions, price, and value. It's interesting to take this conversation in context with our discussion about The Order in the beginning of the podcast.

Then, after bringing up Interactive Friction, we discuss Far Cry 3 and 4 even more.

1:52:20 Wrapping Up.
As I said, we've finished Interactive Friction.
Also, I published an article about Dead Space 2.

And again, if you want us to answer your burning questions, shoot us an email at

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 18: Easy Choices

This is it. As of this posting, we have completed our Let's Play of Far Cry 3.

Overall, Far Cry 3 is not a bad game. As Sam and I have repeatedly stated over the course of this series, the game itself is extremely fun to play. The gunplay and stealth mechanics are both solid, and the upgrade system gives off a clear sense of progress. The variety of weapons and gameplay styles also makes it such that every player will be able to go through the game in their own unique way. (Like the example of Sam not using shotguns, while I relied heavily on them.)

At the same, there are deep-reaching, fundamental flaws. In the course of playing through this game, we hammered home just how unbelievably awful this game's story is. Jason's motivations for pressing on after saving his friends is never clear. As players, this means that we don't really understand what the whole point of it all is. There are also just so many missed opportunities in this story. Not only could they have done more with the premise, but the characters themselves do not take opportunities to complete their objectives when presented with them. All of these problems could be fixed with just slight chances, and a little editing.

Our main villain, Hoyt, could also have been much more threatening. On paper, he should be a scary villain. However, he has several problems going for him. The first one is that he is trying copy the same routine that was done by Vaas in the earlier sections. Since Vaas's performer did so well in that performance, he just doesn't stand up. Furthermore, the game keeps telling us that we need to wait for the right opportunity, but the story demands that we pass by 4 separate chances to take him out.

This could by letting him be a little less manic. Instead, he could have worked as a more subdued antagonist, acting a little more coldly, with a more plotting manner. And, in order to avoid the problem of us being in gun/shiving distance, they could have put some distance between us during the initial meeting, by placing in a large, auditorium-style area. Instead of the office scene, we could have had someone give us a message, or be contacted through the radio. There are just too many problems with Hoyt as it stands.

Now, when it comes to the final scenes of the game, I actually felt a fair degree of catharsis when the illusions of Liza pointed out just how stupid it is that Jason thinks he's a legendary warrior because you have weapons and a magical tattoo. That Jason is ultimate just living a deluded fantasy. In a way. this could also be seen as a admonishment of the player, which makes it more interesting. However, Jason deserves his punishment.

This came out before we got wise to Ubisoft's tendency, in their big budget games, to use the same formula. Once you are aware of that formula, it is hard to not see it. It is not a particularly bad games, and nor is it particularly good. However, it does work on a basic level. As I said in my final comments, this feels soulless. The process in which Ubisoft develops video games is far too diffuse for anyone to really inject their identity into it. I like Ubisoft games, but they could be so much better than they are right now.

Lastly, for those of you who are curious, posted below is a YouTube video of Sam taking the alternative ending path in Far Cry 3. There is none of us talking, and it exists mostly for completion's sake. Though interesting in its own right, I strongly feel like Jason wouldn't go for it given his established character.

And thus ends our adventure in Far Cry 3. However, this is NOT the end of Interactive Friction. Sam and I have already decided on our next game. We will be taking a short break between seasons, but don't be surprised when you see us come back in due time.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Impressions #25: Dead Space 2

Some time ago, I had written about my experiences while playing Dead Space 3 with a partner. At the time, it was free on PlayStation Plus, so I had no monetary loss from the experience. Going on record, I said that the game was so terrible that no matter how good the franchise may or may not have been before it, any interest I had for the series was irreparably destroyed. In more recent history, a couple of conversations with friends of mine, who were fans of the franchise, convinced me to give earlier games a try. So, when Dead Space 2 went on discount during a sale, I bought it. Now that I have had the chance to start going through games on my backlog, I went ahead and played it from start to finish. This week, I talk about my experience with it.

The first thing I noticed when playing Dead Space 2 is how the game benefits from the inclusion on specific ammo types. Due to how Dead Space 3's weapon crafting system was implemented, ammunition was universal. Every weapon took from the same ammo pool. Assault Rifle or Plasma Cutter shots could just as easily be used in a rocker launcher. This gave the player no incentive to switch weapons over the course of the game. I had one weapon that I built in the first 3 hours, that I kept using until the end.
Going back to Dead Space 2, I noticed an immediate difference in way weapons and ammo contribute to the overall experience. Unlike its successor, Dead Space 2 gives every weapon in the game its own distinctive ammo type. Plasma Cutter shots cannot be used for the Line Gun, and vice-versa for each pairing of weapons. Furthermore, ammunition for any one weapon was fairly scarce, even if, as a whole, there were more than enough bullets to go around. As a result, the game frequently demanded that players change weapons and tactics to both suit the necromorphs out on the field and the weapons which they have ammo for.
An element of resource management is created as a result, and not just in ammo conservation. Though money to spend on equipment is plentiful, at least on Normal difficulty, it is no less finite. Wasteful spending will get punished later on. In the event that a given player wanted to stick with one weapon for longer, it was still possible to purchase more ammo for it. However, this would mean that money is not spent on purchasing Power Nodes and armor. Power Nodes have two uses. First, they can used at workbenches to upgrade both Issac and his weapons. Second, they can be used to open locked doors that contain large supply caches and schematics which unlock new items in the store. Each of these resources feeds into the other resources in some way. The need to constantly balance the use of equipment, Power Nodes, and money is a large source of the game's tension, which was lost in the translation to Dead Space 3.

Back when I played Dead Space 3, my partner and I talked through almost the entire game. With our constant bantering, to both coordinate our movements and comment on the game, any attempt to raise tension was completely lost. Furthermore, if either one of us died, the other was quick to resurrect them, reducing the game's ability to provide any form of challenge. It felt more like an action-heavy third-person shooter than a game attempting to play with my emotional state. Neither one of us felt like the game was particularly scary or difficult.
Now, while I would hesitate to call Dead Space 2 scary, it is an extremely tense game. Enemies can, and often will, come out of nowhere. Even after a player defeats all of the necromorphs in an area, more will begin to spawn if they linger too long before proceeding onward. As a result, the player is rarely ever truly safe unless they are near a save point and/or vendor. Even when opening a locked door with a Power Node, the player will often be ambushed on their way back to the main path. When the need to carefully use resources, this further compounds the tension of the game. The player knows that they need to collect resources, but spending too much time doing so will require them to spend what was just gathered. This generates a delightfully nerve-wracking balancing act between the player and the designers.
Even better, the enemies both demand that the player is both swift and accurate. As many people are already aware, the primary enemies in the Dead Space franchise are the necromorphs. Unlike typical video game foes, they can only be defeated by dismembering their limbs until they are unable to move anymore. They are also fast, moving quickly into melee range. This results in a need to move quickly, while precisely aiming to slice body parts off of enemies. Failure to remember this will result in the use of copious amounts of ammunition and health kits. With a limited inventory, complications arise if the player is not careful.
While not bad for the game, this created difficulty for me towards the end. I found myself dying repeatedly to the same encounters. After a certain number of deaths, tension gives way to frustration. I will not deny that in the interest of avoiding said frustration and saving time, I began to start switching to easy mode for some battles and then switching back to normal after the battle was over. I would be willing to believe that this had more to do with my lack of skill then the game, but it is nonetheless important to make note of.

Lastly, the levels feel like they had a lot more variety in this game then in Dead Space 3. Most of Dead Space 3 felt very same-y, due to the fact that most of it took place in a tundra, while the rest was in a few sci-fi industrial buildings. Combined with the need to backtrack often, it was difficult to ascertain one area from another without the use of the game's path-finding preventing players from getting lost.
Though most of Dead Space 2 also occurs in sci-fi industrial hallways, the game does use set design and lighting to add variety. Medical areas have all sorts of first-aid and medical equipment scattered throughout the area. Churches and theaters have lush red carpets and candle-lights and engineering bays will have mechanical equipment. Furthermore, the games makes good use to lighting by giving different areas their own colors. With these few additions, players are given a sense of progress and forward movement as they continue the game's story.

Speaking of, the story makes a little more sense than Dead Space 3's nonsensical tale of confusion and scatterbrained characters. The main cast had a clearly defined motive for wanting for wanting to prevent the villain from continuing his research. Furthermore, their relations feel a bit more natural, with both protagonist Issac Clarke and deuteragonist Ellie Langford go from grudging working together to something resembling more of a close friendship. Although the villain's ultimate plan and motivation are at best vague and at worst nonexistent, the relationship between the primary cast is strong enough to carry the game's writing.

Playing through Dead Space 2 hammers home exactly how much of a step back Dead Space 3 must have been to franchise fans. I can only imagine the disappointment of people who went from games like this to whatever they turned its successor into. That said, I can really see why fans of slower, more tense experiences flocked to Dead Space. There is a lot to like with the franchise. What really astounds me is that it is clear Visceral Games know how to create good experiences. So what on earth caused such a terrible transition. I would have loved to be a fly-on-the-wall when they designed each game.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 17: It's Combat

In this episode, we leave behind a swath of bloody, sexy violence in our wake.

People may be able to defend Jason's decision to not kill Hoyt at the meeting with all the nameless, faceless mooks. I'll eviscerate all of those arguments, but they can be made. In the office scene in this episode, there is absolutely no excuse for Hoyt's neck not being cut open by a machete. He has no weapon, no guards, and the only other person in the room is on your side! There is no possible excuse for this blatant oversight in the plans both Jason and Sam.

The other major scene in this episode is the interrogation. It might be because I am an avid consumer of fiction, but I just wasn't particularly moved by this scene. The actors deliver pretty good performances, the animation is solid, and you can see the fear in Riley's eyes. At the same time, it felt like the game was trying to tug at heartstrings that have yet to be established. I can't feel particularly bad for a character that I do not honestly know. After all, aside from the acid trips and the intro cutscene, we have seen nothing of Riley before this.

As for the rest of this episode, I don't have much to say about it. They are serviceable missions that do their jobs, but that's about it. Unfortunately, it is mostly just combat. We've already spoken a lot about the game's combat, so any further conversation is pretty pointless. Because of this lack of conversation, we just start shooting the breeze at this point.

Missed Hoyt Assassination Opportunities: 4

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 16: Bugged Out Bridge

We died a few times too many in this episode, so Sam edited a couple of deaths out in post to make it a little more watchable. Also, we had one scene where I commented that a flashing light was "Seizure Inducing." Sam kindly edited this out too because we obviously don't want to cause anyone seizures.

I really liked the first mission of this video. It's cool to be able to fully explore an area and get a true feel for enemy movements and positioning before you engage. In terms of play, this makes it one of the most interesting missions in the game. All stealth requires a bit of planning and tactical thinking, but the disguise gives you even more freedom to do so. It is actually a shame that they only utilize this mechanic on a single mission.

I think the fact that we encountered so many small, but noticeable bugs in this section. from Sam's animations to the ultra-bloom, and even the guy falling through the bridge, is indicative of Ubisoft spending less time on this second island's content than the first island. Even the content itself feels derivative of the early content, without being too original except for a few missions.

This could be for any number of reasons. First, studies have demonstrated that not many people actually finish the games that they play. Statistically speaking, most players likely would not have even seen this section of the game. This would naturally lead designers to focus a bit more on the segments at the beginning. Furthermore, designers are just more naturally inclined to start with the beginning missions, and keep going from there. Either of these thought processes would explain why this second island got less attention spent on it.

As for the story itself, there is not much to comment on. This is all pretty clearly filler. We've already established that there we do not need to do this to kill Hoyt. By all rights, he should be dead and we should be at the grand finale. But it that doesn't convince you, the opening to the next episode will.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Texture Pop: Episode 28: I Love The Texture Pop Podcast. It's So Bad.

This week, the group is together once again. We even manage to keep the cast small and succinct for once.

Also, this was another week without any viewer questions. If you would like to send us a question, comment, or something you'd like us to read on the air, please send it to us at

0:03:10 Gaming News
Spider-man will be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
To sum up this entire conversation, this move is great for fans of the Spider-man property, and arguably mutually beneficial to both Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios. After all, it means that Sony can stop wasting their time and money on a franchise they clearly can't handle while giving Marvel the tools they need to succeed.

Peter Molyneux and Godus have been under fire this week.
Not only is the above-linked Eurogamer article a major part of this story, but so it the Rock Paper Shotgun interview.
I don't see Peter Molyneux as a bad person, or even as a "pathological liar." What I see is someone who has fantastic ideas on how to develop great video games, but without the talent or skill required to realize these visions. As a result, he gets himself into all sorts of trouble. Don't get me wrong, he has to accept responsibility for his mistakes. However, I can understand the thought processes behind how those mistakes were made. In the future, people should be significantly more guarded about what he says and donating money to him.
With a publisher cracking the whip and helping him stay on schedule, this can work. However, since he's now an independent publisher, he no longer has the luxury of having someone come and edit his vision down to something manageable.
In regards to the RPS interview, while I do understand the reason for his disdain towards Peter Molyneux, it does not justify the unrepentantly nasty tone. Quite frankly, it makes the site look bad. These questions do need to be asked, but there are significantly more appropriate and more professional ways to ask them.

Jon Steward is going to leave The Daily Show
This arguably marks the end of an era in history. Tons of people my age turn to The Daily Show to satisfy a lot of need with regards to both news and comedy. It is going to be hard to replace him.

0:25:57 Garrett discusses his week in rapid fire.
And there was a lot that he did.

0:43:10 I played and beat Contrast
If you liked Portal, you'll probably like Contrast. It's a short game that does not overstay it's welcome. Furthermore, it used its light/shadow mechanics in the very interesting way. Not much more to say about it.

0:45:02 I played and beat Outlast.
It's a decent horror games. You will get a few good scares at the start and the gameplay and premise are good enough to get you through the whole game. However, it will not stand out in your mind. It fails to leave a more lasting impression.

0:55:20 Chris got sick of Yaiba.
It was only a matter of time. Honestly, it's better this way.

0:57:50 Chris played Brandish: The Dark Revenant
I don't know what is more shocking: The fact that a game is going out for the PSP or the fact that I really want to play said game. After seeing gameplay videos, and looking at gameplay videos, it looks pretty good.
While I don't generally enjoy bare-bones dungeon crawlers without much story, it looks fun enough (and portable enough).

1:17:25 Sam talks about his week without Twitter.
The article about it is here and worth a read. He had a nice little mini-discussion on the subject and there were some interesting points brought up.

1:24:30 Sam watch Fifty Shades of Gray.
Despite how awful the movie had to have been, we actually had a really interesting discussion about the use of BDSM in fiction. It's used a lot, and often it does not reflect how people with that particular kink act in real life. Sam and I disagree a bit about how, or even if, the problem can/should be rectified, but it is an interesting conversation nonetheless.
I also mention sexplantions, which is a really good web series done by Dr. Lindsey Doe that helps teach people like you or I, who aren't as well-read in this subject, a bit more about sex and romance than most educational sources will teach you. For anyone curious about these kinds of topics, but not brave enough to ask professionals about it, it is worth checking out.

1:36:30 Wrapping Up
My Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition article is here.
Interactive Friction is here.
Sam's Twitter article is, once again, here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 15: The Worst Part of the Game

This episode is the beginning of the end of Far Cry 3. In a related note, it is also the WORST part of Far Cry 3.

Sam made a very interesting point in this episode. If all we needed to do was to just steal a uniform, it would be simple to just shiv the guy at the entrance, then dispose of the body. We would have absolutely no need to sneak into the heart of the base. Everything after we got passed that first guard was a complete waste of time.

I mean, technically we also obtained the information that some guards in the evil drug and human trafficking organization  are morally bankrupt and funneling money from under their boss's nose. However, we would have no indication that we could get such information before we were pulled aside by the guard.

And another thing that I didn't think about when recording the episode, why would the guard pull us over in particular? What about us would single us out as particular corrupt enough to join him? Did he have a relationship with the person we stole the uniform from? If so, how did he not know he weren't that guy and what are the odds we would get that guy's particular uniform? That in and of itself is an unlikely series of contrivances. On top of the fact that Hoyt is here and we just happen to say "Oh, I dunno. Let's sneak in for no reason." makes this section just the most painfully stupid piece of writing in this game.

Speaking of Hoyt, dear god this is dumb. We talked about it at length in the episode, but I cannot possibly emphasize enough exactly how stupid it is that Hoyt doesn't get stabbed. Again, the plot should have been over well before this, but this really underscores how much this second section of the game is pointless filler. (For the record, our first chance to kill Hoyt occurred in episode 7.)

So, in summery, the sheer staggeringly-massive amount of contrivances is so high and the random chance that all of these factors would fall so nicely into place is so low that, even without the inclusion of Hoyt in that section, this mission does not make sense. It stretches plausibility so much that Jason would have to forge a contract with the Old Gods in order for me to believe it.

Missed Hoyt Assassination Opportunities: 2

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Impressions #24: Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition (PS4)

Every once in a while, I find myself playing a multiplayer loot-fest, where the main point in the game is to grow stronger and acquire better equipment as the game goes on. I am not entirely sure why this is the case. Though I rarely ever get as much fun out of them as other people do, they keep ending up on my queue somehow. In this particular instance, a friend of mine requested that I play Diablo 3 with him, so I got the PS4 version and did just that. Somehow, we managed to make it through both the base game and the Reaper of Souls expansion that came with the Ultimate Evil Edition. While a great game, I feel that Diablo 3 had a couple of big problems that I am not entirely sure how to address.
Initially released in May of 2012, Diablo 3 released to great controversy. The original title included several criticized new features, like always-online DRM and the auction house, in real-money and in-game currency varieties. Others disliked the lower drop rates of items in the first release. Slowly, over time, most of these issues were addressed in updates to the game, to the point where most of the old fans were at least satisfied by the end result. Many new features, like Paragon leveling and PvP, were even added in. The PS4 version I played came out in August of 2014. My version of the game is, as of the time of writing, complete with the only expansion to ever have been released for the game.

As a port, the game is very solid. Though I have no experience with the PC version, the game looks quite good. While it will never be a spectacle in graphic prowess, each area in the game is memorable in its own right. The characters are also quite distinct from one another. At a glance, it was extremely easy to tell my character apart from both my partner's character and the enemies on screen. Furthermore, I enjoyed the use of color in the game. Looking at screen-shots of the first 2 Diablo games, I noticed a very gray and brown palette. Though Diablo 3 is just as dark in its world design, the extra color and style they injected helps it stand out from other games. With loads times rarely, if ever, exceeding a single second, Blizzard definitely gave the PS4 the royal treatment when it came to porting Diablo 3 to the machine.
At the same time, I did find that I had some issues with controlling the game. For those unaware, Diablo presents the player and up to three of their friends with many enemies to fight, and most fights consist of repeatedly clicking on enemies (on the PC) until they die. The PS4 lacks a mouse, so movement and direction have to be handled using analog sticks. For this reason, precisely aiming some special attacks is an impossible task. For example, as I was playing a Wizard, Wizards are given a move where they can summon a black hole that pulls enemies towards itself. There were a number of occasions where it went in the direction I was aiming, but was either too close or too far to my intended target because it was auto-aimed at the wrong enemy. I do not have an easy solution to this problem, because it is inherent to the controller-interface. They may have been able to alleviate it by using the touch pad as a mouse, but I imagine that would have similar issues to using a mouse pad on a laptop computer. It is not an easy fix, but still an issue that needs to be pointed out.
The other control-based issue I had was a general-discomfort from prolonged play. Typically, my co-op partner and I would play for roughly 3 hours in a single game session. At the end of our sessions, we would often experiences soreness in our fingers and thumbs. This mostly came from repeatedly holding down the X button on the PS4 controller for minutes at a time to use our characters' basic attacks. I would even have a switch fingers mid-battle a lot just to make myself feel a bit more comfortable. Like the issue with precise aiming, I feel that this might just be an inherent problem to putting a fundamentally PC, keyboard-and-mouse-oriented game onto a console, because a mouse button is more comfortable to use for extended periods of time. However, unlike the issue of precise aiming, it is less of a minor annoyance and more of a genuine complication. It is difficult to enjoy a game that literally hurts to play at length.

The other interesting thing I made note of when playing is the unique way in which the loot system creates a form of competitive-cooperation. For the unaware, the main method by which Diablo 3 engages players, enticing them to press on, is through a positive feedback. In the version of the game I played, as players defeat monsters, complete quests, and open treasure chests, they will obtain equipment and experience which can be used to further strengthen their characters. After acquiring new more powerful gear, they can tackle more challenging content and obtain even better items. Though there is a story and campaign, this feedback loop is at the core of why Diablo is effective.
When playing with friends, the best thing that Diablo does is give each player their own separate loot drops. In the event that an enemy or treasure chest leaves a piece of equipment behind, each player will have their own items that only they can see. No other player will be able to take them, nor can they take the drops of other players. This neatly skirts a common trap that is often seen in games like Borderlands, where every player sees all the loot. As a result, teams will not have to compete with one another to strengthen their characters. I refer to this as “negative competition,” where the desire to outmatch others results in a dissolution of the team dynamic when the rewards start flowing.
Instead, I found that my co-op partner and I experienced what I would call “positive competition.” We still constantly tried to one up each other in a form of an arms race to see which of us was the stronger character. However, since we both obtained new equipment at the same rate, and could not worsen each others chances of obtaining good loot, we could more easily cooperate towards a common goal. By working with each other, we could maximize our rewards. Afterwards, we would attempt to one-up each other by showing off the items we earned. We would even engage in trade and item exchanges if it meant that our team was more effective overall. Though we were essentially competing with each other, the systems utilized that and channeled it into a cooperative force.

On the other hand, there is an interesting problem that I discovered as I was playing. That is, it became hard to pick a difficulty that was exactly challenging enough to keep me interested in the game, but not enough to make the enemies extremely time-consuming to kill. Since enemies scale to the party's level, the only way to truly control both how tough they are, and how good their loot drops are, is by adjusting the difficulty. Rarely does increasing difficulty ever make the game “challenging,” in that it requires more tactics and use of evasive/defensive skills, unless the player is fighting an elite or boss character. Rather, what usually happens is that the enemies take significantly more time to kill. Not only does it exacerbate the sore-thumb problem from earlier, but it can also really start to bore the player if they go too far. Finding this equilibrium is the real difficulty, not the actual fighting.

Diablo 3 is a great game for those with the correct disposition. Those who adore loot-fests like Borderlands or Torchlight probably already have Diablo 3 at this point, enjoying their experience. Though it entertained me enough to stick with it to the end, I would not have done so without the encouragement of my co-op partner. It is very much a game that works better with friends. The single-player will not find as much value here. Though there is a story, it only does its job by justifying the dungeon-crawling and loot gathering. I think that may be why I find myself quitting these games often. It is difficult to routinely gather a group of friends to play one game. Those who can gather a reliable group will have great times here. Solo gamers need not bother.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 14: Titular Stealth Mission

First off, I want to point out that this is 200th post on this blog. Honestly, when I started out in 2012, I didn't think I'd stick with it this long. Nor did I believe I'd really have a chance to get good at it. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way, and I hope you continue to do so in the future.

Now, in this episode, we begin our trek into the second half of the game. More importantly, I teach someone who writes articles as a hobby how to correctly use the word "titular."

I love the stupidity of the scene at the start of this episode because of how stupid it is. Jason is basically telling his girlfriend Liza, "I'm comfortable being a completely selfish monster, and I can only do that by staying here." Then, Liza basically allows him to do it without even questioning it for a minute. This only makes sense if she's secretly trying to kill Jason (and I would have to respect her for that), or if Jason already showed signs of being this much of an unrepentant bastard before they landed on the island. Otherwise, it comes off as just plain silly.

And Sam brings up a good point. If Jason and company left, what would Hoyt do? Citra might try to stop him, but Jason's apparently (somehow) become a good enough warrior to fend them off by himself. Hoyt, at this point in the story, does not even know what Jason looks like. Sure, we can look him up, and send his men after him in the states, but that's far too many resources to spend on someone who is not even a problem anymore. It further strengthens our argument that the story should have ended there.

Despite being the worst part of the game, we do end up getting the best mode of transportation here, which is the wingsuit. Even though I am a harsh critic of this game, I have to admit that the wingsuit is extremely fun to use. Jumping off a cliff and gliding through the air just feels good to do.

The other good thing this section does is introduce us to Sam. Aside from Vaas and Liza, Sam is one of the best characters in the game. He's a tough looking German dude and knows it. Basically, he utilizes commonly-assumed stereotypes of tattooed German's to infiltrate Hoyt's operation and make people assume he's tough shit. In actuality, he's working for the CIA in an attempt to take down the whole operation. The setup alone gives him a lot more depth than most of the other character's in the game. On top of that, he's given some good lines and his voice actor sounds like he's enjoying the role. You'll see as we go on what I mean by that.

Aside from that, most of the major story beats on the second island will be disappointment after disappointment. It's pretty much all downhill from here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 13: The Best Part of the Game

In this episode of Interactive Friction, we hit the best part of game... after we go through Citra's bullshit.

It truly is a shame that we had to go through this really shitty dream sequence before we have to experience some of the best this game offers in terms of storytelling. It is a boss battle that lasts about twice as long as it needs to. On top of that, it is easy to figure out and not particular fun to fight.

Then, it's followed by one of the most uncomfortable "sex" scenes I can remember. Citra really creeps me out in this scene, and I'm not sure if that's intentional or just me being prudish or something else.

But after that, we finally get to the best part. Vaas, the best part of this game, goes out in a blaze of glory. The little hallucinations they give you right before Vaas's final scene are a really, really nice touch of subtly in story telling. Even before that, the whole scene has Vaas just pointing out the absurdity of one lone, rich, white boy taking on a literal army of pirates and their commander. In this one mission, we have a lot of small things coming together.

Not only does it represent the end of the best character in the game, but also the true transition of Jason Dilweed from a rich, white, douchebag to a rich, white, monstrous douchebag. His friends no longer matter, only the bloodlust. Again, there is potential. Must could have been done with these ideas, but that's the story of Far Cry 3. Far Cry 3 is a host of things that "had potential" and "could have done"s. In the end, what is an Ubisoft game, but a miserable little pile of unused potentials.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Texture Pop: Episode 27: My F**king Panty Party

Sam could not make it to this week's recording because his job had left him physically exhausted that weekend. As a result, this is a bit of a shorter cast than usual.

Also, we had no viewer questions this week. If you have a question, comment, or anything else you want to be read on the air, please e-mail us at We'll be happy to read what you send, within reason.

0:01:20 Gaming News
Persona 5 Teaser Trailer
I really wish Sam was here for the Persona 5 conversation. Chris and Garrett are great conversationalist, but they don't care as much about Persona 5 as Sam and I do, so it would've easier to have a conversation with him around.
One thing I want to note is that there was a Final Fantasy XV trailer that also came out this same week. In comparison, the Persona 5 trailer looks so much better. It's not surprising, but it is indicative of the obvious transition to from Square-Enix to ATLUS as King of JRPGS.

Naughty Dog says getting Uncharted 4 to 60 FPS is "really hard"
We've already discussed the whole Frames Per Second thing before, so this conversation felt a bit more-of-the-same, doubly so without Sam here. However, it is still worth reiterating.

Nintendo's new revenue-sharing program
I do want to make a correction of a mistake I made in this video. Nintendo takes 30%. The video maker takes the remaining 70% of YouTube revenue. That's still really pointlessly mean, but less so than I made it out to be in this segment.
Still, the fact that they want any piece of that pie is a really bad precedent to establish. It speaks to the bad part of Nintendo's decidedly older paradigm when it comes to video games. They make good consoles and good games, but there's no excuse for this ignorance of the online space.
There's still one thing we didn't mention is that Nintendo will only allow content from a pre-approved list of games. If you want to do a video on Smash Bros, Nintendo does not care about you. It's shocking how backwards this line of thinking is, and I hope it bites them in the ass.

0:22:30 Garrett lists everything he did in rapid-fire (and I can't keep up)

0:26:30 Garrett discusses game ideas he has from his Game Design class.
"Iron Aurora" copyright 2015 to Garrett Glazewski.

0:34:30 I have been playing Final Fantasy VI
You're probably getting sick of hearing me say this, but I have an article on the game in the works, so I want to keep my discussion of it hear to an absolute minimum. I have a large queue, I know, but please bear with me.
Still, we had a great discussion of the game here. I had a blast playing and I easily see why so many people love it.
I do love how Chris gets to be the "modern Final Fantasy sucks" guy, since he's the oldest.

0:57:25 Chris plays Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (because of DLC).
It's Borderbutts. If you like Borderbutts, you probably already own it.

1:07:10 Chris played more Hyrule Warriors (because of DLC)
And I've got nothing to add, unfortunately.

1:11:00 Chris played Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
Y'know, I've never been a fan of the Ninja Gaiden franchise. Having said that, I'm impressed at how bad Chris's descriptions and examples make this game sound. I really can't envision myself having much fun with it.

1:28:00 Wrapping Up
Interactive Friction is here.
My inFamous: First Light article is here.

After the podcast was released, Sam had a chance to write his own opinions out, since he missed the recording. You can find that article here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 12: The Definition of Pretentiousness

Now that all the filler is out of the way, Sam and I are free to finish the best part of the game, before moving on to the worst part of the game.

We have a pretty lengthy discussion on PMCs in video games. Without delving too much into politics, I think it would be difficult, but not impossible to tell a story involving a PMC without that organization being secretly evil. There is a very good reason why PMCs are generally frowned upon in polite company. I'd be interested in seeing developers try that, but one cannot deny that there's a huge risk in doing so.

Another topic we talk about is game endings. One of the things that I have noticed, particularly in the last generation of gaming, is that a lot of games tended to end a lot later than probably should have. I truly think that ending the game at the point before Jason even gets the chance to confront Hoyt would have been a lot better. Not only is that last half (or third) of the game a massive drag, but Jason dying as a result of his falling into madness is an extremely appropriate end to his character arc. As we mentioned in the episode, Bioshock suffered a similar problem after the grand reveal.

We said that this part is the high-point of the story. We're actually a little wrong. It's not this episode that serves as the strongest part of the plot, but the next episode. It actually makes use of some more subtle writing and use of metaphor to convey the overall point of the story. But we'll get to that next time.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

#82: inFamous: First Light: Less is More

One of the things I was told pretty regularly before I finished inFamous: Second Son was that getting the First Light expansion was worth it. Since it was a standalone DLC akin to that of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, this was something that people told me to play without even touching the main game. Because it was free on PlayStation Plus, I took the opportunity to play it after finishing Second Son. First Light, especially when compared to Second Son, is quite interesting to look at. This is because it is in a very unique position with regards to the franchise, which I will detail this week. Hopefully, First Light shows Sucker Punch a new direction they can take the franchise, to help alleviate some of the more common criticisms from both myself and other critics.
Released in August of 2014, First Light tells the story of Abigail “Fetch” Walker, the conduit Delsin takes his Neon powers from in Second Son. It shows how, after coming to Seattle, she finds herself embroiled in gang politics, narcotics dealing, and the DUP. Not only is her capture and transfer to DUP custody explained, but also her descent into anger and rage, resulting in the Fetch seen in Second Son.

The very first thing I noticed while playing First Light is that it is the very first game in the inFamous franchise that did not make use of the Good/Evil karma system seen in every other inFamous title to date. In fact, no morality system exists in this game. This does wonders for the story. Since Fetch has to become the character from Second Son, she cannot take a different path. Secure in the knowledge that the plot only has one possible outcome, the writers are free to delve deeper into the character and why she is making the choices she makes. Fetch is totally free to express her inner thoughts, take stances of her own, and define herself as a character.
Previous inFamous protagonists did not get that same freedom. Because the player could choose between being completely Good or completely Evil, the writers had to take both possibilities into account when writing dialog. The protagonist's dialog had to make sense for both a saint and a devil, with the exception of scenes that take place immediately after a karmic choice. In a sense, they served more as ciphers for the player than actual characters. Because of this, they could not take strong moral stances on anything, because the possibility existed that they would not take the path which they were advocating. Since Fetch can take moral stands, and form opinions of others, it makes her that much more strongly characterized as a result.
The other positive about removing the karma system is that is eliminates this need to allow players to choose between two overly extreme story choices. As I have talked about in the past, inFamous's karma system often makes the player make decisions between normal person or cartoon villain. Second Son had the opposite problem where choices felt far too similar on both sides in some instances. When these get removed, the writing becomes stronger just by virtue of not taking the player out of the experience with these inherently meaningless choices.

Another way in which First Light differentiates itself from Second Son is in the way powers develop. In Second Son, there were four different power sets that all played the same, but had different properties, because Delsin could use multiple powers. Fetch only has Neon powers, much like Cole in the original games only had electricity. Instead of having one template in which multiple powers are used, Fetch has one skillset which gets augmented gradually, over the course of the expansion. As a result, the sense of progression is a bit more pronounced.
What is more important to our conversation is how these powers can be upgraded over the course of the game. In both games, players need to gather some form of collectible. Delsin had to collect Blast Shards in Second Son and Fetch was required to gather Neon “Lumens” in First Light. For certain upgrades, Delsin also had to acquire a specific karma-level, either Good or Evil, to earn the right to purchase them. For example, only an Evil Delsin can upgrade his grenades to have a larger explosive range, while only good characters can heal themselves by subduing enemies without killing them. On the other hand, Fetch only needs to unlock the base power to purchase upgrades for it. Some can only be gained after beating the game, but without karma blocking off development, Fetch develops much more organically.

Overall, the removal of the karma system afforded First Light a number of opportunities not granted to other inFamous games. I know, deep down, that this is because it is only a $15 DLC, much like the Festival of Blood on the PS3. However, it still reveals that the franchise has been held back for a long time by what initially seemed like a necessity. At the time of the first inFamous, moral-choice systems were all the rage. Now, in an era full of choice-based games like those from Telltale, they seem very weak. Perhaps it is time to consider a change of pace for the series, now that we know it can work without such mechanics.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 11: Disco Boss Fight

In this episode, we finally complete the pointless filler missions, and get back to Jason being a complete tool.

It sure is convenient that good ol' Bambi decided to betray us in this section. Otherwise, we would not have been able to give it to Citra to actually progress the story in some way. Actually, that might have been an interesting opportunity. After getting Bambi's dagger for him, another mission or two to either take it from him or convince him to hand it over to us.

Alternatively, we could left the island and not given a shit because we essentially completely our main objective of getting all of our friends back and get off the island. Riley (to our knowledge) is dead, so we have every living party member with us. By all rights, we should be gone.

However, Jason does not want to leave. He suddenly decided that he wants revenge. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Unfortunately, there's no real lead in to his decision. A scene or two of him talking with Liza, or hell even Citra, about taking revenge and/or killing Vaas/Hoyt, As it stands, it takes less than 5 minutes for him to go from "My brother is dead." to "Let's kill some folks." If that was just what put him over the edge, and he was already contemplating it, that would be one fine. It's just, they could have done some form of foreshadowing.

Back to the topic of Buck, it really doesn't make sense for him, to betray us. What exactly does he hope to gain? It's not like he was particularly happy to keep Keith, and he knew we were pretty good at wasting pirates. It just seems like an unnecessary risk, and any future business transactions he undertakes of this nature will be compromised, because the other party has no reason to trust him.

There's only so much stupid that a plot can hold before I start to wonder whether or not the editors are as high as our friend Oliver seems to be. I'm just not sure how it came to this.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Texture Pop: Episode 26: The Tastiest Plasma

And the whole group is back together again. Further, Garrett's friend Tyler stopped by to join us for most of the cast.

We tried to do something new by having all of us record our audio on Audacity. However, it fell through. We're going to try it again next week in an effort to improve the listener experience, so don't lose hope.

0:01:30 Viewer Questions
Adonisus's podcast is here, for those who are curious.

"Do you think that an AO game has any commercial viability?"
Honestly, there is a small, but potential market for an AO game. As much as I dislike Hatred, as an example, I believe that it can do well.
Retailers will not waste their time with AO games, for two reasons. First, there is not a big enough market. Secondly, they tend to present a family-friendly environment, which those games tend to detract from.
That said, I imagine with all the publicity, sales from the designers website will, while no where near as good as a dedicated retail store, will likely be enough to make a profit. In that sense, it could be commercially viable in those terms.
So, while it is not a big market, it does exist.

"What do you guys think of the news that Marvel intends to reboot their universe after the Secret Wars event?"
I am glad Chris is here to answer this question, because he knows so much more about comics than I do.
In general though, I am of the attitude that I am okay with whatever changes a developer wants to do, so long as the character can still be recognized as the character. We can only determine how good and bad changes are after they've been implemented.

If you wish to send us Viewer Questions, please e-mail us at

0:17:13 Gaming News
The Elder Scrolls Online goes Buy-To-Play
I think this will attract more people to the game, since the barrier of entry is lessened. However, I feel that the next logical step is truly Free-To-Play, and this won't produce enough revenue to not go in this direction.
The game is still fundamentally flawed, and the initial bad taste it left in the mouth of many players is still there. They could do well, but it needs to reclaim a lot of its lost good will.

In a broader sense, I am not convinced that subscription is the way to go for specific games anymore. For $15 a month, I could get either a Netflix or a GameFly account. Those are just significantly more robust forms of entertainment.

Sega's reduction in staff, and renewed focus on mobile
It's actually how much I won't notice a change in my gaming at all. Aside from ATLUS, Sega does not interest me with the games it releases.

AOL is shutting down Joystiq
The way it was handled is pretty fucked up, if you ask me. I hope the staff bounces back from that.
Gaming journalism has accelerated in these past years. It used to take years for a publication to shut down, but now shut downs happen all the time.

0:34:00 Tyler played Dragon Age: Inquisition (because his save file was lost)
I feel bad, because I would be pissed off if all of my saves and data just vanished like that. Defeated by a power surge.
We then go into a somewhat random conversation about save features in remakes.
Then we discuss Dragon Age 2 and Origins, because of course we do.

0:46:55 Tyler played a bit of Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2.
He beat his old record in zombies. I can't really say if that's good or bad, because I'm terrible at those kinds of games.

0:48:10 Garrett installed a 2TB HDD in his computer.
It's a lot of memory. Even better, he has Windows 7 now, instead of Windows 8.

0:50:04 We talk about the Nationwide Super Bowl commercial.
In hindsight (since I watched it after the podcast), I can see why people reacted as strongly as they did. However, that's the entire point of the commercial. I actually thought it was really good.

0:51:50 Garrett played League of Legends
With a new season, the rankings reset, so Garrett needs to get good again.

0:52:55 Garrett talks about his game design class with Tyler.
The more I hear about GameMaker, the less I would ever want to use. I mostly just want to do the coding myself, so that I have more control over the final product.
Coding isn't as hard a people make it out to be. It mostly just takes practice, like any other discipline.

0:59:50 Garrett tried out to be a voice-actor in an animated video for the Zoophobia web-comic.
'nuff said.

1:02:30 Sam tried the new and improved Warframe
Apparently it is a lot different than it was before.

1:05:00 Sam tricked convinced a co-worker to get Saya No Uta
It's again hard to comment on this without spoiling it, so we can't get into a big conversation.

1:07:00 Sam bought and played a bit of Dying Light
I initially was not terribly interested in getting Dying Light at first. Having seen a lot of it, I kinda want to get a copy of it now. It looks really interesting, and I'm a completely sucker for parkour-esque exploration in video games.

1:13:45 Sam played Forza Horizon 2.
Yeah. Racing games.... It is really hard to talk about them.
Also, talking about the show in the middle of recording.

1:19:25 Sam played Life is Strange: Episode 1
I do want to play this game, I really do. However, after playing all of those Telltale games, I am burnt out on the episodic model. I just want to wait for all the episodes to come out before I invest.
If Dontnod releases episodes 2 through 5 in a timely manner, I might change my mind. Until then, I am keeping my wallet guarded. It's also hard to talk about it because, like any episodic game, we cannot determine its quality until after every episode has been released.

That said, what I have heard about Life is Strange is promising. It is also really interesting to note how rare it is for games to take place in the modern world, without any sort of catastrophe or twist. It's just our world.

Sam's article on the game is here.

1:29:55 I finished Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
I don't have much more to add here in the shownotes. In the coming weeks, I will release an article on my experiences with the game.

But it's worth talking about the challenges of moving an inherently PC game to a console. It's easier said than done.

1:38:25 I played and beat the first Bayonetta
I suck at this genre, but I loved playing the game. It's nice to play something that doesn't take itself too seriously. On top of that, it's very visually appealing.

1:42:45 I just finished Dead Space 2.
Like with Diablo 3, my article for it is coming. But the conversation we had on it was a good one.

In general though, it is a significantly, noticeably better game than Dead Space 3, to the point where I actively wonder what the hell happened between the two games.

1:52:40 I went with some friends to see The Imitation Game.
As a Computer Science major, this was a very interesting movie because it was basically a biopic of the guy who invented my entire discipline.
On top of that, it's a very good dramatic movie. This is one of the most unknown, yet interesting people in recent human history. I had a great time and would easily recommend a lot of fun watching it.

1:56:26 Chris did not play Assassin's Creed 3, and instead played Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD.
Aveline is such a good character, and the game is so much better paced. It really should have been the one Ubisoft focused more on. Definitely get it over Assassin's Creed 3, as it's much better in almost every way, especially with the stuff they added to the original Vita version.

There are ideas in Liberation, like Aveline's multiple disguises, that deserve to be revisited in other games in the franchise. There's a lot that mechanic could be used for. I'm also not kidding when I say that Aveline is the most interesting protagonist in  the Assassin's Creed franchise. Her background is interesting and I wish she was used more frequently.

I also find it amusing that Chris is having a bit of a "Season of Assassin's Creed" in a way that I had my "Season of ATLUS" a few months back. It's good that he's taking a hiatus for now.

2:15:45 Wrapping Up
My inFamous: Second Son article is here.
Sam's Life is Strange article is here.
Sam's videos are here and here.
Interactive Friction is still a thing. A new episode went up.
Adonisus's podcast is, once again, here.

There's also The Texture Pop e-mail and twitter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Interactive Friction: Far Cry 3: Episode 10: Jason Dillweed and the Temple of Filler Missions

You're probably wondering, "Why did Google lead me here!?" Those of you not wondering that are probably asking "Why is this so damn late!?"

Well, we forgot to record last week. Sam and I thought we had a backlog of episodes to go through. As it turns out, we did not. So, we got together on Monday (which is when this should have been posted), to record a new batch of episodes before we got too far down the hole.

I'm also not entirely sure what happened to my audio during this recording session.

Anyway, this episode has more filler missions.

Do you know how every Let's Play series will inevitably have that one episode where nothing substantial happens, and as a result the commentary feels a lot like repeated what was previously said.

This was that episode.

What I want to talk about instead is the way that writing about games fundamentally alters the way people like Sam and I play them, since it came up in our discussion. Before I started doing stuff like this, I would just go through games and think "Oh, I liked that." or "Oh, that was bad." What changes when you start making this kind of content is that you instead beginning to think less about what emotions you feel as you play (which are easy to discern). Instead, the focus shifts to why the game elicits those reactions from you. That, to me, is what distinguishes a critic from a more, and I hate to use this word, "casual" consumer of video games.

Anyone can do it, it's just a matter of actively trying to shift one's mode of thinking. There's nothing inherently special about people who criticize media beyond their willingness to just go out and do it, especially in this day and age.