Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interactive Friction: Watch_Dogs: Episode 8: "Like a Cookie?"

This is the last of the footage we have for now. Hopefully, we'll be able to do some more recordings soon, but both Sam and myself have been busy as of late.

Aiden Pearce does it again. The day just isn't finished unless he's beaten the shit out of somebody.

I just cannot understand what he was trying to do at the poker game. He knows that the guy we are looking for is highly paranoid and prone to reckless and brash actions when provoked. Therefore, he feels that the rational thing to do is not try to butter him in a poker game, but instead to openly and thoughtlessly antagonize him by bringing up the very reason he's paranoid!

It's like Aiden Pearce did what he did precisely so that he would have the chance to take out his police baton and knock some old-looking man senseless.

Aiden Pearce, beating up the elderly. (Or at least people who look elderly.)

Keep in mind, this guy is supposed to be our hero.

I hate this game.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Texture Pop: Episode 49: Waifu Warriors

0:00:00 Gaming News
Satoru Iwata Passes Away
Though Nintendo games don't appeal to me in quite the same way that they do so many others, it is undeniable that Iwata was one of the best executives in the industry. He knew why people love Nintendo and their games so much, and he did his best to facilitate that. Given how many bad executives we see, the loss of such a good one is truly tragic.

Konami and Kojima are still at odds.
At this point, this story is just sad. Konami really doesn't seem to give a shit anymore.

0:13:50 Chris falls down the Skylanders rabbit hole.
Do you like little plastic shapes? Chris does. In this segment, we discuss the merits so little plastic shapes and why some of them are better or worse than others.

0:42:45 We discuss the Suicide Squad and Dawn of Justice trailers from Comic-Con
I'm still abstaining from commentary regarding their take on Joker in the Suicide Squad. It could work, but my gut is saying that it won't.
We also discuss how dark, gritty, and ultra-realistic DC's movies have been and why that's not a good choice for them.

0:55:25 Garrett discusses Star Fox: The Animated Series
Like I said in the episode, this guy's work is great. However, the fact that he's going to Patreon to fund his work is dangerous, especially given Nintendo's history. I don't want Nintendo to sue him for the proceeds, but I expect them to if they find out.

1:03:40 Garrett details the rest of his week.
If you were wondering what happened to Alvin and the Chipmunks after their terrible movies, Garrett will tell you in this segment.

1:10:20 I played Her Story
Regardless on how you feel about the whole "What is a game?" debate, Her Story demonstrates an interesting way to tell a tale in an interactive format.
This is one of those stories that is made powerful because of its interactive nature. Otherwise, it lacks the impact.

1:18:15 I played Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-
This game really demonstrates to me, the love/hate relationship the so many fighting game fans have with their genre. Guilty Gear is brilliant, and very well polished. However, I can't help but feel that the DLC price points are far too high.

1:26:20 I played Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin
Given how awesome the Estus Flask system was, and how every single decision in Dark Souls played upon the others, it feels weird to see them make these additions and changes that just don't work as well.
It's not a bad game, but it forces you to compare it to its predecessor, and it loses than comparison.

1:49:30 Sam goes to college
As someone who just graduated, it's fairly amusing to see one of my friends go back. Best of luck to Sam, and I hope he learns useful skills there.

1:53:40 Sam played Samurai Warriors 4
I have, perhaps unfairly, given the Warriors games a wide berth for a long time. In this segment, Sam and Chris explain why they deserve some love.

2:05:55 Sam found a program named Taiga
If I ever get into anime, I will probably use this. It sounds like a fantastic program for people who consume a lot of anime.

2:08:55 Wrapping Up
Don't forget, you can always send us questions, comments, and silly stuff at our e-mail at

I wrote an article on the story of Batman: Arkham Knight. It's spoiler-heavy, but nothing a podast listener will be surprised by.

Lastly, Interactive Friction returns. We continue our painful journey through Watch_Dogs at long last.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Interactive Friction: Watch_Dogs: Episode 7: CALM AND WELL ADJUSTED!

"Hopefully we won't have anymore audio problems that prevent us from posting for a week."
"Now we'll have to play the game all over again."

Oh, past Sam. You have no idea.

The fight at the motel is one of those silly tropes that constantly rears its head in all sorts of generic action movies and video games. Of course, since Watch_Dogs IS a generic action movie, it is compelled to indulge.

There are so many things wrong with this scene that it's not even funny.Why does Aiden Pearce have a bomb ready to blow up his apartment? Where did this bomb come from, and is he even remotely concerned about the potential harm that could come to his next door neighbors? What about his landlord and the costs that they will have to pay to fix that building? In the event of armed intrusion, is this seriously the best plan that we have?

And as for the guys who broke in to kill Aiden: Why didn't they just wait outside the door, because he only had one way out? If they had all been in the hallway, and just waited for Aiden Pearce to leave, he'd be screwed. Even that stupid bomb of his wouldn't be able to help him. Hell, you don't even need to have them right in front of the door. Just have them train their sights on it, and fire when it opens. They have more than enough men to surround the building and stop him in his tracks.

In order for this scene to work, everyone aside from Clara has to be stupid. None of this makes sense, and it should have ended with Aiden Pearce's bullet-riddled corpse on the balcony.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Interactive Friction: Watch_Dogs: Episode 6: Once Taken, Twice Recorded

Firstly, I must apologize for how long this episode has been in the making for. There were compounding issues with this episode.

As we explained in the video, our original footage for this episode was incomplete. My audio got recorded, yet Sam's didn't. That is what caused the re-recording.

Then, as Sam went to start editing, his motherboard in his computer needed replacement. This set us back an additional week, on top of his real life obligations.

So, there you have it. We hope that this doesn't happen too often, but it would be naive to expect nothing but perfection from our setup. With that said, today's episode:

I honestly cannot see what the point of this jailbreak mission is. There is not a single thing this game does, either narrative or mechanically, with the premise of a jailbreak in a CT_OS controlled city.

On the narrative front, the only reason we are doing this jail mission is because someone in prison saw us as we unleashed a terrorist attack upon a stadium full of unsuspecting citizens. Therefore, we must threaten him into silence. We're not doing this for a friend or to accomplish some other vital objective inside the jail. This mission exists purely to add a jailbreak level in the game. In terms of the story, we could eliminate the set-up, the mission itself, and the end without breaking any other plot element. It is filler in the most obvious sense.

But that could be forgiven if the game did anything interesting mechanically with this mission. However, that's not the case either. Our biggest, most important tool in this game are the hacks made possible with Aiden's cell phone. It is the basis for much of the gameplay, and gives us our omnipotence in the world. Yet instead of exploring how Aiden Pearce can manage without this tool, we get it back before we get control again and happen to end up in the only jail in the entire state that has CT_OS installed on it, which is other element needed for hacking.

This could also be an interesting non-combat mission, focusing primarily on stealth and staying undetected. That could also work, yet we are given a gun extremely quickly, and blast our way out with brute force. In other words, Ubisoft went out of their way to make this section virtually indistinguishable of most of the other missions in the games.

The only positive I can give it is that it delays the complete bullshit that is Damien Brenks, if only for about 10 minutes. I really can't stress enough how pointless his addition to the plot is. In the entire game, Damien may be the only person who deserves to get killed the moment Aiden Pearce comes into contact with him.

He adds nothing to this story. We have a hacker (Clara) who already gives us an easy way out to explain how Aiden Pearce can learn whatever fact we need him to for whatever story beat we have cooked up. Furthermore, we have no need to motivate Aiden into seeking revenge, because his entire character is about his inability to stop seeking revenge.

And remember, at the end of the day, this entire plot happened because someone's niece died, and his former partner-in-crime (literally) had his leg broken.

I hate this game.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

#94: Batman: Arkham Knight: The Ghost of Confidence

(Spoiler Alert: This article contains major spoilers of crucial plot elements in Batman: Arkham Knight.)
Though I do not talk about them much, I am a huge fan of the Batman: Arkham games. So when Batman: Arkham Knight came out on June 23rd, I was eager to purchase and play through what developer Rocksteady states to be the final entry in the Arkham series. With all of the spare time that I had that week, I completely finished the game. Ultimately, I was very happy with the game that I had played, and the way it ended the series. Despite fulfilling the promise of a satisfying conclusion to the franchise's story, there is an underlying problem with the writing of Arkham Knight.

To be blunt, Rocksteady's inclusion of the Joker was not necessary to the game's story. For those of you who haven't finished the game and don't care about spoilers, one of the early reveals is that Batman is slowly turning into the Joker. Back in Arkham City, Joker injected his Titan-infected blood into both Batman and a large supply of blood bags going to hospitals across Gotham City in order to motivate the Dark Knight to develop a cure of Titan-poisoning. Though the cure was eventually developed for the Titan half of the infection, Joker's blood acts as a virus that transforms those infected with it into a clone of the clown prince of crime, taking on many of his physical and psychological traits.
On its own, Batman has enough willpower to resist the mutation and still retain his moral code, albeit with slightly sharper edge. However, when Scarecrow gases him with a powerful dose of fear toxin, the combination with the virus manifests as visions of the Joker himself. Because Batman's greatest fear is succumbing to baser instinct, every hit of fear toxin strengthens the Joker's hold on him, leading to a climactic battle in his mind.

While these plot elements are fine, and there is nothing inherently wrong with them, they are unnecessary when both Scarecrow and the titular Arkham Knight are both effective villains with their own schemes and set-ups. At the very beginning of the game, Scarecrow is able to force authorities to call for a mandatory evacuation of Gotham's 6.3 million citizens with the threat of literal terrorist attacks via fear toxin. Proving himself to be one of Batman's most capable adversaries, he then manages to convince Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, and even the Riddler to unite together in an effort to finally destroy not only the Batman, but his legend and legacy. In the game's grand finale, Scarecrow succeeds at apprehending and publicly unmasking Batman, revealing his secret identity to the world.

Yet Scarecrow isn't the only character whose limelight is stolen by the inclusion of the Joker. The Arkham Knight also loses out on screen time, despite being two-thirds of the game's title. Even before his true name is revealed, it is obvious that the Knight has a grudge against the caped crusader. Most of his lines to dedicated to exactly how badly he wants Batman dead. Furthermore, he has a clear in-depth knowledge of Batman's gadgetry, skills, and tactics. When Batman battles his militia forces, he will often coach them on, directing them to avoid Batman’s most common tactics.
Even if the game does make his identity fairly obvious about half-way through, this element of mystery is an important plot point. However, it isn't until the mask comes off that this plot is allowed to develop beyond a mere "Who is the Arkham Knight?". For those who are unaware, Jason Todd, the second Robin, is the Arkham Knight. Having been tortured by the Joker for an entire year before even the events of Arkham Asylum, he grew to blame Batman for all of his pain, assuming the guise of the Knight in order to take his revenge. During and after his boss battle, the two reconnect and reconcile, leading Todd to realize the error of his ways and don the persona of the Red Hood. During the finale, after Scarecrow has revealed Bruce Wayne to the world, he uses this new identity to swoop in and save the day.

Both of these story arcs are strong on their own, and each serve to examine the mind and psyche of Batman. Scarecrow helps us, as the audience, to better understand what drive Batman and what he is truly afraid of. With the Arkham Knight, Rocksteady is able to illuminate some of his previous failures, adding extra context and forcing the narrative to be more introspective. Putting the two together gives Scarecrow a powerful advantage by giving him access to knowledge of and the ability to get at the most important people in Bruce Wayne's life, like Commissioner Gordon and the Oracle. At the same time, the fact that Jason Todd does care about those same people affords a justification for why they aren't brutally, systematically slaughtered in order to break the bat. There is an odd chemistry between these two characters, their abilities, and their motivations that works to drive the events of the game.

And then, the Joker comes in with his signature dark humor. While his writing is solid and the legendary Mark Hamill once again delivers on the voice acting, I cannot help but feel disappointed by his inclusion. The moment the clown prince of crime makes his first appearance on screen, he steals the show. Almost every story beat is punctuated by a quip about current events or his past misdeeds and relationships with various characters. Since he is only an illusion in Bruce Wayne's head, this is mostly unobtrusive from a gameplay standpoint. It can even lead to some interesting and amusing little diversions.
Unfortunately, it also robs both the player's attention and valuable screen-time from the other main villains, who aren't dead and have their own designs upon Gotham City. One particular instance stands out that really demonstrates this point. About halfway through the game’s campaign, the Arkham Knight manages to pin down Batman. Taking out his sidearm, he pinpoints the weakness in the Dark Knight’s armor, where he is most vulnerable, and fires straight into him. Leaving Batman to wallow in his injury, the Arkham Knight departs, leaving his militia forces to clean up. It is then that Joker appears on screen, commenting on how foolish it is to think that a single bullet can defeat the Batman. With this one line, all the threat and mystique that Rocksteady developed for the Arkham Knight in that scene is immediately shot down. Other similar examples happen so frequently that the non-Joker villains are severely undermined by these quips.

What this tells me is that Rocksteady didn't feel confident in their ability to conclude the Arkham storyline without using the Joker. That's honestly sad, because the set-ups and plot threads with Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight demonstrate an obvious understanding of how to write a good Batman story and why Batman is an interesting character. Adding Joker into the story make the other two major villains feel less like threats in their own right and more like tools for Joker to assert his dominance from beyond the grave. It is Scarecrow's fear toxin that awakens and empowers the jester's control over the Dark Knight. Even Jason Todd only resents Batman because he was trained over an entire year to do so by the Joker. In this light, neither one of them can be seen as inherently threatening.

The resurrection(?) of the Joker also deprived Rocksteady of a valuable opportunity to explore not only how Batman is coping with his inability to save everyone, but how Gotham and its criminal underworld are adjusting to the fact that the single biggest threat has been eliminated. There are shades of this sprinkled throughout that narrative. Not only do many of the random mooks expressed surprise and remorse about his passing, but it is implied that Scarecrow's opportunity was only opened by the power vacuum left open. It is interesting to think that his insanity might have been accidentally aiding Gotham PD by preventing any one criminal enterprise from obtaining too much power over the others, yet the game does not give much time to the thought.

I won't say that Batman: Arkham Knight is a bad story. Nor will I claim that I didn't enjoy seeing Mark Hamill return to show why people love his take on the Joker. All I want to say is that the narrative as a whole would have been stronger is Rocksteady had the confidence to soldier on feeling the need to bring him back. As I write this, I know that my opinion on this matter is going to be in the minority. However, it is important to point out ways in which even a good story can improve itself. With so much talk about the other flaws in the game, it is only right for the story to get its due.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Texture Pop: Episode 48: The Magical Mind of Yoko Taro

0:00:00 Gaming News
Destiny/Red Bull crossover codes being guessed.
This story could have been infinitely worse, but it's still just more and more bad news for Destiny.

Warner Bros. knew of Arkham Knight's bad PC performance months before
(Link to Shamus Young's article on porting.)
I hope this teaches WB a lesson on why it's important to take care of your customers.

Ubisoft learned from their mistakes with Watch_Dogs
(Interactive Friction talks over the Watch_Dogs trailer.)
I can't add anything here that I didn't already say in either the podcast or during Interactive Friction. You know my thoughts on Watch_Dogs by now.

0:16:06 Chris plays more Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
And we discuss the pitfalls of the overuse and abuse of collectibles in both the Assassin's Creed franchise and the Batman: Arkham franchise.

0:24:29 Chris and I have each been playing Nier, from Yoko Taro.
If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, you know about our collective fandom of Yoko Taro. This is a more tempered conversation of his works, but still a bit on the gushy side.

0:48:50 I played Paranautical Activity
Again, it is not a bad game, but it just doesn't compare to The Binding of Issac, which does the same thing but better.

0:50:41 I played Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
This time, I used Lady/Trish. I talk about how interesting it is to use a ranged character in a game with so many melee-focused characters.

0:56:30 Sam played Batman: Arkham Knight while his PC was getting fixed.
(Spoilers from 0:58:10 to 1:10:20)
This was a bit of a continuation of the conversation we had on the last podcast. We also take the time to discuss the potential future for Rocksteady.

1:19:25 Sam played more Weeaboo Anime Trash.
Y'know how it is with Sam. He plays something anime-related, and I crack a few jokes about it. I don't hate anime, but I can't resist.

1:28:45 Wrapping Up
Interactive Friction might come off hiatus soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Texture Pop: Episode 47: Yaoi Fangirls Rejoice!

0:00:30 Gaming News
Arkham Knight pulled from Steam
Given what we were saying last week, this comes as no surprise.

Red Bull-exclusive quest in Destiny
It's just... I mean.... why?

0:14:30 Garrett returns to the cast!
(Note: From 0:17:20 until 0:22:20, we get into a very spoiler-heavy discussion about Among the Sleep)
It's good to have Garrett back on the show. He's been busy as hell lately, so it's sometimes hard for him to find the time.

0:24:35 Chris played Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
A pirate's life for him.

0:35:05 Chris played J-Stars Victory VS+
Anyone who is a big fan of anime would be well served by buying this game.
I should point out that is was pretty irresponsible of me to say that implementing Cross-Save is "easy". Even without knowing the particulars of their code bases for each version, which would be a huge factor in how difficult it would be, I have no idea how complex the act of changing a save file from a PS3 or PS4-compatible format to a PS Vita compatible format would be or vice-versa. It could honestly be very complicated.
Cross-Play is also another really interesting, and difficult, programming challenge. Given the decidedly low-budget given to this game, I can totally understand why it wouldn't get implemented. I imagine that relative to Cross-Play, Cross-Save is easier to implement, but I should acknowledge that both are probably a lot harder than I am giving them credit for in the podcast.

0:51:00 Chris saw the movie Inside Out
As with most movies, I will get this on DVD/Blu-Ray when it comes out. I can't wait until then.

0:55:00 I played Batman: Arkham Knight
(Note: This section contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for the game's story.)
Arkham Knight isn't a bad game, but there a lot of things I wish they did better. It has some really noticeable flaws.

1:16:45 I played Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
Since I just played the first three games, this was the perfect time for them to release the Special Edition of DMC4, at least for me. I'm really happy with the game.

1:29:35 Wrapping Up
Garrett's Twitch Channel
Interactive Friction Plays Watch_Dogs
My article on Dante from Devil May Cry